Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Biden Solar Plan?

The solar financing plan that originated in Berkeley in 2007 will become a national model, Vice President Joe Biden said Monday.
Biden's program, known as Recovery Through Retrofit, creates a framework for cities, counties and states to set up tax districts that allow residential and business property owners to install solar panels and make other energy improvements, repaying the investment over a 20-year property tax assessment.
"This is a remarkable validation of what Berkeley did," said Cisco DeVries, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates' former chief of staff who drafted Berkeley's financing plan and now works at an Oakland firm that helps municipalities create similar plans. "For an idea that started in Berkeley, it's proven to be very non-ideological."
Since Berkeley adopted its financing plan, cities across the nation have adopted similar models, and California, New York, Texas and 11 other states have passed legislation making it easier for municipalities to create their own financing plans.
Berkeley's plan intends to eliminate the up-front cost of solar installation, which could total about $20,000 for an average bungalow, and the financial commitment that could follow property owners after they move from the home.
Under the plan, the assessment stays with the property, not the person. Property owners pay no money up front but pay about $180 a month on their property tax bill, an amount that is offset by the energy saved from generating solar power.
The plan, combined with federal, state and utility rebates, allows property owners to nearly break even on their investment.
Berkeley launched its plan last year with 40 homeowners. Of those, two dropped out and 38 have completed or nearly completed solar panel installation, according to the city's energy department.
The federal plan and those adopted in most other cities allow property owners to make other energy-efficiency upgrades, too, such as installing new windows, insulation and weather stripping.
Solar financing plans have been a boon for installers. A Berkeley firm, Sungevity, has expanded its staff to 35 and seen its business increase dramatically in California, including in Sonoma County and Palm Desert, which have adopted versions of the financing plan.
"Where it's available, it's a clear market driver," said Danny Kennedy, Sungevity president. "There's no question there's a demand out there, and this goes a long way to removing the barriers."

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2009/10/20/BAKT1A7R72.DTL#ixzz0UXaZWqNr

More on CA's feed-in-tariff

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has approved two major initiatives that will require utilities to pay consumers for generating extra power and will boost the payoff for certain solar facilities.

Homes, businesses and schools that have solar panels or wind turbines previously had no financial incentive to use less electricity than they generated. But AB 920, written by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), will encourage efficiency, supporters say.

SB 32, by state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino), requires utilities to purchase solar electricity from facilities that produce up to three megawatts and could increase installations on unused spaces such as warehouse roofs. The old limit was 1.5 megawatts.

The two bills will go into effect Jan. 1. Schwarzenegger signed them late Sunday, the last day to act on bills from this year's legislative session.

Under AB 920, the state Public Utilities Commission will set a rate for utilities to compensate customers whose solar or wind systems produce more power than they use in a year. Under California's current law, customers are not paid for any surplus electricity they feed back into the grid.

The state requires that when a consumer installs a solar power system, it be the right size to produce only enough power necessary for on-site use. Rebates from the California Solar Initiative, overseen by the utilities commission, discourage anything larger. So customers who later reduce their energy consumption often end up underutilizing their solar panels.

"The current system instills a perverse incentive for people to waste their solar electricity just so they don't give it away for free to the utilities," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, a clean energy advocate with Environment California, which sponsored the bill.

The new law could boost sales of photovoltaics, especially in regions with sunny summers. Homes that use less power than they did when their solar panels were installed -- such as those that add energy-efficient appliances, insulation or weatherproofing -- and those with children who have moved out can also benefit.

"This bill applies to individual homeowners as well as small businesses, farms, wineries, schools and even affordable housing developments," Huffman said in a statement.

Customers can either receive a check for the extra energy or have credit rolled forward on their electricity bills. Experts, however, said they should expect little profit.

SB 32, meanwhile, could spark more interest in commercial rooftop systems. The law expands an existing program to include municipal utilities, which now must purchase solar power at a set rate until they reach their portion of a statewide 750-megawatt cap. The limit was previously set at 500 megawatts.

The utilities commission will set the rate, which will be higher than market price after incorporating environmental compliance costs and other benefits, said Sue Kateley, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Assn., which sponsored the bill.

Between the sweeping solar installations in the desert and the small-scale ones on homes, she said, there had been a category of properties that had plenty of space but didn't use enough power to justify setting up huge solar panels.

