GRID Alternatives Helps Bring Solar to Families in Need

Mitsubishi Electric Green Team volunteers, students from CSULB Disabled Student Services and GRID Alternatives project leader pose in front of a newly installed 3.24kW solar system in Los Angeles. (Photo: Business Wire)

Mitsubishi Electric Green Team volunteers, students from CSULB Disabled Student Services and GRID Alternatives project leader pose in front of a newly installed 3.24kW solar system in Los Angeles. (Photo: Business Wire)

When we think of Thanksgiving and helping those in need, many people take action to help provide food. Yet this holiday, thanks to GRID Alternatives, employees from Mitsubishi Electric and California State University Long Beach’s Disabled Student Services, two low-income families now have access to affordable, clean energy. The group installed solar electric systems with the PV modules donated by Mitsubishi Electric US.

While Mitsubishi Electric US donated 6kW of Diamond Premium high performance monocrystalline PV modules bundled with inverters donated by SolarEdge and racking donated by Orion Solar Racking, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation provided financial support for the installations with a grant to GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles. The solar package is bundled as the Diamond Kit as provides a simpler way for residential homeowners to install solar energy and save money. The grant provides hands-on training and education in renewable energy for the student volunteers, most of whom are interested in pursuing careers in the solar industry.

At the second installation, volunteers installed a 2.7kW solar system. (Photo: Business Wire)

At the second installation, volunteers installed a 2.7kW solar system. (Photo: Business Wire)

“We are pleased to extend our reach this year to two families in need,” said Gina Heng, vice president and general manager of Mitsubishi Electric U.S., Inc.’s Photovoltaic Division. “We appreciate the generosity of SolarEdge and Orion Solar Racking, and the leadership of GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles, for making these installations possible.”

The photovoltaic systems were installed in the homes of Edward Wong, a CSULB alumnus, and his family, of Los Angeles, and Zelmira Medina of East Los Angeles. “As a CSULB graduate, it was great to connect with these student volunteers from my alma mater,” said Mr. Wong. “On behalf of my family, I also want to thank all the companies for giving us the gift of solar energy for our new home.”

Kevin Webb, director of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, added, “GRID Alternatives gave us the opportunity to further our mission to help youth with disabilities maximize their potential and participation in society. I’m impressed by the students’ interest in solar technology. We’re proud to continue our support of GRID Alternatives not only to help these students get practical experience in their chosen careers, but also to assist them to serve their community.”

Pilot Hill Wind Project Goes Online

The Pilot Hill Wind Project, a 175 MW wind farm located in Illinois, has begun commercial operations. The EDF Renewable Energy project was made possible through Microsoft Corporation’s commitment to purchase the power under a 20-year purchase power agreement. Pilot Hill will provide 100 percent of the energy needs of Microsoft’s data center.


Pilot Hill Wind Project in Illinois generating 175 MW.

EDF Renewable Energy is proud to partner with Microsoft to power its Illinois data center with 100% renewable energy, through the Pilot Hill Wind Project,” said Ryan Pfaff, executive vice president of EDF Renewable Energy. “Corporate America is increasingly turning to renewable energy to power its business operations, based both on consumer preferences and because renewable energy simply makes good business sense from a cost standpoint. Technology companies like Microsoft have been leading the way in this regard, and many other industries are beginning to follow suit.”

Located 60 miles southwest of Chicago in Kankakee and Iroquois counties, Pilot Hill commenced construction of its 103 General Electric (GE) wind turbines in September 2014. The facility will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 60,000 homes, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist at Microsoft, added, “Microsoft is excited to see renewable energy from Pilot Hill coming on line. We are strong supporters of green power, and projects like Pilot Hill are one way we are meeting our commitment to powering our data centers and operations with renewable energy.”

EDF Renewable Services will provide balance-of-plant operations and maintenance for the facility including 24/7 remote monitoring from its NERC compliant Operations Control Center (OCC).

TASC Poll: Public Unhappy with Hawaii Solar Direction

According to a new poll from the The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), in Hawaii, a majority of respondents support political candidates that support solar development as well as rooftop solar. In addition, a majority said they oppose the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) recent decision to eliminate solar net metering, the fundamental policy for rooftop solar growth according to TASC.

