THE Pentagon may seem an unlikely promoter of alternative energy, but the biggest consumer of oil in the United States is looking at ways to become just that by partnering with private firms.

From correspondents in Washington, USA

March 29, 2009 12:33pm

 

“When you don’t use as much fuel, not only does it not cost you as much, but it also saves lives and injuries of those people who would have to deliver fuel through hostile territory,” Assistant Army Secretary for Installations and the Environment Keith Eastin said.

Despite reducing its overall energy consumption by five per cent between 2005 and 2007, the US military spent $US13 billion ($18.46 billion) on energy in 2007 and requested an additional $US5 billion ($7.1 billion) due to a spike in oil prices.

The stakes are high, with the army estimating that reducing fuel consumption by just one per cent translates to about 6400 fewer soldiers in fuel convoys, a favourite target of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All of this has added up to renewed urgency for the Pentagon to reduce its energy consumption. It is already federally mandated to obtain 25 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

Hundreds of small companies are expected to benefit from the military’s green energy push, developing everything from alternative fuels to electric vehicles and efficient power generators.

One low tech initiative that has yielded surprisingly big results is spraying tents with a layer of hard foam. The insulation helps maintain steady temperatures inside the tents, reducing fuel consumption for heating or cooling by 50 per cent and saving an estimated 100,000 gallons of fuel or $US2 million ($2.84 million) per day.

“Each gallon you save is a ton of money that can be used elsewhere, either at the installation or fighting the war,” Mr Eastin said. He estimated that a three-dollar gallon of fuel can end up costing up to $US28 ($40) on the battlefield after factoring in transportation and security costs.

With a staggering $US7.7 billion ($10.93 billion) spent last year on aircraft fuel alone, the US Air Force is the military’s biggest energy consumer.

It is purchasing renewable energy, reducing aircraft loads and certifying its entire fleet to fly on a 50/50 synthetic fuel blend by 2011.

“Our efforts to drive a domestic source of synthetic fuels is a piece of the puzzle to be more secure as a nation and as the air force,” said Kevin Billings, acting air force secretary for installations, environment and logistics.

Our Perspective:

It is good the government is willing to take the lead with this issue. Too much has been spent on business as usual. By setting a good example the public wll soon follow. Thet will also be looking for alternative solutions to help reign in cost.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

Written by Robert Redford

America is on the verge of a renewable energy gold rush. Hundreds of applications for wind and solar projects have been filed on public lands. I think this is long overdue. We need sustainable energy to help us reduce global warming pollution, and we need it fast. But if we don’t handle this boom carefully, unspoiled wildlands will get trammeled in its wake. Right now, we have an opportunity to start the clean energy era off right.

It begins with agreeing which sensitive areas should remain undeveloped. Wind and solar power are pollution free, but they are not impact free. They leave an industrial footprint on the land, and some pristine places would be forever altered by their presence.

That’s why my friends at NRDC got together with Google Earth and started mapping out public lands where renewable development is not appropriate. Some of the spots colored in on the map are obvious–national parks, wilderness areas, and national monuments where energy development is already prohibited by law or federal policy.

But the map also illustrates places where development should be avoided, even if it isn’t illegal. These include the hundreds of state parks that visitors rely on for hiking and other recreation. They also include proposed wilderness areas being considered by Congress, such as the 9.5 million acres of stunning scenery in Southern Utah that I hope gains protection through America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

The remarkable thing is that even when you set these areas aside, there is plenty of land to develop solar and wind projects. The state of California recently did a similar mapping process and found that when it removed all the environmentally sensitive lands, California still has renewable potential of about 500,000 MW–that’s greater than the state’s peak demand.

But we can’t begin the new energy future by only saying where we can’t build renewable projects. We also have to agree on where we can. The lands best suited to wind farms and solar plants are those that have already been disturbed. Up and down the Rockies, there are hundreds of oil and gas fields that are now defunct. In my home state of California, there are thousands of acres of old farms that went bust. And now more than ever, there are private lands that have been carved up for subdivisions that never got built.

