Burundi Moving Towards Solar

Burundi is moving towards solar. Via the Power Africa and Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid sub-initiative, Gigawatt Global has been awarded two grants to bring solar to the country, where only four percent of the population has access to residential power. The proposed project, a 7.5 Megawatt (MW) solar field, will increase the country’s generation capacity by 15 percent. Currently, Burundi experiences a high frequency of blackouts, with downtime in electrical access an average of two days a week. Burundi has a total of only 52 MW of installed electrical capacity, including 15.5 MW of diesel-generated power.

The effort in Burundi is being supported by two grants totaling nearly $1 million, from Power Africa via the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and the GigaWatt Global Solar project in BurundiEnergy and Environment Partnership (EEP), a coalition representing the British, Finnish, and Austrian governments. Gigawatt Global plans to develop and manage a 7.5 MW solar PV field on a 15-hectare site in the Gitega region, 65 miles from the capital of Bujumbura. The facility will produce electricity needed for 60,000 households. The total cost of the project is estimated to be approximately $20 million.

“Our impact investment model is to strengthen developing nations, both economically and environmentally, by providing renewable energy sources where they are most needed,” said Yosef Abramowitz, President of Gigawatt Global, an American-owned Dutch developer. This announcement follows Gigawatt Global’s launch last month of East Africa’s largest utility-scale solar field, which added 6 percent to Rwanda’s electricity generation capacity and for which it was nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. “We plan to build 1,000 solar megawatts in Africa by 2020, thereby providing electricity to millions of households and institutions that are currently without the most basic of human needs.”

USTDA’s grant will fund a feasibility study that will address key technical and economic aspects of the solar project, conduct environmental and social impact assessments, and provide the necessary analysis for the project to secure financing. The grant funds awarded by EEP will be used for pre-development works and legal costs.

“USTDA is pleased to provide Gigawatt Global Burundi S.A. this grant for a feasibility study, which will utilize U.S. industry expertise to advance this important project,” said USTDA Director Leocadia I. Zak. “This activity supports Power Africa’s objectives of increasing access to power and promoting greater private investment in Africa’s energy sector.”

Efforts to Cease Solar Net Metering Continue

The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASK) is pushing back on Turlock Irrigation District (TID) for wanting to cease solar net metering. The nonprofit explains that net metering is a fundamental policy that enables rooftop solar consumers to secure fair credit for excess Alliance for solar choice logosolar energy sent back to the grid. Without net metering, says TASK, a thriving solar market and robust solar job creation cannot exist.

TASK says ending net metering means wiping out the savings that TID solar customers will be able to earn from their solar systems. They cite TID’s net metering elimination program harms solar customers in the following ways:

  1. Eliminates the most fundamental solar policy – net metering – which exists in 44 states including California.
  2. Imposes a discriminatory fee on residential solar customers – the first of its kind in California.
  3. Charges customers a new $600 meter fee before TID will allow a system to operate.

“It appears that this new billing structure will render solar financially nonviable for TID customers, which will hinder us from taking advantage of green energy in the future,” said John Miller of Miller Farms, Inc., a TID customer. “This is unfortunate because we believe that anything we can do to improve our business, the local economy, and our environment at the same time is good for all parties involved.”

According to TASK, the end of solar net metering may not be permanent. There are efforts in the California Senate to standardize net metering throughout the state.

“TID’s new solar billing structure appears to have a major impact on savings that TID customers can achieve with solar,” added Todd Filbrun, CEO of Kurios Energy, a Manteca solar company.  “Keeping utility consumers informed on what options they will have to recoup these savings, such as battery back-up or off-grid solar systems, will be important moving forward.”

DOE Releases 2014 Geothermal Tech Report

“We’ve turned the corner … the potential growth curve for geothermal is extremely exciting,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Power, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, United States Department of Energy, Douglas Hollett. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released its annual report, “2014 Annual Report Geothermal Technologies Office,” and highlights 35 project successes in program areas  including EGS, Hydrothermal, Low-Temperature, and Systems Analysis.

