NewEnergyNews

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Taming the Wild West: The CA ISO’s Bid For A Regional Electricity Market
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: A Closer Look At The Plunging Cost Of Battery Energy Storage
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: New arrival Spruce ups game for 'trusted energy advisor' role
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: What Utilities Are Planning For Solar
  • QUICK NEWS, September 27: Facts Check Trump – Fed Investments In Solar A Huge Success; Top Midwest Utility In $2 Billion Wind Buy; Solar Cost Increasingly Beating The Market
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: The Future Of Offshore Wind Foreseen
  • QUICK NEWS, September 26: The Sonification Of Climate Change; Wind Is Red, White, And Green; The New Hybrid Solar-Storage Concept Module
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Good News On Climate – The Public Is Starting To Get It
  • Weekend Video: The Libertarian Failure On Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: New Energy Is Doable – And Is Being Done
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-World Gets A Step Closer To Enforceable Climate Laws
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-New Energy Ready To Power The World Future
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Sahara Sun Could Power The World
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-World’s Biggest Offshore Wind Turbines Building Off UK Coast
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, September 22:

  • TTTA Thursday-Why Having Babies Could Be The Climate Change Answer
  • TTTA Thursday-Big Texas Wind Backed By Amazon
  • TTTA Thursday-Big Sun Sparkles In Nevada
  • TTTA Thursday-EV Racing Coming To The Streets Of Brooklyn
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, f is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews

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    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, September 29:

  • Mars Sees Threat To Chocolate In Climate Change
  • Wearable New Energy
  • Picture Proof That U.S. Offshore Wind Lives
  • BMW’s Used Battery Power Plant

    Thursday, September 29, 2016

    Mars Sees Threat To Chocolate In Climate Change

    One of the world's largest candy makers is hiring meteorologists to deal with climate change

    Kate Taylor, September 29, 2016 (Business Insider)

    “…Mars Chocolate, the maker of candy brands like M&M, Snickers, and Dove, employs a small team of meteorologists…tasked with examining current weather patterns, then working with other departments to examine how these patterns could impact suppliers of [its] ingredients…While much of the Mars meteorologists' jobs is to focus on near-term weather forecasting, they also look months and years in the future, examining issues such as global warming…Beyond creating problems in predicting weather, climate change could be ‘devestating’ to the chocolate business, according to the nonprofit Rainforest Alliance...Climate change could render areas that were once optimal for growing cocao unusable, Climate.gov reports...Mars is working to combat climate change by reducing carbon emissions, with a pledge to cut all greenhouse gas emissions from operations by 2040…” click here for more

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    Wearable New Energy

    New fabric harvests solar and wind energy

    27 September 2016 (The Engineer)

    “Researchers from Georgia Tech have been working on a fabric that harvests energy from both sunshine and motion, which could be used to generate power in the field. The textile combines solar cells constructed from lightweight polymer fibres with fibre-based triboelectric nanogenerators. The nanogenerators use a combination of the triboelectric effect – a type of contact electrification – and electrostatic induction to harvest power from physical motion such as rotation, sliding or vibration…When woven together with strands of wool, the fabric is 320 micrometres thick…[T]he overall production process is low-cost and green, and the fabric could potentially be integrated into the material of tents or clothing…[In one experiments, the researchers] used a piece of fabric about A4 size and hung it from the window of a moving car…[and] were able to generate significant power, even on a cloudy day. The team also measured the output from a 4 x 5 centimetre piece of the material, which charged up a 2mF commercial capacitor to 2V in one minute using a combination of sunlight and movements…” click here for more

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    Picture Proof That U.S. Offshore Wind Lives

    America’s first offshore wind farm on track – in pictures

    Chris Nelson, September 28, 2016 (The National)

    “…[Deepwater Wind’s] Block Island Wind Farm – America’s first marine-based wind farm – remains on-schedule…The final blade on the first offshore wind turbine for the farml located about 5km off the coast of Block Island, south-west of Boston, was installed on August 4.

    Technicians are commissioning the wind turbines, a process that will take several months. The wind farm will be in commercial operation once commissioning is complete…” click here for more

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    BMW’s Used Battery Power Plant

    BMW Built a Power Plant from Old Electric-Car Batteries; The carmaker is exploring ways to find new life for its spent batteries.

