Arizona – Solar Tribune https://solartribune.com Solar Energy News, Analysis, Education Mon, 26 Nov 2018 03:04:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 Midterm Elections Reveal Mixed Results for Clean Energy https://solartribune.com/mixed-results-for-clean-energy-at-the-2018-midterms/ Mon, 26 Nov 2018 02:40:35 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=14269 On November ballots, voters across 3 states said no to 3 different bills designed to encourage the growth of clean and renewable energy. The success or failure of these high-stakes propositions led organizations on both sides to spend tens of millions of dollars on campaigns. Arizona Voters Say No to 50% RPS Goal At the […]

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On November ballots, voters across 3 states said no to 3 different bills designed to encourage the growth of clean and renewable energy. The success or failure of these high-stakes propositions led organizations on both sides to spend tens of millions of dollars on campaigns.

Arizona Voters Say No to 50% RPS Goal

At the November polls, Arizona voters overwhelming voted down Proposition 127, which would’ve created a constitutional amendment to increase the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) goals, requiring utilities to purchase or generate 50% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. As of 2018, Arizona already has an RPS goal of 15% renewable by 2025, fairly typical for western states, so Prop 127 would’ve pushed the utilities into overdrive while attempting to meet those 2030 goals.

The proposition was supported by the local Sierra Club and a handful of other organizations, and was initiated and mainly funded by the non-profit NextGen Climate Action, founded by California billionaire Tom Steyer and which provided over $22 million to the Arizona cause.

Considering the tenuous relationship Arizona utilities have had with solar energy in the past, it’s no surprise that both sides spent millions on the initiative. In fact, Prop 127 was the most expensive ballot measure in Arizona history, with Pinnacle West Capital – the company that owns APS, the largest utility in the state – spending almost $30 million in opposition to the bill.

Opponents argued the proposition, forced on Arizona by out-of-state political interests, could lead to higher customer bills. Proponents, however, argued the higher goals would lead to a cleaner environment and stronger local economy as solar costs continue to lower and the industry grows.

In a November press release after the bill was defeated, APS called the measure ‘ill-conceived’, with Chairman and CEO Don Brandt noting:

The campaign is over, but we want to continue the conversation with Arizonans about clean energy and identify specific opportunities for APS to build energy infrastructure that will position Arizona for the future.

APS has come out in favor of a different clean energy goal, proposed by the Arizona Corporation Commission. This plan creates a target of 80% clean energy, including nuclear power, by 2050. One of APS’ issues with Proposition 127 was that it didn’t allow nuclear energy to meet the RPS goals and APS feared they would’ve had to shut down their Palo Verde nuclear generator, which accounts for about 25% of the utility’s total generation. The utility claimed the defeated proposition was too constraining and simply not designed for Arizona’s specific needs.

Nevada Says Yes to RPS Goals, No to Deregulation

In Nevada, Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action also funded the inclusion of a similar measure on the ballot, Question 6. Under this proposal, Nevada will increase their RPS mandate from the current 25% by 2025 to 50% by 2030, the same as proposed in Arizona.

Unlike in Arizona, Nevada voters actually passed this measure, with 59% of voters approving. Proposed constitutional amendments, however, need to be approved in two separate elections before becoming law, so Question 6 will need to be approved in the 2020 election again. Exactly how that will go is anyone’s guess, but it’s a necessary – and promising – first step.

Nevadans also voted on another energy-related bill, Question 3, though this one was stopped in its tracks, with 67% of voters in opposition. Question 3 asked voters whether they were in favor of breaking apart Nevada utilities’ monopoly on electricity generation in the state and replacing it with a competitive electricity market, known as a deregulated electricity market and similar to Texas, Illinois, Ohio, and 16 other states. The map below, from the 2016 NREL report linked to previously, highlights the states that allow most energy consumers to choose their electricity provider.

Image via NREL, 2016

Nevada utilities currently hold a monopoly on both the generation of electricity as well as the distribution of that electricity to homes and businesses. If voters had approved Question 3, the state would’ve ended utilities’ monopoly on electricity generation, thereby allowing homeowners and businesses to choose their electricity provider. Utilities however would’ve held on to their monopoly on distribution, retaining ownership of the infrastructure as well as the responsibility to move that electricity to consumers.

While not specifically concerning clean energy, proponents argued that deregulating the electricity market gives consumers greater options in regards to their energy, giving them the ability to purchase clean energy if they so choose.

Voters’ apparent flip-flop isn’t too surprising. While voters initially approved the bill in 2016, Nevada’s unique laws require a 2nd vote to amend the state constitution. Approving a constitutional amendment the first time is a low-risk situation. The second go-around though, the stakes are higher and NV Energy, the state’s biggest electric utility, spent $62 million campaigning against the bill. The bills biggest supporters, Data center Switch and Las Vegas Sands, on the other hand, jointly provided a substantial, but underwhelming, $32 million.

Carbon Fee Voted Down in Washington

Image via Pexels

Moving to the Pacific Northwest, voters in Washington once again voted down a clean energy bill on the November ballot. Initiative 1631 would’ve placed a fee on carbon emissions from both large-scale carbon emitters as well as on fossil fuels and electricity generated or brought into the state.

Proponents of the measure included Bill Gates and Washington governor Jay Inslee, who voiced his support during the scourge of wildfires wreaking havoc on the state’s air quality in the summer of 2018:

Today, this smoke be opaque. But when it comes to children’s health, it has made something very clear, and that is the state of Washington needs to pass this clean air initiative, so these children can breathe clean air. They deserve that. The significance of this is profound.

That support wasn’t enough though, and 57% of voters voted against the initiative.

The fee would’ve started at $15 per metric ton in 2020, increasing by $2/ton each year until greenhouse gas reduction goals were met in 2035. A handful of states have already proposed carbon taxes, including Maryland, New York, Vermont, and Maine, but so far none have yet been approved.

This is actually the 2nd carbon tax Washington voters have voted down, defeating a similar initiative in 2016. Having voted down a carbon tax on both of the last two ballots, Washington voters clearly aren’t ready for a carbon tax yet, though with the opposition – led by the Western States Petroleum Association – spending $31 million on the cause, about twice as much as supporters’ $15 million, it’s no surprise the measure didn’t pass.

Things look a bit rosier on the federal level though, as Democrats now control the House and a handful, like Sean Casten in Illinois, specifically campaigned on a clean energy and emissions reduction platform. And even though our carbon emissions have actually continued to decrease despite President Trump attempting to roll back environmental policies, support for these policies on the federal level is still necessary to push clean energy forward in the United States. With this new majority in the House, hopefully we’ll see new environmental and clean energy legislation in the near future.

Image Credits: CC license via Pexels: 1, 2

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The 5 States Making Solar Mainstream https://solartribune.com/the-5-states-making-solar-mainstream/ https://solartribune.com/the-5-states-making-solar-mainstream/#comments Thu, 04 Oct 2018 14:38:19 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=13863 Solar energy is more mainstream now than ever before thanks to rapid innovations in the industry that have slashed prices of solar panels over the past several years. The rapid maturation of the solar market in the U.S. has been fueled primarily by a handful of states who have made the sector’s growth a top […]

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Solar energy is more mainstream now than ever before thanks to rapid innovations in the industry that have slashed prices of solar panels over the past several years. The rapid maturation of the solar market in the U.S. has been fueled primarily by a handful of states who have made the sector’s growth a top priority.

Cumulative Solar Capacity by State

California continues to outpace rival states when it comes to cumulative solar capacity, boasting over 21,000 MW of solar capacity through 2017. North Carolina (4,308 MW), Arizona (3,400 MW), Nevada (2,595 MW), and New Jersey (2,390 MW) round out the top five.

Source: SEIA

#1 California

California is in rarefied air as the longtime leading solar market in the United States. The amount of cumulative solar capacity in California through 2017 (21,074 MW) is roughly the same as the rest of the next top 9 states combined (21,173 MW).

State Solar Quickfacts

  • State Homes Powered by Solar: 5,791,397
  • Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 16.68%
  • Solar Companies in State: 2880 (493 Manufacturers, 1449 Installers/Developers, 901 Others)
  • Total Solar Investment in State: $44,241.17 million
  • Growth Projection: 13,281 MW over the next 5 years
  • Number of Installations: 829,532

Source: SEIA Factsheet

California may have the nation’s strongest solar market, but the state’s solar industry suffered significant job losses in 2017. This fact can be chalked up primarily to the very wet year the state experienced in 2017 with torrential rains early in the year being especially disruptive to planned solar projects. The adoption of new Time-of-Rate rates designed to shift energy consumption from consumers away from peak periods also put a damper on the residential PV market. Look for California’s solar industry to rebound in 2018.

