Now Even Apartment Dwellers Can Use Solar Power

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   July 14, 2018  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   No Comments

A solar array system on the rooftop of Truck & Trailer Service Ltd., in East New York, Brooklyn, creates solar energy for a community solar group that has members from across the city. CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

Now Even Apartment Dwellers Can Use Solar Power

By Kaya Laterman, July 12, 2018

More New York homeowners have tapped into solar power in recent years, as regulations have eased and prices have dropped. But apartment dwellers, for the most part, have been kept in the dark.

Starting this summer, though, renters and homeowners who live in buildings that don’t, or can’t, have solar panels on the roof can join something known as a community solar group. Simply put, these groups allow someone in a Manhattan apartment to lower their electricity bill by connecting to solar panels that happen to sit on the rooftop of, say, a Bronx warehouse.

“I think community solar gives equal access to solar power for those of us in the city,” said Taka Juba, an owner of a Manhattan condominium apartment, who joined the city’s first community solar group run by IPPsolar, a Manhattan-based solar firm. “Anything to offset your bill is great, but there’s a social and environmental impact too.”

These community groups essentially broker the sale of solar power to a local electrical company, which in turn gives the group’s members a discount on their electricity bills. Each member’s discount varies depending on the size of the group’s solar array system — that is, a combination of several solar panels — and the number of members in the group.

Most groups have a four-prong system that connects a host, sponsor, utility and customers. A host or a commercial building owner either buys its own solar array system or leases its rooftop space to a sponsor that will design, operate and maintain a system. The sponsor then sells the solar energy produced as solar credits to a utility, which in New York City’s case is Consolidated Edison.

Anyone in the city who pays an electricity bill though ConEd can sign up with a community solar group and earn a discount. Customers pay their bills through a subscription manager, or a third-party billing vendor, which provides a breakdown of charges. In Mr. Juba’s case, he gets a bill from Arcadia Power, a Washington D.C.-based energy technology company that offers a personalized online dashboard showing how much energy was derived from the renewable resource.

Several community solar groups are up and running in the city, including one operated by local solar developer Daroga Power, and a few more are expected by next year. Many in the first wave of groups do not charge membership fees, and they are guaranteeing a 10 to 15 percent reduction to a customer’s monthly electricity bill. The amount of power produced by a solar array system, the number of subscribers, and each household’s electricity usage will determine the individual discount, said Maziar Dalaeli, a partner at IPPsolar.

Image
Michael Rogers and his son, Kyle, are owners of the Truck & Trailer Service Ltd. in East New York. As a host for a solar array system, the firm gets an energy rebate and a city real estate tax abatement.CreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

The terms, rates, and offerings differ from group to group. Some require a customer to agree to a rate-lock, or a fixed rate for electrical consumption over several years. Others may charge a yearly membership fee. Customers who opt into community solar groups are never disconnected from ConEd, and will continue to pay connectivity and other charges through a bill from the subscription manager.

Mr. Dalaeli said IPPsolar’s first group has month-to-month contracts, and the account can be transferred to a different address if the customer moves within the five boroughs. The number of subscribers in a group will be capped at 25 households so the firm can ensure a discount to everyone.

“As the concept of community solar gets accepted further, we’ll be able to build larger systems and that will help expand the number of people that can be part of a group,” he said.

IPPsolar derives its power from a solar array system on the rooftop of Truck & Trailer Service Ltd., in East New York, Brooklyn. Michael Rogers, owner of the truck repair and customization firm, said that as a host, he receives a rebate from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, along with a city real estate tax abatement.

“If I see that I’m saving money, I can use that to train and hire more people,” said Mr. Rogers, who considers himself environmentally conscious (he drives a Tesla). He said that several area business owners are keen to see how the system pans out for him before leasing their own rooftop spaces.

“I love everything about community solar, so I don’t mind being the guinea pig,” he said.

Marc Weiss, a townhouse owner in Manhattan’s Union Square area who signed up with a community solar group run by Gotham Community Solar and CleanChoice Energy, said he was game for any program that would decrease his carbon footprint. He was disappointed to find that his own rooftop wasn’t ideal for solar panels when he inquired about installing them a few years ago.

“I’m expecting solar power will be a main energy source for many communities in the future, so joining a community solar group is my vote for that,” said Mr. Weiss, whose solar power comes from an array atop a building in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

A partial list of community solar groups can be found at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and Sustainable CUNY.

