We are beginning to reach a point where the urgency of climate change and its consequences is being met with serious technical and policy innovation. The call of science is finally starting to be answered by industry and government. Needless to say, it is a very exciting time to be following and advocating for alternative energy solutions and other serious climate change mitigation strategies, especially in a state like California. In fact, so much is happening on a daily, monthly and annual basis, that it may be difficult to keep up with the stories that matter most. With this in mind, we’ve aggregated top stories for the month of March as they pertain to alternative energy, specifically within the context of California. It is crucial to stay informed in today’s dynamic news cycle, and we hope this monthly blog brief will keep you up-to-date.
California first state to get 5 percent of electricity from solar (San Francisco Gate)
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that California has become the first state to get 5 percent of its electricity from solar power, totaling more than 9.9 million MWh (more than all other states combined!). The report does not account for residential and most commercial rooftop installations.
Not to be outdone, Costa Rica has now gone the first 75 days of 2015 using only alternative energy generation. Heavy rainfall has caused a spike in hydroelectric production, and together with solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, has generated enough power to meet the country’s electricity needs.
The U.S. Installed 6.2 GW of Solar in 2014, Up 30% over 2013 (GTM Research/SEIA)
In 2014, 6,201 megawatts of solar photovoltaic was newly installed (in addition to 767 MW of concentrating solar power), accounting for 32% of the U.S.’s new generating capacity for the year. All segments saw over a GW come online – 3.9 GW of utility scale, 1 GW of commercial installations, and 1.2 GW of residential installations (first time over 1 GW).
We may remember 2014 as the year we turned global carbon emission trends around. For the first time on record, global carbon levels have not grown, even as the economy has. The International Energy Agency has tracked carbon dixide emissions for 40 years.
A 550-megawatt solar project in the town of Desert Center, CA is now in operation. The project employed an average of 440 people for the more than the three years of construction, and will employ 15 full-time employees moving forward. The power generated will be sold to SCE and PG&E and is enough to power 160,000 average California homes.
California Will Soon Be Home To The Country’s Largest Floating Solar Array (The Press Democrat)
Sonoma County has agreed to a deal with Sonoma Clean Power to construct a floating 12.5 megawatt solar farm atop six wastewater ponds filled with treated sewage. Sonoma Clean Power will be leasing the ponds for $30,000/year (Editor’s note: a much more affordable alternative to Sonoma County land). The array can help prevent harmful algae growth and prevent evaporation.
Bill would boost green power by expanding access to utility competitors (Energy & Environment News)
S.B. 286 (Hertzberg (D) 18th district) proposes to allow California’s largest electricity users to buy power from a seller other than the three big investor-owned utilities. Proponents say the legislation would allow energy users to reduce costs, increase access to alternative energy, and make the state more business-friendly.
The City of Los Angeles has voted to make the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program available to local residents. The program will make energy and water-saving home renovations affordable by providing long-term, competitive financing through an additional property tax assessment. The popular program has created more than 4,300 jobs since 2011 and has helped fund more than 26,500 residential projects (over $514 million in financing).
Major changes in store for desert renewable energy plan (The Desert Sun)
Following a chorus of objections, pubilc officials have announced the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan will launch in two phases: the first dealing with public lands, and the second dealing with the more controversial private land. Critics say the plan is confusingly written and places too heavy a burden on private land.
The California Energy Commission proposed new energy efficiency standards for computers and monitors that could save 2,702 GWh per year and reduce utility bills by a combined $430 million annualy.
New President of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael Picker, has proposed to fine PG&E $1.6 billion in connection with the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion – a penalty $200 million richer than CPUC’s previous proposal. $850 million would be steered to pipeline safety enhancement, $300 million to the state’s general fund and $400 million as a bill credit to PG&E gas customers.
Impacts of California’s Ongoing Drought: Hydroelectricity Generation (Pacific Institute)
The report evaluates the economic and environmental impacts of California’s drought on the State’s hydroelectricity generation. Hydropower normally provides 18% of the electricity needed for Californians. The study finds ratepayers spent $1.4 billion more for electricity between 2011 and 2014 than in average years because of a shift from hydropower to natural gas. This shift in generation sources also led to an 8% increase in CO2 emissions and other pollutants.
Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States (U.S. Department of Energy)
The report reviews the current state of wind power in the U.S. and looks forward to wind as an increasingly important generation of American energy generation. The study predicts wind power to meet 10% of U.S. electricity demand by 2020, 20% by 2030 and 35% by 2050. Additionally, the industry has the potential to support more than 600,000 jobs and displace more than 12.3 gigatonnes of GHGs.
Massive solar project proposed near Blythe (The Desert Sun)
Plans for a 300-megawatt utility scale PV plant have reemerged more than seven years after initially being proposed. Although utility-scale solar has seen a bit of a slowdown in recent years, this project may point to new optimism, especially when considering the project will not be built in time to be eligible for the 30% federal Investment Tax Credit (expected to be reduced to 10% at end of 2016).
Google plans to test an 84-foot turbine by flying it 450 meters in the air and capturing the energy produced by continous loop-de-loops. The circling motion will spin the turbines and send 600 kW of energy back down to earth with each turn.
Bosch, Honda Demo Commercial-Scale DC Microgrid (BusinessWire)
The California Energy Commission has proposed a $2.8 million award to Robert Bosch to showcase the viability and benefits of commercial-scale direct current, renewable-based microgrids. The projects will be sited at the American Honda Motor parts distribution center in Chino, CA.
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