Renewable energy could face tax problems in Republican compromise

December 19, 2017 by  
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Renewable energy advocates initially breathed a sigh of relief when the Republican tax bill reworked a provision that could have disrupted the industry’s $12 billion tax-equity market, Bloomberg reported . But a closer look reveals the bill includes what the publication described as “hidden pitfalls that could undercut its benefit.” Law firm Stoel Rives partner Greg Jenner told Bloomberg, “If Congress thought they were eliminating the trouble for renewables , they were wrong. It’s a question of how bad it will be.” Many solar and wind developers receive tax credits , and as they typically don’t have a big tax liability, third parties like insurance companies or banks will invest in their projects – basically in exchange for those credits, according to Bloomberg. The anxiety is over the Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT), a provision intended to close loopholes for companies including insurers and banks that remit money to affiliates overseas. Related: Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S. American Council on Renewable Energy president Greg Wetstone said, “The BEAT program will make it harder to use the tax credits – even though it’s significantly improved from what we were presented with” in the Senate. The compromise would expand which companies face the BEAT tax, according to Bloomberg. And because companies won’t be sure if they are subject to a BEAT tax bill, they might not be willing to do a tax-equity deal with renewable energy developers. The compromise tax bill would let companies offset up to 80 percent of their foreign-transaction tax with renewable energy credits, per Bloomberg, but the 80 percent offset expires in 2025. Separately, there could be less demand for renewable energy tax credits if the overall corporate tax rate is trimmed down to 21 percent, according to Bloomberg. The publication said all these details mean there’s a lot of uncertainty in the $12 billion tax-equity market’s future. Via Bloomberg Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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How fungi made Earth’s atmosphere livable – new study

December 19, 2017 by  
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It turns out mushrooms aren’t just great to eat, but played an essential role in creating an atmosphere suitable for animal life, according to a new study. The earliest plants to dwell on land did not have well developed roots or vascular systems. Fungi, among the earliest colonizers of land, helped facilitate the transfer of phosphorus from rocky soil to the primitive plants , which required the mineral to photosynthesize. “The results of including data on fungal interactions present a significant advance in our understanding of Earth’s early development,” said Benjamin Mills, co-author of a report on the research published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B . “Our work clearly shows the importance of fungi in the creation of an oxygenated atmosphere.” The recent research shines a light on a process that remains mysterious, even in modern times. “Photosynthesis by land plants is ultimately responsible for about half of the oxygen generation on Earth, and requires phosphorus, but we currently have a poor understanding of how the global supply of this nutrient to plants works,” said Mills. Without fungi helping them acquire their necessary phosphorus, the earliest land plants would not have been able to survive. The oldest fossil of a land-living organism is of a fungi species, one of many which moved on land and helped to break down the rocky mantle into soil, enabling plants with roots to more easily extract their minerals . Related: Paris has a new underground – a massive farm for mushrooms and veggies To test fungi’s symbiotic relationship with early plants, a research team at the University of Leeds incorporated computer modeling and laboratory experiments which involved ancient species of fungus that still endure today. The researchers observed the differing rates at which different species of fungi exchanged phosphorus and carbon, which indicated how quickly plants might have produced oxygen. “We used a computer model to simulate what might have happened to the climate throughout the Palaeozoic era if the different types of early plant-fungal symbioses were included in the global phosphorus and carbon cycles,” said Katie Field, study co-author and plant biologist. “We found the effect was potentially dramatic, with the differences in plant-fungal carbon-for-nutrient exchange greatly altering Earth’s climate through plant-powered drawdown of CO2 for photosynthesis , substantially changing the timing of the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere.” Via Science Alert Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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Tesla aims to ramp up Solar Roof production in Buffalo next year

