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IKEA Goes Big on Solar

ikea-big

In an unprecedented move for a furniture retailer of the likes of Ikea, the company is now actively entering the solar market and stands to make a huge impact in the spread of solar energy in the UK. As the world’s largest furniture retailer, Ikea has store locations worldwide with a massive surface area to work with, a section of which will be allocated towards the retail sale of solar paneling.

This may have come as a surprise but a recent post on the Solar Contact blog defines the high potential of solar energy in the UK, stating that it is soon to become the 5th biggest solar market worldwide. With such potential for sales and opportunities, it’s more revealing why huge players in the home furnishing and appliances market like Ikea are interested in taking part in the development of solar energy in the region – and for more than altruistic reasons.

Ikea’s solar package pilot program was run with tremendous success in Essex, England where they managed to test the market and were impressed with the responsiveness of home owners, selling at least one solar panel system per day. Following this successful pilot, Ikea started rolling out the solar energy home system to their 17 stores across Britain, a process that will take at least another 5 months to complete.

Their photovoltaic panel system costs £5,700 ($9,615) for a standard three-bedroom home, which is on the lower range of panel costs as the package price includes taxes and installation. Because of the lack of sunshine in Britain, the solar panels were designed to generate electricity from ultraviolet rays instead of sunlight. The price is also made more attractive for consumers due to generous government subsidies that were put in place for home owners willing to take on the initial costs of solar energy panels. The subsidies will provide the ability to recoup investment within 7 years of purchase, although other estimates can vary between 7 to 10 years, depending on energy consumption and home size.

Ikea’s British stores will provide a dedicated sales space with on-board staff who will advise shoppers and be available for consultations. The team will be fully educated and experienced on installation, design, and maintenance of solar-panel systems. Upon purchase, Ikea will survey the home and fully install the entire system on the roof, all as part of the initial one-time cost. As a final advantage to the package, Ikea will provide a 5 year materials and labour guarantee for each system that includes ongoing support and performance guarantee.

Will Ikea’s move towards the solar panel retail market influence the adoption of solar energy in the UK? Only time and sales numbers will tell. However, an Ikea spokesman has made it clear that depending on the success of the UK rollout, Ikea stores worldwide may too become a part of this retail strategy.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

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Apple Claims Green is Still A Priority

apple-1-infinite-loop

One thinks of Apple CEO Tim Cook as being an extremely calm person, but he drew a hard line against a conservative faction of shareholders who complained that the company should focus entirely on its bottom line, and knock off its demand for renewable energy and its participation in other sustainability initiatives aimed at stemming climate change and reducing other forms of environmental damage. According to this CNET article, “To any who found the company’s environmental dedication either ideologically or economically ill-advised, they can ‘get out of the stock,’ Cook said.”

The article continues:

Cook came back with a harsh reminder that despite the company’s mounds of cash, it is not in the business of caving to shareholder demands, especially politically motivated ones. “We do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive,” Cook said. “We want to leave the world better than we found it.”

Wow.  When I see moral character like this it makes me proud to be a human being, and it gives me renewed hope that humankind can find a path to sustainable living here on Earth. Nice going, Tim.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

Will Technology Get Us Environmental Science Answers?

enviromental-science

Everyone is towards being the leader on everything. Talk about globalization, every country wants to take the lead and become the leading country. Because of this, workforce and industrialization are set on fire with no reasons to hold back, and with no slight regret if there are other concerns being detoured. And by that concern, we mean—the environment.

On a smaller scale, people are also living in a swift running life; all aiming to live in the middle of a developed city, and attain the popular trend of contemporary living. These trends of condominiums, high rise and technological buildings seem good but the adverse effects of it to the environment are nameless and distressing.

Whether through a big picture or a smaller one, people tend to evade the environment which is the beginning all and end all of human being’s resources and wealth.

Weighing The Progress, Forgetting the Losses

All countries in the world are contributing to climate change through carbon emissions. Carbon emissions are known to add up to global warming, and therefore affecting the change of climate in the world. In 2008, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and some industrial processes, many of the world’s highest carbon emitters are large and developed countries.

China ranked first having emitted 23% followed by USA with 19%, Europe having 13%, India has 6%, Russian Federation having 6%, Japan has 4%, Canada having 2% and the remaining 28% come from other countries.
China has undeniably developed for the past 30 years. From the past years, poverty in China was alleviated and economy has dramatically changed. Hence, together with this development, industrialization, urban improvement and economic growth is the continuous threat on hurting the environment. And truly, that is what is happening today.

According to the Ecological Footprint Report of WWF, ecological footprint can be measured through individual consumption and as of 2008, China’s ecosystem cannot give all the demands of Chinese citizens which as of 2008 has reached 2.5 times on what can only be naturally provided. This scenario of consuming resources from the environment without renewing the resources is happening in China in the 70s, so what more now.

With regard to USA ranking 2nd in the world’s highest carbon emitters, industrial sources are one of its main causes followed by transportation, commercial sources, residential sources and agriculture. This carbon emission is only a factor to the wider problem of environmental footprint. When it comes to use of resources such as food and water, USA consumption is continuously rising.

