CASE Applauds Bloomberg for Defending Solar Industry

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called U.S. tariffs on solar panels harmful to the American public during his comments at Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit held in New York. In his remarks, Bloomberg called tariffs on solar panels and solar cells imported from China protectionist policies, pointing out that, “the Chinese have done us this enormous favor of selling us solar panels below the price that we can make them.”

CASE-logo“I applaud Michael Bloomberg for speaking out against U.S. tariffs on solar products and for exposing the misguided protectionism that is currently resulting in higher prices of solar energy to consumers,” said Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy President Jigar Shah. “The overwhelming majority of U.S. solar companies have embraced the global nature of our highly-specialized industry and are successfully leveraging cost savings to create over 140,000 American jobs – most of which are in installation on American rooftops. Higher tariffs only mean higher prices, which ultimately leave U.S. solar companies unable to compete on cost, and deny the American public access to affordable solar energy.

Shah continued, “This topic is extremely relevant since we‘re in the midst of a second trade case, calling for additional tariffs on imported solar panels and cells from China and Taiwan. Continued uncertainty and rounds of legal cases are not the paths to sustainable growth for the U.S. solar industry. As Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) also noted during his remarks at the Summit on Monday, ‘a lack of predictability can hurt our nation’s clean energy investment.’ I agree with Senator Wyden, and note that the damage caused by uncertain solar trade barriers creates the same uncertainty that changing government programs and tax policies have on the broader renewable energy industry. Now is the time to negotiate an equitable solution to the solar trade petitions that will bring confidence back to the market and lay the groundwork for the U.S. solar industry’s continued success.”

Mexico Soon to be Home of Major Solar Project

Weymouth, Massachusetts based Vertex Companies is partnering in the development of a 30 megawatt solar electric power plant located in Zacatecas, Mexico. When complete, this project will be one of the largest of its kind in Latin America.

The announcement was made during the Massachusetts – Mexico Innovation Partnership Mission. The joint announcement was made by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Zacatecas Governor Miguel Alonso Reyes.

Vertex ZacsL solar projectVERTEX has operated for over a decade in the Mexican market as Vertex Ingenieros Consultores, S. de R.L. de C.V., completing dozens of energy and environmental projects in a variety of industries. In Zacatecas, VERTEX is collaborating with local Mexican partners to develop the first utility-scale solar PV project in the state and one of the largest in Latin America overall. The 30 MW ZacSol 1 project is the first phase of up to 90 MW that will be installed near the municipality of Guadalupe over the next several years. With an estimated $92 million investment in Zacatecas that will create approximately 400 construction and operational jobs, this first phase represents a significant step forward for Mexico in realizing their solar potential.

Mexico has progressive renewable energy policies, high fossil-based electricity prices, and the third highest solar insolation in the world. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, Mexico has a potential for 45 GW of solar energy. SENER, Mexico’s Energy Department, recently reported that solar PV projects are profitable without government subsidies with Northern and Central Mexican projects typically breaking even after only two years.

Hemp Facilities Secured by Wind & Solar Energy

The Industrial Hemp and Medical Marijuana Consulting Company (IHMMCC) has acquired an interest in alternative energy company Liberated Energy. Per the agreement, IHMMCC, a subsidiary of Hemp Inc., will provide consulting services to help Liberated Energy market and distribute their products.

guard-lite-photo-131x300The Guard Lite Security Lighting System is patent-pending and uses wind and solar energy to power its security system, which consists of High Tech LED Lighting WiFi HD Camera with 2 way audio Infrared and Motion Technology. According to Liberated Energy, the Guard Lite is self-powered and will use only approximately 10 percent of its maximum rated wind and solar energy. One of the company’s objective is to make small wind and solar turbine technology a significant contributor to the global clean energy supply portfolio for both businesses and consumers.

“We are thrilled and looking forward to this new venture. After researching the industry and weighing our options, it was a no-brainer to collaborate with Hemp, Inc.’s Industrial Hemp and Medical Marijuana Consulting Company, Inc. to create new marketing and distribution capabilities for our Guard Lite Security Lighting System for the medical marijuana and industrial hemp industries,” said Frank Pringle, CEO of Liberated Energy, Inc.

