Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Climate-Resilient Solar Hot Water Systems at Rockaways Firehouses Save NYC Money, Cut Carbon

NRDC by Kit Kennedy April 29, 2014. Solar hot water heating is the redheaded stepchild of the renewable energy world. Most people have no idea what it is. Or, they confuse it with its attention-grabbing cousin, solar photovoltaics, the solar panels we all know about that convert light into electricity and glint on a rapidly increasing number of American roofs.  Despite its obscurity, solar hot water heating is a great technology—cost-effective, pollution-free, climate-resilient. And that’s why we’re celebrating New York City’s recent installation of solar hot water systems on the roofs of five firehouses in the Rockaways section of Queens. All five had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy, with four of them suffering from extensive flooding that required repairs to equipment housed in their basements, including furnaces and boilers.

That’s where solar hot water heating is coming to the rescue. “The firehouses in the Rockaways are ideal sites for solar hot water heating,” explains Kristin Barbato, Deputy Commissioner of the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which initiated and financed the project. “Firehouses,” she says, “operate 24-7 and they use a lot of hot water for showers and laundry. The addition of the solar thermal systems makes each facility independent of the need to use natural gas or other fossil fuels to heat water for showers and general use.” In other words, should we face another storm like Sandy, Engine Companies 264, 265, 266, 268, and 329 will have functioning hot water systems when they need them most.

Current solar hot water heaters are based on a technology that’s more than 100 years old. (It was invented in Baltimore, actually, and was quite prevalent in the U.S. before it was supplanted by cheap hot-water heaters that use natural gas.) The heaters rely on a phenomenon we all know from parking cars in un-shaded spots: “Something left out in the sun is going to get hot,” explains Tim Merrigan, a solar hot water expert at theNational Renewable Energy Laboratory. “If you put glazing over it, that’s going to trap the sun’s heat.”  The way the solar hot water heaters on the firehouse roofs work is relatively simple. Water from the building is piped up to the roof and then through a series of panels containing evacuated glass tubes. While inside the panels, the water absorbs the radiant heat of the sun. Then, it’s piped back down to a storage tank in the basement.

The savings, in both energy and carbon pollution, can be considerable. At the city’s St. Mary’s recreation center in the South Bronx, where a solar hot water system provides hot water for showers and the pool, the city is saving $39,000 a year on energy and cutting the complex’s carbon footprint by 141 tons a year—the equivalent of taking 27 cars off the roads.  The firehouse installations aren’t so much one-time events as a pilot program of sorts. “We’re taking steps to see how some technologies that might be newer to city government operations work and potentially expand them out,” says Barbato. The City of New York owns almost 4,000 buildings and other facilities—courthouses, wastewater treatment plants, police and fire stations, schools, hospitals, and libraries. “We’d definitely like to use these resources in other facilities that make sense—facilities with large hot-water usage.”

The work the city has already done in cutting its carbon emissions is nothing short of impressive. Between 2005 and 2012, under Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, greenhouse gas pollution from New York City government operations dropped by 19 percent, putting the city about two-thirds of the way to its 2030 goal. The new solar water heaters on five Rockaways fire stations are another step toward that important achievement, one that makes the city and its vital first responders more resilient and secure as we go.

Monday, April 28, 2014

U.K. to be Europe’s largest solar-panel market It would dethrone Germany thanks to growing solar-farm pipeline

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) THE WALL STREET JOURNAL by Claudia Assiss — The United Kingdom will be Europe’s largest solar-panel market this year, thanks to the rapid growth of its solar farms, a market research firm said Monday, dethroning Germany. More than 120 utility-scale solar power plants have been approved for construction in the U.K., and many are targeting completion within the next 12 months, NPD Solarbuzz said in a report. China, Japan, and the U.S. were the top three solar markets in 2013, with Germany fourth and the U.K. rounding up the top five, NPD Solarbuzz said in a research note in March. Analysts had said then they expected a broader shift to Asia as the solar-panel market in India and Thailand grows.The U.K.’s government has set a target of 20 gigawatts of cumulative solar capacity by 2020. Solar power farms will provide the bulk of the contribution. The enthusiasm for solar panels and systems has often failed to translate into a boost for stocks of solar-panel makers. A few Chinese-based manufacturers said earlier this month they expect to sell fewer solar modules in the first quarter than what they forecast, blaming seasonality and company-specific hiccups. Solar stocks were mostly down on Monday, failing to catch any tailwinds from rallying U.S. stocks. U.S. equity markets rose on deal news in the pharmaceutical and telecom sectors and stronger-than-expected pending home sales data.
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Friday, April 25, 2014

