Archive for Grants and Incentives

TVA’s Solar Balance Limits Have Riled Some Providers

Some solar providers are chafing at limits TVA has set as it attempts to balance large solar farm installations with more smaller home rooftop solar installations. (Lance Murphey)

Solar providers in Tennessee are chafing at the limits TVA has set as it attempts to balance large solar farm installations with more smaller home rooftop solar installations. Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division is the authority’s largest customer and solar installations in the Memphis area are dominated by the large solar installation at Agricenter International and the solar farm in rural West Tennessee along Interstate 40. “We’ve actually got a balance that we are looking for,” said Chris Stanley, spokesman for TVA. “TVA overall is looking to balance our portfolio and move into cleaner energy sources. We are looking at natural gas. We’ve had a lot of hydro this year thanks to some rains earlier in the year. … We’re looking to just change the balance so we are running cleaner by 2020.”

That solar power is also more expensive for TVA, which buys it at market rate plus a premium rate of 8 cents. The premium above market rate goes directly from TVA to the providers that sell it to a local utility.
For the 2013 slate of projects, TVA has decided to reopen applications for 2.5 megawatts in the Green Power program.
The Tennessee chapter of the Solar Energy Industry Association is urging TVA directors to drop the system of caps based on the calendar year in both programs.

Steve Johnson, the president of LightWave Solar, the provider that has an office in Memphis, estimated the 2.5 megawatts is enough capacity to last about a day. The association had been hoping for 5 megawatts to be back on the market as what it termed “a stopgap measure to prevent workforce erosion and business impacts in the short term.”
“Consumer demand for solar energy has grown faster than TVA’s ability to adjust, therefore leaving the market underserved, restricting the investment of private capital and creating unnecessary uncertainty for businesses,” said Gil Hough, president of the Tennessee chapter in calling for a “fair and market driven” approach to solar energy development.

But there are market pressures TVA is taking into account that are also factors for those in the solar energy industry. TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said that, just because TVA has filled its capacity in Green Power Providers does not mean TVA is turning down any further solar generation.

“It just means we don’t have any more money for incentives this year. We still have plenty of capacity to buy solar power at market rates,” he said.

Mansfield noted that TVA recently signed agreements with Pickwick Electric Cooperative to develop the two largest solar energy installations in the state in Selmer. The two 20-megawatt solar farm projects will sell electricity to TVA at a market rate of 8 to 9 cents per kilowatt-hour instead of the 19 cents per kilowatt-hour that TVA pays through Green Power Providers.

US Utility Business Model Woes

Jennifer Runyon is managing editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com

Jennifer Runyon, managing editor of RenewableEnergyWorld.com, had a three minute conversation with Dr. Stephen Chu, former Energy Secretary that emphasized the need for electric generators and distributors to change their business model to reflect the addition of renewables, particularly solar PV, as a significant addition to the energy mix. Chu feels that utilities ought to own solar panels and energy storage systems that they put on their customers’ roofs and in their garages. He said if utilities could outfit homeowners with solar panels and a 5-kW battery system, they could continue selling that customer power just as they do now. The utility would own the system, maintain the system and the customer would have no out-of-pocket expenses for it other than continuing to buy power at the same rate or at perhaps an even lower rate. This would nicely fit into the TVA distributors future business model for distributed solar installations while preserving the distributor’s mission of providing their customer base with high quality, reliable electric power.

When it’s just a quarter or a half of one percent of a utility’s customers that have their own PV and are selling their solar power to the grid at the retail rate, the utility doesn’t care. But energy storage and PV panel costs are dropping, and once that percentage of utility customers’ that are zeroing out their bill goes to 5, 10 or 15 percent then “it’s a big deal” said Chu.

Chu said he told utilities that PV and energy storage is going to come and they should “form a new business model” NOW so that what today is a potential revenue loss, could become an area of growth for them in the future. Plus, he said this model would eventually lead to a more stable grid for us all.

TSEA’s suggested micro-investment model suggested for TVA would complement the distributor’s suggested model, supplying solar energy at the most affordable prices with ownership of large solar farms in the hands of the ratepayer investors. The TSEA model avoids having to loan money from banks; instead, it will earn interest on the monies deposited in investments increasing the income the ratepayer investors make. The question is whether TVA and its distributors will accept these business model changes.

Runyon’s article

Energy Department Announces Over $16 Million for Innovative Small Businesses Focused on Energy Technologies

To highlight President Obama’s focus on small businesses as leaders in an economy built to last, Acting Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman today announced that the Energy Department will award 88 grants to small businesses in 28 states to develop clean energy technologies with a strong potential for commercialization and job creation.
original article

Campbell County, TN, Public Schools to Generate nearly $1M With Solar

The majority of public schools in Campbell County, Tenn., are going solar in a bid to make $960,000 over 20 years, without raising any additional taxes. That’s under a new partnership with residential and commercial solar installer Efficient Energy of Tennessee (EETN), which is installing solar at 12 of the county’s 21 schools.

