Lovins A.B.,Rocky Mountain Institute
Electricity Journal | Year: 2011
Many nuclear advocates argue that renewable electricity has far too big a land 'footprint' to be environmentally acceptable, while nuclear power is preferable because it uses orders of magnitude less land. If we assume that land-use is an important metric, a closer look reveals the opposite is true. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.
Bendewald M.,Rocky Mountain Institute |
Zhai Z.J.,University of Colorado at Boulder
Habitat International | Year: 2013
Building sustainability assessments are driving greater market demand for sustainable buildings in the developed world. However, do such assessments actually demonstrate building sustainability? Some critics of building sustainability assessment argue that the methods should evolve toward an "absolute" assessment of building sustainability. That is, rather than assessing a building relative to a average like-type building as is typically done, the assessment should be made to whatever is deemed sustainable using a credible science. One possible form of absolute assessment is using the indicator of sustainability known as carrying capacity. After discussing the opportunities with a carrying-capacity-based assessment of buildings, this paper proposes a computational model that provides such an assessment. There are four main components to the presented computational model. The first is the amount of carbon (C) stored on the building site in its native state. This native-site carbon storage is defined as the baseline carbon storage and represents the carrying capacity of the building project. The second is land use change, which accounts for the removal or addition of vegetation and other carbon storing elements to the project site. The third and fourth carbon emissions sources in the model are building construction and operation. A building is considered sustainable in the model if by the end of its expected lifetime the total amount of carbon emissions are completely offset. Building designers and their clients can use this model to more comprehensively account for carbon emissions and identify options for reducing and offsetting them. To drive greater adoption, the model has been developed into an online resource, Green Footstep (www.greenfootstep.org).To demonstrate the usefulness of the model, this paper presents a case study of an institutional building in Lake Placid, Florida, USA. The case study shows that the design team used the model to better understand what it means to have a "low-carbon" goal. The model showed them that over one hundred years, the building project must reduce and offset carbon emissions at a rate of 16 tonnes C per year. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Lovins A.B.,Rocky Mountain Institute
Ambio | Year: 2010
Protecting the climate is not costly but profitable (even if avoided climate change is worth zero), mainly because saving fuel costs less than buying fuel. The two biggest opportunities, both sufficiently fast, are oil and electricity. The US, for example, can eliminate its oil use by the 2040s at an average cost of$15 per barrel (2000$), half by redoubled efficiency and half by alternative supplies, and can save three-fourths of its electricity more cheaply than operating a thermal power station. Integrative design permits this by making big energy savings cheaper than small ones, turning traditionally assumed diminishing returns into empirically observed expanding returns. Such efficiency choices accelerate climate-safe, inexhaustible, and resilient energy supply-notably the "micropower" now delivering about a sixth of the world's electricity and 90% of its new electricity. These cheap, fast, market-financeable, globally applicable options offer the most effective, yet most underestimated and overlooked, solutions for climate, proliferation, and poverty. © 2010 Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
News Article | March 25, 2016
Community-scale solar has the potential to become the next market segment to present a real gigawatt-scale growth opportunity, as outlined in RMI’s recent insight brief. So far, the growth of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the U.S. has been concentrated in two markets. One is residential rooftop solar, which is like a colony of ants with a few different roles executed by many different ants, and utility-scale solar, which is like whales, each unique, but large. Community-scale solar is like a chameleon: it adapts to its environment. RMI defines community-scale solar as mid-size (i.e., 0.5–5 MW), distribution grid-connected PV, with a variety of potential customers. Community-scale solar includes community, or shared, solar as well as mid-size arrays owned by utilities or owned by third-party providers that sell power to utilities. RMI sees a roughly 15 GW opportunity through 2020 for both shared solar, solar owned by utilities, or solar purchased by co-ops, municipalities, or investor-owned utilities through power purchase agreements (PPAs). A wide range of buyers pursue community-scale solar. Motivations vary: some buyers may pursue lower-cost electricity, others may want to reduce carbon emissions, while others may want to foster a stronger community by owning local electricity-generation assets. A parish in western Massachusetts may procure a shared solar system for a church parking lot to give low-income parishioners ownership of an asset that will produce free, clean electricity. A rural electric cooperative in Arizona may sign a 2 MW PPA to reduce the average cost of electricity generation for its members. An electricity retailer in Texas may see community-scale solar as a chance to bind customers to their company and reduce customer churn. Community-scale solar enables buyers to create solutions customized to their needs. Community-scale solar’s adaptability gives buyers who are not served by current rooftop or utility-scale solar offerings access to clean electricity. For most residents of Rochester, NY, rooftop solar is not economic. Community-scale solar provides a solution. Our team at RMI works with a local community-based organization that is planning several community-scale solar systems that look like parks while producing solar electricity below utility rates. The ability to customize community-scale solar makes it the chameleon in the solar kingdom. Counter-intuitively, a high degree of standardization and modularization of the hardware enables customized community-scale solar offerings. Despite the diverse needs of buyers, we believe it makes sense to consider community-scale solar as one segment because