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The Stream, August 30: Groundwater Contaminated In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal

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The Global Rundown

Poor water quality means the majority of groundwater in the basin stretching across northern India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal is unfit for human use. The period in time since humans began significantly altering the planet should be officially recognized as a new geological epoch, called the Anthropocene, according to an expert working group. Climate change may not cause as sharp an increase in drought as previously thought, and La Nina may not provide the rainfall farmers in South Africa are counting on to relieve a severe drought. A new tax law in China could reduce the amount companies pay for water, air, and soil pollution if they cut carbon emissions. Coca-Cola announced that, for the first time, it released more water back into the environment than it used to make its beverages last year. A new art exhibit hopes to raise awareness about rising global sea levels.

“Being able to pinpoint an interval of time is saying something about how we have had an incredible impact on the environment of our planet. The concept of the Anthropocene manages to pull all these ideas of environmental change together.” –Colin Waters, principal geologist at the British Geological Survey and secretary of the Working Group on the Anthropocene, on the the expert group’s recommendation that a new geological epoch be officially recognized by the scientific community. The new epoch, called the Anthropocene, started in 1950 and marks the time when human activities significantly altered global functioning. (Guardian)

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Join Circle of Blue and SIWI Tuesday, August 30 for a global interactive broadcast to explore how droughts, floods, and other water problems are stranding assets in the energy, mining, and agricultural industries.

By The Numbers

191.9 billion liters Amount of water Coca-Cola said it released to the environment and local communities around the world in 2015, for the first time returning more than it used to produce its beverage products. The company’s claims of water neutrality, however, have been criticized by groups that say it does not always replenish water supplies in the same area where it extracts water. CNN Money

26.6 percent Estimated drop in South Africa’s maize harvest this year following one of the country’s worst droughts on record. While farmers expect relief from a La Nina weather pattern, forecasters warn that the amount of rainfall associated with the event remains uncertain. Reuters

13,248 liters Amount of water poured within a minute into clear plastic tanks containing human performers as part of the “Holoscenes” art installation. The exhibit, by artist Lars Jan, is a commentary on rising sea levels linked to climate change. Guardian

Science, Studies, And Reports

More than half of the groundwater in the Indo-Gangetic basin, which runs beneath parts of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, is unfit for drinking and agricultural use, according to a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Nearly a quarter of the water is too salty, while 37 percent contains unsafe levels of arsenic, making water quality as significant a threat to the aquifer as depletion. Phys.org

Droughts may not increase as much under climate change as previously thought, according to researchers at the University of Washington. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists argue that high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will decrease the water needs of plants, thereby lessening the effect of dry conditions. While current projections forecast a higher incidence of drought across 70 percent of the world, projections that take into account reduced water use by plants show that only 37 percent of the world will see more droughts. University of Washington

On The Radar

A plan pending approval by China’s National People’s Congress would tax companies less for water, air, and soil pollution if they cut carbon emissions below national requirements. The plan avoids taxing carbon emissions outright, and includes exemptions for the agricultural and transportation industries. Reuters

The post The Stream, August 30: Groundwater Contaminated In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal appeared first on Circle of Blue.

source: http://www.circleofblue.org/2016/daily-stream/stream-august-30-groundwater-contaminated-india-pakistan-bangladesh-nepal/

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - August 31, 2016 at 6:06 am

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Designing Solar Inverters for Different Markets Is Both an Art and a Science

It used to be so easy.

In the not-too-distant past, anybody interested in pinpointing the strongest global solar markets needed only to examine public policy. Germany’s feed-in tariff long provided generous subsidies to make the cloudy European nation the world’s largest market, while sunny California’s rebate program helped it grab its perennial spot atop the U.S. market rankings.

These days, figuring out where markets are most likely to be vibrant isn’t so simple. As the cost of panels and inverters has plummeted, the economics of solar have become attractive even without lavish incentives. This is good news, both for the solar industry and those broadly focused on the world’s transition to a low-carbon economy. 

Still, for manufacturers of equipment like solar panels and inverters, this shift demands three things: an understanding of where conditions are right for market growth, what each market requires from equipment suppliers, and, as always, an ongoing commitment to driving prices ever downward.

