NY Gov Andrew Cuomo Bans Fracking

There is big news coming out of New York today with the announcement that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has banned hydraulic fracking in the state. The news came on the heels of a study that was released concluding that fracking could pose, “significant public health risks.”

The Sierra Club applauds Governor Cuomo for recognizing what the science has made consistently clear: fracking is a hazard to human health that endangers communities wherever it is allowed,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. By banning fracking, Frack off GasholesGovernor Cuomo has set himself apart as a national political leader who stands up for people, and not for the interests of the dirty fuel lobby. Today’s decision will shake the foundations of our nation’s flawed energy policy, and we can only expect that it will give strength to activists nationwide who are fighting fracking in dozens of states and hundreds of cities and counties.

Yet while Governor Cuomo banned fracking, the state didn’t steam ahead with previous commitments to renewable energy. The Long Island Power Authority Board of Trustees voted to approve only a fraction of the renewable energy projects promised by the governor, bringing just 122 megawatts of new solar projects online and falling short of the 280 megawatts of renewable energy the governor committed to this year.

Brune added, “The Sierra Club also extends heartfelt congratulations to all of the passionate anti-fracking activists in New York who were relentless in telling the truth about the dangers of fracking, persevered years of opposition from the oil and gas lobby, and ultimately prevailed. All we need now is for New York to bring wind, solar, and energy efficiency to full potential so we can leave dirty fuels in the ground and move quickly to clean energy prosperity.”

South Carolina Adds Solar Net Metering

As 2014 comes to a close, South Carolina became the 44th state to institute net metering. The news comes on the heels of the announcement that New York has set a significant net metering cap expansion. The New York Public Service Commission agreed to double the allowable rooftop solar capacity for solar net metering. The solar market has already created 5,000 jobs in New York.

Net metering allows solar customers to get credit on their utility bills at the retail rate for any excess power their rooftop solar installations send back to the grid. Utilities sell this clean energy to neighboring customers for the full retail value. In South Carolina, Duke and SCE&G agreed to full retail rate net metering and to not seek any solar-specific charges until 2021.

Alliance for solar choice logoIn a recent South Carolina poll, 73 percent of respondents across political party lines said they want to see more solar growth, and a strong majority of South Carolinians (more than 75%) agreed that rooftop solar is an important part of providing choice and competition in electricity.

“Repeated expansions and the addition of a 44th net metering state demonstrate the strength and fairness of solar net metering,” said Bryan Miller, co-chairman of the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) and VP of Public Policy for Sunrun. “The public wants more rooftop solar, and they support net metering as the policy that drives solar growth.”

The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) says they were instrumental in the wins and this year have delivered seven net metering expansions including cap increases in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Vermont. The utilities have failed to achieve any net metering retractions.

ET Solar Collaborates on Israel Project

ET Solutions AG (subsidiary of ET Solar) has been selected to provide services for a 40 MWp PV power plant in Israel. The solar project is located in Kibbutz Ketura, approximately 45 km north of Eilat, and will be built in a desert land of 600,000 square meters. This new solar power facility is expected to generate over 70,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy per year.

ET Solar logoOther project partners include G-Systems and Elmor. Arava Power and EDF Energies Nouvelles Israel jointly own the solar farm.

ET Solar is providing project management, electrical design and plant layout, purchasing, quality control, construction supervision and commissioning services. In addition, the company will also serve as the maintenance service provider, and Arava Power will offer the operation services.

“This project is our largest solar power plant in the Middle East up to now, it is also an important demonstration of our comprehensive solar energy solutions to effectively deliver clean, affordable and reliable solar energy in local market,” said Dennis She, president and CEO of ET Solar. “We are delighted to extend and deepen our collaboration with EDF-EN and Arava Power, to make this utility-scale project a reality after completing a 7.8 MWp solar power plant in Israel early this year.”

Students Learn About the Power of the Sun

Green Power EMC has released an updated curriculum and enhanced in-class learning laboratory featuring solar power. The program was developed by schools participating in their SunPower for Schools partnership program. The curriculum provides solar arrays on school grounds and software for use in the classroom that when used together allow students to monitor real-time data on solar energy production. Currently, 35 middle and high schools in EMC service territories around Georgia are participating in the program.

