Posts in Category: Policy

I Can Hardly Believe It.

This is a Big Deal.

I mean, a really BIG DEAL.

Congress extended the federal Investment Tax Credit (“ITC”) for renewables for the next 5-7 YEARS. This is the Big-Daddy Incentive that, along with Net Metering, helps to make solar worthwhile for as many people as possible. The ITC, if you’re not up on this stuff, gives you a credit (Yes, it comes off AFTER AGI) on your income taxes equal to 30% of the total cost of that solar energy system that you just put in. Yeah, that’s thousands of dollars! This credit was set to expire in one year’s time, at the end of 2016, & would have cost the solar industry tens of thousands of jobs and set back solar adoption by many years, had it expired.

But in a nearly unbelievable move, Congress extended this tax credit by not one, but FIVE years plus a couple of years’ cooling-off after that. AND, the least believable of all, they did it a full YEAR ahead of the deadline! When does that bunch ever act with that much proactivity? Do we have our new leadership in the House to thank for this?

I don’t know, but I’m still stunned ….

Jobs In Solar Energy?

With elections dead-ahead, one factoid may be worth noting. In the USA, it is estimated that in 2013 there were 143,000 jobs in solar energy and 625,000 jobs in renewable energy overall. It’s certain to be more than that now. For those candidates who talk about “too many subsidies” for renewables, ask them if they’d like to see over a half million people lose their jobs.

Vehicle-to-Grid? Well, Maybe Not So Bad After All…

Ok, so back in February i roundly bashed the idea of vehicle-to-grid as a lousy idea. So now that it’s spring, the crows have come home to roost, and now it’s time for me to cook & eat one!

Some pretty smart people are considering this idea, & i have to admit it has some merits if it’s done within the bounds as it’s being discussed. First, the vehicle owner signs an agreement, effectively “leasing” a portion of his battery capacity to the utility. It’s not the whole capacity (and its possibility of randomly dead batteries), and the owner has control over how much of his battery capacity to lease. The utility then pays the vehicle owner for this lease (it may be a monthly value).

The utility then can use this battery when it’s plugged in to help the utility cover short-term peak demand. The utilities do this today, but they do it with something they call “spinning reserves,” which is exactly that: generators that are ready at a moment’s notice to cover a sudden surge in power demand and avoid brownouts. These spinning reserves are, as you could imagine, pretty expensive to run. An array of plugged-in vehicles could help reduce the utility’s need for spinning reserves, and the leases that they pay for use of the vehicles’ batteries is well worth it! Plus, most of these surges only last for a few minutes or so, so within a short time the vehicle is back to full charge & ready to go.

The vehicle owner gets money, the utility saves money, and most of the time the vehicle never leaves the charging station at less than a full charge.

Of course, it’s not super-easy to just do this; the vehicle has to be able to source power out its charging cable, the charger has to be able to accept power instead of just deliver it, the charger has to be smart enough to know when to stop drawing power, the homeowner or charging facility may have to have upgrades like bigger breaker boxes & stuff. But this is not impossible either.

Bottom line, i was wrong. Anybody know of a good wine that pairs well with crow?


Grid Storage?

Here’s small factoid that i overheard at the 2014 CBJ Green Symposium this morning. There are many people who worry about solar PV’s impact on the grid, and in storing the day’s production for use at night and during cloudy days. In contrast, there is some data that shows that if renewables (solar, wind, etc) are widely distributed and there is a good power transmission infrastructure between all of these distributed generation centers, the need for grid-based energy storage goes way down. Basically, there will be generation somewhere, and what is needed is to ship that energy around instead of needing to store it all locally. Note that there will be a need for some storage, just maybe not as much as many people believe.

DOE SunShot II: Iowa Solar Readiness Initiative

I’m glad to be a part of the Dept of Energy’s SunShot II; the Solar Readiness Initiative that’s come to Iowa. This initiative focuses on policies and regulations that can be streamlined when it comes to installing solar PV.

All of the current stakeholders met for the kickoff meeting in West Des Moines yesterday to discuss the initiative and how we can all be a part. For me, it was a great opportunity to network and to get my name out a little further. Hopefully, there can be some activities that i can be involved in to help move Iowa forward to adopting solar PV. I expect to learn more (i learned some new stuff yesterday!) as time goes on.


Vehicle-to-Grid? Are you kidding me?

OK, i have to rant! This has been the talk for awhile, kinda buzzing in the background. Can we finally expose this topic as the pure idiocy that it is?

If you don’t know, vehicle-to-grid means that when you park your electric car at home or plug it in somewhere else, you could be charging it or the grid could be using it to help levelize grid loading and supply the power grid using some of the power stored in the car. Power flow can be bidirectional. Yes, this is a real topic. Honest. When you get to the details and ramifications, it sounds just as stupid as it does at first glance. But … nobody’s come out to squash this crazy idea.

So, if you know about it and support this idea, let me ask you this. Suppose you walk into your garage in the morning & you have to go across town and be back by 10:00. You jump in your Nissan Leaf & start out. You look down to see that you are at 75% charge – it turns out that your car was feeding the grid for the past couple of hours. You realize you might not get there and back without running out of battery, so you cancel your trip.

Sound like a great idea now?

But there’s more. The utility charges you 12 cents per kWh plus delivery fees to charge your Leaf. They’ll credit you 12 cents per kWh to siphon power from your Leaf. Notice something? Yep, they pocket the fees. So the utility gets access to load-leveling equipment, which is a good thing, right? And how much did they have to invest to perform this load-leveling function? Not a cent. That’s what you just provided to them, gratis. So you buy the car (& pay the financing), you pay the electricity delivery fees, and pay to maintain the car. The utility company benefits by getting load-leveling equipment and they have paid … um, yup … nothing. They *get* paid. Of course they’d like it!

So can we debunk this thing already?