PG&E Donates Solar to Habitat Homes

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has donated $1 million to support the installation of rooftop solar on 79 homes with 18 different Habitat for Humanity local affiliates throughout Northern and Central California. The company said its Solar Habitat Program, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, is making affordable housing and solar energy a reality for deserving families, particularly in neighborhoods that have been historically underserved and overlooked.

PG&E is proud to support Habitat for Humanity’s mission of making homeownership a reality for deserving families. Our sustained collaboration on the Solar Habitat Program allows these homes to be both financially and environmentally sustainable. Together, we’re building a cleaner, brighter future for the people of California,” said PG&E Corporation Chairman, CEO and President Tony Earley.

PG&E employee volunteers help to put in landscaping on a Habitat home equipped with solar panels in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

PG&E employee volunteers help to put in landscaping on a Habitat home equipped with solar panels in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The company has been supporting the housing program for more than 10 years. Today, they are the exclusive solar partner for Habitat for Humanity and to date, more than 660 new homes have been built with solar energy.

“Thanks to our partnership with PG&E and the Solar Habitat program, Habitat homeowners spend less on electricity and that helps us keep the overall cost of homeownership low. This is a critical piece of the overall affordability of Habitat homes,” said Phillip Kilbridge, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.

The PG&E’s said their Solar Habitat program lowers the electricity bill of an average household by $500 per year. Each solar panel generates nearly 300 kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable energy from sunlight per month, avoiding the release of more than 132,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over the 30-year life of the system. In total, Habitat families have saved $9 million in energy costs through this partnership.

Earlier this year, the company and the non-profit celebrated their decade-long solar partnership by hosting the Brown Bag Build at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco. Community members contributed over 200 volunteer hours to Habitat for Humanity to safely construct 60 doors and window frames in 30-minute shifts during their lunch breaks for the Habitat Terrace development in San Francisco’s Ocean View neighborhood.

Geothermal Industry Calls for Tax Extender Credits

The geothermal industry is happy with the news that the Senate Finance Committee voted for a package of tax extenders proposed by Chairman Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR). The package includes provisions extending the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for new geothermal power facilities that “start construction” by the end of 2016. Developers retain the option of converting the PTC to a 30 percent investment tax GEA logocredit. The PTC expired at the end of 2014, although it was extended in December 2015 for a two-week period that was far too short to benefit geothermal projects according to Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA).

“This is important news for geothermal developers,” said Gawell. “It will help spur the market for new geothermal power plants which has been suffering due to slack demand and uneven tax treatment,” he said.

The Committee voted 23-3 in support of the package, with strong majorities of both Republican and Democratic Members supporting the bill. The tax extenders bill, entitled “An Original Bill to Extend Certain Expired Tax Provisions,” now moves to the Senate floor.

“The strong bi-partisan support in Committee is a good sign for the future of the Senate Tax Extenders Bill,” Gawell noted.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1Rapidly increasing solid wastes and the acute shortage of landfills are pushing countries in Southeast Asia to adopt sound waste management practices. Governments are also looking to leverage indigenous resources in order to meet renewable energy targets and become energy independent. As a result, investments in the Southeast Asian biomass and waste to power market are on the rise. New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, “Strategic Analysis of Biomass and Waste to Power Market in Southeast Asia,” finds that the market earned revenues of US$1.12 billion in 2014 and estimates this to reach US$1.85 billion in 2019. The study focuses on wood chips, empty fruit bunch, bagasse, municipal solid waste, and rice husk.
  • SunEdison, Inc. has announced that Pashupathy Gopalan, SunEdison’s president of Asia-Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa, was awarded the Solar Power Person of the Year during the Renewable World International Convention in Delhi, India. The award recognizes Mr. Gopalan and SunEdison’s work in setting the pace and scale of the solar industry in India over the last year.
  • Ravi Kailas, Chairman & CEO, Mytrah Energy, has been awarded the ‘Wind Power Person of the year 2015′ at the 3rd World Renewable Energy Conference, which was held in New Delhi. This award was conferred on him by the Renewable Energy Expert Committee, which is headed by Dr. Praveen Saxena, Former Advisor, Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Government of India.
  • NorthWestern Corporation d/b/a NorthWestern Energy has entered into an agreement to purchase the recently constructed 80-megawatt Beethoven wind qualifying facility (QF) project located near Tripp, South Dakota. The $143 million purchase of the facility from BayWa r.e. Wind LLC includes 43 turbines and the rights to a 50MW expansion site adjacent to the existing facility. The project was completed in May 2015.

