Saturday, July 31, 2010

Top Five Electric Vehicle Developments

Everyone is talking about electric vehicles. With all the major manufacturers releasing models, smart grid companies and utilities looking seriously at integration, and the U.S. Congress potentially putting $4 billion toward EV research, this year has been dubbed as “The Year of the Electric Car.”
Just this month, GM released the price tag of the upcoming Chevy Volt: $41,000. Some analysts are complaining about the price tag, saying that only a small number of consumers will pay for the car. GM has about $750 million riding on the success of the product, so people are watching closely.
The success of the car – and others like it – will depend not just on price, but on availability of infrastructure. As the EV market grows, some people are concerned about the classic chicken-and-egg problem: Which comes first – the cars or the supporting infrastructure? Well, it appears that conundrum isn't as problematic as it sounds. With clear signals from government and car companies, EV charging companies are now preparing for a major rollout of charging devices around the world. (Well, okay – mostly in California for now).
A number of announcements for EV charging infrastructure roll-outs were made this week. Here are some of the biggest stories. Did someone say “Range Anxiety”? Not so fast.
  • The California company ECOtality released a new charging station model called Blink for both residential and commercial applications. The first stations will be developed in the fall of this year as part of a 15,000 station project across six states. The company recently received a $114 million grant from the DOE to help with the effort.
  • After that product announcement, ECOtality was again in the news for partnering with the telecom companyQualcomm to put cellular technology into the Blink charging stations in order to promote better data organization and transmission. These charging stations will be rich with information; the companies on the leading edge of managing that information will be key in helping drivers and utilities make smart charging decisions.
  • Another California company, ClipperCreek, said that it has shipped more than 3,000 products in the last four years. In a press release, ClipperCreek noted that a large chunk of those shipments came only in the last few months as the talk around EVs has turned to action.
  • Coulomb Technologies, also based in California, installed a networked charging station in San Jose this week under its $37 million ChargePoint America program. The company says it will roll out nine strategically-placed charging stations around the U.S. in the hopes of spurring development in other areas of the country. Given that California is where most of the action is taking place, Coulomb decided to put its first project there.
  • Finally, outside the U.S., Korea is also jumping into the EV market. The South Korean capital Seoul will see 100 new charging stations by the end of this year, deployed by the city government in partnership with private developers. The South Korean government has also signed an agreement with the country's transportation authority to work on experimenting with new EV designs. The Koreans are known for their technological thirst. Government officials there have often said that EVs will play an important role in the country's energy strategy.
To add to these exciting developments, the California Public Utilities Commission ruled this week that providers of EV charging stations in California could not be regulated as utilities. That makes it easier for many of these companies to set up projects and sell services without an added burden of regulation. It it unclear how the California decision will impact other states, however.
These projects only begin to scratch the surface of what is needed to support an electricity-based transportation sector. But they certainly show that the chicken-and-egg problem is quickly fading away. Car companies are building the cars – now the infrastructure providers also have a reason to build.

Solar Universe on CBS5

While cities such as San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose want to be the green energy leader, Livermore was recognized as a leader in Solar Energy. See Mike Hynes Interviewed by Zack Heene on CBS5.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to fight an HOA prohibiting solar

Do you want solar, but are part of an HOA, or Home Owners Association? There is a small chance that you have a fight ahead of you.

The majority of HOAs in California approve California solarenergy systems without a problem (most HOAs are aware of your Solar Rights and support clean, solar energy in their community), but there is a small percentage of Home Owner’s Associations that might put up a fight.  HOAs can impact the feasibility, design, and completion speed of proposed home improvements, including a home solar energy system.

