Green Power Purchases 20MW Georgia Solar Project

Silicon Ranch Circle Solar FarmGreen Power EMC, the renewable energy supplier for 38 Georgia Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs), has reached an agreement to purchase the full output of a new 20 megawatt (MW) solar project planned for construction in Hazlehurst, Georgia. The solar farm will cover nearly 135 acres, and feature 87,000 ground-mounted solar modules.

Under an agreement with owner-operator Silicon Ranch Corporation, Green Power EMC will receive all the energy produced by the solar project over a 25-year period. Construction is scheduled to begin this year, and the facility will be ready to produce electricity in late 2015.

Jeff Pratt, president of Green Power EMC, said the Hazlehurst project is the result of a request for proposals issued in late 2013 to add more solar energy to Green Power EMC’s portfolio. The company already purchases the output of two solar projects, a 115 kilowatt (kW) rooftop array near Athens, Ga. and a 150 kW ground-mounted array near Warner Robins, Ga. He said the project will nearly double the total renewable capacity of Green Power EMC – from the current 32 MW to about 52 MW.

“This is a major solar power addition, not only to our portfolio but also to the state of Georgia,” said Pratt. “The project moves us further down the road to becoming a much more sustainable state.” According to Pratt, the 20 MW project will produce enough electricity to serve about 3,000 EMC households.

Matt Kisber, president of Silicon Ranch Corporation, who also owns and operates Georgia’s largest solar farm in Social Circle, Georgia, said, “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with Green Power EMC and their members in deploying their first, large-scale solar array. I commend the leadership and membership of Green Power EMC for creating this initiative to provide competitively priced, renewable power solar generation to their Georgia membership.”

SEIA Releases Cutting Carbon Report

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recently released a report, “Cutting Carbon Emissions Under §111(d): The case for expanding solar energy in America”. The report, which was released to coincide with the Clean Power Plan, offers a detailed case as to why states should take advantage of clean solar energy as part of their efforts to comply with §111(d) of the Clean Air Act. This year alone, solar is expected to generate enough electricity to effectively offset 13.8 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

Once the new EPA emission standards are in place, each state will be required to create a compliance plan that must be approved by federal regulators. Failure to do so could result in a more restrictive EPA-mandated plan.

“For many states struggling to reduce their carbon emissions, solar can be a real game changer,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “We have a very simple message to SEIA Cutting Carbon Emissionsstate regulators: Do the math. When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, the 13 GW of solar currently installed in the United States generates enough pollution-free electricity to displace 14.2 billion pounds of coal or 1.5 billion gallons of gasoline. Put another way, it’s the equivalent of taking 2.7 million passenger cars off U.S. highways each year.”

According to the report, which was prepared by SEIA staff in consultation with member companies, solar has already proven to be a key part of many states’ energy mix – as demonstrated on March 8 when solar provided a record 18 percent of California’s 22,700 megawatt (MW) demand.

“Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the United States, employing 143,00 Americans and accounting for nearly 30 percent of all new electric generation capacity installed in 2013 – second only to natural gas,” Resch continued. “All totaled, solar is now generating enough clean, reliable and affordable electricity to effectively power nearly 2.5 million homes. We’re doing our part to help fight climate change, but we can do a lot more in the future – and that’s something we will be stressing to state regulators once the new carbon rules for power plants are announced.”

Resch also noted that solar energy’s rapidly falling prices and rapidly growing generating capacity, as well as the volatility of fossil fuel prices, give solar energy the potential to transform compliance with both new carbon emission requirements and other existing requirements under the Clean Air Act.

The report notes, “Historically, air pollution emission reduction from the electric sector has been achieved primarily through pollution control equipment at power plants. Today, the EPA and states recognize that the reduction of carbon emissions from the electric sector requires a new approach that treats the production and delivery of electric power as a broad system, in which power plant modifications, demand side reductions and renewable energy all contribute to emission reductions.

