In-pipe Hydropower Produces Clean, Renewable Energy

PRESS RELEASE – January 20, 2015 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time

The Portland Water Bureau “Put a Turbine In It” and began generating renewable energy for Portland General Electric earlier this month

The in-pipe hydropower system will generate $2 million worth of clean electricity over 20 years, in Portland, Oregon.

The new four-turbine LucidPipe™ Power System project in Portland, Oregon is the first in the U.S. to secure a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement for renewable energy from in-pipe hydropower.
The new four-turbine LucidPipe™ Power System project in Portland, Oregon is the first in the U.S. to secure a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement for renewable energy from in-pipe hydropower. Image courtesy of LucidEnergy.

PORTLAND, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Portland Water Bureau (PWB) and Lucid Energy, a provider of renewable energy systems for in-pipe hydropower and smart water infrastructure, have flipped the switch, officially turning one of the city’s major water pipelines into a generator of renewable energy.

The LucidPipe™ Power System uses the gravity-fed flow of water inside a PWB pipeline to spin four 42” turbines that are now producing electricity for Portland General Electric (PGE) customers under a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the utility, helping promote renewable power development and resource diversity for Oregon.

LucidEnergy three-turbine system. Image for illustrative purposes only. Image courtesy of LucidEnergy.
LucidEnergy three-turbine system. Image for illustrative purposes only. Image courtesy of LucidEnergy.

The system, which was installed at no cost to PWB or the City of Portland, is the first project in the U.S. to secure a 20-year PPA for renewable energy produced by in-pipe hydropower in a municipal water pipeline.

The Water Bureau welcomed the opportunity to explore the innovative use of a Portland pipe delivering water to create hydroelectric power as well. — Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff

The system will begin full energy production within the next two months. LucidPipe has been tested and Certified by NSF International to NSF/ANSI Standard 61 for use in potable water systems. It does not disrupt pipeline operations and has no environmental impact.

PGE’s goal is to be our customers’ partner in helping to build a reliable, affordable and sustainable energy future for Oregon.

We’re pleased to integrate new generating technologies and applications like this into our system when they offer cost-effective solutions for our customers and the environment. — Brett Sims, PGE director of origination, structuring and resource strategy

The Portland LucidPipe system was fully financed in October 2014 with capital from Harbourton Alternative Energy, a subsidiary of Harbourton Enterprises.

The Water Bureau welcomed the opportunity to explore the innovative use of a Portland pipe delivering water to create hydroelectric power as well [as delivering water].

Water and energy are closely linked. The Lucid pipe system provides a way for the Water Bureau to contribute to generating electricity for our community in a clean, low-cost and renewable way. — David Shaff, Water Bureau Administrator

The project will generate approximately $2 million worth of renewable energy capacity over the 20-year PPA period, enough electricity for more than 150 homes in Portland. The Portland Water Bureau and Harbourton will share in the revenue.

After 20 years, PWB will have the right to own the system and all the energy it produces.

Water agencies are looking for ways to be more energy efficient, energy utilities are seeking more renewable sources of energy and investors are seeking opportunities in smart water and energy infrastructure.

The industry is looking to Portland as an example of how all of these entities can partner to take advantage of in-pipe hydropower to generate investment returns and reduce the cost of delivering clean, safe drinking water. — Gregg Semler, President and CEO, Lucid Energy, Inc.

The first installation of the LucidPipe Power System is at Riverside Public Utilities in Riverside, California. Lucid Energy is currently exploring opportunities with municipalities, water agencies and renewable energy investors from around the world.

Lucid Energy has secured private funding from a very active syndicate of investors including Northwest Pipe Company, the Israeli hybrid venture capital/crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd, Star Energy and the Harbourton Fund as well as more than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy. The funding is being used to accelerate commercialization of the LucidPipe Power System worldwide.

Close-up of the LucidPipe Power System turbine. Renewable energy from municipal water supply systems. Image courtesy of LucidEnergy.
Close-up of the LucidPipe Power System turbine. Renewable energy from municipal water supply. Image courtesy of LucidEnergy.

About Lucid Energy

Lucid Energy, Inc. is a provider of renewable energy and smart water management solutions that improve the economics of delivering water. Lucid Energy’s patented LucidPipe™ Power System enables industrial, municipal and agricultural facilities to generate clean, reliable, low-cost electricity from their gravity-fed water pipelines and effluent streams.

Lucid Energy codeveloped the technology with Northwest Pipe Company (NASDAQ: NWPX), the largest manufacturer of steel water transmission pipe in the United States. www.lucidenergy.com.

