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.

New Ivanpah CSP Solar Farm Powers 100,000 Homes, reduces CO2

by Guest Contributor Ari Phillips.

Renewable Energy. Ivanpah CSP solar power plant, Image by Shutterstock_138838715
Renewable Energy. Ivanpah CSP solar power plant, Image by trekandshoot / Shutterstock.com

Originally published on ThinkProgress.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz marked the opening of the world’s largest solar thermal plant on Thursday in the Mojave Desert near the border of California and Nevada. The 392-MW Ivanpah project, developed by BrightSource Energy Co, started operating last month after six years of construction.

With California struggling through one of the worst droughts on record, and Ivanpah already being located in a high desert climate, water conservation has been a major focus. Solar thermal plants use solar mirrors to heat water in boilers that in turn produce steam to turn the electricity generating turbines, are more water intensive than more common solar photovoltaic panels.

“Ivanpah is utilizing dry-cooling technology that dramatically reduces water usage,” Moniz said. “In fact, this entire facility will use roughly the same amount of water as two holes at the nearby golf course.”

The electricity generated at Ivanpah will be enough to power more than 100,000 homes, and is expected to avoid more than 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide over its 30-year lifetime, or the equivalent of taking over two million cars off the road. Last year, utility-scale solar installed a record 2.3 gigawatts.

“President Obama and the Department of Energy are committed to ensuring that all sources of energy are competitive in a carbon constrained economy,” Moniz continued, citing the more than $24 billion in loan guarantees the department has made for clean energy programs as well as the over $8 billion for fossil fuel projects that lower emissions.

The Department of Energy provided the Ivanpah project with a $1.6 billion loan guarantee, which helped attract investors such as NGR Solar and Google, which invested $168 million, according to Peter Davidson, executive director of the DOE’s Loan Program Office.

The DOE’s loan program has been a strong success — despite setbacks such as Solyndra, which threaten to take over the narrative when turned into political fodder. As of last year, losses only accounted for about two percent of the $34 billion portfolio, far less than the $10 billion loan loss reserve set aside by Congress for expected losses.

However, with projects like Ivanpah locking in the one-third renewable energy requirement that California utilities must use by 2020, and out-of-state projects offering potential competition, it’s doubtful that many more massive solar plants in interior California will be built in the near future. Smaller, distributed solar projects are also less impactful on fragile ecosystems and can be placed closer to energy-demanding metropolitans.

“The glory days, if you will, are behind us,” Tom Doyle, president of NRG Solar, the majority owner of Ivanpah, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

California is already the nation’s largest solar market because of its bright skies and state-wide efforts. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the industry adds about $2.6 billion into the economy.

And the state’s lawmakers continue to look for new ways to stay on top of the nation’s clean energy leader board, passing a law last year that would allow state regulators to raise renewable requirements without having to go through the legislature first. Democratic State Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez has also introduced legislation that would facilitate the process of raising renewable goals, possibly by up to 50 percent by 2030.

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This article, The Ivanpah Solar Power Plant Uses Relatively Little Water, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

The State of Cleantech in 2014

by Guest Contributor Maud Texier.

Where does cleantech stand?

 

Renewable Energy. A technician standing on top of a wind turbine. Image Credit: Glenn J. Asakawa.
Renewable Energy at work. A technician standing on top of a wind turbine. Image Credit: Glenn J. Asakawa.

After a big boom in early stage investments and a green policies kick-off a few years ago, the cleantech industry has been through the struggles that always come with a young and maturing industry. Where are we standing now?

Unavoidable growing pains

Back in 2008, VC funds for cleantech were blossoming; some of them arguing that it would be the next internet boom. Politics started to raise their awareness about climate changes and environmental issues. Europe had led the way with the first feed-in tariffs for renewables and even a cap and trade market for CO2 in 2005. The US introduced Renewable Energy Standards in 30 states, and created ARPA-E as the new government agency to support innovation in the energy industry.

However, overproduction of solar cells and panels, combined with rapidly falling prices for that and other reasons, led to the demise of numerous solar startups. Meanwhile, many European countries, facing a financial crisis, stepped back and reduced their support for cleantech. The early growing pains that face all industries as they mature also showed up. That included some innovators going bankrupt or struggling to make it to their teenage years. Iconic cleantech companies such as Fisker, Better Place, and A123 went bankrupt; a lot of other startups had poor exits as they were struggling raising new funds.

