Posts Tagged ‘solar energy’

A Green Conversation with White House Correspondent Paul Brandus

Friday, July 24th, 2015

The SolarTown interns discussed the direction of renewable energy in the existing political climate with award-winning White House Correspondent Paul Brandus. Brandus, the founder of @WestWingReports, has over 200,000 followers on Twitter and is scheduled to release a new book in September entitled Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency. Once we made our way to Chop’t, ordered our food, and sat down, we had the opportunity to explain each of our summer projects to Brandus and get his input on where renewable energy fits into politics at the White House.

Brandus with SolarTown interns Max Venezia, Naomi Rogoff and David Edelman (not pictured: Madeline Koelbl)First, Brandus reminisced on one conversation he had with a young Senator Barack Obama about his plans to put solar panels on the White House, if elected president. Once that Senator was elected, however, Brandus would ask the president for updates on the White House solar panels and the President would report back: “We’re working on it”. Five years later, the solar panels were finally installed on roof of the president’s residence. “Everything moves slowly here,” said Brandus.

New Solar Technologies Address the Elephants in the Room

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

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.

Solar Forward!

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Solar has arrived—on Earth! Just a few short years ago, most people associated solar with exotic uses like the wing arrays on the International Space Station or the small solar modules powering the Mars Rover. That now seems like ancient history as you will now find solar panels on your neighbor’s roof, your partner’s backpack (got to have that power for your cell phone), and on those solar lights in your garden (won’t exactly reduce your carbon footprint, but it’s a start). When SolarTown was just starting out six years ago, we were selling some of our home solar panels for $5.00 a watt. Do you know what that is today? On some of our modules, we have seen the cost to our customers go down by a whopping 80% or more. Sure there have been a lot of companies that are out of business, and the ones that survived showed that they could do the same job for a lower cost. The industry is now much more stable and mature. We would like to think that we have played a small role in helping our customers on their path to adopt solar as part of their life style and commitment.

Solar Duels with Natural Gas and Oil

Friday, November 28th, 2014

There has long been a debate regarding whether solar power will compete effectively with other energy resources in price and reliability. States such as California that have provided economic incentives to solar energy have experienced explosive growth in solar energy utilization. Nevertheless, most states in US are still highly dependent on coal and natural gas. Solar energy is starting to compete with natural gas and oil, but the drop in the cost of natural gas has dimmed solar energy’s prospects. To solve the high front-cost issue, solar power is now still relying on government subsidies. Some researchers have been doubting if there is any way to end subsidies while still promoting green energy. One way would be to place a fee on CO2 emissions. Compared to expensive oil, relatively dirty coal and troubled nuclear power, renewable energy can definitely play a leading role in the energy needs of the United States. It will be a balance of cost, reliability, consistency, and government policy.

Blistering Attacks on Solar Energy Gaining Traction

Friday, May 30th, 2014

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.

Solar Panels are Definitely Right for You—Maybe

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Home solar panels are becoming increasingly part of the home ownership landscape in many parts of the country. Many of our customers call up and ask whether they should install solar panels on their homes. Since we sell solar panels, we would love to say unequivocally yes, but the answer is more nuanced and our answer usually is, “it depends.” These are some of the considerations we usually give to our customers about whether they should be considering home solar panels. Just because you are intent on going solar doesn’t mean that your home wants to cooperate. Solar can be placed on homes in virtually every state, but not every home is suitable for solar. If you live in a forest, solar panels aren’t going to catch many of the sun’s rays. And if you live in the city and the adjoining building casts a long shadow over your roof for much of the day, then solar panels may not be for your home. I did see at a trade show a couple of years back, a solution to some of these issues by having concentrated solar on a long pole that would peek out over the trees, but I have not seen this application ever used. For today, if you have a huge hickory over your roof or have any other obstructions, then you may want to look into buying green energy or becoming a member of a solar cooperative, where you don’t have to host the panels on your roof.

Winter Weather and Solar Panels

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Are you digging out today on the East Coast or are you basking in the sun in Arizona? If you are getting a sun tan on the West Coast, then this blog post is not for you. If you are looking at a roof and your home solar panels under a foot of snow, then you may want to read further. Let’s get to the basics. If your home solar panels are under snow, they are not producing electricity. You have some choices to get those modules back up and generating solar power. The best choice is simply wait, but if you are in a hurry, then some homeowners may use a broom to gently take the snow off of their panels. But don’t risk life and limb on a slippery roof just to get an extra kilowatt hour of electricity.

Price of Solar Panels Still Dropping but Solar Still Needs Storage

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

If someone would have told me a few years ago that the price for solar panels would drop to 36 cents by 2017, I might have had some question about the mental health of the one making the assertion. But now, look at what Green Tech Media is reporting. The price per watt of solar PV will keep falling. All of this is well and good for the emerging solar industry, but there is a hitch: the sun doesn’t shine at night. price The price per watt to produce solar panels will fall to 36 cents by the end of 2017. With this cost reduction comes a price – disappearing subsidies for solar PV. The subsidies, which cost billions in taxpayer dollars, are believed to be less and less necessary as the price of solar energy reaches grid parity. Solar PV systems require panels, yes, but also a considerable number of other parts. Inverters, wiring, solar batteries for off grid or backup systems, and a good deal of cash for professional installation account for a large percentage of the startup cost that is so daunting to prospective investors, residential and utility alike. The most prohibitive drawback that has solar producing just .195% of the nation’s energy is easy to overlook, but oh so obvious once considered: when the sun goes down over the horizon, the panels are not producing energy.In order to make solar a real answer to our energy needs, it needs to be able to produce energy around the clock, and specifically when it’s needed during peak hours. Price per watt can drop all it wants for panels. To stay competitive, solar energy will need help, and subsidies won’t be coming back to the rescue. The answer is in energy storage.

Solar 2013 Lights Up Baltimore

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Solar 2013, Baltimore. Today is the last day of the 42d annual ASES National Solar Conference. The conference may not have drawn the large crowds as in previous years—the field for solar and renewable conferences is getting crowded—but those who attended were treated to a heavy dose of solar policy, feed-in tariffs and installation guidance. One common theme at the conference was to learn from the experience of Germany, which has made tremendous strides that Germany to make solar and renewable a significant part of the energy output. This has also brought the cost down and between 2006-2012, the installed cost of solar systems in Germany has declined by a whopping 66%. Germany’s goal is to generate 30% of its energy from renewable energy by 2030, and it is well on its way to meet that goal.

Solar Power 2012: Year in Review Part 1

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

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.