Illinois, America’s Green Building LEED-Certified Leader

by Silvio Marcacci.

America’s got a new number one when it comes to green building among the top states for LEED-certified construction, and this year’s winner may surprise you.

Illinois jumped from fifth to first in this year’s Top 10 States for LEED ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), supplanting perennial winner Washington, D.C.

The list is based on a per-capita basis of 2010 U.S. Census data combined with commercial and institutional green building projects certified through the LEED certification program across 2013 – a whopping 1,777 projects and 22.8 million square feet across the top ten states.

Renewable Energy. USGBC Top 10 States for LEED chart via US Green Building Council.
Renewable Energy. USGBC Top 10 States for LEED chart via US Green Building Council

Illinois Places First, With An Asterisk

Illinois ranked fifth in 2013 and placed third in 2012, so while its ascension isn’t shocking and shows a steady increase in green building projects, this year’s top rank is largely due to a technical change in how USGBC ranks states – namely dropping Washington, D.C. from the top 10 list.

171 LEED projects encompassing 29,415,284 square feet of space were certified in Illinois during 2013, good for 2.29 square feet of per-capita LEED-certified space. Those totals were good enough to beat out all other states, but would have been swamped by D.C.’s 32.45 per-capita square footage if it had been included.

“The public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment,” said Governor Pat Quinn. “Illinois is proud to be the nation’s green buildings leader, and we are proof that smaller environmental footprint can help us step toward energy independence.”

Metro DC, New York, and California Round Out The Ranks

While Illinois may sit atop the ranks in 2013 due to D.C.’s exclusion, the nation’s capital (and federal government’s green building efforts) had a spillover effect on neighboring states, boosting Maryland and Virginia into the top three, with 119 and 160 projects representing 12,696,429 and 16,868,693 square feet for 2.20 and 2.11 per-capita square feet, all respectively.

The nation’s overall leaders in certified square footage and total certified projects, New York and California, tied for fifth in the LEED rankings due to their large populations driving down per-capita square footage.

Renewable Energy. Green building image via CleanTechnica
Renewable Energy. Green building image via CleanTechnica

This twist is due to USGBC calculating the list using per-capita figures to create a fair comparison of green building activity taking place among states with significant differences in population and overall buildings.

Interestingly, USGBC notes the continued trend toward LEED certifications of existing buildings through retrofit projects. 48 percent of all square footage in 2013 was certified under LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance, while 43 percent was certified under LEED for Building Design and Construction.

Every Green Building Boosts the Economy

Regardless of if green building projects are happening on new or existing buildings, they’re having a big economic impact. 35 percent of all US construction jobs today are in green building, according to a 2013 estimate, and industry revenue could top $248 billion by 2016.

“As the economy recovers, green buildings continue to provide jobs at every professional level and skill set from carpenters to architects,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of USGBC.

Beyond creating green jobs, green buildings are also saving businesses money while making their assets more valuable. A recent analysis showed 58 percent of corporate America had green buildings in their business portfolios with 30 percent building green to lower operating costs.  Additionally, McGraw Hill research has shown building values jump up to 11 percent with an up-to 14 percent return on investment for green building projects.

That’s all great news, but the best may still be yet to come. USGBC notes 37,000 projects representing 7.6 billion square feet of space are in the certification pipeline worldwide, and LEED v4 has raised the bar with increased requirements for certification, meaning our buildings will continue to get greener and greener – just like our economy.

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This article, Illinois Jumps To Top Of US Green Building LEED-Certified Ranks, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Renewable Energy. Silvio MarcacciSilvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Solar Energy Industry Reports Record-Setting 3Q 2013

by Silvio Marcacci.

Solar panels were installed on more American residential rooftops in the 3rd Quarter of 2013 than any other quarter in history, pushing US installed solar capacity over the 10-gigawatt (GW) milestone and potentially ahead of Germany for the first time.

New U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Installations
New U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Installations. Image courtesy of SEIA.

This sunny picture comes courtesy of the US Solar Market Insight (SMI) Q3 2013 report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and it shines a spotlight on the economic power of America’s clean energy transition.

Overall solar installations continued to improve quarter-over-quarter across the US, delivering the second-largest quarter of overall installations in the history of America’s solar market.

