DOE launches $10 million prize to accelerate community solar in underrepresented communities

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) today launched a slate of initiatives to support the deployment of equitable community solar projects and recognized projects exemplifying best practices in community solar. Community solar allows any household to access the benefits of renewable energy, with an emphasis on those that cannot access rooftop solar. The Community Power Accelerator™ and its $10 million prize will leverage $5 billion in private-sector financing commitments to help community-based organizations and other mission-aligned project developers access financing and build community solar projects, particularly in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities. The Department is also launching a new campaign to highlight the connections between solar energy and its long-term benefits, beginning with community solar. Community solar will play a vital role in supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative to ensure that every community benefits from the clean energy transition and in achieving the President’s goals of a 100% electric grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Accelerating equitable community solar deployment with the Community Power Accelerator

President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act established tax credits for solar energy projects, including a 20% bonus credit for solar power projects that sell their electricity to low-income households. This tax credit could support up to 18 GW of additional community solar projects over the next 10 years, enough to power over 2.5 million homes. The critical challenge is ensuring that all types of organizations and communities have access to the funds to develop community solar and that the projects deployed deliver “meaningful benefits” to communities and subscribers, like electricity bill savings, community ownership and wealth-building, resilience, equitable workforce development, and low- and moderate-income household access.

Today, DOE’s National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) launched the Community Power Accelerator™ to bring together investors, philanthropic organizations, developers, community-based organizations, and technical experts to work together to get more equitable community solar projects financed and deployed. The Accelerator will support developers with technical assistance and a Learning Lab to build a pipeline of verified, credit-ready projects that will connect with investors seeking to fund community solar in disadvantaged communities. Financial institutions and philanthropic organizations participating in the Accelerator have committed $5 billion in private sector financing for projects that are credit-ready.

The Accelerator includes the following programs:

  • The Community Power Accelerator Prize is a new $10 million competition that will provide pre-development funds to organizations to build the expertise, experience, and capacity required to develop community solar projects at scale.
  • An online platform, developed by DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, that will enable community-based organizations, intermediaries, and other mission-aligned project developers to connect with investors and philanthropic organizations seeking to fund a more diverse and community-based pipeline of community solar projects.
  • A Learning Lab and technical assistance program will prepare community-based organizations, small or new solar developers, and others to develop, finance, and build “credit-ready” community solar projects—projects that are ready for financing.

Recognizing best practices in community solar

During the NCSP Annual Summit, DOE announced the winners of the Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar, an awards program that recognizes best practices in community solar projects and programs that increase equitable access and ensure benefits—such as greater household savings, good-paying jobs, and enhanced energy resilience—go to subscribers and their communities.

Five teams were selected for Grand Prize awards. Across the board, these five winners will help households achieve a projected combined total savings of $4.3 million on their energy bills. The projects provide clean energy access for 7,300 low- to moderate-income households and demonstrate best practices in increasing resilience, expanding community ownership, building a more equitable workforce, and leading community engagement.

  • Shungnak-Kobuk Community Solar Battery IPP (Shungnak, AK): This solar and battery project led by the Shungnak and Kobuk tribes in the Northwest Arctic Borough region in Alaska aims to stabilize the cost of electricity and allow the communities to take charge of their energy future.
  • Faribault Community Solar (Faribault, MN): The Faribault Community Solar project is a cooperatively-owned community solar array serving mostly low-to-moderate income residents in southern Minnesota.
  • Community Power: Jobs and Savings for LMI Households (Brooklyn, NY): Community Power delivers energy savings to 500 households, provided workforce training, and offered paid jobs to public housing residents.
  • District of Columbia’s Solar for All (Washington, DC): Solar for All is a program designed to reduce electricity bills for households in Washington, DC, through single-family and community solar projects.
  • JOE-4-SUN Ashland (Ashland, MA): JOE-4-SUN Ashland is a 6 MW community solar project that saves low-to-moderate income households over $400 per year on electricity costs and brings the benefits of clean, renewable energy to a superfund site.

Connecting the dots on solar energy: Generating power for generations

DOE also launched a new campaign to highlight the many benefits of solar energy to individuals and communities and provide a resource hub so that the public can learn about how solar will positively impact the nation’s future. The Inflation Reduction Act lowers the cost of solar energy for consumers and businesses while creating good paying jobs as deployment and manufacturing capacity grows across the country. Over the next few years, millions of households are expected to join the nearly 4 million American households that have gone solar—either through installing solar on their rooftops or by joining a community solar program. The Connect the Dots on Solar Energy campaign will focus on making connections between solar energy investments and their enduring, long-term benefits.

About the National Community Solar Partnership

NCSP is working to increase community solar installed in the United States to 20 GW, enough to power the equivalent of five million households by 2025 and create $1 billion in energy bill savings to consumers across America. NCSP has over 1,300 partners who leverage peer networks and technical assistance resources to overcome barriers to expanding community solar access.

Learn more about DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and the National Community Solar Partnership.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Carbon capture nets 2 billion tonnes of CO2 each year — but it’s not enough

Read the full story in Nature.

