REAP Funds Still Available

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is soliciting funds for the Rural Energy for American Program (REAP).  The funding notice releases mandatory funding for both FY2014 and FY2015, as well as discretionary funding recently made available in the “Cromnibus.” The program provides grants and loan guarantees to rural small businesses, farmers and others in the ag community. However, some new changes have been usda-rd-logoimplemented including a new simplified “three tiered” application process, more frequent solicitations, and priority points for specific policy priorities such as the advancement of distributed wind power.

According to USDA, with two years of funding released at the same time, this notice of solicitation of applications (NOSA) sets a record for the largest REAP funding notice in program history, of $101.35 million. Program demand has decreased in recent years due to decreased program funding, so competition may be reduced.

“The REAP program has always been a very good one, strongly supported on a bi-partisan basis to help expand development of rural America’s abundant renewable energy resources,” said Jennifer Jenkins, executive director for the Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA) who has participated in the rule making. “Now it’s an even better program helping ensure distributed wind power’s continued role in bringing clean, affordable and homegrown electricity to rural America. I am pleased to see the efforts of the USDA for it’s great work on the program.”

DWEA President, Mike Bergey, added, “This program helps farmers and rural businesses lower their operating costs and become more competitive by installing American-made small wind turbines. Recent improvements to the program have made it more accessible to family farms and small businesses and we are very appreciative of the streamlining of the application process.”

Bergey is participating in the USDA webinar, “USDA Rural Energy for America Program Webinar: National Stakeholder Forum,” today from 12 pm – 2:00 pm EST.  The webinar will detail the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the program changes.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • http://energy.agwired.com/category/bioenergy-bytes/ScottMadden, Inc. is set to release its Winter 2015 edition of the Energy Industry Update. This semi-annual publication offers our inside view of major events and emerging trends in the energy industry. Themed “Changes: Turn and Face the Strange,” this issue includes: A view of how utilities are looking with interest at electric vehicles; customer and vehicle characteristics; some generic business models being tested; a review of natural gas prices and gas production from shale formations; and the latest dynamics in this market, including what (if any) impact low oil prices are having on it.
  • Scott Brodsky and Gari Matarirano from international legal practice Macfarlanes LLP recently wrote a detailed white paper analyzing the success of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Programme, which featured in Clean Energy Pipeline’s Clean Energy Africa Finance Guide 2014. Download your free copy here.
  • Clean Energy Group (CEG) has released a new report calling for more collaboration on policies to promote emerging distributed energy storage technologies. In Distributed Energy Storage: A Case for National and International Collaboration, CEG proposes the creation of both national and international networks of industry, policy makers and NGOS to advance new and effective policies for distributed energy storage technologies.
  • Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company has announced that through a wholly-owned subsidiary it acquired 9.789 Megawatts of operating solar power facilities located on 13 sites in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana and North Carolina. The facilities were developed, owned and operated by MP2 Capital LLC and Blu Leaf Ventures LLC. The “East to West Solar Portfolio” consists of ground and roof mounted solar systems located on municipal and commercial properties.

CH2M Hill Involved In Seawater Bioenergy Facility

A pilot-scale bioenergy facility that will use seawater irrigated desert land to produce both bioenergy and food in the water is under development in Masdar City. The Integrated Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (ISEAS) involves a complete seawater agricultural system that will serve as a research and development facility for Masdar Institute (MI) of Science and Technology and the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC). The project is expected to be operational in late summer.

Dr. Alejandro Ríos, Director, Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium, noted, “This project has potential for groundbreaking innovation, particularly considering the unique conditions in Abu Dhabi’s environment. CH2M HILL has assembled a world-class team of engineers to tackle this very interesting challenge, and we at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology are confident that the engineering expertise that has gone into the design of the pilot facility will enable such innovation.”

Growing_sustainable_sbrc_enCH2M HILL was commissioned last year to provide technical support and to design a sophisticated pilot-scale facility of the ISEAS on designated land in Masdar City. CH2M HILL said they worked closely during the design phase with MI and SBRC to refine the technical aspects of the new facility, with the intention of an innovative sustainable system that will serve as a research and development facility for MI and SBRC.