These already distressed lands may not satisfy all renewable developers. But hopefully, with so much public land available, they will make reasonable compromises–like not building in a bighorn sheep migration path when they can gain access to other lands instead.

I see two persuasive reasons why the environmental community and the renewable sector can work in unison. The first is credibility. People support renewable projects because they think they are green, and that includes sustainable land use. The second is urgency. Our nation needs to begin the transition away from dirty fossil fuels now in order to stave off the worst impacts of global warming. Controversies and lawsuits over siting will only delay the process.

We spent the last eight years locked in a battle with an administration that sparked rampant oil and gas drilling on our lands. Those days are over. Bush is gone, and Americans recognize the need for clean energy. We have a fresh start, and we have the chance to get the balance between generating sustainable power and caring for our lands right from beginning.

Our Perspective:

This can be a very sentitive topic. If thought out and done properly it will benefit all.

Let us know your thoughts?

Lawmakers allotted $100M in July for the program. It’s been stalled in Harrisburg.

Way before “going green” became the crusade it is today, Collegeville contractor Jon Costanza built one of the first solar-powered homes on the East Coast.

That was in Haverford in 1972.

He has waited since then for the industry to catch fire and believed, in July, that the Pennsylvania legislature had at least struck the match.

It had approved Gov. Rendell’s $650 million Alternative Energy Funding Act, which allotted $100 million for a new solar initiative. The Pennsylvania Sunshine Program would provide rebates of upward of 35 percent to homeowners and small businesses to offset the cost of buying solar systems, much as New Jersey does.

With Sunshine’s birth, “we immediately started hiring,” Costanza, president of Sunpower Builders, said last week.

One big problem: Funding for the program still has not materialized. That has delayed the installation of possibly thousands of residential solar systems and the hiring of countless people to do that work, just as Pennsylvania tries to recast itself as a leader in green technology – both as a consumer and innovator.

“If the incentive money doesn’t start flowing, we’re going to have to start laying off instead of hiring,” said Costanza, whose Sunpower Builders now has 12 employees.

While lauding Rendell for the Sunshine Program, Costanza’s daughter Kira, who works in the family business, said: “Until we see those dollars going into the rebate program . . . it’s just words.”

She said that about 40 contracts between Sunpower and potential customers sit in a drawer while the Sunshine funds remain stalled in Harrisburg.

At Heat Shed Inc., twice as many contracts are on hold as customers wait for Sunshine help, said Catherine Neil, who, with her husband, Charles Reichner, owns the Quakertown company.

In their barn sits more than $200,000 worth of solar panels, and on their answering machine is a new message saying they are not taking any new customers right now.

At Center City-based Eos Energy Solutions, formed in June 2007, two part-time employees would go full time and four additional hires would be made as soon as Sunshine funds became available, said Andrew Kleeman, managing partner.

“We just need to get the ball rolling,” he said of the Sunshine Program. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The wait could be nearing an end. At least partially.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority, the state agency that is tasked with floating bonds to finance the program, is next scheduled to meet April 13. A $100 million bond issue is on the agenda for consideration by the agency’s seven-member board, said executive director Scott Dunkelberger. Three members are from the Rendell administration: the secretaries of Banking, Budget, and the Department of Community and Economic Development. The others are appointees from each of the four legislative caucuses.

“I’m optimistic,” Dunkelberger said of the chances of the board’s voting in favor of issuing the bond.

But not all of that $100 million would go to the Sunshine Program, he said. The authority intends to float a number of bonds over time to finance the $500 million portion of the $650 million Energy Funding Act for which it is responsible, Dunkelberger said.

Next week’s bond vote, he said, is to cover the cash-flow needs “we see for the next six to 12 months.” How much will go to Sunshine, he said, will depend, in part, on how many applications are received by the Department of Environmental Protection, the administrator of the program.

