Solar & Wind Tax Credits Extended Five Years

The U.S. House and Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that included tax credits for wind and solar power projects, and the President is expected to sign it into law.

The House voted 316-113 to approve the 2016 spending package, and the Senate followed with a 65-33 vote. The package included a retroactive five-year extension on the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The PTC gives wind developers a credit of $0.023 per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated to the grid. After that, the credit will maintain its level through 2016 and phase down at 80 percent of its present value in 2017, 60 percent in 2018, and 40 percent in 2019. Projects must begin construction before the end of year in order to qualify.

“Thanks to the ITC, solar energy will add 220,000 new jobs by 202, and with this extension, the solar industry can achieve its pledge of employing 50,000 veterans,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). He also noted that the extension will boost installations to triple by 2020 to 100 GW and bring in more than $133 billion in new, private sector investment by 2020.

Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said the PTC will advance the industry.

“We’re going to keep this American wind power success story going,” Kiernan said. “With predictable policies now in place, we will continue advancing wind turbine technology.”

Southern Buys Stake in California Solar PV Project

Southern Power, a subsidiary of Southern Co., acquired a controlling interest in a 200-MW solar project in California from Recurrent Energy.

The Garland solar facility is currently under construction. It will use more than 800,000 polycrystalline photovoltaic solar modules mounted on single-axis tracking tables. It is expected to begin commercial operation in fourth quarter 2016. Recurrent Energy will build the facility and retain the remaining interest in the project. Signal Energy Constructors are managing the engineering, procurement and construction of the facility.

Southern Power and Recurrent Energy are now jointly developing three projects expected to generate more than 550 MW of solar power in California and Texas.

The electricity and associated renewable energy credits generated by the plant will be sold under two long-term power purchase agreements with Southern California Edison.

AEP Cuts Ties with ALEC Over Clean Power Plan

American Electric Power said Dec. 8 it would no longer provide funding for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that promotes the denial of climate change and opposes U.S. development of renewable energy.

A statement from AEP, one of the largest utilities in the country, said the company would instead use its resources to help states comply with the Clean Power Plan.

“AEP has informed ALEC that we will not be renewing our membership in 2016,” said Tammy Ridout, AEP spokeswoman. “We reviewed our memberships and decided to reallocate resources to other areas of focus including working directly with the states on strategies to address Clean Power Plan compliance.”

AEP joins more than 100 other businesses, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Shell, that have cut ties with ALEC in recent years.

Federal Appeals Court Upholds MATS Rule

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) despite an earlier ruling by the Supreme Court against the rule.

Per the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the EPA can continue enforcing the mercury air pollution rule while it addresses the Supreme Court’s June ruling that the EPA failed to consider compliance costs to electric utilities.

The EPA considered costs while the rule was being written, but the Supreme Court said a cost-benefit analysis was required before even starting.

The Circuit Court did not disclose why they upheld the MATS rule but noted the EPA has promised to correct the error by April 2016.

Invenergy Sells Wind Power Projects For $2 Billion

Invenergy Wind LLC sold 832 MW of wind power plants to TerraForm Power for $2 billion.

The deal represents the closing of a purchase and sale agreement executed June 30, 2015, and a final closing for an additional 98 MW of projects is scheduled for completion in early 2016. The three power purchase agreements total 450 MW with Google, Owens Corning and Equinix Data Centers.

The closing includes four power plants totaling 754 MW of generating capacity in the U.S. and one 78 MW project, Raleigh, in Canada. Invenergy will keep a 10 percent equity interest and will be the operations and maintenance provider for the U.S. projects, which are the California Ridge, Bishop Hill, Prairie Breeze and Rattlesnake.

El Paso Electric Names Mary Kipp as New CEO

El Paso Electric Company has announced the utility’s president was appointed chief executive officer.

Mary Kipp succeeds Thomas Shockley, CEO since 2012, who the Board of Directors says fulfilled his contract and will continue serving on the board.

“As a native of this region, Mary understands the diverse community we serve and the future needs of this region,” said Shockley. “She values the importance of working with and developing our talented employees who continue to provide our customers with safe and reliable energy.”

Kipp joined EPE in December 2007. She previously served as senior attorney in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Enforcement.

“We continue to plan ahead for the exciting growth and innovation that we are experiencing,” Kipp said, “and as EPE invests in cost-effective new technologies we are ensuring that we meet our region’s future needs.”

