January 2011


BALTIMORE (AP) — Constellation Energy Group Inc. will build two solar power installations that will be subsidized by Maryland state grants.

The company said Wednesday it will build one 750-kilowatt solar-power installation Millersville, Md., and a second 500 kilowatt installation at Coppin State University in Baltimore.

The utility company said financial support for the projects comes from Maryland’s Project Sunburst initiative, which promotes the installation of large-scale solar energy systems on state buildings.

Constellation Energy will finance and own the solar power installations, but the state committed to purchasing electricity from the systems at a reduced cost from Constellation Energy over a 20-year period.

Both solar power systems are scheduled to produce electricity by this spring. The Millersville installation will be built at Anne Arundel County’s Combined Support Services Complex.

source: bloomberg

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Hu Jintao, president of China, the dominant producer of solar panels in the world, arrives in Washington, DC, for a State visit Tuesday. He arrives just days after one of America’s largest producers of solar panels — Evergreen Solar — announced that it was, according to The New York Times, “closing its main American factory, laying off the 800 workers by the end of March and shifting production to a joint venture with a Chinese company in central China. Evergreen cited the much higher government support available in China.”

That should make for some interesting dinner conversation at The White House. It should also be the talk of Washington this week.

America has an opportunity to rebuild its economic preeminence through scientific innovation — and solar energy conversion should be a high priority, given our scientific and technical expertise, our wealth of sunshine especially in the Southwest, and our availability of skilled workers who want and deserve jobs. The question is: Will the U.S. government support the American people in that quest?

In announcing the Massachusetts plant closing, Evergreen Solar’s President & CEO Michael El-Hillow stated: “Solar manufacturers in China have received considerable government and financial support and, together with their low manufacturing costs, have become price leaders within the industry. While the United States and other western industrial economies are beneficiaries of rapidly declining installation costs of solar energy, we expect the United States will continue to be at a disadvantage from a manufacturing standpoint.”

And Evergreen Solar is not the only U.S. solar panel manufacturer cutting back. Solyndra, a California-based designer and manufacturer of solar photovoltaic systems, announced in November that it would shut one of its two American plants and delay expansion of the other. Ironically, Solyndra was named in 2010 as “One of the 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World” by MIT’s Technology Review magazine and one of the “Top 10 Venture-backed Clean-Tech Companies” by The Wall Street Journal.

source: huffingtonpost

Dominion Resources Inc. says it plans to buy electricity from a solar-power facility in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The Richmond, Va.-based energy provider said Tuesday it has signed a 15-year agreement with Washington-based 510nano for a planned solar power station in Northampton County, N.C. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Construction of the 1.4-megawatt photovoltaic solar power station is expected to start by March.

The company said the North Carolina facility would be the largest solar-powered facility added to Dominion’s electric grid. It also is planning a 4-megawatt solar facility in Halifax County, Va.

Dominion serves about 120,000 retail electric customers in northeastern North Carolina.

source: bloomberg

From the street, it’s hard to see why a fuss is being made over the solar panels Glade Bilby wants to install on the roof of his 19th-century home at the edge of New Orleans’ historic French Quarter. In fact, it would be hard to see the panels themselves once they’re installed.

That’s why Bilby argues the city shouldn’t keep him from installing the solar panels on his home, which was built in 1834 and revamped in 1859. His quest has become a clash in one of the oldest neighborhoods in the U.S.: environmentalism and energy efficiency versus historic preservation and aesthetics. City officials have said Bilby’s solar panels threaten the neighborhood’s historic architectural integrity.

“It’s a problem that’s popped up around the nation,” said Kimberly Kooles, of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, which has a website that features stories on the issue from Orange County, Calif., to Cape May, N.J., and points in between.

Tax incentives and rebate programs for solar installations, as well as continued worries about fuel prices and climate change, have increased interest in photovoltaic panels and heightened concerns over the effect on historic buildings, said James Hewat, a preservation planner for the city of Boulder, Colo.

Hewat said Boulder has helped to avoid controversy by developing guidelines on the use of solar panels on architecturally historic structures. Guildelines also are on the website of the National Trust and other agencies.

In New Orleans, the staff of city government’s Vieux Carre Commission is charged with protecting and preserving the architectural integrity of the Quarter. The commission evaluated Gilby’s plan to install the panels, citing information from Louisiana’s Historic Preservation Office and standards from the U.S. Interior Department.

