The US Virgin Islands are struggling to recover from the storms, too

By Dakin Andone and Cassandra Santiago, CNN
Updated 9:41 AM ET, Sat September 30, 2017

N)Do Re Mi Daycare on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands has been serving students for 20 years.

But last week, Hurricane Maria threatened everything that Naima Poleon’s family had worked for. Poleon, who took over the daycare this year so her mother could retire, ventured out after the storm to find large parts of the roof were gone. Water damage inside was extensive.

“I really didn’t have any words for it,” she said. “It was just shock. Just seeing everything my mom had worked for for 20 years … was gone in 24 hours.” “It was devastating.”

Puerto Rico is under a flash flood watch as the wait for supplies drags on
Puerto Rico is under a flash flood watch as the wait for supplies drags on
Like many residents in the US Virgin Islands, Poleon is trying to pick up the pieces of her life left by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Both hurricanes were Category 5 storms when they hit, and both decimated the islands, within two weeks of each other.
close dialog

Irma knocked out the electricity for the islands of St. John and St. Thomas, while St. Croix was mercifully spared. But two weeks later, just as the the three islands that make up the US territory were recovering, Maria came back with a vengeance and devastated the power grid.

The islands are still reeling. Many residents are without shelter, power or communication. Schools are still closed and debris still litters the street, hindering the transportation of resources and personnel.
The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico grips the country, but the destruction from the storms was widespread, and the US Virgin Islands are facing their own lengthy recovery.
Many left without shelter Don Caetano, spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told CNN a big challenge for the recovery effort is simply getting supplies and personnel to places that need them.
“You get the commodities in,” Caetano said, “but you need the people to get the commodities where they need to go.”

There’s still debris blocking roadways, he said, complicating the transportation of resources and personnel.
Many of the more than 100,000 residents who live in the islands have been left without a place to stay after the storms destroyed their homes.

“A lot of people are without roofs or with partial roofs,” said Samuel Topp, spokesman for the US Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp. “This is, of course, one of the priorities.”
FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers are proving residents with blue tarpaulin and other materials as part of Operation Blue Roof, Topp said, so some can live in their homes as a temporary solution.
3 storms, 3 responses: Comparing Harvey, Irma and Maria
3 storms, 3 responses: Comparing Harvey, Irma and Maria
According to FEMA, as of Thursday there were seven shelters throughout the islands housing 396 residents. That number is steadily declining, Topp said.
The full extent of the damage, Topp said, is “continuing to be assessed,” but he recognizes they’re not out of the woods yet.

“This is still hurricane season,” he added. “Anything could happen and a lot of people are exposed.”
Power, running water slowly returning
Julio Rhymer, executive director for the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA), recognizes that Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, are struggling from being hit by the hurricanes, but he wants “to make sure the Virgin Islands doesn’t get forgotten in the restoration process.”
After Hurricane Irma pummeled St. John and St. Thomas, St. Croix was mercifully left with about 90% power. But two weeks later, Hurricane Maria arrived to change that, decimating the island with the capabilities to support the others.
Hurricane Irma knocked out power for the entire island of St. John, Rhymer said, and the power has still not returned.
It will take an estimated two to three weeks before St. John’s downtown district will have power restored, and the rest of the island could take even longer than that, he said.

Carmelo Mota, a builder, searches for tools in his destroyed home in Charlotte Amalie, US Virgin Islands, on Monday, September 18. Hurricane Irma devastated the US territory and other Caribbean islands in the region, leaving them exposed to new storms brewing in the Atlantic.
Photos: Hurricane Irma tears through Caribbean
Carmelo Mota, a builder, searches for tools in his destroyed home in Charlotte Amalie, US Virgin Islands, on Monday, September 18. Hurricane Irma devastated the US territory and other Caribbean islands in the region, leaving them exposed to new storms brewing in the Atlantic.

Carmelo Mota, a builder, searches for tools in his destroyed home in Charlotte Amalie, US Virgin Islands, on Monday, September 18. Hurricane Irma devastated the US territory and other Caribbean islands in the region, leaving them exposed to new storms brewing in the Atlantic.
Photos: Hurricane Irma tears through Caribbean
Carmelo Mota, a builder, searches for tools in his destroyed home in Charlotte Amalie, US Virgin Islands, on Monday, September 18. Hurricane Irma devastated the US territory and other Caribbean islands in the region, leaving them exposed to new storms brewing in the Atlantic.

01 Irma aftermath US Virgin Islands 0918irma carribean 0913 tortola RESTRICTED02 IRMA caribbean 0913 british virgin i
Since Maria passed through, St. Thomas has had about 15% of power restored downtown and in some residential districts nearby. On St. Croix and St. Thomas, about 90% of power has returned to critical facilities such as hospitals, airports and shelters — a step Rhymer considers critical to returning the US Virgin Islands to normalcy.
WAPA anticipates having running water restored on all three islands to all 12,000 customers by this weekend.
Many residents have also been left without the means to communicate. According to Don Caetano, a FEMA spokesman, as of Friday, only 33% of cell service has been restored.
Local telecommunication providers have also set up 17 hot spot locations on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John so survivors can contact loved ones to update them on their situation, he said.
‘Better days ahead’
President Donald Trump has announced he will visit the US Virgin Islands next Tuesday when he travels to survey the damage in Puerto Rico. He also amended a disaster declaration that will allow federal funding to flow into the islands to assist with debris removal.
Schools on the islands of St. Thomas and St. John are scheduled to reopen on Monday, October 9, and Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas opened to limited commercial flights on Thursday, signaling a gradual return to everyday life on the islands.

Puerto Rico moves to cancel contract with Whitefish Energy to repair electric grid

By Steven Mufson, Arelis R. Hernández and Aaron C. Davis October 29

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló has called for the immediate cancellation of a $300 million contract with Montana-based Whitefish Energy Holdings, a tiny company based in the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. (Reuters) Puerto Rico’s electric company moved Sunday to cancel a $300 million contract with a small Montana firm for repairs to the territory’s hurricane-ravaged electrical grid, saying controversy surrounding the agreement was distracting from the effort to restore power.

The contract with Whitefish Energy — a firm that had just two employees the day the storm hit — had drawn blistering criticism from members of Congress for days. And on Friday the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has a large role in determining government reimbursements, said it had “significant concerns” about how the contract was secured.

Thirty-nine days after Hurricane Maria hit the territory, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said that he is requesting assistance from Florida and New York under “mutual aid” arrangements that utilities traditionally activate during emergencies. The territory had not previously done so and had not responded to offers of assistance.

