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  1. The residential photovoltaic (PV) market has expanded rapidly over the past decade, but questions exist about how equitably that growth has occurred across income groups. Prior studies have investigated this question but are often limited by narrow geographic study regions, now-dated analysis timeframes, or coarse estimates of PV-adopter incomes. At the same time, a spate of new programs and initiatives, as well as innovations in business models and product design, have emerged in recent years with the aim of making solar more accessible and affordable to broader segments of the population. Yet, many of those efforts are proceeding without robustmore » underlying information about the income characteristics of recent residential PV adopters. This work aims to establish basic factual information about income trends among U.S. residential solar adopters, with some emphasis on low- and moderate-income (LMI) households. The analysis is unique in its relatively extensive coverage of the U.S. solar market, relying on Berkeley Lab’s Tracking the Sun dataset, which contains project-level data for the vast majority of all residential PV systems in the country (a subset of which are ultimately included in the analysis sample). This analysis is also unique in its use of household-level income estimates that provide a more-precise characterization of PV-adopter incomes than in most prior studies.« less
  2. This paper evaluates potential changes in the power system associated with sustained growth in wind generation in the United States to 35% of end-use demand by 2050; Wiser et al. (2016) evaluate societal benefits and other impacts for this same scenario. Under reference or central conditions, the analysis finds cumulative wind capacity of 404 gigawatts (GW) would be required to reach this level and drive 2050 incremental electricity rate and cumulative electric sector savings of 2% and 3% respectively, relative to a scenario with no new wind capacity additions. Greater savings are estimated under higher fossil fuel costs or withmore » greater advancements in wind technologies. Conversely, incremental costs are found when fossil fuel costs are lower than central assumptions or wind technology improvements are more-limited. Through 2030, the primary generation sources displaced by new wind capacity include natural gas and coal-fired generation. By 2050, wind could displace other renewables. Incremental new transmission infrastructure totaling 29 million megawatt-miles is estimated to be needed by 2050. In conjunction with related societal benefits, this work demonstrates that 35% wind energy by 2050 is plausible, could support enduring benefits, and could result in long-term consumer savings, if nearer-term (pre-2030) cost barriers are overcome; at the same time, these opportunities are not anticipated to be realized in their full form under 'business-as-usual' conditions.« less
  3. This paper synthesizes available data on historical and planned power plant retirements. Specifically, we present data on historical generation capacity additions and retirements over time, and the types of plants recently retired and planned for retirement. We then present data on the age of plants that have recently retired or that have plans to retire. We also review the characteristics of plants that recently retired or plan to retire vs. those that continue to operate, focusing on plant size, age, heat rate, and SO 2 emissions. Finally, we show the level of recent thermal plant retirements on a regional basismore » and correlate those data with a subset of possible factors that may be contributing to retirement decisions. This basic data synthesis cannot be used to precisely estimate the relative magnitude of retirement drivers. Nor do we explore every possible driver for retirement decisions. Moreover, future retirement decisions may be influenced by different factors than those that have affected past decisions. Nonetheless, it is clear that recently retired plants are relatively old, and that plants with stated planned retirement dates are—on average—no younger. We observe that retired plants are smaller, older, less efficient, and more polluting than operating plants. Based on simple correlation graphics, the strongest predictors of regional retirement differences appear to include SO 2 emissions rates (for coal), planning reserve margins (for all thermal units), variations in load growth or contraction (for all thermal units), and the age of older thermal plans (for all thermal units). Additional apparent predictors of regional retirements include the ratio of coal to gas prices and delivered natural gas prices. Other factors appear to have played lesser roles, including the penetration variable renewable energy (VRE), recent non-VRE capacity additions, and whether the region hosts an ISO/RTO.« less
  4. Despite impressive declines in average prices, there is wide dispersion in the prices of U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) systems; prices span more than a factor of four. What are the characteristics of the systems with low-prices? Using detailed characteristics of 42,611 small-scale (<15 kW) PV systems installed in 15 U.S. states during 2013, we identify the most important factors that make a system likely to be low-priced (LP). Comparing LP and non-LP systems, we find statistically significant differences in nearly all characteristics for which we have data. Logit and probit model results robustly indicate that LP systems are associated with:more » markets with few active installers; experienced installers; customer ownership; large systems; retrofits; and thin-film, low-efficiency, and Chinese modules. We also find significant differences across states, with LP systems much more likely to occur in some states, such as Arizona, New Jersey, and New Mexico, and less likely in others, such as California. Our focus on the left tail of the price distribution provides implications for policy that are distinct from recent studies of mean prices. While those studies find that PV subsidies increase mean prices, we find that subsidies also generate LP systems. PV subsidies appear to simultaneously shift and broaden the price distribution. Much of this broadening occurs in a particular location, northern California.« less
  5. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Wind Technologies Market Report provides an annual overview of trends in the U.S. wind power market. You can find the report, a presentation, and a data file on the Files tab, below. Additionally, several data visualizations are available in the Data Visualizations tab. Highlights of this year’s report include: -Wind power additions continued at a rapid clip in 2016: $13 billion was invested in new wind power plants in 2016. In 2016, wind energy contributed 5.6% of the nation’s electricity supply, more than 10% of total electricity generation in fourteen states, and 29% tomore » 37% in three of those states—Iowa, South Dakota, and Kansas. -Bigger turbines are enhancing wind project performance: Increased blade lengths, in particular, have dramatically increased wind project capacity factors, one measure of project performance. For example, the average 2016 capacity factor among projects built in 2014 and 2015 was 42.6%, compared to an average of 32.1% among projects built from 2004 to 2011 and 25.4% among projects built from 1998 to 2001. -Low wind turbine pricing continues to push down installed project costs: Wind turbine prices have fallen from their highs in 2008, to $800–$1,100/kW. Overall, the average installed cost of wind projects in 2016 was $1,590/kW, down $780/kW from the peak in 2009 and 2010. -Wind energy prices remain low: After topping out at nearly 7¢/kWh for power purchase agreements (PPAs) executed in 2009, the national average price of wind PPAs has dropped to around 2¢/kWh—though this nationwide average is dominated by projects that hail from the lowest-priced Interior region of the country (such as Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma). These prices, which are possible in part due to federal tax support, compare favorably to the projected future fuel costs of gas-fired generation. -The supply chain continued to adjust to swings in domestic demand for wind equipment: Wind sector employment reached a new high of more than 101,000 full-time workers at the end of 2016. For wind projects recently installed in the U.S., domestically manufactured content is highest for nacelle assembly (>90%), towers (65-80%), and blades and hubs (50-70%), but is much lower (<20%) for most components internal to the turbine. -Continued strong growth in wind capacity is anticipated in the near term: With federal tax incentives still available, though declining, various forecasts for the domestic market show expected wind power capacity additions averaging more than 9,000 MW/year from 2017 to 2020.« less
  6. Wind power capacity in the United States experienced strong growth in 2016. Recent and projected near-term growth is supported by the industry’s primary federal incentive—the production tax credit (PTC)—as well as a myriad of state-level policies. Wind additions have also been driven by improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technologies, yielding low power sales prices for utility, corporate, and other purchasers.