He explains the ground rules that form the foundation for home solar system approval through an HOA:

  • The Solar Rights Act of 1978: In California, you are not allowed to prohibit or restrict the installation or use of a home solar energy system. In addition, no one, other than a public entity, is allowed to “willfully avoid or [delay]” the installation of a solar energy system.  If you do, you’ll be fined.
  • Section 714 of California Civil Code: Municipalities and HOAs can restrict your solar energy system if these restrictions don’t increase its cost by more than $2,000 or decrease its efficiency/performance by more than 20%.

some of the Home Owners Association’s most common tactics:

  • Make you move your solar panels where they won’t be visible
  • Require the purchase of a type of panel that HOA will find aesthetically pleasing
  • Prolong approval at their meetings, so either you’ll give up on a home solar energy system or your rebate will expire before installation.
  • Get a third party “independent” solar contractor to review your desgn

And he also includes your possible next steps, if you are confronted with a stubborn HOA management board:

  1. Own and lead the fight (HOA management will not listen to your solar contractor)
  2. Show your HOA the solar Rights Act
  3. Prepare cost and efficiency comparisons between your plans and HOA plans
  4. Get photos of other solar installations your installer has done
  5. And if you must, bring in some legal help or get creative – one example Scott lists is having neighbors sign a petition supporting your solar energy system design, or getting elected to the board yourself.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Venture capitalists appear to wield outsized influence in federal energy funding.

SAN FRANCISCO -- On average, the U.S. federal government's investment in energy research and development is paltry--about $5 billion a year, compared to the $30 billion that goes to the National Institutes of Health, according to figures from the newly launched American Energy Innovation Council.
But the past couple of years haven't been average when it comes to federal energy funding. The Obama administration has used the stimulus funds to pump between $50 billion and $80 billion into green tech initiatives (depending on what you define as green tech) since 2009.
I applaud this funding and agree with the American Energy Innovation Council--which countsBill Gates, GE CEO Jeff Immelt, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr as members. The Council is calling for a $16 billion federal investment in energy innovation every year. Boosting federal funding will be crucial to deliver innovation around energy technology.
One thing I have noticed from the sudden massive boost in green tech stimulus funding is just how much influence green tech venture capitalists have quietly developed. VCs have been at the forefront of shaping federal energy investing policy, including weighing in on which sectors should get funding and perhaps even which companies should receive federal support.
Take Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers managing partner John Doerr. He's the man who seeded Google ( GOOG - news -people ) and ( AMZN - news people ), and kicked off the green-tech investing boom in 2007 when hereportedly cried during a climate change themed TED talk. Doerr has morphed into one of the most influential political movers in Silicon Valley and sits on President Obama'sEconomic Recovery Advisory Board. He and his partners managed to convince former Vice President Al Gore to join Kleiner Perkins as a partner in late 2007 and before that brought on former Secretary of State Colin Powell (who now works with oh-so-buzzy fuel cell firm Bloom Energy ).
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Kleiner, which is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in green tech startups, has benefited from some notable government support. The most significant is a $529 million federal loan to its portfolio company electric car maker Fisker Automotive. The Obama administration also set aside some $4 billion in stimulus fundsfor smart grid technology, which gave a nice boost to its investment in smart grid network builder Silver Spring Networks.

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Last year the Obama administration named former venture capitalist Jonathan Silver to head the Department of Energy's highly competitive loan guarantee program and green car loan program. Silver is in charge of the programs' application process, analysis and negotiation as well as staffing. According to a release from the DOE, he also manages "the full range of the Department's alternative energy investments."
Over the past year over a third of the DOE's loan guarantee commitments (roughly 5 out of 12) have gone toward venture-backed startups, including solar thermal companyBrightSource, solar panel maker Solyndra, efficient window developer SAGE Electrochromics, wind developer Nordic Windpower and thin film solar company Abound Solar. Obama commonly holds public speeches at these types of venture-backed and government-supported clean energy startups andstumped at Solyndra in May.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Obama administration has turned to VCs as guides for how to invest stimulus funds in clean energy. More than anyone else, the venture capitalists in Silicon Valley have been leading the investments in clean power and energy efficiency in recent years. In the third quarter of 2009 when the recession hit hard, green tech startups became the top venture investment sector (ahead of IT and biotech).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

PACE Law Suits Begin

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- State Attorney General Jerry Brown sued the federal government Wednesday, asking a judge to stop government-sponsored mortgage buyers from blocking a program that lets homeowners pay for energy-efficient improvements through increased property taxes.

