Canadian Wind Industry Grows

Yesterday was Global Wind Day and Canada celebrated its growing wind energy industry. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) announced that they are now the 7th country in the world to surpass 10,000 MW of installed wind energy capacity with the commissioning of the K2 Wind Power Project.

“Meeting the 10,000 MW milestone confirms that Canada is a global leader in wind energy development,” said Robert Hornung, CanWEA president. “Wind energy’s cost competitiveness, coupled with the fact that it produces no greenhouse gas emissions, Wind Facts websitemeans it is well positioned to continue its rapid growth as a mainstream contributor to Canada’s electricity supply.”

According to CanWEA, in the past five years, more wind energy capacity has been installed in the country than any other form of electricity generation. The country has witnessed three record years for the annual installation of new wind energy capacity and Canada’s wind energy capacity has grown by an average of 1,300 MW, or 24 percent, annually, and 2015 is on track to exceed this five-year average for new installations.

Wind turbines are now operating in every province in Canada, and in the Northwest Territories and Yukon, providing energy to over 100 communities and accounting for nearly 5 percent of domestic Canadian electricity demand.

“Wind energy is meeting Canada’s demand for new electricity in a clean, reliable and cost-competitive way,” added Hornung. “As concerns about global climate change grow, wind energy will also need to play a critical role in Canada’s transition to a more flexible and decentralized low carbon electricity system. We celebrate wind energy as Canada’s success story – with another milestone reached the best is yet to come.”

Intel Pilots Micro-Turbine Rooftop Wind Power

Intel is participating in a unique pilot wind power project. The company is installing 58 micro-turbines on the roof to help renewably power their building. According to Marty Sedler, director of global utilities & infrastructure for Intel, the project came about due to their ongoing efforts to find more sustainable ways to use technology. This is why, he said, Intel began piloting one of the world’s largest operating rooftop arrays of wind micro-turbines on the roof of its worldwide headquarters in Santa Clara, California.

Rendering of the planned installation of 58 Wind Micro-Turbines on the rooftop of Intel's global headquarters building in Santa Clara, California. The installation is underway and will be complete in May 2015.  IMAGE SOURCE:  JLM Energy, Inc.

Rendering of the planned installation of 58 Wind Micro-Turbines on the rooftop of Intel’s global headquarters building in Santa Clara, California. The installation is underway and will be complete in May 2015. IMAGE SOURCE: JLM Energy, Inc.

Sedler explained that the micro-turbines are a proof-of-concept project, in which Intel hopes to collect data that could help the company better support green power applications and identify ways to continue evolving its sustainability programs. Intel also hopes the project will inspire other companies and electric users to consider creative new options to conserve energy.

Many companies, such as Intel, are not in a position to install full-scale wind turbines on their property. This is why the company partnered with JLM Energy, a Rocklin, California-based company that built and installed the micro-turbines. Sedler said each micro-turbine is between 6 and 7 feet tall and weighs approximately 30 lbs. The model of micro-turbine that Intel is using is the smallest design available for commercial buildings and is considered the most efficient turbine in its size class. Due to their small size, the micro-turbines are versatile in their potential uses and applications, said Sedler.

Each micro-turbine generates approximately 65 kWh. The array was sized to provide the electricity required for the lighting and general operation of Intel’s Executive Briefing Center. Sedler explained that since the micro-turbines need no fuel other than wind, they produce green power at no additional cost. For every kWh of green electricity the micro-turbines produce, Intel will require one fewer kWh of grid power, therefore reducing the need for power sources that produce much higher levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Continue reading

EWEA Calls for RES Targets to be Met

According to a new paper released by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the European Commission needs new controls to ensure the EU meets its 27 percent RES target by 2030. The EU must have benchmarks in place by December 2015 that will provide indications for Member States on reaching the EU-wide target. Member States must set their individual commitments by no later than December 2017. It is of paramount importance that the target is distributed fairly among the Member States, said EWEA.

Kristian Ruby, chief policy officer at EWEA, said, “In the absence of a nationally binding commitment for 2030, it is important that the Commission puts its foot down if Member States fail to deliver on the 27% target. We must not have a situation where some countries take a back seat in the hope that other more ambitious Member States pick up the slack.It is essentiEWEA_vertical_01al that the role of the Commission is reinforced after 2020 to safeguard investor confidence and the regulatory stability needed to take Europe’s renewables rollout through the next phase.”

In the event that national contributions do not meet the overall target, said EWEA, the Commission should broker cooperation between neighboring Member States, particularly with those that have pledged below the Commission’s original benchmark. However, if those countries still fail to make up the shortfall, the EU executive must put in place a program as of January 2020 and require that Member States with low contributions pledge to an EU-wide fund for the development of renewable energies.