Wind Energy Blows Michigan Toward 30% Renewables by 2035

by Silvio Marcacci

A new state analysis finds wind energy is blowing Michigan toward its 10% by 2015 renewable portfolio standard (RPS), and could help reach it 30% renewables by 2035 without reliability or affordability concerns.

The report; Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions: Renewable Energy was released by the governor’s office this week as the state starts to contemplate what its energy future should look like beyond 2015.

Michigan Renewable Portfolio Standard chart via State of Michigan
Michigan Renewable Portfolio Standard chart via State of Michigan

While a ballot initiative to increase Michigan’s RPS to 25% by 2025 was rejected in 2012, this new analysis undercuts many of the arguments used in that election by showing renewable energy costs falling fast while being integrated into the grid.

Wind Energy Gusts Ahead

Michigan’s current RPS was established in 2008 and requires utilities in the state to achieve 10% of electricity sales via renewables through a combination of new generation, renewable energy credits, and energy efficiency measures.

Put simply, the results have been remarkable. The RPS goals are expected to be met by every utility (except for Detroit’s municipal utility, which is winding down service) and has led to 1,400 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy generation either in operation or under development.

A staggering 94% of this new capacity has been wind energy, with approximately half those turbines owned by independent power producers selling electricity through stable power-purchase agreements, and the state is about to join the elite “gigawatt club” by generating more than a billion watts of electricity from wind power.

Michigan Wind, Affordable And Reliable

But all this green growth has come with an affordable price tag. By the end of 2013, Michigan power consumers will have paid $675 million in renewable energy surcharges, but that rate is falling fast. Surcharge collections are expected to be significantly reduced or even eliminated starting in 2014 because project costs have fallen to the point of being equivalent to fossil fuel generation.

Since the RPS has gone into operation, wind energy has been the lowest-cost source of renewable electricity, falling from over $100/megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2009 to between $50-60/MWh in 2013.

This drop has mainly come from a doubling of wind farm capacity factors due to improved design, from around 20% in 2008 to around 40% today, at the top of national capacity factor averages.

In addition to falling capacity factors, Michigan’s location within two regional grid markets, MISO and PJM Interconnection, has cut costs. The report notes wind integration costs within these large grid areas are lower than costs for projects outside of them, and MISO reports new forecasting technologies help ensure the influx of wind hasn’t caused any reliability problems – in other words, the lights stay on even when the wind doesn’t blow.

Don’t Forget That Green Economic Boost

Adding all this wind energy has also created an economic boom few government officials could have predicted, but one that has helped the state weather the economic downturn. Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, the state’s two largest utilities, report their renewable energy investments have created 2,500 new jobs.

Wind turbine construction image via Shutterstock
Wind turbine construction image via Shutterstock

Indeed, an entire green industry is growing up around Michigan’s RPS. More than 200 companies now operate in the state’s renewable energy supply chain, ranging from manufacturers, suppliers, and service providers, and communities hosting renewable projects have increased revenues from taxes and royalty payments. In fact, wind tourism is even a growing industry!

Turns out creating economic growth can be clean and affordable.

The RPS “has attracted significant investment to the state and driven job growth,” said Steve Frenkel of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Meanwhile, renewable energy costs are far lower than originally anticipated and these technologies are performing better than expected.”

Looking Beyond 30% Renewables

Post-2015 RPS negotiations will happen in the state legislature, not at the ballot box where renewable advocates can be outspent by pro-fossil fuel interests, meaning this report’s non-partisan and unbiased analysis could be the starting point for discussion, not slick commercials.

Indeed, Michigan’s next set of targets could aim much higher than just 10% without looking beyond its borders. The report estimates the state has 61 gigawatts of potential renewable energy resources. “From a theoretical technical perspective, it would be possible to meet increased RPS targets of as much as 30% (or perhaps higher) from resources located within the state,” reads the report.

Sounds like a winning argument. After all, what politician wouldn’t want to vote for cleaner air, greener jobs, and more tax revenue?

This article, Wind Energy Blows Michigan Toward 30% Renewables By 2035, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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Solar Means Business: Top 25 US Corporate Solar Energy Users

by Silvio Marcacci

Walmart solar panels
Walmart solar panel image via CleanTechnica

Everyone knows solar energy equals environmental benefits, but did you know solar also adds up to a competitive business advantage for some of America’s largest corporations?

US businesses are installing solar panels at breakneck speed to cut energy costs and improve their bottom line, according to the Solar Means Business 2013” report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Vote Solar.

