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.

Renewables “Rock” U.S. Energy Growth

The SUN Day Campaign’s Ken Bossong, has noted once again that renewable energy sources are dominating the new energy landscape according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The reports shows wind and solar accounted for all new generating capacity placed in-service in April. For the month, two “units” of wind (the 300 MW Hereford-2 Wind Farm Project in Deaf Smith County, TX and the 211 MW Mesquite Creek Wind Project in Dawson County, TX) came on line in addition to six new units – totaling 50 MW – of solar.

In addition, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower together have provided over 84 percent (84.1%) of the 1,900 MW of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service during the first third of 2015. This includes 1,170 MW of wind (61.5%), 362 MW of solar (19.1%), 45 MW of geothermal steam (2.4%), and 21 MW of hydropower (1.1%). The balance (302 MW) was provided by five units of natural gas.

Hereford Wind ProjectFERC has reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from biomass sources nor any from coal, oil, or nuclear power.

The reports finds the total contribution of geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind for the first four months of 2015 (1,598 MW) is similar to that for the same period in 2014 (1,611 MW – in addition to 116 MW of biomass). However, for the same period in 2014, natural gas added 1,518 MW of new capacity while coal and nuclear again provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity added in 2014.

“Members of Congress and state legislators proposing to curb support for renewable energy, such as Renewable Portfolio/Electricity Standards and the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit, are swimming against the tide,” noted Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “With renewable energy’s clear track record of success and the ever-worsening threat of climate change, now is not the time to pull back from these technologies but rather to greatly expand investments in them.”

Today renewable energy sources now account for 17.05 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the country: water – 8.55 percent, wind – 5.74 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 1.05 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent (for comparison, renewables were 13.71 percent of capacity in December 2010 – the first month for which FERC issued an “Energy Infrastructure Update”).

For renewable energy supporters, what may be the best news: renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.14%) and oil (3.92%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. In addition, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold – a ten-fold increase since December 2010.

GEA Tells Senate: Geothermal Yes

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is vocally supporting a bi-partisan legislation package that they say “would help expand geothermal power by addressing some of the most important barriers to geothermal development in the U.S.” according to Karl Gawell, Executive Director of the Geothermal Energy Association, GEA. The association singled out 562, S. 1057. (Note S. 822 is included as a provision of S. 1057.)

GEA logoS.562, Sponsored by Senator Heller (R-NV) and co-sponsored by Senator Risch (R-ID) would provide help for new geothermal projects to shorten delays at one of the most critical and risky phases of development – exploration, GEA explained. “Given the multiple NEPA processes required for geothermal development, and the inclusion of a restriction for lands involving extraordinary circumstances, we believe this process improvement can be made without risk to the environment,” GEA said. This legislation would provide geothermal exploration the same treatment afforded oil and gas exploration under the 2005 Energy Policy Act – a limited categorical exclusion — with the additional restriction for lands or resources viewed as involving extraordinary circumstance.

S. 1057, Sponsored by Senator Wyden (D-OR) and co-sponsored by Senator ester (D-MT) proposes several initiatives that GEA supported. It would:

  • set a 50,000MW National Geothermal Goal;
  • direct federal agencies to identify priority areas for development;
  • allow federal oil and gas lease holders to obtain a non-competitive geothermal lease to facilitate coproduction of geothermal from their wells — today 25 billion barrels of hot water is produced annually from oil and gas wells within the United States that is wasted;
  • authorize cost shared exploration of geothermal energy resources;
  • re-authorize the use of geothermal lease revenues to support the expansion of our knowledge of the resource base; and
  • facilitate new discoveries, by allowing the limited non-competitive leasing of adjacent lands where a new discovery has been made.

According to GEA, the Wyden bill would “help spur the discovery and development of the substantial untapped geothermal energy resources here in the U.S. The clean baseload geothermal energy produced as a result of these important measures will help the nation achieve a more diverse and reliable electricity supply, even as it reduces emissions, helps state and local economies, and creates jobs in both the oil and gas, and the renewable sectors.”

