Facebook Is Building A Large Solar Farm In Texas

Despite the many problems involving Facebook, the company is at least doing the right thing concerning renewable energy.

A massive solar farm in West Texas is part of the company’s plans to power 100 percent of its operations via clean energy by the end of 2020.

The solar project is called Prospero. It represents a slightly different way that Facebook has invested in renewable energy projects to date. Instead of just purchasing clean energy from wind or solar farms, the company is directly investing in a solar project. Facebook will be investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Prospero, in addition to the $416 million in acquired financing.

fastcompany.com

Once completed, the project will have a capacity of about 379 megawatts. This is enough solar for about 300,000 homes.

Another notable idea concerning the financials of this project has to do with taxes. There are federal tax credits available for this or any other solar panel installation in the U.S. Typically the solar installer (or in the case of a residential install, the homeowner) would be able to take advantage of the credits. However, in this case, the solar developers do not have enough taxable income, but Facebook does. The company will utilize the tax credit to help offset their tax bills.

This project is also another example in which fossil fuel companies are starting to invest in renewables. Shell will be purchasing some of the electricity from this project in the form of renewable energy credits. These credits that Shell purchases will then be sold to other companies.

It’s great to have yet another example of large corporations seeing the value of solar power and other sources of clean energy. Again, this simply means one thing; solar power is the winner from an economic standpoint. Basically if a homeowner or business is investing fossil fuels, they’re paying too much.

The United States Now Has More Than 2 Million Solar Panel Installations

According to SEIA.org (Solar Energy Industries Association), there are now more than 2 million solar panel installations across the United States. This represents a significant milestone for an industry that is poised for further growth.

It was just a few years ago that the solar industry in the U.S. began to finally grow at good rates. The SEIA predicts that these impressive growth rates will continue.“This $17 billion industry is on track to double again in five years, and we believe that the 2020s will be the decade that solar becomes the dominant new form of energy generation.” – Abigail Hopper, SEIA’s President and CEO.

SEIA.org

While it took the industry 40 years to reach one million installations (and 3 more years for the second), the 3 millionth and 4 millionth is expected to happen in 2021 and 2023, respectively. At this pace, solar power is poised to become the new dominant source of energy in the 2020’s.

The first few years of solar installations in America saw California as being by far the leader in solar. While this is still the case, other states have seen their solar industries experience massive growth. For example, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Utah, Maryland, and Rhode Island has seen considerable growth in recent years. The total solar market in these states is now 4 times larger (going from 50,000 installations to 200,000) than what it was 3 years ago. The following image shows a growth trend for the states that have been in the top five list over the years.

SEIA.org

Based on this incredible expected solar growth, the SEIA expects that a solar installation will take place every single minute by 2024. This is in stark contrast with 2010, in which a new solar installation took place every 10 minutes across the country. The idea that in a little more than a decade, solar installations will occur ten times as quickly is truly remarkable.

At the residential scale, it is expected that 2.5 percent of the homes in America will be solar powered by 2024.

All of this data, from the perspective of homeowners, represents an enormous opportunity to finally save a good deal of money on their electric bills and it allows them to do the right thing environmentally as well. That’s something everyone can feel good about.

Jay Inslee Calls For 1,100 GW Of Solar Energy By 2035

Democratic Governor of Washington State and Presidential Candidate, Jay Inslee, has proposed that 1,100 gigawatts of solar energy capacity be installed by 2035.

Of the many democratic candidates, Inslee is, by far, the most vocal proponent of a quick transition to a clean energy society for the United States. It’s his primary platform. He is calling for 100 percent “clean, renewable, and zero-emission” energy by 2035. This is his energy version of Kennedy’s “moonshot” program. “A massive, full scale mobilization of the federal government that will spur major innovation and deployment of clean energy.” This will also include “good paying jobs for workers, and support for vulnerable communities.”

Jay Inslee

In order for Inslee’s goal to be met by 2035, solar would need to be installed at a compound annual growth rate of 19 percent. This growth rate is actually less than what an independent Japanese/German/U.S research consortium (GA-SERI) has determined. Of course, additional solar capacity would be needed after 2035 to meet the needs of an increasing amount of electric vehicles and new infrastructure that will need to be zero-emission.

In addition to more clean energy deployment, the governor also realizes that there are other pieces of the puzzle that must be supported. Energy storage, smart grids, and transmission are topics that must be dealt with as well. He mentioned that “through expedited planning, broad cost allocation, and negotiated siting”, the long distance interstate transmission of clean energy can be accomplished. The Governor also mentioned an idea that has already passed in California, that all new homes should automatically include solar.

It’s quite refreshing to hear a Presidential candidate put such a strong focus on renewable energy as a part of his campaign. This is the kind of leadership that is needed, and will continue to be needed many years into the future.

