Advancing Solar Energy in Washington State

bbb

One Block Off the Grid

Your One Stop Solar Shop
Updated: 55 min 10 sec ago

Top 10 Countries Using Solar Power

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 10:00am

Back in 2010, we researched the countries that were leading the world in solar power installations. As of the end of 2009 — the latest data we could gather — the solar industry was in the very early stages of the global solar boom that has been accelerating ever since. In the interest of taking the current pulse of the global solar leaders, we’ve updated this post in September 2014 to reflect the new state of play. We’re keep the 2009 numbers in parentheses as a reference point of just how quickly the world is switching to affordable, clean solar energy.

One telling point: The solar industry is growing so rapidly that we’ve had to update our units of measurement from megawatts (MW) to gigawatts (GW).

Below are the top 10 countries using solar power in the world according to installed photovoltaic solar (PV) energy capacity. Think you know the order? You might be surprised…see if you can name all ten countries in the right order before continuing on.

1. Germany: 35.5 GW (2010: 9.8 GW — 1st place)

In 2010, Germany was clearly the world leader, and has only continued the trend. In 2009 alone, Germany installed 3.8 GW of PV solar energy capacity, and the country has added at least 3.3 GW of new solar capacity per year, and more like 6 GW per year between 2010 and 2012. “The combination of a proven feed-in-tariff (FiT) scheme, good financing opportunities, a large availability of skilled PV companies, and a good public awareness of the PV technology, largely contributed to this success,” European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) reported.

Despite a slowdown in 2013, Germany is expected to remain the top solar market in Europe for the coming years, and still boasts a quarter of the world’s installed PV capacity 26 percent, compared to the 13 percent held by each of the next two countries on the list, Italy and China.

Image credit

2. China: 18.3 GW (2010: .305 GW — 8th Place)

Everything that China does, it does big. As the world’s most populous nation, and the one with the biggest carbon footprint, it’s great news that China has made such a major commitment to solar power. Since our 2009 research, China has grown its solar capacity by an astounding 6,000 percent — from less than one-third of a gigawatt of capacity to 18.3 GW. It helps that China is a major solar panel manufacturer, and the government has had to repeatedly raise its renewable energy targets — from a plan of 20 GW by 2020 to 20-30 GW by 2020 to the current target of an astounding 70 GW of solar by 2017. Coupled with a commitment to cut its coal use, the world’s biggest carbon polluter could soon also be the country powered with the most green energy.

Image Credit

3. Italy: 17.6 GW (2010: 1.2 GW — 5th Place)

Not only has Italy continued its leadership in solar — rising from fifth place in 2010 to third place as of the end of 2013 — it generates more of its energy from solar than any other nation, with 7.8 percent of its energy coming from solar, compared to 6.2 percent for Germany. Mixing net-metering and a well-segmented FiT (combined with a lot of sunshine), Italy has become a world leader in solar energy. “The future growth of the market will depend on the streamlining and harmonisation of administrative procedures, combined with an adapted decrease of the FIT in the third Conto Energia to cope with the expected price decrease,” the EPIA reports.

Image credit

4. Japan: 13.6 GW (2010: 2.6 GW — 3rd Place)

Japan fell from third place in 2010 to fourth place in 2014, but remains also a country worth emulating — in the past four years the country has grown its solar capacity by more than 500 percent. Government residential PV programs, net-metering, high national solar energy goals to reach 28 GW by 2020 and 53 GW by 2030, as well as the support of local authorities and the private sector make Japan a world leader in this field. In the wake of the the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the country has renewed its dedication to solar power, particularly with the recent announcement of the first of many floating solar farms off the island nation’s coasts.

Image credit

5. United States: 12 GW (2010: 1.6 GW — 4th Place)

It’s hard to believe that a country that grew its solar capacity by 750 percent in four years could still have lost standing in the global solar boom, but that just goes to show how quickly the field is changing. The United States have benefited as much as anyone from the steadily dropping price of solar, aided by smart financing and some supportive state-level policies to grow its domestic solar industry. With many large ground-mounted solar projects in the pipeline, installed capacity in the US is expected to grow significantly in coming years. Additionally, national legislation promoting solar energy (if it comes through) could move the US forward considerably. The cap on the federal solar tax credit was lifted in 2009, promoting growth in this industry.

Image Credit

6. Spain: 5.6 GW (2010: 3.4 GW — 2nd Place)

Spain was the world leader in newly installed PV solar energy (2,605 MW) in 2008 due to the government’s focus on creating a national solar energy industry, but has since dropped significantly — between 2010 and 2013, the country didn’t even double its capacity, whereas Germany nearly quadrupled its solar capacity. The reasons for this drop are attributed to complexity and delays related to a new government subsidy program and a decrease in energy demand due to the economic crisis. With expectations that both of these will improve in 2010, and considering its excellent sun irradiation and PV potential, Spain is expected to bump up its solar energy capacity again this year.

Image Credit

7. France: 4.6 GW (2010: .272 GW — 9th Place)

France has continued to benefit from its well-designed FiT for building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), but the country’s solar growth has been slowed by a lack of political support for solar incentives, which the the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) in a report published earlier in 2014 (PDF)also attributed to attacks from the nuclear and fossil fuel energy industries.

Image credit

8. Australia: 3.3 GW (2010: .125 GW [Source])

The first of two newcomers to our list of the top 10 countries using solar power, Australia has in the past five years made the most of its sun-drenched status — though its continued growth is in question. At the end of 2009, the island nation claimed only 125 MW of solar capacity, but through smart policies including feed-in tariffs, rebates and a federal mandatory renewable energy target has grown that by 2600 percent, reaching 3.3 gigawatts by the end of 2013. Between steadily dropping solar prices and the fact that Australia boasts some of the greatest solar potential in the world, solar power costs less than half what grid electricity costs, although the current government is considering scaling back the federal Renewable Energy Target, which would slow if not stop the country’s upward trajectory in these lists.

Image credit

9. Belgium: 3GW (2010: .363 GW — 7th Place)

The image above shows Belgian solar flowers. Belgium has been a surprising solar contender even since 2009. Belgium’s success was from “a well-designed Green Certificates scheme (which actually works as a Feed-in Tariff), combined with additional tax rebates and electricity self-consumption.” Those policies, coupled with the steady drop in solar panel prices, has kept Belgium growing its solar market year-over-year since 2009.

Image © Artist Alexandre Dang, www.alexandredang.com

10. United Kingdom: 2.9 GW (2010: .027 GW [Source])

Another poster child for the global solar boom, the United Kingdom was nearly a no-show in our 2009 research — it didn’t make the top 10 list by a long shot, with just 27 MW of solar capacity. But it has made quick growth since then, with the EPIA noting that in 2013, the U.K. nearly doubled its solar capacity, installing more even than Italy, the current 5th-place holder.

Image credit

Off the List:

Two of the countries that made the top 10 list in 2010 have fallen behind in the rankings — we’re including them below in the hopes that they make it back on our list in the next go-round…

12. India: 2.3 GW (2010: .120 GW — 10th Place)

Similar to China, India has fast-increasing electricity demand and it has very high sun irradiation levels. It’s government has also been moving forward strongly on clean energy. It has a goal to reach 20 GW by 2020 as well. “Besides the National Solar Mission of 2009, the market expects much of the possible decision this year to define a longterm power purchase agreement that could definitively trigger PV deployment in India,” EPIA states. India could quickly rise higher on this list with proper government strategies.

