September 25th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan in Clean Technica
A solar power plant being built in Bordeaux, France, on a former landfill is expected to be the largest “urban” solar PV power plant in Europe. The factory is using solar modules from American solar presenter delivernment is firm First Solar (Nasdaq:FSLR).
“In the world of solar PV, there are conventional crystalline solar PV modules, and there’s First Solar, which produces ‘thin film’ solar modules using CdTe chemistry. As the price of crystalline solar PV modules has fallen off a cliff, First Solar has also somehow driven down the price of its thin-film solar modules at the same time, keeping itself competitive in the hyper-competitive solar energy market and overall energy market.”
Image courtesy First Solar. Courtesy , Inc.
This week, First Solar shared that JP Energie Environnement (JPee) has decided to use First Solar’s Series 6 solar modules for its 59-megawatt (MW)DC Labarde solar power plant built on a former landmine. It’s an interesting project, to say the least.
The Series 6 modules are some of the most reliable in the solar industry. First Solar backs that up with a 25 year product warranty. Additionally the company notes that “First Solar is one of only five modules in the world to pass Atlas 25+, the Thresher and TUV Long-Term Sequential Tests.” Also buried on the module product page is the news that First Solar’s thin-film solar PV modules have “the best environmental profile in the industry.” They are the “lowest carbon” solar modules on the market, if First Solaris to be believed.
JPee, which is headquartered in Caen, France, currently operates 263MWDC of wind and solar power plants that create enough electricity for 230,000 average French homes.
“The land was designated as a wasteland, unfit for residential or commercial buildings, or agricultural use. JPee, however, secured a 35-year lease for the 600,000-square meter site and began developing the Labarde solar project, which was selected under successive rounds of the PV tenders organized by France’s Commission de Régulation De L’Énergie (CRE).”
“The Labarde project demonstrates the positive role that solar can play within a community. Its role goes beyond transforming sunlight into solar electricity and supporting France’s decarbonization goals, as it helps heal a piece of land that has no other practical use,” said Xavier Nass, Chairman, JPee. “While solar is inherently sustainable, this project is powered by the lowest carbon solar technology and sets new benchmarks for sustainability.”
With over 1,100 MW of solar power installed across 400 projects, “First Solar’s advanced module thin film technology forms the backbone of France’s solar fleet.”
Utah utility Rocky Mountain Power and solar advocates aren’t even close on the value of rooftop PV sent to the grid
Solar from customer roofs in Utah is worth somewhere between 1.5 cents/kWh and 22.6 cents/kWh, depending on your calculations and who you ask — a ridiculously wide range.SEPTEMBER 28, 2020 ERIC WESOFF
image: Marcela Karner
A crucial hearing is scheduled to start this week at the Utah Public Service Commission that could decide the future of rooftop solar in the state — yes, it’s the Solar Export Credit Proceeding.
Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) currently pays an average of 9.2¢/kWh for exported solar, and the utility is proposing that it pay an average price of 1.5¢/kWh for new customers starting in 2021, an 84% reduction. RMP is also asking for a one-time $150 application fee and a $160 customer generation meter fee.
Vote Solar argues that the actual value is 22.6¢/kWh, but has called on regulators to abandon this rate structure entirely and move back to net metering.
Since the first net metering law was passed in Minnesota in 1983, grid-tied customers exporting power to the grid expect to be compensated “at the average retail utility energy rate.” And since that day 37 years ago, utilities across the land have challenged the value that distributed rooftop solar provides to the grid.
A make or break moment
“Determining solar rates is a complex thing,” according to Kate Bowman at Utah Clean Energy, who said this proceeding was “a make or break moment,” during a webinar last week. She contended that RMP’s assessment of solar’s value was narrow and based on fuel costs.
She said a rate reduction would “sends a signal to customers that their investment is worthless” with no savings over 25 years. She said her organization was calculating a fair value for solar energy by “examining all the benefits solar provides.” She added that less than 2% of Utah’s energy comes from residential solar.
In that same webinar, Joshua Neves, general counsel at Utah’s Blue Raven Solar, said that Blue Raven doesn’t do business in Utah anymore because of what the last rate reduction did to the solar industry. The RMP proposal will “move solar out of reach for many Utahns,” according to Neves — and a sudden, precipitous drop in export rates would mean “most of the solar companies doing business in Utah would disappear overnight.”
New rooftop solar installations in Utah went from 4,140 in 2016 to 12,408 in 2017 before falling to 3,540 last year, in response to cutting the state’s net metering program, according to the Utah Solar Energy Association. There are approximately 7,000 people employed in the solar industry in Utah today.
Sachu Constantine said that Vote Solar “takes an expansive view of the value of solar” with an extensive analysis of benefit streams and analysis based on best practices in other states. Vote Solar improved the sample size of its study compared to RMP’s and looked at energy line losses, T&D deferment, financial risk and carbon impacts. Benefits include reduced power plant emissions and the avoided costs of purchasing fuel to run those power plants.
Constantine said, “Integration costs for the utility at this penetration is de minimis.” He added that climate and health has a value.
Vote Solar’s recommendation is to simply return to the retail rate, citing studies from Gridlab that show that a portfolio including distributed solar is actually a lower cost portfolio than one that relies solely on utility scale solar. “We don’t want Utah to be left out of a future that doesn’t include lower rates,” said Constantine.
Rocky Mountain Power has its own ideas
Rocky Mountain Power’s proposal is based on its own survey data and the rapidly evolving economics of solar technology, according to utility spokesman Spencer Hall, quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune.
“That price is reflective of what it costs us to produce and to put [solar power] out there,” Hall said. “When we do it at a utility scale, we offer other things such as maintenance on the system.”
Utah Clean Energy claims that Rocky Mountain Power “only considers a few of the benefits of solar energy.” Vote Solar calculated the value of solar to be 24 cents per kilowatt-hour – more than double the current rate of 9.2 cents. Here’s a comparison of the calculations.
The value ultimately depends on which costs and benefits are considered by the Utah Public Service Commission.
The hearing begins on September 29th and the Public Hearing is scheduled for October 5, where members of the public can weigh in with comments to the Commission.
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polling that Data for Progress has been conducting this past summer in 11 states, among them key Election 2020 battlegrounds like Arizona, North Carolina, and Iowa. Overall, the poll found that 61 percent of voters in these states would be “more likely” to vote for Senate candidates who support placing a 2 percent wealth tax “on the assets of individuals with a net worth over $50 million.”
Even 51 percent of Republican voters in these states say they would be more likely to support candidates so inclined. Only 33 percent of Republicans say that such support would sour them on a candidate.
Meanwhile, adds the new Data for Progress poll, less than 27 percent of voters want the existing tax system to remain in place. Americans, in other words, would be eager to see candidates debate whether we ought to be shearing our grand private fortunes down to democratic size.
The grand pooh-bahs who run the Commission on Presidential Debates have no particular interest in fostering a debate of this sort. We should. The future of our democracy may well hang on the questions we get our body politic to start asking.
Sam Pizzigati co-edits Inequality.org. His recent books include: The Case for a Maximum Wage (Polity Books) and The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970 (Seven Stories Press).