Sunday, May 31, 2009

Vermont first state to pass renewable energy feed-in law

Vermont has become the first U.S. state to adapt a full system of renewable energy feed-in tariffs, a program that closely resembles Ontario’s Green Energy Act ( passed into law in mid-May. Several U.S. states are considering similar legislation.

Vermont Gov. James Douglas allowed H.446, An Act Relating to Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, to become law without his signature on May 27.

The new legislation puts in place a “standard offer” that will establish minimum rates to be paid by electric customers for various renewable sources in long-term fixed-price contacts.

In a letter summarizing his concerns with the bill, Douglas said although he supports the development of renewable energy within the state, he believes the bill “fails to recognize the current viability of renewable energy in a competitive setting and will needlessly increase costs to Vermont consumer so as to subsidize this one favored business sector.”

Rather than vetoing the bill, Douglas allowed its passage without his signature because the Vermont Public Service Board is required to revisit the set rates within the next four months and periodically thereafter to determine whether the prices are inadequate or excessive.

Currently, the statute grants methane from a landfill or agriculture operation 12 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for facilities up to 2.2 megawatts, 20 cents per kWh for wind power facilities up to 15 kilowatts, and 30 cents per kWh for solar power facilities up to 2.2 megawatts.

The Vermont PSB has until Sept. 15 to open and complete a noncontested case docket to determine whether the standard offer prices constitute a reasonable approximation of the prices required to meet the bill’s criteria.

If the PSB decides to establish new prices, it has until Jan. 15, 2010, to set prices for standard offers. To see the bill in its entirety, go to

Gov. Douglas recently signed into law H. 152, An Act Relating to Encouraging Biomass Energy Production, which creates a biomass energy development working group to investigate and recommend fiscal and regulatory incentives for biomass energy, as well as guidelines and standards for maintaining forest health, procurement standards and other policy considerations for biomass development within the state.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Energy Efficiency Programs in Southeast Fall Short

Knoxville, Tenn. – Energy efficiency programs in leading states throughout the U.S. are saving as much as 100 times more energy than most states in the Southeast, according to a new report released today by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Analyzing nationwide data for 2007 that was recently made available, the study - Energy Efficiency Program Impacts and Policies in the Southeast - determined that energy efficiency programs have minimal impact in Southeast states, with the exception of Florida, which has a mid-range impact.

“The Southeast drastically lags the nation in energy efficiency program impacts,” said John D. Wilson, director of research for SACE. “The fundamental reason is the lack of an energy policy that puts a priority on saving energy. Many aspects of energy policy in the Southeast continue to encourage energy waste.”

Although none of the largest utilities in the Southeast are among the leaders in saving energy, the report does celebrate some smaller utilities that have achieved national leadership: Gainesville Regional Utilities and Reedy Creek Improvement District, the utility that serves Walt Disney World.

It also debunks myths about the Southeast’s inability to achieve energy efficiency, and shows why energy efficiency is the preferred energy resource solution to respond to current energy issues. Drawing from a recent national report, the report indicates that an energy efficiency standard of 15% energy savings by 2020 could create 56,350 more jobs in eight Southeastern states and save $38 billion in energy costs.

To learn more about a webinar about energy efficiency in Southeast states, visit

Courtsey of:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Winery Boasts a Trifecta of Solar Energy Solutions

Eos Estate Winery, based in the California Central Coast wine country, is one of the first energy-sustainable wine brands in the U.S. The winery has successfully adopted a “trifecta of solar energy solutions” to meet its energy needs. Eos Estate Winery utilizes three solar energy systems that include a 504 kWp photovoltaic (PV) tracking system which spans two acres, a 36 kWp, 204-panel fixed-tilt PV system to power the winery’s popular visitor center and a 100-panel roof-mounted solar thermal system that provides the winery’s heating needs. The solar panels were all provided by Hamburg, Germany based Conergy, which also has U.S. offices in Dever, Colorado.

In a statement recently released, Jeff Hopmayer, the owner of Eos Estates Winery commented about his decision to incorporate solar energy into his business. “Our primary motivator was to produce wines in a way that honors this beautiful coastal area and respects the environment. Conergy’s solutions enable Eos to optimize power generation throughout the day, avoiding the hours of shading confronted by standard systems set to peak hour production,” he noted. “These efficiencies — coupled with the government incentives associated with this project — made the economics of installing these remarkable earth-friendly systems viable,” Hopmayer said.

The winery’s environmental return on this project is expected to be substantial. According to Conergy, Eos’s solar initiatives will reduce CO2 emissions by over 21,000 tons – the equivalent of eliminating 68 million car miles from California’s freeways. The high return on investment is achieved in part by Conergy’s tracking system that is designed to maximize the winery’s daily solar energy harvest by following the sun’s trajectory from east to west. This type of system delivers up to 15% more energy than traditional fixed-mount solar technologies.

According to Conergy’s Project Developer Micheal DeSousa, “The rebates, tax incentives, accelerated depreciation, environmental benefits and brand cache that go with pursuing clean energy solutions in today’s marketplace have never been more appealing.”

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wal-Mart expanding solar energy use in California

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is expanding its solar power program in California, with plans to put solar panels on 10 to 20 additional facilities within the next 18 months.

The world's largest retailer is partnering with BP Solar on the expansion, which builds upon 18 solar arrays that have already been installed on Wal-Mart facilities in the state. The solar installations are expected to provide 20 to 30 percent of each location's electric needs, Wal-Mart said.

"Increasing the use of solar energy is the right thing to do for the environment and makes tremendous business sense, especially in these economic conditions," Kimberly Sentovich, Wal-Mart's California regional general manager, said in a statement.

As part of an environmental push started under former CEO Lee Scott, Wal-Mart has outlined plans to one day be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy.

To meet that goal, Wal-Mart said in 2007 that it would work with BP Solar, SunEdison LLC, and PowerLight to install solar power systems at 22 combined Wal-Mart stores, Sam's Clubs and a distribution center in Hawaii and California.

Mike Duke, who became CEO on Feb. 1, said earlier this year that he planned to expand Wal-Mart's efforts to reduce waste, use renewable energy and push suppliers to clean up their act.
Wal-Mart said that as construction nears completion on the California solar sites, it will evaluate the feasibility of expanding the program to more locations.

The company has more than 200 stores and seven distribution centers in California, according to its website.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Science Foundation Arizona To Launch Solar Tech Institute

Science Foundation Arizona has made five new solar investments totaling $4 million and plans to open the Solar Technology Institute (STI) to advance Arizona's renewable energy leadership. STI will combine Arizona's significant solar resources with the research strengths of the University of Arizona (UA) and Arizona State University (ASU) to grow the state's global leadership in renewable energy, Science Foundation Arizona says. The Solar Technology Institute will catalyze solar technology advances and the commercialization of products and services that foster new industry growth through five solar investments.

Science Foundation Arizona’s five solar investments include the following:

Concentrator photovoltaics - researchers at UA and ASU are collaborating on next-generation low-cost solar reflectors that can be used in solar energy generating systems.

Nanostructured films for photovoltaics - Global Solar, General Plasma, Prism Solar, ASU and UA are teaming up to enhance the capabilities of thin-film solar panels through innovative technology.

Photovoltaic environmental performance and reliability - ASU and UA are working with Tucson Electric Power and TUV-Rheinland to expand the ASU Photovoltaic Testing Laboratory so that it can conduct more rapid product certification and testing of solar products, and help identify and create better performing solar products.

Compressed air energy storage - Southwest Solar Technologies, the U.S. Geological Survey, UA and ASU are developing compressed-air solar-storage technology for use when the sun is not shining.

