Friday, June 26, 2009

Building Sector Needs to Reduce Energy Use 60% by 2050

A new study on energy efficiency in buildings (EEB) indicates that the global building sector needs to cut energy consumption in buildings 60 percent by 2050 to help meet global climate change targets. According to The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the building sector must achieve greater energy efficiency through a combination of public policies, technological innovation, informed customer choices, and smart business decisions.

According to WBCSD, buildings account for 40 percent of the world’s energy use with the resulting carbon emissions substantially more than those in the transportation sector. The organization recommends that governments, businesses and individuals start to aggressively reduce energy use in new and existing buildings in order to reduce the planet’s energy-related carbon footprint by 77 percent or 48 Gigatons (against the 2050 baseline) to stabilize CO2 levels to reach the level called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The study, “Transforming the Market: Energy Efficiency in Buildings,” offers recommendations and an actionable roadmap to help transform the building sector. The EEB project is focused on six markets — Brazil, China, Europe, India, Japan and the U.S., which represent nearly two-thirds of the world’s energy use. According to the study, many energy efficiency projects are feasible with today’s energy costs. For example, at oil prices of $60 per barrel, building energy efficiency investments in the six markets studied, totaling $150 billion annually, will reduce related energy use and carbon footprints by 40 percent with five-year discounted paybacks. Currently, oil is about $50 a barrel.

An additional $150 billion with paybacks between five and 10 years will add 12 percent and bring the total reduction to slightly more than half. EEB modeling shows that increasing the price of energy or carbon will only slightly increase the implementation of energy-efficient options.

For commercial building owners, green buildings can garner higher rental premiums. According to new study, “Green Noise or Green Value? Measuring the Price Effects of Environmental Certification in Commercial Buildings,” conducted by the Henley University of Reading in the U.K., the results indicate that certified buildings provide a rental premium and that the more highly rated that buildings are, the higher the rent. Based on a sample of transaction prices for 292 Energy Star and 30 LEED-certified buildings, price premiums were 10 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

One new European policy is aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions along with reducing its dependence on Russian gas. Showers, taps, windows and home insulation will now have to conform to environmental standards in the European Union, after lawmakers voted to widen the scope of existing “eco-design” regulation, reports Reuters.

Although the design standards have not been set, the new standards are expected to particularly impact the glazing industry, as the European Union moves toward its goal of cutting energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020, reports Reuters.

According to the Reuters article, the European Commission estimates that if the share of replacement windows being double-glazed increased 30 percent, the EU would save the amount of power generated by two to three nuclear power stations.

Another recent survey shows that large cities in the U.S. are already working to lower their carbon footprint with more than half of big cities surveyed either currently creating a sustainability plan or have finished one within the past year. These plans include a focus on green buildings.

To help building designers achieve the 2030 Challenge, which is a global initiative endorsed by the American Institute of Architects that addresses the need to reduce building energy use, Perkins+Will has recently released its free online e2 Energy Estimating Tool.

This energy estimating tool allows users to set target goals for four key areas: energy efficiency, on-site and grid-supplied renewable energy, plus green power offsets (RECs) when designing new buildings or retrofitting existing buildings.

In response to the urgency of global climate change, Perkins+Will has made the beta tool available to anyone. Click here for the beta-version of the 2030 e2 Estimating Tool.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Consumers likely to see more U.S.-made solar products

Consumers across the country are expected to see the cost of solar energy products fall in the next year, with help from the growing number of U.S-based manufacturing facilities.

This week, Vice President Joe Biden visited the Toledo area to call attention to the growing importance of solar energy when it comes to reviving the nation's manufacturing sector.

Biden was in Toledo to call attention to the city's success in adapting its old manufacturing facilities, which focused on automobile glass, into new factories turning out solar panels and other such products.

The Obama administration has signed various tax incentives and other provisions into law that will benefit companies offering clean energy products and services, as well as homeowners who want to invest in photovoltaic panels and other renewable energy technologies.

Along with the tax incentives, many industry analysts have predicted that the recession and other conditions in the solar energy industry such as the cost of materials will result in a significant drop in prices in the next year.

SOURCE: Washington Energy Services

Arizona's El Pueblo Neighborhood Center gets solar

With the El Pueblo Activity Center crowded with kids at noon on a hot summer day, it's a small wonder the building would be using more solar energy than at any other time.

Now, however, the building is also producing electricity through 465 solar panels on the roof, enough to power 14 homes and supply 20% of the activity center's needs.

El Pueblo, 101 W. Irvington Rd., is the first of seven major solar projects in the city to be up and running.

The rest will be operating by December.

Tucson's mayor says it's only the beginning.

"The public is demanding it, so you're gonna see a major movement toward renewable sources throughout the city," said Bob Walkup, mayor of Tucson.

The seven solar projects cost $4.7-million, 60% of which is funded by incentives from Tucson Electric Power and much of the rest by state and federal tax credits.

"Our customers want us to go in this direction," explains Paul Bonavia, president, chairman and CEO of Tucson Electric Power. "We think we're solving a very real problem by advancing renewable energy, and we think it's good business for our company."

To view updated information about the electric production at El Pueblo, click on the link with this story.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Solar Disarray: Lawmakers Bungle Green Push

Source: Tampa Tribune, June 23, 2009

As a blazing sun bore down this week, Southwest Florida got a sweltering reminder of true solar power. With the intensity and frequency of its sunshine, Florida should be a world leader in harnessing this potent form of renewable energy.

Yet, the state has only a handful of commercial solar arrays, offers a paltry $5 million rebate program and serves merely as a conduit for federal stimulus funds targeted to renewable energy projects.

Despite good goals set by Gov. Charlie Crist, Florida has done too little to increase the use and generation of solar power or to encourage businesses or jobs in developing, supplying or installing the equipment.

Meanwhile, California's Solar Initiative boasts a $2 billion budget to finance incentives. Arizona and Nevada also offer generous incentives for solar installations. Even New Jersey has surpassed Florida by making solar systems tax-exempt and providing loans and rebates to support installations.

Florida's Legislature had an opportunity in this year's session to move the state forward in the promotion of renewable energy. Crist's call to require electric utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020 was part of an energy bill that passed in the Senate.

But the House never took up energy legislation, citing a need to focus on the budget.

Yet, the House found time, in the closing days of the session, to pass a bill to allow offshore oil and gas drilling as close as three miles from Florida's Gulf Coast. Fortunately, the Senate refused to consider it.

The action and inaction by the House explain why Florida is falling behind in the "green economy" - despite the efforts of a cadre of entrepreneurial companies - while other states and nations benefit from the industries and jobs generated by the push for renewable energy.

While Florida's House continues to embrace fossil fuels - and jeopardizing the coastal environment and tourist economy - nearly 30 states have passed laws similar to what Crist and the Senate were seeking. Congress is on the verge of setting a national standard for increasing the use of renewable energy. And other countries such as Germany - which estimates that it now has 250,000 jobs in renewable energy - have burgeoning industries based to a large degree on the production of solar power.

Emblematic of Florida's solar disarray is the tale of Sarasota County's Triple J Ranch, reported by Zac Anderson in the June 7 Herald-Tribune.

The owners of the ranch spent $500,000 to install a 300-panel solar system. The array generates enough power in one month to run an average house for a year. The owners figured they could produce enough power to reduce the ranch's monthly electric bill from $5,000 to $1,000.

But Florida law got in the way.

A 2008 law regulating "net metering" - the sale of excess, independently generated energy to a power company - expanded the eligible solar systems from home-based arrays to those at businesses and office buildings. But the bill failed to account for homes and businesses - like the Triple J Ranch - that have multiple electric meters.

And a 1969 law largely prohibits combining multiple meter readings on one bill.

Unfortunately for the Triple J, all of its solar panels were installed on two, low-energy-consuming horse barns and feed into two meters. The power generated cannot be applied to seven other metered sites at the ranch. And the excess energy is being sold to Florida Power & Light not for the state-established price of 12 cents per kilowatt hour but for just 6 cents a kilowatt hour. That's FPL's "fuel price," less the cost of its transmission lines and other infrastructure.

As a result of all that, the Triple J's $500,000 solar array saves it very little.

Florida should be in the business of encouraging the use of solar power, not of punishing users who fail to grasp the nuance of the state's arcane laws.

