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5 Ways To Power Your Home Using Renewable Energy Sources

Our homes need energy supplies to keep us warm and out of the dark. However, the sources that most people currently use aren’t good for the planet. The longer that they’re used to heat and power homes, the more of a strain they’ll put on the world around us.

 

If we want to take care of Earth and try to reverse some of the harm that’s already been done, it’s vital that we switch to using renewable energy sources. From solar power to hydroelectricity, there’s a variety of options available to us. They’re more powerful and reliable than some people might think, and they’re a significant step towards living a sustainable lifestyle.

 

If you want to know how you can power your home more safely, these are the five best renewable sources to choose from.

 

Wind Power

If you’ve ever seen a wind farm, then you probably understand what wind energy looks like. The wind propels a turbine, the spinning of which generates electricity. However, you don’t need a massive turbine outside your house to reap the benefits for yourself. The ones that are designed for singular home usage are far smaller because they don’t need to provide nearly as much power.

 

Whether you get a free-standing turbine or one that attaches to your roof, wind power is definitely a renewable source worth thinking about. It currently provides around a tenth of all electricity production in Australia and accounts for more than a third of clean energy supply in the country too. Add to that the fact that it could save you hundreds of dollars in bills every year, and it’s obviously an option worth considering.

 

Hydroelectricity

For anyone who lives near a flowing body of water, hydroelectricity could prove to be an incredibly useful source of renewable energy. This system relies on the downward motion of water to generate electricity, which is why it’s so convenient for those close to a river. As the water moves downstream, a turbine converts the movement energy into mechanical energy, which in turn becomes electricity.

 

Small-scale versions of hydroelectric systems are available for use in homes, so long as there’s a usable supply of energy nearby. This is more than enough to generate electricity for one household, meaning you don’t have to worry about your lights suddenly going off, or your TV dying halfway through a show. Unless the water supply suddenly dries up – which is highly unlikely to happen overnight – you’ll be fine.

 

Solar Power

We already rely on the sun to keep us warm from one day to another, so why not harness that energy and use it to heat our homes too? Absorbing light through solar panels has no impact whatsoever on the sun, but it does supply you with a constant source of energy. This can be used as an electricity supply for your home, as well as heating up water. All you need to do is have the panels fixed to your roof, and you can start making use of them immediately.

 

Although solar energy is more efficient on sunny days, you won’t be stuck in the dark or without hot water if it’s overcast outside. Of course, in somewhere like Perth, that’s not much of an issue because the area receives thousands of hours of sunshine every year. That’s why for the people who live there, it’s so worth investing in solar hot water systems.

 

Renew Energy are a completely transparent solar hot water system provider who promises to check on and maintain your panels long after they’ve been installed. With 30 years of combined experience to their name, they’re the most trusted provider in Western Australia. So, you can rest easy knowing that you’ll have a constant supply of energy heating your water that’s safe for the environment.

 

Air Source Heat Pump

The heat in the air around us can do more than simply keep us warm. It can also be utilized as a form of energy production for our homes. Air source heat pumps take the air from outside and absorb it into a fluid, which is then passed through a compressor. As this happens, the temperature is increased, which then provides heating for the house and its water supply.

 

In terms of price, this energy source is relatively cost-effective and could save you quite a lot on your bills every year. It’s also not a particularly loud system, meaning you probably won’t even notice that it’s there. In a way, they’re very similar to refrigerators, except they work in reverse. After all, your fridge wouldn’t do much good if it was generating hot air all the time.

 

Biomass

Biomass as a form of renewable energy basically consists of burning organic material to create heat. This may not sound particularly environmentally friendly – burning things is never usually a good idea for the planet – but it’s actually safer than it sounds. That’s because organic material like food waste and wood pellets don’t produce an excess of carbon when burned. The amount that they release is the same amount that they absorbed during their lifetime.

 

As one of the cheapest renewable energy sources available, biomass certainly isn’t worth discounting. Anyone can get their hands on organic material to be used for this, so it’s relatively little hassle. It’s an option that might not appeal to everyone, but there’s a reason why it’s responsible for roughly a tenth of the world’s primary energy supply.

 

Converting our home energy supplies to renewable sources is something that’s essential moving forward. The sooner we adopt these safer practices in our houses, the sooner we can right some of the wrongs that have been done to this planet over the years. Changing to something like solar power or hydroelectricity is a lot easier than you might think, and with the money that you can save on bills, it’s absolutely worth doing. If saving the planet isn’t enough of a motivation on it’s own, that ought to do the job.




Federal Panel Rejects Attack on Rooftop Solar in US

By Jessica Corbett | Common Dreams

Federal regulators on Thursday released a pair of decisions expected to impact the expansion of renewable power nationwide—one that was celebrated by environmentalists and clean energy advocates as a crucial win and another that critics warned: “could lead to more pollution by propping up fossil fuel power plants.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) delivered a victory to supporters of renewables by rejecting an April petition from the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA) calling for federal rather than local jurisdiction over solar net metering policies, which had provoked strong condemnation from a bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers, solar investors, and hundreds of advocacy groups.