A significant aspect of the new pilot-scale facility is the use of seawater to produce water stock to grow seafood, mainly fish and shrimp, (aquaculture) for human consumption and Salicornia plants for fuel and byproduct production. The plants thrive in arid, desert conditions and do not require fresh water or arable land to grow. The effluent is diverted into cultivated mangroves that are used for water treatment and biomass production, removing nutrients and providing valuable carbon storage.

“CH2M HILL is proud of our involvement with this notable pilot research project and of our successful partnership with MI and the SBRC. The project team has not only created an innovative biofuel project to address challenges of energy and water security, but is also playing an essential role in supporting the advancement of sustainable biofuel research in the UAE,” said Neil Reynolds, CH2M HILL’s regional managing irector for Middle East, North Africa and India (MENAI).

Electric Cars Gain Ground in Vehicle Rankings

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released its 18th annual vehicle environmental ratings on greencars.org. The top rated vehicles for the year were Mercedes-Benz Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Convertible/Coupe with the highest score ever, Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500E, Toyota Prius C and the Nissan Leaf. Six out of 12 places in this year’s Greenest List were claimed by plug-in electric vehicles. This year’s list also features a diverse array of manufacturers: nine different automakers are represented by the 12 top-scoring vehicles, including two American manufacturers (Chevrolet and Ford) and two European manufacturers.

Mercedes-Benz Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Convertible/Coupe wins Greenest Car of 2015 on Greencars.org. Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Convertible/Coupe wins Greenest Car of 2015 on Greencars.org. Photo: Mercedes-Benz

“As the electric vehicle market continues to develop, we’re seeing a number of different options from a variety of automakers, including several from American manufacturers,” said ACEEE lead vehicle analyst Shruti Vaidyanathan.

ACEEE notes at the same time, it’s important to note that some of the Greenest are only being offered in a handful of states, and that the larger classes are not represented. As the list demonstrates, consumers can make greener choices whatever their vehicle needs may be by providing facts that allows a consumer to examine the eco-performance of any 2015 model. The site assigns each vehicle a Green Score, a single measure that incorporates lifecycle greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions. Updates to this year’s methodology include the incorporation of a fuel cell vehicle analysis and a new estimate of nuclear damage costs.

In addition to highlighting the year’s Greenest, Meanest, Greener Choices, and best-in-class lists, the greenercars.org website features informative write-ups on model year 2015 highlights, a consumer primer on vehicles and the environment, and advice on how to buy green when shopping for a new car or truck.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • http://energy.agwired.com/category/bioenergy-bytes/PlanET Biogas UK Ltd. has contributed a donation towards a newly set up forage aid for rural farmers and will support the fundraising tractor and trailer run through the counties of Somerset, Avon, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire. With approximately 12 stops planned en route the run will start from Sedgemoor and end in Telford on February 11, the opening day of the Energy Now Expo 2015. PlanET Biogas UK Lt. will exhibit at stand 100.
  • The Solar Energy Finance Association (SEFA), has announced the launch of its new membership program with enhanced offerings for the coming year. SEFA’s long term goal is to promote solar as an asset class and thereby improve the solar industry’s access to capital, reduce financing costs and increase the footprint of distributed solar power in the U.S. To do so, SEFA will carry forward, promote and administer many of the valuable work products and initiatives developed by the Solar Access to Public Capital (SAPC) working group, a 3-year initiative to increase the availability of capital to the solar industry, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
  • ICM, Inc. has announced that Redfield Energy LLC has purchased ICM’s patent-pending Selective Milling Technology and patent-pending Fiber Separation Technology for their Redfield, South Dakota ethanol plant. SMT and FST are value-added platform technologies that increase ethanol yield and oil recovery for their customers.
  • The global solar photovoltaic (PV) balance of system (BOS) market will decline in value from an estimated $34.9 billion in 2014 to $24.9 billion by 2020, due to falling BOS costs and the slow increase in global annual capacity additions according to GlobalData. The report indicates that while developed markets, such as the US, UK and Germany, will be the main contributors to this decline, some emerging countries, led by China, will witness growth over the forecast period. The largest drop will occur in the US, where the solar PV BOS market value will more than half, from $6.7 billion in 2014 to $3.3 billion by 2020.

