DTE Energy Shuts Off Michigan Solar Rebates

dte-energy-logoMichigan residents who are customers of DTE Energy have in recent years enjoyedone of the best solar power rebate programs in the country… until now.

The Michigan utility today announced that its popular SolarCurrents rebate program has become fully subscribed.

“The SolarCurrents program demonstrated that financialincentives can spur significant growth and interest in an emergingrenewable technology,” said Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy vice president,Marketing & Renewables. “We are proud of the role this program hasplayed in helping Michigan’s solar industry transition to become aviable and growing industry within our state.”

DTE Energy customers can still install solar energy systems – andwork with the utility to connect them to their electric system. But DTEEnergy will no longer provide financial incentives that were part of the initial pilot program.

Well isn’t that convenient?

Until the program stopped accepting applications on Thursday, buyersof residential solar energy systems had been eligible to receive arebate of $2.40 per watt of installed solar photovoltaic (PV) power. Anowner of a new 7,000-watt (7-kilowatt) system, for instance, would havereceived $16,800 in incentives. While a federal tax credit worth 30percent of system costs is available to all Americans, regardless oftheir state of residence, local incentives have been needed to spurmeaningful demand for solar PV systems.

DTE Energy has a stated goal of adding about 1,200 megawatts (MW) ofrenewable energy — mostly wind — to its energy portfolio by 2015.Fifteen MWs are to come from DTE-owned solar energy systems, while fiveMWs are to come from customer-owned systems.

The closing of the SolarCurrents program will undoubtedly have achilling effect on the local solar energy market. As we’ve seen in other states in recent years, incentive programs that are poorly structuredor are limited by funding and/or time horizon can make for a painfulboom-bust cycle. They can also frustrate homeowners who learn aboutcancelled rebate programs just as they’re beginning to get interested in solar.

Bottom line: solar rebates almost always go fast. So if there’s a local rebate or other incentive available in your area, be sure to get a free solar home quote and submit your application ASAP!

DTE Energy Shuts Off Michigan Solar Rebates

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Georgia Power to Add More Solar Power

georgia-power-logoGeorgia Power isn’t exactly known for its use of renewable energy resources. In fact, given that the utility meets about 75 percent of its power supply with coal, you could plausibly argue the Southern Company subsidiary isknown for the opposite.

Nevertheless, more solar energy projects in Georgia may soon be on their way. As relayed by PV Tech, Georgia Power is looking for about one megawatt (MW) worth of solarphotovoltaic (PV) projects to be built within its service territory:

Georgia Power has issued a request for proposals (RFP)for up to 1MW of solar PV energy projects that will be used as part ofthe company’s Green Energy program. Georgia Power is looking for solarPV systems that are at least 100kW and under a contract term of 10years. The company will admit bids up to 15 cents per kWh includinginterconnection costs. Solar energy for the RFP is required on or before June 1, 2012.

The company further advised that proposed facilities should not benet metered and must be connected to either Georgia Power’s transmission or distribution grid or the integrated transmission system. Generatorsare required to sell 100% of the solar output from the project toGeorgia Power and must meet the Green-e Energy National Standard forRenewable Electricity Products benchmarks. Bids for the RFP are due byJuly 11.

Georgia Power’s shift to solar is progressing at a glacial pace. It was nearly a year ago that the utility got the green light to move forward with its green energy program. And the 1 MW target isadmittedly pretty modest. (To put this in perspective DTE Energy isaiming to install 15 MW of solar in Michigan, which has about as manyresidents as Georgia.)

Nevertheless, we’re always happy to see a utility take steps toinstall more solar energy generating capacity within its serviceterritory. Let’s hope Georgia Power gets a bit bolder in the future andadds more solar MWs to their green energy target…

Coal Heavy Georgia Power to Add More Solar Power

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Echo Solar Energy System Picked Up By Several Home Builders

echo-solar-logoThe most efficient solar photovoltaic (PV) panel on the market today iscapable of turning about 20 percent of the sun’s energy intoelectricity. This number is slowly but surely increasing, as technologycontinually improves. But in an ideal world, solar panels would convert a larger portion of the sun ray’s into useful energy.

