Solar Won’t Destroy Utilities

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Last week (June 3) Business Insider published an article by Rob Wile titled “How Solar Will Destroy The Power Companies, In 5 Easy Steps.” Yesterday American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Executive Director Steven Nadel came out with a sort of response in a blog “Utilities are frightened of a ‘death spiral.’ They shouldn’t be.”

The first article observes that Barclays recently the entire U.S. electric utilities sector because of solar power. It looks at five steps that could impact utilities causing them to essentially fold. Those start with the drop in costs of solar and the anticipated drop in costs for energy storage, then move to utilities seeking relief from the states, while having to upgrade generating facilities to peaked plants rather than base generating power plants, which could lead to massive stock losses for the utilities. So, basically the utilities, for not being prepared for solar and renewable energy to compete with their traditional business model, are starting to realize they could face a real threat.

Nadel referee to ACEEE’s recent report “The Utility of the Future and the Role of Energy Efficiency, which looked at how utilities can work with the changing times to remain effective. He responded: “For decades, rising sales have contributed to increasing revenues and profits, but the combination of improved energy efficiency with the growing use of solar electric systems and other forms of ‘distributed energy’ has reduced growth rates, which could lead to small declines in future sales. But these potential small declines will not lead to the kind of ‘death spirals’ claimed by some industry alarmists.”

“The most extreme scenario includes levels of energy efficiency now being achieved in only a few states plus the use of solar electric power that eventually uses nearly all available roof space,” Nadel wrote. “Under this extreme scenario, national electricity sales decline about 10 percent by 2040, an average reduction of 0.39 percent per year. Under a more likely mid-range case, sales grow 0.04 percent per year, while under the reference scenario, developed by the Energy Information Administration, sales grow 0.7 percent per year.”

As such, Nadel and ACEEE contended that utilities will not see the death spiral portended in Wile’s article. “Still, the industry and their regulators will need to make substantial changes in the next few years in order to continue providing quality service at a reasonable price, while providing utilities reasonable returns on their investments.”

Nadel suggested utilities consider new business models to boost their profits. Such models could include offering: “optional energy-related services to their customers, including energy efficiency and technical help and financing for larger customers installing and operating high-efficiency combined heat and power systems. Such efforts can contribute to utility profits, reduce customer bills (since consumption is lower) and also provide services that customers value, positioning the utilities to offer additional services.”

That could also require regulators to change the way they do things, according to Nadel. Those changes include adjusting rates for fixed costs, providing financial incentives to utilities, change ratemaking to fairly allot costs and allow utilities to offer optional services.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Carolinas: New US Solar Hotspot

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Two things happened this week showing that California and the U.S. Southwest are no longer the only bastions for solar power and they were in the sister states of the Carolinas, both states dominated by conservative politicians. North Carolina is already among the U.S. leaders in terms of solar but yesterday (May 21) South Carolina’s House passed solar legislation—unanimously! Meanwhile this morning a new poll by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) confirms that the overwhelming majority, 90 percent, of North Carolinians support solar energy, with high numbers supporting more solar and clean energy programs in the state.

Now South Carolina becomes the meat between a sandwich of two southeast solar powerhouses, Georgia and North Carolina—at least if the Senate approves the House version and the Governor signs the legislation into law, which with such unanimous support 150-0 in the House appears likely. “The compromise bill has support from South Carolina’s influential utilities and conservation groups, and a similar version of the measure has passed the Senate,” observes The State’s Sammy Fretwell.

One of the key factors in the bill is that it would allow third-party ownership of solar arrays for homeowners. It would also allow commercial-scale installations of up to 1 megawatt as opposed to 100 kilowatts which is the current limitation.

Still, the passed bill has limitations, according to Fretwell. He says challenges remain and that the bill doesn’t resolve how solar could affect ratepayers’ electricity rates. It also requires the state’s Public Service Commission to rule on third-party ownership rates for utilities in the state. But on the other hand the legislation was approved after two years of wangling and it has the support of the state’s utilities as well as conservation groups including the Southern Environmental Law Center and the S.C. Coastal Conservation League.

Meanwhile North Carolina has the second largest amount of solar power under advancedstages of development, according to new data from SNL Financial. The company says North Carolina has 1.3 gigawatts of solar power in advanced development stages, putting it behind only California. And according to the NCSEA poll it’s likely the state will continue to lead in solar power—at least if its residents have anything to say about it.

