Pecan Street insights on panel orientation

DECA has long advocated policy makers consider changing their incentive programs to reflect the value of west, rather than south facing solar panels.  It’s good to see the folks at Pecan Street have quantified this intuitive  assessment. While the article at Greentech Media (http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/are-solar-panels-facing-the-wrong-direction) seem to have done it somewhat wrong, the fact is “There’s no other residential demand response tool generating 60 percent reductions,” Excellent work!
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Vehicle to Grid tech coming of age

Officials celebrate as electric vehicle-to-grid technology sells power to PJM power grid

V2G is the acronym for vehicle to grid technology. The University of Delaware is a leader in this effort, and their for-profit spin-off Nuvve has been testing this technology in Denmark where they are looking at this solution to help buffer their offshore wind farms. The Nuvve literature states that “during this trial it was determined that each car on average could earn $2,500 per year by participating in Nuvve’s V2G solution.” That is a big incentive, particularly when viewed over the life of the battery. The value of load balancing may be higher in markets with high renewable penetration. Given that the IEA are expecting battery costs to come down to about $300/Kwh by 2020 from $1,000/Kwh in 2008 the economic picture is likely to improve. There is great potential for synergy between electric vehicles and greater renewable generation. While there is debate about how much storage greater renewable integration may require and when it will be necessary, the emerging role of “storage as a service” could prove to be significant.

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The benefits of funding residential solar

While there are undoubtedly a great many benefits to installing solar on your own home, it’s becoming more and more apparent that there are real benefits to helping others do the same. GigaOm reports as much in their recent article on the growing interest in solar financing - http://gigaom.com/2013/05/16/the-spigot-of-money-starting-to-open-up-for-installing-solar-panels/ which is finally getting some more mainstream press attention. This of course comes as no surprise to people who have already invested in their own distributed generation.
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Solar Thermal in California

If you happen to live in California you should be taking note of the great incentives for heating water with sunlight instead of gas or electricity. These incentives aren’t small either: $2,175 is the “initial incentive level” if you are offsetting natural gas as a heating source. That’s a pretty great incentive for a system that might cost around $6,000 and would pay for itself even without the subsidy. Check out the California Solar Initiative’s Solar Thermal site for more info. And while you’re there be sure to check out the wonderful resource which is a list of all of the prices and sizes of the projects that have qualified for the incentive. While we always recommend getting multiple bids for work, be sure to ask your installer to be beat that average price!
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Tuppeware Parties for Solar and “Anchor Tenants”

Just saw a great article in the New York Times about how the first PV system in a neighborhood can act as an “anchor tenant” for PV in the community. It’s not that surprising is it? Once people see the benefits of making your own electricity – how simple it is as well as how cost effective – they want in on the deal.
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Sharing your work is fun

The Internet is full of surprises. I happened to stumble upon a great DIY website called PVOutput.org that allows folks to post their solar production data for anyone to check out. Most of the content is from Australia, where the site is based, but obviously the numbers are growing worldwide. In addition to output data, there are how-tos for broadcasting your production data that will allow you to make it web accessible to yourself and other – a pretty cool and low cost technology for showing off how to be self sufficient and hopefully convince others to give it a shot themselves. But actually that’s not all it does – it also lets you see how your neighbors are doing with a similarly sized system and tells you how you might change the orientation of your own system to eek a few more kWh out or shift your peak slightly to better match your load if you like. Pretty cool stuff!
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Goldman Sachs Pieces on Renewables and Clean Tech

Goldman Sachs recently released videos they produced as part of an ad campaign that focus on renewable energy and clean tech. In what I would consider typical Goldman fashion they’re not greenwashing or trying to trumpet their environmental commitment – they’re talking about making money (which as an investment bank is what they are supposed to do). The videos are definitely worth watching as they talk about energy and the economy in a number of countries around the world. This video with Brian Bosler, their COO for Renewables and Clean Tech, touches on a lot of issues including distributed generation. At some point he says “you can’t build a small coal plant in someone’s backyard, but solar is very different. You can put it up on a rooftop. You can put it in a town that you don’t have to build out large transmission systems [to].” What does any of this mean? I think the biggest issue is that it shows that energy consumption is about money, regardless of if you’re calling it “clean”, “alternative” or “renewable” rather than “dirty” or “carbon intensive”. So many people get hung up on the titles instead of focusing on the underlying issues. The one thing Goldman Sachs doesn’t get hung up on is anything other than money, so check out these videos and think about what it means from the perspective of someone that’s focused on the bottom line.
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A One Hundred Percent Solar Country

The rather incredibly small country of Tokelau, which is somewhere beautiful between Hawaii and New Zealand recently announced it was going solar, they weren’t kidding. As reported by New Zealand 3 News they are flipping the switches on their inverters right about now and giving up on their $1,000,000/year diesel habit that had been keeping the lights on in the small territory. Score one for distributed generation. To be fair they are still keeping a small supply of locally produced coconut oil to run the old diesel generators a small percentage of the time, but otherwise it’s solar in the day and batteries charged by solar at night. As perhaps the smallest economy in the world, with around 1500 residents living on five square miles, this news apparently isn’t wowing everyone – but it should be. The country will start seeing financial benefits immediately: the full cost of the installation being paid off in only five years and the financed cost means the country is probably saving 25% or more of its annual energy costs. That ignores the cost of the diesel generators and the cost of maintaining them and dealing with their frequent breakdowns and servicing needs. So from a financial standpoint alone the question probably should have been “why not sooner?” Maybe we should be asking ourselves the same question.
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Heat Exchangers and Investments for Saving Energy

Perhaps one of the most under-appreciated sources for saving on one’s energy bill is a heat exchanger.   The basic idea of a heat exchanger is to take an existing source of heat (from air or water), concentrate it, and pass air over it to provide heat for a home.  Conveniently, they can work in reverse for cooling in some situations too. I recently visited a house in northern Michigan that takes advantage of Michigan’s reduced electricity rate for heat exchangers – paying less than five cents per kW for a heat exchanger that also doubles as an air conditioner in the summer.  Michigan’s DTE Energy has a good description of how it works on their geothermal systems page. Heat exchangers work throughout the country – from Southern California to Nothern Michigan. They more than pay for themselves in energy savings over the life of equipment and in many areas qualify for other incentives such as tax credits and special lower electricity rates. Of course, there are even cheaper ways of doing it if you’re willing to give up on aesthetics!
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GoSolarSF

DECA recently signed on with SunRun, SunEdison, First Solar and others in an open letter to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee opposing cuts to the GoSolarSF program. Contrary to popular belief it’s not always foggy in San Francisco and even with the fog residential and small commercial electricity producers can make quite a few Watts.  The program has resulted in more than five MW of rooftop solar in the city by the bay since its inception in 2008 and as prices keep dropping those numbers will likely go up significantly – IF the program isn’t gutted. As a nationally focused organization we’re interested in helping out wherever we can – if you’re aware of any budget cuts for solar or other distributed generation programs in your neck of the woods, please let us know so we can marshal forces in your area.
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