GWU Education Partnership Launched

Delegates taking the exam for the Galileo Master Certificate

Delegates taking the exam for the Galileo Master Certificate

The School of Engineering and Applied Science at the George Washington University (GWU) is partnering with the European Energy Centre to offer renewable energy and energy efficiency educational opportunities. The Centre works closely with the United Nations Environment Programme.

This October short course educational seminars will be launched for current professionals who want to up-skill their expertise in the renewable energy industry. The classes will be taught by leading experts who have more than 20 years theoretical and practical experience. Seminars are open to all professionals and students regardless of experience. Class sizes are set in order to encourage Q&A consultancy sessions during the courses, both between the delegates and lecturer and also to provide an opportunity for the delegates themselves to network.

Training materials are developed by industry experts and are required to maintain the standards set by a team of Quality Assessors at an Independent Body, which has provided training seminars for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for participants from the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.

“It is clear that the renewable energy industry must further expand worldwide to drive forward the growth expected from upcoming UN climate talks. Our experience tells us that employees pursuing careers within the Renewable Energy sector require support to continue their professional development and keep pace with technological innovations within the industry,” said Paolo Buoni, Director, the European Energy Centre. “Therefore, education and training must remain a priority for all individuals working within and affiliated with the renewable energy sector, and so we are very pleased to announce this collaborative Partnership with The George Washington University.”

Click here to learn more and to register for classes.

DOE Releases Energy Productivity Roadmap

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz recently released a new roadmap to increase energy productivity.  “Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030: A Strategic Roadmap for American Energy Innovation, Economic Growth, and Competitiveness,” reviews proven and effective strategies and actions to advance energy efficiency.

Strategies include:

  • states securing energy productivity through setting and updating vehicle and product codes and standards, and providing energy performance information to consumers;
  • utilities and regulators designing rates and related policies that more effectively align energy efficiency with utility business models; and
  • businesses reinvesting avoided energy costs.

Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030Moniz says by doubling energy productivity, American families will be able to power their homes and vehicles using less energy, while American businesses will be able to manufacture more while spending less and cutting harmful carbon emissions.

“Cutting energy waste and doubling energy productivity will help American families save money on their energy bills, enable businesses to produce more while using less energy and strengthen the U.S. clean energy economy,” said Moniz. “This roadmap provides a path for families, businesses and governments, among others, to follow. By taking steps to increase efficiency and cut waste, the U.S. will be more competitive globally and will see direct and long-lasting benefits for decades to come.”

The Roadmap focuses on scalable actions that have the potential to reduce energy consumption and support economic growth. The federal government, many state and local governments and a number of organizations in the private sector are already deploying energy productivity strategies, including some that are featured in the report, demonstrating that the goal of doubling energy productivity can be achieved. While energy productivity strategies often involve multiple economic sectors and levels of government, the strategies laid out in this report demonstrate that any organization or individual can take steps to double national energy productivity by 2030. The report provides a foundation for scaling up these efforts nationwide, while allowing for flexible and tailored solutions.

U.S. Energy Efficiency Increasing

Energy efficiency is improving in America. A new report find the country’s energy intensity, the measurement of energy used per dollar of gross domestic product, is down from 12.1 thousand Btus per dollar in 1980 to 6.1 thousand Btus per dollar in 2014. The report, Energy Efficiency in the United States: 35 Years and Counting, was released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

ACEEE energy reduction report infographicThe report found that nearly 60 percent of the improvement in energy intensity was due to energy efficiency and about 40 percent to major structural changes in the economy. The bottom line according to ACEEE:  Just the energy efficiency portion saved U.S. consumers and businesses about $800 billion in 2014, roughly $2,500 per capita. Even though U.S. energy use edged up by 26 percent from 1980 to 2014, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 149 percent.

The report concludes that “while much progress has been made, there are large and cost effective energy efficiency opportunities that, by 2050, can collectively reduce energy use by 40-60 percent relative to current forecasts.”

Report co-author and ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel said: “Energy efficiency has made great strides in the past 35 years, and we have learned many important lessons on how markets and policies can work together to advance it. Looking forward, we find opportunities to reduce 2050 energy use by half relative to a business-as-usual reference case. In order to harvest these large efficiency opportunities, we need to take our efforts to a higher level. The challenges are many, but so are the benefits in terms of lower energy bills, a stronger economy, improved energy security, and a cleaner environment. The past has shown us what efficiency can do and it can guide us to even greater success in the future.”

