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News Archive 2012



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December 2012

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December 2012


Report Examines Impact of Natural Gas on U.S. Electric Power

Natural Gas and the Transformation of the U.S. Energy Sector: Electricity
Authors: Jeffrey Logan, Garvin Heath, and Jordan Macknick, NREL; Elizabeth Paranhos and William Boyd, University of Colorado Law School; Ken Carlson, Colorado State University

A major new report from the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA), designed to address four related questions about natural gas and the U.S. electricity sector, provides a new methodological approach to estimate natural-gas-related greenhouse gas emissions, tracks trends in regulatory and voluntary industry practices, and explores various electricity futures. The report's findings include:

  • Based on analysis of more than 16,000 reported sources of air-pollutant emissions, life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of shale gas were found to be very similar to conventional natural gas and less than half those of coal-fired electricity generation.
  • At federal, state, and local levels, legal and regulatory frameworks governing shale gas development are changing in response to public concerns and industry changes, particularly in areas that have limited experience with oil and gas development.
  • Many regions evaluated in this study are making greater use of innovative water management practices to limit real and perceived risks.
  • In numerous modeled future electric power scenarios designed to evaluate both the implications of shale gas development and various policy and technology changes, the study found that natural gas use for power generation grows strongly in most scenarios.
A chart showing the estimated life cycle greenhouse gas emission ranges in grams of carbon dioxide equivalent from producing a kilowatt-hour of electricity. Coal: 720-1375 (Base Case 985). Conventional Gas: 340-700 (Base Case 500). Unconventional Gas: 440-720 (Base Case 495). Barnett Shale Gas: 410-520 (Base Case 435). Values are visual estimates.

Estimate of life cycle GHG emissions from 2009 Barnett Shale gas combusted to generate electricity in a modern natural gas combined-cycle (NGCC) turbine compared to previously published estimates for unconventional (mostly shale) gas, conventional natural gas, and coal after methodological harmonization.
Notes: EUR = estimated ultimate recovery, or lifetime production

The Wyoming Business Report featured this report in their recent article "Report: Shale Gas as Clean as Natural Gas."

ReEDS Model Simulates Power Sector Futures for JISEA Report

The Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) model was used to simulate future electric power scenarios and provide insights regarding natural gas availability and price as well as various policy, regulatory, and technology changes on the natural gas and electric power markets for Natural Gas and the Transformation of the U.S. Energy Sector: Electricity. The figure below summarizes results from the ReEDS simulation, comparing the range of natural gas power generation for all scenarios investigated.

A chart showing the projected annual electricity generated from natural gas power plants in terawatt-hours for 2030 and 2050 with coal, renewable/nuclear, natural gas variation, and clean energy standard scenarios.

Range of electricity generated from natural gas plants in the scenario analysis.

ReEDS, developed by NREL with EERE support, is a capacity expansion model that determines the least-cost combination of generation options that fulfill a variety of user-defined constraints such as projected load, capacity reserve margins, emissions limitations, and operating lifetimes. The model has a relatively rich representation of geographic and temporal detail so that it more accurately captures the unique nature of many generation options, as well as overall transmission and grid requirements. ReEDS can model all types of power generators and fuels—coal, natural gas, nuclear, and renewable—although it was designed primarily to address considerations for integrating renewable electric technologies into the power grid.

Along with numerous independent analyses, ReEDS was used for NREL's 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report and Renewable Electricity Futures Study.

For more information on ReEDS, see the ReEDS documentation report.

NREL Analysis and Analysts in the December News

NREL launched a redesigned Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) website. The new site features an integrated Twitter feed and responsive design and highlights recent publications.

Automotive Fleet highlighted the Transparent Cost Database in their recent article "NREL and DOE Launch Online Alternative Fuel Tools for Fleet Managers."

GreenTechSolar and Renewable Energy World quoted NREL's Kristen Ardani regarding the report Benchmarking Non-Hardware Balance of System (Soft) Costs for U.S. Photovoltaic Systems Using a Data-Driven Analysis from PV Installer Survey Results. Ardani recently presented a webinar on the report for Vote Solar.

Renewable Energy World reposted NREL blogs "Does RPS Still Run the Renewable Energy Engines?" and Who Needs Third-Party Finance? Loan Programs Offer Low-Cost Direct Ownership Opportunities by Michael Mendelsohn.

TechNewsDaily quoted Douglas Arent in their recent article "Plentiful U.S. Oil Won't Kill Renewable Energy."

Australian Radio program Beyond Zero interviewed Michael Mendelsohn; he compared U.S. PV incentives to Germany's feed-in tariff (FIT).

December Publications

DOE Report: Benchmarking Non-Hardware Balance of System (Soft) Costs for U.S. Photovoltaic Systems Using a Data-Driven Analysis from PV Installer Survey Results
Authors: Kristen Ardani, Robert Margolis, David Feldman, and Sean Ong, NREL; Galen Barbose and Ryan Wiser, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

This report presents results from the first DOE-sponsored, bottom-up data collection and analysis of non-hardware balance-of-system costs—often referred to as 'business process' or 'soft' costs—for residential and commercial photovoltaic (PV) systems.


Conference Paper: Energy Storage to Reduce Renewable Energy Curtailment
Author: Paul Denholm, NREL

This paper from the IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting discusses how energy storage can be used to increase grid flexibility and reduce curtailment.


NREL Report: Simulating the Value of Concentrating Solar Power with Thermal Energy Storage in a Production Cost Model
Authors: Paul Denholm and Marissa Hummon, NREL

This document describes the implementation of concentrating solar power (CSP) with thermal energy storage (TES) in a commercial production cost model. It also describes the simulation of grid operations with CSP in a test system consisting of two balancing areas located primarily in Colorado.


Journal Article: An Angle on Solar and Wind Variability
Author: Victor Diakov, NREL

Research has shown that geographic diversity can help offset the variability of wind and solar energy resources on the electric grid. This article from Solar Today describes new analysis that illustrates how wind and photovoltaics (PV) can meet up to 80% of loads (70%, if limited by current transmission grid) in the western United States, with less than 10% of the generated power curtailed.


Conference Paper: Exploring Large-Scale Solar Deployment in DOE's SunShot Vision Study
Authors: Easan Drury, Greg Brinkman, Paul Denholm, Robert Margolis, and Matthew Mowers, NREL

This paper, from the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference, describes how DOE conducted the SunShot Vision Study to evaluate the potential impacts of achieving solar price and performance improvements; the underlying modeling analysis suggests that solar energy could satisfy roughly 14% of U.S. electricity demand by 2030 and 27% by 2050.


DOE Report: Photovoltaic (PV) Pricing Trends: Historical, Recent, and Near-Term Projections
Authors: David Feldman, Robert Margolis, and Alan Goodrich, NREL; Galen Barbose, Ryan Wiser, and Naïm Darghouth, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

A summary of the past, recent, and near-term future cost and PV installation pricing trends performed jointly by NREL and LBNL.


Fact Sheet: Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Concentrating Solar Power
Authors: Garvin Heath and Debra Sandor, NREL

This fact sheet reports results for utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) systems within the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Harmonization Project, a study that helps to clarify inconsistent and conflicting life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission estimates in the published literature and provide more precise estimates of life cycle GHG emissions for a wide range of generation technologies.


Fact Sheet: Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Solar Photovoltaics
Authors: Garvin Heath and Debra Sandor, NREL

This fact sheet reports results for PV systems within the LCA Harmonization Project.


NREL Report: Including Alternative Resources in State Renewable Portfolio Standards: Current Design and Implementation Experience
Authors: Jenny Heeter and Lori Bird, NREL

This paper examines state experience with implementing renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and explores compliance experience and costs, as well as how states evaluate, measure, and verify energy efficiency and convert thermal energy. It aims to gain insights from the experience of states for possible federal clean energy policy and share experience and lessons for state RPS implementation.


Conference Paper: The Capacity Value of Solar Generation in the Western United States
Authors: Seyed Hossein Madaeni and Ramteen Sioshansi, The Ohio State University; Paul Denholm, NREL

This article from the IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting compares reliability- and capacity-factor-based methods of estimating the capacity value of solar power plants. The results show that solar plants can have long-term capacity values ranging between 46% and 95% of maximum capacity, depending on the solar technology, plant configuration, and location.


Presentation: Renewable Electricity Futures
Author: Trieu Mai, NREL

NREL presented findings of the Renewable Electricity Futures study at the 5th International Conference on Integration of Renewable and Distributed Energy Resources in Berlin, Germany.


Book Chapter: Chapter 11, Business: Finance in Project Development in the Solar Industry
Author: Michael Mendelsohn, NREL

This book, written by practicing experts in the solar renewable energy field, includes a chapter on renewable energy financing.


NREL Report: Bioenergy Assessment Toolkit
Authors: Anelia Milbrandt and Caroline Uriarte, NREL

This document describes a four-step process by which bioenergy opportunities can be assessed and provides resources to assist in this process.


Poster: Land Use and Water Efficiency in Current and Potential Future U.S. Corn and Brazilian Sugarcane Ethanol Systems
Authors: Ethan Warner, Helena Chum, Robin Newmark, and Yimin Zhang, NREL

This poster—presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco—displays how the potential for unintended consequences of biofuels—competition for land and water—necessitates that sustainable biofuel expansion considers the complexities of resource requirements within specific context (e.g., technology, feedstock, supply chain, and local resource availability).


Fact Sheet: Strategic Sequencing for State Distributed PV Policies

This fact sheet describes a new analysis report that aims to help state officials and policymakers expand markets for solar technologies and ultimately reduce the cost of installed solar nationwide.


New NREL Newsletter Highlights Lab's Work in Renewable Energy Deployment
Subscribe to the Deployment and Market Transformation at NREL quarterly newsletter to learn about NREL's work with federal, state, and local government and private industry and organizations to deploy commercially available energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.



November 2012


Data Book Shows Renewable Energy on the Rise

Book: 2011 Renewable Energy Data Book
Author: Rachel Gelman, NREL

The highly anticipated 2011 Renewable Energy Data Book—now available for download on NREL.gov—provides facts and figures on energy in general, renewable electricity in the United States, and global renewable energy development and investments. Rich graphics and depth and breadth of data have made past versions of the Data Book among the most popular items on NREL.gov. For example, the 2010 Data Book was the fifth most downloaded item during the third quarter of 2012, with 1,811 downloads.

Some key findings include:

  • Renewable electricity represented nearly 13% of total installed capacity and more than 12% of total electric generation in the United States in 2011.
  • In 2011 in the United States, wind and solar photovoltaics (PV) were two of the fastest growing electric generation technologies. In 2011, cumulative installed wind capacity increased by nearly 17% and cumulative installed PV capacity grew more than 86% from the previous year.
  • Worldwide, wind electricity generation worldwide increased by a factor of 13 between 2000 and 2011. The United States experienced even more dramatic growth; installed wind electricity capacity increased by a factor of 18 in the same period.
  • Since 2006, the United States has been the world's leading ethanol producer. Between 2000 and 2011, U.S. production of corn ethanol increased by a factor of 8.
Graphic illustrating how a hydrogen fuel cell works by taking in hydrogen and oxygen and outputs water and positive- and negative-charged particles to create electricity.

