Archive for May 11, 2012

U.S. Bond Program Backing Green Energy

Will Toor, a Boulder County commissioner, who advocates the use of Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds.

Even as state and local governments struggle to meet higher green energy standards with ever-shrinking budgets, billions of dollars of so-called Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds have gone unused. As of May 3, only about 20 percent of the bonds — roughly $663 million — had been issued, with many states not dipping into their allotments at all. Federal officials still stand behind the program, pointing out that it has no expiration date.

Under the program, the federal government covers up to 70 percent of the applicable tax credit rate as a direct payment to the issuer or as a tax credit to the investor. For eligible localities, it can effectively bring their interest cost down to about 0.5 to 1.5 percent, according to Elizabeth Bellis of the Energy Programs Consortium, a research and policy group that represents state energy officials.

Congress originally authorized $800 million for the program, but eventually increased that to $3.2 billion in 2009 as part of the stimulus act.

Municipalities have found the program difficult to navigate, as it wasn’t always clear how clean energy projects could qualify. For example, localities could sell bonds for projects that reduced energy consumption in public buildings by 20 percent. But some officials were unsure how to calculate the savings, either for individual buildings or the overall group. Another category allowed governments to create “green community” projects, but the program offered little detail on what that meant.

“Guidance from Treasury on a number of outstanding legal questions would help speed up the use of these funds and facilitate projects that have been delayed due to legal uncertainties,” Ms. Bellis said. “These projects have the potential to create thousands of local jobs, update public buildings, develop local green industry and significantly reduce fossil fuel emissions.”

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Saudi Arabia targets 41GW of solar installations by 2032

This solar rooftop in Saudi Arabia, shown here during construction, is now complete and connected to the grid.


The world’s largest oil producer is now generating electricity from the sun. Saudi Arabia’s National Solar Systems (NSS) and Conergy, a German-based solar consortium, last week announced the completion of a solar park on the rooftop of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

“For the first time, clean power is flowing into the national grid. This is a historical event for us in Saudi Arabia,” explained Abdulhadi Al-Mureeh, the managing director of NSS.

Although it sits on about 20% of the world’s proven oil reserves, Saudi Arabia seeks to make solar power a significant component of its energy supply within the next decade. This includes plans for a series of solar-powered desalination facilities, incorporating locally developed nanotechnology.

The solar rooftop at KAUST is a modest start, generating 2 MW of power. However, the oil-rich kingdom sees a sunny future: “Saudi Arabia aspires to export as much solar energy in the future as it exports oil now,” Saudi Minister for Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Ali Al-Naimi, declared in a recent interview.This is a wake up call for the United States that the oil rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning 41 GW of solar for their country. The proposed framework would cost tens of billions of dollars and see Saudi Arabia producing almost 25% of its electricity from solar power installations.

If the plans come to fruition, Saudi Arabia will become one of the world’s largest solar power producers. King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE), the government body directing alternative energy development, have announced the country’s ambitious long-term goals for solar power. The first round of bidding will be in the first quarter of 2013, where 1.1GW worth of PV project and 0.9GW of concentrated solar PV (“CSP”) will be up for sale. The second round of bidding will take place in the third/fourth quarter of 2014, when they will be offering 1.3GW worth of PV project and 1.2GW of CSP. The minimum project size for sale is expected to be 5MW. Project offers will be assessed on qualitative measures such as experience in the development of solar projects as well as suggested price per kWh of produced electricity.

Through the implementation of the program according to KA-CARE aims to diversify Saudi Arabia’s energy mix to create jobs, generate green power and reduce the wasteful use of hydrocarbons.

Utilities’ Honest Assessment of Solar in the Electricity Supply

Constellation Energy’s Senior Vice President of Green Initiatives Michael D. Smith predicts that “If we fast-forward to this conference five years from now, half of the agenda is going to be storage.”
Photovoltaic solar is now the concern of utilities and the nation’s biggest energy companies.
At the GTM solar summit in Phoenix last week, GTM CEO Scott Clavenna probed planners for insights into the industry’s future.
“We look at solar as a way to build clean generation and help our customers save money on the cost of their electricity and meet their sustainability goals,” offered power giant Constellation Energy’s Senior Vice President of Green Initiatives Michael D. Smith.
“With the RPS in California beginning in 2002 to 2003, we have a lot of wind and some biomass,” said J.C. Thomas, Regional Manager of investor-owned utility San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), who continued, “We’re now starting to see the solar roll in on a larger scale.”
With solar’s growth, Thomas said, “We are ground zero for all its effects. One of the effects we’re seeing is the significant cost shift that’s occurring once you start net metering and the other customers are picking up the tab. It’s a serious issue.” On Thomas’ concern about net metering, Barmack noted that it “takes money away from conventional generators and gives it back to load. Theft is very profitable if you can get away with it.” Calpine follows solar “pretty closely,” he added, but “until the utilities start looking much harder at the operating characteristics of some of the different types of renewable resources, geothermal will not beat PV or wind.”