Fallon Research conducted the poll of 803 voters in North Carolina and found that fully 83 percent of respondents think state leaders and elected officials should seek more renewable energy with solar receiving the strongest support at 90 percent.

“These results are consistently telling us that energy policy is important to North Carolinians. What’s more, constituents are making note of their rising electricity bills and are looking to our leaders in the state legislature to adopt commonsense changes,” said NCSEA Executive Director Ivan Urlaub. “One way we can ease the burden of rising utility bills for North Carolina families and businesses is to build upon a framework that supports a competitive energy market that drives innovation, expands business opportunities and improves local economies.”

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Perovskite Solar Cells: Getting the Lead Out

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When people talk about solar photovoltaics, they’re usually talking about silicon PV, which has dominated the solar industry for decades, but there are a number of competing technologies out there that are trying to give traditional crystalline silicon-based PV a run for its money and one of the most promising is perovskite crystal technologies. Such technologies are becoming more competitive with silicon PV in terms of efficiency and manufacturing costs.

Perovskite crystals are materials that have the same structure as calcium titanate and can absorb sunlight in PV cells. However they’re much cheaper to produce than crystalline silicon PV. In fact, perovskite-based solar cells could be used with silicon solar cells to create a PV cell that could theoretically reach 32 percent efficiency. Even without silicon, they could produce PV cells and modules that are much less expensive than silicon PV.

Until now though most perovskite PV cells have used lead, which has numerous drawbacks, like being horrible for the environment and causing brain defects in children, etc. Yesterday and last week two universities, Northwest University in Chicago and Oxford University in Great Britain, respectively, both said they had developed perovskite PV cells with inexpensive and environmentally friendly tin instead of lead.

Both Northwestern and Oxford claim to have created the first Perovskite crystal solar cells without lead and both are publishing papers on it in different journals. Northwestern published in Nature Photonics and Oxford is publishing in Energy & Environmental Science. Both universities produced cells with efficiency levels near 6 percent and both theorized that they could reach much higher efficiencies.

“This is a breakthrough in taking the lead out of a very promising type of solar cell, called a perovskite,” said Mercouri Kanatzidis, Northwestern’s Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry. “Tin is a very viable material, and we have shown the material does work as an efficient solar cell.”

Kanatzidis developed, synthesized and analyzed the material. He patterned with Professor Robert Chang, a materials science and engineering and nanoscientist, to engineer the solar cell. “Our tin-based perovskite layer acts as an efficient sunlight absorber that is sandwiched between two electric charge transport layers for conducting electricity to the outside world,” Chang said.

“Two things make the material special: it can absorb most of the visible light spectrum, and the perovskite salt can be dissolved, and it will reform upon solvent removal without heating,” the university said.

“Other scientists will see what we have done and improve on our methods,” Kanatzidis said. “There is no reason this new material can’t reach an efficiency better than 15 percent, which is what the lead perovskite solar cell offers. Tin and lead are in the same group in the periodic table, so we expect similar results.”

Across the pond, Oxford seems to have taken a similar approach. “We wanted to try and replace the lead with something similar but non-toxic. Tin has been reported in perovskites before, but not in a solar cell, so we decided to see if it would work,” said Nakita Noel of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, first author of the paper. “We found that by using tin we managed to keep everything that is good about lead in a solar cell but use a metal that is safe, cheap, and abundant.” Oxford’s researchers anticipated creating a perovskite cell that could be more than 20 percent efficient if the material can be made more stable.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Utilities Push Home Solar Taxes

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Utilities are pushing for taxes and fees on residential solar, according to utility trade-group Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI’s) attorney. Solar advocacy group The Alliance For Solar Choice (TASC) observed EEI Attorney Edward Comer’s comments at a solar workshop with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) last week. It shouldn’t be a surprise since utilities are in the practice of billing customers, not crediting or paying them for energy but this a is a public admission of the practice and how they justify it.

TASC reported that Comer said: “If [the utility is] required to purchase the power, I think legally there’s a sale.” As such the utilities are lobbying for value of solar tariffs (VOSTs) on solar-powered homeowners at least in Arizona, because the homeowners would have to pay additional taxes on the solar arrays. VOSTs, according to TASC, require solar homeowners to sell the solar power they generate to the utility. The tariff in turn creates a ‘tax’ that the homeowners must pay for having the system and generating the power.

