DOE Issues Draft Renewable Energy Solicitation

The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a draft loan guarantee solicitation to identify innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. The projects much avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. When finalized, the solicitation is US DOE Energy logoexpected to make as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available to help commercialize technologies that may be unable to obtain full commercial financing.

“Through our existing renewable energy loan guarantees, the Department’s Loan Programs Office helped launch the U.S. utility-scale solar industry and other clean energy technologies that are now contributing to our clean energy portfolio,” said Secretary Ernest Moniz. “We want to replicate that success by focusing on technologies that are on the edge of commercial-scale deployment today.”

The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee solicitation is intended to support technologies that are catalytic, replicable, and market ready. Within the draft solicitation, the DOE has included a sample list illustrative of potential technologies for consideration. While any project that meets the eligibility 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; and efficiency improvements.

The Department welcomes public comment on a range of issues and will consider public feedback in defining the scope of the final solicitation. In addition to initiating a 30-day public comment period, a schedule of public meetings will be posted on DOE’s website. The draft solicitation can be found online at http://lpo.energy.gov.

BayWa Commissioned Solar Farm in Great Britain

BayWa r.e. Commissions 18 MWp Solar Farm in Great BritainBayWa r.e. has commissioned its fourth solar farm, Whitland, in Great Britain. Despite the continual bad weather, the project team were able to construct and commission the 18 MWp solar plant in only nine weeks.

Matthias Taft, Managing Director of BayWa r.e., said of the project, “The rapid implementation of the Whitland solar farm shows that our project team and technical know-how put us in an excellent position. This enables us to finance even larger projects without difficulties. This in turn ensures commissioning on time. Together, this results in a dynamic and economical project implementation at every project stage – from engineering and construction to the ultimate project sale to institutional investors.”

The Whitland solar farm was established on a 28 hectare in the Welsh village of the same name. It comprises 69,000 polycrystalline modules on freestanding supports. Annually, this plant will generate around 17 million kWh green power and can cover the electricity demand of around 5,000 households. Apart from completed projects, BayWa r.e. has significant projects in the pipeline for Great Britain.

A New Option to Finance: Clean Energy Bonds

The Clean Energy Group, the Brookings Institution and the Council of Development Finance Agencies have released a paper on a powerful but underutilized tool for future clean energy investment: state and local bond finance. The report, “Clean Energy Finance through the Bond Market: A New Option for Progress,” find that as Federal clean energy subsidies blogphoto-Wind-solar-moneydecrease, agencies that issue public finance bonds are willing to finance renewable energy and efficiency projects. However, the report says, the clean energy community must embrace the bonds as a new finance tool.

According to the report development agencies are only experimenting with clean energy bonds. However, the bond finance community has accumulated significant experience in getting project finance to scale and knows how to raise large amounts of needed capital by selling bonds to Wall Street. The challenge, then, is to create new models for clean energy bond finance in states, and to establish a new clean energy asset class that can easily be traded in capital markets.

With this in mind, the report argues that state and local bonding authorities and others to do the following:

  • Establish mutually useful partnerships between development finance experts and clean energy officials at the state and local government levels.
  • Expand and scale up bond-financed clean energy projects using credit enhancement and other emerging tools to mitigate risk and through demonstration projects.
  • Improve availability of data and develop standardized documentation so that the risks and rewards of clean energy investments can be better understood.
  • Create a pipeline of rated and private placement deals, a new clean energy asset class, to meet the demand by institutional investors for fixed-income clean energy securities.

“Another report issued this week from the global scientific community at IPCC underscores the urgency of finding new ways to finance no-carbon technologies at massive scale,” said Lewis Milford, president of CEG and co-author of the report. “We need to finance clean energy the same way we have financed large public infrastructure projects and make sound investments that will benefit generations with low bond rates for new, clean energy generation. Our current way of financing clean energy not only makes it too expensive, but it simply cannot meet climate mitigation and adaptation demands in the next few decades.”

Boy Scouts of America Go Solar

gI_120165_BoyScouts 2 CustomThe Boy Scouts of America’s Capitol Area Council, located in Austin, Texas, has gone solar. The 74.15 kW solar arrays sits atop a 31,400 foot Frank Fickett South Training and Service Center. The solar system is made up of 299 solar modules and can be partially seen from Interstate 35. The project was over seen by Meridan Solar and is expected to save approximately $360,000 in energy savings over 25 years.

