Uncategorized – Solar Tribune https://solartribune.com Solar Energy News, Analysis, Education Fri, 13 May 2022 13:41:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.1 What are the Best Policy Mechanisms to Combat Climate Change https://solartribune.com/climate-change-policy/ Sat, 04 May 2019 07:02:30 +0000 https://solartribune.com/?p=14727 Climate change policy has finally taken a place on the priority of the mainstream population and politicians and candidates looking to represent them. However, climate advocates can no longer support leaders who pass the bar of saying they support climate action, but rather we need to be debating and choosing the specific types of climate […]

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Climate change policy has finally taken a place on the priority of the mainstream population and politicians and candidates looking to represent them. However, climate advocates can no longer support leaders who pass the bar of saying they support climate action, but rather we need to be debating and choosing the specific types of climate change policies that will work most effectively and most quickly to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis.

To facilitate these discussions and educate our readers and decision-makers alike on the specifics of different climate change policy mechanisms, Solar Tribune has gathered a comprehensive (though not necessarily exhaustive) list of those policy levers. We’re collecting insights from thought leaders compare the pros and cons and identify the key considerations of these potential climate change policies. Check back to this page regularly as we continue to conduct interviews in order to add voices of new experts across industries and insights from leaders in this field.

Carbon Pricing

What is it: Policies enacting carbon price allow utilities, industries, and others to continue emitting greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere, but it prices the externalities created and requires the emitter to pay for them. Because the damage from climate change would be economic and for everyone across the world, this method forces emitters to internalize those costs and often creates a business case for installing more efficient and clean equipment.

Is it enacted anywhere: According to the New York Times, carbon pricing is enacted in a variety of places across the globe, including Canada, Mexico, the European Union, Australia, and more, as well as in 10 states across the country.

In Favor of Carbon Pricing:

“Climate change poses great dangers to us all. Carbon pricing makes investments in low-carbon or carbon-free technologies attractive and ensures that fossil fuels are used efficiently.”– Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

 

“Here has to be a price on carbon because there is a price on carbon: it’s the consequences to health and the economy and to our climate. We face an existential challenge with the changes in our climate. The time to act is now.”– Jerry Brown, former Governor of California

 

“Climate change is a member of a special kind of economic activity known as global public goods.” To solve this problem, “At a minimum, all countries should agree to penalize carbon and other GHG emissions by the agreed upon minimum price.”William Nordhaus, President of the American Economics Association

 

On carbon pricing, the pontiff said that humanity is called to use natural resources “wisely,” and their use can only be considered ethical when the economic and social costs of using them are transparently acknowledged and “are fully borne by those who incur them, rather than by other people or future generations.”Pope Francis

 

“A fee on carbon polluters is a fee imposed on fossil fuels, ultimately intended to eliminate the emission of carbon dioxide. Vote Climate U.S. PAC believes that a fee on carbon polluters is an essential piece of the Green New Deal or any comprehensive legislation to slow climate change. A carbon fee would compel energy producers to switch from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy or lose their competitive edge.” Karyn Strickler, Vote Climate U.S. PAC 

 

“From an economist’s perspective, carbon pricing (whether in a tax or cap-and-trade system) is still the most efficient way to control emissions. It does all the work for you, as long as you set the cap or price at roughly the appropriate level, conduct auctioning rather than allocating on emissions allowances, and emitters are more willing to pay the costs of emitting than to relocate to other jurisdictions.” – Alex Clark, Doctoral Researcher, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, Oxford University

 

Against Carbon Pricing:

“Existing carbon-pricing schemes tend to squeeze only certain sectors of the economy, leaving others essentially free to pollute. And even in those sectors in which carbon pricing might have a significant effect, policymakers have lacked the spine to impose a high enough price. The result is that a policy prescription widely billed as a panacea is acting as a narcotic. It’s giving politicians and the public the warm feeling that they’re fighting climate change even as the problem continues to grow.”- Jeffrey Ball, scholar-in-residence at Stanford

 

Read more:

Pricing Carbon – World Bank Group

These Countries Have Prices on Carbon. Are They Working? New York Times

About Carbon Pricing – United Nations Framework Council on Climate Change

Cap-and-Trade

What is it: Cap-and-Trade is one specific type of carbon pricing mechanism, whereby the price of carbon is set based on market forces. Under a cap-and-trade system, the governing body dictates the level of emissions that are permitted and issue allowances equal to that amount and every carbon emitter would be required to hold those allowances equal to the amount they produce. Emitters that reduce their carbon output below their allowance can then auction their extra allowances to those who exceeded their limit on the open market.

Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, cap-and-trade is the form of carbon pricing being used in the European Union, Mexico, and a number of U.S. states.

In Favor of Cap-and-Trade:

“Putting a price on carbon emissions via cap and trade is among the best possible ways to get emissions down quickly and cheaply.”- Gernot Wager, economist with the Environmental Defense Fund

 

Against Cap-and-Trade: 

“The strategy of buying and selling carbon credits can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.”- Pope Francis

 

When asked about cap and trade Warren Buffet said, “In the utility business, it’s going to be borne by customers. And it’s a tax like anything else.” He added that the “tax is probably going to be pretty regressive.”- Warren Buffet, American business magnate

 

“A full-blown fleecing of the middle class, it would raise electricity prices, increase gasoline prices, and ship American jobs to countries like China and India”- John Boehner, former Speaker of the House

 

Read more:

How cap and trade works – Environmental Defense Fund

Cap and Trade Basics – Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Cap and Trade and Carbon Taxes – Union of Concerned Scientists

Carbon Taxes

What is it: Carbon taxes are the other type of carbon pricing, other than cap-and-trade, where the governing body sets the price on carbon emissions and collects that tax accordingly. Whereas cap-and-trade offers defined emission reductions with uncertain carbon prices, carbon taxes offer defined carbon prices with uncertain carbon reductions.

Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, carbon taxes are being used in certain parts of Canada, as well as in Boulder, Colorado.

In Favor of Carbon Taxes:

“The real right way to correct [the subsidy] would be to establish a carbon tax. If you ask any economist they will tell you that is the obvious thing to do, put the correct price on carbon because we currently have an error in the economy which misprices carbon at zero or something closer to zero. It is a fundamental economic error.”- Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, Inc.

 

“A global carbon tax levied on a relatively small number of large sources can be monitored by satellite and checked against the annual surveillance of fiscal and economic polices already carried out by IMF staff. Thus, the accounting involved is much more precise and much less subject to the vagaries of corruption and conflict over which industries and companies get their free handouts of carbon credits — carbon pork — than in a cap-and-trade system.”- Ralph Nader, American political activist, attorney, and author

 

Against Carbon Taxes: 

“Energy is the lifeblood of any economy. A carbon tax would increase energy prices and thus cost jobs, making it difficult for U.S. companies to compete with foreign rivals and punishing the poor.”- H. Sterling Burnett, Senior Fellow on Energy and the Environment at the Heartland Institute

 

Read more:

Cap and Trade and Carbon Taxes – Union of Concerned Scientists

Carbon Tax Basics – Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

The 5 Most Important Questions About Carbon Taxes, Answered – Vox

 

Eliminating Fossil Fuel Subsidies

What is it: The current fossil fuel landscape sees the government providing the fossil fuel industry (including oil, gas, and coal) with various types and levels of government subsidies, which are financial incentives and rewards for fossil fuel production and generation. These subsidies can appear in a number of different ways, including loopholes in calculating payouts for coal mining on public lands, direct subsidies via fuel tax credit, indirect subsidies like the Last In, First Out Accounting method permitted to oil and gas companies, research grants into new fossil energy technologies, and more. Increasingly, one climate policy position has been to push for the removal of these fossil fuel subsidies, both the outright incentives and the hidden ones, as a way to force fossil fuel generation to compete on a more level playing ground with clean energy sources.

Is it enacted anywhere: The G7 nations (the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the European Union) set a deadline of 2025 for them to collectively eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, though obviously, each participating member of G7 has achieved a varying level of compliance towards that as-of-yet unreached deadline to date.

In Favor of Eliminating Fossil Fuel Subsidies:

It is inconsistent, and ultimately counterproductive, to strive to meet urgent climate goals while at the same time increasing oil and gas production capacity, further extracting coal and developing additional coal-fired power generation. To level the playing field that currently undermines the prospects for renewable energy, subsidies to fossil fuels need to end, and both the public and private sectors must accelerate divestment from these harmful resources” – REN21

 

“We need to realign the incentives and tax breaks away from fossil fuels and towards energy conservation and renewable energy. We need to create new carefully targeted incentives for reducing carbon emissions. There’s no reason for draconian laws and tax hikes. There are new technologies already available, whether electric cars, cost-saving equipment for zero energy buildings, or electric grids powered by renewable energy and batteries. All the technology is available and ready to go. Only two things are needed: 1) to realign the incentives so people and companies do what’s right here– using off-the-shelf availabile technologies that will improve lives, save money, and improve the environment; and 2) some education and cheerleading to bring awareness of the many benefits of these energy-saving technologies.” – Joe Emerson, Zero Energy Project

 

Against Eliminating Fossil Fuel Subsidies:

Here we show that removing fossil fuel subsidies would have an unexpectedly small impact on global energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions and would not increase renewable energy use by 2030. Subsidy removal would reduce the carbon price necessary to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration at 550 parts per million by only 2–12 per cent under low oil prices. Removing subsidies in most regions would deliver smaller emission reductions than the Paris Agreement (2015) climate pledges and in some regions global subsidy removal may actually lead to an increase in emissions, owing to either coal replacing subsidized oil and natural gas or natural-gas use shifting from subsidizing, energy-exporting regions to non-subsidizing, importing regions” – Jessica Jewell, et. al, in Nature Journal

 

Read more:

Time for the US to End Fossil Fuel Subsidies: Natural Resource Defense Council

Fact Sheet: Fossil Fuel Subsidies: A Closer Look at Tax Breaks and Societal Costs: Environmental and Energy Study Institute

Fossil fuels are underpriced by a whopping $5.2 trillion: Vox

 

Renewable Portfolio Standards

What is it: Policies for Renewable Portfolio Standards, or RPS, are mandates that utilities use a given amount of government-defined energy sources (e.g., some states may include nuclear energy as a carbon-neutral source or biomass as a renewable source, while others may narrowly define which energy sources count as renewable). Typically, RPS policies will be escalating over time and require utilities to generate an increasing percentage of its power from qualified resources. RPS standards can be considered a hammer in the clean energy policy toolbox, simply requiring the appropriate amount of renewable energy rather than incentivizing it, though it also ensures all energy providers covered by the RPS are uniformly expected to adapt.

Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, 38 states and the District of Columbia have some form of RPS in place.

In Favor of Renewable Portfolio Standards:

“One of the tools that’s been most effective at all levels of policy is performance standards, such as appliance efficiency standards, building codes, and clean electricity or renewables portfolio standards. These tools can be particularly powerful when they set technology-neutral performance goals, which allow for flexibility in finding the most cost-effective ways to achieve targets without pre-judging the best technologies.” – Michael Mastrandrea, Director of Near Zero at Carnegie Institute for Science

 

“Since 2017, Nevadan voters have been repeatedly calling for a stronger RPS, and today the legislature delivered. Senate Bill 358 will bring thousands of jobs, reduce costs for consumers and keep our clean energy momentum going. We look forward to seeing Governor Sisolak sign this bill.”- Andy Maggi, executive director of Nevada Conservation League

 

Against Renewable Portfolio Standards:

“The estimates indicate that 7 years after passage of an RPS program, the required renewable share of generation is 1.8 percentage points higher and average retail electricity prices are 1.3 cents per kWh, or 11% higher; the comparable figures for 12 years after adoption are a 4.2 percentage point increase in renewables’ share and a price increase of 2.0 cents per kWh or 17%. These cost estimates significantly exceed the marginal operational costs of renewables and likely reflect costs that renewables impose on the generation system, including those associated with their intermittency, higher transmission costs, and any stranded asset costs assigned to ratepayers. The estimated reduction in carbon emissions is imprecise, but, together with the price results, indicates that the cost per metric ton of CO2 abated exceeds $115 in all specifications and ranges up to $530, making it least several times larger than conventional estimates of the social cost of carbon.”- Michael Greenstone, Ishan Nath, Economists at the University of Chicago

 

Read more:

State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals – National Conference of State Legislatures

Renewable Energy Standards – Solar Energy Industries Association

U.S. Renewable Portfolio Standards: 2018 Annual Status Report – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Feed-in Tariffs

What is it: Feed-in Tariffs represent a policy mechanism that provides economic certainty to providers of renewable energy and thus encourage the investment in such sources by provisioning a set price that these generators receive for their energy (typically based on costs to generate at the moment, meaning less mature technologies receive higher rates) while requiring utilities to purchase a given amount of the generation at this price for a set period. These tariffs thus encourage and support innovation around emerging energy sources and ensure business models for them are given time to flourish.

In Favor of Feed-in-Tariffs:

“A lot of the charm of the feed-in tariff is solid, take-it-to-the-bank security and confidence for the investing community. You get access to what is very difficult to get right now: financing.”- Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington and candidate for  2020 Democrat Presidential nomination

 

Against Feed-in-Tariffs:

“The honest truth is we earn our returns by building plants and putting them into rate base and making profits on them.” A feed-in tariff “does take away that opportunity of utilities to earn on their investments. … If you really, really want us to love this stuff, figure out a way we can make some money on it.”- Betsy Egelking, resource planning and bidding manager for Xcel Energ

 

Read more:

Feed-in tariff: A policy tool encouraging deployment of renewable electricity technologies – U.S. Energy Information Administration

Feed-in Tariffs: Good Practices and Design Considerations – National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Feed-in tariffs: a primer on feed-in tariffs for solar – Energy Sage

Renewable Tax Credits

What is it: Renewable energy tax credits can take the form of investment tax credits (ITCs), which provide tax credit to owners of renewable energy facilities based on the cost of facilities, and production tax credits (PTCs), which provide tax credit to owners of renewable energy facilities based on how much energy they generate. These financial incentives are offered to make it more appealing to investors to take a risk on renewable energy installations where they might have been more hesitant to pour money into technologies that had not yet matured.

