U.S. Fossil Fuels Losing to Wind and Solar Power

by Giles Parkinson.

Wind turbines
Fossil Fuels, Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas, are losing the electrical generation battle to Solar and Wind Power.

Originally published on RenewEconomy

The price of new power purchase agreements for wind farms and new solar projects in the US continue to defy all expectations, making some energy experts wonder why anyone would contemplate a new fossil-fuel plant.

A new report by UBS analysts in the US has crossed our desk. It is basically a write-up from a webinar hosted by UBS and Declan Flanagan, head of local renewable energy group Lincoln Energy, but  it provides some fascinating insight of what is happening in that market.

The first notable conclusion is the declining cost of wind energy. Contracts in Texas, which accounts for around one quarter of all US installations, are regularly below $30/MWH, and some are at $25/MWh. Even with a tax incentive, this still put wind well below $50/MWh.

Why is this happening? New equipment is lifting capacity factors by 5 percentage points, and Texas’ excellent wind conditions mean that wind farms are getting capacity factors in the high 40s or low 50’s (per cent). Nearly half of this occurs during peak load, defying most characterizations of wind as essentially an off-peak power source.

What does this mean? Greentech Media recently quoted Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley’s Head of North American Equity Research for Power & Utilities and Clean Energy, speaking at the Columbia Energy Symposium in late November.

“Compare that to the variable cost of a gas plant at $30 per megawatt-hour. The all-in cost to justify the construction of a new gas plant would be above $60 per megawatt-hour.” So who would build gas?

Not as many people. Citigroup recently reported that some peaking gas plants were already being replaced by solar PV plants.

Why is this so? The UBS research note says that in Colorado, local utility Xcl has just announced new contracts for solar PV plants below 6c/kWh ($60/MWh). This, UBS said, was the lowest reported solar pricing it had seen in the US, although it confirms a recent survey by the National renewable Energy Laboratory, which found pricing in that range and with no inflation kicker, meaning that the solar plants would be producing for an effective $40/MWh by the end of their contracts.

That would match even depreciated fossil fuel plants. The variable costs of gas fired plants are likely to be at least $30/MWh, and that does not include their capital costs.

This article, US Fossil Fuels Losing Out To Wind And Solar, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Giles ParkinsonGiles Parkinson is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.

11,000+ support ‘3000MW-by-2030’ Colorado solar plan

by Zachary Shahan.

Colorado Solar
A growing number of Colorado residents want to go solar.

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

A passionate coalition of over 11,000 citizens and 280 businesses are pushing hard for their state, Colorado, to become a true rooftop solar power leader. They are pushing for 1 million solar rooftops, or 3,000 megawatts of solar power capacity, in the state by 2030. Currently, the state’s solar power capacity is equal to 300 megawatts.

According to some estimates, the Colorado solar industry has already brought $1.42 billion and 10,000 full-time jobs to the Colorado. With a ten-fold increase, that could mean $10.42 billion and 100,000 jobs.

How much will solar save you?
Find out in about 60 seconds!

5 Reasons Colorado Should Go For 1 Million Solar Roofs By 2030

We’re a solar-focused website, so we’re obviously quite supportive of the idea that Colorado could and should aim for this 1 million solar rooftop target. But we’re not thoughtlessly for solar power — we promote going solar because it makes sense to do so!

Below are 5 key reasons why the state should get behind this strong citizen and small business push:

1. $10 Billion, 100,000 Jobs

Let’s start with the obvious. Of course, the numbers extrapolated above don’t come out of a thorough study, but it’s clear that a ten-fold increase in solar power development in the state would considerably boost the state’s economy and provide jobs for many more Coloradans. Whatever the billion-dollar total and jobs total would be, homegrown electricity would be a huge win for Colorado.

2. Cleaner Air, Healthier & Happier People

Coal power costs the US about $500 billion a year in health costs alone, according to a study conducted by the former director of the Harvard Medical School. Colorado residents pay their fair share of that at the hospital and through premature death caused by coal pollution. The human suffering is actually incalculable. Asthma, cancer, loss of life, and so on — who wants that? Colorado can quickly move away from this electricity source of the past, and also avoid many of the health and water problems associated with natural gas through strong development of solar power and wind power. This would be a clear win for the beautiful state and its residents.

3. A Clean Climate Conscience

I don’t think people who decide to do nothing to fight global warming actually “get off the hook” for it. Not acting to fight global warming surely wears on their conscience. It’s hard to quantify, but it certainly has an effect on people’s contentment. Avoiding problems is not a good thing, and we know that. With a 3,000-megawatt-by-2030 push, Colorado residents could certainly feel better about themselves in this regard.

