Wisconsin Utility Seeks New Fee for Renewables

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in photovoltaic

A Wisconsin utility is seeking regulatory approval for a revised rate structure that adds new fees for customers who generate some of their own power with wind, solar, and other renewable energy systems, and cuts the amount of money they are paid for excess electricity through net-metering. We Energies' proposal would hike the fixed service charge (what it calls a "facilities charge") for all residential electric customers from $9 to $16 per month.

Austin, Texas, Will Boost Solar Output

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in Austin

The Austin, Texas, city council has passed a resolution that requires a total of 800 megawatts in new photovoltaic (PV) within six years, a move that would make Texas one of the top 10 solar electricity producers in the country, Greentech Media reports.

Vermont Utility to Develop New Grid Technology

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in battery storage

The largest electric utility in Vermont has announced its intent to offer a variety of new products and services to its customers and develop a network of micro-grids through the state that offer more reliable service than the existing "legacy grid system." Beginning in the city of Rutland next year, Green Mountain Power said it would partner with NRG Energy to develop an advanced distribution grid that could serve as a model for expansion to other parts of the state later. The utility has some 265,000 residential and business customers in Vermont.

Solar Gets A Big Boost in Hawaii

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in Hawaii

Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) has announced a plan to triple the number of solar electric panels in the state by 2030 and take a variety of other steps that would lower power bills for state residents by 20%. Utility Dive reported the move would increase the proportion of renewable energy from its current level of 18% to 65%, the highest in the United States.

Bank Predicts Shift in European Power Picture

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in distributed generation

The world's largest bank is advising investors and clients that innovations in photovoltaic (PV) technology and rapidly falling costs for batteries and PV equipment will eventually make large, centralized power generating stations in Europe obsolete. UBS bank, based in Zurich, earlier this month produced a lengthy briefing paper that predicts that an investment in a combined electric vehicle / PV installation / battery system would pay for itself in as little as 6 to 8 years by 2020, without any subsidies.

PV Cost Reaches Grid Parity in 11 States

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in grid parity

For people in 11 states and the District of Columbia, electricity produced by photovoltaic (PV) arrays costs no more than electricity purchased from a local utility, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Mike Jacobs, the UCS's senior energy analyst, writes in a blog posted August 20, that more than half the states in the country could reach what's called "grid parity" by 2017.

Solar Industry Sees Potential PV Panel Shortage

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in photovoltaic

The global photovoltaic (PV) panel industry is facing the first shortage of panels in eight years as installations continue to pick up, according to a report in BusinessWeek. The article said the industry could install as much as 52 gigawatts of solar panels this year and another 61 gigawatts next year. That would be more than seven times the capacity of the PV equipment installed just five years ago, and substantially above the 40 gigawatts installed last year.

Utah Utility Seeks Fee for Net-Metered Customers

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in net metering

Net-metered residential solar customers of Rocky Mountain Power in Utah would see a new $4.65 monthly "facilities charge" on their bills under a plan now before state utility regulators. Like other electric utilities around the country, Rocky Mountain Power argues that it faces fixed costs for maintaining the grid regardless of how much electricity it sells. Customers who have photovoltaic (PV) arrays on their roofs, it says, avoid paying their full share.

A New Life For an Old Landfill

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in photovoltaic

For 23 years, the landfill in Scituate, Massachusetts, accepted municipal solid waste, construction debris, and residue from a nearby wastewater treatment plant. When the dump was finally capped in 2000, the city faced the same problem that a lot of communities do as they convert landfills into transfer stations: Just how could this piece of land be put to good use?

Solar Loans Are Getting Easier to Find

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in financing

Homeowners looking for a way to finance new rooftop solar systems now have more options than local banks and credit unions. SunPower Corp., the country's second-largest maker of solar panels, said on June 16 it had worked out a $200 million loan agreement with Admirals Bank that would fund residential solar projects over the next two years, according to a report at MarketWatch.

An Energy-Self-Sufficient Community

Posted on March 30,2015 by Andrew Dey in biogas

From a distance, Feldheim looks like many other rural villages in Germany: a cluster of buildings surrounded by farmland and forests. The backdrop includes numerous wind turbines, but that’s not unusual in Germany’s breezy north. What is unusual is that there are two signs welcoming visitors to Feldheim: the typical yellow sign that is found at the edge of every village, and another in blue and white announcing that Feldheim is an “Energieautarker Ortsteil,” or an energy self-sufficient district.

Utility Seeks Fee for Rooftop Solar in Utah

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in distributed generation

Rocky Mountain Power is seeking permission from regulators to tack on an extra $4.25 a month to the power bills of Utah customers with photovoltaic (PV) systems.

South Carolina Lawmakers Pass Solar Bill

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in net metering

The South Carolina General Assembly has passed legislation that permits homeowners to lease photovoltaic (PV) equipment from third-party installers, loosening what PVSolarReport has called some of the most restrictive PV laws in the country.

Are Solar-Plus-Battery Systems Coming to a Neighborhood Near You?

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in battery

Solar-plus-battery systems that combine photovoltaic panels and lithium-ion batteries are helping a number of commercial electricity customers cut their power bills, but any widespread spillover to the residential side of the market looks to be some time away. Two solar installers, SolarCity, and SunPower, are offering the systems to residential customers, yet the numbers in the pilot programs are very modest.

New Solar Fees Proposed in San Antonio

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in net metering

Trustees of San Antonio's municipally owned electric utility have approved a plan to award $21 million in new solar rebates, retain the current net-metering rules for rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems, and develop a solar leasing program for utility customers who are unable to install their own PV systems. At the same time, the CPS Energy Board of Trustees wants two new fees to pay for it: a one-time $450 interconnect charge for new residential systems, plus a monthly fee of $1 per kW of PV capacity. Existing customers would be grandfathered.

Can We Power Our Car With the Sun?

Posted on March 30,2015 by AlexWilson in electric vehicle

I’ve written about a lot of the features we included in our new house in Dummerston, Vermont, to reduce its energy use and environmental footprint, but there’s another one — a big one — that doesn’t really relate to the house.

A Looming Challenge for Utilities

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in distributed solar

Falling prices for solar-plus-battery systems are giving a growing number of people the option of completely cutting ties with the grid and represent a serious challenge to electric utilities, according to a study released by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Government Lab Seeks A Way to Boost Solar Loans

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in NREL

Both homeowners and bankers could benefit from an initiative at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory aimed at lowering barriers to more loans for rooftop photovoltaic (PV) installations. NREL's "Banking on Solar" program brings together more than 50 financial, energy, and research interests to discuss ways of making it easier for homeowners and businesses to borrow money to install solar systems. While lenders are beginning to offer loan products, NREL said in a news release, some barriers remain.

Changing the Solar Picture in Minnesota

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in Minnesota

Less than a month after regulators voted to adopt a new and innovative approach to calculating the value of the electricity produced by owners of residential PV systems, Minnesota’s largest electric utility has formally asked the state's Public Utilities Commission to back up and try again. Under the plan approved on April 1, utilities may elect to reimburse customers for excess electricity they generate in one of two ways: with the net-metering rules already in place, or with a new "value of solar tariff," or VOST.

Solar Panels May Last Longer Than You Think

Posted on March 30,2015 by ScottG in NREL

The rule of thumb on the long-term performance of photovoltaic panels is that output will decline by about 1% each year. After 20 years in service, panels should still be able to produce roughly 80% of their rated capacity. But research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory finds that rate of degradation is probably overstated, according to a post at

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