Tag Archives: clean energy

solar energy nashville

Nashville Is Experiencing a Mini-Revolution in Solar. Here’s How to Take Part. [UGL]

Read the original article on Urban Green Lab’s website.

 

For a long time, Nashville was a sunny spot in the hot and humid Sunbelt that got almost none of its energy from the sun. Regrettably, the state of Tennessee got only .2% of its electricity from solar energy as of 2018, compared to a U.S. average of 1.5%, according to the latest data available from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The electricity grid, the network of interconnecting power transmission lines that deliver electricity, is the dirtiest in the South and Midwest, according to Laura Zapata, founder of Clearloop Corp. in Nashville, which helps mid-sized and small businesses to buy into solar projects to offset their carbon footprint. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and is produced by certain activities such as burning coal to produce electricity. “We can do better,’’ Zapata said. “We’re in the Sunbelt.”

solar energy map america

Organizations such as Vanderbilt University and Facebook are indeed pushing the area’s utilities to do better, with dramatic results. Plus, the prices for solar panels have fallen in recent years, making solar economically competitive and in some cases cheaper than other sources of power, according to the financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard.

That’s driving a boom in solar energy. Energy from the sun accounted for 43% of all new electricity generating capacity in the United States in the third quarter of 2020, beating all other generation technologies, according to consulting and research firm Wood MacKenzie. Nashville is determined not to miss out any longer.

In fact, in November, Metro Nashville announced a joint deal with Vanderbilt University to pay for a 125-megawatt solar array project in Tullahoma, Tennessee, agreeing to buy the solar energy back from the region’s power generator, the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The project is estimated to create 500 new jobs and result in $6.8 million in health benefits by reducing harmful pollution, according to The Tennessean. The solar panels will help Metro Nashville reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from city operations by 40% in 2030 and by 80% in 2050.

Earlier in 2020, Vanderbilt University signed a deal with the TVA to buy 35 MW of renewable energy from a solar farm in Bedford County, Tennessee. It has a goal of powering its campus entirely through renewable energy and of being carbon neutral by 2050.

It’s not just universities and cities that are signing up for solar. So are the social media giant Facebook and the global search engine Google, both of which inked deals with the TVA in recent years to power enormous new data centers in Tennessee and Alabama with renewable energy.

Both of those companies pressure utilities and public officials to build solar in exchange for their investments. For example, Facebook had a goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions and 100% renewable energy for its operations by 2020.

Ribbon cutting ceremony for the The Whites Creek High School Solar Project.
Just because big corporations and organizations are getting the solar generation they demand, that doesn’t mean individuals, small organizations and schools can’t. “If you want it, you can get it,’’ said Jason Carney, founder and CEO of Energy Electives in Nashville. “There is financing out there.”

Here are some ways to get involved in Tennessee’s solar movement.
  • Consider weatherizing your home or business to reduce your energy use. That’s a smaller dollar ticket item with a big reward, said Carney.
  • Consider buying solar energy from a community solar project in exchange for credits against your local utility bill, such as Nashville Electric Service’s Music City Solar or Middle Tennessee Electric’s Cooperative Solar.
  • If you buy electricity, it’s likely you can participate in any number of TVA programs such as Green Power Switch, where you buy renewable energy credits through your local utility.
  • The Nashville business Clearloop, whose chairman is former Gov. Phil Bredesen, offers a simple way for small and mid-sized businesses and organizations to get a full assessment of their carbon footprint and offset that carbon by funding a solar project, the first of which is in Jackson, Tennessee.
  • Assess your home’s feasibility for solar and costs by contacting a qualified local contractor, for example, one with staff certified by the North American Board Certified Energy Practitioners. Although the TVA recently ended its rooftop solar buy-back program Green Power Providers, there’s still an opportunity to build solar. Local contractor LightWave Solar describes the options and costs here.
  • Don’t forget to advocate for more solar energy. Write letters to your city councilmember and at-large members, the mayors, the TVA and NES boards, and others who can influence policy in favor of more renewable energy.

 

If you’re an educator, you might want to engage your students in the growing movement and job training in renewable energy and sustainability.

  • Urban Green Lab offers sustainability curricula developed with Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and offers support for teachers in local schools. It also partners with the U.S. Green Building Council to certify teachers as Green Classrooms Professionals.
  • The U.S. Green Building Council has programs to help teachers master STEM concepts such as Building Learners, where students collect and analyze investigations around energy, health and transportation, and the subscription-based Learning Lab with its 600 hands-on lessons.
  • Consider getting your students to build their own solar project. Carney of Energy Electives did that with the students of Whites Creek High School in Nashville in 2019.

With President Joe Biden in office, solar energy may get an even bigger boost in the Nashville region. The president has proposed $2 trillion in infrastructure and clean energy investments across multiple sectors, from transportation to housing to electricity. It’s the perfect time to join the solar movement and be a part of Nashville’s solar revolution.

 

 

Clearloop carbon offsets

What are carbon offsets, carbon neutral, and net zero?

Since we’re diving into clean energy this month at OneDey, we thought it might be helpful to dive into the large-scale corporate offsetting industry for a minute. It can be difficult to grasp all of the concepts, but it’s a great look into all the good that can be done ToDey for our environment if we all act together!

This article is reposted from Clearloop, check out their website for the original article here.

 

Now that we’ve talked about measuring a corporate carbon footprint, we’ll dive into the “so what”?

There are lots of claims out there that are meant to describe what an organization is doing to reduce their carbon footprint– but what do they mean and how are they different?