From Big Box retailers to industrial manufacturers and commercial real estate developers, installing solar energy makes cents for America’s most well-known and efficiently run businesses.

A “Who’s Who” Of America’s Biggest Businesses

Since the inaugural Solar Means Business report in 2012, more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of new solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have been installed on the rooftops of U.S. businesses, non-profits, and government buildings.

“The list of companies moving to clean, affordable solar energy reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the most successful corporations in America,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO.

In fact, the 3,380MW of cumulative commercial solar PV deployment at 32,800 facilities across the US installed through the first two quarters of 2013 represent an increase of more than 40% compared to the same time last year.

While this solar boom for businesses has been wide, it’s also been deep. The 25 companies with the most total solar capacity have more than 445MW of generation installed at 950 different locations – enough to power 73,400 average homes and significantly more than 2012, when the top 25 companies only had 300MW at 730 facilities.

SEIA and Vote Solar contacted every company on the Fortune 100 list and collected data from public databases to compile the report, which only counts on-site PV systems directly supplying power to company facilities, not solar systems selling power to the wholesale electricity market.

Low Solar Energy Costs + Stable Power Prices = Big Business

So what’s driving this shift? As with most business decisions, it comes down to good economics – becoming more profitable through profitable projects with a quick return on investment.

Average Solar Energy PV System Price Decline
Average Solar Energy PV System Price Decline chart via SEIA

Electricity costs represent the single-largest operating expense for most companies, but solar panel prices have fallen 40% since 2010 and new financing models have reduced up-front investment costs, meaning companies can incorporate solar power below local retail utility rates and save money almost immediately.

Installing solar also empowers companies to hedge against volatile utility prices. Once their rooftop solar system is installed or they finalize a solar power purchase agreement (PPA), a portion of their energy bills are locked in, and the company can focus on other changing costs of doing business.

Walmart Dominates The List

But enough about why business are investing in solar, let’s take a look at which corporations are leading the charge. Unsurprisingly, Walmart dominates every major category in Solar Means Business, with 89.43MW of installed capacity (more than twice their closest competitor) across 215 total solar energy systems (60 more than the runner-up) in 12 states.

US Business Solar Energy Capacity
US Business Solar Energy Capacity via SEIA

The only category Walmart doesn’t dominate is overall percentage of facilities on company land. IKEA took home those honors, with a whopping 89% of solar-powered facilities, good for fifth place in installed capacity with 35MW and sixth place in total installed systems with 39 in 20 states.

A majority of the top companies are Big Box brands, but some notable exceptions stick out, including Apple and Johnson & Johnson ranking fourth and seventh on total capacity, while Walgreens and Safeway ranked second and eight respectively on total installations.

Even though the report is prioritizes on-site systems that supply power directly to company facilities, SEIA also tips its hat to commercial real estate developers building solar but not consuming the generated electricity themselves. Developers like Prologis, with 79MW across 34 installations, often focus on strip malls and retail outlets, helping tenants go green.

Solar-Powered Businesses, Right Around The Corner

Solar power is definitely adding up to bigger profits for US businesses, but the biggest benefit of this fast-expanding market may also be normalizing the technology for consumers – perhaps why 92% of American voters support developing more solar energy.

117 million people in 30 states now live within 20 miles of at least one of the installations analyzed by Solar Means Business, meaning one in three Americans can potentially interact with a green (and profitable) business every day.

“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner” added Adam Browning of Vote Solar. “Well solar has turned the corner and found itself on Main Street, USA.”

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This article, Solar Means Business: Top 25 US Corporate Solar Energy Users, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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A Match made in Heaven: Solar power and Water desalination

by John Brian Shannon

The nations of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Gulf are blessed to have access to unfathomable amounts of sunlight and salt water. With growing populations and scarce water reserves, governments, public or privately-held power companies and water utilities can capitalize on these national assets — when the economics work.

Even when the economics don’t work, human beings still need water! Growing cities need water for domestic use and industry needs water to produce the goods that we buy, or that they export.

The question for Oman is; How much of Oman’s oil and gas is burning up at desal plants — instead of being exported to add to Oman’s GDP?

In previous decades, the power-hungry desalination plants widely-used throughout the Middle East were powered by electricity created from burning vast amounts of fossil fuel. The economics barely worked when the oil prices were low – but now, with oil once more approaching $100. per barrel, they are costing a king’s ransom to operate. Even oil-rich kingdoms are feeling the pinch nowadays.

A cogent case can be made for adopting alternative energy to power existing and future desalination plants – thereby allowing that oil and gas to be sold at export instead of being burned up. Why burn your money?