Economy & Business Alerts
Breaking news about economic and business issues.
Sign up
About 80 percent of people on the commonwealth’s main island still have no electricity.

“As a result of the information that has been revealed and the need to protect the public interest, as governor I am asking the power authority to cancel the Whitefish contract immediately,” Rosselló said in a news conference at La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion. He did not cite specific information beyond what has been reported in media coverage.

Play Video 2:06
Struggling to breathe: The consequences of life without power in Puerto Rico
Hurricane Maria knocked out the electricity in Miram Carrasquillo’s home in Canóvanas, Puerto Rico. Ten days after the storm, she was able to get a small generator to power her nebulizer. Authorities say it could be months before the electrical grid is up and running again. (Zoeann Murphy, Victoria Walker, Melissa Macaya, Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)
Whitefish chief executive Andrew Techmanski has extensive experience in the electric transmission business, but Whitefish has received only small contracts, records show. Whitefish’s contract in Puerto Rico, the largest yet issued in the troubled relief effort, was not competitively bid.

[Small Montana firm lands Puerto Rico’s biggest contract to get the power back on]

Whitefish has said it has experience in mountainous terrain and that its business model calls for scaling up quickly.

In a statement, Whitefish said that it was “very disappointed” and that the utility’s decision “will only delay what the people of Puerto Rico want and deserve — to have the power restored quickly.” It said that it would “finish any work that PREPA” — the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority — “wants us to complete and stand by our commitments.”

The company defended its performance, saying it had brought 350 workers, 2,500 tons of equipment and five helicopters to the island. It said repairs on a major transmission line, including work in remote, inaccessible areas, would soon bring electricity to large portions of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital.

“The original decision by PREPA to have Whitefish Energy come to the Puerto Rico only sped up the repairs, and if it were not for that action, crews would just now be getting to the island to begin the process of rebuilding the system and restoring power,” Whitefish’s statement said.

Whitefish Energy is based in Whitefish, Mont., the home town of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Techmanski and Zinke know one another, The Washington Post reported last week, and at least four times Zinke’s wife, Lolita, has “liked” family and profile pictures uploaded by Techmanski’s wife, Amanda, on Facebook. One of the Zinkes’ sons had a summer job with Whitefish.

Zinke’s office has said he had no role in Whitefish securing the Puerto Rico contract. Andrew Techmanski also has said Zinke was not involved.

Rosselló said Sunday that he had spoken to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D-N.Y.) and Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and that their involvement through mutual aid was expected to boost the number of repair brigades to 1,000 by Nov. 8, up from about 400 now.

Ricardo Ramos, executive director of PREPA, said Whitefish would be paid to complete ongoing work on two transmission lines, which he said could take as long as 30 days. Of the contract, he said, “the best thing that can happen is its cancellation.”

“There’s a perception risk, a reputation risk and a delay risk in continuing the contract,” he said.

The decision was a stark reversal for Ramos. On Friday, he offered an extensive defense of the contract, saying in an hour-long interview with The Post that PREPA had winnowed down a list of seven suitors for electricity repair before Hurricane Maria made landfall. He said the utility company had crafted the contract with Whitefish so the Montana firm would be paid for each transmission line fix only after it was completed and tested.

Yet, in the interview, Ramos acknowledged that the island’s utility company did not require any substantial assurance that Whitefish would complete the work it had promised. PREPA did not require any performance bond, he said. By contrast, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a $240 million contract this month for similar work with Flour, an engineering firm based in Texas, it required the company to produce a $150 million performance bond within five days.

In addition, Ramos said PREPA did little to scrutinize Whitefish’s work history beyond reviewing material the company itself provided.

Techmanski’s wife, Amanda, is listed as one of two managers for Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC. She is a registered nurse, records show, and last month she touted on Facebook a new job she was starting as a nurse practitioner.

With Amanda Techmanski as a manager, Whitefish was listed as an “economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business” on a federal Energy Department contract it won in July for a small transmission line repair in Arizona. The company’s registered address also goes back to the couple’s remote Montana home.

A prior business venture in the last decade ended poorly for Andrew Techmanski, records in Britain show. In 2009, he resigned from a business he had helped form three years earlier to string electric lines. The company folded less than two years later, and some debts remained outstanding last year, according to records.

A day after it signed the deal for highly technical work in Puerto Rico, including using helicopters to land repair crews on transmission towers, Whitefish failed a safety audit to obtain a basic license to truck supplies on U.S. roadways. As of Sunday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration still listed Whitefish’s trucking license as revoked.

In tweets Sunday morning, Rosselló called for additional measures to scrutinize contracting by the territory’s power authority more carefully. He said there should be a “special outside coordinator” to monitor PREPA’s purchases so we “can have more clarity in this process.”

The controversy over the Whitefish contract has raised the question of who is in charge of finances and recovery in the bankrupt U.S. territory. Both the commonwealth and PREPA are bankrupt, and a federal judge is overseeing the restructuring of more than $70 billion in debt.

A financial control board created by Congress to resolve the long-running debt crisis is planning to ask the court this week for clear authority to examine contracts as small as $10 million — an authority its members believe they already possess. Just last week, the oversight board said it would install its own emergency manager at PREPA to review contracts and monitor the day-to-day operations of the utility.

The governor is opposing the appointment and said Sunday that he would name his own administrator for PREPA’s purchases. Rosselló, who, like many Puerto Ricans, has complained that the federal government plays a colonial role in the territory, has been battling the influence of the oversight board.

However, Congress sees the board’s role as crucial. “Transparent accountability at PREPA is necessary for an effective and sustained recovery in Puerto Rico,” Parish Braden, spokesman for the House Natural Resources Committee, said in an email.

The House committee is planning a hearing on the Whitefish contract. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is hold a hearing on hurricane response Tuesday.

Whitefish’s pay scales — as high as $462 an hour for a foreman under the contract — appear to be higher than those charged by some other firms. The rate was $319.04 an hour for a lineman. Those rates include Whitefish’s costs, administrative expenses and profits.

While the conditions in Puerto Rico are difficult and the work is dangerous, there are companies and agencies seeking to do the work for substantially less, according to people familiar with figures from four companies from the mainland.

The Corps of Engineers is doing essentially the same work as Whitefish in Puerto Rico and has been offering to pay firms as much as $195.04 an hour for a journeyman lineman and $230.32 an hour for a general foreman, according to a document provided to The Post.

The average rate Florida paid for linemen who helped restore electric power after Hurricane Irma was $165 per hour, according to a person who works closely with the energy industry and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve his business relationships.