Is it enacted anywhere: The United States originally enacted renewable energy tax credits in 1992, which have been renewed and expanded several times between then and the most recent version in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

In Favor of Renewable Tax Credits:

“Wind and solar will need to be complemented by geothermal energy, hydropower, and biomass energy. This can be incentivized by modifying the current tax credit structure that currently favors solar and wind power. Despite unequal access to tax incentives, geothermal, hydropower, and biomass are valuable because they provide baseload power and are located in geographically diverse areas.” – The Environmental and Energy Study Institute

 

“While the pendulum of energy subsidies may be swinging in favor of renewables in the last year or two, such momentum can be lost easily if lawmakers don’t extend various incentives and credits that have helped drive it.”- Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss, Scientific American

 

Against Renewable Tax Credits:

“The government shouldn’t pick winners and losers in the marketplace – but they try.

Renewable energy, driven by state and federal subsidies, is driving out baseload producers and jeopardizing the reliability of the electricity grid. According to ERCOT’s 2017 Capacity, Demand, and Reserves report, the expected 2018 peak reserve margin for the Texas electricity market has dropped to 9.3%, below the 13.75% target. Six months earlier, ERCOT had projected a reserve margin of 18.9%. This drop is primarily due to retiring generation sources, mostly coal-fired plants. Some would see this as a success, but favoring less reliable sources has an obvious downside—unreliability.”- Will Morgan, Texas Public Policy Foundation

 

“I believe that solar energy still needs some kind of compensation to account for its beneficial environmental impact compared with traditional energy sources based on fossil fuels. Although the tax credit has proven in the past to be a powerful instrument in helping to promote the various forms of renewable energy, I believe that moving forward a performance-based approach using tradable certificates like SRECs [solar renewable energy certificates] would further improve the acceptance of renewable energy and significantly boost its progress by better integrating the investment world.”- Frank Rieger, Sol-Up USA

 

Read more:

The Value of Energy Tax Incentives for Different Types of Energy Resources – Congressional Research Service

The Basics: Renewable Energy Tax Credits – US Bank

Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit – DSIRE

Competitive Energy Markets

What is it: While most utilities operate with a regulated monopoly over their customers, increasing amounts of states and countries have deregulated their energy markets to allow for competition among multiple energy providers. Such monopolies mean there’s less incentive for utilities to innovate and adapt to customers’ desires, but over a dozen states have passed legislation allowing competition in their energy markets which lets customers choose among multiple energy suppliers who will provide their generation (transmission and distribution is still covered by the local utility so as not to build out multiple grid systems). Because more customers these days want to know their home is being powered by renewable energy, implementing competitive energy markets is a policy mechanism to incentivize utilities to adapt to these new customer requirements.

Is it enacted anywhere: According to Electric Choice, 17 states plus Washington DC offer deregulated electricity markets.

In Favor of Competitive Energy Markets:

“In states that are highly regulated, such choice is not possible. Utilities might use some renewable resources to generate their electricity, but customers do not often have the same option to choose 100 percent renewables. Utility companies could offer this, but they don’t have competition to incentivize them to come up with such innovative programs or to reduce the prices of their renewable energy offers.

Laws and regulatory directives could be introduced that require them to take these steps, but these routes are often less efficient than letting the market work.”- Emily Folk, Renewable Energy Magazine

 

Against Competitive Energy Markets:

“The competitive market for energy is simply not working for residential customers. Consumers pay more for the same electricity, and even states with strong consumer protections have not ended overcharging and abusive marketing practices. In light of this history, states should consider whether competitive suppliers should be limited to the commercial and industrial markets and municipal aggregation.”- Jenifer Bosco, National Consumer Law Center

 

Read more:

Energy Deregulation Around the World: A Comprehensive Guide – Electric Choice

Energy Deregulation Opening Up Potential for Renewable Energy Future – Renewable Energy Magazine

Will Renewable Power Prosper in a Deregulated Industry? – Southwest Research and Information Center

Vehicle Performance Standards

What is it: Vehicle performance standards are requirements for the amount of carbon emissions allowed to be emitted by cars and trucks when they are driven, typically expressed in terms of miles per gallon, or MPG, (since a gallon of gasoline burned will emit a given amount of emissions, so greater ability to drive for the same fuel will reduce overall emissions). As hybrid and electric vehicles have become more evasive, governing bodies have added in a measure of miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) that accounts for the emissions required to generate the electricity that powers these vehicles.

Is it enacted anywhere: The United States has implemented vehicle performance standards since 1975, under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, with the goal of reducing reliance of foreign fossil fuels after the uncertainty from the Arab Oil Embargo in the 1970s. These standards have been updated many times, with some states also adapting more stringent vehicle performance standards prescribed by California.

In Favor of Vehicle Performance Standards:

“Under the standards, the country’s cars, pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans are getting much cleaner. EPA’s online counter shows that new vehicles sold since model year 2012 have already avoided the emissions of more than 242 million tons of carbon pollution. The 2012-2025 standards are the biggest federal climate-protection program in place. If fully implemented, cleaner vehicles sold as a result of the standards will cut pollution that warms the planet by nearly 6 billion tons.

By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the standards slow the warming of our planet, and they protect our health by reducing the number of high-smog days that would come with a hotter world.”- Natural Resources Defense Council

 

Against Vehicle Performance Standards

“Economists have long been skeptical of fuel economy standards because they are an inefficient means of reducing fuel consumption and emissions. The majority of U.S. consumers demonstrably prefer larger, more powerful vehicles, such as pickups and SUVs. But vehicle manufacturers continue to produce large numbers of small vehicles, which have higher fuel economy, in order to comply with fuel economy standards. As a result, manufacturers and dealers are forced to discount the prices of new cars, undermining their overall profitability.”- Julian Morris, senior fellow at Reason Foundation and executive director of the International Center for Law and Economics

 

Read more:

Federal Vehicle Standards – Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

The Effect of Standards for New Vehicle Fuel Economy and GHG Emissions on U.S. Consumers – Resources Magazine

Federal Clean Car Standards – Environmental Defense Fund

Vehicle Fuel Fees

What is it: Because the most harmful part of transportation to the climate is the emissions associated with burning fuel, taxes on gasoline are a common tool to make driving more expensive and thus incentivize people to find alternative forms of transportation and drive personal vehicles less. While gasoline taxes have been implemented as revenue-raising measures for transportation infrastructure longer than they’ve been considered a climate policy, they are an increasingly useful way to encourage transportation emission reductions.

Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Tax Foundation, every state in the nation has a gasoline tax, ranging from as low as 15 cents per gallon in Alaska to 59 cents per gallon in Pennsylvania.

In Favor of Vehicle Fuel Fees:

“A gas tax could be one important element of an integrated energy policy.”- Alan Mullally, former CEO of Ford

 

Against Vehicle Fuel Fees:

“Tax hikes have a negative impact on economic growth. As discussed, higher gas taxes mean higher gas prices which reduce the discretionary income of millions of Americans.  Reductions in discretionary income often correspond with diminished economic growth. In fact, analysts at Goldman Sachs predict “lower gas prices could add as much as half a percentage point to GDP growth this year.””- Emma Boone, Americans for Tax Reform

 

Read more:

Fuel Taxes: An Important Instrument for Climate Policy – University of Gothenburg

Aborted Fuel Tax Initiative in France: Its Ramifications for Green Growth – Inter Press Service

Vehicle Climate Fee – City of Boulder Colorado

 

Electric Vehicle Policies

What is it: Electric vehicle policies can encompass a variety of different strategies, from incentives for purchasing new electric cars to supporting the installation of charging infrastructure to converting municipal fleets to be powered by electricity and much more, but the goal is the same: transforming the base of vehicles on U.S. roads to be powered by electricity (already less carbon-intensive than internal combustion engines and getting better as the grid decarbonizes) rather than gasoline.

Is it enacted anywhere: The U.S. government included provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to provide tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles, while at least 47 different states, according to the Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technology Collaboration Programme, offer regulations promoting electric cars.

In Favor of Electric Vehicle Policies:

“By far, the rubric assigns the highest weight to vehicle purchase incentives, which could include grants, rebates or tax credits, along with exemptions from sales tax, registration and licensing fees.”- National Association of State Energy Officials

 

Against Electric Vehicle Policies:

“To justify these staggering costs, advocates of the credit claim that electric cars as “critical to lowering our emissions and limiting climate change.” But the numbers tell a different story. Research by the Manhattan Institute found that EVs will reduce energy-related U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by less than 1% by 2050. “That reduction will have no measurable impact on world climate—and thus the economic value of CO2 emissions reductions associated with [electric vehicles] is effectively zero,” according to the study, which also found that the spread of EVs would actually increase other harmful pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.”- Steve Pociask, President of the American Consumer Institute

 

Read more:

Comparing U.S. and Chinese Electric Vehicle Policies – Environmental and Energy Study Institute

Model State & Local Policies to Accelerate Electric Vehicle Adoption – Sierra Club and Plug In America

Electric Vehicle State Policy Resources – Georgetown Climate Center

Urban Mobility Policies

What is it: Urban mobility is the collection of how people move around a given city in efficient and effective manners, including driving, public transit, walking, and biking. Locally, a focus on climate-friendly urban mobility policy will shift the number of trips taken via carbon emitting measures like personal vehicles towards less carbon intensive (public transit) or carbon neutral (walking and biking) means. Examples of climate-focused urban mobility policies includes funding for public transportation systems, installation of bike lanes, and a focus on minimizing sprawl while maximizing affordable housing close to a city center.

Is it enacted anywhere: Any city or region has its own form of urban mobility policy, with varying degrees of a climate focus turned to it. Examples of clean urban mobility policy include the European Union’s aim to free cities of conventionally fueled cars by 2050, extensive networks of bicycle lanes installed in Oslo, and congestion charges in Stockholm.

In Favor of Urban Mobility Policies:

“As the developing world rapidly urbanizes, the demands on transport systems also grow often at a faster pace than the population. Given the above tendency, an effective and coordinated approach to urban transport requires that sound policies be put into place. Such policies enunciate the direction that a government wants to take; they lay the basic framework for downstream planning as well as project identification and prioritization.”- World Bank Group

 

Against Urban Mobility Policies:

Here’s what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Walker told the paper’s editorial writers Tuesday about why he opposed transit improvements in the county he purportedly leads:

 “…Walker said he would like to grow the local economy enough so lower-income people don’t have to rely on transit and could instead afford to buy cars if they chose.”- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

 

Read more:

Formulating an Urban Transport Policy: Choosing between Options – World Bank

European Urban Mobility – Policy Context – European Union

Urban mobility at a tipping point – McKinsey & Company

Building Energy Codes

What is it: Just like buildings must be to code when it comes to fire preparedness and electrical safety, many jurisdictions have codes for the energy systems installed in residential and commercial buildings. Building energy codes typically cover how airtight the building envelope (i.e., walls, floors, and ceiling) is to ensure efficient use of heating and cooling, lighting installations, and required levels of insulation. The goal is to prevent unnecessarily wasted energy in the stock buildings due to cutting corners, and because once constructed buildings will be operating for at least decades, building energy codes are among the energy policies with the longest time of impact.

Is it enacted anywhere: While there is no singular U.S. building energy code, most states have adopted building energy codes of some level, according to the Building Codes Assistance Project.

In Favor of Building Energy Codes:

“Shifting the materials we build our spaces and our urban environments with is something we can do today becaues these superior and beneficial materials for rooftops and walls across the globe already exist. Using optimal roofing materials and strategies will have a substantial energy efficiency impact by keeping our buildings cooler and reducing the need for air conditioning, it improves thermal comfort, and it promotes global cooling in a way that not only reduces the amount of greenhouse gases you’d otherwise emit but it also cancels some of the warming effect of the greenhouse gases you’ve already emitted.” – Kurt Schickman, Executive Director of Global Cool Cities Alliance

 

“Building energy codes that reduce wasted energy, optimize material usage, and ensure safe structures are essential. National codes should set minimum standards that local governments must enact. As a society, we should be working together to conserve resources and ensure the safety of our homes both for our own families and for future owners.” – Don Vandervort, Founder of HomeTips.com

 

“Strong building energy codes are one of the most effective, and cost-effective, mechanisms to increase the long-term energy efficiency of buildings”- Institute for Market Transformation

 

Against Building Energy Codes:

“When construction teams “build to code,” what does that really mean? Unfortunately, it often means complying with the bare minimum of legal requirements. No reputable builder will defy codes intentionally, but if builders’ only goal is to make sure a property isn’t illegal, they may not have incentive to go above and beyond with quality or safety.”- Carla Williams of Williams Brothers Corporation of America

 

Read more:

Building Energy Codes: Policy Overview and Good Practices – National Renewable Energy Laboratories

Building Energy Codes Program – U.S. Department of Energy

Global Approaches: A Comparison of Building Energy Codes in 15 Countries – American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

Appliance Energy Standards

What is it: While building energy codes cover the structure of a building, appliance energy codes instead cover the energy efficiency of products that typically go within buildings. Between federally mandated minimum efficiencies and voluntary stretch goals for the most energy efficient products (such as ENERGY STAR), this type of policy analyzes how much energy common products (e.g., light bulbs, washing machines, ceiling fans) use and push the manufacturers to match the most efficient ones on the market.

Is it enacted anywhere: The United States, through the Appliance and Equipment Standards Program, covers the efficiency of residential and commercial appliances in accordance with a 1975 act of Congress.

In Favor of Appliance Energy Standards:

“Efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings set in the first and second terms combined will reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030, equivalent to nearly one-half of the carbon pollution from the entire U.S. energy sector for one year—while continuing to cut families’ energy bills.”- Former President Barack Obama

 

“We find no evidence to suggest that more stringent energy efficiency standards hurt consumers by increasing price or lowering quality. Rather, we find evidence that price declines and quality improvements accelerate with stricter standards, which unambiguously improves consumer welfare, excluding external pollution-related benefits”- Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

 

Against Appliance Energy Standards:

“The goal is to reduce energy bills, but even DOE admits that for some consumers, these standards raise the up-front price of appliances more than what will be earned back in the form of energy savings. This was particularly true of air conditioner standards but also refrigerators and several others. Low-income and senior households are most likely to experience net costs, according to the agency.”- Ben Lieberman, senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and former counsel for House Energy and Commerce Committee

 

Read more:

Appliance and Equipment Standards Program – U.S. Department of Energy

Fact Sheet: Energy Efficiency Standards for Appliances, Lighting and Equipment – Environmental and Energy Study Institute

National Standards – Appliance Standards Awareness Project

 

Energy Storage Support

What is it: As intermittent renewable energy sources, namely solar and wind, become more concentrated on the grid, it becomes imperative that energy storage capacity is built out to allow for power generated during time of peak generation (e.g., mid-afternoon when solar panels are receiving the most sunlight) to be use during times of peak demand (i.e., in the early evening hours when the sun isn’t shining but families are using energy-intensive devices). Public support for energy storage, such as R&D funding, tax incentives, and energy storage prescriptions for utilities, can push the use of energy storage to be more of a pervasive clean energy solution.

