The California Energy Commission will hold a public workshop in San Diego to create a roadmap to accelerate the adoption of microgrid technology.
The April 25 workshop, which begins at 9:30 a.m. at the U.S. Grant Hotel, is the third in a series of workshops to develop a roadmap with stakeholders.
Microgrids are small-scale electrical systems that provide and manage power independent of the larger electric grid. They are used to support facilities with critical energy needs like hospitals, industrial complexes or university campuses. Many microgrids incorporate clean energy resources such as solar photovoltaics and can store energy using batteries and other technologies.
Despite the ability of microgrids to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support grid reliability and facilitate higher levels of distributed generation, their use is not yet widespread due to cost, regulatory issues and other factors.
At the workshop, representatives from the Energy Commission, the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Independent System Operator will discuss how stakeholders including utilities, microgrid owners and manufacturers can address barriers hindering the wider deployment of the technology.
Directions for participating in the workshop, including instruction for participating remotely through WebEx, are in the public notice.
Two workshops on the subject were held in 2016 and two more will be scheduled later.
Geothermal energy is California’s most constant form of renewable energy. Unlike wind and solar, which are not always constant, geothermal can be sourced year-round, all day long.
This makes the geothermal energy a key asset in California’s goal to obtain 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
The California Energy Commission will host a workshop on April 19 that provides an overview of the agency’s support of geothermal energy. The workshop, which begins at 1 p.m. in the Arthur Rosenfeld Hearing Room, includes a discussion with stakeholders about the future of geothermal in California.
Geothermal energy is an almost limitless energy source. The energy exists in the form of hot water or steam trapped in cracks and pores under layers of impermeable rock underground.
It is here that geothermal reservoirs form - and where wells are subsequently driven. The steam or water harvested from the reservoirs powers turbines for electricity.
There are 44 operating geothermal power plants in California, with an installed capacity of 2,716 megawatts. In 2015, geothermal energy produced 11,994 gigawatt hours of electricity in California and accounted for 4.4 percent of the state’s total system power.
Earlier this month, the Energy Commission released a notice of proposed awards for five geothermal projects totaling $4.7 million. The money would fund five geothermal projects, including $1.4 million to demonstrate a novel water-free method of extracting energy from hot dry rock.
The projects require approval from the Energy Commission at a business meeting. The grants will fund projects such as local and regional planning and exploration and research.
The funding would come from the Energy Commission’s Geothermal Grant and Loan Program. The program promotes development and maintenance of California’s vast geothermal energy resources.
When it comes to paying the bills, many residents find the cost of energy is no small matter.
A 2016 study found that the energy burden for the median low-income household was more than twice that of the average household’s.
The importance of offering solar energy to low-income communities was at the core of recent substantive changes made by the California Energy Commission to the guidebook of its award-winning New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) program.
Launched in 2007, the NSHP is the Energy Commission’s component of the state’s California Solar Initiative. It is offered to solar projects installed on new residential construction by providing financial incentives for homeowners, builders and developers.
The goal of the NSHP is to create a self-sustaining market for energy-efficient solar homes and help homeowners save money on electric bills. To date, the NSHP has installed nearly 67,000 solar systems. More than half of the systems are installed in large development projects where builders opt for solar as a standard feature.
Recent changes to the NSHP Guidebook, Tenth Edition include increasing incentive rates for affordable housing projects.
The NSHP provides two incentive structures – one for conventional or market rate housing and another for affordable housing. A major change in the guidebook is the increased dollar-per-watt incentive rate for remaining levels offered to eligible affordable housing projects.
In some cases, total incentives will increase from $0.80 per watt to $1.30 per watt. This is expected to increase interest among developers of affordable housing projects.
Eligible projects include single family homes, duplexes, condominiums, multifamily buildings and mixed-use buildings. Additionally, common areas in single and multifamily developments are also eligible, where the installation of solar is shown to create an economic benefit to residents.
Allowing common areas to receive incentives is a result of developers finding that solar systems in common areas for multifamily developments may be the only option for such developments to participate in the NSHP.
One change to the NSHP was removing the requirement that participants must have tax-exempt status to receive the higher affordable housing incentive. Another was expanding the permit application timeline from 60 days to 120 days after the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.
