REAP Funds Still Available

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is soliciting funds for the Rural Energy for American Program (REAP).  The funding notice releases mandatory funding for both FY2014 and FY2015, as well as discretionary funding recently made available in the “Cromnibus.” The program provides grants and loan guarantees to rural small businesses, farmers and others in the ag community. However, some new changes have been usda-rd-logoimplemented including a new simplified “three tiered” application process, more frequent solicitations, and priority points for specific policy priorities such as the advancement of distributed wind power.

According to USDA, with two years of funding released at the same time, this notice of solicitation of applications (NOSA) sets a record for the largest REAP funding notice in program history, of $101.35 million. Program demand has decreased in recent years due to decreased program funding, so competition may be reduced.

“The REAP program has always been a very good one, strongly supported on a bi-partisan basis to help expand development of rural America’s abundant renewable energy resources,” said Jennifer Jenkins, executive director for the Distributed Wind Energy Association (DWEA) who has participated in the rule making. “Now it’s an even better program helping ensure distributed wind power’s continued role in bringing clean, affordable and homegrown electricity to rural America. I am pleased to see the efforts of the USDA for it’s great work on the program.”

DWEA President, Mike Bergey, added, “This program helps farmers and rural businesses lower their operating costs and become more competitive by installing American-made small wind turbines. Recent improvements to the program have made it more accessible to family farms and small businesses and we are very appreciative of the streamlining of the application process.”

Bergey is participating in the USDA webinar, “USDA Rural Energy for America Program Webinar: National Stakeholder Forum,” today from 12 pm – 2:00 pm EST.  The webinar will detail the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the program changes.

Vernier Offers Wind Energy Lab Book

A new lab book, Investigating Wind Energy is now available for students in grades 4-6. Vernier Software & Technology spearheaded the effort. The book was written for and aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The lesson plans encourage students to apply learned knowledge as they explore electric circuits and investigate blade design variables using a variety of materials and technologies using a variety of materials and technologies, including the KidWIND MINI Wind Turbine, the Vernier Energy Sensor, and more.

Investigating Wind Energy“Our new lab book provides students with multiple hands-on investigations that explore renewable energy science, as recommended by NGSS,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and former physics teacher. “These types of inquiry-based investigations engage students in scientific discovery at an earlier age and provide the foundation needed as they progress through STEM instruction.”

The lab book includes ten investigations and one culminating project where students design, test, and refine a wind turbine blade set that converts wind energy to electrical energy. The investigations are designed to help students explore quantitative current, potential difference, power, energy and more in an engaging, hands-on way.

The lab book includes a table showing the Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science and Engineering Practices covered in each investigation, making it easy to use with the EQuIP rubric from Achieve. Additionally, it includes information on related skills, estimated completion times for the investigations, equipment tips, teaching tips, answers, sample data, and graphs in the teacher information pages. An accompanying CD with editable Word files for all of the student pages allows teachers to adjust lessons to meet their needs.

RMI Launches Business Renewables Center

The Business Renewables Center (BRC) has been launched with more than 25 founding members, including major corporations, renewables project developers and transaction service providers, by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). The BRC is a collaborative platform designed to accelerate renewable energy procurement. The Center’s goal is to add another 60 GW of wind and solar by 2025, which will nearly double installed U.S. capacity.

Rocky Mountain Institute logoNearly two-thirds of Fortune 100 and nearly half of Fortune 500 companies have commitments to shift to renewables. However, most have not taken action due to the high transaction cost and complexity of large-scale renewables transactions. The BRC will remove the main obstacles preventing corporations from building renewables into their energy profiles.

“Corporations can be a powerful lever for expanding renewable energy in the United States and beyond. They can lock in long-term affordable prices for clean energy that supports the bottom line, reduce their carbon footprint, and fulfill their corporate sustainability commitments,” said RMI Managing Director Hervé Touati.

