Renewable Energy Update -- August 30, 2013

by Allen Matkins

Renewable Energy Focus

FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff: solar 'is going to overtake everything'

Green Tech Solar News - Aug 22

If anybody doubts that federal energy regulators are aware of the rapidly changing electricity landscape, they should talk to Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” Wellinghoff told Greentech Media last week in a sideline conversation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. If FERC does not ensure the grid is ready to integrate the growing marketplace demand for distributed solar and other distributed resources, Wellinghoff said, “We are going to have problems with grid reliability and overall grid costs.” Transmission infrastructure will be able to keep up with solar growth. The big changes will be at the distribution level where FERC has less influence, he explained.

Don't cut support for renewables in tax reform effort, lawmakers say

Smart Brief - Wind Energy - Aug 30

The House Ways and Means Committee received a letter signed by 60 Democratic and Republican lawmakers calling for continued support for renewable energy. "As you develop tax reform legislation, we urge you to include policies that promote America's renewable energy economy," the lawmakers wrote in the letter. The American Wind Energy Association is seeking a multiyear extension of the wind-energy Production Tax Credit, saying a predictable policy climate is conducive to industry growth.

Natural gas could be a bridge fuel to $1 solar

Financial Post - Business News - Aug 22

Natural gas could be the dominant power source for the next two decades in the western United States, even under the most aggressive climate scenarios, before making way for solar, findings from the University of California Berkeley suggest. The Berkeley study examined the impact of cheap solar power, as envisaged by the so-called “sunshot” initiative launched two years ago by former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. It did not directly analyze or comment on whether natural gas could play the role of a transition fuel, but the results support the idea that natural gas can work as a bridge between high-carbon coal and cheap solar power in areas with abundant sunshine, as policymakers build up renewable energy capacity and supporting infrastructure while driving deep cuts in carbon emissions.

Staring down sequestration, U.S. Army ramps up renewables recruiting drive

Renewable Energy World - Aug 20

The U.S. Armed Forces has been at the leading edge of change when it comes to renewable energy deployment in government, spurred by statutory federal government renewable energy and energy efficiency targets. Faced with enacting sharp and deep cuts as a result of sequestration, U.S. military leaders are ramping up recruiting efforts nonetheless, aiming to strike up partnerships with private-sector renewable energy project developers. The U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force each intend to install 1 gigawatt of renewable power capacity through 2025 as they strive to reach the 25 percent-by-2025 federal government renewable energy target required by law. Public-private partnerships are seen as playing a central, pivotal role in reaching this goal, and that could spell significant opportunity for private sector businesses across the renewable energy value chain.

White House installs 'U,S.-made solar panels'

Energy Live News - Aug 20

The White House has finally started installing solar panels on the First Family’s residence this week, reports claim. President Barack Obama’s administration initially pledged to install the renewable energy source in 2010 in a bid to increase its energy efficiency. A White House official told the media that, “The retrofit will include the installation of energy-saving equipment such as updated building controls and variable speed fans as well as solar generation. The project will help demonstrate that historic buildings can incorporate solar energy and energy-efficiency upgrades.” Reports claim the panels being used are made by an American company.

Feds unveil new renewable energy zone

My Desert Business News - Aug 19

The federal government has created a new renewable energy zone along the southeast shore of the Salton Sea that could eventually host thousands of megawatts of solar and geothermal energy on previously disturbed lands. The West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Evaluation Area, recently announced by new Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, covers a 64,058-acre patchwork of public and private land between the sea and the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, a military training area. The new zone, located entirely in Imperial County, is crisscrossed by Highway 111, the Coachella Canal, and railroad lines. About 60 percent of the land is private and, in addition to being used for farming, the area is popular for off-roading, environmental representatives said.

U.S. beats another environmental suit over $2.2B Mojave solar plant

Law360 - California (subscription required) - Aug 20

A California federal judge dismissed another environmental challenge to a $2.2 billion solar plant in the Mojave Desert on Friday, saying the government properly balanced the need for renewable energy with environmental impacts and the loss of access to Native American religious sites. U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee rejected efforts by La Cuna De Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle Advisory Committee to scuttle the massive solar project under a half dozen federal statutes.

Moapa Indians to develop 1.5 gigawatts of renewables on Nevada lands - Aug 23

The Moapa Band of Paiute Indians are turning to renewable energy development in a big way and are about to start construction on their first utility-scale solar plant. The 250-megawatt solar farm is the first of many projects on their land in Nevada; they have plans for as much as 1.5 gigawatts of projects, selling excess energy to utilities across the southwest. This first plant will serve 100,000 households.