Under a 2030 governance system, EWEA is calling for the Commission to make official policy recommendations on national renewable energy action plans every two years. If a Member State were to ignore a policy recommendation, the Commission could issue a warning with the possibility of referral to the European Court of Justice if no action is taken. The EU executive must also have the authority to intervene when Member States make counter-productive changes to domestic renewable energy policies.

Ruby added, “It is imperative that the Commission is able to act. Under a stricter governance system, Member States would need to inform the Commission before making any regulatory changes that might impact the deployment of renewable energies.”

Michigan Winery Goes Solar

The largest solar agribusiness installation at a winery, Chateau Chantal Winery & Inn, is now online after a ceremonious flip of the switch by Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. “Michigan IS a leader in renewable energy,” staid U.S. Senator Stabenow. “Make, grow and innovate – that’s what we do best in Michigan.”

Chateau Chantal Power Up Switch_052915The 148.5 kW Harvest Energy Solutions solar installation will offset 40 percent of the winery’s energy needs. More than 50 invited guests were on hand to celebrate completion of the solar project.

“We’ve been harvesting grapes on this farm for 29 years and are now excited to diversify by harvesting the sun’s energy with the largest solar array at a Michigan winery,” said Marie-Chantal Dalese, president and CEO at Chateau Chantal.

Chateau Chantal’s solar PV system is made almost entirely with parts and equipment made in Michigan, from the Harvest Energy Solutions’ manufactured racking and clips to the Michigan-made solar panels.

“At Chateau Chantal, we’ve been incredibly lucky to steward this amazing property on Old Mission Peninsula. Installing a large scale solar array is one more way we can reflect our commitment to a healthy environment. Our vineyard has been MAEAP (Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program) certified for 8 years and we ceased application of chemical fertilizers in our vineyard 10 years ago,” Dalese. Continue reading

Coalition Fights for EV Dev in San Diego

A broad coalition has submitted a proposed settlement to the California Public Utilities Commission in an effort to speed up the deployment of smart electric vehicle charging stations in San Diego. The proposal calls for San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) to install smart charging infrastructure at up to 550 multi-family housing sites and workplace locations throughout its service territory, with an average of ten chargers at each location for a total of 5,500 separate chargers. Customers would have a choice of rate options and equipment to ensure drivers charge in a manner that maximizes fuel cost savings and supports the electrical grid and to promote competition and market growth in the charging service industry.

“This proposal would increase access to electric cars and trucks and leverage those clean vehicles to cost-effectively integrate wind and solar energy to the benefit of all utility customers,” said Max Baumhefner, attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council who is part of the groups supporting the initiative. “If the Public Utilities Commission adopts this carefully negotiated settlement, it would confirm California’s leadership in moving both the transportation sector and the electric industry to a future free of fossil fuels.”

Blink electric vehicle charges in Orange County, California. Photo Credit Joanna Schroeder

Blink electric vehicle charges in Orange County, California. Photo Credit Joanna Schroeder

The goal of the proposal is to enable all communities access to electric vehicle charging stations and the corresponding benefits from EV on the road – less fossil fuel use and less emissions. The plan calls for SDG&E to install at least 10 percent of the charging stations in such communities and facilitate the expansion of electric car sharing to expand access to zero emission vehicles. As noted in The Greenlining Institute’s 2011 report, “Electric Vehicles; Who’s Left Stranded?” communities of color are more concerned about air pollution, making them a natural, but largely untapped market for clean vehicles.

“We commend SDG&E and all involved for putting together a proposed pilot program that, if adopted, would mean more EV charging stations in disadvantaged communities while helping create a diverse workforce and supplier network to get the job done,” said Sekita Grant, environmental equity legal counsel at The Greenlining Institute, another participating coalition member. “We need to make clean electric cars and trucks a reality for Californians of all income levels, and look forward to working with SDG&E to push beyond the settlement targets to make that happen.”

The pilot program would feature price signals that encourage drivers of electric cars to save money by charging their vehicles when renewable energy is plentiful and energy prices are low. This will help avoid the need to build more power plants and other electrical infrastructure.

Kansans Want More Solar

Kansans want more solar. A recent poll finds 73 percent of Kansans agree that the opportunity for homeowners to adopt solar energy is an important part of providing choice and competition. In addition, 79 percent of respondents agree that Kansas could benefit from new jobs created by the solar industry. Today, one of every 78 jobs in the U.S. is in the solar industry. The poll was conducted by Magellan Strategies and commissioned by The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC).

