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.”

Sullivan Solar Shines with Technology

Sullivan Solar was one of the test partners for Google Glass and the first solar company to test the technology and its possible applications for the industry. From there, the company developed business app using the Intuit QuickBase platfrom. Now they are demonstrating their latest technology based in the cloud. Michael Chagala, director of information technology for Sullivan Power, presented their solution during the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

“Today our QuickBase build is used by all departments. At the moment a sales lead comes into the system, it’s wrapped in a workflow,” said Chagala, “It’s assigned to the right person, tasks are created, milestones set triggers, and it progresses from one department to the next. What we didn’t realize until recently is just how agile this has made us. It’s common for me to make a change to someone’s workflow in real-time as they’re on the phone describing the problem to me.”

Michael Chagala Sullivan SolarChagala discussed ways the solar industry can utilize software and technology to build out their own company database workspace to increase efficiency and streamline processes within their company. The company utilized Sympo an official QuickBase Solution Provider, to assist with the heavy lifting of the company’s development of its business software program.

“In order to keep up with all of this new opportunity, solar companies need to have clear business processes and workflows in place for their entire customer lifecycle,” explained Emi Gwin, President at Sympo. “Working together, Sympo and Sullivan Solar Power have created a powerful operating system for the entire business on QuickBase, resulting in saved time, increased revenue and lightning fast growth.”

Sullivan Solar Power selected Intuit’s QuickBase platform to compliment the company’s intensive quality assurance and quality control processes that have built its rankings as an industry-leader. The ease of use and freedom to build out the program based on the company’s needs has provided the company the ability for 105 employees to work simultaneously on hundreds of projects, ranging from lead management to data analysis and accounting.

Sullivan Solar Power’s next project for business development applications are to incorporate the next iteration of its Google Glass app, “Our next version of the app will push and pull data from QuickBase using the QuickBase API,” added Chagala.

EIA Looks At Solar Tracking Variability

A recent Today in Energy published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), takes a look at the variability of solar energy output. Pointing out that while many companies have improved on the technologies (such as tilt) and know-how of installing solar panels to capture the most sun per day, output peaks around noon when the sun is at its highest. This can be a challenge as peak energy use often climaxes in late afternoon or early evening.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 11.27.23 AMDuring this time of day, west-facing PV panels have an advantage over south-facing panels, as they’re tilted towards the setting sun. EIA notes that higher PV output at this time of day is often beneficial to grid operators working to increase electric supply to balance high levels of demand, but customers generally will not see this benefit unless they are on time-of-use electric rates. For example, under net-metering arrangements, the financial benefit of these PV systems is based on the quantity of kilowatthours generated, regardless of the time of day.

While the EIA finds pros and cons of tilting solar panels, another option to best capture maximum sunlight is through tracking systems. Single-axis tracking systems are installed on tilted arrays, but they differ in that the tractors rotate the panels to follow the sun as it moves east to west, improving output in the early and late hours of daylight. Dual-axis tracking systems do this, too, while also modifying the tilt angle as the sun is lower or higher in the sky.

Looking at California as an example, tracking systems are less used. Thirty percent of the current solar capacity in the state was installed using single-axis tracking systems and only 4 percent use either dual-axis or a mix of tracking and fixed mounts. Ultimately, there will be a need for more systems to adopt this technology to maximum energy output.

ICF Int’l Assesses True Value of Solar

ICF Intl True Value of Solar White PaperICF International recently released a white paper that aims to better create a methodology for assessing the true value of solar. Authored by Steven Fine, Ankit Saraf, Kiran Kumaraswany and Alex Anich, the paper looks at the current state of value of solar (VOS) analysis and proposes what they believe to be a more holistic approach – one that can be uniformly applied across various utility service areas.

The report offers several methodological approaches on potential VOS components including energy, avoided/deferred generation capacity, avoided transmission and distribution losses and capacity, grid support services, environmental costs and benefits and security.

After review and consideration of various methodologies, the authors lay out a roadmap for achieving a better consensus VOS and suggest their new VOS calculation could be an input in calculating the retail credit net energy metering (NEM) subsidy under a Value of Solar Tariff (VOST). They also believe the new calculation could be used to guide largeer investment and market decisions for utilities, regulators and the broader solar industry.

Click here to read the free white paper.