Now VCs are defiant and most of the main teams are being dismantled as their cleantech portfolio did not perform well enough. Was that to be expected? Actually, VCs historically targeted rapidly growing markets in order to ensure high returns in a few years, whereas the energy industry bets on 20+years returns. There has obviously been a mismatch. Also, a lot of investors and entrepreneurs — new to the energy industry — underestimated the barriers of entry for this market, as well as the resistance of utilities.

However, a few VCs did well and are still in the game. Today, most of them are either targeting this new “cleanweb” segment, which is more likely to be capital-light with a rapid return by focusing on apps and softwares. Others are partnering with corporates to ensure a more sustainable investment and facilitating industry alliances for the ventures.

The cleantech coming of age

Funding a hardware cleantech company is currently very difficult, if not impossible. However, we still need those technologies to evolve and mature, as they will be the pillar of the next infrastructures. Cleanweb, new business models, and financing are key and definitely necessary to mainstream those innovations, but let’s not forget our final goal by focusing too much on the means….

I believe that the solar industry has never been better than it is today. It is true that a lot of people are struggling, we have seen the number of module manufacturers dramatically dropping over the last two years, and now the pressure is put on other types of hardware from the balance of system, such as inverters. But the price drop has been so strong and the emergence of new business models so impactful that PV is becoming mainstream. The market has been maturing into a more sustainable industry, and it will keep growing but likely with a trend towards verticalization.

Also, storage is going to see a huge change this year. A lot of companies have been working on their technologies for years now, and the market is finally getting ready, one step at a time. Timing is always critical for innovations: now as energy demand keeps increasing despite limited and decreasing capacities, storage starts making sense even at a higher price. California once again pioneered by introducing the AB 2514 bill that makes storage capacities mandatory for the state IOUs (PG&E, SCE, SDG&E). Is storage on the same path as solar was a few years ago?

I will just add a few words on the energy efficiency industry, this low-hanging fruit that companies have been trying to grab for some years now. Despite huge potential, energy efficiency is still looking for the right model. The concept of monetizing negawatts needs a lot of structure: policies, regulations, standardized measure, and verification processes. Some promising technologies for consumption disaggregation and new financing structures could dramatically change the picture with the right business models.

The energy industry is re-shaping itself as it faces new challenges. The emerging segments of this market have definitely been going through difficulties to reach technology viability and find the right business model. This market is a tough one, where you need heavy investment and strong will to upgrade infrastructures and modify a legacy system which has been running for decades. But we are finally witnessing the development of those technologies at large scale, creating new economies. Beyond solar, the grid is finally starting to change with storage, energy efficiency and consumer-oriented services.

About the Author: As an engineer, Maud dedicated her efforts towards the energy market. She hails from the oil & gas industry, and started her career working in electricity markets. As an analyst on a power trading desk, she studied the market mechanisms that can develop new demand-response models. She has been scouting new technologies such as renewables, storage or energy efficiency for a large power utility in Silicon Valley before joining a solar start-up.

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This article, The State Of The Cleantech Industry, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

What is Distributed Energy and Why is it the Future of Energy?

by John Brian Shannon.

Annual Renewable Distributed Energy Generation Capacity Additions, World Markets: 2009-2015. Image by Pike Research.
Annual Renewable Distributed Energy Generation Capacity Additions, World Markets: 2009-2015. Image by Pike Research.

Simply stated, distributed energy is many small energy producers adding electrical power to a much larger electrical grid.

The most common way that distributed energy occurs is for solar panels to be mounted on the rooftops of residential or commercial buildings, along with new and sophisticated meters, to measure, record, and direct the resulting electrical flows in real time.

For decades, energy flowed in one direction only — from the utility company to your house, and directly out of your bank account to the utility company. This makes for a very nice flowchart if you’re a utility company!

Now, with so-called Net-Metering the power produced by your rooftop solar array is distributed and sold to the electrical utility in real time, through the two-way (net-metering) electrical meter and the wires that carry electrical power from the street. With Net-Metering, electricity can flow in either direction, as required, and completely automatically.

While at one time doing this was considered a technological impossibility, nowadays this is one of the easier parts of the equation.

What could be easier you say, than having a company install solar panels and a net metering system at your home and then sitting back to enjoy dramatically lower energy bills?

In some jurisdictions, that is exactly what is happening. Homeowners with sufficiently large rooftop space are producing more energy than they use per year and many are receiving $2000. cheques every January — for the difference between the electricity they consumed and what their rooftop produced. (California law says that utility companies must ‘square up’ by Feb 1st of each year for the previous year’s energy consumption/production). Some California homeowners are receiving more than $2000. annually for selling their excess electricity to the grid.

