Category Archives: utility company

7 Impressive Solar Energy Facts (+ charts)

7 impressive solar energy facts (+ charts)

by author:Zachary Shahan

How solar power has changed over the last 10 years

Solar power is in a tremendously different place today than it was in 10 years ago. Below are a handful of impressive stats about solar power’s growth, as well as some general stats about solar energy potential that are also quite noteworthy.

1. Even yearly energy potential from sunshine dwarfs total energy potential from any other source.

The annual energy potential from solar energy is 23,000 TWy. Energy potential from total recoverable reserves of coal is 900 TWy. For petroleum, it’s 240 TWy; and for natural gas, it’s 215 TWy. Wind energy’s yearly energy potential is 25–70 TWy.

[Source: A Fundamental Look at Energy Reserves for the Planet]

2. Approximately 66% of installed world solar PV power capacity has been installed in the past 2½ years.

Furthermore, total installed capacity is projected to double in the coming 2½ years.

[Source: GTM Research]

3. Global solar PV power capacity grew from about 2.2 GW in 2002 to 100 GW in 2012.

From 2007 to 2012, it grew 10 times over, from 10 GW to 100 GW.

[Source: Renewables 2013 Global Status Report]

4. There are now about 1.36 million jobs in the global solar PV industry.

There are also about 892,000 in the solar heating & cooling industry.

[Source: Renewables 2013 Global Status Report]

5. Germany accounted for nearly one third of global solar PV capacity at the end of 2012.

Italy (16%) and Germany (32%) combined accounted for nearly half of global solar PV capacity.

[Source: Renewables 2013 Global Status Report]

6. The price of solar PV panels dropped about 100 times over from 1977 to 2012.

Since 2008, the price of solar PV panels has dropped about 80%.

[Data Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance / Chart Source: Cost of Solar/Unknown]

7. The sunshine hitting Texas in one month contains more energy than all the oil and gas ever pumped out of the state.

Nonetheless, New Jersey has about 10 times more solar PV power capacity installed than the entire state of Texas.

[Data Source: SEIA / Image Source: 1Sun4All.com]

Those are some of the most impressive solar energy facts and charts I’ve seen, but please let us know if there are some big ones you think I’m missing.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Zachary Shahan, editor of CleanTechnica and Planetsave. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of ABB or its employees.

Solar PV providing light and power to Los Angeles; Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach Graffiti Art Walls

Solar PV lighting system with Battery Back-up, Venice Beach, CA

If you’re paying attention to the skyline then you’ve seen solar pv arrays being used to provide clean, renewable energy popping up everywhere.  Many homeowners and business owners have made the switch from fossil fuels to solar power, but even the smallest of energy users (see photo left) are also making the move.

Solar Energy can be used anywhere on Earth the sun shines.  We use it to provide energy in remote locations where the ‘grid’ cannot reach as well as in ‘grid’ connected areas to help offset some of the utility company electrical demands.  A solar electric system in conjunction with battery back-up can produce clean, renewable energy throughout the day which can be distributed anytime, even during the utility companies peak charge times to save the most.  The solar lighting system installed at the Venice Beach Art Walls includes a battery back-up system at each light which allows the entire area to shine all night completely off the electrical grid.

Solar PV Array at Santa Monica Pier, California

Keep traveling a little farther north along the bike path and you’ll find the Santa Monica Pier.  Take a closer look (see pic below) and you’ll see a solar PV array helping push the roller coaster and ferris wheel along.  This solar system does not cover all the power required to run the Santa Monica Pier, however one of the many benefits of a solar system is it’s easily expandable.  As us about our proposal to take the Santa Monica Pier completely off the utility grid…

Feel free to email, or comment below should you have questions or opportunities to discuss.

Thanks for spreading the word,

Jimi Holt

 

The Key to Exponential Solar Growth Is Virtual Net Metering — and Solar Companies

 

On August 15, 2012, at 8 a.m., Colorado’s Xcel utility opened up its registration for a new solar gardens/virtual net metering program. It took just 30 minutes to shut the doors on applications. The utility had received 13.5 MW in those 30 minutes, more than triple the 4.5 MW allowed. This excitement is one reason why I believe that community solar is the key to widespread U.S. solar adoption, but let’s go through all of them…plus the challenges to it ever happening.

Right now there are relatively few solar gardens/net metering/community solar programs in the United States. The most notable and successful ones are in Sacramento via the SMUD, as well as an earlier solar gardens program in Colorado. Currently, California law allows for community solar on site, limiting roof space on buildings. However, a new bill, SB 843, will allow off-site solar virtual net metering, a.k.a. community solar.

