U.S. Solar Market and 15 States See Best Quarter Ever for Residential Solar

SEIA

Thursday, Dec 12 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. and HOUSTON, TX – The U.S. residential solar market reached record highs in the third quarter of 2019 with 712 megawatts of solar installed, according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The U.S. solar market added 2.6 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics in the third quarter, swelling total U.S. solar capacity to 71.3 gigawatts.

The increase in residential installations helped the U.S. solar market grow 45% year-over-year and contributed to 15 states having their best quarter ever for residential solar. States with smaller solar markets such as Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico and Iowa all saw record residential growth due to continued price declines and improvements to the economic competitiveness of solar across the country.

“This positive report makes clear that American families are demanding energy choice and solar, and that our industry is ready to deliver,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “This is the kind of growth and investment we could see going forward if we make smart policy moves, like extending the solar Investment Tax Credit and stopping additional tariffs. Failure to make these policy moves will limit deployment potential and cost jobs.”

California continues to be the largest residential solar market, installing nearly 300 megawatts in the third quarter of 2019, breaking its own quarterly record.

“While California has always led the country in solar deployment, the drivers behind that growth have shifted,” said Austin Perea, senior solar analyst for Wood Mackenzie. “This is primarily due to new-build solar demand and increased consumer interest in solar + storage solutions as a result of public safety power shutoffs that have left hundreds of thousands of utility customers in the dark.”

According to the report, power shutoffs in California and national coverage of these issues has renewed demand for solar + storage solutions in California and other states across the country.

Wood Mackenzie is forecasting that the total amount of solar installed in the U.S. in 2019 will reach 13 gigawatts, representing 23% annual growth.

Key findings from the report include:

  • In Q3 2019, the U.S. solar market installed 2.6 GWdc of solar PV, representing a 45% increase from Q3 2018 and a 25% increase from Q2 2019.
  • The U.S. saw record-setting residential solar capacity added in Q3 with more than 700 MW installed.
  • A total of 21.3 GWdc of new utility PV projects were announced from Q1 to the end of Q3, bringing the contracted utility PV pipeline to a record high of 45.5 GWdc.
  • Non-residential PV saw 445 MWdc installed as policy shifts in states including California, Massachusetts and Minnesota continue to slow growth.
  • Wood Mackenzie forecasts 23% year-over-year growth in 2019, with 13 GWdc of installations expected. In total, more than 9 GW were added to the five-year forecast since last quarter to account for new utility-scale procurement.
  • Total installed U.S. PV capacity will more than double over the next five years, with annual installations reaching 20.1 GWdc in 2021 prior to the expiration of the federal Investment Tax Credit for residential systems and a drop in the commercial credit to 10% (under the current version of the law).

Carbon-capture gambit: San Juan carbon capture project gains momentum

BY KEVIN ROBINSON-AVILA / ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

MONDAY, DECEMBER 9TH, 2019 AT 12:02AM

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The San Juan Generation Station near Farmington. Three of four stacks with the coal used to fire the plant, from the top of a unit. (Albuquerque Journal /Richard Pipes)

Farmington and Enchant Energy Corp. are aggressively pursuing a plan to convert the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station into the world’s largest carbon-capture and sequestration facility, despite broad skepticism about the project’s feasibility and benefits.

The city signed an agreement in August with Enchant Energy for it to take over ownership of the power plant and retrofit it after Farmington acquires the facility from Public Service Company of New Mexico and three other co-owners, who plan to abandon San Juan in 2022. Farmington owns a 5% stake in the plant and wants it to remain open to continue consuming electricity from the facility, save nearly 500 jobs at the plant and nearby San Juan Coal Mine, and allow local tax income from plant operations to keep flowing.

Water vapor and carbon dioxide are the main things that come out of the units at the San Juan Generating Station following multiple environmental upgrades over the years. (Hannah Grover/The Daily Times)

Enchant Energy, a new company created this year by an out-of-state investment firm to pursue the project, says it can turn the plant into the nation’s cleanest burning coal-fired facility for $1.3 billion, capturing 6 million tons of carbon emissions annually by 2023. That would allow San Juan to meet state Energy Transition Act mandates that require operators to cut carbon emissions in half that year if the plant isn’t shut down.

