Monthly Archives: June 2016

Ames takes another step toward solar energy in applying to become a SolSmart Community


By Austin Harrington, Ames Tribune

In an effort to make the city friendlier to solar energy, Ames officials are beginning an application process to be included in a federal program that is designed to decrease the hurdles associated with solar energy. SolSmart is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to recognize communities that have taken key steps to address local barriers to solar energy and foster the growth of mature local solar markets, according to the program’s website. The Ames City Council approved the application process in early June after the Ames Progressive Alliance brought the initiative to the city’s attention. Continue reading.

SolSmart Information Link:

The deadline to apply to host a SolSmart Advisor in communities nationwide has been extended to July 8, 2016:

If you have any questions, email Program Director Phillip Haddix:

New Ruling Opens Up 400 GW Renewables Market to Rural Electric Cooperatives and Municipal Utilities


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) confirms that co-ops can buy unlimited power from PURPA-qualifying facilities. Distribution co-ops and municipal utilities are no longer constrained in their ability to source cost-competitive local power.

 By Kevin Brehm and Joseph Goodman, Rocky Mountain Institute

The ruling has major implications for the nation’s 905 electric cooperatives and 830 municipal utilities as well as the for-profit and nonprofit generation and transmission providers that serve those co-ops . . . The FERC ruling has opened up a huge potential distributed renewable energy market. Renewable energy buyers and sellers both have a role to play in enabling this market to achieve its full potential. Click to learn more about the ruling.

The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), enacted November 9, 1978, is a United States Act passed as part of the Natonal Energy Act. It was meant to promote energy conservation (reduce demand) and promote greater use of domestic energy and renewable energy (increase supply). The law was created in response to the 1973 energy crisis, and one year in advance of a second energy crisis. Source: Wikipedia

Coal to solar: Retraining the energy workforce

Provided by Michigan Technological University. Posted on Phys.Org

Phys Org

As more coal-fired power plants are retired, industry workers are left without many options. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though.

In a new study published in Energy Economics, researchers from Michigan Technological University and Oregon State University offer hope for coal workers for high-quality employment in the rapidly expanding solar photovoltaic industry. Read more.

Photo: Joshua Pearce’s lab at Michigan Tech focuses on the accessibility of solar and 3-D printing technologies. Credit: Michigan Tech / Sarah Bird

Explore further: Shifts in electricity generation spur net job growth, but coal jobs decline

More information: Edward P. Louie et al, Retraining investment for U.S. transition from coal to solar photovoltaic employmentEnergy Economics (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.eneco.2016.05.016

Potential model for Nebraska communities: Wisconsin group purchase program, Solar Racine

By Michael Burke, The Journal Times

The Journal Times 3

Solar Racine is an upcoming group purchase of photovoltaic installations for homeowners and businesses. The initiative, a program of the energy committee of Greening Greater Racine, is modeled on similar programs in Seattle, Portland and Milwaukee. Click to continue reading.

Photo by Gregory Shaver / The Journal Times. Tom Rutkowski is shown with the solar photovoltaic panels on the south side of his garage. The 4.4-kilowatt system that was installed two years ago produces on average about 85 percent of his electricity for his house and Chevy Volt electric car. Rutkowski is part of the Greening Greater Racine energy committee that has started an effort called Solar Racine.

How much does a PV system currently cost in Nebraska?
Cheaper by the Dozen: Solar Group Purchase Programs,
American Solar Energy Society
Group solar purchases helping Midwest cities cut carbon emissions, Midwest Energy News
Milwaukee’s solar group-buying program is expanding, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Solar Bulk Purchases, Community Power Network

Famous adventurer touts renewable energy

By Tom Henry, The Blade

CTY swan24pRenowned Antarctic conservationist Robert Swan told about 150 people at the Toledo Zoo’s Museum of Science on Thursday the world must embrace renewable energy on a larger scale to help slow catastrophic global effects of climate change. Mr. Swan, the first person to walk both the North and South Poles, gave a 75-minute presentation. He said the rapid, abnormal melting of sea ice he has seen up close has convinced him rising sea levels and biological changes to ocean life will eventually haunt anyone from Bangladesh to New York if the planet doesn’t act soon. Antarctica has 90 percent of the world’s ice and 70 percent of the world’s fresh water. Continue reading.

Photo: Robert Swan, the first to walk both the North and South Poles, appears with Wildwood teacher Laura Schetter. Credit: The Blade / Jetta Fraser

Loan Firm Dividend Solar Merges With PACE Funder Figtree, Raises $200M

PACE is growing fast and solar loans are replacing leases.

