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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

residential solar installations is stronger and broader than expected

Study Says Most Americans Would Consider Residential Solar. A study from research firm Market Strategies International finds that interest in residential solar installations is stronger and broader than expected among American consumers, even when those consumers are educated on associated costs. With few exceptions, this interest is strong across virtually all age and income groups.

Survey participants were informed that, “The cost of a typical home solar system is about $30,000 and provides about 60% of a home’s electricity needs. The final costs of a solar system can be reduced through a federal tax credit that allows purchasers to deduct 30% of the systems’ cost from their income taxes. Some states also provide financial incentives for solar installations.”

According to the survey, the information made 51% of respondents more interested in home solar systems, with consumers older than 55, again, the only group to show less interest. A majority of respondents across every income group continued to show interest – even low-income households with incomes under $25,000.

“It’s pretty clear that most utilities in the U.S. have to figure out an effective strategy for working with their customers who want solar power,” says Jack Lloyd, senior vice president of energy at Market Strategies. “Companies will take different approaches in adapting to the situation, but rooftop solar appears to be poised to move beyond its early adopter niche and become a more mainstream phenomenon.”

original article: http://www.solarindustrymag.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.13353#utm_medium=email&utm_source=LNH+10-18-2013&utm_campaign=SIM+News+Headlines

Solar Shines in Knoxville on November 2nd Solar Tour

Come out to the 2013 Solar Tour

Knoxville residents and businesses considering solar have an opportunity to learn more at the TN Solar Energy Association’s third annual solar tour on November 2, 2013.

The Tennessee Solar Energy Association (TSEA) in collaboration with the City of Knoxville is holding a discussion on solar for your home or business in the public meeting room of the Knoxville Transit Center. The meeting location will be 301 E Church Ave. First 35 to arrive will be seated on the bus. The remaining participants will be able to car pool and follow the bus on its route. The event will begin at 8:30 am and conclude at 3:00 pm.

At 10 am the bus tour will begin. The following 5 sites will be viewed: the Civic Coliseum parking garage, new solar installations at UT, Calhouns at Turkey Creek, a unique solar roofed subdivision, and a solar array at the Bearden Beer Garden. Participants will be able to dismount the bus and ask questions at each site.

The tour will return to the Knoxville Transit Center at 3:00 PM. A handout will be provided which contains a listing and description of the stops on departure. If after the tour you want more information on solar energy for your home or business, contact steve@tnsolarenergy.org.

The Tennessee Solar Energy Association is a non-profit charter- member of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). We are dedicated to educating Tennesseans about the many unique benefits of using solar energy. We believe that widespread adoption of solar technology in the state of Tennessee will help create energy independence, lessen harmful environmental impacts, and result in cost savings for consumers.

Japan Next-Generation Farmers Cultivate Crops and Solar Energy

Farmers in Japan can now generate solar electricity while growing crops on the same farmland. This co-existence or double-generation is known as “Solar Sharing” in Japan. The concept was originally developed by Akira Nagashima in 2004, who was a retired agricultural machinery engineer who later studied biology and learned the “light saturation point.” The rate of photosynthesis increases as the irradiance level is increased; however at one point, any further increase in the amount of light that strikes the plant does not cause any increase to the rate of photosynthesis.

By knowing that too much sun won’t help further growth of plants, Nagashima came up with the idea to combine PV systems and farming. He devised and originally patented special structure, which is much like a pergola in a garden. He created a couple of testing fields with different shading rates and different crops. The structures he created are made of pipes and rows of PV panels, which are arranged with certain intervals to allow enough sunlight to hit the ground for photosynthesis.

Based on the tests conducted at his solar testing sites in Chiba Prefecture, he recommends about 32% shading rate for a farmland space to reach adequate growth of crops. In other words, there is twice as much empty space for each PV module installed. Takazawa installed 348 PV panels on a small 750 square-meter of farmland. PV panels are installed on pipes, which are 3-meter high from the ground. Rows of PV panels are installed every 5 meters. Under the PV system, Takasawa’s father has been cultivating peanuts, yams, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, and taros and will cultivate cabbages during the winter. These vegetables are sold at a nearby street and consumed by his neighbors.

Many have questioned stability and durability of the PV structure for solar shared family. Nagashima stated that his systems, which are made of thin pipes without concrete footings, even withstood strong winds and earthquakes during the Fukushima Tsunami disasters in 2011. These systems are extremely lightweight and installation of PV panels are spaced out, allowing air to flow through between the panels. This will eliminate concern that the panels will receive wind load and be blown away, therefore, reducing the need for complicated and expensive mounting hardware.

Leading Utilities Recognize the Need for Solar Energy as Older Nuclear Plants Pass Their Economic Viability

CEOs from opposite sides of the country also spent much time discussing the increasing role of renewable energy and distributed generation.

