Sun Edison & GRID Alternatives “RISE”

SunEdison and its SunEdison Foundation has announced a $5 million solar/funding contribution to GRID Alternatives to launch a two-year initiative called RISE to connect the solar industry’s demand for skilled workers with communities that need jobs. Building on the successful 2014 SunEdison and GRID Alternatives partnership to bring more women into the solar industry, the RISE initiative will provide underserved communities with solar job training and job placement through GRID Alternatives’ workforce development program.

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives announce major solar workforce initiative called RISE. SunEdison and the SunEdison Foundation contribute $5 million to train women and members of underserved communities for jobs in the solar industry. (PRNewsFoto/SunEdison, Inc.)

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives announce major solar workforce initiative called RISE. SunEdison and the SunEdison Foundation contribute $5 million to train women and members of underserved communities for jobs in the solar industry. (PRNewsFoto/SunEdison, Inc.)

This partnership is making solar more accessible for everyone in America. For lower income families, that means lower electricity bills, more money for necessities, and the opportunity to receive valuable job training,” said Ahmad Chatila, president and chief executive officer of SunEdison. “I’m very proud that with this contribution, SunEdison is truly helping the people who need it most.”

The RISE initiative will provide hands-on training and real-world solar installation experience to over 4,000 people across the country. In addition, the initiative will connect job trainees with solar companies looking for skilled workers. As part of the initiative, GRID Alternatives through its SolarCorps program will provide 40 individuals with one-year paid fellowships in GRID Alternatives’ offices around the country. In addition, SunEdison employees will donate over 2,000 hours of their time installing solar systems for low-income families and supporting job-readiness for trainees.

“The solar industry is adding jobs at a rate of more than 20% year over year,” added Erica Mackie, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of GRID Alternatives. “This is an incredible opportunity to connect an industry that needs good people with people that need good jobs, and that’s just what this partnership is doing.”

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives will also be working with the White House to help President Obama meet his goal of installing 100 megawatts of solar capacity on federally assisted housing in a way that provides job training opportunities to the residents of those communities.

Vernier Offers Wind Energy Lab Book

A new lab book, Investigating Wind Energy is now available for students in grades 4-6. Vernier Software & Technology spearheaded the effort. The book was written for and aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The lesson plans encourage students to apply learned knowledge as they explore electric circuits and investigate blade design variables using a variety of materials and technologies using a variety of materials and technologies, including the KidWIND MINI Wind Turbine, the Vernier Energy Sensor, and more.

Investigating Wind Energy“Our new lab book provides students with multiple hands-on investigations that explore renewable energy science, as recommended by NGSS,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and former physics teacher. “These types of inquiry-based investigations engage students in scientific discovery at an earlier age and provide the foundation needed as they progress through STEM instruction.”

The lab book includes ten investigations and one culminating project where students design, test, and refine a wind turbine blade set that converts wind energy to electrical energy. The investigations are designed to help students explore quantitative current, potential difference, power, energy and more in an engaging, hands-on way.

The lab book includes a table showing the Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science and Engineering Practices covered in each investigation, making it easy to use with the EQuIP rubric from Achieve. Additionally, it includes information on related skills, estimated completion times for the investigations, equipment tips, teaching tips, answers, sample data, and graphs in the teacher information pages. An accompanying CD with editable Word files for all of the student pages allows teachers to adjust lessons to meet their needs.

Gigawatt Global Grid Connects Solar Project

The Rwanda field, a $23.7 million, 8,5 MW solar energy plant has been connected to the power grid. Developed by Gigawatt Global, this is the first utility-scale project to reach financial close and come online under the Africa Clean Energy Finance (ACEF) program that is part of the Power Africa Initiative. The Rwanda field – constructed in the shape of the African continent – brought together an international consortium of financing partners.

Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. James Musoni, and the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), John Morton, led a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) near where the solar plant is located.

