Archive for June 26, 2013

Solar Industry Calls for Market Driven Approach to TVA Solar Programs

Wall Street Journal June 25, 2013

KNOXVILLE, TN–(Marketwired – Jun 25, 2013) – TenneSEIA, the state business association representing the solar industry, responded to the closure of TVA’s solar programs today by publically urging the authority to abandon the practice of setting arbitrary calendar year caps on solar installations and instead, adopt a market driven model that decreases incentives based on the amount of solar installed and incorporates the value of solar energy into the budgeting process. TenneSEIA hopes to resolve these issues prior to the TVA Board of Directors voting on the 2014 budget at its August 22(nd) meeting in Knoxville.

“Consumer demand for solar energy has grown faster than TVA’s ability to adjust, therefore leaving the market underserved, restricting the investment of private capital and creating unnecessary uncertainty for businesses,” said Gil Hough, president of TenneSEIA. “TenneSEIA is committed to working with TVA to create a fair and market driven approach to solar energy development in the Valley.”

TenneSEIA quickly sprang into action to work with TVA after the April 24(th) program closure announcement.

original article

Barack Obama puts solar at forefront of ‘assault’ on climate change

President Barack Obama today put solar at the forefront of a national strategy to cut carbon emissions in the United States as part of a “coordinated assault on a changing climate”.

The US president’s two-step climate action plan, launched at Georgetown University in Washington DC, includes regulatory efforts to curb emissions from fossil fuel power stations and to increase the use of clean energy.
“This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy, using less dirty energy, using more clean energy wasting less energy throughout our economy,” said Obama.
“Today, about 40% of America’s carbon pollution comes from power plants. But there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution those plants can pump into our air… for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe and it needs to stop.”

original article

MAJOR FUNDING Through Micro-Investments

The new July/August issue of Solar Today contains an article by TSEAs Technical Director offering a new idea for a solar program within TVA. Micro-investments allow anyone to invest in a project because the cost of a single share is affordable. A recent micro-investment concept was developed by Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in creating economic and social development for the poor. A similar concept, savings bonds, was used in the United States and other countries to finance costs for World War I and World War II. During World War II, half the U.S. population purchased approximately $186 billion in savings bonds. This investment accounted for nearly three-quarters of total federal spending from 1941 to 1945 — all from families whose average wage was $50 per week.

The Tennessee Solar Energy Association (TSEA), an ASES chapter, has as its mission the promotion of the widespread use of solar energy in the state of Tennessee. Unlike most states, Tennessee is served entirely by electric distribution companies who purchase power from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TSEA will use the concept of micro-investment to provide opportunities to all ratepayers to invest in solar projects in Tennessee. The success of our endeavors in Tennessee will mean that the concept can easily be duplicated in other states.

Financing solar projects through micro-investments offers many advantages. First, consumers and businesses would neither have to finance nor build their own solar projects on their properties. This eliminates three barriers they often face: (a) unsuitable properties for solar because of trees or rooftop alignments; (b) building permits and grid interconnections; and (c) large financial investments with long payback periods. Second, by opening investment opportunities for all ratepayers, a micro-investment plan should attract customers who otherwise would or could not have considered their own solar projects. Third, micro-financing can be used for large solar projects to benefit entire communities, taking advantage of the lower overall costs of large-scale projects. Finally, micro-investments would provide large sums to utilities and other solar companies who might otherwise not be able to finance a solar project.

Proving the Model at TVA
In the Tennessee Valley, TVA is a closed system in which all 155 distributors buy power from TVA, making it an ideal utility for studying this micro-investment model. Moreover, as a federal power authority, TVA plays an important role in the Tennessee Valley as the regional stewardship agency and supplier of public power. TSEA envisions that TVA would establish a micro-investment program, achieving even greater economies of scale than the individual distributors could achieve.

A 2012 Hart Research survey, funded by the Solar Energy Industries Association, found that 92 percent of voters “believe it is important for the United States to develop and use solar power.” TVA, serving 9 million people in the Tennessee Valley, can play a large role in finding the relationship between how much the public says it wants solar energy and how much the public is willing to invest.

TVA’s aging coal-fired plants are more than 50 years old and are depleting TVA funds to meet increasingly strict air-quality standards. As a result, the TVA has little funding available for solar energy. Although TVA has a renewable energy program known as Green Power Providers, which provides long-term power purchase agreements, the program has not produced a bankable level of funding that has resulted in loss of jobs and statewide solar installers to look elsewhere for work. The small amount of funds allocated for the program were absorbed in the first trimester of this year.