The Renewable Energy Data Book uses rich graphics to describe world energy markets and trends. This sample shows the top countries with installed renewable electricity by technology (2011).

Source: NREL

Tax Incentives Support Geothermal Market Build-Out

NREL Report: Geothermal Brief: Market and Policy Impacts Update
Author: Bethany Speer, NREL

The United States has more operating installed geothermal capacity than any other country, contributing nearly one-third of global capacity. Much of the market build-out is due to investments by the U.S. government and DOE in the late 1970s and 1980s, and more recently, to federal tax incentives. Using the Cost of Renewable Energy Spreadsheet Tool (CREST), this report shows that federal tax incentives—including the production tax credit, Treasury cash grant, investment tax credit, and accelerated depreciation schedules—provide significant value to geothermal projects in terms of reducing the levelized cost of energy (LCOE).
Graphic illustrating how a hydrogen fuel cell works by taking in hydrogen and oxygen and outputs water and positive- and negative-charged particles to create electricity.

Timeline of federal geothermal financial incentives

Source: NREL

NREL Analysis and Analysts in the November News

Lori Bird presented the Western Governors' Association report Meeting Renewable Energy Targets in the West at Least Cost: The Integration Challenge at the UVIG Fall Technical Workshop.

Alt Energy Stocks reposted NREL blog "Geothermal Transmission 101" by Paul Schwabe, and RenewableEnergyWorld.com reposted "How Much Do U.S. Tax Benefits Cost per kWh of Solar Production?" by Michael Mendelsohn.

RenewableEnergyWorld.com highlighted NREL report The Technical Qualifications for Treating Photovoltaic Assets as Real Property by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) in their recent article "Solar REITs: A Better Way to Invest in Solar."

NREL presented The Renewable Electricity Futures Study (REF) during the California Energy Commission Webinar, the 5th International Environmentally Friendly Vehicle Conference, and the Utility Variable-Generation Integration Group Fall Technical Workshop. Since NREL released the report in June, REF has been mentioned nearly 400 times in the news and continues to be one of the most sought after items on NREL.gov, and the REF Web page has received more than 73,000 hits.

Fierce Energy quoted Douglas Arent in their article "Building a Smarter Renewable Energy Future."

Michael Mendelsohn presented on "Expanding Renewable Energy Thru Securitization" at switch~.

Through August 2012, there were 23,118 hits on the Journal of Industrial Ecology (JIE) website for the special issue titled "Meta-Analysis of Life Cycle Assessments," which included eight NREL papers. Full-text versions of the articles in the issue were accessed 17,154 times. The LCA harmonization OpenEI application received 2,481 unique visits from May through October 2012, making it the fifth most popular on OpenEI.

RenewableEnergyWorld.com, ThomasNet.com, and Farm and Dairy featured the Green Button in recent articles.

November Publications

NREL Report: Improved Offshore Wind Resource Assessment in Global Climate Stabilization Scenarios
Authors: Douglas Arent, NREL, Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis; Patrick Sullivan, Donna Heimiller, Anthony Lopez, and Kelly Eurek, NREL; Jake Badger, Hans Ejsing Jørgensen, and Mark Kelly, DTU Wind Energy; and Leon Clarke and Patrick Luckow, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

This paper introduces a technique for digesting geospatial wind-speed data into areally defined—country-level, in this case—wind resource supply curves.


NREL Report: Potential Role of Concentrating Solar Power in Enabling High Renewables Scenarios in the United States
Authors: Paul Denholm, Maureen Hand, Trieu Mai, Robert Margolis, Greg Brinkman, Easan Drury, Matthew Mowers, and Craig Turchi, NREL

This work describes the analysis of concentrating solar power (CSP) in two studies—The SunShot Vision Study and the Renewable Electricity Futures Study—and the potential role of CSP in a future energy mix.


Conference Paper: Life Cycle Environmental Impacts Resulting from the Manufacture of the Heliostat Field for a Reference Power Tower Design in the United States: Preprint
Authors: Garvin Heath, John Burkhardt, and Craig Turchi, NREL

This paper contributes to a thorough LCA of a 100 MWnet molten salt power tower CSP plant by estimating the environmental impacts resulting from the manufacture of heliostats. Three life cycle metrics are evaluated: greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and cumulative energy demand.


NREL Report: Strategic Sequencing for State Distributed PV Policies: A Quantitative Analysis of Policy Impacts and Interactions
Authors: Vitaliy Krasko and Elizabeth Doris, NREL

This report analyzes the use of state policy as a tool to support the development of a robust private investment market for distributed generation solar PV. The goal of the analysis is to identify strategies for policy implementation order that will attract the investment capital of private industry for developing markets.


NREL Report: Wind Power Opportunities in St. Thomas, USVI: A Site-Specific Evaluation and Analysis
Authors: Eric Lantz, Adam Warren, Joseph Owen Roberts, and Vahan Gevorgian, NREL

This report utilizes a development framework originated by NREL and known by the acronym SROPTTC to assist the U.S. Virgin Islands in identifying and understanding concrete opportunities for wind power development in the territory.


Fact Sheet: The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study
Authors: Debra Lew, NREL

This study examines the operational impact of up to 35% penetration of wind, PV, and CSP energy on the electric power system. The goal is to understand the effects of and investigate mitigation options for the variability and uncertainty of wind and solar.


NREL Report: Residential Solar Photovoltaics: Comparison of Financing Benefits, Innovations, and Options
Author: Bethany Speer, NREL

This report examines relatively new, innovative financing methods for residential PV and compares them to traditional self-financing. It provides policymakers with an overview of the residential PV financing mechanisms, describes relative advantages and challenges, and analyzes differences between them where data is available.


Presentation: Supply Chain Dynamics of Tellurium (Te), Indium (In), and Gallium (Ga) Within the Context of PV Module Manufacturing Costs
Authors: Michael Woodhouse, Alan Goodrich, Ted James, and Robert Margolis, NREL; Rod Eggert and Martin Lokanc, Colorado School of Mines

This presentation shows analysis that discusses the cost models and supply chains of various PV technologies.



October 2012


NREL Studies of Voluntary Markets Draw Positive Feedback from Utilities

NREL analysts Jenny Heeter and Lori Bird presented at the 2012 Renewable Energy Markets Conference, a premier national forum for promoting renewable energy.

Heeter presented Innovations in Voluntary Renewable Energy Procurement: Methods for Expanding Access and Lowering Cost for Communities, Governments, and Businesses, which explores five innovative options for voluntarily procuring renewable energy generation or systems. Bird discussed Market Brief: Status of the Voluntary Renewable Energy Certificate Market (2011 Data), which documents the status and trends of voluntary markets—those in which consumers and institutions purchase renewable energy to match their electricity needs on a voluntary basis.

Heeter, who led the development of the two papers, said she received "a lot of positive feedback from utilities on our work tracking trends in the voluntary market."


Chart showing estimated annual voluntary sales by market sector, 2006-2011. There are four data sources for the estimates: NREL Estimated Total Voluntary Market, Green-e Energy Retail Sales, EPA-GPP Sales, and Tracking System Estimate. 2006 shows a range from approximately 4 million (Green-e) to 12.5 million (NREL) megawatts annually. 2011 shows a range from approximately 22 million (EPA-GPP) to 37.5 million (Tracking System) megawatts annually.
Figure 1. Estimated annual voluntary sales by market sector, 2006–2011

NREL Report: Innovations in Voluntary Renewable Energy Procurement: Methods for Expanding Access and Lowering Cost for Communities, Governments, and Businesses
Authors: Jenny Heeter and Joyce McLaren, NREL


NREL Report: Status of the Voluntary Renewable Energy Certificate Market
(2011 Data)

Authors: Jenny Heeter, Philip Armstrong, and Lori Bird, NREL

OpenEI Spotlighted in White House Datapalooza Event

Graphic illustrating how a hydrogen fuel cell works by taking in hydrogen and oxygen and outputs water and positive- and negative-charged particles to create electricity.

Figure 2. Hydrogen Composite Data Product Directory

The Hydrogen Gateway on OpenEI launched in preparation for Energy Datapalooza, an event that highlights the use of open energy data sourced from the government and used by entrepreneurs to build new businesses.

At the event, Dr. David Danielson, assistant secretary for EERE, mentioned OpenEI (Open Energy Information)—a knowledge-sharing online community dedicated to connecting people with the latest energy information and data. Debbie Brodt-Giles said he "mentioned OpenEI as being DOE's platform for sharing open data." In addition, several teams stated that they use OpenEI and NREL data in their applications that were highlighted and demonstrated at the event.

"It was a very inspirational event, and it was great to see so much support for open energy data!" exclaimed Brodt-Giles.

The Hydrogen Gateway provides relevant links to reports, such as National Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Learning Demonstration Final Report, and to HyDRA (Hydrogen Demand and Resource Analysis), which is a web-based GIS tool that allows users to view, download, and analyze hydrogen demand, resource, and infrastructure data spatially and dynamically. One the most interesting features of the gateway is the Hydrogen Composite Data Product Directory that can be searched by topic. It is a visual representation of data, and the plan is to provide more visualizations and access to raw open data in the future, which is directly in alignment with the government's Energy Data Initiative.

Reminder: NREL to Present Webinar on Geothermal FIT Design

NREL will hold a webinar to discuss research, analysis, and results from a new report: Geothermal FIT Design: International Experience and U.S. Considerations. The presentation will explore specifics on how feed-in tariff (FIT) policies can be designed to address certain risks of geothermal power plant development.

Date: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Time: 1–2 p.m. ET (10–11 a.m. PT)
Registration link: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/940679710

NREL Analysis and Analysts in the October News

RenewableEnergyWorld.com reposted NREL blogs "Municipal Bond: PPA Model Continues to Provide Low-Cost Solar Energy" by Bethany Speer and "Geothermal Transmission 101: Technologies Are Not Treated Equally" by Paul Schwabe.

At the International Life Cycle Assessment (InLCA) conference, Garvin Heath gave four presentations and Ethan Warner gave one on articles resulting from the LCA Harmonization Project. Heath said, "Much positive feedback was received on the presentations, especially the timely new results on natural gas systems." NREL is now a Silver-level institutional member of the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment, which is who puts on the annual InLCA conference.

Laboratory Design's article "NREL Database Reveals Technology Costs" highlighted NREL's Transparent Cost Database.

Paul Denholm and Mark Mehos wrote "Boosting CSP Production with Thermal Energy Storage" for Power Magazine, which is based on NREL technical report Enabling Greater Penetration of Solar Power via the Use of CSP with Thermal Energy Storage.

Garvin Heath and Debbie Sandor wrote "How NREL is Improving GHG Calculations for Power Plants" for GreenBiz.com, which summarizes the LCA Harmonization Project that was highlighted in a special supplemental issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology. On the day this blog posted, there were 37 tweets about it.

Andy Reger and Lori Bird recently hosted a webinar, "Best Practices in the Design of Utility Solar Programs," that brought together representatives from industry, utilities, and regulatory authorities to share insights into the lessons learned from designing and implementing solar energy incentive programs.

At the annual member advisory meetings of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Garvin Heath presented research on the land use of wind, solar, and geothermal electricity generation technologies conducted at NREL and sponsored by EPRI.

