Exciting news for solar enthusiasts! A new rebate program rolled out for the California's affordable housing this week with solar incentives totaling up to $25 million. Utility Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon said he supports the decision to implement the low income solar water heating incentive program because solar water heaters are cost effective, and "the fuel they use – sunshine – is free. This allows us to achieve our goals of delivering cost effective energy savings to low income customers." CPUC President Michael R. Peevey stated that the program of increased incentives "will help ease the financial burden on low income customers." With the program's official launch today, solar water heating incentives for affordable housing will be higher than they've ever been. Qualifying multifamily homes will be eligible for 150% of the top-tier CSI incentive levels for solar thermal, with up to $500,000 available per property.
Top Ten Things Making Sacramento a Clean Energy City
Today, Sacramento is known for its agriculture, commercial business, and its growing culture, including food, music, and art. The city is also known for the large number of clean technology highlights, including energy efficiency and renewable energy. Read ten of the biggest highlights for Sacramento, California- making it a clean energy city.
Solar is a growth industry in California, and now notably Sacramento. Blogger, Shawn Lesser, comments on the top quality solar companies we have in the region, recognizing Aztec Solar as 1 of the best! "Another company is Aztec Solar Inc. which provides solar energy solutions as well for residential and commercial clients. Aztec offers some of the best solar technologies and products on the market, including solar electric, solar pool heating, and solar water heating."
Energy Commission awards, the number of certified LEED buildings (Leadership in Energy and Design) and Sustainable Sacramento are some other factors making Sacramento a Clean Energy City. Let’s all do our part to support this local economy and do what’s best today and tomorrow for our community. Read more
The City of Sacramento was named the fasting growing solar city in the state. This statement issued from a report released today by the Environment California Research & Policy Center also showed that solar rooftop installations tripled in Sacramento over the last 3 years. "No other big city in the state has seen this kind of growth during the past two years," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, director of clean energy programs at Environment California, an environmental advocacy group.
This is great news coming at such a needed time for the city bountiful in sunshine. Shifting to more renewable energy is overall growth for Sacramento and its surrounding neighborhoods; it’s also right in-line with Sacramento’s general plan. President of Aztec Solar, Ed Murray, a devoted advocate for solar for over 30 years is not surprised by the report. He believes that Sacramento is the perfect solar city; with rising utility costs, committed citizens and financial rebates, it's the best time to start saving with solar energy.
It is important that solar saves us money, but as petroleum becomes more difficult to extract and therefore more expensive, natural gas has become a cheap solution to our depleting resources and national security, however natural gas is not without it's problems. Off-setting your natural gas consumption is no small contribution to our local community. A smart 5,000 investment can meet 80% of your hot water heating needs and minimize your dependence on natural gas. Read about Fracking coming to Sacramento. Check out more about the benefits of Solar Water Heating
Video of Fracking
Solar Industry Magazine, a renowned trade publication interviewed Aztec Solar's Ed Murray and Don Rodes regarding solar water heating technology trends. According to President Ed Murray “We try to create a [solar water heating] installation that needs less service, so we pick the right system for the right application.” Solar Industry knows Aztec Solar as experts of solar water heating as well established solar advocates and installers for 30 years. They know the best technology in the market. Open to page 40 to read the article
In following the trends of solar growth over the past 30 years it shows that the ebbs and flows of solar developments and implementation is closely matched to our peaks and valleys of the energy crises; where research and development for distributed generation was in response to the deregulation of utility rates and the adoption of solar was solely linked to the availability of incentives and tax credits. The US solar industry, like most other technology industries, is about educating the public to reach the penetration levels experienced in Europe and parts of Asia; however in the US, solar remains a complex formula of Power-grid integration and capital investments. Around the globe solar has its own unique story to tell, but strangely from village to city the same barriers are evident.
The advancements and adoption of technology has sustained humans throughout our history and yet today, my brief research found that all the renewables combined only roughly equates to less than 3% of the US energy profile. America is not alone; this human resistance to charter the unconventional solar revolution can be observed around the world. In parts of Africa, Sri Lanka and India where solar can truly mean the difference between light and dark, distribution of solar products is road-blocked by conventional “wisdom” that the current energy source is cheaper and more reliable, regardless of the inevitable increases in fuel.
To most people, even solar advocates, the message that solar will pay for itself in the long run remains questionable. Even with energy prices continuing to increase and solar becoming cost competitive with conventional energy (not calculating the environmental toll of coal and nuclear) people still assume that solar is expensive. Today solar lanterns, available even in remote locations, can now be purchased for less than traditional kerosene lights, however in rural villages the cycle of expensive, dirty energy continues.
