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Why 2017 might be the best year ever to go solar
Jan04

Why 2017 might be the best year ever to go solar

Despite the anticipated pushback against environmental policies by incoming President Trump and his fossil fuel friendly cabinet picks in 2017, a glance at this past year’s renewable industry trends and plummeting panel prices suggest that right now might be the cheapest time ever to switch to solar before policy changes and a slowdown in manufacturing drive costs back up.   Last year(s) for the Full Extended Solar Investment Tax Credit   The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is one of the corner stone pieces of nation wide legislation supporting the development of solar in the United States. In a nutshell, the ITC is a 30 percent tax credit for solar systems on residential and commercial properties. It was set to expire this year, but a rare act of bipartisan policy making extended it to 2023. The tax credit incentive will decline by a set percentage every year until its extended expiration date, with 2017 being the last year people can receive the full 30 percent write off. But let’s not be optimistic for a minute and assume the incoming Trump administration were to try and abolish this credit. There’s a dull silver lining in the fact that our government is a large machine that takes some time to change course, meaning that any potential changes might not take effect until a year or two down the line.   A Sudden Plunge in Hardware Costs   We’ve all heard the investment maxim “buy low sell high”–well, when it comes to the hardware costs of solar, it’s possible things are as low as they’re likely to get. At the end of 2016, Dec 28 saw the market price of solar panels fall by an additional 2.4% to $0.36 a watt according to PVinsights The plunge was due to an over manufacturing of panels and a lower than expected surge in demand. To move inventory, many manufacturer’s such a China’s Trina Solar Ltd. are most likely selling at a loss. The Fossil Fuel Industry is Fighting Back   2016 was a record year for solar. Domestically, utility-scale solar additions totalled 9.5 GW according to the US Energy Information Association, more than any single energy source–even fossil fuels! Globally, renewables fared even better, with the cost of solar and wind the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries according to a World Economic Forum report in Dec 2016. The report points out that as prices continue to fall two-thirds of all nations will reach a point know as “grid parity” even without subsidies. “Renewable energy has reached a tipping point,” Michael Drexler, who leads infrastructure and...

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Solar Power Cables – Ensuring Maximum Efficiency without Compromising on Safety
Dec22

Solar Power Cables – Ensuring Maximum Efficiency without Compromising on Safety

Image Source: ecopoweredsolutions.com.au Ecological concerns are catalyzing the adoption and use of solar power in a variety of environments – from rooftop solar systems to large-scale distribution plants. Eco-friendly and inexpensive, the solar energy is efficiently addressing environmental concerns by generating non-polluting electricity. The recent developments in solar technology include safe and reliable solar power cables used in the generation and transmission of power. These cabling solutions are designed for improving efficiency and reducing cost while ensuring reliable performance and durability. Solar installations and photovoltaic panels are driving innovation in solar cable technology and new standards are being established for robust and safe designing of solar power cables. Emerging Trends for Power Cables in Solar Applications Solar energy systems offer considerable benefits for the environment as compared to conventional sources of energy. However, generating solar energy from renewable sources requires a robust cabling system that is designed to maximize energy-efficiency and minimize the risk and losses. This enables optimum generation of power that can reach the respective substations for timely transmission to the grid. Cables used for solar power generation must offer a much higher voltage range as compared to the standard rating of 600V used in conventional applications. Solar power cables to be used between substations and transformers should be developed to incorporate improved resistance to UV rays and ozone while ensuring lower line loss and cooler operations. Engineered to serve a high voltage range of up to 2000V, solar power cables are subjected to long-term sunlight exposure. The end-use of solar power cables is very different from the power cables used in wind and thermal generation. In order to ensure safety, reliability, flexibility and performance even in sub-zero conditions, solar cables must be resistant to water absorption and deformation under extreme installation conditions. Keeping all these factors in mind, special solar power cables have been engineered to ensure complete reliability and safety. These cables are specifically designed to facilitate fast and easy connections in utilities and large-scale power generation plants. Cables that simplify the installation process and eliminate inconsistencies that arise in field terminations are also being designed. Feeder cables that are used for connecting inverters with combiner boxes are now available as an all-in-one solution that does not need a conduit. PV power cables also come in different color codes to facilitate easy identification of output, source, and circuits, thus eliminating the need to tag cables. Key Challenges in the Development of Solar Power Cables Despite the fact that solar technology has a promising future and given the recent developments in solar power cables, this emerging trend is not without challenges. Standards, regulations, and codes make...

