Monday, May 17th, 2010
Solar energy has been around for decades, but its popularity has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. Solar power is popping up in more and more conversations, in news articles and on the Web. The popularity of renewable energy is reminiscent of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s.
The major difference between the dot-com and renewable energy booms is that there’s a lot more value spread across the renewable energy field. There are fewer “flash in the pan” operators, if you will. That doesn’t mean that the solar sector doesn’t have its share of flakes, but it just doesn’t have as many.
What strategies for picking a solar energy installer will help you weed through the pretenders and find the right one? First, there are many installers out there who are starting out. They may not have a huge body of work, but they are very well educated on the science and design of solar. These installers are not to be discounted. (more…)
Friday, May 14th, 2010
The Oil Spill’s Unlikely Victim: As oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill continued to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, it tarred the feathers of an endangered creature: the climate bill. Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman introduced a retooled American Power Act on Wednesday to little fanfare. Perhaps that’s because the media’s klieg lights were already divided between the grilling of oil executives on Capitol Hill or the so-far hapless efforts to plug the leak. Or maybe it’s because the two senators took to the dais without their erstwhile Republican ally, Lindsey Graham. Nevertheless, it was ironic to see a solution to our fossil-fuel addiction pushed to the side because of a fossil-fuel disaster. Must we cap the gusher before we get a cap on CO2?
More Electric Cars Roll to the Starting Line: You’ve heard that the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt are on the way, but how about the Think and the Wheego? Wheego, a maker of electric putt-putt vehicles based in Atlanta, hopes that 200 highway-ready copies of its Whip Life will roll off the assembly line by August, months ahead of the well-publicized launch of the Leaf. Meanwhile, the Norwegian carmaker Think raised $40 million this week and plans to start assembly of the tiny Think City in Elkhart, Indiana in early 2011.
Thursday, May 13th, 2010
Clean energy is the “in” thing. You’re cool, literally and figuratively, if you can help save the earth by being a little more efficient in your energy use. You’re even “cooler” when you’re able to harness natural, renewable resources for your daily energy needs. Solar power is one such energy resource that meets these criteria, as it is both 100 percent natural and infinitely renewable.
Most of the energy on earth comes from the sun one way or another, including wind, oil, gas, coal, biomass, and biofuels. However, many of these indirect byproducts of solar energy, especially the fossil fuels, are non-renewable. Once used, they cannot be replaced. More important, energy sources like oil, gas, and coal also release huge amounts of heat and carbon into the atmosphere. If you can harness the power of the sun through more direct means, then you minimize this pollution without depleting precious resources.
Solar Energy on the Rise Globally
For many, solar power still seems like an alien concept. The idea of receiving boundless energy from the sun somehow doesn’t jibe with our understanding of how “free lunches” are often in short supply. However, in countries such as Canada, solar power production is becoming increasingly popular among governments, businesses, and homeowners. Ontario’s aggressive Green Energy Act has helped make sustainability and solar power central to the province’s economic recovery program. While solar energy is still an unfamiliar concept for some, it is gaining traction as people around the world begin paying greater attention to green technologies and sustainable growth.
Here are four things about solar energy that you probably didn’t know, and that may prompt you to become more involved. (more…)
Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
There has been a ton of money floating out of Washington the past couple of years. Much is going toward propping up state governments with budget shortfalls, helping those who cannot find work by extending unemployment benefits and COBRA health insurance coverage, and a ton of dough is going to the banks.
This leaves a lot of us wondering, where is my stimulus package?
As an avid reader of current events and a novice financial expert, my opinion is perhaps literally worth two cents. As a renewable energy professional who has spent the past two years learning about solar energy and energy efficiency through community college courses and technical schools, I can tell there is a lot of money going to the right places.