The BRC founding transaction service providers include Altenex, Climate Friendly, Customer First Renewables, Origin Climate, Renewable Choice Energy, Renewable Power Direct and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. The BRC founding project developers include Apex Clean Energy, E.ON-Climate and Renewables North America, FirstSolar, Invenergy, NextEra Energy Resources, NRG Energy, OneEnergy Renewables, OwnEnergy and SunEdison.

Quayle Hodek, CEO of Renewable Choice Energy a founding member, noted, “The next decade will be a watershed for U.S. renewables. The establishment of the BRC is a testament to explosive industry growth and to the increasing appetite of corporations for easily adoptable, clean power solutions. Through collaborative efforts, the BRC is an exciting resource for everyone in the industry and for our clients.”

Harworth Opens Wind Turbine Project

UK-based Harworth Estates has completed the installation of a 500 kW wind turbine located at the former Arkwright surface mine, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. The project was completed in partnership with Energy Prospects Co-operative. The site forms part of the former Arkwright open cast mining operation, which has been reclaimed and restored to agricultural land. Energy Prospects Co-operative raised money to fund the development of the turbine through a public share offer, giving priority to those who live locally.

Harworth Estates' installation of a 500KW wind turbine at the former Arkwright surface mine, close to the village of Duckmanton. The site forms part of the former Arkwright open cast mining operation, which has been reclaimed and restored to agricultural land.

Harworth Estates’ installation of a 500KW wind turbine at the former Arkwright surface mine, close to the village of Duckmanton. The site forms part of the former Arkwright open cast mining operation, which has been reclaimed and restored to agricultural land. Photo: Harworth Estates

According to Harworth Estates, the operating wind turbine generates sufficient energy to power around 1,000 local homes. Energy is fed into the National Grid, utilizing the grid connection adjacent to the turbine site.

Harworth is also working with Energy Prospects Co-operative to develop a second 500 kW turbine at the former Shafton Two Gates colliery site in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Work have already begun and the turbine is expected to be operating by summer of 2015. Harworth Estates and Energy Prospects Co-operative are also currently working on planning applications for two further single turbine projects. One is near Edlington, Doncaster, and another near Selby, North Yorkshire.

Hannah Moxon, assistant management surveyor, of Harworth Estates’ Natural Resources division, said, “These two projects demonstrate our expertise at transforming previously-developed land to support low-carbon energy projects. Funding through the share offer created a lot of local interest and support for the project. These wind turbines are an important part of Harworth’s commitment to the community and the environment. We also look forward to continuing to work with Energy Prospects on single turbine schemes on our other sites.”

Solar Changing Hawaii’s Electric Future

Hawaii has been getting a lot of attention recently for its efforts to reduce its use of fossil fuel-based energy. The state has the highest electricity costs in the U.S. Most recently, NextEra Energy announced its intent to acquire Hawaiian Electric Industries who owns three electric utilities that supply power to 95 percent of the state’s population. NextEra Energy Resources is one of the largest developers of renewable energy in the U.S. and intends on continuing the trend of adding solar power to its portfolio.

According to a recent “Today in Energy” published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), high electricity prices in Hawaii have made wind and solar technologies economically attractive alternatives – even more so as prices have come down in recent years. This has led to a growing use of wind and solar energy at both utiity scale and in distributed applications such as rooftop solar PV.

EIA’s monthly net metering utility data finds 9,200 net-metered PV systems were added in 2014 through October, bringing the total number of customers with net-metered PV to around 48,000. In Oahu, where most of the state’s population resides, the Solar Electric Power Association finds that roughly 12 percent of customers have rooftop solar compared to only .5 percent average throughout the rest of the U.S. The average capacity of residential net-metered PV systems in Hawaii has also been increasing as larger and more efficient PV systems are installed.