Garvin Heath presented "Life Cycle GHG Emissions and Water Consumption from the Manufacture of an ATS Heliostat" at the international SolarPACES conference on CSP.

October Publications

JISEA Report: Integrating Wind and Solar Energy in the U.S. Bulk Power System: Lessons from Regional Integration Studies
Authors: Lori Bird and Debra Lew, NREL

This paper identifies key insights from two regional studies for integrating high penetrations of renewables: The Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study (EWITS) and The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study (WWSIS).


Presentation: Impacts of Renewable Generation on Fossil Fuel Unit Cycling: Costs and Emissions
Author: Gregory Brinkman, NREL

Prepared for the Clean Energy Regulatory Forum III, this presentation looks at the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study and reexamines the cost and emissions impacts of fossil fuel unit cycling.


Presentation: Estimate of the Geothermal Energy Resource in the Major Sedimentary Basins in the United States
Authors: Ariel Esposito, Chad Augustine, Colleen Porro, and Billy Roberts, NREL

This study estimates the magnitude of recoverable geothermal energy from 15 major known U.S. sedimentary basins and ranks these basins relative to their potential.


Presentation: Impacts from Deployment Barriers on the United States Wind Power Industry: Overview & Preliminary Findings
Authors: Eric Lantz, Suzanne Tegen, Maureen Hand, and Donna Heimiller, NREL

This presentation details preliminary results from new NREL analysis focused on quantifying the impact of deployment barriers on the wind resource of the United States, the installed cost of wind projects, and the total electric power system cost of a 20% wind energy future.


NREL Report: Renewable Energy Finance Tracking Initiative (REFTI): Snapshot of Recent Geothermal Financing Terms, Fourth Quarter 2009 – Second Half 2011
Authors: Travis Lowder, Ryan Hubbell, Michael Mendelsohn, and Karlynn Cory, NREL

This report is a review of geothermal project financial terms as reported in NREL's Renewable Energy Finance Tracking Initiative (REFTI).


NREL Report: Renewable Energy Finance Tracking Initiative (REFTI) Solar Trend Analysis
Authors: Ryan Hubbell, Travis Lowder, Michael Mendelsohn, and Karlynn Cory, NREL

This report is a summary of the finance trends for small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects (PV <1 MW), large-scale PV projects (PV ≥1 MW), and concentrated solar power projects as reported in NREL's Renewable Energy Finance Tracking Initiative (REFTI).


Fact Sheet: The Impact of Wind Development on County-Level Income and Employment: A Review of Methods and an Empirical Analysis

This fact sheet summarizes a study completed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and NREL that quantifies the annual impact on county-level personal income resulting from wind power installations in nearly 130 counties across 12 states.



September 2012


NREL Proposes Framework to Support Exchange of Knowledge on Low Emission Development Strategies

NREL Report: International Experiences and Frameworks to Support Country-Driven Low-Emissions Development
Authors: Ron Benioff, Jaquelin Cochran, and Sadie Cox, NREL

NREL supports several multilateral initiatives designed to increase use of renewable energy and energy efficiency to support economic development while addressing such global challenges as climate change and energy security. Our portfolio includes several projects in the field of low emission development strategies (LEDS). LEDS allow countries to advance sustainable development, promote private-sector growth, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a recent report, NREL proposes a framework—or support infrastructure—to enable the efficient exchange of LEDS-related knowledge and technical assistance via coordinating forums, "knowledge platforms," and networks of experts and investors. According to the report, integrated investment in all elements of the framework increases the efficacy of support for country-driven LEDS.


An infographic illustrating potential portfolio of cross-sectoral networks and platforms supporting low emission development strategies.
A potential portfolio of cross-sectoral networks and platforms supporting LEDS

Estimating Renewable Energy Costs Using CREST

The Cost of Renewable Energy Spreadsheet Tool (CREST), an economic cash-flow model, enables state policymakers, regulators, utilities, beginning developers or investors, and other stakeholders to assess the economics of renewable energy projects and evaluate the impact of tax incentives or other support structures. Developed by a partnership between NREL, DOE's Solar Energy Technologies Program, DOE's Geothermal Technologies Program, and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions, CREST covers solar (PV and solar thermal), wind, and geothermal technologies.


A chart created by CREST showing resource potential and production profile of geothermal energy compared to a traditional power plant in kilowatt hours by year.
Typical geothermal production profile created by CREST

The Excel-based CREST models allow users to:

  • Estimate the year-one cost of energy (COE) and levelized cost of energy (LCOE) from a range of solar, wind, and geothermal electricity generation projects
  • Inform the process of setting cost-based incentive rates
  • Gain understanding of the economic drivers of renewable energy projects
  • Understand the relative economics of generation projects with differing characteristics, such as project size, resource quality, location, or ownership.

Download CREST or learn more at https://financere.nrel.gov/finance/content/crest-cost-energy-models.

CREST was used in recent NREL report Geothermal FIT Design: International Experience and U.S. Considerations.

NREL to Present Webinar on Geothermal FIT Design

NREL will hold a webinar to discuss research, analysis, and results from a new report: Geothermal FIT Design: International Experience and U.S. Considerations. The presentation will explore specifics on how feed-in tariff (FIT) policies can be designed to address certain risks of geothermal power plant development.

Date: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Time: 1–2 p.m. ET (10–11 a.m. PT)
Registration link: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/940679710

NREL Analysis and Analysts in the News

SEAC's Rachel Gelman and Jeffrey Logan provided DOE with documentation showing that renewable electricity generation had doubled between 2008 and early 2012, meeting a stated administration goal. This statistic was referenced by former President Clinton in his speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Sarah Busche led a webinar that was featured in SNL article "Small-Scale Community Renewables Projects Face Financing Hurdles." This webinar was the second in the Community Renewable Energy Deployment webinar series. The 368 attendees represented 48 U.S. states, the territory of Puerto Rico, and 5 additional countries.

Windpower Engineering & Development posted an article titled "Lab Releases Report on Past and Future Costs of Wind Energy" about NREL report The Past and Future Cost of Wind Energy.

Several publications highlighted NREL's U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis: R&D Magazine; Electric Light & Power; Clean Edge; boston.com; North American Windpower; ScienceDaily; SustainableBusiness.com; and Climate Progress. CleanEnergyAuthority.com quoted Anthony Lopez, the report's lead author.

The Union of Concerned Scientists; Earth Techling; SNL; and Windpower Engineering & Development featured the Renewable Electricity Futures Study. In addition, Maureen Hand and Trieu Mai have presented the study findings at a Union of Concerned Scientists webinar, the RE-AMP 2012 Annual Meeting, a Power Systems Engineering Research Center webinar, a Wind Powering America webinar, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group meeting, and the Energy Foundation meeting.

GreenBiz.com and Clean Technica highlighted the Transparent Cost Database.

RenewableEnergyWorld.com reposted the following NREL blogs: "Document Standardization: It's Not Just for Pencil Pushers Anymore" and "Should Renewable Energy Be Afraid of Basel III Banking Standards?" by Travis Lowder and "Community Development Finance Institutes: Providing Clean Energy Capital" by Bethany Speer.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review quoted Douglas Arent in "5 Myths about the Marcellus and Natural Gas Industry."

The Clean Energy Solutions Center features a blog by Morgan Bazilian on the potential of open source software and crowdsourcing for the energy analysis field.

September Publications

NREL Report: A Tool to Prioritize Energy Efficiency Investments
Authors: Philip Farese, Rachel Gelman, and Robert Hendron, NREL

To provide analytic support of DOE's Office of the Building Technology Program (BTP), NREL developed a Microsoft Excel-based tool to provide an open and objective comparison of the hundreds of investment opportunities available to BTP—this tool uses established methodologies to evaluate the energy savings and cost of those savings.


Journal Article: Technology: How to Build a Low-Energy Future
Author: Philip Farese, NREL

This commentary in the journal Nature, based on the NREL report A Tool to Prioritize Energy Efficiency Investments, argues that cost-effective technologies available now could reduce energy use in buildings by up to 30% by 2030, which is in line with other findings.


Presentation: U.S. Electric Power Futures: Preliminary Results
Authors: Anthony Lopez, Jeffrey Logan, and Trieu Mai, NREL

This presentation shows key findings of an effort to simulate the evolution of the U.S. power sector under a number of policy and technology scenarios using the Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) Model.


NREL Report: Geothermal FIT Design: International Experience and U.S. Considerations
Authors: Wilson Rickerson, Meister Consultants Group; Jason Gifford and Robert Grace, Sustainable Energy Advantage, LLC; and Karlynn Cory, NREL

Drawing on international experience, this paper explores the potential efficacy of feed-in tariffs as a tool for reducing risks associated with geothermal plant development in the United States.



August 2012


NREL Study Shows Renewable Energy Potential in Every State

Image of a triangle divided into sections called Market, Economic, Technical, and Resource that include the key assumptions for each section on a bullet list beside it.

Defining "potential"


Map of U.S showing the renewable energy technical potential of the states.

Total estimated technical potential for onshore wind power in
the United States.

NREL Report: U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis
Authors: Anthony Lopez, Billy Roberts, Donna Heimiller, Nate Blair, and Gian Porro

A new study of renewable energy's technical potential finds that every state in the nation has the space and resource to generate clean energy. NREL analysts conducted a spatial analysis to calculate energy technical potential for six different renewable technologies. This report presents state-level results.

The study includes state-level maps and tables containing available land area (square kilometers), installed capacity (gigawatts), and electric generation (gigawatt-hours) for each technology, obtained through independent research, published research, and professional contacts. An RE Technical Potentials page on NREL.gov includes the report, a downloadable slide presentation of the maps, and a spreadsheet of state data, as well as more information on the RE Atlas tool.

The report is valuable for decision makers and utility executives because it compares estimates across six renewable energy technologies—as well as presents technical potential findings from three other reports covering rooftop PV, geothermal-hydrothermal, and hydropower—and unifies assumptions and methods. It shows the achievable energy generation of a particular technology given resource availability—solar, wind, and geothermal, for example—system performance, topographic limitations, and environmental and land-use constraints.

This report was highlighted in Slashdot's article "Existing Solar Tech Could Power Entire US, Says NREL" and PV Magazine's article "U.S.: 200,000 GW of Solar Could be Installed; 4,000 TWh/a."

New NREL Database Shows Cost and Performance Estimates for Energy Technologies

Image of a triangle divided into sections called Market, Economic, Technical, and Resource that include the key assumptions for each section on a bullet list beside it.

The Transparent Cost Database (TCDB) provides utilities, policymakers, consumers, and academics access to published historical and projected cost estimates for electricity generation, biofuels, and vehicle technologies. These technology cost and performance estimates can be used to benchmark company costs, model energy scenarios, and inform research and development decisions. All data are downloadable for full transparency.

Drawing from thousands of estimates from more than 100 reports, the Web-based TCDB provides cost comparisons and shows the range of estimates for what energy technologies—such as a utility-scale wind farm, rooftop solar installation, biofuel production plant, or electric vehicle—might cost today or in the future. In the future, TCDB will allow experts to contribute reliable new information and validate the cost information available to the public.

TCDB is available on OpenEI.org, an open source for energy data and information.

