Nevadans Want More Solar

According to a recent poll, 74 percent of Nevadans would be less likely to re-elect a legislator or politician that failed to raise the solar cap in Nevada. The support of solar is bi-partisan with 69 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democratic likely voters. The poll was conducted by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research and commissioned by the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC).

Alliance for solar choice logoThe poll comes as Nevada’s nascent solar industry reaches an arbitrary cap on growth. Unless the cap is lifted this legislative session, says TASC, the industry will shut down as soon as this summer for the simple reason that it’s popular enough to hit an artificial ceiling. The Alliance cites that the U.S. has seen more than 150 net metering expansions since the policy’s inception, and zero retractions. Nevada would be the first major job-creating solar state to refuse to raise a net metering cap.

“In politics today it is rare to find three- quarters of voters agreeing on anything, but an overwhelming number of Nevadans report they are less likely to re-elect a politician who fails to raise the solar cap,” said Ryan Steusloff, Vice President of Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research.

Last week, close to one thousand solar workers, consumers, veterans, educators and families rallied outside NV Energy’s headquarters in Las Vegas to urge their elected officials to lift the solar cap and preserve solar jobs. In 2014, Nevada was #1 nationally in solar jobs per capita with 5,900 solar workers. The state saw a 146% increase in solar industry job growth last year. Without net metering, these jobs will be lost.

Seventy percent (70%) of likely voters across party lines in Nevada support net metering and 84 percent have a favorable impression of solar energy, finds to poll. The solar cap is an arbitrary limit on the number of Nevadans who can participate in solar net metering. Net metering is a policy that exists in 44 states that allows homeowners, businesses and schools to get retail rate credit for the extra energy their solar panels produce. The extra solar energy goes onto the electricity grid for neighbors to use, and the utility re-sells the energy at the same retail rate.

NV Energy is lobbying against net metering to stop solar growth and protect their monopoly status. Raising the solar cap in Nevada will save jobs and save water during a time of intense drought. Raising the cap will also increase healthy market competition and bolster consumer choice.

DOE Selects FORGE Geothermal Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced five projects for the first part of the multiphase Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) effort, totaling $2 million. The lab is focused on unlocking the potential for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) that could lead to more than 100 gigawatts of renewable, clean energy.

EGS are engineered geothermal reservoirs, created beneath the surface of the earth, where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow. During EGS development, underground fluid pathways are safely created and their size and connectivity increased. These enhanced pathways allow fluid to circulate throughout the hot rock and carry heat to the surface to generate electricity.

DOE FORGE programThe five selected teams represent proposed projects in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah. In Phase 1, the teams will spend the next year completing mission-critical technical and logistical tasks that demonstrate site viability and show the team’s capability of meeting FORGE objectives and developing plans for Phase 2. Phase 1 tasks will include conceptual geologic modeling and the creation of comprehensive plans for data dissemination, intellectual property, environmental, health and safety information, communications and outreach, stakeholder engagement, R&D implementation, and environmental management.

“Through these kinds of critical investments in renewable energy, the Department is helping develop cost-effective technologies for engineering geothermal systems that supply affordable, zero-carbon energy to millions of American homes and businesses,” said Under Secretary for Science and Energy Lynn Orr. “Enhanced geothermal systems could represent the next frontier of renewable energy and hold the potential to diversify the nation’s energy portfolio while reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.”

The FORGE initiative consists of three phases. The first two phases will provide a total of up to $31 million over two years for selected teams and will focus on selecting both a site and an operations team, as well as preparing and fully characterizing the site. Up to three teams selected next year will to move into Phase 2 will work to fully instrument, characterize, and permit candidate sites for full-scale operations at FORGE in the third and final phase. Subject to the availability of appropriations, Phase 3 is anticipated to fund the full implementation of FORGE at a single site, managed by one operations team.

DOE Announces Wave Energy Prize

During the annual National Hydropower Association and International Marine Renewable Energy Conferences, the Department Of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Assistant Secretary Dr. Dave Danielson announced the Wave Energy Prize. The prize, totaling more than $2 million, is designed to encourage the development of wave energy conversion (WEC) devices that double the energy captured from ocean waves, which in turn will reduce the cost of wave energy, making it more competitive with traditional energy solutions.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Chief of Staff Cristin Dorgelo addressed the audience about the role public prize challenges can play in sparking innovation.