Source: National Solar Jobs Census 2017, the Solar Foundation

Solar-friendly state policies:

  • Renewables Portfolio Standard: California’s dominance as the nation’s leading solar state is primarily a result of its ambitious RPS goals first established via legislation in 2002. The most recently amended piece of legislation calls for 33% of the retail sales of California’s electric utilities to come from renewable sources.
  • Net Metering: California continues to have one of the nation’s most appealing net metering programs. This statewide incentive allows solar homeowners to receive bill credits for excess solar energy their home produces at the retail rate from their utility company.
  • Residential Solar Mandate: Earlier this year, California became the first state in the country to mandate that new residences be affixed with solar panels. The mandate will apply to buildings built after January 1, 2020, and it will help to propel the state’s already lofty solar capacity to even greater heights.

#2 North Carolina

The abundance of utility-scale solar farms in North Carolina has helped to establish it as a top state for solar capacity for years. While the state’s utility-scale solar capacity continues to dominate, increased capacity in the residential and commercial markets are helping to solidify the Tar Heel State’s position as one of the best solar markets in the United States.

State Solar Quickfacts

  • State Homes Powered by Solar: 504,119
  • Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 4.64%
  • Solar Companies in State: 249 (42 Manufacturers, 118 Installers/Developers, 83 Others)
  • Total Solar Investment in State: $6,504.31 million
  • Growth Projection: 8,893 MW over the next 5 years
  • Number of Installations: 7,527

Source: SEIA Factsheet

The solar industry in the Tar Heel State continues to be a major element of the state’s overall economy. From 2015 to 2017, the state’s solar industry grew by 28.1%, highest among the other top five states for solar capacity on our listing.

National Solar Jobs Census 2017, the Solar Foundation

Solar-friendly state policies:

  • Competitive Energy Solutions Law: In July 2017, North Carolina Governor Cooper signed landmark renewable energy legislation into law that would allow 3rd-party leasing of solar arrays for rooftop and community solar projects. As a result of a competitive bidding process also established by the law, the state’s largest utility, Duke Energy, announced a $62 million solar rebate program.
  • Property Tax Abatements for Solar Energy Systems: Solar energy systems increase residential property values, creating a major selling point for prospective solar homeowners. Higher property values also result in higher property taxes, but in North Carolina, the added property value that solar adds to a home is exempt from taxation.

#3 Arizona

Solar energy has long been popular in Arizona, but the implementation of a net metering charge in 2014 and the elimination of some incentives programs in recent years have brought turbulence to the state’s market. Still, more than half a million homes in Arizona are powered by solar energy and the industry’s future remains bright.

State Solar Quickfacts

  • State Homes Powered by Solar: 514,079
  • Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 6.09%
  • Solar Companies in State: 454 (77 Manufacturers, 248 Installers/Developers, 122 Others)
  • Total Solar Investment in State: $8,174.76 million
  • Growth Projection: 2,574 MW over the next 5 years
  • Number of Installations: 117,485

Source: SEIA Factsheet

Solar jobs in Arizona have grown by a robust 21.1% since 2015. The growth has been most notable among solar installation jobs (+42.3%), an indication of how rapidly the state’s residential PV market has expanded in recent years.

Source: National Solar Jobs Census 2017, the Solar Foundation

Solar-friendly state policies:

  • Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST): Like most top solar states, Arizona’s rapidly expanding solar industry was fueled by an ambitious renewable energy standard first established in 2006. The standard initially required regulated electric utilities to generate at least 1.5% of their energy from renewable resources by 2006. Legislative revisions have bumped that goal to 15% by 2025.
  • Residential Arizona Solar Tax Credit: This tax credit reimburses the solar homeowner 25% of the cost of the solar panels, up to $1,000 on their personal taxes in the year of the installation.
  • Solar Equipment Sales Tax Exemption: The exemption is for 100% of the sales tax equipment on eligible equipment, including; photovoltaics, passive solar heating, active solar space heating, and solar water heating.

#4 Nevada

Las Vegas may be most well-known for its casinos and entertainment venues, but it also happens to be one of the sunniest cities in the world, receiving over 3,800 hours of sunlight a year. The abundant sunshine in Nevada and its flat, arid landscape are ideal for utility-scale solar developments, while solar is an inherently appealing option for homeowners looking to cut high energy bills in this desert state.

State Solar Quickfacts

  • State Homes Powered by Solar: 425,022
  • Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 11.52%
  • Solar Companies in State: 129 (17 Manufacturers, 72 Installers/Developers, 36 Others)
  • Total Solar Investment in State: $4,122.21 million
  • Growth Projection and Ranking: 4,528 MW over the next 5 years
  • Number of Installations: 27,308

Source: SEIA Factsheet

The national headwinds that have stunted solar job growth across much of the country over the past year have been especially acute in Nevada. The state’s solar industry lost 1,807 jobs from 2016 to 2017, which was the third largest reduction in solar jobs by any state over the same time period. Recently passed net metering legislation is expected to reverse the negative trends that the state’s solar industry has seen in recent years.

National Solar Jobs Census 2017, the Solar Foundation

Solar-friendly state policies:

  • NV Energy SolarGenerations ProgramThis is a solar rebate program offered by the state’s top utility company, NV Energy, to solar users of all types. The amount of incentives are based on the size of the solar energy system. Up-front incentives (UFI) are available for systems that generate up to 25 kWh of electricity, while Production-Based Incentives (PBI) are available for larger systems.
  • A.B. 405: In June 2017, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law A.B. 405, which reestablished net metering for residential solar projects in the state after the program was abruptly ended by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission in 2016. The passage of A.B. 405 resulted in a significant uptick of SolarGenerations applications in 2017 which are expected to continue through 2018.

#5 New Jersey

New Jersey isn’t located in the heart of the Sun Belt like the other top solar states in the country, but the Garden State still has a thriving solar industry. The state’s history of supporting pro-solar policies initiatives like net metering, the SREC market, and a solar RPS have help to entrench New Jersey as one of the best states for solar in the country.

State Solar Quickfacts

  • State Homes Powered by Solar: 381,918
  • Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 3.87%
  • Solar Companies in State: 570 (83 Manufacturers, 363 Installers/Developers, 118 Others)
  • Total Solar Investment in State: $7,775.60 million
  • Growth Projection and Ranking: 4,081 MW over the next 5 years (ranks 8th)
  • Number of Installations: 91,039

Source: SEIA Factsheet

New Jersey is one of the few states that bucked the national trend and actually added solar jobs from 2016 to 2017. The state added 1,050 jobs in that time period, which was only behind Utah (+1,762), Minnesota (+1,383), and Arizona (+1,070).

National Solar Jobs Census 2017, the Solar Foundation

Solar-friendly state policies:

  • Net Metering: Like many solar-friendly states, New Jersey offers solar homeowners the opportunity to sell excess power back to the grid. This incentive is especially attractive in New Jersey since the retail rate for net metering is typically much higher than most other states.
  • Property and Sales Tax Exemptions: Solar equipment purchased by homeowners in New Jersey is exempt from sales tax, and solar homeowners are also exempt from paying additional property taxes on the value that their solar panels add to their home.
  • A.3723: In May, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed landmark clean energy legislation (A.3723) that would mandate NJ utilities to source at least 50% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. New York, Hawaii, California, and Vermont are the only other states with renewable portfolio standards meeting or exceeding New Jersey’s new mandate. The bill also established an ambitious energy storage target and a community solar program that are expected to continue to fuel growth in the state’s solar industry.

 

Cover photo source: www.fpl.com

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Can Elon Musk Push Solar Storage Over The Top? https://solartribune.com/musk_batteries/ Fri, 03 Apr 2015 14:58:37 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8761 The tweet may have been a hint about the teaser Musk tweeted out the day before, announcing, “Major new Tesla product line—not a car—will be unveiled at our Hawthorne Design Studio on Thursday at 8 pm, April 30.” The visionary entrepreneur is the CEO and of SpaceX, CEO of Tesla Motors, and chairman of the […]

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The tweet may have been a hint about the teaser Musk tweeted out the day before, announcing, “Major new Tesla product line—not a car—will be unveiled at our Hawthorne Design Studio on Thursday at 8 pm, April 30.”

