Archive for East Tennessee News

Could Minnesota’s “Value of Solar” Make Everyone a Winner?

Until now, those under TVA Green Partners program have been producing on-site energy from a solar panel has been treated much like any other activity reducing electricity use. Effectively the energy produced from solar is subtracted from the amount of energy used each month, and the customer pays for the remaining amount of energy consumed. The nations utilities are fearful of the financial effects of a reduced distributor income from the energy produced by solar. Increasing evidence suggests that the overall economic benefits to the utility’s electric grid may outweigh the loss of revenue. Xcel Energy, the Minnesota’s largest electric utility, shared estimations for the value of solar in its comments (to reduce the value) to the Public Utilities Commission in mid-February.

Value of solar to electric power distributors


The solar market price includes eight separate factors, but the largest four account for the lion’s share of the value: 25 years of avoided natural gas purchases, avoided new power plant purchases, avoided transmission capacity, and avoided environmental costs.
The value of avoided fuel cost recognizes that utilities cannot buy natural gas on long-term contracts the way they can buy fixed-price solar energy, and it internalizes the risk of fuel variability that utilities have previously laid on ratepayers.
The avoided power plant generation capacity value recognizes that sufficient solar capacity allows utilities to defer peak energy investments (like Xcel’s recently requested three natural gas peaking power plants that an administrative law judge discarded in favor of distributed solar).
Avoided transmission capacity costs rewards solar for on-site energy production, saving on the cost of infrastructure and energy losses associated with long-range imports.
The environmental value may be the most precedent setting, because it means that when buying solar power under Minnesota’s value of solar tariff, a utility is for the first time paying for the environmental harm it had previously been socializing onto everyone else. This value is based on the federal “social cost of carbon” as well as non-carbon externality values adopted by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The preliminary market value of solar estimate by Xcel Energy (14.5¢ per kilowatt-hour) for Minnesota. Here in Tennessee we have a better solar exposure and can expect the solar estimate will be larger. The cost of electricity for the homeowner is now 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. The estimated levelized cost of energy from rooftop solar presently is between 16 and 20 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Distributors with their buying power can reduce the levelized cost of energy from solar. Interestly Best Buy in partnership with SolarCity that’s now coming out of its pilot phase, roughly 65 Best Buy shops in the U.S. now offer solar arrays to their customers. The company’s solar-as-a-service offerings allow homeowners to go solar with little or no up-front costs.

The Red Faces of the Solar Skeptics

For years, these critics — of solar photovoltaics in particular — have called renewable energy a boutique fantasy. A recent Wall Street Journal blog post continues the trend, asserting that solar subsidies take money from the poor to benefit the rich. this year the total photovoltaic capacity in the United States is projected to reach 10 gigawatts, the energy equivalent of several nuclear power plants. (By one estimate, photovoltaic costs crossed over to become cheaper than electricity generated by new nuclear plants about four years ago.)

Solar subsidies are dwarfed by historical taxpayer support of both fossil-fuel and nuclear-generated electricity. The International Energy Agency warns that continuing fossil-fuel subsidies contribute significantly to global environmental problems. The President has suggested that the 30% tax benefit for solar PV be eliminated or severely reduced. My reply is sure, when you remove all the subsidies for electric power of any type. Especially nuclear and fossil fuels.

To answer the critics that solar will depend on energy storage for it to be considered a dispatchable resources for electricity. Then why did TVA build one of the largest pumped stores before solar was on the horizon? It is simple, it is to balance supply and demand of electricity. it is the same reasoning for coal and nuclear plants where the plant says on line and the extra energy is sent to the store for use later. It is the same deal for solar.

An investment analysis by the financial services company UBS contends that an “unsubsidized solar revolution” has begun that could eventually supply as much as 18 percent of electricity demand in Germany, Spain and Italy. The report goes on to suggest that electric utility companies serving these markets may see their profits take a hit. The UBS analysts say that consumer-supplied solar electricity tends to reduce the spikes in electricity demand on the power grid (so-called peak load) from which these utilities have traditionally derived much of their revenue.

see the original article that led to this blog item at: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/10/the-red-faces-of-the-solar-skeptics/?_php=true&_type=blogs&src=rechp&_r=0

Apply now for 2014 Rural Energy for America Funding

solar farming2Farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses can apply now for grants and loan guarantees for clean energy projects under the Rural Energy for America Program – or REAP. REAP was renewed in the 2014 Farm Bill and supports a wide range of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, including wind, solar, biogas, biomass, small hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, wave, and hydroelectric technologies.

An official notice of funding availability is expected in early April, with an application deadline 60 days later. This notice would be for funds from the 2014 appropriation plus funds carried over from previous years (total about $28 million). When the final REAP rule is announced, possibly in June or July, a second funding announcement will be issued for the 2014 mandatory funding ($50 million) from the new Farm Bill. Applications submitted but not funded in the first round will be considered in the second round.

Applicants should also be sure to check in early with the state staff of USDA rural development. They can answer questions, provide useful advice and may need to visit the project during the application process.

For more information go to: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/TN-Home.html

Free Workshop On Benefits And Incentives Available For Solar To Area Residents

Do-It-Yourself Workshop. Ours will be comfortably indoors

Do-It-Yourself Workshop. Ours will be comfortably indoors

green|spaces in partnership with Aries Energy, is providing a free workshop to local residents that are interested in solar for their homes. The workshop will take place on March 19 at green|spaces, 63 E. Main Street Chattanooga, Tn. 37408 from 8-9 a.m.

Attendees will learn about the Tennessee Solar Program including incentives, credits, federal tax credits and applications. Additionally, the workshop will cover information on the typical grid-tied system and other unique solar installations. TVA has an annual cap on the solar programs it offers. The residential program is filling rapidly.

To r.s.v.p., individuals may contact Dawn Hjelseth at 423 648-0963 or email dawn@greenspaceschattanooga.com.

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.”



A One Megawatt Project Planned for Oak Ridge

Restoration SevicesRestoration Services Inc. is partnering with Vis Solis to build a one megawatt solar farm at the East Tennessee Technology Park, former K-25 site, on a site leased from Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET). The solar power generated electricity will go to the TVA grid to run the equivalent of nearly 150 homes. Gil Hough, manager of the renewable energy division of Restoration Services says that is almost a done deal. Construction is expected to start in April. What makes this solar installation unique is the use of Vis Solis tracking of the sun to always keep the panels pointed towards the sun for maximum performance. The increase in power production can be as high as 30% over the conventional fixed arrays.

Kudos to Ted Wampler, Elizabeth Eason and to Alcoa

Elizaberh EasonThe U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) East Tennessee Chapter at its third annual Green Light Awards recognized local businesses and individuals that have had a major influence on sustainability in this region. Alcoa was given a premier recognition for its efforts to curb energy use. Alcoa’s energy efficiency group is based in Knoxville area and has set an aggressive goals of reducing its carbon footprint and encourages their employees to volunteer in projects dedicated to the environment.

Ted Wampler received the Green Leader Award for Wampler’s Farm Sausage which has revamped its plant to reach a net zero energy consumption with its half megawatt solar array and novel biomass burner that converts biomass pellets to hydrogen and other combustible gases to energize an electric generator supplying power to the plant. The Wamplers also donated a 50 kilowatt solar system to the Knoxville Zoo.

Elizabeth Eason, architect, was also awarded a Green Leader Award for her dedication to promoting sustainable building practices and as a founding member of the local USGBC chapter.

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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