I know that I may be a little behind the times, but I just watched James Cameron’s blockbuster smash “Avatar” with my kids on the “small” screen, and was surprised to see just how many “Going Green” messages there were in this futuristic movie. You may remember that the only application for solar energy used to be on the Space Station–or the Mars Rover. The technology hasn’t changed much in 25 years, but what has changed is the cost of photovoltaic, which now allows homeowners and business owners throughout the world to use solar energy on Earth. You don’t have to have a futuristic home to place solar panels on your roof. Any view of the future requires the adoption of solar or other renewable energy.
Posts Tagged ‘solar energy’
Natural gas, Chinese manufacturing and austerity programs were the themes at a solar symposium yesterday in the Nation’s Capital. The GW Solar Institute brought together teachers, students, policymakers and the president of SolarTown to take on the subject: “Solar Energy: A Path to Energy Significance.” No one seemed to suggest that it was going to get any less dull in the solar market in the coming year, but the forecasts were few and far between as the solar market continues with its fits and starts.
SolarTown visited a middle school in Washington, DC today. We let the kids borrow a solar oven for the next month so that they can cook up their favorite foods. On SolarTownKids, we have an activity to make your own solar cooker. If you are the parent of a school age kid, you might ask your child to cook you up some food with a solar cooker. And if you have a favorite solar activity to share on SolarTownKids, let us know.
If you are looking for activities to do with your kids—when they are home because of the snow, or earthquakes, or just for a weekend activity, then you may want to check out our new sister site meant just for kids, parents and teachers. SolarTownKids is meant for kids who want to teach their parents a thing or two about solar energy. SolarTownKids introduces the basics of solar energy for kids and explains why and how we should use solar power. Many schools throughout the country are putting solar panels on their roofs, and these solar arrays are great learning tools for kids to understand the power of solar energy. As our kids are getting back to school, we encourage you to visit this special site for solar kids.
Last week, I took my kids to watch the shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The launch was supposed to be the final launch of Endeavour and the second to last launch of the shuttle before the fleet is retired this summer. Mindful of the vagaries of the weather and the unpredictability of technical problems, we waited until the last minute to make our non-refundable reservations. We may not have seen the shuttle launch, but we did see some pretty impressive displays of how NASA is using solar energy here on EarthWe did not hide our disappointment at not seeing the Shuttle blast off into the cosmos. By all accounts, that is a remarkable experience for those who have had the privilege of watching men and women reach for the stars. We may have to settle for the next generation of space shuttles. We were pleased, however, to see how NASA is utilizing the rays of the sun not only in the cosmos, but here on Earth. And if it is good enough for NASA, then solar is good enough for the rest of us.
We have had some false starts but the cherry blossoms finally bloomed in the Nation’s Capital and spring has finally arrived, and so has the surge of interest in and orders for solar powered lights. Most of our customers who are interested in solar lights are newbies to solar energy, and indeed there is no better wait to start down the road to solar energy with some solar lights. You don’t need a solar farm to get into the solar business. You can start with some simple, inexpensive solar lights. And springtime has brought the customers to SolarTown who want to see solar technology in action.
An investment analyst calls SolarTown, inquiring about trends in the solar panel market for 2011, particularly the supply of modules. It reminds me of the study I heard about in business school that if you ask 100 of the leading economists whether interest rates will rise or fall, 42% will get it right. You can pay a lot of money for analyst reports, but with the solar energy market expanding rapidly and incentives seemingly changing day to day, it is hard to predict supplies. That has been a challenge for us, especially last year, but we think that we did well by our customers to secure modules at good prices.
For those who want to move more quickly with renewable energy and energy efficiency, the prospect of a nuclear energy disaster spells a clear path to a renewable energy clean solution. Solar farms and solar panels on homes are not going to spell disaster in the event of an earthquake in California. But the calculus for renewable energy just got a lot more complicated as the tradeoffs that Obama can offer have now significantly narrowed.
Solar Champion Felled by Would-Be Assassin. Like many others, I was riveted by the news over the weekend that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been shot at close range at a meeting with her constituents. My initial reaction was that this was news you would expect to come from Kabul, not Tucson. But as the news came in, it became clear that the senseless violence commonplace in war zones had invaded the quiet streets of one shopping center in Arizona and almost claimed the life of solar champion Gabrielle Giffords.
These are some of the highlights of the year gone by and an outlook of things to come for 2011. The solar industry has waited to find out what would be the fate of the Treasury Grant program. If you haven’t tuned in for this debate, this development is very good news for the renewable energy industry. The solar industry had another stellar growth year. A recent report predicted that the industry will grow as much as 22% in 2010, when all of the numbers (modules) have been counted. The one gnawing issue is that the solar industry is quickly becoming a Chinese industry, as even today the Chinese own 66% of world production. It was a better year to put home solar panels on your roof than investing in solar stocks. Morningstar says that solar investors “could be in for a rude awakening come 2011.” The biggest change in the industry came with the micro-inverter. Sure, solar panel efficiencies improved, which means more output for the buck, and the price of PV came down, but the biggest change in the industry came with the industry acceptance for residential PV installation of the micro-inverter. Enphase is no doubt the market leader, but there are many, many wanabees and the competition for micro-inverters will heat up in 2011. The other major shift we saw in the industry is that regardless of whether the homeowner gets a micro-inverter, the homeowner almost invariably wants to get monitoring of the solar energy system.