DEP’s Web site has registered more than 4,600 requests for information about the program, said John Hanger, the governor’s acting secretary of DEP. (Guidelines are due out in about a month.) A New Jersey program in effect since 2001 has paid out more than $253 million in rebates, grants, and other forms of funding for 3,689 solar projects that have created a total of 76 megawatts of installed capacity, according to the state Board of Public Utilities.

Among those most “impatient” that the program is not up and running yet is Rendell, Hanger said. As someone who spent 10 years as head of the advocacy group PennFuture in “a huge battle” to get state money appropriated for solar power, Hanger said he “would have liked the bonds to be issued yesterday.”

“We have a program ready to go . . . one of the biggest solar programs in the country,” Hanger said.

He attributed the delay to the economic crisis that has rendered the bond market an unfriendly place until recently. He also noted that establishing guidelines for the entire Energy Recovery Act programs “does take some time. I have to emphasize here, we’re creating a program from scratch.”

Sunshine “will put more than a thousand Pennsylvania folks to work,” Hanger said, contending that the solar industry has the potential to be to Pennsylvania “what steel and coal were . . . in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

In general, Sunshine reimbursements are expected to cover up to 35 percent of the costs of project design, installation, and equipment, according to DEP. With those grants and federal tax credits, “we can probably reduce the sticker price of a solar system by about 45 percent,” Hanger said. An average 5-kilowatt residential system costs $35,000 to $40,000.

The state expects that $100 million would enable the Sunshine Program to last three years. One benefit of the funding delay, Hanger said, is that the cost of solar panels has dropped about 25 percent since November, so “the money will go even further than if this money was spent in July.”

Still, Craig Flaxman, 49, a restaurateur from Montgomery County, is making no commitments on proposals by Heat Shed to add a solar-electric system to his 25-year-old geothermal home in Worcester Township. Estimates range from $39,000 to $73,000, depending on the size he selects.

His frustration over the lack of Sunshine funds grows each day.

“Obama is out there touting alternative energy as the way to go,” Flaxman said. “So what’s going on?”

 As reported in SEIA: Solar Energy Industries Association

 

Background

The downturn in the economy has eroded the equity markets for tax credits. In 2007, over twenty companies participated in the tax equity markets. Today there are only five companies still conducting these transactions. This, in turn, has made it extremely difficult to secure financing to begin solar project development and construction.

According to Hudson Clean Energy Partners, the tax equity markets provided $5.5 billion in capital in both 2007 and 2008. To meet the Administration’s targets of doubling non

hydro renewable energy generation by 2011, the tax equity market will have to increase to $11 billion in 2009 and $17.6 billion in 2010, while having lost 75% of the companies participating in these markets. The bottom line is that the tax credit structure for encouraging the expansion of solar energy does not work during a recession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proposed Solution

We support the DOE Grant Program created in section 1721 of H.R. 1, “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.” However, one important change must be made to ensure that utility

 

scale solar receives the same treatment as other renewable energy sources under this program. The proposed program should be modified to allow utilityscale projects that are placed in service in 2011 and 2012 to receive the grant payment. In this context, “utility

scale” projects are those that are greater than 25 MW electric or greater than 10 MW thermal.

PART 3—GRANTS FOR SPECIFIED ENERGY PROPERTY IN LIEU OF TAX CREDITS

SEC. 1721. GRANTS FOR SPECIFIED ENERGY PROPERTY IN

LIEU OF TAX CREDITS.

(a)(i) In General.—Upon application, the Secretary of Energy shall, within 60 days of the application and sub

 

ject to the requirements of this section, provide a grant to each person who places in service specified energy prop

erty during 2009 or 2010 to reimburse such person for a portion of the expense of such facility as provided in subsection (b).

(a)(ii) Utility

scale Solar Projects Exception.— The grant period for utilityscale solar projects will be for projects placed in service in 2011 or 2012. For purposes of this section, “utility scale” means any project greater than 25 megawatts electric or greater than 10 megawatts thermal equivalent. (b) Grant Amount.— * * *

Discussion

The House stimulus bill would let owners of certain types of renewable energy projects – including equipment that uses solar energy to generate electricity – to forego the energy tax credit in section 48 of the Internal Revenue Code and apply instead for a grant from the Department of Energy. The amount of the grant is 30% of the basis of the project, the same amount as the energy tax credit for solar. As currently drafted in House version, the grant is payable only to projects that are placed in service in 2009 and 2010.

