Panasonic to Install 68 EV Charging Stations

Panasonic is providing engineering, construction and procurement services to Powertree Services Inc. (Powertree) to build 68 electric vehicle charging stations at several multi-unit residential properties in San Francisco, California. The EV charging stations will be powered by solar energy a battery storage component. When complete the EV charging stations will have the ability to supply high power charging to vehicles, ancillary services provided to the utility to support the grid, solar power to tenants and supplemental power to the buildings. The stations are scheduled to be completed by Earth Day 2015.

Powertree EV charging station“Panasonic is committed to driving new technologies and collaborating with entrepreneurs to help bring about renewable energy options and a sustainable future. Our work now will pay off in terms of future economic and other benefits for building owners, and a reduction in greenhouse gases,” said Panasonic Enterprise Solutions’ Jamie Evans, Eco Solutions Managing Director.

When complete, the 68 stations will result in a total installed capacity of 6.1 megawatts of power and 2.5 megawatts of EV charging capacity. Each station is configured to support up to 70 amps or 18 kilowatts. This is roughly equivalent to 60 to 70 miles of range for every hour of charging. The exact rate of charging depends on vehicle models. The stations will be powered by on site photovoltaic panels, and can generate clean energy for building use, or have the ability to provide backup generation, in the event of a grid outage.

Stacey Reineccius, founder and CEO of Powertree, added, “Owners of multi-tenant apartment and mixed use buildings face a rising demand from tenants, drivers and new regulations that combine to require them to install, manage, upgrade electric charging facilities and support electric vehicles. With Powertree Services owners can turn this potentially burdensome situation into new value and offer attractive new amenities for their tenants even in medium to small urban properties with no capital outlay by the property owner.”

Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for US

According to a new report, “Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for U.S. Security and the Economy,” smarter use of energy is the biggest contributor to three positive trends: reducing of oil dependence, slowing the growth of electricity needs and making energy services more affordable to Americans.

“Despite what you may be hearing from a final onslaught of negative campaign ads, the security and affordability of America’s energy services has never been better, and energy efficiency is the most important reason why,” said Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the Natural NRDC 2014 Energy ReportResources Defense Council (NRDC) energy program, who commissioned the study. “The latest data confirms that our consumption of energy, including oil and coal, remains well below its peak levels from a decade ago. However, we can and should do more.”

NRDC’s Second Annual Energy Report is an analysis of new government data on 2013 U.S. energy use that shows optimizing energy use through efficiency continues to contribute more to meeting U.S. energy needs than any other resource, from oil and coal to natural gas and nuclear power.

“Efficiency helps America get more work out of less oil, natural gas, and electricity while pushing our economy forward and cutting residential, business, and industrial customers’ bills,” added Cavanagh. “Far less costly than adding other energy resources like fossil fuels that also create climate-changing pollution, efficiency saves the nation hundreds of billions of dollars annually, prevents millions of tons of carbon emissions, helps U.S. workers and companies compete worldwide, and increases our energy security.”

The report notes the nation is already two-thirds of the way toward meeting President Obama’s goal of cutting 3 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2030 through his administration’s efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings, which also will lower customer energy bills by more than $4 billion. Meanwhile, the government’s proposed emissions standards for existing power plants would keep over 5.3 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. But based on the nation’s positive energy trends, the report says even larger reductions are feasible and cost-effective.

How to Power Up Clean Power Plan

According to an analysis conduced by the Union of Concern Scientists (UCS), states can cost-effectively produce nearly twice as much renewable electricity as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculated in the Clean Power Plan. Increased renewable electricity growth could allow states to collectively cut heat-trapping carbon emissions from power plants by as much as 40 percent below 2005 levels rather than the 30 percent reduction the EPA included in its draft rule.

EPA-targets-are-modestOverall the EPA calculated that renewables could comprise 12 percent of U.S. electricity sales in 2030, marginally more than business-as-usual projections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). If fully implemented, UCS’s proposed modified approach for setting state targets would result in renewables supplying at least 23 percent of national power sales by 2030.

“There is an urgent need to reduce heat trapping gases, and power plants are about forty percent of the problem,” said Ken Kimmell, UCS’s president and former head of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “Fortunately, renewable electricity has been growing by leaps and bounds for the past five years and costs keep dropping. That’s great news and the agency should take full advantage of what’s been happening on the ground.”

