Thursday, February 25, 2016

Well humanity, it was a good run.


Well humanity, it was a good run. Watch the full video here: http://bit.ly/1UmU7JT
Posted by The Daily Dot on Thursday, February 25, 2016

Solar power cheaper than coal in Chile

Renewable companies clean up at Chile’s energy auction.

The Abendgoa Solar company's Atacama-1 solar site is located in the Atacama Desert, Chile, which has the highest solar radiation in the world - image courtesy of Abendgoa Solar.
The Abendgoa Solar company's Atacama-1 solar site is located in the Atacama Desert, Chile, which has the highest solar radiation in the world - image courtesy of Abendgoa Solar.
Chile’s solar industry continues to go from strength to strength as the country’s green energy boom has helped to keep down not only greenhouse gas emissions, but high electricity costs that have plagued Latin American countries.
Chile’s solar industry is streaks ahead of any other Latin American country, with its solar energy capacity of over 450 MW (megawatts) installed in 2014, more than 5 times that of the second placed country Peru.
Chile is the first Latin American nation to reach 1 gigawatt of installed solar PV.
Riding this green energy boom, five global renewable energy companies were the big winners at Chile’s latest energy auction in October 2015, as they looked to capitalize on the country’s super solar status.
Abengoa, Aela Generacion, First Solar, Ibereolica Cabo Leones and Solarpack were the five global wind and solar companies awarded 20-year contracts to supply 1200GWh to the Chilean electricity market from 2017.
The five renewable energy companies swept the bidding at Chile’s second energy supplies auction of 2015, winning all the available contracts and shutting out the fossil-fuel based companies.

Solar cheaper than Coal

All of the bids for wind projects came in at between $78-$95 per MWh, with solar bids coming in as low as $65 per MWh.
First Solar, through project company SCB II SpA, won a 20-year contract to supply 88GWh annually, while fellow renewable energy company Solarpack, through its subsidiary Amunche Solar SpA, won a 20 year contract to supply 100 Gwh annually.
First Solar’s bids came in at between US$67-68 per MWh, while Solarpack’s were $65 per MWh.
These bids were considerably lower than their other power industry competitors, with coal power bidding at $85 per MWh and wind farms bidding at $79 per MWh.
Chile’s latest energy auction has signaled a recent dramatic change in the winning bidders and the price, as at an auction in 2008 there were no bids from solar or wind companies with distributors paying an average price of $104.3 per MWh.

Chile to export power to Argentina

The Chilean Government is now looking to capitalize on its solar energy boom by expanding its electricity grid into Argentina through exporting its solar electricity.
The interconnection with Argentina was recently re-activated, with Chile planning to export electricity from PV plants.
Electricity exports to Argentina have recently recommenced across a transmission line which had been inactive for many years.
Chile’s energy ministry said it expected similar or lower prices it saw in October’s energy auction to be seen again during the next auction in April.
The bidding will be for companies to tender to the annual supplies of 12,500GWh for delivery in 2020 and 2021, with the hope that cheaper renewables could halt Chile’s increase in electricity bills within three to four years, with the National Energy Committee predicting it could range from 7-10% starting from 2020.



Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bill Gates: World will deliver 'clean energy breakthrough' within 15 years

Tech billionaire predicts innovation will deliver the clean energy the world desperately needs, but only if young people, businesses, and governments step up to the plate, reports Business Green
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates
 Bill Gates says the goal has to be zero emission power – cutting emissions isn’t enough. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
VIA http://www.theguardian.com

