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Size of U.S. Solar Home PV Systems Growing, IREC Industry Report Says

Posted by Adam Sewall In Thursday, June 30 2011 under: IREC, Solar Industry News, Solar Homes, system size

Each year, Larry Sherwood of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) releases an annual report summarizing recent trends in the U.S. solar energy market. And guess what? (Get excited...)

His latest report, U.S. Solar Market Trends 2010, was released just a couple of days ago.

In it, you'll read about the phenomenal growth witnessed by the solar industry in 2010. Main highlights include:

  • The capacity of photovoltaic (PV) installations completed in 2010 doubled compared to the similar figure in 2009.
  • Much of this gain was due to growth in utility-scale solar PV projects,
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With Low-Cost Solar Panels, Suntech Set to Launch U.S. Residential Solar Lease

Posted by Adam Sewall In Wednesday, June 29 2011 under: Suntech, Solar Homes, Cost and Financing, solar lease

The world of solar leasing just got a whole lot more interesting.

Last week, Google announced a plan to invest $280 million in SolarCity, a California-based company that offers solar leases in ten states across the U.S.

Hours after, news broke that Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd -- a large China-based manufacturer of solar panels -- was working on plans to offer a solar home energy lease option of its own. Both developments are likely to increase the availability of solar leases to qualifying homeowners in select states.

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Big Solar Power Project at Denver Federal Center Nears Completion

Posted by Adam Sewall In Tuesday, June 28 2011 under: Denver, Colorado Solar, Federal, Solar PV Panels

If you've heard of the U.S. General Service Administration (GSA), chances are you associate it with things like internal audits, paperwork and government oversight. Not solar power, in other words.

Thanks to an innovative series of energy- and efficiency-related projects, however, the administration may succeed in livening up its reputation.

Work is nearing an end on a nearly 7-megawatt (MW) solar project at GSA's Denver Federal Center. When combined with a 1.2-MW solar park that was installed in 2007, the entire project will meet more than 15 percent of the center's annual electricity needs -- about the equivalent amount needed to power 1,000 typical American homes for a year.

“GSA has made great strides over the years reducing energy consumption in buildings and we are well under way in turning our vision of becoming the greenest campus by 2020 into a reality,” said Susan Damour, GSA Rocky Mountain Regional Administrator. “The past couple of years have been an unprecedented opportunity for GSA to help create and sustain jobs all across the country.”

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Boston Launches Residential Solar Energy Rebate Program

In recent years, Massachusetts has become a pretty good place to install a solar home energy system. The reason? A number of factors -- a statewide solar rebate program, a market for solar renewable energy credits, and relatively high conventional electricity prices -- combine to make a good financial proposition out of installing solar panels.

To help things along further, Boston last week launched a program to encourage residents to install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

“Solar panels provide up to 90 percent of the annual electric usage and in days like today, with the longest period of daylight, the meter is running backwards, selling power back to the grid and to me that’s incredible,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

The Boston Herald has more:

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23,000 Solar Panels to be Installed Across San Diego School District

With its ample sunshine and relatively high electricity rates, southern California offers what are arguable the country's most favorable conditions for solar power. The decision makers at San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) seem to understand this -- and are aiming to take advantage.

In partnership with AMSOLAR Corporation, SDUSD will see some 23,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels installed atop 80 roofs at 22 sites across San Diego. At 5 megawatts (MW) in size, the system as a whole is expected to provide 64 percent of the required electricity for each site, while generating 11 percent of SDUSD district-wide electricity consumption.

Like most larger-scale solar power projects in the commercial and government sector, the San Diego Unified School District project will be completed under the terms of a power purchase agreement (PPA),

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Samsung to Release New Solar Power Netbook with 14-Hour Battery

Posted by Adam Sewall In Tuesday, June 21 2011 under: Samsung, Solar Gadgets, Solar PV Panels, Solar Laptop

It must be the year of the solar laptop. Or something...

Earlier this month, we relayed a few images of a solar-powered laptop concept by Italian designer Andrea Ponti.

Not to be outdone, Samsung yesterday confirmed that it will soon offer a solar-powered netbook in the U.S., parts of Africa and Russia.

Equipped with solar cells in its cover, the Samsung NC215S will gain an hour of battery life for every two hours spent charging in the sun. Under perfect conditions, Samsung says the netbook's battery will last for 14 hours.

Matt Warman, Consumer Technology Editor of the Telegraph, has more:

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U.S. Solar Energy Industry Continues 'Record Growth'

Posted by Adam Sewall In Thursday, June 16 2011 under: Solar Industry News, GTM Research, Solar PV Panels, SEIA

Growth in U.S. solar energy installations remains strong -- very strong.

That's according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which together recently released their quarterly report showing that two-thirds more solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity was added in the first quarter of this year than during Q1 of 2010. At the start of April, the cumulative size of all grid-tied solar installations stood at 2.85 gigawatts -- enough oomph to power about 600,000 U.S. homes.

