Archive for the ‘Phil’s Files’ Category

A Call to Action – Windpower 2012

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

by Phil Devita

Steve Barrett and I just returned from the annual America Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Windpower 2012 Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  We co-authored a poster presentation titled “Municipal Wind Turbine Community Complaints and Noise Measurement Evaluation” summarizing HMMH’s noise assessment for the town of Falmouth Wind-1 and Wind-2 turbines.  The poster session was well attended and there was a lot of interest on the project and our analysis.    

HMMH Poster

 

The Windpower conference is the world’s largest wind energy event attracting a wide range of industry,  manufacturers and transportation companies just to name a few.  This year’s conference theme was a “call to action” to extending the production tax credit (PTC) which expires at the end of the year.  The PTC is the primary policy driver for wind projects, and without it, there will be a lot of uncertainty moving forward which could impact future wind development.  One study conducted found that extending the PTC would allow the industry to create 100,000 jobs in four years, while an expiration of the PTC could cause a loss of up to 37,000 jobs.

There were numerous speakers at the conference including republicans and democrats that agree the PTC should be renewed this year.  Unlike many issues these days in Washington, the PTC enjoys bi-partisan support.  However, unlike other years, this year is an election year and many politicians are unwilling to go on the record pro or against any issues until after the election.  The hope is with strong bipartisan support, the PTC will be extended before the November elections; however, it is more likely the PTC may be attached to another bill after the elections but before the end of the year.

Some of the interesting speakers this year were Ted Turner (he also spoke at last year’s conference in Anaheim), who kicked off the conference and welcomed AWEA to his hometown and talked colorfully as only Ted Turner can, about the need for more renewable energy and passing the PTC immediately.   Democratic Governor Mike Beebe from Arkansas and Republican Governor Sam Brownback from Kansas both delivered great talks on how the wind industry contributes jobs to their states but in different ways.  Arkansas has attracted manufacturing and supply-chain companies while Kansas is scheduled to develop 1,400 MW of wind in 2012, more than doubling the states wind capacity.

The second day picked up the bipartisan theme with a lively discussion between Karl Rove, former deputy Chief of Staff and adviser to President Bush, and Robert Gibbs, former White House Press Secretary and senior adviser to President Obama.  You would have thought going into the discussion that these gentlemen representing opposite views politically could not agree on the time of day never mind energy issues.  Well surprisingly, there was a lot of common ground on energy issues, including wind energy and extension of the PTC.   Both agreed that wind energy should be part of the energy mix and extension of the PTC should happen and that it should be extended for more than one year.   It was a great view of the current state of Washington politics from two people who are directly involved with many of these issues at the highest levels of government.

After hearing from all the speakers and the call to action to renew the PTC from both sides of the political aisle, it will be fascinating to see how this high stakes poker game plays out.  Let’s hope the PTC ends up on the winning hand and is extended for years to come.

TRB Highlights – Aviation

Monday, January 30th, 2012

by Phil DeVita

One of the highlights of the TRB Annual Meeting that I look forward to each year is the AV030 sessions on aviation and environmental impacts.  HMMH’s president, Mary Ellen Eagan, does a great job in pulling these sessions together to allow the subcommittees to present an update on progress and highlight emerging “hot button” issues.   This year sessions did not disappoint with a very interesting student presentation on “Bird Aircraft Strike Risk Assessment at Commercial Airports: Sub-Model Development Accounting for Strike Occurrence and Severity at Seattle Tacoma International Airport”. 

The climate change subcommittee provided an update on climate change issues affecting aviation, including an update from the summer Woods Hole Conference which focused on climate change adaptation and planning.  With the changing climate, airports are starting to focus on the potential impacts of climate change and incorporating these impacts into the master planning.  Some of the issues included in the planning include rising sea water, stormwater and severe weather. There was also an entertaining discussion with attendees on other topics of concern such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, energy efficiency and the role of alternate fuels.  The climate change discussion supports the activities of HMMH’s Climate and Energy Group with the release of the “Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies on Airports” and the ACRP Synthesis, “Investigating Safety Impacts of Energy Technologies on Airports and Aviation”.  With renewable energy becoming a viable alternative to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, the impact on aviation is becoming a growing concern and HMMH’s experience in this area is helping the aviation industry address these concerns.

Let the sun shine!

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

by Phil DeVita

Recently I installed a photovoltaic (PV) solar system on the roof of my house to generate electricity.  Some of you may be thinking “I have always thought of putting in a solar system but the costs seemed too high.”  I had similar reservations until I recently read an article in the Boston Globe about a west coast solar company (SunRun) which was offering to install and operate solar residential PV systems for minimal money down.  What’s the catch?  You have to buy the power generated by the system from SunRun at a fixed price over an 18-year period.  I thought this was an interesting concept, but I was still skeptical and had a lot of questions.