Nonetheless, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has set limits on carbon emissions per country through a project called Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol was signed by a total of 192 countries even if this project mainly targets 37 of the largest carbon emitting countries in the world. Despite of the good cause of the UNFCCC, China, USA and India never signed to it. Japan and Canada, on the other hand, refused to sign in the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol.

Russia, also one of the most industrialized countries in the world, and also one of the countries who refused to sign in the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol reasoned economy and unseen results on stopping climate change as the causes of not signing. In a Reuters report, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was quoted saying,

“The Russian Federation finds the extension of the Kyoto protocol in its current state ineffective and does not intend to take on obligations to lower greenhouse gas emissions as part of the so-called second round of liabilities.”

UNFCCC’s goal of Kyoto Protocol is to decrease the continuous rise of global temperature. Mainly, it targets to limit the rise of temperature to less than two degrees Celsius only per year. However, with the refusal of the countries with the highest carbon emission in the world, the targeted degrees of temperature increase is impossible. Awaiting a hotter world in the next years due to global warming is an understatement.

The Paradox Story of Technology Saving the Environment

Human beings are the guardian of nature, some people say. People are not only living on Earth to savor its resources but also to take care of the resources given to them, and make sure that whatever they enjoyed can also be enjoyed and passed on to the next generation of human beings. Given the fact that human beings are thinking beings and are littered with ostensible revolutionary ideas, men have created technologies that will never lay down its arms for the sake of the environment.

In the 2012 Invention Awards of Popular Science website, Frank Will’s invention, Over7, was one of the winners. Frank Will is a German motorcycle racer who has been racing since his teenage years. Because of his observation on the smoke emission and fuel combusting of his motorcycle, he has thought about inventing a more environmental friendly one in the form of his current invention Over7. This invention requires less gas which therefore lessens the emission of carbon. There are other characteristics of the said invention which all boils down to it being environment friendly.
There are many similar inventions like this which range from a solar-powered boat to a solar-powered movie theatre to green architectural designs. But the question is, do they really succeed on reaching their purpose of saving the environment on the least? They may be, on some cases, but in other cases, technology which are known or are supposed to be environment-friendly do more harm than good.

In a recent study about a self-cleaning pollution-control technology, which can be found on paints, was found out to do more harm than good. Supposedly, the titanium dioxide content of the paint must reduce the harmful chemicals expelled in the air. However, studies show that instead of doing so, the titanium dioxide content of the paint converts ammonia content of air to nitrogen dioxide which is known harmful for the ozone layer.

Many house builders are choosing this kind of technology in building their houses not only to avoid the bad odor, but also because of the promise that this technology helps aid the destruction of the environment or of the ozone layer at least. Nonetheless, consumers do not know that instead of giving a good contribution, they are making the ozone situation worse.

Another basic example of this kind of technology, which causes more harm than good, is the agricultural pesticides. These pesticides are supposed to make people reap good crops but instead of that, they reap fruits and crops which can cause them bad health. In men’s aim to reap and address the issue of hunger and sustainability with fast growing crops and fruit trees, they circumvent the issue of heath. Many other technologies from basic to grand have the same situation. Many think that they are helpful for the environment, but the truth is they are not.

The Possibilities of the Seemingly Unfeasible Cutback

The recent cases and situations have shown that in the present society, environmental concerns are of lesser priority compared with economic and development concerns. As shown, many developed countries did not sign in the Kyoto Protocol not only because of their skeptic thoughts on its feasibility but also because of their concern with their economy. Industrialization seems to be an unstoppable and inevitable concern when addressing the concerns of the environment.

Nonetheless, in the current report of WWF, it is said that China is on its way on reducing its environmental footprint. Now, China is having a five-year plan for green development in its urban cites and other significant target places in the country. While there is a boom of economy in its major cities China can still achieve environmental friendliness through this plan. Now, China can yield both urbanity and environmental care.

More than that, China’s vow to decrease its environmental footprint does not only affect its own carbon emission, but also affect those of the world, so not matter how small this is; it makes a difference.

With regard to technologies being the downfall of environment, and ironically also the fallback for there are many inventions said to save the environments—although there are inventions which are harmful than good, there are still the good ones. And besides, once a product is proven to cause more harm than good, inventors must see this only a s room for improvement. On the other hand, if they find a technology or invention effective, continuous advertisement to it must be done.

In the end it is still a question whether this age of development will save or ruin the environment. Subsequently, it is another question if it is only to save or ruin because there might be something in between. So which is it? Save? Ruin? Or is there something else? Will the technology raise its white flag for environments and humanitarian survival?

Editor’s Note:  Thanks to Jona for this nicely written piece, and especially for her references to cleantech innovation, and the numerous investment opportunities it provides.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

Cheaper Solar Panels at What Cost?

green-flag-china

As the Chinese government offers subsidies to manufacturers in order to sell the panels for less than cost, cheap solar panels flood the global market making it more difficult for others to compete. As everyone is scurrying to provide more efficient means for delivering solar power, these manufacturers are able to dominate the global market. This, in turn, has caused a great deal of turmoil for other manufacturers in various countries.

Intervention

In order to create a more balanced market, the United States has imposed 30 to 35-percent tariffs against importing Chinese manufactured solar panels. Initially, these tariffs were designed to help create a more versatile market by making the cost of panels comparative against other manufacturers – creating job security. Unfortunately, China has implemented its own tariffs against US suppliers of polysilicon – the component needed for solar cells. For some organizations, this tariff has reached as high a 53-percent reducing the income these business collect from Chinese panel manufacturers.

Elimination of Competition

The subsidies provided from the Chinese government to manufacturers have assisted in eliminating competition for various plants around the globe. For example: In June of 2013, German-based Conergy AG had to file for insolvency due to a lack of funding. A government report on solar panel development showed that revenue had dropped several billion euros over the span of two years driven by cheaper panels imported from China. This is in conjunction with Europe’s anti-dumping tariffs imposed on Chinese imports – tariffs that are used when a foreign developer sells goods at far below cost in order to preserve domestic jobs. For many German developers, this means less work and less development for both manufacturers and installers.

Local Economies

In order for an installation company to make a profit, the lower cost products are usually the ones that are provided. While there is differentiating costs between low and high performing panels, the best cost for the product is key to the future success of the company. This provides a bit of flexibility when it comes to making the installation affordable to the customer while providing net income for the installer.

Although placing tariffs on Chinese imported panels is initially utilized to protect domestic jobs from other manufacturers, how does this affect third-party installation companies that rely on cheaper products to make the development profitable? One of the biggest arguments against using solar power is the sheer cost of implementation. If government officials are concerned about renewable energies as they claim, wouldn’t they welcome the decrease in price from manufacturers? Is there a way that other country governments could offer greater subsidies to domestic manufacturers in the same manner as China?

Declination of Exports

In the third quarter of 2013, exports of Chinese solar panels had dropped slightly. While the panels still account for nearly 70-percent of the global market, the production boom seemed to have waned slightly. As various other energy alternatives have been developed such as wind, fracking for oil and additional mining for natural gas, speculations are plentiful for why the market has slowed for China.

Although the anti-dumping tariffs are there to save domestic jobs from those who can offer a product for a fraction of the cost, they can also stunt innovation. One of the driving forces in order to overcome competition is to provide a better product at a lower price. For an example of this, look at the competition between Apple and Samsung. Each are dedicated to surpassing the other.

Without foreign competition in solar panels, will domestic manufacturers be motivated enough to innovate more efficient and cheap models themselves? Are these tariffs implemented by the United States and the European Union justified as the common goal should be to provide energy for all without fossil fuels?

Author Bio:

Paul Taylor started www.babysittingjobs.com which offers an aggregated look at those sites to help families find sitters and to help sitters find families easier than ever. He loves writing, with the help of his wife. He has contributed quality articles for different blogs & websites.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

Why Solar is Beating Wind

panels-cloud-green

Renewable energy helps sustain energy in a way that is protective of the environment. However, the renewable energy market is equally just as important to the stability of the financial market. Specifically, solar energy has made a rapid expansion on our planet during the past decade. Recently, the renewable source of energy surpassed the growth of wind energy across the globe.

The Immense Growth of Solar Energy

This year makes the first time that solar energy growth has beaten out its largest global competitor, wind energy. Last year, new solar photovoltaic capacity growth reached 36.7 GW. On the other hand, wind energy growth was only predicted to be 35.5 GW. Wind energy growth was expected to be 33.8 GW from mainland growth and a small 1.7 GW growth from offshore infrastructure.

Growth in the solar energy market is largely due to the release of cheaper materials that are used in the production of photovoltaic installations. Reduced costs mean more capacitors can be installed for a fraction of the original cost. Furthermore, China and Japan are proving to be expansive new sectors of growth for solar energy. The impressive growth coming from these two countries in the solar market is an impact of the increased incentives.

While solar energy has certainly taken off, another significant reason for the new record is that wind energy growth is slowing down.

Policy Change Impacts Growth of Wind Energy

One of the largest reasons behind wind energy’s slowdown is the decrease in infrastructure construction in the United States and China. These two countries are the regions that play the most significant role in the slowdown due to their energy policies. For example, in the United States, the Production Tax Credit has caused uncertainty in the energy market. In turn, this uncertainty means that renewable energy investments will decrease. Furthermore, reduced investments starts a chain reaction of employee layoffs and infrastructure closings.

Ultimately, when combined with the increased standards and policies in China, these countries reduced energy growth will decrease wind energy growth by over 25 percent in the coming years.Renewable energy corporations will look to continue growth in all sectors.

Will Wind Energy Still Be A Viable Source of Renewable Energy?

While wind energy may be second best at renewable energy growth across the globe, it will certainly not become a useless resource. The renewable energy markets tend to ebb and flow with booming periods followed by equally slow times. Even at market low points, the energy sector for wind energy is extensive. Corporations and smaller business all still remain competitive and profitable. Over time the renewable energy market should stabilize in the fields of solar and wind. Any instability in future markets will likely come from new technologies associated with novel renewable energy sources.

