Posts tagged: solar bill of rights

Smart Grid: It Isn’t As Simple As You Think

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wp-image-759″ />By now, most of us know that the demand for solar continued to rise during the recession. Demand continues to grow throughout the world. A couple of days ago, the SEIA published The US Solar Industry Year in Review 2009. The opening sentence of the report stated: “Despite the Great Recession of 2009, the U.S. solar energy industry grew— both in new installations and employment.” Reuters reported that the “industry surged on incentives.” In February, Todd Woody provided details of how California and New York utilities are playing a key role in solar growth in the New York Times Green Inc. blog. “Over the past few weeks, some 1,300 megawatts’ worth of distributed solar deals and initiatives have been announced

or approved. At peak output, that is the equivalent of a big nuclear power plant” wrote Woody. Yes, it’s only one big nuclear power plant, certainly not “As Big As Coal” which needs to be the rallying cry of the Solar Revolution, but, nonetheless, in the midst of the financial meltdown, it’s something. So, OK, we are moving in the right direction over the last several weeks…but we’ve got a long way to go. There is so much do to

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on so many levels. As much credit as some will give to the utilities, the truth remains that the Solar Revolution is a grassroots cause. The efforts of the cause as a whole depend on each and every one of us doing what we can to educate and promote the beneits…even the imperitive…of creating solar As Big As Oil. We cannot settle for

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less. Along these lines, in order to be most effective, we’ve all got to understand the magnatude of unresolved issues that stand in the way of our goal. In the Solar Industry Magazine (April 2010, Volume 3, Number 3~it is only available via “deadtree media”) that I recently receved, Michael Coddington, Kate Anderson and Benjamin Kropski did a great job of summarizing a New York City case study assessing grid-level effects of distributed photovoltaics. The article identifies many of the technical issues that stand in the way of rapidly connecting distributive PV to the utility networks. On the front page of the same Solar Industry issue, Bob Powell presents a look at utility-scale financing components. I highly recommend these two front page articles. The NYC Study article describes that utilities use two types of electrical distribution systems. By far the most common is these is the simpler radial system, which is designed for electricity to go just one-way. In such a distribution system, a lot of hardware and software is devoted to detecting and protecting against “reverse power flow,” which is “indicative of an upstream supply feeder fault.” Needless to say, this is not good from a net metering and feed-in-tariff point-of-view. The article also discusses the problems caused by the highly variable nature of solar energy supply and the importance of the development of solutions that will make this source of energy more reliable (such as battery technology or eventually a national or worldwide smartgrid). The front page companion piece reminds us that regulators and legistlators are driving the utilities to do the right thng, “either through mandates such as enacted renewable portfolio standards (RPS)…or via less formal expectations that a utility has in response to climate change.” Failure to meet RPS standards will hit the utilities where it hurts them most: earnings. The challenge for the utility becomes how to finance all the change required to achieve the RPS. There is so much great information is these two Solar Industry Magazine articles. There was also a separate blog by Tom Raftery in the greenmonk blog. First, I want to say, that this blog is one great example of what we each can do to do our part for the Solar Revolution. Tom’s catchy sub-heading says “green from the bottom up; sustainable from the top down.” On April 16, Tom writes about “Are Utility Companies Ready for Full Smart Grids?” Tom takes a look at the IT angle to the new way of doing business. He also has a video interviw with Chris King, the Chief Regulatory Officer of eMeter. Tom writes that he commonly asks “What is a Smart Grid? Almost all the interviewees talk about an infrastructure capable of full end-to-end, two-way communications. That is, communication from utilities down to the appliance level in-home, and from appliances back up to utilities.” Tom probes the challenges that smart grid poses to IT, appliance development and, probably most importantly, consumer education. So, with this kind of perspective, how are we doing so far with our Big as Oil goal? Well, in a recent Greentechmedia research article titled “Can the U.S. or California

Institute a Feed-In Tariff?” Eric Wesoff writes that the RPS in California has failed. “And the U.S. solar market remains thwarted by tight financing, fragmented policies, and spotty permitting, as well as restrictive access to public lands. Arguably, policy trumps technology in matters of energy, and the U.S. has a long way to go in developing a favorable energy and solar policy.” Wescoff’s article covers an April 14 presentation made by Ted Ko of the FIT Coalition. “California’s renewable energy piece was 14 percent of the energy mix in 2003,” cited Ko in his speech to the Silicon Valley Photovoltaics Society, “and actually dropped down to 13 percent in 2008. Further, he asserts that there is little chance that will California achieve its goal of 20 percent in 2010 and 33 percent in 2020.”

