2012 Ag Census Includes Renewable Energy

2012-censusThe 2012 Census of Agriculture shows a doubling of on-farm renewable energy production since 2007.

According to the census data released by USDA today, there were 57,299 farms that produced on-farm renewable energy in 2012, more than double the 23,451 in 2007. By far the biggest was solar panels, used on over 36,000 farms. Geoexchange systems and wind turbines each were used on more than 9,000 farms.

For renewable fuels, biodiesel was produced on 4,099 farms and ethanol on 2,397. Small hydro systems were used on about 1300 farms and methane digesters on 537.

The census reveals there are now 3.28 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States. Those numbers are all lower than 2007 when the census reported 3.18 million farmers, 2.2 million farms and 922 million acres. The top 5 states for agricultural sales were California ($42.6 billion); Iowa ($30.8 billion); Texas ($25.4 billion); Nebraska ($23.1 billion); and Minnesota ($21.3 billion). Corn and soybean acres topped 50 percent of all harvested acres for the first time.

Census data is available from USDA online and a recording of the webcast release of the census data is here: USDA Releases 2012 Census Data

Strata Solar Completes Nine Solar Projects in NC

Strata Solar, has installed nine utility-scale solar projects across North Carolina (NC) using more than $100 million of tax-equity financing provided by a subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Company. When combined, the projects produce enough electricity to power 5,000 homes and were in part made possible by a 35 percent North Carolina Renewable Energy Tax Credit. The power will be purchased by NC utility Progress Energy Carolinas.

Strata Solar Nash 58 solar array in NC“We are very proud of our ability to invest and build in North Carolina’s rural communities. These projects bring jobs, significant local spend, and an increase in the tax base without the requirement of county dollars which is typical of development projects,” said Markus Wilhelm, Strata Solar’s CEO. “On a number of occasions we’ve witnessed these projects having an impact on attracting additional investors who are looking for business-friendly environments.”

The three largest projects – Bladenboro, Wagstaff and Nash 58 – all exceed six MWs in capacity and provide a significant boost to the local tax base without requiring additional county expenditures on sewer, roads or any other infrastructure.

“As a leading provider of capital in renewable energy and cleantech across the U.S., Wells Fargo is excited to participate in the rapid expansion of solar in the Southeast,” said Barry Neal, Head of Wells Fargo’s Environmental Finance Group. “We are proud to partner with top-tier developers like Strata who share in our commitment to support communities and deploy clean energy.”

Oregon Institute of Technology Goes All Renewable

According to Oregon Institute of Technology, they are the first campus in the world to produce all of its energy needs using renewable energy. The campus is now 100 percent powered by a combination of solar and geothermal sources. The achievement was noted in a ceremony that included U.S. Senators Wyden and Merkley, Oregon Senator Whitsett, and First Lady Hayes.

The campus has been entirely heated by geothermal water for several decades, and now the geothermal resource is being utilized in a 1.75-megawatt combined heat and power plant to provide electricity. Additionally, a 2.0-megawatt solar array was installed on 9 acres of campus land and commissioned at the end of last year.

“The geothermal and solar projects all serve important and dual purposes for Oregon Tech,” said Christopher Maples, president of Oregon Tech. “They support the education of our students in the growing green jobs industry, and they put us closer to our goal of becoming a climate neutral campus by 2050.”

Oregon Insitute of Technology Geothermal-Solar EnergyOregon Tech built the geothermal power plants in two stages, beginning with a 0.28- megawatt module that was the first operating geothermal power plant in Oregon. The success of that system, followed by the ability to garner additional financial support, led to the installation of a 1.75- megawatt project. In combination, they generate an estimated 8,315,000 kilowatt hours annually, reducing energy costs by nearly one-half million dollars per year.

In addition to the combined heat and power system, Oregon Tech installed 7,800 ground-mounted solar electric panels next to the John F. Moehl football stadium, with a total capacity of just under 2 megawatt. The solar project is an “all-Oregon” project and is one of the largest solar photovoltaic system in the state of Oregon and the largest multiple campus, university system-based contract for solar energy in the nation.