Sen Udall & Friends Unveil National RES Bill

U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and friends, Edward Markey (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) has introduced a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) they say will pump nearly $300 billion into the economy while combating climate change. The bill would require utilities to generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.

New Mexico Senator Tom Udall“A national Renewable Electricity Standard will help slow utility rate increases and boost private investment in states like New Mexico – all while combating climate change,” said Udall, who helped pass RES legislation through the U.S. House of Representatives and has continued to champion the issue as senator. “Investing in homegrown clean energy jobs just makes sense, and that’s why I’m continuing my fight for a national RES. More than half the states – including New Mexico – have widely successful RES policies, and it’s time to go all in. I’ve long pushed for a ‘do it all, do it right’ energy policy, and a RES will help us get there.”

If passed, the federal legislation would create the first national threshold for utilities to provide a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable resources, including wind, solar, biomass and others. It would set an 8 percent requirement by 2016, followed by gradual increases to meet the 30 percent by 2030 goal. More than half of the states already have renewable generation standards with specific timelines and target standards, and the legislation would not preempt stronger standards already implemented by states.

“Our record droughts, burning forests, dying fish, and melting icecaps all point to the urgency of taking on climate change,” said Merkley. “The only answer is burning less fossil fuel and moving toward renewable energy. Senator Udall’s bill would accelerate that transition and is a key to saving both our economy and our environment from the ravages of climate change.” Continue reading

Hawaii to Become 100% Renewable by 2045

Hawaii is the first state in the U.S. to pass legislation that will require 100 percent of all energy to sourced from renewable energy by 2045. Lawmakers voted 74-2 in favor of House Bill 623 requiring all electricity to be generated from clean sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal.

gI_59670_100 percent trend chart May15 sz800The measure, if enacted by Governor David Ige, would make Hawaii the first state in the nation with such a 100 percent renewable energy standard. Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is to clear the path for 100% renewable energy, praised the move.

“As the first state to move toward 100% renewable energy, Hawaii is raising the bar for the rest of the country,” said Rep. Chris Lee, the Chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee and introducer of HB 623. “Local renewable projects are already cheaper than liquid natural gas and oil, and our progress toward meeting our renewable energy standards has already saved local residents hundreds of millions on their electric bills. Moving to 100% renewable energy will do more to reduce energy prices for local residents in the long term than almost anything else we could do.”

Senator Gabbard, Chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee and a champion of the measure in the Senate, shares the sentiment. “With this bill, we’ll now be the most populated set of islands in the world with an independent grid to establish a 100% renewable electricity goal,” said Sen. Gabbard. “Through this process of transformation Hawaii can be the model that other states and even nations follow. And we’ll achieve the biggest energy turnaround in the country, going from 90% dependence on fossil fuels to 100% clean energy.”

House Bill 623 also increases the interim requirement to 30 percent renewable by 2020. Last year, Hawaii generated about 22 percent of its electricity from renewable resources. Continue reading

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.

Black & Veatch Commission Microgrid

Black & Veatch has commissioned its new microgrid system that provides power to the Rodman Innovation Pavilion located at the company’s Kansas World Headquarters. The microgrid uses a combination of natural gas, solar energy, geothermal and battery storage, and is the first of its kind in the state. It can operate as an independent power source or in support of the utility electric grid adding resiliency to the building and lowering energy costs. The microgrid provides enough clean energy to run the entire Innovation Pavilion.

“We are excited to launch this new technology that highlights the broad range of expertise we have within Black & Veatch,” said Steve Edwards, president and CEO. “It also demonstrates the strong level of support and interest in the design from our professionals who are working on sustainable solutions around the world.”

Black & Veatch’s system includes two natural gas-fired microturbines that deliver onsite electrical power generation. During winter months, heat is recovered from the microturbines to support heating. A geothermal heat pump system with 15 wells drilled 500 feet deep helps heat and cool the Pavilion. The microgrid system also uses battery energy storage to capture energy from generation resources and deliver electricity to the World Headquarters during times of high electric demand, such as in the summer months.