The EEI lawyer also said under VOSTs or feed-in tariffs (VOST) the homeowners would have to pay the tax if the utility had to pay for the electricity under a FiT or VOST either as a credit or a an actual payment. Under current net-metering laws in Arizona and elsewhere the homeowners are not subject to such taxation.

“Utilities from Arizona, to California, to New York who are lobbying for VOSTs, have some serious explaining to do now that EEI’s own general counsel agrees with TASC about the severe tax consequences of these policies” said TASC President Bryan Miller.  “Regulators can now see VOSTs for what they are—hidden taxes that hurt unsuspecting homeowners.”

In addition, under FiTs and VOST agreements homeowners with solar sell all the power they produce to the utility at the rates set by the utility under long-term power-purchase agreements. So they would be taxed for all the power their system produces. Under net-metering arrangements the homeowners only sell the power that they don’t use back to the utility, which again helps the homeowner keep electric costs down.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Solar Installations up Nearly 420% in US Over Past 4 Years

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That’s according to information released by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) yesterday (April 22). The EIA reported that since 2010 the number of solar installations has grown 418 percent to 12,057 megawatts (1.3 percent of the nation’s energy capacity) by February 2014 from 2,326 megawatts in 2010, a nearly 10,000 megawatt gain.

“The U.S. solar capacity has moved quickly from a relatively small contributor to the nation’s total electric capacity into a one of comparative significance,” said EIA’s Glenn McGrath. “Much like the wind sector growth, which grew tremendously from 6,456 megawatts in January 2005 to 60,661 megawatts to January 2014, solar capacity is quite clearly up and coming.”

The results show that solar installers are busy across all sectors of the solar industry. For the majority of the time the net-metered market, which largely includes the residential solar market and commercial market, led all aspects of the solar industry. But that changed in 2013 when utility-scale solar exceeded the capacity of net metered solar reaching 5,564 megawatts.

The EIA reported that net-metered solar arrays increased at an annual rate of about 1,100 megawatts and now total 5,251 megawatts. “Although sunny California has the largest net metered solar capacity (38% of the total), abundant sunshine is not the only growth factor for this sector. Net metered applications are typically incentivized through various state level programs. New Jersey and Massachusetts together represent an additional 21% of the total net metered solar capacity,” McGrath found. He added that net-metered PV systems are evenly split between residential and commercial applications.

While PV in the utility and rooftop sects led the way. Solar thermal or concentrated solar power (CSP) started rising as two large projects came online. “The thermal solar sector expanded significantly in 2013 when three large plants, Solano, Genesis and Ivanpah, went on line adding a total of 650 MW of capacity,” McGarth said. “Solano is a particularly distinctive application in this sector due to its storage capability that extends the daily operating period and cushions sudden drops in output due to interruptions from passing clouds.”

In terms of utility-scale solar power California led the way with nearly half (49 percent) of utility solar or 2,702 megawatts. Arizona was second highest with 17 percent (960 megawatts).

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Google + SunEdison = Residential Solar Installations

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This morning (April 23) SunPower and Google announced that they partnered on a new, $250 million fund to finance rooftop solar arrays on homes across the U.S. While the tech giant has created funds to support home solar installations in the past, the fund with SunPower is primarily funded by the solar company and not the search engine.

The news comes after Earth Day as Google notes in an official blog post today. “Just because Earth Day is over doesn’t mean we’re done doing good things for the planet,” writes Google’s Rob Parker, from its renewable energy team. Today, we’re taking another step towards a clean energy future with a major new investment. Together with SunPower Corporation we’re creating a new $250 million fund to help finance the purchase of residential rooftop solar systems—making it easier for thousands of households across the U.S. to go solar.”

Under the new fund SunPower is providing $150 million and Google is committing up to $100 million to support third-party ownership leases for rooftop solar arrays. The deal will help thousands of homeowners go solar.

SunPower, one of the most diversified solar companies, installing some of the world’s largest PV arrays as well as rooftop arrays, is increasing its residential pipeline in the U.S. It now has solar leases on about 20,000 U.S. homes. It’s also working with solar contractors in an increasing number of states and offering third-party ownership options to homeowners.

“We’re pleased to partner with Google to help make solar accessible to more families and allow those families to take control of their energy costs,” said SunPower CFO Chuck Boynton.  “With the increased and growing interest in reliable, cost-effective solar from businesses and homeowners alike, Google’s leadership is helping take solar mainstream.”

