Although solar interest has grown rapidly within the last several years, the movement is still in infancy, and as a result, costs are invariably high and it takes years to recoup the initial investment. Now, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced an ambitious plan that would lower installed solar costs by 75%, bringing installing utility-scale solar at $1 per watt by 2020 and drop solar power down to 6 cent per kilowatt-hour. If achieved, $1 per watt would represent a giant step towards commercial viability of solar energy, not to mention the likely acceleration of solar installation in residential areas. The plan, known as SunShot, is a play off President Kennedy’s 1961 pledge to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Amidst critics, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has devised a $27 million funding program, to be spread among nine companies. While the goal seems farfetched, some solar industry executives, such as Frank van Mierlo, CEO of Sunshot grant recipient 1366 Technologies, believe they’re well-positioned to succeed. Says van Mierlo, “We’ll get there. Look at the historical cost curve of solar. The production cost comes down 10 percent every year.” Even with cautious optimism, there is a lot of work to be done between now and 2020 if solar industries are to reach the goal of $1 per watt. As it stands now, the solar industry is a ways away from reaching the $1 per watt goal. In order to fulfill the DOE’s vision, the solar industry will have to streamline in a big way. Considerable module efficiency gains will have to be made, and costs for installation, operations, and maintenance and all other system components will have to be slashed dramatically. Most companies that received Sunshot grants are already exploring new possibilities of streamlining the solar process and reduce costs. Among these companies are PPG Industries, whose target is to develop better thin-film efficiency of their panels as well as increase the durability and sustainability of their products. Another grant recipient, 3M, is working to reduce the thin-film installation cost, as well as increase the versatility of their panels for all weather purposes. The solar energy industry has undergone dramatic improvements within the last decade. Now, the U.S. Department of Energy is optimistic that the field will take another big leap by 2020. For Kennedy and the Space Program, the Moon was the limit. For the solar industry, only the Sun stands in their way.
Realizing all of the benefits of solar energy, it comes as no surprise that more and more people are making the switch. According to the most recent issue of the “Monthly Energy Review,” solar-generated electricity increased by 104.8% in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the first quarter of 2010, the highest increase of any renewable energy source. This dramatic increase has not gone unnoticed, as Intersolar North America 2011, the premier solar industry exhibition and conference in North America, experienced its most successful event ever this past July in San Francisco. With a strong focus on technological advancements and national policy, over 20,000 visitors and 839 exhibiting solar companies from around the world attended the four-day event. Presenters from Bosch Solar Energy, Q-Cells, REC, AEE Solar and CALSEIA partook in panel discussions and engaged in open discussions, promoting a continued sense of growth and learning throughout the event. Despite steps of progress for the solar movement, the amount of homes in the U.S. upgraded with solar systems is about 130,000, or only 0.2% of the total residences in the U.S. But there is hope yet, as more and more people are beginning to recognize the potential savings and the beneficiary ecological effects of owning a solar system. As increasingly more commercial businesses and residential households turn to solar energy, it is evidently clear that the solar movement is on the rise, especially in states receiving abundant sunlight, such as California. Recently, the North American Development Bank (NADB) signed a $77.4m loan agreement for the construction of a 23MW solar energy generation plant in Imperial Valley within California. The project will generate enough energy for approximately 14,000 homes, and is slated to cut carbon dioxide production by nearly one million metric tons over the next 40 years. Solar neighborhoods, an idea that seemed farfetched not too long ago, are slowly becoming more popular in the U.S., particularly in states such as California, Arizona, and New Mexico. With its plentiful sunlight, California is doing its part in paving the way for the U.S. towards a brighter future.
BBQs, kite flying, strolls on the beach, and swimming – summer never seems long enough. However, did you know that you could make some of summer’s sweetness last longer by extending your swimming season by 90 days with solar water heating? It’s true. When our very own Ed Murray and Heather Dowling was featured on Sacramento & Co. this Wednesday morning, host Guy Farris announced that “the folks with Aztec Solar could help you enjoy your pool longer, reduce your energy bill, and provide an opportunity to live a more earth friendly sustainable lifestyle.” When asked why solar water heating, Ed Murray responded with, “We don’t use gas for electricity so after awhile it’s no cost to you. It’s like burning money if you use a gas heater to heat a pool.” Heather Dowling proudly added that, “We get really good feedback from the customers… and that brings us satisfaction… We feel comfortable with the products that we provide.” Longer swimming seasons at no costs and great customer satisfaction – why not solar water heating? And what better time than now because Aztec Solar is offering a free solar panel with the purchase of five panels through May 31st.
Guy Farris shared his passion for green living with Aztec Solar. http://sacandco.net/story.aspx?storyid=139230&catid=341
Sac & Co. hosts Guy and Melissa have invited Aztec Solar to join them in a conversation about the benefits of Solar for homeowners. Don't miss us on Channel 10 news at 9am this Wednesday. http://www.news10.net/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=138626
The stylish Sacramento Pizza Spot, The Hot Italian, serves up the most unique and yummy pizzas in the region, and heat their water in an innovative way as well, with solar! According to Hot Italian owner Andrea Lepore ” Our utility bills are very low, especially for a space that is basically 6,000 sq ft.” http://www.fastcasual.com/article/181402/Hot-Italian-serves-up-high-style-sustainability
Solar expert and Aztec Solar president, Ed Murray, was called upon for his experience as a solar installation company for 30 years, to address the growing concerns of permit approvals for home owners going solar. Although this may seem like a concern, Aztec Solar doesn’t let that stop them from getting the job done promptly, that’s what experience and longevity in the industry assures you.
For more on the story: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/05/01/3590755/permit-process-clouds-solar-energy.html
If rising utility costs is not inspiring you to call upon the services of your local solar company, then perhaps the new findings about your home values may. The study by Lawrence Berkeley’s National Laboratory suggests the value increase of an installed PV system is estimated at a premium of $17,000, a significant chunk of change in current home sales. This study focuses on PV, but if the trends continue we can predict that similar increases will occur for other types of home solar, such as solar pool heating and solar water heating systems.
If you would like to read more please go to: http://summitcountyvoice.com/2011/04/24/photovoltaic-systems-add-to-home-resale-values/
There are many ways to celebrate the coming of Spring and remembering our Earth in bloom with Earth Day. Participating in the numerous events happening throughout the greater Sacramento Area is one option- see a brief list below. Another is making a new pledge- think of it as a mid-year resolution- adding a new practice into your daily living that saves a tree, helps the air, lightens your footprint, or betters your community.
Aztec Solar has committed to lowering our electric demand with a simple act. Killing the dead loads. Yes, all those little plugged in items are still drawing juice and add up in the overall load demand in a business operation. We have committed to unplugging or switching off paper shredders, computer monitors, using energy saving modes after hours and turning off lights during breaks and lunch hour. Its simple, but practical and something that will remain with us permanently.
If you are unsure what would work for you, check out a film at the Do Something REEL film festival in Sacramento – its happening tonight…
The Earth is stronger than us and it will rejuvenate the human impact if we give it a break and allow time for healing.
Earth Day Celebrations
Do Something REEL film festival