The timeline establishes a difference between solar installed on new homes versus existing ones. The 60-day window was too tight a deadline for some complex projects, particularly multifamily and affordable housing.
Various studies show that students perform better in modern learning environments. According to the California Department of Education, modern learning environments are not what you find in about 70 percent of classrooms in the state because they are more than 25 years old.
To address this, the Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39) K-12 Program helps schools improve energy efficiency and expand clean energy generation in schools. This is a voter approved initiative that adjusted the corporate income tax code and allocate projected revenues to school districts for energy improvements to facilities.
In the second annual report to the Legislature, the Proposition 39 Citizens Oversight Board provides an overview of programs from the California Energy Commission, California Community College Chancellor’s Office, Workforce Development Board, and California Conservation Corps. A jobs report from the Workforce Development Board was also included in the report.
The Energy Commission administers three programs under Proposition 39 - grants for K-12 schools, zero-interest loans, and technical assistance services.
The report includes information and project data from the Energy Commission covering December 2013 through June 2016.
During that time $827 million in K-12 Program grant funding for energy efficiency upgrades was approved. This includes approval of 981 energy project applications by 914 school districts, benefitting 3,519 project school sites. Fifty-two school districts with completed project reports represent $27 million of Proposition 39 funding.
An additional 174 school districts have completed project construction and have shifted into the data collection phase. This represents $104 million in Proposition 39 funding. Another 733 energy projects are still in the construction phase, with $151 million in Proposition 39 expenditures.
From June 2016 through March 2017, an additional $260 million was approved.
In the report, the board stated that “we are very happy to see that the participation rates are similar between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged Local Educational Agencies, possibly reflecting the fact that the Energy Commission staff took seriously our recommendation from last year on better outreach to smaller, less well-resourced schools.”
The board also made nine recommendations to help strengthen the program across all state agencies. The most pressing recommendation was to extend the Energy Commission’s K-12 Program deadline. The program requires schools to complete steps to secure and contract out for funds by June 30, 2018, meaning applications to the Energy Commission must be received by August 1, 2017. The report identified this timeline as a major challenge to the program. The current deadline effectively shortens the program by eleven months, cutting projected benefits such as job creation, energy and cost savings, and non-energy benefits.
The board’s report was sent to the Legislature at the end of March.
Three years ago if you were to make a list of cities at the forefront of progressive climate change policy, San Diego would not be on the top of that list.
But that changed in 2015 when the San Diego City Council unanimously approved a legally binding Climate Action Plan seeking to cut the city’s carbon emissions in half.
The plan calls for San Diego to get 100 percent of its energy from renewable energy by 2035. It also has an environmental justice component and seeks to change the percentage of residents who commute to work in cars.
The plan posits a bold paradigm shift for San Diego – a city of sprawling neighborhoods whose residents are closely tied to their cars. Only 13 percent of San Diegans commute to work on mass transit. The plan seeks to increase that rate to 50 percent.
The plan owes its origin and success to Nicole Capretz, founder and executive director of the Climate Action Campaign. Capretz, who authored the plan, gave a talk recently about its success and challenges at the California Energy Commission.
“We were the first city out of the gate - and it started a competition,” she said.
The result was a cascading effect - where other cities in the San Diego region wanted to jump on the climate action plan bandwagon. Capretz now works with 13 municipalities in San Diego and Orange counties to develop similar plans.
She said adoption of the plan was never a foregone conclusion in a city with a sizeable conservative population. To gain support, she engaged residents at the hyper-local level.
“You need an inside and outside strategy to pass far-reaching legislation,” said Capretz. “Without an internal champion or a broad base of community support from a variety of stakeholders, it’s hard to build the political will to take deep and meaningful action on any issue.”
Implementing the plan has not been without challenges. At present, the city has fallen behind on some land use and transportation targets, Capretz said.
San Diego’s relationship to renewable energy continues to evolve. The city is currently doing a technical study on a community choice energy plan. That plan will be complete at the end of the year.
San Diego’s climate action plan is expected to add momentum to other policies that encourage renewable energy while helping California meet the goal of getting 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
The California Energy Commission welcomed another new hydrogen refueling station to its network.
The Riverside station, now open at 8095 Lincoln Avenue, provides Californians with the fueling options they need to consider replacing their petroleum-fueled cars with hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles. Fuel-cell cars, like all-electric plug-in cars, do not emit smog-forming pollution. They help California reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, which warm the earth and change its climate.