For the Boy Scouts, choosing to procure solar energy was an easy choice. Raymond Gray, board president of the Capitol Area Council said, “It didn’t just make financial sense to incorporate solar power; it matched the values we have taught generations of Americans for more than 100 years and continue to believe today. It’s one thing to say we should be ‘green’, invest in new technology and be a good example; it’s another to actually do those things.”

This project was of particular significance to Meridian Solar’s President and Founder, Andrew McCalla. “This organization and its mission are close to my heart, as I am a third generation central Texas Scout. When Meridian decided to partner with the Capitol Area Council to help them capture the benefits of solar energy, I knew that this installation would have benefits well beyond that of lowering the operating costs of the Frank Fickett Center. In addition to freeing up funds to further scouting’s core mission, the installation will serve as an educational platform in the benefits or renewable resources for thousands of present and future Scouts.”

12 U.S. States Dominate Wind Power

According to Today in Energy, 12 states dominated the U.S. wind energy market in 2013. These states accounted for 80 percent of wind-generated electricity according to preliminary data released in the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) March Electric Power Monthly.

Once again, Texas took the honors of top wind power state with nearly 36 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity produced annually. Iowa was second, with more than 15 million MWh, followed by California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Today in Energy 12 Top wind statesCombined, these 12 states produced 134 million MWh of electricity from wind. Nationwide, 167 million MWh of power came from wind in 2013, a 19 percent increase from 2012. Wind power increased its share of U.S. total electricity generation in 2013 from 3.5 percent to 4.1 percent. All but 13 states reported to EIA some generation from wind, and 23 states increased their wind generation more than 10 percent above 2012 production levels. California’s wind generation exceeded geothermal generation for the first time in 2013.

The proportion of wind to total electricity generated varied widely by state. Leading the nation in wind generation share was Iowa with 27.4 percent of net electricity production coming from wind turbines. Second was South Dakota, at 26 percent. Other states with more than twice the national share of 4.1 percent wind power were Kansas, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming, and Texas.

Brazilian Ethanol Sales Break Record

Domestic ethanol sales in Brazil have reached an all-time high according to data compiled through the end of March for the 2013/2014 harvest. The total sales volume reached 23.07 billion liters, as compared to 18.68 liters in the same 2012/2013 harvest period.

sugarcane field photo-dowIn Brazil, the majority of the ethanol is hydrous ethanol, which saw a 16.27 percent growth to 13.70 billion liters. Sales of hydrous ethanol also saw records with an increase of 35.84 percent as compared to last season’s harvest.

“Raising the level of mixture of anhydrous ethanol in gasoline to 25 percent in May 2013 was the right decision, and the industry responded to increased demand without any kind of problem,” explained Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, technical director of UNICA, the association that represents the Brazilian sugarcane industry. “The production capacity of the dry mills indicates the possibility of new expansion in the supply of the product if the government opts for the approval of the increase of the mixture to 27.5 percent.
 
Information collected by the National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (ANP) show that the current production capacity of ethanol for the 2014/2015 harvest is exceeding production recorded in 2013/2014 harvest. In the case of anhydrous ethanol, the capacity indicated by the ANP is 101 million liters, compared to around 70 million per day actually produced this season.

Rodrigues noted that the majority of alcohol (ethanol) production takes place at the beginning of the harvest and this year the trend will continue a few months longer due to lower demand for sugar on the global market and the need for liquidity and cash flow my mills with financial problems.

Community Solar Arrives in Massachusetts

Community Solar has arrived in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Clean Energy Collective (CEC) has selected RGS Energy as the general contractor for the solar facilities. RSG Energy will provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for two large solar arrays of nearly 1 megawatt (MW) each owned and operated by CEC.

One community solar garden will be located in Hadley, Massachusetts and will serve customers of Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo). The second community Clean Energy Collective logogarden will be deployed in Rehoboth, Massachusetts to serve National Grid customers. Construction has already begun on the two sites, with interconnection planned for the end of June.

“As the first community-owned solar model in Massachusetts, these projects represent a new enabler for increased solar adoption, where owners of individual solar panels can reduce their home or business electric utility bill with solar power, while at the same time reducing their carbon footprint in a meaningful way,” said Kam Mofid, CEO of RGS Energy.

