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Video: SEIA Webinar Provides Key Tips on Content Marketing for Solar Companies

Posted By Lowell F. on March 20th, 2014

Here are a few key points from this excellent webinar, presented earlier today, by SEIA on content marketing for solar companies.

  • According to Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza, blogging is the centerpiece for any content marketing strategy for several reasons. For instance, it gives you organic search engine optimization, encourages people to turn to you as an expert, and gives your company a voice.
  • A few reasons people might not be reading your blog include content that’s not interesting, too complicated, not visual enough, and not shared on social media like Twitter and Facebook.  Presenting visual “eye candy” is much better than just a “wall of text.” You also need to blog regularly.
  • Twitter is a hub for receiving and putting out information. There’s also a huge solar community on Twitter, people who you can interact with, ask questions of, start a conversation with. It’s also a terrific place to follow trends in your industry.
  • According to Silvio Marcacci, visual content (e.g., “infographics”) is highly compelling to people, in part because the brain processes visual content 60,000 times faster than text. A good infographic catches people’s attention, conveys your message quickly and effectively, and helps grow your website’s traffic.
  • In designing your infographic, think of it as a story – almost like a comic strip – with a beginning, middle, and end, plus a strong “hook.” Make sure that it’s helpful and informative, not just touting what you’re doing.  Make it eye catching, focused on 3 or 4 core points you want to make. And make it easy to share, for instance by providing embed code for re-posting.
  • Video can also be a highly effective way to get your message out. Consider that 90% of users say seeing a video increases the likelihood they’ll buy a product or service. Also consider that 80% of people online will watch a video, while only 20% will read all text content. Finally, keep your video short, as 45% of viewers will stop watching after 1 minute, and 60% after 2 minutes.
  • Don’t forget Facebook, which is the largest social media audience in the world, with 1.2 billion monthly active users. You need to be there. Among other advantages, Facebook gives you the ability to micro-target customers (e.g., by geography, demographic, interests). Keep in mind that photos create 53% more “likes,” 104% more comments, and 84% more clicks than plain text.  Also, posts with 80 characters or fewer create 66% more engagement than longer posts. And don’t forget to engage with people – it’s social media, after all!
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Turning Sunshine Into Fresh Water Sounds Like a Good Idea to Us

Posted By Lowell F. on March 13th, 2014

Using sunlight to produce clean water? Sounds like a great idea to us.

…in order to counter California’s drought, the push must be toward renewable desalination plants rather than fossil-fuel dependent facilities that further contribute to climate change.

By using sun as the fuel source, WaterFX uses roughly one-fifth of the electricity consumed by traditional desalination plants, according to Mandell. Less electricity means lower operating costs. With conventional desalination, electricity makes up 50-60% of the water costs, says Mandell. A typical desalination plant in San Diego operates at about $900 per acre-foot, while it costs around $450 to produce an acre-foot of water with WaterFX.

That’s right, the solar desalination facility costs HALF what the fossil-fuel-powered one does. Meanwhile, on a related note, a new report finds that “wind energy protects water security.”

The AWEA has done its own calculations on the savings that were made from 140 million MWh of wind-generated power in the U.S. More than 30 billion gallons of water was saved using wind power that year instead of fossil-fuel generated power. That’s 97 gallons for every person in the U.S.

And last year’s savings? According to the AWEA’s website, the wind projects that were funded in part by tax credits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Section 1603 in 2012 saved an estimated 35 billion gallons of water, or 120 gallons per person, in 2013.

“The power sector withdraws more water than any other sector in the United States, including the agricultural sector,” says the AWEA. “By displacing electricity generation from other sources, wind energy not only avoids CO2 emissions and pollutants, but also avoids water withdraws and consumption, preserving the water for other uses.”

In sum, solar and wind power’s many advantages over fossil fuels also include water security, an increasingly critical issue in a world experiencing more extreme droughts due in part to climate change.

Posted in Water, solar energy
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Joseph Desmond of BrightSource Energy: Ivanpah a Model for Future CSP Projects

Posted By Lowell F. on March 5th, 2014

A bit earlier today, Joseph Desmond of BrightSource Energy appeared on EETV to talk about how the recently-inaugurated Ivanpah concentrating solar power (CSP) facility is not only “relevant,” but a model for future projects. Asked whether “a project of this nature is no longer relevant or would no longer to be relevant to be built new starting today,” Desmond responded:

No, I actually think it’s quite the opposite. So the tower technology itself is an evolution of previous trough technology, and the reason we went to the tower was to achieve higher temperature and higher pressures, which allow us to use more efficient turbines. But when you look at the technology, what we’re really talking about is being able to create solar steam, and that steam can be used for certainly renewable energy, but also enhanced oil recovery, desalinization and industrial market processes. So as we think about the technology itself going forward, there are still opportunities to improve both in its performance, in the ability — how it’s controlled, in the optimization. So there’s still room for improvement.

we have several projects in the pipeline that are based on the tower technology, one in Southern California going through the permitting process. But we’re also working internationally, and as BrightSource we’re now very much a technology company. So we provide the solar field engineering services, layout and design, and the core software that controls that, and we look to partner with other companies.

