MGM Resorts International plans to power its sizable share of the Strip with a dedicated solar array capable of supplying up to 90 percent of daytime demand at the company’s 13 Las Vegas casinos.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL -- MGM Resorts is partnering with Chicago-based renewable developer Invenergy on a new 100-megawatt photovoltaic array set to go online in 2020, about 25 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Invenergy is slated to start construction next year on 640 acres of federal land northwest of where U.S. Highway 93 splits from Interstate 15 near Apex Industrial Park. All of the electricity generated by the array will go to MGM Resorts under a 20-year agreement.
The site is located within the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, one of five areas in Southern Nevada and 19 nationwide designated by President Barack Obama’s administration to fast track utility-scale solar development.
Ortega said the array will consist of 336,000 solar panels capable of producing enough power for about 27,000 homes.
The project is expected to employ about 350 people during construction and generate about $20 million in sales and property tax revenue, according to a joint statement from MGM Resorts and Invenergy.
Ortega said such a project would not have been possible before MGM severed its relationship with NV Energy in 2016 and began buying its own electricity on the wholesale market. “A huge rationale for why we did that as so we could do this project,” she said.
The gaming giant had to pay an exit fee of $86.9 million to leave NV Energy, which counted on MGM Resorts for nearly 5 percent of its energy sales.
Wynn Resorts Ltd. also withdrew as a retail customer of the utility in 2016, after paying a $15.7 million exit fee.
In January, Wynn Resorts announced it had partnered with Enel Green Power North America on a 20 MW solar array near Fallon, 375 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
The project is under construction and scheduled to go online this summer. All of its power will be sent through existing transmission lines directly to Wynn Resorts, where it eventually will provide all of the electricity needed for the company’s $1.5 billion Paradise Park development.
MGM Resorts started the growing solar arms race on the Strip when it built an array atop the Mandalay Bay convention center in 2014 and expanded it to 20 acres of roof and 8.3 MW of output in 2016. It still ranks as nation’s largest contiguous rooftop solar project, according to the company.
Once the Invenergy project goes on line, Ortega said, 30 percent of MGM Resort’s power in Southern Nevada will come from clean, renewable sources. “That means no carbon emissions,” she said.
The company hopes to increase that amount to 50 percent in the coming years with the help of advancing battery technology that will enable the storage of solar power for nighttime use.
“Protecting the planet is a business imperative for MGM Resorts, and it is our responsibility to find innovative ways where we can use clean energy to power our resorts,” Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said in a written statement. “Incorporating renewable energy into MGM’s portfolio will fundamentally reduce MGM’s environmental footprint.”
American businesses are investing record amounts in solar, with the top corporate users adding 325 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity last year, according to a report.
CNBC -- Leading the way was Target, which added over 40 MW of solar capacity to its portfolio in 2017. The retailer now has more than 200 MW of installed capacity.
Released Thursday, the "Solar Means Business 2017" report, from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), contains data from more than 4,000 businesses.
"To leading companies across America, deploying solar is a common-sense business decision," Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the SEIA, said in a statement. "Large corporations have found that going solar not only benefits the environment, but also their bottom-line, satisfying both shareholders and customers alike."
The top 10 corporate solar users in the U.S. include businesses such as Walmart, Apple, Amazon and Kohl's.
The impact of corporate solar is not insignificant. The solar installations tracked in the SEIA report produce enough electricity to power 402,000 U.S. houses and offset 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Target's vice president for property management, John Leisen, said that the business was "putting solutions in place across our business to leave our homes better for future families."
The world has invested $2.9 trillion in green energy sources since 2004, according to the "Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018" report from UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Center, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
The report, released earlier this month, found that 98 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity was installed in 2017. Solar power attracted $160.8 billion of investment, more than any other technology. China, where a staggering 53 GW was added and $86.5 billion invested, was described as a "driving power" behind the increase in solar.
SOLAR PROJECT LENDING STARTUP WUNDER CAPITAL RAISES $112 MILLION AS RENEWABLE ENERGY SHINES
As renewable energy continues to gobble up more and more of the new energy capacity coming online, the solar project lending company Wunder Capital has raised $112 million in primarily debt financing to boost its business.
TECHCRUNCH -- The 90 percent debt and 10 percent equity commitment came from the multi-strategy investment firm Cyrus Investments, which has backed renewable energy projects for years through its investment in RePower Group.
“The debt component is going to blow out the lending opportunity,” says Wunder chief executive Bryan Birsic.