“Top quality developers like Gigawatt Global are the keys to success for President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, president and CEO of OPIC. “After OPIC provided critical early-stage support through the ACEF program, Gigawatt smoothly and swiftly brought the project online to give Rwanda enough grid-connected power to supply 15,000 homes. Gigawatt Global in Rwanda is a clear demonstration that solar will be a key part of Africa’s energy solution.” The project was completed in one year.

Rwanda Gigawatt Project Drone  Gigawatt Project Rwanda DroneChaim Motzen, Gigawatt Global Co-Founder and Managing Director, and the main force behind the development of the project, noted, “Our project proves the viability of financing and building large-scale solar fields in sub-Saharan Africa, and we hope that this solar field serves as a catalyst for many more sustainable energy projects in the region. The speed with which this project was completed is a tribute to the strength of the Rwandan government’s institutions and their laser-focus on increasing Rwanda’s generation capacity as well as to the nimbleness of our team and partners which spanned eight countries.”

The Rwandan project is built on land owned by the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, whose mission is to care for Rwanda’s most vulnerable children orphaned before and after the Rwandan genocide. The Village is leasing land to house the solar facility, the fees from which will help pay for a portion of the Village’s charitable expenses. Gigawatt Global will also be providing training on solar power to students of the Liquidnet High School on the grounds of the Youth Village.

“This utility-scale solar field at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is a symbol of hope for sub-Saharan Africa’s tens of millions of orphans and 600 million people without power, ushering in a new era of impact investing that we will hopefully be replicating throughout Africa,” added Yosef Abramowitz, president of Gigawatt Global. “We want to thank President Obama and Secretary Kerry, along with our other financial partners, for the opportunity to celebrate this landmark electricity-generating project under Power Africa.”

Are Solar Investments Better Than Stocks?

Investing in a 5 kilowatt solar system may be a better investment than investing in a stock market index fund according to a new report, “Going Solar in America: A Guide for Homeowners Considering Solar PV in America’s 50 Largest Cities,” released by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded study finds that solar is a “real opportunity for anyone looking to take greater control over their monthly utility bills and make a long-term, relatively low-risk investment.”

The first Going Solar in America report ranked America’s 50 largest cities by the financial value rooftop solar offers residential customers. According to the authors’ calculations, a financed solar PV system can be a better investment than Going Solar in America reportthe S&P 500 in 46 of the 50 cities. The report fins that many homeowners are unaware of solar PV’s value because they don’t have a personal point of reference of understanding how much it will cost them.

The second report provides actionable information to homeowners as a follow-up to these rankings. The guide includes descriptions of the policy and incentive options available to homeowners considering solar and information on how to get started. Among topics addressed are solar PV technology, financing options (loans, leases and power purchase agreements), and net metering and “value of solar” tariffs.

“We wanted to first draw attention to the financial value that solar offers today and then have a resource available to assist homeowners who are interested in taking the next step,” said Autumn Proudlove, co-author of the Going Solar in America reports.

Jim Kennerly, lead author and project manager of the Going solar reports notes that the upfront costs of a typical size solar PV system, not factoring into tax credits and other financing options, is about the same as the upfront cost of buying a 2015 Toyota Corolla. “Given that a car’s upfront cost does not include ongoing gas and maintenance costs, it really shows that going solar right now is a great financial value, no matter who you are, or where you live.”

Participate in “Shout Out for Solar” Day

Shout Out for Solar Day” is taking place on Friday, January 16, 2015 on Facebook, Twitter and other social media venues. The event coincides with the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) 41st anniversary as well as the release of The Solar Foundation’s “National Solar Jobs Census” report on Thursday, January 15.

“With the U.S. solar energy industry coming off a record-shattering year, next week’s ‘Shout Out For Solar’ Day is the perfect time for Americans to voice their support for increased development of solar resources nationwide,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “In a short period of time, solar has become a true American success story, benefiting both National Shout out for Solar Daythe U.S. economy and our environment, and we need to be shouting that news from every rooftop.”

