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Solar Energy is Getting Cheaper and Cheaper

July 2, 2017 (www.wallstreetpit.com)

According to a new report from GTM Research – Greentech Media’s market analysis and advisory arm — solar prices are continuing to drop, and there aren’t any indications that the trend is slowing down. In fact, GTM has predicted that by 2022, average global solar project costs will be down by around 27%, which is equivalent to an annual decline of approximately 4.4%.

GTM also says the decline in cost is not exclusive to the U.S. It’s happening all around the world and in some locations, the price decrease is even higher than what’s being experienced in the U.S.

The figures were derived from a new PV system pricing forecast developed by GTM Research solar analyst Ben Gallagher. It’s not just the numbers that are significant; it’s the reason behind those numbers as well. Gallagher believes the drop in cost is being driven by the reduction of all related costs, including that of tools, materials and manpower.

At present, solar cost is at its lowest in India — 65 cents per watt. So far, that’s the lowest record in the entire world. China offers the second lowest cost — $0.80 per watt.

On the other end, solar energy is most expensive in Japan — $2.07 per watt. Apparently, it’s because there’s more ‘engineering scrutiny’ involved owing to the incidence of earthquakes, heavy winds and mountainside erosions.

In the U.S., it’s $1.10 per watt and in the U.K., it’s $1 per watt.

The decline in cost is mostly beneficial to almost everyone, of course. Especially because we are in desperate need to transition to clean and sustainable energy, and what’s primarily deterring consumers from shifting is the perceived high price of solar energy. We said ‘mostly beneficial’, though, because there’s a downside to it too.

Lowering the cost of solar power makes it more attractive. However, the dynamic sometime may come at a price.

As stated in the report, India was able to achieve that low price primarily because of the low labor cost involved, paying their ‘labor force and engineers next to nothing’. And then there’s also the worry that in their attempt to keep production costs at a minimum, there might be a tendency to ‘cut corners’, make use of low quality materials and do stuff in a substandard way. We know that’s never a good thing because it compromises the safety of the structure built and the quality of its output.

So while declining solar power costs are welcome news, we should also be wary about the way it’s being achieved. We do want to keep our planet from deteriorating further, but we have to make sure it’s done the proper way — through resourcefulness, innovation and technological advancements, and never through oppressive, dishonest and unscrupulous practices.

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Nevada reinstates solar industry, prodigal sons return

by Danielle Ola (Jun 9, 2017) www.pvtech.org

Nevada solar moved up in a big way earlier this week, with the state legislature passing several bills to ensure the industry will return to its former heights.

AB 405, if enacted by governor Brian Sandoval, would restore the state’s net metering scheme that was effectively destroyed in a 2015 Public Utilities Commission (PUC) decision that caused many residential installers to cease operations in the Silver State.

The bill also includes solar consumer protection measures and a ‘Bill of Rights’ for solar customers, as a stopgap mechanism to prevent a similar situation repeating itself when the residential market stalled and around 2,600 jobs were lost.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) issued a statement recently urging Sandoval to approve the legislation.

“We applaud Assemblymen Watkins, Brooks, Yeager, and Fugo and Senators Ford, Atkinson, Manendo, and Spearman for their leadership, and we urge Governor Sandoval to sign this bill into law and restore Nevada to its rightful spot as a top solar state,” Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for SEIA, said.

“Nevada is one step closer to a policy that will allow it to get back thousands of solar jobs that were lost,” Gallagher added. “This bill is a compromise that doesn’t fully value the benefits of distributed solar. It will, however, allow Nevada consumers and small businesses who may have wanted to go solar, but found it uneconomic under the existing solar policies, to now proceed.”

Back in business

The passage of these bills that boost clean energy, in particular the bill that would allow solar customers to be paid for their excess solar power, has resulted in companies who previously exited Nevada after the PUC scrapped the popular net metering programme, to return.

PV Tech previously reported on Utah-headquartered Vivint Solar returning to the state. In addition, San Francisco’s Sunrun left Nevada in January 2015 after the PUC decision with the loss of hundreds of jobs, but has announced its return on the prospect of solar picking up again.

“The near unanimous bipartisan support for legislation to reinstate net metering and establish a bill of rights for solar customers is a reflection of overwhelming public demand for affordable, clean energy options,” said Lynn Jurich, CEO and co-founder of Sunrun, in a statement. “Thanks to the hard work of Governor Sandoval and Nevada State Legislators, we can now say with confidence that Sunrun is coming back to Nevada.”

SolarCity exited at the same time as Sunrun. But now, Tesla, which owns SolarCity, also applauded the decision of the legislature to reinstate the state’s residential solar segment.

“Tesla will begin selling rooftop solar and residential storage products in Nevada, and we look forward to bringing even more jobs to the state in the years ahead to help provide residents with affordable rooftop solar and energy storage choices,” Tesla said in a statement.

Under the new law, rooftop solar customers will be reimbursed for excess generation at 95% of the retail electricity rate. As more solar is installed, the rate will fall, but it stops at 75%.

“This legislation, which is supported by businesses and consumers alike, will not only bring back solar energy to Nevada and enable the industry to innovate and grow sustainably, it will create thousands of jobs and bring millions of dollars in economic benefits to the state,” a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

Things are looking up for the Silver State, with governor Sandoval stating that he intends to sign AB 405 into law.

“I will soon be signing a bill with regard to net metering” he said. “Nevada has always been a place, and will continue to be a place, that leads the county with regard to our renewable resources,” he said on Monday.

Other bills

The good news for solar in Nevada does not stop there, as the legislature also passed AB 206 which expands the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) to 40% renewable energy by 2030, up from its former 25% by 2025. A coalition of clean energy advocates, including the SEIA and the American Wind Association (AWEA) wrote a letter to the governor, also urging him to sign this bill into law also.

Increasing the target is expected to attract over US$3 billion in additional investment to Nevada, as well as fostering greater energy diversity to result in more consumer savings.

A third bill to make it through the legislature with potential to bolster Nevada’s renewable energy prowess is SB 292 that will establish a state-wide community solar program if enacted.

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NREL Scientists Outline Photovoltaic Potential

Golden Colorado (May 9, 2017)  www.photonics.com

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), along with their counterparts from similar institutes in Japan and Germany and researchers at universities and industry, outlined a potential worldwide pathway to produce a significant portion of the world’s electricity from solar power in a paper in Science.

The paper, “Terawatt-Scale Photovoltaics: Trajectories and Challenges,” focuses on the recent trajectory of photovoltaics (PV) in the wake of a solar energy conference. Fifty-seven experts met in Germany in March 2016 for a gathering of the Global Alliance of Solar Energy Research Institutes (GA-SERI), where they discussed what policy initiatives and technology advances are needed to support significant expansion of solar power over the next couple of decades.

“When we came together, there was a consensus that the global PV industry is on a clear trajectory to reach the multi-terawatt scale over the next decade,” said lead author Nancy Haegel, director of NREL’s Materials Science Center. “However, reaching the full potential for PV technology in the global energy economy will require continued advances in science and technology. Bringing the global research community together to solve challenges related to realizing this goal is a key step in that direction.”

The GA-SERI paper discusses a realistic trajectory to install 5 to 10 TW of PV capacity by 2030. Reaching that figure should be achievable through continued technology improvements and cost decreases, as well as the continuation of incentive programs to defray upfront costs of PV systems, according to the paper, which was also co-authored by David Feldman, Robert Margolis, William Tumas, Gregory Wilson, Michael Woodhouse and Sarah Kurtz of NREL.

GA-SERI’s experts predict 5 to 10 TW of PV capacity could be in place by 2030 if there is a continued reduction in the cost of PV while the performance of solar modules are improved; cost and time requirements are lowered to expand manufacturing and installation capacity; more flexible grids are able to handle high levels of PV through increased load shifting, energy storage or transmission; there is an increased demand for electricity by using more for transportation and heating or cooling; and continued progress is made in the storage of energy generated by solar power.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are the member institutes of GA-SERI, which was founded in 2012. NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development.

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Nevada Supreme Court Blocks Rooftop Solar Referendum

by Julia Pyper (Aug. 8, 2016) www.greentechmedia.com

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The Nevada Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling on Thursday that blocks constituents from voting to restore favorable rates to rooftop solar customers. The decision puts increased pressure on lawmakers to implement a policy change during the next legislative session.

The court ruling addresses a ballot initiative championed by the Bring Back Solar Alliance, a rooftop solar advocacy coalition backed by SolarCity. The referendum sought to repeal a piece of law that allowed utility regulators to impose higher fees on home solar customers.

Regulators approved the new tariff rate in late December. The order increased the fixed service charge for net-metered solar customers, and gradually lowered compensation for net excess solar generation from the retail rate to the wholesale rate for electricity over four years. The changes took effect on January 1, 2016 and promptly brought the rooftop solar market in the state to a standstill, causing companies to cut jobs. The changes were applied retroactively to all net-metered solar customers, eliciting a strong backlash from solar companies and consumer groups.

In February, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada rejected requests from NV Energy and solar advocates to approve a 20-year grandfathering period for Nevada’s roughly 32,000 existing solar customers (previous estimates put the number at 18,000). Instead, regulators voted unanimously to transition rooftop solar customers onto the contentious new rate plan over 12 years, instead of the initially proposed four.

