Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Duke agrees to build 700 MW of solar, 50 MW of energy storage in FloridaIf approved Duke’s Florida customers will no longer be on the hook for costs related to the Levy County Nuclear Power Plant, which Duke has finally formally abandoned after cancelling the construction contract four years ago. In its place the utility plans to “construct or acquire” 700 MW of utility-scale solar over the next four years, as well as to build, own and operate 50 MW of battery storage and install 530 electric vehicle charging stations. In essence, because Duke failed getting a nuclear plant built – and it was sued because of huge amounts of money that were going to be put on the shoulders of customers due to that failure – Duke is now offering a settlement of building solar/charging stations/energy storage. Maybe there is a lesson here?

Xcel Energy plans to retire two coal-fired plants in Pueblo, increase renewables – Colorado’s largest utility also said it will retire 660 megawatts of coal-generated power from Comanche Unit 1, built in 1973, and Comanche Unit 2, built in 1975. Xcel Energy will request competitive bids before the end of the year for 1,000 megawatts of additional wind, 700 megawatts of solar and 700 megawatts of natural gas power generation under its “Colorado Energy Plan.” I thought this one fit in well behind the Duke article above. Here is an add on tweet of western USA coal units that will be retiring early. One thing to note – 650MW of coal facilities will be closing – but 700MW of gas facilities will be installed. Older, dirtier plants going away…but plenty of gas coming in to replace it. Of course, the gas is cleaner – as long as we don’t flare/leak 3% of it and the capacity factor of the gas is far below that of the coal.

St. Petersburg, Florida proposal would require solar panels on new homes and major roof repairs – The St. Petersburg draft would require solar panels on not just new homes, but also on additions to homes and even includes it as part of “major roof repairs.” The South Miami ordinance covers only new construction. That’s an interesting twist to me – requiring solar power on a new home, when we consider how quickly solar is paid off relative to the standard 30 year mortgage is cool – however, a new roof is a different game. A lot of people are getting them as they’re needed, sometimes a new roof is a great financial challenge (enough to sell a house). If the state or city were to offer a financial support mechanism from the banking sector to guarantee cheap financing for the solar+new roof, then I’ll feel better about it.

State (Utah) announces solar net metering deal – The currently publicized details – 1. Current net metering customers are grandfathered through 2035. 2. New customers in the next three years coming in at a rate of 9.2¢/kWh – just below the standard net metering/price of electricity. 3. A three year study to determine where futures rates should be set. While Vivent Solar was quoted as saying this would help add predictability and stability to the market, letting people get back to building, it seems a challenge to sell a three year net metering agreement to commercial customers that have decade long mind sets. If you’re a great salesperson you’ll be able to pitch everyone on prior studies that have shown, over and over, that the value of solar is equal to – or greater – than net metering rates. And you can then parlay that into the politicians also passing laws that represent those values…but, politics don’t always represent reality.

We’ve been underestimating the solar industry’s momentum. That could be a big problem – The basics: If policymakers believe solar is growing more slowly than it actually is, they may be less likely to prioritize the kinds of research and development that will help better integrate renewables onto the grid, such as improving battery storage technology. This could lead us to continue relying on more carbon-intensive energy sources. One major variable talked about later in the article – if we underestimate the volume of solar that will hit the grid, then we will underestimate the amount of research and hardware we deploy to manage the intermittent nature of solar power. Now that solar power has out performed all of the models – its time for policy makers to catch up.

Heckert Solar reduces cell-to-module losses using Fraunhofer ISE’s software – Heckert Solar noted that its had been involved in the software project since 2016 achieved initial results with a performance increase of around 0.5% for its modules. And from a link within the articleThe SmartCalc.CTM software starts with the cell power, calculating the optical losses and gains (e. g. reflection), electrical losses (e. g. due to resistances) and the geometrical losses (inactive areas) in solar modules. Solar cells are often a % point or higher in terms of efficiency than a solar panel. This is because solar cells cannot be perfectly placed to cover the whole area of a solar panel (thus you see white spaces), light is reflected in funny ways and there is a lot of wire on the front of the solar cells that block sunlight. Software to help optimize that is helping – a 0.5% gain seems small – but if we’re improving from 16/20% to 16.5/20.5% we just got 3/2.5% more energy from software guided tweaks to the exact same hardware.

Utility scale solar power just had its best 1st and 2nd quarter in the USA – meaning it had its best 1st half of a year ever. Not sure if it can keep up with Q3/Q4 from 2016 – but this speaks highly of further industry growth.

And the follow up tweet to the one above – locations of utility scale solar projects that are pretty far in the process. If you’re looking for a job – you know where to go:

Header image of Les Mées solar power plant in the South of France…of course its beautiful – its France!

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