Tag Archives: Solar Energy

Municipality headed toward net-zero energy

The city of Las Vegas is looking a bit more green these days. Over the past 26 years, it has reduced its energy costs by $5 million annually and increased the recycling rate to 60 percent. The city recently signed contracts for hydropower and solar energy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent while increasing the amount of green energy use to 100 percent. It is on track to become one of only four net-zero energy cities in the U.S.

The city started its green transition in 2008 with the receipt of money from the National Recovery Act. However, the project was set into motion three years earlier when former Mayor Oscar Goodman signed a Climate Protection Agreement drafted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to urge the federal and state governments to take action against climate change.

One of the first projects involved changing streetlights from energy-hogging mercury vapor and high-pressure sodium lights to energy-efficient light-emitting diode bulbs; approximately 80 percent of the fixtures have been converted.

Significant in the commitment to becoming green was the construction of the new $146 million City Hall building, which opened Feb. 21, 2012. Designed with advanced energy and water-saving factors including Low-E windows, high R-value insulation, innovative heating and air conditioning and solar panels that provide 10 percent of the total energy, the building was certified by the U.S. Green Building Council with a silver rating under the Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design standard.

Another showcase is the original Las Vegas Post Office, which was acquired by the city and converted to the Mob Museum. During its restoration, the building was gutted and updated with the latest insulation, lighting, thermal windows and air-conditioning technology resulting in a LEED silver certification for a building retrofit.

The city owns or leases thousands of square feet of building space in about 120 buildings throughout the city limits. Included are fire stations, park buildings, and various warehouse and administrative buildings. Many of the new fire stations have been LEED-certified and facilities throughout the city have been equipped with solar panels to offset some of their energy use with sustainable solar power.

All of the solar energy systems on city-owned properties combined provide approximately 12 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy per year.

In addition to generating clean energy, the city has been busy retrofitting all of its buildings with new energy- and water-saving technology. Most of the office building lighting has been converted from fluorescent and incandescent fixtures to LED. And low-flow water devices and toilets have been installed in all restrooms.

One of the largest retrofit projects involved the replacement of all windows and a new heating and cooling system on the nine-story Development Services Building at the corner of Rancho Drive and U.S. Highway 95. Originally built with 1980 technology, the city also installed modern water-efficient fixtures, LED lighting and occupancy sensors that turn off lighting when the room is not in use.

In 2010, the city used over 150 million kilowatt-hours per year, with the current conversions in place. That number has dropped to below 120 million. And despite a 57 percent population increase over the last 26 years, Las Vegas has reduced greenhouse gas levels by over one-third, bringing it down to 1990 levels.

Even with all of the accomplishments, the mayor, Las Vegas City Council members and city staff have not stopped working toward becoming more sustainable.

Starting in October 2017, Las Vegas will receive two megawatts of hydroelectric power generated by Hoover Dam. This energy is not only clean and sustainable but inexpensive. The allocation is the result of a recent federal act that reallocated the dam’s power distribution. The city of Las Vegas was one of the many applicants that were accepted from a number of governmental entities and Native American tribes.

City officials have also signed an agreement with NV Energy to purchase all of its power from the Boulder City II Solar Energy Project upon its completion in January. With this agreement, the city of Las Vegas will become a 100 percent net-zero-energy city. What makes this accomplishment,even more groundbreaking is that the other cities in this elite category have populations under 50,000 and use far less energy than the city of Las Vegas with a population of more than 600,000.

The added solar and hydropower energy also will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent.

On Dec. 6, 2015, the city of Las Vegas received certification as a Four-Star Community, earning 77.8 points out of 100 in the category of Climate and Energy. The city ranked high in the subcategories of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation, Greening the Energy Supply, Resource Efficient Buildings and Waste Minimization.

The city of Las Vegas is also focusing on becoming the net-zero capital of waste. Leaders are looking at ways to compost all of the organic waste, which includes grass and tree clippings that accumulate from parks and green areas throughout the city.