 for Business Green, part of the Guardian Environment Network    

Bill Gates has predicted researchers will “discover a clean energy breakthrough that will save our planet and power our world” within the next 15 years.
In their annual open letter, Bill and Melinda Gates provide an update on their plans to stimulate innovation in technologies for tackling climate change, energy poverty, and gender inequality.
In Bill’s section of the letter, which is addressed to teenagers, the Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist argues it should be a development priority to deliver clean energy to the 1.3 billion people who do not have access to power.
He also stresses that the new power needs to be low carbon in order to tackle the risks presented by climate change. “If we really want to help the world’s poorest families, we need to find a way to get them cheap, clean energy,” he writes. “Cheap because everyone must be able to afford it. Clean because it must not emit any carbon dioxide - which is driving climate change.”
And Gates argues the goal has to be truly zero emission power. “Can’t we just aim to cut carbon emissions in half?’ I asked many scientists,” Gates wrote. “But they all agreed that wouldn’t be enough. The problem is that CO2 lingers in the atmosphere for decades. Even if we halted carbon emissions tomorrow, the temperature would still rise because of the carbon that’s already been released. No, we need to get all the way down to zero.”
In something of a break from past comments when Gates has been critical of renewable energy technologies, once dismissing wind and solar power as “cute”, the letter welcomes recent rapid progress on renewable energy.
“New green technologies are allowing the world to produce more carbon-free energy from solar and wind power,” he writes. “Maybe you live near a wind farm or have seen solar panels near your school. It’s great that these are getting cheaper and more people are using them. We should use more of them where it makes sense, like in places where it’s especially sunny or windy. And by installing special new power lines we could make even more use of solar and wind power.”
However, he reiterates his view that to stop climate change and make energy affordable for everyone, the world will need “some new inventions”.
“We need more powerful, more economical solutions,” Gates writes. “In short, we need an energy miracle. When I say “miracle,” I don’t mean something that’s impossible. I’ve seen miracles happen before. The personal computer. The Internet. The polio vaccine. None of them happened by chance. They are the result of research and development and the human capacity to innovate.”
Gates argues that a combination of private sector research and development, such as his recently launched Energy Breakthrough Coalition, government action, and individual endeavour can combine to deliver a new generation of clean energy technologies.
“We need a massive amount of research into thousands of new ideas – even ones that might sound a little crazy – if we want to get to zero emissions by the end of this century,” he said. “New ways to make solar and wind power available to everyone around the clock could be one solution. Some of the crazier inventions I’m excited about are a possible way to use solar energy to produce fuel, much like plants use sunlight to make food for themselves, and batteries the size of swimming pools with huge storage capacity.
“Many of these ideas won’t work, but that’s okay. Each dead end will teach us something useful and keep us moving forward. As Thomas Edison famously said, ‘I have not failed 10,000 times. I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work’.”
Gates also urged young people to engage with the energy challenge. “You may be wondering what you can do to help,” he wrote. “First, it’s important for everyone to get educated about this energy challenge. Many young people are already actively involved in climate and energy issues and I’m sure they could use more help. Your generation is one of the most globally minded in history, adept at looking at our world’s problems beyond national borders. This will be a valuable asset as we work on global solutions in the decades ahead.
“Second, if you’re someone with some crazy-sounding ideas to solve our energy challenge, the world needs you. Study extra hard in your math and sciences. You might just have the answer.”
In a separate interview to promote the letter with news agency Bloomberg, Gates provided more detail on how a global clean energy R&D push could be orchestrated and offered an insight into why he is so confident a breakthrough will materialise.
“What we need to get that probability [of a breakthrough] up to be very high is to take 12 or so paths to get there,” he told the news agency. “Like carbon capture and sequestration is a path. Nuclear fission is a path. Nuclear fusion is a path. Solar fuels are a path. For every one of those paths, you need about five very diverse groups of scientists who think the other four groups are wrong and crazy.”
He also revealed the Breakthrough Energy Coalition is working on new investment approaches that would provide more “patient capital” than that offered by traditional venture capital funds, allowing for greater investment in long term R&D efforts.

Atlas, The Next Generation Google Robot

A new version of Atlas, designed to operate outdoors and inside buildings. It is specialized for mobile manipulation. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. It uses sensors in its body and legs to balance and LIDAR and stereo sensors in its head to avoid obstacles, assess the terrain, help with navigation and manipulate objects. This version of Atlas is about 5' 9" tall (about a head shorter than the DRC Atlas) and weighs 180 lbs.



Chemically storing solar power (phys.org)

Chemically storing solar power
Photochemical cell: Light creates free charge carriers, oxygen (blue) is pumped through a membrane
VIA http://phys.org/news


A photo-electrochemical cell has been developed at TU Wien (Vienna). It can chemically store the energy of ultraviolet light even at high temperatures.

