Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Lighting Efficiency Can Reduce Costs Up To 30%

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 10:10 PM PDT

New energy-efficiency requirements have created a large market for energy-efficient lighting equipment in the US, and can reduce electrical costs by up to 30% per month. Consumers are eager to not only adopt products that have the least impact on the environment, but also reduce energy consumption.

Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin said: "Buildings consume approximately 40% of the world's energy and are responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions. However, proven technologies to retrofit buildings can both conserve energy and — even more importantly in these difficult economic times — have the potential to create a large number of jobs.”

Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which impose specific energy-efficiency standards on buildings and lighting products. The government also offers tax deductions for energy-efficient lighting systems and utility rebates for energy-efficient lighting products. This has led to the phasing out of incandescent lamps, magnetic ballasts, and other inefficient light sources, which, in turn, bodes well for the energy-efficient lighting equipment market.

Rising energy costs has led to reassessments of energy consumption. Building owners and facility managers are exploring ways to save energy by replacing their lighting systems with more energy-efficient ones.

Despite the vast opportunities in the market, intense competition and the higher initial costs of advanced lighting products are limiting revenue growth and market penetration. The slowdown in construction activity has further dampened the growth rate of the market. In the last few years, due to the challenging economic environment, customers have started inspecting more cost-effective systems. However, once the economy recovers, the market is anticipated to witness steady growth until 2016.

Overall, manufacturers with a competitive pricing strategy as well as high quality products that offer the most energy savings will have an edge in the market.

Scott Raybin @greensavingsco



Not the Rich Leading Solar Revolution in Australia

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 08:00 PM PDT

Australia, as just noted yesterday, is experiencing a pretty tremendous solar boom.

Now, here’s some interesting news: it’s the less wealthy who are installing the most solar! That’s counter to the general stereotype that solar is just for the wealthy. Here’s a short video on the matter:

And here are the top Australian post codes for solar (as of April 2012):

1. – 2830 Dubbo, NSW – 28.0%
2. – 4511 Caloundra QLD – 27.3%
3. – 5211 Victor Harbor, McCracken, Hindmarsh Valley, SA – 25.9%
4. – 6208 Pinjarra, Oakley, Ravenswood, WA – 24.7%
5. – 5214 Currency Creek, Goolwa, Hindmarsh Island, SA – 24.7%
6. – 5173 Aldinga, Port Willunga, Silver Sands, SA -  24.1%
7. – 4280 Jimboomba, North & South Maclean, QLD – 23.9%
8. – 6069 Ellenbrook, Brigadoon, The Vines, WA – 23.8%
9. – 5158 Hallett Cove, Sheidow Park, SA – 23.6%
10. – 4208 Ormeau, Jacobs Well, QLD – 23.2%
11. – 4505 Burpengary, Burpengary East, QLD – 22.2%
12. – 4507 Bribie Island, QLD – 21.7%
13. – 2477 Alstonville, Rous, Meerschaum Vale, NSW – 21.2%
14. – 4165 Victoria Point, Redland Bay, Mt Cotton, QLD – 21.0%
15. – 4116 Calamvale, Drewvale, QLD – 21.0%
16. – 5169 Seaford, Moana , SA – 20.7%
17. – 5095 Mawson Lakes, Pooraka, SA – 20.5%
18. – 5251 Mount Barker, Bugle Ranges, SA – 20.5%
19. – 4133 Chambers Flat, Waterford, QLD – 20.2%
20. – 2486 Banora Point, Tweed Heads South, Bilambil, NSW – 20.0%

As noted previously here on CleanTechnica, over 10% of Australian homes are expected to have solar roofs in the coming months.