As Public Citizen explained last month:

Net-metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar power generators for the electricity they add to the grid. It is a crucial component of rooftop solar project financing because it makes solar energy systems affordable for small businesses and families through energy credits for the solar power they generate. The NERA petition would grant FERC sole jurisdiction to govern such programs through the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act [PURPA] or Federal Power Act.

Public Citizen, the Center for Biological Diversity, and over 450 other environmental, faith, and consumer groups sent a letter to FERC in June arguing that “state net-metering policies and distributed solar systems are foundational to achieving the nation’s urgently needed clean and just energy transition—to address historical environmental injustices, fight the climate emergency, and ensure long-term resilience.”

Howard Crystal, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity’s energy justice program, authored a legal intervention filed with FERC regarding the petition. In a statement Thursday, he welcomed the Republican-led commission’s rejection of the NERA proposal.

“This is a big win for our climate and for communities embracing clean solar power,” Crystal said. “FERC’s unanimous ruling ensures that states can keep appropriately compensating people who install rooftop solar. That allows community solar and other distributed renewables to continue playing a critical role in the urgent transition to clean energy.”

Abigail Ross Hopper, president, and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association applauded the panel’s dismissal of the “flawed petition” in a statement that highlighted the solar industry’s record on job creation and contributions to the U.S. economy.

“Our industry holds great promise to help create jobs and revive local economies,” she said. “We are grateful to the state utility commissions and many other partners who strongly opposed this petition. We will continue working in the states to strengthen net metering policies to generate more jobs and investment and we will advocate for fair treatment of solar at FERC where it has jurisdiction.”

Tom Rutigliano, an advocate in the Sustainable FERC Project, which is housed at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), similarly welcomed the decision, saying that “FERC did one thing right today in rejecting the outrageous petition that would have upended the ability of rooftop solar owners to get a fair price for the excess electricity they generate.”

However, Rutigliano expressed concern about the panel’s vote to overhaul PURPA, which is more than 40 years old and has been key to renewable energy growth across the country. As he put it: “Instead of promoting the small, clean generation, FERC is undercutting the ability of solar and wind power to get a fair chance to compete.”

Noting that “utilities have long sought changes to the law” over cost concerns while solar and wind developers say it “is critical to giving renewables a leg up in states that aren’t green-leaning,” Bloomberg reported Thursday that the panel

reduced the mandatory purchase obligation for utilities to five megawatts from 20 megawatts in some markets, and gave states more authority to set the price at which small generators sell their power. The “one-mile rule,” which determines whether generation facilities should be considered to be part of a single facility, was also changed. The agency will now require that qualifying facilities demonstrate commercial viability.

Commissioner Richard Glick, the lone Democrat on the panel, dissented in part but said that the changes would benefit consumers. “Under the old regime, customers were overpaying for power they were receiving” to the tune of $2.2 billion to $3.9 billion, he said.

Rutigliano warned that “homeowners putting solar panels on their roof, farmers leasing their land to wind turbines, and industrial facilities with efficient on-site power all lose under FERC’s rule today.”

“FERC is pushing the nation to use more fossil fuels,” he said, “just when it should be doing everything it can to support clean power.”




This Portable, Off-Grid Solar System Is Powerful Enough to Be Your Emergency Back Up

portable-solar-energy-compressed

By Derek Markham | Tree Hugger

It’s described as an “off-grid home solar system in a box,” and it could be a much safer option for home backup power than a gas generator.

Related Article: Why Solar Power is Breaking Records in the US

Portable solar has come a long way from the horribly inefficient and ill-designed devices of just a few short years ago, which were all too often more of a gimmick than a reliable and effective source of energy for daily use. With the increase in solar cell efficiencies, improved manufacturing processes, and better battery technology that we’ve been seeing recently, it’s now possible to buy a portable solar charger and power pack that is not only affordable but is also actually effective and practical. And that’s great for keeping our gadgets charged, but considering that our daily personal power needs are much higher than just that of our gizmos, and that if the electricity goes out, we have no way to keep essential appliances running, so while we’ll be able to have a fully charged phone, we’ll also have our own little global warming event in our freezer.

Related Article: Man Quits Job To Travel In Solar-Powered Home On Wheels

However, one of the recent trends in portable solar setups is bigger panels paired with larger capacity battery storage (often called solar generators), which can be a huge boon when working off-grid or traveling or lighting up a tiny house. These larger solar systems can serve as a microgrid by supplying both AC (house current) with an onboard inverter, and DC (portable gizmos, charging batteries), and by offering a number of different output ports (USB, 12V auto, RV plugs, standard 110V outlet) and charging options (house current, solar panels, additional battery bank, auto plug). In fact, an appropriately-sized battery bank, charged by a similarly-sized set of solar panels, can be an excellent way of ensuring you’ve got emergency power in the event of an outage, and one that is clean and quiet to operate.