More than 115,000 people signed the Bring Back Solar Alliance’s petition to overturn the solar rate changes. But after expressing some concern over the ballot wording last month, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled this week that the motion is not a referendum, but rather an “initiative petition,” which means solar advocates would have to launch a new petition urging lawmakers to pass a bill undoing the solar rate changes. Only if legislators fail to approve the measure during the 2017 session can it go to voters in 2018. The initiative petition requires more than 55,000 new signatures by the fall in order to proceed.

“The Supreme Court decision basically invalidated the ballot signatures,” said Chandler Sherman, deputy campaign manager for the Bring Back Solar Alliance, in an interview. “115,000 people said they want the opportunity to vote on this issue in November, but since this can’t be in the hands of the people because of the Supreme Court decision, we hope the legislature will take action to enact the will of the people and reverse the PUC decision, restore net metering and allow people to go solar again.”

Sherman said the Alliance does not currently plan to file a ballot initiative, although it is still an option. Now that the referendum is off the table, solar advocates are looking into filing a “bill draft request” with the state legislature instead. Similar to an initiative petition, a bill draft request calls on lawmakers to take up a legislative issue.

“Either way, it’s in the hands of legislators going forward,” said Sherman.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval also plans to push lawmakers to alter the new solar rates. In May, the governor’s New Energy Industry Task Force, convened in response to the net metering decision, passed a motion to grandfather existing solar customers on the old solar rates for 25 years. Recommendations from the Task Force will underpin legislation introduced by Governor Sandoval next year.

In an interesting twist, Sandoval announced last month that he will not reappoint PUCN commissioner David Noble, who wrote the order to increase solar fees and not allow grandfathering. Sandoval has been critical of the PUCN’s decision not to grandfather existing solar customers (which has become a highly politicized issue in the state) and appears to be holding Noble accountable.

On July 27, two days before the Nevada Supreme Court ruled on the referendum, NV Energy reentered the solar policy fray, filing a request for regulators to keep customers who installed their rooftop solar systems prior to December 31, 2015 on the previous net metering rates for 20 years. The utility asked for the grandfathering rule to also apply to customers with active or pending applications as of December 31, 2015.

When NV Energy initiated the request to reduce net metering compensation in July 2015, the utility asked that no changes be made for existing customers. Facing criticism, NV Energy also issued a statement in February saying it supports grandfathering. With its latest filing, utility executives blamed the unfavorable outcome squarely on national solar companies.

“Unfortunately, it appears that these out-of-state solar suppliers are more concerned with increasing the subsidies needed to run their businesses than taking care of their approximately 32,000 contracted customers, who are our customers too,” said Kevin Geraghty, senior vice president of energy supply at the utility. “It seems that they created uncertainty for customers who purchased or leased a rooftop system by not clearly communicating that their rates were subject to change in future regulatory proceedings. Many of these net metering customers entered into 20-year leases believing that they would be locked into a rate, and that they would save money because NV Energy rates would increase every year. Neither of these sales pitches are true.”

NV Energy’s latest filing requests a response from regulators in 90 days. However, it may be too late for meaningful regulatory action. The net metering docket has been untouched since the February rehearing. So to approve grandfathering, the PUCN would have to open a proceeding and decide to go back on a ruling it has already passed twice. NV Energy’s filing, coming amid the referendum and action from the governor, could help make grandfathering a reality. Though some may question why the utility didn’t take stronger action sooner.

A report from Credit Suisse notes that the approval of grandfathering in Nevada could have ramifications for the entire solar industry, “as it could restore nationwide faith in the grandfathering precedent.” But even if the old rates are restored for customers who installed their systems before December 31, 2015, the change does nothing to reboot the Nevada rooftop solar market going forward.

A recent poll found that a majority of respondents are in favor of bringing back net metering “to allow better rates for rooftop solar customers.”

“Constituents are paying attention — it’s a top-of-mind issue for Nevada voters and something people care about and want to fix,” said Sherman. “Now it’s up to the legislature.”

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Top 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar Energy

by Erin Pierce (June 16, 2016) renewableenergyworld.com

Top 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar Energy – Renewable Energy World

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The solar industry is changing rapidly as it experiences unprecedented growth. Here are 6 facts that may surprise you about this increasingly popular source of power.

6.   Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth — 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously. That’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use.

5.   The first silicon solar cell, the precursor of all solar-powered devices, was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954. On the first page of its April 26, 1954 issue, The New York Times proclaimed the milestone, “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams — the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”

4.   The space industry was an early adopter of solar technology. In the 1950s, the space industry began to use solar technology to provide power aboard spacecraft. The Vanguard 1 — the first artificial earth satellite powered by solar cells — remains the oldest manmade satellite in orbit — logging more than 6 billion miles.

3.   Today, demand for solar in the United States is at an all-time high. The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased more than 23 times over the past eight years — from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 GW at the end of 2015. That’s enough energy to power the equivalent of 5.4 million average American homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The U.S. is currently the third-largest solar market in the world and is positioned to become the second.

2.   As prices continue to fall, solar energy is increasingly becoming an economical energy choice for American homeowners and businesses. Still, the biggest hurdle to affordable solar energy remains the soft costs — like permitting, zoning and hooking a solar system up to the power gird. On average, local permitting and inspection processes add more than $2,500 to the total cost of a solar energy system and can take up to six months to complete. The SunShot Initiative’s soft costs program works to make it faster and cheaper for families and businesses to go solar.

1.   California’s Mojave Desert is home to Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, the world’s largest operating solar thermal energy plant. It uses concentrating solar power (CSP) technology to focus 173,500 heliostats, each containing two mirrors, onto boilers located in three power towers. The plant, which came online in 2014, has a gross capacity of 392 megawatts (MW). CSP technology is unique in that it allows for solar energy to be stored for use after the sun sets — a key focus for our recent research and development efforts — which addresses some of the concerns over delivering solar power when and where it is needed most.

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LETTER: DON’T PAINT SOLAR POWER THAT WAY

by Gary Gentry (May 13, 2016) www.azcentral.com

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It would help to understand the controversy over rooftop solar power if we understand how the electricity grid works.

The electricity grid is like a full tank of water with a pipe putting water in (generators) and a pipe taking water out (electricity users). The volume being removed must exactly match the volume coming in; the laws of physics don’t allow it to be otherwise.

John Kannarr’s letter in The Republic (May 8) is totally wrong in concluding that producing solar power during the day is of no benefit.

Everyone knows that peak demand occurs in the early evening and that demand earlier in the day is lower. But demand during the day is not zero. Refrigerators and clocks don’t shut down in the afternoon. Offices, businesses and homes still use electricity during low demand periods and APS still produces it.

In that sense there is really no such thing as “excess power.” So every kilowatt produced by rooftop solar panels goes into the grid, allowing APS to avoid burning fuel to produce that kilowatt. That’s a benefit to APS and the environment and should be considered in the pricing.

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Solar Hits Millionth Installation In The U.S. – Faster Growth Ahead

by Michael McDonald (May 12, 2016) yahoo.com; oilprice.com

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In February, the millionth solar installation was completed in the United States. That momentous number has taken forty years to arrive. Fortunately for renewable energy advocates everywhere, the next million installations will likely take a lot less than forty years. At the end of 2015, the U.S. solar market had a total capacity of 27 gigawatts.

While that number may sound like a lot, in reality it’s only 1 percent of the overall electrical mix of the country. Given that, solar still has a long way to go before it becomes a major energy production source in the U.S. Conversely, solar power also has a long potential growth runway ahead of it.

Solar power installations are expected to grow 119 percent in 2016, or roughly 16 GW of additional installed base. That compares to 7.3 GW installed in 2015. By 2020, the U.S. could have 100 GW of installed capacity and an annual growth installation rate of 20GW. On the whole then, solar still seems to have years of growth ahead of it.

Solar’s growth is changing the economics of the conventional utility industry. Now that more than a million households have solar panels, grid managers are set to cut the amount of electricity they buy from conventional power plants by 1,400 MW starting in 2019, according to industry consultants ICF. That amount represents the power capacity consumed by roughly 800,000 households.

While it sounds extreme to call conventional electrical generation a business in secular decline or even at risk of being disrupted, there might be more truth in either of those arguments than many investors would like to believe. The cuts to the conventional grid due to solar represent more than $2B in lost revenue. Adding to generation woes, environmental rules are becoming tougher and tougher with no sign of turning back, and wholesale power prices are being driven largely by the price of natural gas. The current minor rebound in natural gas and oil prices notwithstanding, there is still a glut of both commodities, and that is especially true for U.S. natural gas. Against this backdrop then, it’s little wonder that electrical wholesalers seem to be struggling. Revenue from electricity sales fell 1.3 percent to $388 billion in 2015.

Yet it’s too soon for either environmentalists or solar business owners to begin celebrating. An industry with almost $400 billion in annual revenues is still very much a lion in a cage match with a solar mouse. Utilities can call on political power and the ability to effectively arbitrage prices based on peak usage throughout the day (though storage batteries are increasingly undermining this latter tool). In addition, there is nothing to stop major energy companies from entering the solar business on their own either in the rooftop segment or with a distributed grid model. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, utilities and generation firms still command the lion’s share of capital in the industry. It is well within the capacity of utility firms to buy part or all of various new technology companies thus giving themselves a call option on changes in the industry.

Utility companies have many tools at their disposal to help deal with the changing environment if they accept that the environment is changing and choose to adapt. After all, mammals were a lot smaller than dinosaurs, yet the former survived the changing environment of the Ice Age as the latter died in droves. Utilities could learn a thing or two from that historical analogy.

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WHY BIG RETAILERS ARE GOING SOLAR

By Katie Fehrenbacher (March 8, 2016) fortune.com

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It’s about economics, not just environmentalism.