Utah’s First Utility-Scale Solar Plant Completed

Scatec Solar ASA completed construction of Utah’s first utility-scale solar photovoltaic project in less than a year.

The104-MW Utah Red Hills Renewable Park in Parowan, Utah more than doubles the state’s current solar energy production and is expected to generate about 210,000 megawatt-hours of electricity a year.

In 2008, Utah enacted the Energy Resource and Carbon Emission Reduction Initiative, setting a 2025 renewable energy goal of 20 percent and requiring utilities to pursue renewables whenever cost effective.

The Red Hills project, whose capacity is being fed into the grid under a 20-year power purchase agreement with PacifiCorp’s Rocky Mountain Power, is the first solar project in Utah with a capacity greater than 80 MW.

Southern Co. Wind Project Fully Operational

Southern Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, has announced the completion of its first wind project.

The company said Monday the 299-MW Kay Wind facility in Kay County, Oklahoma, featuring 130 Siemens wind turbines, is now fully operational. The electricity and associated renewable energy credits generated by the project are being sold under 20-year power purchase agreements with Kansas’ Westar Energy Inc. and Oklahoma’s Grand River Dam Authority.

Westar Energy is purchasing 199 MW of the farm’s output while GRDA is purchasing the remaining 100 MW. Both companies have the option to keep or sell the RECs.

The Kay Wind facility was developed by Apex Clean Energy, which will also operate and maintain the facility, while Blattner Energy Inc. served as EPC contractor.

The project is capable of generating enough electricity to power about 100,000 average U.S. homes.

Duke Proposes More Than 75 MW of New Solar for North Carolina

Duke Energy proposed two new solar facilities in North Carolina, together totaling more than 75 MW.

The 60-MW Monroe Solar Facility in Union County is slated for 400 acres. Strata Solar would design and build the project.

The 15.4-MW Mocksville Solar Facility in Davie County is proposed for 110 acres. Crowder Construction would provide engineering, procurement and construction services.

Pending approval from the North Carolina Utilities Commission, construction will begin in March on both projects. Completion is expected by the end of 2016.

“As part of our solar expansion efforts in North Carolina, we will continue to seize opportunities to both develop as well as purchase projects that enable us to deliver more renewable energy to our customers,” said Rob Caldwell, senior vice president, Distributed Energy Resources.

Both projects would be owned and operated by Duke Energy Carolinas, helping the state meet its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.

Calpine Pushes Back Start of Guadalupe Project by 1 Year

LCRA Transmission Services Corp. on Dec. 8 filed with the Texas Public Utility Commission a revision to a Generation Interconnection Agreement with the Guadalupe Peaking Energy Center LLC affiliate of Calpine Corp. for a 454-MW project in Guadalupe County, Texas.

The revision includes a one-year delay, from the original June 1, 2017, to a new date of June 1, 2018, as the target date for commercial operation of this project.

Said the original agreement: ” The Plant maximum winter rating will be approximately 454 MW of AC power at 0 degrees F at the Points of Interconnection. The Plant will consist of 454 MW from 2 simple cycle gas turbines.”

These two turbines are the General Electric 7FA.05 model. Said Calpine in its Oct. 30 quarterly Form 10-Q report: “Under the terms of the agreement, construction of the Guadalupe Peaking Energy Center (‘GPEC’) may commence at our discretion, so long as the power plant reaches COD between the dates of June 1, 2017, and June 1, 2019.”

GE Receives Largest Single Jenbacher Order in China

General Electric said it received its largest single order of Jenbacher gas engines in China.

GE will supply 12 Ecomagination qualified 3.35-MW J620 gas engines to the Shanxi Jincheng Coal Group for an expansion of a coal mine methane (CMM) gas-fueled power plant at the Chengzhuang coal mine in Jincheng City, Shanxi Province.

Phase 1 of the power plant features nine older gas engines from another supplier.

The 40-MW expansion is slated for completion in 2016 and will bring the plant’s total capacity to 58 MW of on-site power to be sold to the local grid.

Capturing the mine’s methane-rich gas and producing power on-site with the Jenbacher engines sends fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and supports the country’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

Silver Spring Launches Global IoT Network to Rival 5G

Silver Spring Networks has launched a new global Internet of Things (IoT) network. Starfish is available to cities, businesses, utilities and developers.

Silver Spring says the network will outperform the IoT features of the 5G mobile networks of the future.

