W. Virginia Gov – Don’t Put Solar in the Dark

Solar supporters from across the country are calling on West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to veto House Bill 2201 – a bill that could jeopardize the future of rooftop solar in the state by rewriting net metering policies.

Solar advocates from Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed (TUSK) claim that utilities, such as American Electomblinheadshottric Power (AEP) and FirstEnergy, are deceiving legislators about the language in HB 2201. Should the Gov sign the bill, TUSK said he would “saddle” hundreds of West Virginia families, churches and businesses, that have invested private funds in rooftop solar with new fees. This is happening, said TUSK, at the same time as two utilities – Mon Power and Potomac Edison – are raising rates.

“The utilities are fighting tooth and nail to eliminate competition while also raising rates for their customers,” said Barry Goldwater Jr., spokesperson for TUSK. “When will it be enough? These monopolies are hurting consumers and West Virginia’s economy by increasing rates and pushing new fees through HB 2201.”

TUSK logoThe net metering fight has been underway for some time and TUSK said that to date, hundreds of consumers have written to their legislators in support of rooftop solar.  TUSK said this particular “attack” uses deceptive language in HB 2201 to impose punitive fees – retroactively and going forward – on West Virginians. The organizations said thousands of West Virginia voters continue to stand strong for choice and competition in the energy market and continue to flood the Governor’s office with letters asking him to preserve net metering and energy choice..

“SEIA doesn’t object to investigating the costs and benefits of net energy metering, but we do object to the assumption that any potential cost shift from a net metering customer to other customers is unjustified,” adds Rhone Resch, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) president and CEO, who notes that the legislation needs to be revised before becoming law. Continue reading

Sungevity Launches Solar Program in NC

Sungevity has launched a new solution for homeowners to own their own rooftop solar systems in North Carolina. Whereas in other states solar leasing is an option, North Carolina law requires homeowners to own the source of renewable energy on their property.

In an effort to equip North Carolina residents with the ease and affordability of the Sungevity solar experience, the company has partnered with solar energy investment platform Mosaic to create a loan product specifically designed for state residents. The 20-year loan is structured to help residents take advantage of both the 35 percent state income tax credit and the 30 percent federal renewable tax credit for solar customers. The entire process is facilitated via Sungevity’s online platform, where North Carolina homeowners can access estimated energy savings specific to their homes via the company’s proprietary iQuote technology.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 1.36.28 PM“Sungevity has always focused on making the solar experience simple and satisfying for our customers. That’s why we crafted a solution that allows North Carolina homeowners to experience the benefits of solar without the hassle or a high upfront payment,” said Andrew Birch, Sungevity’s chief executive officer. “Sungevity is proud to serve North Carolina as we continue to expand across the country to give more people a better choice in how they power their homes.”

According to Sungevity, its entry into the state also extends the company’s long-time partnership with North Carolina-based Lowe’s — where Sungevity solar solutions will be available to residents throughout Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Sungevity is also partnering with Sierra Club and CREDO in North Carolina, and for every installation purchased through these partners, Sungevity will also provide $750 to the respective organization as part of Sungevity.org, the company’s cause marketing initiative.

Sun Edison & GRID Alternatives “RISE”

SunEdison and its SunEdison Foundation has announced a $5 million solar/funding contribution to GRID Alternatives to launch a two-year initiative called RISE to connect the solar industry’s demand for skilled workers with communities that need jobs. Building on the successful 2014 SunEdison and GRID Alternatives partnership to bring more women into the solar industry, the RISE initiative will provide underserved communities with solar job training and job placement through GRID Alternatives’ workforce development program.

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives announce major solar workforce initiative called RISE. SunEdison and the SunEdison Foundation contribute $5 million to train women and members of underserved communities for jobs in the solar industry. (PRNewsFoto/SunEdison, Inc.)

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives announce major solar workforce initiative called RISE. SunEdison and the SunEdison Foundation contribute $5 million to train women and members of underserved communities for jobs in the solar industry. (PRNewsFoto/SunEdison, Inc.)

This partnership is making solar more accessible for everyone in America. For lower income families, that means lower electricity bills, more money for necessities, and the opportunity to receive valuable job training,” said Ahmad Chatila, president and chief executive officer of SunEdison. “I’m very proud that with this contribution, SunEdison is truly helping the people who need it most.”

The RISE initiative will provide hands-on training and real-world solar installation experience to over 4,000 people across the country. In addition, the initiative will connect job trainees with solar companies looking for skilled workers. As part of the initiative, GRID Alternatives through its SolarCorps program will provide 40 individuals with one-year paid fellowships in GRID Alternatives’ offices around the country. In addition, SunEdison employees will donate over 2,000 hours of their time installing solar systems for low-income families and supporting job-readiness for trainees.