Solar supporters rally in front of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PRNewsFoto/The Alliance for Solar Choice)

Solar supporters rally in front of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PRNewsFoto/The Alliance for Solar Choice)

Three out of four respondents oppose the Commission’s October decision, which was made without holding a hearing or conducting an analysis of the costs and benefits of solar net metering, and without providing notice to customers. In response, dozens of people gathered at a “Rally To Be Heard” in front of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Solar supporters erected a large megaphone to demonstrate the desire for public participation. “I support greater solar growth,” said Charlie Jeffries who attended the rally. “I’m disturbed that the PUC made a rash decision without giving the public an opportunity to make our voices heard.”

“The Hawaii Public Utility Commission failed to do a study of the costs and benefits of solar,” said Roy Skaggs, also a rally attendee. “How do you make sweeping decisions that impacts thousands of families and jobs without at least knowing the data?”

Those speaking at the rally share the public’s sentiment. A nearly-universal 97% of poll respondents support more rooftop solar in Hawaii.

“The public overwhelmingly supports rooftop solar and believes that Hawaii is moving in the wrong direction on energy policy, but policy makers are not listening,” said Bryan Miller, President of TASC. “This poll shows that Governor Ige and the Commission are ignoring the voices of their constituents.” Continue reading

PHG Energy Kicks of Waste-to-Energy Project

Construction of a new gasification plant at Lebanon, Tennessee’s waste water treatment facility is underway following a groundbreaking ceremony held last week. Tens of thousands of tons of sewer sludge, used tires and industrial wood waste will be processed to produce electricity to help power the plant.  PHG Energy of Nashville is designing and building the new facility, which will include utilization of the world’s largest downdraft gasification unit with a full capacity of 64 tons per day through the system.

Lebanon Groundbreaking 11-12-15 smaller size

From left to Right: Chris Koczaja (vice president of implementation and engineering at PHG Energy); Tom Doherty (environmental specialist with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation); Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead; Lebanon Councilman Fred Burton, Ward 2; Lebanon Councilman Rob Cesternino, Ward 3, and Jeff Baines (public works commissioner for the city of Lebanon)

“This facility is going to be a model for waste-to-energy partnerships,” Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said of the project, “as well as the first stage in moving our city completely away from dumping waste into landfills.”

Gasification is a clean thermo-chemical process that breaks down biomass-based material in a high-heat and low-oxygen environment. According to a PHG Energy press release, there is no incineration or burning involved in the process. The only residue after production of synthetic fuel gas is a carbon biochar that has multiple agricultural, industrial and direct fuel uses.

Tom Doherty, Environmental Specialist with the Tennessee, Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), said the new facility is an important step forward in efforts Tennessee and his department are fostering across the state. “When we look at the thousands of tons of wood waste and sludge this plant will cleanly process, that is a tremendous step forward. One of the most exciting parts of deploying this technology in Lebanon is that hundreds or tons of scrap tires will be put to beneficial use while saving Wilson County a considerable portion of their previous disposal expense.”

TDEC has awarded the project funding of $250,000 through the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant program, and facilitated a subsidy of 70% of the $3.5 million financing’s interest cost through the Federal Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds program.

Wind Energy Can Lead Europe in 2030

According to a new report from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), wind power can exceed gas, coal and other forms of energy by 2030 if European member states follow the ambitious policy framework put in place through 2030.

EWEA Report - Aiming HighThe report finds total wind installations in Europe could reach 392GW with 294GW of onshore and 98GW of offshore wind. Today, Europe’s 128.8GW can meet 10 percent of European power consumption in a normal wind year. Giles Dickson, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association, noted wind power can be the foundation of the European energy system within the next 15 years.

The report outlines a number of policy priorities that need to be addressed including the development of national renewable energy action plans for member states; streamlining national permitting procedures; proposing legislation for well-functioning energy markets and driving reform of the Emissions Trading System. Should these policies be implemented the report finds the measures will result in a net gain of EUR13 billion, the equivalent of the EU’s funding for transport infrastructure over the next 5 years. The wind industry would also support up to 366,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“Wind power makes economic sense. But policymakers must demonstrate more determination than is on show today,” said Dickson. “Wind power can deliver economic growth in Europe by boosting investments, creating jobs and reducing electricity bills. A new market design, a reformed ETS and rigorous accountability on 2030 targets are essential if these goals are to be achieved.”

“Already onshore wind is cheaper than any form of new power generation. Last year wind power installed more than gas and coal combined in the EU. Europe’s energy and economic transition is underway.” Dickson added, “Now politicians must decide whether to accelerate this transition or drag their heels, which would damage investments and job creation.”

