Archive for November 26, 2012

Ten Years Shows Silicon Solar Modules Maintain 97% Original Performance

Even after a decade, aleo solar modules show only minimal age-related performance reduction (degradation). MBJ Services, an independent service provider, assessed a 5.44-kilowatt system near Bremen (Germany) which had been in operation for nearly ten years. They measured each of the 34 aleo modules’ performance with the help of a flasher. The result: an average degradation level of 2.73%. Photovoltaic system planners generally presume performance losses of 0.5% per year – but the aleo modules only degraded by about half that much. Read More

Why Not Directly Invest In Solar?

Imagine if every time you bought a car, you had to buy all the gasoline that would run the car for its lifetime. That’d be an expensive automobile. With an internal combustion engine, say, you get to amortize the total cost of the power produced over the many years that you buy fuel for that engine. It’s almost like a layaway plan for the power. Solar finds itself in an analogous situation. The cost of the energy produced over the 20 years you’ve got the system all comes at the beginning. You are prepaying, essentially, for decades of electricity production when you buy the system. That means only people with substantial cash on hand are likely to put panels on their homes. Who has an extra ten or twenty grand lying around?
And that’s where SunRun gets money from banks — hundreds of millions of dollars — and then uses that money to finance the installation of solar systems on homes. Homeowners pay on a monthly basis, not up front, at rates that are comparable to or cheaper than the grid (SunRun says). We still don’t know how much money SunRun makes on each home, but we do know that the company’s model has exploded. Most new solar is now being installed with the leasing model and other companies like SolarCity and Sungevity are trying to horn in on SunRun’s business (even if SunRun remains the largest solar leasing company).
The takeaway from SunRun is simple, though: sometimes the innovations that matter aren’t technical but financial (or even social). Of course, developing more efficient, less expensive solar cells helps, but the technology development alone cannot guarantee successful market deployments. Whole article can be found here

But why take your money and give it to a company or a bank when there is a better way that cuts out the expense of the middlemen?

Direct investment in solar by everyone. Invest affordable amounts each month with the result of lowering your energy bill. Doing so will have a long term effect on your electric bill.

That is what the Tennessee Solar Energy Association is advocating. That is why we are sponsoring the “Affordable Solar” strategic planning session on December 7th.

Agenda for Affordable Solar Workshop December 7th

Date: December 7, 2012 Time: 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Location: U.T. Conference Center, Knoxville TN
Corner of Locust St. and Clinch Ave.


Statement of the Problem to be Addressed: The average homeowner in the TVA region cannot afford the upfront cost of solar systems for their homes. Recent surveys of rural Tennessee show the strong support for solar but Tennesseans that contributes 60% of TVA’s income are on the average 20% below the typical U.S. income. So Tennesseans want solar but cannot afford solar in today’s economic climate. What can we do to make solar affordable without subsidies?

10 min – introductions TSEA/TREEDC

60 min – Main Speaker: S. David Freeman

120 min – morning breakout

Selecting members for each group and choosing a group discussion leader
What is expected from each group and discussing what is the purpose of each question to be addressed the subjects to be discussed

Group 1: Distributor Issues
a. Collection issues
b. Transfer to TVA mechanism
c. Compensated expenses
d. Future distribution upgrades
e. Location opportunities
i. Locally by distributor
ii. Regionally by TVA
iii. Rooftops

Group 2: Installer issues
a. Initial thoughts on what David said and the proposed program.
b. Preference for local distributors
i. Requirement for local labor?
ii. Could be a small business set aside
iii. Size limits depending on location

Group 3: TVA issues
a. Initial thoughts on what David said and the proposed program
b. Effects on rates
c. Collection issues
d. Accounting issues
e. Who makes the decision to location of array?
i. Distributors
ii. TVA
iii. County
iv. Local Government
f. Any charter issues?
g. Management of program
h. Locating and sizing installed solar farm
i. Expenses incurred for TVA infrastructure
i. Charging for energy storage (who pays and how is the released power priced?)
ii. Financing
iii. Manpower
iv. Other

1 hour – Lunch / Lunch Speaker: Professor Rupy Sawhney

120 min – afternoon breakout

1. Each group continues discussion
a. Arrive at consensus on each area
b. Prepare report back to general session

2. Report back to attendees
a. Distributors
b. Installers
c. TVA
Follow-up and Future Plans

Abouelata advocates for Tennessee to be nation’s energy leader

Harvey Abouelata wants Tennessee to “take the brass ring and run with it.”

