US ROUND-UP: Gap diversifies; 125MW PPA in MI; Military-funded space solar; Solar bees

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East coast electricity supplier CleanChoice Energy has partnered with Minnesota honey company, Bolton Bees. Source: Jim Bauer, Flickr

Gap adds 90MW of wind energy to its solar assets

August 9: Global retail brand Gap moved one step closer to its goal of fully renewably-powered operations by 2030 after signing a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Enel Green Power North America. It has purchased 90MW of energy from the renewables giant's North Dakota wind project for a period of 12 years.

The apparel giant’s foray into renewables thus far has been focused on PV. In January, Gap signed a joint PPA agreement, alongside Bloomberg, Cox Enterprises, Salesforce and Workday, to purchase 42.5MW of solar from Bawa.r.e’s solar plant in North Carolina.

Gap first procured renewables in 2008, when it signed a 20-year PPA with SunPower for its west coast clothes distribution centre.

The vast majority of Gap’s retail locations are located in buildings and malls owned by landlords, and this limits the company’s ability to implement onsite renewable energy assets, according to the release. The new agreement allows the company to “meet its renewable energy goal by aggregating its distributed electricity load.”

Antonio Cammisecra, global head of Enel Green Power, said that the contract was evidence that global brands are increasingly embracing “flexible and customised solutions that address unique renewable energy needs.”


Michigan utility buys 125MW of solar from local solar plant

August 7: In Michigan, the Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPC) has purchased 125MW of solar energy from a project planned by California-based developers Orion Renewable Energy Group and Map Energy.

The Chandler Solar Project will be built at the heart of UPPC’s coverage region in northern Michigan. It is expected to be in service by 2022.


Air Force sinks US$7.4 million into solar-powered space vehicle research

August 8: The US Air Force has granted US$7.4 million to physicists at the University of Toledo (UoT) to develop solar technology that will power future space vehicles.

In order for the technology to be efficient, durable and flexible enough to work on a curved surface like a wing or fuselage, the researchers are experimenting with stacking different types of solar cells on top of each other on thin, flexible material.

UoT professor Dr. Randall Ellison, who is leading the five-year project, said in a release that the “primary goal is to reduce the power system payload by developing highly efficient and lightweight technology to replace liquid fuels and minimise battery storage needs.”

The space vehicles in question will help troops survive “natural and man-made threats,” according the university.


CleanChoice Energy nurtures solar bees

August 9: East coast electricity supplier CleanChoice Energy has partnered with Bolton Bees, a Minnesota honey company that works with bee-friendly solar developers.

Bee farms will be placed under and around ground-mounted solar panels at plants involved in the initiative.

CleanChoice Energy did not specify which of its plants will be involved in the initiative, what the parternship entails, or when it would launch.

US beekeepers lost 40% of honeybee colonies in 2018. Drastic and sudden decreases in bee populations impacts the cultivation of many crops, including fruits, nuts, and many types of vegetables.

CleanChoice Energy customers will be able to buy “solar honey” borne from the partnership at a discounted rate.

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