Tesla looks to regain its luster in Solar Energy by slashing prices (The New York Times)

In a bid to regain its status, which it lost last year as the #1 rooftop solar company in the U.S., Tesla is cutting prices of its solar panels by as much as 38 percent below the national average.

The company has started selling solar panels and related equipment less than the national average price by standardizing systems and requiring customers to order them online.

The Verge notes that the company’s popular online configuration tool now lists a 4kW array of panels as costing US$7,980 after a federal tax credit, which works out to just over US$1.99 per watt including installation.

Depending on where customers live, the price per watt could drop as low as US$1.75, which is 38 percent less than the national average of US$2.85, and much less than Tesla charged previously.

Tesla executives said these changes should put to rest concerns that the company, better known for its luxury electric cars, has neglected its residential solar business, reports The New York Times.

Tesla entered the solar market after acquiring SolarCity for US$2.6 billion plus the assumption of another US$3 billion in SolarCity debt back in 2016.

This was a surprise move that sent tremors throughout Wallstreet as investors and industry observers said the company was stretching itself too thin, and may not survive the coming years.

Source: PVbuzz

The Truth behind Renewable Energy

The costs of wind and solar energy keep falling; installing a new wind turbine costs about a third of what it did in 2008. Solar prices fell by 88 percent during that time. In fact, renewable energy is so inexpensive, utilities have found that they can save customers money by closing coal plants early and replacing them with wind and solar power.

It’s against this backdrop that we must consider the much-hyped new paper from the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute analyzing the impact of state renewable energy standards. The economists looked at these state efforts to boost solar and wind deployment (dating back to 1990) and conclude that these so-called RPS programs are costly and ineffective at addressing climate change.

But there are many reasons to be skeptical of these conclusions.

And this isn’t the first paper to look at the impact of renewable energy standards, but it is one of the few to find such high costs. The Energy Department’s national labs have done their own large-scale studies each year and found that these polices drive significant renewable energy development at low costs for customers—about 2 percent of an U.S. household’s average monthly bill (or a little more than $2 a month). And the benefits are enormous: They could top $1 trillion—yes, trillion with a T—by 2030.

So, what did the Chicago researchers get wrong?

Changing Times

The working paper, which hasn’t been peer reviewed, looks at the cost impacts in the first seven years after an RPS is put in place, and only includes data through 2015. That means it has missed out on the recent declines in renewable energy prices. Since 2015, costs for solar energy have fallen by 33 percent, onshore wind by 22 percent, offshore wind by 40 percent, and battery storage by 49 percent.

That’s why building new solar and wind is often cheaper than running existing coal-fired plants.

It is precisely because of these falling costs that many states have decided to strengthen their standards in the last three years (and why hundreds of businesses and several utilities have voluntarily announced they will go 100 percent clean in the coming years). Being green is now the economic option. And one reason it has become economic is that many states had the foresight to adopt these renewable energy mandates years ago. Helping along a nascent technology continues to pay dividends today.

Casting False Blame

The research ignores other factors and inappropriately blames renewables for other cost increases. The authors of this working paper allude to a number of “costs” renewable energy plants come with, beyond the standard compliance cost.

For example, they argue that renewable energy imposes serious costs on the electricity system—taxing our system and requiring a lot more power plants to be at the ready to ensure reliable power because the sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing. But, studies have found time after time this just isn’t true. The American Wind Energy Association even notes that ERCOT (the grid operator in Texas) has found that the cost of reserves needed to back up conventional power plants is far larger than the cost to back up wind generation. Solar and wind even provide grid reliability services, like “reactive power”, which is necessary to deliver high quality power.

Moreover, no plant is available 100 percent of the time—coal and gas plants have to take planned outages for maintenance work, nuclear plants need to refuel, and in extreme weather all of these plants can face problems that prevent them from running (like frozen or waterlogged coal piles, natural gas pipeline delivery issues, or frazil ice).  

The authors also point to transmission spending, linking it to renewable energy projects. Transmission and distribution spending (or T&D) has increased over the last decade—but it’s not driven by renewable energy needs. As the U.S. Energy Information Administration notes, upgrades are conducted to allow “utilities to repair faults on transmission lines remotely, to read meters remotely, and to more quickly find, repair, and communicate with customers about neighborhood reliability problems and outages.”

Our grid is aging and in need of repair and modernization. Integrating renewable energy is one reason to do these upgrades—but it’s not the only, or the main, reason.

What Other Research Found

The U.S. national labs have been releasing annual reports on the status of renewable energy standards and recently published a paper analyzing and compiling a wide range of studies on the retail rate impacts from renewable energy and these standards. The annual status reports look at the actual impact of RPS policies every year—and found them to be an economic way to spread renewable energy.

