Newsletter: Grid Operators Ride Out Eclipse Without Issue; PACE Continues to Grow in Michigan

This newsletter was originally published on August 25, 2017.

Solar Eclipse Comes and Goes Without Impacting Grid

This week’s solar eclipse presented the first major test of the power grid in the era of advanced energy, utilities, grid operators, and energy storage pioneers delivered.

Utilities were forced to prepare for Monday’s solar eclipse when more than 12,000 megawatts of solar power supplies were anticipated to drop off their systems. At the same time, grid operators in areas that rely heavily on solar power made plans to avoid loss of service during the astronomical event. The eclipse also gave utility-scale storage the opportunity to demonstrate their value as a solar blackout necessitated other means of supplying the electric grid.

These combined efforts paid off, as regional grid operators across the country reported that they experienced no issues managing the decline in output during the eclipse.

While some point to Monday’s decline in solar energy stocks as a sign of the eclipse’s impact, analysts warned against blaming the eclipse for this shift, pointing instead to other current issues including a trade dispute over potential new solar panel tariffs. In fact, grid operators and utilities reported that the solar eclipse had no major impact on electricity demand.

At the same time, the U.S. Department of Energy this week released a highly anticipated grid study that was called for by Energy Secretary Rick Perry in April. Counter to widespread speculation that the study would ultimately be a political document targeting renewables, the final draft study instead finds that natural gas is the leading driver of baseload retirements, not renewables. That said, the report also seriously overstates the importance of baseload generation for overall grid reliability, a conclusion that is at odds with the experience of grid operators across the country who continue to integrate record levels of advanced energy resources with no negative impact on reliability.


New Projects, New Markets Continue to Grow PACE Financing in Michigan

Michigan EIBC member company Levin Energy Partners’ Lean & Green Michigan partnership has unveiled big new Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) projects in southeast Michigan, while the City of Grand Rapids officially launched its PACE program, developments that underscore the continued growth of PACE in Michigan. PACE financing supplies property owners with long-term loans at fixed interest rates for energy upgrades. Owners can then repay their loans through their property tax bills.


The Whitney Restaurant in Detroit will actually be the first PACE project in all of Wayne County. The restaurant, as well as the 123-year-old mansion it’s housed in, will get upgraded heating and cooling systems, as well as efficient lighting and controls and window insulation. The project is expected to save 10 to 20% on utility bills.

Says Andy Levin, president of Lean & Green Michigan and managing partner of Levin Energy Partners, “It’s a great story to have a building with such an incredibly rich history in the PACE program.”


Levin is also taking on the Garfield Metro Building in Macomb County, which will be that county’s first PACE project. This project, like the Whitney Restaurant in Detroit, is expected to include efficient LED lighting, high efficiency heating and cooling systems, and system controls. The improvements to the Garfield are expected to result in $733,133 in total savings, with a net savings of $254,725 over 20 years. IN addition to Levin Energy Partners, Michigan EIBC Member Company Newman Consulting Group LLC also contributed to both the Whitney and Garfield projects, helping to quantify the projected savings in both energy and maintenance cost.

On the other side of the state, Grand Rapids became the latest local government to establish a PACE program, following strong leadership from Grand Rapids Mayor Roslynn Bliss and others. Grand Rapids joins 21 counties and ten other cities in Michigan in participating in the Lean & Green Michigan statewide PACE program.

With projects ranging from a small medical office building in Macomb to marquee landmarks in Detroit and the addition of Michigan’s second largest city to the statewide PACE market, it’s clear that PACE is on the move in Michigan!


Renewing Members:

OU INC is a smartzone business incubator/ accelerator located on the campus of Oakland University. OU INC advances the economic strength of the region by transitioning industry and university innovations into commercial success with a focus on energy; information technology, and medical devices. It fosters a healthy environment for the growth of new start-up companies, and provides support for existing entities through its business development resources and through specific center locations within OU INC. Those centers include the Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) and the Energy Systems Acceleration and Integration Lab (ESAIL).