The Whitefish contract contained a clause that said that the pay rates and other terms of the agreement could not be audited or reviewed by FEMA, the commonwealth, the comptroller general or PREPA. The contract also required PREPA to confirm that FEMA had reviewed and approved the agreement to ensure that money spent would “qualify for funding from FEMA.”

FEMA said Friday that it had not approved the Whitefish agreement. “Based on initial review and information from PREPA, FEMA has significant concerns with how PREPA procured this contract and has not confirmed whether the contract prices are reasonable,” the agency said in a statement.

In a news conference Sunday, PREPA chief Ramos said he learned of the contract clauses from the media.
2534 Comments
Share on FacebookShare
Share on TwitterTweet
Share via Email

Energize Your Curriculum with a Bioenergy Expert: Register for BETO’s “Invite a Bioenergy Expert” Webinar Series

Are you looking for an exciting way to engage your
students in STEM career pathways? Can you picture
your students choosing a career where they are part
of a research team that discovers a new way to turn
algae into renewable fuel? How about figuring out
how to develop biodegradable bioplastic made out of
plant materials or designing the next generation of
cutting-edge technology? Then, sign up for the U.S.
Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies
Office’s (BETO’s) “Invite a Bioenergy Expert”
webinar series presented through OPERATION
BioenergizeME.
Students will have the opportunity to learn more
about using biomass—plant, algae, and organic
waste material—to produce renewable fuels and
everyday products like cosmetics, plastic bottles,
cleaners, clothing, and much more. BETO’s
bioenergy experts will also share details about their
current projects and help students understand how they can make the leap from the classroom to an
exciting, rewarding STEM-based career. So, sign up today for one of two opportunities to schedule a
bioenergy expert to visit your students via webinar!
• November 1, 2017, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET
• November 15, 2017, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET
Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about new and exciting activities that you can use in the
classroom or an extended learning environment. To ask questions, or receive more information, email
BioenergizeME@ee.doe.gov.

Six Reasons Your Next Car Should Be Electric

bY: John Farrell Oct 30, 2017

From ILSR’s newest report on electric vehicles, here are six reasons your next car should be electric:

1. Fun: Electric vehicle motors provide more torque and instant acceleration at any speed than internal combustion engines.

2. Save Money: Over 10 years, owning an electric car will save you $10,000 in lower fuel costs and avoided maintenance, and that even includes the cost of buying a new battery.

3. Distance: The 2017 Nissan LEAF’s 107-mile range covers 83% of daily trips taken by Americans. Sold at a comparable price, the 240-mile range of the Chevy Bolt covers nearly all daily travel. Especially if your household has a second car, an electric vehicle can meet your travel needs.

4. Less maintenance: Electric cars have 100 times fewer parts in the drivetrain and of the 10 most common vehicle repairs in the U.S., none are needed in an electric vehicle.

5. Cut pollution: No matter where it’s plugged in, driving an electric car will reduce the pollution you release. And 1 in 10 electric car owners also own a solar array, allowing them to put sun in the “gas” tank.

6. Luxury at a lower price: Electric and hybrid cars have customer satisfaction ratings as high as luxury cars.

Source: FBI opens inquiry into Whitefish’s Puerto Rico contract

By Rene Marsh and Gregory Wallace, CNN
22 hrs ago

The FBI has opened a preliminary inquiry into the $300 million Whitefish Energy Holdings contract secured by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, according to a source with knowledge of the inquiry.

The energy firm was contracted to rebuild the damaged electrical grid that was destroyed by hurricanes that struck the island. The Wall Street Journal was first to report the existence of the FBI probe.

If the FBI’s preliminary inquiry develops into a full investigation of the contract, it would join several other reviews of the contract already underway.

It wasn’t immediately clear what about the deal the FBI would be investigating. But members of Congress have raised concerns over the manner in which the contract for essential work to rebuild the island’s decimated grid was awarded to the small Montana company. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has also raised concerns over whether the amount of the contract awarded was reasonable.

The company also has ties to the Trump administration. The company is based in and named after the small hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and the CEO is an acquaintance of the secretary. An investment firm that owns a major stake in the company is run by a donor to Trump’s presidential campaign.

The company, Zinke, the White House, and PREPA have denied any wrongdoing in issuing the contract.

The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general said it opened a review of the contract after a CNN report highlighted the contract and calls from members of Congress. The office said it considers the investigation to be one of its high priority cases. At least two committees on Capitol Hill have also asked questions about the contract.

However, the FBI field office in San Juan would neither confirm nor deny an investigation.

Whitefish Energy spokesman Ken Luce said the company has not been contacted by the FBI.

“While Whitefish is not aware of any such investigation, Whitefish is committed to full cooperation with any inquiry or investigation,” Luce told CNN. “The procurement of the PREPA contract was at all times fully appropriate. Our focus continues to be on our work in Puerto Rico completing the work PREPA has tasked Whitefish to complete including the repair of the second major transmission line.”

Live from DC, it’s Wednesday night!

Posted by Sustainable DC on Wednesday, October 18, 2017

On October 18, we kicked off the Sustainable DC 2.0 working groups by taking a novel approach to community engagement. Instead of taking the traditional approach of holding one centralized meeting, we responded to what we have been hearing from residents and brought the meeting to neighborhoods around the city. Participants could choose from five meeting locations throughout the city: Lamond-Riggs Library, NE; Francis Gregory Library, SE; Dorothy I. Heights/Benning Library, NE; DC Office of Planning, SW; or the Franklin D. Reeves Center, NW.

Each site location participated in a live streamed event hosted by Tommy Wells, Director of the Department of Energy and Environment. The presentation included an overview of the Sustainable DC Plan, how it was created, and our proposed working group process for the plan update. We also shared the results of surveys and focus groups as well as what we heard through our numerous open houses and community conversations that occurred over the last five months.

Those that weren’t able to join us at one of the five sites, were able to participate from the convenience of their mobile phone, tablet or computer via Facebook Live. We streamed the opening presentation and then the five neighborhood sites logged off to engage in facilitated discussions intended to help establish top priorities for the various working groups. Facebook Live viewers stayed tuned for a virtual meeting with a panel of local sustainability experts. Moderated by Dr. Dwayne Jones of UDC, our knowledgeable panel included Christopher Shorter, Director, DC DPW; Ronda Chapman, Executive Director, Groundwork DC; Laine Cidlowski, Director, DC Food Policy Council; and Marc James, President, Urban Green, LLC. Viewers were able to engage virtually by submitting questions and comments via Facebook and Twitter. The evening was filled with lively conversations with over 120 residents at the five different meeting sites and an even broader community via Facebook Live.

