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New Milestones Set in U.S. Solar Growth

According to Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) and GTM Research’s latest US Solar Market Insight® quarterly report, several new milestones have been set in terms of U.S. solar growth: ·         48% of new electricity capacity comes from solar power. ·         723 MW of capacity was put on the grid – 179 MW more compared to Q1 last year. Q1 is generally the worst quarter of a year in terms of new solar growth.  As you can see on the graph below, we installed more capacity in three other quarters before. However, Q1 2013 is on the top of the list when it comes to residential installations (53% year-over-year growth). Utility-scale projects throw the numbers out of whack: “As always, it is important to take the utility market out of the equation when seeking meaningful conclusions from the comparison of quarterly installation figures; the utility market is simply too volatile and dependent on individual project timelines. “ writes SEIA. One of the major forces behind the growth in residential solar are the new financial models that enable homeowners to go solar for little or no money down. SolarCity were the first to start leasing their solar panels in 2006 – and many companies have jumped on the wagon since then. Solar leasing now accounts for 67% of residential solar in California and 86% in Arizona – similarly impressive numbers can be seen in several other states as well. About a week ago, Affordable Solar announced that they have started offering third-party owned solar in New Mexico, which means that about three out of four American households now have access to solar leasing programs. By 2016, SEIA and GTM anticipate the annual growth of solar at 9.2 GW. ____________   Guest Post by Mathias Aarre Maehlum.    Mathias is doing a Masters in Energy and Environmental Engineering. In his spare time he writes about solar power and other sources of renewable energy at his blog Energy...

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Another DIY Solar Success Story
Jun05

Another DIY Solar Success Story

John and Renee Shean’s DIY Photovoltaic Installation If you’re at all like John and Renee Shean, you’re probably turned off by the solar companies that want to charge you an arm and a leg for PV installation.  Maybe the lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) models just don’t cut it for you.  John Shean is one of those people.  John is an electrician who just wanted to work with a knowledgeable supplier that would offer fair price on the materials needed for a complete PV system.  Earlier this year, Renee and John Shean had been trying to “go green” over time.  First came dual-pane windows, then a tankless water heater and pellet stove.  Installing a solar system was just part of this natural progression.   Renee explains how she and her husband made the decision to go solar: “We probably would have done it a lot sooner, but it was just too costly.  Most of the cost was in the installation and since John is an electrician he knew he could install the panels himself.  However, we found it impossible to find anyone that would sell us just the panels, that is until John found Deep at Go Green Soar.  So now we are the proud owners of our own solar system, furthering our quest to ‘Go Green’!” As an electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW),  John wanted to find a supplier that would get him the right equipment for the job so he got in touch with us at GoGreenSolar.com.  He explained how he’s an electrician and just wanted to discuss the different options available, purchase the equipment, and install the system with his own hands.  John chose to work with an Ironridge racking solution and Sharp solar panels, which are manufactured in Memphis, Tennessee by IBEW workers. “John is more focused on the mechanics of it all,” says Renee, “Being able to see the meter running backwards and being able to pull up the system online and monitor each panel and the energy it’s producing, although I think that part is pretty cool too!” “Oddly enough, my favorite part about our solar system is actually seeing the panels on the roof every time I drive into the driveway.  It makes feel happy knowing I can say to myself, I’m creating my own energy!  I say odd because not too long ago seeing the panels on the roof was considered ‘unsightly.’  I remember my parents were approached in the 70’s to put panels on the roof to heat our pool and they considered it until they found out you would be able to see the panels from...

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Suntech Bankrupt and Bosch Dropping Out of Solar

Suntech Bankrupt, Bosch cools it on solar. Another solar manufacturer bites the dust.  This time, it’s one of the world’s leading solar manufacturers, Suntech.  Suntech the first solar firm to go public back in 2005.  The Chinese solar manufacturer was compelled to file for bankruptcy after it was unable to make a payment for $541 million. Just days after the news of Suntech’s bankruptcy, Bosch, a German auto parts manufacturer, pulled the plug on their solar manufacturing for 2014.  Though Bosch Solar CISTech GmbH will continue to produce solar thin-film technology, Bosch’s ingots, wafers, solar cells, and solar panels will no longer be in production. Last year, Bosch lost one billion euros ($1,282,200,000 US Dollars). “The drastic changes in the market, particularly the rapid increase in capacity in China, simply couldn’t be foreseen… We are still convinced that photovoltaics will play an important role in the energy mix of the future. However, even we are not capable of sustaining such heavy losses forever,” says Bosch’s director, Dr Volkmar Denner. Denner explains how the dramatic increase in Chinese manufacturing has created oversupply of solar panels in the market.  Chinese manufacturing companies have captured about 80% of the global market for solar manufacturing- due in part to heavy subsidies from the Chinese government. Some have argued that the recent bankruptcy of Suntech could mean that days of price reductions in the solar industry may be coming to a close.  Low prices have meant that more solar panels have been installed on rooftops in the U.S. – which is good in itself.  It’s awesome that solar is cheaper and more accessible than ever, but it’s complicated. I’m not an economist, but even I can see that this seems to be a problematic situation. U.S. manufacturers have also blamed the Chinese for illegally subsidizing these solar exports and essentially “dumping” solar products in the U.S. below fair market value. While this hurt U.S. manufacturing, it meant cheaper prices for consumers.  Business models with leases and power purchase agreements used these low-cost solar panels on top on U.S. roofs.  If those Chinese companies go out of business, who will be left to honor those MegaWatts’ worth of warranties? Could the failure of the solar companies like Suntech and Bosch be a symptom of a larger problem?...