Is it enacted anywhere: The Union of Concerned Scientists notes that the U.S. government, specifically through the Department of Energy and Department of Defense, is funding advancement of electricity storage R&D.

In Favor of Energy Storage Support:

“A joint demonstration program between DOD and DOE will also be able to utilize existing test-bed infrastructure and provide key field data at both agencies that will help accelerate commercial deployment of long-duration energy storage technologies to increase energy resilience and security”- Senator Angus King of Maine

 

Against Energy Storage Support:

“Many implausible technological changes would have to happen before batteries will be capable of doing what clean-energy visionaries hope.”- Ross Marchand, policy director at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance

 

Read more:

U.S. Grid Energy Storage Factsheets – University of Michigan

Managing the Future of Energy Storage – Institute for Policy Integrity

Energy Storage for the Grid: Policy Options for Sustaining Innovation – MIT Energy Initiative

 

Net Metering

What is it: Net metering, often a lightning rod for debate in the energy communities, is defined as a billing arrangement that compensates on-site producers of energy (such as customers with rooftop solar systems) for any excess generation that they do not use and instead export to the utility grid, though the level and format of the compensation varies by location.

Is it enacted anywhere: According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 17 states have authorized the use of net metering.

In Favor of Net Metering:

“Customers with rooftop solar systems are not only paying their fair share, they’re actually helping to reduce costs for their neighbors as well. Specifically, the benefits of solar DG exceed the retail cost of electricity and the value of solar is greater than the compensation solar DG customers receive under net metering programs.”- Commissioner of Michigan Dan Scripps

 

Against Net Metering:

“The private solar lobbyists in Lansing are pushing for a system that allows private homeowners to put a Cadillac-style energy system on their rooftops and pass the bill for maintaining the roads on to the rest of us.”- Bishop W.L. Starghill Jr, Michigan Democratic Black Caucus

 

Read more:

State Net Metering Policies – National Conference of State Legislatures

Net Metering – Solar Energy Industries Association

Net Metering: State, Local, & Tribal Governments – National Renewable Energy Laboratory

 

Industrial Energy Efficiency Measures

What is it: The industrial sector, which encompasses business including (but not limited to) manufacturing, refining, and mining, is an incredibly significant source of energy use globally. The public policy levels that can be used to encourage or mandate efficiency across industry are varied, and include requirements to purchase more efficient equipment, encouraging best practices, and incentivizing retrofits and behaviors that reduce energy use.

Is it enacted anywhere: According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, federal industrial efficiency measures include incentives, technical assistance, and R&D, while some states offer these measures and further some local jurisdictions also provide incentives to industrial efficiency improvements.

In Favor of Industrial Energy Efficiency Measures:

“The industrial sector represents a big opportunity for low-cost energy savings from utility energy efficiency programs. In general, investments in energy efficiency lower operating costs for manufacturers, which increases their productivity and improves competitiveness. When these investments are made through utility programs, businesses get the added value of access to technical expertise, project implementation support, and financial incentives that reduce initial costs.”- Meegan Kelly, Senior Research Analyst at the    American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

 

“Governments play a vital role in driving industry to adopt energy-saving and low-carbon practices. Most countries now have some kind of energy efficiency policy in place, and efforts are also ramping up in many developing countries that have large, energy-intensive industry sectors”- Jigar Shah, President of Generate Capital Inc.

 

“It’s not the sexiest of topics, but proper maintenance of the cooling coils in cooling and refrigeration equipment—which means coil cleaning, filter replacement– is associated with a 17-20% energy savings, and currently 500 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent are emitted each year globally in indirect emissions from poor cleaning and servicing of HVAC and refrigeration equipment. Policymakers need to know about this, and governments need to require coil cleaning of refrigeration units if they’re running in either food service or healthcare. In these industries, if you run a unit with clogged coils then the food and medicine contained therein might not be held at the right temperature, which is a health concern. These requirements would be analogous to auto emissions and safety maintenance and inspections that are required, so policymakers can the same approach to improve safety and reduce industrial emissions.” – Richard P. Fennelly, COO of CoilPod LLC

 

Against Industrial Energy Efficiency Measures:

“Producers have a much better ability to meet consumers’ demands than any government mandate or subsidy program. Congress should recognize how markets have improved energy efficiency in the U.S. It should:

 Prevent new efficiency standards for any new appliances and federal funding for efficiency improvements in manufacturing processes and residential, industrial, and commercial buildings.”- Nicholas Loris, Deputy Director of Thomas A. Roe Institute

 

Read more:

Industrial Energy Efficiency Programs – American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

Making the Case for Inclusive Industrial Energy Efficiency Policy – Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance

Energy Efficiency: Industry – International Energy Agency

Industrial Emission Restrictions

What is it: In addition to tackling climate change through improving industrial sector efficiency, policy measures can also directly mandate restricted carbon emissions from industrial players.  Such measures can be necessary in tandem with efficiency because they will help to restrict indirect emissions, such as those from the oil and gas production industries, which is accomplished through industry-specific measures (such as covering emissions from oil and gas wells or pollutants emitted by cement kilns) or measures covering all subsectors, such as performance standards for greenhouse gases generally.

Is it enacted anywhere: The United States has covered emissions in the industrial sector through the Clean Air Act, though the current administration has indicated an intent to review and possibly rescind such regulations, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

In Favor of Industrial Emissions Restrictions:

“Policymakers working on climate change at the federal and state level have so far largely shied away from regulating heavy industry, which directly contributes about one-sixth of the country’s carbon emissions. Instead, they’ve focused on decarbonizing the electricity sector through actions like promoting wind and solar power.

But even as power generation has gotten cleaner, those overlooked industrial plants and factories have become a larger source of climate pollution.”- Brad Plumer, energy and climate reporter for the New York Times

 

Against Industrial Emissions Restrictions:

“This study highlights the fact that regulatory measures are an inefficient way to achieve climate goals. While all examined scenarios resulted in significant job and economic impacts, scenarios that allow more flexibility achieve the same or greater emission reductions at a lower economic cost. The analysis also shows that in the next 10 years, regulating the industrial sector to achieve NDC goals would be responsible for most of the overall impact on the economy. Additionally, the study illustrates that electric sector reductions are relatively less expensive than reductions from the industrial sector, which generally is comprised of far smaller emissions sources. It would be much less costly to allow other sectors to purchase credits from the electric sector for emission reductions than to meet NDC targets on their own. The study also illustrates the challenges associated with emissions leakage. Regardless of which regulatory scenario is pursued, substantial leakage is likely to undermine environmental goals unless other countries impose similarly stringent emissions restrictions.”- American Council for Capital Formation

 

Read more:

Controlling Industrial Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Industry: Tracking Clean Energy Progress – International Energy Agency

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Industrial Sector: Policies, Programs and Opportunities for Energy-Efficiency – American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

Carbon Capture and Storage

What is it: The goal of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is to harness the emissions that are emitted at the source (such as when coal is burned or oil is refined but before those emissions are able to leave the plant) and is then stored permanently in underground geological rock formations, typically. Policies to encourage the innovation and use of CCS mainly includes financial incentives through loan guarantees, tax credits, and other similar measures.

Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Brookings Institute, CCS has been incentivized by the U.S. federal government in both the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008.

In Favor of Carbon Capture and Storage:

“If coal is to be used, the only response- because it is the dirtiest of all fuels- is that we have to learn how to do carbon capture and storage and we have to learn how to do it quickly on a commercial scale.”- Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank

 

Against Carbon Capture and Storage:

“The beguiling appeal of relying on future negative emission technologies is that they delay the need for stringent and politically challenging policies today – they pass the buck for reducing carbon on to future generations. But if these Dr Strangelove technologies fail to deliver at the planetary scale envisaged, our own children will be forced to endure the consequences of rapidly rising temperatures and a highly unstable climate.”- Professor Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

 

Read more:

Development of a Policy Framework for CO2 Carbon Capture and Storage in the States – Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Policies to commercialize carbon capture and storage in the United States – Brookings Institute

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) in the United States – Congressional Research Service

R&D Support

What is it: Generally speaking, one of the most important policy mechanisms the government is able to support is financially through research and development (R&D). R&D support can include funding development of clean energy technology, new and innovative business cases, and moon-shot attempts to provide leaps in the energy industry.

Is it enacted anywhere: The U.S. federal government has long supported R&D in the energy industry, going back to the early days of the U.S. Department of Energy (then the Atomic Energy Commission) and through to today via ARPA-E, the network of National Laboratories, and across individual offices of DOE.

In Favor of R&D Support:

“This is undoubtedly a tough problem. It is not obvious what the big breakthroughs will look like. Most likely we will need several solutions to each challenge. That is why we need to invest in lots of research and development, across all five areas, now”- Bill Gates, Iconic businessman, philanthropist, and climate change advocate

 

“In rural western Alaska, we do not have an interconnected electrical grid, so microgrids are the way to go. Each town has its own generators so we burn a lot of diesel to make electricity and it’d be nice to get off the petroleum market. The funding for tax kickbacks and support for research and implementation of microgrids and renewables is currently being slashed by the State. There are a lot of great ideas out here because we’re paying way more for electricity, but the Governor is pulling back the funds so we’re struggling to get it done.” – Todd Radenbaugh, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

“Hydrogen is a central pillar of the energy transformation needed to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius. The ambitious yet realistic approach of harnessing hydrogen energy would enable a deep decarbonisation of transport, industry and buildings, as well as a renewable energy production and distribution system. To achieve this vision, investors, industry and government will need to intensify and coordinate their efforts.” – Guy Delbaen, Professor at Université libre de Bruxelles

Against R&D Support:

Ryan’s website calls for “getting Washington out of the business of picking winners and losers in the economy,” including the energy sector.- Paul Ryan, Former Speaker of the House, 2012 Republican candidate for Vice President

 

Read more:

Impact of Clean Energy R&D on the U.S. Power Sector – National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Renewable Energy R&D Funding History: A Comparison with Funding for Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Electric Systems R&D – Congressional Research Service

Renewable Energy Technology Innovation Policy – International Renewable Energy Agency

 

Land Use Policies

What is it: While most of the man-made emissions come from the production of energy, the industrial manufacture of goods, and from transportation vehicles, the way the Earth’s land is used has a significant impact on total global emissions. In particular, how the use of the planet’s land is changing is a huge driver of the state of global emissions. Massive deforestation in tropical areas removes a natural source of carbon sequestration, drilling for fossil fuels on public lands brings new hydrocarbons into the world’s inventories to be burned, and improper management of land can lead to ecosystem degradation and undue release of greenhouse gases and loss of carbon sequestering greenery. As such, land use policies can be deliberately used to protect and bolster these natural defense’s of the planet against the build up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Is it enacted anywhere: According to this article in Science Findings, Oregon has protected 1.2 million acres of forest and agricultural land since 1973 and thus maximized carbon storage. On a larger scale, Brazil has enacted policies to try and protect its massive tropical forests with the goal of reducing the emissions that had risen from deforestation.

In Favor of Land Use Policies:

“Public lands not only enhance carbon sequestration, but their protection often removes them as a fossil fuel development opportunity. As an example, on the Arctic Refuge, not only do we oppose the drilling of this land because of the human rights issues and conservation issues, but also because the indirect emissions that would come from such drilling would be equivalent to about a million new cars on the road. Protecting public lands is protecting the climate.”- Lindsay Bouroine, Director of Policy & Advocacy at Protect Our Winters

 

Against Land Use Policies:

“Developing our resources on the coastal plain is an important facet for meeting our nation’s energy demands and achieving energy dominance.” – Joe Balash, Assistant Secretary for land and minerals management at the Department of the Interior

 

Read more:

Introduction to Land Use: United Nations Climate Change

Climate-Friendly Land Use: Union of Concerned Scientists

Planning and Land Use: U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

 

Focusing on a Just Transition

What is it: Certain experts look at the market forces at play and find that federal energy policy is no longer necessary to push a clean energy transition away from coal and fossil fuels towards a clean energy future, as the work of previously mentioned policies like feed-in tariffs, tax incentives, and R&D resources has given these technologies the push they need. While localized policies might be necessary by state or local governments to encourage regional adoption of the technologies, the thinking here is that the federal government should instead shift its focus to the bigger picture of what the wider impacts are as the inevitable energy transition takes hold: how will those whose jobs are made unnecessary be retrained and/or propped up, how will we make sure all classes and groups are able to reap the benefits of clean energy, and how will we ensure unintended consequences don’t take hold? These ideas support a focus on a just and equitable transition.

Is it enacted anywhere: According to the Stockholm Environment Institute, some examples of policies in this regard include Canada’s Coal Workforce Transition Fund and Scotland’s Oil Worker Transition Fund.

In Favor of Focusing on a Just Transition:

“Green New Deal type policies that focus on employment and on fair and reliable access to power and transportation will be central to ensuring that the social benefits of a rapid transition to clean energy are widely spread, and that the transition is not cut short due to policy opposition” – Eban Goodstein & L. Hunter Lovins, MBA in Sustainability at Bard College

 

Against Focusing on a Just Transition:

“What many experts call false hopes for a coal resurgence have mired economic development efforts here in a catch-22: Coal miners are resisting retraining without ready jobs from new industries, but new companies are unlikely to move here without a trained workforce. The stalled diversification push leaves some of the nation’s poorest areas with no clear path to prosperity.” – Valerie Volvcovici, Reuters

 

Read more:

The Ecosystem of Networks Advancing a Just Energy Transition- Climate Justice Alliance

Realizing a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels – Stockholm Environment Institute

A global energy transition is happening; let’s make it just, fair and equitable – World Wildlife Fund

 

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Where Does Trump Stand on Solar? https://solartribune.com/where-does-trump-stand-on-solar/ Mon, 19 Jun 2017 21:17:01 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=9160 Six months into his administration, President Trump has yet to take on energy policy. Meanwhile, the solar industry continues to grow despite uncertainty about federal support. In a report from the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), the first quarter of 2017 showed continued and impressive forward motion, with the installation of more than 2,000 Megawatts […]

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Six months into his administration, President Trump has yet to take on energy policy. Meanwhile, the solar industry continues to grow despite uncertainty about federal support.

