The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition will start advocating for solar energy in the United States and adopt a new name to reflect its broadened mission, the group announced yesterday. “The addition of solar to the coalition’s portfolio represents a commitment to future economic and renewable energy growth, and further diversification of our nation’s energy portfolio,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R), the current chairman of the bipartisan group.
“I am proud to work with governors from across the country, and both parties, to advance renewable energy,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who served as the Coalition’s chairman in 2015 and helped to add solar energy to its portfolio. “The exciting growth of both wind and solar energy provide our states with tremendous economic opportunities, as well as the ability to reduce emissions, protect public health, and build a more prosperous and sustainable American clean energy future.”
“We commend the Coalition for recognizing solar power’s central role in the American energy landscape. The lion’s share of policy is made in states, and so it is critical that solar has a seat at the table when the governors consider their energy options. By making solar energy a top policy priority, these leading governors are sending a powerful message that the future of clean energy is now, and we look forward to working with them to fully utilize America’s renewable resources.”
After seven years of promoting the benefits of adding wind energy to the U.S. electricity mix, the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition announced today it will pair its advocacy work for wind with solar energy. The change is reflected in the group’s new name, the Governors’ Wind and Solar Energy Coalition (GWSC). “This bipartisan governors’ coalition has been highly effective at getting policy results growing wind energy for nearly a decade,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “The governors’ decision to combine forces with solar energy reflects the economic and environmental value of diversifying our nation’s grid with clean, reliable renewable energy.”
In a significant victory for President Obama, a federal appeals panel on Thursday rejected an effort by 27 states and dozens of corporations and industry groups to block the administration’s signature regulation on emissions from coal-fired power plants while a lawsuit moves through the courts. The rule, issued last summer by the Environmental Protection Agency, is at the heart of Mr. Obama’s efforts to tackle climate change. It would require each state to significantly cut greenhouse gas pollution from electric power plants, the nation’s largest source of such emissions.
The Department of Energy is funding for the first time a portfolio of projects aimed exclusively at connecting solar power to energy storage systems. The agency today announced $18 million for six projects led by or involving a utility. All the projects aim to set up a yearlong field demonstration of solar technologies. They all plan to use smart inverters, devices that convert solar energy into alternating currents for the grid, but also tend to have additional functions like data streaming capability. The goal is to move closer to integrating photovoltaic power plants into the grid at a cost of less than 14 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Storing electricity may be the sweetener utilities need to swallow distributed renewable energy. Researchers and utility companies are looking at what would happen if they integrated energy storage with solar power as a unit in the hope of turning an energy liability into an asset. “Storage is the missing piece of the puzzle,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
An index of renewable energy stocks fell to the lowest in more than two years as floundering oil prices and a global equity sell off left investors fleeing from risk. The WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index tracking 104 companies closed down 2.3 percent, reaching its lowest level since July 2013. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 1.6 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 1.2 percent, and oil in New York lost 6.7 percent as investors piled into gold and other safe-haven assets.
Building new high-voltage lines is now the biggest obstacle to the growth of wind energy. Out in western Kansas, big wind turbines produce lots of electricity, hundreds of jobs, tax revenue and a fair amount of income for farmers like Kermit Froetschner. “It’s been a boon to this area for sure,” says Froetschner, who has 16 turbines on his land in Spearville, Kansas. “School districts, counties … We like ‘em. Like to see some more.” A lot of people would. After all, wind turbines don’t foul the atmosphere, and they generate electricity for less money than power plants burning fossil fuels. Federal tax credits and mandates to cut pollution can make wind even more attractive.
Senators from both parties yesterday said they expect a wide-open floor debate as the chamber takes up a bipartisan energy package that backers are hoping President Obama will sign.
In announcing plans to bring the bill (S. 2012) to the floor next — probably next week — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday made clear he’s hoping to notch another bipartisan win to his list of accomplishments since taking control of the Senate last year.