Renewable Energy News

Take 30% off Conference Pass for Robotics for Inspection & Maintenance Summit

Renewable Energy - Mon, 2021-12-06 12:32

Take advantage of this limited time offer to take 30% off your conference pass using discount code RENEW30, when you register for the upcoming virtual Robotics for Inspection & Maintenance Summit taking place this week on December 8-9, 2021. Valued at $149, use the discount code and get your pass for just $104. Register Now!

This 2-day virtual event is designed to provide valuable insight on the ever-changing world of robotics to help businesses make smarter investments and implement the most effective strategies. It brings together asset owners, robotics & UAS inspection service providers, robotics maintenance providers, robotic and UAS OEMs, sensor OEMs, and data analytic/software providers to share their learnings on the latest robotic technologies to help businesses optimize inspection, maintenance, and repair while improving safety and lowering costs. 

The Robotics for Inspection & Maintenance Summit will have 35+ robotic technology experts that will share diverse perspectives on needs and challenges, demonstrate cutting-edge technologies, and present leading case studies focused on new advancements in robotic technologies.

Get exclusive access to networking opportunities to connect and collaborate with robotic solution providers in the virtual exhibit hall and industry trailblazers attending the event including Chevron ExxonMobil, BP, Enbridge, Dow, and much more. Chat with event participants from around the world through topic-specific chat rooms, scheduled 1:1 meetings, Q&A sessions, and breakout sessions during the event all from the comfort of your own home!

Register now for the Robotics for Inspection & Maintenance Summit and understand how to leverage robotic technologies in inspection and maintenance to reduce costs, improve safety, and gain a competitive edge. Use code RENEW30 and get 30% off now! Have a question? Email robotics@asme.org

Categories: Renewable Energy

Amid a flood of solar applications, Maine seeks a more targeted approach

Renewable Energy - Mon, 2021-12-06 09:48

Two years after opening the gates for small-scale renewable development in Maine, officials now have to figure out how to situate new projects in prime spots on the grid.

A group of industry members, advocates, utility stakeholders and state officials is preparing to issue the first of two reports that will help lawmakers in Maine craft new renewable incentive policies and plan grid upgrades for the coming years. This comes after the legislature in 2019 lifted project size limits for the state’s net metering program and implemented other policies that led to a crush of new project applications awaiting utility approval.

That high level of interest by developers “was very robust and possibly beyond initial expectations” when the laws were passed, said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office.

“I think it’s fair to say we didn’t know exactly what we would see when the law was passed,” said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association. “What is clear is that the policy has made Maine a highly desirable place to deploy capital, create jobs and bring in new taxable value.”

Few projects have actually come online since the 2019 laws were passed, partly due to interconnection delays and the pandemic, as well as the typical timeline for project development. 

The laws mostly paved the way for new solar generation development. As of now, developers have sought interconnection approval from Maine’s two investor-owned utilities for about 2,400 megawatts of solar, including 1,350 megawatts under the state’s net metering program — which in Maine is called “net energy billing” — according to the Governor’s Energy Office. 

It’s likely many of those projects won’t be built, Payne said. Central Maine Power, the larger of Maine’s two investor-owned utilities, this year recorded annual peak demand of 1,810 megawatts. Versant Power last recorded 382 megawatts, in 2019.

Adjusted for service territory size and the number of customers, “we’re exceeding anything that any utility has seen before in terms of processing 1- to 5-megawatt [photovoltaic] projects,” said Jason Rauch, a policy manager at Central Maine Power.

With high interest and long wait times for developers seeking approval, officials and industry members now want to find ways to make the process by which utilities study project viability more efficient. They want to make it easier for developers to propose solar and other renewable installations in places where they’ll benefit the grid, particularly by avoiding transmission costs for consumers.

But that will also likely require changes to the data utilities collect, and to the access developers have to that data. Discussion of what those changes would entail is still very early on, but members of the stakeholder group hope their meetings can advance progress toward a solution.

“I think it’s clear that we’re going to need some upgrades to the grid, and those upgrades need to consider both the clean energy development that’s happening and also the electrification that’s coming in the transportation and building sectors in particular,” said Phelps Turner, a senior attorney at Conservation Law Foundation and a member of the new group.

The group was established by law this past summer and is known as the Distributed Generation Stakeholder Group. “Distributed generation” refers to renewable and storage projects up to 5 megawatts in size. Such projects, Turner noted, have implications most immediately for the distribution grid — though they ultimately affect the transmission grid too.

The group began meeting in September and must deliver the first of two reports to the state legislature by Jan. 1. That report will include preliminary recommendations for grid upgrades and new distributed generation incentive programs, like net billing, to begin in 2024. The group is supposed to determine a target amount of distributed generation under a new incentive program that would account for 7% of the state’s anticipated electric load. The law passed this summer set a non-binding goal of having 750 megawatts of commercial distributed generation projects 2 to 5 megawatts in size operating by the time the current net billing program is over.

Other expert groups have made recommendations over the past year and a half for grid modernization and renewable development in Maine. The new stakeholder group will build on that work, said Burgess, who’s a member of the group.

“What we’re going to do is seek to take what we’ve heard and learned from all these processes and also look at what is already being done and try to understand where the gaps are,” Burgess said.

Matching supply with demand

“We’re dealing with a grid that was not designed for a lot of distributed generation,” said Philip Bartlett, chair of the Public Utilities Commission and a member of the stakeholder group. The group’s discussions, as well as a complementary docket at the commission, aim to help figure out how to incentivize resources where and when they’re needed, he said.

Both of Maine’s investor-owned utilities are conducting assessments to evaluate both distribution- and transmission-level impacts. But Bartlett noted it’s unclear whether all these studies are necessary to comply with requirements by ISO-NE, the regional grid operator.

He added that these questions could be avoided to some extent by identifying from the beginning where projects can be placed on the grid to reduce transmission impacts — thus reducing the need for ISO-level assessments. That is, after all, the point of distributed generation, he said: building generation where demand is, rather than building it in one location and then delivering it to another via transmission lines.

“It would benefit everybody to locate these projects in places where they can connect the easiest and not impact the system negatively,” said Catharine Hartnett, manager of corporate communications at Central Maine Power.

“Certainly we want to provide the information, the data that would be helpful, that could move this along the most efficiently for everybody,” said Hartnett, who noted the stakeholder group discussions are still in their early stages. “We’re just not quite sure what that is and how we can best provide it.”

Payne, at the Maine Renewable Energy Association and a member of the stakeholder group, said the renewable industry would like more transparency and efficiency from Central Maine Power in its interconnection study process. 

“As we have said to CMP time and time again — and I truly believe this — their success is our success,” Payne said. “If they’re doing their jobs more efficiently … that’s better for everyone, including ratepayers as well as developers.”

Assessing costs

The possibility that new distributed generation projects will necessitate grid upgrades raises a longstanding question of who should pay for the upgrades: developers, or utilities — and therefore ratepayers. Critics also argue that programs like net metering drive up electric bills for customers who aren’t able to pay for solar panels or subscribe to community-based programs that offer bill credits.

“Versant Power is willing and eager to support the state’s energy policy goals,” Arielle Silver Karsh, director of legal and regulatory affairs at Versant Power, Maine’s other investor-owned utility, wrote in emailed comments. She’s also a member of the stakeholder group. “If the stakeholder group can set forth a list of agreed-upon priorities and acknowledge the likely costs associated with implementing solutions, then the utilities will have some certainty about moving forward. We need to chart a course forward and do so methodically and strategically to soften any rate impact to the greatest extent possible.”

Disagreements over costs tend to hinder discussions on how to plan distributed generation development, said Rebecca Schultz, a senior advocate at the Natural Resources Council of Maine who’s been observing the stakeholder group meetings. “Cost,” she noted, can include program administrative costs and bill credits under net billing, as well as grid upgrades necessitated by distributed generation projects.