Georgia ups the ante on solar investment

PV-Magazine - Aug 16

Despite ranking 23rd among all U.S. states for solar installations per capita, Georgia is set to become one of America's leading producers of solar power thanks to recent positive action by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC). In July, the PSC approved a plan to add 525 megawatts of solar generation – enough to power more than 48,000 homes – to the portfolio of Georgia Power Co. The Atlanta-based company is the largest utility provider in the state, and will have until 2016 to incorporate this additional solar capacity online, according to a report released by Environment Georgia’s Research & Policy Center.

Bechtel concludes construction of 110-megawatt California solar project

Energy Business Review - Solar News - Aug 22

Bechtel, a U.S.-based engineering and construction company, has concluded the development of the Catalina solar photovoltaic generating facility in Kern County, Southern California. The 110-megawatt alternating current solar plant spans over an area of 900 acres and features a 7.2 mile transmission line that connects the plant to the substation.

Tensions ease over dust from solar projects in Antelope Valley

Green Tech Solar News - Aug 19

The uproar over dust coming off utility-scale solar construction sites in the Antelope Valley have been eased by an agreement on mitigation measures between developers and Kern County planners. The meeting and the new mitigation plan were described to the community by Kern County Planning Department Director Lorelei Oviatt and Second District County Supervisor Zack Scrivner at a meeting of the Rosamond Municipal Advisory Council. Complaints against the solar projects during a Memorial Day weekend wind event raised concerns of Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis) outbreaks in the Antelope Valley, which straddles northern Los Angeles and southern Kern Counties and currently has over 1,000 megawatts of utility-scale solar PV under construction. As a result of the furor and the dust, Los Angeles County temporarily stopped work last spring until mitigations were introduced at the now nearly completed 230-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One being built by First Solar for Exelon.

SolarCity opens major operations center in the San Fernando Valley

Yahoo! Biz Energy - Aug 22

SolarCity, a leading provider of clean energy, has opened its first operations center in the San Fernando Valley to accommodate customers as far north as Santa Barbara County. The 16,800-square-foot facility is staffed by 61 full-time employees today, and SolarCity currently has 15 job openings at this location. SolarCity already has approximately 2,000 customers in the San Fernando Valley. The company has also begun or completed projects to provide solar power to some 60 school facilities within the Los Angeles, Glendale, and Simi Valley Unified School Districts, and it will be providing solar electricity to the headquarters of the Las Virgenes-Triunfo Municipal Water District within the next year.

Wisconsin asked to test wind turbine impact on health

National Wind Watch - News Watch - Aug 21

The Fond du Lac County Board of Supervisors thinks the State of Wisconsin should conduct and pay for a study on the health impacts of wind turbines on human health. Supervisors voted 23-0 to send a resolution to Madison to try and get some answers for residents who told sad stories about their health deteriorating. Light applause broke out in the Legislative Chambers at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Work begins on 85-turbine wind project in Texas

Smart Brief - Wind Energy - Aug 19

Invenergy Wind has broken ground on the Goldthwaite wind project in Texas' Mills County. The 85-turbine facility is due for completion in the fall, with commissioning expected by December. The project is expected to contribute about $200 million to the local tax base, said County Judge Kirk Fulk.

Replacing net metering with solar tariffs could create tax headaches

Green Tech Solar News - Aug 20

A filing with the Arizona Corporation Commission from a top U.S. tax law firm concluded that tariffs proposed as an alternative to net energy metering could complicate residential solar system owners’ federal tax credits and force them to pay income tax for the electricity their systems produce. The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) was forced into the filing as a result of recent proposals to replace net metering in Arizona, explained TASC President Bryan Miller. The group was reluctant to file because the legal opinion will likely “raise very difficult questions” about feed-in tariffs already in place and proposed around the country. Arizona Public Service, the state’s biggest electricity provider, last month proposed adding a charge to its net energy metering program or replacing it with a “bill credit.”

Vermont energy co-op is latest utility to question net-metering

PV Tech News - Aug 19

A rural Vermont energy co-op has joined some of the largest utilities in the U.S. in their disapproval of net metering. The Washington Electric Co-operative (WEC) told local press that it was concerned that its involvement in the scheme could be interpreted as being “irresponsible financially”. Net metering allows owners of solar installations to feed their excess electricity to the grid and wind their meter backwards. WEC will now limit the size of future eligible solar installations to 5 kilowatts as it looks to protect its revenue. “As a not for profit electric utility, which is owned by our members, our only recourse for recovering insufficient revenue is to increase rates,” said Patricia Richards, general manager of WEC, in an interview with the Portland Press Herald.

