Things are looking particularly sunny for the U.S. solar industry
Plus, a trio of breakthroughs set to help zap the world's emissions
. . . . No doubt you’ve seen hundreds of houses with solar panels on their roofs. And thousands of similar panels arrayed on fields and hillsides. Well, get ready for many more, because the solar industry, which produces only about 3% of U.S. power output at present, appears to be poised for a huge leap forward.
First up, the Department of Energy, in a memo, just pushed for tax credits for solar projects and the factories that make the components with a goal of 40% of U.S. power coming from solar by 2035. To propel solar to this level, the industry needs to grow at three or four times its current rate, creating up to 1.5 million jobs, according to an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory cited in the memo. Meanwhile, reports Reuters, the White House is zeroing in on tax credits and a clean electricity payment program for utilities — which may be included in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation spending package being fought over on Capitol Hill — to supercharge industry growth.
Not that some are waiting. In Ohio, Arizona-based First Solar (FSLR) has just broken ground on a 3.3 GW panel factory in the Buckeye State that will, when completed, bring the company’s total capacity in the state to 6 GW, making it, according to a press release, “largest fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing complex outside China.”
Talking of China, First Solar says it is independent of supply chains from that nation, which dominates the solar industry. Which is a probably a good thing, given rocky relations between Washington and Beijing over claims that slave labor from Muslim minority communities is used in extracting raw materials, a practice that has led the Biden administration to ban and seize imported panels believed to contain the ingredient.
In what looks to become an even more burgeoning market, look to other U.S. companies beyond First Solar to start building domestically. . . .
. . . . Though much of what happens in the renewables industry is significant, it tends to be incremental. Increased capacity here, more solar panels and wind turbines there. But sometimes stuff comes a long that is truly eye-opening, like this trio of green go-getters we noticed in the past couple of days:
In Oahu, Hawaii, the state’s last remaining coal-fired power plant is to be shut down and replaced, in part, by a giant battery! The Kapolei Energy Storage facility (KES), reports Canary Media, will rank among the largest stand-alone batteries in the world, at 185 megawatts/565 megawatt-hours, and will take the island’s considerable solar resources, whose output peaks in the middle of the day, and feed it back into the grid to fulfill evening demand that has been fulfilled by the creaky coal plant.
Much attention is paid to emissions from cars and airplanes, but did you know that agricultural machinery accounts for about 10% of U.S. emissions? Ah, the rural life. Now, former Tesla (TSLA) engineer Mark Schwager is turning his EV expertise to farming vehicles and has co-founded a company called Monarch Tractor, reports Bloomberg. Based in Livermore, Calif, the new rigs have already found fans — in particular, neighbors who were annoyed by grapevine spraying using noisy machinery that had to occur at night due to environmental regulations. The mild-mannered Monarchs have proved much more acceptable.
Another huge polluter is marine transport, especially the diesel-powered megaships that ply the oceans carrying containers and oil. Now, the world’s largest shipping company, Denmark’s Maersk (AMKBY), has announced that it is partnering with another Danish firm, European Energy, to produce green fuel for the first vessel to operate on carbon-neutral methanol. The boat in question, which measures 565 feet in length, is being built by South Korea’s Hyundai Mipo Dockyards. . . .
. . . . In the green business, like any other, it takes innovation to move a company forward (with, of course, solid strategic fundamentals to stand them up). And so here are a couple of notable moves that have piqued our interest and look likely to expand the renewables marketplace.
First, IKEA, the world’s largest furniture brand — and creator of major headaches as you try to put its products together — is to start selling renewable electricity to individual households, reports Reuters. The initiative will start in Sweden, where the privately owned company is headquartered, with partner Svea Solar, which produces solar panels for Ikea. Under the plan, Svea will buy the voltage on the Nordic power exchange Nord Pool and resell it through IKEA without surcharge. Households will pay a fixed monthly fee plus a variable rate and solar panel users also will be able to sell back excess electricity.
And it may not just stay in Sweden, with Jonas Carlehed, head of sustainability at IKEA Sweden, saying the company hoped to soon roll out the new renewable energy initiative — as well as Ikea’s solar panels — in all its markets.
Meanwhile, in a very different business, the venerable Lloyd’s of London — the insurance and reinsurance market started at a coffee house in 1686 — has announced that it will expand its offerings to better support the green energy sector and, in particular, create new policies for electric vehicles. In regard to the latter, EV owners complain of facing relatively high premiums despite claims being 40% lower than for identical gas-powered vehicles, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute. As for insurance in general, green business leaders have long complained of higher premiums due to the newness of projects or products, reports GreenBiz.com, something Lloyd’s says it will address through new “risk transfer solutions.”
They may be 335 years old, but they’re not fuddy-duddies. . . .
. . . . It’s well understood by now: that the two fastest growing sources of renewable energy — wind and solar power — are at the mercy of the weather. Which means that an increasingly green grid, as well as battery storage, nuclear energy and other supplemental factors, has to be robust and super-nimble to keep electricity flowing to consumers.
Which is why electricity grid advocates are disappointed that the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that passed the U.S. Senate last week — after the White House promised to build “thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy” — ended up with only $2.5 billion set aside for grid expansion, reports CanaryMedia.com, with possible extra funds expanding the pot to $5 billion.
The apparent change of mind spurred about 50 industry groups and renewables advocates to write a letter to the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives, which is expected to pass the bill, too, before it goes to President Joe Biden’s desk. In it, they asked for the shortfall to be made up in the upcoming $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, which also proposes a lot of infrastructure spending, as well as creating an investment tax credit similar to those available to solar and wind projects.
“A well-designed transmission [tax credit] with appropriate guardrails on eligibility and usable by all types of transmission developers, can spur needed investment in large-scale transmission necessary to cost-effectively decarbonize the electric grid,” the letter said.
More power to them. . . .