Archive for National

Biggest Cost Reduction for Rooftop Solar Installations

According to a recent time-and-motion study of rooftop solar installations, the biggest opportunity for cost reductions are with integrated racking, and in eliminating the array of little nuts, bolts, wires, clips, pieces and parts that don’t add any functional value to the system, but still need to be assembled on the rooftop.

Full Report

Will Rural America Continue REAPing Renewable Energy Rewards?

Barn_Caldwell_Idaho
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

Igloo-shaped building attracts attention

WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather

Made possible through a grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), the building is solar-powered and made of a material called Colfibrex. It’s water resistant, mold resistant, and very energy-efficient. It’s design makes for a great tornado shelter, too.

The building is open to the public and for all ages. Inside you’ll find materials and video kiosks with information about conservation, sustainable living, recycling “Dos and Don’ts”, and more. Stop in on your next recycling trip, or to arrange a tour ahead of time contact the Athens Public Works Department.

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

A War Over Solar Power Is Raging Within the GOP

These days Barry Goldwater, Jr. is on an unlikely crusade. In March, the former California Republican congressman founded Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed, or TUSK, after Arizona’s largest electric utility proposed a hefty new fee on solar customers and a plan to lower net metering rates, which dictate how much electric utilities pay solar customers for excess energy sold back to the grid. As Mr. Goldwater stated it “Republicans want the freedom to make the best choice.”

Goldwater’s team won a minor victory Thursday, when state utilities regulators narrowly voted to impose an average $5 monthly fee on new solar customers in Arizona. While the ruling was a compromise for the solar industry, and an acknowledgement that solar users shift power costs to the utility’s non-renewables customers, the new fees are just a fraction of the $50 to $100 that APS had asked commissioners to add to solar customers’ monthly bills.

Backed by powerful conservative groups, public utilities in several states are now pushing to curb the solar industry, and asking regulators to raise fees and impose new restrictions on solar customers. And as more people turn to rooftop solar as a way to reduce energy costs—90,000 businesses and homeowners installed panels last year, up 46 percent from 2011—the issue is pitting pro-utilities Republicans against this fledgling movement of libertarian-minded activists who see independent power generation as an individual right. In other words, the fight over solar power is raging within the GOP itself.

“As more customers install solar on their homes, it becomes even more important that everyone who uses the grid shares in the cost of keeping it operating reliably for the future,” APS CEO Don Brandt said in the company’s filing with the state regulatory commission.

(SLevy) That is where ‘Dual Metering’ which is the TVA improvement over ‘Net Metering’ is the better alternative. The general definition of dual metering is “the arrangement that measures energy exported to and imported from the utility grid separately.” In present use within the TVA system dual metering is configured as two meters; one meter to read the home use of electric energy and the other meter to monitor the solar energy generated and sent out to the distribution line. Do not confuse this with ‘Smart Metering’ where electronic measurement devices are used by utilities to communicate information for billing customers and operating their electric systems. Kudos for TVA. Why? Because the individual user should be responsible for his or her share of the cost of maintaining the distribution grid based on how much energy they use. Their use is separately metered under Dual Metering. Now the rooftop solar is also separately metered so that the user can and should be justly compensated for the excess energy their solar system produces that goes out on the grid to be used by the neighbors. This extra solar energy should be fairly compensated as the utility saves money by not having to buy the energy delivered to the grid by the solar system from the utility power provider. So TVA and its distributors have the advantage of being in a position to fairly deal with the solar PV rooftop user/provider. What do you think?

original article in New Republic.

KKR and Google to Invest in Six U.S. Solar Power Plants

KKR & Co. and Google Inc. have struck a pact to invest about $400 million in six solar-power plants being built by Recurrent Energy LLC in California and Arizona. Development of the plants has been under way for years and they are expected to go online and begin producing power in January, the people said.

The plants—five in southern California and one in Arizona—are designed to produce about 106 megawatts of electricity combined, or enough to power about 17,000 U.S. homes, they said. San Francisco-based Recurrent, which will continue as their operator, has struck long-term power supply agreements with three buyers for the electricity they’re expected to churn, the people said.

Tennessee Valley Authority Makes Major Coal Plant Retirement Announcement

November 14, 2013. Today at a board meeting in Oxford, Mississippi the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors voted to retire units at three of its coal plants. This will affect coal-burning units at the Colbert and Widows Creek plants in Alabama and the Paradise plant in Kentucky.

TVA’s commitment to retire units at three coal plants will protect customers from rising energy bills as coal prices increase, and protect families from the health threats posed by coal pollution. According to the Clean Air Task Force, pollution from the Colbert coal plant in Alabama alone contributed to 940 asthma attacks, 83 heart attacks, and 57 deaths per year.

As the nation’s largest public power provider, TVA was first established to bring innovation to the Valley and address a wide range of environmental, economic and technological issues. As it transitions away from coal, TVA should remain true to its founding principles by bypassing natural gas or any other dirty fossil fuel that will continue to exacerbate environmental and public health issues.

TVA is now mapping out its next Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the strategy document outlining the utilities energy portfolio for the next 20 years. As TVA works to protect public health and decrease energy costs by moving away from coal, the utility can also commit to speeding the deployment of the most promising and cost-effective renewable technologies, like wind and solar, in its IRP. Wind and solar power are currently experiencing fast growth while simultaneously becoming more cost-competitive with TVA’s other fuel choices.

This report was excerpted from the following resource: http://www.enewspf.com/latest-news/science/science-a-environmental/47950-tennessee-valley-authority-makes-major-coal-plant-retirement-announcement.html

Solar Schools: Powering classrooms, empowering communities.

Solar Schools from NRDC on Vimeo.

The Solar Schools platform will help parents and students connect and organize themselves around development of specific solar projects that increase renewable energy infrastructure in their community. We are building a bridge that connects local enthusiasm for renewable energy with the experts and resources they need to build the communities they desire.

To help fund, or learn more about this campaign, visit at: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/solar-schools-powering-classrooms-empowering-communities

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