Category Archives: Community-Scale / Utility-Scale Solar

Solar and wind’s competitiveness over coal is accelerating, analysis shows

By Kathiann M. Kowalski, Energy News Network

“The Energy Innovation analysis does not factor in the
social costs of coal-fired power plants.”

The May 5 analysis comes from Energy Innovation: Policy & Technology, based in San Francisco. The work highlights the accelerating pace of the clean energy transition, even aside from the social costs of coal plant pollution.

“Out of the 235 plants in the U.S. coal fleet, 182 plants, or 80 percent, are uneconomic or already retiring,” according to the report, which counted plants in service in 2018. Put another way, the share of total U.S. coal plant capacity from that year that won’t be competitive beyond the next few years has climbed from roughly five-eighths to three-fourths in just two years. Read more here.

NPPD Photo: Gerald Gentleman 1,365MW coal-fired power plant in Sutherland

Kathiann M. Kowalski

Kathiann M. Kowalski is the author of 25 books and more than 600 articles, and writes often on science and policy issues. In addition to her journalism career, Kathi is an alumna of Harvard Law School and has spent 15 years practicing law. She is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. Kathi covers the state of Ohio. More by Kathiann M. Kowalski

Previously Posted Articles by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network

  • Solar firm buying land rights near coal plants with eye toward transmission
    Josh Case, Photosol’s chief executive officer, intends to develop two arrays — one with 400 megawatts and one with 250 megawatts — on 5,000 acres he has under lease option near Nebraska’s Gerald Gentleman station. He pays an annual fee to maintain the option to lease the acreage. The projects would include 325 MW of battery storage.
  • Nebraska utility could slash emissions at little or no added cost, studies show
    The Nebraska Public Power District, which serves most of the state’s population outside the cities of Omaha and Lincoln, last year hired two firms to forecast the potential impact of federal carbon regulations. The results, by Ascend Analytics and Siemens, both conclude that the utility could significantly reduce its exposure to such policies without burdening customers with severe rate hikes. 

HIGH-CAPACITY EV CHARGERS 

Report finds increase in high-capacity EV chargers could benefit utilities, by Peter Maloney, American Public Power Association

The premise of the report, Charging Smart, is that an increase in the maximum power level of residential electric vehicle (EV) chargers is imminent and will likely reach the highest charger levels within a decade, leading to increased costs for utilities by shifting charging load to times of day when electricity is more expensive. 

The authors recommended that utilities should explore time variant rate options, as well as hybrid pricing options that offer higher fixed rates from 6am to midnight and discounted fixed rates from midnight to 6am. Utilities should also consider incentives for the deployment of smart charging technologies, such as owner-operated programmable charging systems and direct charge control functions in conjunction with pricing signals. And, finally, the authors say utilities should establish outreach campaigns to influence customer behaviors to shift charging patterns. 

“What’s so promising about this analysis is the clear opportunity to push innovation that will use vehicle electrification to create a more reliable electric grid and maximize greenhouse gas reductions,” Suzanne Russo, Pecan Street CEO, said in a statement.

Energy Storage Grows Up

By Jeff Postelwait, T&D World 

Energy storage is even maturing to the point where it can take the place of building a new power generation asset or building grid upgrades. “When you add storage to your mix, everything becomes more flexible. You can increase hosting capacity of a transmission circuit without having to build a lot of new facilities. So, it’s easy to think of it as a competitor, but what it really is, is more of an enabler and a partner.”    Jason Burwen, interim CEO of the Energy Storage Association. Read more here.

Also By Jeff Postelwait: Energy Goals: What Does a New Administration Mean for Utilities? A look at the future of energy at the federal and state levels, and how the commercial sector also is a powerful driver for renewables.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

MODEL POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY SOLAR BUSINESS

Solar Power + Bees = Extra Benefit For Massachusetts, by Zachary Shahan, CleanTechnica

Navisun is focused on small utility-scale solar farms and community solar farms. It co-develops, acquires, owns, and operates the solar projects. The two it has just completed, one of which is a community solar farm, are fairly small projects, totaling 3.8 MW of solar power, but the company is just getting rolling and it intends to build and operate many more. 

PRIVATE INVESTMENTS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY

The Future of Private Equity and Solar Energy, contributed by Christopher J. Macklin, Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Solar Magazine

Investments in renewable capacity totaled more than $2.5 trillion between 2010-2019, according to BloombergNEF data. Solar alone drew in half of those funds—$1.3 trillion to be exact—and grew from just 25 GW at the beginning of 2010 to more than 660 GW by the end of the decade. That’s enough energy to power 100 million homes in the U.S. each year. The high volume of capital flowing into the renewable energy sector has increased asset prices. To counter this, private equity firms seeking higher returns are turning to projects under development as opposed to ones already operating.