But now, owners of large storage units and similar low-energy facilities will be able to install solar power systems and sell the extra electricity back to the utilities, a program known as a feed-in tariff.

The program took cues from countries such as Germany -- where, some in the industry have complained, a similar tariff format stimulated the market so much that prices of solar energy shot too high. Other critics are worried that the tariff could be too low to interest investors.

"We didn't want to replicate the German model, which was a social movement to create an industry," Kateley said. "In California, we already had an industry, but we wanted to fill a market gap. And within the community, it's really exciting because this law will create local jobs."

In a note to the state Senate on Sunday, Schwarzenegger encouraged the utilities commission to continue investigating an expanded tariff for small to medium-size producers of renewable energy.

"In order to meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 33% by 2020, we will need to use all the tools available under our existing programs," he said.

But Schwarzenegger vetoed a slate of bills -- including SB 14 and AB 64 -- that would have required the state to rely on renewable resources for at least one-third of its electricity. He has issued an executive order to meet the 33% goal using a different plan and supports efforts to create 1 million solar roofs by 2018.

Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Los Angeles), chairman of a renewable energy committee, called the vetoes a dangerous setback. The bills, Krekorian said, would have created "green" jobs and steadied price volatility while cutting market manipulation from solar hubs outside of California. He said the vetoes would sour developers to the California market, leading them elsewhere.

"If we don't get started now," he said, "our opportunities to complete projects are going to be missed.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Jiffy Lube QnA - Great Article

Jiffy Lube co-founder Stephen Spinelli talks to BusinessWeek's Amy Barrett about his company's success and the world of entrepreneurial opportunity

Spinelli: "Listen to your franchisees and make them your partners"Nick Anthony/Wonderful Machine
Stephen Spinelli Jr. knows entrepreneurship—both from the trenches and from 30,000 feet. In 1979, when he was just 24, Spinelli co-founded Jiffy Lube International and went on to become the chain's largest franchisee. Along the way he got an MBA from Babson College and, after selling his franchises to Jiffy Lube's new owner in 1991, went on to earn a PhD in economics at the University of London. After more than a decade teaching entrepreneurship, mostly at Babson, Spinelli took over as president of Philadelphia University in 2007. Spinelli, 54, spoke with senior correspondent Amy Barrett about Jiffy Lube's success and entrepreneurial opportunity.
Q: Why did Jiffy Lube take off?

A: Local gas stations were closing, taking [car service] bays off the market. We saw Jiffy Lube as a new technology. Environmental concerns [about oil disposal] and an aging population meant there were fewer do-it-yourselfers.
Q: What was your role in that startup?

A: We bought a mom-and-pop operation called Jiffy Lube in Ogden, Utah. I moved out to Ogden and started changing oil. I tell students all the time: "You gotta learn how to change oil—you have to understand your business." I wrote the operations manual, which was critical in allowing us to replicate the model.
Q: What did you learn from that?

A: It doesn't matter how big your company is, you work your rear end off. It is a false assumption that a smaller business is less risky than a larger one because it is more controllable. You end up having gaps because there's not enough scale and critical mass to have a team. Teams do better than individuals.
Q: Jiffy Lube ran into problems. Why?

A: We were doing so well, we started having this mentality: "This is easy. If we build it, they will come." If you start thinking that way, jump in a pool, cool off. That is a huge mistake.
In our case we got outlets where the operator was not trained as well. Or the location wasn't as good. It's death by a thousand cuts. It grew too fast. A vast majority of the stores were doing well, but the bad apples were spoiling the whole bunch.
Q: You ended up becoming a large Jiffy Lube franchisee. What are your thoughts on franchising in this environment?

A: I believe in franchising. It is a fabulous way to scale a business model. But the devil is in the details. Listen to your franchisees and make them your partners. That gives you an incredible competitive advantage. This is a perfect time to do the homework to be prepared to really grow. I'd be thinking about planning for growth next spring and summer if I were a franchisor.
Q: How valuable is formal education for an entrepreneur?

A: I don't think you necessarily need to be in college to do this. But you need to be a lifelong learner to survive. I think you will have to evolve your business model five times—and maybe five times in the first 15 years.
Q: Are you optimistic about entrepreneurship right now?