US Installs 930MW Solar Energy In 3Q, May Pass Germany In 2013

America’s solar industry installed 930 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) panels in Q3 2013, 20% higher than Q2 2013 and 35% higher than Q3 2013. This blistering pace vaults America over the 10GW capacity mark to reach 10,250MW overall installed capacity across 400,000 solar projects – enough to power more than 1.7 million average US homes and the emissions equivalent of removing 2.1 million cars from the road.

3Q’s results are remarkable, but the US solar market might just be warming up.  The SMI report predicts 1,780MW of PV solar and 800MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) will be installed in 4Q 2013, meaning America will install over 5GW of new solar energy capacity in 2013 – 27% more than 2012 and a new single-year record.

Even more remarkable, SMI’s forecast means the US could install more overall solar capacity in 2013 than Germany, the world’s undisputed solar market leader. Germany is expected to install 4.2GW new solar capacity this year – placing second to another country for the first time in 15 years.

“Without a doubt, 2013 will go down as a record-shattering year for the US solar industry,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO.

Cumulative Solar Photovoltaic installations by Quarter, U.S.A. vs. Germany
Cumulative Solar Photovoltaic installations by Quarter, U.S.A. vs. Germany. Image courtesy of SEIA.

Residential, Utility Installations Lead The Way

Residential solar led the 3Q charge with the market sector’s best-ever quarter, installing 186MW, up 45% compared to 2012. SMI credits favorable net metering policies for improving the economics of solar PV, but warns declining PV module prices could strain manufacturers while benefiting consumers.

The average price of PV panels have fallen more than 60% since the beginning of 2011 and now stands at a national average of $3.00 per installed watt.

“As solar continues its march toward ubiquity, the market will require continued innovation, efficiency improvement and regulatory clarity,” said Shayle Kann, GTM vice president of research.

The utility solar market sector also posted a strong quarter, with 52 projects completed for 539MW and over half of Q3’s total installed capacity. Unfortunately, the rising tide didn’t raise the boats of every industry sector – the non-residential (commercial) market is expected to remain flat through 2013 but may resume growth in 2014. California continues to lead the US solar PV market with 455MW installed in Q3, while Arizona placed second with 169MW installed.

2013 Total Installed Solar Photovoltaics -- by U.S. state. Image courtesy of SEIA.
2013 Total Installed Solar Photovoltaics — by U.S. state. Image courtesy of SEIA.

Solar’s Economic Impacts Ripple Across America

But best of all, As we’ve seen time and time again, the transition to a clean energy future also helps create green jobs. America’s solar industry led the US in green job creation during the third quarter, according to a recent report from E2, and had overall ripple effects across the overall economy.

119,000 workers are now employed at 6,100 businesses in the US solar industry, a 13.2% increase over 2011’s employment totals. Solar projects were valued at $11.5 billion by the end of 2012, up from $8.6 billion in 2011, and just $5 billion in 2010. With exponential growth continuing, it’s not hard to expect another overall valuation jump in 2013.

“This unprecedented growth is helping to create thousands of American jobs, save money for US consumers, and reduce pollution nationwide,” said Resch.

“Frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our industry’s enormous potential.”

2013 Q3 Solar Facts. Image courtesy of SEIA.
2013 Q3 Solar Facts. Image courtesy of SEIA.

This article, US Solar Energy Industry Shines In Record-Setting 3Q 2013, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio MarcacciSilvio Marcacci is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

Grid Parity, Low LCOE Driving 34% Global Renewables Capacity by 2030

by Silvio Marcacci

When it comes to global electricity generation, coal is still king – but not for long

Fast-changing economics mean renewable energy worldwide will represent 34% of all installed capacity by 2030, according to the World Energy Perspective: Cost of Energy Technologies — a report from the World Energy Council (WEC) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

Global levelized cost of electricity graph via World Energy Council
Global levelized cost of electricity graph via World Energy Council

The report finds many clean energy technologies are already cost competitive with fossil fuels and only getting cheaper, echoing another analysis that found US wind and solar costs fell 50% since 2008. As a result, fossil fuel’s slice of the world energy pie is projected to fall fast, from 67% in 2012 to 40%-45% in 2030.

Falling Renewable LCOE Powers Clean Energy Surge

Vast differences in the cost of building and generating power exist across the globe, but one trend is clear – the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) continues to fall for mature renewable energy technologies, placing them close to grid parity with fossil fuels. In addition, the cost of producing power from renewables fall continue at a rate related to the level of usage, a trend known as the “experience curve.”

Our study finds that although fossil fuels continue to dominate, renewable energy and the investment appetite for them are growing.