“We’re pleased to team with SunPower to make solar power accessible to more homeowners, and offer families a more effective way to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Kojo Ako-Asare, head of corporate finance at Google. “Our partnership with SunPower makes good business sense and supports our goals for a clean energy future.”

Google said it has now made 16 investments in renewable energy, totaling more than $1 billion in projects including two other rooftop solar investments. It previously partnered with SolarCity and Clean Power Finance. In all, the company has now invested in 2 gigawatts of renewable energy, including PV, concentrating solar power (CSP), wind and more.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Unveiled: Solar Impulse 2

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The first manned solar-powered plane designed to navigate the globe solely on the power of the sun, Solar Impulse 2, is complete! The new plane was unveiled today (April 9). This is the second version of the ultralight plane that Bertrand Piccard, André Borschberg and their team have completed in their quest to fly around the globe in a solar-powered plane, including overnight without needing to touch down.

In the first Solar Impulse plane Piccard and Borschbergtraversed much of Europecrossed the U.S. and flew overnight using just the solar cells on the plane’s giant wings and the batteries powered by the solar cells. However, the new version of the plane is designed for the longer rigors of a solo, multi-day flight, which could include up to five consecutive days and nights between continents without landing.

The first plane already set records and drew crowds wherever it lumbered through the air like a giant balsa airplane. While there are solar-powered airfoils anddrones that have stayed aloft for longer durations and plans for even longer-flying drones, this will be a first for a manned airplane.

“A vision counts for nothing unless it is backed up by action. With 8 world records for Solar Impulse 1, the first solar aircraft capable of flying during the night, crossing two continents and flying over the United States, we have shown that clean technologies and renewable energies can accomplish the impossible,” said a delighted Bertrand Piccard, founder and chairman of Solar Impulse.

“Now we need to go even further,” added André Borschberg, co-founder and CEO. “Solar Impulse 2 will have virtually unlimited autonomy, and now we need to make sure the pilot is as sustainable as his aircraft. This is why the round-the-world flight will be as much a human as a technological feat.”

The new plane has a wingspan of 236 feet—close to the length of a football field—but weighs about 5,000 pounds—about the weight of a truck. For all that size, however, the pilot cabin is only nearly 4 cubic meters.

The two will attempt the circumnavigation in March 2015. That will allow them time to test all components of the new plane. They plan to start training and testing the new plane in May.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

White House Holds Solar Summit

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Yesterday the White House held a solar summit where it called on businesses and non-profits to support more solar power throughout the U.S. At the summit the President awarded members of the solar community while pushing for more solar deployment and jobs.

“Since President Obama took office, we have made significant advances in clean energy,” wrote Dan Utech, special assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change. “And for good reason. Solar is a smart investment.  The average cost of solar panels has dropped by more than 60percent, and the cost for a solar photovoltaic electric system has declined by about 50 percent. The numbers tell an important story: There has never been a time when solar is more affordable and more available to so many Americans.  Solar is not just a prospect; it’s a reality,” he added.

At the summit the Utech and the President recognized 10 solar “Champions of Change” from across the U.S. Among them he recognized the efforts of Jessica Bailey, director of Commercial and Industrial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) with the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority; Donnel Baird, founder of BlocPower; Kate Bowman, solar project coordinator with Utah Clean Energy; Elyse Cherry, CEO of Boston Community Capital; Ismael Guerrero, executive director of the Denver Housing Authority, Peter Marte, CEO of Hannah Solar LLC; Henry Red Cloud, founder of Lakota Solar Enterprises; Anya Schoolman, executive director of Community Power Network; Tim Sears, co-founder of GRID Alternatives and Rajendra Singh, D. Houser Banks professor at Clemson University.

During the summit the administration launched new efforts to expand solar and redoubled some other White House efforts. Among them it announced the $15 million Solar Market Pathways funding opportunity for community solar-type projects. It also said it is targeting installing 100 megawatts of renewable energy at federally subsidized housing by 2020.

The White House also announced it was launching an “On-Site Renewables Challenge” through the EPA’s Green Power Partnership. Under that effort, EPA’s Green Power Partners are challenged to double their use of on-site renewable energy, including solar energy. EPA will also track and update their progress on a quarterly basis.

