U.S. Military Sees Great Value in Distributed Renewable Energy

Date: 22 Dec 2010 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

There’s no better illustration of the value of distributed renewable energy than the U.S. military.  In Iraq, the 50,000 U.S. troops (as of August 2010) use 600 million gallons of fuel per year at a cost of dozens of lives of U.S. soldiers who die protecting fuel convoys and financial cost of nearly $27 billion for fuel and security ($45 per gallon!).  New distributed renewable energy systems can help combat brigades reduce fuel consumption, saving lives and money.

One Marine company – Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines – field-tested the Ground Renewable Expeditionary ENergy System (GREENS) system in August 2010 and found that it saved 8 gallons of fuel per day for each of the company’s 150 men.  Complemented with other renewable energy systems, the Marines powered their combat operations center without using the diesel generator for eight days.

The renewable technology that will power Company I costs about $50,000 to $70,000; a single diesel generator costs several thousand dollars. But when it costs hundreds of dollars to get each gallon of traditional fuel to base camps in Afghanistan, the investment is quickly defrayed.”

It takes approximately 200 GREENS (1,600 kilowatts of solar modules with battery storage for 300 Watts of continuous power) to replace a single 60 kilowatt diesel generator, but it saved the Marine company 1,200 gallons of fuel per day.  In Iraq, that fuel would have cost $45 per gallon, including transportation and security costs.  That’s a savings of $54,000 in a single day.  If priced at $70,000 each, the 200 GREENS will pay back in 260 days, less than 9 months. 

If every U.S. company serving in Iraq made use of GREENS, it would reduce fuel consumption by U.S. troops by 25%, saving 146 million gallons of fuel and $6.5 billion per year. 

There are benefits besides saved fuel and money.  Marines appreciated that the solar-powered base systems are quiet, and also don’t require constant refueling.  The no-fuel requirement also benefits security, as 72 U.S. soldiers died protecting convoys in Iraq in 2009.

The military provides a great illustration of the utility and cost-effectiveness of distributed generation, and one that should inform state-side strategies for energy deployment.

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Change in Tax Credit Policy Drives 24% Drop in Residential Solar Price

Date: 16 Dec 2010 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Update: It’s important to note that this refers to the net installed cost.  In other words, the installed cost dropped because residential solar customers were now getting an uncapped federal tax credit. We wrote in this 2009 report about the perverse problems created by the $2,000 cap on the federal residential solar tax credit.  The uncapping … Read More

Distributed Solar Power, Illustrated

Date: 13 Dec 2010 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

With environmental (e.g. desert tortoise) and political (NIMBY) questions raised about centralized renewable energy generation, it’s worth noting that we can generate a lot of power by covering already developed spaces.  See California, where solar PV arrays cover parking lots, providing peak power and soothing shade for the shielded vehicles underneath. Not only are these solar-powered … Read More

Perverse Policy Makes Distributed Renewables More Expensive

Date: 9 Dec 2010 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

We’ve talked previously about the perversity of using tax credits to incentivize renewable energy production, increasing transaction costs and reducing participation in renewable energy development.  But there are other perversities in U.S. state and utility renewable energy policies, especially with upfront rebates and net metering. Let’s start with rebates.  Many states and utilities offer upfront rebates … Read More

Eight Reasons Distributed Power Generation Is Superior To Central Power Station Expansion

Date: 2 Dec 2010 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Key benefits of distributed power generation (DP). Proven technologies for DP are widely scalable. Obvious example: a wind farm can be incrementally built in multiples of approximately 1.4 MW. Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean “cheaper” for DP. Customers can match the DP capacities to precisely known needs and not have to over-buy equipment. (see Figure 1 in … Read More

Distributed Concentrating Solar Thermal Power? Yes.

Date: 30 Nov 2010 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

When discussing centralized v. decentralized solar power, there’s an inevitable comparison between solar thermal electric power and solar photovoltaic (PV).  But the fact is that solar thermal power – or concentrating solar power (CSP) – can also be done in a distributed fashion. In fact, of the 21 operational CSP plants in the world, 18 are … Read More

Increasing On-Site Consumption of Distributed Solar

Date: 22 Nov 2010 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

It’s rarely mentioned that a home with a solar array still gets most of its electricity from the grid.  In fact, without storage, a typical home solar array might only serve one-third of a home’s electricity use, even if the system is big enough to meet the home’s peak needs. The problem is a mis-match in … Read More

Community Solar Should Save Money, Not Just Trees

Date: 18 Nov 2010 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

IN this environmentally conscious college town, thousands of bicyclists commute each day through a carefully cultivated urban forest whose canopy shields riders and their homes from the harsh sun of this state’s Central Valley.

The intensity of that sunshine also makes Davis an attractive place to generate clean green energy from rooftop solar panels. And therein lies a conundrum. Tapping the power of the sun can also mean cutting down some of those trees.

Enter community solar.  Individuals can invest in a nearby, common solar PV installation, saving kilowatt-hours and trees.

But the article provides some poor examples: the Sacremento Municipal Utility District’s Solar Shares and SunSmart in St. George, UT.  In the case of the former, participants pay extra for their solar power.  In the case of the latter, participants pay extra for solar and – worse – pay up front for 20 years of more expensive power. 

In our recent report – Community Solar Power: Obstacles and Opportunities – we provide a case study of nine operational community solar projects – five of them provide a payback on investment rather than asking a premium price for clean power.

Community solar can save trees, but it can also save participants money.   

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