U.S. Continues Support for Hydropower

Three federal U.S. agencies have renewed their support of hydropower in America. The Department of Interior and the Department of Energy (DOE) in conjunction with the Civil Works division of the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers, have extended their MOU for hydropower for five additional years. The purpose of the MOU is to meet the need for affordable energy, in part, through hydropower.

Beer1970 Dreamstime.com - Hydropower Station Construction Photo“This agreement among three key federal agencies is great news for the federal hydropower system, and even greater news for the millions of American homes and businesses that rely on clean, affordable, and reliable hydropower,” said Voith Hydro U.S. President and CEO Bob Gallo. “In the MOU’s first five years, the agencies have already made significant progress in laying the groundwork for expanded hydropower production, with tangible results to show for their efforts. Voith is pleased to support efforts to strengthen the backbone of American hydropower, and believe the agencies’ continued collaboration will create jobs and economic growth throughout the U.S.”

According to Voith, Phase II of the MOU will focus on several key areas:

  • Improving the accuracy and reducing costs of water flow measurement technology.
  • Reducing the size and weight of generators for new hydropower projects, potentially leading to reduced costs and increased generator output for existing facilities.
  • Developing low-impact, low-cost hydropower technologies suitable for demonstration and deployment at non-powered dams and conduits, potentially providing power for 1.5 million homes.
  • Enhancing the environmental performance of hydropower turbines for responsible deployment.
  • Assessing the risks to U.S. hydropower generation and water infrastructure posed by climate change.

Since the last MOU, signed in 2011, non-federal development at Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps facilities has increased, with over 70 additional projects in some stage of development.

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.

KenGen Commissions Geothermal Plant in Kenya

Kenya continues to rise as one of the leading countries tapping into geothermal energy. The Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) has inaugurated the 140 MW Oklaria 1 power plant, the last phase of the 280 MW geothermal facility. KenGen believes the additional electricity produced will help further stabilize volatile electricity costs throughout the country.

H.E PresideKenGen logont Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda presided over the geothermal plant commissioning event accompanied by his host H.E President Kenyatta.

According to KenGen, who says the plant has been supplying power to the national grid since December 2014, the Fuel Cost Component (FCC), the single biggest item on the bills, fell to to a low of KShs/kWh 2.51 in February 2015. This represents a 65 percent drop in the FCC. As a result, it has led to a decline in the overall cost of power to consumers. The addition of geothermal power has also helped to mitigate dependence on hydro power; in recent months, Kenya has had no rainfall and as a result, there has been below average inflow of water into hydro dams.

“KenGen is proud to be on the lead in moving the country towards self sufficiency of reliable and affordable and renewable source of energy, which is also available almost 24/7,” said Managing Director and CEO Eng. Albert Mugo.

Today, KenGen is adding 1575 MW of power geothermal power to the national grid, surpassing hydro for the fourth month in a row. At U.S. 7.2 cents per kilowatt hour,  geothermal energy is among the cheapest renewable sources of electricity in the country and the world.

“The country has not experienced power rationing despite low water levels in the hydro generation dams on the Tana Cascade. “This is because the 280 MW project has helped to bridge the power deficit,” concluded Mugo.

IRENA & ADFD Fund 5 Renewable Energy Projects

Five renewable projects in developing countries have been awarded USD 57 million in concessional loans by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD). The projects have a combined total capacity of 35 megawatts and will bring power to more than 200,000 people in rural communities. The loans will go to projects located in Argentina, Cuba, Iran, Mauritania and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

IRENA Renewable Energy cycle 2 fundingRenewable energy offers the prospect of clean, affordable power to the 1.3 billion people currently off the electricity grid,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at a press conference during IRENA’s fifth Assembly. “While renewable energy resources are abundant in many communities suffering from energy poverty, finance is still a key challenge for deployment. That is why the partnership between IRENA and ADFD is so important as a pioneering effort.”

According to IRENA, this is the second loan cycle of seven, which together will commit USD 350 million over seven years to the deployment of renewable energy in developing countries, with a total project value of an estimated USD 800 million. Projects approved for funding in the second loan cycle include solar, hydro, hybrid (wind and solar) and geothermal energy. The organization said the projects selected represent a mix of renewable energy sources, are innovative, potentially replicable or scalable, and will improve energy access.

“As part of its mandate to work on projects with a profound impact on the economies of developing countries, ADFD has collaborated with IRENA to support the renewable energy sector as a tool for economic and social development,” said Mr. Adel Abdulla Al Hosani, director of pperations department in ADFD. “Towards this priority, we are keen to support the economic development and deployment of sustainable energy projects in countries with immense clean energy potential, but lacking necessary financial resources and project management expertise.”

