Wind Solar Alliance report shows how outdated wholesale market rules prevent price reductions

energy markets

Record low costs and consumer demand are driving growth in American wind and solar energy. However, outdated wholesale market rules are preventing the two technologies from further reducing prices for consumers, according to a new report, Customer-Focused and Clean: Power Markets for the Future.

With major grid operators in PJM and MISO planning fundamental redesigns of their electricity markets and operating procedures, the new analysis proposes reforms to better serve customers’ and regulators’ desire for clean, affordable electricity.

Sweeping changes in the electricity generation mix over the last 10 years are driving fundamental changes in the nation’s electricity grid, with wind and solar generating capacity having increased approximately 500 percent. Yet, market rules designed with other resources in mind fail to take advantage of these new resources’ excellent reliability capabilities.

“The report demonstrates the numerous ways that existing market structures, particularly in PJM and MISO, are biased in favor of older, large, slow-to-react resources,” said John Kostyack, Executive Director of the Wind Solar Alliance (WSA). “Although wind and solar power are beating all other sources on cost in many regions, grid operators limit their deployment by failing to utilize them for reliability services such as ramping and frequency regulation. It’s time for market operators to ensure these clean, low-cost technologies are appropriately recognized and rewarded for the reliability services they can provide.”

Shadow costs: How outdated local processes stifle the true solar market

Where they fall short

Most RTOs’ rules were written before renewables made up a meaningful portion of the generation fleet. Characteristics such as “inertia” and “spinning reserve” reflect attributes of certain generators, and are not actual reliability services. The actual services such as frequency stabilization and regulation, ramping, voltage regulation, disturbance ride-through, and 10- or 30-minute reserves can be provided as well or better by modern wind, solar, storage, and demand response resources.

“This report identifies ways to modernize electricity markets so all technologies can compete to provide the reliability services that keep the lights on and the costs low – that’s a win for innovative resources like wind energy and for consumers,” said Amy Farrell, Senior Vice President, Government & Public Affairs at the American Wind Energy Association.

“This report demonstrates some of the barriers that solar and other clean technologies face in markets designed for older resources, and helps provide a roadmap for future reforms that can both attract and retain sources of flexibility that are beneficial for the grid and consumers,” said Sean Gallagher, Vice President of State Affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Large industrial energy users and ratepayer advocates were also supportive of the findings in the report.

“This report offers many compelling ideas to make markets more efficient and benefit consumers,” said Devin Hartman, the incoming President and CEO of the Electricity Consumers Resource Council, the national trade association representing large industrial energy users. “Creating markets, in lieu of standards, for energy and balancing services like primary frequency response are especially important for manufacturers. The report also adds value in highlighting the right way to ensure reliability – through proper energy market prices – rather than venturing into prescriptive capacity market endeavors like ‘fuel-secure’ resource carve-outs.”

“Consumers and states in PJM are looking to bring clean, affordable, and reliable energy online, said Erik Heinle, Assistant People’s Counsel, DC’s Office of the People’s Counsel. “The Wind Solar Alliance has developed an important and well thought-out roadmap to achieve these goals by harnessing new low-cost, high-performing wind and solar technologies and successfully integrating them into the grid, while reducing consumers bills and improving reliability.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Sonnen partners with homebuilder to develop Net-Zero-Plus community in Florida


Pearl Homes’ Hunters Point Net-Zero Energy home using the sonnen intelligent energy management system.

Sonnen has partnered with Pearl Homes, the U.S. leader in LEED residential development, to bring the vision of solar + storage, home automation and homebuilding to life, resulting in a ‘Net-Zero-Plus and Climate-Positive’ community. The network of homes, dubbed ‘Hunters Point — Pearl Homes Community and Marina,’ is the first community implemented by the sonnen-Pearl Homes partnership, one designed to help decarbonize Manatee County and surrounding regions of Florida by making green living affordable to a broader market.

The second sonnenCommunity to launch in the U.S. market will be installed at Hunters Point in the small fishing village of Cortez, FL. It is comprised of 148 homes pursuing LEED Platinum certification that empower residents to be pioneers in energy and join a movement creating net-zero energy communities. Each home will be equipped with rooftop solar panels, a new and affordable sonnen energy storage system designed for mass market appeal, a smart thermostat and an EV charger – all controlled by way of sonnen’s powerful new energy automation and artificial intelligence (AI) software platform.