Carbon Offsets

Once you measure the carbon footprint of something, you should always work to reduce it directly. However, after you’ve done everything you can–from efficiencies to using more sustainable, local products–you may have to look elsewhere to offset your entire carbon footprint. Offsetting one’s carbon footprint means to compensate for one’s emissions by funding a carbon-saving method somewhere else. In order to truly offset those emissions, a carbon offset must be additional, meaning that the carbon wouldn’t be avoided otherwise. Essentially, the money spent must go toward a project that would not be built and operated without the sale of offsets.

Carbon offsetting is a popular goal for many companies, yet while it sounds easy, the truth is that there are limited options for companies.

One way to offset your corporate carbon footprint is through planting trees. It’s visual, easy to understand, and chances are the average person has planted something in their life. Unfortunately, sometimes the carbon captured by trees can be hard to measure and ensure it is a permanent way to ensure the carbon doesn’t go back into the atmosphere.

Another way to offset carbon is through capturing and destroying a greenhouse gas that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere, such as funding a methane capture project at a landfill. Although burning the methane gas turns it into a less harmful greenhouse gas for the environment, this process still results in carbon dioxide being released into the air.

A company can also offset their carbon footprint by investing in other power sources, such as wind and solar energy. The idea is to decarbonize the grid so that we are not burning fossil fuels anymore, so that we are not creating the carbon emissions in the first place. While a company might still be using coal for their energy consumption, because of their investment in offsetting through solar and wind, those emissions are being avoided from the production of electricity.

Clearloop carbon offsets

Carbon Neutral or NetZero Carbon Emissions

Carbon neutrality is the idea that we need to have a complete balance between carbon emitted and carbon reduced.

Carbon offsets are one of the many tools companies can use to achieve a carbon neutral status.  Whatever emissions you’re putting into the world, you’re taking an actionable step to “remove” all of them.

Companies that set out to be carbon neutral or have net-zero carbon emissions mean that they are accounting for the emissions they produce minus the emissions they extract directly from their own processes, as well as indirectly from another area not in their operational control (i.e. the carbon a tree absorbs or the carbon a clean energy project avoids).The ultimate goal is to have net-zero carbon emissions. If we do that, then we’ve reached neutrality.

These days, some major companies are committing to being carbon negative– meaning that they will go beyond taking responsibility for the footprint they create day to day–either by going back to offset all the emissions they’ve created since their founding (like in Microsoft’s case) or just taking responsibility for a greater amount–because these companies understand that we need to accelerate action to defeat climate change.

100% Renewable Energy

Another widely-used term, the idea behind 100% renewable energy is that everything a company does that requires electricity uses renewable energy sources. We still burn fossil fuels to generate electricity every day, so depending on where a company operates it may be easier or harder to plug into a clean energy source.

When it comes to renewable energy, the acronyms PPA and REC will often come up. PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) and RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates) are the way in which a company can claim that it is using clean energy for it’s operations even if it is not directly plugging into a renewable energy project to power its business.

A PPA is a financial agreement between a large corporation and a solar power developer (such as our friends at Silicon Ranch), who will then handle all aspects of the project, from financing to actual installation. The developer sells the power generated to the host customer at a lower fixed rate than the local utility’s retail rate, offsetting the corporation’s purchase of electricity from the grid. These agreements usually get plenty of buzz because wealthy companies, such as Amazon, Google, or Facebook, can both afford the cost and have a strong enough credit rating to be able to sign a contract that promises to purchase that clean energy for the next 10 to 20 years.

Most recently, some smaller companies have been working with these large corporations to sign these long term contracts and be able to purchase clean power this way. Unfortunately for the vast majority of companies that can’t agree to purchase clean power for a set period of time, there are few other options that are as directly linked to the construction of a new project.

For example, a company can purchase “unbundled” RECs, which are generated from existing clean energy projects every time a megawatt hour of energy is produced as a way for a business to certify they are using clean energy. RECs were originally created as a market signal to show demand for renewable energy from companies. However, they don’t have a carbon reduction value attached to them. That means that a  company consuming a megawatt hour of electricity in West Virginia may not be fully making up for its environmental impact if it’s buying a REC from a clean energy project creating that megawatt hour in Vermont, because the grid is not equally dirty across the country.

Although RECs provide important verification that a company is using clean energy from somewhere else to make up for its own electricity consumption, unbundled RECs may miss the goal of reducing the actual carbon emissions that a company’s electricity is generating.

It is well-understood that money used to purchase unbundled RECs doesn’t build new projects – instead they use renewable energy that is created through existing infrastructure.

If we aren’t building new renewable energy at scale, we can’t reach our goals to reduce the carbon footprint of the U.S. electric grid. That’s where Clearloop fits in as a tool to build more clean energy capacity in the places that need it the most to help more companies reduce their carbon footprint.

Bringing it All Together

Businesses of all sizes are finding new ways to reduce their carbon footprint every day. However, the increasing number of buzzwords and acronyms can make it hard to keep up and the efforts get confusing.  When companies (or individuals) want to make a change and commit to a goal around their carbon footprint, it’s important to know the details and always ask HOW.  We’re happy to do our part to dispel myths and make it easy to understand all these terms. After all, it will take all of us working together to slash greenhouse gases and defeat climate change.

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Want to learn more about how to offset your carbon footprint and expand access to clean energy with Clearloop? Drop us a note at hello@clearloop.us or contact us here.