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Wind, solar credits on the chopping block?

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Congress could be close to phasing out the tax credits that have, for years, supported the booming wind and solar energy industries.

Tax writing committees in the House and Senate are working to introduce and pass a package of tax breaks before the end of the year to extend or renew a number of incentives like those for low-income housing, scientific research and small businesses.

While the wind and solar industry and their allies among environmentalists and Democrats want to protect the tax incentives for the long term, many conservatives want to phase them out.

As the committees negotiate the tax packages, lawmakers and observers say the most likely outcome is that both credits will be phased out over a five-year period.

The wind incentive is a production tax credit, meaning it gives utilities money back for each unit of electricity produced. The solar industry has an investment tax credit, based on the money spent to install the solar panels.

A phase-out would provide a certain amount of stability for the industries. But environmentalists lament the end of the incentives shortly after President Obama unveiled a sweeping climate change regulation for the power sector that’s expected to increase demand for renewable power like never before.

Obama frequently cheers the growth of renewable energy like wind and solar, and the low costs of the power — due in part to federal help — helps make the case for his climate regulations.

“These tax incentives are crucial for these clean energy technologies like wind and solar to continue to compete,” said Melinda Pierce, legislative director at the Sierra Club.

“The mature industries like oil and gas continue to enjoy subsidies, and as wind and solar continue to grow, they absolutely need the certainty of these types of tax incentives to ensure that they can fill that market space that’s being created as we move away from coal,” she said.

The wind credit expired at the end of 2013. Congress renewed it in late 2014, but only for that year, and it has not been in place for 2015.

The solar incentive is due to expire at the end of 2016. But the industry is hoping that Congress will extend the credit now as it takes up a larger tax package.

The Solar Energy Industries Association said it does not need the tax credit permanently, but it would prefer a five-year extension without the phase-out.

Rhone Resch, the group’s president, said the solar industry thought it wouldn’t need the credit past 2016, but economic factors like the Great Recession changed the calculus.

“Our costs are down by 80 percent, we’re scaling up, we’re becoming more cost-competitive. But we do need a little bit longer,” he said. “We do, in the long run, have the intention to not be part of the tax code.”

The American Wind Energy Alliance is advocating for a “long-term” renewal of its credit, but the group does not get more specific than that.

The Senate Finance Committee passed a bill extending both the wind and solar credits. The House Ways and Means Committee’s September bill included neither.

Curt Beaulieu, a tax attorney at Bracewell & Giuliani, said the House Ways and Means Committee recently showed its members a draft negotiation bill that included the five-year phase-outs, but then ran into objections that the entire package was too expensive, and considered changing those credits.

“As recently as Friday morning, it looks like there has been life reborn in negotiating the package,” Beaulieu said. “My guess is that it would be similar to what the negotiated package was, but they would cut back on some of the costs by taking away some of the permanent provisions.”

Some lawmakers are discussing the possibility of inserting a provision into the tax bill to lift the ban on exporting crude oil, reasoning that Democrats could get a better deal on the renewable energy incentives in return. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the top tax writers in each chamber, said oil exports are among the possibilities for the deal.

Conservatives object to the credits, saying they’re expensive and federal government ought not pick winners and losers in energy.

Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), one of Congress’ most vocal opponents of the wind credit, said he’d prefer that it not be renewed at all, but he’ll take a phase-out as a win.

“It needs to be phased out, and I’d prefer a quicker phase-out. But I’ll take anything that looks like a victory.”

Nick Loris, an economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the wind and solar industries should be allowed to compete on their own without the federal government’s help.

“We want to get rid of targeted tax credits and subsidies for all sources of energy and technologies, and these are two that are generous handouts to an industry that claims that they don’t need support, and that they’re robust and economically healthy,” Loris said. “If that’s the case, they should survive and be competitive without these tax credits.”

But Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) warned that ending the incentives could threaten the success of renewable power, which is important in the fight against climate change.

“There are other things we have to be doing in this space,” Blumenauer said of the climate fight. “But for now, we’re fighting to get as much as we can to not upset what’s happening with renewables. They need stability and continued progress.”

Climate draft deal reached at Paris conference

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Negotiators from 195 countries in Paris on Saturday agreed to a tentative deal to reduce global carbon emissions, CNN reported.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) posted a copy of the draft on its website and pledged to work through next week at the COP21 Paris conference to reach a final agreement.