This 10 kW ground-mount at @PLHSKAWS features 40 @SolarWorldUSA panels and @IronRidge racks in Perry, KS. #KSSolar  Photo Credit: Cromwell Solar

This 10 kW ground-mount at @PLHSKAWS features 40 @SolarWorldUSA panels and @IronRidge racks in Perry, KS. #KSSolar Photo Credit: Cromwell Solar

“Solar jobs in Kansas have been increasing at a rate over 30% each year; these are good-paying, skilled jobs that are at risk if Westar attempts to eliminate solar competition,” said Aron Cromwell, CEO Cromwell Solar, based in Lawrence, Kansas.

According to TASC, Westar Energy awaits the Kansas Corporation Commission’s ruling on a proposal that would impose higher tariffs on solar customers in its service territory. The proposed change would force solar customers onto discriminatory rates with high monthly charges that will stop the growing solar market in Kansas. TASC and Cromwell Solar have petitioned to intervene in the rate case to advocate for residential rates that encourage consumer energy choice. Westar has opposed both parties’ participation in the case.

Additional finding include that 76 percent of Westar customers oppose Westar’s proposal to impose a tariff fee on customers with solar panels. With 80 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of Democrats agreeing that their utilities’ positions on clean energy are based on what’s best for these companies’ profits, the results, said TASC, call into question Westar Energy’s motives in proposing this anti-solar change.

“It is rare to see this level of bipartisan support for anything, but it is clear from these results that Kansans will not stand for Westar Energy or any utility to take away their ability to install solar,” said David Flaherty, CEO of Magellan Strategies.

Westar’s rate case is pending before the Kansas Corporation Commission. Public hearings are planned for July 21 and 23. The Commission should issue an order by the fall.

FPL and FIU to Build Solar Power Center

Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) and Florida International University (FIU) have solidified a partnership to build a commercial-scale distributed solar power facility that will both generate electricity for FPL’s 4.8 million customers and serve as an innovative research operation.

Artist's conceptual rendering of the 1.6-megawatt solar installation FPL plans to install at Florida International University in 2015. The solar-powered parking canopies will also create about 600 shaded parking spaces in the parking lot of FIU's Engineering Center. (PRNewsFoto/Florida Power & Light Company)

Artist’s conceptual rendering of the 1.6-megawatt solar installation FPL plans to install at Florida International University in 2015. The solar-powered parking canopies will also create about 600 shaded parking spaces in the parking lot of FIU’s Engineering Center. (PRNewsFoto/Florida Power & Light Company)

The project includes the installation of more than 5,700 solar panels on 23 canopy-like structures that will be built this summer in the parking lot of the university’s Engineering Center. Using data from the 1.6 MW solar array, faculty and students from FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing will study the effects of distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) generation on the electric grid in real-life South Florida conditions.

“This innovative solar project builds on FIU’s relationship with FPL, one that provides our students with unparalleled and unique training opportunities,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “Through this project, our engineering students will make a direct contribution to the growth of solar energy in our state, while gaining invaluable experience working side by side with professionals from one of the most forward-thinking utilities in the nation.”

Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL noted, “FPL is proud to be a leader in advancing solar energy in smart ways, making sure to keep costs low and reliability high for our customers. As the economics of solar continue to improve, we look forward to harnessing more and more energy from the sun. Our partnership with FIU is designed to help us manage solar power’s interaction with the greater electric grid as part of our commitment to reliably deliver affordable clean energy for all of our customers.”

FIU students have already begun gathering information to be used in their research, including historical weather data and energy production and usage patterns. The research will take Florida’s unique weather conditions into consideration and help determine the types of technology that may be needed to ensure the grid’s reliability is not negatively affected by fluctuations in solar PV production due to clouds, thunderstorms and other variables.

Nat’l Debt Grows, Energy Costs Rise

Americans have had some recent relief at the pump but it may be short-lived. According to State of the World 2015, long-term energy costs are on the rise. Why? America’s, along with other countries’ growing debt. Author John Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 8.05.27 AMHagens a former hedge fund manager who now teaches human macro-ecology at University of Minnesota, said nations are papering over these costs with debt. He continues that higher energy costs are leading to continued recessions, excess claims on future national resources, and more-severe social inequality and poverty.

State of the World finds that the relatively low cost of energy extraction of oil, coal and natural gas, compared to the benefits seen from fossil fuels may be the most important factor in the industrialized world’s economic success. Historically, the report continues, large quantities of inexpensive fuels were available even after accounting for the energy lost to extract and process them. But, as remaining fuels become less accessible, higher energy costs will have ripple effects through economies built around continued large energy-input requirements. Rising costs, the report states, will endanger highly energy-intensive industries and practices—including the energy sector itself—as well as widen and deepen poverty as everything becomes more expensive.

“Despite having ‘plenty of energy,’ higher physical costs [of extraction] suggest that energy likely will rise from a historical average of 5 percent of GDP [gross domestic product], to 10–15 percent of GDP or higher,” writes Hagens.