    Michael Reilly, September 26, 2016 (MIT Technology Review)

    “…Electric vehicle makers face the looming question of what to do] with all the spent batteries? One answer: turn a huge pile of them into a grid-scale power plant…[Lithium-ion batteries are continuing to fall in price and could be nearing a tipping point that will see electric-vehicle sales take off…But like any batteries, they wear out. The rate at whichthey currently decline [to where a car’s range would be depleted] puts their lifetime for powering electric vehicles in the neighborhood of eight to 10 years…[BMW’s just-completed grid-scale storage facility in Hamburg, Germany, will use batteries from 100 cars to store 2.8 megawatt-hours of energy and deliver] up to two megawatts of power [to the grid during times of peak demand] at the flip of a switch…” click here for more

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    Wednesday, September 28, 2016

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: Taming the Wild West: The CA ISO’s Bid For A Regional Electricity Market

    Taming the Wild West: CAISO begins study of a full regional electricity market; The grid operator will seek to understand how a regional system will affect the state's transition to 50% renewables by 2030

    Herman K. Trabish, February 22, 2016 (Utility Dive)

    Editor’s note: Since this piece ran, California's work on a regional electricity market has continued to move ahead in measured steps.

    Caifornia's electric system operator wants to organize the West’s 38 individual balancing authority areas (BAAs) into a market richer in resources than any in the U.S. and is working to answer crucial questions about who will pay, who will benefit, and what kinds of energy the system will carry. California’s landmark Senate Bill 350 ordered the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to do studies to answer the questions. The concept of regional markets emerged in the mid-to-late 1990s when, led by the Clinton Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, power pools like PJM and ISO-New England were formalized. A national discussion about organized markets' efficiencies followed. The West’s BAAs are now beginning to see variability increasing on their systems and are beginning to understand the region’s resource and demand diversity can make dispatch more flexible and efficient.

    A Western region energy market would use the same CA ISO technology to coordinate electricity systems across the West and take full advantage of the region’s renewable resources and, though some environmentalists argue otherwise, create disincentives to send coal-generated energy to California. It would also allow system operators to do more advanced planning and give them increased situational awareness that would lead to lower cost power purchasing and savings to ratepayers, according to preliminary results from independent studies… click here for more

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    ORIGINAL REPORTING: A Closer Look At The Plunging Cost Of Battery Energy Storage

    Bigger than batteries: Why the cost of other components matters to storage deployment; The plummeting cost of balance of system components is poised to make storage a better deal for utilities

    Herman K. Trabish, January 11, 2016 (Utility Dive)

    The plummeting price of battery energy storage could prove to have just as much to do with the components of the storage system as it does with the cost of the battery, according to Grid-Scale Energy Storage Balance of Systems 2015-2020: Architectures, Costs and Players. The 15 to 20 different items in the balance of the system (BOS) represent one-half to three-fourths of the installation’s cost. Those costs are likely to plummet over the next five years – if the growth of storage deployment continues.

    The researchers assumed $350/kWh for the battery cost, an aggressive number based on the performance of industry leaders Samsung and LG and the Panasonic-Tesla product. For an installation intended to supply energy with a two-hour duration battery, BOS would be about half the total project cost. But for a project intended to supply power with a half-hour duration battery, BOS is almost three-fourths of the installation’s cost. And continued growth of battery storage to drive this drop in the BOS cost is likely. This is part of the pattern that drove solar to its record low cost over the last three years… click here for more

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    ORIGINAL REPORTING: New arrival Spruce ups game for 'trusted energy advisor' role

    New arrival Spruce ups game for 'trusted energy advisor' role; A new company offering both DER and efficiency financing can be a partner or a competitor to incumbent utilities

    Herman K. Trabish, January 19, 2016 (Utility Dive)

    Spruce Finance is growing and expanding its private sector work as a complement or competitor to utility business models. It offers power company customers a full suite of distributed energy resources (DER). It is left to utilities whether those technologies sustain customers’ relationship with their electricity providers as a trusted energy advisor or give them the independence to move away from their power companies. Consumers now get up to three utility bills — one for heating, another for electricity, and a third for water, explained CEO Nat Kreamer.

    Helping customers afford the hardware that allows them to reduce their total bill — such as new insulation, new HVAC units, a smart thermostat, LED lights, or a rooftop solar system — is where Spruce comes in. For the full spectrum of consumer technologies offered by its vendor partners, Spruce offers a diverse set of financing options, including loans, leases, and power purchase agreements. Consumers don’t necessarily know what they are paying for each of the three portions of their utility bill, Kreamer said, but they want to save money on the whole thing. Total bill savings is what Spruce targets. Many utilities can take advantage of Spruce’s offerings but others may choose to compete... click here for more

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    Tuesday, September 27, 2016

    TODAY’S STUDY: What Utilities Are Planning For Solar

    Planning for a Distributed Disruption: Innovative Practices for Incorporating Distributed Solar into Utility Planning

    Andrew Mills, Galen Barbose, et al, August 2016 (National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

    Abstract

    The rapid growth of distributed solar photovoltaics (DPV) has critical implications for U.S. utility planning processes. This report informs utility planning through a comparative analysis of roughly 30 recent utility integrated resource plans or other generation planning studies, transmission planning studies, and distribution system plans.

    It reveals a spectrum of approaches to incorporating DPV across nine key planning areas, and it identifies areas where even the best current practices might be enhanced.

