As solar becomes more cost-competitive, utilities look at how new technology affects their business models

This is occurring all over the country with respect to large utilities pushing back against the different forms of renewable energy, especially solar. It’s from the Al Jazeera America news site. This explains the issues quite well.

From  Al Jazeera America contributor, Renee Lewis:

States weigh rate changes for rooftop solar:

“Utilities don’t want to risk losing financial (compensation) for their investments in the grid to serve all customers, while rooftop solar developers don’t want to lose business opportunities if their potential customers are not compensated as highly by utilities when excess rooftop solar generation is sent back to the grid,” read a recent blog post by Pierre Bull, a policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Following Nevada’s decision, California’s new rules for solar customers showed there is a “better way,” Bull wrote.

California’s PUC decided last week to take a pause to look at grid impact and market analytics before making its decision.

In the meantime, “they have assured existing net metering customers that their generation will continue to be credited at the full retail rate, which is a good, reasonable approximation for the benefits they provide to the grid,” Bull wrote.

Last week, California’s PUC upheld net metering by 3-2, allowing solar customers to continue lowering their overall power bills — which assists them in paying off the investment in rooftop solar…

Read more.

solar installation
IMAGE: JOHN HARRINGTON / SUNRUN / AP

 

Enormous blades could lead to more offshore energy in U.S.

An interesting proposal for huge wind turbine blades…the length of which would be greater than two football fields…could mean 50-megawatt turbines for offshore use. Sandia National Laboratories is researching the extreme-scale blades for the Department of Energy. Most wind turbines presently yield between one and two megawatts, so this would be an enormous jump in power production. This new design could be built in segments, making unnecessary the large equipment needed to transport and put together current wind turbines. During hurricanes, the blades could be stowed and lined up with wind direction, exactly the way a palm tree does.

From Sandia news media contact: Stephanie Holinka (slholin@sandia.gov) —

Sandia National Laboratories’ research on the extreme-scale Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotor (SUMR) is funded by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program. The challenge: Design a low-cost offshore 50-MW turbine requiring a rotor blade more than 650 feet (200 meters) long, two and a half times longer than any existing wind blade…

“Exascale turbines take advantage of economies of scale,” said Todd Griffith, lead blade designer on the project and technical lead for Sandia’s Offshore Wind Energy Program.

Sandia’s previous work on 13-MW systems uses 100-meter blades (328 feet) on which the initial SUMR designs are based. While a 50-MW horizontal wind turbine is well beyond the size of any current design, studies show that load alignment can dramatically reduce peak stresses and fatigue on the rotor blades. This reduces costs and allows construction of blades big enough for a 50-MW system.

Most current U.S. wind turbines produce power in the 1- to 2-MW range, with blades about 165 feet (50 meters) long, while the largest commercially available turbine is rated at 8 MW with blades 262 feet (80 meters) long.

Read more.

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Todd Griffith shows a cross-section of a 50-meter blade, which is part of the pathway to the 200-meter exascale turbines being planned under a DOE ARPA-E-funded program. The huge turbines could be the basis for 50-megawatt offshore wind energy installations in the years ahead. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Everybody aboard the energy omnibus: House preparing comprehensive electricity bill

House officials are creating an “omnibus” energy bill, which may lead to one of the more interesting debates on Beacon Hill in years. House Speaker Robert DeLeo (pictured below) has been discussing this for some time, his approach being that when there are many debated yet related issues, the best thing is consolidate them into one bill and begin negotiating. The advantage is that it may be better to address the state’s energy issues in a way that’s not fragmented up into multiple bills.

From CommonWealth Magazine contributor, Bruce Mohl (January 14, 2016) —

A conference committee consisting of members from the House and Senate was appointed to resolve the different net metering approaches of the two branches, but there has been little progress. Many think net metering and the whole issue of solar incentives may be tossed into the omnibus pot.

One source said it will be interesting to see if the House pushes for special incentives for offshore wind at a time when it is trying to cut incentives for solar. Both renewable energy technologies hold the promise of developing new industries of the future, but both require, at least for now, heavy ratepayer incentives to work financially.

Read more.

rdeleo
Speaker of the Massachusetts House, Robert A. DeLeo (D Winthrop)
(from his official webpage)

Maine offshore wind project still faces money hurdles, despite federal grant

Maine recently received $3.7 million to develop a floating, deep-water wind farm, but needs much more than that to get the project going. Their goal is to win the full $47 million grant from the DOE, which would attract enough private investors to finance the $100 million project. [This article is from November, 2015; if anyone has an update on the status of the grant for Maine, it would be greatly appreciated if they could pass that information along].

