April 2011


Students in the Mojave Desert, located 110 miles northeast of Los Angeles, California, are learning with the help of a little green power – solar power. The Muroc Unified School District is the home of three solar installations, totaling 1,700 Coenergy solar modules. One solar system is located on the grounds of the school district office, another at West Boron Elementary school and the third at the Boron Senior High school. Combined, the solar panels systems will generate nearly 400 kilowatts, enough to meet 80 percent of the district’s energy needs. This should reduce the district’s utility bill by 95 percent.

“The three Conergy installations produce a total of around 705 megawatt-hours of clean solar energy per year; avoiding the emission of more than 500,000 lbs of harmful CO2 greenhouse gases,” said Byron Johnson, Muroc Unified School District Assistant-Superintendent. “This is as much electricity as one hundred Californian households consume annually. By creating our own energy, students and staff become more aware of their energy use and are inspired to use energy wisely. This helps us to encourage ‘green learning’, by producing clean energy and using less energy whenever possible.” (more…)

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A few years ago solar panels were an uncommon sight in Britain. Today, they are appearing all over the country as increasing numbers of homeowners discover that improved technology and government incentives are at last making solar energy a practical alternative to carbon-based fuels. In the future, it could well be that a house without solar panels will seem strange!

The first thing to understand about domestic solar panels is that there are two very different types: solar thermal panels and solar photovoltaic panels.

Solar thermal panels
These solar panels are designed to capture the sun’s energy and use it for powering a home’s hot water system. They contain a heat transfer fluid – usually a non-toxic antifreeze – and when heated by the sun this hot fluid flows from the solar panel to a coiled pipe inside a hot water cylinder. As the water in the cylinder heats up, the heat transfer fluid cools and is pumped back to the solar panel to be heated again.

Solar thermal panels are normally added to an existing hot water system with an automatic switching device that switches on your conventional hot water boiler when the solar panels alone are unable to maintain the required water temperature. This gives you the convenience of hot water whenever you need it but reduced fuel bills as free solar power is being used during daylight hours. (more…)

AS POWER prices continue to scale new heights, renewable energy such as solar power is becoming an increasingly popular alternative in our town.

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) counted 759 installations of solar panels in Port Macquarie last year – equating to 5.08 per cent of households using solar energy, a mid-range percentage in NSW.

The state is leading the way in renewable energy, with the biggest growth in solar-power system use in Australia.

Some 32,196 solar power systems were installed in NSW last year, compared to 13,875 in 2009.

Queensland came in second, with 25,594 systems installed last year.

After June 30, the federal government’s solar rebate – which now is about $7000 for installing a residential system – will be reduced by $1200.

Port Macquarie solar panel installers have enjoyed increased orders from homeowners rushing to beat the deadline.

Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell believes the increase in solar panels installations is contributing to rising electricity prices, because the government has to find money to pay out its “generous” rebate. (more…)

Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative officials unveiled an $85 million solar power project Thursday that will use capped landfills and other town-owned land in seven Cape and Vineyard towns.

The project, which will be financed by private investors, will not incur any municipal costs, but it is expected to save towns $1.42 million in energy costs in the first year. It is an effort that has been in the works for more than a year and was hailed yesterday as an example to the rest of the state and the country on creative green projects.

“This is a significant, game-changing model,” Mark Sylvia, commissioner of the state Department of Energy Resources, told state officials, state legislators and town and county officials at a press conference in the Barnstable Superior Courthouse.

The majority of the seven projects would be on capped landfills that have few, if any, other uses, and would account for 26 percent of the energy needs of the seven participating communities, Sylvia said. In exchange for financing the project, investors receive money from federal solar renewable energy credits, as well as tax credits. The towns get discounted electricity at a steady price for 20 years and money back from the sale of the electricity they generate to NStar. (more…)

So much for the not-in-my-backyard argument: California homes with solar panels installed on them sell for more than their panel-free counterparts, according to a study by the University of California at Berkeley.

The study found that homes with solar panels sold for an extra $5.50 per watt of solar power installed, for an average of $17,000 more per house.

Both solar power and wind power sources typically face resistance from communities due to a “not-in-my-backyard” mentality — meaning residents do not want large obtrusive pieces of equipment within line of sight. The argument is especially true for wind power because wind farms typically require massive turbines that are hundreds of feet tall that might become an eyesore for some residents.

But the Berkeley study, and an additional study conducted by the government in 2009, found that home prices were either unaffected or rose based on proximity to renewable energy sources like wind power turbines and solar panels. The space that wind turbines and solar panels occupy can also be used for other purposes — such as agriculture, in the case of wind power, or roofing, in the case of solar power. (more…)

Soaring oil prices are turning some energy companies into accidental environmentalists: They are building clean, solar-powered systems to pull crude out of their aging wells.

But this is no public relations move by big polluters seeking to green their images. Having spent heavily on energy-intensive technology to increase output from depleted fields, companies including Chevron Corp and Berry Petroleum Co are using solar power to lower the cost of creating steam that is injected into the wells to improve the flow of heavy oil.

Yes, in this instance going solar is actually going cheaper. While electricity generated by solar panels is more expensive than that created by fossil fuels, using the sun to heat water and create steam for so-called enhanced oil recovery costs less than natural gas, even at today’s low prices.

Rising oil prices and a dearth of new areas for exploration have increased investment in EOR, which refers to techniques used to boost crude production from mature fields, usually by injecting steam or gas into the well. Up to 60% of a reservoir’s original oil can be extracted with EOR, compared with 20% to 40% using primary and secondary methods, according to the US Department of Energy. (more…)

In the same week a fire triggered Duke Energy to take some of its rooftop solar panels offline, a Chapel Hill company applied to build a $22 million solar energy farm in Kings Mountain.

It would be the state’s second-largest solar installation, according to the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.

Dixon Dairy Road, LLC, which shares a Chapel Hill address with Strata Solar, filed the application with the N.C. Utilities Commission on Tuesday.

It says if the application is approved the company would build around 21,700 solar-power modules on a Dixon Dairy Road site north of South Battleground Avenue. Strata Solar expects the farm to generate 4.5 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power around 500 average-size homes for a year.

Plans call for the company to sell its power to Duke Energy.

North Carolina law requires power providers to begin meeting 12.5 percent of its retail customer demand with renewable-source electricity or other energy efficiency measures by 2021. (more…)

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