June 29, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Solar Blog | No comment
In the future, the state of New York won’t be known only for its world-famous city and picturesque northern landscape, rather it may soon also be known for its renewable energy projects. Two interesting developments this week should start to attract developers of larger solar and wind power projects to various regions in the state.
In April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the NY-Sun Initiative, a plan that brought together the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) to help develop and fund a solar energy expansion plan. The goal is to double the amount of non-ultility owned solar power installed annually in New York, and quadruple that amount by 2013.
Yesterday, LIPA announced a CLEAN solar initiative, otherwise known as a feed-in tariff to spur up to 50 MW of commercial and large-scale solar projects in its region over the next two years. Under the program, LIPA will purchase all of the energy generated by local solar projects at a fixed-rate of 22 cents per kilowatt-hour for 20 years. Projects must be at least 50 kilowatts (kW) in size so residential systems won’t qualify. LIPA said that it expects the largest projects to be in the 3-MW range. The program is capped at 50 MW.
Notably, the state of New York recognized that balance of systems (BOS) costs must be reduced in order for solar to be competitive. As part of the NY-Sun initiative, the state created the NY-Sun BOS initiative, which will work with private and public partners across New York State to try to implement statewide standardization and streamlining of the procedures for permitting and interconnection, and development and training.
On the topic of permitting, the NY Public Service Commission (PSC) has just completed the comment period for rulemaking on the somewhat controversial “Article 10.” In a nutshell (and straight from the PSC website), “Article 10 provides for the siting review of new and repowered or modified major electric generating facilities in New York State by the Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (Siting Board) in a unified proceeding instead of requiring a developer or owner of such a facility to apply for numerous state and local permits.” New projects must be at least 25 MW in size to qualify for state siting board review.
For renewable energy, Article 10 specifically addresses wind farm siting and permitting, which often faces challenging and aggressive local opposition. Essentially it gives the state the ability to approve wind farms and takes some of the oversight from local governments. Major industry players like Iberdrola and EDP Renewables are strongly in favor of the measure.
As you might imagine, there are opponents to the article as well. Resident Mary Kay Barton said, “what’s at stake is our long-held, constitutional right to ‘home rule’ — the right to decide for ourselves what we want our communities to look like 20, 40, and 60 years down the road,” in an op-ed she wrote for The Daily News.
Local towns and municipalities are fearful of having less oversight in what is built within their borders. The PSC will make a final determination on rulemaking for Article 10 sometime this summer.
Like it or not, New York State is embracing renewables in a big way – encouraging the development of solar and big wind. Our readers have supported the state in its initiatives so far. Last February, the 32-MW solar farm at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island was selected at the Readers’ Choice Project of the Year.
Perhaps Sinatra was right about New York. For renewables, “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” We’ll see.
Article source: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2012/06/new-york-state-encouraging-big-renewables?cmpid=rss
June 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Solar Blog | No comment
The day’s news left a trail of unemployment and unmet expectations. And the negative headlines generated by Abound Solar and Schott Solar also served to heighten the conversation about America’s resolve and ability to build a solar manufacturing industry that can compete with China.
On Thursday, The Department of Energy announced that one of its star companies, Abound Solar, would close its doors because the thin-film maker couldn’t compete with low-cost Chinese crystalline silicon panels. The company later said that with the pending bankruptcy, it would eliminate about 125 jobs.
The company’s real ambitions, and its stated future, were in rural Indiana, where the company allocated a significant portion of its $400 million DOE loan guarantee to take over an abandoned auto industry manufacturing plant. Abound was going to reinvigorate the struggling community — which has faced unemployment of more than 10 percent — with about 1,000 high paying manufacturing jobs.
Now, that community — formerly dependent on the health of the auto industry — has another empty manufacturing facility to fill and a likely deepening skepticism that America can compete with the Chinese in solar manufacturing.
More than 1,000 miles away in Albuquerque, about 200 employees at Schott’s American flagship manufacturing operation received word that they would be losing their jobs as well.
The two closures are different in many respects. Abound produced cadmium telluride panels that it hoped would be able to compete directly with American company First Solar. But unlike the established thin-film leader, it would make the product solely in the U.S. That was the driving reason why the company received a DOE loan guarantee almost as large as the one received by now-bankrupt Solyndra.
