Archive for solar

The Energy Of The Future Is Solar Power

Smart Energy in ArizonaNot so long ago, solar power was something of a dream for those who were ahead of the curve in the environmental movement. It appeared to be an option for the wealthy and for those who had committed themselves to environmentalism.

The idea that we could heat our homes and generate electricity from little more than sunshine seemed like a utopian ideal.

However, as the real and immediate effects of global warming are felt around the world in everything from droughts to mega-hurricanes, the implementation of solar power is now a feature of global policy and economics; it’s part of a combination of renewable energy sources which eliminate the use of fossil fuels that drive global warming.

Solar power has been steadily on the rise around the world, and as fossil fuels become increasingly scarce, we can expect to see solar power increasingly adopted.

Solar Power On The Rise

The surge in interest across the globe in solar power has largely been in response to the problem of carbon emissions and global warming. Solar power and other renewable sources of energy are the best ways to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases.

As a direct result, global use and implementation of solar technology has been on a steady rise since the early 2000s. Solar is now the fastest rising source of renewable energy in the world, reaching about 1% of the total energy produced globally.

In fact, solar energy production now rivals nuclear power globally. Solar energy reached a capacity of about 350 GW (gigawatts) globally in 2015, compared to nuclear energy which topped out at 391 GW in the same year. In addition, it is predicted that at the current rate of conversion to solar energy, it will overtake the use of fossil fuels by 2050, with most of the globe running on energy produced by the sun.

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Crazy Utility Bookkeeping

Okay, here’s the thing. All over the USA, badly managed utilities with strong, well-financed political clout are doing their best to kill solar and other distributed energy systems. They claim that non-solar customers have to foot the bill for maintaining the grid that solar customers use at very little cost. Of course, this is completely false and ignores the financial benefits to utilities of grid-tied solar installations.

For example, I have a grid-tied 4.2 kW system on my roof. I received no subsides from anyone to install it. It’s my investment. As the “net metering” program now stands in Arizona, I’m saving around $600/year with my system. That nets me between 5 and 6% on my investment. That’s a good thing.

My little system also provides most of its electricity to the grid during peak energy demands – from 10 -4 each day. During that time, we use very little electricity, so most of it is flowing to the APS grid. There they can resell that electricity for anywhere between 6 cents to 26 cents per kilowatt hour for the time of use customers. That gives them a healthy profit because I’m giving them the electricity essentially for free. At the end of the year, if I’ve put more electricity into the grid, APS credits my account at less than 3 cents per kWh.

So, if I’m not paying the $20/month for the grid, APS is making more than that by selling the peak electricity I provide to them…free. Also, we residential and commercial solar owners help APS avoid the huge costs of increasing their power generation by building new plants to meet peak demands. That’s worth a lot to a utility. Of course, they do not share this with the utility commissions when they complain about the “costs of solar.”

Here’s an article about what’s going on in Nevada. You can bet that Arizona utilities are learning lessons from the anti-solar wins in their neighboring state.

Read Who Owns the Sun.

Here’s an overview about solar in Arizona.

Some Utilities Embrace Distributed Energy

Smart Energy in ArizonaThe growth of distributed energy generation — particularly in the form of solar energy — leaves the aging, monopolistic electric utility system a daunting choice: Come out swinging in defense of the status quo or boldly jump into the cockpit, put on the co-pilot’s hat and fly toward the clean energy future.

The second choice is not only the best option, it’s also a vital move toward curbing climate change, serving customers with fair prices and, most important for the folks calling the shots, keeping utility companies in business.

In order to stay competitive, utility companies, grid operators and the people who regulate them need to do what’s right for people and planet — incorporate renewable energy, storage and software to modernize the grid.

The momentum for renewable energy builds as prices fall and emissions regulations tighten. Supporting this trend doesn’t stop at pro-solar policies. Innovating to keep up with the technology is essential for both wider adoption of renewables and a better, more resilient grid.

Breaking the common solar-versus-utility narrative, some utility companies are not only accepting the idea of a clean energy future — they’re ushering it in. For those who aren’t, the consequences will continue to grow. The question for utilities is, will they be leaders or laggards.

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Does Renewable Energy Increase Electricity Costs?

By Daniel Fleischmann, Renewable Energy World

Since the big push from the U.S. government for investment in renewable energy in 2009, we’ve had the opportunity to see how prices have changed between states that have made large investments in renewable energy, and those that have not.

