There can be no doubt, 2015 was an amazing year for solar. As we reach the end of the year, here’s our look back on the top five reasons solar soared in 2015!
While not the most important reason for solar overall, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that thanks to our wonderful clients, 2015 was our best year by far! From our largest project ever for our favorite water company, to adding another school to our portfolio, to the many residential projects that we built all across Southern California, 2015 was a great year.
We took great pride in being recognized, for the third year in a row, as being one of the top Solar Contractors in the country by the wonderful folks at Solar Power World, and even more pride in the scores of referrals that we received from our ecstatic clients.
We can’t wait to meet and exceed our success this past year in the New Year ahead!
Political leadership on dealing with Climate Change was finally in evidence this year, and the resultant policies are, inevitably, pro-solar. Exhibit A was California Governor Jerry Brown pledging to have the state generate 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, a mere fifteen years away! Said the Governor:
I envision a wide range of initiatives: more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles.
We are on board with that!
But political leadership extended far beyond the borders of our great state in 2015! More than 190 countries came together in Paris to agree to the most far-reaching accord ever to address Climate Change, and lots more solar was high on their list of ways to achieve a more sustainable planet.
To be sure, none of these actions were without their political opponents, but it is impossible to deny that 2015 marked a major turning point in the public’s perception of the need to act, and those views were increasingly adopted by the world’s politicians.
Ok, we have to give the man his due — Elon Musk’s outlandish PowerWall announcement changed the conversation around smart energy storage (and our blog post debunking his most outrageous claims became our most viewed post of the year!). Indeed, storage went from being a topic hardly ever mentioned by a potential client, to something that nearly everyone did after Elon did his thing.
Unfortunately, the hype still leads the market, and mature products are still not really available. But that is changing rapidly, and from our perspective that can’t happen soon enough.
There had been great angst in the solar community about the future of net metering — the means by which solar owners get compensated for excess energy that they put out onto the grid — in California (and elsewhere). Decisions about net metering in other states that bent over backwards to appease utility demands only ratcheted up the anxiety in California as the state’s Public Utilities Commission deliberated over competing proposals for Net Metering 2.0 - including utility schemes that could have gutted the market for solar.
Fortunately our fears were not realized and the preliminary decision — due to be made final in January — was quite solar friendly. Once we have a final decision we will report on it in depth, but for now this looks like one of the biggest pro-solar developments of 2015.
The number one, most amazing, and most amazingly unexpected development to boost solar in 2015 is unquestionably the major extension of the 30% federal solar investment tax credit (ITC).
Given that the ITC was previously scheduled to expire at the end of 2016, solar installers, potential clients, utilities, and building departments alike were all bracing for what could have been a hellish second half of next year as all involved scrambled to get systems commissioned before the deadline.
Instead, the full 30% will continue through 2019, 26% in 2020, 22% in 2021, and 10% thereafter. Moreover, the “placed in service” language — which required a project to be commissioned before the credit could be claimed, thereby leaving installers and clients at the not-so-tender mercies of the local utility — was replaced by the far more manageable, “commenced construction” requirement.
The net benefit of this will be a more orderly market, driven by rational purchasing decisions rather than a panicked stampede to meet an arbitrary deadline at the end of next year. And beyond that, keeping the ITC in place for many years to come will help to grow solar in ways that would not have been possible otherwise. The industry, the economy, and the environment were all winners here.
So that’s our wrap on 2015 — truly a great year for solar! But we are betting that 2016 — with your help, of course — will be even better! Watch this space!
Happy New Year!
Monday marked the onset of what may be the most important (and most exciting) gathering of world leaders in human history. From November 30 to December 11, representatives from more than 190 countries are coming together to reach agreement on global climate efforts at the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris.
There is a great deal of optimism around the world as national heads come together with commitments in hand. This is a huge step forward compared to past climate conferences which have failed to reach any target that the world could agree upon. It remains to be seen if this positive momentum will result in an accord with the power to spur change on a global scale.
