Groundswell Unveils Community Solar Financing Model

Groundswell is changing the way community solar energy is financed. Working with Sustainable Capital Advisors, consumer credit scores will no longer be factored in the financing process, removing an obstacle for consumers across the country. In addition, the program will help the two companies fulfill promises made at the White House Summit last November to create five demonstration projects over the next 18 months as well as launch $25 million of private capital aimed at financing community solar projects located in low and moderate income communities.

“Nearly 50% of Americans aren’t able to switch to solar because they don’t own their roof, don’t have a roof in the right location, or are struggling financially and can’t qualify for financing even if it could help lower their energy bill,” said Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell. “We’re grateful to work with Sustainable Capital Advisors to pioneer a program that will work for all families by bringing community organizing together with community solar project finance.”

CommunitySolarCommunity solar programs are designed to help consumers collectively tap into the power of the sun. This model allows families and small businesses the ability to purchase subscriptions to a central solar array located within their utility territory – making it possible to switch to solar without having to install solar panels on the roof. Community solar can also create more distributed generating capacity for America that promotes greater reliability, resiliency, and sustainability across the grid.

Sustainable Capital Advisors Founder and CEO Trenton Allen added that the company works to create innovative financing solutions for sustainable infrastructure that broadens the pool of participants while being replicable and scalable. “We’re committed to working with Groundswell to create economic opportunities in clean energy for low and moderate income communities that haven’t been able to participate before.”

According to a press release, while solar power adoption grows across the country, affordable clean energy remains out of reach for more than 90 million Americans including families that rent their homes and people with credit scores under 650. Overall, the National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that 49 percent. of households and businesses can’t access rooftop solar. Community solar is an emerging solution, and is currently a modest but growing part of America’s energy mix. In total, fewer than 150 projects have been implemented across the United States, including more than 40 located in Colorado alone. However, the market is projected to grow rapidly over the next five years. The hope is that this new financing program will enable more consumers to join the solar revolution.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1The Renewable Fuels Association has announced the addition of Fox River Valley Ethanol LLC as its newest member. The ethanol plant has been operating in Oshkosh, Wis., since 2003. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ace Ethanol LLC that employs 45. The plant produces 65 million gallons of ethanol annually as well as co-products such as carbon dioxide, dried distillers grains, and 182,500 wet distillers grains per year.
  • The Geothermal Resources Council (GRC), Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), and Geo-Exchange Organization (GEO) have announced the release of guidance for states on meeting new clean energy standards from the EPA. The free state-by-state guides walk through the benefits and uses of three major types of geothermal applications: power generation, direct use and heat pumps, and initially cover Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, and Colorado.
  • Lockheed Martin has entered into a 17-year power purchase agreement for solar-generated electricity produced by Duke Energy Renewables. The renewable power purchase, which is expected to produce 30 megawatts (approximately 72,000 megawatt hours per year) of solar energy for the U.S. national grid, will provide clean energy across all Lockheed Martin domestic business segments.
  • Gridco Systems, a leader in agile grid infrastructure solutions, has announced that Hawaiian Electric Company has deployed the Gridco Systems In-Line Power Regulator (IPR) to enable integration of increasing levels of rooftop PV systems. The Gridco IPRs help maintain reliable power delivery within required voltage limits, supporting Hawaiian Electric’s goal to triple distributed generation on its system by 2030.

Ethanol Plays Key Role in Iowa Campaigning

caucusSen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) won the Republican ticket in Iowa last night with Donald Trump coming in second despite Cruz’s ambiguity on ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). However, compared to the campaigning four years ago, ethanol has gained a significant amount of positive ground according to a press conference held by Growth Energy. The Iowa Caucus kicks off the beginning of the nomination process for the next U.S. president.

Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy, noted on the call that the oil industry is calling the results proof that Iowans don’t care about ethanol. However, he says the facts are, “Over 80 percent of the votes yesterday in Iowa were cast for candidates that are in favor for the RFS.” The results find that there were more pro-RFS votes made in Iowa this year than in 2012.

For example, in 2012 in Iowa, anti-RFS candidate votes were cast for Ron Paul: 21.5 percent; Rick Perry: 10.4 percent; and Michele Bachmann: 5 percent for a total of 36.9 percent. Whereas in 2016, anti-RFS votes were for Ted Cruz: 27.7 percent and Rand Paul: 4.5 percent for a total of 32.2 percent.

According to Paul Tewes, political strategist, who has been a keen observer of the campaigning process, said he has never seen ethanol more talked about, perform better as a whole, or have a politician like Ted Cruz be more contorted about how to talk about it than this one. “This was a race here where ethanol was put on the map, where candidates had to talk about it and most of the candidates moved either completely for it, or the few that didn’t, moved towards it.”

He also noted that if Cruz is the Republican nominee, then he believes Democrats will take the state in November.

Monte Shaw, executive director for the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) added that the effort to support the RFS in Iowa has always been more than about one candidate. “It was about trying to get candidates to understand the reality of the support oil gets from the government and how the RFS cracks through that monopoly.”

