Submit Your Abstract for SolarPACES by May 6

US DOE Staff       Published: 4/29/2022          US DOE

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

Solar Energy Technologies Office

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SolarPACES Conference September 26-30 in Albuquerque

SolarPACES Conference Abstract Deadline

Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems (SolarPACES) is the premier international conference for concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) research and development. In 2022 it will be hosted by the United States, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Researchers who wish to present at the conference must submit an extended abstract by May 6. Industry, research, political and financing stakeholders, and experts around the world will gather in person to share insights into recent research activities and new developments in CSP technology.

CSP Projects Selected for Science and Technology Research Partnership

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in collaboration with the Minority-Serving Institution (MSI) STEM Research and Development Consortium, awarded $3.2 million to seven MSIs for research in solar energy technology. Three of the eight funded projects will advance CSP technologies.

  • University of New Mexico received $400,000 for a project that will demonstrate the potential of a cheaper, more reliable heat exchanger to generate electricity and decarbonize industrial processes in CSP plants.
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas received $400,000 to build an innovative small-scale CSP system prototype that could reduce costs and improve efficiency to enable widespread deployment of small, distributed CSP systems for clean energy generation.
  • Florida A&M University received $400,000 to develop models to optimize operating strategies for solar thermal energy storage technologies, maximizing their value and enabling them to integrate with multiple renewable energy sources.

SETO Research Spotlight: Reducing Risk in Solar Receivers

Check out a special issue of the scientific journal, Energies, which features an article by Matt Bauer, a technology manager in the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). He used findings from the DOE SunShot Initiative and SETO’s Generation 3 Concentrating Solar Power Systems program to review technical requirements for solar receivers in CSP systems and demonstrate risk reduction.

Keep up with the SolarPACES conference happening Sept. 26-30 in Albuquerque and learn more about CSP research at SETO.

Montgomery County Improves and Expands Commercial PACE

Author: MCGB Staff       Published: 4/29/2022  Montgomery Green Bank

The Montgomery County Council unanimously passed the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) Financing Amendments legislation (Bill 46-21) that significantly improves and expands C-PACE financing opportunities. With this new legislation, property owners have the opportunity to make their buildings more climate-resilient and energy efficient to help improve operating costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The Bill extends C-PACE project eligibility to include climate resiliency, climate adaptation, water conservation, environmental health, and safety upgrades. This new legislation provides an increase in loan to value ratios, thus allowing property owners to go deeper into affordable financing opportunities.  Bill 46-21 makes Montgomery County one of the best markets for climate investing.
Read the Press Release

The Montgomery County Green Bank is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to helping businesses and residents affordably implement energy efficiency and clean energy solutions. The Green Bank supports the county by driving investment into energy efficiency and clean energy through lending and investment partners in the region. These efforts include working with homeowners, renters, and commercial entities of all varieties. For more information, visit www.mcgreenbank.org.
Copyright © Montgomery County Green Bank 2018, All rights reserved.Our mailing address and phone:155 Gibbs Street Suite 516Rockville, MD 20850240-453-9000This newsletter, its format and its contents are the property of the Montgomery County Green Bank.Any replication or publication by a third party is by permission only. Want to change how you receive these emails?You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

USDA Launches Pilot Program to Deploy Renewable Energy Infrastructure to People in Rural Towns

Author: USDA Staff            Published: 4/26/2022       USDA

Funding Will Help People in Particularly Underserved Rural Communities Cut Energy Costs, Increase Energy Resiliency and Address Climate Change

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 19, 2022 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the Department is making up to $10 million available to help people living in rural towns develop community renewable energy projects that will help them cut their energy costs and contribute to the nationwide effort to reduce pollution that contributes to climate change. These funds will be targeted to help people who live in communities that have been historically underinvested and disinvested.

USDA is making the funds available through the new Rural Energy Pilot Program to help the people of rural America build back better, stronger and more equitably than ever before. Through this program, USDA is supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to making environmental justice a part of every agency’s mission to address the disproportionate health, environmental, economic and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities.

“Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is providing grant assistance for people who live in particularly underserved rural towns to help them cut their household energy costs and address climate change at the local level,” Vilsack said. “As we continue to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, USDA is targeting resources and investments to help meet our nation’s energy needs and combat climate change. The new program we’re announcing today will pilot the viability of community-scale renewable energy investments to mitigate the energy-burdened circumstances of particularly disadvantaged rural communities. This assistance will help to keep people in their hometowns by supporting good-paying jobs, business opportunities, and a more affordable cost of living.”

Background:

USDA will make up to $10 million in grants available to particularly underserved rural communities. The funds can be used to deploy community-scale renewable energy technologies and innovations to reduce climate pollution and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change. These technologies include solar, wind, geothermal, micro-hydroelectric and biomass/bioenergy. Up to 20% of awarded funds may also be used for community energy planning, capacity building, technical assistance, energy efficiency and weatherization.

USDA is offering priority points to projects that advance key priorities under the Biden-Harris Administration to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, advance equity and combat climate change. These extra points will increase the likelihood of funding for projects seeking to address these critical challenges in rural America.

Details on an upcoming informational webinar is forthcoming and will be posted to the Rural Energy Pilot Program webpage.

Prospective applicants must inform the Agency by submitting a required Letter of Intent prior to submission of a complete application. The letters must be submitted via electronic upload into a secure cloud vault, by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 19, 2022.

Application guides and submission information are available on the program website, under the To Apply tab, www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/energy-programs/rural-energy-pilot-program.

For additional information, see page 2747 of the Jan. 19 Federal Register (PDF, 278 KB).

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov. If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

Solar District Cup Class of 2021-2022!

Author: US DOE SETO Staff        Published: 4/26/2022          SETO

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

Solar Energy Technologies Office

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College students and entrepreneurs across the country have been participating in U.S. Department of Energy competitions designed to power the clean energy revolution, and this week the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) has some exciting updates to share.

Solar District Cup

The public has spoken and Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska) is the winner of the Solar District Cup Class of 2021-2022! The Solar District Cup convenes college competitors to accelerate the transition to the clean energy future and reimagine how energy is generated, managed, and used in a district energy system. The Creighton team designed a proposed distributed energy system for Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Their proposal included strong photovoltaics system design, tracker angular rotation schedule, distribution analysis, and financial analyses. Read about the other division winners.

American-Made Solar Desalination Prize

During the American-Made Earth Day Celebration, SETO announced that six semifinalists advanced in the Solar Desalination Prize Round 2 Teaming Contest. These teams will continue improving their technologies to desalinate water using solar-thermal energy. The semifinalists received $250,000 and a $100,000 technical assistance voucher to help design their systems in the next phase of the competition.

  • Sunvapor (Pasadena, CA)
  • Planet A Energy (Pasadena, CA)
  • SolMem (Houston, TX)
  • Artic Solar (Jacksonville, FL)
  • Team Trident (Santa Barbara, CA)
  • Winston Cone Optics (Merced, CA)

American-Made Solar Prize

SETO also announced twenty finalists in the Solar Prize Round 5 Set! Contest. The teams will advance to the final stage of the competition for innovation solutions to support U.S. solar manufacturing. Ten finalists received $100,000 as well as a $75,000 technical assistance voucher to advance hardware innovations, and 10 others received $60,000 to advance software innovations. Three teams (below in bold) also won a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion prize for software solutions that enable underserved communities to overcome systemic solar barriers.

Hardware Track

  • GISMO POWER TEAM (Sarasota, FL)
  • Leap Photovoltaic (San Francisco, CA)
  • Mana Monitoring MeDER (Lahaina, HI)
  • Origami Solar (Bend, OR)
  • Portable Solar (Miami, FL)
  • RCAM Technologies (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Smartville (Carlsbad, CA)
  • SolarSCADA (Denver, CO)
  • Sun Deck Solar (Roswell, GA)
  • TECSI Solar Inc. (El Sobrante, CA)

Software Track

  • Better Solar (Orlando, FL)
  • CleanFi (Los Angeles, CA)
  • illu (Sunnyvale, CA)
  • KiloNewton (Albuquerque, NM)
  • Midday Tech (San Francisco, CA)
  • Nimbus AI (Honolulu, HI)
  • Sandbox Solar (Fort Collins, CO)
  • SolarGrade (Carlsbad, CA)
  • Solar Stewards Marketplace (Atlanta, GA)
  • The Solar Equity Team (Boston, MA)

Congratulations to these impressive winners, and good luck to the teams moving forward!

“Toward Environmental Justice.”

Author: Nadira Jamerson     Published: 4/22/2022      Word In Black

Happy Friday, Word In Black Fam,It is my second week at Word In Black and I still have a lot to learn. But, I’m excited because I know I have such an amazing team to learn from — and given that today’s Earth Day, we’ve been talking about how Black environmentalists don’t always get the credit they deserve. That’s why I interviewed the founder of Black Millennials For Flint about their new documentary short “Toward Environmental Justice.” The nine-minute film schools us on the true influence of Black and Indigenous folk in the Environmental Justice Movement.Our morning meetings are my favorite part of the day because it is a time when we all come together to share our joys, fears, and stories about what’s impacting us in our everyday lives. This week, I got to learn from our education data reporter, Maya, about the barriers keeping Black students from joining and excelling in Advanced Placement classes. Did you know that across the country, the K-12 education workforce is largely white? More than 80% of teachers are white and only 10% are Black. Our hope is that increasing the number of diverse workers in schools can help eliminate teacher bias and give our Black children more opportunities to succeed.

I also learned that medical racism keeps our community and families sick for longer, and with more severe symptoms. One in four Black adults age 60 and over report experiencing racial discrimination from health professionals in their lifetime. But our health reporter Alexa’s article on confronting medical bias offers practical advice on how we can collectively begin to change this.   This week we also dropped some great videos on our Instagram about the collaborative history of our newsroom with a special look into the lives of the writers and leaders who make our organization thrive. We plan to use our platform to advance the voices of those in our community, and we cannot do that without first hearing directly from you all. If you’re not already, make sure to follow us for more updates on all things Word In Black. As always, thank you for supporting us as we continue to frame the narrative. Have a beautiful weekend. 

Best, Nadira Jamerson Digital Content Editor

Millennials and Gen Z Have the Power: Building Sustainability in Black Communities

Author: Tanyia Foster      Published: 4/22/2022   Howard University News Service

Eco-friendly, stylish recyclable paper tableware. Paper food boxes, plates, and cornstarch Cutlery on a trending orange background

BLACK EXPERIENCE

Sustainability directly affects quality of life, ecosystems and natural resources. The United Nations Brundtland Commission defines sustainability as meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

On hearing the term sustainability, it is common to think about the environment. Social equality and economic development are critical areas of focus when it comes to sustainability as well. Taking a holistic approach to harmonizing environmental, ecological, social and economic development is the only way to ensure a better future.

Environmental sustainability refers to the protection and conservation of our ecosystem. Our choice of transportation, how often we use energy, the products we use, and the food we eat all align with environmental sustainability.

Conserving water, using less energy and purchasing recyclable products are some examples of the way we can move towards creating a more sustainable environment.

Economic sustainability refers to the economy and economic production. Essentially, we want to continue economic growth and success without negatively affecting social and environmental sustainability.

While some may worry that growing the economy and an increase in population has a negative impact, studies show that this can, in fact, be done without compromising the other aspects.

Social sustainability refers to creating formal and informal processes, systems, structures and relationships that allow for a good quality of life for everyone. During these times, this falls heavily under diversity, equity, and inclusion in many ways. Accessibility to things like health care, human rights, community engagement, and safe and healthy living conditions for everyone are some of the ways we can achieve social sustainability.