AZ Smart - Arizona Public Service, Salt River Project, ASU and UA are partnering to create a system of smart-grid management and to develop decision-making software to help select future power generation station locations, storage sites and power lines throughout Arizona.

SOURCE: Science Foundation Arizona

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Advanced Solar Photonics Sponsors GreenCities Florida

Lake Mary, Fl., May 26, 2009 – Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP), the cutting-edge developer of laser systems and one hundred percent American made monocrystalline solar panels recently sponsored Florida’s first GreenCities™ event in Orlando. This conference, an innovative sustainability conference for business, government and community was held May 20th and 21st, at the Orange County Convention Center.

“In sponsoring GreenCities™ Florida, Advanced Solar Photonics’ goal was to promote renewable energy in the state of Florida, said ASP’s Corporate Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Maureen McHale.

The conference offered a highly interactive, outcome-based portfolio of workshops presented with practical steps and specific plans for participating in the growing $400 billion green economy. State and national experts in green government, business, and technology provided practical tools, case studies, and resources. Additionally, numerous speakers' focused on sharing vital information driving today’s new green economy and moving Florida towards a sustainable future.

Orange County Mayor, Richard Crotty kicked off the event by cutting the green ribbon for the grand opening and dedication of Orange County's new Climate Change Education Center. Following the dedication ceremony, in addition to the Mayor, Senator Lee Constantine and Lt. Governor John Lushetsky participated in flipping the switch on Orange County's new one megawatt solar system on the rooftop of the convention center.

“We believe GreenCities™ Florida was an excellent opportunity for key people to meet and take the first steps towards changing Florida’s future which is why Advanced Solar Photonics not only had a booth in the tradeshow area, our CEO, Demitri Nikitin, was the keynote speaker at the sustainability in manufacturing session. Additionally, ASP sponsored the evening networking reception, at the Orlando Peabody Hotel, for all convention attendees. In the end, because of the connections we were able to make, it was well worth the sponsorship.” said McHale.
Advanced Solar Photonics, (ASP) located in Lake Mary, Florida employs an international team of technology driven professionals. ASP’s cutting-edge laser equipment for solar panel processing, solar cells, and commercial solar products for the solar industry is applicable to both the silicon and thin-film processes.

Media Contact:
Maureen McHale
Corporate Marketing and Public Relations Manager
407-829-2613 x317

Saturday, May 23, 2009

State OKs $1,000 incentive for solar water heaters

Progress Energy's residential customers may soon be able to receive $1,000 to install a solar water heater in their homes. The Raleigh electric utility in North Carolina will offer the incentives to 150 people throughout its service area in the state as part of a pilot project. Progress will run the pilot program for two years to measure its effectiveness in achieving energy savings. The company will also assess the effectiveness of the amount of the incentive in attracting participants.

Details on customer eligibility will be posted on the company's web site later this year when the pilot program is introduced to the public. If the pilot program is deemed successful, Progress could offer the benefit to all its customers in the state.

"The point is to create a representative cross-section across the state," said Progress spokesman Jeff Brooks. "This is a program to help us establish a benchmark for how we would proceed in the future with additional solar water heating programs."

A typical solar water heater can cost about $7,000, compared to a conventional water heater that costs $1,000 or less. Solar water heaters rely primarily on free sunshine as an energy source, and use electricity or natural gas as a backup source of power, and with incentive programs can pay for themselves in five to seven years.

The utility incentive, along with a tax credits from the state and federal governments, can cut the cost of a solar water heater by more than half.

Progress, with 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida, is developing conservation programs to comply with a 2007 North Carolina law requiring greater reliance on conservation and renewable energy resources.

Progress has a similar program in Florida that pays homeowners up to $450. More than 1,300 customers have signed up for the program since it was launched Feb. 26, 2007.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Go Green!

Every year, Earth Day reminds us of our responsibility to the land—to care for it, preserve its beauty and treat all of nature with respect. Lately, though, the annual April observance has also become a time for investors to take stock of the clean-technology opportunities in energy that have arisen in recent years. This year, as debates over climate change and energy prices heat up, arguments behind renewable-energy sources support a new focus on the technologies that can harness them.

Environmental groups and clean-energy companies have recently demonstrated various new eco-friendly technologies, such as energy-efficient appliances and devices that run on renewables. Many people say renewable-energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and small-scale hydropower also offer countries the means to improve their energy security and spur economic development.

Renewable energy, unlike fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, does not release heat-trapping greenhouse gases, which most scientists believe cause global warming and disrupt climate and weather patterns.

In many countries, the transition to clean energy is increasingly recognized as an excellent investment. Due to rapid cost reduction, solar is a growing part of the solution that includes electric vehicles, energy efficiency, wind, bioenergy, geothermal and other renewable sources.

Compared with business as usual with oil and coal, renewable energy is downright cheap.
“Earth Day renews our commitment as stewards of the Earth,” said Heherson Alvarez, presidential adviser on climate change. “Renewable, clean-energy technologies protect air quality and save resources—a fitting way to mark Earth Day.”

Alvarez added the idea behind clean tech is simple: Improve the efficiency of information-based businesses, while at the same time reduce their consumption and pollution. These businesses, he said, can lead the way toward eco-minded industry and, with the help of the government, create jobs and begin the economic-recovery process.

SOLAR and wind power, championed by innovators like SWEP’s Ferdinand Raquelsantos, are enjoying a boost along with other renewables.

Clean technology
Growing concerns about energy security and exhaust gas emissions from vehicles have increased interest in alternative transportation fuels. In recent times Philippine companies have started seeing exciting opportunities in renewables and green tech.

One such example is the E-3 or electric tricycles, which were introduced last December in Taguig City. The newly locally built electric tricycle is capable of carrying a maximum payload of 800 kilos or about eight persons, including the driver.

Electric Vehicle Solutions president and CEO Sean Gerard Villoria said 20 units of battery-operated fiberglass tricycles are now plying the Fort route. It can carry four to eight passengers, and it runs on 1,000-watt motors and 60V/100 AH.

“These electric tricycles were designed to be a cost-effective, highly efficient, ultra-low exhaust-emission vehicle [that’s] capable of equaling or exceeding present vehicle performance, safety and customer-appeal standards,” Villoria said. Villoria explained that the electric vehicle has an engine that can run at the speed of 40-60 kph, and is powered by five rechargeable batteries. “We support electric vehicles as one viable solution because they are highly efficient compared with traditional combustion engines,” Villoria said.

In 2007 the Green Renewable Independent Power Producer Inc. (GRIPP) also introduced 25 electric jeepneys that ply the roads of Makati and other pilot areas of the country. The vehicles run on batteries charged overnight by a power plant fueled by biogas that, in turn, is generated from the organic waste from the city’s markets and households. It can run for 65-80 km on a single charge, and is charged over a period of eight to 10 hours.

GRIPP hopes the e-jeepney will serve as a model for other cities to address their environmental problems using low-carbon technologies, thereby creating a new advocacy in support of climate-change mitigation. The group aims to increase its units to 50 by end of 2010, after the Land Transportation Office granted normal registration for the e-jeepney.

Wind- and solar-powered energy are the trend of the future for generating electricity, according to the Solar and Wind Electric Power Inc. (SWEP), a Philippine-based company that promotes renewable energy using solar panels and wind turbines.

But according to Ferdinand Raquelsantos, president of SWEP, a great majority of people in the country are not yet fully aware of the system application compared with Europe and North America.

“We see a lot of interest, but the batting average is only around 7 percent. Right now, it’s a split between households and business, though the latter takes about 20 percent more panels in terms of sales,” Raquelsantos explained.

Coupled with solar power, a home wind turbine can really save you money and help save the environment, at the same time, he said.

