GEA Rolling Out Industry Assesment

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is rolling out an industry assessment and early results show that there were 3,150 permanent, onsite employees, or 1.17 permanent jobs per megawatt installed, at geothermal power plants in California and the West. According to GEA, this is 19 times that of reported onsite employment of wind projects and 5 times reported onsGEA logoite employment for solar projects.

“In addition to environmental and reliability benefits, geothermal power has important economic values to local communities,” noted Ben Matek, GEA’s Industry Analyst & Research Projects Manager. “While geothermal produces many more construction and manufacturing jobs, as do most technologies, we believe it is a leader in creating stable, permanent employment in the communities in which geothermal plants operate.”

GEA will be releasing employment and other data on the U.S .and global geothermal power industry at its State of the Geothermal Energy Industry Briefing taking place at in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, February 24, 2015. Event speakers are all confirmed and include experts in geothermal development, finance, technology and policy. The GEA will distribute the 2015 installation of its annual industry update to attendees of this event that will include statistical updates on the U.S. and global geothermal market including new capacity online, how much is developing and in what regions around the world.

Sessions include discussions on key opportunities and obstacles for industry growth in the U.S. and around the world, multilateral and private finance, the role of technological advancements in geothermal development, and policy and regulatory issues impacting the geothermal industry.

American Wind Rebounds

According to a new report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the American wind industry is rebounding. During 2014, there was four times more new wind energy installed or coming online than in 2013. There was 4,850 MW in generating capacity installed with total installed capacity increasing by eight percent to 65,875.

However, AWEA notes that this amount still falls short of the record 13,000 MW installed in 2012 and blames failing to reach the record due to federal policy uncertainty. The renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) was only extended for two weeks at the end of last year, and has now expired again. Tom Kiernan, AWEA CEO notes that every other energy source receives some type of tax relief and wind should not be, well, left in the wind.

Wind is gaining strength, but as recent history shows, we can do a whole lot more,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “We’re looking forward to working with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle so that a reasonable, responsible tax policy is in place that allows the wind industry to continue lowering costs and investing billions of dollars in U.S. communities.”

Jonathan Weisgall, Vice President for Legislative and Regulatory Affairs of the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Co., told reporters that the $1.9 billion wind farm his company is building in Iowa is the largest economic development project in 2Q2014 State Blue Mapthe state’s history. When finished, it will pay farmers $3 million a year for land leases, and supply customers such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft that have committed to buying clean energy.

“Our customers want wind,” Weisgall said. “We like wind because it’s a hedge against fossil prices…and wind, with no fuel costs associated, can keep those rates stable.”

The PTC provides a tax credit of 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour generated for the first 10 years of a project’s life. It has encouraged $125 billion dollars of investment across America, creating 500 U.S. manufacturing facilities and technological innovations that lowered the wind power’s costs by more than half in the last five years. Continue reading

Green Seal Energy Cert Created

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) along with the Trade Chamber (CCEE) have created the Seal Green Energy certificate that confirms that company’s are using at least 20 percent of electricity produced from renewable sources.

Green Seal Energy certification works with the Bioelectricity Certification Program that will allow the exchange of information between UNICA and CEEE is confirmation that the electricity produced from a sugarcane production facility is generated from sugarcane biomass. The certification will also show that a company meets the criteria set out in the Sugar and Alcohol Industry Paulista Environmental Protocol, signed by the government of St. Paul and the sugarcane industry in 2007.

Sugarcane Plant in Brazil Photo Joanna SchroederThe President of the Board of Directors of CCEE, Luiz Eduardo Barata Ferreira, said of the new program, “The verification by the CCEE, that the criteria for plants and consumers will allow the Seal Green Energy become a differential that will add value for both the generator and buyer of energy produced from biomass of cane sugar.”

In 2014, 20.815 million gigawatts/hour (GWh) of electricity from biomass was produced, 20 percent higher than achieved in 2013. This amount would be able to supply 11 million households. UNICA also cites that if there was no electricity derived from sugarcane biomass, CO2 levels would be 24 percent higher.