In a report from the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), the first quarter of 2017 showed continued and impressive forward motion, with the installation of more than 2,000 Megawatts (MW) of new solar generation in the U.S., the sixth straight quarter of installation numbers over 2 Gigawatts.  “It would be hard to overstate how impressive 2016 was for the solar industry,” said Abigail Ross-Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Prices dropped to all-time lows, installations expanded in states across the country and job numbers soared. The bottom line is that more people are benefitting from solar now than at any point in the past, and while the market is changing, the broader trend over the next five years is going in one direction – and that’s up.”

SEIA CEO Abigail Ross-Hopper

To look at the state of solar in the nation, it is hard to imagine that our current president has been such an outspoken critic of solar in the past. After all, he proposed slashing the research budget for renewables at the Department of Energy and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. How can solar still be on the rise? Simple… It’s good business.According to Ms. Hopper,

 “The majority of projects are economic- and not policy-driven at this point, so as the prices have gone down, installations have gone up.”

Trump Supports Solar…on the Border Wall?

One of President Trump’s campaign promises that has yet to see any significant progress is building a border wall between Mexico and the U.S. The price tag for the wall, estimated to be anywhere from $10-$70 billion, is the obvious sticking point and there seems to be no realistic plan for funding the project….until now?

“The president is committed to building the wall and securing the border and I commend him for it. He’s continuing to fight and following through on that promise. One idea he is looking at is a wall that would actually function as a solar panel to ultimately pay for itself,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told The Hill after meeting with Trump at the White House.

“I’m glad he’s being innovative and I’m fully supportive of helping him build the wall however we can legislatively,” Scalise added. “He is continuing to pursue every option to make sure it happens.”

Solar Border Wall Model: Gleason Partners LLC

The solar-powered border wall idea appeared to come completely out of left field, but in fact, the idea was floated earlier this year by a Las Vegas-based construction company, Gleason Partners LLC. Managing partner Thomas Gleason proposed the project to the Department of Homeland Security in April at an estimated the cost at $7.5 million per mile, claiming the wall will pay for itself in 20 years.

The Atlantic called Trump’s embrace of the solar wall idea as “…a politically simplistic troll… Environmental groups that believe the wall will hurt local ecosystems will still oppose the project even if it becomes carbon neutral. As Brett Hartl of the Center for Biodiversity said in a statement on Tuesday: “An ecological disaster with solar panels on top is still an ecological disaster. With solar panels on top.”

Renewable energy industry insiders may be laughing privately, but publicly, the idea is being damned with faint praise. In an interview with Business Insider, Bryan Birsic, the CEO of Wunder Capital, a renewable-energy investment firm, said that,

 “We’re excited that President Trump sees the economic value created by solar installations, as solar prices continue to plummet… While we would prefer a different location and purpose for a large solar installation, we strongly support all additional generation of clean power in the US.”

Although to most people, the addition of solar to the already controversial wall simply adds to an already convoluted debate. But can solar advocates take President Trump’s suggestion of a solar wall as some sort of backhanded compliment or passive admission of solar’s economic viability? After all, admitting that solar can not only pay for itself but pay for the wall as well is a far cry from 2012, told Greta Van Sustern of Fox News: “ Solar, as you know, hasn’t caught on because, I mean, a solar panel takes 32 years — it’s a 32-year payback. Who wants a 32-year payback? The fact is, the technology is not there yet.”

On January 25th, 2012, @realDonaldTrump tweeted, “After Solyndra, @BarackObama is stil (sic) intent on wasting our tax dollars on unproven technologies and risky companies. He must be accountable.”

Energy Secretary Perry Examines the Grid

In April, Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered a 60-day study of the nation’s energy grid. The focus of the study is unapologetically anti-renewable and anti-state’s rights- the premise of the study is that state-specific renewable energy policies are reducing grid access for baseload power producers like coal-fired and nuclear power plants. This, despite the fact that the utility industry itself studies reliability constantly, and few or no problems have been reported by grid system operators.

Even the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), historically a critic of renewables and a staunch defender of the utility industry status quo understands the potential problems that can occur when federal regulators start messing with state policies. At the recent EEI annual conference in Boston,  Pat Vincent-Collawn, the incoming chair of EEI made no bones about the fact that EEI wants the DOE to keep its hands off the grid. “We have one of the most reliable generation fleets in the world,” said Vincent-Collawn, continuing,

 “Hopefully the study takes into account good utility planning and … will show what we’ve known for a long time, which is that we know how to plan the grid.”

Senator Charles Grassley photo:politico

In a polite but blistering letter to Secretary Perry, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley called into question the motivations for the study, the need for the study, and the cost of the study. Grassley wrote in the letter,

“I’m concerned that a hastily developed study, which appears to pre-determine that variable, renewable sources such as wind have undermined grid reliability, will not be viewed as credible, relevant or worthy of valuable taxpayer resources.”

Grassley, a high-ranking veteran Republican lawmaker is also a strong advocate for renewable energy, particularly wind power, which makes up 35% of his state’s electrical generating capacity.

The study was scheduled to be completed by mid-June, but as of this writing, there is little to no information on the progress of the report. With conservatives like Grassley and the Edison Institute looking over his shoulder, Trump’s energy secretary may be reluctant to tread on territory that is closely guarded by those who he needs as allies.

Will Trump Spark a Solar Trade War?

In April, Solar Tribune reported that bankrupt Georgia-based solar panel manufacturer Suniva is seeking protection from Chinese competition under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. Under Section 201, the President may impose sanctions to protect American businesses from dumping low-cost products on the U.S. market. A report issued by the Trump administration in March promised a more aggressive approach to unfair international trade practices, including expanded use of  Section 201, which the report refers to this as a “vital tool for industries needing temporary relief from imports to become more competitive.” Section 201 was most famously used by the steel industry in 2002 to obtain a three-year moratorium on imported steel.

On May 25th, the International Trade Commission (ITC) informed the World Trade Organization that it is moving ahead with an investigation of Suniva’s claims, indicating that they are seriously considering the case and they will be making recommendations to President Trump on the matter. Section 201 is known as the “escape clause” in the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT), which has been in place since the end of World War II and is designed to promote open international trade. Section 201 provides American industries with  “global safeguards” against foreign imports from any country that might do “serious damage” to the industry. The president has sole discretion to activate Section 201, despite the very real possibility of economic retaliation by China and other countries affected by the tariff.

Suniva is asking the ITC to make a  recommendation to the President that he impose these global safeguards for the maximum statutory period of four years at an initial tariff rate on imported solar cells of $0.40 per watt and an initial minimum price on solar modules of $0.78 per watt. The price floor would decline over the duration of the four-year tariff, but even in year four, panel prices would be near twice their current level, with a rate of $0.33 per watt per and a floor price of $0.68 per watt.

To say the least, this kind of tariff on Asian panels would have a significant chilling effect on the deployment of solar in the United States. Yes, it might save a few solar manufacturing jobs, but that would not come close to making up for the jobs that will be lost if the solar installation business slows down. SEIA’s Abigail Ross Hopper said in a call with reporters,

“There is no job worth saving that is worth putting the other 250,000 at risk.”

Not to mention that providing these types of incentives to U.S. solar manufacturers is not that different from the subsidizing of solar companies like Solyndra by the Obama administration, and that kind of “playing favorites” has drawn immense amounts of heat from Republican opponents of pro-solar policies.

Where Will Trump Go on Solar?

To date, the hallmarks of the Trump administration are controversy and stalemate. Campaign promises to begin building the border wall, institute a travel ban on visitors from the Middle East,  reform healthcare and the tax system all in the first 100 days in office have faded into seemingly insurmountable challenges, even with a Republican majority in Congress. It seems hard to believe that anything like a major change in energy policy is even on the President’s viewing screen.

At this point, what seems more likely is that current federal tax credits will be allowed to sunset as expected. The DOE will defund programs like the National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL), but in all likelihood, that work will continue to be done with private funds. Solar will continue to grow, lead by large utility-scale projects racking up major MWs.

 

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World’s Largest Lithium-Ion Storage Facility in San Diego County May Help Solar Power https://solartribune.com/worlds-largest-lithium-ion-storage-facility-in-san-diego-county-will-help-solar-power/ Mon, 13 Mar 2017 17:46:54 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10659 In Escondido, a city in San Diego County not far from San Diego itself, the utility SDG&E, in partnership with the Virginia-based company AES Energy Storage, recently unveiled a California milestone: the largest lithium-ion energy storage installation in the world. The 30 megawatt (MW) facility contains 400,000 AES Advancion® batteries, similar to ones found in […]

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In Escondido, a city in San Diego County not far from San Diego itself, the utility SDG&E, in partnership with the Virginia-based company AES Energy Storage, recently unveiled a California milestone: the largest lithium-ion energy storage installation in the world. The 30 megawatt (MW) facility contains 400,000 AES Advancion® batteries, similar to ones found in electric vehicles. The batteries are installed in nearly 20,000 modules and placed in 24 containers. In addition, the Escondido facility is alleged to be 50 percent larger than the next-largest such installation. The same utility also just launched a smaller energy storage facility of 7.5 MW at El Cajon, California. Thus, the two arrays combined provide 37.5 MW of power and can service 25,000 homes with power for four hours. They can also serve as a 75 MW flexible resource to the grid.

As a SDG&E press release asserts, the facility “will provide reliable energy when customers need it most, and maximize the use of renewable resources such as solar and wind.” Josh Gerber, Project Director at SDG&E, said at the launching of the installation, “On a day [like this], which is nice and sunny, but also cool, demands for energy in the middle of the day aren’t very high but production is. So we’d be storing solar in the day and releasing it at 6:00–7:00 tonight after everyone’s home from work and school and home with their families. It’s a tool that we can use to make the integration of solar and wind much more reliable and better matched to the times when our customers need it most.”

Unusually, the project took only about six months to come online, rather than the customary timeline of a year or more. In October 2015, a methane leak occurred at the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility outside Los Angeles, considered the worst such leak in U.S. history. The facility was shut down, which reduced fuel supplies for area power plants. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) responded by ordering Southern California investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to fast-track additional energy storage options to maintain energy reliability. As it happened, a previous CPUC order compelled the utility to procure 165 MW of energy storage in its service territory by 2020. Thus, SDG&E was already looking into energy storage when the order that resulted from the methane leak was issued.

“We had gone through an evaluation of firm bids from AES and others and that actually started about 10 days before the [Aliso Canyon] resolution came out,” Randy Nicholson, SDG&E’s policy manager for advanced technology, said. “So we were getting to know each other really well when the resolution hit and that allowed us to move really quickly.”

The agreement between SDG&E and AES was reached in August 2016. However, when the online publication Utility Dive visited the site in October 2016, it was little more than an empty lot adjacent to a substation with some wooden frames constructed on it. By mid-November, however, construction was well underway at Escondido, and the site was completely ready for the launch in late February. The gas crisis and the speedy installation of the Escondido facility, according to some executives, may help prove that energy storage can serve the needs of the power system, potentially replacing natural gas peaker plants.

“It’s a little too early to tell if storage is going to replace all peakers going forward,” Nicholson said. “This project in particular is going to help us answer that question, to determine whether, going forward, if you want to start moving the mix in another direction.”

Most utility-scale batteries in the U.S. are utilized for shorter storage functions, such as frequency response. Brian Perusse, vice president for international market development at AES, said that AES perceives this project as an “inflection point,” not just for bigger batteries, but for ones of long duration, four to six hours, like the ones at Escondido.

Said Perusse, “A lot of people have been saying the same thing… it’s a four to six hour duration product to help serve the peak and improve reliability and it’s the first project of its size. You said four hours is coming? It’s here. So that’s really changed.”

Photo by SDG&E. 

 

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When is the right time to go solar? https://solartribune.com/right-time-go-solar/ Tue, 07 Feb 2017 15:50:05 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=11014 Technology is getting better each day, but government incentives are declining. So when is the right time to go solar? It’s a tough decision, so we talked with our team’s solar installation experts to help make sense of the issue. From a cost standpoint, solar industry veteran Rich Dana believes there is no better time […]

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Technology is getting better each day, but government incentives are declining. So when is the right time to go solar?

It’s a tough decision, so we talked with our team’s solar installation experts to help make sense of the issue. From a cost standpoint, solar industry veteran Rich Dana believes there is no better time than now to go solar.

“There are several factors that will be coming into play in the next few years that may make now the best time to invest in solar” says Rich. Most notably, “Chinese solar manufacturers have flooded the US market with cheap solar panels over the last few years.”

From a technology standpoint, there are some interesting advancements on the horizon, including Tesla’s solar roof and GAF’s roof integrated DecoTech system. Both are sleek products that increase your home’s curb appeal.

At the end of the day, it comes down to what you value most. If you want to prioritize saving money, go solar now. If you want the latest technology, wait until that old roof needs to be replaced.

If you’re thinking about going solar, we suggest these resources to help you along the way:
Company comparison (California): customer satisfaction and cost data
Guide to choosing the right company
Tool for requesting competing quotes

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San Francisco Startup Offers Solar-Powered Farm Out of a Box (Land Not Included) https://solartribune.com/san-francisco-startup-offers-solar-powered-farm-out-of-a-box-land-not-included/ Sun, 08 Jan 2017 18:39:31 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10409 How can local agriculture be developed most effectively in rural areas, particular in places at which electricity and/or water are scarce? The San Francisco-based creators of a new benefit corporation offer an original solution that they call Farm from a Box. It consists of a 20-foot shipping container that includes literally everything one might need […]

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How can local agriculture be developed most effectively in rural areas, particular in places at which electricity and/or water are scarce? The San Francisco-based creators of a new benefit corporation offer an original solution that they call Farm from a Box. It consists of a 20-foot shipping container that includes literally everything one might need (except land and seeds) to create a functioning two-acre farm totally powered by solar. The concept’s co-creator, Brandi DeCarli, has been quoted as calling it “the ‘Swiss-Army knife’ of sustainable farming.”