Christina Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, tweeted that the draft is “One more step in writing of history.”

President Obama said at the kickoff of the conference that he was optimistic a deal would be struck.
“I think we’re going to solve it,” he said. “I think the issue is just going to be the pace and how much damage is done before we are able to fully apply the brakes.”
Ten Senate Democrats went to Paris on Friday in a show of support for the talks.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) on Saturday told reporters that the group was “determined to make sure that Paris is a successful conference, and that we will see a day where we can meet the goal of reducing the damage that we’re doing to our planet.”
Joining Cardin in Paris are Sens. Cory Brooker (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Chatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she is considering bringing a coalition of House Democrats to the talks at some point.
Republicans have expressed doubt about the efficacy of the talks and accused Obama of unduly prioritizing climate change over the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism.

SEIA

California Solar

California continues to be the leading solar market in the United States. A plethora of sunny days combined with supportive solar policies have created an ideal solar market. As older fossil-fired and nuclear generation plants (such as SONGS) come offline, statewide carbon reduction efforts escalate, and load growth increases (due, in part, to the anticipated increased deployment of electric vehicles), additional renewable energy procurement will be required within California. These factors, as well as changing consumer behaviors related to electricity production and delivery, offer substantial opportunities to continue to grow the solar energy market in California.

Click here to download the fact sheet.

Facts on the California Solar Industry

California installed more solar in 2014 than the entire country did from 1970-2011.
  • There are currently more than 2,262 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in California,employing 54,700 people.
  • In 2014, California installed 4,316 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking it 1st nationally.
  • The 11,535 MW of solar energy currently installed in California ranks the state first in the country in installed solar capacity.  There is enough solar energy installed in the state to power 2,891,000 homes.
  • In 2014, $11.773 billion was invested on solar installations in California.  This represents a 66% increase over the previous year, and is expected to grow again this year.
  • Average installed residential and commercial photovoltaic system prices in California have fallen by 5% in the last year.  National Prices have also dropped steadily- by 6% from last year and 53% from 2010.

View more solar industry data.

2014 Legislative Update

Solar Property Tax Exclusion Extended

In July, Governor Brown signed SB 871 which extends the existing solar property tax exclusion until January 1, 2025. The continuation of this policy will allow homeowners and businesses to install solar energy without a reassessment of their property taxes. In addition, extension of the exclusion will enable California utilities to achieve their renewable energy targets at a lower cost to ratepayers.

SEIA California State Solar Policy Priorities

  • Encourage policies promoting robust penetration of customer-sited and wholesale distributed generation to help meet the Governor’s 12 GW goal.
  • Establish a favorable net energy metering successor tariff (NEM 2.0) that ensures robust market growth.
  • Protect and expand residential and commercial utility rate design which encourages deployment of customer-sited solar energy.
  • DEnable access to solar energy to ratepayers who otherwise would not have had such access, such as apartment tenants and low‐income customers.

Notable Solar Installations in California

  • Desert Sunlight was completed in 2015 by developer First Solar.  This photovoltaic project has the capacity to generate 550 MW of electricity — enough to power over 160,000 California homes.
  • Several large retailers in California have gone solar, including Walgreens, Johnson & Johnson, Walmart and IKEA. Campbell’s Soup has installed one of the largest corporate photovoltaic systems in the state with 2,300 kW of solar capacity at their location in Sacramento.
  • At 250 MW, Mojave Solar is among the largest solar installations in California. Completed in 2014 by Abengoa, this concentrating solar power project has enough electric capacity to power more than 61,000 homes.

See our solar installations maps.

Solar Companies in California

There are currently more than 2,262 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in California.  These companies provide a wide variety of solar products and services ranging from solar system installations to the manufacturing of components used in photovoltaic panels.  These companies can be broken down across the following categories: 413 manufacturers, 86 manufacturing facilities, 1027 contractor/installers, 146 project developers, 159 distributors and 524 engaged in other solar activities including financing, engineering and legal support.