Renewable Watch Oahu - EIA Today in Energy

However, the state has seen delays in adding additional solar to the power grid. EIA attributes the delays to circuits on the Hawaiian Electric distribution grids reaching levels of rooftop PV capacity that are 120 percent or more of the circuit’s daytime minimum load—a key threshold for Hawaiian Electric’s interconnection approval process. Once that threshold is passed, an interconnection study may be required before the new PV system can be approved, which has resulted in a backlog of PV applications.

EIA notes that Hawaiian Electric recently entered a cooperative research partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute, and SolarCity  to study the operational effects of high levels of solar PV on electric grids.Preliminary research results have lead Hawaiian Electric to announce plans to clear its backlog of PV applications by April 2015. Continue reading

Alt Electricity Surpasses Natural Gas

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, new renewable energy sources generated more capacity than natural gas in 2014. Sources including biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar and wind provided 49.81 percent (7,663 MW) of new electrical generation brought into service. Natural gas accounted for 48.65 percent (7,485 MW). By comparison, in 2013, natural gas accounted for 46.44% (7,378 MW) of new electrical generating capacity while renewables accounted for 43.03% (6,837 MW).

Biomass Photo Joanna SchroederNew wind energy facilities accounted for 26.52 percent of added capacity (4,080 MW) in 2014 while solar power provided 20.40 percent (3,139 MW). Other renewables – biomass (254 MW), hydropower (158 MW) and geothermal (32 MW) – accounted for an additional 2.89 percent.

For the year, just a single coal facility (106 MW) came online; nuclear power expanded by a mere 71MW due to a plant upgrade; and only 15 small “units” of oil, totaling 47 MW, were added.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.63 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.:

  • water – 8.42%
  • wind – 5.54%
  • biomass – 1.38%
  • solar – 0.96%
  • geothermal steam – 0.33%

Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.14%) and oil (3.94%) combined.

“Can there any longer be doubt about the emerging trends in new U.S. electrical capacity?” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Coal, oil, and nuclear have become historical relics and it is now a race between renewable sources and natural gas with renewables taking the lead.”

American Wind Rebounds

According to a new report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the American wind industry is rebounding. During 2014, there was four times more new wind energy installed or coming online than in 2013. There was 4,850 MW in generating capacity installed with total installed capacity increasing by eight percent to 65,875.

However, AWEA notes that this amount still falls short of the record 13,000 MW installed in 2012 and blames failing to reach the record due to federal policy uncertainty. The renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) was only extended for two weeks at the end of last year, and has now expired again. Tom Kiernan, AWEA CEO notes that every other energy source receives some type of tax relief and wind should not be, well, left in the wind.

Wind is gaining strength, but as recent history shows, we can do a whole lot more,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “We’re looking forward to working with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle so that a reasonable, responsible tax policy is in place that allows the wind industry to continue lowering costs and investing billions of dollars in U.S. communities.”

Jonathan Weisgall, Vice President for Legislative and Regulatory Affairs of the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Co., told reporters that the $1.9 billion wind farm his company is building in Iowa is the largest economic development project in 2Q2014 State Blue Mapthe state’s history. When finished, it will pay farmers $3 million a year for land leases, and supply customers such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft that have committed to buying clean energy.

“Our customers want wind,” Weisgall said. “We like wind because it’s a hedge against fossil prices…and wind, with no fuel costs associated, can keep those rates stable.”

The PTC provides a tax credit of 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour generated for the first 10 years of a project’s life. It has encouraged $125 billion dollars of investment across America, creating 500 U.S. manufacturing facilities and technological innovations that lowered the wind power’s costs by more than half in the last five years. Continue reading

IRENA & ADFD Fund 5 Renewable Energy Projects

Five renewable projects in developing countries have been awarded USD 57 million in concessional loans by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD). The projects have a combined total capacity of 35 megawatts and will bring power to more than 200,000 people in rural communities. The loans will go to projects located in Argentina, Cuba, Iran, Mauritania and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

IRENA Renewable Energy cycle 2 fundingRenewable energy offers the prospect of clean, affordable power to the 1.3 billion people currently off the electricity grid,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at a press conference during IRENA’s fifth Assembly. “While renewable energy resources are abundant in many communities suffering from energy poverty, finance is still a key challenge for deployment. That is why the partnership between IRENA and ADFD is so important as a pioneering effort.”

According to IRENA, this is the second loan cycle of seven, which together will commit USD 350 million over seven years to the deployment of renewable energy in developing countries, with a total project value of an estimated USD 800 million. Projects approved for funding in the second loan cycle include solar, hydro, hybrid (wind and solar) and geothermal energy. The organization said the projects selected represent a mix of renewable energy sources, are innovative, potentially replicable or scalable, and will improve energy access.

“As part of its mandate to work on projects with a profound impact on the economies of developing countries, ADFD has collaborated with IRENA to support the renewable energy sector as a tool for economic and social development,” said Mr. Adel Abdulla Al Hosani, director of pperations department in ADFD. “Towards this priority, we are keen to support the economic development and deployment of sustainable energy projects in countries with immense clean energy potential, but lacking necessary financial resources and project management expertise.”

The IRENA/ADFD Project Facility pioneers the support of renewable energy as a viable and sustainable focus for foreign development assistance that offers long-term social and economic benefits to developing countries.

President Touts Domestic Energy in SOTU

sotu15“We are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years,” said President Barack Obama in the first few minutes of his 2015 State of the Union address Tuesday evening.

“We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet,” said Obama. “And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.”

President Obama also hit on climate change in his address, noting that “over the past six years, we’ve done more than ever to combat climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it.”

Responding to the president’s address, Novozymes Americas President Adam Monroe said they are excited to see President Obama focusing on climate change and said that the United States “has an opportunity to lead the world in reducing atmospheric carbon by investing in science.”

“The United States also has a chance to be the world leader in alternative fuels,” said Monroe. “The Renewable Fuel Standard has been successful in moving our cars and trucks away from fossil fuels. If President Obama wants to reduce emissions today he should put this policy back on track and support cleaner, domestic biofuels.”

Wind Turbines to be Certified by IRS

Small wind turbines will now have to be certified by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) who has issued Notice 2015-4 providing new performance and quality standards that require certification of small wind turbines. “Small” turbines are classified as those having a nameplate capacity of up to 100 KW and must fit into this category in order to qualify for the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

“Distributed wind power for homes, farms, and small business is generating clean, affordable and homegrown electricity across all 50 states and as the market grows, it’s of critical importance to ensure high quality products make it to market,” said Jennifer Jenkins, executive director of the Distributed Wind Energy Association. “These certification requirements provide performance and quality assurance for consumers, government agencies and the industry, and help to ensure the successful implementation of distributed wind projects domestically.”

Small wind turbine in Winter Harbor, MaineThe IRS certification goes into effect for small wind turbines acquired or placed in service after January 26, 2015. The guidance requires that qualifying small wind manufacturers provide certification to either: (1) American Wind Energy Association Small Wind Turbine Performance and Safety Standard 9.1-2009 (AWEA); or (2) International Electrotechnical Commission 61400-1, 61400-12, and 61400-11 (IEC). The certification must be issued by an eligible certifier, which is defined as a third party, that is accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation or other similar accreditation body. Documentation establishing that the turbine meets the new requirements must be provided to taxpayers in order to claim the credit.

Jenkins continued, “The new certification requirement addresses the small, but persistent segment at the fringe of the industry that make wild assertions on efficiency, performance, and the their special ability to work on buildings or very short towers. Now, in order to qualify for the federal tax credits, they will have to prove these claims to third-party experts. That will be very challenging or impossible for unproven designs with exaggerated performance, but will not pose a major barrier for the industry leaders.”

“As an industry, we have been working for many years to strengthen the credibility and reliability of our products,” added Jenkins. “I’m proud to note that our membership has been leading the way on this front, actively pursuing certification since 2010 and poised to comply with these new standards.”