If Florida is to join the vital global gold rush in green energy, the Legislature needs to take some critical steps:

•Establish a renewable energy standard of 20 percent by 2020.

•Thoroughly debate the concept of "feed-in tariffs," by which utilities purchase excess solar power at a premium over conventional rates. The city of Gainesville's publicly owned utility pays such a premium and has created a mini-economic boom in the purchase and installation of solar panels - which is the purpose of the tariffs. Germany and other countries have done the same.

•Rewrite the net-metering law and other laws that could discourage investment in solar energy.

Given the stakes for Florida in the onset of climate change - the potential for rising sea levels, stronger storms and the soaring insurance costs tied to those eventualities - this state has more reason than most to pursue and promote renewable energy, especially solar power.

Next year's legislative session is not too soon to start.

And if legislators fail again to let Florida join the green economy, voters need to send them into the electoral sunset in 2010.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Got a question on energy? Experts are ready

Homeowners’ questions about energy costs and saving energy around the house are being answered by experts from the state Focus on Energy program under a new Web site unveiled by the statewide energy initiative.

The program has launched Ask Focus on Energy, which seeks to answer questions submitted by business owners and residents about energy efficiency and renewable energy.

"Given the economic and energy climate, consumers and businesses are now, more than ever, looking to learn how energy efficiency and renewable energy relates specifically to their needs,” said Kathy Kuntz, program director with Focus on Energy. “The answer to saving money and energy is out there - all you have to do is ask."

Focus has assembled a team of experts on everything from heating and cooling to insulation and renewable energy to respond to questions. The bios of its experts are available on the new Web site.

Here are some interesting Q and As from a quick visit to the site. Both of these are answered by Lynn Clement of Focus on Energy:

Q. What is the most energy efficient way to cook—with my electric stove, a slow cooker or a microwave?

A. A microwave is a good choice.
In general, a microwave oven uses less overall energy for cooking than an electric stove or a slow cooker. Of course, if you're cooking a large roast or baking a cake, the oven is the best choice because you want a certain result. A slow cooker is a good way to cook or keep small amounts of food warm, as is a toaster oven. Use the microwave whenever possible for reheating or cooking appropriate foods.

Q. We have dimmer knobs and slider switches on flood and track lighting (the old fashioned kind of inc. bulbs)--does the use of these dimmers (lights at less than full brightness) actually save energy or is the energy consumed and just channeled away from the bulb?

A. As a general rule any time you lower wattage, you lower power consumption. If all of your lights were aided by dimmers you might notice a slight difference in the bill, but not that much.

Many consumers, and even a few electricians, think that dimmers work by converting unused electricity to heat at the dimmer switch. It's true that many old rotary dimmers worked this way; they were called rheostats. These dimmers do not reduce electricity consumption, it turns part into heat, and the rest goes to the light bulb.

Clement goes on to say that buying compact fluorescent bulbs will yield even bigger savings.

Is Solar Right For You?

When auditing your home, keep a checklist of areas you have inspected and problems you found. This list will help you prioritize your energy efficiency upgrades.

Locating Air Leaks
First, make a list of obvious air leaks (drafts). The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5% to 30% per year, and the home is generally much more comfortable afterward. Check for indoor air leaks, such as gaps along the baseboard or edge of the flooring and at junctures of the walls and ceiling. Check to see if air can flow through these places:

* Electrical outlets
* Switch plates
* Window frames
* Baseboards
* Weather stripping around doors
* Fireplace dampers
* Attic hatches
* Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.

Also look for gaps around pipes and wires, electrical outlets, foundation seals, and mail slots. Check to see if the caulking and weather stripping are applied properly, leaving no gaps or cracks, and are in good condition.

Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. See if you can rattle them, since movement means possible air leaks. If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window leaks. You can usually seal these leaks by caulking or weather stripping them. Check the storm windows to see if they fit and are not broken. You may also wish to consider replacing your old windows and doors with newer, high-performance ones. If new factory-made doors or windows are too costly, you can install low-cost plastic sheets over the windows.

If you are having difficulty locating leaks, you may want to conduct a basic building pressurization test:

1. First, close all exterior doors, windows, and fireplace flues.
2. Turn off all combustion appliances such as gas burning furnaces and water heaters.
3. Then turn on all exhaust fans (generally located in the kitchen and bathrooms) or use a large window fan to suck the air out of the rooms.

This test increases infiltration through cracks and leaks, making them easier to detect. You can use incense sticks or your damp hand to locate these leaks. If you use incense sticks, moving air will cause the smoke to waver, and if you use your damp hand, any drafts will feel cool to your hand.

On the outside of your house, inspect all areas where two different building materials meet, including:

* All exterior corners
* Where siding and chimneys meet
* Areas where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet.

You should plug and caulk holes or penetrations for faucets, pipes, electric outlets, and wiring. Look for cracks and holes in the mortar, foundation, and siding, and seal them with the appropriate material. Check the exterior caulking around doors and windows, and see whether exterior storm doors and primary doors seal tightly.

When sealing any home, you must always be aware of the danger of indoor air pollution and combustion appliance "backdrafts." Backdrafting is when the various combustion appliances and exhaust fans in the home compete for air. An exhaust fan may pull the combustion gases back into the living space. This can obviously create a very dangerous and unhealthy situation in the home.

In homes where a fuel is burned (i.e., natural gas, fuel oil, propane, or wood) for heating, be certain the appliance has an adequate air supply. Generally, one square inch of vent opening is required for each 1,000 Btu of appliance input heat. When in doubt, contact your local utility company, energy professional, or ventilation contractor.

Heat loss through the ceiling and walls in your home could be very large if the insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum. When your house was built, the builder likely installed the amount of insulation recommended at that time. Given today's energy prices (and future prices that will probably be higher), the level of insulation might be inadequate, especially if you have an older home.

If the attic hatch is located above a conditioned space, check to see if it is at least as heavily insulated as the attic, is weather stripped, and closes tightly. In the attic, determine whether openings for items such as pipes, ductwork, and chimneys are sealed. Seal any gaps with an expanding foam caulk or some other permanent sealant.

While you are inspecting the attic, check to see if there is a vapor barrier under the attic insulation. The vapor barrier might be tarpaper, Kraft paper attached to fiberglass batts, or a plastic sheet. If there does not appear to be a vapor barrier, you might consider painting the interior ceilings with vapor barrier paint. This reduces the amount of water vapor that can pass through the ceiling. Large amounts of moisture can reduce the effectiveness of insulation and promote structural damage.

Make sure that the attic vents are not blocked by insulation. You also should seal any electrical boxes in the ceiling with flexible caulk (from the living room side or attic side) and cover the entire attic floor with at least the current recommended amount of insulation.

Checking a wall's insulation level is more difficult. Select an exterior wall and turn off the circuit breaker or unscrew the fuse for any outlets in the wall. Be sure to test the outlets to make certain that they are not "hot." Check the outlet by plugging in a functioning lamp or portable radio. Once you are sure your outlets are not getting any electricity, remove the cover plate from one of the outlets and gently probe into the wall with a thin, long stick or screwdriver. If you encounter a slight resistance, you have some insulation there. You could also make a small hole in a closet, behind a couch, or in some other unobtrusive place to see what, if anything, the wall cavity is filled with. Ideally, the wall cavity should be totally filled with some form of insulation material. Unfortunately, this method cannot tell you if the entire wall is insulated, or if the insulation has settled. Only a thermographic inspection can do this.

If your basement is unheated, determine whether there is insulation under the living area flooring. In most areas of the country, an R-value of 25 is the recommended minimum level of insulation. The insulation at the top of the foundation wall and first floor perimeter should have an R-value of 19 or greater. If the basement is heated, the foundation walls should be insulated to at least R-19. Your water heater, hot water pipes, and furnace ducts should all be insulated. For more information, see our insulation section.

Heating/Cooling Equipment

Inspect heating and cooling equipment annually, or as recommended by the manufacturer. If you have a forced-air furnace, check your filters and replace them as needed. Generally, you should change them about once every month or two, especially during periods of high usage. Have a professional check and clean your equipment once a year.

If the unit is more than 15 years old, you should consider replacing your system with one of the newer, energy-efficient units. A new unit would greatly reduce your energy consumption, especially if the existing equipment is in poor condition. Check your ductwork for dirt streaks, especially near seams. These indicate air leaks, and they should be sealed with a duct mastic. Insulate any ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces. An insulation R-Value of 6 is the recommended minimum.