Related Article: Silent Rooftop Wind Turbines Could Generate Half of a Household’s Energy Needs

The latest offering in this category is currently enjoying a successful Indiegogo campaign and is billed as being “the world’s most compact, lightweight, expandable, and modular solar system,” capable of supplying sufficient backup power for a home’s essential needs. You can’t exactly just plug your entire home into it when the power’s out, for a number of reasons, but you can use it to selectively power a number of household appliances, medical devices, or lighting.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE…




Affordable Ways to Live Sustainably

With global warming increasingly becoming an alarming issue, it is time to make drastic changes to our lifestyles. This may seem like a difficult and expensive task, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many ways to bring sustainability into your life without breaking your budget — in fact, it can even help you save money.

From breaking bad habits around the house to making upgrades in your home, you can live guilt-free and keep your newly saved dollar bills while making a positive impact on the environment.

Waste Not

If you’re looking for an easy place to start, head to your kitchen. Whether or not you’ve already begun a personal boycott against plastic silverware and paper plates, look around and count the disposable items around the area. Maybe you can replace Ziploc bags and plastic containers with Mason jars, which can have many surprising uses. For example, you can use them as to-go containers or make them into DIY air fresheners.

Composting is the future of recycling. As more cities across the US fund programs to promote the practice of transforming leftovers into nutrient-rich soil, it is easier than ever to get started. More and more cities are gifting their residents with composting bins to accompany their trash and recycling bins, complete with curbside service. Even if your city is not quite there yet, you can still learn to compost at home.

To take it a step further, replace any disposable products in the kitchen with compostable ones. This can combine the convenience of plastic forks and cups with the responsibility of taking care of the environment.

Related Article: HomeBiogas Device Turns Food Waste Into Clean Cooking Fuel And Nutrient-Rich Fertilizer

Options for Tiny Homes

Tiny homes are a trending way to limit your environmental footprint. Many have been able to live comfortably in functional and stylish tiny homes. This solution is great for those looking to downsize and aren’t bothered by a little less elbow room. Some sellers, like City Design Inc, even sell their these small homes on Etsy. Their smallest model costs less than $20,000 and includes a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living space in 180 square feet.

Compared to a small house, this home could save most people hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, that may still be too expensive for some, as the home will require land to stay on, and those building their own tiny home will have to navigate building regulations. If you’re looking live sustainably while avoiding these potential issues, living in an RV might be right for you.

Related Article: Tiny House Must-See – Couple Converts a School Bus So Well You Won’t Believe It’s a Bus

Affordable Solar Power

A staple in sustainable living, solar power may be what your mind wanders to first, only to be struck down because of the cost. It’s true that converting your home to solar power can be quite an investment, but before you turn away from this alternative source of energy, you may want to look into the available options that can make this change an affordable one.

Funding this endeavor should be the first thing you look into, and grants, rebates, and tax refunds should make up a huge part of your research, which can save you thousands of dollars. Though initially this might take more money upfront, you can also rest assured knowing that your electricity bill payments won’t fund anti-clean energy bills. Reports have found a portion of utility profits help fund companies that, among other things, promote fracking and spread misinformation about climate change.

Though sometimes it seems like we are only getting further from our goal of practicing kindness to our planet, there are many ways to do your part. Whether you start composting, move into a tiny home, or upgrade your energy source, every small victory in sustainable living is a victory for the planet.

Related Article: This Portable, Off-Grid Solar System Is Powerful Enough to Be Your Emergency Back Up

About the Author

Brooke Faulkner is a green-souled writer from the pacific northwest. If pressed, she’ll tell you that her green soul is made up of ferns, recycled goods, and a love of the “shop local” movement. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found gallivanting around the woods behind her house. To read more of her work, follow @faulknercreek.




Solar is Growing Massively by Referrals: Here Are the 10 Most “Contagious” Solar Cities in the U.S.

Solar cities

By Megan Treacy | Tree Hugger

It’s a fact of human nature: we’re influenced by what those around us are doing. That can lead us to make some not so great decisions, but it also can lead us to make some very good ones.

Solar power company SolarCity has found that there are pockets of major solar growth in the country that have been fueled by referrals and the positive influence of neighbors.

Related Article: Why Solar Power is Breaking Records in the US

Last year saw more solar panels installed in the U.S. than any other year and 2016 is expected to see twice as many installations as 2015. There are many causes of that growth like lower prices and better solar policies, but SolarCity found trends of word-of-mouth referrals playing a powerful role, especially in certain areas. More than one in three of their customers are referred by a friend, family member or neighbor, but 10 cities stand out as having even more referral-based customers than average and you can see on the maps how these cities have blossomed into solar hotspots.

The top three cities — Fort Collins, CO, Kailua-Kona, HI, and Gloucester Township, NJ — all roughly had a two-thirds referral rate. Below you can see the full ranking.

solarcity ranking

© SolarCity

Seeing the spread of rooftop solar installations in these areas plotted on a map really drives the point home. Below is the greater Honolulu, HI area which is sixth on the list. The green dots are referred customers and the yellow are ordinary customers. You can see how the green dots are in dense clusters — neighbors influencing neighbors.