First, we should step back and see how this all came about.  When I bought my house many years ago I knew there was good potential for solar, evidenced by the annual baking of my backyard.  The main roof is oriented to the south with minimal shading during the late morning and afternoon (ideal solar production hours).   I thought this would probably be a great place for a solar PV system.   I researched a couple of systems but the price was a little too high.  Other priorities took precedent, so I put the idea on the backburner for a few years until I came across this article on SunRun.

After reading the article, I was intrigued and made an appointment with Alteris Renewables (the local representative for SunRun).  Alteris came out to my house and looked at the orientation and pitch of my roof, surface area, solar resource, shade, etc. and confirmed my initials thoughts that my roof would be an ideal candidate for solar.  Alteris took my last couple of electric bills and made some calculations to determine the adequate size of my system (kW) which would determine the number and size of the panels.  The results were computed on the spot and out popped a 5.5 kW energy plant, enough to power approximately 80% of my electricity needs.  This is great you say, but what about the price?   With SunRun, you have the option to purchase the system out right or with a little money down, SunRun will install and operate the system and the homeowner purchases the electricity at a set price over an 18 year period (also known as a power purchase agreement).  I was familiar with the PPA option through our research developing the FAA Solar Guide; however, I had not heard the concept applied to residential applications.  This seemed to be a much more affordable option; however, by not owning the system, I would not reap the total benefits (i.e. free electricity and RECs).   I sat down with both options and laid out the pros and cons of each.

Owning the system

 Pros

  • You get free electricity (i.e. no PPA) and net metering benefits (i.e. spinning the meter backwards for electricity generated but not used);
  • Tax credits available from the Federal Government along with state incentives to subsidize the costs; and
  • Additional revenue potential from generating renewable energy credits (RECs) produced by the system which can be sold on the trading market.

Cons

  • You own the system.  Responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the system;
  • The inverter alone can cost $5K to $10K and is good for about 10 years; and
  • High investment cost.

Leasing the System

Pros

  • 3rd Party is responsible for the operation and maintance of the system;
  • Guaranteed production from SunRun and stable electricity costs each year;
  • Lower investment costs.

Cons

  • Do not get credit for the RECs;
  • 18 year PPA commitment.

I did some additional research and carefully weighed each option and decided to pull the trigger on the PPA plan.  It was an attractive plan for me where I would not have to worry about the maintenance of the system (peace of mind), minimal investment upfront, guaranteed production, fixed cost for my electricity (lower than what I was currently paying), and still have the net metering capability. 

Alteris ordered all the equipment and the system was installed over a two day period.  My system consists of 30 panels which are tied together and run to an inverter in my basement which is then tied to my utility meter.

Having the system has been a great learning tool for my kids to teach them about renewable energy and climate change.  It is also a talking point in the neighborhood where people come up to me and ask about my system and how it’s operating.  Many of my neighbors say, “Hey I like your system, I want to get solar panels for my house”.  Unfortunately, solar is not for everyone.  You need to have good southern exposure and unimpeded sun during the peak hours for it to work efficiently.

My system has been operating for about 7 months and to date I have generated over 3,576 kilowatt hours of electricity, equivalent to operating a television for 25,007 hours, the energy to power 26 computers for one year, or the energy to power 99 homes for one day. 

Even though I do not care for the summer heat, I do realize that when it’s hot and sticky outside, that hot summer sun is helping to offset my utility bill and reduce GHG emissions, which are good things.

So let the sun shine!

EPA Revisions to the Lead Ambient Air Monitoring Requirements

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

by Phil DeVita

On December 14, 2010 the EPA revised the ambient monitoring requirements for lead (Pb).  This action comes after the EPA revised the primary and secondary lead National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) on January 12, 2009 from1.5 ug/m3 to 0.15 ug/m3.  Separate from this, the EPA published an advance notice of rulemaking on Lead Emissions from Piston Engine Aircraft Using Leaded Aviation Gasoline in April of this year regarding possible engine emissions standards for such aircraft. 

The new requirements call for monitoring near industrial facilities with emissions greater than 0.5 tons per year (tpy) which is a reduction from the previous threshold of 1.0 tpy.  EPA is maintaining the 1.0 tpy threshold for airports, however, it did identify 15 additional airports where monitoring will be required in order to evaluate the potential lead impact from airports that emit less than 1.0 tpy.  The 15 airports are:

Airport

County

State

Merrill Field Anchorage AK
Pryor Field Regional Limestone AL
Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County Santa Clara CA
McClellan-Palmar San Diego CA
Reid Hillview Santa Clara CA
Gillespie Field San Diego CA
San Carlos San Mateo CA
Nantucket Memorial Nantucket MA
Oakland County International Oakland MI
Republic Suffolk NY
Brookhaven Suffolk NY
Stinson Municipal Bexar TX
Northwest Regional Denton TX
Harvey Field Snohomish WA
Auburn Municipal King WA

These airports were selected since they have characteristics the EPA believes could result in higher lead concentrations than at other airports because they have ambient air within 150 meters of maximum emissions (i.e. take-offs) and the meteorological conditions were conducive to potential higher lead impacts at nearby ambient locations.

