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Trump VS. The Sun
Apr07

Trump VS. The Sun

Trump or Clinton? The likely 2016 presidential opponents couldn’t be more night and day when it comes to their stance on solar.   This week we’ll explore what a potential Trump victory could mean for the future of our industry and compare it next week with the Hillary alternative.   While Trump lacks any policy track-records to corroborate him as a clean energy antagonist, he’s waged several legal battles and made a litenue of public statements that suggest he’s no friend of the sector.   To shed some light on his adversarial position, one can look to a 2015 interview with Hugh Hewitt where he stated his ideological beliefs regarding climate change:   “I mean, Obama thinks it’s is the number one problem of the world today. And I think it’s very low on the list. So I am not a believer, and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather. I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems.”   WIth a perspective such as this, his previous statements like the ones on Twitter claiming the Chinese created global warming as a ploy… …or  when he told a Fox news interviewer in 2012 the blatantly false statement that solar takes 32 years to pay pack–well they don’t come as a surprise.   He’s even gone so far as to take a tilt at wind-farms saying they are “destroying cost lines all over the world,” though we can chalk this Quixotesque rivalry up to a failed legal battle against an offshore windpower company that was near one of his resorts.   If there’s a ray of hope in the event Trump should secure the presidential nomination, it’s that Trump is not known for remaining consistent with his public statements. And, looking towards some of the people he surrounds himself with for clues, one finds opportunists who will throw their weight behind an issue if it benefits them.   For example, Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was recently charged with battery, was actually a lobbyist for a solar power company at the same time he was battling the government on behalf of Americans for Prosperity to fight earmarks against the same industry.   As a savvy businessman, it’s always possible Trump will see the economic incentives the solar industry has to offer rather than wage a costly war to reinvade iraq and take all it’s...

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How to cash in on the IRS’ Investment Tax Credit
Mar24

How to cash in on the IRS’ Investment Tax Credit

Anticipating that the solar-plus-storage market could experience the same type of expansion the PV market did in the last decade, the IRS recently updated an eligibility ruling for a 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) on renewable energy storage.   The updated rule, passed before the start of 2016, extends the 30 percent ITC until 2021 and aims to clear up some of the confusion with regards to when solar energy storage qualifies for the tax credit.   “The federal government does not want to incentivize people to arbitrage energy from the grid,” Senior Consultant at the Engineering consultant firm DNV-GL Mike Kleinberg explains. “You cannot charge from the grid in the evening and then discharge during the day to supplement your PV — and also qualify for the ITC, because you’re not then really charging from renewable energy.”   In order to accomplish this, the IRS dictated that in order to be eligible for the ITC, taxpayers must not draw more than 25 percent of stored electricity from the grid. Additionally, if they draw more than 25 percent of power from the grid during the first year of applying for the credit, they will not be allowed to collect any portion of the energy tax credit in later years even if the system improves and complies.   In order to prevent batteries charging more than 25 percent from the grid, homeowners have taken to installing inverters on both their PV systems and their AC/DC power systems, linking them to a site master controller that monitors when and how fast storage units charge.   While the updated 2015 rule might seem more strict than the original one set forth two years earlier (which was much more vague about solar battery two-way grid charging) it also expands its definition of what constitutes “storage technology”, allowing for greater flexibility when applying for the credit.   For example, smart water heaters or ceramic heaters that know the weather and draw 25 percent or less from the grid would qualify....

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Cash in on net-metering while you still can!
Mar14

Cash in on net-metering while you still can!

The rationality of net-metering is hard to deny: If your home generates more energy than it consumes and that energy is added back into the grid, it’s only fair you should be compensated for the contribution. However utility companies, who usually end up footing the bill, are of a different opinion. As of January 2016 more than half of the 40 U.S. states with net-metering incentives have had their policies come under scrutiny. At the start of the year, homeowners in California breathed a collective sigh of relief as state regulators narrowly voted to uphold the existing net-metering benefits. However their neighboring solar enthusiasts in the state of Nevada weren’t so lucky. As more people are switching to using solar and generating their own power, state regulators have been forced to balance on a high wire of encouraging the trend while also pacifying the big energy companies that power houses during non-daylight hours. Check out the map below to see if you’re in one of the blue states where net-metering incentives are still applicable. If you are, and haven’t yet made the switch to solar, time might be running out to cash in on making more sun energy than you...

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What Upfront Rebates for Residential Solar Are Left Around the States?
Jul21

What Upfront Rebates for Residential Solar Are Left Around the States?

