Florida Utility Gulf Power & Department of Defense Go Solar with Coronal

Tucked in the far northwest corner of the Florida panhandle, many people forget about the Navy and Air Force bases located there, out of sight, out of mind. These somewhat remote locations were in the headlines just last month though, and for a great reason: Three large solar installations had just been completed. A total of 120 MW, it is the largest combined portfolio of solar facilities on Department of Defense property to date.

This video was produced by Coronal about the Gulf Power solar projects.

The project was accomplished via a deal between the local utility, Gulf Power, solar developer Coronal Energy, and the Department of Defense in what Gulf Power Chairman, President, and CEO called an “innovative public-private partnership”. Here’s how it works: The land the solar panels are on is owned by the military. Gulf Power is currently leasing the land, and then sub leasing to Coronal Energy. Coronal built the built the solar farms in partnership with the Department of Defense, who receives lease payments, and is now selling all the power the solar farms are generating back to Gulf Power.

Read more…

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Longer Range EVs are Here NOW

When we think about electric vehicles (EVs) – range is an overarching theme. How far can they really go? According to the United States Department of Transportation, the average American travels just 36 miles per day. Although many of us have no idea how much we actually travel and aren’t in the habit of researching transportation statistics, the mere thought of only being able to go 100 miles in an electric car makes them unappealing to the masses.

2018 Nissan LEAF Photo Credit: David Massey

“Range anxiety” is the term that describes the fear drivers experience of not knowing if they have enough charge to get through their day. That fear of the unknown is cited as the biggest hesitation when considering the purchase of an EV even though a recent MIT study demonstrated that current, affordable EVs are able to replace 87% of personal transportation needs on a given day.

Automakers are beginning to respond and understand that for the electric revolution (and their business to adapt and grow) they need to offer products that meet consumers’ real and perceived needs. They’ve heard the call and several exciting second generation EVs are rolling off factory floors. Here are a few of the newer EV options offering longer ranges:

2018 Nissan LEAF

The redesigned 2018 model year Nissan LEAF (just released on September 5) and its 40 kilowatt hour battery is projected to get 150 miles of range. The starting price is $31K which gets it to $23.5K once the federal tax credit is applied. It also offers safety features usually associated with luxury cars like one pedal driving, ProPILOT Assist (which will keep you at a preset distance from the car in front of you among other things), and automatic emergency braking. Additionally, Nissan will be offering a 60 kWh battery model option that is expected to have 200 miles or more of range that will be released in 2019.

Read more…

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Now is Exactly the Time to have that Discussion about Climate Change

This column appeared in the September 15th edition of the Tampa Bay Times here.

As a native Floridian, I chose to ride out Hurricane Irma in my hometown of Tampa – just a few miles north of where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play football. Like millions of other Floridians who evacuated low-lying, beach communities for higher ground, I had the obvious safety concerns and worries about whether I would even have a home to return to. But as a public interest advocate who has worked on climate and energy issues every day for almost 2 decades, I also have intense concerns about the growing connections between the climate change – hurricane nexus.

So when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says it’s insensitive to Floridians and Texans to talk about climate change during hurricane emergencies, I say he missed the boat as to what’s truly insensitive.

What’s insensitive is not talking about the links between warmer surface water temperatures and more intense weather events. What’s insensitive is dismantling the Clean Power Plan that was put in place to reduce climate changing carbon pollution. What’s insensitive is unraveling the environmental protections we all rely on so allies in the oil and gas industry can continue to pollute for free and have consumers pick up the tab.

Plain and simple, we are altering the climate of our planet for all living beings just so that a few people can make money selling, trading, producing fuels and products that emit greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not okay and it’s got to stop.

Increased greenhouse gas emissions are fueling more extreme weather events. It’s just that simple. The warmer ocean temperatures in the Atlantic and the Gulf are contributing to more intense hurricanes. Climate change is causing sea level rise that adds to the threat of coastal flooding. Read more…

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Thank You, Senator Alexander, For Key Climate Vote

Senator Lamar AlexanderLast week, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander stood for sound climate and foreign policy as he voted to uphold funding for international climate change dialogue. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 16-14 last week for a $10 million budget to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as part of the $51 billion package for the State Department and foreign programs.

This vote is in line with the opinion of the majority of Tennesseans, and the majority of Republican voters, who wish for U.S. participation in international efforts to curb global warming. Continued funding of international dialogue of climate change helps keep the United States at the table as virtually every other nation in the world moves forward on climate action.

