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  • Wednesday, October 29, 2014


    How Cheap Wind Energy Threatens To Upend The Kansas Governor’s Race And Upset The Koch Brothers

    Ari Phillips, October 27, 2014 (ThinkProgress)

    “Kansas Governor Sam Brownback once supported wind energy, but that was before petrochemical billionaires and Kansas natives Charles and David Koch became his largest campaign donors. Now, Brownback and the Kochs find themselves enmeshed in a highly competitive governor’s race, one that has become a referendum on the much-heralded notion that scaling back government and slashing taxes for the wealthy will lead to economic growth…A key aspect of this debate hinges on the role of renewable energy in the state and the future of the Kansas’ Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a law requiring a certain portion of a state’s energy mix come from renewable sources…

    “The Koch brothers have devoted a significant amount of time and money into repealing the standard and as of late, Brownback has wavered in his support. His Democratic opponent, Paul Davis said the RPS repeal is being championed by a very narrow group of far right special interests with heavy investments in the oil industry…despite the fact that the policy remains incredibly popular among everyday Kansans and public and private sector leaders who understand the importance of diversifying the state’s energy portfolio…Koch Industries is not supporting Brownback’s re-election campaign because the RPS repeal effort was unsuccessful. This would follow the pattern of the Kochs lashing out at even very conservative state legislators who didn’t support the repeal…91 percent of Kansas voters are strongly supportive of using renewable energy, with 88 percent responding that they believe boosting renewable energy will lead to new investments in Kansas and help grow the state’s economy…” click here for more



    UT Energy Poll Shows Generation Gap on Vital Energy Issues

    October 28, 2014 (University of Texas at Austin)

    “…[M]arkedly different perspectives on energy issues based on the age of voters…[could impact] the outcome of next week’s elections…The latest [University of Texas] Energy Poll, conducted Sept. 4-16, shows contrasting views and preferences among consumers in numerous areas, including energy policy, preferred sources of energy and financial support from the federal government… Nearly half of the 2,105 U.S. residents surveyed (46 percent) say candidates’ views on energy issues will greatly influence their choices at the ballot box…[and a] much higher percentage of older respondents (87 percent) indicate they are likely to vote in the Nov. 4 election, compared with 68 percent of those age 35 or under…

    “Fifty-six percent of younger consumers say they are willing to pay much higher prices to protect the environment, compared with only 20 percent of respondents age 65 and older…Support for renewable sources of energy is considerably stronger among younger consumers, with nearly 2 out of 3 (65 percent) favoring an expansion of financial incentives…62 percent of younger respondents favor requiring utilities to obtain a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, versus 48 percent of older voters…Younger consumers also strongly support subsidies for renewable energy, with 72 percent saying they back federal government support, compared with 58 percent among Americans age 65 and older…” click here for more


    Driven by Higher Rents and Values, Green Buildings Market Grows to $260 Billion; 325 million m2 of new green buildings floor space was built in 2013 as internal rates of return reached a steady 5% or more…

    October 29, 2014 (Lux Research)

    “Construction of green buildings rose to 325 million m2 of new floor space in 2013, representing a $260 billion market…driven by economic benefits rather than environmental motivations…In the United States, for example, green buildings command an estimated 20% of new construction [according to Cash Is King: Assessing the Financial Performance of Green Buildings from Lux Research]…[B]uildings with LEED Gold certification outperform their baseline peers…Incentives like Germany's subsidized interest rates for energy-efficient homes, or government cash rebates in India, can lead to an IRR of 5% to 6% over 15 years…[B]uilding energy efficiency codes such as ASHAE 90.1, IECC and ECBC India can create a much larger market opportunity [than green building standards like LEED]. In Germany, Lux Research estimates that new floor space compliant with the EnEv 2009 code was 50 million m2, or about 36% of overall new construction, in 2013…” click here for more

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014


    Record low costs drive opportunities in U.S. wind energy; Industry sees 4x growth by 2030, with critical tax policy up for renewal

    October 20, 2014 (American Wind Energy Association)