“Prize challenges are an effective way to spur innovation and solve tough problems by Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 8.51.00 AMattracting, untapped talent,” said Dorgelo. “By reaching beyond existing communities of interest, prize challenges source out-of-discipline perspectives that can yield outstanding and novel solutions. This effort brings new perspectives to the table with minimal risk.”

“DOE recognized that the complex  technology challenges associated with WEC concepts made this a great candidate for the challenge mechanism, particularly since one of the goals of the Wave Energy Prize is to attract new developers to the industry as well as next-generation concepts from those developers already working in clean energy,” said Wes Scharmen, Wave Energy Prize principal investigator at Ricardo, Inc. “There is so much opportunity to achieve real gains in the field of wave energy, and by solving the energy capture efficiency challenge of WEC concepts we expect to see significant impact in terms of energy cost. There is a vast, untapped resource potential along our coasts; this prize focuses on innovative approaches that get the nation closer to realizing its potential.”

The 20-month design-build-test competition will offer participants seed money and a chance to take part in two rounds of testing, the second being an opportunity for finalists to test their scaled WEC prototypes at the nation’s most advanced wave-making facility, the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Maneuvering and Seakeeping (MASK) Basin at Carderock, Md., beginning in the summer of 2016.

Registration for the Wave Energy Prize is scheduled to remain open until June 15. For more information or to register, go to waveenergyprize.org. Additional information can also be found in the DOE Progress Alert.

SolarReserve Wins Edison Award

SolarReserve has been named a 2015 Silver Winner for innovation by the internationally renowned Edison Awards™ for its efforts in advancing solar energy and solar thermal energy storage worldwide. The awards recognize innovation, creativity and ingenuity in the global economy. Being recognized with an Edison Award has become one of the highest accolades a company can receive in the name of innovation and business. The awards are named after Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) whose inventions, new product development methods and innovative achievements changed the world, garnered him 1,093 U.S. patents, and made him a household name.

SolarReserve wins Edison Awards“It’s exciting to see companies like SolarReserve continuing Thomas Edison’s legacy of challenging conventional thinking,” said Frank Bonafilia, Edison Awards’ executive director. “Edison Awards recognizes game-changing products and services, and the teams that brought them to the market.”

The need for storage technology is growing – especially as the use of renewable energy grows. Intermittency has been a concern along with the need to be able to deliver renewable power during peak demand periods. SolarReserve is addressing these issues and currently has more than $1.8 billion of projects in construction and operation worldwide, with development and long-term power contracts for 482 megawatts (MW) of solar projects representing $2.8 billion of project capital.

“We are honored to receive recognition from the Edison Awards and its distinguished panel of judges for our success in developing and commercializing breakthrough technology that solves the intermittency issues experienced with other renewable energy sources,” said SolarReserve’s Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Smith. “It is gratifying to have industry experts recognize the value and strategic vision of this technology as well as SolarReserve’s leadership in solar power and energy storage.”

Burundi Moving Towards Solar

Burundi is moving towards solar. Via the Power Africa and Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid sub-initiative, Gigawatt Global has been awarded two grants to bring solar to the country, where only four percent of the population has access to residential power. The proposed project, a 7.5 Megawatt (MW) solar field, will increase the country’s generation capacity by 15 percent. Currently, Burundi experiences a high frequency of blackouts, with downtime in electrical access an average of two days a week. Burundi has a total of only 52 MW of installed electrical capacity, including 15.5 MW of diesel-generated power.

The effort in Burundi is being supported by two grants totaling nearly $1 million, from Power Africa via the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and the GigaWatt Global Solar project in BurundiEnergy and Environment Partnership (EEP), a coalition representing the British, Finnish, and Austrian governments. Gigawatt Global plans to develop and manage a 7.5 MW solar PV field on a 15-hectare site in the Gitega region, 65 miles from the capital of Bujumbura. The facility will produce electricity needed for 60,000 households. The total cost of the project is estimated to be approximately $20 million.