Related Article: Hawaii’s Going 100 Percent Renewable Without Using Natural Gas

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World’s Biggest Oil Exporter Is Investing $30 – $50 Billion to Develop Wind and Solar Projects

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude oil exporter, is launching an ambitious renewable energy program to transform its power sector.

The kingdom is pledging between $30-$50 billion to develop 30 solar and wind projects over the next 10 years to boost electricity generation and curb oil consumption.

Saudi Arabia wants 10 percent of its electricity to come from renewables in the next six years, energy minister Khalid Al-Falih said Monday at a conference in Riyadh.

He said that the new projects will help the country reach a goal of about 10 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2023. The plan also includes an unspecified amount of electricity generated from nuclear plants.

Here’s what Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy program entails, according to Bloomberg:

“The country is currently seeking bids to build 700 megawatts of wind and solar power capacity in a first round of tenders. It plans a second tender round for rights to build 400 megawatts more of wind power and an additional 620 megawatts of solar plants, Turki Al Shehri, head of the ministry’s renewable energy project development office, told reporters. Saudi Arabia will tender for the wind project in the fourth quarter at a project planned for the northern area of Domat al-Jandal, Al-Falih said.”

The “Saudi Vision 2030” plan seeks to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil. Renewable energy projects are a major component of this plan.

Read more great articles at EcoWatch.




Solar Possibilities Just Grew Immensely with Tesla’s Innovative, Big Batteries – Here’s How

By Lloyd Alter | Treehugger

One of the problems that comes from reliance on solar power is the “duck curve” where the solar panels produce more power than is needed during the day, and standby power is needed in the evening when demand is high and the sun goes down. The common solution has been to turn on natural gas “peaker” plants to produce power when the needed in those few hours. But in Southern California, a big natural gas leak turned into what Melissa called an epic ecological disaster, sending utilities searching for an alternative to gas.

duck curve© If it looks like a duck … (Photo: California ISO)

One of those alternatives that people dreamed about just a few years ago was giant batteries, and Elon Musk promised that he would make them in his new Nevada factory. What is really astonishing is that in just three months, Tesla has delivered a giant battery farm with 396 stacks of batteries that can provide enough electricity to power 15,000 houses for four hours, about how long it takes to shave the peaks, to kill the duck.

Even the experts are shocked at the speed this is happening at: According to the New York Times,

“I had relatively limited expectations for the battery industry in advance of 2020,” said Michael J. Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission. “I thought that it would not really accelerate and begin to penetrate the electric grid or the transportation world for a while to come. Once again, technology is clearly moving faster than we can regulate.”

Natural gas peaker plants are expensive and controversial; you want them near the user, but the NIMBYs come out in force. Battery packs are much simpler, they are modular and they are scalable. According to Tesla Chief Technology Officer J.B. Straubel in Bloomberg,

“There were teams working out there 24 hours a day, living in construction trailers and doing the commissioning work at two in the morning,” Straubel said. “It feels like the kind of pace that we need to change the world.”

MIT Technology Review’s Jamie Condliffe is a bit of a skeptic, noting that lithium batteries are expensive and that they degrade.

Tesla doesn’t say how many cycles that the batteries in its Powerpack systems, which make up the installation, can tolerate before they degrade and reach the end of their useful life. But like other lithium-ion batteries, it’s likely in the thousands—probably around 5,000, the same as its Powerwall units. That’s not bad in a domestic setting, but could be quickly devoured in a grid setting.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE…




It’s Finally Happening: Solar Becoming Cheapest Form Of Electricity Production Globally

Credit – Duke Energy

By Whtney Webb | True Activist

Though solar power was shunned for years due to its high and often prohibitive cost, that is quickly becoming a thing of the past. New statistics from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released last Thursday show that solar has become a cheaper form of electricity production than wind power, and is also out-competing coal and natural gas for the first time. With solar power slated to become the cheapest form of producing electricity, it appears that global energy markets are set to undergo a major transformation as the world begins to finally shift to energy that is both affordable and renewable.

In its new report, titled Climatescope, BNEF analyzed the conditions for clean energy investment on and off the grid in 58 emerging markets (i.e. “developing” nations). In these nations, unsubsidized solar power was found to be out-competing coal and natural gas as well as other renewables, not just in individual projects, but on a large scale. The following chart shows the steep decline in the average cost of solar compared to wind among these 58 emerging markets, including major economies such as China, India, and Brazil. Overall, the price of solar has dropped to nearly a third of its 2010 cost.

Credit – BNEF

This year, record after record for cheap solar power were set in government auctions, where private companies compete to receive lucrative contracts for providing electricity. The first of these took place in January when a contract in India managed to produce electricity for only $64 per megawatt-hour. Then in August, Chile shattered all previous records when a deal was made that would produce electricity using solar power for just $29.10 per megawatt-hour, nearly half the price of coal power.

