08/06/10

  02:50:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 196 words  
Categories: Electric Cars that Run on Sun

Nissan Rolls Out First Rapid-Charge Unit for the Leaf

One of the key concerns that EV advocates have to address is the need to recharge away from home. Given that a conventional household 120V outlet would require overnight to recharge and even a 240V outlet could require several hours, what is the poor EV owner going to do when their battery is headed to Empty?

The answer lies in the deployment of rapid-charge stations throughout metropolitan areas so that the car can be fully recharged in a matter of minutes, not hours. Nissan has just taken a major step forward in this area with the rollout of its first rapid-charge station in, of all places, Portland, Oregon.  Although the details are limited, here is the video that Nissan released of the event:

The Leaf’s onboard navigation system will be able to inform the driver of the location of the nearest public charging stations and the distance to each.  Of course, we hope that their home charging station will be solar powered and it is only a matter of time before you see public charging stations that are also solar powered.  You can learn more about making your EV Run on Sun at our website.

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07/28/10

  04:35:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 474 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Climate Change

Proposition 23 - Suspicion Warranted

If a ballot initiative is known by the company it keeps, we should be just a teeny bit suspicious of Proposition 23, the Nov. 2 measure designed to eviscerate California’s new greenhouse gas regulation. The driving force behind the initiative is the oil industry, which has contributed more than $2.3 million to getting it passed. The biggest single contributor is San Antonio-based Valero Energy ($1.05 million, according to the latest state campaign disclosures), with San Antonio-based Tesoro Corp.in second place with $525,000.

So begins the latest piece from Michael Hiltzik at the LA Times and he is, once again, on to something. Just as with Prop 16 - the misleadingly labeled “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” that was actually the “Protect Pacific Gas & Electric’s Monopoly” measure,  Hiltzik reveals who is behind Prop 23 and explains why their motives might not be consistent with their rhetoric.

As folks who read this blog surely know, AB 32 is the California law that seeks to reduce our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions while making the state more attractive to green businesses (like this one) that represent the state’s economic future. Given that transportation is the single largest source of GHG emissions in the state, it is not surprising that oil companies might be concerned about a requirement to substantially reduce those emissions.  Now the Texas oil companies seeking to block AB 32 may not be interested in hastening the emergence of a renewable, non-fossil-fuel based economy, but surely the rest of us are.  Hopefully the voters will see through the deception and reject Prop 23, just as they rejected Prop 16 last month.

The retreating Iceberg Glacier in Bernardo O'Higgins National ParkIf you needed any more incentive than you already had, perhaps this will help.  Today the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) released a study of world-wide climate data and concluded that “Global warming is undeniable.”  Analyzing data collected in 48 countries by more than 300 scientists, the NOAA report - titled State of the Climate in 2009 - concluded that “the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years.”

Apart from the climate change implications of implementing AB 32, it should be remembered that burning fossil fuels - particularly the gasoline peddled by those Texas oil companies - contributes to the creation of smog here in the LA Basin.  Cutting back on those emissions will make all of us healthier, particularly those with asthma and other respiratory conditions.  Indeed, when I was a child growing up in Alhambra during the 60’s, after lunchtime recess my classmates and I would come back to the classroom and cough repeatedly - such was the state of the air that I was breathing as a boy. We should not forget that the tremendous improvements in air quality here in LA came over the objections of the very same interests that now tell us we cannot afford to implement AB 32.

But they were wrong 40 years ago, just as they are certainly wrong now.

07/27/10

  03:10:13 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 395 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics

It's Official - Solar Power is Now Cheaper than Nuclear

In the debate over what constitutes the most cost-effective energy source to replace fossil-fuel power plants, it has long been claimed that nuclear power is the cheapest alternative available.  But a new report indicates that such an assumption is flawed and that for the first time ever, the cost of solar power is now cheaper than the cost of nuclear.  According to the study- “Solar and Nuclear Costs - The Historic Crossover” - by Duke University Economics Professor, John O. Blackburn and graduate student Sam Cunningham, while the cost of installing solar has been steadily declining, the costs of nuclear power plants have been rising “inexorably” over the past eight years.  "Solar photovoltaics have joined the ranks of lower-cost alternatives to new nuclear power plants,” said Prof. Blackburn.  In a “historic crossover” the costs of solar PV systems have declined to the point where they are lower than the rising projected costs of new nuclear power plants, the authors claimed.

Graph of Solar versus Nuclear costs

The crossover point occurred at 16 cents per kilowatt hour.

