Sustainable Development

Duke Energy Kicks Off Solar Projects in Eastern NC

Duke Energy Renewables announced that they have started construction on three utility-scale solar projects in Eastern North Carolina.

Duke Energy Renewables solar project in North Carolina

Duke Energy Renewables solar project in North Carolina (photo – sunenergy1.com)

The three projects add up to a combined capacity of 30MW, enough to power about 6,000 homes.

The biggest of the three projects is the 20MW Dogwood Solar Power Project near Scotland Neck, in Halifax County.

The other two are 5MW projects. One is the Windsor Cooper Hill Solar Project near Windsor, Bertie County. The other one is Bethel Price Solar near Bethel, Pitt County.

The combined investment on the projects will create hundreds of construction jobs and a permanent tax base that will have a lasting impact on a large part of Eastern North Carolina. Duke Energy already owns six 1MW solar facilities in the state’s western part.

Duke Energy Renewables President Greg Wolf said they were pleased to be expanding in this part of the state and bringing significant community development benefits to these counties. He said the projects would generate valuable tax revenue, along with supplemental income for the land owners, and clean, renewable energy for the state.

The photovoltaic (PV) projects, expected to be complete by the end of the year, are being built by Mooresville, NC-based solar engineering, design and construction firm SunEnergy1.

Kenny Habul, CEO of SunEnergy1, said they were proud to be partnering on these projects with Duke Energy. Habul applauded Duke Energy’s continued commitment towards bringing economic growth and renewable solar power for these counties, which he said stand to reap tangible benefits from these projects.

The 140,000 high efficiency PV modules that will be used in the three new projects are being supplied by ReneSola (NYSE:SOL).

Renesola President Kevin Chen said their company had forged a solid long-term relationship with Duke Energy Renewables and SunEnergy1, and was looking forward to working with both companies in 2014 and beyond.

Duke Energy Renewables is a commercial business unit of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK). The company’s portfolio of commercial renewable assets includes 17 solar projects and 15 wind farms in operation in 12 states, adding up to more than 1,700MW of capacity.

The three new solar projects will bring the number of commercial solar farms wholly owned by Duke Energy Renewables in the U.S. to 20.

NY Awards $4.8M For Energy Efficient Buildings Research Projects

New York State announced another round of funding under the NYSERDA Advanced Buildings Program for research on making buildings in New York more energy efficient.

The New NY Works for Energy

The New NY Works for Energy (photo – ny.gov)

This $4.8 million in funding is the second of six rounds meant to distribute a total of $25 million under the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) Advanced Buildings Program.

The awardees are chosen through a competitive process that is open to energy efficiency-related advanced technology projects in all phases from the concept stage to commercialization of the project, field installation and evaluation.

The projects being funded in this round range from those doing research on construction materials and strategies to others that are working on solid-state lighting, demand response and smart buildings, and heating and cooling systems.

Pulaski, NY-based Fulton, which specializes in industrial and commercial heating systems, won $600,000 for two projects.

Fulton received $500,000 for constructing a dual-fuel gas/oil boiler in collaboration with Synex Controls. This project increases the efficiency of gas-oil boilers and provides more energy savings.

Fulton was also awarded another $100,000 for developing a low-cost and corrosion-resistant heat exchanger to be used in a high-efficiency steam boiler. This exchanger will capture heat that is currently lost in boilers, thus increasing the efficiency of steam systems and providing more energy savings.

Another big winner in this round was the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY which was awarded a total of $509,000 for four different projects.

Their project to create the OLED Application Innovation Center, a technical and education center for organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), received $210,000 under the Lighting category.

Another Rensselaer project to improve the performance of rooftop wind turbines received $100,000 under the construction materials and strategies category. A third project to use luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) for concentrating sunlight on photovoltaic (PV) cells also got $100,000 in this same category.

A fourth Rensselaer project in the smart buildings category won $99,000. This project is working on demonstrating a silicon-based microelectronic vibration energy harvester for wireless sensors. If successful, it will eliminate the need for batteries to power the wireless network activity of building automation systems.

