Solar power, even after the sun goes down? A new utility-scale solar project with battery storage will supply power to the island of Kauai, Hawaii in the evening hours of 5-10 p.m., helping to meet peak demand after sunset while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2016, SolarCity will construct a 17-megawatt photovoltaic solar array on 50 acres adjacent to an existing power plant owned by Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC). The installation will include a 52-megawatt-hour battery system. SolarCity will sell power from the project to KIUC under a 20-year power-purchase agreement.
“The most interesting thing about this project is that it’s firm solar power,” said Peter Rive, founder and CTO of SolarCity. “That’s a new and important class of utility-scale solar power system. The batteries will store all the energy produced by the solar array, and then dispatch it to the grid as needed.”
Under the agreement, KIUC will purchase power for 14.5 cents per kilowatt-hour — considerably less than the utility currently pays for comparable diesel generator capacity. Furthermore, KIUC noted that this is “only slightly more than the cost of energy from KIUC’s two existing 12-megawatt solar arrays, whose output is available only during the day.”
Rive explained that KIUC will commit to drawing a certain amount of power from the battery, but that the utility will be billed only at the time it draws power.
“KIUC has been investigating energy storage options for more than two years, and price has always been the biggest challenge,” said David Bissell, president and CEO of KIUC. “This is a breakthrough project on technology and on price that enables us to move solar energy to the peak demand hours in the evening and reduce the amount of fossil fuel we’re using.”
The cost of battery storage has been dropping steadily in recent years, but it’s still fairly pricey. Hawaii has the nation’s highest power costs, so that improves the economics of large-scale battery storage there. But Rive notes, “SolarCity is not subsidizing the cost of this system. We’re making good enough money on this, and it’s also a good deal for KIUC.”
The clock is ticking, however. At the end of 2016, the federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) drops from 30 percent to 10 percent. To qualify for the ITC, construction work must begin by April 2016 and the project must be producing power by December 31, 2016. KIUC has requested accelerated approval from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, and SolarCity confirmed that the battery storage system and solar array will be eligible for the credit.
Siting the solar project next to an existing KIUC power plant will greatly reduce the cost and complexity of grid interconnection, Rive said. “So much of the fixed gear is already there, and we won’t have to build long transmission lines.”
Serving a large amount of load from batteries is expected to provide power quality advantages, particularly frequency support. This can be a considerable benefit for a co-op that serves a widely dispersed and largely rural customer base.
The manufacturer of the battery has not yet been selected, but Rive says Tesla is a leading contender. “We think their technology is ahead of the pack for this kind of application.”
This is the second utility-scale solar project that SolarCity has built for KIUC. A year ago, the utility commenced operation of a 12-megawatt solar farm on Kauai, which supplies about 5 percent of the island’s annual electricity needs.
Utility-scale solar farms with battery storage might help Kauai avoid some of the problems that the neighboring island of Oahu has experienced due to the surge in rooftop solar deployment. Recently, the stability of Oahu’s distribution grid has been challenged by solar, as 13 percent of residents there have PV systems installed on their homes.
It isn’t officially autumn until September 23, but summer pretty much feels like it’s over. When it comes to energy news, it feels like summer was hardly here at all.
The White House certainly didn’t slow down, announcing the final version of theClean Power Plan rule on August 3. President Obama then traveled to Nevada, where he unveiled a plan to accelerate the use of PACE loans and announced $1 billion in new loan authority available for clean-energy projects.
Congress took a summer recess, but returned to the Capitol Building after Labor Day with a full slate of energy legislation to consider. Among the items is a tax extenders bill with language to extend the wind Production Tax Credit that’s now pending a full Senate vote. Also, both the House and Senate are consideringbipartisan pieces of energy legislation that address everything from the electrical grid to pipelines, energy efficiency to hydropower.
At the state level, solar continues to be a hot policy topic. Florida in particular is seeing increased activity around two competing solar ballot initiatives, where the divide between utilities and distributed solar advocates has proven to be more prominent than political differences.
A brewing debate over whether or not to allow for third-party solar financing in Florida has intensified in recent weeks.
On September 1, the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments for and against the language of a 2016 ballot initiative to open up the state’s solar market. Floridians for Solar Choice, a free-market group spearheading the initiative, argues that the constitutional amendment is necessary to allow more consumer choice when it comes to buying and selling energy in the Sunshine State. Florida is currently one of only four states where laws expressly prohibit citizens and businesses from buying solar power directly from an entity other than an electric utility.
A wide range of stakeholders from more than 50 organizations has come out in support the ballot initiative. The coalition has collected more than 225,000 petition signatures to date; nearly 140,000 have been verified by Florida’s Division of Elections.
Opponents have put forward a rival ballot being championed by Consumers for Smart Solar, a group supported by Florida’s electric utilities, as well as the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and the 60 Plus Association. Several of these groups have ties to the Koch brothers, according to a funding investigation by the Energy and Policy Institute.
