Archive for January 12, 2012

Projects Benefit Both the Environment and Bottom Line

Tennessee Deputy Governor Claude Ramsey, Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau and General Services Commissioner Steven G. Cates today announced a series of energy efficiency projects in state government, as well as the new Clean Tennessee Energy Grant Program. The state projects, as well projects for other public and private entities that will be funded through the grant program, are designed to both increase cost savings and decrease emissions.

Funding for the projects comes from an April 2011 Clean Air Act settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Under the Consent Decree, Tennessee will receive $26.4 million over five years to fund clean air programs in the state – at approximately $5.25 million per year. In the first year, $2.25 million will go to fund air quality grants for local governments, municipalities, utilities, other organizations and private entities. The remaining $3 million will fund energy efficiency projects in state government. The first round of state projects was announced today:

· Nissan LEAF Purchases – Tennessee will purchase five Nissan LEAF electric vehicles for the state fleet and will add two charging stations. The cars have zero emissions and are made in Tennessee. Replacing five motor pool vehicles with the electric LEAFs for urban travel will substantially reduce the emissions that can cause adverse health conditions due to air quality non-attainment. Replacing a conventional vehicle with an electric vehicle in a metro area reduces volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide by 100 percent, sulfur oxides by 75 percent, nitrogen oxides by 69 percent and particulates by 31 percent.
· Tennessee Tower Window Film – The Department of General Services will add reflective film to all exterior windows in the Tennessee Tower to reduce solar radiant heat gain, thereby reducing HVAC energy consumption and increasing occupant comfort. The upfront cost for the window film is $610,000. With an estimated annual energy savings of $362,000, the project is expected to pay for itself in less than two years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,451 metric tons per year. The Tennessee Tower was built in 1970, and is the largest state building in Tennessee.
· TDEC Nashville Environmental Field Office HVAC – TDEC will test, adjust and balance the existing HVAC system at its Nashville Environmental Field Office to correct deficiencies and optimize energy usage. The upfront cost for the project is $39,000. With an estimated annual energy savings of $11,100, the project is expected to pay for itself in approximately 3.5 years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 metric tons per year.
· Fall Creek Falls Inn – Tennessee State Parks will work with Tennessee Tech to install a heat recovery water heater system at the Fall Creek Falls State Park Inn and Conference center in Pikeville. A heat recovery water heater utilizes a dual cycle heat pump to scavenge heat from a recirculating chilled water loop to heat hot water, while simultaneously providing additional chilled water capacity. The upfront cost for the project is $150,000. With an estimated annual energy savings of $73,205, the project is expected to pay for itself in about two years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 245 metric tons per year.
· Fall Creek Falls Cabins – Tennessee State Parks will convert 30 cabins to utilize geothermal energy at a rate of 10 cabins per year over three years. The upfront cost to convert all 30 cabins is $600,000. With an estimated annual energy savings of $88,552, the total project is expected to pay for itself in just over 6.5 years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 676 metric tons per year.

Google Science Fair Opens Today

The annual Google Science Fair opens today, calling anyone and everyone 13 to 18 years old to push the edges of our knowledge and help pave the way to the future. Just like a school science fair, entrants submit their idea, perform their experiments and then present the results to be judged. What sets this event apart is the worldwide participation, world-renowned judges, and life-changing prizes.

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Solar industry trade group announces merger

The country’s top solar industry trade association announced Tuesday it is merging with an organization that advocates for solar energy at the state level.


The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which represents 1,100 solar companies around the country, said it merged with the Solar Alliance in order to focus more on state-level policy issues.

“The solar energy industry is expanding and it is critical for SEIA to mirror this growth and put our resources and expertise into developing state policy that expand markets for solar energy,” SEIA President Rhone Resch said in a statement.

“The focus on state-level policy allows SEIA to speak as the voice of the solar industry in all government arenas. We have important work to do to ensure solar energy has access to energy markets across the country and that solar is cost competitive in all 50 states.”

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Solar-Powered Wireless Keyboard Is a Sunny Delight

Two solar panels at the top of the keyboard work to keep the internal battery charged, even in low indoor ambient light.


Never will a rate hike by TVA affect electrical bills again

Simple Energy Works Designs and Installs a 33.8kW PV Solar Power System for Action Heating and Cooling in Crossville, Tennessee

Simple Energy Works ( designed and installed the second largest photovoltaic (PV) solar system in Cumberland County, Tennessee for Action Heating and Cooling.
CROSSVILLE, TN, January 09, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ — Jerry Wood, owner and operator of Action Heating and Cooling in Crossville, Tennessee, decided to become as energy efficient as possible. Wood decided to install a Tennessee photovoltaic solar system on their warehouse that will offset over 50% of their annual electrical usage. He contracted Simple Energy Works (, a Tennessee solar company, to design and install the 33.8kW PV solar system, which features Schott 230 modules and Enphase microinverters. The PV system is the second largest system in Cumberland County, Tennessee, and it will produce over 48,000 kWh per year (depending on the weather).