Years ago, big retailers and tech companies installed solar panels as a way to take an environmental stance. But these days it’s often an economic choice that is fueled by the promise of lower and less volatile energy costs.

On Tuesday, Whole Foods WFM 1.43% said that it planned a huge project to cover nearly one-fourth of its stores with solar panels. After construction is complete, Whole Foods says it could be among the top 25 biggest commercial U.S. solar suppliers alongside Walmart WMT -0.01% , Walgreens WBA 1.04% , and Target TGT 0.81% .

According to a report last year by the Solar Energy Industry Association: “While solar has long been viewed as an environmentally responsible energy choice, businesses now deploy solar because it is a smart fiscal choice as well.”

Whole Foods’ global sustainability leader, Kathy Loftus, said in a statement that the move was about “lower energy costs,” among other goals. Whole Food’s global energy coordinator, Aaron Daly, told Fortune that the solar project is about “environmental stewardship while saving money and reducing the power price volatility for our stores.”

Another report from SEIA found that in every quarter in 2015, the average cost of solar systems for commercial businesses dropped steadily. Across 2015, the cost of solar systems for commercial businesses slid by an average of 10% to a low of around $2 per watt by the end the year.

Whole Foods is working with solar panel suppliers NRG NRG -2.72% and SolarCity SCTY 4.86% to cover its stores in solar. These companies, which build solar projects for homes and businesses in huge numbers, can provide Whole Foods and others with attractive deals that potentially make solar cheaper than a typical monthly utility bill. These solar deals also fix the rate that companies pay for solar power over time so companies can hedge against a spike in grid prices.

Add in attractive state and federal incentives, and solar looks like a good deal. That is particularly true in California, which is expected to be home to a third of the solar installations for commercial companies and community solar farms next year.

Overall, U.S. solar is growing rapidly. Last year, the U.S. built more solar power than natural gas power for the first time ever.

Indeed, SEIA’s list of the top 25 commercial solar companies reads like a who’s who of the Fortune 500 including Walmart, Apple AAPL -0.20% , Intel INTC 1.01% , Costco COST 1.28% , and General Motors GM 0.46% .

Don’t expect the trend to reverse. There are still ample ways to reduce the cost of solar for commercial companies.

In contrast to the really cheap solar deals that utilities are doing, commercial companies are still facing hurdles with so-called soft costs, or the added costs of everything that isn’t hardware like marketing, software, and paper work. The soft costs edge up the total cost of commercial solar. But solar companies expect to be able to reduce these soft costs for commercial solar deployments, too, through new algorithms, use of data and even new startups.

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Solar City Pulls Out of Nevada After Passing Anti-Solar Legislation

Solar City Press Release  (Jan 06, 2016)

LAS VEGAS – Following the decision by Governor Brian Sandoval’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to terminate Nevada’s rooftop solar industry just days before Christmas, SolarCity® (NASDAQ: SCTY) announced that it has been forced to eliminate more than 550 jobs in the state. Where possible, the company will relocate affected employees to business-friendly states.

The PUC’s decision to change the rules to punish existing solar customers after the state encouraged them to go solar with rebates is particularly callous and leaves Nevadans to question whether the state would ever place the financial security of regular citizens above the financial interests of NV Energy.

“I contacted Governor Sandoval multiple times after the ruling because I am convinced that he and the PUC didn’t fully understand the consequences of this decision, not only on the thousands of local jobs distributed solar has created, but on the 17,000 Nevadans that installed solar with the state’s encouragement,” said Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s CEO. “I’m still waiting to speak to the Governor but I am convinced that once he and the Commissioners understand the real impact, that they will do the right thing.”

SolarCity announced on December 23 that as a result of the PUC decision, it had to cease solar sales and installation in the state effective immediately. Other Nevada solar companies with higher cost structures than SolarCity are expected to collectively lay off thousands of additional Nevadans in the coming months.

“Telling employees they can no longer work for SolarCity is the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” continued Rive. “These are hard-working Nevadans and a single government action has put them out of work. This is not how government is supposed to work.”

SolarCity has also closed a training center in West Las Vegas that it opened a little over a month ago. The November press release announcing its opening contained this statement from Governor Sandoval: “I’m proud to celebrate the opening of SolarCity’s new training center, which will make Nevada the regional hub for training workers in the jobs of the 21st century. Our homegrown solar industry has already created over 6,000 good Nevada jobs, and has tremendous potential to continue driving innovation, economic diversification, and opportunity in the Silver State.”

Fortunately, there are other voices speaking up for solar employees and customers.  The Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection is attempting to protect Nevadans by filing a motion to halt implementation of the PUC’s ruling, stating that the order’s impact “is not consistent with the Governor’s stated objectives of SB 374 or the Governor’s initiatives and focus to increase jobs and employment for Nevada residents.”

Just weeks after Congress voted with bipartisan support to extend the federal tax credit for solar, Governor Sandoval’s Commission is moving the state backwards. The Governor’s and Commission’s support for a de facto ban on rooftop solar defies public opinion, including the opinion of the members of his own party. According to a recent poll by Moore Information, 73% of registered Nevada Republicans support the state’s previous rooftop solar rules.

CLICK HERE to read the original article. 

How Much Was Your Power Bill?

by Brent Sauser

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I know this will sound like bragging, but we paid $11.08 for our electric bill last month.   That’s right . . . . $11.08!  Our total billable power consumption was only 5kWh.  The cost for that power was only 55 cents, but then you add the mandatory taxes and net meter hook-up fees and you get to $11.08.  Can’t get much lower than that per month while still being connected to the power grid.  Hey . . . I’ll take it. 

As we are moving into the fall and winter seasons the sun is at a lower angle in the sky and the days are shorter, which means less time for direct sunlight on the solar panels.  My daily records show fewer kWhs per day than in the summer months, which is understandable.  However, in like manner our overall power consumption is reduced by cooler temperatures.  Less A/C time means lower power consumption.  So, even though the sun is at a lower angle  and there is less of it,  power consumption has decreased as well. 

We are using Enphase micro-inverters that enable us to monitor each solar panel individually.  We are only into month #4 in the Net Zero process and look forward to see how our energy consumption balances with our energy consumption during the cooler months of the year. 

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Transparent Solar Cells! REALLY!

by Brent Sauser

Solar cell technology is moving ahead in leaps and bounds.  The included video shows very promising work in the Silicon Valley to perfect transparent solar cells.  These creative scientists have managed to capture the ultraviolet and infrared light waves (that we don’t see) and convert them into power, leaving 90% of the window pane in visible glass.  Pretty impressive!  Think of the applications . . . . homes, skyscrapers, commercial/retail buildings, and countless handheld devices.  The future for solar is bright indeed!

SAVE ENERGY, SAVE MONEY 101-1

by Brent Sauser

July 2015 marks the three year anniversary for NetZeroMax.com.  In that time we have achieved close to 2.4 million site “hits” and over 15,000 subscribers.  Over 225 NetZeroMax articles reside throughout the internet covering the Money clip art 4full range of renewable energy subjects.  Our singular focus has been the promotion of renewable products, systems, and methods that not only benefit the community and environment, but saves you moneySAVING ENERGY SAVES MONEY!

Since July 2012 my wife and I have prepared a plan to retrofit our humble, 3-bedroom, Orlando, Florida home to come as close to Net Zero as possible.  Our wood framed home was built in 1992 when energy conservation was not a priority.  We moved into the house in March of 2004, three months BEFORE hurricane Charley (but that’s another story!).  We have added:

  • Energy Star Roof (asphalt shingle)
  • SEER 14 Heat Pump
  • LED and CFL lighting
  • Daylighting (Solatube in living room)
  • Energy Star appliances and devices
  • Solar powered attic exhaust fan
  •  NEST thermostat
  • GE GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater

Take a close look at this comparison of power usage from our most recent power bill to this time last year: 

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To summarize:   From the billing period of July 9, 2015 as compared to July 9, 2014 we have the following results:

  •  Reduction of 16 kWh per day
  •  Savings of $2.12 per day
  •  469 Less kWh used
  •  Total kWh consumed= 846 versus 1,315 kWh same time last year
  •  Total savings = $73.69

clipart 23We attribute our increased savings to the recently installed NEST thermostat (June 9, 2015) and the GE GeoSpring Hybrid water heater (July 2, 2015).  Our overall goal is to consume less than 900 kWh per month.  We are in the process of having a 7.5 kW solar array installed on our roof.  We hope to generate more than 900 kWh of power per month (which remains to be seen).  However, if so, we can achieve Net Zero in this typical suburban three-bedroom tract home.   Isn’t this worth checking out for yourself?

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I will continue to track our energy savings and report our solar renewable power generation from time to time.  Suffice it to say . . . . Saving energy is saving us money and in the times we are living every penny counts! 

Regulators give green light to largest Minnesota solar energy project

$250 Million plan, state’s largest, to include 21 sites.

By David Shaffer – Star Tribune (May 29, 2015)

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The biggest solar power project in Minnesota won approval Thursday from state regulators.

The $250 million Aurora Solar Project by Edina-based Geronimo Energy calls for the installation of ground-mounted solar panels at 21 mostly rural sites from Chisago County north of the Twin Cities to Waseca in southeast Minnesota. Geronimo plans to finish the project in 2016 and sell the power to Xcel Energy.

“This signals that something big is happening in solar energy in Minnesota,” said Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy, a St. Paul nonprofit that advocates greater reliance on renewable energy.