Tax credit payoff

Enchant says it could earn back double its investment through tax credits paid by the federal government for every ton of carbon captured and sequestered. It would cover operation and maintenance costs through the sale of carbon to oil and gas producers in the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas for “enhanced oil recovery,” whereby operators pump CO2 into wells to help push up hydrocarbons from the ground. And it would sell excess electricity from the plant on the wholesale market.

Enchant Energy CEO Jason Selch

Enchant Energy CEO Jason Selch called San Juan the “best site in North America” for converting the nation’s next major coal plant into a carbon-capture and sequestration facility following the 2016 start up of the Petra Nova plant near Houston, which is currently the only such project up and running in the US.

Selch told the Journal’s editorial board in October that Enchant already has deals with a global engineering and construction firm to build the carbon-capture project on time and at a fixed cost, and with a major oil and gas company to buy all the carbon captured at the plant.

It also received approval in September for a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct an in-depth, front-end engineering and design, or FEED, study to move the project forward.

Funding for studies

Enchant is contributing nearly $800,000 in matching funds for the $3.5 million study, which the company expects to complete over the next six months.

Enchant has yet to name the firms it made deals with because the contracts must still be finalized and signed, but it will soon, Selch said.

“We have a lot of announcements coming,” Selch told the editorial board. “…We expect to close on financing for the project in the second half of 2021, with construction starting early that year for the plant to come online in some part of 2023.”

The coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, near Farmington in northwestern New Mexico.

The company’s claims and the deal signed with Farmington have generated broad debate about the project’s prospects, impacting ongoing hearings at the Public Regulation Commission regarding PNM’s plans to shut San Juan and replace the electricity it provides with a mix of renewable resources and natural gas.

In the hearings, Farmington representatives have proposed the carbon-capture project as an alternative to PNM’s shutdown. Members of the PRC’s utility division staff have also recommended that the commission reject PNM’s current proposals because they didn’t include a cost-benefit analysis for retrofitting the plant with carbon capture to keep it running.

Plan called unrealistic

In response, PNM and environmental groups have filed extensive written testimony in the hearings that questions Farmington and Enchant Energy’s plans as extremely unrealistic, both for PNM to pursue, or for the Farmington-Enchant partnership to undertake independently.

PNM Vice President of Generation Thomas Fallgren said PNM did analyze carbon-capture technology for San Juan in 2010 that showed it was uneconomic and highly risky, leading the utility to discard it in current proposals for San Juan.

This structure at the San Juan plant captures fly ash from the generating process.

And in response to PRC staff concerns, PNM has now run new models for carbon capture that still show converting the plant to low-carbon generation would cost customers a lot more than pursuing the utility’s proposal for shutdown and replacement resources, while deriving much fewer environmental benefits.

In the best-case scenario – assuming most of Enchant’s financial and operation and maintenance projections are accurate – PNM estimates carbon-capture would cost the utility $343 million more than shutting San Juan. That would reduce PNM’s projected $6.87 per month savings for average residential customers based on replacing the plant with cheaper renewable resources, to just 47 cents per month, Fallgren said.

Potential cost escalation

Using more conservative estimates on costs and benefits for carbon capture, which PNM considers much more realistic than Enchant’s projections, carbon capture would cost $1.3 billion more than shutting the plant, adding $10.37 per month to the average residential bill, Fallgren said.

The Petra Nova coal-fired power plant, near Houston, uses carbon capture and storage. A company is proposing to turn the San Juan Generating Station, in northwestern New Mexico, into a similar operation. (Courtesy of NRG Energy)

That’s because, apart from the direct investment to retrofit the plant, the carbon-capture technology would consume nearly 30 percent of the 497 megawatts of electricity that PNM receives from San Juan, meaning PNM would need to procure additional generation to continue meeting customer demand.

And, perhaps most important, PNM considers Enchant’s $1.3 billion retrofit cost projection “wildly” optimistic, Fallgren said. At Petra Nova, the coal plant retrofit came to $1 billion. And at 240 MW, Petra Nova is just one-third the size of San Juan, which produces up to 850 MW.

“At the size of San Juan, installation costs would be two or three times more (than at Petra Nova), up to $3 billion and maybe even $4 billion,” Fallgren said. “In our estimate, Enchant’s initial capital cost projections are wildly optimistic.”

