Monthly Archives: June 2016

Invests in Renewables of Rockefeller

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the foundation divesting from the fossil-fuel industry it helped create, took its first direct stake in a renewable energy company in a move meant to bolster the fight against climate change.

The New York City-based fund, founded in 1940 with the profits of Standard Oil Co., provided $10 million to Mainstream Renewable Power Ltd. to expand renewable energy in Africa. The investment was part of a $117.5 million funding round announced last month that included International Finance Corp. and other backers. The investment will help finance as much as $1.9 billion for green energy on the continent.

Utility Dive: Headed for the Exits, Nevada PUC Commissioner David Noble Lifts Lid on Net Metering Fight

At the end of last year, the epicenter of solar net metering battles shifted to Nevada, where regulators reduced incentives and imposed new fees for rooftop solar owners in the state.

The Dec. 22 decision, upheld by regulators in later votes, set off a firestorm of criticism at the Nevada Public Utilities Commission. Solar owners protested the regulatory body, saying the lower rates violated contracts they had previously signed with installers, and a group filed a lawsuit against the PUC.

Morning Consult: ConocoPhillips Posts $1.1 Billion Loss for Second Quarter

ConocoPhillips on Thursday reported a $1.1 billion net loss for the second quarter of 2016.

Oil production was also down to 1,546 thousand barrels of oil equivalent per day (MBOED) this quarter, marking a 49 MBOED decrease from last year’s levels. ConocoPhillips pointed to normal field decline, dispositions, planned downtime and the effects of California’s wildfires as a reason for the production cuts. However, cuts were offset by major projects and development programs. Improved well performance also help to combat negative factors.

Business Wire: Genovation’s GXE Breaks All-Electric Land Speed Record, Reaches 205.6 mph

Genovation today announced that it has made history by breaking the land speed record for a street-legal all-electric vehicle with the Genovation Extreme Electric car (GXE). The GXE reached the record-breaking speed of 205.6 mph during supervised tests with Johnny Bohmer Racing at Space Florida’s Shuttle Landing Facility in Kennedy Space Center, FL. The record was certified by the International Mile Racing Association (IMRA). The previous record, which also was held by Genovation, stood at 186.8 mph.

The GXE is a Z06 Corvette that has been re-engineered by Genovation to be a performance-driven all-electric vehicle.

Chicago Tribune: RedWave Raises $5.5 Million to Turn Heat Into Electricity

RedWave Energy, a local startup developing technology that harvests heat energy, closed a $5.5 million round of funding this week that will help bring it closer to a prototype.

RedWave is working to save the lower-temperature heat put off during manufacturing processes — like those at glass factories or electric power generation plants — and convert that heat into electricity and get it back on the grid, said CEO and co-founder Jim Nelson. […]  RedWave’s technology uses tiny antennas — millions per square inch — formed and tuned to pick up the wavelengths from the heat waste, Nelson said. The electrons then flow off the antennas and are turned into electricity that can be placed back on the grid.

The Embodied Energy in Tesla’s Gigafactory

Much has been made of the use of solar power at what is to become the largest factory in the world, the Tesla Gigafactory near Reno, Nevada, which will produce battery packs for cars and other applications. The “end-to-end” vision of using renewable energy sources to generate electricity for product manufacture and use is compelling, and one that has been forcefully made by Elon Musk. At an estimated cost of $5 billion (including $1.3 billion in tax incentives) and with factory floor-space intended to grow to some 1.2 million square meters by 2020, on 4 square kilometers of land, it is a monumental project.

Look beyond the hype, however, and there are major environmental questions that need to be answered, as the rhetoric and reality of green production are very different.

Fortune: Tesla Is Speeding Up Construction at Its Gigafactory

Tesla is working hard to finish construction on its Gigafactory by early 2017, slashing years off of its original timeline.

The company announced the launch of its Model 3 sedan in March, and Tesla wants the Gigafactory to be ready early enough to keep up with the high demand for the vehicle,The Wall Street Journal reports. The base price for the sedan is $35,000, approximately half that of the Model S.

The factory is being built on 3,000 acres of Nevada land, and construction began about two years ago.

Midwest Energy News: ‘Value of Solar’ Gains Another Foothold in Minnesota

Minnesota became the first state in the nation Thursday to adopt a “value of solar” approach for determining how community solar customers will be paid for the power the projects produce.