Hunter’s Point sonnenCommunity represents the first time an energy storage system has worked in concert with Google Home in a master-planned development, capable of maximizing the intelligent use of each household’s renewable energy. In initial tests, it was determined that the already-built homes are generating approximately 96% of their own clean power, with the goal of being fully net-zero. In total, the Hunter’s Point sonnenCommunity projects represent 9 MWh of storage capacity and 7.2 MW of power.

RELATED: The Holistic Home: We peer into the future of home energy generation, usage

Following the installment of the first 148 homes, Pearl Homes will commence a second development comprised of 720 apartments, making additional living options possible for those who don’t currently own a home, but wish to make a difference for the environment. It will be the first net-zero rental community of this size, with cost-affordable pricing designed to provide people of varying income levels with the opportunity to live in a greener residence.

“We are thrilled to partner with Pearl Homes, the unparalleled leader in building LEED Platinum homes in the U.S., as we upend the traditional homebuilding vision and replace it with one based on decarbonizing the grid and establishing a complete solution for green living that is affordable for a much broader market,” said Blake Richetta, Senior Vice President and head of sonnen’s U.S. operations. “Together with our partners at Pearl Homes and Google Home, we are effectively demonstrating the intersection between renewable energy, home automation and homebuilding, establishing a blueprint for the affordable clean energy home of the future.”

The first-of-its-kind community is designed to decongest the wires of the local utility grid, providing load- shaping throughout the day to support intelligent demand management; establish smart configurable backup that provides resiliency and peace of mind for homeowners in the face of storms and other natural disasters; and the ability to live a cleaner lifestyle than any other development in the country.

“For years, energy experts have sought an answer to the solar conundrum: how to generate and store enough solar for our homes,” said Marshall Gobuty, President of Sarasota, FL-based Pearl Homes. “sonnen’s technology in combination with our LEED Platinum home design has changed the equation for the ability to truly optimize smart homes using solar plus storage to the point where we are capable of building sustainable communities that share solar and decarbonize the region, one Pearl Home at a time.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Renewable energy needs steel, but is steel green? New report calls for reduction in steel industry carbon footprint

steel in solar

Green energy sources like solar are the best energy solutions for the planet, but they also aren’t perfect. Example: At the largest conference in the U.S. dedicated to green building, Mighty Earth released a new report pointing out the enormous carbon footprint of steel used in green construction. The global steel industry emits 2.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide each year – equivalent to the emissions from 569 coal plants.

The report shows that the industry could easily take action to mitigate its climate impact: if all steel manufacturers sourced electricity for their electric arc furnaces from clean energy sources, they would reduce the carbon footprint of those facilities by 44 percent.

“We’re releasing this report at Greenbuild to show that even the greenest buildings are using steel produced with dirty electricity,” said Margaret Hansbrough, Mighty Earth Campaign Director. “We can no longer ignore the tremendous amount of energy used in the steel manufacturing and recycling process – and how that electricity is being generated. It’s time to take these emissions into account and for builders to address the impact on our climate.”

The report, Construction Destruction: The Hidden Carbon Costs of Dirty Steel, calls on construction industry behemoths Skanska, Turner Construction, Clark Construction and AECOM to commit to only source steel from manufacturers that have switched to clean energy for all grid-sourced electricity.

As buildings have become increasingly efficient in operation and design, fewer emissions are coming from their operational footprint and the industry is shifting some focus to decrease the embodied carbon of steel and other building materials used in construction. Skanska, Turner Construction, Clark Construction and AECOM are some of the most influential players within the green building industry, but these companies have yet to commit to only buying materials with the lowest possible global warming potential. Skanska is considered the greenest of the group and has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

“Each year, the embodied carbon of all building materials accounts for 11 percent of global emissions and 28 percent of global building sector emissions,” said Hansbrough. “As buildings emit less day-to-day, their embodied carbon will take up an even greater proportion of their climate pollution. As the largest steel consumer, construction companies must ask their steel suppliers to commit to clean electricity and take other steps to dramatically reduce their emissions.”

Mighty Earth’s first report on the steel industry, Cold Steel, Hot Climate: The World’s Biggest Untapped Clean Energy Opportunity, called upon the entire steel industry to shift toward carbon neutrality, identifying Nucor Corporation as the best-positioned steel company to switch to 100 percent clean energy for its electricity.

