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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jun 28, 2011

CapX 2020 Archived Audio News Stories

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/capx-2020-archived-audio-news-stories/

This is an archive of audio news coverage of the CapX 2020 Transmission Lines.  The archive was originally hosted on an ILSR.org website but will now be available on NewRules.org using the ‘CapX News’ keyword.

This post has audio media coverage prior to 2010.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jun 28, 2011

CapX 2020 Archived Video News Stories

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/capx-2020-archived-video-news-stories/

This is an archive of video news coverage of the CapX 2020 Transmission Lines.  The archive was originally hosted on an ILSR.org website but will now be available on NewRules.org using the ‘CapX News’ keyword.

This post has video media coverage prior to 2010.

Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 1 Comment | Updated on Jun 28, 2011

New York City Should Meet Half Its Peak Demand with Rooftop Solar PV

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/new-york-city-should-meet-half-its-peak-demand-rooftop-solar-pv/

The City University of New York (CUNY) released a solar map of New York City last week, allowing building owners in the city to determine the amount of solar power their roof could host.  The cumulative impact is enormous, with city rooftops capable of providing half the city’s peak power, and 14% of its annual electricity consumption.

The city should immediately maximize solar power development and start saving millions in electricity costs.

At $3.50 per Watt installed, and with the federal 30% investment tax credit (ITC), solar power in New York City can provide electricity at 16 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), a full 4 cents lower than the average residential electricity price (as reported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s PV Watts program). 

Commercial installations that can also use the federal depreciation tax deduction could deliver electricity for nearly 12 cents per kWh, 40% lower than the average residential rate.

These prices are well within reach.  Already in the U.S., aggregate purchasing has driven down residential solar PV prices as low as $4.22 per Watt.  The average cost of rooftop solar PV installations in Germany is between $3.40 and $3.70 per Watt.  In our new report, Democratizing the Electricity System, we show that even small-scale solar is being built for under $4 per Watt in the U.S.

As it turns out, when it comes to solar self-reliance, New York City is a microcosm of the state (in solar potential if not comparative electricity price).  In our 2009 analysis, Energy Self-Reliant States, we found that New York’s statewide rooftop solar PV potential was 15% of its electricity consumption, almost identical to CUNY’s estimate of 14% of the city’s electricity use.

Whether immediately (NYC) or in the near future (NY state), it’s clear that rooftop solar PV is the route to greater energy self-reliance and electricity cost savings.

Update 7/7/11: Wow, ConEdison already has 8.5 MW of solar PV on its system, only 1,791.5 MW to go!

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 1 Comment | Updated on Jun 27, 2011

Pricing CLEAN Contracts – feed-in tariffs – for Solar PV in the U.S.

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/pricing-clean-contracts-feed-tariffs-solar-pv-us/

The price of solar is dropping fast, opening new opportunities for community-scale renewable energy across the country.  But despite the improving economics and tremendously sunnier skies, the United States lags far behind Germany in installing new solar power.  What might happen if the U.S.  adopted Germany’s flagship “feed-in tariff” policy, responsible for 10 gigawatts of solar in just two years?  Let’s take a look at how such a program would be priced.

First, we’re marketing conscious in America, so we’ll call it something better, like a CLEAN contract, for Clean Local Energy Accessible Now. 

Then we’ll need to adjust the German prices in three ways:

  1. Convert euros to dollars
  2. Adjust for U.S. sunshine
  3. Adjust for federal tax incentives 

But before we dive in to the German solar program, let’s quickly look at the raw cost of producing solar electricity in the U.S. along with the major federal incentive.   The following map (click here for an interactive version) illustrates the so-called “levelized cost” of solar PV, the total cost of the system (minus the 30% federal tax credit) divided by its expected electricity production over 25 years, based on an installed cost of $3.50 per Watt (common in Germany, and possible for distributed solar PV in the U.S.):

Levelized Cost of Solar PV @ $3.50/W over 25 years – 30% ITC included

Prices have fallen so much, that they are comparable to or lower than retail electricity rates in selected states in the Southwest (with great sun) or Northeast (with high electricity rates).  The following map illustrates (click here for an interactive version):

Average Residential Retail Electricity Rate (Feb. 2011)

So, solar is narrowing the gap with retail grid electricity rates.

Now, back to the analysis of a U.S. CLEAN contract program.  We start with the rates the Germans pay for solar PV under their feed-in tariff.  The euro to dollar exchange rate is currently around 1 to 1.4, giving us the following starting rates for rooftop solar PV projects in U.S. dollars per kilowatt-hour:

< 30 kW

30-100 kW

> 100 kW

> 1000 kW

$0.405

$0.385

$0.365

$0.304

The Germans pay these rates to anyone who can put up a solar panel, per kilowatt-hour sent to the grid, for 20 years.  These rates may seem high, but we’re just getting started.

Next, we have to adjust these rates down to account for the significantly better sunshine in the U.S.  For illustration, Albany (NY) has 33% better sunshine than Munich (Germany), even though Munich is in the “sunny south” of Germany.  Los Angeles gets almost 70% better sunshine than Munich.  We’ll pick St. Louis, MO, for its central location and average U.S. solar resource.  The following table illustrates the dramatic drop in the price required to offer a modest return on investment for a rooftop solar project.