  7. These slides were presented at a webinar on January 9, 2017. The slides overview a report that evaluates the future costs, benefits, and other impacts of renewable energy used to meet current state renewable portfolio standards (RPSs). It also examines a future scenario where RPSs are expanded. The analysis examines changes in electric system costs and retail electricity prices, which include all fixed and operating costs, including capital costs for all renewable, non-renewable, and supporting (e.g., transmission and storage) electric sector infrastructure; fossil fuel, uranium, and biomass fuel costs; and plant operations and maintenance expenditures. The analysis evaluates three specificmore » benefits: air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and water use. It also analyzes two other impacts, renewable energy workforce and economic development, and natural gas price suppression. The analysis finds that the benefits or renewable energy used to meet RPS polices exceed the costs, even when considering the highest cost and lowest benefit outcomes.« less
  8. We model scenarios of the U.S. electric sector in which wind generation reaches 10% of end-use electricity demand in 2020, 20% in 2030, and 35% in 2050. As shown in a companion paper, achieving these penetration levels would have significant implications for the wind industry and the broader electric sector. Compared to a baseline that assumes no new wind deployment, under the primary scenario modeled, achieving these penetrations imposes an incremental cost to electricity consumers of less than 1% through 2030. These cost implications, however, should be balanced against the variety of environmental and social implications of such a scenario.more » Relative to a baseline that assumes no new wind deployment, our analysis shows that the high-penetration wind scenario yields potential greenhouse-gas benefits of $85-$1,230 billion in present-value terms, with a central estimate of $400 billion. Air-pollution-related health benefits are estimated at $52-$272 billion, while annual electric-sector water withdrawals and consumption are lower by 15% and 23% in 2050, respectively. We also find that a high-wind-energy future would have implications for the diversity and risk of energy supply, local economic development, and land use and related local impacts on communities and ecosystems; however, these additional impacts may not greatly affect aggregate social welfare owing to their nature, in part, as resource transfers.« less
  9. Wind energy supply has grown rapidly over the last decade. However, the long-term contribution of wind to future energy supply, and the degree to which policy support is necessary to motivate higher levels of deployment, depends -- in part -- on the future costs of both onshore and offshore wind. Here, we summarize the results of an expert elicitation survey of 163 of the world's foremost wind experts, aimed at better understanding future costs and technology advancement possibilities. Results suggest significant opportunities for cost reductions, but also underlying uncertainties. Under the median scenario, experts anticipate 24-30% reductions by 2030 andmore » 35-41% reductions by 2050 across the three wind applications studied. Costs could be even lower: experts predict a 10% chance that reductions will be more than 40% by 2030 and more than 50% by 2050. Insights gained through expert elicitation complement other tools for evaluating cost-reduction potential, and help inform policy and planning, R&D and industry strategy.« less
  10. We synthesize available literature, data, and analysis on the degree to which growth in variable renewable energy (VRE) has impacted to date or might in the future impact bulk power system assets, pricing, and costs. We do not analyze impacts on specific power plants, instead focusing on national and regional system-level trends. The issues addressed are highly context dependent—affected by the underlying generation mix of the system, the amount of wind and solar penetration, and the design and structure of the bulk power system in each region. Moreover, analyzing the impacts of VRE on the bulk power system is amore » complex area of research and there is much more to be done to increase understanding of how VRE impacts the dynamics of current and future electricity markets. While more analysis is warranted, including additional location-specific assessments, several high-level findings emerge from this synthesis: -VRE Is Already Impacting the Bulk Power Market -VRE Impacts on Average Wholesale Prices Have Been Modest -VRE Impacts on Power Plant Retirements Have So Far Been Limited -VRE Impacts on the Bulk Power Market will Grow with Penetration -The ’System Value’ of VRE will Decline with Penetration -Power System Flexibility Can Reduce the Rate of VRE Value Decline All generation types are unique in some respect—bringing benefits and challenges to the power system—and wholesale markets, industry investments, and operational procedures have evolved over time to manage the characteristics of a changing generation fleet. With increased VRE penetrations, power system planners, operators, regulators, and policymakers will continue to be challenged to develop methods to smoothly and cost-effectively manage the reliable integration of these new and growing sources of electricity supply.« less
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