It is by far the largest solar project approved in Minnesota, and in one sweep increases the state’s solar output sevenfold. The combined 100 million watts is the equivalent of a small traditional power plant. The largest of the 21 solar sites, near Paynesville, will cover an area the size of Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.

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The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted 3-0 to approve a permit for project, but rejected three of the original 24 sites, in Pipestone, Wyoming and Zumbrota, because of local land-use objections. Another site, near Hastings, is in jeopardy because of recently discovered soil conditions.

Geronimo Energy said the project will go ahead without them.

“We had offered more sites than we would use because of the need for flexibility if a site ended up not being constructible,” said Betsy Engelking, vice president for policy and strategy at Geronimo.

In a major victory last year, the project successfully competed in a PUC bidding process against natural gas projects. It aims to be a cost-effective means to supply Xcel Energy extra power on high-demand summer days. Geronimo plans to achieve this by installing solar panels that track the sun from east to west, capturing solar power late in the day when electricity demand rises.

To avoid expensive transmission lines, Geronimo selected solar sites near existing electric substations, and will send power straight onto distribution lines. Most of the solar sites now are farmland, and at the request of environmental officials, Geronimo agreed to put bee-friendly native plants under and around the solar panels.

Enel Green Power, a global renewable energy company, will own and operate the solar project, selling the power to Xcel, the Minneapolis-based power company serving 1.2 million electric customers in Minnesota.

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First of a wave

Even more solar is coming to Minnesota under a 2013 solar energy law that requires investor-owned utilities like Xcel to get 1.5 percent of their electricity from the sun by 2020.

Xcel has signed deals with three other energy developers to build large solar projects in the state.

One of them near North Branch would be the same size as the Aurora project — but all the panels would be installed on one site. Those projects are now seeking permits from the PUC.

One Aurora site that the PUC rejected was in Pipestone, in the southwest corner of the state.

It is adjacent to a residential area. With homes on the south side of the project, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to screen from view the acres of solar panels. Any barrier, such as trees, likely would have blocked the sun.

“The record clearly demonstrates that’s probably not such a great site,” Suzanne Steinhauer, a state Commerce Department official who reviewed the site, told the commission.

A solar site off Hwy. 52 in Zumbrota was rejected because it lies in an area where local and state governments have upgraded roads and utilities hoping to attract commercial and industrial projects, which pay higher property taxes than solar projects.

“We weren’t against solar, just the area it was placed in,” Zumbrota City Administrator Neil Jensen said.

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Weighing local concerns

State law gives the PUC sole authority to approve or reject large energy projects — trumping local zoning laws — although regulators must consider local concerns. Some legislators have pushed for a change in state law to give local governments more say.

PUC Chairwoman Beverly Jones Heydinger said she recognized that communities raised issues with solar projects.

“Because this is the first facility that we are siting, we are particularly sensitive in having it go as smoothly with local units of government as possible,” Heydinger said.

Engelking said Geronimo hopes to begin construction this fall, using roving teams of construction workers who go from site to site.

Earth-moving crews would start off, followed by those who install the solar panel supports, then teams that install panels and do other work.

To retain eligibility for an expiring 30 percent federal solar investment tax credit, the Aurora project must be generating electricity by the end of 2016. After that, the tax credit drops to 10 percent.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

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WHY GO SOLAR?

By Brent Sauser

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Not only is solar power totally sustainable and environmentally friendly . . . . it puts money back in your pocket! In fact, going solar provides a greater rate of return on investment (on average) than the stock market. It’s time we understand the simple truth:

                     SAVING ENERGY SAVES YOU MONEY!

 We only have 20 more months to take advantage of the 30% Federal rebate program for solar installations. The time to decide to go solar is NOW! The following video helps to explain the benefits of going solar in greater detail.

Solar Power Battle Puts Hawaii at Forefront of Worldwide Changes

By Diane Cardwell (April 18, 2015) The New York Times – Energy & Environment

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HONOLULU — Allan Akamine has looked all around the winding, palm tree-lined cul-de-sacs of his suburban neighborhood in Mililani here on Oahu and, with an equal mix of frustration and bemusement, seen roof after roof bearing solar panels.

Mr. Akamine, 61, a manager for a cable company, has wanted nothing more than to lower his $600 to $700 monthly electric bill with a solar system of his own. But for 18 months or so, the state’s biggest utility barred him and thousands of other customers from getting one, citing concerns that power generated by rooftop systems was overwhelming its ability to handle it.

Only under strict orders from state energy officials did the utility, the Hawaiian Electric Company, recently rush to approve the lengthy backlog of solar applications, including Mr. Akamine’s.

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It is the latest chapter in a closely watched battle that has put this state at the forefront of a global upheaval in the power business. Rooftop systems now sit atop roughly 12 percent of Hawaii’s homes, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, by far the highest proportion in the nation.

“Hawaii is a postcard from the future,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a policy and advocacy group based in California.

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Other states and countries, including California, Arizona, Japan and Germany, are struggling to adapt to the growing popularity of making electricity at home, which puts new pressures on old infrastructure like circuits and power lines and cuts into electric company revenue.

As a result, many utilities are trying desperately to stem the rise of solar, either by reducing incentives, adding steep fees or effectively pushing home solar companies out of the market. In response, those solar companies are fighting back through regulators, lawmakers and the courts.

The shift in the electric business is no less profound than those that upended the telecommunications and cable industries in recent decades. It is already remaking the relationship between power companies and the public while raising questions about how to pay for maintaining and operating the nation’s grid.

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The issue is not merely academic, electrical engineers say.

In solar-rich areas of California and Arizona, as well as in Hawaii, all that solar-generated electricity flowing out of houses and into a power grid designed to carry it in the other direction has caused unanticipated voltage fluctuations that can overload circuits, burn lines and lead to brownouts or blackouts.

“Hawaii’s case is not isolated,” said Massoud Amin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota and chairman of the smart grid program at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a technical association. “When we push year-on-year 30 to 40 percent growth in this market, with the number of installations doubling, quickly — every two years or so — there’s going to be problems.”

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The economic threat also has electric companies on edge. Over all, demand for electricity is softening while home solar is rapidly spreading across the country. There are now about 600,000 installed systems, and the number is expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The Edison Electric Institute, the main utility trade group, has been warning its members of the economic perils of high levels of rooftop solar since at least 2012, and the companies are responding. In February, the Salt River Project, a large utility in Arizona, approved charges that could add about $50 to a typical monthly bill for new solar customers, while last year in Wisconsin, where rooftop solar is still relatively rare, regulators approved fees that would add $182 a year for the average solar customer.

In Hawaii, the current battle began in 2013, when Hawaiian Electric started barring installations of residential solar systems in certain areas. It was an abrupt move — a panicked one, critics say — made after the utility became alarmed by the technical and financial challenges of all those homes suddenly making their own electricity.

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The utility wants to cut roughly in half the amount it pays customers for solar electricity they send back to the grid. But after a study showed that with some upgrades the system could handle much more solar than the company had assumed, the state’s public utilities commission ordered the utility to begin installations or prove why it could not.

It was but one sign of the agency’s growing impatience with what it considers the utility’s failure to adapt its business model to the changing market.

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Hawaiian Electric is scrambling to accede to that demand, approving thousands of applications in recent weeks. But it is under pressure on other fronts as well. NextEra Energy, based in Florida, is awaiting approval to buy it, while other islands it serves are exploring defecting to form their own cooperative power companies.

It is also upgrading its circuits and meters to better regulate the flow of electricity. Rooftop solar makes far more power than any other single source, said Colton Ching, vice president for energy delivery at Hawaiian Electric, but the utility can neither control nor predict the output.

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“At every different moment, we have to make sure that the amount of power we generate is equal to the amount of energy being used, and if we don’t keep that balance things go unstable,” he said, pointing to the illuminated graphs and diagrams tracking energy production from wind and solar farms, as well as coal-fueled generators in the utility’s main control room. But the rooftop systems are “essentially invisible to us,” he said, “because they sit behind a customer’s meter and we don’t have a means to directly measure them.”

For customers, such explanations offer little comfort as they continue to pay among the highest electric rates in the country and still face an uncertain solar future.

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“I went through all this trouble to get my electric bill down, and I am still waiting,” said Joyce Villegas, 88, who signed her contract for a system in August 2013 but was only recently approved and is waiting for the installation to be completed.

Mr. Akamine expressed resignation over the roughly $12,000 he could have saved, but wondered about the delay. “Why did it take forceful urging from the local public utility commission to open up more permits?” he asked.

Installers — who saw their fast-growing businesses slow to a trickle — are also frustrated with the pace. For those who can afford it, said James Whitcomb, chief executive of Haleakala Solar, which he started in 1977, the answer may lie in a more radical solution: Avoid the utility and its grid altogether.

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Customers are increasingly asking about the batteries that he often puts in along with the solar panels, allowing them to store the power they generate during the day for use at night. It is more expensive, but it breaks consumer reliance on the utility’s network of power lines.

“I’ve actually taken people right off the grid,” he said, including a couple who got tired of waiting for Hawaiian Electric to approve their solar system and expressed no interest in returning to utility service. “The lumbering big utilities that are so used to taking three months to study this and then six months to do that — what they don’t understand is that things are moving at the speed of business. Like with digital photography — this is inevitable.”

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Photo credits: Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

BYU students’ nanocrystals could create more efficient solar panels

by Natalie Crofts (KSL.com – Page Two, Science &Tech)

April 10, 2015

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PROVO — Low-cost solar energy could be the end product of research carried out by students at Brigham Young University.