Nature shows us how it is done: Plants can absorb sunlight and store its energy chemically. Imitating this on large industrial scale, however, is difficult. Photovoltaics convert sunlight to electricity, but at , the efficiency of solar  decreases. Electrical energy can be used to produce hydrogen, which can then be stored – but the energy efficiency of this process is limited.
Scientists at TU Wien (Vienna) have now developed a new concept: By combining highly specialised new materials, they have managed to combine high temperature photovoltaics with an . Ultraviolet light can be directly used to pump oxygen ions through a solid oxide electrolyte. The energy of the UV light is stored chemically. In the future, this method could also be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
Special Materials for High Temperatures
As a student at TU Wien, Georg Brunauer started pondering possible combinations of photovoltaics and electrochemical storage. The feasibility of such a system depends crucially on whether it is able to work at high temperatures. "This would allow us to concentrate sunlight with mirrors and build large-scale plants with a high rate of efficiency," says Brunauer. Common photovoltaic cells, however, only work well up to 100°C. In a solar concentrator plant, much higher temperatures would be reached.
Chemically storing solar power
Heated reactor. Credit: TU Wien
While working on his doctoral thesis, Brunauer managed to put his ideas into practice. The key to success was an unusual choice of materials. Instead of the ordinary silicon based photovoltaics, special metal oxides - so-called perovskites - were used. By combining several different metal oxides, Brunauer managed to assemble a cell which combines photovoltaics and electrochemistry. Several research partners at TU Wien contributed to the project. Georg Brunauer is a member of Prof. Karl Ponweiser's research team at the Institute for Energy Systems and Thermodynamics, Prof. Jürgen Fleig's group (Chemical Technologies and Analytics) and the Institute for Atomic and Subatomic physics were involved as well.
Creating Voltage and Pumping Ions
"Our cell consists of two different parts – a photoelectric part on top and an electrochemical part below," says Georg Brunauer. "In the upper layer,  creates free charge carriers, just like in a standard solar cell." The electrons in this layer are immediately removed and travel to the bottom layer of the electrochemical cell. Once there, these electrons are used to ionize oxygen to negative , which can then travel through a membrane in the electrochemical part of the cell.
"This is the crucial photoelectrochemical step, which we hope will lead to the possibility of splitting water and producing hydrogen," says Brunauer. In its first evolution step, the cell works as a UV-light driven oxygen pump. It yields an open-current voltage of up to 920 millivolts at a temperature of 400°C.
The photoelectrochemical cell has now been presented in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, but the research project continues. "We want to understand the origin of these effects by carrying out a few more experiments, and we hope that we will be able to improve our materials even further," says Brunauer. If the electrical power can be increased a slightly, the cell will be able to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. "This goal is within reach, now that we have shown that the cell is working," says Georg Brunauer. The concept is not only useful for the production of hydrogen, as it could also split carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide. The produced energy carried in the form of hydrogen and carbon monoxide can be used to synthesize fuels.
More information: Georg Christoph Brunauer et al. UV-Light-Driven Oxygen Pumping in a High-Temperature Solid Oxide Photoelectrochemical Cell, Advanced Functional Materials (2016). DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201503597

Journal reference: Advanced Functional Materials  



The Caribbean’s Biggest New Solar Energy Project Is at Antigua’s Airport

antigua airport solar
VIA http://caribjournal.com

In what is a pioneering project, Antigua will be inaugurating a new 3 megawatt solar power plant this week — at its international airport.
The solar energy installation at VC Bird International Airport includes more than 12,000 photovoltaic panels, developed and constructed by United Kingdom-based PV Energy Limited.
The plant will be holding its grand opening Feb. 25.
According to PV Energy, the plant will generate up to 4.645 MWh per year, saving 3.019,50 tons of CO2 emissions on the island in the same time frame.
sol

That means the plant “almost entirely” covers the electricity consumption of the whole airport, according to PV.
“We pledge our continued commitment to moving our country towards a greener economy recognizing that this will form a major platform for enabling Antigua and Barbuda to realize our goal of becoming an economic powerhouse in the eastern Caribbean”, said Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister and Minister of Finance & Corporate Governance Gaston Browne.
The project was completed in just 87 days, according to the government.
“This important initiative in the energy sector, utilizing state-of-the-art-technologies, will allow us to reduce our foreign ex-change outlays for imported fossil fuel, while developing our indigenous energy resources and contributing towards our goal of reducing our carbon footprint,” said Antigua Tourism Minister Asot Michael.
The launch comes after Antigua completed its state-of-the-art terminal at VC Bird last year.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When is Energy Storage Eligible for the 30 Percent ITC?

VIA http://www.renewableenergyworld.com


Near the end of 2015, the IRS quietly updated a little known rule on storage eligibility for the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The timing seemed odd, with the ITC about to expire, but the IRS must have been privy to what congress was about to do, in passing the Christmas Miracle of a five-year ITC extension at 30 percent.


With the update, clarifying when an ITC applies to storage, the solar-plus-storage market looks likely to experience the rapid expansion that the solar market experienced in the last decade.