Brown's lawsuit argues that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's opposition is forcing California counties to halt plans to provide the incentives. He sued the buyers and their regulatory agency, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, in Oakland U.S. District Court.

The voluntary Property Assessed Clean Energy program encourages homeowners to install solar panels, upgrade insulation and take other steps to improve energy efficiency, Brown said. Homeowners pay for the improvements through property tax assessments over a decade or more.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac say the programs could give counties top priority to be repaid if homeowners default on their mortgages. As a result, they said they could not buy or guarantee mortgages on properties that participate.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency affirmed that legal interpretation July 6.

"Mortgage holders should not be forced to absorb new credit risks after they have already purchased or guaranteed a mortgage," Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco said Wednesday.

DeMarco said in a statement that his agency will fight Brown's lawsuit in order to protect taxpayers, lenders and both mortgage programs.

Freddie Mac spokesman Brad German and Fannie Mae spokeswoman Janice Smith declined to comment.

Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor, argues in his lawsuit that the government incorrectly interprets the program as providing loans. He says they are classified under California law as tax assessments, which would require new owners to take over the payments if a home is sold before the improvements are paid off.

Other states have or are considering allowing similar programs.

The government is trying to nip a national development that has seen a recent surge spurred by the distribution of federal stimulus money, said Martin Chavez, executive director of Local Governments for Sustainability USA Inc. in Washington, D.C.

Twenty-three states have passed laws permitting programs like the one in California, and legislation is pending in most other states, Chavez said. He promoted similar programs during his three terms as mayor of Albuquerque, N.M.

"They're really hot and they're a great tool for homeowners to retrofit homes," Chavez said.

Brown said in a written statement that the federal government is "throwing up impermeable barriers to bank lending that creates jobs, stimulates the economy and boosts clean energy."

He announced the lawsuit in San Diego County, one of dozens of counties in California that stopped offering or preparing to offer the incentives after officials warned in May that they could violate federal rules.

As a result of the federal government's interpretation, some lenders started requiring homeowners to repay the full amount of their improvements before they could sell or refinance their homes.

The uncertainty led counties to halt the programs while Brown, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state's congressional delegation lobbied the Federal Housing Finance Agency to permit the incentives.

California's program promotes energy independence, Schwarzenegger said in a statement backing the lawsuit. Doing away with the program "would be preposterous," he said.

Congress created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy mortgages from lenders and package them into bonds that are resold to investors. They own or guarantee about half of all mortgages, or nearly 31 million home loans worth about $5.5 trillion.

The suit asks a federal judge to order Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to let the program go forward under California's interpretation of the law.

The federal government's stance could cost California more than $100 million in federal stimulus money, Brown said.

The state has devoted millions of dollars in federal stimulus and federal energy efficiency grant money to the programs, Brown said. State lawmakers approved legislation by Democratic Sen. Fran Pavley creating a $50 million fund to encourage the energy efficiency program, and Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law in April.

The program was proving popular before it was halted, Brown said.

Sonoma County had financed more than 800 solar and other projects worth more than $30 million, and Placer County was seeing about $2 million a month in applications before the program abruptly stopped. San Diego's program was supposed to start this summer, and Brown said its suspension left more than 100 people trained in energy retrofits without jobs.

U.S. Department of Energy spokeswoman Jen Stutsman said her agency is working with state and local governments to design funding alternatives in light of the Federal Housing Finance Authority's opposition to the property tax assessment programs.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

JR Ewing Pushes for Solar

Larry Hagman dons his cowboy hat for alternative energy, The New York Times reports.

Posted by Elizabeth Strott on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 12:47 PM
File photo of Larry Hagman (© Tony Gutierrez/AP)Texas oil baron J.R. Ewing is going green.

The "Dallas" character is coming back to the small screen in a push for solar energy, The New York Times reports, with Larry Hagman reprising his role as the scheming oil man.

