New Orleans Says Yes to Solar

New Orleans has said yes to solar energy. The City Council has unanimously adopted a resolutions of policies that will lead to the development of a robust local solar industry. The city believes that more solar will help their community and its citizens save money as well as provide quality employment opportunities and grow the local economy.

A 3.22 kW residential system installed in Mid-City New Orleans by SSI. Photo: Gulf States Renewable Energy Industry Association

A 3.22 kW residential system installed in Mid-City New Orleans by SSI. Photo: Gulf States Renewable Energy Industry Association

Councilmember Guidry, one of the resolution’s co-sponsors, spoke of the city’s success in adopting solar energy. In February, New Orleans was named a leader in Environment America’s “Top 10 Solar Cities” ranking. The city is currently number six in the country for solar energy per capita. Councilmember Guidry went on to say, “I look forwarding to becoming number one.”

The Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association (GSREIA) was an active participant in the support of the solar initiatives. During public comments, the organization noted that the council had the opportunity to support a growing industry that creates a significant number of long-lasting local jobs. The solar industry employs over 3,600 direct and supporting jobs in Louisiana, and New Orleans is home to many successful solar businesses that employ local residents, according to GSREIA.

New Orleans is a bright spot for solar energy, with one third of the state’s solar installations and a designation by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2008 as a “Solar America City”. “Solar is growing fast in America, and 87% of Louisianans have said they want to see more solar back home,” said Jeff Cantin, President of GSREIA. “With the state considering cuts to the Solar Tax Credit program, it’s important to remember that families and businesses rely on thoughtful management of these programs for a stable business environment.”

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.

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.”

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.”

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

Alt Energy Consultant Lee Enterprises Expands

leeenterprisesThe world’s largest renewable fuels consulting group is expanding its team. Lee Enterprises Consulting has added five new engineers and two additional Ph.D’s to its worldwide team of experts. The company says it is also dividing itself into four internal teams to handle biodiesel, ethanol, emerging technologies and solar/wind projects.

“As the world’s largest consulting group of its kind, we have experts in virtually every area of alternative and renewable fuels”, says CEO Wayne Lee. He notes that the company has now grown to over fifty consultants, and has reached a point where each of these core businesses needed its own dedicated leadership. “[Dr. Gerald Kutney, who will lead the Emerging Technologies Team] is an imminently qualified expert, and his knowledge in the fields of pyrolysis, waste-to-energy (WTE), forestry bioenery/bioproducts, gasification and emerging technologies made him the perfect choice to lead the Emerging Technologies Team,” said Lee. “Likewise, [new Solar/Wind Team lead] Bob Parkins is a Civil Engineer and renowned solar expert, making him the perfect selection to lead our Solar/Wind Team”.

The group also owns National Business Brokerage, Inc., a full service business brokerage firm specializing in the buying and selling of alternative and renewable fuels plants.

Vilsack Flips Switch on New Solar Farm

vilsack-switchOn Earth Day, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack flipped the switch to symbolically activate USDA’s first solar array project in the National Capital Region.

The 1.6 Megawatt (MW) solar farm, located at the George Washington Carver Center (Carver Center) in Beltsville, Maryland, is the largest solar array on federal property in this region. This project, which is part of a larger commitment to transform the facility into a model for sustainability, will help meet the President’s Capital Solar Challenge. The new solar farm is expected to provide about 2,000 megawatt hours (MWh), or 20% of the Carver Center facility annual electrical power requirements, and handle most of GWCC’s electrical needs during the day.

usda-solar“Today, USDA is another step closer to achieving its goal of energy independence. With this system, USDA is saving taxpayers over $300,000 annually in avoided energy costs,” said Vilsack. “As a Federal agency, USDA is leading the way in renewable energy in the National Capital Region. And we are proud to say that this 6.2 acre solar farm is the largest solar array on Federal property in this area.”

There are over 5,000 state-of-the-art, industry-leading American made panels in this farm and it was built on what used to be Agriculture Research Service farmland, land that is now farming energy. The Carver Center consists of four interconnected buildings and grounds, which occupy about 45 acres of Federal land. The farm helps position USDA to meet President Obama’s new Executive Order goal to increase the share of electricity the Federal Government consumes from renewable sources to 30 percent.

President Obama Announces Solar Efforts

obama-solarIn Utah on Friday, President Obama announced new growth efforts for the solar industry and support for veterans.

At Hill Air Force Base, Obama announced several actions, including a “Solar Ready Vets Program” to be launched by the Department of Energy in partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD), at 10 military bases across the country, including at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, which has already taken leadership by installing solar panels onsite.

The Solar Ready Vets program will train transitioning military service personnel to enter the solar workforce by joining with SunShot’s Solar Instructor Training Network and leveraging the DOD’s Skillbridge transition authority authorized by Congress in 2012.

In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs is committing to working with DOE and State Approving Agencies to achieve approval for GI Bill funding for DOE’s Solar Ready Vets initiative. And the Department of Labor (DOL), will work with DOD to ensure that transitioning service members are made aware of solar workforce training programs available to them in their last months of military service.

Read more from the White House.

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.”