According to estimates, the U.S. now has more than 20 GW of installed solar capacity, enough to effectively power nearly 4 million America homes – or every single home in a state the size of Massachusetts or New Jersey – with another 20 GW in the pipeline for 2015-16. SEIA says the growth is being spurred, in part, by the affordability of solar. According to SEIA/GTM Research, national blended average system prices have dropped 53 percent since 2010.

“By any measurement, these policies [net metering] are paying huge dividends for both the economy and environment,” Resch continued. “Yet despite all of the progress we’ve made, solar faces an uncertain future in Washington and in some state capitals. It’s more important than ever for the voices of our supporters to be heard.”

Anyone can participate in the event. Pictures can be uploaded to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #GoSolar. Supporters can download and print signs for their pictures here. SEIA is also hosting a Thunderclap, which will send out coordinated Tweets and Facebook posts from hundreds of supporters on January 16.

Students Learn About the Power of the Sun

Green Power EMC has released an updated curriculum and enhanced in-class learning laboratory featuring solar power. The program was developed by schools participating in their SunPower for Schools partnership program. The curriculum provides solar arrays on school grounds and software for use in the classroom that when used together allow students to monitor real-time data on solar energy production. Currently, 35 middle and high schools in EMC service territories around Georgia are participating in the program.

The program supports STEM standards (science, technology, engineering and math) and includes 57 lesson plans that cover four main areas for middle and high school students: physical science, physics and chemistry; math; life science, biology Array-Sun-Power_rszand environmental science; and earth science. Additional lesson plans are being developed for other subjects and grade levels as well.

“This professionally developed curriculum and upgraded hardware and software not only help students learn about solar energy but also provide a hands-on laboratory to apply math and science standards taught in Georgia schools,” said Green Power EMC President Jeff Pratt. “In addition, we created the curriculum as an off-the-shelf program that teachers can use with a minimum of preparation.”

The new curriculum was developed by the University of West Georgia in partnership with Green Power EMC and was reviewed this summer in a teacher’s workshop in Savannah to test and evaluate the program. Forty-four middle and high school teachers participated in the three-day seminar and provided feedback that is being incorporated into the curriculum. It will be utilized during the 2014 – 2015 school year.

Pratt said Green Power EMC and the EMCs in Georgia who own the renewable energy cooperative hope to further enhance the program in the near future to provide more hands-on learning opportunities for Georgia’s students. “We’re excited to have developed a curriculum that is like no other in the state,” said Pratt. “We expect that teacher and student feedback received during this first year of implementation will allow us to make it even better in future years.”

Light This Holiday Season with Luci

It is estimated 1.4 billion people, largely in developing communities, live without access to grid electricity. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, 90 million primary students are without electricity. And, each year, indoor pollution from dirty fuels results in four million deaths. To address this issue, the creators of Luci, MPOWERD, have partnered with FCB Garfinkel and the composers from Found Objects to shine a light on energy poverty in emerging countries. The collaborators have released a new animated video follows the journey of a young child and showcases how important access to energy is for his education and quality of life.

According to MPOWERD, Luci is an easy-to-use, high-quality solar lantern and task light that is lightweight, maintenance-free, safe and waterproof. It is a high-impact and low-footprint resource to increase access to reliable lighting across the globe.

Lee Garfinkel, CEO of FCB Garfinkel, said explaining energy poverty is tough when the public isn’t always aware of the problem. “The story of Kiama brings his daily struggle to life and, through the help of the Luci solar-powered light, illustrates how a simple idea can have an incredible impact.”

“Give Luci” tells the story of a boy named Kiama on his journey to and from school. Kiama, like many children, has big dreams. As Kiama heads home from school to have dinner with his family, he settles in but so does the sun. That causes Kiama’s world to go dark. Kiama’s lack of access to light means he, like millions of other children, cannot study at night or do his homework, which in turn dampens his dreams and his potential. That is, until Luci.