Agriculture Solar Energy Dairy Project

Agriculture Solar™ energy agricultural dairy farm projects handle operations for thousands of head cow dairies, and without sacrificing acres of farmland.The sun heats the hot water heating system and creates solar energy power on dairiesThe sun heats the hot water heating system and creates solar energy power on dairies. Clients from around the world are able to see new photovoltaic solar panels and solar thermal tubes that make their dairy project a “solar-powered milk farm.”

Agriculture Solar™ dairy project“It was really a no-brainer thing,” said Agriculture Solar™ dairy project customers, operators, and owners of family operations. “If we choose to buy the system outright, it will be all done paying for itself in just a few years. Or, we have the choice to purchase the electricity with no money down and low maintenance, in the Agriculture Solar 0% Down Lease.”

Many dairy operators are content to rely on the utility grid for their power, are used to running water wells, milking machines and other equipment for daily dairy farm management. However, Agriculture Solar dairy customers want to take the idea of self-sufficiency to a different level with their Agriculture Solar™ energy power, hot water system, combined with LED light systems and heat-recovery off of refrigeration system.

dairy farming milk production powered by solarFor customers who need the bottom line to pencil out. It does. Agriculture Solar allows you to lock in savings and incentives in 7-10 year lease agreement, when they were especially favorable for dairy farming milk production. Agriculture Solar™ financing is enthusiastic about providing their financing to large projects that generate the majority of a dairy’s annual electricity, hot water, and gas cost needs.

Agriculture Solar™ SystemThe whole Agriculture Solar™ System is designed to come close to, but not exceed, your annual electricity power demand. Under most existing laws, you can’t sell surplus power to your utility company. Agriculture Solar’s team of engineering do a completesite analysis and feasibility study for each dairy project to find the best renewable energy package for you.

solar dairy system generates powerAgriculture Solar customers verify that the agricultural solar energy dairy project cost nothing out of pocket to build the system. Dairies really likes about it when the solar dairy system generates power during the hottest part of the day, when they would otherwise be paying the highest electricity and gas rates.

Agriculture Solar Energy“The main thing I look forward to each month is cutting my power bill,” an Agriculture Solar Energy customer said. “We can predict our electricity and gas costs for the next couple of decades, so as the utility company raises the rates, we save more and more. Everybody says, they want to go green. For me, It has to pencil out. It does.”

Agriculture Solar Energy Dairy ProjectsAgriculture Solar™ Energy Dairy Projects envision even more self-sufficiency in future dairy industry daily operations. For example, dairy owners and operators look at their manure and could see the potential for capturing methane and using it to run their diesel-powered vehicles, and also put it in an Agriculture Solar™ Biomass Digester. And large scale solarenergy power storage is also an option that can create a dozen more revenue streams for the dairies’ owner and operators.

“Dairies by nature are do-it-yourselfers. We like doing our own thing,” Agriculture Solar Energy dairy customers share.

 

Drones for Safety | FAA Pathfinder Milestone

Commercial UAV News
Much of this week’s newsletter has to do with the use of drones to improve safety, including the first ever inspection of a cargo oil tank on an operational FPSO, mining company Fortescue’s use of drones for stockpile measurement, and the notion of using drones for avalanche control. We also cover the groundbreaking flight by Boeing subsidiary Insitu to inspect a 132-mile stretch of BNSF’s rail lines in the national airspace in New Mexico as part of the FAA Pathfinder initiative.

Commercial UAV Expo 2015 exhibitors Trimble and Pix4D are mentioned in this week’s round-up. Returning exhibitors get first dibs for booking space at the 2016 show that will take place Oct 31 – Nov 2 in Las Vegas. After November 13th, the floor opens up to new companies. Learn more about exhibiting at the 2016 show here.

First ROAV Inspection of Cargo Oil Tank on Operational FPSO

Cyberhawk Innovations completed its first ever ROAV inspection of a cargo oil tank on an operational FPSO. The world-first took place on board the Gryphon FPSO, owned and operated by Maersk Oil.

Fortescue Using Drones For Stockpile Surveying, Mitigating Risk for Surveyors

Fortescue trialed a number of UAVs at Cloudbreak to perform stockpile volume and topographic surveys before purchasing a Trimble UX5 with Pix4D software.

