Today’s energy landscape is confusing to a lot of people. The political landscape is Balkanized – some would like to “bring back coal” while others would prefer to move toward non-carbon-emitting renewables. But what’s really going on in business, on the ground where energy production happens?
Some recent 2017 reports by the U.S. Department of Energy (assisted by the U.S. Department of Labor) tell a tale that might be surprising if you live in Appalachia, a region known for being part of America’s historical coal industry. You might see coal on train cars and think that things like solar and wind are far away indeed.
However, according to the numbers, employment in solar outweighs employment in coal by a big magnitude – nationally, as well as in the state of Virginia. And if you live in a part of Virginia where Amazon is building big new solar farms, maybe it’s not so surprising after all.
One set of analytics from U.S. Department of Energy shows that while around 86,000 people were employed in the coal industry nationally in 2016, a full 373,000 Americans had jobs in the solar industry. That’s not neck and neck – that’s over triple the numbers of workers getting into a field that’s on the way up, as opposed to toiling away in a moribund energy sector that’s getting a lot of bad press as the world ponders climate change.
In addition to providing this overall picture, the DoE goes a lot further, breaking down categories of jobs into tasks (mining, production, etc.) and even into demographics – suggesting that the solar industry is more woman-friendly and diverse than fossil fuels, for example. But the top-level numbers are enough to show that old oil sectors are not competitive with the renewable field, as more businesses and households choose to go a different, more sustainable route to harvest the energy that they need. In Virginia, you can see this in the begrudging efforts of utilities to adopt net metering policies. You can also see it on the ground in counties like Accomack, Louisa and Albemarle, where solar panels and solar infrastructure are a much more common sight than they used to be.
Business and property owners in and around Charlottesville, VA and the central Virginia area can turn to Sun Day Solar to start researching a practical plan to get outfitted with solar energy systems. We have an established track record of helping clients every step of the way, from planning to implementation phases. We understand the context of the solar industry, and the choices that Virginians have in getting green, sustainable energy solutions in place. Let us advise you on solar adoption and how easy and rewarding it can be.
The solar industry is changing almost as fast as it’s growing. You can see a lot of this growth in the state of Virginia — as massive retailer Amazon moves in to harness enormous amounts of sun power in multiple Virginia counties, big local utilities are also accommodating solar power, although they might be a little reluctant about it.
The bottom line is that the use of solar energy is expanding rapidly, not just on gigantic solar farms that power big commercial efforts, but also in small business administration, and in individual households where consumers like to get their energy from a more sustainable source.
That leads us to another big trend is also growing quickly — the Internet of Things is one of the most interesting new technological developments in our digital age. Experts predict some 50 billion devices coming online within the next few decades to form complex and sophisticated connected networks.
Experts are already looking at how IoT will play a critical role in the solar industry. For example, there is the idea of scalability.
Solar is an energy source that is dynamic, not static. In the past, that has worked against some solar adoption models. However, the Internet of Things has a lot of potential to improve how that dynamic energy is used, and to make large-scale deployment a lot smoother.
By hooking up connected sensors to solar panels or windmills, analysts can do more to examine what’s going on over a connected grid. They can start automate a lot of the give-and-take processes that will make supply meet demand — so that they get over a lot of the hurdles of using solar in a versatile way. A report from Renewable Energy World goes over some of this “horizontal” scaling benefit, as well as the idea of decentralization in solar networks.
For more, check out this interview with AT&T General Manager Mike Zeto. Zeto talks about a connected world, and points out how the company is interested in leveraging the Internet of Things in energy markets.
It’s an exciting time for the solar industry. If you want to know more about setting up solar projects in Charlottesville, VA or surrounding areas, Sun Day Solar can help. We have a lot of experience helping to connect our customers to systems that practically utilize the sun’s power for residential or small business applications. We can now consult on available grants and incentives, and help to figure out what’s makes sense for a given property. Talk to Sun Day Solar about your plan to switch from traditional energy sources to the green power of the sun.
Up in Pennsylvania, utilities in the southeastern region are fond of promoting the fact that locals rely on nuclear power plants for roughly 90% of their energy needs. Nuclear is touted as a “clean” power source, with advocates pointing out that nuclear plants don’t belch carbon emissions out into the atmosphere the way that dirty coal plants do.
In Virginia, though, things are a little different. There’s a massive push, supported by the governor’s office, to introduce new solar infrastructure, and harnessing the renewable power of the sun is taking off in a big way.
There’s also a more hedged strategy on nuclear power.
In an August blog post detailing some of Virginia’s very real energy choices, writer Ivy Mains talks about how a major earthquake based in Mineral, VA, a few years ago shut down the North Anna power plants near Richmond for three months. That, Mains said, meant that around 1,790 megawatts was suddenly gone from the grid – enough to serve some 750,000 households.