Unequal access to a clean environment based on race is environmental racism. Environmental hazards are placed in communities of color, causing them to be disproportionately exposed to things like pollution, lead poisoning, water contamination and hazardous waste sites. A study from 1983 showed that 75% of hazardous waste landfill sites were low-income communities of color.

Neighborhoods and communities of color tend to have lower property values. This means that it is cheaper for industrial companies to acquire land in those areas. This creates hazardous waste states being placed in these communities, ultimately leading to a greater amount of air pollution. Air pollution tends to lead to illnesses and diseases, which are also generally higher within the black population, as opposed to white counterparts.

The use of lead paint tends to be prevalent in low-income communities. A report by Lead Safe Illinois showed that children in Chicago who are Hispanic and African American were, respectively, five times and 12 times more likely to be poisoned by lead than white children.

Another impact of environmental racism that is commonly seen in communities of color is water contamination. NRDC reported that communities of color are more likely to suffer drinking water violations for years. These commons often have water systems that are not properly functioning, and although these systems violate the law, getting them fixed has become a hassle often left unresolved due to racism.

Millennials and Gen Zers grew up with an unprecedented awareness of social and environmental issues and they are leading the charge in creating a better environment for their generation and future generations to have a chance at living their lives.

Through organizations like Black Millennials for Flint, HBCU sustainability organizations, and social media influencers, young people are advocating for sustainability, and HBCU students partake in this work.

Howard University’s Student Association has a department solely dedicated to sustainability. Along with HUSA’s sustainability department, there are several other campus organizations at Howard fighting and educating students on climate justice. Among these organizations is Howard University Water and Climate Association which promotes sustainable living on campus by demonstrating the ways sustainability can play into all areas of life, providing community service opportunities, and connecting students with environmentally oriented career and networking opportunities.

The Pew Research Center reports that younger millennials and Gen Z’ers are more active in the fight to address climate change than older generations. They are taking action both online and offline.

Younger generations are using their voices via digital platforms and social media to promote sustainability messaging to content and conversations and raising and donating to environmental initiatives. They are also the ones at the forefront of rallies and protests. Many millennials and Gen Zers are frustrated and feel as if not enough is being done, so they are taking matters into their own hands to help build sustainable communities for themselves and the generations after them.

 

National Community Solar Partnership Goals

Author: US DOE Staff      Published: 4/21/2022       SETO

National Community Solar Partnership Target: Enable community solar systems to power the equivalent of 5 million households and create $1 billion in energy savings by 2025
National Community Solar Partnership Goal Graphic

The National Community Solar Partnership set an ambitious target in October 2021 to enable community solar systems to power the equivalent of 5 million households and create $1 billion in energy savings by 2025. Reaching these milestones will help the nation achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035 and ensure that all Americans can reap the meaningful benefits of renewable energy including reduced energy burden, increased resilience, and workforce development.

Why this goal?

At the end of 2020 there was approximately 3 GWDC of community solar in the United States, enough to power the equivalent of 600,000 households. Of all distributed solar photovoltaics installed in the U.S., though, community solar represented just 8%.

Community solar is an important model for ensuring all Americans have access to the meaningful benefits of renewable energy, regardless of income, home ownership status, or the suitability of their roof for solar panels. But community solar development can face barriers that make it more difficult to deploy than other distributed solar.

CHALLENGES TO COMMUNITY SOLAR DEPLOYMENT

EQUITY IN DISTRIBUTED SOLAR

Accelerating Community Solar Deployment

The National Community Solar Partnership provides resources, technical assistance, and peer networking opportunities to its partners to help them overcome these persistent barriers to expanding community solar access, with a focus on those in disadvantaged communities. The Partnership has developed a set of initiatives that form a Pathway to Success for reaching its new target metric.

this graphic illustrates NCSP's five pathways of success in order to reach its target.

Find out more below about the initiatives on the Pathway to Success and how they enable equitable community solar deployment.

EXPANDING TECHNICAL EXPERTISE AND CAPACITY BUILDING

INCREASING STATE ENGAGEMENT

IMPROVING EQUITABLE ACCESS TO FINANCING

STREAMLINING CUSTOMER ACQUISITION AND MANAGEMENT

BROADEN COMMUNITY SOLAR MESSAGING AND RECOGNITION

The most efficient Utility-Scale Solar Farm for EPC Contractor

Author: Maksim Markevich       Published: 4/19/2022           PV Farm

In this blog, we would like to dive deeper into the main details, challenges and trade-offs that EPC Contractors need to analyse when working on requirements specifications during the tender and pursuit phases for Utility-Scale Solar Farms (PV farms, to be precise).

 

Assumptions

The AEC industry is a tricky one. Before jumping to any conclusions, we need to build assumptions and stick to them. Otherwise, we stumble and we cannot go far ahead.

  1. The primary market is Utility

  2. The primary service is EPC

  3. The point of view is Contractor

EPC Contractors are responsible for engineering, procurement and construction. They step into a process at a very early stage, after the Developer/Client creates a Request For Proposal (RFP), in other words, requirements specification. Usually, a lot of contractors bid on the same RFP and provide their Quotes. Then, the Developer/Client chooses only one of them and finalises the contract. Two of the most common contract types are lump-sum contracts and time & material contracts. For the sake of simplicity, let’s choose a lump sum contract (a single price for all the works is agreed upon before works begin). After the contract is signed off, EPC Contractor becomes the single point of responsibility for design and construction.

 

Where to start?

Regarding our previous assumptions, we have an EPC Contractor working on Utility-Scale PV Farms that just signed off a lump sum contract.

