Renewable Record: Wind And Solar Supplied 10% Of US Electricity In March

Activists demand that the COP20 government delegates approve measures to foment investment in renewable energies and eliminate their huge subsidies for fossil fuels. Credit: Joshua Wiese/IPS

By Julian Spector for GTM – March produced the highest share of wind and solar generation the U.S. has ever seen. The saying about March — “in like a lion, out like a lamb” — plays extremely well for renewable generation. Wind and solar together crossed the 10 percent mark of total U.S. electricity production in March, reports the Energy Information Administration. That’s the first time they’ve reached double-digit market share for a month, marking an important milestone in the growth of renewables nationwide. Wind supplied 8 percent of U.S. electricity and solar produced 2 percent. Overall for 2016, wind supplied 5.6 percent of generation, utility-scale solar contributed 0.9 percent, and small-scale solar about 0.5 percent, for a cumulative total of 7 percent. Why did the record occur in March, when the days haven’t reached their sunny summer maximum? Most of the electricity is still coming from wind, for one thing. And more of that wind comes from Texas than any other state, by a long shot. The winds blow more forcefully in Texas and surrounding states in the spring.

What Makes A Successful Utility-Led Community Solar Program?

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By Herman K. Trabish for Utility Dive – With almost two-thirds of utility professionals expecting moderate or significant growth in community shared renewables over the next ten years, it is time to look at what works and what doesn’t for utility-led programs. Investor-owned utilities (IOUs) now have 13 community solar programs representing 91 MW of capacity, according to Dan Chwastyk of the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA). Municipal and public power utilities have 22 programs with a combined 29 MW capacity. But the most prolific utility-builders of community solar are electric cooperatives. According to SEPA, they have 63 programs with a 43 MW capacity, but the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association says there could be twice that much. “We have done enough of these that we know what needs to be done and what kind of obstacles come up as the projects are being planned and built,” Tom Hunt, policy director for the Clean Energy Collective (CEC) told Utility Dive. To find out what works in utility-led community solar programs, Utility Dive talked to the people who helped built them. The key to success, they said, is not any particular program structure or customer incentive, but rather the underlying demand from ratepayers for clean energy. And, of course, it helps if customers can see a return on their investment over the life of a community solar contract.

Coal To Solar Switch Could Save 52,000 US Lives Per Year

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By Brian Bienkowski for The Daily Climate – Swapping out coal energy for solar would prevent 52,000 premature deaths in the United States every year, according to a new analysis from Michigan Technological University. Amid all the talk from the Trump Administration that regulations targeting coal are hurting people, this shows “many more lives are saved by phasing out coal,” said Liz Perera, climate policy director for the Sierra Club, who was not involved in the study. In addition the savings in health care costs added to the value of the solar electricity could in some cases bring in money, offsetting the costs of the switch. “Evolving the U.S. energy system utilizing clean, alternative technology will allow the U.S. to prevent thousands of premature deaths along with becoming a global leader in renewable technology adoption,” the authors wrote in the study published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Michigan Tech University researchers analyzed peer-reviewed health studies and calculated lives lost per kilowatt hour to coal each year—finding approximately 51,999 people die due to coal pollutants that spur respiratory, heart and brain problems. “Coal-fired pollution harms human life. It kills people,” said senior author Joshua Pearce, a researcher and professor at Michigan Tech University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “From an American perspective this transition [from coal to solar] makes complete sense.”

How Minnesota Doubled Its Solar Capacity

In this file photo, workmen install install a solar panel array for a whole-house solar power source at a home in Pinecrest. TIM CHAPMAN MIAMI HERALD STAFF

By Elizabeth Daigneau for GOverning – Americans love solar. Almost 9 in 10 adults favor expanding it, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. But not everyone can put panels on their homes. For one thing, the upfront cost of solar can be prohibitive. For another, some people don’t have the space, or their rooftops may be too shady or may face the wrong direction, or they don’t even own their rooftops because they rent. That’s where community shared solar comes in. Here’s how it works: Third parties set up solar panels on a parcel of land or rooftop. Households and businesses then share the electricity it produces through subscriptions. Community solar’s primary purpose is to give people access to solar power even if they cannot or prefer not to install it on their property. As it turns out, the same things that make community solar ideal for households and businesses are what make it ideal for governments, too. Minnesota proved that last year when it roughly doubled its solar capacity thanks to a group of local governments in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region. The solar boom in the state is largely the result of a 2013 law, which required Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, to create a third-party solar garden program.