As a federal authority, TVA is in an ideal position to undertake a micro-investment program. Under the TVA charter, the president can direct the U.S. Department of Energy to provide support and resources as requested by the TVA board, which is directed to make studies “in the application of electric power and a better balanced development of the resources of the region” (Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933, Section 10). Furthermore, TVA pays no property tax, has a plethora of sites where large solar installations can be located, knows where in its power system to best locate large solar farms to provide the greatest ROI, has the staff to manage the program, can handle the procurement actions and can set aside a percentage of the installations for local installers. Thus TVA can avoid all the soft costs that ordinarily burden solar purchasers. In addition, its purchasing power, backed by the aggregated micro-investments, will produce the lowest cost through competitive bidding.

I suggest to all our members and readers of this column to join ASES and help promote solar energy in their region.

Read the article and the entire Solar Today magazine

Outlook: Solar Panels for 36 Cents Isn’t As Low As You Think

The global PV industry’s recent past has seen wafer, cell, and module suppliers at the mercy of an inhospitable supply-demand imbalance throughout the global market. With supply consistently 200% of demand annually, c-Si module prices have fallen approximately 70% in two years. One positive externality of this cutthroat pricing is that manufacturing costs have fallen in line with pricing declines. This is mostly because pricing for key inputs further up the value chain has also fallen as a result of overcapacity and consequent margin evaporation.

Back in 2009/10, industry roadmaps were targeting $1.00/W module costs as a medium-term goal. With best-in-class Chinese producers approaching costs of $0.50/W in 2013, yesterday’s goals are no longer relevant today. However, as noted, the majority of cost reduction over the last two years has been driven by declines in consumables prices. This state of affairs has left both manufacturers and their customers with considerable uncertainty, and there is currently little consensus on what is a realistic goal for the module supply chain to set for itself over the next three to five years. This 112-page report on the latest in c-Si PV wafer, cell, module, and materials technology is the most recent analysis from GTM Research’s flagship supply-side practice, and aims to provide a competitive outlook on the leading technology and cost trends through 2017 across the global PV supply chain. The report explores existing and innovative technology advancements in ingot growth, wafer slicing, cell processing, and module assembly, as well as their impacts on efficiencies and manufacturing costs.

This article was taken verbatim from this site

Attendees Fund 50 kW of Solar PV for Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Music Festival

A 50-kilowatt array has been installed at Bonnaroo paid for by donations from attendees. Voluntary contributions from Bonnaroo’s roughly 80,000 annual attendees, collected through ticket sales since 2012, footed the bill for the system. Bonnaroo reserves opt-in donations exclusively for onsite sustainability improvements. In addition, festival organizers added a $1 fee to every ticket sold in 2012 to generate additional money for green initiatives. The solar installation directly resulted from both types of fan support.This is the first permanent solar system installed at a major American music festival. The clean energy produced by the system is equivalent to 20 percent of the power consumed at Bonnaroo during the annual four-day music and art extravaganza. David Bolt’s company, Sustainable Future, installed 196 SolarWorld panels. David Bolt stated that his company will supply an additional, temporary solar array at this year’s festival, which will provide shade as well as electricity for fans. “An important aspect of sustainability is to use land efficiently. Employing panels to create shade for fans next to the solar stage at Bonnaroo is a great way to accomplish this.” The system, mounted on the roof of a metal structure in the backstage area, will generate more than 61,000 kilowatt-hours of energy each year – equal to about 20 percent of Bonnaroo’s total annual power needs. While the system will not be visible to patrons, fans will peruse a solar display in “Planet Roo,” an area devoted to sustainability.

Solar Product Development (Taking Great Ideas into a Profitable Reality)

How do you take your idea from a napkin sketch out to volume manufacturing?

FREE WEBINAR
This MOOC will take a brief look at what it takes to move from a great idea into a fully developed and profitable product. We will cover the entire product development cycle but will provide somewhat greater focus on the technical aspects of engineering through manufacturing. We will use real world solar products for an in-depth case study. While focused on solar products, the same general outline may be applied to any mechanical, electro-mechanical product development effort.

Presenter: Tom Ortman is a Mechanical Engineer, working in Commercial and Industrial Product Development for his 35 year career. He worked for companies like Siemens and IBM in his early career, before founding Concurrent Design. In his twentieth year guiding Concurrent Design, Tom has worked for start-ups through Fortune 500 clients. He counts well over 1,600 projects at Concurrent Design, starting in electronics and moving into semiconductor technology, solar energy and clean technology. Concurrent Design routinely works in the full continuum of the product development world from ideation through high volume production.

http://www.concurrentdesign.com/

http://www.concurrentdesign.com/solar_energy_products.htm

go to this site to register

TVA Cuts Back on Bellefonte Nuclear Plant While Residential demand spurs U.S. solar installations in 1Q13

The nation now exceeds 8.5 GW of cumulative installed solar electric capacity, of which 7.9 GW is PV. Solar nearly made up half (48 percent) of all new electric capacity installed in the U.S in 1Q13. Meanwhile in an effort to revive the stalled build at the Bellefonte nuclear power plant, the Tennessee Valley Authority is trimming the project’s budget by 64 percent and cutting 530 jobs at the facility, The budget for Bellefonte is being cut from $182 million to $66 million. According to the AP, the massive cutbacks call the entire future of the project into question.
The cutbacks come on top of a spate of bad news for the nuclear industry, culminating in the announcement last week that Southern California Edison was permanently closing the long-troubled San Onofre nuclear plant.