Overall, consumers should not feel that a reduced growth for wind energy means the end of that particular sector. However, they should consider other options if pursuing investments in new installations for growth in the sector.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

Passive Solar in the Home

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While solar power has become prevalent in the mainstream construction business in the past decade, passive solar design has been used around the world for thousands of years. Ceramic tiles and stones walls in the Mediterranean made it possible to keep homes cool even under the scorching heat of the summer sun. Likewise, small window openings and semi-subterrain living spaces in northern climates promoted efficient heat retention. Today, the basic principle of passive solar design is to utilize the power of the sun by simply situating your home, building it with specific material, and installing design features that promote a good balance of heat reflection and absorption.

Placement of home

The most important element of passive solar design is the proper placement of your home.  In fact, many home companies consider this to be a crucial first step when designing a new home such asthese home builders here. Not using mechanical equipment to utilize solar power means that you will have to maximize the advantages of the varied strength and availability of the sun’s rays. For instance, the sun is higher during summer than winter. Awnings and movable shades will keep out the heat of summer sun for cooling your home and allow it in through large windows during the winter months for passive heating. The exact pitch of your awnings will change according to your latitude to compensate for the exact angle of sunrays reaching your windows. In general, buildings using passive solar design are stretched out from the east to the west with large windows placed on south facing walls. Simultaneously, builders also reduce the number and size of windows on the north façade of the building.

Passive cooling 

The second most important element of passive solar design is making sure that excess heat can escape from your home during the warmer months. You can strategically place windows, vents and door openings throughout the house to use the naturally occurring breeze and wind for cooling your home as well as for venting out allergens and superfluous moisture. This type of cooling is not to be confused with poor insulation that prevents a controlled venting. You can also select specific building materials such as stone, brick, or concrete that absorbs, transfers, and radiates heat well for a delayed release during the cooler night hours.

Solar panels

Most likely, you will wish to install a series of solar panels in conjunction with your passive solar design. When installed on your home’s roof, these photovoltaic panels will not only produce electricity but also prevent overheating in your attic space. There are a great variety of solar systems on the market today from ready to install kits to DIY solutions. They can fit all budgets and situations as well as designs and building methods. You can choose to have stand-alone off-grid solution or have your solar system tied in to your local electric network depending on your lifestyle and personal needs.

All things considered, solar passive design is a great option for those who wish to pursue an environmentally friendly building project that utilizes naturally renewable resources for heating and cooling without any carbon emission. It will also provide considerable savings to homeowners in the long run, and produce better quality air and a cleaner local environment.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

Mercedes + Tesla = B-Class Electric Drive

mercedes-telsa

Electric cars are gaining serious momentum, and the number of car makers that start investing in electric vehicle technology is constantly increasing, as they realize that the demand for this type of vehicles is only going to go up in the future. Although Mercedes-Benz entered the electric car market a bit later than its competitors, it has ramped up its efforts recently and hopes that it will be able to compete with the likes of Tesla, BMW, Nissan, GM, or Toyota. That’s why they have developed the B-Class Electric Drive, which will hit the U.S. market in the summer of 2014, while European customers will get it a bit later.

The Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive was unveiled at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, and the company is confident that it will be a worthy competitor for the i3, BMW’s all-electric car. Mercedes partnered up with Tesla Motors to develop the B-Class Electric Drive, in efforts to take advantage of the know-how and experience that Tesla has when it comes to building electricity-powered cars. Mercedes has chosen to use an electric drivetrain built by Tesla, and put in an existing model, instead of developing a completely new model that will be powered by electricity. Toyota did the same thing for its RAV4 EV.

Tesla’s Model S has proved to be a huge success, with sales growing strong across the globe, and the electric B-Class will use practically the same powertrain that the Model S uses. It will deliver 174 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, and the battery pack is supposed to provide a range of more than 100 miles per one charge, which is more than the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt. You will be able to fully recharge it in only 4 hours, using a 240 volt power source. As far as performance is concerned, the B-Class Electric Drive will have a top speed of 100 mph, and will go from 0 to 60 mph in under 8 seconds.

It’s a front-wheel-drive car, just like the CLA-Class, with a single speed transmission, and a feature that allows the driver to change between three different braking regeneration modes, using paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

It uses the platform of the CLA-Class, and shares many similarities with it, both inside and outside. The interior is very comfortable and inviting, with high-quality materials used for all surfaces, and has the same options that are standard for all B-Class vehicles, with the addition of an upgraded instrument cluster, with a display that shows information about  energy consumption. This means that it will be equipped with a Collision Prevention Assist system, Blind Spot Monitor, Active Parking Assist, and pre-entry climate control.

There is no information regarding the price of the B-Class Electric Drive, but we can expect it to be somewhere between $40,000 and $45,000. Like almost all other car makers, Mercedes will first offer this electric car in California, as a state with the best infrastructure for such vehicles.

