A new player has elevated the game for solar PV manufacturers. Solyndra, a California-based company, manufacturers thin film solar panels in the shape of a cylinder. The panels are designed for installation on commercial rooftops – think large, flat rooftops at big box retailers.
Remember how Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in California withdrew from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, citing disagreements with the Chamber's refusal to take climate change seriously? PG&E has been one of the strongest supporters of solar energy adoption in the country, and supports a carbon cap and other climate change measures included in the Waxman-Markey bill struggling in Congress.
Today, Chairman and CEO Ralph Izzo of New Jersey's PSEG made an official call for an updated national transmission policy. PSEG's press release reports:
The Indian state of Gujarat will soon be home to the world’s largest solar power complex, provided that it successfully acquires the thousands acres of land needed for the project by the end of the year. The $10 billion, 3,000-megawatt initiative will raise funding with the help of the Clinton Foundation and aims to develop an array of technologies, including solar panels and solar thermal plants. If successful, there’s little question as to the implications of the project: resource-poor India will be several steps closer to meeting energy demand for its burgeoning population while simultaneously addressing calls for it to reduce emissions.
Schott Solar AG, the German solar panel manufacturer, will extend guarantee conditions for two of its photovoltaic module lines. As reported by Renewable Energy World, the group will now offer a "25-year performance guarantee on glass-foil modules and a 30-year guarantee on double glass modules." Earlier this month, Schott announced its plans to raise the warranty to 25 years on its line of POLY panels:
Two months ago, Walmart Puerto Rico announced a partnership with SunEdison to deploy rooftop solar systems at five Walmart PR stores, with plans pending for a total of 23 installations over the next five years. The initiative -- which will be the largest renewable energy project ever developed on the island -- is a prominent, recent example of Puerto Rico's growing interest in solar energy.
On the heels of GridWeek 2009, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a draft list of 77 standards intended to insure interoperability of new smart grid technologies and devices.
A few months after a solar panel installation was performed at one of Baghdad's medical centers, CNN got in there to talk with Dr. Thamer Al-Musawi, one of the doctors at the Al-Dakhil Medical Center. The 64-panel, battery-backed array is designed to support the refrigeration, fans, and lighting of the center, though does not extend to heating/cooling. The solar installation was one of two within Baghdad funded by the U.S. and supported by the Iraqi Health Ministry.
Attention, solar home aficionados! The Department of Energy-sponsored Solar Decathlon is mere weeks away, beginning October 8th on the Mall in Washington, DC. If you're not familiar with it, the Solar Decathlon is a design competition for teams of university students world-wide. Each competition cycle is two years: in the first year, teams submit their initial ideas for a solar-powered home (net-zero energy consumption is the goal, though not the mandate). Of the applicants, 20 are selected to actually build their homes in the second year and transport them whole to Washington for a three-week showcase and contest.
Washington, DC was flooded this week with energy industry veterans and newbies alike at the GridWeek 2009 conference. The nation’s biggest annual smart grid event brought together consultants, vendors, utilities, and individuals from across the spectrum who share one common goal: to upgrade our electrical grid and bring it into the 21st century.
This week, two utility companies made clear statements about the need to address climate change and their role in doing so. On the West Coast, California's PG&E withdrew from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in response to the Chamber's continued skepticism towards the science of climate change. On the East Coast, New Jersey's PSEG highlighted the importance of a lower-carbon future by calling for a federal renewable portfolio standard (RPS)--and announcing that the utility is adopting a form of RPS on its own.
As we have reported on this blog before (see here and here), solar panels are sometimes stolen from homeowners' rooftops. Panels -- which can retail for many hundreds of dollars, depending on the size and type -- are a particularly popular target in California, the nation's largest solar market.
California solar hits the road with a new project from SolarCity and California-based Rabobank: a series of five solar-powered electric car charging stations have been installed along Rt. 101 between San Franciso and Los Angeles. It's not exactly like stopping off for gas, as fully charging a car can take about three hours. Maybe you can become good friends with your local banker while you're charging--four of the charging stations are in parking spots at Rabobank branches. A few weeks back, I posted about the concept of highways paved with solar collectors; while this California solar corridor isn't quite the same thing, it's an excellent step towards a lower-carbon highway infrastructure. As the cost of electric cars goes down over time, and when charging and battery technology improves to speed up the process, this may become an important element of road planning.