“Solar contributes to a balanced portfolio of energy resources, and can help achieve an optimal long-term strategy for each state’s economy and environment,” the report continues. “By including solar energy as part of their §111(d) compliance plan, states can cost-effectively meet their Clean Air Act requirements while reaping a wide range of additional benefits.”

Solar to Grab Spotlight in Iowa

Solar power in Iowa will step into the spotlight this weekend as the state hosts a series of workshops today and tomorrow. This story from the Des Moines Register says the events at 10 locations throughout the state start at 10 this morning when state Sen. Robert Hogg hosts an the kick off for “Solar Works For Iowa” at Des Moines Onstage, which recently added a 22.6 kilowatt solar generating facility installed by Green Light Renewable Service and EcoWise Power.

Hogg-RobHogg said recently expanded state solar tax credits will help Iowa homeowners, farmers, and businesses invest in solar power. As of mid-June, solar energy tax credits passed in 2012 had helped a total of 739 solar projects worth $28.8 million in investment, he said. The amount of state tax credits awarded was $3,430,502.

Here is the schedule for other events being held around the state:

> Friday, June 20, 12:30 p.m. – University of Iowa, Madison Street Services Building, 640 South Madison Street, Iowa City.

> Friday, June 20, 1:00 p.m. – Eagle Point Solar, 900 Jackson Street Suite 108, Dubuque.

> Friday, June 20, 2:30 p.m. – John T. Blong Tech Center, Eastern Iowa Community College, 8500 Hillandale Road, in Davenport.

> Saturday, June 21, 10:00 a.m. – Residence, 1902 West 12th Street, Cedar Falls.

> Saturday, June 21, 11:00 a.m. – IBEW Local 405, 1211 Wiley Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids.

> Saturday, June 21, 11:00 a.m. – Guided tour of solar installations and the wind turbine at Luther College departs from Decorah Farmers’ Market.

> Saturday, June 21, 11:00 a.m. – Home of Joe Olsen, 2003 206th Street, just northeast of Independence.

> Saturday, June 21, 11:00 a.m. – Sustainable Living Center, MUM, Fairfield.

> Saturday, June 21, 2:00 p.m. – Marshalltown Public Library, 105 W. Boone Street, Marshalltown.

DuPont Lights Up Solar Plant in Cernay, France

A new 4.5 megawatt (MW) solar power plant is now online in Cernay, France. This DuPont project is the largest solar power installation to date and now one of 13 solar installations worldwide on DuPont land. When combined, the solar projects generate over 11 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The Cernay installation is expected to produce 5 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar-generated electricity each year, which is roughly the equivalent to the amount of electricity 2,000 households consumed every year in France.

The solar farm is spread over 15 acres of land and features 18,400 crystalline silicon solar panels, manufactured by Jinko Solar. The solar panels feature advanced materials from DuPont that according to the company, are designed to improve the power output, durability and return on investment for solar energy systems. The panels are made with DuPontTedlar polyvinyl fluoride film-based backsheets, which they way are CernaySolarArraythe only material proven to protect solar panels for more than 30 years even in extreme outdoor conditions. They also contain DuPont Solamet photovoltaic metallization pastes that help ensure maximum power output.

The project was developed by Hanau Energies, a French project developer and investor in solar installations, and was built in a record time of two months. It falls under a 20-year power purchase agreement with energy provider Eléctricité Réseau Distribution France (ERDF).

“We are extremely proud to partner with a global player like DuPont on this project in France. The solar park in Cernay is a perfect illustration for how advanced and reliable technology and best practices in installation, operations and maintenance can be put into practice,” said Jean-Luc Westphal, president, Hanau Energies.

The project is aligned with Cernay’s federation of municipalities aim to preserve resources and limit its environmental footprint. At the global and national levels, the development of solar and other renewable energy sources are expected to grow in the overall energy mix. According to industry analyst IHS, France’s annual installation of solar is expected to increase by 50 percent in 2014 to exceed 800MW and should keep growing steadily over the following years. Globally, solar is expected to grow 20 percent annually each of the next several years.

