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EGEB: GE and BlackRock do solar, rooftop solar’s ‘true value,’ huge UK offshore wind auction, more

In today’s EGEB:

  • GE and BlackRock come together to work on solar.
  • A look at the “true value” of rooftop solar.
  • The largest offshore wind auction in a decade is coming to the UK.
  • Advocates hope a new Iowa project kickstarts solar in the state.

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

General Electric announced Wednesday that it’s agreed to build “a new solar industry powerhouse” with investment firm BlackRock. Distributed Solar Development (DSD) aims to “design, build, own and operate distributed solar and storage solutions for customers.”

The firm will be 80% owned by BlackRock, with GE retaining 20% of the company. Distributed Solar Development (DSD) builds about 100 megawatts of on-site solar projects each year, GE says. DSD wants to quadruple that amount within five years.

DSD has actually been around since 2012 under the GE umbrella, though GE’s blog notes it “was not a standard GE venture.” On its own, GE executive Erik Schiemann said DSD can excel:

“Separating ourselves from GE in this fashion means I can now do things more simply, with lower costs of capital, lower transaction costs, [greater] speed to execution and kind of that one-throat-to-choke from our customers’ perspective.”

A recent study estimated GE lost $200 billion by misjudging the global transition to renewable energy.

True ‘Top

Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group released a new report that aims to find what they refer to as the “true value” of rooftop solar. Any typical examination of solar’s value concentrates on costs but not other key benefits, they argue:

Many value-of-solar studies, however – especially those conducted by electric utilities – have left out key benefits of solar energy. Policymakers and members of the public who consult these studies may be left with a false impression of solar energy’s value to the grid and society, with damaging results for public policy.

To make decisions that serve the public interest, policymakers should account for the full value of solar energy, including societal benefits to the environment and public health.

“Studies that include the benefits of solar energy beyond the grid generally find that its value exceeds the retail rate of electricity,” which includes avoided greenhouse gas emissions.

Point taken, but those who ignore the societal and health benefits of solar when comparing it to other forms of energy will likely continue to do so. The good news is, solar stands up well on its own when viewed in solely economic terms, as well.

Offshore Auction

The world’s biggest offshore wind auction in a decade is expected to take place this week, and The Guardian took a look at how the royal family could earn “hundreds of millions” from it:

The Crown Estate, which manages the monarch’s property portfolio, holds exclusive rights to lease the seabed around the British Isles for wind and wave power. Its profits go to the Treasury, which then sends 25% back to the royal household in the form of the sovereign grant.

There’s already been some debate over whether this is reasonable. Molly Scott Cato, the finance spokesperson for the Green party, doesn’t believe so:

“If this source of value is going to increase fourfold, let’s make sure that value stays with the public rather than being spent on redoing the royal palace.”

Five areas are being considered for the farms, with a number of others under consideration. The five areas represent 7 GW of total capacity, with each lease running for 60 years.

Iowa Solar

Iowa has less than 100 MW of installed solar, but a new project would more than double that, and solar advocates are excited about the possibilities.

Wapello Solar, an 800-acre, 100 MW solar project in Louisa County, would be the state’s largest by far. Central Iowa Power Cooperative hopes to bring the project online next year, according to The Gazette.

Bill Cherrier, executive vice president and chief executive officer of CIPCO, expects more to follow: “I don’t think it was our goal to be the premier and, frankly, I don’t think we’re going to be the last, nor the biggest, on solar in Iowa.”

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