Another reason why I’m bullish on widespread community solar is Solar Mosaic, a new company that allows individuals to invest in solar through a Solar PPA model. Here, instead of a utility bill directly benefiting from the watts, a consumer invests in a large solar PPA project and basically becomes an equity partner, earning an ROI.

In the two models above, roof or property ownership is not required, so renters and tree-lined-street lovers can enjoy solar benefits and savings. Also, because the actual solar installation is off-site, perfect insolation, roof age, home-owner vanity, and belligerent home owner associations are no longer in the way of sales. In addition, unlike physical PV, these panels can virtually follow you to a new residence, though typically within the same utility area.

Although the formulas for crediting your utility bill (or bank account in the case of Solar Mosaic) will vary by state and utility, one constant remains: Consumers or businesses can buy or lease a part of a large solar PV farm and benefit financially, regardless of location or property ownership.

From a solar market and marketing perspective, the above paragraph is revolutionary. On the surface, community solar models completely democratize solar power. Capital, access to loans, or a good credit score will still be required, but beyond those qualifications, community solar models could be accessible to millions of renters in large urban cities, or even rural off-grid residents who can invest and indirectly save on energy costs via a solar mosaic-type model.

Even more exciting from an untapped solar market perspective is the latest National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report, which estimates that the annual technical potential in the United States for urban utility-scale PV is 2,232 terawatt-hours (TWh)! For rural utility-scale PV, there is an estimated U.S. technical potential of 280,613 TWh!

Sounds fantastic, eh? But we can’t get giddy just yet.

Four little things stand in the way of solar PV nirvana, and that’s where you, dear solar capitalist reader, will have to roll up your sleeves and work very, very hard. Because, while these models and technical solar potential exist, the industry will have to overcome the following general challenges:

1) Energy politics. California being the leader that it is in solar, I have high confidence that SB 843 will pass both state legislators and be signed by Governor Brown. But the same model will not be adapted in Alabama or Mississippi, or even the blue state of Illinois. Fossil fuel interests and utility monopolies will not see their revenues and market share decrease without a battle with their legislators/regulators and on their local airwaves.

The solution: Diving into energy politics. Solar companies, large and small, can’t sit on the sidelines. Not only must they lobby and get to know their state legislators, they must spend the time to rally public opinion and explain the value of these models. And that brings me to:

2) Public education. Even without mentioning virtual net metering, the vast majority of U.S. rate payers are still believing in the 1980’s mindset of expensive and unreliable solar. Some don’t know the difference between solar PV and solar thermal. While the old mindset is slowing getting modernized, we’re far from there yet. On top of traditional models, now we have to add education about community solar, community solar purchasing versus a leasing model, and the Solar Mosaic option. Solar marketers and educators are already challenged, but sure, let’s pile on community solar.

The solution: Educate customers now. While this may appear to conflict with current sales, the public needs to understand their solar options, as well as be able to support legislative efforts to make virtual net metering available everywhere. To do your part, have a section on your website that explains and keeps track of local community solar initiatives. Link to local community solar advocates who are pushing for your local legislation. Bottom line, explain community solar and get people excited about the concept.

3) Outdated utility business models.  Related to #1, but more specific. American power is currently stuck in a very old business model where a single energy provider collects and distributes grid-connected power to homes and businesses. In Germany, sign a two page agreement, and anyone with a solar panel or wind turbine can sell power to the Utility.  Here in the U.S., the “smart grid” and its related technologies will slowly change the way we create, deliver, consume, and pay for energy, but we’re not even close to any new utility business model. Utilities know they will lose revenue when customers participate in community solar farms. And yet, the grid costs money, especially if it’s to be improved…some day.

The solution: There’s no easy one here. Utilities and solar companies just have to start thinking about creating new energy business models that complement each other. Both businesses need each other for now, although battery storage technology may one day eliminate the need for net metering for some customers. For others, grid-tied storage services and distribution services, either from deserts or rooftops, will be required. Nevertheless, utilities have the monopolies today, and that limits consumer choice. So, until consumers have a choice of distribution services and community solar is available to all, any argument in 2012 that solar customers must pay more for “their fair share” of grid distribution is ridiculous. When the utilities open the doors to true energy choice via community solar, then public utility commissions can discuss consumers paying extra for solar energy transmission and the fair value of that service.