The answer, according to Ko, is getting a feed-in tariff imposed in California and in the U.S. Ko defined the feed-in tariff as a predefined, pre-approved PPA between renewable energy generators and utilities. He called it “the most effective policy in the world for getting cost-effective renewable energy online. It’s simple, fair and effective.”

As they say, “the Devil’s in the details.” There are so many details to research and understand. We need to continue to feed one another with newly developing information and ideas. Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin are great communication tools for this. So are invididual, company and public blogs. Write your own; subscribe to this one and others. WholeSolar will be starting a blog list. Let’s all share what we’re discovering and believing. Find a solar or renewable energy meetup group in your area. If you can’t find one, start one. Please be a part of Vote Solar and other similar organizations, where our numbers create “power to change power.” And please encourage other

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to join you in signing the Solar Bill of Rights. Most importantly, take action (if you have not yet) and increase your action (if you have).

The Solar Revolution

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10/03/whole-solar.logo.08.jpg” alt=”whole-solar.logo.08″ width=”232″ height=”84″ />Recently, I read Senator Bernie Sanders’ blog entitled It’s Time for a Solar Revolution. He writes about how he and 10 of his colleagues (Senators Whitehouse, Cardin, Gillibrand, Merkley, Lautenberg, Leahy, Boxer, Menendez, Specter, and Harkin) are introducing the Ten Million Solar Roofs Act. The bill calls for 10 million new solar rooftop systems and 200,000 new solar water heating systems over the next 10 years. The idea is a knock-off of the “million roofs” program in California. Essentially the plan is to create 30,000 megawatts of solar power in ten years by offering consumer rebates for the purchase and installation of solar systems. So far the California program is on track to create 3,000 megawatts of solar power by 2016. What makes Senator Bernie’s bill different is that it is a Federal bill that supplements and complements state and local solar efforts. The idea is a good one, using a distributive approach, however the bill is but a small step in creating a full-scale solar revolution, but it is certainly an important one.

Jeff Wolfe groSolar CEO

Jeff Wolfe groSolar CEO

Ten million roofs is certainly a great start for a solar revolution, but it reflects limited thinking. My friend Jeff Wolfe, the founder of groSolar, made a presentation over a year ago entitled Thinking as Big as Oil. Jeff pointed out that as strong as growth has been for the solar industry, the entire industry’s revenues equal less than two days of ExxonMobil’s revenues. We have a long way to go to be as “Big as Oil.” Jeff gave several examples of where the solar industry was, perhaps, limiting itself in its goals and vision. And then he made a statement that should resonate with every member of the solar tribe: “I, for one, am not in this game to play; I’m in it to win ‐‐ to accomplish our
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mission for our company, for our country, and for our planet.”

Rhone Resch SEIA CEO

Rhone Resch SEIA CEO

Thinking as Big as Oil is certainly worthy of being called a Solar Revolution, but a revolution needs many, many passionate people with a shared conviction. Al Gore likes to talk about political will being the only thing missing, but more importantly that political will is a renewable resource.
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Unfortunately, the obstacles in this arena are as big as Oil. Obstacles mean opportunities. These obstacle/opportunities lie in

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the areas of technology, politics and basic human behavior and create exciting potential for history-changing achievements. The next step in building and advancing our movement, it

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seems to me is about increasing the general awareness. The ARRA program certainly is helping. Rhone Resch’s declaration of a Solar Bill of Rights is another step. There a few trail-blazing non-profit organization for us to get behind and support. I love Vote Solar. Their mission is “to bring solar energy into the mainstream.” I couldn’t have said it better myself and their every single action is doing exactly that. Vote Solar works at the state, federal and local level to implement programs and policies that allow strong solar markets to grow — working to remove serious regulatory roadblocks impeding solar adoption — and pave the way for a transition to a renewable energy economy. SolarTech is a PV industry consortium focused on creating a Solar Center of Excellence in the Silicon Valley. Their goal is to identify and resolve the inefficiencies inherent in the delivery of solar PV systems. This last January Solartech hosted a Solar Leadership Summit to Address Solutions that Cut Procedural Red Tape by 75% and Reduce Costs for Solar Customers and followed that up by announcing the launch of a new, free resource for solar professionals called SolarHub. In Solar Nation’s own words, Solar Nation “is the place where solar citizens live ” and “where citizens rally and convince their leaders to make America a true solar power.” There are probably many more similar organizations that part of the solar revolution. If you know of some, please let us know in an email: And if you are

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not familiar with Vote Solar, Solartech and Solar Nation, please check them out and get involved. A solar revolution starts with you and me. As I heard Buckminster Fuller say, “each one reach one; each one teach one.” To quote Vote Solar’s website: “The clock is ticking. Join the Team” or, perhaps a paraphrase is in order — Join the Solar Revolution.

