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John Farrell's Posts

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Can cash payments win over wind farm opponents?

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. A 50-turbine wind farm in Goodhue County in southeastern Minnesota has met with stiff local resistance, a frequent tale in the wind industry.  Recently, the project developer won a key court case to move forward, after making concessions about the distance ("setback") between the wind farm and local homes.  However, many residents remained unconvinced that the project was in their best interest. But this summer the project developers offered $10,000 payments (over 20 years) to about 200 local residents to try …

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Does energy storage compensate for water-thirsty concentrating solar thermal power?

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Concentrating solar thermal power has promised big additions to renewable energy production with the additional benefit of energy storage.  But with significant water consumption in desert locations, is the energy storage benefit of concentrating solar enough to compete with the dramatically falling cost of solar PV? In May, I compared the water consumption of fossil fuel power plants to various solar technologies, noting that wet-cooled concentrating solar thermal power (think big mirrors) uses more water per megawatt-hour (MWh) than any other …

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German small solar cheaper than big U.S. solar

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. The U.S. has a hodge-podge of utility, state, and federal tax-based incentives. The Germans have a comprehensive feed-in tariff, providing CLEAN contracts (in the U.S. parlance) to anyone who wants to go solar (or wind, or biogas, etc). What does that mean for the price of solar? From a study of U.S. solar prices reported in Renewables International: Perhaps most surprisingly, the study found that the planned arrays [in the U.S.] larger than one megawatt have an average installed price of …

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Overcoming the roadblocks to democratizing the electricity system – part 5 of 5

A serialized version of ILSR‘s new report, Democratizing the Electricity System, Part 4 of 5. Click for Part 1 or Part 2 or Part 3 or Part 4. Overcoming the Roadblocks to Democratizing the Electricity System The electricity grid system has become host to a distributed generation phenomenon that has developed in a largely hostile environment.  It’s possible that distributed generation has enough inherent economic and political advantage to be sustainable, but new policy could significantly expand distributed generation in the electricity system. The following policies illustrate the many ways that the electricity system can incorporate the benefits of  distributed …

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New York City's Solar Windfall Illuminates America's Clean Energy Future

This post adapted from Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. A recently released solar map of New York City found enough room on building rooftops for solar panels to power half the city during hours of peak electricity use. Taking advantage of this solar windfall could allow New Yorkers to save millions on electricity costs and create tens of thousands of jobs. New York City is not alone in its solar power potential. Almost 60 million Americans live in areas where solar prices are competitive with retail electricity costs, but this opportunity …

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Why we should democratize the electricity system – part 4

A serialized version of ILSR‘s new report, Democratizing the Electricity System, Part 4 of 5. Click for Part 1 or Part 2 or Part 3. Roadblocks to Distributed, Local Renewable Energy Despite technology’s march toward more efficient and distributed energy production, there’s a substantial tension between the decentralized opportunity and the institutional and policy inertia generated from a century dominated by the paradigm of centralized generation. Motivated by the urgency of global climate change, many renewable energy advocates hope to transform the electricity grid by building ever-larger wind farms and solar power projects in remote regions, and sending power across …

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Could California Save 30 Percent or More on Solar Power?

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. The Golden State has covered over 50,000 roofs with solar PV in the past decade, but could it also save 30% or more on its current solar costs?  Renewable energy guru Paul Gipe wrote up a study last month that found that Californians pay much more per kilowatt-hour of solar power than Germans do (accounting for the difference in the solar resource). The following chart outlines the various ways Californians pay for solar, compared to the Germans (averaged over 20 years, …

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The Political and Technical Advantages of Distributed Renewable Power

A serialized version of ILSR‘s new report, Democratizing the Electricity System, Part 3 of 5. Click for Part 1 or Part 2. The Political and Technical Advantages of Distributed Generation While technology has helped change the economics of electricity production (in favor of renewables and distributed generation), this new dynamic can as easily be controlled by the incumbent utilities as the old paradigm of centralized fossil fuel power generation. The cornerstone of the distributed generation revolution is its potential democratizing influence on the electric grid, the opportunity unlocked for local ownership and the coincident political support for more renewable energy. …

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Missouri puts payoff of local power in peril

Missouri wind farm.Photo: Don HarderThis post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. In a stunning reversal of popular wisdom, overzealous state legislators and interest groups are jeopardizing over $4 billion in economic activity and thousands of jobs promised in Missouri’s three-year-old renewable energy law. Missourians should consider the benefits of maximizing the state’s clean electricity production and override their mistaken legislators, reaffirming their commitment to local renewable energy. In 2008, Missouri voters approved a state renewable energy standard with a two-thirds majority, requiring utilities to get 15 percent of …

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The Economics of Distributed Renewable Power

A serialized version of ILSR's new report, Democratizing the Electricity System, Part 2 of 5. Click for Part 1. The Economics of Distributed Generation The falling cost of distributed renewable generation has been one of the key drivers of the transformation of the U.S. electric grid. The following chart illustrates the cost of power generation calculated by averaging the total lifetime cost over the total electricity generated (“levelized cost”), as estimated by the investment bank, Lazard.[1]Federal incentives cause a significant reduction in the levelized cost of renewable energy, in the form of upfront tax credits as well as ongoing production-based …

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