“I think there has been a tendency to use misleading and inaccurate ways of communicating the impacts of these programs, whereby program costs equate to lost revenue for the utilities,” Schultz said.

Costs as they’re reported often don’t reflect the benefits of these programs to individual participants or to ratepayers generally, she said. For example, she said, some benefits of distributed generation, like avoided costs in the regional capacity market, accrue to ratepayers naturally through reduced electric rates.

“Clean distributed resources also help fortify us against fossil fuel price volatility, like what we’re seeing in Maine and across the region, where electricity rates are skyrocketing due to our reliance on natural gas generators,” Schultz added.

Having a method of evaluating program costs and benefits will make it easier for stakeholders to decide what projects to incentivize and how to allocate costs, she said. Turner, at Conservation Law Foundation, noted that as part of his work on the group, he’s pushing for a more comprehensive analysis of project costs and benefits.

After the stakeholder group delivers its initial report, it will have another year to develop a second, more in-depth report, which is expected to have more detailed recommendations for new programs to incentivize distributed generation development in Maine.

By the time that report comes out, there should be more clarity about how many of the projects currently waiting for approval will actually move forward, Payne noted. He said that in the coming year and a half, the state will likely see many more projects come online.

“I think what we have is tremendous amounts of investment capital poised to flow into Maine,” he said. “We’re just in the early process.”

This article first appeared on Energy News Network and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Dogger Bank C offshore wind farm reaches financial close

Renewable Energy - Fri, 2021-12-03 07:25

SSE Renewables and joint venture partner Equinor have reached financial close on Dogger Bank C, the third phase of the offshore wind farm based in the UK.

The total investment in Dogger Bank Wind Farm will be approximately £9 billion ($12 billion), with around £3 billion ($4 billion) allocated for phase C including offshore transmission.

The first two phases of Dogger Bank Wind Farm are currently being constructed off the northeast coast of England, with all three phases expected to be complete in March 2026.

Alistair Philips-Davies, SSE Chief Executive, said: “It is a fantastic achievement to be reaching financial close on the third phase of the world’s largest offshore wind project, just weeks after COP26 concluded in Glasgow and today marks an important early milestone in the delivery of our own Net Zero Acceleration Programme.

“Our plans will enable delivery of over 25% of UK’s 2030 40GW offshore wind target, whilst also expanding overseas, delivering over 20% of upcoming UK electricity networks investment and deploying the critical flexibility technologies to provide security of supply.”

Dogger Bank C has a capacity of 1,200MW and will generate around 6,000GWh a year. In total, Dogger Bank will produce enough clean electricity to supply 5% of the UK’s demand, equivalent to powering six million UK homes.

SSE is leading on construction across all three phases and Equinor will operate the wind farm thereafter.

On 2 November 2021 SSE and Equinor announced the sell down of a combined 20% share in Dogger Bank C to Eni for £140 million ($186 million). Eni will enter the asset effective from financial close of project financing.

Phase three construction is set to ramp up in the New Year further, according to SSE Rewewables, enabling the planned GE blade manufacturing plant in Teesside and a huge number of direct and indirect jobs.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Australia tests residential solar+storage as a virtual power plant

Renewable Energy - Fri, 2021-12-03 07:20

Project Symphony will investigate the use of distributed energy resources in Western Australia’s energy market.

The Au$35.5 million (US$25 million) project being led by the Western Australia state power supplier Western Power aims to recruit around 500 customers with over 900 distributed energy resources including rooftop solar, batteries, and smart appliances to manage as a virtual power plant (VPP).

As the project evolves, additional assets will be brought online with the involvement of third-party aggregators.

The aim of the project is to explore and better understand how the use of the distributed resources can provide benefits to customer affordability and network security, reduce emissions and help strengthen the state economy and the wholesale energy market.

The project was launched earlier in the year with funding of Au$26.9 million from the Western Australia government and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). Additional funding of Au$8.6 million has now been made available by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

“The rapid growth in distributed energy resource uptake reflects households taking advantage of the rapid development of new technology to store and manage energy, bolstered by recent state government incentive packages,” comments ARENA CEO Darren Miller.

“However, without appropriate coordination, network operators may be required to curtail distributed resource output to manage constraints. Project Symphony aims to address these issues and highlight the benefits that orchestration can provide to consumers and the energy system.”

Funding for the project, in which Western Australia energy retailer Synergy also is participating, will go towards the development, integration and testing of software systems that manage energy distribution, market operation, and market aggregation. Together, these will underpin the effective monitoring and coordination of a high volume of mostly customer-distributed assets.

If successful the project should help to identify the investment required to further expand the role of distributed resources, while supporting the ongoing reliability and security of the state’s main electricity network, the South West Interconnected System, within current market structures.

New rooftop solar PV rules

Project Symphony appears to be timely, with new rules coming into effect in Western Australia on 14 February 2022 that new or upgraded solar panels are installed with the capability to be remotely turned off for short periods when demand for electricity reaches a critically low level.

Australia has seen the highest rate of rooftop solar PV uptake in the world. In Western Australia, currently 1.7GW of rooftop solar PV serves over one out of every three households and almost 25% of the South West Interconnected System capacity mix.

Remotely switching off solar panels will be used as a last resort to prevent widespread power interruptions and is expected to occur only a few times a year and for only a few hours.

Power stations will be turned down first with rooftop residential solar the last to be impacted.

The measure will not affect homes with existing solar panels and is intended to allow the continued uptake of solar panels without increasing costs, according to a government statement.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Benefits of mesoscale modeling for offshore wind projects

Renewable Energy - Fri, 2021-12-03 06:44

Contributed by Mark Stoelinga, Arcvera Renewables

The lack of complex terrain in the offshore environment may intuitively steer project developers away from mesoscale modeling to assess the project wind energy resource. However, there are compelling technical reasons indicating that this is not the right course of action. Here is why.

The wind industry has long recognized the technical value of mesoscale numerical weather prediction (“mesoscale modeling”) for wind energy resource assessment. Mesoscale models simulate all atmospheric processes that impact wind farm performance, including transient storm systems and weather fronts, land surface processes, boundary layer heating and turbulence, thermal flows, gravity waves, air-sea interaction, and clouds and precipitation.

For wind energy resource application purposes, when run with a grid of high spatial resolution (< 300 m, microscale, including as large-eddy simulation [LES] configuration) at sites with complex terrain, mesoscale models capture the vast majority of the full breadth of wind flow phenomena induced by the interaction of winds with the underlying terrain at scales relevant to wind energy. Larger grid spacing, due to the lack of complex terrain and the large scales involved, is often equally well simulated with grid spacing closer to 1 km. And when compared to other project-scale wind flow modeling techniques such as linear flow or computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models which do not generate time series of realistic weather phenomena, the mesoscale models often prove more accurate at spatially mapping the wind resource.

However, the wind industry is also rapidly advancing offshore development and requires accurate wind resource and site suitability estimates in this unique environment. Does the absence of underlying topography and land surface variability in the offshore environment preclude the applicability of mesoscale modeling? The answer is an unequivocal “no”.