To help reinvigorate the solar commercial sector, the Energy Department plans to introduce a Commercial Solar Deployment Playbook. “The playbook will help businesses to identify low-cost financing for solar energy, provide model contracts, and offer case studies of businesses improving their bottom line by deploying solar,” the White House said. It’s also updating its Guide to Federal Financing for Clean EnergySimilarly rural America is slower to adopt solar than areas closer to urban populations. The Agriculture Department’s recently launched Rural Utility Service (RUS) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program will work with the Energy Department and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), to make it easier to deploy solar in rural areas.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Con Edison Goes Solar at NYC HQ

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Atop a skyscraper in New York City utility Con Edison is using solar to power its headquarters. The company said today (April 21) that it installed a 40 kilowatt solar array using more than 200 Suniva PV modules on the 19th story of its building in Manhattan, which can power two of the building’s floors.

“Our customers are discovering that they can use the power of the sun to cut their electric bills and help ensure a safe, sustainable future for New Yorkers,” said John McAvoy, Con Edison’s president and CEO. “We wanted to share our customers’ experience by installing solar panels on our building. We’re reducing our own electric bills, and helping the environment too.”

The project was installed Gehrlicher Solar America, which handled the engineering and project management and Progressive Solutions, which advised on design and installation. The installation was completed in only five weeks, Con Edison said.

The Con Edison project was supported by a Department of Energy Smart Grid Stimulus grant. According to the company the project will save its ratepayers in New York City and Westchester County about $7,000 a year in electricity costs.

Con Edison’s ratepayers have already installed almost 40 megawatts of solar power through a total of roughly 2,000solar energy projects. “That’s more than enough to power these famed New York buildings: The World Trade Center site (14 MW), the Empire State Building (9.5 MW), 30 Rockefeller Plaza, known as 30 Rock (4MW), Madison Square Garden (3 MW) and Yankee Stadium (2 MW),” Con Edison explained. Overall the amount of solar production in the Con Edison’s coverage region has quadrupled over the past three years.

The news comes as New York and the big apple increase their efforts to add in more solar power. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has been quite vocal in his support for solar power throughout the large state and it looks like it is starting to pay off. In fact, NYC neighbor, Long Island has been helping the state lead the charge through the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), which has adopted a strong incentive program for residential and commercial installations.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Sungevity Gets $70 Million

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Last week, Sungevity announced a $70 million round of new equity financing. While bigger pots of money to support companies’ expansion in the retail solar market, the new pot of cash for the company comes shortly after it partnered with Sunrun to expand services. And this round of financing is also notable because of Sungevity’s ability to attract funding funding from E.ON an investor-owned utility with a global impact and GE Ventures.

“E.ON is in the business of servicing energy customers across several countries, and as new, more customer-centric solutions around residential solar arise, we want to provide our customers with the best solutions available,” said Susana Quintana-Plaza, vice president of Technology & Innovation/Strategic Co-Investment at E.ON.

“With E.ON and GE Ventures as equity investors, the Sungevity coalition now includes the world’s largest investor-owned utility company, the company that built much of the planet’s power infrastructure and one of the world’s largest retailers,” said Sungevity CEO Andrew Birch. “That lineup combined with our customer-centric technology platform and the capitalization from this investment round, positions Sungevity to be the leading global solar brand.”

The funding will be used to help Sungevity extend its technology platform, which includes its iQuote service, further beyond the U.S.’s borders, the company said. The company already started offering services internationally. In 2011 it launched services in the Netherlands and in 2012 it launched services in Australia.

Meanwhile the company has been expanding domestically. It said its U.S. sales doubled in 2013 because of its offerings and partnerships. Most recently those partnerships included a strategic partnership with Sunrun. Apparently in March the two companies partnered in a non-binding agreement to install solar on at least 10,000 homes. That partnership will allow the companies to specialize on what each does best in the residential solar space and allow them to mount more of a challenge to SolarCity, the nation’s largest residential solar installer.

In addition to attracting E.ON, this round of financing included existing investors. It was led by Nashville-based Jetstream Ventures. “Sungevity’s founding mission-based values combined with their technology-focused, capital-light business model, make them an exceptional choice for our first private market investment in downstream solar,” said Joel Dobberpuhl, Chief Executive Officer of Jetstream Capital, the parent company of Jetstream Ventures.

