NewEnergyNews: Solar for Mind and Spirit—and $15 Billion for Education; Add schools and churches to the consumers making money in solar through third-party financing.

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • LABOR DAY STUDY: CHINA NEW ENERGY MOVES AHEAD
  • NO QUICK NEWS TODAY. BACK TOMORROW.
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: The Economic Opportunity In The Climate Fight
  • Weekend Video: The Future Of Energy
  • Weekend Video: Advances In BioEnergy
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CLIMATE CHANGE – IT GETS WORSE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-WHERE AND HOW WIND IS GROWING IN THE WORLD
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CHINA TO LEAD SOLAR MARKET GROWTH DESPITE OBSTACLES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE ENORMOUS POTENTIAL OF WORLD GEOTHERMAL
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 28:

  • TTTA Thursday-PRESIDENT TO TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE
  • TTTA Thursday-BIRDS AND ENERGY, THE BIGGER STORY
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW CA LAW STREAMLINES SOLAR PERMITTING
  • TTTA Thursday-DATA CENTER EFFICIENCIES CAN SAVE U.S. $3.8BIL/YR
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE RISKIEST ENERGY IN THE WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, August 27: VERIZON’S $40MIL SOLAR BUY; WIND PRICES HIT RECORD LOWS; NUKE INSPECTOR SAYS DIABLO CYN IS UNSAFE
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: U.S. WIND RIGHT NOW
  • QUICK NEWS, August 26: CLIMATE MODELS PROVE RIGHT AGAIN; ABOUT INVESTING IN SOLAR; GM VS TESLA IN THE 200 MILE RACE -

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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • 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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    Your intrepid reporter

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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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  • Monday, January 28, 2013

    Solar for Mind and Spirit—and $15 Billion for Education; Add schools and churches to the consumers making money in solar through third-party financing.

    Solar for Mind and Spirit—and $15 Billion for Education; Add schools and churches to the consumers making money in solar through third-party financing.

    Herman K. Trabish, August 15, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    Schools and houses of worship can’t make use of the 30 percent federal investment tax credit (ITC) to buy into solar because they don’t pay taxes.

    “The only way they can leverage the ITC is if they entered into a power purchase agreement rather than own it themselves,” explained SunPower Managing Director Bill Kelly. But even lower-cost financing can be available to school districts under public ownership models so that “it is cost-effective to forego the ITC.”

    Third-party financing of rooftop solar has tripled in California in the last year. As GTM has reported, institutions like Citi, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and U.S. Bankare buying in at the rate of hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and lease finance models are transforming the solar industry.

    The institutional investors get tax equity opportunities and a revenue stream for providing the upfront financing. Homeowners, business owners and public entities get solar-generated electricity at a guaranteed, long-term rate discounted from their present utility bill pricing without the burden of upfront cost or ownership responsibilities.

    And companies like SolarCity, Sunrun, Sungevity, and Clean Power Finance and/or their solar-installer representatives get a fee or a part of the revenue stream for the system installation and maintenance.

    There are also three or four public ownership models available to public agencies, Kelly said. Schools can “own the system themselves and borrow funding.” They can choose either a General Obligation (GO) bond or one of three subsidized bonds.

    Qualified School Consolidation Bonds (QSCBs) are available through the U.S. Department of Education. Qualified Energy Consolidation Bonds (QECBs) and Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) are available through the U.S. Department of Energy.

    “We don’t have an outright preference,” Kelly said. “We’re looking at the school district and finding what the best economic value for them is and recommending either a PPA or public ownership. If public ownership is the best option,” he explained, “then we’re looking for the lowest cost of financing within those choices.”

    SunPower has been working with school districts for a few years, Kelly said, honing its skill at identifying that best option. “It can make a significant difference in the savings.”

    Each school district is different. They vary in borrowing capacity. They may or may not be in a position to take a GO bond to their electorate, as the City of Lancaster, California, did recently.

    Once Lancaster’s voters approved a $27 million bond at a 4.4 percent return, two school districts got 7.5 megawatts of solar at 25 sites and $325,000 or more in annual electricity bill savings for 25 years.

    The other bonds make sense when a GO bond is not an option. SunPower recently worked with California's San Ramon Valley Unified School District to put 3.5 megawatts on five high schools through a QSCB at a very low 1 percent to 2 percent interest rate. The total system cost for SunPower to build carports and install panels and trackers on top of them was $26 million. The bonds were ultimately backed by a bank or an investor, Kelly noted. “Subtracting out the cost of the system,” Kelly said, “the net savings come to $13 million over twenty years.” SunPower, he added, handles all system maintenance and operations responsibilities.

    Because its website uses SunPower’s online tools to track every detail of the system, the San Ramon Valley School District and its taxpayers know the savings, from October 2011 to July 2012, are $1.8 million, according to Kelly. That is just about the length of a school year, and the salaries of a lot of decently reimbursed teachers, Kelly acknowledged.

    Kelly estimates the solar systems installed or being installed on schools under the California Solar Initiative (CSI), former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “million solar roofs” program, will save the state’s schools $1.5 billion over the next 30 years.

    That, however, is only about 5 percent to 10 percent of the state’s schools, Kelly said. He estimates the potential savings for education at $15 billion to $30 billion.

    Other public agencies use electricity, too. Excluding federal properties, Kelly said, school districts represent only about half the potential. There also cities, counties, transit authorities, water districts, and other possibilities.

    Sun Light & Power CEO Gary Gerber is about to close a third-party-financed deal to put a twenty-kilowatt solar system on a house of worship but, in a creative twist, the third party is the church’s congregation. It's known as crowdfunding.

    Special Purpose Entities, in the form of LLCs, Gerber said, can sell memberships to supporters of non-profit organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, food co-ops and churches. Gerber’s $90,900 solar project will be funded by 303 memberships of $300 each.

    Like other third-party models, Gerber noted, this one can expect to pay off. Does that mean the church will get new funding as well as electricity? “LLCs must be organized to make a profit,” Gerber said. But, he added, he knows of nothing that dictates what is done with the profit.

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