Is Your State Benefiting From, or Missing Out on, the U.S. Solar Power Boom?

October 15th, 2014

Is your state benefiting from, or missing out on, the national solar power boom that’s well underway (note: click on the map to enlarge). That question is at least partly answered by the new Solar Means Business Report, released this morning by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Among other things, the report finds that the “average price of a completed commercial [solar] PV project in Q2 2014 has dropped by 14 percent year over year and by more than 45 percent since 2012.” That’s great news, of course, and a continuation of the long-term trend which has seen solar power costs fall by 99% since 1977 – a trend that’s continuing.

Here are a few more factoids from the SEIA report:

  • “Since 2010, U.S. businesses have installed solar systems at their facilities more than 32,000 times.”
  • “For the second straight year, U.S. businesses, non-profits and government organizations added more than 1,000 MW of new PV solar installations. As of mid-2014, there were 4,531 MW of commercial solar PV installed on 41,803 business, non-profit and government locations throughout the U.S.”
  • “American businesses are turning to solar because it’s good for their bottom line. For many companies, electricity costs represent a significant operating expense, and solar provides the means to reduce costs and hedge against electricity price increases.”
  • “While retailers have installed the most capacity, auto manufacturers, pharmaceuticals and food servicers, as well as companies in many other industries, have all looked to solar to lower operating costs.”
  • “The rest of the U.S. is catching up to the likes of California and New Jersey, the first and second largest state markets for commercial solar. Leaders in those states and others like them have put in place smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar.” Has your state put into place “smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar?”
  • “In total, 129 million people in 33 states and Puerto Rico live within 20 miles of at least one of the 1,110 commercial solar installations that were analyzed in this report.”

If that’s not enough to make you wonder why your state has not seized this tremendous opportunity, see an article which just came out this morning, Georgia Is the Latest State to Procure Dirt-Cheap Solar Power, by Greentech Media.  According to this article: “After a second round of bidding from developers seeking to build hundreds of megawatts’ worth of solar plants in the state, Georgia Power reported that the average price of electricity came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s 2 cents cheaper than last year’s bids.

How cheap is 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour? To put it in perspective, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the Average Retail Price of Electricity to U.S. residential users as of July 2014 was 13.05 cents per kilowatt-hour, while the average cost to all U.S. power users was 11.01 cents per kilowatt-hour. Again, the new solar power bidding in Georgia came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour — far lower than the national average retail price of electricity.  So, if your state isn’t going solar big-time, you probably should ask your state legislators and utilities why that’s the case. The answer, or lack thereof, could be a real eye opener.

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (10/15/14)

October 15th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (10/15/14).

  1. Tina Casey reports at Clean Technica, “US Military Goes All In On Climate Change Adaptation.”
  2. According to DeSmogBlog: ”The European Union’s 2020 climate and energy package, which is binding legislation, calls for emissions to be cut by 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020. In addition, the plan calls for energy efficiency savings of 20 per cent and a 20 per cent increase in renewable energy technologies.”
  3. Greentech Media reports: “A total of 130 thousand metric tons (kilometric tons or KMT) of polysilicon manufacturing capacity, equivalent to roughly 25 gigawatts of crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar PV panels, is estimated to come on-line in 2015 and 2016, according to GTM Research’s newest report, Polysilicon 2015-2018: Supply, Demand, Cost and Pricing. By 2016, cumulative global polysilicon supply capability will reach 437 KMT, enough to enable 85 gigawatts’ worth of c-Si panel production.”
  4. According to Climate Progress, “An analysis released today found that the EPA could go much further when it comes to the plan’s renewable energy targets, and that states can cost-effectively produce nearly twice as much renewable electricity as the EPA calculated.”
  5. Treehugger reports, “[Bank of England Governor] Mark Carney…told a World Bank seminar that ‘the vast majority of reserves (of oil, coal and gas) are unburnable,’ before urging investors to consider the long-term implications of the investments they make.”

Is ExxonMobil Starting to Take the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement Seriously?