He said they have already installed panels in factories, industrial plants and farms, aside from residential and buildings.

Renewables the way to go
According to the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, renewables make up the fastest-growing energy industry in the world and have the potential to meet half the world’s energy needs by 2050, in some places more than 80 percent.

Investment in renewables surged from $33 billion in 2004 to almost $150 billion in 2007, and the estimates coming in for the turbulent year 2008 are showing a less steep, but nevertheless a continued rise, the report said.

This resilience in the face of economic crisis is a consequence of the unchanged fundamental drivers of renewables growth, including climate change and energy insecurity, it said. Keeping that growth momentum going, however, requires ambitious, robust, climate and energy policies with long-term commitments and concrete targets.

BusinessMirror senior correspondent Imelda V. AbaƱo just returned from Bonn and Copenhagen, sites of the latest in the run-up talks on climate change. These activities are all gearing up for the December climate-change conference where countries hope to put in place a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Potential Breakthrough in harnessing the sun's energy

New solar thermal technology overcomes a major challenge facing solar power – how to store the sun's heat for use at night or on a rainy day.

In the high desert of southern Spain, not far from Granada, the Mediterranean sun bounces off large arrays of precisely curved mirrors that cover an area as large as 70 soccer fields. These parabolic troughs follow the arc of the sun as it moves across the sky, concentrating the sun's rays onto pipes filled with a synthetic oil that can be heated to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. That super-heated oil is used to boil water to power steam turbines, or to pump excess heat into vats of salts, turning them a molten, lava-like consistency.

The salts are just fertilizers — a mix of sodium and potassium nitrate — but they represent a significant advance in the decades-old technology of solar thermal power production, which has traditionally used mirrors to heat water or oil to generate electricity-producing steam. Now, engineers can use the molten salts to store the heat from solar radiation many hours after the sun goes down and then release it at will to drive turbines. That means solar thermal power can be used to generate electricity nearly round-the-clock.

The plant in southern Spain, known as Andasol 1, began operating last November and now provides 50 megawatts of power, enough electricity to supply 50,000 to 60,000 homes year-round. Andasol 2 will come online later this summer, with Andasol 3 already under construction. When the entire Andasol complex is completed in 2011, it is expected to generate enough electricity to power 150,000 households — about 600,000 people.

In the face of mounting concern about climate change, developing alternatives to coal and natural gas combustion has taken on a new urgency, and the construction of utility-scale solar thermal power plants in deserts and arid areas is looking like an increasingly promising option. In the United States alone, solar thermal power projects are now being built near fast-growing centers of electricity consumption, such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. The first major solar thermal plant to be completed in decades, dubbed Nevada Solar One, started providing 64 megawatts of power to the neon lights of Las Vegas in 2007, although it lacks the latest molten-salt technology. Across the globe, utilities are currently building or planning solar thermal projects in North Africa, Spain, and Australia, among other regions.

Some of the recent claims for solar thermal power have been stunning. Researchers at the German Aerospace Center have estimated that 16,000 square kilometers of solar thermal power plants in North Africa — paired with a new infrastructure of high-voltage, direct-current transmission lines — could provide enough electricity for all of Europe. And scientists have estimated that constructing solar thermal power plants on less than 1 percent of the world's deserts — an area roughly the size of Austria — could meet the entire world's energy needs.
Of course, solar thermal has been here before, experiencing a boom in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Its progress then was stalled by collapsing fossil fuel prices, as well as a lack of government support. Today, some critics of the technology fault it for taking up acreage in fragile deserts.

The case for solar thermal power hinges on economics. The sun bathes the Earth with an average of 6 kilowatt-hours of power per square meter over the course of a day, and a concentrated solar power plant like Andasol is

In the face of mounting concern about climate change, developing alternatives to coal and natural gas combustion has taken on a new urgency, and the construction of utility-scale solar thermal power plants in the cheapest way to harvest a portion of that. Photovoltaics — semiconductor panels that convert sunlight to electricity — deliver power at roughly 40 cents per kilowatt-hour, while conventional solar thermal power plants can do so for around 13 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This is only marginally more expensive than the average U.S. price for coal-generated electricity in 2008 of 11 cents per kilowatt hour. The cutting-edge technology of using molten salts to store solar-generated heat is considerably more expensive, but experts expect that price to fall steadily as the technology improves and is mass-produced.

Roughly 612,000 megawatt-hours of electricity from the sun were produced in 2007, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), and solar thermal collectors sufficient to cover more than 15 million square feet were shipped and ready for installation that year — more than double the amount in 1998.

In the United States, some 3,100 megawatts of solar thermal power are planned by 2012, and capacity worldwide is expected to reach 6,400 megawatts within 3 years — roughly 14 times the current amount. Still, electricity from the sun contributes just 1 percent of the renewable energy generated in the U.S., and all renewables taken together only provide 7 percent of U.S. energy needs.

Traditionally, solar thermal power plants have been built two ways — using trough-like mirrors to focus the sun's heat on water or oil in nearby pipes, or using mirrors to focus solar radiation on a central spot, such as a liquid-filled "power tower."

Since 1984, vast arrays of curved mirrors have concentrated the sun's rays on regimented lines of pipe filled with a synthetic oil at the Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) power plant in the Mojave Desert of California. The SEGS plant was part of a brief boom in alternative energy projects in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when enthusiasm for the technology ran high in the wake of the first energy crisis. But the Reagan administration phased out research and development funding for solar thermal technology, as well as delaying tax credits that had driven the creation of projects like SEGS. Coupled with cheap fossil fuel prices in the late 1980s and 1990s, solar thermal power could not compete — although it still grew by roughly 4 percent a year from 1986 to 2000, according to the EIA.

Given its long operation record, developers are now copying SEGS and its parabolic trough collectors. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,800 megawatts of such power plants are scheduled to be completed — mainly in the desert Southwest — by 2011, according to investment research from Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Ausra will employ compact linear Fresnel reflectors — flat mirrors that deliver the same focus — to heat water at a planned 177-megawatt solar thermal plant named Carrizo Plains in central California by next year. Already, the company opened a 5-megawatt demonstration plant last October near Bakersfield, Calif.

Nor is the technology confined to the southwestern U.S.: Florida Power & Light will build a 75-megawatt solar thermal trough plant north of Miami. Hurricanes are not a major concern; Ausra's chief scientist and founder, David Mills, notes that in testing their mirrors have withstood winds of more than 91 miles per hour.

But the most promising technology is one using molten salts, as it overcomes one of the chief traditional drawbacks of solar energy generation — that when the sun sets, the lights go out. The Andasol power plant uses more than 28,000 metric tons of sodium and potassium nitrates to store some of the sun's heat for use at night or on a rainy day. The molten salts are stored in enormous hot and cold vats, able to be employed on command to soak up extra heat or drive the generation of electricity.

"The turbine is running more hours every day because we have storage and we have the possibility to plan our electricity production," said Sven Moormann, a spokesman for Solar Millennium, the German company building Andasol.

Abengoa Solar and Arizona Public Services are now using the molten salts technology in portions of the Solana — or "sunny place" — power plant, located 70 miles southwest of Phoenix on nearly 2,000 acres of land. The plant will ultimately produce enough electricity to power 70,000 Arizona homes.

"One of the great things about molten salt technology is that you can get more energy out of the same facility," says Barbara Lockwood, manager for renewable energy at Arizona Public Services.

But molten salts don't have to be just used for storage, as they are at Andasol and will be at Solana. They can also be used directly as a fluid in solar thermal power plants that operate at a much higher temperature, replacing the synthetic oil or water used in power towers. In this variation of the solar thermal technology, large fields of mirrors concentrate the sun's heat on a central tower that glows with intense light.