Wunder chose to consolidate the debt and equity round with a single lead investor to simplify the negotiation process on both sides of the table, Birsic said. “Since Cyrus is an equity holder in the company we can come to better terms,” on debt facilities and repayment, he said.
Wunder lends money to commercial solar energy development projects throughout the U.S. and its business has been buoyed by a flood of demand for new solar energy projects coming online.
Since its launch in 2016, the company has financed more than 180 projects throughout the U.S., which are generating somewhere in the range of 50 megawatts (or enough electricity to power roughly 32,500 homes).
The Boulder, Colo.-based company makes money in three ways: It charges closing fees, a servicing fee and annual interest rate on the debt it provides — typically Wunder will pull in between 4 percent and 5 percent off of each loan it provides to a project.
And business… for renewable energy… is booming.
For instance, the industry appears to have shaken off concerns over price increases stemming from the tariffs imposed on solar panels as part of broad punitive measures President Trump has taken against China (which supplies most of the world’s solar panels).
“It was really pleasant to see that folks were less reactionary and more responsive to the data,” says Birsic. The headlines, Birsic explains, were worse than the reality for the industry. The headlines in January predicted a 30 percent tariff on solar panels, but banks thought those increases would ultimately result in a 3 percent price increase for residential solar installations and a 4 percent price increase for commercial solar.
Those price increases would only bring costs in line with what they were at the end of 2017, since over the course of the year prices on installations declined 10 percent, Birsic says.
“We’re very cool with the economics as it existed in 2017,” he said.
NEW JERSEY TAKES A BIG STEP TOWARD RENEWABLE ENERGY (AND NUCLEAR GETS HELP, FOR NOW)
New Jersey significantly altered the future of its energy sector on Thursday, passing two bills that set ambitious goals for expanding renewable power and curtailing greenhouse gases in the state.
THE NEW YORK TIMES — The bills, which require power companies in New Jersey to generate 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and subsidize existing nuclear power plants, mark one of the biggest new policy steps that any state has taken toward cutting greenhouse gases since President Trump was elected.
The central piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 3723, sets the renewable energy goal and anchors much of the growth in wind and solar energy, aiming to hit 35 percent renewables by 2025 and eventually 50 percent by 2030. That goal would pull New Jersey in line with some of the leading states on the issue, like New York and California.
The bill was passed in tandem with a $300 million annual subsidy to the state’s remaining nuclear power plants, which provide the state with roughly 40 percent of its electricity. Public Service Enterprise Group and Exelon, the utility companies that operate the power plants, say the subsidies are necessary to keep the power plants operational and open.
The bills passed by a wide margin in both the Assembly and Senate.
Since Mr. Trump announced that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, 14 Democratic and Republican governors have announced that they would continue to uphold the accord and push forward with their own efforts to reduce emissions.
But, to date, new progress has been slow. States like California and New York already had progressive clean-energy policies that were well underway before Mr. Trump took office. And few states have managed to significantly step up policy action; efforts to put a price on carbon failed to pass through legislatures in Washington and Oregon this year.
But in New Jersey, Gov. Philip D. Murphy has seen some success, and these energy bills, which the governor has indicated he will sign, mark a significant step. Having made environmental issues a focus of both his campaign and his early tenure, Mr. Murphy has already signed numerous executive orders, including one that laid the groundwork for expanding offshore wind energy near Atlantic City.
While his administration has struggled to sell the tax increases arising from his inaugural budget to fellow Democrats, he has largely had success when it comes to moving the state forward in combating climate change.
“The environmental reality in this state for the past eight years, and if that weren’t enough, the environmental chops of the Trump administration,” Mr. Murphy said in an interview, “felt like an urgent crisis.”
The inclusion of the nuclear subsidy, though, has dampened enthusiasm among some environmental groups for the package of measures, exposing the rift among those who view nuclear energy as inherently clean — in that it has no greenhouse gas emissions — and those who view the industry as a threat because of safety, regulation and waste disposal issues.
Mr. Murphy is wholly in favor of nuclear energy.
“I believe the biggest bridge we have to our clean energy future are the nukes and, not to mention, the thousands of jobs they support,” he said.
The ambitious goals set forth in the renewable energy bill have caused concern among some environmental groups usually opposed to nuclear energy. But the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been supportive of New Jersey’s efforts toward renewable energy, has said it will not oppose the nuclear subsidy bill.
“We don’t want to see the abrupt closure of nuclear plants, because if you close them tomorrow, we know that they’ll just be replaced by more fossil fuels,” said Dale Bryk, senior strategic director at the defense council. “You have to have an orderly transition plan that involves scaling up renewables first, so that when the nuclear plants close, they’re replaced with clean energy.”
