How Renewables Fit in Clean Power Plan

How will the electricity energy mix change with the implementation of the Clean Power Plan? This question was reviewed in the latest Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Today in Energy. Using the Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015) as the baseline, the main compliance strategy to lower emissions rates as the proposed rule comes into effect is to increase natural gas-fired generation to displace and ultimately surpass coal-fired generation. Later, as more wind and solar capacity are added, renewable generation also surpasses coal-fired generation.

Analysis of Impacts of Clean Power Plan - EIAThe analysis finds that changes in the fuel mix play out in different ways across the country, reflecting regional variation in the economics of increases in natural gas generation and renewable capacity. Key determinants include baseline combined-cycle utilization rates and the potential for renewable generation in areas without renewable portfolio standards.

EIA’s analysis also modeled the proposed rule using the High Oil and Gas Resource (HOGR) and High Economic Growth cases from AEO2015 as alternative baselines. The HOGR case reflects a scenario in which more abundant domestic natural gas resources and better technology enhance natural gas supplies, keeping projected annual average spot natural gas prices below $4.50 per million Btu through 2040.

EIA also looked at other cases including several sensitivity cases encompassing different interpretations or implementations of the proposed rule as well as a scenario in which further emissions reductions are required beyond 2030, all of which use the AEO2015 Reference case as their baseline. In addition a case was considered in which new nuclear units not already under construction were brought online.

Ultimately, in all cases renewable energy became a bigger player in the energy mix but whether it played a starring or supporting role was dependent on the level of traditional fuel sources that remained in use.

Report: LA Solar

According to the research report “Los Angeles Solar: Now and into the Future”, city utilities must overcome implementation challenges in order to continue the growth of solar energy. The report, commissioned by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute, finds that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has the opportunity to wean itself from polluting coal-fired power – currently 42 percent of its energy portfolio – and expand the amount of local solar to 1,500 megawatts annually.

Researchers from UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), found that a program of this scale would also be an economic catalyst, creating thousands of new solar-related jobs and attracting significant long-term investment to Los Angeles. The report cites three strategies in which solar expansion can be achieved: net metering, Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program and the Community Solar Initiative. The FiT can play a lead role, according to the researchers. This program, launched in 2012, enables local commercial property owners to sell solar power generated from rooftops and parking lots back to LADWP at a competitive fixed rate.

roofop solar panels in LATo date, LADWP has authorized 100 MWof power under the FiT program; however, only 6.5 MW are operational, according to the UCLA/USC study. Another 8.2 MW of projects are under contract and awaiting construction, with another 56 MW in the contracting stage. The FiT evaluation concludes that LADWP needs to build its staff resources and continue streamlining the application and installation processes to speed the pace of approving local solar projects if it is to reach a self-imposed deadline to be coal-free by 2025.

Spearheaded by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute and the CLEAN LA Solar Coalition, the FiT program provides an opportunity for the LADWP to access the abundant solar energy available on more than 10,000 acres of rooftops in Los Angeles. More than 40 percent of the projects in the FiT’s first three 20 MW tranches are located in “solar equity hotspots” – neighborhoods with abundant rooftops and great need for economic investment and jobs. The hotspot areas exist in the San Fernando Valley, East Los Angeles, and areas west of Downtown, including Hollywood. In many cases, solar training programs that target less advantaged workers, such as participants in Homeboy Industries’ Solar Panel Training and Installation program, are located in or near the hotspot areas.

“Los Angeles has a unique confluence of characteristics providing a firm foundation for a successful solar FiT program: abundant sunshine, a trained workforce and tremendous economic need,” said Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity. “Growing the FiT will bring economic opportunity to some of our city’s most underserved and environmentally-challenged neighborhoods. There’s no question that the FiT can advance solar-related equity goals where they’re needed most.” Continue reading

Wind Industry Presses Washington for Action

Republican and Democrat governors are pressing U.S. Senate and House leadership in an effort spur action on tax incentives used to grow the country’s wind energy industry. Washington Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee and Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, co-signed a letter insisting federal policymakers “support timely extensions” of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The PTC is the primary federal incentive building more new U.S. wind farms while the ITC is the primary incentive attracting private investment developing the nation’s offshore wind energy resources.