“Our impact investment model is to strengthen developing nations, both economically and environmentally, by providing renewable energy sources where they are most needed,” said Yosef Abramowitz, President of Gigawatt Global, an American-owned Dutch developer. This announcement follows Gigawatt Global’s launch last month of East Africa’s largest utility-scale solar field, which added 6 percent to Rwanda’s electricity generation capacity and for which it was nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. “We plan to build 1,000 solar megawatts in Africa by 2020, thereby providing electricity to millions of households and institutions that are currently without the most basic of human needs.”

USTDA’s grant will fund a feasibility study that will address key technical and economic aspects of the solar project, conduct environmental and social impact assessments, and provide the necessary analysis for the project to secure financing. The grant funds awarded by EEP will be used for pre-development works and legal costs.

“USTDA is pleased to provide Gigawatt Global Burundi S.A. this grant for a feasibility study, which will utilize U.S. industry expertise to advance this important project,” said USTDA Director Leocadia I. Zak. “This activity supports Power Africa’s objectives of increasing access to power and promoting greater private investment in Africa’s energy sector.”

Efforts to Cease Solar Net Metering Continue

The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASK) is pushing back on Turlock Irrigation District (TID) for wanting to cease solar net metering. The nonprofit explains that net metering is a fundamental policy that enables rooftop solar consumers to secure fair credit for excess Alliance for solar choice logosolar energy sent back to the grid. Without net metering, says TASK, a thriving solar market and robust solar job creation cannot exist.

TASK says ending net metering means wiping out the savings that TID solar customers will be able to earn from their solar systems. They cite TID’s net metering elimination program harms solar customers in the following ways:

  1. Eliminates the most fundamental solar policy – net metering – which exists in 44 states including California.
  2. Imposes a discriminatory fee on residential solar customers – the first of its kind in California.
  3. Charges customers a new $600 meter fee before TID will allow a system to operate.

“It appears that this new billing structure will render solar financially nonviable for TID customers, which will hinder us from taking advantage of green energy in the future,” said John Miller of Miller Farms, Inc., a TID customer. “This is unfortunate because we believe that anything we can do to improve our business, the local economy, and our environment at the same time is good for all parties involved.”

According to TASK, the end of solar net metering may not be permanent. There are efforts in the California Senate to standardize net metering throughout the state.

“TID’s new solar billing structure appears to have a major impact on savings that TID customers can achieve with solar,” added Todd Filbrun, CEO of Kurios Energy, a Manteca solar company.  “Keeping utility consumers informed on what options they will have to recoup these savings, such as battery back-up or off-grid solar systems, will be important moving forward.”

DOE Releases 2014 Geothermal Tech Report

“We’ve turned the corner … the potential growth curve for geothermal is extremely exciting,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Power, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, United States Department of Energy, Douglas Hollett. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released its annual report, “2014 Annual Report Geothermal Technologies Office,” and highlights 35 project successes in program areas  including EGS, Hydrothermal, Low-Temperature, and Systems Analysis.

The report notes that DOE’s geothermal flagship project over the next five years in its FORGE initiative that Director Doug Hollett says is “the first dedicated field site of its kind EGS field near Bend Oregonfor testing targeted enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) R&D. The intent is to use this collaborative site for transformative science that will create a commercial pathway for large-scale, economically viable EGS.”

As the report explains, enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) are engineered reservoirs, created beneath the Earth’s surface where there is hot rock but limited pathways through which fluid can flow. During EGS development, underground fluid pathways are safely created and/or their size and connectivity increased. These enhanced pathways allow fluid to circulate throughout the hot rock and carry heat to the surface to generate electricity. 

The FORGE initiative was announced in July 2014 and is a $31 million funded program that will develop and support a geothermal field observatory, the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE), dedicated to researching pertinent questions that will move geothermal technology and and opportunities forward.

The FORGE site, explains the report, “will enable cutting-edge research, drilling, and technology testing, allowing collaborating scientists to identify a replicable, commercial pathway to EGS. It is hoped the field site will yield breakthrough tools and technologies for to improve future geothermal energy production.”

To learn all about DOE geothermal projects, including more information on the FORGE initiative, read the report.

