In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, people are asking themselves what they can do to lessen their reliance on centralized systems for their electricity, heat and transportation needs. As climate change brings the potential for more intense and frequent extreme weather events, the desire for alternative energy options is becoming more prevalent. Few experts doubt that the energy regime of the future will bear little resemblance to our current system, but what technologies are available and economically viable today?
The best part of this job is getting to know our students and helping them advance their own career as we work together to solve this country’s energy situation. Check out some pictures from our latest Solar PV Installation training course.
There is something undeniably appealing about having solar panels installed on your roof. They bring a sense of modernism, of independence and of environmentalism. The decision to go solar is an exciting one, but it should be done with the foresight of the pitfalls that others have made before you. If you go about the process correctly, you too can feel the thrill of seeing your electricity bill dwindle or, if you have an older energy meter, actually watching the meter go in reverse as you sell excess electricity to the grid!
Mistake #1: Not Reducing Consumption Before Going Solar
Solar is sexy, energy efficiency is not, that’s just the way it is. But if you are thinking of having solar panels installed on your house, you would be wise to reduce the amount of energy you use in the first place. A home energy audit by a certified professional (with a BPI Certification or HERS Rater certification) can identify where your biggest energy losses are and how to address them. Energy retrofits, smarter purchasing decisions and a few behavioral modifications can save you around 30% on your electricity bill. That makes a big difference when you end up making the purchase for your solar panels, possibly to the point of completely eliminating your electricity bill.
Michael Cafiero, instructor for our Solar Photovoltaic course, answers this week’s question: “Are solar panels worth it? How much electricity do they generate, and at what cost?”
Have a question you want to ask our clean energy experts? Leave it in the comments, and we’ll answer it in a future edition of the CleanEdison Expert Series.
WASHINGTON - As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, the Department of the Interior, in partnership with the Department of Energy, will publish the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development in six southwestern states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The final Solar PEIS represents a major step forward in the permitting of utility-scale solar energy on public lands throughout the west.
Today’s announcement builds on the historic progress made in fostering renewable energy development on public lands. When President Obama took office, there were no solar projects permitted on public lands; since 2009, Interior has approved 17 utility-scale solar energy projects that, when built, will produce nearly 5,900 megawatts of energy—enough to power approximately 1.8 million American homes. Thanks to steps already taken by this administration, renewable energy from sources like wind and solar have doubled since the President took office.
The fastest growing energy technology industry in the world, grid-connected solar photovolatics (PV), is growing nearly 50 percent in capacity each year, as costs fall, more workers are trained in solar installation and more consumers become educated about the new technology. According to a 2011 study by PVinsights’ market intelligence report, here are the Top 10 solar PV brands:
Best Solar PV Brands:
- Suntech (offices in 13 countries)
- First Solar
- Sungen Solar
- Canadian Solar
- Hanwha Solar One
The top global solar PV company, Suntech, is headquartered in China and is the world’s largest producer of solar panels across the world.
However, let’s take a look at some companies that are closer to home. Four of the solar PV companies established in the U.S. are First Solar, SunPower, Evergreen Power, and United Solar Ovonic (Uni-Solar).
The answer certainly isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” There are many factors to take into account when one is considering how realistic it would be for the world to rely solely on renewable energy. One of the main considerations is intermittency. Though solar are wind energy are excellent substitutions for fossil fuels, the sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing.
Because the average world citizen gets 90 percent of his/her energy from traditional fossil fuels and about 10 percent from renewable sources, the transition to full renewable generation is a daunting task. Of course, it’s become very clear that fossil fuels are not sustainable for many reasons, predominately because of the climate-altering effects of carbon emissions. In addition, as fossil fuels become more scarce, the methods used to extract them become more intensive and environmentally devastating, so it’s important to find ways to source our energy in a way that works for the long-term.
The truth is, energy investments and build-outs are measured in decades, not years and efficiency is the most effective “clean energy source” available to us today. You might have noticed a good bit of change in the automotive industry lately, with more hybrids and electric vehicles being put on the market. The auto industry is one of the leading examples of a race towards more efficient technologies leading to a decrease in emissions.
So, how can we expand the idea of putting more renewable energy resources in place beyond simply using dirty sources more efficiently, and is it even worth it?