In a recent interview with teknovation.biz, the President of ARiES advocated for a tagline that simply says “Tennessee . . . Where Energy Begins.” ARiES stands for Alternative, Renewable, Innovative, Economic, Solutions for Energy, a company that Abouelata founded about a year ago with two partners – Mary Shaffer Gill and Patrick West.

His work for the last several years in a variety of energy sectors provides a good perspective on why he believes the tagline makes sense. For Abouelata, it’s an easy sell.

“If you want to be in the theater, you go to Broadway. If you want to be in finance, you go to Wall Street. If you want to be in energy, you come here.”

Abouelata cites the state’s assets that many know – Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Electric Power Research Institute, Sharp Electronics Corporation, Wacker Chemie, and Hemlock Semiconductor.

Full Article

Visit the ARiES Energy Website

Need your opinion on some suggested topics for our next event

We noticed that the hits on our website showed a doubling of hits when we publicized our DIY workshop. That showed us that our website viewers were interested in more events where they can get information and ask questions. It was each of you who will decide on what we do next as an event. Here are some ideas that we have come up with that might be of interest. Review these topics and if you do not find what you want about to know about solar energy and what it can do for you, let us know. In fact, give us your opinion as to your interest in participating in such an event. Your opinion will be the decision maker of what we do next.

1. Solar energy for farmers and remote locations
2. Information on solar energy for teachers and lecturers
3. Benefits of solar to combat global warming
4. Adding energy storage to your home or business can provide electricity during and after natural disasters

If none of these topics satisfy your curiosity, then tell us what you want to know.
Stephen Levy, Technical Director
Tennessee Solar Energy Association

Climate Change and Solar Solutions: A Hurricane Sandy (Ongoing) Experience

Solar plus energy storage would be the answer to challenge freak storms

Raina Russo drives through the ravaged streets of her coastal neighborhood in New York, dodging downed trees and aware of the constant sirens that indicate emergency workers are responding to yet another fire. This is what she calls her “new normal” in her life post-Sandy. Reflecting on her own experience, Russo says she has come to realize our true dependence on power and how it affects our lives.

“You think of power and you think you’ve lost electricity in your home, refrigerator, heater, and so on. But it’s so much more than that. We lost power and cell service dropped; we were up against a gas shortage because the pipelines turn off during the storm and during loss of electricity,” Russo explains. “So you have no power, and all of a sudden you have no communication and no transportation – and you have no means of even operating generators that weren’t flooded because of the gas shortage. Its such a compounded situation, and it’s all about power.”

One part of Russo’s property that seems to have made it through the storm unscathed: her 10.4-kW rooftop solar system. Pending a full system check from Mercury Solar Solutions, her installer, Russo says it looks like her inverters are high enough to have avoided flood damage, and her panels withstood the Hurricane-force winds and remain intact.
Russo lost electricity because her system is tied to the grid; during outages most systems shut down to prevent power from feeding into power lines, which endangers workers that may be out for repairs. This got Russo thinking about storage solutions. She says she hadn’t thought about storage until Sandy, but after speaking to friends and neighbors who own top-of-the-line generators that were flooded and, ultimately, unusable, Russo thinks she should take her existing system to the next level.

“Storage is going to be my first priority in my [home] rebuild process. I need to consult with people on this because I’m not an expert, but why would I invest in a gas generator,” says Russo. “Our panels are on our roof, supposedly they are not damaged, the inverters are high enough that they are not getting damaged either, so if we had storage, that could act as our backup generator.”

The good news: Home solar arrays seemed to withstand Sandy’s furious winds. Sungevity says the company’s installations are designed to hold up to sustained winds of up to 100 miles per hour. Sandy’s gusts hit 90 mph at their peak.