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Utility Companies’ Masochistic Policies
Dec22

Utility Companies’ Masochistic Policies

2016 was a good year for solar. The year saw a five year extension of the federal solar Incentive Tax Credits (ITC), allowing homeowners to write-off up to 30% of the costs of a home solar installation. Then there was a record number of solar installations, which beat 2015 by 191% according to a SEIA and GTM Research paper. Add to this the enjoyable stat that in 2016 a handful of countries saw the price of solar drop drastically below the price of gas and coal. Taking into account all of the solar industry’s positive achievements over the year, it’s no wonder that many of America’s state sanctioned utility companies have had a knee jerk reaction, pushing to increase their “fixed charges” fees up to 80% in some states. A 50 States Solar report for 2016 shows that utilities in 18 states outlined such proposals, attempting to charge customers more for fixed charges, despite the fact many of them consumed less energy either by switching to renewables or installing energy saving appliances. These backwards and short sighted tactics to subtly and dissuade people from switching to solar might have short term financial benefits for utility companies, but harmful long term consequences. As solar technology exponentially improves, and KW per hour energy prices decline, utility companies are turning a blind eye to the global trend of switching to renewable energies. As utility companies try and pressure consumers to stay by increasing fixed costs, these companies are only hurting themselves. Building new coal plants is a 30-50 year investment costing millions and one that is likely to pay less and less dividends in a future fueled by renewable energies....

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Utility companies are slowing the advancement of first world countries
Dec15

Utility companies are slowing the advancement of first world countries

Much in the same way many third world countries such as India and Africa leapfrogged building a landline infrastructure and switched straight to mobile phones, Bloomberg Technology recently reported that the same trends are now starting to happen with solar and other renewable energies. The difference? Landlines didn’t have powerful companies fighting tooth and nail to stop first world nations from advancing. When it comes to the majority of established utility companies in the US, most of these entities are doing their best to deter customers from pulling the plug and declaring their independence from fossil fuels. Take Florida’s anti-solar ballot, for instance, which utility companies misleadingly tried to advertise as “pro-solar” until grass-root movements of actual pro-solar advocates exposed the misinformation campaign. Luckily, such actions led for the ballot to be overwhelmingly defeated, opening the state’s flood gates to solar competitors to provide people with clean, affordable energy. Other states like Nevada, however, weren’t so fortunate. There, utility companies successfully won a court decision to repeal promised state incentives to people who had already switched to solar–effectively stunting the industry’s growth there for years to come. The result of such aggressive efforts by gas and coal-fed utility companies throughout the US and other first world nations has slowed the spread of solar energy enough to the point where, for the first time ever, second and third world countries have surpassed their first world counterparts for capital spent on emerging energy markets. A report entitled “Climatescope” by Bloomberg Technology shows the emerging markets of China, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa, and India outspent wealthier countries on renewable energy growth by nearly half a billion dollars! This is due to the fact that oil pipelines and power plants aren’t as predominant in less industrialized countries, making the costs more expensive and volatile than the steadily declining costs of PV solar. Such countries didn’t install solar because they were trying to do good by way of the environment, but because the cost per a KW hour was, in some cases, nearly half as cheap. One can’t help imagining what it might have been like 20 years ago had there been powerful landline companies trying to restrain Americans from switching to mobile phones while the rest of the world advanced ahead. When it comes to renewable energy, however, that seems to be the case, and their motivation is no mystery: If everyone in the world suddenly became energy dependent, they’d be out of a...

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Utah residents rush to install solar before prices increase
Dec09

Utah residents rush to install solar before prices increase

“Utah homeowners install solar in the dead of winter as they rush to lock in better net-metering rates before they increase on Dec 9. Photo courtesy of The Salt Lake Tribune Chris Detrick” A new net metering rate for Utah solar homeowners sparked a explosion of last minute customers rushing to sign up for Rocky Mountain Power’s program in the month leading up its Dec 9 cutoff. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the utility company had received more than 2,000 residential solar applications in the last month since the proposed rate change was announced. Previously it had averaged just 1,300 applications a month. “Applications are definitely up,” Ryan Evans, president of the Utah Solar Energy Association said, pointing out that some residents even submitted net metering applications before committing to purchase solar installations so that they might “get in line” before the deadline. Under the proposed rate change, Utah customers switching to solar after Dec 9 could see up to a 35 percent increase on their monthly bill due to increaed “sevice charges” and a new “demand charge” It comes as no surprise Utah’s solar proponents have opposed the utilities rate hikes. Dim hopes that the state’s Public Service Commission would delay or reject the cutoff line before Dec 9 looked less likely as the day drew to a close. Other states experiencing similar push backs from utility companies to increase monthly rates for new solar homeowners has been the norm in 2016 and is only expected to get worse during the following years under a Trump presidency. If you want to know whether you’re home is in an area that still has healthy incentives and rebates, which haven’t yet been curtailed by anti-solar policies, contact GoGreenSolar.com or call (888)...

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