“We’re interested in how utilities are funding efforts to stop the adoption of rooftop solar,” said Gabe Elsner, executive director of E&PI. “This Florida case is a perfect example where there is an effort to increase the ability for homeowners and businesses to install solar, and sure enough, the utilities are against it, going far enough to create an alternative ballot that does essentially nothing but confuse the issue for voters.”
On Sept. 10, Consumers for Smart Solar announced it had collected 100,000 signatures, enough to trigger a review by Florida’s Attorney General and the Florida Supreme Court. The group says its proposed amendment would allow consumers to own and lease solar, while also ensuring that everyone who uses the grid pays for it and that out-of-state solar utilities are not constitutionally immune from state and local consumer protection laws.
Both camps have released polls showing support for their respective amendments. The initiatives will each need a total of 683,149 signatures by February 1, 2016 in order for their amendments to be considered in the November election.
In other news, Florida Power & Light has filed a request with the Florida Public Service Commission to reduce electricity rates in 2016. The proposal will save a typical 1,000-kilowatt-hour residential customer about $2.50 a month on average next year, compared to 2015 rates. Separately, the Canadian power producer Emera Inc. announced it’s making a big bet on the U.S. power market with plans to buy Florida generator Teco Energy Inc. for $6.5 billion.
Later this week, lawmakers in North Carolina will vote on a state budget that does not extend the state’s 35 percent tax credit for solar and other clean technologies, to the disappointment many supporters of the measure. The credit is now set to end on December 31. A bill that would have frozen the North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard at 6 percent, instead of progressing to 12.5 percent by 2021, hasn’t seen any action in four months.
Meanwhile, solar deployments continue to grow in the state. Duke Energy recently announced it is on track to more than double its North Carolina solar portfolio this year, with 160 megawatts of new solar projects in 2015.
Sunrun launched a lease product in South Carolina on Sept. 9, adding to the company’s purchase and loan options introduced in June. South Carolina’s Office of the Regulatory Staff began accepting applications from solar leasing companies in August, stemming from the Distributed Energy Resource Program Act (A236) signed into law last year.
In carrying out Act 236, the state PSC approved solar incentive programs from South Carolina’s investor-owned utilities, Duke Energy and South Carolina Gas & Electric, this spring. The law also requires regulatory staff to issue a report on cost-shifting associated with distributed energy by the end of the year. Public comments are currently being accepted through Sept. 15.
On Sept. 1, the Alabama Public Service Commission approved Alabama Power’srequest to build 500 megawatts of renewable energy capacity. The utility said the decision will help Alabama Power meet the demands of large customers, primarily Fortune 500 companies and military facilities with renewable energy mandates. These customers would pay a premium for the power, so that costs are not transferred to the broader rate base.
The commission made several changes to the original proposal, including a biennial competitive bidding process for projects, the approval of no more than 160 megawatts of projects per year, and a PSC vote on whether or not to approve each project. Alabama Power had no objections to the changes. Clean-energy advocates were also supportive of the outcome, including the Solar Energy Industries Association, which noted that there are just 2 megawatts of solar installed in Alabama today.
“Our neighboring states may have a head start in realizing the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy, but Alabama can use this opportunity to catch up and spur growth in this booming marketplace,” said Keith Johnston of the Southern Environmental Law Center.
On Sept. 2, Governor Terry McAuliffe launched a $20 million loan program to lower financing costs for energy efficiency, renewable energy generation, and alternative fuel projects. According to a recent report, Virginia currently ranks 30th in solar power deployments.
In a major turn of events, the D.C. Public Service Commission denied Exelon’s $6.8 billion takeover of Pepco Holdings on Aug. 25. A strong grassroots movementhelped to thwart the deal, but Exelon and Pepco have vowed the battle isn’t over yet. The utilities have 30 days from the ruling to appeal the decision. Five states have already approved the merger.
Lawmakers in California passed a bill last Friday targeting a 50 percent renewablesenergy mix by 2030, and a 50 percent increase in building energy efficiency by the same year. Controversial language that would have required a 50 percent reduction in oil use in the state was ultimately struck from the legislation.
The legislature also passed a bill to divest from coal (SB 185), as well as a resolution in support of extending the federal tax credit for solar energy systems; SJR 10 calls on Congress to extend the 30 percent tax credit for residential and commercial solar projects.
In utility news, the CPUC announced on Aug. 28 that it has launched a formal investigation to determine whether PG&E’s “organizational culture and governance prioritize safety and adequately direct resources to promote accountability and achieve safety goals and standards.” The investigation stems from a fatal 2010 pipeline explosion. The CPUC also issued a citation to PG&E for $50,000 for the utility’s failure to safely maintain its Metcalf Substation in San Jose, which was burglarized the night of Aug 26. Meanwhile, regulators have required SCE toinvestigate the cause of several recent outages.
NV Energy has filed a proposal with the state PUC to launch a community solar subscription program, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports. The energy will come from two 5-megawatt solar farms and will be available to consumers in 100-kilowatt blocks. Customers will have to pay a premium for the power, but in return will get to go solar without signing a long-term contract or paying for anything upfront.
The proposal comes shortly after the PUC voted to extend the state’s existing solar net-metering policy through the end of year, as the commission debates the future of the program. A week earlier, NV Energy announced the state had hit its 235-megawatt net metering cap, which sparked a backlash from solar advocates. Vivint Solar suspended operations in the state a few weeks prior to the decision amid the policy uncertainty.
NV Energy filed an alternative solar policy with the PUC in August that would have reduced the value of net metering credits and added new fees on solar customers. The interim rate is not what the utility proposed, but that could change in 2016. The Nevada PUC is required to decide on a permanent net-metering structure by December 31.
As the value of solar debate played out in the Nevada PUC last month, it also played out on stage in a debate at Sen. Harry Reid’s National Clean Energy Summit. In addition to rolling out new energy incentives, President Obama criticized lobbying efforts from the Koch brothers and others in his keynote address at the event, accusing them of “standing in the way of the future.”
In late August, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved a motion from Tucson Electric to hold off on any changes to solar net metering until the utility’s 2016 rate case. The move came in sharp contrast to a decision made two days earlier, in which the ACC said it would start hearings this year on a proposal to raise fees on solar customers from Arizona Public Service. APS is seeking to increase its solar fee from roughly $5 per month to $21 per month.
Commissioner Doug Little, who was elected last year, said that holding hearings on the APS fee increase request does not guarantee it will be approved, The Arizona Republic reports. Little also filed an amendment to study whether or not there is a cost shift from solar to non-solar customers.
Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office is investigating allegations of overly friendly ties between ACC commissioners Bob Stump and Gary Pierce and APS. On Sept. 2, a separate complaint was filed against ACC Chairwoman Susan Bitter Smith for her previous work as a lobbyist. Amid the controversy, the solar advocacy group The Alliance for Solar Choice has committed to staying out of the ACC’s 2016 elections, and has invited utilities to do the same.
On Sept. 14, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez unveiled an “all-of-the-above” energy policy designed to support the development of oil, natural gas and coal, as well as low-carbon energy resources. The plan includes reducing soft costs for renewable projects through improved permitting, pursuing energy storage development, and possibly raising New Mexico’s renewable portfolio standard.
Separately, the Santa Fe-based group New Energy Economy filed a motion with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in early September, seeking to prevent four of the five commissioners from making decisions related to one of the state’s coal-fired power plants. The group has accused the commissioners of having close ties with utility executives based on 100 pages of text messages and emails. The first hearing on the Public Service Co. of New Mexico-owned coal plant is scheduled for Oct. 13.
After his appearance in Nevada, President Obama made his way north to Alaska where he called for urgent action to address climate change. The Obama administration said it plans to launch a $4 million renewable energy initiative for remote Alaskan communities. Shortly before the president’s trip, the federal government gave Royal Dutch Shell final approval to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska’s northwest coast.
Washington state recently passed a $40 million extension to the state’s Clean Energy Fund. As part of the implementation process, the Department of Commerce will soon convene two advisory panels, one for electric utilities and one for clean-energy research and development. The panels are expected to hold public meetings through September to determine how to distribute the funds.
On Aug. 26, the Colorado PUC voted to uphold net metering in its current form, despite calls for change from the state’s largest electric utility, Xcel Energy. Separately, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced her state will join a multi-state suit against the Clean Power Plan.
NextEra Energy recently offered to make 50 new commitments to Hawaiian electricity customers as part of the Florida-based company’s $4.3 billion proposal to buy out Hawaiian Electric Industries. Promises include a commitment to Hawaii’s100 percent renewable energy target, new spending on smart grid technology, and nearly $1 billion in customer savings.
In July, Hawaii Gov. David Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he opposes the acquisition, and is recommending that the PUC reject it. More than 40 state and county leaders have come together to explore whether a public utility ownership option is a viable alternative.
While opposition is strong, the two utilities are taking steps to move the merger forward. The commission will hold several public meetings on all islands over the next two months. A final decision is expected by June 2016.
On August 31, the Ohio PUC held its first hearing on FirstEnergy’s rate case that would require customers at the holding company’s three distribution utilities — Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating, and Toledo Edison — to purchase power from two of its struggling power plants for the next 15 years.
FirstEnergy claims the two plants — a large, old coal plant in Stratton, Ohio and a large, old nuclear plant on Lake Erie — need to stay open to maintain grid reliability and energy affordability. The company has admitted that electricity costs may rise in the near term, but estimates the deal will save ratepayers $2 billion over the 15-year period.
However, according to the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the deal would cost ratepayers $3 billion over the lifetime of the agreement. FirstEnergy’s consultant also admitted at the hearing that future wholesale energy costs were overestimated in the utility’s forecast, undercutting the credibility of the utility’s plan.