"This new ruling from the IRS provides the clarity needed to unlock the solar + storage industry," said Jigar Shah, former SunEdison CEO and now Founder of Generate Capital, financing commercial and industrial (C&I) $0-down renewable energy upgrades.


Batteries had been eligible for the 30 percent ITC, as Renewable Energy World reported in 2013, under certain little-known guidelines set by the IRS in 2013. Until the recent ruling, it was unclear what percentage of storage was eligible.


Over the last few years, companies had been asking the IRS for clarifications for private letter rulings of how much of a storage project is eligible for ITC when some of the energy it stores is from the grid, not a solar project.


When Renewable EnergyWorld's Jennifer Runyon hosted a webcast on the IRS rules regarding when storage is eligible, the DNV GL presenters were overwhelmed with questions. The international certification and technical assessment body advises C&I firms considering reducing their demand charges by storing some of their PV.


For its C&I customers, DNV GL has observed average installed battery power capacity in the range of 250 kW to 500 kW. PV capacity has typically been installed at a 3-1 ratio to battery power capacity, for the most cost-effective demand management applications. 


The ITC applies only to storage charged from solar. But the IRS is technology agnostic about what constitutes storage; it doesn't have to be a battery. 


The definition: "Solar energy property includes equipment that uses solar energy to generate electricity, and includes storage devices, power conditioning equipment, transfer equipment, and parts related to the functioning of those items."


What is the IRS New Ruling on Two-way Charging?


The new ruling on dual-use property — where a storage device could be charged by the grid as well as an on-site PV system — is really key.


"The federal government does not want to incentivize people to ‘arbitrage’ energy from the grid," said Mike Kleinberg, Senior Consultant, DNV-GL. "You cannot charge from the grid in the evening and then discharge during the day to supplement your PV — and also qualify for the ITC, because you're not then really charging from renewable energy."


What Kleinberg described as the "75 percent cliff" has been a source of confusion among their clients.


The ITC is applied over a five-year period, but the 75 percent charging requirement cannot be averaged over those five years, or ramped up gradually.
"In essence, if during year one, the taxpayer is not careful and allows too much of the electricity stored in the battery to be drawn from the grid, no portion of the energy tax credit is available for the battery regardless of the battery's mix of stored electricity in later years," he cautioned.


Also, the storage credit is limited by the percentage of renewable input. If 90 percent of the storage charging energy is derived from solar panels, then the storage is eligible for only 90 percent of the ITC.
“Further, if the charging energy remains about 75 percent but falls below the percentage established in the first year, then a proportional amount of the tax credit claimed in the first year must be recaptured.”


How Can You Prevent Batteries from Charging More Than 25 Percent, and Thus Becoming Ineligible?


"This is done primarily through control of the inverters," he explained. "There's some level of site controller, or inverter controller, depending on whether you have the PV plus storage DC coupled or AC coupled. DC-coupled solar plus storage systems implies there's one inverter and it has a DC input from the PV plant and from the storage. The inverter can then route power from the DC bus directly from the PV to the storage device."


In AC-coupled systems, he added, both the PV and the storage have their own DC/AC converters, and a site master controller can then control when and how fast the storage is charging to ensure it aligns with PV power production.
After the five-year period in which the ITC is claimed, you are permitted to allow two-way charging again. But there are still some areas of uncertainty. A storage system added later might not meet eligibility, Kleinberg said for example.


Are Only Batteries Eligible?


Other than batteries, there are storage technologies that can be connected to a solar PV system, and in certain circumstances, would be eligible. One example is that PV can be directed to send its surplus electricity to heat a smart hot water heater or ceramic space heater.


"Our customers are very interested in the 30 percent ITC," said Jim Deichert, Division Manager for Off-Peak Heating at Steffes, which for 30 years has made smart ceramic space heaters that were designed to store surplus electricity as heat, typically in regions with excess wind power on the grid at night, to be switched on or off by utilities. They have recently been adding smart water heaters, which have two-way communication, to store surplus from a solar PV system on site, for example.


"It's got software for exactly what is my current rate of storage, what is my storage capacity in my water heater, do I have any capacity available for additional, and also looking at the home in general: can that energy to be used from the solar in the home, and what do you do when conditions are such that you have no more storage capacity in a water heater or a ceramic heater? Is there an option to send this energy onto the grid, and if so what kind of payment am I going to get?"


Their ceramic heater considers additional data.
"There are some additional things that come in when you talk space heating," he pointed out. "Hot water needs are more predictable. Heating need is more variable from day to day. How cold is it outside today? How cold is it going to be outside tomorrow?"


