Despite reports from the National Bureau of Economic Research that the U.S. has officially been in recession all year, the solar industry seems poised to soldier on. The evidence? The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) just announced plans to relocate the Solar Expo 2009 from San Jose to Anaheim. The facility in San Jose, apparently, isn't big enough to accommodate the 27,000+ expected to attend next year's event:
As reported by Jan Ellen Spiegel of the New York Times,
Los Angeles has recently given the green light to put on a spring ballot a solar plan that will have utility workers installing solar panels on rooftops and in parking lots across the city (the Department of Water and Power, the utility concerned, will own the PV systems installed). This will be great PR for solar and for the city, but critics are worried that the city has ignored severe warnings from a consulting firm about the plan's feasibility. The firm's report cited problems with the city's infrastructure and resources as reasons it might encounter difficulties in actual implementation.
Here at GetSolar, we spend a lot of time discussing rebates and tax credits that are available to residents and companies who install solar energy systems. The main reason is that, absent such incentives, solar PV systems don't provide an attractive rate of return for your investment. Put differently, without some help from Uncle Sam and/or your state government, you'd be better off investing in stocks and bonds - or, in the throes of current market uncertainty, hoarding gold bars in that dusty nook behind the water heater in your basement.
Let's face it, most of us have everything we need: shelter, food, an internet connection. Whether you're still looking for the odd bit of gelt, stocking stuffers, major gifts, or a way to start the new year with a clean conscience, why not donate to a solar charity in honor of a friend or loved one? When it comes to charitable donations, you naturally want to choose an organization that's reputable and resonates with you. We assume if you're reading this website, you have a solid interest in the value of solar power. So consider giving to these worthy causes (and many more are to be found at a click of the search button):
Although solar stocks have taken some sharp hits throughout the course of this fiscally rocky fall, there are some companies and investors who continue to see opportunities in solar R&D. Since long-term there's no question that renewable technologies will take over the energy market, it makes sense for a company to get a headstart on the competition in a slow period if possible.
President-elect Barack Obama is expected to tap Steven Chu, current director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, for the top spot at DOE. As reported by the San Francisco Chronical,
IBM's World Community Grid uses the computing power of more than a million home PCs worldwide to speed up the enormous calculations required in endeavors like new medical research. IBM has now teamed up with Harvard University in a unique project: devoting the World Community Grid's processing power to finding a chemical compound that will produce more efficient photovoltaic cells. If a cheap organic compound could achieve anywhere near (or even half) the 20-30% efficiency of crystallized silicon, it would mean a real revolution in the solar market and a much brighter outlook for thorough deployment of the technology. The brains behind the partnership claim that this "virtual supercomputer" of home PC's could cut research down from over two decades to a mere two years.
Some people plan their holiday shopping out over the year, so that by the time December rolls around, all they have to do is work on making pretty bows out of organza and fret about whether or not it's legal to offer carolers hot cider anymore. I, however, tend to forget that the holidays are coming until I'm hit in the head with a Salvation Army bell. So, if you're a kindred soul still looking for that perfect something to put under the tree or next to the menorah or on the terrace of the Caribbean hotel room you took to get away from spending the holidays with your in-laws, here are some great solar gift ideas. (We're not endorsing anybody here--I'll give you some links to example products on Amazon.com just so you can click through and see what I'm talking about.)
Update 2015, this post is as timely as ever: Most of us, I reckon, don't give much thought to electricity bills. We don't lie awake in bed dissecting our monthly energy use down to the watt-hour. Nor do we chat with co-workers about the wondrous world of weatherstripping (it saves so many kWhs in winter!). We certainly don't subscribe to Electric Light & Power magazine, be it, as it may, a critical resource for understanding the vagaries of utility pricing schedules and state-by-state regulations. No, most of us are aware of electricity's presence only in those rare moments when it's not there. Example: when a late-July thunderstorm brought a tree branch down on a powerline near my house, it took only about 15 minutes before I started griping about not being able to charge my iPod. Alas, this is the nature of the human mind: it's not until we feel a thing's absence that we truly appreciate its full worth.
If you're a supporter of solar in Florida and you get your electricity from Florida Power & Light, you might want to write them a thank-you note. The utility began construction a couple days ago on what will be the world's first solar thermal facility designed to integrate seamlessly with an existing combined-cycle power plant. That's pretty impressive--it incorporates the ideals of "reduce, re-use and recycle" in a way other renewable power plants should envy. Way to make a splash with your first solar power plant, Florida!
I've you've spent any appreciable amount time on our website, you likely know that many state governments sponsor incentive programs to help offset the high costs associated with installing a solar PV system. There are cash rebates. There are renewable energy credits (RECs). There are exemptions for property tax, and sales and use tax. There is net metering and time of use (TOU) pricing schedules. Depending on the options available in your state (and city), it can be a little difficult determining how the programs work and how each one will affect the cost of your system. This is why having a solar whiz by your side is indispensable: an installer from your area will know local and state programs like the back of his or her hand, and can tell you exactly what to expect in terms of final costs. Come to think of it, this is part of what we do here at Getsolar: we help customers find competent, accredited solar installers. Anyway, I digress...