Renewable Energy Focus

Movin' and shakin': geothermal projects face a rocky road

Renewable Energy World - Sep 30

Geothermal energy, one of the "forgotten renewables," powers 4,419 megawatts, or just more than 1 percent, of planned capacity in the U.S., surpassing only planned biomass-fueled capacity in the renewables sector. Geothermal heat currently powers just 2,751 megawatts. Because it can provide consistent baseload generation, geothermal capacity can be a desirable renewable resource for company portfolios to balance out the intermittent generation provided by wind and solar. Also, with the current administration's focus on carbon emissions and state-level regulation such as California's carbon cap-and-trade program and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, geothermal's minimal emissions can be attractive to generators looking to limit their emission profiles. However, resources for geothermal development are more limited than those for other renewables, and each project must be tailored to the site's unique features. Developers also face high initial costs for exploration and the chance that the site in question may be deemed unsuitable for a geothermal power plant, which has made them difficult to finance. Adding to the projects' risks are the long lead times involved, which can also jeopardize whether a project meets deadlines required to qualify for financial incentives.

Biogas for vehicles to go on sale via Clean Energy Fuels

Earth2Tech Blog - Oct 3

Clean Energy Fuels, a company backed by T. Boone Pickens that distributes natural gas to run vehicles, announced on Thursday that it would start commercially selling biogas to its fueling stations in California and fleets across the country. Biogas is methane that can be captured from decomposing waste at landfills, animal waste on farms, and water treatment facilities. It can be used in place of natural gas as a cleaner fuel to run buses, cars, and trucks. The move is notable in that Clean Energy Fuels says it will become the “first ever commercial distributor of transportational fuel made from waste.” There’s very little biogas available in most states currently in the U.S. for both vehicles and to run things like fuel cells.Clean Energy Fuels, a company backed by T. Boone Pickens that distributes natural gas to run vehicles, announced on Thursday that it would start commercially selling biogas to its fueling stations in California and fleets across the country. Biogas is methane that can be captured from decomposing waste at landfills, animal waste on farms, and water treatment facilities. It can be used in place of natural gas as a cleaner fuel to run buses, cars, and trucks. The move is notable in that Clean Energy Fuels says it will become the “first ever commercial distributor of transportational fuel made from waste.” There’s very little biogas available in most states currently in the U.S. for both vehicles and to run things like fuel cells.

What does the shutdown mean for solar energy in the U.S.?

Renewable Energy World - Oct 16

On October 1, the U.S. government shut down over Congress’ inability to pass a funding bill. While solar energy isn’t the first concern as this stalemate continues, the solar industry could be affected in a number of ways, ranging from research to incentives to regulating the electric grid. Government agencies like the Department of Energy (DOE) are running on skeleton crews, and if Congress fails to act, even more could be furloughed as operational budgets for essential programs dwindle. Of the DOE’s 13,814 employees, 8,471 are furloughed, with the remaining employees watching over essential activities like monitoring hydroelectric dams and nuclear materials. This drastic reduction of employment means that pretty much any solar work at the federal level will be halted. For instance, the two DOE offices with the most direct impact on solar power have been dramatically affected: the Advanced Energy Research Projects - Energy division has no employees during the shutdown, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has only one employee during the shutdown.

New laws passed in California to support electric vehicle market

Renewable Energy Magazine - Oct 2

Governor Jerry Brown has passed six new laws to promote the growth of electric and low-carbon vehicles in the state. California already has more electric vehicles than any other state in the U.S., partly because policymakers are very keen to support them. For example, the White Sticker and Green Sticker programs, which allow for certain low-emission vehicles to enter "high occupancy" zones (diamond lanes), have been extended until 2019 or until the authorization expires. Additionally, the California Building Standards Commission and the Department of Housing and Community Development will be required to develop standards for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in multifamily housing and non-residential developments. A measure has also been passed to provide $30 million for the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project and the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project, while another $10 million has been allocated to the Heavy-Duty Vehicle Air Quality Loan Program. A further $8 million has been awarded to the enhanced fleet modernization program.

U.S. considers "eagle take permit"

Renews - Renewable Energy News - Sep 30

U.S. regulators are mulling over whether to issue an "eagle take permit" to EDF Renewable Energy’s 102.5-megawatt Shiloh IV wind farm in California. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft environmental assessment that would allow the death of up to five golden eagles over five years. EDF said it would modify power lines and take other measures to protect the birds. A 45-day comment period to allow interested parties to weigh in on the draft environmental assessment ends on November 11.