“The solar industry is adding jobs at a rate of more than 20% year over year,” added Erica Mackie, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of GRID Alternatives. “This is an incredible opportunity to connect an industry that needs good people with people that need good jobs, and that’s just what this partnership is doing.”

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives will also be working with the White House to help President Obama meet his goal of installing 100 megawatts of solar capacity on federally assisted housing in a way that provides job training opportunities to the residents of those communities.

NREL: Biodiesel Leads Biofuels Growth in US

renewenergydatabookThe latest numbers from the federal government shows biodiesel was the leader in growth among biofuels in the United States. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book showed good gains for many of the renewable energy industries, while energy consumption from petroleum actually slumped, despite an overall increase in the amount of energy consumed.

United States overall energy consumption grew to 97.3 quadrillion Btu in 2013, a 2.4% increase from 2012. Energy consumption from coal and renewables grew slightly, while consumption from petroleum and natural gas fell slightly.

Biodiesel was the fastest growing biofuel type, with production increasing by 64% in the United States and 17% globally, from a relatively small base.

Renewable electricity [including hydropower and biopower] grew to nearly 15% of total installed capacity and 13% of total electricity generation in the United States in 2013. Installed renewable electricity capacity exceeded 171 gigawatts (GW) in 2013, generating 534 TWh.

[S]olar electricity was the fastest growing electricity generation technology, with cumulative installed capacity increasing by nearly 66% from the previous year.

[W]ind electricity generation increased 20% in 2013, while wind electricity capacity grew 1.8%.

The report also found that in 2013, renewable electricity accounted for more than 61 percent of all new electricity capacity installations in the United States. By comparison, renewable electricity captured 4 percent of new capacity additions in 2004 and 57 percent in 2008.

Globally, solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) are among the fastest growing renewable electricity technologies— between 2000 and 2013, solar electricity generation worldwide increased by a factor of nearly 68.

First Solar, Apple Strike Bright Power Deal

A bright power deal was struck this week when Apple committed $848 million to purchase clean energy from First Solar’s California Flats Solar Project in Monterey County, Calif. Apple will receive electricity from 130 MW AC of the solar project under a 25-year power First Solar logopurchase agreement (PPA), the largest agreement in the industry to provide clean energy to a commercial end user according to First Solar.

“Apple is leading the way in addressing climate change by showing how large companies can serve their operations with 100 percent clean, renewable energy,” said Joe Kishkill, chief commercial officer for First Solar. “Apple’s commitment was instrumental in making this project possible and will significantly increase the supply of solar power in California. Over time, the renewable energy from California Flats will provide cost savings over alternative sources of energy as well as substantially lower environmental impact.”

Construction of the 2,900-acre California Flats Solar Project is expected to begin in mid-2015 and to be completed by the end of 2016. The output of the remaining 150 MW of the project will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric under a separate long-term PPA, and the project is fully subscribed between the Apple and PG&E PPAs.

EIA: Ethanol, Biodiesel, Renewables to Grow in 2015

The latest government numbers show the amount of ethanol and biodiesel, as well as energy produced from wind and solar will increase in 2015. The latest Short-Term Energy Outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows growth for the biofuels, while total renewables used for electricity and heat generation will grow by 3.8 percent this year.
EIA11feb2015
Ethanol production averaged 933,000 bbl/d in 2014, and EIA expects it to average 938,000 bbl/d in 2015 and 936,000 bbl/d in 2016. Biodiesel production averaged an estimated 80,000 bbl/d in 2014 and is forecast to average 84,000 bbl/d in both 2015 and 2016.

In 2013, the electricity generation shares were 6.6% and 6.2% from hydropower and nonhydropower renewables, respectively. Wind is the largest source of nonhydropower renewable generation, and it is projected to contribute 5.2% of total electricity generation in 2016. Wind capacity, which grew by 7.7% in 2014, is forecast to increase by 16.1% in 2015 and by another 6.5% in 2016. Because wind is starting from a much larger base than solar, even though the growth rate is lower, the absolute amount of the increase in capacity is more than twice that of solar: 15 GW of wind versus 6 GW of utility-scale solar between 2014 and 2016.

EIA expects continued growth in utility-scale solar power generation, which is projected to average almost 80 gigawatthours (GWh) per day in 2016. Despite this growth, solar power averages only 0.7% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2016.

DOE Commits $13M in Community Solar Funds

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has allocated $13 million in funding as part of the Solar Powering America by Recognizing Communities (SPARC) program. The funds are designed to aid communities in reducing market and policy barriers to solar deployment and also recognize communities for taking solar initiatives. The DOE believes the program will make it faster, cheaper and easier for Americans to install affordable solar energy systems and spur solar development.