Back in April, it was just around 9%. Below were the top post codes in a number of Australian states, as well as some additional comments, all via Australia’s Energy Matters website (courtesy one of our awesome Australian readers):

Western Australia

1. – 6208 Pinjarra, Oakley, Blythewood, Ravenswood – 24.7%
2. – 6069 Ellenbrook, Brigadoon, The Vines – 23.8%
3. – 6155 Canning Vale, Willetton – 19.7%
4. – 6065 Ashby, Madeley, Sinagra, Wangara – 19.2%
5. – 6233 Australind, Binningup, Leschenault, Parkfield – 18.7%
6. – 6210 Dawesville, Falcon, Halls Head, Wannanup – 18.0%
7. – 6164 Atwell, Banjup, Hammond Park, Yangebup – 17.0%
8. – 6280 Ambergate, Busselton, Jindong, Kaloorup – 15.7%
9. – 6109 Maddington, Orange Grove – 15.7%
10. – 6111 Canning Mills, Champion Lakes, Karragullen – 15.7%

There weree nearly 83,000 solar installations in Western Australia by the end of 2011.


1. – 4551 Caloundra, Pelican Waters, Golden Beach – 27.3%
2. – 4280 Jimboomba, North Maclean, South Maclean – 23.9%
3. – 4208 Ormeau, Jacobs Well – 23.2%
4. – 4505 Burpengary, Burpengary East – 2.2%
5. – 4507 Bribie Island – 21.7%
6. – 4165 Victoria Point, Mount Cotton, Redland Bay – 21.0%
7. – 4116 Calamvale, Drewvale, Stretton – 21.0%
8. – 4133 Chambers Flat, Waterford – 20.2%
9. – 4124 Greenbank, Boronia Heights, Spring Mountain – 19.7%
10. – 4520 Samford Valley, Mount Glorious, Mount Nebo – 19.5%

At the end of 2011, over 158,000 Queensland households had installed solar power systems.

South Australia

1. – 5211 Victor Harbor, McCracken, Hindmarsh Valley – 25.9%
2. – 5214 Currency Creek, Goolwa, Hindmarsh Island – 24.7%
3. – 5173 Aldinga Beach, Port Willunga, Silver Sands – 24.1%
4. – 5158 Hallett Cove, Sheidow Park – 23.6%
5. – 5169 Seaford, Moana – 20.7%
6. – 5095 Mawson Lakes, Pooraka – 20.5%
7. – 5251 Mount Barker, Bugle Ranges – 20.5%
8. – 5098 Ingle Farm, Walkley Heights – 19.6%
9. – 5161 Reynella, Reynella East, Old Reynella – 18.7%
10. – 5118 Gawler, Evanston – 18.7%

The state came in third nationally with 55,592 solar power systems in South Australia installed to the end of 2011.

New South Wales

1. – 2830 Dubbo and surrounds – 28.0%
2. – 2477 Alstonville, Rous, Meerschaum Vale – 21.2%
3. – 2486 Banora Point, Tweed Heads South, Bilambil – 20.0%
4. – 2400 Moree, Taloona – 19.4%
5. – 2880 Broken Hill, Silverton – 19.2%
7. – 2147 Seven Hills, Lalor Park – 18.2%
8. – 2478 Ballina, Lennox Head – 17.3%
9. – 2483 Brunswick Heads, Ocean Shores, Billinudgel – 16.6%
10. – 2550 Bega, Candelo, Kanoona, Wolumia – 16.6%

Over 8.5 per cent of NSW househoulds have gone solar; just behind the national average . The CEC says Dubbo is now Australia's solar power capital.


1. – 3564 Echuca – 13.3%
2. – 3690 Wodonga – 13.2%
3. – 3551 Emu Creek, Axe Creek, Myrtle Creek – 13.2%
4. – 3818 Drouin, Jindivick – 12.9%
5. – 3023 Caroline Springs, Deer Park, Burnside – 11.6%
6. – 3029 Hoppers Crossing, Tarneit, Truganina – 11.6%
7. – 3024 Wyndham Vale, Mambourin, Mount Cottrell – 11.3%
8. – 3037 Calder Park, Sydenham – 10.9%
9. – 3076 Epping – 10.2%
10. – 3173 Keysborough – 9.8%

Solar power in Victoria lags behind other states, with the top Victorian solar postcode 121st on the national list. Around 5.7 per cent of houses in Victoria have solar panels installed.

Ranking details for Tasmania, the ACT and Northern Territory were not provided.

Commenting on the report, Clean Energy Council acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton said:

“With the price of panels now about a third of what they were was just three years ago, many people see solar power as a way to save on their energy bills as well as do something for the environment.”