Michigan Energy News:

  • Utility regulators are accused by House Energy Chair, Rep. Gary Glenn, of trying to block attorneys from testifying before the House energy panel. Meanwhile, The Michigan Schools Energy Cooperative is siding with Glenn in criticism of Public Service Commission staff report that may violate the intent of the new energy law.
  • DTE says opt-out customers must accept smart meters, even if they choose to disable them.
  • Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers was profiled by Midwest Energy News for his career-long support of renewable energy.
  • The State of Michigan awarded nearly $4.9 million to Durand and Harper Woods communities for energy waste reduction efforts.
  • A look at Grand Rapids’ journey to be Michigan’s first 100% renewable-powered city.
  • A GVSU solar panel project received $4000 from a national leadership award.
  • Traverse City Light & Power officials recently voted to approve a special rate for the city as part of a deal in which the city will buy the output of Heritage Sustainable Energy’s planned solar array.
  • MSU is developing solar energy projects in campus parking lots.
  • Ann Arbor officials are working on ordinance to allow front yard solar panels.
  • A public meeting in the Upper Peninsula attempted to gauge interest in a potential community solar project.
  • The geothermal project at the state Capitol building has revealed a lack of groundwater protections.
  • As coal plants close, groups scrutinize plans for more gas-fired generation.
  • Consumers Energy began construction on a $610 million natural gas pipeline replacement project in southeast Michigan.
  • The operator of the Palisades nuclear plant in southwest Michigan submitted plans to federal regulators regarding the facility’s potential vulnerabilities.
  • Michigan EIBC member company NextEnergy will sell its TechTown property.
  • Ford will partner with delivery company DHL to develop an electric delivery van
  • A federal magistrate ordered two Michigan lawmakers to turn over lobbyist emails in response to a challenge from Tesla over a state law that effectively prohibits the company from selling its cars in Michigan.
  • Michigan is primed for its electric vehicle sector to take off, but advocates say several policy barriers must first be removed.


News from Washington:


Cities and Communities Leading in Advanced Energy:


National Grid and Efficiency News:

  • A new analysis in Nature Energy found that wind and solar energy programs are not being subsidized. In fact, the researchers found that the U.S. actually saves money as advanced energy options continue to penetrate the market.
  • A team of Midwestern researchers is studying energy use patterns in hopes of devising home energy management systems with what their users really want.
  • Researchers look at how states are replacing grid investments with energy efficiency and distributed energy, which could ultimately help distributed energy resources get paid as an integral part of the grid.
  • Ohio regulators rejected the appeals of an earlier decision granting an additional $600 million over three years to utility FirstEnergy Corp. to improve its electric distribution grid.
  • Data center company Equinix will purchase 37 MWs of fuel cells at 12 data centers in California and New York. 
  • Missouri regulators denied a permit to develop the Grain Belt Express clean energy transmission project.
  • American Electric Power will begin installing 900,000 smart meters for customers across Ohio. 
  • A new report advises regulators to be cautious when approving time-of-use rates for residential utility customers to “ensure more vulnerable customers are not left with higher bills they can’t control.” 
  • There is little evidence that a rising share of generation from advanced energy sources has had an impact on the reliability of the electrical grid, an analysis argues. And, according to the International Energy Agency, advanced energy can account for up to 45% of electricity without increasing costs to the power system.
  • Michigan EIBC member company CLEAResult’s energy efficiency program improves 139 local homes.


National Solar News:

  • The International Trade Commission held a hearing to consider a potential tariff on solar panels. The potential tariff pits solar developers, many of whom rely on the lower prices of imported panels, against two domestic panel producers. Groups aligned against a request for tariffs on imported solar panels include advanced energy advocates as well as some “ideologically right-wing voices.” 
  • Solar-plus-storage systems could be more economical than standalone solar installations by 2020, according to a new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
  • More states are enabling private companies, nonprofits and homeowners associations to develop their own community solar projects.
  • Construction is nearly complete at what will be the largest rooftop solar array in Wisconsin.
  • A new housing development in Wisconsin will get more than half of its energy from solar panels.
  • Mississippi Power Co. intends to buy all power from a $100 million solar farm that is currently being developed. 
  • A new poll shows that South Carolina voters want their state to rely more on solar energy and less on coal and nuclear power. 
  • Atlanta-based Home Depot will add solar panels to 50 of its store rooftops.
  • The city council of El Paso, Texas, opposed a proposed rate increase for rooftop solar customers saying the increase would would harm the solar industry
  • After a failed legislative effort to keep rooftop solar incentives in Maine, groups are challenging regulators’ new solar rule in court.
  • Arizona utility regulators approved a rate increase and cuts to net-metering payments for new rooftop solar customers.
  • Catholic officials in Iowa are increasingly promoting solar power.


National Wind News:


National Bioenergy News:

  • An eastern Iowa city is working to become the first in the state to convert food waste into renewable fuel for vehicles.
  • CalEnergy terminated its license for a California geothermal plant that would have generated enough electricity to power about 200,000 homes.
  • According to a U.S. appeals court, the EPA used too strict a test when it ruled that Sinclair Oil Corp did not qualify for a hardship waiver for small refiners under federal biofuel regulations. 
  • America’s largest oil refiner, Valero Energy Corp., played a key role in a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign against U.S. biofuels regulations.


National Fossil Fuel and Nuclear News:

  • The Army Corps of Engineers is urging a federal judge not to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline while it conducts a new environmental review mandated by the court.
  • Noise is responsible for the majority of complaints against oil and gas developers in Colorado. 
  • Two cities in Colorado may start requiring oil and gas operators to map their pipelines.
  • Minnesota regulators released the final environmental review of Enbridge’s plan to replace its Line 3 pipeline, which analyzes environmental and social costs and contrasts several potential routes.
  • Corsa Coal Corp. announced plans for opening a second coal mine in Pennsylvania since President Trump took office, with operations set to begin next year. Corsa Coal Chief Executive George Dethlefsen said the growth in production was due to the President’s deregulation agenda and the activity in the steel sector.
  • Paringa Resources Ltd. announced that construction for its new coal mine in western Kentucky is underway and mining is expected to begin next year. The mine is expected to produce 2.8 million tons of coal per year to sell to coal-powered plants.
  • One of the developers of the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina withdrew its official petition to abandon the plant, but that may not signal an intention to restart the project.


National Technology and Market News:


National Vehicle and Mobility News:

  • Electric vehicle batteries can help the grid without being degraded, and a two-way power exchange with the grid could even extend a battery’s useful life, according to a new study.
  • Volkswagen says it will produce an electric version of its classic Microbus camper van for customers in North America, Europe and China.
  • Denver, Colorado, announces plans to install 300 electric vehicle charging stations over the next two years.


Michigan Energy Events:

Technology in Motion Detroit is taking place September 6-8 at the Cobo Center. The event will bring together OEM’s, suppliers and the tech community to establish the preeminent mobility event in Detroit. Technological advancements in autonomous and electric vehicles, connected cars, shared economy and digital consumer experiences are just a few of the areas that will be featured at TIM ’17. Register here.

The Powering Mobility conference will take place on September 25 at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. The event, which is the 4th Annual Michigan Energy Future Conference, will bring together leaders from industry, government, utilities, finance, and academe working at the nexus of advanced mobility and vehicle electrification. 

The 1st Annual Sustainable Detroit Forum is scheduled for October 25. The event will consist of interactive learning, keynotes, and short presentations. Proposals for presentations will be accepted for Sustainable ProjectsPersonal Green Stories, and Lessons Learned/Greatest Failures.

NextEnergy invites you to the Autonomy & Mobility Conference on October 25 in Detroit. Autonomy & Mobility 2017 will provide an open forum for all participants to share ideas. In addition to focused sessions with leading experts, the event will culminate in a unique, interactive exchange among panelists and attendees. Register here.