U.S. solar energy installations totaled 723 megawatts (MW) from January through March, a 33 percent increase from a year ago and the solar sector’s best-ever first-quarter performance. Residential solar installations rose 53 percent year-on-year to 164 MW, with the utility segment more than doubling to 318 MW. Third-party-owned solar residential systems made up two-thirds of all residential PV installations in California (exceeding non-residential for the first time), and 86 percent of them in Arizona. Residential solar has managed to expand, at times well into double-digits, for 12 of the past 13 quarters. The only top-tier residential market to shrink in 1Q13 was Arizona, which fell 9%. Average PV system costs were $3.37/W, a 24 percent drop over the past year, though that’s about 10 percent higher than the previous quarter because of fewer utility-scale projects coming online. Residential systems fell about 16 percent Y/Y (2 percent Q/Q) to $4.93/W, non-residential also fell 16 percent Y/Y (8 percent Q/Q) to $3.92/W, and utility system prices declined 26 percent Y/Y but only 6 percent Q/Q to $1.12/W. Note that there’s an especially wide range of installed PV prices by state, anywhere between $3-8/W.

Risks to distributed generation of solar PV are threefold, say SEIA and GTM Research:
Net metering revisited. As distributed generation expands, utilities are seeking to revise, cap, and even remove net metering. This will take different forms in different regions — and varying degrees of resistance or acceptance — but it will have major implications everywhere.
Utility electricity rate structures. How utilities set up their tariff structures, incorporating time-of-use pricing and fixed or volumetric charges, will have a significant impact on the economics of solar energy systems. “While net metering is currently a more public battleground, we anticipate that rate structures will soon follow behind,” they say in the report.
Who’s going to pay for it? Distributed generation could require more than $48 billion of investments from now through 2017 — far exceeding what’s been provided to date. There will be a need for new sources of capital, new financing models (think REITs and MLPs, and crowdfunding and community solar), and new investors in existing structures (tax equity). “Project finance could serve as a significant bottleneck to growth over the next four years,” they write.

original articles here and here

Why Master Limited Partnerships are a Lousy Policy for Solar, Wind, and Taxpayers

SLevy comment: This post is to present the rationale for not including renewables in the Master Limited Partnership legislation. So we have both pro- and con- arguments on proposed legislation so that you, the reader, can provide your opinion as to whether our federal legislature representatives in both houses should or should not support the MLP parity act. Send in your comments and we will post them on our site.

Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) operate like publicly traded corporations, with publicly traded stock, but don’t pay income taxes. Most folks who’ve touted expanding MLPs to include renewable energy projects see this move as “leveling the playing field.” And it will. It will allow big energy corporations to avoid paying taxes on their renewable energy projects just like they do for pipelines. First, there are many powerful, regulated industries that would love a bite at this apple, like the existing electric and gas utilities. The cost to taxpayers from letting these hogs get to the trough is likely much, much larger than the opportunity for renewable energy. These big industries – with huge lobbying budgets – are not likely to miss the opportunity.

But even more important, the extension of MLPs to renewable energy is likely to reinforce centralized, corporate control of the energy system. Right now, renewable energy – particularly solar – is transforming the energy system. It’s turning energy consumers into producers, re-routing energy dollars back into community economies, and giving cities and towns more control over their energy future. Half or more of new solar power in the U.S. is being put on the rooftops of homes and small businesses. New community solar policies (like one just adopted in Minnesota!) are giving even more Americans a chance to have skin in the energy game and share in the profits of a transition to renewable energy.

The average American isn’t going to be a shareholder of a Master Limited Partnership, but they probably will pay a share of phantom taxes in their electric and gas rates if MLPs are expanded to other energy industries. Even if Congress miraculously limits the MLP expansion to just the renewable energy industry, subsidiaries of most of the large corporations in the energy business (Shell, BP, Exxon) are building wind and solar projects. These subsidiaries would certainly be reorganized as MLPs, giving them a tax advantaged opportunity to crowd out competitors (like community solar or other distributed generation) AND make larger profits off their renewable energy business.

John Farrell authored the original article