Yet, these only represent new projects. Other projects, reaching completion this year, are also poised to break records once all 2016 completed solar power projects are tallied in the months ahead. Bloomberg notes that it is highly possible that the total amount of solar photovoltaic panels added globally will exceed that of wind turbines for the first time ever as the latest BNEF projections imply that 70 gigawatts of new solar power production will be completed this year, compared to only 59 gigawatts of wind.

However, this transformation is taking place largely in emerging markets. Wealthier nations have not seen the same success, likely due to the fact that it is difficult for solar to compete with already existing billion-dollar fossil fuel infrastructure as well as the fossil fuel lobby’s hold on federal and state governments. This is especially true in the United States, where solar power now has a difficult time competing with the massive subsidies the fossil fuel industry receives – driving their prices to artificial lows. Though solar power once received subsidies from the government, that program ended in December 2015 while the US continues to provide more than $37.5 billion in subsidies to producers of oil, gas and coal producers, up 45% from when President Obama took office in 2009. Under President-Elect Trump and his fossil fuel-friendly cabinet, such policies are unlikely to change.

What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!


This article (It’s Finally Happening: Solar Becoming Cheapest Form Of Electricity Production Globally) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TrueActivist.com

Read more great articles at True Activist.




Solar Can Already Generate More Energy Than Oil, Study Says

Credit: The Mind Unleashed

By Lance Schuttler | True Activist

Oil proponents have been saying for awhile now that solar doesn’t match up to oil’s energy output, but that statement may have just been proven false. In a major scientific study published in November 2016’s Renewable and Sustainable Energy Review,researchers looked at 29 separate studies and compared the solar photovoltaics (PV) generated as compared to the energy needed to create and install the panels.

Related Article: Elon Musk: We Can Power America by Covering Small Corner of Utah With Sola

The study compiled all the data from the 29 separate studies to gain a clearer picture of solar power’s energetic output. What they found was that only 5 of the 29 studies used recent data, which initially, showed a bleaker picture of what solar can actually generate. However, after compiling data with up to date technological advances in solar energy, the studies showed that solar can generate 14 times the power needed to create the panels.

The author of the study, Rembrandt Koppelar, who is a doctoral researcher at the Center for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, said that oftentimes solar studies are using data that date back to as far as 1998. In other words, many studies put out there about solar energy, are using technological data that is many years old, and not up to date with current capabilities of solar energy output.

Solar Performs Better

A major study by the Royal Society of London in late 2013 showed that the average energy output of oil and gas is about 17 times the amount invested. However, because of our world’s ever-increasing dependence on lower quality sources, the cost of such sources is more expensive and is becoming more difficult to extract from the Earth. Thus, the number of 17 is continually decreasing.

In the United States for example, that number is at 11 for oil and gas and at 10 for biofuels. Recall that the recent solar study calculated that the rate of return for solar is 14 times the amount invested. Solar is already beating oil, gas and biofuels in the United States.

Koppelar also said that nearly 85% of the world lives in areas that receive a significant amount of sunlight. Areas such as South and Central America, Africa, the southern United States, and most of Asia and Oceania receive enough sunlight year round that the number of 14 would be seen as a “low value.” Essentially, solar will be able to provide much more than 14 times the amount of energy that it takes to create the panels in those areas of the world.

The world has also seen solar energy continue to gain momentum as just last month, the Tesla company announced that they will begin selling solar roof panels in 2017 that will likely be more cost effective than a “regular roof.” Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said of the announcement:

“It’s looking quite promising that a solar roof will actually cost less than a normal roof before you even take in the value of electricity into account. So the basic proposition would be, ‘Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, lasts twice as long, costs less and by the way generates electricity?’ It’s like, why would you get anything else?”

Related Article: New Rooftop Solar Panels Are 30 – 40% More Efficient

Additionally, a major project in Asia was announced in October that will see Russia, China, Japan and South Korea create the Asian Super-Grid, which will consists of solar and wind technologies to help power those countries, as well as areas in Europe, southern Africa and Southeast Asia.

The clean energy revolution continues to accelerate, and with this latest news, it is set to move forward even more in the weeks and months ahead. Sharing this latest scientific study with clean energy skeptics could help, as well as sharing it with clean energy proponents. Awareness and knowledge helps to transform situations. We have the technological means to go completely renewable. Share this good news with whoever you can.

What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!


This article (New Scientific Study Says Solar Can Already Generate More Energy Than Oil) by Lance Schuttler originally appeared on The Mind Unleashed,

Read more great articles at True Activist.




Could “Plug-and-Play” Solar Be the Next Clean Energy Wave in the U.S.?

CC BY 2.0 Som Energia Cooperativa

By Derek Markham | Treehugger

In addition to investing in energy efficient home appliances, perhaps we should also be thinking about energy-generating appliances. Plug-and-play solar systems could be an effective clean energy investment for US homes, if only the regulations and paperwork weren’t so burdensome.

Although the US has seen massive growth recently in the adoption of solar electric systems, both for residential homes and for utility-scale power plants, there’s still a long way to go before the average citizen has easy access to clean energy. The price of a residential solar array, while continuing to drop every year, is still a significant amount of money, even after tax credits, and it isn’t a good fit for those who live in multi-unit buildings and don’t own their own roof, or those who rent their home.