Both facilities will employ 300-watt panels, inverters by Advanced Energy, racking from RBI Solar, and monitoring systems provided by Ambient Weather.

CEC President Paul Spencer stressed the value RGS Energy brings to the solar projects. “RGS Energy is the ideal partner for us in implementing these facilities. With their outstanding systems engineering and deployment capabilities and their national footprint, they can ensure our individual project specifications are delivered on time and to the highest standards.”

CASE Applauds Bloomberg for Defending Solar Industry

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called U.S. tariffs on solar panels harmful to the American public during his comments at Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit held in New York. In his remarks, Bloomberg called tariffs on solar panels and solar cells imported from China protectionist policies, pointing out that, “the Chinese have done us this enormous favor of selling us solar panels below the price that we can make them.”

CASE-logo“I applaud Michael Bloomberg for speaking out against U.S. tariffs on solar products and for exposing the misguided protectionism that is currently resulting in higher prices of solar energy to consumers,” said Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy President Jigar Shah. “The overwhelming majority of U.S. solar companies have embraced the global nature of our highly-specialized industry and are successfully leveraging cost savings to create over 140,000 American jobs – most of which are in installation on American rooftops. Higher tariffs only mean higher prices, which ultimately leave U.S. solar companies unable to compete on cost, and deny the American public access to affordable solar energy.

Shah continued, “This topic is extremely relevant since we‘re in the midst of a second trade case, calling for additional tariffs on imported solar panels and cells from China and Taiwan. Continued uncertainty and rounds of legal cases are not the paths to sustainable growth for the U.S. solar industry. As Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) also noted during his remarks at the Summit on Monday, ‘a lack of predictability can hurt our nation’s clean energy investment.’ I agree with Senator Wyden, and note that the damage caused by uncertain solar trade barriers creates the same uncertainty that changing government programs and tax policies have on the broader renewable energy industry. Now is the time to negotiate an equitable solution to the solar trade petitions that will bring confidence back to the market and lay the groundwork for the U.S. solar industry’s continued success.”

Weather Channel Features Juhl Energy

The Weather Channel recently featured a segment filmed at the Honda Transmission Manufacturing of America plant located in Russells Point, Ohio that includes an onsite wind project developed by Juhl Energy and is owned and operated by ConEdison Solutions. David honda wind powered plantMalkoff visited the plant that is the site of the first major auto manufacturing facility in the U.S. to get a majority of its electricity from wind energy located on its property.

The two operating wind turbines, with blades that are approximately 160 feet long installed on 260-foot towers, are expected to supply nearly 10 percent of the plant’s electricity. Based on their location and actual wind speeds, the combined output from the two wind turbines is estimated at 10,000-megawatt hours (MWH) per year.

Tyler Juhl, VP of Juhl Energy Services, Inc. provided Malkoff and his production team with access to the towers and the amazing views from the top of the turbines. “It was great having The Weather Channel at the Honda facility and giving them an opportunity to show that renewable energy definitely has applications for the traditional manufacturing industry,” said Juhl.

“Wind power is our country’s fastest-growing energy source, and The Weather Channel’s coverage is an ideal way to help Americans appreciate wind power’s many applications,” said Jorge Lopez, CEO of ConEdison Solutions. “We are delighted that The Weather Channel chose to showcase this facility.”

Mexico Soon to be Home of Major Solar Project

Weymouth, Massachusetts based Vertex Companies is partnering in the development of a 30 megawatt solar electric power plant located in Zacatecas, Mexico. When complete, this project will be one of the largest of its kind in Latin America.

The announcement was made during the Massachusetts – Mexico Innovation Partnership Mission. The joint announcement was made by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Zacatecas Governor Miguel Alonso Reyes.

Vertex ZacsL solar projectVERTEX has operated for over a decade in the Mexican market as Vertex Ingenieros Consultores, S. de R.L. de C.V., completing dozens of energy and environmental projects in a variety of industries. In Zacatecas, VERTEX is collaborating with local Mexican partners to develop the first utility-scale solar PV project in the state and one of the largest in Latin America overall. The 30 MW ZacSol 1 project is the first phase of up to 90 MW that will be installed near the municipality of Guadalupe over the next several years. With an estimated $92 million investment in Zacatecas that will create approximately 400 construction and operational jobs, this first phase represents a significant step forward for Mexico in realizing their solar potential.