NYSERDA President and CEO John B. Rhodes said building research and development programs are critical in the innovation pipeline because it looks at new technologies that will help homeowners and businesses in achieving greater savings through energy efficiency.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo noted that these public-private partnerships will assist businesses and homeowners in saving money by reducing their energy footprint. Gov. Cuomo said the state’s investment will help grow the clean energy economy while at the same time protecting the environment.

Detroit Renewable Energy To Supply Waste Recycled Energy For GM PLant

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM)and Detroit Renewable Energy are teaming up for a renewable energy project to turn municipal waste in Detroit, Michigan into steam that will be used to heat and cool the GM Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant.

GM Detroit-Hamtramck Steam Project

DRE, GM Detroit-Hamtramck Steam Project (photo – gm.com)

Once the project is operational, 58 percent of the plant’s energy requirements will be fulfilled from renewable energy sources.

This will make the Detroit-Hamtramck plant the biggest user (by percentage) of renewable energy among all GM facilities worldwide.

The steam pipe will provide 15.8MW of renewable energy. GM has an overall goal of putting 125MW of renewable energy into its portfolio by 2020.

The steam generated at Detroit Renewable Power’s waste recycling plant will travel through 8,300 feet of pipe before reaching the GM plant.

The cost of the project was not disclosed, but the construction of the steam pipeline and the associated energy infrastructure is set to begin this month. The project will be operational and will start providing renewable energy to Detroit-Hamtramck by next spring.

Rob Threlkeld, GM’s global manager of renewable energy, said General Motors has 107 landfill-free facilities around the world that reuse or recycle their waste, and some of it gets converted into energy.

Threlkeld said it made sense for them to pursue this project with DRE at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant since DRE’s quality work is already helping GM manage energy use at other plants.

Hamtramck Energy Services, which is a part of Detroit Renewable Energy LLC, operates private industrial steam plants and waste water treatment plants at seven GM facilities.

The Greater Detroit Resource Recovery Authority (GDRRA) supplies Detroit Renewable Power LLC with the municipal waste from Metro Detroit that goes into the energy-from-waste plant.

DRE Chairman and CEO Steven White said they have a have a long history working with GM, providing energy for the company’s assembly plants. He said incorporating a renewable and sustainable energy source into Detroit-Hamtramck makes for a significant addition to the value chain.

Detroit Renewable processes more than a million tons of municipal solid waste into steam and electric power, and also annually recycles about 40,000 tons of metal.

UCLA’s Grand Challenge Project – A 100% Sustainable Los Angeles by 2050

UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) unveiled an ambitious plan to achieve complete sustainability by using only renewable energy and local water for the Greater Los Angeles area by 2050.

UCLA Grand Challenge Project - Sustainable Los Angeles

UCLA Grand Challenge Project – Sustainable Los Angeles (photo – ucla.edu)

The $150 million research project, titled “Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles,” is the first of the UCLA Grand Challenge initiative’s six planned projects.

For this first project, UCLA is putting together a team of around 70 faculty and staff members from about 30 UCLA centers and nearly two dozen of its departments.

The team will include experts in diverse fields including urban planning, economics, law, public policy, transportation, environmental science, public health, engineering, environmental science, communication studies and conservation biology.

The $150 million they plan to raise will be used for research on new policies and technologies over the next five years. Their goal is to provide decision-makers with a detailed roadmap by 2019.

This plan will be backed by the research, new technologies and breakthroughs, and will include laws, policies, outreach programs and other recommendations on how to achieve complete sustainability by mid-century.

Many of the recommendations, policies and technologies will first be tried out on the UCLA campus. Highlighted below are some of the goals of the project:-

- Smart electric grid that works with renewable energy systems and smart metering to enable buildings and cars to send energy back into the system;

- Carbon-free public transit and transportation systems;

- Solar energy on every rooftop;

- Decentralized system for water treatment and supply; and

- Developing environment-friendly technologies for ocean water desalination.

Federal support for the project seems likely, considering that Cristin Dorgelo, assistant director for Grand Challenges at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was present at the launch event at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Dorgelo, who is a UCLA alumna, said this was not just going to be a local effort. She said it can cross outside of UCLA, and the breakthroughs achieved can have an impact on the world’s sustainability-related decisions.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said the perilous effects of climate change are already here. Chancellor Block added that they will light the path for the rest of the world by making Los Angeles environmentally sustainable.

