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U.S. military sees great value in distributed renewable energy

This is part of a series on distributed renewable energy posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. There's no better illustration of the value of distributed renewable energy than the U.S. military. In Iraq, the 50,000 U.S. troops (as of August 2010) use 600 million gallons of fuel per year at a cost of dozens of lives of U.S. soldiers who die protecting fuel convoys and the financial cost of nearly $27 billion for fuel and security ($45 per gallon!). New distributed renewable energy systems can help …

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California launches compromise small-scale renewable auction

This is part of a series on distributed renewable energy. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) officially launched its Renewable Auction Mechanism (RAM)* last week, to spur more development in renewable energy projects smaller than 20 megawatts.  The good and bad news is summarized quite well by the FIT Coalition, with the good news being: A strong focus on the < 20 megawatt market segment, also known as Wholesale Distributed Generation if the project connects to the distribution grid. Recognizes value of …

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Federal solar incentives cost schools ownership opportunity

This is part of a series on distributed renewable energy. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. There's been a fair amount of news about the spread of solar carports in California, highlighting the Milpitas School District’s 14 distributed solar PV arrays.  According to a news story, the district anticipates savings of $12 million over 25 years from the projects, which were financed by a power purchase agreement with Chevron Energy Solutions.  But would the district (and other schools) be better off owning their solar PV arrays rather than signing …

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Perverse policy makes distributed renewables more expensive

This is part of a series of posts on distributed renewable energy that will be posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. I’ve talked previously about the perversity of using tax credits to incentivize renewable energy production, increasing transaction costs and reducing participation in renewable energy development. But there are other perversities in U.S. state and utility renewable energy policies, especially with upfront rebates and net metering.  Let's start with rebates. Many states and utilities offer upfront rebates for the development of solar PV projects (in dollars …

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How renewable incentives affect project ownership

This is part of a series of posts on distributed renewable energy that will be posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. In less than a month, solar energy projects will see the stimulus-funded cash grant in lieu of the 30 percent tax credit expire. The change back to tax-credit-financed projects provides a revealing look at the disadvantages of energy incentives based on the tax code, thanks especially to a recent New York Times story about the shift. (For more on this subject, see "Why tax credits …

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Concentrating solar thermal power, distributed

This is part of a series of posts on distributed renewable energy that will be posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. When discussing centralized vs. decentralized solar power, there's an inevitable comparison between solar thermal electric power and solar photovoltaic (PV). But the fact is that solar thermal power -- or concentrating solar power (CSP) -- can also be done in a distributed fashion. In fact, of the 21 operational CSP plants in the world, 18 are smaller than 80 megawatts (MW). And among operational plants …

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Increasing on-site consumption of distributed solar

This is part of a series of posts on distributed renewable energy that will be posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. It’s rarely mentioned that a home with a solar array still gets most of its electricity from the grid. In fact, without storage, a typical home solar array might only serve one-third of a home’s electricity use, even if the system is big enough to meet the home’s peak needs. The problem is a mismatch in production and consumption, with a rooftop solar array producing …

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Why tax credits make lousy renewable energy policy

Tax credit transaction cost.This is part of a series of posts on distributed renewable energy that will be posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. For two years, solar and wind energy producers seeking federal incentives have been able to take cash grants in lieu of tax credits. The stimulus act program helped keep the renewable energy industry afloat as the credit crunch and economic downturn dried up the market for reselling tax credits to banks and other investors with large tax bills. The cash grant program …

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Renewable energy economies of scale are b.s.

This is part of a series of posts on distributed renewable energy that will be posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. I had a conversation with a wind developer yesterday and was talking about the difference between putting together large projects (over 80 megawatts) compared to distributed generation wind projects (80 megawatts and under). I mentioned that we have a deep interest in understanding the economies of scale of renewable energy projects and he replied, "Economies of scale are bull****." He noted that large wind projects …

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Feed-in tariff champion Hermann Scheer leaves big legacy

This is part of a series of posts on distributed renewable energy that will be posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Sun king Hermann Scheer.Photo: Hans MestrumThe recent death of German renewable energy advocate Hermann Scheer -- dubbed the sun king or even the Stalin of renewables -- is a unique opportunity to reflect on his largest legacy, the feed-in tariff, a policy responsible for the rise of the renewable energy industry. The feed-in tariff offers prospective renewable energy producers three simple and powerful tools: a …

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