The university received a Blue Sky grant from Pacific Power to support the system installation, which has had a positive economic impact on Klamath Falls and the surrounding areas. SolarCity, the contractor that installed the system, used all local contractors and labor to complete the project.

The combined output from the three renewable energy projects on the campus will exceed the campus electricity use by an estimated 700,000 kilowatt hours per year. That energy will be donated to Pacific Power’s low-income subsidy program, making Oregon Tech the largest non-utility net metering contributor in the state.

DOD Begins Largest Ever Solar Installation

The U.S. Department of Defense has broken ground on the military’s largest solar installation ever located at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The 155-acre project will exceed 18 MW of clean electricity and provide 25 percent of the military base’s power.

“These kinds of projects are vital to building a sustainable infrastructure for our nation,” said Ruth Cox, GSA Regional Administrator. “It is important for the federal government to lead by example in reducing our carbon footprint. This project serves as a model for innovative partnering between the government and private industry while also easing our impact on the environment.”

Groundbreaking of the Fort Huachuca Solar ArrayThe project is a collaboration between U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the Army Energy Initiatives Task Force, Fort Huachuca, TEP and its developer E.ON Climate & Renewables. The deal was struck using a GSA area wide public utility contract, which allows federal agencies to get the utility services they need to serve the American people. Under the agreement, TEP will fund, own, maintain and operate the project, and contract with E.ON for the design, engineering, procurement and construction.

“The Army is partnering with the private sector for renewable energy in many ways,” said Katherine Hammack, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment added. “The Fort Huachuca project is greater than the sum of all projects developed last year—quite an accomplishment!”

Beyond providing Fort Huachuca electricity options and reducing stress on the local electricity grid, the project promotes the U.S. Army’s energy security objectives. The base will now have the ability to “island” and run electric power completely off the grid using its solar power source when needed.

“We’re very proud to provide Fort Huachuca with a cost-effective solar power resource that will contribute to the base’s long-term energy security,” added David Hutchens, President and Chief Operating Officer of Tucson Electric Power (TEP), Fort Huachuca’s electric provider. “This new, productive partnership will benefit our customers while helping both the base and TEP make significant progress toward our respective renewable energy goals.”

ACORE & Lockheed Martin Partner on Energy Education

Lockheed Martin and the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) have formed a partnership to promote renewable energy education through a sponsorship with NASCAR Green, the sustainability arm of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.

“At Lockheed Martin, we’ve been committed to providing innovative energy solutions for decades and we are thrilled to now work alongside ACORE and NASCAR to educate and inspire fans to go green,” said Frank Armijo, vice president of energy solutions at Lockheed Martin. “By helping fans learn more about renewable energy, we can help build a strong, sustainable future.” ACORE Lockheed NASCAR Green Infographic

The goal of the sponsorship is to promote careers in the renewable energy community by highlighting the life-long value of studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in order to build a strong, secure, economically viable and sustainable future. “This is the perfect vehicle for encouraging and engaging young people and lifelong learners to find careers in STEM using renewable energy as their focus,” said ACORE President and CEO, Michael Brower. “A mirror of America, NASCAR fans thrive on the initiative, innovation and determination of their favorite NASCAR drivers and teams. And our renewable energy industry equally mirrors America with our dramatic successes building the new energy infrastructure and bringing down costs in an amazingly short time.”

ACORE and Lockheed Martin will provide educational materials on renewable energy, sustainability and energy security at three NASCAR races in 2014, showcasing various renewable energy technologies and surveying NASCAR fans on their knowledge of renewable energy. The green messages will include technology features of ACORE members including solar panels, biofuels and wind turbines.

“With the educational components of this partnership, ACORE will help to ensure our nation’s youth are equipped to become the next generation of American renewable energy innovators, inventors and industry builders, well-prepared and fully able to create a more prosperous American future built on clean, renewable energy,” said Brower.

