Archive for Made in America

Proposed Novato solar facility could power 500 Marin homes

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Planning commissioners, environmentalists, a city official and members of the public clambered over the rocks at an isolated quarry northwest of Novato Monday, touring a proposed solar facility that could generate enough electricity to power more than 500 Marin homes.

The tour had moments of comedy, as when the breeze from a nearby dairy farm wafted over the group of about 25 people. The quarry was once mined for serpentine rock, which contains asbestos. Quarry operations shut down in 1990.

Crawford Cooley and Beverly Potter, owners of the former quarry, applied for a permit for 4,272 solar panels up to 6 and a half feet high on 11.5 acres of the 952-acre quarry. The $6 million project would generate 1.98 megawatts of electricity, delivered to Marin Clean Energy via nearby power lines.

If approved, it would be the largest source of renewable energy originating in Marin. The second-largest would be Marin Clean Energy’s existing installation at the San Rafael Airport.

“Since this is an old quarry, it (the solar farm) seems like an ideal use of a property that does not lend itself to any other applications. It’s tucked away from everything,” said Frank Gobar. His company, San Rafael-based Danlin Solar, along with San Rafael-based REP Energy, would own and build the solar installation, leasing the land from the owners.

The site is west of the city of Novato, east of Stafford Lake and about a mile north of Novato Boulevard. County staff has recommended that the permit be granted, with some qualifications.

The planning commission is holding a public hearing on the matter June 23 to get public input and decide whether to grant the permit. Monday’s tour gave the commissioners a chance to see the place up front, close and personal.

If the permit is granted, construction could begin as early as mid-August and wrap up by November, according to Gobar.

“I think it’s a great idea, a great way to generate jobs,” said John McEntagart, a Sonoma County resident, who attended the tour. “Local workers, local hire.” McEntagart said he has friends and family in Marin.

The state Office of Mines Reclamation and the Department of Public works oversaw the reclamation of the land since the 1990s, according to the county staff report. The project is exempt from CEQA because it will not cause environmental impacts, the staff report said.

“My job is to work with clients to help them avoid environmental impacts,” said Dana Riggs, a project biologist with San Rafael-based WRA Environmental Consultants. “We planned it (the project) in a manner to avoid impacts on sensitive resources including species and habitat,” Riggs said.

Novato City Councilwoman Pat Eklund attended the tour Monday. She said she felt the solar project was a policy issue.

Solar developer Roy Phillips does paperwork before leading a tour of the site of a proposed solar energy facility on Monday in Novato. He uses a solar

Solar developer Roy Phillips does paperwork before leading a tour of the site of a proposed solar energy facility on Monday in Novato. He uses a solar panel for a table. His company, REP Energy, wants to build the facility on an abandoned quarry near the McIsaac Dairy west of Novato. (frankie frost — marin independent journal)

“This field trip reinforces for me that there needs to be a county policy on when solar units are put in the natural landscape versus the built environment,” Eklund said.

“When you put solar on a roof, that area has development on it already. So it has less of an impact on the environment. Whereas if you put solar in open space or on a farm, it causes more environmental impacts than if you put it over a parking lot or on a building,” Eklund said.

“It could have significant visual impact if it was on a more visible piece of property. Fortunately, that piece of property is a little insulated,” said Eklund. “For me, that’s a policy issue that needs to be decided before major solar farms are installed in our natural environment.”

“The Marin Conservation League has adopted some standards for solar in general,” said Susan Stompe, a member of the board of directors of the League, an environmental group, who also attended the tour.

“Our concern, as with Green Point, is that the county should have an ordinance to define what the requirements should be, and now they are processing another proposal” for a solar installation, Stompe said. “We would prefer that they adopt an ordinance.”

Such an ordinance would be easily two years in the making and would likely kill the present proposed facility.

Green Point was a proposed solar energy farm that was denied a permit by county supervisors in August 2013 when neighbors lobbied vigorously against it based on what they deemed the unattractive appearance of the solar panels.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m for green energy, but I don’t want a solar farm in my backyard,” said David McLaughlin, one of about 100 neighbors who attended the supervisors’ meeting at which that facility was defeated.

Defense Department releases energy conservation roadmap

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

 

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Department of Defense Seal.
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WASHINGTON (3/12/12) – The Defense Department Friday released an implementation plan for cutting energy consumption in military operations

Officials released a strategy in June outlining the need for energy conservation in military operations. In the plan released, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta reiterates that the department must do its part to reduce U.S. fuel consumption not only to save money, but also to have less reliance on foreign oil and to improve security for U.S. forces who transport fuel into battle spaces.