The visionary entrepreneur is the CEO and of SpaceX, CEO of Tesla Motors, and chairman of the board at SolarCity, and now it looks like he may be eyeing solar energy storage as the “next big thing.” However, affordable storage has long been the holy grail of the solar industry, and has so far proven elusive. Can the man who put Paypal on the map generate enough buzz to help push solar storage out of the lab and into the marketplace at long last?

Elon Musk looks to the future.

Elon Musk looks to the future.

Battery technology is certainly not a new subject of interest for the South African born wunderkind. His electric car company, Tesla Motors, has been making huge advances in battery technology in the last few years. Musk knows that, obviously, electric cars can only be considered “Green” if they use a non-polluting source of electrical generation to charge their batteries, and he also clearly understands that the same people who are buying electric cars are often the same people buying solar for their homes. According to a recent survey done by the Center for Sustainable Energy, 40 percent of America’s plug-in electric cars have been sold in California, and about half of electric vehicle owners currently have solar, or want to install it at their home or business. Electric vehicles, or “EVs” currently make up less than 1 percent of all U.S. car sales, but Musk plans to change that… and the solar industry along with it. Could a larger version of the Tesla batteries soon be powering our homes?

The traditional utility providers may not be quaking in their boots yet, but they certainly are keeping a close eye on what Elon Musk is up to. Musk has announced that he is putting his money where his mouth is, and will soon be breaking ground on a huge, 500-1000 acre, five billion dollar battery mega-plant. Texas, New Mexico and Arizona are competing ferociously to bring the project to their state, and the decision is set to be made in the very near future.

The Tesla Model S outside the factory. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

The Tesla Model S outside the factory. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

All is not entirely rosy on Musk’s solar horizon, however. SolarCity, the giant California leasing company that Musk has taken under his wing, is under attack in the press. A recent article in The Daily Caller featured the explosive title “Study: Is Elon Musk’s SolarCity The Next Enron?” The article points to a new report by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. The report claims that “Like Enron, SolarCity and the solar industry’s complex financing schemes could create a “bubble” that will eventually burst and leave taxpayers exposed…SolarCity is a major player in this sketchy financial game.”

SolarCity wasted no time in firing back, pointing out that “Taxpayer Protection Alliance represents the interests of monopoly utilities, and its goal is to kill one of the most free market developments in the history of United States electricity markets. SolarCity has thousands of conservative customers who believe in their right to produce their own power by putting solar panels on their roofs,” the spokesman said. “Taxpayer Protection Alliance is working to protect monopoly interests, not the public interest in more jobs and more consumer choice.”

Musk’s Tesla Battery efforts, along with his part in making SolarCity the highest profile solar provider in the nation make his companies an obvious target for the ire of the utility industry. However, consumers don’t seem to be falling for cynical claims by monopoly electrical providers that the solar industry is “attacking the free market.” In fact, no greater sign in consumers enthusiasm for solar can be found than yesterday’s news that SolarCity continues to surpass its own electricity generation records at astounding rates. According to Musk, SolarCity has exceeded the 5 Gwh per day benchmark just two weeks after reaching 4 Gwh per day of electricity generation. By comparison, In 2010 a SolarCity alone did not generate 1 Gwh per day of electricity.

It must be pointed out that Musk, Tesla and SolarCity are not the first to take on the solar storage issue, nor are they the only competitors in the current race for marketable solar storage. Also, batteries are not the only options being explored. There are several projects looking at converting solar electricity to thermal energy and storing it underground, as compressed gas or as hot water. There is even a project in which solar power is stored as molten aluminum. However, these large-scale projects feel more like the utility industries attempts to maintain hold on the central-station generating model than practical projects. It is clear that consumers would prefer to make their own power, store their own power, and interact with the utility grid, rather than being at the mercy of it.

All eyes will be on the Hawthorne Design Studio for Musk’s April 30th announcement. If it is, in fact, the release of a ground breaking residential battery, will it be a game-changer? We won’t know right away. But one thing is for sure… Twitter will be abuzz, as will Wall Street.

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Solar Naysayers Put Politics Before Facts https://solartribune.com/solar-naysayers/ Fri, 27 Feb 2015 01:57:44 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8716 Despite the rapid growth in the solar industry worldwide and the mounting evidence that solar technology benefits both the economy and the environment, some anti-solar activists just don’t know when to quit. A recent guest column at Forbes.com by David Williams illustrates just how poorly conceived some of the solar-haters arguments can be. Mr. Williams, […]

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Despite the rapid growth in the solar industry worldwide and the mounting evidence that solar technology benefits both the economy and the environment, some anti-solar activists just don’t know when to quit.

A recent guest column at Forbes.com by David Williams illustrates just how poorly conceived some of the solar-haters arguments can be. Mr. Williams, who is credited as the President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, opens his piece by touting the Manhattan Project, the Apollo Program, the Hoover Dam, the interstate highway system as “…evidence that anything is possible with the right application of American ingenuity and persistence.” He goes on to state that “…The Manhattan project produced the bomb; the Apollo program put men on the moon; the Hoover Dam tamed the Colorado and let a desert bloom; the interstate highway system unleashed America’s mobility. What is there to show for the decades of effort, and trillions of dollars spent, trying to make “renewables” a major part of the nation’s energy portfolio?”

Mr. Williams apparently feels that massive amounts of taxpayer dollars spent to develop the atomic bomb was a better use of federal money than encouraging an individual’s right to generate their own electricity. That is, the bomb which killed 150,000 civilians in Hiroshima and 75,000 in Nagasaki. The bomb that triggered the most costly arms race in human history. It’s interesting too, that Mr. Williams fails to mention the nuclear energy industry, which was built almost entirely with taxpayer dollars and has continued to depend on the federal government for existence since 1959. In fact, all of those projects which Mr. Williams mentions were government funded, and all of them to questionable ends. Where are his examples of free-market successes in the energy industry?

The fact is that Mr. Williams, who is supposedly an anti-tax advocate, openly pillories policies designed to reduce taxes on individuals who choose to invest their own money in solar technology. Technology that reduces their reliance on outside energy from government-sanctioned monopoly utility companies. It could seem to many readers to be the height of hypocrisy. One might come to the conclusion that an article like this one is more motivated by politics than by a real understanding of the energy sector economics. Despite one’s feelings about President Obama, the Stimulus or Global Warming, it is hard to deny the market success that solar has achieved, even in states and nations without strong incentive programs.

The Washington Times also recently ran a blistering anti-solar editorial. The piece stated that “Everybody likes the sun. The rays feel good and they’re free for everyone. Nobody likes the sun more than the promoters of solar electricity. These so-called “green energy companies,” however, are anything but free, and have collected, on average, $39 billion a year in federal subsidies in the six years and counting of the Obama administration. They haven’t produced enough electricity to match the glow of a lightning bug’s bottom.” Interestingly, the Times cites many of the exact same statistics as Mr. Williams. Statistics that are somewhat dubious from the outset. also, like Mr. Williams, the Times fails to call for an end to the piles of money that other energy sectors have historically received from the Federal government. Are taxpayer funded subsidies for mature industries like coal and gas somehow excempt from the wrath of so-called “anti-tax” advocates?

In another case of politics trumping facts in anti-solar statements, A Tuscon Sentinel article recently reported that State Representative Paul Gosar filed an anti-solar letter with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In the letter, Gosar accused third party solar leasing companies of “deceptive marketing strategies.” The Sentinel also exposed the fact that the letter signed by Representative Gosar was drafted for him by an employee of Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility provider. The letter was filed by Rep. Gosar verbatim, without one word changed from the letter given to him by the utility company employee.

Arizona Representative Paul Gosar photo:youtube

Arizona Representative Paul Gosar photo:youtube


Arizona Public Service also happens to be waging a campaign to end third party solar leasing in the state, and not surprisingly, is one of Mr. Gosar’s largest campaign contributors. Along with Republican Gosar, Democratic Reps. Ron Barber, Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Reps. Trent Franks, Matt Salmon all sent a similar letters to the energy regulators.

The Sentinel also reports that “Over the past three election cycles, the political action committee and employees of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (The parent company of Arizona Public Services) have given a combined $99,675 to Arizona Republicans Franks, Gosar and Salmon, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Pinnacle West has been the single largest campaign contributor for Gosar during his entire political career and has been the second largest campaign contributor for Salmon over the past three election cycles.”