Missed the live broadcast? No problem! It’s available to stream from the SDC Facebook page.

Well now it’s time to get to work.

Working group meetings begin the week of November 6, 2017 and will continue through early December. Based on feedback from this kickoff event, we’re planning to host the meetings in the evening to make it more convenient for you to participate. You can read a full description of the working groups and sign up to be a part of them here.
Check out the video from the event!

Time to be energy active!

Did you know that October is Energy Action Month? It’s a time where we look to the government and each other for leadership in energy management and optimization. Here’s the catch: being energy active does not mean that you have to be using a lot of energy. It actually means being aware of and making sure you’re using energy necessarily and not excessively. Take this month to make sure you’re checking out how you can be more sustainable energetically!

You can participate in these simple but important activities to learn more about Energy Action Month and what you can do:
UNPLUG extra devices or appliances that you don’t switch on often.
Use POWER STRIPS to control energy flows! If the power isn’t necessary to those devices, you can turn off the strip and save some energy. Some cool power strips automatically shut off idle devices, too!
Make smart UPGRADES – think about updating your appliances and electronic devices and replacing the old with ENERGY STAR devices.
Visit EnergySaver.gov to learn more!

Whitefish-PREPA Contract Aimed to Avoid Government Oversight

AUTHOR:Robert Walton@TeamWetDog PUBLISHED:Oct. 27, 2017

Dive Brief:

As Puerto Rico struggles to restore power to its citizens, a leaked recovery contract awarded to Montana’s Whitefish Energy appears to reveal one-sided commitments and stipulations that government agencies cannot review the project’s finances.
Whitefish’s contract has been under increasing scrutiny. In the days after Hurricane Maria struck the island, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) declined mutual aid offers from other utilities, opting for a $300 million contract with the little-known Montana firm for power restoration.
And with most of Puerto Rico still without power, Rhodium Group has run the numbers and determined that Hurricane Maria’s hit on the island has caused the largest blackout in the United States’ history. The storm has so-far disrupted 1.25 billion hours of electricity supply for American citizens, and three quarters of the island still has no power. To date, that’s about twice the length of outages caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
​Dive Insight:

Puerto Rican officials, the federal government, aid organizations and private companies are all working on the island to restore power. But the $300 million contract granted to Montana’s Whitefish Energy is spurring new questions about how that restoration process is being conducted.

Whitefish was hired by PREPA before mutual aid programs could be coordinated in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Whitefish hails from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown of the same name, prompting questions over how a little-known company landed such a high-profile gig.

VIEW THE INFOGRAPHIC
Caribbean Business reported on the contract last week, writing that Whitefish was “selected by PREPA before Maria hit on Sept. 20.” But the terms of the Whitefish agreement went largely unnoticed until Thursday, when journalist Ken Klippenstein spotlighted the document on Twitter.

Klippenstein noted the contract includes an employee per-diem in excess of $400 for accommodations and food as well as a passage ensuring that, “In no event shall [government bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements.”

26 Oct
Ken Klippenstein ✔ @kenklippenstein
Replying to @kenklippenstein
$332.41 per person for accommodations *each day*

$79.82 per person for food *each day* pic.twitter.com/jX51fRDZWf
Follow
Ken Klippenstein ✔ @kenklippenstein
Whitefish contract states, “In no event shall [government bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements.” Wow. pic.twitter.com/dIyQXb6AK0
7:42 PM – Oct 26, 2017
View image on Twitter
1,324 1,324 Replies 15,621 15,621 Retweets 14,852 14,852 likes
Twitter Ads info and privacy
The contract also specified that Puerto Rico can not make a claim against Whitefish for work delays or completion.

The contract was signed by PREPA Executive Director Ricardo Rodriguez and Whitefish Energy Holding CEO Andy Techmanski.

It is unclear year if the contract with Whitefish will stand. Lawmakers in Puerto Rico and the mainland have called for reviews, suspicious that there could be a connection between Techmanski and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who both hail from the small town of Whitefish, Montana, and reportedly know one another.

This week, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said in a tweet that he had asked the Office of the Inspector General to conduct a review of the contracting process. Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell has called for the Government Accountability Office to look into the contract. Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva from Arizona also said in a statement that “Congress needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded.”

The mayor of San Juan also called for the contract to be voided, sparking a Twitter feud with Whitefish in which the company threatened to pull its workers out of the island. Whitefish apologized Thursday in a separate tweet.

25 Oct
Carmen Yulín Cruz ✔ @CarmenYulinCruz
Replying to @CarmenYulinCruz
If @WhitefishEnergy feels that asking for transparency is ”misplaced”, what are they afraid we will find.
Follow
Whitefish Energy @WhitefishEnergy
We’ve got 44 linemen rebuilding power lines in your city & 40 more men just arrived. Do you want us to send them back or keep working?
12:27 PM – Oct 25, 2017
8,297 8,297 Replies 1,202 1,202 Retweets 1,521 1,521 likes
Twitter Ads info and privacy
As the blackout continues, it is likely to put even more distance between the size of this electrical outage and other historical events. The 1.25 billion outage hours following Maria already easily exceeds 1998’s Hurricane Georges, which caused approximately 1 billion outage hours. Katrina caused less than 700 million hours of lost power, and the Northeast Blackout of 2003 was less than 600 million. Hurricane Irma, also this year, created about 750 million outage hours.

Rhodium called it “a blackout without rival.”

“We can find no event in recorded US history where there were as many people without power for as long as has occurred over the past month in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands,” the firm said.

Biggest blackouts in US history
Source: Rhodium Group

The Year of Climate Finance: 2017 Outlook

January 31, 2017 By Jennifer Delony Associate Editor

With global commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions set, funding those commitments will require new, unique financial models, such as ones used by the handful of green investment banks in operation today.

In the year following the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, there was an increased interest in building a broad spectrum of financial solutions that can both deliver on commitments to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and deliver in the unique markets of disparate countries. If those solutions are going to fulfill the needs of the commitments made under the Paris Agreement, then they have a lot of work to do. Data behind the climate change economy are staggering.

A November 2016 paper, Green & Resilience Banks, said $13 trillion in investments is required just to meet the pledges made by countries supporting the Paris Agreement. The paper added that, for a complete “low-carbon, climate-resilient economic transformation,” the world must invest $6 trillion per year by 2030. Green & Resilience Banks was developed by Coalition for Green Capital (CGC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Climate Finance Advisors, with financial support from ClimateWorks.

