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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.

September 6, 2017

U.S. Energy Department Numbers Demonstrate the Energy Trends of the Present … and Future!

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.

August 31, 2017

Will IoT Play a Big Role in Solar? You Bet!

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.

 

August 30, 2017

Going All In On Nuclear?

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.