U.S. renewable energy consumption surpasses coal for the first time in over 130 years
U.S. Energy Information Administration – May 28
In 2019, U.S. annual energy consumption from renewable sources exceeded coal consumption for the first time since before 1885, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Monthly Energy Review. This outcome mainly reflects the continued decline in the amount of coal used for electricity generation over the past decade as well as growth in renewable energy, mostly from wind and solar. Compared with 2018, coal consumption in the United States decreased nearly 15 percent, and total renewable energy consumption grew by 1 percent. Since 2015, the growth in U.S. renewable energy is almost entirely attributable to the use of wind and solar in the electric power sector. In 2019, electricity generation from wind surpassed hydropower for the first time and is now the most-used source of renewable energy for electricity generation in the United States on an annual basis.
Federal government extends ITC safe harbor rules
Solar Industry Magazine – May 27
The Internal Revenue Service has issued Notice 2020-41, which confirms that safe-harbor provisions for the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) will be extended until October 15 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving solar companies more time to qualify for the credit. The notice provides assurance to solar developers that started construction by incurring 5 percent of project costs and made payments for services or property and reasonably expected to receive such services or property within 3.5 months.
Solar energy farms could offer second life for electric vehicle batteries
MIT News – May 22
As electric vehicles rapidly grow in popularity worldwide, there will soon be a wave of used batteries whose performance is no longer sufficient for vehicles that need reliable acceleration and range. But a new study shows that these batteries could still have a useful and profitable second life as backup storage for grid-scale solar photovoltaic installations, where they could perform for more than a decade in this less demanding role. The study, published in the journal Applied Energy, was carried out by six current and former MIT researchers. As a test case, the researchers examined in detail a hypothetical grid-scale solar farm in California. They studied the economics of several scenarios: building a 2.5-megawatt solar farm alone; building the same array along with a new lithium-ion battery storage system; and building it with a battery array made of repurposed EV batteries that had declined to 80 percent of their original capacity, the point at which they would be considered too weak for continued vehicle use.
As commercial solar takes a hit from COVID-19, virtual PPAs continue their rise
Greentech Media – May 27
In early April, Wood Mackenzie’s solar team reduced the outlook for U.S. commercial solar in 2020 by half due to the coronavirus pandemic. The downgrade represents approximately 1 gigawatt of lost demand over the next two years. But how has this impacted the competitive landscape? The biggest shift for commercial solar in recent years has been the move toward virtual power-purchase agreements, or “corporate offtake” with utility-scale solar projects, according to a new WoodMac report. Increasingly, businesses have been “going solar” by signing virtual PPAs or through community solar subscriptions. Last year was the first year when offsite projects — corporate offtake and community solar — served more commercial solar demand than onsite projects. While the pandemic will certainly slow the rate of new corporate offtake agreements, these options have fundamentally changed how commercial solar customers are procuring renewable energy. Another significant shift — the growing share of third-party-owned commercial solar — will likely get a boost from the coronavirus pandemic.
Large-scale renewables-plus-storage projects in U.S. more than doubled from 2016 to 2019
Energy Storage News – May 26
The number of sites pairing renewable energy with energy storage in the U.S. more than doubled from 2016 to 2019 and the trend is expected to continue, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA found that in 2016 there were 19 sites pairing solar or wind with batteries, which increased to 53 paired sites by 2019. By the end of 2023, the EIA projects there will be another 56 such projects. Texas leads the top 10 list for operating and planned renewables-plus-storage capacity, with Nevada coming in second and California in third place.
Landfills emerge as promising battery storage sites to back up renewable energy
Waste Dive – May 26
States like California, New York, and Massachusetts have embraced aggressive goals for reducing carbon emissions, requiring a quick transition to renewable energy as the primary source of electricity over the next several decades. That shift will require storage, such as large lithium-ion batteries, to compensate for the intermittency of wind and solar. The states moving the fastest towards more renewable energy backed by storage are also those where land development is relatively difficult, due to factors like population density and environmental restrictions. The answer, according to Strategic Management Group CEO Kelly Sarber, is to tap the large footprint of landfills. Sarber said she currently has seven projects in various stages of development to build battery storage at landfills and wastewater treatment facilities, including projects in California.
Livermore to review solar project at public hearing
The Independent – May 24
Alameda County planners are soliciting public input on a developer’s application to construct a sprawling solar farm and battery power storage facility on 580 acres of mostly grazing land north of Livermore. The ambitious proposal, known as the Aramis Solar Energy Generation and Storage Project, along with the content of a pending environmental review, will be considered during a public hearing this week on May 28.
BLM conveys land to La Paz County for Arizona solar project
Parker Pioneer – May 22
Last Friday, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed over 5,900 acres of federal public land in eastern La Paz County, Arizona, to the county for the development of a massive solar project. In March 2020, La Paz County signed an agreement with 174 Power Global, a South Korean company, to build a solar energy facility on 4,000 acres. At 850 megawatts, it will be one of the largest solar projects in the nation.
Santa Barbara Unified School District seeks bids for at least six microgrid projects
Microgrid Knowledge – May 21
The Santa Barbara Unified School District has issued a request for proposals for at least six school microgrids as part of a solar and resiliency project that encompasses 15 locations. The solicitation comes as schools and other California institutions and businesses seek ways to ensure electric reliability following last year’s power outages enacted by utilities to prevent wildfires. The project is expected to include about 4.5-MW of solar capacity and 3-MW/6-MWH of battery energy storage (if all of the sites install storage).