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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

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**************

Solar Photovoltaic Installation at Chilhowee Park

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

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

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.