“As your incentives are being reduced, the fact that feed-in tariffs and other incentives are fading puts pressure on engineers and manufacturers to come up with lower-cost system solutions,” said Allan Gregg, the director of application engineering for inverter manufacturer Sungrow. “To maintain return on investment, you have to reduce installed costs and operation and maintenance costs.” 

The (not-so) United States of America

There is no such thing as an American solar market. Rather, because each state has control over policies that either encourage or discourage solar development — net-metering and renewable portfolio standards being two important ones — there are 50 individual markets.

Gregg noted that the importance of policy has largely dictated where Sungrow has been active, including states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, California and Colorado. Today, though, the improved economics of solar has convinced states with little development activity to encourage more. “Minnesota is a growing market, even though you don’t think of the solar resource [being very strong] in Minnesota,” said Gregg. “There are a lot of large-scale systems going into Minnesota.”

Though it’s important for inverter manufacturers like Sungrow to monitor state-level market and policy conditions, Gregg said it’s also vital to ensure that the company’s equipment is able to meet the unique requirements utilities set for connecting solar to the grid.

“We have to have an inverter and an integrated system product that can meet the requirements of Minnesota and California and New Jersey and all the markets,” he said. “It is a challenge because of the significant differences. It’s definitely not one-size-fits-all.” 

Different markets, different demands

Though state incentives and interconnection policies vary widely, there is one factor that unites these disparate American markets. “When a U.S. company looks at a solar power system, they’re focused on long-term costs,” said Gregg. “That has driven us to design inverters that stand the test of time and that operate with high uptime over their entire expected lifespan.” 

Put another way, U.S. solar developers are willing to pay more for inverters if they are convinced that the manufacturer has a quality product and a long-term commitment to service. “They have to know if there is going to be a service organization around for the life of the product. Will there be spare parts available?” said Gregg. “In the U.S., customers have been burned by inverter failures, where they went with what was supposed to be a bankable company and everything looked good, and then the company went bankrupt.” 

Indian solar developers have different priorities. India is a growing market where Sungrow is involved with hundreds of megawatts’ worth of projects. Developers there are focused on price above all other factors. “It’s about price, price, price, and they don’t put a lot of weight on the cost of O&M because labor is cheap and not as big a factor,” said Gregg. “So the way to get into the India market is all about the lowest price upfront.”

To meet that demand, Gregg said Sungrow alters its inverters in a way that reduces the price without compromising quality. “We don’t have different product, but we sell into India a stripped-down version that doesn’t have extras and the built-in recombiner panels that the U.S. market demands,” he said. “We take the same essentials of the inverter and delete some extras and come in at a competitive price point for that market.” 

Markets in the developing world

The demand for clean energy in the many areas of the world that lack reliable electricity has never been stronger. In the past, inverter companies have been hesitant to pursue those opportunities because the lack of quality infrastructure, especially roads, meant reaching remote areas was difficult and expensive.

“A company may say, ‘I have to charge 30 percent more to service the warranty because of the costs to do business in that country for after-sale support,’” said Gregg. 

The emergence of string inverter technology may well change that calculation and open up new markets in Africa and Asia. Sungrow is working with a company installing large-scale solar systems in northwestern Africa. Compared to central inverters, string inverters are simple and cheap to replace, which could drive more and more solar development.

“Using all string inverters means you can have spares on-site and need just a minimum technical capability to swap out the inverter and get back in business,” said Gregg. “Internationally, I see the value of string inverters pushing out central inverters in a lot of these applications.”

Why innovation will open up more markets

At September’s Solar Power International (SPI) trade show, Sungrow will introduce the world’s first 1,500-volt string inverter. If you believe that continuing to reduce costs opens up more and more markets, this kind of innovation is a big deal.

Why? A higher-voltage string inverter means developers can increase the number of panels they have on each string and thereby reduce the total number of strings. This translates into savings because it reduces the number of combiner boxes required. There are other benefits to a higher-voltage string inverter.