The paper highlights one solution to climate finance — the green investment bank — which has been steadily gaining traction for several years.
Jeffrey Schub, executive director of CGC, said that “we’re at a point now where a lot of people are interested in the idea of a green bank, but they still don’t know exactly what it is and how you create it.”
CGC is a nonprofit founded in 2009 to develop and aggregate know-how around green banks and help policy makers and other key stakeholders understand the concept of green banks. CGC and NRDC are co-administrators of the Green Bank Network, which was founded by green banks as a hub of information about this unique financial institution. The six founding members of the Green Bank Network closed transactions worth $22 billion as of November 2016, according to Green & Resilience Banks.
SPONSORED CONTENT BY Solar Reviews ?

Right Sizing a Home Solar Energy System for Your Roof
Whether it’s flat or high-pitched, shaded or unshaded, covered with shingles, concrete or terra cotta tiles, Solar Reviews’ Solar Estimate-Calculator is a fast, real-world data-driven way to obtain an estimate of the cost of having a rooftop solar PV home energy system installed
Brought To You ByCGC also has been collaborating with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), based in Paris, for a number of years on the topic of green banks.
So What is a Green Bank?

A green investment bank is a public entity established specifically to facilitate private investment in domestic low-carbon, resilient infrastructure. Currently, there are 13 green banks around the world, according to the OECD. Seven of the 13 are located in the U.S., and there is one each in the UK, Switzerland, Japan, Malaysia, Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Schub said that, in the U.S., we will see more state green banks coming online this year, and we will see more innovation in the model of the institution itself.

The green banks in New York and Connecticut, for example, “are purpose-built, public or quasi-public entities that are heavily funded by state government,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing green banks that are private, nonprofit organizations that are funded by state governments but also funded by foundations.”
He said that creative applications will arise in the U.S. in an attempt to move more quickly and to make the institutions better-suited to draw on different capital sources.
Schub also said that the CGC, through the Green Bank Network, has had conversations with individual nations and development banks that are interested in understanding how green banks could be implemented in their markets. He said that, in 2017, those conversations are going to mature.

Substantial progress already has been made in India to develop a green bank, and Schub said it is likely that one will be formally established there this year. CGC, in cooperation with its partner, NRDC, has been developing the green bank opportunity in India. Schub said that an existing entity, called the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, is creating a green bank wing of the organization that will engage in innovative public-private partnership structure financing that is designed to leverage private investment with public dollars and take on more creative risk mitigation structure.
“India, as the third largest emitter in the world, would send a really powerful signal to have an institution like that,” Schub said.

Green Banks in Action
Green banks have the opportunity to focus funding on gaps in local investment by using a wide range of tools and approaches to attract and deploy capital, according to Green & Resilience Banks.
The paper provided the following tools as examples:
Co-investment through debt and equity; co-investments involve direct green bank investment in a project alongside a private investor

Risk mitigation and credit enhancements; green banks use a range of credit enhancements, such as loan loss reserves, loan guarantees and risk sharing mechanisms
Aggregation, warehousing and securitization; these solutions are critical to supporting small, disaggregated projects
While developed nations are making strong progress in green bank creation, identifying whether the above – or other – financial products can work in emerging markets is key to accelerating the green bank concept globally.
It is important to ask what market challenges exist in emerging markets that are not an issue in developed regions, Schub said.

Why There’s Room for Competition in Home Solar Loans

September 19, 2017 By Jennifer Delony Associate Editor

By tapping cooperative, not-for-profit financial services, a group of clean energy enthusiasts hope to spark a platform for offering clean energy loans that could compete with the growing list of solar loan providers in the U.S.
SPONSORED CONTENT BY Solar Reviews ?

Right Sizing a Home Solar Energy System for Your Roof
Whether it’s flat or high-pitched, shaded or unshaded, covered with shingles, concrete or terra cotta tiles, Solar Reviews’ Solar Estimate-Calculator is a fast, real-world data-driven way to obtain an estimate of the cost of having a rooftop solar PV home energy system installed
Brought To You By

When a group of clean energy enthusiasts wanted to find better options for people to install clean energy solutions in their homes, buy electric vehicles and invest in clean energy, they thought about starting a green bank, but Blake Jones of Colorado-based Namasté Solar says they decided to start a credit union instead.
Now the group says they have been given a federal charter for the Clean Energy Credit Union (CECU) — a first of its kind, national not-for-profit financial services cooperative that will focus exclusively on providing affordable loans for clean energy products and services.
This credit union will raise the bar for the solar loans market. There already are several big names in solar loans in the U.S., such as Mosaic and EnerBankUSA. But Jones, who is board chair for the new credit union, told Renewable Energy World that existing lenders specializing in home solar systems are too expensive. He said, for example, they are backed by venture capital firms and that money is expensive.
He said there is clearly room for competition. The credit union is a not-for-profit, and Jones said it doesn’t have any stockholders to pay or venture capital firms looking for a return on investment. And, the credit union will seek out depositors interested in investing in clean energy in a secure way.
Jones said that the money from federally insured deposits is the cheapest cost of funds in the market — which is why banks and credit unions typically have been able to provide the most competitive loans for any products.
CECU wants to harness that federal deposit insurance to pass on those cheaper borrowing cost and help homeowners who want to put solar on their roofs or own an electric vehicle.
The loans from CECU will be tailored for the needs of solar owners.
Jones said that banks and traditional credit unions just don’t offer the kinds of long-term loans that are necessary for homeowners to keep payments low enough to be in line with what is being realized in electricity bill savings from solar generation.
Now that CECU has its federal charter, it will move into a crowdfunding phase that Jones said will help build up the credit union’s ability to give out more loans. An official launch of the credit union, which will be web-based, is scheduled for later this year. At that time, CECU will serve members of the American Solar Energy Society, initially offering federally insured savings accounts, clean energy CDs, and loans.

DOE to fund $15M for fast electric vehicle charging research

AUTHOR:Peter Maloney @TopFloorPower
PUBLISHED: Oct. 24, 2017

Dive Brief:

The Department of Energy on Monday announced up to $15 million for research projects on batteries and vehicle electrification technologies to enable extreme fast charging.

The DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) is seeking research projects to develop plug-in electric vehicle systems that can decrease charge time to 15 minutes or less.

A VTO funded report, also released on Monday, identifies technical gaps to implementing an extreme fast charging network in the United States.
Story continues below

Dive Insight:

The growth of electric vehicles is both a challenge and a boon for utilities. EV growth could be a remedy for flat load growth, and increasing grid flexibility. Some utilities, such as San Diego Gas & Electric, also see it as a key element in their greenhouse gas reduction strategies.