Indeed, environmental groups are increasingly being forced to grapple with the climate consequences of retiring nuclear plants. Across the United States, there are still 99 nuclear power plants in operation that supply one-fifth of the nation’s electricity without generating any carbon dioxide emissions. Six reactors have closed since 2013 and more than a dozen more are scheduled to retire by 2025 unless states decide otherwise.
New Jersey’s nuclear subsidy bill is similar to programs passed recently in New York and Illinois, where the Legislature would give the nuclear power plants financial credit for the carbon-free electricity they produce. Every three years, the companies that operate these reactors will have to open their books and show that they need the subsidies to stay operational.
In New Jersey, the Oyster Creek nuclear reactor is expected to close, but the subsidies would benefit the remaining three.
Still, some environmentalists in New Jersey have scoffed at this plan, viewing it as falling short in transparency for not requiring the utility companies to open their books to the public. And, they assert, the inclusion of the nuclear subsidy taints the clean-energy efforts in the companion bill.
“It’s going to put a chilling effect on spending more for renewable energy, because to build out renewable will cost much more,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This bill is about a nuclear subsidy, and that’s the primary purpose. And that’s the diversion to make you think you’re getting something that you’re not.”
The two bills will likely lead to an increase for New Jersey utility ratepayers, though the exact amount remains murky. The cost of subsidizing nuclear energy will be passed down to each ratepayer at a fee of approximately $41 a year, but Mr. Murphy has said he hopes to require public utilities to slash rates based on savings from the new federal tax law, which could potentially offset any increase.
The ambitious goals for renewable energy also follow a trend among the cities and states that have pledged to commit to upholding the Paris accord: By exceeding their share of the national commitments that would have existed under the international agreement, the states are accelerating the country’s overall progress, despite the headwinds from Washington.
“If you look at the United States commitments under Paris, these percentages would more than uphold New Jersey’s share of the burden,” said Robert C. Orr, one of the architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement as the United Nations secretary general’s lead climate adviser. He is now dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.
“Obviously, New Jersey is a significant state, but it’s not a driver in the same sense that California is,” Mr. Orr said. “But by putting New Jersey in a group with California and New York and then Vermonts and the Marylands, you start to see, not getting all the way to Paris targets, but you start to see the trend line moving toward us meeting Paris.”
APPLE SAYS ALL OF ITS WORLDWIDE FACILITIES ARE NOW 100 PERCENT POWERED BY CLEAN ENERGY
Apple announced on Monday that its facilities around the world were now entirely powered by renewable energy.
(Reuters) - Apple Inc on Monday said it had achieved its goal of powering all of the company's facilities with renewable energy, a milestone that includes all of its data centers, offices and retail stores in 43 countries.
The iPhone maker also said nine suppliers had recently committed to running their operations entirely on renewable energy sources like wind and solar, bringing to 23 the total number to make such a pledge.
Major U.S. corporations such as Apple, Wal-Mart Inc and Alphabet Inc have become some of the country's biggest buyers of renewable forms of energy, driving substantial growth in the wind and solar industries.
Alphabet's Google last year purchased enough renewable energy to cover all of its electricity consumption worldwide.
Costs for solar and wind are plunging thanks to technological advances and increased global production of panels and turbines, enabling companies seeking to green their images to buy clean power at competitive prices.
"We're not spending any more than we would have," Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives, said in an interview. "We're seeing the benefits of an increasingly competitive clean energy market."
Renewable energy projects that provide power to Apple facilities range from large wind farms in the United States to clusters of hundreds of rooftop solar systems in Japan and Singapore. The company has also urged utilities to procure renewable energy to help power Apple's operations.
Encouraging suppliers to follow suit in embracing 100 percent renewable energy is the next step for Apple. The suppliers that pledge to use more clean energy know they will have "a leg up" against competitors for Apple's business, Jackson said.
"We made it clear that over time this will become less of a wish list and more of a requirement," she said.
This week the Illinois Commerce Commission finalized the state’s Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, with tweaks that clean energy advocates say will boost installation and access to renewables in the state.
GREENTECH MEDIA -- It also officially places Illinois in the upper echelons of state renewable energy procurement targets.
The Illinois Power Agency, the state's energy procurer, detailed a plan to acquire 25 percent of Illinois' energy from renewable sources by 2025, a requirement under the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act. To meet that goal, the plan outlines the procurement of 666 megawatts of community and distributedsolar The text also lays out procurements for the state's utilities and discusses the implementation of its Solar for All Program, which is designed to make solar more accessible to low-income communities.
