U.S. News & World Report – February 17
The Biden administration said it would scrap a Trump-era proposal to weaken environmental protections for millions of acres of California desert to ease development of wind and solar energy projects. Just days before leaving office, former President Donald Trump’s administration made a last-minute push to accelerate energy development on public lands, including by amending the so-called Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). In the coming days, the Department of Interior will revoke the public comment period on those plan amendments. Biden supports building more renewable energy installations on public lands, but his administration said the original DRECP provided a better balance of wind and solar development with conservation and recreation.
Microgrid Knowledge – February 12
The CPUC will consider lifting or reducing standby charges for microgrids in the third phase of its effort to help commercialize microgrids. Standby charges — rates utilities use to cover their costs for self-generation customers — are viewed as a potential financial barrier to microgrids. Often, standby charges are designed with the assumption that a utility must have resources ready to fully replace any customer-sited resources, which can add significant costs for the customer without accurately reflecting the actual risk to the utility. Going forward, the challenge for microgrids will be to design tariffs and charges (like standby charges) that are not based on outdated assumptions, but that accurately reflect how microgrids can be integrated into planning for the distribution system. Initial comments on the issue of standby charges are due by March 3.
MarketWatch – February 16
As millions of people in Texas lost heat and electricity during a historic cold snap early this week, the future of renewable energy in the large-and-growing state drew fresh scrutiny. However, according to experts, the crisis in Texas was not caused by the state’s renewable energy industry. The largest loss of generation apparently came from gas-fired power plants, with the drop-off from wind farms a long way behind. There are specific lessons to be learned from Texas. For one thing, the state has several large population centers but renewable energy clusters are far away from major cities, requiring more miles of potentially vulnerable transmission lines. And, there is no winter-reliability mandate for the state-run utilities system as there is in other parts of the regulated U.S. The incident highlights the need for more incentives for renewables, or even other sources, to increase capacity, especially in severe winter weather.
Desert Sun – February 13
The U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) restarted the permitting process for a solar farm in eastern Riverside County near Blythe, issuing the final environmental impact statement for the 2,500-acre Crimson Solar Project last Thursday. The Crimson project is proposed as a 350-MW photovoltaic solar farm that could produce enough electricity for 87,500 homes, according to the BLM. Crimson will be built and operated by Sonoran West Solar Holdings, a subsidiary of Recurrent Energy, which is owned by Canadian Solar. Karen Mouritsen, the BLM’s state director for California, said in a statement, “we will continue to support responsible development of clean energy projects as part of our mission to sustainably manage public lands in California for a variety of uses.”
Solar Industry Magazine – February 16
Sunpin Solar LLC has signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the Titan Solar 1 Power Plant in Imperial County, California. The project has a 12-year PPA with Exelon Generation Co. LLC, a company that supplies retail customers in California through its affiliate Constellation NewEnergy Inc. The 98-MW DC/70-MW AC project began construction in January 2020 and reached completion and commercial operation in December 2020. Additional projects are on the horizon for Sunpin; in the last 18 months it attained over $100 million from tax equity investors and later in 2021, Sunpin will be seeking tax equity investments for over 500 MW of PV/BESS projects expected to come online in 2022 and 2023.
T&D World – February 16
Intel has joined Portland General Electric’s (PGE) Green Future Impact program, which is enabling PGE to enter into a 15-year agreement with Avangrid Renewables, a subsidiary of Avangrid, Inc., to purchase power from a new 138-MW solar facility that will be developed in Wasco County, Oregon. The purchase is the single largest in PGE’s program. PGE’s agreement with Avangrid Renewables marks the second local renewable energy project made possible by Green Future Impact subscribers. In 2020, the PGE and Avangrid Renewables announced the development of a 162-MW solar facility — the largest in Oregon — to meet the needs of 17 Green Future Impact customers. That project is expected to come online in late 2021.
North American Windpower – February 11
Xcel Energy says it became one of the first energy providers in the U.S. to reach 10,000 MW of wind energy capacity online for customers in the states it serves, a milestone reached at the end of 2020. The achievement is powered by the company’s 10 new wind projects in the Upper Midwest, Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. While many projects are already completed, all of the projects will be online by year’s end, completing the largest multi-state wind investment in the country. Xcel Energy is the first major U.S. power provider to announce a commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 80% (from 2005 levels) by 2030, with a vision of delivering 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. The company is more than halfway to that interim goal.