PV’s levelized cost drops to 11.5 cents per kWh with incentives

Posted on January 25, 2012. Filed under: Energy Policy, General, Solar | Tags: , |

An analysis by Don Wichert, Director, Renewable Energy Services,
Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation (WECC):

My recent (simplified) levelized cost analysis for commercial PV, at $5,252 a kW installed in WI, over 25 years and with a 5% loan (no shading, no maintenance, no output degradation), is 13.8 cents per kWh as shown on the slide below. This includes a 56% reduction in the installed price due to the ITC and depreciation. With the previously available $600 a kW Focus base incentive, the levelized cost drops to 11.5 cents per kWh.

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Solar energy makes gains, but policy puts future in question

Posted on December 1, 2011. Filed under: Energy Finance, Energy Policy, Solar | Tags: , , |

From an article by in the La Crosse Tribune:

When the sun shines, Al Schultz makes money. Specifically, the 32 photovoltaic panels on his roof turn the sun’s rays into electricity that powers his home in Ebner Coulee. If he doesn’t need the power, he sells it to Xcel Energy.

“There is a certain peace of mind,” said the self-employed contractor. “It’s kind of a nice thought to think all your power is paid for.”

Schultz is one of a small but growing number of area homeowners who’ve taken advantage of new, cheaper solar technology, which coupled with state and federal incentives have brought residential solar electric systems within reach of more regular folks looking to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels, lower their utility bills and even make some money.

But changes on the horizon have cast a shadow over the solar industry’s future in Wisconsin. . . .

“Right now it’s out of reach for 90 percent of the home-owning population,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit that promotes economically and environmentally sustainable energy in Wisconsin. . . .

Money from Focus on Energy is still available this year, but rebates will be frozen in January as FOE implements new formulas used to evaluate cost effectiveness and rebalances its portfolio of energy savings and renewables.

Program administrator William Haas said next year’s renewable incentives won’t be decided until early spring.

Solar advocates like Vickerman say the energy policy hierarchy, which values efficiency – use reduction – over renewables in terms of cost effectiveness, is misguided.

“However much efficiency is injected, it doesn’t have any change in the resource mix,” he said. “Diversifying resource mix has value.”

Solar panels may reduce dependence on fossil fuels, but dollar for dollar, Haas said, high-efficiency lighting delivers better savings.

Dearing points out that his customers have already weatherized and bought high-efficiency appliances.

“Our customers call us after they’ve done the low-hanging fruit,” he said. “We’re expensive. This is big dollar stuff. This is the future.”

Vickerman says the future of the solar industry depends on policy.

“If we proceed without any policy changes there won’t be much happening,” he said. “You’ll see a number of solar installers go out of business.”

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Milwaukee solar panel maker lands deal with U.S. military, adds 2nd shift

Posted on July 6, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Energy independence, Jobs, Solar | Tags: , , |

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Solar panels produced by Helios Solar Works of Milwaukee will be used by the U.S. Army, the FBI and other government customers under a strategic partnership announced Tuesday by Arista Power Inc.

Arista is a manufacturer of wind turbines and renewable energy storage systems based in Rochester, N.Y.

Financial terms of the partnership weren’t disclosed.

Helios will supply Arista with panels and will refer solar business opportunities to Arista. Arista has agreed to distribute Helios products to the military.

“One of the major benefits of our high-performance modules is their flexibility, which makes it possible to design systems that satisfy a variety of needs, from residential, commercial and governmental applications,” said Steve Ostrenga, Helios chief executive. “We view this as a perfect fit with Arista Power’s products, which are scalable and can be adapted to serve a variety of markets.”

The announcement comes as Helios is seeing demand for made-in-Milwaukee solar panels from the military, Ostrenga said in an interview. Helios is making panels for military bases in Arkansas, New York and Virginia.

“We’re getting a lot of movement in the military because the military has made a stance that, because of energy security, they want to be energy independent,” he said.

A large order for a military base in San Diego began production this week.

As a result of the demand, the company recently added a second shift, and employment is now at about 30 people, Ostrenga said. Plans are in the works for a third shift.

The Department of Defense released an energy strategy last month that incorporates greener technologies as a way to protect soldiers. Thousands of U.S. servicemen have lost their lives in attacks on fuel and other supply convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“As long as U.S. forces rely on large volumes of energy, particularly petroleum-based fuels, the vulnerability and volatility of supplies will continue to raise risks and costs for the armed forces,” the Pentagon said in a report to Congress.

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Software firm reaches for the sun

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: Solar, Sustainability | Tags: |

1,300 solar panels rise above a parking lost at Epic Systems in Verona, WI.

From an article by Tom Conent in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Verona – By the end of the year, the largest solar project yet built in Wisconsin will take shape in the rolling countryside that Epic Systems calls home.

And by the middle of next year, the new solar “farm” will double in size again.

Clearly, Epic, a fast-growing provider of sought-after health care software that’s hiring 1,000 people just this year, doesn’t embrace small projects.