Green energy fees disappearing from utility bills

My San Antonio National News - Aug 17

The lower surcharges for green energy are cheering proponents who say they are another reason Michigan should make utilities sell more electricity generated from wind or other renewable sources. Business surcharges also would drop significantly under proposals from DTE Electric and Consumers Energy, which control 90 percent of the state's electricity market. After voters rejected a ballot proposal last year to boost the minimum to 25 percent by 2025, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder appointed a fact-finding team that conducted seven meetings around the state. The governor has said he favors making utilities produce a greater share of their electricity from renewable sources but has not decided how big the increase should be. Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs, a coalition that supports higher renewable energy and energy efficiency requirements, counters that new natural gas, pipeline, and other fossil fuel projects get more generous tax benefits not available to wind projects. Contributing to that have been technology improvements that have led to better wind and solar energy production, as well as federal production tax credits that have offset costs.

What do efficiency pros want? Financing. What do they lack? Financing.

GreenTech Efficiency News - Aug 21

The energy efficiency industry is in a difficult spot. Everyone recognizes that financing is one of the biggest constraints holding back the market. And it's not from lack of interest: the biggest investment firms in the world say there are billions of dollars sitting on the sidelines waiting to get funneled into efficiency projects. However, a lack of lending standards and uncertainty about project performance are two major factors preventing a surge of new money. The other factor is inconsistent policy adoption, which limits project volume and makes it hard for large institutional investors to lump enough projects together. A new survey from Noesis Energy shows why this is such a major problem.

VC funding remains downstream

PV-Magazine - Aug 20

In its Q2 2013 report into venture capital (VC) funding in solar energy, Mercom Capital has reported that global VC investment rose to $189 million, up from $126 million in Q1. Downstream companies continue to attract the bulk of VC funds. Mercom reports that the number of VC deals for Q2 of this year totaled 19, compared to 26 last quarter. The top VC deal for the quarter was the $69 million raised by Hefei Golden Sun Energy Technology, a Chinese solar developer.

Notable Renewable Energy Projects and Deals

North American Development Bank invests in 20-megawatt solar plant in California

PV Tech News - Aug 22

The North American Development bank has loaned T Solar $67.7 million, through land developers Sol Orchard for a 20-megawatt solar plant. The plant was certified in April by the Border Environment Cooperation Commission and will be developed on 53 hectares of Imperial Irrigation District land in El Centro, Imperial County, California. Spanish firm T Solar is a subsidiary of Isolux Infrastructure.

California grid operator names 4 potential bidders for power-link project

Smart Brief - Wind Energy - Aug 19

A notice issued by the California ISO on August 13 named four potential bidders for a project to build, own, and operate a transmission line that would move renewable power from San Diego Gas & Electric's Sunrise Powerlink transmission line to the California ISO grid. The proposed 11-mile-long Sycamore-Penasquitos line would cost between $111 million and $121 million. The four potential bidders are Abengoa, Elecnor, Trans Bay Cable, and a partnership between SDG&E and Citizens Energy.

Pattern closes financing and starts building 218-megawatt Texas wind project

North American Wind Power - Aug 20

Pattern Energy Group LP has closed the financing and started construction of its Panhandle Wind project, a 218-megawatt wind farm located in the Texas Panhandle. Panhandle Wind will sell power to Citigroup Energy Inc. under a long-term hedge off-take agreement. GE Energy Financial Services and Citigroup Global Markets Inc. will invest structured equity in the project. Financial details were not disclosed.

Duke Energy buys second California solar farm

Biz Journal - Green News - Aug 16

Duke Energy Renewables has purchased another California solar project, paying an undisclosed sum to Recurrent Energy for the 4.5-megawatt Sunset Reservoir Solar Project in San Francisco. It is the second California solar farm that Duke Renewables has bought this year. In April, it purchased the 21-megawatt Highlander Solar Project in Twentynine Palms, about 140 miles east of Los Angeles, in San Bernardino County. Duke also has a half-interest in a megawatt’s worth of rooftop commercial solar power developed in a joint project with Integrys Energy Systems.

Heliopower acquires 'zero money down' solar company Greenzu

PV Tech News - Aug 21

U.S. solar power installer Heliopower has purchased Greenzu, a San Francisco company providing small commercial businesses and non-profit organizations with solar power systems. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed. Greenzu specializes in offering financing solutions to its customers including ‘zero money down’ deals where the company pays for the initial cost of installation with the building owner purchasing electricity from the company. Heliopower offers integrated system solutions to its customers, installing residential and commercial systems.


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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