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John Farrell's Posts

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Cooperative South Dakota wind farm nets 600 local owners

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. With the right renewable energy policy, hundreds of individuals can have a stake in a renewable energy future.  That's what happened with a cooperatively-owned wind project in South Dakota, where 7 turbines from a larger wind project are shared by over 600 local investors. The largest barrier to community ownership of renewable energy has been the use of tax credits as the primary federal incentive for renewable energy.  Tax credit incentives stymie cities, counties, and cooperatives from constructing and owning their own …

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How to power homes with 100% clean and increasingly local power

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. After 10 years of battling incumbent utilities, Marin Clean Energy became California's first operational community choice aggregation (CCA) authority in 2010. Already, local ratepayers can opt to get 100 percent of their electricity from renewable resources.  CCA offers an option for cities, counties, and collaborations to opt out of the traditional role of energy consumers. Instead, they can become the local retail utility, buying electricity in bulk and selecting their power providers on behalf of their citizens in order to find lower …

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Banks inflate solar value for tax credit

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Solar leasing has offered thousands of homeowners a "no money down" route to go solar, broadening participation in the distributed generation revolution. Unfortunately, this revolution has been co-opted by high finance. Big banks have been able to write off millions in taxes by overreporting the cost of financed solar PV projects in what may be the country's next banking scandal. In a phone conversation last month, Jigar Shah of Carbon War Room (formerly chief of solar-as-a-service company SunEdison) disclosed that while solar …

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31 states can be self-sufficient with local renewable energy

The following map was the headline graphic to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's 2009 report, Energy Self-Reliant States, unveiling the enormous potential for each state to meet its own electricity needs internally.  I re-created the map for web viewing, so it's now even easier to share how each state can meet its electricity consumption with in-state renewable energy resources.  The renewable resources considered include on- and off-shore wind, rooftop solar PV, hydro, combined heat and power, and high-temperature geothermal.  Read the Energy Self-Reliant States report for more details. Click the image for a larger version of the map or here …

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Support local wind power on your utility bill?

Although Americans overwhelmingly support renewable energy, it's usually much harder to find a way to support the development of renewables close to home.  This innovative proposal offered last session in the Minnesota state legislature could change that. The bill would require utilities to offer a green pricing program for local, distributed wind power.  Green pricing means you can opt to pay a bit more on your electric bill to support clean energy development by your utility.  The largest investor-owned utility in Minnesota – Xcel Energy – already offers Windsource, a program to buy blocks of wind power at a premium …

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When is it time to break up with your utility?

Boulder is pulling the plug on Xcel Energy and looking to forge its own path.When is it time to break up with your utility? Perhaps it’s when they come to ratepayers for $30 million in cost overruns on a “free” smart grid project. Or when they fail to meet deadlines to propose a new franchise agreement. Or when they cite national security in an effort to avoid sharing load information. Or when they crash your office with nine employees to present their delayed franchise plan. Or perhaps when they propose raising rates again to keep up with rising fossil fuel …

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For U.S. electricity, bigger isn't better

Originally published at Minnesota Public Radio. The United States doesn't need another nuclear or coal power plant. Instead, it's time to abandon our 20th-century electricity system -- dominated by large, centralized utilities -- for a 21st-century electricity system that allows a network of independently owned and widely dispersed renewable energy producers to flourish. The 20th-century electricity grid was mostly a tale of "bigger is better." Utilities built ever-larger fossil fuel and nuclear power plants in pursuit of the cheapest possible electricity. For a 20th-century society, it worked. But the paradigm has changed. Since the year 2007, national electricity consumption has …

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New York City's massive solar opportunity

The City University of New York (CUNY) released a solar map of New York City last week, allowing building owners in the city to determine the amount of solar power their roof could host. The cumulative impact is enormous, with city rooftops capable of providing half the city's peak power, and 14 percent of its annual electricity consumption. The city should immediately maximize solar power development to save millions in electricity costs. At $3.50 per watt installed, and with the federal 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC), solar power in New York City can provide electricity at 16 cents per …

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Feds running a high-voltage gravy train for power transmission

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 instead of looking at more economical alternatives. Since 2007, FERC has had 45 requests for bonus incentives for transmission development -- authorized under the 2005 Energy Policy Act -- and has provided all or most of the requested incentives in more than 80 percent of the cases. With the bonuses, the average return on equity for …

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Value of solar power far exceeds its cost

Solar power has a monetary value as much as 10 times higher than its energy value, thanks to its ability to reduce peak demand on the transmission and distribution system, hedge against fuel price increases, and enhance grid and environmental security.  The cost of residential-scale distributed solar PV is around 23 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in a sunny climate like Los Angeles, 24 cents in Colorado. While the average cost of grid-delivered wholesale electricity in many parts of the country is low (four cents per kWh), a new report lists many ways that distributed solar adds value beyond electrons [PDF]. …