The final text of the Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan also includes several updates that clean energy advocates lobbied for.
The commission did away with spot procurements, where states purchase renewable energy credits on a yearly basis from existing generation. The Illinois Power Agency planned to purchase 37 million spot RECs over two years, more than double the 10 million spot RECs it’s purchased for $65 million over the past nine years. Instead, Illinois indicated it would spend on forward-looking clean energy projects to reach its long-range goals.
“The legislation was written with the understanding it would take some time,” said Christie Hicks, manager of clean energy regulatory implementation at the Environmental Defense Fund. “Meeting long-term goals takes priority over meeting annual goals.”
Rather than focusing solely on large utilities, the final plan also includes municipal and rural electric cooperatives in its REC program — something utilities like ComEd had lobbied against because those companies don’t have “public utility” status, meaning they aren’t bound by the state’s renewable portfolio standard and don’t pay for its programs.
But the Illinois Power Agency argued that projects run by co-ops still benefit the entire state. Other groups, like the Environmental Law & Policy Center, agreed, saying rural and economically disadvantaged communities should have access to the same benefits even if not serviced by a regulated utility. The municipal and rural companies mostly serve central and southern Illinois, areas where the commission said it hopes to see project growth.
The final document also includes a change to compel in-state development of clean energy projects. While Illinois can purchase RECs from facilities in nearby states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, the state will assess whether these facilities meet the requirements of the program using a point system.
In its final version, the commission raised the point threshold required for out-of-state facilities to qualify. That offers in-state facilities the upper hand and should lead to fringe benefits like more jobs and cleaner air.
According to the Illinois Commerce Commission, the first procurements, which will include utility-scale wind and brownfield solar, will come this summer. The Illinois Power Agency said the plan should be revised in 2019, after it assesses progress on reaching state goals. But according to the state's utility watchdog, it's a clear move in the right direction.
"No question, there’s a lot of work to do," said David Kolata, executive director at the Citizens Utility Board. "But Illinois now has an excellent opportunity to act on the promise of the Future Energy Jobs Act to make sure that everyone receives the benefits of the clean energy economy.”
GOOGLE SAYS IT WILL BE BIGGEST CORPORATE BUYER OF RENEWABLE ENERGY ON THE PLANET
CNBC -- Google's total purchase of energy from renewable sources in 2017 was greater than the electricity used by its global operations, the tech giant has said. This follows on from a 2016 announcement that the business was on target to buy enough renewable energy to "match" electricity usage.
In a blog post Wednesday, Google's Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure, Urs Hölzle, described what the business meant by "matching." Put simply, for every kilowatt hour of electricity the company used in 2017, it bought a kilowatt hour of renewable energy from a solar or wind farm built specifically for Google.
Hölzle said that Google now had contracts to buy 3 gigawatts of output from renewable energy projects, and that no corporate purchaser was buying more renewable energy than Google. Renewable energy contracts for Google had resulted in more than $3 billion in new capital investment across the globe, he said.
"We say that we "matched" our energy usage because it's not yet possible to "power" a company of our scale by 100 percent renewable energy," Hölzle explained.
"It's true that for every kilowatt-hour of energy we consume, we add a matching kilowatt-hour of renewable energy to a power grid somewhere," he added. "But that renewable energy may be produced in a different place, or at a different time, from where we're running our data centers and offices."
What was important to Google, he said, was that it was adding "new clean energy sources to the electrical system" and buying renewable energy in the same volume that it was consuming both globally and on a yearly basis.
Looking forward, Hölzle said that Google would carry on signing more contracts to buy renewable energy.
The search giant is among a number of technology businesses looking to "green" their operations with big, ambitious projects. Last October, for instance, Amazon announced that its biggest wind farm to date was operational.
The business said that Amazon Wind Farm Texas would add over 1 million megawatt hours of clean energy to the grid annually. The facility, which is located in Scurry County, has over 100 turbines, each standing more than 300-feet tall and with a rotor diameter over double the wingspan of a Boeing 787.
Chinese solar power led a record 157 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy capacity added worldwide last year, more than double the amount of new generation capacity from fossil fuels, a U.N.-backed report showed on Thursday.
REUTERS -- Globally, a record 98 GW of solar power capacity was installed last year with China contributing more than half, or 53 GW, according to U.N. Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
The new renewable energy generating capacity, also including wind, biofuels and geothermal energy, dwarfed the 70 GW of net new capacity from fossil fuels in 2017, it said.
“We are at a turning point ... from fossil fuels to the renewable world,” Erik Solheim, head of U.N. Environment, told Reuters. “The markets are there and renewables can take on coal, they can take on oil and gas.”
