http://www.cleanenergy.org/2017/03/03/march-2017/

SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

March 2017

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Spring…already? We’d be remiss to not mention the unusually warm winter we’re having this year. SACE staff has been taking note and so are many climate and weather experts, calling it a “false spring.” Climate Central reports that spring arrived up to 28 days earlier in the Southeast. What are you experiencing in your community? Share photos and stories with us on social media: Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

 

1. First Wind Farm in North Carolina Takes Flight

2. Electric Vehicles, User fees & the VW settlement

3. Toshiba’s financial meltdown sinks new nuclear power projects

 


1. First Wind Farm in North Carolina Takes Flight
Driving $1.1 million into the local economy each year

 

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North Carolina is nicknamed “First in Flight” because of the historic aeronautic experiments that occurred along the state’s breezy coast over a century ago. Now, North Carolina can tack on another windy first: In early February, North Carolina’s first large-scale wind farm began generating electricity! The 208 megawatt Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, which would generate enough energy to power 61,000 homes a year, will power an Amazon web services data center in nearby Virginia.

The 104 wind turbines are predominately located on agricultural land near Elizabeth City in the northeastern part of North Carolina. Land owners voluntarily agreed to wind turbine placements on their property and are compensated accordingly. But the wind farm doesn’t just benefit the landowners – it’s a $400 million capital investment in Perquimans and Pasquotank Counties, and the project is expected to generate $250,000 in property tax revenues in just 2017 alone. The wind developer, Avangrid, is now the largest taxpayer in the two counties the turbines are located in.

With taller towers, longer blades and advanced components, harnessing wind energy resources is now technologically feasible across the entire region. The Amazon Wind Farm’s annual energy output is expected to be 670,000 megawatt hours. For a 208 megawatt wind farm, that roughly equates to a 37 percent annual capacity factor. Just five years ago, such a high capacity factor would have seemed unreachable; but with new turbine technology, wind farm capacity factors are expected to continue to increase.

This advanced technology goes hand-in-hand with lowering the cost of wind energy. Over the past 7 years, the average wind power purchase agreement price has declined by 66 percent, and is continuing to drop. That’s why utilities across the Southeast are already purchasing nearly 4,000 megawatts of wind power.

This wind farm is a monumental step not just for North Carolina, but for the entire Southeast. With so few wind farms operating in the region, wind power remains a fairly unfamiliar resource. As people begin to see the positive effects of wind power in their community, it becomes obvious that wind power is a winner. The Amazon Wind Farm is just the beginning of wind farm development in the South, and SACE will continue to track other developments across the region!

2. Electric Vehicles, User Fees & the VW Settlement
Regional update from SACE’s clean fuels director

 

asheville-evsIn July 2016, Volkswagen (VW) agreed to a multiple-part settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a result of their installation of ‘defeat devices’ on some of their diesel engines in violation of the Clean Air Act. Two key programs of that settlement that offer emissions reduction opportunities for our states include the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Investment program and the Environmental Mitigation Trust. Through the Environmental Mitigation Trust program, the Southeast is expected to receive more than $414 million for projects to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions from the transportation sector. The program will be implemented by the states with stakeholder input. With SACE’s historic engagement in reducing emission from diesel engines, we will work with states to maximize the benefits of the settlement funding. The ZEV program is being facilitated and implemented by VW. Information on that program or the submission of project ideas can be made through their website, www.electrifyamerica.com.

Legislative update: Electric vehicle user fees grow in the region

Back under the gold dome of Georgia’s state house this year, SACE is working to educate legislators on the benefits of electric vehicle (EV) adoption. Georgia quickly became the fastest growing state for electric vehicle sales in the country between 2011 and 2015. For a time, Georgia became the #1 market for Nissan LEAF sales and #2 for all EV sales in the country. This growth was due to several factors, but most notably due to Georgia’s tax credit for zero emissions vehicles.

But those promises of Georgia’s leadership died in 2015 when the tax credit was zeroed out and EV drivers in Georgia were instead handed a $200 (+ inflation) annual user fee as part of the transportation bill (HB 170). Not surprisingly, since that time there has been more a more than 95% drop in EV sales in the state.

For most new technologies, tax incentives and policies are highly effective and important to support adoption of the new technology. The current user fee is an unjustified penalty to EV drivers. The $200 fee makes EVs the highest taxed vehicle in the state and higher than what the average Georgian is currently paying in gas taxes. SACE supports a reduction in the user fee, a new tax credit for EV and/or other purchased incentives for EVs. We also encourage the clarification of the tax credit for charging infrastructure and continuation of the vehicle tax credit for larger vehicles (trucks & buses).

In other SE states, drivers are also facing the threat of new user fees for EVs. We think these proposals are bad for business and the environment. In South Carolina, a biennial fee of $120 has been proposed and in Tennessee, the Governor has included a new EV user (registration) fee of $100 as part of his tax plan.

Until EVs gain notable penetration of vehicles on the roads in our states, this cleaner, more efficient technology should not be penalized with fees. At present, EVs make up less than 1% of state vehicle registrations across our region. State legislators need to step back and take a look at other ways to make up for their losses of gas tax revenue, not penalize innovation.

 

3. Toshiba’s financial meltdown sinks new nuclear power projects
Impacts to be felt by customers in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida

 

Bloomberg_Toshiba_Tweet_021417We first learned of the financial meltdown of Japanese tech-mogul Toshiba in late December 2016 when the massive financial losses were first divulged. Though Toshiba’s much anticipated earnings report was delayed a month until March 14, Toshiba still reported extremely bad news.

This development is important to new nuclear reactor projects here in the U.S. because Toshiba owns Westinghouse, which is the designer and builder of the new and untested AP1000 reactor design, and Westinghouse’s nuclear losses are the cause of Toshiba’s woes. In fact, the four AP1000 reactors under construction here in the southeast — two at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle in Georgia (subsidiary of Southern Company) and two at SCE&G’s V.C. Summer (subsidiary of SCANA) nuclear plant in South Carolina — account for the over $6 billion in losses.

Toshiba’s economic crisis promptly impacted these two projects – and not in a good way. SCANA announced a further delay: estimated completion has shifted from August 2019 to April 2020 for Unit 2 and December 2020 for Unit 3. Shortly after, during Southern Company’s earnings call, a revised schedule from Westinghouse for the Vogtle project was mentioned. Instead of June 2019 for Unit 3 and June 2020 for Unit 4, there is a delay to December 2019 and September 2020 respectively. It’s important to realize that originally the first new reactors for Vogtle and Summer should’ve already been operating by now (by April 1, 2016 – April Fool’s Day) and all four new reactors by next month: April 2017!

What will happen to these projects is the big question. But it’s accurate to say that with more delays, the costs continue to rise and the question of “Who pays?” will be at the center.

As for other utilities pursuing new AP1000 reactors, they were also dealt a harsh blow when Toshiba said Westinghouse was exiting the nuclear construction business. So FPL’s plans for more AP1000 reactors at their Turkey Point site near Miami, or Duke’s possible new reactors in South Carolina at the William States Lee site and the Levy County site in Florida, are, in all practicality, no more. In fact, earlier this month, Southern Company announced it intends to suspend activities associated with a proposed project in Stewart County, Georgia. There is no longer a builder for these projects so even if those utilities still harbor nuclear aspirations, they’ll need to find someone else to build them and they’ll have to admit that the estimated costs of new reactors will be far, far costlier than they initially proposed to regulators and their customers. There is no way new nuclear reactors will be considered economical in comparison to other, lower cost, less risky alternatives.