The program supports STEM standards (science, technology, engineering and math) and includes 57 lesson plans that cover four main areas for middle and high school students: physical science, physics and chemistry; math; life science, biology Array-Sun-Power_rszand environmental science; and earth science. Additional lesson plans are being developed for other subjects and grade levels as well.

“This professionally developed curriculum and upgraded hardware and software not only help students learn about solar energy but also provide a hands-on laboratory to apply math and science standards taught in Georgia schools,” said Green Power EMC President Jeff Pratt. “In addition, we created the curriculum as an off-the-shelf program that teachers can use with a minimum of preparation.”

The new curriculum was developed by the University of West Georgia in partnership with Green Power EMC and was reviewed this summer in a teacher’s workshop in Savannah to test and evaluate the program. Forty-four middle and high school teachers participated in the three-day seminar and provided feedback that is being incorporated into the curriculum. It will be utilized during the 2014 – 2015 school year.

Pratt said Green Power EMC and the EMCs in Georgia who own the renewable energy cooperative hope to further enhance the program in the near future to provide more hands-on learning opportunities for Georgia’s students. “We’re excited to have developed a curriculum that is like no other in the state,” said Pratt. “We expect that teacher and student feedback received during this first year of implementation will allow us to make it even better in future years.”

North Carolina Adds 3 Solar Projects

Three new utility-scale solar farms have been added to North Carolina’s energy mix. The solar projects are located on rural farmland in Erwin, Efland and Hickory, North Carolina and total 18 MW of solar energy. The projects were completed by a partnership of Sol Systems, National Cooperative Bank and Strata Solar. These projects follow the successful deployment of 18.2 MW that went online earlier this year.

Sol Systems LLC solar energy“North Carolina is a robust market for tax structured investments, which have been instrumental in stimulating the state’s solar growth,” said Dan Yonkin, director of Tax Equity at Sol Systems. “Equally, in an industry where long-term relationships are essential for keeping transaction costs low, we are vigilant in working with such esteemed partners.”

Sol Systems managed the investment on behalf of an international bank as part of the firm’s tax equity initiative to produce secure, sustainable solar investments for banks, insurance companies, utilities, and Fortune 100 clients. Strata Solar developed the project opportunities provided EPC services, and National Cooperative Bank served as the lender in the transactions.

North Carolina now ranks fourth in the country in terms of installed solar capacity according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The 2013 Solar Jobs Census counted 3,100 solar jobs in the Tar Heel State, which will likely be even higher for 2014.

“Reliable, long-term relationships are a key component of success in this industry. Strata Solar chooses partners that are credible and allow us to move our business forward with confidence,” said David Scoglio, CFO of Strata Solar. “Sol Systems and NCB are fine examples of some of the partnerships that help us continue to create great opportunities for business development and investment.”

Matthew Wright, Senior Vice President, National Cooperative Bank added, “The solar industry in the United States is booming, and National Cooperative Bank has been committed to supporting this important sector since 2008, having financed over $300 million and 250 Megawatts. We look forward to working with Strata Solar and Sol Systems in the future.”

Light This Holiday Season with Luci

It is estimated 1.4 billion people, largely in developing communities, live without access to grid electricity. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, 90 million primary students are without electricity. And, each year, indoor pollution from dirty fuels results in four million deaths. To address this issue, the creators of Luci, MPOWERD, have partnered with FCB Garfinkel and the composers from Found Objects to shine a light on energy poverty in emerging countries. The collaborators have released a new animated video follows the journey of a young child and showcases how important access to energy is for his education and quality of life.

According to MPOWERD, Luci is an easy-to-use, high-quality solar lantern and task light that is lightweight, maintenance-free, safe and waterproof. It is a high-impact and low-footprint resource to increase access to reliable lighting across the globe.