Related Article: 100% Clean Energy Economy Is Much Closer Than You Think

There are a few renewable energy options out there for the non-homeowners and those unable or unwilling to finance a full home-sized solar array, such as community solar and clean energy purchase programs through certain utilities, or a solar lease, but there’s also a less-known approach to going solar at home that could be an effective entry-level option. Plug-and-play solar systems, which are self-contained modular units that don’t require any technical expertise to install, might be a solution for more Americans, if it weren’t for the hodgepodge of different regulations across the country that either disallow plug-and-play solar, or are difficult to navigate in order to get utility approval for their use.

Plug-and-play solar systems are designed to be as simple to install as plugging them into a home outlet, where they can directly offset some of the electricity used in the home, and because they can be purchased individually (versus buying an entire solar array at once), could provide more people with a gateway to clean energy. But because these systems also allow anyone to feed electricity back onto the grid, they aren’t allowed to be used in many parts of the US, which severely limits their potential.

According to Michigan Technological University’s Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, “plug and play systems could generate more than four times the amount of electricity generated from all of US solar last year.” A recent study completed by Pearce and two other researchers at the university found that plug-and-play solar could provide a capacity of up to 57 gigawatts of clean energy in the US, and deliver an energy cost savings of up to $13 billion per year. And not only that, but the study, U.S. Market for Solar Photovoltaic Plug-and-Play Systems, also found that “plug and play PV systems are economic throughout the U.S. already,” and could be a sound investment for many homes.

“If a household in Michigan is considered having purchased a plug and play PV system at the highest rate ($1.25/W, which amounts to $1,250 for a 1 kW system). With a conservative estimate of four 1 sun hours per day on average, the system will create 1460kWh/year, which is worth over $292/year for those living in the upper peninsula of Michigan. A simply payback results in the system paying for itself comfortably under 5 years and creating a high double digit return that would challenge even those residents with substantial credit card debt as a sound investment.”

Related Article: MIT Says Current Solar Technology Is Good Enough to Take Us into a Clean Energy Future

But what about those regulations and technical requirements that prohibit the installation of plug-and-play solar systems for both residential and small commercial applications? It turns out that perhaps most of those are overkill, and that with today’s solar PV and microinverter technology, systems of less than 1 kW could be safely added to many homes without the need for a costly AC disconnect switch and other barriers to entry. Another study from Pearce and researchers, “A Review of Technical Requirements for Plug-and-Play Solar Photovoltaic Microinverter Systems in the United States,” acknowledges that while safety procedures still need to be followed, currently available solar technology could be installed and commissioned “without the need for significant permitting, inspection and interconnection processes.”

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5 Solar Energy Myths You Shouldn’t Believe

solar obama

By Sarah Lozanova | Earth911

Renewable energy continues to advance, particularly the solar energy market which is dynamic and evolving quickly. Proof you say? Let’s take a look at a few facts first.

  • The solar industry had another record-breaking year in 2015, with installed capacity increasing 16% over 2014 installations.
  • At the same time, solar system prices fell by 17%.
  • For the first ever, solar beat natural gas in new power capacity last year, with solar energy contributing 29.4% of total new electric generation capacity.

Meanwhile, solar technology advances are making systems more energy efficient and resistant to shade from trees and buildings, allowing them to produce a larger percentage of overall household energy consumption. CGS Solar Panels Central Coast state that all solar installers should now offer solar system monitoring, so homeowners can view historic and real-time solar system output data. With such a dynamic market and with technology advances, things that were true a few years ago may no longer be true today.

Related Article: Hawaii’s Going 100 Percent Renewable Without Using Natural Gas

Researching renewable energy

Separating fact from fiction, let’s take a look at a few myths about solar energy that still prevail. Here are the Top 5 myths about renewable energy — specifically solar.

Myth 1: Solar PV systems require a lot of maintenance and upkeep

Man working on a solar renewable energy panel

WITH NO MOVING PARTS, GRID-TIED SOLAR RENEWABLE ENERGY ELECTRIC SYSTEMS (WITHOUT BATTERIES) REQUIRES VIRTUALLY NO MAINTENANCE. IMAGE CREDIT: LUCARELLI TEMISTOCLE / SHUTTERSTOCK

With no moving parts, grid-tied solar electric systems (without batteries) requires virtually no maintenance. This is impressive, considering the design life of most solar systems is 25 to 30 years. Most solar panel manufacturers even provide 20 to 30 year warranties, because the technology is so reliable.

It is however recommended to inspect solar panels for dust or debris a couple times a year, and clean them with the garden hose if necessary to ensure optimum energy output. Use caution when viewing or cleaning solar panels from high heights, if they cannot be clearly viewed from the ground. Most solar system owners never do inspect panels for cleanliness or clean them however and their systems continues to perform well.

