Vistra to build Texas’ largest solar plant

The power company has bought the 180 MW Upton County Solar 2 project in West Texas, and signed a contract to have the project built.

The announcements regarding large solar projects in West Texas have been rapid this week. Just two days after Southern Company announced that it had put online the 130 MW-DC Lamesa project, Texas power company Vistra Energy announced that it has purchased the 180 MW Upton County Solar 2 project.

Vistra has further signed a contract with an un-named engineering, procurement and construction contractor to build the plant, which it expects to go online in the summer of 2018. Vistra’s independent power producer (IPP) subsidiary Luminant will own the project, and the electricity generated by the project will be provided to both residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) customers of Vistra’s utility subisidiary TXU Energy.

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California transmission fee overhaul could set a new deal for distributed solar

Home and business owners who install solar on their roofs often don’t think a lot about large power lines that connect distant power plants to their homes. However, like all electricity customers, owners of grid-tied PV systems help to pay for these lines.

Yesterday a bill passed the California Senate which solar advocates say will help to more equitably distribute charges for long-distance transmission, by exempting the electricity produced by rooftop solar from these charges. Clean Coalition, which backed SB 692, says that the current system which places these charges on both electricity produced on-site and by distant power plants is unfair and distorts the market.

“It’s akin to levying the Golden Gate Bridge toll every time Bay Area residents pull into their driveways, as opposed to charging the toll only when crossing the bridge,” states Clean Coalition in a post on its website.

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U.S. Senators Propose Switch To 100% Clean Energy By 2050

U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., along with U.S. Sens. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., have proposed landmark climate change legislation that would transition the U.S. to 100% clean energy.

The “100 by ’50 Act” lays out a roadmap for a transition to 100% clean energy no later than 2050. According to the lawmakers, it is the first bill introduced in Congress that would fully envision a transition off of fossil fuels in the U.S.

“America is home to innovative entrepreneurs and scientists who have tackled many challenges in our nation’s history – from harnessing electricity to putting a man on the moon to curing disease,” says Merkley. “The power to end the use of fossil fuels and completely transition to clean and renewable energy is within our hands, but just as with the moon landing, we need a roadmap, a goal and a passionate, shared national commitment to get us there. If an asteroid were hurtling its way through space towards our planet, we would do everything in our power to stop that asteroid. Our commitment to fighting climate change should be no less. Starting at a local, grassroots level and working toward the bold and comprehensive national vision laid out in this legislation, now is the time to commit to 100 percent by 2050.”

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Why utilities are more confident than ever about renewable energy growth

At the turn of the millennium, only wide-eyed dreamers in the power sector would have claimed renewable energy would play a major role on the U.S. grid. Wind and solar were simply too expensive and too difficult to integrate.

Fast-forward to 2017, and that dream is becoming a reality, according to a survey of more than 600 utility professionals.

More than 80% of North American utility employees expect renewable energy to increase moderately or significantly in their service areas over the next decade, according to Utility Dive’s fourth annual State of the Electric Utility (SEU) survey.

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Global solar PV manufacturing capacity expansion plans rebound in Q1

PV Tech’s preliminary analysis of global solar PV manufacturing capacity expansion announcements in the first quarter of 2017, shows a strong rebound compared to the significantly subdued environment experienced in the second half of 2016.

Although capacity expansion announcements in January remained subdued and followed the low level of activity set in the second-half of 2016, February proved to be the third highest month since 2014, and the highest February in more than three years.

March did not maintain that momentum but still posted strong figures, becoming the second highest March figures in more than three years.

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Modernizing the Electric Grid to Encourage Widespread Use of Solar Power

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Built during the last century, the United States electric grid is in need of an update to account for changes in how Americans get their electricity. A white paper being issued by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) today, is the first in a series that will detail the steps necessary to properly upgrade our power infrastructure.

Today’s white paper, New Opportunities for Solar Through Grid Modernization, explores how California and New York have been working on policies that encourage the use of clean distributed energy resources, while allowing ratepayers to save money.

“Our goal is to help inform the conversation so distributed energy technologies can continue to flourish,” said SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper. “Consumers deserve reliable, low-cost, clean power and this is easily achievable by tackling grid modernization correctly.”

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Solar jobs outdoing coal, oil and gas: combined

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader may have been right when he said, “The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun.”

However, entrepreneurs beyond fossil-fuel folks have long recognized solar power as the non-polluting, reliable energy source that also helps fight climate change, and more efficient solar systems plus decreasing costs have contributed to dramatic good news: Solar energy companies now employ more workers than any other energy industry — including coal, oil and natural gas combined. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s second annual “U.S. Energy and Employment Report” released days before the Inauguration started snuffing out most news that wasn’t about the White House, Russia, false claims and bizarre tweets.

According to the report, solar — both photovoltaic (small-scale) and concentrated (large-scale solar-power “plants”) — employed almost 374,000 workers in 2016, a one-year increase of 25 percent.

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Leading By Example: The Top Solar Cities In The U.S.

There’s a new No. 1 solar-powered city in the U.S., with San Diego replacing Los Angeles as the top city for installed solar PV capacity by the end of 2016, according to a new report from Environment America and the Frontier Group.

U.S. solar power grew at a record-breaking pace last year, and the report says the country’s major cities have played a key role in the clean energy revolution and stand to reap tremendous benefits from solar energy. As population centers, the cities are big sources of electricity demand, and with millions of rooftops suitable for solar panels, they have the potential to be key sources of clean energy as well.

The report, titled “Shining Cities: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America,” says San Diego overtook Los Angeles, which had been the national leader for the previous three years. Notably, Honolulu rose from sixth place at the end of 2015 to third place at the end of 2016. San Jose and Phoenix rounded out the top five spots for installed PV.

As of the end of 2016, the top 20 cities – representing just 0.1% of U.S. land area – accounted for 5% of U.S. solar PV capacity. The report says these 20 cities have nearly 2 GW of solar PV capacity – almost as much solar power as the entire country had installed at the end of 2010.

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As PACE Financing Grows Up, the Industry Grapples With Lending Standards and Consumer Protections

By many measures, the financing programs referred to as PACE — or property-assessed clean energy — are among the most successful energy-efficiency financing tools in U.S. history.

The programs, which fund building efficiency upgrades and rooftop solar panels through loans paid off in tandem with property taxes, are closing in on $4 billion in transactions across 140,000 American homes, and have created 35,000 jobs.

But if you’ve read any number of headlines on the model in recent months, or if you count yourself among the seemingly small group of homeowners who have had a negative experience with this type of financing, you may be more circumspect about PACE’s prospects.

Critics contend that residential PACE programs have used questionable lending practices akin to those that led to the subprime crisis — and lack both consumer protections and accountability in terms of energy savings achieved.

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New Solar Policy Playbook Calls for Greater Cooperation, Not Competition, With China

The quest to make solar energy a major source of the world’s electricity will not succeed if national policies and industries compete as though it is a zero-sum game.

That is just one of many findings of The New Solar System, a sprawling report released earlier this week by Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, a joint research center that includes the university’s business and law schools. The result of two years of work — including interviews with dozens of government officials and industry executives in China and the U.S. — the report sketches out a future where the scale of solar depends on self-interested cooperation.

The New Solar System does not seek to enable any country to beat another in the global solar industry. It seeks instead to help all countries find their most effective places,” wrote the report’s authors, Jeffrey Ball, Dan Reicher, Xiaojing Sun and Caitlin Pollock.

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