A: A perfect storm has been brewing, and it has been anti-entrepreneurial: Consumers and banks are going on strike at the same time. That has really slowed new venture creation. You have to use this time to have a good conversation with your customers, to understand what they are thinking. We will come out of this [recession]. There will be fewer competitors and there will be demand. So get ready.

SunProTraining : Professional Solar Training - New Video Posted

Ever thought about entering the solar market? Here's your chance. 

SolarUniversity’s SunPro™ Technical Training Course was designed by trade professionals to turn beginners into SolarPros in a fast and effective learning environment. This intensive training program is being offered in an active solar installation company with hands-on exercises exactly as you will experience them in the field. The SunPro™ course was designed with the premise that the best way to learn is by doing. 60% Lab, 20% Instruction, 20% Classroom Exercises, 100% Exciting.

Check out the latest video from the class:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nine Out of 10 Americans Want Solar Now

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- A vast majority of Americans, across all political parties, overwhelmingly support development and funding of solar energy, and their support for solar has remained consistent over the last year. These and other findings were reported today in the 2009 SCHOTT Solar Barometer((TM)), a nationally representative survey conducted by independent polling firm Kelton Research.
The survey found that 92 percent of Americans think it is important for the U.S. to develop and use solar energy. This strong support for solar remains unchanged since Americans were asked the same questions in the June 2008 SCHOTT Solar Barometer (94%). (The difference is within the margin of error for both polls.)
This support for solar power is consistent across political party affiliation with 89 percent of Republicans, 94 percent of Democrats and 93 percent of Independents agreeing that it is important for the U.S. to develop and use solar power.
Furthermore, close to eight in 10 (77%) Americans feel that the development of solar power, and other renewable energy sources, should be a major priority of the federal government, including the financial support needed. This sentiment also remains the same since June 2008 (77%).
"The SCHOTT Solar Barometer confirms our belief that Americans are ready for solar energy," said Dr. Gerald Fine, President & CEO of SCHOTT North America. "We've invested over $100 million in Albuquerque, New Mexico and created hundreds of green jobs manufacturing innovative solar products."
"With controversial debates happening all over America, this isn't one of them," said Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. "Americans overwhelmingly want clean, reliable solar energy for their homes and businesses. It's now time for Congress to listen to the American public and prioritize the use of solar in upcoming energy legislation. By expanding the U.S. market for solar, Congress will reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions while creating jobs in all 50 states."
The poll also showed that if they had to choose one energy source to financially support if they were President, 43 percent of Americans would opt for solar over other sources such as wind (17%), natural gas (12%) and nuclear (10%).

Friday, October 9, 2009

EV Charging Stations

As every major automaker reveals plans to sell electric vehicles, the future appears to be upon us, replete with silent, emissions-free, peppy, electric vehicles.
Given this impending electric-vehicle revolution, where are all of the electric pumps?
Electric-car charging points like this one, which is fed by solar panels and installed by SolarCity, are being installed in the bank parking lots of California's Rabobank.
(Credit: SolarCity
With electric vehicles, you could probably do away with stopping at fueling stations entirely, as the majority of your fueling, or battery charging, will be done overnight while plugged in at home or during the day while parked at the office. But because it is conceivable that not every trip will be within the battery range of your vehicle, the mere presence of public charging stations for electric vehicles could help alleviate "range anxiety," or the concern that with an electric vehicle, you will be stranded when your battery dies.
Wouldn't it be nice to know that a stop for a Big Mac to fill your belly could also serve as a stop to extend your car's driving range? While some electric cars are already on the road, and people are installing charging stations at home, can the government roll out enough public charging stations in time to support all of these vehicles?
Sure, and if we were the green fairy, we'd sprinkle magical carbon-free dust on President Obama and have him pour billions of dollars into making electric vehicles affordable.
Wait--that's already happening--and it may be enough to get started. But if we want electric vehicles to be successful on a large scale, we can't rely on the government to do it all. We need big-box retailers, office buildings, and fast-food franchises to invest.
And, while it would be great if these companies invested just because they feel strongly about energy security, global warming, or innovative transportation, it also makes good business sense.
With an initial investment of definable costs, owners have a variety of options for earning a significant return:
  • Collect fees for battery charging
  • Attract more customers
  • Recharge your own vehicles
  •  Enhance your brand