In addition to costs, there are concerns about PUC oversight. Environmental groups and competitive energy providers Dynegy and AEP are also opposed to the FirstEnergy deal. Earlier in the year, PUCO rejected similar “bailout” proposals from Duke and AEP.
As hearings on the FirstEnergy proposal continue through fall, Ohioans will also debate the future of the state’s stalled renewable portfolio standard. Legislationpassed last year put a two-year freeze on the RPS. Ohio’s Energy Mandates Study Committee now has until September 30 to decide how the state should proceed.
A broad coalition of state business, health, community and environmental groups has come out in support of lifting the freeze. Advocates say lifting the RPS will help Ohio comply with the Clean Power Plan. Many lawmakers are against the RPS, however. Meanwhile, Ohio is already in litigation challenging the new federal rules.
Michigan officials recently announced they plan to develop their own compliance strategy for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, as opposed to letting the federal government devise a plan for the state. The decision has received support from a broad group of energy stakeholders.
The final EPA rule gives states until 2018 to file their carbon reduction plans, and until 2022 to begin making emissions cuts. Michigan will need all of the time allotted in order to comply, said Valerie Brader, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, on a recent call with reporters. “We’re not filing anything early,”she said.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration is preparing to comply with the rule in part by raising Michigan’s 10 percent renewable energy target through voluntary measures. Meanwhile, Attorney General Bill Schuette has joined a lawsuit trying to block the federal plan. Brader said that Schuette is acting alone, and that the governor’s office does not plan to join the challenge.
Work also continues in the Michigan state legislature, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers recently introduced a package of bills, dubbed the “Energy Freedom bills,” to lift the cap on the state’s net metering program and allow consumers to buy shares of a community renewable energy project.
Another set of bills in the package would establish fair value pricing, which “ensures that homeowners and businesses get paid what utility companies would pay themselves for producing renewable energy,” according to the bill sponsors. Under the bill, the Michigan Public Service Commission would come up with a methodology that “accounts for the value of the renewable energy, its delivery, generation capacity, transmission capacity, transmission and distribution line losses, environmental value, and other values that are not always considered in current energy prices.”
The Energy Freedom legislation comes in response to a separate bill (SB 0438) that would eliminate net metering in Michigan. The proposal has received support from utilities and several Republicans, but is opposed by solar customers and Tea Party member Rep. Gary Glenn, who is a sponsor of the Energy Freedom bills.
The Wisconsin PSC will hold public hearings Sept. 16 and Oct. 29 on Xcel Energy’s request to increase electric revenues by 3.9 percent and natural gas by 5 percent. The utility has proposed to lower the cost of electricity, while more than doubling the flat monthly service fee on about 255,000 non-industrial customers.
Meanwhile, the renewables industry is far less than thrilled with Governor Scott Walker’s record on wind and solar, which has put the state well behind its neighbors on clean energy deployments, Bloomberg reports. Walker, a Republican presidential hopeful, also opposes the Clean Power Plan. Sen. Ron Johnson opposes the CPP, too. The League of Conservation Voters and EDF Action launched a $1.6 million ad campaign in Wisconsin on Sept. 1 to urge Sen. Johnson to end his opposition to the CPP, with the U.S. Senate expected to consider votes on the EPA’s plan this month.
Exelon’s nuclear fleet in Illinois has cleared PJM’s most recent capacity auction, throwing a lifeline to the utility’s troubled Quad Cities and Byron plants, the Quad-City Business Journal reports. The decision allows the nuclear plants to sell power into the wholesale power market until 2017. Exelon has said it will need to keep all of its Illinois nuclear plants in operation in order to comply with the EPA’s new carbon regulations, and is pushing for a “low-carbon portfolio standard” in the state.
In late August, Pella Cooperative Electric withdrew plans to impose an additional $57.50 monthly fee on solar customers, which would have resulted in one of the highest fixed rates in the country. Pella sent a letter to its 3,000 members in June notifying them that the fixed rate increase would apply to anyone who installed solar after Aug. 15. The co-op eventually backed down under pressure.
The Kansas Corporation Commission gave Westar Energy the green light for a $78 million rate increase on nearly 700,000 customers, which is half of what the utility initially sought. Regulators also postponed consideration of a special charge on solar customers, but plan to address it in a future hearing. In the meantime, potential solar customers have been put on notice that the rules could change. National solar installers have been barred from intervening in the solar policy docket.
In response to a factory closure, Governor Paul LePage sent a letter to Maine’s legislative leaders in late August calling on them to reform the state’s “obsolete and costly energy policies.” LePage put forward three pieces of legislation last session that he criticized lawmakers for not passing, including a bill (LD 1987) that would have eliminated both the state’s renewable portfolio standard and net metering program. That bill passed in the Senate, but died in the House in June. The state legislature ultimately passed a bill (LD 1263) that sets the stage to replace the current net energy metering policy with an innovative alternative.
SolarCity has expanded its New Hampshire presence with a new operations center in Manchester. Gov. Maggie Hassan attended the opening on Sept. 9. The center is SolarCity’s first in the state, after launching a New Hampshire service in April.
