Archive for May 30, 2012

The Birth of the Net-Zero Energy Community

Sandia National Laboratories and Forest City Enterprises – Partnering for a Secure and Sustainable Energy Future

In Albuquerque, N.M., a smart grid-solar-energy storage project backed by a consortium of Japanese giants is testing out a key element of the  net-zero energy community: how to harness mass-market solar to balance the grid inside and outside the neighborhood’s borders. This project could take the claim of the first fully functioning microgrid in the country, said Manny Barrera, Mesa Del Sol’s director of engineering.

Renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind, coupled with smart grid and microgrid technologies, energy storage, and energy efficiency are viable options to address the problem of system integration. However, integrating these systems require full understanding of operational challenges and establishing a return on investment.

To address these challenges, Sandia National Laboratories and Forest City Enterprises are collaborating to advance research and provide real-world test beds to Mesa del Sol project. As the centerpiece of the venture is the 78,000-square-foot Aperture Center which has been set up to run on its own solar power with its 440-kilowatt peak load covered by a 50-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system, an 80-kilowatt fuel cell, a 240-kilowatt natural gas powered generator and a 160-kilowatt-hour battery storage system.

The technology — and funding — comes via Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), which is investing about $10 million in the Mesa Del Sol project as well as U.S. private and government funding.

original article

Solar Finance Re-Invented: How Today’s Projects Lure New Market Players

Bloomberg New Energy Finance report describes the ongoing evolution of US solar financing: where the market is today, where it is heading, and what’s behind this important transition.
New models are emerging. Distributed generation is driving innovation and creating new models for solar deployment. Few homeowners can afford the upfront cost of a solar system, giving rise to third-party financing models, which allow them to ‘go solar’ with little or no money down. These models also give investors a diversified opportunity to back solar.
New investors are taking interest. Institutional players such as insurance companies and pension funds seek stable, long-lived assets to match long-term liabilities; some utilities may seek solar portfolios to offset revenue loss from distributed generation. On the development side, infrastructure funds could achieve targeted returns by bringing these projects to fruition.

below is the third-party tax equity providers for US renewables


SACE Open House & Solar Ribbon Cutting – Knoxville

Knoxville, Tenn. (May 30, 2012) – The public is invited to attend the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Open House and Ribbon-Cutting ceremony on June 8, 2012 for our new 9.6 kW solar photovoltaic installation and to learn about our energy efficiency retrofits at our commercial facility. Our office improvements demonstrate SACE’s commitment to responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. It is also an occasion to thank our community leaders and partners for helping to complete these projects.

We are especially pleased to announce that the Honorable Madeline Rogero, Mayor of Knoxville, will be joining us. The City of Knoxville’s Office of Sustainability, together with Knox County’s Community Action Committee, designed the Green Building Incentives Program and those incentives helped fund a portion of our solar PV project.  To qualify for the program we made our building more sustainable with a geothermal heat pump, refurbished lighting including passive solar lights and building envelope improvements. In addition, SACE has on-site two Blink Network Level 2 charging stations and a Nissan Leaf vehicle as part of theEV Project, the largest single deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in history.

SACE staff and project partners will be available to discuss SACE’s solar installation and the importance of the solar industry to Tennessee as well as SACE’s ongoing efforts to promote energy efficiency and clean transportation options throughout our region. There will be networking and discussion opportunities for those who are interested in clean energy policy and excellent opportunities for filming and photographing clean energy infrastructure and energy efficiency improvements.

WHEN: Friday, June 8, 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Mayor Madeline Rogero, City of Knoxville
John Noel, President of the Board of Directors, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Dr. Stephen Smith, Executive Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

COST: FREE, light hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served

WHERE: Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Office, 3804 Middlebrook Pike, Knoxville, TN 37921

Sign me up for Green Power Switch Pure Solar!

Green Power Switch Pure Solar is a great option for customers who support solar power but do not have the ability to install their own solar panels (including those who rent, have a shaded roof, etc.). By participating in this program, customers know they are displacing traditional energy generation with regionally generated solar power.

This is a pilot program and is currently available in only six regions of the TVA service area from the local utility companies listed below. If yours is not on the list and you would like to see this solar option grow and become a Valley-wide program, send us an email at Your feedback will be considered when we evaluate the pilot.

To sign up, please fill out the form below. Green Power Switch Pure Solar is sold in 50 kilowatt-hour blocks, and each block adds $8 to your monthly power bill. After you’ve filled in the form, just hit the Submit button, and we’ll notify your power distributor of your interest in participating.

Pure Solar Sign-up Form

You want solar but don’t have the money for the up front cost – what are your options?

What’s the Diff? Solar Lease vs. Solar PPA
Published on June 5, 2009 by Tor a.k.a. “Solar Fred”.

Here are the basics:
PPA stands for “Power Purchase Agreement.”

  • PPA gives you a low ($1000 or more) up front cost.
  • You’re locked in for 15 to 18 years to this agreement, which is transferable to a new owner or home.
  • They charge you a set electrical rate that is sometimes flat, and sometimes calculated to rise over the term of your agreement. So instead of paying for coal fired electricity rates, you’re paying for PPA rates generated through your solar panels.
  • The PPA company takes care of the maintenance and any needed repairs and monitors your system.
  • You don’t get any tax benefits or State rebates or Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).
  • You usually have some kind of option to buy later or at the end of the agreement for a set price per watt. Sometimes this is negotiable (and you should at least try since used solar panels aren’t worth much.)
  • You need to have an excellent credit rating to qualify.
  • You’re always tied to the grid, so any residual electricity needs that your solar panels don’t produce is covered by your utility.

