Talk about a power move. SolarTown is located in Washington, DC, also home to some of the nation’s finest universities. Some of these universities, American University, George Washington University and George Washington University Hospital, have joined together in making everyone’s lives a little better. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the schools have committed to sourcing more than half their power from solar farms in a 20-year agreement with Duke Energy Renewables, a company based in North Carolina. In this plan, 243,000 solar panels are expected to be fully functional by 2015 along with three solar farms that are anticipated to generate 123 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year–the equivalent of satisfying the needs of 10,000 households.
Posts Tagged ‘solar panels’
Solar home panels are increasingly becoming part of the landscape in communities throughout the U.S. They are cropping up in cities and towns, in the burbs and in downtowns. Some of SolarTown’s best customers are farmers and ranchers. But wherever you live, do not forget to assure that your solar installer pays attention to the design of your array. It is going to be on your roof for decades to come and you don’t want something that is going to look lousy. If we are going to overcome objections from some quarters about how solar panels look, solar installers may want to pay more attention to how the arrays on residential roofs look. It would benefit not only the homeowner but the entire industry.
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.
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.
The solar industry is booming throughout the U.S., but still solar has yet to achieve wide acceptance that would make it more than an asterisk in the nation’s energy portfolio. Achieving even 1% of the nation’s energy is still an elusive goal. The largest part of the market is on commercial buildings. You are more likely to find solar panelson the roof of a Costco’s than on your neighbor’s home. There have been lots of challenges, but the two that loom more than the others are financing and aesthetics. That is what is now intriguing about Dow Chemical’s gambit on solar shingles. Dow Solar Dow Solar, a business unit of The Dow Chemical Company, has been quietly rolling out the solar shingles throughout the United Staes, and they have recently become available in SolarTown’s neighborhood, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The shingles do double duty; they are both roofing material to provide a weather tight roof for shelter and they are a source of your family’s electricity needs. But you can’t beat the aesthetics and that is where the rubber meets the road. If Dow can overcome the objections of builders then they may have created a new industry for meeting the needs of homeowners’ electricity needs. The big black boxes may be a quaint reminder of the early days of this fledging industry like the brick cell phones that weighed in at almost two pounds.
SolarTown attended the GW Solar Institute’s Fifth Annual Symposium. The theme of the symposium was “Going Global,” although the panel that we attended was more of a celebration of solar’s arrival on the world stage. Since the discussion had the feel of preaching to the choir, one solar advocate in the audience suggested that the Institute should have invited a few more skeptics to generate more lively discussion. Representatives of three powerhouses in the solar industry participated in the panel discussion. They represented the survivors in an industry that has seen considerable consolidation—meaning that a lot of companies have lost their shirts betting on solar. Some have sold their solar divisions, others have filed for bankruptcy. Survivors in the industry shakeout see opportunity. The panelists did not see the recent upheaval in the solar industry as anything “unnatural.” The industry is still at its infancy, and the recent industry shakeout is part of a natural business cycle. Solar still comprises less than 1% of the energy production in the U.S., despite huge growth in the industry. The opportunity lies ahead for those companies that survive.
First they were in outer space, then they invaded our homes and businesses, and even our backyards. Now solar panels are getting into our most sacred possessions, right next to our automobiles. Solar panel roofs are providing shade for cars through the U.S. and at the same time these panels are producing a lot of electricity. Solar panels are particularly well-suited for certain applications, and solar carports should be right on top of the list. We could be talking about the Mars Rover, where the next Shell gas station is no closer than 30 million miles away. But here we are talking about solar carports, which are relatively new areas of huge potential for the solar industry.
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.
Have you ever closed your eyes and wondered what a solar utopia would look like? If you are like me, you would think of sandy beaches, a lot of sun, a healthy native population. Maybe you wouldn’t see solar collectors or solar panels in such obvious places. You need not dream any more. The three tiny islands that comprise the New Zealand territory of Tokelau, Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo, have recently achieved something no other place in the world has accomplished: complete and total freedom from fossil fuels.
You may have heard of flower power in the 1960s and now in the 2010s we have solar power—that you can wear. You may already have purchased from us a solar bag or solar backpack, but soon you may be able to purchase solar couture. Several companies have come out with solar-powered articles of clothing meant for outdoor adventurers. This solar innovation is coming from an unlikely source, the designer and stylist behind Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress, Nicola Formichetti. Formichetti will be releasing his new line of solar-powered clothing online in mid-2013. Not only will his designs allow their wearer to make a unique fashion statement, they will also charge the wearer’s cellphone.