Sunrun, another residential solar company, has about 6,500 customers in the Northeast, and hadn’t received any reports of damage by Wednesday afternoon, according to spokeswoman Susan Wise. John Steeves, a Sungevity customer in Woodstown, N.J., with 39 panels on his roof, says the storm flooded his basement, knocked out power, and toppled massive trees in his neighborhood—but left his solar arrays unscathed. He thinks having the panels above even helped protect the roof of his 47-year-old home. The entire article can be located here

Levy comments: So,if we had added storage to our solar systems for homes and businesses, we would have power. The missing link: the battery. They are expensive, today’s most popular batteries, lead-acid, have limited lives, some need maintenance on a constant basis, and the upcoming lithium batteries being used in autos are very expensive. There are novel chemistries that show promise, but unless you have an Angel investor willing to sink millions into a ‘maybe’ we will not realize an affordable energy store in the next ten years. There are novel chemistries out there who have sought government investments such as SBIRs, SunShot initiatives, but none can demonstrate a pathway to less than $150 per kilowatthour. That is what we need. I am personally aware of the struggles one energy storage company has gone through to find that one Angel investor or government (federal, state) that is willing to risk the money. China has had its ‘Great Leap’ and now the United States needs a similar ‘Great Leap’ in energy storage. The need is there, where are the risk takers?

Attorney general says solar tax break violates state constitution

A tax break for Tennessee’s solar industry violates the state constitution because it favors certain taxpayers, state Attorney General Robert Cooper said Friday, jeopardizing the future viability of the credit.

An exemption created in 2010 for solar and other green energy installations is prohibited by a provision of the state constitution that says the legislature cannot pass laws that let certain taxpayers out of paying property taxes, Cooper said.

The break was one of three that former Gov. Phil Bredesen pushed through the legislature in the waning days of his administration. The decision will likely rekindle efforts, led by state Comptroller Justin Wilson, to roll back the property tax exemption and replace it with a less generous tax cut.

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Black Bear Solar Institute provides electric car chargers, wildlife rehab

Black Bear Solar Institute, through operating electric vehicle charging stations and demonstrating how solar technology operates, has established a Green Gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Townsend.

The institute operates electric vehicle charging stations from major metropolitan areas of the state and the interstates to the national park gateway community of Townsend, said Lisa Stewart, vice president and executive director of Black Bear Solar Institute. People can stop in the office at Trillium Cove and get their electric cars recharged, see demonstrations of solar equipment installation methods and practices.

The nonprofit group headquartered in Pigeon Forge expanded to Townsend earlier this year, locating in the Trillium Cove Shopping Village off East Lamar Alexander Parkway at 161 Painted Trillium Way in Townsend.

In addition to operating charging stations and providing renewable energy information, proceeds from corporate purchases of 30-year solar module sponsorships will help establish a wildlife rehabilitation facility in a remote area of Townsend.

“One result of this project is to make Townsend the most electric vehicle-friendly city in the world, with more charging stations per capita than any city on earth,” Stewart said.
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Graduate Students Win Tennessee Landscape Architecture Design Awards

Students in the Landscape Architecture Program won top awards in the 2012 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Tennessee Chapter Design Awards Program.
The students accepted their awards in mid-October at the ASLA Conference held in Franklin, Tennessee.

A project by Luke Murphree, from Greer, SC and Patrick Osborne from Fall Branch, TN, “Solar Greenways,” won an Award of Honor in the General Design category. The design proposed the integration of an alternative energy infrastructure into the First Creek Greenway corridor to reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Murphree, a second-year landscape design student, said, “‘Solar Greenways’ demonstrates the progressive abilities of landscape architects and students to respond to environmental issues such as climate change in a way that offers ecological, economic, and social benefits to our society.”

The UT Landscape Architecture Program, recently accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board, is the first and only accredited professional landscape architecture program in Tennessee.

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Johnson, Former Progress Energy CEO, Named New President and CEO of TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors has announced that William D. Johnson will become its president and chief executive officer, effective Jan. 1, 2013. Johnson most recently served as CEO of Progress Energy, where he was instrumental in brokering the merger between Progress and Duke Energy in 2011.

It was expected that Johnson would supplant Duke CEO Jim Rogers as head of the newly-formed company, but Duke — whose shareholders reportedly own 63% of the combined company — announced Rogers would maintain his position shortly before the merger was completed.
The Tennessee Valley Authority says Kilgore will continue leading the US$11 billion federal agency until Johnson’s arrival, then help in the transition period following.

TVA is a federally funded utility established in 1933 by Congress to develop systems of delivery for electricity and management of natural resources. Today, TVA maintains 29 hydroelectric projects, along with a pumped-storage facility and several externally owned dams.

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