There are three critical aspects of the marine environment for which mesoscale modeling offers unique capabilities that lower the uncertainty of wind resource and site suitability estimates in the offshore environment:

1. The stability of the marine environment

Over land, the diurnal cycle of solar heating and nocturnal radiative cooling of the land surface produces large daily oscillations in atmospheric stability, especially in the warm season. Compared to onshore, offshore diurnal heating and cooling are muted, yet stability can vary significantly if the air flowing over the sea is notably warmer or colder than the sea surface temperature. This can often occur, in part due to the seasonal lag of sea-surface warming and cooling compared to land. For example, a warm continental air mass flowing over cold water in the spring and early summer can stabilize the air mass, whereas an arctic air mass flowing southward over warm water in the fall and early winter can destabilize it. Mesoscale models have been designed by the atmospheric research community to properly represent air-sea energy exchange processes and marine boundary layers and have long been used to predict the weather over both land and sea. They are well suited to simulate the evolution of atmospheric stability, turbulence, and wind shear associated with evolving air-sea thermal contrasts in the offshore environment. A critical phenomenon that must be modeled to reasonable accuracy, that is present in mesoscale models but not in CFD or linear models, is the stable marine inversion. The stable marine inversion is critical because of its role in modulating wind farm-atmospheric interaction (WFAI) and wake propagation.

2. The uniqueness of the coastal zone

Offshore wind is economically more feasible when the depth is relatively shallow, a constraint that often focuses on development nearshore rather than over the open ocean. This coastal zone environment is unique because its meteorology is constantly in transition, with air streams adjusting to the abrupt change in underlying surface roughness, heating, and moisture. A ubiquitous feature is a significant mean wind speed gradient from the coast extending tens of kilometers offshore, with lower speeds nearer the coast. With the high cost of offshore wind measurement campaigns, often only one measurement site is deployed within the project area, which is insufficient to establish this gradient observationally. Mesoscale models include physical algorithms that the atmospheric research community has developed to represent the unique and highly contrasting surface characteristics and processes of both the land and water environments. As such, the models are exceptionally well suited to simulate this coastal gradient accurately.

3. The storm track

Many regions of offshore wind development are within, or on the flanks of, a “storm track”, or a region where large-scale weather systems (low-pressure centers and fronts) repeatedly develop and pass through. A storm track can superimpose another gradient in mean wind speed on the project site. Because mesoscale models include all of the physical processes that affect the life cycles of such weather systems, a climatology built from retrospective mesoscale model simulations will typically quantify the storm track accurately. As with the coastal zone gradient, this is important when there are too few observations to establish the gradient across the wind project site.

In addition to long-term mean wind resource estimates, outputs from mesoscale models can be used to estimate turbulence intensity, extreme winds, and other parameters relevant to site suitability. And when run continuously for a period of a year or more, the models provide time-series output across the wind project, increasingly recognized as important for accurate loss estimates and financial modeling. With more accurate characterization of the site-specific evolution of the marine inversion, and with the use of wind farm parameterization, WFAI and wake propagation is more accurately modeled, enabling more accurate wind farm optimization and energy capture.

Our key takeaway

To summarize, the lack of complex terrain in the offshore environment may intuitively steer project developers away from mesoscale modeling to assess the project wind energy resource. However, there are compelling technical reasons why this is not the case. The benefits of mesoscale modeling are not limited to capturing interactions of weather-induced wind flows with the underlying terrain. They also include a wide array of atmospheric processes that are key to simulating wind evolution in offshore marine environments and should be considered an essential component in the offshore wind project developer’s toolbox.

About the author

Mark currently serves as Lead, Atmospheric Science Innovation and Applications, at ArcVera Renewables. Mark received a B.S. in Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana, and a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Washington at Seattle.  Mark became a recognized research expert in meteorology, numerical weather prediction, and climate change impacts, while working as a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (1993-1995) and the University of Washington (1995-2009).  Since then he has been at 3TIER, Vaisala, and ArcVera, where he has worked on developing, improving, and testing advanced techniques for assessment and forecasting of renewable energy, including wake modeling, time series loss modeling, remote sensing applications in complex terrain, and benchmarking of end-to-end wind energy assessment.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Financing renewable energy in developing economies

Renewable Energy - Fri, 2021-12-03 02:00

By Kamogelo Motse, Researcher, Climate Council

In 2015 at the United Nations Assembly, 17 Sustainable Development Goals were established. The purpose of the Sustainable Development Goals is to make sure that everyone has a better and sustainable future. One of them was coined SDG7 and aims to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy. SDG7 tracks investments in energy infrastructure for developing economies and has shown that, despite the fluctuations that were seen in 2020, there has been a steady increase in investment in clean energy in developing countries.

Despite this, it is important to note that there is a certain type of investment that is needed for energy infrastructure which is not always accessible for developing economies. That is long term, patient capital that focuses on growth over dividends, is not always available to developing countries because of the perceived political and/or economic risks.

A session called Funding the New Energy Paradigm: Innovative Financing Mechanisms & Clever Capital Structures will be presented during the POWERGEN Leadership Summit in Dallas, Texas on January 28, 2022. 

When investing in any renewable energy infrastructure, long-term capital is required to realize the returns. However, traditionally, private equity investors seek a quicker return that is not always compatible with returns in renewables projects, as opposed to fossil fuel-based energy sources where traders and investors can consider short-to-medium term outlooks.

Development financial institutions and regional development banks are better suited to this type of investment as they can provide long-term financing that private capital investors currently do not. Development financial institutions and regional development banks should be encouraged to provide finance and make strategic investments in renewable energy infrastructure in developing economies to ensure that energy and climate targets are reached, and even more so because their core objective is to develop countries.

Developing economies, which do not have the capital available internally to develop renewable generation and to be able to cover the costs of new infrastructure, find accessing such capital problematic. Providing developing economies with the capacity to further develop clean renewable energy makes sure that these regions are given a chance at modern, reliable energy, in line with the SDG7 objective.

The pressure on governments, corporates, banks, investors, and even individuals to act against climate change is increasing amidst global walkouts, protests, and campaigns, and whilst much action is being taken, this lack of accessible capital is far too often prevalent in developed economies.

More from Climate Council:

Green goals for heavy industries in the energy transition

The challenges in pursuit of a green hydrogen economy

Blockchain: Opening doors in the energy sector

In a recent study, the IEA found that in 2019 the number of people without electricity access was 770 million and 75% lived in sub-Saharan Africa. So whilst the climate change agenda is now taking center stage in parliaments, courtrooms, schools, streets; there are still millions of people in parts of the world living in energy poverty. Developing economies should not be left with the choice between fossil fuel or energy poverty just because a certain type of investment is not readily available to them.

Development financial institutions need to do more in fulfilling their objectives in regards to providing appropriate investment to developing economies to increase access to clean energy and secure a sustainable future. Instead of just tracking the investment flows into renewable energy, the United Nations under their Sustainable Development Goals should put targets in place for development financial institutions and regional development banks to provide capital to investors of renewable energy infrastructure in developing economies.

Below are examples of ways that Development financial institutions can contribute to the investment of renewable energy:

  • The African Development Bank approved a $20 million investment to Metier, a private equity fund manager that has a Metier Sustainable Capital Fund. Through the banks investment the fund will be able to contribute to production of 178.5 megawatts of renewable power that will be for commercial and residential use.
  • The European Investment Bank advises the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund, which catalyzes the private sector into investing in clean renewable energy in developing economies.  The Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund invests in private equity funds with a specific concentration on infrastructure projects that can produce clean renewable power through technologies that have low risk.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Electric school bus charging hub could provide ‘blueprint’ for grid support

Renewable Energy - Thu, 2021-12-02 14:13

By connecting the batteries of parked electric school buses to the grid, a first-of-its-kind electric school bus charging hub aims to provide enough backup power to support up to 10,000 homes.

Nuvve plans to build a hub with 200, fast-charging stations at Blue Bird Corporation's delivery facility in Fort Valley, Georgia. When parked, multiple buses can serve as a virtual power plant to create capacity of up to 25 MW, the company said.

“This (vehicle-to-grid) hub will serve as a blueprint for large-scale school bus fleet deployments across the country,” said Gregory Poilasne, chairman and CEO of Nuvve. “In order to meet climate challenges, we must introduce electric vehicles to the grid in a smart, integrated way and our intelligent energy platform allows us to do that by transforming these vehicles into energy storage assets. We are grateful for electrification partners like Blue Bird who see the benefits V2G can provide to fleet owners and communities.”