Hagman is participating in an advertising campaign to promote solar energy and SolarWorld, a German maker of solar panels.

"In the past, it was always about the oil," Hagman says in a television commercial. "The oil was flowing, and so was the money. Too dirty. I quit it years ago. I'm still in the energy business."

"There's always a better alternative. Shine, baby, shine."
The J.R. commercial debuted Tuesday at the Intersolar conference in San Francisco

Hagman, 78, has a 94-kilowatt solar system at his 46-acre estate in Ojai, Calif., which he installed in 2003, 12 years after retiring his role as J.R. The rooftop system, which is thought to be the biggest residential system in the U.S., cost $750,000, the Times reported -- but he got a $310,000 rebate.

The solar panel system lowered his annual electricity bill to $13 -- from $37,000, The Guardian reported.

Hagman said the BP (BP) Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico prompted him to bring J.R. back.

"With all that oil gushing away in the gulf, I figured it was time to call for a new direction in where we're getting our energy," the actor told the Times.

The commercials will run nationally and in regional markets in the next few weeks.

Monday, July 12, 2010

CSI Stats

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last week issued its annual assessment of the California Solar Initiative, a $2.2 billion effort to install 1,940 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity across the state by 2016. On balance, the commission’s findings are positive:
  • Three years into the state’s 10-year solar program, California is already 42 percent of the way towards its general market program goal in the territories of the investor-owned utilities. This figure includes both projects already installed and those currently holding reservations for incentives and in the process of being installed.
  • California has over 600 MW of solar connected to the electric grid at nearly 65,000 customer sites. Of the 598 MW of capacity installed in investor-owned utility territories, 342 MW were installed under the CSI Program at 31,000 sites, as well as 256 MW installed through other programs.
  • Demand is increasing. The CSI Program received a record of nearly 300 MW of new CSI project applications since January 2010 – more than any other six-month period since the start of the program.
  • The program had over 134 MW of new projects applying in April 2010, the highest month on record for new solar applications.
  • For every dollar spent on incentives by the state, there has been another $2.62 invested in solar technology in California from other sources.
  • Program data shows a decline in the average cost of solar systems. The inflation adjusted cost trends show that prices have declined since January 2007 from $10.04/watt to $8.49/watt for systems under 10 kW.
  • The CSI Program has reduced incentive levels several times since 2007 in response to program demand. Incentives started at $2.50/watt across the state, and now they are as low as $0.65/watt.
While the number of California solar installations is growing at a decent rate, however, the state’s three biggest utilities may just miss their state-mandated renewable energy targets. By 2010, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), Southern California Edison (CSE) and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) are supposed to source 20 percent of their retail electricity sales via renewable resources, like solar, wind and geothermal technologies. As the L.A. Times relays, the utilities are likely to end the year with a combined figure of 18 percent.

Study on FITs in the US

California, United States -- The University of California, Berkeley has released the results of a study examining the economic benefits of a comprehensive Feed-In Tariff (FIT). The analysis shows that enacting a robust FIT in California to achieve the state's 33% Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) would create three times the number of jobs, over 2 billion in additional tax revenue, and stimulate tens of billions in new investment. Furthermore, the adoption of a comprehensive FIT will cost-effectively fulfill California's 33%-by-2020 goal on schedule.
Headed by Dan Kammen of UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group, the analysis examined the economic benefits of a FIT deployed in California to facilitate the state’s effort to achieve the 33% RPS by 2020. A FIT is essentially a fixed price, long-term contract for a utility to buy electricity produced by renewable energy generators.