Image credit

13. Czech Republic (2010: 0.47 GW — 6th Place)

A generous FiT and simple administrative procedures have put the Czech Republic on this list. Per capita, it installed more new solar power than any other country besides Germany in 2009. The market growth has probably boomed unsustainably (and a little unexpectedly), however, and if appropriate policies aren’t put in place to slow it, the nascent solar bubble is expected to bust in the coming years.

Image Credit

• 2013 figures come from the IEA Photovoltaic Power System Programme; 2009 figures via the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.

Have more to add or questions about this list? Comment below. Special thanks to Adele Peters for her contribution to this article. Sign up with PURE Home Solar for group discounts, or use our calculator to estimate the cost of solar panels for your home.

Infographic: Back to School, Sustainably

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 5:00am

Going back to school can be challenging enough without also trying to factor in the environmental impacts of your decisions. The good news is that there are a lot of little choices you can make that will make a big difference for your footprint as well as your pocketbook.

As we wind down our #smallstep for sustainability campaign, we’ve created this infographic to explore some of the ways you can go back to school, sustainably.

PURE Webinar: What Can One Person Do to Save the Planet?

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 8:54am

If you’re reading this blog, you are probably concerned about the environment — every day we’re hearing more news about the state of the climate, and how the changes that have already started happening may accelerate and get more severe soon.

As serious as the effects of climate change are, the most important things to remember are that there is still hope and the time to act is now.

To show people how their individual choices can add up to a planet-saving effort, PURE Energies has teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund to host a webinar on Tuesday, September 9. “Ideas From Outer Space: How you can affect climate change” is a one-hour conversation between Keya Chatterjee, the director of renewable energy and footprint outreach at WWF, and Chris Stern, a co-founder of PURE Energies.

Keya and Chris will be discussing some of the big challenges the world faces by looking at the small-scale steps anyone can (and should!) take to overcome those big challenges.

Among the challenges:

  • Stop coal
  • Cut all fossil fuels
  • Improve land use

Those are big challenges — and can be overwhelming to think about what it will take to overcome them.

Fortunately, there are small steps that, if everyone took even a few of them, would make it immediately possible to tackle all of these problems. And that’s exactly what’s on the agenda for our webinar.

Keya and Chris will discuss in detail some of these solutions:

• Cleaner transportation: Hybrids, electric vehicles, and a much greater reliance on public transit and bicycling are all important — and surprisingly easy ways — to reduce the footprint of your transportation needs.

• Improve your home’s energy efficiency: Starting by swapping out your energy-hogging devices — from lightbulbs to appliances — you can make a big dent in your monthly energy bill, as well as the energy needed to power your home.

• Embrace green energy: Solar power has plummeted in price by an unbelievable amount over the last 25 years. Compared to 1977, the cost of solar panels has fallen by 99 percent. But as of early 2014, solar is 60 percent cheaper than it was just three years ago. Cheaper solar plus smart financing that lets you go solar for free means that solar is a now a no-brainer.

• Join the community of people taking action on climate change. On September 21, the world is coming together in New York City for the People’s Climate March — which aims to peacefully stand up against global warming pollution and help to create a world full of clean air, good jobs and healthy communities. In every successful social movement, the single most important way to achieve change is when the people raise their voices. Even if you can’t join the march in New York City, spread the word and take action at home.

To learn more about all of these solutions, and how you can take the next step in the fight against climate change, sign up for the PURE webinar here.

Mike’s Ultimate Garage is PURE

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 2:43pm

In an effort to educate people across North America about the value of solar, PURE Energies partnered with Mike Holmes in 2013. The notion for our partnership began on the Rick Mercer Report, when Rick Mercer and Mike Holmes teamed up with PURE to install a solar array on an Oshawa home.

On September 1st, 2014, PURE Energies will be featured on Mike’s Ultimate Garage special, which airs on HGTV Canada at 8 pm EST in Canada. Viewers get an all access pass with Canada’s most trusted contractor, Mike Holmes, as he builds his dream garage. This episode will feature Mike Holmes’ PURE Energies solar installation, including 40 solar panels on the house which have a peak power production of about 10 kW. And the best part is that Mike will be handing over the white helmet to his son, Mike Jr. who will run the jobsite.

At 1850 square feet, Mike’s state-of-the-art garage will house some of the coolest gadgetry and cutting-edge solar technologies on the market.

While Mike’s popularity has guaranteed the show to air in Canada, Mike’s team is currently rallying advocates for the show to air in the US. Click here to advocate for Mike’s Ultimate Garage to air on HGTV (US).

Mike Holmes is one of the few homeowners in the PURE community with a solar array installed on his roof and on his garage. His rooftop solar array generates clean energy for his community and the solar system on his garage generates power that is used to charge his battery bank which can be used to power his home.

Tune in to Mike’s Ultimate Garage on September 1st at 8pm EST and see how Mike Holmes makes it right with PURE Energies solar.

PURE Sustainability – Take a #smallstep

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 1:45pm

Everybody knows that the real New Year starts in September. This year it is all about sustainability. What choices can we make to improve our practices as individual consumers to reduce our carbon footprint as members of a community?

At PURE Energies, we have worked with thousands of homeowners who have taken a step towards sustainability by choosing to go solar. Oftentimes, when one homeowner goes solar, many neighbors want to get in on the sunshine, and soon, an entire community has gone solar.

This school year, we want to inspire our community to think green and act sustainably!

While going solar has proven the benefits of thinking green – both for the planet and for the pocketbook – there are many other ways to be more sustainable. One #smallstep can entice an entire community to make the sustainable choice. Normally it takes one community member to take the first step towards a more sustainable lifestyle, like packing homemade lunches for their kids or carpooling, to motivate others to do the same.

To kick-off the New School Year we’re encouraging one #smallstep for sustainability. Think of one small way to be more sustainable and inspire your friends: carpool; walk to school; use reusable containers; pack organic lunches; buy used; use a solar backpack! Even if you don’t have school aged children, you can still make a #smallstep towards sustainability.

There are sustainable alternatives to most of the everyday choices we make as consumers which save the planet and save you money.

Enter your #smallstep for sustainability and be automatically entered into our contest to win 1 of 10 Voltaic solar backpacks stuffed with $500 cash!

After the first week of school we will randomly draw winners, so be sure to pledge your #smallstep before September 12th.

Ask a Solar Expert: Energy Generated by Solar Panels, Best Roof for Solar

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 6:28am

Every day, as we help people go solar and save money across North America, we get asked questions about the details of home solar. To help answer these common questions, today we’re kicking off a new series at PURE called “Ask a Solar Expert.” Our lead solar designer, George Shafer, is here to shine some light on the sometimes-confusing aspects of a solar installation.

Question: How much energy does an average solar panel produce?

Solar panels come in all shapes and sizes these days — from the size of a cell phone to standard-sized modules for residential, commercial, and industrial use.

Standard residential-use panels are measured in direct-current (DC) capacity. The average solar panel used these days is a 250-watt panel. We use a variety of different panel producers, and due to improvements in the manufacturing process the production standards are very high across the board.

