Archive for February 25, 2014

Renewables Account For 99% Of New U.S. Generation In January

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Non-hydro renewable energy sources accounted for more than 99% of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity installed during January for a total of 324 MW, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). According to the FERC statistics, renewable energy sources, including hydropower, now account for 16.03% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: hydro – 8.44%, wind – 5.20%, biomass – 1.36%, solar – 0.70%, and geothermal steam – 0.33%. This is more than nuclear (9.26%) and oil (4.04%) combined.

“The trends are unmistakable,” concludes Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Renewables are the energy growth market of the future, with solar – for the moment, at least – the leader of the pack.”

Citing the FERC statistics, renewable energy advocacy group SUN DAY Campaign explains solar led the way in January with 13 new “units” totaling 287 MW, followed by geothermal steam with three new units totaling 30 MW. Biomass added three new units totaling 3 MW, while wind had one new unit with an installed capacity of 4 MW. In addition, there was 1 MW added that FERC defined as “other.”

Shine a light: Solar array latest ‘cutting-edge’ project at UT-Baptist Research Park in Memphis

index Memphis Bioworks will install by April 12 about 3,000 solar panels atop its parking garage at Union and Dudley.

The 2.3-acre installation is designed not only to generate 750 kilowatts, but also to burnish the image of UT-Baptist Research Park as a clean-tech, cutting-edge place for companies to locate, said Dr. Steve Bares, president and executive director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation.

“This isn’t just about solar for us; it is also about positioning the UT-Baptist Research Park as a progressive leader in science of sustainability through such things as the intelligent use of space…,” Bares said.

The solar project is the most visible of several projects making the research park more environmentally friendly.

Memphis Bioworks recently completed a $162,535 project to upgrade the lights in the same parking garage to LED lights, which use less electricity and last longer.

Also, two charging stations for electric vehicles have been installed at the entrance to the parking garage.

And new bike racks have been placed at its headquarters next to the parking garage.

The nonprofit Memphis Bioworks is leading the development of UT-Baptist Research Park, the focus of the city’s biomedical economic development.

The parking garage has three levels totaling 917 spaces.

The solar array on top will sacrifice only a couple of parking spaces; the panels will be raised high enough that vehicles can park beneath them, in the shade of the panels.

The solar panels will be purchased from Memphis-based Sharp Manufacturing.

The project’s financing is similar to Agricenter International’s deal to build its 1-megawatt solar array, which is also to be completed by April.

Nashville-based Silicon Ranch, founded by former governor Phil Bredesen, will finance construction, own the system and sell the power to Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division for the first 10 years.

After 10 years, Memphis Bioworks will have the option to purchase the solar installation from Silicon Ranch.

The Agricenter’s project is like a solar farm, with the panels planted on about five acres of ground.

Bioworks is different, fitting the array into the densely developed urban core, over parked cars and across from a Walgreens.

“With our installation,” said Allan Daisley, Bioworks’ director of innovation and sustainability initiatives, “we will demonstrate an effective urban solar deployment and expect to gain experience that is then applicable to other deployments across the city.”

The solar panels should be visible to the many motorists passing by on Union Avenue, Daisley said.

Bioworks may work with an urban designer to enhance the way the installation looks from the street, Bioworks spokeswoman Regina Whitley said.

Its appearance could be a concern if the project isn’t done right, indicated Beth Flanagan, director of the Memphis Medical Center.

“You’re not going to miss it,” she said of motorists’ views. “It’s pretty tall off the top of the decks.”

She doesn’t necessarily want the solar panels screened from view. But she said, “Just make it look cool. Don’t make it look like a big piece of steel.”

The parking garage once served the massive Baptist Memorial Hospital. The research park is emerging where the hospital stood, before demolition.

Since the research park is still in its infancy, only about 40 percent of the garage is typically used, Bares said.

But across the Memphis Medical Center, parking is in high demand. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and hospitals have arrangements with Bioworks to allow their employees to use the parking garage, even though it’s on the south end of the district.

The garage will be used even more as the research park gains more tenants, Bares said.

A spat between the United States and China threatens the future of solar power.

140212_TECH_ChinaSolarPanels.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlargeSolar power is an environmentalist’s dream, but for decades it was too expensive to be practical. In the past few years, that has finally been changing. Americans are signing up in droves to put panels on their roofs, not only for the good of the climate, but because—once you factor in government incentives—it’s often cheaper than conventional electricity, especially in sunny states. That was unimaginable only 10 years ago.

