#MillionSolarStrong Campaign Launched

The.U.S. has become a #MillionSolarStrong. According to a new report from the George Washington Solar Institute the solar industry has installed more than a million solar projects and is on an accelerated path toward 2 million. In tandem with the report, the solar industry has launched a #MillionSolarStrong and recognizes rooftop and utility-scale reports alike.

Factbook_Teaser“The idea that we are celebrating a million solar installations in this country is remarkable, given we had just a couple thousand when I started here a dozen years ago,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “This accomplishment is made all the more stunning with the projections indicating we will hit 2 million installations before the end of 2018. Our meteoric growth is driven by the fact that solar is one of the lowest cost options for electricity and it has been embraced by people who care about the environment and want to choose where their energy is coming from.”

Key points from the George Washington Solar Institute report are that:

  • Installation costs for solar have dropped more than 70 percent in the last decade;
  • Solar jobs have grown more than 123 percent in the last five years, making solar one of the bright spots in the economy; and
  • The million installations have cut enough carbon to equal all of Oregon’s emissions.

The #MillionSolarStrong social media campaign features photos and videos from people throughout the state who are involved and support solar power.

Wind Energy Kicks off 2016 with a Bang

The American wind energy industry kicked off the year with a bang – the best since first quarter 2012. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind added 520 MW of new generating capacity from January – March of this year. The U.S. Wind Industry First Quarter 2016 Market Report also found the industry has begun construction on another 2,000 MW with a total of more than 10,100 MW of wind capacity currently under construction.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 8.24.25 AM“Our productive first quarter reflects the strength of American wind power entering 2016. We have a low-cost product that’s in high demand,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “As the wind business builds momentum, we’re prepared to double wind’s contribution to America’s electricity supply in the next five years.”

There are now more than 48,800 wind turbines operating in 40 states plus Puerto Rico and, for the first time, Guam – enough to power 20 million average homes with 74,512 MW of total installed capacity. Turbines were installed at seven projects across six states this quarter; Oklahoma led the country with 270 MW of wind capacity installations, followed by Iowa (154 MW), Utah (62 MW) and New Mexico (32 MW).

Texas remains the leader for total installed capacity and reported construction activity and accounted for over 54 percent of construction underway during the first quarter. The Plains region of Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska came next with 18 percent of construction activity, followed by the Midwest at 12 percent.

The newest quarterly market results follow the release of AWEA’s 2015 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, which highlights the growing demand for wind energy in 2015.

US Wind Jobs Hit Record

The U.S. wind industry continues to shatter records. In 2015, wind energy supported 88,000 jobs, an increase of 20 percent over 2014. The data was released as part of the U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, Year Ending 2015 from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The strong job growth coincided with wind energy hitting the number one spot as the country’s new source of generating capacity.

US Wind Industry Annual Report 2015The report was officially released at the Vestas wind turbine component factory near Denver and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper was on hand for the event. He noted in his remarks, “In 2015, Colorado ranked fifth in the nation for wind power capacity additions. An investment in the wind power industry and in wind projects generates new jobs, economic development in rural counties and clean air benefits to all Coloradans.”

Helping to fuel growth is the re-passage of the wind energy Production Tax Credit along with the Investment Tax Credit late in 2015. The report finds that wind energy is on track to meet the Department of Energy’s Wind Vision scenario of supplying 20 percent of total electricity by 2030.

“Wind power benefits more American families than ever before,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “We’re helping young people in rural America find a job close to home. Others are getting a fresh chance to rebuild their careers by landing a job in the booming clean energy sector. With long-term, stable policy in place, and a broader range of customers now buying low-cost wind-generated electricity, our workforce can grow to 380,000 well-paying jobs by 2030.”

AWEA Wind power“Made-in-the-USA wind power will help keep our economy competitive and our air clean for generations,” Kiernan added. “Our wind energy will never run out.”

The job growth in 2015 is primarily fueled by more wind project development and construction, requiring more than 38,000 employees. The report found the industry also experienced a stabilization of its manufacturing sector, which now supports over 21,000 well-paying jobs across 43 states, up over 10 percent in a year. And more than 8,800 jobs are held by wind turbine technicians, the fastest growing profession in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Texas leads the nation with over 24,000 wind energy employees. Wind project construction propelled Oklahoma to second place with more than 7,000 jobs. Rounding out the top five are Iowa and Colorado with over 6,000 jobs, and after moving up 11 spots, Kansas ranks fifth with over 5,000 wind workers. Maine gained the most in the state wind employment rankings, rising 16 spots.