The report notes that DOE’s geothermal flagship project over the next five years in its FORGE initiative that Director Doug Hollett says is “the first dedicated field site of its kind EGS field near Bend Oregonfor testing targeted enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) R&D. The intent is to use this collaborative site for transformative science that will create a commercial pathway for large-scale, economically viable EGS.”

As the report explains, enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) are engineered reservoirs, created beneath the Earth’s surface where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow. During EGS development, underground fluid pathways are safely created and/or their size and connectivity increased. These enhanced pathways allow fluid to circulate throughout the hot rock and carry heat to the surface to generate electricity. 

The FORGE initiative was announced in July 2014 and is a $31 million funded program that will develop and support a geothermal field observatory, the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE), dedicated to researching pertinent questions that will move geothermal technology and and opportunities forward.

The FORGE site, explains the report, “will enable cutting-edge research, drilling, and technology testing, allowing collaborating scientists to identify a replicable, commercial pathway to EGS. It is hoped the field site will yield breakthrough tools and technologies for to improve future geothermal energy production.”

To learn all about DOE geothermal projects, including more information on the FORGE initiative, read the report.

TUSK: NC Solar Bill Laced with Poison Pill

This may prove to be the ‘Spring of Discontent’ for the solar industry as it fights for the right to keep solar affordable for consumers across the USA. Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK) has been amid the solar brawls in several states including North Carolina. The advocacy group cites that North Carolina utilities including Duke Energy Carolinas and Dominion North Carolina Power have “laced” a well-intentioned North Carolina solar bill with a “poison pill” that would “unravel” solar net metering programs.

The utilities are publicly opposing the bill that would prevent third-party owned solar business model from taflying solar panelsking flight. Simultaneously, the utilities are privately attempting to slip in language that would open the doors and slam the solar market into the wall should the bill pass.

Net metering is a policy that gives solar customers full, fair credit for their excess solar energy. If a consumer produces more electricity than his house needs, he can sell the excess power back to the utility for a competitive price. This type of policy has helped to keep the solar market competitive. However, TUSK says if passed, the “Energy Freedom Act” HB 245 would give the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) the authority to approve a separate, discriminatory tariff for net metering customers. A separate tariff paves the way for stripping Tar Heels of the credit they deserve for investing in solar for their own roofs, says TUSK. The bill would also allow utilities to create a separate rate class for rooftop solar customers, a vehicle for solar taxes.

“This bill has a hidden poison pill that would undermine the solar industry,” said TUSK Chairman Barry Goldwater Jr. “The state Legislature should recognize this utility deception and strike the anti-solar language.”

Solar choice and competition are the conservative way, and should remain the North Carolina way, stressed Goldwater.

NASDAQ Trading SolarEdge Technologies Shares

SolarEdge on NasdaqSolarEdge Technologies is now trading on NASDAQ. The solar company announced its pricing for its initial public offering of 7 million shares of common stock at a public price of $18 per share. All shares are being sold by SolarEdge. As part of the offering, the underwriters have been granted a 30-day option to purchase up to 1,050,000 additional shares. The shares began trading today on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “SEDG”. The closing of the offering is expected to occur on March 31, 2015, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions.

Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. are acting as joint book-running managers for the offering. Needham & Company, Canaccord Genuity Inc. and Roth Capital Partners are acting as co-managers. A registration statement relating to these securities was declared effective by the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 25, 2015. The offering will be made only by means of a prospectus.

Monopoly Utilities Expose Solarcism

State-sponsored monopoly utilities, as coined by the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industry Association (GSREIA) have exposed their ‘solarcism’ in recent weeks. GSREIA has accused them of being “ignorant” and “misleading” when it comes to solar energy. The nonprofit wants to keep the utilities honest and is publicly clarifying some misconceptions. At issue is the frequency that monopoly utility supporters confuse Louisiana’s low electricity rates with customer electricity bills.

