Archive for Call to Action

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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Every Four Minutes, Another American Home or Business Goes Solar

Obama_in_Georgetown-200x150This was the quote from the President’s State of the Union address this past week. He then suggested, as he has before, that we divert tax breaks from fossil fuel industries to fund more development of “fuels of the future.” Even Forbes stated that the shift in supports “While that policy makes some sense, it needs to be pegged to commodity prices..” There has been a split in the Republican Congress members from a solid wall against renewables, to one where many of the party are now supporting wind, solar and biomass. Expect the final version of the Agriculture bill to contain substantial support for biomass as an energy source. We do need more research into future solar development. We need to concentrate on supporting increases in conversion efficiency for solar PV.

We need the Federal Government to fund a more automated solar foundry in the Gigawatt class which would demonstrate producing solar panels for less than $0.30 per watt. We need to automate the installation of racking and solar panel mounting for solar plants. We have produced panels with 30% and higher efficiencies, but the cost was prohibitive. Focussing on higher efficiency along with a massive production facility will result in lower panel cost in large scale manufacturing. The windpower from Texas can be sent to TVA region for about four cents per kilowatt-hour according to recent testimony before the TVA resources council. Solar has to aim for that same price.

New Farm Bill Preserves Core Clean Energy Programs

After three years of stops and starts, debate and negotiations, the Congressional Farm Bill Conference Committee has released a compromise bill between the House and the Senate that includes mandatory funding for a downsized Energy Title, including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).

If passed by Congress, the funding for REAP and BCAP in the compromise would ensure the popular programs will continue to support diverse technologies for renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives in farm communities across the nation. REAP offers grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects owned by farmers, ranchers, rural small businesses and rural electric co-ops. BCAP provides incentives to jump start sustainable energy crops that also provide conservation benefits.

“While the overall Energy Title funding has been reduced, this compromise provides the certainty for renewed growth in rural energy projects under both REAP and BCAP,” Olsen said. The bill announced late Monday by the Farm Bill Conference Committee includes $881 million for Energy Title programs over ten years.

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Sharp says to end solar panel production in U.S. by end-March

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closedJapan’s Sharp Corp (6753.T) said on Thursday it would stop making solar panels in the United States by the end of March, extending its overhaul of unprofitable operations in response to fierce competition from low-cost Chinese rivals. The U.S. shutdown would cost about 300 jobs, or two-thirds of the workforce, at a Sharp plant in Tennessee, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said. Sharp has been scrambling to repair its balance sheet since racking up a net loss of 545 billion yen ($5.23 billion) in the last business year through March 2013.

Elon Musk’s SolarCity taps the power of the crowd to reduce cost of distributed solar

Elon Musk gets solar. (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Elon Musk’s role as chairman and primary shareholder in SolarCity — a solar energy company run by his cousins – that’s getting a lot of attention these days. SolarCity was already the first to market with bonds backed by the revenue from rooftop solar projects, making it possible for institutional investors to invest in the success of future solar projects. (It’s essentially the same logic that makes it possible for investors to buy mortgage-backed securities, thereby creating a robust housing market). SolarCity’s latest move, announced this week, is the ability for individual investors also to participate in this market. SolarCity is essentially creating a new Web-based platform to enable the crowd to make money off other people installing solar panels. Company to sell bonds backed by rooftop solar panels, plans to offer similar products to individual investors. SolarCity expects to introduce within six months an online system for retail investors to provide debt for SolarCity’s rooftop power plants. The system will provide one of the few opportunities for individuals to back renewable-energy projects, which generate steady revenue from selling electricity. Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Rive said “We expect billions of dollars of investment through this platform”.

More information may be found at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2014/01/16/elon-musks-five-insights-into-solar-energy/?tid=hpModule_1728cf4a-8a79-11e2-98d9-3012c1cd8d1e and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-15/solarcity-plans-to-offer-asset-backed-debt-to-retail-investors.html

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Installers and Solar Distributors Having Products for Farming Applications Should Attend No-Till Day

Milan No till field day
Visitors from around the world come to Milan on the fourth Thursday in July to learn the latest about no-tillage crop production techniques. In 2012, attendance at this event included 2,748 visitors from 65 Tennessee counties, 21 states (AL, AR, DE, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NE, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA), and three international countries (Brazil, Lesotho and Mozambique). If you are interested in participating in their exhibition area, please contact me (Steve at 865-074-9218). If I do not answer, leave a message with your name, company, phone number and email address. I will respond via email with more information. They have an extensive industry/educational trade show and I will give you details.

What’s the Story of Snow Covered Panels

Assume you live in the upper reaches of Minnesota and you are told that solar panels won’t work in cold, snowy climates. Wrong!! Yes, admittedly you have to do some clearing of snow off your panels but there are some preventive measures you can take to keep the solar power production at its peak. First, realize that though the sun’s rays are not as strong in the winter as during the summer; the sun does not rise as high. But the colder temperatures increase the efficiency of the panels that help boost the output power of the system. With that in mind, here are some tips for improving the power delivery of your system:
1. Bounce a tennis ball off snow-covered panels.
Homeowners who have rooftop solar panels installed can surprisingly increase the energy output by bouncing a tennis ball off the snow-covered panels. The small divots created by the tennis ball help begin the snow shed process and allow sunlight to reach the modules and begin converting energy.

2. Install solar panels at the largest angle possible.
A higher angle lessens the accumulation of snow on top of the panel. Everyone that is in a very snowy place, like in northern Michigan, should be aggressive in your tilting angle. So if you have a decision to make between something like 30 degrees or 40 degrees, it’s better to go 40 degrees.

3. Don’t set up panels in a way that allows snow to gather at the bottom.
Installing panels in a way that allows the snow to fall freely from the array greatly reduces the impact of snow. When snow slides off the panel at an angle and gathers at the bottom of the module, the losses can significant. In those cases, when you have a very low tilt angle and a dam [of snow], you can lose all of the solar energy associated with the winter.

Solar Photovoltaic Installation at Chilhowee Park

This is a request for proposal due January 10th. For details go to: http://www.cityofknoxville.org/purchasing/