In addition to highlighting the areas that have achieved most significant energy reduction, the report also recommends tactics to be taken to further improve energy efficiency.

USDA Funds 544 REAP Projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded 544 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects more than $6.7 million as part of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement at the Snake River Brewing Company, in Jackson, Wyoming. The company received a $13,810 REAP grant to install a solar panel to generate energy for the business.

srb-logo-3dThese grants will help farmers, ranchers and small business owners use more renewable energy, which cuts carbon pollution, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, saves businesses money on their energy bills and creates American jobs,” Vilsack said. “All of these are crucial components to developing healthier, more economically vibrant rural communities.”

REAP was created by the 2002 Farm Bill and was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. REAP funding has helped farmers expand renewable energy use in recent years. The new Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms utilizing renewable energy production has doubled in the last five years. Since 2009, USDA has awarded $545 million to support more than 8,800 REAP projects nationwide.

Eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP funds to make energy efficiency improvements or install renewable energy systems, including solar, wind, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydroelectric, ocean energy, hydrogen and geothermal.

Yellowstone Distributed Energy Project Powers Up

Old hybrid batteries have a new home on the range. Toyota has flipped the switch on a project that is reusing 200 old battery packs from Toyota Camry hybirds. The Lamar Buffalo Ranch field campus in Yellowstone National Park, now not only features buffalo, but an innovative distributed energy system that combines solar power generation with re-used Camry Hybrid battery packs. The result according to Toyota: reliable, sustainable, zero emission power to the ranger station and education center for the first time since it was founded in 1907. Solar panels generate the renewable electricity stored within the 208 used Camry Hybrid nickel-metal hydride battery packs, recovered from Toyota dealers across the United States.

Announced in June 2014, the partnership among Toyota, Indy Power Systems, Sharp USA SolarWorld, Patriot Solar, National Park Service and Yellowstone Park Foundation is an innovative effort to extend the useful life of hybrid vehicle batteries while providing sustainable power generation for one of the most remote, pristine areas in the United States.

Toyota_Yellowstone_Battery_001“Through our long-standing partnership with Yellowstone National Park and the Yellowstone Park Foundation, Toyota has helped preserve Yellowstone for future generations,” said Jim Lentz, chief executive officer, Toyota North America. “Today, our relationship with Yellowstone continues, as more than 200 battery packs that once powered Toyota Camry hybrids have found a new home on the range.”

On an annual basis, the solar system will generates enough electricity to power six average U.S. households for a year, or plenty of power for the five buildings on the Ranch campus. The hybrid batteries provide 85kWh of energy storage to ensure continuous power, as the system charges and discharges. Onsite micro-hydro turbine systems, capturing energy from a neighboring stream, are scheduled to join the power mix in 2016.

The Yellowstone system is the first of its kind to use recovered hybrid vehicle batteries for commercial energy storage. Each battery pack has been disassembled and tested, and every piece that could be was repurposed. New components were also designed and built by Indy Power Systems specifically for this application, including an onboard battery management system for each battery pack. The battery management system is designed to maximize battery life and will also provide important insights into real-world performance. These insights will help Toyota design future battery performance and durability improvements.

“Toyota’s innovative response to solve a difficult problem has helped Yellowstone move closer to its goal of becoming the greenest park in the world,” added Steve Iobst, acting superintendent of Yellowstone.

Know the Down Low on RPS Legislation

csu-new-energyThere is a lot of activity happening throughout the United States with respect to Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) legislation for the year. To keep people informed, the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) has published a Summary of State Renewable Portfolio Standard Legislation in 2015 brief. To date, 87 distinct bills have been introduced in 32 states although only two bills have actually been enacted.

The brief categorizes the bills into three categories:

  • Rollback: includes outright repeals, reductions to targets delays in target dates, exceptions for utilities and bills to extend eligibility for non-renewable fuels or existing large capacity hydroelectric resources;
  • Increase: would create a larger market by expanding renewable generation targets, creating new carve-outs or requiring compliance by additional utility-types; and
  • Modification: addresses the mechanics of how an RPS program is implemented.