Cadmus Releases EV Research, Policy Report

The growing number of electric vehicles (EV) on the road may present challenges for the country’s infrastructure (roads) that according to Cadmus, can be addressed through smart planning and thoughtful policy.

ev charging

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

A report released in June 2015 by the Federal Highway Research Association (FHWA) based on Cadmus research, Feasibility and Implications of Electric Vehicle (EV) Deployment and Infrastructure Development, is the first comprehensive examination of EVs undertaken by FHWA. Cadmus’Damon Fordham directed the research team, and John Norris of Ricardo-AEA led the technical analysis, with support from Good Company, Eastern Research Group (ERG), and independent consultants Mark Stout and Doug Tindall.

The project kicked off with an extensive literature review, a series of expert interviews and a forum that included more than 50 EV, transportation and auto industry experts. The team conducted an analysis of the potential deployment of EVs in the United States and the potential impact on the mission of FHWA. The results of the research will be used to aid transportation agencies at the national, state, and local level in understanding how to prepare for the future financial implications, safety planning, and infrastructure development needs associated with EVs.

“The analysis was eye-opening,” said Fordham. “For example, one key finding was that—even at the highest deployment levels we considered—the future impact of EVs on gas tax revenues is a small fraction of the impact of existing federal fuel efficiency regulations.”

Cadmus has found that many states have already begun implementing policies to support the increasing use of EVs. For example, In Washington state, a financial modeling tool developed by Cadmus will soon be helping facilitate expansion of the state’s EV charging infrastructure. A recently passed state law establishing funding for public-private EV infrastructure partnerships directs potential EV charging infrastructure developers to the tool, which Cadmus created to inform policy recommendations made by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). The tool allows users to easily evaluate the business case for a proposed EV charging installation from both public and private sector perspectives.

NFU to Obama Admin – Comply with RFS

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is calling on the Obama Administration to comply with the Renewable Fuel Standard volume obligations as set forth by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) statutory levels.

President Roger Johnson sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) writing, “The volume standards issued in EPA’s proposed rule for RFS target levels are unacceptable and will further hurt investment in a renewable fuel sector that has already been damaged by significant delays in issuing the standards,” said Johnson. “NFU strongly urges the administration to comply with the RFS levels already provided in the popular, bipartisan EISA statute.”

National Farmers Union logoJohnson noted that the volume standards in the proposed rule do not match the goals EPA claims to pursue through its execution of the RFS, and that EPA needs to set volume standards to those provided in the EISA in order to alleviate this problem.

“The proposed, lower volume standards demonstrate to industry that taking steps to increase consumer choice and pursue worthwhile environmental goals can be avoided, even when mandated by Congress,” wrote Johnson. “Instead, holding industry to the proposed targets would demonstrate the Administration’s stable, reliable commitment to biofuels and allow the biofuels and transportation fuels industries the certainty required to attract capital investment and build out the infrastructure needed to offer consumers higher-level ethanol blends.”

Johnson said the proposed rule hurts the administration’s goals for climate resiliency – important steps that mitigate the threats climate change poses to family agriculture. He said that transportation fuels promoted by the RFS have immense potential to reduce climate-influencing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transportation sector.

“EPA should pursue GHG emission reductions at every opportunity to try to mitigate climate change as much as possible,” Johnson’s letter continued. “The RFS offers tremendous capacity to reduce GHGs by encouraging the use of transportation fuels that emit fewer GHGs than petroleum-based transportation fuels.”

The letter concluded, “NFU respectfully asks EPA to issue a final rule implementing volume standards that match those Congress set in EISA. Those standards will drive investment in advanced biofuel production and rural communities and contribute to climate resiliency. NFU stands ready to offer any support and assistance EPA may find helpful regarding these matters.”