“It’s embarrassing that groups funded by large utilities could be so confused on the basic facts on electricity,” said Jeff Cantin, president of GSREIA. “If low rates meant low bills, Louisiana’s utilities would never have to explain to the media and regulators why customers suffer from high bills every summer and every winter.”

Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association LogoA good example, says Cantin, that explains how monopoly mouthpieces get it so wrong is to compare the automobile gasoline price-per-gallon vs. a driver’s total bill at the pump.

Cantin offers an example. Assume gasoline costs $2 a gallon. If a Prius owner fills up that car’s 11-gallon gasoline tank, the gasoline bill will be $22. If a Suburban owner fills up that SUV’s 31-gallon gasoline tank, the gasoline bill will be $62. Obviously the Suburban owner’s bill is going to be much higher. And clearly, the low price of gas per gallon doesn’t mean the bill will be cheap. The same principle applies to electric bills.

While Louisiana’s residential rates are relatively cheap at about 9.4 cents per kWh, actual bills depend on how many kWh customers actually use. According to the latest information from the Energy Information Administration, Louisiana’s average residential electric bill was $119.98 in 2013. Residents in 36 states paid lower average bills, meaning Louisiana had the 14th most expensive average utility bills in the nation.

Although every Louisiana utility customer’s bill clearly explains that the number of kWh used defines the size of the monthly bill, GSREIA hopes the state-sponsored monopoly mouthpieces are making honest mistakes instead of purposefully misleading the public.

SEIA Supports Florida Solar Bill

Floridians have a chance to vote in support of solar by supporting the Solar Choice 2016 ballot initiative. This grassroots community effort was launched as a means to allow more homes and businesses to generate electricity from solar. Florida is one of only five states in the nation that prohibits its citizens from buying electricity from companies that install solar panels on homes and businesses. Calling it vitally important to the development of clean energy resources in Florida, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has announced its “strong support” of the bill.

“This fight is about consumer choice and private property rights – cherished, long-standing American principals that we strongly support as an organization and an industry,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “Despite its sun-rich resources, Florida ranked only 20th in the nation last year in new installed solar capacity. For a state that touts itself as the ‘sunshine state,’ that’s a huge disappointment. Clearly, the legal prohibition against certain solar installations solar panels in agrepresents a serious roadblock to the development of clean, reliable solar energy statewide. We urge Floridians to sign this critically important, freedom-of-choice petition, allowing it to be placed on next year’s ballot.”

According to Florida law, 683,149 signatures are needed by February 1, 2016 to be included on the ballot. If ultimately successful, Resch said the ballot initiative could dramatically spur new solar development in Florida, providing the state with a big economic boost.

“Today, the U.S. solar industry employs 174,000 Americans nationwide – more than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter combined – and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into our economy,” Resch added. “This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for both the U.S. economy and our environment. It’s time for Florida to share in this growth, too.”

Report – Bioenergy Does Not Raise Prices

DBL Investors Renewable Electricity ReportThere has been a pervading argument that an increase in renewable energy in the U.S. will increase the price of energy. According to a new report, “Renewables Are Driving Up Electricity Prices. What Wait?” This is not true.

The paper was authored by Nancy E. Pfund & Anand Chhabra with DBL Investors examines the 100 year old utility business model by looking at the top and bottom states that derive electricity from renewable sources.

The report finds that over the past 10 years, greater generation from renewable energy sources, or bioenergy, did not equate to skyrocketing electricity prices. In fact, states that generate a larger proportion of their electricity from renewable sources often experienced average retail electricity prices significantly below states that are producing less renewable electricity.

Egypt Solar Energy Market Report

The Egypt Solar Energy Association (ESEA) has a released a report detailing the growth of the Egyptian solar industry: “Egypt’s Solar Energy Market – FiT Program and Beyond 2015”. Over the past several weeks, solar has made gains with the announcement of 2.3 GW of power to be generated by photovoltaic energy within the next few years. In addition, leading international players have publicly announced new partnerships with local enterprises to bring proposed solar projects to fruition.

