Solar going big: large-scale installations now outpacing small ones

Solar power “is on pace for the first time this year to contribute more new electricity to the U.S. grid” than any other form of energy, a “feat driven more by economics than green mandates,” according to a recent article in The Toledo Blade. Large solar systems that sell directly to U.S. utilities are expected to make up “70 percent of new solar added to the grid this year.” The cost of electricity generated by large-scale solar installations “is now comparable to, and sometimes cheaper, than natural gas-fired power,” even without clean-energy incentives, according to the article. Unsubsidized, utility-scale solar power “costs $50 to $70 per megawatt-hour” to produce, compared to “$52 to $78 for the most efficient type of natural gas plant.” Cory Honeyman, who “follows the U.S. solar industry for market research firm GTM Research,” said, “[w]e are seeing large swaths of centralized utility scale solar be procured primarily because of how cost-competitive it is.” For more, read the full article

Renewable Energy, Solar, Transmission

Federal guidance announced for residential PACE programs

On July 19, 2016, the White House announced the Clean Energy Savings For All Initiative, a new partnership among several federal agencies designed to increase access to solar energy and promote energy efficiency. The new initiative has a goal of bringing 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar to low- and moderate- income families by 2020 through collaboration with state and local groups. 

The White House also announced new steps that the federal agencies involved with the initiative are taking to promote energy efficiency financing. For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) are releasing guidance regarding how Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs can be used in conjunction with residential mortgages insured by the VA or the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The Department of Energy (DOE) is releasing an updated draft of its Best Practices Guidelines for Residential PACE Financing that includes protections to consumers who voluntarily opt into residential PACE programs, as well as lenders who hold mortgages on residential properties with PACE assessments. The DOE is also providing assistance to support the design and implementation of new PACE programs, and creating the Community Solar Challenge to promote the development of innovative models that increase access to solar and energy efficiency programs, particularly in low-income communities. 

For more, read the full White House press release.

Energy Efficiency, Project Finance, Solar

Wind and solar prices could drop dramatically by 2025, report says

Average costs for solar- and wind-generated electricity could drop by as much as 26% to 59% by 2025 under the right regulatory frameworks, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), reports. The report, “‘The Power to Change: Solar and Wind Cost Reduction Potential to 2025,’ estimates that by 2025, in comparison to 2015, average electricity costs could decrease 59% for solar photovoltaics, 35% for offshore wind and 26% for onshore wind,” according to the article. IRENA’s director-general, Adnan Z. Amin, said while there have already been dramatic decreases in costs for solar and wind power in recent years, “this report shows that prices will continue to drop, thanks to different technology and market drivers.” Those cost reductions “will depend increasingly on balance-of-system costs,” as well as operations and maintenance costs, technology innovations, and project management. Amin said, “[t]o continue driving the energy transition, we must now shift policy focus to support areas that will result in even greater cost declines and thus maximize the tremendous economic opportunity at hand.” For more, read the full article, or click here to read the full report.

Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind

Utilities’ pursuit of clean energy is “right thing to do,” says PUCO chairman

As electric utilities such as American Electric Power (AEP) continue to add clean energy to their portfolios (see our May 24, 2016 blog post), the new chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), Asim Haque, said doing so is “the right ‘social principle,’” according to a recent article in Columbus Business First. In the article, Haque said, “I think the social principle that [clean energy advocates] are advocating is the right thing to do, but it has to be balanced and tempered with these other major (commission) policy considerations of delivering reliable power and cost-effective power. That’s where things get challenging.” While coal “makes up 56 percent” of AEP’s current generating mix, both AEP and Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. have “waged lengthy campaigns at the commission over income-guarantees to keep open their Ohio coal plants (see our May 21, 2015 blog post).” For more, read the full article

Renewable Energy

Logan County rejects incentives for wind turbines

Only the Hardin County portion of the proposed $350 million Scioto Ridge Wind Farm project will move forward, after Logan County commissioners rejected a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) plan for the wind farm, The Lima News reports. The original 105 turbines will now be reduced to the 87 planned for Hardin County, as “Hardin Wind, a subsidiary of EverPower Wind Holdings Inc. based in Pittsburgh, Pa., has chosen to forego the Logan County portion of the project due to the rejection,” according to the article. Logan County commissioners listed several reasons for the rejection in the resolution they passed, including a public meeting at which approximately 40 citizens “spoke against the project with only the wind developer speaking in favor,” and questions about the application not listing the number of jobs or the amount of tax revenue the project would bring. The commissioners also “spelled out their disappointment with some reactions from the public who were in opposition of the project.” Electricity from the Hardin County turbines will be sold on the open market; EverPower estimated “the project will generate up to $37 million over the 25-year life of the project” for the county and local school districts. For more, read the full article

Renewable Energy, Wind

American Renewable Energy & Power nominated for an IREC 3i Award. Vote now!

