CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
November 02, 2011
BLM is refining possible sites for solar power plants in six western states, creating options like this 10-megawatt facility in Boulder City, Nevada.
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) made public on October 27 a supplement to the federal plan to facilitate responsible utility-scale solar development on public lands in six western states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The revised plan, the Supplement to the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Energy Development (Solar PEIS), includes 17 solar energy zones totaling about 285,000 acres potentially available for development within the zones. More than 80,000 comments were received on the draft Solar PEIS, which the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) developed with DOE and published on December 17, 2010. After analyzing those comments, gathering additional data, and consulting with cooperating agencies and resource managers, the BLM modified its preferred alternative.
The BLM refined or removed zones that had development constraints or serious resource conflicts. The modified preferred alternative also establishes a variance process that, going forward, will allow development of well-sited projects outside of solar energy zones on an additional 20 million acres of public land. The supplement reinforces and improves upon DOI’s work to establish meaningful solar energy zones with transmission solutions and incentives for solar energy development within those zones. The blueprint’s early comprehensive analysis is designed to make for faster, better permitting of large-scale solar projects on public lands.
To ensure that proposed solar energy zones are located in appropriate areas, the supplement sets forth a more complete description of the process for identifying zones, including an analysis of transmission availability and potential resource conflicts. It also describes in detail the incentives for developers to site new projects in solar energy zones, and it identifies ongoing regional planning processes that are being used to identify additional solar energy zones.
The Federal Register Notice of Availability for the supplement begins a 90-day public comment period, after which BLM will prepare a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision. See the DOI press release, the supplement, and the Solar PEIS website.
Employment in solar energy industries increased in 2011, and is projected to grow next year, according to an industry report.
Numbers of U.S. jobs in the solar energy field continue to rise, according to a report by the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit solar education and research organization, which on October 17 released its second annual review of the solar workforce in the United States. More than 100,000 workers are now employed in the U.S. solar industry, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2011: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce report. It details more than 17,198 solar employment sites and 100,237 solar jobs in all 50 states as of August 2011. The survey calculated a 6.8% growth rate in the industry.
California continues to be the national leader in solar employment, with 25,575 workers. Rounding out the top 10 states are Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas, Oregon, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. The report also project a 24% increase in the next year, adding some 24,000 jobs by August, 2012. Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Oregon, New Jersey, and Massachusetts showed the strongest growth rates from August 2010. The survey was conducted by The Solar Foundation and BW Research Partnership’s Green LMI Consulting division with technical assistance from Cornell University. See the Solar Foundation press release.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on October 31 payments totaling $44.6 million for 156 advanced biofuel producers in 38 states to support the production and expansion of advanced biofuels. The funding is being provided through USDA’s Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels program.
Under the program, payments are made to eligible producers to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels. Payments are based on the amount of biofuels a recipient produces from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Eligible examples include biofuels derived from cellulose; crop residue; animal, food, and yard waste material; biogas (landfill and sewage waste treatment gas); and vegetable oil and animal fat. USDA is working to support the research, investment, and infrastructure necessary to build a biofuels industry that creates jobs and conserves natural resources.
In Dubuque, Iowa, Western Dubuque Biodiesel, LLC, received a $487,871 payment. The company’s production facility produces 30 million gallons of biodiesel per year using soybean oil, canola oil, and tallow esters as feedstock. The operation is expected to save 18 jobs. It is also expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 309 million kilowatts. And, in Kinsale, Virginia, the Potomac Supply Corporation received a $36,530 payment for producing two types of advanced biofuels: fuel pellets and dry kiln. Both are made from clean pine chips, sawdust, and shavings feedstock. The payment will help save 10 jobs. See the USDA press release.
DOE celebrated on October 25 the commissioning of a 2.5-megawatt wind turbine at the University of Minnesota’s Eolos Wind Energy Research Station. The research station, located 25 miles southeast of the Twin Cities, features a Clipper Liberty wind turbine. The installation, supported by DOE, will allow researchers to conduct tests that could improve wind turbine efficiency. It will also help train the next generation of wind industry technicians and engineers.
The University of Minnesota, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the University of Maine in Orono were selected in October 2009 to each receive $7.9 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to develop university-led consortia for wind energy research. Partners in the Minnesota Consortium include DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The consortium is funded by the DOE through a $7.9 million Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant, plus $3.1 million from consortium members. See the DOE press release.
Recently in St. Paul, Minnesota, I had the opportunity to see another example of how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) is helping state and local governments across America meet their goals to save money, reduce pollution, and create new jobs and new business opportunities.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum, Xcel Energy Regional Vice President Laura McCarten, and I witnessed the unveiling of a new 82-kilowatt solar photovoltaic installation at the RiverCentre convention complex in the heart of downtown St. Paul. The RiverCentre Convention Complex received $1 million through the Solar America Communities program, which was funded through the Recovery Act.
While we were speaking, several construction workers were hard at work installing the final set of photovoltaic modules on the side of the multi-story parking lot. The completed project will have 348 American-made solar photovoltaic panels that will generate 100,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually —enough to power nine homes for a year. The project includes converting more than 1,000 traditional lights in the parking garage into new energy-efficient lamps, saving $50,000 per year simply by saving energy. See the Energy Blog post.
When most people go to the car dealership, they take a hard look at the vehicle’s window sticker. But, that initial price doesn’t tell the whole story. By showing only the up-front cost, the sticker price leaves out operating costs such as fuel and maintenance, which can add up over time. To help consumers sort through their options, DOE’s Clean Cities initiative just introduced the new Vehicle Cost Calculator and its accompanying widget on the Alternative Fuel and Advanced Vehicles Data Center website.
The cost calculator provides consumers an opportunity to take the long view by providing both a vehicle’s lifetime cost and its cost-per-mile. Users can compare different technologies, including conventional, alternative fuel, and electric drive vehicles. The results aren’t just limited to new vehicles; in fact, the database has data on models all the way back to 1996. To personalize their results, users enter their driving habits, local price of fuel, and available tax credits. By seeing beyond the dealership sticker, consumers can choose the vehicles that best meet their needs today and in the future. See the Energy Blog post.
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