Archive for July 29, 2013

On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities


For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread. And yet, to hear executives tell it, such power sources could ultimately threaten traditional utilities’ ability to maintain the nation’s grid. The battle is playing out among energy executives, lawmakers and regulators across the country. At the heart of the fight is a credit system called net metering, which pays residential and commercial customers for excess renewable energy they sell back to utilities. Currently, 43 states, the District of Columbia and 4 territories offer a form of the incentive, according to the Energy Department.

Many utilities cling to their established business, and its centralized distribution of energy, until they can figure out a new way to make money. It is a question the Obama administration is grappling with as well as it promotes the integration of more renewable energy into the grid. “I see an opportunity for us to recreate ourselves, just like the telecommunications industry did,” Michael W. Yackira, chief executive of NV Energy, a Nevada utility, and chairman of the industry group the Edison Electric Institute, said at the group’s convention. But utility executives say that when solar customers no longer pay for electricity, they also stop paying for the grid, shifting those costs to other customers.

Utilities generally make their profits by making investments in infrastructure and designing customer rates to earn that money back with a guaranteed return, set on average at about 10 percent. A handful of utilities have taken a different approach and are instead getting into the business of developing rooftop systems themselves. Dominion, for example, is running a pilot program in Virginia in which it leases roof space from commercial customers and installs its own panels to study the benefits of a decentralized generation.

Featured in the July/August issue of Solar Today Magazine is our remedy for this issue. Solar energy through micro-investing could be a solution for both the utility company and the customer. The individual or business would invest in solar energy with a small monthly purchase, perhaps $5 per month, using the micro-investment plan. This would provide opportunities to for all rate payers to invest in solar projects that would directly benefit them through lower electricity rates and return on investment. It overcomes the financing and siting obstacles that can keep would-be investors on the sidelines. As an example, if all TVA ratepayers became micro-investors at a rate of $5 per month, each year TVA would generate $135 million for constructing solar farms. This model protects everyone’s interest.

Arizona leads states in per-capita solar energy

The report notes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have enacted effective public policy for the development of the solar industry.


Arizona leads the nation in per-capita solar energy, according to a report released Thursday.

Following Arizona, in descending order, are: Nevada, Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, California, Delaware, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Maryland.

The details are in a report titled “Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States,” released by the Environment America Research & Policy Center. The organization — online: www.EnvironmentAmerica.org — is a public interest group that advocates for strong environmental policy.

“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,” Rob Sargent, energy program director with Environment America, said in a news release. “The progress of these states should give us the confidence that we can do much more. Being a leader in pollution-free solar energy means setting big goals and backing them up with good policies.”

The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have enacted effective public policy for the development of the solar industry.

Reference: http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20130725/BUSINESS/130725020/Arizona-leads-states-per-capita-solar-energy-report-says

Solar energy comes to Holston View Elementary School

Bristol Herald Courier Workers with Ecological Energy Systems install one of 200 panels that is part of a new solar pavilion at Holston View Elementary School in Bristol, Tenn. The solar energy project will help the facility with energy costs while providing students and teachers with a new outdoor classroom facility.


BRISTOL, Tenn. — Holston View Elementary School Principal Jerry Poteat says the newest feature on campus might be the first of its kind in Tennessee.

The 80-foot collection of solar panels will harness energy while providing a learning resource for students and teachers.

A brainstorming session between Poteat, a 35-year science instructor before moving into administration, and officials with Ecological Energy Systems of Bristol, Tenn., went from blueprint to concrete and steel in a little more than a month, with construction of a new solar pavilion classroom center nearing completion.

The photovoltaic unit is comprised of 200 panels stretching across 83 feet of property with each panel generating 245 watts of electricity converted from sunlight. The power offset by the project and produced by this solar system for school use is enough to generate electric power, an average of 65,000 to 75,000 kilowatts, needed to supply eight full-size homes, according to Ecological Vice President of Operations Nick Safay, netting eventual savings for the school system when it takes ownership of the solar unit.

Ecological is leasing the property from the city and the Board of Education, according to Safay, for this community service project that will incorporate a power purchasing agreement that Ecological will use to sell energy to the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bristol Tennessee Essential Services. Tax credits are also being allocated into the financing of the project because of the use of renewable energy sources, he said.

Regional educational neighbors like King University and Virginia Highlands Community College are also looking to integrate instructional programs at the solar energy spot at Holston View, according to the principal.

“It provides a significant amount of clean electricity to the power grid, it’s a learning resource for our students and it is a statement of this community that solar energy is important enough to put our resources behind it and make it work,” Poteat said.

Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light holds climate prayer vigil at Greenbelt Park

Participants representing several different church denominations place lighted candles in a tray of sand during a climate prayer vigil Sunday afternoon at Greenbelt Park in Maryville, sponsored by Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light.