On a related note, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and the Environmental Defense Fund released a set of maps last week called “Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report (LASER): Atlas of Investment Potential for LA County.”

LASER shows that if merely five percent of the rooftop solar energy generating potential in LA County is realized, it will create 28,700 local jobs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.25 million tons – equivalent to removing 250,000 cars off the roads.

That’s the impact of just five percent of the potential solar capacity of LA County. The UCLA Grand Challenge project is aiming to put solar energy on every rooftop in Greater Los Angeles.

Google, KKR Make Joint Investment in CA, AZ Solar Facilities

Google and global investment firm KKR announced that they are making an investment in six solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities currently under development by Recurrent Energy in California and Arizona.

Victor Phelan solar project in San Bernardino, CA

Victor Phelan solar project in San Bernardino, CA (photo – Google)

The six facilities (five in Southern California and one in Arizona) together will have a renewable power production capacity of around 106MW.

The six-project portfolio is expected to be operational early next year, and will generate enough electricity to power more than 17,000 homes in the U.S.

The power generated will be sold through long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) to utilities and municipal offloaders including Southern California Edison.

This is Google’s 14th such investment in renewable energy projects. This time, Google is investing $80 million. Together with the earlier investments, Google’s total outlay on all 14 projects adds up to more than a billion dollars.

Kojo Ako-Asare, Head of Corporate Finance for Google, said that investing in renewable energy is at the core of Google’s values. He said that Google strongly believes in making investments that are good for both the environment and for business.

This is the second time that Google, KKR and Recurrent Energy have come together on solar projects. Back in 2011, Google similarly teamed up with KKR and invested $94 million in four of Recurrent’s solar developments.

Kojo Ako-Asare added that Google was proud to continue their partnership with KKR and Recurrent through investments in these fantastic solar facilities.

Ravi Gupta, a senior member of KKR’s Energy and Infrastructure division, said the partnership with Google and Recurrent was ultimately about growing clean energy resources in North America.

Gupta said they believe that as states such as Arizona and California adopt high standards for use of renewable energy, private capital partners can play important roles in helping these states meet their goals.

Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy, said Google and KKR’s continued partnership with Recurrent showcases the strong commitment they have towards a clean energy future.

Harris added that the leadership of these companies in clean energy investments further validates the integral role of solar in the energy economy.

Recurrent has a large portfolio of utility-scale solar facilities to provide competitive clean energy. The company currently has solar projects under development in North America that together have a renewable energy production capacity of more than 2 GW.

UN Climate Change Conference COP19 – World Ready For Climate Change Deal

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (Nov 11-22, 2013) kicked off in Warsaw, Poland with an enhanced sense of urgency in the shadow of Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation in the Philippines.

Christiana Figueres opening address at COP19

Christiana Figueres opening address at COP19 (photo – UNFCCC/Jan Golinski)

In her opening address, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told the 19th session (COP19) participants from 195 nations that “the world is ready” for a climate change deal.

Figueres said there is a groundswell of climate action, not just for environmental reasons, but also for energy, economic, security and governance reasons. Figueres noted that public support and political will now favor climate change action.

One of the main issues that will take center stage in the negotiations over the next 10 days is the way forward on the establishment of the $100 billion Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The GCF is one of the key components of the international climate change agreement. Developed countries have agreed to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to fund efforts made by developing countries to tackle climate change.

The framework for the fund is almost done, and the pledging process is scheduled to begin in Sept 2014.

Another key point of discussion will be about laying the groundwork for the international climate action agreement that UNFCCC participants agreed to establish by 2015 when they met a couple of years ago in Durban, South Africa. This agreement is now scheduled to be put in place at COP21 in Paris in 2015.

U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd D. Stern explained what the United States is doing, and what they hope to achieve from the climate change negotiations at COP19.

Stern said the U.S. has or will provide $2.7 billion in public climate finance for Fiscal Year 2013 in support of climate change mitigation and adaptation actions in developing countries.

Apart from the UNFCCC negotiations, there are a significant number of high-profile events being held in Warsaw timed to coincide with COP19.

The U.S. Center, a State Dept. initiative, has put together a packed program schedule at Warsaw involving various federal agencies and departments including NASA, NOAA, DOE, DOT, DOS, USDA, USAID and others to highlight their climate change programs.