Mains pointed out that in Virginia, there’s a diversified energy footprint that allows the grid to keep humming if something happens to nuclear facilities – and that much of that is due to the practicality and affordability of solar energy. Describing a meeting where a state politician seemed completely ignorant of new solar energy storage capabilities, Mains drove home the point that there are now very few remaining hurdles to getting all sorts of new solar power projects in place. The storage issue has largely been solved; solar works well with Virginia’s energy grid, and, with economies of scale, the costs keep coming down.
In another part of the article, Mains also takes on a third and more infamous pillar of Virginia’s energy landscape, talking about pipeline protestors and the threat of fracking. Natural gas is much touted as a transitional fuel, but according to many experts who understand both economy and ecology, we would be better served moving aggressively toward solar and hydropower sourcing.
For those who are in the know about the feasibility of solar power, on both a large and small scale, Sun Day Solar can help. We help clients in Charlottesville and the Central Virginia area to look carefully at a property, plan practical solutions, and design a system that works for a property owner. Whether it’s for a home, or a small business, we can help find the best path forward toward greener energy – at a time when the popularity of solar power is really soaring.
Solar power in Virginia — there’s a lot going on now, but what about several years ago?
According to Virginia Places, the very first commercial-sized solar project in the state was done at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg. The roof of the library was outfitted with over 300 panels in 2010.
One thing that’s interesting about this bit of history is the total electricity generated by that project, which is estimated at 104 kW.
Nowadays, with commercial designs, we’re just as likely to talk in megawatts. For example, contrast that 104 kW with the output of solar farms being built by Amazon in Accomack County and other areas of the state. Accomack County’s site alone is estimated to generate 80 megawatts of electricity!
The change, which has happened in so short a time, is kind of like the memory expansion of consumer electronics. Not too many years ago, people were used to talking in kilobytes — then came megabytes and eventually gigabytes. The same thing is in play with solar — companies are scaling up, figuring out how to achieve better and bigger and more efficient solar systems.
At the same time, the smaller projects are still in great demand. Many small business owners and homeowners want to benefit from the same green energy revolution that’s driving big retailers like Amazon and utilities like Dominion and Appalachian Power. But how do they do it?
Developing a successful solar project means looking at a particular site, and evaluating lighting and other factors. It means doing the research on cost and efficiency and figuring out whether grant money is available from places like the USDA to help fund the project. It means looking at local tax incentives and other bonuses when it comes to setting up working solar designs. There’s also the need to accommodate special property needs – for example, in agriculture, elevating solar panels to allow livestock grazing below – or, in some other commercial locations, co-locating solar panels with vehicle parking spaces.
At Sun Day Solar, we have a great track record helping clients in Charlottesville, Virginia area to get set up with the green energy that they need. Ask us about roof-mounted or ground-mounted designs and how to plan for a particular property. We can help provide counsel on REAP grants and more. Talk to us about a plan to go green and participate in something that is becoming a big part of Virginia’s state economy.
We tend to think of solar power infrastructure as big and imposing — but not all solar projects are like this. Many of the newest ones are very simple and straightforward, and fit in pretty small spaces.
At the same time, solar versatility is booming; instead of just being limited to large photovoltaic panels, the power of solar is being fitted into small systems that can ride on the back of a vehicle — or even smaller systems that can fit on your face!
New solar sunglasses models take advantage of what’s called ‘Moore’s Law’ — the idea that we’ve been able to make digital devices smaller and smaller over several decades. A new report from Science Daily shows ‘organic’ solar cells fitted into solar glasses that have semi-transparent colored cells powering a tiny microchip and circuitry on the frame of the glasses — these types of designs can also integrate augmented reality, where for example, glasses show off items like temperature and luminosity in bar graph form. You can also use solar powered sunglasses to charge your devices — as in this model lineup from Yanko Design involving a dyed solar cell. By blending solar technology with nanotech, you get these kinds of decision, transportable small energy designs.
Designs like this just feed the popularity of renewable energy in general. As companies are innovating in small solar designs, and other companies like Amazon are expanding massive solar farms to power large scale infrastructure, small business owners and individual property owners are integrating more and more localized solar designs into rooftop structures, ground mounted grids and other installations to get the power that they need to run appliances, heat or cool a home, or otherwise serve households and neighborhoods. These systems are also very versatile – it’s possible to really target the energy needs of a business or household, and in addition, many Virginia residents can take advantage of “net metering,” where they can essentially get credits for power that goes back to the grid.
Sun Day Solar is your trusted solar provider in Charlottesville, Virginia. Ask us about the best ways to outfit your property with systems that will bring you the infinite energy of the sun right to your doorstep. We can also advise on USDA REAP grants and other possibilities. Let us take a look and recommend what can be done with a property footprint to get you on the road to clean, green energy solutions.