France Declares All New Rooftops Must Be Topped With Plants Or Solar Panels

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By Liam S. Whittaker for CS Globe – A new law recently passed in France mandates that all new buildings that are built in commercial zones in France must be partially covered in either plants or solar panels. Green roofs, as they are called, have an isolating effect which helps to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building during the winter or cool it in the summer. They are capable of retaining rainwater and reducing problems with runoff, and also offer birds a place to call home in the urban jungle. French environmental activists originally wanted to pass a law that would make the green roofs cover the entire surface of all new roofs. However, partially covered roofs make for a great start, and are still a huge step in the right direction. Some say the law that was passed is actually better, as it gives the business owners a chance to install solar panels to help provide the buildings with renewable energy, thereby leaving even less of a footprint. Green roofs are already very popular in Germany and Australia, as well as Canada’s city of Toronto! This by-law was adopted in 2009, by the city of Toronto which mandated green roofs on all new industrial and residential buildings.

Arizona Utility Signs Game-Changing Deal Cutting Solar Power Prices In Half

Arizona solar array. CREDIT: Tucson Electric Power.

By Joe Romm for Think Progress – Remarkable drops in the cost of solar and wind power have effectively turned the global power market upside down in recent years. We’ve seen prices for new solar farms below 3 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh) in other countries for over a year now, but before this week, not in the U.S. That changed on Monday when Tucson Electric Power (TEP), an Arizona utility company, announced that it had reached an agreement to buy solar power at the same game-changing price. TEP says that this is a “historically low price” for a 100-megawatt system capable of powering 21,000 homes — and that the sub-3-cents price is “less than half as much as it agreed to pay under similar contracts in recent years.” For context, the average U.S. residential price for electricity is nearly 13 centsper kwh, and the average commercial price is 10.5 cents. NextEra Energy Resources will build and operate the system, which also includes “a long duration battery storage system” (whose price is not included in the 3 cents/kwh). Also worth noting: The sub-3-cents contracts that have been signed in other countries such as Chile, Dubai, and Mexico are unsubsidized, whereas U.S. prices include the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit.

New York Building The Renewable Energy Grid Of The Future

Climate policies help create sustainable jobs with a long-term future and spur technology innovation, the OECD says. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

By Leslie Kaufman for Inside Climate News. New York State is making a $5 billion bet that by making its power cleaner, it can become a magnet for the clean energy jobs of the future. Its efforts stand out among the many states racing to integrate more renewables into their power grids—such as Massachusetts, Hawaii and California—not necessarily for the technology but because of what’s happening behind the scenes: New York has launched a Herculean effort to turn around an antiquated system that has deterred innovation for generations by rewarding utilities for selling more electricity. The state is so gung-ho that its rules require utilities to come up with demonstration projects that test out a new business model, in partnership with at least one private sector company. The result, say the state’s regulators, is that New York is already attracting hundreds of innovative companies of all stripes. The plum opportunities are not only in installing wind turbines and solar panels, which are generating new employment opportunities across the country, they are also in emerging technologies related to smart grid management and storage.

Indiana Governor Passes Anti-Solar Bill: Death Blow To The Industry?

The bill will curtail net metering, cut jobs and allegedly hand over more power to state investor-owned utilities. Source: thestatehousefile

By Danielle Ola for PV Tech – The financial benefit currently available to solar users will be sharply curtailed over the next few years, after Indiana governor Eric Holcomb signed SEA 309 into law yesterday. Ignoring pleas of the industry, who beseeched Holcomb to keep the current financial incentives for residential solar, the Republican elected not to veto the bill. “I support solar as an important part of Indiana’s comprehensive energy mix. I understand the concerns some have expressed, but this legislation ensures those who currently have interests in small solar operations will not be affected for decades,” he said of his decision. The bill will now drastically reduce the rate of compensation for excess solar power over five years. It does allow anyone who installed a PV system after June but before 2022 to be grandfathered until 2032, but anyone after the 2022 cut-off point would only receive a lower financial rate for their power. By 2046, solar users are likely to receive little more than the wholesale rate for their power – a difference of around US$0.08/kWh – as well as a US$0.25 premium. Yesterday was the last day Holcomb could veto or sign the bill, which critics contend is part of a broader nationwide push by utilities to seize control of the emerging solar market.

Company Turning Former Coal Mine To Solar Farm

This undated image provided by the Berkeley Energy Group shows a mountaintop removal site near Pikeville, Ky. The Berkeley Energy Group, EDF Renewable Energy and former state Auditor Adam Edelen announced Tuesday, April 18, 2017, they are looking at two mountaintop removal sites to turn one into a solar farm. (Kenny Stanley/Berkeley Energy Group via AP)

By Staff of The Intelligencer – FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A former strip mine would be converted into a solar farm under a proposal announced Tuesday by an Appalachian coal company that says it wants to place hundreds of thousands of panels in the Kentucky mountains. The Berkeley Energy Group, EDF Renewable Energy and former Democratic state Auditor Adam Edelen said they are looking at two mountaintop removal sites just outside of Pikeville in the heart of Kentucky’s coal country. It’s the latest example of efforts to diversify the energy output of the nation’s third-largest coal producing state, which has been hit hard by the economic impact of the declining coal industry. Last month, the state legislature voted to end the state’s decades-long moratorium on nuclear energy. And earlier this month, the Kentucky Coal Museum installed solar panels on its roof. “We can build solar on the foundation of coal,” Edelen said. “Kentucky has long been an energy producer that has powered the entire country. There’s no reason why we can’t continue to be that, but we have to adopt an all of the above energy strategy.”