SALESFORCE

Inside Salesforce’s bold play for supply-chain leadership, by Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Editor, GreenBiz Group

Last week, the cloud-based software company Salesforce notified its thousands of suppliers that it will include language in all future procurement contracts requiring them, among other things, to set science-based targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. And it set financial penalties for those that don’t. It was an unprecedented and bold move that, if emulated by others and aggressively enforced, could transform companies and markets far faster than any regulation ever could.

Salesforce Report: More Than a Megawatt: Embedding Social & Environmental Impact in the Renewable Energy Procurement Process

TENNESSEE VALEY AUTHORITY

Biden’s TVA appointments offer crucial chance for climate justice, Energy News Network

Biden’s nominations to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority could help fulfill his climate promise by making TVA a model for how public power can lead the clean energy transition, writes guest commentator Gaby Sarri-Tobar, a campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Justice program.

SOLAR POWER WORLD 

Q1 2021: Amazon goes big, Ørsted is a fan of corporate procurement

By Sarah Golden, GreenBiz

Corporate renewable deals got off to a sleepy but respectable start in 2021, with the largest contracts from U.S. companies reaching just shy of 2 gigawatts of capacity. This represents a cooling from the fourth quarter’s blockbuster 7.3 GW but a steady climb from the first quarter of previous years — Q1 2019 saw 757 megawatts (MW) of deals; Q1 2020 included 1.6 GW. 

Ørsted, the Danish multinational energy company best known for offshore wind, made a strong showing as a developer for U.S. corporate procurements this quarter, participating in deals with Pepsi, steelmaker Nucor, Target and Hormel Foods. The contracts include portions of two massive onshore wind projects: the 298 MW Haystack project in Nebraska and the 367 MW Western Trail project in Texas. Target, Hormel and Pepsi have procured portions of the Nebraska project; Pepsi and Nucor are offtakers of the Texas project. Read more here.

Photo: Plum Creek Wind Farm in Wayne County, Nebraska. The Haystack project is under construction nearby.

Previously Posted

FACEBOOK’S RENEWABLES & ENERGY STORAGE

Facebook meets 100% renewable energy goal with over 6 GW of wind, solar, Utility Dive
Facebook said Thursday it had procured enough new renewable projects to meet 100% of energy needs for its global operations through clean resources, as of last year. The company has contracts in place for more than 6.1 GW of wind and solar across 18 states and five countries, within the same electric grids that power its data centers and operations. Of the energy contracted, Facebook said it currently has 2 GW of solar and 1.3 GW of wind online, along with 720 MW of energy storage.
Image Credit: Facebook

RE100 REACHES NEW MILESTONE 

  • RE100 reaches 300-member milestone, RE100 News Release
    As companies’ awareness of the impacts of climate change has grown, and with the opportunity to save money from wind and solar increasingly evident, buying renewables has moved from the fringe of corporate social responsibility practice to become a core element for business in securing their energy needs whilst driving down emissions and building positive relationships with employees, customers, investors and governments.
  • RE100 initiative hits 300 member milestone, Business Green
    The new cohort of members means nearly 320TW/h of corporate electricity around the world is set to switch to renewable sources in the coming years – equivalent to the electricity consumption of Australia and Italy, a spokesperson confirmed to BusinessGreen.

FROM THE AMERICAN PUBLIC POWER ASSOCIATION 

About APPA
The American Public Power Association is the voice of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that power 2,000 towns and cities nationwide. We represent public power before the federal government to protect the interests of the more than 49 million people that public power utilities serve, and the 93,000 people they employ. We advocate and advise on electricity policy, technology, trends, training, and operations.

SEIA NEWS RELEASE

Solar Industry Unveils Environmental Justice Priorities, April 15, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is announcing its environmental justice priorities through a new policy platform that will support the organization’s advocacy efforts. The platform outlines principles for engagement, as well as environmental justice outcomes and policies that the organization will support to expand equitable access to solar energy and its benefits. The document lays out policies that expand access to clean energy and create industry jobs and workforce development training. It includes possible tax, climate, energy access and labor policies that build on SEIA’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice throughout the solar value chain.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY 

FREE APP FOR TESLA OWNERS

Tesla owners can now see how much solar or coal is powering their EVs, by Kirsten Korosec, TechCrunch

TezLab, a free app that’s like a Fitbit for a Tesla vehicle, pushed out a new feature this week that shows the energy mix — breaking down the exact types and percentages of fossil fuels and renewable energy — coming from charging locations, including Superchargers and third-party networks throughout the United States.