“We now have more than half a million solar power systems in Australia, but really we are just in the early stages of tapping in to the power of this technology. Solar panels are fast becoming the Hills Hoist of the 21st Century.” [Editor's Note: the number of rooftops seems to be about 750,000 now.]



Infographic — A Summer Day in Germany

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 07:50 PM PDT

This week, Germany got wonderful sunny weather all over the place, which made me hopeful that a new solar power record might be around the corner. Unfortunately, this didn't happen on Monday, but 21.7 GW of peak output and 184 GWh aren't bad either! That's Giga with a G, as in 184 million kWhs.

To illustrate the meaning of having such summer days, I created the little infographic below. Keep in mind that, with solar installations still soaring in Germany, such power outputs are destined to become the norm sooner than later.

The last piece of information on that graphic is rather important, in my opinion, because EVs are already the perfect commuter cars, and when are most commuter cars usually parked? Between 8 AM and 6 PM, when their owners are parked behind a desk. And when do people usually watch TV? After 8 PM, when their electric commuter cars are plugged in at home.

Since increasing solar capacity by 2-10 times is not really a problem, considering the untapped roof potential, and the idea of millions of EVs by 2030 doesn’t really sound abstract… where’s the storage problem again?



UK’s Largest Solar Farm Launched

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 07:40 PM PDT

The UK’s got a large new solar array up, the largest solar farm in the country to date.

largest solar power plant uk

Anesco CEO Adrian Pike

The solar array includes 1,800 solar PV panels, spans 30 acres, and has a total capacity of 5 MW, enough to power about 1,000 homes. It isn’t Germany, but it’s something.

Local councilor Alexis McEvoy cut the ribbon for the installation yesterday during a guided tour.

If you happen to be familiar with the area, the solar farm is on the Cadland estate (a farm) in Fawley near Southampton, Hants.

Anesco is the company that completed the project, after estate owner Aldred Drummond approached four other companies that apparently weren’t up for the task.

“We've had to push quite hard to make this project happen and we could not have wished for it to have gone any better,” Anesco CEO Adrian Pike stated.

“When we turned up at the farm to see the finished thing for the first time, we just went 'wow' – we were all in awe.

“Some companies make these kind of projects too complex, but we have worked well with Aldred because we have kept things simple.”

“I do believe this is a ground-breaking project and I'm glad that we, as a farm, are embracing the use of solar power and alternative energy uses,” Drummond said.

“I'm excited by the installation of the solar farm and also for the future of renewable energy.”

The solar farm is surrounded by trees, so it’s essentially invisible to neighbors and passersby despite it’s massive size. Obviously, this sort of thing isn’t possible with most energy sources. Yet another benefit of solar power.

Sources: Inhabitat & Mail Online



Global Solar Energy Brings Powerful Building Integrated Solar to Japan’s Growing Renewable Energy Market

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 07:30 PM PDT

Global Solar Energy Incorporated, a manufacturer of flexible solar panels, has announced that it is entering the Japanese solar market with flexible solar panels that are designed specifically for Japanese roofs.

bipv japan

Global Solar Energy PowerFLEX BIPV Rooftop Installation on Yokosuka U.S. Naval Base in Japan (Photo: Business Wire)

These flexible solar panels are called PowerFLEX BIPV. BIPV stands for Building Integrated Photovoltaics.

Photovoltaic solar panels are the most common type of solar panels (apart from solar thermal water heaters, which are not electric but use the sun’s heat to directly heat water). Solar PV converts sunlight into electricity using semiconductor materials.

On July 1st, Japan’s new FiT (Feed-in Tariff) program went into effect. This FiT program is progressive, as it requires utilities to pay 42 yen or $0.52 USD per kWh of solar electricity generated for 20 years from solar plants that are larger than 10 kW.

This high $0.52 rate makes it much more attractive to set up solar power plants, because there can be a lot of money to be made off that guaranteed price. Researchers estimate that this could foster a solar market of $9.6 billion (or 3.2 GW).