Depending on the purchaser’s requirements, the container may include not only conventional farm implements, but weather tracking devices, batteries, seedlings, high-efficiency LED lighting, internal cold storage and a mobile charging area. Each unit is capable of producing crops for one hectare of land (2.47 acres), which can supply food for as many as 150 people. The kits are modular and can easily be customized, depending on the ecology of the particular area and the purpose of the farm (e.g., a school, a hospital, a private landowner). Everything is powered by solar, generating up to 3kW. This is capable of powering a water pump for drip irrigation, a WiFi system for remote monitoring and the farm equipment itself. Since 10 high-efficiency solar modules, inverters, a transformer and a 3000-watt backup generator are included with the kit, the farm can function completely off the electric grid.

Three types of training materials are also included on the following topics: 1) sustainable farming basics (e.g., crop rotation and composting), prepared with the assistance of Dr. Miguel Altieri, a professor of Agroecology at the University of California at Berkeley; 2) technological help for the accompanying equipment, and how to maintain and troubleshoot it; and 3) the enterprise of farming, including how to maximize the income generated from the farm. Kits cost within the range of $50,000 – 60,000 per unit, depending on the complexity of the proposed system.

DeCarli first worked with her future partner in the enterprise, Scott Thompson, when both were assigned to a project that was to use shipping containers as infrastructure for a youth sports and education center in Kenya. When that plan fell through, they applied the shipping container concept to the problem of local food insecurity. The company’s website states, “We sought the advice of some of the best minds in agriculture, biodiversity, irrigation, sustainable energy, and international development. We spoke with farmers, women, governments and some of the largest aid providers in the world.” DeCarli, in an interview, said, “We want to develop this as a rapid response transitional food production system.”

Farm from a Box’s partners, which DeCarli in a podcast interview called her “superheroes,” include Netafim, SMA, Cisco, Grundfos, Sierra Wireless and Trojan Battery Company. She particularly praised SMA, for providing the inverters, and Trojan, as four Trojan AGM batteries serve as the system’s energy storage solution.

Marko Wittich, SMA executive vice president of sales for the Americas region, said, “SMA is proud to partner with a company whose goal is to bring independence to communities around the globe by providing the tools they need to sustain themselves, both nutritionally and financially.”

The organization’s pilot project, which is nicknamed, logically, “Adam,” is located at Shone Farm, part of Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County. DeCarli claims that Shone Farm is “more efficient than we had even planned” with high production output. The organization has additional test farms in California and a veteran-partnered site in Virginia, as well as a number of other potential sites lined up outside the U.S. DeCarli hopes to sell the concept to aid agencies and others as an alternative to food distribution.

DeCarli said, “The more that we actually localize our food production, the more that we empower ourselves within our community, to be able to grow and sustain our own crop, the better we will all be, within the states and internationally.”

 

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San Diego Boatyard Is One of First U.S. Solar Boat Builders https://solartribune.com/san-diego-boatyard-one-first-u-s-solar-boat-builders/ Wed, 14 Dec 2016 02:26:31 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10370 Baker Electric Solar of San Diego has designed and installed a 483 kW rooftop solar system for Marine Group Boat Works (MGBW). MGBW says that it has now become one of the first American boatyards to use solar power to construct boats. The company is a family-owned, full-service vessel construction and repair company and is […]

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Baker Electric Solar of San Diego has designed and installed a 483 kW rooftop solar system for Marine Group Boat Works (MGBW). MGBW says that it has now become one of the first American boatyards to use solar power to construct boats. The company is a family-owned, full-service vessel construction and repair company and is a longtime tenant of the Port of San Diego. The new system is located at MGBW’s 35,000-square-foot facility in National City in San Diego County, California.

Solar Panels at Marine Group Boat WorksTotal costs for the project were $1.2 million, which required about three months to complete. 1,558 Hyundai 310-watt solar modules with 14 SMA inverters comprise the system, which will result in an 81% reduction in annual electricity consumed by the company, based on both past and projected consumption. Projected savings in energy costs will be approximately $155,000 in the first year.

“Our initial decision to go solar was driven primarily by our desire to be a zero-emission, low impact boatbuilder,” said MGBW President Todd Roberts. “There’s no question that solar is an economic benefit, but there are many other advantages – everything from self-reliance and sustainability to doing the right thing. We chose to do the right thing, as we have in our other lines of businesses, to continue being leaders in our community.”

MGBW performed a nationwide search for a solar provider before contracting with Baker.

Scott Williams, Baker’s Director of Commercial Solar, said, “The new solar system not only minimizes MGBW’s carbon footprint, but also provides more than $3 million in net savings over the 25-year warranted life of the solar modules. We never lose sight of how renewable energy generation provides businesses with increased cash flow – freeing up capital to give them an edge in an ever-competitive environment.”

MGBW’s new solar system will offset the equivalent in CO2 emissions from 57,002 gallons of gasoline consumed, or 540,568 pounds of coal burned, according to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

MGBW has wanted to go solar for several years, but energy consumption from boat repair was at that time too low to justify the investment. However, recent increases in manufacturing and production output due to Navy and commercial contracts and facility upgrades made this the right time to go forward, according to the company.

At a ceremony on December 7, the Port of San Diego honored its waterfront tenants for sustainability practices. Seven port tenant businesses were recognized at the event with Sustainable Achievement Awards for demonstrating exemplary performance with sustainability initiatives. Marine Group Boat Works received the Renewable Energy Award for installing the solar system at its National City boatyard. MGBW’s other environmental practices include reclaiming a hundred percent of storm water runoff while eliminating any discharge into the bay, and carrying out sandblasting and painting in an enclosure where all air emissions and dust are recaptured, so they can be recycled whenever possible.

Marshall Merrifield, Chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners, said, “The Port of San Diego is grateful to all of its tenants and subtenants for participating in the Green Business Network… A special thanks goes out to the seven tenants who went above and beyond this year to increase energy efficiency, reduce water usage, decrease waste, and improve the air quality around San Diego Bay.”

Cleantech San Diego President and CEO Jason Anderson said, “The San Diego region is a smart cities leader with a widespread commitment to adopting clean technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money. Thanks to partnerships between capable solar providers such as Baker and progressive businesses such as Marine Group Boat Works, we continue to chart a course toward a cleaner, more sustainable future for our region’s economy and environment.”

 

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Sacramento College Holds Contest for Tiny Solar Homes https://solartribune.com/sacramento-college-holds-contest-tiny-solar-homes/ Fri, 04 Nov 2016 00:49:05 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10304 A Tiny House Competition, employing the motto “Build Small and Win Big” was held Saturday, October 15th, at Consumnes River College in Sacramento, CA. (The judging occurred on Friday, October 14th, and the actual exhibition took place the following day.) The purpose of the contest was to promote, according to the organizers, “an interest in energy conservation, […]

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A Tiny House Competition, employing the motto “Build Small and Win Big” was held Saturday, October 15th, at Consumnes River College in Sacramento, CA. (The judging occurred on Friday, October 14th, and the actual exhibition took place the following day.) The purpose of the contest was to promote, according to the organizers, “an interest in energy conservation, energy efficiency and green building and solar technologies.” The competition is modeled after the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon and is sponsored by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) Energy Education & Technology Center and Community Solar programs.

The event was inspired by the currently popular “tiny house” movement. (What distinguishes tiny homes from mobile or modular homes is individualized design.) The size limit for each of the houses was 400 square feet, and all homes had to be built on wheels and be constructed within a $25,000 budget. School teams competed for $30,000 in cash and for trophies. The winner of the grand prize of $10,000 was Santa Clara University. The university also won for the Communications and Energy categories, as well as in six of the subcategories: Best Daylighting, Best Integrated Lighting, Best Interior Design, Best Kitchen Design, Best Program and Best Tour.

tiny-house-1543569-640x480During the two years leading up to the event, students designed and built energy-efficient houses. All of the homes employed solar panels. An educator or other school administrator mentored each team, and a stipend of between $3,000 to $8,000 was provided. Competition categories were architectural design, livability, communication, affordability, energy efficiency and balance, appliance load, technology/electrical and mechanical systems, transportation, sustainability and documentation.

The purpose of the competition, as Brent Sloan, a solar specialist for SMUD, said, was educational. “Sometimes you learn more with a hammers and a nail,” he said, “than you do reading about hammers and nails.” A UC Berkeley student, Caroline Karman, agreed, saying that the contest “was an opportunity to put into practice what I’m learning in theory.” Another student, Tricia Tecson of Consumnes River College, said that “Our ideas… as great as they are, also have to be tangible. We also learned about collaboration.”

Different teams took different approaches to dealing with energy issues. The Sacramento State team used a separate solar thermal device to generate hot water. The Santa Clara team (the winners) built its tiny home on a rotating porch to maximize captured sunlight. Energy for the houses was saved in battery banks. This turned out to be useful on Friday, when the sky turned overcast and the houses could no longer utilize the sun’s energy.

The total space of each house was equivalent to the average bedroom of a normal home. The competition is good for the public, Sloan claimed, because it exposes them to tiny homes as a possibility. Tiny homes are increasingly popular. Concerning the reason for this popularity, Consumnes River College instructional assistant Carlos Carrasco said, “[Homeowners] don’t want to be stuck in a mortgage for 30, 40, 50 years.”

After the competition ends, each school gets to choose how its particular home will be used. Sacramento State’s entry will be utilized to teach students about sustainable building and living. Veterans will use the 238-square-foot Santa Clara University entry as a place where they can train their service dogs. The College of the Sequoias sold its home to pay for other projects.

 

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San Francisco Roofs Go Green… in More Ways Than One https://solartribune.com/san-francisco-roofs-go-green-ways-one/ Wed, 28 Sep 2016 23:14:38 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10268 San Francisco has become the first city in the U.S. to approve green (in both senses of the word) roofs, requiring all newly-constructed buildings to have 30% of their roof space set aside for green roofs (also known as living roofs) and/or solar panels. Scott Wiener, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, proposed the […]

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San Francisco has become the first city in the U.S. to approve green (in both senses of the word) roofs, requiring all newly-constructed buildings to have 30% of their roof space set aside for green roofs (also known as living roofs) and/or solar panels. Scott Wiener, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, proposed the new legislation on September 6th of this year. The city’s Board of Supervisors has to give its okay to the legislation later in the year for it to become law, but this is considered a formality. After January 1st, all newly-constructed roofs will have to be either 30% green, 30% solar panels, or a combination of both. Existing legislation required all buildings of 10 stories or less to include solar panels over 15 percent of their roof area, so the new law ups the ante.

roof_gardenThe proposal was originally suggested at the Cities Alive 2013 conference hosted in San Francisco by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC). (GRHC is a membership-based industry association developing the green (vegetative) roof and wall industry in North America through education and advocacy.) The plan is developing in tandem with the campaign to create more solar rooftops in the city. Coincidentally, one of the city’s famous “painted ladies,” which are a set of much-photographed Victorian-era houses in Alamo Square, recently had installed on its roof a solar array by Sunrun, under a solar lease program.

“The solar requirement and the green roof requirement have always been two peas in a pod,” Wiener was quoted as saying. “They make roofs more environmentally sustainable, cities more environmentally sustainable, and take a very underutilized space to either create clean energy or help us with energy efficiency.”

Green roofs are not cheap. Jeff Joslin, director of current planning for the City Planning Department, estimates that they cost from $10 to $30 per square foot. When it rains heavily in the city, the sewage system is overwhelmed by runoff from storm drains, and waste is released into the ocean and the bay. Supporters of the legislation hope that green roofs will slow down the entry of water into the drainage system and thus help prevent runoff. According to the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) Green Roof Task Force, living roofs, in addition to reducing stormwater runoff, can create energy savings, improve air quality and prolong the life of the roof.

“Our research has shown that greener, better roofs bring many benefits to building owners and the general public alike,” said Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director at SPUR. The California Academy of Sciences building in Golden Gate Park is currently the best-known example of a living roof in San Francisco.

Jeffrey L. Bruce, Chair of GRHC, said, “On behalf of all GRHC members and association partners, congratulations to the City of San Francisco and those who contributed to this policy. We look forward to watching San Francisco become a greener, healthier, and more resilient city.”

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Solar in Riverside Experiences Growing Pains https://solartribune.com/solar-riverside-experiences-growing-pains/ Thu, 25 Aug 2016 23:20:38 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10213 Fifteen years ago, the city of Riverside, California, had only 151.2 kilowatts of solar power from a single carport structure. Today, there are almost 2,200 solar generation projects within the city alone, generating 30 megawatts of power. Back in 2005, Riverside’s Green Action Committee had set an ambitious goal: at least 20 MW of solar […]

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Fifteen years ago, the city of Riverside, California, had only 151.2 kilowatts of solar power from a single carport structure. Today, there are almost 2,200 solar generation projects within the city alone, generating 30 megawatts of power. Back in 2005, Riverside’s Green Action Committee had set an ambitious goal: at least 20 MW of solar generation by 2020. Four years ahead of schedule, the city is already 50 percent ahead of its original goal. According to its forecasts, by the end of 2017, solar will make up nearly 12 percent of Riverside’s total power.

crawling tortoise“It is easy to pledge to become one of the state’s leading solar communities,” said Mayor Rusty Bailey. “But without the commitments of the city, the utility, and the residents of Riverside taking action to make that pledge a reality, we would never have surpassed our goals this soon.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Riverside County, the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is the largest of its kind on U.S. Federal lands. The 5.6-square-mile structure consists of 8 million panels, and generates enough electricity to power over 150,000 homes.

Yet, as might be expected for an expanding industry, solar power in the Riverside area is currently experiencing the stresses – and controversies – of rapid growth. What is the problem, exactly? The desert tortoise, apparently.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has put forward a new plan – the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan – to allocate about 10 million acres of public land in the California desert for conservation, recreation and clean-energy installations such as Desert Sunlight. The difficulty is with the proportions of land that the plan allocates to each of these vital goals. Conservationists not only wish to conserve those areas in which species like the desert tortoise currently inhabit, but those areas through which they might travel as climate change warms the area. In the plan, for example, more than twice the area that is currently important as habitat for the desert tortoise would be preserved for it.

However, according to clean energy developers, the area left over for development, about 388,000 acres, isn’t sufficient for future projects. It’s not that the industry wishes to develop the entire 388,000 acres. It’s that the locations of the lands designated as permissible for development are not thought to be sufficiently adaptable to meet the needs of the industry.