However, in order to qualify for the ITC, software would have to show that no more than 25 percent was actually coming off the grid, directed as it is by a utility's need to offload generation.
Steffes' software was not designed to show an annual breakdown of this percentage. It records energy that the system can provide for the utilities, so they can bill accordingly, when they manage the storage system.


"Our ceramic heating system wasn't put together for the ITC," explained Deichert. “However, by sizing the water heater appropriately, you could get 75 percent from solar on site."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

World's largest solar plant goes live, will provide power for 1.1M people










The world's largest solar power plant, now live in Morocco, will eventually provide 1.1 million people with power and cut carbon emissions by 760,000 tons a year.

The $9 billion Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant could eventually start exporting energy to the European market.

The Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), paid for with funds approved byThe World Bank, is located in the Souss-Massa-Drâa area in Morocco, about 6 miles from Ouarzazate town. It began operation on Thursday. While the World Bank and other development partners provided financial support, the Noor solar plant is a wholly Moroccan project.

"With this bold step toward a clean energy future, Morocco is pioneering a greener development and developing a cutting edge solar technology," Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb, said in a statement. "The returns on this investment will be significant for the country and its people, by enhancing energy security, creating a cleaner environment, and encouraging new industries and job creation."

Noor concentrated solar power
On the left, phase 1 of the Noor Concentrated Solar Power plant is generating energy. On the right, phase 2 will be completed in 2017 and phase 3 in 2018.

Overall, the new Noor CSP plant will increase Morocco's energy independence, create 1,600 jobs during construction and 200 jobs during the power plant's operation, and increase the installed capacity of solar power stations from 22MW in 2013 to 522MW in 2018, according to The World Bank.

The plant will be able to store solar energy in the form of heated molten salt, which allows for the production of electricity even at night.

noor solar power plant morocco


Unlike concentrated photovoltaic solar power, CSP plants do not create electrical current through the photovoltaic effect, where particles of light (photons) break electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Instead CSP uses either lenses or parabolic mirrors to concentrate the sun's light onto a small point where water or another substance is heated.

The heat is used to create steam, which runs a turbine that produces electricity. In the Noor CSP, concave mirrors focus on molten salt, heating it anywhere from 300 degrees to 660 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ivanpah concentrated solar power plant
Much like the Noor CSP, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a concentrated solar thermal plant in the California Mojave Desert.

Currently, the Noor CSP can generate 160 megawatts (MW). But as additional phases are completed, in two years it's expected to generate more than 500MW -- enough power to meet the needs of 1.1 million Moroccans.

Phase 2 (Noor 2 and 3 plants) are due to open in 2017 and 2018 and will store power for up to eight hours. In all, the Noor CSP plant will cover an area of 6,178 acres.

brightsource energy luz power tower stateline solar
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a concentrated solar thermal plant in the California Mojave Desert. Like the Noor CSP, sunlight is concentrated onto a tower containing molten salt.

At full power, the new solar power plant will reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year, which would equate to 17.5 million tons of carbon emissions over 25 years, according to Climate Investment Funds.

The International Energy Agency estimates that up to 11% of the world's electricity generation in 2050 could come from CSP.

Morocco's goal is to have 42% of its energy come from renewable resources by 2020.


Lucas Mearian — General assignment and storage
Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld.

California solar industry job growth reaches record levels

2451929_FI_0204_Agenda_Solar_Panels_IK
California added more than 20,000 new solar jobs in 2015, more than half of the nation's total.  Above, Elgin Clark, left, and Edgar Palma of Sunrun home solar company install a solar panel on a home in Van Nuys.
 (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Ivan Penn BY 
VIA http://www.latimes.com
California led a record-breaking year for solar power in 2015 that included the addition of more than 20,000 new jobs within the state -- more than half of the positions the industry created nationwide, according to a new report.
The California Solar Jobs Census report released Wednesday found that roughly one out of three employees in the solar industry works in California.
By the end of 2015, that total number of solar workers in the state exceeded 75,000. That's more than all jobs held at state's five largest utility companies combined, according to the California Solar Energy Industries Assn.
“Solar power is a bright spot in California’s economy, bringing jobs and economic development to every corner of the state,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the solar association. “While conventional energy industries are losing jobs, we are seeing record growth, and bringing clean air and climate solutions along the way.”
Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of the Solar Foundation, which produced the report, said the 20,000 new jobs in California "marks an industry milestone."
Nationwide, the total number of solar industry jobs increased by more than 35,000 as of November to a total of almost 209,000 workers.
“Our data since 2012 show that half the states in the country have at least doubled their solar workforce,” Luecke said.
The job growth was driven by a record number of solar installations, which increased by almost one-fifth over 2014 or 7,400 megawatts, enough to power roughly 1.4 million homes. Total U.S. solar capacity reached 27.5 gigawatts, which has the generation potential of about 54 coal-fired power plants.
California continued its growth in installations but the pace slipped downward slightly from 2014 to 2015. Still, the 3,000 megawatts of solar installed in California was more than the next six largest 2015 solar markets combined.