Follow Jordan Perch on Google +.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

Teaching Kids about Solar Power

kids-solar-teacher

Raising conscious kids can be a fun and exciting adventure. Teachable moments for your intelligent, curious little ones are available each and every day.

Take, for example, the sun: an incredible resource that provides light and heat and makes life on Earth possible. It is completely free and offers the benefit of solar energy without asking for anything in return.

The only challenge ahead is making this lesson amusing and enjoyable to your child. Here are some fun outdoor activities to teach your children to channel the energy of the sun.

Make Art with the Sun

This activity will teach your children how they can work together with the sun to create art. Have your child pick their favorite color of construction paper and some objects they would like to see outlined on the piece of paper.

Place the paper with the objects arranged as they wish on it and allow them to sit in direct sunlight for the whole day. The dyes inside the construction paper soak up the light from the sun and cause the paper to lighten and fade. You can relate the change of color on the paper to that of sunburn on skin when over exposed to sunlight.

Your finished product is a beautiful piece of art that can be hung on the wall — a wonderful way to honor the relationship your child now has with the sun.

Bake With the Sun

Who doesn’t love a good chocolate chip cookie? This is a yummy way to learn about solar energy’s ability to heat things in very practical ways.

Mix up your favorite batch of cookie dough. Find a shallow box that has a lid and line it with a black sheet of paper. Then place a sheet of tin foil on top of that.

Cut a square hole out of the lid so the cookie dough can be fully exposed. Cover the hole with plastic wrap to trap in heat and protect your dough from hungry bugs. Make a reflector by wrapping a piece of cardboard with tin foil so you are able to get the most sunlight possible.

Now place your homemade solar oven in direct sunlight and adjust the reflector throughout the day to continue getting the most sun generated heat possible. By the end of the day you and your family will have the sun to thank for your delicious warm cookies. This will teach your child how solar energy can cook their food and feed them.

Have a Cup of Tea with the Sun

Teach your child to make a homemade water heater and use the solar energy of the sun to make a cup of tea or hot chocolate. Use an empty clean aluminum can and cover it with black construction paper (black is the best absorbent of heat). Have your child fill the can with cold water and then place the can in direct sunlight for the day.

After about 4 hours of sitting out in the sun you will have a hot cup of water. If you would like to make your little one a cup of tea, simply place a tea bag in the can while it lays out in the sun. You now have something nice and warm to wash down your solar baked cookies with.

Things like the sun, rain and wind are all clean resources that humans need in order to live healthy lives. When you teach your little ones the value of living an eco-friendly life, you are ensuring that their own children will someday have a beautiful, safe world to live in, as well.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

In Focus: Greening Your Future

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The solar power movement has seen a lot of advancement in the recent years. In Australia, there is more than 2,412 MW of installed photovoltaic power. Approximately 1,000 MW of that came about in 2012 alone. These massive changes occurred even though the masses aren’t yet convinced by the benefits. Regardless, implementing solar power and other alternative energies is a step in the right direction – a step toward a greener future.

Why Go Solar?

Like the costs of practically every other goods and service throughout history, the cost of electricity has risen steadily over the years. Pricing electric power depends on the costs of generation, transmission and distribution. Many consumers are currently unhappy with how much they pay for electricity and in a constant battle to try and save money. One way to shrink the electric bill is to go solar, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solar power benefits.

ADVANTAGES

1. Lower Cost

Solar energy will cut your electricity costs. In Australia and America, solar power use is reported to be half the cost of grid electricity use. That easily comes out to a lifetime savings of thousands of dollars. Those looking to buy solar panels will also save money today because prices have dropped about 30% within the last two years alone. That means you get better and more advanced technology at a lower price.

2. Less Pollution

The burning of fossil fuels is notorious for releasing harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Solar power creates a greener footprint because its creation does not produce greenhouse gases or other toxic chemicals.

3. Decrease Reliance on Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels are the world’s primary source of energy, but supplies are depleting at alarming rates. Not only will the cost of these resources continue to rise over time, the demand for them also creates pollution and political uneasiness. With an alternative energy like solar, nations can generate their own power without any unwanted complexities.

4. Unlimited Supply

Sunlight is free and infinite in supply. There is no risk of wasting the resource or need to fight over it. It is accessible to all people in one quantity or another, given that they have the technology to utilise it.

DISADVANTAGES

1. High Initial Cost

The worst part about switching to solar is the initial costs of buying solar panels and installing them. Complete systems range from $10,000 to $35,000 and take up to 20 years to pay for themselves. But, everyone that has made the switch has agreed it was worth it with consumers seeing obvious changes in the first 3-6months.

2. Intermittent Supply

Sunlight might be infinite and free, but it isn’t always present. When night-time rolls around, solar panels are next to useless. Solar panels aren’t great investments for people who live in areas that don’t get much sun.