Several people from different church denominations attended the event, sponsored by Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light (TIPL), an organization that promotes sustainable energy use among faith communities. According to its website, TIPL is part of a growing national movement of state affiliates, supporting congregations and other partner organizations through leadership development, developing and providing written and electronic resources, and building a network of concerned, committed people throughout the state.

Besides a candlelight vigil, Sunday’s event featured songs, prayers, meditation and a message from Adrienne Schwarte, an associate professor of design at Maryville College who is heavily involved in sustainability issues on campus.

“What we’ve been doing is having all these climate vigils and we’ve been gathering people of other faiths communities together,” said Ginny Ayers, who serves on TIPL’s steering committee and coordinator of Sunday’s event. “There have been several in East Tennessee, including Knoxville, Crossville, Nashville and Chattanooga, but this is our first one in Maryville. We’ve gathered people and put the word out.”

Gene Burr, a member of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville who serves on the church’s environmental committee, said the vigil is part of the efforts for TIPL to create more awareness and understanding of climate change and what the implications are for the world.

“This is one way of drawing attention to that effort,” Burr said. “We did one of these last fall in Knoxville at Market Square. When Ginny organized this one in Maryville, she thought Greenbelt Park would be a good location for it. It’s kind of a quiet, effective way of drawing attention to something we should all be concerned about.” Burr said his church has reinstalled 117 solar panels on its roof as part of reducing their carbon footprint.

“We want to do is encourage individuals and faith communities to join in membership. They are just committing to something — there are no dues or anything like that. They’re just committing to dealing with climate change issues.”

Reference: http://www.thedailytimes.com/Local_News/story/Tennessee-Interfaith-Power-and-Light-holds-climate-prayer-vigil-at-Greenbelt-Park-id-038660

TVA Board Meeting August 22 in Knoxville

I have called TVA board information and requested when public comment will be accepted for this meeting. TVA will open the online speaking registry on the TVA board webpage one week before the board is scheduled to meet, which is tentatively set for Thursday, Aug. 22.

The agenda will also be posted at that time.
Please send board correspondence to:

TVA Board of Directors
Board Services
400 West Summit Hill Drive WT 6
Knoxville, TN 37914
You may also email board services at board@tva.gov.

public listening session which begins at 8:30 a.m. EDT

TVA’s Solar Balance Limits Have Riled Some Providers

Some solar providers are chafing at limits TVA has set as it attempts to balance large solar farm installations with more smaller home rooftop solar installations. (Lance Murphey)

Solar providers in Tennessee are chafing at the limits TVA has set as it attempts to balance large solar farm installations with more smaller home rooftop solar installations. Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division is the authority’s largest customer and solar installations in the Memphis area are dominated by the large solar installation at Agricenter International and the solar farm in rural West Tennessee along Interstate 40. “We’ve actually got a balance that we are looking for,” said Chris Stanley, spokesman for TVA. “TVA overall is looking to balance our portfolio and move into cleaner energy sources. We are looking at natural gas. We’ve had a lot of hydro this year thanks to some rains earlier in the year. … We’re looking to just change the balance so we are running cleaner by 2020.”

That solar power is also more expensive for TVA, which buys it at market rate plus a premium rate of 8 cents. The premium above market rate goes directly from TVA to the providers that sell it to a local utility.
For the 2013 slate of projects, TVA has decided to reopen applications for 2.5 megawatts in the Green Power program.
The Tennessee chapter of the Solar Energy Industry Association is urging TVA directors to drop the system of caps based on the calendar year in both programs.

Steve Johnson, the president of LightWave Solar, the provider that has an office in Memphis, estimated the 2.5 megawatts is enough capacity to last about a day. The association had been hoping for 5 megawatts to be back on the market as what it termed “a stopgap measure to prevent workforce erosion and business impacts in the short term.”
“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 the Tennessee chapter in calling for a “fair and market driven” approach to solar energy development.

But there are market pressures TVA is taking into account that are also factors for those in the solar energy industry. TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said that, just because TVA has filled its capacity in Green Power Providers does not mean TVA is turning down any further solar generation.

“It just means we don’t have any more money for incentives this year. We still have plenty of capacity to buy solar power at market rates,” he said.

Mansfield noted that TVA recently signed agreements with Pickwick Electric Cooperative to develop the two largest solar energy installations in the state in Selmer. The two 20-megawatt solar farm projects will sell electricity to TVA at a market rate of 8 to 9 cents per kilowatt-hour instead of the 19 cents per kilowatt-hour that TVA pays through Green Power Providers.

Do we want to control our energy future, or continue to rent it from other countries?