“The solar park in Cernay is a prime example of DuPont demonstrating its commitment to develop collaborative and innovative solutions and helping to ensure a more energy secure future,” said Martin Virot, country leader, DuPont France. “We are pleased to see this project realized in France, leveraging our advanced materials to ensure a well-performing, long-term source of electricity as we strive to meet the growing global energy demand more sustainably.”

“The Cernay solar park is a brilliant showcase of socially responsible investment and collaboration between the private and public sectors,” Member of Parliament and Mayor of Cernay, Michel Sordi concluded. “I congratulate DuPont, who continues to be at the forefront of science and technology and has developed multiple projects in the region for over 30 years.”

Mosaic Launches New National Solar Tech Platform

Mosiac is going national. The first solar company to ever use crowdsourcing investments to finance solar projects has just launched another first of its kind technology platform: Mosaic Places. The technology will enable the nation to go solar one location at a time.

So how does it work? The public can nominate community centers, schools, libraries and places of worship as well as local businesses to go solar. The site already contains nearly 300,000 places across the U.S.

I went to Mosaic Places and checked to see if my friend’s Join Mosaic Put Solar On Western Hills Magnet Centerschool was listed. It wasn’t yet so I nominated Western Hills Magnet Center, an Omaha, Nebraska elementary school for solar energy. The building was built in 1952 and has had no upgrades since. In fact, some rooms have no air conditioning (no, a 100 degree room is not a good learning environment for children). With solar, the school can save money on energy and invest the funds back into the kids. And, it gives these students the opportunity to learn about solar first-hand. This is a perfect example of engaging kids in science, technology, engineering in math (STEM) that our schools need so much more of.

Now that I have my school in the system, it asks for as little as a petition – people just click support (which I already have) to participate. However, serious money can be raised to put solar on a place as Mosaic matches supporters with dollars.

Mosaic Places was born out of a successful New Years pledge launched by Mosaic and actor Mark Ruffalo asking people to #PutSolarOnIt in 2014. While a solar installation was installed, on average, every four minutes in the U.S. in 2013, the nation has put solar on less than 1 percent of the homes and commercial buildings that would financially benefit from solar on their roofs. With thousands of incoming pledges for the #PutSolarOnIt campaign, Mosaic built a platform that would help people achieve their commitments. The product launch comes days before the first national #PutSolarOnIt Day of Action this June 21st, the Summer Solstice and longest day of the year.

Put Solar On It“We have been dreaming about this product for years,” said Mosaic President, Billy Parish. “It’s based on our belief that every building can go solar if the community is behind it. Mosaic has built a product that enables everyone to participate in transitioning the country to 100% clean energy.”

The funds raised are designed to bridge the gap for community buildings whose solar installations may need a few thousand dollars to be financeable by conventional means. For every 50 people that click “support” on a Place’s page, Mosaic will donate $100 to put solar on it. In addition, homeowners who go solar through a Mosaic Place’s page will be eligible to receive a $500 gift, which they can donate to put solar on that place.

Any individual can use Mosaic Places by going to www.putsolaronit.com, finding or adding a Place and sharing their chosen Place with their friends to get supporters and raise funds to put solar on it. Schools, places of worship and other community groups can fundraise to put solar on their buildings by asking their community members to support their Place’s page and put solar on their homes through their Place’s page.

So I want to #PutSolarOnIt on Western Hills Magnet Center. Where do you want to put solar on it?

FIFA World Cup to Feature Biofuels & Solar

FIFA World Cup BrasilThe FIFA World Cup 2014 is underway in Brazil and this year’s event features several renewable energy and sustainable measures never before seen during the event.

Sugar Cane Industry Association (UNICA) is supplying the governing body of the football fleet (known as soccer to those living in the U.S.) with ethanol. Flex-fuel cars from Hyundai, Model HB20 Edition FIFA World Cup, are running the streets and roads of Brazil powered with fuel from cane sugar.