Comments Needed on Draft IURC Statewide Resource Analysis

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   July 04, 2018  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   No Comments

IURC

Attached is the Draft Statewide Resource Analysis, provided by the staff of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (“Commission”) as contemplated in the Commission’s General Administrative Order 2018-2. Interested Stakeholders may provide written comments on or before July 20, 2018 to urccomments@urc.in.gov.

In addition, a public hearing to receive oral and written comments will be held on Friday, July 13, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. in Room 222 of the PNC Center, 101 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, Indiana.

This information and the Draft Statewide Analysis is also now posted on the Commission’s website at: https://www.in.gov/iurc/3011.htm

Sincerely,

Jeremy Comeau

Assistant General Counsel

Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission

101 W. Washington St., Ste. 1500 East

Indianapolis, IN 46204

317.232.2102 (Tel.)

jcomeau@urc.in.gov

www.in.gov/iurc


Please download IURC documents HERE:

6.20.18 DRAFT Statewide Resource Analysis

IURC General Administrative Order (GAO) 2018-2

GAO2018_2_20180411142715687

Two-sided green: Conservative group promotes renewable energy as good for business

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   June 18, 2018  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Two-sided green: Conservative group promotes renewable energy as good for business

Chris HubbuchLa Crosse Tribune; Jun 17, 2018

During the past decade, Gundersen Health System has tapped the sun, the wind, trees and even cow manure to heat about 2.6 million square feet of hospitals and clinics, earning a reputation as a national leader in environmental stewardship.

But the La Crosse-based health care organization’s quest to shrink its carbon footprint last year resulted in more than $4 million in cost savings. Jeff Rich, who heads Gundersen’s energy initiative, calls it a “two-sided green” strategy: saving the environment and saving money.

That’s the message Scott Coenen wants Republican lawmakers to hear.

Coenen is executive director of the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, a new nonprofit organization seeking to convince policy makers on the right that moving Wisconsin toward renewable energy will stimulate economic growth, lower electricity costs and enhance national security — while also benefiting the environment.

In short, renewable energy is an opportunity to save money and build wealth.

“We’ll take the environmental benefits,” Coenen said. “(But) it’s about bottom line values.”

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Scott Coenen mug

Coenen

Clean energy and environmental advocates have welcomed the new conservative voice.

Tyler Huebner is the executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, which has been promoting solar, wind and other clean energy sources since 1991. For him, the goal is to advance renewable energy no matter who is in charge.

“We’re working really hard at RENEW to take the politics out and make it a lot more about business and jobs in Wisconsin,” Huebner said. “We’re sort of hopeful to make this a bipartisan opportunity for everyone in Wisconsin.”

The partisan divide

As a group, conservatives have traditionally shunned renewable energy.

right-wing think tank in Minnesota is currently waging a publicity campaign against wind energy. In fact, today’s wind turbines and utility-scale solar gardens are more economical over the long run than most coal plants.

Conservative Republicans prioritize expansion of fossil fuels

According to the Pew Research Center, only about 45 percent of Republicans say the U.S. should prioritize alternative energy sources (compared with 81 percent of Democrats). The majority of Republicans who identify as conservative favor fossil fuels.

The reasons aren’t entirely obvious.

Elizabeth Ward, conservation programs coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Wisconsin chapter, said renewable energy has been used as a wedge issue by politicians pitting the environment against jobs.

“Once one party’s really for it, it seems like the other party’s against it,” said Amber Meyer Smith, vice president for government relations at Clean Wisconsin. “It’s too bad because our polling has consistently shown a bipartisan approach.”

The U.S. subsidizes most forms of energy, but the tax credits attached to wind and solar typically get more attention than policies that support fossil fuels.

Coenen thinks renewables got caught up in the polarized, and often toxic, debate over climate change, which only 12 percent of conservative Republicans consider a threat to the nation’s well being, according to Pew’s surveys.

Bret Shaw, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies social marketing and communication related to environmental campaigns, said views on renewable energy depend more on how it’s branded, the rationale given and the source of the message. Conservatives might look favorably on renewable energy for national security purposes but balk if it’s presented as an environmental issue.

“The truth is it’s not really so simple,” he said. “It really is a more nuanced scene.”