Site development for the project is planned to begin before the end of the year.

The Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley electric school bus equipped with a Proterra Powered battery system on the streets of Beverly, MASS. Credit: Highland.

In October, Highland Electric Fleets announced a "historic breakthrough" that an electric school bus in Beverly, Massachusetts successfully delivered power back to the electricity grid. It represented the first time an electric school bus was leveraged as an energy resource by the regional utility National Grid in New England and among the first instances in the U.S.

The bus discharged three MWh of electricity to curb peak demand 30 times this summer, according to Highland, which provides the bus, chargers, and all electricity to Beverly Public Schools under a mileage-based subscription.

California, Maryland, and Florida lead the country in electric school bus adoption, though only 2% of American school districts have committed to one or more electric buses, according to a report by the World Resources Institute.

Categories: Renewable Energy

U.S. records red-hot quarter for utility-scale solar, battery storage

Renewable Energy - Thu, 2021-12-02 11:29

The U.S. connected 2.4 gigawatts of utility-scale solar projects to its power grids in the third quarter of 2021 representing 46% growth over the same period last year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The red-hot quarter also included the addition of 127 megawatts of battery storage paired with utility-scale solar PV systems. Texas led the way by adding 37% of the new utility-scale solar generation.

"The new additions meet demand from technology giants such as Microsoft Corp. and Meta Platforms Inc., municipal utilities such as Austin Energy and other off-takers looking for greener power generation," S&P's Justin Horwath wrote.

The pipeline for new utility-scale solar projects grew by 6 GW in the third quarter, including the 199 MW Pinyon Creek Solar Project in Utah, the largest project announced over that period. Four of the largest projects announced in the third quarter are paired with battery storage systems.

Nextera Energy has the single-largest pipeline of utility-scale solar projects in the U.S., 10.9 GW, followed by Invenergy, EDF Group, Apex Clean Energy, and SunChase Power.

Nextera has 1.4 GW of utility-scale solar projects under construction, while 8.4 GW of capacity is in early development.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Amid a flood of solar applications, Maine seeks a more targeted approach

Renewable Energy - Thu, 2021-12-02 08:49

By David Thill, Energy News Network

A stakeholder group tasked with helping lawmakers incentivize distributed generation and plan grid upgrades is expected to issue its first of two reports by Jan. 1.

Two years after opening the gates for small-scale renewable development in Maine, officials now have to figure out how to situate new projects in prime spots on the grid.

A group of industry members, advocates, utility stakeholders and state officials is preparing to issue the first of two reports that will help lawmakers in Maine craft new renewable incentive policies and plan grid upgrades for the coming years. This comes after the legislature in 2019 lifted project size limits for the state’s net metering program and implemented other policies that led to a crush of new project applications awaiting utility approval.

That high level of interest by developers “was very robust and possibly beyond initial expectations” when the laws were passed, said Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office.

“I think it’s fair to say we didn’t know exactly what we would see when the law was passed,” said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association. “What is clear is that the policy has made Maine a highly desirable place to deploy capital, create jobs and bring in new taxable value.”

Few projects have actually come online since the 2019 laws were passed, partly due to interconnection delays and the pandemic, as well as the typical timeline for project development. 

The laws mostly paved the way for new solar generation development. As of now, developers have sought interconnection approval from Maine’s two investor-owned utilities for about 2,400 megawatts of solar, including 1,350 megawatts under the state’s net metering program — which in Maine is called “net energy billing” — according to the Governor’s Energy Office. 

It’s likely many of those projects won’t be built, Payne said. Central Maine Power, the larger of Maine’s two investor-owned utilities, this year recorded annual peak demand of 1,810 megawatts. Versant Power last recorded 382 megawatts, in 2019.

Adjusted for service territory size and the number of customers, “we’re exceeding anything that any utility has seen before in terms of processing 1- to 5-megawatt [photovoltaic] projects,” said Jason Rauch, a policy manager at Central Maine Power.

With high interest and long wait times for developers seeking approval, officials and industry members now want to find ways to make the process by which utilities study project viability more efficient. They want to make it easier for developers to propose solar and other renewable installations in places where they’ll benefit the grid, particularly by avoiding transmission costs for consumers.

But that will also likely require changes to the data utilities collect, and to the access developers have to that data. Discussion of what those changes would entail is still very early on, but members of the stakeholder group hope their meetings can advance progress toward a solution.

“I think it’s clear that we’re going to need some upgrades to the grid, and those upgrades need to consider both the clean energy development that’s happening and also the electrification that’s coming in the transportation and building sectors in particular,” said Phelps Turner, a senior attorney at Conservation Law Foundation and a member of the new group.

The group was established by law this past summer and is known as the Distributed Generation Stakeholder Group. “Distributed generation” refers to renewable and storage projects up to 5 megawatts in size. Such projects, Turner noted, have implications most immediately for the distribution grid — though they ultimately affect the transmission grid too.

The group began meeting in September and must deliver the first of two reports to the state legislature by Jan. 1. That report will include preliminary recommendations for grid upgrades and new distributed generation incentive programs, like net billing, to begin in 2024. The group is supposed to determine a target amount of distributed generation under a new incentive program that would account for 7% of the state’s anticipated electric load. The law passed this summer set a non-binding goal of having 750 megawatts of commercial distributed generation projects 2 to 5 megawatts in size operating by the time the current net billing program is over.

Other expert groups have made recommendations over the past year and a half for grid modernization and renewable development in Maine. The new stakeholder group will build on that work, said Burgess, who’s a member of the group.

“What we’re going to do is seek to take what we’ve heard and learned from all these processes and also look at what is already being done and try to understand where the gaps are,” Burgess said.

Matching supply with demand

“We’re dealing with a grid that was not designed for a lot of distributed generation,” said Philip Bartlett, chair of the Public Utilities Commission and a member of the stakeholder group. The group’s discussions, as well as a complementary docket at the commission, aim to help figure out how to incentivize resources where and when they’re needed, he said.

Both of Maine’s investor-owned utilities are conducting assessments to evaluate both distribution- and transmission-level impacts. But Bartlett noted it’s unclear whether all these studies are necessary to comply with requirements by ISO-NE, the regional grid operator.

He added that these questions could be avoided to some extent by identifying from the beginning where projects can be placed on the grid to reduce transmission impacts — thus reducing the need for ISO-level assessments. That is, after all, the point of distributed generation, he said: building generation where demand is, rather than building it in one location and then delivering it to another via transmission lines.

“It would benefit everybody to locate these projects in places where they can connect the easiest and not impact the system negatively,” said Catharine Hartnett, manager of corporate communications at Central Maine Power.

“Certainly we want to provide the information, the data that would be helpful, that could move this along the most efficiently for everybody,” said Hartnett, who noted the stakeholder group discussions are still in their early stages. “We’re just not quite sure what that is and how we can best provide it.”

Payne, at the Maine Renewable Energy Association and a member of the stakeholder group, said the renewable industry would like more transparency and efficiency from Central Maine Power in its interconnection study process. 

“As we have said to CMP time and time again — and I truly believe this — their success is our success,” Payne said. “If they’re doing their jobs more efficiently … that’s better for everyone, including ratepayers as well as developers.”

Assessing costs

The possibility that new distributed generation projects will necessitate grid upgrades raises a longstanding question of who should pay for the upgrades: developers, or utilities — and therefore ratepayers. Critics also argue that programs like net metering drive up electric bills for customers who aren’t able to pay for solar panels or subscribe to community-based programs that offer bill credits.