On this topic, EchoFirst may be onto something. In addition to usingsunlight to generate electrical power, as conventional PV panels do, the company’s energy system captures the sun’s thermal energy, which maythen be used for heating water and home air conditioning.

The result, according to the company, is a system that operates at around 50 percent efficiency. Here’s more on how it works:

Basic PV panels draw energy only from a narrow spectrumof the sun’s energy to create electricity. The remaining energy, whichis mostly in the form of heat, remains unused. The simple but powerfulidea behind Echo is to capture a much wider spectrum of the sun’s energy — to utilize those same PV panels to generate both electricity and heat. Because Echo uses the same PV panel to generate bothelectrical and thermal (heat) energy, it’s more efficient.

Sounds pretty cool, huh? Cooler still is the fact that Echo’s product may be added to conventional solar PV panels (though I haven’t beenable to determine whether retrofits are feasible).

While EchoFirst is still a relatively new company, several U.S.homebuilders — Meritage Homes, Wathen Castanos Hybrid Homes and ZETA– are intrigued enough to give the systems a try. It was announced today that the solar technology will be powering several new home communities in California, Arizona and Nevada. Mike Nimon, President of WathenCastanos Hybrid Homes, had the following to say:

A net zero energy home — a home that generates as muchenergy as it uses —  has long been the dream of homeowners seekingenergy independence and financial security. Echo provides the technology to deliver — affordably and efficiently — a zero energy home at a moreattractive cost basis than the basic solar electric systems seen in themarket.

>> Related: Net-Zero Home to Feature Solar Panels, $0 Electric Bill

Formerly of SunPower Corp., EchoFirst’s CEO, Vikas Desai, offered the following sound bite:

Echo is an affordable, practical solution forhomebuilders and homeowners who want a complete solution to their energy problem. With Echo, a net zero energy home is no longer ‘the home ofthe future’ — it’s a practical available option today. Echo deliverszero energy home performance — and the beautiful roof-integratedaesthetics and curb appeal demanded by builders and homebuyers alike.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that EchoFirst recently changed itsname from PVT Solar, which presumably stood for “photovoltaic thermal”solar. I’ll be the first to say that “Echo Solar” has a much nicer ringto it…

‘Revolutionary’ New Solar Energy System Picked Up By Several Home Builders

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The Most Popular Home Solar Panels in California

Earlier in the week I took a look at which brands of solar panels have been top choices for residentialsolar energy systems in California. We found that three manufacturers —SunPower, Sharp Solar and BP Solar — have accounted for about half ofall residential solar energy systems, judging from the number of rebateapplications received under California’s main solar incentive program.

The data reviewed on Tuesday go all the way back to 2006, when thatincentive program — the California Solar Initiative — was launched. Isuggested at the end of my previous post that a peek at more recentnumbers only would reveal “a rise in the number of installations frommanufacturers like Suntech Power, Canadian Solar and Trina Solarrelative to makers like Evergreen Solar and SolarWorld.”

Well, here’s what the numbers look like since 2010:

Popular residential solar panels in California

As you can see, I was, um, partly right…

  • Suntech Power and Canadian Solar seem to have made some progress.The number of applications for systems using panels from Trina Solar,however, doesn’t seem to increased much.
  • SolarWorld appears to be holding steady, while BP Solar has fallenconsiderably from third place overall (2006 to present) to sixth (2010to present).
  • SunPower and Sharp continue to lead the pack, and, along withKyocera Solar, still accounted for nearly half (46%) of all residentialsolar rebate applications since 2010.
  • Evergreen Solar’s share of applications, meanwhile, has dwindledconsiderably. This isn’t that surprising, given the manufacturer’s continuing troubles.
  • One last solar manufacturer to note is Yingli Green Energy, whichranked ninth overall (2006 to present) but is in fifth place over the2010-to-present timeline.