“This report demonstrates the benefits of using a feed-in tariff as one of the tools to achieve job creation and get our economy back on track in addition to achieving energy independence and reducing our need for fossil fuels. It is a wonderful guide to the kind of policies that will get us to a more prosperous and sustainable energy economy. I am grateful to Dan Kammen, Max Wei, and their colleagues for continuing to produce the kind of solid analysis we need to make better policy decisions,” said California State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills).
The Berkeley study specifically examined a FIT that would be available to solar projects up to 20 megawatts (MW) in size. Professor Kammen and his colleague Max Wei studied the impact of such a FIT on employment, tax revenue, and investment compared to current RPS scenarios being modeled by California regulatory agencies.
"The conclusions confirm the FIT Coalition’s unvarying position that FITs are the best policy mechanism for accelerating the deployment of cost-effective renewables while delivering tremendous economic benefits wherever FITs are designed to achieve scale. This study will open many policymakers’ minds to the unparalleled benefits of FITs and their ability to unleash the wholesale distributed generation market segment," said Craig Lewis, executive director of the FIT Coalition.

The study’s key findings include that three times the number of jobs will be created if a FIT is enacted to complement the RPS. This translates into roughly 280,000 more jobs over the next decade, or an average of 28,000 jobs per year, with more jobs created in the early years because wholesale distributed generation (WDG) projects can come online quickly.

Another key finding includes over $2 billion in additional tax revenue for the state. Further, the study found that a comprehensive FIT would stimulate up to $50 billion in new private investment in the state with the potential for those renewable energy projects to be eligible for another $15 billion in federal tax benefits. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Whats so great about micro-inverters?

Distributed architecture is a leap forward for inverter technology with continued advances expected to drive lower installation and maintenance costs.
Solar power is poised to go mainstream in North America. In the U.S.—the world’s leading energy consumer—the solar market is especially ripe. As with any new technology, though, how fast it happens depends largely on economics.

Installation costs

Solar system installation costs include three main components: solar module, 50%; balance-of-system (BOS) and labor, 40%; inverter, 10% (Fig. 1).
Solar module prices, while still accounting for the majority of overall system costs, have come down significantly—as much as 50% compared to 2008. Modules are becoming increasingly commoditized, and as their prices drop, BOS, labor, and inverters become more important as they become a larger proportion of the total cost of an installation [1].
Therefore, the BOS and inverter segments have seen increased interest over the past few years. One reason why inverters have received so much attention is changes in inverter technology, which impact not only inverter costs, but also BOS and labor costs. Improved inverter technology can also help with other challenges that PV must overcome to gain widespread acceptance in the marketplace.

New inverter technologies

Inverter R&D has focused on two areas. The first is incremental changes in the existing string/central inverter, and most of these changes are geared toward higher efficiency and larger capacity. These changes have led to bigger, more centralized inverters, for example, SMA’s new 500kW 500U PV inverter.
The second recent inverter development is a move toward decentralized architectures, including partial solutions such as DC-to-DC optimizers, consisting of add-on electronics designed to augment a central inverter, and complete inverter solutions such as microinverters.

System cost

Inverter prices have not decreased significantly in the past few years, and with module prices falling, inverters represent a greater portion of the total cost of a solar installation. As mentioned, inverter technology can also have a significant impact on BOS and labor costs. For example, higher-capacity central inverters reduce the number of inverters that need to be installed in very large systems, thereby reducing labor costs. This is offset to some extent by the wider distribution of DC wiring and the need for bulky and expensive DC combiners and DC circuit overcurrent protection.
New AC-based inverter systems can incorporate AC BOS equipment rather than DC junction boxes, DC combiner boxes, connectors, and fuses. Generic AC equipment is much cheaper than specialized DC BOS, and so total installation expenditures can be reduced significantly. Similarly, new inverter technologies, e.g., microinverters, avoid the need for a large central inverter, further reducing installation costs. This is particularly true for larger systems, where the large inverter can require installing a concrete pad, an air-conditioned hut, fencing, and a crane to lift the inverter into place.
New inverter technologies also have the potential to reduce solar array operating costs. Microinverter technologies make the array less prone to performance degradation from dust and debris, meaning less frequent washing. Normal soiling of modules can easily reduce power output by 5 or 6%. Also, inverters based on a distributed architecture allow for delayed maintenance. In this type of highly redundant system, if one module or inverter fails, the outage is limited to that module. The rest of the array will continue to operate normally. System owners and operators can have a plan of scheduled maintenance rather than emergency maintenance. Furthermore, maintenance costs are lower because microinverters can be swapped out quickly and easily, and by less-skilled staff—compared to large central inverters, which require expert diagnosis, repair, removal, and replacement. Finally, systems that include inverter communication and per module monitoring dramatically reduce the time required to troubleshoot the PV array.