Vernier Offers Wind Energy Lab Book

A new lab book, Investigating Wind Energy is now available for students in grades 4-6. Vernier Software & Technology spearheaded the effort. The book was written for and aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The lesson plans encourage students to apply learned knowledge as they explore electric circuits and investigate blade design variables using a variety of materials and technologies using a variety of materials and technologies, including the KidWIND MINI Wind Turbine, the Vernier Energy Sensor, and more.

Investigating Wind Energy“Our new lab book provides students with multiple hands-on investigations that explore renewable energy science, as recommended by NGSS,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and former physics teacher. “These types of inquiry-based investigations engage students in scientific discovery at an earlier age and provide the foundation needed as they progress through STEM instruction.”

The lab book includes ten investigations and one culminating project where students design, test, and refine a wind turbine blade set that converts wind energy to electrical energy. The investigations are designed to help students explore quantitative current, potential difference, power, energy and more in an engaging, hands-on way.

The lab book includes a table showing the Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science and Engineering Practices covered in each investigation, making it easy to use with the EQuIP rubric from Achieve. Additionally, it includes information on related skills, estimated completion times for the investigations, equipment tips, teaching tips, answers, sample data, and graphs in the teacher information pages. An accompanying CD with editable Word files for all of the student pages allows teachers to adjust lessons to meet their needs.

Geothermal Economic Survey Released

According to a new issue brief based on a the survey, “The Additional Economic Benefits of Geothermal Energy,” substantial revenues from taxes and royalties to state and local governments, long-term local employment and millions of dollars in environmental benefits have been delivered by the geothermal industry. This supports reports from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) that geothermal power is a long-term consumer bargain for the western power grid.

The survey was conduced by the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) and found:

  • In 2013, geothermal power producers paid $29 million dollars in annual property taxes, including $21 million dollars to the State of California.
  • A 50-MW geothermal plant will require 310 person-years of construction and manufacturing employment.
  • An average 50-MW facility will create permanent employment for about 100 people.

GEA Issue Brief geothermal power employed personsGEA notes that properly developing the remaining identified geothermal resources estimated by the U.S. Geologic Survey to exist in the State of California alone could add 2,500 permanent on-site jobs, another 20-30 million dollars in property tax revenue for the state and almost 15,000 construction and manufacturing jobs.

The Issue Brief was prepared by GEA’s Analyst & Research Project Manager Benjamin Matek. He said, “The report supports the view of the industry, EIA and others that geothermal development is by far among the most economically beneficial out of the renewable resources available to western states.”

“These plants bring substantial economic benefits to communities through permanent employment, property taxes, rents and royalties,” added Matek. “Building one small geothermal plant in a community can generate $6.3 to $11 million dollars in property taxes that can be used toward education or other local services and provide 20-30 permanent jobs.”

RMI Launches Business Renewables Center

The Business Renewables Center (BRC) has been launched with more than 25 founding members, including major corporations, renewables project developers and transaction service providers, by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). The BRC is a collaborative platform designed to accelerate renewable energy procurement. The Center’s goal is to add another 60 GW of wind and solar by 2025, which will nearly double installed U.S. capacity.

Rocky Mountain Institute logoNearly two-thirds of Fortune 100 and nearly half of Fortune 500 companies have commitments to shift to renewables. However, most have not taken action due to the high transaction cost and complexity of large-scale renewables transactions. The BRC will remove the main obstacles preventing corporations from building renewables into their energy profiles.

“Corporations can be a powerful lever for expanding renewable energy in the United States and beyond. They can lock in long-term affordable prices for clean energy that supports the bottom line, reduce their carbon footprint, and fulfill their corporate sustainability commitments,” said RMI Managing Director Hervé Touati.

