news by topic
TVA, moving away from coal, commits big to utility-scale solar
The authority signed deals for 484 megawatts of solar and said it would develop thousands more. The news comes days after TVA closed its 1,205-megawatt Paradise coal plant in Kentucky.
In West Virginia, signs of a shift in power-generation thinking
A legislative committee approved a bill to cut red tape associated with utility usage of solar power, a nod to arguments in favor of modernizing the state’s coal-based energy economy.
Transition plan for German coal country advances
A $44 billion program to reinvent electricity generation in North Rhine-Westphalia continues to advance, aiming to bring along workers, local governments and companies caught up in the shift from coal.
Tribal utility-scale solar gains traction in the sunny Southwest
Battery-storage technology, modernized state energy policies and fast-falling prices present new opportunities. The Moapa Band of Paiute are setting the pace.
Study: More economic potential in Virginia solar buildout than typically acknowledged
Under “business as usual” plans by major utilities, utility-scale solar isn’t being taken seriously enough but could create thousands of jobs annually if it is pursued to its full potential.
U.S. farmers are signing lucrative solar-farm deals
Midwestern farms struggling to survive the U.S.-China trade war are leasing land to utility-scale solar arrays. One deal fetches $14,000 annually on 15 acres. Another generates $225,400 on 322 acres.
Op-ed: Solar-development tax extension for coalfield communities
A four-year extension, through 2024, would help drive new utility-scale solar projects on abandoned plant and mine sites across the country.
After tobacco and textiles, a Virginia town sees economic-development potential in solar
“Companies nowadays, especially tech companies, are looking at communities that have more renewable energy in their portfolio,” said Danville City Manager Ken Larking.
A big California ranch goes solar
The 73,000-acre Jack Ranch is now 4% solar, “the biggest demonstration of the synergies between grazing and solar that we’ve seen.” Pacific Gas & Electric Company and Apple are customers.
Commentary: Ohio solar farms supply fresh revenues for struggling school districts
Two new utility-scale farms suggest more to come, creating a boon to public-school tax bases. “The real impetus for turning cropland into solar arrays is simple economics,” writes the author.
PacifiCorp study sees savings in switching from coal to solar
A review of plants in Colorado and Wyoming finds that solar power supported by utility-scale storage is creating “a harsh new reality” for the entire U.S. coal-fired electricity sector.
Walmart continues its push toward solar-power expansion
In an expansion of its program to go 50 percent renewable over the next few years, Walmart has signed new solar-power deals in five states: Arizona, California, Louisiana, Maryland and New Jersey.
Signs of solar-panel manufacturing demand in Minnesota
A plant is expanding its 70-worker payroll to support an additional shift. “Precision and pace are key to reaching the needed production volumes,” the company owner said.
Companies explore turning Appalachian mine sites into solar farms
Following project models established at Chernobyl and in Canada, Australia and New England, a move is afoot to build utility-scale solar arrays at brownfield mine locations across Appalachia.
Editorial: A local tipping point in Wisconsin
Two new Madison-area utility-scale solar farms approved by the Public Service Commission will produce enough power for 110,000 homes and save ratepayers tens of millions of dollars.
Hog farmers in Iowa block industry efforts to stymie solar
The Iowa Pork Producers Association have slowed advancement of a state legislative initiative sponsored by utilities seeking to stop the spread of solar energy.
Op-ed: El Paso Electric, in step with regional transition, goes increasingly solar
The utility’s CEO writes that much of its planned power-generation expansion will come from solar as it embraces a trend that is sweeping the Southwest.
Study: Policy, private sector forces push for doubling in solar capacity across southeast U.S.
Solar-generation capacity in the southeastern U.S. will likely double over the next two years as state governments and the private sector push for cheaper, cleaner energy.
Ohio solar industry is quietly gaining traction
Almost 90 utility-scale solar projects are in the development pipeline in Ohio, which has lagged in renewable energy buildouts but now ranks No. 1 in Midwestern solar ambitions.
Virginia utility-scale solar project will power high-security data center
As part of the Abandoned Mines Land Project in southwestern Virginia, work will begin this fall on a utility-scale solar array to power the high-security, 65,000-square-foot Mineral Gap Data Center.
Alongside Denmark, Iowa and Kansas lead uptake of wind and solar
Denmark has a longstanding reputation for its outsized development of wind and solar. Lesser-known players include Kansas and Iowa, where the renewable energy business is booming.
Microsoft signs a 15-year deal for North Carolina solar farm
Microsoft Corp. has signed a 15-year power purchase agreement to be the sole off-taker for a 74-megawatt North Carolina solar farm. The project will create 500 construction jobs.
