A recent Today in Energy published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), takes a look at the variability of solar energy output. Pointing out that while many companies have improved on the technologies (such as tilt) and know-how of installing solar panels to capture the most sun per day, output peaks around noon when the sun is at its highest. This can be a challenge as peak energy use often climaxes in late afternoon or early evening.
During this time of day, west-facing PV panels have an advantage over south-facing panels, as they’re tilted towards the setting sun. EIA notes that higher PV output at this time of day is often beneficial to grid operators working to increase electric supply to balance high levels of demand, but customers generally will not see this benefit unless they are on time-of-use electric rates. For example, under net-metering arrangements, the financial benefit of these PV systems is based on the quantity of kilowatthours generated, regardless of the time of day.
While the EIA finds pros and cons of tilting solar panels, another option to best capture maximum sunlight is through tracking systems. Single-axis tracking systems are installed on tilted arrays, but they differ in that the tractors rotate the panels to follow the sun as it moves east to west, improving output in the early and late hours of daylight. Dual-axis tracking systems do this, too, while also modifying the tilt angle as the sun is lower or higher in the sky.
Looking at California as an example, tracking systems are less used. Thirty percent of the current solar capacity in the state was installed using single-axis tracking systems and only 4 percent use either dual-axis or a mix of tracking and fixed mounts. Ultimately, there will be a need for more systems to adopt this technology to maximum energy output.
Apex Clean Energy has selected ACCIONA Windpower to provide wind turbines for its 165 MW Cameron Wind farm that will be purchased by IKEA upon completion. The Brownsville, Texas wind farm will feature the first U.S. installation of AW125/3000 turbines. Each turbine will have a rotor diameter of 125 meters and a 3 megawatt generator mounted on an 87.5 meter steel tower. The agreement includes the supply of 55 ACCIONA Windpower AW125/3000 turbines and a 20-year Full Service Warranty.
“ACCIONA and IKEA share the same commitment to a clean energy future, and we are proud that our innovative wind technology was selected to help IKEA meet its global sustainability goals. We are also pleased to collaborate with Apex Clean Energy, a prominent and respected wind energy company,” said Rafael Mateo, CEO of ACCIONA Energy.
ACCIONA plans to begin turbine deliveries in mid-2015, and the project is expected to reach commercial operation in late 2015. When completed. The project will be a key part of IKEA’s commitment to produce by 2020 as much renewable energy as the company consumes globally and will mark the single largest renewable energy investment made by the IKEA Group globally to date.
Mark Goodwin, Apex president, added, “We are very pleased to be working with ACCIONA on this important project. The Texas gulf coast has a very unique wind resource, and Cameron Wind will harness this power to provide clean, homegrown, affordable energy to the residents of South Texas.”
ICF International recently released a white paper that aims to better create a methodology for assessing the true value of solar. Authored by Steven Fine, Ankit Saraf, Kiran Kumaraswany and Alex Anich, the paper looks at the current state of value of solar (VOS) analysis and proposes what they believe to be a more holistic approach – one that can be uniformly applied across various utility service areas.
The report offers several methodological approaches on potential VOS components including energy, avoided/deferred generation capacity, avoided transmission and distribution losses and capacity, grid support services, environmental costs and benefits and security.
After review and consideration of various methodologies, the authors lay out a roadmap for achieving a better consensus VOS and suggest their new VOS calculation could be an input in calculating the retail credit net energy metering (NEM) subsidy under a Value of Solar Tariff (VOST). They also believe the new calculation could be used to guide largeer investment and market decisions for utilities, regulators and the broader solar industry.
Click here to read the free white paper.
OwnEnergy has completed the Windthorst II Wind farm located in Windthorst, Texas. The project was developed by OwnEnergy while Mortenson Construction was responsible for the engineering, procurement and construction of the project including erecting 28 Siemens turbines.
“Completing construction on the Windthorst II wind project, which is our sixth wind farm to spin and our seventh completed project overall, is a major milestone for OwnEnergy,” said OwnEnergy Founder and CEO Jacob Susman. “We are proud to demonstrate our construction and asset management capabilities with the completion of Windthorst II. What’s more, we are thrilled to work with BlackRock and Mortensen to bring clean, cost-competitive wind energy to Texas. We appreciate the long-term support from the community leaders and residents of Archer County, and we are looking forward to continuing our commitment to Texas’s clean energy economy.”
The Windthorst II project is the 26th wind facility Mortenson has built in Texas out of 140 wind energy projects.
“We are very pleased to have entered into a relationship with OwnEnergy as they continue to grow their wind portfolio and make their mark in the industry,” said Tim Maag, VP and general manager of Mortenson’s Wind Energy Group. “We applaud their growing commitment to building projects with local ownership.”
