21 Sep

Solar Panels becoming a standard option on new home builds

It’s starting to get baked into new development moving forward. Interesting:

“Six of the 10 largest U.S. homebuilders say they now include solar panels in new construction, and consumer demand for them is expected to soar 56 percent nationwide this year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. 

‘In the next six months, homebuilders in California and the expensive-energy states will be going solar as a standard and just incorporating it into the cost of the house like any other feature,’ Jim Petersen, CEO of solar contractor PetersenDean Inc., told Bloomberg. 

Installing solar panels during the home-construction phase is about 20 percent cheaper than doing so after the house is built. Solar panels can cost between $10,000 to $20,000, but they can drastically reduce electricity bills. “

(Via Solar Panels Becoming Standard for New Homes | Realtor Magazine.)

16 Sep

50% Reduction In Cost Of Renewable Energy Since 2008

It has fallen 50% in four years. I really push people to encourage the impact of 1/2 costs by 2016:

“Renewable energy becoming more cost-competitive with fossil fuels isn’t news – as technology improves and more clean power generation comes online, electricity without emissions gets cheaper. But one new analysis reveals just how shockingly cheap it’s gotten.

The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from wind and solar sources in America has fallen by more than 50% over the past four years, according to Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis 7.0, recently released by global financial advisor and asset manager firm Lazard Freres & Co.”

(Via Peak Energy: 50% Reduction In Cost Of Renewable Energy Since 2008.)

Keep in mind, renewables are very close to parity levels. Part of the reason people are noticing that feed in tariffs and subsidies to renewables cost a lot is because as they get close to parity, it becomes wildly profitable to build, invest, and start getting into the game of switching over and more people are doing it. Suddenly what’s been a bone tossed to hippie constituents that was a small line item explodes. Right now renewables don’t cost 2X standard fuel, they’re more like 30-50%, with the two big hurdles being storage and upfront capital needed (a cheap motor, and then you can make payments on gas in installments by paying as you go, wind or solar needs the big up front cost).

So, what happens in 2-3 years as it becomes seriously obviously cheaper? To the point where even dinosaur politicians who wave anti-green credentials as quick identity politics are suddenly finding themselves on the losing side of a very rapidly changing landscape?

A whole lot of interesting churn…

15 Sep

Windstream solar/wind hybrid mills looking to get into Jamaica

An interesting vertical wind turbine and solar power unit that’s intriguing gets coverage in the Jamaica Gleaner due to some support and interest it is getting in Jamaica.

It seems to be $3,000 a unit:

“‘One of the cries from Jamaicans is the need for alternatives, and the SolarMill goes and takes the solar installation one step further, because when the sun is not out the wind is still blowing. So it really gives you more power for your dollar,’ she asserted.

Tomblin said this product was a distinct solution for the market and customers were already asking for it.

President of WindStream Technologies, Daniel Bates, said the SolarMill would provide a viable option to complement energy needs in the country, adding that it could be utilised by residential and commercial customers.”

(Via JPS goes solar – Energy provider to market hybrid power generators – Lead Stories – Jamaica Gleaner – Saturday | September 14, 2013.)

I perused the PDF documents pretty quickly. It looks like you’d need 3-4 of these to cover a household, but the wind/solar combo is intriguing in that it allows you to continue making power at night.

Is it cost effective, though, compared to just going all solar and tying into the grid? I can’t quite see from the info provided. But for a non-grid situation, or rural Jamaica with low-power needs and varying power availability (and given high island Caribbean power costs due to most power being made with imported fuel), coupled with a payment plan, items like this could gain some traction. I’d still want to see more info.

Incidentally, Windstream’s site is everything I hate about many kit-oriented alternative energy sellers. It does everything it can to avoid telling you the cost. In this day and age, people should be able to get on, see what it costs, click, and buy. End of story. If you’re honestly invested in, as the site claims, ECOnomical Energy (heh), then stop being dodgy on your costs. If SpaceX can be upfront about space launch costs, you can be about power generators.

Unless you’re charging some customers more than others who want flagship ‘look at us, we’re ECOnscious!’ like the touted embassies on their page.

13 Aug

Solar install prices still getting lower


“the decline appears to be continuing apace this year, according to the researchers: ‘Within the first six months of 2013, PV system prices in California fell by an additional 10 to 15 percent, and the report suggests that PV system price reductions in 2013 are on pace to match or exceed those seen in recent years.’

Utility-scale systems are also becoming cheaper. ‘Utility-scale systems installed in 2012 registered even lower prices, with prices for systems larger than 10,000 kW generally ranging from $2.50/W to $4.00/W,’ the researchers said.”

(Via Solar Cost Plunge Shows No Signs Of Abating | EarthTechling.)

They’re still double the cost of European solar installs.

Module prices appeared to be stabilizing in 2013, but the report also commented that experience from other countries suggests the price declines can and will continue. The median installed price of small residential PV systems last year (without tax) was $2.6 in Germany (fully half the price in the U.S.), $3.1 in Australia, and $3.1 per watt in Italy.

Many of these additional gains will come about as a result of reductions in soft costs, as permitting becomes streamlined, and companies develop more efficient customer acquisition and financing tools.

Meanwhile, Deutsche bank’s most recent report – released this month – suggests that within 18 months, 75% of the world’s market will be sustainable for solar (no subsidies needed) as costs continue to fall. The Bank estimates levelized costs of solar at 10-20 cents per kilowatt-hour, and noted that power purchase agreements in the U.S. were being signed in the range of 9 cents. So while we have seen a rapid increase in the amount of solar installed to date, it appears as if this is just the beginning.

