Monthly Archives: March 2016

Split on future of energy in Nevada

Just a matter of weeks after the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada made its final ruling on the net energy metering rules for residential rooftop solar, Green Chips hosted a one-on-one discussion between Brandon Hurlbut, former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Energy, and Lyndon Rive, CEO of Solar City.

Not surprisingly, their view of energy’s future is at odds with PUCN’s decision.

During the discussion, Rive described the basics of residential rooftop solar and his ideas on ways utility companies need to change their business models.

“Utilities don’t make money selling energy,” Rive said. “They make money deploying infrastructure (building more power plants and distribution lines), and the way that they recoup the cost of building that infrastructure is through energy sales.

“Don’t get me wrong — we still need a centralized infrastructure, and the utility is still a very important part of the ingredient. But with the implementation of residential solar, you can now start incorporating more equipment into the solution which can make the grid more stable and provide the same services at a lower cost. You need this scale.”

Rive pointed out that “States like California and New York are asking, what is the right long-term policy? How do you create a system that is fair to everyone?”

A recent Public Utilities Commission decision in California has kept the state on a positive glide path to building a distributive grid where everyone can benefit. The first thing they did was institute a time-of-use charge, meaning the energy that you put into the grid is priced at the value of energy at that time.

New York, on the other hand, is using a different approach by trying to reinvent the way a utility makes its money. They are instigating a revenue reform and instead of motivating a utility to build more infrastructure, they are creating an open field, where the residents and businesses put in the infrastructure. The government then tasks the utilities to use that infrastructure, make money from it, and provide quality, consistent service to the end users.

In response to these two approaches, the critics ask, if everyone goes solar, who pays for the grid?

According to Rive, “that question is over exaggerated because, in reality, you are going to have phases in which solar is deployed.”

In the first phase, solar is straight forward net metering, which is what Nevada had until December of 2015.

The second phase is how solar can provide more services to the grid. Instead of just producing energy, solar will also provide voltage control and reactive power. This technology is here today, and these are services that can be utilized by the grid administrator at the utility company.

The third phase is storage, which allows for demand load shifting.

“The cost of storage has dropped by half over the last three to four years and projections are that the costs will drop by half again in the next three to four years,” Rive said.

(For a look into energy storage, see the March 2 Las Vegas Business Press story on Juice Box. )

During the discussion, Hurlbut asked, “If Alexander Graham Bell came back today and saw how telecommunications has changed with iPhones and such he would be amazed. But if Thomas Edison came back today and saw the electric grid, would he be amazed?”

“If Edison came back today, he would be right at home because nothing has changed,” Rive replied. “Most energy is still generated in a centralized location and then transported hundreds of miles to get to a person’s house.”

However, according to Rive, technology has advanced to the point that solar can make a positive impact on the grid.

“The idea that we can deploy a solar system with a smart inverter that can provide reactive power and voltage control 24/7 used to be years away. With current advances, that technology will be available at the end of this year and will be a default part of all new solar systems installed. We used to be able to store energy one way, and now we can go two ways,” Rive said.

“So a home can be solar paneled with a battery, have smart appliances and a programmable thermostat that would all work together, and the consumer would pay for everything,” Hurlbut asked.

“Exactly,” Rive said. “And the long-term manager of that interfacing technology will be the utility.”

The utility will remotely control how much energy is sent to the grid from each rooftop solar system. Instead of having one big power plant with a dispatch load that they manage, they could have hundreds of thousands of little power plants with instantaneous reaction to areas where peak loads are needed.

“So that is what I see as the future is a smart community, but the utility will be very much involved,” Rive said.

However, NV Energy is resisting change. “Warren Buffett suggested that non-solar customers have to pay more than solar customers in Nevada, in order to pay for the grid,” Rive said. “Solar is not a hardship; it is a net benefit.”

A study by Energy + Environmental Economics (E3), was presented to the PUCN in 2015, and shows solar as a $144 net benefit to all ratepayers. In contrast, a cost study completed by NV Energy said that Nevada net energy metering customers are being subsidized in the amount of $1,544.11 per month.

Rive argues that when solar is deployed, that infrastructure is adding value to the grid. But, because of the way utility companies make their money, by adding utility scale infrastructure, they can never admit that small distributive energy projects such as residential rooftop solar adds value.

The utilities claim they can purchase utility scale solar for 4.8 cents per kilowatt hour, which is true for new systems, but that figure does not take into consideration the cost of transmission and line loss meaning the amount of energy lost per mile to transport that power hundreds of miles to the end users.