Bottom line: while there are scores of solar panel makers out there, a handful of big players maintain considerable market share.

Most Popular Home Solar Panels in California: SunPower, Sharp, Kyocera, Suntech & Yingli

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Can Big Solar and Wildlife Co-Exist?

desert-tortoise-mojave-desert-solarGenerally speaking, solar energy installations come in two flavors: small- andmedium-scale systems that are installed atop roofs and in empty lots(broadly referred to a “distributed generation”); and large,utility-scale solar power plants that sit on acres and acres of land.

A common critique of distributed generation is that, thanks to trees and other obstructions, not every roof is good for solar panels; a common critique of utility solar is that the plants take up lots of land and can disrupt surrounding habitats.

Case in point vis-à-vis the latter: a new assessment released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management indicates that the Ivanpah solar project may threaten more of the local fauna(desert tortoises) than originally estimated by the project developer,BrightSource Energy.

[The] new assessment estimates that up to 162 adulttortoises in the project area will have to be captured and moved and upto 700 juvenile tortoises would be killed during construction.

On April 25, BrightSource halted work on two phases of the three-phase project after discovering more deserttortoises on the project site than previously anticipated. The crittershave been on the federal endangered species list since 1990.

All this begs the question, can big solar and wildlife co-exist? Can renewable energy project developers and conservationists get along?

Brad Powell of the Arizona Wildlife Federation thinks so, provided limitations are placed on the amount of land opened to development:

The Arizona Wildlife Federation and its members believethat the best way forward is to cluster projects in appropriately sitedzones with high solar potential and minimal wildlife conflicts. Thereare three proposed solar-energy zones in Arizona, totaling 13,735 acres, ample acreage to allow for the projected levels of development.

The federal government’s current preferred alternative, however,would open up an additional 4.4 million acres on public lands in Arizona to new development. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar needs to getpersonally involved to make sure this development is done in a way thatprotects the sporting traditions that are so important to our heritage.

Powell is referring to a federal proposal to the expand developmentof solar energy projects in six western states. A project of theDepartment of Energy, Department of the Interior and the Bureau of LandManagement, the plan is open to public comment until Monday, May 2. Seethe Solar Energy Development Programmatic website for more info.

Related reading:

Image credit: Tigerhawkvok

Can Big Solar and Wildlife Co-Exist? Maybe, Says Arizona Conservation Group

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The Top 3 Solar Panel Makers

This morning, I got to tinkering around with some numbers from California Solar Statistics, a program of the state’s Energy Commission and Public Utilities Commission. What did I find?

Well, beyond a wealth of details on system size, average installedcost and California solar incentives, I verified that most solar homeenergy systems in the state use name-brand panels from large, wellestablished manufacturers.

Here’s a breakdown of all California residential photovoltaic (PV) systems, by solar panel manufacturer:

3 Bigger Hitters in CA: SunPower, BP Solar & Sharp
I wasn’t that shocked to see California-based SunPower at the top of the list. But I was somewhat surprised to discover that the top threemanufacturers — SunPower, Sharp and BP Solar — account for nearly halfof all residential solar installations. The top ten manufacturers (interms of total number of residential systems), meanwhile, account foraround 80 percent of installations to date.

A few notes:

First, the data presented here go back to 2006, when the California Solar Initiative first came into effect. My guess is that a look at data only from thepast year or so would reveal a rise in the number of installations frommanufacturers like Suntech Power, Canadian Solar and Trina Solarrelative to makers like Evergreen Solar and SolarWorld. (More on this in a later post.) Bottom line: I’d argue that the above chart tells usmore about where we’ve been than where we’re headed.