Most residential solar systems are connected to the electric grid and have no batteries, which makes them more efficient than a system without batteries. Most utility companies across the country have net metering programs to credit solar system owners for feeding solar electricity to the power grid, when the system is generating more than the home consumes at the time.

Related Article: New Rooftop Solar Panels Are 30 – 40% More Efficient

Batteries decrease the sustainability and efficiency of the solar system, as not all the power is actually captured and used. Like any other kind of battery, solar system batteries do require maintenance and will need to be replaced every five to ten years. They are also bulky and the batteries themselves have an environmental impact, even if they are recycled at the end of their life.

Myth 2: Solar power is very expensive

Although this was a true statement just a decades ago, the cost of solar panels and equipment has plummeted. As solar technology advances, solar energy production is also increasing significantly, allowing the system to produce more of the overall household electricity. Now that solar electricity has grown nearly exponentially in popularity, solar equipment is mass produced, allowing prices to fall significantly.

A similar phenomenon happened with digital cameras, DVD players, and laptops. Although these gadgets were very costly when they first hit the market, prices have since declined dramatically, making them more affordable for many people. Likewise, solar technology is advancing and becoming more efficient as well.

“There are higher efficiency solar panels available on the market now, which come at a slightly lower price [per watt],” says Nir Maimon, CEO of Sol Reliable, a solar installation and green energy solutions company headquartered in Los Angeles. “Average panel efficiency is now 17%-21%, while previously, it was closer to 16%-17% efficiency.”

At the same time, residential electricity rates have also increased over the last decade, especially in certain areas of the country. The financial performance of a solar system is largely dependent on the cost of electricity that a homeowner would otherwise pay. Today, solar energy systems have never been as affordable, or a better investment, especially in certain markets.

Myth 3: Solar panels don’t generate much electricity during the winter

Solar renewable energy panels covered in snow

WHEN THE TEMPERATURE OF THE SOLAR PANELS IS COOLER, THEY CAN GENERATE MORE RENEWABLE ENERGY. IMAGE CREDIT: BERNHARD RICHTER / SHUTTERSTOCK

Unless you live on the North or South Pole, solar energy systems typically generate a lot of electricity during colder weather, unless they are covered by snow or ice. Despite the angle of the sun being lower in the sky and the days being shorter, solar energy systems can generate significant amounts of electricity throughout the winter months.

This is because solar panels use light, not heat, to generate electricity. When the temperature of the solar panels is cooler, they can generate more renewable energy. Once they reach temperatures around 32 degrees Celsius or 90 degrees Fahrenheit, solar panel output starts to decline. Since panel temperatures are roughly 20 degrees Celsius warmer than ambient temperatures, these temperatures are commonly reached in most climates.

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Why Solar Energy Stocks Are Poised to Shine in 2016

solar-energy-panels-compressed

By Daniel Dicker | The Street

The coming year is not looking very promising for energy. Oil prices are slumping and look like they will continue to underperform for at least the first half of 2016. Natural gas, if anything, looks worse. Can we find anything in the energy space to interest our investment dollars in the first half of 2016?

Related Article: 5 Powerful Financial Habits To Form In 2016

One sub-sector looks primed to do better in the coming year: Solar stocks.

Normally, I believe the renewable sector of energy can only do well when oil stocks are doing well. Why? Because despite all our good wishes to have renewable energy replace fossil fuels whenever it can, wind, geothermal and solar energy are still not competitive with oil, coal and gas — and particularly not as oil hovers below $40 a barrel and natural gas near $2/mcf.

Related Article: Not Just Oil: Guess What Happened The Last Time Commodity Prices Crashed Like This?…

But incentives to increase the global exposure of alternatives and particularly solar power continue to grow and despite its relative inefficiencies, we will continue to see a steady double-digit growth of solar electric generation for 2016 and beyond.

Two recent events make that growth even more sure: The Paris climate accord just signed, and the US Congress extension of renewable tax-credits through 2020.

Related Article: 58 Facts About The U.S. Economy From 2015 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

The agreed carbon targets of the Paris accord were not universal, with each of the 160 countries and particularly the big three of Russia, China and the U.S. contributing their own reduction schedules. Nothing that was in the Paris accord represented a new proposal, nor are they likely to result in a less than 2 degree warming in the climate, the professed goal of the gathering. Still, the collective agreement represents a continued global commitment to increasing dependence upon renewables in the coming decade, despite lower conventional energy prices.

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Elon Musk: We Can Power America by Covering Small Corner of Utah With Solar

TeslaElonMusk

Lorraine Chow | Eco Watch

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has once again championed the incredible potential of renewable energy.

During an interview Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco, the 44-year-old CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX said that the U.S. could meet its electricity needs just by covering a small corner of Utah or Nevada with solar panels.

Related Article: Renewables Can Create Jobs and Heal the Planet

Musk made a similar statement during his speech at the Sorbonne University in Paris on Dec. 2.

“Let’s say if the only thing we had was solar energy—if that was the only power source—if you just took a small section of Spain you could power all of Europe,” he said. “It’s a very small amount of area that’s actually needed to generate the electricity we need to power civilization. Or in the case of the U.S., like a little corner of Nevada or Utah would power the United States.”