the hardware components and activities can be similar for different customer offerings. The distinctive nature of community-scale solar resists standardization and may require community solar developers to spend more time creating customized solutions. This can raise installed costs if for-profit developers execute an entire project. However, these cost increases can be avoided. RMI works with buyers using a strategy we call community-supported development. Community-supported development means that buyers, not developers, execute early-stage development activities such as finding sites, obtaining permits, filing for interconnection, and acquiring subscribers. Buyers and sellers can work independently and collectively to reduce installation costs by as much as 40 percent, as detailed in RMI’s insight brief. Rooftop solar providers have largely converged on offering a small number of products. SolarCity, America’s largest solar installer, offers three residential options: buy the installation outright, lease it, or buy only the power through a PPA. But if community-scale solar developers were to collectively offer such a small number of products, they’d miss out on much of the opportunity. Instead of focusing on specific products or systems, private enterprise is focusing on specific services and offerings. Acadia Micro offers a service for customer engagement and billing. Cleargrid Energy identifies sites suitable for 0.5–5 MW arrays based on GIS data. Even turnkey-developer Clean Energy Collective now licenses a software product to utilities who want to engage in community-scale solar. In our ongoing writing about community-scale solar, we will cover in detail the dynamics, objectives, and opportunities of different community-scale solar models for buyers including: For each model we will answer the following questions: Who and what drives the model? What are the financial and non-financial benefits, and for whom? How can this market segment be scaled-up to one gigawatt? What are the main barriers for rapid market growth? Our Shine team at Rocky Mountain Institute works actively with different buyers of community-scale solar. Around the nation, we see communities pursuing community-scale solar, translating hope for a better community into on-the-ground change. Defining a practical cause that can unite community, lower carbon emissions, and reduce electricity bills. Ultimately, it is this spirit of Applied Hope that makes community-scale solar so interesting to pursue. If community-scale solar is a chameleon, we want to discover its colors. If you are pursuing community-scale solar in your utility or community, we’d like to know what your intentions are, and how you’re designing a system to meet these objectives. Please reach out if you want to share your experiences and insights, by sending an email to email@example.com. Reprinted with permission. 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Many in the rooftop solar industry believe utilities should not be allowed to launch their own programs to own and operate residential or commercial solar. But is this hard line justified? There are valid concerns that shouldn’t be dismissed -- most importantly that rate-basing gives utilities an unfair competitive advantage. However, we should be encouraging more utility involvement. The solar industry is not properly taking into account how utility-led programs can fundamentally change the growth trajectory of solar for the better, benefiting all stakeholders in the process. There has been pushback whenever and wherever a utility has proposed owning rooftop solar, exacerbating the conflict between utilities and third-party solar companies. Some of this pushback is justifiable, as there are examples of utilities actively attempting to stall solar. However, we’ve created an environment in which utility executives will be hesitant to launch any new type of solar promotion program. To change this, it’s time the industry cut them some slack and back bold and well-designed projects as they pop up. Let's consider some of the benefits (or potential benefits) of utility-led programs: If the goal of policymakers and regulators is to maximize the amount of distributed energy installed at the lowest cost, then utilities should be invited to take on a more prominent role. Admittedly, we lack sufficient data points on cost and performance since this is such a new space. But there are scattered results. CPS San Antonio reportedly had more people sign up for its SolarHost pilot in 72 hours than the cumulative number of customers who had signed up for solar incentive programs in the previous seven years. Working with the Rocky Mountain Institute, the City of Fort Collins developed an implementation plan that demonstrated it could add additional value by providing a broader suite of integrated utility services (such as efficiency retrofits) alongside solar. In the process, Fort Collins would actually experience an increase in net income. New Jersey Natural Gas has an unregulated subsidiary offering residential solar leases in its territory, leveraging the power of its brand. It would be worthwhile to study customer uptake in comparison to alternative solar providers in the area. One benefit is clear: solar provides a new growth avenue for New Jersey Natural Gas and an opportunity to better serve customers. Utilities are not going to take over the whole process -- they know they're not exactly the most agile of organizations. Utilities will partner with solar installers and other companies to develop and run these programs. Ultimately, this is a win-win-win proposition: good for customers, good for the industry, and good for the utility. At Soligent, we've been actively studying how to support this trend and are in discussions with utilities, regulators and other solar companies regarding the design of pilots. The advent of utility-led distributed energy resources will start with pilots. Several have recently been announced: Con Edison will test a virtual power plant together with Sunverge; National Grid will deploy rooftop assets in a lower-income community; and Green Mountain Power will control the charge and discharge cycles of customer-sited batteries. The outcome of these pilots will define the role utilities play in distributed energy, starting with solar. The solar industry would be wise to play a proactive role, helping ensure these programs are beneficial to all. Interested in learning both sides of the issue? Listen to this debate organized by GTM on utility ownership of solar: Jonathan Doochin is the CEO of Soligent; Diogo Castro Freire is head of utility solutions at Soligent.