Now for a Lease:

  • There is usually no down payment, so 0 down.
  • You’re locked into 15 years or more years, which is transferable to a new owner or home.
  • Unlike a PPA, you do NOT pay for any power that your solar panels generate.
  • Instead, you pay a lease payment plus any extra power you need buy from your electric company. So, solar panel power is technically free, but you have a set lease payment that rises 3 to 4% a year. That’s typically less than the 5% rate increases by your electric company. Some programs, like the CT Solar Lease program, is a flat rate, so no yearly increases.
  • Like a PPA, they may take care of maintenance and repairs and monitor your system, but that’s not always the case.
  • Similarly, you don’t get tax benefits or rebates or Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).
  • Like PPA’s, you have an option to buy later or at the end of your term for a set residual price. You should try to negotiate the Fair Market Value (FMV) at the end of the lease, as used panels ain’t worth much more than the cost of taking them off your roof.
  • You need to have a good to excellent credit rating also, depending on the program.
  • Also like a PPA, you’re always tied to the grid, so any residual electricity needs are covered by your utility.

So, bottom line:
PPA, you pay for power generated by solar panels with some money down and flat or yearly increases on your PPA electric rate. You also benefit from tiered rates.

Lease, you have no money down (typically) and pay a flat leasing fee that rises every year by a certain percent, plus left over utility bill. You also benefit from tiered rates.

While both these options are good for low cost financing, in the long term, you’re better off financially using a home equity loan to buy your panels.  Also, most often than not the PPA and Lease are not always open to residential solar here in Tennessee.  

Original Article

comment:  Leasing and the PPA are on the cusp of options available to businesses and large tract owners. TSEA is asking for more information from the companies that are operating in Tennessee or are planning on entering the Tennessee market. Contact us at:

22 gigawatts of solar power fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday electricity needs.

The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed. Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources. Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.
The incentives through the state-mandated “feed-in-tariff” (FIT) are not without controversy, however. The FIT is the lifeblood for the industry until photovoltaic prices fall further to levels similar for conventional power production.

Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

Some critics say renewable energy is not reliable enough nor is there enough capacity to power major industrial nations. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is eager to demonstrate that is indeed possible. The jump above the 20 GW level was due to increased capacity this year and bright sunshine nationwide. The 22 GW figure is up from about 14 GW a year ago. Germany added 7.5 GW of installed power generation capacity in 2012 and 1.8 GW more in the first quarter for a total of 26 GW capacity.

Utilities and consumer groups have complained the FIT for solar power adds about 2 cents per kilowatt/hour on top of electricity prices in Germany that are already among the highest in the world with consumers paying about 23 cents kw/h. German consumers pay about 4 billion euros per year on top of their electricity bills for solar power, according to a 2012 report by the Environment Ministry. Critics also complain growing levels of solar power make the national grid potentially less stable due to fluctuations in output.

Four per cent may not sound like much but remember that Berlin Germany has the same latitude as Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Labrador Canada where the Snowfall is very heavy, averaging nearly 460 centimetres (180 in) per year, and occurs in all months except July and August.

original article

Germany Sets Solar Power Record: 50% of Electricity Demand


German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour—equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity—through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.

Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday electricity needs.

“Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity,” Allnoch told Reuters. “Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over.”

The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.

Landfill Becomes First In Tenn. With Solar Panels

Since flipping the switch in late March, 832 panels generate roughly one-thousand kilowatt hours every day. “This array would generate enough electricity to power roughly 150 homes for a year,” said Project Manager Matt Smith with Stansell Electric Company. That’s power they produce and sell back to Nashville Electric Service.

“It’s offsetting our energy use that we take off of it, so we kind of get a credit balance on the excess energy that we produce from here,” Binkley said. The Binkleys decided to be the first in the state to top their landfill with solar panels. The finished product is longer than a football field.

“We feel like our family. It’s our responsibility as environmental stewards to do the right thing with our property,” he said.


Latest Generation Of Disruptive Solar Technologies

The grid shows that innovations in materials and cell designs will help stabilize module prices at $0.90/W, while the cost of goods sold will fall on account of improved cell efficiencies, cheaper processes and thinner wafers. Among other findings, the report predicts that direct solidification will provide cheaper wafers, and that direct solidification of molten silicon offers the best way toward kerfless wafering (which eliminates losses from sawing). This technology is a top target on the Disruptive PV Technology Grid, with a market size of up to $600 million. 1366 Technologies is the clear leader and is expected to be the first to reach commercialization by 2013, according to Lux Research.

Alternatives to cell efficiency will increase. Anti-reflective and light-trapping coatings are second-tier technologies, but they are among the top targets, with a market size of more than $600 million. These technologies provide cost-effective alternatives for efficiency gains. According to Lux Research, Natcore is the leader in this space with likely commercialization this year.


Photovoltaic Grid Parity Expected By 2017 In U.S., China

The cost of energy generation from clean sources such as solar power is edging ever closer to costs attributed to traditional sources, fostering growth in the renewable energy sector, according to a new report from GlobalData.

The report shows that the global cumulative installed solar PV capacity increase of 100% demonstrated during 2009-2011 is likely to grow even further, as mass power consumers China and the U.S. reach grid parity within the next few years.

In the U.S, solar PV technology is expected to reach grid parity for some PV projects in 2014, GlobalData says. By 2017, most regions in the country are expected to reach grid parity in alignment with average electricity prices in the residential sector.

China is also due to witness similar developments, with grid parity for solar expected to reach in most regions by 2015 to 2016.

The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for solar PV will continue to decrease due to declining capital costs and an increasing capacity factor. These trends, combined with a lack of fuel costs and low operations and maintenance costs mean that the LCOE of solar PV technology is expected to be lower than average retail electricity prices from 2017 onwards.