GREENTECH MEDIA – Mar 23 Congress cleared a spending bill last Friday for the 2018 fiscal year that allocates $1.3 trillion. Despite the Trump administration’s requests for drastic cuts, lawmakers set aside increased funds for clean energy programs. In the final text, the Department of Energy received a $3.77 billion boost in funding, bringing the agency’s budget to a total of $34.5 billion. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy received $2.32 billion, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy received $353 million, and the Office of Science, which houses national labs like Lawrence Berkeley, received $6.3 billion. All those budgets were increased from 2017.
PV MAGAZINE – Mar 27 Last week, California’s grid operator signed off on the state’s 2017-2018 Transmission Plan, which approved 17 new transmission projects combined at a cost of nearly $271 million. This may seem like a large number, however 20 transmission projects were canceled and 21 were revised due to energy efficiency and residential solar power altering local area load forecasts. The projected savings from these changes is approximately $2.6 billion. The majority of the projects were located in the service area of utility Pacific Gas and Electric, while two of the canceled projects were located in San Diego Gas & Electric territory.
RENEWABLE ENERGY WORLD – Mar 27 The burgeoning battery-storage industry may become the latest to feel the sting of President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum. Prices for lithium-ion battery packs dropped 24 percent last year as it became cheaper to make them, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. But steel tariffs threaten to increase battery-installation costs by as much as 3 percent. (The batteries typically are protected with structures made of metal.) To be sure, that shouldn’t have much lasting impact on the industry as other manufacturing costs decrease, Kelly Speakes-Backman, chief executive officer of the Energy Storage Association, said in a phone interview Wednesday. And there may be a workaround: Concrete, which features in the shipping-container-like structures that protect batteries in larger projects, could be used for smaller battery packs.
UTILITY DIVE – Mar 27 Arizona Public Service (APS) and Republicans in the state’s senate are pushing a ballot initiative that would amend the state’s constitution to set a 50 percent renewables goal by 2030. However, the measure would allow regulators to set the requirements aside should it raise customers’ bills or hurt reliability, unlike a competing proposal introduced earlier this year. Arizona has already met its 15 percent RPS standard, and utility energy efficiency targets end in 2020. A ballot initiative backed by super PAC NextGen America and billionaire Tom Steyer would raise it to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, but has faced opposition from lawmakers. Last week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed legislation to limit the financial penalty if utilities fail to meet renewables targets, which conservationists argue is designed to preemptively subvert voters’ clean energy preferences.
SOLAR POWER WORLD – Mar 28 Southern Power has announced the commercial operation of the 20-megawatt Gaskell West 1 Solar Facility in Kern County, California. This project marks Southern Power’s fifth solar facility within the county and 12th solar facility within the state to come online. Construction of the approximately 280-acre project began in October 2017 and created 220 peak construction jobs. Southern Power acquired the facility in January 2018 from the project developer, Recurrent Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian Solar.
RENEWABLES NOW – Mar 26 California utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) last Friday said it has secured approval from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) for its Oakland Clean Energy Initiative. The initiative will replace an old fossil-fuel power plant in Oakland with a combination of distributed clean energy resources, including storage, and transmission substation upgrades. It is designed to ensure grid reliability after a 165-megawatt jet fuel-powered plant is retired. The system operator has a Reliability Must Run contract with the plant to buy power during peak periods.
SOLAR INDUSTRY MAGAZINE – Mar 22 Faith Baptist Church in East Oakland has unveiled a new solar project that was brought online thanks to a crowdfunding campaign. Solar nonprofit RE-volv says it raised 125 percent of its $18,000 funding goal in one day, due in part to matching funds from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. The 6-kilowatt solar array is expected to save Faith Baptist Church more than 50 percent on its electricity bills in the first year and more than $40,000 over the life of the system. In addition to Faith Baptist’s monthly savings, RE-volv’s unique revolving fund model means the church’s solar payments will be reinvested into more solar energy projects for nonprofits across the country.
THE TRIBUNE – Mar 25 Look for more solar panels to sprout along Highway 1 this year as Camp San Luis Obispo and the California Men’s Colony add arrays to their properties. The new installations will join Cal Poly’s 18.5-acre solar farm, which was completed this year and will generate more than 11 million kilowatt hours per year. The Cal Poly project includes more than 16,000 individual solar panels with a capacity of 4.5 megawatts. It is designed to supply 25 percent of the university’s power needs.