A friend of mine living in the Bay area recently asked me how much he'd have to cough up for a PV system. While there are far too many variables involved to provide a spot-on estimate, I promised him I'd try to come up with something. So without further ado, I bring you the California example residential case study.
When you're talking about research into solar power, the sources for scientific investigation can be extremely diverse, as money is flowing in from private industry, governments, and even academia. And the benefits should be seen for years to come.
You may or may not have heard about the market implosion for New Jersey solar installations that occurred earlier this year. The state offers these amazing incentives to individuals, small businesses and corporations to install photovoltaics systems. For individuals, whose private systems pretty much always fall into the state's first incentive bracket of less than 10 kilowatts (kw), the incentive amount is 3.50 per watt. That's a lot of cash back when you're talking about a 4 kw system. The program was so wildly successful that New Jersey stopped being able to pay for it: funding for the incentives comes from surcharges on everyone's utility bills, so there's no way to grab more money for the program without raising people's energy costs so high that it would become a bit backwards. Spend more on energy...to save more on energy?
Last week, I had the fortune to tour a production site of Beijing Tsinghua Solar Co., Ltd., one of China’s biggest manufacturers of solar hot water systems. While the facility itself lies in the brownish, dusty outskirts of Beijing, where the grass grows sparsely and the sky remains a stubborn gray from sunup until sundown, its products are anything but dirty—and I don’t just mean grubby.
Following up on Margaret's post, I'm still holding to my cautious optimism that worries over the solar bill are over-stated; there's still a lot of time left for this measure to pass, especially when legislators realize the huge damage of letting the bill lapse. Southwestern and Western Senators, at a minimum, are not going to sit back and let themselves be blamed for the blows to the solar industry.
Not just solar, of course. All branches of the renewables industry suffered another real frustration yesterday when the Senate, once again, failed to extend the renewable energy tax credit, thanks to a Republican filibuster. One wonders if they were reading the Yellow Pages to keep the filibuster going, or perhaps something more relevant, like, say, the quarterly reports of oil companies? Analysts are saying the fault is partly the Democrats', too, for failing to separate out "controversial" issues in the bill from the tax credit, although I'm not sure when funding for renewable energy under the Bush administration ceased to be controversial.
It's clear that reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a costly process. Doing so at a level that stands a chance at stabilizing atmospheric CO2 at a "safe" level amounts to a fundamental transformation in the way we produce and use energy. We're talking hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps even trillions, spent over a long timeframe and in the face of considerable uncertainty.
你好 (ni hao) from Beijing, home to the eponymous duck dish, a treasure trove of cultural sites and relics, and a blanket of smog that would put Los Angeles to shame! Week two of my stay in the “Middle Kingdom” has almost passed, and already I have been surprised by: 1) how many people can physically squeeze themselves into a subway car, 2) how quickly prices have risen since my last visit two years ago, and 3) how steadily the Chinese people are going green.
Yesterday, SCHOTT released the results of a poll , conducted by Kelton Research, asking Americans what they think about the role of solar energy in this country. Turns out, pretty much everyone thinks it's integral to our future. I'm going to quote some results directly from SCHOTT's site:
This blog title could have been a headline for The Onion not so long ago. And yet now, it's all in earnest. With oil topping $130 per barrel, a vehicle that gets somewhere around 10mpg suddenly seems like a burden rather than an asset. Remember when every new year seemed to bring another, bigger version of a GM SUV? Well, right now, "Eighteen of 19 planned new GM products will be cars or crossovers, and extra shifts will be added at plants that build some of its best selling compact cars, such as the Chevy Malibu and Pontiac G6." (GreenBiz)
Four packed days of the American Wind Energy Association's annual conference and trade show are wrapping up today in Texas. Windpower 2008 drew about 800 exhibitors to its trade show, more than 12,000 attendees and over 300 speakers, and was able to provide over 50 discrete sessions on different aspects of the wind energy: where it is now, innovations, and what's coming.
Germany's slash of solar subsidies, more and more clearly, is one of the bigger stories in recent history for the solar market. The obvious predictions, which should probably pan out - drastically reduced market growth, financial trouble for smaller companies, and large implications for the world market - also carry with them some uncertainties: will the investment money and attention fade away, or move into emerging European markets like Spain and France, who are aiming to adopt German-inspired models?
The more I've studied international cooperation as it pertains to climate change, the more I've come to believe that a mainstay of the solution will ultimately lie with technology. Put differently, I don't think that we can stabilize CO2 levels just by getting everyone to give up their car in favor of riding their bike to work. Nor is it politically feasible, nor economically rational, to, say, put an outright ban the use of coal. Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in individual efforts to lead a less energy-intensive lifestyle. And I would be all for a coal-free economy. But coordinating policies that effectively induce individuals and companies to limit their carbon footprint is, as economists like to put it, an exercise in providing public goods.