It would appear that despite the falling installed cost of solar (with or without tax-breaks) and the increased market demand, some critics simply can’t accept the fact that solar is providing affordable energy and increased independence to consumers without the blessings of large energy companies. The reality of individual consumers or independent third-party solar providers owning a portion of the production is anathema to many of the large, government sanctioned monopoly utility providers, and they are using their political clout and media machines to create the appearance that they are trying to protect the ratepayers and taxpayers, when in fact it looks more like they are using government to protect their corporate profits.

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SunRun opens New Design Center in Irvine https://solartribune.com/sunrun-opens-in-irvine/ Wed, 25 Feb 2015 02:37:13 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8713 San Francisco-based Sunrun, the nation’s largest solar company dedicated to residential systems, is expanding its presence in Orange County, California with the recent opening of a new solar design engineering center in Irvine.

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San Francisco-based Sunrun, the nation’s largest solar company dedicated to residential systems, is expanding its presence in Orange County, California with the recent opening of a new solar design engineering center in Irvine.

Orange County Register, about 50 full-time employees work at the office. Ethan Miller, Sunrun’s senior vice president of operations says that this year, Sunrun plans to hire an additional 50 workers. “We’re interested in expansion and Irvine has a great access to talent,” he said. “We’re doing design and very technical work, and we felt there’s great synergy with other companies and skills sets in the area.”

Sunrun currently serves customers in 11 states– Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania. The design team in the Irvine office will serve customers in all of Sunrun’s service area, not just California.

“All that design work is coming through this hub and being pushed back out,” Miller said. “Every system is a custom design for that house,” which takes into account the home’s orientation and other factors.

The Wall Street Journal recently included SunRun in its list ODF “Ten Billion Dollar Ideas You’ve Never Heard Of.” The Journal Reports: “In 2006, the year before Sunrun Inc.’s founders launched their business, solar energy powered just 30,000 American homes, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. By the end of 2013, there were about 400,000 homes in the country powered by solar, and Sunrun —and its business model— are a big reason why.

In the past, few homeowners were willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a rooftop solar installation that would pay off in smaller utility bills at some distant date in the future. Sunrun was the first company to cover the cost of the solar system installed on a residential roof, own the system, and handle maintenance. Homeowners pay the company monthly for the electricity the system produces, leading to lower utility bills.

Soon after Sunrun began financing panels, arch-rival SolarCity Corp. came out with a similar offering and then, in 2012, went public. The two companies, along with competitors such as Vivint Solar Inc. and SunPower Corp. , are trying to capture a market that appears to have room to grow–less than 1% of American homes have solar.”

There is no doubt that the solar industry has had amazing growth in the last few years, and the expansion of Sunrun is just one indication that even recent entries into the solar marketplace are feeling confident about strong future growth.

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New Report: California Leads the Nation in Solar Job Growth https://solartribune.com/california-leads-in-solar-jobs/ Thu, 12 Feb 2015 16:06:21 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8653 The Solar Foundation’s California Solar Jobs Census Finds that California Solar Jobs Grew by Nearly 16% Last Year with Nearly 10,000 More Solar Jobs Expected in 2015. The non-profit research group The Solar Foundation (TSF), released its California Solar Jobs Census 2014 this week, and news was good for the California solar job market. The […]

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The Solar Foundation’s California Solar Jobs Census Finds that California Solar Jobs Grew by Nearly 16% Last Year with Nearly 10,000 More Solar Jobs Expected in 2015.

The non-profit research group The Solar Foundation (TSF), released its California Solar Jobs Census 2014 this week, and news was good for the California solar job market. The new report found that the solar industry employed 54,690 people in California in 2014, nearly 7,500 solar jobs more than the previous year. This represents 15.8 percent growth in California solar industry employment since November 2013. Additionally, California solar employment grew 10 times faster than overall employment in the state during the same period.
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“California’s solar industry has once again proven to be a powerful engine of economic growth and job creation,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “California solar jobs have grown quite rapidly over the last few years, and the solar industry is continuing to attract highly-skilled, well-paid professionals. That growth is putting people back to work and strengthening California’s diverse economy.”

“For decades, our state has been on the cutting edge of clean energy innovations and solar deployment,” said California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. “We’re very proud that we continue to be first in the nation in solar jobs – and to see 16% solar job growth in 2014 reaffirms our leadership in this industry.”
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The full National Solar Jobs Census and State Solar Jobs Census reports with district level jobs for California, Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, Texas and New York are available at www.TSFcensus.org. Job numbers and rankings of economic indicators for all 50 states are available in The Solar Foundation’s updated State Solar Jobs Map at www.SolarStates.org.

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Solar Thermal Technology: Will It Survive? https://solartribune.com/solar-thermal-technology-will-it-survive/ Mon, 02 Feb 2015 18:47:41 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8521 Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) has definitely taken a back seat to Photovoltaics (PV) in the last few years when it comes to solar electricity generation, but solar thermal technologies are still far from obsolete. With PV’s installed price continuing its multi-year decline, there are some questions about the viability of solar thermal technologies. Solar thermal […]

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Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) has definitely taken a back seat to Photovoltaics (PV) in the last few years when it comes to solar electricity generation, but solar thermal technologies are still far from obsolete.

With PV’s installed price continuing its multi-year decline, there are some questions about the viability of solar thermal technologies. Solar thermal for both residential scale water and space heating as well as utility scale electricity generation were long thought to have better economic potential than PV. As recently as 2008, Home Power magazine was reporting that Solar Domestic Hot Water (SDHW) was paying back 2 ½ times faster than PV for residential use. Then, the installed cost of PV began to drop, and dropped more than 50% between 2007 and 2014. By 2013, Renewable Energy World was reporting that “…household-level solar water heating comes with so many unnecessary drawbacks that it is clear the future lies in another direction. Solar photovoltaic is a highly-effective source for a heat-pump water-heating system.” PV panel prices are so low right now that by most reports it is actually more cost effective to use PV for space heating or hot water than are conventional solar thermal systems.

As for large scale projects, construction of CSP generating stations in the US have all but halted, although the technology seems to be going strong in North Africa and the Middle East. Despite the rapid decline in PV prices and the advances in efficiency, CSP has made advances as well, including new projects that include up to 16 hours of energy storage, allowing CSP plants to make power much more consistently than PV. So why is CSP flourishing in the Middle East and languishing in the US? RP Seigel of justmeans.com reports: “In Arizona, the Solana plant, built by Abengoa … has the additional feature of thermal storage that allows it to provide power through most of the night as well, only without the use of fossil fuels. This accomplishment represents a sort of Holy Grail for renewables, yet, despite this, it’s unclear whether the company will build another one of these, either. In this case, it’s because of uncertainty about the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) which is due to expire at its current 30% level in 2016…”

Abengoa CSP plant in Arizona  photo:cspworld.com

Agengoa CSP plant in Arizona photo:cspworld.com


In addition to the highly politicized nature of the energy sector in the US, it is a simple fact that CSP suits the needs of the developing world better than it does those of highly developed northern nations. Current commercial CSP technology operates best at the high levels of irradiance found in the equatorial and desert regions. Also, CSP can only be done economically on a large scale, so vast stretches of flat, unshaded land are needed. CSP can integrate energy storage, as stated earlier, or it can easily be integrated into a hybrid steam plant that uses fossil fuels as well. This option makes it attractive in many middle eastern countries where oil and natural gas are plentiful. And with the World Banks recent announcement of the launch of the “Scaling Solar” program, we can expect to see CSP plants continue to flourish across the developing nations of the Sun Belt.

Will we ever see a resurgence in the solar thermal business, either large scale or residential in the US, or will PV continue to dominate while solar thermal languishes and eventually fades away? No one can say for sure, but if solar thermal is to make a comeback, it will require the right circumstances. PV prices will need to level out, and solar thermal will need to find it’s new niche. As for PV panel prices, the glut of cheap Chinese panels flooding into the US may be coming to an end in the near future, if the federal government decides to levy a tariff on the Chinese to prevent future dumping. Also, if grid access becomes more difficult, as many utility companies would like to make it, it may make solar thermal look more attractive.

Solar thermal is finding specialty uses in the industrial sector as well. The team of the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Facility at Valparaiso University, funded through a $2.3 million grant through the Department of Energy, is nearing its goal to create a commercially viable process of making magnesium using sunlight.

“The team has proven the feasibility of doing this in the laboratory, and now we are preparing to do this in the solar furnace,” said Scott Duncan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Valpo College of Engineering. Success could result in a cost-effective manufacturing process in the U.S. that is less harmful to the environment and less energy intensive. Today, most magnesium comes from China and is desirable in the transportation sector because it is 30% lighter than aluminum. In fact, any process that uses large amounts of heat, like kiln-drying lumber and dehydrating food could utilize solar thermal technology.

