Yes, there is renewable energy in the southeast

buffalo-mountain-7We must have hit a nerve somewhere, because our opponents are bringing forward a country music phenom turned energy expert who says our song won’t play. Lance Brown, executive director of the otherwise-unknown “Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy,” says that we’re exaggerating when we claim that “unproven resources such as solar, wind, and biomass to account for the RPS requirement.”

Someday maybe we’ll invite Mr. Brown to visit the Buffalo Mountain Wind Park, or down to Florida Crystals agricultural waste power plant, to see some of these “unproven” resources. Mr. Brown’s fear of clean energy resources isn’t really of great interest to me, but some of his misrepresentations or misunderstandings of the report could easily be repeated by others. So we’ll set the record straight here.

The sun shines in North Carolina, too.
One claim is that our report is at odds with a report commissioned by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, known as the “La Capra” report, for North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. As Mr. Brown notes, we relied on that report as one of our primary resources, but we relied on more recent data and analysis that indicates that solar energy has the potential to play a much larger role than was apparent in 2007. It is our opinion that if the La Capra report were revisited and gave attention to the assumptions and findings in the recent Navigant study for Florida, a solar energy potential similar to the value we estimated would be provided for North Carolina.

In fact, our previous report (2008) adopted the La Capra perspective on solar. What changed is that a highly reputable consulting firm provided authoritative modeling data showing that the conditions under which solar energy would make sense in the southeast are within reach.

Mr. Brown went further and claimed that, “In every case, the Alliance’s estimate of North Carolina’s potential and the state’s official estimate are in total conflict.” There is indeed one other “conflict” between our findings and the La Capra study. We adopted recent findings regarding offshore wind potential that were not available in any form at the time of the La Capra study. In fact, that study scope explicitly excluded analysis of offshore wind.

In other areas, our findings were broadly consistent with the La Capra study findings. We used updated figures from the same or similar original sources that La Capra used to derive our onshore wind and biopower estimates, and also used an authoritative national study to provide small hydroelectric potential estimates.

Hydropower is renewable energy.
Mr. Brown also makes a big deal out of our mention of hydropower as renewable energy. First of all, in our report of the current production of renewable energy (it is useful to know where we’re starting from), we report renewable energy based on Energy Information Administration data, which includes hydropower.

Mr. Brown’s commentary implies that the Department of Energy has said that hydropower would not be an “approved” renewable energy resource. Since the proposed law hasn’t been passed yet, that would be conjecture. But Representative Markey’s American Renewable Energy Act (HR 890), Section 610(a)(11), clearly identifies new hydropower as an eligible resource. Existing hydropower effectively gets credit, too, by reducing a utility’s baseline, see Section 610(a)(13).

The bottom line is that our report was intended to remind everyone of the obvious: there is more than enough potential for renewable energy in the south. Exactly how Congress will define renewable energy was beyond the scope of our report (we weren’t fortunetelling).

Who wants your electricity rates to double?
Mr. Brown’s website claims we want “your electricity rates to double.” In addition to selectively quoting a few words out of context, Mr. Brown delivers as evidence our note that we assume electric rates will “increase from 9¢ to 17¢ per KWh” (which actually isn’t exactly what the footnote he refers to says). This isn’t our assumption – the Navigant study adopted this assumption from one of the scenarios used by Florida’s electric utilities in their planning process. So, that would be Florida’s utility companies – including Southern Company, parent to Alabama Power – who “want your electricity rates to double.”

In fact, a linear forcast of Florida’s electric rates illustrates that the state’s electric rates could increase to about 16¢ per KWh. Unless Mr. Brown has evidence that southeastern utilities have recently discovered a way to stop raising utility rates, he should join us in recognizing that electric rates will likely double within about a decade if nothing is done to change that.

Southeastern utilities are currently embarking on a nuclear power plant building spree that cost customers about twice as much as what they currently pay for market power purchases. One of the reasons we are getting more and more allies in our effort to bring truly clean energy to the southeast is that business and residential customers recognize that renewable energy is a better long term investment.

The Southeast has plenty of clean, affordable energy.
Our report’s goal was simply to refute the nonsense being spread that biopower, wind and solar energy are scarce to nonexistent, and that their use in the southeast would require a massive transformation of the landscape. We’ve shown that a balanced strategy would transform the way the southeast gets its power – for the better.