Schott, meanwhile, represented another avenue to building a large-scale base in the U.S., and that was to lure established international players that could take advantage of a facility’s location near the end market. That has made the Southwest prime territory to attract these types of companies.
The American wind industry has built a formidable manufacturing base on this premise. But the mammoth components that go into wind turbines translate into high shipping costs. The relatively lightweight components in solar mean reduced shipping costs don’t cut enough off the final price to be able to compete with Chinese panels, even after accounting for the new dumping tariffs.
Abound started to pull back on its ambitious plans just as Solyndra bankruptcy and ensuing House investigation was starting to unfold. Abound drew down $70 million of the $400 loan guarantee — all for the expansion of its Colorado facility — and the DOE estimates taxpayers will ultimately be on the hook for about $30 million once assets are sold.
The bankruptcy will surely increase pressure on the only two remaining DOE loan guarantee recipients that received backing specifically to boost American solar manufacturing. One is 1366 Technologies, a Boston-area company that promises to significantly cut solar costs through its innovative wafer and cell manufacturing processes. The DOE closed on a $150 loan guarantee with the company in September.
The other is SoloPower, an Oregon-based thin-film manufacturer currently building a new plant that will help it ramp up productions of its lightweight, flexible CIGS panels. The company expects the plant to have 100 employees by the end of the year, and ultimately as many as 450 workers once it reaches 400-megawatt (MW) capacity within the next few years. But CIGS technology, while promising, has failed to gain much of the market, and analysts predict that only a handful of companies will be able to survive.
That has many within the industry questioning the legacy of the loan guarantee program. Much of DOE’s $35 billion commitment went to help solar generation projects grow to utility-scale. To do this, it bet on giant developments like Agua Caliente, a 290-MW facility currently under construction in Arizona. But these large projects came with power purchase agreements, which made them relatively safe bets for the DOE.
Moving Beyond Manufacturing Loans
The DOE’s production gambles made under the loan guarantee program, meanwhile, will certainly not be looked on as favorably, and they are certain to become campaign fodder during the coming general election.
Political leaders and the industry as a whole must start to grapple with the uncomfortable reality that if America is to really turn the tide and wrestle solar manufacturing dominance away from China, it will have to move beyond strong rhetoric, sweeping tariffs and selective investments. It’s becoming clear that the combined strategy isn’t capable of overcoming powerful market forces either in America or in the more established markets of Europe.
Rather, the current administration — or future administrations — need to look long-term if they’re hoping to build a sustainable manufacturing base. That means less big ticket funding to build manufacturing operations for single companies, and much more research and development funding. Independent research groups and government programs like the SunShot Initiative, which also comes out of the DOE, spread the wealth to promote promising technologies, not necessarily companies. This allows businesses to grow naturally and to avoid the types of rapid scale-ups that can lead to the large-scale layoffs we’ve seen with Solyndra and now Abound.
The benefits won’t necessarily be apparent within one presidential term. But a more robust commitment to invest in RD is the only way America can build a bottom-up manufacturing chain that can beat foreign competitors on both cost and quality and attract the long-term confidence of investors and taxpayers.
Article source: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/06/two-closures-illustrate-the-need-to-chart-a-new-course-for-solar?cmpid=rss
June 29, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Solar Blog | No comment
John Lennon wrote that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Apparently, the same is true of energy efficiency. Energy savings happen when we’re busy doing other things — Internet-based things specifically.
We use email, bank online and download music not to save energy, but to make life easier and more interesting. Energy efficiency is a happy byproduct.
What online pursuits serve up the most energy savings in day-to-day life?
The Global e-Sustainability Initiative, or GeSI, recently commissioned the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Yankee Group to answer this question. The study, “Measuring the Energy Reduction Impact of Selected Broadband-Enabled Activities within Households.” looked at eight broadband-related activities in the US, UK, Spain, Italy, Germany and France: telecommuting, Internet news, online banking, e-commerce, music and video downloads or streaming, e-education, digital photography, and e-mail.
Telecommuting provides the greatest energy savings among the activities (83 to 86 percent). From an energy efficiency perspective, it’s better to log-on to the office than drive there. Reading the news online and participating in e-education offered the least energy savings. Consumers tend to undertake these activities to complement, not replace, the old-fashion way of doing things. They still read the newspaper and travel to classes, so offset the savings gained by the online activity.