Utility

 

scale concentrating solar power, solar thermal or photovoltaic projects are much larger in scale and can run $1 to $1.5 billion or higher in capital cost. Large solar projects (25600 MW) can have construction periods of two years or more, depending on size and technology. The list of southwest projects with signed contracts now in the process of getting final permits has a variety of expected online dates from 2011 to 2014. The projects that could commence construction in 2009 and 2010 and be placed in service by 2014 comprise over 4 GW, or over ten times the large solar projects that exist now. These projects will create and support 25,000 quality jobs and billions of dollars in investment, reinvigorating the hardhit construction and manufacturing industries, and provide other significant, nearterm economic benefits.

Developers of utility

 

scale solar projects finance construction by borrowing from construction lenders. At the start of construction, they must be able to show a commitment from a tax equity investor whose funds will be used at project completion to help take out the construction debt. The weak tax equity market is making it difficult to start construction on projects, and a new project starting construction today would not be completed until 2011 or 2012. Plain and simple, the proposed new grant program would work well for renewable technologies that can complete construction and be placed in service in less than two years, but will not work for utilityscale solar projects. Therefore, to put long lead

time solar projects on equal footing with other renewable energy projects, it is necessary that a clause be added to Section 1721 that shifts the eligibility period for utilityscale solar projects to 2011 and 2012, rather than 2009 and 2010.

Should you want to know more about the necessary financial structures provided to bring about the best return on your investment in alternative eneregy call 856-857-1230 or email george@hbsadvantage.com

As reported In Huffington Post Green

Written by Mary Ellen Harte and John Harte

Nobel Laureate and Energy Secretary Steven Chu noted recently that we need “Nobel-level breakthroughs” to address our climate crisis in the areas of solar power, electric batteries, and the development of new crops to turn into fuel. Is it really that difficult? A look at the developments already underway in these three fields indicates that common sense is the real need here.

A good example of a common sense way to produce renewable energy is the second area mentioned above, solar power. Advances in just the past few years show that US research and development is up to the task, whether people win Nobels or not. Ever more efficient solar cells (14-18% is the current range of efficiency) are being developed to harness the sun’s energy, and new ways of utilizing them promise greater efficiency at lower cost. Recent developments include: plastic solar cells that can be used on a wide variety of sunlit surfaces; organic solar concentrators that allow sunlight to be directed towards window edges, where far fewer of the costly solar cells are needed to absorb it; roof systems that include venting ambient heat energy for household use, in addition to the solar electricity created; and most recently, the development of a liquid battery, far cheaper and more durable than other batteries, that could store solar energy overnight. Both wind and solar derived electricity are showing the most practical promise in terms of production efficiency and cost for renewable energy. Once again, common sense dictates that these should receive most of the governmental funding focused on promoting clean renewable energy. A feasible and common sense goal here is to provide the economic incentives that encourage photovoltaic installations on every appropriate US roof.

Electric batteries for automobiles are already developed enough to enable the Chinese BYD (Build Your Dreams) F3DM to travel up to 60 miles on an electric battery, which is enough for most daily trips by US commuters. Yes, much more work needs to be and is being done on developing better batteries. Just the development so far, though, indicates that it’s a feasible, not extraordinary goal. The real goal, of course, is energy efficiency, and Aptera Motors is banking that energy efficiency can be significantly increased via improvements in structural design. Nonetheless, common sense dictates that research and development of even better electric auto batteries should be a funding focus for the Obama administration.

In contrast, common sense also means that less promising technologies should not take up significant resources or time. Carbon sequestration, which only addresses one facet of “clean” in “clean coal technology,” holds some promise, but not on the horizon anytime soon. Given that track record and the practical options we already have for clean energy, we should be devoting any coal industry related funding towards training coal workers in green energy jobs in the production, installation or maintenance of infrastructures that generate, store and distribute solar and wind based electricity. The US does not have the money to chase “clean coal technology” dreams, or the time, as the latest increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases and their re-assessed impacts show.

