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California Has More Solar Power Than You Think—a Lot More

California has more solar power than any other state in the U.S. -- and that's always been the case.

Every summer, the California Independent System Operator issues a press release explaining that the state has hit another record for solar power generation. The most recent came in July, when CAISO reported that the state hit 8,030 megawatts of solar on July 12 at 1:06 p.m., almost 2,000 megawatts more than the previous summer.

With more solar panels being installed every day, new records are as predictable as the sunrise. But strangely, everyone gets the numbers wrong.

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Tesla's Chinese rival is spending $1.8 billion on an electric car factory

LeEco, the Chinese company looking to rival Tesla with its own electric car, said on Wednesday it would invest 12 billion yuan ($1.8 billion) to build an electric car plant in eastern China with eventual annual production capacity of 400,000 cars.

The company said in a statement its first China factory would be built in two phases in Deqing county near the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

Non-automakers and start-ups have rushed to begin making electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles as China's central government liberalizes the industry to promote a switch to electricity as an ultimate replacement for petrol to fuel cars.

LeEco's production facility will be part of a larger project to build an "Eco Experience Park" that will cost 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) in total that will also include an entertainment park, facilities for internet-connected electric cars and offices, the statement said.

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Why These Cities Are Leading on Clean Energy

Cities large and small are leading the charge on the country’s transition to clean energy, driven by concerns that range from air pollution to the need to create jobs, according to a new report from the Sierra Club.

The report, part of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign that is pushing cities to transition to 100% renewable energy, underscores the role urban areas play in addressing climate change. Cities produce more than 60% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to a United Nations report, and which makes urban zones a key point of leveraging fighting global warming.

But addressing climate change is often not the reason that cities accelerate their push to clean energy, according to the Sierra Club. In San Diego, one of the country’s most conservative big cities, a Republican mayor committed to transitioning to clean energy by citing how the commitment will help expand the city’s clean tech sector. Leaders in Aspen, Colorado cited climate change’s effect on the local economy: global warming has detracted from the local ski industry.

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Why Apple's energy plans are so unique in Silicon Valley

Apple is no longer just a tech company with a commitment to powering itself completely from renewable energy. It is now officially licensed to sell clean electricity too, in an rare move that could save the company hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs and corporate taxes.

The California tech giant last week won federal approval to start selling electricity, on top of its iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, watches and headphones. Rather than buying solar and wind electricity from another operator, like most technology firms do, Apple can also sell the juice from its own clean power plants.

The iPhone maker is part of a growing group of companies pledging to run most or all of their operations on renewable energy. Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon, for example, have also invested in wind farms and solar plants to help power their data centers and warehouses — a move that cuts both greenhouse gas emissions and energy and tax bills.

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How an obscure piece of technology will help put more solar on the grid

An esoteric smart-grid technology is gaining prominence as expanded solar capacity poses new challenges to utilities and grid operators.

Advanced inverters, or smart inverters, are sophisticated versions of the devices long used to convert the direct current output of solar panels into the alternating current used by consumers across the electrical grid. Whereas traditional inverters are programmed to shut off during disturbances on the electrical grid, advanced inverters can continue to operate and even assist in smoothing out an increasingly variable grid.

Only a handful of U.S. states make significant use of this emerging technology, but that’s changing as electricity standards and procedures are updated to reflect a modernizing industry. In Illinois, ComEd plans to test smart inverter functionalities as part of a microgrid pilot project on Chicago’s South Side. In January, the utility received a $4 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) toward utilizing smart inverters in the so-called “Microgrid-Integrated Solar-Storage Technology” project.

The project will address “one of the key barriers for the high penetration of solar PV systems: the seamless integration of these systems in utility grids,” reads a release on DOE’s website.

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Clean Power Plan offers chance to right past injustices, advocates say

Advocates say a little-known provision of the Clean Power Plan could become a powerful tool to advance environmental justice.

The Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) is aimed at “removing barriers to investment in energy efficiency and solar measures in low‐income communities," plus sparking "zero-emitting" renewable energy development, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes it.

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Massachusetts just gave a huge boost to the offshore wind industry

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a new energy law on Monday that could give a huge boost to the country’s offshore wind industry. The legislation, which was overwhelmingly passed last week by the state legislature, includes the nation’s biggest commitment to offshore wind energy, requiring utilities to procure a combined 1,600 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind farms in a little over 10 years.

The legislation comes at a time when the offshore wind industry is still ramping up in the United States. Although multiple projects have been proposed up and down the East Coast, there are no working turbines in the water yet. That should soon change.

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DOE Issues Further Update to Its Loan Guarantee Programs

The Loan Program Office (LPO) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently published an important update to the Loan Guarantee Solicitation for Applications for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects (the Solicitation).

The update, promulgated as the Sixth Supplement to the Solicitation, effectively adds “electric vehicle charging facilities, including associated hardware and software” to the list of “Eligible Projects” (as defined in Section II of the Solicitation) under the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Loan Guarantee Program.

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How Industrial Firms Invest in Renewable Energy, Affordably

Big companies have been buying a lot of clean energy lately – 3.5 gigawatts of renewable capacity last year alone (a good chunk of all the capacity added*). These leaders, mostly consumer-facing brands like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Walmart, and IKEA, have been covering their roofs and filling giant fields with solar panels and wind turbines. To do this, they have mostly used power purchasing agreements (PPAs) to buy their clean power. Under this financing structure, the company contracts to buy kilowatts, not the turbines and panels. They put up almost no capital and usually lower their day-to-day energy costs.

It sounds like an easy win-win, but industrial companies have had a harder time making it all work for two key reasons: costs and accounting. First, due in large part to the scale and consistency of their energy purchasing, industrials already pay the lowest rates for power. Second, signing long-term power agreements for 15 to 20 years is hard for any company to swallow, and they often struggle with how to handle the accounting (is the contract a lease? Is it a liability, an asset, or something else?). This hurdle seems especially hard for old-school, more fiscally conservative entities.

So the PPA terms that retailers and tech companies sign have not worked for the heavy guys.

Until now.

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Schneider Electric Starts Network To Help Corporate Renewables Goals

A boom in corporations buying renewable energy directly has spawned services aimed at helping guide those buyers in making their decisions.

In May, around 60 U.S. companies, including Facebook and Microsoft and several environmental groups, formed the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance that aims to break down barriers that corporations face as they try to meet their sustainability goals. Another group, the Utility-Corporate Buyer Collaborative Forum, is looking to make it easier for corporates to buy renewable energy.

Schneider Electric's new service aims to provide information so companies can more easily and efficiently make informed decisions about renewable purchases.

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