New York making $1B investment in solar power

FUEL FIX. AP. April 25, 2014.  ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state is making a long-term, $1 billion investment in support of solar power.  The Democrat said Thursday that the money will provide funding certainty for efforts to expand solar power over the next decade.  Cuomo says the investment will help the state’s solar power industry to move away from government subsidies.  The money is part of the NY-Sun initiative run by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which is funded mostly through assessments on utilities.  Cuomo’s office says the state has more than 400 solar power companies that together employ 5,000 workers.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Tea Party Wants to Help You Go Solar

SLATE. By Josh Voorhees. April 23, 2014.  Photo by David McNew/Getty Images  Last week, with little fanfare and even less debate, Oklahoma lawmakers quietly voted to reverse a nearly four-decade-old law that had barred utility companies from charging customers who install solar panels on their homes more than those who don’t. The bill, which passed almost unanimously, would have effectively cleared the way for utilities in the Sooner State to force homeowners who install solar panels to pay for both the electricity they buy from the grid and for a portion of the electricity they sell back to it. The vote marked a rare victory for power companies in their quest to stymie the growth of the rooftop solar industry. It also represented a sharp departure from the wave of well-publicized, big-dollar federal and state efforts currently aimed at making solar energy cost competitive with more traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas.  TUSK boasts an impressive record of defeating the utility companies’ effort to make solar panels less appealing for homeowners.  Then, on Tuesday, to the surprise of pretty much everyone involved, Oklahoma’s Republican governor, Mary Fallin, issued an executive order largely undercutting the provision, dealing an unexpected defeat to major utilities and their deep-pocketed backers—a group that includes the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council, a powerful national membership group for conservative state lawmakers.  Perhaps the only thing more surprising was who had helped defeat Oklahoma’s power companies. Tucked among the usual green suspects were the type of advocates that typically don’t associate with the clean energy movement but have nonetheless proved crucial to securing a political victories in a string of dark-red states: Tea Party conservatives.

Koch brothers, big utilities attack solar, green energy policies

Las Angeles Times.  By Evan Halper. April 19, 2014.  WASHINGTON — The political attack ad that ran recently in Arizona had some familiar hallmarks of the genre, including a greedy villain who hogged sweets for himself and made children cry.  But the bad guy, in this case, wasn't a fat-cat lobbyist or someone's political opponent.  He was a solar-energy consumer.  Solar, once almost universally regarded as a virtuous, if perhaps over-hyped, energy alternative, has now grown big enough to have enemies.  The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation's largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states.  Alarmed environmentalists and their allies in the solar industry have fought back, battling the other side to a draw so far. Both sides say the fight is growing more intense as new states, including Ohio, South Carolina and Washington, enter the fray.  At the nub of the dispute are two policies found in dozens of states. One requires utilities to get a certain share of power from renewable sources. The other, known as net metering, guarantees homeowners or businesses with solar panels on their roofs the right to sell any excess electricity back into the power grid at attractive rates.  Net metering forms the linchpin of the solar-energy business model. Without it, firms say, solar power would be prohibitively expensive.
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World's biggest (2500 hectare) solar thermal power project in construction at Ouarzazate, Morocco

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Town of Clay to save about $16,000 a year with solar energy project