2015 Sets Global Renewable Energy Record

According to new data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), renewable generation capacity increased by 152 GW of 8.3 percent during 2015. This marks the highest global growth ever. Renewable Capacity Statistics 2016 finds that as of the end of 2015, 1,985 GW of renewable generation capacity existed globally.

RE Capacity Highlight_Infographic“Renewable energy deployment continues to surge in markets around the globe, even in an era of low oil and gas prices. Falling costs for renewable energy technologies, and a host of economic, social and environmental drivers are favoring renewables over conventional power sources,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “This impressive growth, coupled with a record $286 billion invested in renewables in 2015, sends a strong signal to investors and policymakers that renewable energy is now the preferred option for new power generation capacity around the world.”

The report finds 2015 was a record year for solar and wind energy in large part due to a continued decline in technology costs. Wind power grew 63 GW (17%) driven by declines in onshore turbine prices of up to 45 percent since 2010. Solar capacity increased 47 GW (37%) thanks to price drops of up to 80 percent for solar photovoltaic modules in the same time period. Hydropower capacity increased by 35 GW (3%), while both bioenergy and geothermal energy capacity increased 5% each (5 GW and 1 GW respectively).

Overall, the study reports capacity has increased by roughly one-third over the last five years, with most of this growth coming from new installations of wind and solar energy.

The fastest growth in renewable generation capacity came in developing countries, in terms of regional power generation. Central America and the Caribbean expanded at a rate of 14.5 percent while in Asia, where additions accounted for 58 percent of new global renewable power generation capacity in 2015, capacity expanded at a rate of 12.4 percent. Capacity increased by 24 GW (5.2%) in Europe and 20 GW (6.3%) in North America. Continue reading

Caribbean’s Largest Solar Array Goes Live

The largest solar array in the Caribbean is now producing energy. Monte Plata is a 33.4 MW PV solar array located in the Dominican Republic that will produce more than 50,000 megawatt hours of energy each year. The “power switch” was turned on by Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina. The project was designed and deployed by Dubai-based Phanes Group along with partners General Energy Solutions and Soventix.

Monte Plata Aerial ViewMonte Plata’s 132,000 solar panels triple the number of solar panels in the Dominican Republic. Once phase two of the project is complete by the end of 2016, the array’s total capacity will rise to 67 MW, increasing the photovoltaic power output in the country fivefold.

“This project is a demonstration of how multiple stakeholders can work together to co-develop solar projects that are viable and bankable in emerging markets – successfully delivering access to energy and unlocking huge economic opportunities for remote communities,” said Martin Haupts, CEO of Phanes Group.

The country has been challenged with inadequate power supply that includes high transmission and distribution losses that exceed 30 percent. In addition, the country spends on average more than $4 billion each year on fossil fuel imports to operate petroleum, coal and natural gas fueled power plants.

“With much of the Caribbean challenged by expensive fuel imports, solar has the ability to liberate these island nations from economic and energy dependency, increasing the energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions while helping elevate communities,” added Haupts. “Phanes Group is delighted to have played a central role in delivering this breakthrough project, and we remain committed and excited about PV’s opportunities across the emerging world.”

Wind Energy Provides $7.3B in Health Savings

According to a new report from the American Wind Energy Association, U.S. wind farms reduced electric power carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 132 million metric tons in 2015. In addition, wind energy reduces other harmful air pollutants including smog-causing sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which helps reduce rates of asthma and other respiratory issues. Electricity generated by wind in 2015 displaced an estimated 176,000 metric tons of SO2 and 106,000 metric tons of NOx, representing $7.3 billion in avoided health costs last year.

wind energy health“Americans will be able to breathe easier and live longer thanks to clean energy produced by American wind power,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “Clean air benefits from wind power totaled $7.3 billion last year, without even including the value of carbon savings, and the industry also attracts thousands of quality jobs and billions of dollars in private investment to the U.S. economy. With wind power, states don’t have to make a trade-off between clean air and strong economic growth.”

Based on costs assumptions provided by the Harvard School of Public Health study, the tons of SO2 and NOx pollution avoided in 2015 carry a public health monetary value of more than $5.4 billion and $1.8 billion, respectively. At the start of 2016, there were 9,400 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity under construction, which is expected to reduce another 23 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year when operational, and cut overall power sector CO2 emissions by an additional one percent.

The 132 million metric tons in CO2 reductions in 2015 are equivalent to eliminating all power sector carbon dioxide emissions in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado last year.

This data is an early look at AWEA’s 2015 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report. The report will provide a comprehensive update on the state of the U.S. wind market, job numbers, state-by-state comparisons, and more.