Here is the topline for 2015:

  • To date, RPS legislation has been introduced in 32 states. Of the 87 bills, only two have been enacted. A bill in West Virginia repealed the state’s standard and legislation in New Mexico enacted a modification to include a new definition for thermal energy and include Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to be issued to rural electric cooperatives for generating thermal energy from geothermal resources.
  • The percentage shares by category of legislation have shifted over the last three years. RPS increase legislation was more common in 2015 as a percentage of all introduced legislation, than in 2013 and 2014.
  • Legislation to increase or rollback an RPS does not appear to be correlated with state policy target dates.
  • The most common policy type continues to be modifications to existing RPS policies with revisions to resource eligibility clauses have making up the majority of these bills for the past three years.

Many states’ legislative sessions are still underway and the Center for the New Energy Economy keeps real-time track of changes. Click here to download the brief.

St. Louis Re-Use Dev Features Solar

I love the concept of re-use in terms of living spaces. I live in a former tea manufacturing facility dating back to the mid-1800s and integrating original features of the building give my loft a unique and cool character. While this is an ongoing trend, not many of the refurb buildings in the Midwest are featuring renewable energy. (I wish mine did.) But this one has it all – the Laclede Lofts based in St. Louis, Missouri.

The adaptive-resue project has a cool aura and uses various green features including high-efficiency appliances and light fixtures, but it also features a 250 kilowatt solar array on the roof that generates more than half of the electricity used in the building’s common areas. This project is a joint venture between Universatile Development and Rothschild Development redeveloped the former pharmaceutical factory, located near St. Louis University.

Laclede Lofts Solar ArrayJeff Winzerling, president of Universatile Development, said, “We estimated, for the course of a year, the total electrical usage for everything in the common areas: parking lot lights, lobby and hallway air-conditioning, elevator, gate opener, and security system. Even by the more conservative production projection, the array is producing 62% of our usage needs.”

Microgrid Solar engineers worked with the developer to explore a few different options for deploying solar power at the art deco building, which the Pfeiffer Pharmaceutical Company constructed in 1946 to house its offices, laboratories, manufacturing, and warehouse. In the end, the developer settled upon the simplest solution: a single 25kW array consisting of 98 solar panels with microinverters connected to the building’s common area meter. Winzerling added, “It would have been really cool to have some solar-powered apartments, but the complexity and expense would have been much greater, so we opted for a solar-powered building instead.”

Microgrid CEO, Rick Hunter, added, “This is a unique project, utilizing solar on a historic renovation project and an apartment building – you just don’t see this sort of thing very often, due to the challenges involved. We are thrilled to have been a part of the project.”

Another cool feature – a link was added to the building’s website that allows building residents and others to monitor the panels’ production over time, as well as to see the electrical output converted into reduced carbon dioxide emissions, either in trees planted or miles not driven.

Clean Power Plan Won’t Affect Grid Reliability

Following the launch of the Clean Power Plan, concerns were raised about how adding renewable energy to the grid would affect reliability. According to a new report conducted by The Brattle Group, compliance is unlikely to materially affect reliability.  The report finds, “The combination of the ongoing transformation of the power sector, the steps already taken by system operators, the large and expanding set of technological and operational tools available and the flexibility under the CPP are likely sufficient to ensure that compliance will not come at the cost of reliability.

Battle Report - EPA Clean Power Plan Grid ReliabilityReport lead author Jurgen Weiss PhD, senior researcher and lead author said that while the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) focused on concerns about the feasibility of achieving emissions standards with the technologies used to set the standards, they did not address several mitigating factors. These include:

  • The impact of retiring older, inefficient coal plants, due to current environmental regulations and market trends, on emissions rates of the remaining fleet;
  • Various ways to address natural gas pipeline constraints; and
  • Evidence that that higher levels of variable renewable energy sources can be effectively managed.

“With the tools currently available for managing an electric power system that is already in flux, we think it unlikely that compliance with EPA carbon rules will have a significant impact on reliability,” reported Weiss.