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.”


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


PUCN finalizes the Net Metering Controversy

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Protesters gather outside of the PUCN building in Las Vegas.

By Craig A. Ruark

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada ended the ten-month controversy on the Net Energy Metering (NEM), with a final decision last Friday, February 12th. Most feel that the decision also killed the rooftop solar industry—at least for the time being.

With Friday’s decision, the new rate structure that went into effect January 1, 2016, will remain with one change. Instead of yearly incremental changes, the rates will change every three years until the year 2028. According to the PUCN, this every three-year cycle will be consistent with the general rate case cycles of both Nevada Power and Sierra Power, both of which are subsidiaries of NV Energy.

Beginning January 1, 2016, NEM customers of Nevada Power saw their monthly service charge climb from $12.75 to $17.99, where it will remain until the next increase on December 31, 2018. By the year 2028, that charge will reach a rate of $38.51.

While the service charge went up, the amount that NV Energy will pay for excess energy generated by NEM customers went down from 11.6 cents per kilowatt hour about 9 cents from January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2018. That amount will decline to 2.6 cents by Jan. 1, 2028.

The reason for the change in NEM rates is the $315 million cost subsidy that non-net metering customers have been paying to support the rooftop solar customers. That equates to $1,544.11 per month for each NEM customer. NV Energy claims that there are two causes for the increase in NEM costs, fully dedicated employees and the Renewable Energy Department.

NV Energy has three customer service representatives in the south, and 1.5 representatives in the north, to plus one supervisor allocated to handle phone calls and manually review NEM ratepayers’ bills. As for the Renewable Energy Department, 94 percent of the internal labor costs are allocated to the NEM ratepayer.

In addition, NV Energy stated that the company receives less revenue from NEM customers while the fixed and demand costs incurred by the utility to serve the NEM customers largely remain the same.

However, many opponents of the change say that the subsidy numbers are inaccurate when you take into consideration the saving afforded to NV Energy by having over 17,000 rooftop solar customers connected to the grid.

Distributive generation, as it is called, is far more efficient than building more centralize power plants. And when calculating the contribution made by residential and commercial rooftop solar the PUCN needs to take a number of things into consideration.

  • Rooftop Solar reduces the need for expensive new power plants and transmission lines;
  • less energy is lost in transmission because much of the power generated by rooftop solar is used within the neighborhood where it’s generated;
  • Rooftop solar requires no fuel, and so it provides a hedge against future fossil fuel price increases;
  • NV Energy does not have to pay environmental fees associated with the burning of fossil fuel
  • The energy produced by rooftop solar does not require water
  • Rooftop solar allows NV Energy to close in on state renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission goals without paying for utility-scale solar and wind farms.

A study by Energy + Environmental Economics (E3), was present to the PUCN, which demonstrated that NEM policies do not result in NEM ratepayer free-riding and unreasonable cost-shifting. It further points out that NEM ratepayers create an estimated total net present value to the non-NEM ratepayer of $36 million per system during their lifetime. With an average lifetime of 25 years, that equates to a benefit of $1.4 million per year for each NEM customer. E3, founded in 1989, advises utilities, regulators, government agencies, power producers, energy technology companies, and investors on a wide range of critical issues in the electricity and natural gas industries.

However, the staff of the PUCN rejected the E3 study on the basis that it included “alternative analysis of key drivers,” some of which are listed above.

Regardless of whether the PUCN is right or wrong, their decision has sent the rooftop solar industry into a tailspin. Solar installation sales have decreased dramatically since the December 22 decision on the new rate structure that took effect on January 1st of this year. Massive layoffs have been made, and some of the smaller companies are shutting down operations completely.

Meanwhile, across the country and around the world, energy experts are convinced that distributive generation is the way of the future. One such company who agrees is Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the United States. Duke is actively changing their business model to include distributive generation and has recently purchased a majority interest in REC Solar, a rooftop installation company.