One of the enablers of EV growth is the proliferation and efficiency of charging stations. The lack of fast charging in particular presents a hurdle to wider consumer acceptance. The DOE’s funding initiative seeks to find solutions to that problem.

The research initiative has two prongs: It will seek technologies that can enable extreme fast charging, and it will also will fund electrification projects that support the development and verification of electric drive systems and infrastructure for extreme fast charging.

VTO says it is building on the success of its development of lithium ion technology with the potential to reduce battery pack cost to $219/kWh of usable energy, about an 80% reduction since 2008.

The report identifying gaps to implementing an extreme fast charging network was the result of collaborative efforts of researchers at Idaho National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Recommended Reading:

Department Of Energy
Energy Department Announces $15 Million for Batteries and Electrification to Enable Extreme Fast Chargingoffsite link
Follow Peter Maloney on Twitter

Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EPA).

Environmental Protection Agency announces
funds to deliver environmental workforce development and job training programs that recruit, train, and place local,
unemployed and under-employed residents with the skills needed to secure full-time employment in the
environmental field.
 Eligibility: City or township governments, county governments, state governments, nonprofit organizations and
DC government agencies
 Deadline: 12/15/2017
 Funds: $3,000,000 is available for 16 awards
 Contact: Rachel Congdon at (202) 566-1564 or congdon.rachel@epa.gov
 Website: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html
 Grant ID: GD7553

Perry: ‘There is no free market in the energy industry’

Perry: ‘There is no free market in the energy industry’
© Getty Images

Energy Secretary Rick Perry defended his proposal for high payments to nuclear and coal plants Friday, hitting back at the idea that his new proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would disrupt a competitive market.

“I think it’s really important for people to understand, in general terms, there is no free market in the energy industry,” Perry told a meeting of the group Veterans for Energy.

Perry asked that FERC, within 60 days, implement a new rule that would allow certain coal and nuclear plants to get paid their costs, plus a fair rate of return, for the power they produce, even when competitors like natural gas or renewables could bid lower prices.

The idea is meant to incentivize “resilient” power sources with stockpiles of fuel on site. But environmentalists and advocates for other electricity sources have fought back, saying that Perry’s idea is just a plan to help out uncompetitive coal and nuclear for political purposes.

The former Texas governor said the Obama administration “had their thumb on the scale” to help out renewables, to the “detriment … of reliable, baseload industries that are really important for the future security of this country.”

He went on to defend the proposal as merely a way to start a conversation and not a command to the FERC, which is anindependent commission.

“It wasn’t a directive,” he said, adding that it was a way to tell FERC, “let’s have this conversation about making sure that we have an energy foundation that’s stable, resilient, and I happen to think that coal and nuclear should be a part of that.”

The proposal repeatedly used strong language, such as saying that FERC “must adopt rules” and “must act now.”

FERC has started accepting comments on the proposal, and it plans to take some sort of action on it by the end of the 60-day time frame, which will be in early December.

Of the three commissioners currently in FERC, two have criticized it.

Commissioner Rob Powelson, a Republican, criticized the proposal to utility representatives earlier this week, saying that FERC “will not destroy the marketplace” and it “does not do politics,” according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur endorsed Powelson’s view, tweeting “Great message!” with a link to the news story.

Hip Hop Caucus Statement on Clean Power Plan Repeal

Mark Antoniewicz: Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Mustafa Santiago Ali, Senior Vice President for Climate, Environmental Justice, & Community Revitalization at Hip Hop Caucus, released the statement below about EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s anticipated move to repeal the Clean Power Plan later today.

“This backwards move is another clear indication that fossil fuel industry corporations have taken control of the Environmental Protection Agency. It simply does not make sense for our pocketbooks and health. Unfortunately our most vulnerable communities will face the brunt of this irresponsible decision, including disproportionate health impacts, while rich corporations that have control over the EPA will reap the profits.”

“The Trump Administration is failing on its obligation to protect the planet for future generations by ignoring what science is telling us. Without cutting the carbon pollution fueling climate change, we are only going to see stronger storms and more wildfires like the disasters that continue to ravage our country. They are also ignoring the economic opportunities the clean energy economy presents us with, and instead, choose to double and triple down on an already dying industry. The clean energy economy is here and the rest of the world is moving on without us. This puts us at a tremendous economic disadvantage both home and abroad.”

 “Hip Hop Caucus urges states to continue carrying out their own plans to cut emissions and transition to 100% clean energy for all. We also urge the public to participate in the upcoming opportunities to refute this irresponsible move through public comment. Instead of favoring polluters, we need to protect the health and prosperity of the American people. Please know that this dangerous move by Scott Pruitt will not be met without a fight.

About Hip Hop Caucus: Formed in 2004, the Hip Hop Caucus (HHC) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that connects the Hip Hop community to the civic process to build power and create positive change. Through a collaborative leadership network and support of community-driven solutions, HHC focuses on addressing core issues affecting underserved and vulnerable communities. HHC hopes to establish the culture and practice of voting as part of a desired civic lifestyle, as well as empower and train leaders and volunteers from our communities to be strategic leaders, messengers, and spokespeople for issues critical to equality, justice, and opportunity. Learn more at HipHopCaucus.org and by following @HipHopCaucus on social media.

About Mustafa Santiago Ali: Mustafa Santiago Ali is a renowned national speaker, policy maker, community liaison, trainer, and facilitator. Mr. Ali specializes in social and environmental justice issues and is focused on a utilizing a holistic approach to revitalizing vulnerable communities. He joined the Hip Hop Caucus after working 24 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where he most recently served as Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization. Throughout his career he has worked with over 500 domestic and international communities to improve people’s lives by addressing environmental, health, and economic justice issues.

Elon Musk, Puerto Rico governor speak on Tesla rebuilding power grid

BY BRANDON CARTER –

Billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk spoke with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Friday about his offer to have Tesla rebuild the U.S. territory’s power grid.

Rosselló confirmed the two spoke in a tweet Friday night.

“Great initial conversation with @elonmusk tonight,” the governor tweeted. “Teams are now talking; exploring opportunities. Next steps soon to follow.”

In a tweet Thursday, Musk said he believes Tesla could rebuild the country’s power grid with batteries and solar power.

“The Tesla team has [built solar grids] for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too,” Musk said. “Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.”

Tesla has done similar projects to provide power in Hawaii andAmerican Samoa, but on a much smaller scale.

Musk also said in a tweet Friday that Tesla was sending more staff to the U.S. territory to assist in the recovery efforts.