In preparation for the conference, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) evaluated the current research (over 30,000 papers) on the science of climate change. The key takeaway in their synthesis: Scientists are now more certain than ever that climate change is real; it’s caused by human activities – especially the burning of fossil fuels; and it’s already impacting people around the world, from rising sea levels to more extreme weather events. Hence the overarching goal in Paris this week is to frame a deal to prevent Earth from warming above the point of no return (more than 2°C).
In the months leading to the conference nearly every country on the planet submitted their commitments to reduce greenhouse gases based on the IPCC report, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The United States’ INDC outlines a commitment to cut emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, mostly by reducing CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.
All 156 INDCs, representing 97.8% of global emitters, will be plugged into a final document crafted through the high level negotiations. The COP21 final accord will actually be divided into a “core agreement,” laying out the broad objectives for emissions reduction and how to pay for poor nations’ efforts, and “decisions” describing how these objectives will be achieved.
One hot issue to be settled in Paris is over the legal status of this document. A formal treaty would need the impossible approval of the Republican-controlled US Senate. Instead, President Obama will likely sign off on the accord as an “executive agreement.” There seems to be an understanding that the “agreement” would have more binding legal status than the “decisions,” which would include the national pledges and be subject to revision. The US has held that they will not sign any legally binding emissions targets.
While the commitments to cut emissions by the world’s countries is a great start, without legally binding targets and accountability, these promises hold little weight. It will also be interesting to see if, and how, leaders will establish a path forward with plans to reconvene and re-affirm their targets regularly.
The unfortunate reality is that even if every country followed through with their commitments, scientists estimate that global warming will be about 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Given that a 2 degree increase is the limit necessary to avert the worst impacts, we will still need to focus on adaptation as well as mitigation to climate change. But on the bright side, it’s a lot less warming than would happen if we continue the status quo without curbing any emissions at all!
This summit isn’t the end of the fight to limit climate change. But considering there has never before been international agreement on climate efforts - the Kyoto Treaty never got off the ground, due in large part to the failure of the US to join - it is a huge step to come together in the battle. As technologies such as solar improve and countries become more confident in their ability to transition to cleaner energy, they can step up their action over time.
Renewable energy stands out as the most common strategy for meeting targets out of all of the INDCs! This is a great sign of growing prospects for the solar industry. According to research by the World Resources Institute, if Brazil, China, the EU, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, and the United States follow through on their commitments, the amount of clean energy installed will more than double by 2030!
The US targets were largely based on the projected outcome of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which limits greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants and aims to get 20% of electricity from renewables by 2030. The Clean Power Plan has yet to be approved by the Senate and has significant opposition. One can hope that the COP21 and international pressure to act will help on this front. But in a climate where federal tax credits are under threat and state-level clean energy incentives are rapidly drying up, the US commitments on an international stage could be an important backstop to helping the renewable energy sector grow.
Outside the negotiating rooms, thousands of business leaders, state officials, activists, scientists and others from the private sector are also holding events and meetings. The mere existence of the political agreements taking place will lead to increased investment in the renewable energy sector. While the value of political will to accomplish the enormous task of an energy transition shouldn’t be underestimated, the private sector is likely where the real growth will occur without the partisan challenges of the government.
On a final note, we at Run on Sun are thrilled about the events in Paris this week. As the international community finally comes together to tackle climate change our optimism about the world’s ability to act meaningfully is renewed! However, the work that must be done doesn’t end this week. Next week, next month, next year and on and on the fight will continue. Governments, the private sector, and even individuals must continue to act every day on behalf of the only planet we’ve got. Going solar is one of the best ways to reduce your emissions impact from your home or business. We look forward to doing our part!
Angelinos typically struggle with cloudy “cold” days more than those accustomed to less sunny locales. So after the last few months of gloom it was no surprise to hear the National Weather Service announce that it was in fact a very abnormal year for Los Angeles.
