New York makes $3.8 million available for ‘Geothermal Clean Energy Challenge’

geothermal heating

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and New York Power Authority (NYPA) announced the availability of $3.8 million for the launch of a statewide Geothermal Clean Energy Challenge, an initiative designed to help stimulate financing and installation of large-scale geothermal systems at state and local governmental entities, public and private schools and healthcare facilities. The initiative promotes clean and sustainable energy use and directly supports Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030.

The Challenge provides New York facilities with the opportunity to apply for an analysis to determine whether their buildings are best suited for the installation of geothermal pumps (i.e., ground-source energy heat pumps) for heating and cooling of buildings, by transferring heat to or from the ground. The technology also helps New Yorkers save on energy costs. Eligible organizations that can apply for a geothermal assessment include state and local governmental entities (state agencies, fire departments, and water and sewer districts), and public or private K-12 schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and nursing homes. NYSERDA and NYPA are jointly administering the Challenge.

“Geothermal energy can be an ideal, cost-conscious, and clean solution to heating and cooling buildings in New York,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “NYPA is excited to partner with NYSERDA on this initiative. We look forward to seeing the implementation of clean geothermal systems at many sites throughout the state as this Challenge gets underway.”

Solar installed to power these homes for homeless women veterans in New York

The Challenge supports Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy to build a statewide energy system that is clean, resilient and affordable for all New Yorkers by providing technical support, financial assistance and implementation services to accelerate the adoption of geothermal systems. Applications will be accepted until 75 eligible applications are received or through March 30, 2018, whichever comes first. The 75 eligible applicants will receive a summary report at no cost with quantitative analysis of the technical and economic viability of their potential geothermal systems.

Of the 75 applications, up to 25 of the most viable sites will be awarded with a more refined economic analysis and building energy model for their proposed geothermal systems and up to $125,000 in matching funds per site for detailed design studies. Once qualification criteria are met, participants can seek project capital to proceed with project construction through NYPA financing and NYSERDA rebates. NYPA, NYSERDA and state utilities also have various energy efficiency programs available to help further reduce energy costs.

Entities seeking to leverage geothermal energy systems to meet their heating and cooling needs can submit an application on the Geothermal Challenge website through March 30, 2018.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar industry tells Trump to reject tariffs in ‘America First Plan’

trump solar energy plans

Today, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) sent its plan to the White House for boosting both U.S. manufacturing and the U.S. solar industry. As you might guess by the name, the America First Plan for Solar Energy, this is definitely the solar industry’s attempt to frame its message in a way that will most appeal to the Trump Administration.

The #1 message delivered in the America First Plan is to reject tariffs, with all other plans being secondary. SEIA lays out how, by just rejecting tariffs, Trump’s decision would grow jobs, support the military, ensure U.S. energy dominance and not provide a bail out to foreign companies. There are even quotes from Sean Hannity sprinkled in.

The politics at play in the pitch seem pretty obvious and likely necessary (Will Trump want a “save U.S. manufacturing” or a “protects national security” headline?) but it shouldn’t distract from the cogent recommendation the group sent to the ITC, which is the meat underneath the America First messaging. Those additional recommendations are listed in Step 6 of this plan:

SEIA recommends that President Trump create an import license fee system to imported crystalline silicon PV (CSPV) solar panels using Section 1102 of the Trade Act in combination with Section 201 of the 1974 law.

License revenues collected by the U.S. government are then distributed to the domestic industry to incentivize manufacturing growth. At a fee of a half cent per watt, this would raise roughly $192 million over three years for U.S. manufacturers. A 1¢ per watt fee would raise $384 million

This is money that would be taken from foreign manufacturers and delivered directly to American manufacturers.


— Solar Builder magazine

Ohio PUC to update state net metering rules (for the worse?)

Ohio utility solar

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) updated rules that govern net metering in the state, and the changes have some positives and negatives for the solar industry.

The positives are in the consistency. The updated rules address the types and sizes of qualifying electric generation facilities, and the rate utilities use to credit customers for any excess electric generation returned to the electric grid. The Commission established that a net metering facility may be sized based upon 120 percent of a customer’s average annual electric usage, at the time the facility is connected to the electric grid.

Customers receiving the standard service offer from regulated electric distribution utilities will be compensated for excess energy supplied to the grid in the form of a monthly bill credit at the utility’s standard service offer rate for energy. Customers who receive service from a competitive electric supplier may be credited at a rate agreed to in their contract for service.

The negative is fairly big one: capacity payments were removed from the generator’s compensation — the amount which the generator’s system reduces the utility’s need to rely on other power plants. Utilities will now retain that value. Removing this, according to Midwest Energy News, would allow customers access to only 85 percent of the bundled rate.

