Around the States: CO Cuts Solar Fees; ME Wants Off Oil; Nevada's First Wind Farm; Tidal Power in NY; Offshore Wind in NJ

Colorado Passes Groundbreaking Solar Legislation

New legislation signed into law by Colorado Governor Hickenlooper will lower permit fees associated with solar installations.

Standardized local permitting would bring the cost of solar to grid parity for 50% of American homes by 2013.

The Fair Permit Act, HB-1199 is expected to save homeowners and businesses hundreds of dollars on permit-related fees to install solar electric and solar thermal systems.

The Fair Permit Act limits solar permit and related fees to a local government’s actual costs in issuing the permit, not to exceed $500 for a residential installation or $1,000 for a commercial system.

According to the US Department of Energy, permitting, inspection, interconnection and other non-hardware costs comprise about 30-40% of the total installed cost of a solar system. On a typical residential system, this can cost about $2,500 and on a large installation it can cost upwards of $100,000.

The US Department of Energy, through its SunShot Program, has recently set a goal to reduce permit and inspection costs by 88% by streamlining processes and reducing unnecessary fees.
The Colorado law, and a new registration system in Vermont, could serve as national models for reducing solar installation costs and red tape.

Maine Passes Bill to Get Off Oil

The Maine Legislature passed a bill that sets ambitious goals to reduce Maine’s dependence on oil and requires the state develop a comprehensive plan to achieve the goals.

An Act to Improve Maine’s Energy Security, LD 553, extends an existing requirement to reduce the use of liquid fossil fuels for heating by 30% by 2030 to oil use in all sectors of the economy. The bill also adds a long-term goal to reduce Maine’s overall oil use by 50% by 2050.

Environment America Staff Attorney Daniel Gatti praised the bill and urged Maine Governor LePage to sign it into law.

"We need policymakers at every level looking at how best to reduce our dependence on oil, and creating ambitious plans to reduce oil consumption," he says. "Getting off oil is a long-term process, but we have the technology to get started today."

NYC Moves Forward on First Grid-Connected Tidal Power Project 

The first grid-connected tidal energy plant in the US is taking another step towards fruition.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recommended approval for a project in New York’s East River that would site 30 underwater turbines between Roosevelt Island and the borough of Queens.

Verdant Power, which has been pushing the project forward for years, has tested six turbines there, which is actually a tidal strait between the New York Harbor and the Long Island Sound. The power produced by that demonstration project powered a Gristedes supermarket and a parking garage on Roosevelt Island.

The need for FERC licensing and other federal approvals triggered the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires analysis to ensure a project doesn’t have significant, adverse environmental impacts.

On May 3, FERC released an Environmental Assessment reporting no adverse impacts signalling the project can move forward without a more intensive Environmental Impact Statement under the NEPA.

Groundbreaking for Nevada’s First Wind Farm

Construction is underway on Nevada’s first wind farm.

The state is a leader in geothermal and solar energy development, but it has yet to tap any of its wind resources.

Pattern Energy Group broke ground on the 150 MW Spring Valley wind farm, located on public lands in Nevada. The project is expected to take a year to build and will create about 225 wind jobs during construction.

Pattern has entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement with NV Energy (NYSE: NVE). The wind farm will be comprised of 66 2.3 MW wind turbines made by Siemens.

Strong Interest in New Jersey Offshore Wind

Offshore wind developers are lining up for the opportunity to build off the New Jersey coast.

11 companies responded to the request for interest issued by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE). The feds have prioritized development of about 550 square miles off the coast of New Jersey.

The area is broken up into 70 separate blocks; most of the companies expressing interest applied to develop large portions of the area. At least two applied for the entire area.

BOEMRE’s next step is to develop and announce a bidding process for the ocean tracts.

Interim research leases have already been assigned to Bluewater Wind, Deepwater Wind and Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey, which is developing a smaller, 25 MW wind farm a few miles off the coast of Atlantic City.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says the state’s new energy master plan will establish incentives for offshore wind that match those for solar power.

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