“This bipartisan letter is a reminder that the nation’s governors are on the front line of the nation’s Governors Wind Energy Coalition logoenergy future and have a vital role in planning states’ future,” said American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO Tom Kiernan. “They see first-hand how investing in the wind resources in their states benefit local economies and create opportunities for job growth. To them the decision to extend these incentives is more of an economic one than a political one. We look forward to working with all the governors to maximize the benefits of wind power to their states.”

According to AWEA 23,000 jobs were added in 2014 and there are currently $23 billion worth of new wind projects under development. But, cites Kiernan, that momentum is increasingly placed at risk as Congress delays action on passing policy capable of creating long-term market certainty.

“These tax credits have made possible the robust growth of the American wind industry and thousands of renewable energy jobs in recent years, with substantial economic returns to our states and the nation,” the governors’ letter reads. “But these gains are at risk today because ongoing federal policy uncertainty continues to hamper the further development of the nation’s wind industry.” Continue reading

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is the topic of discussion at the next EcoEngineers quarterly Business Breakfast on Friday, June 12, 2015 from 7:30 am to 9:30 am at the Renaissance Savery Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa. Stephanie Weisenbach of Iowa Clean Cities Coalition will lead a panel of experts who will discuss the evolution in the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles in Iowa. The panel will include: Terress Farnham with Zebulon Innovations in Ankeny; Steve Larsen with Ruan Transportation in Des Moines; Kyle Weuve, WW Transport in West Burlington and Scott Meerdink, Meerdink Trucking, Inc in Orange City.
  • Banco Santander, S.A., Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board have announced the formal launch of Cubico Sustainable Investments, a London-headquartered firm established to manage and invest in renewable energy and water infrastructure assets globally.
  • Solar Power, Inc. has announced its wholly owned subsidiary, SPI China (HK) Limited, has completed the acquisition of 80% of the outstanding capital stock of Solar Juice Pty Ltd, the leading solar PV wholesale distribution business in Australia. The acquisition was previously announced on March 31, 2015.
  • Duke Energy Florida has received approval to build, own and operate a 5 MW solar facility that will serve the Reedy Creek Improvement District near Orlando. The facility will occupy approximately 20 acres near World Drive and Epcot Center Drive at Walt Disney World Resort. Construction is expected to begin mid-summer with the facility to be in service by year end. The facility’s 48,000 solar panels will be arranged in the shape of a Disney-inspired design.

Iowans Continue to Speak For RFS

With indication that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may finally announce the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by June 1st, Iowa legislators are once again calling for forward momentum of the RFS. Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Reps. Dave Loebsack, Steve King, David Young, and Rod Blum—Iowa’s entire federal delegation—urged the EPA to keep the RVO levels consistent with Congress’s intent when the RFS became law.

ARF-Logo-Retina-AltThe RVO rules, which are one key element of the RFS, determine how much renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel will be blended into the U.S. fuel supply. Long-term and ongoing uncertainty surrounding the rule has frozen investment in the advanced biofuels industry of estimates close to $13.7 billion, and put numerous jobs at risk.

“Farmers and biofuels producers have done their part. The EPA needs to do its part,” said Grassley. “The levels ought to reflect the reality of what can be accomplished in an unbiased way. That’s what the law requires, and that’s what consumers who want fuel choices deserve.”

Loebsack said of the pending RFS announcement, “The blending volumes are long overdue and need to be strong to not only ensure stability in the renewable energy sector, but also for the high quality jobs the industry has created, enabling cheaper, cleaner choices for consumers. I encourage the EPA to not lose sight of the overall goal of this program, that is to take us into a new age of fuel and energy.”

“The RFS is the only tool that provides market access so that ethanol and other renewable fuels are sold in competition with petroleum,” added King. “The Consumer Choice Provision was enacted by Congress and sets the framework for RFS targets in law. The EPA, in another example of executive overreach, rolled back the RFS targets, presumably because of short grain supplies and high grain prices. We have since harvested the largest corn crop ever and seen prices cut in half. The EPA needs to follow the law and restore the RFS targets according to the directive of Congress.”