Photo Credit: Tesla

OPPD inks agreement with developer for solar farm in Saunders County; it would be Nebraska’s largest

By Nancy Gaarder, Omaha World-Herald

Despite some local opposition, Nebraska’s first utility-scale solar farm is a step closer to being built south of Yutan. The Omaha Public Power District announced last week that it has signed a contract with Community Energy Inc. for an 81-megawatt solar farm to be built on 500 acres in Saunders County. Construction would begin in 2022. The project would be the largest solar farm in Nebraska and is the first step toward OPPD’s hoped-for 600 megawatts of solar power. Read more here.

Community Energy Inc

Photo: Kearney’s Solar Farm installed by Interconnection Systems Inc based in Central City .

Also written by Nancy Gaarder:

Michigan solar supporters make new push to eliminate rooftop solar caps

By Tom Perkins, Energy News Network

A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers has introduced legislation to eliminate a 1% cap on distributed energy in the state’s investor-owned utility territories. It’s the third time in recent years that such legislation has been introduced. Though utilities and their political allies have successfully blocked it to date, advocates see an opportunity with a change in state Republican caucus leadership and Michigan’s burgeoning solar industry approaching the cap in some utility territories. The bill also has support from a broad swath of legislators for reasons having to do with job creation, energy freedom and the environment. Read more here.

Photo Credit: David Marvin / Creative Commons. The Michigan Statehouse in Lansing.

Additional Recommended Reading
Commentary: To build energy resilience in Michigan, we must challenge DTE, Energy News Network

NPPD’S CURRENT RENEWABLE ENERGY LIMIT & TWO RECENT STUDIES

Kearney’s Solar Farm

Previously posted articles by Karen Uhlenhuth, Energy News Network:

  • Nebraska solar farm highlights tension between cities, electricity wholesaler
    The city of Norfolk, Nebraska, soon will celebrate its first solar farm — and the last one allowed under a contract with its electricity wholesaler. The 8.5-megawatt community solar project is being developed in partnership with the Nebraska Public Power District, which supplies power to most of the state outside of Omaha and Lincoln. The hitch for Norfolk is that the public utility’s contracts prevent municipal customers from generating more than 10% of their peak load from alternative sources, a threshold the city expects to reach with this project. “Northeast Nebraska is the renewable energy hotbed of the state,” said Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning. “I’d much rather use clean energy that’s made in our backyard than haul it in on a coal train from Wyoming, which is the status quo in Nebraska.”
  • Nebraska utility could slash emissions at little or no added cost, studies show
    A pair of reports by independent consultants both conclude that the Nebraska Public Power District could eliminate most of its carbon emissions without having to spend significantly more than it would otherwise for power.

ENVIRONMENT AMERICA REPORT

Electrifying America’s buildings by 2050 could be like taking 65 million cars off the road
Entitled Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, the study documents the benefits of electrifying the majority of buildings in America for consumers and the environment. In addition, the report ranks states by their capacity to decrease greenhouse gas emissions through building electrification.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN INSTITUTE (RMI) REPORT

Build Back Better Homes: How to Unlock America’s Single-Family Green Mortgage Market

Residential energy efficiency reduces emissions and delivers a wealth of other societal benefits, but homeowners often lack access to low-cost financing to improve the performance of their homes. The mortgage industry is well positioned to fill this gapA new RMI report proposes practical solutions to reduce friction in originating and securitizing single-family green mortgage products. This untapped opportunity can create a new market with a total potential value of $2.2 trillion over 10 years.

RMI EVENTS

  • Decarbonizing America’s Buildings: Preparing for a Carbon-Neutral Future
    April 13: In this webinar, RMI’s Michael Gartman joins Brad Liljequist and Heath Mackay from the construction engineering firm McKinstry for a discussion on decarbonizing the buildings sector. The speakers will outline proven strategies for transitioning buildings to zero carbon in terms of both operational emissions and embodied emissions in the building’s materials.
  • Advanced Building Construction Summit
    April 28: The inaugural ABC Summit convenes experts from the public and private sectors to share insights and experiences around high-performing, decarbonized, affordable construction.

CANARY MEDIA

The Rocky Mountain Institute has launched Canary Media, independent energy journalism powered by former Greentech Media staff and David Roberts. 

Canary Media will cover the global effort to combat climate change from business, technology, and policy perspectives. Editors include Eric Wesoff, Jeff St. John, and David Roberts.

