Archive for Solar

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.

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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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How Did Renewables Weather Sandy?

Collapsed home damaged by Hurricane Sandy

Based on early assessments, renewable energy facilities seemed to fare well during Hurricane Sandy. ISO New England said it received no reports of any damage to wind or solar facilities from the storm.

Iberdrola Renewables, which owns wind farms in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania, reported few problems.

“We monitored the situation through the night and shut down sites as a precaution to protect equipment from extreme winds. Inspections today have revealed minimal damage so far. We are very satisfied with the response of our people and the performance of the sites through an exceptional event,” said Jan Johnson, Iberdrola Renewables’ communications director.

Long Island suffered some of the most severe destruction, wiping out service to most of the Long Island Power Authority’s 1.1 million customers. But the island’s 32-MW Long Island Solar Farm appears to have come through fairly well.

Nothing “catastrophic” happened at the facility, according to Matt Hartwig, spokesman for BP Alternative Energy, which operates the solar farm. “They are beginning their assessment, which initially shows damage to the fence around the facility as well as some module damage, the extent of which is not yet known.”

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S. David Freeman Here to Lead PV Strategic Roadmap Development on December 7th in Knoxville

The election will be over and the results will dictate the degree and type of support we can expect from the new administration. Regardless of the outcome, those of us who are passionate about solar energy have to come together and plan our future actions. There is no one better to lead this action plan than S. David Freeman and we are blessed to have him here in Knoxville on December 7th for a full days planning session.

The plan for location has not been set at this time but we will announce the location and program as it develops.

I ask everyone who wants to participate in this major event to watch our website and press releases for new information.

The cost of attending will be set based on our practice at TSEA to just cover the costs of the event. As TSEA has a policy to minimize any expense of events to break even financially. That way, we can keep the cost of attending to a bare minimum.

We will be contacting distributors, TVA, all environmental groups, business leaders, political leaders at the national, state and local levels with the assistance of our partner in this event, Tennessee Renewable Energy and Economic Development Council. Though the trust of our planning will be focused on Tennessee, all who are part of TVA system are encouraged to attend.

More on David Freeman

Solar for your Home Workshop with STION

Come to Bearden Beer Market in Knoxville, TN on Wednesday, November 7th for a workshop with STION, solar panel manufacturer located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. At the workshop you will learn more about solar energy and how you can incorporate into your home or building!

This workshop is part of the Bearden Beer Market and ARiES Energy Best  Building Practices campaign to lower their carbon footprint, educate the community and encourage patrons and partners to follow suit.

Every Wednesday: $1 per pint will support BBM’s Best Building Practices! Join us to hear about BBM’s plans to incorporate the best building practices into the beer garden to improve energy efficiency and enhance the experience for beer lovers & BBM partners of Knoxville!

Some of their projects include:

  • Installing a Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System!
  • Completing Lighting Retrofits (90% accomplished, let’s make it 100%!)
  • Purchasing Biomass heating and power generation units! (Conveniently charge electronics in the beer garden without plugging into the grid!)
  • Roof Top Garden for Storm Water Collection (vegetation for reducing run-off & carbon emissions, not for eating!)

For more information or to RSVP, Click Here

Tennessee’s solar power industry stymied by red tape, extra fees

This is why the cost of local approval can add up.

“Bureaucrats, paperwork and the utility companies are our biggest problems,” said Steve Johnson, vice president of the Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association and founder of Nashville-based LightWave Solar. While the power distributors in TVA’s seven-state region are mostly solar-friendly, there are cases where they push back against people who produce their own power and want to sell it to the utility.

For instance, the Johnson City (Tenn.) Power Board, the municipal electric utility, has just instituted a $950 up-front charge to allow a home or business solar system to send power to its system, and also adds a $10-a-month solar service charge to the customer’s bill.

“There is an expense involved with installing the meter” and setting up the solar service on the utility’s system, said Johnson City Power Board spokesman J.T. McSpadden. The $950 application/installation fee would be offset by the $1,000 that TVA provides the home or business to add a solar system, but then that money would not be available to help pay for the solar equipment itself, LightWave’s Johnson said.

Nashville Electric Service doesn’t charge fees for connecting a solar array to its system, but does have some requirements that cause permits to take two to three months to get approved, Johnson said. Among them: A solar permit from NES requires sign-offs by the utility’s chief executive officer, a member of the board of directors and the legal department. “Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp. is the easiest to deal with,” he said. “With them, we can get a permit approved in two weeks.”

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