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"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you,

then they fight you, then you win."

-- Mohandas Gandhi

Shepherdstown Home to WV’s Largest Community Supported PV System

August 26, 2014

Here’s the press release from Solar Holler.  Congratulations Shepherdstown.  Congratulations Solar Holler.  If you want one in your community, contact Solar Holler.  Let’s do this all across WV!


­Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church dedicates largest community-supported solar system in West Virginia

Launches new model making solar possible for any community group in West Virginia


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

For Immediate Release

Contact:          Dan Conant, Solar Holler                                          (802) 595-0338

Than Hitt, Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church  (304) 268-4886

Shepherdstown, WV—In a first of its kind project, residents and businesses in this West Virginia small town have come together to do what was once out of reach—making solar power accessible for any church or non-profit in one of the most coal-dependent states in America.

Tuesday morning, Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church members, project organizers, and local leaders held a ribbon cutting for the completed project, the culmination of a year-long, community-wide effort. Not only is the installation the largest community-supported solar system in West Virginia, but it also launches a new financing model that makes solar possible for non-profits across the state. The solar panels will produce nearly half of the electricity the church uses in a typical year.

“Today we come together to dedicate the largest community-supported solar project in West Virginia,” said Than Hitt, a church member and project organizer. “This project is good for the environment, good for our church’s financial health, and good for the Shepherdstown community.”

Working with Shepherdstown-based Solar Holler, West Virginia’s first solar financing company, the church developed a project plan that allowed it to go solar at no cost and without a traditional fundraising campaign.

“Financing solar power in West Virginia faces several obstacles, but we’ve overcome them by developing a new model that taps into existing community support,” said Dan Conant, founder of Solar Holler. “For the first time, West Virginia’s non-profit organizations can go solar with help from their members and friends – protecting our environment while lowering electricity bills.”

Using the Solar Holler model, nearly 100 families and businesses in and around Shepherdstown made the project possible through an innovative crowd funding campaign. Funding for the project was raised through the installation of ‘demand response’ controllers on community members’ electric water heaters.  The water heater controllers have been installed and operated by Mosaic Power, a smart grid technology company in Frederick, Maryland.  Mosaic Power manages water heaters as a virtual power plant—responding to the electricity grid in real time to make it more efficient. Through this service, Mosaic Power reduces blackouts and pollution.

Mosaic Power pays property owners $100 per tank per year for participation in their virtual power plant. In Shepherdstown, project participants agreed to donate those funds to pay off a loan taken out to install the church solar project. The project loan will be paid off in under 5 years through revenue from the water heater installations. The Church will benefit from lower electrical bills while generating electricity that reduces air and water pollution, consistent with the church’s commitment to creation care.

Randy Tremba, pastor of Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church, said “The earth and its wondrous web of life is clearly not of our own making. It’s a gift and we know it. Or should. It’s our job to sing its praises, photograph its wonders, and treat it with utmost gratitude and respect. It is sacred. Every step we take is on holy ground.

The installation was completed by MTV Solar of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.  Julie Litwin of MTV Solar, a Shepherdstown resident, described the economic potential for West Virginia in renewable energy. “Solar power creates good jobs in West Virginia and has the potential to produce many more,” Litwin said. “The new financial model created by SPC and Solar Holler, opens the door to more solar industry development across the state.”

Solar Holler’s next project is with Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Public Library; 75 water heaters are needed to fund that project. Homeowners and businesses who would like to learn more and support the project can go to

Jim Auxer, mayor of Shepherdstown, said “As the oldest town in West Virginia, in Shepherdstown we pride ourselves in both our history, and being ahead of the curve.  This project is a first of its kind in West Virginia, blazing a trail for all of West Virginia’s communities to follow.  It has been an incredible demonstration of community spirit.  In particular, I want to thank the volunteers of the Historic Landmarks and Planning Commissions for seeing through a project that maintains our historic spirit while leading our state into the 21st Century.”

Rebecca Barnes, PC-USA Earthcare Program coordinator, said “This is a day that God has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! The faithful stewardship of Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church, and their trust in—and care for—future generations to come, is such a great model of a church discerning God’s call in this time and in this place. More and more churches across the PCUSA want to add solar panels to their building as part of their ministry, so having this success story is such an asset to the denomination. I do indeed rejoice in what God is doing in and through this congregation as they care for God’s creation.”

For more information about the project, or to support other West Virginia solar projects, go to

July 19 Interview, 7 Generations on WSCH

August 25, 2014

Joe Gray interviewed me on his 7 Generations radio show on July 19.  Joe has posted audio of the interview at this link.

In the interview, I refer to a number of trends and posts I have done about them on The Power Line.  Here are some links below that can serve as footnotes to the interview.

Here is the RMI scatter plot graph that I referred to in the interview which plots age against size taken from Reinventing Fire -

Lovins graph

  • Here is a link to the Forbes article about Co-op City’s microgrid.  I was wrong in my interview.  I claimed the story was in the NY Times.  It was in Forbes magazine.
  • Here is my post on the NY PSC’s new microgrid initiative.
  • Here is a link to a one pager put out by the MA Dept. of Energy Resources on its new $40 million microgrid grant program.
  • Here is a post with some good links to other articles on the decline of power company investment in our state’s electrical distribution system.
  • And finally, here are two posts about my experience in the derecho General Investigation at the WV PSC, here and here.

I also appeared on 7 Generations last Saturday, August 23.  I’ll post a link to that interview and some more footnotes when Joe posts it on the 7 Generations site.

Good Summary of the MD Offshore Wind Blocks Auction

August 22, 2014

Here is a much better description of the just completed auction of offshore wind blocks off the MD coast than the description in my earlier post.  It’s not surprising that the winning bid went to a European-based company.