SYRACUSE.COM  By Sara Moses.  April 22, 2014. Town of Clay, NY -- The town of Clay unveiled a new solar energy project that will save the town about $16,000 a year on energy costs.  Despite the fact that the sun did not shine this afternoon, Clay Town Supervisor Damian Ulatowski wanted to announce the project today as a celebration of Earth Day. "This is one of the most exciting things the town of Clay has done in a long time," Ulatowski said.  The town installed a 99 kilowatt ground-mount photovoltaic solar array at the town hall and highway garage located at 4401 state Route 31 in Clay. The solar panels will be turned on soon, Ulatowski said. The town began this project in 2013 in partnership with Warner Energy, LLC and funded through a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant. The system is comprised of 396 high-efficiency solar panels installed on town property. The 250 watt solar panels and related electrical equipment convert sunlight into power that will be used for lighting and electrical equipment at the town hall and highway building. If the solar array is generating energy in excess of the town's needs, it will be sold back to the grid and used by other utility customers. The solar project costs $326,686. NYSERDA is funding $181,343 and the remaining costs are funded by Warner Energy. No Clay town tax dollars are being used in the project, Ulatowski said. Warner Energy owns, operates and maintains the system, he said. Ulatowski said the town has contracted to use the solar power for 20 years. Ulatowski said the town will save about $16,000 a year on energy costs, but the actual savings is unknown at this time. The town will monitor the savings throughout the year and report it to the taxpayers.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Army to build Military's Largest Array in Arizona

THE HILL by Timothy Cama, April 21, 2014.  The U.S. Army will break ground this week on a new solar power array at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., which will be the largest solar array on a United States military installation.  When the array starts operating in late 2014, it will provide about 25 percent of Fort Huachuca’s electricity needs, the Army said Monday.  “The project goes beyond the megawatts produced. It reflects our continued commitment to southern Arizona and energy security,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, the commanding general of Fort Huachuca. “The project will provide reliable access to electricity for daily operations and missions moving forward.”  “The project establishes a new path for an innovative partnering opportunity among the U.S. Army, other federal agencies, private industry and the utility provider," said Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability.  Tucson Electric Power, the local electric utility in southern Arizona, will fund, own and manage the solar array, the Army said. The Army has committed to deploying one gigawatt of renewable energy by 2025, it said.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Clean Energy Investment Rises 9%, Led by Solar Power

BLOOMBERG. By Alex Morales. April 16, 2014.  Clean energy investment rose by 9 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier on surging demand for rooftop solar panels from the U.S. to Japan.  New investment in renewable power and energy efficiency rose to $47.7 billion in the first three months of the year from $43.6 billion, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said today in an e-mailed statement.  The increase may mark a turnaround. Investment in low-carbon power and energy-efficiency equipment has fallen for two years as industrialized nations pared back subsidies. After peaking at $318 billion in 2011, new spending on clean energy subsided to $254 billion last year, according to BNEF figures.

“It is too early to say definitively that 2013 was the low point for clean-energy investment worldwide and that 2014 will show a rebound but the first-quarter numbers are encouraging,” BNEF Chairman Michael Liebreich said in the statement.  He highlighted two patterns: the increasing share of small-scale solar in total investment, and the expansion of investment into more developing countries.  Spending on new solar capacity rose 23 percent to $27.5 billion, including $21.2 billion for projects of less than 1 megawatt, BNEF said. Investment in electric cars, power storage and equipment that makes the power grid more efficient more than tripled to $3.1 billion, the London-based researcher said. Wind power expenditure dropped 16 percent to $13.9 billion and biofuels fell 28 percent to $664 million, according to BNEF.  Investment in the U.S. almost doubled, spending in China rose 18 percent and Brazilian expenditure more than tripled, it said. Investment in Europe sank 30 percent and there was an 82 percent surge in investment in Africa and the Middle East.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Solar-powered plane aims for round-the-world flight

FOX NEWS. By Denise Chow. April 10, 2014. A new solar-powered plane that will be used to fly around the world in five consecutive days without using any fuel was unveiled Wednesday in Switzerland.  Pilots Andr Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard revealed the futuristic flying machine in a ceremony in Payerne before an audience of industry officials, reporters and dignitaries. The solar plane, named Solar Impulse 2, will be used to circumnavigate the globe in 2015, with the Swiss pilots hoping to accomplish the first around-the-world flight in a solar-powered aircraft.   "Today, we are one step closer to our dream of flying around the world on solar power," Piccard said at today's event.  Piccard described his pride in showcasing the Solar Impulse 2 plane, and said the aircraft represents true pioneering spirit, as many aviation experts initially said it would be impossible to engineer such a lightweight but resilient solar plane.

