SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
1. SC Businesses Acting on Rising Seas
Standing up to protect our coast and coastal communities
SACE is proud to announce we are assisting the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce with an exciting new campaign called SC Businesses Acting on Rising Seas (SCBARS). The campaign presents an opportunity for coastal businesses to take a stand and help protect these treasured places from the impacts of climate change.
Global warming threatens our Southeastern coasts where the tourism economy is largely comprised of small, independent businesses. These small businesses would be disproportionately affected by climate impacts such as sea level rise because they have less financial padding with which to absorb shocks such as the flooding events that are becoming more typical in a warmer world, particularly in places like Miami Beach and Charleston.
In addition to the direct threat that flooding poses to a business’ building, flooding can also create major commuting problems for employees and prevent customers from accessing goods and services. There is also the possibility that a business will lose its financial edge over other businesses in neighboring towns or competing tourist destinations due to increased sales taxes or other local taxes levied to pay for infrastructure improvements required to deal with rising seas, including road improvement or beach renourishment projects. Finally, as seas rise and tides get higher, the beaches in coastal communities will get smaller and erode away faster, which means that tourists may take their business to another community altogether.
With these risks becoming more apparent as global warming pollution goes largely unchecked, it’s no wonder that over 100 small businesses have agreed to participate in SCBARS in just the first few months of the campaign.
Participating businesses display a sign, sticker, or line of blue tape in or on their building to show where 6 feet of sea level rise would be on that particular location. According to some scientists’ projections, this worst-case scenario could become reality within this century. Upon seeing the displays, customers are prompted to send a letter to their elected officials, urging them to take action to reduce climate pollution and thus help preserve the vitality of the community.
SACE is eager to help the SC Small Business Chamber continue to develop and deploy such an important campaign. You can learn more at SCBARS.org. If you represent a coastal South Carolina small business, please sign up!
The dog days of summer are here. As we crank up our air conditioners to beat the heat, utilities struggle to provide enough power to serve our communities. When electricity demand soars, utilities rely on peaking power stations that tend to be reserved for those few hours every year. These peak generation resources, including natural gas combustion turbines, can be extremely expensive resources. But how can the ocean help utilities meet peak demand?
It’s all about the sea breeze effect. During the summertime, as the sun beats down, the oceans and land absorb and radiate heat at different rates. As such, air over the land tends to heat up quicker than air over water. The temperature difference between the land air (hot) and ocean air (cold) causes the ocean air to rush inland and fill the vacuum over land. The result is a sea breeze rushing inland in the hot summer afternoons.
That phenomenon creates an opportunity for wind energy. Specifically, coastal and offshore wind farms and utilities would directly benefit by generating high-value energy. New analysis by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy shows that for North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, offshore and near-shore winds are available consistently during peak power demands.
SACE compared modeled offshore wind farm output to large utilities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. In each of those states, wind farm output was positively correlated with utility demand for the months of June, July and August. During the wintertime, the wind farms operate a bit more like base load power plants that consistently generate electricity.
Simply put, offshore and nearshore wind farms can generate electricity by using the sea breeze effect to serve peak demands, including our air conditioners. Some very smart wind farm companies have noticed this phenomenon.
For several years, Cape Wind (the nation’s first proposed offshore wind farm off Massachusetts) Associates have been taking wind speed measurements offshore. They’ve noticed that as temperatures soar during the summertime, the wind speeds pick up and the proposed offshore wind farm would provide substantial amounts of power when the utilities need that power the most.
But, perhaps the sea breeze effect has had the greatest effect in Texas. Wind farms are ubiquitous throughout western Texas, but fairly recently, developers have begun looking in coastal areas. Wind farms built in coastal Texas tend to provide substantial amounts of energy when the state needs it most – hot summertime afternoons. And in 2011, those coastal wind farms helped the state prevent brownouts by providing energy when it was vital to grid stability.
Particularly for offshore wind, where costs are estimated to be higher than onshore wind farms, supplying high-value energy when its needed the most may help justify a higher price for those resources.
Florida is clearly the poster child of the crumbling nuclear ‘renaissance.’ Earlier this year Duke Energy Florida wisely decided to permanently close the troubled Crystal River 3 reactor, unfortunately after billions were spent. Then the Florida State Legislature passed a modest bill, SB1472, which attempted to fix the statute that allows utility customers to be charged in advance for costs associated with pursuing new nuclear generation.
The big “new” nuclear news in Florida was the major announcement in August by Duke that they were canceling the $25 billion-and-climbing two-reactor proposal in Levy County.
SACE issued a media statement and held a media teleconference expressing our support of this long-overdue cancellation, but noted that FPL customers remain at great risk as FPL continues their ill-advised pursuit of building two additional reactors at the existing Turkey Point plant near Miami.
The outrage over the many nuclear debacles in Florida was palpable. We highly recommend a scathing piece by Robert Trigaux, business columnist with the Tampa Bay Times. Ivan Penn’s coverage at the Times has been instrumental in documenting Florida’s many nuclear foibles. As he reported:
“As it turns out, they were all wrong. Progress Energy insisted its proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County would provide low-cost energy for generations.
