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John Farrell's Posts

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Feed-in tariffs responsible for most renewable energy

Cross-posted from CleanTechnica. Feed-in tariffs are a comprehensive renewable energy policy responsible for 64 percent of the world's wind power and almost 90 percent of the world's solar power (see charts below). With simplified grid connections, long-term contracts, and attractive prices for development, that's policy that works. Image: David Jacobs Image: David Jacobs The basic premise of the feed-in tariff is that the electric utility must connect any wind turbine or solar panel (or other generator) to the grid and buy all the electricity via a long-term contract with a public price. Its use in Germany and its simplicity have …

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How electric vehicles can give a boost to local clean energy

A plug for plug-ins.This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. The Northwest could get an additional 12 percent of its electricity from local wind power if one in eight of the region's cars used batteries. That's the conclusion of a study [PDF] from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories investigating how electric vehicles can help smooth the introduction of more variable renewable energy into the grid system. The study examines the Northwest Power Pool, an area encompassing roughly seven states in the Northwest. With around 2.1 million electrified vehicles, …

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Wind could provide at least 25 percent of electricity for most states

At least 32 states could get 25 percent or more of their electricity from wind power generated within their own borders. This is an updated version of a map included in the report "Energy Self-Reliant States" from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Click on the map to see a larger version. State wind power potential (percent of electricity sales)

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California pushes back against energy imports

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Western grid operators have been making plans for large-scale renewable energy imports into the California electricity market, prompting the governor's senior advisor for renewable energy facilities to write a "self-reliance" response. Here are a few highlights of his letter [PDF] to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC): California has plenty of in-state development: "The California Independent System Operator [CAISO] indicates that renewable projects totaling 70,000 [megawatts] of installed capacity [nearly enough to meet all of the state's peak summer demand] are …

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‘Going Boulder’ means voting for local energy self-reliance

Photo: Zane Selvans This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. By a razor-thin margin, Boulder, Colo., citizens gave the city a victory for energy self-reliance on Tuesday, approving two ballot measures to let the city form a municipal utility. If the city moves ahead, it would capture nearly $100 million currently spent on electricity imports, and instead create up to $350 million in local economic development by dramatically increasing local clean energy production.    The stage was set over several years, as the city’s multiple pleas for more …

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Distributed solar power gets more affordable

Cross-posted from Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Installed costs for solar PV have dropped, and economies of scale improved significantly in 2010, opening the door for much more cost-competitive distributed solar power.  The data comes from the 4th edition of the excellent report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (NBNL), Tracking the Sun [PDF], and shows the installed costs for behind-the-meter solar PV projects in 2010. The following merely copies Figure 11 from that report, showing the average installed cost of "behind-the-meter" solar projects in the U.S. in 2010, by project …

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Why ‘market-based’ is poor criteria for solar policy

The energy market isn't as free as we'd like to believe.Photo: USDAThis post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. When it comes to solar policy in the U.S., there are three flavors: tax or cash incentives, long-term CLEAN Contracts, and solar renewable energy credit markets. Policy makers are often drawn to flavors that taste like markets, but unfortunately "market-based" and "cost-effective" aren't synonyms in solar policy. Furthermore, by virtue of being available almost anywhere, renewable energy presents a unique opportunity to disperse the economic value of generating energy, and …

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Big wind farms cost more than small ones

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. It seems obvious: Every extra turbine in a wind farm comes at a lower incremental cost, making the biggest wind power projects the most cost effective.  If you bet $20 on that proposition, you just lost $20. Instead, data from the U.S. Department of Energy's 2009 Wind Technologies Market Report by Ryan Wiser and Mark Bolinger (a must-read) blows a hole in the conventional wisdom that bigger is better.  The report shows that wind projects between five and 20 megawatts have …

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Solar panels under power lines could be a major electricity source

From this ...Photo: William GibsonThis post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. What if the U.S. could get 20 percent of its power from solar, near transmission lines, and without covering virgin desert? It could. Transmission right-of-way corridors, vast swaths of vegetation-free landscape to protect high-voltage power lines, could provide enough space for over 600,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV). These arrays could provide enough electricity to meet 20 percent of the country's electric needs. (Note: There may not be good interconnection opportunities for solar under these huge towers, …