In fact, the U.S. Center also has one event in its lineup sponsored by the California Governor’s Office. The session on “Local Leadership Creating Resilient Communities” will focus on how significant progress is being made on resilience through the State of California’s emerging collaboratives at the regional level, and through local government leadership.

This session will highlight work being done on climate change throughout the U.S., and explain options that can be translated as a platform for communities worldwide.

ACEEE Report – State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

The non-profit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released its seventh annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which ranks states based on energy efficiency policies and programs.

 

ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard (photo – aceee.org)

Massachusetts topped the charts for the third year running, based on its continued commitment to the implementation of the Green Communities Act of 2008.

This law continues to spur more investments in energy efficiency by requiring utilities to save a growing percentage of energy every year through greater efficiency.

Governor Deval Patrick said Massachusetts continues leading the nation in energy efficiency because they consciously made the choice to shape their own future, rather than leave it to chance.

Gov. Patrick added that they will continue to focus on policies that create jobs while decreasing dependence on imported energy sources and protecting the environment by reducing emissions.

The top states in ACEEE’s 2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard are (in the order of their ranking) – Massachusetts, California, New York, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Maryland, and Illinois.

This is the first time Illinois is showing up in the top ten on this list. Connecticut also moved up from sixth place and broke into the top five after passing a comprehensive energy bill (Public Act 13-298) earlier this year that authorized a doubling of energy efficiency program opportunities to help businesses and residents in the state reduce their energy bills.

The leading states in building energy codes and compliance were California, Washington and Rhode Island.

Mississippi was one of the few states that showed a huge improvement in their ranking, courtesy of laws passed this year by the Mississippi Legislature mandating an energy code for commercial and public buildings. With the help of this law, Mississippi began implementing lead-by-example programs in public buildings.

Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, who is also president of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, said Mississippi was proud to be the most improved state in ACEEE’s State Scorecard. Presley added that they looked forward to seeing Mississippi emerge as a regional leader in tapping the vast economic benefits of energy efficiency.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont are leading states in terms of energy efficiency programs and policies targeting the utility sector. California leads the way in energy-efficient transportation policies, along with New York.

California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister said California continues to earn its reputation as an energy leader by instituting the most advanced energy efficiency standards in the nation, and for pushing the envelope on ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs.

McAllister said these standards have helped California ratepayers save more than $75 billion since 1975, protected the climate by reducing emissions, and grown the economy with local jobs.

Read the full ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard – Download (pdf; free registration required)

American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act Could Create 400,000 Jobs

Senator Edward J. Markey, recently elected as the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, has introduced new legislation which encourages clean energy generation and energy efficiency, and has the potential to create 400,000 new jobs.

Renewable energy

Renewable energy (photo – epa.gov)

The American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act (S.1627), if passed into law, would require utilities to procure 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass, etc. by 2025.

S.1627 also requires both electric and natural gas utilities to improve energy efficiency by 2025. Electric utilities would need to improve energy efficiency equivalent to 15 percent of sales, while the natural gas utilities would have to improve their energy efficiency by 10 percent of sales.

Specifically, the bill seeks to amend title VI of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 to introduce a federal electricity standard for retail suppliers, and a federal energy efficiency standard for electricity and natural gas suppliers.

Many states have already implemented similar standards. A full 30 U.S. states and D.C. have laws that require utilities to maintain a healthy mix of energy from renewable sources. Energy efficiency requirements are mandatory in 24 states.

The proposed bill, if it became law, would quadruple renewable energy production by 2025. It would reduce CO2 emissions by an annual 480 million metric tons by 2025, equivalent to the combined output of 120 coal-fired power plants.

An economic impact analysis of this bill and a similar bill (H.R.5967) with the same name that was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last year by then Rep. Markey came up with following findings:-

- Number of jobs created if the legislation becomes law – 400,000

- Average annual household savings from improved energy efficiency – $39

- Cumulative consumer savings through 2030 – Nearly $90 billion

- New capital investments in the renewable energy technology – $200 billion

Senator Markey said that it’s past time to scale up the nation’s clean energy deployment and innovation, and to get American workers building and exporting solar panels and wind turbines that say “Made in America,” instead of America importing millions of barrels of “Made in OPEC” oil every day.