The Legislature promised again and again that a new law forcing customers to pay in advance for the Levy project would get the plant built faster and cheaper, even as the delays piled up and the price soared.
On Thursday, the big talk ended. Duke Energy, Progress’ successor company, pulled the plug on Levy. There will be no cheap power.”
Just after Duke’s monumental announcement, hearings on the 2013 nuclear cost recovery clause docket were held before the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). Duke didn’t have much to say, instead asking that the PSC defer consideration of Duke’s issues until next year pending approval of a settlement agreement that cancels the Levy project. A hearing to consider approval of the settlement agreement will likely take place in October. However, since SACE didn’t agree to a stipulation offered by FPL to simply brief the issues, FPL witnesses were questioned about the feasibility and cost of the proposed new Turkey Point reactors.
The Herald’s Naked Politics blog followed the day’s hearing, and captured SACE’s frustration with the PSC’s continued failure to scrutinize the projects for feasibility and protect the interests of consumers:
“George Cavros, attorney for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, put the blame on both legislators and the PSC for the failed projects. Consumers ‘paid a whole lot of money for a whole lot of nothing,’ he said. ‘We believe that was facilitated by law and, quite frankly, also by you by approving certain costs for recovery for a project that was increasingly speculative.'”
So what lies ahead? The PSC will vote in October on FPL’s request and consider the settlement agreement from Duke. In the meantime, take action now – click here to voice your concerns and read SACE’s post-hearing brief.
In August, SACE staff had the pleasure of touring the Sharp Manufacturing Company of America’s Memphis, TN facility. Having used Sharp solar panels for our Knoxville office array, it was fascinating to get an inside look at the manufacturing process of the very technology that powers our operations. SACE Executive Director Dr. Stephen Smith was also lucky enough to sit down with T.C. Jones, Sharp Vice President of Human Resources and General Affairs, who talked us through the reasoning behind the company’s decision to bring solar panel production to their Memphis facility. At the top of their list? TVA.
You can watch the video below for a full account of this interview with T.C., here.
Sharp’s Memphis facility is an impressive operation and a real boon to our state and regional economy. The plant’s five solar panel production lines are in full operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and they produce panels at a remarkable rate of 3,000 per day for a total of about 200 MW of solar panels annually. 450 workers are employed on site, about 300 of whom work on solar production (with many of the others working on Sharp’s innovative LED lighting). Sharp is one of the world’s largest solar manufacturers, and the Memphis plant is a great example of the potential for ‘green’ manufacturing to bring plentiful, high-quality jobs to our region.
In 2003, the company made a calculated decision to begin solar panel production in Tennessee because of the opportunities they saw for their solar business to grow through the region’s strong transportation networks and ample market potential. Company executives scouted several locations in other regions around the country but ultimately decided on Memphis. When asked why, T.C. Jones had one simple answer: TVA.
Jones said the Sharp executives weighed their options and decided on Tennessee because TVA not only covers this state but much of the surrounding area, and offered the best opportunity for Sharp to dig into the renewables market and set up a productive relationship with the power provider. They saw the large market available through TVA as providing great market pull for their product. However, when asked how their vision has worked out so far, Jones replied, “So so”.
Though Sharp set out to disseminate renewable energy throughout the region, the reality at this point is that upwards of 80% of the panels Sharp produces are being shipped to the other side of the world because of a hampered regional market. Jones reported that Sharp had hoped TVA would be “more receptive to renewable energy.” The uncertainty in TVA’s solar programs has had a dampening effect on the regional market potential for solar. Because of the limited solar capacity available, the market hasn’t taken off in the way it has in other regions. The Sharp facility itself is capped in their own solar installations because of TVA policies that limit the solar capacity available to consumers.
TVA is falling behind its peer utilities in solar development. As demonstrated by North Carolina’s solar carve-out provision and the recently approved IRP motion by the Georgia Public Service Commission, clear policy goals play a critical role in the sustained orderly development of a solar industry.
The Southeast needs more proactive policies on solar implementation that would allow Sharp and other regionally-based clean energy manufacturers to thrive, and for the region to attract other similar major manufacturing facilities. Creating an environment that attracts large, clean energy technology manufacturers such as Sharp positions our region to succeed in the economies of the present and the future. It’s not only manufacturers like Sharp that suffer under the current limited policies, but actors throughout the economy, right down to solar installers who are facing constrained market growth and potential layoffs in the Tennessee Valley, right when solar is taking off in nearby states and throughout the nation.
TVA has an opportunity to grow the commitment to solar, which would demonstrate to Sharp and other major manufacturers that the Tennessee Valley and the Southeast is still a viable marketplace for solar and clean energy technologies, one backed by utilities that allow consumers to act on their growing demand for solar power and provide regular and sustaining business to clean energy technology manufacturers such as Sharp.
Sharp Manufacturing Company of America is a prime example of how clean energy manufacturing can help build stronger, safer local communities. SACE applauds their efforts to make American-made, clean energy options more readily available in our region and the world. We hope TVA and other regional utilities recognize the critical role their policy decisions have in attracting (or repelling) more companies like Sharp to the Southeast.