Clean Energy Jobs Continue to Rise

Clean energy jobs continue to rise with a new report from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) showing more than 2.5 million jobs in the clean energy industry across all 50 states. “Clean Jobs in America,” is based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics information and new data from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as a comprehensive survey of tens of thousands of businesses across the country. The report provides detailed breakdowns of clean energy jobs not previously available.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 9.54.32 AMAccording to the findings, energy efficiency is by far the nation’s largest clean energy sector employer, with nearly 1.9 million Americans while nearly 414,000 people work in renewable energy. The top renewable sectors were solar with 299,000 workers (including nearly 209,000 who work on solar full-time or close to full time, as The Solar Foundation noted in its 2015 job census) and wind with 77,000 workers.

“Clean energy is no longer a niche business – it’s a big-time job creator,” said Dan Smolen, managing director of The Green Suits, a Virginia-based talent recruitment and career development firm. “Our lawmakers need to realize that – and put policies in place, right now, to help the sector grow even more.”

Additional report findings include:

  • 328,000 people work in the energy efficient lighting industry. Another 162,000 help build Energy Star appliances.
  • Nearly 170,000 Americans work in the advanced vehicle industry, including 107,000 who work on hybrids and electric vehicles. Strength in this industry is due in part to new fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles and trucks.
  • More people work in clean energy than sectors like real estate and agriculture, and many more work in clean energy than work in dirty energy industries like oil, gas and coal extraction.

“America’s clean energy jobs market is massive,” said Philip Jordan, vice president and principal at BW Research Partnership whose organization conducted the analysis. “It ranks right up there with some of the biggest industries in the country – including real estate, management, and agriculture. When we spoke with clean energy employers nationwide, we were struck by their responsiveness to state- and federal-level policies as well as their optimism.” Jordan added, “It’s clear that by shoring up clean energy policies, lawmakers have a big opportunity to attract even more clean energy jobs to their own backyards.”

Geothermal Collaboration for Use in Clean Power Plan

With the Clean Power Plan (CPP) moving forward, several groups have collaborated to show states how geothermal can be a part of meeting their clean energy needs. The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), Geothermal Resources Council (GRC), and Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) have released the first set of free state-by-state guides that outline the benefits of geothermal energy and three major types of geothermal applications: power generation, direct use and heat pumps.

Geothermal energy is in an ideal position to help states meet emission reductions and their clean energy targets,” said Paul Brophy, GRC President.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 10.56.17 AMThe materials provide state officials, regulators and the public with information about geothermal energy uses in their individual states. The first four guides cover Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, and Colorado. The state guides find that geothermal power boost jobs and the economy. They also find that for a handful of states with high geothermal power potential, adding one or two geothermal power plants would offset all their emissions reductions required by the CPP.

“Geothermal can be an important part of state clean power plans, particularly when all of the benefits of firm and flexible geothermal provides are taken into account,” said Ben Matek, GEA analyst and research projects manager. “The Guides we are providing today will help overcome a major hurdle for geothermal – lack of recognition,” said Karl Gawell, GEA Executive Director. “We hope the states will recognize geothermal energy is part of the solution, and that each has potential it can tap.”

According to the guides, large-scale geothermal power plants directly employ an estimated 1.17 persons per MW. They account for nearly $6.3 to $11 million dollars in property taxes over the lifetime of the power plant and provide multiple benefits to the environment including lowered emissions and water consumption compared to other forms of baseload generation, and geothermal energy is always available. Click here to access the free guides.

NJR Announces U.S. New Wind Project

NJR Clean Energy Ventures (NJRCEV) has announced its fourth onshore wind project, Ringer Hill Farm. The 39.9 MW project is located along the Pennsylvania-Maryland border in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, approximately 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh and will consist of 14 GE turbines. The new wind farm is expected to be complete in early 2017.

njr-cleanenergy“Wind is an increasingly important segment of our nation’s energy mix and we are pleased to do our part to bring renewable energy to the marketplace,” said Laurence M. Downes, chairman and CEO of New Jersey Resources. “Our investment in Ringer Hill further diversifies our distributed power portfolio, represents the continuation of our Company’s long-term growth strategy and provides value to our shareowners.”

NJRCEV is investing $84 million dollars in the project and expects the wind farm will qualify for federal production tax credits, which were recently extended. Once the project is completed, it joins wind farms in Alexander Wind Farm in Rush County, Kansas which began operating in December 2015; the Carroll Area Wind Farm, located in Iowa, which came online in February 2015; and, the Montana-based Two Dot Wind Farm, which has been in service since June 2014.

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.