Original Article on SolarReviews

Solar on Every U.S School!

solar-school-longThis morning the National Solar Schools Consortium launched at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference in Boston. The goal of the newly formed organization is to put solar on roof of every school from kindergarten to high school. That would be almost 140,000 schools if you look at how many schools the National Center for Education Statistics states there are in the U.S.

At launch the consortium includes the Brian D. Robertson Memorial Solar Schools Fund, Community Power Network, Elephant Energy, the Foundation for Environmental Education, KidWind, Make It Right Solar, Mosaic, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, SolSolution, The Three Birds Foundation, and Women in Solar. Together, consortium members plan act as a unified voice to put solar on schools, already a growing movement across the U.S. The NRDC and Mosaic have already launched efforts at crowd souring solar for schools across the U.S., but the consortium will help unify their voices.

“It’s estimated that thousands of schools across America have already installed solar panels—but tens of thousands of others are still tethered to fossil fuels,” said Prof. Sharon Dannels, Chair of the Educational Leadership Department at the GW Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Already those schools with solar are seeing the benefits of lower energy costs as well.

“More and more schools across the country are discovering the benefits of going solar,” added Rhone Resch, SEIA CEO. “For schools, solar can provide a curriculum where science, economics and the environment all intersect.”

The consortium’s goals for 2020 are to see solar panels installed 20,000 schools and universities, have 2,000 member organizations and support 200 solar school initiatives at the district level, according to the initiative’s site: https://www.solarschools2020.org/. In addition to its goals, the site also features a number resources aimed at helping schools reduce their energy use, create curriculums around energy conservation and clean orsolar energy, develop projects and apply for grants and awards.

Solar-powered schools can greatly help reduce pollution while also serving as an educational tool for students and showing them how clean energy works. “According to a recent study of California schools, an average-sized 313-kilowatt solar system prevents the emission of an estimated 200 pounds of smog-forming pollution a year,” Dannels said.

Consortium members are presenting at several workshops during the NSTA Conference at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. During these presentations consortium representatives will encourage attendees to explain what their needs for going solar at the school level are.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

California Solar Net-Metering for Homeowners: PROTECTED

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Last week the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) took action to give California homeowners with solar arrays and those who install solar under the current net-energy metering (NEM) program assurances that the net-metering contract they sign will be good for 20 years under state policy. The decision, in the largest residential solar market in the U.S. will provide homeowners and the solar industry there more stability in terms of what to expect form their utilities and how much it solar will cost and how soon it will pay off.

“By ensuring that all California customers who install solar under the current NEM program will continue to receive full retail, as well as fair credit, for the clean energy they send to the grid for 20 years, the commission has shown a commitment to the investments already made by more than 200,000 existing solar customers across the state,” said Carrie Cullen Hitt, senior vice president of state affairs with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). She added that it also helps provide stability and certainty to prospective solar customers.

“This rule applies to the state’s 200,000 existing IOU [i.e., investor-owned utilities] solar customers plus any other IOU customers who go solar before July 2017 or before their utility hits the current 5 percent program cap,” said The Vote Solar Initiative’s Regional Director of the West Coast Susannah Churchill. She added that part of that decision was influenced by the strong support of the public, with more than 50,000 people signing a petition to support NEM in the state.

That cap also has a downside for some homeowners. “There will be an unprecedented surge of demand for solar power after [the] hearing, so it’s impossible to predict when the cap will be hit,” said Daniel Sullivan, president and founder of Sullivan Solar Power. “It is clearly in the best interest for property owners to go solar now, locking in 20 years of protections.”

“We deeply appreciate the work and leadership of CPUC President Peevey, the Commission and Governor Brown’s office in establishing a NEM transition period,” Hitt said. “We look forward to working with the CPUC on future rules which will continue to fairly value solar energy in a manner that enables innovation and encourages customers to adopt clean, on-site renewable energy in California.”

The commission made the decision as California’s original NEM program is reaching its targets across almost all of the state’s largest utilities. “Today, California continues to lead the nation in solar capacity, generating 5,600 megawatts of clean, reliable electricity, which is enough to power more than 600,000 homes statewide,” Hitt said. “Smart public policies such as NEM have helped to create nearly 50,000 jobs in California, pump billions of dollars into the state’s economy and reduce pollution. That’s a win-win for the state anyway you look at it.”