With wider deployment the price of renewables will fall, reducing the risk for investors, and we expect to see greater uptake over the years. — Guy Turner, Chief Economist at BNEF.

The WEC report uses several cost metrics exist to evaluate power generation including capital expenditures, operating expenditures, and capacity factor, but LCOE stands as arguably the most important indicator of renewable energy’s value because it’s the only one that evaluates the total lifecycle costs of producing a megawatt hour (MWh) of power.

LCOE is best explained as the price a project must earn per MWh in order to break even on investment and considers cash flow timing, development and construction, long-term debt, and tax implications to equally evaluate all energy technologies on an equal basis in terms of their actual costs.

But most importantly, LCOE underlines the ascendance of renewable energy across the world – especially wind and solar.

Wind Power Gusts Ahead

Wind power has already become the largest non-hydro renewable electricity source and is projected to more than triple from 5% of global installed capacity in 2012 to 17% by 2030, breezing past large hydropower. From 2000-2010 global onshore and offshore wind capacity increased 30% per year, reaching 200GW installed in 2010.

Onshore wind LCOE by region
Onshore wind LCOE by region graph via World Energy Council

Onshore wind’s LCOE has fallen 18% since 2009 on the strength of cheaper construction costs and higher capacity factors.

Turbine costs have fallen nearly 30% since 2008, outpacing the traditional experience curve.

The LCOE for onshore wind is cheapest in India and China, running between $47-$113 and making well-sited wind farms in these countries among the cheapest in the world – an incredibly important factor considering their surging demand for power is currently being met by coal.

The LCOE picture isn’t as clearly defined for offshore wind, as 95% of the world’s 4GW installed offshore wind capacity is located in European waters.

By 2020 installed capacity growth in Asia will surge, offsetting Europe’s dominance with 40% of all installed annual capacity – China alone will have 30% of all new capacity. As more offshore wind comes online in different markets, LCOE will become clearer.

Solar’s Remarkable Shine

But if wind’s LCOE drop has been steady, solar energy’s has been meteoric.

The WEC reports feed-in tariffs and plummeting photovoltaic module prices make solar competitive with most forms of power generation – in some markets with expensive power, like Germany, businesses with installed solar now find using their generated power more profitable than selling it to the grid.

Solar power LCOE over time chart via World Energy Council
Solar power LCOE over time chart via World Energy Council

As a result, solar power’s worldwide capacity will absolutely boom, growing from 2% of installed capacity in 2012 to 16% by 2030. China and Japan will be biggest beneficiary of solar’s rise, with China set to exceed 50GW installed solar by 2020.

The WEC’s forecast for solar power is incredible, but even this outlook is underestimates solar’s clean energy potential, because it only includes projects above 1 megawatt in capacity – completely ignoring the spread of small-scale rooftop solar and the rise of distributed generation

Solar power LCOE by region graph via World Energy Council
Solar power LCOE by region graph via World Energy Council
Fossil Fuel’s Achilles Heel: Operational Costs

In spite of falling renewable costs, fossil fuel generation is still cheaper in most regards, except for one – the price of operation.

The WEC notes that once renewables are built and online, their costs are mainly marginal operational and maintenance expenses. Compare that to fossil fuels, whose costs are volatile and subject to change from factors like commodity price swings and external costs like carbon pricing and pollution.

This trend is most clearly seen in developed nations like Western Europe, America, and Australia, where the WEC says the potential for significant amounts of new coal generation to come online is low.

Today, developing nations buck this trend and coal is a growing generation source in Brazil, China, and India. In fact low capital costs make China the cheapest country to generate power from coal, less than half the LCOE in Europe or the US.

Coal LCOE by region chart via World Energy Council
Coal LCOE by region chart via World Energy Council

But the tide is starting to turn, evidenced by growing concerns about air pollution in China and the development of carbon markets in many of the world’s developing economies where fossil fuels have dominated generation.

Grid Parity For Renewables Fast Approaching

Put it all together, and it’s clear to see global energy economics are changing fast.

While coal still dominates global electricity production, renewables are catching up with net investment growing seven-fold from 2004-2011, outpacing fossil fuels for the second year in a row in 2012. And as more renewables come online, their costs continue to fall faster and faster from larger economies of scale.

The cost of most technologies, and most dramatically that of solar PV, is coming down with production scale-up in many areas of the world.