These RPS policies have driven 45 percent of all renewable energy projects built in the U.S. since 2000. By 2030, these standards will require even more renewable energy in the ground: another 180 TWh, at least, or almost a 50 percent increase in U.S. renewable generation from current levels. The average RPS compliance cost in 2017 was two percent of a customer’s bill, or $2.30 a month for the average U.S. household. (This is also in line with most other studies and with RPS costs in earlier years.)

It’s Not Just the Carbon

The authors conclude with an argument that these standards are a costly way of cutting carbon. But these policies aren’t just about cutting carbon. An RPS shouldn’t and can’t be the only policy to decarbonize our economy (NRDC’s analysis on how the U.S. could meet its’ climate goals relied on many different measures).

These standards have brought a lot of different benefits: less soot and smog, reduced water consumption, lower wholesale electricity prices, new clean energy jobs, and stronger local green economies. The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that these public health, climate, and water savings totaled more than $5.2 billion by the end of 2013. By 2030, these benefits could climb to $1.16 trillion. At the same time, these policies have also created over 200,000 new clean energy jobs and could boost total renewable energy employment by almost 50 percent over the next decade.

While this working paper has made a splash, it’s light on facts. Luckily, Americans are demanding more clean energy and state leaders are responding: since the start of 2019, policymakers in Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, and Maryland have all passed new RPS policies—with many more actively considering their own bills at the moment.

Source: NRDC

At what point should you start really freaking out about Climate Change? Right Now!

Press this link to see video of Bill McKibben!

Last week, Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said climate change is not his top priority.

“Yes, [the] climate is an issue and we are working to address it,” he told Reuters, while nonetheless downplaying recent findings by EPA scientists that detailed the size and time-sensitivity of the problem.

But Bill McKibben, author of the new book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, wants you to panic about climate change. He compares how people often talk about the health of the planet — as a vague, far-off risk — with what inspires people to actually take action in their own lives.

“Imagine going to a doctor who says, ‘If you keep eating like this, someday your cholesterol will be too high.’ If you’re like most people,” he says, “you don’t change a thing. Bring on the cheese. But if the doctor says, ‘Your cholesterol is already in the zone where people have heart attacks — in fact, it looks like you may have had a mild stroke already’ — Well, that’s when you say, ‘What pill do I take?

McKibben says that the planet is already in that zone today – contending that, because we don’t worry enough about climate change, we don’t move to fix what’s wrong at the speed our planet requires. Watch his full argument in the video above.

Source: Time

Dutch solar developer GroenLeven has announced that it is building a 48 megawatt (MW) floating solar PV project on an old sand extraction site in the Netherlands which, upon completion, will be one of the largest in the world, and the largest in Europe.

Floating solar PV project at Zuidplas in Sellingerbeetse (The Netherlands)
Zuidplas in Sellingerbeetse (The Netherlands)

The new floating solar park will be built at the Zuidplas in Sellingerbeetse, in the country’s northeast, at an old sand extraction site owned by Kremer Zand en Grind, one of Europe’s leading sand and gravel extracting companies. The electricity generated from the new 48 MW floating solar project will be delivered to Kremer Zand en Grind for its local operations, and being built on an old sand extraction pond opens the door for further development of solar on sand extraction sites.

GroenLeven expects that the new project will deliver the equivalent electricity necessary for powering around 13,000 households and fulfills the company’s existing philosophy of creating solar projects that fulfill a dual function — such as installing solar on rooftops, parking places, landfills, and industrial sites.

Kremer Zand en Grind is also using this new project as a catalyst to relocate a classifying installation for sand extraction located in the Noordplas and a drying installation currently located in Emmen to an industrial park in nearby Groningen-Zuid, to better optimize the company’s electricity usage by bringing the beneficiaries of this new floating solar park closer to hand.

Additionally, Kremer Zand en Grind is also converting its drying installation from gas-fired to an electric dryer, removing a huge amount of gas from its energy mix each year. Further, by co-locating facilities the company will also reduce transport via pipeline of the sand from its extraction site, minimizing disruption to the local communities.

It is also believed that other industries in the surrounding area may benefit from the floating solar project.

Source: Clean Technica

The 2.25 gigawatt coal-fired Navajo Generating Station in Arizona has provided electricity to customers in Arizona, Nevada, and southern California since 1974. In addition, it has powered the pumps that bring water from the Colorado River to the Central Arizona Project, which has been largely responsible for that state becoming a booming agricultural center.