With several states legalizing medical marijuana, the hemp market is in need of cost efficient energy sources to meet the growing demand – especially in states where hemp cannot be grown outside year round. Companies are also looking to convert hemp to biofuels.

Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp, Inc. noted, “Liberated Energy’s move into the industrial hemp and medical marijuana industries could not have come at a better time. The demand is expanding for growers and dispensaries to ramp up security for their operations with more comprehensive surveillance and monitoring, especially since most of these operations are high-volume, cash-based facilities.”

Ecoppia Unveils E4 Robot Cleaned Solar Park

Ecoppia has announced that the Ketura Sun solar park in Israel’s Negev desert is now the world’s first autonomously-cleaned solar energy production facility. The 8-hectare facility, producing 9 million kilowatt hours per year, is cleaned nightly by a fleet of almost 100 water-free, energy-independent Ecoppia E4 robots. The solar park is jointly owned by Siemens AG and Arava Power.

An impediment to solar energy production is soiling, or the dust and dirt that accumulates on solar panel surfaces. Soiling that reduce panel energy output by up to 35 percent. ECOPPIAKentura Sun is situated between the Gulf of Aqaba and the southern tip of the Dead Sea and suffers from sand storms and little rain. With cost and lack of water as barriers, the panels were only cleaned several times a year and could take up to five days.

“We conducted a thorough worldwide search for a cleaning solution that could deal with the challenging weather conditions in our solar parks,” said Jon Cohen, CEO at Arava Power. “Only Ecoppia’s solution showed actual significant uplift in production, while offering an extremely appealing business model. We are proud to be their partners.”

Following a successful pilot where Ecoppia’s solution effectively removed 99 percent of panel dust daily, E4 robots were deployed over the entire Ketura Sun field in less than three months. Today, nearly 100 centrally-controlled E4 robots clean the entire field every night, ensuring maximum production efficiency during sunlight hours.

Ecopiian says the E4 robots are cost effective efficient and energy-independent. They use a soft microfiber and air flow cleaning system to remove 99 percent of dust each day, applying zero load on the panel surface, keeping panels continually performing at optimal production. Utilizing a robust control unit and sensors that drive the robotic system along each solar panel row, E4 is fully remotely managed, monitored and controlled.

“We’re pleased to facilitate this important first step towards effectively growing solar park energy output,” said Eran Meller, CEO of Ecoppia. “With E4, Ketura Sun maximizes its energy generation, without the expense and negative ecological impact of water-based cleaning solutions.”

Yanir Aloush, VP operations at Arava Power, added, “Ecoppia has changed the way we run the Ketura Sun field. Less guesswork about when to clean, less downtime since there’s no need for on-site cleaning crews, less external personnel on the ground – we are very excited by the potential upgrade Ecoppia’s solution offers us.”

Award for Solar-Powered Remote Weather Monitoring

vantageconnectA solar-powered system to remotely monitor the weather has been recognized for its use in the bioenergy and agriculture industries. California-based Davis Instruments picked up a Gold Award for Remote Monitoring at the 2014 Connected World Conference in Chicago for its Vantage Connect.

“With the growing need to manage water resources, protect crops from frost and mitigate damage to our environment, we believe that remote weather data is more important than ever.” said Susan Foxall, Marketing Director, Davis Instruments.

Solar-powered, Vantage Connect does not require an external power source and uses the cellular network to transmit weather data to the Internet. Real-time alarms for specific weather conditions alert users via text and email messages to changing conditions, allowing them to identify and manage potential problems.

The Connected World award was one of two awards Davis won, also picking up honors for CarChip ConnectR, Davis’ telematics solution for fleet monitoring.

Solar Leads U.S. in Clean Energy Jobs in 2013

Solar power generation operations led the U.S. in the number of clean energy jobs announced in 2013. The nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) says solar was the top sector of the 78,600 clean energy and clean transportation jobs last year with 21,600 jobs announced.