Energy for lighting accounts for about 10% of your electric bill. Examine the wattage size of the light bulbs in your house. You may have 100-watt (or larger) bulbs where 60 or 75 watts would do. You should also consider compact fluorescent lamps for areas where lights are on for hours at a time. Your electric utility may offer rebates or other incentives for purchasing energy-efficient lamps.

How'd You Do?

Once you make your home or office as energy efficient it's time to start thinking about a solar energy system that will protect you against further increases in energy prices. And, where applicable, your solar system allows you to feed the energy you don't use from your solar power installation back into your local utility power grid for even more energy savings on your energy bills.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Study outlines state’s renewable energy potential

A new study from the American Council on Renewable Energy reports previous estimates for Kansas’ renewable energy future may be far less than the actual potential.

According to the ACORE study, Kansas could be poised to meet a 200 percent renewable energy standard. The report found the state is currently exploiting less than 1 percent of its wind energy potential. At a peak production rate, ACORE found Kansas could be producing 19 gigawatts of wind-generated power by 2024.

Combined with other means of renewable energy, such as solar and geothermal, and Kansas could reach 20 gigawatts of generation — resulting in a renewable energy standard of 200 percent.

The same report found the economic impact through the manufacturing of the equipment needed to exploit this potential — primarily wind turbines and high-voltage transmission lines ­— could be and additional 11,000 jobs and $1.97 billion in investments for the state.

Nancy Jackson, executive director of the Climate and Energy Project, said in a written statement that she hopes the report will spark further discussion about how Kansas can reach its renewable potential.

“Previous forecasts for Kansas wind development may have fallen far short of what the nation will ask of the Heartland,” she said. “Certainly we need to know more about the cost to consumers and environmental impacts, ... but at this point it seems clear — if we build it, they will come.”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Solar-cell firm focuses on the future

Solar-cell manufacturer Suniva’s plant in Norcross could be something right out of an ad for the Obama administration’s green jobs revolution.

Workers in lab coats quietly scuttle back and forth, adjusting whisper quiet, bright-white machines, checking readings and inspecting newly manufactured solar cells that will one day power homes and businesses in India, Europe and, someday, the U.S.

The plant’s 75 to 80 employees even include a few refugees from Atlanta’s shuttered auto manufacturing sector —- iconic symbols of transformation from old, heavy, energy-intensive manufacturing to the new, clean, energy-producing manufacturing on which President Barack Obama is staking his green-energy policies.

As a U.S.-based manufacturer, Suniva CEO John Baumstark said his company hopes to capture a share of the $150 billion in alternative energy investments promised by the Obama administration over the next 10 years. The company is especially interested in relaxed rules for federal loan guarantees for large-scale alternative energy investments.

What could that mean specifically for the nearly 2-year-old company? A new plant that would more than double Suniva’s current manufacturing capability, Baumstark said. Could the plant end up in Georgia? Maybe.

“We’d love to stay in the U.S.,” he said.

Suniva was founded by Georgia Tech professor Ajeet Rohatgi, who was recently honored by the Environmental Protection Agency for helping protect the world’s climate. He serves as the company’s chief technology officer and sits on the board of directors.

The company opened its Norcross plant amid much fanfare in December. Gov. Sonny Perdue said the plant was the opening salvo in Georgia’s effort to attract a share of the 440,000 new jobs and $325 billion in investment the Solar Energy Industries Association expects the field to produce over the next eight years.

The state and local governments gave Suniva millions of dollars in incentives to locate in Gwinnett County, and Baumstark said the company would very much like to build its second plant in the U.S.

But some analysts caution that as a startup, Suniva could be treading on dangerous ground in trying to get out from under the shadow of larger, more experienced manufacturers, such as California-based SunPower.

“Suniva has high efficiencies, but SunPower has been doing the same thing for four or five years,” said Ted Sullivan, a senior analyst with Lux Research Inc., who follows the solar industry and is predicting a significant shakeout among competitors as the market continues to be glutted with oversupply of solar cell ingredients and products.

“In this environment, I question startup companies with very similar technologies to what’s already out there building new capacity.”

Baumstark says what sets Suniva apart is its ability to create high-efficiency solar cells at a lower cost than its competitors. And he said quick contracts with big module assemblers in India and Europe prove the company’s appeal. More deals are on the way, he said.

Now, with increasing emphasis on alternative energy projects emanating from Washington, Suniva officials say they’re seeing an uptick in interest domestically.

“Made in the U.S., we’re getting a lot of play off that,” Baumstark said.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Solar in the Windy City

A plan to install 32,800 panels in a former industrial site on Chicago's South Side would amount to the largest solar power project in an American urban center.

The site for the proposed solar array is promising: Chicago's West Pullman neighborhood. A century ago, this was part of the innovative and prosperous company town built by George Pullman to produce his famous railroad cars. At the time, these were the cutting edge of transportation technology, and the community was considered both an industrial wonder as well as an amazing social experiment. As technology, transportation, and industry changed, the community was left more "on the edge" than at the leading front of prosperity and productivity. The new solar energy plan has the promise to again harness cutting-edge technology as a ticket to rebirth for this once vibrant area.

While we have not seen all the details of the plan, there is a lot to like about the concept:

•"Brownfields" to "Bright Fields"- investment in new, clean energy is per se good, and particularly good when it transforms a community at the heart of old, shuttered, industrial sites, with the legacy of pollution.

•Locating solar generation in an urban environment adjacent to customers and a rich built environment will avoid a host of transmission issues that burden large-scale solar farms outside of metropolitan areas.

•Green Jobs where they are needed - Chicago's South Side needs good jobs and will be the likely recipient of the many new green jobs that the project would create, reinvigorating the local economy.

•As more of clean energy projects like this are established, the economies of scale will help to drive down the cost of solar technology.

Proposals like this one show the potential to clean up both our cities and our energy supply while bolstering the economy and environment. Apparently, not everyone shares this optimism. Comment forums; however, are rife with posts that rip the plan, complain that renewable energy is a waste and mock solar in "the Windy City." These naysayers have little faith in American ingenuity and capacity to create new technologies and build a clean energy economy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Michigan solar energy seminars for local residents

While Michigan is the second cloudiest state in the nation, Norm McKinney looks to the sun to cut his utility bills.

According to, more than 30,000 solar energy systems were installed in Michigan homes between 1974 and 1991.

McKinney installed one in his 108-year-old farm house on Bowers Road. "It cut $100 a month off my heating bill," he said.

According to the Tax Incentives Assistance Project, on-site renewables, which includes solar systems, are now eligible for a federal tax incentive worth 30% off their total cost. McKinney said there's also a state tax credit available for solar installations.

Michigan residents, according to, receive a 100% personal property tax exemption on the installation of any qualifying solar power or other renewable energy installation. This means the state will not up the property value based on the installation.
McKinney, along with business associate Richard Johnson, recently formed American Educational Technologies Management Inc. He's offering a four-night solar seminar at Mott Community College's Lapeer Extension Center, 550 Lake Drive, Lapeer starting May 5.

The pair want to spread their word on how using solar systems can be good for the environment and homeowner's pocketbooks.

"Solar is not a panacea," said McKinney, who once taught construction trades at Pontiac Business Trades in Oxford. That's because, according to statistics from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Southeast Michigan only has about 75 completely clear days a year and about 175 that are completely cloud covered.

Still, he said, a solar installation in conjunction with an existing forced air or hot water heating system can result in significant energy savings. One way a solar system can cut down on utility bills, he said, is by preheating fresh air drawn into a home heating system.

McKinney said a solar system can eliminate the need for a pool heater for swimming pool owners. "I had a 33-by-18 (foot) pool in Cadillac that I heated to 90-degrees," he said.

"There are lots of easy ways to do things that will cut your electric bill," he said.

McKinney said he will cover all those ways during his seminar from 6-9 p.m. May 5, 7, 12 and 14 in Room 200 at Mott. He said there will be a $60 fee for all four sessions.