In the mean time, we can expect to see solar thermals market narrow in the US until the market shifts again.

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The War Over Rooftop Solar https://solartribune.com/the-war-over-rooftop-solar/ Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:48:13 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8289 Is Distributed Generation dead? Perhaps not, but some utility companies are trying hard to redefine DG and privately owned residential solar is not part of their plan. In 2014, distributed local solar power constituted over 25% of new power plant capacity, but that growth won’t continue if powerful utility lobbyists have their way. Since the […]

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Is Distributed Generation dead? Perhaps not, but some utility companies are trying hard to redefine DG and privately owned residential solar is not part of their plan. In 2014, distributed local solar power constituted over 25% of new power plant capacity, but that growth won’t continue if powerful utility lobbyists have their way.

Since the invention of the modern grid-tied inverter, U.S. advocates for solar have battled for the right to generate power with small-scale solar arrays. American homeowners and businesses wanting to install solar have had to deal with as many different policies as there are states in the union, some much more favorable to rooftop solar than others. States like Massachusetts and Maryland offer tax credits or other incentives, while states like Oklahoma and Arkansas are openly hostile toward solar development. Monopoly electrical utilities can pile fees and charges on owners of private solar generation that prevent projects from being economically feasible, and blocking all but committed (and wealthy) environmentalists from using solar.

  photo credit: NREL

photo credit: NREL


According to the Solar Energy Industry Association’s website, “Distributed generation (DG) refers to electricity that is produced at or near the point where it is used. Distributed solar energy can be located on rooftops or ground-mounted, and is typically connected to the local utility distribution grid. States, cities and towns are experimenting with policies to encourage distributed solar to offset peak electricity demand and stabilize the local grid.”

However, there is a good deal of disagreement about exactly what constitutes “distributed generation”, when to comes to solar photovoltaics (PV). In 1997, the federal government established the “Million Solar Roofs Initiative” (MSR). The goal of the MSR was to transform markets for distributed solar technologies by facilitating the installation of PV systems. Although the effectiveness of this program is debatable, it did illustrate the push to open up access to the grid to individuals who wished to install a grid-tied solar array, and it gave support to the small systems approach to Distributed Generation. Meanwhile, the rapid growth of solar photovoltaic installations in the US and the equally rapid decline in installed cost of solar has made solar more attractive to utility companies, who are now more interested in building their own “distributed” solar generation facilities than allowing their customers to install their own PV generation. Utilities are building large, multi megawatt solar plants in the same way they have developed small gas generating stations in the past. Utilities prefer a model where generation is distributed, but ownership is not.

In 2013, Arizona regulators voted 3-2 to set a fixed charge of 70 cents per kilowatt of system capacity on solar producers, to recoup their own capital costs. That’s roughly $5 a month for an average system that Arizona electric companies can now charge the people who are offsetting the utilities peak demand and covering their own maintenance costs. In April of 2014, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin followed suit and signed the “solar surcharge” bill into law, permitting utilities to charge an extra fee to any customer using distributed power generation, such as rooftop solar.
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Net metering, the policy which allows small systems owners to use their solar energy to receive credit for the energy they produce at retail cost, is capped at a percentage of total generation in over half the states in the U.S. With small systems going in faster than ever, potential solar generators in many states will begin to come up against net metering caps, virtually freezing out new residential and business installations. These caps are so low in most states, that they make no practical sense at all. With solar at 1% of peak demand, the intermittent nature of solar poses no danger to grid stability. In fact, solar generation matches peak demand. Hot, sunny days when demand is greatest, solar is producing at its peak.

Why the hostility toward small systems? Up until recently, utility companies have seen rooftop solar as a novelty. Now, with the solar boom, the marginal threat of small solar is growing rapidly. They let the camel’s nose under the tent flap, and now the camel wants in. At the same time, the current low installed cost of solar is giving utilities solar ambitions of their own.

Utilities prefer to keep their eggs in as few baskets as possible. Losing control of their generating capacity is not something they want to do, because in their model, they make power and send it to customers on a one way street. They are far from ready to give up the early 20th century transmission model. Their solution? Solar farms.

Topaz  Image: First Solar

Topaz Image: First Solar


In November, Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Solar flipped the switch on Topaz, the world’s largest solar farm, weighing in at a whopping 550 Megawatts, and located near San Luis Obispo County on California’s Carrizo Plain. Buffet’s company will top its own record next year, bringing the 579 Megawatt Solar Star online, also in California.

Just this month, First Solar, the same developer who built the Topaz plant, announced their entry into the “Residential” solar market. However, they are not going into the rooftop solar business. Instead, they are partnering with Clean Energy Collective to build “community” solar farms. This unique approach allows those who live in locations that are impractical for rooftop solar to buy into a larger solar farm.

image: Clean Energy Collective

image: Clean Energy Collective


“Distributed generation in the form of community solar expands the addressable market dramatically beyond the traditional residential or commercial sectors,” said Jim Hughes, First Solar’s CEO. “This innovative and cost-competitive approach will further establish solar, and specifically community solar, as a critical part of the global energy mix for all markets.”

The community solar approach is a huge step forward in allowing consumers access to solar technology, and it’s definitely a trend to watch. Large solar farms put huge amounts of clean energy onto the grid in a short amount of time. So why are lobbyist for companies like Buffet’s trying to shut out rooftop solar? Is it really a threat to their business model? After all, the more distributed the generation, the more resilient the grid. Also, with energy storage solutions on the horizon, residential customers may not need to beg for grid access much longer. At some time in the not-so-distant future, they may have the choice to cancel their electrical service and go completely off-grid.

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Solar Values = American Values https://solartribune.com/solar-values-american-values/ Wed, 26 Nov 2014 20:49:49 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8228 “By the way, if you want to have a war over oil, leave me out of it- because I don’t think we need it. All I have to say is, go solar! Go wind! Let a little freedom into your life, and help your neighbors stay free, too.” Richard Perez, Publisher, Home Power Magazine- keynote […]

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“By the way, if you want to have a war over oil, leave me out of it- because I don’t think we need it. All I have to say is, go solar! Go wind! Let a little freedom into your life, and help your neighbors stay free, too.”

Richard Perez, Publisher, Home Power Magazine- keynote address, I-Renew Energy Expo, Sept.8, 2001

Home Power #1: 1987

Home Power #1: 1987

Just three days before the terrorist attacks that rocked the nation, Richard Perez, the publisher of the independent renewable energy publication Home Power addressed a packed audience at one of the nations oldest gatherings of wind and solar power enthusiasts. He inspired the audience with a talk about the importance of freedom. Freedom to make one’s own choices, and accepting the responsibilities that come with that freedom.

It has been more than 13 years since Perez gave that speech and the solar landscape has changed immensely. Solar is no longer primarily the purview of off-grid survivalists and back-to-the-land hippies. The installed price of solar has dropped from above $10 per watt to under $4. More states around the nation are encouraging solar development, and the economic benefits of solar are becoming more obvious by the day. And yet, there remains a strong anti-solar contingent in the United States. But why? In post-911 America, isn’t freedom still an American value?

Home Power: Today

Home Power: Today

Many will point out the obvious political divide between liberals and conservatives, or Democrats and Republicans, but on closer examination, this separation is relatively superficial in the debate over solar values. Despite the perception that using solar energy to generate power is a “left-coast liberal” idea, using renewable energy sources like wind and solar has long been favored by many extremely conservative individuals. The motivations for using solar may be different for liberals and conservatives, but historically, there has been plenty of interest on both ends of the political spectrum.

Unfortunately for energy consumers (and that includes just about everyone in America) solar has become a strawman for both of Americas big political parties. Before the advent of major debate over climate change in congress, the debate centered simply around how new technologies would mature in this country. “Mandates” or the “free market?” This was the crux of the argument as we entered the 21st century. Now, anti-climate legislation activists paint solar as part of a scheme to raise taxes, while pro-climate legislation activists paint opponents of solar as “anti-science” or the “tools of the oil industry.” In most cases, both parties are arguing points that are peripheral to the central issue: the inevitable move away from the 19th century central station generation model toward a more distributed generation model.