The adoption of ethanol is one of the measures to avoid, reduce and offset emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) released dioxide in the atmosphere, the ‘Football for the Planet,’ according to FIFA’s official environmental program that aims to reduce the negative impact of their activities on the environment. In Brazil, FIFA and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the 2014 World Cup are putting in place projects that address key areas such as waste, water, energy, transport, logistics and climate change.

Kids play football on the beach as Brazil prepare for the World Cup on June 11, 2014 in Maceio, Brazil. (Photo by Alex Livesey - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Kids play football on the beach as Brazil prepare for the World Cup on June 11, 2014 in Maceio, Brazil. (Photo by Alex Livesey – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

For the consultant Emissions and Technology of Sugar Cane Industry Association (UNICA), Alfred Szwarc, the initiative of the FIFA program is extremely appropriate as sugarcane ethanol compared with gasoline. He cites sugar-based ethanol reduces 90 percent of greenhouse gases that cause climate change when compared to straight gasoline. Reducing global warming is one of focuses of the “Football for the Planet” FIFA campaign.

In addition to biofuels, Yingli Green Energy has provided dozens of solar panels to various operations involved with FIFA and this year the company plans to offset all carbon emissions arising from its promotional activities in Brazil to make the FIFA World Cup Brazil the greenest in history. The company’s efforts included all solar powered stadiums, commercial displays, customer hospitality, media activities, and employee travel and accommodation. To achieve carbon neutrality, Yingli has:

  • Supplied over 5,000 Yingli solar panels and nearly 30 off-grid solar energy systems to help power matches at multiple FIFA World Cup stadiums;
  • Partnered with ClimatePartner, an independent, certified environmental agency, to accurately calculate and verify emissions data for the duration of Yingli’s sponsorship activation in Brazil;
  • Committed to investing in carbon emission reduction certificates that are generated by a local Brazilian project, and that are certified by the Bureau Veritas Certification Holding SAS.

“By becoming history’s first carbon neutral sponsor of the FIFA World Cup, Yingli is honoring its commitment to our environment and to our planet,” noted Mr. Liansheng Miao, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Yingli Green Energy. “As a company whose products and mission are deeply intertwined with sustainability issues, we are dedicated to reducing the ecological impact of all aspects of our business operations, including our highly visible and pervasive marketing activities.”

Sullivan Power Sponsors the Junior Solar Sprint

And the winner of the 5th annual Junior Solar Sprint was the solar powered model car, ‘Stewart,’ built by two students from High Tech Middle School North County who won the championship race, finishing the 20 meter track in just 8.32 seconds. Second and third place medals were awarded to students with solar cars named to ‘Ninja Chicken’ and ‘Japan Racer’ out of Torrey Hills Middle School.

The Junior Solar Sprint is sponsored by Sullivan Solar Power, San Diego-based renewable energy firm. The event is a challenge between local middle schools and this year Congressman Scott Peters, Assemblywoman solarpoweredcarsLorena Gonzalez, and San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria were in attendance to support the future growth of clean tech learning opportunities for students taking part in the model solar car racing event.

Eight middle schools from around San Diego County participated in the Junior Solar Sprint event with hundreds of attendees including parents, teachers, volunteers, judges and dignitaries watched more than 85 student cars race. Certificates were provided to all participating students from California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.

“The Junior Solar Sprint is a symbol of new learning opportunities for students in San Diego and gears them toward science, math, engineering and technical design skills,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power, “These fields are exciting and highly rewarding, particularly when applied to renewable energy sources, and we hope that the program will expand the next generation’s passion for renewable energy.”

The Junior Solar Sprint was hosted by the San Diego Electrical Training Center, and engages local sixth, seventh and eighth-grade science students to use scientific knowledge to create and race solar powered model cars. All students were supplied with one standard solar cell and motor. The students are to come up with their own unique design aspects to compete.

solarpoweredcars2“I have seen Junior Solar Sprint change kids’ lives. They learn to work together on something they have never done,” said Elaine Gillum, eighth grade science teacher at Thurgood Marshall Middle School, “Some of the students that struggle with the book part of school, are amazing when it comes to building things. They become the kid that others turn to for guidance and leadership.”