The 12 schools in the program are installing 50-kilowatt solar systems, which will sell the power generated to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) through its local power distributor. Already, nine of the installations are complete and the remaining three are currently under construction, according to EETN. Under TVA’s Green Power Providers program, the TVA purchases all the output of the arrays at a premium of 9 cents per kilowatt-hour on top of the retail electricity rate. For years 11 through 20, participants are paid at the applicable retail rate.

“Not only are the solar installations at Campbell County’s elementary, middle and high schools a great STEM teaching tool but, they are generating funds for education without raising taxes,” said EETN President Robbie Thomas. “This financial model, of raising funds for education with solar energy, can be duplicated at school systems across the state of Tennessee.”
The school district, EETN and the Campbell County Finance Department were able to make the installations possible by issuing 15-year bonds. The bonds were used to finance the arrays and their installation. For the first 15 years, the installations are anticipated to produce between $12,000 and $14,400 in annual earnings, after paying all bond interest and principals. After the bonds are repaid, “Each installation will generate approximately $13,000 to $15,000 per year for Campbell County for years 16 through 20 of the power purchase agreement,” EETN said.

In all, the arrays can generate more than $960,000 over the 20 year contracts. The systems are expected to last between 30 and 35 years and could provide additional revenue or cost savings for the schools.

original article

Barack Obama puts solar at forefront of ‘assault’ on climate change

President Barack Obama today put solar at the forefront of a national strategy to cut carbon emissions in the United States as part of a “coordinated assault on a changing climate”.

The US president’s two-step climate action plan, launched at Georgetown University in Washington DC, includes regulatory efforts to curb emissions from fossil fuel power stations and to increase the use of clean energy.
“This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy, using less dirty energy, using more clean energy wasting less energy throughout our economy,” said Obama.
“Today, about 40% of America’s carbon pollution comes from power plants. But there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution those plants can pump into our air… for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe and it needs to stop.”

original article

Attendees Fund 50 kW of Solar PV for Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Music Festival

A 50-kilowatt array has been installed at Bonnaroo paid for by donations from attendees. Voluntary contributions from Bonnaroo’s roughly 80,000 annual attendees, collected through ticket sales since 2012, footed the bill for the system. Bonnaroo reserves opt-in donations exclusively for onsite sustainability improvements. In addition, festival organizers added a $1 fee to every ticket sold in 2012 to generate additional money for green initiatives. The solar installation directly resulted from both types of fan support.This is the first permanent solar system installed at a major American music festival. The clean energy produced by the system is equivalent to 20 percent of the power consumed at Bonnaroo during the annual four-day music and art extravaganza. David Bolt’s company, Sustainable Future, installed 196 SolarWorld panels. David Bolt stated that his company will supply an additional, temporary solar array at this year’s festival, which will provide shade as well as electricity for fans. “An important aspect of sustainability is to use land efficiently. Employing panels to create shade for fans next to the solar stage at Bonnaroo is a great way to accomplish this.” The system, mounted on the roof of a metal structure in the backstage area, will generate more than 61,000 kilowatt-hours of energy each year – equal to about 20 percent of Bonnaroo’s total annual power needs. While the system will not be visible to patrons, fans will peruse a solar display in “Planet Roo,” an area devoted to sustainability.

Solar Product Development (Taking Great Ideas into a Profitable Reality)

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TVA Cuts Back on Bellefonte Nuclear Plant While Residential demand spurs U.S. solar installations in 1Q13

The nation now exceeds 8.5 GW of cumulative installed solar electric capacity, of which 7.9 GW is PV. Solar nearly made up half (48 percent) of all new electric capacity installed in the U.S in 1Q13. Meanwhile in an effort to revive the stalled build at the Bellefonte nuclear power plant, the Tennessee Valley Authority is trimming the project’s budget by 64 percent and cutting 530 jobs at the facility, The budget for Bellefonte is being cut from $182 million to $66 million. According to the AP, the massive cutbacks call the entire future of the project into question.
The cutbacks come on top of a spate of bad news for the nuclear industry, culminating in the announcement last week that Southern California Edison was permanently closing the long-troubled San Onofre nuclear plant.

U.S. solar energy installations totaled 723 megawatts (MW) from January through March, a 33 percent increase from a year ago and the solar sector’s best-ever first-quarter performance. Residential solar installations rose 53 percent year-on-year to 164 MW, with the utility segment more than doubling to 318 MW. Third-party-owned solar residential systems made up two-thirds of all residential PV installations in California (exceeding non-residential for the first time), and 86 percent of them in Arizona. Residential solar has managed to expand, at times well into double-digits, for 12 of the past 13 quarters. The only top-tier residential market to shrink in 1Q13 was Arizona, which fell 9%. Average PV system costs were $3.37/W, a 24 percent drop over the past year, though that’s about 10 percent higher than the previous quarter because of fewer utility-scale projects coming online. Residential systems fell about 16 percent Y/Y (2 percent Q/Q) to $4.93/W, non-residential also fell 16 percent Y/Y (8 percent Q/Q) to $3.92/W, and utility system prices declined 26 percent Y/Y but only 6 percent Q/Q to $1.12/W. Note that there’s an especially wide range of installed PV prices by state, anywhere between $3-8/W.