"With its recent FIT program and proven dedication to integrating more renewable energy into its utilities' portfolio mix, Japan will prove to be one of the most important markets for solar in the coming years," said Jean-Noel Poirier, Chief Sales Officer, Global Solar Energy. "With our highly-valued partners, Global Solar is well positioned to take advantage of the market growth and bring our powerful and cost-effective PowerFLEX BIPV solar solution to more rooftops around Japan."

The PowerFLEX BIPV modules achieve 12.6% aperture efficiency, which is relatively high for flexible solar panels.

Solar panels of this type can be installed with no mounting hardware, and can be more seamlessly integrated into a building.

"Recognizing the desire of many Japanese businesses to reap the benefits of the FIT program while also maintaining the aesthetics of their buildings, Global Solar offers an alternative to traditional heavy and rigid glass modules, as well as other flexible PV products," continued Poirier.

Source: Global Solar



Largest US Solar Utility Project (in Texas)

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 07:20 PM PDT


The largest municipal solar power field in the US is to be built in San Antonio, Texas, the result of a contract between CPS Energy and OCI Solar Power, which will develop, own and operate the planned 400-MW solar PV facility.

In addition to producing clean, renewable electrical power at utility-scale, the landmark 400-MW muni solar PV facility is projected to create more than 800 long-term jobs and add an estimated $700 million to the economy per year. The company plans to develop “several solar facilities that will ultimately power more than 70,000 homes,” according to a news release.



Sustainable Development: Solar Powered Business-Community Partnerships

OCI Solar Power, the North American subsidiary of Seoul, South Korea’s Atlanta-based OCI Enterprises, intends to locate its headquarters in San Antonio, where it’s also planning to drive advances in its solar PV products and services by building an Engineering and Operations Center. "OCI Solar Power is breaking new ground for sustainable energy in the US," OCI Solar Power’s newly appointed president Tony Dorazio stated.

"This project will not only serve as a public-private partnership model for communities around the country but also a blueprint for building a new energy development hub. As part of our commitment to this vision and to the San Antonio community, we will also drive investments in education, research and development and the new innovations necessary to sustainably impact the economy and landscape for years to come."

OCI has put together a consortium of project development partners to carry the San Antonio project through to fruition. The project’s first phase calls for installation of 50 MW of solar PV capacity by mid-2013. The remaining 350 MW of capacity are to be installed in stages out through 2016.

"Today is an exciting day for OCI Solar Power as we expand our energy portfolio with CPS and San Antonio," commented OCI Enterprises’ president and CEO Kirk Milling. "The consortium of global solar industry leaders we have assembled will change the way the U.S. is able to access the latest high-performance technologies and processes in solar energy today. We look forward to working with our partners to serve CPS Energy's customers and the broader region."

The contract with CPS in San Antonio is a significant step forward for OCI Solar Power, which says it’s “surging toward a new leadership position in the solar industry.” The company has more than 40 projects in development across the US and Canada ranging in size from 3 MW to CPS, San Antonio’s 400-MW project.

Also included among these are Dateland I and Dateland II, two 12-MW solar PV projects in the Yuma County, Arizona municipality of Meridian. On June 28, OCI announced it had signed an agreement to acquire land in Granby, Mass. to build a 3-MW solar power project that will provide clean, renewable electricity to the local community.

Completion of the solar PV project, construction of which is to begin in 2013, will contribute to meeting Massachusetts’ goal of installing 400 MW of solar power capacity by 2020, OCI Solar noted. Granby itself has pledged to reduce the city’s energy use by 20% over a five-year period.

Photo credit: My San Antonio

Governor Chris Christie Strengthens NJ Solar Industry

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 07:10 PM PDT

When New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie ran for office in 2009, he campaigned very aggressively on his belief in the value of renewable energy.

Yesterday, Christie backed up that belief by signing a bill into law that will help expand and stabilize New Jersey's robust solar industry.

For Christie, expanding the solar industry was a fairly straightforward, sensible decision in a state with hundreds of thriving businesses in the sector. But in the national political context — at a time when the GOP has made it a top goal to reduce support for renewable energy — the decision was a bold move.