The expansion has renewed questions about the future of New Hampshire’s renewable energy incentives. Liberty Utilities hit its net metering cap in July, and other utilities are approaching their limits. At the SolarCity opening, Gov. Hassan said her office will “take a look at that issue.” Meanwhile, the PUC has put allrenewable energy rebates on hold after the state’s renewable energy fund brought in less revenue than expected. The programs are expected to reopen, albeit with decreased incentives, once the PUC sets a 2016 budget.
Policymakers in Massachusetts are grappling with how to develop a sustainable solar policy with the state’s net-metering cap fast approaching. National Grid already hit its cap in March, generally making solar projects less economical.
The Democratic-led state senate passed a bill before the summer recess in July to lift the net metering cap until Massachusetts reaches its target of 1,600 megawatts of installed solar. In August, Gov. Charlie Baker introduced a separate bill that would raise the cap for all solar projects in the interim, and eventually reduce compensation for large municipal projects. A robust debate is expected in the legislature, now that lawmakers have returned.
Also in August, Massachusetts utilities Eversource Energy, National Grid and Unitil filed grid modernization plans to reduce energy costs, boost resiliency and improve the integration of distributed resources, EnergyBiz reports.
Unitil plans to spend $12 million to become more of an “enabling platform.” Eversource has proposed a $430.7 million, five-year plan with four main components: grid-wide situational awareness, advanced analytics, real-time flexibility and distributed generation integration. National Grid presented four options that range from $225.3 million over five years, up to $1.3 billion over 10 years. All three utilities will offer optional time-of-use rates for customers.
Stakeholders in New York continued to work on the Reforming the Energy Visionproceeding through the summer. On August 18, the Market Design and Platform Technology Working Groups filed their final report with the New York State Department of Public Service as staff develop guidance for New York utility Distributed System Implementation Plans.
Also under the REV umbrella, NYSERDA announced Donovan Gordon will lead efforts to expand renewable heating and cooling markets in New York, and Gov. Cuomo has announced the state’s first large-scale anaerobic digester project on Long Island.
Governor Chris Christie has filed a letter with the EPA seeking a stay of implementation and reconsideration of the Clean Power Plan, calling it “unlawful” and “fundamentally flawed.” Christie’s office said New Jersey is the first “clean energy” state to file an objection to the rule.
Action against the CPP comes shortly after Christie upheld a law to expand New Jersey’s net metering caps, and as state leaders work to update New Jersey’s 2011 Energy Master Plan. Several stakeholders pushed for a higher renewable energy targets at a public hearing on Aug. 17.
Separately, the Bureau of Land Management has confirmed it will host an offshore wind auction this fall for sites off the coast of New Jersey. The 344,000 acres available for leasing could support up to 3.4 gigawatts of commercial wind generation.
Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell said yesterday that he expects renewable energy to comprise 12.5 per cent of the national grid by the end of 2016.
The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has invited interested entities to submit proposals for the provision of new generating capacity from renewable energy sources up to 37 megawatts (MW) to the national grid.
Currently, six per cent of the national grid is supplied by renewables, and this is to increase with the addition of 78MW by March next year with the coming on stream of three new renewable projects.
The National Energy Policy has identified fuel diversification and the development of the country’s renewable energy sources as two of its main objectives. The policy sets a target of having 20 per cent of the country’s energy being generated from renewables by 2030.
“My own view now is that we should aim for 30 per cent. The 12.5 will be achieved next year and we will be the leading Caribbean country in terms of renewables,” Paulwell said.
Light and power provider, the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), supplies consumers from an installed system capacity of approximately 945.1MW.
To date, the highest peak demand registered on the system was 644.4MW. In 2014, annual generation from renewable energy sources accounted for approximately six per cent of total system generation, with contributions of 2.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent from hydro and wind, respectively.
Meanwhile, Paulwell revealed that the net-billing arrangement is to be recommenced next month. The programme was suspended to undertake a review of the performance of the system and Paulwell said “all indications are that it has been doing very well and we, therefore, are going to resume”.
Net-billing is the system whereby the JPS buys excess power from its customers.
More than 300 net billing licences have so far been issued by the energy minister, and the suspension of the system was undertaken to evaluate its success.
“We have not achieved the original target to get to 4MW of electricity being generated by that means and also we have not seen any degradation of the grid as a result,” Paulwell said.
But while the Government gets set to resume the net-billing arrangements, JPS has said that the regulatory authorities must institute a special cost system for persons who generate most of their own energy through renewable energy but are still dependent on the grid.
“If you come on for one hour, I have to do the same exact generation that I have to do if you are on for one day,” Kelly Tomblin, JPS president and CEO, told The Gleaner.
But Paulwell, responding to that charge, said “that is an argument that the OUR will have to address. Our policy is to encourage more and more renewables at the individual level.”
THE Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) will this Friday host a pre-bid meeting to provide further information on its recent Request for Proposals (RFPs) from interested entities, to provide new Generating Capacity from renewable energy sources.
