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September 22, 2017

The Kerfuffle on Solar Tariffs

The concept of setting a tariff on foreign solar infrastructure is making big news this month. But what does it mean for the solar industry?

 

Some are claiming that China and other Asian countries are flooding the U.S. market with cheap imports that are undercutting prices for U.S. manufacturers. However, a range of solar industry advocates are warning that new tariffs would raise costs and hurt the industry as a whole.

 

A September 10 piece in the Washington Examiner estimates that the solar industry creates 1 out of 50 of all new jobs in the American economy. That shows how important solar is to the energy market and the job market right now!

 

Officials are quoted talking about how tariffs could really harm productivity, mainly because solar companies would have to absorb those price hikes. Obviously, one of the biggest factors in the solar boom is that solar panels have become much cheaper in recent years.

 

The Examiner article also cites an estimate by Abigail Ross Hopper, President of the Solar Energy Industry Association, who says that the industry would lose an estimated 88,000 American jobs if tariffs are instituted.

 

At the same time, some American manufacturing companies such as Suniva are asking the American government to put tariffs in place. However, here’s the interesting thing about Suniva — the Examiner reports that this company is actually majority Chinese-owned. So in that case, it’s Chinese companies in the U.S. asking officials to put tariffs on products from Chinese companies outside the U.S. That’s kind of a depressing assessment of the situation we find ourselves in when it comes to manufacturing actual solar equipment — the good news, though, is that aside from potential tariffs, solar is hitting a critical mass point of affordability and feasibility right now. That makes now an excellent time to capitalize on the opportunity, and get solar projects in place before costs go up.

In the Charlottesville region and around the Central Virginia area, Sun Day Solar can help. We’ve helped many local clients to put all sorts of small business and residential solar systems in place.

 

September 21, 2017

New Coal Plants “Not Going to Happen,” Says Virginia Utility Leader

Although we can see solar panels popping up on top of houses and everywhere else, we’re also getting new indicators of the renewable energy boom from other places.

 

Just this past week, the New York Times ran an interesting op-ed that really constituted a scathing indictment of the coal industry, under the title: “Using the EPA to Prop Up Big Coal.”

 

Enumerating the ways in which coal’s days are numbered, NYT quoted Chris Beam, President & Chief Operating Officer of Appalachian Power, as denying the possibility that West Virginia is going to expand coal-fired energy production.

 

“We’re not going to build any more coal plants — that’s not going to happen,” Beam is quoted as saying.

 

Instead of propping up the moribund coal trade, many utilities, including the big players in Virginia, are adopting new practices to accommodate customers who want to use or even generate solar and wind power. Beam’s comments underscore a change at Appalachian Power that ends up boosting the rise of solar and other renewables.

 

The process of net metering involves individual customers setting up their own solo projects on their properties, and actually getting utility credits for the energy that they don’t use.

 

Net metering is something that many utilities across the country have been fighting for a number years — but there are signs that they’re giving in.

Just this past summer, other New York Times coverage showed how utilities are trying to push back against net metering in different ways, for example, by invoking egalitarian intent, arguing that not everyone can build their own solar systems. There seems to be a powerful utility lobby opposing the concept of net metering — but that’s not stopping it from happening.

 

In a June 17 report at Power to the People, local renewables advocate Ivy Mains talks about how Virginia customers can successfully net meter up to 20 kW, and use credits rolled over from one month to the next.

 

For more on how this works, Appalachian Power customers can get net metering information straight from the company here.

 

Regardless of how much utility lobbyists are dragging their heels, in Virginia, Appalachian and Dominion are putting net metering policies in place. That’s great news for early adopters who have already jumped on the solar bandwagon and set up their own on-site projects.

 

However, it’s not too late to get involved by any means. This is an excellent time to look at your property and start thinking about where you could place solar panels — where there’s adequate sunlight and enough space, and where this kind of energy generation would be most needed.

 

Sun Day Solar can help. We have experience assisting customers in Charlottesville, Virginia and the surrounding Central Virginia area in quickly and efficiently setting up affordable ways to harness the power of the sun. We understand local incentives and benefits and can help you to plan accordingly — let us assist you in coming up with the right ways to take advantage of all the opportunities that Virginia residents have right now, to move to renewable energy.

 

September 15, 2017

“I’ll Be Back!” — The Solar Advocacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger

In the earlier days of solar energy, many of us thought of using natural sunlight to generate electricity as a kind of hippie pipe dream, the kind of thing that Arizona mystics do while they’re out in the desert messing around with crystals.

 

These days, you’re seeing solar panels on your neighbor’s roof — at your local college, and really all around town. And big names are jumping on the bandwagon to add their own push for renewables. Some of this support is coming from unlikely places — for example, would you think of “the Terminator” as a guy who would champion solar in America?

 

If not, take a look at what Arnold Schwarzenegger has been doing and saying recently. This is a guy who’s been in the public eye for a long time, but not as ‘progressive’ or ‘lefty’ – from his early movie days to his rise as California’s governor, Schwartzenegger’s been more of your ‘brawns over brains’ type of guy.

 

With that in mind, it seems that some of the backward tilt of America’s energy policy under the current administration has pushed Schwarzenegger and a lot of other independent voices to speak up quite a bit.

 

He’s not just restricting this evangelism to California, either — a 2016 article shows the governor visiting Kuwait to talk to military personnel there about the prospect of solar energy on American bases.