National Energy Events:

Mark your calendars for the Catalysts of the Climate Economy summit in Burlington, Vermont, September 6-8. This event will focus on ways to accelerate economic development for a low-carbon future. The event will feature speakers, round-table discussions, and other forums with entrepreneurs, investors, and thoughts leaders. Speakers include EIBC member company Generate Capital’s Jigar Shah; Danny Kennedy of the CA Clean Energy Fund; Carol Browner, Former Climate and Energy Czar in the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy; and CEOs and leaders from Patagonia, Green Mountain Power, Stonyfield Yogurt, General Motors, Seventh Generation, Ben and Jerry’s, Fetzer Vineyards, Proterra, Generation Investment Management, and more!
Solar Power International will take place September 10-13 in Las Vegas. Powered by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Smart Electric Power Alliance, SPI is the largest and fastest growing solar show in North America.
Renewable Energy Grid Operations: Integration, Forecasting, Modeling, Planning and Curtailment, hosted by EUCI, is scheduled for September 11-12 in Austin, Texas. This conference will evaluate the biggest challenges to renewable energy integration, and identify solutions and pathways that coordinate responses and overcome these challenges. Case studies from experts and industry professionals from around the country will share their experiences and lessons learned on renewable integration. Register here.
ACORE Finance West will take place in San Francisco on October 12. The annual conference highlights top investment opportunities and provide the latest insights on the financing of renewable energy and grid modernization efforts in leading western markets.

EUCI’s Renewable Energy PPAs Seminar is October 16-17 in Denver, Colorado. The Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements seminar is designed for those in the renewable energy industry who are new to PPAs or who have worked with PPAs for a while and are ready to gain a deeper understanding of the legal impact of, and allocation of risks under, key PPA provisions. The course will begin with an introduction to the development and financing process and the role of competitive procurement (including RFP solicitations and bilateral negotiations). The instructors will review the various general contract terms found in most non-PPA project agreements that directly impact the PPA negotiations, and provide an overview of environmental and permitting matters that arise in PPA negotiations. Register here.

Join SEIA and Smart Electric Power Alliance for Solar Power Midwest in Chicago, October 19-20. The event features multiple networking and educational opportunities with a targeted, buying audience.
The 2017 U.S. Power and Renewables Summit will take place in Austin on November 7-8. The conference, hosted by Greentech Media, provides an in-depth look at how solar, wind, and related renewable energy technologies are impacting power markeys, and how this interaction is raising key questions and challenges for the industry moving forward.
The U.S. Energy Storage Summit 2017 is taking place December 12-13 in San Francisco. Now in its third year, this event brings together utilities, financiers, regulators, technology innovators, and storage practitioners for two full days of data-intensive presentations, analyst-led panel sessions with industry leaders, and extensive, high-level networking.


Additional Resources:

A website from the Michigan Public Service Commission provides details on updates to state energy laws. For more information, or to sign up for notifications, visit
World Resources Institute recently published an Implementation Guide for Utilities, outlining best practices in designing renewable energy projects to meet large energy customers’ needs. 
ARPA-E announced up to $20 million in funding for high efficiency Distributed Generation systems to reduce the cost and increase the energy efficiency associated with providing electric power to commercial and industrial end users. Additional information, including the full FOA and how to find project teaming partners, is available on ARPA-E’s online application portal, ARPA-E eXCHANGE. 
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is initiating a three-year analytical support program for state public utility commissions (PUCs). PUCs will have access to in-depth analytical support from the national laboratories on topics related to distribution utility planning and regulatory, policy, programmatic, and technology assessments of distributed energy resources (DER). The national laboratories will work with up to five PUCs over the course of one year, beginning in October 2017, to provide neutral decision support through data-driven modeling, tools, and direct technical assistance from subject matter experts.  Assistance may include: analysis support; stakeholder-convened discussions; education and training through workshops and webinars; and consultations with technical experts. Applications can be downloaded here.

The Illinois Solar Energy Association is raffling a 2017 Tesla Model X! Only 2,500 tickets sold. 1 for $100, 4 for $300. Get yours at

Energy leaders — make your nominations today for the 2017 Midwest Energy News 40 Under 40. Open to nominations from all sectors involved in the Midwest’s energy transition.

The 2018 MEAP RFP has been released and is available online at