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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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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.