In fact, massive cost overruns and delayed build-outs have, to date, forced nearly every other coal plant retrofit project in the U.S. to shut down.

Apart from unrealistic retrofit and operation costs, PNM says converting a large, aging coal plant like San Juan would pose many technological challenges and reliability risks.

90% capture claim

Enchant projects it could capture 90% of San Juan’s carbon emissions, similar to performance at Petra Nova. That would reduce San Juan carbon emissions from 2,200 pounds per megawatt hour now to 249 per MWh.

Those estimates are based on a pre-feasibility study done for Enchant by Chicago-based engineering consultant Sargent & Lundy.

Petra Nova coal-fired carbon-capture power plant, near Houston, is one of only two operating power plants in the world with carbon capture and storage.

But that capture rate is unproven at a plant of San Juan’s size, and if it doesn’t meet the 90% goal, it would undercut Enchant’s financial returns from federal tax credits. In case of a mechanical failure or underperformance in meeting the 90% goal, the entire carbon-capture unit might have to be taken offline for significant periods, said PNM Director of Integrated Resource Planning Nicholas Phillips.

“The question of a 90% capture rate is questionable,” Phillips said. “…A big part of the uncertainty is how much disruption will result to plant operations after installing the carbon-capture units. Any operating interruption means lost revenues.”

In addition, the carbon captured would be sold for oil enhancement recovery, offsetting the environmental benefits by producing yet another fossil fuel, Fallgren said. And PNM estimates a 60 percent increase in plant water usage because of filtration in the carbon-capture units.

Critical answers needed

Pat O’Connell, a senior policy analyst with Western Resource Advocates, said Enchant’s forthcoming FEED study will have to answer many critical questions.

 “I’m very skeptical whether any investment in this carbon-capture technology makes sense,” O’Connell said. “It’s very risky.”

Selch said many factors significantly reduce the costs for carbon capture at San Juan, such as the plant’s location close to an existing pipeline in Colorado that already runs CO2 to the Permian Basin, plus the facility’s abundant coal supply from the San Juan mine.

“It’s a mine-mouth plant, which lowers costs,” Selch said. “We estimate about $100 million in annual operating costs, which comes out to between $39 and $43 per metric ton of carbon captured. That’s 35% less than the estimated cost at Petra Nova.”

As for initial investment, the company already has a deal with a global firm for an engineering, procurement and construction contract, which would lock that company into a fixed price and on-time delivery of all work, said Enchant’s chief operating officer, Peter Mandelstam.

Turnkey conversion offer

“It’s a lump sum, turnkey contract,” Mandelstam said. “We can’t give the name yet, but we shook hands with the contractor, who said they will guarantee the budget. If not, it’s on them.”

The agreement with Farmington allows Enchant to acquire San Juan at no cost, because it will be turned over to Farmington when the other plant co-owners leave in 2022, although a settlement on liabilities must still be reached before the departing owners approve the transfer.

Enchant must still meet state and federal regulations to operate the plant, and environmentalists will likely oppose them at every turn, possibly foreshadowing difficult public hearings that could slow things down. But Enchant says it needs nothing from state government.

“We’re not seeking nor contemplating a nickel of state money, and we’re not looking for tax breaks,” Mandelstam said. “…There may be concerns from environmentalists, but we want to sit down with them. We believe this is a great environmental project that will help fight climate change and produce low-carbon electricity.”

Still, the company must yet convince investors to provide the $1.3 billion in project costs upfront, based on a promise of earning future returns from federal tax payments.

Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst said it’s too early to voice support or opposition to the project.

“We’re open to all opportunities for Farmington, as long as state and federal environmental laws are met,” Cottrell Propst told the Journal. “We need to know what the economics are and if it’s really viable in the long run…But we don’t have enough information to know that yet.”

U.S. Solar Market and 15 States See Best Quarter Ever for Residential Solar

Thursday, Dec 12 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. and HOUSTON, TX – The U.S. residential solar market reached record highs in the third quarter of 2019 with 712 megawatts of solar installed, according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight report from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The U.S. solar market added 2.6 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics in the third quarter, swelling total U.S. solar capacity to 71.3 gigawatts.

