Category Archives: Recycling

Hundreds of environmental, consumer groups request investigation of electric utility industry

Contributed by Solar United Neighbors, Solar Power World

More than 230 consumer, environmental and public interest groups urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the electric utility industry for widespread abuses. These include bribery, fake dark-money campaigns and denying customers access to renewable energy.

Some of the abuses described in the petition include:

  • An Ohio utility, FirstEnergy, paid $60 million in bribes to the Ohio House speaker’s political machine. In return, the utility secured a $1 billion ratepayer-funded bailout for several of its unprofitable nuclear and coal plants.
  • Florida Power and Light spent millions of dollars on political consultants who engineered a scheme to siphon votes to third-party “ghost candidates” from candidates committed to holding utilities accountable, according to reporting by the Orlando Sentinel. The ghost candidate won in all three races. One utility opponent lost by just 32 votes.
  • A recent national survey found that nearly three-quarters of solar developers experience delays in interconnecting projects to the electric grid. Eighty-five percent of respondents specifically named utility noncompliance with interconnection procedures as a problem. These delays can increase the cost of distributed solar projects and cause customers to back out of long-delayed projects. Minnesota regulators fined Xcel Energy $1 million for failing to keep pace with a backlog of projects. Two years later the backlog remains a barrier to solar growth.

Read more here.

Photo: Federal Trade Commission building. Credit: Wikipedia

MORE U.S. NEWS

Summary: The U.S. economy has been deeply impacted by supply chain constraints. These constraints are due to shortages of labor and multiple classes of materials, causing disruptions on a global level. For public power utilities, the ability to provide reliable and affordable power to homes, businesses, and critical facilities is foundational to both their business model and the recovery and expansion of the U.S. economy. Prioritization of critical electric infrastructure and the electric industry’s critical functions during this period of material shortages and delays is necessary to prevent further economic slowdown and ensure electric reliability.

GLOBAL NEWS

Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rises, ocean heat levels and acidification, all set new records during 2021, while some glaciers reached the point of no return, according to the latest flagship report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), published on Wednesday. The State of the Climate 2021 indicates that extreme weather – the day-to-day face of climate change – wreaked a heavy toll of human lives, triggered shocks for food and water security, and led to hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses last year.

INNOVATIVE COOPERATIVE VENTURE

Democratizing clean energy: cooperative allows regular folks to profit from solar development, Wisconsin State Journal

A new venture is offering Wisconsin residents and businesses an opportunity to profit from solar energy development. A joint venture of Renew Wisconsin and a group of solar developers and installers, SolarShare Wisconsin co-op allows regular people — regardless of wealth — to invest in small-scale solar farms by pooling their money . . . Unlike large-scale solar farms, which require hundreds or thousands of acres and can generate local opposition, projects of that size can typically be built on less than 40 acres and connected directly to the local distribution grid rather than long-distance transmission lines.

Nebraskans for Solar Note: Nebraska has many very small towns and villages with fewer than 1000 residents where small-scale solar projects could provide a significant percentage of their electricity needs.

PV in the Circular Economy: Modeling tool helps predict flow of solar materials

By Anne Fischer, Senior Editor, PV Magazine

Exponential growth of PV installations continues in the US and so will the growth in PV panel waste streams. According to the Solar Futures Study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), solar could account for as much as 40% of the nation’s electricity supply by 2035 and 45% by 2050.

To reach these levels, solar deployment will need to grow by an average of 30 GW each year between now and 2025 and then double that between 2025 and 2030—four times its current deployment rate—to total 1,000 GW of solar deployed by 2035. That’s a lot of solar panels that would start being retired from service even before 2050. Needless to say, a lot of people–including 7-year old Neil— are concerned about what will happen to solar modules at the end of their life. That concern is real and growing, and is the subject of much study around the world. Continue reading here.