4. Citizens & Small Businesses Would Save Money

Aside from the health savings briefly mentioned above, solar equals long-term electricity bill savings. Electricity from rooftop solar power doesn’t compete with wholesale electricity; it competes with retail electricity. Getting electricity from a rooftop solar power system is akin to cutting your electricity use, not akin to selling power on a wholesale electricity market. Solar panel prices have fallen off a cliff in recent years. With solar incentives that correct for the market failures related to pollution from natural gas or coal power plants, rooftop solar is a cost-competitive option for homeowners and business. It also helps that solar power systems generate electricity at times of peak electricity demand, when electricity is the most expensive. Of course, the indirect benefit of all of this for the state as a whole is that people who go solar have more money to spend in the local economy. (Pro tip: check how much you’re projected to save from switching to solar.)

5. Democratization of the Electricity System

Overall, a very decentralized network of power provides actually creates a more secure and reliable grid. It also means that the financial benefits of producing electricity are democratized, spread amongst the populous to a much greater degree, rather than hogged by energy monopolies. A more empowered citizenry and a stronger middle class benefits the state’s economy and culture. It improves morale and residential satisfaction. And, to put it bluntly, it’s simply much more equitable or fair.

Putting power production in the hands of citizens is also proven to make them more energy conscious and energy efficient. There’s no point in wasting energy and money, and there are large economic and environmental benefits to be had from a more energy conscious and energy efficient populous.

Colorado is often seen as a beautiful place to visit and a wonderful place to live. It’s also a leader in a number of respects. Becoming a, if not the, leading solar power state would certainly add to those credentials. It would put Colorado in an even more positive light. It would benefit the the US; it would benefit the world; and it would offer many strong benefits to the people of Colorado. Indeed, it would benefit the citizens of Colorado more than anyone else. A 2030 target of 3,000 MW of solar power capacity, the majority of it being on the roofs of homes and businesses, should be pursued. And Colorado isn’t the only state that should be pursuing it!

How much will solar save you?
Find out in about 60 seconds!

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, 11,000+ Citizens Push For 1 Million Colorado Solar Roofs By 2030, 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 links.

Most Attractive States For Investing In Solar

by Zachary Shahan.

.

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

–> See how much money solar power could save you!

There are a lot of ways to evaluate the attractiveness of a place for renewable energy or solar energy investment, and to evaluate the best solar states. Of course, it depends on what factors and assumptions you take into account, as well as what segment of the market you are actually evaluating.

One of the leading evaluators of such markets is Ernst & Young (EY). The “professional services firm” recently released its most up-to-date renewable energy attractiveness indices for the US, including a solar energy index. The report includes solar market data for 2012 as well as a well-researched ranking of states by their solar energy investment attractiveness. The overall summary is clear, as we have been writing for months here on CostofSolar.com: the US solar market is booming.

US Solar Market Booming

“In 2012 the US installed 3,313 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, with 1,300 MW coming in Q4 alone, surpassing both annual and quarterly records. Even with falling costs the dollar value of the market size of the US solar industry grew 34% in 2012,” EY writes. “The cumulative total of solar PV in the US is now at 7,221 MW, with cumulative PV installations exceeding 300,000 individual units.”

A new solar panel installation is now occurring every 4 minutes in the US, according to an analysis from GTM Research.

Solar Leasing Is Hot

As I’ve reported a few times previously, solar leasing is hot. This is partly due to the fact that residential solar power has become quite cheap, and partly due to the fact that people are attracted to $0 down purchasing options, especially when the products (i.e., solar panels) save them money from Day 1. This makes going solar a no-brainer (even more than it already is).

EY writes: “Third-party ownership or leasing of rooftop solar PV systems in the US accounted for more than 50% of the residential and commercial market in 2012. Average residential system prices dropped nearly 20% between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012, and industry experts expect this segment of the market to surge as third-party financing options spread throughout the country.”

US Southwest Is Hot

The leading states are largely in the Southwest, thanks in part to its tremendous solar energy potential, but there are some outliers.

“The top five states for solar electric capacity installed in 2012 were California (becoming the first state to install over 1,000 MW in a single year), Arizona, New Jersey, Nevada and North Carolina, while the leaders in cumulative solar capacity installed through 2012 were California, Arizona, New Jersey, Nevada and Colorado.”

The 10 most attractive states for solar energy investment, according to EY, are now:

Best Solar States For Return On Investment (ROI)

Overall, I find the EY report very useful, as it includes fairly comprehensive policy and market analyses, and even does so for the top solar states.

