Iowa: The #1 Solar Utility in America. Iowa? Kudos to Iowa!

by John Farrell.

It may be one of the oldest cooperative utilities in the country, but in the next six months, Farmers Electric Cooperative (FEC) of southeastern Iowa will be leading the nation in this 21st century energy source. Upon completion of a new solar array, the 640-member cooperative will have over 1,500 Watts of solar per customer on their system, nearly double the #2 utility. It’s also the most reliable utility in Iowa. How can a small, member-owned utility be “America’s Most Progressive Utility“?

Find out in this interview with FEC Manager Warren McKenna, recorded via Skype, on November 18, 2013.

Local Energy Rules podcast: Play in new window | Download | Embed

Flexibility

Unlike many small cooperative or municipal utilities, Farmers Electric Cooperative only buys 30% of its energy on long-term contracts. Instead, McKenna explains, they buy power on the spot market, using local power generation and demand management to avoid price spikes. This leaves them open to buying power from local generators, especially solar.

Creativity

FEC hasn’t limited itself to just one strategy for adding solar to the grid. In fact, they don’t even have net metering, the most common policy for connecting small-scale solar projects.

Instead, they have a feed-in tariff at pays 20¢ per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for solar energy, as long as it’s 25% or less of a customer’s own use. For solar energy produced that is between 25 and 100% of a customer’s monthly usage, customers still get 12.5¢ per kWh (the retail electricity rate for residential customers). Surplus generation is purchased by the utility at 6¢ per kWh.  Participating customers still buy all their electricity from the utility

FEC also has a 25 kW community solar project, selling shares to new customers in phase 2 for just $1.63 per Watt. Current participants can buy additional panels for $2 per Watt.

Finally, the cooperative has also commissioned a new 750 kW solar array which will sell power to the utility for its first 10 years, and the revert to cooperative ownership thereafter.

Participation

Since it’s a cooperative, technically every FEC member is an owner in a local solar project. But ignoring that for the moment, about 20% of the cooperative’s members either have their own solar array, own shares in the community solar project, or participate in the Green Power Project (a $3 per month green pricing program for purchasing local renewable energy).

Replicable?

The big question is, could your local utility do what Farmers Electric is doing?  If your utility happens to be locally owned, says McKenna. Cooperatives are often very open to comments from their members, and if not, you can run for the board.  Municipal utilities are overseen by elected officials, who are always looking for examples of strategies to increase local jobs, particularly from clean energy.

It’s inspiring to see what FEC has accomplished, regardless.  Most of the greenest utilities in the U.S. are among the largest, and Farmers Electric shows that you don’t have to be a big utility to do big things with locally owned renewable energy.

This is the 12th edition of Local Energy Rules, an ILSR podcast with Senior Researcher John Farrell that shares powerful stories of successful local renewable energy and exposes the policy and practical barriers to its expansion. Other than his immediate family, the audience is primarily researchers, grassroots organizers, and grasstops policy wonks who want vivid examples of how local renewable energy can power local economies.

It is published twice monthly, on 1st and 3rd Thursday.  Click to subscribe to the podcast: iTunes or RSS/XML

Sign up for new podcast notifications and weekly email updates from ILSR’s energy program!

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, The #1 Solar Utility Is In…Iowa?, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Renewable Energy. John Farrell.John Farrell directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His latest paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (energyselfreliantstates.org), and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at jfarrell@ilsr.org.

South Africa’s First Utility-Scale Solar Plant Goes Online

South Africa’s First Utility-Scale Solar Plant Goes Online | 23/11/13
by Nicholas Brown

In South Africa, the Kalkbult solar power plant has gone online three months ahead of schedule. It is South Africa’s first utility-scale photovoltaic solar power plant.

Kalkbult solar power plant.Image Credit: Scatec Solar.
Kalkbult solar power plant. Image Credit: Scatec Solar.

It has an electricity generation capacity of 75 MW and consists of 312,000 solar panels. 600 construction jobs were created by the project, 16% of which were allocated to female workers. Construction of the plant began in November 2012, in Petrusville, Northern Cape Province, and was carried out by Scatec Solar, a Norwegian energy company.

The national utility Eksom is to purchase an estimated 135 million kWh per year from the Kalkbult solar power plant via a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA). The electricity is to cleanly power approximately 33,000 homes, and operate on a piece of leased land from a 105 hectare sheep farm.

I doubt the sheep will mind, as solar panels produce no noise or gases to disrupt them.