EV INFRASTRUCTURE

UNITED PARCEL SERVICE (UPS)

UPS Orders 10 Electric Vertical Takeoff & Landing Aircraft, CleanTechnica
10 BETA aircraft will be delivered in 2024, if all goes according to plan, and UPS has an option to buy up to 150 at the agreed-upon terms. Last year, UPS ordered 10,000 electric vehicles from EV startup Arrival as well.

Initial solar contract inked for OPPD’s Power with Purpose

The Wire, OPPD Blog

The future is growing brighter as OPPD takes its first steps to acquire up to 600 megawatts of utility-scale solar generation. OPPD recently signed a contract with Community Energy, Inc. for an 81-megawatt solar array spread across approximately 500 leased acres south of Yutan, Neb., in eastern Saunders County. When complete, this facility will be capable of powering around 14,000 average homes. The facility’s name: Platteview Solar.

[Power with Purpose-Solar, available here], features background information, Frequently Asked Questions and a forum where anyone can ask a specific question not addressed in the FAQ. OPPD is striving to be a net-zero carbon utility by 2050, and the commitment to renewable energy heralded by this announcement is one important step on that pathway to decarbonization. Read more here.

ROOFTOP SOLAR

Inside Clean Energy: The Coast-to-Coast Battle Over Rooftop Solar, by Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News

Last year, all but four states—Alaska, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota—took some kind of action on rooftop solar policy, according to the most recent “50 States of Solar” report from the NC Clean Energy Technology Center. (Autumn Proudlove, senior policy program director at the center, was one of the people I spoke with about what’s happening in states right now). There are big differences in the states’ approaches, but what they share is an awareness that regulations need to change to be ready for a market in which rooftop solar is much more common.

Yet, regulators only control part of the financial equation. The costs of solar panels continue to decrease. And customers are increasingly buying solar along with battery storage, which means people are storing excess electricity for their own use rather than sending it back to the grid, reducing the importance of net metering policy.

Previously Posted

UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA-LINCOLN NEWS

A student-led competition held as part of the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues is helping expand sustainability planning at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Offered as part of the forum’s 2020-21 focus on environmental issues, the E.N. Thompson Forum Sustainability Idea Award challenged Recognized Student Organizations to plan, develop or execute a “green” project that aligns with the university’s new sustainability and resilience master plan. The contest featured four themes: transportation, energy, waste management, and sustainability and COVID-19. “It was incredible to see a broad spectrum of student groups — more than 12 — participating and outlining a variety of interesting topics,” said Prabhakar Shrestha, sustainability coordinator for the university and a judge for the competition.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln: “Big Red Sat-1” is an education mission with a primary goal of engaging and developing future aerospace engineers by contributing to the development of critical technologies to improve solar power generation. The technology demonstration secondary focus is to take proven perovskite panel technology at technical readiness level (TRL)-5 to TRL-6 by testing the panels in space using flight heritage information and systems to maximize potential success. Testing should provide answers on handling and the life of perovskites, as well as comparative day/night performance with silicon in a space environment.

OTHER MIDWEST STATES IN THE NEWS

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) has announced the 10 teams selected to advance to the final stage of the $3 million American-Made Solar Prize Round 4. The finalists were selected from 20 teams that presented their solar innovations to a panel of expert judges at a demonstration day hosted by Carnegie Mellon University’s Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

Two Midwest teams are among the finalists:

Cool Tech Solar (North Oaks, MN): A nano-textured heatsink material for the back of a solar panel to increase the surface area, helping dissipate heat and lowering the panel’s peak operating temperature.

Rocking Solar (Monroe, OH): A solar panel tracker system that tracks the sun using a rocking motion, reducing the weight of a photovoltaic system and the number of roof penetrations required for installation.

Read the SETO newsletters for updates on the next demo day, and learn more about thAmerican-Made Solar Prize.

VOLKSWAGEN DIESEL EMISSION MITIGATION PROGRAM

Inside Clean Energy: What Happens When Solar Power Gets Much, Much Cheaper?

By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News

The plummeting price of electricity from solar panels is one of the driving forces aiding the transition to clean energy. Government policies and scientific innovation around the world have helped to reduce the average cost of utility-scale solar power by more than 80 percent since 2010, making it the least expensive power source in many, if not most, places. Now the Department of Energy  has set a target of reducing the cost by more than half again by 2030, to an unsubsidized average of 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. That cost, which takes into account the price of construction and operation, would have seemed like a fantasy not long ago. Read more here.

