Rural electric cooperatives in states across the Midwest have been investing in community solar in recent years and now, Missouri is joining their ranks.
A co-op that serves about 18,000 customers just north of Kansas City is starting construction on a 100-kilowatt system, and will be the first electric co-op in Missouri to offer community solar to its members.
The Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative decided to take the plunge after three surveys of members in recent years showed consistently robust support for renewable energy, and for solar in particular, according to the coop’s communications director, Cheryl Barnes
“We were surprised there was such a strong interest in renewables,” she said.
Scott and Stacey Hausman’s solar array in St. Joseph, Missouri is the subject of a dispute with their homeowners association. (courtesy photo)
Bills pending before the Missouri General Assembly would prohibit homeowners associations from imposing standards that, in many cases, effectively prevent the installation of solar panels on homes.
And in communities throughout Missouri, homeowners have been butting heads with homeowner associations (HOAs) and municipalities that have attempted to impose such restrictions, leading to lawsuits and the removal of solar panels.
“I think the number is growing and it’s become a critical issue to address,” said Heidi Schoen, executive director of the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association. “It’s discouraging people from putting solar up. I get a lot of calls from frustrated homeowners who want to know how this could happen.”
A rural Minnesota co-op is offering customers who participate in a demand-response program a hard-to-beat deal on community solar.
Customers of Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric (SWCE) who want to own a photovoltaic panel in a community solar garden and add a new electric water heater to their homes can have both for just $170.
Crews install a natural gas pipeline for Consumers Energy near Coldwater, Michigan in July. (Photo by Consumers Energy via Creative Commons)
In March, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder plans to make a major statewide energy policy announcement. While he has not publicly disclosed details of his plan, some lawmakers and clean-energy advocates are concerned about the Republican governor’s over-commitment to natural gas as aging coal plants close.
Snyder spent roughly one minute during his 49-minute State of the State speech Tuesday night talking about the “need for a long-term policy.”
“It needs to be an adaptable policy because of the lack of federal policy and the challenges of a global marketplace. It needs to focus on important things such as eliminating energy waste and the conversion of coal to natural gas — an asset of the state of Michigan — and renewables.”
Snyder reportedly said at a conference last week that Michigan is “well positioned to actually have a fair amount of that coal demand go to natural gas.” He said his plan is based on three pillars of “affordability, reliability and environmental protection.”
Investments dropped dramatically when Ohio lawmakers proposed major cutbacks to the state’s clean energy standards. Chart from “Clean Economy Rising: Manufacturing powers clean energy in Ohio,” courtesy of Pew Charitable Trusts. (click to enlarge)
A drop in investments in Ohio’s clean energy industry could cost the state jobs, say industry experts. Matters could be made worse by continuing uncertainty about the future of Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.
Last week the Pew Charitable Trusts released a report documenting the huge growth in investments in Ohio’s clean energy industry in the years following adoption of those standards in 2008.
That same report also shows a huge drop after state lawmakers began debating changes to those standards in 2013. The study’s authors expect investment levels will stay low through at least 2017.
Minnesota would see more than $6.2 billion in capital investments if the state raised its renewable energy standard (RES) to 40 percent by 2030, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Meanwhile, the change would have a minimal impact on ratepayers, the UCS says.
Currently the state’s policy calls for 25 percent of energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. With Minnesota receiving 19 percent of its energy from renewable sources today, the prospect of increasing the goal to 40 percent has gotten the attention of policy groups and lawmakers.
Solar panels on a home near Milwaukee. (Photo by mjmonty via Creative Commons)
For tourists, the “shoulder seasons” in the spring and fall are times to get cheap deals in ski resorts or beach towns that cater to summer and winter crowds.
For people with solar power on their homes, these seasons are when their solar installations are most likely to be producing more energy than the home actually needs. These “shoulder months,” as RENEW Wisconsin Policy and Program Director Michael Vickerman frames it, are at the crux of one of the ways solar power is under attack in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Public Service Commission recently approved three controversial rate cases proposed by We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPS) and Madison Gas & Electric, which all will make it much less favorable or feasible to install solar panels on a home or small business.
A pair of bills introduced in the Missouri General Assembly could give a lift to a solar industry battered by the termination of utility rebates in late 2013.
One bill, introduced in the Senate, would allow solar installations up to 1 MW to qualify for net metering (the current cap is 100 kW). That change would open the net metering door to a wide range of commercial entities, according to one Kansas installer who also works in Missouri.
Another bill, introduced in the House of Representatives, would eliminate the cap altogether and would institute a yearly, rather than monthly, “true-up”– allowing solar customers to bank credit for excess generation for a full year rather than a month.
The Indiana State Capitol in Indianapolis. (Photo by MarkStuff via Creative Commons)
©2015 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
Indiana’s legislative session is scarcely a week old, but a pair of bills has already re-established a wedge between utilities and clean energy advocates.
One of the measures would allow utilities to propose their own energy efficiency goals and programs. The other would alter terms and impose demand charges for utility customers who choose to generate a share of their electricity with solar energy systems.
The bills dive into two of the thorniest energy policy issues facing states today — how to encourage reductions in energy use and give consumers the ability to generate energy with rooftop solar arrays while keeping utilities financially strong and able to reinvest in the grid.
SunShare LLC has announced a strategic alliance with Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction to develop solar gardens in Minnesota.
SunShare, which has offices in Minneapolis and Denver, has become one of Colorado’s leading solar garden promoters since that state passed a 2010 law allowing for their development.
Mortenson is a family-owned construction company that manages a variety of projects locally and throughout the country, among them the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, the Denver Art Center, The Walker Art Center and many others.
SunShare will develop, finance, own, operate and market the projects. The collaboration gives SunShare “a badge of creditability in that one of the largest construction companies in America is signing on to work with us in Minnesota,” said Jonathan W. Postal, senior vice president. “It’s just a great opportunity for Sunshare as we pivot from just the Colorado market to the Minnesota market.”