Democratic Energy Media Roundup – November 17, 2014

Date: 19 Nov 2014 | posted in: Energy | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Various Sources, November 17, 2014

This week in democratic energy, media reports discussed the state of solar across the country, a new battery prototype for wind and solar power, and more.

John Farrell, Director of ILSR’s Democratic Energy initiative, was quoted in the Midwest Energy News article, “In Minnesota, community solar market starting to take off.” Frank Jossi reports:

“‘Large developers do not violate the spirit of the law. They create an access to solar we didn’t have before.’

As [Farrell] sees the market emerging, homeowners in urban neighborhoods are willing to pay a modest premium to the community solar project down the block rather than the larger one out in the green fields. The growth of both sectors will employ more installers and create more jobs in the budding solar industry.

In neighboring Wisconsin, however, utilities continue to inhibit the growth of solar. Peninsula Pulse reports that several utilities have petitioned the Public Service Commission (PSC) for rate hikes – the PSC has already approved an 83 percent rate increase for Wisconsin Public Service. Nick Korth, executive director of Wisconsin Solar Energy Industries Association, responds:

‘With solar energy creating jobs all around the country, all while reducing energy costs for home and business owners, the solar industry really questions who is seeing the benefit from this decision. Many states like Nevada and Minnesota, among others, have done a value of solar analysis with their Public Service Commission’s, to figure out what the benefits are of solar, and its role in our energy systems. The PSC’s clear refusal of the idea of a value of solar study is not only shortsighted, but it will impact thousands of good paying jobs across the state and drastically increase energy costs in northeastern Wisconsin.’

In California, startup public power supplier Sonoma Clean Power will buy from a proposed Cloverdale solar project. Matt Brown of The Press Democrat reports:

The proposed project, an almost 1 megawatt ground-mounted solar array southwest of Cloverdale, will provide power for 300 homes, said Amy Rider, Sonoma Clean Power’s program manager. The 20-year contract with Sonoma Clean Power will enable the project to obtain financing needed to build the solar array.

Further south in California, the Irvine United School District (IUSD) of Orange County announced it has completed three new solar installations:

The new solar photovoltaic systems at Woodbury Elementary School, Stonegate Elementary School and University High School round out phase two of the district’s solar initiative, which will save $5 million to $8 million in general fund dollars over the next 20 years. IUSD has more than 5.4 megawatts installed, the most of any Orange County school district.

In Montana, two members of the State Legislature published an op-ed supporting the state’s Local Energy Investment Act. Senator and Representative-elect Art Wittich (Republican) and Senator Mike Phillips (Democrat) write:

We would like to change [the] arbitrary barriers that are preventing Montanans from investing in clean and reliable energy systems. That’s why we support the 2015 Legislature passing the Local Energy Investment Act, which would provide Montana businesses and residents with more freedom to invest directly in their own energy supply. We want to allow for larger net-metered energy systems to meet the demands of small business and light industrial customers, because job creators shouldn’t have to suffer the uncertainty of rising electric costs if they are willing to take the risk of investing in their own energy. We want to allow more Montanans to secure their energy needs with clean, individually owned power, even if it is spread across multiple meters. And we want to give renters without the ability to site an energy system, and individuals without a suitable solar or wind resource of their own, the opportunity to buy a share in a locally installed energy system.

In Onalaska, Wisconsin, a health system that set out to reduce energy consumption now produces more energy than it consumes:

The health system, which is the first of its kind to become fully energy independent, announced the success of its environmental and efficiency efforts on Monday. In its quest to achieve energy independence, Gundersen [Health System] has saved nearly $2 million each year from energy conservation and efficiency efforts.

The Vote Solar Initiative and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council released a policy guide grading all 50 states on net metering and interconnection procedures. From Solar Industry:

‘With strong state renewable energy policy leading the way, entrepreneurs, businesses and customers are successfully transforming our nation’s energy landscape for the better,’ says Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar. ‘It’s heartening to see regulators nationwide – in red states and blue – stand strong for energy choice and solar progress by upholding these important policies.’

A company has developed batteries to help wind and solar power operate in remote locations. The batteries are cheaper and longer-living than their conventional counterparts. Kevin Bullis writes:

A new kind of battery that stores energy from solar and wind power cheaply and cleanly has hit the market. It is by far the cheapest of a new generation of large, long-lived batteries that could make it possible to rely heavily on intermittent, renewable energy sources.

Aquion Energy, a company spun out of Carnegie Mellon University, recently delivered the first of its batteries to operators of small power grids, or ‘microgrids,’ that can operate independently of the centralized grid.

Several editorials responded to utilities’ arguments that net metering policies are particularly harmful for low-income minority households. At The Hill blog, Andrea Marr – a Navy veteran, energy engineer, and member of the Truman National Security Projectwrote an open letter to refute the Congressional Black Caucus refuting utilities’ claims:

At best this is a narrow argument that omits some important detail; at worst, it is intentionally misleading fear-mongering.

What [Edison Electric Institute] likely failed to mention was that in many ways, net metering benefits both the utilities and the community. When solar customers are putting power on the grid, the utility has to spend less money on new power plants, transmission, and distribution.  Fewer power plants mean less pollution. One California study estimated a net gain of over $90 million per year as a result of net metering, despite the fact that the power put back on the grid by rate payers constituted only 0.37% of the total utilities’ power demand.

Similarly, Arturo Carmona at The Sacramento Bee wrote an opinion piece entitled “Latinos shouldn’t be pawns in fight over rooftop solar”:

The three largest utility companies in California – Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison – have been using Latinos and others who live in middle- and lower-income communities as pawns in a war against rooftop solar.

Unfortunately, the longer their war continues, the more harm will come to Latinos and other communities of color. We are bearing the brunt of toxic pollution from utility-run coal plants. Latinos, who are concentrated in the drought-stricken Southwest and coastal cities like Miami, are on the front lines of extreme weather caused by climate change.

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Nick Stumo-Langer

Nick Stumo-Langer was Communications Manager at ILSR working for all five initiatives. He ran ILSR's Facebook and Twitter profiles and builds relationships with reporters. He is an alumnus of St. Olaf College and animated by the concerns of monopoly power across our economy.