Nearly half of all solar-panel systems were installed in sunny California, with about one-sixth in New Jersey, the country's second-biggest solar market. The rest were installed in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Colorado, New York and other states.

Beyond the growing number of solar installations, the report

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Air Force Academy, SunPower Turn On Big Colorado Solar Energy Project

Posted by Adam Sewall In Wednesday, June 15 2011 under: SunPower, Colorado Solar, Solar Power Info, Air Force

In case you missed the news, the U.S. Air Force Academy on Monday flipped the switch on a brand-spanking-new solar array at its facility in Colorado Springs.

Designed and built by SunPower Corp., the 6-megawatt solar power system is connected to Colorado Spring Utilities' electricity grid. In its first year of operation, the array is expected to generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 1,200 average American homes each year -- or about 12,000 megawatt-hours.

Speaking at the inaugural event, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael C. Gould (pictured above) emphasized that the project was made possible in large part thanks to a partnership between the Air Force and the local community, according to U.S. Air Force News:

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Google Investing $280 Million to Back Solar Home Leases with SolarCity

Posted by Adam Sewall In Tuesday, June 14 2011 under: Solar Homes, SolarCity, residential, solar lease, Google

SolarCity is a big provider of solar home energy leases in ten states across the country. Google is, well, Google. The news today is that the two companies are about to get a bit closer.

The Internet search giant made clear its intention to invest $280 million to create a fund that will enable SolarCity to finance more residential solar energy projects.

"We're excited to be making our first investment in distributed residential solar," said Rick Needham, director of green business operations at Google.

To date, SolarCity has to its name over 15,000 solar power projects,

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10 Million American Solar Roofs Still Possible?

Posted by Adam Sewall In Wednesday, June 8 2011 under: Vermont Solar, Solar Power Info, Bernie Sanders

Last year, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont put forth a bill that envisioned solar panels on 10 million roofs across America by 2020. It was an ambitious goal that ultimately (and unfortunately) failed to gain traction in Washington.

Now, it appears Sanders is at it again. Along with Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the Vermont Independent is moving his 10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2011 forward.

The only problem is that the Senator's math is a little messy.

Last year's bill called to for $250 million in funding for fiscal year 2012, and $500 million annually through 2021. By our count, that's a total budget of over $4.5 billion.

According to Solve Climate News, however, the most current version of the bill carries a price tag of just $250 million spread over a five-year period, starting in 2012.

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We've All Heard About Solar Panels... But What the Heck is a Microinverter?

Posted by Adam Sewall In Tuesday, June 7 2011 under: Enphase, microinverters, Solar Homes, Solar Technology, inverter

Enphase Energy, a leading maker of microinverters, yesterday announced the launch of what is being billed as the company's "most efficient and power technology to date."

This may lead some of you to ask, What the heck is a microinverter?

Luckily for everyone involved, GetSolar's very own Annie Lindseth has already has a concise explanation:

Solar panels need (micro)inverters to convert the electricity they produce to a type that can be used at home. Solar photovoltaic panels produce DC (direct) electrical current, and household appliances use AC (alternating) electrical current.

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Solar Powered Computer Could Become 'Greenest Laptop Ever Made'

We've seen a slew of solar-powered chargers designed for use with personal electronics. Here's but one example. But how about getting rid of all the plug-in peripherals and instead go with a laptop that runs entirely on solar power?

That seems to be the goal of Andrea Ponti, an Italy-based industrial designer.

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Florida Power & Light Solar Rebates to Go Fast, Starting June 21

Posted by Adam Sewall In Thursday, June 2 2011 under: Solar Energy Rebates, Solar Energy Incentives, FPL, Florida Solar

Hold on to your hats... Florida Power & Light (FPL) is gearing up to launch a $15.5 million solar rebate pilot program. The funds are expected to go fast.

"We expect the available funding to be claimed very quickly so we encourage interested customers to start researching projects and meeting with contractors as soon as possible. I believe similar programs from TECO and Progress were fully claimed in less than two days," said FPL spokeswoman Jackie Anderson, according to The Palm Beach Post.

Starting June 21, FPL customers looking to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system or a solar water heating system can apply to receive rebates according to the following schedule:

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Vermont Enacts Statewide Solar Permitting Standard, Crosshairs On 'Soft Costs'

Posted by Adam Sewall In Wednesday, June 1 2011 under: VoteSolar, Vermont Solar, solar permits, permitting, Cost and Financing, SolarTech

Vermont has passed a law that simplifies and standardizes the permitting process for small solar energy systems statewide, a move that could lead to lower installation costs.

In order to connect a residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system to the electric grid, homeowners across the country are required to complete the permitting process set up by their local government.

By convention, solar installers handle the associated paperwork. But permitting variations from town to town can nevertheless increase solar installation costs. A recent report by SunRun, for instance, suggests that inconsistent local permitting and inspection processes add about $0.50 for each watt of solar PV installed. In other words, simply harmonizing permitting standards could shave about $2,500 off the cost of installing a residential solar power system. Clearly, we're not talking chump change.

Vermont lawmakers agree.

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