Act Now: Sign the Solar Bill of Rights

Rhone Resch,

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President and CEO of the Solar Energy

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Industries Association, has pointed out that with Congress back in session it is important that we all make a big push to get Americans to sign the viagra online” target=”_blank”>Solar Bill of Rights.

Can Smart Grid Outsmart all the Obstacles?

smartgrid1Yesterday, we attended a sold-out Smart Grid event that was sponsored by CommNexus-San Diego, a non profit network of communication and defense industry companies. While the event itself lasted 90 minutes, you had the feeling that everyone in attendance would have stayed a couple more hours to have all their questions answered. The fascinating thing is that the development of the Smart Grid is essential, while at the same time being confronted with maddening obstacles. Logic-be-damned politics is at the center of many of these obstacles, posing the question: Will we have the political will to overcome them all? There is so much that can be said about the Smart Grid. It has so many components and aspects. For now, I’ll try to keep it simple. First off, from a very high point-of-view, the Smart Grid is simply about consumer empowerment. The more a consumer knows about his or her own consumption, the more likely he or she will be willing to alter behavior to save money. More importantly, without a Smart Grid the power distribution system will be unable to sustain the projected growth in energy demand. Using a Smart Grid, consumers will be charged premium rates for energy usage during peak-demand time periods and lower, discounted rates during low-usage periods. Existing energy grids are old and antiquated.They must be built to accommodate the highest required volumes for peak-usage periods. Put in other words, the capacity of the existing energy grid is largely unused because consumer usage varies widely throughout a day and in different seasons of the year. The introduction and wide-scale adoption of

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electric vehicles (EV) will further challenge the capacity of existing energy grids. A single EV requires more than 6 kW over a 3 hour period to re-charge. This

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is more energy consumption than than the average-sized home. Imagine what effect a mass migration from gas service stations to plug-in electric re-chargers could have on an already maxed-out grid. As has been the case in the wireless industry, there are no Smart Grid industry standards. We heard that San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) uses Zigbee and Z-Wave for their in-house wireless network, but the panel of experts agreed that there likely will ever be any such industry standards. Will this slow down the Smart Grid development? Incorporating renewable energy that is generated withing the grid itself seems to be the biggest no-brainer of all in the discussion about Smart Grid development. When I think of in-grid renewable energy, I see photovoltiac panels on the roofs of an entire community. I see these solar panels funded by PACE programs (California AB811), companies like SunRun or by the utilities themselves. If we increase the capacity of energy

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generation closest to the point of usage, we significantly reduce the cost of building infrastructure – a major savings to consumers. But I was shocked and amazed to hear that in the state of California the renewable energy program DOES NOT INCLUDE residential roof-top or ground-mount solar when calculating how much of a utility’s energy is green and how much is fossil-based. In other words, there is no incentive for the utilities in California to vigorously pursue the development distributive solar energy generation. While there seems to be strong legislative consensus that renewable energy is the way to go, there are other similar legislative obstacles to getting there. I’ve written about some already at this blog site: a solar bill of rights, innovative financing, national net metering, grassroots advocacy and, probably most importantly, general consumer ignorance and apathy. If you add to this list feed-in-tariffs and shifting government subsidies

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from fossil fuels to renewables, we’re really talking about a uniform national energy program that would be essential for national security. Such an ambitious concept brings up the age-old debate of states rights (and autonomy) versus Federal rights. At the event yesterday, this point was driven home clearly. Tom Blialek, Chief Smart Grid Engineer for SDG&E, stated that the California PUC program to create more green energy would result in 150MW of wind power being created in the Imperial Valley of California. Since wind energy is generally created at night and energy storage technology is still being developed, it will be necessary to order these windmills to be shut down, as is the current practice in Europe. This raised the question: why not sell excess energy across state lines rather than shut the windmills down? The answer was symbolic of the whole area of Smart Grid and renewable energy development: while the question makes a lot of logical and practical sense, from a political stand-point, there are too many issues to get sorted out before a national or world-wide smart grid will be able to happen. This is why we must build the solar tribe. This is why we must have meetups in our areas. This why we need to do what we can to get our communities involved. This why we need to blog, tweet and use social media to inform and involve others. The power to outsmart the obstacles is in our hands. It’s an exciting time to be alive.