Tuesday, 22 July 2008

US Utilities Evaluate Solar Power

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has announced results of a recent fact finding mission to Germany. The mission, developed by SEPA in partnership with the World Future Council and Washington State University, was the first tour of its kind to expose U.S. utility executives and managers to the success that Germany has had in its climb to become the world's leader in solar deployment.

During the five-day fact finding mission, the delegation met with German electric utilities, executives from leading photovoltaic technology companies, and visited multiple small and large scale solar installations.

U.S. utilities are increasingly interested in exploring options that will help keep pace with the growing demand for electricity and address Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) mandates and climate change concerns.

In a period of rising energy costs, solar energy is becoming an increasingly important and valued part of a responsible portfolio to help solve the growing global energy crisis.

Education, in formats such as the fact finding mission, remains a key to addressing issues surrounding integration, scalability and reliability of solar technology options for electric utilities and their customers.

During the mission, direct interaction with influencers in the German energy market allowed the U.S. utility executives a unique opportunity to gather best practices and discuss with their German counterparts many areas of interest including feed-in tariffs, associated costs for solar modules and systems, and grid integration processes.

In meetings with investor owned utilities, municipal utilities, and the Fraunhofer Institute, the delegation learned that even with high solar penetration--commonly 20 percent and as high as 30 percent--grid integration issues have not been a problem for German utilities.

Prior to the trip, the participating utilities reported that their companies on average were likely to seriously engage in solar within two to five years.

However, after exposure to the German market and seeing what is possible today without negatively affecting the power grid, participants collectively reported in a post-trip survey that serious engagement is likely to happen within the next one to two years.

"Now that these U.S. utility decision makers have seen first-hand how integration of solar is providing tangible value to German utilities and society as a whole, they can translate these examples into solar activity here in America," commented Julia Hamm, SEPA executive director and organizer of the mission.

"In the past year, there have been a significant number of utility announcements about large-scale solar projects in the U.S., but what we have seen are only the tip of the iceberg--utilities will emerge as the solar industry's largest and possibly most important customer segment."

While in Germany, the delegation spent a significant amount of time learning about the policy that has driven the solar market in that country: the Renewable Energy Act, or EEG, which is also referred to as a feed-in tariff.

The EEG guarantees each plant operator a fixed tariff for electricity generated from renewable sources which are fed into the public electricity grid.

The tariff paid is dependent on the technology used, the year the installation was put into operation, and the size of the plant. Each grid system operator is obliged to pay the statutory tariff to the plant operator.

Momentum for a feed-in style incentive structure has been gaining traction at both the national and state levels within the U.S., and the delegation was eager to learn more about the EEG's impact on the German utilities.

"Germany has established a national renewable program that has achieved impressive results in terms of the large amounts of solar deployed and innovative developments in solar technology.

The technology innovations are directly transferable to the U.S. and will facilitate the scalability and competitiveness of solar," said Roy Kuga, vice president of energy supply at Pacific Gas and Electric Company and a member of the delegation.

"The potential for solar in the U.S. is great given the higher level of solar radiation compared to Germany, and PG and E remains committed to helping realize this potential within California at competitive prices."

Regardless of geography, customer demand for solar exists in the U.S. and will continue to expand based on rising energy costs and environmental concerns. Installation and utilization of solar in states across the country is now underway and will continue to pick up speed due to an increasingly friendly regulatory environment.

Returning from the tour, Gainesville Regional Utilities' Assistant General Manager for Strategic Planning, Ed Regan, said, "Many residents in my Florida community believe we should think globally and act locally, and we believe a commitment to solar energy does just that. Local and federal incentives have lit a fire under the amount of solar activity and investment going on here."

Source - Solardaily


Anonymous said...

So is GRU going solar with their new power plant?

frequent blog updates from echarger said...

from my research it seems so

Unknown said...

Every state across the country should not hesitate to immediately implement a plan of action and a type of legislation termed Renewable Energy Payments or REP's. The policy behind REP's has been called "the world's best renewable energy law". It has proven to promote the fastest, cheapest, and widest growth of renewable energy. Its core principles are: 1. access to the power grid, 2. long-term guaranteed prices, and 3. no limit to the amount of renewable energy that can be sold to the utility companies.

In the US, energy policy is set at the national and state levels. Recognizing that our Federal Government is doing far too little to promote renewable energy, every state government needs to take leadership.

The US consumes 25% of the world's oil, but only has 3% of the world's oil reserves. Our national and state economies are overly dependent on oil. Developing our own renewable energy breaks our dependence on Middle East and other foreign oil, thereby increasing our energy security. Renewables will help to solve global warming, and create millions of new well-paid jobs.

Every state has more than enough renewable energy from the sun, wind, water, biomass and/or heat from the earth, to meet their needs. Renewable energy can be used for heating, cooling, electricity, and as fuel for machinery and transportation.

Once the investments are made to buy, install and maintain solar panels, wind turbines, etc., the actual "fuel" is free and ongoing. Compared to the costs related to fossil fuels-extraction, production, transport, pollution, illnesses, and wars-clean renewable energy is cheap. While fossil fuels pollute the environment and cause global warming, renewable energy is clean.

The most effective legislation to stimulate a rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy has been pioneered in Germany. This has made Germany the world leader in the production of solar panels, creating 234,000 jobs. In the 1980s the US had an 80% share of the solar panel market; today we have 25%. The German legislation is so effective that over 45 other countries, states and provinces have adopted similar laws with great success. We must remember Germany has the same number of peak sun hours (3) per day as southern Canada. Most states receive an annual average of twice this amount of solar resource per day.

This legislation encourages people and groups to install solar panels, wind generators, etc. to produce energy and sell it to their power company at a price guaranteed for 15 to 20 years. People are eager to install this equipment, as they will recoup their investment in about 9 years and have a steady stream of income after that. This increased demand creates jobs, conserves fossil fuels, and lowers greenhouse gas emissions-Germany is on track to meet its reduced CO2 emissions targets three years early.

This simple idea that is producing astonishing results elsewhere has received little attention in the USA. It can help states reach their CO2 reduction targets, and their goals to have a percentage of their energy come from renewables by a set date. Climate chaos, escalating fuel prices, and wars show us that we need to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. We have the technology, know-how, and resources. Now we need leadership from our state government.

We can all be innovative leaders in renewable energy. With REP's we can do the most to help our country make a rapid transition from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy. By being a leader in clean renewable energy, we will create many thousands of well-paid jobs, improve public health, and help stop global warming. By reducing our dependence on imported fuels, we will keep the revenues of the energy industry within each state and increase our national security.


With Decentralized Renewable Energy we create:

Efficiency - Renewable energy can be produced right where it's used, so almost nothing is wasted.

Security - Currently, accessible renewable resources can deliver six times more energy than all the people on this planet use every day.

Investment - Governments should support future technology that has the capacity to solve energy problems with clean, affordable energy for everyone.

Ecology - Most renewable-energy fuels produce no emissions. The quicker we switch, the quicker we can stabilize our climate and prevent catastrophes.

Independence - Renewable-energy technology produces energy in diverse, small-scale ways, allowing energy independence for everyone, everywhere.

Cost - Renewable-energy fuels are free. The sun and wind do not increase their price, and technology will become cheaper as the market grows. As a result, our valuable water supplies are left to meet other needs.

Economic Growth - Renewable energy provides stable fuel prices while creating a large number of high-skilled jobs in many sectors. The benefits are spread throughout society.

Similar legislation is being introduced in Washington, DC, Florida and Michigan.