Tag Archives: Solar Industry

Los Angeles’s Low-Priced Solar Power Has Problems Coming Its Way

By Cassie McCorkle, Energy Industry Reports

It has been more than a month that Los Angeles has signed a contract for record-cheap solar power and the officials are trying to deny it. The labor union is concerned over Mayor Eric Garcetti’s decision to put an end to the three gas-fired power plants. It has been clearly mentioned in the 25-year contract signed with 8minute Solar Energy that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will pay 2 cents per kilowatt-hour or lower. This is the lowest price ever waged for solar power in the US and it is lower than the cost of electricity generated from the natural gas-fired power plant. The Eland project has 200 Megawatts of lithium-ion batteries planned other than the 400 Megawatts of solar power to store solar power for a complete day and to let it into the grid for 4 Hours each night.

The combined payment of L.A. payers for solar power could be 3.3 cents per kilowatt-hour. The concerns of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 have forced the City Council to not approve the contract. IBEW Local 18 is concerned that Garcetti’s “Green New Deal” initiative has shutdown 3 coastal gas plants and would result in unemployment of 400 LADWP workers. The workers consider Garcetti’s plans to create unemployment and increase electricity prices. Others may consider the current plan as a childlike proposal but as per the Mayor, the Eland project may not replace the large plants instead can help reduce the dependency on gas. The pricing of 8minute that relies on the federal investment tax credit for solar energy is expected to drop by 26% by this year end. By December, the company plans to start construction to be eligible for the 30% tax credit.

Similarly, a 500 MW project is on its way to construction, as per the Kern County Board of Supervisors. This new project is the one more addition to the long list of large projects taking place in California. This project is a part of the Eland 1 Solar Project: 8minutenergy. The project will be started only after the Eland 1 Solar is approved.

Read full article from Energy Industry Reports

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LA & 8Minute Solar ink lowest cost solar-plus-storage deal in U.S. history

By Steve Hanley, CleanTechnica

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has signed a groundbreaking 25-year power purchase agreement with 8Minute Solar. The deal will make possible the largest municipal solar plus storage facility in the US. But the best part is the combined price for solar energy plus storage is just 3.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, the lowest ever in the US and cheaper than electricity from a natural gas powered generating plant.

The electricity will come from a massive solar power plant located on 2000 acres of undeveloped desert in Kern County, just 70 miles from the city. Known as the Eland Solar and Storage Center, it will be built in two stages of 200 MW each, with the first coming online in 2022 and the second phase scheduled to be switched on the following year.

Los Angeles DWP will take 375 MWac of solar power coupled with 385.5 MW/1,150 MWh of energy storage, according to PV Magazine. Neighboring Glendale Water and Power will take 25 MWac of solar plus 12.5 MW/50 MWh of energy. The electricity from Eland I and II is expected to meet between 6 and 7% of Los Angeles’ needs, according to PV Magazine.

The Eland Solar & Storage Center has been engineered by 8minute to provide fully dispatchable power under control of the LADWP to meet its customers’ demands with reliable and cost-effective power — a capability previously reserved for large fossil fuel power plants. Eland’s ability to provide fully dispatchable power for less than the traditional cost of fossil fuels effectively positions solar PV as an attractive candidate to be the primary source of California’s 100% clean energy future.

Read full article from CleanTechnica

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California agencies meet to begin charting course to 100% renewable energy

By Mark Anderson, The Sacramento Business Journal

The first-ever joint meeting of California agencies that will draw the path to a zero-carbon future met in Sacramento to start planning for the state’s 100% renewable goal by 2045.

The meeting included the California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission and the California Air Resources Board, which are all tasked to meet the ambitious goals of 2018’s Senate Bill 100, which mandates that California use renewable resources to supply 100% of its electricity by the end of 2045.

The purpose of the meeting was to make sure that the different agencies are not working in silos, said Alice Reynolds, senior adviser on energy for Gov. Gavin Newsom. “We want to build an integrated plan,” she said. “To bring ambition to action.”

She said the state doesn’t have all the answers now for what will be an “incredibly difficult task,” adding that the state likely won’t have the answers when the agencies’ first report on progress is due next summer. “We’re not planning for the world as it is now. We are planning for the future,” Reynolds said. Temperatures may be higher then, requiring more air conditioning.

Still, commissioners expressed confidence that the effort won’t be damaging to California’s economy. “As we are seeing with coal, rolling back environmental standards doesn’t create jobs,” said Liane Randolph, a commissioner with the California Public Utilities Commission.

California’s previous mandates for renewable energy have created jobs, said Andrew McAllister, a commissioner with the California Energy Commission. He said the state has created 80,000 solar energy jobs and 100,000 jobs in energy efficiency.