SolarReserve Flips the Switch on South African Solar Project

Jasper Solar Power ProjectSolarReserve has flipped the switch on what they call the largest solar project in South Africa. The 96 MW Jasper solar power project completed construction two months early and is producing at full capacity. The solar farm is located in South Africa’s Northern Cape in a solar park that also includes the 75 MW Lesedi solar power project which came online in May, and the proposed 100 MW Redstone concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) plant featuring SolarReserve’s CSP technology with integrated energy storage.

As part of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP), the project will set aside a percentage of total project revenues for Enterprise Development and Socio-Economic Development for the benefit of the local communities.

“In addition to helping South Africa meet its critical electricity needs, the Jasper Project will bring long lasting economic benefits to the region,” said SolarReserve’s CEO Kevin Smith. “We look forward to continuing this positive momentum and bringing value to South Africa through collaboration on further projects, including our upcoming CSP projects that will provide South Africa with clean, reliable and non-intermittent electricity, day and night.”

With over 325,000 PV modules, the Jasper Project will deliver 180,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity annually for South Africa residents – enough to power up to 80,000 households through a 20-year power purchase agreement with Eskom, the South African power utility company. Selected by the South Africa Department of Energy (DOE) in the second round of bids under the REIPPPP, the project also marked Google’s first renewable energy investment in Africa.

U.S. Renewable Energy Industry Ready to Step Up

A new goal was announced during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing this week to double renewable energy in the 21 member economies by 2030. The renewable energy industry collectively came out and said they are ready to do their part. This new goal was a follow-up to last year’s commitment to encourage technology transfer and efforts to lower costs and attract private investment to the renewable energy industry.

“We appreciate the leadership that President Obama and the rest of these world leaders are showing on the critical task of rapidly scaling up low-carbon energy sources,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “Here in America, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Vision for the growth of our industry, we can quadruple wind power by 2030 and save consumers money doing it, if policymakers keep supporting state renewable standards and federal tax incentives to attract the necessary private investment.”

Linda Church Ciocci, executive director, National Hydropower Association said on behalf of the hydro electric industry, “Hydropower is poised for growth and ready to meet America’s renewable energy goals. From powering the 97 percent of the nation’s dams that remain unpowered to upgrading our existing facilities, opportunities exist to double hydropower’s contribution to the electricity grid, while strengthening our economy and providing more Americans access to clean, low-cost electricity.”

“GEA applauds the APEC goal of doubling renewable power,” added Karl Gawell, executive director, Geothermal Energy Association. “New geothermal power development underway in the U.S. and nearly all of the APEC countries will provide more than electricity, building thousands of megawatts of new geothermal power will spur economic growth, create new jobs and ensure environmental health for future generations.”

The highlight of the summit was a surprise negotiated emissions deal between the U.S. and China to curb climate change. The deal includes new targets for the U.S. and China to stop emission growth by 2030 and to create momentum around climate talks leading into the global climate conference taking place in Paris in 2015. Continue reading

UC Riverside Opens New Solar Farm

UC Riverside has opened a new solar farm that will produce up to 6.6 million megawatt hours of electricity each year making it the largest solar array in the University of California system. The project supports the system-wide initiative to have each campus produce up to 10 MW of onsite renewable power by 2014.

UCR signed a 20-year power purchase agreement that allowed the SunPower Corporation to construct, operate and maintain the facility, with the university purchasing the power. UCR spent $350,000 on site clearing and preparation, as well as uc riverside solar farminterconnections costs with the existing substation. The projected savings to the university is $4.3 million over the length of the contract. UCR will also receive carbon and LEED credits that provide additional financial and environmental savings.

The solar farm went online as scheduled on Friday, Sept. 19, 2104. It has 7,440 panels across the 11-acre site using GPS tracking to slowly follow the sun across the sky. The massive sea of shiny panels is visible from Highway 60 as thousands of cars pass the campus.

“This is a big step forward, and we plan to do more,” said John Cook, director of the UCR’s Office of Sustainability. “On a hot and sunny day we will be producing nearly a third of UCR’s total energy needs with this system. But over the course of the year, with variable weather, it will amount to 3 percent of our total energy needs.” He added that Riverside’s typical sunny climate will make UCR an especially efficient place to invest in solar technology.

