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

Free Workshop On Benefits And Incentives Available For Solar To Area Residents

Do-It-Yourself Workshop. Ours will be comfortably indoors

Do-It-Yourself Workshop. Ours will be comfortably indoors

green|spaces in partnership with Aries Energy, is providing a free workshop to local residents that are interested in solar for their homes. The workshop will take place on March 19 at green|spaces, 63 E. Main Street Chattanooga, Tn. 37408 from 8-9 a.m.

Attendees will learn about the Tennessee Solar Program including incentives, credits, federal tax credits and applications. Additionally, the workshop will cover information on the typical grid-tied system and other unique solar installations. TVA has an annual cap on the solar programs it offers. The residential program is filling rapidly.

To r.s.v.p., individuals may contact Dawn Hjelseth at 423 648-0963 or email dawn@greenspaceschattanooga.com.

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.”

Shine a light: Solar array latest ‘cutting-edge’ project at UT-Baptist Research Park in Memphis

index Memphis Bioworks will install by April 12 about 3,000 solar panels atop its parking garage at Union and Dudley.

The 2.3-acre installation is designed not only to generate 750 kilowatts, but also to burnish the image of UT-Baptist Research Park as a clean-tech, cutting-edge place for companies to locate, said Dr. Steve Bares, president and executive director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation.

“This isn’t just about solar for us; it is also about positioning the UT-Baptist Research Park as a progressive leader in science of sustainability through such things as the intelligent use of space…,” Bares said.

The solar project is the most visible of several projects making the research park more environmentally friendly.

Memphis Bioworks recently completed a $162,535 project to upgrade the lights in the same parking garage to LED lights, which use less electricity and last longer.

Also, two charging stations for electric vehicles have been installed at the entrance to the parking garage.

And new bike racks have been placed at its headquarters next to the parking garage.

The nonprofit Memphis Bioworks is leading the development of UT-Baptist Research Park, the focus of the city’s biomedical economic development.

The parking garage has three levels totaling 917 spaces.

The solar array on top will sacrifice only a couple of parking spaces; the panels will be raised high enough that vehicles can park beneath them, in the shade of the panels.

The solar panels will be purchased from Memphis-based Sharp Manufacturing.

The project’s financing is similar to Agricenter International’s deal to build its 1-megawatt solar array, which is also to be completed by April.

Nashville-based Silicon Ranch, founded by former governor Phil Bredesen, will finance construction, own the system and sell the power to Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division for the first 10 years.

After 10 years, Memphis Bioworks will have the option to purchase the solar installation from Silicon Ranch.

The Agricenter’s project is like a solar farm, with the panels planted on about five acres of ground.

Bioworks is different, fitting the array into the densely developed urban core, over parked cars and across from a Walgreens.

“With our installation,” said Allan Daisley, Bioworks’ director of innovation and sustainability initiatives, “we will demonstrate an effective urban solar deployment and expect to gain experience that is then applicable to other deployments across the city.”

The solar panels should be visible to the many motorists passing by on Union Avenue, Daisley said.

Bioworks may work with an urban designer to enhance the way the installation looks from the street, Bioworks spokeswoman Regina Whitley said.

Its appearance could be a concern if the project isn’t done right, indicated Beth Flanagan, director of the Memphis Medical Center.

“You’re not going to miss it,” she said of motorists’ views. “It’s pretty tall off the top of the decks.”

She doesn’t necessarily want the solar panels screened from view. But she said, “Just make it look cool. Don’t make it look like a big piece of steel.”

The parking garage once served the massive Baptist Memorial Hospital. The research park is emerging where the hospital stood, before demolition.

Since the research park is still in its infancy, only about 40 percent of the garage is typically used, Bares said.

But across the Memphis Medical Center, parking is in high demand. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and hospitals have arrangements with Bioworks to allow their employees to use the parking garage, even though it’s on the south end of the district.

The garage will be used even more as the research park gains more tenants, Bares said.

A spat between the United States and China threatens the future of solar power.