The fact that renewable energy can work in harmony with the environment and without disrupting surrounding activities is often overlooked,” said Raymond Carlsen, CEO of Scatec Solar.

After 20 years, we can upgrade the project with the latest technology and continue operations for many years or we can dismantle it and leave the environment in its original natural state.

Kalkbult solar power plant.
Kalkbult solar power plant. Image Credit: Scatec Solar.

This is only 1 of 47 plants awarded PPAs with Eksom under the REIPPP national procurement program, and is a step away from South Africa’s heavy dependence on coal-fired power plants. (South Africa is almost completely dependent on coal power plants at the moment.)

That is an important step towards bettering public health, reduced global warming, and reduced dependence on finite fossil fuels.

Follow me on Twitter @Kompulsa

This article, South Africa’s First Utility-Scale Solar Plant Goes Online, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Nicholas Brown has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa

Solar PV Production Costs To Drop In 2014

by Joshua S Hill

Falling solar polysilicon and wafer prices.
Falling solar polysilicon and wafer prices.

The average cost for tier 1 solar photovoltaic manufacturers is expected to fall 6% during 2014, continuing the downward trend set in place since 2008, bringing the overall cost to a record low of $0.20 per watt, according to the latest research from NPD Solarbuzz published in their Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly report.

“Wafer costs are only a third of what they were five years ago, and even though the rapid pace of cost reduction is starting to decline, the severe oversupply and extremely low selling prices are forcing polysilicon and wafer makers to continue to find ways to lower costs to previously assumed impossible levels,” said Charles Annis, vice president at NPD Solarbuzz.

There are two sides to the manufacturing of solar photovoltaic panels are polysilicon and wafers. According to NPD, polysilicon manufacturers are relocating capacity to areas with low electricity prices, building new fluidized bed reactor (FBR) plants or converting Siemens capacity to FBR, reducing power consumption, increasing plant productivity, as well as building in-house power plants.

“At the same time, wafer makers are also reducing costs by increasing the multicrystalline ingot size from Gen 4/5 to Gen 6/7, reducing slurry consumption and increasing recycling, adopting diamond wire sawing for monocrystalline applications, and benefiting from rising conversion efficiencies as crystallization quality continues to improve,” explained Annis.

While manufacturing prices are expected to drop, NPD believe that “along with firm pricing and rapidly growing shipments” the increased productivity that is allowing such prices “is expected to create a substantially more optimistic opportunity for best-of-class polysilicon and wafer makers in 2014.” Subsequently, these prices make NPD Solarbuzz’s recent PV market demand forecast of between 45 GW and 50 GW for 2014 should support improving the profitability for leading polysilicon and wafer manufacturers.

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, Solar PV Production Costs To Drop In 2014, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Joshua S Hill I’m a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we’re pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I work as Associate Editor for the Important Media Network and write for CleanTechnica and Planetsave. I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), Amazing Stories, the Stabley Times and Medium.   I love words with a passion, both creating them and reading them.

Related Posts

seialogo

Solar Project Interconnection Expedited & Costs Cut With New Rule, SEIA Applauds

Installation-Haliade-offshore-windturbine

Alstom Completes World’s Largest Offshore Wind Turbine
 

China Forecast To Install Even More Solar Than Previously Thought

by Nicholas Brown.

.

Image Credit: Solarbuzz PV Market Analysis.

The amount of solar power forecast to be installed in China in 2014 was recently increased to 12 GW, according to a report released by the Chinese Bureau of Energy on November 14, 2013.

This includes 8 GW of distributed photovoltaic solar systems and 4 GW of ground-mount systems. While both distributed solar and ground-mount solar systems have their drawbacks, both of them hold important places in the energy industry. Ground-mount systems take up ground space, but they save the day in cases where rooftops lack space. This is especially important to commercial buildings.

Roof-mounted systems don’t require extra expenditures for the land, and the roof space they occupy likely wasn’t needed for anything else.

The Jiangsu Province will have the best solar PV market share, according the the new report, with 1.3 GW of quotas within the pipeline. The Shandong Province will follow, at 1.2 GW, and the Zhejiang Province will come in third, at 1.1 GW.

Ground-mount systems will likely continue to dominate the Chinese PV market during 2014, but the Bureau of Energy stated that the allocation to the ground-mount segment may be adjusted, depending on the progress of photovoltaic installations in 2014. Despite the dominance of ground-mount systems, distributed applications will increase.