    1) Forecasting DPV deployment: Because it explicitly captures several predictive factors, customer-adoption modeling is the most comprehensive forecasting approach. It could be combined with other forecasting methods to generate a range of potential futures.

    2) Ensuring robustness of decisions to uncertain DPV quantities: using a capacity-expansion model to develop least-cost plans for various scenarios accounts for changes in net load and the generation portfolio; an innovative variation of this approach combines multiple per-scenario plans with trigger events, which indicate when conditions have changed sufficiently from the expected to trigger modifications in resource-acquisition strategy.

    3) Characterizing DPV as a resource option: Today’s most comprehensive plans account for all of DPV’s monetary costs and benefits. An enhanced approach would address non-monetary and societal impacts as well.

    4) Incorporating the non-dispatchability of DPV into planning: Rather than having a distinct innovative practice, innovation in this area is represented by evolving methods for capturing this important aspect of DPV.

    5) Accounting for DPV’s location-specific factors: The innovative propensity-to-adopt method employs several factors to predict future DPV locations. Another emerging utility innovation is locating DPV strategically to enhance its benefits.

    6) Estimating DPV’s impact on transmission and distribution investments: Innovative practices are being implemented to evaluate system needs, hosting capacities, and system investments needed to accommodate DPV deployment.

    7) Estimating avoided losses associated with DPV: A time-differentiated marginal loss rate provides the most comprehensive estimate of avoided losses due to DPV, but no studies appear to use it.

    8) Considering changes in DPV’s value with higher solar penetration: Innovative methods for addressing the value changes at high solar penetrations are lacking among the studies we evaluate.

    9) Integrating DPV in planning across generation, transmission, and distribution: A few states and regions have started to develop more comprehensive processes that link planning forums, but there are still many issues to address.

    Executive Summary

    Analysts project that distributed solar photovoltaics (DPV) will continue growing rapidly across the United States.1 This growth has critical implications for utility planning processes, potentially affecting the size and type of future infrastructure needs as well as the solution set for meeting those needs. Developing appropriate techniques for incorporating DPV’s unique characteristics into utility planning processes—across generation, transmission, and distribution—is therefore essential to ensuring reliable operation of the electric system at least cost. It is also paramount to ensuring that the costs and benefits of DPV resources are fully and accurately valued, because that value may derive in large part from investments that utilities make or avoid owing to needs identified within their planning studies.

    With this report, we seek to inform utility planning through a comparative analysis of roughly 30 recent utility integrated resource plans or other generation planning studies, transmission planning studies, and distribution system plans. The rapid growth of DPV has not been distributed equally across U.S. utility territories, and the same is true for projected future growth. While some of the studies we review forecast 2020 DPV penetrations equivalent to 5% or more of retail sales, fewer than half consider penetrations beyond 1% by 2020. Thus it is unsurprising that utilities and other planning organizations have differed in their perceptions about the need to incorporate DPV into resource and transmission and distribution (T&D) plans. Because of this staggered progress, organizations that are just beginning to address DPV can draw on innovative practices from organizations that already are incorporating DPV rigorously into their plans. Our report reveals this spectrum of approaches across nine key planning areas, and it identifies areas where even the best current practices might be enhanced.

    Below we summarize current practices and highlight approaches that are innovative and potentially worthy of emulation. We conclude with a brief discussion of future work.

    Developing a Forecast of DPV Deployment

    The main forecasting approaches across the studies we analyze include stipulated forecast, historical trend, program-based approach, and customer-adoption modeling. About 70% of relevant studies employ one or more of the first three approaches, which rely on few or no quantifiable predictive factors. In contrast, customer-adoption modeling explicitly uses historical DPV deployment, location-specific DPV technical potential, various DPV economic considerations, and end-user behaviors as predictive factors (Figure ES-1). A quarter of the studies use this innovative method, including those by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, PacifiCorp, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Puget Sound Energy (PSE), and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council. Though our analysis suggests various ways to improve current customer-adoption models, these models represent the most comprehensive forecasting approach available today.

    The quantities and ranges of DPV deployment forecasted in the studies we analyze vary by region, utility, and forecasting method (Figure ES-2). A number of utilities use only a single DPV forecast or consider only a small range. Stipulated forecasts generally have the largest ranges, whereas program-based forecasts tend to have small ranges, and the high end of thirdparty forecasts is above the high end of utility planning forecasts about two thirds of the time. Our analysis suggests that combining various DPV forecasting methods could be valuable. Such an approach might use program goals discounted for uncertainty as lower bounds, customeradoption models to forecast expected levels, and third-party forecasts and stipulated what-if scenarios to explore the full range of plausible futures.