< 30 kW

30-100 kW

> 100 kW

> 1000 kW

$0.27

$0.26

$0.25

$0.21

As good as these values look, we’re still leaving money on the table.  Almost every solar PV project built in the U.S. will take advantage of the 30% tax credit (even if they have to let a third party skim off up to half its value).  With a full 30% discount, however, the prices for solar PV projects in St. Louis would drop as follows:

< 30 kW

30-100 kW

> 100 kW

> 1000 kW

$0.21

$0.20

$0.19

$0.16

The following map provides a look at the prices for a CLEAN contract for rooftop solar PV (< 30 kW) in each state, based on one of the state’s sunnier locations (click here for an interactive version).  Prices would be up to 25% lower for the largest PV projects (over 1 MW).

CLEAN Rate for < 30 kW Rooftop Solar PV @ $3.50/W – ITC only

In many cases, commercial developers of PV can claim accelerated depreciation in addition to the federal 30% tax credit.  With this additional discount (worth around 20% of the project cost), the cost of a CLEAN contract falls even further, as shown on the map (click here for an interactive version).  Once again, prices would be up to 25% lower for PV projects 1 MW and larger.

CLEAN Rate for < 30 kW Rooftop Solar PV @ $3.50/W – ITC and depreciation

There’s a danger to looking at CLEAN contract rates with federal incentives, for two reasons:

1) Many individuals and entities (e.g. schools, cities, nonprofits) can’t effectively use a tax credit incentive.  

2) Tax incentive programs expire or are killed by “budget hawks” (or ideologues) in Congress.  

The 30% federal investment tax credit for solar is in statute until 2016, but let’s assume for a moment that it expired or that we want to look at the CLEAN contract rates for projects not able to use any federal incentives for solar power.  We still assume an installed cost of $3.50 per Watt.  

CLEAN Rate for < 30 kW Rooftop Solar PV @ $3.50/W – no incentives (click here for an interactive version):

This chart is a more accurate representation of the state of solar economics (without incentives).  It’s also the price required for the most democratic solar incentive program, one that would not be prejudiced against participants who couldn’t effectively use the federal tax incentives.

In the end, a CLEAN program in the U.S. will likely be premised on the use of one or both federal tax incentives and pay much less than this last chart.  It will make sense for ratepayers, but will probably not have the same democratizing effect as Germany’s flagship program.

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Article filed under Independent Business | Written by Stacy Mitchell | 5 Comments | Updated on Jun 23, 2011

Why Publishers, Not Amazon, Should Set Book Prices

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/why-publishers-not-amazon-should-set-book-prices/

After winning a high-stakes standoff against Amazon last year, publishers are now setting the prices that retailers can charge for their e-books.

At first blush, one might assume that such price-fixing would result in higher prices. But the evidence from more than a dozen European countries, where laws have long prohibited selling both print and electronic books below a set price, clearly shows that publisher-mandated pricing saves consumers money. It also fosters a more lively and competitive book industry, with far more books published and many more independent bookstores open than in countries where big retailers control pricing. Continue reading

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Article filed under The Public Good, The Public Good News | Written by David Morris | 1 Comment | Updated on Jun 23, 2011

Why Is Mighty Time Warner Scared Of Tiny Salisbury, North Carolina?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/why-is-mighty-time-warner-scared-of-tiny-salisbury-north-carolina/

Thanks to Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance for contributing to this article.  You can, and should follow his reporting on public networks at www.muninetworks.org. Conservatives would have us believe the public sector can’t compete with the private sector. The private sector itself knows better. Nowhere… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jun 23, 2011

The Electric System: Inflection Point

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/electric-system-inflection-point/

A serialized version of our new report, Democratizing the Electricity System, Part 1 of 5 The 20th century of electricity generation was characterized by ever larger and more distant central power plants.  But a 21st century technological dynamic offers the possibility of a dramatically different electricity future: millions of widely dispersed renewable energy plants and… Continue reading

Pearl St. in Boulder, CO
Article, ILSR Press Room, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by ILSR Admin | No Comments | Updated on Jun 22, 2011

John Farrell talks distributed generation and local authority on Boulder, CO’s KGNU

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/john-farrell-talks-distributed-generation-and-local-authority-boulder-cos-kgnu/

I was on the air with local attorney and renewable energy guru Susan Perkins, interviewed by host Duncan Campbell.  A great conversation about Boulder’s effort to municipalize in order to have more control over its electricity system and energy sources. Click for show listing (and hit the tiny, blue play button) or just download an… Continue reading

Solar panel installation
Article, ILSR Press Room filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Jun 22, 2011

Great Battle Over the Scale of Our Electricity System is Underway Argues a New Report

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/great-battle-over-scale-our-electricity-system-underway-argues-new-report/

“Thirty years ago renewable energy was a novelty,” says John Farrell, author of the new report, Democratizing the Electricity System: A Vision for the 21st Century Electric Grid. “Twenty years ago it was little more than a cottage industry.  Today the $100 billion renewable energy industry threatens to overturn the bigger-is-better foundation of the existing, 20th century electricity system.”

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distributed solar value
Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 2 Comments | Updated on Jun 19, 2011

Democratizing the Electricity System

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/democratizing-electricity-system/

“Clean local energy provides the most efficient pathway to the smart energy future and the new energy economy.  Democratizing the Electricity System does a brilliant job of illustrating the unparalleled benefits of small- and mid-size renewable energy and the urgent need for new policies that make the enormous economic and political opportunities accessible.”  — Craig… Continue reading