You can click on the image above to view the entire interview with Joseph Desmond. Also, check out Tigercomm Executive Vice President Mark Sokolove’s recent post talking about how Ivanpah is both “inspirational and aspirational” for CSP worldwide.

Posted in solar energy
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Swords Into Plowshares? How About Coal Plants Into Solar Farms?

Posted By Lowell F. on February 28th, 2014

We’ve all heard the expression about turning swords into plowshares.  How about turning coal plants into solar farms as the energy equivalent?  Here’s an example that we hope will be widely emulated.

…renewable energy has started to take off in Mexico, with construction of the biggest solar power plant in Latin America, Aura Solar I — a 30-megawatt solar farm in La Paz, Mexico — the latest signal…

…In La Paz, where pollution from a dirty thermoelectric plant creates noxious air impacting resident’s lifestyles and well-being, the solar plant is a welcomed clean development. The $100 million project, which includes 132,000 solar panel-modules, is the first Mexican private enterprise of such a size to get a development bank loan and an agreement to sell its electricity to the grid.

Even better, as this article explains, the new solar power “is expected to replace output from local fossil-fuel facilities, reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide and particulates. In all, it will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60,000 tonnes a year.” That includes “the aging Punta Prieta thermoelectric plant, which uses some of the dirtiest petroleum products on earth: a mix of cheap, low-grade fuel oil and expensive high-sulfur diesel.” Sounds like a good trade-off to us!

Posted in solar energy
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Ivanpah Solar Thermal Project Both “Inspirational and Aspirational” for CSP Worldwide

Posted By MarkS on February 20th, 2014

by Tigercomm Executive Vice President Mark Sokolove


The number of days in the week? The number of deadly sins?

Yes, the correct answer to both of those questions is indeed “seven,” but that’s not what I’m getting at here. Instead, I’m referring to the number of times that NRG President and CEO David Crane has visited the 392-megawatt Ivanpah solar thermal power plant, which went online last week in California’s Mojave Desert. Crane’s seven visits even include one tour with former President Bill Clinton.

The number of times David Crane has toured Ivanpah is impressive for two main reasons. First, because NRG isn’t located anywhere near the Mojave Desert, so Crane had to go well out of his way to get there — let alone seven times. Second, because NRG has a huge portfolio of energy projects (“47,000 megawatts, capable of supporting almost 40 million homes”), and Crane has stated that he tries to visit each of them at least once.

So what is it about the Ivanpah project that keeps Crane – and many other people – coming back, other than the fact that NRG played a major role (along with Google, BrightSource Energy and other investors) in building it?

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Ivanpah’s grand opening, Crane spoke about how this solar thermal facility is both “inspirational and aspirational.” Last June, I focused on the “inspirational” part, writing that the project was both technically impressive and beautiful. For instance, it uses more than 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors (installed at a rate of one mirror every minute!) that track the sun in three dimensions, reflecting sunlight onto three, 459-foot-tall towers, and creating super-heated steam to drive turbines and produce electricity. It’s also amazing how the mirrors are tilted at different angles, so that they can do their job of producing energy while simultaneously making it clear to birds that this isn’t a lake they might want to land on.

Now, I want to turn to the “aspirational” part of what Crane was talking about; namely, the tremendous potential for growth in solar power generally, and concentrating solar power (CSP) projects specifically, in the U.S. and around the world.  Until recently, CSP technology has been relatively unproven at such a massive scale. Which is partly why BrightSource Energy CEO David Ramm says that “our challenge was to build Ivanpah to demonstrate the technology works at commercial scale.”

Now that Ivanpah’s built and working as expected, Greentech Media explains that investors and policymakers around the world can feel more confident about “committing to the technology.” In addition, construction of Ivanpah demonstrated tremendous economies of scale, with “the costs for building Ivanpah’s third tower…significantly lower than those for the first.”  Storage capacity will help even more with the economics of CSP, encouraging growth of a technology which currently has about 2 gigawatts worth of capacity “finally coming on-line, starting with Abengoa’s Solana Generating Station and the first phase of NextEra’s Genesis solar project.”  The future could see enormous growth in CSP in places like the Middle East (e.g., Saudi Arabia is looking at adding up to 25 gigawatts of CSP by 2032), India (see here for more on that country’s large-scale CSP plans), China and South Africa.

No wonder why Solar Foundation Executive Director Andrea Leucke calls Ivanpah “a very big deal, a milestone, a game changer.” And no wonder why Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said at the Ivanpah dedication that “this project is a symbol of the exciting progress we are seeing across the industry.” Secretary Moniz is right: it’s an exciting time for solar power, including CSP, with Ivanpah just the latest “inspirational and aspirational” success story.

Posted in solar energy
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