The BRC founding transaction service providers include Altenex, Climate Friendly, Customer First Renewables, Origin Climate, Renewable Choice Energy, Renewable Power Direct and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. The BRC founding project developers include Apex Clean Energy, E.ON-Climate and Renewables North America, FirstSolar, Invenergy, NextEra Energy Resources, NRG Energy, OneEnergy Renewables, OwnEnergy and SunEdison.

Quayle Hodek, CEO of Renewable Choice Energy a founding member, noted, “The next decade will be a watershed for U.S. renewables. The establishment of the BRC is a testament to explosive industry growth and to the increasing appetite of corporations for easily adoptable, clean power solutions. Through collaborative efforts, the BRC is an exciting resource for everyone in the industry and for our clients.”

Gigawatt Global Grid Connects Solar Project

The Rwanda field, a $23.7 million, 8,5 MW solar energy plant has been connected to the power grid. Developed by Gigawatt Global, this is the first utility-scale project to reach financial close and come online under the Africa Clean Energy Finance (ACEF) program that is part of the Power Africa Initiative. The Rwanda field – constructed in the shape of the African continent – brought together an international consortium of financing partners.

Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. James Musoni, and the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), John Morton, led a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) near where the solar plant is located.

“Top quality developers like Gigawatt Global are the keys to success for President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, president and CEO of OPIC. “After OPIC provided critical early-stage support through the ACEF program, Gigawatt smoothly and swiftly brought the project online to give Rwanda enough grid-connected power to supply 15,000 homes. Gigawatt Global in Rwanda is a clear demonstration that solar will be a key part of Africa’s energy solution.” The project was completed in one year.

Rwanda Gigawatt Project Drone  Gigawatt Project Rwanda DroneChaim Motzen, Gigawatt Global Co-Founder and Managing Director, and the main force behind the development of the project, noted, “Our project proves the viability of financing and building large-scale solar fields in sub-Saharan Africa, and we hope that this solar field serves as a catalyst for many more sustainable energy projects in the region. The speed with which this project was completed is a tribute to the strength of the Rwandan government’s institutions and their laser-focus on increasing Rwanda’s generation capacity as well as to the nimbleness of our team and partners which spanned eight countries.”

The Rwandan project is built on land owned by the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, whose mission is to care for Rwanda’s most vulnerable children orphaned before and after the Rwandan genocide. The Village is leasing land to house the solar facility, the fees from which will help pay for a portion of the Village’s charitable expenses. Gigawatt Global will also be providing training on solar power to students of the Liquidnet High School on the grounds of the Youth Village.

“This utility-scale solar field at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is a symbol of hope for sub-Saharan Africa’s tens of millions of orphans and 600 million people without power, ushering in a new era of impact investing that we will hopefully be replicating throughout Africa,” added Yosef Abramowitz, president of Gigawatt Global. “We want to thank President Obama and Secretary Kerry, along with our other financial partners, for the opportunity to celebrate this landmark electricity-generating project under Power Africa.”

Green Charge Networks & Flextronics Partner

GreenStationGreen Charge Networks has partnered with Flextronics to provide “on-demand” manufacturing of Green Charge’s GreenStation intelligent energy storage system at its customer innovation center in Milpitas, California.  The company says California’s investor-owned utilities are seeking to deploy energy storage solutions at an accelerated rate. This includes energy storage capacity installed “behind the meter” on-site at commercial and industrial companies, a mid-tier market sector that Green Charge is pioneering with its GreenStation intelligent energy storage solution.

“Flextronics is proud to be Green Charge’s manufacturing partner, helping them to better meet the demands of their growing customer base,” said Scott Graybeal, vice president, energy at Flextronics. “Energy storage technology is rapidly evolving and we are thrilled to help companies like Green Charge with our advanced innovative solutions and platform offerings that increase their competitiveness and decrease their time to market.”

Vic Shao, CEO and Founder at Green Charge Networks added, “Green Charge has developed a leading-edge intelligent energy storage solution that not only benefits our customers, but helps pave the way towards a sustainable electric grid infrastructure of the future. Partnering with Flextronics, we’re thrilled to contribute to the revitalization of manufacturing in the U.S.”