    Ensuring Robustness of Decisions to Uncertainty in DPV Quantity

    Robustness of decisions to uncertainty in DPV adoption is most clearly addressed in utility integrated resource planning, with some consideration in transmission planning and little in distribution planning. The relevant studies we review use one of three methods to address uncertainty: single forecast (33% of studies), subject to sensitivity (11%), and per-scenario plan (56%). The per-scenario plan method often uses a capacity-expansion model (CEM) to develop least-cost plans for various scenarios, including different levels of DPV adoption (Figure ES-3). Because it accounts for changes in both net load and the generation portfolio, this is the most comprehensive of the three methods. An innovative variation of this approach—acquisition path analysis—combines multiple per-scenario plans with trigger events, which indicate when conditions have changed sufficiently from the expected to trigger modifications in resourceacquisition strategy. PacifiCorp and Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) use variations of this approach in their resource planning.

    Characterizing DPV as a Resource Option

    Fewer than half of the studies we review evaluate DPV as a resource that could be proactively deployed to meet future needs. Those that do consider DPV as a resource use various approaches to determine if it should be part of the plan. The two most common are to compare the performance of candidate portfolios with varying quantities of DPV and to develop minimumcost portfolios via CEMs with DPV as a resource option. Regardless of the characterization method used, the ways DPV is distinguished from other resource options are important. Some utilities dismiss DPV based only on its higher cost and lower capacity factor relative to utilityscale PV (UPV). However, DPV’s capacity credit as well as the avoided losses, transmission deferrals, and distribution-system cost impact associated with DPV also can be significant (Table ES-1). PG&E’s plan stands alone among the utility resource plans we review in accounting for all these factors, which are also important for the locational net benefits methodology in the California Distribution Resources Plans and the New York Reforming the Energy Vision (NY REV) process.

    Incorporating the Non-Dispatchability of DPV into Planning Methods

    Rather than a distinct innovative practice for incorporating the non-dispatchability of DPV in planning, innovation in this area is represented by evolving methods for capturing this important aspect of DPV. Hourly DPV generation profiles allow for some potential integration issues to be included when evaluating portfolios with DPV, including multi-hour ramping impacts and overgeneration. Most planning studies in our sample appear to use an hourly DPV profile. Impacts of DPV that are not captured with hourly generation profiles, such as sub-hourly variability and uncertainty, can be addressed through detailed integration studies. Various studies quantify the operational integration costs of solar, suggesting a range of $0.5–$10/MWh (for all solar, not just DPV). The methods used to estimate DPV’s capacity credit vary and are not always described. A few utilities use detailed reliability-based models to estimate DPV’s effective load-carrying capability, whereas others use less-rigorous methods to estimate capacity credit. Among the other integration-related issues discussed in the studies, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) highlights the overgeneration potential of low-load spring days and considers mitigation via electric vehicle (EV) charging during these periods. Combining hourly DPV profiles with detailed production cost models can help in evaluating the role of EVs and other technologies and in identifying times when overgeneration may be a concern.

    Accounting for Location-Specific Factors of DPV

    Transmission and distribution planning studies require projections of DPV locations. We identify three methods for estimating future locations: proportional to load (40% of relevant studies), proportional to existing DPV (40%), and propensity to adopt (30%). 2 The first two methods proportionally allocate DPV deployment based on the locations of existing load, population, or DPV. The propensity-to-adopt method employs additional predictive factors as well, such as demographics and customer load. Utilities that use this innovative analysis include PG&E, Southern California Edison, and Sacramento Municipal Utility District. Another emerging utility innovation is locating DPV strategically to enhance its benefits. Organizations exploring this tactic include Duke Energy Indiana, Dominion, PG&E, Georgia Power Company, and ISO New England—generally focusing on utility-owned systems. A recent pilot project in Rhode Island demonstrates how promotion of strategic locations for behind-the-meter DPV can help defer feeder upgrades.

    Estimating the Impact of DPV on T&D Investments

    Innovations in estimating the impact of DPV on T&D investments apply differently to different organizations, depending on each organization’s current progress in this area as well as its projected DPV deployment and the robustness of its T&D infrastructure. For organizations that have not yet considered DPV in T&D studies, innovative examples of such planning are available from numerous planning entities. Likewise, organizations that find themselves needing to calculate hosting capacity—the amount of DPV that can be interconnected to the distribution system without violating operating limits—can draw on innovative studies from their peers. These include the use of hosting capacity analysis to both screen and steer the location of DPV. At the most advanced end of the spectrum, some organizations are already proactively planning investments to accommodate additional DPV. Innovative analyses by Pepco, Dominion/Navigant, and HECO calculate the cost of various options for increasing hosting capacity, including the impacts of advanced inverters and energy storage.

    Estimating the Avoided Losses Associated with DPV

    Of the studies we review that mention avoided losses due to DPV and provide sufficient detail, we observe three methods to account for these losses: average loss rate (60% of studies), timedifferentiated average loss rate (30%), and detailed analysis of losses (10%). Because of the nonlinear variation of line losses with load, the most comprehensive estimation of system losses— and thus the potential avoided losses with DPV—is a time-differentiated marginal loss rate. However, none of the studies we evaluate appear to use a marginal loss calculation. This represents an area for future innovation. The one detailed circuit-level analysis of losses, by PSE, offers a different refinement at a relatively small scale.