Solar Farm in Las Vegas Photo- Joanna Schroeder“Our report makes it clear. When we invest in clean energy and clean transportation, we put people to work in every corner of the country. Whether it’s a new wind farm in Iowa, an energy efficiency retrofit in Massachusetts, or a utility-scale solar array in Nevada, these projects require American ingenuity and labor. The sector is helping stimulate our economy,” said E2 Executive Director Judith Albert.

“As a business owner, I see a strong need for long-term policies that can stimulate private investment in clean energy and energy efficiency. Businesses in this sector create jobs, save consumers money, and help our environment.

“But ongoing regulatory uncertainty takes a serious toll. Elected officials shouldn’t be holding back economic growth – they should be encouraging it,” said Geoff Chapin, CEO of Next Step Living, a Boston-based energy efficiency company.

California topped the overall list of jobs announced that also includes building efficiency and public transportation. A strong fourth quarter helped Texas finish second in the report.

Solar Investment Paying Better than Subsidies

MIL_Solar_Farm_Nellis_AFB_lgDespite critics who have harped on solar energy as not being efficient and economical enough to stand on its own without government subsidies and being too pricey for regular folks, the sun’s power is proving stronger than the shadows of myths being cast about the clean energy source. This blog post from the New York Times says solar is more affordable than ever and can stand on its own without the subsidies.

The average price of a solar panel has declined an estimated 60 percent since the beginning of 2011, and this year the total photovoltaic capacity in the United States is projected to reach 10 gigawatts, the energy equivalent of several nuclear power plants. (By one estimate, photovoltaic costs crossed over to become cheaper than electricity generated by new nuclear plants about four years ago.)

In both Europe and the United States, generous public subsidies including tax breaks and feed-in tariffs requiring utilities to buy back consumer-generated electricity that feeds into the grid have allowed solar photovoltaics to achieve vastly lower unit costs. But these subsidies are dwarfed by historical taxpayer support of both fossil-fuel and nuclear-generated electricity. The International Energy Agency warns that continuing fossil-fuel subsidies contribute significantly to global environmental problems.

The big news is that solar photovoltaics are now cost-effective in many European countries even without public support. A recent article in The Financial Times quotes Jason Channell of Citigroup as saying: “We’re at a point now where demand starts to be driven by cold, hard economics rather than by subsidies, and that is a game changer.”

The post also points out the 143,000 solar workers in the United States in 2013 is a nearly 20 percent increase over employment totals from 2012.

Clean Jobs Increase 19% in 2013

Ecotech Institute Clean Jobs IndexThe Clean Jobs Index shows 2013 ended with a 19 percent increase in clean jobs. The study also shows more than 3.5 million clean jobs were available in 2013 with a 57 percent increase in solar jobs. Published by Ecotech Institute, the Clean Jobs Index was created to provide objective job information about the renewable energy industry. In addition, the index looks at various sustainability factors including alternative fueling stations, LEED projects and total energy consumption across the U.S.

The index found large growth in clean jobs when compared to 2012 job postings, with solar jobs increasing 57 percent, wind jobs up 20 percent and renewable energy jobs increasing 9.3 percent. The report also looked at states with the most incentives for sustainability and renewables: Minnesota, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Indiana, Colorado, Florida, New York and Iowa.

“Renewable energy is the future and this data proves that more than ever,” said Kyle Crider, Ecotech Institute’s Program Chair and Manager of Environmental Operations. “With solar jobs up 57 percent and clean tech jobs up overall nearly 20 percent, it’s definitely an exciting time in the sustainable energy industry.”

Veterans Move Into Solar Industry Jobs

According to a new report released jointly from Operation Free and The Solar Foundation, veterans are employed within the solar industry at higher than average rates. The report finds that for a group facing high unemployment, the solar industry is one of the best industries for jobs.

The report, Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future, highlights the contributions of veterans to the solar industry, using data derived from The Solar Foundation’s annual National Solar Jobs Census 2013. The findings show that America’s Veterans in Solarsolar industry has grown by 500 percent since 2008, providing more than 13,000 veterans with job opportunities as of November 2013. Veterans represent nearly 10 percent of all solar workers at a time when more than 15 percent of veterans aged 18-24 are currently unemployed. The report also discovered that the growth in the industry is continuing with nearly 62 percent of solar companies that employ veterans plan to add more solar workers within the next 12 months.

Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52), said of the news, “Our servicemen and women have made great sacrifices for our country and it is our responsibility to ensure that when they return home there are high-skill and well-paying jobs available. The solar industry offers our veterans a unique opportunity to use the knowledge they learned serving our country in a rapidly growing sector that is vital to both our national security and economic future.”

According to Operation Free and The Solar Foundation, this is the first time that the significant contributions of veterans to the solar industry have been documented. The two groups intend to amplify these findings in an effort to help more veterans enter into careers in the solar industry.

“This report highlights the ways solar strengthens the US economy and our national security,” added Nat Kreamer, CEO of Clean Power Finance and a former Intelligence Officer, Special Forces, US Navy. “Veterans are over represented in the solar industry because we know first-hand that clean, affordable domestic power makes America and the world safer.”

In addition to examining employment numbers, the report also suggests next steps to expand opportunities for veterans, including the creation of a tool for employers to translate veterans’ skills into language reflecting solar companies’ hiring needs.

East Africa’s 1st Utility Solar Project Makes Progress

East Africa’s first utility-scale solar field is making progress. When complete, it is estimated to produce 8 percent of the country’s power generation capacity. The project is going forward due to Dutch solar developer Gigawatt Global Coöperatief having successfully ASYVclosed on $23.7 million in financing for a 8.5 megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant from an international consortium of equity investors and debt providers including Norwegian development finance institution Norfund, Norwegian-headquartered Scatec Solar, Dutch development bank FMO and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF).

The photovoltaic (PV) plant will be located 60 km from the capital of Kigali on land belonging to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) for youth orphaned during and after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The electricity will be fed into the national grid under a 25 year power purchase agreement with the Rwanda Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA). Construction has already started and commercial operation of the solar field is expected by summer of 2014.

“It takes a global village to raise a solar revolution,” said American-Israeli entrepreneur and human rights activist Yosef Abramowitz, President of Gigawatt Global and CEO of Energiya Global Capital, Gigawatt’s Israeli affiliate that provided seed money and strategic guidance for the project.

“There are 550 million people in Africa without electricity. Economic growth in developing markets depends on access to affordable, green power. Environmentally-friendly solar energy is far less expensive than diesel-generated power. This first-ever utility-scale solar field in Rwanda – and all of East Africa – represents the future of energy for developing countries and for island nations. It is a game-changer for humanity and the environment,” added Abramowitz.

The Rwanda Minister of State in Charge of Energy and Water, Eng. Emma Francoise Isumbingabo said, “Generation and provision of electricity to all Rwandans is important for the Government of Rwanda. This initiative to produce 8.5 megawatts is a good addition towards closing the current energy gap.”

With limited power generation capacity, the Government of Rwanda has introduced an aggressive plan to boost the nation’s generation capacity. The objective is for 50 percent of the population to have access to electricity by 2017.

Reflecting its dedication to helping heal the world, Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village fostered the development of a solar field, located on Village property, that will generate enough electricity to contribute to a roughly 8 percent increase in the country’s electricity supply. ASYV is leasing land to house the solar facility, the fees from which will help pay for a portion of the Village’s charitable expenses.

Renewable Energy Powers Asian Development Bank

Renewable Energy is now powering the Asian Development Bank (ABD). It’s Manila headquarters is now getting 100 percent of its energy from renewable energy including geothermal and solar power. ABD has signed an agreement with AdventEnergy, Inc. Geothermal energy is being delivered from plants in Tiwi in Albay province and Makiling-Banahaw in Laguna province, both of which are on the main Philippine island of Luzon.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.35.18 AM“As an institution we are strongly committed to expanding the use of renewable energy across Asia and the Pacific, so it is only fitting that we walk the talk in our own headquarters,” said ADB Vice President Bruce Davis at a ceremony in ADB headquarters. “This agreement will allow us to cut our annual corporate carbon footprint by nearly 50%, with an emission reduction of more than 9,500 tons of CO2 equivalent.”