“Because you have a higher voltage, you have a lower current, so you can reduce wire size and reduce labor costs,” said Gregg. “At the end of the day, you have lower costs per installed system by just increasing the DC voltage.” Just as important, higher voltage allows for more kilowatts to come out of the same sized inverter — another source of cost savings. 

All of which is to say that innovation will play an increasingly important part in determining which markets around the world are the most promising. At Sungrow, that means doing what it has always done.

“We have always taken a leadership position to reduce costs,” said Gregg. “I’ve always said that the solar power business is about money.” 


source: http://feeds.greentechmedia.com/~r/GreentechMedia/~3/WEBjrcQQ-bw/sungrow-designing-solar-inverters-for-different-markets

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:06 am

Categories: Green Power   Tags:

Designing Solar Inverters for Different Markets Is Both an Art and a Science

It used to be so easy.

In the not-too-distant past, anybody interested in pinpointing the strongest global solar markets needed only to examine public policy. Germany’s feed-in tariff long provided generous subsidies to make the cloudy European nation the world’s largest market, while sunny California’s rebate program helped it grab its perennial spot atop the U.S. market rankings.

These days, figuring out where markets are most likely to be vibrant isn’t so simple. As the cost of panels and inverters has plummeted, the economics of solar have become attractive even without lavish incentives. This is good news, both for the solar industry and those broadly focused on the world’s transition to a low-carbon economy. 

Still, for manufacturers of equipment like solar panels and inverters, this shift demands three things: an understanding of where conditions are right for market growth, what each market requires from equipment suppliers, and, as always, an ongoing commitment to driving prices ever downward.

“As your incentives are being reduced, the fact that feed-in tariffs and other incentives are fading puts pressure on engineers and manufacturers to come up with lower-cost system solutions,” said Allan Gregg, the director of application engineering for inverter manufacturer Sungrow. “To maintain return on investment, you have to reduce installed costs and operation and maintenance costs.” 

The (not-so) United States of America

There is no such thing as an American solar market. Rather, because each state has control over policies that either encourage or discourage solar development — net-metering and renewable portfolio standards being two important ones — there are 50 individual markets.

Gregg noted that the importance of policy has largely dictated where Sungrow has been active, including states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, California and Colorado. Today, though, the improved economics of solar has convinced states with little development activity to encourage more. “Minnesota is a growing market, even though you don’t think of the solar resource [being very strong] in Minnesota,” said Gregg. “There are a lot of large-scale systems going into Minnesota.”

Though it’s important for inverter manufacturers like Sungrow to monitor state-level market and policy conditions, Gregg said it’s also vital to ensure that the company’s equipment is able to meet the unique requirements utilities set for connecting solar to the grid.

“We have to have an inverter and an integrated system product that can meet the requirements of Minnesota and California and New Jersey and all the markets,” he said. “It is a challenge because of the significant differences. It’s definitely not one-size-fits-all.” 

Different markets, different demands

Though state incentives and interconnection policies vary widely, there is one factor that unites these disparate American markets. “When a U.S. company looks at a solar power system, they’re focused on long-term costs,” said Gregg. “That has driven us to design inverters that stand the test of time and that operate with high uptime over their entire expected lifespan.” 

Put another way, U.S. solar developers are willing to pay more for inverters if they are convinced that the manufacturer has a quality product and a long-term commitment to service. “They have to know if there is going to be a service organization around for the life of the product. Will there be spare parts available?” said Gregg. “In the U.S., customers have been burned by inverter failures, where they went with what was supposed to be a bankable company and everything looked good, and then the company went bankrupt.” 

Indian solar developers have different priorities. India is a growing market where Sungrow is involved with hundreds of megawatts’ worth of projects. Developers there are focused on price above all other factors. “It’s about price, price, price, and they don’t put a lot of weight on the cost of O&M because labor is cheap and not as big a factor,” said Gregg. “So the way to get into the India market is all about the lowest price upfront.”

To meet that demand, Gregg said Sungrow alters its inverters in a way that reduces the price without compromising quality. “We don’t have different product, but we sell into India a stripped-down version that doesn’t have extras and the built-in recombiner panels that the U.S. market demands,” he said. “We take the same essentials of the inverter and delete some extras and come in at a competitive price point for that market.” 