Energy harvest

Inverter technology has always had a significant impact on energy harvest. The serial nature of module installation results in the “Christmas light effect,” i.e., any impact (dust, debris, shade) on module performance will also affect the other modules in the string. Distributed inverter architectures mitigate this effect as each module becomes an independent power producer. Per-module MPPT enables increased energy harvest. SunEdison recently installed their first microinverter-based system, resulting in energy harvest numbers 20% greater than the figures estimated during the design process [2].


Every installer knows about inverter reliability problems. The biggest headache is sending a tech to a site repeatedly to troubleshoot a system failure, and then return to install a replacement inverter. Microinverter technology introduces both improved unit reliability as well as better system reliability. Unit reliability is improved largely due to the change in architecture to a distributed inverter system where each unit is only converting a small portion of the power of the array. Microinverters typically have a small thermal footprint and low nominal operating voltages, both of which reduce stress on components, thereby increasing reliability. For example, the Enphase Microinverter processes less than 215WAC at 95.5% efficiency and has a nominal operating voltage of 30 – 50V. System availability is high because even if one inverter fails, it represents only a tiny fraction of the array. Finally, new distributed inverter technologies include per-module monitoring, allowing the installer to identify malfunctioning modules quickly and easily, and then simply swap-out the problem inverter utilizing the lowest possible labor skill level.


Increasing PV safety means minimizing the risk of fire and DC arc faults. PV fire safety has two aspects: prevention and suppression. AC-based inverter technologies can help reduce fire risk because an arc in an AC system self-extinguishes 120 times per second (on a 60Hz power system), whereas a DC arc is continuous. An AC system has no distribution of dangerous high voltage DC. AC-based systems are also safer for firefighters. An AC-voltage distribution system can be shut off prior to fighting the fire, while the widely distributed high-DC voltage of a DC system remains energized whenever the sun is shining.

Enabling technologies

Microinverters are not a new technology, with several early models gaining popularity in the 1990s. These pioneering models were gradually phased out, primarily due to their inability to break through the 90% efficiency barrier. The new generation of microinverters has efficiencies that are comparable or higher than popular central inverters, and reliability rates that are far superior to central inverters. There are many advances that have made this new generation of microinverters possible. These include advances in semiconductor technology, the availability of silicon carbide diodes to enable higher efficiency, and ASIC technology that has played a large role in shrinking the size of the unit and improving reliability. In addition, potting compounds are now available that enable the unit to withstand colder temperatures, and MOSFET’s that have far lower resistance than those available ten years ago. Finally, new magnetic materials and electrolytic capacitors are particularly well-suited for high-reliability and long-life applications when implemented in the low-voltage design of microinverters.

Future trends

The next logical step for inverter technology is integration of the inverter into the PV module, to create an AC module. This evolution will benefit all members of the solar value chain significantly. Module manufacturers like the concept as a way to “decommoditize” their offerings, thereby enhancing revenues and profits. It removes an entire step in the installation process and streamlines ordering and procurement, and of course system owners get the benefits of an integrated solution.
Distributed architecture is a significant leap forward for inverter technology. With the market share inroads that microinverters have made, we can expect to see additional models introduced. And as these advances continue to drive lower installation and maintenance costs, the industry will inevitably reach a price point where mass adoption becomes inevitable.


Microinverters were popularized in the 1990s but didn’t gain widespread adoption due to efficiency limitations. With PV module prices decreasing significantly, more attention is being paid to BOS, labor, and inverters, leading to resurgence in distributed inverter technologies.

