As a distributed power resource, solar energy is not just changing the way Americans see their relationship to electric utilities. It's also making our armed forces more mobile and less dependent on traditional sources of energy, which means less hauling gas around in convoys, which means making our troops safer in battle zones.
Here's your daily dose of solar energy news and related info to wrap up the week...
A bill that could have seriously damaged Arizona's solar industry has been pulled from the legislature, says House Spokesman Paul Boyer. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R) is going to withdraw the bill that would have hit solar with a double whammy: first, by removing the Corporation Commission's ability to set renewable portfolio standards for state electric utilities; and second, by including nuclear and hydroelectric power as renewable energies.
A new bill in the Golden State could soon give home- and business-owners access to a statewide loan program that would help them finance solar installations and other renewable energy projects. The bill, SBX8 26, would create a program to standardize Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs across California and authorize a $50 million PACE fund to be used as “credit enhancements for qualified PACE financing programs to further lower financing costs.”
At a shipyard in Germany today, PlanetSolar unveiled the world's largest solar powered boat: a 30-meter long catamaran that will be powered exclusively by about 38,000 SunPower monocrystalline solar cells. Two sailors will circle the globe in a trip beginning early in 2011--this will be the first circumnavigation to be completed in an entirely solar-powered vessel of any kind. The catamaran will be launched for initial testing as early as next month. This will be the first solar powered ship to cross the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and maintaining an average speed of 8 knots (nautical mph) will make it the fastest solar ship to cross the Atlantic as well.
The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company Bloom Energy on Wednesday revealed its much-hyped fuel-cell technology, reports the Los Angeles Times. Dubbed the "Bloom Box," the new device combines oxygen from the air with a fuel -- either conventional or renewable -- to generate electricity. The company already has a number of prominent customers, including FedEx, Staples, Walmart and Ebay. At $700,000-$800,000 a piece, the commercial boxes are well beyond the price range for homeowners. But, depending on how quickly the company can ramp up production and drive down costs, the Bloom Box may turn out to be the next big thing in distributed generation. A lot will also depend, explains Jesse Jenkins for Forbes' "The Energy Source," on: the price of fuel inputs; the durability of the fuel cells; and the technology's ability to deliver meaningful, cost-effective emissions reductions. For a layman's look at how the technology works, check out this overview from CSMonitor.
At the Renewable Energy Expo and World Conference in Austin, Texas yesterday, solar energy received accolades from the editors and readers of the Renewable Energy World network of publications. The Excellence in Renewable Energy Awards are intended to recognize projects, people, and companies for "advancing the market for renewable energy in North America".
Alright, kids, here's your daily dose of solar- and renewable-energy news...
Coney Island, New York’s erstwhile amusement park mecca, is en route to receiving an infusion of modernity via its iconic Wonder Wheel, which is slated to install 32 solar panels atop its 16 swinging cars this summer. The man behind the idea, Deno Vourderis, hopes to bring back the bright lights that once characterized the 150-foot-tall Ferris wheel while simultaneously reinvigorating it with green energy.
Here it is, folks, your daily dose of today's solar energy news and info...
As we mentioned early last week, San Francisco is launching a $150-million innovative loan program to help homeowners and businesses finance "sustainable building improvements." Improvements that are eligible will include insulation upgrades, the replacement of old windows, the installation of low-flow toilets and (drumroll please....) the installation of solar electric panels and solar water heating systems!
In today's solar energy news: a tale of three states' solar-power aspirations.
Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell announced 13 new solar energy projects in the state today. The projects were made possible by more than $5 million from the Alternative Energy Investment Fund, in turn made possible by federal ARRA funds earmarked for renewable energy. Rendell has helped push Pennsylvania to the forefront of the solar industry, overseeing the introduction of the state's first solar energy rebate program last summer (the Pennsylvania Sunshine Solar program, currently providing up to $22,500 for home solar projects).
Being an effective solar home owner doesn't end when the solar panels go on your roof: read below to find out how to make sure you maximize your investment in solar energy. If you're just joining us in this series, brush up here on Five Things To Do Before You Get Solar and Five Things To Do When You Get Solar.
Congratulations, you've decided to make your home a solar home. You've reached the decision after careful thought and some essential first steps. The question is, what happens now?