California is known for having the nation’s most ambitious renewable energy mandate while North Carolina, where Duke is based, also has a growing solar energy presence.
Edison CEO Ted Craver said electric utilities would be mistaken to dismiss distributed generation as merely a “fringe” business in the future. The Edison chief said his company initially started in the field by supplying big solar arrays for “big box” stores.

“A lot of this is really experimental,” Craver said. Utility subsidiary Southern California Edison (SCE) used to rely on industrial customers for one-third of its load but that is now probably closer to 10 percent, Craver said.

While some argue that California policy has been inhospitable to heavy industry, it’s important to realize that manufacturers are looking to generate more of their own power, Craver said.
The utility, SCE, is also investing more in the transmission side of its business to accommodate the growing role of distributed generation in California.

Duke is developing a variety of resources in its service territories — including new combined-cycle and peaking units in Florida — to help compensate for retirement of the Crystal River nuclear plant and potential coal units retirements as well. California is known for having the nation’s most ambitious renewable energy mandate while North Carolina, where Duke is based, also has a growing solar energy presence.

Getting Your Money’s Worth Out of Energy Efficiency Webinar

You know implementing energy efficiency projects can produce cash flow and grow your business, but did you know these same energy efficiency projects are also eligible for federal tax incentives?

Event: Webinar: Getting Your Money’s Worth Out of Energy Efficiency
Date: September 30, 2013
Time: 1:00–2:00 EDT / 12:00–1:00 CDT
Admission: Free


Please join the Tennessee Energy Education Initiative for a webinar on monetizing energy efficiency projects and taking advantage of tax incentives. This is valuable knowledge for CFOs, financial advisors, and other key decision makers in organizations seeking to improve bottom lines through energy efficiency initiatives.

Here’s what you can expect:
• Monetizing Energy Solutions: The Road to Funding
Christopher Russell, Visiting Fellow, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; Principal, Energy Pathfinder Management Consulting LLC.
• Guide to Tax Incentives for Commercial Business
CJ Aberin, CCSP, shareholder at KBKG, a specialty tax firm focused on securing energy tax incentives, will summarize the benefits of the Energy-Efficient Commercial Buildings (179D) federal tax deduction and other related tax strategies, explain the process, and share information about ideal candidates and eligible projects so you know how to get started.

http://tnenergy.org/event/getting-your-moneys-worth-out-of-energy-efficiency/

TVA forms advisory energy panels

The Tennessee Valley Authority is forming two new advisory boards this fall to give advice and counsel about the changing power market ahead.

TVA is creating a new 19-member panel known as the Regional Energy Resource Council to offer ongoing input into how TVA balances the need for reliable power and low-cost electricity with energy efficiency, cleaner energy and transmission requirements. Joe Hoagland, chief technology officer for TVA, said the new council “will provide valuable advice as TVA develops policies and strategies associated with our future.” “TVA wants to ensue that it manages the power system with all public interests in mind,” Hoagland said.

The new Regional Energy Resource Council is headed by Goodrich “Gus” Rogers, the president of the Jackson County Economic Development Authority in Alabama. Rogers is an ardent supporter of finishing the incomplete Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant his Hollywood, Ala., which TVA will consider in is long-range power plan. But other members of the 19-member panel approved by the TVA board have differing views.

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said TVA also will soon form an advisory board to help guide its Integrated Resource Plan, which is a 10-year plan for future power growth in the Valley.

original article

Photovoltaic System Pricing Updated 2013

The following is an extract from a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The report is a high-level overview of historical, recent, and projected near-term PV system pricing trends in the United States, drawing on several ongoing research activities at LBNL and NREL. Prices are subject to the location, suppliers, pricing, as well as local economic factors. According to the report near future analysts expect system prices to continue to fall, but for module prices to stabilize (Module ASP projected to be between $0.50/W – $0.75/W by 2014 ).

Modeled overnight capital cost for systems quoted in Q4 2012 (expected to be installed in 2013):

Residential (5.1 kW) was $3.69/W, a reduction of 13% from Q4 2011

Commercial (222.5 kW) was $2.61/W, a reduction of 19% from Q4 2011

Utility-scale (192.8 MW) was $1.92/W, a reduction of 23% from Q4 2011.

The report can be downloaded here

DOW Solar Powerhouse Shingle

On November 2nd, TSEA will hold the 4th annual Solar Tour. One of the stops on the tour will be with Twin Willows Development off of Hardin Valley Rd, near Buttermilk Dr. The first house, installed with DOW’s solar shingles, will be explained by subdivision developer Adam Hutsell, and his installer, Jim Laborde. This will be a first for TVA, in which a developer will be installing solar as part of the overall construction of the homes at no extra cost. In addition to the solar, the energy saving features of the construction and choice of appliances tend to save energy, reducing the cost of monthly expenses. The tour will begin with an introductory talk at 8:30, at the Public Meeting room at Knoxville Transit Center on Church St(across the street to the Civic Center). We have limited seating, so arrive as soon as possible to ensure a place on our bus!