Elizabeth Farina, president of UNICA added, “With the full energy use of sugarcane biomass, the technical potential of this source could reach 20,000 MW by 2023, which corresponds to the energy produced by two plants Itaipu. And certainly, this certification program will help to take advantage of increasing their potential.”

Solar Net Metering Ends in Cali

Net metering in California is ending and solar customers are not happy. The billing arrangement that allows solar owners full retail credit for the energy they put back on the grid (aka net metering) is ending so consumers and businesses who wait until summer to install their solar systems will miss out on the program.

“The upcoming changes for solar producers will undoubtedly create an unprecedented demand,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power. “Property owners Sullivan Solar Power Home installationthat wait until June to sign up to go solar may miss their chance to receive the full retail credit that current solar producers receive.”

As explained by Sullivan, net energy metering will end once a certain amount of solar is installed in each utility territory, and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) will be the first utility to reach its cap. Anyone that installs solar before the cap is hit will receive full retail credit for energy they produce, and will be grandfathered in for 20-years. Once net metering ends, new homes and businesses that install solar will receive less credit for the energy they produce.

“The period for going solar under the current net metering rules could end for SDG&E customers by December or even earlier, depending on how many people install solar this year,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA). According to President Obama during his SOTU speech on Tuesday, today more solar energy is installed in the U.S. each week than in the entirety of 2008. Continue reading

Solar Jobs Increase Again in 2014

Outpacing the growth of the U.S. economy as a whole by 20 percent, the solar industry added another 31,000 jobs in 2014. The Solar Foundation (TSF) released the Solar Census Report late last week and found that total employment in the solar sector is 173,807 workers. Key findings included:

  • Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total employment in the solar industry increase by 20.9% to 210,060 solar workers.
  • One out of every 78 new jobs created in the U.S. since Census 2013 was created by the solar industry – representing 1.3% of all new jobs.
  • Of the 173,807 solar workers in the United States, approximately 157,500 are 100% dedicated to solar activities.
  • Wages paid to solar workers remain competitive with similar industries and provide many living-wage opportunities.
  • The installation sector remains the single largest source of domestic employment growth, more than doubling in size since 2010.
  • Solar workers are increasingly diverse. Demographic groups such as Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and African American, along with women and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces now represent a larger percentage of the solar workforce than was observed in Census 2013.

Solar energy is becoming an increasingly important part of America’s future – and this Infographic-National-Solar-Jobs-Census-2014-194x300new report offers additional proof of that,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Not only is solar helping to power more and more homes, businesses, schools and government buildings, but it’s also helping to power the U.S. economy in a very significant way – and, frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our enormous potential.

Resch noted that the growth is due, in part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). He added that the policies are paying huge dividends for the economy and the environment.

“Today, the U.S. has an estimated 20.2 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity, enough to effectively power nearly 4 million homes in the United States – or every single home in a state the size of Massachusetts or New Jersey – with another 20 GW in the pipeline for 2015 and 2016,” continued Resch. “This is going to help to create even more new jobs. What’s more, solar helped to offset an estimated 20 million metric tons of harmful CO2 emissions in 2014—the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off U.S. highways or saving 2.1 billion gallons of gasoline. We applaud The Solar Foundation for its hard work in putting together this comprehensive report, which helps to highlight the growing importance of solar energy to America and our future.”

Wind Turbines to be Certified by IRS

Small wind turbines will now have to be certified by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) who has issued Notice 2015-4 providing new performance and quality standards that require certification of small wind turbines. “Small” turbines are classified as those having a nameplate capacity of up to 100 KW and must fit into this category in order to qualify for the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

“Distributed wind power for homes, farms, and small business is generating clean, affordable and homegrown electricity across all 50 states and as the market grows, it’s of critical importance to ensure high quality products make it to market,” said Jennifer Jenkins, executive director of the Distributed Wind Energy Association. “These certification requirements provide performance and quality assurance for consumers, government agencies and the industry, and help to ensure the successful implementation of distributed wind projects domestically.”