Mexico has progressive renewable energy policies, high fossil-based electricity prices, and the third highest solar insolation in the world. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, Mexico has a potential for 45 GW of solar energy. SENER, Mexico’s Energy Department, recently reported that solar PV projects are profitable without government subsidies with Northern and Central Mexican projects typically breaking even after only two years.

EU Commission Proposes Eliminating Clean Energy Aid

The European Commission has proposed a plan to phase out support for renewable technologies after 2020. According to state aid guidelines, the Commission recommends removing support mechanisms for renewable technologies that are expected to become “grid competitive” between 2020 ad 2030. The guidelines did not specify was “grid competitive” means and in their current form, only apply to the period from 2014 to 2020.

ewea-logoIn response, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) says the move pushes its narrow vision for EU energy policy and clouds the future of wind energy. The association also says the proposals push for market integration above stability, with premiums allocated through tenders to replace feed-in tariffs and “technology neutrality,” which does not distinguish between the maturity of technologies like onshore and offshore wind energy.

However, EWEA explains that a number of exemptions have been included, allowing Member States to opt out of tendering, to tailor support for technologies at different levels of maturity and to determine the pace at which national support is adjusted to comply with the guidelines. In addition, the association says the complex nature of the state aid guidelines risks exacerbating investor uncertainty around the renewables industry and Member States must be flexible in implementing the proposals.

Justin Wilkes, deputy chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said, “The Commission would have liked to put the cart before the horse, by focusing on forcing wind energy to compete in a market which still does not exist, while ignoring the obvious market distortions that need to be tackled first, such as the majority of subsidies that go to fossil fuels and nuclear.  While we welcome the drive for long-term market integration of wind energy, state aid guidelines are not the ideal tool for the Commission to legislate on energy policy. Member States should be flexible in implementing the guidelines, in order to enable the most cost-efficient development of wind energy in Europe, and avoid increased uncertainty for the sector.”

Wilkes concluded, “In the main, the opt-outs will become the most important tools used by Member States because the Commission has failed to propose good design requirements for its favoured method of tendering.”

DuPont Calls for Support of RFS

In testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Jan Koninckx, global business director for Biorefineries at DuPont, called on Congress to preserve the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which Koninckx said has spurred hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment in advanced biofuels and is expediting the transition from a petroleum-based to a bio-based global economy.

Koninckx delivered his testimony as part of a Committee hearing on advanced biofuels’ role in creating jobs and lowering gasoline prices. He emphasized the scope of the opportunity and also how quickly the promise of biofuels has been realized.

“The bottom line here is that driven by the RFS, we have completely re-imagined how we fuel our planet. We do so with renewable resources without adding any additional CO2 into the atmosphere. It is a remarkable DuPont Logoachievement. And when you look at this from the perspective of a science company – this has actually gone quite fast,” said Koninckx.

“Certainly faster than the fossil fuel industry developed over a century ago and with a footprint they still can’t come close to achieving today. DuPont has over 210 years of bringing scientific innovation to market. In my estimation, we’ve never delivered this type of disruptive technology so quickly,” he added.

Koninckx cited DuPont’s investment in biofuels, including cellulosic technologies that use corn stover – or the crop waste left over after a corn harvest – to produce ethanol.

“For the past four years we have brought together growers, academia, public institutions like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and custom equipment makers to conduct harvest trials on corn stover. Together, we have developed an entirely new model for biomass harvest, transportation and supply to a biorefinery. It is cost competitive and fully sustainable – preserving the land for generations to come.”

DuPont also is leading the industry in the development of another type of advanced renewable fuel, biobutanol, Koninckx noted, pointing out that the company’s joint venture Butamax with partner BP, is on track for commercial scale production in the United States around 2015. Biobutanol, with advanced fuel properties and high energy density helps to further secure U.S. leadership in the global biofuels market.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard is working as intended. 2014 is a watershed in our history as an industry – the year we take this technology commercial – and a critical year for all parties to remain steadfast in their commitment to biofuels,” Koninckx concluded.