SPARC funding will establish a national recognition and technical assistance program for local governments to help them more effectively and efficiently deploy solar energy. Funding recipients will establish and administer a national recognition program and also SPARC iconprovide technical assistance and share best practices with communities seeking national recognition for cutting red tape and improving local solar market conditions.

Once the program is established, says DOE, communities that participate in SPARC will gain access to a network of nationally recognized leaders and receive expert assistance and national distinction while supporting local efforts to spur solar market growth and deploy solar energy faster and cheaper. Find more information about this funding opportunity, including application requirements.

This funding opportunity builds on the work of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative to support innovative, locally-driven solutions for cutting the “soft costs” of solar energy—often caused by delays in permitting, inspection, and interconnection—to build markets that support solar businesses, lower costs for consumers, and increase solar deployment. This announcement comes on the heels of DOE’s $59 million funding announcement to support solar energy acceleration and $14 million commitment to help communities develop multi-year solar deployment plans to install solar electricity in homes, businesses, and communities.

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm Commissioned

The 550 MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, located in Desert Center, Riverside County, California has been commissioned. On hand for the “flipping of the switch” was U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell along with nearly 150 federal, state and local officials, and energy industry leaders. Project owners include NextEra Energy Resources, GE Energy Financial Services and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas.

Secretary Sally Jewell“Solar projects like Desert Sunlight are helping create American jobs, develop domestic renewable energy and cut carbon pollution,” said Secretary Jewell. “I applaud the project proponents for their vision and entrepreneurial spirit to build this solar project, and commend Governor Brown for implementing policies that take action on climate change and help move our nation toward a renewable energy future.”

The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is located on approximately 3,600 acres of land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Riverside County, and is capable of generating enough clean energy to power about 160,000 California homes. First Solar permitted, constructed and is now operating the plant, which uses over 8 million First Solar modules. The power generated is being provided to Pacific Gas & Electric Company and Southern California Edison both under long-term contracts.

“We wouldn’t be here today without the hard work and cooperation of all our partners,” added Armando Pimentel, president and chief executive officer of NextEra Energy Resources, the managing owner of the plant. “We are proud that Desert Sunlight will help California meet its renewable energy goals and has helped bring much needed jobs and economic benefits to families and businesses throughout Riverside County.”

Solar Farm Commissioned In East Malaysia

One of East Malaysia’s first solar power plants has been commissioned. The 1 MW solar farm in located in the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. The project was developed by Cahaya Metro Sdn. Bhd. (Cahaya Metro), a solar energy company in East Malaysia.

Yingli Solar logo“We are pleased to have selected Yingli as our panel supplier for Sabah’s first solar power plant with interconnection facilities and license to export power and we believe that Yingli is undoubtedly our best solar panel provider,” Sean Tay, project director of Cahaya Metro. “We selected Yingli because their track record for product quality is validated by independent testing and assessments – and that gave us the strong assurance in Yingli Solar panels’ long-term reliability.”

The solar farm spans an area of approximately four acres in in Kg. Nyaris Nyaris, Bongawan, Sabah, Malaysia. It utilizes nearly 4,000 multicrystalline YGE 60 Cell Series panels that are estimated to generate approximately 1.5 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean electricity per year. The opening ceremony of the project was officiated by Y.B Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Maximus Johnity Ongkili of the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water of Malaysia.

Angie Koh, managing director of Yingli Singapore, added, “We are witnessing sustainable growth on the island of Borneo, particularly in Sabah where there are plans to make PV a pillar of the state’s energy mix. We anticipate continued solar power plant development across the region.”

DOE Announces $59M for Solar Support

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced more than $59 million in funding to support solar energy acceleration. DOE is allocating $45 million in funding to quickly move US DOE logoinnovative solar manufacturing technologies to market, and is also awarding more than $14 million for 15 new projects to help communities develop multi-year solar deployment plans to install solar electricity in homes, businesses, and communities.

“As President Obama noted in his State of the Union address, the U.S. brings as much solar power online every three weeks as we did in all of 2008,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “As the price of solar continues to drop, the Energy Department is committed to supporting a robust domestic solar manufacturing sector that will help American business meet growing demand and help American families and businesses save money by making solar a cheaper and more accessible source of clean electricity.”

The $45 million Technology to Market funding opportunity is part of the DOE’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, aimed at boosting American competitiveness and supporting a strong domestic, clean energy manufacturing sector. This funding opportunity combines three historically separate SunShot Initiative funding programs—Incubator, Solar Manufacturing Technology, and Scaling Up Nascent PV at Home— into one that will support projects with the potential to significantly reduce the costs for solar energy systems across a variety of technology areas.