In other news, the partners will also target college-aged students for summer fellowship programs for students interested in pursuing a career in alternative energy, renewable energy or energy efficiency. The fellowships were announced during the USA Science and Engineering Festival and begin in the summer of 2015.

Oklahoma Institutes “Sun” Tariff

The Oklahoma legislature has passed a bill that institutes a tax on the sun and wind (distributed generation). Beginning November 1, 2014, residents who use solar or wind energy and want to connect their renewable energy to the grid, must begin paying a “solar surcharge” to utilities for the privilege. The bill was signed into law on April 21 (notably one day before Earth Day and during Earth Week) by Governor Mary Fallin. Existing solar arrays and wind turbines and any projected commissioned by October 31, 2014 will be grandfathered in at existing connection charges.home-solar-panel-install-dallas-north-carolina-solar-energy-usa

The bill was passed with virtually no opposition and was supported by the state’s major electric utilities who said they need the surcharge to recover some of the infrastructure costs to send excess electricity safely from distributed generation back to the grid, especially for those customers who don’t have the money to do this safely. The bill drew opposition from solar and wind advocates as well as environmentalists.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is now tasked with establishing a separate customer class and monthly surcharge, or tariff for distributed generation customers. The new tariffs would start by the end of 2015.

So in other words, complements of the “sun tax” customers now have to pay extra to generate their own electricity from renewable resources – the exact opposite of what adding solar or wind to your home is supposed to do. In keeping with the theme of the sun and wind, this is not a bright idea but rather a blustery idea.

DuPont & Zhenfa to Partner On Solar Power

DuPont China Holding Co., Ltd. (DuPont) and Zhenfa New Energy Technology Co., Ltd. (Zhenfa New Energy), have signed a strategic cooperation agreement to collaborate on improving the performance, reliability and return on investment of solar power installations. Under the agreement, both companies will cooperate in optimizing the selection of durable solar materials and technologies used in solar panels.

DuPont Zhenfa solar partnership“Solar energy is a clean and sustainable form of energy that we expect will become a greater part of the future energy mix,” said Zhenfa Zha, general manager, Zhenfa New Energy. “We are excited to collaborate with DuPont to employ quality solar materials and technology support to help maintain long-term power generation, operations management and cost optimization at our solar installations. This will ultimately benefit our customers with cheaper, cleaner electricity.”

All of the solar panels installed by Zhenfa will be manufactured with DuPont Tedlar polyvinyl fluoride (PVF) film-based backsheets, the only material, according to DuPont, proven to reliably protect solar panels for over 30 years, even under extreme environmental conditions. Both companies will work together to optimize solar energy power production and performance as well as conduct field research on panel reliability and failure modes in order to better understand materials’ critical impact on solar energy systems.

Chuck Xu, global business director, DuPont Photovoltaic Solutions said of the partnership, “We are delighted to expand our relationship with Zhenfa New Energy into a more strategic relationship that leverages advanced materials critical to the reliable, long-term performance of solar panels for their solar installations. DuPont continues to advance material science to improve the performance, reliability and return on investment in solar to help make it more competitive with other forms of electricity.”

Get a Piece of the Renewable Energy Funding Pie

Find Grant Funding Now coverProsperity Consulting, LLC has identified two grant programs from the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) that could make significant investments in alternative forms of energy.

EERE has announced the Biological and Chemical Upgrading for Advanced Biofuels and Products Grant. The grant is focused on supporting production of the fuels from cellulosic sugars, lignocellulose derivatives, lignin, cellulosic alcohols, bio-solids and biogases. Awards range from $1 million to $3.5 million. Concept papers are due on May 1, 2014, and full proposals are due June 13, 2014.

The second grant program from EERE focuses on solar energy. The Solar Market Pathways Grant seeks to drive down solar energy costs and encourage a significant increase in solar deployment. The funding includes costs for planning and stakeholder meetings. Awards range from $1 million to $4 million. Concept papers are due on May 28, 2014, and full proposals are due July 3, 2014.

For companies, universities, communities and others interested in applying for these grants who are seeking assistance, Prosperity Consulting is available to assist. The company aids it clients in market research and feasibility study development as well as the development of strategic plans.