With such growth, grid parity will become reality in the coming years. — Dr. Christoph Frei, World Energy Council Secretary General

This article, Grid Parity, Low LCOE Driving 34% Global Renewables Capacity by 2030, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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Climate Change, A $10 Trillion Opportunity… Here And Now

 by Guest Contributor

creating climate wealth jigar shah
Mr. Jigar Shah’s just-released book, Creating Climate Wealth.

By Douglas Elbinger, Energy Policy Analyst, GreenLancer.com

Many of us who have been on the ground floor of the renewable energy business are secretly experiencing the warm fuzzy feelings that precede explosive global growth. Economic opportunity of this scale happens very rarely. Recent history tells us that nothing changes on this scale ‘peacefully’ until the economics are in alignment with necessity and invention. This is a true test of a new energy reality, where climate change hits head on with abundant and cheap renewable energy. This collision translates into a $10 trillion industry that will transform the current geo-political narrative (energy, water, climate, etc.…) as we know it, and offer unprecedented opportunity for those who are on board when this train leaves the station. So, how, you ask, is this going happen… and how can I get on the train?

First, allow me introduce you to Mr. Jigar Shah, who will guide you on the path in his just released book, Creating Climate Wealth. He offers his reader a clear, engaging, easy-to-understand conversation about seizing this moment to make climate change a huge business opportunity — whether you work at the top or in the trenches — anywhere on the planet.

In this fast-paced, straight forward read, he describes in detail the opportunity in front of all of us: how to turn the biggest challenge of our lifetime — climate change — into a $10 trillion dollar new economy. He actually presents a “New Economy Plan” that identifies 100,000 businesses each selling $100 million in climate change solutions by 2020 — $10 trillion in total!

If you don’t know Jigar, I recommend you get to know a little about him. He revolutionized the solar industry by deploying the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) solar-as-service business model. This business model used 30-year old solar technology to be the catalyst for a multi-billion dollar solar industry. Even if you are skeptical of the $10 trillion opportunity Jigar portrays, it’s worth reading to understand the power of innovative business models. Jigar’s crucial message is that we need business model innovation, not just technology innovation, in order to unlock the deployment of clean technologies around the world. Shah makes a compelling case for reaching our 2020 climate change goals through 100,000 companies worldwide, each generating $100 million in sales.

I recommend you buy the hard copy so you can share it with friends and family. You can do this via Amazon here.

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This article, Climate Change, A $10 Trillion Opportunity… Here And Now, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Guest Contributor is many, many people all at once. In other words, we publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. 😀

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Our Energy Transition Away From Fossil Fuels

by Guest Contributor

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Originally published on Mosaic.
By Aven Satre-Meloy.

In the 21st century, many countries are moving away from dependence on fossil fuels for their energy needs. A number of smaller countries have already reached 100% renewable energy, and many others are close to complete independence from fossil fuels. Some of the more notable achievements in our global pursuit of a future free of fossil fuels are:

  • Iceland, which is 100% free of fossil fuels, got 26% of its energy from geothermal sources in 2009.
  • At the end of June 2013, Germany’s total installed solar PV capacity was 31.19 GW, the highest in the world. Despite this solar success, however, Germany still remains dependent on some of its energy from fossil fuels.
  • China’s spending to free itself from fossil fuels and develop more renewable energy may total 1.8 trillion yuan ($323 billion) in the five years through 2015 as part of the nation’s efforts to counter climate change.

  • Nicaragua, which has set a goal to be 94% free of fossil fuels by 2017, aims to reduce its reliance on foreign oil from 70% to 6% by that time.

  • Paraguay, one of the leading countries in the world claiming independence from fossil fuels, is 100% renewable but also exported 90% of its generated electricity (54.91 TWh) in 2008.

  • By 2016, solar energy will bring electricity to 2 million Peruvians who currently do not have access to it and rely on dirty fossil fuels for cooking, lighting, and other energy needs.

  • In the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, solar power’s energy potential far exceeds global electricity demand, yet this region still primarily remains dependent on fossil fuels.

  • In the U.S., 29 states, plus Washington, DC, and 2 territories, have a Renewable Portfolio

    Standard (RPS), meaning they will need to increase production of energy from renewable sources in the next 10-20 years in order to decrease reliance on fossil fuels.

Infographic created by Aven Satre-Meloy

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This article, Our Energy Transition, Away From Fossil Fuels, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Guest Contributor is many, many people all at once. In other words, we publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. 😀

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