Referenced PV Magazine Article: Neil – a second grader from Minnesota – is concerned about solar panel recycling

Above Photo: Local Reuse Project
The Meristem Aronia Berry Farm And Nursery In Papillion provides an excellent example of reusing solar panels that still have life left in them. The solar panels heat a 700-gallon water tank that powers a propagating bench for the farm’s aronia berry plants. The owner, Tom Lundahl, received a grant to purchase the used solar panels, and Michael Shonka, owner of Solar Heat and Electric, installed them. Photo by Tom Lundahl
News Story: Papillion farmer installing solar panels says renewable energy is future of farming, KETV

Solar Schools
Additional examples include schools throughout the country that are reusing still-working solar panels and other PV system components for onsite STEM learning opportunities. The National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project has written a companion curriculum guide:
Schools Going Solar: Data driven lessons and activities to support and incorporate installed photovoltaic systems into the classroom learning environment.

State Policies & Laws
Nebraska does not yet have end-of-life policies for reusing and recycling solar panels and other PV system components. States that have enacted laws, regulations, and policies include: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, North Carolina and Washington. Source: State Solar Panel End-of-Life Policies, EPA

Related PV Magazine Articles

Department of Energy 

End-of-Life Management for Solar Photovoltaics, DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office

Most PV systems are young—approximately 70% of solar energy systems have been deployed in the past five years. The estimated operational lifespan of a PV module is about 30-35 years, although some may produce power much longer. So, while there are not many systems entering the waste stream right now, more systems will come to the end of their useful life in the next few decades.

Read about SETO’s PV End-of-Life Action Plan,
March 2022.

Cass County officials seek outside counsel on solar project

By Ethan Hewett, KMA News

During its latest regular meeting, the county’s board of commissioners approved seeking outside counsel on a proposed solar farm through Boulevard Associates–which would be one of the largest in the state. While saying the board has not selected specific counsel yet, County Zoning Administrator Mike Jensen tells KMA News the outside perspective was sought to assist with reviewing a large amount of information soon to be placed in front of the county. In August 2021, the commissioners approved an updated set of solar regulations. While saying he and the board are confident in their regulations, Jensen says a big focus has been on the decommissioning process. Read more here.

NextEra Energy Resources is the parent company for Boulevard Associates, LLC.

Previously Posted: Cass County solar farm plans unveiled, by Ethan Hewett, KMA News

Nebraskans for Solar Note: We commend Cass County officials for their plan to thoroughly study Boulevard Associates’ proposal for a 350MW solar project near Murray and for consulting with other jurisdictions. This sets an excellent example for all Nebraska communities that are considering or are in the process of planning community- or utility-scale solar projects.

One large (81MW) project under development by Community Energy is “Platteview Solar” in eastern Saunders County, near Yutan:

Resources On Decommissioning / PV Recycling

NextEra Energy Resources

Secretary Granholm Asks U.S. Mayors to Speed Solar Deployment with Online Permitting Tool

SEIA News Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm wrote an open letter to all U.S. mayors asking them to adopt SolarAPP+, a transformative online solar permitting tool that helps to speed rooftop solar deployment.

This effort comes as Secretary Granholm caps off the Summer of Solar, her push to educate Americans on the benefits of solar energy. Secretary Granholm set a goal to get 125 communities to sign up to learn more about SolarAPP+ by September 30. Read the letter and learn more about SolarAPP+ at solarapp.nrel.gov. Read the entire news release here.

ALSO PUBLISHED BY SEIA

PV MAGAZINE

NEW SURVEY BY DATA FOR PROGRESS

Progressive poll finds support for solar energy tax credit legislation, The Hill
A new survey from progressive pollster Data for Progress found support for a Senate bill that would provide tax credits for solar energy manufacturers at all stages of the supply chain. The poll found that 67 percent of likely voters in the U.S. strongly or somewhat support the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America (SEMA) Act, compared to 23 percent who said they strongly or somewhat oppose the measure.

