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John Farrell's Posts

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Community wind projects still require financing acrobatics

Wind projects shouldn't require financial acrobatics.Photo: Chris GawThis 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. Community wind projects deliver larger economic returns and encounter less local resistance, but a new report released last week shows that developing community wind still requires a daunting effort. The report, by Lawrence Berkeley Labs wind guru Mark Bolinger, illustrates the new heights of financial acrobatics required to finance community wind projects. The history of community wind was already rich with terms like …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Los Angeles residential solar PV less costly than any concentrating solar power plant

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. A residential rooftop solar PV system in Los Angeles, Calif., has a cheaper cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity delivered than the most cost effective, utility-scale concentrating solar power plant. In 2010, a buying group called Open Neighborhoods openly advertised an opportunity to get a residential solar PV system installed for $4.78 per watt (not including any tax credits, rebates, or grants), a system that would produce approximately 1,492 kilowatt-hours (kWh) …

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Glass half empty

Federal solar tax credits rule out half of Americans

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. The difference between clean energy policies with a democratizing influence and the bewildering U.S. system can be illustrated with a close look at the federal investment tax credit for solar power. The investment tax credit returns up to 30 percent of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system value to the developer, and the credit can be carried over for five years (until 2016, when the entire tax credit may expire as …

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There's no place like home

American states can learn much from Ontario's 'buy local' clean energy strategy

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. The Canadian province of Ontario has launched a clean energy strategy to maximize economic development while reducing pollution. "Maximizing Jobs From Clean Energy: Ontario’s ‘Buy Local’ Policy," a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ISLR), details how Ontario’s bold clean energy program -- in just over a year -- has resulted in the promise of 43,000 clean energy jobs and over 15,000 megawatts in applications by clean energy …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Why don’t larger solar power markets have lower prices?

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. Before the holidays we posted a chart illustrating the average cost of solar by state, highlighting Minnesota’s claim to the most expensive solar PV in the nation. The data came from the brilliant report, "Tracking the Sun III: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2009" [large PDF].  But are solar costs high in some states simply because the market is small? The answer seems to be no. …

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Running Guns on the Sun

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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now i'll go renew my gym membership...

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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The unstimulated future

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 …