While Musk’s statement might sound a little too good to be true, as Tech Insider reporter Rebecca Harrington noted, we already have the technology to do it. More power from the sun hits the Earth in a single hour than humanity uses in an entire year, yet solar only provided 0.39 percent of the energy used in the U.S. last year.

Related Article: Sweden Makes Moves to Stop Using Fossil Fuel and Run Entirely Off Renewables

This is why Musk thinks that solar will become the biggest energy source by 2031, as he told Tim Urban from Wait But Why. If solar is 20 percent efficient at turning solar energy into power, as it has been in lab tests, we’d only need to cover a land area about the size of Spain to power the entire Earth renewably in 2030.

Indeed, photovoltaic technology is growing in leaps and bounds. In October, renowned solar installer SolarCity (where Musk sits as chairman) unveiled a solar panel that can achieve a peak efficiency of 22.04 percent, and that’s just for residential rooftops. On an industrial scale, theworld’s most efficient solar cell has about double the efficiency of SolarCity’s new panels at 44.7 percent.

Related Article: New Rooftop Solar Panels Are 30 – 40% More Efficient

The Land Art Generator Initiative also crunched the numbers and determined that the surface area required to power the whole world with solar would fit into 191,817 square miles of solar panels, or roughly the area of Spain.

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Tesla’s Gigafactory Will Produce As Much Renewable Energy As It Uses

Promo image Tesla

Promo image Tesla

By Michael Graham Richard | Tree Hugger

The battery ‘Gigafactory’ that Tesla is building in Nevada is the centerpiece of its whole mass-market electric car strategy. Without it, the company will have trouble securing enough battery supply to make hundreds of thousands of EVs (which they plan to do for the upcoming, more affordable Model 3, to be unveiled in March 2016), and it will have trouble reducing its prices enough to attract Mr. and Mrs. Everybody (the Gigafactory is expected to slash costs by at least 30% through economies of scale and high-tech manufacturing).

Related Article: Man Solves Tesla’s Secret To Amplifying Power By Nearly 5000%

A lot has been written about how big the Gigafactory will be: It’s going to be one of thelargest building on Earth (how it ranks will depend how much the original plan is expanded), and it will produce more batteries when it is fully operational than the whole world was producing in 2013, as you can see in the graph below.

Tesla/Screen capture

Tesla/Screen capture

But relatively little has been written about another very cool aspect of the project: It will be a ‘net zero’ energy consumer and have carbon neutral operations.

Related Article: Tesla’s Dream is Getting Closer: Japanese Scientists Transmit Electricity Wirelessly Through the Air

Tesla’s Chief Technical Officer, JB Straubel, gave some details on how that will work at a recent talk at the University of Nevada:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k10BOn-ixEU

Renaud Janson helped transcribe some of the relevant parts (big thanks to him!):

The Gigafactory is maybe the best example we can talk about with this. You know, from the get-go, from the first concept of this factory, we wanted to make it a net-zero facility. So, you know, the most visible thing we are doing is covering the entire site with solar power. The whole roof of the Gigafactory was designed from the beginning with solar in mind. We kept all of the mechanical equipment off the roof. We didn’t put extra, sorta, penetrations through the roof that we didn’t need to and it’s a very, very clean surface that we can completely cover in solar. But that’s not enough solar, though. So we have also gone to the surrounding hillsides that we can’t use for other functions and we’re adding solar to those.

Related Article: Influence of Vedic Philosophy on Nikola Tesla’s Idea of Free Energy

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Solar and Wind Power Now Fully Competitive with Fossil Fuels: Time to Switch Over?

 | ExtremeTech.com

Renewable energy production has boomed across the globe in recent years, driven by improvements to solar and wind turbines, increased economies of scale, and in some cases, significant government subsidies. This, in turn, has sparked a great many conversations over whether or not renewables are sufficiently advanced to provide significant amounts of base load power, the estimated cost of transitioning away from fossil fuels, and the timeline for transitioning from hypercompressed prehistoric plant matter to solar or wind power. A new report from financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard finds that the unsubsidized cost of solar and wind power has already reached parity [PDF] with conventional fossil fuels in many parts of the United States.

SolarPricing

The improvements in just the past five years are striking. The graph below shows the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) for unsubsidized wind and solar buildouts. The cost ranges listed above each data point reflect different areas of the United States.

WindPricing

Solar power remains significantly more expensive than wind power throughout most of the country, but costs are expected to continue to fall, from a range of $180 to $265 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2014 for rooftop-mounted solar, to a range of $109 to $151 per MWh in 2017.

The unsubsidized price of energy has already reached parity in some markets and areas of the United States, as shown below:

 

NewEnergyComparison

OldEnergiesCost

Obviously the applicability of these findings depends on where you live; Texas has a very different mix of wind and solar capacity than Maine does. Nonetheless, the implication is clear — in many cases, renewable power is now competitive with fossil fuels, even with no subsidies.

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