Why did Christie step up to protect solar? Because the industry has become an increasingly important part of New Jersey's economy.

By putting in place strong state-level solar targets and establishing a trading platform for solar renewable energy certificates, New Jersey quickly jumped to become the second-largest solar market in the U.S. The state currently has more than 16,000 systems worth 800 megawatts of capacity installed around the state — generating more than 1 percent of electricity.

All that development has supported nearly 3,000 jobs and 500 businesses, according to a 2011 census from the Solar Foundation.

So why did the program need to be changed?

New Jersey has a tradeable certificate program for promoting solar. Under the state's promotion law, energy suppliers must accumulate a certain number of solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) — credits that represent 1,000 kilowatt-hours of solar electricity — to prove they've met the set targets. Energy suppliers can either generate the credits themselves by investing in solar projects or purchase them from customers. The price of the credits is based on supply and demand.

After implementing the "floating" credit market, the state's industry quickly boomed. However, the frenzy of installation activity created an oversupply of SRECs, forcing prices sharply downward. The rapid price decline made it harder to finance new projects and pushed out the payback period for system owners who hadn't secured contracts for their credits.

So the New Jersey legislature stepped in and created new rules that will hopefully stabilize prices. By changing the state's solar targets from a fixed yearly number to a percentage of actual energy usage, there will be more price elasticity in the market.

Christie issued a statement yesterday on why he supported the changes:

"Since my time running for office, I made it clear that my Administration would be unrivaled in our aggressive support for the development of renewable sources of energy in New Jersey. Renewable energy not only helps meet our goals of increasing sustainability and protecting the environment, but can be an engine for economic growth and the creation of good-paying jobs for the people of our state."

"The bill I am signing today furthers these goals and will help us remain a national leader in the solar energy industry as we continue to promote innovative approaches to solar development, like developing landfills and other unusable lands and transforming them into sources of usable clean energy, all while holding down costs for families and businesses."

According to Christie's office, New Jersey's ratepayer advocate estimates that the new law will save ratepayers approximately $1.076 billion over the next 15 years compared to the old solar targets.

But this story is about far more than the technical details of how New Jersey tweaked its solar market. It's a great story about a prominent Republican politician — a man loved by the Koch Brothers no less — who stepped up and supported the local solar industry after seeing the direct economic benefits created in his state.

Christie has set the standard for Mitt Romney, a man who was once a champion of renewable energy when governor of Massachusetts, but who has now devoted himself to the GOP's climate-denying, anti-clean energy gospel — even with 64,000 jobs in the sector now in his home state.

We've been extraordinarily critical of Christie for pulling out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — a Northeast regional carbon dioxide program that has brought documented benefits to ratepayers and clean energy businesses in participating states.

But credit is due here. Kudos to Governor Christie for not blindly following the GOP's anti-renewable energy platform and stepping up to support the solar industry.

This article was originally published on Climate Progress. It has been republished with permission.



EU Offshore Wind Having Best Year Ever, but Turbine Orders Slowing

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 06:00 PM PDT

Battling severe economic headwinds, Europe's wind industry has picked up the pace and substantially increased offshore projects developed in the region.

According to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), developers connected 132 turbines to the grid in the first half of this year. Those turbines, which have the cumulative capacity to generate 523 megawatts, represent a 50 percent increase over the first half of 2011.

As EWEA points out, 2012 has turned into a surprisingly good year for offshore wind in Europe:

2012 could turn out to be the best year ever for offshore wind energy in Europe, as a further 160 turbines, totaling 647.4 MW, are built but awaiting grid connection. But this is subject to weather conditions at sea and grid connection delays.

A total of 4,336 MW offshore wind capacity was operating as of 30 June 2012 – up from 3,294 MW in June 2011 – producing electricity for the equivalent of 4 million households.

During the first half of 2012 overall, 13 wind farms were under construction. Once completed these wind farms will account for an additional capacity of 3,762 MW.


In the first six months of this year, the number of financial transactions closed equaled the number closed in all of 2011. As we pointed out last fall, no projects in 2011 had been financed through debt; however, 30 percent of projects closed this year were done so with debt. EWEA attributes the increase in deals to the diversity of commercial banks and public financing agencies engaged in the market.