Both the wind and solar industries dispute the claim of the plan’s supporters that they have been granted enough acreage to generate the megawatts of power needed to meet California’s mandated renewable energy goals. Nancy Rader, executive director of the California Wind Energy Association, was quoted as saying, “We’re kind of throwing in the towel at this point… The [wind] developers have largely left California.”

At least part of the solution to this conflict between environmentalists and developers may lie with the section of east Riverside County, between Los Angeles and Phoenix, called the Chuckwalla Valley. This low-lying region is so hot and dry that the desert tortoise does not generally regard it as a desirable habitat, so conservationists are fine with developers setting up solar installations there. Joan Taylor, a conservationist, has called it a “sacrifice area for solar.”

Part of the controversy also involves the amount of private lands in California that the solar industry might be able in the future to use for development. Some environmentalists assert that the combination of public and private lands will be sufficient for the industry’s needs, while the industry itself counters that it simply doesn’t know how much private land will become available for it in the future, and thus rejects as unrealistic the environmentalists’ projections.

Karen Douglas of the California Energy Commission explained that solar developers, under the BLM’s plan, could conceivably be permitted to construct new projects on lands not specifically allocated to solar development, but this means that the approval process for those projects would not be streamlined, as would projects involving lands allocated for solar, and thus would take much longer.

 

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San Diego Energy Plan Aims to Help Disadvantaged Communities https://solartribune.com/san-diego-solar-plan-aims-help-disadvantaged-communities/ Sun, 24 Jul 2016 23:58:20 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10172 In December, San Diego achieved an important milestone in the history of renewable power in America. The city council of the eighth largest municipality in the country unanimously approved the first legally binding Climate Action Plan (CAP) in the U.S. The city has now officially committed to complete its transition to 100 percent renewable energy by […]

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In December, San Diego achieved an important milestone in the history of renewable power in America. The city council of the eighth largest municipality in the country unanimously approved the first legally binding Climate Action Plan (CAP) in the U.S. The city has now officially committed to complete its transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, less than 20 years from now. According to this New York Times article, city officials also indicated that half of the city’s fleet would consist of electric vehicles by 2020, and that the city would recycle 98 percent of the methane from sewage and water treatment plants. And the plan will now also have a directly beneficial effort on low-income communities.

View of San Diego in the eveningThe legally binding nature of the plan means that environmental groups could conceivably sue the city if it fails to meet the CAP’s goals. According to Cody Hooven, the city’s sustainability manager, calls are coming in from all over the world to ask about San Diego’s new plan. Hooven said, “They’re all asking, ‘How are you doing that?’ We’re saying, why not try for 100 percent? If we don’t try, we’ll never get there.”

The city is now devoting an entire component of the plan to infrastructure investment and job creation for low-income communities. According to Nicole Capretz, Executive Director of the San Diego-based organization Climate Action Campaign, poverty and environmental degradation are closely related. Local low-income communities such as Barrio Logan and City Heights are particularly affected by pollution. Two anticipated results of the CAP plan on those communities will be a decline in greenhouse gas emissions and more infrastructure investment and cleantech jobs. In other words, the neighborhoods that will most benefit ecologically will also see the greatest job growth.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) had estimated in 2015, before the Climate Action Plan was released, that there would be over 3000 new renewable-energy-related jobs in the area. SDWP now has two projects in the works to increase that number: 1) a not-yet-fully-realized venture to provide training to inexperienced low-income workers by creating solar panel installation training centers; 2) a plan to provide on-the-job training funds to employers by SWDP, which would reimburse 50 percent of every paycheck that those employers give to cleantech hires, with a limit of 1,040 hours.

The Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, was a major factor in getting the business community to endorse the plan. Said Mayor Faulconer: “Protecting the environment is not a partisan issue. I’ve never viewed it through the lens of what we have right now, but what we’ll have for future generations.” (Not surprising, he does not support his party’s standard bearer for president, Donald Trump.)

Capretz expects that much of the renewable energy San Diego will generate will come from solar power. “We’re sunny in San Diego, so we’re counting on a lot of homegrown solar on rooftops and parking lots,” she said.

 

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Port of Los Angeles to Be “Laboratory” for Renewable Energy https://solartribune.com/port-los-angeles-laboratory-renewable-energy/ Thu, 30 Jun 2016 14:29:43 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10135 Starting this month, a 40-acre terminal at the Port of Los Angeles will serve as a test case for the use of renewable energy in a large industrial port facility. According to John Holmes, port operations consultant for Pasha Stevedoring and Terminals (Pasha), a privately held cargo-handling company, the Green Omni Terminal Demonstration Project will […]

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Starting this month, a 40-acre terminal at the Port of Los Angeles will serve as a test case for the use of renewable energy in a large industrial port facility. According to John Holmes, port operations consultant for Pasha Stevedoring and Terminals (Pasha), a privately held cargo-handling company, the Green Omni Terminal Demonstration Project will turn the terminal into an “industrial laboratory,” where renewable energy equipment and systems can be tested in the context of everyday operations.

PortProcessGraphic-11b“This is a Wright Brothers moment,” said Jeffrey Burgin, Senior Vice President of Pasha. “We’re going to be the proving ground to change the paradigm of how large industrial facilities can run on clean energy. We’re confident we can show this is absolutely attainable.”

The project to create the world’s first marine terminal able to generate all of its energy needs from renewable sources is part of the program California Climate Investments, which uses proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The projected results of the project when fully operational, according to port officials, will be to eliminate 3,200 tons of greenhouse gases, and almost 28 tons in diesel and other polluting emissions, per year. They calculate this as the equivalent of removing 14,100 cars from the road.

The final design and construction of the microgrid will occur this month. The system consists of a 1.03 megawatt photovoltaic rooftop array, a 2.6 megawatt-hour battery storage system, charging equipment that can receive as well as supply power, and an energy management control system. Officials admit that the microgrid would represent only a small slice of the total energy “pie” for the terminal, the rest of which would have to be provided by other no-emissions or low-emissions energy sources. The ultimate goal is to set up a back-up system to supply all of the terminal’s energy needs, which would allow operations to continue off-grid during an earthquake or other emergency. Other changes to be made include the installation of the ShoreCat system, which captures emissions for vessels that are unable to plug into shore power.

The project is estimated to cost $26.6 million over two and a half years, part of which will be paid by a California Air Resources Board (CARB) grant of $14.5 million, which is going towards the purchase of nine electric vehicles and the solar microgrid.

The Port of Los Angeles is located in the San Pedro section of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, near Wilmington, which is disproportionately impacted by industrial pollution. Said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols: “These innovative clean technologies will help clean the air in port-adjacent and disadvantaged communities, and are at the heart of California’s comprehensive effort to meet regional air quality and statewide climate goals.”

 

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Bay Area Team to Send Unmanned Solar Boat Across Pacific https://solartribune.com/bay-area-team-to-send-unmanned-solar-boat-across-pacific/ Sun, 29 May 2016 15:24:18 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10087 It began as a garage project two-and-a-half years ago by a group of engineers that call themselves “hobbyists.” But on Memorial Day, Damon McMillan and his Bay Area team are set to launch a homemade solar boat, named Seacharger, on what would be, if successful, the first voyage by an entirely solar-powered, pilotless craft across […]

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It began as a garage project two-and-a-half years ago by a group of engineers that call themselves “hobbyists.” But on Memorial Day, Damon McMillan and his Bay Area team are set to launch a homemade solar boat, named Seacharger, on what would be, if successful, the first voyage by an entirely solar-powered, pilotless craft across the ocean (or at least the greater part of it, as the destination is Hawaii). Previous unmanned solar craft used wave and/or wind power to augment the sun’s power, and a previous solar-only craft that made a voyage round the world had a human pilot onboard.

Photo of Seacharger

Photo courtesy of Damon McMillan. Used with permission.

According to McMillan, who has an MS in aerospace dynamics and works in the unmanned vehicle industry, the Seacharger project started out as an attempt to create a robotic sailboat that would cross the ocean, something that had never been successfully done. Somewhere along the way, the sailboat idea got scrapped, and the boat became a solar-powered motorized vehicle.

The team began at the end of 2013 by gluing together two dozen foam pieces to plug a fiberglass hull mold. The vehicle measures 91 by 22 inches and is topped by two ultra-thin, Renogy 100-watt photovoltaic panels. The panels are attached to a lithium-iron-phosphate battery bank, suspended below the craft, which powers the brushless motor, similar to those seen in small hobby planes. The craft includes a watertight enclosure situated between the panels, containing an Arduino-based autopilot, GPS and satellite modem circuitry; this enables McMillan to navigate the boat from hundreds of miles away. Seacharger weighs 50 pounds and has a cruising speed of about three knots. McMillan estimates that in daylight it can go on indefinitely and, because of its battery storage, it can also travel for three nights before losing power.

Last month, McMillan tested the boat on Shoreline Lake near Mountain View, as recorded in his blog. The intended path of the boat was shaped like a rectangle, but its actual course more closely resembled a lasso. “Sure, it looked a bit like a drunken sailor,” McMillan wrote on the blog, “but it DID work. Just gotta tune some gains.”

The creation of Seacharger was, according to McMillan, a frustrating, trial-and-error process. “If I had started believing that I had to get to the end tomorrow,” he said, “I never would have continued. So it’s always just one step at a time.”

The team plans to launch the boat on Memorial Day from Avila Beach, a location about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, where it will face possible high winds off the California coast.

“This is not a commercial project,” the team claims, “but simply a couple of hobbyists assembling a few pieces of ordinary technology to accomplish an extraordinary feat.”

You can track the boat’s progress online here.

 

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Bay Area School District Integrates Solar Power With STEM Education https://solartribune.com/bay-area-school-district-integrates-solar-power-with-stem-education/ Sun, 01 May 2016 22:49:56 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10060 On April 28, Berryessa Union School District (BUSD), which operates ten elementary (grades K-5) schools and three middle (grades 6-8) schools in Berryessa in San Jose, held a groundbreaking ceremony at its Piedmont Middle School. The event was to commemorate the inauguration of a district-wide initiative to install solar energy and integrate it with the school’s […]

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On April 28, Berryessa Union School District (BUSD), which operates ten elementary (grades K-5) schools and three middle (grades 6-8) schools in Berryessa in San Jose, held a groundbreaking ceremony at its Piedmont Middle School. The event was to commemorate the inauguration of a district-wide initiative to install solar energy and integrate it with the school’s STEM education program.

sun_schoolThe goal of the initiative, paid for through “Measure L” bond funding, is to install a total of 2.4MW of solar energy at all district sites. OpTerra Energy Services, an engineering consultant and design firm and a subsidiary of ENGIE, an energy efficiency services provider, plans to install the systems, which consist of solar shade canopies and ground-mounted units, at all 13 schools and at the district office. These installations will take on from 80 to 90 percent of planned electric load by site, and is expected to result in a 15 percent reduction in overall energy use. It is also intended as a means of environmental stewardship through GHG emission reduction.

Measure L is a bond issue, approved by voters in November 2014, targeting repairs and improvements to district sites. In March 2015, the BUSD leadership had set project goals regarding energy saving, renewable power, energy education and financial impact. It chose OpTerra Energy Services as its partner on the project. A district-wide assessment and analysis was conducted by BUSD and OpTerra of all sites and district property to identify the best opportunities for solar energy generation.

Meanwhile, the OpTerra education team is partnering with principals and teachers across the district. The result of this collaboration will be to use the solar production data as a means of direct STEM learning for students. Educational offerings will be customized to support different grade levels across the district. The entire program is on schedule, though the process took only about a year. (OpTerra’s presentation can be found here.)

Said District Superintendent Will Ector, “Our goal for our new solar program is to set the bar for sustainability at districts across the region. We are proud that as a result of this program, Berryessa’s ability to conserve energy will be complemented by a natural fit education tie-in. The benefits of our solar program are both immediate and long-term, empowering our students, staff, and community to support Earth Day, every day.”

In order to avoid any disruption to classes, solar canopy construction will not begin at school sites until summer.

 

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Australia: The New Solar Frontier https://solartribune.com/australia-the-new-solar-frontier/ Sat, 02 Apr 2016 00:58:31 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10027 Australia is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the next decade of distributed generation and battery technology. “It might also surprise you to know that nearly 15% of Australian households have solar panels on their roofs. That’s the highest number of solar panels on people’s roofs per capita anywhere in the world. – […]

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Australia is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the next decade of distributed generation and battery technology.

“It might also surprise you to know that nearly 15% of Australian households have solar panels on their roofs. That’s the highest number of solar panels on people’s roofs per capita anywhere in the world. – Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, speaking on Q&A on March 22, 2106.”

U.S. utility companies should pay close attention to the exploding energy storage market “down under.” While much of the world has been succumbing to the large scale “central station” solar model,  Australia has quietly become the world’s leader in indie solar. When fact-checking Minister Frydenberg’s impressive claim that 15% of Australian households are taking part in the rooftop and residential revolution, it turns out that the current numbers are even more impressive– closer to 16.5%!solar-australia

Because of generous incentives and strong feed-in tariffs, indie solar has indeed boomed down under. Unfortunately for that huge number of early adopters, regional feed-in tariffs are being slashed across the country, leading to a gold rush of activity in the battery storage space. Tesla has rolled out its Powerwall in Australia first, with a number of strong competitors hot on Tesla’s heels.

The latest player onto the field is Brisbane-based Redflow.  The company has developed the ZCell battery, designed to store 10kWh of electricity — enough to keep most homes running for several days.  Unlike Tesla and others, the new battery does not use lithium. According to Redflow, the ZCell is more recyclable than its competitors.

“The active parts are plastic, aluminium and steel, the fluid electrolyte can be removed and cleaned and put in the next battery so the whole thing is very recyclable,” executive chairman Simon Hackett told Australian Broadcasting. This is going to be a big deal as massive lithium-based battery systems gain popularity. It is easy to be sceptical of Redflow’s claims, but they certainly are looking one step beyond the competition, which is going to be essential in the Lithium-starved market.

Other competitors in the Australian battery boom include Sonnen, LG and Enphase. Even the Australian utility companies are starting to see the writing on the wall. Sydney-based electricity provider AGL Energy, for example, has adopted an ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ approach and is offering its own residential storage kits after investing $20m in Sunverge last month.