Effect OSG Unveils “Hybrid” House

The Effect Operational Sales and Systems Group (Effect OSG) has unveiled a “hybrid” house on a private home in Laurentians in Quebec. The home is powered by an Enerdynamic Hybrid Technologies (EHT) wind and solar hybrid system. The systems, coined EnerCubes, consists of eight vertical axis wind turbines featuring an innovative vane design and solar panels fully integrated into an automated battery management and control system.

PaulDionneThe Outback Power management system controls eight 500 watt EnerCubes, 3.8 kilowatt (kW) of solar panels and batteries with 54 kWh energy capacity. According to Effect OSG, the roof mounted EnerCubes has features such as:

  • self-start at wind speeds as low as 1.7 meters per second (3.8 miles or 6.1 kilometers per hour) sustained rotation;
  • low maintenance since the system has no drive shaft, no gear boxes, no brushes, bushings or slip rings;
  • modular design, which allows ‘flat-packed’ shipping to the deployment site with plug and play installation;
  • scalable, since they can be installed either as single functioning units or grouped together for additional power, low vibration, through the use of precision matched bearings, which are the only turbines’ moving parts; and
  • no electromagnetic interference (EMI) since the generator emits a frequency of 14 HZ when operating at its rated output, which is too low to produce EMI.

21892-effect-osg-wind-solar-hybrid-de-300x172President and CEO of Enerdynamic Hybrid Technologies Inc., John Gamble, said, “We are most pleased to deliver an advanced wind and solar hybrid resource with key performance parameters.

Paul Dionne, President Effect OSG, added that, “as a specialist firm in linking client needs to custom fit energy solutions, we felt that introducing this wind generator technology, which turns with much greater ease than traditional turbines, gave our clients a significant edge in using an ultra-efficient wind energy system to be less dependent on electric utilities.”

Other companies involved in the project included O² Globale Énergie, Phase3 Energy and EnShift Power. Other contributors include Gagnon & Zollner Maîtres Artisans, for system installation and building structure; Triacta Power Solutions, for power monitoring system; and Budget Propane, for gas heating systems, as an alternative to further reduce customers’ electrical bills.

Hometown BioEnergy Wins Biogas Project Award

The American Biogas Council has awarded the Hometown BioEnergy facility with its “Biogas Project of the Year” award. The LeSeur, MN plant is owned by the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, with management partner Avant Energy, and utilizes anaerobic digestion to produce renewable electricity from food processing and agricultural waste. Once the methane gas is produced, also known as renewable natural gas, it is used locally and saved for use during high demand times.

MMPA_Hometown_BioEnergyAccording to Steve Schmidt, MMPA chairman, “We’re very proud of this award because it recognizes the innovation built into Hometown BioEnergy, where we produce methane and store it, ready to burn in our generators during on-peak hours when the value of the energy is highest. This biogas facility, because of its ability to store biogas until it’s needed, is an excellent complement to renewable power generated from wind or solar.”

This is not the first award for the facility. Hometown BioEnergy was also recognized by POWER Magzine as a 2014 Top Renewable Plant and was featured on their December cover.

Patrick Serfass, executive director of the American Biogas Council said in a news release announcing the award, “The quality of innovation in the biogas industry is at a fever pitch today.”

60% New Electricity Generation Renewable Power

Becoming a trend, renewable energy sources accounted for more 60.2 percent of the 7,276 of new electrical generation placed in service in the U.S. during the first three quarters of 2015. According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, 26 new units of wind totaling 2,966 MW of new electrical generation have been placed in service so far this year. This accounted for 40.76 percent of all new capacity brought online year-to-date.  Among renewable sources, solar followed with 1,137 MW (142 units), biomass with 205 MW (16 units), geothermal steam with 45 MW (1 unit), and hydropower with 27 MW (18 units). Thirty-four units of natural gas contributed 2,884 MW.

wind power in Iowa

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Only 9 MW of new generation from oil and 3 MW from coal were put into production and there was no new capacity from nuclear power. In total, new capacity from renewable energy sources so far this year is 1,460 times greater than that from coal while new capacity from wind alone exceeds that from natural gas. In just September, wind (448 MW) again dominated, with 54.83 percent of new capacity followed by natural gas (346 MW), and solar (20 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.40 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.59 percent, wind – 5.91 percent, biomass – 1.43 percent, solar – 1.13 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.34 percent (for comparison, renewables were 16.35 percent of capacity in September 2014 and 15.68 percent in September 2013). The share of total installed capacity from solar alone has more than doubled over the past two years (1.13% vs. 0.54%). Total installed capacity from non-hydro renewables (8.81%) now exceeds that from conventional hydropower (8.59%).

