A Federal Trade Commission summit spawned charges and countercharges this summer about how utilities and solar companies are treating customers. The comment period ended yesterday for FTC’s June 21 solar workshop, which examined competition and consumer protection in the renewable-energy sector. The commission doesn’t have to take action, but it’s also not precluded from issuing new guidance or regulations as a result of the event.
The contract price for utility-scale solar power reached a new world low last week as a Spanish energy firm agreed to sell output from a 120-megawatt solar farm in Chile for $29.10 per megawatt. That’s 80 cents lower than the current record price set in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year. The agreement calls for Maria Elena Solar SA, a subsidiary of the Spanish multinational Solarpack Corp., to supply up to 280 gigawatt-hours annually to the Chilean grid by 2021. It was approved by the national energy commission, known as CNE, as part of Chile’s largest ever solicitation for electricity, estimated at 12.4 terawatt-hours per year
A team of researchers has developed a groundbreaking forecast system that could save utilities hundreds of millions of dollars by more efficiently integrating solar-generated electricity into the grid, a Boulder, Colo.-based research institution announced today. The National Center for Atmospheric Research has been working for three years with researchers from government laboratories, universities and six public utilities to develop the Sun4Cast system, which NCAR says “uses a combination of advanced computer models, atmospheric observations and artificial intelligence techniques.”
The Federal Highway Administration wants to make the lives of electric vehicle drivers easier. The agency is ready to designate certain interstate highways as corridors for alternative fuel charging infrastructure, including electricity, hydrogen, propane and natural gas. Along with bragging rights, the highways would receive official signage, similar to those for handicapped parking, as well as help finding the best sites for charging stations. States from Maryland to California are clamoring for the designation in nominations sent in before the deadline yesterday.
University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have developed a way to mimic plants’ ability to convert carbon dioxide into fuel, a way to decrease the amounts of harmful gas in the atmosphere and produce clean energy. The artificial leaf essentially recycles carbon dioxide, said Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC and lead researcher on the project. And it’s powered entirely by the sun, mimicking the real photosynthesis process.
General Electric Co and Vestas Wind Systems A/S maintained their dominance of the U.S. wind power market in 2015 by capturing 73%, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Energy. Siemens AG was also among the top three turbine suppliers in the U.S., with 14% of the market, compared to 40% for GE and 33% for Vestas. These and other trends were identified in the DOE’s “2015 Wind Technologies Market Report,” released Aug. 17, which illustrated growth for the wind industry on several fronts.
Republicans and Democrats are waging a new climate fight over an Obama administration proposal to measure the success of highway projects by their greenhouse gas emissions. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is considering requiring state and local planning agencies to measure and report the greenhouse gas emissions of new transportation projects in a new set of performance standards (ClimateWire, April 19). It would be one of the Obama administration’s last chances to advance a regulation tackling climate change.
Studies show that expanding America’s electricity grid to meet 21st century needs more than pays for itself, and can even result in significant consumer savings. Improved transmission planning could save American families and businesses up to $47 billion every year, according to a recent white paper from the Brattle Group. However, some groups remain unaware of these findings, wringing hands and missing the forest for the trees by focusing on upfront costs and ignoring long-term benefits.
The towering machines stand a few miles from shore, in a precise line across the seafloor, as rigid in the ocean breeze as sailors reporting for duty. The blades are locked in place for now, but sometime in October, they will be turned loose to capture the power of the wind. And then, after weeks of testing and fine-tuning, America’s first offshore wind farm will begin pumping power into the New England electric grid.
There’s a lot of worry about fossil fuels these days. But our guest Gretchen Bakke says America does not run on gas, oil, coal or wind or solar power, at least not directly. Electricity, she says, is what powers most of what we use. And we’re relying on an electrical grid that’s increasingly unstable, underfunded and incapable of taking us to a new energy future.