"We'll show people how to building their own solar collector for less than $100," he said. McKinney said some solar solutions are as simple as placing insulated panels in south facing windows at night.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), co-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, introduced the Cap and Dividend Act of 2009 on April 1. The Cap and Dividend Act would auction 100 percent of the carbon permits, and auction proceeds would return to consumers in a monthly dividend. Every lawful U.S. resident with a social security card would receive a monthly dividend. The Act sets emissions reduction targets at 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 85 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

“The strength of cap and dividend lies in its simplicity and durability. All permits are sold at auction, and all proceeds are given back to the American people. As the price of energy rises, the monthly dividends will keep American consumers whole,” Van Hollen said.

The chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s energy subcommittee, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is not sure about a cap and trade program. A cap and trade program, like a cap and dividend program also sets emissions reduction targets and auctions off carbon permits. However, a cap and trade program allows companies to sell permits after buying them in an auction. It creates an emissions trading market.

“I have serious concerns about how a cap-and-trade program might allow Wall Street to distort a carbon market for its own profits,” Cantwell said in an interview.

A recently released report by the Friends of the Earth (FOE) titled, Subprime Carbon, declared that a U.S. carbon trading market could create the same types of problems that subprime mortgages did. The author, Michelle Chan, referred the problems a carbon market could create as “subprime carbon.” Subprime carbon would likely come from “shoddy carbon offset credits,” according to the report.

Most cap and trade bills do not contain adequate carbon market regulations which would create a “potentially huge regulatory gap.” The report also expressed concern about the cap and trade congressional bills because they do not focus enough on regulating secondary carbon markets “which will be dominated by speculators and will dwarf the primary trading markets.”

“It’s imperative that Congress move quickly to put solutions in place, but it’s also important to be careful and do this the right way from the start,” Chan said. “If we aren’t careful, we could end up creating a massive, poorly regulated derivatives market that not only poses risks to the broader financial markets, but also undermines efforts to save the climate.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Advanced Solar Photonics is Open for Business

Lake Mary, Fl., June 17, 2009 – Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP), the cutting-edge developer of monocrystalline solar panels manufactured with one hundred percent American made components announced today that its SunPanels™ are now on sale.

“We are excited to announce that Advanced Solar Photonics is officially taking orders," said ASP’s Corporate Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Maureen McHale. “Any order placed now will only have a four to eight week lead time.”

Over the last few years, Advanced Solar Photonics has focused on becoming a fully integrated solar solution provider. Through strategic partnerships, ASP has been able to keep costs down and offer the competitively priced SunPanel™ turn-key system. This solution will include a patented method for ground installation, mounting, inverter, wiring and all the necessary hardware components. Combined, these factors enable ASP to offer a lower cost on the balance of the system.

“ASP is essentially a one stop shop for solar energy solutions because we are fully integrated. Whether you’re an installer or distributor looking to purchase just the solar panels or have the need for a full turn-key system, we’d like to talk to you about our competitively priced solar solutions. We are actively growing our installer and distributor network as we build our manufacturing facility up to a 500MW production plant”, said McHale.

ASPs’ manufacturing plant is slated to grow in 50MW increments over the next two years to reach the 500MW capacity. The monocrystalline silicon SunPanels™ being produced are one of the most efficient solar modules on the market today. After years of product development – including research and development, manufacturing process development, fabrication and product testing, engineering, and factory construction, ASP is officially open for business with SunPanels™ now on sale.

“When looking at other manufacturers and deciding which panel you’d want to sell or even install in your own home, it’s important to know, unlike any other company, ASPs' monocrystalline panels are 100% made from US components. Additionally, ASP is the only manufacturer of solar panels in the state of Florida and strives to be the largest solar manufacturing plant in the United States”, said McHale.

Advanced Solar Photonics, (ASP) located in Lake Mary, Florida employs an international team of technology driven professionals. ASPs’ monocrystalline solar panels and commercial solar solutions for the photovoltaic industry are ideal for residential, commercial and utility projects. For more information about our company and our solar solutions, please call (407) 804-1000 or visit our website at

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is Obama "Greening" the White House?

Barack is talking about putting in a basketball court. Michelle is picking out china. And their daughters have plans to redecorate their rooms. When the Obamas moved into the White House on January 20, they immediately started putting their mark on the nation's most historic residence. Environmentalists are hoping that mark will be a bright shade of green.

The new first family is hardly starting a revolution. As far back as June 1979, Jimmy Carter attempted to increase the energy efficiency of the 132-room building when he had a $28,000 solar water heater installed on the roof of the West Wing. In 1993, President Clinton commissioned a report from the Rocky Mountain Institute that identified a number of improvements that could reduce the White House's environmental impact, such as upgrading the HVAC system and improving the energy efficiency of the windows. In 2002, solar photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof. By 2007, the White House also sported compact fluorescent light bulbs, "smart" lawn sprinklers and energy-efficient mini-vans.

But the Obamas could make greening the White House even more meaningful — by taking steps that reflect their willingness to change their lifestyle as well as the building itself.

Here are the top ten recommendations for what they should do, inside and out.

1. Secure LEED certification for the White House
This standard offers meaningful guidelines to help buildings and, increasingly, homes reduce the amount of energy they consume.

2. Change all lighting fixtures to LED lights
Many bulbs in the White House have already been replaced with compact fluorescents. But LEDs save even more energy, and because they contain no mercury, pose no health concerns to consumers.

3. Maximize energy efficiency
Plug computers and other office equipment into power strips that turn on and off automatically. Install light sensors in offices to do the same thing. Use programmable thermostats to turn the heat down in the evening and up (but just to 68 degrees in winter) during the day.

4. Make cleaning green, too
Choose cleansers that are free of phthalates (synthetic fragrances), antibacterial agents, phosphates (especially for dishwashers) and other toxic ingredients. Green Seal can provide a list of environmentally friendly products certified "green" for buildings the size of the White House.

5. Go organic
Favor organic towels, bedding, and fabric for the reupholstering that will go on as the Obamas update the decor. Every president gets a new rug for the Oval Office. Obama could have his woven from fibers made from 100% recycled soda bottles.

6. Use VOC-free paints
Repainting? Use paints free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are known to contribute to respiratory illness, headaches and air pollution.

7. Institute a no-bottled-water policy
Every member of the first family, and all Cabinet members, should regularly use their own BPA-free reusable water bottles. This should be true not only at Cabinet and staff meetings, but when the president takes to the basketball court, too.

8. Adopt a green diet
Eat less meat, and serve organic, locally grown food — for the White House mess and state dinners as well as the residence.

9. Reduce water use
Retrofit faucets, showerheads and toilets to use water as efficiently as possible.

10. Whatever they buy, choose certified products and services
The Obamas can show Americans how to avoid "greenwashing" by buying products whose environmental claims meet independent third-party standards. While they're at it, they can join the One in a Million campaign and intentionally shift the White House operating budget to green goods.

Originally Published: Top 10 Ways to Green the White House

Monday, June 15, 2009

TVA Expands Renewable Energy Program, Offers Incentives

CHATTANOOGA, TN - TVA is offering new incentives to encourage the use of renewable energy. The incentives are being offered to homes and businesses. TVA hopes the new incentives will increase the supply of renewable energy in the Tennessee Valley.

The incentives are offered through an expanded Generation Partners pilot program. The program provides technical support and incentives for the installation of renewable generation systems.

Customers sell all of the power they generate to TVA at a premium price, and the local power company credits the customer for the generation received through a credit on their monthly electric bill.

The program also offers new customers a one-time incentive of $1,000 to help offset startup costs for the installation of renewable resources like wind or solar generation.

Other new program features include biomass energy and low-impact hydropower, which were not part of the previous pilot program. Previously, only solar and wind were eligible.

"The Generation Partners program allows TVA and local power distributors to work together with those customers who are interested in expanding renewable energy across the Valley," said TVA Senior Manager of Generation Partners Susan Ross.

The Generations Partners pilot program has been offered since 2003, and 68 homeowners in the region currently participate.

"We also encourage anyone thinking about purchasing renewable energy sources to check out the federal and state tax credits that may be available," said Ross.

More information on federal and state tax credits can be found at

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More solar power will be made in Riverside at local library

Eight years after its first solar energy project came online, the City of Riverside has surpassed the milestone of producing more than 1 megawatt (MW) of local solar energy. One megawatt is enough energy to power 750 homes in Southern California.

“It is exciting to see that we’ve reached this goal so quickly,” said Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge. “We are well on our way to becoming a model solar city for Southern California and the nation.”ugh energy to power 750 homes in Southern California.

