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Most Popular Home Solar Panels in California: SunPower, Sharp, Kyocera, Suntech & Yingli

Earlier in the week I took a look at which brands of solar panels have been top choices for residential solar energy systems in California. We found that three manufacturers -- SunPower, Sharp Solar and BP Solar -- have accounted for about half of all residential solar energy systems, judging from the number of rebate applications received under California's main solar incentive program.

The data reviewed on Tuesday go all the way back to 2006, when that incentive program -- the California Solar Initiative -- was launched. I suggested at the end of my previous post that a peek at more recent numbers only would reveal "a rise in the number of installations from manufacturers like Suntech Power, Canadian Solar and Trina Solar relative to makers like Evergreen Solar and SolarWorld."

Well, here's what the numbers look like since 2010:

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Can Big Solar and Wildlife Co-Exist? Maybe, Says Arizona Conservation Group

Generally speaking, solar energy installations come in two flavors: small- and medium-scale systems that are installed atop roofs and in empty lots (broadly referred to a "distributed generation"); and large, utility-scale solar power plants that sit on acres and acres of land.

A common critique of distributed generation is that, thanks to trees and other obstructions, not every roof is good for solar panels; a common critique of utility solar is that the plants take up lots of land and can disrupt surrounding habitats.

Case in point vis-à-vis the latter: a new assessment released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management

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Top 3 Solar Panel Makers = Half Of California Residential Solar Energy Systems

This morning, I got to tinkering around with some numbers from California Solar Statistics, a program of the state's Energy Commission and Public Utilities Commission. What did I find?

Well, beyond a wealth of details on system size, average installed cost and California solar incentives, I verified that most solar home energy systems in the state use name-brand panels from large, well established manufacturers.

Here's a breakdown of all California residential photovoltaic (PV) systems, by solar panel manufacturer:

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Why Solar-Powered Homes Are Worth More

Posted by Adam Sewall In Monday, April 25 2011 under: Solar Homes, residential, Cost and Financing, Home Value

If you've spent even the smallest amount of time reading about solar power, chances are you know that solar panels are good for the environment and can substantially reduce your monthly electricity bills. Solar offers other benefits, however.

One that's being discussed a lot lately is that solar homes tend to sell at a premium relative to non-solar homes. Why?

Andy Black, founder of OnGrid and an industry expert on solar economics, explains

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NYC to Get New Green Loan Program, Solar Panels On Landfills

Despite perceptions to the contrary, New York City is by some measures the most environmentally friendly city in America:

"Eighty-two per cent of Manhattan residents travel to work by public transit, by bicycle, or on foot. That’s ten times the rate for Americans in general, and eight times the rate for residents of Los Angeles County. New York City is more populous than all but eleven states; if it were granted statehood, it would rank fifty-first in per-capita energy use."

Admittedly, these green credentials

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'Net-Zero' Home to Feature Solar Panels, $0 Electric Bills

Pre-fab homes and tract housing aren't typically associated with green living.

But as more buyers become attuned to high energy costs, homebuilders appear more willing to market homes that consume less power, water and other resources.

On Earth Day Friday, for example, Meritage Homes plans to make its "net-zero" home available to buyers in select markets in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and central Texas.

Already, Meritage has unveiled an Arizona housing development where

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Emerging Trend? IKEA Loves Solar Power, Especially in California

Posted by Adam Sewall In Monday, April 18 2011 under: Commercial Solar, IKEA, Burbank, California Solar

This is by no means the first time we've seen IKEA install solar panels at one of its stores (just see here, here, here, here and here).

But the furniture retailer's latest project is somewhat noteworthy: at 290 kilowatts (kW) in size, it's the third largest solar energy system of its kind in Burbank, California. (Costco and Warner Bros. studios are number one and number two.)

IKEA's newest system comprises 1,260 solar panels

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Arizona Utility Installs Solar Panels On Group Homes, Will Save $700 a Year at Each

As one of Arizona's main electricity utilities, Salt River Project (SRP) has done its part to promote the use of solar power -- mainly by providing solar rebate to customers who install solar panels on their home or business.

(For more info on SRP's solar incentive programs, see here and here.)

As it turns out, this isn't the only way the utility is increasing the number of residential solar energy systems within its service territory.

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Really, Really Big Solar Power Project Counts Google Among Its Backers

The Ivanpah solar power plant is a work in progress along a stretch of California desert just west of the Nevada border.

Earlier this week, Google announced it will invest $168 million in the 370-megawatt (MW) project, which relies on solar thermal technology that's sometimes informally called the "power tower" (pictured left). This announcement comes after the Internet search company last week made known its $5 million investment in a Germany-based solar energy facility.

Unlike photovoltaic (PV) systems, which convert the sun's rays directly into electricity,

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California Renewable Energy Standard Raised to 33%, Gov. Brown Hints at 40%

California Governor Jerry Brown yesterday signed into law a mandate requiring utilities get a third of their electricity from renewable resources like solar panels and wind turbines.

The new bill promises to bring certainty to a fast-growing market for solar energy, in particular. With the transition to a new Governor this year, the future of California's renewables portfolio standard was periodically brought into question (see here and here). Without formal legislative action, the standard would have remained stuck at 20 percent rather than the more aggressive 33 percent.