State of World 2015 coverIn the short term, Hagen notes nations are taking on growing debt to avoid losses in GDP—an indicator of the economic health of a country. Since 2008, the Group of Seven nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have added about $1 trillion per year in nominal GDP, but only by increasing their debt by over $18 trillion.

However, Hagens argues, continued use of credit to mask the declining productivity of energy extraction is unsustainable. For each additional debt dollar, less and less GDP is generated, and, at the same time, our highest-energy-gain fuels are being depleted. Energy is becoming more expensive for the creditor in the future than for the debtor in the present.

“We have entered a period of unknown duration where things are going to be tough,” writes Hagens. “But humanity in the past has responded in creative, unexpected ways with new inventions and aspirations.” While policy choices such as banking reform, a carbon and consumption tax, and moving away from GDP as a proxy for well-being are good long-term ideas, “we urgently need institutions and populations to begin to prepare…for a world with the same or less each year instead of more.”

How Renewables Fit in Clean Power Plan

How will the electricity energy mix change with the implementation of the Clean Power Plan? This question was reviewed in the latest Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Today in Energy. Using the Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015) as the baseline, the main compliance strategy to lower emissions rates as the proposed rule comes into effect is to increase natural gas-fired generation to displace and ultimately surpass coal-fired generation. Later, as more wind and solar capacity are added, renewable generation also surpasses coal-fired generation.

Analysis of Impacts of Clean Power Plan - EIAThe analysis finds that changes in the fuel mix play out in different ways across the country, reflecting regional variation in the economics of increases in natural gas generation and renewable capacity. Key determinants include baseline combined-cycle utilization rates and the potential for renewable generation in areas without renewable portfolio standards.

EIA’s analysis also modeled the proposed rule using the High Oil and Gas Resource (HOGR) and High Economic Growth cases from AEO2015 as alternative baselines. The HOGR case reflects a scenario in which more abundant domestic natural gas resources and better technology enhance natural gas supplies, keeping projected annual average spot natural gas prices below $4.50 per million Btu through 2040.

EIA also looked at other cases including several sensitivity cases encompassing different interpretations or implementations of the proposed rule as well as a scenario in which further emissions reductions are required beyond 2030, all of which use the AEO2015 Reference case as their baseline. In addition a case was considered in which new nuclear units not already under construction were brought online.

Ultimately, in all cases renewable energy became a bigger player in the energy mix but whether it played a starring or supporting role was dependent on the level of traditional fuel sources that remained in use.

Report: LA Solar

According to the research report “Los Angeles Solar: Now and into the Future”, city utilities must overcome implementation challenges in order to continue the growth of solar energy. The report, commissioned by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute, finds that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has the opportunity to wean itself from polluting coal-fired power – currently 42 percent of its energy portfolio – and expand the amount of local solar to 1,500 megawatts annually.

Researchers from UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), found that a program of this scale would also be an economic catalyst, creating thousands of new solar-related jobs and attracting significant long-term investment to Los Angeles. The report cites three strategies in which solar expansion can be achieved: net metering, Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program and the Community Solar Initiative. The FiT can play a lead role, according to the researchers. This program, launched in 2012, enables local commercial property owners to sell solar power generated from rooftops and parking lots back to LADWP at a competitive fixed rate.

roofop solar panels in LATo date, LADWP has authorized 100 MWof power under the FiT program; however, only 6.5 MW are operational, according to the UCLA/USC study. Another 8.2 MW of projects are under contract and awaiting construction, with another 56 MW in the contracting stage. The FiT evaluation concludes that LADWP needs to build its staff resources and continue streamlining the application and installation processes to speed the pace of approving local solar projects if it is to reach a self-imposed deadline to be coal-free by 2025.

Spearheaded by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute and the CLEAN LA Solar Coalition, the FiT program provides an opportunity for the LADWP to access the abundant solar energy available on more than 10,000 acres of rooftops in Los Angeles. More than 40 percent of the projects in the FiT’s first three 20 MW tranches are located in “solar equity hotspots” – neighborhoods with abundant rooftops and great need for economic investment and jobs. The hotspot areas exist in the San Fernando Valley, East Los Angeles, and areas west of Downtown, including Hollywood. In many cases, solar training programs that target less advantaged workers, such as participants in Homeboy Industries’ Solar Panel Training and Installation program, are located in or near the hotspot areas.

“Los Angeles has a unique confluence of characteristics providing a firm foundation for a successful solar FiT program: abundant sunshine, a trained workforce and tremendous economic need,” said Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity. “Growing the FiT will bring economic opportunity to some of our city’s most underserved and environmentally-challenged neighborhoods. There’s no question that the FiT can advance solar-related equity goals where they’re needed most.” Continue reading