BLACKROCK

BlackRock losing ‘patience’ on pace of corporate ESG disclosure, CFO Dive
BlackRock, which manages $9 trillion in assets, has pressed for more disclosure in recent years, “but this was the year that we really started to take more concerted action based on what companies were providing us” before the 2021 proxy season, [Jessica McDougall, a director for investment stewardship at BlackRock] said.

Related Post: An Urgent Call To High-Emitting Sectors: It’s Time For Climate Action. Forbes article contributed by Mindy Lubber, CEO & President of Ceres, with additional resources provided by Nebraskans for Solar, including:

Proxy Preview, a collaboration between three organizations: As You Sow, Sustainable Investments Institute, and Proxy Impact. Proxy Preview provides the most comprehensive data on hundreds of shareholder resolutions – including environmental, corporate political spending, human rights, diversity, sustainable governance issues, and much more. Shareholder resolutions are a key form of engagement for U.S. investors interested in changing the environmental and social impacts of companies. Register for a free account to view Proxy Preview reports and watch a webinar at the website link above.

Climate Crisis Catches Power Companies Unprepared

By Brad Plumer and Ivan Penn, New York Times

The phone call to the Eugene Water & Electric Board was startling. A group of homeowners, fearing a storm could knock down nearby power lines and ignite wildfires, was asking the Oregon utility to turn off their electricity. “I about fell out of my chair,” said Rodney Price, the utility’s assistant general manager, of the people who were voluntarily asking to live in the dark in September, during one of the worst fire seasons Oregon had ever seen. It was a sign of growing angst, he said. “We’re seeing more and more widespread impacts of climate change. It’s clear it’s impacting how we do our business.” Across the United States, power companies are scrambling to keep up with a barrage of extreme weather from a rapidly warming climate. Continue reading here.

Photo: Smoke from the Dixie Fire near a Pacific Gas & Electric power station in California this month. Credit: John G. Mabanglo/EPA

Previously Posted

CLIMATE RISK 

INDIANA

As Indiana coal plants close, advocates say gas power should not replace them, by Kari Lydersen, Energy News Network

As it retires a coal-fired power plant, CenterPoint Energy is pushing to build a smaller gas plant than one that was rejected two years ago by Indiana regulators. Consumer and environmental groups still say it’s unnecessary. “After the proposed gas combustion turbines are built, they propose to run them 2% to 10% of the time,” said Sameer Doshi, senior attorney in Earthjustice’s coal program, which is representing Citizens Action Coalition in state and federal proceedings around CenterPoint’s proposal. “Whereas customers would be billed for the entire construction cost of the plant as well as the capital cost of the new pipeline. We intend to show a combination of market purchases, demand response, and increased renewables deployment with storage would be able to fill in the gaps” left by the retiring coal plants. 

COLORADO

Social cost of methane changes the equation for Colorado utility policy, by Allen Best, Energy News Network

Colorado is believed to be the first state in the nation to apply the social cost of methane to a broad range of regulatory decisions. A batch of new laws are expected to dramatically improve the case for building energy conservation. The social cost of methane emissions was set most recently at $1,756 per short ton by the U.S. Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases, compared to $68 for carbon dioxide. Both metrics estimate the economic damages of releasing emissions into the atmosphere.

Methane Leaks

COLORADO SOLAR GROUP PURCHASE CAMPAIGN

Local ‘Solarize’ campaign boosts Garfield County solar energy investment, Post Independent
The recent Solarize Garfield County campaign generated $2.8 million in rooftop solar and battery investment, added nearly a megawatt of renewable energy to the grid and helped county residents bank $270,000 in rebates, according to recent figures released by Carbondale-based Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER).

FEATURED AGRIVOLTAICS RESEARCH

Beneath Solar Panels, the Seeds of Opportunity Sprout, National Renewable Energy Laboratory 

To better understand the benefits of—and barriers to—low-impact solar development, the Innovative Site Preparation and Impact Reductions on the Environment (InSPIRE) project brings together researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory, universities, local governments, environmental and clean energy groups, and industry partners. The project is funded by DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office.