While renewable energy has been a hard sell for many Republicans, polling data suggest there’s also a generational divide. Pew surveys found more than seven out of 10 Americans under the age of 50 favor developing alternative sources of energy. Support for renewables is strongest among millenials.

“Being kind of a younger guy I’ve never had the suspicious eye to this,” said Coenen, who is 28. “Younger voters, they’re prepared to embrace this more.”

Younger Americans more likely to prioritize alternative energy sources

Room to improve

Despite the recent announcement of a major solar project, Wisconsin lags neighboring states in adoption of renewables and still relies on out-of-state coal for more than half its electricity, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

Iowa generates nearly 40 percent of its electricity with wind, a higher portion than any other state, and Minnesota’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, is moving to shutter its largest coal plants.

“Even Illinois,” Coenen said. “We’re behind all the other states.”

Coenen, a former legislative aide, sees that as an opportunity for Republicans, who control Wisconsin government, to reshape the state’s energy policy.

Funded by the Conservative Energy Network, WCEF is focused on education rather than lobbying, and the organization hasn’t developed specific legislative goals.

IndianaDG Note: Indiana Conservative Alliance for Energy is also part of the Conservative Energy Network. 

But Coenen said there are some relatively easy things lawmakers could do now. For example, he notes the Public Service Commission has not developed guidelines for how to integrate battery storage into the grid.

“This technology is going to come down the line in five years, and we need to be ready for it,” he said.

This week Coenen led a contingent of local officials on a tour of some of Gundersen’s renewable energy projects, which include wind turbines, solar panels, a plant that generates heat and electricity from gases emitted from the La Crosse County landfill, and a digester that captures methane gas from cow manure and food waste.

A boiler that runs on wood chips from area saw mills provides most of the heat and steam for the La Crosse campus and generates about 2.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to supply most of the main clinic’s needs.

Not only is the wood cleaner and cheaper than natural gas, but it’s also home grown.

“Instead of purchasing that gas from Oklahoma or Texas, we’re purchasing wood from our tri-state area,” Rich said.

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Jeff Rich mug
Rich

Between generation and energy efficiency efforts, Gundersen last year offset two-thirds of its fossil fuel use and generated more clean energy than it needed on 62 days. (When temperatures fall below 25 degrees the hospital still has to fire up natural gas burners.)

Though Gundersen touts the environmental benefits of its energy initiative, the original driver was economic: In 2008 Gundersen was spending $5.3 million a year on energy and looking at an additional $350,000 a year.

“That was cost that was going to patients,” Rich said.

Gundersen is one of 15 renewable energy projects that Coenen plans to highlight during the coming months, including a new Lafayette County wind farm that provides about 7 percent of Dairyland Power Cooperative’s generation capacity.

Coenen said his goal was to showcase a range of technologies and applications while highlighting opportunities for Republican lawmakers who represent most of rural Wisconsin.

“We’re not going to be putting a wind farm in downtown Madison,” he said. “That’s going to be in Lafayette County. That means investments and jobs in some parts of the state that really haven’t seen economic development.”

Loren Oldenberg, a Republican candidate in the 96th Assembly District, joined the Gundersen tour, which he said was eye-opening. Oldenberg, a Viroqua dairy farmer, said he’s for renewable energy so long as it pays for itself and that farmers are always looking for ways to cut costs.

“A farmer will not put money into it if they don’t see a return on investment,” he said. “There’s where maybe policies or programs can possibly help them get started on something.”

A place for gas but not coal?

Unlike other renewable energy advocacy groups, WCEF supports an “all of the above” energy approach. Coenen said that includes support for natural gas, which burns cleaner and produces less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuel sources. Utilities also view natural gas as a “renewable enabling” fuel because newer gas plants can more easily adjust output to fill in around intermittent sources such as wind and solar.

Groups like the Sierra Club oppose natural gas, in part because of the effects hydraulic fracture mining has on groundwater.

“The conversation should be how quickly we can get to 100 percent renewable energy,” Ward said. “The technology isn’t the problem. The problem is lack of political will.”

But Clean Wisconsin’s Meyer Smith said an all of the above approach would be an improvement for a state that has “shut out and deliberately shunned” renewables.

Despite the Trump administration’s efforts to save unprofitable coal generators, Coenen expects Wisconsin utilities will follow national trends moving toward more economic — and cleaner — fuels.

“We believe pretty thoroughly that coal is an energy source of the past,” Coenen said. “We need to let the market work.”