In what may appear at first glance to be a self-defeating move, SolarWorld, Germany’s third-largest solar company in terms of revenue, has called for the German government to hasten its reduction of the lucrative solar subsidies that made solar so successful there in the first place. The announcement, which was made during the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference on Monday, follows the company’s declaration of plans to triple solar module production at its plant in Freiberg, Germany, at a time when many of its peers are halting expansion or conducting massive layoffs.
Not content to sit idle as their Chinese rivals implement aggressive pricing strategies overseas, German solar manufacturers are fighting back by looking to a higher power. BSW (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft, the German Solar Industry Association) has stated that it will decide whether or not to request regulatory action by the end of the year over what it considers dumping by Chinese solar manufacturers.
Yesterday, September 21, was the autumn equinox, which officially marked the end of summer. The day also has unique meaning for designers of solar energy systems. Why, you ask?
Here at GetSolar, we typically discuss solar PV and solar thermal (solar hot water) technologies. But every once in awhile, a new gadget demands at least a short post. Such is the case today.
New England’s Independent Systems Operator (ISO-NE) has released the results of a study that assessed the region’s potential to harness renewable energy. Completed at the request of all six New England state governors, the study was conducted to help policymakers better plan for scaling renewables and updating the electricity transmission infrastructure.
Update for 2016: GetSolar has partnered with EnergySage to provide customers with fast, competitive solar quotes. The partnership leverages their Solar Quote Engine that was developed with backing from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to streamline the US solar consumer buying process. EnergySage Quote Engine
We at GetSolar feel so strongly about the power of consumer choice and the accuracy of EnergySage's new comparison quote system that we have made it the default solar calculator for GetSolar customers! Check it Out here!
The cost of solar pv panels has dropped as much as 80% over the last five years, with total total system prices fully-installed running 50% to 60% lower. This is great news for solar shoppers. Add in the renewed 30% Federal Tax Credit on systems costs, and solar electricity can save homeowners a lot of money on their utility bill.
Original Post: This week I spoke with an unusually high number of people who just wanted me to answer the question: How much is a solar panel installation on my home going to cost me? I wish I could answer that easily. I wish anyone could answer that easily--but it's just not possible. On this blog, we try to talk a lot about the factors behind the cost of solar for both residential and commercial solar projects, and I do recommend you browse through our history if this is a topic you want to get into in-depth (try the "Cost and Financing" category, and definitely check out Adam's post on how to measure solar cost). But every once in a while it's a good idea to review the basic factors, so let me lay out the major ones:
As Adam called our attention to last month, Michigan has put into place an experimental feed-in tariff for solar. It's not large: out of a program cap of 2,000 kw, Consumers Energy has set aside 500 kw for residential solar. Still, that's enough for 100 moderately-sized 5kw solar panel installations in a state that has previously been hanging around the edges of the solar movement without quite getting its feet wet. (A few state utilies do offer solar rebates; check out the full list of MI incentives here.)
It’s been a turbulent week for solar in California. First, Governor Schwarzenegger rejects legislation that lawmakers have toiled over for the past nine months in favor of his own executive order. Now Oakland, CA-based BrightSource Energy Inc. has shelved its proposal for a controversial 500-megawatt solar thermal plant in a swath of Mojave Desert land known as Broadwell Dry Lake, a picturesque area that also happens to be the habitat of many species of rare wildlife.
No, California's new Renewable Portfolio Standard legislation didn't pass. Yes, the state is more firmly committed to solar power integration and clean energy than ever.
The New York Power Authority (NYPA) will soon provide a solar incentives program for customers served by the state's municipal utilities and rural electricity cooperatives. Such customers commonly don't qualify for renewable energy incentives. The popular solar rebates available through through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), for instance, are only available to customers of investor-owned utilities.
Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), addressed a crowd of students, lawyers, and industry professionals at American University’s Washington College of Law this past Thursday. Focusing on our electrical infrastructure’s role in deploying renewable energy, Chairman Wellinghoff argued that delivering renewables to our load centers gives our energy grid a whole new purpose in the 21st century.
The Department of Energy has given the green light for Tennessee to use federal stimulus money for solar power projects. Rather than funding residential solar installations--which we hope will be the next use of spare energy funds within the state--the $62 million will be used for a 5 MW solar power generation plant an hour northeast of Memphis, and for a solar research institute at the University of Tennessee that will focus on solar innovations.
Politicians elsewhere may be debating the merits of clean energy and the effectiveness of “green” job creation, but in California the question is “how,” not “why.” After the California Legislator passed a bill this weekend mandating that 33% of the electricity sold by utility companies must come from renewable energy sources like solar and wind by 2020, officials from Governor Schwarzenegger’s administration said yesterday that the Governator is planning to veto it. However, it’s not because he opposes stricter energy laws—but rather because he doesn’t think the bill offers enough flexibility.