Markets in the developing world

The demand for clean energy in the many areas of the world that lack reliable electricity has never been stronger. In the past, inverter companies have been hesitant to pursue those opportunities because the lack of quality infrastructure, especially roads, meant reaching remote areas was difficult and expensive.

“A company may say, ‘I have to charge 30 percent more to service the warranty because of the costs to do business in that country for after-sale support,’” said Gregg. 

The emergence of string inverter technology may well change that calculation and open up new markets in Africa and Asia. Sungrow is working with a company installing large-scale solar systems in northwestern Africa. Compared to central inverters, string inverters are simple and cheap to replace, which could drive more and more solar development.

“Using all string inverters means you can have spares on-site and need just a minimum technical capability to swap out the inverter and get back in business,” said Gregg. “Internationally, I see the value of string inverters pushing out central inverters in a lot of these applications.”

Why innovation will open up more markets

At September’s Solar Power International (SPI) trade show, Sungrow will introduce the world’s first 1,500-volt string inverter. If you believe that continuing to reduce costs opens up more and more markets, this kind of innovation is a big deal.

Why? A higher-voltage string inverter means developers can increase the number of panels they have on each string and thereby reduce the total number of strings. This translates into savings because it reduces the number of combiner boxes required. There are other benefits to a higher-voltage string inverter.

“Because you have a higher voltage, you have a lower current, so you can reduce wire size and reduce labor costs,” said Gregg. “At the end of the day, you have lower costs per installed system by just increasing the DC voltage.” Just as important, higher voltage allows for more kilowatts to come out of the same sized inverter — another source of cost savings. 

All of which is to say that innovation will play an increasingly important part in determining which markets around the world are the most promising. At Sungrow, that means doing what it has always done.

“We have always taken a leadership position to reduce costs,” said Gregg. “I’ve always said that the solar power business is about money.” 


source: http://feeds.greentechmedia.com/~r/GreentechMedia/~3/WEBjrcQQ-bw/sungrow-designing-solar-inverters-for-different-markets

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How Utility-Owned Rooftop Solar Is Working [GTM Squared]


source: http://feeds.greentechmedia.com/~r/GreentechMedia/~3/jUfM1RBzNZE/how-utility-owned-rooftop-solar-is-working

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How Utility-Owned Rooftop Solar Is Working [GTM Squared]


source: http://feeds.greentechmedia.com/~r/GreentechMedia/~3/jUfM1RBzNZE/how-utility-owned-rooftop-solar-is-working

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German Utility RWE Will Acquire Grid-Scale Solar and Storage Provider Belectric

The German utility RWE will expand its solar and storage capacity by purchasing Belectric Solar and Battery Holding GmbH. RWE’s renewable energy subsidiary, Innogy SE, agreed to pay in the “high double-digit million euro range” for Belectric. The deal is expected to close early next year. 

Faced with money-losing coal power and customer defection to rooftop solar, European utilities have been hard at work expanding revenue streams beyond the traditional production and sale of electricity. RWE, which serves 23 million customers in Europe, has approached this challenge with a strategy of becoming a home and energy services provider. It set up a $144 million venture capital fund to invest in promising Silicon Valley startups, and became the first European utility to widely deploy Bidgely’s HomeBeat app, which lets customers track their energy usage down to the appliance level.

Several utilities have made inroads on self-consumption programs, including RWE, fellow German utility E.ON and French utility EDF. By providing solar and storage resources for their own customers, utilities can preserve some revenue even if they no longer sell as much power in the traditional sense. E.ON has been particularly active in the energy storage sector, investing in American storage company Greensmith and developing storage projects at the commercial and industrial and utility scale. EDF has a growing renewable energy division that already boasts 600 megawatts of wind power capacity.

The Belectric acquisition will strengthen RWE’s portfolio of grid-scale renewable generation. The company has installed a total photovoltaic capacity of 1.5 gigawatts peak across 280 plants and rooftops, and it operates and maintains more than 1 gigawatt peak solar capacity. Belectric designs and manufactures its systems out of plants in Germany and India.