Photo Credit: GenPro Energy Solutions

BROOKINGS INSTITUTION REPORT

How renewable energy jobs can uplift fossil fuel communities and remake climate politics, by Adie TomerJoseph W. Kaneand Caroline George

The U.S. transition to a low-carbon economy is already underway, and some of the most striking progress is within the energy-generation sector. As the cost of solar, wind, and other renewable sources continues to fall, market forces will continue to encourage renewable energy generation and lead to the closure of fossil fuel extraction and generation activities. 

MICHIGAN TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY STUDY

Study shows homeowners with PV are subsidizing their neighborsRenewable Energy World

For years some utility companies have worried that solar panels drive up electric costs for people without panels. Joshua Pearce, Richard Witte Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University, has shown the opposite is true — grid-tied solar photovoltaic (PV) owners are actually subsidizing their non-PV neighbors.


OPPD WORKSHOP

Customers invited to workshops about decarbonization, by Jason Kuiper, The Wire

As OPPD moves forward with Pathways to Decarbonization, the utility will seek input from the community through a variety of channels, including workshops for the energy portfolio. The first of these online workshops will be Wednesday, April 7. 

Customers can engage with OPPD through OPPD Community Connectthe utility’s stakeholder engagement platform that hosts up-to-date information, details about the workshops, workshop recordings and ways to submit ideas or ask questions around the initiative. 

OPPD Resource: Guidance for adding solar panels and more

ALSO IN THE NEWS

How infrastructure is banking on green banks

By Heather Clancy, Editorial Director, GreenBiz Group

Quick, what do Alaska, Maine and South Carolina have in common? 

All three U.S. states are seriously evaluating the creation of green banks — financing institutions created with the explicit mission of combining public and private funds to invest in climate solutions and green infrastructure. They would join roughly 20 other U.S. jurisdictions that have used this mechanism to drive more than $5 billion in clean energy investments as of the end of 2019, including Connecticut, Florida, Michigan and Washington, D.C. 

Alaska is so invested in the idea that Rep. Don Young, a Republican who championed Deb Haaland’s nomination as Interior Secretary, last week stepped across the aisle again to become a co-sponsor of the latest legislation to create a national-level green bank. The bill would make $100 billion of public funds available for a nonprofit organization that would provide financing and other support to regional, state and local green banks — an amount the sponsors say could catalyze $884 billion in green infrastructure investments over the next decade and help create 4 million clean economy jobs within the next four years. Continue reading here.

LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION

ALSO OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Power grid integrity — Cody Smith

Cody Smith, Policy Associate, Center for Rural Affairs
Letters to the Editor, Norfolk Daily News

LYONS — In mid-February, a large swath of the Midwest and Great Plains faced extreme cold and winter weather. While many states, including Nebraska, were impacted, Texas was by far the hardest hit by these events.

What happened in Texas was tragic and our thoughts are with the millions of people who were left without power, are dealing with damaged homes, or worse. In the weeks since this crisis unfolded, there has been no shortage of finger-pointing, blaming and misinformation. It appears many of us have missed the point — the time has come to discuss the integrity of our electric grid and actions that can improve resiliency. Continue reading here.

Center For Rural Affairs Series by Cody Smith

 

Amplifying Clean Energy with Conservation Part One: Pollinator-Friendly Solar

 

 


 

Amplifying Clean Energy With Conservation Part Two: Leveraging Electric Transmission Lines For Stewardship

 

 

 


Amplifying Clean Energy With Conservation Part Three: Exploring Wind Energy And Stewardship

 

Why every state is vulnerable to a Texas-style power crisis

By Umair Irfan, Vox

Just like a blackout isn’t the result of any single point of failure, protecting the grid against them demands more than any single solution. Faced with the prospect of more outages, there are a number of technical fixes: More energy storage, distributed power generation, interconnections across the major power grids, greater redundancy, microgrids, demand response, increasing energy efficiency, and hardening infrastructure. Read more here.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

AMERICANS FOR A CLEAN ENERGY GRID

Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG) is the only non-profit broad-based public interest advocacy coalition focused on the need to expand, integrate, and modernize the North American high-voltage grid. ACEG brings together the diverse support for an expanded and modernized grid from business, labor, consumer and environmental groups, and other transmission supporters to support policy which recognizes the benefits of a robust transmission grid.

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY NEWS RELEASE 

DOE Launches Design & Construction of $75 Million Grid Energy Storage Research Facility
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the beginning of design and construction of the Grid Storage Launchpad (GSL), a $75 million facility located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington that will boost clean energy adaptation and accelerate the development and deployment of long-duration, low-cost grid energy storage.

Related Reading: New era as US Department of Energy gets started on long-duration energy storage R&D facility, Energy Storage News

MORE ENERGY STORAGE NEWS

FROM THE WHITE HOUSE BRIEFING ROOM