Archive for Grants and Incentives

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

Clean Energy Policy: Outlook for 2014

Pew Charitable Trust has a division on Clean Energy led by Phyllis Catano. At the end of this past year Pew gave their clean energy report in the form of a webinar including published presentations by three top tier organizations represented by representatives including Phyllis Cuttino, director, Pew clean energy program, Pat Bousliman of Elmendorf Ryan, Ethan Zindler of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

You can find the presentations at: http://www.pewenvironment.org/uploadedFiles/PEG/
Publications/Other_Resource/CEBN-End-of-Year-Webinar.pdf

Our website had 62,670 hits in December 2013

For solar businesses, if you want exposure then join us as we are growing our readership which doubled this past year.

Solar Photovoltaic Installation at Chilhowee Park

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

Will Rural America Continue REAPing Renewable Energy Rewards?

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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

USDA Now Accepting Applications for Solar Grants

Eric Wooldridge of Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms was approved for a grant this year.
USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant for agricultural producers and small rural businesses covers up to 25% of the cost of a solar installation. The local office is now accepting applications!

“We anticipate funding levels under REAP for 2014 to be at or higher than last year, so applications have a stronger chance of receiving awards than previous years,” says Will Dodson, Energy Director at USDA, Rural Development in Tennessee.

The application deadline has not been announced, but it is likely to be early next year.

A farm grant lunch and learn will be held next month in Hopkinsville, KY! Click here for info.

Also, here is a link to the REAP program. We have chosen the Oregon site, because it has all the information, instructions, and forms to apply. Tennessee’s REAP site can be found here.

TVA seeks public input on energy needs

The Tennessee Valley Authority is gathering public input on a long-range plan for the type and mix of energy sources it needs to provide power to the region.

Finding the right mix of coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydro-electric, renewable energy and efficiency programs is the goal of the 18-month-long planning process, TVA Vice President Joe Hoagland said. “It takes a very long, strategic look at the assets TVA needs to provide low-cost electricity for the people in the Tennessee Valley,” Hoagland said in an interview.

The direction TVA takes will ultimately affect how much residents pay for electricity, and the federal utility is embarking on the planning process at a time when it faces scrutiny from a variety of interest groups.

TVA is spending more than $1 billion to install new pollution controls at its coal-fired power plant in Gallatin. Environmental groups sued TVA for not fully studying alternatives, including retiring the aging facility.

Conservation groups and the solar industry in Tennessee have criticized TVA for not doing enough to support that renewable resource. They say TVA’s small-scale solar program is stifling the industry because it sets a cap on solar power far below demand. Some of the solar installation companies have to look outside the state for work. Our polysilicon manufacturers have laid off their work force. The on-again, off-again opportunities for solar installations are killing the solar businesses in Tennessee.

I attended the first meeting along with 15 other people. Promises of answers to questions have not been received by those that asked questions which the moderator could not answer.

Hoagland said gathering input helps TVA understand what the public and other stakeholders consider important. The “Integrated Resource Plan” looks at different fuel options and tries to anticipate how those might evolve over the next two decades, he said.

TVA completed its last plan in 2011 and typically only does an update every three to five years. But Hoagland said changes in the energy industry require an earlier update.

Natural gas prices have dropped dramatically in recent years in the midst of a nationwide surge in production. At the same time, TVA’s growth in power demand has slowed, Hoagland said.

The 2011 plan anticipated natural gas prices at about $6 per million BTUs, escalating over time, Hoagland said. Now, prices are between $3 and $3.50, he said. The current plan also assumed a 2 percent to 3 percent rate of growth, while TVA now anticipates growth at less than 1 percent.

In addition, TVA hopes to complete the Watts Bar Nuclear Unit 2 plant in 2015 and retire at least 2,700 megawatts of less-efficient coal capacity by 2018.

Anne Davis, managing attorney in Nashville for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Tuesday that she appreciates that TVA is accelerating the start of the new resource plan. She said she expects the new plan to focus on how TVA will replace its “oldest, dirtiest, and least efficient coal plants with clean and modern resources like solar, wind, hydro optimization, energy efficiency, and demand response.”