Updated for 2016: This post is as timely as ever, the basics have not changed: Solar installations can reduce your monthly electric bill, provide you with clean power, protect you from the rising costs of energy over time, and present a strong, reliable investment. But don't just jump right in--make sure you've got your bases covered:
Alright kids, here it is: your daily infusion of solar energy news and info...
In a nearly unanimous decision yesterday, the California Assembly passed a bill that would allow a greater number of people in the state who produce their own solar power to sell the excess electricity to their utility company. Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner's (D-Berkeley) bill, AB 510, raises the Golden State's net metering program capacity from 2.5 to 5 percent, a move that supporters say will result in wider adoption of solar technology and offset high electricity costs--and will perhaps even open up the solar market to those who had been formerly closed off to it. Governor Schwarzenegger has every intention to sign the bill, according to Rachel Arrezola, a spokeswoman for the Governor.
Israel and Egypt may undertake a joint solar-energy project in Egypt's Sinai Desert, according to Israel's Industry and Trade Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. Speaking at the International Renewable Energy Conference being held this week in the Israeli coastal city of Eilat, Ben-Eliezer noted that the joint effort would yield electricity for both countries. "In our discussions with President Mubarak [of Egypt], he expressed much interest in the idea and we will be working together with Egyptian government representatives to advance the idea," he said.
Trade association Napa Valley Vintners is moving into new quarters that blend the old and new: a 13.5 kw solar panel array on the site of one of the oldest wineries in California.
Here it is, your daily dose of solar energy news and info:
Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett has been under fire for a home insulation scheme gone wrong in which as many of 400,000 properties may have received below-grade insulation-and three installers have died of electrocution. And now, the safety of solar panel installations in the country has been called into question as well.
Cupertino may be the next to join a growing list of California counties, cities and towns that offer to homeowners low-interest loans for the installation of solar panels, reports San Jose Mercury News. If Cupertrino joins the CaliforniaFirst Program, its residents will be able to finance renewable energy systems and energy-efficiency projects by borrowing from their local government. The funds would then repaid through property taxes over a 10- to 20-year period. See this post on solar energy financing in San Diego for more details.
We spend a lot of time talking about solar as an investment, or about solar power plants as the new MVP of clean energy production. Though small-scale distributed energy resources can be life-changing (or life-saving) on the individual or community level, the industry rarely pauses to appreciate it. Two recent moves to install solar energy systems in schools present a good opportunity to do just that.
Constellation Energy Group Inc., a Baltimore, Maryland-based provider of energy products and services, has committed $90 million to help finance solar panel installations on commercial and government buildings. In order to be eligible for Constellation's financial support, the project must be 500 kilowatts or larger, and must begin construction before mid-year 2010--which is only a couple of months away. (It seems like it was 2009 just yesterday...)
Vice President Biden will today be in Michigan, where he'll argue that federal stimulus spending has succeeded in creating jobs, reports The Detroit News. The Administration estimates that 22,000 Michigan jobs have been created or saved at a cost of about $11 billion. Among Biden's stops will be Hemlock Semiconductor, a maker of polycrystalline silicon that's used in the manufacture of solar panels.
Last week, San Bernardino county officials sought to stop progress on BrightSource Energy's giant concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in the Mojave Desert. Land mitigation was the main complaint this time around, but BrightSource has been drawing flak for habitat destruction (desert tortoise) and water use (despite using a "dry loop" cooling technology, the solar thermally-generated power will of course still use a lot of the desert's most precious resource). In order to address these concerns, the solar energy company has released a new plan for the Ivanpah, California facility. The new design reduces the total solar capacity of the project from 440 MW to 392 MW (a loss of 48 MW). According to Renewable Energy World, the new plan will:
Here's your daily dose of solar news, starting the week off right.
One of the leading manufacturers of solar site assessment technology announced the release of a new version of its product today: the Solmetric SunEye 210 is now available, ladies and gentleman of the solar industry. If you're not thrilled to your fingertips, Gentle Reader, it's probably because you're not a solar installer; but if you're curious about why this is such an important element of the install process (and to get more product details), read on.
I'll just say it: I don't like Valentine's Day. But I do like a good tongue-in-cheek viral video, and I like it even more when it's packed full of good reasons to get solar. California solar advocacy group Vote Solar has put together a pastiche of "singles" describing what would fill the void in their lives: women seem to want something reliable, predictable, good-looking (and clean), and willing to commit for 25-30 years. The men, as usual, will settle for a nice rack and some high-quality silicon.
Your daily hit of solar energy news to bring you up to date before the weekend...
Yesterday's move by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to stall BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah project is the latest episode in the drama of desert solar power development. It's a drama that stars land usage, but really it's an ensemble cast that includes corporate interests, state profits, and economic stimulus and job creation. (Not to mention the desert tortoise.)
The California Recovery Task Force announced today that $110 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds will go towards energy efficiency and solar within the state. The money travels quite a path from the federal DOE to the State Energy Program to the SEP's Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit and Municipal Financing Programs. These funds will support 1,100 new jobs in addition to reducing business and consumer energy costs. Don't let the cold dollar amount fool you:
The big energy-sector story this morning: FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) says it will buy Allegheny Energy (NYSE: AYE) in an all-stock deal that values the smaller power producer at $8.5 billion (including debt), according to MarketWatch. About 80 percent of the combined entity's electricity output will come from coal-fired plants and nuclear facilities.
SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWRA, SPRWRB) will officially acquire European solar plant developer SunRay Renewable Energy in a $277 million deal expected to close in the first half of 2010. The companies have signed a "definitive agreement" under which SunPower will take on SunRay's current project pipeline, which represents 1,200 MW of solar energy development. SunRay's in-development projects are scattered across France, Spain, Italy (where SunRay's head project office is located), the U.K., Israel and Greece. SunPower already has offices in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar (NASDAQ: ESLR) believes the solar wafers it manufactures at its Fort Devens facility--and the solar panels built around the wafers--are on par with many traditionally cheaper solar panels manufactured in China. Why? Evergreen's unique "string ribbon" manufacturing process for crystalline silicon solar wafers cuts way down on raw materials, process, and waste costs. In a conference call, PV Tech reports, Evergreen CEO Richard Feldt said:
The big news from Washington this morning isn't limited to relentless snow and power outages...
The Importance of Structural Analysis for Roof-Mounted PV Arrays
Marin County in California wants to purchase electricity on behalf of its citizens, a move that would bypass the state's largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and could lead other local governments to follow suit.
Last Thursday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced solar legislation that has sent the solar industry into a hopeful tizzy: his bill, the 10 Million Solar Roofs and 10 Million Gallons of Solar Water Heating Act of 2010, would authorize rebates and other incentives with the aim of supporting up to half the net installed cost—after factoring in existing federal and state incentives—of 10 million photovoltaic solar systems and 200,000 solar hot water systems across the country. Residential, commercial, government and non-profit solar systems alike would be eligible for the rebates.
Here it is, your daily dose of solar energy news and related info:
It was a fairly quiet weekend in terms of solar energy news, unless you think a solar-powered Super Bowl is a big deal (which we do).
Over the last few years, the largest sporting event in the United States has shown some awareness of the enormous draw it makes on energy resources wherever it's hosted. Yesterday's 44th Super Bowl, accordingly, was the greenest yet: Florida Power & Light Group's (NYSE: FPL) subsidiary NextEra Energy supplied the NFL with enough renewable energy credits (RECs) to completely offset the energy usage of not only the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl, but of the preparations leading up to the games in Miami, as well.
Limoneira Company's 5.5 acre, 6,400 solar panel, 1 megawatt capacity "solar orchard"--complete with observation deck--was designed to meet the rigorous standards necessary to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold-level certification. LEED is the country's foremost standard in green building. This solar farm is the first private sector LEED Gold certification awarded in Ventura County.
A new technical report from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) shows some encouraging news: within the next ten years, the Bay State can expect to see greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fall more than 18 percent below 1990 levels. Governor Deval Patrick's focus on growing the state's clean energy economy is partly to thank, a focus in which solar power plays an enormous role, as are renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
The Bay State is wasting no time with the distribution of stimulus funds for renewable energy growth within the state, putting serious effort behind the solicitation of bids for projects on public property. Continuing to push forward, Governor Deval Patrick and Secretary of Energy Ian Bowles went out to North Andover today to solar integrator Nexamp's logistics center. Jointly, they announced that the solar installer has been awarded a $20 million contract to build 4.1 MW of ground-mounted solar panel arrays at twelve drinking and waste water treatment facilities throughout the state.