    Considering Changes in Costs and Benefits of DPV with Higher Solar Penetration

    Perhaps because few utilities expect high penetrations of solar in the near future, innovative methods for addressing the value changes at such penetrations are lacking among the studies we evaluate. Georgia Power Company’s avoided cost of DPV calculations estimate the incremental avoided cost for tranches of DPV, though some details are redacted. Many utilities employ production cost models, and these tools can be used to show changes with increasing solar penetration. CEMs could also account for changes in the costs and benefits of DPV with higher penetration, though some models may need to be modified to account for changes in the capacity credit with higher penetration. In addition, none of the studies mention changes in avoided losses with higher solar penetration.

    One complicating factor is that the change in value with penetration may depend on other external factors. LADWP, for example, highlights that EV charging during the day may mitigate some of the challenges with overgeneration. Customer adoption of EVs and their preferences for charging the EVs may therefore affect the value of DPV at high penetration. Given uncertainty in how customer preferences and other factors may change over time, scenario analysis and analysis of the robustness of decisions may be helpful to decision makers.

    Integrating DPV in Planning across Generation, Transmission, and Distribution

    Fully integrating DPV into planning requires a more comprehensive approach in which distribution, transmission, and resource planning are more tightly linked. A few states and regions—including California, New York, and New England—have started to develop these more comprehensive processes, but there are still many issues to address. Understanding the range of different approaches across the United States and highlighting innovative practices should help accelerate those changes. Future Research

    With future research, we will analyze whether some of the innovative practices identified here can meaningfully affect planning study results. Of particular interest are innovative practices for forecasting DPV adoption, examining the robustness of decisions to DPV uncertainty, and considering DPV as a resource.

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    QUICK NEWS, September 27: Facts Check Trump – Fed Investments In Solar A Huge Success; Top Midwest Utility In $2 Billion Wind Buy; Solar Cost Increasingly Beating The Market

    Facts Check Trump – Fed Investments In Solar A Huge Success The U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs O¬ce (LPO) provides the critical financing needed to deploy some of the world’s largest and most innovative clean energy and advanced technology vehicle manufacturing projects to date.

    November 2014 (U.S. Department of Energy)

    Despite an almost isolated case referenced by Donald Trump in the first presidential debate, the federal investments in solar and other cutting edge energies have paid off far better than any portfolio of private sector investments, according to the Department of Energy update made as the program went into hiatus in 2014.

    “LPO currently manages a portfolio comprising more than $30 billion of loans, loan guarantees, and conditional commitments covering more than 30 projects. These projects include some of the world’s most innovative and largest solar, wind, geothermal, biofuel, and nuclear facilities, as well as advanced technology vehicle manufacturing facilities in six states producing some of America’s best-selling vehicles. Overall, these loans and loan guarantees have resulted in more than $50 billion in total project investment,” the update reports.

    In September 2014, LPO-financed projects have moved solar and other technologies that might not have come to market if they had to depend solely on private sector investment. They had repaid nearly $3.5 billion of principal and earned over $810 million in interest payments. The interest payments largely come in on or ahead of schedule and will eventually earn the federal government an estimated $5 billion-plus in interest. Losses at the time of the update were less than $780 million, less than 3.6% of the total money loaned. click here for more

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    Top Midwest Utility In $2 Billion Wind Buy Xcel plans big expansion in wind power, adding enough capacity for 750,000 homes; The company will add eight to 10 new wind farms in the Upper Midwest.

    Mike Hughlett, September 22, 2016 (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

    “Xcel Energy plans to invest $2 billion to expand its wind-generation capacity by 60 percent, enough to power 750,000 homes…Already a national leader in wind energy, Xcel Energy plans to add eight to 10 wind farms that will serve Minnesota, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Together, they will provide about 1,500 megawatts of power…That’s almost as much as the 1,600 megawatts of power produced by Xcel’s two Minnesota nuclear facilities…Xcel will own some of the new wind farms and buy power from wind farms developed by independent operators…The new wind farms should come online between 2017 and 2020…By 2030, Xcel expects one-third of its power generation in the Upper Midwest will come from renewable sources — mostly wind — up from 24 percent now…Nuclear will make up about one-third…[and coal is expected to fall from its current 33 percent] to 15 percent…” click here for more

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    Solar Cost Increasingly Beating The Market Solar power cost down 25% in five months – “There’s no reason why the cost of solar will ever increase again”

    John Fitzgerald Weaver, September 26, 2016 (Electrek)

    “On August 11 a bid of US$0.46/W was put forward to build 500MW of solar power in China (a roughly calculated levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) at $0.019/kWh). This past week we saw a bid of $0.023/kWh to build 1.2GW of solar power in Abu Dhabi…almost 25% lower than the $0.0299/kWh was bid in late April for a series of projects also in Abu Dhabi. These extremely aggressive price falls are partially driven by unique situations – a Chinese solar panel production glut and historically low costs of money. But also because of technology…The price drop in solar panels from the first quarter through the third quarter of this year is probably the greatest driver…Anecdotally, deliveries of Tier 1 solar panels in 1MW volume to the northeast USA have fallen from ~$0.60-65/W to ~$0.45/W – price declines of 25-30%...Other locations have seen price falls just as significant. A Nevada USA 100MW solar project was recently approved delivering electricity at $0.04/kWh. Chile set temporary records at $0.0291/kWh. And now we see India’s ongoing, and upward ramping, solar power boom…Greentech Media made a now quaint seeming prediction that solar costs would fall “40% by 2020” in September of 2015 – little did they know it might happen before the end of 2016…” click here for more

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    Monday, September 26, 2016

    TODAY’S STUDY: The Future Of Offshore Wind Foreseen

    The National Offshore Wind Strategy

    September 2016 (U.S. Departments of Energy and the Interior)

    Executive Summary

    Offshore wind energy holds the promise of significant environmental and economic benefits for the United States. It is an abundant, low-carbon, domestic energy resource. It is located close to major coastal load centers, providing an alternative to long-distance transmission or development of electricity generation in these land-constrained regions. Once built, offshore wind farms could produce energy at low, long-term fixed costs, which can reduce electricity prices and improve energy security by providing a hedge against fossil fuel price volatility.

    Realizing these benefits will require overcoming critical challenges in three strategic themes: 1) reducing the costs and technical risks associated with domestic offshore wind development, 2) supporting stewardship of U.S. waters by providing regulatory certainty and understanding and mitigating environmental risks of offshore wind development, and 3) increasing understanding of the benefits and costs of offshore wind energy.

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through its Wind Energy Technologies Office, and U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), through its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), have jointly produced this updated national strategy to facilitate the responsible development of offshore wind energy in the United States. In doing so, the agencies accounted for progress made since the last national offshore wind strategy released in 2011, and utilized significant input from the offshore wind community. This strategy highlights the gaps that need to be addressed by the offshore wind community as a whole, and provides a suite of actions that DOE and DOI are positioned to undertake to address these gaps and help the nation realize the benefits of offshore wind development.

    The United States Needs a National Approach to Offshore Wind Development

    The national energy landscape has changed significantly since the first national strategy for offshore wind was released in 2011. The first domestic offshore wind farm is scheduled for commercial operation in 2016, and there are now 11 active commercial leases along the Atlantic Coast. The United States took steps toward a low-carbon future through its commitments at the Paris Climate Conference, the promulgation of the Clean Power Plan,1 and legislative action, such as the extension of the renewable energy production tax credit and investment tax credit. Coastal states have increased their demand for renewable energy deployment through renewable portfolio standards and other mandates. Many legacy fossil fuel, nuclear, and renewable generators are set to retire because of age, cost, or as part of the move toward lower-carbon sources of electricity. Land-based wind energy generation in the United States has increased nearly 60% and utility-scale solar generation increased more than 1,300% [1] relative to 2011.

    Most of this renewable generation is located far from coastal load centers, and long-distance transmission infrastructure has not kept pace with this rapid deployment. At the same time, the offshore wind market has matured rapidly in Europe, and costs are now falling. These trends suggest that offshore wind has the opportunity to play a substantial role as a source of domestic, large-scale, affordable electricity for the nation.

    DOE and DOI developed this strategy as a joint document and have a single overarching goal in its implementation, which is to facilitate the development of a robust and sustainable offshore wind industry in the United States. The agencies will coordinate on the implementation of many of the specific actions they intend to undertake to support achievement of this goal. In recognition of their unique and complementary roles, and consistent with their missions and authorities, DOE and DOI each identified the actions they plan to address, and set individual objectives against which they will measure progress. These objectives are as follows:

    • DOE aims to reduce the levelized cost of energy through technological advancement to compete with local electricity costs, and create the conditions necessary to support DOE’s Wind Vision2 study scenario levels [2] of deployment by supporting the coexistence of offshore wind with the environment, coastal communities, and other users of ocean space.

    • DOI aims to enhance its regulatory program to ensure that oversight processes are well-informed and adaptable, avoid unnecessary burdens, and provide transparency and certainty for the regulated community and stakeholders.

    DOE and DOI solicited significant stakeholder and public input to inform this document through a DOE Request for Information and a DOI Request for Feedback, as well as a jointly hosted public workshop. Feedback received through these efforts was critical to DOI and DOE in defining the challenges facing offshore wind presented in this document, as well as suggesting potential federal actions to address them.

