It’s No Secret Why The Solar Industry Loves California’s New Energy Plan

Ivanpah solar energyThe solar industry cheered the California state assembly’s passage of a bill to mandate 100 percent “carbon-free” electricity by 2045, calling it a “groundbreaking legislation.”

“As we await final confirmation in the Senate, this bill will lead to significant investment and jobs creation in California, and elsewhere in America,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said in a statement.

It’s no secret why SEIA supports the legislation since it increases the amount of renewable energy California must get by 2030. Experts expect most of that increase to be met by solar panels and wind turbines.

“We urge Governor Brown to sign this legislation as soon as it hits his desk,” Hopper said of California’s energy mandate.

That’s billions of more dollars guaranteed to flow to solar panel manufacturers and installers should the legislation pass. California already subsidizes solar panels through feed-in tariffs, tax credits and mandates all new homes have solar arrays.

Critics have said such policies make affordable housing harder to come by in California. Installing rooftop solar panels is expected to add between $8,000 and $12,000 to the cost of a house.

Legislation passed by the State Assembly on Tuesday night would increase the state’s renewable energy mandate from 50 to 60 percent by 2030. The bill then requires 40 percent of state electricity to come from “carbon-free” sources — that is, with no carbon dioxide emissions.

That can also include solar panels, but seems also meant to include nuclear power, hydroelectric dams and power plants with carbon capture and storage technology (CCS).

Analysts with ClearView Energy “do not currently regard the bill as a potential driver for new nuclear power buildout or CCS.”

Instead, ClearView analysts “expect solar and wind to represent a significant portion of the incremental zero-carbon policy,” according to an analysis of their legislation sent to clients on Wednesday.

The real question is whether or not more solar power can be shoehorned into California’s electric grid. The state already generates so much solar power during midday, when demand is low, that utilities have to pay other states to take the excess power to protect the grid.

Solar energy made up about 12 percent of California’s in-state electricity generation in 2017, according to California Energy commission data. It’s the state’s largest, non-hydro, source of renewable electricity.

But that’s not good enough for the solar industry it seems. Hopper also called on California lawmakers to pass another piece of legislation requiring utilities to buy more renewable energy and a bill to create a regional electricity market with neighboring states.

“That’s why we are asking lawmakers to also pass AB 893, which would require utilities to ramp up procurement of renewable resources,” Hopper said. “Furthermore, AB 813, legislation to create a regional electricity market that includes California and neighboring states will help accelerate renewable energy deployment in California and other areas of the West.”

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This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Obama-Backed CA Solar Plant Literally Incinerates Itself

Ivanpah solar energyThe world’s largest solar energy plant known for incinerating birds just got a taste of its own medicine. A fire at the plant Thursday morning, which may have been caused by “misaligned” mirrors used to reflect sunlight at boiler towers, broke out in the facilities interior — literally scorching parts of the plant.

NRG Energy, the company operating the Ivanpah solar plant in southern California, was forced to shut down one of its generating towers and is investigating if mirrors, or heliostats, failed and torched a boiling tower. Now, the plant which got $1.6 billion from the Obama administration, will only be able to generate electricity from one of its three towers.

An NRG spokesman said it’s too early to say exactly what caused the failure, but it’s likely due to misaligned heliostats, according to Gizmodo. Whatever the cause, workers and firefighters literally went through hell to douse the flames.

Gizmodo reports:

A small fire was reported yesterday morning at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) in California, forcing a temporary shutdown of the facility. It’s now running at a third of its capacity (a second tower is down due to scheduled maintenance), and it’s not immediately clear when the damaged tower will restart. It’s also unclear how the incident will impact California’s electricity supply.

Putting out the blaze was not easy task, either. Firefighters were forced to climb 300 feet up a boiler tower to get to the scene. Officials said the fire was located about two-thirds up the tower. Workers at the plant actually managed to subdue the flames by the time firefighters reached the spot, and it was officially extinguished about 20 minutes after it started.

The scorched tower is currently shut down, according to the Associated Press, and it’s not clear when it will come online again. It’s also unclear if this setback will affect California’s electricity supply.

This only adds to Ivanpah’s troubles. The plant was nearly shut down by California regulators for not producing nearly as much power as it was supposed to. Regulators have given the plant until the end of July to meet its power quotas, but this fire may make it hard for the plant to meet its goals.