Loking ahead the state will hold a meeting on April 23 to address the NEM successor tariff. “The purpose of this workshop is to provide a public venue for interested parties to identify and discuss the highest priority issues related to the CPUC’s implementation of a successor tariff to net energy metering (NEM) following Assembly Bill (AB) 327 (Perea, 2013),” CPUC said in a statement about the event.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! It’s A Facebook Solar Drone

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Today Mark Zuckerberg announced on—where else, Facebook—that his company is indeed looking to spread the Internet via drones, laser beams and other space-aged stuff.

Rumors surfaced earlier this month that the Web giant was looking into purchasing Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones that can fly at roughly 65,000 feet for indefinite periods of time. Now Zukerberg, and the Internet.org foundation, announced the launch of the Connectivity Lab (check out a video about the project here), which will explore methods of transmitting the Internet to more of the world—including via laser beams from above.

“In our effort to connect the whole world with Internet.org, we’ve been working on ways to beam internet to people from the sky,” Zuckerberg said in a post. The lab, he said, is working on ways to deliver the internet to everyone, which in addition to drones and lasers include satellites. “Our goal with Internet.org is to make affordable access to basic internet services available to every person in the world.”

“We’ve made good progress so far,” Zuckerberg said, observing that the number of people in Philippines and Paraguay with access to the Internet increased by 3 million. “We’re going to continue building these partnerships, but connecting the whole world will require inventing new technology too. That’s what our Connectivity Lab focuses on, and there’s a lot more exciting work to do here,” he explained.

While rumors surfaced about the potential acquisition of Titan today’s news is focussed on Facebook’s acquisition of U.K.-based aerospace firm Ascenta. The company’s five-person team have built high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) aircraft, including the world-record holding Zephyr, which flew 336 hours and 22 minutes unmanned. In addition to the Ascenta team, the Connectivity Lab has members from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center, according to Zuckerberg.

The organization, Internet.org, consists of a number of tech companies including Samsung, Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm, and more. The companies banded together in effort to bring the Internet and its capabilities, including education and connectivity to more of the world. Doing it the way it was done in the U.S. or Europe via phone and/or cable lines requires huge amounts of infrastructure spending, spending that many parts of the world might not be able to do. By using these novel technologies, the organization could bring the Internet to more of the world for less.

For more densely populated areas the team is investigating the drones. For other areas with less people it’s investing using satellites to beam the Internet down. Both systems would use Free-space optical communication, or FSO, a infrared laser beam technology.

Facebook and friends aren’t the only ones investigating connecting the world through the air. Google’s Project Loon launchedlast year. Already the company has expanded the program.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Solar: 100GW by 2018

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In 2018 the annual deployment of photovoltaics is anticipated to grow to 100 gigawatts a year. That’s according to NPD Solarbuzz’ latest Marketbuzz report, which said that by then PV will be a $50 billion worldwide market.

The report anticipates that the solar PV industry will grow to 3 percent of the world’s energy supply in 2018, assuming that 300 gigawatts of PV will be installed over the next five years. In fact, in 2018, the report anticipated that fully 500 gigawatts of PV will be installed, generating $200 billion in revenue between 2014 and 2018.

The report looks at the historical data, which includes periods of overcapacity in 2012 and 2013. “Solar PV module prices declined faster than the end-market grew in 2012, leading to a dramatic decline in revenues,” said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz.

“This imbalance was corrected during 2013. Over the next five years, end-market growth will exceed forecasted price declines, resulting in a strong rebound in module revenues,” Barker said. During this period the PV industry still grew by 34 percent generating more than 37 gigawatts of end-market demand in 2013.

Pricing declines are expected to continue albeit at a slower pace. The Solarbuzz report found that PV module average selling prices (ASPs) are expected to decline moderately over the next few years and are forecast to reach $0.51 per watt (W) in 2018. “Solar PV suppliers are benefiting from a less volatile pricing environment, compared to previous years,” said Finlay Colville, vice-president of NPD Solarbuzz. “The industry will soon transition to a phase of profitable growth, with solar PV competing directly with traditional forms of energy.”

The report also said that system prices will decline annually. The additional cost declines will be driven by balance-of-systems cost reductions. Those balance-of-systems cost reductions will include componentry and economy-of-scale improvements.

In terms of Pv technology the report anticipated that crystalline silicone PV modules will increase their share of the market. Fully 91percent of photovoltaic modules being made between 2014 and 2018 are expected to be silicone-based. The report anticipated that thin-film based solar power like that made by First Solar will make up less of the global solar market.

Original Article on Solar Reviews