The Rocky Mountain Institute, my employer, has a new guide for investing in charging infrastructure , detailing the full costs of charging stations--not just what the charging station manufacturers will quote, but the installation and running costs, as well. The guide helps potential investors ask the right questions, understand the differences across the technology, and connect to those active in this space.
Each business has a unique scenario, and for those who wish to see their own numbers, RMI has also developed an interactive tool to help business owners accurately assess their business case. This report and tool will help users understand if and how they can make money from a charging station.
Coulomb Technologies is developing networked equipment for charging electric vehicles at the curb. It has inked deals with service stations throughout California to provide the equipment.
Coulomb Technologies is developing networked equipment for charging electric vehicles at the curb. It has inked deals with service stations throughout California to provide the equipment.
(Credit: Kim Smith/General Motors
Does investing in charging infrastructure make sense for your business?
Let's take the example of a McDonald's. The total cost of a station may be about $5,000, and installation may cost about the same. Ten grand is nothing to sneeze at, but the actual cost to the investor is likely to be lower. Uncle Sam will provide a 50 percent tax credit, and many states have an additional incentive on top of that. As a typical McDonald's grosses $2.2 million annually, a one-time investment of $5,000 is less than half of 1 percent of annual revenue.
Let's consider what the station would provide in return. Even though most of the companies RMI interviewed for this guide did not list branding opportunities as the top driver for interest in charging stations, this hypothetical McDonald's owner already would generate great publicity, which has real value.
Paying for an advertisement in a nationally syndicated publication is expensive, and not nearly as powerful as being "caught doing good."
Of RMI's corporate interviewees, a commitment to retaining employees and the potential to attract new customers came up most often as incentives for installing charging stations. In the McDonald's example, think of how quickly these stations would pay for themselves if a few new customers a day decided to go to this McDonald's instead of another fast-food chain because they agree with its practices.
Most of these charging stations will also have intelligence built in that enables fee collection from users to refill their batteries. Depending on the number of electric-vehicle users, this is another potential source of revenue. These individual streams can start to add up to real returns.
Installing a charging station may not make sense for some businesses. However, it may be possible that some companies make a little green by being a little greener.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Where's the next boom? Cleantech?