Globally, the construction industry accounts for more than 50 percent of all steel produced. Nucor is the largest steel producer in the United States and calls itself “America’s largest recycler,” controlling approximately 29 percent of the U.S. steel market. The production method (Electric Arc Furnace or EAF) used by the company consumes massive amounts of electricity. Mighty Earth sees an opportunity for Nucor to transition to clean energy in the 25 states where it operates and is calling on major purchasers of Nucor steel in the construction industry to push the company to address the embodied carbon of its steel. However, Nucor has not yet made a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions or to transition its electricity consumption to clean energy.

“The steel sector is America’s biggest clean energy opportunity,” said Glenn Hurowitz. “But instead, its largest company, Nucor, is not only denying climate science but allowing a golden opportunity to pass it by.”

In nearly every state where Nucor operates, there are clean energy procurement options available. Companies like GM, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and more than 100 others have already committed to sourcing 100 percent clean energy and are accelerating the greening of the grid.

— Solar Builder magazine

Six more installers added to Panasonic Solar Premium Installer program

Panasonic solar solutions

Panasonic Eco Solutions of North America announced a cross-country expansion of its Residential Solar Installer program, adding six Premium installers located across three regions, enabling more homeowners access to the Panasonic Solar Modules HIT portfolio.

Launched in the U.S. in 2016, the Panasonic Solar Premium Installer program provides value-added benefits and business opportunities to partners who meet Panasonic’s high standard of excellence. The program has seen impressive growth in the last two years, now with 24 Premium installers and more than 150 Authorized installers.

“The Panasonic Solar installer program is growing at a rapid pace, as demonstrated by today’s announcement and program expansion,” said Jack O’Donohue, sales and business development manager, Panasonic Eco Solutions North America. “This group of installers are leaders in their region, and we look forward to working together to help more Americans across the country make the transition to solar technology.”

The new installers include…

In the western side of Panasonic’s Central Region, Atlasta Solar and NM Solar Group bring residential solar solutions to Colorado and New Mexico, respectively. Atlasta Solar has been serving the Western Slope of Colorado for almost 40 years and is the longest operating solar company on the Western Slope. NM Solar Group is a full-service, New Mexico-based installer offering customers a complete range of services including consultation, design, financing and panel installation and aftercare.

Panasonic’s Midwest expansion includes All Energy Solar out of Minnesota, Rethink Electric of Illinois and Jefferson Electric of Indiana. The All Energy Solar team prides itself on being experts in all aspects of the solar energy field, offering clients initial energy analysis and concepts, engineering and design, construction and monitoring. Rethink Electric has put together a team dedicated to rethinking the way electrical power is delivered. They complete projects of any scope, resulting in a solar installation that is engineered to exceed client expectations. Jefferson Electric is locally owned and operated in Indianapolis and provides full service design and installation of solar energy systems.

Homeowners in Florida now have more options to purchase Panasonic solar products through Solar Source. Solar Source has completed more than 20,000 solar installations and is capable of designing, engineering, and installing solar systems of any size for customers.

— Solar Builder magazine

KDC Solar to construct 5-MW solar project for glass manufacturer in New Jersey


KDC Solar is kicking off construction on a 5.5 megawatt solar power system located in the Bridgeton and Fairfield Townships, New Jersey. The solar project will supply electricity to the adjacent Ardagh Group glass manufacturing facility, producing approximately 7.5 million kilowatt hours of renewable electricity in its first year.

Debt financing for the project was provided by Seminole Financial Services through a construction and a permanent loan facility. Development capital and project equity were arranged by GoldenSet Capital Partners in its role as sub-advisor to the North Sky Capital Alliance Fund II.

“This represents our second project with KDC Solar in New Jersey. Alan and the KDC team are experienced developers and we look forward to further expanding our project portfolio with them” said Everett Smith, Managing Partner of GoldenSet Capital.

“We’re delighted to have provided the financing for another large net metered solar project with KDC Solar and GoldenSet Capital,” said Bob Banks, CEO of Seminole Financial Services. “Repeat business is a tenet of our organizational philosophy and this execution proved to be extremely efficient. We look forward to many more successful projects together.”

— Solar Builder magazine