Four of these panels are equal to 1 kilowatt (kW) of DC capacity. (250 watts x 4 = 1000W, or 1kW.)

In terms of energy production, it depends on your specific design factors. Your micro-climate, the latitude of your town, your roof’s orientation and slope, and most importantly your sun access (or how shaded your roof is), all determine how much energy your solar panels will produce.

The production of the system will vary throughout the year, with longer days in the summer producing the most power. The commonly accepted way to measure a panel’s productivity is to take a one-year snapshot of its production. An average system will produce between 1000 and 1500 kWh per year for each kW of solar.

So again, four 250-watt panels (1kW) = 1000-1500 kWh/year.

For one 250-watt panel, you can expect about 250-375 kWh/year.

Under extreme circumstances production goes outside of this range.

Question: What type of roof is best for solar?

Any open, sunny, southern-facing roof!

In reality we can install on a variety of roof types. The most common installations are on composition shingle, flat tile, concrete s-tile or round tile, standing seam metal, and rolled roofing. These are the most common roofing types, and are the best for home solar installations.

Less common, but still doable, installations occur on rubberized roofing, foam roofing, membrane roofing, corrugated metal roofing, clay tile, and ground mounts.

The only kind of roof we will not install on is wood shake roofing.

Question: Should I reroof before I go solar?

Let’s say you went solar today and then a few years later want to re-roof. It’s not that pricey to pop the panels off, re-roof, and then put them back on. And usually, the amount of money you’ll save on your energy bill over those few years more than outweighs the cost of removing the panels briefly to re-roof — so by all means go solar now!

If you were already planning to redo your roof this year or next, go ahead and coordinate with a roofer and do both at the same time — it’s a commonplace occurrence for solar installers to coordinate with roofers like this). If your roof has a few years’ or more worth of life in it, just pull the trigger on solar and worry about the roof when the time comes.

George Shafer, our Lead Solar Designer, has been working with PURE Energies for the last two years and enjoys working to change the way that people think about energy. In his free time you can find him in the waters around San Francisco, surfing, swimming, and freediving.

Solar roofs photo CC-licensed by Kevin Baird on Flickr.

Infographic: The Top Solar Countries in the World — and How they Got There

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 2:03pm

As a companion piece to Garrett Hering’s exploration of the countries that are leading the solar revolution, we created three interactive graphics to help explain not just which countries can boast the most solar capacity, but also to show how they achieved their successes.

Through three graphics, we explore the solar boom. First, let’s look at the overall rise of solar around the world. By clicking and dragging the slider below, you can see how solar has grown between 2004 and 2014 (although the 2014 data are an estimate projected at the end of 2013):

Next, let’s look at the per-capital solar capacity of 10 of the world’s solar leaders:

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this graphic shows the policy tools that each of the 15 top solar countries have used to grow their solar capacity. Click on the down-arrow next to the country name to see the full list of countries and their policy practices; you can also click on the legend at the bottom of the graphic to highlight all the countries that use net metering, feed-in tariffs, carbon taxes, and others to encourage solar growth.

How the World’s Top Solar Countries Grew Their Markets

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 12:00pm

Solar electricity should reach 1 percent of global electricity demand for the first time ever in 2014, forecasts a new report by the International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Power System Programme (IEA PVPS).

This major milestone — though it sounds like a small percentage, it is a big deal for the solar industry — coincides with major changes in solar markets worldwide. Notable among them are a clear shift in demand from West to East in response to reduced government support across Europe and increased incentives in Asia, growing threats to distributed solar power on homes and commercial rooftops in the U.S. and solar electricity prices at or below parity with retail and wholesale grid prices in a number of markets.

The report, which includes preliminary data culled by experts and market participants in IEA and non-IEA countries, estimates that approximately 136 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic generating capacity was installed around the world entering 2014 — with the capability of generating an estimated 160 terawatt-hours of electricity — or about 0.85 percent of global electricity demand, according to IEA.

How did we get here? Countries have applied a number of policy and market-based strategies to encourage solar growth over the past decade, including tax credits, rebates and climate change levy exemptions — but far and away the most common are net metering and feed-in tariffs, two incentives that pay system owners for solar electricity sent to the grid.

To accompany the flood of data provided by the PVPS report and other sources, we’ve created an infographic that lists the world’s top solar countries, and also shows which tools they’ve used to reach these heights.

Praise for the 1-plus Percent Club

Although the global solar market is about to hit the record 1 percent mark this year, more than a dozen countries have surpassed that threshold already, according to IEA. A trio of nations – Italy, Germany and Greece – each rely on PV to supply more than 5 percent of their electricity today. Italy leads the way at an estimated 7.8 percent, followed by Germany at 6.2 percent and Greece at 5.8 percent. Bulgaria, Belgium, Czech Republic and Spain are between 3 and 4 percent.

In Europe as a whole, where premium payments for solar electricity fed into the grid (feed-in tariffs) have fueled a boom in PV rooftops and power plants over the past decade, approximately 3 percent of total electricity now comes from photovoltaic systems. At peak demand, Europe’s PV systems even cover up to 6 percent of the continent’s electricity consumption.

The only members of the 1-percent club outside of Europe are Australia, Israel and Japan, whose primarily residential and commercial rooftop markets have been supported by a combination of performance-based feed-in tariffs and net metering payments, and rebates.

Solar Eclipse in Europe

In terms of total installed capacity, Germany still leads by a wide margin with 35.5 GW of PV on the grid at the end of 2013 (see graphic below). Based on installed capacity per capita, Germany also remains way out front with 433.5 watts per person.

Interactive graphic: Top 15 Countries’ Total Installed PV Capacity

But after three consecutive years of adding around 7.5 GW, Germany’s PV market tumbled in 2013 to just 3.3 GW.

“This happened in a context of reduced feed-in tariffs, more constraining regulations for utility-scale PV and the political will to reduce the cost of renewables for electricity consumers,” noted the IEA PVPS report.

IHS predicts that the German market could fall again this year, installing less than 3 GW.

More intense has been the decline of the Italian PV market. After leading the world with 9.3 GW installed in 2011, Italy’s annually installed PV generating capacity dropped to 3.6 GW in 2012 and just 1.5 GW in 2013.

“A financial cap has now been set by the Italian authorities to limit the cost borne by electricity consumers,” explained the IEA PVPS report, adding, “Feed-in tariffs are not granted anymore for new PV installations but a self-consumption scheme and additional tax rebates are now in place.”

Due to its past primacy, however, Italy still is the world’s third-largest producer of PV power, with a total of 17.6 GW online entering this year. On a per-capita basis, Italy ranks No. 2 globally with 288.9 watts per person.

Interactive graphic: Top 10 Countries’ PV Capacity per Person

Italy’s annual PV demand could fall to under 1 GW this year.

Despite a rise in installations in emerging European solar markets like the U.K., Greece and Romania – each of which installed more than 1 GW last year – Europe as a whole declined in 2013 to just over 10 GW. That compares to 17.6 GW of PV installed in 2012 and 22.4 GW in 2011, according to IEA data.

This year, IHS anticipates another year of decline in Europe to just 9.7 GW.

Interactive Graphic: Global Installed PV Capacity, 2004 – 2014

Solar rising in the East

Meanwhile, China is on pace to continue its ambitious ascent. For the first time in 2013, China not only installed more solar power than Germany; the People’s Republic outshined all of Europe by installing 11.3 GW of PV – more than triple the year before – thanks to a potent combination of direct capital investments and feed-in tariffs.

That made China the largest PV market in the world in 2013. Based on a cumulative installed capacity of 18.3 GW, however, China still trails Germany overall.

IHS predicts that China will add another 13 GW this year, including 8 GW at ground-mounted power plants and nearly 5 GW on rooftops.

In a bit of a Fukushima effect, Japan was the No. 2 market for PV in 2013 with nearly 7 GW installed, according to the IEA PVPS report. That was up from just 1.7 GW of PV installed in 2012 and is the result of a new feed-in tariff program launched in mid-2012 in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that — at least temporarily — completely eliminated nuclear power in Japan.

With 13.6 GW of PV on the grid to start 2014 — mostly residential and commercial rooftop systems — Japan currently ranks fourth in the world.

Ash Sharma, senior director of solar research at IHS, expects Japan’s residential market to decline this year.

“Although the reduction in Japan’s feed-in-tariff conformed precisely to IHS expectations, other factors will cause the residential market to decline. These factors include the increase in sales tax on domestic PV systems, the expiration of the additional up-front subsidy and the slowdown in new housing construction,” according to Sharma.

The analyst, however, expects Japan’s commercial and power plant installations to fuel 45 percent growth in 2014 to around 9 GW.

Solar in the New World

The United States, the largest solar market in the Americas, installed 4.75 GW of PV in 2013 compared to 3.37 GW in 2012 — with much of the growth coming from ground-mounted power plants that qualify for a 30 percent investment tax credit.

Combined with lower technology costs, this tax credit has helped to push prices for utility-scale PV into the range of just 5 to 7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Such prices match or beat new sources of fossil fuel generation in many regions of the country and have garnered considerable attention from utilities.

Homeowners and business owners are also taking advantage of lower PV prices in the U.S., leveraging both tax credits and net metering. However, the latter policy has come under attack by utilities in key states such as Arizona, California and Colorado. The residential market in the U.S. nevertheless grew about 60 percent last year, adding nearly 800 megawatts (MW).

With a total of about 12 GW installed at the end of last year, the U.S. ranks at No. 5 in the world in terms of cumulative PV capacity, according to IEA. IHS sees the U.S. market as a whole adding another 6.4 GW this year.

Canada, the second largest PV market in the Americas, which is driven primarily by feed-in tariffs in the province of Ontario, added about 444 MW last year — pushing Canada past 1 GW of total installed PV generating capacity.

Latin American countries, on the other hand, “haven’t developed into a significant market yet,” according to the IEA PVPS report,” even though there has been an increase in development activities.

Despite this year’s 1 percent solar milestone, “PV hasn’t yet reached a widespread development,” finds the report. “On the contrary, the development of PV remains driven by a handful of countries,” it added.

IEA’s statistics show that Germany, China, Italy, Japan and the U.S. accounted for more than 70 percent of the world’s total installed PV generating capacity entering 2014.

In other words, a whole world of solar opportunity is still out there.

Top photo, of the Mityaevo Solar Park in Crimea, CC-licensed by ActivSolar on Flickr.

My Experience At The Clinton Global Initiative (2014)

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:34pm

Several months ago, I was approached by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) about attending the 2014 conference. Kim – the person that invited me – actually did her internship at our company during its infancy, 5 years ago.

The CGI is about bringing diverse groups of people in Government, NGO’s and businesses to discuss several topics within Working Groups. The ultimate goal of each Working Group is to come up with various Commitments to Action that tackle an array of different problems that are challenging humankind today. As Bill Clinton figuratively said, “the World economy has come off the tracks. My goal is to bring together people to come up with collective and inclusive capitalism that gets the train back on the tracks and moving along into the future.”

Clinton Global Initiative 2014

During the first evening I lucked out and got a chance to meet the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton. I offered to put solar on his house in New York! Stay tuned for details.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of The Modern Grid working group. Interestingly enough most of the subject matter in our working group was around solar power and the future of utilities in the United States. It is by no surprise that solar power accounted for 74 % of new generating capacity in Q1 2014.

The issue of who will pay for the future grid became a recurring theme. Some wires are over 120 years old! As more and more homeowners, businesses, and Independent Power Producers choose to feed the grid with solar without effectively paying for the grid under the current business model of the utility; there will be more stranded assets.

One thing is clear, as indicated in the 1st quarter of this year and by the amount of new solar being added, it is here to stay. Solar is brighter than ever and it will be a big part of the Modern Grid.

My Experience At The Clinton Global Initiative (2014)

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 9:03am

Several months ago, I was approached by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) about attending the 2014 conference. Kim – the person that invited me – actually did her internship at our company during its infancy, 5 years ago.

The CGI is about bringing diverse groups of people in Government, NGO’s and businesses to discuss several topics within Working Groups. The ultimate goal of each Working Group is to come up with various Commitments to Action that tackle an array of different problems that are challenging humankind today. As Bill Clinton figuratively said, “the World economy has come off the tracks. My goal is to bring together people to come up with collective and inclusive capitalism that gets the train back on the tracks and moving along into the future.” (http://www.clintonfoundation.org/clinton-global-initiative/commitments)

During the first evening I lucked out and got a chance to meet the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton. I offered to put solar on his house in New York! Stay tuned for details.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of The Modern Grid working group. Interestingly enough most of the subject matter in our working group was around solar power and the future of utilities in the United States. It is by no surprise that solar power accounted for 74 % of new generating capacity in Q1 2014 (http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/A-PV-Market-First-Residential-Solar-in-the-US-Exceeded-Commercial-Installations)

The issue of who will pay for the future grid became a recurring theme. Some wires are over 120 years old! (http://web.mit.edu/seyda/www/Papers/Interfaces_AwardPaper.pdf). As more and more homeowners, businesses, and Independent Power Producers choose to feed the grid with solar without effectively paying for the grid under the current business model of the utility; there will be more stranded assets (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-08-22/homegrown-green-energy-is-making-power-utilities-irrelevant)

One thing is clear, as indicated in the 1st quarter of this year and by the amount of new solar being added, it is here to stay. Solar is brighter than ever and it will be a big part of the Modern Grid.

PURE Energies Teams up with WWF

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 9:28am

Visitors to the WWF Website Can Now Use the Online Solar Marketplace to Choose a Residential Solar Power Savings Plan and Support WWF’s Efforts to Empower Americans to Reduce Their Carbon Footprint With Clean Rooftop Solar Energy

Infographic: The Solar World Cup 2014

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 11:23am

The 2014 World Cup has earned a reputation as the most solar-friendly World Cup yet, with host country Brazil going big on solar to power the stadiums where country squads compete to bring the Cup back home.

Because solar power is our passion, we are of course wondering how the competitors’ home countries stack up on their own solar commitments. Have they started a local solar boom already, through encouraging home solar and large-scale solar farms? Do they have plans in place to kickstart or continue the growth of solar within their borders? How far have they come already?

Our research on the state of solar among all the World Cup contenders shows the wide differences in solar commitments around the world. From well-established powerhouses like Germany and Japan to promising up-and-comers like Algeria and Chile, solar is taking root in every World Cup group. Other contenders are falling behind, either because they haven’t yet taken advantage of their solar potential or are scaling back support for solar installations.

The infographic below briefly explains how the contenders are doing in our own Solar World Cup. Here is how we came up with our ratings — which are of course somewhat subjective, and often based on fairly minimal information about solar in some of these countries:

  • 1-3: Minimal solar capacity, few or no commitments for action
  • 4-6: Established solar industry and capacity, some commitments for action
  • 7-10: Strong solar industry and capacity, supported by smart policy and long-term commitments for action

Africa

Algeria
Our rating: 7.5 / 10
Why: Between 2011 and 2012, Algeria’s solar capacity grew by more than 350 percent. Although the capacity is still small — 32 megawatts (MW) as of 2012 — analysts predict the country’s favorable policy and business climate will allow Algeria to reach 2,111 MW of capacity by 2017.

Cameroon
Our rating: 3 / 10
Why: Although Cameroon’s solar market is tiny, with just 50 photovoltaic (PV) installations as of 2009, the potential is big, with high solar potential and PV systems already in use to power telecommunications networks.

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
Our rating: 5.5 / 10
Why: Côte d’Ivoire is already largely powered by renewables — a study from IRENA put the country at 76 percent renewables as of 2009 — but it’s largely biomass. However, the nation’s government is working on a new energy code and is testing solar PV systems to power rural areas. Chinese solar manufacturer Hanergy also announced in early 2014 that it was considering a US$500 million investment to build a thin-film manufacturing plant in Côte d’Ivoire.

Ghana
Our rating: 4 / 10
Why: Sun-drenched Ghana has a small solar market, but the government is pushing to electrify the rural regions of the country, including off-grid energy sources like solar. The northern parts of Ghana, where access to electricity is lowest, also gets the most sun, making it a natural match for solar power.

Nigeria
Our rating: 4.5 / 10
Why: Like other West African nations, Nigeria has high solar potential — but also low current installations. The Nigerian government has set a target of 500 MW of solar by 2025, and has created a policy of feed-in tariffs for renewable energy.

 

Middle East and Asia / Pacific

Australia
Our rating: 7.5 / 10
Why: Solar power down under has seen a rapid rise — from less than 0.1 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in 2008 to 3.1 GW in 2013 — and strong adoption from residents across the country. More than 1 million rooftop solar systems have been installed to date, and there are a number of massive utility-scale solar farms across the country. However, a conservative federal government that took office in September 2013 has scaled back solar commitments, including a much-anticipated “million solar rooftops” campaign.

Iran
Our rating: 3.5 / 10
Why: Despite the fact that Iran’s solar potential is “nearly limitless,” there has been very little adoption of solar power, in part because of the nation’s oil wealth, as well as the relatively high cost of solar panels and installation in the country.

Japan
Our rating: 8.5 / 10
Why: The island nation is one of the world’s leading solar manufacturers, and ranks among the top five nations for most solar installed, with 13.5 GW installed as of 2013. The nation boasts strong feed-in tariffs and other incentives, and since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, solar adoption has skyrocketed as the country works to reduce its reliance on nuclear power. The number of installations per year grew from just over 1,700 in 2012 to almost 7,000 in 2013.

South Korea
Our rating: 6 / 10
Why: South Korea is another technological powerhouse, with a number of leading solar manufacturers based in the country. But the government has focused more on building its economy, and becoming a solar technology exporter, than on putting solar on every roof. In 2012, South Korea switched from a feed-in tariff to a renewable portfolio standard, which sets a goal of 10 percent of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2022.

 

Europe

Belgium
Our rating: 7 / 10
Why: This small nation has a huge solar footprint: As of 2011, its 803 megawatts of solar capacity was equal to 2 percent of the world’s installed solar. The market has grown since then, with the Flemish region in the north of Belgium quadrupling the number of solar installations in 2009 — from 16,000 the year before to 65,000 in 2009.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Our rating: 5.5 / 10
Why: While there is plenty of solar potential in this eastern European country, the primary renewable sources of fuel are hydropower and biomass, and solar remains too expensive for widespread use.

Croatia
Our rating: 4 / 10
Why: Similar to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia has a high solar potential but low adoption — just three grid-connected solar systems, with the rest off-grid — and the country relies on hydropower and biomass for its renewable energy needs.

England
Our rating: 7.5 / 10
Why: Despite its reputation as a gloomy, wet and cold nation, solar power has taken off in England. Between the end of 2011 and February 2012, the country had increased its solar capacity by 30 percent, from 750 MW to 1,000 MW. Add to that the government’s recent addition of a feed-in tariff for solar and a goal to get solar installed on 4 million homes by 2020, and you’ve got a recipe for a solar boom.

France
Our rating: 6.5 / 10
Why: With more land and more people than Belgium to the northeast, France has an only slightly bigger solar market, and the pace is slowing. Installations in 2013, while still impressive at 613 MW of new capacity, are 45 percent lower than in 2012, and just over one-third of the 1,700 MW installed in 2011.

Germany
Our rating: 10 / 10
Why: The poster child for “solar done right,” Germany made a dedicated effort to build a domestic solar industry, with great success. Germans measure their annual increases solar capacity in gigawatts, not megawatts, and the 3.3 GW installed in 2013 put the nation at nearly 36 GW of total capacity — far and away the world’s leader in solar power.

Italy
Our rating: 7 / 10
Why: An ambitious feed-in tariff grew Italy’s solar market rapidly between 2009, when it had 1.1 GW of capacity, and 2013, when it reached 17.9 GW of capacity. But the country recently ended its feed-in tariff once it reached its cap of US$8.8 billion invested, raising questions about future growth of Italy’s solar industry.

Netherlands
Our rating: 7.5 / 10
Why: The Netherlands have tried several methods to grow its solar capacity, starting with a feed-in tariff implemented in 2008, which didn’t take off as hoped. After the subsidy was scrapped and the country shifted to bulk purchasing, advance purchase orders from Dutch citizens allowed the country to buy solar panels in bulk for a 35 percent discount. And a solar rebate fund that offers 15 percent back on solar purchases has led to 90,000 applications and 315 MW of solar installations as of August 2013.

Portugal
Our rating: 6 / 10
Why: One of Europe’s sunniest countries, Portugal is also one of the most renewable-friendly nations: In early 2013, the country generated 70 percent of its power from renewables — but almost none of it came from solar. Despite a few large-scale solar farms, just 0.7 percent of Portugal’s energy comes from the sun.

Russia
Our rating: 3.5 / 10
Why: Despite being the largest country in the world, Russia has almost no solar power — just 5 MW as of 2012, with potential plans for expanding that by another 70 MW with a new solar farm.

Spain
Our rating: 6 / 10
Why: While Spain was once a global solar leader, the country’s solar industry has been greatly hurt by the 2008 financial collapse, as the government cut solar subsidies to rein in spending and avoid further economic damage. Nonetheless, Spain has significant solar capacity in both utility-scale solar farms and residential systems, with 5.3 GW of solar capacity as of 2013.

Switzerland
Our rating: 5.5 / 10
Why: While the mountain nation has the solar and financial resources to be a solar leader, the country is only making slow progress on going solar. Despite a national feed-in tariff, the government cut the funding allotted to the program, and is considering further cuts, leaving solar growth slow.

 

North America, Central America & Caribbean

Costa Rica:
Our rating: 4 / 10
Why: With a prime equatorial location, Costa Rica receives enough sunlight to generate 2,600 times the amount of electricity it currently uses. But solar is just a blip on the country’s radar, although changes to the National Energy Plan that reduce import fees for solar hardware and provide solar incentives may pick up the pace.

Mexico:
Our rating: 6 / 10
Why: Mexico is already the solar leader in Latin America, and has huge potential to be a global leader. The country has a strong solar manufacturing base and incredible sunlight, but as of 2012 had only 38 MW of solar generation capacity.

USA
Our rating: 8 / 10
Why: We’re not entirely biased by home-field advantage here; solar power in the U.S. has boomed over the last five years, driven equally by decreasing solar hardware prices, innovative solar financing programs, and government incentives and research. At the end of 2013, the U.S. boasted 13 GW of solar capacity, and added 4.7 GW in 2013 alone, the fastest growth the country has seen yet. That said, not everything is rosy in the States: There’s a strong and active political and industrial movement that is trying to kill solar power by levying fees and eliminating incentives for solar homeowners.

 

South America

Argentina
Our rating: 4 / 10
Why: Argentina, which is still recovering from a long economic downturn, has been extremely slow to adopt solar power, with the first of seven planned solar farms opening in 2011, which will give the country a total of 20 MW of solar capacity.

Brazil
Our rating: 5 / 10
Why: The World Cup hosts have made a big effort to go solar in advance of the Cup, as well as its hosting of the Olympic Games in 2016. Several of the nation’s new football stadiums boast huge solar arrays, but there’s very little solar beyond the pitch. The state of Minas Gerais has recently launched a renewable energy program to encourage manufacturing and installing solar, but has little solar installed today. The government has set a target of 1,400 MW of solar capacity by 2022, which will likely spur investment and installations.

Chile
Our rating: 5 / 10
Why: Though Chile boasts extremely high solar potential, it is only just getting started with solar. The country opened its first solar farm in 2012, and has approved at least 3,100 MW of large-scale solar in the high Atacama desert region as of the end of 2013.

Colombia
Our rating: 3 / 10
Why: Like its neighbors throughout Central and South America, Colombia has great potential for solar power, but little to no solar generating capacity to speak of.

Ecuador
Our rating: 3 / 10
Why: With just 0.08 MW of solar capacity as of 2011, Ecuador is only just getting started with its solar growth. The government has launched a series of initiatives to electrify rural areas with solar power.

Uruguay
Our rating: 4 / 10
Why: Just as with neighboring World Cup contenders Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay has strong solar potential but few solar installations. However, the government has passed statutes that require solar water heating for some public buildings and in 2008 launched Mesa Solar to promote solar energy across the country.

Solar panel photo at top CC-licensed by Lars Hammar on Flickr.

Testimonial-Esther Poulsen’s Story

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 8:21am
“This has been an easy process.” Read Esther Poulsen’s solar story.

Esther Poulsen signed up for in February 2010 and within three months was the proud owner of two different solar installations. We recently caught up with Esther to hear about her experience going solar, and here’s what she had to say:

“My husband and I started looking into solar in 2008. We had moved into our house back in 2007, and went through our first winter having monster electric bills that topped out at $800 a month! However, a couple of different factors prevented us from going solar back then: the energy rebates were good but not stellar. We also had a couple of big trees on our property that made shading an issue.

During the winter of 2009, a huge storm knocked down one of those trees, so Mother Nature helped eliminate one hurdle. And with energy prices rising each year, we decided to take another look.

I’m an analyst, so going into the process I had a complex spreadsheet with all the particulars listed out, from electric rates dating back 20 years to the various quotes I’d received from five different solar installers. It was amazing to me how the program was significantly lower than the going rate. In fact, I told one of the installers I’d already seen about the cost difference, and even he was intrigued!

Going solar is complex, but this has been an easy process. Our installer, Trinity Solar, was incredibly helpful, easy to deal with, and very professional. And has been great from the beginning.

We have one more piece, the internet monitoring system, getting installed this week. I’m excited to get new monitors on, and excited to know how much energy I’m saving daily. Our goal is to eventually generate enough energy in the coming months to compensate for snowy winters such as the one we just had, when our roof was snow-covered for a good chunk of time.

As for my home solar installation, I couldn’t be happier. Our first full bill [after going solar] was a total of $6.88! That was in July 2010, and I’d guess our summer electric bills before then had been somewhere in the neighborhood of $250+.

We use more electricity in the winter of course, but even in the snowier months we’ve seen substantial savings. Looking at the amount of kilowatts our system has been generating, there’s been a one third reduction in our energy costs since last year. That’s huge!

Most people might not think about it this way, but I see going solar as a great way of hedging against inflation. There’s uncertainty about nuclear power, electrical and coal prices…this is a way of protecting against that.

In terms of peoples’ reactions to our solar installation, it’s been an interesting ongoing dialogue. We live in a part of New Jersey that is heavily wooded, so it’s not necessarily the easiest place to go solar. But we live on a cove, so our backyard and roof is visible to just about everyone. When I’m out back, people will paddle up in their kayaks and canoes and ask me about our solar system!

One of the funnier stories has to do with my neighbor. Shortly after our panels were installed, he came up to me and said “…you fell for the solar panel scam!” Well I had to dispel that notion right then and there, so I went up and grabbed my most recent electricity bill (which was just over $2.00), showed it to him, and said “this is not a scam!” Once he took a look at it, he started to ask questions about how much the system cost and how much money I was saving .

I’m always happy to talk about how great the experience of going solar has been for me and am constantly updating my Facebook page with how much money and energy I’m saving. I would absolutely recommend going solar through . I tell people about your program whenever the opportunity arises and will continue to do so!”

7 Green Energy Solutions for the Home

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 10:30am

Source: Arkin Tilt Architects

Many homeowners choose to surpass traditional recycling habits by investing in technologically-advanced and environmentally-friendly abodes. In addition to being great for the environment, green energy solutions for the home can save money on energy bills and increase resale values. And in today’s real estate market, more house-hunters search for eco-friendly additions.

Adopt an ecological lifestyle or attract potential homebuyers with one or more of the following home upgrades.

1. LED Light Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs burn out frequently, giving homeowners the opportunity to make the switch to compact fluorescent (CFL) or light-emitting diodes (LED) lights. CFL and LED lighting helps cut down on the kilowatts of electricity used per hour, reducing energy bills so residents reap the monetary benefits of their environmentally-friendly choices.

2. Solar Panels

Solar roof panels are costly additions, but well worth the hassle. Throughout the last few years as availability increased, prices for solar panel installations dropped significantly. Homes eligible for solar panel systems must have adequate exposure to sunlight. To determine potential rates, use solar panel calculators and enter a home’s specifications, including location and size.

3. Water Recycling Systems

Most water used in the home can be reused for additional purposes. For instance, water from shower drains can be recycled into toilet water or sprayed in the garden in lieu of sprinklers. Greywater originates from bathroom sinks, washing machines, showers and tubs. Although previously used, greywater never comes into contact with excrement of any kind prior to being recycled, which is why it’s safe to reuse for irrigation and flushing purposes.

4. Composting Methods

More progressive upgrades like composting toilets are surprisingly popular. These commodes use natural decomposition methods to break down waste rather than chemicals. However, they can only work properly in temperatures of around 65 degrees with enough oxygen, and therefore require continuous monitoring post-installation.

5. Geothermal Systems

Annoyed at staggering air conditioning costs in the summer and increased heating fees during the chilly winter months? Geothermal systems are initially expensive, but offer tax incentives and energy bill reductions. Rather than heating or cooling homes via electrical systems, geothermal methods harness the stable underground climate to regulate home temperatures. Residents of radical weather regions might experience returns on their investments rather quickly.

6. Efficient Appliances

Source: Arkin Tilt Architects

Energy-star home appliances must meet certain requirements to earn government approval for their products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Like many other eco-friendly home upgrades, switching to Energy-star appliances saves homeowners money on their electric bills each month. Although they minimize utility costs, performance is not compromised. In fact, eco-friendly appliances are comparable to traditional washers, dryers, refrigerators and other home appliances. Energy-efficient appliances are widely recognized throughout the U.S. and accessing the dedicated soaps and detergents is no longer an issue for eco-minded citizens.

7. Rain Barrels

Forget tap water sprinklers – rain runoff from roofs or gutters can be recycled for lawn and garden care. Even better, homeowners who make use of natural rainwater don’t have to abide by city regulations for watering their lawns during dry weather or extreme heat. Imagine gazing at fresh, green grass while the neighbors are stuck with dry, brown lawns in mid-July.

Homeowners on a budget can implement just a few of these simple upgrades to better modernize their homes and stay competitive in today’s real estate market. Each of these green initiatives is also considered an investment, all of which can reduce household emissions and related energy expenditures.

Jennifer Riner currently lives in Seattle and writes about home improvement, rental management and local real estate for Zillow.

Coal is a Disease that Costs Us $60 Billion a Year

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 7:58am

*Last Modified: June 15th, 2014
I’ll say it up front: We are clearly biased toward renewable energy, particularly home solar systems. That much is obvious. Why we believe renewables are the future of energy is I hope equally obvious, but it can’t hurt to underline the reasons.

In just the recent two months, we’ve seen a series of disasters small and large that are a direct result of our continued reliance on dirty energy. Whether it’s coal ash fouling a North Carolina river or a little-known chemical used by the coal industry leaving 300,000 West Virginians without water, it’s clear that the price of dirty energy is much higher than we usually think.

Last week, clean energy visionary Jigar Shah — founder of SunEdison, founding CEO of the Carbon War Room, and more — detailed the healthcare costs of coal in a post on LinkedIn. The number is shocking: Shah writes that $60 billion of healthcare expenditures each year are directly attributable to mining, transporting and burning coal for energy.

That number is based on a 2009 report published by the National Academy of Sciences, so you can expect that number has shifted somewhat — according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, between 2009 and 2011 coal production increased by almost 20 million tons, though we’re still 90 million tons below the all-time high for coal production set in 2008.

Nonetheless, we’re paying a hefty price for coal. Shah lays out a short list of additional costs from coal production:

  • Fossil fuels cause an estimated 30,100 premature deaths each year, as well as more than 5.1 million lost workdays
  • Coal-fired power plants need lots of water for heating and cooling, with as much as 41 percent of fresh-water use going to cool coal, gas and nuclear power plants;
  • Pollution from power plants is a major cause of asthma in people of every age, with childhood asthma alone costing as much as $2 billion per year
  • In coal-mining areas of Appalachia, 60,000 cases of cancer are directly linked to “mountaintop removal” mining practices.

The good news, as Shah has it, is that regulations put in place by forceful protests by concerned Americans ensure that the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants will be too expensive to run in just six years.

But what will be the replacement for this dirty energy? The powers that represent the status quo would have our power come from slightly-less-dirty energy in the form of natural gas and oil, produced in ever more invasive, destructive and polluting ways — and ever closer to population centers nationwide.

Shah argues that there is a better way: “Replacing old coal plants with clean energy solutions would represent the largest wealth creation opportunity available in the USA — $50B per year. Even without a plan and wide support, in 2013, the solar industry created more jobs than the coal mining industry.”

And he points us to The Solutions Project, which we just reported about on SolarEnergy.net yesterday: Scientists at Stanford have begun an ambitious project to map out a path to 100 percent renewable energy for each and every state in the U.S.

The project has already unveiled a roadmap for California’s clean energy future, as well as for Washington State and New York, and it will be interesting to see what the maps look like for coal country and other areas that are more heavily invested in fossil fuels.

In the meantime, check out Jigar Shah’s entire post and learn how you can take action to get us off dirty coal at The Solutions Project website. And while you’re at it, go solar if you haven’t already!

Matthew Wheeland is the editor of SolarEnergy.net, a sister publication to One Block Off the Grid and .

Coal miners photo CC-licensed by the United Nations.

Infographic: What is the Summer Solstice All About?

Sat, 06/21/2014 - 5:00am

Today, June 21, is the Summer Solstice — the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere — and for sun- and solar-lovers like ourselves, it’s a cause to celebrate. The solar industry in North America is pulling out all the stops for this solstice, with a wide-ranging Put Solar On It campaign to encourage everyone to go solar. As much as we’re 100 percent behind going solar, we realized that not only did we not know all that much about the solstice itself, we also wanted to know more about how people around the world observe the solstice (in addition to putting solar panels on something, hopefully). So we put together for our edification and your enjoyment, the infographic below: The Summer Solstice. What does it mean, how people celebrate it, and does the longest day of the year make people happier?

For Summer Solstice, the World Wants You to ‘Put Solar On It’

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 12:00am

The longest day of the year, Saturday’s Summer Solstice also marks a national day of action for Mosaic’s ongoing Put Solar On It campaign. Opportunities and activities abound, and there’s more where those are coming from.

That’s because every day is one of action for the accelerating solar industry, which is going mainstream on Wall Street and Main Street with light speed. To date, Mosaic has plugged smart investors into solar projects to the tune of millions of dollars raised and kilowatts generated. But its newly launched organizing and funding platform Mosaic Places — which is being championed during the Day of Action by everyone from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the National Wildlife Foundation to Green for All and REVERB — is but one of many ways citizens, homeowners and more can get directly involved in the Put Solar On It awareness blitz. Here’s a handy roundup:

  • Social media campaigns are primed for takeoff, starting at Twitter with the #PutSolarOnIt hashtag. Climate Reality’s Put Solar On It splash page also directs interested parties and their funding toward Mosaic Spaces, and offers readers places to email the President, request solar presentations and share photos on Twitter. Solar Energy Industries Association is thinking along the same lines on Facebook with its viral I Like Solar campaign, which allows users to solarize their profiles to accelerate awareness. Expect much more internet activism during the national day of action from Vote Solar, The Solutions Project, the League of Conservation Voters, 350.org, Alliance for Climate Education and more.
  • Old-school outreach is also happening outside of the internet, for those who like to press the flesh. The World Wildlife Foundation will be evangelizing the Put Solar On It campaign at a booth during Chicago’s Green Music Festival. Organizing For America chapters nationwide will also be staging meetups, teach-ins and more to spread the good word, as will Environment America, whose national chapters will stage outreach events as well as social media marketing. Interfaith Power & Light will be evangelizing solar to its various congregations, as well as creating a Put Solar On It photo album on Facebook.
  • Sierra Club is launching events across the country, celebrating photovoltaic installations on hospital, churches and offices in Honolulu and Tennessee. It’s also hosting a picnic in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the Summer Solstice, as well as the Community Renewables Energy Act, which opened solar access to local tenants and renters.
  • The Solar Foundation is hosting a Summer Solstice party in Washington D.C. as well. It’s a yellow-carpet event that includes a speech from Mosaic’s Billy Parish, the Solar Foundation Awards, refreshments, activities and much more. Can’t make it? Start your own house party and get the community involved. The cleantech future will thank you.

That’s the rundown of what’s happening tomorrow for solar. What will you do to put solar on it?

Testimonial – John Martin’s Story

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 1:17pm
“Going solar has been everything I hoped for and more.” Read John Martin’s solar story.

John Martin had been thinking about going solar since 1970, but didn’t find it economically viable until recently. He finally installed panels in May 2010, and hasn’t looked back since. Here’s what he had to say about his decision to go solar and experience with :

“The group pricing provided by was the clincher. You helped save me money by securing a great price with a much smaller out-of-pocket expense.

The communication factor was also good — everyone was very articulate and knew their subject. This helped instill a sense of confidence that I was dealing with a very good organization. The first person I spoke with made a very clear and strong case why I should proceed with . I was very impressed with him, and based on that phone conversation I went from being a skeptic to a fan.

Going solar has been everything I hoped for and more. I had never heard of either or the selected installer, The Solar Center, but every step of the way I felt great. My job was basically just showing up, which is exactly the way I like it! I just had to watch the process…very little was asked of me.

And my installer was brilliant. Every time someone came to the house, I was very impressed. Everything they promised happened the way they said it would.

Going solar, well it’s been beautiful — way beyond worth it. Not just because of savings, but because knowing overall, I’m being more environmentally responsible.

In terms of savings, as you know, the weather this winter was more acclimate than usual; I’d go back and forth from having a snow covered rooftop to a clear one. Still, my normal electric bills dropped by 30% in the dead of winter.

Yesterday, I produced 52kw of energy because the sun was shining and I didn’t have the air conditioning on. It’s brilliant. I’m really looking forward to knocking it out of the park this month and seeing how much energy I produce outright with the perfect combination of more light and not running my AC or heater because of the milder weather.

Another benefit, which I had not counted on…the solar panels themselves also present tremendous insulation value. I have an office in the loft of my house, and in the summer months, I have to have a fan running up there in addition to blasting the AC. Since going solar, I haven’t had to run the fan once; I also think the panels helped keep the house warmer this past winter.

I haven’t begun to propagandize about going solar yet, but I know that will change within the next couple months when I’ll be producing large amounts of energy and not using very much in return.

Although I may be the only person in River Vale who has gone solar, neighbors have asked about it. And people keep complementing me on taking such a giant leap. What I have to say about that is yes, going solar is a commitment. But once you commit to doing it, every step along the way is worth it.”

Testimonial – Sue Okerson’s Story

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 12:21pm
“We just got our taxes done and wow…we are getting a huge refund due to installing solar panels!” Read Sue Okerson’s solar story.

Snow-filled winters didn’t stop Jim and Sue Okerson from installing solar panels on their Denver home back in March 2010. One year later, Sue is still thrilled about the decision and talks about solar “any chance she gets.” Here’s what she had to say…

I couldn’t be happier with my experience going solar. When we installed our panels back in 2010, our first electric bill came out to $9. One year later, we’re still saving money — even in the dead of winter!

Our biggest problem when starting this journey was not truly understanding the cost. When we first considered going solar, my husband Jim was really hesitant. His main worry was price. You hear how expensive solar installations are — would it be worth it? Was the cost benefit advantage really there?

Once we got to meet the folks from , that all changed. When they explained breakdown of costs, how rebates would factor in, and the financing options available, Jim and I were both sold. What’s more, now my husband is our solar system’s biggest fan, telling his family in New Jersey that they’ve got to go solar!

Our neighbors’ reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. For example, an older couple across the street have what must be one of the first solar installations to have ever come on the market. It’s from the 70s, and has been been offline for years. But now that we’ve gone solar and they’ve seen how happy we are with the results, they say they’re going to have to get back on the solar grid again.

Living in snow has not been a problem whatsoever. Our latest electricity bill (for March 2011) was $12.00! On top of that, we just got our taxes done and wow…we are getting a HUGE refund due to installing solar panels!  All in all, this has been an amazing experience.

Time for the World to Go Football-Crazy During the Solar World Cup

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 12:29pm

Today is kickoff for the World Cup 2014, the start of 31 days of madness as the world’s most popular sport has its biggest event of the past four years.

We’re working on a couple of stories about solar and the World Cup that we’ll run over the course of the next month, but in honor of kickoff of this world-spanning event, below is a short look at how FIFA is working to make this event more environmentally friendly.

Before we start, let’s put the caveat out there that any event that requires hundreds of thousands of travelers to drive, fly or float thousands of miles is going to have an enormous carbon footprint. Not to mention even the waste generated by the event….

Putting that aside as much as we can, let’s talk about the environmental — and particularly the solar — upside to the World Cup.

Brazil Hosts The Most Solar World Cup Yet

While Brazil as a whole is not yet a solar powerhouse, a new report from Greentech Media lists the country as perhaps the most promising solar market in Latin America. GTM’s Latin America PV Playbook predicts that 2014 will double Brazil’s solar capacity — from 38.6 megawatts in 2013 to 72.6 MW this year.

A staggeringly huge chunk of that new generation is coming from solar-powered football stadiums. The British NGO Practical Action has put out a short report detailing just how much solar energy the World Cup can generate: 5.4 MW across four stadiums.

As Practical Action puts it, the 2014 World Cup will generate more solar energy than any previous World Cup, as well as more solar energy than many of the countries competing in the World Cup.

The chart below, from Practical Action’s double-duty World Cup bracket and energy poverty fact sheet [PDF], spells out the discrepancy between what’s happening in Brazil compared to the energy situation in many of the players’ home countries. (Click image for a larger version.)

 

 

 

Beyond the solar power running much of the matches during the World Cup, FIFA is working with the Brazilian government to try to reduce impacts wherever possible. Two weeks ago, the Brazilian Environment Minister, Izabella Teixeira, said that the World Cup would open “having offset 100 percent of its direct emissions.”

Other projects underway include earning LEED certification as green buildings for those solar-powered stadiums as well as “train[ing] garbage collectors on recycling and set up stalls to sell locally produced organic food in host cities,” according to a report from Agence France-Presse.

One way FIFA is helping to reduce the Cup’s footprint is through encouraging corporate sponsors to help shoulder the bill. And one of the firms that has stepped up is Yingli Green Energy, the China-based solar panel manufacturer (as well as the provider of much of the solar panels for those solar stadiums). In addition to providing those systems, Yingli is pledging to be carbon neutral for all its activities at the World Cup, offsetting the emissions of all its events, travel and lodging by investing in clean energy projects in Brazil.

It’s great that solar power is getting such a spotlight during the World Cup, but all of these efforts are a mere drop in the bucket for the overall impacts — immediate and long-term — of the event in Brazil. So we plan to spend the next month enjoying the spectacle and excitement, but also committing to push for real energy change, at home and around the world. (Go solar today!)