Renewable Energy World and Solar POWER-GEN conferences offer insights on integrating renewables into utility portfolios

More than 2,000 attendees gathered for the Renewable Energy World Conference & Expo and Solar POWER-GEN Conference & Exhibition Feb. 14-16 in Long Beach, Calif. Attendees were exposed to the largest renewables-only show in the U.S., as well as a number of informative sessions covering every area of renewable energy.

Prior to the conference kickoff, attendees had an option to attend technical tours in the Long Beach area. On Monday, attendees visited the Toyota South Campus Gold LEED Certified Building. During the campus’ construction, building materials contained an average 50 percent recycled content and more than 90 percent of construction waste was recycled. The campus supports a sustainable environment through its energy efficiency, including indirect lighting, motion sensors, rooftop solar photovoltaic panels, high efficiency glass windows, an Energy Star roof and absence of HCFC refrigerants and Halon fire suppressants.

On Tuesday, conference attendees visited the Covanta Waste-to-Energy Center in Long Beach. One of just three waste-to-energy facilities in California, the Covanta center burns 1,400 to 1,500 tons of waste each day, netting about 30 MW. Not only does the center provide a sustainable method of disposing of waste for the City of Long Beach, but it also strives to keep its emissions 75 percent lower than EPA’s requirements.

The conference sessions kicked off Tuesday afternoon with a keynote session featuring Stuart Hemphill, the senior vice president of power supply for Southern California Edison, Daniel Kammen, chief technology specialist of renewable energy and energy efficiency for World Bank Group, and Michael Webster, power engineering manager for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The utility representatives hit on their companies’ renewable goals for the future. LADWP intends to be coal-free by 2027, Webster said. In place of coal, the company plans on increasing its renewable generation through geographic diversity, particularly through unused transmission capacity in the desert Southwest. “Solar looks very attractive in that area,” Webster said.

Southern California Edison, which currently has the largest portfolio of renewable energy of any U.S. company, plans to double its volume of renewable energy contracts in the next five years, Hemphill said. SCE also hopes to bring more natural gas online in the future “to mitigate the variability of renewable energy.”

During the Keynote Session, winners of the 2012 RenewableEnergyWorld.com Excellence Awards were announced. The solar project of the year was awarded to the Solar Agua Caliente project in Yuma County, Ariz.  The 98 MW Laurel Mountain wind farm in Barbour and Randolph counties, W. Va., took home the wind project of the year. The hydro award went to the small hydro project at Youngs Creek in Sultan, Wash. The Beowawe Geothermal Facility, Beowawe, Nev. took home the geothermal project of the year award, and the Savannah River Site, Aiken, S.C. was awarded the bioenergy project of the year. The Long Island Solar Farm in Upton, N.Y. was selected as the Readers’ Choice award, having overcome a number of challenges to become the largest solar project in the northeast. Details on these award winners can be found here.

Awards were also announced for Innovation Projects of the Year. The winner of the Technology Innovation of the Year Award went to Principle Power for its Wind Float project. Its full-scale 2 MW WindFloat has been successfully deployed off the coast of Aguçadoura, Portugal. The Finance Innovation of the Year Award was given to Bank of America Merrill Lynch for its Project Amp, which received a partial $1.4 billion loan guarantee by the Department of Energy in September. The Policy Innovation of the Year Award went to Colorado’s ‘Fair Permit Act,’ which ensures that fees for residential installations won’t exceed $500 and commercial projects up to 2 MW won’t have to pay more than $1,000. More details about the Innovation of the Year Awards can be found here.

Awards were also given for Leadership Excellence to Jane Weismann of IREC, Martin Klepper of Skadden and Dr. Lawrence Jones of Alstom Grid. More on the Leadership awards can be found here.

On Wednesday morning, attendees packed out the Plenary Session, which was focused on how the military is taking the lead in renewable energy. The Department of Defense recently announced that it plans to source 25 percent of the energy it uses from renewable sources by 2025. Speakers presented a number of projects that are already underway through the DOD. Tim Keating, vice president of marketing and field operations for Skyline Solar, shared about Skyline’s concentrated photovoltaic projects at Fort Bills, Texas and Edwards Air Force Base in Edwards, Calif. Brad Hancock, director of federal programs for FlexEnergy, discussed the DOD’s test beds for energy technology. “In the last four to five years, testing has grown tenfold,” Hancock said.

The conference ended with three Megasessions: “Integrating Significant Renewable Content on the Grid,” “Eagles and Turtles and Salmon, Oh My!”, and “Technological Innovation and 100% Solar Energy Generation in the World’s Sunniest Town.” The “Eagles and Turtles” megasession focused on wildlife concerns when installing renewable energy projects in desert or species-prone areas. A representative from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spoke on the guidelines renewable developers must keep in mind concerning siting and permitting.

Altogether, the co-located Renewable Energy World North America and Solar POWER-GEN 2012 hosted 2,130 attendees. Renewable Energy World North America will be held again Dec. 11-13, 2012 as a co-located event with POWER-GEN International in Orlando, Fla. Solar POWER-GEN will be held in San Diego, Calif. Feb. 26-28, 2013.

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