Ivanpah only generated 45 percent of expected power in 2014 and only 68 percent in 2015, according to government data. And it does all this at a cost of $200 per megawatt hour — nearly six times the cost of electricity from natural gas-fired power plants. Interestingly enough, Ivanpah uses natural gas to supplement its solar production.

It wasn’t long after the plant opened, its operators asked the federal government for a $539 million federal grant to help pay off the $1.6 billion loan it got from the Energy Department.

Environmentalists quickly attacked the project for killing thousands of birds since it opened. Many birds were incinerated by the intense heat reflected off Ivanpah’s heliostats.

The Associated Press cited statistics presented by environmentalists in 2014 that “about a thousand… to 28,000” birds are incinerated by Ivanpah’s heliostats every year.

“Forensic Lab staff observed a falcon or falcon-like bird with a plume of smoke arising from the tail as it passed through the flux field,” according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report from 2014.

Ivanpah — which is owned by BrightSource Energy, NRG Energy and Google — uses more than 170,000 large mirrors, or heliostats, to reflect sunlight towards water boilers set atop 450-foot towers that create steam to turn giant turbines and generate electricity.

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This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Solar Energy Gives Investors a Shock

Ivanpah solar energySolar energy is full of surprises.

The operators of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System were recently surprised by state air quality regulators, who informed them that the $2.2 billion solar energy plant is a carbon polluter.

Solar energy doesn’t emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s the whole point of California’s increasingly mandatory and wildly expensive push to replace fossil fuels with solar and wind energy.

But as it turns out, the sun does not shine at night. This is what happens when governors don’t do any research before they sign legislation.

The Ivanpah plant is located on five square miles of the Mojave Desert near the Nevada border. You can see it from Interstate 15 — it’s that alien-looking landscape of shiny circles surrounding three skeletal towers topped with black-and-white capsules.

The shiny circles are hundreds of thousands of mirrors that aim sunlight at boilers mounted on the towers. The sun boils the water, and the steam rotates turbines, which generate electricity.

But only during the day.

At night, and on cloudy days, Ivanpah burns natural gas to keep the water hot.

And that attracted the attention of the California Air Resources Board, which gave Ivanpah’s operators until Nov. 4 to comply with the state’s cap-and-trade program by cutting the plant’s carbon emissions 10 percent or purchasing pollution credits from somebody who has cut carbon emissions someplace else.

Ivanpah, a “clean energy” plant built with $1.6 billion in federal loan guarantees and $600 million in federal tax credits, now has to pay for being a “polluter” in California.

Solar panelsAnd that’s not the only surprise in the solar business. Some people who invested tens of thousands of dollars in rooftop solar panels have been disappointed by the revenue from net metering — the money they’re supposed to receive for selling surplus electricity back to the grid.

West Hills residents Barbara and Bob Schoenburg are beyond annoyed that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is holding more than $1,000 of their money. The Schoenburgs’ solar panel array, for which they paid about $20,000 after rebates and credits, consistently generates more electricity than they use. But LADWP will not write them a check. Instead, the credit on their bill just grows, year after year. It can’t even be used to pay the rest of the DWP bill for water, taxes or sewer and sanitation charges.

Here’s the surprise: California’s net-metering law, which requires utilities to pay their customers for surplus electricity generated by solar panels, applies to all utilities in the state with one exception — the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Yet some customers of Southern California Edison are equally aggravated. Hidden Hills resident Dr. Daniel Gross invested more than $20,000 in solar panels and was surprised when the installer told him the electricity generated by them could not be used to power his own home.

The electricity from the rooftop panels flows to the grid, and the home is powered with electricity drawn from the grid, as before. Once a year, the utility settles up. “The rate they pay you is markedly less than the rate you pay them,” Gross said, adding that he’d like to install batteries and be off the grid altogether.

“I thought I was doing something good for the country, for the community, for the economy,” he said, “and instead I’m a peripheral provider of electricity that Southern California Edison sells to make money.”

Southern California Edison is concerned about losing customers like Gross. In its most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, SCE disclosed that future revenues could be negatively affected by “possible customer bypass or departure” if new technologies, government subsidies or higher rates made self-generation “economically viable.”

LADWP made a similar disclosure in a recent statement to bond buyers. Self-generation was listed as one of the factors that may “materially affect the operating and financial position of the department.”

SCE and other investor-owned utilities are now asking the California Public Utilities Commission to lower the rate they have to pay their power-generating customers for surplus electricity. And they say the CPUC must approve new fees on solar customers to prevent the existing system from collapsing due to declining revenue.

Gross has no patience for their argument. “That’s the same concern the wagon wheel makers had,” he said.

Maybe that will be the final surprise. If California lawmakers and regulators continue to pretend there’s no longer any need for fossil fuels, wagons could make a comeback.

Regulators Want All New CA Homes To Use ‘Zero Net Energy’

Solar panelsPlacing a big bet on solar power and new regulations, state officials have rolled out ambitious new requirements aimed at slashing energy use in newly-constructed homes.

“Buildings built in California starting in 2016 will have to comply with the nation’s toughest energy conservation standards,” the Central Valley Business Times reported. “The California Energy Commission has unanimously approved building energy efficiency standards that it says will reduce energy costs, save consumers money, and increase comfort in new and upgraded homes and other buildings.”

In single-family homes, that would amount to a drop in energy use by almost a third, relative to 2013 standards, the CVBT noted.

Cost and consequences

The New Residential Zero Net Energy Action Plan, as it has been dubbed, aimed “to establish a robust and self-sustaining market so that all new homes are zero net energy (ZNE) beginning in 2020.” Critics have reiterated longstanding objections to a statewide push of this kind, especially around the prospect of rising energy costs.

“The most complex issue will be valuing the homes, which will cost more upfront,” according to Greentech Media. “Currently, the CPUC is quoting an extra $2 to $8 per square foot after incentives. There will likely need to be incentives or creative utility billing, especially if the homes are providing demand-side services as the CPUC envisions. The CPUC says that the utilities are on board and will have to evaluate locational benefits of having net-zero homes on the system.”

As Greentech Media noted, planners have built in some would-be loopholes designed to make progress on ZNE without imposing the new standards too quickly: “Homes can be ZNE-ready, rather than actually being energy-neutral. That could mean they are solar-ready, for instance, but perhaps don’t have solar panels already installed.”

But even supporters of the plan have cautioned that executing on its goals may be a daunting challenge. At the Huffington Post, one analyst noted, “as California’s clean power goals rise, new capacity could begin to slow.”

“Some planned large projects are now on hold due to financial problems. Others face environmental challenges, such as threats to bird flyways and desert habitats. Large-scale solar plants, particularly those using solar thermal technology, are losing appeal to investors as photovoltaic panel prices plunge. And utilities, having largely reached their current renewable procurement targets, have few new projects in the pipeline. What’s more, the federal solar investment tax credit program for new utility projects drops from 30 percent to 10 percent after 2016, and ends completely for individuals.”

Unifying the grid

Nevertheless, optimism among policymakers and activists has remained high — largely because of the role of technological innovation centered in California. Apple and Google have embarked on so-called “grid-scale” renewable energy projects, while Tesla has pushed into the home energy storage business.

But some experts have implied that the problem of rising energy costs could best be addressed by linking up the net-zero energy industry with the zero-emission automobile industry. “A recent California study estimated that utility companies could earn $2.26 to $8.11 billion in net revenues from large-scale commercialization of EVs,” as reported in Fortune. “This is sufficient to allow utilities to invest both in installing charging infrastructure and return some of the revenues to their customers in the form of lower rates.”

By supplying ubiquitous EV charging stations, observers surmised, utilities could eventually recoup electrical power from cars embedded into the same flexible grid as homes. “The value of having a flexible load on the grid will grow even further with higher amounts of wind and solar,” Fortune continued. “Electric vehicles can be programmed to charge during peak solar or wind generation periods, preventing this valuable electricity from being wasted. In the future, electric vehicles could increase their value by putting electricity back into the grid as well[.]”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Solar Energy Will Produce Less Than One Percent Of US Power In 2015

Despite millions in subsidies and government loans, solar power is projected to remain a tiny portion of overall electricity generation in the U.S., according to Energy Department figures.

Utility-scale solar power generation is projected to increase in 2015, but it will still make up only 0.6 percent of total U.S. electricity generation, according to the Energy Information Administration. Utility-scale solar has more than doubled in 2013 and EIA expects solar capacity will nearly double again in 2015.

Federal, state and local subsidy regimes and green energy mandates have helped the solar industry grow in the last few years. In the third quarter of 2014 alone 1,354 megawatts of photovoltaic (PV) solar power capacity was installed, a 41 percent leap over the same time period in 2013.

There is now 16 gigawatts of operating PV solar capacity in the U.S., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The group says that 36 percent of the new generating capacity that came online in 2014 has come from solar.

Most of the growth in solar comes from the PV market, SEIA reports. But concentrated solar generation saw huge growth earlier this year when the Ivanpah solar facility in Southern California finally came online.

Ivanpah, the world’s largest concentrated solar plant, uses 173,500 heliostat mirrors to reflect sunlight onto centralized towers. The sunlight heats up water in the towers which turns into steam to generate electricity.

The project is co-owned by Google, NRG Energy and BrightSource Energy and was given a $1.6 billion loan by the Obama administration in an effort to incentivize more utility-scale solar projects.

“It’s going to put about 1,000 people to work building a state-of-the-art facility. And when it’s complete, it will turn sunlight into the energy that will power up to 140,000 homes,” President Obama said.

But Ivanpah has not lived up to its expectations. Not even a year after it began operations, the project’s owners have asked the federal government for a $539 million grant to help pay back its federal loan.

Apparently, Ivanpah has only been generating about one-quarter of the energy it was said it could produce. Why? Because the sun hasn’t been shining as much as studies predicted it would.

Because of the lack of sun, the plant has had to increase its use of natural gas to heat up its water towers. Natural gas is used to prime the steam boilers before the panels come online so the plant can quickly generate power. Gas is also used to keep power going during times of intermittent sunshine.

“This is an attempt by very large cash generating companies that have billions on their balance sheet to get a federal bailout, i.e. a bailout from us – the taxpayer for their pet project,” Reason Foundation vice president Julian Morris told Fox News. “It’s actually rather obscene.”

Despite Ivanpah’s problems it has still been named the “2014 Renewable Energy Project of the Year” by Renewable Energy World – a green energy news publication.

This piece was originally published at the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Biggest solar farm eclipsed

 

 

Solar_eclipse_1999_4_NR wikimediaSolar was supposed to be the key “renewable energy” powering California away from dirty old fossil fuels and into the Radiant Future. A 2011 law Gov. Jerry Brown signed mandated 33 percent renewable energy by 2020, now just a little over five years way. He actually said when signing the law, “I didn’t get my name, Gov. Moonbeam, for nothing. I earned it!”

It’s not turning out that way.

The latest:

“LOS ANGELES (AP) — The largest solar power plant of its type in the world – once promoted as a turning point in green energy – isn’t producing as much energy as planned.

One of the reasons is as basic as it gets: The sun isn’t shining as much as expected.

Sprawling across roughly 5 square miles of federal desert near the California-Nevada border, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System opened in February, with operators saying it would produce enough electricity to power a city of 140,000 homes.

So far, however, the plant is producing about half of its expected annual output for 2014, according to calculations by the California Energy Commission.

It had been projected to produce its full capacity for 8 hours a day, on average.

The commission cited reasons for the low generation: “Factors such as clouds, jet contrails and weather have had a greater impact on the plant than the owners anticipated.”

That reminded me how the Soviet Union, during its 74 years of existence, every year suffered crop failures for which it blamed “bad weather.” Yet its farms in pre-socialist times, especially the rich earth of Ukraine, had been “the breadbasket of Europe.”

As Wayne Lusvardi has reported on our site, the failure of renewables to generate up to expectations has forced the state to rely on out-of-state fossil fuel power (natural gas and coal) and Warren Buffett’s hydropower.

Shocking costs

All of that, plus a dysfunctional distribution left over from the 2000 Electricity Crisis, means shockingly record high costs for ratepayers. The San Diego Reader reported:

California residential electricity rates are the highest in the nation — by far. A major reason is that the California Public Utilities Commission, the so-called regulator, schmoozes Wall Street, promising to keep the profits of the state’s publicly held utilities — Sempra Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison — higher than utility profits elsewhere. Those profits come out of ratepayers’ pockets.

So Californians have the worst of both capitalism and socialism: crony capitalist (not free market) price structures and socialist generation mandates.

This post was originally published on CalWatchdog.com