However, the Danish wind consultancy MAKE Consulting estimates that project financing will need to grow by 50 percent over the next five years in order for European countries like Britain, Germany, and France to meet their offshore wind targets. With European banks continuing to develerage themselves, it's not clear if the necessary project finance will be available.

Bloomberg News also reported on an upcoming report from MAKE on the slump in sales of offshore turbines that will impact the future pipeline of projects:

Sales of offshore wind turbines collapsed in the first half, a sign the power industry and its financiers are struggling to meet the ambitions of leaders from Angela Merkel in Germany to Britain's David Cameron.

One unconditional order was made, for 216 megawatts, 75 percent less than in the same period of 2011 and the worst start for a year since at least 2009, according to preliminary data from MAKE Consulting, a Danish wind-energy adviser. Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS) of Denmark, the largest manufacturer, won the contract while Germany's Siemens AG (SIE) was among those shut out.

In Germany's section of the North Sea, utility RWE AG (RWE) is working on foundations for its $1.2 billion Nordsee Ost development but can't install turbines until a grid connection is made. Competitor EON AG (EOAN) said in February its Amrumbank West project will be delayed 15 months because of grid issues.

The financial crisis has helped draw out negotiations on funding. Centrica Plc (CNA), Dong Energy A/S and Siemens in June completed a $660 million financing for the Lincs wind farm off the U.K.'s shores two years after talks first started.

The cost of financing and connecting projects to the grid has raised the installed cost of offshore projects by 30 percent in the first half of this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Analysts at the firm say they expect those costs to fall as installation techniques become more standardized and financing bottlenecks open up. In June, the UK's Crown Estate issued a report concluding that the cost of offshore wind projects could fall by one third by 2020.

Despite the mixed picture, the industry is taking a decidedly optimistic view about growth. The industry's trade group projects that the European offshore wind market will grow from roughly 4 gigawatts of cumulative capacity to 150 gigawatts of cumulative capacity by 2030 — meeting about 14 percent of European electricity demand.

This article was originally published on Climate Progress, and has been reposted with full permission.



First Honda Fit EV Goes to California Couple

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 05:38 PM PDT

California and Oregon residents, like Matt and Becky Walton, get first dibs on the 2013 Honda Fit EV. The couple, who live north of Los Angeles, were the first to sign up to lease the Fit EV on Honda’s website, and they have now received the first Honda Fit EV.

The Fit EV gets an EPA mile-per-gallon-equivalency rating of 118 MPGe, and a rating of 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles. The lease price is $389 per month, which over three years equals the MSRP of $36,625.

East coast folks will get their chance at leasing a Fit EV in early 2013. No word when Honda will make the dreams of sweet Midwesterners come true.

Source: PR Newswire
Image: Honda 



Federal Solar Tax Credit Generates Green Jobs, Investment and Healthy Taxpayer Returns

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 02:21 PM PDT

Contrary to erroneous, misleading assertions to the contrary, the federal government’s Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is proving to be an excellent investment for US taxpayers and the federal budget. The Solar ITC can boast of yielding a 10% internal rate of return (IRR) to taxpayers on the government’s initial investment, according to a study conducted by the US Partnership for Renewable Finance (US PREF).

An American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) program, US PREF’s study, “Paid in Full,” was based on a model developed by SolarCity and multinational business and tax consultancy KPMG that “examines the cash flows generated by tax revenues on solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) to show that a $10,500 tax credit for a residential system can provide a $22,882 nominal benefit to the government in those scenarios over the life of the solar asset,” according to ACORE’s press release. For commercial solar PV projects, a $300,000 federal solar ITC can yield a $677,627 nominal benefit (not adjusted for inflation) over a similar time frame.



US Clean Energy Policy: Correcting Erroneous, Misleading Assertions…

Of course, ACORE’s analysis of the federal Solar ITC omits additional significant benefits of residential and commercial solar PV use. Reductions in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions associated with fossil fuel production and consumption, as well as enhanced energy security and the possibility of avoiding billions, if not trillions, of dollars (not to mention lives lost) in overseas military forays to secure fossil fuel supplies should figure into the calculus as well.