DOE Offers $32M for Solar

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $32 million in funding to train Americans to enhance the country’s solar energy workforce. The monies are part of the DOE’s SunShot Initiative. The funds will also go to company’s that can develop innovative, low-cost concentrating solar power collectors and to increase access to solar data.

DOE STEP programAccording to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) the new opportunities will:

  • The Solar Training and Education for Professionals funding program will tackle soft costs by addressing gaps in solar training and energy education, both within the solar workforce and in professions that play a crucial role in solar deployment.
  • The Solar Bankability Data to Advance Transactions and Access funding program will increase data accessibility and quality, and will facilitate the growth and expansion of the solar industry by creating a standardized data landscape for distributed solar. The goal of this funding program is to support the creation and adoption of industry-led open data standards for rapid and seamless data exchange across the value chain from origination to decommissioning.
  • The CSP: Concentrating Optics for Lower Levelized Energy Costs funding program seeks to further CSP system technologies by soliciting disruptive, transformative projects for the concentrating solar collectors in the CSP plant. These innovative projects will seek to enable CSP to be cost-competitive with conventional forms of electric power generation.

“Last year, a new solar energy project was installed every two and a half minutes in the United States,” said Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. “To ensure the continued growth of the U.S. solar industry and our clean energy economy, it is critical that we support workforce training programs that will give American workers the skills they need for well-paying jobs and also make sure American consumers have access to highly-trained, credentialed professionals when they choose solar to power their daily lives.”  Continue reading

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1Navigant Research’s Electric Vehicle Geographical Forecast, analyzes the North American market for light duty plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), including detailed geographic forecasts of PEV sales by U.S. state, metropolitan statistical area (MSA), Canadian province, Canadian city, and selected U.S. utility service area. With more than 133,000 PEVs sold in 2014, North America is currently the world’s strongest market for these vehicles.
  • The City of Maplewood, Missouri’s City Council has announced a proclamation to launch the EPA Green Power Community Challenge through 2015. Becoming an EPA Green Power Community will reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 6,089,716 pounds of CO2 each year. This is the same as taking 582 cars off the road each year. Maplewood’s Challenge represents a joint effort with Ameren Missouri Pure Power and St. Louis-based Microgrid Energy to encourage local businesses and homeowners to make a commitment to green power through either the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), or the installation of solar power.
  • SunEdison, Inc. has announced the completion and interconnection of the South Milford solar facility in Milford, Utah. The 3.8 MW DC facility is now the largest operating solar power plant in Utah. TerraForm Power acquired the solar power plant from its Call Right Projects List. PacifiCorp will purchase the electricity via a SunEdison 20-year power purchase agreement, which enables customers to lock-in low priced electricity at long term predictable prices.
  • amp Trillium has announced it has opened two new CNG stations for commercial trucks traveling through Texas. Located off I-20 in Brock and I-10 in Kerrville, the public-access stations service all CNG vehicles and enable three Class-8 trucks to fuel simultaneously at 10-12 diesel gallon equivalents per minute.

NREL Releases E15 & Infrastructure Report

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released a paper addressing the compatibility of E15 with gas station equipment. “E15 and Infrastructure” looks at compatibility of E15 through a literature review of published works by refueling equipment manufacturers, industry groups and federal agencies. The paper also includes a summary of applicable codes and standards, review of equipment manufacturer products, and verification with manufacturers regarding which ethanol blends work
with their products.

NREL logoThe report also addresses several misperceptions about E15 including that it is safe to store the ethanol blend in tanks. The paper states that for many decades, underground storage tank manufacturers have approved their tanks for blends up to E100, more specifically, all steal tanks and double-walled fiberglass tanks since the year 1990.

As part of the study all fuel and vapor handling equipment was reviewed to determine if it was certified by a third-party (such as UL) and if it was listed for specific ethanol blends. The aggregated list confirms there are UL testing standards available now for all gasoline–ethanol blends from 0% to 85% ethanol. The appendices includes a full list of E15 and E15+ compatible equipment. The literature review also finds that there were no incidents of E10 causing releases from UST systems were identified.

