Big comeback for renewable energy stocks in 2013

Public market investors bullish on wind and solar

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Renewable sources accounted for 43 percent of all newly installed energy capacity in 2013, according to a new report from UN economists.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Renewable energy stocks made a big global comeback in 2013, gaining 54 percent after a 4.5 year slide during which they lost 78 percent in value, according to a new report released by economists in Frankfurt, Germany.

The improvement happened as many companies in the solar and wind manufacturing chains moved back towards profitability after a painful period of over-capacity and corporate distress, according to experts with the United Nations Environmental Program.

The 2013 improvements came despite a significant dip in investments in the renewable energy sector — the investment drop of $US35.1 billion was partly down to the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems. The other main cause was policy uncertainty in many countries, an issue that also depressed investment in fossil fuel generation in 2013. Continue reading

Energy: Scotland eyes tidal power

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Scotland eyes tidal power.

Engineers pinpoint potential for tide-driven electrical turbines

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —A well-designed and well-sited network of tidal turbines in Scotland’s Pentland Firth could generate 1.9 gigawatts of electricity — enough to supply half of the country’s power demand.

The channel at the northern tip of Scotland has long been studied as a potential source of power because of the strong tidal flows. The latest study by engineers at the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh offers valuable insights into how to develop and regulate this clean energy resource effectively. Continue reading

Colorado: Green coalition aims for 1 million solar roofs

3 gigawatts of solar by 2030

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A grassroots Colorado coalition of government leaders, business and environmental organizations want to increase the production of solar power tenfold in the next 15 years, but the effort faces a major challenge, as Xcel Energy wants to cut the rate it pays to consumers who feed power into the grid.

Xcel has proposed cutting its net metering rate in half, and the company has also asked the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to declare net metering a subsidy.

Renewable energy advocates said the utility’s arguement is flawed: A comprehensive study done by Crossborder Energy found that far from being a subsidy, net metering contributes up to $11 million in benefits each year to the grid. The debate over net metering is currently before the PUC as part of Xcel’s 2014 Renewable Energy Standard Compliance Plan.

Net metering requires investor-owned utilities to credit customers who invest in solar panels for the excess electricity they supply the electrical grid at the retail rate. Net metering is fundamental to the viability of rooftop solar for both homes and businesses.

Regardless of the potential challenges, the coalition has called on Gov. Hickenlooper to to think big on solar with a goal of one million solar roofs. The Million Solar Roofs campaign is touting the economic benefits of solar energy, and it nearly goes without saying that the effort could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado. Continue reading

Renewable energy in the West on track to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels — without subsidies

Smart placement needed to match production with demand

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An NREL map shows the potential for solar power production.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory tries a mix-and-match approach to help plan future solar, wind and geothermal power development in the West.

By 2025, renewable energy generation could become cost-competitive without federal subsidies — if new renewable energy development occurs in the most productive areas, smartly located to meet the demand from regional population and industrial centers.

The report compares the cost of renewable electricity generation (without federal subsidies) with the cost of energy from a new natural gas-fired generator built near the customers it serves. Wind power produced in Wyoming and New Mexico could meet demand from California and the Southwest. Wyoming could probably produce the power at a lower cost, but New Mexico has the advantage of being closer to the areas with high demand, the report found. Continue reading

Colorado: BLM to auction leases for solar power plants

Up-front analysis of solar energy zones could accelerate projects

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Utility scale solar energy could help reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado has long been a leader in developing distributed solar energy resources, and the state may soon have it first commercial utility-scale solar energy projects.

Later this year (Oct. 24) the Bureau of Land Management will hold the first competitive auction for public lands in two solar energy zones in Colorado.

The sealed and oral bid auction will select a preferred applicant to submit a right-of-way application and plan of development for utility-scale solar energy projects on 3,705 acres in the De Tilla Gulch and Los Mogotes East Solar Energy Zones in Conejos and Saguache counties. Continue reading

Forest Service grants help design biofuel energy projects

Trees cleared during wildfire fuel reduction projects can be turned into fuel pellets, Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Trees cleared during wildfire fuel reduction projects can be turned into fuel pellets, Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Grant program has helped pay for forest wildfire fuel reduction projects

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For all its dead lodgepole pines, Colorado was shut out of the latest round of grants awarded by the U.S. Forest Service for wood-to-energy projects, touted as a way to expand regional economies and create new jobs.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell announced the $2.5 million funding push last week. “These grants help grow new jobs, support clean energy production and improve our local environments, especially in reducing fire threats,” said Tidwell. “Communities from Massachusetts to Alaska will benefit from the program this year.” Continue reading

Energy: Is offshore wind power finally coming?

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Will the U.S. finally start developing its promising offshore windpower potential?

Feds prepare to lease about 245,000 acres off  New England Coast

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Nine companies are lined up to bid on the first-ever sale of leases for offshore wind power, with two big parcels about nine miles south of Rhode Island and Massachusetts on the auction block.

According to a report from the Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory, development of the 245,000-acre area could generate up to 3,400 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 1 million homes and up significantly from previous estimates for the area.

While development is still a few years off, the projects could finally help the U.S. start catching up to countries like Holland, Germany and Denmark, which have been producing significant amounts of offshore wind energy for many years. The auction is scheduled for July 31. Information and documents on the projects are compiled on this website. Continue reading

Colorado: Dems launch push for more renewable energy

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More wind power in Colorado’s future? Photo courtesy UCAR.

New bill would expand renewable energy standards to rural electricity co-ops

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — New legislation proposed by Colorado lawmakers could help refocus the energy debate by shifting more demand to renewable sources.

Under the Ritter administration, Colorado took significant steps to move toward renewable sources, but that momentum has faltered under Gov. Hickenlooper, widely seen as tilting toward the fossil fuel industry.

Senate Bill 252 would expand Colorado’s renewable energy standard by raising the percentage of retail electricity sales that must be achieved from renewable energy resources by cooperative electric associations that provide service to 100,000 meters or more from 10 percent to 25 percent starting in 2020. Continue reading

Energy: Congress wants to boost hydropower production

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Turbine shafts at the Hoover Dam. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Bipartisan measure has backing of river conservation group

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With huge potential for increased hydropower generation, a bipartisan U.S. Senate bill and a companion measure in the house could help reduce some the red tape currently required to bring new hydropower sources online.

The bill, co-sponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), would remove licensing barriers for smaller hydropower development and would require a study on a streamlined permitting process at existing dams and pumped storage products.

“In Colorado and the rest of the West, water is an extremely important resource for our families and the industries that drive our economy.” Bennet said. “This bill will accelerate development of hydropower resources as a part of a clean and diverse energy portfolio.” Continue reading

Does renewable energy permitting need streamlining?

House bill could put renewable energy on equal footing with fossil fuels

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Will Congress consider a renewable energy development bill this session? Photo courtesy BLM.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — On the heels of a do-nothing obstructionist Congress, it’s hard to say whether any public lands bills will get a fair committee hearing during the current session, but that hasn’t stopped U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) from taking a shot a promoting renewable energy on BLM lands.

Along with nine co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, Polis is promoting renewable energy development act that would streamline the process for leasing public lands for solar and other renewable energy projects. Continue reading

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