MD Governor Martin O’Malley is a strong supporter of offshore wind for his state, because he understands that a strong marine wind generation industry could revive the economy in Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay region.  Note also that MD has a real RPS.

In addition to federal support, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has promised a $1.7 billion, 20-year taxpayer subsidy for a 210-MW offshore wind farm at the site, the first subsidy created for a lease site. Once the project is commissioned, household electric rates will increase up to $1.50 per month and businesses will see a 1.5 percent monthly surcharge. The bill was signed into law after several years of debate, and coincides with Maryland’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which calls for 20 percent of its electricity to come from renewables by 2022. O’Malley hopes the law will not only help reduce emissions, but also boost the economy.

“We need a jobs agenda to match our climate challenge,” said O’Malley in a statement.  “Expanding renewable energy, like we’re doing here, will bring Maryland’s vision for clean energy one step closer to reality and clearly set our State apart on the country’s renewable energy landscape.”

The Renewable Energy World article also notes that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold other lease auctions for offshore blocks in MA and NJ in the next year.

The article also provides a good summary of past auctions.  Note that New Bedford, MA, a formerly important port city, has already begun rebuilding its industrial infrastructure in anticipation of offshore wind power development.

Last year, BOEM held two offshore wind auctions. Deepwater Wind won the first auction for two parcels off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island with a $3.8 million bid. The 164,000-acre area holds an estimated 3.6 GW of potential. Dominion Virginia Power won the second auction for land 23 miles off the Virginia coast with a $1.6 million bid, which amounts to 2 GW of potential on 112,000 acres. BOEM also has a hand in facilitating the 454-MW Cape Wind project, which will likely be the first U.S. offshore wind farm, and the 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm, which is following close behind. Hoping to capitalize on these developments, the city of New Bedford, Massachusetts is constructing an offshore wind port to facilitate the construction and transportation of materials for the U.S. Atlantic coast.

Look especially at the capacity numbers in the paragraph above.  The estimated potential of the Deepwater Wind and Dominion blocks in New England and VA together totals 5.6 gigawatts.  That is serious generation capacity, all of it available right next to some of the most constrained regions of the US electrical grid.

How strong do you think the wind off the New England coast was blowing last January when New England was starving for power as natural gas plants couldn’t buy fuel and coal plants were shutting down because their coal piles were frozen?  Too bad that offshore wind capacity wasn’t available then.

UWUA Local 304 Wins Contract at Harrison Power Station

August 21, 2014

This story got by me while I was away on vacation.  Congratulations to Local 304 of the Utility Workers Union of America.  They now have their first contract at the Harrison Power Station, after a hard fight against union-busting FirstEnergy.

Here’s a link to Local 304’s Web site.

US Wind Wins Federal Lease Auction for Both MD Offshore Wind Blocks

August 19, 2014

Bidding on the two big ocean blocks for offshore wind development off the Maryland coast happened today. US Wind was high bidder on both blocks. Here is the Department of the Interior’s announcement.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world…

PJM Unveils New Transmission Projects Under Order 1000

August 19, 2014

In 2013, PJM Interconnection replaced its goofy transmission “planning” process with a new process that conforms to FERC requirements spelled out in the Commission’s Order 1000.  Under its new process, instead of just picking transmission developers with very little transparency (as with TrAIL and PATH), PJM identifies reliability problems and then sets an annual deadline for project developers to propose solutions.

This year, PJM’s Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee received 106 project applications by its July 28 deadline.  RTO Insider has a good description of these projects.

Here is a map and list of those projects.  Note that none of them involve massive HV lines in WV.  PPL wants to get on the gravy train, though.

FirstEnergy Solutions Implodes

August 18, 2014

FirstEnergy’s experiment in selling retail electricity below cost blew up in recent months.  Here is the story in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.  The geniuses that run FirstEnergy cooked up their new deregulated retail company, FirstEnergy Solutions, and created a business plan based on undercutting everyone else in the market, regardless of how much money it lost them.  Surprise, surprise.  This brilliant strategy succeeded in losing so much money that FirstEnergy Solutions almost blew up the FirstEnergy holding company.

The collapse of FirstEnergy Corp.’s retail marketing company is news — but not to national retail power suppliers or to local electricity brokers working with them.

For months they saw it coming, a failure signaled in the spring when FirstEnergy Solutions said it would be passing on to its customers the “polar vortex” surcharges that grid manager PJM Interconnection levied against the company.

Then a week ago during a quarterly financial conference Anthony Alexander, FirstEnergy’s CEO, confirmed the rumors.

He said the company had decided that FirstEnergy Solutions — which also owns the corporation’s power plants — would focus on selling its power into wholesale markets and stop pitching retail deals to commercial and most industrial customers, leaving only a few very large industrial customers and its long-term, less risky municipal retail contracts serving residential customers.


About 70 FirstEnergy Solutions sales and sales-support positions will be cut next week, leaving the company’s commercial and industrial customers scratching their heads, and competitors scrambling to grab new customers as their contracts with the Akron-based company run out.

Competitors — about 30 of them in Ohio alone — are ready for what will be a marketing bonanza. And they are not shedding tears.

“They took a strategic approach to sell their generation at retail prices that were less than the wholesale market (prices) that would support them,” said J.D. Burrows, vice president of marketing at Houston-based competitor GDF Suez Energy Resources, North America.

“It is my opinion that FirstEnergy Solutions’ behavior was irresponsible. It is almost unbelievable. They bought market share but in the long run, they short-changed their customers,” he said in an interview earlier this week.

Heckuva job, Tony.


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