Here in Nevada, the battle is not over. On January 25th, several solar companies held a press conference to announce the kickoff of a drive to gather 55,234 signatures from registered Nevada voters. If successful, a ballot initiative that would require NV Energy to revert to the 2015 Net Energy Metering payment and grid connection fees and eliminate a cap on the number of net metering systems that can be brought online.

Backing the signature gathering campaign is former Nevada Governor Robert List who told the media; “As things now stand, the residential solar industry has just basically been destroyed, and with it the opportunity for Nevadans to sign up and participate and help save our environment, and save money, and do the right thing.”

In addition, John Bamforth and Stanley Schone, represented by the law firm of Jolley, Urga, Woodbury & Little, have filed a class action lawsuit against NV Energy and are demanding a jury trial.

Talk among small solar installation companies after the PUCN decision on Friday indicates that there are more lawsuits coming.

“Three years is the best we are going to get for now,” said Louise Helton, Vice President of 1 Sun Solar, a locally owned solar company that has been selling and installing solar systems in Las Vegas since 2009. “This will give us time to follow through with the lawsuits and approach the legislature about changes to the PUCN’s decision.”


Brooks powering new community solar project

Chris Brooks is a native Nevadan with a passion for preserving and protecting the state that he loves.

Today, he’s parlaying his deep experience in solar technology into developing one of the largest community solar projects in the country.

After graduating from Clark High School in 1990, Brooks immediately started working as an apprentice electrician at Brooks Electric, a company owned by his grandfather. His on-the-job training was extensive and fast-paced, thanks to a couple of major contracts that included electrical infrastructure upgrades and installation at Nellis AFB and Indian Springs Auxiliary Air Field, now known as Creech AFB.

In 2000, a shortage of electricity supply caused by market manipulations, illegal shutdowns by the Texas energy consortium Enron, and capped retail electricity prices caused multiple large-scale blackouts in neighboring California.

Brooks began looking at Nevada’s energy regulations and saw an opportunity to make an impact by building distributed energy generation projects through the use of solar. He formed Las Vegas Solar Electric in 2000 and completed his first renewable energy project in 2001.

In 2004, Brooks joined with Bombard Electric and served as the director of Bombard Renewable Energy until 2014.

“During that time we installed well over 1,000 industrial and residential solar projects throughout Southern Nevada. I stopped counting after reaching 100 megawatts,” said Brooks. “I am most proud of seeing what has become of the solar industry in Nevada, from the humble beginnings back in 2000 to today, and knowing that I played a role in making that happen.”

Brooks’ accomplishments include the design and installation of, what was at the time, the largest rooftop solar array in the valley at a vitamin manufacturing facility in Henderson. He also was involved in building the Nellis Solar Power Plant, the second largest ground-mounted solar system in North America when it was completed. The plant utilizes 70,000 solar panels, occupying 140 acres of land, and generates 14.2 MW of power.

Past accomplishments aside, Brooks doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

In 2014, he joined Valley Electric Association, Inc. as the executive vice president of energy services. VEA is a member-owned cooperative, nonprofit electric utility headquartered in Pahrump. VEA was founded in 1965 as a result of various mergers and acquisitions of small local community cooperatives that back to 1940.

Today, VEA has 18,000 members equaling more than 45,000 people spread over 6,800 square miles mainly in Nevada along the Nevada-California state border. VEA’s residential members are the co-op’s largest single consumer group, but the company’s customers have grown to include some high-profile federal government facilities in Nevada — the Nevada National Security Site and Creech Air Force Base.

Planning for increased load demand and accommodating member growth are among the challenges VEA faces as it looks to the future. VEA does not generate the electrical energy it supplies to members and buys most of its power on the open market. However, Brooks is helping to change that dynamic.

With Brooks on board, VEA is in the permitting and design stage for the development of one of the largest community solar project in the country, where 100 percent of the energy generated will be delivered to the contributing participants. The project will be built on 80 acres of property in Pahrump and generate over 15 MW of power. (On average, one megawatt of power is enough to power 165 homes.)