A New York Times article discussing the study notes that estimates of construction costs have gone from roughly $3 billion per reactor in 2002 to an average now of roughly $10 billion.  But since no one has ever built and commissioned a nuclear power plant in the United States according to present standards, no one actually knows what the final cost of a new nuclear power plant would be.  Of the five proposed designs for new nuclear facilities being considered by U.S. utilities, only one has ever been built, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Thus nuclear power presents an inverted learning curve - whereas most technologies, such as solar, get cheaper over time as developers learn how to produce more and better products with fewer raw materials and less labor, it would appear that the more we learn about nuclear power, the more expensive it becomes.

This is certainly not for a lack of nuclear subsidies from the government. According to a 2000 report by Marshall Goldberg of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, from 1943 to 1999 the U.S. Government paid nearly $151 billion (in 1999 dollars) in subsidies to the wind, solar and nuclear power industries.  Of that, 96.3% went to support nuclear power.

In the quest to deliver cheap and clean power to supply future needs, it is clear that solar has taken the lead - a lead it is not likely to surrender anytime soon.

07/17/10

  07:46:49 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 299 words  
Categories: Climate Change

Franke James - Another Take on Climate Change

For folks who are trying to do something about climate change - whether by being more energy efficient, adding solar panels, driving an EV, etc - at times the news can be disheartening, even depressing.  Whether it be oil erupting in the Gulf of Mexico or politicians unwilling to pay attention to the real science on display around them, keeping focused on the issue without feeling defeated can be quite the trick.  Maybe what is needed is something a bit more light-hearted to make the point in a more entertaining way.

In that spirit I give you the CO2 Toaster and its creator, Franke James:

I came across this wonderful piece of whimsy at the equally wonderful website created by Ms. James called My Green Conscience.  (The CO2 Toaster widget can be installed on any website and the necessary code to embed it is available at her website.)  There is good science supporting the toaster, and clicking on it takes you to the science-heavy website CO2 Now where you can review the data behind the widget, and lots more.  But it starts with the graphic that draws you in and makes you want to know more. There is a lesson there for all of us advocates for action on climate change - sometimes you can do more to bring people along with art than anger.

Ms. James is a Canadian artist with a very active “Green Conscience” and she creates stunning visual essays about climate change and environmental degradation with an eye toward illuminating what we as individuals can do about it.  (For example, check out her more recent essay, Ending the Climate War, that is up on her website now.)  If you have not already done so, I encourage you to check out her work and share it with your friends.

07/12/10

  12:34:38 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 441 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, SCE/CSI Rebates, Utilities, PWP, SCE, LADWP, BWP, GWP

State of Solar in California - Annual CSI Program Assessment Released

Three years into an ambitious ten year plan to install 3,000 MW of solar power on California rooftops, the State of Solar in California is surprisingly good - despite a difficult economy.  The California Solar Initiative covers that portion of the program under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and involves the three Investor-Owned Utilities in the state - PG&E, SCE and SDG& E.  The CPUC issued its Annual Program Assessment last week.   The CSI program, which is targeted to install some 1,940 MW of solar by the end of 2016 is already 42% of the way there.

More highlights from the Assessment after the break.

The Assessment has loads of interesting statistics and it is worth at least skimming the 91 page report.  Among the key findings:
  • CSI Incentives have Economic Leverage - For every dollar spent on incentives, there has been another $2.62 invested in solar power systems from other sources.  The CSI incentives have leveraged an additional $5.06 billion in other capital investments.
  • System Costs are Declining - using inflation adjusted data, costs for systems smaller than 10kW (i.e., most residential systems) have fallen by 15% from January 2007 to December 2009.  For larger systems, system costs declined by nearly 10% over the same period.
  • Backlog in Projects - Completed projects make up 20% of the goal while pending projects (i.e., projects for which a rebate has been reserved but the project is not yet complete) account for another 22%.
    • There are some concerns that this is not an accidental condition.  We will have more to say about this in a future post.
  • 2010 is the Strongest Year Yet - In just the first six months of this year, nearly 300 MW of project applications have been received by CSI and nearly 60 MW has already been installed.  April of this year saw the highest MW total for new applications of any month in the program - over 134 MW.
  • Solar Systems Work - for both the grid and their owners:
    • California has over 600 MW of solar power connected to the grid at nearly 65,000 customer sites.
      • But here is an eye opener - 598 MW of that is installed in IOU territory - only 11 MW is installed in publicly owned utility territory!  (I.e., the so-called “Muni’s” which include LADWP, PWP, BWP & GWP!)
    • In 2009, CSI projects generated more than 390,000 MWh of energy - three times the amount produced in 2008.
    • Based on a review of actual performance data, both large and small CSI-funded systems are performing above estimates and solar customers rank their systems at a ‘9′ on a scale from 1 to 10 for system performance satisfaction.

It would be nice to see similar analysis coming from the Muni’s - which up until now tend to keep their data to themselves.  That too is grist for another post.

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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