“Energy security means a reliable, secure and affordable supply of energy for military missions, today and in the future,” the secretary said.

The implementation plan outlines a three-part strategy of reducing the demand for energy, securing diverse options beyond fossil fuels, and building energy security considerations into all military planning.

“This is a question of making sure the whole department is executing this strategy and using energy to support military operations better and interoperable and in a way that supports the whole department better,” said Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs.

The plan creates a Defense Operational Energy Board to oversee the department’s progress. Military services and DOD agencies are to report to the board on their energy consumption last year and projected consumption for the next five years, the plan says. The board will work with the services and agencies on actions needed to improve their consumption baselines.

The services have reported goals for:

  • The Army to have 16 “Net Zero” installations by 2020 and 25 by 2030 — installations that do not use more energy or water than they produce and reduce waste by recycling;
  • The Navy to reduce fuel consumption afloat by 15 percent by 2020;
  • The Air Force to increase aviation energy efficiency by 10 percent by 2020; and
  • The Marine Corps to increase energy efficiency on the battlefield by 50 percent by 2025, and, as a result, reduce daily fuel consumption per Marine by 50 percent in the same time.

The combatant commands will then report to the board on how they guide their forces to improve energy performance and efficiency, such as the ability to field fuel quickly and the use of alternative energy technologies.

The board is to develop department-wide energy performance metrics in consultation with the DOD components and based on consumption baselines.

The assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering is to assess the department’s gaps in energy science and technology and report recommendations to the board.

The plan also calls for:

  • Improving operational energy security at fixed installations;
  • Promoting the development of alternative fuels;
  • Incorporating energy security considerations into requirements and acquisitions; and
  • Adapting policy, doctrine, military education and combatant command activities to support reduced demand of energy.

“Even though the strategy and implementation plan is new,” Burke said, “the department has been making progress for some time in using less energy – more fight for less fuel. We haven’t been standing still on this.”

Soldiers and Marines have reduced their energy consumption in Afghanistan by using solar rechargeable batteries, solar microgrids, more efficient tents and better fixed shelters, Burke said.

Also, the Army is using generators at its forward operating bases that are 20 percent more efficient, and become even more efficient by being wired together. The Navy, too, has made good progress by incorporating energy considerations into its acquisitions process, she said.

Less demand for energy and more conservation lessen the risk to troops to transport fuel through battle zones, she said.

“When you’re focused on the fight, the most important thing is that the energy be there — and that’s how it should be,” Burke said. “But people also are beginning to understand there is a cost to using and moving that much fuel.”

Stateside, Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Carson, Colo., as well as the Oregon National Guard, are showing progress toward the Army’s Net Zero goal, the plan released today says.

“There’s a lot of good things going on, and a lot more needs to happen,” Burke said. The department’s energy conservation effort, she added, is both a challenge and an opportunity.

“Energy … shapes our missions, and we can shape it,” she said.
As part of the implementation plan, Panetta wrote that the rising global demand for energy, changing geopolitics and new threats will make the cost and availability of energy even less certain in the future.

“Energy security is an imperative – our economic well-being and international interests depend on it,” he said.

US military sets its sights on solar to sideline fossil fuels

By:  Cheryl Kaften

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) moved ahead this week with its plans to mete out “more fight for less fuel”. With support from the White House, the Pentagon intends to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by building next-generation combat vehicles, making energy storage safer and more effective, and increasing the deployment of renewable energy across America’s Armed Forces to three gigawatts (GW) by 2025.

US flag

The DOD is said to be making one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history.

Flickr/Jeff Kubina

“We haven’t been standing still on this,” commented Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs. Already, Burke said, the Army’s ground troops and the Marines have reduced their energy consumption at the tactical edge in Afghanistan by using solar rechargeable batteries, solar microgrids, more efficient tents, and better fixed shelters. The Navy also is incorporating energy considerations into its acquisitions process, she said.

Less demand for energy and more conservation reduce the risk to troops who transport fuel through battle zones, explained Burke. “When you’re focused on the fight, the most important thing is that the energy be there … But people also are beginning to understand there is a cost to using and moving that much fuel.”

Last June, DOD officials released a strategy outlining the need for energy conservation in military operations. The plan calls for a Defense Operational Energy Board to oversee the department’s progress. Military services and DOD agencies are to report to the board on their energy consumption during 2011 and on their projected consumption for the next five years, the plan says. The board will work with the services and agencies on actions needed to improve their consumption baselines.

Fast-forward to renewable energy

According to a statement from the White House on April 11, the DOD is making one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history, by developing a goal to deploy three GW of renewable energy, including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, on Army, Navy, and Air Force installations by 2025. That would be enough power to meet the needs of 750,000 homes.