Shell’s U.S. solar arm to invest $150 million in Georgia-manufactured solar installations
The U.S. solar arm of Shell is spending $150 million to build three solar farms in Georgia’s rural southwest Early County. The first phase will install 350,000 modules manufacture in-state.
Illinois farmers are investing in solar spreads
Citing “the uncertain economics of their lives and the need to have other income,” hundreds of farmers are seeking permits as the state aims for 25 percent renewable power generation by 2025.
Utilities are driving the market shift from coal to solar
“Every new project like these that comes online highlights the broad potential of solar-plus-storage and chips away at the fossil industry narrative that renewable energy isn’t reliable or cost-effective.”
Google partners with TVA on Alabama-Tennessee solar push
Google and the Tennessee Valley Authority are building utility-scale solar farms in Alabama and Tennessee. "It should bring significant economic benefits to the region,” said a spokeswoman for the initiative.
Former coal-fired plant site is now a 17,000-panel solar-and-battery complex
The site of a former coal plant in Holyoke, Mass., has become the state’s biggest solar and battery-storage complex after community leaders pressed for an equitable transition.
Ohio coal investor endorses Appalachian solar farm
A long-time coal-trading company in Ohio has called for state approval of a Highland County utility-scale solar farm that would create jobs in a region beleaguered the decline of coal.
Electricity provider in Washington State awards $3.4 million in grants for ‘coal transition’ program
TransAlta, a Canadian company that operates a coal-fired power plant in Centralia, Wash., has announced $3.2 million in grants for solar energy projects across the state as part of an initiative overseen by its Coal Transition Board. The grants are a component of an agreement that includes a phasing-out of coal-fired electricity production and that supports community projects related to energy efficiency and renewable generation.
Commentary: Hurricanes show the value in moving from conventional to renewable electricity-generation sources
Solar arrays held up in North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Florence while complications arose from other forms of generation that include coal-fired and nuclear power. “This is not the first time modern renewables have proven their resiliency in the face of storms,” writes the author, noting how windfarms in Texas fared well during Hurricane Harvey last year, how Hawaii’s growing solar industry has weathered recent storms there, and how residents of Puerto Rico found solar a life-saver after Hurricane Maria.
U.S. utility-scale solar power activity is surging
Trump administration tariffs meant to curb expansion of the U.S. solar energy have proven ineffective, concludes a report published this week by the Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables research group and the Solar Energy Industries Association. The two groups estimate that deals for 8.6 gigawatts of new utility-scale solar were made in the first half of the year—enough capacity to power 1.4 million homes—and said solar industry’s expansion would continue.
Arizona judge: Let voters participate in state energy policy decisions
An Arizona judge has sided with utility-industry reformers in ruling that a clean energy initiative will appear on the ballot when voters go to the polls in November. Executives at Arizona Public Service, the biggest electricity provider in the state, say they will appeal the decision. At issue is whether to allow development of solar resources at the likely expense of traditional power generation.
Plans for a new Colorado energy economy
Plans by Xcel Energy to remake the electricity-generation industry in and around Pueblo, Colo., are being seen as a harbinger of a new energy economy. The company is seeking to close two of three coal-fired power plants in Pueblo and replace them with wind and solar facilities, a change that would create a net total of more than 50 jobs. The county, which has a population of about 165,000 and is strategically situated near major power transmission lines, is “poised to become the renewable energy hub for Colorado and likely the region,” said its director of economic development.
Op-ed: Why clean energy jobs ‘continue to pop up’
A former mayor and city council member who now leads a nonpartisan national group that champions market-based economic-transition solutions, endorses a proposed solar farm in Mendon Township, Mich. The $29 million, 150-acre project would generate more than $20,000 in monthly local tax revenue over 23 years. “Renewable energy developments provide significant benefits to local communities. That’s why jobs in the clean energy industry and new solar developments continue to pop up across the state.”
Commentary: Georgia is at a solar policy crossroads
Georgia, ranked 10th nationally in solar energy production, is at a policy crossroads as the industry makes rapid gains across the state. Activity includes a manufacturing facility in Dalton, a solar-powered Facebook data center in Newton, and new solar-farm approvals “every other week.” Growth calls for informed land-use codes and pushback against misinformation campaigns. “Georgians can demand smart solar siting: growing the industry, boosting local economies, and still protecting what makes the state special,” write the authors.