“If you look at all of the utility-scale systems in service with over 300,000-megawatt hours that have been contracted across the U.S., the average rate is 13 cents per kilowatt hour. Then you add distribution costs and line loss on top of that; you are at roughly 15 to 16 cents per kilowatt hour. If you add all of the net metering customers together, you get about 150,000-megawatt hours with a net meter rate of about 11 cents without the distribution costs and line loss,” Rive said.

In the end, according to Rive, “State policies need change and move from just consuming energy to consuming cleaner energy. We have seen this in regulatory policy standards which starts forcing the transformation from burning coal and natural gas to renewable energy sources.

“But I think we are making a big mistake by putting our environmental future into the hands of a few companies. The biggest driver of innovation in any industry is competition. When you don’t have competition, the product will not evolve. So in order to have the grid evolve, you have to open it up and let the industry compete for it. Then amazing products will be created which would be a benefit to everyone. This is why distributed energy is so important.”


Rogers Foundation backing Core Academy

Quality education — or the lack thereof — in Clark County is a quandary for both local business owners and parents.

It’s the focus of the Be Engaged program launched by the Metro Chamber of Commerce and was one of the subjects that drew attention at the recent Green Chips Convene for Green 2016 sustainability conference.

But strides are being made, and new programs are making a difference, thanks to innovative teaching methods and the philanthropic efforts of The Rogers Foundation.

Without a good education system, employers find it difficult to find enough locally grown talent to fill the available jobs and even more difficult to entice quality employees to move to Nevada with their school age families.

Since 2012, according to rankings by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Nevada has ranked 50th in the nation for providing a quality education.

Part of the problem is the fact that Nevada spends less per pupil than all but four states — $8,222 per student compared to an $11,700 national average. Part of that reason is that Nevada does not have a state income tax and must rely on other limited tax measures for school funding. During the recession, when gaming and mining revenues were down, and real estate prices hit bottom, education suffered along with everything else in Nevada.

Funding aside, poverty and a language barrier seem to be two of the dominant factors that continue to plague academic achievement.

Sixty percent of Clark County School District students are living in poverty and eligible for free or reduced-fee lunch. Only one-third of Nevada families have at least one parent with a college degree, lower than any other state. One-quarter of Nevada children have parents who don’t speak fluent English, leading to 20 percent of the CCSD population categorized as English Language learners.

However, there is a silver lining for the Silver State called Core Academy, and right now it is having a positive effect on the lives of 175 students.

Core Academy is the evolution of all of the best elements of the national “I Have a Dream” Foundation, which opened its Las Vegas chapter in 1996 and had an impressive 99 percent graduation rate for its small group of 100-plus students over the last 20 years.

Lindsay Harper, who identifies herself as the chief inspiration officer, saw first-hand which elements of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation worked best to enable students to reach their full potential. In 2012, she helped to develop and introduce an improved “Character Education” model, where the emphasis is placed on creating individual successes for students.

In 2014, philanthropist Stanley Tomchin provided capital funding to help the foundation further innovate and scale the “Character Education” model to reach more students.

And in 2015, Beverly Rogers recognized the impact and potential of the new program and the name was changed to Core Academy, Powered by The Rogers Foundation.

Unlike most set curriculum programs, Core Academy is an in-school and out-of-school model that focuses on the development and empowerment of the students. The program is individualized to fit the different needs of each student and mentors work alongside the students on a year-round basis, following them from sixth grade to their junior year in college.

This year, Core Academy adopted the entire 6th and 9th-grade classes — 175 students — at the West Prep Academy. The school is operated by the Clark County School District and is located near West Lake Mead and Martin Luther King boulevards.

“We love our students and have become pseudo parents to them, and it is exciting to see where they will go in life,” said Harper, during a panel discussion at the Green Chips events March 3.

It is the belief of all those involved in the Core Academy that if a student is given the resources, support, and hope for their future, that they can focus on school and make really, good decisions in life. But that belief costs money and Core Academy, backed by The Rogers Foundation, spends $2,500 per student for their year-round services. “We don’t want students to think — I’m not good at math —we want students to think ‘I’m not good at math yet,’ and we develop life-long learners,” said Harper.

To answer the language learning problem, the Core Academy has adopted a dual language program and uses the Norton Dillingham Academic Platform to catch students up. Research shows that if students cannot reach their English proficiency level by seventh grade without high-level intervention, there is a high likelihood that they will not be able to pass the proficiency testing to graduate from high school.