140212_TECH_ChinaSolarPanels.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlargeSolar power is an environmentalist’s dream, but for decades it was too expensive to be practical. In the past few years, that has finally been changing. Americans are signing up in droves to put panels on their roofs, not only for the good of the climate, but because—once you factor in government incentives—it’s often cheaper than conventional electricity, especially in sunny states. That was unimaginable only 10 years ago.

The boom has been fueled by cheap solar panels from China, which has been heavily subsidizing solar manufacturing. The glut has been good not only for American customers, but for U.S. companies that install solar panels. Startups like Sunrun and the Elon Musk–backed SolarCity have grown explosively by installing Chinese-made panels on U.S. homes and businesses, often through financing mechanisms that require no money down.* As a result, the solar industry has been a bright spot in the U.S. economy, with jobs growing by 20 percent a year. It now employs 140,000 Americans and counting, and is one of the few sectors in which President Obama’s promise of “green jobs” has actually materialized.

But the good times could be coming to an end. It’s not that China is cutting off the supply of cheap panels. It’s that the United States is threatening to slap new tariffs on them that could sharply drive up the price. It would also likely prompt China to retaliate with more duties on U.S.-manufactured polysilicon, a key ingredient in those panels.

The push comes from America’s small and struggling domestic solar-panel manufacturing industry, which can’t compete with the discounted wares from China. Ironically, it’s a German-owned firm, SolarWorld AG, whose U.S. division is lobbying for the federal government to protect it from foreign rivals. On the other side are U.S. solar panel installers that rely on Chinese goods. As analyst Eric Wesoff once joked, one side is wearing an American flag over a German flag, and the other has an American flag draped over a Chinese flag.

The U.S. is justified in wanting to ensure that China isn’t just flooding the market in order to corner it. But it would be far better served by addressing the problem through negotiation than a new round of punitive duties. That’s what the European Union did in a similar case against China, which it settled last year without irreparable harm to any of the parties concerned. China itself appears perfectly willing to pick up the phone. Why hasn’t Obama?

Vanderbilt, MTSU teams to compete in Solar Decathlon

solarfoundationVanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee State University will participate in the U.S. Energy Department’s Solar Decathlon 2015, competing against 19 other college teams to build solar-powered and energy-efficient houses.

Through Solar Decathlon 2015, students will design and construct houses that will be judged on affordability, consumer appeal, design excellence and energy efficiency. The student teams will reassemble the homes at the competition site at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif., to be judged in fall 2015.

Students in construction management; interior design; and electrical, mechanical and civil engineering will be involved in the planning, designing and building processes, which will lead to constructing a home that is greater than 600 square feet but less than 1,000 square feet in size. The home initially will be built on the Vanderbilt campus.

The competition was created in 2002, and until 2013 it was held he National Mall in Washington, D.C. Homes made through the decathlon are located throughout the U.S. and in countries around the world, including Spain, China and Belgium.

Mississippi is the “sunshine state” for TVA

Where are the best spots to build solar power in the Tennessee Valley Authority? It turns out, many of them are in Mississippi!

We recently obtained 16 years of simulated solar power production data from Clean Power Research for the Tennessee Valley Authority region, looking at 26 sites scattered from east to west, and north to south in the region. It turns out that the best sites are in the western part of TVA, which isn’t surprising since the sun sets later in the west, and TVA needs power most towards the end of the day.

We were a little surprised to see a site in Kentucky make our “Top 10″ solar sites list, since most people tend to think of solar as a resource that performs better as you move south. Turns out that western Kentucky is plenty sunny!
TVA_Solar_Sites

TVA_Solar_Sites

Tennessee Solar Industry Said to be Expanding

A new report says Tennessee’s solar industry is expanding quickly.

The Solar Foundation says there are now more than 130 companies in the state dedicated to solar manufacturing, installation and project development.

Foundation spokesman Philip Haddix says that, nationwide, solar-industry employment grew by almost 20-percent since 2012 to reach 242,000 jobs across the U-S; and locally.

“Tennessee is up as well with 2,800 jobs this year versus 2,300 last year – 500 additional jobs. It puts Tennessee tied for 12th place if you were to rank the states in terms of their solar employment.”

Haddix says about half of all solar jobs are in installation, with manufacturing the next biggest sector.