TUSK: NC Solar Bill Laced with Poison Pill

This may prove to be the ‘Spring of Discontent’ for the solar industry as it fights for the right to keep solar affordable for consumers across the USA. Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK) has been amid the solar brawls in several states including North Carolina. The advocacy group cites that North Carolina utilities including Duke Energy Carolinas and Dominion North Carolina Power have “laced” a well-intentioned North Carolina solar bill with a “poison pill” that would “unravel” solar net metering programs.

The utilities are publicly opposing the bill that would prevent third-party owned solar business model from taflying solar panelsking flight. Simultaneously, the utilities are privately attempting to slip in language that would open the doors and slam the solar market into the wall should the bill pass.

Net metering is a policy that gives solar customers full, fair credit for their excess solar energy. If a consumer produces more electricity than his house needs, he can sell the excess power back to the utility for a competitive price. This type of policy has helped to keep the solar market competitive. However, TUSK says if passed, the “Energy Freedom Act” HB 245 would give the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) the authority to approve a separate, discriminatory tariff for net metering customers. A separate tariff paves the way for stripping Tar Heels of the credit they deserve for investing in solar for their own roofs, says TUSK. The bill would also allow utilities to create a separate rate class for rooftop solar customers, a vehicle for solar taxes.

“This bill has a hidden poison pill that would undermine the solar industry,” said TUSK Chairman Barry Goldwater Jr. “The state Legislature should recognize this utility deception and strike the anti-solar language.”

Solar choice and competition are the conservative way, and should remain the North Carolina way, stressed Goldwater.

NASDAQ Trading SolarEdge Technologies Shares

SolarEdge on NasdaqSolarEdge Technologies is now trading on NASDAQ. The solar company announced its pricing for its initial public offering of 7 million shares of common stock at a public price of $18 per share. All shares are being sold by SolarEdge. As part of the offering, the underwriters have been granted a 30-day option to purchase up to 1,050,000 additional shares. The shares began trading today on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “SEDG”. The closing of the offering is expected to occur on March 31, 2015, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions.

Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. are acting as joint book-running managers for the offering. Needham & Company, Canaccord Genuity Inc. and Roth Capital Partners are acting as co-managers. A registration statement relating to these securities was declared effective by the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 25, 2015. The offering will be made only by means of a prospectus.

Monopoly Utilities Expose Solarcism

State-sponsored monopoly utilities, as coined by the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industry Association (GSREIA) have exposed their ‘solarcism’ in recent weeks. GSREIA has accused them of being “ignorant” and “misleading” when it comes to solar energy. The nonprofit wants to keep the utilities honest and is publicly clarifying some misconceptions. At issue is the frequency that monopoly utility supporters confuse Louisiana’s low electricity rates with customer electricity bills.

“It’s embarrassing that groups funded by large utilities could be so confused on the basic facts on electricity,” said Jeff Cantin, president of GSREIA. “If low rates meant low bills, Louisiana’s utilities would never have to explain to the media and regulators why customers suffer from high bills every summer and every winter.”

Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association LogoA good example, says Cantin, that explains how monopoly mouthpieces get it so wrong is to compare the automobile gasoline price-per-gallon vs. a driver’s total bill at the pump.

Cantin offers an example. Assume gasoline costs $2 a gallon. If a Prius owner fills up that car’s 11-gallon gasoline tank, the gasoline bill will be $22. If a Suburban owner fills up that SUV’s 31-gallon gasoline tank, the gasoline bill will be $62. Obviously the Suburban owner’s bill is going to be much higher. And clearly, the low price of gas per gallon doesn’t mean the bill will be cheap. The same principle applies to electric bills.

While Louisiana’s residential rates are relatively cheap at about 9.4 cents per kWh, actual bills depend on how many kWh customers actually use. According to the latest information from the Energy Information Administration, Louisiana’s average residential electric bill was $119.98 in 2013. Residents in 36 states paid lower average bills, meaning Louisiana had the 14th most expensive average utility bills in the nation.

Although every Louisiana utility customer’s bill clearly explains that the number of kWh used defines the size of the monthly bill, GSREIA hopes the state-sponsored monopoly mouthpieces are making honest mistakes instead of purposefully misleading the public.