11/10/09

  03:47:54 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 347 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, SEIA

Solar Bill of Rights - Rights # 4, 5 & 6

The next Rights set forth in SEIA’s Solar Bill of Rights, concern those rights specific to the solar industry itself.  
In particular:

4. The solar industry has the right to a fair competitive environment.

5. The solar industry has the right to equal access to public lands.

6. The solar industry has the right to interconnect and build new transmission lines.

Let’s take these one at a time…

What does it mean for the solar industry to have a “fair competitive environment” in which to operate?  After all, isn’t solar already heavily subsidized through rebates and tax credits?  It is true that over the past few years, particularly in California, we have seen more favorable treatment for solar than in the past.  And yet, these subsidies are but a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars that the fossil fuel industries have received for decades.

According to Scientific American (citing a study by the Environmental Law Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars), between 2002 and 2008, the fossil fuel industry received approximately $72 billion.  In contrast, all renewables received just $29 billion, but more than half of that - $16.8 billion - went to pay for ethanol from corn, a poor environmental choice.  Solar’s share?  Less than $1 billion.

A similar concern arises over access to public lands.  For years, fossil fuel producers have had nearly unfettered access to federal lands with the government getting a very poor return on its investment.  (For example, see this listing of Bush-era actions to open up public lands to the fossil fuel industry.)  For utility scale solar to succeed, access to public lands in an environmentally sensitive way is crucial.

Likewise, to get clean solar energy to the demand centers around the country that need it, the solar industry and others will need to construct, and interconnect into, new, smarter transmission systems.  These too will need access to public lands to make them affordable.

These rights will go a long way to leveling the playing field for the solar industry and hasten the day when a substantial percentage of the nation’s energy can be supplied by clean solar power systems.

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11/06/09

  09:46:01 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 259 words  
Categories: SEIA, Solar News

Solar Bill of Rights - Rights # 2 & 3

Continuing our series on the recently promulgated Solar Bill of Rights, here are some thoughts on Rights 2 & 3.  Here they are:

2.      Americans have the right to connect their solar energy system to the grid with uniform national standards.

3.      Americans have the right to Net Meter and be compensated at the very least with full retail electricity rates.

The good news is that at least here in California, #2 has already been secured.  All of the utilities in our service area (the greater Los Angeles region) allow grid-tied systems to be connected to the grid with a minimum amount of hassle and red-tape.

The news is not quite so good for Right #3.  Under existing California law, there is a cap on the number of net metering agreements that utilities are obligated to offer - presently at 2.5% of the utilities peak load.  Such a cap makes no sense, and could work to seriously limit the growth of solar in California.  Fortunately, there is legislation in the works, authored by Assembly Member Nancy Skinner (D-AD14) that would raise the cap to 5%.   Skinner’s bill, AB560, will be reintroduced next year.

Finally, we made real progress on the fair compensation portion of Right #3 with the signing into law of AB920.  For the first time, solar customers in California will no longer be “donating” their surplus energy to their utility.  Instead, utilities must pay solar customers who are net energy producers using the same rate structure by which that customer would normally be billed.

What do you think about these rights?  Please add your comments, below.

11/03/09

  08:35:58 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 252 words  
Categories: SEIA, Solar News

Solar Bill of Rights - Right # 1

Yesterday I posted the eight Rights from the Solar Bill of Rights introduced by SEIA President Rhone Resch during his speech at last week’s Solar Power International conference.  Over the next several days I will be discussing these rights in greater detail.  Let’s start today with number one:

1. Americans have the right to put solar on their homes or businesses.

Well, of course they do - what is holding them back?  Aside from a weak economy, there are a number of things that make putting solar on a home or business more difficult than it should be.  For example, some utilities make the entire rebate process so confounding that the public becomes confused and intimidated.  Some communities charge excessively high fees for permitting and inspecting a solar power installation.  (Kudos to PWP here - they actually include the cost of the permit in their rebate payment.)  Some local jurisdictions impose “guidelines” as though they were binding regulations without ever bothering to hold a public hearing and pass an authorizing ordinance.

All of these things conspire to make adding solar more complicated, time-consuming and expensive than it should be.

What can be done?  The key, as President Resch made clear during his speech, is for solar advocates to speak up and start demanding their rights.  This involves writing letters to the editor, advocating solar with elected officials - and keeping solar in mind when going out to vote.

In the weeks and months ahead, we will be highlighting opportunities for action in these pages - stay tuned!

11/02/09

  08:29:03 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 185 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, SEIA, Solar News

Solar Bill of Rights

The Solar Energy Industry Association has just published what they are calling the Solar Bill of Rights.  This declaration focuses on the importance of having a level playing field for the solar industry everywhere from the halls of Congress to local permitting agencies and homeowners’ associations.  Over the next few days we will be writing at some length about these rights and why they are so important.

Here they are, courtesy of the SEIA website:

1.      Americans have the right to put solar on their homes or businesses.

2.      Americans have the right to connect their solar energy system to the grid with uniform national standards

3.      Americans have the right to Net Meter and be compensated at the very least with full retail electricity rates.

4.      The solar industry has the right to a fair competitive environment.

5.      The solar industry has the right to equal access to public lands.

6.      The solar industry has the right to interconnect and build new transmission lines.

7.      Americans have the right to buy solar electricity from their utility.

8.      Americans have the right, and should expect, the highest ethical treatment from the solar industry.

10/28/09

  09:08:39 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 161 words  
Categories: Solar Events, Solar News, SPI 2009

Is it Magic? Can you really get a Solar Edge?

One interesting product development here at SPI – DC to DC conversion for optimizing string performance. National Semiconductor’s Solar Magic product pushes MPP tracking down to the module level.  Israeli company, Solar Edge, takes it a step farther, offering an integrated system that includes their own inverter that takes advantage of strings providing output at the optimal voltage to run at peak efficiency.

These are not micro-inverters - it looks like Enphase still has that market to itself (surprisingly) - instead these products allow each panel to operate independently, but still only have DC on the roof.  Solar Edge touts that it is installer and firefighter friendly because the panel boxes shut off when the inverter is off and thus, de-energizes the DC run.  (Something roof mounted DC disconnects are intended to accomplish, but cannot.)

Too soon to tell whether these products will grow beyond interesting ideas and into mainstream products, but no doubt they would like to catch some of that Enphase magic.

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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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