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EGEB: Japanese towns going off grid; $500M of solar R&D/year; Trump once believed; more

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Quiet energy revolution underway in Japan as dozens of towns go off the gridHigashi Matsushima has built its own independent transmission grid and solar generating panels as well as batteries to store power that can keep the city running for at least three days, according to Atsumi. The city of 40,000 chose to construct micro-grids and de-centralized renewable power generation to create a self-sustaining system capable of producing an average of 25 percent of its electricity without the need of the region’s local power utility. The headline seems a bit strong as of yet – there is no reference to dozens of towns off of the grid. However, this town can now run without the grid. And I bet, in times of stress the town would be able to figure out how to indefinitely stay off of the grid. Major grids composed of many smaller grids sounds pretty healthy.

10 years of R&D spending analysis of 12 key PV module manufacturers – Combined R&D expenditures of 12 major PV module manufacturers in 2016, tracked since 2007, declined by approximately 4.4% in 2016 to US$519.3 million (see Chart1), compared to US$542.9 million in 2015. Really though, one company – FirstSolar – stands out by far with almost a third of the money spent. However, money alone isn’t the whole of the argument – of the ~5,000 jobs in R&D, Trina Solar is 50% of that. Cost of living must be considered when comparing total cash outlay – China’s is about $8,000-9,000 while the USA is just below $58,000. Still though, First Solar with its ~100 or so researchers is probably *only* spending $10M/year out of $500M on labor. This is one reason FirstSolar is sold out of panels through, at least, the end of 2017.

A top Senate Democrat reminded Trump that he once urged Obama to act on climate change – Just a note on something that was once said by someone: In the open letter, which appeared as a full-page advertisement in a 2009 edition of The New York Times – “If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.” C’mon Donald – what happened? Coal money? Putin money? Koch money? I thought you would drain the swamp. I thought you were rich – above this.

Solar insiders expect ITC harm finding, handing tariff decision to Trump – Friday is a big day. September 22nd. There will be a lot of opinions that come out today and tomorrow. If you see stock prices for solar companies fall or rise heavily before the ruling – that means the news has been leaked. See you on Friday.

Holcomb coal power plant unlikely to be built, company says; $93 million already spent – Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby stunned state officials when he denied a permit for the plant, citing carbon dioxide emissions and the dangers of global warming as the major reasons. Many believed it to be the first time a public official in the United States had denied a permit based on concerns about climate change. Climate change is moving through the courts. Judges, irrelevant of what the talking heads or the president say, see that the science is incontrovertible. That a state like Kansas took this move is big.

Why Solar Advocates Are Crying Foul Over New York’s Latest REV Order – According to a filing from solar groups, “utilities take varying approaches to interpreting their MCOS studies to determine DRV/LSRV. This results in wildly varying estimates of the delivery value provided by DERs,” as evidenced by this chart below, which shows that the state’s utilities have come up with kilowatt-hour values ranging from $226 for Con Edison to $15 for Central Hudson. Check out the image below to see the variance on a utility level. The basics of what these numbers mean – what is the value of distributed energy generation (solar power in particular) per MWh (divide it by 1000 to get ¢/kWh price) within their power grid? These values will drive state level price structuring, incentives, finance terms, etc. At least no one is saying solar is worth $0.

Why is it the responsibility of the renewable industry to cover the failures of coal? Is it because the political forces behind these industries have long manipulated the talking heads that we vote for, and those talking head’s pockets are still filled with the lobbying cash of these folks? If anything – it is the fossil fuel industries who should be DIRECTLY PAYING SUBSIDIES to develop the technology needed to clean our planet. We’re being gamed by the powerful – the powerful whose wealth still runs the game.

Header image from the ‘Hit me with your SunShot‘ photography contest. This SunPower by E2 Solar installation for Habitat for Humanity in Harwich, MA is an example of a community solar project that contributes to Habitat’s mission of providing homes that are affordable to own and power. Community solar projects allow people who don’t own their rooftops to benefit from solar energy, enabling multiple people to invest in solar together. Photo by Chris Wingard.

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