“It doesn’t have to be an either-or choice. For all our agriculturally productive land, let’s help PV developers and farmers plan out these solar projects so that farmers can get under the arrays and continue to work the land for the next 20 or 30 years.” —Gerry Palano, energy program coordinator, Massachusetts Department of Agriculture

USDA: Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants in Nebraska

PV RECYCLING

Emerging solar panel recycling market ripe with opportunity, but barriers remain, Waste Dive
The U.S. is likely to see significant volumes of end-of-life panels, creating opportunities for safe, sustainable recycling or reuse. Some states are looking at product stewardship to avoid disposal.

SEIA National PV Recycling Program

TESLA NEWS

Tesla Installed 85 Megawatts Of Rooftop Solar Power In 2nd Quarter, But That Doesn’t Actually Show Demand, by Zachary Shahan, CleanTechnica

In some places in the US, the permitting process can take just a few days less than forever. In many other places in the US, it can take weeks or months (as in, several months). There are not many places where it happens in the course of a week. Europe and Australia don’t seem to have a permitting problem anything like this. Permits are quick and easy. The US, for some reason, is slow to adapt. One promising initiative is the new SolarAPP+ initiative. It is helping to streamline the solar permitting process in places around the country. As simple as it sounds, this is one of the most exciting developments in the US solar industry in years.

Additional Recommended ReadingTesla will open its charging network to all EV brands

Senate advances bipartisan infrastructure bill in procedural vote

By Jacob Pramuk, CNBC

The Senate voted Friday to move forward with a bipartisan infrastructure bill, as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pushes to pass it as soon as next week. The vote was delayed briefly as senators reportedly worked out an issue related to broadband. The final text of the legislation has yet to be released. The procedural measure needed only a simple majority to pass. The final tally was 66 votes in favor, and 28 against. Continue reading here.

Related Reading

AMERICAN CLEAN POWER ASSOCIATION REPORT

First Clean Power Annual report shows record U.S. renewables growth and investment
WASHINGTON DC, July 29, 2021 – The American Clean Power Association today released its first Clean Power Annual report, which showed wind, utility solar, and battery storage power capacity in the U.S. topped 170 gigawatts (GW), following a record 26 GW of clean energy projects coming online in 2020.

ALSO IN THE NEWS

USDA REAP FUNDING NOTICES

  • Rural Energy for America Program Energy Audit & Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grants (July 26, 2021) Federal Register Notice
  • Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants (July 26, 2021) Federal Register Notice

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY 

Lower Battery Costs, High Value of Backup Power Drive Distributed Storage Deployment
Fourth Report in NREL’s Storage Futures Study Uses Distributed Generation Market Demand Model To Estimate Behind-the-Meter Storage Capacity, Identify Drivers of Customer Adoption. Several findings in the study demonstrate that PV and batteries make an economical pairing. Because an average PV-plus-battery storage system is larger than PV-only configurations, battery storage increases the PV capacity and the system’s economic value.

Read the Report: Distributed Solar and Storage Outlook: Methodology and Scenarios.

Upcoming Webinar: NREL’s Storage Futures Study team will host a free public webinar on Tuesday, August 10, 2021, from 10 to 11 am CT. Register here.

