Now that solar modules are cheaper, SolarCity says it will install panels more densely on flat rooftops and put them angled toward each other in an east-west orientation, which should generate more power earlier and later in the day, at times when the electricity demand is higher, E&E reports.
Fault lines were on display at Wednesday at a Senate hearing on energy tax breaks, illustrating again that a comprehensive tax reform effort would have to bridge partisan and regional divides over incentives for fossil and renewable fuels.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who called the hearing -- his first on energy tax policy as chair of the Senate Finance Committee -- endorsed a performance-based approach that he said would allow the U.S. to display "energy exceptionalism" in the global clean energy market.
A relatively small number of remaining energy tax breaks could be "based on performance, not fuel type," he said. "I think this has the potential to be bipartisan."
Wyden avoided specifics about what performance factors he would support, however, or whether he would bring back a tax reform blueprint laid out by his predecessor, former Sen. Max Baucus, that tied clean energy production and investment tax credits to carbon output.
"Obviously senators will have differences of opinion with respect to it," Wyden told reporters about the approach.
He said the proposal raised by Baucus, D-Mont., would get attention in any discussion in the context of tax reform.
The timing of any comprehensive effort remains uncertain, and whether it happens anytime soon could depend on whether Republicans take control of the Senate this fall for President Barack Obama's final two years in office.
In the meantime, Wyden and ranking Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah both called for Congress to pass the $85 billion, two-year package of business tax break extensions and renewals the committee voted out earlier this year.
That package would retroactively renew the wind Production Tax Credit through 2015 and includes incentives for biofuels. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has pledged to bring it to the Senate floor after the November elections.
Hatch offered no detailed proposals for energy tax reform, but made a pointed attack on any attempt to use a carbon tax to generate revenue to offset lower tax rates, saying it would send U.S. jobs overseas and depress U.S. gross domestic product.
He also said all tax provisions should be reviewed.
"When we turn to tax reform, hopefully soon, I believe we need to examine all existing tax provisions, including energy tax provisions, under President Reagan's three criteria for reform: fairness, simplicity and efficiency," Hatch said.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., raised Democratic arguments that oil companies no longer need tax incentives after a century of backing by the tax code.
"For folks that have said, "ah you know, we shouldn't pick winners and losers,' well as I've said before, we picked the winner and they won. So now the question is, can we create more competition for different kinds of energy?" she said.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who authored the PTC, pushed back against criticism of it leveled by former Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., who testified that it was a government subsidy that should be eliminated.
Nickles said breaks for oil and gas companies should be seen as expensing provisions, different from tax credits, which he argued distort the energy market.
"Would you believe that raising taxes on alternative energy, raising their cost of doing business, will lead to job losses, and is there a difference then between a job lost in the oil and gas sector, vs. one lost in the renewable energy sector?" Grassley said.
Nickles responded: "I happen to think there's a difference between allowing somebody to deduct an out-of-pocket expense, I don't consider that a subsidy."
Two members of the California Energy Commission have recommended that the first phase of the Palen Solar Electric Generating System be approved despite continuing concerns of environmentalists worried about the project’s impact on the Joshua Tree National Park and the welfare of migrating birds, E&E reports.
Dominion Resources says it will install 2,500 solar panels at a Capital One Financial Corp. project in Virginia with the eventual capacity of 500 kilowatts, as well as purchasing two solar energy projects from EDF Renewable Energy in California totalling 42 megawatts, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
Duke Energy is committing to installing three solar facilities in North Carolina as well as signing power purchase deals with five other new solar projects in the state, for a total of 278 megawatts of capacity at a cost of $500 million, the Charlotte Business Journal reports.
Successful tests – in Canadian Maritime Provinces and in the U.S. as well -- point to the use of electric water heaters and space heaters linked to the grid through wireless controllers as a cheap method of storing excess energy like that generated from wind power, E&E reports.
The staging area to gather workers, materials and equipment to build the Cape Wind offshore wind farm will be in New Bedford, Massachusetts, as the company behind the project has signed a two-year, $4.5 million lease with the state to use a terminal at the port there, The Boston Globe reports.
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Vermont's largest city has a new success to add to its list of socially conscious achievements: 100 percent of its electricity now comes from renewable sources such as wind, water and biomass.
With little fanfare, the Burlington Electric Department crossed the threshold this month with the purchase of the 7.4-megawatt Winooski 1 hydroelectric project on the Winooski River at the city's edge.
When it did, Burlington joined the Washington Electric Co-operative, which has about 11,000 customers across central and northern Vermont, which reached 100 percent earlier this year.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Thursday lifted a stay on the Environmental Protection Agency’s implementation of its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, although legal arguments on challenges to some aspects of the regulation are set to take place next March, E&E reports.
Producers for American Crude Exports, or PACE, for short, is made up of more than a dozen independent oil companies who would like to see the decades-old U.S. ban on crude exports overturned, Reuters reports.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff has cleared the Constitution pipeline on its environmental impact, leaving Commissioners to make the final decision on the project, which is intended to add some 650 million cubic feet of natural gas capacity in New York and New England, FuelFix reports.
If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves changes that PJM Interconnection will suggest to the rules, it’s possible the wholesale electricity market manager might find a way to keep a demand response program going despite legal challenges, E&E reports.
Rising global supply and sluggish demand were continuing to weigh on oil prices. U.S. benchmark crude for December delivery dropped $1.08 to settle at $81.01 a barrel on the Nymex, $1.74 lower than the price a week ago, while Brent finished at $86.13, a loss of 70 cents on the day and 3 cents less than last Friday’s settlement price, Reuters reports.
ConocoPhillips, alongside partners including BP and Exxon Mobil, has announced what it says is the first new drilling in the North Slope’s Kuparuk River Field in nearly a dozen years, a well to come on line in 2016 that will add 8,000 barrels a day of production, Platts reports.
In one of the most hotly contested and expensive House races in the country, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is battling against Republican candidate Evan Jenkins and powerful conservative groups backed by the Koch brothers, The New York Times reports.
Kristin Jacobs – who has turned in a strong performance in her campaign to be elected to the Florida House of Representatives in a flood-prone Miami district – is one of a number of candidates who are successfully pressing climate change as an issue even when polls say it’s not a top voter concern, The New York Times reports.
Opower says pilot programs run in Vermont and Southern California over the summer, which involved contacting customers to ask them to go easier on their air conditioning and then reporting back to them on how much electricity they saved compared to their neighbors, cut usage by nearly 3 percent on a number of hot days, The Washington Post reports.