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Jigar Shah says politics matters more than R&D in decarbonizing efforts

Jigar Shah, the executive director of the U.S. Department of Energy Loan Program and formerly a successful entrepreneur in the clean energy sector, says technology isn’t holding the United States back from more aggressively tackling the challenge of climate change. Rather, it’s a matter of deploying the solutions at scale. And that’s where politics come in.

Jigar Shah

“The vast majority of the technologies we need to decarbonize our economy … are already invented,” he said on an April 30 webinar hosted by Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment.

The event was covered by the Boulder Daily Camera, from which this is extracted.

In the clean energy space, the libertarian, hands-off approach to the market isn’t going to get the United States to a place where this meaningful environment is possible, he said. The government has an important role to play, not just in fostering innovation but in controlling the climate change narrative.

“You can only ask utilities to do the right thing for so long until you have to force them to do it,” he said. “Due to lack of buy-in from utilities, grid management technology developed in the U.S. is being used in countries all over the world, but not domestically,” he said.

In Shah’s Linked-In bio, he says he has spent most of his career bringing climate solutions to scale. Most recently he was president and co-founder of Generate Capital, a company with the goal of bringing scale to distributed energy storage, microgrids, fuel cells, electric vehicles, and organic waste management.

Shah also founded SunEdison, which developed one of the first major solar farms in Colorado, in the San Luis Valley, (including the one in the photograph above).

After that, he was the founding CEO of the Carbon War Room, a global non-profit created to help entrepreneurs address climate change.

A vision formed long ago being realized near Delta

The late Ed Marston comes to mind with this announcement from Delta-Montrose Electric Association.

Delta-Montrose and its wholesale supplier, Guzman Energy, has submitted plans to local authorities for an 80-megawatt solar energy project to be located near Delta. The project is expected to go on line in early 2023.

Delta County will receive $10 million in property taxes over the projected 35-year life of the project, and the solar farm will help Delta-Montrose reach approximately 20% of local power generation.

Guzman Energy, the project developer, became the wholesale supplier for Delta-Montrose as of July 2019.

These gleanings are  from the May 12, 2021, issue of Big Pivots, an e-journal. To sign up, go to BigPivots.com

“When we started serving DMEA, we made a commitment to building local solar,” Chris Riley, the chief executive of Guzman Energy. “The Garnet Mesa solar project, which will serve DMEA and other Guzman loads, demonstrates our promise to our customers. We will continue to tailor power solutions for our customers, leveraging both owned and contracted energy sources, to provide the communities we serve with affordable and reliable power.”

If Delta-Montrose officially separated from Tri-State Transmission and Generation less than 2 years ago, the issues that caused the separation can be traced at least to 2005, when Tri-State set out to build a new coal-fired power plant in Kansas. Despite having several coal mines in its service territory, Marston and other directors of Delta-Montrose had a different vision.

Once, about a decade ago, I called Marston and asked him about the basic dispute.

“Because I don’t want to keep on sending checks to Craig,” he said, a reference to the source of most of Tri-State’s power generation at the time.

200-MW solar farm planned west of Pueblo

Black Hills Energy has committed to purchasing the output from a 200-megawatt solar farm planned between Pueblo and Canon City.

Renewables Now reported that the developer is 174 Power Global Corp., an affiliate of South Korea’s Hanwha Group. The agreement is for 15 years of production from the Turkey Creek Solar project.

Solar farm will get Platte River Power to 50% of its 2030 goal

Platte River Power Authority put on-line one solar farm in March, a 22-megawatt solar array adjacent to

its coal-fired power plant north of Fort Collins, coupled with 2 megawatts of battery storage.

It has another solar farm coming in 2023. Called Black Hollow, near the reservoir of the same name east of Fort Collins, it will have 250 megawatts of generating capacity, of which 150 MW will go to Platte River and its four member municipalities: Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park, and Longmont.

In all these cases of new generation, Platte River is buying the power from independent producers, who are able to realize benefits of the federal tax credits that Platte River, as a municipal provider, cannot.

With other wind, solar, and hydroelectric generation, this will push Platte River to 50% of its goal of achieving complete decarbonization by 2030, says Jason Frisbee, the chief executive.

An announcement posted by Platte River said that Black Hollow will allow the utility to no longer need power from the Craig Generating Station, of which Platte River is a part owner. The first unit there is to cease operations by 2025.

And a nifty website feature

Platte River Power Authority has a nifty page on its website, one that shows the sources of current energy production as well as the energy production as it has shifted over the previous 24 hours.

“We got the idea from Austin Power but we wanted to show a little more information on our site,” says Steve Roalstad, Platte River spokesman. “It illustrates fairly well how we integrate non-dispatchable sources as they are available and the growing percentage of our energy deliveries.”

Platte River still has a long way to go. Nearly 80% of electricity on Tuesday noon, a rainy day with little wind, came from coal.

On Sunday, it was a little less carbon-drenched: Coal was responsible for almost 62% of electrical generation and wind a bit more than 28%. Solar was responsible for 4.9% and hydro 4.8%.

CORE in line to get $1.2 million from Aspen

When it was created in 1994, the Community Office for Resource Efficiency had a strong funding model. Those building homes in around Aspen had the choice of offsetting the energy consumption from heated driveways, outdoor swimming pools, and big, big houses by installing renewable generation themselves or paying in-lieu fees.

At the start, few people wanted to be bothered with solar panels. Most paid the in-lieu fee, which gave CORE a steady stream of income for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the Roaring Fork Valley—and even beyond.

But the revenue stream has tightened as homeowners have chosen to add renewable energy. More important, Pitkin County, where most of the new buildings are constructed, has tightened its building regulations. Out went the possibility of building gigantic castles. In May 2020, the county adopted its boldest regulations yet that require new buildings to attain relatively low HERS (Home Energy Rating System, an index of energy efficiency) and then more, including batteries.

The Aspen Daily News and Aspen Times report a request from CORE for $1.2 million from the city to help the organization meet its projected $2.1 million budget. It’s not certain Aspen will provide the money, but the Daily News reports a round of praise among Aspen City Council members for progress achieved.

In the last several years, CORE has provided important grants for two new affordable employee housing projects, Basalt Vista and Willits—that have no natural gas connections.

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