The Academy also has a cultural enrichment program to develop social skills and teach students that when they go out into the world, they have to be good citizens on top of everything else. “Students that don’t have the ability to see beyond the five-mile radius that they are born into really won’t be successful in life,” said Harper.

While Harper and the Core Academy are beginning to make a difference, there is still a great deal of work to be done in order to change the direction of a ship as large as the Clark County School District.

“I am a firm believer that if everyone in this room partnered together and stopped silo building that we could solve this problem,” Harper told the Convene for Green attendees.

To that end, Core Academy is building alliances with public and private sector organizations to scale their program and reach even more students in the following years. Not only will Core Academy take on a new class of sixth graders next year and follow them through to college, but they also need to plan for the day when the current group of 9th graders graduate high school and begin their college career.


JuiceBox Energy deal may be solar-saver

If innovation truly is the mother of invention, a deal between a Silicon Valley energy storage firm and a Las Vegas solar installer may be just what Nevada’s solar industry needs.

In January, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) redefined the residential rooftop solar industry with its revision of net energy metering regulations. The decision has resulted in the loss of perhaps thousands of solar industry installation jobs, launched several lawsuits and spawned a bid for a ballot measure.

So when opportunity knocked, JuiceBox Energy, a Silicon Valley-based company with offices in Las Vegas, opened the door to what utility companies such as NV Energy might consider a Pandora’s Box.

Teaming with Las Vegas-based Bombard Renewable Energy, one of the leading installers of residential solar in Las Vegas, JuiceBox is providing a battery system that is capable of both peak shifting and power backup.

Because of the PUCN decision to reduce the amount of compensation that rooftop solar customers will receive from selling excess solar energy to the grid, rooftop solar investors may not see a return on that investment within their lifetime.

However, with the introduction of the JuiceBox Energy storage system, the energy generated by rooftop solar systems can effectively offset the peak energy charges imposed by NV Energy, changing the math of rooftop solar systems.

The JuiceBox system works by capturing and storing the energy generated by a rooftop solar system and then dispensing that stored energy during “peak energy” rate hours as defined by NV Energy.

“While no system is designed to take a household entirely off the grid,” said Greg Maguire, vice president of operations for JuiceBox, “we can significantly reduce the amount of money paid to energy utilities by reducing the amount of energy consumed during peak energy rate hours.”

With the JuiceBox system, the house draws power from the solar system first, the JuiceBox batteries second, and the utility grid third. In this way, nearly 100 percent of the power generated by the rooftop solar system is used by the homeowner. In a rooftop system without battery storage, much of the energy is generated during the daytime hours when residents are at work or school and unable to use the power. The excess power is then sent to the power grid where the utility purchases it at a significantly discounted rate.

JuiceBox allows the homeowner to use the power generated by the rooftop solar system to operate normal appliances and air conditioning system, and send the excess energy to a battery storage system, during the hours when NV Energy charges the most for its power. In the evening, when the batteries are drained, the household uses power from the grid when the rates are the least expensive.

Bombard Renewable Energy completed its first installation of the JuiceBox Energy storage solution in January at a Las Vegas home. The installation includes dual 8.6kWh JuiceBox Energy storage systems (17.2kWh total capacity) and an 11kW solar array. It is predicted that the annual energy savings provided by this system will be around $16,000 per year. For every 6kW of solar system installed on the roof, there is one inverter and the capability to install up to two 8.6 kW JuiceBox storage systems. JuiceBox batteries are composed of lithium-ion nickel manganese cobalt and deliver a minimum of 4,000 charging and discharging cycles over 10 years of operation and average about $10,500 installed after federal rebates.

“Residential solar is here to stay in Nevada,” said Bo Balzar, operations manager of Bombard Renewable Energy. “Bombard is excited to be the first solar installer in the state to join JuiceBox Energy on its intelligent, grid-connected energy storage system. This type of net energy metered solar PV power system will allow ratepayers to contribute to the sustainable energy future of Nevada by increasing their use of renewable energy, and lowering their costs, for many years to come.”

JuiceBox started the research and development on the product in 2013 and installed its first system in 2015. To date, the company has installed the systems in seven states, predominantly where energy rates are high, the need for backup power exists, where there is a focus on green energy, and where time of use rates are applied. Nevada fits each of those categories.

The next project on the books for JuiceBox is an energy management system that controls the thermostats and water heaters the way the customer wants the system to work, with the slogan “We put the customer in charge.”

According to Maguire, “By investing in a JuiceBox Energy System, you are increasing your self-consumption, reducing reliance on the grid, creating a backup power, and powering a greener future.”