Read full article in the Sacramento Business Journal

 

Solar distributor altE acquires off-grid veterans Real Goods

By Billy Ludt, Solar Power World

Alternative Energy Store (altE), a Massachusetts-based distributor of solar energy products and systems, acquired Real Goods, a California-based solar retailer.

Founded in 1978, Real Goods is an early purveyor of off-grid living supplies. Envisioned as a one-stop-shop to meet all the needs of remote homesteaders, the store began with the sale of the first retail solar panel in the United States. In 1982 Real Goods published the Solar Living Sourcebook, a resource for off-the-grid living, renewable energy, green building, homesteading and all things sustainable. Since then, over 500,000 copies have been sold in 44 English-speaking countries.

The Real Goods office and warehouse will remain Hopland-Ukiah, California, focusing on both off-grid and grid-tied renewable energy systems and sales. With the acquisition, Real Goods will also begin offering competitive programs for professional solar installers on the West Coast, with expanded inventory and distributor pricing.

Read full article from Solar Power World

Los Angeles has lined up record-cheap solar power. But there’s a problem

By Sammy Roth, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles has been sitting on a contract for record-cheap solar power for more than a month — and city officials declined to approve it Tuesday because of concerns raised by the city-run utility’s labor union, which is still fuming over Mayor Eric Garcetti’s decision to shut down three gas-fired power plants.

Under the 25-year contract with developer 8minute Solar Energy, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power would pay less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour — a number city officials and independent experts say would be the lowest price ever paid for solar power in the United States, and cheaper than the cost of electricity from a typical natural gas-fired power plant.

In addition to 400 megawatts of solar power, the Eland project would include at least 200 megawatts of lithium-ion batteries, capable of storing solar power during the day and injecting it into the grid for four hours each night. The combined price to L.A. ratepayers of the solar and storage would be 3.3 cents per kilowatt-hour — also a record low for this type of contract.

But LADWP’s Board of Commissioners voted not to send the contract to the City Council for approval, after utility staff said concerns had been raised by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents utility employees. In recent months, IBEW Local 18 has run television and radio ads attacking Garcetti’s Green New Deal initiative, which includes the retirement of three coastal gas plants that employ more than 400 LADWP workers.

…The Eland project, which is planned for the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles, wouldn’t replace those gas plants. But it could help L.A. reduce its reliance on gas, which has become California’s largest electricity source as utilities look for evening power sources to fill in for solar after the sun goes down.

Read full article in the Los Angeles Times

California solar plus storage shows consistent installs, residential growth

By John Weaver, pv magazine

The California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA) has collected and shared data on California’s behind the meter solar+storage activity in the first half of 2019, with data that goes back to the beginning of 2016.

The data suggests that within the three main investor owned utilities – San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric – commercial interconnections are running slightly behind the 2018 numbers in terms of projects interconnected. However, residential systems seem to be picking up a bit. 

One chart that gives a bit of indigestion is the time for approval for stand alone and solar+storage installations – if only because of the high variance, but also because quite a few larger projects take more than a year to get approved. The projects are divided into residential, commercial, education and industrial with time frames ranging roughly from 30 to 60 days for residential, to two years for industrial systems. Adding solar power to a storage installation seems to speed up the amount of time for a residential installation, however, it slows a commercial installation.

In Pacific Gas & Electric territory 20% of residential energy storage systems are stand alone, while in the other territories solar is coupled with storage 99-100% of time. Commercial installations had an inverse relationship though – with only 40% of storage projects coupled with solar power, suggesting the market is being driven by other factors like demand charges.

Read full article from pv magazine

 

Two Years In, Tesla’s SolarCity Deal Looks Increasingly Like A Bad Bet

By Trefis Team (Contributor), Forbes

Tesla acquired residential solar installer Solar City in late 2016 with the ambition of creating a vertically integrated renewable energy company, that marries electricity generation, storage, and sustainable transportation. However, almost two years later, the acquisition doesn’t appear to be living up to expectations, with the company’s solar installations trending lower and new product launches seeing delays. This could be concerning to investors, considering that the deal cost close to $5 billion (Tesla issued about $2 billion in stock and assumed around $2.9 billion of SolarCity’s net debt). In this note, we take a look at how these operations are faring.