The 15 Solar Market Pathways projects pursue various approaches to developing actionable solar deployment plans and strategies to promote deployment at residential, community, and commercial scales—from expanding shared or community solar programs and local financing mechanisms to integrating solar energy generation into communities’ emergency response plans. The awardees include not-for-profits, utilities, industry associations, universities, and state and local jurisdictions in California, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

SEIA Solar Stats“We applaud President Obama and Secretary Moniz for their continued commitment to increasing the use of clean, reliable solar energy. Investing in new ways to quickly move innovative solar manufacturing technologies to market will only help build on the nearly 175,000 American jobs in solar today, and investing in cutting ‘soft costs,’ such as permitting and financing, will also help make the solar industry – coming off yet another record year – even stronger,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Resch notes that today the U.S. has an estimated 20 GW of installed solar capacity with another 20 GW in the pipeline for 2015 and 2016. “This tremendous growth is due, in large part, to smart, effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for both the economy and environment,” Resch concluded.

GreenLight Planet Lights Up Developing World

Greenlight Planet has raised $10 million in financing with the aid of Fidelity Growth Partners India and with the money the company has been able to provide solar energy products for off-grid homes in the developing world, in particular Sub-Saharan Africa and India. The company sells rooftop solar lighting and phone charging devices. GreenLight Planet says the devices will generate 55 million kilowatt-hours of energy, offset 1.5 million tons of CO2 and save their users over $340 million in fuel costs over their lifetime.

Greenlight Planet solar product“As a result of this financing, we’re building the world’s largest rooftop solar consumer base in the developing world, and we’re investing especially to expand distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Anish Thakkar, Greenlight Planet CEO and co-founder.

According to reports published by the International Finance Coporation (IFC), over 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa live off the electric grid, spending $11 billion annually on kerosene, batteries and candles for light. GreenLight Planet expects to reach 100 million off-grid households by 2020.

“We see tremendous potential to provide affordable solar energy solutions for consumers in the developing world,” explained Kabir Narang, Managing Director of Fidelity Growth Partners India. “Greenlight Planet has established itself as a product leader with a strong brand in the fast-growing off-grid energy segment. We are excited to partner with Greenlight Planet and its exceptional management team as the company embarks on its next phase of growth.”  Following the closing of the financing, Kabir Narang has joined Greenlight Planet’s Board of Directors.

RMI Launches Business Renewables Center

The Business Renewables Center (BRC) has been launched with more than 25 founding members, including major corporations, renewables project developers and transaction service providers, by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). The BRC is a collaborative platform designed to accelerate renewable energy procurement. The Center’s goal is to add another 60 GW of wind and solar by 2025, which will nearly double installed U.S. capacity.

Rocky Mountain Institute logoNearly two-thirds of Fortune 100 and nearly half of Fortune 500 companies have commitments to shift to renewables. However, most have not taken action due to the high transaction cost and complexity of large-scale renewables transactions. The BRC will remove the main obstacles preventing corporations from building renewables into their energy profiles.

“Corporations can be a powerful lever for expanding renewable energy in the United States and beyond. They can lock in long-term affordable prices for clean energy that supports the bottom line, reduce their carbon footprint, and fulfill their corporate sustainability commitments,” said RMI Managing Director Hervé Touati.

The BRC founding transaction service providers include Altenex, Climate Friendly, Customer First Renewables, Origin Climate, Renewable Choice Energy, Renewable Power Direct and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. The BRC founding project developers include Apex Clean Energy, E.ON-Climate and Renewables North America, FirstSolar, Invenergy, NextEra Energy Resources, NRG Energy, OneEnergy Renewables, OwnEnergy and SunEdison.

Quayle Hodek, CEO of Renewable Choice Energy a founding member, noted, “The next decade will be a watershed for U.S. renewables. The establishment of the BRC is a testament to explosive industry growth and to the increasing appetite of corporations for easily adoptable, clean power solutions. Through collaborative efforts, the BRC is an exciting resource for everyone in the industry and for our clients.”

Gigawatt Global Grid Connects Solar Project

The Rwanda field, a $23.7 million, 8,5 MW solar energy plant has been connected to the power grid. Developed by Gigawatt Global, this is the first utility-scale project to reach financial close and come online under the Africa Clean Energy Finance (ACEF) program that is part of the Power Africa Initiative. The Rwanda field – constructed in the shape of the African continent – brought together an international consortium of financing partners.

Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. James Musoni, and the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), John Morton, led a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) near where the solar plant is located.

“Top quality developers like Gigawatt Global are the keys to success for President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, president and CEO of OPIC. “After OPIC provided critical early-stage support through the ACEF program, Gigawatt smoothly and swiftly brought the project online to give Rwanda enough grid-connected power to supply 15,000 homes. Gigawatt Global in Rwanda is a clear demonstration that solar will be a key part of Africa’s energy solution.” The project was completed in one year.

Rwanda Gigawatt Project Drone  Gigawatt Project Rwanda DroneChaim Motzen, Gigawatt Global Co-Founder and Managing Director, and the main force behind the development of the project, noted, “Our project proves the viability of financing and building large-scale solar fields in sub-Saharan Africa, and we hope that this solar field serves as a catalyst for many more sustainable energy projects in the region. The speed with which this project was completed is a tribute to the strength of the Rwandan government’s institutions and their laser-focus on increasing Rwanda’s generation capacity as well as to the nimbleness of our team and partners which spanned eight countries.”

The Rwandan project is built on land owned by the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, whose mission is to care for Rwanda’s most vulnerable children orphaned before and after the Rwandan genocide. The Village is leasing land to house the solar facility, the fees from which will help pay for a portion of the Village’s charitable expenses. Gigawatt Global will also be providing training on solar power to students of the Liquidnet High School on the grounds of the Youth Village.

“This utility-scale solar field at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is a symbol of hope for sub-Saharan Africa’s tens of millions of orphans and 600 million people without power, ushering in a new era of impact investing that we will hopefully be replicating throughout Africa,” added Yosef Abramowitz, president of Gigawatt Global. “We want to thank President Obama and Secretary Kerry, along with our other financial partners, for the opportunity to celebrate this landmark electricity-generating project under Power Africa.”

Pioneering Solar-Powered H2O Desalination Plant

misc logosAbengoa has been selected by Advanced Water Technology (AWT) to jointly develop a large-scale desalination plant powered by solar energy. The plant will be located in Saudi Arabia and the according to AWT, when complete will the first and largest of its kind in the world. It will produce 60,000 m3 of water each day to supply Al Khafji City in North Eastern Saudi Arabia, ensuring a constant water supply throughout the year.

According to Abengoa, the photovoltaic plant will be capable of supplying the power required by the desalination process, significantly reducing the operational costs. It will also have a system to optimize power consumption and a pre-treatment phase to reduce the high level of salinity and the oils and fats that are present in the region’s seawater.

The Al Khafji desalination plant will ensure the stable supply of drinking water, contributing to the country’s socio-economic development. As in other cities in Saudi Arabia, water is a scarce resource. Abengoa and AWT will supply the local population with water needs in a sustainable and reliable way.

Solar Changing Hawaii’s Electric Future

Hawaii has been getting a lot of attention recently for its efforts to reduce its use of fossil fuel-based energy. The state has the highest electricity costs in the U.S. Most recently, NextEra Energy announced its intent to acquire Hawaiian Electric Industries who owns three electric utilities that supply power to 95 percent of the state’s population. NextEra Energy Resources is one of the largest developers of renewable energy in the U.S. and intends on continuing the trend of adding solar power to its portfolio.

According to a recent “Today in Energy” published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), high electricity prices in Hawaii have made wind and solar technologies economically attractive alternatives – even more so as prices have come down in recent years. This has led to a growing use of wind and solar energy at both utiity scale and in distributed applications such as rooftop solar PV.

EIA’s monthly net metering utility data finds 9,200 net-metered PV systems were added in 2014 through October, bringing the total number of customers with net-metered PV to around 48,000. In Oahu, where most of the state’s population resides, the Solar Electric Power Association finds that roughly 12 percent of customers have rooftop solar compared to only .5 percent average throughout the rest of the U.S. The average capacity of residential net-metered PV systems in Hawaii has also been increasing as larger and more efficient PV systems are installed.

Renewable Watch Oahu - EIA Today in Energy

However, the state has seen delays in adding additional solar to the power grid. EIA attributes the delays to circuits on the Hawaiian Electric distribution grids reaching levels of rooftop PV capacity that are 120 percent or more of the circuit’s daytime minimum load—a key threshold for Hawaiian Electric’s interconnection approval process. Once that threshold is passed, an interconnection study may be required before the new PV system can be approved, which has resulted in a backlog of PV applications.

EIA notes that Hawaiian Electric recently entered a cooperative research partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute, and SolarCity  to study the operational effects of high levels of solar PV on electric grids.Preliminary research results have lead Hawaiian Electric to announce plans to clear its backlog of PV applications by April 2015. Continue reading