Archive for Call to Action

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/

Minn. Judge: Solar Beats Natural Gas for Utility Procurement

In what is being called an unprecedented decision, solar energy went head-to-head with natural gas in a competitive evaluation for utility resource planning — and solar came out on top.

Xcel Energy demonstrated need for 150 MW of new electricity generation by 2017 (and possibly 500 MW by 2019. Office of Administrative Hearings (ALJ) to look at several proposals to decide “the most reasonable and prudent strategy” to meet Xcel’s needs. Three of the five proposals received dealt with natural gas as the energy source, one offered solar in a rather unique way.

The solar project encompasses roughly 20 different commercial-sized sites (2-10 MW) adding up to 100 MW, sized to offset roughly 20 percent of the existing load at each respective substation. The cost for the 100 MW project was $250 million. Using computer models, the ALJ’s administrative law judge Eric Lipman compared each proposal against each other, gauging cost savings, fuel consumption, pollutants emitted, and other factors, and then added a number of contingencies for mandated CO2 reductions, market pricing fluctuations for each energy source, and both short- and long-term demand projections — as well as the mandated RPS and solar carve-out. Lipman also added criteria to be “compatible with protecting the natural and socioeconomic environments, including human health.”

Lipman decreed that in the short-term “the greatest value to Minnesota and Xcel’s ratepayers is drawn from selecting Geronimo’s solar energy proposal.” When properly analyzed under either a LCOE or strategist modeling, the solar submission was the lowest cost resource proposed.

Responding to the ruling, Xcel issued a statement saying it appreciates the work of the ALJ toward resource acquisitions but it “disagree[s] with some of the findings and recommendation,” and the company pledged to file a complete response once exceptions are filed with the commission.

PUC decision

Biggest Cost Reduction for Rooftop Solar Installations

According to a recent time-and-motion study of rooftop solar installations, the biggest opportunity for cost reductions are with integrated racking, and in eliminating the array of little nuts, bolts, wires, clips, pieces and parts that don’t add any functional value to the system, but still need to be assembled on the rooftop.

Full Report

Will Rural America Continue REAPing Renewable Energy Rewards?

Barn_Caldwell_Idaho
Based on a tally of 2013 REAP announcements, the total awards for the Southeastern states approaches $5 million in grants, leveraging more than $15 million in private dollars. These investments include solar photovoltaic installations, energy efficiency equipment, geothermal, and biomass projects.
Energy efficiency awards were particularly notable this year, with diverse projects including irrigation, lighting, agricultural curing and drying, and diesel engines being replaced with electric motors.

Here’s the state-by-state breakdown of 2013 REAP grant awards for our region (rounded down to the nearest thousand):
FL > $354,000
GA > $1,400,000
NC > $1,417,000
SC > $584,000
TN > $1,224,000

Original article

Obama Commits U.S. Federal Government To 20% Renewable Energy Target By 2020

Obama_in_Georgetown
President Barack Obama has issued a presidential memorandum directing the U.S. federal government to pursue a goal of deriving 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The document also instructs all federal agencies to take specific steps to better manage building performance, enhance energy efficiency and reduce energy waste.

The missive represents a follow-through on the president’s plan to counter climate change, announced in June. It directs agencies to achieve the renewable energy consumption target through a number of approved actions. The actions, in order of priority, are the following:

Installing agency-funded renewable energy on-site at federal facilities and retain renewable energy certificates;
Contracting for energy that includes the installation of a renewable energy project on-site at a federal facility or off-site and the retention of renewable energy certificates for the term of the contract;
Purchasing electricity and corresponding renewable energy certificates; and
Purchasing renewable energy certificates.
The memorandum sets a number of interim targets for renewable energy usage up to the ultimate 20% by 2020 goal. The first of these is a 10% target for 2015.

More information

Original Presidential Memorandum

Utility Of The Future Or Future Of The Utility?

Today's distributor financial modelimpact of distirbuted solar on utility revenue

Electric power industry’s traditional revenue collection model, which is based on a fixed tariff applied to volumetric consumption, is showing signs of erosion due to customer self-generation at a time of tepid to non-existent demand growth. The challenge of distributed energy resources (DERs) could not have come at a worse time for the industry – just as massive investments are needed to upgrade and modernize an aging infrastructure, it is facing the prospects of a growing number of consumers buying fewer kWhs and paying even less for the privilege of being connected to the grid under prevailing laws. This is especially true for the distributors of TVA power who are prevented by contract from generating electricity. The only alternative for TVA distributors to improve their distribution system is to charge the heck out of their customers. TVA needs to give their distributors some latitude in creating new ways of generating new sources of revenue. That will require some changes in their contract to allow them to have their own distributed solar programs. Are there any other alternatives?

Where will the funds for distribution system come from

original article

A War Over Solar Power Is Raging Within the GOP

These days Barry Goldwater, Jr. is on an unlikely crusade. In March, the former California Republican congressman founded Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed, or TUSK, after Arizona’s largest electric utility proposed a hefty new fee on solar customers and a plan to lower net metering rates, which dictate how much electric utilities pay solar customers for excess energy sold back to the grid. As Mr. Goldwater stated it “Republicans want the freedom to make the best choice.”

