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Solar News

Need a Job? Choose Solar Over Coal

On the route to a clean energy future, more jobs have become available in renewable energy industries such as solar and wind power while the coal industry has seen the opposite. According to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, solar industry jobs are now outpacing coal mining jobs.  According to one source, in the U.S., the coal industry employs 87,000 people while clean energy industries employ 360,000. If you are looking for a job in the energy market, you may want to start studying your watts and volts and not your bituminous coal attributes.


Effects of the Anti-Dumping Tariff One Month Later

The tariffs imposed on China earlier this summer have already begun to affect the global solar market. A number of new trends have emerged that appear to result from the new duties. Some of these are expected effects, such as a rise in the price of solar panels, and the shift away from panels manufactured in China and Taiwan. Others are a bit more worrisome, such as the shift of manufacturing from China to other countries that can produce extremely cheap solar panels. It remains to be seen whether the new tariffs can help US solar manufacturers become more competitive, as many have hoped.

Solar Lights Shining in Your Yards and in Africa

Solar lights are lighting up backyards and frontyards, pathways and sidewalks. As the technology improves to provide brighter light, consumers are adapting solar energy for their homes and businesses. And if they are used for home use in the U.S. and Europe, in rural Africa, they may be the only light available. Solar lights becoming cheaper has been a boon for developing communities in rural Africa. The Kenyan government has been installing solar panels at primary schools across the country, transforming the schools into community renewable energy hubs.

Solar Power Shines in Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Whoever you are rooting for in the World Cup, you have got to be impressed by the booming presence of solar panels on many of the stadiums that are home to the matches. Brazil's hosting the world cup has brought solar power to prominence--despite some of the controversy over the skyrocketing costs for the World Cup in Brazil. New solar arrays have been and will continue to be installed on the roofs of the World Cup stadiums. They will continue to provide clean electricity to their communities even once the festivities have ended. Solar panel juggernaut Yingli Solar has a heavy presence at the games, seeking to raise awareness about the global solar market as well as its share of this dynamic market. The event is a display of the feasibility and practicality of solar power generation.

California Utility Attempts to Suppress Energy Choice

California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is currently attempting to push legislation through the California legislature that would help utilities maintain utility control over California's energy market. The current system allows cities and counties to make decisions regarding their power supply. For instance, they might switch from coal to solar or other renewables. Currently, citizens are automatically switched to the new providers by city or county choice, and must make the conscious decision to opt out. Under the proposed new law, customers would have to choose to opt in, and given what we know about human behavior, we are likely to see many fewer people adopt a different source of supply such as renewable energy under the proposed change to the system.

Escalating Solar Trade War: Consumers Can Expect Higher Solar Panel Prices

The US government will be imposing tariffs on Chinese solar panels following a recent decision by the Department of Commerce (DOC). The tariffs are a response to accusations of dumping and subsidy leveled against China by the US subsidiary of German firm SolarWorld. The entry of subsidized Chinese firms into the market has squeezed many US solar manufacturers out of the market. However, it has also caused an astronomical drop in consumer prices for solar panels, leading to explosive growth in the US solar sector. The tariffs, while beneficial to US solar manufacturing, would increase consumer prices of solar panels, and may stunt the growth and expansion of solar markets in the US.

Obama Administration Takes Action on Climate Change--Big Time

Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule mandating that power plants cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030. Some critics believe that the target is easily attained and does not go far enough, as a thirty percent cut will have little impact on global climate change given the growth of developing nations such as China and India. Others believe that the rule will have a devastating impact on US energy costs and competitive advantage. But the rule is not without its proponents, who hail the rule as at least a step in the right direction, and an affirmation of the United States' commitment to fighting climate change. The rule could even reduce energy costs in the long run as we switch to locally produced power, and renewable energy technologies such as solar panels.

White House Home of Solar Energy Once Again

After an interlude of almost 30 years, solar panels are once again gracing the home of the president of the United States. We are not sure why it took so long, but solar energy has followed a circuitous path of intrigue and can you believe it, politics. President Jimmy Carter originally placed solar thermal collectors on the White House. As with many of Carter's policies, Reagan couldn't wait to undo the policies of his predecessor. The collectors were not trashed but some of them found their way to Unity College in Maine.As we reported in 2010, President Obama had planned to install home solar panels not just on the grounds of the White House, but also on the White House itself. The plans have been in the works for some time, but only recently did he get around to implementing these plans. There were some that pointed out correctly that the 6.3 kilowatt array was tiny compared to the White House's consumption of energy, around 2% according to the Daily Caller. But since the U.S. solar energy comprises less than 1% of our energy consumption, it still is more than most.