Small wind turbine in Winter Harbor, MaineThe IRS certification goes into effect for small wind turbines acquired or placed in service after January 26, 2015. The guidance requires that qualifying small wind manufacturers provide certification to either: (1) American Wind Energy Association Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard 9.1-2009 (AWEA); or (2) International Electrotechnical Commission 61400-1, 61400-12, and 61400-11 (IEC). The certification must be issued by an eligible certifier, which is defined as a third party, that is accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation or other similar accreditation body. Documentation establishing that the turbine meets the new requirements must be provided to taxpayers in order to claim the credit.

Jenkins continued, “The new certification requirement addresses the small, but persistent segment at the fringe of the industry that make wild assertions on efficiency, performance, and the their special ability to work on buildings or very short towers. Now, in order to qualify for the federal tax credits, they will have to prove these claims to third-party experts. That will be very challenging or impossible for unproven designs with exaggerated performance, but will not pose a major barrier for the industry leaders.”

“As an industry, we have been working for many years to strengthen the credibility and reliability of our products,” added Jenkins. “I’m proud to note that our membership has been leading the way on this front, actively pursuing certification since 2010 and poised to comply with these new standards.”

Wind Investments to Top $101B by 2020

Global wind power investments are predicted to rise from $70 billion in 2013 to $101 billion by the end of 2020. The new report, “Global Wind Turbine Value Chain – Production, Market Share, Competitive Landscape and Market Size to 2020,” also finds that installed capacity should rise from around 364.9 GW in 2014 to 650.8 GW by 2020. © Ximinez | Dreamstime.com - Wind Turbine PhotoAlthough demand is on the rise, says Global Data who authored the report,” there may be a low growth rate for wind turbine components over the forecast period.

Wind turbine manufacturers produced approximately 11 percent of wind turbine gearboxes, 48 percent of rotor blades and 43 percent of generators in-house in 2013. Meanwhile, 10 percent, 62 percent and 37 percent of gearboxes, rotor blades and generators, respectively, were manufactured in-house in 2006.

Prasad Tanikella, GlobalData’s Senior Analyst covering Power, said, “Depending on wind power component supplies, turbine manufacturers make strategic decisions over whether or not to produce the equipment in-house. Some of the major manufacturers, such as Enercon and Vestas, prefer to develop components within their business structure, to avoid issues with quality control and design confidentiality.”

Tanikella cautions that constant growth in the global wind power market is forcing turbine manufacturers to seek multiple component suppliers to ensure smooth production. Indeed, several long-term agreements are currently being drawn up between turbine manufacturers and their suppliers. As such, component prices are decreasing thus the predicted low growth rate for component manufacturers.

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.”

Groups Petition Hawai’ian Utility for Solar Support

A coalition of community groups have petitioned the Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission in support of renewable energy such as solar. The group is calling for a completion of the state’s renewable energy goals before it considers approving the purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries by Florida-based NextEra Energy. The coalition includes Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, Blue Planet Foundation, Hawai‘i PV Coalition, Hawai‘i Solar Energy Association and The Alliance for Solar Choice.

Solar panels dot the rooftops of homes in Salt Lake on Oahu, Hawaiʻi. Photo Credit: MATT MALLAMS / EARTHJUSTICE

Solar panels dot the rooftops of homes in Salt Lake on Oahu, Hawaiʻi. Photo Credit: MATT MALLAMS / EARTHJUSTICE

NextEra’s proposal to buy Hawaiian Electric for $4.3 billion was announced in early December and will require various approvals, including by the PUC. The merger application to the PUC has not yet been filed.

“Our purpose is to make sure the horse is in front of the cart,” said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation. “As clean energy stakeholders, we share the joint interest in making sure we complete planning for Hawai‘i’s energy future now. We don’t want to put the discussions on the back-burner and then have to start over after the merger proceeding is finished.”

“Hawai‘i customers deserve an energy roadmap to ensure we’re acting in the best interest of the public, like having access to cheaper and cleaner power, before engaging in a long and complicated merger process,” said Leslie Cole-Brooks, executive director of the Hawai‘i Solar Association.