Contrary to popular belief, all large energy companies are not opposed to renewable energy. Both BP and Shell Oil have dipped their toes in the solar market, and Shell executives have been quoted as saying that solar may grow to be the planets biggest power source by mid-century. Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy boasts a generation portfolio that is 30% wind power and growing. Energy companies understand that renewable energy, and solar in particular are coming on strong. However, they want to be in control of the transition. MidAmerican energy fought to keep any and all farmer-owned wind projects off of their grid until economics were right for MidAm to build its own wind farms. Other large utilities see the writing on the wall, with the rapid decline in cost of solar. Some embrace it, others fight it, and because of their powerful political lobbyists, politicians reflect those concerns.

However, more and more political conservatives are recognizing that distributed electrical generation through solar and wind is ultimately the most consistent with their own core conservative values. The central station model and national transmission grid grew from the federal social programs of Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” That infrastructure is aging, and so is the technology. The market needs to be opened up, and individuals deserve the right to make their own energy choices.

Debbie Dooley, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, said that she supports solar development as “a free market issue that gives consumers more choice.”

Although Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has sided with utilities to kill solar development in his state, his neighbor to the South, Governor Terry Branstad (R) of Iowa, has signed an extension of a wildly successful solar tax credit program in his state. Utility company lobbyists are having an increasingly difficult time keeping the lid on solar’s success in the market, and Conservatives are realizing that solar is a “free market” success story, whether they like it or not. It’s hard to argue with the conservative credentials of these solar supporters. Even Barry Goldwater Jr., son of the Conservative icon and former Republican Arizona legislator has been a vocal supporter of solar development.

Debbie Dooley  Photo: midwesternenergy.com

Debbie Dooley Photo: midwesternenergy.com

Gov. Terry Branstad  photo:qctimes.com

Gov. Terry Branstad photo:qctimes.com

Among Democrats, the majority support renewable energy development, because of their core value of protecting the environment. BUT… the devil is in the details. Once again, political special interest groups play a major role in how Democratic legislators view the implementation of solar. Unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have traditionally opposed distributed generation, and clung to the central station model because power plants have traditionally employed many IBEW members. Because of their traditional ties to unions, many Democrats prefer to see solar deployed and owned by–wait for it–the large utility companies. One egregious example is in Oklahoma, where a bill to fine individuals who use solar passed 29 Democrats in the state House and 12 Democrats in the state Senate.

As we can see, when focusing on core values, there is a great deal of room for agreement over the value of solar development. Freedom to choose our energy source, freedom to advance new and better technologies, freedom from foreign entanglements over energy and freedom from pollution; It would be hard to find an American who doesn’t share those values. Solar values ARE American values. It’s when special interests get involved that the waters get muddied, and progress stops. And let’s face it… inertia in the marketplace is good ONLY for the old and established businesses. If the US hopes to compete in the global marketplace of the 21st century, it is time to open up the energy market to new technologies. After all, if survivalists and hippies can agree that solar is a good idea, why can’t Republicans and Democrats?

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Morocco To Open Giant Solar Thermal Plant https://solartribune.com/morocco-giant-solar-plant/ Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:31:48 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8125 Morocco does not share the oil wealth of its neighboring countries, but it still has plans to compete in the world energy market. According to The Moroccan Agency of Solar Energy, one of the worlds largest solar thermal plants is on track to open in 2015. Mr. Mustapha Elbakoury, a spokesman for the agency, told […]

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Morocco does not share the oil wealth of its neighboring countries, but it still has plans to compete in the world energy market. According to The Moroccan Agency of Solar Energy, one of the worlds largest solar thermal plants is on track to open in 2015. Mr. Mustapha Elbakoury, a spokesman for the agency, told Morocco World News, “According to the program, the progress made by the workshop Basin of Ouarzazate will allow the station, ‘NOOR 1’ to enter into action next year [2015].”
photo: moroccantimes.com

photo: moroccantimes.com


Although neighboring Algiers and Libya rank number 15 and 27 in world oil production, Morocco sits at number 96. Despite its lack of resources, it is one of the sunniest places on earth, with over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, and up to 3600 in the desert regions. By comparison, Yuma, Arizona, which is nicknamed “the sunniest place on earth,” averages 4,000 hours.

NOOR 1, the first of the solar thermal plants, will generate 160 megawatts of electricity. It is part of the larger Ouarzazate project which will utilize both photovoltaic panels (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) thermal generators. It is the first installation in what is excepted to grow to 2,000 MW of solar generation by 2020. NOOR 2 and NOOR 3 are slated to begin construction in 2015 as well.

Morocco’s “ace in the hole” is the fact that it is the only African nation that is connected to the European electrical grid. This link to the European grid will give Morocco access to a 400 billion Euro market for electricity. However, if the Moroccan project proves successful, we can expect to see a large jump in CSP plants sprouting up across North Africa and the Middle East, where fast-growing economies demand more and more electricity.

CSP technology currently boasts a worldwide installed capacity of 1095 MW, and is the most widely deployed solar technology behind PV, Which has grown to a whopping 139 gigawatts. CSP is particularly popular in the Mediterranean region, with major developments in Spain totaling over 600 MW. CSP plants have also been developed in the american Southwest, but developments have stalled due to low PV panel prices.

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Solar Water Heating: In the Shadow of PV https://solartribune.com/solar-water-heating-in-the-shadow-of-pv/ Tue, 21 Oct 2014 12:36:28 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8101 It would be hard not to notice the rush of activity in the worldwide photovoltaic marketplace in recent years, but you may not have noticed that at the same time, solar thermal technology has been rapidly overshadowed by the unprecedented growth and popularity of PV. Once heralded as the most cost effective way to capture […]

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It would be hard not to notice the rush of activity in the worldwide photovoltaic marketplace in recent years, but you may not have noticed that at the same time, solar thermal technology has been rapidly overshadowed by the unprecedented growth and popularity of PV. Once heralded as the most cost effective way to capture and store the sun’s energy, sales of solar water heating systems have not kept pace with the new generation of “plug and play” PV products. The reality of solar thermal’s technical complexities, in combination with misinformation about solar thermal’s versatility and practicality have lead to stagnation in the marketplace. In fact, the rise of cheap PV lead to Martin Holladay’s pronouncement that “Solar Thermal is Dead” in a 2012 article at greenbuildingadvisor.com.

“Solar water heating is only practical in southern climates…”

We often hear that solar water heating doesn’t make sense in northern states, like Minnesota and Wisconsin. In fact, Holladay makes the case that with plummeting PV prices, it may actually be cheaper to heat water with PV now than it is to us a solar thermal system. With PV panel prices dropping below $1/watt, this may be even more true than when Holladay’s article was initially published. Still, thanks to incentive programs, affordable solar domestic hot water (sdhw) systems are still going up in northern states. According to the Daily Northwestern, The city of Evanston Illinois has had 85 new DSHW systems installed this year. In addition, niche markets for solar water heating are popping up, in the hotel industry, greenhouses and residential and public pool heating.

The solar heated greenhouse at Dickinson college  photo: dickinson.edu

The solar heated greenhouse at Dickinson college photo: dickinson.edu

Meanwhile, SDHW continues to see modest growth and continued popularity in southern states like Arizona and Florida. Can solar water heating make a comeback in the US? As with PV, the key will be seeing the installed price come down, and sadly, right now, that isn’t happening.

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Construction to start on U.S. Army’s largest PV array https://solartribune.com/construction-to-start-on-u-s-armys-largest-pv-array-2014-04-22/ Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:05:24 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=7756 Construction on the largest solar PV installation at a U.S. army site will begin this month at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. “This will be the largest solar array in the department of defense on a military installation,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment. The installation is expected to provide […]

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Construction on the largest solar PV installation at a U.S. army site will begin this month at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

“This will be the largest solar array in the department of defense on a military installation,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment.

The installation is expected to provide about 25 percent of the electricity required at Fort Huachuca each year. Construction will start on April 25, with the solar panels expected to go live in late 2014.

Credit: U.S. Army

Credit: U.S. Army

“Energy is an installation priority,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, Fort Huachuca commanding general.

“The project goes beyond the megawatts produced. It reflects our continued commitment to southern Arizona and energy security,” he said. “The project will provide reliable access to electricity for daily operations and missions moving forward.”

The solar project will be owned, funded, operated and maintained by Tucson Electric Power and E.ON will work on the design, engineering, procurement and construction.

“The project establishes a new path for an innovative partnering opportunity among the U.S. Army, other federal agencies, private industry and the utility provider,” added deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability Richard Kidd.

This solar installation will add to the U.S. Army’s goal of using 1 GW of renewable energy by the year 2025.