“Versant Power is willing and eager to support the state’s energy policy goals,” Arielle Silver Karsh, director of legal and regulatory affairs at Versant Power, Maine’s other investor-owned utility, wrote in emailed comments. She’s also a member of the stakeholder group. “If the stakeholder group can set forth a list of agreed-upon priorities and acknowledge the likely costs associated with implementing solutions, then the utilities will have some certainty about moving forward. We need to chart a course forward and do so methodically and strategically to soften any rate impact to the greatest extent possible.”

Disagreements over costs tend to hinder discussions on how to plan distributed generation development, said Rebecca Schultz, a senior advocate at the Natural Resources Council of Maine who’s been observing the stakeholder group meetings. “Cost,” she noted, can include program administrative costs and bill credits under net billing, as well as grid upgrades necessitated by distributed generation projects.

“I think there has been a tendency to use misleading and inaccurate ways of communicating the impacts of these programs, whereby program costs equate to lost revenue for the utilities,” Schultz said.

Costs as they’re reported often don’t reflect the benefits of these programs to individual participants or to ratepayers generally, she said. For example, she said, some benefits of distributed generation, like avoided costs in the regional capacity market, accrue to ratepayers naturally through reduced electric rates.

“Clean distributed resources also help fortify us against fossil fuel price volatility, like what we’re seeing in Maine and across the region, where electricity rates are skyrocketing due to our reliance on natural gas generators,” Schultz added.

Having a method of evaluating program costs and benefits will make it easier for stakeholders to decide what projects to incentivize and how to allocate costs, she said. Turner, at Conservation Law Foundation, noted that as part of his work on the group, he’s pushing for a more comprehensive analysis of project costs and benefits.

After the stakeholder group delivers its initial report, it will have another year to develop a second, more in-depth report, which is expected to have more detailed recommendations for new programs to incentivize distributed generation development in Maine.

By the time that report comes out, there should be more clarity about how many of the projects currently waiting for approval will actually move forward, Payne noted. He said that in the coming year and a half, the state will likely see many more projects come online.

“I think what we have is tremendous amounts of investment capital poised to flow into Maine,” he said. “We’re just in the early process.”

Categories: Renewable Energy

United completes world’s first passenger flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel

Renewable Energy - Thu, 2021-12-02 07:21

On an otherwise normal flight from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport on Wednesday, a United 737 Max 8 passenger flight operated with 100% sustainable aviation fuel -- a first, and monumental, step for the aviation industry.

Boeing, CFM International, Virent, World Energy, and United partnered on the 612-mile demonstration flight, which emitted an estimated 75% less CO2 than a flight using traditional jet fuel, the companies said. The flight used 500 gallons of SAF in one engine and an equal amount of traditional jet fuel in the other.

Aviation history is cleared for takeoff.

The world’s first passenger flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is en route to @Reagan_Airport. pic.twitter.com/63Don45bBg

— United Airlines (@united) December 1, 2021

“United continues to lead from the front when it comes to climate change action,” said United CEO Scott Kirby. “Today’s SAF flight is not only a significant milestone for efforts to decarbonize our industry, but when combined with the surge in commitments to produce and purchase alternative fuels, we’re demonstrating the scalable and impactful way companies can join together and play a role in addressing the biggest challenge of our lifetimes.”

Currently, airlines are only permitted to use a maximum of 50% SAF. The demonstration flight aimed to prove that there are no operational differences between SAF and traditional jet fuel and offer a launching point for the resource to scale.

In October, Airbus, Dassault Aviation, ONERA, the French Ministry of Transports, and Safran launched the first-in-flight study of a single-aisle aircraft running on unblended SAF provided by Total Energies. Initial results from the test flight are expected next year.

In addition to the demonstration flight accomplishment, United announced a corporate partnership with the goal of purchasing 7.1 million gallons of SAF this year.

“Boeing is proud to support United on this historic event as we work together to make aviation more sustainable,” said Ihssane Mounir, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for The Boeing Company. “As an industry, we are committed to addressing climate change, and sustainable aviation fuels are the most measurable solution to reduce aviation carbon emissions in the coming decades. No one entity can decarbonize aviation alone and it will require partnerships like this to ensure aviation is safe and sustainable for future generations.”

In October, Airbus, Dassault Aviation, ONERA, the French Ministry of Transports, and Safran launched the first-in-flight study of a single-aisle aircraft running on unblended SAF provided by Total Energies. Initial results from the test flight are expected next year.

Other airlines are taking action, too: American Airlines partnered with Breakthrough Energy Catalyst to invest $100 million in SAF advancement. Delta Airlines, meanwhile, has signed a 10-year offtake agreement with Aemetis for 250 gallons of SAF valued at more than $1 billion. Southwest Airlines and IAG have agreed to buy 300 million gallons of SAF from Velocys.

“Sustainable aviation fuel is a critical element for the decarbonization of the aviation industry," Velocys CEO Henrik Wareborn said. "Clear policy support is needed to attract investment to construct the necessary plants to deliver enough supply for the airline industry."

It's unclear if SAF is ready to take off like proponents hope. The increased cost of SAF over conventional jet fuel -- 20-30% -- remains a key challenge.

The Biden administration has set a goal of meeting 100% of aviation fuel demand with SAF by 2050. A SAF tax credit is included in President Biden's Build Back Better agenda that's being considered by Congress, in addition to $4.3 billion of new and ongoing funding to support SAF projects.

In 2018, about two million gallons of SAF were produced, according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, while global demand was estimated at 106 million gallons of conventional jet fuel in 2020. The Biden administration wants to produce at least 3 billion gallons of SAF by 2030.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Amazon’s massive renewable energy portfolio just got a lot bigger

Renewable Energy - Wed, 2021-12-01 11:45

Amazon is adding to its massive global renewable energy portfolio with 18 new projects in Europe and the U.S. -- bringing its global clean energy procurement to 12 gigawatts.

The new utility-scale wind and solar projects across the U.S., Finland, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. total 5.6 GW. Amazon now has 274 renewable energy projects worldwide in hopes of powering 100% of its business operations with renewable energy by 2025.

“We are moving quickly and deliberately to reduce our carbon emissions and address the climate crisis,” said Kara Hurst, vice president of worldwide sustainability at Amazon. “Significant investments in renewable energy globally are an important step in delivering on The Climate Pledge, our commitment to reach net-zero carbon by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement."

The announcement on Wednesday made Amazon the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world, the company said.

“Amazon is wasting no time demonstrating that they are fully committed to a clean energy future for all,” said Gregory Wetstone, CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy. “At COP26, the world agreed we needed bigger and bolder ambitions around global carbon reduction from all sectors. With hundreds of renewable energy projects already underway, Amazon is a model for the level of urgency and action we need from the private sector to combat the climate crisis.”

Amazon Solar Rooftop (Courtesy: Amazon)

Corporate demand for renewable energy is driving the record deployment of clean energy resources around the world. The power purchase agreement, or PPA, allows a corporation to match its annual energy consumption with clean energy produced elsewhere.

The price of solar and wind power purchase agreements in North America increased 4.3% in the second quarter of 2021, and is up 14.4% year-over-year, according to an analysis by LevelTen Energy.

Demand for renewable energy by public and corporate groups, coupled with global supply chain constraints, are likely causing the pricing pressure, analysts wrote.

“Much like we’re seeing supply constraints in other areas of the economy, the most desirable wind and solar projects are going fast," said Rob Collier, vice president of developer services at LevelTen Energy. "The key takeaway for organizations with fast-approaching emissions reductions targets is to act now to capture high-value PPAs."

Solar prices increased quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year in Q2 2021 for the first time since Wood Mackenzie began modeling solar market prices in 2014.

Trade issues, meanwhile, threaten President Biden's goal of generating 45% of electricity from solar energy by 2050. The U.S. government's enforcement of the Withhold Release Order (WRO) on metallurgical-grade silicon (MGS) from companies with facilities in China's Xinjiang region, as well as the possible extension of the Section 201 tariffs on imported solar modules, have added to the uncertainty.

While PPA prices are trending upward, LevelTen doesn't expect demand to soften. According to a survey by the firm, only 12% of solar developers are responding to supply chain pressures by delaying projects.

“ERCOT solar prices have increased by nearly 10% since Q2 2020, driven by steady quarterly increases in pricing at ERCOT’s North, South, and Houston settlement hubs,” Collier said. “Still, ERCOT continues to be the most competitive solar market in the U.S., as abundant land, a unique market structure, and high insolation provide a favorable environment for solar development."

Categories: Renewable Energy

IEA: Record renewables growth predicted despite high commodity prices

Renewable Energy - Wed, 2021-12-01 09:19

The world’s capacity to generate electricity from renewable technologies is on course to accelerate, with 2021 expected to set a fresh all-time record for new installations.

This is according to the latest report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which emphasizes that despite rising costs for key materials used to make solar panels and wind turbines, additions of new renewable power capacity this year are forecast to rise to 290GW in 2021.

The report expects record growth for renewables to take place despite today’s high commodity and transport prices.

However, should commodity prices remain high through the end of next year, the cost of wind investments would go back up to levels last seen in 2015 and three years of cost reductions for solar PV would be erased.

“This year’s record renewable electricity additions of 290 gigawatts are yet another sign that a new global energy economy is emerging,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “The high commodity and energy prices we are seeing today pose new challenges for the renewable industry, but elevated fossil fuel prices also make renewables even more competitive.”

The IEA’s annual Renewables Market Report finds that by 2026, global renewable electricity capacity is forecast to rise more than 60% from 2020 levels to over 4,800GW – equivalent to the current total global power capacity of fossil fuels and nuclear combined.

Other key report findings include:

  • Renewables are set to account for almost 95% of the increase in global power capacity through 2026, with solar PV alone providing more than half.
  • China remains the global leader in the volume of capacity additions: it is expected to reach 1200GW of total wind and solar capacity in 2026.
  • India is set to come top in terms of the rate of growth, doubling new installations compared with 2015-2020.
  • Deployments in Europe and the United States are also on track to speed up significantly from the previous five years. These four markets together account for 80% of renewable capacity expansion worldwide.
  • Solar PV remains the powerhouse of growth in renewable electricity, with its capacity additions forecast to increase by 17% in 2021 to a new record of almost 160 GW.
  • Despite rising prices limiting growth, global biofuel demand in 2021 is forecast to surpass 2019 levels, rebounding from last year’s huge decline caused by the pandemic.

We expect renewables to account for almost 95% of the growth in global power capacity through 2026, with solar PV alone providing more than half

This is driven by stronger support from policies & more ambitious pledges made going into #COP26

Read more: https://t.co/q9rc7ueWti pic.twitter.com/voY8lTNC0L

— Fatih Birol (@fbirol) December 1, 2021

The report recommends governments further accelerate the growth of renewables by addressing key barriers, such as permitting and grid integration challenges, social acceptance issues, inconsistent policy approaches, and insufficient remuneration.

The report is available for download.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Canada’s 824-MW Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric Generating Station released for service

Renewable Energy - Wed, 2021-12-01 08:32

The 824-MW Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric Generating Station, part of the Lower Churchill Project, is complete and has been released to the Newfoundland and Labrador System Operator (NLSO) for service.

Muskrat Falls Corporation received notice of acceptance of the commissioning certificate by the independent engineer, who provides oversight on behalf of the federal government, on Nov. 25.

While the Labrador-Island Link (LIL) is not yet commissioned, the Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric Generating Station will provide power over LIL throughout this winter as it is available. LIL availability provides additional assurance for customer reliability, even at partial capacity.

“While we do not require power from Muskrat Falls to serve customers this winter, we will use as much power as possible to reduce the fuel costs at Holyrood and reduce carbon emissions,” said Jennifer Williams, president and chief executive officer of Hydro. “But there is still more work to be done to conclude all aspects of the project, even as we take this step toward final project completion. We want to see this project complete. Our customers want to see this project complete. We continue to work diligently toward completion of our final milestone throughout the winter.”

Hydro said it continues to work with the provincial government to finalize the rate mitigation plan and, together with the federal government, to implement the financial restructuring of the project. Electricity customers will not yet see an impact on their bills. “We know customers are concerned about electricity rates,” said Williams. “Our priority is to provide safe, reliable service to customers at the lowest possible cost as we manage the provincial electricity system. Customers will not see any rate impacts from Muskrat Falls until sometime into 2022, and rates will not double.”

In total, 48.9 million person-hours have been completed on the generating station by hardworking people, the vast majority of which were from this province. The generating station was completed with a dedicated focus on safety and health, which was shared by workers, contractors and the project team and resulted in 15 million person-hours worked on the generation project since the last lost time incident.

The Lower Churchill Project includes construction of Muskrat Falls, which will produce 5 TWh of energy annually, over 1,600 km of transmission lines across the province, and associated electrical equipment.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Solar advocates, Duke Energy reach net metering agreement in North Carolina

Renewable Energy - Tue, 2021-11-30 12:36

Duke Energy and solar industry stakeholders have reached an agreement on net metering policy in North Carolina that will help expand distributed solar generation and benefit utility customers, the parties announced Tuesday.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, the primary lobbying group for the industry, commended the years-long process to craft an agreement with Duke. The policy framework was filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) yesterday.

Net metering policy establishes how much a utility will credit a customer for excess energy delivered to the grid, taking into account infrastructure costs and benefits to the broader customer base. The net metering debate in California, for example, is highly contentious with utilities attempting to drastically reduce credits for distributed solar generators.

“North Carolina’s net metering agreement was crafted with input from SEIA and its partners and helps to create a policy that works for solar customers, installers, and utilities in the state," said Will Giese, regional director Southeast at SEIA. "This is a step in the right direction for the Southeast and is an example of the ways that smart energy policy can unlock the full potential of rooftop solar, especially when paired with storage and other smart energy technologies. 

“We have seen what’s possible in the region through the South Carolina Net Metering Successor program and we are excited to expand the North Carolina market in a similar manner.”

If approved by the NCUC, the new net metering tariffs would go into effect for customers submitting applications on or after Jan. 1, 2023. The policy would not be changed for 10 years. 

The agreement is similar to the deal reached between Duke Energy and solar advocates in South Carolina last year.

“The agreement modernizes rooftop solar economics and unlocks benefits for all customers,” said Lon Huber, Duke Energy’s vice president of strategic solutions. “Net metering has been a contentious issue around the nation, but our stakeholder partners worked together to craft a fair solution that brings financial sustainability to rooftop solar in North Carolina.”

Duke said the proposed net metering policy is designed to align with North Carolina's goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The agreement includes (among other points):

  • Monthly Minimum Bill
    • $22 for DEC
    • $28 for DEP
  • Monthly Grid Access Fee of generators with capacity greater than 15 kW-dc
    • DEC GAF: $2.05/kW - dc/month
    • DEP GAF: $1.50/kW - dc/month
  • Non-Bypassable Charges for costs related to DSM/EE, storm cost recovery, and cyber security
  • Grandfathers customers under previous net metering policy until Jan. 1, 2027

Categories: Renewable Energy

Texas company uses Bitcoin mines powered by renewables to stabilize the grid

Renewable Energy - Tue, 2021-11-30 09:38

In September, Lancium broke ground on its first Clean Campus -- a 325 MW bitcoin mining data center in Fort Stockton, Texas with an expected full-scale operation target of Q4 2022. (Courtesy: Lancium)

A Texas-based energy technology firm has raised $150 million to develop Bitcoin mining campuses powered by renewable energy sources.