It’s more cost-effective to build a big renewable energy project than to come back later and expand it, said Bruce Richards, director of facilities and engineering.

And it fits in with a green vision espoused by company founder and chief executive Judith Faulkner.

“We were in a meeting, and I was discussing the payback on a particular project, thinking she might have some concerns,” said Bruce Richards, director of facilities and engineering at Epic. “But she didn’t hesitate. She said, ‘But once it’s paid off, the energy is free, right?'”

Epic clearly has the financial wherewithal to undertake a green-energy investment that other firms might seek state dollars to help fund. Officials declined to disclose the cost of the project.

The company is a developer of health care IT software that helps hospitals move toward electronic medical records. Epic sales grew 27% in 2010. Revenue reached $825 million in 2010, compared with $76 million in 2001.

Focused on sustainability
Epic is an economic engine that’s a Wisconsin outlier: A booming business that’s about as far from the state’s manufacturing heritage as you can get.

The company is moving to wean itself off fossil fuels in a big way.

Already, most buildings on the sprawling campus are heated and cooled with a ground-source heat pump system, which means the campus needs no natural gas for heating and no electricity for cooling in the summer.

About 1,300 solar panels were erected in recent months on a latticelike structure above an employee parking lot.

Faulkner picked the color of the lattice to match the deep blue light posts that dot downtown Verona, Richards said.

The remaining parking spaces are underground, to retain the pastoral feel of the campus. The result, Richards tells a visitor walking between buildings across the complex, “You’re walking on a green roof right now.”

Richards says the driver of the green campus and move for energy self-reliance comes from a vision of doing right by the planet.

“Sustainability, that’s really what it’s all about,” he said. “We’re looking for 100-year sustainability here. Everything we do in design and put in, that’s what we’re looking to do.”

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Fresh attack on Wisconsin voters’ desire for a renewable energy standard would kill wind projects and sap state’s economy

Posted on May 26, 2011. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Economic development, Energy independence, Energy Policy, Hydroelectric, Jobs, Solar, Wind | Tags: , , , , , |

From statements issued by three groups in opposition to Assembly Bill 146:

“Clearly, this bill is a drastic step in the wrong direction for our state. The Wisconsin Energy Business Association therefore opposes this attack on renewable energy in our state.” – Wisconsin Energy Business Association. Full statement.

We strongly recommend that this bill not be approved as it solves no known problem in Wisconsin and seeks only to roll-back policies on renewable energy that have served the state well and are otherwise benefitting Wisconsin residents with cleaner air and lower prices for electricity. – Wind on the Wires. Full statement.

Fresh attack on Wisconsin voters’ desire for a renewable energy standard would kill wind projects and sap state’s economy, say wind energy advocates – American Wind Energy Association. Full statement.

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Solar powers up former stockyards

Posted on February 28, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Solar | Tags: , |

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Wisconsin’s first solar panel factory has opened in the Menomonee River Valley, on the site of stockyards that contributed to the city’s leadership in the meatpacking and processing industries more than 100 years ago.

Later this year, solar panels will go up on the roof of the building that replaced the stockyards, and the panels will be made downstairs in Steve Ostrenga’s factory.

Privately held Helios USA started making robots this month, using an automated production line to build high-efficiency solar panels. The goal: to help put an emerging, 21st-century industry on the map in the state.

That’s what excited Patrick Shaw of Cudahy about working at the plant, he said during a recent tour of the W. Canal St. factory.

“I wanted to get into the green field,” said Shaw, a former Marine. “All you hear about is how that’s up and coming.” Then he attended a veterans job fair where Helios was recruiting employees.

“Six months later, here I am,” Shaw said.

Production started this month after five weeks of 12-hour days getting the first manufacturing line ready.

Workers installed robots that largely automate the manufacturing process and began test production earlier this month. Finished panels sit in stacks in an area of the plant where future production lines are planned.

A ribbon-cutting at the plant is scheduled for Monday.

During the plant tour, Shaw showed pride in having helped set up the robots.

“They said people’s kids could name the robots,” Shaw said. Pointing to one hoisting a nearly complete panel, he added, “My 4-year-old named that one Buzz Lightyear.”

Shaw is one of 17 workers who, after working to open the plant, began operating its first production line two weeks ago. Ostrenga hopes to nearly triple employment by the end of the year.

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Madison plant will recycle coating from solar panels

Posted on January 7, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Solar | Tags: |

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

5N Plus Corp. of Montreal will open a manufacturing and recycling center for metal coatings used in the production of thin-film solar panels.

The $4.3 million facility, which was supported by a $500,000 low-interest loan from the state of Wisconsin, is expected to be fully operational by March or April, plant manager John Schuster said.

5N Plus, which supplies metals used to coat the thin-film solar panels, has a contract to supply Abound Solar, a Loveland, Colo., company that plans to open solar panel factories in Indiana and expand a factory in Colorado that already makes thin-film solar panels.

Last month, Abound received a $400 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to support the expansion. Abound also announced a private equity investment of $110 million to support its growth.