Commentary: Wind and solar suggest a potential boom in Ohio’s energy industry
Ohio stands to benefit from the expansion of the renewable energy industry, which by one estimate can create $2 billion in economic activity and 5,500 new jobs over the next decade or so. The state’s electricity market is ripe for the development of wind farms, rooftop solar, and utility-scale solar projects that could supply power to 1.1 households, nearly a quarter of the state’s total by 2020. “As the regional market continues to grow, Ohio can capture both investment and economic growth by building wind and solar facilities, providing itself and other PJM states with clean electricity,” writes the author.
Rocky Mountain Power sees renewable energy as ‘increasingly attractive’
“Renewable energy — particularly solar and wind power — have become increasingly attractive,” says a spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power, which has signed a long-term agreement to buy power produced by the first utility-scale solar project in Wyoming. The Sweetwater Solar LLC plant received crucial clearance this week from the Bureau of Land Management. It will produce enough electricity to power 17,000 homes, and is expected to go online by the end of this year.
South Carolina public solar projects ‘make a sound like "cha-ching"
In Edgefield and nearby Saluda, S.C., an elementary school and a town hall have installed solar electricity systems that are expected to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Low-interest loan programs have helped make the initiatives successful. “Not many local governments and school districts in South Carolina have embraced solar power, which can involve navigating utility incentives and state Energy Office loans, but several that have taken the plunge couldn't be happier.
Utility trends don’t bode very well for fossil-fuel-fired electricity
Two huge interstate electricity companies—Vista Energy and Dominion Energy—are at the forefront of an industry retooling that favors cheap renewable forms of generation over natural gas and coal. The trend embodies “a bearish view of fossil-fuel energy” as solar and wind farms gain market share nationally, “curbing orders for new plants and forcing the closure of old ones.”
12,000-Home Solar Project Approved in Wyoming
Sweetwater County Commissioners have approved the biggest solar project on record for Wyoming, the country’s No. 1 coal producer. The 80-megawatt solar farm will cover one square mile and generate enough electricity for 12,000 homes. The project is a subsidiary of a Korean company.
Report: U.S. Solar Jobs Outnumber Coal 2-1
A report from a think tank led by former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz found that solar-industry jobs topped 350,000 last year, more than double the total in coal-related work. The report ties half of all 133,000 news jobs in the energy sector to efficiency initiatives. Solar is gaining also on the natural-gas industry.
State’s Utility-Protection Policies Threaten South Carolina Solar Job Growth
South Carolina, one of 29 states reporting growth in solar-industry jobs, has about 3,000 residents employed in the sector. The two biggest centers of activity, both of which are on the southeastern edge of Appalachia, are Spartanburg (707 jobs) and Greenville (486). But a utility-company-supported state cap on solar installations stands to limit more growth. “Companies may soon have to cut their sales staff or market to other states.”
A Push in Southern Ohio for a More Diversified Economy
Athens County, Ohio, in the heart of Northern Appalachian coal country, has the biggest solar energy capacity per capital in the state, and residents are calling for more. “It’s wrong to think that this region has only a coal-country mindset,” one advocate said. “There is a push to be new energy leaders in new ways. We want to generate our own power because we want to be independent from the extractive powers that have made decisions for this region for so long.”
A Coming Boom Seen in Virginia’s Emerging Solar Industry
The Solar Energy Industries Association sees a nascent solar industry in Virginia tripling in generation capacity over the next five years and powering more than 200,000 homes. Growth is spurred by declining installation costs and demand from consumers. “Some industry officials and clean-energy advocates expect even-sharper growth during that timeframe and say the solar expansion almost certainly will accelerate across Virginia in the decades beyond,” says a newspaper report.
Renewable Energy Additions Outpaced Traditional Power-Generation Sources 2-1 in 2017
Renewable energy capacity additions beat out new fossil fuel projects globally by more than two to one in 2017, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the United Nations. The surge in renewables is led by solar but includes wind, biofuels and geothermal energy. “We are at a turning point ... from fossil fuels to the renewable world,” one commentator said. “The markets are there and renewables can take on coal, they can take on oil and gas.”
Another Mine Site Is Slated to Become a Solar Farm
TransAlta, a Canadian electricity-development company, plans to turn a 1,000-acre former coal mine site in Washington State into a solar farm, following a trend across the industry. Centralia Mine closed in 2006, and TransAlta also plans now to close a nearby coal-fired plant—the only remaining such plant in Washington. The company said the solar project would create 300 construction jobs and four permanent solar-tech jobs. TransAlta plans to eliminate coal-fired electricity from its holdings by 2030.
Kentucky: Public School Students Seek a Better Future
Letcher County, in east-central Kentucky, had a thousand coal miners a decade ago. “Today, there are just 28,” and the local economy is so battered that public schools are struggling to make ends meet. Student are beginning to openly advocate for progressive change and economic diversification.