Meanwhile back here at home, with American utilities continuing their anti-indie push against net metering, battery storage deployment is picking up in the U.S. as well. As of the third quarter of 2015, 108 MW (94 MWh) of energy storage was deployed in 2015, compared with 38 MW (65 MWh) installed during the same period in 2014, according to a new report from GTM Research. Only time will tell if– or more precisely when– we will see U.S. utilities try to break into the storage market.GTM_storage_chart_q3

Meanwhile, back in Australia, the gold rush is on. A country once criticized for its lack of solar implementation is now the new frontier for the solar industry.  South Australia and Queensland, where retail rates are particularly high and feed-in tariff cuts are hurting indie solar owners, are leading the world in uptake of solar battery storage. According to a recent GTM report entitled     “The Australian Energy Storage Market: Downstream Drivers and Opportunities,” analyst Brett Simon predicts that:

“Australia’s energy storage market is poised for massive growth. As battery prices continue their rapid decline, storage will become more attractive to end customers, especially in the residential sector. This presents an opportunity for a large addressable market for storage system vendors and developers. GTM Research anticipates Australia’s energy storage market will reach 244 megawatts of annual installed capacity by 2020.”

It would appear that where Australia leads, the world will follow, at least when looking at the solar battery storage market in the next several years. Look for new marketing schemes to come online just as fast as new battery technologies as Australian Utility providers scramble to make sense of the disruptive new model for electricity production. AND… look for U.S. utilities to keep a close, VERY close eye on what is happening down under.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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San Diego Battery Storage Tariff May Be Good for Solar Customers https://solartribune.com/san-diego-battery-storage-tariff-may-be-good-for-solar-customers/ Sat, 05 Sep 2015 20:56:13 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=9228 The San Diego-area utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) claims that rooftop solar without battery storage isn’t helping SDG&E address its peak-period energy demands for residential customers in its service area. So the utility is exploring the potential of energy storage by proposing, as part of its recently published distribution resource plan, a pilot […]

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The San Diego-area utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) claims that rooftop solar without battery storage isn’t helping SDG&E address its peak-period energy demands for residential customers in its service area.

So the utility is exploring the potential of energy storage by proposing, as part of its recently published distribution resource plan, a pilot program, called the residential energy storage rate program, which would provide households and small businesses that generate solar power an incentive for the purchase of large, grid-connected batteries.

battery-icon-1241933-640x360The residential energy storage rate proposal differs from similar projects virtually everywhere else in that SDG&E won’t own the batteries it is testing. The utility would take control of the customer’s storage system’s charge and discharge functions at certain times of day. As SDG&E says, “This pilot provides an opportunity to test the ability of customer-owned, behind-the-meter storage assets to potentially defer circuit upgrades (e.g., re-conductor or new circuit extensions).” Put another way, customers’ batteries might save the utility the cost of making infrastructure upgrades as often as it does now, and such savings would be shared with the utilities’ shareholders.

According to SDG&E officials, the three keys to the program’s success would be: 1) if the rate savings are high enough to attract customers; 2) if the utility could make use of the batteries often enough and during the appropriate times of day; and 3) if the utility could reach an arrangement with companies (e.g., SolarCity, Tesla) to offer customers third-party-funded batteries at no upfront cost. (At the same time, as a kind of experimental control, SDG&E has proposed a separate pilot project involving batteries it manages itself, so as to compare and contrast the two programs.)

The plan would be advantageous for SDG&E customers, who now pay the highest electricity rate among the major utilities in California: 23 cents/kWh. It would be advantageous for the utility as well, because, according to a new report, “The Economics of Load Defection,” it is vital for the survival of utilities to adopt new business models, even if they succeed in efforts to limit net metering or establish fixed fees for solar in their service areas.

“This is a little ray of light through the darkness of the traditional utility business model,” said James Fine, senior economist with the Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s a new way to sustain and support the utility operations, to get away from the incentive to put more steel in the ground.”

 

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Second Time Around: Bay Area Gets PACE Financing… Again https://solartribune.com/second-time-around-bay-area-gets-pace-financing-again/ Wed, 10 Jun 2015 21:18:28 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=9058 The PACE financing program for solar installations – standing for Property Assessed Clean Energy – has recently experienced a revival in the Bay Area. The program makes solar financing easy by allowing residential homeowners to borrow the upfront costs of installing solar panels, and then to repay the loan as a line item on their […]

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The PACE financing program for solar installations – standing for Property Assessed Clean Energy – has recently experienced a revival in the Bay Area.

The program makes solar financing easy by allowing residential homeowners to borrow the upfront costs of installing solar panels, and then to repay the loan as a line item on their property tax bills over a 20-year period. Because it is considered a special tax assessment, it remains with the property if the house is sold. And PACE can help with the California drought as well, since the program now also covers water-saving home renovations, such as systems to collect “gray water” from sinks and showers.

solar_coinsIn California, the first commercial and residential PACE programs were inaugurated in 2008, and were first established in Berkeley about five years ago. However, it was at about that time that the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, began to oppose PACE. PACE loans are essentially attached as liens on properties. This means that, in event of foreclosure, PACE loans would have to be paid off first, which might become a major problem for the Federal government if many PACE program homes with government-sponsored mortgages went into foreclosure. So in 2010, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced that they would cease purchasing mortgage loans secured by properties with outstanding PACE loans.

To remedy the situation, in 2013 Gov. Brown signed into law Senate Bill 96, which established the PACE Loss Reserve Program to mitigate the risk to mortgage lenders from PACE financing. The program created a $10 million fund, designed to cover any of Fannie Mae’s or Freddie Mac’s losses attributable to PACE liens. However, a spokesperson for the FHFA was recently quoted as saying, “We have not changed our policy at all” towards PACE.

Despite concerns that the FHFA might redline entire cities or towns participating in the PACE program, however, this has not occurred, and the agency does not appear to object to PACE in cases where other lenders are willing to bear the risk of mortgages for homeowners who participate in the program. In December, San Francisco became the first large city in California to return to residential PACE financing since the program was halted. The Executive Director of PACENow, David Gabrielson, says: “State and local government sponsored PACE programs are driving economic activity, creating local jobs, and helping achieve carbon reduction and other environmental goals.”

 

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Two Sacramento Area Universities Compete for Solar Home “Bragging Rights” https://solartribune.com/two-sacramento-area-universities-compete-for-solar-home-bragging-rights/ Tue, 02 Jun 2015 19:51:53 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=9034 Two universities in the Sacramento area are competing with 15 other college and university teams – and with each other – in the Solar Decathlon 2015 contest, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The two institutions – California State University, Sacramento (a.k.a., Sacramento State, or CSUS) and UC Davis (UCD) – were among those […]

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Two universities in the Sacramento area are competing with 15 other college and university teams – and with each other – in the Solar Decathlon 2015 contest, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The two institutions – California State University, Sacramento (a.k.a., Sacramento State, or CSUS) and UC Davis (UCD) – were among those that had been selected from a field of 140 entries to compete in the two-year event. It will conclude in Irvine, CA, in October.

Computer-generated model of part of the design for CSUS' solar house, Reflect Home

Computer-generated model of part of the design for CSUS’ solar house, Reflect Home (from the Team Solar NEST webpage: http://bit.ly/1AICayx)

The Solar Decathlon 2015 rules require each competing team to construct a net-zero house (i.e., one that uses no more energy than it produces), which must be not only cost effective and energy efficient, but attractive. The two university projects are known as “Reflect Home” (CSUS) and “Aggie Sol” (UCD). There is no monetary prize, but only, according to Lindsey Crosby, architectural manager of the Reflect Home project, “bragging rights” for the institution that constructs the winning solar home.

The Reflect Home team’s project executive, “decathlete” Rosni Pann, said, “We wanted to reflect Sacramento not only in the house’s architecture but its openness.” Amber Archangel, reviewing the plan for the house for the website CleanTechnica, was impressed by this very aspect of it, praising its “spacious outdoor deck that expands the interior spaces and lets the light ‘cascade in,’” and noted that it had “surprisingly more livable space than we usually see in a Solar Decathlon home.”

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“Sneak preview” of part of UCD’s solar house, Aggie Sol (from the Aggie Sol Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/1Q3cu6y)

Aggie Sol is an M-Power house which, so far, has involved the efforts of about 250 UCD students from various fields of study. As stated on the project website, “In designing a wooden house, we will minimize cost by using a widely available material and by tapping into an existing pool of wooden construction expertise.” Notable features of the house include a home plumbing system relying on gravity, not pumps, an all-electric HVAC system, passive heating and cooling, thick straw bale walls to retain heat, and occupancy sensors.

After Solar Decathlon 2015 ends in October, both teams have plans for the houses they are building. The Reflect Home team intends to turn their house into a sustainability learning lab, and the Aggie Sol team hopes that its house will be of use as a residence for agricultural students.

In California, the other teams competing in Solar Decathlon 2015 are: California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and, collectively, University of California at Irvine, Chapman University, Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College.

 

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Palo Alto Seeks to Lead in “Solar Ready” Housing in Bay Area https://solartribune.com/palo-alto-seeks-to-lead-in-solar-ready-housing-in-bay-area/ Fri, 15 May 2015 11:29:58 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8931 Just before Earth Day, the Palo Alto City Council unanimously passed an ordinance mandating that all new single-family residences in the city be “solar ready.” The new regulation is consistent with the objectives of Palo Alto city government in recent years, which has sought not merely to comply with but to go beyond already strict […]

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Just before Earth Day, the Palo Alto City Council unanimously passed an ordinance mandating that all new single-family residences in the city be “solar ready.”

panels-607251_640The new regulation is consistent with the objectives of Palo Alto city government in recent years, which has sought not merely to comply with but to go beyond already strict state energy requirements. The new regulations are part of what the city calls a new “energy reach code,” by which it will require buildings to exceed state energy requirements by 15 percent. The ordinance expands upon the city’s Green Building code of 2008, which at the time was the most stringent in the state. According to the city’s website, the goal of Green Building is “to design, build, and operate a new generation of efficient, environmentally responsible, and healthy buildings.”

The ordinance mandates that all new single-family residences dedicate 500 feet of roof surface to the potential installation of solar panels. Conduits must also be provided by builders to support the future wiring of a solar system. (Exceptions to the rule include, for example, cases in which trees block sunlight from a roof, making harnessing solar energy impossible without eliminating the trees.) The goal is to quadruple local solar power generation by 2023.

The Palo Alto local building code is more aggressive than state requirements, according to a report by the Development Services Department. According to a story in Palo Alto Online, the staff of Peter Pirnejad, the director of the department, estimates that, for a home measuring 2,400 square feet, the new requirements would add about $2,000 to the construction bill, but that this would be cost effective if the cost of installation is amortized over 30 years.

According to the Palo Alto Patch, the city has already cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an estimated 37 percent from 1990 levels.

To learn more, visit our page on solar companies serving the Bay Area.

 

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San Diego Still #2 City for Solar in U.S., But Will It Remain a “Shining City”? https://solartribune.com/san-diego-still-2-city-for-solar-in-u-s-but-will-it-remain-a-shining-city/ Thu, 14 May 2015 11:29:09 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8937 As had been the case the previous year, San Diego attained the number two spot, after Los Angeles, in overall solar capacity in the second annual survey of major U.S. cities (65 in all), called Shining Cities, published earlier this Spring by the Sacramento-based Environment California Research & Policy Center. The other three top five […]

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As had been the case the previous year, San Diego attained the number two spot, after Los Angeles, in overall solar capacity in the second annual survey of major U.S. cities (65 in all), called Shining Cities, published earlier this Spring by the Sacramento-based Environment California Research & Policy Center.
san-diego-bay-737005_1280The other three top five cities were Phoenix, Indianapolis and San Jose. In addition, according to an Environment California press release, San Diego exceeded Los Angeles in the growth of solar power capacity, as it installed 42 megawatts of solar power in 2014, as opposed to 34 MW for Los Angeles. The document also revealed that the city came in fourth in solar-per-capita, behind Honolulu, Indianapolis and San Jose. San Diego is also among the group of cities that Environment California calls its “Solar Stars”: that is, the 14 cities that can claim 50 or more watts of installed solar PV capacity per person.

Although it would seem only natural that a sunny city such as San Diego would be a solar leader, Dan Jacobson, a program manager at Environment California, was quoted as claiming that sunshine had little to do with it. “The reason San Diego is in such good shape for solar is that [the city has] done such a good job of making it financially attractive,” Jacobson said. For example, multifamily housing complexes can gain special solar incentives, and home loans are available for the installation of solar systems that can be repaid through property tax assessments. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said: “Solar energy is a key element to the City’s proposed Climate Action Plan, which calls for 100 percent renewable energy use in the City by 2035.”

However, the Environmental California release also notes that utilities throughout the country are “campaigning intensely” to slow solar adoption by increasing fees for solar households, seeing the phenomenon as a “direct threat to their business model.” An executive with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), James Avery, claims that, though his utility does not oppose solar power, solar adoption makes the grid harder to run, and solar customers pay less towards maintaining it. However, this infographic by Vote Solar, based on a published report, suggests that for California energy users in general, benefits to the grid through net metering outweigh costs by over $92 million.

 

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Disadvantaged Households in Fresno to Get Solar… and Financial Relief https://solartribune.com/disadvantaged-households-in-fresno-to-get-solar-and-financial-relief/ Wed, 13 May 2015 11:25:00 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8943 A new statewide pilot program in California is giving free solar panels to households in disadvantaged areas, starting with communities in Fresno. Called the Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP), it is eventually intended to serve about 1800 households throughout the state. Senate Bill 535, passed in 2012, directed state and local agencies to try to improve […]

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A new statewide pilot program in California is giving free solar panels to households in disadvantaged areas, starting with communities in Fresno. Called the Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP), it is eventually intended to serve about 1800 households throughout the state.
fresno-391271_1280Senate Bill 535, passed in 2012, directed state and local agencies to try to improve California’s most vulnerable communities through the investment of part of the proceeds from quarterly auctions of the state’s cap-and-trade program. A total of $75 million has so far been set aside for LIWP.

The LIWP solar panel program is administered by the California Department of Community Services and Development (CSD) and has three purposes:

  • to produce greater environmental sustainability in heavily polluted communities in order to combat climate change;
  • to provide cheaper energy bills for low-income residents of such communities;
  • to provide local job training in solar panel installation.

A community’s eligibility for the program is determined by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) through an analysis tool known as CalEnviroScreen 2.0, which, according to its website, determines “California communities that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution.” Fresno was chosen to inaugurate the program because of the high number, more than a dozen, of disadvantaged and polluted neighborhoods in the city, including the downtown, south and west areas.