“One of the important aspects of this project is that 100 percent of the solar panels, inverters, and steel used in this project will be manufactured in the USA,” said Brooks. “In addition, all of the engineering design consultants and contractors used on the project will be Nevada residents.” The project is estimated to provide jobs for over 200 workers at its peak.

Along with providing long lasting renewable energy, Brooks is also taking precautions to protect the natural environment. The solar panels will be constructed in such a way as to preserve the natural plant life and Desert Tortoise habitat. In addition, the solar panels will be spaced in such a way that the system does not look like a lake from the air and distract migratory birds.

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/technology/brooks-powering-new-community-solar-project#sthash.oLdwaCNC.dpuf


Net metering limit could topple solar industry

 

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Two years ago, Steve and Debbie Luce decided that they had to do something about their increasing energy bill.

They took the usual first steps by replacing their incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent and LED bulbs and changing out the pool pump to a more efficient variable speed model. These changes shaved a few dollars off their monthly bill, but the big change came in September 2013 when they installed a photovoltaic solar system on their roof.

The savings were large and immediate. But the Luces may be among the last to enjoy the benefits of rooftop solar if the state Legislature doesn’t lift a limit on the number of customers who can sell excess power back to the grid.

Solar panels only generate electricity during daylight hours. However, the Luces, like the majority of people, are at work or school during those daylight hours and therefore the power generated is sold to the electrical grid in the form of credits on their power bill under a program called “Net Metering.”

Between September 2013 and June 2014, the Luces solar system generated more energy than they used. However, during the summer months, the solar system could not keep up with the homes energy demand because of the extended use of the air conditioning system, and the Net Metering credits that were built up during the winter were used to offset those monthly power bills.

At the end of the first year, the Luces discovered that their average power bill went from $250 per month down to $2.33 per month. The solar system they had chosen produced 98 percent of their annual power usage, and the payback on the $20,000 investment, at current power rates, would be less than seven years.

But there is a dark cloud building over Nevada that may block the sun from shining on future residential solar installations.

NV Energy has a 3 percent cap on the number of homes that can participate in the Net Metering program in Nevada. That cap is calculated using a formula that divides the cumulative installed capacity of all residential solar systems by NV Energy’s highest peak load for their total system. Projections by NV Energy are that the cap will be reached in the first quarter of 2016, after which no additional homes will be able to participate.

That is not good news for residents like the Luces who want to cut their energy bill. “Net metering is what made our decision viable; without it, the system simply does not pay off,” Steve Luce said.

NV Energy has more than 3,300 systems enrolled in its Net Metering program with a total of more than 60 megawatts of residential and commercial installed capacity, most of which came from distributed photovoltaics. Many states such as Arizona and Colorado have eliminated the Net Metering cap, and California is considering legislation to increase its cap.

Meanwhile, as the Nevada desert begins to heat up under the glow of the spring sun, so too is the battle between NV Energy and the solar community.

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Two advocacy groups, The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), funded by the largest rooftop solar installation companies in the nation, and Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK), founded by retired Congressman Barry Goldwater Jr., are working to increase solar energy installations across the country. Together they have been lobbying Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Legislature to increase the Nevada cap to 10 percent, a first step in their fight. At one point, the groups had the support of Sen. Patricia Farley, R-Las Vegas, who introduced Senate Bill 374, which included language that would have raised the current 3 percent cap to 10 percent. But she confirmed on April 15 that she had removed the cap language from her bill, sparking speculation that Sandoval had influenced the removal.

That speculation is not without cause. Sandoval was at one time the attorney for the advocacy group Utility Shareholders of Nevada, viewed by some as a proxy for the management of NV Energy. In that capacity, he joined a lawsuit challenging the Public Utilities Commission’s decision to block a $110 million rate hike proposed by NV Energy.