At $96.80/barrel for oil (April 2/13) and the natural gas price passing $4.08/MMBtu (April 2/13) the annual fuel cost to produce electricity with fossil fuel is unimaginably high. Really, you don’t want to know.

Fossil fuel exports power the economies of rapidly growing Middle East and North Africa (MENA) nations. Each barrel of oil burned for local desal operations, is one less barrel contributing to the national GDP. A similar situation is at play with regards to natural gas in Oman and the other GCC nations.

Modern solar power plants, such as Masdar’s Shams 1 solar power plant can produce 100 megawatts of clean power for 30-years or more, powered only by sunshine. These modern electrical energy power plants are powerful enough to run; (1) a desalination plant, with enough energy surplus to run (2) a nearby town, or (3) a rural areaor, perhaps all three!

There are two basic types of solar power;

  • Photovoltaic solar, properly called ‘PV-solar’ or ‘PV-solar modules’. The solar panels only produce power when the Sun is shining. Which is fine, because the highest electrical demand occurs during daylight hours.
  • Thermal solar, known as ‘Concentrated Solar Power’ or ‘CSP’ produce power 24 hours a day, by storing excess daytime heat in liquids such as molten salt or oil, to run a steam turbine/electricity generator.

PV-solar (panels) have increased efficiency from their 1980’s-era, 11% efficiency rating — to today’s +33% efficiency rating units. Panels with much higher efficiency ratings (perhaps as high as 100%) will hit the market within 20-years. And through all this, PV-solar panel prices have been falling dramatically, to the point that PV-solar utility-scale power plants are now price-competitive with other kinds of power – assuming similar subsidy levels are in place.

Solar Bonus

As PV-efficiency continues to increase through the next few years, just as it has been doing thus far, PV-solar ‘scaling up’ will be very easy. For example, solar panels are size-standardized, so simply unbolting the ‘old’ 11% efficiency panels and replacing them with the ‘new’ 22% efficiency panels, effectively doubles the power output of the solar power plant — practically overnight! (e.g.; 100 MW to 200 MW)

A few years later, when PV-efficiency increases, those (by then) ‘old’ 22% panels can be replaced with ‘new’ 45% efficiency panels – thereby doubling (again!) the total output of the solar power plant. The ‘old’ solar panels will still work fine, and they can be sold to developing nations, or traded-in against the cost of the new panels, just the same way you would trade your old car for a new one.

In fact, PV-solar power now costs less than comparable coal-fired power — and that’s not factoring in the costly ‘externalities’ of coal-fired electrical power generation, which range from huge water usage by coal-fired power plants, to toxic airborne emissions, to adverse health effects on citizens – which prematurely killed 1.2 million people in 2007-2010, in China alone!

solar-coal-power_thumb3.png
PV-solar power now costs less than comparable coal-fired power

CSP solar technology has advanced remarkably and several different designs have proven themselves viable in Spain, the United States and the UAE, although CSP costs are still high when compared to PV-solar and conventional power. This is changing as CSP production ramps up around the world. The one great advantage of CSP solar, is that these power plants produce power 24-hours per day, 365-days per year – and, no harmful emissions.

“Holding nearly half of the world’s renewable energy potential, the Middle East and North Africa are poised for unprecedented growth in renewable energy.” — Masdar

jan_2013_aerial_francois_site_photoshooting_0208_bb__cover
Masdar’s Shams 1 Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) 100 megawatt power plant near Abu Dhabi. image courtesy: Masdar

“The inauguration of Shams 1 is a breakthrough for renewable energy development in the Middle East. With the demand for energy rising exponentially, the region is undergoing a major transformation in how it generates electricity. In fact, the Middle East is poised for major investments in renewables, and Shams 1 proves the economic and environmental advantage of deploying large-scale solar projects.” — His Excellency Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar. (Read Masdar Shams 1 Press Release here)

It’s safe to say that MENA nations should be planning a long-term switch to solar energy, starting with PV-solar now, and CSP solar starting within the next ten years.

Financing these new, pollution-free power plants could be assisted by GCC government investment (sovereign wealth funds) financed through increased oil and gas exports – as oil and gas will be ‘freed-up’ for sale to international buyers.

It must be said that in areas of the country that make the switch from fossil fuel to solar, the cost of externalities will fall and residents will notice better health and enhanced ‘quality of life’ due to lower airborne emission levels and governments will notice lower health care costs. Not to mention plenty of clean, low-cost water for citizens and industry.

JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

To follow John Brian Shannon on social media – place a check-mark beside your choice of Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn: FullyFollowMe/johnbrianshannon

Renewable Energy Hits the Roof

by John Brian Shannon

Several major retailers with worldwide operations are busily installing solar panels on top of their ‘big-box’ retail stores and offices. Walmart, Walgreens, IKEA and others, are spending huge sums of money to cover their rooftop spaces with solar panels — and are installing wind turbines at, or near, their retail store locations.

Walmart is the world’s largest retailer and is fully committed to obtaining 100% of the energy it uses from renewable sources. As Walmart continues to add stores around the world and increase its car and truck fleets, it bases its calculations for CO2 emissions (from all sources) on the calculation of tonnes of CO2 used/emitted – per $1 million U.S. dollars of retail sales.

In 2005, Walmart operations emitted just over 60 tons of CO2 per $1 million (USD) it took in from retail sales. While adding more stores and adding capacity to existing stores, that ratio had decreased to just over 50 tons of CO2 per $1 million (USD) by 2009. This lowering of CO2 emissions occurred during a period of unprecedented growth for the chain, which means that Walmart got a lot more energy-efficient.

In addition to solar panels on its rooftops and wind turbines on its properties, Walmart is purchasing green energy from utility companies which operate solar and wind power plants, via power purchase agreements (PPA’s).

We are in the second year of a four-year agreement to purchase clean energy from a state-of-the-art Duke Energy wind farm in Notrees, Texas. The agreement supplies up to 15 percent of the energy needs in 350 of our Texas locations. It has reduced our carbon emissions by 139,000 metric tons per year, which is the equivalent of taking 25,000 cars off the road or eliminating the CO2 produced by 18,000 homes annually, raising environmental quality and quality of life in the communities we serve. — Walmart

And in Canada: The opening of the Balzac Fresh Food Distribution Centre on November 10, 2010, marked a major ­milestone. With hydrogen fuel cells used to power forklifts, as well as solar thermal and wind power, the 400,000-square-foot facility serves as a living lab for ­sustainability. It will boost energy efficiency by an estimated 60 percent over the company’s traditional refrigerated centres, while cutting costs by USD $4.83 million over the next five years. – Walmart

Walgreens, which owns and operates 8000 stores is building the first of many Net Zero Buildings – so designated for producing as much electricity as they use and often producing surplus electricity to sell to the local grid.

The first such store will be located at Evanston, Illinois, and according to Energy Manager Today, the store will include:

  • more than 800 roof-top solar panels,
  • two wind turbines,
  • geothermal energy obtained by drilling 550-feet into the ground below the store, where temperatures are more constant and can be tapped to heat or cool the store in winter and summer,
  • LED lighting and daylight harvesting,
  • carbon dioxide refrigerant for heating, cooling and refrigeration equipment,
  • and energy efficient building materials.

Engineering estimates, which can vary due to factors such as weather, store operations and systems performance, indicate the store will use 200,000 kWh per year while generating 256,000 kWh per year.

Walgreens will attempt to have the store achieve LEED Platinum status from the US Green Building Council, and plans to enter the store into the International Living Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge. The store will be Walgreens second showcase project in the Department of Energy Better Buildings Challenge. Through the Better Buildings Challenge, Walgreens has committed to a chain-wide 20 percent energy reduction by 2020.

The Better Buildings Challenge is gaining momentum. Recently, Sprint became the first telecommunications company to join the program. And more than 100 companies have joined the DOE’s Better Plants program. – Energy Manager Today

IKEA has a robust renewable energy program dedicated to 100% energy self-sufficiency by 2020 with plans to spend 1.5 billion euros by 2015 towards that goal.

IKEA Group’s chief sustainability officer, Steve Howard said “within three years, IKEA will receive 70% of its electricity from renewable energy [which] we own and operate” adding, “We’ll expand that from 2015 – 2020 to 100 per cent”.

In reference to utility-supplied electricity rate spikes anticipated by IKEA, Howard said, “We know we’re going to be using energy in 20 years’ time. If we can own our own renewable energy plants, it gives us complete price certainty.”

It appears that major users of electricity such as ‘big box’ stores and other large commercial spaces are predicting higher prices for utility-supplied electricity — and rather than pay those higher rates, are opting for their own solar and wind power plants. As polysilicon solar panel prices have fallen in price almost every month since September 2010 and continue to fall in price (bottoming-out in June or July of 2013) you may see solar panel installations appearing on large buildings featuring (largely empty) rooftop spaces, such as the rooftop of your favourite retail store.

JOHN BRIAN SHANNON

To follow John Brian Shannon on social media – place a check-mark beside your choice of Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn: FullyFollowMe/johnbrianshannon