Project Merit: Renewable Energy Development

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3Degrees (San Francisco) for providing developers of wind, solar and other renewable energy projects secure revenue streams through the purchase of long-term contracts for renewable energy certificates (RECs). In 2011, 3Degrees won "best trading firm" from the readers of Environmental Finance, top U.S. REC dealer by Energy Risk and green power supplier of the year from the U.S. Department of Energy.

In the REC market, 3Degrees is a wholesaler and retailer, not a broker; The firm takes title to RECs and carbon offsets and markets them using a wide variety of sales contracts to both compliance and voluntary buyers. 3Degrees, which has about 50 employees, doesn't disclose its revenues or volume of RECs purchased, but a spokesperson told CCBJ that the firm makes "hundreds" of purchase commitments annually with renewable generators.

3Degrees also runs voluntary green power programs, and in November 2011 the firm announced its engagement by the Maine Public Utility Commission to launch a new, voluntary statewide green power program. The firm also announced that it had won a competitive bidding process to be a green power supplier to the CTCleanEnergyOptions program in Connecticut, was selected by Seattle City Light to manage customer outreach for the utility's Green Up offering and had renewed a green power contract with Puget Sound Energy. "With these new and renewed contracts, 3Degrees and its utility partners will offer green power options to over 7.7 million residential and commercial utility customers in seven states, [48% growth in customers since 2010]," stated 3Degrees in a news release.

Clean Energy Collective (Carbondale, Colo.) for its pioneering work developing a new business model for community solar, which can make solar PV ownership available to an enormous customer base of individuals and institutions whose premises or financial circumstances won't accommodate a traditional PV array. By sharing ownership of large PV arrays (and potentially wind turbines), community solar can also bring down the costs of residential solar PV sharply by obtaining the benefits of scale only available to a large commercial or utility-scale project.

Working with its first utility partner, Holy Cross Energy, CEC developed a solution to the challenge that had confronted earlier attempts to develop shared-ownership models for PV: how to pay for long-term O&M and administer on-bill credits. CEC created a third-party escrow account-to which 5% of energy sales are dedicated-for O&M like those used by local governments to fund long-term maintenance of roads and bridges. For on-bill crediting, CEC developed proprietary software called RemoteMeter which integrated with utility billing systems.The Institute for Self Reliance called CEC's model "pioneering," and in November 2011, the Department of Energy named CEC the "Innovative Green Power Program of the Year."

CEC's first two projects with Holy Cross have nearly 1 MW installed and an additional 2.5 MW approved for development. The firm is "actively building" another 1.6 MW of capacity in three other utility territories and is in some stage of development of 33 MW, according to the company's website. CEC recently partnered with San Miguel Power Association, a western Colorado rural electric co-op, to launch its first utility-branded program.

AECOM Technology Corp. (Los Angeles) for providing comprehensive permitting for the City of Palmdale's proposed Palmdale Hybrid Power Plant which will thermally integrate 570 MW of clean-burning natural-gas combined-cycle technology with 50 MW of solar parabolic trough mirrors. AECOM's permitting work culminated in California Energy Commission authorization in August 2011 and issuance by the EPA in October 2011 of the first Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit to address new GHG control requirements. Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Pacific Southwest regional administrator commented, " Palmdale's use of solar technology is a model for new electric power plants across the nation. This hybrid design proves that plants can provide energy while having less impact on the environment," according to text provided by AECOM.

AECOM supported Inland Energy and the City of Palmdale through the lengthy federal-state regulatory process, performing baseline natural resource surveys and impact assessments, assisting with evidentiary hearings and stakeholder workshops and obtaining the permits.

CH2M HILL (Englewood, Colo.) for developing new concepts of integrated conventional and renewable energy facilities in Colorado and Nevada. CH2M HILL's IDC Architects is developing a vision for the 640-acre Niobrara Energy Park in Weld County, Colo. Located above the Niobrara oil play, the developer, Harrison Resource Corp., hopes to eventually attract wind, solar and natural gas generators. While no actual development projects have been announced, Harrison completed zoning in March 2011 for 45 different energy land uses, including cloud computing data centers, a 50 MW PV plant, a 200 MW gas-fired power plant and other renewable power and energy storage technologies. Located in northeast Colorado between Fort Collins and Cheyenne, Wy., the facility has existing 230 kv transmission lines, natural gas pipelines, rail and fiber optic lines.

CH2M HILL's IDC Architects is also designing the Star Peak Energy Center, which targets development of geothermal, solar and wind power and utility-scale energy storage on 10,000 acres of land about 110 miles north of Reno, Nev. The developer, natural gas exploration and production outfit Presco, hopes to lure occupants such as data centers attracted by the potential of being powered by onsite carbon-neutral geothermal. Other targeted users are manufacturers such as photovoltaic solar panels, algal biofuel production and universities or research laboratories with ongoing renewable energy programs. An option IDC assessed for making the project more energy efficient is the use of waste heat from one process to support other processes on the site.