    "Driven by record low costs and high demand from power purchasers, the U.S. wind industry was at its busiest ever in the third quarter while completing the record number of wind projects that were under construction at the start of the quarter…19 wind projects have been completed in America this year, with as much wind generating capacity as in all of 2013, according to Third Quarter results…The American Wind Energy Association expects a strong finish to the year…stepped-up installations in 2015…[and] is optimistic that Congress will [extend the renewable energy Production Tax Credit after the November election]…[R]ecent Department of Energy (DOE) data showing the cost of U.S. wind power down by more than half over five years…The DOE report also shows fix-priced wind energy is the most affordable energy option available, particularly after expected increases and volatility in the price of other energy sources are taken into account. Moreover, zero emission wind energy is ideally suited to help utilities comply with the pending EPA Clean Power Plan that will regulate emissions of carbon dioxide from existing power plants…” click here for more


    A tough road ahead for concentrated solar power

    Sammy Roth, October 25, 2014 (The Desert Sun)

    “…Unlike traditional solar photovoltaic panels — which convert sunlight directly into electricity — concentrated solar technology uses sunlight to heat water or another liquid, ultimately creating steam that can be used to turn turbines and generate electricity…Concentrated solar power is much more expensive than solar panels and wind turbines, but advocates say it has a major advantage over those technologies, particularly in California: the ability to store energy. As the state races to adopt renewable energy, one of its biggest challenges will be intermittency — the fact that most solar and wind plants only produce power when the sun is shining, or when the wind is blowing…Concentrated solar with storage could fill the gaps in intermittent renewable generation, limiting the need for carbon-emitting natural gas plants. But despite concentrated solar power's benefits, it has been hobbled by financial and environmental challenges…

    “Concentrated solar plants cost much more to build than solar photovoltaic plants, and environmental groups have criticized ‘power tower’ projects…for their potential to kill thousands of birds [if not carefully sited]. Concentrated solar plants can also use hundreds of times more water than solar photovoltaic plants...[But some environmental groups…see a future for concentrated solar — if the wildlife impacts can be reduced…[C]oncentrated solar development has intensified over the past year, with five large-scale projects expected to open by January…Among those projects is Crescent Dunes…[It] will be the country's first solar tower development to feature storage, with a capacity of 110 megawatts and the ability to store more than 10 hours of energy…” click here for more


    Geothermal power industry lost steam but may be poised for comeback

    Julie Cart, October 19, 2014 (LA Times)

    “…[Geothermal] industry leaders say the energy harnessed from the Earth is poised for a renaissance, powered by new technology that will boost production, pare costs and expand its reach…Some impetus for the change has come from within. The geothermal industry's not-so-politically-savvy leaders, mostly geologists and mechanical engineers, had since the 1980s been eclipsed by hard-charging solar and wind energy developers who play the lobbying game, and play it well…Geothermal's leaders watched and learned. Their challenge now, they say, is regaining some of the lost political and financial ground…Although geothermal companies are unlikely to be the energy giants that solar and wind producers have become, new technology could enable the industry to grow far beyond the Western states…

    “…[G]eothermal energy accounts for barely 0.4% of the nation's available energy…[T he U.S. Energy Department’s] 2014 research budget for geothermal is $45 million, compared with $257 million for solar…The U.S. Bureau of Land Management estimates the average wind or solar project is greenlighted in 1 1/2 years. Approval for a geothermal project can take as long as seven years…[But] researchers are investigating ways to overcome technological barriers…Geothermal will never be a major energy source, [a 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology] report concluded, but if fully tapped, it could provide as much as 10% of the nation's power…” click here for more

    Monday, October 27, 2014


    Renewable Energy Provides Over 40% Of New U.S. Generating Capacity In First Three-Quarters Of 2014; New Renewable Capacity Is 35 Times That Of Coal, Oil, And Nuclear Combined

    October 27, 2014 (Sun Day Campaign)

    “…[R]enewable energy sources…account for more than two-fifths (40.61%) of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity put in-service during the first nine months of 2014. Only natural gas provided more new generating capacity...[N]ew capacity in 2014 from the combination of renewable energy sources thus far is almost 35 times that of coal, oil, and nuclear combined (3,598 MW vs. 104 MW)…For the month of September alone, renewables accounted for over two-thirds of the 603 MW of new generating capacity put in-service [367 MW of wind (60.86%) plus 41 MW of solar (6.80%)]…