Stephen Erickson and Trevor Smith are building materials designed to absorb different wavelengths of light, which common silicon solar cells miss. Together, they published a study on how nanocrystals in ferritin can increase efficiency in solar energy conversion.

“What we’re looking to do is use the protein ferritin, which is a 12 nanometer-wide hollow sphere that your body and most animals use for iron storage, but through some fancy chemistry you can take out that iron and replace it with a wide variety of different minerals that all behave differently,” Erickson said. “I’ve been looking at how these minerals within the ferritin protein absorb light for solar energy applications.”

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The biggest benefit of using the nanocrystals is that researchers could control the wavelengths of light it absorbs, letting them divide up the solar spectrum and increase efficiency in the solar cells, according to Erickson.

Another strength is that the materials are Earth-abundant and can be synthesized at room temperature. In contrast, Erickson said one of the main expenses for creating silicon solar cells is heating furnaces to produce the necessary crystals. He believes eliminating the need for heating could open up the possibility for low-cost solar energy.

The students have been working on the project for about two years with chemistry professor Richard Watt and physics professor John Colton. Recently, the team has grown to include about six more undergraduate students. Erickson, an undergraduate student, and Smith, a graduate student, are both slated to graduate from BYU in the coming months.

Erickson said the next step of the research is to build a prototype solar cell.

“There are a lot of interesting experiments still to do that future undergraduates will take over and I’m sure see great success with,” he said.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

A fully transparent solar cell that could make every window and screen a power source

By Sebastian Anthony on August 26, 2014 (ExtremeTech.com)

Researchers at Michigan State University have created a fully transparent solar concentrator, which could turn any window or sheet of glass (like your smartphone’s screen) into a photovoltaic solar cell. Unlike other “transparent” solar cells that we’ve reported on in the past, this one really is transparent, as you can see in the photos throughout this story. According to Richard Lunt, who led the research, the team is confident that the transparent solar panels can be efficiently deployed in a wide range of settings, from “tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader.”

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Scientifically, a transparent solar panel is something of an oxymoron. Solar cells, specifically the photovoltaic kind, make energy by absorbing photons (sunlight) and converting them into electrons (electricity). If a material is transparent, however, by definition it means that all of the light passes through the medium to strike the back of your eye. This is why previous transparent solar cells have actually only been partially transparent — and, to add insult to injury, they usually they cast a colorful shadow too

To get around this limitation, the Michigan State researchers use a slightly different technique for gathering sunlight. Instead of trying to create a transparent photovoltaic cell (which is nigh impossible), they use a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC). The TLSC consists of organic salts that absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of ultraviolet and infrared light, which they then luminesce (glow) as another wavelength of infrared light (also non-visible). This emitted infrared light is guided to the edge of plastic, where thin strips of conventional photovoltaic solar cell convert it into electricity. [Research paper: DOI: 10.1002/adom.201400103 – “Near-Infrared Harvesting Transparent Luminescent Solar Concentrators”]

If you look closely, you can see a couple of black strips along the edges of plastic block. Otherwise, though, the active organic material — and thus the bulk of the solar panel — is highly transparent.

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Michigan’s TLSC currently has an efficiency of around 1%, but they think 5% should be possible. Non-transparent luminescent concentrators (which bathe the room in colorful light) max out at around 7%. On their own these aren’t huge figures, but on a larger scale — every window in a house or office block — the numbers quickly add up. Likewise, while we’re probably not talking about a technology that can keep your smartphone or tablet running indefinitely, replacing your device’s display with a TLSC could net you a few more minutes or hours of usage on a single battery charge.

The researchers are confident that the technology can be scaled all the way from large industrial and commercial applications, down to consumer devices, while remaining “affordable.” So far, one of the larger barriers to large-scale adoption of solar power is the intrusive and ugly nature of solar panels — obviously, if we can produce large amounts of solar power from sheets of glass and plastic that look like normal sheets of glass and plastic, then that would be big.

Every 2.5 minutes, a new solar system is installed in the United States!

By Michael Graham – January 23,2015 (Treehugger.com)

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Last year, a new solar system was installed every 2.5 minutes on average in the US, with over 200,000 systems being connected to the grid. This compares favorably to 2013, when a solar system was installed every 3.7 minutes on average, and that’s 4x more than in 2011 when only around 50,000 systems were installed (which was a record at the time). If we go back a bit further in time to 2001, new solar systems were only installed every 9-and-a-half hours on average. Talk about progress!

The trend is clear:

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So it’s not surprising that the solar industry is also creating jobs about 20x faster than U.S. businesses. Australia is also impressive on the solar front. Despite having a much smaller population than the U.S. (23 million vs. 316 million), the country still installed a solar system every 2.8 minutes, or 185,890 solar systems in 2014.

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In fact, Australians like solar so much that there’s already a solar system on 1-in-5 households (1.2 million solar systems installed across Australia since 2001) and 9 out of 10 Australian households are considering switching to solar power!

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Kudos, Australians!

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar Energy In Utah

By KSL Local (October 9, 2014)

clipart 16Solar energy is a resource with many benefits. It’s sustainable for energy consumption and continuously renewable. Not only can solar power be used to generate electricity, it can also be used to heat water. You may have already known these tidbits of information, but here are five additional facts that may surprise you about electricity and solar energy in Utah.

Utah’s residential electricity is expensive

If you were to research energy costs by state, Utah would appear to be one of the cheapest states. While this may be true in general, there is a big variance Money clip art 4between commercial and residential cost per kilowatt hour. Residential rates average between 9 – 12 cents per kilowatt hour for the average home, and even more for larger homes. Summer costs can get even more expensive, with even higher rates charged to those who use over 1,000 kilowatt hours per month. Kelly Curtis, Director of Operations at Solaroo Energy, a Utah based solar energy supplier, touched briefly on how the costs of residential electricity can add up quickly.

“When it comes to commercial energy, the general rates for an average business are at three to four cents per kilowatt hour. Although that may be cheap, compare it to residential electricity. A house that is 4,000 square feet or more can be charged as much as 14.5 cents per kilowatt hour.”

Solar energy rates are fixed

According to the State of Utah Public Service Commission, one Utah power company has averaged 4.44 percent increases since 2000. In the last seven solar clipart 14years alone, the rates have gone up 50 percent. The latest rate increase was levied just last month. “Utility rates have a history of going up, and they are projected to increase even more, whereas solar energy is fixed. You pay for it up front, but the cost of producing energy is fixed over the life of the system, and results in huge savings,” Curtis says. “Solar gives you the opportunity to control your rates, and control your power.” With solar energy, you are purchasing your own electricity generation at a fixed cost, allowing you to maintain the same energy rates for 25 years or longer. The best part is that the longer your solar panels produce energy, the cheaper your energy will be.

Solar system guarantee

upward trend 04You can now have a warranty on your solar system (not the one made up by planets orbiting the sun) that will guarantee how much energy you will produce over the next 25 years. While many companies offer leases for their solar panels, keep an eye out for a good warranty and production guarantee.

Technology has improved

Advancement in technology is the main reason why U.S.-based manufacturers are now willing to warranty entire systems and components for 25 years. Curtis also mentioned how using specially designed solar panels from SunEdison, a Fortune 1000 company and a global leader in solar technology, can make all the difference when switching to solar energy.

clipart 23“Many solar energy companies continue to purchase their solar panels from China because they are really inexpensive, but they are also poorly made. These solar panels lose their effectiveness only after a few short years,” say Curtis. “SunEdison guarantees that your panels will produce the energy we say they will over 25 years.”

Solar system costs have come down in Utah

goals 02The cost of installing efficient, reliable, and maintenance-free solar systems in Utah is much more affordable compared to other states, according to Solaroo Energy. For example, systems in California can cost up to $7 per kilowatt, whereas in Utah, systems will cost as little as $4 or less per kilowatt. The cost of solar energy has decreased over the last few years. With the ever-increasing electric rates, the time has never been better for installing solar systems in Utah.

U.S. Solar Capacity Nearing 16 GW!

by Barry Casseli (Sep. 5, 2014)  GenerationHub.com

High voltage post against dreamy backgroundAccording to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) Q2 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the U.S. installed 1,133 MW of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the second quarter of this year.

The residential and commercial segments accounted for nearly half of all solar PV installations in the quarter, the association noted in a Sept. 4 statement. The residential market has seen the most consistent growth of any segment for years, and its momentum shows no signs of slowing down. 

Across the U.S, cumulative PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) operating capacity has eclipsed 15.9 GW.

solar clipart 14“Solar continues to soar, providing more and more homes, businesses, schools and government entities across the United States with clean, reliable and affordable electricity,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “Today, the solar industry employs 143,000 Americans and pumps nearly $15 billion a year into our economy.  This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net energy metering (NEM) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS).”

The utility PV segment made up 55% of U.S. solar installations in the second quarter of the year. It has accounted for more than half of national PV installations for the fifth straight quarter. In just two years, the utility segment has quadrupled its cumulative size, growing from 1,784 MW in the first half of 2012 to 7,308 MW at this point.

IKEA 02“Solar continues to be a primary source of new electric generation capacity in the U.S.” said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research. “With new sources of capital being unlocked, design and engineering innovations reducing system prices, and sales channels rapidly diversifying, the solar market is quickly gaining steam to drive significant growth for the next few years.”

GTM Research and SEIA forecast 6.5 GW of PV will be installed in the United States by the end of this year, up 36% over 2013.