Over the past several years, the Commission has demanded that Hawaiian Electric focus on establishing a roadmap for a sustainable, customer-focused electric grid that serves the best interests of the state and people of Hawai‘i.

The petition states that the Commission’s numerous orders, together with enactments by the state legislature, have identified specific issues and mandated specific next steps necessary to articulate “the vision, business strategies, and regulatory policy changes required to align the [Hawaiian Electric]’s business model with customers’ interests and the state’s public policy goals.” Continue reading

Geothermal Data System Steams Into New Entity

The National Geothermal Data System (NDGS) has been spun off into a new non-profit company: USGIN Foundation, Inc. The company will commercialize the technology and infrastructure at the national and international level. The project was launched through funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with the grant period ending December 31, 2014. The project was developed by Arizona State Geologist (AZGS) on behalf of the Association of American State Geologists.

NGDSLogoBigAccording to AZGS, the NDGS system is intended to increase geothermal exploration and development across the country by providing free, open source access to any digital data that can help, not just limited to traditional geothermal data.

The project was officially launched by DOE Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz at the White House Datapalooza earlier this year. To date the database has more than 65 sources located in the 50 US states serving more than 10 million data records including information on 3 million oil and gas wells, over 700,000 well logs, up to a million water wells, and tens of thousands of maps, documents, and reports. In Arizona specifically, every oil, gas, geothermal, and CO2 well is online in the NGDS, along with numerous other datasets.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) will be streaming NGDS data into their online Global Renewable Energy Atlas with contributions from AZDS’ content models and interchange formats to the National Data Repositories coalition that has created a new online Business Rules Library for data management in the global upstream petroleum industry. Anyone can set up their own node in the network using free, open source software at the NGDS website as well as stream data to their own portal.

DOE Offers $2.5M to Improve Wind Forecasting

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has allocated $2.5 million to help improve wind forecasting. Louisville, Colorado-based Vaisala will research the atmospheric processes that generate wind in mountain valley regions and the data will be used to improve wind weather models for short-term wind forecasts. Better forecasts will allow energy plant operators to operate wind turbines closer to maximum capacity.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 11.51.02 AMThe industry has found that mountain-valley areas bring additional challenges including varying degress of soil moisture and surface temperatures making it more difficult to forecast wind energy output. Vaisala and its partners will use advanced meteorological equipment to analyze specific environmental characteristics that affect wind flow patterns in the Columbia River Gorge region of Washington and Oregon.

Data collected during the project will be shared in near real-time with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Energy Department’s national laboratories, and will be used to develop improved atmospheric simulations for the Weather Research and Forecasting model, a widely used weather prediction system. These new wind measurements and simulations will also be incorporated into NOAA’s Numerical Weather Prediction models to improve short-term wind forecasts in complex terrain.

This important research builds on the Energy Department’s Wind Forecast Improvement Project, which previously explored wind energy resources in the northern Great Plains and western Texas. For the first time ever, NOAA assimilated wind data from tall turbines and nacelle anemometers into meteorological models for use by the wind industry and other sectors. Integrating these new data into existing models produced forecasts that were up to 15% more accurate at predicting future wind conditions in nearly flat terrain.

Wave Energy Costs Favorable

According to a new analysis published in the journal Renewable Energy, large-scale wave energy systems developed in the Pacific Northwest should be comparatively steady, dependable and able to be integrated into the overall energy grid at competitive costs to other forms of renewable energy including wind power. The study finds that wave energy has less variability than some other energy sources and that by balancing wave energy production over a large geographic area variability can be further reduced.

Variability of renewable energy production from sources such as solar or wind have been a concern and often require back-up energy sources leading to extra costs. Wave energy may be a more reliable and ultimately less expense option when the technology is future developed.

Ocean Sentinel“Whenever any new form of energy is added, a challenge is to integrate it into the system along with the other sources,” said Ted Brekken, an associate professor and renewable energy expert in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University.