Using Drones for Avalanche Control Would Improve Safety

The concept of dropping sticks of dynamite from drones near a ski resort is guaranteed to give OSHA second thoughts. But considering the way things are currently done, armed drones would be a serious safety improvement.

bizUAS Demonstrates Power Line Inspection Using a Drone

bizUAS was one of six teams across North America selected to give a live presentation on the inspection of energized power structures to representatives of the North American electric power industry.

Small Drone Makes Its Own Maps to Navigate Indoors | MIT Technology Review

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have demonstrated a small drone that can build its own 3-D map of an unfamiliar environment and then plan its own routes around a space.

Boeing Subsidiary Using Drone to Inspect BNSF Rail Line

The Boeing Company’s unmanned aircraft subsidiary Insitu is flying a small surveillance drone to inspect rail line for BNSF Railway as part of the FAA’s Pathfinder initiative.

 

SolSystems Analyses The Prospects For Bankable Opportunities Looking Up To 2017

Over the years, a noticeable industry trend in overabundance of interested capital has been chasing a shortage of bankable opportunities in the fragmented commercial and small utility-scale sector. While there are still a number of investors out there chasing the same projects, the pendulum is finally starting to swing; project supply is on the uptick.

A number of factors are leading to this shift: a maturing market with more origination channels, a greater number of state markets with acceptable project economics and volume, investors accepting lower returns, and more repeat deals among parties allow projects to be closed and deployed faster than ever. On top of it all is the race to December 31, 2016 and the effect that’s having on project supply.

Despite this uptick in project pipeline, not all deals will complete the race.

One key to ensuring that pipeline makes it to the finish line will be the amount of tax efficient capital ready and willing to get teams moving quickly to deploy capital and close deals. Developers, beware of the bottleneck with equipment suppliers, but also your financing partner’s ability to diligence projects and close in a timely manner.

To ensure that your project is prioritized over others in a financier’s queue, keep in mind that investors will prefer projects that are further along in the development cycle where the host has already agreed to lock into a financeable PPA, or the PPA is largely negotiated, if not already executed. Investors will also prioritize larger projects, or projects with other pipeline behind them. Some projects may also take precedence over others when there is a strategic reason to favor the host (e.g. a high profile brand), or if they have stronger return profiles.

When racing to the end of 2016, do not think of December 31 as your deadline. Give yourself an August 2016 cutoff date to get everything closed, and plan for blips that may lead to delays in either closing or construction. As always, the winners in solar project development are those who plan ahead, and plan for bumps along the way.

Sol Systems is a solar energy finance and investment firm. The company has facilitated financing for 333MW solar projects on behalf of Fortune 100 corporations, insurance companies, utilities, banks, family offices, and individuals. Sol Systems provides secure, sustainable investment opportunities to investor clients, and sophisticated project financing solutions to developers.

The company’s tailored financial services range from tax structured investments and project acquisition, to debt financing and SREC portfolio management. Inc. Magazine named Sol Systems on its annual Inc. 500 list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies for a second consecutive year, ranking it No. 6 in the nation’s top solar companies in 2014.

Published here by the PVBUZZ team from the original article written and edited for publication on SolSystems by Sara Rafalson.

 

SunEdison Fails To Complete LatAm Takeover – Report

SeeNews Renewables — SunEdison Inc (NYSE:SUNE) is not going to complete its previously announced takeover of Latin American Power (LAP), The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported, citing officials from both parties.

SunEdison had failed to make a USD-400-million (EUR 355.9m) upfront cash payment as part of the acquisition, which is reportedly valued at USD 700 million in total. This has led to LAP walking away from the deal.

A SunEdison representative confirmed the outcome to WSJ, but blamed the failure to close the transaction on LAP owners, who, according to the spokesperson, did not meet certain conditions.

SunEdison agreed to buy LAP in May for an undisclosed sum. The business then held hydro and wind power projects in Peru and Chile. LAP is owned by Brazilian investment bank BTG Pactual SA and Patria Investimentos.

The failure to wrap up the takeover comes after a series of not-so-happy developments for SunEdison. The company announced on Monday it plans to reduce its global workforce by roughly 15% in a bid to optimise business operations.

Since July, SunEdison has lost over two-thirds of its market cap.

