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Solar panels to help power Santa Rosa micogrid

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

When California’s energy grid gets stressed out during heat waves, energy managers send out so-called flex alerts asking people to conserve energy.

An innovative energy project underway in Santa Rosa aims to take that flexibility to new levels by helping a huge energy user — the city’s water treatment plant — quickly reduce its energy usage while still performing its core mission of cleaning water.

A 125-kilowatt solar array popping up above the parking lot of the Laguna Subregional Water Reclamation plant on Llano Road is the first visible sign of a yearslong effort to turn the plant into a microgrid capable of reducing its use of electricity from the grid.

“Increasing our flexibility to produce energy on-site allows us to adjust our demand on the macro grid, and doing that is worth money,” said Mike Prinz, deputy director of Santa Rosa Water.

Microgrids, as the name implies, are small electric networks that can operate, to varying degrees, independently of the larger electrical grid managed locally by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

The solar panels are not the core of the new system, but will help recharge the batteries that are being installed later this year as part of the project.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8305925-181/solar-panels-to-help-power

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California moves to require solar panels on all new homes

Kathleen Ronayne, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jumping out ahead of the rest of the country, California on Wednesday moved to require solar panels on all new homes and low-rise apartment buildings starting in 2020.

The new building standard — unanimously approved by the five-member California Energy Commission — would be the first such statewide mandate in the nation. It represents the state’s latest step to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Robert Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association, called it a “quantum leap.”

“You can bet every other of the 49 states will be watching closely to see what happens,” he said.

The commission endorsed the requirement after representatives of builders, utilities and solar manufacturers voiced support. It needs final approval from California’s Building Standards Commission, which typically adopts the energy panel’s recommendations when updating the state’s building codes.

The requirement would apply only to newly constructed homes, although many homeowners are choosing to install rooftop solar panels with the help of rebate programs.

Read more at https://apnews.com/afa0978eff8443af9e5d7c77a3c285bf

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Sonoma County solar power plant on wastewater ponds canceled

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A combination of factors, including President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels, have prompted cancellation of a major solar power project on six wastewater holding ponds in Sonoma County.

Sonoma Clean Power, the county’s public power supplier, also cited requirements by PG&E and the state Division of Safety of Dams as reasons for terminating a contract approved in 2015 for development of a 12.5-megawatt solar power system on the holding ponds owned by the Sonoma County Water Agency.

The developer, San Francisco-based Pristine Sun, missed its latest deadline to complete the project March 31, prompting Sonoma Clean Power to cancel the deal five days later, said Deb Emerson, the electricity provider’s director of power services.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8253476-181/sonoma-county-solar-power-plant

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How solarized is western and northern Sonoma?

Kyle Pennell, THE HEALDSBURG TRIBUNE

The level of solar penetration varies quite a bit between the cities and towns in western Sonoma County. At the highest level, 6.83 percent of homes in Sebastopol have installed solar. This is notably more than Healdsburg, where only 3.02 percent of residents have installed solar.

renewableHave you ever wondered how green western Sonoma County is and how we are contributing to protecting the environment and combating climate change? One major way we do this is by changing the way we produce electricity.

Household electricity consumption accounts for about one-third of all energy use, so by reducing or eliminating fossil fuels in electricity production, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint as individuals and as part of the towns where we live.

Installing solar panels is the easiest and more effective way to make electricity more sustainable. We know that more western Sonoma County residents each year are installing solar panels on their rooftops.

But we were were curious — just how many rooftops have solar and how much electricity gets generated from them in Sebastopol, Windsor, Healdsburg, Cloverdale? If every rooftop in these four towns had solar panels, how much electricity would this generate? Finally, how much carbon emissions would be saved by all of this?

Read more at http://www.sonomawest.com/the_healdsburg_tribune/local_biz/how-solarized-is-western-and-northern-sonoma-county/article_077b691a-15d7-11e8-9cc9-7f3735eb6cca.html

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Santa Rosa begins installing solar panels on parking garage roofs

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa has begun installing nearly a thousand solar panels atop four city parking garages, modules that will both shade vehicles from the sun and reduce the city’s energy costs.

“I’m excited to see a much smaller PG&E bill,” said Luke Morse, the city’s parking supervisor as he helped organize the delivery of the panels on Tuesday.

A huge crane began hoisting the photovoltaic panels and the steel canopies that will support them onto garage roofs Tuesday morning.

If all goes well, the installations should take about a month per garage, with the project completed in a few months.

The city estimates the $1.4 million project will pay for itself in about 11 years and save $1.4 million in power costs over the 25-year life of the arrays.

That should help the city achieve about 10 percent of its 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target, said Kim Nadaeu, parking district manager.

Read more at: Santa Rosa begins installing solar panels on parking garage roofs | The Press Democrat

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Chile’s energy transformation is powered by wind, sun and volcanoes 

Ernesto Londoño, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Cerro Pabellón, Chile — It looks and functions much like an oil drilling rig. As it happens, several of the men in thick blue overalls and white helmets who operate the hulking machine once made a living pumping crude.

But now they are surrounded by snowcapped volcanoes, laboring to breathe up here at 14,760 feet above sea level as they draw steam from the earth at South America’s first geothermal energy plant.

With the ability to power roughly 165,000 homes, the new plant is yet another step in Chile’s clean energy transformation. This nation’s rapidly expanding clean energy grid, which includes vast solar fields and wind farms, is one of the most ambitious in a region that is decisively moving beyond fossil fuels.