The boom has been fueled by cheap solar panels from China, which has been heavily subsidizing solar manufacturing. The glut has been good not only for American customers, but for U.S. companies that install solar panels. Startups like Sunrun and the Elon Musk–backed SolarCity have grown explosively by installing Chinese-made panels on U.S. homes and businesses, often through financing mechanisms that require no money down.* As a result, the solar industry has been a bright spot in the U.S. economy, with jobs growing by 20 percent a year. It now employs 140,000 Americans and counting, and is one of the few sectors in which President Obama’s promise of “green jobs” has actually materialized.

But the good times could be coming to an end. It’s not that China is cutting off the supply of cheap panels. It’s that the United States is threatening to slap new tariffs on them that could sharply drive up the price. It would also likely prompt China to retaliate with more duties on U.S.-manufactured polysilicon, a key ingredient in those panels.

The push comes from America’s small and struggling domestic solar-panel manufacturing industry, which can’t compete with the discounted wares from China. Ironically, it’s a German-owned firm, SolarWorld AG, whose U.S. division is lobbying for the federal government to protect it from foreign rivals. On the other side are U.S. solar panel installers that rely on Chinese goods. As analyst Eric Wesoff once joked, one side is wearing an American flag over a German flag, and the other has an American flag draped over a Chinese flag.

The U.S. is justified in wanting to ensure that China isn’t just flooding the market in order to corner it. But it would be far better served by addressing the problem through negotiation than a new round of punitive duties. That’s what the European Union did in a similar case against China, which it settled last year without irreparable harm to any of the parties concerned. China itself appears perfectly willing to pick up the phone. Why hasn’t Obama?

Vanderbilt, MTSU teams to compete in Solar Decathlon

solarfoundationVanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee State University will participate in the U.S. Energy Department’s Solar Decathlon 2015, competing against 19 other college teams to build solar-powered and energy-efficient houses.

Through Solar Decathlon 2015, students will design and construct houses that will be judged on affordability, consumer appeal, design excellence and energy efficiency. The student teams will reassemble the homes at the competition site at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif., to be judged in fall 2015.

Students in construction management; interior design; and electrical, mechanical and civil engineering will be involved in the planning, designing and building processes, which will lead to constructing a home that is greater than 600 square feet but less than 1,000 square feet in size. The home initially will be built on the Vanderbilt campus.

The competition was created in 2002, and until 2013 it was held he National Mall in Washington, D.C. Homes made through the decathlon are located throughout the U.S. and in countries around the world, including Spain, China and Belgium.

Mississippi is the “sunshine state” for TVA

Where are the best spots to build solar power in the Tennessee Valley Authority? It turns out, many of them are in Mississippi!

We recently obtained 16 years of simulated solar power production data from Clean Power Research for the Tennessee Valley Authority region, looking at 26 sites scattered from east to west, and north to south in the region. It turns out that the best sites are in the western part of TVA, which isn’t surprising since the sun sets later in the west, and TVA needs power most towards the end of the day.

We were a little surprised to see a site in Kentucky make our “Top 10″ solar sites list, since most people tend to think of solar as a resource that performs better as you move south. Turns out that western Kentucky is plenty sunny!
TVA_Solar_Sites

TVA_Solar_Sites

Tennessee Solar Industry Said to be Expanding

A new report says Tennessee’s solar industry is expanding quickly.

The Solar Foundation says there are now more than 130 companies in the state dedicated to solar manufacturing, installation and project development.

Foundation spokesman Philip Haddix says that, nationwide, solar-industry employment grew by almost 20-percent since 2012 to reach 242,000 jobs across the U-S; and locally.

“Tennessee is up as well with 2,800 jobs this year versus 2,300 last year – 500 additional jobs. It puts Tennessee tied for 12th place if you were to rank the states in terms of their solar employment.”

Haddix says about half of all solar jobs are in installation, with manufacturing the next biggest sector.

Natural Resources Defense Council calls for compensation for customers with solar PV

NRDC

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the U.S. utility industry’s trade group are jointly calling for a new rate structure to account for customers that generate their own power with rooftop solar systems. “We need the grid and need to improve it in ways that support clean energy and distributed resources,” says Nathanael Greene, director of renewable energy policy at the NRDC in New York. Owners of rooftop solar panels “must provide reasonable cost-based compensation for the utility services they use,” says both groups. In exchange, utilities must simplify the process of connecting systems to the grid and compensate owners “fairly for the services they provide.”

Under the current policy, known as net metering, utilities must purchase excess electricity generated by customers’ solar panels. Both groups want that policy to continue, with a new mechanism that would cover utilities’ fixed costs. Still, they agree that changes to utility rate structures would improve energy-efficiency programs and expand rooftop solar. They recommend allowing utilities to recover the costs of maintaining and improving the grid in a way that’s not tied to the amount of electricity they deliver to consumers.