October 14th, 2014

Is ExxonMobil starting to worry about the fossil fuel divestment movement?  Based on this article, it certainly looks that way.

Exxon Mobil is wielding its public relations might against the fossil-fuel divestment movement, signaling that climate-change activists have struck a nerve at the world’s biggest publicly traded oil and gas company.

Exxon Mobil’s blog, titled “Perspectives,” posted a lengthy attack Friday about the divestment movement, which urges universities, churches, pension funds, and other big institutional investors to dump their shares of oil and coal companies as part of the fight against global warming.

But the blog post calls the movement “out of step with reality,” saying it’s at odds with the need for poor nations to gain better access to energy, as well as the need for fossil fuels to meet global energy demand for decades to come.

So far, the climate advocates’ progress at getting a growing number of institutions to shed holdings in fossil fuel companies remains pretty small compared with the scale of the industry they’re battling.

But, the article adds, while the fossil fuel divestment movement may be small now, it’s growing fast. As a result, the fossil fuel divestment movement clearly has ExxonMobil nervous, and there’s one clear piece of evidence to prove that’s the case: ExxonMobil’s attacking it. Because, let’s face it, that’s what the fossil fuel industry does when it sees a threat – relentlessly attacks, just as it’s done with clean energy and climate science in recent years. The problem for the fossil fuel industry, though, is that no matter how much money they spend attacking their demons, the reality – plummeting costs and rapidly improving technology for solar and wind, mountains of scientific evidence on climate change driven by fossil fuel combustion – isn’t going away.

All of which means the harsh reality for ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies is that, while they certainly are big and powerful today, that situation could change in a hurry. And if the fossil fuel folks don’t believe that, all they have to do is look at the land line telephone companies of the 1970s in the era of cell phones and Skype, or the traditional journalism business model in the internet age, then figure out if that could be them.  While they’re pondering this question, they might also consider whether in 10-20 years, will they be: a) kicking themselves for fighting the inexorable shift towards clean energy; or b) patting themselves on the back for joining it? At least at the moment, it looks like they’re foolishly, stubbornly sticking with option “a”.

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (10/14/14)

October 14th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (10/14/14).

  1. Bloomberg reports, “At a windy mountain pass on the edge of the Mojave DesertNorth America’s most potent collection of batteries used for storing unused power is humming its way toward an electricity revolution.”
  2. According to The Guardian, “Onshore wind is cheaper than coal, gas or nuclear energy when the costs of ‘external’ factors like air quality, human toxicity and climate change are taken into account, according to an EU analysis.”
  3. The New York Times reports: “The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises.”
  4. The Guardian describes how, “over the last few years the coal industry has been trying to hijack the issue of energy poverty by telling the world that the only way the poorest nations can pull themselves out of poverty is by purchasing lots of their product.” The article notes that this is a “deeply cynical campaign to get more coal burned at a time when world leaders need to be working out how to do the opposite to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
  5. CBS News writes: “Does having your own solar power installation sound appealing? It apparently does to a growing number of American businesses and homeowners who are investing in what many tout as a cleaner and less expensive source of electricity. And that trend of buying into solar power is also growing internationally.”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (10/13/14)

October 13th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (10/13/14).

  1. NPR reports, “an investigation by Houston Public Media and the Houston Chronicle shows Texas highways have become the nation’s deadliest amid a fracking boom.”
  2. According to Midwest Energy News, “Commercial enterprises, homeowners and nonprofits lined up in great numbers to take advantage of a Minnesota program designed to spur the domestic manufacture of solar panels and increase adoption of photovoltaic (PV) solar through aggressive incentives.”
  3. Bloomberg reports, “Renewable energy will satisfy much of Africa’s expanding power needs by 2040 as the continent unlocks vast hydropower resources, the International Energy Agency said.”
  4. Renewable Energy World highlights “5 Breweries Embracing Renewable Energy.”
  5. Bloomberg reports, “Scotland [Friday] gave the go-ahead to four sea-based wind farms with a potential 2.3 gigawatts capacity, enough for 1.4 million homes, the Scottish government said in a statement.”