How Wall Street Once Killed The U.S. Solar Industry

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By Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic – It’s less obvious than it may seem. The global industry is a $65-billion business, and the United States has been involved in it from the beginning. NASA first improved and perfected panels for early satellite and Apollo missions. American firms have been manufacturing and selling solar panels for 40 years. Yet North American firms produce only about 3 percent of the world’s solar panels. China and Taiwan, meanwhile, make more than 60 percent of them. Labor in East Asia is often cheaper than it is in the United States, but that’s not the only factor. Consider the global semiconductor industry. Both computer chips and solar panels emerged from the Cold War research-and-development boom. Both were commercialized before 1980, as American-invented products sold by American-owned firms. And both markets were essentially controlled by the United States before the rise of Asian firms in the mid-1980s and ’90s. But chips, which first went to market a decade earlier than solar panels, did not suffer the same catastrophe that solar panels did. Today, the United States still leads the computer-chip industry, holding more than half of global market share for 20 years.

4 Dying Nukes Vs. Fleet Of Gigafactories: Which Will Gov. Cuomo Choose?

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Seih Al Dahal, about 50 kilometers south of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Photo credit: First Solar

By Harvey Wasserman and Tim Judson for Intrepid Report – Elon Musk’s SolarCity is completing the construction of its “Buffalo Billion” Gigafactory for photovoltaic (PV) cells near the Niagara River in Buffalo, New York. It will soon put 500 New Yorkers to work inside the 1.2 million-square-foot facility with another 700 nearby, ramping up to nearly 3,000 over the next few years. The production of some 10,000 solar panels per day will put thousands of New Yorkers to work doing the installations. The panels will produce electricity cheaper, cleaner, more safely and more reliably than any fossil or nuclear source of power, including fracked gas, thus fueling a bright industrial future for the state. With a little common sense from the governor, upstate New York could have many more of these massive factories, create many thousands of good, stable, high-paying jobs and solve its energy problems along the way.

Here Are The Top 20 U.S. Cities For Solar Power

Solar tracking devices in South Burlington, Vermont.
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By Nicole Gallucci for Mashable – With the Trump administration targeting various government clean energy programs, we can think of no better time to celebrate the U.S. cities with the most installed solar energy. A new report found the country has made some serious solar strides in 2016, particularly in 20 cities across the country. America’s “shining cities” helped the country attain 42,000 megawatts of solar energy capacity by the end of 2016 — enough energy to power 8.3 million average homes and slash annual carbon emissions by 52.3 million metric tons, the Frontier Group and the Environment America Research and Policy Center reported. Last year, the 20 top U.S. cities collectively accounted for nearly as much solar power as the entire country had installed at the end of 2010. Solar power is rising across the U.S. and around the world as technology prices and installation costs plummet.

Big Utilities Try To Tilt Solar Energy Market In Their Favor

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By Brian Slodysko for Daily Journal – INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s energy utilities want state lawmakers to pass a law that critics say would muscle out smaller companies from the emerging solar energy market. Solar power provides only about 1 percent of the country’s energy, but it is growing rapidly, with U.S. Energy Department figures showing solar industry employment grew 125 percent since 2010. Much of the growth has come from homeowners or businesses taking advantage of its bill-lowering potential. That could eventually eat away at the business of the big utilities — in Indiana, Duke Energy, Vectren and Indiana Michigan Power — which have a powerful voice and donate handsomely to political campaigns. Indiana legislators started debate Thursday on a proposed law that in five years would eliminate much of the financial benefit Indiana homeowners, businesses, schools and even some churches reap harvesting the sun’s rays.

Solar Employs More Workers Than Coal, Oil And Natural Gas Combined

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By Lorraine Chow for Eco Watch – “This report verifies the dynamic role that our energy technologies and infrastructure play in a 21st century economy,” said DOE Senior Advisor on Industrial and Economic Policy David Foster. “Whether producing natural gas or solar power at increasingly lower prices or reducing our consumption of energy through smart grids and fuel efficient vehicles, energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America, producing 14 percent of the new jobs in 2016.” The solar industry is particularly shining bright. “Proportionally, solar employment accounts for the largest share of workers in the Electric Power Generation sector,” the report, released on Jan. 13, states.

World Energy Hits A Turning Point: Solar That’s Cheaper Than Wind

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Seih Al Dahal, about 50 kilometers south of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Photo credit: First Solar

By Tom Randall for Bloomberg – A transformation is happening in global energy markets that’s worth noting as 2016 comes to an end: Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity. This has happened in isolated projects in the past: an especially competitive auction in the Middle East, for example, resulting in record-cheap solar costs. But now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects, according to fresh data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The chart below shows the average cost of new wind and solar from 58 emerging-market economies, including China, India, and Brazil.