In November 2014, NERC issued an Initial Reliability Review in which it identified elements of the Clean Power Plan that could lead to reliability concerns. Echoed by some grid operators and cited in comments to EPA submitted by states, utilities, and industry groups, the NERC study has made reliability a critical issue in finalizing, and then implementing, the Clean Power Plan. These concerns compelled AEE to respond to the concerns by commissioning the Brattle study.

“We see EPA’s Clean Power Plan as an historic opportunity to modernize the U.S. electric power system,” said Malcolm Woolf, Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs for Advanced Energy Economy, a business association. “We believe that advanced energy technologies, put to work by policies and market rules that we see in action today, will increase the reliability and resiliency of the electric power system, not reduce it. This report from The Brattle Group confirms that the Clean Power Plan can be implemented without reliability concerns.”

Tanzania Action Roadmap for Energy Access

A recent two-day workshop held in Tanzania and hosted by the United Nations Foundation’s Energy Access Practitioner Network and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) gathered support of the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative’s (SE4ALL) 2030 objectives delivering access to modern energy services for all. If the goal is met, it will double the rate of energy efficiency and also double the share of renewables in the global energy mix.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.46.15 AMHon. George Simbachawene, Minister for Energy and Minerals, urged participants to discuss best practices and ways to meaningfully engage all stakeholders to achieve sustainable energy for all in Tanzania. “SE4ALL initiatives provide a working partnership with governments, parliamentarians, private sector companies, industries, and civil society towards a sustainable future free of poverty,” he urged.

Tanzania, one of SE4ALL’s 14 African current priority countries, is working to overcome challenges in providing access to energy for its entire population. According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2014, 36 million people, some 76 percent of Tanzania’s population, do not have the benefits of electricity to power their homes, support education, deliver health care services, or drive economic development across commercial, agricultural and industrial sectors.

“The UN Sustainable Energy For All consultation provides a valuable opportunity to bring energy innovators and government to focus jointly on policy and implementation solutions to bring affordable and reliable energy services to Tanzania,” explained Richenda Van Leeuwen, executive director, Energy Access, UN Foundation. “It showcases how decentralized renewable energy solutions such as solar home systems and community micro-grids complement efforts underway on conventional grid extension.”

WWF Conservation Manager Amani Ngusaru notes that Tanzania will not achieve it vision of securing a middle income country status by 2025 and other goals unless the energy equation is solved. “Access to clean, safe and affordable sources of modern energy is critical for improving people’s livelihoods, and the Government is keen to adopt a mix of solutions to achieve Universal Access.”

USDA Announces REAP Funding

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced new funding under the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program under the 2014 Farm Bill. The more than $280 million in funds are open to rural agricultural producers and small business owners to install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements.

“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” Vilsack said during a press call this morning. “The funding we are making available will help farmers, ranchers, business owners, tribal organizations and other entities incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations. Doing so can help a business reduce energy use and costs while improving its bottom line. While saving producers money and creating jobs, these investments reduce dependence on foreign oil and cut carbon pollution as well.”

USDA Secretary Tom VilsackUSDA is offering grants for up to 25 percent of total project costs and loan guarantees for up to 75 percent of total project costs for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. USDA will now accept and review loan and grant applications year-round through an REAP application expansion.

Eligible renewable energy projects must incorporate commercially available technology. This includes renewable energy from wind, solar, ocean, small hydropower, hydrogen, geothermal and renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters). The maximum grant amount is $500,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant. Energy efficiency improvement projects eligible for REAP funding include lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, fans, automated controls and insulation upgrades that reduce energy consumption. The maximum grant amount is $250,000, and the maximum loan amount is $25 million per applicant.

USDA is offering a second type of grant to aid organizations that help farmers, ranchers and small businesses conduct energy audits and operate renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include: units of state, tribal or local governments; colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning; rural electric cooperatives and public power entities, and conservation and development districts. The maximum grant is $100,000.

Application deadlines vary by project type and the type of assistance requested. Details on how to apply are on page 78029 of the December 29, 2014 Federal Register or are available by contacting state Rural Development offices.

Listen to the press conference that includes Secretary Vilsack’s remarks as well as comments from Jennifer Womble, owner of James’ Supersave Foods and Jeffrey Marstaller, owner of Cozy Acres Greenhouse, here: USDA Announces REAP Funding