Nature Conservancy Looks to Bird Friendly Wind

The Nature Conservancy has installed the first phase of a bird friendly wind power project. The project is taking place in Palmyra, a national wildlife refuge located in Hawaii, where more than a million nesting seabirds call home. With low wind speeds, traditional wind turbines would have low output, plus, says the Conservancy, conventional wind turbines pose a risk of bird strikes. Thus, the group selected INVELOX, a funnel-based wind power technology developed by SheerWind.

Nature Conservancy/ U.S. Fish Wildlife's Palmyra Atoll by A. Purves (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

Nature Conservancy/ U.S. Fish Wildlife's Palmyra Atoll by A. Purves (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

The custom system is designed to mirror an hourglass laying on its side. Extending 83 feet horizontally with a big wind scoop at one end, an exhaust on the other, a Venturi section in the middle increases wind speed potentially three to six times. Nets over the intake and enclosed blades keep it bird friendly. The first phase of the installation includes a single turbine inside the Venturi, allowing for two additional to be installed.

The first phase of the INVELOX project is successfully charging batteries at night, says The Nature Conservancy, and on cloudy days to supplement the photovoltaic system also installed on Palmyra.

INVELOX on Palmyra Atoll by Cindy Coker (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

INVELOX on Palmyra Atoll by Cindy Coker (PRNewsFoto/SheerWind)

“With a goal to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, SheerWind’s INVELOX was the only viable solution for the multiple restrictions including height, wind speeds, and of course bird populations. This solution works and helped bring the goal to reduce fossil fuel use a reality,” said The Nature Conservancy’s David Sellers, who is the driving force behind the design solution and details of the INVELOX installation.

Palmyra Atoll is located 1,000 miles south of Hawaii in the vast equatorial Pacific, and hosts spectacular coral reef and tropical island ecosystems, but is a challenge for humans to inhabit. There are no commercial flights to this remote outpost, which is co-owned and managed as a scientific research station and national wildlife refuge by The Nature Conservancy and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Until the recent installation of wind and solar, Palmyra was run on diesel fuel generators. These installations reduced its dependence on fossil fuels by 95 percent according to The Nature Conservancy.

“We are grateful for David Sellers and The Nature Conservancy’s commitment to installing the first commercial system in an extremely challenging location. We are pleased we were able to contribute to this important achievement and hope this is an example to be duplicated globally,” added Dr. Daryoush Allaei, founder and CTO of SheerWind.

U.S. Senate Votes to Extend Federal Tax Credits

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee has voted 23-3 to extend over 50 tax policies through 2016, including the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that helps to encourage the development of more renewable energy projects including wind. To qualify for the credits, construction of a product must begin while the tax programs are in place.

The credits has expired at the start of this year, and according to Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the action threw “the future of American wind energy into doubt once projects currently under construction are completed”.

© Hongtao926 | Dreamstime.com - Wind Turbines Photo

© Hongtao926 | Dreamstime.com – Wind Turbines Photo

“This is a big step in the right direction,” said Kiernan. “We applaud the committee’s vote because it recognizes that the vast majority of American voters support these policies and want them continued. We urge the full Senate and the House of Representatives to follow the Senate Finance Committee’s bipartisan lead, and quickly pass this tax extenders package, which will continue to grow American jobs and heavy manufacturing, and support rural economic growth.”

Kiernan said the federal PTC and ITC are predominant drivers of new wind farm development, and have helped lower the cost of American wind power by more than half over the last five years, while making the U.S. number one in the world in wind energy production.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in the hearing regularly acknowledged the strong sense of bipartisan support for renewing the tax extenders package. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Rob Portman (R-OH) withdrew amendments opposing the PTC, while Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) made the senators aware of the tremendous amounts of economic benefits and jobs wind power has created in Colorado. Continue reading