Credit: Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President

It is also an object lesson in how America relates to indigenous people. Although the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) sits on land leased from the Navajo Nation, most of the economic benefits from operating the plant flowed to white Americans. To this day, the majority of homes on the Navajo reservation lack access to reliable electricity. The coal needed to operate the plants was sourced from land owned by private coal companies rather than land owned by the Navajo people that is closer to the NGS.

While it is true that NGS provided many employment opportunities to native people, in the final analysis, the burden or pollution from the plant has been borne by the inhabitants of the Navajo reservation while most of its economic benefits have been exported to distant communities.

The lease for the land occupied by the NGS expires at the end of this year. Many proposals have been made to keep the plant in operation, some of them from Navajo Nation members who worry what will happen to their tribe when the jobs at the NGS they have depended on for generations disappear. One suggestion was that the Navajo Nation take over and operate the NGS, which could potentially continue in operation until 2042.

Those concerns were aired during a special tribal council last month that lasted 8 hours. “Are we ready?” Delegate Nathaniel Brown said, according to an NPR report. “Are we ready for the shutdown? I don’t think we are. We stand to lose a lot, our children, the future generation.”

Delegate Charlaine Tso said she’s done with coal and its health impacts on her people. The plant is one of the country’s biggest carbon emitters. “Shame on you,” she said. “Money, money, money. It’s replaceable. Enough is enough. This is the time that we’re going to take a stand that we’re going to come together for our people. I am ready to take on that challenge.”

When the vote was taken, the Navajo Nation voted not to pursue the plan to operate the NGS itself but rather to create a new local economy based on renewable energy. The plan is to construct large and small solar installations on land owned by the tribe. The smaller systems will provide power for the first time to many Navajo homes that have never had access to the grid. Larger utility-scale installations will feed electricity into the grid using many of the same 500 kilovolt transmission lines used by the NGS today.

Connecting renewable energy to the larger grid often costs more than building solar and wind farms. Reusing the existing transmission infrastructure gives the Navajo Nation a huge advantage compared to other renewable energy providers.

The new tribal policy was announced April 2 by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer. In a proclamation known as Navajo Sunrise, the Nation commits itself to promoting renewable energy. “We recognize that the Navajo Nation has been providing electricity for the Western United States for many years while many of our own people lack basic access to power and running water,” the states. Indeed, it can be argued that the Navajo have been treated like a people conquered by a colonial power for almost 200 years.

According to the Navajo-Hopi Observer, Myron Lizer said at the time the proclamation was announced, “The world around us is moving ahead with clean energy and the Navajo Nation cannot afford to be left behind, especially when we have many sources of clean energy that can be harnessed to benefit our people.”

The Navajo Sunrise proclamation goes on to say, “Through the Diné teaching of ‘T’áá hwó’ ajít’éego’ and for the many who have called upon our Nation’s leaders to transition away from our over-dependence on fossil fuels, the Navajo Nation will strive for a balanced energy portfolio and will pursue and prioritize clean renewable energy development for the long-term benefit of the Navajo People and our communities.” “Ahóá!” Navajo Nation. 

Source: Clean Technica

The former Nanticoke Generating Station site, located on the northern shore of Lake Erie, has been transformed into a 44-megawatt clean energy facility that hosts 192,431 solar panels across 260 acres.

Nanticoke solar project. Photo by Ontario Power Generation

Nanticoke solar project. Photo by Ontario Power Generation

The project has just been completed by PCL Construction, a company that was commissioned to design, engineer and build it, as well as supply the photovoltaic solar panels and racking system. Behind the idea and funding are Ontario Power Generation, the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

Former Nanticoke Generating Station. Photo by Ontario Power Generation.
Former Nanticoke Generating Station. Photo by Ontario Power Generation.

The opening of the solar facility coincides with the one-year anniversary of the demolition of the Nanticoke 650-feet smokestacks. It has also been almost five years since the station burned its last piece of coal.

In its heyday, the Nanticoke Generating Station was the largest coal-fired plant in North America, providing 15% of Ontario’s electricity. After serving the province for more than 40 years, it stopped using coal as fuel in 2013. Two years later, the site was safely closed while the switchyards, operated by Hydro One Networks, remain in operation as a significant hub for the electricity grid in the southwestern part of the region.

Official information indicates that some parts of the former facility, such as the powerhouse, still need to be torn down. Following the last demolition scheduled for September 2019, the site will undergo a restoration process in 2020.

Since 2014, Ontario Power Generation stopped using coal to generate electricity in Canada’s most populous province, a move that resulted in the equivalent of taking 7 million cars off the road.

Source: Mining.com