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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-31

Posted by GetSolar Staff In Friday, July 31 2009 under:, Solar Power Info, Twitter, tweets
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Treasury Now Accepting Renewable Energy Grant Applications

Posted by Adam Sewall In Friday, July 31 2009 under: Treasury, Commercial Solar, Solar Energy Grants, department of energy

As we relayed a couple of weeks ago, the Treasury Department has been slowly releasing details on the federal renewable energy grant program, which offers companies "payments for specified energy property in lieu of tax credits." In other words, instead of receiving a federal corporate tax credit worth 30 percent of the costs of an eligible solar energy system, businesses may instead apply to receive a cash grant of equal value. (To qualify for the grant option, systems must be installed in 2009 or 2010.)

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DOE Distributing Billions For Solar, Renewables

Posted by Margaret Collins In Friday, July 31 2009 under: Solar Industry News, Utility Solar

This week, the Department of Energy opened up to applications for lending authority for $8.5 of the $30 billion it has earmarked for advanced renewable energy and smart grid projects. This is round six of such funding. It's good to see the department is keeping up the momentum--the DOE has "streamlined its processes to accelerate these new loan solicitations".

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$515M Solar NJ Plan Announced

Posted by Adam Sewall In Thursday, July 30 2009 under: New Jersey Solar, Solar PV Panels, PSE&G, Utility Solar

New Jersey regulators yesterday approved a plan for the state's largest utility to install solar panels atop 200,000 utility poles across the state. As part of the $515 million "Solar 4 All" program, PSE&G will also develop 40 megawatts (mWs) of centralized solar arrays. All told, 80 mWs of solar will be added by 2013, as outlined by PSE&G's press release:

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Solar Training Resources

The solar industry is still relatively new. It's going through all kinds of growing pains, from determining the best solar incentives and financing options to figuring out the best materials for solar panels themselves. One of the ways in which the industry has yet to really settle is training: for most highly-skilled trades, there is a proscribed certification process. For solar installers, the single most recognizable professional benchmark is getting a voluntary NABCEP certification. (NABCEP is the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, in case you were wondering. It's a mouthful.) The organization makes a great argument for certification:

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PA Announces New Solar Tax Credit

Yesterday, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell announced a new tax credit for renewable energy projects, including solar panel installations, that were completed in the state in the last half of 2008 (July-December). The tax credit is equal to 15 percent of the net cost of such projects. The program budget for 2009 is $5 million. If you completed a commercial solar installation in Pennsylvania in those six months, apply for the credit by this September 15th. Pennsylvania made a splash earlier this year with its long-awaited solar rebate program. If you're not pursuing solar or another renewable energy project in PA, the governor sure thinks you should be:

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Under Pressure, Europe’s Solar Companies Turn to Asia

Agitated by plummeting prices and falling market shares, European solar companies may soon be forced to accelerate their moving production to Asia, according to analysts. Long heralded as the solar industry’s role model and original success story, Europe has as of late started seeing its solar sector fall victim to an oversupply of cells and modules, which results in lower prices for solar systems. Add to this diminished government incentives and the stiff competition posed by Asian solar companies, which can offer prices that are on average 30 percent lower (in the case of the Chinese), and it is little surprise that European solar cell manufacturers have lost so much market share.

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Proposed Fee in Colorado Irks Solar Customers

Posted by Adam Sewall In Monday, July 27 2009 under: Colorado Solar, Solar PV Panels, Net Metering, Xcel Energy

Armed with a net-metering agreement and enough grid-tied solar panels, you could literally eliminate your monthly electricity bills. Poof! Gone. But, as this story from KMGH Denver demonstrates, you'd still need the utility's infrastructure to make the arrangement work.

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The Smart Grid, Part II: Why We Need It

Our national power grid is inadequate and inefficient. It suffers from transmission and distribution losses, is vulnerable to power outages, lacks strong data collection, does not communicate with the consumer, and is unlikely to meet the growing demand for electricity in its current state. By looking at these issues, we can better understand the need to bring the grid into the 21st century with the application of digital “smart” technology--the "smart grid".

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-24

Posted by GetSolar Staff In Friday, July 24 2009 under:, Solar Power Info, Twitter, tweets
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Cooling Off With Solar

The phrase "solar energy" carries a heavy connotation of electricity generation, and it is indeed shorthand for the power generated by photovoltaics panels. But you can harness energy from sunlight in a number of different ways: the second most well-known is solar thermal, or solar hot water heating. This can either directly heat hot water for domestic use, or be part of indirect radiant heat systems. It can also power an air conditioner.