The company plans to open a solar panel factory inside an 800,000-square-foot building in Tipton, Ind., that was once intended to build transmissions for Chrysler cars.

5N Plus chose the DeForest area for a new facility because of its central location and proximity to the Cardinal Glass plant in Portage, where the glass can be recycled, Schuster said.

Cardinal Glass’ Solar Technologies division supplies glass and other products for thin-film solar panels, with work taking place at factories in Mazomanie and Portage.

Cardinal and 5N Plus are among suppliers in four states that are expected to employ 1,600 people as a result of the Abound Solar manufacturing expansions in Colorado and Indiana, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Solar panel company to bring 600 jobs to Wisconsin

Posted on January 3, 2011. Filed under: Economic development, Solar | Tags: , |

From an article by Judy Newman in The Capital Times:

W Solar Group, a privately owned company with technology for manufacturing solar panels, said it will move to Wisconsin and set up its corporate headquarters and a separate research and development center in Dane County. No specific locations were given in the announcement Thursday by Gov. Jim Doyle’s office.

The state Department of Commerce will provide up to $28 million in enterprise zone tax credits for the Chatsworth, Calif., company, which says it plans to invest more than $300 million in facilities in Wisconsin and create more than 600 jobs by 2015.

“W Solar Group was attracted to Wisconsin early in our search for a project location,” said Chris Hamrin, president and chief executive officer. “We are impressed with the high-quality work force, extensive supply chain and the commitment to producing world-class products.”

Established in 2009, W Solar has fewer than 20 employees, and all are involved in research and development, company spokesman Evan Zeppos said.

Plans call for opening the headquarters and research and development operations in the first half of 2011 and starting manufacturing in 2012.

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Wisconsin utilities continue progress toward renewable energy standar

Posted on December 22, 2010. Filed under: Digesters, Energy Policy, Renewable energy - generally, Solar, Wind | Tags: , , , |

From a news release issued by the Public Service Commissiion of Wisconsin:

MADISON – Two reports released today by the Public Service commission of Wisconsin (PSC) indicate that Wisconsin’s electric utilities and cooperatives continue to make steady progress in adding renewable energy to the state’s energy supplies. All of the electric providers meet or exceed state requirements and many offer incentives to customers who want to generate their own renewable electricity.

Renewable Portfolio Standard Compliance

Wisconsiin’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law requires retail electric providers to produce 66 percent of the state’s eelectricity from renewable resources by the year 2010, and 110 percent by 2015. each year, Wisconsin utilities and cooperatives are required to report to the PSC their progress in meeting thee renewable milestones.  Today the PSC released the 2009 RPS compliance Report which indicates:

+  All 118 Wisconsin electric providers met their RPS requirement for 2009;
+ 113 providers exceeded their requirements for the year, creating excess renewable resource credits that can be banked and used for compliance in future years; and,
+ In 2009, 6.29 percent of the electricity sold by the state’s utilities and cooperatives was generated from renewable resources, up from 4.90 percent in 2008.

Distributed Renewable Generation

PSC also released a status report on its investigation into “advanced a term renewable tariffs,” a term used to describe long-term contracts whereby utilities and cooperatives offer to purchase electricity at premium prices from customers who generate electricity from small, renewable systems such as solar panels.  Highlights of the status report include:

+ More than 300 of Wisconssin’s electric providers, representing about 90% of the state’ s electricity market, have voluntarily offered this kind of incentive;
+ Customers have responded by installing more than 10 MW of small, distributed capacity utilizing biogas (from manure digesters on farms), solar panels, and wind turbines; and,
+ An additional 8.2 MW off generation capacity, mostly from biogas projects, is under construction and will soon be generating electricity.

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Grant program passed, thousands of renewable energy jobs saved

Posted on December 21, 2010. Filed under: Biomass, Digesters, Economic development, Energy Policy, Solar, Wind | Tags: , , , |

From an article in Renewable Energy World:

Washington, D.C. — In typical fashion, the U.S. Congress passed a suite of last-minute tax laws last night, including an extension of the Treasury Grant Program (TGP) for renewable energy project developers.

Trade groups in Washington have been pushing hard for an extension of the program, which provides a cash payment of up to 30% of equipment costs in place of the Investment Tax Credit. The grant program was responsible for a large portion of the renewable energy projects built throughout the U.S. in 2010. Originally passed as part of the 2009 stimulus package, the TGP was supposed to expire at the end of December.

Because there are still a limited number of financial institutions able to finance projects by taking advantage of tax credits, the TGP has opened up new sources of capital for project developers. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the grant program spurred over 1,100 solar projects and $18 billion dollars of investment in 2010.

“This program has successfully created thousands of jobs and opportunity in all 50 states for construction workers, electricians, plumbers, contractors that have struggled in this harsh economic climate,” said SEIA President Rhone Resch in a statement.

While the wind industry saw a significant drop in installations compared to 2009, the grant program helped keep thousands of MW on the table for 2010 and 2011. American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode projected a loss of tens of thousands of wind jobs in 2011 without an extension of the TGP.

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