BATTERY MATERIALS RECYCLING

Former Tesla CTO’s battery materials recycling company announces US$700 million+ investment, Energy Storage News

Former Tesla battery guru JB Straubel’s materials recycling company Redwood Materials has attracted more than US$700 million in investment. Redwood, which is currently developing processes to produce battery materials that can be resold into the supply chain, has partnerships in place with the likes of Panasonic, Envision AESC and Amazon. The company pledges to recycle any device with a lithium-ion battery including phones, laptops and power tools, although a major focus is being placed on electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

New coalition of industry and academia to commercialize solution for full recyclability of wind turbine blades

News release from Vestas Wind Systems A/S, Olin Corporation,
Danish Technological Institute, and Aarhus University

A coalition of industry and academic leaders have developed a new technology to enable circularity for thermoset composites, the material used to make wind turbine blades. The new technology delivers the final technological step on the journey towards a fully recyclable wind turbine value chain. To enable the adoption of this new technology, and to advance a circular economy across the wind industry, a new initiative entitled CETEC (Circular Economy for Thermosets Epoxy Composites) has been established. Within three years, CETEC is aiming to present a fully scoped solution ready for industrial adoption, based on commercialization of the novel circularity technology. Continue reading here.

Photo Credit: Vestas

NATIONAL SEIA NETWORK

Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association joins national SEIA network, Solar Power World
SEIA announced that it is adding the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association (ISETA) as an official state affiliate. ISETA becomes the 20th SEIA affiliate, joining its neighbors Minnesota, Wisconsin and Missouri in the growing network of state solar advocacy groups. These formal partnerships help to connect regional organizations to additional resources and the national effort to promote solar in markets around the country.

FEATURED RESEARCH

AMERICA’S LARGEST COMMUNITY SOLAR PROGRAM

FPL builds massive solar center in Southwest Florida to support largest community solar program, Florida Insider

Florida Power and Light Company(FPL), the state’s largest electric power supply and utility company, is investing in solar energy in a big way with a new mega-solar center in Southwest Florida.  The company, which services over 5.6 million customer accounts and supports more than 11 million residents in the state, has set a goal to have 30 million solar panels installed by 2030. The new DeSoto County center has the company well on its way to its mark, with 300,000 panels already in place. Photo Credit: FPL

LARGEST BROWNFIELD COMMUNITY SOLAR PROJECT IN U.S.

Houston will turn old landfill into community solar site, contributed by Angely Mercado, GreenBiz

Houston, home to nearly 4,600 energy-related firms, is making a big investment in solar. City officials are planning to turn a landfill in the Sunnyside neighborhood into a solar farm, a move positioned as an economic development initiative with equity at its core. Once completed it will be the largest brownfield solar installation in the U.S., according to city officials. 

Photo: A rendering of the community solar project planned for the Sunnyside landfill in Houston. 

OFF-GRID HOMES

Off-the-grid homes are coming to your neighborhood, as climate change creates suburban survivalists,by Diana Olick, CNBC

“More severe storms each year are going to further and further indicate the needs for resilient development,” said Ben Keys, associate professor of real estate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Keys studies the effects of climate change on real estate and the growing need for housing that can function off the grid. This goes well beyond solar panels. 

Midlands Voices: Bold infrastructure program will bring major benefits to the country

By Johanna Threm, Omaha World-Herald

When President Eisenhower proposed building a 41,000-mile “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways,” he was responding to the needs of the country at that time. Having marveled at Germany’s highway system during World War II, he wanted a system that would get rid of unsafe roads, eliminate traffic jams, and create efficient routes to quickly travel across the country. Supporters of this highway system also believed it would help Americans quickly escape cities that came under a nuclear attack.

Today, the system that was built from his vision is old and needs to be replaced. Our political leaders need to invest in our nation’s infrastructure to meet today’s challenges. Read more here. Requires digital subscription.

Johanna Threm, Professional Engineer, is Vice President and General Manager of Nucor Steel Nebraska.

Additional Recommended Reading

U of M researchers pitch ‘green’ ammonia as key to renewable energy future

By Walker Orenstein, MinnPost

As wind and solar power make up an increasingly large share of energy production in the U.S., finding ways to store the intermittent energy they create is critical for when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. The University of Minnesota is working on a novel way to help solve the storage puzzle for renewable energy: by creating ammonia.  

Michael Reese, director of renewable energy at the U’s West Central Research and Outreach Center, said the U has previously turned wind power into ammonia that can be used for fertilizer and even to fuel agricultural equipment. Read more here.