UCS’s analysis found that seven states are already producing more renewable electricity than EPA computed they could in 2030 under its draft rule. Additionally, 17 states have existing laws that require more renewable electricity than EPA’s targets. Continue reading

The Veteran Asset Training Vets in Solar

The Veteran Asset (TVA) is training veterans across the U.S. for careers in solar energy. The non-profit has announced the availability of TVA scholarships to help cover cost of education.

Scott Duncan, Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Marine Corp (Retired) Scoot Duncan is co-founder and CEO of The Veteran Asset whose mission is recruiting, training and placing veterans into the renewable energy sector, at no cost to the veterans. He said they are establishing the highest quality benchmgI_93484_Jose on Roofark in the industry.

“We are hand-selecting veterans and transitioning military candidates, screening and qualifying them for TVA scholarships,” said Duncan. “This very solar-specific recruiting and training process makes TVA graduates extremely valuable to the solar community. Effort on the front end assures high-quality graduates. By vetting out the right candidates, we insure that the end result is a skilled, solar-trained workforce, which is already proving to make a tremendous difference to the solar companies that hire them and to the industry in general.”

The hand-selected veteran recruits are provided a 32-hour course, entitled Entry Level Solar PV Design and Installation, offered in the Ambassador Energy College training facility in Murrieta, California. On the final day of the course, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam is proctored. The TVA formula appears to be working, as the majority of those who have graduated the program since May 2014 have found gainful employment within the solar industry.

Dates for upcoming courses include October 20 – 24 and November 17 – 21, 2014. Interested candidates should visit The Veteran Asset’s website, where they may obtain course details and apply for an interview by TVA staff.

Ecotech Institute Offers Free Energy e-Books

Ecotech Institute has released a series of free energy ebooks detailing how to begin a career in wind or solar energy. The guides cover issues from a day in the life of a Ditch the Desk Ecotech Instituterenewable energy technician to potential salaries to required skills and advice form current professionals working in the solar and wind industries.

The wind and solar energy renewable energy industries continue to do well, but according to Ecotech Institute that doesn’t mean getting a green job is easy. The jobs take specialized training, cleantech industry knowledge and passion is a plus.

  • Future solar and wind technicians have one place to access vital information, including:
  • Key industry facts about the renewable energy sector;
  • Tips for job seekers in the energy efficiency field;
  • Expectations and requirements for wind and solar energy green jobs;
  • Cleantech employment trends;
  • And advice from working industry experts and technicians.
  • Learn everything there is to know about “ditching the desk” and landing a green job in the wind or solar industry by downloading the free Wind and Solar Energy eBooks here.

Ecotech Institute is the first and only school in the U.S. that is solely dedicated to sustainable energy. The school currently offers eight associate’s degree programs, including hands-on training for wind and solar energy technology:

Tanzania Mini-Grid Project Underway

Continental Energy Corporation, an emerging international energy investment company, announced that its Tanzanian affiliate, Ruaha River Power Company Ltd. has begun construction of the Phase-I development of its Malolo Mini-Grid. They have also begun signing up first subscribers from a waiting list of 400 customers. The Mini-Grids are being installed in an area surrounding the village of Malolo and three nearby villages, all located in the Kilosa District, Morogoro Region, Tanzania.

The Malolo Mini-Grid is the first of four separate, isolated rural “Mini-Grids” to be built, owned, and operated by the Ruaha Power, from which Tanzania flagit intends to generate, distribute, and sell electrical power directly to consumers at pre-payment meters. When complete, the four Malolo Mini-Grids will have a combined generation capacity of 300kW and each Mini-Grid shall directly deliver 75kW of power to a combined total of approximately 2,500 identified residential, commercial, and light industrial customers.

Phase-I of the Malolo Mini-Grid development is expected to begin delivering power by the end of the first quarter of 2015. It involves the installation and commissioning of the first embedded generators, a 25kW hybrid biomass gasifier and a 25kW diesel generation plant, together with more than four kilometers of low voltage distribution network.

The distribution network will be constructed to standards sufficient for connection to the national grid at such time as it may be extended into the Malolo Mini-Grid area. A 21,500 square-foot site near the village of Malolo has been acquired for the first generator house and power line easements have been arranged. Civil works and the construction of the first powerhouse and office has begun and are expected to be complete by year end.

A Phase-II development is planned to add solar PV capacity to complete a hybrid biomass-solar PV-diesel powered Mini-Grid. Ruaha Power plans to duplicate the Phase-I and Phase-II development at each of the other three villages, one after the other, upon completion of Phase-II of the first network.