Latin America already has the world’s cleanest electricity, having long relied on dams to generate a large share of its energy needs, according to the World Bank.

But even beyond those big hydropower projects, investment in renewable energy in Latin America has increased 11-fold since 2004, nearly double the global rate, according to a 2016 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization. Chile, Mexico and Brazil are now among the top 10 renewable energy markets in the world.

So as Latin America embraces greener energy sources, government officials and industry executives in the region have expressed a sense of confusion, even bewilderment, with the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the climate change commitments contained in the Paris Agreement, declare an end to the “war on coal” and take aim at American environmental regulations.

Read more at: Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes – The New York Times

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Enphase CEO resigns as microinverter maker shows improvement in second quarter

Jeff St. John, GREENTECH MEDIA

Microinverter maker Enphase is losing its long-time CEO, and gaining some financial headroom to bolster its flagging performance.

On Tuesday, the same day the company reported its second-quarter 2017 earnings, Enphase reported the resignation of CEO Paul Nahi, who joined the company in 2007 and brought it to prominence as the first publicly traded microinverter maker with its 2010 IPO.

Now, with the Petaluma, Calif.-based company struggling to survive against harsh competition from rival SolarEdge and incumbent string inverter makers such as SMA, Fronius and ABB, Nahi is leaving the company.

Read more at: Enphase CEO Resigns as Microinverter Maker Shows Improvement in Second Quarter | Greentech Media

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India, once a coal goliath, is fast turning green

Geeta Anand, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Just a few years ago, the world watched nervously as India went on a building spree of coal-fired power plants, more than doubling its capacity and claiming that more were needed. Coal output, officials said, would almost triple, to 1.5 billion tons, by 2020.

India’s plans were cited by American critics of the Paris climate accord as proof of the futility of advanced nations trying to limit their carbon output. But now, even as President Trump pulls the United States out of the pact, India has undergone an astonishing turnaround, driven in great part by a steep fall in the cost of solar power.

Experts now say that India not only has no need of any new coal-fired plants for at least a decade, given that existing plants are running below 60 percent of capacity, but that after that it could rely on renewable sources for all its additional power needs.

Rather than building coal-fired plants, it is now canceling many in the early planning stages. And last month, the government lowered its annual production target for coal to 600 million tons from 660 million.

The sharp reversal, welcome news to world leaders trying to avert the potentially deadly effects of global warming, is a reflection both of the changing economics of renewable energy and a growing environmental consciousness in a country with some of the worst air pollution in the world.

Read more at: India, Once a Coal Goliath, Is Fast Turning Green – The New York Times

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Petaluma’s Enphase Energy strives to survive as solar industry transforms 

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

New opportunities are expected to shine soon on the world’s solar industry, and Petaluma’s Enphase Energy is striving to survive long enough to enjoy them.

The energy tech company with 350 employees has reported annual losses every year since it went public in 2012, including nearly $67.5 million worth of red ink last year. Since September, it has gone through two rounds of layoffs and raised about $26 million by issuing new stock and bringing in two major investors.

Enphase officials say with confidence that a turnaround is underway and the company is on track to make a profit in the second half of 2017. Its employees have worked to significantly cut the cost of producing its signature devices, microinverters that take DC, or direct current, power from solar panels and transform it into AC, or alternating current, power for homes.

And one of its recent products, an encased home battery system, is making its U.S. debut just as the rules governing solar energy rates are changing in California, home to half the nation’s solar production.

Due to the rate change, new rooftop solar owners are expected to make less money than their predecessors for the power they sell to utilities in the Golden State. As such, energy storage systems and rate-savvy monitoring technology could one day help future solar owners take advantage of the best times to buy, sell and store power.“

The way people are approaching the solar business today will look antiquated in just a couple of years from now,” said Enphase President and CEO Paul Nahi.

Residents won’t simply buy solar panels, but complete energy packages that include storage and operating systems managed in the cloud, he said. And Enphase has the products and software technology to maximize efficiency.

Read more at: Petaluma’s Enphase Energy strives to survive as solar industry transforms | The Press Democrat

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Strong surge in solar in county

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County shared in the U.S. solar industry’s boom times last year, with strong job growth reported here, a jump partly attributed to increased customer demand and a rush to take advantage of federal tax credits.

The county ranked 13th for 2016 among the nation’s metropolitan areas based on the number of solar-related jobs, according to a new report by the Solar Foundation of Washington, D.C. Employment in the county’s solar sector grew 44 percent from a year earlier to 3,476 jobs.

Some Northern California communities enjoyed even bigger growth rates.

The San Francisco/Oakland area, the top-ranked metro area in the United States for solar jobs, reported a total of 26,000 such workers last year, an increase of 67 percent from 2015.Sacramento, which ranked sixth, saw its solar jobs grow 99 percent, while San Luis Obispo, ranked 15th, had an increase of 137 percent.

In contrast, the nation’s solar workforce grew by 25 percent last year. That compares with an annual growth rate of about 20 percent for the previous three years.“California is obviously the leading market in terms of solar in the U.S.,” said Andrea Luecke, the foundation’s president and executive director.

Santa Rosa has distinguished itself for encouraging solar by becoming one of only 21 communities in the nation to receive the top-ranked SolSmart Gold designation, Luecke noted. The recognition is part of a U.S. Department of Energy program that is administered by the Solar Foundation.

Read more at: Sonoma County solar industry ranks 13th in nation for job numbers | The Press Democrat