“The precipitous drop in cost of renewables and technological improvements in efficiency — coupled with enormous public demand for both of these resources — will demand more attention in this IRP,” Davis said by email.

“We have already been working with TVA on these issues, and we are committed to helping TVA modernize its long-term portfolio in a way that’s protective of ratepayers’ health, environment, and pocketbooks.”

The first public meeting was held on Thursday, October 24th in Knoxville. A second is scheduled for Nov. 6 in Memphis. To encourage more input, TVA is allowing the public to participate through online webinars. The public can access those at www.tva.gov/irp.

TVA hopes to use the webinars and a social media outreach effort to boost public participation, particular with younger residents, Hoagland said.

most of this article was taken from the Tennessean article: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20131023/NEWS/310230137/

4 Factors Driving the Marriage of Solar and Energy Storage

A solar-powered microgrid demonstrates the potential of coupling big batteries with commercial solar. What if you could finance the energy storage equipment, much the way solar panels are financed, and the batteries provided a revenue stream? Modern grid-scale battery systems are only put in place to save money or provide services to the grid. An example is one installation that includes 402 kilowatts’ worth of solar canopies in the parking lot and, in a twist that differentiates it from most commercial solar projects, a shipping-container-sized battery from startup Solar Grid Storage. Here in Knoxville we have a battery enhanced solar powered car-charging station located at the EPRI location off Dutchtown Road. On a daily basis, though, the battery will deliver frequency regulation services to the local wholesale grid. By providing quick bursts of power to keep a steady balance between supply and demand, battery owner Solar Grid Storage will earn money that is normally paid to natural gas power plant operators.

Here are the factors that are driving the combination of commercial solar and energy storage.

1. The technology is there. Better batteries are in development that will lower cost.

2. The economics can make sense. AES Energy Storage, for instance, provides frequency regulation services at a wind farm in West Virginia, buffered by a 32-megawatt lithium-ion battery bank. Revenue comes from reducing demand charges by using stored energy during peak hours. Most of its customers are in California, which has subsidies for distributed energy storage. By contrast, the desire to have emergency power has become a priority in East Coast states hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and other severe storms.

3. Solar installers want storage — if it pencils out. Military bases and island locations that rely on diesel generators are obvious candidates. A battery can smooth out the flow of power that panels provide to the local grid and address issues, such as the drops in voltage that come when clouds pass over. Batteries could also enable solar installations in places, such as farms, which would have required costly upgrades to the grid infrastructure. The contracts to finance a combined solar and storage system are complex and need to become more standardized, as power purchase agreements are, said president Scott Wiater of Standard Solar. Financing these types of systems is still relatively new and developers need to find customers willing to try not only solar, but also relatively new energy storage technology.

4. NRG Energy Inc. and Exelon Corp.’s Constellation unit say interest in combining solar power with battery storage has soared in the year since Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to millions of homes and businesses on the East Coast. They are among more than a dozen solar providers that have introduced or enhanced in the past year systems that combine rooftop solar panels that generate power and batteries that retain electricity to use later.
People with solar-powered homes and businesses were frustrated to discover that losing power from local utilities also knocked out the inverters that connect rooftop panels to the grid, leaving them unable to tap the electricity they were producing. Adding battery storage solves that problem, said Tom Doyle, chief executive officer of NRG’s solar unit.

It’s also a growing threat to utilities.
“When Sandy came along we really didn’t have a product to keep solar power flowing during blackouts,” Doyle said in an interview yesterday at the Solar Power International conference in Chicago. “Now we can install systems that continue operating when the grid fails, and the costs are coming down.”
Battery storage can add more than 20 percent to the cost of a typical 10-kilowatt solar system for a four-bedroom home, Brendon Quinlivan, director of solar development at Constellation, said in an interview.

original article can be found at: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/three-factors-driving-the-marriage-of-solar-and-energy-storage and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-23/nrg-and-exelon-see-batteries-spurring-demand-for-solar.html