Solar & Wind Energy Save Thousands Of Lives, Tens Of Billions Annually On Health Costs

Glittering future.	(Reuters/Carlos Barria)

By Akshat Rathi for Quartz – One of the biggest criticisms of the renewable-energy industry is that it has been propped up by government subsidies. There is no doubt that without government help, it would have been much harder for the nascent technology to mature. But what’s more important is whether there has been a decent return on taxpayers’ investment. A new analysis in Nature Energy gives renewable-energy subsidies the thumbs-up. Dev Millstein of Lawerence Berkeley National Laboratory and his colleagues find that the fossil fuels not burnt because of wind and solar energy helped avoid between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths in the US between 2007 and 2015. Fossil fuels produce large amounts of pollutants like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, which are responsible for ill-health and negative climate effects. The researchers found that the US saved between $35 billion and $220 billion in that period because of avoided deaths, fewer sick days, and climate-change mitigation. How do these benefits compare to the US government’s outlays? “The monetary value of air quality and climate benefits are about equal or more than state and federal financial support to wind and solar industries,” says Millstein.

Utah Utility Wants To Triple Monthly Charges For Solar Customers

IN 2015, RESIDENTS IN NEVADA PROTESTED A NEW POLICY, SIMILAR TO UTAH'S PLAN, THAT DECIMATED THE STATE'S ROOFTOP SOLAR INDUSTRY. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER

By Mark Hand for Think Progress – Utah’s largest electric utility company wants to place new charges on rooftop solar customers, a proposal that critics say would unfairly penalize the customers; in addition, they fear it could lead to a scenario similar to the one that recently played out in Nevada, with rooftop solar companies abandoning the state after policymakers weakened the net metering system. Rocky Mountain Power’s plan would nearly triple monthly customer charges and peak-time usage charges for rooftop solar customers, although the company says the new charges are necessary to create an equitable system between solar and non-solar customers. The Utah Public Service Commission is holding a hearing on Wednesday to get public input on the company’s controversial proposal. Next week, the commission plans to hold a multi-day hearing where Rocky Mountain Power, solar companies, and other official intervenors in the case will get to state their positions. Under Rocky Mountain Power’s proposal, new solar customers would pay a $15 per month service charge, compared to $6 per month now; a $9.02 per kilowatt demand charge for “on-peak” demand; and a 3.81 cents per kilowatt hour charge for electricity. From May to September, on-peak periods occur from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. From October to April, on peak occurs from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Why Minnesota’s Community Solar Program Is The Best

Oxfam International/flickr

By John Farrell for ILSR – I’ve been asked a lot of questions about Minnesota’s community solar program over the past couple years and it’s time to make one thing clear: Minnesota’s program is the best in the country. Why? Because there 10 times more community solar projects in the queue—400 megawatts—in Minnesota than have been built in the history of community solar in the United States (40 megawatts). Minnesota’s program (see infographic) is a comprehensive approach that makes developing community solar projects economically viable and—most importantly—that does not cap the development of community solar projects. Colorado’s landmark community solar legislation, for example, caps the program at 6.5 megawatts per utility per year (although there’s hope it may increase in the future). Massachusetts has just revamped their solar renewable energy credit program to make community solar a better investment. No other state has had significant community solar development, despite 11 states that have some form of virtual net metering that allows for sharing electricity output from an off-site solar energy project. How big is Minnesota’s projected success?

Ranchers Fight Keystone XL Pipeline By Building Solar Panels In Its Path

Farm owners and ranchers have started installing solar panels along stretches of their land in an attempt to block TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

By Phil McKenna for Inside Climate News – After years of battling Canadian pipeline giant TransCanada over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, Nebraska rancher Bob Allpress is taking an unusual step to protect land that has been in his family since 1886. In the coming weeks, Allpress plans to install solar panels in the middle of a 1.5-mile long strip of land, a proposed pipeline route that bisects his 900-acre ranch—and that TransCanada has threatened to take by force through a legal process known as eminent domain. “Not only would they have to invoke eminent domain against us, they would have to tear down solar panels that provide good clean power back to the grid and jobs for the people who build them,” Allpress said. The project, known as “Solar XL,” is the latest example in a growing number of demonstrations against pipelines where opponents festoon proposed corridors with eye-catching obstructions.

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

Oxfam International/flickr

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.