The supply contract with AdventEnergy will see ADB purchase an average of 1.5 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a month. This will be supplemented by about 50,000 kWh generated monthly from ADB’s rooftop solar panels. These two sources will meet the entire energy requirements of the headquarters building, where more than 2,600 staff and consultants work each day.

With the switch to renewables, ADB will no longer purchase electricity directly from the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), although it will continue to use the company’s distribution network. The move follows ADB’s decision to take advantage of electricity reforms in the Philippines which allow large users to choose their power supplier.

A ceremony to mark the switchover to full renewable power was the centerpiece of ADB’s second “No Impact Week,” during which staff are encouraged to make work and personal lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

emPower Arizona Debuts During Arizona Solar Summit

Solar energy was the focus of the Arizona Solar Summit IV and during the event, the first public unveiling of the state’s new master energy plan, “emPOWER Arizona: Executive Energy Assessment and Pathways,” took place. On February 18, 2014 Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the executive order for the legislation- the state’s first comprehensive energy plan in more than 20 years.

The Arizona Solar Summit, hosted by Arizona State University LightWorks, ASU SkySong and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and sponsored by NRG, provided the first opportunity for the public to learn about the master energy plan. The plan seeks to make gI_142186_az-solar-summit-logo_OKED-AdArizona a “collaboratory” of policy leaders, energy experts and universities.

Leisa Brug, Brewer’s energy policy advisor and director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Policy, led a panel discussion on the plan and its goals. Brug said that Arizona is already ahead of other states in terms of energy policy, and the new master plan will help the state continue to be a national leader in the field. “We’ll be a national model,” Brug said. “We see this as a tremendous way to buoy up our solar industry.”

Other issues covered during the event included the future of the utility sector; carbon dioxide mitigation; energy efficiency in the built environment; and more. In addition, keynote speaker William Harris, president and CEO of Science Foundation Arizona, called on the attendees to become active in the fight against climate change.

“People use this word ‘sustainability’ so often I don’t even know what it means,” Harris said. “I like how Charlie Bayless described it: ‘Treat the planet like you intend to stay.’ Get involved, stay involved and work with this issue.”

Innovation Challenge Leads to Cool Innovation

Innovation Challenge 2The 2014 Northrop Grumman Corporation High School Innovation Challenge (HSIC) has led to some, well, cool innovations in renewable energy and engineering. On February 21, 2014, six student teams from Los Angeles, California high schools took an engineering problem, limited budget and little time and created renewable energy-powered model vehicles. The event was part of National Engineers Week.

The challenge is modeled after a Northrop Grumman program or engineering capability, and designed to stimulate student interest in pursuing careers in scientific or engineering fields. The goal of this year’s competition was to design and build a renewable-energy-powered model vehicle that could carry a payload as efficiently as possible over a set distance.

“The Northrop Grumman High School Innovation Challenge exposes students to the major steps required to develop, document and demonstrate an engineering concept,” said Krystal Puga, a systems engineer on Northrop Grumman’s James Webb Space Telescope project and the company’s HSIC deputy coordinator. “It teaches them how to develop, document and present their ideas; manage a schedule and budget; and prove that their concept meets the customer’s requirements.”

The teams participating in this year’s HSIC included the California Academy of Math and Science in Carson; Da Vinci Science High School in Hawthorne; El Segundo High School; Lennox Math, Science and Technology Academy in Inglewood; Hawthorne Math and Science in Hawthorne; and Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estates.

Over the course of the 12-week competition, the HSIC teams – each one mentored by a Northrop Grumman engineer – were graded on their ability to develop and document their vehicle’s design in a written report; present the concept orally to a panel of engineers; and prove the vehicle’s performance on the test track. Continue reading

Cali Drought Intensifies, Climate Action Calls Heat Up

As California battles the worst drought the state has seen in centuries, calls for climate action are heating up. During the U.S. Climate Leadership Conference taking place this week in San Diego, California, more than a dozen businesses including Apple, SolarCity, San Diego International Airport, Sapphire Energy and Sungevity signed the Climate Declaration. The declaration urges federal and state policymakers to “seize the economic opportunity of addressing climate change”.