Abengoa Yield’s Solana Solar Project Wins Award

Abengoa Yield has announced that Solana, its Arizona-based solar power plant, received the Energy Storage North America (ESNA) Innovation Award in the Utility-Scale category. WinnersAbengoa Yield Solana solar field were announced on October 1st, 2014, at the ESNA Innovation Awards ceremony in San Jose, California. Winners were chosen by the ESNA Advisory Board and votes on social media.

According to the company, Solana is the largest solar parabolic trough plant in the world. Located near Gila Bend, Arizona, it has a total installed capacity of 280 megawatts. With a six-hour molten-salt thermal energy storage capacity, it supplies clean energy to Arizona Public Service (APS), Arizona’s largest utility, meeting peaks of demand before dawn and after dusk.

Intermittency issues are a signficant hurdle with renewable energy such as solar. Using solar thermal energy coupled with molten salt elimates this issue according to the company. The storage component also increases dispatchability in
the power generation process, creating systems which can operate flexibly both with and without solar radiation.

The company explains that Solana’s parabolic trough collectors track the sun and concentrate sunlight onto receiver tubes located at a focal point of each collector. A heat transfer fluid (HTF) is heated as it circulates inside the tubes and is then circulated back to a central power plant. The HTF then passes through a series of heat exchangers to produce superheated steam that is used to generate clean electricity in a conventional steam turbine generator.

Martifer Solar Closes Contracts

Martifer Solar, a subsidiary of Martifer SGPS, has added close to 90 MW of new third party O&M contracts throughout Italy. According to the company, they have been able to distinguish its O&M Service capabilities in Italy by leveraging a resourceful and qualified local O&M staff, the company´s high quality processes and systems integration, such as its award-winning Operation Management System, and its global industry expertise.

Henrique Rodrigues, CEO of Martifer Solar, said, “We are proud when Clients such as DIF and Eland rely on our O&M team to complement their Asset Management services as it demonstrates that the market is recognizing our strength and reliability as a global O&M Service provider.”

MTS_OM_Italy_PR_1With this recent achievement from the Italian team, Martifer Solar´s global solar O&M portfolio has grown to more than 550 MW of plants under supervision across Europe, Asia and the Americas. The portfolio is comprised of both plants completed by third parties and those built by Martifer Solar.

David Lau, Associate Director of DIF who has contracted with Martifer Solar, said, “As our strategy is focused on targeting investments that generate predictable, long-term and stable cash flows, we need to count on a credible and trusted partner like Martifer Solar to provide operation and maintenance services for our assets.”

The recent addition to the Italian portfolio will strengthen Martifer Solar´s pace as the third largest vertically-integrated O&M player in Europe, as named by recognized research firm, Greentech Media Research. “As we have done here in Italy, as well as other European markets such as Spain, France and the UK, we expect to double the capacity of our O&M portfolio in the near future,” added Rodrigues.

Renewables Outpacing Nuclear

According to a recent Vital Signs, renewable energy is outpacing nuclear electricity expansion even though renewables still have a long way to go to catch up with fossil fuel power plants. Michael Renner, senior researcher with Worldwatch Institute writes that nuclear energy’s share of global power production has declined steadily from a peak of 17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 2013. Renewables increased their share from 18.7 percent in 2000 to 22.7 percent in 2012.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, following a rapid rise from its beginnings in the mid-1950s, global nuclear power generating capacity peaked at 375.3 gigawatts (GW) in 2010. Capacity has since declined to 371.8 GW in 2013. Adverse economics, concern about reactor safety and proliferation and the unresolved question of what to do with nuclear waste have put the brakes on the industry according to Renner.

Vital Signs - NuclearIn contrast, wind and solar power generating capacities are now on the same soaring trajectory that nuclear power was on in the 1970s and 1980s. Wind capacity of 320 GW in 2013 is equivalent to nuclear capacity in 1990. The 140 GW in solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is still considerably smaller, but growing rapidly.

In recent years, renewable energy has attracted far greater investments than nuclear power. According to estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA), nuclear investments averaged US$8 billion per year between 2000 and 2013, compared with $37 billion for solar PV and $43 billion for wind. Individual countries, of course, set diverging priorities, but nowhere did nuclear have a major role in power generation investments.

In contrast with investment priorities, research budgets still favor nuclear technologies. Nuclear energy attracted $295 billion, or 51 percent, of total energy R&D spending between 1974 and 2012. But this number has declined over time, from a high of 73.6 percent in 1974 to 26 percent today. Renewable energy received a cumulative total of $59 billion during the same period (10.2 percent), but its share has risen year after year. Because wind and solar power can be deployed at variable scales, and their facilities constructed in less time, these technologies are far more practical and affordable for most countries than nuclear power reactors. Worldwide, 31 countries are operating nuclear reactors on their territories. This compares to at least 85 countries that have commercial wind turbine installations.