About SeeNews Renewables
SeeNews Renewables provides business news and intelligence for the renewable energy industry worldwide

Where The World’s First Entirely Solar-Powered Airport Has Been Unveiled

Over the next 25 years, the new power system is expected to save 300,000 tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of planting three million trees

Cochin International Airport in the southern Indian state of Kerala becamethe world’s first entirely solar-powered airport on Tuesday, unveiling a new system that will make the airport “absolutely power neutral,” according to a statement released by the parent company.

The airport’s solar power plant, which is comprised of more than 46,000 solar panels arrayed across 45 acres of land, will produce 48,000 units of energy per day, the Economic Times reports.

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Republicans resume efforts to stop CO2 rules

Washington, 4 August (Argus) — Congressional Republicans are vowing to block new CO2 regulations for power plants, but their efforts face long odds given the high vote tally needed to overcome a presidential veto.

As the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its Clean Power Plan yesterday, Republican leaders were promising to resume their efforts to prevent the regulations from ever taking effect, or at least to delay them for several years.

The US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee tomorrow will take up legislation to extend the Clean Power Plan’s compliance deadlines until after the courts have a chance to review the program. The bill by senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia) would also give governors the authority to opt-out of the Clean Power Plan if they determine that complying would harm their state’s ratepayers or over grid reliability concerns alone. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in May.

“Now that this rule is finalized, the need for congressional action is even more apparent,” Capito said.

But these efforts face high hurdles. The Republican-controlled House can easily pass any legislation with little or no Democratic support. But Republicans, who hold 54 seats in the Senate, would need to win significant backing from across the aisle to clear the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster or the 67 votes to override a certain veto from President Barack Obama. At least three Democrats, senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, have expressed varying degrees of opposition to the regulations over the past year. Manchin is the lone Democratic co-sponsor of the Capito bill.

If enacted, either bill could push back compliance by three or more years as the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over challenges to EPA regulations, and then possibly the US Supreme Court, review the regulations. More than a dozen states have already said they intend to file suits in the DC Circuit. Those suits would likely be filed once the Clean Power Plan is published in the Federal Register.

The plan requires states to meet CO2 emissions targets by 2030, with reductions to start in 2022. States must submit final compliance plans to EPA by September 2018, with initial plans due in September 2016.

The Capito legislation is just one option available to congressional opponents of the regulations. Republicans have also included restrictions in fiscal year 2016 spending bills that have yet to clear Congress. And the formal publication of the rules will give Republicans another legislative tool, a little-used law called the Congressional Review Act. It essentially allows Congress to veto new executive branch regulations.

But it has been successfully employed only once, despite more than 40 previous attempts under the act to block various regulations since 1996, according to the Government Accountability Office. One of those failed efforts occurred in 2010, when the Senate defeated a resolution to overturn EPA’s first steps to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

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Largest Dual Axis Tracker Project

Mortenson to Construct One of the World’s Largest Dual-Axis Solar Projects for OCI Solar Power

Mortenson announced construction of the Alamo 6 Solar project for OCI Solar Power. Located in Pecos County, Texas, the 110-MWac utility-scale solar project is one of the largest of its kind in the world and will generate enough renewable energy for approximately 60,000 households per year once it’s operational in 2016.
The Alamo 6 project is the 35th utility-scale solar project Mortenson has built in the U.S. and is the fourth Mortenson has built for OCI Solar Power. Mortenson is serving as the full service engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor on the project, while OCI Solar Power is the project developer, owner and operator.
The project utilizes the Sun Action Dual-Axis Tracker system and crystalline modules by Mission Solar. Each tracker contains 42 modules, totaling nearly 430,800 modules for the entire site. Mortenson will employ approximately 250 craft workers during construction.
Alamo 6 Solar Foundations
“The strong growth of solar power and the technological advancements of the industry is amazing,” said Trent Mostaert, vice president and general manager at Mortenson. “The price of utility-scale solar continues to fall and we are seeing increasing grid parity with other energy sources across the U.S.”
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, output from solar power facilities around the country more than doubled last year. More than three dozen utility-scale solar projects came online in the first quarter totaling 304 MW of capacity. The U.S. now has more than 11,300 MW of installed, large-scale solar power.
Mortenson is currently ranked as the third largest EPC firm for U.S. utility-scale solar, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The company is also the leading wind energy contractor in North America.