However, as people who have read me for awhile know, I’m a big fan of relative rankings… of which there are very few. Looking at absolute rankings such as total solar power capacity, you miss who is leading the way on a per capita or per GDP basis. And you miss which states offer the best return on investment for a single residential solar power system.

If you’re curious about the latter, you may have noticed that we’ve already shared a great ranking on that, which changed the above order a bit to come up with this top 10 ranking:

  1. Hawaii — 24% IRR
  2. DC (if you want to include it) — 20% IRR
  3. New York — 17% IRR
  4. Connecticut — 16% IRR
  5. Colorado — 15% IRR
  6. Massachusetts — 15% IRR
  7. New Mexico — 13% IRR
  8. California — 12% IRR
  9. South Carolina – 12% IRR
  10. Delaware – 12% IRR
Best Solar States Per Capita

At the end of 2012, the top solar states for installed solar power per capita ranking shuffles the top solar states around yet again:

top-solar-states-per-capita-total

Image Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica. Data Credit: GTM Research / SEIA.

top-solar-power-states-per-capita-total-solar

Image Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica. Data Credit: GTM Research / SEIA.

Best Solar States… Depends On Your Aims

In the end, I think all of this data is quite interesting. And it offers useful lessons of different types. The EY ranking is certainly useful to investors and major companies who want to figure out the policies and market of one or more states in order to invest in solar projects for the best return on investment (ROI). It also helps show how large states and even countries can better promote solar power.

The solar ROI study briefly mentioned after that is actually useful for the same thing (through slightly different data and research). But it’s also useful for individual homeowners or small businesses who are considering the switch to solar.

And the per capita rankings show us who the true state leaders are, showing us which states’ solar or electricity policies would be most worth emulating.

But, really, for our main audience (the common Joe), there’s simply one thing to do: find out how much solar power could save you, get connected to the best installer for your money in your region, and go solar so that you can start savings tens of thousands of dollars off your electricity bills.

The longer you wait to make the switch, the more money you are throwing away on dirty power from a monopolistic utility company. And the fact is, you can get an estimate of how much you’d save in less time than it takes to watch another cat video or Gangnam Style.

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, Most Attractive States For Investing In Solar, 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.

A Community Solar Gold Standard?

by John Farrell — Special to JBS News

.

Westmill Solar Cooperative 1-640x424
Image is provided for illustrative purposes only. Photo courtesy: Westmill Solar Cooperative

Joy Hughes was living in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, a place with a “tremendous amount of solar potential” so good that the valley’s residents were being overwhelmed by proposals for large-scale solar power plants. One had a “field of things like radar dishes” and another included a “600 foot tower.” The influx of outside companies seeking solar profit led Joy to ask, “Why not just set up solar arrays that can provide power for people in the local community and offset their electric bills?”

The Solar Gardens Institute was born, with a vision of helping community members pool their resources, produce their own energy, and keep their energy dollars local.

Listen to the Podcast (Local Energy Rules): Play in new window | Download | Embed

A Contest of Who Could Type As Fast As Possible

One of the Institute’s first initiatives was Colorado’s nascent solar gardens legislation, a national prototype for community shared renewable energy. The bill passed in 2010, and after two years in rulemaking the 9 megawatt (MW) program sold out in 30 minutes. While it was a good framework for encouraging community solar, “it became a contest of who could type as fast as possible,” said Hughes, who felt that the application process (and other aspects) weighted against some of the more authentically community-based projects.

The Colorado law had many good things, including requirements for participation by low-income participants, geographic proximity of subscribers to the solar project, and slightly higher incentives for smaller community solar projects. The last is what make these small projects possible, Joy said, and gets them closer to where people are using the electricity. The proximity also makes technical sense for small communities, because “a substation can take in about as much as it can put out.”

A Community Solar Gold Standard

Joy also identified several potential improvements to the Colorado law. For one, she’d like to see community solar projects have a choice over their renewable energy credits (RECs). Some non-profit projects would rather retire them instead of being required to give them to the utility. She’d also like to see improved selection criteria for projects (with a preference for those that are close to load, have local ownership, use local labor, or are financed with crowdfunding).

Joy is excited about the new community solar guidelines coming from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), an open process that will help decide on a “gold standard” for community solar. There are also community solar laws being proposed in several other states, including California, Washington, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Maryland, DC, Hawaii (Minnesota’s almost-passed solar energy standard also features a provision for community solar).