There are no more discussions about longest-term energy, lowest operating costs and CAPEX efficiency. The only constraints we have are the contract price and the safety requirements. The contract includes hard cost, soft cost, overheads, and profit margins. The biggest issue here is that when EPC Contractors agree on the price with the Developer/Client, they have a minimal amount of information, so it is pretty crucial to be able to deliver the farm within the targeted spending and profit:

Contract Cost = Hard Cost + Soft Cost + Overheads + Profit Margin

Let’s focus on the hard cost (the most significant part of the spending) and go through all trade-offs EPC Contractors need to evaluate when designing a PV Farm Layout.

 

Fake PV Farm creation

Let’s find the place where we always wanted to build a solar farm.

Site boundaries where we would like to generate utility-scale solar PV farm

Google maps don’t define solar farm property boundaries in real life. The boundaries come from ALTA land title surveys. But we don’t worry about this for now; for the purpose of this exercise, we will go ahead and create an “imaginary” PV Farm.

Let’s imagine that we are the EPC contractor and we just signed off the contract for the parcel of the land above (surely, we built some assumptions and did some calculations, so it is not an unfounded number) with a lump sum price of $50M. Thus, we have some constraints we cannot exceed with the hard costs and we also have requirements specifications from the Client. These conditions make the definition of the most efficient Utility-Scale PV Farm relatively straightforward: to minimise the hard costs with respect to clients’ requirements and safety.

Before we start having fun with this experiment, let’s define what information we need to have about the site and what Client’s requirements are?

Then, we will break down hard costs into categories and speculate on what trade-offs EPC Contractor typically need to consider?

 

What information do we need to have about the site?

Obviously, EPC Contractors need this info long before the contract is signed off. But in real life, one will never have enough time to mine the data or analyse it properly. Moreover, the data flow is coming and constantly updating without giving any respite.

We should separate all the data we need about the site into two categories:

  • Data defining immovable boundaries (you cannot cross those boundaries at any cost)

  • Data defining movable boundaries (you can change them at a cost)

In most cases, boundaries are closed polylines or area spots.

Let me provide a few examples of data defining immovable boundaries:

  • ALTA survey (legal document) is a detailed drawing of the property that shows boundaries and their relations to a title.

  • Zoning requirements include required height limitations, setbacks, landscaping, site visibility, enclosure and screening.

Below you can see some hand-drawn sketches of our fake PV farm site showing what is usually illustrated in the ALTA survey.

Hand-drawn example of the key map from solar farm ALTA survey

For an actual 3000 acres project, the ALTA document is a 10 A1 pages survey that contains lots of notes, legal descriptions, certifications, adjoining ownership tables, keymap, legend and detailed plans with boundaries, roads, fences, flood zones (divided into categories like ‘1% annual chance flood’, ‘0.3% annual chance flood’, etc.), overhead electric lines, power poles, telephone lines, gas lines, fibre optic lines, wash lines and even saguaro cactuses positions 🌵.

Zoning requirements come from different levels of authority, and they vary regarding country. As we are building an “imaginary” PV farm in Arizona, we need to find the authority responsible for planning permissions – for our site, it is Yuma County AZ. Then, we can discover Yuma County Zoning Ordinance, where we will explore all requirements to meet to get planning/building permission. After that, we submit the application with the proposed site plan and narrative and get them approved (after several attempts 😉).

Getting a building permit is the Client’s responsibility, and EPC Contractors do not need to submit the application, but, they need to take into account the approved site plan and narrative. This data defines the immovable boundaries and conditions.

And again, with ‘immovable boundaries’ we mean boundaries we cannot cross at any cost.

 

Let’s talk about the data defining movable boundaries or any other data we need to understand our hard costs:

  • Topography (elevations representing terrain model) or so-called digital elevation model (DEM)

  • Geology data (geotechnical report and geotechnical evaluation)

  • Hydrology data (elevation analysis, flood maps, flood depth, drainage summary)

  • Georeferenced photos

You might be wondering: why does the data above define movable boundaries? or why those boundaries are movable?

In order to understand this, we need to do a quick sketch about how the site slope can affect cut & fill. The drawing below shows how the single-axis trackers (without undulated capabilities) can manage the site slope. As you can see, we can provide the same amount of modules installed by focusing on different trade-offs. For example, in the first scheme, we decided not to move any dirt, but as a result of it, we got several non-unified and long piers. Therefore, we decided to be more conservative with the pier types and steel tonnage in the second scheme and move lots of dirt instead. But then, if we apply the second scheme to an actual site with a specific topography, we will end up in a situation where we will need to move too much dirt (which becomes expensive). In that case, we might not want to install the trackers in a very sloppy zone; the terrain model conditions created constraints in which we do not wish trackers to be installed. But, those boundaries are movable because when we need to hit a specific energy target and do not have too much space, we can be pushed to use those unfavourable zones.

Non-unified and long piers vs moving lots of dirt at solar farm
 

What are the clients’ requirements?

A short answer – they are always different. Assumptions and schemes are essential in this blog.

Typically, clients’ requirements are a set of documents like Electrical Specification (substation requirements, low voltage requirements, medium voltage requirements, etc.), Electrical Equipment Specification (design life requirements, exterior fire rating requirements, operating temperature range, HVAC system requirements, etc.), Main Power Transformer Specification and many more. Each of those documents contains 20-30 pages of information. But let’s choose the most important ones and aggregate them in 7 bullet points:

  1. PV Farm Power = 120 MWdc, which means that PV Farm should be capable of generating 120 MWdc power at high noon on a sunny day

  2. Design Life = 30 years, Exterior Fire Rating 2 hours

  3. PV Module: First Solar FS-6460-P

  4. Inverter SKID: SG3425/3600UD-MV

  5. 30 ft road width (glass-to-glass)

  6. Maximum Voltage Drop: 1.5% for low voltage wiring and 2% for medium voltage wiring

  7. Mounting system: Nextracker Horizon, 60/66/72 mods tracker variants, trackers heigh preference = 2 (trackers length maximisation)

For the sake of clarification, some of the requirements above came initially from the Client’s specifications, and some were generated during conversations in the pursuit phase.