The IRENA/ADFD Project Facility pioneers the support of renewable energy as a viable and sustainable focus for foreign development assistance that offers long-term social and economic benefits to developing countries.

U.S. Census Bureau Releases Renewable Energy Stats

For the first time the U.S. Census Bureau is now publishing economic census statistics for wind, geothermal, biomass and solar electric power generation. Between 2007 and 2012 revenues rose 49 percent from $6.6 billion to $9.8 billion. The electric power generation industry saw an overall decline of 1.2 percent in revenues from $121.0 billion to $119.5 billion between 2007 and 2012. The overall decline was driven by the fossil fuel electric power generation industry, which saw revenues decrease from $85.4 billion to $79.7 billion, or 6.7 percent, during the same five-year period.

Renewable Energy RevenueIn the 2007 Economic Census, wind, geothermal, biomass, and solar electric power generation were included in the broad “other electric power generation” industry but were not given separate designations. Beginning in the 2012 Economic Census, these industries had been broken out with the “other electric power generation” industry limited to only tidal electric power generation and other electric power generation facilities not elsewhere classified. Among the newly delineated industries (wind, geothermal, biomass, solar and other electric power generation), the number of establishments more than doubled in five years, from 312 in 2007 to 697 in 2012.

“As industries evolve, so does the Census Bureau to continue to collect relevant data that informs America’s business decisions,” said Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson. “Industries that use renewable energy resources are still relatively small, but they are rapidly growing.”

Specifically revenues for the wind electric power generation industry totaled $5.0 billion in 2012, the highest revenues among the industries using renewable energy resources. Hydroelectric power generation followed with revenues of $2.4 billion. Geothermal electric power generation had revenues of just under $1 billion ($995.4 million), followed by biomass electric power generation, with $934.6 million in revenues, solar electric power generation, with $472.4 million, and other electric power generation, with $59.0 million.

Together, these industries were a relatively small portion of the electric power generation industry, collectively accounting for just 8.2 percent ($9.8 billion) of total industry revenues in 2012. Fossil fuel and nuclear electric power generation are still the major revenue sources of the electric power generation industry, comprising 66.7 percent ($79.7 billion) and 25.1 percent ($29.9 billion), respectively, of total revenues.

Wind Power Sees Gain in U.S.

Wind power provided over two-thirds (68.41%) of new electrical generating capacity in October 2014 in the U.S. according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report. Five wind farms came online during the month in Texas, Nebraska, Michigan, Kansas and Colorado. These projects added 574 MW of new capacity.

eiaIn addition, seven “units” of biomass (102 MW) and five units of solar (31 MW) came online accounting for 12.16% and 3.69% of new capacity respectively. The balance came from three units of natural gas (132 MW – 15.73%). Moreover, for the eighth time in the past ten months, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for the majority of new U.S. electrical generation brought into service. Natural gas took the lead in the other two months (April and August).

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.39 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.:

  • hydro- 8.44%
  • wind – 5.39%
  • biomass – 1.38%
  • solar – 0.85%
  • geothermal steam – 0.33%

“Congress is debating whether to renew the production tax credit for wind and other renewable energy sources,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The continued rapid growth of these technologies confirms that the PTC has proven to be a very sound investment.”

U.S. Renewable Energy Industry Ready to Step Up

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

Renewables Continue to Gain Ground

Renewables continue to gain ground according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report renewable energy sources including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind, account for more than 40.61 percent of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity installed during the first nine months of 2014. Only natural gas provided more new generating capacity. The report was published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects (FERC).

Wind EnergyNew capacity in 2014 from the combination of renewable energy sources is nearly 35 times that of coal, oil and nuclear combined (3,598 MW vs. 104 MW). When looking at just September, renewable energy sources accounted for 2/3 of the 603 MW of new generating capacity put in service (367 MW of wind/60.8% plus 41 MW of solar/6.8%).

Of the 8,860 MW of new generating capacity from all sources installed since January 1, 2014, 187 “units” of solar accounted for 1,671 MW (18.86%), followed by 28 units of wind 1,614 MW (18.22%), 7 units of hydropower 141 MW (1.59%), 38 units of biomass 140 MW (1.58%), and 5 units of geothermal 32 MW (0.36%). The balance came from 41 units of natural gas 5,153 MW (58.16%), 1 unit of nuclear 71 MW (0.80%), 11 units of oil 33 MW (0.37%), and 6 units of “other” 7 MW (0.08%). There has been no new coal capacity added thus far in 2014.

Comparing the first nine months of 2014 to the same period in 2013, new generating capacity from renewable energy sources grew by 11.8 percent (3,598 MW vs. 3,218 MW). Renewable energy sources now account for 16.35 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S. – up from 15.68 percent a year earlier: water – 8.45 percent, wind – 5.35 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 0.84 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent. Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.23%) and oil (3.97%) combined.

