Off-grid and Mini-grid Energy Production in Rural Tanzanian Communities Receives Grant from African Development Bank

by Genevieve Kules

Tanzania is challenged by poor energy access in rural parts of the country. Access to energy in these rural communities will require off-grid and mini-grid projects. The Tanzanian government has set a goal of establishing 1.3 million electrical connections by 2022, especially in rural areas. This would raise their connected population to about 35% from 20% in urban areas and 7% in rural ones. Tanzania’s energy goals come around the same time as the African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) are setting goals for the continent and the world. The UN stated their goal of Sustainable Energy for All by 2030 and the AU began the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative in 2015. The African Development Bank (AfDB) has been supportive in achieving these goals. In January they approved a grant of $870,000 to support off-grid energy systems in Tanzania. Continue reading

Report Unveils that U.S. Solar Industry Employs More People than Fossil Fuel Industry

by Genna Gores

The U.S. Department of Energy’s 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, reveals that the renewable energy industry employs more people than the entire fossil fuel industry (including petroleum oil, natural gas, and coal). The report goes on to compare employment opportunities between 2015 and 2016 for all types of energy within the Electric Power Generation sector, which includes: solar, wind, geothermal, bioenergy, hydropower, nuclear, fossil fuels, and other generation/fuels. It is evident with this report that solar and other renewable energies are a rapidly growing industry with increasing employment opportunities for Americans. Continue reading

Nanowires are Hot

by Griffin Merians

A study conducted in Taiwan and published in Nanoscale Research Letters, found that the use of silicon nanowires can be used to improve solar thermal energy efficiency. Solar energy is the most abundant source of renewable energy on our planet, and using thermal energy to capture this energy could play a key role in increasing our use of this form of alternative energy. Solar thermal energy is comparatively inexpensive, easy to implement, and efficient compared to many other forms of energy, and using silicon nanowires could be the latest breakthrough in improving this efficiency. Silicon and silicon nanowires are used extensively in photovoltaic electrical energy generation, but have not traditionally been used extensively in thermal energy collection. However, new research into the thermal properties of silicon nanowires has found they are significantly more efficient in thermal conversion than traditional silicon plates. 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

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 Future in Community Solar

by Deedee Chao

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is the first of California’s major utilities to enhance community solar programs; customers who are unable to install their own solar panels will still be able to draw their electricity directly from solar sources. Named Solar Choice, customers can choose to pay a premium of approximately 3 cents per kilowatt-hour to have half or all of their electricity come from solar. This new program opens up a new market and was created in response to high demand: over half of PG&E’s customers responded to a survey, saying they wanted to go solar, but could not implement it themselves. Solar Choice is a streamlined process for customers to go from traditional power to renewables, without having to do any installations or solar contracts themselves. This allows for easy buy-in, participation, and support for renewables, all at the cost of a few cents per kilowatt-hour. This premium is extracted primarily to ensure that non-solar customers don’t pay extra for their electricity; this suggests that the more participation there is, the lower the premium will be, making solar more affordable as demand increases. Never before in California has the process of switching to solar been so painless. Continue reading

What California’s NEM 2.0 Decision Means

by Deedee Chao

On January 28, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted to pass NEM 2.0, a net energy metering decision for solar that updated how rates would be monitored for solar customers (those who own solar energy systems to generate energy for their own use). Net energy metering (NEM) is a method through which solar system owners are credited for their surplus energy that they feed to the grid, which subtracts from the costs incurred when they use energy from other sources (for example, on cloudy days or at nighttime), so they are only billed for their “net” energy consumption. Continue reading

Solar Powered Desalination for using Electrodialysis

by Maithili Joshi

A major problem across the world in developing and underdeveloped nations is the lack of access to clean drinking water. This has detrimental effects on general health, and also the ability to keep these rural communities going. This article was particularly interesting to me because issues of water in countries like India are so important for the health of people, and the health of the environment. Additionally, the use of solar power to reduce environmental effects was of particular interest to me because of its innovative use for other pressing environmental issues. Continue reading

Microgrid Micromanagement

by Briton Lee

One of the issues with the integration of alternative energy, such as solar and wind power, into the electricity grid is their volatile load swings. Automation and microgrids seek to address this issue of fluctuating energy and make renewables more amenable to integration. Solar and wind power are unpredictable, and fluctuations occur simply when a cloud passes over a solar grid. Another problem is that solar energy is generally produced during the day and not during the night, whereas human electricity use peaks in the evening. Generally, humans have to manually monitor and balance energy production and consumption in order to manage the electrical loads. The entire grid is tightly monitored, and the formulas used to keep the grid in check are thrown off when renewables are included. Renewables are unpredictable because it’s unclear when the energy will come in, since energy is not stored but rather threaded directly into the grid. Continue reading