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.

Obama Pushes the big Green Button

by Guest Contributor Ari Phillips.

Green Button
President Barack Obama pushes the big Green Button.

Originally published on Climate Progress.

As part of President Obama’s executive order last week, which included directing the federal government to triple its use of renewable energy by 2020, Obama instructed agencies to incorporate “Green Button” data further into their energy management practices.

First unveiled in 2012, the Green Button Initiative is literally a green button on a utility’s website that allows consumers to download their energy consumption data in a format that’s easy to understand.

According to the Department of Energy, 48 utilities and electricity suppliers serving more than 59 million homes and businesses have committed to giving customers Green Button access, and over 100 millions Americans already have access to their Green Button energy data.

The Green Button website says that the data provided to customers can be used to save energy in a number of different ways. These include customizing heating and cooling settings, helping facilitate energy-efficiency retrofitting, verifying energy-efficiency investments, and optimizing cost-effectiveness of solar panels, to name a few.

This kind of information can be especially useful in managing large campuses or apartment complexes where energy demands differ across different spaces.

In 2011, for the fifth consecutive year, American households paid more for electricity than they did the year before, reaching $1,419 that year. If having more access to data can help reduce energy use and energy costs, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Next year a similar Blue Button will be offered to provide data for healthcare records, which will allow clients to easily compile medical history and information.

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This article, Obama Pushes “Green Button”, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

‘Soft Costs’ Now the Largest Cost of U.S. Solar Installations

by Joshua S Hill.

U.S. Department of  Energy (DoE)  National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) cost of solar chart.
U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) cost of solar chart.

Two reports published by the US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) show that soft costs — such as financing and other non-hardware costs — now make up the largest section of solar installation costs, coming in at 64% of the total price for residential solar energy systems.

The two reports – ”Benchmarking Non-Hardware Balance-of-System (Soft) Costs for U.S. Photovoltaic Systems, Using a Bottom-up Approach and Installer Survey – Second Edition” and ”Financing, Overhead, and Profit: An In-depth Discussion of Costs Associated with Third-party Financing of Residential and Commercial Photovoltaic Systems” — combine to show just how soft costs are becoming an increasingly more important part of solar installations.

“The two new reports, along with previous reports, provide a comprehensive look at the full cost of installing solar, while delineating and quantifying the various contributors to that final cost,” NREL analyst Barry Friedman said.

The first report showed that in the first half of 2012 soft costs represented the majority of all costs — 64% of the total price for a residential system, up from 50% as identified in a previous report conducted in 2012, and similarly high percentages for small and larger commercial installations.

Residential soft cost categories for the first (2010 data) and second (2012 data) editions of the benchmarking study. For the first edition of the benchmarking study, 2010 “all other soft costs” had not been differentiated. For the second edition, we quantified five sub-categories within this broader category.

The second report focused on the five sub-categories identified in the previous report only as ‘other soft costs’ — namely, transaction costs, indirect corporate costs, installer/developer profit, supply chain costs, and sales tax.

This article, NREL: Soft Costs Now Largest Piece Of Solar Installation Costs, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Joshua S. HillJoshua 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.