Second, the stats here are for the totalnumber of solar PV home systems installed statewide — not totalgenerating capacity. That is, we’re talking about the number ofindividual California homeowners who looked at a particular solar quoteand said, yes, I’d like to buy X system with solar panels from Ymanufacturer. It’s entirely plausible that a manufacturer that ranksrelatively low in total number of residential systems actually sellsmore panels than what meets the eye. Especially when non-residentialsolar PV systems are considered…

Finally, it’s worth noting that I’veexcluded commercial systems from this brief analysis. Fans of FirstSolar, a maker of solar thin-film panels, are sure to know that thatcompany’s relative rank is much higher when commercial systems are taken into account.

UPDATE: Here are the numbers themselves…

CA residential solar systems by manufacturer

Top 3 Solar Panel Makers = Half Of California Residential Solar Energy Systems

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Why Solar-Powered Homes Are Worth More

If you’ve spent even the smallest amount of time reading about solarpower, chances are you know that solar panels are good for theenvironment and can substantially reduce your monthly electricity bills. Solar offers other benefits, however.

One that’s being discussed a lot lately is that solar homes tend to sell at a premium relative to non-solar homes. Why?

Andy Black, founder of OnGrid and an industry expert on solar economics, explains
by discussing an example where a homeowner installs a solar energy system that saves $1,000 a year on utility bills:

The rational is that if the $1,000 is not spent onelectricity, it is available to be spent on a larger mortgage payment at no net change in the cost of living. The amount of mortgage that can be supported by $1,000 depends on mortgage rates and the tax rate of theborrower.

Black goes on to discuss in detail mortgage- and tax-related impacts (see the full paper, “Financial Payback on Residential California Solar Electric Systems“). He also discusses a commonly cited rule of thumb that a solar photovoltaic (PV) system increases home value by $20,000 for every $1,000 reduction in annual operating costs.

The main takeaway here, however, is that, all else equal, the cost of ownership for a solar home is lower than for a conventional one. Thatextra cash freed up by the solar panels may be applied to either alarger mortgage, as Black suggests, which supports both the desirability and resale value of the home itself.

To be sure, most of Black’s financial analysis focuses on thecountry’s largest solar power market, California. As such, not all hiscase studies will apply in every market across the U.S. Nevertheless, as more homeowners begin to appreciate the value of consistently lowelectric bills, we expect solar-powered homes to continue to sell at apremium relative to non-solar ones.

Why Solar-Powered Homes Are Worth More

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NYC to Get New Green Loan Program

PlaNYC_Logo.inddDespite perceptions to the contrary, New York City is by some measures the most environmentally friendly city in America:

“Eighty-two per cent of Manhattan residents travel to work by publictransit, by bicycle, or on foot. That’s ten times the rate for Americans in general, and eight times the rate for residents of Los AngelesCounty. New York City is more populous than all but eleven states; if it were granted statehood, it would rank fifty-first in per-capita energyuse.”

Admittedly, these green credentials are more a byproduct of thecity’s high population density than of some concerted, citywideenvironmental plan. Nevertheless, even in the second category New Yorkis making efforts.

On Earth Day in 2007, for example, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched PlaNYC, a multi-year plan that (among other things) calls for a 30-percentreduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. Sincethen, the initiative has comprised activities as diverse as plantingtrees and creating the first city-wide greenhouse gas emissionsinventory.

To bring fresh life to the plan, Mayor Bloomberg today announced 132 new initiatives. Yup, you read that right — 132. Among the ones mentioned by name in the press release are:

  • A plan to improve the city’s air quality by reducing the amount ofheavy heating oil that’s burned. A modest 10 percent reduction inairborne particulate matter, the mayor suggests, could prevent more than 300 premature deaths, 200 hospital admissions, and 600 emergencydepartment visits.
  • Something that’s being billed as the Change By Us Social Media Tool, which according to the mayor will enable “New Yorkers connect to theCity agencies and non-profits that can help them green theirneighborhoods.”

Hm. I’m not quite sure where they’re going with that second idea. But phasing out dirty fuel to reduce premature deaths and hospitaladmissions sounds like a solid idea.

