Tag Archives: renewable energy

Rooftop solar dims under pressure from utility lobbyists

Hiroko Tabuchi, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Some of the slowdown in smaller-scale rooftop solar has come in maturing markets in states like California, where rooftop solar companies are having trouble expanding their customer base beyond early adopters.

Over the past six years, rooftop solar panel installations have seen explosive growth — as much as 900 percent by one estimate.

That growth has come to a shuddering stop this year, with a projected decline in new installations of 2 percent, according to projections from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

A number of factors are driving the reversal, from saturation in markets like California to financial woes at several top solar panel makers.

But the decline has also coincided with a concerted and well-funded lobbying campaign by traditional utilities, which have been working in state capitals across the country to reverse incentives for homeowners to install solar panels.

Utilities argue that rules allowing private solar customers to sell excess power back to the grid at the retail price — a practice known as net metering — can be unfair to homeowners who do not want or cannot afford their own solar installations.

Read more at: Rooftop Solar Dims Under Pressure From Utility Lobbyists – The New York Times

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

California grid operator calls for voluntary conservation during heat wave

ASSOCIATED PRESS

California ISO – See graphs for electricity supply and demand, renewable energy production and more: http://www.caiso.com/Pages/TodaysOutlook.aspx

The operator of California’s power grid has issued a so-called Flex Alert calling for voluntary electricity conservation between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, the expected peak of the current heat wave.

The California Independent System Operator says consumers shouldn’t use major appliances during those hours and should set air conditioners to 78 degrees or higher and turn off unnecessary lights to ease strain on the grid.

The forecast peak electricity usage is expected to exceed 47,000 megawatts each day.

Source: California grid operator calls for voluntary conservation | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

India, once a coal goliath, is fast turning green

Geeta Anand, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Just a few years ago, the world watched nervously as India went on a building spree of coal-fired power plants, more than doubling its capacity and claiming that more were needed. Coal output, officials said, would almost triple, to 1.5 billion tons, by 2020.

India’s plans were cited by American critics of the Paris climate accord as proof of the futility of advanced nations trying to limit their carbon output. But now, even as President Trump pulls the United States out of the pact, India has undergone an astonishing turnaround, driven in great part by a steep fall in the cost of solar power.

Experts now say that India not only has no need of any new coal-fired plants for at least a decade, given that existing plants are running below 60 percent of capacity, but that after that it could rely on renewable sources for all its additional power needs.

Rather than building coal-fired plants, it is now canceling many in the early planning stages. And last month, the government lowered its annual production target for coal to 600 million tons from 660 million.

The sharp reversal, welcome news to world leaders trying to avert the potentially deadly effects of global warming, is a reflection both of the changing economics of renewable energy and a growing environmental consciousness in a country with some of the worst air pollution in the world.

Read more at: India, Once a Coal Goliath, Is Fast Turning Green – The New York Times

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

State, North Coast oppose President Trump’s proposed climate-change pact pullout 

Paul Payne, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

As President Donald Trump weighed a possible withdrawal Wednesday from the Paris climate change agreement, California and especially North Coast leaders pushed back, citing the environmental and economic benefits of reducing greenhouses gases while warning of an uncertain future that would come from abandoning the accord.

Trump’s threat to unravel the 2015 pact, which committed nearly every country to take action to curb climate change, drew last-minute appeals from Silicon Valley executives such as Elon Musk of Tesla and Tim Cook of Apple. It also came as Bay Area air quality officials signaled their intent to place caps on oil refinery emissions blamed for pollution and respiratory health problems.

It was clear that although Trump might reverse course on the federal level, state and local players remained committed in their efforts to fight global warming.

“The White House may be going off in one direction to pull out of the Paris compact, but California is clearly going the other way,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a member of the regional air quality board that indicated at a meeting Wednesday it would put future limits on refineries. “We are going to continue to lead as we do now.”

Alternative energy advocates said the state is at the forefront of creating a future without fossil fuels. The booming solar and wind markets are cutting emissions and creating jobs. Electric vehicle charging stations are cropping up across the land.

And utilities such as Sonoma Clean Power, which now has $1 billion in clean energy contracts, are providing customer savings while reducing carbon output over competitors like PG&E.

Read more at: North Coast opposes President Trump’s proposed climate-change pact pullout | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Sonoma Clean Power adds wind to energy sourcing

Staff Report, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Sonoma Clean Power broke ground today on a project that will update an existing wind power facility and bring more wind power in-state. The Golden Hills North Wind Facility, in the western central valley community of Tracy, will remove 283 30-year-old wind turbines and replace them with 20 2.3-megawatt GE turbines, capable of generating more power with twice the efficiency of the previous wind project.