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Oregon to Create Pilot Feed-in Tariff

Posted by Adam Sewall In Thursday, July 23 2009 under: Oregon Solar, Solar PV Panels, Feed In Tariff

Speaking of feed-in tariffs (FITs), yesterday Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed into law a series of energy- and environment-related bills. Among them is House Bill 3039, which "directs the PUC [Public Utilities Commission] to develop a pilot program to integrate 25 megawatts of small scale solar energy into Oregon’s electricity mix using a feed-in tariff. The bill also requires 20 megawatts of large scale solar be integrated into utility loads." If all goes according to plan, the Oregon FIT program will be in place by April 1, 2010. This is potentially great news for solar in Oregon, as a feed-in tariff guarantees a premium price for the electricity generated by eligible renewable energy systems, like solar panels.

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Sacramento OKs Local Feed-in Tariff

Posted by Adam Sewall In Thursday, July 23 2009 under: Solar PV Panels, Sacramento, Feed In Tariff, California Solar

There are many different ways to promote the adoption of renewable power. There are rebates and grants, federal tax credits, state tax credits, refundable state tax credits, renewable energy certificates (RECs), zero- or low-interest loans, energy-efficient mortgages, power purchase agreements, solar lease programs... you get the picture. Among the options, one of the most effective -- in terms of encouraging the most renewable energy installations -- is the feed-in tariff (FIT). As you'll read below, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) recently approved a feed-in tariff for residential customers.

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Spotlight on FL Solar Installer Avon Park

People come to to learn about solar energy and its costs and benefits. They also come to us to be connected to qualified, reliable solar installers in their region. We touch base periodically with those we've helped to see how things are going, but occasionally, out of the blue, the customers call us first. We've had this kind of feedback consistently on one particular installer, and we just had to share the most recent success story. Let me tell you a little about this company, first.

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India Resolves To Go Solar, But Off To a Slow Start

Posted by Connie Zheng In Tuesday, July 21 2009 under: international solar, solar in developing nations

Considering that roughly 56 percent of India’s 1.1 billion people do not have access to electricity and many generators still run on diesel, it might come as little surprise to renewable energy fans that the Southeast Asian giant recently announced its commitment to harness renewable energy—with a heavy focus on solar power. While only 3 percent of India’s current energy mix is renewable—biomass and wind—it plans to kick-start this number to 1,000 MW of solar a year, in addition to the promotion of other technologies.

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Island Nation Tuvalu Gets Solar

Posted by Adam Sewall In Tuesday, July 21 2009 under: Tuvalu, international solar

Tuvalu has announced its intention to by 2020 meet 100 percent of its energy needs with renewable power. Threatened by rising sea levels that are associated with climate change, the tiny island country is working with an international consortium of energy companies to realize their vision. Its seems the sun will play a leading role. Already, a sizable solar panel array -- capable of supplying 5 percent of national electricity demand -- has been installed on the islands' main football stadium. As CNN reports,

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Connecticut to Offer Solar Hot Water Rebate

Thanks to federal stimulus money, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF) will soon launch a rebate program for solar thermal -- or solar hot water -- energy systems. By covering 20 percent of associated costs, the state aims to support the installation of 600 residential solar thermal systems and 100 commercial solar thermal systems. The Hartford Business Journal provides a quick and interesting Q&A with Dave Ljungquist, Associate Director of Project Development at CCEF:

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The Smart Grid, Part I: What Is It?

In the United States, electricity is generally something that we take for granted. We flip a switch and a light illuminates the room. Yet the system behind that switch is extremely complex and increasingly inefficient. Luckily, entrepreneurs, utility owners, and policymakers are collaborating to address such inefficiencies with the application of digital technology. The smart grid. You’ve probably heard the term before. In this four-part series, we will explore what exactly the smart grid is, why our current grid is inadequate, how we will benefit from a smart energy grid, and exactly where we stand today in upgrading our electrical grid. The final section will also look at what this all means for solar energy. First, let’s try to understand what the news media and policymakers mean when they talk about the smart grid.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-17

Posted by GetSolar Staff In Friday, July 17 2009 under:, Solar Power Info, Twitter, tweets
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New Hampshire Solar Rebate Cash Now Available

Posted by Adam Sewall In Friday, July 17 2009 under: Solar Energy Rebates, Solar PV Panels, New Hampshire Solar

New Hampshire homeowners who installed solar panels over the past year have been waiting for the Public Utilities Commission to release solar rebate funds via the state's residential renewable energy rebate program. On Tuesday, July 14th, the NH PUC flipped the switch, making the solar rebate application form (PDF) available online.