The varying guidelines share a common theme: The solar panels should be low-profile and not easy to see.

And that’s Bilby’s plan. He wants to put the panels on the part of his three-story, stucco-covered brick home’s roof that slopes away from the street, making them invisible from the front. From the rear, the panels would be obscured by the low skyline of neighboring pitched slate roofs and dormers.

Obscured, but not invisible, said Richard Bishop, a French Quarter resident who spoke against allowing the panels during an autumn meeting of the Vieux Carre Commission.

“I really am a supporter for solar power,” Bishop, an electrical engineer and preservationist, said in a telephone interview last week. He talked at length of the need for alternative energy and the finite supply of fossil fuels. But, as for Bilby’s project: “This isn’t the place for that.”

Vieux Carre Commission members agreed, although it wasn’t a unanimous verdict. A 5-3 vote against the project came after the staff recommended conditional approval, calling Bilby’s proposal “environmentally conscious” and “sensitive to the building’s historic integrity” in a report dated Sept. 28.

But Dr. Ralph Lupin, the physician who chairs the commission, said he not only thought the Quarter’s historic integrity would be compromised, he also feared approval would lead to more such projects, according to minutes of the October meeting.

Bilby is appealing to the city council, which could take up the matter later this month.

“I’ve wanted to do this forever,” he said recently as he walked through the high-ceilinged home and noted other environmental improvements he’s added, including a drip irrigation system for plants and shutters to cover the tall windows that contribute to the ambiance, and the draftiness, of the house.

Loss of electrical power during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 added to his interest. Federal and Louisiana tax credits that would cover 80 percent of the $50,000 cost made the idea even more attractive, Bilby said. He estimated that savings on his electric bill would allow him to recoup his out-of-pocket cost over several years.

Besides, Bilby said, he’s long been interested in the environment.

“You hate to get into the cliche of, ‘Decrease your carbon footprint,’ but it is important,” he said.

Whatever the city council decides, the issue will hardly be resolved.

“It’s something that a lot of towns that have historic preservation programs are dealing with,” said Hewat, the planner in Boulder.

However, solar technology keeps improving — including the development of shingles that can absorb solar energy and less-obtrusive adhesive strips, Hewat said.

“You can put solar panels now in places where five years ago they just wouldn’t work, because if there was just a little bit of shade the whole thing would turn off,” Hewat said. “And that’s helped a lot. It’s aided in the ability to be flexible on both sides.” (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

source: wwltv

With its rapidly growing electricity demand, ample land availability and strong government commitment to sustainable economic growth, India can play a leading role in generating solar energy in the Asia and Pacific region, the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Director General for South Asia said today.

Speaking at a conference in India’s Gujarat state, Director General H. Sultan Rahman said strong Indian government support at both national and regional levels has galvanized a range of major solar power projects that place the country at the forefront of solar power development.

“Economies of scale are reducing costs and Gujarat, as well as other states in India, has greater solar radiation, more rapidly growing electricity demand and more available land,” Mr. Rahman said.

The Government of Gujarat recently identified a 2,500 hectare site to build the Charanka Solar Park, which when completed will be among the largest solar power facilities in the world. In tandem, ADB is preparing a 100 million dollar loan to fund a proposed transmission line that will carry the 500 megawatts generated at Charanka to the national electricity grid.

In May 2010, ADB launched the Asia Solar Energy Initiative (ASEI) to identify and develop large capacity solar projects to increase the amount of solar power generated in the Asia and Pacific region six-fold to 3,000 megawatts by mid-2013. Before the launch of ASEI, the region produced less than 500 megawatts of solar power from existing plants. Overall regional solar capacity is expected to reach 1,000 megawatts by the end of this year and 3,000 megawatts by May 2013.

The ASEI also includes establishment of a knowledge platform, the Asia Solar Energy Forum, and a fund to promote solar energy development from which, given its potential, India is expected to be among the major beneficiaries. (ANI)

source: sify

Have you heard about the taxpayers’ brilliant plan to screw the electricity consumers?

It’s a bit complicated, but here are the steps. First the taxpayers, represented by the Ontario government, create a plan to buy solar electricity at up to 10 times the normal price of power.

Then the taxpayers at the City of Ottawa move to cash in. They turn to the taxpayer-owned Hydro Ottawa to rent taxpayer-owned roofs to the taxpayer-owned power company, netting up to $250,000 a year in leasing fees, all paid by the electricity consumers.