The state’s Public Utilities Commission agreed to use the value of solar methodology — currently voluntary for utilities — as part of a ruling on changes proposed to the state’s community solar garden program.

Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electric utility, is managing one of the largest community garden programs in the country. The value of solar approach includes external factors such as avoided transmission investments, the favorable health and environmental impact of clean energy and the ability to help the electric grid meet large demand on sunny days when extra power is often needed.

PRI: This Republican Says His Party’s Denial of Climate Science is ‘Courting Disaster’ With Voters

A “hoax.” A “con job.” “Bull—-.” These are among the phrases Donald Trump has used in recent years to express his contempt for the science of climate change.

But former Republican representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina says his party and its new leader are wrong on the science, the politics and the economics of climate change.

“We’re courting disaster,” Inglis says of his party. “We’re basically pulling defeat down upon us by taking on this retro affect that says that climate change isn’t real… [It’s] out of step with where the science is and where the smart money is. […] The smart money is already moving to act on climate.”

Crain’s Cleveland Business: FirstEnergy to Shut Down or Sell Several Coal-Fired Units in Ohio

Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. announced on Friday, July 22 that it will shut down or sell some of the operations at two of its coal-fired generation plants in Ohio.

The company said it will either sell or deactivate its 136-megawatt Bay Shore Unit 1 in Oregon, Ohio, and retire four units of its W.H. Sammis Plant in Stratton, Ohio.

The Sammis units are among seven the company operates at the Sammis plant, and the four units represent 720 megawatts of generation capacity, or about 4% of all the electricity FirstEnergy produces. The remaining three units at Sammis will continue to provide 1,490 megawatts of baseload power generation, the company said.

Elon Musk’s New Master Plan

“While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options,” Musk wrote, almost as an afterthought. “Don’t tell anyone.”

The gist of his “Master Plan, Part Deux”: Save the planet. He just didn’t mention how.

Musk stated that “we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse,” and then went on to list four primary ways that Tesla plans to promote sustainability:

  • Create “stunning” and seamlessly integrated solar-plus-battery-storage products.
  • Expand Tesla’s electric-vehicle product line to address all major segments — this includes the Model 3, a future compact SUV, and a new kind of pickup truck, as well as a heavy-duty truck and high-passenger-density urban transport.
  • Develop a self-driving capability that is 10 times safer than the U.S. vehicle average “via massive fleet learning.” And as the technology matures, Tesla vehicles will have the necessary equipment “to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability, meaning that any given system in the car could break and your car will still drive itself safely.”
  • Self-driving Tesla vehicles will be enabled for car-sharing so they can make money for their owners when the owners aren’t using them.

The plan shows that Musk is thinking beyond how to improve on individual products, to how he can disrupt entire systems. He’s thinking about how he can revolutionize the way people consume energy.

In what could be a testament to Tesla’s shift beyond the automotive sector, the company’s website URL changed this week from www.teslamotors.com to simply www.tesla.com.

“With the Master Plan, Part Deux, Elon Musk has shown us a glimpse of what the future of solar plus EVs plus storage could look like,” said Ravi Manghani, energy storage analyst at GTM Research. “It will involve customer turning into a ‘prosumer,’ not just of energy by deploying distributed solar-plus-storage, but also a prosumer of transportation services. It shows the path that Tesla is daring to take as a technology vendor, a service provider and eventually also as a platform provider.”

The path is daring — but the plan is also kind of obvious. And Musk offered very little detail.

Solar + storage

It comes as no surprise that offering an integrated solar-plus-storage package is at the top of Musk’s to-do list in light of Tesla’s recent announcement that it wants to acquire SolarCity. Wall Street has been critical of the acquisition deal, but Musk believes major Tesla investors will back it.

There are legitimate concerns about the acquisition. Analysts believe the proposed $3 billion deal could put financial strain on both companies and add pressure for them to raise more capital. Some analysts also believe the overlap between the two companies is limited, view the deal as a SolarCity bailout, and worry the purchase could be a distraction as Tesla battles its own production hurdles.

But, from a consumer perspective, the strategy makes sense. The idea is to build and scale “a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product. […] One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app.” Musk also wrote that the fact Tesla and SolarCity are separate companies at all today, given their shared overarching goal of advancing sustainable energy, “is largely an accident of history.”

Musk tweeted a follow up that said, “Both should have been done under the same corporate umbrella from the beginning.”