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

Navy to Install Solar in Housing Units

Navy and Marine Corps housing units in San Diego, California will be receiving rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems through a purchase power agreement between Lincoln Military Housing and SolarCity. The program will provide solar power to nearly 6,000 homes across 27 privatized neighborhoods, and with pending design and interconnection approvals could generate up to 20 megawatts (MW) of solar energy.

ZEPInstall_CA_InProgress-1_content“Our Department of the Navy goal is to ensure that at least 50 percent of our shore-based energy comes via alternative sources,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “By establishing these sources of renewable energy we ensure both energy independence and cost savings well into the future. This agreement is another step toward achieving our one gigawatt goal.”

Back in 2009 Congress mandated the Department of Defense (DOD) to use at least 25 percent of its electricity needs generated from renewable energy.

Jarl Bliss, president of Lincoln Military Housing said of the agreement, “For the last few years, we have worked closely with the Department of the Navy to find a renewable energy program which will greatly benefit our military families and support our Navy partner in reaching its renewable energy goals. Through this agreement with SolarCity, Lincoln projects savings of at least $60 million over the 20-year term that can be reinvested in project sustainment.”

San Diego Family Housing, LLC will purchase all the electricity produced by the systems at below the cost of brown power over the 20-year term of the agreement. SolarCity will be responsible for the design, installation, monitoring and maintenance of the PV systems.

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive added, “Energy in the United States needs to become cleaner, more secure and more affordable, and few realize this more clearly than the leadership of the Department of the Navy. With this SolarStrong project, Lincoln Military Housing is contributing to the well-being of its residents, and to the nation.”

E2 Launches Military Clean Energy Site

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 10.22.47 PMEnvironmental Entrepreneurs (E2) has launched a new web page dedicated to highlighting the U.S. military’s support and deployment of clean energy and energy efficiency projects. The organization says that investments made on military installations have broad reaching effects on saving tax payers money, improving their operational readiness and creating private-sector jobs.

The website includes an interactive map showing details of clean energy projects at approximately 40 military installations nationwide; in-depth written profiles and videos of what the military’s clean energy investments look like on the base level; and resources like links to major reports and links to all the main service branch installation offices.

Iraq War veteran, former Army officer, and energy leadership consultant Jon Gensler said of the new site, “Congress should take a page from the military and move clean energy forward by extending clean energy and energy efficiency tax incentives. It doesn’t matter if you wear a green uniform or a blue uniform or if you live in a red state or blue state – clean energy works for all Americans because it works for our fighting forces. Clean energy makes our military more effective, saves taxpayer money, and brings jobs to the towns and cities that are home to our military installations.”

EIA Looks At Solar Tracking Variability

A recent Today in Energy published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), takes a look at the variability of solar energy output. Pointing out that while many companies have improved on the technologies (such as tilt) and know-how of installing solar panels to capture the most sun per day, output peaks around noon when the sun is at its highest. This can be a challenge as peak energy use often climaxes in late afternoon or early evening.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 11.27.23 AMDuring this time of day, west-facing PV panels have an advantage over south-facing panels, as they’re tilted towards the setting sun. EIA notes that higher PV output at this time of day is often beneficial to grid operators working to increase electric supply to balance high levels of demand, but customers generally will not see this benefit unless they are on time-of-use electric rates. For example, under net-metering arrangements, the financial benefit of these PV systems is based on the quantity of kilowatthours generated, regardless of the time of day.

While the EIA finds pros and cons of tilting solar panels, another option to best capture maximum sunlight is through tracking systems. Single-axis tracking systems are installed on tilted arrays, but they differ in that the tractors rotate the panels to follow the sun as it moves east to west, improving output in the early and late hours of daylight. Dual-axis tracking systems do this, too, while also modifying the tilt angle as the sun is lower or higher in the sky.

Looking at California as an example, tracking systems are less used. Thirty percent of the current solar capacity in the state was installed using single-axis tracking systems and only 4 percent use either dual-axis or a mix of tracking and fixed mounts. Ultimately, there will be a need for more systems to adopt this technology to maximum energy output.

Ansell Installs Biomass Boiler to Reduce Energy Costs

The Ansell factory complex in Biyagama, Sri Lanka has installed its second biomass boiler as part of company initiatives to be greener. The new boiler has a capacity of 12.5MW and will be the largest hot water boiler in Sri Lanka. Ansell Lanka already has a 10.5MW boiler installed at its premises, which reduced CO2 emissions by 11,000 MT per annum. From 2004 to 2012, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 36 percent across all of Ansell’s manufacturing facilities, with the global CO2 emission rate from 2013 to 2014 alone reduced by 6 percent. The company anticipates the reduction of a further 14,000 MT of CO2 emissions annually as furnace oil consumption will now be reduced to the bare minimum.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.26.12 AM“This project represents another step forward in Ansell’s business strategy to conducting business ethically, transparently, and in ways that produce social, environmental, and economic benefits for communities around the world,” said Steve Genzer, senior vice president of global operations at Ansell. “We would like to thank the government of Sri Lanka for its continued support, and the more than 4,000 Ansell employees who are the driving force of implementing these green programs.”

The announcement is part of the company’s Green Productivity program, focused on energy management, and implemented within manufacturing operations across Ansell. Energy management at Ansell focuses on achieving the most efficient and effective use of energy and simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Programs that have been implemented include the installation of equipment to recover energy from flue gas emitted from boiler chimneys as an energy source to heat water, the installation of energy efficient equipment to provide chilled water for manufacturing site cooling systems and the conversion of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

“While the forward progress made in the last 10 years has been incredible, this is only the tip of the iceberg in how Ansell will be doing business differently in the years to come,” added Genzer. “Ansell is committed to a number of sustainable and practical initiatives that are designed to make a positive and lasting contribution to the markets it serves and the community in general.”