Wetzel Blade was awarded a 2014 Clean Energy Venture Award during the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s NREL Industry Growth Forum. The company won the honor for its work on a pre-fabricated, field-assembled turbine blade that boosts production capacity and outlasts current generation composite blades. The start-up company will receive in-kind commercialization support designed to help increase its chances of becoming commercially successful.
According to Wetzel Blade, the new blade technology is based on a space frame design and features independently fabricated pultruded FRP spars. The parts are sized for easy transport and field-assembly, in similar fashion to high reliability military equipment.
According to Kyle Wetzel, CTO/Founder of Wetzel Blade and a well-published expert in wind blade design, “This concept emerged from a project that our parent company, Wetzel Engineering, was involved with in China. We were engineering a 100-meter blade for a 10MW turbine and wanted to eliminate shell panel buckling as a design driver. The balsa requirements presented another challenge – almost 10,000 kg of this expensive core material absorbing ~6,000kg of epoxy.”
Wetzel noted that 3-5 percent of total installed cost of each turbine is logged to transportation. However, their technology reduces these costs. The company is currently in the structural testing phase with plans to demonstrate a sub-scale prototype in early 2015. The project has been partially funded through an SBIR/STTR award from the DOE.
“Because of our involvement with the entire turbine lifecycle, we understand that to make a real shift in the economics, a blade design must generate more electricity, cost less to build and maintain, and be more efficient to transport and install,” added Webzel. “The industry is hungry for a solution that delivers on all those points.”
ScottishPower Renewables, Iberdrola USA’s sister company, has opened its first offshore wind farm, West of Duddon Sands, a 389 MW facility located in the Irish Sea. The $2.6 billion project, located approximately 12.5 miles off the seaport of Barrow-in-Furness in North West England, was completed in conjunction with Dong Energy of Denmark.
“West of Duddon Sands is the first offshore wind farm in the U.K. to use such advanced construction methods,” said Ignacio Galan, Iberdrola chairman during a grand opening ceremony. “The combination of two highly sophisticated installation vessels working in tandem, and the support of the excellent fabrication facilities at Belfast, Northern Ireland, made this one of the most efficient offshore projects ever delivered in the U.K.”
The wind farm consists of 108 Siemens turbines that are connected through a 125-mile web of undersea cable in a 26 square mile area of the Irish Sea. The wind farm will produce enough energy to meet the annual electricity demands of nearly 200,000 homes.
“Building the West of Duddon Sands wind farm was a significant engineering challenge,” said Bob Kump, chief corporate officer of Iberdrola USA. “There is value in the achievement beyond the immediate benefits of this project. We will share the knowledge we gained among Iberdrola companies like ours and throughout the industry to help advance the technology and cost competitiveness of future offshore wind projects.”
According to Iberdrola, two big offshore wind energy innovations helped reduce the cost of the project:
- A new $80 million, custom-designed offshore wind terminal built at Belfast Harbor. The terminal employs up to 300 workers and can operate around the clock for continual delivery of turbine and foundation components to the farm.
- Two of the world’s largest and most advanced installation vessels: Pacific Orca and Sea Installer. Using the two vessels in tandem enabled construction crews to install all the foundations and turbine components during one of the most stormy winters in recent history.
Energy generated by the project connects to an offshore substation that boosts the voltage then routes it through two export cables to the onshore substation at Heysham where it enters the U.K. national grid.
SolarReserve has flipped the switch on what they call the largest solar project in South Africa. The 96 MW Jasper solar power project completed construction two months early and is producing at full capacity. The solar farm is located in South Africa’s Northern Cape in a solar park that also includes the 75 MW Lesedi solar power project which came online in May, and the proposed 100 MW Redstone concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) plant featuring SolarReserve’s CSP technology with integrated energy storage.
As part of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP), the project will set aside a percentage of total project revenues for Enterprise Development and Socio-Economic Development for the benefit of the local communities.
“In addition to helping South Africa meet its critical electricity needs, the Jasper Project will bring long lasting economic benefits to the region,” said SolarReserve’s CEO Kevin Smith. “We look forward to continuing this positive momentum and bringing value to South Africa through collaboration on further projects, including our upcoming CSP projects that will provide South Africa with clean, reliable and non-intermittent electricity, day and night.”
With over 325,000 PV modules, the Jasper Project will deliver 180,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity annually for South Africa residents – enough to power up to 80,000 households through a 20-year power purchase agreement with Eskom, the South African power utility company. Selected by the South Africa Department of Energy (DOE) in the second round of bids under the REIPPPP, the project also marked Google’s first renewable energy investment in Africa.