“We know that energy poverty is a topic that isn’t discussed very often,” added Scott Kling, President and COO of MPOWERD. “But making a big impact is easy. When people purchase even just one Luci light and gift it to someone in need, it can change the lives of a family of five and keep 320kg of CO2 out of the atmosphere annually.”

New Program to Train Vets in Clean Energy

Cerritos College located in Norwalk, California has announced a new training program to certify military veterans and other applicants to meet the growing need for electrical field service technicians (EFSTs). These are the workers who help to maintain solar power and electric vehicle infrastructure.

The program is the result of a partnership among Cerritos College’s Technology Division, the Advanced Transportation & Renewable Energy (ATRE) sector, a California Community Colleges workforce program, and True South Renewables, Inc. The five-month college certification program will teach students how to maintain and repair solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and equipment needing Cerritos Collegegeneral maintenance. Cerritos College and ATRE worked closely with True South Renewables to develop the extensive curriculum for this unique program.

“This is an important initiative to provide military personnel who were electricians in the service with training to receive certification in a high-paying, growing civilian field,” said Rue Phillips, CEO of True South Renewables based in Huntington Beach, Calif. “In addition, these graduates are needed. Few outside the solar power industry are aware of the volume of operations and maintenance work required to ensure the optimum performance of large solar fields and photovoltaic systems on commercial and residential rooftops.”

Classes start Jan. 12, 2015 at the Cerritos College campus and applications are now being accepted. Applicants must be experienced electricians with accumulated service knowledge and skills in the electronics/electrician and IT sectors. Qualified U.S. veterans are being prioritized for entry and will be able to secure financial support upon acceptance.

“We are proud to offer this program to the community, enabling qualified veterans, the unemployed and under-employed to receive training that fills a critical shortage of technicians in the trillion-dollar solar and EV markets,” added Jannet Malig, ATRE regional director based at Cerritos College. “Graduates of the program will be introduced to industry leaders with the expectation that we will achieve 99% job placement for graduating students.”

Clarkson University Campus Goes Solar

Clarkson University, located in Potsdam, New York, has nearly completed its 12 acre solar farm that will generate nearly 10 percent of the University’s electricity. Community Solar Energy is the project partner and the company designed the 2 MW solar array. Community Energy will own and operate the solar photovoltaic (P)V array. Clarkson will be the sole beneficiary of the power, which it will buy from Community Energy at approximately the same price it is buying power for right now. Support for this project came from New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative.

Clarkson University solar array“We are doing this to be green, because we are committed to sustainability, and to showcase this state-of-the-art technology,” said Clarkson’s chief financial officer, James D. Fish. “Our students will benefit greatly from this project, as the array will serve as a living laboratory, where they can study real-world solar energy generation.”

In April, Clarkson became a signatory of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, agreeing to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions from specified campus operations and to promote the research and educational efforts of higher education to better equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.

The 7,704 modules of the array will generate approximately 2.8 million kilowatt hours per year. The solar farm is located on Route 11 adjacent to the Potsdam airport, Damon Field and Clarkson and Community Energy worked closely with the Village of Potsdam and the FAA to ensure the solar array did not affect airport operations.

“We have partnered with some 50 colleges and universities over the last decade to supply them with wind and solar energy,” said Community Energy Solar Vice President of Development Operations Thomas J. Tuffey. “Clarkson is now in the point position with on-site generation of solar power at a meaningful scale to both meet the challenge of climate change and educate tomorrow’s leaders. We have had a great experience partnering with Clarkson to develop and build this project and are happy to have it in our portfolio of over 1000 megawatts (MW) of developed renewable energy.”

Activation of the solar array is planned for this November.

Scholarships for National Ethanol Conference

rfa-nec-15Students interested in the ethanol industry have a chance to attend the 2015 National Ethanol Conference in Grapevine, Texas through a scholarship opportunity offered by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the Renewable Fuels Foundation (RFF).