Lee Garfinkel, CEO of FCB Garfinkel, said explaining energy poverty is tough when the public isn’t always aware of the problem. “The story of Kiama brings his daily struggle to life and, through the help of the Luci solar-powered light, illustrates how a simple idea can have an incredible impact.”

“Give Luci” tells the story of a boy named Kiama on his journey to and from school. Kiama, like many children, has big dreams. As Kiama heads home from school to have dinner with his family, he settles in but so does the sun. That causes Kiama’s world to go dark. Kiama’s lack of access to light means he, like millions of other children, cannot study at night or do his homework, which in turn dampens his dreams and his potential. That is, until Luci.

“We know that energy poverty is a topic that isn’t discussed very often,” added Scott Kling, President and COO of MPOWERD. “But making a big impact is easy. When people purchase even just one Luci light and gift it to someone in need, it can change the lives of a family of five and keep 320kg of CO2 out of the atmosphere annually.”

U.S. Solar Market Hits 2nd Best Quarter Ever

The U.S. solar market has had another record setting quarter. According to the latest edition of U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the U.S. installed 1,354 megawatts (MW) of solar PV in Q3 2014. The report is released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and found that installation was up 40 percent over the same period last year. According to the report, Q3 was the nation’s second largest quarter ever for PV installations and brings the country’s cumulative solar PV capacity to 16.1 gigawatts (GW), with another 1.4 GW of concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity.

U.S. Installed Solar 3rd Q 2014Through the first three quarters of the year, solar represents 36 percent of new capacity to come on-line, up from 29 percent in 2013 and 9.6 percent in 2012.

“Solar’s continued, impressive growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS),” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for America. Every three minutes of every single day, the U.S. solar industry is flipping the switch on another completed solar project, benefiting both our economy and the environment.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • The U.S. installed 1,354 MW of solar PV in Q3 2014, up 41 percent over Q3 2013, making it the second-largest quarter for solar installations in the history of the market.
  • Cumulative operating PV capacity has now eclipsed the 16 GW mark, thanks to four consecutive quarters of more than 1 GW installed.
  • For the first time ever, more than 300 MW of residential PV came on-line in a single quarter and more than 50 percent of residential PV came online without any state incentive.
  • 36 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. through the first three quarters of 2014 came from solar.
  • Growth remains driven primarily by the utility solar PV market, which installed 825 MW in Q3 2014, up from 540 MW in Q3 2013.
  • The report forecasts that PV installations will reach 6.5 GW in 2014, up 36 percent over 2013 and more than three times the market size of just three years ago.
  • Q1 2014 was the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power (CSP), due to the completion of the 392 MW Ivanpah project and Genesis Solar project’s second 125 MWac phase. While no CSP plants came on-line in Q3 2014, Abengoa’s Mojave Solar (250 MW) achieved commercial operation in December 2014, making 2014 the biggest year ever for CSP.

CRS Announces Green-e Certification

A new Green-e certification program has been launched by the Center for Resource Solutions. The program is targeted to organizations that build clean energy projects or contract for renewable energy from these facilities. Apple, who received the 2014 Green Power Leadership Awards, is the first company to participate in Green-e Direct, which certifies the energy that the company generates from renewable resources and purchases directly including solar, wind and geothermal energy.

Green-e worked closely with Apple to develop the new certification option that offers independent, third-party oversight over the renewable electricity’s chain of custody beginning with generation and ending at retirement. Green-e Direct also offers participants assurance that the electricity will not be double-counted or double-claimed by regulations or other electricity users, and confirmation that the electricity meets the environmental quality requirements in the Green-e Energy National Standard.

Green-e Direct“We developed this new Green-e certification option so that renewable energy leaders like Apple can have the assurances and recognition of Green-e certification for their direct renewable energy purchases and onsite generation,” said Jennifer Martin, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions. “We are excited to continue working with Apple as they set the example for companies looking to power their operations with 100% renewable energy.”

Green-e Direct is intended to encourage long-term commitments by organizations that want to reduce the environmental impact of their electricity use, while providing a way to help recognize and promote leading companies that invest in clean energy. Renewable electricity certified through Green-e is subject to an extensive third-party verification process that ensures the energy meets the highest standards for quality in North America, and is eligible for use in a wide range of environmental standards, including LEED, B Corp., and Cradle to Cradle.

Martin added, “Green-e Direct reduces some of the complexity and uncertainty for companies that contract directly for clean energy. They want a clear message to their stakeholders about the difference they are making, and we can guide them through the complicated tracking and claims process, while certifying their clean energy use.”

Green-e Direct is available through Green-e, a nonprofit certification program that certifies renewable energy that meets environmental and consumer protection standards developed in conjunction with leading environmental, energy, and policy organizations.

Navy to Install Solar in Housing Units

Navy and Marine Corps housing units in San Diego, California will be receiving rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems through a purchase power agreement between Lincoln Military Housing and SolarCity. The program will provide solar power to nearly 6,000 homes across 27 privatized neighborhoods, and with pending design and interconnection approvals could generate up to 20 megawatts (MW) of solar energy.

ZEPInstall_CA_InProgress-1_content“Our Department of the Navy goal is to ensure that at least 50 percent of our shore-based energy comes via alternative sources,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “By establishing these sources of renewable energy we ensure both energy independence and cost savings well into the future. This agreement is another step toward achieving our one gigawatt goal.”

Back in 2009 Congress mandated the Department of Defense (DOD) to use at least 25 percent of its electricity needs generated from renewable energy.

Jarl Bliss, president of Lincoln Military Housing said of the agreement, “For the last few years, we have worked closely with the Department of the Navy to find a renewable energy program which will greatly benefit our military families and support our Navy partner in reaching its renewable energy goals. Through this agreement with SolarCity, Lincoln projects savings of at least $60 million over the 20-year term that can be reinvested in project sustainment.”

San Diego Family Housing, LLC will purchase all the electricity produced by the systems at below the cost of brown power over the 20-year term of the agreement. SolarCity will be responsible for the design, installation, monitoring and maintenance of the PV systems.

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive added, “Energy in the United States needs to become cleaner, more secure and more affordable, and few realize this more clearly than the leadership of the Department of the Navy. With this SolarStrong project, Lincoln Military Housing is contributing to the well-being of its residents, and to the nation.”

New Program to Train Vets in Clean Energy

Cerritos College located in Norwalk, California has announced a new training program to certify military veterans and other applicants to meet the growing need for electrical field service technicians (EFSTs). These are the workers who help to maintain solar power and electric vehicle infrastructure.

The program is the result of a partnership among Cerritos College’s Technology Division, the Advanced Transportation & Renewable Energy (ATRE) sector, a California Community Colleges workforce program, and True South Renewables, Inc. The five-month college certification program will teach students how to maintain and repair solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and equipment needing Cerritos Collegegeneral maintenance. Cerritos College and ATRE worked closely with True South Renewables to develop the extensive curriculum for this unique program.

“This is an important initiative to provide military personnel who were electricians in the service with training to receive certification in a high-paying, growing civilian field,” said Rue Phillips, CEO of True South Renewables based in Huntington Beach, Calif. “In addition, these graduates are needed. Few outside the solar power industry are aware of the volume of operations and maintenance work required to ensure the optimum performance of large solar fields and photovoltaic systems on commercial and residential rooftops.”

Classes start Jan. 12, 2015 at the Cerritos College campus and applications are now being accepted. Applicants must be experienced electricians with accumulated service knowledge and skills in the electronics/electrician and IT sectors. Qualified U.S. veterans are being prioritized for entry and will be able to secure financial support upon acceptance.

“We are proud to offer this program to the community, enabling qualified veterans, the unemployed and under-employed to receive training that fills a critical shortage of technicians in the trillion-dollar solar and EV markets,” added Jannet Malig, ATRE regional director based at Cerritos College. “Graduates of the program will be introduced to industry leaders with the expectation that we will achieve 99% job placement for graduating students.”