Biodiesel, Solar Turn Cheese Guy’s Truck Green

cheese_truck1A food truck entrepreneur known for his cheese is turning his vehicle – not his cheese – green using biodiesel and solar power. This news release posted on EIN News says Oklahoma-based Wil Braggs, aka “The Cheese Guy,” has started a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help him buy a brand new gourmet green energy food truck called the Mean Green Purple Machine.

This truck is intended to be powered by solar generated energy. Sunlight is free obviously and solar power is an effective, simple and often overlooked energy choice. The Cheese Guy is committed to implementing solar inverter technology in order to charge batteries with sunlight. A new food truck would enable The Cheese Guy to utilize solar power for the brand new Mean green purple machine. Another form of alternative energy is biodiesel which is formed from vegetable oil. Biodiesel is quieter than traditional fuel and only has organic emissions. The Cheese Guy intends to use biodiesel from recycled plant oil to run their engine and also their generator. This would be the first true biodiesel powered food truck. It is this groundbreaking innovation that has the ability to change the thinking of food truck owners everywhere.

Another alternative fuel addition The Cheese Guy wants to make is replacing propane with natural gas.

You can visit his Kickstarter campaign here.

Clarkson University Campus Goes Solar

Clarkson University, located in Potsdam, New York, has nearly completed its 12 acre solar farm that will generate nearly 10 percent of the University’s electricity. Community Solar Energy is the project partner and the company designed the 2 MW solar array. Community Energy will own and operate the solar photovoltaic (P)V array. Clarkson will be the sole beneficiary of the power, which it will buy from Community Energy at approximately the same price it is buying power for right now. Support for this project came from New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative.

Clarkson University solar array“We are doing this to be green, because we are committed to sustainability, and to showcase this state-of-the-art technology,” said Clarkson’s chief financial officer, James D. Fish. “Our students will benefit greatly from this project, as the array will serve as a living laboratory, where they can study real-world solar energy generation.”

In April, Clarkson became a signatory of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, agreeing to eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions from specified campus operations and to promote the research and educational efforts of higher education to better equip society to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.

The 7,704 modules of the array will generate approximately 2.8 million kilowatt hours per year. The solar farm is located on Route 11 adjacent to the Potsdam airport, Damon Field and Clarkson and Community Energy worked closely with the Village of Potsdam and the FAA to ensure the solar array did not affect airport operations.

“We have partnered with some 50 colleges and universities over the last decade to supply them with wind and solar energy,” said Community Energy Solar Vice President of Development Operations Thomas J. Tuffey. “Clarkson is now in the point position with on-site generation of solar power at a meaningful scale to both meet the challenge of climate change and educate tomorrow’s leaders. We have had a great experience partnering with Clarkson to develop and build this project and are happy to have it in our portfolio of over 1000 megawatts (MW) of developed renewable energy.”

Activation of the solar array is planned for this November.

DOE Annouced $15M to Integrate Solar on Grid

The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $15 million in funding to help integrate distributed, on-site solar systems into the electric grid. During the last 18 months, more solar has been installed than the 30 years prior, and since President Obama took office, the amount of solar installed has increased more than thirteen-fold from 1.2 GW i 2008 to nearly 15.5 GW today.

US DOE Energy logoWith more solar energy coming online, there is a great need to address the challenges of solar energy including variability of sun. This can be overcome with better grid integration technology.

According to DOE, the funding opportunity is aim at projects that enable low-cost, flexible and reliable solutions that successfully integrate solar PV power plants and energy storage. The funded technologies will tackle the challenge of creating cost-effective and reliable distributed PV and energy storage solutions to help overcome the challenges associated with increased amounts of renewables. Eligible projects include solutions that will help revolutionize distributed PV and energy storage through:

  • Advanced operation in conjunction with smart loads and demand response,
  • Incorporation of solar and load forecasting,
  • Innovative uses of smart components and functionalities, and
  • Easily interoperable hardware, software and firmware technologies.

This funding builds on SunShot’s work to drive innovations in systems integration technologies that support the deployment of solar energy and the reliability and efficiency of electricity generation, delivery, and use. Click here to find more information about this funding opportunity, including application requirements.