The study concludes, “There are future opportunities for retailers to remove or replace their current equipment not necessarily related to continuous changes in motor fuel composition. Credit card companies are requiring retail fueling stations to update their dispensers to accept new chip and PIN secure credit cards by October 2017, at which time fraud liability would switch to station owners if they have not updated their equipment. This presents an opportunity to increase E25 UL-listed equipment through a retrofit kit if electronics are being upgraded to accommodate the new credit cards, or if a station owner must purchase a new dispenser, it could pay a minimal amount more for an E25 dispenser. If a new dispenser is purchased, this may also present an opportunity to
upgrade to an E85 dispenser, but at significant additional cost.”

SMART Adds Propane AutoGas

SMART has added 61 new Connector paratransit propane autogas fuel system buses. This, says SMART, makes them the second largest propane autogas powered paratransit fleet in Michigan and one of the top five largest in the country.

“SMART is committed to responsibly and eco-consciously serving the communities in southeast Michigan. By using domestically produced propane we help support local jobs and our economy,” said John C. Hertel, IMG_4653general manager. “In addition, using the autogas technology will improve our operations, lower costs and preserve the environment in which we work, live and play.”

SMART says the propane autogas investment will reduce emissions, save money, and extend the life of the vehicles. The total fuel and maintenance savings is projected to be $1.1 – $1.7 million over the lifetime of the fleet with a return on investment of less than four months. In addition, SMART says the cost of building on-site refueling stations at each of its three terminals was determined to be less expensive than other refueling station options. The vehicles and propane stations are grant funded.

“Residents in Southeast Michigan are breathing easier due to SMART’s decision to fuel paratransit buses with propane autogas,” said Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech, whose company did the propane autogas conversions. “Plus, this abundant alternative transportation fuel means reduced operating and ownership costs for the transit agency.”

Delivery of all 61 SMART Connector autogas vehicles has been on-going since February and to date 14 vehicles have been placed into service. The full fleet is expected to be in service by the end of July.

Renewables “Rock” U.S. Energy Growth

The SUN Day Campaign’s Ken Bossong, has noted once again that renewable energy sources are dominating the new energy landscape according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The reports shows wind and solar accounted for all new generating capacity placed in-service in April. For the month, two “units” of wind (the 300 MW Hereford-2 Wind Farm Project in Deaf Smith County, TX and the 211 MW Mesquite Creek Wind Project in Dawson County, TX) came on line in addition to six new units – totaling 50 MW – of solar.

In addition, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower together have provided over 84 percent (84.1%) of the 1,900 MW of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service during the first third of 2015. This includes 1,170 MW of wind (61.5%), 362 MW of solar (19.1%), 45 MW of geothermal steam (2.4%), and 21 MW of hydropower (1.1%). The balance (302 MW) was provided by five units of natural gas.

Hereford Wind ProjectFERC has reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from biomass sources nor any from coal, oil, or nuclear power.

The reports finds the total contribution of geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind for the first four months of 2015 (1,598 MW) is similar to that for the same period in 2014 (1,611 MW – in addition to 116 MW of biomass). However, for the same period in 2014, natural gas added 1,518 MW of new capacity while coal and nuclear again provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity added in 2014.

“Members of Congress and state legislators proposing to curb support for renewable energy, such as Renewable Portfolio/Electricity Standards and the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit, are swimming against the tide,” noted Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “With renewable energy’s clear track record of success and the ever-worsening threat of climate change, now is not the time to pull back from these technologies but rather to greatly expand investments in them.”

Today renewable energy sources now account for 17.05 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the country: water – 8.55 percent, wind – 5.74 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 1.05 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent (for comparison, renewables were 13.71 percent of capacity in December 2010 – the first month for which FERC issued an “Energy Infrastructure Update”).

For renewable energy supporters, what may be the best news: renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.14%) and oil (3.92%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. In addition, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold – a ten-fold increase since December 2010.