Walmart Expands Solar Commitment

Walmart is expanding its commitment to solar energy with its announcement that it will install up to 400 new solar projects at stores across the country over the next four years. The company has set goals to produce or procure seven billion kWh of renewable energy by the end of 2020. to roll-out the projects, Walmart named to preferred solar companies including SolarCity and SunEdison.

solar-panels-roof_129865141770894259“We are pleased to announce this expansion on the heels of the Solar Energy Industries Association’s commercial solar report, which recognizes Walmart as having the most installed solar capacity in the U.S.,” said Pam Kohn, executive vice president at Walmart and president of Walmart Realty.

To date, Walmart has installed nearly 260 solar projects in the U.S. The company’s commercial solar deployment is now 105 MW, more than double the capacity of the next largest business and they say the projects have saved more than $5 million in energy expenses.

“This is the beginning of the next wave in renewable energy for Walmart, an effort we announced in May when we welcomed President Obama to our Mountain View California store,” said Kim Saylors-Laster, vice president of energy at Walmart. “These projects bring us closer to fulfilling our commitment to double the number of on-site solar energy projects in U.S. stores, Sam’s Clubs and distribution centers—thereby reducing our energy expenses and generating clean energy in local communities.”

The installations will vary in size, commensurate with the respective store or facility. It is expected that smaller systems will provide 10 to 20 percent of the facility’s electricity requirements and larger systems will provide 20 to 30 percent of the power needed by the facility.

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.

Global Investment for Climate Change Falls Again

According to a new report from Climate Policy Initiative, global investment in activities that reduce the threat of climate change fell for the second year in a row from USD $359 billion in 2012 to USD $331 billion in 2013. The report, “Global Landscape of Climate Finance,” found while public sources and intermediaries contributed $137 billion, private investment dropped by $31 billion (all numbers USD).

Global Landscape of Climate Finance 2014The study found that the decrease in private funds was due largely to falling costs of solar PV. Solar development costs were down $40 billion in 2013 as compared to 2012. However, the report states that the situation remains grave: The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that an additional $1.1 trillion in low-carbon investments is needed every year between 2011 and 2050, in the energy sector alone, to keep global temperature rise below two degree Celsius. In other words, the world is falling further and further behind its low-carbon investment goals.

Climate finance spending was split almost equally between developed (OECD) and developing (non-OECD) countries, with $164 billion and $165 billion respectively. Nearly three-quarters of all spending was domestic: It originated in the country in which it was used. Private actors had an especially strong domestic investment focus with $174 billion or 90 percent of their investments remaining in the country of origin. These figures illuminate a bias by private investors toward environments that are more familiar and perceived to be less risky. However, public sector money made up the vast majority of developed to developing country flows, which fell by around $8 billion from the previous year to between $31 and $37 billion in 2013.

“As policymakers prepare a new global climate agreement in 2015, climate finance is a key ingredient to bring the world on a two degree Celsius pathway. Our analysis shows that global investment in a cleaner more resilient economy are decreasing and the gap between finance needed and actually delivered is growing,” said Barbara Buchner, senior director of Climate Policy Initiative and lead author of the study. “Our numbers demonstrate that most investment is happening at the national level with investors favoring familiar environments they perceive to be less risky. This implies that domestic policy frameworks and appropriate risk coverage are critical to encourage investment.”

Equal Earth Aquires 3 Solar Projects

gI_60412_hiramsolar-panels-final3Equal Earth, a diversified renewable company, has acquired three separate solar projects. The combined projects generate 1.6 MW of power and the off-takers include two established Ohio colleges and a local government organization.

Similar to recent Equal Earth acquisitions, this portfolio of projects has long-term PPA’s with the off-takers. The deal is part of the firm’s broader growth strategy to acquire long-term revenue-generating projects with low operational costs to generate predictable future cash flows and attractive after-tax returns.

“We’re proud to play our part in helping schools and government to save money on their utility bills with solar,” said Equal Earth Chairman, President and CEO, Andrew Duggan. “These projects will deliver environmental and financial benefits for years to come.”

Earlier this month, Equal Earth announced that it is acquiring a 5 MW solar photovoltaic farm near Columbus, Ohio.

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.”