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Our economy sure could use the Next Big Thing. Something on the scale of railroads, automobiles or the Internet -- the kind of breakthrough that emerges every so often and builds industries, generates jobs and mints fortunes.
Silicon Valley investors are pointing to something called cleantech -- alternative energy, more efficient power distribution and new ways to store electricity, all with minimal impact to the environment -- as a candidate for the next boom.
And while no two booms are exactly alike, some hallmarks are already showing up.
Despite last fall's financial meltdown, public and private investments are pouring in, fueling startups and reinvigorating established companies. The political and social climates are favorable. If it takes off, cleantech could seep into every part of the economy and our lives.
Some of the biggest booms first blossomed during recessions. The telephone and phonograph were developed during the depression of the 1870s. The integrated circuit, a milestone in electronics, was invented in the recessionary year of 1958. Personal computers went mainstream, spawning a huge industry, in the slumping early 1980s.
A year into the Great Recession, innovation isn't slowing. This time, it's better batteries, more efficient solar cells, smarter appliances and electric cars, not to mention all the infrastructure needed to support the new ways energy will be generated and the new ways we'll be using it.
Yet for all the benefits that might be spawned by cleantech breakthroughs, no one knows how many jobs might be created -- or how many old jobs might be cannibalized. It also remains to be seen whether Americans will clamor for any of its products.
Still, big bets are being placed. The Obama administration is pledging to invest $150 billion over the next decade on energy technology and says that could create 5 million jobs. This recession has wiped out 7.2 million.
And cleantech is on track to be the dominant force in venture capital investments over the next few years, supplanting biotechnology and software. Venture capitalists have poured $8.7 billion into energy-related startups in the U.S. since 2006.
That pales in comparison with the dot-com boom, when venture cash sometimes topped $10 billion in a single quarter. But the momentum surrounding clean energy is reminiscent of the Internet's early days. Among the similarities: Although big projects are still dominated by large companies, the scale of the challenges requires innovation by smaller firms that hope to be tomorrow's giants.
"Ultimately IBM and AT&T didn't build the Internet. It was built by Silicon Valley startups," says Bob Metcalfe, an Internet pioneer who now invests in energy projects with Polaris Venture Partners. "And energy is going to be solved by entrepreneurial activity."
The action is happening at companies like GreatPoint Energy in Cambridge, Mass., which has developed a technique for turning coal into natural gas more cheaply and efficiently than previous methods.
GreatPoint plans to break ground next year on a power plant in Houston that will cost $800 million and create thousands of construction jobs, says its CEO, Andrew Perlman. Dow Chemical Co. and energy giants AES Corp., Suncor Energy Inc. and Peabody Energy are all GreatPoint investors.
"The opportunities," Perlman says, "are staggering."
A123 Systems, a Watertown, Mass., maker of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, had one of the most lucrative public stock offerings this year, raising $437.5 million. Its stock price jumped more than 50 percent on the first day of trading in September, with investors willing to overlook that the company has yet to make money.
The Obama administration's promises about cleantech funding have galvanized the industry, reassuring entrepreneurs that they will have paying customers. The administration has said it will focus on putting more hybrid cars on the road, boosting the amount of electricity from renewable sources and investing in ways to cut pollution from coal.
One target is "smart grids." As utilities install digital meters in homes and Americans buy appliances that can communicate with the electric system, individual power consumption can be monitored more closely. People could be cued to dial down appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners when electricity is in highest demand. Such fine-tuning in millions of homes can reduce the need for new power plants.
At Tendril Networks Inc. of Boulder, Colo., which makes software that links utilities to smart-grid devices in homes, the staff has tripled over the past five months to 90. CEO Adrian Tuck says Tendril could grow even more if some of the $4.5 billion earmarked for smart grids in this year's federal stimulus goes to Tendril's clients.
"What we're about to see is every bit as big as the telecom revolution that gave birth to the Internet and cell phones," Tuck says. "It's going to create as many jobs and as much wealth for this country, if they get it right. Big, Google-sized companies are going to be born in this era, and we hope to be one of them."
The government's push for these developments parallels the expansion of railroads in the 19th century, when the government granted blocks of land to companies laying track, says Jack Brown, an associate professor in the University of Virginia's Department of Science, Technology and Society.
One difference, Brown points out, is that clean energy is such a vast field that government could make the wrong choice in backing one type of technology over another.
It's not just startups getting in the game. General Electric Co. plans to string transmission lines to deliver solar or wind power. Hewlett-Packard Co. is adapting techniques for printer cartridge chips so digital sensors can send data to smart grids.
But how much of an economic boost does all this add up to? It's hard to tell -- at least at this stage, without products people actually want to buy.
The laser, for instance, was a big innovation, but it wasn't clear at first what it could be used for. That's why there wasn't an economic boom in the 1960s from the advent of lasers, even though they ended up driving everything from medical devices to CD players for four decades.
Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University, Channel Islands, believes upgrading electric grids and finding new sources of power will provide steady job growth -- but won't be an economic powder keg.
Clean energy projects could simply replace old jobs and functions, like meter-readers. And there's no guarantee new jobs won't shift to countries with cheaper labor.
Some innovations take longer to reveal their economic effects. There are big booms based on specific innovations -- along the lines of railroads, automobiles and the Internet -- and then there are technologies that grow slowly, spawning offshoot industries for entrepreneurs to exploit over decades.
For example, the emergence of the integrated circuit led to the development of computer microprocessors, which enabled the PC revolution and in turn the Internet age. There's every reason to believe energy technology will fall into the same category, Brown says, but he adds: "It depends on how the bets actually play out."

Monday, October 5, 2009

New Stirling Engine

Boulder, Colorado [RenewableEnergyWorld]

Cool Energy, Inc. has announced the completion and operation of its third Stirling Engine platform. The engine, called the SolarHeart Engine converts low temperature heat into electrical power and will be integrated with evacuated tube solar collectors and a storage tank system for homes and buildings to provide both heat and power.
"Our team will now be using a higher temperature working fluid to simulate a solar application and we expect to generate power in the 1.5 kW range."