4) Improving grid infrastructure. #3 above is about business models. Here, we have a physical and economic problem. The American grid is old and inefficient. The more solar farms we grow, the more updated smart power technology and power lines will be needed. So, while we may be able to change political minds, educate the public, and create new utility business models, little happens without physically building a new, modern electric grid, especially in rural sunny areas that have the most solar production potential.

The solution: The solutions are 1, 2, and 3 above. Utilities will either need to be forced to create updated grid infrastructure via legislation and taxpayer/ratepayer funding, or they may voluntarily do it with an innovative business model that shows an ROI. Either way, the smart grid and new transmission lines won’t happen without political advocacy, public education, and win-win community solar business models.

Want a great resource for implementing Community Solar? Then go to Vote Solar and see their terrific community solar tool kit.

One more thing about community solar’s main-streaming potential: Besides democratizing the grid and solar power, community solar will benefit all sectors of the solar industry. Obviously, the more solar farms created via new laws, the more solar products manufactured, distributed, sold, and installed, creating jobs and profits.

Implementing community solar not only has growth potential for solar businesses, it’s also a personal goal. Because as much as I’m a part of the solar industry and a passionate solar advocate, I grew up in Manhattan and lived most of my adult life in various Los Angeles residences where solar was either not possible (apartment) or practical (trees). Community solar can change that for me and for millions like me. The change starts with all of us tackling the above steps… and UnThinking Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Contact him through UnThink Solar or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.

Obama Sets National CHP Target To Increase Industrial Energy Efficiency And Reduce Demand On Oil And Coal

President Obama yesterday signed an executive order that sets a national goal of 40 GW of new combined heat and power (CHP) by the end of 2020. Additionally, the Department of Energy’sBetter Buildings, Better Plants program yesterday announced that five companies — Kingspan Insulated Panels, semiconductor manufacturer Cree, General Aluminum Manufacturing Company, PaperWorks and Harbec, a maker of machine tools and injection-molded plastic parts — have signed on, and committed to improving their energy intensity by 25 percent over 10 years.

Partners in the Better Buildings, Better Plants program have already realized at least $80 million in cost savings, according to the DoE. These actions are expected to save about $1 billion cumulatively by 2020.

The executive order intends to accelerate investments in industrial energy efficiency, which could save manufacturers at least $100 billion in energy costs over the next decade, according to the White House. Meeting the President’s 40 GW CHP goal would mean $40 billion to $80 billion of new capital investment in American manufacturing facilities. But the White House says investments in industrial energy efficiency, including CHP, incur as little as half the cost of traditional forms of new baseload power.

Other benefits include reduced nationwide GHG emissions and enhanced grid security.

The executive order directs agencies to hold ongoing regional workshops with information about best practice, policies and investment models, and directs the EPA, along with the Departments of Energy, Commerce and Agriculture, to coordinate actions at the federal level while providing policy and technical assistance to states to promote investments in industrial energy efficiency.

In support of the executive order, DoE and EPA released a report, Combined Heat and Power: A Clean Energy Solution, that discusses ways to achieve 40 GW of new CHP by 2020. Environmental Leader examines that report in greater detail here.

Obama made the announcement on the day that Mitt Romney accepted the Republican Party’s nomination to run against the president in November, and just two days after the White House finalized a rule to require cars and light trucks to achieve 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Reuters said that as Congress has repeatedly blocked Obama’s efforts to pass energy and climate legislation – including measures to encourage investment in CHP – the administration has turned to its executive agencies as a means of achieving its goals.

In his acceptance speech yesterday, Romney said of Obama’s environmental policies, “His assault on coal and gas and oil will send energy and manufacturing jobs to China.”

The global market for commercial CHP systems will reach $11.2 billion by 2022, with 80 GWe installed by that year, according to a report by Pike Research published earlier this month. California has set a goal of 4 GW of new CHP generation in the state by 2020, with 1990 as a baseline.

Harbec, one of the new private sector commitments to the Better Plants program, has set a goal of becoming a carbon neutral company by 2013.

From:

http://www.environmentalleader.com/

Arizona should take advantage of Utility Company rebates for Solar PV and Thermal Systems before they are gone.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System

Last week Salt River Project (SRP) announced that they lowered their solar rebates for residential solar photovoltaic systems installed within their service area in Arizona.  They decreased the rebate amount offered from $2.15 per watt to $1 per watt.  If you have been paying attention to solar rebates in Arizona then you likely have noticed that they have continued to decrease, at least the offerings from both major utility companies, SRP and APS.  Therefore, it is likely that the solar rebates in Arizona will soon be eliminated altogether for residential customers so if you plan to have a solar photovoltaic or solar thermal system installed on your home then now may be the best time.