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Entries in Solar Energy (6)


One roof at a time

A few months back the government was giving tax rebates for electric golf carts, heat pumps, dishwashers and other energy saving devices.  What if the government and local utilities created a program that would pay for the installation of solar panels, solar hot water and micro turbines for consumers would you participate?  The first thing people will ask is what’s the catch?  The catch is the utilities would own the equipment and would continue to charge you a generation cost to your bill and would have the ability to sell any unused electricity back into the grid.  The utility would have the right to all tax and offset credits you in essence are leasing your roof to the utility.  What this should do is balance electricity supply and demand in a way that utilities should be able to freeze generation rates for the next 10 years.  It would also remove any fuel surcharges to those customers that participated as well.  With federal mandates being discussed today in the neighborhood of 20% fossil fuel reductions it is going to take grass root efforts like this to reach those goals even while Washington remains in gridlock.  We have utility companies today sitting around and waiting for the government to make an $18 billion dollar guarantee for nuclear construction that on average will take between 4 to 5 years to build without any legal challenges.  Just think of how many households we could install solar panels on for that money?  With the price of panels today and factoring in a 40% reduction in costs over the next 3 years (panels have reduced almost 70% in the last 3 years) we are looking at approximately 1 million homes.  Remember the utilities and government are not giving this money away like with Tarp they are investing it and getting a fair rate of return back year over year.  Just think of the jobs this would create over the next 10 years as well mostly to smaller companies where this would matter the most.  I would encourage you to call your local, state and federal representatives and tell them you are willing to help.  As always I am interested in your thoughts to see how we make a difference from the bottom up.


Wind & Solar Lead Renewables

Renewable Energy World

Looks like wind and solar are leading the way for renewable energy. I think most people feel that they have the most potential in helping us cut our energy consumption from current sources. What is interesting is that the current economy has not had as big an impact as might be expected in the R&D and use of these new technologies. Europe is losing market share but proponents are looking to the US and China to pick up the slack. My feeling is that turning to these alternatives will help save money in the long run for the individual homeowners. It's already happening in Massachusetts and hopefully it will happen in other states. I'm all about the win-win scenario this represents.


Massachusetts Homeowners Solar Savings

Renewable Energy World

The future of home solar seems to have arrived. Electric customers in Massachusetts are able to sell energy back to the electric companies generated from solar panels on their own roofs. In the article, the customer profiled has been saving several hundred dollars a month on his power bill. He thinks that he will cover his investment cost in 3-4 years. Everything after that will be profit. Sounds nice.

The homeowner is able to do this because Massachusetts has implemented a program that requires energy companies to provide ever increasing amounts of energy from green sources. The companies have to meet certain guidelines set by the state. By setting up tradable credits between the homeowner, power company and state government, Massachusetts has provided the incentive for people to look at alternative energy sources. Now i'm sure there is bureaucracy and rate tape. Lets be honest, it's Massachusetts. However, if the program works as described, then it sounds like a model we can build on.


Spray On Solar?


Now hear is something really cool. A company in Norway is using metal nanotechnology to create what they say is a spray on solar material that can turn windows, walls and rooftops into generating solar panels. They are hoping to achieve a 20% efficiency rate. The material is in testing and will not be available until 2016.

Now, my question is why is this new potential product not getting more buzz? If this material can really do what they say it can do, I would think some deep pocketed investors would be all over this. To me it comes back to the same problems that have plagued the renewable industry for most of it's history. The promise and excitement are there, but the final product always goes missing. You name the cool new thing that will get us off oil/coal and I can show you something that has not lived up to promise.

If you have read this blog for some time you will know that I am not trying to be pessimistic. We believe that all energy is good energy whether that be renewable, green or fossil. Our country needs it and can't run without it. However, we are not seeing the strides that many thought would have been achieved by this date. I think most people share the belief that if we could run our economy on solar and other green energies without destroying the economy or our way of life, we would back it 110%. However our current realty is that we are not there yet and until the new energies fulfill their promise, we will continue to rely on the "old" energies that have powered us the last hundred years. Lets hope this Norwegian company can make this technology work. I for one think it would be really cool.


Big Solar Facing Hurdles In California


It seems that the state that bills itself as the "green" state is not so easy to do business in. It appears that finding a suitable site to build wind and solar farms is not as easy as we imagined. The first issue is being close enough to existing infrastructure in order to get the power to market. Having to build the lines and systems from scratch is expensive. The second issue as highlighted by the article is the environmental impacts these locations can have. I for one assumed that these projects had a light footprint and did not do any damage to the surrounding environment. Apparently I was wrong. It appears that solar farms and I assume wind farms as well do have an impact on the surrounding ecosystem that violates standards in protected wildlife areas.

In the article above, local residents have fought the building of a solar project in a relatively rural area of California. There seems to be a "not in my back yard" issue. As well, local residence who live in the area complain that the native beauty as well as the destruction of habitat for small animals and fauna is reason enough to deny the project.

It is pretty obvious that all the glowing projections of solar in our future fail to take into account the realities on the ground. If we are going to ramp up solar to the point that it can be relied on as a source of power, then we need to sit down and figure out how to streamline the process of building these farms. There needs to be a mechanism in place to help speed this process along and eliminate some of the red tape. If companies trying to build these farms and promote green energy have to continue to pay millions just to get a preliminary study done, then we are in jeopardy of running off willing and able operators. The promise of solar will be over before it starts.