Lancium's growth strategy includes 2,000 megawatts of capacity in development across its Clean Campuses, which are placed in areas overwhelmed by renewable energy.

The company's software allows the campuses to operate as Controllable Load Resources to the electrical grid, replacing reliability products often provided by fossil fuel plants.

"This financing allows us to embark on the next high-growth phase of our business, and we are encouraged by the support of a broad range of investors from the energy and cryptocurrency sectors," said Michael McNamara, co-founder and CEO of Lancium. 

Hanwha Solutions, owner and operator of solar manufacturer Q CELLS, led the financing round.

A recent study conducted by energy research firm IdeaSmiths, sponsored by Lancium, analyzed the impact of large, flexible data center operations on the Texas power grid.

The study found that adding data center load to the grid incentivizes additional deployment of wind and solar energy. The buildout of flexible load data centers, meanwhile, results in fewer natural gas additions, according to modeling data.

"Operating the data centers in a flexible manner can result in a net-reduction of carbon emissions from the base case," the authors wrote. "Beyond the possible carbon emissions reductions, this analysis also found that the additional flexibility of the data centers can increase the resiliency of the grid by reducing demand during high-stress times (low reserves) on the grid."

In September, Lancium broke ground on its first Clean Campus -- a 325 MW bitcoin mining data center in Fort Stockton, Texas with an expected full-scale operation target of Q4 2022.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Maryland is now home to the largest rooftop community solar project in the U.S.

Renewable Energy - Tue, 2021-11-30 09:00

A 9.2-megawatt solar array on the roof of a commercial warehouse in Maryland is now the largest rooftop community solar project in the U.S.

Summit Ridge Energy hosted a ribbon cutting Tuesday for the project, which it operates and jointly owns along with climate investment firm Hannon Armstrong. Located in Carroll County, Maryland, the warehouse is owned by STAG Industrial.

“This is a marquee project for Summit Ridge, our capital partners at Hannon Armstrong and the entire community solar industry,” said Summit Ridge CEO Steve Raeder. “Leveraging 23 acres of largely unused roof space to generate energy savings for thousands of Marylanders is precisely the direction our nation’s energy generation strategy needs to head.” 

The project is expected to provide monthly energy savings to approximately 1,300 residential and small commercial subscribers across Maryland.

Summit Ridge Energy's community solar portfolio in Maryland has grown to more than 75 MW of capacity with nearly one-third of projects serving low-to-moderate income customers.

In October, the Biden administration set a target of powering 5 million American homes with community solar projects by 2025 -- an ambition that would require 700% growth of current capacity.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates a total of 3,253 MW-AC community solar capacity was installed in the U.S. by the end of 2020 -- enough to power 600,000 homes. The cumulative installed capacity of community solar has grown rapidly since 2010, doubling on average year-over-year.

“Community solar is one of the most powerful tools we have to provide affordable solar energy to all American households, regardless of whether they own a home or have a roof suitable for solar panels,” Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement. “Achieving these ambitious targets will lead to meaningful energy cost savings, create jobs in these communities, and make our clean energy transition more equitable.”

Community solar enabling legislation exists in 21 states and the District of Columbia, either through state-required programs or authorization of pilot programs, according to NREL.

Currently, 72% of cumulative community solar capacity is concentrated in just four states: Minnesota, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York.

Community solar projects allow residents without suitable rooftops for generation to take advantage of the benefits of solar power, improving access to renewable energy for low-income and disadvantaged communities. Community solar project subscribers often receive guaranteed cost savings on their energy bills, too.

The Biden administration believes reaching its community solar target could create $1 billion in energy savings.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Renewables account for 20% of U.S. electricity generation through Q3 2021

Renewable Energy - Tue, 2021-11-30 06:31

Washington DC — Driven by strong solar and wind power growth, electrical generation by renewable energy sources (i.e., also including biomass, geothermal, hydropower) accounted for 20.45% of total U.S. production during the first three-quarters of 2021, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of new data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). 

The latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” report (with data through September 30, 2021) also reveals that for the first nine months of 2021, solar (including distributed rooftop systems) and wind increased by 24.61% and 10.89% respectively compared to the same nine-month period in 2020. Combined, they grew by 15.00% and accounted for more than one-eighth (12.59%) of U.S. electrical generation (wind – 8.50%, solar – 4.09%). Moreover, wind and solar combined now provide more than three-fifths (61.55%) of the generation by renewable sources.  

In addition, geothermal posted a gain of 2.75% while electricity generated by wood + other biomass increased by 1.71%. Combined, all non-hydro renewables grew by 12.8%. 

Reflecting worsening drought conditions, though, hydropower fell by 12.47%. Nonetheless, all renewables combined – including hydropower – produced 4.05% more electricity than a year earlier. However, inasmuch as electricity generation by all sources increased by 3.26%, renewables’ share of the total increased only slightly – from 20.30% in 2020 to 20.45% this year. 

Renewable sources also expanded their lead over nuclear power, providing 10.72% more electricity than the nation’s atomic power plants (18.47% of the total). Natural gas remained as the top source of U.S. electrical generation with a 37.57% share but down from 40.75% a year ago. Coal rebounded into second place (with a 22.60% share), growing 25.31% compared to the first three-quarters of 2020. 

Longer-term trends, though, still suggest the gradual and probably accelerating displacement of coal and nuclear power by renewable energy sources, especially solar and wind. Compared to the first nine months of 2016 (i.e., five years ago), coal-generated electricity has declined by 23.08% and nuclear power is down by 5.33%. Meanwhile, renewables’ share of total electrical generation has grown from 15.10% to 20.45% with wind expanding by 65.23% and solar increasing three-fold. 

“Inasmuch as they have maintained an overall faster rate of growth than any other energy sources over the past half-decade and longer, it seems safe to say that solar and wind will eventually become the nation’s primary electrical producers,” noted the SUN DAY Campaign’s executive director Ken Bossong. “They now have a growing lead over nuclear power; surpassed coal in 2020 and will likely do so again next year; and are rapidly cutting into natural gas’s current dominance.”  

Categories: Renewable Energy

Access the latest robotic technologies at the Robotics for Inspection & Maintenance Summit

Renewable Energy - Mon, 2021-11-29 12:45

The Robotics for Inspection & Maintenance Summit will take place on December 8-9, 2021. This 2-day virtual event is designed to provide valuable insight to create and execute effective strategies that adapt to the ever-changing challenges faced in inspection and maintenance operations. It brings together asset owners, robotics & UAS inspection service providers, robotics maintenance providers, robotic and UAS OEMs, sensor OEMs, and data analytic/software providers to share their learnings on the latest robotic technologies to help businesses optimize inspection, maintenance, and repair while improving safety and lowering costs. Register now for the event for just $149.

Head of Business Development & Communications, Kevin Wasik, will join the Robotics for Inspection & Maintenance Summit as a keynote speaker to share how UPS Flight Forward is positioning to lead the UAS industry in safety, scale, and performance in drone delivery services. 

The Robotics for Inspection & Maintenance Summit will have 35+ robotic technology experts that will share diverse perspectives on needs and challenges, demonstrate cutting-edge technologies, and present leading case studies focused on new advancements in robotics technology. Hear from experts at companies including Dow Chemical, Chevron, Eddyfi Technologies, Percepto, HUVR, and much more.

Connect and build relationships with industry trailblazers from around the world through topic-specific chat rooms, scheduled 1:1 meetings, Q&A sessions, and breakout sessions during the event. Attend from your home, office, or anywhere – it’s up to you!

Register now for the Robotics for Inspection & Maintenance Summit and understand how to leverage robotic technologies in inspection and maintenance to reduce costs, improve safety, and gain a competitive edge. The full event program is included on the website with more information about what to expect at the event. For any questions, email robotics@asme.org.