The chances of a nuclear revival seem slim writes Renner. Renewable energy, by contrast, appears to be on the right track. But it is clear that renewables have a long way to go before they can hope to supplant fossil fuels as the planet’s principal electricity source.

Largest Vermont Solar Farm Completed

AllEarth Renewables and Claire Solar Partners have announced the completion of a 2.2MW solar tracker farm in South Burlington, Vt. According to the companies, it’s the largest solar project in North America to feature distributed inverters and dual-axis trackers to maximize production.

AllSun TrackersJA Solar provided multi-crystalline 260 watt PID resistant modules for the project. Claire Solar utilized 366 AllSun Trackers and highly efficient modules from JA Solar, to further maximize the farm’s output. The ground-mounted pre-engineered solar trackers, which track the sun throughout the day, produce up to 30 percent more energy than fix ground-mounted systems per JA Solar. The company also says its multi-crystalline 260 watt modules outperform the peers’ modules by 5-10 watts in terms of power rating.

The project was constructed under Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development (SPEED) standard-offer program and will produce over 3 million kilowatt hours of emissions-free energy a year. AllEarth Renewables also served as the EPC for the project. In 2011, AllEarth Renewables utilized their solar trackers for a 2.1MW solar farm across the road from the Claire Solar site.

Dark Horse Brewing Brews With Solar

Dark Horse Brewery solar projectPatriot Solar Group, Contractors Building Supply, The Green Brewery Project, and The Dark Horse Brewing Company have created the first solar power-driven brewery on the east coast. The 40 kilowatt, 140 panel system has helped generate solar energy and aid in the formation of the famous Dark Horse growler we all know and love.

The Green Breweries Project, whose research originated at the University of Michigan, is focused on offering creativity with energy systems to help craft breweries enhance their sustainability. Even with a considerably lower rate of emissions, Green Breweries are becoming increasingly predominant and are making the exchange to a further domestic market.

Dark Horse purchased 140 Michigan-assembled solar panels as well as mounting systems supplied by Patriot Solar Group. This off-grid system allows the brewery to manage their energy demands and monitor them closely with affluence as well as ease. According to Patriot Solar Group, the fixed standing metal roof mount systems are durable and can withstand brutal wind speeds but also offer minimal maintenance as well as low cost.

West African Solar Project Gets Funding

A large photovoltaic solar farm to be located at Zagtouli on the outskirts of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso in sub-Saharan Africa is moving ahead. The European Investment Bank has agreed to provide EUR 23 million to support the project. When completed the 30 MW solar plant is expected to act as a reference for future solar investment across the continent.

Once operational the new solar plant will significantly increase power generation in Burkina Faso, reduce dependence on energy imports from Ivory Coast and Ghana and help prevent power cuts. It is estimated that less than a quarter of the country’s inhabitants have access to electricity. In recent years power demand in the country has increased annually by 10 percent; however, power cuts and limited electricity access have seriously hindered economic growth.

Burkina Faso Flag“The European Investment Bank is a strong partner for Burkina Faso and this close cooperation over many years has enabled significant investment in new water and energy infrastructure that has created jobs across the country. The new support agreed today for investment by SONABEL in renewable energy is an importance milestone in the long-standing cooperation between Burkina Faso and Europe,” said Lucien Bembamba, Minister of Economy and Finance for the Republic of Burkina Faso.

Agreement for financing the solar project follows detailed feasibility studies to evaluate local energy needs and strengthen project implementation supported by the European Union. The European Union Delegation in Ouagadougou has supported the project since the start and worked closely with promoter SONABEL. Alongside the EIB, financing will also be provided by the French Development Agency and European Union and over a hundred jobs will be created during construction of the solar plant.

“Electricity in essential for economic activity and the European Investment Bank is committed to supporting energy investment that will improve lives across Africa,” added Pim van Ballekom, European Investment Bank vice president. “The significant support for the new solar farm builds on our strong partnership over many years with Sonabel. Burkina Faso can be proud to host the new facility that will act as a benchmark for renewable energy in West Africa.”

Bridge to Clean Energy Future Act Unveiled

Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02), along with 16 other members of Congress, have introduced HR 5559, the Bridge to a Clean Energy Future Act of 2014. If passed, the bill would extend incentives to provide market certainty and to strengthen investment in clean energy such as extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy through 2016, offering parity with the Investment Tax Credit enjoyed by solar energy investments, and granting the solar industry the same access to credits at the start of a project’s construction that the wind industry has.