So does installing solar panels on area landfills, which is also among the mayor’s new ideas:

New York City will create solar power plants atop cappedlandfills capable of generating power to supply 50,000 homes as part of a renewed effort to reduce climate-changing carbon gas emissions. … [Theplan] would reduce the city’s reliance on emergency generators that burn petroleum-based fuel on hot summer days when electricity demand peaks,said Jason Post, a spokesman for the mayor.

As an aside, building solar power plants atop landfills or blightedindustrial areas offers policymakers the opportunity to make productiveuse of otherwise marginal, unproductive land land. What’s more, theseso-called brownfields are often in close proximity to transmissionlines, which helps reduce project development costs. We’ve followed the topic over the past several years.

Another of Bloomberg’s new initiatives envisions establishing a fund to provide loans to New York residents who make energy-saving improvements to their property:

Daniel Bragdon, the mayor’s sustainability director, said the Bloomberg administration will create the New York City EnergyEfficiency Corp., which will use $37 million in federal funding to makeloans to property owners interested in energy-efficiency upgrades totheir buildings.

These energy improvements, officials said, will pay for themselvesover time and help the city reach its goal of a “30% reduction in 2005carbon emissions.”

Whether any of these initiatives will help Mayor Bloomberg’s flagging popularity ratings is anyone’s guess. But on the day before Earth Day,you can’t fault him for not trying.

Related reading: PlaNYC 2010 Progress Report (PDF)

NYC to Get New Green Loan Program, Solar Panels On Landfills

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‘Net-Zero’ Home to Feature Solar Panels

meritage-homes-examplePre-fab homes and tract housing aren’t typically associated with green living.

As more buyers become attuned to energy costs, however, homebuildersappear more willing to market homes that consume less power, water andother resources.

On Earth Day Friday, for example, Meritage Homes plans to make its“net-zero” home available to buyers in select markets in Arizona,California, Colorado, Nevada and central Texas.

Already, Meritage has unveiled an Arizona housing development where the homes require 80 percent less power than the nationalaverage. Net-zero homes, by contrast, generate as much electricity asthey consume.

Each home will feature a small solar energy system consisting of nine solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. For a $10,000 upgrade, buyers can add24 additional panels for a system that could cut electric bills to zero.

The wattage of the panels Meritage plans to use is not known. But I’d guess the standard solar home energy system will be around 1.9kilowatts (kW) DC, while the primo upgrade system will be around 6.8 kWDC. It’s also not clear whether all the homes will be truly net zero —or whether the homes will simply consume far less energy than typicalbuildings.

Wendy Kock of USA Today relays a few comments from Bruce Ploeser, who, along with his family of six, will soon moveinto Meritage’s first net-zero house in the Verrado community inBuckeye, Arizona.

“It’s beautiful,” says Ploeser of the five-bedroom,3,400-square-foot, $326,000 home. He likes watching its meter, whichoften shows that the 25 photovoltaic panels are sending a surplus ofenergy back to the grid. “I’m just amazed,” he says, “that it’s running backward.”

Meritage is of course not the only U.S. homebuilder looking to expand its offering of energy-efficient and solar-powered homes. KB Home andSunPower have teamed up to bring solar homes to southern California. Pulte Homes has solar-powered homes on offer in parts of Arizona. And Dow Chemical continues to make progress on its net-zero home in Michigan.

Photo courtesy of Meritage Homes.

‘Net-Zero’ Home to Feature Solar Panels, $0 Electric Bills

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IKEA Loves Solar

ikea-logoThis is by no means the first time we’ve seen IKEA install solar panels at one of its stores (just see here, here, here, here and here).

But the furniture retailer’s latest project is somewhat noteworthy:at 290 kilowatts (kW) in size, it’s the third largest solar energysystem of its kind in Burbank, California. (Costco and Warner Bros.studios are number one and number two.)