The increase in residential installations helped the U.S. solar market grow 45% year-over-year and contributed to 15 states having their best quarter ever for residential solar. States with smaller solar markets such as Idaho, Wyoming, New Mexico and Iowa all saw record residential growth due to continued price declines and improvements to the economic competitiveness of solar across the country.

“This positive report makes clear that American families are demanding energy choice and solar, and that our industry is ready to deliver,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “This is the kind of growth and investment we could see going forward if we make smart policy moves, like extending the solar Investment Tax Credit and stopping additional tariffs. Failure to make these policy moves will limit deployment potential and cost jobs.”

California continues to be the largest residential solar market, installing nearly 300 megawatts in the third quarter of 2019, breaking its own quarterly record.

“While California has always led the country in solar deployment, the drivers behind that growth have shifted,” said Austin Perea, senior solar analyst for Wood Mackenzie. “This is primarily due to new-build solar demand and increased consumer interest in solar + storage solutions as a result of public safety power shutoffs that have left hundreds of thousands of utility customers in the dark.”

According to the report, power shutoffs in California and national coverage of these issues has renewed demand for solar + storage solutions in California and other states across the country.

Wood Mackenzie is forecasting that the total amount of solar installed in the U.S. in 2019 will reach 13 gigawatts, representing 23% annual growth.

Key findings from the report include:

In Q3 2019, the U.S. solar market installed 2.6 GWdc of solar PV, representing a 45% increase from Q3 2018 and a 25% increase from Q2 2019.

The U.S. saw record-setting residential solar capacity added in Q3 with more than 700 MW installed.

A total of 21.3 GWdc of new utility PV projects were announced from Q1 to the end of Q3, bringing the contracted utility PV pipeline to a record high of 45.5 GWdc.

Non-residential PV saw 445 MWdc installed as policy shifts in states including California, Massachusetts and Minnesota continue to slow growth.

Wood Mackenzie forecasts 23% year-over-year growth in 2019, with 13 GWdc of installations expected. In total, more than 9 GW were added to the five-year forecast since last quarter to account for new utility-scale procurement.

California continues to be the largest residential solar market, installing nearly 300 megawatts in the third quarter of 2019, breaking its own quarterly record.

“While California has always led the country in solar deployment, the drivers behind that growth have shifted,” said Austin Perea, senior solar analyst for Wood Mackenzie. “This is primarily due to new-build solar demand and increased consumer interest in solar + storage solutions as a result of public safety power shutoffs that have left hundreds of thousands of utility customers in the dark.”

According to the report, power shutoffs in California and national coverage of these issues has renewed demand for solar + storage solutions in California and other states across the country.

Wood Mackenzie is forecasting that the total amount of solar installed in the U.S. in 2019 will reach 13 gigawatts, representing 23% annual growth.

Key findings from the report include:

  • In Q3 2019, the U.S. solar market installed 2.6 GWdc of solar PV, representing a 45% increase from Q3 2018 and a 25% increase from Q2 2019.
  • The U.S. saw record-setting residential solar capacity added in Q3 with more than 700 MW installed.
  • A total of 21.3 GWdc of new utility PV projects were announced from Q1 to the end of Q3, bringing the contracted utility PV pipeline to a record high of 45.5 GWdc.
  • Non-residential PV saw 445 MWdc installed as policy shifts in states including California, Massachusetts and Minnesota continue to slow growth.
  • Wood Mackenzie forecasts 23% year-over-year growth in 2019, with 13 GWdc of installations expected. In total, more than 9 GW were added to the five-year forecast since last quarter to account for new utility-scale procurement.
  • Total installed U.S. PV capacity will more than double over the next five years, with annual installations reaching 20.1 GWdc in 2021 prior to the expiration of the federal Investment Tax Credit for residential systems and a drop in the commercial credit to 10% (under the current version of the law).

Press Release

SEIA.org

Udall, Heinrich Introduce Bill to Incentivize Renewable Energy, Localize Benefits

Date: October 24, 2019
Contact: Aaron Morales (202) 228-1578

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 24, 2019) — U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined Senators Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and James Risch (R-Idaho) to introduce bipartisan legislation to incentivize responsible renewable energy development on public lands and allow local communities to reap the economic benefits.