The meeting will take place at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel and interested entities are urged to attend to get more information on this project, and get clarifications where needed.
Applicants are invited to submit proposals to provide new generating capacity amounting to net 37 megawatts (MW) of electricity generation from either or both firm capacity and energy-only technology from renewable energy-based power generation facilities on a build, own and operate basis. The submission date for applications is January 27, 2016.
The OUR issued its latest RFP on July 31, 2015, as it moves to conclude a project started in 2012 to identify a total of 115 MW of generation projects from renewable sources.
Three bidders were selected then, for energy only projects totalling 78MW. They are Blue Mountain Renewables LLC, to supply 34MW of capacity from wind power at Munro, St Elizabeth; Wigton Windfarm Limited, to supply 24MW of capacity from wind power at Rose Hill, Manchester; and WRB Enterprises Inc (now Content Solar), to supply 20MW of capacity from Solar PV from facilities in Content Village, Clarendon. The 78 MW identified through these three suppliers was subsequently increased to 80.3 MW.
The OUR was requested by Cabinet to complete the procurement of the additional 37MW from renewable energy sources. The details of the RFP has been posted on the OUR’s website.
Google Maps is already one of the most popular apps used on on smartphones thanks to its sophisticated navigation powers. But Google has figured out an even cooler use for the service and it that doesn’t even involve getting directions – meet Google’s brand new Project Sunroof.
Using the immense map data that’s behind Google Maps, the company’s new Google Maps feature will help you decide the best way to install solar panels on your roof. What Google can do for you is use the knowledge it collects about your home’s location to tell you how much sunlight you’re getting each day, how much electricity that can generate and how much it’ll cost you to install the solar panels.
Basically, Google’s service will be ready to answer some of your most pressing questions related to installing solar panels on your roof. So all you need to do is jot down the data and get ready to invest in solar panels for your roof. We should note, of course, that solar power might not be a good investment for everyone so make sure installing them will be financially worthwhile before making the switch.
Project Sunroof will debut in Boston, San Francisco and Fresno, but should expand to other markets in the future. A video explaining the cool Google Maps tech behind it follows below – more details about the project are available on Google’s special site for it at this link.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced $63 million in loans and grants for 264 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide.
USDA is supporting these projects through its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which was created by the 2008 farm bill and was reauthorized by the2014 farm bill.
These newly funded projects are expected to generate and/or save 207.8 million kWh of energy – enough to power more than 13,600 homes for a year.
“This funding will have far-reaching economic and environmental impacts nationwide, particularly in rural communities,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects supports homegrown energy sources, creates jobs, reduces greenhouse gas pollution and helps usher in a more secure energy future for the nation.”
Eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP funds to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems, including solar, wind, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydroelectric, ocean energy, hydrogen and geothermal.
Since the start of the Obama administration, USDA has supported more than 9,600 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide through REAP.
The next application deadline for REAP grants is Nov. 2. In the coming weeks, USDA will issue a notice of available funding with more details on how to apply.
Throughout the entire first half of 2015, solar and wind energy accounted for 2,518 megawatts of new electricity generating capacity brought online in the US— some 65 percent of all new capacity added so far this year.
Coal accounted for a mere 3 MW during that time period, while natural gas accounted for 1,173 MW (there was no new oil). That’s less than half the amount of solar and wind energy added January to June. Wind alone, at 1,969 MW, was more than all fossil fuels combined.
Here are the full numbers from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s latest Energy Infrastructure Update:
“With Congress now debating whether to extend the federal tax incentives for renewable energy sources, it is reasonable to ask whether the American public has gotten a good return on these investments to date,” Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, said in response to the update. “The latest FERC data confirms that the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’”
Despite the tangible economic and environmental benefits of their huge growth in recent years, the US solar and wind industries are still facing a looming threat due to uncertainty over federal tax incentives.
The Senate Finance Committee just approved a tax bill that would reinstate the wind production tax credit (PTC), which expired on January 1, 2014 after Senate Republicans basically killed it. ThinkProgress reports the renewed tax credit would be worth $10.5 billion over 10 years and would last through December 31, 2016.
Fossil fuels are estimated to receive $135 billion in federal subsidies over the next decade from the US government, so it’s understandable that investors are weary of the long-term prospects of wind and solar, which, despite on-again, off-again support from the federal government, still must fight for every bit of market share they can get.
The two renewable energy technologies combined still only represent less than eight percent of total installed capacity in the US, after all, compared to natural gas at 42.66 percent and coal still hanging on at 26.83 percent, per the FERC data.
Which is why environmentalists and wind energy supporters want Congress to go further by adopting a more long-term solution.
“Wind power is gaining strength but in the context of tax extenders, this Congress must extend the PTC and [the investment tax credit] for the longest possible time to avoid pushing American wind power off a cliff,” the American Wind Energy Association’s Jim Reilly told ThinkProgress.