Already a dominant player in the business of making wind turbines, General Electric aims to ramp up production of solar panels by early next year. As the FT reports today:
Thanks to Austin-based Green Mountain Energy, the office building of Girls Scouts of San Jacinto Council (GSSJC) is home to a brand new 10-kW solar array. On September 13th, representatives from both organizations -- including Green Mountain's mascot, "Super Earth" -- were on hand to "flip the ceremonial switch." The solar installation incorporates 56 solar panels and is expected to save the GSSJC about $300,000 over the course of its lifetime. Here's a snippet from the press release:
California’s Senate Bill 17 (SB17) hasn’t received much attention from the press, but it will soon now that it passed both houses of the state legislature on September 4th. The bill, presented by State Senator Alex Padilla, is commonly referred to as the “smart grid systems” bill and now sits on Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk. SB17 is particularly important to scaling renewables and solar energy because, if it is signed into law, it will be the first official smart grid legislation to be implemented at the state level.
SunPower Corp., a leading manufacturer of high-efficiency silicon-based solar modules, announced yesterday the creation of the SunPower Foundation, a nonprofit organization "focused on empowering, inspiring and motivating a new generation of solar leaders in communities around the world." The organization is the first of its kind, wholly funded by a major solar company.
Do you ever feel like you're living in the future? No, that's just me...? Well, maybe this will change your mind: a startup was just awarded $100,000 by the Department of Transportation to prototype its Solar Road Panel. The Solar Road Panel will be made of glass and solar cells, and will be embedded with programmable LEDs. The company, Idaho-based Solar Roadways, envisions a nation powered by its solar highway system. A one-mile stretch of four lane highway paved with Solar Roadway segments would allegedly produce over 13 MWh/day: not too shabby. If you use an average daily residential electrical consumption of 30 kWh, that means one mile of highway could power over 400 homes. Naturally, you ask: how do they work?
Thin-film solar manufacturer First Solar just signed an agreement with Chinese officials earlier today for what is currently considered the world’s largest photovoltaic power plant, a 2,000-megawatt solar farm in the Mongolian desert. The project is slated for completion in 2019 and represents just a small part of an 11,950-megawatt renewable energy park intended for Ordos City, in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. It will be developed in installments, starting in June 2010, and will have the capacity to generate enough power for 3 million Chinese homes upon completion, according to First Solar.
Solar power meets mobile phone technology and solves community water access problems in Kenya? Generally we leave international solar news in Connie's capable hands, but after stumbling across this, I couldn't resist sharing. Vodafone and African telecommunications company Safaricom developed the M-PESA phone-based money transfer system to enable customers to transfer funds via text message, essentially, without requiring bank accounts. But the M-PESA sytem may be doing more than move money about Kenya in the near future: it might be moving water.
Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) are a mechanism designed by policymakers to ensure that a certain amount of solar energy capacity is installed in a designated area. One solar REC is created for every one MWh of solar energy produced. Some sort of compliance mechanism is generally established to ensure that producers or generators of power are encouraged to install solar and produce RECs rather than pay the pre-determined penalty.
Nanosolar, the San Jose-based manufacturer of thin-film photovoltaics, is generating a good amount of buzz among solarheads. According to their website, something "significant" is on its way: "Please check back here on Sept 9th for our new website with significant new announcements."
For Xcel Energy customers in Colorado, installing solar panels on their home is made more affordable with a $2/watt rebate offered through the utility. Still, the up-front costs of solar can range into the tens of thousands, and even if the system has a sweet payback period, that may be more than some folks can finance outright. This is why Governor Bill Ritter approved a law this year to allow solar leasing: with a solar lease, a third party pays for the solar installation, while the homeowner makes one monthly payment to that third party to cover both electricity costs and lease payments on the new solar panels.
Southern California Edison (SCE), one of the administrators of the California Solar Initiative, is now hosting free 90-minute informational sessions for homeowners interested in solar panel installations. Each session will last an hour and a half and will cover all the bases of residential solar installations: technology, cost, benefits and incentives. The Los Angeles Times reports the following dates for the info sessions--call 1-866-970-9221 to reserve a space.
The country that used to produce half of the world’s solar cells is making strides toward reclaiming its former glory—and is poised to riding out the current solar panel glut with relative ease, according to The Economist. The article profiles Japan’s resurgent solar power sector, which saw its market share eroded to an average of 20% by its primarily Chinese and Taiwanese challengers over the past five years but has not lost its competitive edge.