Presentation by Michael Reese to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission: Green Ammonia for Fertilizer, Fuel, and Energy Storage

NPPD & MONOLITH’S GREEN AMMONIA INITIATIVE

Previously Posted

NPPD RFP

Request for Proposals for Renewable Energy Resources, 4/19/21
Description: NPPD is seeking bids for Renewable Generation Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) with a proposed Commercial Operation Date (COD) during calendar year 2025. NPPD seeks to procure Energy, Capacity, and environmental attributes (including Renewable Energy Credits or RECS) for a term between 10-30 years.

NEBRASKA ALSO IN THE NEWS HERE

“Coal may contain as many as 76 of the 92 naturally occurring elements of the periodic table.” 
United States Geological Survey
__________________________________________

DOE Awards $19 Million for Initiatives to Produce Rare Earth Elements and Critical Minerals, Department of Energy News Release 

“The very same fossil fuel communities that have powered our nation for decades can be at the forefront of the clean energy economy by producing the critical minerals needed to build electric vehicles, wind turbines, and so much more,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “By building clean energy products here at home, we’re securing the supply chain for the innovative solutions needed to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – all while creating good-paying jobs in all parts of America.” 

Production of rare earth elements and critical minerals, which serve as key components to several clean energy applications such as magnets in wind turbines and batteries in electric and conventional vehicles, is a prime example of how DOE is supporting regional economic growth and job creation in regions traditionally home to the fossil fuel industry.

The initiatives include:
University of Kansas Center for Research Inc. (Lawrence, Kansas) plans to study the feasibility of recovering critical minerals from coal and associated strata in the Cherokee-Forest City Basin encompassing Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the Osage Nation.
DOE Funding: $1,500,000

See Also: FACT SHEET: Biden Administration Outlines Key Resources to Invest in Coal and Power Plant Community Economic Revitalization, The White House Briefing Room

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Could a Michigan green bank offer a blueprint for Biden’s green recovery?

By Tom Perkins, Energy News Network

As President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team prepares its green economic recovery plan, a Michigan clean energy finance program could provide a bipartisan model for how to spur energy savings and job growth. Biden has already proposed a national green bank as part of his $2 trillion plan to achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century. The initiative would provide capital to help finance projects such as rooftop solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, weatherization and building efficiency upgrades. Similar programs exist in about a dozen states, and among the oldest and most effective is Michigan Saves. As President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team prepares its green economic recovery plan, a Michigan clean energy finance program could provide a bipartisan model for how to spur energy savings and job growth. Continue reading here.

NEWS FROM OTHER STATES

MACRO GRIDS

Report: U.S. trails other countries in building macro grids for moving, sharing electricity, Iowa State University News Service

AMES, Iowa – Countries around the world are well ahead of the United States in planning and building “macro grids” capable of moving electricity from one grid or distant geographic region to another, according to a new report authored by an Iowa State University engineer and a former doctoral student.

RECYCLING OLD WIND TURBINE BLADES

Cement production to use old wind turbine blades after GE inks new deal, CNBC
GE Renewable Energy and Veolia North America (VNA) have signed a “multi-year agreement” to recycle blades removed from onshore wind turbines in the United States. In an announcement Tuesday, GE Renewable Energy said the blades would be shredded at a VNA site in Missouri before being “used as a replacement for coal, sand and clay at cement manufacturing facilities across the U.S.”

REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE

Nestlé digs deeper into regenerative ag, puts $3.6B behind net-zero plan, GreenBiz
Almost one-third of the money that Nestlé intends to invest will be dedicated to cultivating regenerative agricultural practices that improve soil health and reduce dependence on synthetic fertilizer across 500,000-plus farms from which Nestlé sources ingredients. Nestlé intends to pay those farmers, as well as 150,000 other ingredient suppliers, a premium for adopting these techniques in a verifiable way.