Other key report findings include:

  • The U.S. installed 1,133 MW of solar PV in the second quarter of this year, up 21% over Q2 2013, making it the fourth-largest quarter for solar installations in the history of the market.
  • Cumulative operating PV capacity has now eclipsed the 15 GW mark thanks to three consecutive quarters of more than 1 GW installed.
  • As of the first half of 2014, more than half a million homeowners and commercial customers have installed solar PV.
  • For the first time ever, more than 100 MW of residential PV came online without any state incentive.
  • 53% of new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in the first half of 2014 came from solar.

BIPV 04The first quarter of 2014 was the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power, due to the completion of the 392-MW (ac) Ivanpah project and Genesis Solar’s second 125 MW (ac) phase. While the second quarter of this year was dormant for CSP, a total of 857 MW (ac) is expected to be completed by year’s end, making 2014 the largest year ever for CSP.

DOE’s SunShot Initiative Will Lower Solar PV Costs to $.06 p/kWh by 2020

by Brent Sauser

 [youtube]http://youtu.be/RzM2bvcHKHM[/youtube]

I confess that I believe in smaller government and that most everything the government touches automatically requires more and more money to render ineffective and useless. If it isn’t working as intended, the government usually throws more of our tax dollars at it. It’s hard not to be cynical or view what government claims they can do with a jaundiced eye.

However, we need to be careful with using such a broad brush. Not everything the government touches turns to compost. In fact, for the past few years the DOE has been hard at work in collaboration with industry and universities on what is called “The SunShot Initiative. Their mission is to create solar PV that will produce renewable power at $.06 per kWh, bringing it into power parity with all major power utilities. They hope to reach their goal by the year 2020, but are ahead of schedule. They claim they have reached the 60% milestone and are confident they will reach the $.06 goal prior to the end of the decade.  That is good news for all of us.  

CLICK HERE for more information regarding the SunShot Solar PV Initiative.

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Solar Powered Attic Fan Installed at Sauser Home

by Brent Sasuer

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Eight months ago I called The Solar Guys to install a Solatube daylighting system for our Living Room.  We are so pleased with the results.  Now that we are in the dog days of summer we decided to call Chris at The Solar Guys and invite him to install a 22 watt solar powered attic exhaust fan.  The included photos and video show how quick and easy it was to install.  It all took less than one hour. 

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Attics tend to trap heat captured from the roof, which transfers into our living space requiring more energy to cool.  The exhaust fan forces the hot air back out through the roof and helps to neutralize moisture.  The HVAC system doesn’t need to work as hard because the attic heat is being exhausted instead of transferred into the living space.  That means energy and cost savings back to you. 

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CLICK HERE for more information regarding the Solar Star Attic Fan from The Solar Guys.

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[youtube]http://youtu.be/4-CKXNGzHDc[/youtube]

Morgan Stanley Blue Paper – Solar Power & Energy Storage

By Brent Sauser

 San Dimas

Morgan Stanley has conducted extensive research on the global solar market and has published a “Blue Paper” containing their conclusions.  CLICK HERE to access the entire Morgan Stanley Blue Paper.  This is just one more credible confirmation that the movement toward renewable energy is not only happening in the United States but even more so abroad (i.e. China, Japan, and Europe).  The following represents excerpts from the Morgan Stanley Executive Summary:

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We have developed a model that calculates solar economics around the world based on local regulatory dynamics and solar conditions.We believe investors can use this analytical framework to better understand solar economics in the context of local regulatory dynamics, solar installation costs, and solar operating conditions. We project combined solar growth for China, Japan, the US, Europe, India, and Brazil of 39 GW per year through 2020, or 47 GW including Rest of World. We expect growth to be heavily driven by China, which we forecast will account for 27% of new demand globally. We are bullish on US demand growth due to improving solar economics.

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Project Solar Growth in the United States: 8 GW per year solar growth through 2020, driven by highly supportive net metering rules in 43 states, strong solar conditions in many states, and further solar cost reductions. By 2020, solar will be economic in some US states even without a subsidy. In 43 US states, solar panel owners are allowed to net meter, effectively allowing panel owners to avoid the entire utility bill (both the portion associated with fixed grid costs and that associated with actual power generation). Given rapidly declining solar costs and rising utility bills, we believe solar growth potential is well above market expectations, even under our base case assumption in which the 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) steps down to 10% and the net metering rules are changed so solar customers must pay 50% of the typical fixed grid costs that a utility customer pays.

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Rooftop solar should be a major driver of growth in solar demand. While large-scale solar projects will continue to be an important source of growth for the industry in certain parts of the world, we see a global trend towards greater “distributed generation” in the form of rooftop solar, both on residences and on commercial buildings. . . .

Solar Freakin’ Roadways: An Amazing Out-of-the-Box Idea!

By Brent Sauser

 [youtube]http://youtu.be/SNMFKKyFU60[/youtube]

Solar Freakin Roadways 02I came across this amazing idea and wanted to share it. I need my driveway replaced and I’m thinking this might be the way to go. Check it out and you might feel the same way. The following comes directly from the Solar Roadways Indiegogo.com website:

Solar Freakin Roadways 04Solar Roadways is a modular paving system of solar panels that can withstand the heaviest of trucks (250,000 pounds). These Solar Road Panels can be installed on roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, bike paths, playgrounds… literally any surface under the sun. They pay for themselves primarily through the generation of electricity, which can power homes and businesses connected via Solar Freakin Roadways 01driveways and parking lots. A nationwide system could produce more clean renewable energy than a country uses as a whole  They have many other features as well, including: heating elements to stay snow/ice free, LEDs to make road lines and signage, and attached Cable Corridor to store and treat stormwater and provide a “home” for power and data cables. EVs will be able to charge with Solar Freakin Roadways 05energy from the sun (instead of fossil fuels) from parking lots and driveways and after a roadway system is in place, mutual induction technology will allow for charging while driving. 

Did you know: 

·         Solar Roadways has received two phases of funding from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration for research and development of a paving system that will pay for itself over its lifespan. We are about to wrap up our Phase II contract (to build a prototype parking lot) and now need to raise funding for production. 

·         Our glass surface has been tested for traction, load testing, and impact resistance testing in civil engineering laboratories around the country, and exceeded all requirements.

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·         Solar Roadways is a modular system that will modernize our aging infrastructure with an intelligent system that can become the new Smart Grid. We won the Community Award of $50,000 by getting the most votes in GE’s Ecomagination Challenge for “Powering the Grid” in 2010. We had the most votes again in their 2011 Ecomagination Challenge for “Powering the Home”.

·         On August 21, 2013, Solar Roadways was selected by their peers as a Finalist in the World Technology Award For Energy, presented in association with TIME, Fortune, CNN, and Science.

·         Solar Roadways was chosen by Google to be one of their Moonshots in May of 2013.

·         Solar Roadways was chosen as a finalist in the IEEE Ace Awards in 2009 and 2010.

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·         Solar Roadways has given presentations around the country including: TEDx Sacramento, Google’s Solve for X at Google’s NYC Headquarters, NASA, Keynote Speaker for the International Parking Institute’s Conference and much more…

·         Solar Roadways is tackling more than solar energy: The FHWA tasked us with addressing  the problem of stormwater. Currently, over 50% of the pollution in U.S. waterways comes from stormwater. We have created a section in our Cable Corridors for storing, treating, and moving stormwater.

·         The implementation of our concept on a grand scale could  create thousands of jobs in the U.S. and around the world. It could allow us all the ability to manufacture our way out of our current economic crisis.

 CLICK HERE to learn more about Solar Freakin’ Roadways.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/qlTA3rnpgzU[/youtube]

If John Can Go Low Energy. . . . SO CAN YOU!

From KSL.com – July 5, 2014, by Peter Rosen

Edited by Brent Sauser

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KAYSVILLE, Davis County:   When John Loveless peers up at the sun, he doesn’t see just another hot summer day. He sees dollar signs. Loveless, an electrical engineer, has monitored his energy bills for the last 14 years and hasMoney clip art 4 been interested in efficiency. So he installed a 26-panel, 6.2 kilowatt photovoltaic array, enough to cover about three-quarters of his family’s energy needs. He says in 2012 his annual bill for electricity came to $1.10. “That was a rough year,” he says. “I always jest that getting solar panels was kind of a gateway drug.”

Philips SlimStyle 03Loveless cut his electric bill even more by making his house more efficient — using compact florescent and LED light bulbs, unplugging some devices that draw phantom power day and night, adding insulation and installing a device that recovers heat from the hot water that goes down the drain.

John hired a company to install a ground loop heat pump. It circulates liquid geothernal clipart 3through pipes buried 300 feet under his yard, where the ground is a constant 56 degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter, it draws the heat up to the house and during the summer it sends the heat down to the ground. The pump runs on electricity which is generated by the solar array on the roof. Loveless says he once spent $5,500 dollars a year on energy — $3,500 for gasoline, $800 for natural gas and $1,200 for electricity. Now, he spends about $500.

“(There is a) realization that renewable energy is here now and doable and actually more affordable than staying with what we do now,” he says.

CLICK HERE to view “John Saves Energy” website.

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IKEA COMPLETES LARGEST ROOFTOP SOLAR ARRAY IN MARYLAND

IKEA Announcement (April 2014)

Edited by Brent Sauser

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IKEA 05IKEA officially plugged-in the solar energy system installed at its distribution center in Perryville, Maryland. The 768,972-square-foot PV array consists of a 2,674.9-kW system, built with 18,576 panels, and is the state’s largest rooftop array. The IKEA distribution center will produce approximately 3,397,178 kWh of clean electricity annually, the equivalent of reducing 2,397 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), eliminating the emissions of 499 cars or powering 359 homes yearly.