The 20th annual National Ethanol Conference, titled “Going Global,” will offer college students a chance to hear key industry leaders and policymakers address topics such as the Renewable Fuel Standard, E15, international trade, next-generation ethanol, rail transportation, and more. In addition, they will have a unique opportunity to interact with key leaders of the U.S. ethanol industry.

“The National Ethanol Conference offers an excellent opportunity for college students to get their feet wet and gain an in-depth look into the ethanol industry,” said Mike Jerke, chairman of the RFF and CEO of Guardian Energy Management LLC. “Our goal is to educate the next generation of biofuel leaders and the conference is the perfect place for them to learn, ask questions, and network.”

Interested students are asked to submit a 500-word essay explaining how their attendance at the National Ethanol Conference will help them achieve their future goals. They are also asked to submit two letters of recommendation, a current resume, and a school transcript. The scholarship is only available to students attending a U.S. institution of higher learning or foreign students affiliated with the U.S. ethanol industry.

Applications must be received by Dec. 12 to receive full consideration. Application materials can be found here: www.NationalEthanolConference.com/pages/scholarships.

Veterans Asset Offering Vets Online Solar Education

gI_93607_TVA on Roof_SmilesThe Veteran Asset (TVA) is now offering solar PV scholarships for U.S. military veterans through its new 32-hour online training program. The training program is being offered in conjunction with Ambassador Energy Solar College, an Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) accredited training program.

The organization has been providing free solar PV training for vets since May 2014 via a traditional “brick and motar” option at their Ambassador Energy’s training facility in Murrieta, California. The entry level Solar PV Design and Installation is a five-day course with an exam following the completion of the courses. This course is now offered online.

The program is also customized to allow renewable energy company’s to leverage TVA’s specialized vetting process and their program, to help companies hire veteran graduates. Courses can be co-branded to the company, its technologies and geographies it serves.

Kelly Smith, TVA vice president said of the new online program, “The online option not only provides TVA data for determining the next locations for our ‘Brick and Mortar’ training centers but it is also a scalable way for us to cast a wide net, helping us reach as many veterans as possible during this solar ‘gold rush’. We are using technology to help bridge the gap between the desirable supply of a trained veteran workforce and the growing demand from the renewable energy industry. TVA’s entire mission is getting these great folks to work.”

SIUE Prof to Write Book on Illinois Biofuels History

The Illinois biofuels industry will be reading about its history in a book. Assistant Professor Jeffery T. Manuel, who teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), is teaming up with NCERC at SIUE to write the book. He works in the Department of Historical Studies and his biofuels history project was selected for a faculty fellowship award. The Center’s faculty fellowship program is sponsored by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board to foster collaborative research between the NCERC and the University community.

“Farmers, researchers, business leaders, politicians, and many others have been working to build Illinois’ biofuels industry for decades,” said Manuel. “This is an important but overlooked aspect of the state’s agricultural and business history. Fuel alcohol has been suggested as a promising alternative to oil and gas for over a century. My research asks why Americans have repeatedly turned to alcohol fuel as an alternative energy source and why earlier efforts to promote alcohol fuels were unsuccessful.”

gI_88188_Manuel-JeffManuel said his work will include recorded, in-depth interviews of key players in the biofuels industry. The interviews will be archived at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield as part of the Agriculture in Illinois oral history collection.

“We truly appreciate the Illinois Corn Growers’ support of this collaborative relationship, and we are excited to partner with Dr. Manuel on his project,” said NCERC Director John Caupert. “The biofuels industry has a long and fascinating history, with deep roots in Illinois. Dr. Manuel’s work will shed light on the industry’s evolution, and demonstrate the resilience and innovation of the industry’s past and present pioneers.”

Manuel added, “I believe my research will add a valuable historical perspective to SIUE’s existing strengths in biofuels research. I hope that SIUE can become a world leader in a multidisciplinary study of biofuels as we work to create this valuable record for the general public and future researchers.”