Special Report: How to Make Money in the Midwest


— Solar Builder magazine

Michigan solar market gains new level of certainty after commission ruling

solar michigan

Progress continues to come in the Midwest solar industry. What many Midwest markets lack in higher, conducive rates, they are starting to gain in certainty. The Michigan Public Service Commission issued an order setting rates for renewable energy developers from Consumers Energy that will create the certainty necessary to spur private investments and new growth in solar energy, while ensuring utility customers’ electricity rates don’t increase.

“The Commission adopted a strong methodology that reflects the value solar provides to Michigan during peak periods,” said Margrethe Kearney, senior staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. “This decision makes Michigan more attractive for renewable energy development at no additional cost to ratepayers.”

The Commission has adopted new avoided cost rates that Consumers Energy must pay to renewable energy facilities in Michigan for the power those facilities supply to the grid. This completes Michigan’s first update in 25 years of the approach utilities must take under federal law to compensate the owners of qualified clean energy facilities.

You can read the order here.

Solar industry officials hailed this announcement saying it can help make Michigan a leader in Midwest solar.
“The Commission correctly recognized the significant long-term value of solar to Michigan, and the need to update old rules to capture that value,” said Rick Umoff, Director of State Affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Solar companies can now ratchet up investment in Michigan’s economy, creating well-paying jobs and providing clean reliable energy to the state.”

Advocates also celebrated the news.

“The Commission’s decision to enable a level playing field for clean energy will launch a new wave of solar development in Michigan,” said Becky Stanfield, senior director of western states at Vote Solar. “Michigan’s leadership demonstrates to regulators and lawmakers across the country how to attract private investments, build a clean energy economy, and create local jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

Special Report: How to Make Money in the Midwest

The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) was enacted in 1978 to encourage renewable energy development, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and promote energy independence. It requires utilities to purchase energy from small qualified cogeneration and renewable energy providers and establishes what are known as “avoided costs” and “must-buy prices” that utilities pay to small renewable energy providers. Since its inception, PURPA has spurred more than 16 GW of cumulative capacity across the country.

In June, the Commission established avoided cost calculations based on the costs of energy and capacity from new natural gas facilities, creating an even playing field for independent developers of qualified clean energy projects. The order also simplifies the development and financing process for small projects by establishing 20-year contracts at a standard rate for projects up to 2 megawatts in size. Previously only projects up to 100 kilowatts were eligible.

— Solar Builder magazine

New York Power Authority, DOE fund new solar power forecasting research

New York Power Authority-001

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office has allocated $500,000 in matching funds to step up joint research with The New York Power Authority (NYPA) into solar power forecasting, which predicts the output from solar generation in order to maintain electrical grid stability and provide an uninterrupted power source at reduced cost.

The funds—coming from DOE, NYPA and other New York utilities—will be used for the next phase of a solar forecasting project intended to develop prediction models that can be used to anticipate output from both large solar generating facilities and smaller, roof-top, distributed solar resources and pass the information on to operators so they can arrange for supplemental power as needed.

The project will help advance Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s ambitious goal of investing in renewable energy sources to reduce our impact on the environment and provide clean electricity to more New Yorkers.

“We need to fully understand solar output, whether rooftop or utility scale, and what the impact is of changing weather conditions, if we want to fully integrate photovoltaic power generation into system operations,” said Alan Ettlinger, director of research, technology development and innovation at NYPA. “This project will show the potential value of upcoming technologies and allow us to step up the research to integrate smart forecasting into the grid management system.”

New York makes interconnection policy changes to boost community solar

Scope of research

With an increasing number of residential and commercial rooftop panels as well as larger, utility-scale commercial generating installations, it’s important to understand the impact of photovoltaic power generation on net system load, forecasting and planning for online generation. This holds not only for the system operator but also generation, transmission and distribution companies so that cost-effective, uninterrupted power is available and grid stability is maintained. Solar power forecasting up to days ahead is required to understand how solar output may change based on cloud movement and other factors such as aerosols, pollutants and particulates.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), working with NYPA and its utility partners in New York, has developed a large collaborative effort focused on deploying, demonstrating, and integrating advanced forecasting techniques. The NYPA/DOE project will build on prior research sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office recently carried out by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) team including Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), located in Upton, NY. In the previous work, NCAR developed a specialized weather prediction model for day-ahead forecasting and BNL developed a sky imager system to determine the movement of clouds and their more immediate impact on power generation.

This new effort will scale up that research and determine the benefit of deploying to the wider New York state area. Activities will focus on the use of sensors and other equipment to allow for improved cloud and irradiance forecasting at several representative sites across New York State. Such networks can stitch together “snapshot” images and localized forecasting provided by individual imaging systems and thus expand forecasting capabilities over large regions and longer time horizons. The forecast network will take advantage of newly installed, enhanced MesoNet meteorological stations across the state funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Work will also include demonstration of the advanced prediction models, and the potential to improve solar forecasting, building load management and other applications.

The final phase of the project, scheduled to conclude in 2019, will involve the implementation of solar cameras at four representative sites across New York State, and is expected to include significant support from the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) as well as contributions from other utilities and stakeholders.

— Solar Builder magazine