Archive for May 24, 2012

First-in-nation Solar Registration Expanded

In Vermont today a single basic registration form outlining the system components, configuration, and compliance with interconnection requirements replaces all permitting for ground or roof-mounted solar systems 10kW and smaller. The local utility has 10 days to raise any interconnection issues, otherwise a permit, known as a Certificate of Public Good (CPG), is granted and the project may be installed.

The simple statewide registration was expanded by lawmakers after a successful initial implementation and to better cover the capacity required of larger residential and small commercial installations.The simple statewide registration was expanded by lawmakers after a successful initial implementation and to better cover the capacity required of larger residential and small commercial installations.

“This new registration process is enormously helpful to local installers like me. It speeds up the installation process allowing us to avoid wasting time with costly delays for smaller scale installations,” said Rich Nicol, of Solartech, an installer in northeastern Vermont.

Many in the industry believe that cutting unnecessary “soft costs” of solar installation is a key to future cost-competitiveness.

David Blittersdorf, president and CEO of AllEarth Renewables, the Vermont manufacturer of the AllSun Tracker added, “We need to continue advancing policies that cut unnecessary red tape and costs for small-scale renewables. Doing so will drive down the barriers to solar, making it more competitive and leading to wide-spread adoption.”

A study last year by SunRun found that permitting adds an average cost of $2,500 to each solar installation and that streamlining the processes would provide a $1 billion stimulus to the solar industry over the next five years. The report finds that the additional installation cost — $0.50 per watt — is due to wide permitting variations not connected to safety, excessive fees, and an unnecessarily slow process.

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TSEA Business Manager Featured in Nashville Scene Article

From:

We’re solar generation partners. We have the power — and so can you

Here Comes the Sun

by LISA ZHITO

Pay rays

First the good news: Solar panels are getting cheaper and more efficient every year. But they’re still expensive: A 4 or 5 kilowatt (kW) PV system will run you in the neighborhood of $25,000, says Steve Johnson, president of LightWave Solar. For those crunching the numbers, there are a few incentives: TVA buys the power generated at a rate of 12 cents per kWh above the base rate, which appears as a credit on your monthly electric bill. There’s also a 30 percent federal tax rebate and a $1,000 incentive from TVA when your system goes online. Beyond that, various grants for commercial and agricultural operations are available, but so far nothing for residential systems. Solar leasing, in which the cost of a PV system is shouldered by another company but homeowners get a piece of the electricity sales, has taken off out west. Stefan Partin, business manager for the Tennessee Solar Energy Association, calls it the future of solar. But the Tennessee state legislature’s threatened “solar property tax” effectively scared off anyone interested in bringing such a scheme to Tennessee.

So that means homeowners are still looking at shouldering some hefty initial costs. Alternately, you can change your perspective, says Partin. “Think of it as an investment. You can get 7-8 percent per year return on a solar system, whereas a mutual fund is 2-3 percent a year. That makes it look more attractive.” Indeed.

Full Article

Does A Clean Energy Standard Have Any Chance?

A new study predicts that an 80% by 2035 clean energy standard, similar to the one introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., in March, could pass both chambers of Congress if it increases electricity rates by less than 5% on average.

The report, published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, concluded that in order for the Senate to pass such a policy, the average increase would have to amount to less than $59 per year for the average U.S. household, and for the House of Representatives to pass it, additional costs would have to be below $48 per year.

A recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that Bingaman’s proposal would not increase electricity rates in the first 10 years following its enactment, but rates would likely climb after that.

Last month, the Maine Public Utilities commission launched Maine Green Power, which gives the state’s residents the option to purchase locally produced renewable energy. California-based utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is also asking state regulators to approve a similar program that would let customers choose 100% renewable energy for an extra $6 a month.

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(comment: Applying a clean energy standard would reduce the cost of medical expenses from allergies and asthma and other illnesses related to bad air quality. To get a picture of the air quality on a calm day, go to the mountains and look towards Knoxville or any highly populated area and view the stagnant layer of gray-green colored air hanging over it. This applies across the state. Also, eliminating the subsidies we pay to the oil and natural gas industry would more than cover the extra cost of clean air and water)

Lectrus, Chattanooga, Adds New Jobs to Support Growing Solar Energy Business

Lectrus recently announced 30 new job openings at its Chattanooga Operation to increase production of custom metal electrical enclosures and equipment skids. The company installs utility-scale inverters and associated power distribution equipment on robust steel bases and delivers the electrically integrated packages to grid-tied solar farms around North America. Lectrus is hiring full-time electricians, welders, painters and quality inspectors to start immediately.

“Over the past year, we have increased headcount by 25%”, stated Jim Pugh, HR Manager. “Our business continues to grow and we are seeking skilled employees who desire a rewarding environment and a bright future”. In its search for quality individuals, Lectrus participated in the city’s job fair on May 10 and will attend the Mayor’s Council on Disability job fair on June 6. Candidates are also encouraged to apply through the company’s website at lectrus.com.