China Doubles Down On Solar

China, now the world's largest carbon emitter, announced on May16 that it is beefing up its solar goals. China, second only to Germany in total solar electricity capacity, is planning to almost double its existing 2015 goal of 35 gigawatts capacity to a 2017 goal of 70 gigawatt capacity. China has become one of the world's largest energy importers, second only to the United States in oil imports, and as of 2012 has taken a commanding lead as the world's largest coal importer. More telling, China has gone from being a minor coal exporter to being the world's largest coal importer in less than a decade. These new demands are forcing China to rapidly mobilize its resources into renewable energy, and it's very likely that even if it meets the 2017 goals, China could have the dubious honor of leading the world in both clean energy and in pollution.

Solar Energy Growing Like Crazy, Too Little for Some, and Too Much for Others

You may have heard that solar energy accounts for much less than 1% of our portfolio of energy resources in the United States, hardly enough to make a dent in our voracious appetite for energy. For many commentators, solar energy continues to deserve government support so that it becomes a mainstay in our energy portfolio. And then there are the naysayers who say that solar is already getting more than its fair share of precious governmental resources and they will try to impose barriers to the continued expansion of solar. The stellar growth in solar is in part attributable to the very low baseline. You have huge growth because solar is makes up so little of what we use.  Even with continued growth in the solar sector, coal is not going away. Even to be compared with coal and nuclear means that solar now has come of age. And like any new industry, solar will continue to attract the wrath of those who perceive it as a threat to their pocketbooks.

Oklahoma Charges through the Nose: Solar Success Attracts Fees

Last Monday, Oklahoma became one of the first states to pass a bill charging residential and other solar power users with grid-tied solar and wind power installations a monthly fee. The amount of the fee, yet to be determined, is backed by utility companies, which argue that net metering allows users to ignore the fixed costs of maintaining the power grid, forcing rates to go up for other users. reported that while clean energy advocates had strongly opposed the bill, it was added into the draft bill late in the process, preventing opponents from mobilizing effectively. While Oklahoma was one battleground, other state-level fights are also beginning to occur. The conservative think tank Americans For Prosperity (AFP) has drafted "model legislation" on solar energy. While most of the utilities are themselves not strongly against solar energy, many in the fossil fuel sector are beginning to see it as a real threat and are acting to undermine solar industry growth. With the two-fold goal of rolling back state laws as well as undermining incentives to go solar, these new attacks are the opening salvos of what will likely be a contentious battle over how the solar industry will work. While solar has been largely uncontroversial until now, industry growth has pushed solar energy into the limelight. Battles over state-level solar legislation are the opening salvos in what is likely to be an ongoing question of solar policy for years to come.

Solar Reaching Grid Parity in Europe--Next US?

There are some who think that only when solar energy is cost competitive with other energy sources will solar energy become more of a feature in the energy mix. They call this grid parity and at least according to one recent report, some European countries have broken the barrier. The report from Eclareon, a consulting firm, found that in Germany, Italy, and Spain, solar electricity is reaching the same costs as conventional energy. While the report does factor in various factors including subsidization, it also factors in installation costs, which are often high for solar. As The Week points out, combined factors including higher energy costs and wider deployment have led to a stronger solar industry, particularly in Germany, than in the United States.

Solar Boom in US Continues

Last year was yet another banner year for solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) 2013 Year in Review Report. Highlights from the Report, which is available on their website, include 4,751 MW of new solar generation capacity in the United States, increasing total capacity to roughly 13,000 MW and a 41% increase in capacity installed over 2012. One new area that's showing particularly high growth is in financing. Last year, Mosaic launched a new service that uses crowdsourced funds for solar projects, offering the investors reliable returns. Funding solar projects is becoming easier. Solar energy is becoming more efficient.  We expect that 2014 is likely going to bring even more growth for solar.

Renewable Energy Provider Caught in the Deep Freeze

In a surprising turn of events, Clean Currents, a popular renewable energy provider based in Silver Spring, Maryland, announced that it could no longer continue operating. The decision was based on a sudden increase in renewable energy costs early this winter, with energy costs soaring above $1,000/megawatt/hour. Because Clean Currents operated by giving customers fixed rates for energy, they could not handle the losses, the Washington Post reported.  There were no reports of how or whether Clean Currents tried to hedge the risk of surging energy costs.