In addition to industrial facilities and airports, EPA is requiring monitoring at non source oriented sites with populations greater than 500,000 people or more.

The additional lead monitoring must be operational within 1 year of when the rule is published in the Federal Register which is expected in the next few weeks.  For the non source sites, monitoring will begin January 1, 2012.

For our aviation clients, they should understand that these monitoring requirements will be conducted by the state agencies and not the airports.  It will be the state agency’s responsibility to come up with a compliance plan if results show impacts above the lead standards near airports.  However, EPA is limited in authority under federal law for states to adopt mitigation plans.  The agency is working with the FAA and industry to evaluate alternatives to the current use of lead in Avgas which could be used to mitigate impacts.

 

Solar Power International Conference

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

by Phil DeVita

Steve Barrett and I just returned from the 2010 Solar Power International (SPI) Conference in Los Angeles.  This is the premier international solar conference where developers, manufacturers, investors, suppliers and installers gather to discuss all things solar.    HMMH attended the conference promoting our recent siting feasibility efforts at Palm Beach International Airport along with assisting FAA in developing the forthcoming “Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies at Airports”.  The guidance document will serve as the central reference for evaluating solar projects at airports and explores the potential benefits and costs of developing solar energy at these sites.

The conference was an international event with an estimated attendance of over 24,000 people, the highest attendance ever for SPI.   The industry is celebrating the rapid growth in the US solar market highlighting successes such as job growth, lower photovoltaic panel costs, state renewable energy mandates, and increased power installments.  Mr. Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) highlighted some additional statistics including:

  • 93,000 solar jobs in the US;
  • projecting a 26% increase in 2011; and
  • US solar revenue growth of 37% last year

Even with these impressive statistics, there are some unknowns moving forward which could put a slight haze on the sunny outlook.  The industry is hoping for the renewal of the investment tax credit and would greatly benefit from a national renewable energy standard and carbon tax or cap and trade program. Unfortunately, with the current state of politics in Washington, some of these incentives may not be addressed for a while.  However, even with some of the challenges, the solar industry still looks very bright.  Mr. Resch sees continued strong growth in the coming years and has challenged the industry with an aggressive goal of 10 gigawatts of installation (commercial and residential) by 2015!

Other keynote speakers included Biz Stone, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, James Carville and Mary Matalin.  Some of the highlights are as follows:

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter spoke about how the company was founded and his initial vision of Twitter as a social network to keep people informed and up to date.  He spoke about Twitter’s evolving role from social networking into the business marketing arena to its most recent uses in providing up to date information during catastrophic events such as the earthquake in Haiti and the Chilean miners’ crisis.  He spoke of how Twitter will continue to evolve beyond its current applications.  There is a lot of synergy between Twitter and the solar industry in that both are in their infancy and continuing to evolve and adapt to market demands.

Secretary Ken Salazar gave a presentation of the status of renewable energy projects on federal lands and the commitment of the Department of the Interior (DOI) towards renewable energy projects in the future.  He highlighted the first offshore lease agreement awarded to the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts along with DOI’s recent commitment to 2,000 renewable energy projects including solar, geothermal, wind and solar thermal projects on federal lands. He also signed the Record of Decision at the conference for the 60 MW Silver State North Solar Project in Nevada which is the first ever solar project approved on federal land.  The Secretary also spoke about the 24 solar energy zones which were identified by DOI as areas for future solar development.  The identification of the solar energy zones will provide an efficient process for permitting and siting responsible solar projects on federal land.  Secretary Salazar did highlight some obstacles that still remain such as transmission and siting new transmission lines on public land. He did indicate that the agency has removed some of the regulatory uncertainty since he came into office and feels the implementation of the Fast Track Process along with the solar energy zones should provide some regulatory certainty to developers.

The final day of the conference provided an entertaining exchange between Democrat James Carville and Republican Mary Matalin on their perspectives on the mid term election and the renewable energy market.  They do not agree too much on politics but they do agree that renewable energy, including solar makes good economic sense.  They both agreed the renewable energy market is very viable and could help the economy come out this recession by continuing to grow the market sector and provide jobs.

What I took away from the conference was that the solar market looks very bright and is one of the few market sectors expected to experience growth in the commercial and residential sector.  With all the gloomy statistics about the economy presented on television and in the newspapers, it was refreshing to be part of an energetic market sector with hope and optimism.

That’s about it from Los Angeles; see you next year in Dallas, TX.