Unfortunately, the road-blocks are the same in America and I wonder why the shift from conventional to renewable is so challenging for a species whose exponential population growth is evidence of our current evolutionary success. Solar is a part of this evolutionary progression as the pace of conventional energy depletion increases. Solar power may seem like an investment, but in affect it could be installed in your home for a small monthly increase. According to Sierra Club’s “Solar’s Moment in the Sun” with available leasing and financing options solar will add as little as $30 to your monthly bill. Essentially skipping a dinner out 1 time a month could afford you pollution-free electricity for its lifetime.
When the words “photovoltaic” or “solar energy” are brought up, what’s the first thing that people think of? Not surprisingly, the answer is the sun. This is unsurprising, as anything solar-related needs sunlight to produce energy. The sun may be our greatest asset in solar energy, but it’s also the biggest obstacle as well, because there is only sunlight for half the day, and sometimes an overcast or stormy day prevents any solar energy from being produced.
Now, imagine solar panels that aren't reliant on the sun for power. The idea might sound farfetched, but that’s exactly what researchers at MIT have accomplished: sun-free photovoltaics. This new photovoltaic energy-conversion system can be powered solely by heat, generating electricity with no sunlight at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but this concept is by no means new. More than half a century ago, researchers developed thermophotovoltaics (TPV), which couple a photovoltaic (PV) cell with any source of heat. While the idea was groundbreaking, the idea was impractical at the time due to insufficient technology.
However, with recent advances in solar technology, researchers at MIT have developed a novel way of engineering to allow for sun-free energy. Essentially, the surface of a material is specially modified so it converts heat into precisely tuned wavelengths of light, which are selected to match the wavelengths that photovoltaic cells can best convert to electricity, in order to maximize efficiency. What really makes this system effective is the surface of the material, which has billions of nanoscale pits etched on its surface, and when the material absorbs heat, the pitted surface radiates energy primarily at these carefully chosen wavelengths.
Researchers at MIT are not yet satisfied, and they have their sights set on making sun-free photovoltaics viable in everyday life. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 92 percent of all the energy we use involves converting heat into mechanical energy, and then often into electricity. One such example is using fuel to boil water to turn a turbine, which is attached to a generator. However, these mechanical systems have relatively low efficiency, and can't be scaled down to the small sizes needed for devices such as sensors, smartphones, or medical monitors.
"Being able to convert heat from various sources into electricity without moving parts would bring huge benefits, especially if we could do it efficiently, relatively inexpensively and on a small scale," says Ivan Celanovic, a research engineer involved in MIT’s ongoing quest for efficient solar energy.
Even despite this hurdle, the future of solar energy is as bright as ever. The possibilities of photovoltaics that do not rely on the sun are endless. No longer will geography and location limit the scope of the solar frontier. Instead, with the potential to succeed in all areas of the world, sun-free photovoltaics are the future of solar energy, and it will be the leading component in solar energy within the next decade.
While most pundits in the solar industry agree that solar is the future, questions remain on how they can get there. In California, at least, decisive action is being taken at the state level, as Governor Jerry Brown has charged solar leaders with finding a way to install 12,000 megawatts of distributed solar by 2020. While 12,000 megawatts of distributed solar would allow California to become the leader in distributed solar power, ahead of solar titans such as Germany and China, the 12,000 megawatts are only a part of a 20,000 megawatt solar capacity goal Brown has set for the coming decade.
Brown firmly believes in the viability of a solar tomorrow, as he told solar leaders, “Find the path through the thicket, on the other side, we will have our solar future.” Furthermore, during a conference at UCLA on the sector’s opportunities and challenges, Brown noted that distributed solar is “resilient and secure because it is so distributed.” Brown also noted that energy is a huge part of modern economy, but recognized that there were still issues that need to be addressed, such as technical, financial, regulatory, and coordination problems.
A larger issue, perhaps, is simply the fact that people still don’t know that rooftop solar is viable and a legitimate energy solution, as well as that the solar industry provides local jobs in every community. While panel manufacturing can be outsourced, delivery of the panels cannot be outsourced. In fact, according to solar leaders, two to three times more jobs are actually created in delivery than in manufacturing.
In addition, there remain politicians in Washington who don’t see solar technology as viable. While action has been taken at the state level, the same cannot be at the federal level. Brown acknowledges that the 2008-09 stimulus programs were the largest renewable energy investment programs America has ever had, but remains unsatisfied with the inaction. Gov. Brown remarks that “It’s not enough just to not put up hurdles. … What about getting stuff done?”
While Governor Brown has always been an ardent supporter of solar energy, he realizes all of the challenges holding distributed solar back need to be resolved sooner than later. Brown stressed the need to streamline regulatory hurdles in California’s 58 counties and 400+ cities. "The system has evolved tens of thousands of laws, hundreds of thousands of regulations. You have to push,” he said, because “if we let the process unfold, we’re not going to get to the goal.” Brown believes that strong leadership is vital for success, as he says, “Somebody has to think long term, that somebody has to have authority, and they have to exercise it.”
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.