Sonoma Clean Power is a a community choice aggregation, or CCA, organization, created under state policy that allow local governments to pool their electricity load so they can provide alternative energy sources. Currently, most wind energy in SCP”s portfolio comes from Oregon. The Golden Hills facility is forecasted to cover 6 percent of SCP’s load starting in 2018. The contract term is 20 years from full commercial operation date.

“Repowered wind facilities carry multiple benefits,” said Geof Syphers, SCP’s CEO. “One modern wind turbine replaces 21 of the old-style turbines, producing more energy. This is low-cost, clean electricity that will serve our customers of Sonoma and Mendocino counties.”

SCP is partnering with wholesale electric power generator NextEra Energy Resources. An affiliate of that company owns and will operate the wind project.

The wind project will have a generating capacity of 46 megawatts, enough to power more than 13,500 homes.SCP’s announcement stated the project will also create hundreds of union jobs during the construction phase, beginning this month, and will provide full-time employment opportunities once the project is operational at the end of 2017. The project will provide more than $10 million in property tax benefits over its projected 30-year operational life.

Fewer wind turbines will also significantly reduces bird strikes.

Source: Sonoma Clean Power adds wind to energy sourcing | The North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Sonoma Clean Power, utilities face battle over energy costs

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The North Bay pioneered a new type of public energy program in California seven years ago that now appears poised to change who buys electricity for homes and businesses across large swaths of the state.The programs, of which Sonoma Clean Power was an early leader, have expanded dramatically over the past several years.

Their growth is leading experts to examine how well the programs are boosting the use of renewable electricity compared to the private utilities that formerly served the same communities.

The growth is also prompting a face-off between the public programs and California’s three biggest private utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric. In the dispute, both sides have suggested their ratepayers are getting a bum deal in how the state has set the rules for this new era. For the public programs, the outcome has high-stakes implications because their customers could end up paying considerably more to offset the growing costs for excess power that the utilities contracted for but no longer need.

The public programs, typically known as Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, agencies, have grown to control about 5 percent of the state’s electricity market, a new study reports. But both utilities and other experts say that number will increase markedly as other communities join the trend.

“I think everyone who’s watching this thinks that there is going to be very rapid growth in the coming years,” said Matthew Freedman, an attorney in San Francisco with the Utility Reform Network, a ratepayer advocacy group known as TURN. Some utilities, he said, have predicted that half their customers could switch to the public programs within a decade.

Read more at: Sonoma Clean Power, utilities face battle over energy costs | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Local Organizations

Novato goes “deep green” in commitment to sustainability

NOVATO NEWS

At their May 2 meeting, the Novato City Council unanimously voted to participate in Marin Clean Energy’s (MCE) Deep Green/100% Renewable Energy Program, in which all the energy used comes from renewable sources—50% wind and 50% solar generated in California. Additionally, the Council vote included  conducting energy audits on City facilities to further reduce energy use.

“This year we are taking our commitment to sustainability to the next level,” said Mayor Denise Athas. “We are going beyond only greening our city operations and vehicle fleets. We are investing in programs and staffing to set a new standard for climate leadership and ensure a sustainable future for our community.”

Currently, the City is a participant in MCE’s Light Green program, which means at least 50% of the City’s electricity is being provided by renewable sources. For the past year, MCE has been able to provide 52% renewable energy, which is broken down as follows: Wind: 36%, Biomass/bio-waste, geothermal and small hydro: 11%, Solar: 5%. The remaining portion of the City’s electricity is generated through large hydroelectric, gas and unspecific sources of power (as reported by the California Energy Commission’s Power Source Disclosure Program).

MCE partners with PG&E to give residents and businesses choices about how much of their electricity comes from renewable sources. There are currently three different levels of MCE participation customers can choose from:

1) Light Green: 50% of energy used comes from renewable sources.

2) Deep Green: 100% of energy used comes from renewable sources.

3) Local Sol: 100% of energy used is locally produced solar energy (program is limited to residential customers).

The City’s participation in the Deep Green program, a stated goal in the City’s adopted Climate Change Action Plan, will save approximately 300 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which would meet 86% of the City’s 2020 target to reduce its emission levels.

Read more at: City of Novato, CA : News : City Goes “Deep Green” in Commitment to Sustainability

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

Bay Area air regulators outline plan to combat climate change 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Read the draft plan: Spare the Air, Cool the Climate

Watch a video about the plan.

Lorna Ho of Santa Rosa, proud driver of an all-electric Nissan Leaf, said she’s happy to be part of the vanguard in combating climate change.