Belectric notably pioneered the use of 1,500-volt solar systems in 2012, well above the 1,000 volts standard in Europe. GTM Research identified the adoption of 1,500 volt systems as “the most immediate opportunity that we see for utility-scale PV system cost reduction.” Now, 1,500-volt parts are commercially available for every system component, but product availability has hampered further adoption of 1,500 volt technology in Europe.

Belectric can now count on a steady pipeline of projects for RWE, in addition to its ongoing business elsewhere in the Middle East, India, South America and the U.S.A.

“In acquiring Belectric, we are bolstering our skills in the area of renewables and acquiring extensive expertise as well as many years of operational experience with solar technology,” said Hans Bünting, Chief Operating Officer Renewables of Innogy SE, in a statement. “The experienced team at Belectric will contribute to taking Innogy forward with large-scale solar projects.”

Innogy itself is going through a change — that name didn’t exist until this summer, for one thing. RWE is realligning itself with Innogy as its decentralized, renewable energy core business, staffed by 40,000 of RWE’s 60,000 employees. It’s a bold move and one that American utilities will need to watch as they weigh how cautious or daring to be in the energy transition ahead.

 

 


source: http://feeds.greentechmedia.com/~r/GreentechMedia/~3/RXhqqJM9j3w/german-utility-rwe-will-acquire-grid-scale-solar-and-storage-provider-belec

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:06 am

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German Utility RWE Will Acquire Grid-Scale Solar and Storage Provider Belectric

The German utility RWE will expand its solar and storage capacity by purchasing Belectric Solar and Battery Holding GmbH. RWE’s renewable energy subsidiary, Innogy SE, agreed to pay in the “high double-digit million euro range” for Belectric. The deal is expected to close early next year. 

Faced with money-losing coal power and customer defection to rooftop solar, European utilities have been hard at work expanding revenue streams beyond the traditional production and sale of electricity. RWE, which serves 23 million customers in Europe, has approached this challenge with a strategy of becoming a home and energy services provider. It set up a $144 million venture capital fund to invest in promising Silicon Valley startups, and became the first European utility to widely deploy Bidgely’s HomeBeat app, which lets customers track their energy usage down to the appliance level.

Several utilities have made inroads on self-consumption programs, including RWE, fellow German utility E.ON and French utility EDF. By providing solar and storage resources for their own customers, utilities can preserve some revenue even if they no longer sell as much power in the traditional sense. E.ON has been particularly active in the energy storage sector, investing in American storage company Greensmith and developing storage projects at the commercial and industrial and utility scale. EDF has a growing renewable energy division that already boasts 600 megawatts of wind power capacity.

The Belectric acquisition will strengthen RWE’s portfolio of grid-scale renewable generation. The company has installed a total photovoltaic capacity of 1.5 gigawatts peak across 280 plants and rooftops, and it operates and maintains more than 1 gigawatt peak solar capacity. Belectric designs and manufactures its systems out of plants in Germany and India.

Belectric notably pioneered the use of 1,500-volt solar systems in 2012, well above the 1,000 volts standard in Europe. GTM Research identified the adoption of 1,500 volt systems as “the most immediate opportunity that we see for utility-scale PV system cost reduction.” Now, 1,500-volt parts are commercially available for every system component, but product availability has hampered further adoption of 1,500 volt technology in Europe.

Belectric can now count on a steady pipeline of projects for RWE, in addition to its ongoing business elsewhere in the Middle East, India, South America and the U.S.A.

“In acquiring Belectric, we are bolstering our skills in the area of renewables and acquiring extensive expertise as well as many years of operational experience with solar technology,” said Hans Bünting, Chief Operating Officer Renewables of Innogy SE, in a statement. “The experienced team at Belectric will contribute to taking Innogy forward with large-scale solar projects.”

Innogy itself is going through a change — that name didn’t exist until this summer, for one thing. RWE is realligning itself with Innogy as its decentralized, renewable energy core business, staffed by 40,000 of RWE’s 60,000 employees. It’s a bold move and one that American utilities will need to watch as they weigh how cautious or daring to be in the energy transition ahead.