That’s free money, and the best part is that the taxpayers don’t have to put up a cent. Sure, it will cost $32 million to put the solar panels in place, but that’s not taxpayers’ money. That’s power consumers’ money, paid to Hydro Ottawa.

The taxpayers are gouging the power consumers, and using their own money to do it.

That’s as brilliant as solar power on a sunny day.

The only flaw in the whole scheme is that the taxpayers and the power users are essentially the same people. Most people wouldn’t borrow money to enable themselves to pay more for something, but that’s exactly what the city’s plan entails.

What’s next? Are we going to buy a chain of gas stations and charge ourselves $10 a litre so we can make a killing?

This issue goes to the city’s new environment committee next week and the way it has been framed, it’s bound to pass.

The city gets to do something people think is green, and it makes money, too.

What’s wrong with that?

The short answer is plenty. This project is expensive, of limited environmental and power-generating value and it contributes to the inflation of provincial power rates.

Sure, the McGuinty government has created a pricing regime that lets companies create uneconomical electricity and stick consumers with the bill, but why would a consumer-owned power company do that to its own customers?

Solar power under the provincial program is so expensive that Hydro Ottawa will still net a 12-to 15-percent return on your money, after taxes. It’s a fantastic guaranteed return and some of it will trickle back to the city through the Hydro Ottawa dividend. Pity that you have to pay higher power rates to get it.

Solar power is a wonderful concept and it will be a great thing when it becomes efficient and inexpensive enough to power your house at a rate that’s at least similar to other power sources.

That’s hardly the case today. The capital costs of solar are high and it doesn’t produce much electricity. The city says its rooftop plan can power 300 homes. That’s a puny number for a $32-million capital investment, and one of the reasons is that solar panels produce only about 15 per cent of their nominal power output. They’re dandy on a sunny day in the summer, not so useful at night or in the short days of the winter.

Solar rooftop power generates little electricity because rooftops can’t hold many panels. To have any real impact, solar requires a lot of real estate and a huge numbers of panels. The city has already approved a “solar park” at the Trail Road landfill that will occupy 48.5 hectares and cost about $60 million to set up. That one will power 1,500 homes.

In all, it’s a lot of money for a little power, and the environmental impacts are oversold, too. Ontario’s power is already pretty green. On a typical January day, three-quarters of our power is hydroelectric or nuclear. Replacing a teeny-tiny amount of that with solar will make no consequential difference to the big environmental picture.

There are a couple of points in favour of the solar power plan. Solar at least produces its power during peak daytime hours. One might also argue that if we weren’t getting into the game through Hydro Ottawa, some other outfit would be building the solar and gouging us. Is that worth $92 million in public investment?

The real reason for the high solar power prices is to create jobs in the renewable energy sector, but the provincial solar energy program might well be counterproductive. If Ontario wants to encourage commercially-viable solar power, it won’t do so by offering an inflated rate and guaranteeing it for 20 years. Once these solar money generators are in place, what’s the incentive to innovate and drive down the cost of solar?

It will be interesting to see if councillors can figure any of this out. Mayor Jim Watson favours the plan. A spokesman says Watson regards it as “a significant opportunity to secure new revenues for the municipality.”

One might say it’s a way to take money our of your pocket without having to raise taxes to do it.

source: ottawacitize

Have you ever seen a story more nakedly dictated by self-seeking industry sources than this morning’s piece in the NYT on the need for bigger subsidies to manufacturers of solar panels?

Beyond the issues of trade and jobs, solar power experts see broader implications. They say that after many years of relying on unstable governments in the Middle East for oil, the United States now looks likely to rely on China to tap energy from the sun.

Before panicking over the risk of a Chinese solar panel embargo, consider this:

1) A story whose message is that manufacturing can move in the flash of an eye from the US to China should not try to persuade us that – once moved to China- this allegedly ultra-mobile industry can then never move again.

2) Of all forms of encouragement to innovation, direct subsidies to particular firms is the worst, most inefficient, and most corrupting. If the Chinese are doing it, then the outlook is bleak for them.

3) The Chinese don’t actually use much solar energy themselves. Too expensive .They use coal and are shifting to nuclear. The panels are for export, to countries that subsidize utilities who make use of them. In other words, the economic function of solar panels is not to tap energy from the sun. It is to tap subsidies from the Treasury.

source: frum forum

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