The milestone was reached just as the Casa Blanca Library reopens after extensive interior remodeling. A new 54.88 kilowatt (kW) solar energy system is affixed to the top of the parking structure. The Casa Blanca Library rededication ceremony is at 11 a.m., Saturday.

“We are very proud of this achievement,” said Riverside Public Utilities General Manager David H. Wright. “And we are thankful for a board and city council that have had the foresight over the years to fund and build projects, which not only provide clean, renewable energy for our city, but have educated our customers on the importance of solar energy and how they too can use it.”

To date, the utility has funded 12 solar energy projects; 11 of which are now online producing more than 1,121.69 kW. Projects are located throughout the city, including roof-mounted solar systems on low-income housing units, a local senior center, a homeless services center, city pool facilities, city hall and at local train stations.

In 2003, Riverside Public Utilities began offering a rebate program, which helps offset the costs of installing a residential solar energy system. The program offers incentives of $3 per watt installed, up to $25,000 or 50 percent of the project costs (whichever is less).

With the addition of a commercial solar rebate program in 2008, the utility saw nearly a 42-percent increase in the number of projects applying for funding. And, since July, has seen a 74-percent increase in projects that have been completed.

Surpassing the 1MW local solar milestone is just part of the larger goal the utility has set — receiving 50 percent of its total power from renewable resources by 2013.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

China Leads World in Solar Cell Production

Although China leads the world in solar cell production, the country exports 98% of its photovoltaic products to overseas markets. The country could be facing a >6% electrical supply shortage by next year. In its preliminary report on China’s photovoltaics (PV) policy roadmap, the SEMI PV Group recommends that the country accelerate its adoption of PV-generated electricity to reach the global average by 2014. Although China has been building a
massive PV industry representing all facets of the supply chain — from polysilicon feedstock, ingots and wafers to cells and modules — almost all of the PV production has been exported. At the same time, China faces a rapidly increasing demand for energy.

China derives almost 70% of its energy from coal and other fossil fuels, which play a central role in the country’s economy. The use of fossil fuels generates massive amounts of carbon dioxide, and the external costs of using coal will reach 13% of China’s GDP by 2020, according to the World Bank, which comes as a result of the steady increase in China’s energy demand. On the supply side, in 2010 by some estimates, after accounting for coal, hydro and nuclear power, there could be a 6.4% shortage in electrical supply, which will need to be filled by renewable energy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

L.A. County Metro Completes Large Solar System

In April 2009, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) unveiled what the agency and Chevron Energy Solutions say is the nation's largest solar panel system at a transit facility. The 1.2 MW system is also the largest solar panel installation within the city of Los Angeles.The 6,720 individual solar panels are located at Metro's Support Services Center in downtown Los Angeles - Metro's central maintenance facility for buses. Along with other energy-efficient improvements, the project is expected to cut the facility's annual $1.1 million energy bill in half, to approximately $550,000.The project is a public-private partnership between Metro and Chevron Energy Solutions. The $16.5 million project will receive about $6.3 million in incentives from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Southern California Gas Co. and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The project was financed by Bank of America.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

California Electric Company Sees Difficulties Boosting Renewable Energy

Edison International, owner of California’s largest electric utility, said it will be difficult to keep increasing its use of renewable energy as the latest goal set by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stretches limits on the ability to manage such power sources.

“It’s a goal we should be behind,” Chief Executive Officer Ted Craver said today in an interview in New York. “The issue isn’t to try to kill it or try to knock it out of the box, but to try to figure out how to satisfy that in a way that doesn’t put the system at undue risk.”

Under a November proposal that legislators may make law this year, Schwarzenegger said utilities should derive 33 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. California regulators already are considering allowing use of tradable renewable energy credits to help utilities meet a 20 percent renewables mandate by the end of next year.

The 2020 target would place even heavier reliance on wind and sunlight, intermittent sources that may be expensive to manage without blackouts, Craver said. Edison’s Southern California Edison utility probably won’t meet a 2010 mandate of 20 percent because generators and power lines needed to meet the goal still need regulatory approval, he said.

The complexity of maintaining adequate voltage on the power grid “starts escalating dramatically” when renewables reach 5 percent to 15 percent of supply, Craver said. “Thirty-three percent is something nobody has experienced before. It doesn’t mean we can’t do it, but we need to make sure we can do it and in a cost-effective manner.”

2010 Mandate
Edison will also have to tap into additional clean power sources outside the state to meet expanded mandates and keep costs under control, Craver said.

“If you say we’ve got to have 33 percent and we’ve got to do it only in California, you’d make it a great huge seller’s market, and that’s going to really raise the cost,” Craver said. “If you widen the area, then you have competition at work.”

Regulators don’t expect utilities to meet the 20 percent requirement by 2010, according to a California Public Utility Commission report to a state Senate committee in February. California has the state’s most aggressive renewable-energy requirement. Southern California Edison gets 16 percent of its supply from renewable sources now, Craver said.

Current rules allow utilities to hit the 20 percent target as late as 2013 for reasons such as lack of transmission lines to wind or solar plants.

Edison, based in Rosemead, California, derives more than half of its profit from regulated utility operations.

Edison rose 10 cents to $29.24 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Electric Cars Using Solar Panels For Alternative Energy

Solar energy is being used for Toyota electric cars with solar panels mounted on each end of the vehicle. Toyota wants to develop ways to use the energy as a way to charge its electric batteries in hybrid cars. While the method is possible, experts say it will be difficult to consume enough energy from solar methods to power an electric car.

There are other solar-powered energy methods used such as outdoor lamps, which get their energy from the sun during the day and use it at night. However, using the same technology to power a Hybrid electric car is still several years away.

However, it's possible that Toyota found a way, which we don't know yet. Solar energy could charge limited batteries to run dashboard functions like car headlights, radio and windshield wipers. Toyota was unavailable for comment.

Hybrid is the new trend to power new electric vehicles. Most car manufactures plan to release their own versions of the electric technology next year. Some companies include General Motors, Ford, Nissan, Chrysler and Toyota.

Rumor of a car getting its energy from a rooftop solar panel first started in July 2008. There were speculations that Toyota would offer such a method on its next generation Prius.

One thing we do know is that Toyota has been using solar panels at its Tsutsumi plant in central Japan. The plant produces its own electricity.

Advanced Solar Photonics is Now "OPEN FOR BUSINESS"

Lake Mary, Fl., June 10, 2009 – Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP), the cutting-edge developer of monocrystalline solar panels manufactured with one hundred percent American made components announced today that its SunPanels™ are now on sale.

“We are excited to announce that Advanced Solar Photonics is officially taking orders, “, said ASP’s Corporate Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Maureen McHale. “Any order placed now will only have a four to eight week lead time.”

Over the last few years, Advanced Solar Photonics has focused on becoming a fully integrated solar solution provider. Through strategic partnerships, ASP has been able to keep costs down and offer the competitively priced SunPanel™ turn-key system. This solution will include a patented method for ground installation, mounting, inverter, wiring and all the necessary hardware components. Combined, these factors enable ASP to offer a lower cost on the balance of the system.

“ASP is essentially a one stop shop for solar energy solutions because we are fully integrated. Whether you’re an installer or distributor looking to purchase just the solar panels or have the need for a full turn-key system, we’d like to talk to you about our competitively priced solar solutions. We are actively growing our installer and distributor network as we build our manufacturing facility up to a 500MW production plant”, said McHale.

ASPs’ manufacturing plant is slated to grow in 50MW increments over the next two years to reach the 500MW capacity. The monocrystalline silicon SunPanels™ being produced are one of the most efficient solar modules on the market today. After years of product development – including research and development, manufacturing process development, fabrication and product testing, engineering, and factory construction, ASP is officially open for business with SunPanels™ now on sale.

“When looking at other manufacturers and deciding which panel you’d want to sell or even install in your own home, it’s important to know, unlike any other company, ASPs' monocrystalline panels are 100% made from US components. Additionally, ASP is the only manufacturer of solar panels in the state of Florida and strives to be the largest solar manufacturing plant in the United States”, said McHale.