U.S. Bank & Microgrid Solar Aid Nonprofits

More than 50 nonprofits in and around St. Louis, Missouri now have access to renewable energy due to the help of U.S. Bank and Microgrid Solar. The two companies (U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation- USBCDC is the actual funder) are financing the installation and operation of up to 120 solar PV U.S. Bank and Microgrid Solar nonprofit solar installationprojects to benefit 56 nonprofit organizations. Each 25 kilowatt solar installation will produce approximately 30,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to save these nonprofits tens of thousands of dollars in reduced utility bills according to Microgrid Solar.

“This project totals 3 megawatts (MW) of solar power capacity that is being installed at some of the most well-known nonprofit organizations and schools in the St. Louis area,” said Rick Hunter, CEO of Microgrid Solar. “We think this will have a major impact, not only for the organizations, but for improving awareness and education around solar in the St. Louis area generally. This is a unique financing program that is really a first nationally, and which essentially provides solar to a nonprofit organization at zero budgetary cost.”

USBCDC works with solar system installation firms around the nation to help businesses and homeowners add PV systems to their offices and homes, saving utility costs and reducing pollution and U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum. “Reliable solar is a great investment for businesses, communities, and financiers alike,” said Dan Siegel, vice president of USBCDC. “We’re proud to leverage our renewable energy expertise and support to create opportunities for sustainability in St. Louis.”

Last year, USBCDC also partnered with Microgrid to install solar on several of its U.S. Bank branches.

OnForce Solar Completes Solar Landfill Project

OnForce Solar has completed what the company says is the first of its kind solar landfill project in the state of New York. The 2.364 MW solar array was built on 13 acres of decommissioned, capped landfill in West Nyack for the Town of Clarkstown. The solar farm will generate 2,800,000 kilowatt hours of clean energy per year and is expected to save taxpayers as much as $4M over the lifetime of the system according to OnForce Solar.

OnforceSolar.ClarkstownClarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack said of the project, “We are very proud to be the first municipality in New York to install a solar field on a capped landfill. Councilman Hoehmann, who first proposed this idea in 2009, town officials, our consultants H2M architects + engineers, and I have been working on this project for several years and we are excited to see it finally come to fruition.”

The project is owned in full by OnForce Solar. The company invested $6M to install, operate, and maintain the solar installation pursuant to a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Additionally, the town was reimbursed $100,000 by OnForce Solar to cover any out-of-pocket expenses making the project ultimately cost-free for the Clarkstown. The solar system installation was made possible, in part, through support that the Town of Clarkstown received from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) through Governor Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative.

The solar system integrates Orange and Rockland Utilities’ supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) monitoring system that allows the utility to remotely monitor and control the solar system. The SCADA monitoring system, part of the the utility industry’s Smart Grid Pilot Program, adds an enhanced level of resiliency to Orange and Rockland Utilities’ grid, helping to protect the utility’s customers from catastrophic power outages according to OnForce Solar.

“We are very excited to commission the very first PV on landfill project in the state of New York,” added Charles Feit, CEO of OnForce Solar. “Our gratitude goes out to Governor Cuomo, NYSERDA, The Town of Clarkstown and the other stakeholders that came together to make this project a reality. OnForce Solar is honored to have been an integral part of the process and we’re working on many more projects like this one across the state.”

Veterans Asset Offering Vets Online Solar Education

gI_93607_TVA on Roof_SmilesThe Veteran Asset (TVA) is now offering solar PV scholarships for U.S. military veterans through its new 32-hour online training program. The training program is being offered in conjunction with Ambassador Energy Solar College, an Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) accredited training program.

The organization has been providing free solar PV training for vets since May 2014 via a traditional “brick and motar” option at their Ambassador Energy’s training facility in Murrieta, California. The entry level Solar PV Design and Installation is a five-day course with an exam following the completion of the courses. This course is now offered online.

The program is also customized to allow renewable energy company’s to leverage TVA’s specialized vetting process and their program, to help companies hire veteran graduates. Courses can be co-branded to the company, its technologies and geographies it serves.

Kelly Smith, TVA vice president said of the new online program, “The online option not only provides TVA data for determining the next locations for our ‘Brick and Mortar’ training centers but it is also a scalable way for us to cast a wide net, helping us reach as many veterans as possible during this solar ‘gold rush’. We are using technology to help bridge the gap between the desirable supply of a trained veteran workforce and the growing demand from the renewable energy industry. TVA’s entire mission is getting these great folks to work.”