    Offshore Wind Represents a Significant Opportunity to the Nation

    A number of factors demonstrate the realistic and substantial opportunity that offshore wind presents to the United States:

    • U.S. offshore wind resources are abundant. Today, a technical potential of 2,058 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind resource capacity are accessible in U.S. waters using existing technology. This is equivalent to an energy output of 7,200 terawatt-hours per year— enough to provide nearly double the total electric generation of the United States in 2015.

    • Significant siting and development opportunities are available today in U.S. waters. By the end of 2015, DOI had awarded 11 commercial leases for offshore wind development that could support a total of 14.6 GW of capacity in areas already vetted for preliminary siting conflicts through extensive intergovernmental and stakeholder coordination. BOEM has a number of potential wind areas that are currently in the planning stages.

    • Electricity demand growth and scheduled power plant retirements in coastal states provide significant opportunity for offshore wind development. If the 86 GW of offshore wind studied in the Wind Vision study scenario3 were developed by 2050, offshore wind would make up 14% of the projected demand for new electricity generation in the coastal and Great Lakes states.

    • In some locations, offshore wind could be competitive with incumbent forms of generation in the next decade. A new cost analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows credible scenarios for cost reductions below $100/megawatt-hour by 2025 in some areas of the United States, and more widely around the country by 2030.

    Assuming near-term deployment of offshore wind at a scale sufficient to support market competition and the growth of a supply chain, development of offshore wind energy in markets with relatively high electricity costs, such as the Northeast, could be cost-competitive within a decade.

    • Deploying offshore wind could lead to significant electrical system benefits for system operators, utilities, and ratepayers. Because of its low marginal costs of production and the fact that offshore winds in many regions tend to be strong at times of peak demand, offshore wind energy can lower wholesale electricity prices in many markets. Offshore wind can also decrease transmission congestion and reduce the need for new long-distance transmission.

    • A robust offshore wind industry would lead to significant positive environmental and economic external benefits. Assuming the Wind Vision study scenario deployment level of 86 GW offshore wind by 2050, national benefits could be:

    – Reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A 1.8% reduction in cumulative greenhouse gas emissions— equivalent to approximately 1.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide—could save $50 billion in avoided global damages.

    – Decreased air pollution from other emissions. The United States could save $2 billion in avoided mortality, morbidity, and economic damages from cumulative reductions in emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulates.

    – Reduced water consumption. The electric power sector could reduce water consumption by 5% and water withdrawals by 3%.

    – Greater energy diversity and security. Offshore wind could drive significant reductions in electricity price volatility associated with fossil fuel costs.

    – Increased economic development and employment. Deployment could support $440 million in annual lease payments into the U.S. Treasury and approximately $680 million in annual property tax payments, as well as support approximately 160,000 gross jobs in coastal regions and around the country [2]. 4

    Key Challenges Remain

    To support a robust and sustainable offshore wind industry in the United States, challenges across three strategic themes need to be overcome.

    • Reducing costs and technology risks. Today, the cost of offshore wind energy is too high to compete in most U.S. markets without subsidies. However, continued global market growth and research and development investments across the following three action areas could significantly reduce the costs of offshore wind toward competitive levels:

    – Offshore wind power resource and site characterization. A better understanding of the unique meteorological, ocean, and seafloor conditions across U.S. offshore wind development sites will allow for optimized designs, reduced capital costs, greater safety, and less uncertainty in preconstruction energy estimates, resulting in reduced financing costs.

    – Offshore wind plant technology advancement. Increasing turbine size and efficiency, reducing mass in substructures, and optimizing wind plants at a systems level for unique U.S. conditions can reduce capital costs and operating expenses and increase energy production at a given site.

    – Installation, operation and maintenance, and supply chain solutions. The complexity and risk associated with installation and operation and maintenance activities requires specialized infrastructure that does not yet exist in the United States. Reducing or eliminating the need for specialized assets, along with leveraging the nation’s existing infrastructure, will reduce capital and operating costs in the near term and help unlock major economic development and job creation opportunities in the long term.

    • Supporting effective stewardship. Effective stewardship of the nation’s ocean and Great Lakes resources will be necessary to allow for the development of a sustainable offshore wind industry in the United States. DOI, through BOEM, oversees the responsible development of energy on the Outer Continental Shelf. Offshore wind developers, financiers, and power purchasers need confidence in a project’s ability to navigate regulatory and environmental compliance requirements in a predictable way. To improve this balance and support effective stewardship, action is needed in the following two areas:

    – Ensuring efficiency, consistency, and clarity in the regulatory process. Further work can be done to improve consistency and identify and reduce unnecessary burdens in BOEM’s existing regulatory process. This may include establishing more predictable review timelines and maintaining a reasonable level of flexibility given the early stage of the industry’s development.