Such plants operate at more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit — closer to the temperatures employed at a coal-fired power plant — and therefore can use the salts directly as a heating medium. At night, when temperatures begin to drop, the cooling salts that have already transferred their heat to drive a turbine simply drain to the bottom of the tower, where they are stored in tanks, ready to be heated again the next sunny day.

Cheaper power towers that do not employ the molten salts are also being built: an 11-megawatt power tower that employs steam directly — built by Abengoa — now operates outside Seville, Spain. Southern California Edison has contracted for 1,300 megawatts of such direct steam solar thermal power towers with developer BrightSource.

Some utility-scale solar thermal projects have provoked opposition due to the large land area occupied by the arrays in Bakersfield, Los Angeles, San Diego, and elsewhere in California. But proponents of solar thermal power argue that the benefits of the carbon-free technology far outweigh any local impact.

"We're not going to solve the [climate change] problem without putting large-scale concentrated solar facilities in the American Southwest," SolarReserve's Murphy says. "It doesn't take that big a footprint to make a pretty big impact."

In addition, there is another way to use this technology for capturing the sun's heat — cleaning up existing fossil fuel-fired power plants or other operations that burn a lot of CO2-emitting fossil fuels.

By employing the mirrors of a solar thermal array to pre-heat steam, the amount of natural gas, oil, or coal that must be burned can be reduced. In fact, Ausra's first installation boosted the efficiency of a coal-fired power plant in Australia by providing 9 megawatts of steam to the 2,000-megawatt Liddell Power Station. The company also hopes to work with some California oil producers that currently inject steam — generated by burning natural gas — into the old reservoirs to enable more oil to be pumped to the surface. Ausra argues that it can generate the same steam without any CO2 emissions by employing its solar thermal technology.

The Electric Power Research Institute, a utility-funded consortium, will study the potential of the technology to reduce fossil fuel-burning at power plants in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and North Carolina.

"People need to look at this as a hedge against fossil fuel prices," says Murphy. "You could start deploying a new type of power plant. We used to burn coal and natural gas — now we can use the sun to make steam."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chicago May Get Largest U.S. Urban Solar Plant

On the south side of Chicago, a former industrial park is the proposed site of a $60 million project to add 10 MW of solar photovoltaic panels.

Supporters say it will be the largest urban solar installation in the United States. The project, which is contingent upon a federal loan guarantee under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is being built by Exelon and SunPower Corp., according to

The 32,800 solar panels at the site would meet the annual energy requirements of 1,200 to 1,500 homes, and displace approximately 31.2 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually. That’s the same as removing 2,500 cars from the road or planting more than 3,200 acres of forest, according to the story.

The installation would be on a leased lot of 39 acres at the West Pullman Industrial Redevelopment Area, a so-called “brownfield” property. Exelon Generation would own and operate the plant and market the electricity and Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) it generates. SunPower’s part is to design, manufacture and install the solar system. Smaller towns also are looking to solar as a power solution.

A partnership between real estate developer Kitson & Partners and electric utility Florida Power & Light (FPL) will yield what is claimed to be the world’s largest solar photovoltaic power plant, with the electricity destined for a new city to be powered by solar energy.

The 17,000-acre city of Babcock Ranch will consume less power than the on-site solar facilities will produce, allowing it to become the first city powered by zero-emission solar energy, according to Kitson & Partners.

Businesses are getting in on the act, too.
Schering-Plough Corp. recently completed a 1.7 megawatt solar energy system at its Summit, N.J., site. With panels located atop seven buildings, the system is one of the largest photovoltaic rooftop installations in New Jersey and North America, according to a press release. The system is owned by PPL Renewable Energy, which will sell the power to Schering-Plough. According to the release, the system is capable of providing up to 12 percent of the site’s peak energy needs, reducing CO2 emissions by approximately 1.3 million pounds a year.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Next Generation of Solar

Arizona State University and Advent Solar, Inc. announced a development partnership to further the advancement of solar photovoltaic technology. As part of the initiative, members of Arizona State University's Solar Power Laboratory will work with Advent Solar, a leading innovator of silicon-based solar technology, to develop solutions for improving energy harvesting of solar systems. The Advent Solar initiative with ASU signals a benchmark in regional efforts to increase solar technology development in Arizona.

Advent Solar will place engineering talent at SkySong, ASU's Center for Innovation in Scottsdale. Their presence reinforces the robust research capabilities that ASU offers and validates Arizona's future role in the global solar industry. ASU SkySong is a platform for stimulating economic growth through university-business partnerships, and has assisted many enterprises with finding customers and growing their network of potential new business collaborations, as well as new clients, said Julia Rosen, associate vice president for ASU Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Arizona State University's prominent team of scientists and engineers are committed to developing the next-generation of solar energy technology to improve power efficiency and the economic feasibility of renewable energy, said George Maracas, acting Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Solar Power Laboratory at Arizona State University. We're thrilled to partner with solar technology innovator, Advent Solar.

Advent Solar is a forward-thinking, performance-driven company, and Scottsdale is thrilled to welcome them to SkySong, said Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane. The collaboration between ASU and Advent Solar will advance the next generation of solar technology and help elevate Arizona's profile as a rivoltion for this industry. Scottsdale has long been a champion of sustainable practices, and the addition of Advent Solar to our community supports our efforts to create a progressive business climate, said Harold Stewart, acting Economic Vitality General Manager for the City of Scottsdale. We are proud to nurture the future of solar advancements in our city.

Arizona State University and Advent Solar will collaborate to develop next-generation solar technology based upon the architectural framework provided by Advent Solar® Ventura Technology. This technology provides the blueprint for delivering the industry's best value for silicon PV modules. Ventura Solar Technology combines the Emitter-Wrap Through back-contact cell with Monolithic Module Assembly . It is an integrated cell-to-module architecture that delivers higher energy efficiency at lower production costs.

With Ventura Technology, Advent Solar has created a development path to significantly improve the efficiency and cost metrics of solar technology at both the cell and module levels, said Peter Green, president and CEO of Advent Solar. We are excited about working closely with Arizona State University to further expand the capabilities of Ventura Technology and create innovative approaches to meet the challenges facing the solar industry. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council is proud to see the realization of Advent Solar's partnership with ASU, said Barry Broome, GPEC president and CEO. The regional economic development organization facilitated the introduction between these institutions during an executive tour of Greater Phoenix last November. Arizona should be a leader in engineering, manufacturing, distributing and consuming solar technology. Advent Solar's involvement in our market helps us move in that direction.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More Info on Solar Energy

The sun gives us the gift of life. Without it, the earth would be just another frozen hunk of rock and dirt traveling through space. Humans have harnessed its passive power in various ways to heat and light their homes. It is only in more recent years that it has been used to generate electricity.

Solar energy for the home can be divided into two categories: passive and photovoltaic.
Passive is most often used by placing glass panels over light/heat absorbing panels to gather heat from the suns rays. Designs for solar heat generation can vary from simple heat circulating units that simply augment the regular heating system to complex water heating systems, trombe walls, and systems that involve massive heat sinks. The engineering for these systems can range from an afternoon's work creating a window collector to complex architectural designs that influence the configuration of the entire building.

Solar ovens can be a fun way to prepare a meal. Commercially constructed ovens may be purchased from for about $300.00 each. For the more budget conscious, the same website has an array of plans and kits for do-it-yourselfers.

Photovoltaic energy generation can range from tiny panels that power objects d'art or miniature battery chargers to massive arrays used to create a significant proportion of a city's supply of electricity. In spite of minimal attention for many years, advances have been made in the quality and type of PV collectors that are available for the home user.