Egypt Solar Industry Association logoThe Egyptian government recently concluded the international Economic Development Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh with hopes of attracting $60 billion dollars in foreign direct investment, including billions for renewable energy.  As a result, there has been a wave of announcements from the solar industry declaring gigawatts of development and billions of dollars in investment, not only in PV power plants, but also in manufacturing facilities, research and development and training.

Egypt’s Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy has already begun to establish favorable policies and a regulatory framework to help make solar energy a true alternate large-scale source of Egypt’s energy mix.

Egypt SIA’s new market report provides detailed insights on the latest solar market developments as well as in-depth perspectives from some of the key stakeholders, including regulators, laws firms, developers and EPC contractors who are active in the emerging Egyptian solar energy market. In addition, the report offers a unique outlook on solar developments beyond the feed-in-tariff scheme; tracking opportunities in various industries and governorates across Egypt.

Bennet Files Amendment for Bridge to Tax Reform

Trade groups are calling for national support of the Bennet Amendment for Bridge to Tax Reform. U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) has filed an amendment to the annual budget resolution being considered this week by the Senate that would make room for renewable and efficiency tax credits. The amendment specifies “a fund for “creating clean energy jobs, including extending over a reasonable period of time, as a bridge to tax reform, expired and expiring tax credits for renewable energy production and investment.”

The renewable tBennet Tax Reform Amendment Trade Group Supportersrade groups endorsed the amendment in a letter:

Dear Senator:

The U.S. Senate begins debate this week on the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Resolution. Senator Michael Bennet will be offering an amendment (#715) which expresses support for the extension of expired and expiring federal tax credits for renewable energy production and investment as the bridge to tax reform. On behalf of the thousands of American companies and over 500,000 Americans working in the renewable energy sector, we strongly encourage you to support the Bennet Amendment.

Over the past five years, nearly 44% of all new domestic power generation capacity has come from renewable energy resources, including more than 56% of all new power generation capacity in 2014 – surpassing all other energy sources. The investment tax credit (ITC) and the production tax credit (PTC) have been the primary federal policy drivers for this growth, spurring private sector investment, creating jobs, and driving down costs significantly, making renewable and clean technologies more cost competitive.

The clean energy sector has the potential to be one of the greatest engines of middle class job growth in the 21st century, while providing our nation with secure sources of clean and renewable domestic energy. To realize that objective, however, we must have a supportive and certain tax policy environment.

Again, on behalf of our thousands of member companies and more than half a million Americans working in our industries, we ask you to send an unambiguous signal of support for clean and renewable energy. Please vote for the Bennet Amendment to the Senate Budget Resolution in support of continuing tax incentives for clean and renewable domestic energy sources.

The letter is signed by representatives of the Solar Energy Industries Association, American Wind Energy Association, Alliance for Industrial Efficiency, Geothermal Energy Association, American Biogas Council, Energy Recovery Council, National Hydropower Association, Biomass Power Association, Distributed Wind Energy Association and Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association.

Sens Wyden, Risch Intro Geothermal Energy Bill

Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, have introduced legislation to encourage geothermal energy production on public lands. Coined the Geothermal Production Expansion Act, the bill would prevent speculative bidders from driving up the price of leases for developers seeking to use the land for geothermal projects. The bill streamlines the federal geothermal leasing program by allowing for the non-competitive leasing of a limited amount of federal land at fair market value to spur the expansion of geothermal energy on already identified “hot spots”. The bill passed the Senate last year. Senators Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, also cosponsored the legislation.

Sens Risch and WydenGeothermal projects are managed on Federal lands by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and it is estimated that 250 million acres contain geothermal power potential. Currently, geothermal energy projects that are producing geothermal power under the BLM’s management make up about half of the total geothermal generating capacity in the U.S.

“Geysers, volcanoes and hot springs – like Oregon’s own Neal Hot Springs – are reservoirs of the Earth’s enormous clean energy potential,” Wyden said. “By making these “hot spots” available to only serious developers, this bill protects taxpayer dollars and prevents speculators from holding hostage the enormous possibilities of geothermal energy.”