(Via Lawrence Berkeley National Labs: Solar Costs Continue To Fall – Forbes.)

Clean Technica’s very interesting read about solar prices here, in some places in Europe solar install costs are getting as low as $1.20/watt without subsidies:

“Using 20-year, 5% financing, the EIA’s 1c/kWh projection for fixed O&M (no subsidies), and the US solar insolation map above, we get these numbers:

$1.20/W =

7.3¢ per kWh in Zone 5 (4.2 solar hours, 17.5% capacity — Northeast/Midwest)
5.8¢ per kWh in Zone 2 (5.5 solar hours, 23% capacity — Southwest)
$1.50/W =

8.3¢ per kWh in Zone 5
7¢ per kWh in Zone 2
$2.00/W =

11.4¢ per kWh in Zone 5
9.9¢ per kWh in Zone 2

To put that into better perspective, the average price of electricity in the US was 11.8¢ per kWh in May, according to the EIA. (And, assuming 3% inflation, the 20-year average cost of electricity would be 16¢ per kWh.)”

(Via Solar Panels Prices In Europe, Australia, US, India.)

11 Aug

Wind is cheap


“Anyone who tells you wind power is expensive is bad-shit crazy. Wind power is the cheapest option for new electricity generation in many if not most places in the world, including much of the US. That would indeed help to explain why the US installed more wind power capacity than power capacity from any other source in 2012, 42% (or 43%?) of all new power capacity in the country.

In announcing a recent report released by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Berkeley Lab actually noted that, ‘The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged $40/MWh for projects negotiating contracts 2011 and 2012, spurring demand for wind energy.’

That’s $0.04 per kWh. Even if you add in the $0.022 Production Tax Credit (PTC), that’s $0.062 per kWh.”

(Via US Wind Power Prices Down To $0.04 Per kWh | CleanTechnica.)

For comparison, general electricity power in the US is anywhere from 6.82 cents to 33 cents depending on location, buy-in agreements, etc, according to this chart by the Energy Information Administration. So even unsubsidized wind seems pretty cheap, if that info from that Berkely Lab report is correct.

Certainly it’s not the cheapest, but that shouldn’t be the only calculation. Realizing how low it actually is, it’s no surprise that a) with a subsidy of 2 cents it’s taking off as far as new energy installations and b) really should be encouraged more.

10 Aug

Wind farms paid to be idle: we need better storage

In a nutshell, this is why we need to throw more money at battery technologies.

“Wind farms are being given around £30million a year in compensation to switch off or slow down their turbines because nearly half the electricity they make is not needed.”

(Via Wind farms paid £30 million a year to stand idle because the grid can’t cope with all the energy they produce | Mail Online.)

31 Jul

Solar will be a leapfrog technology

Peru planning on using solar to get the 34% of it’s population not connected to the grid access to electricity. Similar to the rural electrical project the US had, in it’s vision, I think.

This is one of the reasons I think developing world countries will leapfrog. Without massive investments in existing electrification infrastructure, solar makes more sense. Distributed, without a huge buildup. Cellphones had the same situation.

“When completed, ‘The National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program’ and other programs will allow 95 percent of Peru’s population access to electricity. While that’s not everyone, it’s a pretty high percentage of the population and it’s a rapid ramp up. Right now, about 66 percent of the country’s population has access to electricity in the mountain-rich country. “

(Via Peru Pursues Solar for the Masses.)

31 Jul

Europe bringing massive battery online to help regulate energy

Interesting. Energy storage is the big question mark for a green grid, seeing big attempts to solve for X here is a good thing:

“Europe’s largest battery is to undergo testing in the UK, where it will be used to store and regulate energy generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar power, The Guardian reports. The lithium manganese battery, developed by S&C Electric Europe, Samsung SDI and Younicos, will be capable of storing up to 10 MWh of energy.”

(Via Europe’s “biggest battery” to regulate UK renewable energy.)

25 Jul

Arctic methane belch is expensive… more expensive than going green

Look, the cost of mucking about and waiting is going to be too expensive. Already billions are being spent to clean up after increasing natural disasters. Opponents of alternative energy claim it’s too expensive.

What’s too expensive is this:

“A sudden methane burp in the Arctic could set the world back a colossal $60 trillion.

Billions of tonnes of the greenhouse gas methane are trapped just below the surface of the East Siberian Arctic shelf. Melting means the area is poised to deliver a giant gaseous belch at any moment  – one that could bring global warming forward 35 years and cost the equivalent of almost a year’s global GDP.

These are the conclusions of the first systematic analysis of the economic cost of Arctic melting, which delivers a sobering antidote to other, more upbeat assessments that say melting in this area would improve access to minerals on the ocean bed, increase fishing and create ice-free shipping lanes.”

(Via Huge methane belch in Arctic could cost $60 trillion – environment – 24 July 2013 – New Scientist.)

25 Jul

City Of Palo Alto to switch to 100% renewable energy


“On Monday in Palo Alto, the Northern California city’s council members voted in favor of switching to 100% renewable energy sources, effective almost immediately. The city already owns all of its own utilities, making it significantly easier to put the new plan into action.

The fact that Palo Alto already gets 50% of its electricity from hydro-electric sources is another reason why it will be a breeze to achieve this goal. Over time, even a percentage of that will come from solar, wind, and renewable gas from landfills.”

(Via City Of Palo Alto Making Immediate Switch To 100% Renewable Energy.)

Even more interesting is that they’re forecasting it’ll only cost each citizen a few bucks more a year.