AEP files plan saying only solar and wind from now on for new electricity generation

Wow. An interesting sign of a rapidly changing utilities market:

“On Nov. 1, AEP, one of the other five biggest coal-fired electric utilities, filed a plan to Indiana and Michigan regulators saying that the only new generating capacity it would need over the next decade would be wind and, starting in 2020, solar. The company said it ‘expects that utility-scale solar resources will become economically justifiable by 2020.’”

(Via Tennessee Valley Authority to close 8 coal-fired power plants – The Washington Post.)

AEP is still a dirty energy producer (they supply my energy, I used to buy their carbon offsets for their green program, until they shut that down, I’ve been trying to figure out how to hop over to a new provider that uses the wind power from the nearby wind farm but customer service on this front has been rather atrocious and I’ve been so busy I’ve been lax in follow through) but it’s an interesting marker to watch.

Tokelau Powered 100% By Solar Energy

I’ve mentioned this before, but I believe islands are the place to pay careful attention to as mini-precursors of the energy future. Tokelau is very small, but I view places like this as the ‘indicator frogs‘ of future power adoption:

“Tokelau (population: 1,500) is an island nation in the South Pacific, made up of three atolls whose highest point is only five meters above sea level. Even though the New Zealand protectorate’s contribution to climate change is miniscule, it faces grave threats to its very existence. In 2011, at the Durban Climate conference, Foua Toloa, the head of Tokelau, said the island would be using 100 percent renewable energy by 2012. By October of that year residents accomplished their goal, becoming the first country in the world to produce 100 percent of its electricity from the sun.

Prior to 2012, Tokelau’s residents relied on three diesel-driven power stations, burning 200 liters per day at a cost of nearly $800,000 per year. Tokelauans only had electricity 15 to 18 hours per day. They now have three solar photovoltaic systems, one on each atoll. The 4,032 solar panels (with a capacity of around one megawatt), 392 inverters, and 1,344 batteries provide 150 percent of their current electricity demand, allowing the Tokelauans to eventually expand their electricity use. In overcast weather, the generators run on local coconut oil, providing power while recharging the battery bank. The only fossil fuels used in Tokelau now are for the island nation’s three cars.

New Zealand advanced $7 million to Tokelau to install the PV systems. But with the amount of money saved on fuel imports the system will pay for itself in a relatively short time period (nine years with simple payback). “

(Via An Island (Tokelau) Powered 100% By Solar Energy.)

Solar power cell cost graph is illuminating

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Most people think solar power costs as much as it did in the 80s, when they formed their opinions about it.

Decisions are being made with those assumptions.

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.)

Solar power leapfrogging?

Here was an interesting video about an Ethopian solar power maker (region restricted, I saw it once, now YouTube has it blocked from me), a single guy with some ideas. One of the things I think that is going to happen is that solar power is to the developing world like cellphones were.

Without massive infrastructure gains, but a desire to be connected and have the technology, cellphones spread rapidly throughout the developing world. To the point where there was often better proliferation than in developed world areas.

Without the infrastructure of power companies that developing world has, I think solar proliferation is going to be a fascinating and rapid explosion in the developing world, so videos like the above are things I’m actually trying to keep an ear out for. Glimpses of that potential leapfrog.

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…

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.

US Energy Department claims solar power costs will Fall 75% by 2020

The realization is starting to spread about where solar development is poised to take us. Even as just two years ago I wasn’t understanding what a shake up was going on there:

“Not one to shy away from overstatement, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is not a writer we would normally quote extensively; well-renowned as the Telegraph newspaper is, for which he frequently writes in the Business section, but his article last week on solar power trumping shale gas even had us sitting up and taking notice.

True, many of the figures quoted in his article come from firms involved in the solar industry and as such we can expect them to put a positive gloss on the numbers, but we wouldn’t count the US Energy Department to be biased and they are quoted as saying they expect the cost of solar power to fall by 75% between 2010 and 2020.”

(Via US Energy Department Claims the Cost of Solar Power will Fall 75% by 2020.)

US Army going more solar

Those leftist hippies:

“Field patrols will soon have almost weightless solar blankets as well. These will be able to capture a once unthinkable 35pc of the sun’s light as energy with thin membranes, a spin-off from technology used in satellites.
This new kit is a military imperative. Taliban ambushes of supply convoys are a major killer. The Pentagon says the cost of refueling forward bases is $400 a gallon.”

(Via Solar power to trump shale, helped by US military – Telegraph.)

h/t to Philip Brewer for the link.

Solar install prices still getting lower

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“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.)