The solar industry is expecting a surge in business as a variety of investment tax credits are set to expire at the end of 2016. Without any further action from Congress to promote the clean energy technologies of the future, however, the surge is guaranteed not to last.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, through the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) is set to introduce the use of solar power to operate the pumping of water for irrigation.
Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security Derrick Kellier says the move will commence shortly with the commissioning into operation of solar power to operate the pumping system at Ebony Park in Clarendon.
In September a $300 million irrigation project will be launched at Spring Plain/Ebony Park bringing the nearly 3,000-acre property at the agro-park into full production.
Kellier, who was speaking at the 63rd Annual Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in Clarendon on Saturday, August 1, said that if Jamaica is to increase its production and productivity and ensure its food security, irrigation systems needed to be significantly improved and expanded.
Noting that the total irrigable land in Jamaica is 187,814 hectares yet only 12,500 hectares or about seven per cent of that land is irrigated, Kellier outlined a number of strategies intended to optimise and expand the country’s irrigation systems.
The imperative to optimise and expand the country’s irrigation systems is not born solely from the scarcity of water, but from the imperative to increase productivity and Jamaica may very well reach the stage where fiscal incentives for investment in irrigation had to be provided, Kellier said.
The agriculture ministry was therefore preparing a comprehensive proposal to be discussed with the appropriate authority, he added.
“I believe we have no alternative since these droughts are the greatest threat to increased production,” said Kellier.
According to the ministry, in addition to various climate-smart and drought mitigation projects, over $5 billion has been spent over the past 10 years to install new irrigation systems to ensure sustainable agriculture and the reduction of dependence on rainfall.
Hundreds of businesses including eBay, Nestlé and General Mills have issued their support for Barack Obama’s clean power plan, billed as the strongest action ever on climate change by a US president.
The rules, announced on Monday, are designed to cut emissions from power plants and have been strengthened in terms of the long-term ambition as originally proposed by the president last year, but slightly weakened in the short-term in a concession to states reliant on highly-polluting coal.
White House adviser Brian Deese said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules represented the “biggest step that any single president has made to curb the carbon pollution that is fuelling climate change”. The US is the world’s second biggest carbon emitter after China.
The rules are expected to trigger a “tsunami” of legal opposition from states and utilities who oppose the plans, which will significantly boost wind and solar power generation and force a switch away from coal power. Republican presidential hopefuls moved quickly to voice their opposition, saying they would be economically damaging.
But 365 businesses and investors wrote to 29 state governors to strongly support the rules, which they said would benefit the economy and create jobs.
Mindy Lubber, who is attending the launch ceremony of the rules on Monday and is the president of Ceres, a network of investors that organised the letter, said: “The clean power plan is the right measure at the right time. It’s a flexible, practical and economically sound blueprint to transition America toward a low-carbon future.”
Other signatories included Unilever, L’Oréal, Levi Strauss, Staples, renewable energy company SunEdison and Trillium Asset Management, which manages $2.2bn in assets. It is the largest group of businesses to support the rules so far.
The final rules propose a 32% cut in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030 on 2005 levels, up from the initial proposal of 30%. However states will only have to comply by 2022 rather than 2020 as originally proposed, and will be able submit their plans on meeting the targets by 2018 instead of 2017.
CO2 emissions from power plants fell 15% between 2005 and 2013, meaning the country is halfway to the target.
Monday’s version of the rules also gives an explicit boost to wind and solar power, angering the natural gas industry which will still be a large beneficiary of the switch from coal to gas-fired power plants, which produce much lower emissions.
America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a trade body, said it was “disappointed and discouraged” by the rules. The World Coal Association claimed the plan “will significantly increase the cost of electricity to American consumers.” The Solar Energy Industries Association, on the other hand, said the rules were “historic” and “critically needed”.
The new rules will give a “give a head start to wind and solar deployment”, according to a White House fact sheet. “Drive more aggressive investment in clean energy technologies than the proposed rule, resulting in 30% more renewable energy generation in 2030 and continuing to lower the costs of renewable energy,” it said.
Barack Obama, in a video address, emphasised the health benefits of reduced air pollution from coal plants, and a duty to future generations as reasons for the clean power rules.
“Power plants are the single biggest source of the harmful carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. But until now there have been no federal limits on the amount of that pollution those plants can dump into the air. Think about that,” he said.
Obama’s plan to bring in the rules to cut emissions from power plants – which account for a third of the US’s greenhouse gas emissions – date back to 2009 when the EPA declared carbon emissions a public danger, the first step towards regulating them.
The final rules are likely to be welcomed by the United Nations, which is hosting a climate summit in Paris at the end of the year to agree on a deal on post-2020 curbs on emissions, as well as financing to help poorer countries manage global warming. Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, issued a statement welcoming the regulations.
Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the Washington DC-based thinktank the World Resources Institute, said: “The clean power plan should reassure international partners that the US administration is determined to deliver the 26-28% emissions reductions promised for 2025.
