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The little-watched renewables case that could bring big changes to federal-state jurisdiction

A federal court in New York is scheduled to hold a hearing Friday on a case that could have implications for the legal boundaries between federal and state authority regarding energy policy.

Among the possible repercussions would be a change in how states structure mechanisms for meeting renewable energy targets.

The case is being watched by renewable energy stakeholders for its implications, but it is possible the plaintiff may not get past the first hurdle, which means the court might not rule on the merits of the case. Even if that does happen, the court’s action could be consequential for 460 MW of renewable energy projects sitting in limbo.

The plaintiff, Allco Financial, an affiliate of developer Allco Renewable Energy, was rebuffed twice by a federal court that ruled the company did not have the legal standing to bring the case. The case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District where a hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9.

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Renewable energy demand rising rapidly among large corporations

Renewable energy demand among U.S. companies is significant and growing quickly, according to a report from Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), a clean energy trade group.

The AEE report, 2016 Corporate Advanced Energy Commitments, found that 71 of Fortune 100 companies have set renewable energy or sustainability targets, up from 60 just two years ago.

Among Fortune 500 companies, commitments have held steady at 43%, or 215 firms, the report found.

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This Chart Shows How Quickly Wind Power Has Caught On

Yes, wind power is “green,” but it didn’t become a force on the energy landscape until it also became cheap. Over the past decade, that has begun to happen, thanks to a combination of improvements in technology and federal and state tax incentives. As Stephen Gandel and Katie Fehrenbacher report this week in Fortune, the average cost of wind energy dropped by about a third between 2008 and 2013; in some parts of the country, it’s the cheapest electricity source available. Not coincidentally, as the chart below shows, wind’s share of renewable-energy output has soared. The Department of Energy expects wind to generate 10% of America’s electricity by 2020, up from about 7% today. (By comparison, coal and natural gas today each account for about a third.)

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Google Will Be Powered Completely by Clean Energy Next Year

Google, the world’s biggest corporate buyer of clean energy, expects to reach a major milestone next year: running the company entirely with wind and solar power.

The Alphabet Inc. unit has been pursuing the goal since at least 2012, “but I didn’t think it would happen so fast,” Gary Demasi, Google’s director of global infrastructure and energy, said in an interview. “We’ve seen prices come down precipitously, which has helped us ramp up.”

Google expects to purchase enough clean power in 2017 to meet or exceed all of its consumption at its offices and 13 data centers; it used 5.7 terawatts of energy in 2015. The company signed its first renewable-energy deal in 2010 and now has contracts for 2.6 gigawatts of capacity from 20 wind and solar farms worldwide. The projects required about $3.5 billion to build, and about $2 billion went for power plants in the U.S., Demasi said.

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Tesla acquires Germany's Grohmann, plans European battery factory

Two recent announcements brings to at least five the number of large factories — often termed "gigafactories" — that are being built to manufacture batteries.

Tesla last month purchased German manufacturing automation specialist Grohmann Engineering and said it plans to open a European gigafactory to build batteries and cars.

And Grohmann’s former supply chain vice president, Peter Carlsson, is planning to open a battery gigafactory in Sweden.

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Corporate Investments in Energy Storage Reach $660 Million in Q3 2016

According to the latest edition of GTM Research and ESA’s U.S. Energy Storage Monitor, corporate investment in energy storage reached an all-time high in terms of quarterly investments in Q3. Disclosed venture funding and project finance totaled $660 million in the third quarter of the year, bringing the annual total to $812 million.

The largest announced deal during the quarter was $300 million in project financing from the Electric Gas & Industries Association for Tabuchi Electric. The report notes that Advanced Microgrid Solutions also closed a large project financing deal worth $200 million with Macquarie.

“Financing activities in this most recent quarter are noteworthy not just because of the scale, but also because project financing made up a significant portion of the total,” said Ravi Manghani, GTM Research’s director of energy storage. “While one quarter alone doesn’t constitute a trend, growth in project financing, especially in the residential segment, is a harbinger for further strengthening of deployment business models.”

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Four reasons 30% wind and solar is technically no big deal

Lower costs, enhanced capabilities, and an abundance of resources have set the United States and much of the world on track to increase renewable energy deployment and decrease carbon emissions from the energy sector.

Still, the question of whether the U.S. can reliably and affordably integrate large amounts of wind and solar confronts policymakers – so we’re giving you four reasons 30% wind and solar is technically no big deal.

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How Big Can Wind Turbines Get?

If you think today’s wind turbines are big, then just wait until 2030.

By then the median hub height for U.S. onshore turbines will hit 115 meters, 33 meters above the current average. And blade tips will swing higher than the Washington Monument’s 169 meters, according to 163 experts polled in a study conducted by four energy research organizations.

Offshore wind turbines, which are already larger than their onshore brethren, are set to achieve even greater heights by 2030, the experts said.

Today’s machines, averaging 4.1 megawatts with a hub height of 90 meters, will be replaced by 11-megawatt giants with hubs 125 meters off sea level and blades spanning 190 meters. Their blade tips will scythe the air at well over twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.

And those could be average sizes.

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Clean Energy Advocates Praise Passage of Major Illinois Energy Bill

U.S. environmental and consumer advocates negotiated several other significant changes to Illinois’ energy policy as part of deal, including updates to the state’s renewable portfolio standard, an expansion of efficiency programs, and the preservation of net metering for rooftop solar projects -- a policy ComEd sought to end. The final bill also scrapped a controversial proposal to implement mandatory demand charges on all residential customers. Solar companies strongly opposed the proposal, and Governor Bruce Rauner’s office called the demand charges “insane.”

“For months, the potential for demand charges hung over the state like a dark cloud,” said Rebecca Stanfield, vice president of policy and electricity markets for SolarCity. “Demand charges fundamentally change the way consumers are billed for energy; instead of being charged for total usage, customers would be billed based on the intensity of consumption over a short period of time.”

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Wind Surges to Nearly 15 Percent of Texas Power Supply

Texas grid operator ERCOT announced a new record for wind on Monday. For the first time, wind provided more than 15,000 megawatts of electricity to the state on a single day.

The record wind on Sunday supplied an average of 41 percent of electricity throughout the day. But it was not an all-time record for wind in Texas. On one day in March, wind supplied more than 48 percent of load during one hour.

It is not the hour-by-hour records that are impressive, however.

Texas is already the clear leader in wind power in the U.S., and that lead is widening. Texas has more than 18,000 megawatts installed and another 5,000 megawatts under construction, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

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