Tag: "coal"

01/03/19

  08:43:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 445 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, PWP

Pasadena Adopts New Integrated Resource Plan

Pasadena adopts IRP

As 2018 drew to a close, the Pasadena City Council adopted a new Integrated Resource Plan that shows the path forward for the City in the coming years. Not surprisingly, there are some big changes in store as PWP moves away from fossil fuels and toward a greener future. Here’s our take…

Where are we now?

We love Pasadena, but it has a long way to go before it becomes as green as we would like it to be.  For example, here is PWP’s latest power content label that shows the sources of its electricity, compared to California as a whole:

PWP 2017 Power Content Label

 

Yikes! 31% of our power overall comes from burning coal - compared to just 4% for the state overall!  

Somewhat surprising is the relatively low amount of natural gas in the mix, given that the Glenarm power plant is now entirely fueled by natural gas.

On the other hand, the City is doing very well in utilizing biomass and waste materials as a fuel source, well ahead of such efforts in the state as a whole.

So it is clear that a great deal of work is yet to be done, and it is the intent of the newly adopted IRP to show the way.

One thing that jumps out of the new plan is that coal is to be eliminated entirely by June of 2027 when existing supply contracts expire, and no new coal contracts will be signed.  Moreover, that plant is scheduled to switch to natural gas by 2025, so coal burning for PWP should end by then.

Distributed Energy Resources

As of the writing of the IRP, there were 1,303 PWP customers who have installed solar power systems at their homes or commercial/non-profit sites.  Collectively, those systems amount to 10.4 MW of installed capacity, with an estimated annual production of 16,600 MWh of energy.  That makes the average installed system size just under 8 kW.

One baffling detail in the planning section of the report: relying on a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis by the Lazard consulting firm, they assert that the LCOE of residential solar (after allowing for the federal tax credit) is from 14.5-24¢/kWh!  Frankly, we aren’t sure how they arrived at that number, since our projects generally project an LCOE in the 9-11¢/kWh range.

So more solar is in PWP’s future, but they won’t be supporting it on homes, schools, or businesses anymore.  Sad.

Other Takeaways…

Here are a couple more takeaways from the 249-page report:

  • The City is planning on installing 122 EV charging stations in the next few years
  • Electric bill increases would range from roughly 2.7% for residential customers, and up to 3.4% for commercial customers

You can find the entire report here: Pasadena’s Integrated Resource Plan.

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03/07/16

  02:40:00 pm, by Laurel Hamilton   , 648 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Climate Change, Solar Policy

Clean Power Plan Drama In a Nutshell

On August 3, 2015, President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the Clean Power Plan (CPP) – an exciting, historic and truly critical step in tackling climate change. Advocates say its policies will create jobs, make our grid more reliable, and our economies more resilient while helping protect all of us against climate change’s worst impacts. The CPP is the heart of Obama’s effort to uphold commitments agreed upon at the Paris COP21 climate conference last December.

What Does the Clean Power Plan Entail?

Cut CO2 Pollution from Power Plants Nationally

Power plants are the largest polluters in the US. They account for one third of all greenhouse gas emissions! We wrote about the controversial carbon standards for NEW power plants put forth by the EPA in December 2014. Obama’s Clean Power Plan takes it a giant step further by forcing all EXISTING coal-fired power plants to cut carbon emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.  

A few points on the controversial rules:

  1. States have plenty of time to comply. Final state plans are not due until 2018 and power plants are not required to comply before 2022.
  2. States decide how to meet their energy goals by developing their own individualized plans.
  3. Inter-state emissions cap and trade systems offer a market-based option for compliance. Trade systems create financial incentives to reduce emissions where the costs of doing so are the lowest and gives clean energy investment the highest leverage.
  4. Flexible, market-based compliance options - including inter-state trading - mean that states can design plans around any anticipated reliability issues. This approach will fuel job growth in renewable energy and other innovative efficient technologies.
  5. States can develop their energy mix while saving money by taking advantage of ever-decreasing renewable energy costs.
  6. Three federal agencies will work together to analyze and coordinate oversight. The EPA does not hold the sole responsibility of oversight. 
  7. States can modify plans if necessary. 

Despite the seemingly fair and flexible terms of the Clean Power Plan, vested interests (including coal and mining groups and a coalition of Republican states) fiercely opposed, stating the regulations are an overreach of the EPA’s power. On February 9th the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stay implementation of the CPP until the litigation challenging the Clean Power Plan is addressed. Justice Scalia’s passing doesn’t change anything since a 4-4 vote also stays the implementation until the Federal District Appeals Court makes a decision likely in late 2016.

Experts are confident that the CPP’s contents are on solid legal ground and courts will ultimately uphold it. However, a final decision is unlikely before June 2017 or even into 2018 (depending on when the Supreme Court makes their final ruling after going through the DC Court). These delays only make global progress more and more difficult as all eyes are on the US to set an example by honoring our Paris climate commitments.

While 27 states filed the petition to delay the CPP implementation, eighteen state governors - both Democratic and Republican - have announced an accord to move forward on clean energy solutions regardless. The governors declared that “we recognize that now is the time to embrace a bold vision of the nation’s energy future,” and that their states “are once again prepared to lead.”

“As the world gets hotter and closer to irreversible climate change, these justices appear tone-deaf as they fiddle with procedural niceties. This arbitrary roadblock does incalculable damage and undermines America’s climate leadership. But make no mistake, this won’t stop California continuing to do its part under the Clean Power Plan.” – California Gov. Jerry Brown

Its leaders like these governors, and many large private businesses who have come out in favor of upholding the Clean Power plan, who seem to understand the gravity of climate change and the many benefits that moving to a clean energy future brings. We hope the alliance of leaders in politics and the private sector continues to grow and soon will outnumber those that back the interests of dirty energy!