Solar Park Rises Near Site of Retired New York Power Plant
In Grand Island, N.Y., planners are proceeding with an initiative to build a 20-megawatt solar park across the Niagara River from the defunct coal-fired Huntley Power Generating Station. “To have this type of change where we can have all this electricity, all this power and not put anyone’s life at risk or threaten anyone’s health is kind of an amazing thing,” the town supervisor said.
Trump’s new solar tariff to protect US manufacturers will hurt installers
US Trade Representative issue new tariffs on imported solar panels, impacting the fast-growing US solar industry.
Xcel Energy receives shockingly low bids for Colorado electricity from renewable sources
"What stands out about the response Xcel received is that wind sources with storage are now cheaper than coal generation, and solar plus storage is now cheaper than about 75 percent of coal generation in the state, according to CarbonTracker."
Industry Leaders Make Last-Ditch Effort to Steer Trump White House Away From Solar Tariffs
Industry makes final push to discourage Trump from adopting solar tariffs that would destroy tens of thousands of American jobs.
IEEFA Update: The Saudi Arabia of Solar? American Indian Country
Energy Transition Openings Now in the Four-Corners Region of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah
A Moment of Transition-Investment Opportunity in the American Southwest
Navajo communities, strategically situated new important electricity-transmission lines in the American Sunbelt, have significant advantages in solar-electrification development: “These communities are increasingly being sought out by outside interests seeking development deals crafted to meet growing demand from utility companies that are switching from fossil-fuel powered electricity to renewables. Opportunities exist now to develop these opportunities to the benefit of Navajo people.”
Proposed Tariff Increases on Imported Panels Would Hurt U.S. Solar Industry
A trade case that would add significantly to the price of imported solar panels would be a blow to the U.S. solar industry: “Tariffs would prevent the proper quantity and quality of solar materials from entering the U.S., thus shortchanging the solar supply chain and slowing solar installation. Lack of materials will lead to lack of business, which will lead to critical job losses.”
A Trend Toward Turning Former Mines Into Solar Sites
In a trend spanning Asia, Europe and the U.S., former coal-mine sites are being reclaimed as utility-scale solar electricity-generation farms. A project by Berkeley Energy Group to turn a strip mine in Kentucky into a solar power plant that could produce 50 to 100 megawatts of power by next year is mong the many examples. “Building solar power plants atop defunct coal plants has several advantages, including putting otherwise hard-to-use lands to productive use.”
West Virginia’s Emerging Solar Market
The owner of a solar company in West Virginia sees the industry as a natural for the Mountain State: “The way I think about it as a West Virginian is that West Virginia has always been an energy state and this is just the next step.”
Op-Ed: As Transition Unfolds, Local Ownership Will be Key
An op-ed writer in New Mexico makes the case against utility monopoly control of fast-growing solar energy resources: “The promise of the advanced energy economy goes beyond a cleaner environment and more sustainable power—it’s also about building a more diversified, resilient and competitive economy.”
Solar Uptake by K-12 Schools Driven by Cost
Over 5,000 K-12 schools in the U.S are powered by solar, part of a growing trend. A new study by the Solar Energy Industries Association puts the total capacity at about 910 megawatts, or enough to power 190,000 homes. “The biggest reason for the surge is the economic benefits of solar energy.”
Pennsylvania Expands Solar Incentive Program: $5,000 Grants; $40,000 Loans
The State of Pennsylvania has earmarked $30 million for an initiative that will pay companies $5,000 for every solar job created and loan up to $40,000 on solar projects. “Developing new renewable energy sources including solar is critical to ensuring Pennsylvania has a balanced and diverse energy mix that maintains our position as a major energy producing state,” said Gov. Tom Wolf.
Trump’s Coal Programs Could Undermine Wind and Solar Industries
Several Trump administration policy proposals aimed at propping up the coal industry stand to slow the growth momentum of solar- and wind-powered electricity generation. They include “asking regulators to rewrite power market rules, revamping the tax code, and imposing tariffs on foreign-made solar panels.”
Congressional Push to Apply Oil-and-Gas Tax Break to Solar and Wind Sectors as Well
Two members of Congress are proposing expanding an important gas-and-oil tax-break mechanism to the solar and wind industries. The mechanism, called a master limited partnership, or MLP, is “one of biggest boons for the oil-and-gas sector,”allowing companies “to lighten their tax loads and get easier access to investment in pipelines and other projects.”
Fastest-Growing Job Category in U.S.: Wind and Solar Techs
Demand for solar- and wind-energy technicians is expected to double over the next decade, according to the latest employment-projection trends from the Labor Department.