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SunEdison completes Defense Department’s largest solar project https://solartribune.com/sunedison-completes-defense-departments-largest-solar-project-2014-03-03/ Mon, 03 Mar 2014 09:44:55 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=7534 SunEdison and MIC Solar Energy Holdings have completed the largest PV solar installation at any U.S. Defense Department site, at Davis-Monathan Air Force Base in Tuscon, Arizona. The 16.4 MW ground-mounted PV installation covers 170 acres of land that was previously unused, with 57,000 modules that automatically track the sun’s path to maximise electricity generation. […]

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SunEdison and MIC Solar Energy Holdings have completed the largest PV solar installation at any U.S. Defense Department site, at Davis-Monathan Air Force Base in Tuscon, Arizona.

The 16.4 MW ground-mounted PV installation covers 170 acres of land that was previously unused, with 57,000 modules that automatically track the sun’s path to maximise electricity generation.

The installation will provide about 35 percent of the base’s electricity for 25 years – that’s equivalent to powering over 5,100 homes.

The new installation is also expected to save the Air Force around half a million dollars on electricity costs, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by almost 17,000 metric tons, per year.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Credit: SunEdison

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Credit: SunEdison

“The Air Force, like other branches of the armed forces, is a perfect candidate for solar power because they have high electricity demands and often have large plots of underutilised land,” said Bob Powell, president of North America, SunEdison.

“We can help them use that land to generate significant cost savings that can be reinvested.”

The installation contributes to the Air Force’s aim of generating one quarter of its energy from renewable resources by 2025, a significant goal considering the Air Force is the federal government’s largest consumer of electricity.

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Study: middle class leading solar revolution https://solartribune.com/study-middle-class-leading-solar-revolution-2013-10-30/ Wed, 30 Oct 2013 20:43:14 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6794 A new study from the Center for American Progress has busted the myth that solar is for the rich, finding that the middle class is the biggest adopter of the technology. The study, Solar Power to the People: The Rise of Rooftop Solar Among the Middle Class, looked at utility data from the three biggest markets […]

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A new study from the Center for American Progress has busted the myth that solar is for the rich, finding that the middle class is the biggest adopter of the technology.

The study, Solar Power to the People: The Rise of Rooftop Solar Among the Middle Class, looked at utility data from the three biggest markets for solar in the U.S. – California, New Jersey and Arizona.

And the findings are surprising: over 60% of solar installations are happening in zip codes with median incomes of $40,000 to $90,000 per year.

The report also found that areas with median incomes of $40,000 to $90,000 are also seeing the most growth in adoption of home solar.

The findings are important in the current debates about net metering, Center for American Progress Research Associate Mari Hernandez writes. Utilities across the country are attempting to limit implementation of the scheme which allows solar users to sell back any excess electricity generated by their PV panels back to the grid.

Credit: Center for American Progress

Credit: Center for American Progress

Because of utilities’ size and pricing models, net metering can make purchasing electricity from the grid more expensive – providing an incentive to go solar while also taking customers away from utilities.

According to Hernandez, utilities have based their stand against net metering on the argument that the program forces lower income earners to subsidize the rich: only wealthy people can afford to install home solar panels, but net metering makes grid electricity more expensive for those who can’t afford to go solar.

“Middle-class homeowners are leading the rooftop solar revolution,” writes Hernandez. “This finding will have far-reaching implications as utilities across the country consider revising their solar programs and rate structures, which benefit lower- and middle-class people—who are increasingly installing solar—and not just wealthier people.”

“Regulators and policymakers should consider how net metering and other solar policies support the growth of rooftop solar among middle-class homeowners and how they can continue to expand the use of a clean, renewable energy resource,” she concludes.

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Report: PV capacity to reach 5.3 GW in 2013 https://solartribune.com/report-pv-capacity-to-reach-5-3-gw-in-2013-2013-06-12/ Wed, 12 Jun 2013 09:11:24 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6603 Over 48 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in the first quarter of 2013 came from solar. That’s according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which finds that 723 MW of solar capacity was installed in Q1 2013. That’s 33 percent […]

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Over 48 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in the first quarter of 2013 came from solar.

That’s according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which finds that 723 MW of solar capacity was installed in Q1 2013. That’s 33 percent more than the same period in 2012.

This figure represents the best first quarter performance for the solar industry to date. It’s also a record capacity for the residential and utility segments, with 164 MW and 318 MW installed in Q1 respectively.

“We are on the cusp of a new solar revolution in the U.S., driven by the rapid expansion of distributed generation,” said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM.

Source: U.S. Solar Market Insight

Source: U.S. Solar Market Insight

“Installations will speed up over the next four years as projects become economically preferable to retail power in more locations. However, changes to net metering and electricity rate structures could serve as the market’s primary barrier to adoption.”

The report predicts 4.4 GW of of solar to be installed by the end of 2013, a figure which will grow to almost 9.2 GW by 2016. Adding concentrating solar into the mix will see the U.S. add 5.3 GW of photovoltaic solar this year, enough to power over 960,000 homes.

The residential segment grew the most, up 53 percent from the same period last year, and third-party systems (through power purchasing agreements or solar leasing) continue to expand in some regions. In California and Arizona, third-party solar systems accounted for 67 percent and 86 percent respectively of all residential PV installed in Q1 2013.

“The U.S. now has more than 8,500 MW of cumulative installed solar electric capacity, enough to power more than 1.3 million American households,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA.

“This sustained growth is enabling the solar industry to create thousands of good American jobs and to provide clean, affordable energy for more families, businesses, utilities, and the military than ever before.”

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U.S. solar PV demand to increase to 4.3 GW in 2013 https://solartribune.com/u-s-solar-pv-demand-to-increase-to-4-3-gw-in-2013-2013-06-05/ Wed, 05 Jun 2013 09:01:47 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6579 A new report from NPD Solarbuzz finds that demand for solar PV will grow by 20 percent in the U.S. this year. That will bring total demand for 2013 to 4.3 GW, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly report. The research firm forecasts that demand in the second quarter of […]

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A new report from NPD Solarbuzz finds that demand for solar PV will grow by 20 percent in the U.S. this year.

That will bring total demand for 2013 to 4.3 GW, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly report.

The research firm forecasts that demand in the second quarter of 2013 will reach 1 GW; almost three-quarters of that will come from California, Arizona, New Jersey, and North Carolina, and 68 percent will be from utility-scale ground-mounted installations.

Residential and small commercial rooftop solar energy systems will make up 18% of demand in Q2, with another 14% from large commercial installations.

Credit: NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly

Credit: NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly

“The strong commercial and utility-based solar PV being deployed in the US is stimulated by state specific mandates that require solar to meet target levels, or carve-outs, of total energy production,” says Chris Sunsong, analyst at NPD Solarbuzz.

“Meanwhile, residential demand is being driven by new third-party ownership models that allow homeowners and businesses to install PV systems with minimal upfront commitments,” he continued.

But despite the positive outlook for this year, the report warns that this growth is reliant on strong demand from only a few states. In fact, over 85 percent of all demand for 2013 will come from just nine states, leaving the national market “highly vulnerable to any abrupt policy changes in the leading US PV states.”

“The success of federal incentives and aggressive renewable portfolio standards that were intended to stimulate domestic solar PV installations in the US is now coming under increased scrutiny at the state level”, added Sunsong.

The report also cites large utility-based projects in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas as contributing to strong demand in the second half of 2013.

Overall, demand for solar PV is set to exceed 5 GW in 2014, growing at a compounded annual rate of 70 percent since 2009.

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U.S. solar installations grow 142% year-on-year https://solartribune.com/u-s-solar-installations-grow-142-year-on-year-2013-05-29/ Wed, 29 May 2013 09:00:47 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6542 Installed solar capacity across the U.S. between January and April 2013 has grown 142 percent since the same period in 2012. In the first four months of 2013, 845 MW of solar capacity was installed through 56 projects. That’s compared to just 348 MW from 94 projects over the same time in 2012, indicating that […]

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Installed solar capacity across the U.S. between January and April 2013 has grown 142 percent since the same period in 2012.

In the first four months of 2013, 845 MW of solar capacity was installed through 56 projects. That’s compared to just 348 MW from 94 projects over the same time in 2012, indicating that the average project size has also increased.

The figures come from the latest U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Energy Infrastructure Update, which found that 33 MW of solar went live in April.