Launched last year by Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy organization, and its business network, Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), the Climate Declaration has more than 700 signatories nationwide. The California signatories have added their own special message to the declaration for Washington:

Ceres_BICEPDeclaration_Ad_CA_022414_1“As the world’s 8th largest economy, California is a champion of clean energy progress and innovation,” states the declaration. “Thanks in part to its smart energy policies including its landmark climate law, AB32, California has been a global leader in job creation, clean energy investments and GDP growth.”

In 2012, California supported more than 43,700 jobs in the solar industry (one-third of all solar jobs in the U.S.) and more than 7,000 jobs in the wind industry. In 2013, the state doubled its solar rooftop installations, from 1,000 megawatts to 2,000 megawatts. It also ranks 48th in the country in per capita energy consumption, due in part to the state’s strong energy efficiency programs.

“The 140 plus California companies which have signed the Climate Declaration see the financial upside of tackling climate change today, both for their own bottom lines and the overall economy,” said Anne Kelly, director of policy and BICEP at Ceres. “We welcome them, invite others to come on board and applaud the state of California for its bold steadfast leadership on climate and energy policy.”

Among those is Sungevity, a Bay-Area based solar provider whose workforce has grown from four to about 400 since 2007. The company has operations in nine U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Europe and Australia, and its global network of customers has offset over 100 million pounds of carbon emissions to date.

“Actively addressing climate change is the biggest economic opportunity of our time,” said Danny Kennedy, co-founder of Sungevity and author of Rooftop Revolution, How to Save Our Economy – and Our Planet – from Dirty Energy. “Sungevity’s rapid growth is proof positive that the solar service sector can spur the economy with high-paying jobs that cannot be easily off-shored, particularly in sales, service and maintenance.”

Beyond signing the declaration, or taking their own steps to become more sustainable, many of the company signatories are engaging further with policy makers. Seventy percent of the major company signatories (those with over $100 million in annual revenues) have expressed their views on the need for climate policy by lobbying on Capitol Hill, sending a letter, and/or engaging with the public through social media.

GreenTECH Provides Youth with Green Education

greentech_smallMOUSE and Solar One have launched GreenTECH, a program that provides youth with an opportunity to positively impact the greening of their schools and communities. GreenTECH, funded by a three-year, $1.08 million grant from the National Science Foundation to Solar One, MOUSE, and the NYU Wallerstein Collaborative, is an initiative to boost youth interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills while introducing them to environmental sustainability and green technology.

MOUSE is about harnessing the spirit and talent of young people to affect change through technology, which for us starts with their learning environment,” said Marc Lesser, MOUSE Education Director. “Ultimately, we view GreenTECH as a way to empower youth to engage with and apply science and technology in ways that position them as activists to address real world problems.” MOUSE is a national nonprofit organization that empowers youth to learn, read and create with technology.

Using Solar One’s CleanTech science curriculum as a platform, MOUSE launched its own badge-based learning program, which includes three levels of hands-on activities for students and teams, and videos that profile engineers and designers involved in energy careers. MOUSE also developed the GreenTECH Lab, a web app that allows youth to visually-display carbon footprint data in their school and reduce its impact.

badge“MOUSE has done a really terrific job adapting our CleanTech program to help students better understand energy and renewables,” said Chris Collins, Executive Director, Solar One. “GreenTECH is so engaging and fun that I am confident it will inspire the next generation of green engineers, scientists and architects.”

To formally recognize the achievements and validate their experience in blending technology with environmental science and leading the greening projects in their school, participants in this program will earn a new MOUSE Squad GreenTECH Badge.

GreenTECH will help youth to learn how energy is created and the potential of renewable energy. It offers a range of projects, such as building an electric generator, performing an energy audit and creating solar-powered toys. These projects will create multiple opportunities for young people to gain expertise in technology, data collection and analysis, and sustainable solutions as they improve their STEM skills and prepare for higher education and careers in the growing green economy.