I received an email this morning from a thoughtful fellow who had read some of the posts I’ve sent over to Renewable Energy World. His perspective is worth sharing because it highlights the all-too-common tunnel vision we can get about renewable energy as only about electricity. I believe the distributed energy model will be the… Continue reading
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The difference between clean energy policies with a democratizing influence and the bewildering U.S. system can be illustrated with a close look at the federal investment tax credit for solar power. The investment tax credit returns up to 30% of a solar PV system value to the developer, and the credit can be carried over… Continue reading
In the wake of the murders in Tucson, our leaders once again are calling for civility in public discourse. We forget that for almost 40 years we didn’t have to plead for civility. We demanded it. The story of how we did so, and why we stopped, illuminates the intersection of politics and culture. At the dawn of the broadcasting era, the government declared that the airwaves belonged to the public and fashioned rules to protect the public interest protect the public interest. Continue reading
The Canadian province of Ontario has launched a clean energy strategy to maximize economic development while reducing pollution. Maximizing Jobs From Clean Energy: Ontario’s ‘Buy Local’ Policy, a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, details how Ontario’s bold clean energy program – in just over a year – has resulted in the promise of 43,000 clean energy jobs in support of 5,000 MW of clean energy projects. Continue reading
Ontario’s bold renewable energy program contains excellent examples of policy that marries economic and environmental goals. Unique among programs that set a guaranteed price for electricity from renewable energy projects, Ontario’s program also boasts a domestic content requirement. Sixty percent of the value of wind and solar projects interconnected under the program must be sourced… Continue reading
The title of the link won’t give it away, but I was interviewed on Stephen Lacey’s most recent REW podcast on superconducting technology for transmission. He generously provided me some time to contrast the lead topic (centralized renewable energy reliant on transmission) with the economics of distributed renewable energy sources. Continue reading
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, a promising tool to advance energy efficiency, was blocked nationwide by the opposition of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. In this post we get a status report from Renewable Funding’s, Cisco DeVries, on what’s happening in the courts with various parties suing the FHFA. He also gives us an update on what’s happening on the on the ground with PACE financing for the commercial sector which is alive and expanding.
Before the holidays we posted a chart illustrating the average cost of solar by state, highlighting Minnesota’s claim to the most expensive solar PV in the nation. The data came from the brilliant report, Tracking the Sun III: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2009 (large pdf).
But are solar costs high in some states simply because the market is small? The answer seems to be no.
The following chart illustrates the average cost of solar PV by state, mapped against the total installed capacity (in megawatts) from 2007-09. California is omitted because its 1600 MW of new capacity dwarfs other state markets; Colorado, Hawaii, and North Carolina were not included in the original dataset. The markers for Oregon and Connecticut were shaded blue and red, respectively, to help distinguish them from surrounding states.
What’s clear from the data is that there seems to be little relationship between market size and average installed costs. Texas installed 16 MW at an average cost of $7.00 over the three years analyzed, whereas New York and Nevada had costs 25% higher in markets five times the size. And five states with markets 10 MW and smaller had costs ranging from $7.60 (New Hampshire) to $9.10 per Watt (Minnesota). The largest markets in New Jersey and California tie for 5th lowest cost, 10% more expensive than the least expensive market despite being (in California’s case) two orders of magnitude larger.
The data leave a lot of questions. Why don’t larger markets uniformly have lower prices? Why is there such large variation in costs in smaller solar market states? And how does state solar policy matter, when there is no correlation between the total value of state incentives and the before-incentive installed cost of solar?
Update 1/20/11: a cacophony of different permitting rules may be partially responsible. The solar industry estimates that permitting costs add $2,500 to each solar installation.
Southern California Edison recently canceled a 663 MW power purchase agreement for a Stirling dish powered concentrating solar power plant. It’s the latest blow for centralized solar as the economics have continued to favor decentralized solar. There were other issues, too:
Stirling and Tessera…also needed millions in equity investments and big honking loans from the government and others.
When modular, decentralized solar PV is easy to finance and less expensive than centralized solar thermal electricity, the decentralized power is going to win.