Starfish is being deployed in San Jose, Chicago, San Antonio, Bristol (UK), Copenhagen (DEN) and Calcutta (India), opening up opportunities for applications from civic to smart city and commercial deployment.

Silver Spring Networks says IoT has a potential economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025.

The Silver Spring IPv6 network features speeds up to 1.2Mbps, 10 millisecond latency up to 50 miles in point-to-point range and nearly limitless mesh range.

Crane Out as CEO of NRG Energy, COO Gutierrez Named as Successor

Last month, NRG Energy Inc. said David Crane, president and chief executive officer since 2003, is stepping down, effective immediately.

Mauricio Gutierrez, who joined NRG in 2004 and has served as executive vice president and chief operating officer since July 2010, was named Crane’s successor. According to NRG’s announcement, it’s expected Gutierrez will also be appointed NRG director.

Crane is expected to assist in the transition through the end of the year. While the company did not give a reason for Crane’s sudden departure, NRG Energy is in the midst of rebalancing its assets after months of lost earnings.

Just this week, NRG Energy announced it was selling its Pennsylvania and New Jersey power plants for $138 million. At the time, Crane said the moves were part of an “ongoing and deliberate strategy of portfolio optimization.”

NRG Energy is the largest independent power producer in the U.S., with a generation capacity of nearly 50,000 MW.

$3.1 Billion in Investments Expected for US Power Industry Water Rules

New U.S. power industry water regulations are helping to spur a projected $3.1 billion in investments, according to a new report.

Bluefield Research said in a new analysis that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent effluent guidelines, in addition to discharge regulations, fuel-switching and water supply risks are impacting investments in water and wastewater treatment solutions from 2015 to 2025.

Bluefield identified 206 power plants in coal-rich, Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states that are a central focus for EPA regulations. The effluent guidelines require coal-fired power plants with capacities over 50 MW to upgrade their water systems. Bluefield expects operators to spend $2.4 million from 2019 to 2023, and capital expenditures are expected to hit $7.5 billion by 2042.

“The risk to utilities and independent power producers is not just environmnetal but also operational,” said Bonney Casey, an analyst with Bluefield Research. “The adoption of new water solutions will be more far-reaching than just drought-stricken California; we have seen activity in Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania.”

NRG Energy Selling Seward, Shelby County Generating Stations

NRG Energy is selling two of its generating stations as part of its asset rebalancing program..

The 525-MW Seward power plant and the 352-MW Shelby County power plant are being sold to Seward Generation LLC and Rockland Capital LLC, respectively.

Under the sales agreement, NRG Energy Services will provide operations and maintenance services for the Seward facility in New Florence, Pennsylvania.

Seward is in the PJM Interconnection while the Neoga, Illinois Shelby County facility is in the MISO Interconnection.

The aggregate purchase price for both facilities — owned by GenOn Energy Inc., an excluded project subsidiary of NRG – is about $138 million cash and other consideration.

Assets are projected to average $10.5 million of Adjusted EBITDA annually over the next three years and require about $17 million in maintenance capital expenditures over the same period.

Subject to regulatory approval, the transactions are expected to close in the first quarter of 2016.

Duke Issued 40-Year License for Hydro Project

Duke Energy’s Catawba-Wateree Hydroelectric Project was issued a new 40-year operating license, allowing the company to continue operations at its 13 hydroelectric stations and 11 associated reservoirs along the Catawba-Wateree River in North and South Carolina.

“The significance of the new license cannot be overstated,” said Steve Jester, vice president of water strategy, hydro licensing and lake services for Duke Energy. “Receiving the new license ensures the Catawba-Wateree River will continue to support and sustain communities across the Carolinas for at least the next 40 years.

“In addition, Duke Energy can now take action on the many benefits which will enhance the region and environment for generations to come,” said Jester.

Requirements of the license include expanded recreational access and amenities as well as scheduled releases of additional water flow for recreational purposes.

NEI CEO Marvin Fertel Announces Retirement

Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), announced he will retire effective at the end of 2016.

Fertel has been the head of the NEI since 2009.

He has held several executive positions at NEI, served on federal agency advisory boards, and consulted for utilities on issues related to designing, siting, licensing, and managing fossil-fueled and nuclear power plants.

When NEI formed in 1994, Fertel was its vice president of Nuclear Economics and Fuel Supply.

He was named senior vice president and chief nuclear officer in 2003.

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