New York & New Jersey Port Authorities Go Solar

This week, ConEdison Solutions and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey unveiled one of four new solar installations that will produce clean energy at Newark Liberty International Airport. The 3,200 solar panel installation covers 62,000 square feet and will produce 817,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. This solar array marks the first solar power installation at any airport buildings operated by the Port Authority throughout the region.

Newark International Airport solar array“The Port Authority is committed to implementing environmental programs we view as vital to our airports and other facilities,” said Port Authority Director of Environment & Energy Programs Christopher Zeppie. “Solar panels atop the roofs of buildings at Newark Liberty are an innovative way to make use of little used space to help reduce the agency’s carbon footprint while also saving money and increasing resiliency.”

By utilizing solar power as an energy source, Newark Liberty International Airport anticipates an electricity savings of approximately $60,000 per year.

“Earth Week is the ideal occasion to recognize Newark Liberty International Airport for its outstanding commitment to sustainability,” said Michael W. Gibson, Vice President of ConEdison Solutions. “The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is setting an excellent example for airports nationwide and around the world.”

Officials visited a 152-solar panel installation on the roof of Building 121, an AirTrain Newark electrical substation. The other three solar sites include a 312-panel project on an AirTrain Newark maintenance building, a 585-panel installation on a Port Authority maintenance building, and a 2,145-panel site on a multi-tenant cargo building.

To educate travelers and other guests about the benefits of the multi-site solar initiative, the airport will soon introduce colorful, interactive informational kiosks at Terminal B that will provide information about solar power and this initiative at Newark Liberty. Kiosks also will update visitors on the amount of power that has been generated during a particular day and during the current month and year.

Hawaiians Crave More Solar

According to a recent opinion poll Hawaiians want more solar. The poll found that 90 percent of respondents believe that Hawaiian Electric (HECO) is slowing rooftop solar to protect its profits. The poll found that most residents are very familiar with and supportive of rooftop solar with a third of the respondents having family members with solar and more than half have neighbors with solar.

The poll was conducted by Honolulu-based polling firm SMS and commissioned by The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), an organization that represents the majority of rooftop solar installations in the United States, including more than seven thousand projects in Hawaii.

“While it shorooftop solar in Oahu Photo Hugh Gentryuld be a point of pride that Hawaii has the highest solar per capita in the country, it shouldn’t give us any reason to slow down,” said Jon Yoshimura, a Hawaii spokesperson for TASC. “The people of Hawaii clearly want and expect more rooftop solar, and are looking to both HECO and to policymakers to advance policies that help increase access for homes and businesses.”

Responses revealed that Hawaii residents are adopting solar not only to save money, but also to drive energy independence for the state. Respondents also identified oil dependence and lack of competition in the utility sector as top reasons driving utility rates.

“Hawaii’s energy landscape is rapidly changing and we need to adopt new policies and business models that support the public’s desire to produce their own clean, homegrown energy,” Yoshimura added.

Less than half of those surveyed have a favorable opinion of HECO, while 95 percent have a favorable view of solar power companies. When respondents were informed that the number of solar permits just hit a two year low on Oahu, half said their opinion of HECO declined even further. In short says TASC, HECO’s public image is in danger if the utility continues to fall short of public expectations for rooftop solar.

“I decided to go solar for environmental and financial reasons​. I was delayed for months–many peoples’ ​interconnection approvals are delayed for years by​ the utility as a stalling tactic,” said Nancy Robberson, retired schoolteacher from Kula,​ Hawaii. “Hawaiian Electric and its subsidiaries should not get in the way of more solar here​. Harnessing the sun’s power should be an ​inalienable right for all.”

First Diesel Hybrid PV System Online in Guelph

Canadian Solar Inc. has completed one of the first diesel hybrid PV system in the remote microgrids in northern Ontario, Canada. The 152kW rooftop solar array on the Deer Lake First Nation Elementary School is the first project under the strategic partnership with NCC Development, LP (NCC), a First Nation renewable energy management company, in a commitment to use renewable energy (RE) microgrid solutions to assist the energy needs of off-grid First Nations and remote communities.

canadian solar logoNCC has identified more than 80 First Nations and remote communities for potential RE microgrid solution deployment, in an effort to promote photovoltaic services and projects to areas heavily reliant on diesel and challenged by limited access to electricity.