“With Congress and numerous states now questioning the ability of renewable energy sources to meet targets called for in the Administration’s new Clean Power Plan (CPP), the explosive growth of wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal in recent years confirms that it can be done,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “In fact, the latest FERC data suggest that the CPP’s goals are unduly modest and renewables will handily surpass them.”

Renewable Industries Call on Secy of State for Support

COP 21 is fast approaching and the U.S. will be in the spotlight for its efforts to reduce climate change impacts. In anticipation of the worldwide climate event, leaders of the U.S. biomass, geothermal and hydropower industries are urging Secretary of State John Kerry to support a “pan-renewable technologies approach”. The National Hydropower Association, Biomass Power Association and Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) said in the letter that today these technologies provide 86 percent of the world’s renewable power and this amount is anticipated to grow in the coming years.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 2.57.22 PM“As baseload renewable power technologies, our industries are particularly critical to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and we encourage Secretary Kerry to recognize the contributions our industries are making to fight climate change,” said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association.

The letter highlighted some of hydropower, biomass and geothermal benefits:

  • Hydropower was the leading renewable power technology in each of the top five renewable electricity producing countries: China, U.S., Brazil, Canada and Russia.
  • Biomass provides a significant percentage of renewable power around the world, and was the leading renewable electricity source in Germany in 2014, providing 10% of the country’s electricity.
  • Geothermal provides power in 24 countries, including 51% of in-country power supply in Kenya, where these additions are credited with reducing consumer bills by over 30%.

Karl Gawell, GEA executive director, called on the Administration to increase its support of renewable electricity generation. “We are asking for a U.S. approach that recognizes hydropower, biomass power and geothermal power are also important contributors to avoiding fossil fuel emissions today and will be important contributors to meeting future climate goals.

The group stressed in the letter, “. . .[P]ower grids will continue to be a vital means for electricity delivery. Therefore, enhancing the grid and grid-connected technologies is important.

Bob Cleaves, president, Biomass Power Association, added, “Biomass power is recognized the world over for its many environmental and economic benefits. As a baseload power source, it’s an essential part of any renewable energy mix that uses low-value materials that often have no other use. Biomass will play an important role in reducing the use of fossil fuels.”

Electric Vehicle Charging Association Formed

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 11.15.21 AMWith the growth of electric vehicles across the country, several EV industry organizations have come together and launched the California-based Electric Vehicle Charging Association (EVCA). The non-profit was formed to achieve clean transportation by advancing the continued innovation in the EV charging industry. The organization has also released a new report, “The State of the Charge,” a report documenting the charging industry’s rapid growth in California and the significant economic opportunity it presents for the state. Founding members of EVCA are ABM, ChargePoint, Clean Fuel Connection, Envision Solar, EV Connect, NRG EVgo, Plugless Power, SeaWave Battery, and Volta, all of which are headquartered or maintain a significant presence in California.

“Ubiquitous charging is critical to the mass adoption of electric vehicles,” said Terry O’Day, vice president west region NRG EVgo, the nation’s largest provider of public DC fast chargers. “The charging industry is committed to making electric vehicles accessible to everyone and to improving and simplifying the charging experience.”

According to The State of the Charge, there are now more than 9,000 public and workplace charging outlets in California, and the number hits 20,000 when home chargers are factored in. California has 40 percent of the U.S. EV market with 150,000 EVs on the roads, and the number of public/workplace charging stations has grown 652 percent since 2011. The EV industry is expected to generate nearly $4.5 billion in California sales and services by 2023, in part driven by Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for 1 million zero-emission vehicles on the roads by 2020. He has also signed into law SB350 to expand EV charging.

California leads the development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, technology, and services,” noted Colleen Quinn, Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy for ChargePoint, North America’s largest EV charging network. “The continued growth and diversity of this industry is critical to meeting California’s ambitious clean air and climate protection goals, and the EV industry supports more than 2,000 California jobs.”

During the launch announcement, speakers noted that In creating the trade association, the EV charging industry is taking an important step to help shape California’s growing EV infrastructure, advocate for policies to advance clean transportation, and serve as a resource for information and expertise. Efforts will focus on creating an environment that maintains the highest levels of innovation and creates maximum value for EV drivers.