USDA Now Accepting Applications for Solar Grants

Eric Wooldridge of Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms was approved for a grant this year.
USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant for agricultural producers and small rural businesses covers up to 25% of the cost of a solar installation. The local office is now accepting applications!

“We anticipate funding levels under REAP for 2014 to be at or higher than last year, so applications have a stronger chance of receiving awards than previous years,” says Will Dodson, Energy Director at USDA, Rural Development in Tennessee.

The application deadline has not been announced, but it is likely to be early next year.

A farm grant lunch and learn will be held next month in Hopkinsville, KY! Click here for info.

Also, here is a link to the REAP program. We have chosen the Oregon site, because it has all the information, instructions, and forms to apply. Tennessee’s REAP site can be found here.

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

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/

Chattanooga earns top environmental sustainability rating from TVA

Tuesday, Chattanooga won a top environmental sustainability rating that officials believe will help it attract more jobs and businesses. Millie Callaway, a TVA senior consultant for economic development, said only 13 communities in its seven-state service area will be cited this year. Just two others are platinum, or top-ranked, so far — Knoxville and Oak Ridge. TVA sponsored the initiative to help cities and counties catalogue their sustainable assets, and the effort is weighted toward business actions, Callaway said.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said the citation highlights the link between sustainability, economic development and quality of life. “I think a lot about the Chattanooga brand,” he said at a news conference. “It’s so tied up with sustainability.”
Officials on Tuesday noted Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant, which last year was named the world’s first platinum-badged Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design auto assembly factory. Enterprise South industrial park, which holds VW, a handful of its suppliers and an Amazon distribution center, was created from a polluted former U.S. Army ammunition production plant. The city also has 35 miles of linear greenways and trails, including the 11-mile Tennessee Riverwalk which runs to downtown.

Community Solar Attraction

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

Tennessee receives $5M for solar energy

Tennessee has received $5 million to support research and development of solar energy from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.
The funding is part of a $60 million investment in the initiative, which is designed to lower the cost of solar electricity, advance grid integration of solar energy systems and support the growth of the solar energy workforce in the country.
According to a DOE statement, the solar industry has created nearly 20,000 new jobs. An estimated 119,000 people are employed at 5,000 solar energy companies across the U.S. The funding will help provide training for engineers, utility workers and for students.

em>original article

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

Start your 2013 ARiES Energy Solar Tour at Wampler’s

Most of our Solar Tour sites are available for visits throughout the month, but Wampler’s Farm Sausage is open to the public one day only – don’t miss your chance to learn and win!

Saturday, October 19 from 11am to 2pm at Wampler’s Farm Sausage 

 

We can’t think of a better way to start your tour of the future of distributed power than with Wampler’s Farm Sausage.

Wampler’s Farm Sausage, a sausage company in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, has been setting the pace and leading us towards energy independence and a cleaner, healthier future for the generations to come. Wampler’s started with a small 30-kilowatt (kW) solar PV system and leveraged that success into a 500 kW solar PV system. The confidence and success of these two investments have helped Wampler’s decision to install the world’s first Proton Power CHyP system!
 
Ted Wampler, Jr., President of Wampler’s Farm Sausage, will be on-site for the kick off of ARiES Energy’s 2013 Solar Tour. He will share with you about the company’s exciting, profitable journey to energy independence and a cleaner, safer future for your children.