New Program to Train Vets in Clean Energy

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

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

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

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

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

Walmart Expands Solar Commitment

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Census Bureau Releases Renewable Energy Stats

For the first time the U.S. Census Bureau is now publishing economic census statistics for wind, geothermal, biomass and solar electric power generation. Between 2007 and 2012 revenues rose 49 percent from $6.6 billion to $9.8 billion. The electric power generation industry saw an overall decline of 1.2 percent in revenues from $121.0 billion to $119.5 billion between 2007 and 2012. The overall decline was driven by the fossil fuel electric power generation industry, which saw revenues decrease from $85.4 billion to $79.7 billion, or 6.7 percent, during the same five-year period.

Renewable Energy RevenueIn the 2007 Economic Census, wind, geothermal, biomass, and solar electric power generation were included in the broad “other electric power generation” industry but were not given separate designations. Beginning in the 2012 Economic Census, these industries had been broken out with the “other electric power generation” industry limited to only tidal electric power generation and other electric power generation facilities not elsewhere classified. Among the newly delineated industries (wind, geothermal, biomass, solar and other electric power generation), the number of establishments more than doubled in five years, from 312 in 2007 to 697 in 2012.

“As industries evolve, so does the Census Bureau to continue to collect relevant data that informs America’s business decisions,” said Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson. “Industries that use renewable energy resources are still relatively small, but they are rapidly growing.”

Specifically revenues for the wind electric power generation industry totaled $5.0 billion in 2012, the highest revenues among the industries using renewable energy resources. Hydroelectric power generation followed with revenues of $2.4 billion. Geothermal electric power generation had revenues of just under $1 billion ($995.4 million), followed by biomass electric power generation, with $934.6 million in revenues, solar electric power generation, with $472.4 million, and other electric power generation, with $59.0 million.

Together, these industries were a relatively small portion of the electric power generation industry, collectively accounting for just 8.2 percent ($9.8 billion) of total industry revenues in 2012. Fossil fuel and nuclear electric power generation are still the major revenue sources of the electric power generation industry, comprising 66.7 percent ($79.7 billion) and 25.1 percent ($29.9 billion), respectively, of total revenues.

Global Investment for Climate Change Falls Again

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

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

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

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

Equal Earth Aquires 3 Solar Projects

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

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

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

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

Wind Power Sees Gain in U.S.

Wind power provided over two-thirds (68.41%) of new electrical generating capacity in October 2014 in the U.S. according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report. Five wind farms came online during the month in Texas, Nebraska, Michigan, Kansas and Colorado. These projects added 574 MW of new capacity.

eiaIn addition, seven “units” of biomass (102 MW) and five units of solar (31 MW) came online accounting for 12.16% and 3.69% of new capacity respectively. The balance came from three units of natural gas (132 MW – 15.73%). Moreover, for the eighth time in the past ten months, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for the majority of new U.S. electrical generation brought into service. Natural gas took the lead in the other two months (April and August).

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.39 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.:

  • hydro- 8.44%
  • wind – 5.39%
  • biomass – 1.38%
  • solar – 0.85%
  • geothermal steam – 0.33%

“Congress is debating whether to renew the production tax credit for wind and other renewable energy sources,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The continued rapid growth of these technologies confirms that the PTC has proven to be a very sound investment.”

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.