April 2011

Austin’s Green Mountain Energy Co. has introduced a program that allows residential customers to lease solar panels for a monthly fee.

Green Mountain, founded in 1997, was acquired last September for about $350 million. The company sells renewable energy from wind, water and solar sources.

The new program doesn’t sell the actual solar arrays to customers, but rents the equipment using a 20-year lease that includes installation, insurance, warranties and monitoring. Although Green Mountain is based in Austin, the power retailer’s product is not available to Austinites because Austin Energy, which is run by the city, doesn’t operate in a deregulated electric market.

In traditional markets, Green Mountain partners with utilities that want to offer renewable energy products to their environmentally conscious customers. The company is currently working with Portland General Electric as well as utilities in New York and New Jersey that run multi-supplier green pricing programs.

“Think of a car lease, where the homeowner leases the panel from a third party who ‘owns’ the solar array,” said Jason Sears, senior product manager at Green Mountain. (more…)


THE state government has suspended applications under the $1.9 billion solar bonus scheme following a blow-out in the cost.

This means tens of thousands of people who had been expecting to get a tariff of 60¢ per kilowatt generated by solar panels on their homes may now get only 20¢, leaving them barely able to cover their installation costs.

The move, from midnight on Thursday, came as data obtained from the Department of Industry and Investment showed applications totalling 350 megawatts, equal to a mid-sized power station, had been received under the scheme by April 8.

All applications once the scheme tops 300 megawatts will be denied the 60¢ tariff. More than 150,000 applications have been received, and yesterday’s announcement means all further applications, even for the lower 20¢ tariff, have been suspended.

Labor introduced the solar bonus scheme with support from the opposition and the Greens, offering a feed-in tariff of 60¢. Last November, the then government said all contracts entered into once the total size of the scheme exceeded 300 megawatts of installed generation capacity would be cut to 20¢. (more…)

Solar panels have been showing up across New Jersey for about a year now, due to the largest utility in the state, Public Service Electric and Gas Company. PSEG is installing 200,000 separate panels in neighborhoods throughout its service area, which covers about three-quarters of New Jersey.

Financial incentives and a public policy on renewable energy has led New Jersey to become second only to California in solar power. But a lot of neighborhood residents have differing opinions on the aesthetics provided by the panels.

Some North Jersey residents and local officials have called them hideous, an eyesore, even “ugly as hell,” according to NorthJersey.com. PSE&G is working on a $515 million project to install at least 180,000 panels by 2012.

“I hate them,” said Eric Olsen of Oradell, about a row of panels installed on electrical poles across the street. “It’s just an eyesore.”

In Ridgewood, Deputy Mayor Thomas M. Riche said he had received numerous complaints from constituents to stop the rise of the panels. Ridgewood got PSE&G to stop the installations due to fears they would interfere with the emergency communications boxes on the poles where they had been erected. (more…)

Householders rushing to put solar panels on their roof in order to take advantage of government subsidies have more than tripled the amount of solar power in the UK over the past year, figures published on Thursday show.

The lure of making nearly £1,000 a year has led to a record 11,314 people, largely homeowners, installing solar panels in the first three months of this year. The ‘solar gold rush’ appears to have been driven by the introduction of feed-in tariffs (Fits) last year, which pay businesses, groups and individuals for generating green energy.

The total amount of installed solar power in the UK has jumped from 26 megawatts (MW) before the scheme started on 1 April 2010, to 77.8MW at the end of March this year, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc). This takes the number of solar photovoltaic systems in the UK taking part in the Fits scheme to 28,505, alongside over a thousand micro wind turbines and just over 200 small hydro sites.

But despite the rise in demand, solar power under the Fits scheme still contributes only a tiny amount of the UK’s total electricity generation. At 77.8MW, it accounts for just 0.104% of the 75GW provided by fossil fuel, nuclear and large scale renewable power plants. The UK’s largest coal fired power station, Drax in Yorkshire, generates approximately 4,000MW. (more…)

Colonial School District is one step closer to acquiring solar panels on the roofs of several schools, thanks to unanimous approval from the Whitemarsh Board of Supervisors following a hearing last week.

Dave Turner, chief operating officer of Tangent Energy Solutions of Kennett Square, explained the agreement his company and the school district entered into, including designing, building, operating and financing 700 kilowatts of solar power on two school buildings in the district

Once the solar panels are up and running, they would produce more than 825,000 kilowatt hours a year of renewable energy, Turner said.

The board heard testimony from Turner and approved a conditional use application for installation of the solar panels.

“The [carbon dioxide] this displaced could have been produced by 112 cars or 122 acres of pine trees in a year,” said Turner.“It has considerable educational benefits. We’ll have kiosks that review the operation of solar power and how it works. There will be a website kids and teachers can go to to see them.” (more…)

In an attempt to save electricity and promote the use of solar energy mostly in the non-electrified routes, the North Central Railway plans to install solar panels at railway crossings.

These solar panels would aid lighting at the crossings especially during the night hours. This step would promote solar energy, save money and also protect the environment.

As many as 129 level crossings (manned and unmanned) have been electrified with the help of solar panels in NCR. This includes 44 in Allahabad, 54 in Jhansi and 31 in Agra division of North Central Railway.

In the next financial year, there are plans for installation of solar panels at about 130 to 140 level crossings at different places in the jurisdiction of North Central Railway. (more…)

Sean Moore had worked in a Ford plant for 12 years when the auto industry crashed in 2008.

Out of the blue, the manufacturing engineer found himself among the thousands of workers in Windsor, Ont., who were suddenly wrenched from what they thought were secure, life-long jobs.

“It was devastating,” says Mr. Moore, 39.

But not for long.

“You only get to go around once,” he says. “You might as well challenge yourself.”

Three years of hard work later, Mr. Moore is president of Unconquered Sun, a company with 25 employees – expanding to 50 by July – that assembles and installs solar photovoltaic systems, which use the sun’s energy to generate electricity.

The company operates out of a former auto-parts factory. (more…)

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