3. Quality vs. Quantity

When it comes to buying solar panels, always go with quality over quantity: more solar panels won’t necessarily produce more power. What’s more important is the quality of the solar panels. Fewer panels that create more electricity consistently are a better deal than a large number of panels that don’t produce much electricity. Quality panels can last up to 30 years with minimal maintenance, so it’s smarter to pay a bit more initially. Going with a “bargain” brand might save you up-front costs, but you’re almost guaranteed to pay more in maintenance costs down the road.

Quality doesn’t only apply to the solar panels but also to the location as well. To put it simply, solar panels installed in locations that consistently get more sunlight will almost always produce more electricity than those that aren’t. Take a home in Perth and one in Melbourne, for instance. The city of Perth gets the most sunlight in all of Australia with 3,200 hours every year, while Melbourne gets only 2,200 in comparison. Consequently, households in Perth are sure to get more use out of their solar panels than those Melbourne.

Another thing to think about is the positioning of the solar panels on the property. Panel orientation can have a dramatic effect on how much energy is produced. If the panels are facing away from the sun for most of the day, they’re not installed in the optimal location. Most of the time, providers will know where to install panels for the greatest effect.

Why now is the Time to Make the Switch

Solar energy has been on the market for a long time now. If you weren’t impressed when it first became available, why should you even consider it years later? Well, here are some interesting facts that could make you change your mind. First, Chinese manufacturing of solar panels has increased exponentially in the last couple of years. This means that there are now a lot of inexpensive options out there. After all, most people didn’t want to jump onto the solar power bandwagon because equipment and installation costs were so high back then. Secondly, many national governments are currently offering discounts and tax reductions for all solar panel installation costs meaning more savings for those who were interested in the concept but not the cost.

Finally, there has been a recent boom in the number of third-party solar energy providers. Many of these companies will design a unique system for your home, install the solar panels free of charge, and maintain the system for a certain number of years. All you would have to do as the consumer is pay a monthly fee for the quantity of electricity created for that month. Even so, buying solar-generated electricity from these companies would likely be 15% cheaper than what you are currently paying now. As you can see, getting into solar power now sounds like a very good idea.

The Future of Solar

Solar energy’s future looks to be very bright. By 2020, solar power will count for 12% of all energy needs in Europe. It will surely become a mainstream source of energy in the next few decades as the world’s nations are shying away from dependence on fossil fuels. Solar power technology is also constantly evolving to become more efficient and affordable which will make the decision to switch even easier for consumers.

Author Bio

This article is written by Jayde Ferguson, who writes for Infinite Energy – a market leader in quality solar power systems in Australia.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

Tesla: Working on Driverless Cars

tesla-logo-shine

It looks like the driverless car game is about to become much more competitive than it has been so far, as electric car company Tesla Motors has started working on an autonomous car project, and we should be able to see the results of that project in about three years. This means that Google should brace themselves for some serious competition, as so far, it has been pretty much the only company that has been able to develop an advanced autonomous vehicle technology. But, Google’s driver-less car is still undergoing tests and isn’t available for purchase, which is exactly what Tesla intends to accomplish, commercializing autonomous driving technology within the next couple of years.

Tesla’s plans were revealed by its CEO, Elon Musk, who has been making headlines recently with another highly innovative idea, the Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system that could fundamentally change the way people travel. Musk said in an interview with the Financial Times that they hope to be able to offer a 90-percent autonomous car on the market by the end of 2016. This announcement is not a surprise at all, as Tesla Motors have made a name for themselves in the automotive world thanks to a series of innovative technological solutions. Recently, Tesla announced that they are hiring an engineer who is going to have to try and develop control algorithms for driver assistance systems, and the potential candidates are expected to have knowledge of autonomous driving technologies, which includes radars, sensors, and cameras, among other things.

However, the car won’t be fully autonomous, and the computer system will have control of 90 percent of the car, while the driver will be responsible for the other 10 percent of the control of the car. Tesla intends to use technology developed by its own team of engineers, instead of implementing an existing technology developed by Google or some other car maker. But, in any case, the computer system will do most of the work, while the driver will probably only have to start and stop the car. The reason why Tesla is hesitant to work on a fully autonomous car is that the technology needed for a semi-autonomous vehicle is much easier to develop and they will be able to start producing such a car much faster, in about three years, according to their estimates, while other car makers are expected to launch their driver-less cars in no less the 10-15 years. Musk himself has said that getting from 90 percent autonomy to 100 percent is incredibly difficult, and it’s going to take at least a decade to get there, even for Tesla, a company that has made huge advancements in automotive technology in recent years.

Apart from the autonomous driving technology, Tesla will be faced with another challenge, that has nothing to do with the development or production process of an autonomous car. It’s the legal issues regarding the potential liabilities involved in accidents caused by driverless cars, but these hurdles are expected to be overcome pretty soon, and Tesla’s autonomous car should be allowed to hit the streets once it’s ready.

Jordan Perch is an automotive fanatic and “green cars” specialist. He is a writer for DMV.com, which is a collaborative community designed to help ease the stress and annoyance of “dealing with the DMV”.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

Testa Produce Goes Green

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The people of Testa Produce, Inc. have started to do what they can to reduce their company’s carbon footprint. For example, two of the delivery trucks that they purchased this year are all-electric vehicles, but they don’t plan to stop there. They also have plans to purchase 10 more trucks that use compressed natural gas (CNG), and CNG is a cleaner fuel that costs less than gasoline or diesel.