The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act (PLREDA) of 2019 would streamline the permitting process for renewable energy development on public lands and establish a revenue sharing mechanism to ensure local communities receive a percentage of the revenue created by these projects.

“Public lands can and should be part of the solution to the climate crisis,” Udall said.“I’m proud to support this legislation, which will encourage the responsible development of renewable energy on public lands – supporting our economy and benefiting the environment in the process. This is a win-win. New Mexico has the potential to lead our clean energy economy, and I’ll continue to support efforts to create jobs in renewables and other forward-looking sectors.”

“The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act modernizes the leasing of federal public lands for development of solar and wind energy. This bill also directs revenues from these projects to impacted counties and critical wildlife habitat conservation projects,”said Heinrich. “By streamlining renewable energy development, especially in a state with abundant wind and solar like New Mexico, we can create quality jobs and help make America more energy independent.”

Specifically, PLREDA would:

  • Use upfront planning and careful siting to identify appropriate areas for wind, solar and geothermal energy development and incentivize development in these lower-conflict priority areas.
  • Ensure impacts to wildlife, habitat and cultural resources are avoided and minimized.
  • Direct agencies to provide staffing resources to ensure project permitting moves forward as efficiently as possible.
  • Distribute certain revenues derived through this Act by returning:
  • 25 percent to the state where development takes place,
  • 25 percent to counties of origin,
  • 15 percent to more efficiently processing permit applications and reducing the backlog of renewable energy permits,
  • 35 percent into a fund for conservation of fish and wildlife habitat and increasing access for outdoor recreation like hunting and fishing.

*The portion allocated to conservation funding will increase to 40 percent after 10 years by decreasing the distribution to permitting by 5 percent after the program has matured.

The full text of the legislation can be found HERE.

PG&E ‘failed on so many levels’ in executing mass power shutoff, CPUC tells utility execs

Utility Dive: October 21, 2019

Dive Brief:

  • California regulators demanded executives of Pacific Gas & Electric take responsibility for the state’s largest-ever Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) and commit to widespread improvements to the program during an emergency meeting on Friday.
  • The multi-day blackout ran Oct. 9 to Oct. 13 and impacted up to 2 million people. PG&E faced criticism for poor communication and coordination, as well as for delays in requesting assistance for inspections and recovery.
  • Utility officials said the communication and coordination issues are being addressed but cautioned shutoff events are likely to remain necessary for up to a decade as California utilities attempt to mitigate electric system-caused wildfires during high winds and dry conditions.

Dive Insight:

Utility and commission officials agreed on one thing at the Friday meeting: Climate change has put California at greater fire risk, and an overhaul of PG&E’s system will take years.

“California will become more resilient, but more resiliency will not and should never translate to Californians being willing to put up with inadequate execution of measures that are supposed to keep them safe,” California Public Utilities Commissioner (CPUC) President Marybel Batjer said at the meeting. “You guys have failed on so many levels, on pretty simple stuff.”

“What we saw play out by PG&E last week cannot be repeated,” Batjer continued. “The specific goal of this meeting is to make sure any future power shutoff event is never like the one last week.”

But the utility largely stood by its decision to trigger the PSPS, despite acknowledging some system flaws.

“We’ve made this decision a handful of times in the past couple of years, and unfortunately we will likely need to continue doing so in the near-term for the sake of public safety,” utility CEO Andrew Vesey told regulators. “So, we need to keep get better at doing it. We need to make it as minimally disruptive as possible by making it more targeted and restoring power more quickly.”

“We operate an electric system in a growing tinderbox,” he added.

A utility with little credibility 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, on Monday called for the utility to offer $100 rebates to residential customers and $250 to small businesses and directed the CPUC to launch an investigation.

“The impacts to lives, businesses and the economy, cannot be overstated,” Batjer said.

Utility officials told regulators they understand the impacts and use the PSPS as a last resort, defending their judgment in activating the program.

“The decision achieved its essential purpose, but also suffered from significant shortcomings in execution,” PG&E CEO Bill Johnson told the commissioners. “It’s hard to prove a negative. We can’t prove our decision avoided wildfires that otherwise would have occurred. But we do know this: Winds above 45 mph create a high risk of vegetation contacting distribution lines.”