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Support Equitable Access to Solar Energy!

Should solar energy only be accessible to those who can afford to invest in a solar system? The California Solar Initiative (CSI) has created financial incentives to encourage California citizens to adopt solar, helping homeowners across California reduce their electric bills.  A residential solar system in California will typically pay for itself in about 5 years, making the upfront cost a practical investment.  The homeowner can watch as her electric meter spins backwards, reducing her electricity bill and giving her the satisfaction of knowing she’s doing her part to reduce her family’s carbon footprint. But what about the homeowners who don’t have the money to invest in a solar electric system? Unfortunately, solar energy is not always an option for people without the means to finance a solar system, even through a lease or power purchase agreement.  When you have mouths to feed and bills to pay, clean energy doesn’t seem to be either an option or a priority. To address this issue, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) offers solar rebate programs specifically designed for low-income homes in California.  The Single-family Affordable Solar Homes Program (SASH), along with the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing Program (MASH), was put in place with California Assembly Bill 2723. This law allocates a minimum of 10% of the funds from the California Solar Initiative (CSI) to help qualified low-income households access solar energy through these programs.  The Single-family Affordable Solar Homes Program (SASH) gives low-income homeowners up-front rebates for the installation of solar electric systems in the service territories of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E).    Unless new legislation is made into law, the SASH program will come to close on December 31st 2015 – or sooner if funds run out before this date. Assembly Bill (AB) 217, or the “Equitable Access to Solar Energy Bill,” was introduced in January 2013.   This bill proposes a new program that provides financial incentives for solar installations on low-income homeowners through 2021.   It would provide 50 megawatts worth of monetary incentives for low-income residents to install solar systems to promote more equitable access to clean energy. If AB 217 becomes law,it will require the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to adopt this program, which would be funded by ratepayers within the territories of the San Diego Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and Pacific Gas and Electric. GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that sponsors AB 217, is currently the statewide Program Manager for the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes Program (SASH).  Through SASH, GRID Alternatives has already helped more than 2,000 homeowners access the benefits of clean...

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The prospect of renewable energy –where will it stand in 40 years?

The prospect of renewable energy –where will it stand in 40 years? In the early years of the new millennium, few people thought that the use of renewable energywould spread wide. Nobody imagined that eventually nearly a third of the global wind power capacity would come from developing countries, or that by 2011 70% of new power capacity across Europe would be renewable. Indeed, projections made for the use of renewable energy by 2020 were already met by 2010. But would this trend go on for the foreseeable future? Let’s take a look at a recent report of potential renewable energy situations in the next few decades. A global partnership   In January of this year, a global partnership of stakeholders led by REN21 released the result of its months-long research regarding the future of renewable energy use. REN21 is comprised of key players from governments, international organizations, industry associations, science and academia, and individual members of civil society whose aim is to promote the global use of renewable energy through facilitating exchange of information, policy development, and initiating joint actions. The report was released after a two-year collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) and covers the following areas: Current trends in renewable energy use The challenges and possibilities of future renewable energy use Economic issues covering investments and business models Possibilities at the local/city level such as in urban planning and built-infrastructure, urban mobility, and 100% renewable communities The evolution of technologies involved in renewable energy such as wind, solar PV, Solar Thermal Power (CSP), biomass, hydro, geothermal, ocean, and biofuels From moderate to high outlooks   The report tackled 3 different levels of projection namely conservative, moderate, and high renewables. These projections were sourced from energy companies, scenarios, and experts in various fields. The conservative outlook was based on projections by current energy companies who believe that the future will still be dominated by fossil fuels. Stating cost hurdles and variability challenges, the conservative outlook puts the share of renewable energy use at 20%, not much higher than it is today. The moderate outlook on the other hand puts the share at between 30-45% by 2050. This projection, which includes shares in electricity, heating/cooling, and transport, was based on estimates of current trends and policies from experts. As well, various scenarios that factor in economic and political trends contributed to the overall projection. Much of the projection relies on the assumption that higher shares of renewable energy are integrated into power grids using various ways such as “demand-response, balancing with natural gas, new market structures for balancing services, and some energy storage.” The high...

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