Socially Responsible Food Transportation

The company currently uses trucks that run on biodiesel fuel to transport food products, but executives recently made the commitment to pursue socially responsible food transportation methods. That’s why they are purchasing the 10 new CNG trucks to replace their current fleet. After all, the company does have a lofty goal: Testa Produce, Inc. hopes to be a company that no longer uses foreign oil within the next five years.

The new CNG trucks have several advantages. They are not as loud as biodiesel trucks, and they emit fewer harmful substances into the air. CNG trucks are much easier to maintain, but their highway performance does not suffer because of it. Most importantly, it’s cheaper to run CNG trucks. A biodiesel truck requires that the company spend between $4.30 and $4.89 plus tax per gallon of fuel, but they will only need to spend $2.60 per gallon for their CNG trucks.

The Commitment to Sustainable Food Transportation

Testa’s executives’ commitment to sustainable food transportation made it necessary for them to continue their efforts by purchasing new CNG vehicles. They started down this path by becoming the first produce distributor in the country to have a distribution center certified as LEED platinum. This certification is the highest that the company could possibly earn from the U.S. Green Building Council. Further showing that they are pioneers in becoming “green,” Testa’s executives became one of the first to trade in their delivery trucks for biodiesel vehicles as well as purchase hybrids as their company’s official cars.

According to Peter Testa, president of Testa Produce, Inc., he and his partners are constantly in search of new ways to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, and they are eager to begin delivering their goods with their new environmentally-friendly trucks. They are very interested to prove a company that depends on trucks can commit to this type of sustainability.

The executives received one of their new CNG trucks in June of this year, and they should take possession of the rest of the fleet in coming months.

About the author

Melissa Page writes about farm fresh produce, conscious capitalism and sustainable food habits. Inspired by  A to Z Solutions, she dreams of a more sustainable world, and believes that nutritional transparency is a big step towards that goal.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

Texas: Dropping the Solar Ball?

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With enough solar energy to power almost 12,000 homes and employ 3,200 Texans, deregulation in the state policy since 2002, you might think the Lone Star State is at the forefront of the solar energy industry. However, the sunny state only ranks 13th in the nation for its installed solar capacity, outpaced by even small states New Jersey and Maryland. For many, Texas’ ranking may not make much sense. With more clear than cloudy days Texas has excellent potential for solar energy. In fact, if all of Texas’ usable land was equipped with solar panels, the state would have twice the solar potential of any other state, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.  So why doesn’t the Texas solar industry shine?

Investments in wind

Perhaps the reason for the lag in solar energy has to do with the state’s big investments in wind energy instead. In 2005, the Texas legislature set a goal requiring retail electricity providers, such as Ambit Energy, to collectively provide 10,000 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy within 20 years. Because wind power was a cheaper option than solar, these retail companies jumped on the opportunity to place their investments in wind turbines. With these heavy investments in wind energy it took Texas just four years to reach the renewable energy requirement set for 2025. Today, Texas is the largest producer of wind energy in the nation with more than 10,000 megawatts of wind energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Lack of statewide incentives for solar

The growth the state has seen in the solar industry is largely attributed to utility initiatives. But many believe the lack of a centralized incentive program has hindered solar from more success in Texas.  Some utilities in regulated areas of the state, such as San Antonio and Austin, are government-owned and have larger budgets for solar incentives. In these areas, utilities build or invest in their own solar arrays and might even offer rebates or lower electricity bills for residential customers who contribute solar energy to the power grid.

Land used for farming

Texas is a massive state with large expanses of land. It seems like these open spaces would be a great opportunity to install fields of solar panels. However, much of the state’s land is used for farming and ranching to provide the nation with vegetables, fruits and beef.  According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, the state has more than 247,000 farms and ranches covering 130 million acres, which produce commodities such as cattle, milk, grains, wheat, vegetables and cotton.  The agency also states that the fiber and food sectors in Texas have an economic impact of more than $100 billion. Though covering the land in solar panels would push the state to the number one solar producer in the nation, it’s doubtful Texas would want to give up its valuable farming opportunities.

Fossil fuel resources

The Lone Star State is arguably the most energy-rich state in the nation.  Texas not only leads the nation in wind energy, it is at the forefront of the natural gas and oil industries too.  The state has more than 5 million barrels of proven oil reserves and is home to more than 23 refineries, both on and offshore. In addition, Texas boasts three fracking sites to harness natural gas resources trapped beneath shale rock formations. Today, the oil and natural gas industries support almost 25 percent of the Texas economy, and is responsible for 14.3 percent of employment in the state, reports NBC News. While the state is keen to move forward with renewable resources, it’s not likely to rapidly abandon its dependence (and the nation’s) on oil and gas for a more aggressive approach toward solar.