IKEA’s newest system comprises 1,260 solar panels and, according to store spokesperson Mary Ann Barroso, is expected to generate around421,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in its first year — roughlyequivalent to the annual electricity needs of 37 homes.

Like most solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays, the Burbank system willgenerate most of its power during the hours of 9 am and 3 pm, whendemand for electricity is typically highest.

“The power is being produced at a time when the demand is highest,”said Jeanette Meyer of Burbank Water and Power, the area utility.

Somewhat ironically, last month IKEA released its annual sustainability report, which found that the company’s emissions of greenhouse gases increased in 2010 despite the push to on-site renewable energy:

C02 emissions increased by 30 percent between 2009 and2010, from 26.4 to 34.3 kg per cubic meter of products sold – thelargest annual increase in three years. The major reason, Ikea said, was that the share of its buildings’ energy coming from renewable sourcesdecreased during the year.

“When our supply agreements for grid electricity from renewablesources expired in major markets – Germany and France – they were notreplaced, as Ikea has decided not to pay premium prices for ‘green’ grid electricity,” the report said. “This is one of the reasons why Ikeainvests in alternative solutions, such as solar panel systems and windturbines.”

Once up and running, solar PV panels are a clean, emissions-free source of electricity.

In addition to the Burbank, California solar panel system — thecompany’s fourth in the U.S. — IKEA has plans to add solar installations at 40 buildings by the end of 2011. All told, the company is aiming tohave solar panels at around 150 stores and distributions centers acrossthe U.S., Canada, the U.K., Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium,Italy and France.

 

Emerging Trend? IKEA Loves Solar Power, Especially in California

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Arizona Utility Installs Solar Panels On Group Homes

srp-group-home-solar-arizonaAs one of Arizona’s main electricity utilities, Salt River Project (SRP)has done its part to promote the use of solar power — mainly byproviding solar rebate to customers who install solar panels on theirhome or business.

(For more info on SRP’s solar incentive programs, see here and here.)

As it turns out, this isn’t the only way the utility is increasingthe number of residential solar energy systems within its serviceterritory.

SRP has installed solar panels atop 30 group homes in the East Valley area of greater Phoenix, at sites in Mesa, Tempe, Queen Creek andAhwatukee. Each system is 5-kilowatts in size (about average forresidential solar) and is expected to save $700 a year on annualelectricity costs.

As the Phoenix Business Journal relays,

[h]alf of the money comes through the American Recoveryand Reinvestment Act with the other half matched by SRP. The utilityreceived a grant from the Income Qualified Residential Solar ElectricProgram of the Energy Office of the Arizona Commerce Authority, whichcoordinated the stimulus money.


“We are proud to be a part of a program that assists nonprofits inlowering their overhead costs while offsetting their electricity usagewith clean energy from the sun,” said SRP Manager of SustainableInitiatives and Technologies Lori Singleton.

Photo courtesy of Salt River Project.

Arizona Utility Installs Solar Panels On Group Homes, Will Save $700 a Year at Each

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DWP Suspends Los Angeles Solar Rebate

ladwp-logoLast fall Los Angeles’ main utility, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP), was weighing a 30-percent cut to its solar rebate. Now, due to “record demand” for the rebates, DWP last Friday suspended the application process for at least 90 days.

The numbers tell all: some 2,000 rebate applications remainunprocessed, representing more than $110 million in demand for a roundof rebate funds that’s capped at $30 million for 2011. It seems peoplein L.A. really love solar power and how much money solar panels canshave off monthly electric bills. This is good news.

The bad news is that no one knows how things will pan out. According to DWP’s website,

the demand for rebates has far exceeded our currentbudget for the program, restricting our ability to pay out rebates in atimely manner as well as contributing to safety problems. This recorddemand requires LADWP to review and revise the program to better serveits program participants. LADWP has stopped accepting new reservationrequests for at least 90 days, effective at 11:59 p.m. Friday, April 8,2011, while we revise the program to better serve participants andreflect current solar PV market conditions.

