Archive for National

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

Renewables Account For 99% Of New U.S. Generation In January

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-electricity-power-generation-illustration-image9274887
Non-hydro renewable energy sources accounted for more than 99% of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity installed during January for a total of 324 MW, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). According to the FERC statistics, renewable energy sources, including hydropower, now account for 16.03% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: hydro – 8.44%, wind – 5.20%, biomass – 1.36%, solar – 0.70%, and geothermal steam – 0.33%. This is more than nuclear (9.26%) and oil (4.04%) combined.

“The trends are unmistakable,” concludes Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Renewables are the energy growth market of the future, with solar – for the moment, at least – the leader of the pack.”

Citing the FERC statistics, renewable energy advocacy group SUN DAY Campaign explains solar led the way in January with 13 new “units” totaling 287 MW, followed by geothermal steam with three new units totaling 30 MW. Biomass added three new units totaling 3 MW, while wind had one new unit with an installed capacity of 4 MW. In addition, there was 1 MW added that FERC defined as “other.”

Natural Resources Defense Council calls for compensation for customers with solar PV

NRDC

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the U.S. utility industry’s trade group are jointly calling for a new rate structure to account for customers that generate their own power with rooftop solar systems. “We need the grid and need to improve it in ways that support clean energy and distributed resources,” says Nathanael Greene, director of renewable energy policy at the NRDC in New York. Owners of rooftop solar panels “must provide reasonable cost-based compensation for the utility services they use,” says both groups. In exchange, utilities must simplify the process of connecting systems to the grid and compensate owners “fairly for the services they provide.”

Under the current policy, known as net metering, utilities must purchase excess electricity generated by customers’ solar panels. Both groups want that policy to continue, with a new mechanism that would cover utilities’ fixed costs. Still, they agree that changes to utility rate structures would improve energy-efficiency programs and expand rooftop solar. They recommend allowing utilities to recover the costs of maintaining and improving the grid in a way that’s not tied to the amount of electricity they deliver to consumers.

“We want regulators to decouple grid charges from volumetric consumption,” Greene said. “Then the utilities can’t use net metering as an excuse for the high fixed-cost charges they want.”

Comment from S. Levy:
It is my personal belief that ratepayers are going to be supplied by smart metering in the near future. As a result of smart metering, the electric utility industry will begin setting different rates based on their peak loads during the day and evening hours. The purpose being to lower the peak demand that occurs between the hours of 5 pm and 9 pm. So, they will charge the consumer more during the peak hours to reduce the peak load and with it, the resources to produce and deliver that higher power level.

It’s all about demand charge management and that demand charge management can result in a 10 percent to 20 percent bill savings. That is if the homeowner controls the use of high wattage appliances and home electric heating and cooling of the home and their water heater. Automation is available today that can control these energy users.

******DO NOT INSTALL SOLAR PV ON YOUR SIDE OF THE ELECTRIC METER WITHOUT CONTACTING YOUR DISTRIBUTOR**************

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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Every Four Minutes, Another American Home or Business Goes Solar

Obama_in_Georgetown-200x150This was the quote from the President’s State of the Union address this past week. He then suggested, as he has before, that we divert tax breaks from fossil fuel industries to fund more development of “fuels of the future.” Even Forbes stated that the shift in supports “While that policy makes some sense, it needs to be pegged to commodity prices..” There has been a split in the Republican Congress members from a solid wall against renewables, to one where many of the party are now supporting wind, solar and biomass. Expect the final version of the Agriculture bill to contain substantial support for biomass as an energy source. We do need more research into future solar development. We need to concentrate on supporting increases in conversion efficiency for solar PV.

We need the Federal Government to fund a more automated solar foundry in the Gigawatt class which would demonstrate producing solar panels for less than $0.30 per watt. We need to automate the installation of racking and solar panel mounting for solar plants. We have produced panels with 30% and higher efficiencies, but the cost was prohibitive. Focussing on higher efficiency along with a massive production facility will result in lower panel cost in large scale manufacturing. The windpower from Texas can be sent to TVA region for about four cents per kilowatt-hour according to recent testimony before the TVA resources council. Solar has to aim for that same price.

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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Sharp says to end solar panel production in U.S. by end-March

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closedJapan’s Sharp Corp (6753.T) said on Thursday it would stop making solar panels in the United States by the end of March, extending its overhaul of unprofitable operations in response to fierce competition from low-cost Chinese rivals. The U.S. shutdown would cost about 300 jobs, or two-thirds of the workforce, at a Sharp plant in Tennessee, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said. Sharp has been scrambling to repair its balance sheet since racking up a net loss of 545 billion yen ($5.23 billion) in the last business year through March 2013.

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