Regional Consequences of Solar Installations

by Matt Johnson

Forecasts about the future of solar energy tend to be rosy and optimistic, but is the solar revolution really a nobody-loses scenario? A study lead by Aixue Hu (2017) titled “Impact of solar panels on global climate” addresses some infrequently mentioned concerns.

It turns out that solar energy systems have consideration-worthy regional consequences. But you may ask: why? Solar panels are not 100% efficient, they are actually fairly far from it. The most efficient solar panels on the market today run at around a 40% efficiency, with some new technologies promising around 60%, however most are much lower. A few issues arise in the conversion of solar energy into electricity. Firstly, a small percent of the solar radiation is reflected, as a result of solar panels’ glare. Then, another few percent are lost in the conversion of direct-current into alternating current and along the transmitting wires to centers of population. The authors estimate the mentioned causes to sum to about a 10% loss. Continue reading

Call to Action: Urge to Take Advantage of Solar Energy Potential in Mexico City Metropolitan Area

by Alejandra Chávez

The Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA) has a population of 8.851 million people (2010), making it the largest and most populated urban area in the country. It is well within the “sun-belt” of Earth, with solar incidence areas of over 5 kWh/m2/ day radiation. Though there is a high potential for renewable energy, there is little incentive by policymakers to take advantage of an energy source that could better conserve the environment, limit the amount of natural and/or technical interruptions, and be an economic relief to the MCMA. The authors support the development of and rationalize that solar photovoltaic (PV) technology to harvest its energy potential. This technology is economically competitive to give energy to vulnerable areas that often do not require as much power. Because energy transition diagnostic is not very organized, it is vital for decision-makers to be aware of the social and economic difficulties in MCMA. Continue reading

Scott Weiner Proposes Tough Solar Panel Bill for California

by Genna Gores

With the inauguration of Donald Trump, and a cabinet full of climate deniers, it is now up to states to lead the charge in the fight against climate change. California, a trailblazer in climate change initiatives, will be very important in the upcoming four years to help lead the country on green initiatives. Even before the Trump Administration took office Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco—a newly elected California state senator—started proposing a new solar panel legislation. Continue reading

California Implements Large-Scale Low-Income Community Solar Initiative

by Deedee Chao

In October 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed in the country’s largest solar bill designed for low-income renters, creating the Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs Program under AB693. This new program is the successor to the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) Program established in 2008 as part of the California Solar Initiative, and aims at expanding the program to have a larger impact on low-income households.

The California Public Utilities Commission cites great demand and success in green developers collaborating in low-income housing projects to install rooftop solar as a reason for updating the program, and aims to increase renewables by setting a goal of at least 300 megawatts of rooftop solar POV on each multifamily affordable housing project. Continue reading

Solar Jobs Explode In California

by Max Breitbarth

The Golden State is leading the United States’ push for more solar energy. Sammy Roth’s Desert Sun article summarizes a recent report from the nonprofit Solar Foundation, which notes that solar jobs are on the rise, and they are increasing the fastest in California.

According to the report, California’s solar jobs have increased almost 40 percent since last year. Their current number now exceeds 75,000 workers, more than enough to lead the country. Roth notes that California actually has more solar workers than the next ten states combined. Continue reading

Opening of Largest Solar Thermal Power Plant in Morocco

by Isaiah Boone

Computer World posted an article detailing the completion and opening of the largest solar power plant in the world in Morocco. The solar power plant will supply 1.1 million people with clean energy and will reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons annually. The name of the plant is the Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant and it is located in the Souss-Massa-Draa area in Morocco, close to 6 miles outside of Ouarzazate. The Noor CSP plant cost over $9 billion to build and began operation on Thursday, February 4th. Continue reading

Facing Troubles in Nevada, Solar Company Sunrun Nevertheless Shines Bright

by Kevin Tidmarsh

The US-based solar energy company Sunrun, which claims to have “the second largest fleet of residential solar energy systems” in the country [http://fortune.com/2015/06/26/sunrun-ipo-solar-silicon-valley/], has announced that it has secured funding that points to a bright future for the company. While the market for solar energy is still nascent, Sunrun has done rather well for itself – especially given tighter state regulations and the financial difficulties of the renewable energy industry. But in spite of new regulations in the famously sunny state of Nevada that forced the company to withdraw operations from the state, the company is feeling good about its prospects and future – in no small part due to the company’s recent announcement that they have closed $250 million of senior secured credit facilities for its future growth [http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdetwiler/2016/02/03/sunruns-250-million-in-financing-a-positive-sign-for-distributed-solar/#11aad2306cbc]. Continue reading

Clean Mountain Air and Keeping the Lights On

by Griffin Merians

Mountains are home to some of the most pristine and beautiful places on our planet but life often isn’t easy for the people that call them home, particularly when it comes to having enough energy to keep the lights on. Research published by Nicholas Katsoulakos and Dimitris Kaliampakos in the 91st issue of Energy Policy finds policies that encourage decentralized energy systems and renewable energy may be the key to addressing energy poverty and reducing costs for mountainous regions. The research conducted in the mountainous regions of Greece sought to identify the most viable energy solutions with consideration for key factors including altitude, remoteness, spatial and aesthetic restrictions, energy poverty alleviation, and employment invigoration. The analysis found that at high altitudes (above 800 meters), 8 out of 10 families experienced energy poverty in that they spend over 10% of their annual income on energy costs. The study sought to find the optimum energy mix or optimum balance of different methods of energy production to help alleviate energy poverty in these high altitude regions.  Continue reading

Solar Access for Disadvantaged Communities in California

by Maithili Joshi

Solar energy is widely used throughout California. It is versatile, makes sense financially, and has a great effect on the environment, offsetting more polluting forms of energy production. However, one of the biggest issues faced by solar energy is the ability to distribute it to low-income and disadvantaged areas that would greatly benefit from such a program.

This week, California passed a bill that will allow greater distribution of solar energy into lower-income communities around the state. Even though solar energy, and other renewable energy sources, have been a great asset towards California, it has not overcome barriers that would include disadvantaged communities. Solar energy tends to be a more expensive, and is not helpful for people who do not own homes, live in multi-tenant buildings, people with low credit scores, and those with less expendable incomes, among other issues. This new policy will try and meaningfully address these issues and allow more participants in California’s clean energy economy.

To do this, the independent Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) is attempting to push through their CleanCARE proposal, it would use funds from their California Rates for Energy (CARE) program to purchase renewable generation from a third-party owned renewable energy facility located in a disadvantaged community. So, these communities would be investing in a package of shared renewable energy facilities, energy efficiency measures, energy storage and demand responses, in effect providing a bill discount rather than a rate discount. The end goal of the CleanCARE option is to produce bill savings for low-income families at a greater level than what they receive under the CARE program.

Hopefully, the CleanCARE program would help stretch the existing CARE program to more low-income areas and receive a higher discount on rates for solar energy. They also envision providing opportunities to locate renewable energy facilities in disadvantaged communities, which may bring local economic development and job training programs.

Renewable Energy World (http://blog.renewableenergyworld.com/ugc/blogs/2016/02/expanding_solar_acce.html)

Interstate Renewable Energy Council (http://www.irecusa.org/2013/08/opening-the-roof-for-affordable-solar/)

 

The Solar Monk’s New School in Thailand: Self-sufficiency Is the Future

by Samantha Englert

Nearly a decade ago, Thailand’s government amended its constitution to create a more self-sufficient economy, encouraging local and national sustainability activities. ProgressTH, a Thailand based advocacy group, has dedicated its February 5, 2016 blog to the discussion of a new high school powered by solar energy that teaches its students how to live an economically and environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Situated in the forests of Thailand’s northeastern Ubon Ratchathani province, the Sisaengtham School, known as “The Solar School,” was founded in 2010 by Thai monk, Prakruwimolpanyakhun. Inspired by Thailand’s national policy, Prakruwimolpanyakhun wanted to create a school that not only would teach students basic literacy and arithmetic, but also the values and practices of Buddhism, community outreach, environment science, self-sufficiency and sustainable technologies. Continue reading