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PV Tech Newscast – May 18, 2012

Research paper shines light on competitiveness of solar PV power

New working paper argues that common perceptions about the lack of competitiveness of solar photovoltaic power are misleading and out-of-date

London and New York, 16 May 2012. Power generated from solar photovoltaic (PV) panels is much closer to competitiveness with conventional electricity generation than many policy-makers and commentators have realised, according to a new working paper on the subject, released by research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance today.

The paper, Reconsidering the Economics of Photovoltaic Power, looks at the implications of the sharpest falls in the prices of PV technology in recent memory. Average PV module prices have fallen by nearly 75% in the past three years, to the point where solar power is now competitive with daytime retail power prices in a number of countries. It also examines the metrics generally used to measure the economics of solar power against alternative power generating technologies, and finds they are often inadequate, and may introduce bias against the deployment of PV technology.

The authors’ aim is to inform policy-makers, utility decision-makers, investors and advisory services, in particular in high-growth developing countries, as they weigh the suite of power generation options available to them. The paper is being submitted for publication in the peer-reviewed literature.

Link to the paper

350.org Wants to End Polluter Subsidies

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison launched a new piece of legislation that would repeal $113 billion of tax-breaks, handouts, and subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the next 10 years.

Not only is fossil fuel the richest industry on earth, but any of us who pay taxes write it a hefty check each year. It’s as if we’re paying them a performance bonus for wrecking the climate. We’ll never get to renewable energy if we keep handing gobs of money to oil and coal and gas.

The bill would strip away these outrageous subsidies. As you can imagine, the fossil fuel industry is going to fight back hard, so we need to come out as strong as possible.

Get more info and sign the petition here

Can Stion get its factory to capacity by offering modules at $0.75 per watt?

Stampede ahead!

Stion is having a CIGS solar panel sale.
The VC- and strategic-funded CIGS solar firm sent out an email blast offering solar modules “for as low as $.75 per watt.” Neither the email nor a a subsequently contacted representative of the company disclosed the volumes available or the terms of the offer for modules at that price. Aaron Thurlow, Stion VP of West Coast Sales, did say that these were fully UL-compliant modules shipping from Stion’s Hattiesburg, Mississippi factory.
As GTM Research Solar Analyst MJ Shiao has discussed in his recent thin film market analysis, thin film vendors have a small window of opportunity to be competitive — but the firms have to get their factories running at capacity to realize the cost promise of the technology. And having this type of sale is one way to get it done.

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Microinverters can Improve Performance under Shaded Conditions more than 12%

Monday, May 14, 2012
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released a new repeatable test protocol that simulates real shade conditions and can predict with much greater precision the effects of shade on a solar array.
The new test demonstrated that under heavy shading conditions the use of microinverters instead of typical string inverters can help mitigate the impacts of shade by improving system performance by more than 12 percent.

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Tennessee Needs to Create TLC to bring in Solar Investments

What is TLC? Back in 2009, the Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisers published a study tracking 270 major climate policies in 109 countries. The results of the study was that successful projects where those that offered investors TLC – transparency, longevity and certainty. The research went on to find that the United states lacked TLC and was lagging behind other countries, notably China and Germany. While other counties have adopted strong policy frameworks with integrated plans and clear targets, incentives and mandates, the Federal regulatory regime has been described as a “chaotic patchwork, constantly changing” with short-term approaches that amount to nothing more than just stop gap measures.
Other states are creating the jobs and bringing in solar such as California. California’s most recent step is called the California Renewable energy Resources Act (CRERA), which requires all California electricity providers to obtain at least 33 percent of their energy from renewable resources by the year 2020. The measures associated with CRERA have attracted capital to the State, driven economic recovery and produced jobs. Venture capital investments in California approximated $6.6 billion from 2006 to 2008, more than all other states combined.

While other neighboring states of Tennessee are being selected for cell and solar module plants, none have selected Tennessee. Durham-based Semprius announced plans to build a pilot plant to produce high efficiency, low-cost high concentration photovoltaic (HCPV) solar modules in Vance County, NC; solar panel manufacturer Jetion Solar (US) Corp., opened its first North American headquarters in Charlotte NC in May which will employ 250+ people within five years. Mississippi has Stion making panels, Calisolar, a California-based producer of solar and industrial materials, is investing $600 million to construct a new silicon metal production facility and silicon refinery operation near Columbus, Mississippi. A total of 951 direct full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $45,000 plus benefits are expected to result from this investment. With an anticipated $42.7 million annual payroll, the project also will create an estimated 1,000 temporary construction jobs. Arkansas has a new startup Calisolar, a California-based silicon manufacturing company, to build a factory in Columbus. Suniva’s corporate headquarters and manufacturing plant, with a capacity of 170 MW, are located in Norcross, Georgia

Why? It appears that these factors are lacking in our state’s long-range planning for continued investment in solar manufacturing here. We have manufacturers such as Hemlock and Wacker located here. They will provide the basic raw material for solar modules. Except for Sharp in Memphis which was began there in 1979 before the great interest in solar photovoltaics, we have been at a standstill regarding the progression of polysilicon to panels. So far this year there has been no visible progress in attracting either a solar cell or panel manufacturing plant here in Tennessee.