To learn more about Iowa voter support for ethanol and the RFS, listen to the full press conference including the Q&A here: Iowa Caucus Results Press Conference

RFA: Cruz In But Ethanol Not Out

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) may have won in Iowa last night, but according to the Renewable Fuel Association (RFS), ethanol is not out. RFS President and CEO Bob Dinneen said that his win has created a narrative that presidential candidates campaigning in the state no longer have to voice support for ethanol or the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Dinneen said this is not the case.

“The narrative comrfalogo1ing out after last night’s Iowa caucus that the domestic ethanol industry is somehow on the ropes is false,” said Dinneen. “Many people seem to have forgotten that, in the run-up to last night’s caucus vote, though Sen. Cruz stated he was opposed to the RFS he also expressed support for ethanol as a fuel. In fact the senator has discussed the need to provide American consumers better access to ethanol fuels like E25 or E30, stating that they could prove to be quite popular with American consumers who are increasingly concerned about fuel economy. The senator also called ethanol an effective additive because it increases octane and decreases harmful tailpipe emissions. That doesn’t sound like someone to me who is writing off the domestic ethanol industry. That sounds to me like someone who is just being true to his no-mandates of any kind philosophy.”

Dinneen added, “Moreover, pundits anxious to write off ethanol’s potential currency in Iowa should note that more than 85 percent of the votes cast in Iowa last night were in support of candidates who continue to champion the RFS.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1Posty Cards is among the first companies in the area to help fill the infrastructure gap for plug-in electric vehicles (EV) by joining the Workplace Charging Challenge, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) initiative. The company installed the first privately owned EV charging station in Kansas City in 2010. The EV station is available to Posty Cards’ employees and to the public. The Posty Cards headquarters is located two blocks south of I-70 near downtown Kansas City, making it a convenient location for commuters and long-distance travelers to stop and charge an EV.
  • According to a Offshore Wind Market Update from Navigant Research, 2015 represented a record year for the offshore wind energy market, with more than 3.7 GW that came online, up from just under one GW installed in 2014.
  • Investment firm Vision Ridge Partners has announced that it has closed an investment fund that seeks to deliver competitive returns while meeting the growing demand for sustainable businesses and clean energy. At $430 million, the fund is one of the largest in this space to date and one of the few private investment portfolios focused on later stage clean energy companies and other sustainable assets.
  • CoPower, an online platform for clean energy investing, has opened its first green bond to investors across Canada. Accessible through CoPower’s secure online platform, and eligible for holding in a self-directed RRSP, TFSA or other registered account, this green bond makes it easy for Canadians to invest in clean energy infrastructure in their communities. The bond is backed by loans to rooftop solar projects in Windsor, Ontario and Chesley, Ontario, and an energy efficiency project at the Harbourfront Centre inToronto.

Armow Wind Farm Powers Up

The 180 MW Armow Wind power facility in Ontario has powered up. The Samsung Renewable Energy and Pattern Energy Group project used Ontario-made products. Towers for the 91 Siemens 2.3 MW wind turbines were made in Windsor and the 273 blades were manufactured in Tillsonburg.

armow wind project“Samsung is proud to complete our fourth wind project under our Green Energy Investment Agreement with the government of Ontario,” said Steve Cho, Vice President, Samsung C&T. “Armow Wind created more than 350 jobs during peak construction and supported over 750 workers from our Ontario manufacturing facilities. Samsung and its partners are creating jobs and investing in the community which is benefiting real people in Kincardine and across the province.”

According to a press statement, Armow Wind is also bringing strong economic benefits to the Kincardine community, including more than $75 million over 20 years in property taxes, landowner lease royalties and community benefits. As part of a long-term Community Benefit Program, Armow Wind committed $13.6 million dollars to the Municipality of Kincardine. The program supports education and other initiatives.

“Armow Wind is a great example of how Ontario is changing the future of electricity. Armow Wind is a project that produces clean, renewable energy and that was built by Ontario workers with Ontario-made wind turbine components,” added Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Development. “Armow Wind is now generating millions of dollars in local lease payments and property taxes, updating the local airport, and improving the community of Kincardine through our community benefits program. We want to thank the landowners, other community members and the municipality for their hard work and collaboration on this project. We are honored to become a part of this great community.”

The Armow Wind power facility operates under a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

U.S. Wind Industry Celebrates Great Q4

The U.S. wind industry continues to gain power with 5,001 MW installed during the 4th quarter of 2015 – more installations than all of 2014. In 2015 there was 8,598 MW was installed, a 77 percent increase over 2014. U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2015 Market Report, published by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), finds strong market activity is expected to continue. Going in to 2016, 9,400 MW were under construction.

AWEA_jan report graphics“The data released today show 2016 presents an extraordinary opportunity for American wind power,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “The time has never been better for states and utilities to lock in low-cost, stably-priced wind energy to achieve their Clean Power Plan carbon reductions. Wind energy is on track to supplying 20 percent of the country’s electricity by 2030.”