TCDB was featured in articles by Laboratory Design Newsletter, "NREL Database Reveals Technology Costs"; Biofuels Journal, "NREL Database Makes Cost of Energy Technologies More Transparent"; Scientific American, "Costs of Energy Technologies More Transparent with New NREL Database"; Chemical Engineering, "New Web Tool Charts Renewable Technology Costs"; PV Tech, "NREL's Web App Provides Cost and Performance Estimates for Electric Generation"; and North American Wind Power, "NREL Preparing Cost Database App."


NREL Analysis and Analysts in the August News

The Renewable Electricity Futures Study was highlighted in Scientific American's "80% Clean, Renewable Energy by 2050: More Than Possible, But Need More Political Will (& Public Demand)"; EnergyDigital's "Renewables Could Supply 80% U.S. Electricity"; Care 2 Make a Difference's "Thinking Big: 80 Percent Renewables is Possible by 2050"; Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Patch's "Renewable Energy Future," and Worldwatch Institute's "The Way Forward for Renewable Energy Policy in the U.S." Trieu Mai was quoted in a Denver Post blog titled "Renewable Energy Could Provide 80% of U.S. Electricity - But at What Cost?" about the incremental costs of the scenarios presented in the study.

RenewableEnergyWorld.com reposted an NREL article titled "Renewable Energy Faces Financing Challenges with End of Federal 1603 Grant Program" and Scientific American published "Challenges with End of 1603 Clean Energy Grant Program," both discussing NREL report §1603 Treasury Grant Expiration: Industry Insight on Financing and Market Implications by Michael Mendelsohn and John Harper.

Michael Mendelsohn answered questions from California Energy Markets for their article "LADWP to Buy NextEra's Beacon Solar Project" concerning whether there is any advantage a public utility has over a private developer in getting a large renewable energy project built.

The Energyblogs.com article "Wind Energy Jobs: Are the Numbers Pulled from Thin Air?" highlighted NREL technical report Preliminary Analysis of the Jobs and Economic Impacts of Renewable Energy Projects Supported by the §1603 Treasury Grant Program.

RenewableEnergyWorld.com reposted Karlynn Cory's blog, "Eggs in Many Baskets: Arizona Public Service Diversifies Generation Sources."

August Publications

NREL Report: Summary Report of the INL-JISEA Workshop on Nuclear Hybrid Energy Systems
Authors: Mark Antkowiak and Mark Ruth, NREL; Richard Boardman, Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Robert Cherry, and Lee Shunn, Idaho National Laboratory
This report summarizes an international workshop that The Institute for Nuclear Energy Science and Technology (INEST) and the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) co-sponsored to identify research topics important in advancing the potential use of hybrid systems with a specific focus on nuclear-renewable hybrid systems.


Journal Article: Life Cycle Assessment of Gasoline and Diesel Produced Via Fast Pyrolysis and Hydroprocessing
Author: David Hsu, NREL
This work describes a life cycle assessment (LCA) of the production of gasoline and diesel from forest residues via fast pyrolysis and hydroprocessing, from production of the feedstock to end use of the fuel in a vehicle.


NREL Report: Comparison of Capacity Value Methods for Photovoltaics in the Western United States
Authors: Seyed Hossein Madaeni and Ramteen Sioshansi, The Ohio State University; Paul Denholm, NREL
This report compares different capacity value estimation techniques applied to solar PV; it compares more robust data and computationally intense reliability-based capacity valuation techniques to simpler approximation techniques at 14 different locations in the western United States and examines the effects of different PV configurations on the capacity value.


Technical Report: Meeting Renewable Energy Targets in the West at Least Cost: The Integration Challenge
Authors: Kevin Porter, Christina Mudd, Sari Fink, and Jennifer Rogers, Exeter Associates; Lori Bird, NREL; Lisa Schwartz, Mike Hogan, and Dave Lamont, Regulatory Assistance Project; Brendan Kirby, Consultant
A new report for the Western Governors' Association explores ways to reduce costs to the region's electricity consumers for integrating wind and solar resources, identifies barriers to adopting these measures, and recommends possible state actions to overcome these challenges.


A Guide to Community Shared Solar: Utility, Private, and Nonprofit Project Development
This updated how-to guide describes how multiple individuals can enjoy the benefits of a single solar installation.


Fact Sheet: Increasing Community Access to Solar: Designing and Developing a Shared Solar Photovoltaic System
Author: Molly Riddell, NREL
This document provides a high-level summary of DOE's new A Guide to Community Shared Solar: Utility, Private, and Nonprofit Project Development.


The Solarize Guidebook: A Community Guide to Collective Purchasing of Residential PV Systems
This updated how-to guide details how community members can seize volume discounts through collective solar purchasing.


Fact Sheet: Powering Your Community With Solar: Overcoming Market and Implementation Barriers
Author: Molly Riddell, NREL
This document provides a high-level summary of DOE's new Solarize Guidebook: A Community Guide to Collective Purchasing of Residential PV Systems.


Brochure: Funding Solar Projects at Federal Agencies: Mechanisms and Selection Criteria
Authors: Blaise Stoltenberg and Bethany Speer, NREL
This how-to guide provides practical guidance on the process of implementing solar energy projects at federal facilities and includes case studies that provide insight into how much some federal agencies spent—and saved—on their solar projects.


Fact Sheet: SunShot Vision Study: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Potential for U.S. Solar Electricity Generation
The SunShot Vision Study provides a comprehensive assessment of the potential for solar technologies to meet a significant share of electricity demand in the United States during the next several decades.



June/July 2012


June/July Publications

NREL Report: Renewable Electricity Futures Study

The Renewable Electricity Futures Study (RE Futures) is an initial investigation of the extent to which renewable energy supply can meet the electricity demands of the continental United States over the next several decades. This study explores the implications and challenges of very high renewable electricity generation levels—from 30% up to 90%, focusing on 80%, of all U.S. electricity generation from renewable technologies—in 2050. At such high levels of renewable electricity generation, the unique characteristics of some renewable resources, specifically geographical distribution and variability and uncertainty in output, pose challenges to the operability of the nation's electric system.

RE Futures provides initial answers to important questions about the integration of high penetrations of renewable electricity technologies from a national perspective, focusing on key technical implications. The study explores electricity grid integration using models with unprecedented geographic and time resolution for the continental United States to assess whether the U.S. power system can supply electricity to meet customer demand on an hourly basis with high levels of renewable electricity, including variable wind and solar generation.

RE Futures, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, is a collaboration with more than 110 contributors from 35 organizations including national laboratories, industry, universities, and non-governmental organizations.



Cover of the Journal of Industrial Ecology Volume 16, Issue Supplement s1.

LCA Harmonization Project

The Journal of Industrial Ecology published a special issue titled "Meta-Analysis of Life Cycle Assessments" showcasing seven NREL articles on life cycle assessment (LCA) harmonization. Garvin Heath and Margaret Mann led this NREL project, which included systematic review of estimates of life cycle GHG emissions from electricity generation technologies published between 1970 and 2010. LCAs consider emissions from all stages in the life cycle of an electricity generation technology, from component manufacturing to operation of the generation facility to its decommissioning, and include acquisition, processing, and transport of any required fuels. For selected technologies, a meta-analytical procedure called "harmonization" was applied to adjust estimates so that they were methodologically more consistent and therefore more comparable. This was done to reduce variability and clarify central tendency in the estimate of life cycle GHG emissions so that more robust decisions can be made and other analyses relying on such estimates can be strengthened.

To coincide with the special issue of the magazine, NREL launched a new project page on NREL.gov and an LCA application on OpenEI. The application allows for a customized visualization of summary statistics and the underlying published estimates collected for each technology, as well as companion harmonized estimates.

NREL's harmonization work has been featured in several recent publications and blogs, including Energy Central Professional, Eco-Business, Energy-Enviro Finland, ThomasNet News, Earth Techling, and Jonathan Koomey's blog. NREL has also been contacted by the Environment & Energy Policy committee for the Japan Association of Corporate Executives and DNV (Det Norske Veritas) KEMA for assistance with interpretation of the analysis and results for their organizations and contexts.



Screen capture of the PLoS One website.

Journal Article: Ethanol Distribution, Dispensing, and Use: Analysis of a Portion of the Biomass-to-Biofuels Supply Chain Using System Dynamics

Authors: Laura Vimmerstedt and Brian Bush, NREL; Steve Peterson, Peterson Group

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 targets use of 36 billion gallons of biofuels per year by 2022. Achieving this may require substantial changes to current transportation fuel systems for distribution, dispensing, and use in vehicles. DOE and NREL designed a system dynamics approach to help focus government action by determining what supply chain changes would have the greatest potential to accelerate biofuels deployment. The Biomass Scenario Model (BSM) represents the primary system effects and dependencies in the biomass-to-biofuels supply chain. The model provides a framework for developing scenarios and conducting biofuels policy analysis. This paper focuses on the downstream portion of the supply chain—represented in the distribution logistics, dispensing station, and fuel utilization—and vehicle modules of the BSM.



Cover of the Biomass Resource Allocation among Competing End Uses report.

NREL Report: Biomass Resource Allocation among Competing End Uses

Authors: Emily Newes, Brian Bush, Daniel Inman, Yolanda Lin, Trieu Mai, Andrew Martinez, David Mulcahy, Walter Short, Travis Simpkins, and Caroline Uriarte, NREL; Corey Peck, Lexidyne, LLC

The Biomass Scenario Model (BSM), a system dynamics model, facilitates understanding of policies and their potential effects on the U.S. biofuels industry. However, BSM does not currently have the capability to account for allocation of biomass resources among the various end uses. This report provides a more holistic understanding of the dynamics surrounding the allocation of biomass among competing uses by (1) highlighting the methods used in existing models' treatments of competition for biomass resources; (2) identifying coverage and gaps in industry data regarding the competing end uses; and (3) exploring options for developing models of biomass allocation that could be integrated with the BSM.



Cover of the Strategies for International Cooperation in Support of Energy Development in Pacific Island Nations report.

NREL Report: Strategies for International Cooperation in Support of Energy Development in Pacific Island Nations

Authors: Mackay Miller, Phil Voss, Adam Warren, Ian Baring-Gould, and Misty Conrad, NREL

NREL partners with island communities around the world to address the technical, policy, social, and economic hurdles to deploying energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies (RET) on small, islanded systems. The lessons learned from these partnerships are briefly summarized in this document with the goal of supporting the International Renewable Energy Agency in the development of specific near-term and longer-term strategies for island RET deployment.



Title card for the Recoverable Resource Estimate of Identified Onshore Geopressured Geothermal Energy in Texas and Louisiana presentation.

Presentation: Recoverable Resource Estimate of Identified Onshore Geopressured Geothermal Energy in Texas and Louisiana

Authors: Ariel Esposito and Chad Augustine, NREL

Geopressured geothermal reservoirs are characterized by high temperatures and high pressures with correspondingly large quantities of dissolved methane. Due to these characteristics, the reservoirs provide two sources of energy: chemical energy from the recovered methane and thermal energy from the recovered high temperature fluid. Formations with the greatest potential for recoverable energy are located in the gulf coastal region of Texas and Louisiana. This study estimates the total recoverable onshore geopressured geothermal resource (defined as a brine reservoir with fluid temperature greater than 212°F and a pressure gradient greater than 0.7 psi/ft) for identified sites in Texas and Louisiana.



Title card from the Estimate of Geothermal Energy Resource in Major U.S. Sedimentary Basins presentation.

Presentation: Estimate of Geothermal Energy Resource in Major U.S. Sedimentary Basins

Authors: Colleen Porro and Chad Augustine, NREL

In this presentation, NREL provides an initial estimate of the geothermal resource in major U.S. sedimentary basins by (1) providing a preliminary review of major sedimentary basins in the United States; (2) delineating and mapping areal extent and depth contours of each basin in Geographic Information Systems (GIS); (3) estimating the temperature profile for each basin (assume single temperature gradient for each basin); (4) calculating basin volume as a function of temperature; and (5) converting volumes to heat in place and electricity generation potential.



Cover page of the Estimating the Capacity Value of Concentrating Solar Power Plants: A Case Study of the Southwestern United States article.

Journal Article: Estimating the Capacity Value of Concentrating Solar Power Plants: A Case Study of the Southwestern United States

Authors: Seyed Hossein Madaeni and Ramteen Sioshansi, The Ohio State University; Paul Denholm, NREL

This article estimates the capacity value of concentrating solar power (CSP) plants without thermal energy storage in the southwestern United States. The results show that CSP plants have capacity values that are between 45% and 95% of maximum capacity, depending on their location and configuration. The article also examines the sensitivity of the capacity value of CSP to a number of factors and shows that capacity-factor-based methods can provide reasonable approximations of reliability-based estimates.



Cover of the IEA Wind Task 26: The Past and Future Cost of Wind Energy, Work Package 2 report.

NREL Report: IEA Wind Task 26: The Past and Future Cost of Wind Energy, Work Package 2

Authors: Eric Lantz and Maureen Hand, NREL; Ryan Wiser, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Over the past 30 years, wind power has become a mainstream source of electricity generation around the world. However, the future of wind power will depend a great deal on the ability of the industry to continue to achieve cost of energy reductions. This report, developed as part of the International Energy Agency Wind Implementing Agreement Task 26, titled "The Cost of Wind Energy," reviews historical costs, evaluates near-term market trends, reviews the methods used to estimate long-term cost trajectories, and summarizes the range of costs projected for onshore wind energy across an array of forward-looking studies and scenarios. The authors also highlight the influence of high-level market variables on both past and future wind energy costs.



Screen capture of the PLoS One website.

NREL Report: Using Utility Load Data to Estimate Demand for Space Cooling and Potential for Shiftable Loads

Authors: Paul Denholm, Sean Ong, and Chuck Booten, NREL

This paper describes a simple method to estimate hourly cooling demand from historical utility load data. It compares total hourly demand to demand on cool days and compares these estimates of total cooling demand to previous regional and national estimates. Load profiles generated from this method may be used to estimate the potential for aggregated demand response or load shifting via cold storage.



Cover of the Clean Energy Solutions Center: Accelerating the Transition to Clean Energy Technologies fact sheet.

Fact Sheet: Clean Energy Solutions Center: Accelerating the Transition to Clean Energy Technologies
[English] [French] [Spanish]

The Clean Energy Solutions Center, an initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial and UN-Energy, helps governments design and adopt policies and programs that support the deployment of transformational low-carbon technologies. This fact sheet (published in English, French, and Spanish) highlights key Solutions Center offerings, including the 'ask an expert' policy design assistance offered at no cost to governments and technical assistance programs around the world.



Cover of the Mobilizing Public Markets to Finance Renewable Energy Projects: Insights from Expert Stakeholders report.

NREL Report: Mobilizing Public Markets to Finance Renewable Energy Projects: Insights from Expert Stakeholders

Authors: Paul Schwabe and Michael Mendelsohn, NREL; Felix Mormann, Stanford Law School; Douglas J. Arent, JISEA

Financing renewable energy projects in the United States can be a complex process. Most equity investment in new renewable power production facilities is supported by tax credits and accelerated depreciation benefits and is constrained by the pool of potential investors that can fully use these tax benefits and are willing to engage in complex financial structures. For debt financing, non-government lending has largely been provided by foreign banks that may be under future lending constraints due to economic and regulatory conditions. To discuss renewable energy financing challenges and to identify new sources of capital to the U.S. market, two roundtable discussions were held with renewable energy and financing experts in April 2012. This report summarizes the key messages of those discussions and is designed to provide insights to the U.S. market and inform the international conversation on renewable energy financing innovations.



Cover of the The Technical Qualifications for Treating Photovoltaic Assets as Real Property by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) report.

NREL Report: The Technical Qualifications for Treating Photovoltaic Assets as Real Property by Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Authors: David Feldman, Michael Mendelsohn, and Jason Coughlin

Real estate investment trusts (REITs) may have the potential to lower the cost and increase the adoption of photovoltaic (PV) systems by offering an additional source of capital. This paper explains the fundamental physical characteristics of PV and compares them to the characteristics of 'real' property to help determine whether REITs can own PV systems.

This report is currently highlighted on the RE Finance website. RenewableEnergyWorld.com also posted an article on this report.



Cover of the §1603 Treasury Grant Expiration: Industry Insight on Financing and Market Implications report.

NREL Report: §1603 Treasury Grant Expiration: Industry Insight on Financing and Market Implications

Authors: Michael Mendelsohn, NREL; John Harper, Birch Tree Capital LLC

In the wake of the 2008–2009 financial crises, tax equity investors largely withdrew from the renewable energy market, resulting in stagnation of project development. In response, Congress established the Treasury grant program pursuant to Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (§1603 Program) to offer a cash payment in lieu of a production and investment tax credit. Drawing on insights offered by financial executives active in the renewable energy (RE) market during conference panel discussions and in presentations, direct interviews, and email correspondences, the authors address the potential project financing and market impacts from the expiration of the §1603 Program. With the expiration of the §1603 Program, smaller or less-established renewable power developers will have more difficulty attracting needed financial capital and completing their projects, development of projects relying on newer or 'innovative' technologies will likely slow as traditional tax equity investors are known to be highly averse to technology risk in the projects they fund, and, finally, projects relying on tax equity may be more expensive to develop due to higher transaction costs and potentially higher yields required to attract tax equity.



Screen capture of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers website.

Journal Article: Enabling Technologies for High Penetration of Wind and Solar Energy

Author: Paul Denholm, NREL

High penetration of variable wind and solar electricity generation will require modifications to the electric power system. This work examines the impacts of variable generation, including uncertainty, ramp rate, ramp range, and potentially excess generation. Time-series simulations were performed in the Texas (ERCOT) grid where different mixes of wind, solar PV, and concentrating solar power provide up to 80% of the electric demand. Different enabling technologies were examined, including conventional generator flexibility, demand response, load shifting, and energy storage. A variety of combinations of these technologies enabled low levels of surplus or curtailed wind and solar generation depending on the desired penetration of renewable sources. At lower levels of penetration (up to about 30% on an energy basis) increasing flexible generation, combined with demand response, may be sufficient to accommodate variability and uncertainty. Introduction of load-shifting through real-time pricing or other market mechanisms further increases the penetration of variable generation. The limited time coincidence of wind and solar generation presents increasing challenges as these sources provide greater than 50% of total demand. System flexibility must be increased to the point of virtually eliminating must-run baseload generators during periods of high wind and solar generation. Energy storage also becomes increasingly important as lower cost flexibility options are exhausted. The study examines three classes of energy storage—electricity storage, including batteries and pumped hydro, hybrid storage (compressed-air energy storage), and thermal energy storage. Ignoring long-distance transmission options, a combination of load shifting and storage equal to about 12 hours of average demand may keep renewable energy curtailment below 10% in the simulated system.



Cover of the Navajo Generating Station and Clean-Energy Alternatives: Options for Renewables report.

NREL Report: Navajo Generating Station and Clean-Energy Alternatives: Options for Renewables

Authors: David Hurlbut, Scott Haase, Craig Turchi, and Kari Burman, NREL

In January 2012, NREL delivered to the Department of the Interior the first part of a study on Navajo Generating Station (Navajo GS) and the likely impacts of BART compliance options. That document establishes a comprehensive baseline for the analysis of clean energy alternatives and their ability to achieve benefits similar to those that Navajo GS currently provides. This analysis is a supplement to that study. It provides a high-level examination of several clean energy alternatives, based on the previous analysis. Each has particular characteristics affecting its relevance as an alternative to Navajo GS. It is assumed that the development of any alternative resource (or portfolio of resources) to replace all or a portion of Navajo GS would occur at the end of a staged transition plan designed to reduce economic disruption. We assume that replacing the federal government's 24.3% share of Navajo GS would be a cooperative responsibility of both the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD).



Cover of the 2010 Cost of Wind Energy Review report.

NREL Report: 2010 Cost of Wind Energy Review

Authors: Suzanne Tegen, Maureen Hand, Ben Maples, Eric Lantz, Paul Schwabe, and Aaron Smith, NREL

This document provides a detailed description of NREL's levelized cost of wind energy equation, assumptions, and results in 2010, including historical cost trends and future projections for land-based and offshore utility-scale wind.

June/July Announcements

Lori Bird was quoted in a Power Magazine article titled "States Promote Clean Energy Programs."

The Clean Energy Solutions Center was highlighted in a ThinkProgress article titled "Connecting the Dots: The Clean Energy Solutions Center is Making a Difference for Policymakers" as well as in the Climate Spectator article "The World's Clean Energy Advance."

RenewableEnergyWorld.com republished a number of RE Finance blogs, including Bethany Speer's "Worth the Trouble: New Market Tax Credits" and "How the U.S. Geothermal Market Is and Is Not Growing"; Mike Mendelsohn's "Where Did All the Solar Go? Calculating Total U.S. Solar Energy Production"; Karlynn Cory's "Community Solar: Policies that Go the Distance" and "Pallets of PV: Communities Purchase Solar and Drive Down Costs Together"; Ryan Hubbell's "S & P Opines on Securitizing Distributed Generation"; and Travis Lowder's "An Intro to Building-Integrated Photovoltaics Pt. 2: Challenges," "Weather Derivatives as Insurance Products in the Wind Industry," and "Two New Reports on Utility-Scale Solar from NREL."

GreentechMedia reposted Karlynn Cory's blog titled "Bohr, Baby, Bohr! German Policies Support Enhanced Geothermal Drilling."



May 2012


Cover of the Federal and State Structures to Support Financing Utility-Scale Solar Projects and the Business Models Designed to Utilize Them report.

May Publications

NREL Looks at State of the U.S. Utility-Scale Solar Market in Two New Reports

Title: Utility-Scale Concentrating Solar Power and Photovoltaics Projects: A Technology and Market Overview
Authors: Michael Mendelsohn, Travis Lowder, and Brendan Canavan, NREL

Title: Federal and State Structures to Support Financing Utility-Scale Solar Projects and the Business Models Designed to Utilize Them
Authors: Michael Mendelsohn and Claire Kreycik, NREL

Solar energy technologies are being deployed at unprecedented levels, driven in part by strong renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and federal incentives designed to stimulate investment in renewable energy technologies. A recent development is having the power sold directly to electric utilities. Such "utility-scale" systems offer the opportunity to deploy solar technologies far faster than the traditional "behind-the-meter" projects designed to offset retail load. Moreover, these systems have employed significant economies of scale during construction and operation, attracting financial capital, which in turn can reduce the delivered cost of power. This market overview report summarizes the current U.S. utility-scale solar state-of-the-market and development pipeline. The other report provides an overview of RPS policies, as well as the project financial structures they enable, based on industry literature, publicly available data, and questionnaires conducted by NREL.