Advanced Solar Photonics, (ASP) located in Lake Mary, Florida employs an international team of technology driven professionals. ASPs’ monocrystalline solar panels and commercial solar solutions for the photovoltaic industry are ideal for residential, commercial and utility projects. For more information about our company and our solar solutions, please call (407) 804-1000 or visit our website at

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Satcon Powers Hawaii's Largest Solar Farm

Partners with SunPower and Castle & Cooke to Deliver 1.2 Megawatts on the Island of Lana'i

Satcon (NASDAQ CM: SATC), a leading provider of utility scale distributed power solutions for the renewable energy market, announced today that their industry leading PowerGate Plus Spectrum micro grid solution has been selected to power La Ola Hawaii's largest solar photovoltaic (PV) farm and Micro-Grid on the island of Lana'i. The 1.2 megawatt installation sits on a 10 acre site in south Lana'i on the Palawai Basin and is the first solar photovoltaic power plant to be controlled remotely by a utility, Maui Electric Company, Ltd. (MECO).

The micro grid developed, coordinated and operated by Lanai Sustainability Research, LLC, through its managing member, Castle & Cooke Solar Management, LLC, and designed and built by California-based SunPower, is expected to produce enough solar energy to supply up to 30 percent of the island's electric demand. The advanced control capabilities and optimized power efficiencies of Satcon's Spectrum micro grid solution, combined with SunPower's solar tracking system, will increase the energy capture of the farm by more than 500,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually.

"Our goal of helping the state of Hawaii achieve energy independence has taken a significant step forward with the La Ola solar farm in Lana'i," said Harry Saunders, President of Castle & Cooke Solar Management. "Satcon was the obvious partner choice for this project as we assembled a team of the industry's most innovative minds to pioneer our micro grid solution. The combination of their deep expertise within solar power conversion, their experience with successful large scale renewable to grid interconnection, and their proven PowerGate Plus solutions helped enable our team to solve the challenges that faced us as we constructed a stable and reliable island grid built on a solar energy framework."

The solar farm builds on the progress of Governor Lingle's Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative; an unprecedented state partnership launched in January 2008 with the U.S. Department of Energy which aims to have 70 percent of Hawaii's energy needs come from clean sources by 2030. Satcon's Spectrum channels renewable power into the Maui Electric Company grid, resulting in an increase of 14.4 percent of installed electric generating capacity to the island. La Ola offers an offset equivalent to burning 202,400 gallons of diesel fuel, thereby avoiding 4.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emission annually.

"We are honored to be a part of this best in class team of solar power innovators who are successfully supplying stable, high quality renewable power locally, at the point of demand," said Leo Casey, Chief Technology Officer of Satcon. "What we have achieved with MECO and Castle & Cooke is a significant advancement in solving renewable energy challenges of intermittency and power storage and will ensure uninterrupted utility-grade renewable energy to deliver the energy security, reliability, safety, sustainability and cost effectiveness required for the island."

"The La Ola, Lanai's Solar Farm, will offer visibility to utilities around the world about how to successfully integrate solar PV power plants into the grid at high penetration levels," said Jean Wilson, Vice President and General Manager of Utilities and Power Plants at SunPower Corp. "Satcon's inverters provide low voltage ride-through as well as the production and consumption of reactive power, both of which are crucial to grid operation in this application, as the solar farm will provide up to 30 percent of peak generation on Lana'i. We believe that the solar power plant solution Castle & Cooke, MECO, Satcon and SunPower jointly developed will be the foundation for planning rapid growth in deployment of solar PV power plants around the world."

SOURCE: Satcon Technology Corporation

Monday, June 8, 2009

Floridians predict bright future for solar energy

The center now researches solar technology and hopes to provide skilled workers for the solar industry in Florida when, and if, it takes hold.

Proponents of solar energy say it’s a no-brainer that the Sunshine State should be a national leader in its creation. But they just as quickly acknowledge that it may be a long slow path to become a solar energy state. Things like politics, a lack of large expanses of land sometimes needed for solar panel farms, and human nature that is sometimes slow to adopt new things are all obstacles that stand in the way, they say.

Even so, the pursuit of solar could create nearly 100,000 jobs in Florida and attract solar panel and equipment manufacturers. That’s according to a study recently released by Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute. Robert Weissert, spokesman for the organization, says it’s imperative that Florida move quickly to become a solar energy leader because other states like Michigan and Pennsylvania are already entering the business.
Florida does have some advantages over its competitors, Weissert says.

“Sunlight is a major one. Obviously, we’re going to win over Michigan,” he says. “But we also have the construction industry that can build these cells and put them up. It’s also something that our universities have been looking into.”

Florida Power & Light has been embarking on solar initiatives in a big way.

Last year, the Florida House passed a bill that allowed FPL to build facilities that provide 110 megawatts of solar power throughout the state and recoup the capital outlay from customers.
“So right now our customers are paying about 31 cents a month,” says FPL spokeswoman Jackie Anderson. “That’s less than the cost of a postage stamp that is allowing us to build these projects.”

Thousands recently turned out in Indiantown in Martin County to apply for the 1,100 jobs that will be needed to build a 75-megawatt solar-thermal FPL plant there. The plant will use solar energy to produce steam used to provide energy for about 26,000 homes.

Anderson described the plant as a hybrid that will link to an existing fossil fuel plant.

“So basically, when the sun is shining, we will be using less fuel to produce the same amount of power,” Anderson says. “Basically it’s offsetting the use of fossil fuels there.”

FPL also has broken ground on the DeSoto Next Generation Energy Center in Arcadia.

The 25-megawatt solar panel farm will provide enough energy to supply 3,000 homes or nearly 20 percent of DeSoto County’s population, according to FPL. The plant will prevent the emission of more than 575,000 tons of greenhouse gases over 30 years — the equivalent of removing 4,500 cars from the road each year.

FPL also will soon break ground on a 10-megawatt solar facility at Kennedy Space Center that is capable of serving about 2,600 homes.

Jim Fenton thinks these are big steps but says more needs to done.

Fenton is the director of the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida near Orlando, which was founded 32 years ago by the Florida Legislature to test and certify solar hot water heaters.

He said more people should be willing to adopt alternative energy but says it’s hard to change old habits.

There are other factors, like a lack of readily available land and foot-dragging on the part of politicians, that have made bringing solar energy to the state a slow process.

Fenton has been watching the Legislature closely this year and is following a bill that would make solar more of a priority in the state.

The bill, the brainchild of Gov. Charlie Crist, would require utility companies to generate 20 percent of their power from nuclear or renewable energy by 2020. It passed the Senate on Thursday and is headed to the House.

“We are upbeat we will get something passed,” Fenton said.

Syd Kitson, chairman and chief executive officer of Kitson & Partners, a development firm based in Palm Beach Gardens, is banking on the future of solar energy. He hopes to break ground at the end of this year on a major development near Fort Myers that will be powered by solar energy.

Babcock Ranch will eventually have between 45,000 and 50,000 residents and is being designed as a “sustainable community.” The development has partnered with FPL to build a roughly $350 million, 75-megawatt solar system that will help power the community.

“We have to hook up to the grid because the technology is not there to store it yet,” Kitson said. “But we’ll always be generating more than we’re using, so we’ll be putting back in more than we’re taking out.”

Kitson said he hopes to have the solar system, which will occupy 400 acres, up and functional by the end of 2010.

He described the project as a win-win for the project and FP&L.

“Where else can you do your research on your products and have a city you can implement it in,” Kitson said. “So you have a pretty good situation.”


Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Great Article from Renweable Energy World...

If Geeks Ran the Electric Grid
by Steve Kropper, WindPole Ventures LLC

Once we thought the phone network was a "natural" monopoly. But history proved otherwise. Look beyond the electric grid's "natural monopoly" and look backwards at telecom deregulation and the internet to see how big the Smart Grid can be for America.

Once we thought the phone network was a “natural” monopoly but history proved otherwise. Look beyond the electric grid’s “natural monopoly” and look backwards at telecom deregulation and the internet to see how big the smart grid can be for America.

I want to cover my home’s roof with solar cells that generate electricity. I want a co-generation unit (heat and power) in my basement. That sounds like the internet: freedom to plug in your own personal devices.

Today, we blog, upload videos to YouTube, FTP files to our websites and download music (legally, of course). We can buy a dot-com address and launch a website in an hour. Bits of information flow in and out of our house driven by our media hunger or creativity.

If the electric grid was open and smart (it is neither), we might all be creating a bit of power from our rooftops or our basements or we’d sell a promise NOT to use power for an hour on a hot day. But the grid is not designed to track and control thousands of small devices. It only thinks big, ordering power plants to turn on and asking factories to turn off to avoid brownouts.