Temperature data from around Southern California showed that the region experienced a “reverse” meteorological spring, meaning average monthly temperatures decreased instead of increasing. Average temps for downtown Los Angeles in March, April and May were 68.2 degrees, 65.8 degrees and 64.2 degrees, respectively, according to NWS. The normal averages between 1981 to 2010 were 60.6 degrees, 63.1 degrees and 65.8 degrees. Since recordkeeping began in 1877 only three documented “reverse” springs have ever occurred. But this is the first in nearly a century!
While many Angelinos may feel as if it is colder than usual, these past three months have actually been warmer and drier than normal across Southern California. The difference is we have been experiencing a cooling trend overall since the warmer than usual February. April and May actually felt more like LA’s “June gloom", typical only for June.
For those fretting over low output from your solar system…don’t worry! Your system is NOT malfunctioning. We’ve just experienced a less productive than normal spring. I’m sure the sunshine will return and your solar meter will continue to spin in the right direction before you know it. In the meantime, be thankful for any precipitation we get, and maybe even get out and enjoy the grey days that are neither too hot nor too cold!
After 4 years of severe drought and this year’s winter snowpack at a pathetic 8% of typical levels, it’s obvious that California will have to find real solutions as populations rise and the effects of climate change worsen. We rely on the High Sierras’ snowmelt throughout the year for everything from our green lawns and fresh food (throughout the US) to our hydroelectric power.
Governor Jerry Brown’s recent mandate for cutting water use by 25 percent was overdue and necessary, but communities will have to step up conservation efforts in a big way. Ever since the Governor’s big announcement ideas for how best to curb water use have been flowing. So why should PV solar power generation be at the top of the list? What does water conservation have to do with solar?
Solar is an increasingly important solution to water scarcity as well as energy security. With no sign of a solar slowdown in California—we are the first state to get 5% of its energy from solar—strong generation records are likely in coming years. While solar has been included in some communities’ plans to reduce water use (such as in the Los Angeles “pLAn“), many people are unaware of this solution. Communities, individuals and businesses installing rooftop solar can make a real positive difference for California’s dire water situation.
Run on Sun has been following the exciting developments of Solar Impulse since it’s prototype began its groundbreaking test flight across America in 2013.
After the lessons learned from the American flight, an upgraded Solar Impulse 2 was developed with a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747, more than 17,000 solar cells and 1,300 pounds of batteries. Amazingly, the aircraft still weighs no more than an average car!
Finally, this morning, on March 9th, 2015, Solar Impulse 2 and her team were ready to embark on their record-breaking aeronautical journey around the world. The first leg officially departed from Abu Dhabi at 7:12AM UTC+4. Landing in Muscat, Oman at 20:13PM UC+4 pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg rested for a few hours before continuing onward to Ahmedabad, India.
With a top speed of 50 mph, the entire circuit is planned to take four or five months before returning safely back to Abu Dhabi. You can follow their flight online as well as chat with the mission control center and view cockpit measurements like solar battery storage and pilot heart rate!
Solar Impulse is not only about accomplishing the first round-the-world solar flight. Behind the development of this technological feat lies a very powerful message. Piccard and Borschberg are using each landing as an opportunity to reach out to governments, NGOs, education centers, and the broader public to share what is possible with clean technologies.
“We shouldn’t be listing targets, but rather solutions – ways of meeting those targets. Because these solutions exist. Our society could already cut energy consumption in half by replacing old, outdated, polluting technology with clean technologies. Couldn’t we, all together, persuade governments to modify the legal framework so as to encourage the replacement of polluting technologies by cleantechs? That would at least make debates constructive and international climate conferences interesting.” - Bertrand Piccard
In conjunction with Solar Impulse’s round-the-world flight, the pilots started an online campaign called “Future is Clean”. In December 2015, they will share the largest collective voice in favor of clean technologies with global leaders at COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. You can add your pledge and share with your networks at www.futureisclean.org.