NREL Report Measures Jobs and Economic Impacts of §1603

Cover of the Preliminary Analysis of the Jobs and Economic Impacts of Renewable Energy Projects Supported by the §1603 Treasury Grant Program report.

Title: Preliminary Analysis of the Jobs and Economic Impacts of Renewable Energy Projects Supported by the §1603 Treasury Grant Program
Authors: Daniel Steinberg and Gian Porro, NREL; Marshall Goldberg, MRG & Associates

This analysis responds to a request from U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to NREL to estimate the direct and indirect jobs and economic impacts of projects supported by the §1603 Treasury grant program. The analysis employs NREL's Jobs and Economic Development Impacts (JEDI) models to estimate the gross jobs, earnings, and economic output supported by the construction and operation of the large wind (greater than 1 MW) and solar PV projects funded by the §1603 grant program.

This report was also published by the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as featured in The Hill and in April's SunShot Initiative newsletter and on their homepage.

Cover of the The Open PV Project: Unlocking PV Installation Data brochure.

Brochure Outlines Benefits of the Open PV Project

Title: The Open PV Project: Unlocking PV Installation Data (Brochure)
Author: Ted Quinby, NREL

This brochure summarizes the Open PV Project, a collaborative effort of government, industry, and the public to compile a comprehensive database of PV installations in the United States. The brochure outlines the purpose and history of the project as well as the main capabilities and benefits of the online Open PV tool. The brochure also introduces how features of the tool are used, and it describes the sources and characteristics of Open PV's data and data collection processes.

Solar PV Reaching New Demographics through Third-Party Ownership

Title: Transformation of California's Residential Photovoltaics Market Through Third-Party Ownership
Authors: Easan Drury, Mackay Miller, Donna Heimiller, and Tod Perry, NREL; Charles M. Macal, Diane J. Graziano, and Jonathan Ozik, Argonne National Laboratory

Cover of the Energy Policy.

Third-party PV ownership, where commercial companies own and operate customer-sited PV systems and lease PV equipment or sell PV electricity to the building occupant, is growing. Third-party PV companies can reduce or eliminate up-front adoption costs, reduce technology risk and complexity by monitoring system performance, and repackage the PV value proposition by showing cost savings in the first month of ownership rather than payback times on the order of a decade. This report finds third-party business models in southern California residential PV markets have enticed a new demographic to adopt PV systems. Compared to traditional PV customer demographics, the new customers tend to be younger, less affluent, and less educated. By enticing new demographics to adopt PV, third-party PV products are likely increasing total PV demand rather than gaining market share entirely at the expense of existing customer-owned PV.

Two Papers Document Diverse Approaches to Effective Integration of Variable Renewable Energy

Cover of the Integrating Variable Renewable Energy in Electric Power Markets: Best Practices from International Experience report.
Cover of the Integrating Variable Renewable Energy in Electric Power Markets: Best Practices from International Experience report.

Title: Integrating Variable Renewable Energy in Electric Power Markets: Best Practices from International Experience
Authors: Jaquelin Cochran, Lori Bird, Jenny Heeter, and Douglas J. Arent, NREL

Title: Integrating Variable Renewable Energy in Electric Power Markets: Best Practices from International Experience, Summary for Policymakers
Authors: Jaquelin Cochran, Lori Bird, Jenny Heeter, and Douglas J. Arent, NREL

Many countries—reflecting very different geographies, markets, and power systems—are successfully managing high levels of variable renewable energy on the electric grid, including that from wind and solar energy. This study and summary for policymakers document the diverse approaches to effective integration of variable renewable energy among six countries—Australia (South Australia), Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and the United States (western region-Colorado and Texas)—and summarizes policy best practices that energy ministers and other stakeholders can pursue to ensure that electricity markets and power systems can effectively coevolve with increasing penetrations of variable renewable energy. Each country has crafted its own combination of policies, market designs, and system operations to achieve the system reliability and flexibility needed to successfully integrate renewables. Notwithstanding this diversity, the approaches taken by the countries studied all coalesce around five strategic areas: lead public engagement, particularly for new transmission; coordinate and integrate planning; develop rules for market evolution that enable system flexibility; expand access to diverse resources and geographic footprint of operations; and improve system operations. These reports were jointly produced by NREL, the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis, the Clean Energy Solutions Center, and the Clean Energy Ministerial.

Cover of the Geothermal Power and Interconnection: The Economics of Getting to Market report.

Transmission Issues of Geothermal Technologies

Title: Geothermal Power and Interconnection: The Economics of Getting to Market
Author: David Hurlbut, NREL

This report provides a baseline description of the transmission issues affecting geothermal technologies. The report begins with a comprehensive overview of the grid, how it is planned, how it is used, and how it is paid for. The report then overlays onto this "big picture" three types of geothermal technologies: conventional hydrothermal systems; emerging technologies such as enhanced engineered geothermal systems (EGS) and geopressured geothermal; and geothermal co-production with existing oil and gas wells. Each category of geothermal technology has its own set of interconnection issues, and these are examined separately for each. The report draws conclusions about each technology's market affinities as defined by factors related to transmission and distribution infrastructure. It finishes with an assessment of selected markets with known geothermal potential, identifying those that offer the best prospects for near-term commercial development and for demonstration projects.

May Announcements

SNL Financial interviewed Robert Margolis for an article titled "NREL Analyst: 'Soft Costs' Stand in Way of Grid Parity for Solar."

SEAC intern Andy Reger and his team from Daniels College of Business at Denver University won the 2012 Aspen Institute's Business & Society International MBA Case Competition. The competition consisted of more than 1,000 students from 25 of the world's leading business schools. The Yale School of Management wrote the case, which challenged the students to integrate business profitability into a sustainability project.

Michael Mendelsohn wrote a blog titled "Will Solar Projects Need Tax Equity in the Future?" that was published on RenewableEnergyWorld.com.

Doug Arent spoke with CNBC.com to provide context for a story on how renewable energy sources and technologies are doing in terms of replacing and competing with fossil fuels.



April 2012


Cover of the Naval Station Newport Wind Resource Assessment. A Study Prepared in Partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency for the RE-Powering America's Land Initiative: Siting Renewable Energy on Potentially Contaminated Land and Mine Sites, and The Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center report.

April Publications

RE-Powering America: Wind Energy at Naval Station Newport

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the RE-Powering America's Land initiative to encourage development of renewable energy on potentially contaminated land and mine sites. EPA is collaborating with NREL to evaluate renewable energy options at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Newport in Newport, Rhode Island, where multiple contaminated areas pose a threat to human health and the environment. Designated a superfund site on the National Priorities List in 1989, the base is committed to working toward reducing its dependency on fossil fuels, decreasing its carbon footprint, and implementing renewable energy projects where feasible. The Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center (NFESC) partnered with NREL in February 2009 to investigate the potential for wind energy generation at a number of Naval and Marine bases on the East Coast. NAVSTA Newport was one of several bases chosen for a detailed, site-specific wind resource investigation. NAVSTA Newport, in conjunction with NREL and NFESC, has been actively engaged in assessing the wind resource through several ongoing efforts. This report focuses on the wind resource assessment, the estimated energy production of wind turbines, and a survey of potential wind turbine options based upon the site-specific wind resource.

Title: Naval Station Newport Wind Resource Assessment. A Study Prepared in Partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency for the RE-Powering America's Land Initiative: Siting Renewable Energy on Potentially Contaminated Land and Mine Sites, and The Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center
Authors: Robi Robichaud, Jason Fields, and Joseph Owen Roberts, NREL
Project Manager: Gail Mosey, NREL

Energy Storage: Identifying and Mitigating Barriers to Use

Cover of the Market and Policy Barriers to Deployment of Energy Storage report.

Developments in the electricity industry have created a resurgence of interest in energy storage. Despite this interest, very little storage, beyond some small demonstration projects, has been deployed. While technical issues, such as cost, device efficiency, and other technical characteristics, are often listed as barriers to storage, there are a number of non-technical and policy-related issues. This paper surveys some of these main barriers and proposes some potential research and policy steps that can help address them. While the discussion is focused on the United States, a number of the findings and observations may be more broadly applicable.

Title: Market and Policy Barriers to Deployment of Energy Storage
Authors: Ramteen Sioshansi, The Ohio State University; Paul Denholm and Thomas Jenkin, NREL

Cover of the System Advisor Model, SAM 2011.12.2: General Description report.

SAM Overview and Capabilities

This document describes the capabilities of NREL's System Advisor Model (SAM), Version 2011.12.2, released on December 2, 2011. SAM is software that models the cost and performance of renewable energy systems. Project developers, policymakers, equipment manufacturers, and researchers use graphs and tables of SAM results in the process of evaluating finance, technology, and incentive options for renewable energy projects. SAM simulates the performance of solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and conventional power systems. The financial model can represent financing structures for projects that either buy and sell electricity at retail rates (residential and commercial) or sell electricity at a price determined in a power purchase agreement (utility). Advanced analysis options facilitate parametric, sensitivity, and statistical analyses and allow for interfacing SAM with Microsoft Excel or with other computer programs. SAM is available as a free download at http://sam.nrel.gov. Technical support and more information about the software are available on the website.

Title: System Advisor Model, SAM 2011.12.2: General Description
Authors: Paul Gilman and Aron Dobos, NREL

Cover of the Transmission Benefits of Co-Locating Concentrating Solar Power and Wind report.

Co-Locating CSP and Wind with Thermal Energy Storage

In some areas of the United States, transmission constraints are a limiting factor in deploying new wind and concentrating solar power (CSP) plants. Texas is an example of one such location where the best wind and solar resources are in the western part of the state, while major demand centers are in the east. The low capacity factor of wind is a compounding factor, increasing the relative cost of new transmission per unit of energy actually delivered. A possible method of increasing the utilization of new transmission is to co-locate both wind and CSP with thermal energy storage (TES). In this work we examine the benefits and limits of using the dispatchability of thermal storage to increase the capacity factor of new transmission developed to access high quality solar and wind resources in remote locations.

Title: Transmission Benefits of Co-Locating Concentrating Solar Power and Wind
Authors: Ramsheen Sioshansi, The Ohio State University; and Paul Denholm, NREL

Cover of the 2012 Annual Report, Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis brochure.

Analysts Present Innovative Work at JISEA Annual Meeting

Several NREL analysts showcased their work during the annual meeting of the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA). The analysts were recipients of JISEA's Innovative Research and Analysis Awards Program (IRAAP) and highlighted their work through posters and presentations to invited guests from academia, industry, government, and finance. JISEA also released an annual report to highlight the IRAAP projects and the other transdisplinary work that JISEA is doing to provide pragmatic, real-world insights to inform and guide the transformation of the global energy economy.