Risch added, “Reliable and lower-cost energy is the backbone of any successful economy and must be expanded to meet future needs. In Idaho and much of the west, geothermal energy is a largely untapped source of clean energy. This bill encourages its development and expansion by removing a layer of red tape that holds up production at geothermal facilities.”

Oregon and Idaho have the combined potential to produce at least 1,400 MW from geothermal resources – enough energy to power more than a million homes. U.S. Geothermal, Inc. operates geothermal power projects in both states.

“We thank Senators Wyden and Risch for their continued strong support of the geothermal industry with their introduction of the Geothermal Production Expansion Act,” said Doug Glaspey, President and COO of U.S. Geothermal, Inc. “This is an important piece that improves the federal leasing system and will help geothermal developers move projects toward production.”

Survey: Electric Grid 70% Renewable by 2050

According to a new survey from DNV GL, there is a global consensus that a renewables based electricity system can be achieved. More than 1,600 energy sector participants representing more than 70 countries participated in a study addressing three key Beyond Integrationquestions on how to move forward the integration of renewables into the global electricity grids of the future. Eight out of 10 respondents believe that the electricity system can be 70 percent renewable by 2050 while nearly half of the respondents believe this can be achieved in the next 15 years. The culmination of the study was published in the report, “Beyond Integration: Three dynamics reshaping renewables and the grid“.

Key questions asked included posing a scenario in which renewables account for 70 percent of power sector generation. How likely did they feel this was to come about? What time frame might they assign to such a scenario? To whom would the scenario pose challenges? To whom might it offer opportunities?

The analysis sheds light on three dynamics reshaping renewables and the grid for the energy transition: convergence of metrics, rebalancing of rules and expansion of horizons.

David Walker, CEO DNV GL-Energy, said of the report, “DNV GL’s analysis of these findings concludes that the solution for a high renewables future demands a dramatic change in the industry’s approach to the integration of new technology. We need to adopt more collaborative approaches and go beyond old metrics, beyond old rules and beyond old silos. A shift away from a paradigm in which renewables are considered a nuisance to be accommodated to one in which the true potential of renewables in balancing and securing grids is unlocked. The debate needs to move ‘beyond integration’. DNV GL is taking the broader view and opening that discussion.”

Report findings are organised around three dynamics, which DNV GL sees reshaping not just electricity, but the entire energy sector:

  1. Convergence – New economic metrics must converge the needs of policymakers and system operators. The survey indicates that policymakers and system operators place diverging demands on renewable developers. Qualitative data stress that securing political will depends on affordability, while in a high renewables future developers must also engage with the increasing system operation challenges.
  2. Rebalancing – New rules are needed to rebalance the opportunities and challenges for developers and system operators. Developers, independent power producers and original equipment manufacturers are relishing the opportunities brought about by the shift to a high renewables system, while system operators and utilities identify themselves as being challenged by the transition.
  3. Expansion – New entrepreneurial solutions will expand the electricity business into a true ‘internet of energy’. Current high interest in energy storage, which 66 percent of respondents select as a top 3 lever for a high renewables future, is an example of the increasingly blurry lines between power, transport and heat. Meanwhile, respondents’ emphasis on smart grids underscores the role for IT in helping to manage the variability of renewables. The electricity sector is becoming more interconnected with the wider energy system, and also with newer sectors such as IT.

Offshore Wind Tech Being Tested

China Ming Yang Wind Power Group Limited’s super compact drive (“SCD”) offshore wind turbine prototype of 6.5MW platform has begun a commercial trial operation in Rudong,Jiangsu Province, China. The 5 -7 MW wind turbine prototype features a two-blade design with a light weight permanent magnet generator and is able to adapt to various extreme offshore weather conditions, offering high reliability at a lower weight to offshore wind farm operators, particularly in typhoon-prone regions.

dreamstimefree_100632“We are proud to see that the world’s first SCD offshore wind turbine prototype of 6.5MW platform has beenconnected to the grid and put into trial operation,” said Chuanwei Zhang, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ming Yang. “Our unique model provides our customers with a cost-effective solution for their offshore wind farm projects in typhoon-prone coastal areas where extreme weather conditions prevail, for example the eastern and southern coast of China, potentially one of the world’s largest offshore markets.”