The Junior Solar Sprint is the culminating race track event, where students compete for award in five judging categories: craftsmanship; innovation; power train; solar collection; and wheel and guidance systems. First, second and third place medals were provided to the overall race champions.

“Encouraging our kids to pursue their interest in these sectors through hands-on projects like the Junior Solar Sprint will not only prepare them for the jobs of the future, but will help keep America globally competitive,” said Congressman Scott Peters, “Events like this help spark a lifelong interest in our students to improve the world around them through innovation.”

Equatorial Guinea Installing Solar Microgrid

The government of Equatorial Guinea is installing a self-sufficient solar microgrid project in Annobon Province in partnership with three American companies: the consulting firm MAECI Solar, GE Power & Water and Princeton Power Systems. This project will be Africa’s largest self-sufficient solar microgrid and will bring significant benefits to the West African nation. It will supply Annobon Island with reliable, predictable power and will supply enough electricity to handle 100 percent of the island’s current energy demand.

Annabon Province“The solar microgrid will feature 5-MW solar modules and system integration by MAECI, an energy management system and controls from Princeton Power Systems and energy storage from GE,” MAECI said in a news release. Chris Massaro, senior vice president of MAECI noted that the project would both raise the quality of life and advance the Equatoguinean government’s goal of diversifying the economy.

“The Annobon Electrification Project will be the platform for economic growth on the island by bringing a much needed power supply that will enable the development of multiple industries, add 700 to 1,000 direct and indirect jobs to Annobon Island and significantly raise the standard of living,” added Massaro.

Annobon Province consists of tiny Annobon Island and has a population of 5,000. The Annobon Province currently has reliable electricity for only a few hours a day, but the solar microgrid aims to provide electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The project is a part of Equatorial Guinea’s National Economic Development Plan Horizon 2020, which aims to make Equatorial Guinea an ‘emerging economy’ and accelerate its development and democratization by 2020.”

CSP: ELEMENTS Awarded to Southern Research Institute

Southern Research Institute has signed a jointly funded cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the DOE’s new Concentrating Solar Power: Efficiently Leveraging Equilibrium Mechanisms for Engineering New Thermochemical Storage (CSP: ELEMENTS) funding program. The program is part of the SunShot Initiative. CSP: ELEMENTS supports the development of high-temperature thermochemical energy storage (TCES) systems that enable concentrating solar power plants to produce electricity in the evenings and even overnight when the sun is no longer shining.

“Southern Research Institute is excited and honored to be selected by DOE for this project,” said Michael D. Johns, vice president engineering at Southern Research Institute. “We are proud to be recognized for our leadership in alternative energy, and the development of this innovative thermochemical storage system is in great alignment with the work at our recently established Southeast Solar Research Center, where we design, test, and validate technologies throughout the solar energy spectrum.”

CSP technology employs mirrors that concentrate reflected sunlight onto receivers containing heat transfer fluids. From there, the fluids are used to heat water, which in turn generates steam that is used to power turbines and produce electricity. By adding thermal storage to these facilities they are able to operate at significantly higher capacity factors and produce approximately double the energy for the same size power facility. In addition, the production of electricity can be shifted to occur at the same time as peak power demand, making the electricity much more valuable.

More specifically, the Southern Research Institute project will develop a TCES system that uses a low-cost calcium-based sorbent in a reversible closed-loop endothermic-exothermic chemical reaction cycle. The system stores energy during mid-day when sunlight is plentiful in the endothermic step, and then releases energy when the sun is no longer shining during the exothermic step, allowing for electricity to be produced in a more stable and consistent fashion. This TCES system is projected to cost less than a current state-of-the-art molten salt storage systems, and will be able to store the same amount of energy in a system about one-sixth the size. Continue reading

Prez Michelle Bachelet of Chile Inaugurates Solar Plant

President Michelle Bachelet of Chile inaugurated the Amanecer Solar CAP plant in Copiapo, Chile. The solar project is the largest photovoltaic solar power plant in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. The project was developed, built and interconnected by SunEdison under an offtake agreement with CAP Group.