 

“I am here in Kuwait filming at different military bases about green energy,” Schwarzenegger said, according to a U.S. Army press release. “I think it is really unbelievable and so fantastic that the military is now thinking about making some of the bases green.”

 

More recently, Schwarzenegger has made headlines with state initiatives aimed at clean air and reduction in pollution, with Schwarzenegger reportedly contending this summer that state leaders don’t have to wait for the feds to endorse a particular policy, and that the United States did not really pull out of the Paris agreement.

 

Nor is Arnold the only state leader to champion solar — we have a lot of this kind of groundswell happening in Virginia with Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaking very clearly about promoting solar energy across the state. We have our state utilities getting on board, maybe grudgingly, but we also have major retailers like Amazon investing in solar at a rapid rate.

At Sun Day Solar, we help Central Virginia small businesses and households to embrace the power of solar and get in on the ground floor of a major change in how we source energy across America. Solar is becoming the way of the future, and small rooftop projects or other kinds of new local infrastructure can help individual property owners to back up their personal philosophies about energy with real, concrete action. Ask us about what’s practical for your property, and how to afford excellent solar installations that will help you harness the power of the sun.

 

September 14, 2017

U.S. DOE – Solar is Cheap!

Big news came from the U.S. Department of Energy this week about important benchmarks that the country has met in terms of solar power, and news about ongoing efforts.

 

One of the big things that a September 12 press release mentions is the Sunshot Initiative, which was an Obama-era plan to decrease the cost of solar electricity and encourage more solar adoption across the country.

 

Now, officials are saying that the department has met the 2020 utility-scale goal that was set with the Sunshot initiative. CleanTechnica goes a bit further in analyzing the political fallout from this announcement, and how it might clash with some of the visions of the present administration. But the bottom line is that solar is getting cheaper, and better, and much more feasible for whole new categories of customers. So if you were on the fence about solar a few years ago, the quick boom in renewables that’s now evident, here in Virginia and elsewhere, may have changed your mind.

 

So what does the Department of Energy mentioned as the catalyst for Sunshot’s success?

 

The September 12 release states that this progress is “largely due to rapid cost declines in solar photovoltaic hardware.”

 

The government also announced that a U.S. DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office will be directing further research and development toward the idea of on-demand solar energy — where instead of using PV cells, engineers use mirrors to reflect sunlight into a central point and convert it to heat. Then that heat becomes electrical power, often through using turbines. However, the office will also study some new ways to use photovoltaic cells — the department has earmarked some $82 million toward these projects.

 

Government officials are estimating the average price of utility scale solar at six cents per kilowatt hour — that’s a pretty good price, but individual small-business owners and homeowners who want to go further can actually install their own local solar hardware on-site, and in many places around the country, they can actually sell electricity back to the grid, or get credits from their utilities. In Virginia, big utility companies are starting to offer net metering agreements to reward customers who are generating their own solar energy.

When you read over the new government announcement, what you find is that although PV cells have gone down in price, cost is still a major issue for solar customers. At Sun Day Solar, we’re experienced at working with Central Virginia customers to figure out what’s practical for their properties.

 

We know that an investment in solar has to make sense. Ask us about how to really implement solar technology in ways that will benefit you financially. Let us help you to brainstorm and figure out if you can profit from utilizing the natural power of renewable energies.

September 8, 2017

Big, Expensive, Long-Distance Intercontinental Plan Shows the New Power of Solar

Want another very clear example of what solar power can do in these days of affordable infrastructure, good battery technology and other innovations?

 

One of the biggest headlines coming out of North Africa right now is a multi-billion dollar plan to link up a solar farm in Tunisia with the European mainland. Specifically, three cables will go out from Tunisian installations: one to Malta, another to Italy near Rome, and another to southern France.

 

To policy wonks and energy nerds, it’s the numbers that scream the loudest: the solar project is estimated to provide a staggering 4.5 Gigawatts of power, a number that we used to only associate with the largest power plants built with the newest technologies. And in a way, that’s what this project is: solar on a brand-new scale. Reports on “inhabitat” point out that the 4.5GW is enough power to provide juice for 5 million homes, or around 7 million vehicles, enough to really put a dent in a smaller nation’s energy footprint. We can see Europe (and many other countries, even the U.S.) taking big steps to “go green” with solar infrastructure that is here to stay.

 

As for project costs, officials are estimating total investment in the Tunisian economy at 5 billion dollars, which gives you another indicator of the scale of this project. The Maltese connection alone is projected to cost around 1.6 million euros.

 

In press statements, Daniel Rich, COO of TuNur, the company due to export the solar energy, talks about how much sense the project makes, with a renewable-hungry region just across the sea from a region with intense solar resources.

 

Taking a look at images of the proposed project, you can see a modern design at work. Individual solar panels are situated, not in square grids, as they are in a number of big solar farms, but in concentric circles, which is partly a function of the available space.

 

The bottom line is that if companies can take sunlight in Tunisia and provide solar power to France, then we have abundant technological ability to innovate America’s grid this way. People who have been paying attention to the energy economy know this, and understand that solar is on its way. But there’s a lot of confusing information being thrown around, which is why solar is kind of a best-kept secret in some places.

If you’ve always been curious about the feasibility of local solar designs for your home or business, call Sun Day Solar. We can explain the possibilities and what’s commonly involved in a local solar project. We can also help figure out what makes the best sense for your specific property, and how to get you access to the incentives that can increase affordability. We have been helping many customers in the Charlottesville, VA area to unlock the power of solar energy at their properties – and build for the future in a world that’s rapidly changing.