From Steven Han on Analyst Blog:

“According to our research, the increase in solar PV demand from China is now driving the total Asia Pacific (APAC) baseline forecast to 24 GW for 2014, with an upside as high as 32 GW. The increase from the APAC region is a major contributor to our upgrade of global forecasts for 2014 to the 45-55 GW level. Similar to 2013, China is again forecast to be the largest country for solar PV demand next year.”

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, China Forecast To Install Even More Solar Than Previously Thought, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Nicholas Brown has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa.

Related Posts

Credit: Zachary Shahan, Clean Technica

500 MW Rooftop Solar Scheme To Be Submitted To Abu Dhabi

repost-us-image-8233001

Beijing To Fight Air Pollution By Making 40% Of All New Cars Hybrids

Image Credit: Suntech China

Jiangsu Shunfeng’s Acquisition Of Suntech To Top $540 Million

Germany Solar PV Report, A Must-Read For Any Energy Reporter

by Zachary Shahan

One of our Dutch readers, Remco van der Horst of Better Energy, recently passed along an excellent report on various aspects of Germany’s solar power boom. The report actually reads more like a fact-checking of common claims (in media and politics) regarding Germany’s rapid energy transition. It is easy to read, organized by common questions/claims, and full of interesting facts. I actually learned a few things from this one that have been itching at my mind for awhile.

I definitely recommend checking out every question and at least the short answer for it. However, I’m pulling out a few of the key ones and sharing them below. Have a look!

2. Does PV contribute significantly to the electric power supply?

Yes.

As estimated on the basis of figures from [BDEW3] and [BDEW4], PV generated 28 TWh [BDEW4] of power in 2012, covering approximately 5.3 percent of Germany’s net power consumption (compare section 20.8). Taken as a whole, renewable energy (RE) ac- counted for around 25.8 percent of net power consumption, while the proportion of Germany’s gross power consumption covered by PV and RE stood at 4.7 percent and 23 percent respectively.

On sunny days, PV power can cover at times 30 – 40 percent of the current power consumption. According to the German Federal Network Agency, PV modules with a rated power of 32.4 GW had been installed across a total of around 1.3 million plants in Germany by the end of 2012, meaning the installed capacity of PV has exceeded that of all other types of power plants in Germany. See Figure 1.

renewable energy germany

Solar PV Prices Will Continue To Fall

“The price of PV modules is responsible for more than half of a PV power plant’s investment costs. The price development of PV modules follows a so-called price learning curve, in which doubling the total capacity installed causes prices to always fall by the same factor. Provided that significant efforts continue to be made to develop products and manufacturing processes in the future, prices are expected to continue to fall in accordance with this rule.”

Solar PV Lowers The Price Of Electricity & Cuts Into Utility Profits

“The feed-in of PV power has legal priority, meaning that it is found at the start of the price scale of power being offered. With fictitious marginal costs of zero, PV power is always sold when available. It is, however, predominantly generated during the middle of the day when power consumption experiences its midday peak and during these periods, it displaces mainly electricity from expensive power plants (especially gas-fired and pumped-storage power plants). This displacement lowers the overall electricity price and, in turn, the profits made by utilities generating power from fossil fuel and nuclear sources (Figure 8). It also lowers the utilization and profitability of traditional peak-load power plants.”

Here’s a conundrum that I think doesn’t get enough attention:

“The feed-in of PV electricity reduces the stock market price through the merit order effect and paradoxically increases the calculated differential costs. According to this method, the more PV that is installed, the more expensive the kWh price of PV appears to be.”

“The cheaper the electricity price becomes on the Leipzig European Energy Exchange (EEX), the more the EEG levy increases and thus the more expensive electricity becomes for private households and small consumers.”

Fossil Fuel & Nuclear Subsidies

3.8 Are the fossil fuel and nuclear energy production subsidized?

Yes.

A study from the Forum Green Budget Germany [FÖS2] states: ‘For decades, the conventional energy sources of nuclear, hard coal and brown coal have profited on a large scale from government subsidies in the form of financial assistance, tax concessions and other beneficial boundary conditions. In contrast to the renewable energies, a large portion of these costs is not accounted and paid for in a transparent manner. Rather, funds are appropriated from the national budget. If these costs were also to be added to the electricity price as a “conventional energy tariff,” they would amount to 10.2 ct/kWh, which is almost three times the value of the Renewable Energy Tariff in 2012. Up to now subsidies for the renewable energies have amounted to 54 billion euro. To compare, from 1970 to 2012 subsidies for hard coal amounted to 177 billion euro, for brown coal at 65 billion euro and for nuclear energy at 187 billion euro respectively.’

conventional energy subsidies higher

Nuclear energy is simply far too expensive and risky to warrant investment.