November 3, 2017 by  
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Tesla’s Solar Roof could be seen on more homes as the company plans to increase production in 2018. They said in a letter to shareholders they’ll be moving production from their Fremont, California factory to the Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo , New York. According to Inverse , Elon Musk provided for the first time a concrete timeframe for ramping up production, during a recent conference call, to allow for more customer installations. Tesla plans to start manufacturing more Solar Roofs soon. In a Wednesday conference call, chief technology officer JB Straubel said they are “on track to turn on most of the production line in Buffalo by the end of the year.” In the shareholder letter, Musk and chief financial officer Deepak Ahuja said as they move production to Buffalo, energy generation with the Solar Roofs will become a larger part of Tesla’s business in 2018. Related: A Tesla solar roof rotates to naturally cool this desert home in Iran Tesla has deployed less solar capacity in the third quarter than one year ago: 109 megawatts (MW) as opposed to 187 MW. In the letter, Musk and Ahuja said, “The lower developments are in large part a result of deliberately deemphasizing commercial and industrial solar energy projects with low profit and limited cash generation.” As they make the move from Fremont to Buffalo, they said in the letter Solar Roof installations will increase slowly at first, but “as we fine tune and standardize the production and installation process, we expect to ramp Solar Roof production considerably in 2018.” Musk and Ahuja affirmed Musk’s vision for pursuing renewable energy – over ten years ago, Musk said in his first master plan Tesla aimed to provide “ zero emission electric power generation options.” In this recent letter the two executives said sustainable energy – and storing it – are crucial components of the company’s mission “and will drive long-term revenue growth and profits.” Via The Buffalo News and Inverse Images via Tesla

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NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants

November 3, 2017 by  
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In its quest to sustainably serve the needs of urban farmers , NexLoop  found inspiration for its water management system in the natural world. Seeking to create a system that is self-sufficient and adaptable to local needs, the NexLoop team observed the ability of cribellate orb weaver spiders to craft webs that capture water from fog in the air. The team then incorporated this design into their system, called the AquaWeb, to passively capture water from the atmosphere. The biomimetically-designed AquaWeb incorporates ideas from fungi, bees, and plants to create a naturally-inspired solution to the complex human problem of growing food. For its work, NexLoop was awarded the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and the Biomimicry Institute. After determining how water capture would work, the team looked at drought-tolerant plants such as the crystalline ice plant to learn how it effectively stores water to survive in dry areas and applied these lessons to the AquaWeb’s storage system. As for distribution of this water, the team studied fungi , which are essential organisms in places like forests where mycorrhizal fungal networks transport water and nutrients to trees that need them. As for a solid structure, the team incorporated the hexagonal shape of honey bee nests. Related: 6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry The AquaWeb seeks to meet the needs of a global community that is increasingly urban . The global population is expected rise to at least 9 billion by 2050, 70 percent of which will live in cities. This historic shift towards urban living will require adoption of food systems that are locally based, resilient, and efficient in its use of resources. AquaWeb’s passive capture and storage of rainwater is a key feature for stability in a world increasingly plagued by extreme weather. As part of the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize, the NexLoop team received $100,000 to promote and refine its design. The second place prize was awarded to Team Windchill, which designed an electricity-free refrigerator based on animal temperature regulation, while the third place prize went to Team Evolution’s Solutions, which invented a food waste nutrient recycling and supply system aimed to help hydroponic farmers . + Biomimicry Institute Images via NexLoop and Depositphotos

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Failed Palm Springs golf course is being repurposed into a sustainable community filled with olive groves