Chris Hubbuch can be reached at 608-791-8217. Follow him on Twitter @chrishubbuch.

 

Liberty Utilities (NH) Wants To Own Your Behind-The-Meter Battery System (And Why That’s A Bad Idea)

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   June 08, 2018  /   Posted in solar  /   No Comments

Liberty Utilities Wants To Own Your Behind-The-Meter Battery System (And Why That’s A Bad Idea)

New Hampshire

By Frank AndorkaSenior Correspondent

Liberty Utilities, New Hampshire’s largest utility currently has a docket before the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission that sounds like a good idea.

At issue is the state’s largest pilot program in history that would allow New Hampshire solar users to install batteries at no cost to them. Sounds good, right?

And although the intent of the program – to see how batteries will affect grid resiliency and performance – is pretty benign, solar advocates in the state have concerns about the size of the program and what it could mean for the long-term future of battery storage in the Granite State.

After all, the proposal as it is currently written gives only customers with utility-owned batteries access to time-of-use rates or monthly peak reduction payments, meaning the goal of the pilot program isn’t really to test how batteries operate on the grid. It’s to give the utility an unnecessary monopoly on battery storage, which should be granted only when a clear market failure demands it.

Instead of attempting to grab new monopoly powers where they don’t clearly exist, advocates suggest that Liberty Utilities should scale back its own pilot program and let other companies – in some cases local companies employing New Hampshire citizens – compete on a “Bring Your Own Battery” system. In other words, set rates based on performance and let the market – not a state-sponsored monopoly – decide who should handle the solar + storage systems in the state.

As it is, battery storage is something new for monopoly utilities in most cases (and most certainly in Liberty Utilities’ case), whereas multiple companies in the private sector are already deploying solar + storage in many states, giving them insights into the particular challenges and opportunities such systems provide. Why should New Hampshire residents become the guinea pigs for a large-scale pilot program that would effectively shut out the competition?

No one is suggesting Liberty Utilities shouldn’t set up a pilot program or that that the NHPUC shouldn’t grant them one. But make it a reasonably sized one that forces utilities to compete in the market – which would allow all ratepayers, solar consumers and non-solar consumers alike, to win.

 

Reuters: Billions in U.S. solar projects shelved after Trump panel tariff

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   June 07, 2018  /   Posted in solar, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)  /   No Comments

Billions in U.S. solar projects shelved after Trump panel tariff

By Nichola Groom

June 7 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels has led U.S. renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of more than $2.5 billion in large installation projects, along with thousands of jobs, the developers told Reuters.

That’s more than double the about $1 billion in new spending plans announced by firms building or expanding U.S. solar panel factories to take advantage of the tax on imports.

The tariff’s bifurcated impact on the solar industry underscores how protectionist trade measures almost invariably hurt one or more domestic industries for every one they shield from foreign competition. Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, for instance, have hurt manufacturers of U.S. farm equipment made with steel, such as tractors and grain bins, along with the farmers buying them at higher prices.

White House officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump announced the tariff in January over protests from most of the solar industry that the move would chill one of America’s fastest-growing sectors.

Solar developers completed utility-scale installations costing a total of $6.8 billion last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Those investments were driven by U.S. tax incentives and the falling costs of imported panels, mostly from China, which together made solar power competitive with natural gas and coal.

The U.S. solar industry employs more than 250,000 people - about three times more than the coal industry - with about 40 percent of those people in installation and 20 percent in manufacturing, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“Solar was really on the cusp of being able to completely take off,” said Zoe Hanes, chief executive of Charlotte, North Carolina solar developer Pine Gate Renewables.

GTM Research, a clean energy research firm, recently lowered its 2019 and 2020 utility-scale solar installation forecasts in the United States by 20 percent and 17 percent, respectively, citing the levies.

Officials at Suniva - a Chinese-owned, U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer whose bankruptcy prompted the Trump administration to consider a tariff - did not respond to requests for comment.

Companies with domestic panel factories are divided on the policy. Solar giant SunPower Corp opposes the tariff that will help its U.S. panel factories because it will also hurt its domestic installation and development business, along with its overseas manufacturing operations.

“There could be substantially more employment without a tariff,” said Chief Executive Tom Werner.

LOST PROFITS, JOBS

The 30 percent tariff is scheduled to last four years, decreasing by 5 percent per year during that time. Solar developers say the levy will initially raise the cost of major installations by 10 percent.