Under the California Solar Initiative, homeowners and businessesacross the state are eligible to receive incentives to help offset thecost of installing solar panels. DWP, a public utility, for some timeoffered a rebate that was higher than the state average. A more generous rebate was necessary, some folks argued, due to the lower electricity rates in DWP service territory.

Details aside, the bottom line is that LADWP customers interested ininstalling a solar home energy system will have to wait and see howthings shake out. In recent years, we’ve seen similar scenarios — wheredemand for solar incentives outstrips supply — play out across thecountry in places like California, Arizona, New Jersey, Florida andMassachusetts.

When it comes to securing rebates for your solar power project, theearly bird gets the worm. As of earlier this year, for example, someArizona solar rebates for 2011 were already nearly half gone. So if you’re thinking about installing solar, you’d be wise to get a solar home quote sooner rather than later.

DWP Suspends Los Angeles Solar Rebate Due to ‘Record Demand’

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Uber Cool: Ralph Lauren Solar-Powered Backpack $RL

ralph-lauren-solar-power-backpackIn our four years as a blog, we’ve seen just about every solar-powered gadget out there, including solar surfboards, solar suitcases and a solarhelmet. So, when Ralph Lauren recently announced the release of a solar-powered backpack, we weren’t exactly surprised.

The bag is part of the designer’s RLX line, which offers buyers“exceptionally luxe lifestyle apparel and innovative athletic gear.” Itis perfect for me, in other words. Next time I’m exploring the Amazon, I can both (a) look great and, thanks to the backpack, (b) get enoughjuice from its 2.45-watt solar panel to charge my GPS device and iPod.

While Wired’s Charlie Sorrel no doubt thinks solar photovoltaic (PV) power is both interesting and important, he can’t resist questioning the wisdom of Ralph Lauren’s decision to price the bag at a whopping $795:

It seems competent, as theses things go, but let me tellyou about the price. You can probably guess that this wouldn’t be cheap, but at $800 only the most well-heeled geek will even consider buyingone. And anyhow, I think a much better use of Ralphie’s time would becoming up with a lame, middle-class baseball cap with a solar panel onthe peak. I’d totally wear one of those to my next WASP cookout.

About a year ago Samsonite, the luggage maker, released a line ofluggage powered by thin-film solar panels from Colorado-based AboundSolar. Its backpack currently goes for $135 on Amazon. And even beforethat, companies like Reware were making functional, solar-powered bags that sell in the $250 to $300 range.

So, even though Ralph Lauren isn’t first the to solar-powered fashion party, at least the designer can rest easy knowing his bag is the mostexclusive.

Ralph Lauren Solar-Powered Backpack Carries, Charges Your Stuff

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Google Announces $5M Germany Solar Project $GOOG

Google is up to it again. The search giant recently announced plans to invest five million big ones in a solar energy park in Germany.

The recently completed facility is located on 47 hectares (116 acres) in Brandenburg an der Havel, near Berlin. The power planthas a peak capacity of 18.65MWp, which puts it among the largest inGermany.

Google is always looking for new ways to encourage development anddeployment of renewable energy across the world. This facility willprovide clean energy to more than 5,000 households in the areasurrounding Brandenburg. Until the early 90’s, the site was used as atraining ground by the Russian military. We’re glad it has found a newuse!

We agreed to jointly invest in this project with the German privateequity company Capital Stage, which brings strong experience in theGerman photovoltaic and renewable energy market. Germany has a strongframework for renewable energy and is home to many leading-edgetechnology companies in the sector. More than 70% of the solar modulesinstalled in Brandenburg are provided by German manufacturers.

Google has been making headlines for its clean energy-relatedactivities in the U.S., as well. The company is backing a plan to buildan undersea transmission line that, if completed, would facilitate thetransfer of offshore wind power to densely populated Atlantic seaboardmarkets.

Google Announces $5 Million Germany Solar Project

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