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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Apr 28, 2011

Nevada Senate approves feed-in tariff

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/nevada-senate-approves-feed-tariff/

By a vote of 13 to 8, the Nevada Senate earlier this week approved a feed-in tariff to boost renewable energy develoment in the state.  The bill, SB184, now heads to the House where it is expected to pass.  Unfortunately, a gubernatorial veto is also expected, so supporters are hoping for a 2/3 majority in favor.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Apr 27, 2011

Really, Really Astonishingly Low Distributed Solar PV Prices from German Solar Policy

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/really-really-astonishingly-low-distributed-solar-pv-prices-german-solar-policy/

Last week I shared a graphic illustrating the dramatic fall in distributed solar PV prices in Germany, down to $4.11 per Watt installed, for rooftop systems under 100 kilowatts.  As it turns out, the graphic was out-of-date.  In Germany, the average installed cost for rooftop solar PV under 100 kW is $3.70 per Watt (update 7/13/11: $3.40 per Watt).  It’s a 50% drop in price since 2006, an average of 13% per year.

For comparison (as in the first post), here’s the average installed cost for under 10 kW rooftop solar PV in the United States, by state.

Chart is from page 19 of the brilliant report, Tracking the Sun III: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2009 (large pdf).

Also from the previous post:

Did I also mention that the German policy (a feed-in tariff) driving solar costs down only costs German ratepayers the equivalent of a loaf of bread per month?  In the U.S., the federal renewable energy incentives cost $4 billion in 2007, or about $3.17 per household per month (or about the same price as an Italian baguette).

There’s only way to describe this German success: wunderbar!

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Apr 26, 2011

FERC’s High Voltage Gravy Train

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/fercs-high-voltage-gravy-train/

Even as distributed generation shows economical and political advantages over centralized renewable energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is running a high voltage gravy train in support of expanded transmission.  FERC’s lavish program is expanding large transmission infrastructure at the expense of ratepayers and more economical alternatives. Since 2007, FERC has had 45 requests… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 9 Comments | Updated on Apr 21, 2011

Astonishingly Low Distributed Solar PV Prices from German Solar Policy

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/astonishingly-low-distributed-solar-pv-prices-german-solar-policy/

Most renewable energy advocates are familiar with feed-in tariffs, also known as CLEAN Contracts.  They offer standard, long-term contracts for renewable electricity with prices sufficient to allow producers to get a reasonable return on investment (in Germany, it’s 6 to 8 percent). And research has shown that they tend to drive prices down more effectively… Continue reading

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Article, Resource filed under Broadband | Written by admin | No Comments | Updated on Apr 20, 2011

FiberFête

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/fiberfete/

Christopher Mitchell presents at FiberFête on April 20, 2011 in Lafayette, Louisiana. He reviews ILSR’s work and personal experiences with broadband. Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Apr 19, 2011

Oregon Town Gets a Lot of Solar for a Little Money

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/oregon-town-gets-lot-solar-little-money/

The upfront cost has always been the biggest barrier to solar PV adoption, and one Oregon town has found an innovative way to help its citizens buy down that cost.

The city borrowed from the sewer account to offer no-interest loans of $9,000 each. The repayment schedule, over four years, is tied to residents’ tax returns each spring, when they receive refunds of state and federal renewable energy tax credits.

All told, Lehman estimates the program will cost the city only $10,000 in lost interest over four years.

While the loan terms are short (4 years), the repayment plan is tied to the state and federal tax credit schedule, essentially allowing interested home and business owners the chance to finance solar directly with those credits, rather than having to put their own money up front.

The loan program spurred over 50 solar PV installations in 2010, in a town of just 16,500 residents.  The residents not only received discount financing, but the city helped aggregate the purchase of the solar panels to get participants a “group buy” discount.  Assuming a system size of 3 kilowatts and installed cost of $6.00 per Watt, the city’s $10,000 investment got their residents approximately $1 million worth of new solar power.

The increase in solar installation activity had an effect even for those who didn’t use the town’s financing option:

Ken Abbott, a retired postal employee, didn’t use the loan program but took advantage of the lower installation prices that resulted from the large number of buyers.

Pendelton’s lesson to cities is that you don’t need a lot of money to make it a lot easier to go solar.