Here's your solar energy digest for Friday, February 5:
The trouble with reading any analyses, reports or simple statements from industry experts is how difficult it can be to sift through the mass of material. Differentiating sound judgment from pure noise, or attempts at manipulation from a desire to present balanced viewpoints—these are the challenges that face anyone with an interest in a burgeoning field, especially one as (relatively) new as solar.
You may have heard that solar stocks were up this week. You may also have heard that they were way down. You might also have heard that analysts are predicting great things for this year...or that they're not. What gives? I am no kind of market analyst; in fact, that's why I needed to delve into this week's strange stock happenings, because I couldn't make heads or tails of what was coming over the wires. Here are the key pieces of what's happened this week:
So many megawatts, so little time... Here's today's rundown of solar energy news:
Construction of a 240 kw solar installation at the Boston Water and Sewer Commission's (BWSC) headquarters will begin this month, according to Rivermoor Energy, the solar energy development and investment firm that won the project just last week. The Newton, MA-based firm is taking advantage of the state's new solar renewable energy credit (SREC) program to leverage funding for the $1.075 million project. Another local company--Zapotec, Inc., based out of Cambridge--designed the solar installation, which will provide the BWSC with about 7 percent of its annual power consumption (268,000 kWh/y).
In the interests of information-sharing, we just wanted to alert you to the National Renewable Energy Lab's (NREL) newly released report on feed in tariffs. It will make your knees weak if you're a policy wonk or an energy lawyer--I mean heck, it's entitled "Renewable Energy Prices in State-Level Feed-in Tariffs: Federal Law Constraints and Possible Solutions"--but it includes an overview for the FiT neophyte, as well. Don't read the whole thing, unless you're really, really having trouble sleeping, but do check out some basic definitions and context for the FiT programs developing across the country.
Chinese solar-panel maker Yingli Green Energy (NYSE: YGE) is set to become the first renewable energy company in history to sponsor the FIFA World Cup.
Tomorrow, California's state legislature will vote on lifting the current cap on the amount of energy in the state's energy portfolio that can come from net-metered solar installations. Set at 2.5 percent, the net metering cap once seemed generous but now seems low--dangerously low, in fact, for the California solar industry. Successful solar incentives have encouraged nearly 460 MW of solar installations just within the service territories of the three investor-owned utilities (for more on the California Solar Initiative, start here).
With the Grammys behind us, news comes via SFGate's Daily Dish (following a heads-up on this blog in one of our daily solar rundowns) that Jack Johnson is recording his sixth studio album with 100 percent solar energy in his native Hawaii. Details are vague, but, man, is it a pretty catchy concept. Presumably, Johnson's recording studio (dubbed the Mango Tree) is equipped with a grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) system. In this case, it'd be unlikely that every single electron flowing through the recording equipment would come from the solar panels. But at the end of the day, Johnson -- whom Spinner dubs an "eco-warrior" -- probably has better things to do than count and track electrons.
Southern California Edison (SCE) and solar integrator Recurrent Energy have entered into an agreement: SCE will buy all of the power produced by California solar panel installations developed by Recurrent on three sites in San Bernardino and Kern Counties. The solar energy systems will have a peak capacity of 50 MW and should be completed by 2012.
Here it is, your daily blast of solar energy news and info:
In June 2009, construction started on a 3.6 MW solar energy plant at aerospace giant Aerojet's Sacramento location. In November 2009, Aerojet (a GenCorp Group company, NYSE: GY) and solar installer Solar Power, Inc. (OTCBB: SOPW) announced they were dreaming big: they were commissioning a 2.4 MW expansion to the system, which would expand it to 6 MW and make it the largest industrial solar panel installation in California--and one of the largest in the country.
The solar industry is buzzing (or should I say, twittering) with today's big-ticket news item, the United Kingdom's official plan for a feed in tariff. Curious about how much output you could actually expect to see from a solar panel installation in Liverpool or Edinburgh? Check out this awesome tool from the EC's Joint Research Centre.
Unless some massive prank is being played on the solar industry, April 1st will kick off enormous changes in Europe (though solar stocks have already begun to react): Germany's feed in tariff will scale back by 16-17 percent, while the United Kingdom will enact a FiT for the first time.