Around the States: Vermont Cuts Solar Red Tape; CHP Gaining Steam in NY, NJ; OR Green Highway Moves Forward

Vermont Cuts Red Tape for Small Solar

Vermont has enacted a first-in-the-nation process that will make it much easier for people to install small solar systems. It could become a national model for how to give permits for local solar systems without a lot of red tape. 

Thanks to H.56, signed into law by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin on May 25, people will simply have to register if they want to install solar systems 5kW and smaller. The registration process goes into effect January 2012.

The process, which replaces permitting, allows people to install a solar system just 10 days after they complete a registration form and a certificate of compliance with interconnection requirements. If the utility doesn’t raise any interconnection issues during those 10 days, a Certificate of Public Good will be granted and the project can go forward.

A recent study earlier this year conducted by installation company SunRun, found that permitting adds an average of $0.50 per watt, or about $2,500 to the total cost of installation.
Just by streamlining the often cumbersome permitting process would be the equivalent of a $1 billion stimulus to the solar industry over the next five years. 

"Solar registration is an innovative way to address the high costs and long timeframes that are often associated with installing small-scale renewable energy systems," says Mark Sinclair, executive director of the Clean Energy States Alliance.

Vermont’s legislation also expands the state’s successful net metering program by establishing a statewide solar customer benefit. It gives solar energy a minimum electricity rate of $0.20, increases the allowable size of net metering projects from 250kW to 500kW, increases the net metering cap for each utility, and improves group net metering billing.

New Jersey Commits $3 million to CHP

New Jersey is setting aside over $3 million in federal stimulus funds for Combined Heat and Power (CHP) projects at state colleges and agencies.

CHP facilities simultaneously generates heat and electricity. They typically burn natural gas, but they are more than twice as efficient as conventional power plants – which only produce electricity – and produce much less pollution.

The technology was deployed in the US in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but development slowed to a trickle over the last 15 years. It is being widely deployed in Europe and is beginning to catch on again in the US.

New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan calls for development of at least 1,500 MW of CHP by 2020.

First Fuel Cell Deployed in NY Apartment Building

The Octagon, a LEED-certified apartment building on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, is the first residential building in the state to be powered and heated by a fuel cell.

The 400kw fuel cell, made by UTC Power (NYSE: UTX), functions as a combined heat and power (CHP) system. It converts natural gas to electricity and heat through a combustion-free, electrochemical process to meet the majority of the apartment building’s energy demand.

Since much of the energy that travels through the grid is lost, an independent CHP systems is vastly more energy efficient, and emissions are negligible.

The project was supported by $1.2 million in financial incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

"On-site fuel cell technology represents the future of electricity generation in this country," says Bruce Becker, President, Becker + Becker, the building’s developer and architect. "Traditionally, large capacity fuel cells are used at schools, hospitals, and other energy-intensive facilities, but multifamily residential buildings represent a perfect – heretofore uncultivated – opportunity for fuel cell technology because of their ability to continually use the fuel cell’s process heat in the form of hot water and space heating demand."

Oregon Begins Building ‘Green Highway’ for EVs

The Green Highway will eventually provide electric vehicle (EV) charging stations from San Diego, CA. to Vancouver, B.C.

AeroVironment (Nasdaq: AVAV) won a contract from the Oregon Department of Transportation () to develop the stretch along the I-5 corridor from the California state line to the Willamette Valley.

The company will install its fast charging stations along the 150-mile span by this fall. The eight stations will allow drivers to recharge EVs from a fully-discharged state in under 30 minutes.

"Fast charging stations along high-traffic transportation corridors will help make driving electric vehicles between communities a viable option for Oregonians," says Art James, project director with ODoT.

The project is funded by the Recovery Act, known as the Stimulus Bill. 

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