Ho, a retiree, gave up her gas-guzzling Mercedes that got 15 mpg in September and leased a Leaf that hums along on battery power, releasing zero pollutants.“All of that matters to me,” said Ho, who was recharging her vehicle Thursday at a power station at Coddingtown. “I’m very much aware of what’s going on in the environment.”

She’s also in sync with an ambitious pollution-fighting plan unveiled this week by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the regulatory agency best known for issuing winter “spare the air” alerts that prohibit burning wood in fireplaces and wood stoves on chilly nights when the air is likely to be fouled.

Now, the district’s “Spare the Air, Cool the Climate” plan lays out a blueprint for curbing tons of Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with a payoff of avoiding nearly $1 billion in social and economic costs.

“This is a major initiative,” said Kristine Roselius, an air district spokeswoman, noting that the Trump administration is dismantling numerous clean air measures. “The Bay Area is marching forward. It’s too important to stop.

”The Bay Area air district covers most of Sonoma County, including Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Sebastopol, and all or part of eight other counties surrounding San Francisco Bay.

The plan, approved unanimously by the district’s 24 board members Wednesday, lays the groundwork for bringing Bay Area greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

It aims at big targets, such as oil refineries and diesel engines, emphasizes small, personal choices such as walking or biking to work, as well as eating more vegetarian and vegan meals.

“We really have to go beyond governmental actions to changes that people can make in their everyday lives,” said Abby Young, the district’s climate protection manager.

The plan, which includes 85 measures to curb Bay Area pollutants, “reaches beyond business as usual” for the district, she said. It targets pollutants from industry, transportation, agriculture, homes and businesses.

The air district will use its own authority to limit some emissions, and will work with cities and other agencies on issues related to transportation. The regulations will not be implemented for some time.

Read more at: Bay Area air regulators outline plan to combat climate change | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Transportation

Petaluma’s Enphase Energy strives to survive as solar industry transforms 

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

New opportunities are expected to shine soon on the world’s solar industry, and Petaluma’s Enphase Energy is striving to survive long enough to enjoy them.

The energy tech company with 350 employees has reported annual losses every year since it went public in 2012, including nearly $67.5 million worth of red ink last year. Since September, it has gone through two rounds of layoffs and raised about $26 million by issuing new stock and bringing in two major investors.

Enphase officials say with confidence that a turnaround is underway and the company is on track to make a profit in the second half of 2017. Its employees have worked to significantly cut the cost of producing its signature devices, microinverters that take DC, or direct current, power from solar panels and transform it into AC, or alternating current, power for homes.

And one of its recent products, an encased home battery system, is making its U.S. debut just as the rules governing solar energy rates are changing in California, home to half the nation’s solar production.

Due to the rate change, new rooftop solar owners are expected to make less money than their predecessors for the power they sell to utilities in the Golden State. As such, energy storage systems and rate-savvy monitoring technology could one day help future solar owners take advantage of the best times to buy, sell and store power.“

The way people are approaching the solar business today will look antiquated in just a couple of years from now,” said Enphase President and CEO Paul Nahi.

Residents won’t simply buy solar panels, but complete energy packages that include storage and operating systems managed in the cloud, he said. And Enphase has the products and software technology to maximize efficiency.

Read more at: Petaluma’s Enphase Energy strives to survive as solar industry transforms | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Strong surge in solar in county

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County shared in the U.S. solar industry’s boom times last year, with strong job growth reported here, a jump partly attributed to increased customer demand and a rush to take advantage of federal tax credits.

The county ranked 13th for 2016 among the nation’s metropolitan areas based on the number of solar-related jobs, according to a new report by the Solar Foundation of Washington, D.C. Employment in the county’s solar sector grew 44 percent from a year earlier to 3,476 jobs.

Some Northern California communities enjoyed even bigger growth rates.

The San Francisco/Oakland area, the top-ranked metro area in the United States for solar jobs, reported a total of 26,000 such workers last year, an increase of 67 percent from 2015.Sacramento, which ranked sixth, saw its solar jobs grow 99 percent, while San Luis Obispo, ranked 15th, had an increase of 137 percent.

In contrast, the nation’s solar workforce grew by 25 percent last year. That compares with an annual growth rate of about 20 percent for the previous three years.“California is obviously the leading market in terms of solar in the U.S.,” said Andrea Luecke, the foundation’s president and executive director.

Santa Rosa has distinguished itself for encouraging solar by becoming one of only 21 communities in the nation to receive the top-ranked SolSmart Gold designation, Luecke noted. The recognition is part of a U.S. Department of Energy program that is administered by the Solar Foundation.

Read more at: Sonoma County solar industry ranks 13th in nation for job numbers | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy