Its been a week since we returned from the most epic solar event of the year - Intersolar North America in San Francisco. Now that we are caught up on the backlog of emails and calls we can take a moment to reflect on key highlights from the event.
Energy Toolbase - These guys are the kings of data. We have been working with them since last year’s Intersolar to help us show our clients how solar will offset their electric bills with the greatest confidence possible. They are constantly adding more of the dozens of complex rate models around the country to their system. And now they’ve built in net metering 2.0 in anticipation of this huge change to California rates coming next year as well as storage into their models. Staying ahead of all the rate changes nation-wide is a huge undertaking but these guys are on top of it!
Kendra Hubbard, Jim Jenal, Jeff Spies, and me at BotB
In a throwback to Recom’s disastrous use of “caged” women to promote its booth, Talesun Solar revisited that PR debacle, featuring young women in Playboy-bunny costumes at Intersolar in San Francisco this past week.
The response on the Internet was immediate and unforgiving in its damning of Talesun’s sexist display:
Kevin Christy implores, “Next year I hope you do better than this.” Tom (@SolarCurator) tweeted in amazement, “Talesun? Booth bunnies? What year is this? Didn’t u get the memo?” And Jigar Shah voiced what many of us hoped, “Glad to hear it, sounds like a sanction is in order for them and InterSolar organizers.”
To say that such a display has no place in the solar industry, should be self-evident, but apparently it (still) needs saying, so here I go: This has got to stop.
After the firestorm, Talesun issued an awkward non-apology apology press release, resorting to that oldest of ploys, suggesting that they were shocked, shocked I tell you that anyone might have been offended.
Talesun’s Marketing Team Manager was quoted as saying:
Having attractive booth girls for our booth in the solar energy industry is considered something normal, just look at the exhibition in Bangkok a few months ago, many major companies, were also hiring attractive booth girls. We thought it wouldn’t be a problem here in North America since we considered it was even more open minded than Asia. I guess we made a mistake and we just learned the lesson. We apologize for this misunderstanding and we want people to remember what we did and how much we contributed to protecting our earth.
Actually, no, I don’t think you have “learned the lesson.” Let’s be clear, hiring attractive women (or men) to staff a booth is not the problem. Dressing them up in sexist costumes is.
And it isn’t that those of us complaining about what you did are somehow less “open minded” - it’s just that we reject sexist conduct in the solar industry.
If Talesun really wants to tout all the alleged good they have done “protecting our earth” I have a marketing suggestion for them - produce a clever and engaging video and run that at your booth. But dress your booth staff in a manner consistent with members of the professional organization you claim to be. Then, and only then, will you have learned the lesson.
Frankly, the rest of us are tired of having to teach it.
Consumer watchdog and advocacy organization Consumer Reports is out with an article on the benefits of going solar now! Titled Shedding Light on Solar Power, the article outlines why now may be the time to get off the sidelines, and get solar on your roof.
From the article:
There has probably never been a better time to switch to solar. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have regulations that are solar-friendly enough (and electricity rates high enough) to make residential solar financially attractive (see map below), and last December Congress extended through 2021 the generous federal tax credits on solar projects that had been set to expire at the end of this year. Residential solar installations increased almost 60 percent between 2014 and 2015, and in 2015 America averaged one new residential solar installation about every 100 seconds.
Those who want to wait on the sidelines for further price reductions could be disappointed: The cost of solar panels has started to plateau and, while installation labor and other soft costs continue to fall, the phasing out of state tax incentives and utility rebates and grants has largely offset those savings. Adding an element of urgency to the equation are proposals in a number of states that would radically shrink the utility-bill savings of switching to solar power. Because, generally speaking, existing solar customers haven’t been subject to those changes, getting your deal done before new regulations are implemented could save you hundreds of dollars each year.
Clearly California is one of those states where the combination of high utility rates and favorable policies has combined to make going solar now pretty much a no-brainer!
If you are in Pasadena, there is one more element to add to your sense of urgency - the PWP solar rebate will be cut by 1/3 come August 1!
So you don’t need to take our word for it, Consumer Reports agrees - now is the time to go solar!
As you start your Independence Day holiday, just think how much more fitting it would be if you could declare your independence from high electric bills! So give us a call today, or maybe Tuesday! (Oh and did I mention, when you call Run on Sun you get to work with a NABCEP certified PV professional, just like Consumer Reports recommends? Sweet!)
When I came to the solar industry I had just completed my Master in Public Health. Some of you may be thinking, “Thats an odd career move! What does solar have to do with public health?” I still get this exact response when I tell people my background. But to me, solar power is one of the most exciting and valuable solutions to a myriad of public health challenges! Think about it. Traditional sources of energy like coal and fossil fuels are the primary causes of climate change. They emit more greenhouse gasses and use much more water than solar. The global public health impacts of climate change are enormous and well documented…extreme weather events, flooding, draught, and heat waves all take a toll on our ability to live full and healthy lives. On top of that, the more immediate and local impacts of air pollution from traditional energy plants include asthma, COPD, and other respiratory illnesses.
While this simple logic proves to me that solar power is a vast improvement over burning fossil fuels, quantifying the environmental and health impacts of solar energy is not a straightforward task. However, determining the value of these external benefits is imperative to understanding the true costs and benefits of solar compared to other sources of energy. Thankfully the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL) recently published a technical report on this very topic! “The Environmental and Public Health Benefits of Achieving High Penetrations of Solar Energy in the United States.” was commissioned by the Department of Energy as part of the On the Path to Sunshot series of studies to assess the progress of the SunShot Initiative at its midway point.
The SunShot Initiative was launched in 2011 as a result of the Obama administration’s goal to make solar electricity cost-competitive with conventional sources of electricity by 2020. In the first five years, the initiative has invested in education, policy analysis, and research and development of solar technologies as well as programs fostering more highly skilled U.S. based jobs. Since SunShot’s launch, solar installations have grown more than tenfold with more than one million solar installations producing power across the U.S. and the cost of solar energy has dropped drastically. As a result, the industry is approximately 70% of the way toward meeting the SunShot 2020 goal to achieve $0.06 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) installed cost for solar energy systems.
The researchers sought to unveil the cumulative environmental and public health benefits of the solar power that has already been installed, and what future benefits would result if SunShot’s targets - 14% of US electricity by 2030 and 27% by 2050 - are met. They found that health and environmental benefits could add approximately 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour to the “true” value of solar energy! Lets break down that number…
Compared with fossil fuel generators, photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar produce far lower lifecycle levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other harmful pollutants including fine particulates (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Department of Energy
Greenhouse Gases: Achieving the 14% by 2030 and 27% by 2050 targets could reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the power sector by 10% between 2015 and 2050. This may not sound like a lot, but in dollars and cents this means 238-$252 billion in savings, or 2.0-2.2 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) of solar installed. These savings add to the 17 million metric tons of CO2, or $700 million, saved annually by solar already installed by 2014.
Other Air Pollutants: Meeting the same targets through solar expansion would also reduce other power sector cumulative emissions of PM2.5 by 8%, SO2 by 9%, and NOx by 11% between 2015 and 2050. The monetary value of which they estimated at $167 billion in savings from reducing health and environmental costs, or 1.4 cents per kilowatt hour of solar. Not to mention avoiding 25,000-59,000 entirely preventable premature deaths! This builds on 2014 solar installations providing annual reductions in air pollutants worth $890 million.
Water: Often we forget that traditional sources of electricity are also big water hogs. I even wrote a blog about the ways solar helps to conserve water. The researchers found reaching SunShot’s goals could result in cumulative water savings of 46 trillion gallons of avoided withdrawl (4% of total power-sector withdrawls) and 5 trillion gallons of avoided water consumption (9% of total power-sector consumption) between 2015-2050. This is definitely a non-trivial benefit given much of the big solar states are also arid states where water conservation is imperative.
Environmental and health benefits from achieving SunShot vision. - DOE image
Put it all together and you get to the estimated 3.5¢/kWh-solar, equivalent to more than $400 billion in benefits due to SunShot-level solar deployment! Existing solar in 2014 provided $1.5 billion in annual benefits due to health and environment effects. Given the cost of going solar for residential properties in our neck of the woods is currently between 8 and 11 ¢/kWh, adding 3.5 ¢/kWh of value is a pretty big deal. The LBNL researchers noted that this is approximately equal to the additional LCOE reduction needed to make unsubsidized utility-scale solar competitive with conventional power generation today.
Improving public health and the environment is a lofty goal near and dear to my heart and truly an important aspect of solar’s many benefits. Hopefully quantifying the magnitude of solar’s “external” impacts will help inform policy decisions by making the “true” costs and values of solar and its economic competitiveness with other energy options more explicit.
UPDATE - 6/23/2016 - SI 2 has arrived safely in Seville, Spain, and did so in just 71 hours, 8 minutes (of the planned 90-hour duration). Read more on the SI2 blog page.
Solar Impulse 2- that amazing solar-only powered aircraft - is in the air again, this time undertaking a predicted 90-hour flight from New York City’s JFK airport to Seville airport in Spain!
You can see how its systems are performing - solar cells charging the plane’s batteries and powering its ascent during the day, and the batteries propelling the plane during the night as it descends - by following the very cool charts embedded below. (You can read some of our earlier coverage of Solar Impulse 2 here.)
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