Simple Energy Works, owned by Randy Velker, has been installing these Tennessee PV systems in Crossville for the past few years. Velker was able to work with Wood to acquire the following solar funding for the project: 1) the USDA Reap Grant to offset twenty-five percent of the cost of the PV system, 2) the 1603 Treasury Grant to cover thirty percent of the cost of the solar system, and 3) a grant from the Tennessee Solar Institute for $2 per installed watt. Wood will also be participating in the generation partner program with Tennessee Valley Authority who will be purchasing all of the energy the solar system produces at twelve cents above the retail rate per kwh. TVA is currently paying around twenty-two cents per kwh while they charge their customers around ten cents per kwh.
Not only did the Tennessee solar system make sense economically, but it also locks in Action Heating and Cooling’s electrical expenses for the life of the PV solar system. Never will a rate hike by TVA affect their electrical bills again. As TVA regularly raises the electrical rates, the installed PV system will continue to produce electricity at the original installed cost (per kwh). These photovoltaic systems have a warranty for 25 years, but in most cases will last for 40 years or more.

The beauty of a PV solar system is that once it is installed there are no more fuel costs! As coal, natural gas and nuclear energy all become more expensive (because of rising fuel costs), the solar system continues to provide energy using only the free solar energy from the sun. Of course, the solar system is also very good for the environment, which is an added benefit. Over the 25 year warranty life of the PV solar power system, it will be offsetting 1,787,642 lbs of burned coal. This will offset approximately 144 tons of waste fly ash, 46,549 lbs of NOx-NitricOxide (which causes smog), and 126,387 lbs of SO2-SulfurDioxide (which causes acid rain).

Wood will be able to monitor the production and output of the PV system because Simple Energy Works, a Tennessee solar installer, hooked the building up to a real-time energy production interface on the Internet to allow Wood to see the complete history of how the PV solar system has produced energy all the way down to a solar module level . This makes troubleshooting easy and allows minor issues to be resolved before they become a major issue.

Funding for rural renewable energy project slashed

The Rural Energy for America Program, funding slashed for the upcoming year. Looking to 2012, “We’re going to be hit pretty hard,” said Don Hollis, a Pendleton-based renewable energy coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We’re not going to fund anywhere near as many projects.”

Hollis said he wasn’t certain how much the funding in the program would be reduced by — the federal offices have yet to make allocations to state programs — but the entire national program received only $22 million this year, compared with $70 million in 2011. Oregon’s program cuts will likely be proportional, and the state is likely to see about 69 percent less funding than in years past.

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Mapping Solar Grid Parity

Here is a great interactive map that shows when Metropolitan areas in the US will achieve grid parity.

Mapping Solar Grid Parity

TVA begins the new year with one third of its board seats vacant

By Dave Flessner Chattanooga Times Free Press
Published Monday, January 2, 2012
When Congress adjourned on Christmas Eve, three of TVA’s most senior and active board members left the agency’s 9-member board. President Obama has yet to nominate any successors to fill the three vacancies.

Three retired bankers — former TVA Chairman Dennis Bottorff of Nashville, former TVA chairman Mike Duncan of Kentucky and TVA Director Tom Gilliland of Blairsville, Ga., — ended their TVA employment at the end of the year after their normal terms had already expired in May.

Under the TVA Act, directors may stay until their successor is confirmed or until the end of the congressional session in the year in which their terms end.

Bottorff, who succeeded Duncan as TVA chairman in 2010, gave up the chairmanship in November to Knoxville businessman Bill Sansom.

The only remaining TVA board appointment by former President George Bush is Memphis Bishop William Graves, whose term ends in May.

TVA directors are appointed by the president and confirmed by Congress for rotating five-year terms.

Sharp develops solar cell with world’s highest conversion efficiency of 36.9%

The major breakthrough of the year hands-down has to be Sharp’s novel tandem cell which measured the highest non-concentrating conversion efficiency measured to date.

After eleven years of research and development, Sharp Corporation has achieved the world’s highest solar cell conversion efficiency of 36.9% using a triple-junction compound solar cell in which the solar cell has a stacked three-layer structure. Measurement of this value, which sets a new record for the world’s highest non-concentrating conversion efficiency, was confirmed at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

Compound solar cells utilize photo-absorption layers made from compounds consisting of two or more elements, such as indium and gallium. Due to the high conversion efficiency, compound solar cells have been used primarily on space satellites.

In 2009, Sharp succeeded in improving cell conversion efficiency to 35.8% based on proprietary technology that enabled efficient fabrication of a stacked triple-layer structure with InGaAs (indium gallium arsenide) as the bottom layer. This latest increase in conversion efficiency was achieved by improving the maximum power output of the solar cell by reducing the resistance of the junction areas necessary to connect the solar cell layers in series.

Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO), which promotes research and development as well as disseminating industrial energy and environmental technologies, aided this breakthrough.

In the future, processes for transferring ultra-thin PV layers onto film substrates will make lightweight, flexible solar cells possible.

Mapping Solar Grid Parity

Solar grid parity describes the moment when electricity from solar power is less costly than electricity from the existing grid.  It’s a tipping point, when democratization of the electricity system not only makes political and economic sense, but becomes more competitive than using utility-delivered electricity.

We used the following assumptions in the construction of this animated map:

  1. The cost of solar in 2011 is $4.00 per Watt installed.
  2. Grid electricity price is the average residential retail rate reported by PVWatts for the core city of the metropolitan area.
  3. The cost of solar decreases by 7% per year.
  4. The grid electricity price increases by 2% per year.

In just 7 years, 1 in 6 Americans living in major metropolitan areas could lower their electricity bill by installing solar –without any incentives. Here comes the sun!

Animated Map