Creating a clear list of requirements is a big deal, but, it is equally a big chunk of work to negotiate it and make it all clear. This is something that should be underestimated.

 
 

Which trade-offs does an EPC Contractor typically need to go through?

Before talking about trade-offs, let’s do a hard cost breakdown. There are plenty of ways of doing a cost breakdown, and many classification systems exist for this purpose (to name a few of them, MasterFormat, UnitFormat, Uniclass, NRM1/2, SMM7). Some are system-based, others are material-based, but the idea is the same – to group costs in buckets, understand buckets’ proportions and how any change can affect them. As we are talking about EPC contractors, we should focus on the activities or scope of work they provide when building utility-scale PV farms:

  1. Equipment (inverters, transformers, DC/AC combiners, disconnects, etc.)

  2. Electrical wiring (low voltage wiring, medium voltage wiring, modules, sectionalising cabinets, fibreoptic cables, terminations, DC/AC trenching, etc.)

  3. Civil (earthwork grading, roads, fencing, gates, etc.)

  4. Mechanical (piles and trackers)

Different people are responsible for the pre-construction phase of the categories above:

  • Solar performance modelling engineers are responsible for the energy model and equipment selection and negotiations with the client, electrical engineers are responsible for all the electrical wiring design.

  • Civil engineers are accountable for cut & fill design, roads, fencing, gates, basins, etc.

  • Structural engineers are accountable for piers.

Besides the people above, there are clients, pre-construction managers, consultancies and sub-contractors. The interactions of the all above end up with a lot of different trade-offs. And when there is enough time, EPC Contractor can consider all the necessary trade-offs, compare different farms options and choose the best configuration of a utility-scale PV farm (utopia 🤏). But, reality is, there is never enough time. ⌛

 

It is time to go back to our “imaginary” PV farm site with immovable boundaries:

Site boundaries with exclusion zones

On the screenshot above, you can see inclusion boundaries and exclusion boundaries. But in real-life, boundaries are not so black and white. For example, exclusion boundaries can carry different functions: do not put trackers, do not put equipment, do not do wiring above, do not do wiring below, do not do roads, do not trench, etc.

Let’s configure our equipment and see what we can get out of this site:

As you see, on the second screenshot above, we got 132,168.64 kW of DC power (which includes 39 inverters, 4053 trackers, 47877 strings and 287322 modules) for our “imaginary” PV farm site with immovable boundaries.

We are pretending to be an EPC Contractor, and we just confirmed that we could hit our energy target for this particular site. And now, we can cut off excess power in the most costly areas.

 

Hold on a sec!

Before we go further, let’s bring up some framework philosophy here.

We genuinely believe that the right feedback loop for EPC Contractors should be:

  1. Test if you can hit the energy target within the maximum available space (site boundaries minus immovable boundaries).

  2. Bite off the most costly areas out of site (create some movable boundaries) and see if you can still hit the energy target.

  3. Presumably, you will get different scenarios with combinations of movable boundaries that will provide the required energy target. Every scenario will take into account specific trade-offs. So play around with those scenarios and trade-offs until you will get the cheapest option.

If #1 doesn’t work, you shouldn’t have bid on this project. 😶‍🌫️

 

There are a lot of scenarios (‘what-ifs’) with hard choices to make when it comes to trade-offs. Having the right tools that can help you evaluate one scenario vs. another with appropriate hard cost implications is the key to succeed in the industry.

 

Back to our “imaginary” PV farm and trade-offs around it

In order to make this blog more detailed, we can operate with four enlarged categories of costs (equipment, electrical, mechanical, civil) for each scenario that we will consider. All the numbers will be fake, so don’t take them seriously, please. All scenarios will be developed with the client requirements we pointed out above.

 

Initial option or starting point (excessive, only immovable boundaries)

PV Farm Power = 132.2 MWdc (12.2 MWdc more than required)

Inverters SKID number = 39

Trackers number = 4053

Modules number = 287322

 

Equipment Cost = $5.85M

Mechanical Cost = $10.14M

Electrical Cost = $13.65M

Civil Cost = $9.36M

Total Cost = $39.00M

Solar PV Farm layout generated by PV Farm Configurator pvfarm.io

Option #1: reducing earthworks

The site has several prominent hills. We will try to avoid them. At the same time, while doing that, we should always keep in mind that we cannot go below 120 MWdc.

Prominent hills consideration while designing PV Farm

Here is what we got:

PV Farm Power = 121.9 MWdc (close to our target)

Inverters SKID number = 36

Trackers number = 3759

Modules number = 265062

 

Equipment Cost = $6.35M

Mechanical Cost = $9.18M

Electrical Cost = $13.42M

Civil Cost = $6.35M

Total Cost = $35.30M

Option #2: reducing the cost of trenching pathways and roads

The layout above has many zigzag roads. That happened because the algorithm tried to save 2-tracker height across the whole site.

PV Farm Configurator pvfarm.io

We can create another layout with a 3-tracker height within the same buildable area and check what we get:

PV Farm Power = 122.03 MWdc

Inverters SKID number = 34 (here we accidentally improved inverters number)

Trackers number = 3762

Modules number = 265290

 

Equipment Cost = $6.19M

Mechanical Cost = $9.83M

Electrical Cost = $14.56M

Civil Cost = $5.82M

Total Cost = $36.40M

As we see above, despite some savings from civil and equipment spending, we increased the electrical wiring cost, and hence the total cost.

 

Option #3: reducing mechanical cost

We used three trackers configurations (60/66/72 mods) in previous scenarios. We can test the layout with only 72 mods trackers, which should reduce the number of external and motor piles and positively affect mechanical cost.