Recognizing the company’s role in developing Minster, Ohio’s municipal solar and storage facility (the largest in the country), Bricker client American Renewable Energy & Power has been nominated for an IREC 3i Award for “State and Local Government Achievement of the Year.” The yearly honor spotlights innovative state or local government policies, programs, regulations and legislation that advance the sustainable growth of clean energy jobs and infrastructure. The Minster solar/storage facility is an unique approach to servicing energy customers and is expected to bring energy stability, sustainability and cost saving benefits to the village.

Public voting for the prestigious award is open to the public through June 17. Place your vote here

Renewable Energy, Solar

OSU and MIT granted $3 million in federal funding to research biomass as energy source

The Ohio State University (OSU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) “will split $3 million” from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) “to study more efficient ways to use biomass for energy,” Columbus Business First reports. The funding is part of “$10 million of projects overall designed to promote biofuel and bioenergy research.” Researchers at OSU are trying to find “a more efficient way to turn biomass, or plant and animal waste, into synthetic gas,” according to the article. If they can develop a way to do this in a single step, it could “reduce capital costs for (synthetic gas) production by 44 percent compared to conventional purposes.” Last year, biomass accounted for 1.6 percent of energy production in the U.S., ahead of solar (0.6 percent) but behind wind (4.7 percent). Unlike renewable energy from sources such as wind and solar, however, biomass can be made into “liquid fuels like ethanol and biodiesel.” For more, read the full article

Biomass, Renewable Energy

AEP looking for developers to partner in creating 400 MW of solar capacity in Ohio

American Electric Power is “getting serious” about its commitment to add a lot more renewable energy production in Ohio, and is looking for companies interested in working with them on large-scale solar projects, Columbus Business First reports. AEP previously announced plans to add a total of 900 megawatts (MW) of solar and wind power by 2020, with plans for much more by 2033 as the company retires coal-fired power plants (see our January 28, 2016 blog post). The utility has issued a request for information from companies “who want to develop at least 5 megawatts of solar power”; AEP would “enter into long-term commitments to buy solar power from the developers and could own up to half of the projects,” according to the article. The deadline for companies to respond to AEP’s request for information is July 13, 2016. For more, read the full article

Renewable Energy, Solar, Transmission

City of Montgomery waives fees to encourage solar installations

In an effort to “encourage solar energy” in the city of Montgomery, the city is “suspending fees for solar panel construction” for several months, reports. Montgomery City Council “unanimously approved a moratorium on the collection of building and zoning fees for solar installations from July 1 to Dec. 31 with a cap of $1,000,” according to the article. Councilman Craig Margolis said, “[s]ince we are great stewards of the environment, we are encouraging any type of solar collection methods on roofs.” He added that the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance partnered with the city of Cincinnati to create Solarize Cincinnati, a program that “allows any property in Hamilton County to get a free solar assessment (for more, see our October 8, 2015 blog post).” For more, read the full article

Renewable Energy, Solar

New bond fund will help finance energy upgrades on historic Delco building in downtown Dayton

Downtown Dayton’s historic Delco building is undergoing a $25 million rehabilitation thanks in part to $3.8 million in financing from the Southwest Ohio Regional Bond Fund, the Dayton Business Journal reports. The funds “will be used for energy efficiency upgrades on the Delco building,” including “new windows and high-efficiency HVAC systems,” according to the article. The fund is a collaboration between the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and the Dayton/Montgomery County Port Authority; these are “some of the first funds” to be disbursed since the fund was finalized last year. The bonds “will be repaid through a voluntary real estate assessment known as PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy (for more information, see our Energy SIDs & PACE Financing Resource Center).” The project has received state historic tax credits, and the Delco building has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, which would make it eligible “for a 20 percent federal tax credit on the renovation project” if granted. “Adaptive re-use of distressed properties such as Delco was the purpose” of the Southwest Ohio Regional Bond Fund, which recently received a BBB+ Standard & Poor’s rating. For more, read the full article.

Energy Efficiency, Project Finance
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