The war over solar: As major ruling looms in Nevada, here are key factors

Wearing “Bring Back Solar” shirts and holding signs with slogans like “Solar is Life,” dozens of SolarCity employees turned out for a hearing Monday in which they urged utility regulators to reconsider the scope of a controversial decision to increase energy bills for customers.
The hearing, held by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, was fueled by high emotions and involved issues so complex that the session lasted well over 12 hours and ended around midnight.
At issue: the commission's recent decision to raise a fixed fee for solar customers and slash the value of credits ratepayers can earn for generating excess electricity under a program known as net metering. It applied the rates to all customers, including early adopters of solar power systems.
In the coming days, the commission is expected to rule on several appeals to revisit the rates, including requests to grandfather existing solar customers.
Citing the bill increase, solar companies halted sales here, which resulted in the relocation and layoffs of hundreds of employees. Rooftop solar advocates also have criticized the quasi-judicial commission, calling for removal of the three commissioners, who continue to consider the matter. Roughly 17,000 customers who installed solar panels before the decision and were counting on the lower bills to pay back sizable investments now face higher bills than they expected.
As many as 1,000 people are expected to be on hand Friday, when the commission is expected to issue its ruling. Here are some of the key factors going into the meeting:
The parties are generally in agreement, but a key one is not
The regulatory operations staff, which acts independently in each proceeding but makes recommendations to the commission, opposes grandfathering. Staff argues that it is not in the public interest. Staff also believes that groups of solar customers should not be treated differently. Letting some customers keep the old rates but requiring others to pay new rates would create two classes, something usually avoided in utility regulation, staff argues.
But NV Energy, solar advocates and the Bureau of Consumer Protection, which represents the interests of all ratepayers, are all generally in agreement. Those parties support letting existing customers keep the more advantageous rate structure for at least 20 years.
A critical question: Who is an "existing customer"?
NV Energy recommended that the commission use Sept. 10 as a cutoff date. So only those who installed solar panels or applied to install rooftop solar before Sept. 10 would qualify for the prior rates. Why a seemingly arbitrary mid-September date? According to NV Energy, Sept. 10 is the date of the last application to qualify for net metering before it hit a maximum customer cap.
The Bureau of Consumer Protection and solar advocates have argued for a Dec. 31 cutoff date, contending that the new rates — which went into effect on Jan. 1 — should only apply to customers who have gone solar since the start of the year.
Who can be trusted?
Both sides would have you believe their facts and figures.
The Bureau of Consumer Protection has questioned the very basis for the rates, a cost of service study conducted by NV Energy. At the same time, NV Energy and the commission have accused solar advocates of using a separate study to overstate the net benefits of solar.
There are also accusations about whether NV Energy and solar companies intentionally spread misleading information. Solar customers in Clark County are suing NV Energy with allegations it fed the commission false information. At the same time, solar customers in Northern Nevada are suing SolarCity, a national rooftop installer, with claims that it failed to disclose information about the potential for rates to increase.
As they say, the first casualty of war is the truth.
Public pressure is mounting
“All right, green army. Let’s get riled up.”
That was what one solar advocate said before a rally at the commission's Las Vegas location on Monday, part of a public campaign to reverse the rate decision. The solar industry has made its dissatisfaction well known to the commission. So many that when solar advocates gave public comment at a meeting several weeks ago, the start time was pushed back at least six hours.
And on Monday, solar advocates arrived with wheelbarrows full of signatures supporting a proposed ballot measure meant to restore the old rates. The same alliance behind the measure announced an ad buy of at least $250,000 for a commercial that will run on TV and digital.
When will the ruling occur?
The commission is scheduled to rule on the issue Friday. That would require the commissioner presiding over the case to issue a draft proposal Wednesday or Thursday. But given the close proximity to Monday’s daylong meeting, it’s possible the commissioner won’t have enough time to draft an order, an often lengthy document. If that is the case, the commission could move to delay the decision until next week and still meet a fast approaching deadline to rule on the appeals.