Gaelectric has begun producing power at its £58 million Dunbeg Wind Farm, which is located between Limavady and Coleraine in Northern Ireland. Dunbeg is one of the largest wind farms constructed on the island of Ireland. The 42 MW wind farm comprises 14 Enercon wind turbines (Model E82, each with the capacity to generate up to 3 MW) with a maximum tip height of 125 metres. It will generate sufficient renewable power to meet the electricity demand of nearly 24,000 homes on an annual basis.
Brendan McGrath, Gaelectric Group CEO, said, “Dunbeg marks a major milestone for our business and further strengthens Gaelectric’s platform within the Single Electricity Market (SEM) on the island of Ireland. Our total permitted portfolio now stands at 140 MWs in Northern Ireland and represents a total investment of approximately £170 million. This consolidates Gaelectric’s position as the largest indigenous renewable energy company in Northern Ireland.”
“Gaelectric has been progressing an ambitious wind energy development programme in Ireland, the United States centered on the State of Montana, and in energy storage utilising compressed air energy storage (CAES) technology in our CAES Project near Larne in Northern Ireland,” added McGrath. “The launch of Dunbeg is a fitting way to mark our 10 years in existence and a tribute to our internal team and our technology and funding partners who have made this happen.”
In the last three years, Gaelectric has secured planning approval for nine Northern Ireland Wind Farm developments, including Dunbeg. The company’s first operational Wind Farm in Northern Ireland, the £20 million Carn Hill Wind Farm located in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim was officially opened in May 2013. Gaelectric plans to commission its remaining seven NI Wind Farm projects by 2017.
A new goal was announced during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing this week to double renewable energy in the 21 member economies by 2030. The renewable energy industry collectively came out and said they are ready to do their part. This new goal was a follow-up to last year’s commitment to encourage technology transfer and efforts to lower costs and attract private investment to the renewable energy industry.
“We appreciate the leadership that President Obama and the rest of these world leaders are showing on the critical task of rapidly scaling up low-carbon energy sources,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “Here in America, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Vision for the growth of our industry, we can quadruple wind power by 2030 and save consumers money doing it, if policymakers keep supporting state renewable standards and federal tax incentives to attract the necessary private investment.”
Linda Church Ciocci, executive director, National Hydropower Association said on behalf of the hydro electric industry, “Hydropower is poised for growth and ready to meet America’s renewable energy goals. From powering the 97 percent of the nation’s dams that remain unpowered to upgrading our existing facilities, opportunities exist to double hydropower’s contribution to the electricity grid, while strengthening our economy and providing more Americans access to clean, low-cost electricity.”
“GEA applauds the APEC goal of doubling renewable power,” added Karl Gawell, executive director, Geothermal Energy Association. “New geothermal power development underway in the U.S. and nearly all of the APEC countries will provide more than electricity, building thousands of megawatts of new geothermal power will spur economic growth, create new jobs and ensure environmental health for future generations.”
The highlight of the summit was a surprise negotiated emissions deal between the U.S. and China to curb climate change. The deal includes new targets for the U.S. and China to stop emission growth by 2030 and to create momentum around climate talks leading into the global climate conference taking place in Paris in 2015. Continue reading
The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is welcoming the initiative that the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Pierre Arcand, has announced to develop a new energy policy in Quebec. The organization has sent a message to Arcand that they are willing and ready to work the the Quebec government, industry and the new wind energy task force to review and strengthen the region’s wind energy policy.
“There are many challenges that will need to be overcome in energy,” said Jean-François Nolet, Vice President, Policy and Government Affairs at CanWEA. “We must find a balance between developing the energy sources we need to support economic development, the costs of these projects and protecting the environment, while maintaining strong partnerships with host communities. We are convinced that wind energy can help play an important role in reaching these goals.”
According to CanWEA, the Quebec wind industry employees 5,000 people and has generated $10 billion in investments over the last 10 years. The organization believes that wind energy can and should play a key role in Quebec’s next energy policy that will guide energy decisions for the coming decade.
Nolet added, “Today, Quebec is a leader in energy thanks to the government’s vision, whether during the development of large hydroelectric projects or the very first wind projects. We must continue down this path and remain at the forefront by reaffirming our leadership in this area.”
UC Riverside has opened a new solar farm that will produce up to 6.6 million megawatt hours of electricity each year making it the largest solar array in the University of California system. The project supports the system-wide initiative to have each campus produce up to 10 MW of onsite renewable power by 2014.