Friday’s meeting landed just before the two-year anniversary of the Tubbs fire that killed 22 people, and the one-year anniversary of the Camp fire, which killed 86 and destroyed 18,000 structures.

PG&E declared bankruptcy in January, facing billions in liabilities related to the wildfires. It is the utility’s second bankruptcy, and Johnson acknowledged the company’s troubled past which includes a deadly gas pipeline explosion in 2010.

“Perhaps because of the history of significant events at this company, I have heard and read a lot of skepticism about our actions,” Johnson told regulators. “The reputation and condition of this company has been adversely affected by situations in the past where it did not keep people safe. And in this instance, we were doing our best to do just the opposite.”

Johnson also noted that PG&E’s system is actually “in pretty good shape” in fire-prone areas, judging by its recent system reviews. But improvements are being made, not just to the grid but to communications and procedures related to the PSPS.

Near-term improvements include scaling up web site capabilities, call center staffing and emergency response plans, while the utility also works to harden its system. In a filing with regulators last week, the utility said it has:

  • Moved specific features of its website to the cloud so that it “can scale up and down, as needed,” during an emergency event;
  • Developed a plan to provide a liaison to all jurisdictions impacted by a PSPS;
  • Established a process to create outage maps and data products;
  • Developed restoration status reports that are regularly communicated to county agencies;
  • Created an internal tool to assist in estimating the time of restoration following a PSPS.

A 10-year problem 

Many see distributed resources as the solution to PG&E’s woes, but it could take a decade to build out sufficient capabilities.

In the meantime, Johnson told regulators that “sectionalizing” equipment, particularly on sub-transmission lines, would allow the utility to remove smaller sections of line from power. Using different materials to coat power lines and increased vegetation management can also help.

“We definitely need to move toward some sort of microgrid sectionalization,” he said. “Eventually the technology will get us to a place where we don’t need to be doing this,” he said. But pressed by commissioners to give a timeline for reducing the scope of PSPS, Johnson illustrated the scale of the issue.

“Better every year,” he said. “I think this is probably a 10-year timeline to get to a point where this is ratcheted down significantly.”

Udall, Heinrich Introduce Bill to Incentivize Renewable Energy, Localize Benefits

Date: October 24, 2019
Contact: Aaron Morales (202) 228-1578

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 24, 2019) — U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined Senators Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and James Risch (R-Idaho) to introduce bipartisan legislation to incentivize responsible renewable energy development on public lands and allow local communities to reap the economic benefits.

The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act (PLREDA) of 2019 would streamline the permitting process for renewable energy development on public lands and establish a revenue sharing mechanism to ensure local communities receive a percentage of the revenue created by these projects.

“Public lands can and should be part of the solution to the climate crisis,” Udall said.“I’m proud to support this legislation, which will encourage the responsible development of renewable energy on public lands – supporting our economy and benefiting the environment in the process. This is a win-win. New Mexico has the potential to lead our clean energy economy, and I’ll continue to support efforts to create jobs in renewables and other forward-looking sectors.”

“The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act modernizes the leasing of federal public lands for development of solar and wind energy. This bill also directs revenues from these projects to impacted counties and critical wildlife habitat conservation projects,”said Heinrich. “By streamlining renewable energy development, especially in a state with abundant wind and solar like New Mexico, we can create quality jobs and help make America more energy independent.”

Specifically, PLREDA would:

  • Use upfront planning and careful siting to identify appropriate areas for wind, solar and geothermal energy development and incentivize development in these lower-conflict priority areas.
  • Ensure impacts to wildlife, habitat and cultural resources are avoided and minimized.
  • Direct agencies to provide staffing resources to ensure project permitting moves forward as efficiently as possible.
  • Distribute certain revenues derived through this Act by returning:
  • 25 percent to the state where development takes place,
  • 25 percent to counties of origin,
  • 15 percent to more efficiently processing permit applications and reducing the backlog of renewable energy permits,
  • 35 percent into a fund for conservation of fish and wildlife habitat and increasing access for outdoor recreation like hunting and fishing.

*The portion allocated to conservation funding will increase to 40 percent after 10 years by decreasing the distribution to permitting by 5 percent after the program has matured.

The full text of the legislation can be found HERE.