As you can see, with our initial attempt (top left screenshot), we cut off some energy and didn’t hit the energy target. So we decided to use different trackers positioning. In some cases, it can bring more power, especially for sites like ours. Thus we got:

Power = 111.28 – 14.7 – 26.76 + 50.3 = 120.12 MW

Inverters SKID number = 34

Trackers number = 3627

Modules number = 261144

 

Equipment Cost = $6.61M

Mechanical Cost = $8.56M

Electrical Cost = $15.17M

Civil Cost = $8.56M

Total Cost = $38.90M

 

Option #4: reducing wiring cost by using another low voltage wiring pattern

With option #3, we reduced the mechanical cost, but we increased electrical and civil expenses, so we should probably decide not to go any further with this option. Let’s use option #2 as a starting point for reducing wiring costs by using another low voltage wiring pattern. There are many different ways how current can go from modules to transformers, see some examples below:

Low Voltage wiring patterns used in PV Farm Configurator pvfarm.io

In order to find the most efficient low voltage wiring EPC Contractor should go through many different options and be able of getting quick electrical wiring feedback on any layout changes. Let’s leave this fascinating exercise behind the scenes and see what we got:

PV Farm Power = 122.03 MWdc

Inverters SKID number = 34

Trackers number = 3762

Modules number = 265290

 

Equipment Cost = $6.07M

Mechanical Cost = $9.68M

Electrical Cost = $11.15M

Civil Cost = $5.90M

Total Cost = $32.80M

 

Option #5: reducing equipment costs by using inverter skids more efficiently

There are many places we can refine equipment efficiency or electrical wiring efficiency, especially taking into account that we have 2033.4kWdc in reserve.

It is a fun process, and at the end of the day, we can be close to our target with the minimum hard costs for our solar farm:

Solar farm layout generated by PV Farm Configurator pvfarm.io

PV Farm Power = 120.013 MWdc

Inverters SKID number = 33

Trackers number = 3696

Modules number = 260898

 

Equipment Cost = $5.91M

Mechanical Cost = $9.43M

Electrical Cost = $10.86M

Civil Cost = $5.75M

Total Cost = $31.95M

 

Thus we found the best option:

Utility-Scale PV Solar Farm layouts optioneering

A good analysis during the pre-construction phase is key to a productive construction process.

 

Summary

The idea of this blog was to go through the feedback loop and trade-offs EPC Contractors typically face. Please bear in mind that all our speculations were done in a conceptual way and real projects require a much more accurate and considerable way of analysing those scenarios.

We are open to any idea, comment or feedback, so feel free to write a comment below or to contact us.

Different solar PV farm parties need to consider so many exciting trade-offs. And the most efficient Utility-Scale Solar Farm is something everybody is striving to achieve but none is reaching yet.

Interaction and communication are the core of the AEC industry.

Funding Notice: $25M Available to Improve Community Energy Resilience with Solar

Author: US DOE Staff       Published: 4/12/2022          SETO

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

RACER FOA

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) has announced the Renewables Advancing Community Energy Resilience (RACER) funding opportunity, which will award $25 million in funding for projects to enable communities to utilize solar and solar-plus-storage to prevent disruptions in power caused by extreme weather and other events and to rapidly restore electricity if it goes down.

Projects will foster engagement and ongoing communication among multiple stakeholders such as utilities, municipal planners, emergency responders, community groups, and others, especially in underserved communities located in areas vulnerable to extreme events causing frequent energy and power service disruptions. In addition, projects will increase the durability of photovoltaic (PV) systems so they can withstand extreme weather conditions and demonstrate technologies that enable rapid recovery after an extreme event.

These research activities will help increase the resilience of energy systems, which will help meet the Biden administration’s goals for achieving a decarbonized electricity sector by 2035. As extreme weather events become more common and place undue stress on our electricity infrastructure, solar and other distributed energy resources can help communities rapidly recover.

DOE expects to make between 13 and 17 awards under RACER, each ranging between $500,000 and $3 million. SETO seeks diverse teams of universities, federally funded research and development centers, nonprofits, community-based organizations, utilities, state agencies, local governments, and solar developers. Additionally, SETO encourages the participation of underserved communities and underrepresented groups.

To facilitate the formation of teams, SETO is providing a forum where interested parties can add themselves to a Teaming Partner List, which allows organizations that may wish to apply to the funding opportunity announcement (FOA), but not as the prime applicant, to express interest to potential partners.

Prior to submitting a full application for this opportunity, a concept paper is due on May 27, 2022 at 5:00pm ET.

SETO will host an informational webinar on April 27, 2022 at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the funding program and the areas of focus. Register for the webinar.

Learn more about this funding opportunity and other open funding opportunities within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

DOE Announces Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Opportunities for Rural America

Author: US DOE Staff         Published: 4/11/2022       SETO

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

DOE Announces Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Opportunities for Rural America

Energy.gov

Factsheet Details President Biden’s Infrastructure Investments and Ongoing DOE Initiatives to Boost Rural Energy, Spur Economic Opportunities, Increase Access to Clean Electricity for Remote and Tribal Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rural America is a crucial part of the nation’s energy sector and energy infrastructure. Rural communities not only produce key energy inputs, but also can benefit from the economic growth and development that energy infrastructure investments unlock. Leveraging billions of dollars in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and existing agency efforts, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is committed to making transformative investments in rural energy infrastructure for clean transportation and new mobility strategies, energy generation and use, and enhanced cybersecurity. DOE’s rural programs include work done through the Office of Indian Energy with a focus on tribal lands, which have a significant overlap with rural lands and the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, co-chaired by Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
READ the complete White House Rural Playbook.