The Energy Commission has funded 48 hydrogen stations, with 26 now open. There are plans to fund at least 100 stations for the introduction of hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles in the California marketplace.
Hydrogen fuel-cell electric cars are much quieter to drive than gasoline-fueled cars. Fuel-cell cars have about the same range – 300 miles – on a full tank and they can be larger than the battery electric vehicles that rely on heavy batteries. Filling up a fuel-cell vehicle takes about three to five minutes and is similar to traditional gas cars that receive liquid gas.
California requires at least 33 percent of the hydrogen used by fuel-cell cars to be from renewable energy sources. Some stations will dispense 100 percent renewable hydrogen. Hydrogen refueling stations and vehicles are safe. They have been around for at least 20 years, supporting transit buses.
With transportation responsible for nearly 40 percent of California’s greenhouse gases, zero-emission cars, such as hydrogen fuel-cell electric cars, can help California reach its climate change goals and reduce air pollution. That’s why the Energy Commission is funding hydrogen refueling stations and electric vehicle chargers.
See the status and locations of these stations here.
Installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system at a school can offset energy demand and reduce a school’s operating costs, leaving more funds for other programs. Chico Unified School District leveraged grant and loan funds from the Clean Energy Jobs Act to complete energy-saving projects at 20 schools.
This district, with more than 13,000 students at 21 campuses, has made their first priority quality teachers, materials and facilities.
The focus on facilities propelled the district to apply for more than $2 million in grants to the California Energy Commission’s Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39) K-12 Program. The district plan funds upgraded lighting, HVAC, and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects.
To leverage the grant funding, Chico Unified also applied for a zero-percent interest loan through the Energy Commission for $3 million. The funds from the Proposition 39 Energy Conservation Assistance Act-Education Subaccount (ECAA-Ed) helped finance the installation of PV systems on five additional campuses.
The district has been implementing energy efficiency measures for several years. Before receiving the loan, the district had installed seven solar power generation arrays, according to Lalanya Rothenberger, the district’s construction and energy manager.
“Chico Unified School District has made great progress in our quest to reduce energy consumption by implementing energy management protocols and by building efficient and earth-friendly buildings,” Rothenberger said. “We are thankful for the ability to complete these projects and improve our school sites while reducing our carbon footprint.”
ECAA-Ed and the K-12 Program are Energy Commission programs funded through Proposition 39. Voters passed Proposition 39 in 2012 to adjust the corporate income tax code. For five years, projected revenue will go to California’s general fund and to projects in schools that improve energy efficiency and expand clean energy generation.
Some military bases – like the U.S. Army’s Fort Irwin National Training Center in the Mojave Desert - exist in harsh, remote environments where access to water and energy are serious concerns.
Water conservation is a key issue at the base which gets two to four inches of rain yearly. Fortunately, the desert environment means the center also gets plenty of sun, allowing for the development of solar power.
Assessing how the base is using renewable energy and conservation practices were on the agenda for California Energy Commissioner David Hochschild’s recent tour of the base.
The renewable energy activity at the base is an example of how the Army is embracing renewable energy in the Mojave Desert.
The visit was one of a series of recent base visits by Energy Commissioners. The visits are part of the Energy Commission’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense to help installations transition to renewable and alternative energy.
There are 30 military installations in California – more than any other state in the nation.
The base, which has a daily population of roughly 20,000 residents, is where the military holds joint and combined arms training for units before deployment overseas.
At the base, Hochschild toured a 1 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic array and recent energy efficiency upgrades including a major light-emitting diode (LED) upgrade to a large vehicle wash facility.
Hochschild also visited a new LEED Platinum-certified hospital with 2 MWs of renewable energy from photovoltaic and solar arrays.
The base also has a large water purification project. The project is a crucial one since groundwater at the base is high in fluoride and arsenic, and the water system is privatized.
The remote location means that the base operates on a single Southern California Edison utility line that is more than 30 miles long. That poses grid challenges such as the threat of sudden power outages and the need to schedule two major outages a year for grid repairs and upgrades.
The base is working on completing a new microgrid that will allow it to use more clean energy and enable it to replace a diesel generator backup system.
Hochschild’s next military visit is the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake in April.