“The steady and rapid growth of renewable energy is unlikely to abate as prices continue to drop and the technologies continue to improve,” commented Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The era of coal, oil, and nuclear is drawing to a close; the age of renewable energy is now upon us.”

Renewable Energy Continues to Gain

Renewable energy continues to gain as for the month of July all new U.S. electrical generating capacity put into service was from renewable sources according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update“. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Project’s report fond that there was 379 MW of wind installed, 21 MW of solar and 5 MW of hydropower.

Office of Energy Projects July 2014 Energy Infrastructure UpdateFor the first seven months of 2014, renewable energy has accounted for more than half (53.8%) of the 4,758 MW of new U.S. electrical capacity that has come on line with solar (25.8%) and wind (25.1%) each accounting for more than a quarter of the total. In addition, biomass provided 1.8 percent, geothermal 0.7 percent, and hydropower 0.4 percent. As for the balance, natural gas accounted for 45.9 percent while a small fraction (0.3 percent) came from oil and “other” combined. There has been no new electrical generating capacity from either coal or nuclear thus far in 2014.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.3 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.:

  • Water – 8.57%
  • Wind – 5.26%
  • Biomass – 1.37%
  • Solar – 0.75%
  • Geothermal steam – 0.33%

“This is not the first time in recent years that all new electrical generating capacity for a given month has come from renewable energy sources,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “And it is likely to become an ever more frequent occurrence in the months and years ahead.”

Renewable Energy Provides 56% of Electrical Generation

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower provided 55.7% (1,965 MW of the 3,529 MW total installed) of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity during the first half of 2014.

  • Solar provided 32.1% (1,131 MW)
  • Wind provided 19.8% (699 MW)
  • Biomass provided 2.5% (87 MW)
  • Geothermal provided 0.9% (32 MW)
  • Hydropower provided 0.5% (16 MW)
  • Most of the balance (1,555 MW – 44.1%) of the new generating capacity was provided by natural gas while no new coal or nuclear power capacity was reported

solar installationAccording to the SUN DAY Campaign, the dominant role being played by renewables in providing new electrical generating capacity in 2014 is continuing a trend now several years in the making. Over the past 30 months (i.e., since January 1, 2012), renewable energy sources have accounted for almost half (48.0%) or 22,774 MW of the 47,446 MW of new electrical generating capacity.

If calendar year 2011 is also factored in, then renewables have accounted for approximately 45% of all new electrical generating capacity over the past 3 1/2 years. In fact, since January 1, 2011 renewables have provided more new electrical generating capacity than natural gas (31,345 MW vs. 29,176 MW) and nearly four times that from coal (8,235 MW)

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.28% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: water – 8.57%, wind – 5.26%, biomass – 1.37%, solar – 0.75%, and geothermal steam – 0.33%. This is up from 14.76% two years earlier (i.e., June 30, 2012) and is now more than nuclear (9.24%) and oil (4.03%) combined.

“A new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting that renewable energy sources will account for only 24% of new capacity additions between now and 2040,” Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, noted. “However, the latest FERC data coupled with that published during the past several years indicate that EIA’s numbers are once again low-balling the likely share – and probably dominant share – of renewables in the nation’s future energy mix.”

EIA: Plenty of Potential, But Hydro Limited by Economics

A new study by the Department of energy shows there’s great potential for hydroelectric power in the U.S., but the economics of the situation keeps more power from being added. This report from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) cites work by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that shows there are 61 gigawatts (GW) of hydroelectric power potential in waterways without existing dams or diversion facilities. However, the projected capacity to be added is only 2 GW through 2040.
eiajuly10report1
The report quantified the technical resource capacity available at more than three million U.S. streams, qualifying its findings by saying “the methodology alone does not produce estimates of generation, cost, or potential impacts of sufficient accuracy to determine project-specific feasibility or to justify investments.”

Although resource potential quantifies maximum feasible capacity additions, EIA’s AEO2014 Reference case also considers market and policy hurdles that can limit actual development of a new hydroelectric power plant. These include economic factors, performance characteristics, federal regulations, electricity demand, and the cost of competing sources for new generation. Because hydropower is a mature technology, most of the technically and economically superior sites have already been developed.

The report does provide new information to assess the technical potential of hydropower and improve the understanding of resources that can take advantage of new technologies such as in-stream turbines.

Battery Bat Houses for Hydroelectric Projects

Bat Houses from scrap volt battery casesEagle Scout Matthew Netherland has developed a creative way to help bats who live near hydroelectric projects. Using discarded scrap Volt battery covers donated by GM, Netherland built 22 bat houses for Consumers Energy to install in their energy properties.