October 20, 2017 by  
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A failed Palm Springs golf course is being reborn as an “eco-modern agrihood” located on 300 beautiful acres of desert landscape. The Miralon residential community will include 1,150 solar-powered homes , along with almost 100 acres of open recreational space, including working olive groves, community gardens, and walking trails. The ambitious project is located on a former golf course, which was built, but never operational due to falling into foreclosure in 2008. Freehold Communities bought the property and will be collaborating with Robert Hidey Architect s along with C2 Collaborative Landscape Architecture to create a sustainable residential community focused on providing a healthy lifestyle for the homeowners. The large complex will include multiple pools, a fitness and recreation center, and various amenities. Related: Wind and solar-powered Thunder Valley Regenerative Community rises in South Dakota Miralon will consist of more than 1,000 eco-friendly homes, all equipped with solar panels. However, at the heart of the project is the massive amounts of outdoor space included in the master plan. The residential area will be surrounded by almost 100 acres of green space , which will be landscaped to create recreational space for the residents. Former golf cart paths will be repurposed as 6.5 miles of hiking trails. The tee boxes and greens will be converted into community gardens as well as dog parks, exercise stations and community social areas with firepits and WiFi. What’s even more impressive is that the homes will back up to more than 70 acres of working olive groves , which will be installed with a drip-irrigation system and cultivated by Temecula Olive Oil Company . The olives will be pressed on-site and be made available to the residents, along with produce from the community gardens. “Evolving the existing golf course into habitat-sensitive, agricultural open space is a response to the precious resources of the Coachella Valley including its need for water,” explained Freehold California Division President Brad Shuckhart, “At the same time, Miralon responds to peoples’ desire for authentic experiences – whether through community gardening or immersion in a rich range of social spaces.” + Miralon + Freehold Communities

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Solar record-breaking China aims for 50GW installed in 2017

October 20, 2017 by  
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China , a consistent leader in solar power production and installation, is having another banner year with 25 gigawatts of solar energy being installed in June and July alone. It is estimated that China is capable of installing over 50GW of solar energy by the end of 2017. As of October 1, approximately 42GW of solar energy had been installed, though the pace of installations is expected to slow in October. Although China’s solar boom yields economic benefits, an self-interest understanding of the need to protect the environment also drives the movement. “Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping at the National Congress of China’s Communist Party. “This is a reality we have to face.” Much of the recent growth has been concentrated in the non-utility distributed solar sector, in part because China is pushing a new program called Top Runner, which aims to install more efficient solar panels in smaller projects. By any measure, China is absolutely dominating the global solar race. In 2016, the nation of nearly 1.4 billion people installed 34GW of solar power, the most ever by any country in a single year. In contrast, the United States , in the second place position for added capacity in 2016, added only 14.6GW of solar power. Related: China announces plan to ban sales of fossil fuel cars and shift focus to EVs Although China’s solar energy domination has proven to be valuable in the export market, with many of the components for solar systems around the world being produced locally, the domestic impact of its deliberate, consistent investment in solar energy is undeniable. In transforming its energy economy, out of necessity and strategy, China may provide important global climate leadership in a time when the United States has ceded its authority in this realm. “Taking a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change, China has become an important participant, contributor, and torchbearer in the global endeavor for ecological civilization,” said President Xi Jinping. “[China must] develop a new model of modernization with humans developing in harmony with nature.” Via Electrek Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia

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Tesla earns contract for world’s first solar, wind and storage project

October 20, 2017 by  
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Tesla has won its first contract with Vestas, the world’s largest wind turbine maker, to supply its Powerpack batteries for a project that combines solar power , wind power, and Tesla’s storage technology — the first of its kind in the world. The $160 million project is being managed by Windlab at the Kennedy Energy Park hybrid renewable energy site in North Queensland, Australia. Windlab recently announced that it has been granted funding by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and it has chosen Tesla, Vestas, and Quanta as its partners. The Tesla/Vestas project at Kennedy Energy Park will consist of 12 Vestas wind turbines , each with a height of 132 meters (433 feet), the tallest in Australia. Tesla’s battery storage technology is particularly helpful in places like Queensland, which boasts strong winds but only during certain times of the day. Tesla’s Powerpacks will allow the wind energy captured during the afternoon to be used throughout the day and night as needed. The project is expected to be completed in about a year and will be fully operational by the end of next year. When completed, the project is estimated to create 100 local jobs and will provide power for 35,000 Australian households. Related: Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico “We believe Kennedy Energy Park will demonstrate how effectively wind, solar and storage can be combined to provide low cost, reliable and clean energy for Australia’s future,” said Roger Price, Executive Chairman and CEO of Windlab. “The broader adoption of projects like Kennedy can…ensure that Australia can more than meet its Paris Commitments while putting downward pressure on energy prices.” This most recent Powerpack news follows efforts by Tesla to bring its battery storage and micro-grid technology to the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in Australia, in what is expected to be the world’s largest battery installation. Via Electrek Images via Tesla and Depositphotos

