A rooftop solar installation in Edina, Minnesota. Costs of permitting solar projects can vary widely from city to city. (Photo by Karl Schwingel/Innovative Power Systems via Creative Commons)
The cost of municipal solar permits varies widely and continues to be a barrier to wider and faster expansion of solar energy in Minnesota, according to a recent report.
The Sierra Club looked at 77 Minnesota cities and found that building permit fees for solar photovoltaic installations range anywhere from $0 to $531, or from 0 to 4.4 percent of the pre-rebate cost of a hypothetical $12,000 system. The average permit cost was $308.
“I think the report shows it really matters where you live in how much you’ll pay for your solar permits,” said Michelle Rosier, senior campaign and organizing manager for the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The primary driver of higher costs is the practice of including the cost of the solar panels in calculating the permit fee, she said.
The Sierra Club is a member of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News.
The 64 cities that figure in a project’s total cost when calculating fees charged $333 on average while the 10 cities that did not had an average permit cost of $240. The result is that higher fees serve as a “disincentive” for homeowners to purchase higher quality, Minnesota-made solar panels from tenKsolar or Silicon Energy, Rosier said.
The fee can increase dramatically even as the electrical output stays the same. A homeowner installing a $12,000, three kilowatt PV system in St. Paul would pay $425 for the permit, the report stated. If the homeowner bought more expensive panels valued at $26,000 the permit fee would jump to $816 even though the work of the city permitting staff would remain the same.
FirstEnergy’s Lake Shore plant, viewed from Cleveland’s Shoreway. Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski.
FirstEnergy’s plan to gut most of its Ohio energy efficiency programs comes just as the company has ramped up state and federal efforts to prop up markets for its power plants.
The news comes against the backdrop of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which seeks to curb carbon emissions.
Without energy efficiency and renewable energy, FirstEnergy and other power plant owners may have to make huge investments to comply.
Critics say the utility is overly focused on short-term financial gain, which consumers will pay for in the long run.
“This is about selling more electricity,” said Rob Kelter, an attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). “And they want the market price of electricity to be higher.”
Bloomfield, Iowa could save millions on utility costs through increased efficiency and renewable energy, according to a new study. (Photo by Pete Zarria via Creative Commons)
A pair of Iowa studies found that both utilities and their customers in small towns can substantially cut costs if they invest in deep efficiencies and, to a lesser extent, in renewable sources of generation.
The analyses, done by energy consultant Tom Wind and the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities with some funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, explored whether the communities of Bloomfield and Algona could become energy independent.
The conclusion: in about 15 years, Bloomfield could get to net-zero — generating as much energy as it consumes over a year — but not necessarily always at the times needed.
Algona could get about half that far, cutting current electricity use by about 50 percent.
Exelon’s nuclear power plant at Byron, Illinois. (Photo by Bill and Vicki T via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
An executive for the nation’s largest nuclear generator said U.S. EPA’s proposed carbon plan, which designates 6 percent of the nation’s nuclear capacity “at risk” for retirement, provides little help to prop up financially struggling reactors.
“There’s not really much of an incentive,” Kathleen Barrón, senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs and wholesale market policy for Exelon Corp., told Illinois regulators.
Barrón’s comments came during an Illinois Commerce Commission policy session Tuesday on the state’s efforts to comply with the Obama administration’s plan for a 30 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 2030.
The meeting was the second of three scheduled by the commission to discuss implementation of the EPA rule, which is expected to be finalized next summer and implemented a year or two after that. A third policy session is set for Nov. 6.
Electric vehicle parking in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Ian Muttoo via Creative Commons)
Despite its automotive legacy, Michigan is behind its Midwestern neighbor states in establishing a better market for electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles, according to a recent report by clean-energy experts.
“Michigan’s auto history, manufacturing expertise and legacy of innovation in the personal transportation sector position it arguably better than any other state in the country — or any other place in the world — to be the dynamo for these advanced transportation policies,” said Joshua Rego, project associate at the Clean Energy Coalition who co-authored the report. “I believe there needs to be an effort for us in Michigan to lead and not be led.”
“We really should be at the top,” added the coalition’s Allison Skinner, another author of the report.
(Photo by 36ViewsGuy via Creative Commons)
A unique data project in Minnesota is giving city leaders a clearer picture of how their residents use energy.
For instance, conventional wisdom would suggest that densely populated Minneapolis and St. Paul would use the least energy per capita in the Twin Cities metro area.
However, it’s actually Hopkins, an inner-ring suburb near Minneapolis, followed by Falcon Heights, a small burg on the edge of St. Paul, that take the top spots (the most energy-intensive is Lake Elmo, a largely rural exurban community).
That’s the kind of micro-data on Duluth, Rochester and 20 Twin Cities communities that can be found on the Regional Indicators Initiative (RII) website. The RII offers data on energy, water, waste, vehicle miles traveled and global greenhouse gases.
No other urban area in the country has anything like the RII, said Rick Carter, who oversees the program and is senior vice-president of LHB, Inc.’s Minneapolis office.
“Many communities around the world have done something like this, but in terms of doing a whole community like this or set of cities, we haven’t found anything like it,” he said.
The Newton Power Station is one of five Illinois coal plants that Dynegy took over last year. (AP Photo/Jim Suhr, File)
Last year, Ameren Corp. basically paid Dynegy Inc. to take five aging coal plants in downstate Illinois off its hands.
Now Dynegy is seeking to make those plants more profitable, through changes to the way they are paid for capacity – potential future generation that can be called on if needed.
Critics of the plan say the changes would mean higher costs for ratepayers with little, if any, improvement in reliability.
The plants provide power to the utility Ameren Illinois, which is part of the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) regional transmission organization (RTO). MISO runs an annual capacity auction wherein generators are paid for power they will be prepared to provide if needed.
(Photo by Michael Leland via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
States within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s footprint could save billions of dollars complying with U.S. EPA’s proposed carbon rules for existing power plants by banding together and applying strategies beyond the four “building blocks” put forward by the federal agency, according to an analysis by the grid operator.
The analysis was conducted by the Carmel, Indiana-based regional transmission operator to help members prepare comments to submit to EPA. Results were presented to the grid operator’s Planning Advisory Committee on Wednesday. MISO hasn’t decided yet if it will submit formal comments by the deadline, which was extended until Dec. 1, said Brian Rybarik, MISO’s interregional director of external affairs.
As we highlighted in a story last month, faith-based organizations are becoming increasingly vocal and active in the clean-energy movement. While it’s a national phenomenon, our story focused on Minnesota churches installing solar power and taking other steps to reduce their energy impact.
Minnesota faith communities were in the spotlight again this week as part of the 24 Hours of Reality, a series of videos hosted by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project:
The event featured stories about emerging clean-energy technologies and economic cases for climate action, as well as appeals from celebrities including Jason Mraz and Mark Ruffalo.
Interfaith Power and Light and its Minnesota counterpart were partner organizations for the event. Both are members of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News.
Ohio SB 310 has already made it hard to finance any new solar projects in the state similar in scale to the Melink solar array at the Cincinnati Zoo. Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski.
By the time Ohio’s energy law freeze took effect last week, the new law had already caused a significant setback for the state’s solar energy sector.
Ohio’s market for solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) dropped dramatically after Senate Bill 310 passed this spring and has not rebounded since. Yet official state reports won’t reflect that and other changes for some time.
The lag means the Energy Mandates Study Commission set up by SB 310 could wind up using unreliable data to evaluate compliance costs for the state’s energy mandates. The Ohio Senate’s half of its 12 voting members was named on Tuesday.