“NCC is optimistic in moving forward with our partner Canadian Solar, as we continue to build strategic collaborative efforts with leaders in the solar and renewable energy industry to foster sustainable development of Canada’s indigenous communities. As North America’s largest producer of solar power solutions, Canadian Solar’s industry leading experience and expertise will greatly contribute to our efforts,” said Geordi Kakepetum, Chief Executive Officer of NCC Development LP.

Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Solar Inc. noted of the project, “Our partnership with NCC started 3 years ago. It underscores our strong commitment to Canada, helping to bring solar power to areas previously unable to get connected to the grid. Solar is a green, flexible, low-cost, and sustainable energy solution for these underserved First Nations and other rural areas. We are proud of our involvement in this important effort and the direct impact we will have on so many deserving families.”

During a ribbon cutting ceremony, Chief Royale Meekis, the leader of Deer Lake First Nation said, “To reduce peak load and connect five more homes, we developed a three-part plan, including conservation, load shifting, and installing a PV solar system. This is important not only for the families who are waiting to move into these new houses, but for all of Deer Lake.”

Deer Lake First Nation aims to eventually replace 50 percent of their diesel consumption with the RE microgrid retrofit solution. The focus of the partners in developing RE microgrid solutions is also to help to build much needed additional clean energy capacity, and to support future economic development in the communities.

Green Gadgets for Earth Day

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with some new gadgets?

Got an email this morning from an industrious PR person touting a book called “Fool’s Return” by Lynda Chervil, “a thought leader and green technology advocate.”

Chervil, who studies the science behind green technology, says environmental awareness has ramped up production of affordable goods that can shrink individuals’ carbon footprints. She shares four devices she says would make a nice gift for Mother Earth on her day.

hybrid-lightAmong her suggestions is the HybridLight Solar Flashlight that never needs batteries, “can be charged from any light source, and they always work.”

There’s also the Bedol Water Alarm Clock. “Imagine a water-powered alarm clock that’s loud enough to scare you out of bed! Bedol’s water clocks run strictly on tap water – no batteries, no nothing else.” And the Pama Eco Navigator Satellite Navigation system that helps save gasoline by providing you with the most energy-efficient routes to your destinations, and feedback on your car’s performance.

Last but not least, the iGo Green Power Smart Wall that helps “cut the suck” of the power “vampires” that use electricity whether we’re using them or not – everything from coffee pots to laptops.

Go on – give your Mother Earth a hug today and get a green gadget!

Renewable Electricity Could Reach 16% In Five Years

According to an early release review of the Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (the final report is slated for release on April 30th) published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy could hit 16 percent of the net U.S. electrical generation by the year 2040. This includes biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind. But the SUN DAY Campaign challenges these predictions by asserting this could happen in the next five years.

When reviewing EIA’s own published data for the 11-year period January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2013 revealed that the percentage of the nation’s net electrical generation Biomass pelletsrepresented by renewable energy has expanded from less than 9 percent in 2004 to nearly 13 percent in 2013. Given the relatively consistent growth trends of the past decade or longer for most renewable energy sources and their rapidly declining costs, it seems improbable that it will require another 27 years to grow from 13 percent to 16 percent according to SUN DAY Campaign. Thus, EIA’s forecast is not just unduly conservative; almost certainly, it is simply wrong.

If the trends reflected in EIA data from the past decade continue, cite the SUN DAY campaign, renewable energy sources could increase to as much as 13.5 percent of net U.S. electrical generation in 2014, to 14.4 percent in 2015, to 15.3 percent in 2016, and reach or exceed 16.0 percent no later than 2018 — i.e., within five years and not the 27 years forecast by EIA. At worst, they would reach 16 percent by 2020.