 

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/technology/juicebox-energy-deal-may-be-solar-saver#sthash.L51Uv2Kn.dpuf


Bid to solve world hunger could mean jobs for Las Vegas

Alfred D. Hollingsworth — or “Coach” as he is referred to by most — is a successful entrepreneur and man of vision.

Soon, his company could be the latest catch of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development which is trying to convince Hollingsworth to locate a plant – and up to 500 jobs – in Las Vegas.

Hollingsworth’s latest vision involves working toward ending world hunger by deploying the Aldelano Solar ColdBox, a solar-powered refrigerated shipping container.

During a presentation at the Switch Innevation Center in Las Vegas, Hollingsworth spoke about his belief that there is a misleading assumption of a food shortage. Quoting experts who estimate that a third of the world’s food supply actually goes to waste and that 40 percent of that food loss occurs post-harvest, Hollingsworth believes the actual problem to be the limited access to storage and cooling facilities.

With a full-size working prototype sitting in the parking lot, Hollingsworth and his team are on a worldwide tour to demonstrate how his product, which relies solely on the sun and a series of batteries to store the energy, can change the way small, underdeveloped communities can preserve their food from harvest to market.

In addition, the excess energy generated by the solar panels can also be used as a power source for his portable modules that condense water molecules in the air to produce up to 50 gallons of water and 120 pounds of ice per day. During the presentation sponsored by the Urban Chamber of Commerce, Hollingsworth acknowledged competitors have units that can produce as much as 1,200 gallons per day, but they require a diesel generator that uses about three gallons of fuel per hour.

According to Nicole Smith, chief operations officer of Aldelano, the company is working on modifications to its product that will significantly increase the water production capacity while continuing to rely on solar and battery power. Smith referred to this advancement as “breaking physics.”

Aldelano Corp. has its headquarters in a 100,000-square-foot office, warehouse, and manufacturing plant in Ontario, Calif. The company’s main business, which began in 1968, is product packaging and its clients include a number of Fortune 500 companies.

The Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, along with the Urban Chamber of Commerce and the Cities of Las Vegas, Henderson, and North Las Vegas, have been courting Hollingsworth to build his new ColdBox manufacturing facility here in Southern Nevada. If successful, it could mean a minimum of 500 full-time jobs for Nevadans.

The actual unit is 40 feet long, transports as a standard shipping container, and is ready to set up with easy assembled solar panels. Current production is one unit per week with 40 employees. Once a new manufacturing facility is established, production will increase to meet the expected demand.

One advantage that puts Southern Nevada in the running is the knowledge base present at the Desert Research Institute (DRI). DRI, a part of the Nevada University System, has a staff of more than 500 scientists and engineers working on projects that involve water and air quality, crop technology, and a host of environmental issues in more than 300 locations around the world. A meeting has been set for the Hollingsworth and his Aldelano team to discuss cooperative opportunities with DRI executives.

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/small-business/bid-solve-world-hunger-could-mean-jobs-las-vegas#sthash.RyrCANzB.dpuf


Entrepreneur opens production studio

The price of being a media producer is coming down.

Ian Harrington, president of ShowCreators, said he set a goal for providing a high-quality studio production space for locals who want to produce their own radio or television programs.

Harrington and his staff have spent the past four years producing professional audio and video products such as commercials and corporate videos for various clients in Las Vegas and around the country. However, as the lines between mainstream media and online media have blurred and fused together, Harrington saw an opportunity to expand.

Opening studio time to the public, Harrington said, “allows anyone to express their opinions, talents or views, and have it captured using high-quality audio and visual equipment for distribution over the Internet or to one of the over-the-air broadcast radio and television stations.”

Content Creation Studios is located at 4465 W. Sunset Road. The studios are state-of-the-art with high-definition-quality audio and video equipment and production engineers that allow those with very little experience to create the highest quality product possible.

Of course, Harrington is only talking about the production; the talent side is whatever the client brings to the table.

One of the talents looking at the new studio is Penn Jillette, who is considering moving the production of his weekly podcast “Penn Jillette’s Sunday School,” to the Content Creation studios. Jillette has a weekly following of several thousand listeners and some paying sponsors.

The facility has the ability to live-stream each production over the Internet or record and edit for a delayed broadcast.

“We want to create a community here and create a studio where people feel they are connected,” said Harrington.

A monthly membership in which a person can create one 30-minute radio show per week for four weeks will run $350. The company is still defining the price of a video show, but it will still be affordable, Harrington said.

 

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/small-business/entrepreneur-opens-production-studio#sthash.CbhQvMIZ.dpuf