Solar Installations Are Trending Lower: Over the second quarter, the company’s energy generation and storage segment generated revenues of about $375 million accounting for under 10% of Tesla’s total revenues. While this marks an increase of about 30% on a year-over-year basis, the revenues also include sales of Tesla’s Powerwall battery system as well as larger-scale energy storage projects, which are part of Tesla’s battery operations and are not directly related to its SolarCity purchase. Although Tesla doesn’t provide a break-up of storage versus panel revenues, we believe it’s likely that the storage solutions are outperforming the solar installation business. Over Q2 2018, the company deployed 84 MW of energy generation and 203 MWh of energy storage products. In comparison, in the year-ago period, the company deployed 176 MW of solar energy generation systems and 97 MWh of energy storage systems.

Read full article at Forbes

California’s Distributed Energy Future

GTM Research has established itself as the premier source of information on solar industry trends and developments in the United States. It’s instructive that from that perspective, they chose to organize a conference focusing on a single state, California.

We who participate in the solar industry here have recognized the state as a leader, but the less patronizing among us also recognize that the magnitude of this lead is only temporary. If solar is to realize its potential as one means of reducing environmental damage while reducing future customer utility costs, then other parts of the United States need to catch up (and as GTM’s latest data for 2015 shows, they are).

Nonetheless, as GTM Research Senior Vice President Shayle Kann observed in his opening keynote at GTM’s California Distributed Energy Future conference in San Francisco, California remains the epicenter of next generation distributed energy (DE) regulation and is at the forefront of the shift toward distributed energy in the U.S. And (I would add) what happens in California doesn’t always stay in California. Hence the conference to examine California’s transition to a distributed energy future and consider what’s working and what isn’t.

The discussions at the conference covered a variety of issues confronting the state. Here is an overview of the key themes coming out of the discussions, and the insights shared by the different speakers:

The strongest and most frequently recurring theme was that of the interaction of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs, essentially distributed solar PV) and the electrical grid. This issue has numerous dimensions, and subsequent “fireside chats” helped highlight some of these.

Appropriately the first discussion was with a Senior Vice President from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California’s largest investor-owned utility (IOU) and the utility with more connected PV capacity than any other in the United States. Issues were fairly raised: e.g., how should rates be structured to fairly compensate the value of Grid access received by the customer, how does PG&E envision an environment of growing Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) systems and how is the Grid managed for reliability. Unfortunately, the moderator for this session let the PG&E representative off with the stock, PR answers: “we have to make changes in our rate structures”, “they can work, note how long Marin (Clean Energy, 2010) and Sonoma (Clean Power, 2014) have been in service”, and “we need to build in robustness.”

Ah well, at least subsequent chats returned to DER issues in more depth. DERs can lower costs for Grid operators / managers; experiments were cited by both Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) involving combinations of storage and DERs. Time of Use (TOU) pricing is coming, and 150 studies worldwide on this issue indicate that customers like this. But there is just too little experience with California’s residential customers while the customers themselves have too little information on which to make decisions as to costs versus savings.

Questions were also raised about Grid planning, to which respondents appeared to agree that too much is moving to identify a “right” strategy, especially as there isn’t even agreement on how to weigh technical issues such as reliability against other social goals we “should” be pursuing. The underlying complexity raised by these superficially straightforward questions was well-highlighted.

Michael Picker, President of the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) noted that despite all the issues the CPUC addresses, DE issues are of significant importance. CPUC needs to consider even the framework for its decision making processes going forward. A system designed to regulate railroads in the 1890’s may not provide the responsiveness and flexibility for regulating changes to utilities in a rapidly evolving technological, economic and social environment. The “adversarial” approach used in CPUC proceedings may not be the best approach—why is the current process more dependent on legal skills than on engineering skills? The desire is to move forward not too fast, not too slow in opening the market to competition while allowing utilities to remain viable business entities. These are issues that could keep one up at night.

Michael Picker (CPUC, left) and Shayle Kann (GTM, right) during their “Fireside Chat”

GTM California's Distributed Energy Future Conference

The second, albeit lesser, recurring theme I heard at the conference was that of CCA developments. Until this year, there have been only three of these organized in California: Marin (with subsequent geographic extensions) and Sonoma were cited above, and Lancaster Choice Energy was launched in 2015. San Francisco’s Clean Power SF, Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Peninsula Clean Energy (San Mateo County) are in the process of launching this year.

As Mark Ferron, CAISO Board of Governors, cited, in 5 years 60% of the state’s eligible population could potentially be served by CCA’s if all programs now in discussion came to completion in that time. He provided a link in later discussion which I repeat here for those who want to follow up on the tally he reported: climateprotection.tumblr.com/tagged/Community-Choice

CCA’s make solar available to those in multi-family dwellings or who own a home not situated with a solar-favorable orientation or location. Expansion of solar power to these customers is required if solar-based power is to expand. Yet as Michael Picker observed, CCA “forced collectivization is a coup against the traditional utility model, challenging utilities and eroding the role of the PUC.” We don’t know yet where this takes existing suppliers and industry participants.

The challenges of the new, evolving energy infrastructure are actively being addressed by the states of California and New York. Conferences such as this provide an excellent opportunity to reflect on the issues and the difficulty this transition poses for firms competing in the market, regulators and the state legislatures who will eventually need to rewrite the rules for structuring state energy markets.

Yikes! Is California’s interest in Solar Energy Collapsing?

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released their US Solar Market Insight 2015 Year in Review on Wednesday, March 9. We’ve been tracking their PV capacity reports for the past several years, and in the figure below we plot the 2015 capacity increases reported in their Executive Summary.

While there was strong national growth in installation capacity this past year, California’s capacity additions were less than in 2014. After a couple years of providing over half the annual capacity additions in the country (57% last year), California’s share has fallen to a mere 45%.

 Annual PV Installations: California and U.S. Total (2010-2015)

Annual PV Installations: California & U.S. Total (2010-2015)

We picked ourselves up off the floor and asked “What is happening; is this for real?” So we called GTM Research and checked other sources to find out what in the world was going on. Turns out that despite the disastrous looking change, solar growth in California remains alive and well.
Turns out the primary reason for the downturn is a sharp decline in Utility-scale PV projects. According to GTM, these additions fell to the vicinity of 1800 MW last year. [I wish we could afford the $2000 – $6000 for the full report that our SEIA Membership entitles us to so that we could access all the GTM data. But we live in lean times and use information from diverse public sources such as US Energy Information Agency (EIA) and California Energy Commission (CEC) as well as GTM’s summaries to inform our understanding.]

According to EIA information published in late February, it appears that Utility-scale solar PV expanded by 2000 MW in 2014, but only 1100 MW (preliminary) in 2015. Data from diverse sources rarely match-up year-to-year, but the trends are identical—California’s utility-scale PV installations experienced a sharp reduction in 2015.

After checking the CEC’s most recent Tracking Progress, Renewable Energy-Overview, we can see why—the utility industry is ahead of target for meeting the state’s 2016 Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) 25% goal. The industry achieved almost 25% renewables in 2014! The state added approximately 4000 MW of utility scale PV capacity between 2013 and 2015. Utilities are meeting their target early; the apparent slowdown is a temporary pause while utilities work on the installations that will get the state to 33% renewable electricity by 2020.

Distributed generation activity remains strong in California, both in the Residential and Non-Residential segments. The state’s residential customers generated demand for approximately 1000 MW of installations—almost half the national total of 2100 MW. And other distributed generation customers (eg, commercial rooftops) account for about another 300 MW.

So for the first time in years, California’s share of new solar PV installation is now less than half the national total. Good news! The rest of the country is waking up to the benefits of solar energy with capacity increasing in numerous states. The Utility sector is leading this expansion, while the residential sector growth is accelerating. We’re pleased to see this expansion.

Smug About Your Solar Roof? Not So Fast

By Severin Borenstein (Professor, UC Berkeley), The Los Angeles Times

If you’ve installed solar panels on your roof and feel aglow with environmental virtue, you may be in for a rude awakening. There’s a good chance someone else has purchased your halo and is wearing it right now.

In most states (including California), rooftop solar panels earn Renewable Energy Certificates, which quantify how much clean electricity they produce. But if panels are leased or installed under a power purchase agreement, it’s the “third-party owner” — not the homeowner — who gets those certificates. Most then turn around and sell the RECs, a process that magically turns brown electrons green.

Here’s how it works: Joe’s Solar puts panels on your roof that produce 7,500 kilowatt-hours a year, and Joe sells you the electricity under a power purchase agreement. Because Joe still owns the panels, he gets credit — in the form of RECs — for that renewable electricity. Meanwhile, Bob’s all-fossil utility wants to “green up” so it buys RECs from Joe. That allows Bob to relabel 7,500 kilowatt-hours of his coal- or gas-fired power generation as “renewable energy.”

It may sound strange, but a market to sell or trade RECs can be extremely useful. California, for instance, has a mandate for its utilities to generate 33% renewable power by 2020, but some parts of the state have little sun or wind resources. Still, utilities in sunny or windy spots can produce more than their requirement and then sell the extra RECs to areas where it would be much more costly, or impossible, to hit the target. Thus, the RECs market allows a utility in one region to finance additional green energy production in another where it is cheaper, supporting more carbon reduction at a lower cost to consumers.

That seems sensible enough. But something’s wrong if the buying and selling utility companies both claim that green power as their own. And that’s essentially what’s been going on with solar rooftops.

Read full op-ed in the Los Angeles Times