Just over 10 percent of the island currently has power, and Puerto Rican officials have said it could take four to six months to restore power to some households.

Sonnen pledges to build microgrids in Puerto Rico

AUTHOR: Peter Maloney@TopFloorPower

Dive Brief:

German energy storage company Sonnen plans to build microgrids in Puerto Rico to help alleviate the damage caused by Hurricane Maria.

Working with its local partner, solar power developer Pura Energia, Sonnen is targeting emergency shelters as well as emergency medical clinics that require refrigeration for medicine. Rival battery provider Tesla also said it would deliver “hundreds” of its residential battery systems to Puerto Rico in the coming weeks.

Sonnen says it is also interested in partnering with a clean water filtration company to complement their microgrid efforts.
Story continues below

Dive Insight:

When Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico late last month, it left the island devastated and without electricity. Germany’s Sonnen is the latest private company to offer assistance to the U.S. territory.

Sonnen has not put a value on its efforts but has said both companies plan to subsidize the cost of installations.

Sonnen says that with its local partner, Pura Energia, it is in the process of contacting existing customers to ensure they have critical power and are safe. The German company says its next priority is to identify targeted “emergency relief sites,” where they can provide a stable microgrid that will make have an impact on the local community.

After a strategic plan is in place with Pura, Sonnen says it plans to deploy a team of engineers and technicians to help lead the microgrid campaign in Puerto Rico. Sonnen says its Puerto Rico Energy Security Initiative is contingent on establishing a stronger lines of communications on the island and gaining access to ports for importing equipment.

“Our plan is to ship a batch of our Eco Energy Storage Systems to Puerto Rico every week, while balancing the rest of our growing business in North America,” Brent Stayer, vice president of operations and quality control for Sonnen, said in a statement.

“Many energy storage systems on the market today require an initial grid connection, as well as additional parts for set up, in order to form a true off-grid microgrid. This is not the case for Sonnen, as it is a natural capability of our product. Therefore, it is our duty to step in and bring relief to our countrymen in Puerto Rico, as soon as possible,” Blake Richetta, senior vice president and head of Sonnen’s U.S. business, said in a statement.

Recommended Reading:

PURPA: A Quiet Death or Longer Life After 40 Years of Wholesale Electricity Competition?

John Farrell
Updated on Sep 27, 2017

This article was originally published in Greentech Media on September 18th, 2017.

In the first week of September, a U.S. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee held hearings questioning a 40-year-old law that forms the bedrock of competition in the electricity market.

Before the law took effect, electric utilities had a complete monopoly over electricity generation. In 1978, after some spectacular cost overruns by incumbent utilities, the passage of Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) introduced competition.

Is a law passed in the era of shag carpeting and monster sideburns just as unfashionable in 2017?

If the list of testifiers was representative of utility customer interests, you might think so. But electricity markets are no less in need of competition in 2017 than they were in 1978. In fact, customers may pay a big price without it.

A bit of background
There’s much more detail in the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s recent overview of PURPA, but the law’s basic concept is that utilities must buy power from renewable energy sources or “co-generation” facilities (that produce both electricity and heat for sale) if it’s competitive with their own supplies. Think of it as the utility planning to buy a burger and fries for $5.00. If someone else can offer the utility the same lunch for less, then PURPA requires that they buy it, because it saves everyone money.

PURPA was designed to avoid utility cost overruns, particularly at nuclear power plants, if they built too much at too big a scale. It targeted market opportunities for medium-scale power generation — projects 80 megawatts or smaller (most full-scale power plants are 500 megawatts or more).

PURPA still serves a purpose
In the 1990s, Congress passed additional legislation to open the transmission system, allowing non-utilities to build power plants and sell that power elsewhere. Further changes created regional “balancing” markets run by independent system operators that allow for even more robust competition. A map of existing operators is shown below.

In these more competitive regions, PURPA only applies to projects 20 megawatts and smaller, under the theory that larger developers have market access. Smaller projects still need PURPA because the overhead costs of entering the market are prohibitive for the smallest power generators. In either event, the competitive market or the limitations of PURPA (to buy only cost-competitive power) protects customers.

Addressing critiques of PURPA
There’s no question that 40-year-old laws should be measured against changing market conditions. But to hear utilities talk, competition itself has gone out of vogue. Of the several critiques leveled at PURPA during the hearings, none undermined the fundamental advantage of the law: It requires utilities to procure cost-effective resources.

One issue worth addressing is the habit of developers to take very large renewable energy projects and subdivide them to be eligible for PURPA contracts. For a 2016 wind project proposal in Idaho, for example, “A developer attempted to site 11 solar and eight wind facilities under the law, separating them so the combined 1,520 MW of capacity was portioned into chunks of 80 MW or less.”

Currently, a 1-mile separation between projects is required for them to be distinct, according to the federal law. An Idaho state regulator asked the congressional subcommittee for the ability to review “whether adjacent facilities truly constitute separate projects, looking at factors such as common ownership, interconnection points, operations [and] financing.”

This is important, because diversity of market participants is a key element of distributing the economic rewards of renewable energy development. It’s also important because the size limitations of PURPA (80 megawatts in states with vertically integrated monopolies and 20 megawatts in states with competitive markets) is sufficient to capture most of the economies of scale in wind and solar production, as the Institute for Local Self-Reliance reported in 2016.

The following chart shows the economies of scale in solar energy generation, with projects near 20 megawatts hitting a sweet spot between the cost of project construction and the cost of transmission access (the latter is key for the largest projects).

In wind power, economies of scale don’t reverse at larger project sizes, but they certainly shrink, with the largest projects only 10-15 percent cheaper per kilowatt-hour.

In other words, ensuring that “qualifying facilities” under PURPA stay within size limits seems entirely reasonable.

An overlooked opportunity to improve PURPA
Testifiers in the subcommittee hearing also noted that splitting up projects could allow them to interconnect on the lower-voltage distribution lines serving communities, rather than the high-powered ones used for long-distance transmission. Instead of treating this as a problem, Congress, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and state regulators should look at the opportunity.

First, when projects interconnect on the distribution system, they may be able to avoid the cost of new transmission infrastructure, as well as utilize existing capacity on the distribution system to provide local power for local loads. With its focus on wholesale power, PURPA — as implemented today — has sidestepped the opportunity to allow for competition closer to the retail level.

This issue has come up recently in Minnesota, where a developer proposed a 5-megawatt “wind-solar hybrid” with two wind turbines and a solar array, which can plug into open capacity near a utility substation (the connection point between the transmission and distribution systems).