“The risks of nuclear power predicted by experts are so severe, however, that insurance and reinsurance companies the world over are not willing to offer policies for plants generating energy of this kind. A study conducted by the Versicherungsforen Leipzig sets the limit of liability for the risk of the most serious type of nuclear meltdown at 6 trillion euros, which, depending on the time period over which this sum is built up, would increase the electricity price per kilowatt hour to between 0.14 and 67.30 euros [VFL]. As a result, it is essentially the tax payers who act as the nuclear industry’s insurers.”

Industry Exemptions Raise Electricity Prices For Normal People

“Policy makers determine who finances the transition to renewable energy. They have decided to release the majority of energy-intensive industrial enterprises which spend a high proportion of their costs on electricity from the EEG levy, and are planning to ex- tend this level of exemption in the future. It has been estimated that more than half of the power consumed by industry shall be largely freed from the levy in 2013 (Figure 19) with the level of exemption totaling 6.7 billion euros. This increases the burden on other electricity customers and in particular householders who account for almost 30 percent of the overall amount of power consumed.”

Coal Production Increased Because of Broader Market Dynamics (Beyond Germany) & Because It Takes A Long Time To Shut Down & Start Up Coal Power Plants

“Electricity is exported during the day, because it is hard to throttle back coal-fired plants (lignite) due to their inertia or because it is simply lucrative to produce power in Germany and to sell it in other countries (bituminous coal). In countries other than Germany, gas-fired plants also became unprofitable. The statistics convey a clear message: Compared to the first quarter 2012, electricity exports in the first quarter 2013 increased by ca. 7 billion kWh. During the same period, the electricity production from RE (Figure 21:) decreased by 2 billion because of weather conditions [ISE4].”

electricity exports Germany

Solar PV & Wind Power Are Complementary

“Due to the country’s climate, high solar irradiance and high wind strength have a nega- negative correlation in Germany. With an installed capacity of 30 GW of PV and around 30 GW of wind power in 2012, the amount of solar and wind power fed into the grid by September 30 of that year rarely exceeded the 30 GW mark (Figure 29: ). Therefore, limiting feed-in from solar and wind at a threshold value of nearly half the sum of their nominal powers does not lead to substantial losses. A balanced mix of solar and wind power generation capacities is markedly superior to the one-sided expansion that would be brought about through the introduction of a competitive incentive model (e.g. the quota model).”

.solar pv and wind power complementary

Increasing Solar Power Is Needed For Storage To Make Sense

The common talking point is that energy storage is needed for solar power to dominate the grid. However, Fraunhofer points at that more solar power is actually needed in order for energy storage to make sense.

10.6 Does the expansion of PV have to wait for more storage?

No.

Although the EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger in an interview with the newspaper FAZ (2 April 2013) said: “We must limit the escalating PV capacity in Germany. In the first place, we need to set a tempo limit for renewable energy expansion until we have sufficient storage capacity and an energy grid that can intelligently distribute the electricity.”

In fact, the situation is the opposite. Investing in storage is first profitable when large price differences for electricity frequently occur, either on the electricity exchange market EEX or on the consumer level. Currently investments in storage, specifically pumped storage, are even being deferred because cost-effective operation is not possible.

First, a continued, further expansion in PV and wind capacity will cause prices on the electricity exchange EEX to sink more often and more drastically. On the other side, the reduced amount of nuclear electricity due to the planned phase out and more expensive electricity from coal-fired plants due to CO2-certificates or taxes will cause price increases on the EEX at other times. This price spread creates the basis for a profitable storage operation. If the price difference is passed on to the final customer through a tariff structure, then storage also becomes an interesting alternative for them.

A study from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) comes to the conclusion that surpluses from renewable energies are a problem that can be solved [DIW]. By making the electricity system more flexible, especially by eliminating the “must-run” basis of conventional power plants which is presently at ca. 20 GW and establishing a more flexible system of biomass generated electricity, the electricity surplus from wind and solar energy can be reduced to less than 2 % by 2032. The DIW takes the grid development plan 2013 as its basis [NEP] with an installed PV capacity of 65 GW, onshore wind capacity of 66 GW and offshore wind of 25 GW respectively.

In other words, what’s really needed is to cut slow, inflexible, “baseload” power from coal and nuclear power plants in order to move.

Keep up with the latest Germany cleantech news by keeping an eye on or subscribing to those archives.

Also see:

 

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, Germany Solar PV Report — A Must-Read For Any Energy Reporter, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.