Zhang added, “Meanwhile, I am also pleased to announce that in response to our customers needs and to meet China’s complex offshore conditions, Ming Yang is planning to develop an innovative three-blade SCD wind turbine model, specializing in catching low speed wind. We expect that we will be able to seize the huge market opportunities by providing a wider product mix as well as value-added services, as the PRC government continues to push for renewable energy solutions in an effort to combat air pollution.”

U of Iowa Selects REPREVE Renewables

The University of Iowa has selected REPREVE RENEWABLES to provide agricultural and business development services for their Biomass Fuel Project. The goal of the project it to assess and improve environmental aspects of new and existing biomass crops and subsequent fuels. In addition, REPREVE RENEWABLES’ perennial grass, giant miscanthus, will be used to power the U of I’s power plant, whose has a goal of using 40 percent renewable energy by 2020.

REPREVE RENEWABLES will employ its Accu Yield System – a proprietary, precision agricultural system, to plant and establish giant miscanthus. repreveAccording to the company, use of the Accu Yield System reduces the cost of establishment and increases yields, two factors that will make this project economically feasible.

REPREVE RENEWABLES will move forward by securing land commitments for 2,500 acres in the Iowa City area, including the Eastern Iowa Airport where giant miscanthus will be grown to improve soil and water quality by reducing soil erosion.

“The University of Iowa is a leader in sustainability, just as REPREVE RENEWABLES is a trailblazer in biomass production and logistics,” said Jeff Wheeler, CEO of REPREVE RENEWABLES. “The Biomass Fuel Project provides the opportunity to achieve breakthrough renewable energy solutions. Working as a team with the local community, we can create new revenue sources for farmers and landowners, improve the soil, mitigate erosion and runoff, and increase the use of renewable energy to reduce the carbon footprint. We are honored to be a part of the University’s 2020 Vision.”

Wind Industry Reacts to Wind Vision

The Wind Vision report released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is spurring reaction across the wind industry. The report describes a new scenario for wind to reach 10 percent by 2020, 20 percent by 2030, and 35 percent by 2050, and provides a road map for government and industry to get there. Wind industry executives are going on record saying they can and will deliver the goals set forth in the plan.

“We can do this and save you money by doing it,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “This definitive report provides the wind industry with aggressive targets for the growth of wind energy Wind VIsion 2015 reportin America, and we stand ready to meet them. It starts with getting common-sense policies in place, so we can double U.S. wind energy in the next five years.”

In response to the report, AWEA along with the Wind Energy Foundation will set forth more than 50 industry executives and professionals to serve as ambassadors to educate Americans and elected officials about wind power benefits. In addition, over 400,000 supporters of wind energy have signed a petition calling on state and federal lawmakers to support the needed policies.

“This report documents how wind energy already provides major economic and environmental benefits to America, including protecting consumers against energy price spikes, and making deep cuts in pollution and water use,” added John Kostyack, executive director of the Wind Energy Foundation. “As wind becomes one of the country’s top sources of electricity, Wind Vision promises even bigger benefits for decades to come.”

Wind Vision envisions how consumers will immediately benefit from more stably priced energy. With more wind energy, electricity prices would be 20 percent less sensitive to fluctuations in the price of fossil fuels, the report finds. Consumers would see $280 billion in economy-wide savings from reduced natural gas prices alone. Investing in more U.S. wind turbines would pay further economic dividends, such as by creating more jobs and causing further reductions in air pollution. The up-front investment to achieve these benefits will cost electric consumers only pennies a month in the early years, the report shows. Continue reading