Sunrise brief: Renewable energy consumption grew in 2020 as fossil fuels and nuclear shrank


Consumption of renewable energy grew for the fifth year in a row in 2020, reaching a record high of 11.6 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), or 12% of total U.S. energy consumption.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported the data and said that renewable energy was the only source that increased in 2020 from 2019; fossil fuel and nuclear consumption declined.

EIA said that solar energy accounted for about 11% of U.S. renewable energy consumption last year. Overall solar consumption rose 22% from 2019. Wind energy accounted for about 26% of U.S. renewable energy consumption. The resource passed hydroelectricity in 2019 to become the single most-consumed source of renewable energy on an annual basis. And last year, U.S. wind energy consumption grew 14% from 2019.

Hydroelectric power accounted for about 22% of U.S. renewable energy consumption. Consumption has remained relatively flat since the 1970s, but fluctuates with seasonal rainfall and drought conditions.

Financing set for Texas solar project

Black & Veatch unit Diode Ventures said it reached financial close on the Grizzly Ridge Solar Project, a 137.7 MW solar project located in Hamilton County, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth. The project was co-developed with RKB Energy. Details of the financing were not disclosed.

Once complete, Grizzly Ridge will provide energy to the ERCOT North Zone, a growing economy and power market where there is high demand for all forms of electricity.

The project has an executed interconnection agreement with Brazos Electric Cooperative, the transmission service provider. The area will undergo an upgrade from 69 kV to 138 kV. Diode also is in discussions to add an on-site battery energy storage system to the project.

Rockefeller Foundation partners to bolster renewables

The International Finance Corp., the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, and The Rockefeller Foundation announced a partnership to deploy $150 million of capital in blended finance to leverage up to $2 billion of private sector investment in distributed renewable energy.

The two will prioritize countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions, where both organizations have identified immediate opportunities.

By blending philanthropic and private investment funding, the Rockefeller Foundation and IFC hope to de-risk capital investment in distributed renewable projects in emerging markets and help to address global energy access needs.

An initial “rapid deployment” phase will distribute $30 million in blended concessional finance and grant capital to leverage an active pipeline of distributed renewable energy projects developed by IFC. The funding will go toward IFC’s prototype scaling mini-grid program in addition to distributed renewable energy generation, battery energy storage, and other clean energy technologies to facilitate access.

DroneBase closes funding round

DroneBase closed its $12.5 million Series C round of investment led by Union Square Ventures with support from Upfront Ventures, Hearst Ventures, and Valor Equity Partners. The round brings the company’s total funding to date to $37.5 million, and caps 18 months of expansion which saw the company add solar and wind capability and grow its renewables customer base to 37 GW in 10 countries.

DroneBase has a network of more than 80,000 drone pilots in 70 countries to help customers manage worksites, properties, and assets. Prior to the funding round, Dronebase completed the acquisition of Precision XYZ, and said that Mark Culpepper, a former SunEdison executive, would head its solar division. The addition of PrecisionXYZ data services expands Dronebase’s operations through data analytics services by increasing the productivity and cost-effectiveness of solar power projects.

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