According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, “This effort furthers the commitment President Obama made during the State of the Union (Address) to develop one gigawatt of renewable energy on Navy installations by 2020. The Air Force goal of obtaining 1 gigawatt by 2016 and the Army goal of obtaining 1 gigawatt by 2025 support the broader DOD goal to meet 25 percent of its energy needs with renewable energy by 2025.”

Together with emerging microgrid and storage technologies, reliable, local sources of renewable power will be used increase the energy security of U.S. military installations. To meet these goals at no additional cost to the taxpayer, DOD will leverage private sector financing through authorities such as power purchase agreements, enhanced use leasing, utility energy savings contracts, and energy savings performance contracts.

Testing new technologies

In brief, among the other energy conservation initiatives launched by the DOD and the White House this week are the following:

  • New lab for next-generation vehicles: On April 11, the Army opened a 30,000-square-foot research facility, called the Ground Systems Power and Energy Lab (GSPEL), at Detroit Arsenal that will develop cutting-edge energy technologies for the next generation of combat vehicles.
  • Green Warrior Convoy: As part of required road tests of technologies developed at the GSPEL, the Army will launch a Green Warrior Convoy of vehicles in 2013. The convoy—which will make stops at schools, community facilities, and military bases— will test and demonstrate the Army’s advanced vehicle power and technology including fuel cells, hybrid systems, battery technologies and alternative fuels.
  • Energy storage competition: Through its Advanced Research Projects Agency– Energy (ARPA-E), the Department of Energy will fund a $30 million research competition that will engage America’s brightest scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs in improving the capability of energy storage devices, including batteries. ARPA-E’s new “Advanced Management and Protection of Energy-storage Devices” (AMPED) program will promote the development of next-generation energy storage sensing and control technologies, including enhancing the performance of hybrid energy storage modules being developed by the DOD for war-fighting equipment.
  • Biuofuel development: As part of his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, President Obama has challenged the Departments of Navy, Energy, and Agriculture to partner with private industry to accelerate the commercialization of drop-in biofuels for military and commercial use. The three departments have developed a plan to spur private industry and financiers to construct or retrofit multiple integrated biorefineries—capable of producing millions of gallons of fuel annually from domestic feedstocks at a competitive price.

Carney emphasized that the plans outlined this week in support of fossil fuel independence are part of the administration’s broader goals for the nation. “These new steps build on President Obama’s unwavering commitment to energy security for America’s warfighters, and to a sustained, comprehensive strategy to ensure a secure energy future for all Americans.”

Solar Energy: Made in America

A Solar Revolution – Coming Soon

There’s a reason solar advocates love Independence Day. The bright July sunshine means that solar energy systems from Maine to California are pumping out free, clean energy for their owners. These solar pioneers are harnessing our abundant solar resources and are helping make America energy independent this Fourth of July.

Most people don’t know that America is the birthplace of the modern solar energy industry. In 1891, an inventor from Baltimore named Charles Kemp filed the patent for the first commercial solar water heater. The Carnegie Steel Company modernized the design a few decades later.

In the 1950’s, Bell Labs created the first modern solar electric cell using silicon, which is still the semiconductor of choice for many solar panel manufacturers. Bell’s technology leap helped the U.S. win the space race by providing the “killer app” for satellite power generation.

In 1974, five major industry members decided to form the Solar Energy Industries Association; the first trade association for solar energy businesses in the U.S. In 1979, the White House installed what would be the first of many solar installations at that site. (This article from the Washington Post discusses the first installation during the Carter administration and the recent announcement by President Obama, but doesn’t mention the panels that the Bush administration installed in 2003.)

In 1986, the first large-scale concentrating solar thermal-electricity facility opened in Kramer Junction, California. Beyond the solar thermal collectors, it works just like a traditional steam-turbine power plant.

I won’t take up more valuable fireworks-and-barbeque time with a lengthy dissertation on solar energy in America, but if you’re a geek like me, we’ve got some great resources for you. For example, Solar Works for America tells the stories of regular people across America who have found jobs in the solar industry. As one of the fastest growing industries in the country, we hope that solar can help you be economically independent through “going solar” yourself, training for a solar job or maybe even starting your own solar company.

Solar energy is a classic American success story of technology, innovation and competition. In the coming months, SEIA will be announcing a lot of new ways to help you fight for a solar-powered America. Enjoy the fireworks, but stay tuned: the real solar revolution is just beginning.

Yours in sunny solidarity,
Michael Rader, SEIA