Trying to determine Sandoval’s position and involvement is The Energy &Policy Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, which submitted a public records request April 16 asking for correspondence regarding solar energy by Sandoval, NV Energy, the lobbying firm R&R Partners and Edison Electric Institute, the utility industry’s trade association.

“The concern is that Sandoval’s campaign adviser and utility industry lobbyist Pete Ernaut is influencing the governor regarding solar energy policy in Nevada,” said Gabe Elsner, executive director of Energy &Policy Institute. “The public has a right to know if Governor Sandoval is meeting with utility staff, consultants, or lobbyists as these special interests attempt to limit the growth of their competitors in the electricity market.”

In addition to having clients in the utility industry and being a campaign adviser for Sandoval, R&R Partners’ Ernaut is a friend of the governor’s. The pair became friends in college and were in the Legislature together before Ernaut served as his campaign director when Sandoval ran for attorney general and then as an adviser in Sandoval’s gubernatorial campaign.

Through all of this, Sandoval has stated that he is neutral on the issue and on April 16 met with the CEO of Solar City to discuss the issue. While details of the discussion have not been disclosed, a representative of Solar City said that the meeting was positive. If the two sides can come to an agreement, it is possible that new language can be added to Farley’s bill, and it could be brought to a vote on the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, has said: “The most effective way to produce an agreement on net metering is get all stakeholders in the same room.” He has indicated a compromise plan could be handled as as an emergency measure, bypassing legislative protocol.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy, the holding company owned by famed investor Warren Buffett, recently purchased NV Energy. The company would like to see the cap remain and is asking for additional fixed charges to the bills of customers getting credited for their solar power.

NV Energy CEO Michael Yackira previously commented that, “Photovoltaics (PV), gets a ‘free ride’ through Net Metering policies that don’t charge solar customers for using the grid as a backup.” Solar advocates dispute those claims, saying solar provides a net benefit to the grid by reducing the need to invest in expensive peaking plants.

At the heart of the issue is the large fortune that power companies have spent pioneering the power plants and utility line infrastructure to bring reliable electric service to each door. In addition, they must continue spending money on new technology and continued maintenance of the system.

In Nevada, from 2006 to 2011, NV Energy spent $4.3 billion to build, expand or buy eight power plants, more than doubling its generating capacity to 5,862 megawatts. The idea was for the company to own most of its power production so it wouldn’t be vulnerable to unpredictable wholesale power prices. In 2014, NV Energy also started the process of decommissioning its only coal-fired power plant, eliminating 1.5 million tons of carbon emissions per year. But this investment has also meant incremental rate increases on the monthly bill. And the demand for more energy has been increasing exponentially.

In 2013, SolarCity, one of the largest installers of residential solar panels in the country, moved into offices in Henderson and Town Square on Las Vegas Boulevard. Today the company employs more than 1,000 employees in its nationwide call center and installation office. In March, SolarCity announced the opening of its second installation office in North Las Vegas. According to Nathan Jarrell, regional vice president of operations, “SolarCity is installing between 12 and 20 solar systems per day in Southern Nevada. The average system is 7.5 kilowatts in size and provides between 60 percent and 80 percent of the average household power.” SolarCity also has $750 million in backing from Google to finance its residential program with a zero dollar down lease back option that makes going green affordable.

According to a National Solar Jobs Census 2014 report, released by The Solar Foundation in February, “Nevada’s solar industry employed 5,900 Nevadans in 2014 and added 3,500 solar jobs over the previous year. Nevada’s 146 percent solar industry employment growth allowed it to rise back to seventh in the rankings of the highest number of solar jobs by state— and #1 in solar jobs per capita. Solar employment in Nevada grew more than 53 times faster than the state’s average employment growth rate of 2.7 percent in the same period.”

During a visit to Utah’s Hill Air Force Base on April 3, President Barack Obama announced the expansion of a previous Solar Workforce Training Program that would increase the number of workers from 50,000 to 75,000 by the year 2020.