SACE applauds Senator Alexander for his vote and bipartisan, commonsense vote.

See SACE’s letter to Senator Alexander here.

 

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Harvey, Irma, Jose and the shocks and hazards of place

This blog was originally posted here by Mary Babic at Oxfam America on September 8, 2017. Oxfam worked with the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute (HVRI) to develop a series of Social Vulnerability maps for the southeastern states in the US. These maps measure and illustrate the convergence of social vulnerability factors (such as economic standing and age, among others) and four environmental hazards: flooding, hurricane force winds, sea-level rise, and drought.

U.S Border Patrol agent Mario Fuentes talks with a family after Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Texas. Among the factors that make it hard for people to cope with disasters: fragile housing, rural locations, language barriers, poverty. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Vulnerable populations feel the most harm from extreme weather events.

As hurricanes are flooding and battering coastal regions in the Gulf Coast and Atlantic, millions are scrambling to survive—and soon to recover and rebuild. For years, Oxfam has been studying how the “hazards of place” pose heightened dangers to the most vulnerable.

When a population is both socially vulnerable and especially exposed to climate hazards, the result is a wake of rubble and broken dreams. As climate change exacerbates the impact of environmental events, millions of people are stranded in harm’s way, and the most vulnerable are feeling disproportionate risk and damage.

Yes, climate hazards are natural events in weather cycles. We’ve always had hurricanes and droughts, flooding and high winds.

However, we’re currently witnessing a scale of destruction and devastation that is new and terrifying. The blows are more ferocious; and the vulnerable people in harm’s way are feeling the impact most acutely.

The last couple weeks alone have seen a series of devastating climate disasters in various parts of the world. The hurricanes close to home – Harvey, Irma, and possibly Jose – are part of a growing, global trend of more intense and destructive storm cycles. From Houston to Haiti to Mumbai, millions of homes are underwater or blown over, and millions of people are homeless and impoverished. Read more…

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Solar Power International: A Wrap-Up

Co-authored by Bryan Jacob, Simon Mahan and Alissa Jean Schafer

Solar Edge exhibit at SPI

All of the things we mentioned in our blog after the opening session did come up again throughout Solar Power International (#SPIcon).  Maybe we should have been placing bets.  We were in Las Vegas, after all.

We were definitely correct with one of our predictions.  The Suniva trade case did emerge as a dominant theme.  That was true both in the sessions and in the hallway discussions.  One of the General Sessions was about “The ‘Other’ ITC” – to distinguish the Investment Tax Credit from the International Trade Commission.  The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) predicts that 88,000 solar jobs are at risk if Suniva’s petition is granted.  In the Southeast, North Carolina and Florida stand to lose 4700 and 3700 jobs, respectively — and South Carolina could lose 7000 (more than 90%) of their solar jobs.  SEIA also indicated that about 47 GW of solar capacity is at risk over the next 4 years.  Again, downscaling that to the Southeast, we think it could affect as much as 4 GW of our projected growth or to put that in monetary terms, at least $4 billion of investment at risk.

While that ITC cast a shadow over the entire SPI, we did also want to point out some of the other content that was highlighted.

Read more…

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Wind and Solar Power: Complementary Energy Resources

Pairing Solar and Wind Power in the Southeast, Solar Power International, 2017

Pairing Solar and Wind Power in the Southeast, Solar Power International, 2017

Here at Solar Power International, a number of attendees have openly wondered: how can wind power and solar power work better, together? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two resources pair together quite nicely, naturally.

With nearly 3.5 gigawatts of wind power purchase agreements, and over 5 GW of installed solar power, the South has begun to embrace renewable energy. Pairing utility scale wind and solar power in the South could improve renewable energy market share as well as relieve potential integration issues. For example, as higher levels of solar power penetration occur, several utilities have noted a trend moving towards higher winter peak generation demand.

Several utilities throughout the region are already winter-peaking. Diurnal patterns indicate wind power resources tend to be strongest at nighttime, tapering off mid-day. Alternatively, solar power resources are strongest mid-day, with no output at nighttime. As such, wind power and solar power resources are naturally complementary diurnally (each day).

Seasonal patterns indicate wind power resources tend to be strongest at wintertime, tapering off during summertime. Alternatively, solar power resources are strongest during summertime, with less output during wintertime. As such, wind power and solar power resources are naturally seasonally complementary.