 

 


source: http://feeds.greentechmedia.com/~r/GreentechMedia/~3/RXhqqJM9j3w/german-utility-rwe-will-acquire-grid-scale-solar-and-storage-provider-belec

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The Eastern US Grid Can Handle More Renewables Than You Think

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found that the Eastern Interconnection, one of the largest power systems in the world, could accommodate a yearly average of 30 percent renewables, an additional 400 gigawatts, with the grid operating essentially as it does today.

Using a more detailed model than ever before, NREL researchers looked at 5-minute intervals for the power system that stretches from the Midwest through the entire eastern U.S.

The researchers modeled existing thermal and hydro capacity, along with four different scenarios of wind and solar power. One scenario was low renewable penetration (about 3 percent), another 10 percent, one at about 30 percent renewable penetration and one at 30 percent with six additional HVDC transmission lines. It took into account 60,000 miles of transmission and about 5,600 generation units. As much as possible, the study relied on how each grid is operated today.

“While this study does not capture all of the regional practices and individual resource parameters of the actual system,” the authors wrote, “these assumptions represent a reasonable approach to simulating operations which is consistent with actual practice in many regions.”

The study did not account for the cost of building out the additional renewable capacity, or the cost of using existing thermal generation in a less efficient manner. Coal- and gas-fired power plants would have to be ramped up and down more frequently, which makes them more expensive and less efficient.  

In a scenario of low renewables, about 7 percent of thermal generation would sit idle during peak demand, but that figure rises to 30 percent when 30 percent of generation on the system is wind and solar.

A large amount of renewables would also create something resembling a duck curve, but the need for curtailment is minimized in the scenario with additional transmission. “This is the first time anyone has seen a duck curve in the Eastern Interconnection,” said the lead author of the study, Aaron Bloom. In some regions, renewable generation could peak at 60 percent penetration on windy or sunny days.

The study is detailed, yet limited. It looks at the system as it is today, which doesn’t take into account advancements such as the falling cost of energy storage or enhancements for grid operators to better manage intermittent renewables. Just as important, it does not model for demand response, which study authors acknowledge makes this a particularly conservative approach.

Those limitations are significant, but they also highlight the capability of the grid to manage large amounts of wind and solar generation as it is now, absent major cost or technology breakthroughs.

With costs as they stand today, there would still be a considerable savings in the scenarios modeled by NREL, mostly from fuel costs, at a savings of $30 billion on the high end. By comparison, an NREL study published in 2013 on high renewable penetration in the Western Interconnection found avoided fuel cost savings of about $7 billion. 

Carbon dioxide emissions cuts are also significant under the high renewable scenario. Carbon emissions would be about 30 percent lower under the two more aggressive scenarios.

NREL admitted there is still much more work to be done, including incorporating demand response, electricity storage and operational practices. For now, NREL hopes that the industry and broader research community will adopt its research tools to push the research further, providing more insight into cost analysis and applying this research in the real world. 


source: http://feeds.greentechmedia.com/~r/GreentechMedia/~3/jzvzrHoPiRo/the-eastern-us-grid-can-handle-more-renewables-than-you-think

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Will Texas Surpass California as King of Solar?

Almost a decade ago, Texas surprised everyone by surpassing the king of wind, California. Texas now has over 18,000 megawatts of wind power installed, compared to just 6,100 megawatts or so for California, coming from behind and quickly tripling California’s installed capacity. Could this same story unfold for solar power in the coming decade?

California remains the king of solar for now, with a comfortable lead. It has about 8,000 megawatts of utility-scale solar and about 4,000 megawatts of behind-the-meter solar, for a total of about 12,000 megawatts, according to this recent GTM article.

Texas has a paltry 600 megawatts or so of solar currently installed at the utility scale and an indeterminate amount installed behind the meter.

The top 12 states for installed solar power are shown in Figure 1. Texas has actually fallen from 8th place in 2014 to 12th in Q1 2016. But its installed solar capacity is on track to grow dramatically in 2016, so this ranking will change for the better by the end of the year.