The ACORE study comes out in the midst of a presidential election year and bankruptcies of solar companies that received federal loan guarantees and qualified for the Solar ITC. The timing of its release highlights a bitter division in Congress over the Obama Administration’s support for renewable and clean energy, the misconceptions being promulgated about the results of such federal programs, and, more broadly, the commercial viability of solar and other renewable energy projects and businesses, according to ACORE.

"Everyone understands that solar power leads to cleaner air and greater independence from fossil fuel," commented SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. "Far fewer people realize that solar incentives can pay for themselves. Solar power has become a political football in this election year, but the investment tax credit has been one of the most beneficial, bipartisan energy policies of this or any other generation."

The federal Solar ITC has provided an incentive to private sector businesses and investors that has led to significant growth in green job creation, as well as solar energy system installations across the US. Roughly 90% of the nearly 5,000 MW of solar generation capacity has been installed in the US since the ITC was expanded in 2005, according to GTM Research/SEIA’s June 2012 “U.S. Solar Market Insight” report, ACORE notes. The report also showed that U.S. solar installations in 1Q 2012 increased 85% year-to-year.

"The ITC has been very effective in stimulating private sector investment in solar energy, enhancing our nation's energy and economic security by diversifying our energy mix, and improving our quality of life through a cleaner environment," ACORE CEO Dennis V. McGinn stated. "As SolarCity demonstrates in the model, it also pays for itself. This policy is both effective and fiscally prudent."

Romney Would End Wind Energy Production Tax Credit (Costing US 37,000 Jobs)

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 03:13 AM PDT

Staffers for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign say the candidate wants to end the wind production tax credit.

That federal credit has allowed the wind industry to compete with heavily-subsidized fossil fuels that do considerable harm to the environment and public health — impacts that are not reflected in their price.

The production tax credit provides wind developers with a tax benefit of 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of wind electricity produced — far below the air pollution damages caused by coal plants. Without Congressional action, the incentive will expire at the end of this year, potentially resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs supported by the sector.

Romney has hinted that he wants to end federal tax support for clean energy, but he has not yet made a definitive statement on the production tax credit. However, the Des Moines Register is now reporting that Romney has taken a more concrete stance on the issue:

Mitt Romney's opposition to wind power could put a damper on Iowa's wind industry and its thousands of jobs, advocates say.

The federal wind energy production tax credit is set to expire at the end of the year. Staffers for Romney, the likely Republican presidential candidate, said he wants to end the credit, but didn't specify whether it should be allowed to expire this year or phased out shortly after. President Barack Obama wants an indefinite extension of the tax credit.

Industry insiders and policymakers in Iowa, Republicans and Democrats alike, say ending the credit would hurt Iowa's blossoming industry.

"It's really going to slow down the expansion of wind energy," said Harold Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association. "This could mean the loss of several thousand jobs in the industry."

The looming threat of an expiration is making it difficult for developers to plan beyond 2012. As a result, wind companies are delaying projects and laying workers off. In Pennsylvania, a turbine manufacturer furloughed 165 workers; in April, an Ohio wind developer scrapped plansfor a $20 million project; in Arkansas, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries halted plans for a $100 million production facility; and Vestas, the world's largest wind manufacturer, may lay off 1,600 workers if the credit expires.

As the Des Moines Register reports, federal policy uncertainty is forcing companies to move activity outside the American market:

One company said the uncertainty over the tax credit's future has led leaders to focus on exporting its products to other countries instead of banking on domestic buyers. Spain-based Acciona has been assembling wind turbines in West Branch since 2007.

"What we are doing in West Branch is diversifying our portfolio, not just focusing on the United States, but Mexico and Canada as well," said Joe Baker, chief executive officer of Acciona's North American windpower unit.

"The uncertainty prevents the investors from committing resources to new wind farms and really creates about an 18-month gap, even if the production tax credit is renewed. Our association has had some companies that have gone out of business because of the uncertainty. They don't know if they can sustain their operation," Prior said.