More than 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide is being removed from Earth’s atmosphere each year, according to an analysis of global efforts to capture and store the greenhouse gas.

But this will not be enough to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures, even with pledges from governments worldwide to increase carbon dioxide removal (CDR) rates and invest in new technologies.

The report, called The State of Carbon Dioxide Removal, provides the first global estimates of the total amount of carbon that is being sucked out of the air each year, and predicts how much this will have to increase under various emissions scenarios. It was published on 19 January.

NRDC is seeking new cities to join its food waste reduction program

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is expanding its Food Matters initiative with a goal of helping more cities develop strategies around food waste reduction, recovery and recycling.

Cities with populations of 200,000 or more are encouraged to apply by Feb. 17. NRDC will provide technical assistance for certain initiatives, such as estimating food waste generation, assisting with food waste reduction, planning, messaging and funding proposals, facilitating city support for edible food recovery programs and expanding community composting.

2022 Funding Opportunity Announcement for Energy Improvements at Public K-12 School Facilities – Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) – Renew America’s Schools

Applications due: Apr 21, 2023
View the full funding opportunity.

The Office of State and Community Energy Programs is issuing this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) titled Energy Improvements at Public K-12 School Facilities – Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) – Renew America’s Schools.

The activities to be funded under this FOA support BIL section 40541 and the broader government-wide approach to support projects that enable replicable and scalable impacts, create innovative, sustaining partnerships, leverage funding and economies of scale, focus on disadvantaged communities, improve student, teacher, and occupant health, enrich learning and growth, assist schools that serve as community assets (e.g., neighborhood cooling centers or disaster recovery shelters), and are crafted thoughtfully within the context of public school facilities (e.g., procurement restraints, construction windows, etc.).

Topic Area 1 – High-Impact Energy Efficiency and Health Improvements

Proposals contemplated under this topic area will include energy improvements that result in direct reduction to school energy costs, increase energy efficiency, and lead to improvements in teacher and student health, including indoor air quality. Energy cost savings may be realized by reduced loads and/or by demand flexibility and demand response approaches.

Topic Area 2 – Innovative Energy Technology Packages

Proposals contemplated under this topic include innovative energy technology packages. Applicants may include any improvement, repair, or renovation to a school that incorporates two or more of the following energy improvements:

  • Energy efficiency measures
  • Installation of renewable energy technologies
  • Alternative fueled vehicle infrastructure on school grounds
  • Purchase or lease of alternative fueled vehicles to be used by a school

DOE expects to make a total of approximately $80,000,000 of federal funding available for new awards under this FOA, subject to the availability of appropriated funds. DOE anticipates making approximately 20-100 awards under this FOA. DOE may issue one, multiple, or no awards. Individual awards may vary between $500,000 and $15,000,000.

Photocatalytic water splitting with 9.2% solar-to-hydrogen efficiency

Read the full story at pv magazine.

A US research team has developed a new technique to produce hydrogen from sunlight and water. It works in an indoor environment and uses pure water, concentrated solar light, and an indium gallium nitride photocatalyst.

Washington state just started capping carbon emissions. Here’s how it works.

Read the full story at Grist.

Washington state rang in the New Year with the launch of its most ambitious plan to slash carbon pollution. The new “cap-and-invest” program is designed to follow in the footsteps of California, where a cap-and-trade system began in 2013, while trying to learn from its missteps.

Signed into law by Washington Governor Jay Inslee in 2021, the Climate Commitment Act works by setting a statewide “cap” on greenhouse gas emissions that steadily lowers over time. Washington, like California, is establishing a market for businesses to buy pollution “allowances” that will become increasingly expensive — an incentive to cut emissions and a way to raise money to counter climate change.

The first auction to sell off these allowances is scheduled at the end of February, and if all goes according to plan, Washington’s emissions will drop to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, an even steeper cut than California’s, which aims for an 80 percent reduction by the same year.

Road to nowhere: why the suburban cul-de-sac is an urban planning dead end

Getty Images

by Timothy Welch, University of Auckland

The cul-de-sac is a suburban trap. It’s virtually useless as a road, doesn’t support public transport, cycling or walking, and doesn’t work well as a play or gathering place. Its literal translation from the French is “bottom of a sack” – which sounds a lot less glamorous, you’ll agree.

And yet we persist with them. The calls for more housing that resonate across many urban societies almost always include plans to repurpose broad swathes of agricultural land into single-family housing serviced by twisting strands of cul-de-sac-capped roads.

But there is a danger in embracing this type of development. Despite the French name, the cul-de-sac as it exists today is not even from Europe. Like many modern transport nightmares, it originated in the car-oriented suburban planning of 1950s America, a defence against the perceived threat of the inner city.

Cul-de-sacs were envisioned initially as small offshoots from more traditional grid roads. They eventually morphed into isolated loops at the end of curvilinear patterns where only residents of the suburb would travel. They are the antithesis of connectivity.

Developers favour cul-de-sacs partly because they allow for building more single-family houses. Getty Images

A developer’s dream

In pushing the cul-de-sac, land and housing developers were merely continuing with a misguided notion that began with suburbs in general: those endless landscapes of single-family homes on large sections were promoted as a way to re-engage with the community and escape the rat race of city living.