Leading utility-scale developer Cypress Creek Renewables LLC said it had been forced to cancel or freeze $1.5 billion in projects - mostly in the Carolinas, Texas and Colorado - because the tariff raised costs beyond the level where it could compete, spokesman Jeff McKay said.

That amounted to about 150 projects at various stages of development that would have employed three thousand or more workers during installation, he said. The projects accounted for a fifth of the company’s overall pipeline.

Developer Southern Current has made similar decisions on about $1 billion of projects, mainly in South Carolina, said Bret Sowers, the company’s vice president of development and strategy.

“Either you make the decision to default or you bite the bullet and you make less money,” Sowers said.

Neither Cypress Creek nor Southern Current would disclose exactly which projects they intend to cancel. They said those details could help their competitors and make it harder to pursue those projects if they become financially viable later.

Both are among a group of solar developers that have asked trade officials to exclude panels used in their utility-scale projects from the tariffs. The office of the U.S. Trade Representative said it is still evaluating the requests.

Other companies are having similar problems.

Scott Canada, senior vice president of renewable energy at solar project builder McCarthy Building Companies, said his company had planned to employ about 1,200 people on solar projects this year but slashed that number by half because of the tariff.

Pine Gate, meanwhile, will complete about half of the 400 megawatts of solar installations it had planned this year and has ditched plans to hire 30 permanent employees, Hanes said.

The company also withdrew an 80-megawatt project that would have cost up to $150 million from consideration in a bidding process held by Southern Co utility Georgia Power. It pulled the proposal late last year when it learned the Trump administration was contemplating the tariff.

“It was just not feasible,” Hanes said.

STOCKPILING PANELS

For some developers, the tariff has meant abandoning nascent markets in the American heartland that last year posted the strongest growth in installations. That growth was concentrated in states where voters supported Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

South Bend, Indiana-based developer Inovateus Solar LLC, for example, had decided three years ago to focus on emerging Midwest solar markets such as Indiana and Michigan. But the tariff sparked a shift to Massachusetts, where state renewable energy incentives make it more profitable, chairman T.J. Kanczuzewski said.

Other developers are forging ahead, keen to take advantage of the remaining years of a 30-percent federal tax credit for solar installation that is scheduled to start phasing out in 2020.

Some firms saw the tariff coming and stockpiled panels before Trump’s announcement. 174 Power Global, the development arm of Korea’s Hanwha warehoused 190 megawatts of solar panels at the end of last year for a Texas project that broke ground in January.

The company is paying more for panels for two Nevada projects that start operating this year and next, but is moving forward on construction, according to Larry Greene, who heads the firm’s development in the U.S. West.

Intersect Power, a developer that cut a deal last year with Austin Energy to provide low-cost power to the Texas capital city, is also pushing ahead, said CEO Sheldon Kimber. But the tariff is forcing delays in buying solar panels.

The 150-megawatt project is due to start producing power in 2020. Waiting until the last minute to purchase modules will allow the company to take advantage of the tariff’s 5-percent annual reductions, he said.

‘A LOT OF ROBOTS’

Trump’s tariff has boosted the domestic manufacturing sector as intended, which over time could significantly raise U.S. panel production and reduce prices.

Panel manufacturers First Solar and JinkoSolar , for example, have announced plans to spend $800 million on projects to increase panel construction in the United States since the tariff, creating about 700 new jobs in Ohio and Florida. Just last week, Korea’s Hanwha Q CELLS joined them, saying it will open a solar module factory in Georgia next year, though it did not detail job creation.

SunPower Corp, meanwhile, purchased U.S. manufacturer SolarWorld’s Oregon factory after the tariff was announced, saving that facility’s 280 jobs. The company said it plans to hire more people at the plant to expand operations, without specifying how many.

But SunPower has also said it must cut up to 250 jobs in other parts of its organization because of the tariffs.

Jobs in panel manufacturing are also limited due to increasing automation, industry experts said.

Heliene - a Canadian company in the process of opening a U.S. facility capable of producing 150 megawatts worth of panels per year - said it will employ between 130 and 140 workers in Minnesota.

“The factories are highly automated,” said Martin Pochtaruk, president of Heliene. “You don’t employ too many humans. There are a lot of robots.”

Reporting by Nichola Groom Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Brian Thevenot

Copyright 2013 IndianaDG