Category Archives: Research

U.S. Solar Market Sees Best Q1 in History

SEIA News Release

BOSTON, Mass. AND WASHINGTON D.C., (June 18, 2019) – In the first three months of the year, the U.S. installed 2.7 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV), making it the most solar ever installed in the first quarter of a year. With the strong first quarter, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables forecasts 25% growth in 2019 compared to 2018, and it expects more than 13 GWdc of installations this year.

This data comes from the new U.S. Solar Market Insight Report from Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), whom together announced in May that the U.S. hit the 2 million solar installation milestone during the first quarter of 2019. Read more here.

Additional Recommended Reading
The Sunshine State finally delivers on its name, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine 

AWEA Fact Check: Wind power remains affordable despite flawed study

By Michael Goggin, Into the Wind, AWEA Blog

The phrase “garbage in, garbage out” explains that analysis based on flawed input assumptions will result in flawed results and conclusions. A recent textbook example of that comes from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCE) and the special interest group Institute for Energy Research (IER). IER has been down this road before, and once again their analysis isn’t grounded in reality. Renewable energy increasingly saves consumers money even without the federal incentives, which are currently being phased out. The following table uses real-world performance data to calculate the unsubsidized levelized cost for newly installed generation.

Read more here.

Top Image: Interactive map created by researchers at the University of Texas Austin’s Energy Institute. “Check out all the green—that’s where wind is cheapest.” – Michael Goggin

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

RESIDENTIAL SOLAR

Nebraska rancher’s solar system could offer power for grid, shade for cattle

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

Solar panels are already a common sight on hog and poultry confinement barns in the Midwest. They could be coming soon to cattle feedlots as well. A Nebraska entrepreneur snagged a $200,000 federal grant to devise a solar array that could double as a shade structure in a cattle feedlot. Mitch Minarick, the founder of FarmAfield, believes his concept can address two needs simultaneously . . . Minarick, who grew up on a Nebraska family farm, thinks he can attach the roof and solar panels to existing long concrete feeding troughs. If his initial experiment succeeds, he said he likely will qualify for a second grant that could be as much as $1.1 million. That would support the construction of a prototype. Read more here.

Photo Credit: University of Minnesota-Morris. The University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center is primarily conducting research to see if green power can consistently meet the energy needs of a working dairy farm in northern latitudes.

Additional Recommended Reading

Abigail Ross Hopper: Welcome to the Solar+ Decade

By Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO,
Solar Energy Industries Association 

As part of our planning for the next decade, we will produce a roadmap that will outline the policy, social, environmental and economic considerations needed to make the Solar+ Decade a reality. If we achieve 20 percent solar by 2030, the potential payoff to our economy would be enormous. Picture this: solar could add more than $345 billion to the U.S. economy over the next ten years, reaching $53 billion annually. The solar workforce would grow to 600,000 professionals and Americans would enjoy greater energy choice, lower utility bills and cleaner air. Moreover, our success could prove that climate solutions don’t hurt the economy, but instead, are some of the strongest economic growth engines we’ve seen in decades. Read more here,

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING & VIEWING

NEW GEOTHERMAL ENERGY REPORT

DOE Releases New Study Highlighting the Untapped Potential of Geothermal Energy in the United States

The Energy Department has released a groundbreaking analysis detailing how the United States can benefit from the vast potential of geothermal energy. The analysis culminated in a report, GeoVision: Harnessing the Heat Beneath Our Feet, summarizes findings demonstrating that geothermal electricity generation could increase more than 26-fold from today—reaching 60 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2050.

A radical idea to get a high-renewable electric grid: Build way more solar and wind than needed

The Conversation

Article contributed by Richard Perez, Senior Research Associate in Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, University at Albany, State University of New York and Karl R. Rabago, Professor of Law; Executive Director, Pace Energy and Climate Center, Pace University.

Excerpt: Once firmed up through a combination of overprovisioning and storage, variable renewable energy resources become effectively dispatchable – able to provide power when as needed – and functionally equivalent to traditional power plants. In this way, renewables can replace these generators without major grid reengineering.

Our team has modeled a high-solar and overbuilt solution for the not particularly sunny state of Minnesota. The goal was to determine the least costly combination of grid-connected solar, wind and storage necessary to provide round-the-clock, year-round energy services. Read more here.

Recommended Viewing: Richard Perez’s 3-minute YouTube video summarizes his scalable strategy to achieve 100 percent renewables, which he refers to as the “Perfect Forecast.”

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING 

NEW IRENA REPORT

Renewable energy costs hit new lows, now cheapest new power option for most of the world, Electrek
The findings come from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in its new report, Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2018

‘Stranded costs’ mount as coal vanishes from the grid

By Jeffrey Tomich, Reporter, E&E News 

study by consultants Vibrant Clean Energy LLC and Energy Innovation said the United States has reached “the coal crossover,” at which renewables could replace almost 75% of the U.S. coal fleet and at an immediate savings to customers. By 2025, the number is set to rise to 86%. But in most cases, what’s left behind as utilities pull the plug on old coal plants is more than industrial shells awaiting demolition. They’re also leaving behind millions of dollars of so-called stranded costs on the companies’ books — costs someone must shoulder . . . Environmental and consumer advocates, utilities, and regulators across other states in the coal-heavy Midwest are trying to find balance between cutting carbon and keeping utility bills affordable. A potential solution to accomplish those goals is securitization — refinancing higher-cost debt with low-interest, ratepayer-backed bonds. Read more here.