Removing Barriers and Moving Ahead

Joy also discussed how to remove some of the barriers to community renewable energy at the federal level. One, remove the tax equity bottleneck by passing the SUN Act to allow individuals to get tax credit with a community solar project. Offer exemptions in securities laws to let people get credits on their bill or other methods of repayment, helping avoid financial disclosures that run to 90 pages and that “nobody can really do without a lot of attorneys.” She also wants to see more open source legal documents and other strategies that create “a level playing field for small players.”

For more on community solar, you can read our 2010 report on community solar or check out the Solar Gardens Institute, where your project can get on their community solar map or you can find assistance in financing a project and finding subscribers.

This is the 9th edition of Local Energy Rules, a new ILSR podcast that is published twice monthly, on 1st and 3rd Thursday. In this podcast series, ILSR Senior Researcher John Farrell talks with people putting together great community renewable energy projects and examining how energy policies help or hurt the development of clean, local power.

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!

This article, A Community Solar Gold Standard?, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

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.

Related Posts

Image Credit: Solar Panels and Wind Turbines via ShutterStock

Colorado Solar Consumers Provide Up To $11 Million In Yearly Benefits To Xcel Grid

vestaswindturbines

Vestas Receives 80 MW Order In US, With Possibility Of 750 MW

hawaii-solar-infographic

SolarWorld Brings Solar Financing For US-Made Solar Panels To Hawaii

solar power facts

Utility Agrees: (Their) Solar Should Supplant Natural Gas

Making Solar Affordable To Those Who Cant Afford

By Katie Valentine – Special to JBS News

Originally published on Climate Progress.

Rick Lopez said he felt like he’d won the lottery.

Lopez, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran and Denver, CO resident, had a 3-kilowatt solar system installed on his house by a group of volunteers on Wednesday, completely free of charge. The project was initiated by GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit organization whose story was highlighted in the Denver Post this week. Lopez’s new system should provide power for 60 to 100 percent of his home’s electricity, and will save him hundreds of dollars in electricity costs each year.

“We would never have been able to do this on our own,” Rick’s wife Roberta Lopez told the Denver Business Journal. “We take it as a blessing.”

California-based GRID Alternatives installs solar systems on low-income households in California, Colorado and soon, in New York and New Jersey. The organization has installed 3,500 solar systems in California so far, projects that according to the organization have saved the homeowners $80 million in energy costs and will result in the reduction of 250,000 tons of greenhouse gasses over their lifetimes.

Once the solar system is installed, the homeowner pays GRID two cents for every kilowatt-hour that the solar panels produce, which typically results in energy bill savings of 80 percent. If the system produces all the household’s energy, a homeowner in Colorado would pay just $13 per month to GRID, compared to the state’s average $75.67 electricity bill.

“It’s really just a huge relief for those families,” Julian Foley, GRID Alternative’s communication manager told Denver Westword. “They can spend money on other things they need… That’s spending money that goes back to the community.”

And the free installation is key — though the price of installing solar in the U.S. has fallen to record lows, it’s still out of reach for many Americans. The solar systems GRID installs can cost up to $17,000, but grants bring the cost down to about $5,000.

GRID depends on volunteers to complete the installations, a setup which, along with donated equipment and corporate backing, helps make the organization’s work possible. But job trainees also work on installations — the organization partners with local community colleges and organizations like Veterans Green Jobs to provide job training for the clean energy sector. Through these partnerships, the organization also finds people who are eligible to receive free solar systems — those at an income level of 80 percent or below their area’s median level.

In California, the work GRID does also gets state funding through the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes Program (SASH). The program provides up-front rebates for low-income families who want to install solar systems, and GRID is the program manager for SASH’s $108 million in funds. The program will run until December 2015 or until the funding runs out — and as the demand for SASH and its counterpart, the Multi-family Affordable Solar Homes Program, which provides rebates for affordable housing projects, grows, the second scenario is looking more realistic. A bill has been taken up in the California Assembly to extend funding of the program to 2021.

Though it might be one of the most extensive, GRID isn’t the only group that aims to bring clean energy and energy efficiency to low-income Americans. Washington, D.C. provides a low-income option for its renewable energy incentive program, and in New York City, Enterprise Community Partners is building super-efficient affordable housing buildings — a new 197-unit development New York City is LEED and Energy Star certified and has 214-kilowatt solar system on its roof. A New York state program provides free insulation, draft reduction, high efficiency lighting and appliance upgrades to low-income residents, and Vermont has a similar program.

This article, Making Solar Affordable To Those Who Can’t Afford, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.