The Grid Impacts of Net Metering

Net metering describes the requirement that an electric utility buy electricity from any of its customers that generate their own electricity (usually with some sort of renewable energy, such as solar or wind) at the same price that they sell it to the customer.  That seems fair, doesn't it? The Utility Perspective It doesn't seem fair to the utility.  Utilities do more than just generate and sell electricity to customers.  They also are responsible for transmission (delivering the electricity) and reliability (making sure that the lights work when you flip the switch.) Taking just the reliability requirement, suppose that...

Transmission Stocks: Bringing Wind Power to Where it’s Needed

Last week, Charles told us to expect wind power industry suppliers to benefit from shortages in wind turbine components. Owens Corning (NYSE:OC) which I mentioned in my Blue Chip Alternative Energy Portfolio fits nicely into this category with their composites for turbine blades, as do the power converter stocks I mentioned two weeks ago. As essential to wind power as any of these is improved power transmission. The National Wind Coordinating Collaborative states, Electrical transmission facilities connecting windy areas and load centers are sometimes non-existent or minimal. Even in cases where a good wind resource has...

Drawing the Right Lessons from the Texas "Wind" Emergency

On February 26, 2008, a drop in wind generation by about 1400 MW over ten minutes, coupled with an increase in demand of 4412 MW due to colder weather, and lower-than scheduled production from other power suppliers, led ERCOT, the Texas grid operator to cut 1100 MW of power to interruptible customers for about 90 minutes.   Misconceptions All these facts come from a Reuters article misleadingly titled "Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency."  I was dismayed a few weeks ago when this misleading reporting led the generally insightful Master Resource Report to conclude "This is a clear...

Are Solar PV and Wind Incompatible with Nuclear and IGCC?

Paul Denholm, a Senior Analyst at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), sees an upcoming struggle between renewable sources of electricity such as photovoltaics (PV) and wind with low-carbon baseload alternatives for space on the low carbon grid of the future.  These baseload alternatives are nuclear and Internal Gasification Combined Cycle coal plants with Carbon Capture and Sequestration (IGCC w/ CCS, refereed to by advocates as "Clean Coal). This may come as a shock to advocates of the idea that Global Warming is such a big problem that we will need all forms of low carbon electricity, because the...

Comparing Electricity Storage and Transmission

Electricity Storage and Transmission are naturally complementary, and more of both will be needed.  But given limited time and resources, where should those of us who want to see as much renewable electricity on the grid as soon as possible concentrate our efforts?  The choice is not immediately clear. Dennis Ray, ED of Power Systems Engineering Research Center (PSERC) was quoted as saying “Regardless of contractual arrangements that are subject to environmental regulation, the ultimate dispatch pattern that will determine the actual emissions is largely dependent on transmission constraints and reliability considerations.” Horses for Courses At a basic...

Equus: A Solar Inverter Play For Free!

Equus Total Return (NYSE: EQS) is a closed-end fund that trades at a 42% discount to its net asset value (NAV). The fund invests primarily in both debt and equity instruments of small-caps and private companies. Each quarter, management must report the fair value of its net assets, but the stock market value of Equus is much lower than that of its net assets. Here's a chart showing Equus' discount to its net assets for the last five years: As we can see, Equus is used to trading at a discount to its NAV, but...

Solar PV Inverter Market Shakeout Continues With ABB and Power-One Deal

James Montgomery A pair of analyst reports issued last week came to roughly the same conclusion about the market for solar PV inverters: It's getting crowded and complicated, with top incumbents facing challenges in maintaining near-term growth in an increasingly fragmented market. Those PV inverter stalwarts will need to pursue more restructuring and mergers & acquisitions to stay atop the shifting and broadening customer base, addressing everything from tough-to-crack markets (e.g. China, Japan) and embracing newer technologies such as module-level power conversion, i.e. microinverters, say IMS Research and GTM Research. This consolidation has already started to play...

When Will Solar Microinverters Reach Commercial Scale?

Microinverters are being used in smaller commercial solar installations, but the industry is in flux and coming regulations may drastically change the playing field.

ABB: Improving Transmission and Distribution Efficiency

Diamond in the Rough Alternative energy stocks are usually exciting, development stage companies with break-through technology which just might to totally transform the way we live.  Unfortunately, that's a better description of a speculative lottery ticket style company than a solid investment which will provide solid, long-term capital gains.  So it's always a pleasure to find a company whose products are so commonplace that we don't even notice them, even when we see them every day, and yet is involved in essential work to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.  I took this picture in...

The War On Net Metering

by Paula Mints Net metering and interconnection are rights afforded distributed generation (DG) residential and commercial solar system owners through the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005. The act required publically owned utilities to offer net metering and left the various policies up to the states to enact. In 2004, before that energy policy was enacted, 39 states had net metering and interconnection standards and policies. At the beginning of 2016, 43 U.S. states and three territories had net metering policies, and four states had policies similar to net metering that the Database of State Incentives for Renewables...

EESAT And Energy Storage Opportunities On The Smart Grid

John Petersen Last week I appeared as a luncheon speaker at EESAT 2009, a biennial international technical conference sponsored by the DOE, Sandia National Laboratories and the Electricity Storage Association that focuses on storage technologies for utility applications. The conference included dozens of high-level technical presentations from storage technology developers and was far and away the best-organized event I've ever attended. The only notable absence was a large contingent of buyers, which left some participants wondering whether they were preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, I was encouraged by rapid growth in the number and size of utility-scale demonstration...

Is the New Smart Grid ETF GRID All That Smart?

Tom Konrad, CFA First Trust Launched a Grid Infrastructure Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) on November 17th.  Although the First Trust Nasdaq Clean Edge Smart Grid Infrastructure Index Fund (Nasdaq: GRID) is labeled a "Smart Grid" ETF to capture popular excitement around smart grid technology, it covers the whole grid infrastructure sector.  This broader focus is good for clean energy investors. I've been an advocate of investing in electric transmission and smart gird stocks since early 2007, and for almost a year now, a regular reader has been telling me to create a transmission ETF so he can buy...

Democratizing the Grid

by Daryl Roberts In a previous article I investigated the question of whether private sector capital was being stimulated sufficiently enough to build out renewable infrastructure on pace to reach climate goals.  I found that on the upper end, giant institutional funds were only mobilizing a tiny fraction of their total Assets Under Management, due to regulatory constraints and uncompetitive yields.  On the lower end, smaller scale funding seemed to be growing, with facilitation from intermediaries, fintech aggregation services, and increased access at lower levels to complicated derisking strategies. But I now find reporting that capital is over-mobilized, that solar may...

If I Could Own Only One Alternative Energy Stock, It Would Be . ....

Bill Paul My friend Consuelo Mack, host of "Consuelo Mack's Wealthtrack" on PBS TV, asks her guests for their "one investment pick." What's my one alternative energy stock pick? A year ago on Consuelo's show, I recommended LED lighting developer Cree Inc. (Symbol CREE), because the LED lighting market (part of the burgeoning energy efficiency sector) is expected to hit upwards of $5 billion by 2013 v. $600 million in 2008, according to investment banking firm Merriman, Curhan, Ford, and because Cree was then an attractive takeover candidate. It still is; however, since the stock has since risen something...

AMSC’s “Secret Sauce” Starts to Simmer

Market Heats Up for Disruption-Resistant SuperconductorsBy Joyce Pellino CraneWhen electrical transmission cables and tree branches glisten in brilliant sunlight, drop your camera and run to the nearest hardware store for a generator. I learned this hard lesson in December after an ice storm left downed wires, branches and debris throughout several counties northwest of Boston and across six other northeastern states, leaving one million without electricity, some for as long as two weeks. It will be a long time before I forget what it’s like to wrap holiday presents by a smoky fire with gloves on. American Superconductor’s (AMSC:...

Our Smart Grid Stock List

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA I've been writing about the smart grid and its potential since before I joined AltEnergyStocks, in 2007, although at the time, I wasn't using the term: I mostly called it "Smart Metering."  Now, Smart Grid is a central part of federal stimulus plans, and the term is firmly ensconced in the popular lexicon.  GE even created a Super Bowl ad around the Smart Grid (video). It was far past time to create a Smart Grid category in our Alternative Energy Stock List, but now we've done it.  The companies in the Smart Grid Stock List...