IKEA 02This installation represents the 36th completed solar project for IKEA in the U.S., with three more locations underway, making the eventual U.S. solar presence of IKEA nearly 90% of its U.S. locations with a total generation of 38 MW. IKEA owns and operates each of its solar PV energy systems atop its buildings – as opposed to a solar lease or PPA (power purchase agreement) – and globally has allocated $1.8 billion to IKEA 03invest in renewable energy through 2015. This investment reinforces the long-term commitment of IKEA to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic (PV) technology. Consistent with the company’s goal of being energy independent by 2020, IKEA has installed more than 250,000 solar panels on buildings across the world and owns/operates approximately 110 wind turbines in Europe. 

Specific U.S. sustainable efforts include: recycling waste material; incorporating IKEA 08environmental measures into the actual buildings with energy-efficient HVAC and lighting systems, recycled construction materials, skylights in warehouse areas, and water-conserving restrooms; and operationally, eliminating plastic bags from the check-out process, phasing-out the sale of incandescent light bulbs and facilitating recycling of customers’ compact fluorescent bulbs. IKEA has installed electric vehicle charging stations at nine IKEA 07stores in the Western U.S., and by 2016 will go L.E.D. by selling and using light bulbs that are only L.E.D. Constructed on 278 acres in the community of Perryville, in Northern Maryland’s Cecil County, this 1.7 million-square-foot IKEA distribution center began operations in 2002, employs approximately 550 coworkers, and currently helps provide inventory to many U.S. IKEA stores. 

Five Steps to Net Zero!

by Brent Sauser

Here are five easy steps to help make you more sustainable and less of a perpetual consumer when it comes to making the transition to Net Zero:

1.    Replace all incandescent lights with LEDs.  This the easiest and bestPhilips SlimStyle 03
way to save money with the quickest return on investment.  LEDs last 20 years and use 90% less electricity . . . that’s right, 90% less electricity.  LEDs cost more but the pay back and longevity is well worth the investment.  This is something you can do RIGHT NOW!

2.    Vampire Electronics Management.  Be careful with this one.  Vampire electronics suck power even when not in use.  If the light is on you are burning electricity.  This accounts for about 10% of the overall electric load, and growing.    One way to mitigate vampire loads is to place these electronics on power bars.  This way they can easily be switched on and off.  Radio Shack sells wireless shut offs if you don’t want to take the time to flip the switch.  Set your computer to shut down after 10 minutes of non use.  Doing this should save you at least 10%.

3.    Replace Appliances with Energy Star Appliances.  Your appliances Energy Star Logorequire a lot of energy to function and in many states natural gas is not an option.  All electric homes are more the rule than the exception.  When shopping for new appliances make sure the Energy Star label is on it.  This assures an energy efficient appliance that will save you money for years to come.  

4.    Increase Insulation.  Many of us are staying in our older homes and not “moving up” as we used to.  Retrofitting our homes with more attic insulation Icynene CT6_Sustainability_Res_Hmwnr
(R30-R50 depending on location) and adding wall insulation helps greatly to reduce heating and cooling energy costs.  Many who live in masonry homes can have the open cells filled with foam insulation.  Adding film to existing windows can help to reduce heat gain or loss depending on location.  Adding insulation is an additional expense that pays off quickly in lower energy bills.

5.    Solar Array.  30% Federal tax incentives for renewable systems (i.e. solarNREL 03 and wind, etc.)  expire at the end of year 2016.  It makes good common sense to   take advantage of this incentive.  A 5kW solar array costs around $10,000 installed (after Federal rebate).  Prices for solar installations continue to go down while the efficiencies continue to rise.  I suggest setting the goal for a solar installation around March of 2016.  By that time prices will be lower, efficiencies higher, and more competition to beat the December 31st deadline for Federal rebates.  

These five steps are easy ways to save you money, conserve energy, and reduce or eliminate your dependence on the energy grid.  You can do a little bit at a time and make improvements as you go.  Doing so will move you closer to becoming Net Zero and enjoy the increased savings in the process.

NEWS ALERT! EPA Calls for 30% Cuts in Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Power Plants

by Brent Sauser

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WHAT’S GOING ON!?  As of today the EPA is announcing a 30% cut in the greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants by 2030.  In addition, the EPA will require states to cut their “carbon intensity” (tons of carbon per megawatt of electricity, not simply overall tons of carbon).  Other carbon reducing measures accompany this action that vary from state to state.

carrot-with-stickSo . . . we are witnessing the end of the incentive “Carrot” phase and the beginning of the punitive “Stick” phase of American life.  Our current administration is working overtime to fulfill their campaign promise to “put coal out of business”.  Not good news to those employed in the coal industry in Kentucky or West Virginia.  They will feel the worst of it.  But the administration’s “War on Coal” will have a ripple effect on us all.  We can expect to feel the impact by more unemployment, slowing of the economic recovery, and higher utility energy prices. 

It is the latter I am most concerned about.  We cannot ignore the imminent carrot-with-stick 02reality of increasing energy prices. Regardless of the reason, we need to plan now to reduce or eliminate our dependence on utility power.  Better to do so while the Carrot is still in front of us.  However, on January 1, 2017 . . . the 30% federal incentives for renewable energy expire, and then what?  Will another Carrot (incentive) take its place, or will we experience, like those in Kentucky and West Virginia, the sharp pain of the “Stick”.  Who knows? 

Save Energy 1What IS known is that we can still take full advantage of the 30% federal incentive for implementing renewable energy technology into existing and new construction.  As we do, the impact from today’s EPA decision (and other similar decisions) will have less effect on our lives and wallets.  Becoming energy independent is more possible today than you might think.  Even if you don’t achieve a total Net Zero result, the power you are generating on-site means less dependency on the utility energy grid.  You become more insulated from increasing energy costs, which means money back in your wallet. 

warningThe choice is pretty simple:  We can ignore these warnings and remain at the whim of the utility companies, or take more control of our lives by reducing our dependency on the power grid.  We need to begin our planning process to assure our on-site renewable energy installation is in place and functional prior to the end of 2016.  As for me . . . that’s my plan!  How about you?

CLICK HERE to read the news article from Politico.

Important Considerations When Building Net Zero

by Brent Sauser

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More people are learning that we don’t have to be anchored to past building systems and practices. . . just because that’s the way they’ve done it for decades.  Smart people are asking questions and many contractors and developers are starting to listen.  The two attached videos show how new technology can benefit the owner, community, and environment.

More and more construction is going Net Zero from all over the USA and globally.  Many are learning how cost effective it is to build Net Zero.  Regardless of where you live, a Net Zero solution is possible.  If you are thinking of building in the near future I invite you to view these attached videos to learn how others are building Net Zero.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFuG2R2XOxk&list=PLWEDhgZofcHSUdws6o2uD5jb3OjO73CKX&feature=share&index=10[/youtube]

NRG CEO Expects Most Households to Soon Go Off the Grid

by Jordan Blum (Dallas Business Journal – dated May 1, 2014)

david-craneNRG Energy Inc. (NYSE: NRG) President and CEO David Crane said he expects many American residences to go “off the grid” within two years as reliance increases on natural gas and solar panels.

The CEO of the electricity-and-solar-focused energy giant who drives an electric car knows this direction comes at the expense of the power companies and the oil sector.

Crane is banking on cheap natural gas, the high costs of oil, deregulation and the increasing desire of people to better control the utility costs in their homes through technological advances and more. He said NRG is even looking into hiring “behavioral scientists” to that effect.  “If you can displace oil, that’s a good way to make money,” Crane said.  Crane said it doesn’t make sense for homes to have “two major delivery systems” going into them — above-ground electric lines and underground natural gas lines.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image25771190He said it is easier and and cheaper for many more residents to have devices that convert the natural gas into electricity, to add solar panels to homes and to “tell the electric company to get lost.” The trend will start in the Northeast and spread nationwide, he said.

NRG now has dual headquarters in Houston and New Jersey since it bought Reliant Energy in 2009 and has rapidly increased its Texas presence for a decade or so, including the acquisitions of Reliant, Texas Genco and GenOn Energy, all based in Houston. It recently acquired Plano-based Cirro Energy.

Crane said the most vicious commercials over natural gas and “fracking” have come not from environmentalist groups but from oil-heating companies. The Delaware Valley Fuel Association has ads, he said, that essentially make supporting natural gas akin to “supporting child molestation.”

clipart 6NRG became Texas’ largest electricity retailer more than a year ago and NRG is seeking to interact with its customers more through “new and innovative services,” Crane said.

He said Texas developed a great path forward with a deregulated “competitive energy market” and that “Houston is very much in our heart and soul” because NRG owns most of what once was Houston Lighting & Power.

Although much of the country will go greener, Crane said Texas will be slower to adopt because of the “natural growth” and cheaper energy costs within the state.

“You (Texas) are a little bit different than everyone else in the country,” Crane said. “The rest of the country doesn’t have the population influx that you have here … and the rest of the country doesn’t have the industry.”

green building 2“We embrace green energy,” Crane said, arguing that it is a “double-digit” growth opportunity and that it fits with growing civic sentiment.

Crane said NRG’s top competitors are ones who are “inside the home,” so he said a chief competitor is actually Comcast Corp. because “Comcast owns the home” — even though “most people don’t like their cable companies.”

“I’d like to make electricity cool,” Crane continued. “How do you do that? Theclipart 11 big thing for us is residential solar.”

He called residential solar a “huge job creator” as it becomes more financially beneficial.

“We want to be the (top) domestic player in residential solar by the end of the year … and I’m confident we’ll get there,” Crane said, with an eye on displacing SolarCity (Nasdaq: SCTY).

V3 Solar Spin Cell Update

By Brent Sauser

Last June I wrote an article on the V3 Solar Spin Cell.  (CLICK HERE to read the article.)  Back then the concept of a spinning solar cell that could convert solar energy directly to AC current was considered highly unlikely and, therefore, a fraud and a scam.  Claims of significant improvements in efficiency at lower costs were met with skepticism by flat panel solar manufacturers.  Admittedly, the revolutionary potential for solar spin technology would, if proved viable, be the eventual demise of the flat solar panel market, hence the dollar-driven push-back.

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What has happened in the last 10 months since my last article?  V3 Solar has continued their research and testing and have developed prototypes of solar AC spin generators that convert sunlight directly to AC current.  V3 Solar has also developed additional methods for utilizing their spin technology, all of which are in the developmental phase.  What was on the drawing boards 10 months ago is beginning to show positive signs of success.

NetZeroMax will continue to monitor V3 Solar’s progress and bring it to you.  This is a wonderful example with how 21st Century technology and ingenuity is achieving more efficient and affordable sustainable products for the consumer.  We wish V3 Solar continued success in their research and development of their spin cell technology.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/AVnaHsJucdY[/youtube]

Net-Zero Energy Buildings Double, Going Mainstream

by Sustainable Business.com

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     The Forest Service’s first net-zero energy building has  received the 2013 GreenGov Presidential Award and the US Department of Energy 2013 Federal Energy and Water Management Award. 

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     The award is for the renovation of the 48 year old Technology and Development Center in San Dimas, California – the hub for fire-fighting equipment and related problem-solving efforts in the West.

The building will produce more than double the energy if consumes by typical upgrades such as replacing the HVAC system, and installing 302 kilowatts of ground mounted solar on 1.5 acres of land.

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     In fact, the Forest Service’s Northern Region negotiated a 13-year, $2.6 million energy savings contract that will retrofit 500 facilities at 62 sites severed by 19 different utility providers.  The contract will result in upgrades that include programmable thermostats, heat pumps, lighting, vacancy sensors, attic and foundation insulation, infiltration reduction measures and a 4.9 kW solar PV system.

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     Expected to save $250,000 in utility bills a year, it’s being used as a template for two other Forest Service regions.  Since the fire-fighting budget is nowhere near enough to battle the surge in climate-related wildfires, they certainly can use the savings.

Tapping the Sun’s Light and Heat to Create Power

By Brent Sauser

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Photonics Online provided this very interesting article from MIT researchers regarding harvesting the heat of the sun, as well as the light to increase a solar panel’s efficiency.  Many wonderful advancements with photovoltaics are being explored with each new day.  This article features Solar Thermophotophotaic systems.

“A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by MIT researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say.

In this case, adding the extra step improves performance, because it makes it possible to take advantage of wavelengths of light that ordinarily go to waste. The process is described in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, written by graduate student Andrej Lenert, associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang, physics professor Marin Soljačić, principal research scientist Ivan Celanović, and three others.

A conventional silicon-based solar cell “doesn’t take advantage of all the photons,” Wang explains. That’s because converting the energy of a photon into electricity requires that the photon’s energy level match that of a characteristic of the photovoltaic (PV) material called a bandgap. Silicon’s bandgap responds to many wavelengths of light, but misses many others.

To address that limitation, the team inserted a two-layer absorber-emitter device made of novel materials including carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals—between the sunlight and the PV cell. This intermediate material collects energy from a broad spectrum of sunlight, heating up in the process. When it heats up, as with a piece of iron that glows red hot, it emits light of a particular wavelength, which in this case is tuned to match the bandgap of the PV cell mounted nearby.

This basic concept has been explored for several years, since in theory such solar thermophotovoltaic (STPV) systems could provide a way to circumvent a theoretical limit on the energy-conversion efficiency of semiconductor-based photovoltaic devices. That limit, called the Shockley-Queisser limit, imposes a cap of 33.7 percent on such efficiency, but Wang says that with TPV systems, “the efficiency would be significantly higher it could ideally be over 80 percent.”

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There have been many practical obstacles to realizing that potential; previous experiments have been unable to produce a STPV device with efficiency of greater than 1 percent. But Lenert, Wang, and their team have already produced an initial test device with a measured efficiency of 3.2 percent, and they say with further work they expect to be able to reach 20 percent efficiency enough, they say, for a commercially viable product.

The design of the two-layer absorber-emitter material is key to this improvement. Its outer layer, facing the sunlight, is an array of multiwalled carbon nanotubes, which very efficiently absorbs the light’s energy and turns it to heat. This layer is bonded tightly to a layer of a photonic crystal, which is precisely engineered so that when it is heated by the attached layer of nanotubes, it “glows” with light whose peak intensity is mostly above the bandgap of the adjacent PV, ensuring that most of the energy collected by the absorber is then turned into electricity.

In their experiments, the researchers used simulated sunlight, and found that its peak efficiency came when its intensity was equivalent to a focusing system that concentrates sunlight by a factor of 750. This light heated the absorber-emitter to a temperature of 962 degrees Celsius.

This level of concentration is already much lower than in previous attempts at STPV systems, which concentrated sunlight by a factor of several thousand. But the MIT researchers say that after further optimization, it should be possible to get the same kind of enhancement at even lower sunlight concentrations, making the systems easier to operate.

Such a system, the team says, combines the advantages of solar photovoltaic systems, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, and solar thermal systems, which can have an advantage for delayed use because heat can be more easily stored than electricity. The new solar thermophotovoltaic systems, they say, could provide efficiency because of their broadband absorption of sunlight; scalability and compactness, because they are based on existing chip-manufacturing technology; and ease of energy storage, because of their reliance on heat.

Some of the ways to further improve the system are quite straightforward. Since the intermediate stage of the system, the absorber-emitter, relies on high temperatures, its size is crucial: The larger an object, the less surface area it has in relation to its volume, so heat losses decline rapidly with increasing size. The initial tests were done on a 1-centimeter chip, but follow-up tests will be done with a 10-centimeter chip, they say.”

Walgreen’s Launches Their First Net Zero Store . . .

[youtube]http://youtu.be/IMMnjF5Blyw[/youtube]

by Brent Sauser

Net Zero has gone retail!  You might recall that back in March of 2013, I wrote a story regarding Walgreen’s intention to build the first Net Zero retail store in the USA.  CLICK HERE to review the NetZeroMax story.

Walgreens at Evanston IllWalgreen’s has completed the construction and has opened the doors to their first energy independent store in Evanston, Illinois.  The videos included in this report tells the amazing story of the successful launch of Walgreen’s first Net Zero store.  This is no small accomplishment!  Walgreen’s has several freezers and coolers that require huge amounts of energy to maintain.  Special attention to building orientation, heating and cooling systems, lighting, and window size and location were taken into consideration.  This is not your typical corner Walgreen’s!

Congratulations to Walgreen’s for their leadership in proving to the commercial retail community that going Net Zero can be done.  Let’s hope that 2014 will inspire many more pace setting decisions.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/-oWxbLfvOjs[/youtube]

More Evidence that Solar Power Is Mainstream!

by Brent Sauser

Change 04Evidence that solar power has become a cost effective, common sense choice over conventional choices for power can be found all across the United States. I dare say it has reached the level of acceptance as mainstream and can now compete based on cost with the more standard non-renewable sources for energy. But, don’t take my word for it. CILCK HERE to link to an article from the Star Tribune written by David Shaffer on December 31, 2013.

Change 02Consider this; recently a judge in Minnesota has ruled that Xcel Energy should invest in large solar panel arrays instead of new natural gas generators. Consequently, Edina-based Geronimo Energy plans to build about “20 large solar power arrrays on sites all across Xcel’s service area at a cost of $250 million”. What could be more “mainstream” than your local utility? When they can see the long term economic benefits of solar versus the old, non-renewable resurces for power . . . that is a significant revelation we all should take notice of. If they can see the virtues of going solar, what about us? Have you checked your power bill lately?

green building 5The VP of Geronimo Energy was quoted as saying, “It says solar is coming in a big way to the country and Minnesota.” NOTE: If this ruling is upheld, Geronimo Energy would receive NO state or utility subsidies. NONE! However, they would be eligible for federal tax credits, as we all are through the year 2016. Hey! I think they are on to something! They can see that even without state or utility subsidies they can still profit from going solar. If they can . . . how about you?

clipart 23She was also quoted to say, “The cost of solar has come down much faster than anyone had anticipated. This is one of the reasons solar is going to explode.” (I’m sure she means that in a positive way!) The largest of Geronimo’s projects will cover 70 acres, with other sites located in 17 Minnesota counties.

CleanEnergy photo 1You can’t get more mainstream than that. The transition to solar and other Net Zero products is gaining momentum. Whether public or private, many more projects are taking a good hard look at going solar and making the right decision . . . for them, the community, and the environment, because it is now a mainstream, competitive cost choice!

We can do itMay 2014 bring more amazing stories such as this one and bring us all closer to energy independence! Let’s make 2014 the year that renewable energy becomes the energy resource of choice.

Happy New Year!

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