(NewsUSA) – Savvy consumers are turning to solar energy to beat the escalating price of electricity.
Thanks to technological advances and attractive rebates, home solar-electric systems are more popular and affordable than ever. Last year, Americans installed 792 megawatts of residential solar systems, enough to power the equivalent of more than 130,000 homes.
In Southern California, Cheryl and Robert Boland faced electrical bills that averaged $300 a month and spiked to nearly $600 during the dog days of summer. Then the Bolands installed solar panels on the roof of their Apple Valley home. “Now our utility bill averages about $1.75 each month,” said Cheryl.
“When I compare the cost of installing the system with what we will save on our bills over the next two decades, solar gives us an incredible return on investment. For us, it was all about the money.”
For homeowners interested in using solar panels to combat high energy bills, here are four important points to consider:
Reliable solar panels. Because home solar-energy systems should last for at least 25 years, homeowners must know theirs is built to last. Many customers find assurance in purchasing products with proven longevity. “We chose panels from SolarWorld, a long-standing American manufacturer,” she said.
The right installer. Experience and reputation are critical in selecting a solar installer. This solar professional will not only design your system and install the panels, but he or she will guide you through the process of obtaining tax incentives, rebates and financing options, potentially saving you thousands of dollars. To find a qualified installer in your area, visit www.solarworld.com.
Smart system design. A residential solar system must be designed to produce the right amount of power for your home and lifestyle. A good installer will review your previous year’s energy bills along with the orientation and shading of your roof. Check your installer’s credentials for signs of trustworthy certification, for instance, as a manufacturer’s authorized installer.
Guaranteed performance. A factory process called “plus sorting” ensures that solar panels are tested to meet or exceed their nameplate power rating. Without plus sorting, system owners can find their systems producing as a much as 5 percent less energy than advertised. In addition, a 25-to-30-year linear warranty and 10-year workmanship warranty provide consumer protection.
With these four components in place, homeowners often experience a 50 percent decrease in their electric bills, and sometimes eliminate their bills completely.
By Joshua S Hill
With a population of over 38 million and rising, California has often been deemed of sufficient size to almost be considered a nation-state of its own. The Golden State’s GDP is on par with many countries, and the state has also been a global leader in renewable energy — often standing apart from its parent country’s political decisions.
So, it’s no surprise that a new study has been released by Stanford researchers showing how California could convert to an all-renewable energy infrastructure that is both technically and economically feasible.
The plan, published in Energy, outlines what it would take to make the change, and all the benefits that would come with it.
“If implemented, this plan will eliminate air pollution mortality and global warming emissions from California, stabilize prices and create jobs – there is little downside,” said Mark Z. Jacobson, the study’s lead author and a Stanford professor of civil and environmental engineering.
It’s not a half-thought out plan, either, taking into account California’s transportation, electric power, industry, heating, and cooling needs. All employment and financial benefits are laid out, as well as the land and ocean areas necessary, and policies required. It also provides new estimates of air pollution mortality and morbidity impacts.
It’s not the first time the authors have set their minds to redefining a state’s energy infrastructure, having created a similar plan for New York once before. This time, it’s their aim to power California with wind, wave, and solar, and it’s only the second on their way to creating plans for the entirety of the US.
The plan would create approximately 220,000 manufacturing, installation, and technology construction and operation jobs — and that’s taking into account the losses of fossil-fuel and nuclear jobs. Additionally, California would walk away with net earnings of around $12 billion annually.
One scenario shows California’s energy needs being met by 2050 with a mix of sources:
- 25,000 onshore 5-megawatt wind turbines
- 1,200 100-megawatt concentrated solar plants
- 15 million 5-kilowatt residential rooftop photovoltaic systems
- 72 100-megawatt geothermal plants
- 5,000 0.75-megawatt wave devices
- 3,400 1-megawatt tidal turbines
“I think the most interesting finding is that the plan will reduce social costs related to air pollution and climate change by about $150 billion per year in 2050, and that these savings will pay for all new energy generation in only seven years,” said study co-author Mark Delucchi of the University of California, Davis.
“The technologies needed for a quick transition to an across-the-board, renewables-based statewide energy system are available today,” said Anthony Ingraffea, a Cornell University engineering professor and study co-author. “Like New York, California has a clear choice to make: Double down on 20th-century fossil fuels or accelerate toward a clean, green energy future.”
Plans such as these can often languish in academic space forever, without ever making it into the minds of politicians and society. Hopefully Jacobson and co. will have better luck getting their ideas out into the real world.
The unique structure could theoretically provide the environmentally conscious city with solar energy and hydropower
Here’s an idea for energy sustainability that’s not mere quackery: A team of British designers and artists have proposed a floating tourist attraction that would gather solar energy in Copenhagen Harbor as the Danish city works to become carbon-neutral by the year 2025.
The 12-story-high structure just happens to also be in the shape of a giant sea duck.