Over the last five years, wind has brought $20 billion in annual private investment to the U.S. — helping support 75,000 jobs and making America one of the most competitive countries in the wind industry. However, the expiration of the credit may force up to 37,000 layoffs in the industry over the next year.

While he supports ending federal support for the wind industry, Romney has fiercely defended tax credits for the mature oil and gas industries.

The Obama campaign has seized on Romney's contradictory stance in recent months, using it as a messaging platform in the Midwest, where wind provides enormous economic benefits.

"You had our good friend Mitt Romney saying he dismissed wind and solar by saying they're 'two of the most ballyhooed forms of alternative energy.' Tell that to the 7,000 workers manufacturing wind power here in Iowa," said Vice President Joe Biden at a campaign stop in Iowa.

This article was originally published on Climate Progress. It has been reposted with full permission.

Image: Mitt Romney via Maria Dryfhout /

Solar PV Close to 50c/Watt

Posted: 24 Jul 2012 02:00 AM PDT

US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu earlier this year suggested that solar PV without subsidies will be cheaper than both coal and gas if it could get its costs down to around $1/watt by the end of the decade – an event that would trigger a total re-examination of the way electricity was produced in the world's largest economy.

That meant cutting the cost of modules to round 50c/W, and then bringing the balance of module costs down with it. The latest research says that the module cost target will happen by 2016. Which also means that forecasts by Chinese officials and the Indian government that solar PV would reach wholesale parity with fossil fuels by 2020 (or 2017 in the case of India) are likely to occur even earlier.

GTM Research this week published the latest version of its five-year cost outlook for solar PV. Its first take was to admit that its previous predictions about costs, deployment and consolidation in the industry had been wildly misplaced. Like others, it has struggled to get its spread sheets around the stunning reduction in costs over the last few years, and misread the impact of feed-in tariffs, consumer demand, and the ability of Chinese manufacturers to lower costs.

"How wrong we were," wrote GTM analyst Shyam Mehta. "We didn't really have an accurate, even semi-quantitative, understanding of the relationship between pricing, incentives, finance and demand." And by "we", GTM could include not just its own researchers, but nearly the entire global energy industry.

And predictions on how the solar market is going to play out are not getting any easier. "Truth be told, we are not a long way farther along in developing an understanding of the PV market than we were back in 2008," he writes.

But some things can be noted: "That industry has sheer momentum behind it in terms of interested, well-capitalized parties, that technology innovation will happen at breathtaking speed, helping to push c-Si (silicon-based) module costs toward the $0.50/W mark at 17% module efficiencies over the next half-decade.

"We also don't plan to underestimate the lucre that even cooling uncapped FIT markets still have, especially in an era when system costs are fast approaching $2.00/W. We also don't think that pricing and demand have a nice, simple relation in terms of elasticity: customers will wait to purchase equipment for months if they think prices will come down further, but then install gigawatts of PV in a few weeks if those weeks precede a major tariff reduction." (Hello Germany, Italy, and last week, Queensland).

The report includes a few notable graphs. The first is the cost path for module – now estimated at around 75c/W and heading down to 50c/W at a rate of knots. GTM, and most others in the industry, believe it will get to the 50c/W mark by 2016 at the latest, most likely 2015.

The second graph shows how the deployment of solar PV will move away from Europe as subsidies wind down, to Asia (where feed in tariffs have just been introduced in China and Japan), and then to those countries where solar PV can thrive with no subsidies (competing on rooftops at socket parity against fossil fuel generation delivered via the grid, or, later, by matching fossil fuels in utility scale deployment).

So which companies will survive over the next few years? GTM says that the next four years will be difficult for the global PV manufacturers. "Fundamentally, this is because of the sheer magnitude of capacity in the industry that exists in the value chain today and the speed with which feed-in tariff programs in historically vital markets in Western Europe are being ratcheted down. We are in a transitional time in the history of the PV market: the training wheels of subsidies have come off, and the next few years will represent the industry's first, uncertain attempts to ride without support." The table shows its estimates of module costs for most of the major manufacturers by the end of 2013. Some will have already nearly made it to 50c/W.

This article was originally published on REnew Economy, and has been reposted with full permission.



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