    "Of the 8,860 MW of new generating capacity from all sources installed since January 1, 2014, 187 "units" of solar accounted for 1,671 MW (18.86%), followed by 28 units of wind 1,614 MW (18.22%), 7 units of hydropower 141 MW (1.59%), 38 units of biomass 140 MW (1.58%), and 5 units of geothermal 32 MW (0.36%)…The balance came from 41 units of natural gas 5,153 MW (58.16%), 1 unit of nuclear 71 MW (0.80%), 11 units of oil 33 MW (0.37%), and 6 units of "other" 7 MW (0.08%). There has been no new coal capacity added thus far in 2014…” click here for more


    Home Solar Power Discounts Are Worker Perk in New Program

    Diane Cardwell, Oct. 22, 2014 (NY Times)

    “…[Employees of Cisco Systems, 3M, Kimberly-Clark and National Geographic] will be able to buy or lease solar systems for their homes at rates substantially lower than the national average…The program, offered through Geostellar, an online marketer of solar systems, will be available to more than 100,000 employees and will include options for their friends and families in the United States and parts of Canada…Conceived at the World Wildlife Fund [WWF], the program, called the Solar Community Initiative, aims to use the bulk buying power of employees to allow for discounts on home systems...

    "The program’s expansion is a reflection of the shrinking gulf between camps that were once considered mutually exclusive: environmental advocacy organizations and mainstream corporate America…The program is consistent with [WWF’s] approach of working closely with corporations, often quietly trying to nudge them toward change from the inside, rather than pushing from the outside through more confrontational tactics…For Geostellar, which built a virtual marketplace from satellite imagery and big data, it offers a new route to attracting customers, which is still one of the more stubbornly high costs of operating a solar business…” click here for more


    Michigan's wind energy industry soaring

    Fred Witsil, October 12, 2014 (Detroit Free Press)

    “The shift to renewable energy sources in Michigan — particularly wind — has picked up in the past few years and could get more of a boost as the Obama administration seeks a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030…That could mean more investment and more jobs to add to Michigan's modest energy sector profile of about 83,000 workers. One recent study concluded targeted local investment in wind and other renewable energy could support nearly 21,000 jobs in the state by next year…One reason: [Wind energy generated electricity is] about half as expensive to produce than utility companies initially expected, down to as little as $50 a megawatt hour last year from more than $100 a megawatt hour in 2009…

    "The nonprofit group, Natural Resources Defense Council, says Michigan is home to about 120 companies that supply wind components and employ 4,000…DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, the two companies that serve Michigan's lower peninsula, are building wind turbines…Wind and other renewable sources of power are expected to provide a steadily increasing amount of Michigan's power needs by 2030…” click here for more

    Wednesday, October 22, 2014


    Using Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems in Schools; Some schools in the United States and Europe have begun to use geothermal energy to cut down on energy consumption and provide an energy-efficient education.

    Sharon Gamson Danks, October 2014 (Mother Earth News)

    “…The temperature of the earth…[at a depth of six feet remains between 45 degrees f and 75 degrees f] throughout the year even when the air temperature experiences wide fluctuations from winter to summer…Geothermal heating and cooling systems are designed to take advantage of this thermal constant by pumping air or water into the ground to be heated or cooled to the earth’s stable temperature…The conditioned air or water may then be used [with little energy expenditure] in radiant heating or cooling systems embedded in the building’s floors, or as part of the building’s HVAC (climate control) systems…[These systems] could save schools a substantial amount of energy [and money and have reasonably short payback periods, generally take up less room in the school than conventional heating and cooling equipment, and run quietly…” click here for more


    Production Begins at Second U.S. Cellulosic Biofuel Facility

    Jeremy Martin, October 17, 2014 (National Geographic)