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Why SolarCity Is Succeeding in a Difficult Solar Industry

Solar suburbs: A residential solar installation in Peoria, Arizona. SolarCity


After a steady stream of bankruptcies, poor earnings reports, and canceled IPOs for clean-energy companies, this week SolarCity bucked that trend by announcing that it had filed the necessary paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO.

The key difference between SolarCity and many other clean-energy startups is that it isn’t trying to take on incumbents with new technology. It makes money by deploying existing solar technology with a novel approach to financing.

SolarCity designs, installs, and maintains solar-energy systems fitted to homeowners’ roofs. Instead of asking for a big upfront payment, it leases the systems. As the panels produce power, surplus electricity is sold back to the local utility. Combined with the savings that come from using less power from the grid, this will typically reduce the homeowner’s electric bill by enough to offset the lease payments.

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The Simple Tool That Saves Women’s Lives

A woman at the Iridimi camp in Chad boils water in a solar cooker (photo courtesy of Jewish World Watch)

A cardboard box is saving the lives of thousands of people in Africa. It’s called a solar cooker, and it is pure ingenuity. Take two pieces of cardboard, add some tinfoil and sunlight—and anything can be cooked. You can even get water to boil.

With the help of thousands of Americans, solar cookers have found their way to camps in Chad that house refugees who fled the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. More than 250,000 live in these camps, each sheltering about 20,000 people.

The cookers have made a huge difference—and not just because they are a way to heat food. Without them, refugee women must go outside the camp to gather firewood. But to leave camp is to gamble with death. Women and children—especially girls—are “particularly vulnerable to attack and rape when they are out getting wood,” says Rachel Andres, director of the Solar Cooker Project at Jewish World Watch. The equation is simple, she says. A solar cooker keeps you in camp, and that helps keep you alive.

The numbers back this up. A recent survey at one refugee camp showed that journeys to collect firewood outside the camps dropped by 86% after the solar cookers were made available.

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819 solar panels placed atop Bristol’s old demolition landfill

Bristol, Tenn. —

Bristol installs solar on closed construction landfill

You can certainly feel the power of the sun on one of recent sunny days. It’s not only the heat but those rays can be used to make power.

That’s the cornerstone of the solar energy business.

There’s a new alternative energy business – that includes solar and wind power – in Bristol, Tennessee.

It was a symbolic green ribbon that was cut to signal the opening of Ecological Energy Systems in Bristol Tennessee.

The new business focuses on solar and wind power and have actually been doing business for over two years now.

This is their first store front, but their work is visible around the region, from commercial applications, to residential, and then there’s a solar farm.

819 solar panels placed atop Bristol’s old demolition landfill that’s no longer in use.

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As incentives dim, solar companies shift focus

Adrian Sainz/Associated Press Daniel Poneman, the deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy, center, is given a tour of the West Tennessee Solar Farm by two project managers in Stanton, Tenn., in April. The state's solar industry sees few new large-scale solar projects being built because of changes in TVA incentives.


The landscape for solar power is changing, and the leaders of two Knoxville solar companies are altering their focus to adapt to the shift.

Ignited by federal stimulus dollars, the industry has enjoyed three years of federal and state incentives that have, for the most part, dimmed. And last year, TVA scaled back its incentives, limiting the most generous payments to systems producing less than 50 kilowatts of power. That’s left many in the industry to predict few, if any, large commercial installations will be built in the near future.

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PV Tech Newscast May 4, 2012

UT Report: Solar Growing as Viable US Energy Source

Solar power is a viable energy source for the nation, and its use is rapidly growing in the U.S. as federal incentives—similar to those that helped other energy markets to develop—are put in place. “This report looks at solar in relation to other energy sources and finds that solar is on the path to becoming a mainstream source of energy for our nation,” said Matt Murray, director of the Baker Center. “In addition, the report pulls together data showing the solar industry’s great potential for the US economy—not only in the diversification of our energy supply, but also through job creation and global business opportunities.”

Murray said being involved with the production of this report is in line with the Baker Center’s focus on energy and environmental policy. The Baker Center is also administering the $700,000 SunShot Solar Initiative, a project looking at the regulatory challenges and non-technological barriers to solar adoption. Read the full report on the Baker Center website (pdf).

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