With good complementarity between diurnal and seasonal patterns, wind power and solar power resources are likely to work well, together. Granted, this is oversimplifying some of the more complex issues specific utilities may have to handle during particularly unusual times (after all, we had an eclipse a few weeks ago, and back-to-back Category 4+ hurricanes). But on balance, renewable energy resources are much, much more resilient than some people may anticipate.

Be sure to stay tuned for our “wrap-up” blog, highlighting some of the major issues discussed at Solar Power International 2017!

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SPEAK UP: Duke Energy Rate Adjustment Hearings in NC!

Duke Energy Progress, which provides power to over a million households and 200,000 businesses in North Carolina, is proposing a major rate hike. If Duke gets its way, the rate hike will:

• Raise residential rates 16.7% – that’s $17.80 per month for a typical household.
• Nearly double the fixed monthly charge, reducing your ability to control bills by using energy more efficiently or installing rooftop solar.
• Pay over $400 million to expand natural gas burning power plants.

But before Duke Energy can proceed, the North Carolina Utilities Commission must approve these changes, and that’s where you come in. The Commission is holding public hearings where you have an opportunity to make your comment in person.

Mark your calendar for one of these 7pm hearings:

September 12 in Rockingham
September 25 in Raleigh
September 27 in Asheville
October 11 in Snow Hill
October 12 in Wilmington

You may also comment at the formal evidentiary hearing, where Duke Energy and expert witnesses will present testimony, which begins at 1pm November 20 in Raleigh.

Rate hikes can be adjusted based on input from customers, advocates, and other stakeholders. For background info and what to expect at the hearings, click here. For questions, email SACE’s Campaigns Director Amelia Shenstone at amelia@cleanenergy.org.

Engage in the democratic process with Duke Energy by attending a hearing this month!

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Corporate Solar Purchasers in the Southeast: A Growing Major Market

Corporate Solar Purchases in the Southeast, Solar Power International, 2017

Corporate Solar Purchases in the Southeast, Solar Power International, 2017

Solar Power International is in full swing here in Vegas! SACE participated in the annual Poster Reception Monday evening, with the information on corporate solar purchases in the Southeast.

While I has prepared the poster on corporate solar procurement, Hurricane Irma unfortunately grounded my flight, preventing my attendance at SPI this year. Thankfully, our new, more than capable, Solar Program Director Bryan Jacob was able to step in and present in my place. For those of you not at SPI, here are some of the main takeaway’s on my poster:

CORPORATE SOLAR PURCHASES IN THE U. S. SOUTHEAST

More than ever before, corporations throughout the world are powering their businesses with renewable energy. According to Power Forward 3.0, nearly half of the companies in the 2016 Fortune 500 have set targets to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG), improve energy efficiency, and/or increase renewable energy sourcing—this stat is up five percentage points from 2014. Pushed by social and economic forces, this upwards trend is expected to continue. After a huge bump in 2015, when the Federal ITC was originally scheduled to expire, demand levels of corporate solar capacity have returned to a more incremental rate of increase, with June 2017 numbers already close to 2016’s year end total. Read more…

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Welcome to Solar Power International in Las Vegas

As a newcomer to SPI (Solar Power International), I can admit that I’m truly overwhelmed.  It’s a good thing they offer a First-Time Attendee Orientation, which I attended yesterday afternoon to get the lay of the land.  An original estimate was that SPI would draw 18,000 people but the organizers think attendance may achieve a record 20,000.

This was obvious when I entered the main hall for the Opening General Session.  Let me first share a few gee whiz factoids that were scrolling on screen before that session:

  • The U.S.A. has 47 GW of installed solar nationwide now.
  • 39% of new energy capacity in the USA last year was solar (the most of any energy source)
  • Mandalay Bay, the venue for SPI 2017, has 8.3 MMW of solar.

I’m always keen to listen in the opening session for themes that I think may echo throughout a multi-day event like this.  Here are a few things I think may resonate:

  • Moving beyond the antiquated notion of “baseload” generation – instead what we need is “flexible, resilient, reliable” power.
  • The Suniva trade case.  Abigail Ross Harper, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), asserted that all of the jobs represented in the room are at risk.  We will have an entire session devoted to this topic today.
  • Diversity in the solar industry.  The Solar Foundation released a report (2017 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study).  Apparently women represented a full half of the new solar jobs created last year.  That’s good news, but I’m sure we’ll learn about other aspects of that report throughout SPI.
  • Disruption.  Our keynote speaker (Rory McDonald) from Harvard Business School, opened our eyes to “competing and innovating in a disruptive environment.”  Solar has been and will continue to be a disruptive force in the energy sector.

Read more…

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