New California net metering study appears to be DOA

Green Tech Solar News - Sep 30

A controversial new study on the costs and benefits of net metering requested by California regulators appears to be obsolete on delivery and may be objectionable to both the solar and the utility industries. “In 2020, with a complete build-out of systems to the existing net energy metering (NEM) cap, the costs associated with NEM electricity exported to the grid under the current NEM tariffs are approximately $359 million per year, or 1 percent of the utility revenue requirement,” reports the draft version of the California Net Energy Metering Cost-Effectiveness Evaluation prepared by the California Public Utilities Commission for the California legislature from a technical report by Energy and Environment Economics (E3). According to experts, the study uses soon-to-change design assumptions and antiquated data. The E3 study “uses rate design assumptions that are changing as a result of AB 327,” Sunrun Public Policy Manager Susan Wise said. The just-passed AB 327 protects California’s NEM law, Greentech Media’s Jeff St. John explained recently, but it is expected to lead to new rate designs significantly different from those on which the E3 report is based.

BOEM to determine interest in West Coast offshore wind development

Offshore Wind - Biz News - Sep 30

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to create American jobs, cut carbon pollution, and develop domestic energy sources, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued a request to determine whether there is competitive interest in leasing an area offshore Oregon that Principle Power, Inc. has proposed for a pilot-scale floating wind energy project. The Windfloat Pacific Project is the latest in a series of lease initiatives BOEM has undertaken to support offshore wind energy development. BOEM has issued four lease approvals on the Atlantic Coast: two non-competitive (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound and an area off Delaware) and two competitive (Massachusetts-Rhode Island and Virginia).

California moves to protect solar systems during fires

SustainableBusiness.com - Oct 3

Since a solar system was implicated in a major fire in New Jersey last month, California is moving on common sense safety measures that ensure the continuing goodwill of the industry. The last thing the solar industry needs is negative public relations just as Americans are readily adopting it. Comments like this could easily cause people to back off from adding solar: "We may very well not be able to save buildings that have alternative energy," New Jersey's acting fire marshal went as far to say. Firefighters were ordered to stay away from the roof because of electrocution concerns from the solar system, which made it much more difficult to extinguish the fire. But it doesn't have to be that way. California will soon require "arc fault detectors" in solar installations, which are already included in the 2011 National Electrical Code. Many states haven't enforced the code because of the lack of these sensors on the market, John Kluza of Sensata Technologies told Solar Novus. These detectors shut down a solar system if they sense increased electrical noise. It adds to the cost of a solar system, of course, about $25 to $100 for each string inverter, Kluza told Greentech Solar.

Notable Renewable Energy Projects and Deals

First U.S. solar plant that stores energy is online in Arizona

SustainableBusiness.com - Oct 10

It's a watershed moment for U.S. solar this week as the Solana Solar Concentrating Plant comes online in Arizona - the first solar plant capable of storing energy at night. Built by Spain-based Abengoa, molten salt technology stores the heat produced from solar energy throughout the day and then releases it slowly at night. The plant can operate at full capacity for six hours after sunset, which coincides with peak demand in Arizona. Not bad - a solar plant that produces energy 18 hours a day. Located about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona Public Service Company is buying all the electricity from the 280-megawatt plant, which will serve 70,000 people.

EDF Renewable Energy inaugurates 143-megawatt PV plant

Solar Server News - Sep 30

On September 27, EDF Renewable Energy, based in France, dedicated the 143-megawatt Catalina Solar project in Kern County. Catalina Solar will generate electricity for 35,000 homes, representing EDF Renewable Energy’s largest utility-scale solar PV plant. Currently it is the 8th largest PV plant in the world.

Geothermal finally gets a really big project

SustainableBusiness.com - Oct 10

When it comes to geothermal energy, most of what we hear about are roadblocks that need to be cleared for the industry to expand, or smallish projects going forward. Starting next year, however, Reykjavik Geothermal will begin drilling tests in Ethiopia, where it plans to develop as much as 1-gigawatt of geothermal energy over the next decade. Ethiopia's Corbetti Caldera area is considered one of the top geothermal resources in the world; the region is part of East Africa's Great Rift Valley, which spans eight countries. It has the potential for an estimated 20 gigawatts of geothermal energy.