Biofuels have already been shown to be far less efficient than solar or wind electricity, especially when the true costs are folded in. Under ideal conditions, the conversion efficiency of sunlight into stored plant energy is 1%, as compared to the minimum 10% efficiency of solar farms and even more efficient solar cells. Then there is the energy devoted to harvesting the plant matter and converting it into electricity. Finally, competition for cropland translates into the loss of Amazonian rainforest, one of our best means of storing carbon on earth, when Amazonian farmers clear it to plant newly valuable energy crops, or food crops that North American farmers have forsaken for energy crops. When these true costs are folded in, biofuels often are shown to worsen not help the climate crisis overall, and you don’t need Nobel prize-winning research to figure that out, as our recent book shows. Common sense here dictates that we should be including the true costs of biofuels in our budget, which should result in massively paring back funding for such a relatively inefficient and potentially damaging source of renewable energy.

Solving the climate crisis does not require rocket science, or earth-shaking technological breakthroughs. It does require common sense to recognize what is most effective and can be deployed fastest, and the political courage to cut out what isn’t. Our free online book, “Cool the Earth, Save the Economy” is a primer for understanding and assessing the technologies and policies that already exist, and understanding the climate crisis in general.

Our perspective:

God has placed at our disposal all that we need to be self sufficient.

He gave us the sun (solar),

He gave us the wind,

He gave us the water (Hydro),

He gave us the heat in the earth (geothermal).

But do we ever do anything that would prove to be easy? We are our own biggest enemy!

Instead we look to drill thousands of feet into the earth, looking for a finite (fossil) solutions.

Mary and John are right!

Let’s use our common sense. (Although that never seems to be our strong point).!

The answer has always been right in front of us. Let us have the wisdom to use these resources wisely

Would you like to know more about how to incorporate a solar solution? We specialize in laying out the financial structures needed to take advantage of all the Federal and State incentives and produce the most optimum return on your investment.

You may email george@hbsadvantage.com or call us 856-857-1230

As reported in Huffington Green

Written by Chris Kahn  AP

After 30 years of trying to squeeze electricity from sunlight, the solar energy industry is finally gaining some traction in its effort to compete with fossil fuels.

Does that mean most of the power in our homes will soon be coming from the sun?

Here are some questions and answers about solar energy as a source of electricity.

Q: Is solar energy getting close to being able to compete with fossil fuels?

A: It’s definitely moving in that direction.

Rooftop solar panels already are producing cheaper electricity than traditional power plants during the day in California and Hawaii. And industry analysts say that as early as next year utilities could build solar power plants able to compete with traditional coal-fired or natural gas power plants.

Q: Has something changed recently to give solar a leg up?

A: There have been vast improvements in technology as equipment and installation costs have plummeted, thanks in part to manufacturing innovations and a huge plunge in polysilicon prices.

Q: Polysilicon?

A: That’s a form of silicon that’s used to make some of the solar cells that gather sunlight to turn it into electricity.

Polysilicon prices have dropped about 30 percent in the past two months as makers of semiconductors _ which also use the material _ curbed production during the recession, said Jesse Pichel, an analyst with Piper Jaffray in New York.

Q: President Barack Obama has talked a lot about encouraging the production of alternative energy. Does anything in the stimulus plan he signed this week encourage the use of solar power?

A: Yes, the stimulus was packed with incentives for solar, including U.S. Treasury grants that will allow consumers to recoup 30 percent of the cost of installing solar equipment.

Robert Margolis, a senior analyst with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said the new federal incentives will allow people in many U.S. cities to immediately lower the cost of home electricity by installing solar panels on their rooftops.

Q: Are there other reasons for the accelerating shift to solar power?

A: States and power companies have begun offering incentives to get people to use renewable forms of energy.