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Statewide Oversight for MA Solar

Yesterday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and state Attorney General Martha Coakley announced an innovative approach to guiding solar development in the state. 2008's Green Communities Act gave the state's four investor-owned utilities through 2012 to develop up to 50 MW of solar capacity. But each service territory and customer base is very different from the others, and while diversity is great, it doesn't make for cost-effectiveness. Accordingly, the official press release announced that:

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WA State May Host World's Biggest Solar PV Project

Towards the end of last week, a company based in Washington State announced plans to build what would be the world's largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant. If project developers gain approval from Kittitas County, Teanaway Solar Reserve will construct near the town of Cle Elum a 75-megawatt plant, consisting of 400,000 individual solar panels. As reported by the Seattle Times,

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Details on Renewable Energy Grant Released

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the federal government offers businesses a cash grant worth 30 percent of the cost of qualifying renewable energy systems, provided they're installed in 2009 and 2010. The grant option is designed to provide direct payments in lieu of the 30-percent federal renewable energy tax credit. Until recently, details on the grant application and approval process were murky.

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Do You Really Need a Solar Installer?

Updated for 2016: We get a lot of questions here at GetSolar about why solar installation seems expensive. Savvy internet users point out news items that say solar should be mere pennies per watt in the next few years, or come across the wholesale prices for solar panels and believe that's what they should be paying for installation. But like any specialty in the construction industry, solar installation has a wealth of good reasons for being as expensive as it is. One of the main reasons is expertise. When I'm asked if it's possible to learn how to install solar on your home and avoid using an installer, I say sure...if you have a few years to grab a master electrician's license and solar certifications.

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Solar Power and State Renewables Standards

A number of U.S. states require electricity providers to derive a minimum percentage of their power from renewable sources by a certain date. Such a requirement is often referred to a renewable portfolio standard, or RPS. Currently, 24 states, plus the District of Columbia have formalized RPSs in place, while five other states have legislated more informal goals aimed at promoting the adoption of renewable power. The Department of Energy provides a useful RPS summary map.

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Solar Companies Head For American West

More than 150 years after the pioneers saddled their horses and sharpened their pickaxes for the frontier, the land of the American West is being rushed again—but this time it's not for gold (or Manifest Destiny). After Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced in late June federal initiatives to accelerate the development of solar power on Western public lands. Under review are 676,048 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management—a Department of the Interior agency—and located in New Mexico, California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah. Salazar said he expected the new measures to hasten 13 commercial-scale solar plants into construction by the end of next year, creating 50,000 jobs.

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Massachusetts Targets Public Facilities for Solar Power

Posted by GetSolar Staff In Monday, July 13 2009 under: Massachusetts Solar, Solar PV Panels, legislation, Energy Policy

Massachusetts is definitely getting into the game of ramping up the use of solar energy. Governor Patrick took a bold step towards increasing installed solar power capacity in the Commonwealth by announcing the first round of proposed projects for the Solar Stimulus Program on June 30, 2009. The initial tender, known as a Request for Proposal (RFP), identified approximately 5.34MW of solar power to be installed at various publicly owned facilities. Logan International Airport is poised to be one of the primary benefactors of the Solar Stimulus Project, as the four passenger terminals are slated to receive 2.75MW of solar energy. This would place Logan ahead of Denver International, which currently boasts the country’s largest solar generation site at an airport, consisting of a 2 MW ground-mounted solar array approximately 7 miles away from the terminal. Other state facilities identified in the RFP include four sites of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, the Somerville Housing Authority, and a new residence hall at Westfield State College.