-- Sam Weaver, CEO and president of Cool Energy
Optimized for users of heating oil or propane in colder climates (northern U.S., Canada and Europe), the system will reduce energy bills by as much as 75%, the company claims.
“We are excited to have achieved this major technology milestone,” said Sam Weaver, CEO and president of Cool Energy. “After our engineers finished assembly of the engine, it ran upon first activation and generated over 600 watts of electrical power. In a short time the engine was producing near 1 kW. Our team will now be using a higher temperature working fluid to simulate a solar application and we expect to generate power in the 1.5 kW range.”

Chevron to give $1 million in grants to nonprofits that create job opportunities for locals

RICHMOND — Nonprofit groups that offer job training and create job opportunities primarily for Richmond residents can apply for $1 million worth of grants this month.
Chevron is giving five to 10 grants totaling $1 million this year and is accepting requests for proposals until 5 p.m. Oct. 30. For the application packet and questions, e-mail Heather Kulp at Heather.Kulp@chevron.com.
The new economic self-sufficiency program aims to improve Richmond residents' quality of life, said Chevron Richmond refinery spokesman Brent Tippen. It will focus on funding job training and capacity support to small and medium enterprises.
"We are answering a need that the community says they need, which is job skills and opportunities for livable-wage jobs," Tippen said.
The grant funding is not a replacement of the community benefits agreement, Tippen said. That agreement was derailed in July when a court order halted construction at the refinery. The oil company's project was to replace old equipment to refine a wider range of crude. A judge concluded the environmental impact report for the project was inadequate and stopped work until questions are resolved.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Clean energy and job acts : Update

U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, today introduced the Kerry-Boxer legislation to create clean energy jobs, reduce pollution, and protect American security by enhancing domestic energy production and combating global climate change.
Called the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, the bill could help the U.S. cut carbon pollution and stimulate the economy by creating millions of jobs in the renewable energy sector.
“This is a security bill that puts Americans back in charge of our energy future and makes it clear that we will combat global climate change with American ingenuity. It is our country’s defense against the harms of pollution and the security risks of global climate change,” Sen. Kerry said.  “Our health, our security, our economy, our environment, all demand we reinvent the way America uses energy.  Our addiction to foreign oil hurts our economy, helps our enemies and risks our security.  By taking decisive action, we can and will stop climate change from becoming a ‘threat multiplier’ that makes an already dangerous world staggeringly more so.”
Some of the renewable energy and energy efficiency sections of the bill are listed below
  • Section 161. Renewable Energy. Directs EPA to establish a program to provide grants and other assistance to renewable energy projects in states with mandatory renewable portfolio standards.
  • Section 162. Advanced Biofuels. Directs EPA to establish a program to provide grants for research and development into advanced biofuels
  • Section 163. Energy Efficiency in Building Codes. Requires the EPA Administrator to set a national goal for improvement in building energy efficiency.
  • Section 164. Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance. Establishes the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance Program to provide allowances to States to conduct cost-effective building retrofits.
A major strength of the bill, according to Environment California, is that it preserves and builds on the Clean Air Act’s protections, which will enable America to move to wind, solar, and other clean energy technologies by requiring the nation’s fleet of old and inefficient coal-fired power plants to eventually meet modern air pollution standards.
“This bill is a good beginning,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, clean energy advocate with Environment California. “It is the first of many steps toward a cleaner, healthier, and safer world.”
In addition, the bill also improves on legislation passed by the House in June by aiming to cut global warming pollution from large polluters 20 percent by 2020. This comes just a week after the release of a sobering United Nations report concluding that the impacts of global warming are arriving faster than the world’s scientists had predicted just two years ago.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How much solar is actually needed?

According to the US Department of Energy (Energy Information Administration), the world consumption of energy in all of its forms (barrels of petroleum, cubic meters of natural gas, watts of hydro power, etc.) is projected to reach 678 quadrillion Btu (or 7.15 exajoules) by 2030 - a 44% increase over 2008 levels (levels for 1980 were 283 quadrillion Btu and we stand at around 500 quadrillion Btu today). [...]
Dividing the global yearly demand by 400 kW•h per square meter (198,721,800,000,000 / 400) and we arrive at 496,804,500,000 square meters or 496,805 square kilometers (191,817 square miles) as the area required to power the world with solar panels. [...]
If divided into 5,000 super-site installations around the world (average of 25 per country), it would measure less than 10km a side for each. The UAE has plans to construct 1,500MW of capacity by 2020 which will require a space of 3 km per side. If the UAE constructed the other 7 km per side of that area, it would be able to power itself as a nation completely with solar energy. The USA would require a much larger area and approximately 1,000 of these super-sites.
According to the United Nations 170,000 square kilometers of forest is destroyed each year. If we constructed solar farms at the same rate, we would be finished in 3 years.