“Inasmuch as policy makers in both the public and private sectors – as well as the media and others – rely heavily upon EIA data when making legislative, regulatory, investment, and other decisions, underestimation can have multiple adverse impacts on the renewable energy industry and, more broadly, on the nation’s environmental and energy future,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Consequently, EIA is doing a serious disservice to the public by publishing analyses that are inherently inconsistent with its own historical data and near-term projections.”

The SUN DAY Campaign has published its own full 32-page report that includes the assumptions and projections made, on a technology-by-technology basis, using EIA data. In addition, following the projections provided for each technology is a listing of recent studies and news reports that offer alternative or complementary scenarios – many of which are more aggressive than those provided by the SUN DAY Campaign. These additional studies suggest that even SUN DAY’s analysis may prove to be unduly conservative.

Boy Scouts of America Go Solar

gI_120165_BoyScouts 2 CustomThe Boy Scouts of America’s Capitol Area Council, located in Austin, Texas, has gone solar. The 74.15 kW solar arrays sits atop a 31,400 foot Frank Fickett South Training and Service Center. The solar system is made up of 299 solar modules and can be partially seen from Interstate 35. The project was over seen by Meridan Solar and is expected to save approximately $360,000 in energy savings over 25 years.

For the Boy Scouts, choosing to procure solar energy was an easy choice. Raymond Gray, board president of the Capitol Area Council said, “It didn’t just make financial sense to incorporate solar power; it matched the values we have taught generations of Americans for more than 100 years and continue to believe today. It’s one thing to say we should be ‘green’, invest in new technology and be a good example; it’s another to actually do those things.”

This project was of particular significance to Meridian Solar’s President and Founder, Andrew McCalla. “This organization and its mission are close to my heart, as I am a third generation central Texas Scout. When Meridian decided to partner with the Capitol Area Council to help them capture the benefits of solar energy, I knew that this installation would have benefits well beyond that of lowering the operating costs of the Frank Fickett Center. In addition to freeing up funds to further scouting’s core mission, the installation will serve as an educational platform in the benefits or renewable resources for thousands of present and future Scouts.”

U.S. Clean Energy Struggling from Policy Uncertainty

According to research from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the U.S. clean energy sector continues to be buffeted by policy uncertainty with 2013 investment down 9 percent from 2012 to $36.7 billion. The annual report, “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2013,” found that steep declines in the installation of wind overshadowed a record annual deployment of 4.4 gigawatts of solar.

THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS“Lower technology prices have made the small-distributed solar market very competitive, and the United States has been a leader in developing innovative financing models that are spurring steadily increasing deployment,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s clean energy program. “We also remain a world leader in venture capital, biofuels, and energy-smart technologies, like smart meters and LED lighting. Wind, however, has been subject to the vagaries of U.S. energy policy. As Congress debates tax extenders, it should aim to level the playing field, accelerate clean energy deployment, and provide long-term certainty to investors.”

The report found in the U.S. marketplace, solar technology prices have declined 60 percent since 2011, and new financing models have spurred more than $17 billion in investment, a 7 percent increase from 2012. The U.S. continued to garner world-leading financing in the biofuels and energy efficient/low-carbon technology subsectors. It also remained the dominant recipient of public market and venture capital/private equity investment, attracting $6.8 billion and $2.2 billion, respectively.

Although wind investment was relatively stable at $14 billion, U.S. wind installations in 2013 were down more than 90 percent—from more than 13 GW in 2012 to less than 1 GW last year found the report. When the production tax credit was renewed in early 2013, slight changes in the law precipitated deferrals in deployment of new wind capacity into 2014, when a strong rebound in capacity additions was forecast. By comparison, China deployed 12.1 GW of solar and 14.1 GW of wind capacity.

The regional and global market remains dominated by China, attracting $54.2 billion, with the U.S. in second place. Japan was third with $28.6 billion. Globally, clean energy investment fell 11 percent, to $254 billion, and renewable power generating capacity additions declined by 1 percent in 2013. Overall, installed clean energy capacity reached 735 GW.