READ the full DOE Rural Opportunities Fact Sheet. A few highlights include:

Investing in Rural Transportation 

  • Electric Vehicles – The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, which will provide technical assistance to support the efficient and equitable deployment of electric vehicle Charging and other related programs. This office will be a key resource for local communities. For more information visit driveelectric.gov.
  • DOT Rural Electric Mobility Infrastructure Toolkit (with technical support from the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicle Technologies Office) – The Department of Transportation has released an online toolkit that provides a free, one-stop resource to help rural stakeholders scope, plan, and fund EV charging infrastructure. The toolkit includes technical resources from the DOE Vehicle Technologies Office on electric vehicle basics, considerations for developing electric vehicle infrastructure, connecting with local Clean Cities coalitions to facilitate infrastructure deployment, and locating existing electric vehicle infrastructure. The toolkit is currently available at www.transportation.gov/rural/ev/toolkit.
  • DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office, New Mobility Services in Rural America – Through projects awarded as part of the Vehicle Technologies Office’s (VTO) ongoing body of funding opportunities, the VTO Technology Integration Program is working with several rural communities across the country to conduct pilot demonstrations of new mobility technologies, such as electric vehicles for carsharing and first-last mile microtransit. These projects are broadening the transportation choices for rural areas to provide affordable and efficient access to these services with solutions responsive to local needs. Ongoing projects for these rural and underserved communities are providing carsharing services with electric vehicles, electric shuttle bus demonstrations, and low speed microtransit that serves local destinations as well as connecting the community to transit services to a nearby urban center. The Vehicle Technologies Office is located in our Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office; funding opportunities and timelines are listed at eere-Exchange.energy.gov.

 

Supporting Rural Energy, Environments, and Climates 

  • Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and TA Program – Leveraging $250 million in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for this provision, DOE, in coordination with the DHS Secretary, FERC, NERC, and the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) will create a new DOE Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance Program to support eligible entities to protect against, respond to, and recover from cyber threats.  The purpose of program is to deploy cyber technologies for electric utility systems, prioritizing critical facilities, and increase participation in cyber threat information sharing programs. DOE is seeking a waiver or reduction of cost share given this is a technical assistance effort.
  • Infrastructure planning for micro and small modular nuclear reactors – The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law authorizes assistance for feasibility studies for siting advanced reactors for the purpose of identifying suitable locations for the deployment of micro-reactors, small modular reactors, and advanced nuclear reactors in isolated communities.
  • Energy Improvement in Rural and Remote Areas – Administered through the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $1B to carry out activities to improve the resilience, safety, reliability, and availability of energy and provide environmental protection from adverse impacts of energy generation in rural and remote communities with populations of 10,000 or less. Eligible projects may include: (A) Overall cost-effectiveness of energy generation, transmission, or distribution systems; (B) siting or upgrading transmission and distribution lines; (C) reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy generation by rural or remote areas; (D) providing or modernizing electric generation facilities; (E) developing microgrids; and (F) increasing energy efficiency. DOE anticipates emphasizing grid reliability and resiliency for the funding, and will conduct stakeholder engagement over the next few months to inform the structure of the program.
  • Funding for Clean Energy Manufacturing and Workforce Development – The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments in clean energy technology supply chains for technologies like batteries will allow America to make the energy technologies of the future right here at home, boosting our competitiveness within a global clean energy market expected to reach $23 trillion by the end of the decade. These investments will create good jobs up and down the supply chain—especially manufacturing jobs and skills-matched opportunities for fossil fuel workers. Department of Energy’s funding will go primarily to clean energy manufacturing facilities across the country. These funds include a $750 million program specifically focused on census tracts with closed coal mines and plants, which have a significant overlap with rural and remote communities.

 

Existing DOE Programs to Support Rural Communities 

  • Community Scale Resource and Energy Recovery from Organic Wastes Program – DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office will offer multiple awards totaling up to $5M of non-BIL funds to support the development of community-centered solutions, business plans and experimental demonstrations for resource and energy recovery from organic waste streams, such as food waste, municipal wastewater sludges, animal manure, and fats, oils, and greases.  To ensure community involvement that can extend beyond the life of the projects, only community led, or associated organizations are eligible to be prime recipients on the projects selected. The call for proposals will be posted on EERE Exchange at eere-Exchange.energy.gov.
  • Wind Innovations for Rural Economic Development (WIRED) – EERE-Wind Energy Technologies Office’s Wind Innovations for Rural Economic Development (WIRED) initiative awarded $6M in FY20 to support rural electric utilities and the communities they serve with 1) assessing the benefits and opportunities for distributed wind (DW) on their grids, 2) reducing technical risks, 3) and identifying and addressing the knowledge and resource needs to facilitate the adoption of DW. WETO plans to build on these efforts in FY22 by making available up to $4M to further de-risk the adoption of DW in rural communities. Successful project teams will identify replicable DW solutions, inform permitting and interconnection processes, and develop ownership and business models that maximize the local economic and power system benefits. Work will include network creation, research, development, and design of pilot (or user demonstration) projects that are broadly applicable and repeatable.
  • Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs – The Office of Indian Energy uses a three-pronged approach to support 574 federally recognized tribes, over 200 Alaska Native Village Corporations, and 13 Alaska Native Regional Corporations, harness their vast and undeveloped resources through: 1) financial assistance; 2), technical assistance; and, 3) education and capacity building. Since 2010, the Office of Indian Energy has invested over $114 million in more than 200 tribal energy projects. Current and ongoing funding opportunities are available on the Office of Indian Energy website.

###

Climate Solutions bill will become law without Hogan’s signature

Author: Victoria Venabale        Published: 4/8/2022      CCAN 

 

Dear Ronald,

 Maryland’s Climate Solutions Now Act will become law!  Let’s rally tomorrow to celebrate!

We did it! Governor Larry Hogan announced this evening that he WILL NOT veto the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022. Even with intense pressure from polluters, Governor Hogan knows that he can’t stand in the way of climate action – this movement is too powerful. After years of hard work and support from Marylanders like YOU, the Climate Solutions Now Act will go into Maryland law!

The Climate Solutions Now Act is a strong step forward for Maryland. Help CCAN Action Fund continue the fight. Donate today!  And please: Join us TOMORROW in Annapolis to celebrate the bill’s passage!