The Amanecer Solar CAP plant has 100 MW of total installed capacity; the amount of energy consumed each year by approximately 125,000 Chilean homes, or equivalent to 10 percent of the renewable energy generation capacity goal established by the Chilean Government for 2014. The project involves an investment of US $250 million and is critical for the future development of renewable energy in Chile and Latin America.

SunEdison 100 MW Amanecer Solar CAP Power PlantAhmad Chatila, President and CEO of SunEdison, noted: “This project has changed the course of renewable energy development not only in Chile and Latin America, but throughout the world. Amanecer Solar CAP has become a benchmark for SunEdison in how to develop photovoltaic solar energy on an international level.”

Located 37 kilometers from Copiapo in the Atacama Desert, the plant has more than 310,000 photovoltaic modules spread over 250 acres. The Amanecer Solar CAP plant was built in six months and all of its energy is injected into the Central Interconnected System, which lowers the net cost of grid electricity.

In its first year of operation it is estimated that the plant will inject 270 GWh (gigawatt hours) of clean energy into the system. To generate the same amount of energy using diesel would require more than 71 million liters of fuel.

Jose Perez, President of SunEdison for Europe, Africa and Latin America, added: “This plant demonstrates that photovoltaic solar energy is an ideal way of diversifying the energy matrix in Chile, reducing costs and contributing towards meeting the demand for clean and sustainable energy. SunEdison has now interconnected 150 MW in the Atacama Desert – the 100 MW Amanecer Solar CAP plant plus a 50 MW power plant in San Andres – and this is just the starting point. We are firmly committed to the future of clean energy production and the development of the energy industry in Chile.”

Spider ST Solar Roof Mount System Seeing Success

Patriot Solar Group (PSG) has announced they are seeing success with their recently launched Spider ST roof mount system. The Spider ST is a polypropylene polymer-based roof mount for commercial flat roof applications. Because of its design and ease of use, the company says it offers solar installers unique cost saving features.

Patriot Solar Group Spider STAlthough mounting systems are defined as “hardware costs,” the the company says Spider ST reduces soft costs, which account for a large percentage of installed system costs for roof-top solar projects.

Patriot Solar Group explains its “snap together” design requires no tools for assembly and comes standard with integrated grounding – significantly lowering associated mechanical and electrical labor. The design to build process is shortened due to zero roof penetrations and lighter roof loading because of its airfoil wind deflector design.

“Projects are getting financed quicker and more easily because of our extensive research data, wind tunnel testing and UL 2703 compliance – thus further reducing associated soft costs,” said Jeff Mathie, president of Patriot Solar Group, “Developers, building owners, roof manufacturers and financiers feel very comfortable using the Spider ST and we are seeing a stronger market acceptance towards polymer based materials for racking.”

South Africa Lights Up With 2 New Solar Projects

SunPower Corp. and AE-AMD Renewable Energy, a joint venture between the Spanish and the AMDA energía South African Alt-E Technologies, as well as its partners have completed two South African ground-mounted solar projects. The solar power systems are now feeding 33 megawatts (MW) into the grid. Both projects, which were constructed by SunPower, are located near Douglas, South Africa in the Northern Cape Province.

“The successful completion of these projects, on time, demonstrates what can be achieved with committed and professional partners,” said Piero Granelli, AE-AMD CEO. “The projects not only help SunPower Corp Herbert power plantto alleviate pressure on the country’s power supply, but also provide much needed support to the local communities over the lifetime of the plants.”