Like the phone network in 1983, today’s grid is closed, dumb and hostile to interconnection.
If geeks ran the power grid, we would buy photovoltaic systems by mail order from Dell and install them on our roof (hopefully on the south side). Sears would sell co-generation units to heat our homes in the winter and we’d sell the excess power back to the grid in the summer. On a July day, when air conditioning loads peaked, a smart grid with real-time pricing might turn off my water heater and air conditioner for fifteen minutes to free up power so downtown offices can stay cool.

In August of 2003, 50 million people lost power because an Ohio utility didn’t trim the trees! And a nuclear power plant in Florida went offline after a wire was severed. In contrast, the internet was designed for war: nuclear war. If Dallas were bombed, the internet would reroute. The internet is very flat with no vulnerable points to shoot at. There is no central management that can be knocked out by a missile or a tree.

By design, no one “runs” the internet because central management would have been a point of vulnerability. Despite its military origins, the internet is open and so innovation is rampant. Lay people (and my teenager) can easily add components. It is a paradox that the internet’s architects created a fault tolerant network to survive nuclear Armageddon, while power planners fostered a centralized network that would wither under the same assault. The internet was created from scratch by engineers who were not protecting investments in generation.

When I was a kid in Scotland, I clung to the electric heater in the morning as the last bit of warmth faded. Every house had a clock that turned off the heat at 7 AM. Power was scarce. Industry had priority during the day.

But today, a clock that could turn off your home appliances would be on the leading edge of the Smart Grid. When this recession is over, the best source of power will be a smart grid that can shed loads as needed and can shunt wind power where it is needed. Conservation (“demand side management” in industry jargon) is the lowest cost solution and it needs a smarter grid. Smart grid and smart billing are also needed so we can get paid for our home-grown solar power.
You can bet that there won’t be many new jobs in Boston or the Bay area making the copper or towers for the power transmission lines that are a hot topic in Washington. But “building” a software- and IQ-intensive smart grid………that is an opportunity that these tech growth regions understand.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

NJ Announces Solar Manufacturing Incentives


The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU), through New Jersey's Clean Energy Program, announced new incentives to increase the manufacturing of solar panels and inverters and create green jobs in the state. The New Jersey Renewable Energy Manufacturing Incentive offers consumers and businesses that purchase solar panels and inverters that are, at least in part, manufactured in New Jersey a rebate of up to $0.25 per watt for panels, and up to $0.15
cents per watt for inverters.

The rebates, offered through the Renewable Energy Incentive Program, are in addition to the existing solar incentives of up to $1.75 per watt for residential projects that are up to 10 kilowatts, and $1 per watt for non-residential projects — up to 50 kilowatts. This new program is expected to grow New Jersey’s economy by providing $1 million in incentives to the state’s consumers and businesses in 2009. To qualify for incentives under this program, applicants must use products manufactured with at least 50 percent of the product cost — including the labor, overhead, components and raw materials — from facilities located in New Jersey.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Future of Solar Energy

Solar power is one of the fastest-growing sources of renewable energy worldwide. Many nations, concerned about the environmental impacts of electricity generation from fossil fuels or from large-scale hydroelectric plants, have been turning to solar power as an environmentally benign alternative. Two solar power technologies—solar photovoltaic and solar thermal—are widely employed today, and their use is likely to increase in the future.

At present, the cost of electricity produced from solar photovolatics generally is too high to compete with wholesale electricity. In sunny locations, however, the cost can be as low as 23 cents per kilowatthour,a which may be competitive with the delivered price of electricity to retail customers in areas where electricity prices are high, as they are in California, Southern Spain, and Italy. On the basis of installed cost per megawatt, solar photovoltaic installations are relatively costly, because the panel components are expensive and the conversion of solar energy to electricity in the cells still is inefficient. From conversion efficiencies of 5 to 6 percent for the first solar cells built in the 1950s, there has been an improvement to efficiencies of 12 to 18 percent for modern commercial wafer-silicon cells.

Efficiency gains, coupled with other technological advances, have reduced the cost of solar photovoltaic capacity from approximately $300 per watt in 1956d to less than $5 per watt in 2009. EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2009 projects that, by 2030, overnight capacity costs for new generating plants using solar photovoltaics will be 37 percent lower than the 2009 costs. In addition, the efficiency of solar photovoltaic applications is expected to improve as the technology continues to be developed. As a result, U.S. solar photovoltaic generating capacity is projected to increase from 30 megawatts in 2006 to 381 megawatts in 2030.

Although prices for electricity from photovoltaics may not become widely competitive with wholesale prices for electricity from conventional generating technologies within the next 25 years, they may be competitive with high retail electricity prices in sunny regions. Already, photovoltaic technology is gaining market share in countries where declining prices and government- backed financial incentives have led to increased usage.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Update from Intersolar Day 1

Intersolar North America is the most diverse international business-to-business trade show in the United States for the global solar industry. As the only solar exhibition in North America dedicated to recruiting companies across the solar supply chain from around the world, Intersolar helps the industry improve global supply, distribution, training, regulation and business issues to accelerate market transformation and advance solar as a significant part of the global energy supply.

The general tone of module makers is that demand has picked up nicely in 2Q09, maybe 50-100% sequentially for most module vendors. The improvement is off a very low base. It appears that May was noticeably better than April. Module makers indicate that they are no longer receiving as many calls from system integrators pushing orders out to later delivery dates, an indication that projects are going forward and inventory levels have improved. Orders from
distributors are also returning. STP noted that the order improvement was fairly broad-based, with markets like Spain and Italy improving from the low 1Q09 levels.

Limited Visibility Remains; Current Trends Positive:
Companies still say visibility is more limited than what was present in mid-2008, but that if recent trends continue June will be a solid quarter. Many of these companies have guided investors to expect this type of 2Q09 rebound in shipments, but appear to have a bit more confidence in it now than even a week ago.

Module Pricing:
Module prices have fallen about as expected, perhaps 12% from 1Q09 to about the $2.45 per watt (from low-cost China vendors). Some companies indicate a belief prices will level out in 3Q09 (notably YGE), while others believe further digression is likely in 2H09. We believe that prices will continue to decline in 3Q09, as there is still tremendous excess capacity and the cost of producing modules will decline as vendors burn through higher cost polysilicon and wafer inventory. At current spot market prices, many solar module vendors are able to produce modules for less than $1.60/watt, so we find it unlikely that module prices will
be sustained at current levels, since competition would erode that margin. Wafer prices are surprisingly low, at less than $1.00/watt on the spot market.

Channel Inventory at More Reasonable Levels:
We have several indications that suggest channel inventory has been reduced to more reasonable levels, which implies that sell-out has exceeded sales into the channel over the past month. System integrators indicate that they are no longer being bombarded with the unsolicited module offers from random distributors that had been filling their email boxes in February and March.

Financing Remains Difficult:
Indications are that financing remains difficult in most markets, which is limiting commercial installations in markets like Spain and Italy. While the near-term outlook has improved, we believe our 5,575MW worldwide module forecast for the year may prove to be aggressive. Our forecast assumes 2,400MW of that total will come from German demand.

Discussions with many market participants located in Germany suggest a level in the 2,000-2,200MW range is more likely. Participants in the Italian solar market indicate that our 450MW forecast for that country is a best case scenario. Our forecasts of 350MW for Spain may also be at risk, as 1Q09 was very low and 2Q09 appears to be below a pace needed to reach that level. If these markets do miss our forecast, a good portion of the shortfall for these markets
will have occurred during 1Q09, so not necessarily that painful for the outlook.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wanna Buy a Solar Farm in Arizona?

It's not like purchasing the Brooklyn Bridge or some swamp land in Florida...

A land developer in Arizona has some desert property for you? Don't laugh – it might work. It could be the next great opportunity in real estate, or the modern day version of swamp land in Florida. Vermaland, a land holding company in Phoenix, will hold an auction on June 6 to sell off 1,938 acres that it says could accommodate 388 megawatts of electricity, according to the company. That would be enough to power 100,000 homes, says Vermaland.

Although Vermaland is promoting its acres as real estate for PV panels, solar thermal is one of the hot topics in the state. The state sports around 13,000 square miles of relatively level (less than 1 percent slope), dry, sunny, empty, environmentally OK land that could accommodate thermal plants, according to Fred Morse of Fred Morse & Associates, one of the world's experts on the subject. If built out, those square miles could generate 1,742 gigawatts of power.