"When Solar Impulse was born 12 years ago, and we could show the enormous wings and the light weight of its structure on computer designs, all the specialists in the world of aviation started to laugh," he said. "Today, this airplane exists. It's the most incredible airplane of its time. It can fly with no fuel, day and night, and we hope that we can make it around the world." Last year, Borschberg and Piccard flew a first-generation prototype of the Solar Impulse plane on a record-setting coast-to-coast flight across the United States. The journey from California to New York took two months, and included five planned stops. Solar Impulse ended its cross-country flight in New York City, touching down at John F. Kennedy International Airport on July 6, 2013.  The Solar Impulse planes are the first to be able to fly day and night without any onboard fuel. The ultra-lightweight planes are powered entirely by solar panels and batteries, which charge during the day to allow the plane to fly even when the sun goes down.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Solar Threat to Utilities Exaggerated, Recurrent Says (Correct)

BUSINESSWEEK. Christopher Martin April 9, 2014. (Corrects description of Recurrent in second paragraph of story published April 8.)   The solar industry’s threat to utilities has been greatly exaggerated, and the power industry needs traditional generators to keep the lights on in the U.S.  That’s the view of Arno Harris, chief executive officer of Recurrent Energy, the U.S. solar developer unit of the Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corp.  His remarks contrast with views from NRG Energy Inc. (NRG:US) Chief Executive Officer David Crane and SolarCity Corp. (SCTY:US)’s Lyndon Rive, who are challenging the business model of utilities and cutting in on their monopoly in managing power distribution. Harris said the solar industry must fit in with utilities. “You can’t just take on the utilities and destroy them,” Harris said in an interview at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York today. “To get to any significant solar penetration, we’ll need more and better utility services.” The U.S. power industry raised concerns about the threat solar rooftops pose to their business model more than a year ago. Since then, at least a dozen states from Arizona to North Carolina have debated changing regulations or laws to slow solar development and protect utilities from competition.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cheap Solar Power Is Fueling Global Renewable Energy Growth: Report

HUFFINGTON POST. 4/7/14. The share of total global electricity production generated by renewable energy is climbing, mainly because solar photovoltaic systems are becoming less expensive,according to a report released Monday by the United Nations Environment Programme and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  Wind, solar and other renewables, excluding hydropower, were 8.5 percent of total global electric power generation last year, up from 7.8 percent in 2012, the report says. That comes just after Bloomberg and Pew Charitable Trusts issued a report last week saying investments in renewables worldwide has been declining since their peak in 2011, with the U.S. lagging behind China in overall investments in wind, solar and other renewables. The reports come about a week after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the second part to its fifth assessment report, stating with certainty that humans are going to have to adapt to a world enduring climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions from people burning fossil fuels. Renewables help reduce the climate-changing, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Monday’s report, “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014,” released during Bloomberg’s “Future of Energy Summit” this week in New York City, says that renewables, not including hydropower, accounted for 43.6 percent of total global new electric generating capacity last year, preventing an estimated 1.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions from being released into the atmosphere.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Korean tech giants not having much luck in solar

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Japan to build one of the world's biggest solar power plants

FOX NEWS LATINO. Published March 30, 2014. EFE. Setouchi, a city in the western prefecture of Okayama, will be home to a solar power plant with a generating capacity of 230,000 KW, making it the largest facility of its kind in Japan and one of the biggest in world, the Nikkei business newspaper reported. U.S.-based industrial giant General Electric Co. plans to take a majority stake in the plant's operator, opening the way for it to enter Japan's growing photovoltaic energy industry, Nikkei said. The power plant, which will supply electricity to about 80,000 households and is expected to begin operating in 2018, will be bigger than the 111,000 KW facility that Japan's Softbank plans to bring online on the island of Hokkaido in 2015. Eurus, a company formed by Toyota Tsusho and Tokyo Electric Power, plans to build a solar power plant with a capacity similar to the Hokkaido facility. GE's entry into Japan's solar power industry will allow the conglomerate to boost sales of transmission equipment designed to improve energy efficiency, an industry currently dominated by domestic manufacturers. The power plant in Setouchi is expected to cost around 80 billion yen ($777 million), with GE paying for between 12 percent and 25 percent of the cost.
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