The big question with regard to solar energy is whether it can reliably replace fossil fuels as a major power source in the future, and this question is not easy to answer. Of the many criticisms that can be raised, two major issues are often levied against solar energy: the first is intermittency – the fact that the available sunlight at a given moment is insufficient to generate power; and the second is cost – the price of producing or installing the solar cells can counteract the money saved on using them in the first place. These new developments don’t necessarily solve all of the problems that can be associated with solar energy, they are addressing the larger, more frequent criticism of it; and, in so doing, they are helping to establish that solar energy isn’t a niche thing but a practical and desirable alternative to fossil-fuel energy.
Archive for the ‘Solar Policy & Incentives’ Category
Join the momentum that is building against the proposed Exelon-Pepco merger right when we need it most. DC residents and business leaders turned out to set the record straight on why the merger would be a bad deal for the District. On Tuesday, more than 100 Maryland residents appeared at a Montgomery County hearing, demonstrating overwhelming opposition to the proposed merger.
But it’s not over yet, and the battle is far from won.
Guest blog from DC Sun. As you have probably heard, Exelon has plans to take control of Pepco, our local electricity utility. This deal would make Exelon the biggest power distributor in America. And they’re not interested in working with local stakeholders to bring more solar to the District. (Exelon has a history of undermining local stakeholders and opposing renewables.) As frustrating as Pepco can be, Exelon would be even worse.
Come on ladies, shatter that glass ceiling! It seems to be that more women are gaining ground in the solar industry with positions not only in engineering and installation, but also in sales and management. Studies have shown that diversity in the workplace results in more revenue and boosts morale. Individual women as well as associations are changing gender diversity in the solar industry. And this is happening in both developed and underdeveloped countries creating better opportunities for women everywhere. Non-profit organizations and women high up in companies are creating projects and methods to further the employment of women in the solar industry.
Money talks and the Koch Brothers are the most loquacious of the anti-solar movement. They have crafted a well-orchestrated movement under the aegis of the innocuous sounding name of Americans for Prosperity to derail the solar and renewable energy movement in states throughout the country. We don’t know if the Koch brothers are behind every legislative initiative to scale back solar energy, but certainly their robust wallet bankrolls the most vocal of these efforts to limit solar energy’s encroachment on fossil fuels. The good news is that solar energy is now becoming a staple in the energy basket in the United States. But solar energy’s success now breeds these attacks from the fossil fuel industry and well-moneyed conservatives. This void is national policy left the states to craft their own energy policy and over forty states enacted renewable energy standards. But without a national policy, each of these states is a potential battleground vulnerable to attacks bankrolled by the Koch Brothers. We are now seeing the effect of no national policy on energy, and we can expect that with the recent successes in Oklahoma and Ohio, that these attacks will be expanded to other states.
The news around Washington D.C. has not been altogether bright. The Nationals didn’t make the playoffs this year. The federal government is closed. The museums are closed. Imposing concrete barriers block you from parking in any lots managed by the National Park Service. A woman suffering from postpartum depression leads the police on a chase from the White House to the Capitol Building, where she is killed in her car. Despite all of the bad news and gridlock elsewhere in the city, the solar home tour celebrated its 23rd year in the metropolitan Washington DC area this past weekend. And if you missed it, you missed one of the bright spots in Washington, D.C. Homeowners with solar panels and solar water heating systems graciously opened their homes to visitors just to show off their solar prowess. Some of the homeowners even fed us (and our kids, thank you very much!). Human psychology plays a role in the financing of these systems. When there were more incentives, there was more of a frenzy to buy solar panels. Now that many of the incentives are no longer around, the frenzy has quieted down, but the cost of the solar systems without the incentives is now much less than it was before because of the falling cost of the modules. As one homeowner told us, he originally bought his panels ten years ago at $7.00/watt. Now a better module can cost around a dollar a watt. But what is missing is that hook that you better get on the bandwagon today. There is one major incentive that will almost certainly disappear, and that is the federal income tax credit, which ends in 2016, but you still should have time to put in your solar water heater or solar energy system before the credit expires. With the craziness in Washington, D.C., you probably should think about getting your system up and running before the solar tour next year.
You may recall that four years ago Obama trumpeted three pillars for his new administration: health care, education and energy. The administration dithered on developing a comprehensive energy policy, leaving it to Congress to bury any chance of moving forward because of partisan wrangling. Possibly Obama learned his lesson on energy and when it came time to advocate for health care reform was much bolder and showed more leadership. Unfortunately for those who wanted to see a comprehensive energy policy, the chance for an energy policy withered on the trees in the first Obama administration. Two years ago, there was a small window of opportunity to recast renewable energy in the cloak of a jobs initiative, but that effort did not get very far and most believe that there is little appetite to restart the debate—which made Obama’s speech all that more interesting when he laid out a forceful vision on addressing climate change. Climate change got top billing over foreign affairs and world peace. The Administration is going to have a lot on its plate over the next six months, the critical time to set the agenda and seal the Obama legacy. Will Obama take on Congress not only on immigration reform, gun control, maybe gay rights—and climate change? Many will argue that the train has already left the station on competitiveness in the renewable energy field and we have already lost the competitive edge. It is all that much harder to get the ketchup back into the bottle in a second term presidency. This is particularly true when you consider the there is no economic imperative to do so: read shale gas. Leading the transition to solar energy and other renewable just does not seem to be a high priority.
The solar energy industry experience a lot of highs and lows during 2012. The biggest development has been the continued growth of solar energy in the United States. As recently reported, if you compare the third quarter of 2012 with the third quarter of 2011, you would see that there was a 44% growth in the amount of solar photovoltaics (PV) installed in the United States. By anyone’s measure that is a huge growth rate. In our first blog post on the solar energy year in review, we discussed the huge price reduction in solar panels, dwindling incentives, and the effect of competing energy sources particularly natural gas on the adoption of solar energy in the U.S. In this blog post, we can’t avoid talking about some of the troubling issues facing the solar energy industry. We will discuss the Department of Energy loan program and tariffs.
We know this much about the solar industry as we approach the end of the year. It was another year of fast moving changes in the industry. The good news is that in 2012, there were a whole lot of solar panels going up on homes and businesses in the U.S. And there were some setbacks for the industry. At the beginning of the year, few had even heard of Solyndra—but by the end of the year, Solyndra had become a household name. As the New Year approaches, we want to reflect back on what 2012 meant for the solar industry. In our blog, we will discuss some of the highs and lows for the solar industry this past year. In this first of two blog posts, we will reflect on the decrease in the price of solar panels, on the effect of natural gas and coal on the solar industry, and finally on the dwindling incentives available to support solar energy.
I was excited to see the presidential candidates discussing energy independence and alternative sources of energy during the second presidential debate. Both candidates acknowledged that they would use an all-of-the-above approach to make America an energy independent nation, but in different ways. Governor Romney’s major focus is supporting the oil industry, increasing off-shore drilling, and constructing an oil pipeline from Canada. President Obama, who has thus far refused to build such a pipeline, supports oil and natural gas, but wants to increase the focus on renewables like solar and wind. While the candidates debated energy independence for several minutes, they failed to discuss climate change. It’s surprising that climate change didn’t come up, especially because it is crucial to consider when discussing which sources of energy our country should be developing.