Critics of renewable energy investment say that renewable energy will never be as cost-effective as fossil fuels and could give customers sticker shock.

But is that the case?

To make the comparison, I took a sampling of 40 states; 20 states that have clearly invested heavily in increasing generation from renewable energy, and 20 states that have clearly been lagging behind on investment. I left out Alaska and Hawaii, where electricity prices are affected by different market forces than in the lower 48 states. I focused on the increased generation from geothermal, solar, and wind energy. Biomass has only grown measurably in New Hampshire and Virginia over the past several years.

I focused on generation rather than consumption, since the practice of actually constructing and operating these facilities within the state is more of an “investment” than buying power from hundreds of miles away. To do this, I compared the average price of power provided by the Energy Information Agency (EIA) for each of these states from 2010 through 2015 with the approximate average price over the last 18 months.*

In selecting the states for each list, I found it pretty clear to differentiate those that had invested heavily in renewable energy and significantly increased generation, with those that had not. This list takes into account EIA estimates on generation from distributed solar.

The obvious states that have invested heavily include California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont. As for the remaining six states, I found Arizona worthy for the list, growing from 0.2 percent of its generation from wind and solar in 2010 to nearly 5.8 percent through the first half of 2016.

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100% Renewable Energy in 10 Years

Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute:

If our transition to renewable energy is successful, we will achieve savings in the ongoing energy expenditures needed for economic production. We will be rewarded with a quality of life that is acceptable—and, perhaps, preferable to our current one (even though, for most Americans, material consumption will be scaled back from its current unsustainable level). We will have a much more stable climate than would otherwise be the case. And we will see greatly reduced health and environmental impacts from energy production activities.

But the transition will entail costs—not just money and regulation, but also changes in our behavior and expectations. It will probably take at least three or four decades, and will fundamentally change the way we live.

Nobody knows how to accomplish the transition in detail, because this has never been done before. Most previous energy transitions were driven by opportunity, not policy. And they were usually additive, with new energy resources piling onto old ones (we still use firewood, even though we’ve added coal, hydro, oil, natural gas, and nuclear to the mix).

Since the renewable energy revolution will require trading our currently dominant energy sources (fossil fuels) for alternative ones (mostly wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and biomass) that have different characteristics, there are likely to be some hefty challenges along the way.

Therefore, it makes sense to start with the low-hanging fruit and with a plan in place, then revise our plan frequently as we gain practical experience. Several organizations have already formulated plans for transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy. David Fridley, staff scientist of the energy analysis program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and I have been working for the past few months to analyze and assess those plans and have a book in the works titledOur Renewable Future. Here’s a very short summary, tailored mostly to the United States, of what we’ve found.

Read more here.

Solar Jobs in Arizona

In 2015, there were more than 9,100 Solar Workers in Arizona. Employment in this industry grew by 7%, more than all other sectors. And that’s with the major utilities actively attempting to strangle the renewable energy industry in the state. Read more here.

Community Solar

Why community shared solar is ready to be the ‘great equalizer’ A new NREL study explains what could open up the other half of the distributed solar market.

About half of all American rooftops are suited to solar installations and about 0.5% now have solar. That means solar could get up to 100 times bigger than it is now. But that’s not the big news in a just-released study.

The really big news is that community shared solar is poised to reproduce the sharp upward growth that the industry has seen over the last five to six years with solar leasing, according to researchers at the Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL). That would give the other half of households and small businesses the opportunity to buy in.

“This business model opens solar up to something like 100% of the market. Everyone. It is really an equalizer,” explained NREL Senior Financial Analyst David Feldman. “Solar has a lot of benefits but not everyone can take advantage of them right now. This business model provides that.”

New data in Shared Solar: Current Landscape, Market Potential, and the Impact of Federal Securities Regulation makes it possible for a more accurate accounting of available roof space than the 23% to 29% estimate made in 2012, co-author Feldman said.

“A surprisingly large number of people and businesses can host a solar system,” Feldman said. “But there is a very large number who cannot.”

An estimated 49% of households and 48% of businesses are currently unable to host a PV system, the study finds. “By opening the market to these customers, shared solar could represent 32% to 49% of the distributed PV market in 2020, thereby leading to cumulative PV deployment growth in 2015 to 2020 of 5.5 GW to 11.0 GW, and representing $8.2–$16.3 billion of cumulative investment.” Read more…