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1The UK will remain the leading offshore wind power market globally by 2025, with its installed capacity increasing from 4.5 Gigawatts (GW) in 2014 to 23.2 GW by the end of the forecast period, representing an impressive Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 30.5%, says research and consulting firm GlobalData. The company’s latest report states that the UK accounted for a significant 51.3% share of global offshore capacity in 2014. Denmark and Germany followed, with respective shares of 14.5% and 11.9%.
  • Samsung Renewable Energy, Connor, Clark & Lunn Infrastructure and Six Nations of the Grand River have announced the completion of construction of the 100 MW Grand Renewable Solar Project, the largest operating solar energy project of its kind in Canada and one of the largest in North America. Construction of the project began in September 2013 and was completed on schedule by a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian Solar Inc.
  • IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Industrial Development Corporation of Zambia to explore development of two 50 MW solar PV independent power projects in Zambia through the Scaling Solar program. The projects would be Zambia’s first utility scale PV projects, providing competitively priced, clean power that would reduce Zambia’s dependence on hydro resources and diversify the country’s energy supply mix.
  • Geostellar, an online solar energy marketplace, has announced it has patented an invention for programmatically placing solar panels on rooftops or tracts of land in a 3D virtual world and simulating production over a typical meteorological year based on shading, slope and orientation. The invention forms the basis for Geostellar’s instant Solar Profile, which describes the economic benefits of solar energy for each individual home based on its unique attributes.

Mid-Year Renewable Energy Check-Up

Heading in to the second half of 2015, renewable energy accounted for nearly 70 percent of new electrical generation for the firs six months as reported by the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The report finds wind accounts for more than half (50.64%) of the 1,969 MW of new installed capacity. Solar accounted for 549 MW, bimomass with 128 MW, geothermal with 45 MW and hydropower with 21 MW. The rest of the new capacity was added using natural gas (1,173 MW).

© Metalmaster | Dreamstime.com - Solar Panels Photo

© Metalmaster | Dreamstime.com – Solar Panels Photo

FERC reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from oil or nuclear power and just 3 MW from one unit of coal. Thus, as calculated by the SUN DAY Campaign, new capacity from renewable energy sources during the first half of 2015 is 904 times greater than that from coal and more than double that from natural gas. For June alone, wind (320 MW), biomass (95 MW), and solar (62 MW) provided 97 percent of new capacity with natural gas providing the balance (15 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.27 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.61 percent, wind – 5.84 percent, biomass – 1.40 percent, solar – 1.08 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.34 percent (for comparison, renewables were 16.28 percent of capacity in June 2014 and 15.81% in June 2013).

Renewable electrical capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.20%) and oil (3.87%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. On the other hand, sources the SUN DAY Campaign, generating capacity from coal has declined from 28.96 percent in mid-2013 to 26.83 percent today.

“With Congress now debating whether to extend the federal tax incentives for renewable energy sources, it is reasonable to ask whether the American public has gotten a good return on these investments to date,” noted Ken Bossong, executive eirector of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The latest FERC data confirms that the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’.”

Corn Growers: Build it and They Will Come

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has announced an additional $500,000 investment in Prime the Pump, a program that is expanding midlevel ethanol fueling infrastructure. The latest funds brings NCGA’s annual commitment in the program to $2 million. The organizations overseeing the E15-Blender-Pump-in-Cresco-IowaPrime the Pump program will use the monies as matching funds to secure grants under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USFA) Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership. The USDA has allocated $100 million in grants.

“The nation’s corn farmers have shown their commitment to domestically produced, clean burning ethanol repeatedly over the last 30 years and, when needed, have put their money where their mouth is,” said Chip Bowling, president of NCGA and a farmer from Newburg, Maryland. “Consumers should have fuel options that include cleaner burning ethanol and this investment will allow us to continue to move forward toward that important goal.”

Prime the Pump is aimed at retailers with high volumes and multiple locations. Retailers have to commit to a five-year marketing program, E15 must be offered at all dispensers under the canopy, signage on the street must include E15 and retailers must agree to actively promote the fuel.

“Big Oil and others opposed to ethanol keep setting up road blocks, so we need to work all the more to ensure domestic renewable ethanol moves forward,” added Bowling. “Family corn farmers are faced with the lowest corn prices in more than a decade and increased ethanol utilization is an efficient way to turn that around and help the U.S. economy and environment at the same time.”