America’s First Solar Airport

Chattanooga, Tennessee can now proudly boast to be the first city in America to have an airport that is 100 percent solar powered.

This story comes by way of a recent CleanTechnica article. According to the article, the city’s airport has been gradually going solar since 2011.

The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport (CMA) now has a total of 2.64 MW of solar power capacity. The ground-mounted solar panels have been installed on a piece of land that (before the installed solar) was determined to be unusable for regular airport purposes.

Courtesy of Chattairport

$10 million was the total cost for this solar power project. It is expected that the project will pay for itself in less than 20 years, with an expected useful life of 30-40 years. It also includes some battery storage so that the CMA can be clean energy powered after sundown.

This project was done in conjunction with local power company EPB and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The electricity from the solar system will be sold to TVA. As the local utility, EPB will still be billing the CMA, but at a much lower rate due to the solar power being provided.

If the CMA is now powered with 100 percent solar electricity, why are there any electricity bills at all, you ask?

This situation is very similar to home solar. When homeowners go 100 percent solar, their solar panel systems generate as much energy as they use throughout the year. However, they will not directly use all of the electricity themselves. Some of it gets sent to their neighbors. In this way, the CMA will, throughout the year, generate as much electricity as it uses. Whatever excess electricity it doesn’t use itself will be sent to nearby customers of EPB.

A couple of other noteworthy items concerning this project are that the airport plans on soon becoming completely carbon neutral. It is expected that when they have a total of 3MW of solar installed this will be the case. The second item to mention is the fact that this project was largely funded by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Voluntary Airport Low Emission (VALE) grant. This covered a high percent of the first phase of the project.

This story bodes well for other airports across the country. There are certainly many other parts of America with higher electricity rates, making solar even more financially attractive.

More clean energy airports are definitely on the way!

Facebook Is Building A Large Solar Farm In Texas

Despite the many problems involving Facebook, the company is at least doing the right thing concerning renewable energy.

A massive solar farm in West Texas is part of the company’s plans to power 100 percent of its operations via clean energy by the end of 2020.

The solar project is called Prospero. It represents a slightly different way that Facebook has invested in renewable energy projects to date. Instead of just purchasing clean energy from wind or solar farms, the company is directly investing in a solar project. Facebook will be investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Prospero, in addition to the $416 million in acquired financing.

Once completed, the project will have a capacity of about 379 megawatts. This is enough solar for about 300,000 homes.

Another notable idea concerning the financials of this project has to do with taxes. There are federal tax credits available for this or any other solar panel installation in the U.S. Typically the solar installer (or in the case of a residential install, the homeowner) would be able to take advantage of the credits. However, in this case, the solar developers do not have enough taxable income, but Facebook does. The company will utilize the tax credit to help offset their tax bills.

This project is also another example in which fossil fuel companies are starting to invest in renewables. Shell will be purchasing some of the electricity from this project in the form of renewable energy credits. These credits that Shell purchases will then be sold to other companies.

It’s great to have yet another example of large corporations seeing the value of solar power and other sources of clean energy. Again, this simply means one thing; solar power is the winner from an economic standpoint. Basically if a homeowner or business is investing fossil fuels, they’re paying too much.

Jay Inslee Calls For 1,100 GW Of Solar Energy By 2035

Democratic Governor of Washington State and Presidential Candidate, Jay Inslee, has proposed that 1,100 gigawatts of solar energy capacity be installed by 2035.

Of the many democratic candidates, Inslee is, by far, the most vocal proponent of a quick transition to a clean energy society for the United States. It’s his primary platform. He is calling for 100 percent “clean, renewable, and zero-emission” energy by 2035. This is his energy version of Kennedy’s “moonshot” program. “A massive, full scale mobilization of the federal government that will spur major innovation and deployment of clean energy.” This will also include “good paying jobs for workers, and support for vulnerable communities.”

Jay Inslee

In order for Inslee’s goal to be met by 2035, solar would need to be installed at a compound annual growth rate of 19 percent. This growth rate is actually less than what an independent Japanese/German/U.S research consortium (GA-SERI) has determined. Of course, additional solar capacity would be needed after 2035 to meet the needs of an increasing amount of electric vehicles and new infrastructure that will need to be zero-emission.

In addition to more clean energy deployment, the governor also realizes that there are other pieces of the puzzle that must be supported. Energy storage, smart grids, and transmission are topics that must be dealt with as well. He mentioned that “through expedited planning, broad cost allocation, and negotiated siting”, the long distance interstate transmission of clean energy can be accomplished. The Governor also mentioned an idea that has already passed in California, that all new homes should automatically include solar.

It’s quite refreshing to hear a Presidential candidate put such a strong focus on renewable energy as a part of his campaign. This is the kind of leadership that is needed, and will continue to be needed many years into the future.

It’s worth noting that, from a political standpoint, promoting clean energy is no longer a radical idea. This is mainly due to the fact that it is now the cheapest option available. Voters like hearing that they will be saving money.

The one idea that may have been overemphasized was the need for investments in transmission and distribution. One of the great things about solar power is that it is easily distributed. In other words, the energy can be used where it is produced. A good deal of solar can be installed in the cities that require it. The remainder of the required solar can, in many cases, be installed nearby the cities that need it. This can limit the required transmission lines. This energy does not need to be transmitted across multiple states, like conventional energy.

Hopefully, more politicians will feel comfortable showing support for solar power and other sources of clean, renewable energy. After all, it’s a safe bet now.