The following are some of my notes from the event:
Community education and involvement is frequently overlooked yet, it is a key first step to a successful project.
Every state, town, and utility presents unique challenges. Hire experts to manage your project! They pay for themselves over and over again by shepherding your project around the many traps.
Roger Dixon (right) of Skylands Renewable Energy fielded questions during a workshop on wind resources, and small wind systems economics.
There are significant Grant and Incentive dollars available (now) for renewable energy projects:
- If you or your company start a renewable energy project in 2011 and finish it by the end of 2012 (guidelines apply here…), you may qualify for (1) a grant from the Federal Government equal to 30% of your capital expense and (2) utilization of MACRS and other accelerated depreciation incentives.
- The USDA provides grant funding through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) for up to 25% of a project’s cost for small rural businesses (and Farms). They also provide loan guarantees of up to 80% of the project loan amount (for loans less than $5MM) through the REAP and the broader based Business and Industry (B&I) loan program. The B&I approval process has a faster turn-around. USDA loan guarantees mean much lower interest expense over the life of your project.
- State and utility grants, credits, and tax incentives may contribute significantly to your project’s bottom line. Money for feasibility studies is also available in many states. Depending upon the circumstances, cash incentives can pay for as much as 50% of a project. Your state and utility renewable energy policies will also have a major impact on a project’s economic feasibility. The DSIRE database http://www.dsireusa.org/ is the best resource available to gather the specifics on your state’s incentives.
- Creative Financial structures are also available. For example, Tom
Wind, of Wind Utility Consulting, described the “Minnesota Flip” financial model that contemplates the investor owning the asset during the first several years and then passing ownership to the energy user (for very little money) once the tax benefits and / or initial financing terms have expired.
- There were a number of discussions regarding the need for a long term national renewable energy policy. Many said that the current patchwork funding from Congress raises uncertainty, increases cost and represents one of the renewable industry’s biggest challenges.
The Policy Discussion
Policy concerns were echoed by former PA Secretary of Environmental Protection, John Hanger, as he addressed a lunchtime crowd:
- US renewable energy policy is out of alignment with our national goals. Goals are currently left to state legislators. Some of our windiest states have infrastructures that restrict the development of renewable energy. We need a cohesive national plan.
- 70% of our oil is imported. Fossil fuel interests are vastly outspending renewable energy’s educational and lobby efforts. They are using widely circulated platforms (I.e. the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page) to spread misinformation and to effectively declare war on renewable energy.
- Nearly one third of the 300,000 MW of coal fired utility plants in the US have no pollution controls whatsoever.
- Enormous fossil fuel “subsidies” are woven into our nation’s fabric: our foreign policy, the cost of defending foreign oil fields, depletion of our fresh water sources, our income tax code and even, our health (I.e. the CDC reports that between 14,000 and 36,000 people die each year in the US due to NOX and SOX related poisoning).
- A strong bi-partisan effort is needed to establish sensible long term renewable energy goals and standards.
- Despite significant headwinds, renewable energy is growing and becoming less expensive. The US now represents 25% of the worldwide renewable power generation. Five years ago, solar energy cost approximately $10 per watt. It’s now $3.50 / watt. Wind energy was $6 per watt, and is now $2-3 per watt.
Our Company believes that broadcasting, farm and rural based towers and transmission systems are very well suited for distributed, renewable energy generation systems. Our mission is to research, encourage and promote the policies, and technical standards required to foster the growth of alternative energy within the broadcasting domain. Feel free to contact us to become involved or to add your voice to the cause: