First Solar, Ordos, China, US

China, USHow can we be so profoundly behind in our awareness of solar PV? China signs an agreement with the world’s largest PV company (which just happens to be an American company) for the world’s largest PV system (equivalent to Hoover Dam in output) using the most advanced, lowest-cost technology, and we haven’t even heard about it? The company, the technology, the concept of big PV. All that is new. Our press and our government are in the dark. Why?

We hear about self-promoting Silicon Valley PV start-ups manipulating the press for coverage while they raise money (First Solar is from the Rustbelt). We hear about Chinese silicon PV companies using low-cost labor to take the market away from everyone, because that is a cliché of our psyche – the foreign threat.

What’s a sensible US strategy for climate change and peak oil?

climate changeIt does not have to be mysterious anymore what the US, and by implication, the world can do about climate change and peak oil. It is to deploy the appropriate amount of wind, solar, and electric transportation. With this strategy, we have the knobs for all the results we want: less and less carbon dioxide, and reduced need for oil. What more do we want?

Naturally, we must answer two key questions:

  1. How much would it cost?
  2. How do we deal with wind and solar intermittency?

It used to be that wind cost too much and solar cost way too much. Those days are gone. Now wind costs about the same as new coal plants (which is to say, as little as anything to make electricity), and solar costs (depending on local sunlight) only about half again more. (Of course, in less sunny places, solar prices go up significantly. This is why you hear so many different economic numbers quoted for solar. Small systems are also significantly more expensive than large ones, although most of this is the cost of middle-men and not hardware.)

EPA’s New Mandatory GHG Reporting Rule and Solar Energy

Smoke StacksIndividuals interested in solar energy and climate policy are likely aware that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its final Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule in the Federal Register on October 30, 2009. (74 Fed. Reg. 56260) This regulation represents the first U.S. effort to require public reporting of certain greenhouse gas (GHG). However, few of these observers may be aware that the final rule will not require the tracking of progress by electricity consumers in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by substituting on-site solar energy for purchased fossil fuel-fired electricity.

Nonetheless, a close reading of the final EPA rule indicates that solar energy supporters should not pack their bags and go home. Although the final rule is focused on direct emissions from electric generation sources, the Agency signaled its interest in conducting a future rulemaking to address the treatment of electricity purchases. According to the preamble to the final rule, EPA stated as follows:

Fast Cloud Transients

One of the thorniest issues that seemed to be facing large, utility-scale PV systems was sudden changes in PV system output due to the movement of single clouds on an otherwise sunny day. Now it seems that this issue has been resolved favorably, in an economical manner.

Figure 1 shows a particularly excruciating example of solar variability.

Figure 1. Worst case example of incident sunlight caused by the movement of transient clouds on a clear day (After Hoff and Perez)

Figure 1. Worst case example of incident sunlight caused by the movement of transient clouds on a clear day (After Hoff and Perez)

This kind of sunlight graph put chills down the spine of utility engineers and caused a major setback for the deployment of large-scale PV systems. PV output responds instantaneously to such changes. Such variability also compares unfavorably to solar thermal electric (STE) systems, which have natural thermal inertia, which damps out the sudden changes. STE system installers gladly took note and publicized the PV problem to everyone making a choice between STE and PV.

Getting Real on Wind and Solar

Getting Real on Wind and SolarPerhaps no recent article irritated me more and made me feel more vulnerable as a solar professional than James Schlesinger and Robert Hirsch’s Washington Post op-ed, “Getting Real on Wind and Solar” (April 24, 2009). The op-ed said we shouldn’t take solar and wind seriously, because they are unpredictable and cannot be turned on at will. There is a grain of truth to their statement. It is a serious criticism of wind and solar, and probably the most telling after the worst one – high cost. But I think it is because high cost is being overcome, especially in wind, that this next level of criticism is being raised. That’s progress.

I authored a response with Bundestag member Hans-Josef Fell, the co-author of the German feed-in tariff legislation (see Fell’s presentation at our kick-off symposium here). The Washington Post didn’t see fit to print it. Maybe they had not heard of the German feed-in tariff or its transformational importance to the global PV market.

The Cost of Solar PV

The Cost of Solar PVI get brassed off of constantly seeing ultramundane high prices for solar PV charged as the only possible price. You read this in articles from all sorts of media, and it is gulped by the slump and sinker. So how much does PV cost?

The response is “prices.” There is no real price, because there are many prices. Price differs by the local sunlight amount and by the system’s size and type.

And two types of prices exist– dollars per watt, which is price per momentary output. And cents per kWh, which is price per unit of energy imparted. Dollars per watt is difficult; cents per kWh is harder.

So with this in mind, let’s do some prices!

Great systems are cheaper than little systems; pocket-sized systems, like those on your house, are more expensive again. If we admit the greatest systems can be inducted (sans delays and all sorts of undefinable costs) at $3/W; then large rooftop systems on WalMart might increase the price for $4/W; and inhabited systems for $5/W. These would be “entire” systems, with no withholdings and other arrests. For more characteristic ones, you can supplement a dollar or even $2/W. These are all stationary mounts; if you wish tracing, supplement another 50 ¢/W to a dollar to the great system price (but you get 25% more output).

Solar Power: The Teddy Bear of Energy Sources

Originally posted at: Transition Voice by: Erik Curren
teddy-bear-294x300Solar is so ingenious and pretty we can bearly make it stand firmly on the ground. But does this teddy have any teeth?

Is there a more encouraged sympathy energy source than solar energy?

Its fuel material is striken from the sun, which is comprehensible and accessible almost anywhere. It’s overwhelmingly pure to run. It’s easy to construct and sustain. The large support systems can utilize it to manufacture green grid power, but you can also place it on your own roof to become your own support system or to make it off-grid.

And did I point out that it’s maintained by THE SUN?

(Full disclosure: I do some work for a solar power company in Virginia knowns as Secure Futures).

It’s no surprise that public encourages solar power, with 92% of Americans in a 2009 poll claiming that it’s significant to work out solar energy sources. Particularly, environmentalists including My Canadian Pharmacy admire solar energy best of all amoung different energy resources. It’s as pure as wind power, but solar is much less questionable.