“This project connects a lot of environmental dots,” said Rich Castle, Consumers Energy’s natural resource manager for hydro generation. “Hydro dams generate clean electricity, and cars that run on electricity are a cleaner form of transportation. The battery covers from the electric-powered vehicles are being kept out of landfills, and by being utilized as bat homes they allow biodiversity to thrive along the river habitats that produce renewable energy.”

About 100 or more bats can live in each bat box, which includes five chambers. Netherland, a friend and two adult mentors helped build the bat boxes in about two months that will be installed by Consumers Energy.

“I’m thankful that GM had the perfect shell for the bat box plans, and that Consumers Energy has great locations to place the boxes,” said Netherland from Boy Scout Troop 185 from Clarkston, Michigan. “Both companies have been great to work with, very encouraging and generous.”

Emily McDonald, environmental engineer for GM who coordinated with Netherland on his project, added, “I’m so impressed by Matthew’s energy and dedication to this project. We’ve worked with renowned bat experts on our bat house design and are grateful that we can partner with others who share our passion for conservation and will help us make a lasting impact. The Volt covers are made with durable material and will result in wildlife nesting opportunities for a long time.”

DOE Allocates $4B in Loan Guarantees

The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a loan guarantee solicitation making as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases.

DOE_logo1“As the President emphasized in his Climate Action Plan, it is critical that we take an all-of-the above approach to energy in order to cut carbon pollution, help address the effects of climate change and protect our children’s future,” said Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Investments in clean, low-carbon energy also provide an economic opportunity. Through previous loan guarantees and other investments, the Department is already helping launch or jumpstart entire industries in the U.S., from utility-scale wind and solar to nuclear and lower-carbon fossil energy. Today’s announcement will help build on and accelerate that success.”

The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee Solicitation is intended to support technologies that are catalytic, replicable, and market-ready. Within the solicitation, the Department has included a sample list illustrative of potential technologies for consideration. While any project that meets the appropriate requirements is eligible to apply, the Department has identified five key technology areas of interest: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities including micro-hydro or hydro updates to existing non-powered dams; and efficiency improvements.

Renewables Make Up Nearly 90% of New Power in May

FERCA new report shows that renewable energy sources made up nearly 90 percent of all new electrical generating capacity in the U.S. in May and more than half the new capacity this year so far. A news release from the SUN DAY Campaign, a non-profit research and educational organization that promotes sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels, says that a new “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects shows that wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower provided 88.2 percent of new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity for the month of May, and for the first five months of 2014, renewable energy sources accounted for 54.1 percent of the 3,136 MW of new domestic electrical generating installed.

Since January 1, 2012, renewable energy sources have accounted for nearly half (47.83%) of all new installed U.S. electrical generating capacity followed by natural gas (38.34%) and coal (13.40%) with oil, waste heat, and “other” accounting for the balance.

Renewable energy sources, including hydropower, now account for 16.28% of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity: water – 8.57%, wind – 5.26%, biomass – 1.37%, solar – 0.75%, and geothermal steam – 0.33%. This is more than nuclear (9.24%) and oil (4.03%) combined. *

“Some are questioning whether it’s possible to satisfy the U.S. EPA’s new CO2 reduction goals with renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign.”The latest FERC data and the explosion of new renewable energy generating capacity during the past several years unequivocally confirm that it can be done.”

You can read the full report here.

Kansans Skeptical Over State’s Hydropower Potential

kansas-flag.gifThe federal government says there’s a lot of untapped hydropower in Kansas, in fact enough to power the entire state. But this article from the Topeka Capital-Journal says local residents of the fairly flat state are skeptical of the findings from the U.S. Department of Energy.

A study from Oak Ridge National Laboratory showed Kansas has about 2.4 gigawatts of potential hydropower that isn’t being used. A gigawatt is equal to 1 million kilowatts, a more familiar metric for residential electricity users…

David Barfield, chief engineer with the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Division of Water Resources, said the report doesn’t go into detail about the technology that might allow new hydropower development in Kansas, but adding turbines to existing dams might be the best bet.

“I think that’s realistic and something that’s being examined,” he said.

The Kansas River doesn’t have much potential for additional hydropower, Barfield said. The Missouri River is more promising. The report also showed high potential for hydropower growth in the Arkansas River, but that doesn’t seem likely because the area is flat and the river often doesn’t flow above ground, he said.

“I’m not trying to downplay the value of looking at hydropower, but I’m puzzling over the numbers,” he said.

Kansas officials also point out the permitting issues of building new dams, especially on the Missouri River, where owners would need permits from two states. In addition, previous proposed projects have not been cost competitive.