Built from lightweight steel and covered in solar panels, the “energy duck” would by day collect the sun’s rays and by night bask the harbor in LED lights that change color in rhythm with the hydro turbines inside it, according to blog designboom.
Visitors wouldn’t just be able to admire the light show from a distance, they’d be able to board the energy duck and see the inner workings for themselves.
The supersized bird was developed by artists and designers Hareth Pochee, Adam Khan, Louis Leger, and Patrick Fryer as part of a competition run by the Land Art Generator Initiative, a project that aims to integrate art with sustainable design to come up with alternative energy solutions.
It’s just a concept, of course, but let’s hope this plan doesn’t go a-fowl.
Solar energy is on the rise in Brazil as the country’s latest national energy auction attracted 400 applications for photovoltaic (PV) plant development.
Brazil’s energy auctions invite all forms of energy development to bid for government power supply contracts.
This year is only the second time that solar has been included in the auction and the first time a specific category has been created for PV projects.
Solar energy developers have applied to sell power from 400 power plants across the country in the auction to take place Oct. 31.
That represents 10.79 gigawatts of capacity, according to Brazil’s energy research agency Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica.
Also registered were 626 proposed wind farms and eight biogas projects.
“We expect the government will buy 1 gigawatt of solar energy in the first auction,” Pedro Vaquer, director of the Brazilian developed Solatio Energia told Bloomberg.
Brazil currently gets less than 1 percent of it electricity from solar power but the government aims to diversify the country’s energy mix.
The country also has strong sunlight, with an average irradiation rate almost double of Germany, the world leader in solar installed capacity, but installed solar capacity is currently well below 100 megawatts (MW).
Brazil’s power auctions see the government set a ceiling price, and developers bid down the rate at which they are willing to sell power.
The lowest offer wins long-term contracts to sell electricity.
While solar projects have participated in past auctions, they have previously had to compete against cheaper power sources such as wind and won no contracts to sell electricity.
October’s auction will see developers compete for 20-year contracts from solar plants of at least 5 MW.
The ceiling price has yet to be announced by analysts but industry experts expect to see a price of 220 to 250 reals ($96-109) a megawatt-hour.
They expect to see around 500 MW of solar capacity being purchased.
by Joseph Bebon
|Canadian province Alberta broke its wind generation record not once, but twice, last week. Between 11 a.m. and noon on Thursday, July 24, Alberta produced an average of 1,188 MW of wind power. The province then surpassed that on Friday, July 25, peaking at an average of 1,255 MW between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Before last week, the previous record was set on May 29, with an average of 1,134 MW.Angela Anderson, a spokesperson for the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), explains that the most recent records were due to a combination of very windy days and new wind farms. Specifically, she says the 300 MW Blackspring Ridge project, which went online in Vulcan County in May, “allowed the system to produce more wind than ever before.”According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), Alberta is home to over 1.4 GW of installed wind capacity and ranks third among the country’s provinces. Tim Weis, the association’s Alberta regional director, says the new wind production records are certainly noteworthy.
“This is significant, not only because it was just this past April that Alberta broke the 1,000 MW plateau for the first time, but [also because] Alberta’s electricity system is showing that it can integrate large amounts of wind energy seamlessly,” states Weis.
He also mentions that the AESO lifted a 900 MW threshold for installed wind capacity in Alberta in 2007, and now wind production has peaked at over 30% more than that original limit.
Furthermore, it appears wind power is poised for growth in Alberta. “There is a lot of interest in wind development in the province, and that’s expected to continue over the coming years,” comments Anderson. She says the AESO currently has 15 active wind projects totaling about 2.1 GW in the grid operator’s connection queue.
Overall, the AESO anticipates wind capacity to nearly double over the next 20 years from approximately 1.4 GW to 2.7 GW. “In fact, by 2034, we are forecasting Alberta will have more wind power than coal-fired generation on the system.”
Nonetheless, Weis says most new power generation in the province will likely come from natural gas, not wind.
“Alberta is facing two issues simultaneously,” he explains. “First of all, federal regulations require that coal units retire when they reach their 50th birthday. Alberta’s market is over 60 percent coal, and the first units will start to hit their 50th birthday this decade.
“At the same time, Alberta’s system operator is forecasting significant growth in electricity demand over the next two decades, largely as a result of the growing oil sands industry. Several independent forecasts suggest that the vast majority of new electricity supply will come from natural gas to fill this gap.”
Weis points out that the price of wind power isn’t the reason, though, as the AESO estimates wind energy within 7% of gas costs. The truth is, natural gas is simply easier to build in Alberta’s electricity market because “it can more easily bid into the market and respond to changes in future costs.”
But there’s a problem: Weis says forecasts suggest a big switch to natural gas will eventually undo the environmental benefits gained from closing down coal plants, with greenhouse-gas emissions starting to increase again in just over a decade.
Weis argues that although the AESO has proven it can handle more and more renewable energy on its grid, the province still needs “a new policy framework that recognizes the benefits of renewables so that we can continue to see wind grow in Alberta.”