The bill is supported by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club and a long list of environmental and renewable energy organizations and companies.

S.1627 was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Oct 31, 2013, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

British Columbia, California, WA, OR Sign Climate Change Action Plan

British Columbia, Canada is teaming up with the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington to combat climate change on the North American Pacific Coast.

Pacific Coast Collaborative

Pacific Coast Collaborative (photo – pacificcoastcollaborative.org)

British Columbia’s Premier Christy Clark joined the Governors of the three states after a meeting of the Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC) in San Francisco to sign the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy.

The action plan commits the four governments to a comprehensive strategic alignment for combating climate change and promoting the use of clean energy in a region which has 53 million people and has a combined GDP of $2.8 trillion – this makes it the world’s fifth largest economy.

As part of the agreement, Oregon and Washington will join BC and California as regions that have their own market-based carbon pricing mechanism. Where possible, all four will link their programs to maintain consistency and allow the regional low-carbon economy to expand.

They agreed to take action to expand the use of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), aiming for 10 percent of all new vehicles by 2016.

All four also agreed to transform the market for energy efficiency and lead the way to net-zero buildings. They agreed to harmonize GHG reduction targets for 2050, and develop mid-term targets required for supporting the long-term reduction target.

Another part of the agreement was that all four governments recognize the scientific consensus that climate change had human causes and had very real impacts. They agreed to cooperate with national governments around the world to press for a global agreement on climate change in 2015 at the Conference of Parties in Paris.

BC Environment Minister Mary Polak said climate change was a global issue, and added that by exporting natural gas, BC will be supplying growing markets with a clean burning fossil fuel.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said the Action Plan represents the best of things that the Pacific Coast governments are already doing, and calls for each of them to do more to meet the moral obligation towards future generations and create jobs by leading in the clean energy economy.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. said California wasn’t waiting for the rest of the world before taking action on climate change, and they were now teaming up with British Columbia, Oregon and Washington to reduce greenhouse gases.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber said that energy is “the” issue of our time, globally and in Oregon, and no other issue would have a great impact on the state’s quality of life, environment and economy in the coming decade.

Eight-State Coalition Announces Zero-Emission Vehicles Initiative

The Governors of eight U.S. states have signed an agreement for a joint initiative to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the roads in their states by 2025.

Zero Emission Vehicles

Zero Emission Vehicles (photo – oregon.gov)

The eight states that are signatories to the MOU are California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The MOU signed by the Governors commits them to pursue the following actions:-

- Alignment of building codes in order to make it easier to build EV charging stations;

- Lead-by-example to include ZEVs in public fleets, and set targets for governmental ZEV purchases;

- Evaluate and consider providing incentives, financial or otherwise, for promoting ZEVs;

- Consider setting up favorable electricity tariffs for home EV charging systems;

- Development of common standards for charging networks and roadway signs;

- Encourage ZEV market growth by establishing public-private partnerships with automobile manufacturers, corporate fleet owners, electricity and hydrogen providers, and other stakeholders;

- Share research and coordinate education and outreach campaigns to highlight the benefits of ZEVs and promote their use; and

- Pursue assessment and development of infrastructure and other requirements for commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

States with ZEV programs together account for 27 percent of the U.S. automobile market, and by working together they can help create more consumer demand and lower ZEV costs through economies of scale and expanding the choices available to consumers.

There are currently 16 ZEV models available in the U.S., produced by eight automobile manufacturers.

Nine of them are electric vehicles that run on batteries, while five are hybrids that can run on both gasoline as well as batteries. The remaining two are powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

By 2015, every major automaker is expected to have ZEVs on sale or lease. Electric car sales in the U.S. jumped to 52,000 in 2012, more than thrice the sales in 2011. This year, more than 40,000 plug-in cars have already been sold in the first two quarters.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. said this was not just an agreement, but a serious and profoundly important commitment.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said they were excited to be collaborating with other states to ensure the success of Zev programs.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber said this initiative will helps states reduce transportation-related air pollution and GHG, enhance energy diversity, save money for consumers, and promote economic growth.

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