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DWP Suspends Los Angeles Solar Rebate Due to 'Record Demand'

Last fall Los Angeles' main utility, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP), was weighing a 30-percent cut to its solar rebate. Now, due to "record demand" for the rebates, DWP last Friday suspended the application process for at least 90 days.

The numbers tell all: some 2,000 rebate applications remain unprocessed, representing more than $110 million in demand for a round of rebate funds that's capped at $30 million for 2011. It seems people in L.A. really love solar power and how much money solar panels can shave off monthly electric bills. This is good news.

The bad news is that no one knows how things will pan out. According to DWP's website,

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Ralph Lauren Solar-Powered Backpack Carries, Charges Your Stuff

Posted by Adam Sewall In Monday, April 11 2011 under: Ralph Lauren, Solar Gadgets, Solar Backpack, Solar Technology

In our four years as a blog, we've seen just about every solar-powered gadget out there, including solar surfboards, solar suitcases and a solar helmet. So, when Ralph Lauren recently announced the release of a solar-powered backpack, we weren't exactly surprised.

The bag is part of the designer's RLX line, which offers buyers "exceptionally luxe lifestyle apparel and innovative athletic gear." It is perfect for me, in other words. Next time I'm exploring the Amazon, I can both (a) look great and, thanks to the backpack, (b) get enough juice from its 2.45-watt solar panel to charge my GPS device and iPod.

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Google Announces $5 Million Germany Solar Project

Posted by Adam Sewall In Friday, April 8 2011 under: Solar Power Info, Cost and Financing, Google

Google is up to it again. The search giant recently announced plans to invest five million big ones in a solar energy park in Germany.

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5 Reasons Solar Power Beats the Pants Off Coal

Posted by Adam Sewall In Thursday, April 7 2011 under: Solar PV Panels, Coal

Looking at the following chart, it's pretty clear we get way more of our electricity from coal than we do from solar power. I mean, solar doesn't even show up when compared to the Goliath that is coal:

Crazy, huh?

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Tufts Energy Conference to Feature Top Speakers, Cocktail Party

Posted by Adam Sewall In Wednesday, April 6 2011 under: Massachusetts Solar, Tufts Energy Conference, Boston, Solar Power Info

What follows may or may not be a shameless plug for my alma mater. Regardless, it's a great annual event that deserves a bit of press...

The Tufts Energy Conference, now in its sixth year, offers attendees the chance listen to (and mingle with) some of the foremost thinkers in energy-related fields.

Plus, this years there's a cocktail party (taking place Friday, April 15)... what more could you want?

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Chu Announces Funding for SunShot Solar Energy Manufacturing Projects

Department of Energy head Stephen Chu yesterday announced over $110 million in funding to support the development of advanced solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing techniques.

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Next 10 Years: Cost of Solar Will Drop by Half, U.S. Will Build 5 Nuclear Power Plants

Bloomberg New Energy Finance this week is having its annual conference in New York. Among the tidbits making their way through the Interwebs, I found the following particularly interesting:

(1) Michael Liebreich, chairman of the research group, noted in a talk that he expects the cost of developing a solar power project to drop by half in the next decade, worldwide. New Energy Finance numbers suggest the cost of large solar photovoltaic (PV) projects to decline to from around $3.00 per watt today to $1.45 per watt in 2020.

A reduction of that magnitude would make solar energy more competitive with fossil fuels.

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More Solar Power Coming to Sacramento, California

Posted by Adam Sewall In Monday, April 4 2011 under: Solar Power Info, SolarCity, Sacramento, California Solar

SolarCity, a fast-growing company that provides solar lease options to homeowners in many parts of the country, today announced it plans to install more than 8,000 solar panels for the City of Sacramento, California.

At 1.9 megawatts (MW), the solar panel installation would be the largest such facility in the city and would produce around 2.6 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) in the first year of operation -- enough to power roughly 235 typical American homes.

“This project is a triple win for Sacramento -- it will save taxpayers money by lowering the city’s energy costs, reduce pollution by generating renewable power, and create more local jobs to install the panels,” said [Sacramento] Mayor Kevin Johnson. “It’s our goal to become a greener city and generating clean energy on our facilities is keeping with that commitment.”

Go Sacramento!

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Special SPF Sun Block Electrifies Skin in Tests, Paves Way for Body Solar Panels

Posted by Adam Sewall In Friday, April 1 2011 under: DermaVolt, Solar PV Panels, Solar skin, Solar Technology, April Fools' Day

It seems April Fools' Day this year got very popular with corporate America and media outlets:

From a new “body controlled” email system to the purchase of Pluto to a royal wedding–themed car, companies and media outlets have been busily pranking this April Fools’ Day, lightening up an otherwise grim news flow focused on violence in Libya and the ongoing disaster in Japan.

The MarketWatch story linked to above references the day's gags from Google, Groupon and Virgin, among others. We here at GetSolar would just like to inform our readers that we were hip to the April Fool's thang way back in 2009:

A Spain-based firm, Derma-Volt, is developing a suntan lotion that, when applied, will cause the underlying surface to generate electrical current.

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