Title: 2012 Annual Report, Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) (brochure)

Coupling Renewable and Nuclear Energy to Thermal Energy Storage

Cover of the Decarbonizing the Electric Sector: Combining Renewable and Nuclear Energy Using Thermal Energy Storage report.

Both renewable and nuclear energy can provide significant contributions to decarbonizing the electric sector. However, a grid employing large amounts of wind and solar energy requires the balance of the system to be highly flexible to respond to the increased variability of the net load. This makes deployment of conventional nuclear power challenging both due to the technical challenges of plant cycling and economic limits of reduced capacity factor. In the United States, nuclear power plants generally provide constant, base load power and are most economic when operated at constant power levels. Operating nuclear power plants in load-following modes decreases the plants' annual energy output and increases the levelized cost of energy, decreasing economic competitiveness. One possible solution is to couple thermal energy storage (TES) to nuclear power plants. This would enable the reactor to remain at nearly constant output, while cycling the electrical generator in response to the variability of the net load. This paper conceptually explores combinations of wind, solar, and nuclear that can provide a large fraction of a system's electricity, assuming the use of TES that would allow nuclear power to provide load-following and cycling duty while operating at a constant reactor power output.

Title: Decarbonizing the Electric Sector: Combining Renewable and Nuclear Energy Using Thermal Energy Storage
Authors: Paul Denholm, NREL; Jeffrey C. King, Colorado School of Mines; Charles F. Kutscher, NREL; and Paul P.H. Wilson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Cover of the Grid Modeling for the SunShot Vision Study report.

Production Cost Modeling in the SunShot Vision Study

This document describes the use of production cost modeling in the SunShot Vision study, including methods used to create the SunShot Vision scenarios, their implementation in the Gridview model, and assumptions regarding transmission system and operation of each generator type. It also describes challenges and limitations of modeling solar generation technologies in production cost models and suggests methods for improving their representation in current models.

Title: Grid Modeling for the SunShot Vision Study
Authors: Greg Brinkman, Paul Denholm, Easan Drury, Erik Ela, Trieu Mai, Robert Margolis, and Matthew Mowers, NREL

Tracing the Rise and Use of Labeling Products as "Made with Renewable Energy"

Cover of the Made with Renewable Energy: How and Why Companies are Labeling Consumer Products report.

Green marketing—a marketing strategy highlighting the environmental attributes of a product, often through the use of labels or logos—dates back to the 1970s. It did not proliferate until the 1990s, however, when extensive market research identified a rapidly growing group of consumers with a heightened concern for the environment. This group expressed not only a preference for green products but also a willingness to pay a premium for such products. This report discusses the experience of companies that communicate to consumers that their products are "made with renewable energy." For this report, representatives from 20 companies were interviewed and asked to discuss their experiences marketing products produced using renewable energy. The first half of this report provides an overview of the type of companies that have labeled products or advertised them as being made with renewable energy. It also highlights the avenues companies use to describe their use of renewable energy. The second half of the report focuses on the motivations for making on-product claims about the use of renewable energy and the challenges in doing so.

Title: Made with Renewable Energy: How and Why Companies are Labeling Consumer Products
Authors: Deborah Baker Brannan, Jenny Heeter, and Lori Bird, NREL

Cover of the Impact of Financial Structure on the Cost of Solar Energy report.

Renewable Energy Financial Structures and the Impact on Solar Projects

To stimulate investment in renewable energy generation projects, the federal government developed a series of support structures that reduce taxes for eligible investors—the investment tax credit, the production tax credit, and accelerated depreciation. The nature of these tax incentives often requires an outside investor and a complex financial arrangement to allocate risk and reward among the parties. These financial arrangements are generally categorized as "advanced financial structures." Among renewable energy technologies, advanced financial structures were first widely deployed by the wind industry and are now being explored by the solar industry to support significant scale-up in project development. This report describes four of the most prevalent financial structures used by the renewable sector and evaluates the impact of financial structure on energy costs for utility-scale solar projects that use photovoltaic and CSP technologies.

Title: Impact of Financial Structure on the Cost of Solar Energy
Authors: Michael Mendelsohn, Claire Kreycik, Lori Bird, Paul Schwabe, and Karlynn Cory, NREL

Green Button logo.

April Models and Tools Enhancements and Releases

Green Button Initiative

President Obama made an announcement related to NREL's Green Button efforts. Some highlights include:

April Announcements

SEAC intern Nathan Clark and his team from University of Colorado, Denver, received the most innovative award at the Better Buildings Case Competition for their work on the Marriott Hotel case study. The University of Colorado, Denver, team presented three options to help hotel operators reduce their energy costs by adjusting their operations, which will save energy and allow the hotels to improve performance with no investment by the franchisor.

Karlynn Cory agreed to talk with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about how third-party power purchase agreements work and whether they have been working in the states that currently allow them.

Patrick Sullivan spoke with a reporter from Platts Newsletters about federal renewable energy standards, based on his technical report, Evaluating a Proposed 20% National Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Lynn Billman will be speaking with ThomasNet News on an upcoming story on the rebuilding of Greensburg, Kansas, following the tornadoes five years ago.

Alan Goodrich and Mark Mehos helped gather information on the comparative capital costs of solar, wind, natural gas, and coal for a testimony to the Kansas Legislature on behalf of the solar and wind industries.

Jeff Logan spoke with Capitol Ideas, the bimonthly magazine of The Council of State Governments, about how states can affect the future of renewable energy.



March 2012


Cover of the Renewable Energy Optimization Report for Naval Station Newport. A Study Prepared in Partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency for the RE-Powering America's Land Initiative: Siting Renewable Energy on Potentially Contaminated Land and Mine Sites report.

March Publications

Renewable Energy Optimization at NAVSTA Newport

In 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the RE-Powering America's Land initiative to encourage the development of renewable energy (RE) on potentially contaminated land and mine sites. As part of this effort, EPA is collaborating with NREL to evaluate RE options at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Newport in Newport, Rhode Island. NREL's Renewable Energy Optimization (REO) tool was utilized to identify RE technologies that present the best opportunity for life-cycle cost-effective implementation while also serving to reduce energy-related carbon dioxide emissions and increase the percentage of RE used at NAVSTA Newport. The technologies included in REO are daylighting, wind, solar ventilation preheating, solar water heating, photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal (heating and electric), and biomass (gasification and cogeneration). The optimal mix of RE technologies depends on several factors including RE resources; technology cost and performance; state, utility, and federal incentives; and economic parameters (discount and inflation rates). Each of these factors was considered in this analysis. Technologies not included in REO that were investigated separately per NAVSTA Newport request include biofuels from algae, tidal power, and ground source heat pumps.

Title: Renewable Energy Optimization Report for Naval Station Newport. A Study Prepared in Partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency for the RE-Powering America's Land Initiative: Siting Renewable Energy on Potentially Contaminated Land and Mine Sites
Authors: Robi Robichaud, Gail Mosey, and Dan Olis, NREL

Can U.S. PV Prices Go Lower?

Cover of the Residential, Commercial, and Utility-Scale Photovoltaic (PV) System Prices in the United States: Current Drivers and Cost-Reduction Opportunities report.

The price of PV systems in the United States (i.e., the cost to the system owner) has dropped precipitously in recent years, led by substantial reductions in global PV module prices. However, system cost reductions are not necessarily realized or realized in a timely manner by many customers. Many reasons exist for the apparent disconnects between installation costs, component prices, and system prices; most notable is the impact of fair market value considerations on system prices. To guide policy and research and development strategy decisions, it is necessary to develop a granular perspective on the factors that underlie PV system prices and to eliminate subjective pricing parameters. This report's analysis of the overnight capital costs (cash purchase) paid for PV systems attempts to establish an objective methodology that most closely approximates the book value of PV system assets.

Title: Residential, Commercial, and Utility-Scale Photovoltaic (PV) System Prices in the United States: Current Drivers and Cost-Reduction Opportunities
Authors: Alan Goodrich, Ted James, and Michael Woodhouse, NREL

Cover of the The Influence of Reservoir Heterogeneity on Geothermal Fluid and Methane Recovery from a Geopressured Geothermal Reservoir report.

New Models Help Estimate Recoverable Resources from Geothermal Reservoirs

Geopressured geothermal reservoirs are characterized by high temperatures and high pressures with correspondingly large quantities of dissolved methane. Two methods utilizing reservoir simulation techniques have been used to estimate recoverability factors of geothermal brine and methane based on well log data from a specific reservoir in Texas. The first assumes a simplified reservoir that has three layers: upper shale, sandstone, and lower shale with the sandstone layer thickness equal to the net sandstone in the reservoir interval. The second method uses a detailed reservoir model that accounts for multiple sandstone and shale layering. This method includes 12 layers of sandstone or shale with the layer depths determined from a well log. These two methods are used to answer the question on the sensitivity of the results to the level of detail that is included in the reservoir model. It was found that incorporating multiple thin layers of lower permeability sandstone can noticeably impact the results of the reservoir simulation. The heterogeneous model resulted in greater flow rates of both geothermal brine and total methane. Both models demonstrate that the geopressured geothermal reservoir is capable of producing hot geothermal fluid at flow rates over a long duration that are sufficient for electricity production from binary power plants. The results indicate that simplified models of geopressured geothermal reservoirs that approximate actual reservoir details can be applied to give a reasonable, albeit conservative, estimate of the recoverable resource over broad areas using generalized datasets.

Title: The Influence of Reservoir Heterogeneity on Geothermal Fluid and Methane Recovery from a Geopressured Geothermal Reservoir (presentation)
Authors: Ariel Esposito and Chad Augustine, NREL

Title slide from the Solar PV Manufacturing Cost Analysis: U.S. Competitiveness in a Global Industry presentation.

United States Can Compete with China in PV Manufacturing

Over the past five years, solar PV module shipments from China and Taiwan have grown from 6% to 54% global market share, while the United States has slipped from 9% to 6% market share. Chinese PV companies have gained an international pole position, in part, by achieving the industry's lowest silicon module manufacturing cost. There is also a clear strategic effort on the part of the Chinese government to drive an expansion into the high technology enterprises of the future, such as solar PV, by offering strong state support. Over the long term, however, several challenges facing the Chinese PV industry may affect its ability to sustain the dominant position. In this analysis we seek to quantify the decision points of two hypothetical solar PV manufacturers that are considering U.S. and non-U.S. production locations. We consider the full suite of details underlying regional differences in manufacturing, including shipping costs, policies of governance and trade, intellectual property protection, and subsidies. Going against conventional wisdom, our analysis shows that the United States is a competitive manufacturing location for solar PV modules, in select cases.

Title: Solar PV Manufacturing Cost Analysis: U.S. Competitiveness in a Global Industry (presentation)
Authors: Alan Goodrich, Ted James, and Michael Woodhouse, NREL

Screen capture of the OpenEI Applications Web page.

March Models and Tools Enhancements and Releases

OpenEI Now Features Mobile, Web, and Desktop Apps

OpenEI recently launched its apps Web page, including mobile apps and desktop apps. There are currently over 100 apps in the database. If you don't see your app there and want to add it, click the "Contact Us" link. Alternately, power OpenEI users can add their own app on http://en.openei.org/wiki/Concept:Apps.

March Announcements

Screen capture of the DOE article.