Minnesota, New Mexico propose clean car rules as Trump attacks California standards

AUTHOR: Catherine Morehouse, @cmorehouse10

PUBLISHED UTILITY DIVE
Sept. 26, 2019

Dive Brief:

• States and cities across the country are fighting back against the Trump administration’s proposed rule for a singular vehicle emissions and fuel economy standard across the country.
• Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, D, on Wednesday and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham, D, on Tuesday announced their states would adopt clean car standards that exceed the proposed federal standards. And last Friday, attorneys general from 23 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Los Angeles and New York City filed a lawsuit against the administration’s actions.
• The federal proposal, issued Sept. 19, would prohibit states from opting out of its fuel standard. State and city leaders, as well as local utilities worry this could impact electric vehicle rollout momentum.

Dive Insight:

Spurring the electric vehicle market has become a growing priority for state and local leaders looking to cut transportation emissions, and utilities have an increased interest in growing EV markets as they look to diversify their loads.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emphasized affordability in their rollout of the Safer, Affordable, Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) rules, which they say will save over $500 billion by 2029 in “societal costs” as well as create certainty for automobile manufacturers.

“One national standard provides much-needed regulatory certainty for the automotive industry and sets the stage for the Trump administration’s final SAFE rule that will save lives and promote economic growth,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

But car makers are not necessarily in line with the administration’s thinking on regulatory certainty.
Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen had a deal with California that would have allowed them to meet lower emissions standards while encouraging EV rollouts. And the federal proposal threatens to impede the progress of state Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) programs, say states, utilities and market experts.

New Mexico and Minnesota are now proposing to join 11 other states in setting their own vehicle emission standards. But the Trump administration’s proposed rule would reject those standards and threaten states’ ZEV rebate programs, which some say is the most impactful program for reducing transportation sector emissions.

“It’s so hard to get to reduce vehicle miles traveled throughout the country. Most people are struggling with it. And so if you don’t do low emission vehicles and you don’t do ZEV there aren’t a whole lot of other really effective programs,” Sandra Ely, New Mexico environmental protection division director told Utility Dive. Lujan Grisham said New Mexico would adopt its standards by the end of 2020.

“It is environmentally and economically counterproductive to stall fuel economy standards as contemplated by the proposed federal rollbacks,” she said in a statement. “While President Trump threatens to rob New Mexico and indeed all states of a valuable tool for combating air pollution and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, New Mexico will stand up and deliver on our commitment to environmental leadership.”

The governor in January also signed an executive order that directs state agencies to produce plans to reduce emissions across the power and transportation sectors.
Minnesota’s clean car standard is intended to drive EV investment and increase the number of zero or low-emissions vehicles on its roads, as well as evaluate regional EV charging corridor options, according to the state. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency plans to begin its rulemaking process in October, and it’s expected to last 15 months.

The following plaintiffs joined the suit against the DOT, EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, the District of Columbia, Los Angeles and New York City.

Fixed block solar and storage power solution

PUBLISHED

Sept. 16, 2019

Utility Dive

As the world shifts to a cleaner energy future, corporate entities are increasingly looking to cement the additionality and net impact of their power sourcing, with some leaders looking to more closely match renewable production with load consumption. At the same time, such leaders have become increasingly astute in electrical power pricing and commodity risk, including the understanding of market volatility risk; not only around peak and off-peak, but specific pricing hours.

As solar photovoltaic and battery energy storage costs fall, one emerging solution is solar-plus-storage. The economic prospect of solar-plus-storage is particularly enticing in this moment as the Investment Tax Credit lowers the cost of both technologies and puts it on par with natural gas prices. “Clean energy portfolios (CEP), optimized combinations of WSS (wind, solar, storage) and demand-side management, are now similar in cost to new gas-fired power plants and can reliably meet grid needs”, as reported in the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)’s 2019 report, The Growing Market for Clean Energy Portfolios.

With prices falling and demand for renewable energy increasing, there are solutions that might help meet business needs. One is a procuring a fixed block of solar power on a set schedule, with block intervals set at every 15-minutes or every hour, as has been traditionally procured by commercial and industrial entities in deregulated power markets for decades. Such blocks can eliminate the risks borne the power buyer, either directly or priced-in by its load-serving entity (LSE), by the short-term market exposures for shortages or overages against expected generation in a typical as-generated power purchase agreement (PPA).

Another solution is the use of storage co-located and charged by their solar facilities, which provides similar benefits of fixed solar-only blocks, but also the ability to fix those blocks in shapes substantially different than the average solar production profile.

Power markets can be challenging to optimally hedge around due to the riskiest market pricing hours. For example, August 2019 saw the ERCOT market hit its design cap price of $9,000/MWh over a few 15-minute pricing periods during a couple of sweltering afternoons. Physical hedging with solar plus storage may be more cost-effective for such highly volatile hours than financially hedging for that hour. Often hedges are procured for entire on-peak periods, which is all day-time hours during the work week (M-F). Much of the cost of those hedges are centered around just a couple of hours, such as the late summer afternoon hours in ERCOT. Selectively physically hedging around these most volatile hours can be a smarter and cheaper way to go in the long run.

Generation capacity is the market construct for paying generation resources to be available in the future to meet forecasted peak load. We have already seen utilities with internal considerations of generation capacity value, such as Arizona Public Service, Nevada Energy, and Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, procure power from solar-plus-storage projects to help ensure peak generation capacity. Thus, fixed blocks of solar plus storage can similarly offer generation capacity value in wholesale power markets. Awarded capacity payments via wholesale power market mechanisms, such as those offered in the eastern U.S., reduce the peak-shifted power block costs to the end buyers.

As corporations take the reins of their energy usage to make an impact on the renewable energy landscape, they are looking for the right solution for clean energy production to best fit their power procurement practices, and to be as precise as possible around commodity risk management. Fixed block of solar plus storage supports both interests.

SolarApp and local permitting

As summer winds down, we wanted to provide some updates and recent news related to SolarAPP and local permitting, and make sure you’re aware of key upcoming opportunities to continue engaging with this important program.

First and foremost, there have been a number of funding announcements for this program:

  • $500k from the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office to NREL and partners to perform research on permitting process trends, cycle times, and cancellations.
  • $695k from the DOE Office of Technology Transitions Technology Commercialization Fund to NREL to begin work on the SolarAPP software platform.
  • $695k of in-kind contributions from the solar industry to match the DOE OTT investment.

These investments, totaling nearly $1.9 million, will be critical in beginning the foundational work to create a streamlined permitting process for solar nationwide. You can read more about the funding announcements and related news coverage here. 

In addition to establishing key funding, a number of news stories have cropped up over the last few months related to solar permitting, demonstrating progress in a number of jurisdictions across the country. We look forward to continuing to build on this momentum as we work with AHJs to pilot and implement the SolarAPP platform.

  • Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the American Energy Opportunity Act, which will provide voluntary assistance and tools to local governments to simplify, standardize, and automate clean energy permitting. A House companion bill is expected to be introduced soon. Previously, Senator Collins and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of Energy Dan Simmons in support of solar soft cost reduction funding. 
  • In a Fox 5 Las Vegas story on July 25, the city’s new video inspection program was highlighted, including an interview with a Sunrun employee voicing his support for this innovative tool, saying the video inspections “actually help me do my job better.”
  • COSSA announced their new “Solar and Storage Friendly Communities” campaign, which will provide rankings and rewards for AHJs that improve their solar and storage permitting processes.
  • A Triple Pundit article on July 5, Cost of Rooftop Solar Power Set for Another Steep Plunge, covered the funding announcements and other program updates, noting that “there is some heavy firepower behind the campaign to bring SolarApp into being.”

SOLAR MEANS BUSINESS

U.S. businesses are increasingly turning to solar energy as a cost-effective means of powering their operations. As of 2018, Apple leads the nation with the most solar capacity installed, followed closely by Amazon, Target, Walmart and Switch.

SEIA’s Solar Means Business Report follows solar adoption by businesses across the U.S., ranging from some of the country’s largest and most recognizable brands to the small businesses that make up our communities. For the first time, the 2018 report captures large off-site installations, as well as data on solar systems located at the site of the businesses themselves. Both installation types have grown considerably in recent years.

Through 2018, this report tracks more than 7,000 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity across 35,000 projects in 43 states, representing more than 70% of all commercial solar capacity installed in the U.S.

See the full Report: https://solarmeansbusiness.com/

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