Photo credit: Flickr user chdwckvnstrsslhm

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Article filed under The Public Good, The Public Good News | Written by David Morris | 39 Comments | Updated on Apr 18, 2011

The Real American Exceptionalism

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/the-real-american-exceptionalism/

For Republican presidential candidates the phrase American Exceptionalism has taken on almost talismanic qualities. Newt Gingrich’s new book is titled, “A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters”. “American the Exceptional” is the title of a chapter in Sarah Palin’s book America by Heart. What is this American exceptionalism Republicans so venerate? David Morris digs deeper in this commentary. Continue reading

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Article filed under General | Written by Christopher | No Comments | Updated on Apr 18, 2011

WMMT Covers Rural Broadband and Importance of Expanding Access

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/wmmt-covers-rural-broadband-and-importance-expanding-access/

Christopher Mitchell is one of several voices discussing the importance of funding rural broadband throughout the U.S.  WMMT is a radio station in Kentucky, frequently covering rural issues in the Appalachians. 

Also featured are Dee Davis of Rural Strategies and Lisa Fannin of the Mountain Telephone Cooperative in NE Kentucky, the first entity in Kentucky to receive a broadband stimulus award.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Apr 18, 2011

Colorado Town Considers “How Much Renewable Energy is Feasible” – 80% by 2025?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/colorado-town-considers-how-much-renewable-energy-feasible-80-2025/

A great story of a city looking to – literally – take ownership of its energy future:

The Colorado Renewable Energy Standard, as amended last year by the state Legislature, requires Xcel Energy to get 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

 …Boulder leaders — who let the city’s 20-year franchise agreement with Xcel Energy lapse at the end of 2010 — are now considering whether they can get an energy mix for their residents with a larger percentage of renewable energy than what Xcel is offering.

…At the “Clean Energy Slam” event in February, which gave participants two minutes to pitch a vision for Boulder’s energy future, a representative of Southwest Generation told the crowd that he believed his company could provide Boulder with an energy mix of 50 percent renewables and 50 percent natural gas by 2014. And by 2025, the company could provide up to 80 percent renewable energy to the city, the representative, David Rhodes, said.

…Jonathan Koehn, the city’s regional sustainability coordinator, said adding more renewables is only part of the equation.

“We’ve heard a lot of concern that, perhaps, more clean energy is driving this analysis,” he said. “But this is about long-term economic stability. When we talk about what our portfolio might look like in the future, we don’t have a predetermined notion of a certain percentage of renewables. What we want is to be able to analyze how we can have long-term stable rates.”

It’s not just about clean energy and stable rates, however.  The decision to eschew a utility franchise was also about localization, described on a city website as “taking more control in determining:

  • Where the energy supply comes from – Locally produced
  • What types of energy are provided – Renewables over fossil fuels
  • How much we pay for it – Rate control

Local generation of renewable energy will add more to Boulder’s economy than importing clean electrons, and if those projects can also be locally owned (perhaps via a community solar project like the Clean Energy Collective is doing in Carbondale, CO) then the economic benefits multiply significantly.

Photo credit: Flickr user respres (photo is of Denver, not Boulder, but I wanted a sunrise…)

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Apr 15, 2011

Michigan Utility Freezes its Hot Solar PV Program

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/michigan-utility-freezes-its-hot-solar-pv-program/

Consumers Energy in Michigan, with a peak demand of around 4,000 megawatts (MW) just put the brakes on its pilot 2 MW solar PV program.  The program sold out very fast, but rather than expand the program to accommodate demand, the utility says it needs to study the program.

The program was modeled on CLEAN Contracts, also known as feed-in tariffs, that provided a fixed payment per kilowatt-hour over 12 years that was high enough for residential and commercial solar PV systems to earn a decent rate of return.  Similar programs operate on a larger scale in Gainesville, FL, Vermont, Ontario, and in many European countries.

A lot of local businesses were strongly interested in participating, in part for the spillover economic benefits:

“When I looked at all the businesses that benefited,” [said Mr. Draper, regarding Fluid Process Company's] installation, “the local steel fabricator for the mounting poles, the tree remover, the ditch digging, crane, and concrete companies—Consumers would be giving the state a much-needed boost.”

For now, many solar industry and advocacy groups are trying to convince Consumers Energy to reinstate the program, especially since the utility is also trying to roll back its renewable energy surcharge from $2.50 to 70 cents per customer.

Said David Wright, of the non-profit Ecology Center, in Ann Arbor,

“We just don’t want to see the program end. It’s in everyone’s best interest to diversify power supplies, find out about cost reductions, improve the program, and support our local solar industry.”

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