Ivanpah: Open for the Sun's Rays

The new Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station outside Primm, Nevada, opened for business last week. With an expected capacity of 370 megawatts - enough to power 140,000 homes according to an EarthTechling report - the plant's three mirror arrays. The massive array can generate around 370 megawatts at peak output and around 945,000 megawatt-hours per year. While these large scale projects play a very important role in developing solar as a utility-scale power source, they have benefits for people who want to set up their own home solar systems as well. All of these large plants enable technology to develop, making solar overall cheaper for all users, whether they are utilities or home- and business-owners. With solar becoming more efficient, that means individual homeowners can get more bang for their buck by going solar. It's very easy now for home solar plants to have a 3 megawatt capacity just from rooftop panels, and that's likely to improve even further.

Community Solar Hits the Nation's Capital and Solar Gardens in Colorado

You have a roof with an unhindered southern exposure. You know what to do to take advantage of the power of the sun. You will call a local solar contractor to install home solar panels. Alternatively, if you don't want to make the substantial upfront investment, you can sign up for one of the third party deals available and you can enter into a long-term lease for the panels on your roof. And now there is another alternative in some venues across the country. Welcome community solar to the mix of possible ways to go solar. Under new local legislation in Washington, D.C., you can buy solar without having solar panels on your roof. In Colorado, private households, businesses, governments and nonprofits are purchasing solar panels. The utility will post a credit on monthly bills to its members who own one or more panels. So if you are looking to go solar, there are more ways to skin a cat than simply installing solar panels on your roof. Look for these and other programs in your area for how to go solar.

Are your Home Solar Panels Facing in the Wrong Direction?

We are not suggesting that you get up and change the direction of the panels on your roof. A new study by the Pecan Street Research Institute does make you think about the conventional wisdom that home solar panels should be placed on the southern facing roof to be most efficient. You may not have heard of Pecan Street before, but their study certainly had a way of garnering the headlines with experts coming down on both sides of the argument-and this from a study of just 50 homes. Some may discount the study because the sample was small and because the output over the course of the year is only a couple of percentage points different, but the major issue is in peak load from 3pm to 7pm west-facing solar panel arrays produced 49 percent more electricity during this peak demand time. Now what all of the commentators are missing of course is that most homeowners are not going to be redirecting their houses to the south or west just to capture a few more rays.

Solar Lights Can Light Up your Backyard--and an African Village

Solar lights for us in North America usually are great for lighting up the yard or providing illumination for a dinner party. A solar lamp post can provide a lot of light for your walkways or pathways. And solar lights can also provide the gift of light to those who don't have electricity-and we mean here not just a remote cabin, but an entire town. In rural Africa, according to the Sierra Club, 598 million Africans live off the grid. Many "still use kerosene lamps to light their homes, a practice that can consume up to 20 percent of each family's income and is harmful to both the environment and the health of the families."  This news article describes some of the initiatives to provide as much as 20 percent of the world population, for whom a functioning, reliable light bulb is a godsend.

First Solar: Predictions of its Demise Overblown

What a difference a year makes! Last year, thin-film solar panel manufacturer First Solar was teetering. Bloomberg News carried the banner "First Solar Latest Casualty in Renewable Energy Shakeout." Bloomberg painted a dire picture of First Solar's prospects as First Solar fired 30 percent of its workforce and shuttered its German factory. As recently as August of this year, Lawrence Meyers of InvestorPlace predicted confidently that First Solar "will go bankrupt sooner or later."  That may be like predicting that we will all die sometime, but Meyers' main beef with First Solar is that the solar technology doesn't work, shading looms as a huge problem, and dust or dirt on panels significantly reduces panel efficiency. The jury is out on Meyers' prediction, but Forbes is unabashedly upbeat about the stock, and yes, even the technology that Meyers trashed in his article. Forbes earlier this year suggested that there were several drivers to fuel the growth of First Solar's business.

Solar Energy without the Sun: Solana Starts Up

One of the conundrums of solar energy is that when the sun doesn't shine, you don't get any energy. The race is on to figure out how to store solar energy so that it can be used on a rainy day. Molten salt in the Arizona desert may offer one approach to storing the sun's energy at night. This isn't just a high school science project-an Arizona utility Arizona Public Service is betting $2 billion (with a b) that this approach will work. The plant which is known as Solana started its operations earlier this month and will provide enough power for about 70,000 homes.