There is the classic panel, which needs to be mounted on a stand that will allow it to follow the sun. These panels can also be used to power a variety of small items such as electric fences, drive way lights, or portable caution signs.

A few years ago, some genius came up with the idea of solar shingles. Roofing is applied in the same manner as if one were planning to lay asphalt shingles on the roof. The difference arrives at the last minute when adding the shingles. At this stage, small holes are drilled into the roof to allow wires to be run to the control panels that will run the system.

Another recent innovation is a solar sheet. This is a flexible collector that can be rolled up for easy portability, allowing it to be taken along on picnics, etc.

Special panels and systems have been developed for laptop computers.

For efficient electric generation, your system needs a few things not needed when purchasing power from the " grid". Since PV systems only make electricity when the sun shines, deep cycle batteries are needed to store the collected energy. Also needed are a control panel that regulates the intake of electricity (preventing problems with over-charged batteries or electrical back-flow) and an inverter to convert the electrical energy from direct current to the alternating current that is normally used by house-hold appliances. If you are hooking into an existing electrical system that will purchase your excess energy, you will need meters to monitor your generation/vs. usage. If you plan to use a 10 volt system to run appliances and lights, your home will need to be wired with a heavier gauge of wire than that needed for normal house current.

For safety of animals and small children, the control panels and batteries need to have their own small room or closet.

With our current state of technology, solar electricity requires a reasonable understanding of your operating system, correct wire gauge, an efficient, durable monitoring system, plenty of batteries, and some time spent keeping batteries clean and checking the system.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Benefits of Solar Energy

Solar energy will benefit a lot of people and not only the rich. This is why some governments have increased funding for this type of technology because they are aware of its many benefits.

For one, solar energy is very cheap compared to other technologies. It is also renewable unlike coal or the rest which are non-renewable and hard to maintain.

It also improves the health of people since it does not produce any carbon dioxide emissions unlike kerosene lamps that give out fumes which are just as deadly as smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day. It also reduces the incidents of fire that are often associated with the use of kerosene, candles, diesel fuel and gasoline for generators.

Solar energy is almost maintenance free because the solar cells used will last for 20 years or more before it has to be replaced. You just have to keep the panels clean so it is able to absorb sunlight and convert that into electricity.

These are also very useful in remote locations where power lines are not yet available. Some examples of these include fish houses, highway signs, marine applications, remote lighting and telecommunication.

If countries focus on solar energy and other renewable techniques, they will be able to conserve their foreign exchange because they no longer have to use it to pay for foreign oil. This money can then be used for other things such as health care, infrastructure projects and education.

Solar energy will also reduce your electricity bills because you are no longer dependent on electricity coming from the power company. The only downside to solar energy is the initial cost in setting it up.

Yes you will have to buy a lot of solar panels which are quite expensive but in the long run, you will be able to save more because you don’t have to pay for anything else to keep them running.

Should the cost of solar cells be beyond your budget, you can probably invest in used systems first then try to acquire the brand new ones later on.

Another benefit of using solar energy is that you get to conserve fossil fuels and other natural resources that are quickly diminishing as a direct result of an increase in the world’s population which could compromise the needs of the future generations.

So should people get into solar energy? The answer is yes because it is safe, cheap and good for the environment. You only have to worry when the sun isn’t shining because when this happens, rays from the sun won’t be able to produce electricity so you have to rely on other means to get power. The same also goes when there is a blackout or brownout because you will soon lose power from your solar system.

The demand for solar energy is increasing and you should join in. Aside from reducing your electric bill, homeowners who use solar energy may claim up to $2,000 in federal investment tax credit in the first year while businesses may claim a 30% federal investment tax credit.
Believe it or not, solar energy has one other benefit and that it increases the value of your home. According to home appraisers, a dollar decrease in your energy bill results in a $20 increase in its property value so do the math and you can easily figure out how much your home will be worth after you decide to invest in solar energy.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Can Hawaii get GREENER?

HONOLULU (AP) — Wind and solar power pioneers spent this week seeking their Holy Grail: the ability to easily sell renewable electricity for use on Hawaii's power grids.

Clean energy groups met with the state's major power company and regulators in an attempt to decide how much the utility would have to pay everyone from big clean energy developers to homeowners for their independently produced power. The five-day hearing at the Honolulu Country Club concluded Friday.

Setting a standard rate for renewable electricity is a key to Hawaii's transformation from the nation's most fossil-fuel dependent state to its most self-reliant.

"It really is the difference between us having a rapid development of large-scale renewable development in Hawaii, or having things stay the same," said Erik Kvam, chief executive officer for Zero Emissions.

This week's meetings provided the state Public Utilities Commission with information it will use to decide how to set prices for renewable energy and to make rulings on how much clean power can be accepted into each island's power grid.

If the regulators decide to enact the policy, called a feed-in tariff, Hawaii would become the first state in the nation to have these kinds of incentives for renewable energy.

"What is a fair price that will meet the needs of the developers but also protect the rate payers?" asked Peter Rosegg, a spokesman for Hawaiian Electric Co., which serves most of the state's power needs along with its subsidiaries, Maui Electric Co. and Hawaii Electric Light Co. "The question is in the details."

Hawaii depends on imported oil for about 90 percent of its energy, as it has for decades.
Hawaiian Electric committed to work toward implementing feed-in tariffs when it signed on last year to Hawaii's Clean Energy Initiative, which aims to meet 40 percent of the state's energy needs through renewables by 2030.

The difficulty for the Public Utilities Commission will be finding a rate that encourages companies to invest in building renewable energy projects without forcing customers to pay much more for their power.

Following closing arguments Friday, the commissioners were left with more questions than answers, and they didn't appear close to making any ruling. A feed-in tariff will take months of additional debate and consideration before it's set.

"There's a lot of decisions that have to be made," said Carlito Caliboso, chairman of the commission. "There's a lot of balancing interests and policy we have to do."

Currently, companies that want to build expansive wind farms or solar projects have to go through a yearslong process with the state and Hawaiian Electric before they can get a contract to provide power to the grid.

With feed-in tariffs, companies would know how much they'd get paid for electricity from the start.

Some clean energy advocates worried that the commission wouldn't act fast enough or set a rate generous enough to attract "green" investment in Hawaii.

"If oil costs were still at $100 plus per barrel, our whole attitude at this hearing would be much different," said Jody Allione of Renewable Energy Consulting in her closing arguments.

The commissioners will have to think of ways to set fair rates for each island and ensure grid stability despite an influx of intermittent power, Rosegg said.

"The rate should make it attractive to developers, but much more importantly it should offer a long-term benefit to rate payers," said Doug Codiga, an attorney for Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is to make Hawaii energy independent. "

There may be a short-term increase, it's possible, but over the long term the idea is that indigenous renewable energy is cheaper to rate payers than oil."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Advantages of Using Solar Energy

Are you burdened with your monthly home electric bills? No matter how you try to keep your consumption of electricity low, does it still hurt your pocket when payment is due? Have you pondered on ways on how you can eliminate this undesirable load from your budget? Well, worry no more. The answer to all these questions can actually be very simple: solar energy.

In homes, solar energy is a very good option since it is very efficient and environmentally friendly. All you have to do is invest on solar panels that will convert the heat coming from the sun to useful energy that you can use for numerous items in your household. These solar panels can be strategically placed on the part of your house where they will be in contact with the heat coming from the sun at all times. These devices can also supply heating and energy in your homes not only during the day but also at night time since they also have energy storage devices.