Well, that’s California for you! A tiny number of states (and countries around the world) allow net metering and require their utility companies to ‘pay up’ at the end of each year, for the net electricity purchase.

As you can imagine, utility companies have mixed responses to net metering. Some see net metering as a threat to their existing business model.

But in the case of California, utility companies were looking at multi-billion dollar investments to build behemoth (and politically unpopular) nuclear power plants, hydro-electric dams, or costly natural gas fired power generation at a time of increasingly stringent environmental regulations/oversight.

Since the foresighted regulations brought along by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and followed up nicely by present Governor Jerry Brown, California has eased through its energy crunch with power to spare.

Not only has it worked, it has added power generation capacity exactly where the power is required and when — which, in the Great Bear State, is when the Sun is high in the sky and air-conditioning units are blasting away (statewide) at max capacity.

More distributed energy is planned for California — and funny enough, this time, the power companies are cautiously leading the charge!

Worthwhile MIT video on distributed energy here.

California ranks 7th in the world for installed solar

Originally published on Cost of Solar by Zachary Shahan

California Solar Facts

Here are a number of California solar facts for you:

  • Over 1,721 solar companies employ 43,700 people are located across California.
  • 1,045 megawatts of solar power capacity were installed in California in 2012 — more than any other state.
  • Over 3,761 megawatts of solar power capacity are now installed across California — more than any other state.
  • Enough solar power is installed in California to provide electricity for over 800,000 homes.
  • “In 2012, $2.6 billion was invested in California to install solar on homes and businesses. This represents a 31% increase over the previous year, and is expected to grow again this year.”
  • “Average installed residential and commercial photovoltaic system prices in California have fallen by 13% in the last year.”
  • California has more solar power capacity installed than all but 6 countries.

California is a solar giant. Well, it’s a giant in general. It’s the most populous state in the United States, home to 1 out of every 8 Americans.

Also, the state has a larger economy than all but 8 countries (US included). Being quite progressive, it’s a given that California would be a solar energy leader.

Indeed, it’s the #1 state in terms of total solar power capacity. But what solar incentives are available to homeowners or businesses who want to jump into the solar market?

There are quite a few, so I’ll run down these in a rather concise way with links for more information.

California Solar Incentives

California Solar Initiative (CSI) Solar PV Rebates: Nearly used up, the residential solar PV portion of the CSI offers attractive rebates for solar PV projects installed in the state. A sister program is also in place for solar thermal systems and for solar on new homes. Despite the residential solar portion of the CSI being essentially used up, other state incentives combined with the now very low cost of solar power systems has kept residential solar in the state growing fast.

Net metering*: When customers with solar power systems create more electricity than they use, electricity is sent back to the grid and the customers’ utilities then pay retail rates for that electricity. (*The policy details linked above apply for all utilities in the state except LADWP. A different net metering policy is used in the LADWP district.)

Feed-in tariffs: As mandated by a state law, California’s investor-owned utilities and publicly-owned utilities have to develop and offer renewable energy feed-in tariffs for their customers totaling 750 MW of capacity (investor-owned utilities — 493.6 MW; publicly-owned utilities – 256.4 MW). If you’re not familiar with the policy, a feed-in tariff allows an electricity generator (including someone with solar PV panels on their home) a specified rate for the electricity they generate for a specified period of time, often 15 or 20 years.

The rate should be high enough that it provides the owners of renewable energy projects with enough profit to stimulate the targeted amount of renewable energy growth. Notably, if a customer participates in a feed-in tariff program in California, they cannot participate in other state solar incentives. Here are details regarding feed-in tariffs in the LADWP district and in Marin County.

Property Tax Exclusion: As simple as the name implies, certain types of solar systems can be excluded from property taxes through this policy.

Rebates are also offer in numerous cities, counties, and special districts:

Most of those places also offer similar rebates for energy efficiency projects. You can check out the full list of rebates here.

A number of cities, counties, and special districts also offer a handful of other special incentives:

I know — all of that is a lot to navigate. Luckily, good and experienced solar installers in your area should have a firm grasp on what incentives you could and should apply for. Go through our quick and free system to get connected to an recommended solar installer in your area.

There’s no doubt that California will continue to be a solar power leader for years to come. The only question is whether or not you will be a part of that.

Image Credit: SEIA

*CleanTechnica and Cost of Solar are now owned by the same company, and thus have a financial relationship.

This article, California Solar Incentives & Fun Facts, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary ShahanZachary 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.