Canadian Youth Speak Out For Wind

The winners of the Canadian Wind Energy Association’s (CanWEA) Power of Wind contest were announced during the association’s 30th Annual Conference and Exhibition in Montreal, Quebec this week. The contest is launched each year during Global Wind Day (June 15, 2015) to bring positive attention to the benefits of wind energy and its growing contribution in Canada.

Power of Wind submissionEach year, CanWEA awards several bursary prizes to students entering or in post-secondary education. This year, students were invited to submit multimedia and written entries on why they believe wind energy is important to Canada’s energy future.

“CanWEA’s Power of Wind contest presents an opportunity for students to share their unique perspective on energy. This year, we reviewed over 200 captivating multi-media entries,” said CanWEA President, Robert Hornung. “The submissions revealed a high awareness among students of wind energy’s role in powering new economic and environmental opportunities, and the ways that Canada can demonstrate global leadership in the development of renewable energy.”

And this year’s Power of Wind contest winners are…

  • Best English language blog: Audrey Cheung, University of Calgary
  • Best French language blog: Pierre-Luc Blain, University of British Columbia
  • Best multimedia entry: Maya Olechnowicz, University of Western Ontario
  • Most creative submission: Long Ting (Tina) Chan, University of Waterloo

Click here to read the winners’ blogs.

Indo-U.S. Advanced Bioenergy Consortium launches

A new Indo-U.S. Advanced Bioenergy Consortium for Second Generation Biofuels (IUABC) has been launched. Partners include the government of India’s Department of Biotechnology, Indian corporate leaders and Washington University in St. Louis, who have invested $2.5 million in the consortium. The IUABC is a joint bi-national center led by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay (IITB), and Washington University.

dreamstime_xs_44872276The Indian transportation fuel infrastructure is undergoing massive transformation due to increased consumer demand and a growing population, which is estimated to reach 1.6 billion by 2050.

“Biofuels are an essential solution to this demand challenge, not only to bridge the supply between traditional fossil fuels and consumer demand, but to deliver better environmental performance,” said Himadri Pakrasi, PhD, director of I-CARES, Washington University’s center for research on energy, the environment and sustainability, and the university’s McDonnell International Scholars Academy ambassador to JNU. “Over the next three years, the IUABC will invest significantly in the knowledge base in India and the U.S. to meet this challenge.”

The goal of the center is to increase biomass yield in plants and algae, enabling downstream commercial development for cost-effective, efficient and environmentally sustainable production of advanced biofuels.

The lead organizations are all members of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy and the new consortium strengthens this relationship.

East Kansas’ Jeff Oestmann Featured on Car Clinic

Bobby Likis Car ClinicThe ethanol industry was well represented on the nationally syndicated car-talk program “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” when Bobby Likis spoke with East Kansas Agri-Energy’s President and CEO Jeff Oestmann. The show aired Saturday, October 11, 2014 and the two ethanol advocates chatted about local, regional and national issues surrounding ethanol production.

Oestmann, whose career spans 20 years in the bioenergy and grain processing industries, currently serves on the Board of Directors of both the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) & Kansas Association of Ethanol Producers. During the program, Oestmann discussed the consumer benefits of ethanol production and its impact on local communities and the U.S. economy. Oestmann is a non-commissioned officer who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 11 years, including service in the USMC’s elite Embassy Guard.

Jeff Oestmann East Kansas Agri-Energy“I have a question slate lined up for Jeff that addresses ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the U.S economy, engine performance and national security. Consumers – and American citizens – need to hear the message,” said Likis.

Oestmann shared many facts during the program. “We use cutting edge technology at East Kansas Agri-Energy to produce high-quality ethanol that helps consumers save an average of $1.00 per gallon at the gas station and also benefits our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We put a high priority on innovation, and the biofuels we produce – including next generation renewable diesel – help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, which in turn bolsters America’s national security.”

Click here to listen to Oestmann’s interview.