The House’s top watchdog is probing whether funds from a federal solar program were used for unlawful lobbying activities. In letters to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and two organizations yesterday, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) questioned whether money from DOE’s SunShot Initiative was used to lobby for state rooftop solar subsidies and violated the federal anti-lobbying act. Specifically, Chaffetz is examining SunShot funds distributed to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council and Clean Energy States Alliance.
SolarCity, the solar panel company that Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors plans to buy, will take up to $5 million in charges to cover planned layoffs, it said late Wednesday. It’s also cutting the salary of its two co-founders to $1.
When federal judges last month slapped a stay on a U.S. EPA cleanup plan targeting coal-fired power plants in Texas, one factor loomed especially large in their decision: the potential impact to the electric grid. Not only would Texas consumers end up footing the bill, but grid reliability would be imperiled “if plant operators close facilities rather than install or upgrade uneconomical emissions controls,” the three-judge panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the unanimous ruling.
Rob Gramlich has spent a 30-year career in Washington, D.C., building a reputation as a resource economist and energy policy expert, including two decades at the American Wind Energy Association, where he is senior vice president for government and public affairs. But for a midcareer AWEA sabbatical, Gramlich passed on the clean energy hubs of Europe and Asia in favor of Tanzania, where for six weeks this summer he sustained himself on chapati and rice, communicated in rudimentary Swahili, and grew a beard better suited to summiting Mount Kilimanjaro than slogging through a hot D.C. summer.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced earlier this week $12.6 million in Clean Energy Fund grants to five utilities in Washington. The governor made the announcement in Seattle at the Northwest Regional Clean Energy Innovation Partnership Workshop hosted by the University of Washington and the Pacific Northwest National Lab. At the event, the governor joined U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell to discuss the Pacific Northwest’s role as an international leader in developing the technologies to power a growing 21st century clean energy economy.
Colorado’s biggest power company this week signed onto an unprecedented settlement agreement on renewable power and customer billing that environmental advocates say could be a turning point in ushering cleaner energy onto the grid. Xcel Energy Inc., which provides power to two-thirds of the state’s residential customers, will no longer pursue a proposal to add a fixed grid-use charge to customers’ bills, which solar advocates feared would slow renewable power development. Instead, it will look into two other types of billing based on power use.
Deepwater Wind LLC is on the verge of completing the first offshore wind farm in U.S. waters, a milestone for an industry that has struggled for a more than decade to build in North America. Workers have installed blades on four of the five 589-foot turbines at the site off the coast of Rhode Island and construction may be complete as early as this week, according to Chief Executive Officer Jeff Grybowski. The 30-megawatt, $300 million project is expected to begin commercial operation in early November. “We will finish in advance of our original schedule,” Grybowski said in an interview at a dock on Block Island. “And we are in-line with our budget.”
The Obama administration yesterday took a significant step toward the first wind development off the coast of California. Billing the move as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management sought to gauge public interest in a lease request for a 765-megawatt offshore facility. Trident Winds LLC in January submitted its request to lease the approximately 68,000-acre area about 33 miles northwest of Morro Bay near San Luis Obispo.
A project to install hundreds of wind turbines in the Fosen peninsula area of Norway at one point was shelved as unfeasible. The strong breezes that whip off the sea can shift and swing unpredictably, while the soaring cliffs and steep drop-offs create turbulence that wears out expensive equipment. The venture was rescued with a lot of help from the mathematical calculations of Vestas Wind Systems, a Danish wind power company. Vestas used data to figure out how to use more powerful turbines for the project, and precisely where to place them. That meant the utility developing the facility could buy fewer turbines, helping cut costs and balancing the economics of the $1.2 billion project.
The United States ranks second in the world for total wind power capacity but lags behind other countries like Turkey and Poland in terms of the national percentage of electricity generated from wind, according to a new federal report examining the U.S. industry’s cost, performance, employment and generation trends. The annual “wind technologies market report” from the Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds that the U.S. wind industry installed almost 8.6 gigawatts of capacity in 2015, the largest of any electricity source. Nationally, 41 percent of new-electricity capacity last year came from wind. Globally, the United States ranked only behind China in terms of annual capacity additions.