Last week, GridWise Alliance released its 3rd Annual Grid Modernization Index (GMI), a ranking of every state’s progress toward modernization of our nation's electric system – and Texas impressively placed third. The Alliance, a leading smart grid coalition which includes Environmental Defense Fund, based its assessment on state policies, customer engagement, and investment in advancing grid operations.
As we move toward a smarter, more efficient electric system, Texas is emerging as a leader in grid modernization. And with three recent smart-grid grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative, the Lone Star State could climb to the top of the GMI list.
Since 2011, the DOE has awarded millions of dollars through the SunShot Initiative to a variety of public and private entities. The goal is to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade, meaning it would cost the same to get your power from solar as from more traditional sources like coal. In the short amount of time since the program began, the solar industry is already 70 percent of the way there.
As the sixth largest electricity consumer in the country, Texas could greatly contribute to reaching this goal, especially with recent DOE support given to projects run by Austin Energy, Pecan Street, and GeoCF: Read More
By: Karin Rives
Not too long ago, making and selling your own electricity via rooftop solar was a novelty. Today, with 784,000 homes and businesses in the United States already on solar, such transactions are taking place every day in 44 states.
Now comes Bring Your Own Battery
Back in September when the New York Times declared 2015 “the year humans got serious about climate change,” we knew they were on to something. But as we near the end of 2015, it’s hard to believe we’ve accomplished as much as we have in just 12 months.
This momentum culminated in representatives of 195 nations agreeing in Paris to act together on world knowledge of climate change. This historic agreement will aim to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, report transparently, and review and strengthen standards every five years. EDF President Fred Krupp stated, “It sends a powerful, immediate signal to global markets that the clean energy future is open for business.”
Though history proves “hindsight is 20/20,” historians just might look back at 2015 as the year everything changed for clean energy. Here’s a look at some of the top trends that fueled climate action by governments, investors, corporations, individuals, cities, utilities, market analysts, real estate professionals, and cleantech leaders in 2015. [Click through the following slideshow to see the trends.] Read More
Utility-scale solar and distributed solar both have an important role to play in reducing greenhouse emissions, and both have made great strides in the past year.
Utility-scale solar, the focus of this article, is reaching “grid parity” (i.e., cost equivalency) with traditional generation in more areas across the country. And solar received a major boost when the federal tax incentive was recently extended through 2021. The amount of the incentive decreases over time, but the solar industry may be able to offset the lower tax incentive if costs continue to decline. New changes in policy and technology may further boost its prospects.
Record year for utility-scale solar
Some of the world’s largest solar plants came on-line in the U.S. during the past year, such as the 550-megawatt (MW) Topaz Solar plant in San Luis Obispo County, California and the 550MW Desert Sunlight plant in Desert Center, California. Last year saw a record increase in the amount of new utility-scale solar photovoltaic generation installed – about four gigawatts (GW), a whopping 38 percent increase over 2013, and enough solar power to supply electricity to 1.2 million homes. This number is expected to increase in 2015 when the final numbers are in. Read More
It started with U.S. Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz. He was in Chicago to give a high-profile speech on the Iranian nuclear deal and had two free hours after the luncheon address. His staff called to ask if the secretary could come over to our office, which houses Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an assortment of clean-energy start-ups, and the Energy Foundry, essentially a private-equity firm financing such entrepreneurs. Hard to say no to the head of the U.S. Department of Energy.
About a month later, we get a call from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Gina McCarthy, head of the EPA, was going to be in Chicago for a press conference. She had some free time in the late morning and wondered if she, too, could drop by to talk. Who’s going to deny the EPA administrator?
After another month, we get another call. This time from the U.S. Small Business Administration, whose administrator, Maria Contreras-Sweet, was going to be in Chicago. She had heard from colleagues that our office was the “place to be,” and wanted her own informative tour. What could we say?
The U.S. is currently undergoing a major transition to a cleaner, smarter, more efficient electric grid, and Illinois is at the heart of this change – which is clearly attracting interest from prominent leaders. So what exactly did our high-profile guests want to learn about? Read More
When you think about something that is 85 years old, you might think of history and tradition but not necessarily innovation. However, when the 85-year-old in question is a Chicago landmark committed to finding new ways to tackle energy management, cutting-edge solutions are par for the course.
The Merchandise Mart is a massive commercial space, spanning two city blocks along the Chicago River and offering some 4.2 million square feet of floor space. As expected, its energy consumption is also enormous, but the building has long been a leader in efficiency. And recently, the Mart took an even bigger step forward by unveiling an innovative battery storage unit that will help balance the electric grid – and earn money while doing it.
How the Mart came to be a clean energy leader
Built in 1930 for Marshall Field & Co., the Kennedy family owned the art deco structure for more than half a century, before selling it in 1998 to Vornado Realty Trust. Efficiency efforts began in the 1980s with the installation of an ice-storage cooling system that freezes tons of water overnight when cooling needs are minimal, allowing the building to shift power consumption to off-peak periods, save money, and reduce pollution. Read More