 

Clint Robertson is a freelance writer who has held numerous positions in the energy industry. His work promotes ways to educate the general population and reduce the carbon footprint for the betterment of the world by focusing on our need for renewable energy sources.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

Ford Entering Electric Bike Industry

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I often caution cleantech entrepreneurs to make sure they confine their business concepts to arenas in which much larger and moneyed competitors will not enter and immediately squash them.  An example I often give (or gave) was electric transportation.  If you offer a freeway-speed electric sedan, you’re competing with Nissan and the rest. However, it’s unlikely that these massive OEMs are going to want to enter the e-bike market.

Oops.  Got that wrong.

Here’s an announcement to the effect that Ford has teamed up with a Southern California-based start-up to offer a full line of Ford-branded electric-assisted bicycles.  The author of the press release, obviously no fool, didn’t miss the opportunity to bathe the event in a shimmering green light and make everyone look good; the CEO of the local company, DAHON, is quoted as saying “This is a very exciting opportunity for us. By partnering with such an environmentally conscious company as Ford, we are taking the next steps in highlighting the need to reduce carbon emissions and influencing today’s auto-dependent public to think about the importance of changing their transport habits to help sustain a greener future.”

But is this all bad for smaller players who may wish to compete here?  Not really.  As my colleague Michael Scholey, CEO of super-cool “Emcycle” points out, at the very least, it shows that a company of the stature of Ford thinks this is a legitimate space, adding a great deal of credibility to the entire industry.   So true.  Best wishes to all involved.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy

Oy Vey: Cost of Climate Change is $60 TRILLION?

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What’s the real imperative of the migration to renewable energy and cutting back our consumption of fossil fuels via efficiency and conservation?  Might you say: Climate change?

We’ll, that certainly one good answer.  Of course, there are half a dozen others:  dealing with peak oil, health issues, ocean acidification, the loss of biodiversity, human hostility, etc.  When I’m interviewed on the subject and I encounter climate change deniers, I’m quick to change the subject.  As I often say, “If you don’t believe in climate change, that’s fine, just pick another good reason to curb our addiction to fossil fuels; most of them have nothing to do with this dreaded subject whatsoever.”

But having said all this, the build-up of greenhouse gases, which will eventually culminate in the melting of the arctic and the release of the methane beneath it, carries with it a fairly hefty price tag in terms of climate change per se, according to European researchers Gail Whiteman, from the school of management at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at the University of Cambridge, and Peter Hope, from the Judge Business School in Cambridge. In an article they published in the journal Nature, they try to piece together the cost of global climate change.  Their total: $60 trillion.

Now wait a second.  If the total world economy is estimated at $70 trillion annually, isn’t this a very large number?  Indeed it is.

Let’s look at how they got there.  Part of it is the valuation on human life that will be lost due to loss of homeland, flooding, starvation, dehydration, disease, etc.  That’s always amused me, btw, in some perverse way.  Apparently, we feel fairly comfortable ascribing  a certain dollar figure to a human life.  Maybe our willingness to equate lives and dollars is why we’re in this mess in the first place.  It seems unlikely that Jesus, or Socrates, or Confucius would do that.

Be this as it may.  Obviously, a lot of the rest of the damage is easier to quantify: the value of the real estate in low-lying areas like New York, Boston, Miami in the U.S. – and dozens of other huge cities around the world, that will cease to exist as the result of sea-level rise.  Dollar figures like farmers’ crop loss are equally easy to nail down with some level of precision.

In the U.S., we’re unique in that many of us question the validity of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).  And it’s an issue that divides almost precisely across party lines, too: only 19% of Republicans agree with the 97% of climate scientists that AGW is a valid and potent threat to humankind.

That’s interesting in and of itself, but consider this: none of this is lost on the business community.  At the very same moment that the debate leaves the cocktail parties at the country clubs and the polo fields and enters the boardroom, everything changes.  When the financial people have a voice, e.g., the insurance companies whose empires rise or fall according to the effects of climate change that are happening right this minute, e.g., extreme weather events, the unsupportable political opinions instantly disappear and science robustly takes over.

Here’s a recent New York Times article that I just found from Googling “insurance companies climate change” – one of 20.5 million such hits, called “For Insurers, No Doubts on Climate Change.”  Evidently, the insurance industry, known for centuries for its mathematical precision, see what’s happening, and is acting accordingly.  From the article:

And the industry expects the situation will get worse. “Numerous studies assume a rise in summer drought periods in North America in the future and an increasing probability of severe cyclones relatively far north along the U.S. East Coast in the long term,” said Peter Höppe, who heads Geo Risks Research at the reinsurance giant Munich Re. “The rise in sea level caused by climate change will further increase the risk of storm surge.” Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming.

“Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought,” Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, told me last week. “It is not as amenable to politicized scientific thought.”

We know that our fascination with cheap energy, stored in the Earth from the sun’s rays over the last few billion years, is killing us, but it’s our de facto energy policy nonetheless.  How to characterize the fact that we Americans are still dragging our heels and supporting our oil companies with continued subsidies and tax breaks,  while letting them essentially run our government?  In a word, it’s pathetic.

Original Article on 2GreenEnergy