Grassroots support from people like YOU helped get this bill passed despite opposition from industry polluters. With competing input from committees in the House and Senate as well as the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, this bill is not perfect but it IS a vital step forward. Governor Hogan voiced his opposition back in March – but he knows that Marylanders want climate action.

The Climate Solutions Now Act sets a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 60% statewide by 2031 and moves us towards broad electrification of vehicles and buildings. It also invests in climate-focused jobs within the Maryland Chesapeake Conservation Corps and targets climate investments in low-to-moderate income communities. Governor Hogan can’t overlook all of these benefits to our state.

YOU got this bill passed. YOU reminded your legislators to listen to their constituents. Thanks to YOU, we were able to fight off some of the worst weakening amendments. Now Governor Hogan recognizes YOUR power and won’t stand in the way of climate action.

Special thanks again to our General Assembly champions who led the fight for the Climate Solutions Now Act. They include Senator Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) and Delegates Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery) and Dana Stein (D-Baltimore County), who all worked tirelessly to pass this bill.

Maryland will benefit from the Climate Solutions Now Act – but there’s SO much more we need to do in 2022 and beyond. Donate today!  Also: Join us TOMORROW in Annapolis to celebrate the bill’s passage!

Thanks again for your activism and support. It made all the difference!

Onward,

Victoria Venable and Davonte DouglasCCAN Action Fund

 

DOE LAUNCHES SOLAR COMMUNICATIONS AWARDS

Author: DOE Staff                   Published: 3/24/2022            SETO

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

Solar Energy Technologies Office

American-Made Shine On Awards

DOE LAUNCHES SOLAR COMMUNICATIONS AWARDS

Shine On Awards Will Recognize Communications Campaigns that Demonstrate Excellence in Outreach to Diverse Audiences

WASHINGTON D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the launch of a new award program to recognize solar industry communications campaigns that reach underrepresented audiences and have the potential to increase the diversity of solar adopters and the solar workforce. The American-Made Shine On Awards for Inclusive Solar Outreach (Shine On Awards) will support DOE efforts to expand the equitable adoption of solar energy, especially in underrepresented communities, and to increase the diversity of the solar workforce.

Transitioning to solar energy can help households across the country save money on their electricity bills, reduce their environmental impact, and improve resilience, if paired with storage. Millions of Americans have experienced the benefits of solar, but many households have been left out because of lack of funds or low credit scores, language barriers, or lack of awareness. Adoption of solar, including residential and community solar, can reduce energy burden for individuals, especially those in frontline and disadvantaged communities. Energy burden is a primary metric to measure energy insecurity.

“To meet the Administration’s goals to rapidly scale up the deployment of solar energy, we must make a concerted effort to expand outreach to broaden the profile of solar adopters,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. “We are excited to recognize creative solar communications campaigns that reflect the diversity of the American people.”

The Shine On Awards will gather best practices in engaging diverse or underrepresented communities through communications campaigns. To share knowledge of best practices throughout the solar industry, award winners will present their campaigns and successful outreach tactics at a public webinar.

“If we want to increase solar accessibility, we need to look at the communication campaigns and programs that are already helping more Americans experience the cost-saving benefits of solar energy,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “The U.S. Department of Energy’s Shine On Awards will recognize the outstanding work solar companies are doing to improve solar accessibility and increase the diversity of its customer base. We look forward to seeing the lessons learned and the innovative ways solar companies are doing their part to reach more Americans.”

Competitors may apply for consideration in the following categories:

  • Residential solar adoption
  • Community solar subscription
  • Solar co-op subscription
  • Utility-scale solar community engagement
  • Workforce recruitment and/or retention

Participants will submit materials in the form of a brief that outlines the background, objectives, methods, and results of the campaign. Leaders in public relations, community-based organizations, and environmental justice organizations will judge entries on criteria including visual design and accessibility standards.

Submissions are due June 10, 2022. Non-profit organizations, academic institutions, members of the solar industry, and nonfederal government entities are encouraged to apply and submit materials from campaigns that ran in 2021. Read the competition’s official rules for details on submission and participant eligibility.

The award is part of the American-Made Challenges, which incentivize the nation’s entrepreneurs to strengthen American leadership in energy innovation.

The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Solar Energy Technologies Office is partnering with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to administer the Shine On Awards.

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Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics

Author: US DOE Staff           Published: 4/6/2022     SETO

 

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

 

Cottage home with rooftop solar panels

Did you know that homeowners who have recently installed solar photovoltaic (PV) panels may be eligible to receive a federal tax credit?

The federal residential solar energy credit is a tax credit that can be claimed on federal income taxes for 26% of the cost of a solar PV system installed in 2020-2022.

The Solar Energy Technologies Office Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics gives an overview of the federal solar tax credit and answers the most common questions from homeowners, including:

  • Am I eligible to claim the federal solar tax credit?
  • What expenses are included?
  • How do other incentives I receive affect the federal tax credit?

Check out the Homeowner’s Guide to learn more, and remember to file by April 18!

 

Russia, Ukraine, & U.S. Energy Markets

Author: Our Energy Policy Staff         Published:  4/5/2022      OEP

Hosted by:

Russia, Ukraine, & U.S. Energy Markets

April 1, 2022

Russia’s invasion, and the subsequent war in Ukraine, have upended global oil and gas markets. This webinar examines the market impacts of the war, discusses short and long-term solutions to this energy crisis, and looks at the implications for the future of American energy independence.

Featuring:
Edward L. Morse
Managing Director, Global
Head of Commodity Research
Citi Group
Moderator
Dean Foreman
Chief Economist,
American Petroleum
Institute
Yossie Hollander
Co-Founder and
Chairman,
Fuel Freedom
Foundation
Brenda Shaffer
Senior Advisor for Energy
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Research Professor, 
US Naval Postgraduate School