Photo Credit: We Energies

What are “stranded assets?”
Stranded assets are now generally accepted to be fossil fuel supply and generation resources which, at some time prior to the end of their economic life (as assumed at the investment decision point), are no longer able to earn an economic return (i.e. meet the company’s internal rate of return), as a result of changes associated with the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Source: Carbon Tracker Initiative

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Securitization fever: Renewables advocates seize Wall Street’s innovative way to end coal, by Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

State legislation authorizing the use of securitization:

GREEN BONDS

U.S. Green Bank Act of 2019 Would Provide $10 Billion+ of Capital to State and Local Green Banks, Coalition for Green Capital. The Green Bank Act of 2019 would inject billions of dollars into the U.S. economy to accelerate clean energy deployment, grow clean energy businesses, and deliver affordable clean energy to all Americans. The members of the global Green Bank Network and the American Green Bank Consortium have already shown that public investment in clean energy deployment drives greater total investment, job growth and lower energy costs. The bill creates a new USGB as a wholly owned corporation of the U.S. government, housed within Treasury. It would be capitalized through the issuance of federal Green Bonds.

SUBSIDIES

According to the International Monetary Fund, the United States subsidizes fossil fuels at a cost of $649 billion a year.

OPINION

Thriving in a low carbon future: M&A and the new energy economy, Utility Dive
Contributed article by Mary Anne Sullivan, Sarah Shaw and Alex Harrison, Partners at Hogan Lovells.

Finding New Opportunity For Old Coal-Fired Power Plant Sites

By Jeff Brady, NET Nebraska

Nearly 300 coal-fired power plants have been “retired” since 2010 according to the Sierra Club, a trend that continues despite President Trump’s support for coal. That’s left many communities worried those now idled places will simply be mothballed. “We don’t want to see sites like this rust away, be eyesores on the community and offer no real tax revenue going forward, no employment opportunities,” says Denise Brinley, Executive Director at the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of Energy. Her state has been hit with 14 coal plants shut down in the past 9 years, and so the Department of Community and Economic Development has created a plan for redeveloping some of them. Continue reading here.

Previously Posted

Department of Energy to award $79M for bioenergy research and development

By Cody Ellis, Waste Dive

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $79.3 million in funding for bioenergy research and development earlier this month. Of the 10 areas of interest (AOI), some of the most relevant to the waste industry are renewable energy from urban and suburban wastesdesigning “highly recyclable plastics,”and “rethinking” anaerobic digestion.

Funding from DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office is meant to bolster the United States’ ability to remain competitive in “the emerging bioeconomy,” with a focus on “terrestrial and algal biomass, biogas, and other waste streams.” This announcement also supports the “Water Security Grand Challenge,” because of its focus on anaerobic digestion. Read more here.

Could Beer Brewed With Wind Power Help Save the Planet?

By Stanley Reed, New York Times

These corporate arrangements now account for 22 percent of the large renewable deals signed last year in the United States, according to Wood Mackenzie, a market research firm. Economics is spurring the growth, said Colin Smith, a senior company analyst. Wind and solar are able to compete with fossil fuels, and it is easier to build modular renewable plants tailored to a company’s needs . . . Technology companies are still among the largest and most sophisticated corporate energy players. According to Wood Mackenzie data, Facebook, Google and Amazon are the top three in the United States in cumulative corporate power purchase agreements.
Read more here.

What happens when schools go solar?

Stanford Earth Matters Magazine, Stanford University

Sunshine splashing onto school rooftops and campuses across the country is an under-tapped resource that could help shrink electricity bills, new research suggests. The study, published in the April issue of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters, shows taking advantage of all viable space for solar panels could allow schools to meet up to 75 percent of their electricity needs and reduce the education sector’s carbon footprint by as much as 28 percent. According to the study, it’s not economically viable for educational institutions to purchase rooftop solar systems outright in any state. Rather, the projects can make financial sense for schools if they contract a company to install, own and operate the system and sell electricity to the school at a set rate. Read more here.

Photo: Colorado Chatfield High School teacher Joel Bertelsen explains the fundamentals of a photovoltaic array to his Intro to Engineering Students. Credit: Dennis Schroeder / NREL

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Solar Energy Industries Association Fact Sheet: What is a solar power purchase agreement?

A solar power purchase agreement (PPA) is a financial agreement where a developer arranges for the design, permitting, financing and installation of a solar energy system on a customer’s property at little to no cost.

The developer sells the power generated to the host customer at a fixed rate that is typically lower than the local utility’s retail rate. This lower electricity price serves to offset the customer’s purchase of electricity from the grid while the developer receives the income from these sales of electricity as well as any tax credits and other incentives generated from the system.

PPAs typically range from 10 to 25 years and the developer remains responsible for the operation and maintenance of the system for the duration of the agreement. At the end of the PPA contract term, a customer may be able to extend the PPA, have the developer remove the system or choose to buy the solar energy system from the developer.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Resource
Solar Schools Assessment and Implementation Project: Financing Options for Solar Installations on K–12 Schools