Categories: Renewable Energy

Biden admin. approves New York’s first offshore wind farm

Renewable Energy - Mon, 2021-11-29 10:19

New York's first offshore wind project could begin construction as soon as January of next year, according to its developers, after receiving approval from the Biden administration last week.

South Fork Wind, a 132-megawatt project to be located 19 miles southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island, has received its Record of Decision from the U.S. Dept. of Interior. Ørsted and Eversource are partnering on the project, which is the second commercial-scale offshore wind project to receive federal approval in the U.S.

"Today is a red-letter day for the future of offshore wind,” said Fred Zalcman, director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance. “Today's federal approval of New York's first utility-scale offshore wind farm is the culmination of several years of planning and community engagement and will demonstrate the massive economic, environmental, and social benefits of this renewable resource for all New Yorkers.”

Once completed, South Fork Wind will produce enough clean energy to power 70,000 homes in New York. Operations are expected to begin at the end of 2023, the companies said.

The announcement is a positive step for the Biden administration's goal of deploying 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030. Last week, Vineyard Wind 1, the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the U.S., celebrated its groundbreaking in Massachusetts. That project will be able to generate enough clean energy to power more than 400,000 homes with clean energy.

“We have no time to waste in cultivating and investing in a clean energy economy that can sustain us for generations,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “Just one year ago, there were no large-scale offshore wind projects approved in the federal waters of the United States. Today there are two, with several more on the horizon. This is one of many actions we are taking in pursuit of the President’s goal to open the doors of economic opportunity to more Americans.”

Vineyard Wind 1, the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the U.S., celebrated its groundbreaking in Barnstable, Massachusetts on Thursday. (Courtesy: Vineyard Wind US)

South Fork Wind is approved to install 12 or fewer wind turbines offshore Rhode Island. The project will utilize Siemens-Gamesa's 11-megawatt turbines. Kiewit Offshore Services will design and build the project's substation.

In January, the project expects to receive its Construction and Operation Plan approval for the one-nautical mile turbine layout, construction methodology, fishing industry compensation plan, and mitigation measures to protect species.

“Today’s announcement is a watershed moment for New York State,” said NYSERDA CEO Doreen M. Harris. “We are encouraged to see the federal government’s commitment to ensuring critical projects like South Fork Wind move ahead swiftly to tackle the existential threat of climate change while providing good paying jobs when our economy needs it most. New York is cementing itself as the nation’s leader in offshore wind, delivering cost-effective and reliable renewable energy as part of its goals to deliver a more sustainable future for New Yorkers.”

Denmark-based Ørsted is a global leader in onshore and offshore wind development and currently operates the Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind farm in the U.S., and the two-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project.

With today’s Record of Decision by @Interior's @BOEM, New York’s first offshore wind farm is a critical step closer to delivering clean, renewable energy to tens of thousands of residents, creating jobs, economic opportunity, and combating climate change. https://t.co/QgBlhR7NxJ pic.twitter.com/fM0K6qVhuy

— South Fork Wind (@SouthForkWind) November 24, 2021

Categories: Renewable Energy

Massachusetts’ new efficiency plan puts a priority on underserved communities

Renewable Energy - Mon, 2021-11-29 08:20

By Sarah Shemkus, Energy News Network

The state’s latest three-year energy efficiency plan would include new provisions to increase outreach and expand program eligibility for lower-income households and residents of color.

Massachusetts’ new three-year energy efficiency plan would substantially increase efforts to lower energy costs and improve health and comfort for lower-income households and residents of color.

The $668 million plan awaiting approval from the state Department of Public Utilities lays out strategies the state’s ratepayer-funded energy efficiency program intends to implement from 2022 to 2024. They include provisions to increase outreach and expand eligibility in underserved communities — and pay utilities for providing more services in these neighborhoods. 

“They’re saying, ‘Let’s figure out how to make sure that everyone paying into the program is able to access and benefit from the program,’” said Eugenia Gibbons, Massachusetts director of climate policy for Health Care Without Harm. “The plan is a good step forward.”

For more than a decade, Massachusetts’ energy efficiency programs have been hailed as some of the most progressive and effective in the country. The centerpiece of the state’s efforts is Mass Save, a collaborative of electric and gas utilities that provides no-cost energy audits, rebates on efficient appliances, discounts on weatherization, and other energy efficiency services, funded by a small fee on consumers’ utility bills. 

Mass Save’s programming is guided by three-year energy efficiency plans, a system put in place by the state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act. 

However, advocates have long said these programs fall short when it comes to serving members of environmental justice communities. While some had dismissed these concerns as merely anecdotal, a 2020 study by the utilities showed that, indeed, residents in communities with more people of color, fewer English speakers, more renters, and lower household incomes received services from Mass Save at significantly lower rates than those in more affluent, whiter areas. 

“It confirmed what the advocates and the people from these neighborhoods were saying,” said Mary Wambui-Ekop, a member of the equity working group of the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, which guides the creation of the three-year plans.

The new plan is more responsive to these concerns than any previous one, advocates said. 

The plan outlines a $6 million investment in expanding its work with community groups and municipalities to improve participation in historically underserved areas. Community groups already working in these neighborhoods will be able to offer Mass Save valuable perspectives on language barriers, cultural differences, and economic issues, allowing the utilities to adapt their strategies to individual areas. 

“Community-based organizations can identify place-based approaches to engaging residents in these programs,” said Ruth Georges, supervisor of equity, strategic partnerships, and workforce development for Eversource, one of the utilities that administers Mass Save. 

The plan also changes the structure of the performance incentives paid to utilities, making it more financially rewarding to work with underserved communities than previous plans. During the creation of the last three-year plan, which covered 2019 to 2021, the state rejected a proposed performance incentive that would have paid utilities $20 for every renter they provided with efficiency services. The thinking was that this mechanism would help increase outreach to lower-income households, communities of color, and families with limited English proficiency, because these groups tend to rent at higher rates. 

The state, however, reasoned that the utilities were already receiving an incentive for every household served, so this extra money would mean paying twice for the same services. 

To avoid this objection this time around, the plan proposes a separate performance incentive for achieving benefits for moderate-income customers and for residents of 38 communities across the state designated as environmental justice areas. Nearly $24 million is budgeted for electric utilities and $15 million for gas utilities. These totals represent rates that are 20% higher than standard for electric services and 55% higher for gas. 

“So those particular communities are going to get extra attention essentially,” said Amy Boyd, director of policy for the Acadia Center and a member of the advisory council. 

The plan also earmarks $136 million to provide services for what it calls moderate-income residents. Existing programs offer certain benefits, such as no-cost insulation and heating system upgrades, for households defined as low-income. However, some families earn too much to qualify for these offers, but would still struggle to afford the upfront cost of a heat pump or new insulation. 

The plan defines this group as households that earn more than 60% but less than 80% of the median household income for the area; for 2021, that translates to a range of $78,751 to $101,041 for a four-person household. The goal is to double the number of weatherization jobs performed for moderate-income households each year through 2024, for a net increase of 700%.

Workforce development is another major goal of the plan. Even without this ambitious new plan rolling out, Massachusetts is already short on energy efficiency workers. This gap, however, creates opportunities for residents of environmental justice areas to pursue training in the field, developing solid careers while helping advance the state’s energy efficiency goals within and outside of their neighborhoods. At the same time, when residents of underserved communities see their neighbors going to work in energy efficiency, it builds both awareness and trust. 

The plan would implement what it calls the Clean Energy Pathways program, which would train candidates for careers in energy efficiency, provide them with nine-month paid internships, and help them find full-time work when they are done. 

Advocates are very supportive of the proposed plan, citing the impact it could have for climate goals as well as environmental justice. Still, however, they intend to keep a close eye on how it is implemented.

Categories: Renewable Energy

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