Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Space-Based Solar Power

As the demand for clean and renewable energy intensifies, the use of space-based solar power as an alternative energy source is quickly becoming more viable.

The idea dates back to the 1970s when the Department of Energy was actively studying the feasibility of beaming solar power to earth from panels connected to satellites in space. The project uses huge orbiting panels or solar arrays that continuously remain in the path of the Sun’s rays and beam megawatt after megawatt of energy back to earth.

The SBSP project is set to launch by the government in 2016. Thereafter, the Pentagon is hopeful that it can lure the private sector into the market with the promise of profitability.One company, Solar Energy Inc., is already on board and plans to provide SBSP for commercial use within 10 years. One of the main reasons SBSP didn’t take off in the 1970’s was because it was assumed that the price tag for such a venture would be astronomical. But the sheer profitability of SBSP and the overwhelming need for alternative sources of energy has made the project worth the initial $10 billion price tag.

When the program is finally launched, large solar arrays will send their solar bounties via microwave beams back down to earth. Back on earth, mesh receivers placed over farmland and other designated locations will funnel the power into the nation’s electric grid and into people’s homes.

From the article:
Space-based solar power
Mehran Ghaffarsamar
Read the full article here

New programs make solar energy a good investment

Communities in New Mexico receive more direct sunlight every year than almost anywhere else in the world. This resource gives every homeowner a chance to provide power to their homes through solar energy, allowing them to both save money over the long term and contribute to the nation's renewable energy infrastructure. However, two major problems have hampered the spread of individual solar systems: high up-front costs and the inability of solar owners to link the value of solar equipment to the value of their home. Recent policy developments at the local, state, and federal levels seek to remedy these issues.

The first of these is a new program implemented by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission available to all PNM and El Paso Electric customers. Currently, if an individual installs a solar system on their home, the electricity provider will pay the individual $0.13 per kilowatt hour (the unit used to measure electricity) for all energy produced by the solar system. These payments are not for the actual energy, but for a renewable energy certificate (REC), the vehicle by which the state is asking companies to incentivize the use of renewable energy. These REC payments are in addition to the benefit that customers already receive through net metering, the process by which the electric company credits the customer for the energy produced by their solar system. So, if you buy a solar system for your home, large electric companies will send you a check every month for the power your system is producing.

On top of these provisions, there are three solar tax incentives offered by both the federal and state governments. Effective at the beginning of 2009, you can count 30 percent of the total cost of any solar system as a credit against your federal taxes. Next, the New Mexico Legislature just passed a bill that provides a 10 percent state tax credit on top of the federal credit, bringing the total state tax credit up to 40 percent. Finally, if you purchase a solar system you will not pay any state gross receipts taxes on it.

From the article:
New programs make solar energy a good investment
Bill McCamley and Mark Westbrock
Read the full article here

Understanding the Cost of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Starts with the Cost of Doing Nothing

New Jersey has more solar than Florida not because it has more sunshine, but because homeowners in NJ pay more for electricity, they have an RPS, and fees (collected into a Public Benefit Fund) charged the electric customer are used to incentivize the homeowner for photovoltaics (PV) and solar hot water heaters for their roof. If such a fund collected $1.50 on your electric bill, Florida could have the equivalent of California’s Million Solar Roofs Program. Clearly $1.50 is less than the $40 a month cost of doing nothing. While solar hot water heating is cost effective today, PV without a subsidy is not cost effective today, but the subsidy is still less than the cost of “accelerated cost recovery” for nuclear power. The cost of PV on your roof is expected to be $0.15 kWh in 2011 without subsidies, and it will be cheaper than coal electricity. What about the jobs? These jobs will not be in China and India, they will be done by your neighbor. Vote Solar estimates that more than 3,800 megawatts (MW) of solar could be added by 2020 and with it approximately 85,500 new jobs in Florida. What a great way to love your neighbor.

From the Article:
Understanding the Cost of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Starts with the Cost of Doing Nothing
By James Fenton
Read the whole article here

Massachusetts Seeks To Increase Solar Power

State officials hope to use millions of dollars in federal stimulus funding to add as much as 30 megawatts of solar power capacity at public facilities statewide, as early as this summer.

Ian Bowles, secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said more than 50 potential projects have been identified, including the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and a waste-water treatment plant in Pittsfield. They would be built using money from several federal programs: the State Energy Program, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, and the State Revolving Fund for Clean Water and Drinking Water. State officials estimate that anywhere from $40 million to $100 million could be made available.

"This is the solar big bang," Bowles said. "This procurement alone would more than double the amount of solar installed in the Commonwealth."

James W. Hunt III, Boston's chief of environmental and energy services, said anything that can be done to increase the use of solar energy is a good thing.

"The city, the state, the BCEC have all been targeting what's the most cost effective way to deploy large-scale solar installations to reduce energy cost, reduce carbon impact, and put people back to work," he said.

The state unveiled its plans the same day the US Department of Energy said Massachusetts communities will receive a combined $42.2 million for energy efficiency and conservation projects through the federal block grant program funded by the stimulus bill.

From the article:
Mass. seeks to increase solar power
By Erin Ailworth
Read the Full Article Here

Shedding Light on Solar Panels

True or False: The solar industry cannot meet all of our energy needs.

This question has long confused me because the facts seem so contradictory. To begin with, consider the following statement by the Department of Energy: Enough solar energy falls to the Earth every hour to meet human energy needs for an entire year. The DOE goes on to add that, "PV technology can meet electricity demand on any scale. The solar energy resource in a 100-mile-square area of Nevada could supply the United States with all its electricity about 800 gigawatts using modestly efficient 10 percent commercial PV modules."

That being said, the answer is still true. Recent assessments by the DOE state that the solar industry does not have the capacity to manufacture and install enough solar panels to satiate the world's desire for energy, predicting pre-Obama stimulus package that solar energy will provide 10 percent of U.S. electricity needs by the year 2030.

Brian Anderson, principal of Anderson Solar Controls, believes we can do better. A local energy services provider who focuses both on solar energy and efficiency solutions through smart-home control systems, Anderson supports Sen. Joe Simitian's call for 33 percent of our utilities to come from renewable sources by 2020.

According to Anderson, what may have seemed impossible just months ago, when large investor-based projects and an attractive overseas market led to a nationwide shortage of panels, now seems quite feasible. With solar manufacturers ramping up production to meet perceived increased demand after the new tax breaks for solar installation came into effect, there is a current glut of solar panels on the market -- solar panels that Anderson believes we should be putting to use to help solve the nation's energy issues.

From the article:
Go Green, Jennifer Parrish, March 29, 2009: Shedding light on solar panels
By Jennifer Parrish
Read the whole article here