Renewable Energy Update - November 2016 #2

by Allen Matkins

Renewable Energy Focus

New solar, wind competitive leasing program to start for U.S. public lands

Renewable Energy World - Nov 15 The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has finalized a rule that creates a new competitive leasing process and incentives for solar and wind energy development on public lands. The rule formalizes key aspects of the BLM’s existing Smart from the Start approach to renewable energy development. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, the rule supports development in areas with the highest generation potential and fewest resource conflicts through financial incentives, ensures transparency and predictability in rents and fees, and updates the BLM’s current fee structure in response to market conditions, which will bring down near-term costs for solar projects. The rule complements other land planning efforts, including the Western Solar Plan, California’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, and Arizona’s Restoration Design Energy Project.

Repealing the Investment Tax Credit could cut the U.S. solar market in half

Greentech Media - Nov 15 When Congress narrowly passed multi-year extensions of federal solar and wind tax credits at the end of 2015, almost no one expected to be talking about their death less than a year later. But when Donald Trump and the Republican party dominated last week's national elections and took control of Washington, speculation about the future of those tax credits began almost immediately. For the first time in 30 years, America's tax system could get an overhaul. The last time Congress passed a comprehensive tax reform bill was in 1986, under the presidential leadership of Ronald Reagan. An alliance between Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan is expected to result in another tax reform package. And there's one potential glitch. America's first Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar was killed in 1986 to fund the Reagan tax cuts. It's possible the same thing could happen under a new plan to slash corporate and individual income taxes. If that happens, the U.S. solar market would be in for a dramatic reversal.

Two big solar plants start producing electricity in the desert

Press-Enterprise - Nov 10 With solar panels extending deep into the desert behind them, dozens of energy and government officials last week marked California’s commitment to clean energy with the commissioning of two neighboring solar plants near Blythe. The McCoy and Blythe projects, owned and operated by subsidiaries of Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources, will collectively produce a peak capacity of 485 megawatts and make enough carbon-free electricity for 181,000 homes, according to company estimates. Later phases of the projects will double the current production. 

Nevada votes to end NV Energy monopoly

PV-Tech - Nov 10 Nevada voters have passed a ballot measure that aims to break up NV Energy’s monopoly and liberalize the electricity market to more competition. Known as the Energy Choice Initiative or Question 3 on a ballot approved last Tuesday, the news is a victory for solar as this is a significant move to deregulation of the state’s public utility. The measure was initiated in part by large companies, including casinos, wishing to break free from the state utility and find their own providers. Backers of the amendment have argued that this measure will allow for both lower rates and greater reliance on solar power.

San Diego hit its 2020 climate plan benchmark before document was approved

San Diego Union-Tribune - Nov 10 The city of San Diego released its first annual Climate Action Plan monitoring report in early November, finding that its short-term goal for reducing greenhouse gases was essentially satisfied before the plan was approved in December. The report outlined progress on emissions cuts over the past five years and found that in 2015, climate pollution had been reduced by 17 percent below the baseline year of 2010, surpassing a 15 percent reduction goal by 2020 called for in the plan. The emissions cuts resulted largely from state and federal mandates to green up electrical grids and tighten fuel efficiency standards. The city’s climate blueprint calls for cutting emissions in half by 2035. 

SunPower expands partnership with nonprofit GRID Alternatives

Solar Industry Magazine - Nov 11 SunPower Corp. has announced a new commitment to nonprofit solar installer GRID Alternatives under which SunPower will donate more than 2 megawatts of its solar panels over a three-year period. The expanded partnership is expected to provide enough solar to help power approximately 550 homes and provide job training in underserved communities. SunPower’s investment will also support GRID Alternatives’ Solar Futures program, which provides both classroom and hands-on solar training to K-14 students, with a focus on high school juniors and seniors. 

8point3 Energy Partners to acquire stake in 300 MW Stateline Solar PV project

SolarServer - Nov 15 8point3 Energy Partners LP, the joint venture formed by SunPower and First Solar, has entered into an agreement to acquire First Solar's 34 percent stake in the 300-megawatt Stateline solar project in San Bernardino County for $329.5 million. Southern Company owns a majority stake in the plant, which commenced operations in August 2016. Southern California Edison is purchasing the power generated by the project under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

sPower closes $434 million in tax equity and debt financing for solar projects

PV-Tech - Nov 15 Salt Lake City-based sPower has completed a $434 million tax equity investment and construction and term loan for solar projects in Kern County. The financing will be used to fund a group of three Beacon solar projects with a combined capacity of 183 megawatts. The projects are all currently under construction with 25-year power purchase agreements with Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

NRG secures eagle take permit

reNews - Nov 3 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued an “eagle take permit” for NRG Yield’s 137-megawatt Alta East wind farm in California. The agency said the project could kill up to three golden eagles over five years without having a significant impact on eagle populations in the area. NRG prepared a conservation plan that includes steps to protect birds and bats from turbines and power lines.

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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