Herbert, a 22-MW project, and the 11-MW project Greefspan, were both part of the South African government’s Independent Power Producer Procurement Program. Combined, the solar projects cover more than 160 hectares, or 395 acres, of land and feature 138,000 solar photovoltaic panels on single-axis trackers. The trackers are programmed to follow the sun throughout the day, ensuring the maximum amount of power is being generated.

“With the completion of the Herbert and Greefspan projects, SunPower continues its track record of building highly efficient and reliable solar power plants around the globe,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, regions. “We’re now looking forward to continuing our efforts in South Africa as we prepare to begin work on an even larger solar power project in Prieska.”

Both systems are owned by AE-AMD Renewable Energy and its partners, including the IDEAS Fund, an infrastructure fund managed by Old Mutual Investment Group of South Africa. Electricity generated from the solar power projects will be sold to Eskom.

Wind, Solar Solution for New EPA Power Plant Rules

epa-logoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce later today new rules to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants by 30 percent by 2030, and a couple of renewable energy sources could help states comply. This article from the Boston Globe says solar and wind energy might be part of the compliance mix.

Under the rule, states will be given a menu of policy options to achieve the pollution cuts. Rather than immediately shut down coal plants, states could reduce emissions by making changes across their electricity systems — by installing new wind and solar generation or energy-efficiency technology, and by starting or joining state and regional “cap and trade” programs, in which states agree to cap carbon pollution and buy and sell permits to pollute.

And this article from the Houston Chronicle says power plants in Texas could end up in good shape because they use clean-burning natural gas.

[T]he state would have some 110 fully operating power plants, mostly fueled by natural gas, [Al Armendariz, a former EPA official who now leads the Sierra Club's anti-coal campaign in Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas] said. “That’s the good news. The problem can be solved at a small number of plants. This will not affect nuclear plants or natural gas plants.”

Texas officials said the low prices for natural gas have led to the seasonal mothballing of coal-fired plants and reduced their output overall. The shift, they said, will lead to fewer emissions of greenhouse gases.

You can bet more renewable energy sources will be chiming in when the rule is announced later today.

Researchers Look to Find Motivations Behind Solar

KiranResearchers are trying to figure what motivates which consumers to buy solar equipment. This article from Sandia National Laboratories in California says they’re trying to better understand what persuades people to buy photovoltaic (PV) systems for their homes in hopes of increasing the amount of solar energy in the electricity market from its current share of less than .05 percent to at least 14 percent by 2030.

“If we can develop effective and accurate predictive models, we can help identify policy variables that could increase purchases of residential PV systems and ultimately help advance the mission of the SunShot Initiative,” said Kiran Lakkaraju, Sandia’s project lead. Specifically, he said, an effective model of solar purchase dynamics can be used to predict and even influence consumer purchasing decisions.

The modeling project, part of the Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS) program, is one of many activities in the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity. SEEDS projects are designed to investigate methods for transforming the operations of solar researchers, manufacturers, developers, installers and policymakers.

Meanwhile, another group of researchers at Sandia are using computer models to predict homeowners’ likelihood to buy and invest in PV systems. A group of 1,000 respondents who have bought PV systems and another 1,000 who have not are being surveyed about their choices with those results being examined by quantitative modeling experts and fed into modeling tools. Other research is looking at how messaging about solar can influence consumer demand.

Wind Leads Renewable Energy Increase in Texas

Cielo Wind Power farm in TexasOil-rich Texas is seeing a surge in renewable energy use, and that surge is being led by wind. This article from the Dallas Business Journal says an Electric Reliability Council of Texas report shows wind, solar and other renewable energy sources increased 12 percent last year, with wind making up the lion’s share of that increase.

Renewable energy produced 38.1 million megawatt hours of power in 2013 compared to just 33.9 million MWh in 2013. Wind power makes up 97 percent of the renewable generation. Wind generation grew by more than 4 million MWh , or 13 percent, in 2013 as well.

Solar grew by 33 percent, or 40,000 MWh, in 2013. Landfill gas had a modest increase, too.

The article goes on to say that biomass and hydroelectric actually went down in 2013.