India's Feed in Tariff

Mumbai, India [RenewableEnergyWorld.com]

The world's largest single political jurisdiction to date, India, has made a strategic move to use a comprehensive system of feed-in tariffs to develop its renewable energy potential.
China had previously announced feed-in tariffs for wind energy only. The country is expected to reveal feed-in tariffs for solar energy later this year.
India's Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) in New Delhi announced September 17, 2009 new regulations launching a system of feed-in tariffs for renewable energy, including both wind and solar energy.
India's 1.1 billion people together with China's 1.3 billion and the bulk of Europe's 300 million inhabitants --about one-third of the world's population-- have committed to developing renewable energy with feed-in tariffs.
It was not clear from CERC's press release that the feed-in tariff regulations were in response to the National Action Plan on Climate Change. The action plan calls for five percent of electricity generation in India to be from renewable sources by 2010 and to increase one percent per year for the next ten years. Yet, the move by CERC on feed-in tariffs strengthens India's position in the run up to the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen.
China's introduction of feed-in tariffs this year and recent pronouncements by the government are also seen as positioning the developing world, especially Asia's two economic powerhouses as taking action in regard to laggards in the developed world, such as the US, Canada, and Australia.
Neither the US nor Canada has a climate change action plan nor a national goal of renewable energy in either nation's electricity supply.
However, it remains uncertain whether CERC would set specific tariffs or whether each project would apply for tariffs individually. In most jurisdictions, feed-in tariffs are specified for each technology or application.
CERC's regulations are a merely a primer on how to calculate tariffs for each technology. CERC said they focused on setting preferential tariffs for the period of debt repayment while maintaining an "adequate IRR" or internal rate of return. Yet there are no tariffs in CERC's published documents.
Interestingly, CERC specifies the tariffs before tax. Unlike the practice in the US, where federal tax subsidies play such an important part in project finance, the Indians specify a "normative return on equity" used in the calculations of 19 percent pre-tax during the first 10 years, and 24% after 10 years. This is comparable to the method used in Europe.
CERC also said that developers can approach the commission for project-specific tariffs as well as take the posted tariffs.
If Indian practice follows that in North America, CERC will open a regulatory docket to determine specific tariffs. And in fact, CERC has posted a public notice on its web site dated September 23, 2009 calling for comments on the regulations.
The new regulations spell out what assumptions need to be made to calculate the tariffs. For example, the regulations say that the discount rate used in determining the tariff will be the average weighted cost of capital. Further, the tariffs, defined as the levelized cost of energy, are derived from the specific "useful life" of each technology.
Wind projects will only receive the tariffs if they are located on sites with a minimum of 200 W/m² at 50m. This is equivalent to a Class 2 or 5.5 m/s wind resource in the Battelle system of wind classes.
As successfully used in Germany and France and now proposed in China, India's new regulations will vary the tariff for wind energy based on resource intensity. CERC does this in an unusual way. They specify the capacity factor, or Capacity Utilization Factor in Indian English, to be used in four bands of wind power density in watts/m&sup2.
  • 200-250 W/m²: 20%
  • 250-300 W/m²: 23%
  • 300-400 W/m²: 27%
  • >400 W/m²: 30%
The first band represents Class 2 wind resources, the second band is between Class 2 and Class 3, the third band is in Class 3, and the final band is greater than Class 3 in the Battelle system.
Below is a summary of key elements in the Indian program.
  • Includes all renewables
  • Tariffs based on cost of generation plus profit (19% ROE)
  • Contract terms: 13 years
  • Contract term for Solar PV & Solar Thermal: 25 years
  • Contract term for hydro <3MW: 35 years
  • Wind tariffs based on resource intensity
  • First review within three years, except for solar PV which begins after one year
  • Market size: ~1.1 billion people
In an unusual degree of synchronicity, the contract term for small hydro projects less than 3 MW is 35 years. Ontario's new feed-in tariffs for small hydro are for a contract term of a remarkably similar 40 years.