Figure 1: Top 12 States for Installed Solar Power

Source: GTM Research/SEIA Q2 2016 Solar Market Insight report

With Texas actually dropping in the rankings in recent years, how could Texas go from small potatoes to market leader in solar? The market is set to ramp dramatically in 2016, with some forecasters projecting a sixfold increase to about 3,000 megawatts in 2016.

My crystal ball was quite good back in 2014 when I projected that Texas solar was due for a boom. 2016 is the proof in the pudding for that prediction. I wrote then:

The Texas solar market is still developing, but reliable evidence suggests that it is at the beginning of a boom period. And given Texas’ potential for solar power development, it is conceivable that Texas could surpass California as the nation’s biggest solar state, as it did with wind power a few years ago.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) projects an installed capacity in Texas of 4,612 megawatts by 2020. This is still well shy of California’s current 12,000 megawatts, and even further shy of the growth in California that is expected through 2020 and later (much of the state’s 2020 33 percent RPS requirement is expected to come from new solar). In fact, a 2015 Union of Concerned Scientists report projected that California will achieve about 17 gigawatts of total solar by 2024 under current RPS requirements — about 5 gigawatts more than is already installed. I’ll round up, to take into account uncertainties and the growth in behind-the-meter solar, and use 20 gigawatts as the figure for Texas to reach in order to surpass California on solar in the next decade.

We can see how Texas might possibly catch California before too long when we examine the current interconnection queues. The queue of ERCOT, Texas’ primary grid operator, contains 8,117 megawatts for solar projects at various stages of the interconnection process, as of July. All of this won’t be built, of course, but it is a good indicator of what the future holds.

There are some projects in the interconnection queues for areas of Texas that aren’t in ERCOT — but the large majority of solar projects are in ERCOT territory, so we’ll focus on ERCOT in this piece.

We can’t extrapolate this current queue data with great confidence into the future other than to say that solar in Texas is clearly booming and will, given the continued price declines for solar power, very likely continue to boom into the future. We can, however, look at possible growth rates and see what may happen based on known future growth.

Figure 2: Expected Texas ERCOT Solar Installations

Source: ERCOT GIS report, July 2016

If we assume conservatively that Texas (including ERCOT and other areas) reaches 3 gigawatts installed, for both utility-scale and commercial solar, by the end of 2017 and a 50 percent average annual growth for the next 10 years, we reach a massive 173 gigawatts by 2027. But even at the more conservative and more realistic sustained growth rate of 25 percent, Texas still reaches 28 gigawatts by 2027, which would be more than enough to catch California.

Figure 3: Possible Texas Solar Growth

Source: Tam Hunt

Texas’ Competitive Renewable Energy Zones

A major reason for the Texas wind miracle is the degree to which Texas proactively invested in transmission line improvements to accommodate more wind power from the state’s windiest areas to the state’s population centers. This effort was focused on creating Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) to facilitate wind power development beyond the state’s already impressive achievements in the first decade of this century.

Texas’ wind resources are mostly in West Texas and the Panhandle, and most of its large cities are in East Texas. It made sense, given the growth of low-cost wind power in Texas, for ERCOT and state policymakers to invest heavily in the transmission grid to allow more low-cost wind power to reach population centers. Texas invested about $7 billion in transmission line upgrades to transport power from the largely undeveloped western part of the state to the developed eastern portions.

Interestingly, a very similar dynamic is unfolding now for solar, with the state’s solar resource far better in West Texas and the Panhandle than in the state’s more populated areas. Solar power can benefit, however, from the fact that Texas has already invested heavily in transmission line buildouts and solar power will increasingly be competing with wind power and other resources for available transmission capacity to wheel power from the sunniest areas of the state to the largest population centers.

We are already seeing most solar development in the state take place in West Texas, giving a strong clue about the pattern for future growth.

Sources of uncertainty for Texas solar

As is generally the case, a major hurdle for solar development is obtaining a power-purchase agreement (PPA) to sell power at a cost that makes the project financially viable. The biggest market for solar currently in Texas is the large municipal-owned utilities, like Austin Energy and CPS Energy (which serves San Antonio).