In addition to extending unemployment benefits, there is a good deal of money flowing into community colleges and renewable energy. For example, I was able to get reimbursed from my state, New York, for the classes I took on energy efficiency. (more…)
Monday, May 10th, 2010
The belief that jobs in the solar industry are limited to working on the roof or chasing after sales leads is not really accurate today as other opportunities are available and increasing, according to solar career expert Liz Merry.
Merry, owner of Verve Solar Consulting in Davis, Calif., has been sharing insights and advice about the solar industry since 2001 through numerous courses, articles and blogs. Promising no hype and no panaceas, she offered solid advice for career seekers in the solar photovoltaics (PV) industry at a recent workshop at the California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego, Calif.
Merry outlined four major steps every solar job seeker should follow to understand where he or she may fit into the industry: (more…)
Saturday, May 8th, 2010
In my inaugural post, I went over why solar makes sense from a financial perspective. It is a sound investment that will provide you at least a 10 percent return on your initial investment for the next 30 years. Now the question is, “Hey Chris, how do you make money on solar?”
The answer is that solar saves you money through a program called net metering.
To start off this explanation, it is good to review your utility bill. Your utility bill has in it many line items for supply and delivery broken out into many different costs per kilowatthour (kwh). Kilowatt-hours are measurements of power used by you over a period of time, usually the billing cycle. (more…)
Friday, May 7th, 2010
I’m in Georgia today to deliver the commencement address at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and I just finished a tour of the University Center of Excellence in Photovoltaics (UCEP).
With longstanding support from the Department of Energy, and under the direction of Dr. Ajeet Rohatgi , this Center at Georgia Tech has become a premier site for silicon photovoltaic (PV) research in the U.S. The company that evolved from this work –- Suniva –- is an American success story. (more…)
Friday, May 7th, 2010
This is the question I have been getting recently. It is usually asked of me by a potential customer after I’ve laid out the potential for the solar energy system to cut a good chunk of their electrical bill. My short answer is the same every time: “It always make sense.”
In New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania where I work, the incentives are very attractive. Not only is there the 30 percent federal tax credit, but New York also has a rebate and state tax credit and New Jersey and Pennsylvania have state rebates as well as the often coveted renewable energy credits. More on these specific incentives in future posts. What I want to focus on today is the long answer to the question: Does solar make sense? (more…)
Monday, May 3rd, 2010
Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released a new study on the bill savings received by residential customers with solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems, under the net metering rates currently offered by California’s two largest electric utilities. The report focuses on California, as it is the largest PV market in the United States.
The study shows that the bill savings per kilowatt-hour (kWh) generated by a PV system varies by a factor of 4 to 5 for residential customers of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) within the study sample, and by a factor 2 to 3 for Southern California Edison (SCE) residential customers in the sample.
Net metering is a billing arrangement that allows customers with PV systems installed on-site to offset their monthly consumption with PV generation, whether or not the demand for power coincides when their systems are generating power. In conjunction with other policy support mechanisms, net metering has been instrumental in jump-starting the market for distributed PV in California and elsewhere in the U.S. However, alternative compensation methods are under consideration in some jurisdictions. (more…)
Thursday, April 29th, 2010
California’s high-tech giants have long used renewable energy to help power their Silicon Valley headquarters. Now, companies such as Google, Adobe Systems, and eBay are preparing for the next step — investing in off-site solar and wind installations and innovative technologies that will supply their offices and data centers with green electricity.
From the street, Adobe Systems’ San Jose headquarters looks like any other collection of skyscrapers that dot the downtown of the self-proclaimed capital of Silicon Valley.
But ascend to a skyway that connects two of the software company’s towers and you’ll find a wind farm. Twenty vertical turbines that resemble a modern art installation slowly rotate in the breeze that blows through a six-floor plaza. Down in the parking garage, a dozen electric car-charging stations have been set up. Adobe, which makes the ubiquitous Flash player software, will install 18 more chargers this year to accommodate workers expected to be first in line when the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, and other battery-powered vehicles roll into Silicon Valley showrooms later this year. (more…)