The new goal is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which helps fund research, manufacturing and market creation. The SunShot Initiative’s Solar Instructor Training Network works with 400 community colleges across the country for training and claims to have certified 1,000 solar instructors and nearly 30,000 students in the past five years.

On April 9, Sunrun, the largest residential solar company in the United States, announced the expansion of its Las Vegas office and warehouse, which opened in 2014, expecting to add more than 45 new jobs this spring, nearly doubling the company’s local workforce.

Without a change in the Net Metering cap in Nevada, all of those local job opportunities would evaporate like water on a hot summer day. And while the Luces and other residents currently enrolled in the Net Metering are grandfathered into the program, they may face an increase in other fees owed if NV Energy has its way.

As for future solar installations, without Net Metering, residents will be not be able to take full advantage of the daytime energy savings offered through solar and find that being green does not pencil out.

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/technology/net-metering-limit-could-topple-solar-industry#sthash.qlIiOQg3.dpuf


Solar projects gaining on commercial rooftops

The amount of solar energy that hits one square mile of Earth in one year is equivalent to the energy produced from four million barrels of oil. Of course, converting 100 percent of that solar energy is a difficult proposition given the fact that today’s rooftop photovoltaic technology is only capable of converting 15 percent of the Sun’s energy into electricity. However, many companies have committed millions of dollars toward capturing and utilizing as much of that solar energy as possible in order to offset their reliance on fossil fuel energy.

One such company is MGM Grand International, and its showpiece can be seen from the air as you pass over the Mandalay Bay. In August, the Mandalay Bay Convention Center will complete an expansion of the convention facility making it the fifth largest in the United States with 2.1 million square feet of space under a single roof.

The roof of that facility is already home to the second largest rooftop photovoltaic array in the world, and the completed expansion will increase the total number of panels to 21,324 and the capability to generate 6.5-megawatts of AC power, enough energy to power 1,300 homes. The electricity generated from this system will be used to offset 26 percent of the Mandalay Bay’s power demand. This, in turn, will also lower demand on the southern Nevada electricity grid at the hottest time of the day. The project diminishes the need to import energy from outside the local energy system and reduces energy costs for the entire Las Vegas system.

The project is a partnership between MGM International and NRG Energy, Inc., under an agreement where the Mandalay Bay property will purchase the power from NRG at a very competitive rate over the lifetime of the contract. This allows the hotel to predict the exact cost for 26 percent of its power use regardless of NV Energy’s rates.

In addition to generating power, this project also helps to clean the air by displacing approximately 6,300 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), emissions that would be generated from fossil fuel power plants. That is about the equivalent of taking the emissions of 1,300 automobiles off the road.

When the project was initiated in 2013, Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International stated, “Integrating environmentally responsible practices throughout our operations has been a key pillar in MGM Resorts’ strategic sustainability plan. Partnering with NRG to install the solar rooftop at Mandalay Bay highlights a major milestone in our efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce our consumption of the planet’s limited resources.”

While there are few places in the U.S. with as much rooftop space as Mandalay Bay, rooftop photovoltaic systems are being embraced by Corporate America. Wal-Mart has been the quickest to go solar, with 105.1 MW of power currently installed on its stores. The company is working in California, Arizona, and a super store in Gardnerville, Nevada, and plans to be using 100 percent renewable energy by 2020. Kohl’s, Costco, and Ikea stores are also going solar on a nationwide basis, and collectively the three are generating 137.4 MW of power.

At the end of 2014, according to its Letter to Shareholders, SolarCity had 190,000 U.S. customers with one gigawatt of combined generated power. With Google’s backing, the company expects to install another 25,000 new solar households, generating another 500 MW of power.

In Nevada, SolarCity employs more than 1,000 customer service and installation personnel and installs between 12 and 20 rooftop systems per day.

According to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “From now through 2016, the use of solar power is projected to increase faster than any other source of energy, both renewable and non-renewable.”

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/technology/solar-projects-gaining-commercial-rooftops#sthash.4b3QX4Me.dpuf