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HECO to Fix Hawaii Solar Rebate Delay

Posted by Adam Sewall In Monday, July 13 2009 under: Solar Energy Rebates, Solar Thermal, Hawaii Solar, HECO, Energy Policy

To streamline the solar installation process, some state-sponsored solar rebate programs are set up so that the contractor is paid directly. He or she bills the customer system cost, less the rebate. Following installation, the contractor applies for the solar rebate and collects the funds. Such an approach lessens the burden on all parties. Sometimes, however, things don't go as originally agreed -- as a recent series of events in Hawaii demonstrates.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-10

Posted by GetSolar Staff In Friday, July 10 2009 under:, Solar Power Info, Twitter, tweets
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Sin City Goes Solar

Posted by Margaret Collins In Friday, July 10 2009 under: Solar News, Nevada Solar, Solar PV Panels, community solar, government

Las Vegas city officials just announced a new plan to install solar panels on dozens of carports throughout the city as part of a solar initiative funded by stimulus money. Of the $11 million in question, a little over $1 million is from the Community Development Block Grant, a HUD program intended to create economic opportunity ("jobs", in English) and improve living conditions for moderate or low-income populations. The first 34 carports will be installed at a Vegas community center next year.

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New: Progress Energy Commercial Solar Incentive

As I outlined about a month ago, Progress Energy has recently expanded its solar rebate and incentive programs. Beyond a new residential solar rebate worth up to $2.00/watt, the North Carolina-based utility has launched a commercial solar program called SunSense Commercial Solar PV. Details on the incentive structure have recently been made available. Here.

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New Jersey Solar Key in Race for Governor

Posted by Margaret Collins In Wednesday, July 8 2009 under: Politics, New Jersey Solar, Corzine, Energy Policy, state solar

In New Jersey's gubernatorial race, solar power development has become a hot topic. Incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine has been at the wheel over the last few years as the state moved from one of the country's strongest cash-based solar incentives to an innovative, and slightly risky, solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) trading program. SREC sales have been part of the state's approach to incentivizing solar for years, but until recently, they were the support--not the foundation.

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Federal Energy R&D in Pictures

Posted by Adam Sewall In Tuesday, July 7 2009 under: R&D, Federal Funding, Energy Policy, Energy Research

Kate Mackenzie over at FT's Energy Source relays an interesting overview of U.S. R&D spending on energy, courtesy of Alexis Madrigral who, in turn, draws from a Pacific Northwest National Lab report by James Dooley.

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California Solar Subsidies Victim Of Their Own Success, Crucial Bill Awaits Judgment

Ever since the inception of its highly successful $3.3 billion solar subsidy program, California has been continually touted by solar power enthusiasts—ourselves included—as the model state for renewable energy adoption in the United States. As the LA Times reports this week, however, not everything is coming up roses in solar country. Due to the overwhelming success of the program, the state utilities are toeing the legal limit for the amount of electricity they can buy back from customers. Parts of northern and central California served by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. may hit the limit by the end of this year, whereas the areas served by Southern California Edison Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. are in less danger of doing so. What’s a supporter of clean energy to do?

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Connecticut Solar Rebate Returns

This past December, we reported that funding for Connecticut's solar rebate program had run dry. Six months later, the program is back by popular demand. The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund recently announced the re-opening of the Small Solar Rebate Program, effective July 1, 2009:

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-07-03

Posted by GetSolar Staff In Friday, July 3 2009 under:, Solar Power Info, Twitter, tweets
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Solar and Energy Independence: Some Thoughts for Independence Day

Posted by Margaret Collins In Thursday, July 2 2009 under: Solar Industry News, Energy Policy

The Fourth of July: fireworks, steak tips, beer and American flags. I'm writing from Boston, where the historical connection is particularly strong, and the fireworks celebration especially excellent. We love our Independence Day. But how many of us try to relate the meaning of the Fourth to the state of the world today? We've been an autonomous country, for good or for ill, since 1776. Two hundred and thirty-three years. We're good buddies with our former sovereigns, and while taxes remain contentious, they're not sparking any secessionist wars (at least not yet, eh, New Hampshire?).

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Maine Solar Rebate is Back

Posted by Adam Sewall In Thursday, July 2 2009 under: Solar Energy Rebates, Solar Energy Incentives, Maine Solar

Good news for homeowners and businesses in Maine looking to get solar: the state has re-opened its solar energy rebate program. Here's a quick rundown of the solar rebate levels:

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Solar Bids Solicited in Massachusetts

Posted by Margaret Collins In Wednesday, July 1 2009 under: Massachusetts Solar, Solar Industry News, Energy Policy, state solar

In a state that has long provided thought leadership on the government's role in deploying solar power, bids are now being solicited for solar projects on public buildings. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has set aside $20 million in stimulus funds--about 40 percent of the total stimulus funds for energy initiatives--to bankroll 16 new megawatts of solar capacity in the state. Earlier this year, the state created a buzz when it announced it was going to try for 30 new MW of solar power on public facilities.

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