Green Cities Florida Interviews Maureen McHale

The solar industry is on fire… in a good way. Solar panels and solar farms are popping up all over the nation, but do you ever consider who is behind the production of this hot technology? Maureen McHale of Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP) took a minute to speak with Kimberly Miller of Green Cities Media at Green Cities Florida to discuss some of their recent advancements and the status of solar in the Sunshine State. One thing is clear from this interview; Florida is keeping Advanced Solar Photonics busy. Born from a laser systems producer, Advanced Solar Photonics quickly found a home in the sustainability industry by creating parts for solar panels. The demand for parts led to the idea of selling entire solar panels and even the production of solar farms. Green Cities turned out to be the perfect opportunity for this rapidly expanding company. The media attention and sheer number of participants made it a perfect place for Advanced Solar Photonics to spread their message to a diverse and attentive audience.

In the spirit of true sustainability and the triple bottom line, ASP is a completely American made company, even their productions means are 100% American. Not only does this mean a more efficient way to produce their panels, but their expansion directly relates to Florida’s economy. Maureen states that they are expected to fill 1,500 green jobs over the next two years in Florida’s Lake Mary region. When asked about their future opportunities Ms. McHale responded with one word “Endless”. She and ASP have plenty to look forward to, especially with the backing of government initiatives from the Obama administration and locally in Florida.
They have no intention on squandering their good fortune, as they are making plans to diversify their brand. One way in particular are the “Brown Fields” created by past manufacturing sectors in Florida where developers cannot build homes. Here they found opportunity in crisis as “Brown Fields” are perfect for installing solar farms, which in essence turn the land from brown to green. These farms range from the size of a city block to a 2,500 acre lot. This opens the door to become one of the largest energy producers selling power back to utility companies. Combine this with their assorted list of clients and Florida’s initiative to create solar cities and Advanced Solar Photonics is set to be a major player in the industry for years to come.

Transcript of Interview - May 20, 2009

I’m Kimberly Miller for Green Cities Media speaking today with Maureen McHale of Advanced Solar Photonics, whose tagline is “innovation today for a brighter tomorrow,” and we’re broadcasting actually from Green Cities here in Orlando, Florida. Welcome, Maureen. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Thanks for having me.

So I want to go ahead and start off by asking kind of the history of the company, where the idea for Advanced Solar Photonics come from and what kind of things were you guys interested in whenever you started this company?

Sure. The owner of the company actually started making laser systems for all different types of industries, everything from flat panel displays, semi-conductor, aeronautical, automotive, industrial applications. A lot of those applications are very similar to the photovotaics where the panels need to be cut; the glass needs to be cut. They need to be scribed. Lots of lasers are used in the making of them so we developed a solar line, and from that point, because there’s so much demand for solar panels, the owner said, “You know what? We should not only sell the equipment that makes the panels, we should make panels.”


And here we are.

Terrific, so how long ago did that get started?

The company’s been around since nineteen ninety something…in the nineties, and Advanced Solar Photonics spent the last several years making equipment specifically for the solar industry. The first panels are actually coming off our line in July of this year.

Terrific; and whenever these panels come off of your line, what is it specifically that is going to set them apart from other panels that are out there?

Well not only are they made with the latest technology and lasers, they’re also manufactured in a lean way in that all of the processes and technologies used are very efficient making our panels very efficient and also the panels are going to be made of 100% American made components the equipment even is made in America.


So we’re 100% American-made.

Alright, and you know sometimes I think people forget that part of the triple bottom line and sustainability and this kind of conversation also needs to have jobs here in the United States. That’s really important.

Right; and we are growing so fast. In the next two years we’ll have fifteen hundred new green positions.

That’s terrific. And so will those be located in Florida?

Yes, actually in Lake Mary, which is just north of Orlando.

So you guys are located here in Florida, the sunshine state; seems like it’s a good place for you guys to be. How has the reception been for this kind of technology?

It has been fantastic. As soon as we announced that we were going to be making panels, the phones were ringing, the emails were coming in left and right, and shows like this just attract more attention to what we’re doing and how great renewables can be for everyone.

Certainly; and so who do you see as your biggest client? Is it business people? Is it people who are wanting to put solar panels on their homes? Who’s your target audience?

We’re working with everyone along the chain. We’re going to work with installers, distributors, all the way up to utility companies that want to buy our power. We intend to put solar farms together so that we can sell back to the electric companies.

That’s terrific. So what do you think is the future of solar photonics?

It’s endless. Literally every week we get bigger and bigger, and more things change. It’s nothing but bright and green.

So with the new Obama administration a lot of green initiatives being put into place…do you think that’s going to affect your business specifically? And do you think this is an easier climate with this administration to try and advance this business?

I think more people are talking about renewables because of the government initiatives today. It’s nothing but good. It’s a start at least people are starting to understand and recognizing solar panels. I went down to the beach this past weekend, and I saw solar panels lighting up the channel markers for the beaches and the boats so it’s becoming recognizable. Everybody’s talking about it, and the more government incentives, the more state incentives that can bring down the costs for normal people like you and me to put them on their houses, and the better it is.

So what is it about Green Cities specifically that was attractive for your company to come here?It’s definitely the number of people we were able to get in front of, the media attention, the government officials that were here, the fact that Orlando is becoming a green city. I mean it’s huge for us. So anything that we can tag along with and be involved in is where we want to be.

So what kind of advancements would you like to see in Florida happen in the next 5-10 years?

I’m definitely excited about the new solar studies about more green everything; from the booth next to us has the pavers that the water penetrates through to, like I said, the solar panels lighting up traffic lights and overhead displays and all those kind of things. Just more and more renewable sources

Right; it seems like a real change towards sustainability is actually happening, and to see it happen here in Florida is exceptionally exciting I think. So are there any upcoming projects that you guys are going to be working on that maybe you’re excited or that you could share with us?

Yes, actually we’re looking to do a project for Seminal County School systems, and trying to put panels on their roofs, and power their buildings. There’s, like I said, solar farms that we’re putting together. There’s something called Brown Fields, where there’s been waste from companies and other manufacturing processes that have gotten into the ground, and they can no longer use the ground for new buildings. They can’t put houses there unless they do a huge cleanup. Our panels and our solar towers are perfect for that because we can make a solar farm, put panels on there, and generate electricity from a piece of land that may not even be usable.
That’s terrific. So with these Brown Fields and solar farms, about how long does it take to complete a project like that?

Well thankfully we have this great technology we’ve just partnered with, a manufacturing fabricator that has a technology that can put a post for the tower into the ground in about three hours time. Normally, it would take a month for the concrete to set and things like that. It’s the same technology that was used to put the fence between Mexico and Texas so it’s like 120 miles plus, and they did it in like sixty-one days. So this is a fast way to do things. So literally we can put a farm up in a matter of weeks and not months or years

Great; so more efficient.


So how big are these Brown Fields and solar farms? Do you have a rough estimate?

There’s all different sizes. Depending on the size of the contamination, it could be anywhere from a city block to acres and acres. We’re looking to cover probably about twenty-five hundred acres. There’s some in Pensacola; some here; other local companies have them. So we’re partnering with these people to make those Brown Fields green. It’s what we’re trying to do.

Right. That’s amazing. Well I wish you the best of luck. It sounds like you guys have an incredible year or five ahead of you.

It’s very exciting

And it’s really nice to meet you and have you here at Green Cities.

Well thanks a lot!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Wrong Way to Create a Solar Market

In 2008, Spain was the top market for solar installations. In 2009, it will fall to 15th. It's all due to erratic decision making by the government.

Greentech Media explains it all in an essay which provides a blueprint for what not to do while trying to increase use of solar power.

Here's the truncated version of the story:
Spain decided between 2007 and 2010 it would pay above market rates for electricity that came from solar plants to spur growth in the solar industry. It planned on subsidizing 400 MW over 3 years. Solar developers installed 344 MW by the end of 2007.

Spain panicked. It adjusted the cap, but not enough to accommodate all the new solar plants that were built. It also lowered the amount it would pay above market for solar energy. With the cap kicked, solar developers moved on.

The feed in tariff did nothing to create a vibrant solar industry. Solar companies came in, took advantage of what there was to take advantage of, then they moved on.