10/26/14

  08:18:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 362 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power

Myth Debunked: Renewables Replacing Dirty Energy

It is sometimes said that renewable energy sources, particularly solar and wind, can never replace fossil fuels.  Turns out, they already are and we have the charts to prove it! (H/T CleanTechnica)

The data comes from the monthly report on electric power supply sources produced by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, titled Electric Power Monthly, August 2014 (the latest report available).  To be sure, the EPM report is a geek’s delight, consisting of more than 200 pages of tables and graphs. But here is the part that caught our attention - it is a tale of two maps, showing power plants set to retire compared to power plants set to come online over the next year.  Let’s start with the retirees (click on the map for a full-size version)…

Power plants set to retire by August 2015

 

The larger the circle, the bigger the plant’s production capacity, while the color of the circle represents the fuel source.

Nearly all of these retiring plants are fossil-fuel plants, with the overwhelming majority being coal-fired plants (the appropriately gray-colored dots).  Many of those plants are centered around the Appalachian coal fields of West Virginia and Kentucky, with another cluster in Georgia.

That is a lot of capacity that is set to go away - what will take its place?  So glad you asked, check out this map…

New power plants

This map shows a very different picture - lots of solar (sunny yellow dots) coming online in California (and qute a bit in North Carolina!) with lots of wind (green dots) in the center of the country.

Keep in mind that this is only showing utility-scale facilities, so all of that rooftop solar that folks like us are installing on homes and businesses doesn’t factor into this figure.  Those installations are helping to keep the demand for power down, meaning that you can eliminate more sources of power than you are adding and still meet the need.

This is the trend that we need to see - more and more dirty energy sources being retired, replaced by fewer, cleaner power plants.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that renewable energy sources will never replace fossil fuels, show them these maps and tell them, “You know what, they already are.”

10/11/14

  08:21:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 360 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Energy Efficiency, Residential Solar

Keeping the Lights on...

We stumbled upon an interesting graphic that highlights just what it takes to keep the lights on in our homes and work places.  It is a tale of both efficiency and waste.  We thought it was worth sharing… (h/t The EnergyCollective.)

The starting point for the graphic (click on the image at left for the full size graphic) is an old fashioned (i.e., wasteful) 100 Watt incandescent light bulb.  If you turned on such a light and left it running for a year, how much energy would it consume?  That’s the easy calculation - 100 W = 0.1 kW.  There are 8,760 hours in a year (roughly - don’t go getting all leap year on me) so our light bulb uses:
0.1 kW x 8,760 hours = 876 kWh. 

Quite a lot, really, just to light a room!

The graphic proceeds to explore what it would take to produce that much power from each of our common energy sources.  Interestingly, only one of these sources is something you can own - and that, of course, is solar.  (While you could own a wind turbine, the one in the graphic is a 1.5 MW turbine, definitely not something to put in your backyard!)  To be fair, the graphic assumes an installation of 100 square meters which is 1,076 square feet, and that is significantly larger than most residential solar systems.  If your system is smaller, it takes longer for your system to keep the light on, but the end result is the same: your own power source meeting your needs, with no pollution or long-lived waste products to worry about.

On the other end of that scale is the coal plant where our light bulb requires us to burn nearly half a ton of coal and emit over a ton of CO2 in the process!

The good news is that both that wasteful incandescent light bulb, and coal-fired power plants are going away, just not fast enough.  (Changing out your old 100 Watt light bulbs with efficient LEDs will drop these numbers by more than a factor of five.)  Every solar installation directly reduces our greenhouse gas emissions - and saves the system owner substantial amounts of money over the lifetime of the system.

01/07/13

  07:40:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 394 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Solar News

How Solar Boosts the Economy

Since cost-benefit analyses appear to be the rage in the New Year, particularly regarding solar, we were struck by a piece over at Greener Ideal documenting three key ways in which the solar industry boosts the overall economy - here’s hoping these are being factored into those analyses!

Jobs

More US solar jobs than in coal!The most significant way is that solar power means jobs - actually more jobs in the U.S. than does the coal industry! Indeed, the U.S. solar industry employs 119,000 people compared to just 86,000 working for coal companies.  Moreover, job growth in the solar industry far outpaces that in the coal industry.  In 2012, solar jobs increased by 13% while the overall U.S. economy was growing by just 2.3% and the fossil fuel industry lost jobs overall.

Of course, most coal-related jobs are with large corporations whereas many solar jobs are found in small businesses, like Run on Sun, which might explain the disproportionate impact that the coal lobby has over the solar industry trade groups like SEIA.

But seriously, if you were advising your child about where to look for work in the 21st Century, would you want to send them toward a coal mine or a solar farm?  While the solar industry is not without its risks, cave-ins and Black Lung are not among them.

Energy Independence

All fossil fuel is finite; we aren’t making anymore during our lifetimes or those of our offspring.  By contrast, energy from the sun will be around as long as humans inhabit this Earth - it is clean, abundant, and free.  Every solar-powered kilowatt-hour that we generate means that much less coal to be mined, natural gas to be “fracked” or barrel of oil to be imported from unfriendly regions of the world.  A stable supply of renewable energy frees our country from a host of problems both natural and man-made.

Saving Money

Last, but by no means least, solar saves people money.  Serious money, in fact.  For commercial building owners, that savings can translate into the ability to hire more workers.  For residential clients, the savings are more money to spend in the local economy, boosting employment in your home town.

Put it all together and it is easy to see that solar power is a boon to the economy - and we haven’t even touched on its environmental benefits!  (Did someone say, “Climate Change"?)

Just three reasons why 2013 is the Year to Go Solar!

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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