    – Managing key environmental and human-use concerns. More data need to be collected to verify and validate the impacts of offshore wind development on sensitive biological resources and existing human uses of ocean space. Improved understanding and further collaboration will allow for increased efficiency of environmental reviews and tighter focus on the most important issues.

    • Increasing understanding of the benefits and costs of offshore wind. Building a better understanding of the impacts of offshore wind on the electricity grid, unique electricity market costs and benefits, and environmental externalities can help create the conditions needed for near-term deployment.

    – Offshore wind electricity delivery and grid integration. Impacts of significant offshore wind deployment on grids need to be better understood at state and regional levels, and the costs and benefits associated with different offshore transmission infrastructure configurations and strategies need to be characterized.

    – Quantifying and communicating the benefits and costs of offshore wind. The environmental and economic benefits and costs associated with offshore wind need to be quantified and communicated to key stakeholders to inform decisions on near-term offtake agreements, other project-specific matters, and policies affecting offshore wind.

    A Robust and Credible Plan for Federal Action

    Federal government action can supplement the work of states, utilities, the wind industry, the environmental community, researchers, and other stakeholders to facilitate offshore wind development. DOE and DOI aim to provide essential federal leadership to help overcome certain challenges and help the nation to realize the benefits of offshore wind. This strategy lays out 34 concrete actions in seven action areas that DOE and DOI can take to facilitate responsible, robust, and sustainable offshore wind development in the United States.

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    QUICK NEWS, September 26: The Sonification Of Climate Change; Wind Is Red, White, And Green; The New Hybrid Solar-Storage Concept Module

    The Sonification Of Climate Change The haunting song of climate change, in D minor

    Brian Kahn, September 25, 2016 (Grist)

    “…Music based on data has the potential to reveal new patterns to scientists…[Nik Sawe used a technique called data sonification to make music from data on] multiple types of trees in the forest and a clear progression of climate change killing off yellow cedars. Rising temperatures are decimating snowpack, but when still frequent cold snaps hit, there’s not enough insulation to protect the cedar’s shallow roots, so they die…[This odd death by freezing in a warming world] could have profound impacts on one of the most culturally and economically important trees in Alaska…That’s why Sawe picked up [Lauren] Oakes’ data and turned it into tunes.

    Though a computer played the music, Sawe helped arrange the piece so it made sense. He assigned different trees to different instruments based on their role in the forest (though in the case of sitka spruce, he assigned it to the cello because it’s a common wood used in cello construction) and a key so all the players were on the same page (in this case, a rather foreboding D minor)…Each note in the piece is a single tree from one of Oakes’ study sites while its pitch conveys the age and loudness conveys its size…[I]t may serve as a reminder that we’re all composers and our choices will define what the next movement sounds like.” click here for more

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    Wind Is Red, White, And Green Why Republicans support wind energy

    Tom Kiernan, Roberta Combs, Michele Combs, September 20, 2016 (Des Moines Register)

    “…American wind turbines can now produce as much electricity as 17 typical nuclear power plants or 65 coal plants and reliably contribute] to U.S. energy independence…[A]ny Republican or Democrat running for election this fall should pay attention to wind’s rapid growth. Especially since recent polling data show that as wind power grows, so does U.S. voter support for it…[Strong voter support for wind shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that by tripling in size over the last several years, wind now supports a record-high 88,000 jobs across all 50 states…[and wind tehnician] is the fastest growing profession in the U.S…[As a drought-resistant cash crop, wind also pays] $222 million in land lease payments to family farmers…Republican-represented districts host 86 percent of the total wind farm fleet in America. That means the majority of wind’s economic benefits — including jobs, billions of dollars in private investment, and added tax revenue for improving local infrastructure — go to rural communities with a strong presence of typically Republican voters…” click here for more

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    The New Hybrid Solar-Storage Concept Module A New Kind of Solar Panel That's Smart, Stores Energy, and Even Talks; Will Customers Buy It?

    Katie Fehrenbacher, September 22, 2016 (Fortune)

    “…[SunCulture Solar, led by entrepreneur and inventor Christopher Estes, has] redesigned the solar panel, integrating batteries into the panel itself, overlaying it with smart sensors and software and wirelessly linking it to a computing hub and cell phone app…[SolPads] are supposed to be sold late next year in a system for a rooftop, or as a stand alone panel that can be propped up on a back deck or balcony…SunCulture Solar says it can sell a home rooftop solar system for half of the cost of currently available solar panel and battery system combos…[Estes says the panel is the solar industry’s smart phone because it can also respond to finger taps and talk]…Few solar panel makers are really thinking differently about the aesthetics of panels, or are integrating [batteries or] computing intelligence and user experience design into the panel itself…Instead most are thinking about cost…But as low cost panels get cheaper and cheaper, and as the technology becomes more mainstream, a few companies [including SolarCity/Tesla] are trying to differentiate solar panels by making them higher-end, more efficient, and more tied to batteries…” click here for more

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