Renewable Energy Update - June 2017 #2

by Allen Matkins

Renewable Energy Focus

California regulators weigh whether the state needs more power plants

Los Angeles Times - Jun 6 California energy officials are, for the first time, rethinking plans to build expensive natural gas power plants in the face of an electricity glut and growing use of cleaner and cheaper energy alternatives. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced last Tuesday that it has put a hold on a $2.2-billion plan to rebuild several old natural gas power plants while it studies clean energy alternatives to meet electricity demands. And state regulators last Friday accepted a proposal for a study of clean-energy alternatives to a proposed natural gas power plant in Ventura County. The scrutiny comes after a Los Angeles Times investigation found that the state is operating with an oversupply of electricity, driven largely by the construction of gas-fueled generating plants, leading to higher rates. The state’s power plants are on track to be able to produce at least 21% more electricity than needed by 2020, according to the Times.

U.S. utility-scale solar prices fall below $1/watt for the first time

PV-Tech - Jun 8 Following on from the successful year for solar in 2016, the U.S. market added 2,044 megawatts of new capacity in Q1 2017 alone. As installations grow, prices continue to fall to new lows and utility-scale system prices dropped below $1/watt for the first time according to GTM Research. Q1 was the sixth straight quarter in which more than 2 gigawatts of solar PV and more than 1 gigawatts of utility-scale PV was installed.

Solar’s rise lifted these blue-collar workers. Now they’re worried about Trump

Washington Post - Jun 5 Mike Catanzaro, a solar panel installer with a high school diploma, likes to work with his hands under the clear Carolina sky. That’s why he supported President Trump, a defender of blue-collar workers. But the 25-year-old sees Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement as a threat to his job. About 370,000 people work for solar companies in the U.S., with the majority of them employed in installations, according to the Department of Energy. More than 9,500 solar jobs have cropped up in North Carolina alone, the study found. That’s more than natural gas (2,181), coal (2,115), and oil generation of electric power (480) combined. Major players in the power industry, such as Duke Energy, a utility based in Charlotte that has heavily relied on coal in the past, say they remain committed to moving away from the older, more polluting sources of energy. But Trump’s move could be devastating for small-scale operators like Catanzaro’s employer.

California’s greenhouse gas emissions fall by less than 1%

SFGate - Jun 9 California officials, determined to fight climate change, have ordered deep cuts in the state’s emission of greenhouse gases. But new figures illustrate just how difficult that process can be. The state’s emissions in 2015 dropped just 0.3% from the prior year, according to data released last Wednesday by the California Air Resources Board. The board’s detailed annual greenhouse gas inventories are issued more than a year after the fact. While emissions from electrical plants fell in 2015, driven down partly by the rapid growth of large solar facilities, the amount of greenhouse gases spewed by cars and planes rose. That may be due to low fuel prices and an improving economy, both of which typically entice people to drive more.

In Silicon Valley, power industry is next target for disruption

Houston Chronicle - Jun 8 First, it was the music industry and travel agents, then shopping and taxi cabs. Now, as Silicon Valley pushes to digitize the globe, its next target for disruption is the power industry. From newly minted startup firms to Silicon Valley giants like Oracle and industrial powerhouses like General Electric and ABB, hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into so-called big data technologies designed to remake the power grid. Out are centralized, fossil-fuel fired plants sending electricity in one direction. In are rooftop solar systems, smart thermostats, home battery systems, and wind farms. All are controlled by computer algorithms and updated hardware that pull in and analyze thousands of data points on weather, pricing, and electricity consumption to create a power grid that can shift demand when supplies run thin and rely more on renewable energy.

Santa Barbara sets goal for 100% renewable energy by 2030

San Luis Obispo Tribune - Jun 8 Santa Barbara has vowed to transition entirely to clean and renewable energy. Last Tuesday, the City Council voted to establish a goal of 100% sustainable energy by 2030. The resolution sets both community-wide and municipal facilities objectives to reduce fossil fuel use through increased conservation and efficiency, and by developing renewable energy sources. Santa Barbara is joining 29 cities nationwide that have devoted to achieving 100% renewable energy targets.

Prince was a secret patron of solar power

Bloomberg - Jun 5 Before his abrupt death a year ago, the pop musician Prince made an investment in green energy that is now helping solar start-ups. It started with a conversation in 2011 between Prince and his friend Van Jones, a CNN commentator and California human rights agitator and onetime green-jobs adviser to President Barack Obama. That led to the creation of Oakland-based Powerhouse, a rare for-profit incubator dedicated to putting clean-tech entrepreneurs together with investors. The company has helped 43 start-ups get on their feet in an era when venture capital funding for renewables has plunged and Trump is working to slash funds for early-stage entities from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Applied Medical powers HQ with nearly 3 MW of solar

Solar Industry Magazine - Jun 6 Applied Medical, a California-based developer and provider of minimally invasive surgical devices, has installed almost 3 megawatts of solar at its multi-facility corporate headquarters and a local distribution center. Designed and built by REC Solar, the Orange County solar project consists of rooftop arrays on eight separate buildings totaling 2.94 megawatts. The systems are expected to meet about 15 percent of the corporate headquarters’ energy needs.

Tesla, Sunrun expected to resume Nevada rooftop solar sales

Reuters - Jun 5 Tesla and Sunrun last Monday said they would resume selling rooftop panels in Nevada because legislators passed a bill reinstating a policy the state had abandoned 18 months ago. Assembly Bill 405, which supporters say they expect Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to sign in coming days, would require electric utilities to purchase excess power generated from their customers' rooftop solar installations at near the full retail rate. That rate will step down gradually as more and more households go solar.


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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