The project would struggle to compete on price with a several-hundred-megawatt wind project, but it offers some unique values. One is that it avoids transmission costs, as shown in the graphic below (and in the slideshow version of this post).

A second advantage is that the power provided from a wind-solar hybrid (or even from a solar project versus a wind project) may uniquely benefit utility customers by providing more power during times of peak energy use. In Minnesota, these relative advantages are measured for rooftop solar through a “value of solar” methodology.

Federal lawmakers and regulators, as well as state public utility commissions, should start asking what components of the avoided-cost calculation may be missing from the existing calculus, and how they may offer further customer savings by favoring projects with particular characteristics. Storage, for example, could be another valuable element that provides peak power or grid support services.

Fair contract terms
While location and peak capacity are key components of any methodology for calculating avoided cost (the lunch price, if you will), the other central element is contract term. A PURPA rule rewrite in Michigan recently concluded that contract terms of less than 15 years are inadequate, because projects simply cannot secure financing and come to market with short contracts.

The Idaho commissioner testifying at the House hearing knows this full well, since that state responded to an upswell in developer interest not by addressing the issue of project splitting, but instead by shortening PURPA contracts to just two years (from 20). The move choked off development. If the only tool that state commissions have is a hammer (contract length), then all the problems (fair pricing, project size, project interconnection point) will look like nails.

Wrap: Improve PURPA, don’t kill competition
The House hearing echoed complaints from utilities in several states that share one common feature: lots of recent renewable energy development due to high utility avoided costs.

North Carolina, for example, saw over 2,000 megawatts of solar development when Duke Energy had high-cost power and the state enforced a long-term purchase contract. But the explosion of solar meant a better priced “meal” for the state’s electricity customers, much like how Xcel Energy CEO keeps saying that wind power is the cheapest electricity resource in many parts of the country.

It’s crucial to understand that utilities are not disinterested parties to this discussion. Particularly in regulated markets — like Idaho and North Carolina — the dominant investor-owned utilities make money for their shareholders by building power plants, paid for by captive customers. PURPA is one of the few tools state regulators have to ensure that monopoly incumbents provide the best deal for their state’s residents and businesses.

Congress should certainly look for ways to ensure diversity among market participants and that PURPA isn’t an end-around for savvy developers who should be participating in competitive markets. But states already have the power to protect fairness in PURPA contract terms and avoided costs. There’s no reason to roll back competition when clean energy can provide utility customers a better deal.

Step by Step: How SunShot Influences the “Going Solar” Process

Home » Step by Step: How SunShot Influences the “Going Solar” Process
If you own a solar energy system, it’s very likely that the SunShot Initiative has impacted at least one of the steps that helped you get there. Since SunShot launched in 2011, the program has funded hundreds of projects at national labs, universities, and private companies that have added clarity, speed, and cost savings to each step of the “going solar” process.

Powered by SunShot Homepage
The Big Decision

Simplifying the “Going-Solar” Process

Deciding to go solar is the first step in the process and often the most challenging one. A lot of variables come into play: Should I make the leap to solar energy? Is my home suitable for solar? Does it make financial sense to go solar? Who should I go with for installation? SunShot awardees are addressing all of these questions.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) uses SunShot funding to research market barriers that prevent solar adoption, fostering competition within the industry to develop a more streamlined process. Awardees such as Sun Number and EnergySage have developed tools that help consumers find personalized information needed to assess the suitability of their homes for solar and to find the best installers. These companies are also driving down solar costs by providing consumers with new tools to help them make informed decisions on how to get started.

Calculating Finances

Just how much can one save by switching to solar? It depends on a complex mix of your home, local laws, and daily energy usage. Algorithms and remote sensing, however, have made it easier to determine your cost savings.

SunShot-funded small businesses use the latest technologies to make this process easier and faster. Aurora Solar developed a remote design tool that creates custom 3D solar system designs, making it easier to determine accurate financing options and potential savings. Another awardee, Genability, created a third-party savings calculator known as Switch, which instantly generates savings estimates that have been found to be more than 99.5% accurate. And, when it comes to obtaining financing to pay for going solar, SunShot awardees are developing solutions to enable loans, master limited partnerships, and new streams of capital for solar finance.

Rooftop Reality

Once a solar installer is selected and financing is obtained, the installation process begins—much more efficient and affordable thanks to early-stage funding from SunShot. Zep Solar’s rooftop mounting equipment shaves $0.28 per watt off of the total installed price thanks to reduced hardware and labor costs. This savings led to their acquisition by SolarCity, one of the country’s largest solar companies. SolarBridge developed a microinverter that can be integrated into solar panels, eliminating the need to set up modules to a single string inverter. Finally, NREL research is used to establish evaluation systems for solar module durability, as well as inspection guidelines, so that industry can offer uniform quality to every customer.

Solar Financing Options

Talking to the Grid

After installation, solar arrays must be connected to the grid. This step is important because utilities need to plan for increases in solar energy on the grid. Since there are many different utility jurisdictions across the country, the process is rarely standardized, and red tape can create lengthy interconnection times.

Enter more SunShot awardees to help simplify the process.

GridUnity, formerly Qado Energy, developed a cloud-connected tool that uses algorithms to determine what impact a solar installation will have on the grid. It identifies which circuit a solar project will join, calculates its hosting capacity, and provides an instant response on whether the circuit can handle more solar. This can speed up the impact study process in some utility territories from 55 days to just 60 minutes. In addition, to minimize potential negative grid impacts of PV systems, several smart inverters are under development that will allow grid operators to better control solar energy’s local impacts on the electric grid.

Reaping the Benefits

Going solar can help save homeowners money on monthly utility bills, but only if the system is operating correctly. Some awardees have tools that allow you to monitor your energy usage to ensure things are running smoothly. Should the time come to sell your home, a study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory determined buyers are willing to pay a premium of $15,000 for a home with an average-sized, resident-owned solar array. The team is also making home sales easier for real estate agents. They created five standard data fields for solar properties that can be used by the more than 700 multiple listing services around the country to ensure real estate transactions remain secure and efficient.

A Full Solar Circle

Research from Yale University has shown that, if your neighbor notices your new solar panels and you tell them about the cost savings you’re experiencing, the cycle often starts anew as someone else considers going solar. Once a costly process, making the switch to solar is now easier and more affordable thanks to the research and development funded by the SunShot Initiative.

From start to finish, the “going solar” process is powered by SunShot.

GARRETT NILSEN
Garrett Nilsen is a technology manager with the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s SunShot Initiative.