Wind installations during the fourth quarter of 2015 represent the second strongest quarter ever recorded with total installations across 2015 trailing only 2009 and 2012. Combined there is now 74,472 MW of installed wind capacity in the U.S. and more than 52,000 operating wind turbines.

“Low-cost, stably-priced wind energy is a ‘no-regrets’ solution for states and utilities looking for the best way to meet the Clean Power Plan,” added Kiernan. “Texas ranchers and Iowa farmers know wind power costs one-third as much as it did six years ago. Analysis by the Energy Information Administration confirms that wind energy will make up the majority of states’ lowest-cost Clean Power Plan strategy.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1Tri Global Energy, the Dallas-based renewable energy company, continues as the leading developer of wind energy projects under construction in Texas, according to the U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2015 Market Report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the nation’s trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry.
  • Energy Vision, a national non-profit which researches and promotes technologies and strategies for a sustainable, low-carbon energy and transportation future, has a new leader. As of January 2016, Matthew P. Tomich is the organization’s president. Tomich succeeds Joanna D. Underwood, who founded Energy Vision in 2006 and led it through its first decade. She continues to play a full-time leadership role as chair of Energy Vision’s board.
  • The ninth annual George Washington Carver Award will recognize an individual who has made a significant contribution to building the biobased economy by applying industrial biotechnology to create sustainable and environmentally friendlier products. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has begun accepting nominations for the Award. The deadline for nominations is February 20, 2016. The award will be presented at the 2016 World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology in San Diego, California, which will be held April 17-20, 2016 at the San Diego Convention Center.
  • Kohli Ventures, the global technology investment company, and Zynergy Group, an Indian solar projects and services company, has announced the launch of its fund-raising plans, targeting USD$100m over the next three years. The investment will go towards expanding the business and driving the rapid growth of the solar energy sector across India, Africa, The Middle East and Asia.

Growth Launches TV Ads for Iowa Caucus

It’s caucus day in Iowa and Growth Energy has launched a TV and digital ad campaign highlighting ethanol’s contribution to the state and country. The spot features Iowa farmer Chris Soules, star of hit shows The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars. The ad will appear nationwide on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.

growth-energy-logo1“Thanks to homegrown ethanol, we’re seeing major economic and environmental benefits,” said Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy. “American-made ethanol cuts our dependence on foreign oil and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, creates jobs and provides consumers with a choice at the pump. Ethanol and the RFS are crucial to continue allowing America’s farmers and innovators to produce clean, renewable energy here at home. It’s no coincidence that an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of candidates for president have all realized the immense benefits and potential of ethanol.”

“It’s important now more than ever that we recognize ethanol’s critical role in America’s energy policy. Ethanol makes up 10 percent of the current motor fuel supply and it is continuing to grow as we see widespread adoption of higher blends such as E15. Ethanol is a 21st century fuel for 21st century vehicles. We must ensure its continued support and development as we work to meet our growing energy needs,” Buis concluded.

Students Benefit From Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel

James Anderson discusses his research with an attendee during #NBB16.

James Anderson discusses his research with an attendee during #NBB16.

It’s never too early to encourage the next generation of biodiesel and bioproduct scientists and this is just what NBB is doing through its Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program. Several members of the group attended this year’s conference and presented posters, attended educational sessions and networked, networked, networked.

James Anderson, from University of Illinois, serves as co-chair for the group and he presented his research looking at fatty acid profiles and studying divergent plants. His goal was to identify not the fastest growing soybean plant or the plant with the best resistance, but the plant with the best profile. The idea is that they would identify soybeans that would be even better suited to biodiesel production. He and his team checked their results against some USDA studies and found positive results.

James is finishing up his project soon and will be awarded his PhD and will soon be looking for a job…hint, hint. He can be reached via email to discuss both his research and future opportunities.

Listen to my interview with James Anderson here: Interview with Co-Chair James Anderson

Jesse Mayer and James Anderson, Co-Chairs of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel.

Jesse Mayer and James Anderson, Co-Chairs of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel.

Jesse Mayer, from the University of Nevada, Reno, is also a co-chair of Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel. Originally planning on going to medical, he switched gears when the only lab he could find work in was a plant lab. Well, he got hooked. He said he loves the field and the sustainability aspect of it.

He became involved in the group two years ago through his professor. He encourages everyone to join. “It’s really great opportunity to understand all the different aspects of biofuels. Like the students here you’ve got a lot of different fields…. So finding a student organization like NBB, joining them, and getting an idea of what those other aspects are, talking to people in the industry, really helps diversify you as a student and really helps going on to grad school or into the workforce.”

Jesse is also graduating soon and if the networking I saw him doing at the conference is any indication, he won’t be on the market long. You can reach him here.

Listen to my interview with Jesse Mayer here: Interview with Co-Chair Jesse Mayer

2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album