Renewable Energy Focus

Catching rays in California, and storing them

New York Times - Dec 23

Solar power is growing so fast in California — with installations by customers increasing tenfold since 2006 — that it is turning the state’s power system upside down. In a twist that is being closely watched by power companies around the country, California utilities will install massive banks of batteries and other devices to store the power surplus created by solar panels in the afternoon, when the sun’s rays are strong. The batteries are then to begin discharging power into California’s electric grid in the early evening, around sunset, when the solar generation of energy dies down but demand rises as millions of people get home and turn on air-conditioners, televisions, and other electricity gobblers.

FERC’s new ‘fast track’ rules will make clean energy development easier

Greentech Media - Jan 7

California has led the nation on a key environmental issue once again. In this case, the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) adopted key aspects of California’s new interconnection rules for small wholesale energy projects like solar and small hydropower. The fast track process is a dramatically cheaper and faster interconnection process for qualifying small projects, so this change represents a major improvement with nationwide impacts. FERC adopted a number of changes in the Small Generator Interconnection Procedures, including the following: 1) utilities must provide a $300 pre-application report to requesting parties, which includes important information for judging the cost and feasibility of interconnection of the site at issue; 2) increasing the minimum project size for fast track eligibility from 2 megawatts up to 5 megawatts; and 3) changing the 50 percent minimum load rule to 100 percent, which effectively doubles the size of projects that are eligible for the fast track.

Pattern Energy to acquire wind projects for $202 million

San Francisco Business Times - Jan 7

San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group Inc. is buying wind projects in Ontario and Texas from its largest shareholder for $202.4 million. Pattern Energy is buying two projects from shareholder Pattern Energy Group LP, which holds a 47.5 percent stake in the company: the Grand Renewable project, a 149-megawatt project in Haldimand County, Ontario, and the Panhandle 2, a 182-megawatt project in Carson County, Texas.

Napa County to study renewable energy option

Napa Valley Register - Dec 25

Napa County may soon be taking another step in joining a Marin County-based energy program that could offer residents of the unincorporated area access to 50 to 100 percent renewable energy for their domestic use. The county expressed interest in joining the program, called Marin Clean Energy, in September, and Public Works Director Steve Lederer said he’d be taking a $35,000 contract to the Board of Supervisors in January to pay for a feasibility study needed for Napa to link up.

Sonoma Clean Power to tap geothermal for EverGreen program

San Francisco Business Times - Dec 19

Planners for a new renewable energy–focused public power agency in Sonoma County on Thursday revealed that the optional all-renewable EverGreen program will source its electricity entirely from the nearby network of geothermal power plants on the border of Sonoma and Lake counties, adding solar photovoltaic sources in the future.

Plans for San Francisco clean energy program still underway, despite political opposition

San Francisco Bay Guardian - Dec 17

San Francisco’s longstanding effort to develop a municipal renewable energy program has been stymied by politics, but Supervisor London Breed has taken up the cause of advancing aspects of the plan that haven't been obstructed. At a December meeting of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), a Board of Supervisors committee that has been working to develop CleanPowerSF for years, Breed called for putting out a Request for Proposals to develop a concrete plan for building out local renewable energy infrastructure. LAFCo adopted the motion. With plans for solar panel arrays or wind power facilities that would generate hundreds of megawatts of electricity for the municipal energy program, the build-out is a key aspect of the plan that could lead to job creation and stable electricity rates in the long term.

Some good news on climate change: emissions may be headed for plateau

SustainableBusiness.com - Dec 16

In 2012, global greenhouse gas emissions continued their trajectory to all-time highs, but some researchers are cautiously optimistic that the world is edging closer to a plateau. "Unexpectedly, for the first time our index draws a cautious picture of hope", says Jan Burck, an author of the annual Climate Change Performance Index by Bonn-based Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe. It's not that emissions are coming down, but that there are signs of a slowdown in the increase in global CO2 emissions. That's largely because China— the world's biggest emitter— has improved on climate protection. From 2002-2012, China accounted for about four-fifths of the world's growth of carbon emissions.


Notable Renewable Energy Projects and Deals

Ogin seeks California county approval to install new turbine model for study

Smart Brief - Jan 2

Wind turbine developer Ogin is seeking approval from regulators in Alameda County, California, to install 40 units of a new wind turbine model in Altamont Pass to see if they reduce avian impacts. The design of the turbine, with two concentric covers around the blade, was meant to discourage birds from flying near the blade. If the approval is granted, researchers would then conduct a one-year comparative study on avian fatality caused by the new models against existing wind turbines in the area, which are some of the oldest modern wind turbines.

UC Merced rooftops to get solar panels

Merced Sun-Star - Jan 6

In a move to double its energy output, UC Merced will be adding solar panels this year to as many as a dozen buildings on and off campus. The university’s facilities management team expects to pick a company later this month to install the photovoltaic systems on 8 to 12 structures, which could produce an additional megawatt of energy.

CEC recommends approval of Blythe solar PV project, denial of Palen solar CSP project

Solar Server News - Dec 17

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has recommended approval of the most recent conversion plans for the 485-megawatt Blythe PV project. However, the CEC called for denial of conversion plans for the 500-megawatt Palen concentrating solar power (CSP) project, based on unmitigable impacts to cultural, visual, and biological resources.