OpenEI and the Developer Network are featured in the DOE article, Taking Steps to Make Energy Data More Accessible.

A Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing news release referenced the presentation "Solar PV Manufacturing Cost Analysis: U.S. Competitiveness in a Global Industry" by Alan Goodrich, Ted James, and Michael Woodhouse. Since the news release, Alan Goodrich has talked with ClimateWire, Ted James has spoke with Platts Inside Energy, and Sustainable Business Oregon called public affairs in regards to the presentation.

Jon Weers answered questions on an LOD2 blog about OpenEI and other linked open data applications as used by NREL.

NREL provided the National Academy of Sciences with a System Advisor Model (SAM) overview graphic for publication in a future book, Harnessing Light II: Capitalizing on Optical Science Trends and Challenges for Future Research.



January/February 2012


January/February Publications

Cover of the Western Region Renewable Energy Markets: Implications for the Bureau of Land Management report.

Renewable Energy in the WECC Region

The purpose of this analysis is to provide the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with an overview of renewable energy generation markets, transmission planning efforts, and the ongoing role of the BLM renewable energy projects in the electricity markets of the 11 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) that comprise the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) region. This analysis focuses on the status of, and projections for, likely development of non-hydroelectric renewable electricity from solar (including photovoltaic [PV] and concentrating solar power [CSP]), wind, biomass, and geothermal resources in these states. Absent new policy drivers and without the extension of the DOE loan guarantee program and Treasury's 1603 program, state RPS requirements are likely to remain a primary driver for new renewable energy deployment in the western United States. Assuming no additional policy incentives are implemented, projected renewable energy demand for the WECC states by 2020 is 134,000 GWh. Installed capacity to meet that demand will need to be within the range of 28,000-46,000 MW.

Title: Western Region Renewable Energy Markets: Implications for the Bureau
of Land Management

Authors: Scott Haase, Lynn Billman, and Rachel Gelman, NREL

Cover of the Variance Analysis of Wind and Natural Gas Generation under Different Market Structures: Some Observations report.








Cover of the Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) in the Residential Sector: An Analysis of Installed Rooftop System Prices report.

Variance of Renewable Generation

Does large-scale penetration of renewable generation such as wind and solar power pose economic and operational burdens on the electricity system? A number of studies have pointed to the potential benefits of renewable generation as a hedge against the volatility and potential escalation of fossil fuel prices. Research also suggests that the lack of correlation of renewable energy costs with fossil fuel prices means that adding large amounts of wind or solar generation may also reduce the volatility of system-wide electricity costs. Such variance reduction of system costs may be of significant value to consumers due to risk aversion. The analysis in this report recognizes that the potential value of risk mitigation associated with wind generation and natural gas generation may depend on whether one considers the consumer's perspective or the investor's perspective and whether the market is regulated or deregulated. We analyze the risk and return trade-offs for wind and natural gas generation for deregulated markets based on hourly prices and load over a 10-year period using historical data in the PJM Interconnection from 1999 to 2008. Similar analysis is then simulated and evaluated for regulated markets under certain assumptions.

Title: Variance Analysis of Wind and Natural Gas Generation under Different Market Structures: Some Observations
Authors: Brian Bush, Thomas Jenkin, David Lipowicz, and Douglas J. Arent, NREL; Roger Cooke, Resources for the Future

Opportunities and Challenges in Residential Building-Integrated PV

For more than 30 years, there have been strong efforts to accelerate the deployment of solar-electric systems by developing photovoltaic (PV) products that are fully integrated with building materials. This report examines the status of building-integrated PV (BIPV), with a focus on the cost drivers of residential rooftop systems, and explores key opportunities and challenges in the marketplace.

Title: Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) in the Residential Sector: An Analysis of Installed Rooftop System Prices
Authors: Ted James, Alan Goodrich, Michael Woodhouse, Robert Margolis, and Sean Ong, NREL

Making Solar Energy Available for High Peak Demand

Cover of the Making Solar Energy Available for High Peak Demand report.

At high penetration of solar generation there are a number of challenges to economically integrating this variable and uncertain resource. These include the limited coincidence between the solar resource and normal demand patterns and limited flexibility of conventional generators to accommodate variable generation resources. Of the large number of technologies that can be used to enable greater penetration of variable generators, concentrating solar power (CSP) with thermal energy storage (TES) enables this technology to shift energy production to periods of high demand or reduced solar output and provide substantial grid flexibility by rapidly changing output in response to the highly variable net load created by high penetration of solar (and wind) generation.

Title: "Enabling Greater Penetration of Solar Power via the Use of CSP with Thermal Energy Storage"
Authors: Paul Denholm and Mark Mehos, NREL

Cover of the Hybrid Model for Financing Solar PV at Government Sites report.

Hybrid Model for Financing Solar PV at Government Sites

Historically, state and local governmental agencies have employed one of two models to deploy solar PV projects: (1) self-ownership (financed through a variety of means) or (2) third-party ownership through a power purchase agreement (PPA). Recently a third option was pioneered; a way to combine many of the benefits of self-ownership and third-party PPAs through a bond-PPA hybrid. This fact sheet describes how the hybrid model works, assesses the model's relative advantages and challenges as compared to self-ownership and the third-party PPA model, provides a quick guide to project implementation, and assesses whether the model is replicable in other jurisdictions across the United States.

Title: "Financing Solar PV at Government Sites with PPAs and Public Debt" (fact sheet)
Author: Claire Kreycik, NREL

Cover of the Renewable Electricity Supply Procurement Options report.

Renewable Electricity Supply Procurement Options

State renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policies require utilities and load-serving entities (LSEs) to procure renewable energy generation. Utilities and LSEs commonly use competitive solicitations or bilateral contracting to procure renewable energy supply to meet RPS mandates. However, policymakers and regulators in several states are beginning to explore alternative renewable energy supply options, including both feed-in tariffs (FITs) and auctions. This report evaluates four procurement strategies (competitive solicitations, bilateral contracting, FITs, and auctions) against four main criteria: (1) pricing; (2) complexity and efficiency of the procurement process; (3) impacts on developers' access to markets; and (4) ability to complement utility decision-making processes. These criteria were chosen because they take into account the perspective of each group of stakeholders: ratepayers, regulators, utilities, investors, and developers.

Title: "Procurement Options for New Renewable Electricity Supply"
Authors: Claire E. Kreycik, NREL, Toby D. Couture, E3 Analytics, Karlynn S. Cory, NREL

Cover of the In-Depth Study Looks at Solar Installation Workforce report.

In-Depth Study Looks at Solar Installation Workforce

Through primary research, including more than 1,425 completed interviews with U.S. solar installation employers, this report offers labor market data and analysis covering current U.S. employment in the sector, expected industry growth, and employer skill preferences and challenges for solar installation-related occupations. Key findings include:

  • Companies prefer experienced workers and are having difficulty finding them. In many cases workers seeking employment do not possess the necessary skill sets or hands-on experience.
  • Critical skills and desired experience include skills and experience in the electrical and construction trades, customer service, and specialized solar knowledge.
  • To be most effective, training programs need to understand local market trends and continue developing partnerships with local solar employers.

Title: "Solar Installation Labor Market Analysis" (PDF 1.5 MB)
Authors: Barry Friedman, NREL, Philip Jordan, Green LMI Consulting, and John Carrese, San Francisco Bay Area Center of Excellence

Cover of the SREC Markets — How They Function and Trends report.

SREC Markets — How They Function and Trends

This paper examines experience in solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) markets in the United States. It describes how SREC markets function—key policy design provisions, eligible technologies, state and regional eligibility rules, solar alternative compliance payments, measurement and verification methods, long-term contracting provisions, and rate caps. It also examines the trends of SREC markets—trading volumes, sourcing trends, trends in the size of solar PV systems driven by these markets, and trends in price and compliance. Throughout, the paper explores key issues and challenges facing SREC markets and attempts by policymakers to address some of these market barriers.

Title: "Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) Markets: Status and Trends"
Authors: Lori Bird, Jenny Heeter, and Claire Kreycik, NREL

Cover of the ReEDS Model Analyzes Critical Energy Issues report.

January/February Models and Tools Enhancements and Releases

ReEDS Model Analyzes Critical Energy Issues

The Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) is a deterministic optimization model of the deployment of electric power generation technologies and transmission infrastructure throughout the contiguous United States into the future. The model, developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Strategic Energy Analysis Center, is designed to analyze the critical energy issues in the electric sector, especially with respect to potential energy policies, such as clean energy and renewable energy standards or carbon restrictions.

Title: "Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS)"
Authors: Walter Short, Patrick Sullivan, Trieu Mai, Matthew Mowers, Caroline Uriarte, Nate Blair, Donna Heimiller, and Andrew Martinez, NREL

Thumbnail of the SAM site.

SAM: New Version, New Site

The Solar Advisor Model (SAM) makes performance predictions and cost of energy estimates for grid-connected power projects based on installation and operating costs and system design parameters that you specify as inputs to the model. NREL recently released SAM 2011.12.2 for Windows and Mac OS with several new technologies and capabilities, including linear Fresnel CSP, P50/P90 weather variance analysis, and biopower modeling, as well as general improvements, such as PV case study sample files and integrated hourly data plotting. The new SAM version is available for immediate download at its new dedicated site, http://sam.nrel.gov, along with training materials and a schedule of presentations and webinars.

Thumbnail of the IMBY (V2) site.

IMBY (V2) Now Available in Beta

The In My Backyard (IMBY) tool estimates the electricity you can produce with a solar PV array or wind turbine at your home or business. IMBY (V2) uses a PVWatts algorithm and SAM financial calculations via web services, which are available for web developers at http://developer.nrel.gov/doc/pvwatts. Both IMBY and IMBY (V2) Beta are available at http://maps.nrel.gov.

DOE Pulse Features OpenEI

Thumbnail of the DOE Pulse site.

The Department of Energy's online newsletter DOE Pulse highlighted the addition of nationwide utility rates to the Open Energy Information platform, or OpenEI.org. NREL's Debbie Brodt-Giles leads the OpenEI development team. See the Pulse feature story here.

Additional Information: Nationwide utility rates now on Open EI

January/February Announcements

NREL Analysts Explore Nuclear/Renewable Energy Synergies

Cover of the Nuclear and Renewable Energy Synergies Workshop: Report of Proceedings report.

Robin Newmark and Paul Denholm of NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis Center were among the government, industry, and academic thought leaders who participated in the 2-day Nuclear and Renewable Energy Synergies Workshop, sponsored by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis. JISEA convened the workshop to identify potential synergies and strategic leveraging opportunities between nuclear energy and renewable energy, two energy sources with potential to overcome the challenges of greenhouse gas emissions and imported oil. Participants identified potential broad categories of synergies and brainstormed topic areas for additional analysis and research and development. Denholm, a featured presenter, led a discussion on the potential role of thermal energy storage. Proceedings and outcomes of the workshop are now available in a JISEA technical report.

Title: "Nuclear and Renewable Energy Synergies Workshop: Report of Proceedings"
Authors: Mark Ruth, Mark Antkowiak, and Scott Gossett, NREL

January/February Analysts in the News

Paul Denholm, NREL, is quoted in a New York Times article on thermal storage, "Storehouses for Solar Energy Can Step In When the Sun Goes Down."