To learn more about the complex interactions of the different energy technologies, Black & Veatch guests can interact with a large screen display that shows the microgrid operations in real time. The microgrid is continually monitored by Black & Veatch’s cloud based analytics platform, ASSET360. It collects data from the system and monitors the performance of each component based on factors like solar radiation, cloud cover, outside temperature and more. It calculates how much energy is being generated and used in the building, providing the company’s energy experts with insights on ways to improve system operations.

Renewables Exceed 75% Of New Gen Capacity

Renewable energy sources including wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower provided over 75 percent of the 1,1229 MW of new electrical generating capacity that went online in first quarter of 2015. The results were published in the recent “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The remaining 302 MW added was from natural gas. FERC reported no new capacity from biomass sources for the quarter nor any from coal, oil, or nuclear power.

© Kennytong | Dreamstime.com - Solar Panels And Wind Turbine Power Photo

© Kennytong | Dreamstime.com – Solar Panels And Wind Turbine Power Photo

During Q1 2015, eight new “units” of wind came online with a combined capacity of 647 MW — accounting for 52.64 percent of all new generating capacity. Solar provided 30 units (214 MW), geothermal steam provided one unit (45 MW), and hyrdropower provided one unit (21 MW). Five units of natural gas provided the new capacity from that sector.

According to the SUN DAY Campaign, the numbers for the first three months of 2015 are similar to those for the same period in 2014 when renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) provided 1,422 MW of new capacity and natural gas 159 MW while coal and nuclear provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity last year.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.92 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.53 percent, wind – 5.65 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 1.03 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent. Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.11%) and oil (3.92%) combined. Moreover, as noted, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold.

“The trend lines for the past several years have been consistent and unmistakable,” said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Each month, renewable energy sources – particularly wind and solar – increase their share of the nation’s generating capacity while those of coal, oil, and nuclear decline.”

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.

Navajo Students Wind Schoolyard STEM Lab

Nizhoni Elementary School in Shiprock, New Mexico has been awarded the first-ever Schoolyard STEM Lab from Samsung and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). The STEM Lab was donated during the 10th annual National Environmental Education Week.

The Schoolyard STEM Lab is an outdoor classroom space designed to work in any climate for a hands-on, immersive environmental education program that consists of a Growing Dome greenhouse where students can apply the scientific method to cultivation projects. The school’s plan is to have all students take part in exploring such topics as aquatic life, solar power and sustainability, conduct geothermal energy experiments, and conserve native plants and natural resources. Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 10.45.42 AMThe Growing Dome will help students better understand STEM, and will help them make connections between the natural environment and Navajo culture.

“We are excited to award Nizhoni with the Lab. It is a solid resource that they can use to leverage the natural environment to promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a way that is relevant to the community,” said Diane Wood, president of NEEF. “We thank Samsung for their financial support and Growing Spaces for its partnership and installation of the Schoolyard STEM Lab.”

Located on Navajo Nation in northern New Mexico, Nizhoni’s school is considered a turnaround school- Nizhoni Elementary went from an F in 2012 to a B in 2013 on the New Mexico Public Education Department’s School Report Cards. The school district is 100 percent Title 1 federally funded due to the high-level poverty within the communities it serves and provides free breakfast and lunch to all of its students. Despite these challenges, the school is committed to equipping its students with the necessary knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in pursuing post-secondary education and early career opportunities.

“Students at Nizhoni are eager to learn,” said Principal Patsy Marquez. “We have been working hard to raise our student’s levels of achievement in areas like math, science and technology. In doing so, we need to make sure that they have access to the tools that they need in order to learn. The Schoolyard STEM Lab is a great tool that we can use to accelerate student learning by introducing all of our students to the scientific inquiry process within the context of the natural environment.”

Jennifer Choate, Nizhoni’s gifted education teacher who submitted the winning application on behalf of the school, added, “The Schoolyard STEM Lab also provides an opportunity for students to harvest their own herbs and vegetables which can be shared with the community and used by the school to prepare more nutritious meals,” added