“Our analysis suggests that this rule can be implemented without technical or financial impediment, and in a manner that is likely to promote more, not less, economic prosperity.”
Describing the rules as very important, Lord Stern, the author of an influential review of the economics of climate change, said: “It shows the determination of the world’s richest country to maintain better economic growth while also cutting greenhouse gas pollution. President Obama has recognised in particular the enormous damage caused by pollution from the burning of coal in power stations.”
Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s administrator, said she believed the agency was on strong legal grounds for defending the rules from the legal challenges they are almost certain to face.
“Over the next few days we will hear the same tired old plays from the old special interests playbook,” said McCarthy.
Hillary Clinton’s newest campaign promise to install half a billion solar panels across the country has been praised by liberal media outlets and environmentalists, but could this pledge end up benefiting China?
On Sunday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton promised to install half a billion solar panels by the end of her first term and get the U.S. to a point where it can generate enough green energy to power every home in the country.
“Through these goals, we will increase the amount of installed solar capacity by 700% by 2020, expand renewable energy to at least a third of all electricity generation, prevent thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of asthma attacks each year, and put our country on a path to achieve deep emission reductions by 2050,” Clinton’s website boasts.
While there’s no doubt U.S. companies and green energy interests would benefit from the “competitive grants and other market-based incentives” Hillary promises to implement under her plan, the deal will also be a boost to the oppressive Chinese government.
“Mrs. Clinton’s plan would be a huge boost to China and Taiwan, where over 70 percent of solar photovoltaics are made,” Daniel Kish, senior vice president of policy at the Institute for Energy research, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“It’s also a huge boon to Japan and Malaysia, who make the lion’s share of the remaining world production,” Kish said. “I’m not sure Americans are going to be comfortable with Chinese solar panels covering their houses, plugging into their electricity systems and taking their jobs as official government policy.”
Thanks to government subsidies, China is the world’s largest producer of solar panels, and could see huge benefits from increasing solar energy incentives in the U.S. A 2014 report by the European Commission found that “China and Taiwan together now account for more than 70% of worldwide production.”
“The majority of panels [in the U.S.] are manufactured abroad, with the plurality coming from China and many from other Southeast Asian countries and Korea,” a spokesman for the Solar Energy Industries Association told TheDCNF. “The imposition of tariffs on Chinese panels is beginning to have an effect on Chinese imports, however, and we’ve seen domestic production increase over the past six months as Chinese imports decline.”
China’s government heavily backed solar panel companies in the past few years to build solar panels for export to the U.S. and Europe. Chinese solar production boomed in response to increasing attempts by the Obama administration and European countries to increase solar energy use. Now seven in 10 solar panels in the world are made in China.
“U.S.-based module production is currently limited to about 1 GW in practice,” Finlay Colville, vice president at the solar research firm NPD Solarbuzz, told Salon in 2014. “This represented just 2.5 percent of global demand in 2013.”
About “half of the panels used in the U.S. last year came from China,” Salon reported, adding that “U.S. module production fell from 1,200 megawatts in 2011 to 541 megawatts in 2012 and bounced back up to 988 megawatts in 2013.” Chinese imports are projected to continue their decline due to steep tariffs the Obama administration put on Chinese solar panels.
It’s not just Chinese companies that would benefit, as Kish noted: Japanese and Malaysian companies are also manufacturing lots of panels. In fact, the increase in Malaysian solar panel production could largely be from Chinese companies building factories there to get around U.S. tariffs.
Chinese companies are finding ways around the U.S. tariffs, mainly by producing panels in other countries. Bloomberg News reports that “more than half the panel capacity Chinese producers plan to add overseas is in Southeast Asia.”
Solar energy giant JinkoSolar opened a massive solar panel factory with the capacity to make “500 megawatts of solar cells and 450 megawatts of panels a year.”
“Products from our Malaysian plant will be mainly exported to the U.S., but we’re eyeing global demand,” Sebastian Liu, JinkoSolar’s director of investor relations, told Bloomberg. “This isn’t temporary. JinkoSolar wants global manufacturing to avoid the risks posed by a single production location.”
Going forward, U.S. officials could expand tariffs against Chinese companies using other countries as launching points for solar panel exports. This would force solar installation companies to rely more on U.S. panel makers, but would also likely raise solar energy costs.
Clinton would have to increase subsidies for solar energy to get the 700 percent increase she promises, which will be made more difficult if tariffs make solar panels more expensive. The U.S. solar industry could still benefit from Clinton’s plan, but solar panel installers have complained that tariffs are already making panels more expensive and, therefore, less attractive to consumers.
“Keeping these stiff tariffs in place makes solar power less affordable, slows job growth and prevents more American homes, businesses and utilities from switching to clean solar energy,” Jigar Shah, president of the anti-tariff Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, said in a statement on the Obama administration’s refusal to lower tariffs on Chinese panels.
“Despite booming solar employment, economically counterproductive tariffs have artificially made solar panels prices in the United States the most expensive in the world,” Shah said.