As telecommuting expands, and more of our daily routine takes place online, these eight activities could cut energy use by about two percent or the equivalent of 500 million barrels of oil annually. Not bad, but still small compared with the savings offered by a series of ‘scale’ activities: smart grid, manufacturing and building upgrades, electric cars, combined heat and power.
So while it’s nice that we inadvertently save energy, say by banking online, it won’t revolutionize our energy picture. But another recent report by the ACEEE shows what might: Intelligent efficiency.
Think systems or cities instead of light bulbs or refrigerators. That’s intelligent efficiency. The US could reduce its energy use by as much as 22 percent by focusing more on system rather than gadget efficiency, says the report “A Defining Framework for Intelligent Efficiency.”
“This is not your father’s device-driven approach to energy efficiency,” said R. Neal Elliott, ACEEE associate director for research. “A large portion of our past efficiency gains came from improvements in individual products, appliances, and equipment, such as light bulbs, electric motors, or cars and trucks. And while device-level technology improvements will continue to play an important role, looking ahead we must take a systems-based approach to dramatically scale up energy efficiency to meet our future energy challenges. Through intelligent efficiency, utility systems, interconnected cities, transportation systems, and communications networks can become the new normal across the United States and will undergird national and regional economies that, even in the face of increasingly scarce resources, grow and thrive.”
ACEEE cites several examples of intelligent efficiency already in the works. Among them is Envision Charlotte, an attempt to reduce energy use in city buildings through a partnership of Duke Energy, Cisco, and Verizon. Interactive video monitors in the lobbies of downtown office buildings display the collective energy used, in near real time, by buildings in the core of the North Carolina city. People pass by the monitors and see the easily readable data, learn energy efficiency ideas, and hear about success stories. They become more conscious of energy through this repeated exposure and their behavior changes — that’s the theory. Duke Energy expects the project to reduce electricity usage 20 percent by 2016 in uptown Charlotte’s business community.
One important point here. None of this – our online household activities or intelligent efficiency – excludes a tried-and-true approach to save energy: utility sponsored programs. A third recent study by ACEEE (Yes, this is a productive organization.) finds that utilities increased energy efficiency budgets four fold in a decade, from $1.1 billion in 2000 to $4.6 billion in 2010. Often when utilities save energy rather than buy it, it turns out to be the cheapest approach.
“The concept of energy efficiency as a utility resource is really very simple,” said Marty Kushler, ACEEE senior fellow and co-author of the report, ‘Three Decades and Counting: A Historical Review and Current Assessment of Electric Utility Energy Efficiency Activity in the States.’ “To keep an electric system in balance, you can either add supply resources or reduce customer demand. Utilities, regulators, and policymakers have increasingly come to realize that it is far cheaper to reduce demand through energy efficiency programs than it is to construct, fuel, and operate additional electric generating plants.”
The report found that energy efficiency remains the lowest cost energy resource available to utilities by a wide margin. Saving electricity through efficiency is about one-third the cost of generating it from a power plant.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that states have set aggressive energy efficiency goals; no states are scaling back. Instead, “the momentum is toward growth across the map,” says the utility report.
Sometimes we save energy inadvertently, and sometimes by design. Whichever, it is clear that our digital economy, combined with our increasing understanding of the programs and behaviors that lead to energy savings, create a clear path for growth in energy efficiency.
Read more articles by Elisa Wood at RealEnergyWriters.com.
Image: Imagine via Shutterstock
Article source: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2012/06/energy-efficiency-without-trying-and-with?cmpid=rss
June 29, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Solar Blog | No comment
The Mini Home’s exterior materials are comprised of an Iverit façade and a bitumen roof while the floor is laid with hardwood panels. All of the prefabricated modules and add ons, including a compact kitchen and bath module, heater and chimney, storage module and a 12V solar power kit are delivered to the site flatpacked.
A concrete foundation is laid and the mini home is usually constructed within two days. Albeit small, the home is suitable for all weather conditions and features extraordinary attention to detail. Trimless windows and neat organization of the electrical feeds ensures that living small can also mean living large! The Mini House follows on the heels of other tiny homes like Michelle de la Vega’s impressive renovation, signaling a powerful shift to a new way of life.
+ Jonas Wagell
Article source: http://inhabitat.com/the-mini-house-by-jonas-wagell-is-a-modern-prefab-that-goes-up-in-two-days/