Community solar’s dilemma is described in the old saying that a giraffe is a horse designed by a committee. Community solar was supposed to be the “promised land” where utilities, solar advocates, and environmentalists could forget bickering over net energy metering (NEM) and fight together for economically-viable clean energy. But instead of a boom, there are mostly unresolved debates over policies that seem to distort the promise. Community solar, also referred to as “community shared solar” or “community solar gardens,” allow utility customers who cannot access rooftop solar to own a portion of a central-station array located near their power supplier’s distribution system.
The wind resource in Iowa is so productive and the cost of wind energy has been falling so precipitously that the value of wind now far exceeds its cost there, according to an industry study released this week. The analysis, conducted by the American Wind Energy Association at the request of the non-profit Wind Energy Foundation, also claims that doubling the state’s installed wind capacity would lower the cost of power so much that the typical residential customer’s monthly bill would fall, possibly by as much as $10.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of a streamlined version of USDA guaranteed loans, which are tailored for smaller scale farms and urban producers. The program, called EZ Guarantee Loans, uses a simplified application process to help beginning, small, underserved and family farmers and ranchers apply for loans of up to $100,000 from USDA-approved lenders to purchase farmland or finance agricultural operations. USDA today also unveiled a new category of lenders that will join traditional lenders, such as banks and credit unions, in offering USDA EZ Guarantee Loans. Microlenders, which include Community Development Financial Institutions and Rural Rehabilitation Corporations, will be able to offer their customers up to $50,000 of EZ Guaranteed Loans, helping to reach urban areas and underserved producers. Banks, credit unions and other traditional USDA-approved leaners, can offer customers up to $100,000 to help with agricultural operation costs.
Illinois lawmakers have adopted new interconnection standards that will make the solar siting and installation process significantly quicker and cheaper, clean energy advocates and utilities say. The Illinois state standards, adopted Oct. 11, are based on a rule establishing best practices that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) adopted in late 2013. The standards are being held up as a model for other states, including Iowa and Minnesota, which are currently going through interconnection rule-making processes. Interconnection is the process of making sure that a new solar installation won’t cause problems on the grid, including studying the infrastructure and typical supply and demand on that section of the grid and installing any equipment needed to moderate energy flow. In some states where large amounts of solar power were added to the grid quickly, including Hawaii, California and Massachusetts, backlogs in the interconnection process caused headaches for utilities, developers and customers hoping to install solar.
The federal government has given notice that it plans to auction oil and gas lease rights for 1,600 acres of Wayne National Forest near Marietta, a step that could lead to fracking on public land. Energy industry officials are applauding the decision, which affects parts of Monroe and Washington counties, while environmentalists are criticizing it. With the notice, a 30-day clock starts in which opponents can file a formal protest. The government will review the objections before moving ahead with an online auction scheduled for Dec. 13. The affected land is part of Ohio's only national forest, which covers more than 240,000 acres in the southeastern part of the state. The proposed leases are "a step in the right direction," said Shawn Bennett, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a trade group. "It opens up lands that are required to be leased by several federal statutes." Many environmental groups oppose the leases, saying this would be a step toward allowing widespread hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public lands. "This decision is bad for wildlife, bad for recreation, and bad for the overall health of the Wayne," said Nathan Johnson, an attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council
The Baltimore County Council voted unanimously Monday to halt large-scale solar power projects on farmland for four months while the county considers rules for them.
For the first time ever, the army of spinning white turbines that has sprouted across the lush countryside generated enough electricity to power all of Scotland. The exceptional output brought the country membership in a small but growing club of nations proving that the vision of a world powered by renewable fuels is closer than many realize. Long derided as a fantasy, a day’s worth of energy harvested purely from the sun and the wind has lately become reality in nations such as Portugal, Denmark and Costa Rica. In those countries, and others, the gains in renewable production have come quickly and unexpectedly, offering a ray of hope amid dire predictions from scientists about the impact of carbon emissions on the planet.
Joseph Gallo Farms, maker of Joseph Farms Cheese, unveiled a new two-megawatt (MW) solar array, the largest privately owned system ever installed on a California dairy. The fixed-array system supplies renewable energy on site for the family’s dairy farm. “Sustainable farming has been a core value in our family, starting with my grandfather, Joseph Gallo,” third-generation dairy farmer and cheese maker Peter Gallo said. “We’ve envisioned integrating solar energy on the farm for as long as I can remember, and today is a step towards greater sustainability.” By harvesting the sun’s power on 7,840 solar panels across eight acres, the fixed-array system provides on-site renewable energy that will significantly reduce the operation's need for electricity from the local utility and avoid an estimated 27,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years. The amount of electricity produced could power 282 average homes a year. “This project aligns with the work we’ve been doing for 13 years to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to green, renewable energy that is generated right here on our farm,” Gallo said. In addition to the new solar array, Joseph Gallo Farms also operates one of the largest and longest-running methane digesters in California. The electricity produced is then used on site to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while decreasing the farm’s dependence on fossil fuels. “Our new solar array meets about half of our energy needs for our dairy and farming operations,” Gallo said. “Partnered with our existing methane digester, we’re moving closer to becoming a net-zero energy dairy farm and cheese plant, continuing a long tradition of pioneering renewable energy deployment and sustainability practices.”
On an isolated 100 acres of farmland where corn and soybeans once grew, a different sort of crop has sprouted — one that hums quietly when skies are clear. The garden of thousands of photovoltaic panels, creaking occasionally as each one pivots like a sunflower watching the sun cross the sky, this year began powering 13,000 homes as one of the largest solar farms in the state, for now. Energy companies, lured by a state policy that encourages renewable electricity generation and riding a larger industry boom, are flocking to Maryland farmland to build massive solar installations. Developers proposed 11,000 new solar projects in the state last year, more than twice as many as in 2014, and some of them would dwarf this Eastern Shore facility. But now the industry's rapid rise is threatened by the revival of a conflict that had laid dormant for decades — since most of the state's large power plants were built.
In the 1930s, rural electric cooperatives brought electricity to the country’s most far-flung communities, transforming rural economies. In Western Colorado, one of these co-ops is again trying to spur economic development, partly by generating more of their electricity locally from renewable resources, like water in irrigation ditches and the sun. Local leaders say that’ll be good for the economy and the environment. The electricity will be clean and affordable, and the revenue from generating it will stay in their communities. But this prospect has started a high-stakes legal battle. It’s pitted renewable energy advocates against traditional wholesale power providers, and it’s a fight that could help define the future of electricity generation in rural communities nationwide. But Delta Montrose Electric Association has a contract that commits them to buying power fromTri-State Generation and Transmission until 2040. DMEA doesn’t want to wait that long to ramp up local generation. So they’ve gone to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ask for permission to start now.