Friday, July 2, 2010

RPS Driver for Renewable Energy

State renewable portfolio standards (RPS) will be the most critical driver determining the pace of U.S. renewables growth going forward, according to a new IHS Emerging Energy Research market study: US RPS Markets and Utility Strategies: 2010-2025.
Signing power purchase agreements will remain the predominant mechanism for utility RPS compliance, expected to account for approximately 70 percent of total renewables added to the U.S. supply mix over the next three years, according to the study.
The US renewables market has experienced explosive growth since 2005, expanding from a total installed base of 30 GW to over 60 GW at the end of 2009. IHS estimates that cumulative renewables demand across all states with binding RPS policies will grow from an expected 137 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2010 to 479 TWh by 2025--an increase of approximately 250 percent by 2025.
As of June 2010, mandatory RPS policies, requiring states to procure a percentage of generation from renewable energy, have been passed in 31 US states and the District of Columbia, with six additional states approving conditional or non-mandatory renewables goals. While utilities in a few states, led by Washington, Maine, Colorado and New Hampshire, are already well on their way toward meeting their 2015 RPS targets, the majority of states will require rapid renewables growth if they are to meet near-term objectives.
“With increasing challenges including low power pricing and uncertain federal policies, escalating RPS demand will define the timing and location of renewables growth across the US over the next few years,” said Alex Klein, IHS' renewable power research director.
RPS policies are estimated to require more than 1,000 investor-owned utilities (IOUs), load-serving entities (LSEs) and competitive retail suppliers to procure renewable power over the next decade, according to the study. Beginning in 2010, significantly escalating RPS demand will create gradually intensifying compliance pressure across the US.
Signing power purchase agreements will remain the predominant mechanism for utility RPS compliance, expected to account for approximately 70 percent of total renewables added to the U.S. supply mix over the next three years, according to the study. Spurred on by long-term transparent state mandates, utilities are increasingly moving toward development and ownership of renewable assets in several key renewable markets such as the Midwest, Northwest and California.
According to the study, state RPSs would be significantly strengthened if complemented by a federal RPS or energy policy that addresses transmission bottlenecks and siting issues on federal lands, both of which will be critical to sustaining renewables growth toward the middle of the next decade.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

CA 20% Renewable by 2010

California’s utilities generated 15.4% of their energy from renewables in 2009, up from 13% in 2008, according to the CPUC quarterly report. If demand had remained constant, the percentage would have been 18%, but some small hydro decreases, increases in consumer demand, and the end of some renewable contracts cut into the percentage.
Although the deadline is 2010 for 20% renewable, the utilities have an extension till 2013 to get their utility-scale projects actually switched on. All three have signed contracts for well over that amount.

Among the 7,135 MW of already approved renewable projects that are on schedule for this year or next are the up to 900 MW Stirling solar thermal, the 554 MW Solel (Luz-style solar thermal) project in the Mojave and the 550 MW OptiSolar thinfilm project near San Luis Obisbo. Wind projects include a 1,500 MW addition within Tehachapi, (Alta) and 800 MW (coming from Oregon). There are numerous small biomass and biogas projects.
A total of 1,377 MW of new geothermal power has been approved, mostly coming from Imperial County, with only 231 MW is coming from out of state (Nevada). 1,000 MW of BrightSource solar will come from Nevada, and 310 MW is approved from the Ivanpah site.
Permitting of renewable generation facilities can be complex, long, and uncertain. Renewable generation facilities must receive a site permit in order to construct a project.  The type of permit needed depends on three factors: a) technology type, b) project size and c) project location.  The California Energy Commission is responsible for approving permits for thermal power plants 50 MW and greater.
All other projects must receive a county or city permit.  Projects on federal land must also receive permits from the appropriate federal agencies – usually the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the United States Forest Service (USFS).   Most renewable facilities must seek a permit from a federal agency since many of the best solar, wind, and geothermal resource sites are on federal land.
Opposition to transmission lines, and local city and county level opposition, delays in environmental review from a federal agency slowed the approval time line, according to the utilities commission.