To implement the program, CSD partnered with the Fresno Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), which in turn partnered with the corporation Sunrun to provide the solar systems. Brian Angus, the CEO of Fresno EOC, said: “We are helping to improve the lives of these low-income families, providing job training in solar installations and contributing to our state’s environmental goals.”

The program profiles two early recipients of the program, Fresno residents Salvador and Ricarda Mendoza. Ricarda, 61, works a low-wage job, and Salvador, 66, who is unemployed, is ill and requires very expensive medication. They applied for the program because it is projected to reduce the couple’s energy bills by 75 percent. Ricarda was quoted as saying: “I am glad, because now we will have more money for my husband’s medical expenses.”

A number of solar installation companies in Fresno are eligible for the program.

In addition to Fresno County, Sacramento, Merced, Madera, Tulare and Los Angeles counties will be served by the program.

 

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Enviros and Tea Party Agree: Solar is Good for Florida https://solartribune.com/florida-ppa/ Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:24:08 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8703 Far-left environmental activists and far-right small government conservatives may seem like odd allies, but when it comes to making Florida a leader in solar energy, both sides agree. The time has come to open the market to solar power. California, Texas and Florida have a lot in common. They are the nations three most populated […]

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Far-left environmental activists and far-right small government conservatives may seem like odd allies, but when it comes to making Florida a leader in solar energy, both sides agree. The time has come to open the market to solar power.

California, Texas and Florida have a lot in common. They are the nations three most populated states. All three enjoy warm, sunny climates. All three have perfect conditions for producing massive amounts of solar power. However, Florida lags far behind the other two mega-states in solar electricity production. Why?

“Florida is the best solar market in the eastern United States, and it’s clearly underperforming,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which is part of a coalition of groups called Floridians for Solar Choice.

Florida is one of only five states in the United States that by law expressly denies citizens and businesses the freedom to buy solar power electricity directly from someone other than a monopoly electric utility. Now, Floridians for Solar Choice is working to place a question on the 2016 general election ballot asking voters to decide on expanding solar choice to Florida’s families and businesses. The ballot initiative would remove a barrier that currently blocks clean, renewable solar power.

One of the remarkable things about Floridians for Solar Choice is the diversity of its membership. According to In a recent poll, 74% of Florida voters said they would support a proposal to change Florida’s current law and allow Floridians to contract directly with solar companies to power their homes or businesses with solar energy, and the makeup of Floridians for Solar Choice reflects that broad base of support. The impressive list of supporters of Floridians for Solar Choice includes such diverse groups as the Christian Coalition of America, Conservatives for Energy Freedom, Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, Florida Retail Federation, Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, Libertarian Party of Florida, Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, Republican Liberty Caucus of Tampa Bay, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, WTEC, Clean Water Action, Environment Florida, Evangelical Environmental Network, Greenpeace USA, IDEAS for Us, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Florida, ReThink Energy Florida, Sierra Club Florida and The Tea Party Network.

According to a recent article on The Wall Street Journal “…Utilities have long argued that customers should go through them for solar energy because they should help pay for the cost of maintaining the grid, which they still rely on for at least part of the day.”NA-CE750A_SOLAR_9U_20150220171510

Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Duke Energy Florida, which provides electricity in the central and northern part of the state, said the company was committed to working with lawmakers “to achieve energy policies, incorporating solar, that are fair and beneficial to all of our customers.”

As with the wind power industry before solar, many state-sanctioned monopoly utility providers have attempted to hold independent renewable energy generators at bay until the cost of solar production drops to the point at which it is profitable for them to jump in to the market. Now, utility companies like Duke Energy are looking to develop “Community Solar” projects. These “Solar Farms” do offer customers the option of buying clean energy and offsetting dirty coal powered generation, but without the personal and local economic benefits of rooftop solar. In addition, utility-scale solar continues reliance on an aging transmission and distribution system.

“What’s happening now in Florida is really blocking the free market,” said Tory Perfetti, state director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom. Meanwhile, activists in Georgia, Utah, Colorado and Iowa have all recently fought to open up their states electricity market to third party power providers.

Solar growth in states that allow third party power purchase agreement, particularly in the form of solar leases, illustrates clearly that the inability of Floridians to purchase solar power electricity directly from someone other than a monopoly electric utility is one of the major reasons that Florida’s Solar industry has not taken off. In California, for instance, solar installations skyrocketed with the implementation of solar lease agreements. According to a 2013 report from the Climate Policy Initiative:
California-solar-leasing
“Recently, steep solar panel cost reductions as well as strong federal and state policy supports have helped to catalyze substantial growth in rooftop solar PV deployment in California. Interestingly, this growth has happened in the face of declining financial incentives for solar installations at the state level through the California Solar Initiative. This growth has also been accompanied by a shift in market demand: Most homeowners in California are no longer purchasing the panels on their rooftops, they are leasing them. Over 75% of California’s new residential solar systems in 2012 were leased as compared to less than 10% in 2007.”

The fact that solar installations in California went up “in the face of declining financial incentives” is key to the successful alliance of far-right and far left in Georgia, and now in Florida. $0 up-front costs make installation a no-brainer for many people who want to make the jump to solar with little or no additional cost. Small-government, anti-tax conservatives like the “no government incentives” aspect of third party leases, and see it as a free-market solution which provides the individual with more energy independence. They are not required to agree with their environmentalist allies’ carbon-reduction goals or desire to reduce the effects of anthropogenic climate change.

Debbie Dooley, of the Georgia Tea Party and the Green Tea coalition stated the position clearly in an essay she wrote for Grist:

“The premise is simple: Those who believe in the free market need to reexamine the way our country produces energy. Giant utility monopolies deserve at least some competition, and consumers should have a choice. It’s just that simple, and it’s consistent with the free-market principles that have been a core value of the Tea Party since we began in 2009.”

Could the far-right and far-left find common ground on other issues? With the increased influence of corporate money in politics and the increase in government surveillance of citizens, it is within the realm of possibility that we may see these groups reunite again in the future over issues.

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Solar Profile: Wendi Zubillaga, PetersenDean https://solartribune.com/solar-profile-wendi-zubillaga-petersendean/ Thu, 19 Feb 2015 15:54:38 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8677 Wendi Zubillaga is the Chief Sales Officer at PetersenDean Roofing and Solar and a 29-year veteran of the residential real estate industry. As Chief Sales Officer at the nation’s largest privately-held roofing and solar company, she oversees all facets of the company’s growth, marketing and sales. She also helped create the Builder Advantage program, a […]

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Wendi Zubillaga is the Chief Sales Officer at PetersenDean Roofing and Solar and a 29-year veteran of the residential real estate industry. As Chief Sales Officer at the nation’s largest privately-held roofing and solar company, she oversees all facets of the company’s growth, marketing and sales.

Wendi Zubillaga,President of the  Builder Group at PetersonDean

Wendi Zubillaga,President of the Builder Group at PetersenDean

She also helped create the Builder Advantage program, a rewards program that provides incentives to builders. Zubillaga has a proven track record of success that spans a wide variety of clients, allowing her to work with all styles, technologies, budgets and approaches. Her expansive network and industry background includes a focus on residential roofing and sustainability and she works with many of the nation’s top builders.

Please tell our readers a little about your background, and how you got into the solar industry.

I have been in the home building industry for the past 26 years.  My brother and I opened a fencing company fresh out of school.  After several years with my brother, I met Jim Petersen (Founder and CEO of PetersenDean) at an industry trade show and I decided to join his roofing company as the salesperson.  At that time, PetersenDean was a small roofing company located in Northern CA.  After many years of growth and success, it was a natural progression to move into the “solar world” as solar is a roofing product.

How many years have you been with PetersenDean?

This is my 21st year with this incredible company.

Tell us a little about PetersenDean and your role there.

Petersen Dean was started in 1984 by Jim Petersen and Joe Dean, two young roofers that decided to work for themselves after learning the trade.  The home building industry was attractive to Jim and when I was 202brought on in 1994, he made it clear that we would be in for a “wild ride.” We began to open offices all over California and then moved into other states.  We now operate in five states, CA, AZ, NV , TX and FL.  I have held many positions over the years, mostly in a sales capacity, sales rep to Chief Sales Officer and very recently was named President of the Builder Group.  This is quite an accomplishment that I am extremely proud of as there are very few women in this role in the entire construction industry.

What do you find exciting about the projects that you are currently working on?

I am excited about the growth in solar uptake on the builder side of the business and have recently partnered with some of the nation’s largest builders, DR Horton, KB Home, Standard Pacific, Richmond American and Taylor Morrison just to name a few.

Homebuilding is a very cyclical industry and we have reacted to the market shifts by expanding our consumer solar business.  I am very proud of our consumer teams  growth in revenues over the past few years.

If you were to choose three words that you would like readers to associate with PetersenDean and its products, what would they be, and why?

Quality – With more than 30 years in the business we have a proven track record that proves that we stand behind our warranty.
Innovative – Petersen Dean and our incredible family of employees prides itself on improving its procedures and practices to make sure we produce a product that provides a great value to our customer.
AmericanMade- Petersen Dean partners with US companies whenever possible.  We have an exclusive relationship with Solar World, the only American made panel on the market.  We are committed to providing our customers with the best products available.

Where do you see PetersenDean fitting into the solar industry now, and where would you like PetersenDean to be in 5-10 years?

Petersen Dean has proven to be a force to be reckoned with.  We compete against some well funded, highly marketed companies in the solar industry, yet our “small” privately held organization continues to make great strides in proving that a well managed, PROFITABLE roofing/solar company with a proven track record is the right choice. In the next 5-10 years, Petersen Dean will be installing roofing and solar on more homes in its current markets, as well as expanding our operation in several new states.

Where do you see areas for growth in solar, and what are the roadblocks to achieving market growth?

Currently solar is mostly installed in a handful of states.  The solar market has opportunities for exponential growth.

Some roadblocks the industry faces are the lack of support from governmental entities and local utilities.  Currently, there is a rebate in certain utilities and a 30% federal tax credit.  If/When these are no longer available, the solar industry will suffer.

If you care to, tell us a little about your passions outside of solar.

I am very fortunate to have found a career that allows me to travel and meet new people every day.  I am a mother of three ACTIVE teenagers and there is never a dull moment in our lives.

To learn more about PetersenDean, visit our pages for Orange County and the Bay Area.

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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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Will Solar Drive Up Silver Prices? https://solartribune.com/solar-and-silver-prices/ Thu, 23 Oct 2014 16:30:29 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8115 In August of this year, Wall Street Daily predicted that solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing would be “The Unlikely Driving Force Behind an Imminent Surge in Silver Prices.” In fact, all over the web, precious metals watchers are predicting a jump in silver prices due to increasing demand for the highly conductive metal by the booming […]

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In August of this year, Wall Street Daily predicted that solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing would be “The Unlikely Driving Force Behind an Imminent Surge in Silver Prices.” In fact, all over the web, precious metals watchers are predicting a jump in silver prices due to increasing demand for the highly conductive metal by the booming PV market. According to an October 21, 2014 article at Forbes.com, “Assuming a balanced market in which supply matches demand, the demand for silver from the solar PV industry will rise from 10% of the total demand for silver in 2014 to around 15% in 2018.” However, since 2011, PV sales have risen to new heights, while silver prices have dipped to a five year low. What gives?

Currently, PV manufacturers use between 15 and 20 grams of silver in a new solar panel (by comparison, a new laptop contains approximately .75 grams of silver.) The Forbes article bases it’s projections on the assumption that 2.8 million ounces of silver are required to generate 1 GW of solar power, and that The incremental PV capacity addition in 2018 is expected to be between 39 and 69 GW. Are these assumptions realistic? And if so, will they actually translate into higher silver prices?

Will solar stop the decline in silver prices?

Will solar stop the decline in silver prices?

The reduction of silver use in PV panels is one of the holy grails of the solar industry. R&D teams have reduced usage of silver as much as two thirds in some new panels. Copper, nickel and tin are all showing promise as replacements for silver in PV panel busbars. A sudden turn in the global price of silver could be a major hit to PV manufacturers, or it may be the catalyst for a new wave of post-silver PV. In their 2012 report entitled ““Key Issues and Innovations in Photovoltaic Metallization,” Lux Research reports that the “Drive to reduce silver use is inevitable. Over the past decade, silver prices have risen six-fold to about $30/ounce, necessitating lower usage and other work-arounds. Applied Materials’ double-printing tool reduces silver usage by 30% relative to conventional screen printing and improves absolute cell efficiencies by 0.3% to 0.5%, offering the nearest term bang for the buck. But the technology roadmap won’t stop there.” Obviously, silver markets have been a roller coaster ride since the $30 an ounce numbers at the time of the Lux report to a current price of $17.44 (as of this writing, October 2014.) Now, PV manufacturers are happily chugging along, producing PV panels at under $1 per watt retail. Solar demand is growing rapidly, copper and tin based panel alternatives are back on the shelf and yet, silver prices remain in the basement, as compared to 2011, when silver was pushing $50 an ounce.

In addition to advances in technology that are lowering silver demands for solar panels, there are other factors that are affecting silver prices. These factors are far outside of the world of solar manufacturing. Precious metal prices have been highly volatile in recent years due to economic and regulatory factors having nothing to do with industrial demand. Fears about the market, currency fluctuations and an overall lackluster economy in the wake of the recession drove prices up, and, of course, what goes up must come down. Last year, demand for silver dropped and so did the price, but the low price has once again sparked demand, including the Indian jewelry silver market, which bought 17% of the silver in 2013. Despite the demand, silver prices remain low, leading speculators to scratch their heads. In many respects, the projections of PV manufacturing driving silver prices higher sounds a bit like wishful thinking.

At this point in time, the markets are a confusing place to be, and even the seasoned pros are struggling to make sense of the current directions in both the silver and the solar markets. With solar stocks being unjustly penalized by falling crude oil prices ( see “Solar Stocks Struggle to Decouple from Crude”) we are seeing powerhouse companies like industry giant SunPower down 23% and China’s upstart Trina Solar down 30%. Can silver fans really count on solar’s growth to spur a recovery in silver prices? At this point, it’s a stretch. And what about solar enthusiasts? It looks like a the grey clouds over silver and solar stocks may have a “silver lining” for them. For now, weak silver prices and lower solar stocks probably mean cheaper solar panels in the near term.

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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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