Risks to distributed generation of solar PV are threefold, say SEIA and GTM Research:
Net metering revisited. As distributed generation expands, utilities are seeking to revise, cap, and even remove net metering. This will take different forms in different regions — and varying degrees of resistance or acceptance — but it will have major implications everywhere.
Utility electricity rate structures. How utilities set up their tariff structures, incorporating time-of-use pricing and fixed or volumetric charges, will have a significant impact on the economics of solar energy systems. “While net metering is currently a more public battleground, we anticipate that rate structures will soon follow behind,” they say in the report.
Who’s going to pay for it? Distributed generation could require more than $48 billion of investments from now through 2017 — far exceeding what’s been provided to date. There will be a need for new sources of capital, new financing models (think REITs and MLPs, and crowdfunding and community solar), and new investors in existing structures (tax equity). “Project finance could serve as a significant bottleneck to growth over the next four years,” they write.

original articles here and here

Utilities weigh getting into solar installation business

Some U.S. utilities are looking at getting into the solar rooftop business as the installations are creating an increasing threat to their business model.
The Wall Street Journal reported companies such as American Electric Power co. and Southern Co. are looking at making the move.
Arizona Public Service Co. has only a rooftop program for government and schools. Salt River Project has built a large solar system and allowed people to buy into it instead of getting rooftop solar.

original article

update: An appropriate quote from an article in the Forbes article: “The electric utility business model is broken. Rather than burn the Earth in political battles over net metering, we should be reimagining the regulatory compact between utilities and ratepayers and regulators.” to which I say Amen.

Tennessee Senators – Level the Playing Field of the Master Limited Partnership Legislation

Senator Alexander is quoted in a National Journal article as acknowledging climate change and the need to reduce carbon pollution. Two of his “four grand principles” includes ending the obsession with taxpayer subsidies and strategies for expensive energy and allowing marketplace solutions to create an abundance of clean,cheap, reliable energy. Right now taxpayers are subsidizing energy sources including all fossil-fuels and one wonders if our two senators are willing to eliminate all subsidies for all energy sources. The United States taxpayer is fossil fuels’ largest benefactor at $502 billion in 2011. That $502 billion is just over 3% of the US economy, currently being given away to big fossil fuels companies. Now let’s talk about leveling the playing field for energy choices based on Senator Alexander’s desire for clean, cheap, reliable energy. Depends on how you choose to compare these choices. For example, the industry uses “Grid Parity.” “Grid Parity” is defined as the point when PV-generated electricity becomes competitive with the retail rate of grid power. TVA has stated that it expects grid parity for solar in the valley by 2016. With the cost of solar energy decreasing and the cost of traditional power increasing, the abundance of clean, cheap, reliable energy will favor renewables after 2016 which is less than 3 years away.

Then there is the “Levelized cost of energy” (LCOE). LCOE is the minimum price at which energy must be sold for an energy project to break even. Typically LCOEs are calculated over 20 to 40 year lifetimes, and are given in the units of currency per kilowatt-hour, for example USD/kWh. Solar’s LOE uses a life of 20 years. We know that is an understatement for the useful life of solar based on monocrystalline silicon based panels. First, the panels are warranted to have a 80% output at the end of 25 years. Second, studies of 30+ year old panels showed no degradation. A more rational life of the premium solar panels should be either 30 or 40 years in life. This drastically reduces the LOE for solar.

We can further decrease cost of solar by giving it the same tax benefits as all the other energy fuels. This can be done by including renewables in the recent legislation offered in the house and senate. In the senate the legislation is called “The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act.” The Master Limited Partnership includes all fossil-fuels but not renewables. Both houses have bi-partisan support for the addition of renewables. In a Duke study, a baseline LCOE for all energies included in the MLP showed a decrease in LCOE of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour without federal tax credits. In addition the inclusion of renewables in the MLP legislation would reduce the cost of financing of renewable energy projects by that same 5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Today,the cost of financing makes up an ever-greater fraction of the total cost of renewable projects by as much as 50% according to Brookings.

Should the federal government continue research into solar photovoltaics? The answer is yes. The aim should be to increase the efficiency of future solar systems while keeping close control of the cost of manufacturing.

Senators Alexander and Corker, support the Master Limited Partnership Parity Act and hold to Senator Alexander’s principal of to create an abundance of clean,cheap, reliable energy.