By Eric Wesoff, Greentech Media

The merger represents the first-ever combination of a residential solar lender and PACE financing provider. The deal includes a commitment of up to $200 million from LL Funds (founded in 2009 by Morgan Stanley alums.) As part of the transaction, Shivraj (Raj) Mundy of LL Funds will join Dividend as its executive chairman. Dividend will soon launch a residential PACE program in California before expanding it nationally . . . In April, Nebraska became one of the states that approves PACE financing, according to Midwest Energy News. PACE legislation has been passed in 29 states and the District of Columbia, with more expected this year.

PACE map

Along with the strong growth of the renewables market and energy financing industry comes a measure of consolidation and volatility. This will not be the last merger or deal of this nature this year. Click to read the entire article.

GTM post referenced by Wesoff: The Rise of the Regional Solar Installer, by Allison Mond
Regional installers are now growing faster than top national installers SolarCity, Vivant Solar and Sunrun.

Nine steps to help solar contractors command more value in the marketplace, by Pamela Cargill, Principal at Chaolysti, a strategic consulting firm that helps residential solar installers operate more efficiently. Posted on Solar Power World.

The DER pivot: Grid Edge Forum illustrates utility shift toward a distributed grid

Utility Dive 3

By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

There is a reason attendance at the Grid Edge World Forum 2016, a leading distributed resource convention, doubled from 2015 to 2016, prompting organizers to move it to a conference center next year.

A fundamental transition is underway in the utility system, GTM Research Grid Edge Director Steve Propper told the audience. Increasingly, the old grid model one-way power flows from centralized generation to the customer is being supplanted by a more distributed energy system, where consumers produce and store their own energy, as well as manage their usage. Read more here.

USDA provides $52 million in electrical co-op loans to bolster rural efficiency, by Robert Walton

Robert Walton

Robert Walton

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will make $52 million in loans available to rural electric cooperatives through an energy program which aims to boost efficiency by offering low-interest loans for projects. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) said the Rural Energy Savings Program is helping to create jobs and reduce energy waste. The lawmaker introduced the legislation to create RESP in 2010. Click to continue reading.

USDA’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program

Merkley: Rural co-ops gain $52 million for energy efficiency loans

Solar plus storage: With SolarCity deal, Tesla aims to speed clean energy transition

Elon Musk 2

By Gavin Bade, Utility Dive

For Elon Musk, it was “kind of an obvious thing to do.”

On Monday, energy storage and electric vehicle provider Tesla announced it has made an offer to buy SolarCity, the largest residential solar installer in the United States.

The move would turn Tesla into a vertically-integrated clean energy company, with operations in the manufacture, sale and operation of products spanning from energy production to storage and consumption. Click to read more.

 Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Advocates Say Solar Power May Dim The Future of Utility Monopolies


By Chuck Quirmbach, Wisconsin Public Radio

Solar power and other renewable energy sources continue to make gains in Wisconsin to the point where some advocates are talking about the end of electric utility monopolies in the state.

Most people in Wisconsin still use electricity that comes from power plants running on coal, natural gas or nuclear energy. But with dropping prices for solar energy panels the last few years, more folks are signing up to have solar arrays in their yard or on their homes. Click to continue reading.

Dairyland Power contracts for 98-megawatt wind farm
Dairyland Power Cooperative donating solar PV systems to local Wisconsin schools
North Dakota panel approves proposed $153 million wind farm
For America’s Clean Energy Future, the Smart Money is on Wind. Wind and other renewable energies are the building blocks with which we build a bridge to the right side of history, where we use domestic, clean, AND economic wind and other renewables to power our energy needs.
Iowa Utility Works With City And Businesses To Build Solar Industry
NRG makes $3 million donation of solar panels to seven New Jersey schools
NRG spokesman David Gaier says the company plans to complete installation by the end of August with energy delivery beginning by year’s end.
Jefferson County Community Solar Garden ‘Flips the Switch’

Tesla makes offer to buy SolarCity

Elon Musk
By Davide Savenije, Krysti Shallenberger, Gavin Bade, Utility Dive 

If the deal goes through, [Tesla CEO Elon] Musk expects SolarCity would come under the Tesla brand, which would then have three product categories: cars, batteries, and solar panels. The combined company would focus on both residential and utility-scale applications. A combination of electric vehicles, rooftop solar, and battery storage can be used in tandem by consumers to reduce their usage of the power grid. Read more.

Photo of Elon Musk by Patrick Fallon / Reuters

Tesla Blog: Tesla Makes Offer to Acquire SolarCity

How storage can help solve the distributed energy ‘death spiral’: A new Navigant paper lays out three examples of how storage can facilitate the transition to a more distributed grid.