It used to be that homeowners could receive some very generous upfront rebates that could offset 30% or more of the cost of installing a solar system. But as the price of installing solar PV has dramatically dropped over the last three years, so has the upfront rebates offered by states and utilities. In addition to the wide spread decrease in rebate funding and amounts, many programs have switched from upfront payments that defer the cost of installing to performance based incentives that pay you a certain amount for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) produced by your solar system. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any upfront rebate programs left. In fact, there are many, but they’re just not as generous as they used to be, but then again, installed prices have significantly fallen too. (Also, keep in mind that all solar owners are eligible to receive the 30% solar investment tax credit until 2016 for even more savings and ROI!) With the above in mind, the following is a random sampling of upfront solar rebates that we found on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiencies (DSIRE). The links for each program are to the updated information from the actual utility or state authority, so we assume that this information is accurate as of this writing in mid July, 2014. California Upfront Solar Rebates Most of California has exhausted the funds for the state’s California Solar Initiative (CSI) program for home solar, but the good news is that many of California’s municipal utilities are still offering some type of upfront cash rebate. City of Santa Clara’s Silicon Valley Power utility is offering $1.75/W AC for up to 10 kW. For a 5 kW system, that’s $8,750 off the price of installation. However, the amount is actively stepping down as systems go online, so the sooner you install, the higher your rebate. City of Palo Alto’s electric utility is on its last rebate step, so get it while it lasts. Its program gives solar homeowners $.80/Watt AC for solar systems as large as 30 kW. For a 5 kW average system size, that’s $4000 off the price of solar. City of Pasadena has its own Pasadena Solar Initiative (PSI) program that’s now offering an upfront residential solar rebate of $.85/Watt AC up to a 30 kW system size, which pencils out to $4250 in decreased solar install costs for a typical 5 kW home system. Los Angeles’ LADWP municipal utility is offering just $.40/Watt AC for its solar rebate, up to the average 5 kW system size. So, the maximum rebate amount is now just $2,000 and continues to...

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The U.S.-China Trade Case Determination and What It Means for Solar Installers and Consumers
Jun19

The U.S.-China Trade Case Determination and What It Means for Solar Installers and Consumers

A few months back, we published a post on All You Need to Know About the US-China Solar Trade Dispute and how it might affect solar installers and consumers if the case isn’t settled. Well, a preliminary decision is in. The Department of Commerce (DOC) has made a preliminary determination on June 10th in favor of SolarWorld, the German/U.S. solar panel manufacturer who filed the suit. Before we get into the penalties being proposed and finalized, we should remind readers that there are two parts to this case: Part 1: The DOC Decision The first part, now in the preliminary determination stage, has to do with SolarWorld accusing China of illegally subsidizing its solar panel manufacturers with low interest loans and other cash-related subsidies that allowed Chinese manufacturers to manufacture solar panels and export them to the U.S. (and the rest of the world) at below their actual cost. The 2012 DOC decision determined that was the case and imposed over 23% to 254% in countervailing duties (CVD) on various solar cells made in China. However, Chinese manufacturers got around these tariffs by manufacturing their solar cells in Taiwan and other nearby countries, then assembling the rest of the panel in China. Consequently, this new 2014 DOC preliminary determination now includes solar cells and other basic solar panel materials being made in Taiwan and shipped back to China for assembly and export. So, how much in duties will be tacked on to the price of imported Chinese solar panels? The preliminary CVD varies and depends on the brand: For Suntech solar panels, the tariff is 35.21%. For Trina SolarEnergy, the tariff is 18.56%. For all other Chinese brands, the tariff is 26.89%. That means that the wholesale price of all Chinese-made solar panels coming into the U.S. may be increased by as much as 35.21%, and at the very least, by 26.89%! The DOC will make its final determination by August 18, 2014. But wait, there’s more: Part II: The ITC Decision Remember, we said that there were two parts. Now that the DOC has ruled, their evidence has been handed over to the International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC is deciding whether China is intentionally overproducing (“dumping”) their artificially inexpensive Chinese solar panels on the U.S. market in order to flood the U.S. solar market, forcing SolarWorld to lower their prices to compete. The ITC previously said this was the case in the earlier 2012 decision, so most industry analysts think they’ll do so again, but now include solar panels and cells from Taiwan. Should the ITC rule in favor of SolarWorld again, then additional antidumping duties may...

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2014 Could See a Boom in Solar Panel Installations
Jun03

2014 Could See a Boom in Solar Panel Installations

2014 Could See a Boom in Solar Panel Installations   Solar panel installations have been gaining ground all around the globe as the drive for a greener world intensifies. The United States is not left out of the solar power revolution, which has also received more boosts with drop in solar panel prices. From all indications, it looks like a bigger boom in solar panel installations is on the way in 2014.   Fall in Prices   A few years back, one main argument against solar panel installation was the costs involved. Things have changed for the better as more responsible governments and solar power companies combine to drive down the costs of these installations. Some governments, with the aims of tackling problems of climate change and creating new jobs, have been providing incentives for all forms of solar power installations. Some of the world’s top solar power companies are also doing their bit to ensure prices fall through the development of solar power panels that are more efficient in performance. In addition, the entry of more new firms into the industry has also helped to make costs of solar panel installations lower.   Boom in Solar Panel Installations   Access to solar power was almost exclusively left to wealthy individuals and ardent anti-global warming advocates years back. The simple reason for this was the associated costs of installations, which to many people, were not justified. But things have improved so much in the last couple of years, thanks to the revolution being witnessed in the solar power sector. Solar panels now cost about 60% less than they did just a couple of years back, making installations more affordable. The price drop is even more impressive over a longer timespan.   More middle-class families can now afford solar power installation. For example, in California, residential solar panel installations now cost less than $5 per watt, and that amount is expected to significantly drop further in the next few years. The upfront investments that have to be made are the main turn-off for most homeowners when talking about solar power. But all that is changing as residents of some states such as California and New Jersey can take advantage of rebates that take away the need for massive initial investment, with payments spread over several years (more details here).   Further boom in solar panel installations therefore looks on the way, as more people and businesses choose solar power. All indications point to a continuous rise in solar panel installations in the US, especially with the significant drop in solar panel costs. The argument that solar power can help save...

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