But studies have shown residents of suburbs have much lower rates of civic engagement than those living in a more urban environment.

Developers told us cul-de-sacs were more efficient because they allowed higher densities. While not entirely a lie, it isn’t the whole truth either. Developers favour cul-de-sacs partly because they allow for building more single-family houses on oddly shaped land or closer to natural features than would otherwise be possible with a grid. Cul-de-sac suburbs often completely ignore topography or nature in their development.

Developers also favour cul-de-sacs because they require up to 50% less road, fewer pipes, streetlights and footpaths compared to traditional grid street patterns.

Snaking, disconnected cul-de-sac streetscapes mean less road to construct compared to a well-connected grid with more complex street hierarchies. But that also means fewer kilometres of footpaths, bike lanes and through-streets for public transport.

The very nature of cul-de-sacs means residents often require a car. Getty Images

Costly and impractical

Suburban single-family housing on “greenfield” development is cheap to build and has a high profit margin. Unfortunately, disconnected, car-centric, large-home suburbs result in higher per capita infrastructure costs, vehicle ownership and travel time costs, and higher overall purchase prices. And the real cost of suburban living is met by governments, councils and residents.

True, people are often attracted to cul-de-sacs because they’re seen as having minimal traffic. Ironically, the very nature of cul-de-sacs means residents often require a car as their primary mode of transport. People searching for a refuge from the noise, pollution and danger of cars have backed themselves – literally – into a corner.

The isolated and circuitous nature of cul-de-sac suburbs means there is often no access to public transportation. And active modes like walking, cycling and scooting are impractical. A lack of alternatives to the car means suburban residents have higher rates of car ownership – an added expense inner-city residents often don’t face.

Meanwhile, children might be only a few streets away from their friends, but in a jumble of winding roads and dead ends it’s virtually impossible to walk or cycle quickly to each other’s houses. Even that time-honoured rite of passage – walking alone to school – is impractical in this type of development.

Because these winding roads without any obvious focal point also often have low traffic volumes, they can’t support land uses other than low-density residences. As a result, even grabbing milk and bread from the dairy can involve a trip of several kilometres.

No exit

Compared to the straight lines of traditional developments, the curvilinear roads that sweep through modern subdivisions might seem relaxing, even pastoral. But lurking around every curve is a hidden danger.

Lines of sight are significantly reduced, making every car backing out of its driveway a risk for other motorists. For pedestrians and people on bikes, this lack of visibility presents a significant danger.

New developments also tend to have wider streets and fewer intersections, encouraging faster driving. Higher speeds and lower visibility can be a deadly combination. Studies have shown fatal car crashes are 270% more likely in newer, cul-de-sac-laden developments compared to older traditional neighbourhoods.

All in all, giving something a French name might make it sound classy, but a cul-de-sac is really just a dead end. And that’s exactly what cul-de-sac subdivisions are, too – an urban planning dead end.

Timothy Welch, Senior Lecturer in Urban Planning, University of Auckland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

PG&E, Energy Vault plan largest US utility-scale battery, green hydrogen long-duration storage project

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Energy Vault, a Swiss-based energy storage developer, announced Thursday a partnership to operate a utility-scale battery plus green hydrogen long-duration energy storage system in Northern California.

The hybrid system, with at least 293 MWh of dispatchable carbon-free energy, would be capable of powering about 2,000 electric customers on a PG&E microgrid in Calistoga, California. It’s expected to provide a minimum of 48 hours of backup power in outages and would be the first of its kind and largest utility-scale green hydrogen project in the U.S., Energy Vault said.

The energy storage system, which must be approved by California regulators, would be owned, operated and maintained by Energy Vault, headquartered in Lugano, Switzerland, while providing power in a long-term tolling agreement with PG&E. The system’s capacity may be expanded to 700 MWh, allowing it to operate longer without refueling, Energy Vault said.

Climate impact labels could help promote sustainable food choices: study

Read the full story from The Hill.

Labels placed on fast food items highlighting their high climate impact may sway consumers to make more sustainable choices, new study results show. 

Food accounts for around one-third of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions, while animal-based foods like red meat and dairy products make up a large proportion of these emissions. 

Researchers carried out a randomized clinical trial with more than 5,000 participants to determine whether calling attention to red meat’s climate impact could change consumer menu selections. 

Individuals were shown a sample online fast food menu and asked to select an item for dinner. 

A control group received a menu with a quick response code label on all items and no climate labels. Another group received a menu with green low-climate impact labels, positively framing options like fish, chicken, or vegetarian options. The third group received a menu with red high-climate labels on items containing red meat, negatively framing the options. 

Results showed 23 percent more participants in the high climate label group ordered a sustainable, non-red meat option, and 10 percent more in the low-climate group ordered a sustainable option, compared with controls.

‘Disruptive’ science has declined — and no one knows why

Read the full story in Nature.

The proportion of publications that send a field in a new direction has plummeted over the past half-century.