Yet consumers are not only being pulled toward solar power, they’re also being pushed away from fossil fuels. Americans’ electric bills rose for the sixth straight year in 2008, making the increasingly affordable option of solar power more attractive.

The cost to outfit a home with solar panels varies widely, but prices continue to plunge. Ilan Caplan, 34, of Denver, paid $22,000 last year for a rooftop system, but with incentives, it cost him $7,000. Caplan figures he produces about 90 percent of the energy he uses at home.

Q: Rooftop panels are one thing, but are there prospects for large-scale solar power plants?

A: Southern California Edison is building a massive 250 megawatt solar plant, big enough to power more than 160,000 homes. This month, New Jersey’s largest utility said it would install 200,000 solar panels throughout its service area in an ambitious $773 million program. Public Service Electric & Gas Co. supplies power to residents over an area of about 2,600 square miles.

Q: So, are we getting close to the day when solar power becomes the country’s predominant source of electricity?

A: That day’s still a long, long way off. Being able to compete in cost is one thing; becoming a significant player on the American electrical grid is quite another.

For starters, the coal and natural gas plants that fulfill much of the country’s energy needs aren’t going to close down simply because solar energy is getting cheaper. Also, it will take years for manufacturers to build enough solar panels to make a sizable contribution to the electricity supply.

“The industry could grow 30 to 40 percent a year for the next 20 years and it still won’t amount to a hill of beans in terms of energy production,” said Pichel. “If solar is going to be anything other than a cottage industry, the world needs 100 more polysilicon plants and multi-gigawatts more of production.”

The ability of solar energy to compete also depends on the price of natural gas, the fuel used in many power plants. At current natural gas prices, it’s impossible to produce solar electricity at a competitive cost; if gas prices triple, as they did last summer, solar would be close.

Experts say solar panels will eventually be able to compete even with cheap natural gas as they continue to get more efficient.

Q: Let’s say utilities start incorporating solar power _ what’s the first change I’ll see as an electricity consumer?

A: It’s more a case of what you won’t see: those crazy price swings on utility bills.

Some utilities already shift between natural gas and coal to meet demand for electricity, using whichever is cheaper. As commercial-scale solar plants come on line, utilities will have yet another option.

If utilities were using solar power widely last summer, you can bet many would have made the shift as natural gas futures soared over $14 per 1,000 cubic feet in July. (By comparison, natural gas costs $5 per 1,000 cubic feet now.)

Q: Where is solar power going to grow the fastest?

A: Of course, a lot of sun _ and high prices for power from other sources _ play a role. Hawaii and California already have the capacity to provide competitive prices for solar power and Texas could be next, according to Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower Corp. in San Jose, Calif.

But where solar will catch on also depends on investment levels by state and local governments. After California, can you guess which state relies on solar power the most? That’s right, sunny New Jersey, a state that has bought into solar big-time.

Q: Other than the issue of getting solar power stations built _ and the challenge of competing with traditional power plants _ what other obstacles stand in the way of solar?

A: Solar researchers say they’ve found many ways to get more electricity out of the sun. The challenge is figuring out how to mass-produce that technology.

“The problems you get at that scale are totally different than what you see in the lab,” 1366 Technologies co-founder Ely Sachs said.

Other solar power growing pains may show up in consumers’ wallets. In some communities, electricity bills could rise as power companies invest in solar projects.

In New Jersey, for example, Public Service Electric & Gas plans to charge an extra 10 cents a month for a year, and up to 35 cents a month within five years, for its ambitious solar plans.

Our Perspective:

Investment in Alternative Energy, specifically solar, is more beneficial then it ever has been. Recent incentives approved by the Federal Goverment ( extending 30% Tax Credit to 2017, offering 30% grant for commercial entities along with 5 year accelerated depreciation) plus the state initiative ( grants, rebates, RECs ) have made the payback very desirable.

Should you like to know more about how to structure your investment in alternative energy, contact us.: george@hbsadvantage.com  or call 856-857-1230.

We will be glad to provide an overview and present an outline providing the best opportunities to save and jointhe evolution.