UCR signed a 20-year power purchase agreement that allowed the SunPower Corporation to construct, operate and maintain the facility, with the university purchasing the power. UCR spent $350,000 on site clearing and preparation, as well as interconnections costs with the existing substation. The projected savings to the university is $4.3 million over the length of the contract. UCR will also receive carbon and LEED credits that provide additional financial and environmental savings.
The solar farm went online as scheduled on Friday, Sept. 19, 2104. It has 7,440 panels across the 11-acre site using GPS tracking to slowly follow the sun across the sky. The massive sea of shiny panels is visible from Highway 60 as thousands of cars pass the campus.
“This is a big step forward, and we plan to do more,” said John Cook, director of the UCR’s Office of Sustainability. “On a hot and sunny day we will be producing nearly a third of UCR’s total energy needs with this system. But over the course of the year, with variable weather, it will amount to 3 percent of our total energy needs.” He added that Riverside’s typical sunny climate will make UCR an especially efficient place to invest in solar technology.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) says they are on tract to meet President Obama’s 2020 renewable energy goal. The organization has awarded a ten-year competitive power supply contract to MG2 Tribal Energy, a joint venture between the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians and Geronimo Energy. This marks the largest wind energy purchase from a single source in federal contracting history.
The contract will purchase 140 MW of wind energy from the Walnut Ridge Wind Farm, in development in northwest Illinois. When complete, the wind farm will add 500,000 MW hours of electricity to the grid each year.
“As part of GSA’s commitment to greening the federal government, we are working to ensure that we don’t just use energy but create it as well,” said Dan Tangherlini, GSA Administrator. “This project will add to the power grid in a sustainable way and ensure that we become less dependent on fossil fuels. We are proud of our progress toward meeting the federal government’s renewable energy goals, and look forward to taking advantage of future opportunities that will help us with this effort.”
Mesa Grande Band Chairman and MG2 President Mark Romero added, “The Mesa Grande Band is excited about our partnership with both Geronimo Energy and the GSA. This contract represents an important step forward in the history of the Mesa Grande Band because it is entirely consistent with our historic concern for Mother Earth and the continued availability of clean water, land, and air for future generations. Few other economic development opportunities enable us to remain so true to our cultural and spiritual values.”
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.
“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.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $15 million in funding to help integrate distributed, on-site solar systems into the electric grid. During the last 18 months, more solar has been installed than the 30 years prior, and since President Obama took office, the amount of solar installed has increased more than thirteen-fold from 1.2 GW i 2008 to nearly 15.5 GW today.
With more solar energy coming online, there is a great need to address the challenges of solar energy including variability of sun. This can be overcome with better grid integration technology.
According to DOE, the funding opportunity is aim at projects that enable low-cost, flexible and reliable solutions that successfully integrate solar PV power plants and energy storage. The funded technologies will tackle the challenge of creating cost-effective and reliable distributed PV and energy storage solutions to help overcome the challenges associated with increased amounts of renewables. Eligible projects include solutions that will help revolutionize distributed PV and energy storage through:
- Advanced operation in conjunction with smart loads and demand response,
- Incorporation of solar and load forecasting,
- Innovative uses of smart components and functionalities, and
- Easily interoperable hardware, software and firmware technologies.
This funding builds on SunShot’s work to drive innovations in systems integration technologies that support the deployment of solar energy and the reliability and efficiency of electricity generation, delivery, and use. Click here to find more information about this funding opportunity, including application requirements.
More than 50 nonprofits in and around St. Louis, Missouri now have access to renewable energy due to the help of U.S. Bank and Microgrid Solar. The two companies (U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation- USBCDC is the actual funder) are financing the installation and operation of up to 120 solar PV projects to benefit 56 nonprofit organizations. Each 25 kilowatt solar installation will produce approximately 30,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to save these nonprofits tens of thousands of dollars in reduced utility bills according to Microgrid Solar.
“This project totals 3 megawatts (MW) of solar power capacity that is being installed at some of the most well-known nonprofit organizations and schools in the St. Louis area,” said Rick Hunter, CEO of Microgrid Solar. “We think this will have a major impact, not only for the organizations, but for improving awareness and education around solar in the St. Louis area generally. This is a unique financing program that is really a first nationally, and which essentially provides solar to a nonprofit organization at zero budgetary cost.”
USBCDC works with solar system installation firms around the nation to help businesses and homeowners add PV systems to their offices and homes, saving utility costs and reducing pollution and U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum. “Reliable solar is a great investment for businesses, communities, and financiers alike,” said Dan Siegel, vice president of USBCDC. “We’re proud to leverage our renewable energy expertise and support to create opportunities for sustainability in St. Louis.”
Last year, USBCDC also partnered with Microgrid to install solar on several of its U.S. Bank branches.