“By producing wave energy from a range of different sites, possibly with different types of technology, and taking advantage of the comparative consistency of the wave resource itself, it appears that wave energy integration should be easier than that of wind energy,” he continued. “The reserve, or backup generation, necessary for wave energy integration should be minimal.”

Today, wave energy is not being commercially produced in the Pacific Northwest, but the researchers expert its future potential is significant, and costs should come down as technologies improve and more systems are developed.  In addition, the study suggested, that its short-term generation capacity can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy over a time scale ranging from minutes to hours, and with some accuracy even seasonally or annually.

South African DOE Awards SolarReserve CSP Project

The South Africa Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded preferred bidder status for a 100 megawatt (MW) Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) project to SolarReserve and International Company for Water and Power Projects (ACWA Power). The project was developed in response to the DOE’s Round 3 (CSP) Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP). The Redstone Solar Thermal Power project, with the lowest tariff bid to date from any CSP project in the country, is scheduled to achieve financial close later in 2015 and commence operations in early 2018.

The first of its kind in Africa, the Redstone Solar Thermal Power Project features SolarReserve’s molten salt energy storage technology in a tower configuration. According to SolarReserve, the 100 MW project with 12 hours of full-load energy storage will be able to reliably deliver a stable electricity supply to more than 200,000 South African homes during peak demand periods. Fueled completely by the sun, with no back up fuel required, the SolarReserve Redstone Solar Thermal Power Project Renderingproject also features dry cooling of the power generation cycle as an important element to minimize water use. The project technology will be based on SolarReserve’s successful Crescent Dunes project in the U.S., which is complete with construction and currently in final commissioning.

“The Redstone project marks an important technology advancement for South Africa in solar power,” said SolarReserve’s CEO Kevin Smith. “Due to the fully integrated thermal energy storage, the plant will provide dispatchable power on-demand, just like conventional coal, oil, nuclear or natural gas-fired power plants, but without the harmful emissions or hazardous materials and without any fuel cost. In addition, the project’s delivered electricity price is the lowest of any Concentrating Solar Power project in the country to date.”

The Redstone Solar Thermal Power Project will be located in Postmasburg, near Kimberley in the Northern Cape Province, adjacent to the 75 MW Lesedi and 96 MW Jasper photovoltaic (PV) solar power projects successfully developed by SolarReserve and its investment partners. Together, the three projects comprise the world’s first combined CSP and PV solar park with a total of 271 MW of generating capacity.

“This Redstone Solar Project together with our 50 MW Bokpoort CSP project in South Africa and the Noor1, 160 MW solar thermal power plant at Ouarzzate in Morocco, extends ACWA Power’s success in solar energy on the African continent,” added Paddy Padmanathan, president and CEO of ACWA Power. “All aspects of the project, from development phase to construction and then operations, have been structured to ensure maximization of value retention in not just only the South African economy, but also within the local economy of Northern Cape Province recognizing the intrinsic value in co-developing local people along with this asset which will co-exist with the local community for decades to come.”

SheerWind Pilots Wind Project in Apollo Beach

SheerWind has been selected by Tampa Electric for a wind energy pilot project to be commissioned in Apollo Beach, Florida at Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station. Tampa Electric has selected SheerWind INVELOX Infographicthe 200-KW INVELOX wind power generation to be built as a pilot project in 2015. According to SheerWind, after sufficient data is collected (6 to 8 months) and if the technology is shown to be viable, Tampa Electric may purchase a utility-scale 1.8MW INVELOX system.

The company explains its INVELOX funnel system is a solution that utilizes current wind power turbines and rotors but brings them to ground level for easier, safer, and cheaper operation and maintenance. Multiple turbines can be used in a row or series to increase output capacity for each tower while reducing downtime to near zero.

“We are pleased to be included in Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station. They understand the importance of exploring and showcasing new technology,” said Steve Hill, Chief Operating Officer of SheerWind. “This project will assist in SheerWind’s mission to provide sustainable, affordable, electrical energy to anyone, anywhere.”

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.