“We want regulators to decouple grid charges from volumetric consumption,” Greene said. “Then the utilities can’t use net metering as an excuse for the high fixed-cost charges they want.”

Comment from S. Levy:
It is my personal belief that ratepayers are going to be supplied by smart metering in the near future. As a result of smart metering, the electric utility industry will begin setting different rates based on their peak loads during the day and evening hours. The purpose being to lower the peak demand that occurs between the hours of 5 pm and 9 pm. So, they will charge the consumer more during the peak hours to reduce the peak load and with it, the resources to produce and deliver that higher power level.

It’s all about demand charge management and that demand charge management can result in a 10 percent to 20 percent bill savings. That is if the homeowner controls the use of high wattage appliances and home electric heating and cooling of the home and their water heater. Automation is available today that can control these energy users.

******DO NOT INSTALL SOLAR PV ON YOUR SIDE OF THE ELECTRIC METER WITHOUT CONTACTING YOUR DISTRIBUTOR**************

Sniper attack on power grid

A recently revealed criminal attack upon a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) substations has given lawmakers pause and turned the subject not just to cybersecurity for electric power infrastructure, but physical security.
The Wall Street Journal reported a previously unpublicized 52-minute assault by snipers on PG&E’s Metcalf transmission substation. The assailants fired some 100 bullets into the substation, which knocked 17 transformers out of service.
PG&E was able to stave off a loss of service by diverting to other T&D assets, but utility workers had to spend 27 days repairing the shooters’ damage to the substation area.
The FBI, which is serving as lead agency on the investigation, does not believe the attack was an act of international terrorism. Jon Wellinghoff, who led FERC at the time, said he believed the incident was domestic terror.

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Volkswagen Chattanooga Powers Up Largest Solar Park In Tennessee

VW solar plant

Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant powered up the largest single solar installation at an automotive manufacturing facility in the United States and the biggest solar installation in the state of Tennessee. At a dedication ceremony here, dignitaries today flipped a giant light switch to signal the official opening of the “Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park”, built on Volkswagen’s compound in Chattanooga.

The solar installation at Volkswagen Chattanooga confirms the awarding of the highly-coveted LEED Platinum certification to VW by the U.S Green Building Council in late 2011. At that time, the Building Council called the Chattanooga manufacturing facility “the world’s greenest auto plant” and noted it was the first automotive manufacturing plant in the world to receive the top LEED certification. Today, the Chattanooga plant remains the only auto plant worldwide to earn the LEED Platinum certification. 


The electricity produced from the solar park is expected to meet 12.5% of the energy needs of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga manufacturing plant during full production and 100% during non-production periods. The plant covers 1.9 million square feet and employs more than 3,000 people who manufacture the highly-acclaimed Volkswagen Passat sedan. For Volkswagen, the solar park in Chattanooga will rank as the automaker’s largest photovoltaic installation worldwide.


Silicon Ranch (www.siliconranch.com), which develops and operates solar energy solutions tailored to meet its customers’ needs, will own the solar park and sell the electricity to Volkswagen under a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Phoenix Solar Inc. (www.phoenixsolar.com), the U.S. subsidiary of Phoenix Solar AG (www.phoenixsolar-group.com), provided engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services in building the solar park over the last six months. 


Frank Fischer, CEO and Chairman of Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga Operations LLC, said, “We are proud to power up the biggest solar park of any car manufacturer in North America today. The solar park,” he said, “is another proof point of Volkswagen’s worldwide commitment to environmental protection under its ‘Think Blue. Factory’ philosophy, a broadly focused initiative for all Volkswagen plants to achieve more efficient use of energy, materials and water and produce less waste and emissions.” Mr. Fischer added, “Powering up the solar park also validates the awarding of the LEED Platinum certificate to Volkswagen Chattanooga, which is still the only car factory in the world that has earned such an honor.”



Featured Job: Sperry Van Ness | RM Moore 50kW Solar Installation

ARiES Energy completed a 50kW solar installation at Cycle Gear, a motorcycle gear retail store in the Cedar Bluff area of Knoxville, Tennessee.  This is the second solar

project that ARiES Energy has completed for property owner Sperry Van Ness | RM Moore, a leading commercial property manager in Knoxville.  The system is expected to produce 62,500 kWh per year.

With 345 Stion frameless panels, Aurora inverters and a frameless racking system, this system is ready to go! ARiES Energy also installed a energy monitoring system, so the property owners can monitor their energy production, giving them the power to make educated decisions about future energy-efficiency upgrades.