    “…Spanish company Abengoa is bringing another big cellulosic biofuel facility online in Hugoton, a small community in the Southwest [Kansas]…This is the second big plant starting up this year, showing that after some predictable yet highly scrutinized delays, the cellulosic fuel industry is truly beginning to establish itself and making critical contributions to oil savings and climate goals…The Abengoa plant will double the production capacity on line for cellulosic ethanol, and do it without consuming a kernel of corn…Major companies from all over the world have come to the U.S. to invest in cellulosic biofuel…Yet the U.S. is certainly not the only place that cellulosic biofuels are coming on line. There is also a major cellulosic biofuels facility in Italy, and a cellulosic biorefinery just started up in Brazil…The cellulosic plant that opened in Iowa in August is a collaboration of Poet, a major US ethanol company, and Royal-DSM, a company from the Netherlands…Another major player in cellulosic biofuels is Danish firm Novozymes…[Beta Renewables] just started the cellulosic facility in Brazil…The Renewable Fuel Standard, which calls for increasing biofuels production steadily over time, is central to [U.S.] plans…” click here for more


    Energy Storage Tracker 3Q14; Global Energy Storage Installations: Market Share Data, Industry Trends, Market Analysis, and Project Tracking by World Region, Technology, Application, and Market Segment

    3Q 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “Government funding, subsidies, and regulatory reforms in energy storage and related areas continue to encourage market growth. Lithium ion (Li-ion) technology has emerged as the global leader…[F]lywheels and flow batteries are also making significant headway. North America continues to move the market forward…[Western Europe] is also leading the market with utility-scale advanced battery and power-to-gas installations and announcements…Key vendors in the industry continue to specialize as systems integrators in the supply chain. In some cases, integrators are entering the sector from other industries. This is a critical time …[M]ore systems integrators are needed…[Navigant Research estimates] 362.8 MW of energy storage projects have been announced globally in the 2013-2014 period with an almost equal distribution between North America (103.3 MW), Asia Pacific (100.5 MW), and Western Europe (91.1 MW)…” click here for more

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014


    SolarCity Offers Bonds Online to Ordinary Investors

    Diane Cardwell, October 15, 2014 (NY Times)

    “SolarCity, the country’s leading installer of rooftop solar systems, began selling bonds online to ordinary investors…joining a handful of companies that are using crowdfunding to finance solar development…The company will issue up to $200 million in the bonds, whose maturities range from one to seven years and carry interest rates of 2 percent to 4 percent…The company has moved aggressively to raise money to finance its fast-growing business, including several debt offerings for institutional investors, like one begun last month to raise as much as $575 million. But this new effort is open to any United States citizen, 18 or older, with a domestic bank account who makes a minimum investment of $1,000…Several companies, like Mosiac, are already using crowdfunding to funnel money into solar projects. But those largely pool money from investors to provide loans for small- and medium-scale projects. SolarCity’s platform will instead pay back the bonds it issues with the income from the monthly solar electricity payments made by its customers, which include homeowners, schools, businesses and government organizations…[T]hey hope to appeal to people who want to help finance the growth of clean energy but desire the security of bonds…” click here for more


    Measure Ratchets Up Targets For Nj’s Offshore-Wind Industry; Backers say bill, which calls for 4,500 megawatts by 2050, isn’t meant for the Christie administration but for one friendlier to renewable subsidies

    Tom Johnson, October 15, 2014

    “…A bill (S-2444) being considered by the [New Jersey] Senate Environment and Energy Committee would require 3,000 megawatts of generation from offshore wind projects by 2030 and 4,500 megawatts by 2050 be delivered to customers. That is far more than the 1,100 megawatts that would be required by 2020, a goal few think will ever be met. In fact, the measure eliminates the 1,100-megawatt target…The proposal is part of a bill that would require 80 percent of New Jersey’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, by 2050. But even its advocates acknowledge the legislation stands little chance of being approved anytime soon, although they hope to lay the groundwork for passage in the next administration…Both the Christie administration and the Legislature once viewed offshore wind as an opportunity to develop a new green industry off the coast, a move that would create thousands of well-paying jobs and provide a needed spur to the state’s economy…[but] rising costs of subsidies to support renewable energy have become an increasing concern…[A]dvocates of the bill say opponents’ arguments about the costs fail to reflect the benefits of moving to cleaner ways of producing electricity in a state long-burdened with air pollution problems that affect public health…” click here for more