So how do they work?
These solar panels, or solar cells, are also known as photovoltaic cells (PV) that are in turn made of semiconductors such as silicon. When light hits the cells, it is absorbed and then transferred into the semiconductor which lets loose electrons allowing them to move freely. The PV then has the capacity to direct the electrons to flow in a certain direction which is now the current that we can use externally.Lights in your yard, for instance, can be made to work using solar energy. Calculators with small solar panels also function without the use of your standard batteries. Even heating your water can be made possible through the use of energy from sunlight.Watching television, turning on air-conditioning units, operating washing machines, and surfing the net for hours in your laptops can be just some household activities that can be done without the guilt or worry of high electricity bills if you are to use solar energy. And since heat coming from the sun is inexhaustible, there is no possibility of having blackouts in your entire home.

Among the advantages of using solar energy are:

1) Environmental friendly
Being a renewable source of energy, it is highly sustainable and clean to use. Unlike nuclear energy and energy obtained from fossil fuels, solar energy does not leave behind waste products and is a non-polluting source of energy. It doesn’t have the dangers of nuclear technology.

2) Reduced cost
The best part about using solar energy probably is that it is free. Direct from the sun. Even thought, there are certain time where the weather conditions are cloudy and stormy where solar power may not be received, but such days are exceptions and not the rule. After the one-time investment in the solar energy device gets fully recovered, the energy that is provided by the sun is absolutely free and does not involve any further investments.

3) Independent or semi-independent
The semi-independent benefit of the solar energy includes offset utilization of energy consumption supplied and the ability to operate independently without requiring the support of any gas or power grid. Therefore solar energy can be installed in remote locations (like holiday log cabins), making it more practical and cost-effective than the supply of utility electricity to a new site.

4) Little or no maintenance
Solar equipment requires less maintenance as compared to conventional energy equipment, resulting in significant cost saving. As the solar equipment do not require investment or expenditure in its maintenance, a large amount of maintenance cost can be saved. After installation, the solar energy systems do not need to be paid for the recurring costs.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bright future for solar power sector

CHINA'S aim to become a major global player in solar power has been boosted by a new subsidy program that will help cut the cost of attaching cells to rooftops and fill a manufacturing gap from declining demand from abroad.

The government announced last month that solar power attached to buildings in projects involving more than 50 kilowatts would be eligible for a subsidy of 20 yuan (US$2.90) per watt.China is the world leader in the manufacture of photovoltaic (PV) cells, or panels that covert sunlight into electricity. The surging cost of polysilicon, a key ingredient, in recent years had forced Chinese manufacturers to rely on demand from countries that offered subsidies for solar use.

But now, with a substantial increase in supply, the price of polysilicon has plummeted. "With the bursting of the price bubble for polysilicon, the timing is right to subsidize solar power development," said Wei Qidong, secretary general of the PV industry association in Jiangsu Province. "That will encourage domestic use, create a stronger market for Chinese manufacturers and advance the nation's efforts to promote alternative, clean energy sources."

Jiangsu is China's major solar-cell manufacturing base, home to such big names such as Suntech Power Holdings Co and Canadian Solar Inc. The 20-yuan subsidy, which equates to what's offered in California and is three times that of Japan, will cover nearly half the cost of solar power conversion, including equipment and installation, the government said.

The subsidy translates to a drop in power generation cost to about 1 yuan per kilowatt hour, only a quarter of some domestic pilot solar projects though still more than double the domestic grid prices for conventional coal-fired power. Gao Jifan, chairman and chief executive of Trina Solar Ltd, called the subsidy plan, jointly unveiled by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, a "precursor" of longer-term state support. He believes that the rooftop plan is a good starting point before subsidies are extended to larger utility-scale projects, which will require a tariff regime to make solar electricity commercially viable.Germany, for example, passed a law in 2000 obligating grid operators to pay set prices, or feed-in tariffs, for renewable electricity sources. As a result, Germany has become one of the world's largest PV markets.
China does have a renewable energy law requiring distributors to buy renewable energy from generators, but it lacks a tariff system to boost the viability of solar power. At present, pricing is at the discretion of the National Development Reform Commission, based on the principle of reasonable cost plus reasonable return."If we are to have a feed-in tariff system like Europe's, it has to win approval from the National People's Congress, and that may take more time," Gao said. "So the government has decided to start up the domestic market as soon as possible by going after the rooftop market first," he said from his office in Changzhou, Jiangsu. Gao said China could account for 10 percent of the global PV market in three years to five years, up from less than 1 percent now. The new subsidy comes as Chinese solar companies are struggling with reduced access to credit and a drop-off in demand from countries such as Spain because of the recession.

In addition to fighting climate change and boosting energy conservation, China's subsidy program is aimed at helping domestic PV makers by activating a largely untapped home market, the ministries said."The financial crisis is benefiting domestic PV makers because it has brought down polysilicon prices and drawn government attention to the needs of an increasingly mature industry," Wei said.Sha Xiaolin, chairman of Qiangsheng Photovoltaic Technology Co (QS Solar), said he was optimistic about the large-scale use of solar power, saying "an energy crisis would be much more frightening than the financial crisis."

QS Solar, unlike most solar cell makers that rely on polysilicon, is developing the emerging technology of thin film. Although it has a lower conversion efficiency, thin film is cheaper and can be manufactured with higher throughput.Investors have welcomed the government's subsidy plan, with solar stocks surging in China and the United States, where many Chinese solar companies are listed.

Shares in Hebei Province-based Tianwei Baobian Electric Co have soared 44.5 percent in Shanghai trading since the subsidy announcement. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 9.3 percent in the same period.Analysts said the subsidy program won't necessarily have a big impact this year because it will take time to get up and running.
Based on the central government's subsidy budget of 400 million yuan on renewable energy this year, at most 20 megawatts of solar capacity could be subsidized in 2009, the China Securities Journal reported, citing Ping An Securities analyst Wang Fan.
That amount is a fifth of China's total installed solar capacity in 2007, or 5 percent of Trina Solar's planned shipment of 400MW this year.But the domestic industry is on the verge of a big leap forward."I believe there will be an explosive growth in the domestic PV market, not just double-digit growth," Sha said.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

US company harvesting energy from solar rays

Pacific Gas and Electric, which serves San Francisco and northern California, has announced it will seek approval from US regulators to purchase 200 megawatts worth of solar energy delivered from solar panels located in space. The panels will be built and put in place by space solar power company Solaren over 15 years. Once completed, it is hoped they could produce enough clean energy to fuel half a million homes.

Solaren plan to fire a satelitte into space by a rocket. The device will be able to convert solar energy into a usable form and send it wirelessly to Earth.

Capturing solar energy from space has never been done commercially, mostly because the cost was considered too high. But Solaren claims it has developed a technology that would make it commercially viable within the next seven years. The project was announced on a question and answer session on Pacific Gas and Electric's blog: "While a system of this scale and exact configuration has not been built, the underlying technology is very mature and is based on communications satellite technology. For over 45 years, satellites have collected solar energy in earth orbit via solar cells, and converted it to radio frequency energy for transmissions to earth receive stations. This is the same energy conversion process Solaren uses for its (space solar power) plant," it said.

The advantage of space solar power is that energy can be harnessed at all times, even at night or when it's cloudy. Solaren's contract calls for it to deliver baseload power, the electricity needed to meet customer demand.

Another company called Space Energy has been formed to also tap solar energy from space using a similar technique as Solaren. Daniel Kammen, professor in energy and resources at the University of California, Berkeley, told the Guardian: "The ground rules are looking kind of promising ... it is doable. Whether it is doable at a reasonable cost, we just don't know."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'll drink to that!

FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- More than 6 acres of ground-mounted photovoltaic solar arrays are now up and running at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fairfield, California. The deployment marks the arrangement made last year between the beverage company and SunEdison, which financed, installed and operates the solar power system Anheuser-Busch agreed to host.