Another PPA option for Texas solar that avoids the RFP process is obtaining a PURPA contract at the utility’s “avoided cost” of power. This 1978 law was a major impetus for the early success of solar and wind in California in the 1980s and 1990s, and it remains in effect today in some states, though in far weaker form than it once was.

The avoided cost is too low, however, in most of Texas to provide a financially viable price for Texas solar. For example, the avoided cost for Xcel Energy in the Texas Panhandle is just 1.9 cents to 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Even with very low costs for solar in Texas, this is too low to allow a profitable project.

At least one company has decided to forgo a PPA entirely and sell power directly into the Texas wholesale power market. First Solar’s Barilla Solar project was developed for wholesale transactions in 2014 but it’s not clear from the available data whether this project has been profitable under this model. I suspect it hasn’t been, because wholesale prices have stayed so low since 2014.

Obtaining a viable revenue stream from solar facilities will probably remain the largest hurdle for solar in Texas, and it is the biggest factor that may lead to substantial bottlenecks for robust solar development.

In sum, despite the current and future hurdles for solar in Texas, it is more than plausible that Texas could surpass California on solar, as it has done with flying colors for wind, in the next decade.


source: http://feeds.greentechmedia.com/~r/GreentechMedia/~3/5vaJq4vUdTo/Will-Texas-Surpass-California-as-King-of-Solar

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Natural Gas Emissions to Surpass Those of Coal in 2016

The U.S. is expected to reach a major carbon emissions milestone this year: For the first time, carbon dioxide emissions from burning natural gas for electricity in the U.S. are set to surpass those from burning coal — the globe’s chief climate polluter.

Emissions from burning natural gas are expected to be 10 percent greater than those from coal in 2016, as electric companies rely more on power plants that run on natural gas than those that run on coal, according to U.S. Department of Energy data.

The H.F. Lee natural gas power plant near Goldsboro, N.C.
Credit: Duke Energy/flickr

In 2015, the U.S. used about 81 percent more natural gas than coal for electricity, but because coal contains more carbon than natural gas does, emissions from burning both were about the same.

Natural gas consumption is expected to continue rising, however, and the EIA expects the U.S. will emit about 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from natural gas in 2016, compared to about 1.4 billion metric tons from coal.

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The milestone comes as an ample supply of low-cost natural gas encourages electric power companies to use more gas than coal. That trend is leading to to a continued decline in coal production.

U.S. climate policies, such as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, are also encouraging utilities to shift away from coal as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Countries that signed the Paris Climate Agreement are trying to limit emissions to prevent global warming from exceeding 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels.

Natural gas emits about half as much climate change-driving carbon dioxide as coal. Perry Lindstrom, a greenhouse gas emissions analyst at the U.S. Energy Information Administration, said the rise of natural gas is reducing the carbon intensity — the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of energy — of the energy Americans consume every day.

These graphs show overall U.S. energy consumption and carbon dioixde emissions by fuel through 2015 and projections for 2016.
Credit: EIA

“You get more energy per metric ton of CO2 emitted from natural gas than from coal,” Lindstrom said.

Burning coal for electricity is about 82 percent more carbon intensive than burning natural gas.

There is a downside to the emissions milestone, however. Though natural gas burns cleaner than coal, producing natural gas and piping it to power plants leaks methane into the atmosphere.

Methane is a greenhouse gas more than 35 times as potent as carbon dioxide in driving climate change over the span of a century, and global atmospheric concentrations of it have been increasing steadily since 2007. That increase has been tied partly to U.S. natural gas production.

“While natural gas compares relatively favorably to coal when viewed through the CO2 lens, the reverse is true for methane,” said Cornell University biogeochemist Robert Howarth. “Some methane is emitted when we mine coal, but far more methane is emitted when we use natural gas, which is not surprising since natural gas is composed mostly of methane.”

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source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ClimateCentral-News/~3/Zwhi1uV8OcY/natural-gas-emissions-surpass-coal-2016-20650

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