ACORE Releases Renewable Energy in America Outlook

The American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) has released The Outlook for Renewable Energy in America: 2014, jointly authored by U.S. renewable energy trade associations from the power, thermal, and fuel sectors. The Outlook assesses the renewable energy marketplace and forecasts the future of each renewable energy technology sector, from the perspectives of each of the associations, and provides a list of policy recommendations by the respective associations that would encourage continued industry growth.

OutlookCover1“ACORE applauds the unity of the renewable industry community and this united front as reflected in The Outlook for Renewable Energy in America: 2014,” said ACORE President and CEO, Michael Brower. “The report demonstrates the many public and private sector opportunities that exist at the national, regional and local levels for continued industry advancement and investment; however, they are not one-size-fit-all solutions for every renewable technology.”

Bower noted that the articles in the report detail specific market drivers for the biofuel, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, waste and energy sectors.

Jeffrey Holzschuh, Chairman of Institutional Securities at Morgan Stanley said that greater American consumer interest in renewable energy, along with more private sector investment, have caused the financial markets to respond. “Spurred by growing individual as well as business demand, private sector investment in the U.S. clean energy sector surpassed $100 billion in 2012-2013, stimulating significant economic development while supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

The trade associations who participated in the Outlook are: Advanced Biofuels Association; American Wind Energy Association; Biomass Power Association; Biomass Thermal Energy Council; Energy Recovery Council; Geothermal Energy Association; Growth Energy; National Hydropower Association; Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition; and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The Outlook for Renewable Energy in America: 2014 shows the potential of America’s renewable energy economy to extend beyond one fuel choice or pipeline, to provide the country with an unparalleled opportunity to reinvigorate the U.S. economy while protecting our environment.

SheerWind Commissions Pilot Project in Dubai

SheerWind Inc., had commissioned a pilot project at Dubai Aluminium PJSC (DUBAL). The 250kW INVELOX wind power generation pilot project will help sustainably offset the company’s carbon emissions.

SheerWind-INVELOX-Demo3“We are very pleased to be the pioneer in this innovative pilot project in the GCC, especially as the project will contribute measurably to environmental conservation,” said DUBAL’s Tayeb Al Awadhi. “As a responsible corporate citizen, we are committed to sustainable principles. Moreover, the project is closely aligned with our corporate emphasis on continuous improvement through innovation.”

According to Sheerwind, its INVELOX technology offers high-performance, cost-efficient wind energy. When compared to average wind turbine technology:

  • Produces 600% more electrical energy (kWh)
  • Operates at wind speeds as low as 1 mile per hour
  • Reduces installation capital cost to less that $750 per KW
  • 90% less land use than traditional wind power generation utilities
  • Increases energy production capacity to record high of 72%
  • No harm to humans, animals, or flying creatures

Steve Hill, COO of SheerWind, added, “This installation is very exciting for SheerWind. We see this as the beginning of a great partnership with a company that is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and finding ways to make a difference globally. This partnership will assist in SheerWind’s mission to provide affordable, clean, electrical energy to anyone—anywhere.”

Confidence Boost for Europe’s Renewable Energy

In a last minute addition to the European Council’s conclusions on 2030 energy targets, leaders stated the need for a “supportive EU framework for advancing renewable energies.” While an agreement has yet to be reached, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in a press conference that the Council would have a deal on the climate and energy framework by “no later than” October 2014.

European Council logo“This extra time could be a golden opportunity – for pro-renewables countries like Germany, Denmark and Portugal to rally round and start fighting for greater ambition for renewables and the energy security they bring,” said Thomas Becker, chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “The conclusions show that Heads of State are wising up to the energy challenges that Europe is facing. I think the situation in the Ukraine is proving a sobering experience for policymakers over the frailty of Europe’s energy security.“ He added, “We must act and we must do it now.”

Over 160 companies and organizations have singed a statement calling for a stronger commitment from policymakers to Europe’s 2030 Climate and energy objectives. One ask: a legally binding target for renewable energy of 30 percent. If this target were met, it would reduce gas imports by nearly three times more than the 27 percent target put forward by the European Commission in January 2014, create 568,000 more jobs, save EUR260 billion extra in fossil fuel imports.

It remains unlikely that a 2030 deal will be in place before a United Nations meeting convenes in September 204, when global leaders are expected to set out plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The European Council is set to meet again for talks on June 26-27, 2014.