First Solar employees at an installation in Nevada. Credit: First Solar

First Solar employees at an installation in Nevada. Credit: First Solar

However, solar makes up only 0.44 percent of total electricity generating capacity in the U.S., with 5.14 GW.

Some of the large installations that went live include:

  • SolarVision’s 5 MW Celina Solar Project I in Mercer County, Ohio, which will produce enough power to meet about 8 percent of the City of Celina’s total energy demand.

  • Arizona Public Service Co.’s 17 MW Foothills Solar Power Plant in Yuma, Arizona.

  • Light Beam Energy Inc’s 1.7 MW Gridley Main One Solar and 2.5 MW Gridley Main Two Solar in Butte County, California, which will be sold to the City of Gridley and to the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit under long-term contracts, respectively.

  • Hannon Strong Solar LLC’s 1.4 MW Fort Bliss Solar in El Paso County, Texas; the power generated is sold to the U.S. Army Fort Bliss under a long-term contract.

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Solar plane begins cross-country flight https://solartribune.com/solar-plane-begins-cross-country-flight-2013-05-03/ Fri, 03 May 2013 07:41:17 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6404 Solar Impulse, the photovoltaic solar powered plane from Swiss duo Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, will today depart from San Francisco on it’s cross-country tour. This first flight, piloted by Bertrand Piccard, will depart from Moffett Field, NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View and arrive in Phoenix, Arizona after a 19 hour flight. According […]

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Solar Impulse, the photovoltaic solar powered plane from Swiss duo Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, will today depart from San Francisco on it’s cross-country tour.

This first flight, piloted by Bertrand Piccard, will depart from Moffett Field, NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View and arrive in Phoenix, Arizona after a 19 hour flight.

According to the Solar Impulse team, this trip is the first time that a fully solar-powered plane, capable of flying day and night without fuel, will attempt to fly across the U.S.

Solar Impulse test flight. Credit: Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse test flight. Credit: Solar Impulse

The plane has a wingspan of 208 feet and weighs just over 3,500 pounds – a lot less than conventional planes of a similar size. It is powered by 12,000 photovoltaic cells and batteries that conserve solar energy, to allow the plane to fly at night.

They’re also launching the “Clean Generation” Initiative to garner support for clean technologies, since this flight exemplifies the potential of solar power and other renewable technologies. The names of all the people who have supported the “Clean Generation” Initiative will be carried in the cockpit of the airplane as virtual passengers.

The next leg of the trip will be in mid May, from Phoenix to Dallas; the plane will then travel to St. Louis, Washington D.C. and New York City.

You can catch a live stream of the flight at www.solarimpulse.com.

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California tops the nation for solar jobs https://solartribune.com/california-tops-the-nation-for-solar-jobs-2013-04-22/ Mon, 22 Apr 2013 07:06:35 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6162 A new report has found that the U.S. solar industry now employs almost 120,000 people, with California leading the way. According to The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) third annual National Solar Jobs Census, in 2012 the solar industry employed 119,016 people in the U.S. That’s 13,872 more than 2011, a 13.2 percent increase. The report, a […]

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A new report has found that the U.S. solar industry now employs almost 120,000 people, with California leading the way.

According to The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) third annual National Solar Jobs Census, in 2012 the solar industry employed 119,016 people in the U.S. That’s 13,872 more than 2011, a 13.2 percent increase.

The report, a collaboration between TSF, BW Research Partnership and Cornell University, surveyed over 1,000 companies across the industry, including in installation, sales and distribution, and manufacturing.

Credit: The Solar Foundation

Credit: The Solar Foundation

Since 2010, the U.S. solar industry has seen employment grow 27 percent, eight times higher than employment in the country as a whole, which grew by only 3.2 percent in the same period.

Installation is the largest subsector in terms of employment, now employing 57,177 Americans, a 17.5 percent jump from 2011. Sales and distribution jobs experienced a 23.1 percent increase, now up to 16,005 employees.

“The National Solar Jobs Census 2012 illustrates that the solar industry, as a whole, is a dependable job creator and that solar employers are confident about growth in 2013,” said Andrea Luecke, TSF Executive Director.

“The growth by installers, especially at larger firms, signals that this subsector is heading toward a period of consolidation and maturation on par with other successful industries at this stage of the growth curve.”

Furthermore, the outlook for the coming year is positive: employers in the industry expect growth of 17.2 percent, or an additional 20,000 workers.

“The fact that such a large proportion of employers anticipate adding jobs despite the difficulties facing the solar industry suggests that solar employment will continue its upward growth trajectory,” added Luecke.

The National Solar Jobs Census also broke down employment by state, finding that California leads the way with 43,700 solar jobs. Arizona came in second with 9,800 solar jobs, making it the state with most solar jobs per capita.

For the full breakdown, go to www.solarstates.org.

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Suntech to close Arizona production plant https://solartribune.com/suntech-to-close-arizona-production-plant-2013-03-15/ Fri, 15 Mar 2013 08:12:06 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=5682 This week, Suntech Power announced it will stop production at its solar panel plant in Goodyear, Arizona on April 3. Suntech is one of the largest PV panel producers in the world, and only opened the factory in Arizona in late 2010. The factory closure will impact 43 employees. A statement from the company credits […]

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This week, Suntech Power announced it will stop production at its solar panel plant in Goodyear, Arizona on April 3.

Suntech is one of the largest PV panel producers in the world, and only opened the factory in Arizona in late 2010. The factory closure will impact 43 employees.

A statement from the company credits the closure to high production costs “exacerbated by import tariffs on solar cells and aluminum frames imposed by the U.S. government, as well as global solar module oversupply.”

The plant shutdown one part of company’s global restructuring plans, which aim to lower expenses by 20 percent this year.

San Francisco's Sunset Reservoir. Photo Credit: Recurrent Energy

San Francisco’s Sunset Reservoir. Photo Credit: Recurrent Energy

“These are the growing pains of a maturing industry; although it’s a tough time to be a solar manufacturer, there’s never been a better time to be a solar customer,” said Mick McDaniel, Managing Director of Suntech America.

The facility reached its peak production capacity in 2011 at 50MW per year, but scaled back to an output level of only 15MW annually in November 2012.

“Rationalizing production capacity is necessary to improve our manufacturing utilization and help Suntech to return to profitability,” said Suntech CEO David King. “We’re hopeful that these tough decisions will help put Suntech back on track for growth.”

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Suntech Reduces Arizona Plant Production, Cuts Jobs https://solartribune.com/2012-12-03-suntech-reduces-arizona-plant-production-cuts-jobs/ Mon, 03 Dec 2012 08:20:41 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=4623 Solar panel manufacturing giant Suntech announced it will stop two of its three production shifts, due to an oversupply in the global market and recent trade restrictions imposed by the U.S. government. The China-based company will decrease its  Goodyear, Arizona solar manufacturing facility’s production from a yearly module capacity of 45MW to 15MW, with about […]

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Solar panel manufacturing giant Suntech announced it will stop two of its three production shifts, due to an oversupply in the global market and recent trade restrictions imposed by the U.S. government.

The China-based company will decrease its  Goodyear, Arizona solar manufacturing facility’s production from a yearly module capacity of 45MW to 15MW, with about 50 accompanying layoffs. This move is in line with the company’s global restructure that aims to reduce its production capacity and slash operating costs by 20 percent.

“We will continue to produce solar panels in Arizona to meet the needs of our customers, particularly those who are willing to pay a premium for U.S.-manufactured products,” said E.L. “Mick” McDaniel, managing director of Suntech America.

A worker at a Suntech facility. Photo Credit: Suntech

“Our employees in Goodyear have done a tremendous job, however all PV manufacturers globally are facing challenging market and political conditions, and rationalizing production is necessary to maintain a competitive cost structure,” he added.

Suntech opened the Goodyear plant back in August of 2010. The company had plans to expand the 117,000-square foot facility to 50MW and the workforce to 107, with the goal of further increasing its production capacity to 120MW.

However, the U.S. International Trade Commission voted on imposing tariffs of 35.9 percent on Chinese-manufactured Suntech solar cells in November, impacting production costs and therefore output targets. Costs also increased due to a tariff imposed last year on incoming shipments of aluminum used in the solar module frames.

These unexpected barriers have put a strain on the company’s ability to manufacture PV panels in the U.S., with the new tariffs imposed limiting Suntech’s ability to utilize its own solar technology imported from China.

“We will continue to assess our options and if the political and business environment improves, we may reconsider expanding our manufacturing operations in the US,” said McDaniel.

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