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New York commits $1.4 billion to renewable energy projects

Enlarge / MADISON, New York - 2015/10/11: Wind farm with autumn color. (credit: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)

On Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his state would commit $1.4 billion to 26 renewable projects, including 22 solar farms, three wind farms, and one hydroelectric project. The outlay is a huge sum compared to what most states spend on renewable energy.

At the same time, the governor denounced the Trump administration's plan to open nearly 90 percent of offshore federal waters to oil drilling. Cuomo asked that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke exclude two areas off the New York coast from lease sales, citing concerns about oil spills like the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. Cuomo noted that Florida has been able to obtain verbal approval that lease sales won't be held in waters adjacent to the Florida coast (although some officials in the administration have contradicted that exemption).

The renewable projects will be sited throughout the state and were chosen by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) based on the proposed cost of each project, the project's ability to create local jobs, and developer experience in building renewable projects in New York.

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Residential solar is cheap, but can it get cheaper? Paths to $0.05 per kWh

The price of solar panels has fallen far and fast. But the Energy Department (DOE) wants to bring those costs down even further, especially for residential homes. After all, studies have shown that if every inch of useable rooftop in the US had solar panels on it, the panels could provide about 40% of the nation's power demand. Right now, the DOE's goal is residential solar that costs 5¢ per kilowatt hour by 2030.

In a new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), researchers mapped out some possible pathways to that goal. Notably, the biggest barriers to cost reduction appear to be the stubborn "soft costs" of solar installation. Those soft costs include supply chain costs, labor costs, and sales and marketing costs that aren't related to the physical production of solar cells at a factory.

NREL wrote: "Because the 2030 target likely will not be achieved under business-as-usual trends, we examine two key market segments that demonstrate significant opportunities for cost savings and market growth: installing PV at the time of roof replacement and installing PV as part of the new home construction process."

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Tesla and South Australia at it again, this time building a virtual power plant

Enlarge / Sculpture-like solar panels near the Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide, South Australia, SA, Australia. (credit: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Just a few months after Tesla completed the world's biggest lithium-ion battery installation outside of the Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia, the Australian state and the electric vehicle-slash-energy company look like they're ready to partner again.

This time, South Australia wants to build a 250MW virtual power plant. The plant will consist of thousands of solar panels and batteries running software that decides when the batteries charge and discharge to maximize efficiency and value to the grid.

The buildout will start with 1,100 public housing properties. Residents sign up if they're interested in the program, and a Tesla contractor comes out to the home and tries to outfit a solar and battery storage solution to the house in question.

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Draft Trump budget slashes clean energy research by 72 percent

Trump clean energy budget cuts

I don't think anyone listening to Trump's proclamations about "beautiful clean coal" thought this administration was going to be in favor of renewable energy. According to a draft 2019 budget proposal obtained by the Washington Post, the White House is doing exactly what everyone expected: slashing Energy Department funding for renewable energy by 72 percent overall.

The current allocation for the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is set at a $2.04 billion. The draft budget would cut that to $575.5 million for the next fiscal year, a dramatic cut in funding for programs that promote and research renewable and climate-friendly energy technologies.

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Draft Trump budget slashes clean energy research by 72 percent originally appeared on on Wed, 31 Jan 2018 at 20:31:28 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Trump puts 30% tariff on imported solar cells and modules

Enlarge / Long Island solar farm. (credit: Brookhaven National Lab)

On Monday afternoon, the Trump administration released a fact sheet (PDF) detailing new tariffs on imports, including a tariff schedule for solar cells and modules starting at 30 percent.

The solar tariff determination had been tensely anticipated by the US solar industry, with manufacturers arguing that cheap imports from Asia have harmed their businesses. Solar installers, financiers, and sales people, however, argue that cheap imports have created a bigger boom in employment than manufacturing ever could.

The news is likely a blow to the wider solar industry, although it's not entirely unexpected. Trump has been vocal about his preference for tariffs and has shown little desire to extend a hand out to the solar industry, which is often seen as a competitor with fossil fuels. When the International Trade Commission (ITC) voted in favor of imposing tariffs on solar imports in September, the trade association Solar Energy Industries of America (SEIA) prepared for the worst.

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