5 Barriers To and Solutions For — Community Renewable Energy

by John Farrell – Special to JBS News

Community renewable energy has significant political and economic benefits, but is often hindered by five major barriers. Read on for a summary of the five barriers, watch them in a 17-minute presentation, or check out the vividly illustrated slideshow.

Barrier one is tradition. Utilities are simply used to operating a grid in a 20th century model, where large-scale power plants are connected in a top-down, one-way grid to power consumers. Policies that have allowed for on-site solar and wind generation, for consumers to be instead producers, have nibbled at the margins of this tradition.  It’s only in the past year that utilities have realized how low-cost solar power can fundamentally up-end their entire business model. And the response has often been to entrench.

A second barrier facing community-based renewable energy is capital — upfront cash to buy a solar array or wind turbine. And the biggest cause is securities law and regulations, intended to prevent fraud like perpetrated by Bernie Madoff and others, that makes pooling capital very difficult for groups of interested local power investors. The federal or state rules often come with high compliance costs or significant limitations that hinder most efforts to raise community capital.

A third barrier is cash flow. American renewable energy policy is a byzantine array of tax incentives, rebates, and bill credits that can challenge a CPA. Figuring out how to pool all these revenue streams together to make a project with reasonable payback is a significant challenge.

A fourth barrier is legal, because of the mis-match between federal renewable energy incentives paid through the tax code and the non-taxable status of many of the logical entities for organizing community renewable energy projects. Want to use a city, county, cooperative, or non-profit structure for your community solar project?  Then you may have to forgo the 30% federal tax credit.  A level playing field for energy cooperatives is a major reason the Germans have such high levels of local ownership of their 63,000 MW renewable energy economy.

Finally, utilities themselves (as implied in #1) have acted as barriers to more community-based renewable energy.  In particular, policies like the “15% Rule” have set artificially (and arbitrarily) low limits on distributed generation under the guise of system safety.

The good news is that the barriers are being broken. 

Tradition has been tossed as utilities have had to grapple with state policies encouraging distributed generation and solar power and others have embraced pro-active measures to accommodate more local renewable energy. Crowdfunding opportunities like those offered by Mosaic are giving people an unprecedented opportunity to pool their money to go renewable. The falling cost of solar is rapidly making incentives unimportant in many areas, reducing the problems caused by half baked, tax-based federal policy.

Most importantly, utilities, regulators, and policy makers are recognizing that the 20th century model of concentrated power and capital doesn’t serve a distributed, 21st century grid.  And as that aging paradigm crumbles, community renewable energy will grow up through the cracks.

This article, 5 Barriers To And Solutions For Community Renewable Energy, 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.

Wind Power: Healthy and Growing!

Wind Power: Healthy and Growing! | 04/02/13
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Global wind power growing at an exponential rate

For example, China has now installed more wind turbines than any other country. China began 2011 with 41.5 gigawatts of installed wind power capacity and is adding more wind turbines to their grid almost daily.

And by 2015 (one year ahead of schedule) China’s citizens will enjoy 100 gigawatts of clean, wind powered electricity. Wind power surpassed nuclear energy in 2012, to become China’s 3rd largest source of electrical power.

By 2020, they plan to have 200 gigawatts of wind power, which will displace many billions of tons of airborne emissions from coal-fired power plants.

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The United States is second with 47 gigawatts of wind power capacity (at the end of 2011) and must add 305 gigawatts of wind power by 2030 to reach the goals set out in the U.S. Department of Energy 2008 report 20% Wind Energy by 2030 (downloadable PDF) which predicted that wind power could meet 20% of all U.S. electricity demand by 2020.

The use of wind power in the United States has expanded quickly over the last several years. Construction of new wind power generation capacity in the fourth quarter of 2012 totaled 8,380 megawatts (MW) bringing the cumulative installed capacity to 60,007 MW.[1]

This capacity is exceeded only by China.[2] For the 12 months from November 2011 to October 2012, the electricity produced from wind power in the United States amounted to 137 terawatt-hours, or 3.4% of all generated electrical energy.[3]

The United States produced enough electricity from wind in the 12 months [prior to] November 2012 to power over 11 million US households annually[4] or meet the total energy demands of Poland.

The U.S. wind industry generates tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity.[9]

Wind projects boost local tax bases, and revitalize the economy of rural communities by providing a steady income-stream to farmers with wind turbines on their land. – Wikipedia

Wind_Power_Generation_and_Percentage

Wind energy has grown exponentially in the last decade, with an average increase of 29.7%/year. At an exponential growth of 29.7%, the U.S. would obtain 20% from wind by 2020. — Image courtesy of Wikipedia

If you think that only large countries can use the wind to create clean and fuel-free electrical energy, read: Denmark Sets Goal of 100% Renewable Energy by 2050. Denmark has proven to the world that when citizens back government efforts towards sustainable energy — the transition to 100% green energy is possible. The Danes are making it look easy.

It is time to harness that wind and produce clean electricity from it, create jobs and make profit by it, while enjoying the benefits of clean air as more wind farms displace fossil-fuel power plants!

The following information is courtesy of Wikipedia, click to read here:

Complementary power

Solar power tends to be complementary to wind. On daily to weekly timescales, high pressure areas tend to bring clear skies and low surface winds, whereas low pressure areas tend to be windier and cloudier. On seasonal timescales, solar energy peaks in summer, whereas in many areas wind energy is lower in summer and higher in winter.[nb 3][95]

Thus the intermittencies of wind and solar power tend to cancel each other somewhat.

In 2007 the Institute for Solar Energy Supply Technology of the University of Kassel pilot-tested a combined power plant linking solar, wind, biogas and hydrostorage to provide load-following power around the clock and throughout the year, entirely from renewable sources.[96] 

Pumped-storage hydroelectricity or other forms of grid energy storage can store energy developed by high-wind periods and release it when needed.[103]

Cost trends

Wind power has low ongoing costs, but a moderate capital cost. The marginal cost of wind energy once a plant is constructed is usually less than 1-cent per kW·h.[113] This cost has reduced as wind turbine technology improved.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory projects that the levelized cost of wind power in the U.S. will decline about 25% from 2012 to 2030.[112]