The system, which has a capacity of almost 1.2 MW, generates the equivalent about 3 percent of the brewery's electricity needs. The company is considering whether to expand the solar installation and diversify the facility's on-site generation of renewable energy by putting in a wind turbine. The solar deal was one of two major efficiency moves made by the brewery last year and part of a broader eco-friendly strategy adopted companywide by Anheuser-Busch.

The facility also installed a Bio-Energy Recovery System to generate more than 15 percent of the brewery's fuel needs by capturing the nutrients in brewing wastewater for conversion into biogas. Use of the renewable fuel enables the brewery to decrease its use of natural gas.
Anheuser-Busch expects use of renewables by the company's 12 breweries to exceed 15 percent by the end of the year.The firm says that level of use would power production of more than 5 billion 12-oz. servings of beer -- about one in seven of the beers Anheuser-Busch brews in the U.S.The firm's use of renewables companywide currently averages 8 percent. Other recent eco-friendly changes in operations at the Fairfield facility include a steam recovery project to heat water in the brewhouse; installing more efficient boiler burners and air compressors; and a lighting upgrade that included replacing fixtures with energy efficient gear and timers.
Such efforts helped the brewery cut its fuel consumption by 38 percent, water use by 32 percent and electricity by 14 percent since 2004, the company said.Honored more than a dozen times for waste reduction, the Fairfield facility recycles more than 99 percent of its solid waste, including scrap aluminum and metal, glass, cardboard, wood, brewing grain, beechwood chips, stretch wrap, labels, electronic equipment and batteries, according to the firm. Anheuser-Busch has been salvaging material from its brewing process since the late 19th century, when the company started offering used grain as cattle feed. Anheuser-Busch is a member of the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Leaders Program and has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for all U.S. operations to 5 percent below 2005 levels by 2010. Use of renewable resources is popular in the beer industry, especially among microbreweries. Here's a sampler: The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, based in Chico, California, has one of the most extensive environmental programs in the business. It maintains a 1.2 MW co-generation fuel cell plant and, last year, completed installation of a solar energy system that can produce more than 1.4 MW for the facility. Panels cover most of the roofs at the site, including the top of the parking lot, and visitors to the company website can click on tools to see how much power is being generated.

Sierra Nevada also has established heat and CO2 recovery systems, aggressive energy efficiency monitoring and water conservation and recycling programs. The company has set a goal of obtaining its energy supply from renewables generated on site. The maker of Fat Tire, the New Belgium Brewing Company based in Fort Collins, Colorado, lays claim to being the first wind-powered brewery. It put up its first turbine in 1999 and then installed one at its facility in Medicine Bow, Wyoming. The company also uses the methane produced by process water treatment to fuel a combined heat and power engine. The co-generation program supplies as much as 15 percent of the brewery's electrical needs. The Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, California, has had solar power on tap since 2001. During sunny days in the summer, the makers of Boont Amber and other beer get more than 40 percent of their energy from the sun.And in Portland, Oregon, the Lucky Labrador Brewing Company, launched its first "green beer," called Solar Flare Ale, last year to mark the installation of 16 solar panels on its roof.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

7 Reasons to Go SOLAR!

Reason 1: More Incentives, Lower Costs
Incentive programs for most states should become law very soon. For each unit (kilowatt-hour) of solar power that you produce you would be paid. For each unit of power you consume you pay far less, probably just 10% of this. This magic is achieved using Feed In Tariffs, the reason behind Europe’s renewable energy boom. Prices of solar PV panels have dropped in the last two years making installations more attractive than ever before.

Reason 2: Just do the math
If you meet just 3% energy needs with solar panels, the Feed In Tariffs could reduce your utility bill by 30%. With current prices of solar panels, the payback could be less than ten years. If you sign a contract, the tariff is guaranteed for twenty years.

Reason 3: The benefits may not last too long
The feed in tariff is adjusted from time. If the program becomes very popular, the rates may be revised downwards. The price of solar panels depends on availability of high quality silicon. Demand for solar panels is likey to take off under the new US administration and this may well drive the prices upwards.

Reason 4: Solar energy is non-polluting
Solar energy is abundant and it causes no pollution, either. Just think of all the greenhouse gases that you save. It is a myth that producing solar panels takes too much energy; this might have been true a decade ago, but it is not true with current technology.

Reason 5:The cost of entry is very low
You can start with a very small project and expand as you gain experience. Solar panels can be added at any time. A new, expandable line of inverters is now available; you just keep adding inverters as you add more panels.

Reason 6 :Solar panels are maintenance free
With solar energy, there are no mechanical parts to worry about. Unlike windmills, there are no noise issues.

Reason 7: Be a part of the solution
Once the Feed In Tariffs come into effect, you will pay for renewable energy regardless of whether you install a solar panel or not. The cost of renewable energy will show up as a slight increase in everyone’s utility bills. The increase may well be just a couple of dollars a month but why pay for other people’s installations? Why not install your own and be ahead of the game?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tennessee Valley Authority Pushed on Alternative Energy

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The co-chairmen of the TVA Congressional Caucus want the nation's largest public utility to consider a number of renewable energy sources to meet growing pressures to produce cleaner energy.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., hosted a forum Thursday with representatives from TVA, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and renewable energy manufacturing companies to discuss the Tennessee Valley Authority's options.

The pair touted solar panels, underwater river turbines and wood chip burning as promising renewable energy sources - just leave out the wind turbines.
Alexander and Shuler claim wind turbines in the Tennessee Valley Authority's seven-state region wouldn't produce enough energy to make them useful and would spoil the area's natural beauty.

"People come to North Carolina for the mountains. If it gets to the point where people cannot see those mountains, they will not show up," Shuler said.

Congress is considering legislation that would require utilities to produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. By then, TVA hopes to get more than half of its total electricity from zero or low carbon-emitting sources.

Earlier this month, the TVA board agreed to buy up to 2,000 megawatts of renewable and clean energy by 2011, with some of that power entering the grid as early as next year.

The agency, which supplies some 8.7 million consumers, now generates a small amount of renewable energy at its own solar sites, wind turbines and a methane recovery project at a Memphis wastewater treatment plant. It also buys wind power from 15 privately owned turbines located on TVA's Buffalo Mountain wind farm.

Panelists said the biomass - burning wood chips to produce energy - and the hydropower options are the most feasible options right now.

A series of underwater turbines in the fast-flowing Mississippi River could produce half of the output of the Watts Bar Unit 1 nuclear plant in Spring City, and a plant burning wood chips could produce the equivalent of a 12th of a new nuclear plower unit.

Solar would only be feasible if the cost of producing panels is reduced. Producing solar power costs four times more than using coal.

"In the meantime, TVA should push conservation, new nuclear power plants and air pollution-control equipment for coal plants in order to have both clean air and enough low-cost electricity to keep our jobs, heat our homes and power our computers," Alexander said.

Alexander and Shuler also stressed the importance of conserving energy by switching to fluorescent light bulbs, making homes more efficient and switching from fossil fuel-powered cars to hybrids and electric cars.

"Weather strips and new windows and insulation's not sexy," Shuler said. "By replacing windows, putting in new insulation and weather-stripping in we can lessen in the entire United States 300 coal burning plants and be able to produce millions of jobs for people."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Indiana Passes Renewable Energy Standard and Expands Net Metering

By a nearly two-thirds margin, Indiana representatives passed the state's first renewable energy standard and expanded net metering in April 2009. The vote on Senate Bill 300 was 62-37.

The bill would require utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by the end of 2025. Indiana is the only Midwest state without such a standard.

The bill would also increase the amount of electricity from renewable resources that customers can sell back to the utility company for credit, and expands the type of customer who can do so to include businesses.

Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, was ecstatic to hear the news.

"It's the most significant renewable energy standard, green jobs policy, Indiana has ever moved," he said.

If signed into law, the bill would create jobs fast and reduce Indiana's greenhouse gas emissions, which are seventh-highest in the nation per person, he said.

Because the House bill was an amended version of the Senate bill, Senate author James Merritt Jr. would have to accept the changes. The House bill states businesses, industries and farmers would be allowed to sell back up to 1 megawatt of electricity. The Senate version says 100 kilowatts. Current law allows one-tenth of that, and only for residential customers and K-12 schools.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Time to tap into renewable energy

Renewable energy has been in the spotlight a couple weeks ago in April with the third National Energy Conference taking place in Taipei.

The conference began two days after German wind turbine maker InfraVest Wind Power Group threatened to withdraw from the local market if state-run energy monopoly Taipower refused to raise the tariffs it pays for electricity generated by InfraVest’s turbines. It was an announcement clearly intended to underline Taiwan’s lack of action on renewable energy ahead of the conference. InfraVest also implored the government to speed up passage of the proposed statute on promoting renewable energy, a bill that has lain idle in the legislature since 2003. It would be a severe blow to renewables in Taiwan if InfraVest pulled out of the market as German companies are world leaders in renewable energy generation.
If the government is serious about promoting renewable energy then it should be following the example of countries like Germany, whose Renewable Energy Sources Act came into effect on April 1, 2000. The law stipulates payment for electricity from renewable energy fed into the grid. Electricity grid operators are obliged to accept all electricity generated and pay for it at stipulated rates. Since the law passed, the share of renewable energy in total electricity consumption has risen rapidly, from 6.3 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2007, according to Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. It hopes to make that figure 45 percent by 2030.
The boom in the renewable sector has also seen the number of jobs increase from 160,000 in 2004 to around 235,000 in 2006. Contrast that with Taiwan where, according to the Bureau of Energy, renewable energy this year will make up just 3.5 percent of total consumption, and it becomes clear that successive governments have been dragging their feet on this issue. This is a shame, as Taiwan has great potential for renewable power sources such as solar, wind, tidal and geothermal. If properly harnessed, these sources could make up a good portion of Taiwan’s electricity needs.
With a bit of thought and long-term planning the government could create millions of mini power stations by implementing a similar law to harness solar panels placed on the roofs of households. It could also develop somewhere like Penghu County into a renewable energy powerhouse, harnessing its wind and solar potential to supply power to Taiwan proper while also providing vital investment and jobs for locals. This kind of scheme would be much more beneficial to the islanders than casinos. The best way to achieve this would be to deregulate the energy generation market and attract foreign expertise and investment.
The problem, however, continues to be the government’s apparent reluctance to break Taipower’s monopoly in this market. It is well and good for politicians to show up at the conference and make promises to pass the energy bill, but unless these promises are backed by action, companies like InfraVest will continue to suffer and Taiwan will remain a renewable energy backwater.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Solar plant CEO denies Florida deal: Report claims Perrysburg firm inked pact for Orlando

Apr 30, 2009 -- Willard & Kelsey Solar Group LLC, which a month ago said it would build solar panels in Perrysburg beginning this year, yesterday denied a published report that it signed a deal to put its headquarters and a major manufacturing complex in the Orlando, Fla., area.

The company, which would be the Toledo area's fourth solar panel manufacturer, said its suburban project was proceeding, that it still planned to hire 400 workers by year's end, and to begin producing two million panels a year.

Bill Mitchell, company president and chief executive officer, insisted to The Blade that the firm "didn't sign any deal" with economic development officials in Florida to build a one million- square-foot solar panel park that would create nearly 3,700 high-paying jobs. The Orlando Sentinel newspaper said yesterday such a deal was signed.

"We're discussing this with many states. Everybody has a different incentive package, including Ohio," he said. "But we haven't signed any deal with anybody. We are talking to Florida, yes. But we are also talking with Michigan, Mississippi, and Ohio."

That project could cost $1.2 billion, and it has applied for $100 million in federal stimulus money to build the facility in Ohio. Its 262,000-square-foot plant along State Rt. 25 in the former Delafoil plant is a $14 million project.

The Orlando news story said Willard & Kelsey signed a a preliminary deal with Orlando area developer Crockett Development Property to build a solar panel park on 238 acres near Orlando International Airport.

It said Willard & Kelsey would locate its headquarters there and have a research facility near Toledo.

In the Florida article, Willard & Kelsey chief financial officer Mossie Murphy is quoted as saying, "We've entered into a preliminary agreement with a development group" in Orlando. A Florida lawyer involved in the project, Fred Leonhardt, told the newspaper that a formal announcement could happen next week. Contacted yesterday, Mr. Leonhardt declined to discuss his comments, but said, "If there is such signed agreement, I have not seen it."

Officials at the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, the area's lead economic development agency, said they do not comment on pending development deals or negotiations.
Steve Schoeny, head of the Ohio Department of Development's strategic business investment division, told The Blade the state is negotiating with Willard & Kelsey on the solar park, and he doesn't believe a decision has been made.

Ohio has offered an incentive package for the solar park project. In July, it provided a $5 million low-cost loan and $500,000 grant to develop the Perrysburg site.

Mr. Mitchell, of Willard & Kelsey, said yesterday he wasn't sure when a decision would be made on where to put the solar park, and it might have to wait for better financing conditions.

In its Ohio stimulus fund application, the firm proposed building four 250,000-square-foot buildings to house 16 solar panel production lines. Each building would have 920 workers who would each receive $65,000 annually in wages and benefits.

The start-up said it has orders for 300 megawatts worth of solar panels -- about two million panels or what four lines produce in a year -- and is negotiating to sell another 1,000 megawatts.
Tom Blaha, executive director of Wood County's Economic Development Commission, said, "As far as I'm concerned, [the solar park] is still in play, and it's still going to be in Ohio."

Renewable Energy Investment Will Pay Off

Recently, a chorus has been growing in Washington questioning whether the nation can afford the broad economic recovery strategy the Obama Administration is pursuing. Is it prudent to try to address both the collapse in the banking industry and our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels at the same time? Should we be investing in new technologies when millions of Americans are losing their jobs?

The unequivocal answer to these questions is yes. Our economic woes are directly linked to our dependence on imported oil and the hemorrhaging of U.S. dollars to OPEC. Unless and until we gain control of our energy destiny, we will never have control of our economic future.

President Barack Obama and members of Congress were absolutely right in focusing on the establishment of a green economy for immediate, intermediate and long-term economic opportunity. The investment in developing and deploying renewable energy technologies will create jobs immediately through the construction of new facilities while providing the long-term job growth that only evolving technologies can offer.

Take ethanol as the example. Just since the establishment of the nation’s first renewable fuels standard in 2005, American ethanol production has helped support or create nearly 350,000 additional jobs throughout the entire economy. The anticipated job growth that will result from the implementation and success of the expanded RFS in 2007 will be on the order of 1 million jobs.

Some will argue that investing in renewable fuels and other renewable energy technologies is just a distraction from the real problem posed by the potential insolvency of many of the nation’s largest banks. I would agree that fixing the banking system and unfreezing the credit markets are critical to the success of the economy and the nation’s renewable fuels industry. However, those banks will need projects in which to invest, and providing federal support of the research, development, and deployment of next generation technologies is a critical step that must be taken. The problems facing the country are too many and too great to take a rifle shot approach. We must be able to multitask as a nation if we want to revive the economy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and address the challenges of climate change. Investing in renewable fuel and energy projects today will provide dividends in the weeks, months and years to come.