Tag: SolarFeatured

Listen Up: Does Solar Increase the Value of my House?

I bet you don’t know that there is a home improvement investment that you can make that will increase the value of your house more than the investment cost. It’s not remodeling your bathroom (2 percent return). It’s not landscaping with a designer (break even). It’s not remodeling your kitchen (2 percent loss). It’s rooftop solar (43 percent return). Surprise!

Is Utility-Scale Solar Growth Economically Viable?

The recent growth in utility-scale solar has been explosive in relative terms. Because the start point was so low however, this still represents a small proportion of global electricity generation — about one third of 1 percent as last month’s article showed. This will grow dramatically if the growth rate is maintained; and that in turn will require solar to become ever more competitive with other generation technologies.

How New York is Using Local Power & Microgrids To Transform the State

New York’s antiquated infrastructure was in trouble long before hurricane Sandy. The bulk power system, designed to meet a peak demand 75 percent higher than most of America, is underutilized most of the day. New Yorkers have been paying some of the highest electrical bills in the nation, so that air conditioners have power during the hottest summer days. Hurricane Sandy revealed the vulnerabilities of the low-lying Atlantic state’s grid. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s response is a plan calling for New York’s statewide adoption of community utilities, or Community Choice Aggregation (CCA).

“This is the most innovative energy initiative to come from a state level, and a governor, in the United States. California has a very ambitious renewable portfolio standard and ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, but no plan to get there. New York is taking the bull by the horns around the need for localization to deliver the change. This is something that has been lacking in states that set targets for adopting percentages of renewable energy, but tend to be blind to the location of the energy,” said Paul Fenn, President of Local Power, Inc.    

Around 9 percent of New York’s electricity is lost, every year, because it originates from distant power plants. Transmission lines are full of power that travels hundreds of miles before being used.

This causes problems at the substations where streams of electricity converge. (There can be so much traffic on the line that substations sometimes overheat, or equipment might fail anywhere along hundreds of miles of transmission lines, causing blackouts or brownouts in entire regions.)

When hurricane Sandy struck, the whole grid went down for days and some areas did not get power back online for months following the storm – and the power markets responded by doubling rates for the Winter – a major economic blow throughout the state.

New York’s solution is for local communities to form their own utilities that utilize local power sources and the most cutting-edge smart technologies available. Fenn calls this CCA 2.0 (Community Choice Aggregation 2.0).

Fenn is one of the founders of the CCA movement, co-authoring America’s first landmark CCA bill in 1994 as well as similar laws throughout the U.S., drafting a CCA 2.0 law for California that passed in 2002.

His company, Local Power Inc, worked with a local group in Hudson Valley, New York called “Citizens for Local Power” to author New York’s CCA legislation in 2014.

Governor Cuomo took the initiative in February, bypassing the legislature and ordering state regulators to develop CCA in New York as a statewide platform for municipalities to develop Distributed Energy Resources and expand choice for all customers. CCA, a key component of the Governor’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” proceeding with state regulators, will mainstream micro-grids and advanced on-site power technologies for enhanced local energy resilience and better deals for small customers in a deregulated electricity market, traditionaly focused on serving large customers that has not traditionally served most businesses and residents.

One of the key questions confronting New Yorkwas, how do you give utilities a role without allowing them to distort the path of technology development? The answer was to create a firewall, so that utilities will not be allowed to own sources of distributed generation.

Fenn said that while solar is always popular with activists, communities need to develop the energy sources that are most applicable to their local situation.

He added that many of the confrontations around renewable energy development that we see throughout North America arise because of the lack of local control. Industrial scale fossil fuel  – and renewable – projects are being imposed on rural communities, who usually derive little benefit. The energy, and profits, go elsewhere. Local governments are left with the problems.

CCAs enable communities to take control. They can choose the power sources they want, develop local resources and have a vested interest in seeing that problems are resolved.

“Being municipalities, they also possess tools and authorities that are needed to develop distributed energy resources on existing buildings in dense urban areas. They own public rights of way and sidewalks, control zoning and permitting of development activities, and are the traditional planner and developer of the built environment,” said Fenn.

Four New York communities have already opted to form their own CCAs. Though the state has not completed the regulations, many with CCA 2.0 implicitly requested local green jobs and economic development. They are also changing their business model to let communities control, and customers, own significant parts of their power. 

Smart Investments: Ditch Your CD for Renewable Energy Yieldco Dividends

Renewable energy yieldcos have gain traction in the past few years, and are certainly making it easier to develop projects. But many don’t realize that yieldcos also offer solid financial benefits for the average person whose only brush with investment might be a few bucks in a CD. It is clear that investors can earn at least 10 times more in dividends by buying shares in a renewable energy yieldco than the interest earned by putting money in a CD. Yieldcos require the same degree of simplicity — and a very steady income stream.

Powering African Mines: What Role Will Renewables Play in Addressing Mining’s Current Power Crisis?

Anglo American Platinum is stepping up its investigation of renewables now that South Africa’s main energy utility, Eskom, is experiencing energy shortfalls. “This is a very big challenge for us,” says Gerhard van den Berg, the company’s principal engineer, energy. “With Eskom having shortages and not being able to supply, we’ve run into what they call stage-two load curtailment.”

Listen Up: Affordable Solar Panels Made in the USA

Most of my rooftop solar customers express a preference for buying “Made in the U.S.A.” solar panels. And they were willing to pay a premium for domestically manufactured panels. But because there were very few U.S. manufacturers — and hundreds of overseas companies manufacturing panels at lower prices — the prices for U.S. made panels were always significantly higher.

 

Renewable Energy Is Beginning To Power Africa

According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa will require more than $300 billion in investment to achieve universal electricity access by 2030.

Committing more than $7 billion in U.S. government support and attracting nearly three-times that in private sector funding, Power Africa, which launched in October 2013, marks a milestone for President Obama with regard to action on climate change and clean energy, not to mention foreign relations and international development. The initiative gives the U.S. a leadership role in addressing a range of critical regional and global issues – eradicating poverty, improving health and gender equality, opening up economic opportunity and conserving ecosystems and natural resources as well as promoting clean, renewable energy. In this regard the program dovetails nicely with the U.N.’s expiring Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and its new strategic Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative.