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Baltimore-based alternative and clean energy company. Certified MBE for energy consulting, energy management information systems, and renewable energy facility production.

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Maryland Passes First-of-a-Kind Tax Credit for Residential and Commercial Storage | by Julian Spector

Bithgroup Technologies

Maryland joined the ranks of early movers in the energy storage market by passing a storage tax credit with strong support in both houses of its state legislature.

The measure provides for a 30 percent tax credit on the installed cost of a storage system, capped at $5,000 for residential and $75,000 for commercial projects. The total credits awarded cannot exceed $750,000 in a year, and the program will run from 2018 through 2022. That gives storage providers eight months to get ready for a brand-new market opportunity.

The legislation now just needs the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan to become law. It passed unanimously in the Senate and with a 101-11 margin in the House, so a veto seems unlikely. 

Storage supporters have tried to get a storage tax credit through Congress, without success so far. At the state level, Maryland's approach marks a departure from the state mandates pursued by California and Oregon, and one now being finalized in Massachusetts. Mandates base their justification on a wonky accounting process that seeks to measure the public value of storage on the grid; Maryland has taken a speedier, more streamlined approach.

"This is a way to create an economic signal for using storage to provide grid reliability and resiliency, reduce peak capacity needs, and help integrate more renewable resources," said Jason Burwen, policy and advocacy director at the Energy Storage Association, who testified in support of the bill. "It is also a more conservative approach, executing this policy through the tax code with cost caps. That's an approach that got bipartisan agreement in Maryland."

The state is forgoing a limited amount of tax revenue in the hopes of kick-starting a new local industry. That's a lighter touch than a mandate, and doesn't require appropriating funds like California did with its Self-Generation Incentive Program rebates for storage installations.

Trump signs executive order to review Clean Power Plan - Utility Dive

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Trump's executive orders have been in the works for months, but the widely-expected move will still reverberate throughout the industry. The Clean Power Plan was President Obama's big climate rule and represented a key test of the EPA's authority to regulate emissions from the power sector.

Tuesday's order directs the EPA to initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan, governing existing plants, and accompanying regulations for carbon emissions from new sources. 

The order also directs each executive department and agency in the federal government to identify regulations, rules, policies, and guidance documents that slow or stop domestic energy production, and launches a 170-day process to develop plans from each agency going forward.

Trump also ordered agencies to stop using Obama-era estimates of the social cost of carbon. Regulations affecting methane leaks at oil and gas production facilities and hydraulic fracturing will all be reviewed, and a moratorium on coal leases on federal lands will be eliminated.

While the coal moratorium can be lifted immediately, the CPP and other finalized Obama-era regulations will undergo formal policy reviews.

Though the White House has made clear it thinks the rules are an overreach, whether its reviews will result in new regulations for the power sector or simply the elimination of old ones remains to be seen.

"It could be revising, improving, updating, or if things are illegal or, again, if they don't conform to the President's priorities," an administration official told reporters this week. "It depends — it runs the gambit. That's what review is for."

If the administration chooses to replace the CPP with a less stringent rule, it could result in a narrower regulatory package that would require only small efficiency improvements to existing coal plants. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wrote such an alternative plan in 2014.

If no plan is offered to replace the CPP, the EPA could be at risk for lawsuits claiming that it is not fulfilling its obligation to regulate greenhouse gases, which the agency determined were a public health threat in a 2009 endangerment finding. 

Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2016 | Overriding Governor Hogan’s Veto of Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2016

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The Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB 921/HB 1106), a bill to ensure that Maryland gets 25% of its electricity from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2020, up from the current goal of 20% by 2022, passed the General Assembly during the 2016 legislative session.  Unfortunately it was vetoed by Governor Hogan in May.

We are disappointed in the Governor’s decision to veto this widely-supported bill that would have meant cleaner air and thousands of new, family-supporting jobs in Maryland. Luckily, the bill passed the General Assembly with veto-proof margins. We will be back in the 2017 session to override his veto and enact the Clean Energy Jobs Act.  Tell your legislators to stand up for the Clean Energy Jobs Act!  

Over half of Maryland’s electricity still comes from carbon-spewing fossil fuels—coal and natural gas. Using polluting energy sources hurts our health, our economy, and our climate. 75% of Marylanders live in areas that received a D or F air quality grade for ozone pollution from the American Lung Association, and the state notoriously has some of the worst ground-level ozone pollution in the eastern U.S. As the state that is the 3rd most vulnerable in America to sea-level rise driven by climate change we need to act now to do our part to combat climate change.

Clean, renewable energy has proven itself to be a powerful driver of economic development in Maryland, including job creation.  More renewable energy will give Maryland cleaner air and water and help protect its residents from the harm of fossil fuel pollution.  Maryland’s General Assembly needs to vote for the Clean Energy Jobs Act this year.

That’s why the Maryland Climate Coalition worked to increase the state’s clean energy standard, called the “Renewable Portfolio Standard,” raising Maryland’ commitment to clean energy like wind and solar to 25% by 2020.

Will a Trade War With China Help or Hurt the American Solar Industry? It’s Complicated - GTM, by Travis Hoium

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The election of Donald Trump raises a lot of questions for the U.S. solar industry. Trump hasn't exactly been supportive of solar energy, but he hasn't made it an explicit target of his ire either.

President Trump's impact on the solar industry could come through trade policy, an area where the president has fairly wide latitude to make rules. If he labels China a currency manipulator, as he has promised, it would give him wide authority to draw up tariffs on Chinese imports, which he has suggested may be as high as 45 percent -- although a 25 percent across-the-board tariff seems to be a more common proposal. Tariffs that high could have a mixed impact on the economy broadly, and could lead to a trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

The booming U.S. solar industry -- heavily reliant on China and other countries in Asia for low-cost supplies -- is caught in the middle of this rhetoric.

There are already tariffs on Chinese solar products and materials. And the solar industry has already figured out how to deal with them. Given long-simmering tensions with China over solar, it's likely that tariffs wouldn't have a major impact on the solar industry. But it's worth looking into, assuming Trump decides to provoke China further.

When it comes to trade, there's rarely a simple single-order cause and effect. Trade follows something more like the butterfly effect, with broad impacts on the solar industry that would be both positive and negative.

The U.S. solar industry is booming — and it isn’t afraid of Trump - Washington Post, by Chelsea Harvey

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The U.S. solar industry experienced its biggest boom yet this year, with a record-breaking 4,143 megawatts (or million watts) of solar generating capacity added in the third quarter of 2016, according to a new report. And the fourth quarter is on track to surpass it, with continued growth expected through the rest of the decade.  

The optimistic new report, published by the Solar Energy Industries Association and market analysis firm GTM Research, comes at a time of mounting uncertainty for the future of renewable energy and environmental policy in the United States. President-elect Donald Trump has recently sparked major concern about among environmentalists with his nominations for heads of the federal energy and environment agencies.

Last week, Trump named Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has expressed skepticism about human-caused climate change, as his choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is suing the EPA over its proposed Clean Power Plan and regulations aimed at curbing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

And Tuesday, Trump announced former Texas governor Rick Perry, who also has expressed doubt about climate change, as his choice for secretary of the Department of Energy. While wind power in Texas did expand under Perry’s tenure as governor, he also said in 2015 that he opposed extending the federal tax credit for wind, preferring instead to leave such decisions to the states.  

For now, the new report is assuming no major changes in the pace of wind and solar expansion over the next few years as a result of the presidential transition.

“We’re always assuming business as usual in terms of national politics,” saidTom Kimbis, interim president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The new report finds that total installation in the third quarter of 2016 constituted a 99 percent increase over the second quarter, and a 191 percent increase over the third quarter of 2015, with one new megawatt coming online every 32 minutes on average. These gains were mostly the product of additions in the utility-scale solar sector, the report notes.  

Bill Gates’s $1 Billion Fund Will Back Radical Clean Energy Ideas - MIT Technology Review by Jamie Condliffe

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Bill Gates has announced a $1 billion investment fund to back radical approaches to clean energy.

Last year, Gates established the Breakthrough Energy Coalition with more than 20 billionaires, among them Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Alibaba's Jack Ma, and Virgin's Richard Branson. At the time, they promised to invest at least $2 billion into new technologies.

The Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund is the first wave of that investment. Established to take a long-term approach to funding energy ideas, it will help startups considered to be too risky by regular venture capital firms. In a statement announcing the launch of the fund, John Arnold, who is one of the billionaire investors, explained that the "dearth of venture funding for clean energy technologies threatens to create a valley of death for the industry, with emerging ideas unable to find the necessary capital to reach commercialization."

The new fund plans to step in and bridge that gap. Its investments, which will take place over the next 20 years, won’t be limited to electricity production—they’ll also include new technologies for transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and construction. It will fund projects that promise the biggest possible benefit to the planet’s future climate, as long as the science underlying the application has been proved in the lab and can plausibly be scaled up.

The 20-year fund length isn’t random. In an interview with MIT Technology Review earlier this year, Gates argued that in terms of carbon dioxide emission, “rich countries need to be net zero by 2050, if you really want just 2 degrees of warming.” Gates and his co-investors hope that they will be able to fund plans that are audacious enough to have a profound impact on the planet before then.

Not that it will be easy. In the same interview, Gates admitted that one of the biggest problems facing the fund was finding enough companies doing the right kinds of work to invest in. “I wish just writing a bigger check was the solution,” he explained. “I’ll be fascinated as we get this fund together how quickly we’ll be able to invest.” As will we, Bill.

(Read more: Breakthrough Energy VenturesTelegraph, “Q&A: Bill Gates”)

Bithenergy Attends White House Clean Energy Savings for All Summit

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On November 18, 2016, Bithenergy attended the White House Clean Energy Savings for All Summit at Morgan State University. The event was part of a series of nationwide summits that sought to provide local and state officials, advocates, community organizations, and interested members of the public with an opportunity to develop new partnerships and learn about ways to further reduce air pollution, deploy clean energy and energy efficiency, and build an inclusive clean energy economy that supports good jobs for all Americans. Panels included: State of Play - Clean Energy for All in Maryland, Expanding Access to Solar through Innovative Financing, and Creating a Diverse Clean Energy Workforce through Community Partnerships. Approximately 150 people attended the Summit.

Scotland Waves Hello to the World’s First Tidal Power Farm - MIT Technology Review by Jamie Condliffe

Bithgroup Technologies

Off the rugged coast of the Scottish Highlands, between the mainland and the majestic isles of Orkney, is a stretch of water that’s known for its intense tides. Now the country is making use of them, as the area is about to become home to the world’s first large-scale tidal energy farm.

The first of what will eventually become 269 turbines is currently being transported to the area, known as the Pentland Firth, for installation, reports the Guardian. Each turbine is a weighty piece of mechanical engineering, measuring 15 meters tall and weighing 200 metric tons, with eight-meter-long blades. Initially four turbines will be installed at the site, with the rest being added incrementally between now and the early 2020s to create something that will resemble a submerged version of a wind farm.

The site was chosen for the MeyGen tidal stream project because of its particularly strong tides, with currents that can move at up to five meters per second. Those waters will help each turbine produce 1.5 megawatts of power, adding up to a total of 398 megawatts—enough to power 175,000 homes—when the farm is complete.

Costa Rica has been running on 100% renewable energy for 2 months straight - Science Alert, BEC CREW

Bithgroup Technologies

Costa Rica ran on 100 percent renewable energy for 76 straight days between June and August this year, according to a new report, demonstrating that life without fossil fuels is possible - for small countries, at least.

This is the second time in two years that the Central American country has run for more than two months straight on renewables alone, and it brings the 2016 total to 150 days and counting.

According to Costa Rica's National Centre for Energy Control (CENCE), 16 June 2016 was the last day this year that fossil fuels-based energy was used by the national grid. (Data for September is still forthcoming.) 

Since then, the country has been powered on a mix of hydro, geothermal, wind, and solar energy, with hydro power providing about 80.27 percent of the total electricity in the month of August. 

Geothermal plants contributed roughly 12.62 percent of electricity generation in August, while wind turbines provided 7.1 percent, and solar 0.01 percent. 

Just like last year, when Costa Rica managed to power itself for a total of 299 days without burning oil, coal, or natural gas, 2016’s milestone was helped along by heavy rainfalls at the country’s four hydroelectric power facilities.

While the achievement is undoubtedly impressive, and something that should definitely be celebrated as proof that a range of renewable energy sources can lessen a country’s reliance on fossil fuels, it’s important to note that Costa Rica’s success is largely due to its size.

It has a total area of about 51,000 square kilometres - about half the size of the US state of Kentucky - and it has a population of just 4.9 million people. 

US Renewable Electricity Production Beat Previous Years for Each Month in 2016 - GTM Solar By Julian Spector

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For those of us who have grown weary of each new month setting a "hottest-ever"record, here’s a more encouraging monthly trend.

For each month this year, renewable energy production in the U.S. has exceeded the same months in all previous years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That achievement is particularly notable because it happened in spite of below-average hydroelectric output caused by drought along the West Coast.

The data runs through June and it counts utility-scale wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass plants with capacity greater than 1 megawatt, as well as distributed solar resources like rooftop installations. The non-hydro renewables were clearly above the range of non-hydro production from previous years, and have passed hydro production this year, too.

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It just so happens that half of U.S. hydropower capacity sits in California, Oregon and Washington, precisely the region most afflicted by drought in recent years. Production last year dipped well below the average during the summer months, and overall produced the lowest amount since 2007. This year has seen consistently stronger hydro output than 2015, helped in part by El Niño rainfall.

Hydro-dependent regions will likely face more such difficulties in an era of shifting climates. To the extent that climate change alters rainfall patterns, it can make it harder to produce clean energy through hydropower, thus making it harder to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. Solar, on the other hand, has not been stymied by the lack of rain.

In Texas Oil Country, Wind Is Straining the Grid - MIT Technology Review by Richard Martin

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Texas is learning just how costly it is to wrangle the wind.

The Lone Star state is by far the largest state for wind power, with nearly 18,000 megawatts of wind generation capacity already built and another 5,500 megawatts—nearly equal to California’s total installed capacity—planned. The biggest driver of that wind boom was an $8 billion transmission system that was built to bring electricity from the desolate western and northern parts of the state to the big cities of the south and east: Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.

Completed in 2014, the new wires—known as Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, or CREZ—have the capacity to carry some 18,500 megawatts of wind power across the state. That’s not enough to handle the 21,000 megawatts of capacity Texas expects to reach this year, and it’s creating a situation that’s straining the transmission system and potentially resulting in periods where the turbines go idle.

Now the state’s utilities and transmission companies are faced with spending hundreds of millions more to upgrade the system, demonstrating just how costly and complicated it is to shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, even where those sources are abundant.

Bithenergy Attends Baltimore’s Community Solar MOU Signing (Memorandum of Understanding)

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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake addresses the crowd.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake addresses the crowd.

The purpose of the MOU is to allow DOE, Baltimore, and the Maryland Clean Energy Center to work collaboratively to establish Baltimore as a Clean Energy Hub and forge a workforce and community investment partnership with all its attendant clean energy financing options, job creation, jobs skills training, utility costs savings, energy education and awareness, and reduction in environmental impacts benefits.

The outcomes of the MOU will help accelerate the adoption of energy efficiency and solar projects for low and moderate income home owners, business owners (small and large commercial/industrial), local government, non-profit, and faith-based institutions; make solar more accessible to historically underserved communities and prepare the workforce development system to respond to the demand of the solar and energy efficiency industries while creating a more diverse solar workforce, reducing environmental impacts and educating residents about the benefits of solar. 

 

The MOU was attended by Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (Mayor, City of Baltimore), David Foster (Senior Advisor to United States Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernist Moniz), Kathleen Magruder (Executive Director, Maryland Clean Energy Center), and Congressman John Sarbanes.

Obama Administration Announces Clean Energy Savings for All Americans Initiative - White House

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Ida lives in Baltimore with her family. There was a time when she had to choose between buying groceries and paying her electrical bill. But a couple weeks ago, a team of people installed brand new solar panels on her roof-panels that cost next-to-nothing upfront.

President Obama is committed to ensuring that every American family can choose to go solar and to cut their energy bills – and that every American community has the tools they need to tackle local air pollution and global climate change.

Since President Obama took office, solar electricity generation has increased 30 fold and solar jobs are growing 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. Last year, we announced a set of actions to increase access to solar and create a more inclusive workforce, but there is still more work to do. That is why, today, the Obama Administration is announcing a new cross government partnership – the Clean Energy Savings For All Initiative – between the Departments of Energy (DOE), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services (HHS), Veteran’s Affairs (VA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase access to solar energy and promote energy efficiency across the United States and, in particular in low- and moderate- income communities.

Meet Eight Young Energy Innovators With Ingenious Ideas - Smithsonian Magazine By Randy Rieland

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David Amster-Olszewski, founder of SunShare, at one of the "solar gardens" his company built in Colorado (Helen Richardson, Denver Post)

David Amster-Olszewski, founder of SunShare, at one of the "solar gardens" his company built in Colorado (Helen Richardson, Denver Post)

Inspiration can come from the oddest places. As often as not, the spark may occur during an otherwise mundane moment. But the difference between the truly inventive and the rest of us is that is that inventors zero in on something they've noticed and we don't give that something a second thought.

So it is with these eight young innovators. One man's business was inspired by a comment from his mother. Another developed his great idea after staring into a cup of day-old coffee, a third while standing next to a racetrack, still another while watching how fish swim in a school. Then there are the three Chilean women whose "Aha!" moment came when all of their cell phones ran out of juice. 

PwC: 72% of corporate renewable energy leaders are actively pursuing more - Smart Energy Decisions

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A recent survey of U.S.-headquartered businesses, the majority of which have been active in buying renewable energy, revealed that 72% of respondents are actively pursuing additional purchases. 

The appetite among the respondents has grown significantly: 63% of companies have become more inclined to purchase renewable energy in the past six months, according to the survey conducted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Among those who have made a purchase in the past, an even larger majority — 85% — intend to make additional purchases in the next 18 months. 

Calling the growth in corporate purchases one of the biggest developments in the renewable energy marketplace, PwC said it conducted the survey of 63 "major" commercial and industrial companies, most of which have large energy footprints and have made purchases in the past, to better understand what is driving the growth. 

Not surprisingly, what PwC found was that business interest has been primarily driven by a desire to meet corporate sustainability goals and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; 85% of companies actively seeking more renewable energy cited this reason. Other popular drivers included attractive returns on investment, cited by 76% of respondents, and a desire by companies to limit their exposure to energy price variability, cited by 59% of respondents. 

Solar on track to break growth records, but analysts say market challenges loom - From Utility Dive By: Herman K. Trabish

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The solar market is on track to break growth records this year, but analysts say the numbers may paper over some emerging market challenges for installers.

A joint report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said the solar industry is projected to add 14.5 GW of capacity this year, a 94% increase over the 7.5 GW installed in 2015. In the first quarter alone, solar developers installed 1,665 MW of solar PV nationwide, adding more new capacity than coal, natural gas and nuclear combined.

Typically, first quarter growth is the weakest of the year, but it appears the growth is building off momentum from 2015, largely due to declining system prices and an 11th-hour extension of the investment tax credit for solar installations.

Price declines for solar systems were about as impressive as installation growth last year, according to another GTM report: The price of non-residential solar installations dropped 8.3% to $1.88/watt in the first half of 2016. Residential installations dropped 8.8%, to $3.00/watt.

If continued, these drops in prices could help the solar sector hit the U.S. Department of Energy’s “impossible dream” price target of $1.00/watt by 2020, GTM noted.

Cinch tent combines fast pop-up pitching with solar power - Gizmag, By: C.C. Weiss

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Built to sleep the modern couple or family, the Cinch tent pitches in seconds and includes integrated LED lighting and an available power supply that keeps gadgets topped off using sunlight. Campers enjoy full weatherproof protection with some of the wired-in convenience of home.

Cinch designer Jake Jackson loved everything about camping, except for the tent. After years of frustration with the models on the market, he decided to innovate his own. He developed the prototype about four years ago and began offering the design for sale in small batches, refining it along the way with feedback from customers. Last year, he decided the tent was ready for a larger market, and he got the launch off the ground with a successful Kickstarter campaign that went live in December.

Janine Benyus: Biomimicry In Action - TED Talks

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Janine Benyus has a message for inventors: When solving a design problem, look to nature first. There you'll find inspired designs for making things waterproof, aerodynamic, solar-powered and more. Here she reveals dozens of new products that take their cue from nature with spectacular results.