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You forgot to mention that Mr. Brown is a Rhodes Scholar nominee and a Truman Scholar as well. You also forgot to mention he led the University of Southern Mississippi’s Honor College with a straight 4.0 on an excellerated program and holds an MBA. This comment section won’t actually hold all the accolades and honors this guy has recieved.


Comment by Jim Coal on March 19, 2009 5:08 pm


I would like to suggest another renewable energy source to add to your list of renewables available for the Southeast. It is a very reliable renewable in that is it available 24/7/365 and works well in the winter or summer, windy or calm, cloudy or bright, day or night. It is not damaged by high winds or hail and is a distributed resource. It is so widely distributed that virtually ever building spot worldwide has this asset. It can be applied to old buildings or new. For residential, it can easily cut the energy consumption in half for the 3 largest energy uses in the home; heating, cooling, and hot water. The federal government has even recognized it as a renewable and has funded it as such with a 30% tax credit with no limit. This brings the cost down for a great return on investment and front end costs not tremendously higher than conventional HVAC in many cases. It is definitely the least expensive HVAC over the life of the system. It has over a 90% ownership approval rating. It uses the largest solar storage on earth, the earth itself.
Yes, I am talking about water source heat pumps. Pipes only 5-8 feet below the soil or lake surface will achieve all the positives listed, but the pipes can go down several hundred feet if needed for space considerations. The earth stores solar energy to remain much warmer than the air in the winter, making it a great heat source. In the summer the earth stays cooler than the air, making it a great heat sink. Since the heat pump uses electricity only to move heat, you can move 4 units of heat energy into your home using only 1 unit of electrical energy. It uses mature technology that most HVAC companies can adapt to with some training or with some new green technicians. It borrows trenching, boring, and drilling equipment from other common uses. It does not require a separate system for backup.
The technology shaves peak loads in the summer and especially in the winter since the electrical resistance heat rarely comes on. It does not generate, so is does not require new transmission lines. It only reduces the load on the existing grid. It is a great step towards reducing the load to make homes solar PV ready. It is the best kept secret solution that could make a major contribution to meeting our energy goals. This down into earth resource deserves our below grassroots support. I would applaud SACE for promoting this technology by any of its names: Water Source Heat Pumps (WSHP), Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP), Geothermal Heat Pumps (GHP), GeoExchange Heat Pumps, or Earth Linked Heat Pumps, to name a few.

GO GEO!


Comment by Ken Wilson on March 25, 2009 9:00 pm


[...] is poised to expand that base by investing in Florida and creating jobs to meet the RPS targets. A review of recent economic reports indicates that renewable energy sources such as solar and biomass will create substantially more [...]


Pingback by Dear Florida Senator re: FL Renewable Portfolio Standard | FollowGreen.com on March 27, 2009 11:59 am


[...] is poised to expand that base by investing in Florida and creating jobs to meet the RPS targets. A review of recent economic reports indicates that renewable energy sources such as solar and biomass will create substantially more [...]


Pingback by Dear Florida Senator re: FL Renewable Portfolio Standard | EcoSilly on March 27, 2009 12:01 pm


[...] is poised to expand that base by investing in Florida and creating jobs to meet the RPS targets. A review of recent economic reports indicates that renewable energy sources such as solar and biomass will create substantially more [...]


Pingback by Green Blogs » Blog Archive » Dear Florida Senator re: FL Renewable Portfolio Standard on March 27, 2009 12:52 pm


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Comment by Solar Energy Information on April 3, 2009 7:54 am


[...] Contrary to some claims, there are enough renewable energy resources in the southeast region to meet a renewable energy target of 20% by 2020.  This includes the Tennessee Valley.  Whether it is federal law or not, TVA should be striving to meet aggressive targets for developing in-Valley renewable energy resources.  The Southeast’s solar, wind and bioenergy can provide clean, cost effective energy while creating jobs, strengthening local economies and reducing our impact on climate change.  But TVA must be on board. [...]


Pingback by In-Valley renewables missing from TVA draft Integrated Resource Plan | Ace Campaign on October 16, 2010 8:55 pm


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