Goldwater’s team won a minor victory Thursday, when state utilities regulators narrowly voted to impose an average $5 monthly fee on new solar customers in Arizona. While the ruling was a compromise for the solar industry, and an acknowledgement that solar users shift power costs to the utility’s non-renewables customers, the new fees are just a fraction of the $50 to $100 that APS had asked commissioners to add to solar customers’ monthly bills.

Backed by powerful conservative groups, public utilities in several states are now pushing to curb the solar industry, and asking regulators to raise fees and impose new restrictions on solar customers. And as more people turn to rooftop solar as a way to reduce energy costs—90,000 businesses and homeowners installed panels last year, up 46 percent from 2011—the issue is pitting pro-utilities Republicans against this fledgling movement of libertarian-minded activists who see independent power generation as an individual right. In other words, the fight over solar power is raging within the GOP itself.

“As more customers install solar on their homes, it becomes even more important that everyone who uses the grid shares in the cost of keeping it operating reliably for the future,” APS CEO Don Brandt said in the company’s filing with the state regulatory commission.

(SLevy) That is where ‘Dual Metering’ which is the TVA improvement over ‘Net Metering’ is the better alternative. The general definition of dual metering is “the arrangement that measures energy exported to and imported from the utility grid separately.” In present use within the TVA system dual metering is configured as two meters; one meter to read the home use of electric energy and the other meter to monitor the solar energy generated and sent out to the distribution line. Do not confuse this with ‘Smart Metering’ where electronic measurement devices are used by utilities to communicate information for billing customers and operating their electric systems. Kudos for TVA. Why? Because the individual user should be responsible for his or her share of the cost of maintaining the distribution grid based on how much energy they use. Their use is separately metered under Dual Metering. Now the rooftop solar is also separately metered so that the user can and should be justly compensated for the excess energy their solar system produces that goes out on the grid to be used by the neighbors. This extra solar energy should be fairly compensated as the utility saves money by not having to buy the energy delivered to the grid by the solar system from the utility power provider. So TVA and its distributors have the advantage of being in a position to fairly deal with the solar PV rooftop user/provider. What do you think?

original article in New Republic.

A Push Away From Burning Coal as an Energy Source

NY Times article:
The Tennessee Valley Authority sharply accelerated a shift away from coal as an energy source on Thursday, saying it would shut down eight electricity-generating units that together will burn nearly a fifth of its coal this year. TVA is to generate 20 percent of its electricity from coal, instead of the current 38 percent. It also plans to increase the use of renewable energy sources like solar and hydropower to 20 percent, from the current 15.7 percent. Bill Johnson, said experts were studying whether more coal-fired plants should be shut down later.
Two other developments hastened the shutdowns: the advent of cheap natural gas, which has turned coal into a costlier fuel, and falling demand for electricity. Thursday’s announcement was the second and biggest step the authority had taken to reduce its appetite for coal. In 2011, T.V.A. agreed to retire 18 coal-fired generating units to settle a lawsuit by states and environmental groups charging violations of the Clean Air Act. Four of those 18 units have been shuttered so far.

Eventually, the authority hopes to get a fifth of its power each from coal, natural gas and renewables and the remaining two-fifths from nuclear plants.

reference: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/15/us/a-push-away-from-burning-coal-as-an-energy-source.html?emc=edit_tnt_20131115&tntemail0=y

Tennessee Valley Authority Makes Major Coal Plant Retirement Announcement

November 14, 2013. Today at a board meeting in Oxford, Mississippi the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors voted to retire units at three of its coal plants. This will affect coal-burning units at the Colbert and Widows Creek plants in Alabama and the Paradise plant in Kentucky.

TVA’s commitment to retire units at three coal plants will protect customers from rising energy bills as coal prices increase, and protect families from the health threats posed by coal pollution. According to the Clean Air Task Force, pollution from the Colbert coal plant in Alabama alone contributed to 940 asthma attacks, 83 heart attacks, and 57 deaths per year.

As the nation’s largest public power provider, TVA was first established to bring innovation to the Valley and address a wide range of environmental, economic and technological issues. As it transitions away from coal, TVA should remain true to its founding principles by bypassing natural gas or any other dirty fossil fuel that will continue to exacerbate environmental and public health issues.

TVA is now mapping out its next Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the strategy document outlining the utilities energy portfolio for the next 20 years. As TVA works to protect public health and decrease energy costs by moving away from coal, the utility can also commit to speeding the deployment of the most promising and cost-effective renewable technologies, like wind and solar, in its IRP. Wind and solar power are currently experiencing fast growth while simultaneously becoming more cost-competitive with TVA’s other fuel choices.

This report was excerpted from the following resource: http://www.enewspf.com/latest-news/science/science-a-environmental/47950-tennessee-valley-authority-makes-major-coal-plant-retirement-announcement.html