Iowa Wind Farm Photo Credit Joanna Schroeder“I’m eager to push this across the finish line this Congress,” said Blumenauer. “My state of Oregon is a leader in renewable energy technologies, and Dave’s state of Iowa is the second largest wind energy producer in the nation, so we understand the importance of stability and security in the clean energy sector. His help will be important in advancing this legislation. Making sure these energy sources are on an even playing field with the fossil fuel industry is essential to lowering carbon emissions, creating a cleaner environment, and creating good, non-exportable American jobs.”

According to the representatives, creating a tax landscape for renewables that allows them to compete fairly in the market with other energy sources benefits the country by creating a healthier environment and thousands of jobs. It also puts renewable energy on an equal footing with traditional fossil fuels, giving consumers choice about how they want to power their homes and their lives.

“The Production Tax Credit has helped the still-growing U.S. wind energy industry employ 80,000 Americans, including thousands of Iowans,” added Loebsack. “Like all businesses, the wind energy sector needs stability and predictability so long term investments and business decisions can be made. The continued expiration of the PTC causes slow-downs at manufacturing facilities and could lead to additional lay-offs. For our nation to move towards energy independence and continued job growth, we need to prioritize clean energy like wind and act immediately to pass this extension of the PTC.”

Report: Solar Costs Continue to Decline

According to a new study from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the average cost of going solar in the U.S. is continuing to decline. The findings were applauded by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Vote Solar.

“In just a few years, American ingenuity and smart policy have made solar a true success story. These price declines mean that solar power is now an affordable option for families, Tracking the Sun VIIschools, businesses and utilities alike,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar. “The result is that solar and its many grid, economic and environmental benefits are shining in communities across the country.”

The seventh edition of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Tracking the Sun, an annual report on solar photovoltaic (PV) costs in the U.S., examined more than 300,000 PV systems installed between 1998 and 2013 and preliminary data from the first half of 2014.

“This report highlights yet another reason why solar energy has become such a remarkable American success story. Today, solar provides 143,000 good-paying jobs nationwide, pumps nearly $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy and is helping to significantly reduce pollution,” said SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch. “There are now more than half a million American homes, businesses and schools with installed solar, and this is good news for freedom of energy choice as well as for our environment.”

Key findings include:

  • Installed prices continued their significant decline in 2013, falling year-over-year by 12 to 15 percent depending on system size.
  • Data for systems installed in a number of the largest state markets – Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York – during the first six months of 2014 found that the median installed price of systems installed in the first half of 2014 fell by an additional 5-12 percent, depending on system size, over 2013.
    Solar installed costs declined even as PV module pricing remained relatively steady, indicating success in efforts targeting non-module soft costs – which include marketing and customer acquisition, system design, installation labor, and the various costs associated with permitting and inspections.
  • Cash incentives provided through state and utility PV incentive programs (i.e., rebates and performance-based incentives) have fallen by 85 to 95 percent since their peak a decade ago.

The National Lab notes that these findings mark the fourth consecutive year of major cost reductions for the U.S. solar industry. Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the United States, employing 143,000 Americans, pumping $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy and helping to reduce pollution.

Administration Offers New Renewable Initiatives

usda-logoAs USDA announced the investment $68 million in 540 new renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide today, the White House offered new administrative actions to advance solar deployment and promote energy efficiency.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made the USDA announcement while in North Carolina to highlight USDA’s investments in rural renewable energy projects being funded through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Vilsack visited Progress Solar in Bunn, N.C., which received a $3.4 million REAP loan guarantee in 2012 for installation of a solar array.

At the same time, President Obama announced new executive actions to further advance the development of solar technologies across the country which includes commitments from a broad coalition of 50 public and private sector partners, including leading industry, community development organizations and housing providers in 28 states. “USDA is proud to play a key role in Obama Administration’s efforts to promote the use of solar technologies,” Vilsack said. “Of the REAP projects funded today, 240 projects are for solar investments of $5.2 million in grants and $55.3 million in loans.”

In North Carolina alone, Vilsack announced $55.3 million in new REAP program loan guarantees and grants for 22 solar energy projects. For example, USDA is awarding a $3 million loan guarantee to Broadway Solar Center, LLC to help finance a 5 megawatt solar array in Columbus County, a $4.9 million loan guarantee for a similar project in Hertford County and a $2.1 million guarantee for a project in Warren County.