Fossil fuels, however, still dominate existing capacity. Solar, wind, biomass and other renewables generated 12.1 percent of world electricity in 2017, up from 5.2 percent a decade earlier, it said.
Climate scientists have advised governments that renewables should be the world’s dominant source of energy by mid-century if they want to achieve the toughest goals set under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to combat global warming.
Global investment in renewable energy rose by two percent to $279.8 billion in 2017 from a year earlier. China invested the most in renewables at $126.6 billion - its largest amount ever and 45 percent of the global total.
“Much lower costs ... are the driver of solar investment worldwide,” said Angus McCrone, chief editor of Bloomberg New Energy Finance and lead author of the report, told Reuters.
And solar power in China benefited from government policies to help industry, reduce air pollution and slow climate change, he said.
The report said the cost of generating electricity from large-scale solar photovoltaic technology fell by 15 percent last year to $86 per megawatt hour.
In the United States, renewable energy investment fell by six percent in 2017 to $40.5 billion. However, it was relatively resilient to policy uncertainties under President Donald Trump, who wants to promote fossil fuels, the report said.
“Trump can no more brake this than those who opposed the Industrial Revolution could stop the Industrial Revolution,” said Solheim, a former Norwegian environment minister.
Still, Trump’s decision in January to slap tariffs on imported solar panels could dent U.S. solar power in the short term, McCrone said.
But there was no sign the U.S. Congress would scrap tax credits for renewables that are a bigger driver of long-term investment, he said.
Europe’s investment in renewables plunged by 36 percent to $40.9 billion due to factors including the end of subsidies in some countries for solar and wind and lower technology costs.
“In Europe the fall in investment is strongly driven by Germany and the UK,” said Ulf Moslener, lead editor of the report at the Frankfurt School.
Poles without ice. Oceans without oxygen. Areas of the planet without people.These are just some of the effects of a rapidly warming planet. Add to the list: coasts without beaches.
Poles without ice. Oceans without oxygen. Areas of the planet without people.These are just some of the effects of a rapidly warming planet. Add to the list: coasts without beaches.
FUTURISM -- You might assume this will happen sometime in the distant future, when sea levels rise. But it’s already happening. Climate change is taking beaches away from humans — in a physical way, as rising seas erode them, and in the way humans interact with them, as several governments have closed beaches to visitors to limit further damage.
Just this week, the Thai government announced that it was closing one of its most famous beaches for four months out of the year. Its rationale? To allow nearby coral reefs to recover from the effect of millions of visitors, which range from pollution to physical destruction from boats and human hands. And as the ocean grows warmer, stressed coral ecosystems like these recover more slowly from these intrusions.
Several other Southeast Asian islands have done the same, closing off beaches to allow their marine inhabitants to recover with some peace and quiet.
I know: this sucks. And that’s fair — many people think of beaches as a universal public right. But beaches are also bigger than you and your summer plans.
Organisms in, above, and next to the water dwell there, even if you don’t see (or eat) them. Without beaches, most of these animals would lose their homes, risking extinction.
If you live near the ocean, you can thank beaches for keeping your water drinkable and keeping your house where it is. Beaches and sand dune ecosystems are a vital barrier between the powerful seawater and shore-based ecosystems. They also stop salty ocean water from leaching into fresh groundwater.
Protective closures like the ones in Southeast Asia also mean tens of thousands of jobs could be lost, many in developing countries that rely on tourism to survive, as The Outline reports.
Southeast Asia may seem far away, but the problem is global, and happening faster than you might expect. Without human intervention, up to two thirds of beaches in Southern California will disappear from erosion within the next century, a 2017 U.S. Geologic Survey study found.
By 2100, sea levels may rise between 0.2 and 2 meters (0.66 to 6.6 feet), depending on how much the Earth warms. That could swallow the majority of beaches worldwide.
Banning beaches is disappointing for humans. But it might be worth giving up a chill place to sunbathe and sip out of coconuts to save an ecosystem.
Software maker’s latest purchase was for an additional 315 megawatts of solar power
BLOOMBERG -- Microsoft Corp. is racing ahead in the rankings of corporations buying clean energy in 2018, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Corporate PPA Deal Tracker. Microsoft’s announcement in March that it will buy 315 megawatts of solar power as part of the largest purchase of photovoltaic energy in the U.S. boosts the software maker to No. 2 among companies procuring clean energy this year. AT&T Inc.’s announcement in February that it will buy 520 megawatts of wind energy continues to secure its position as the biggest buyer.
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