From Portland Press Herald contributor, Tux Turkel:

“Clearly, some good news came out today,” said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association. “But we don’t know yet how good the news is.”

Payne and others were reacting Monday to word from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King that the Department of Energy is committing additional money to the Maine Aqua Ventus project.

Led by a University of Maine partnership, Maine Aqua Ventus had been competing with demonstration projects in other states for a $47 million grant, but was passed over last year in favor of ventures in New Jersey, Virginia and Oregon. Instead, Maine got $3 million to continue engineering and design work.

Read more (the Portland Press Herald may require a subscription if 10 articles have already been read).

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The prototype Volturn US generates power off the coast of Castine. The prototype is a one-eighth-scale model of the floating turbines to be used in a full-scale pilot wind farm planned for deep water off Monhegan Island. 2013 Associated Press File Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

 

Flint, Michigan: Did race and poverty factor into water crisis?

Michael Moore states that, while the lead poisoning of thousands of children was probably not premeditated, the “less expensive” course of action was taken by officials because it was known the poverty-stricken citizens of the mostly black city of Flint, Michigan would probably not fight back politically or legally.

From CNN contributor, Michael Martinez, and activist/filmmaker, Michael Moore:

The contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan, has so outraged community advocates that they now pose a powerful question: Was the city neglected because it is mostly black and about 40% poor?

Several advocates say yes. They charge that Flint residents are victims of “environmental racism” — that is, race and poverty factored into how Flint wasn’t adequately protected and how its water became contaminated with lead, making the tap water undrinkable.

Flint water crisis: AG seeks to avoid conflict of interest

“Would more have been done, and at a much faster pace, if nearly 40 percent of Flint residents were not living below the poverty line? The answer is unequivocally yes,” the NAACP said in a statement.

Others go further.

“While it might not be intentional, there’s this implicit bias against older cities — particularly older cities with poverty (and) majority-minority communities,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, who represents the Flint area.

“It’s hard for me to imagine the indifference that we’ve seen exhibited if this had happened in a much more affluent community,” he said.

For the record, Flint is 57% black, 37% white, 4% Latino and 4% mixed race; more than 41% of its residents live below the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census.

Read more and watch the CNN video.

michael moore on flint michigan aired on CNN

US Senate says climate change not caused by humans

Thank you SAFE member, Nancy Gilberg, for pointing out this story. It’s disturbing that so many elected officials don’t understand basic science.

From Sean Cockerham, McClatchy Washington Bureau:

The Senate rejected the scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change, days after NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared 2014 the hottest year ever recorded on Earth.

The Republican-controlled Senate defeated a measure Wednesday stating that climate change is real and that human activity significantly contributes to it. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, offered the measure as the Senate debated the Keystone XL pipeline, which would tap the carbon-intensive oil sands in the Canadian province of Alberta.

The Senate voted 50-49 on the measure, which required 60 votes in order to pass.

“Only in the halls of Congress is this a controversial piece of legislation,” Schatz said.

Read more.

Inhofe is greeted by a reporter

JONATHAN ERNST | REUTERS
U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) (C) is greeted by a reporter as he arrives for the weekly Senate Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 13, 2015.

 

Obama Just Got Very Good News About His Environmental Policies From A Federal Court

Two bits of good news in the West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency case (where the EPA is being charged with breaking the law when it sought to lower greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants). There is still no guarantee that the EPA will win, but the environmental community was happy to hear that two of the three judges who will hear the case are Democratic appointees. The parties that members of a judicial panel belong to has been shown in other cases to make a great deal of difference, especially for judges on the DC Circuit. EPA opponents also sought a delay, but were not granted it (a delay would have meant the emissions could have gone on for years).

CREDIT: AP PHOap_678899868516-1024x687TO/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS

“​At the very least, the fact that Democrats enjoy a majority on the West Virginia panel suggests that the EPA rules will not receive the same questionable treatment that Obamacare received in the Halbig case. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the EPA will prevail in the DC Circuit — or that the Supreme Court will not get involved if it does. But the environmental community undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the identity of the judges assigned to this case.​​”

Read more.