Renewable Energy Update

by Allen Matkins

Renewable Energy Focus

U.S. Senate Committee votes to extend tax breaks for wind farms

Renewable Energy World News - Apr 4

U.S. wind farms would keep their treasured tax breaks as part of an $85 billion package of temporary tax cuts passed by a key Senate committee Thursday. Some U.S. firms with foreign income would be winners too after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., backed off plans to significantly trim the package. Congress routinely passes the package of more than 50 temporary tax breaks for businesses and individuals, but they were allowed to expire at the start of the year. The Senate Finance Committee voted Thursday to extend all but two of them through 2015. The bill passed on a voice vote, with support from both Democrats and Republicans.

California trails Texas in wind power, says new report

KQED - Apr 15

The commercial wind industry was born in California, and the state has one of the strongest renewable energy incentive programs in the country. Still, when it comes to wind, Texas has us beat by a long shot, according to a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based American Wind Energy Association. California generates 5,829 megawatts of wind energy, compared with 12,354 megawatts in the Lone Star State. Iowa is a close third at 5,177 megawatts. At least one explanation is simple: Texas is a bigger and windier place. “California was first out of the gate to promote wind, so we got a reputation for being the biggest and best wind state,” says Nancy Rader, Executive Director of the California Wind Energy Association. “But our resources pale in comparison to Texas and other states in that Great Plains region.” While California has pursued both wind and solar energy, Texas has focused on wind.

California Energy Commission approves first wave of Proposition 39 energy expenditure plans

Solar Thermal Magazine - Apr 6

The California Energy Commission approved the first set of energy expenditure plans for projects that will be funded by the California Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39). Schools in Alameda County, Temecula, and Salinas will be able to use tens of thousands of dollars for classroom and school facility energy efficiency upgrades and clean energy projects. Local education agencies, including county offices of education, school districts, charter schools, and state special schools, are eligible for funding. A total of $381 million is available for the first fiscal year of the Proposition 39 program.

SolarCity resumes storage applications after California decision

BusinessWeek - Apr 16

SolarCity Corp., the largest U.S. solar-power provider by market value, will resume applications to connect energy-storage systems in California after regulators said they’re exempt from utility fees. Utilities are barred from imposing charges including connection fees of as much as $800, the California Public Utility Commission said in a proposed decision yesterday. The Commission typically adopts these proposed decisions and a final ruling may come as early as May 15. SolarCity in March stopped applying to install and connect storage systems for hundreds of customers in the state because utilities were requiring a series of applications and fees that made the process onerous.

Agave grown among solar panels can also be useful for biofuels

Futurity Research News - Apr 10

Growing carefully chosen plants like agave amid photovoltaic panels could allow solar farms to not only collect sunlight for electricity but also to produce crops for biofuels, new computer models suggest. This co-location approach could prove especially useful in sunny, arid regions such as the southwestern United States where water is scarce, says Sujith Ravi, who is conducting postdoctoral research with David Lobell and Chris Field, both professors in environmental Earth system science at Stanford University. On a co-located solar farm, runoff from water used to clean photovoltaic panels would nourish agave or other biofuel crops. The plants would in turn provide ground cover, helping prevent dust buildup that decreases solar panel efficiency.

San Luis Obispo County simplifies permitting process for renewable energy projects

San Luis Obispo Tribune - Apr 8

A year from now, San Luis Obispo County should have in place a streamlined process that will allow small- to medium-sized renewable energy projects to be permitted quickly. County planners told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the streamlined permitting process will take months, if not years, off the time it takes to get a permit for renewable power projects and greatly reduce their cost. The project will cover solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal projects. The program would include both distributed solar projects as well as smaller-scale commercial projects. Distributed projects are typically rooftop and parking lot-mounted solar installations, the power from which is used onsite. The process would be streamlined by preparing a programmatic environmental impact report that can be used as a template for permitting renewable energy projects. As long as a proposed project meets certain performance standards, such as stream setbacks and visual protections, an individual environmental review and a lengthy permitting process would not be necessary.

Yolo County produces 152 percent more solar energy than it uses

Eco Watch - Apr 16

Yolo County (population 200,000), just west of Sacramento County, now produces 152 percent more energy from solar panels than it uses. Terry Vernon, deputy director of Yolo County General Services, is behind much of the solar success. In 2010, the Yolo County government was facing an annual $1.4 million electric bill. Vernon knew there was a better way. Working with SunPower, Yolo County installed a 1-megawatt solar power system at the Yolo County Justice Campus in the County seat, Woodland. In 2013, the County installed three arrays totaling 5.8 megawatts of power as part of its County Wide Solar Project. The projects not only eliminated the county’s electric bill, but also earned just under $500,000 the first year. The County sells electricity to PG&E for 10-cents/kilowatt hour, although when its 20-year FiT contract is over, that price might rise.

Largest net-zero energy commercial office building opened in San Diego

Alternative Energy News - Apr 5

LPL Financial today announced the opening of its new net-zero energy San Diego headquarters, Tower II at La Jolla Commons. The company reports that this facility is the largest net-zero energy commercial office building in the U.S. The 13-story, 415,000-square-foot office tower demonstrates a company commitment to sustainability and social responsibility, incorporating sophisticated available green technologies, health, and wellness benefits for its employees. The tower uses three fuel cells to convert biogas into carbon-neutral electricity that will allow the building to achieve net-zero energy status.

Notable Renewable Energy Projects and Deals

U.S. Geothermal Inc. to buy California geyser projects

Idaho Statesman Business News - Apr 7

Boise-based U.S. Geothermal Inc. announced that it would buy Ram Power Corp's geyser geothermal electricity operations in Sonoma County for $6.4 million. The purchase included Ram Power subsidiaries Western Geopower Inc., Skyline Geothermal Holdings Inc., and Etoile Holdings Inc. Those subsidiaries in turn own Mayacamas Energy LLC and Skyline Geothermal LLC. U.S. Geothermal expects the sale to be final by April 30.

Swinerton completes 18-megawatt solar array in Fresno County

Solar Industry Mag - Apr 7

Swinerton Renewable Energy has completed the 18-megawatt Westlands Solar Farms project near Huron, California. The project is located on 85 acres adjacent to Interstate 5. General contractor Swinerton built the single-axis tracker photovoltaic array and new substation under contract from Clenera.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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