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5 Strategies to Choose the Right Solar Panel Installer

September 21, 2017 by  
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As solar energy explodes in popularity, there are more solar … The post 5 Strategies to Choose the Right Solar Panel Installer appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Florida residents prohibited from using solar energy after Hurricane Irma

September 20, 2017 by  
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Millions of Florida residents lost power after Hurricane Irma raged through the state. But homeowners with solar energy installations couldn’t use them during the outage – or they’d be breaking the law. State code requires people to connect their homes to the local electric grid – and when parts of it were damaged after the hurricane , even those homeowners with backup solar power were legally obliged to sit in the dark. Florida Power and Light (FPL), which is one of the state’s major suppliers of electricity, has lobbied against letting people power their own houses with solar panels, according to Miami New Times. On their website , FPL says, “Operating your renewable system without the bi-directional meter can result in an inaccurate meter reading causing your bill to increase.” Related: Garbage from Hurricane Irma will now help power Florida Up to 40 percent of Floridians lost power after the hurricane. Residents were angered because under FPL’s rules, if its system goes down, solar power systems must be shut down as well. According to Miami New Times, state rules say customers must install a switch so their solar systems can be disconnected from FPL’s systems. But residents can’t flip the switch to power panels during a disaster. FPL can even disconnect solar panels from the grid without warning homeowners. Under FPL’s net metering guidelines, “Renewable generator systems connected to the grid without batteries are not a standby power source during an FPL outage. The system must shut down when FPL’s grid shuts down in order to prevent dangerous back feed on FPL’s grid. This is required to protect FPL employees who may be working on the grid.” Miami New Times says people have criticized FPL for spending money on lobbying rather than on hurricane-proofing grids. The Energy and Policy Institute found a FPL lobbyist drafting anti-solar laws for Republican state representative Ray Rodrigues this April. FPL contributed $15,000 to Rodrigues’ campaign. According to the Miami New Times, the Sunshine State trails behind other states in solar adoption due to power company influence. Via International Business Times and Miami New Times Images via The National Guard on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Florida residents prohibited from using solar energy after Hurricane Irma

New Tesla Powerpack system to offer energy savings of 40-50%

August 28, 2017 by  
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Tesla has pioneered massive battery storage projects this year, such as a 396 Powerpack facility in Southern California. But a recent project in Queensland, Australia reveals installations don’t always need to be huge to make an impact. A system with a single Powerpack and commercial inverter was installed at The Cathedral College in Rockhampton to store solar energy that can help power the boarding school at night. GEM Energy Australia installed a 100 kilowatt solar system on rooftops at The Cathedral College, and some of that energy is stored in the Tesla Powerpack 1.5 during the day. At night, it can power the whole boys boarding house for five hours. The school expects the system will offer them an energy savings of 40 to 50 percent over 12 months, and GEM Energy estimates the school will see a payback in six to seven years. The company said the system cost $285,000 and will offset 40 metric tons of carbon every year. According to Electrek, the system covers 61 percent of the school’s energy , and came online earlier this year. Related: Tesla unveils massive solar battery plant to power the island of Kauai Tesla’s Powerpacks are targeted for commercial enterprises; usually smaller projects can use their Powerwall . But this installation of the one-Powerpack system at the Australian school – the first to have such a system installed – reveals the flexibility of energy storage products from Tesla, according to Electrek. The school system also uses a Tesla inverter; when the company put out their latest Powerpack generation, they also released a commercial inverter they developed drawing on their experience with car inverters. The school already seems pleased with the results; Cathedral College ICT Manager Aaron Nunn said in a Tesla video, “I think it definitely does impress upon our students we’re showing good stewardship and respecting the environment and its resources.” Via Electrek and GEM Energy Australia Images via GEM Energy Australia

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