We will choose, either actively or subjectively

Do we want to control our energy future, or continue to rent it from other countries? This is the overarching question that we, the citizens of these United States, have to answer. It is decision making time. If we do not express our individual feelings about how our country moves forward to meet the energy challenges of today and of tomorrow, then we have only ourselves to blame. This question was raised by Hal Harvey, the chief executive of Energy Innovation, in an article by NY Times Thomas L. Friedman Op-Ed Columnist in a July 2, 2013. As Mr. Friedman so acutely points out. “We also have to ensure that cheap natural gas displaces coal but doesn’t also displace energy efficiency and renewables, like solar or wind, so that natural gas becomes a bridge to a clean energy future, not a ditch. It would be ideal to do this through legislation and not E.P.A. fiat, but Republicans have blocked that route, which is pathetic because the best way to do it is with a Republican idea from the last Bush administration: a national clean energy standard for electricity generation — an idea the G.O.P. only began to oppose when Obama said he favored it.”

Such a standard would say to every utility: “Your power plants can use any fuel and technology you want to generate electricity as long as the total amount of air pollutants and greenhouse gases they emit (in both fuel handling and its electricity conversion) meet steadily increasing standards for cleaner air and fewer greenhouse gases. If you want to meet that standard with natural gas, sequestered coal, biomass, hydro, solar, wind or nuclear, be our guest. Let the most cost-effective clean technology win.”

Is this consistent with the position that Senator Alexander has publicly stated, let the most cost-effective technology win? The one word omitted from the Senator’s message was the word “clean” which I am sure he would agree with having fought these many years for our natural resources such as preserving the environment of our own Smokies. Why not resurrect the Republican idea for a national clean energy standard for electricity generation? You must decide: “Is this in the best interests of our nation?”

Times article

US Utility Business Model Woes

Jennifer Runyon is managing editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com

Jennifer Runyon, managing editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com, had a three minute conversation with Dr. Stephen Chu, former Energy Secretary that emphasized the need for electric generators and distributors to change their business model to reflect the addition of renewables, particularly solar PV, as a significant addition to the energy mix. Chu feels that utilities ought to own solar panels and energy storage systems that they put on their customers’ roofs and in their garages. He said if utilities could outfit homeowners with solar panels and a 5-kW battery system, they could continue selling that customer power just as they do now. The utility would own the system, maintain the system and the customer would have no out-of-pocket expenses for it other than continuing to buy power at the same rate or at perhaps an even lower rate. This would nicely fit into the TVA distributors future business model for distributed solar installations while preserving the distributor’s mission of providing their customer base with high quality, reliable electric power.

When it’s just a quarter or a half of one percent of a utility’s customers that have their own PV and are selling their solar power to the grid at the retail rate, the utility doesn’t care. But energy storage and PV panel costs are dropping, and once that percentage of utility customers’ that are zeroing out their bill goes to 5, 10 or 15 percent then “it’s a big deal” said Chu.

Chu said he told utilities that PV and energy storage is going to come and they should “form a new business model” NOW so that what today is a potential revenue loss, could become an area of growth for them in the future. Plus, he said this model would eventually lead to a more stable grid for us all.

TSEA’s suggested micro-investment model suggested for TVA would complement the distributor’s suggested model, supplying solar energy at the most affordable prices with ownership of large solar farms in the hands of the ratepayer investors. The TSEA model avoids having to loan money from banks; instead, it will earn interest on the monies deposited in investments increasing the income the ratepayer investors make. The question is whether TVA and its distributors will accept these business model changes.

Runyon’s article

FREE NABCEP 40 HOUR TRAINING WITH THE NABCEP ENTRY LEVEL EXAM


Steve,
I wanted to inform you of some free solar classes I will be putting on. The 40 hour NABCEP course and exam will be given in all three regions of Tennessee. The first one will be in Middle Tennessee ( Spring Hill ) the week of July 22. The second class will be in East Tn , probably the last week of August and probably in Johnson City. The third will probably be in Jackson the week of September 9. The reason I don’t have specifics is that I am still working on venues for east and west Tennessee. If you could please spread the word so we can fill the classes. This is through Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation; Office of Energy Programs.

Sincerely,
Earl

Earl Pomeroy
UT/CIS, TMEP
6615 Allen Road
Springfield, TN 37172
Office: 615-384-0629
Cell: 615-347-4381
Fax: 615-532-4937
Email: earl.pomeroy@tennessee.edu

Energy Department Announces Over $16 Million for Innovative Small Businesses Focused on Energy Technologies

To highlight President Obama’s focus on small businesses as leaders in an economy built to last, Acting Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman today announced that the Energy Department will award 88 grants to small businesses in 28 states to develop clean energy technologies with a strong potential for commercialization and job creation.
original article