It’s worth noting that, from a political standpoint, promoting clean energy is no longer a radical idea. This is mainly due to the fact that it is now the cheapest option available. Voters like hearing that they will be saving money.

The one idea that may have been overemphasized was the need for investments in transmission and distribution. One of the great things about solar power is that it is easily distributed. In other words, the energy can be used where it is produced. A good deal of solar can be installed in the cities that require it. The remainder of the required solar can, in many cases, be installed nearby the cities that need it. This can limit the required transmission lines. This energy does not need to be transmitted across multiple states, like conventional energy.

Hopefully, more politicians will feel comfortable showing support for solar power and other sources of clean, renewable energy. After all, it’s a safe bet now.

Tesla To Drastically Cut Solar Panel Prices

Tesla has just announced a major price cut for their solar panel systems. The new pricing for the company’s systems will be about 10 percent cheaper than the national average.

This is big news for Tesla. The company is finally cost competitive with the rest of the industry.

Solar panel price information is a major focus of Solar-Power-Now.com. One of the primary missions of this site is to help homeowners find the most affordable solar possible. Up until now, the large solar installation companies have not been able to offer good value to their customers. As we approach summer of 2019, this may be the point in time when this idea changes.

Tesla.com

Let’s take a look into the numbers.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the average price paid for solar panels is about $2.98/watt. Tesla’s new pricing ranges from $1.75-$1.99/watt. This is their pricing after the federal tax incentive. Before that potential savings are applied, their pricing is actually $2.65/watt, installed. This means that, normally, homeowners that need an 8 kilowatt system, (which is close to average size) the pre-tax incentive cost is about $24,000. Tesla’s new pricing for the same sized system is only $21,200, pre-tax incentives.

For homeowners that do not use that much electricity, a 4 kilowatt system from Tesla would cost about $10,600. After the 30 percent federal tax incentive, the total cost is only $7,420. Financed over ten years at a 5 percent interest rate, payments on this system would only be $79/month.

It’s fair to say that it is the cost of solar that holds some homeowners back from going solar. Many still think that it is too expensive. The reality is that it has been financially attractive for quite a few years now. It’s that much more attractive now.

How is this pricing suddenly possible? Tesla has crunched the numbers based on the idea that they can drastically cut labor costs by having their customers order online and also assist with providing the company the information it needs to get the install done (such as pictures of their roofs, electric breaker boxes, and circuit breakers). The company is also looking to lower labor costs by eliminating the door-to-door sales model that Solar City used. Sales are expected to be generated via their physical stores and via the internet.

Another way in which the company is attempting to streamline the process to lower costs is to only offer 4 different sized solar packages. Their systems are only available in 4, 8, 12, or 16 kilowatt sizes. This could potentially be seen as a drawback, because homeowners will not be able to precisely size a system based on their energy usage. For example, many homeowners may be forced to either buy a system that is slightly too large or one that does not quite cover their energy needs.

It’s fair to say that Tesla has realized that they can’t get away with high prices for solar, as opposed to their expensive cars. They’ve certainly learned some lessons from the recent failure of Solar City, the company that Tesla just acquired. It’s actually quite ironic that Solar City did not survive considering how much business they did and how high the company’s prices for solar was.

Solar power in the United States is already a good deal. Return on investment averages are about 15 percent. Systems pay for themselves in about 8 years, on average. This amounts to tens of thousands in savings over the guaranteed life of 25 years or more for a solar panel system. All these numbers would improve under this new pricing.

Along with Tesla, any company that can offer prices that are less than the current costs should be able to find plenty of customers. This could really be the tipping point in which homeowners finally take advantage of the massive savings that solar can provide.

The Mayor Of South Miami Goes All In With Solar Plus Storage

Much has been written on this site concerning the considerable potential of solar plus storage possibilities. This post goes into an exciting real life case study.

This post comes by way of a Miami Herald article.

The Mayor of South Miami has decided to showcase the potential of combining solar panels with a home energy storage system.

Philip Stoddard has long been a proponent of renewable energy. He lamented Reagan’s decision to remove the solar panels that Carter put on the White House. “We’re smarter now, aren’t we?”

As anyone who lives in Florida can attest, any given hurricane can knock out power for many days. This was the main impetus for Stoddard’s experiment of seeing if he and his family can be energy self-reliant for 7 days.

Photo credit – Daniel A. Varela DVARELA@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Stoddard, his wife and three kids have a fairly average sized solar panel system of 7.5 kw and two Tesla Powerwalls that can store a total of 27 kWh. The combined continuous power that can be drawn from two powerwalls is 10 kWh.

As this was a first for Stoddard, he was certainly concerned about whether this experiment would deliver positive results. After all, most of us expect reliable and abundant power for the many different appliances that we use. Two specific concerns were air conditioning and their electric clothes dryer, appliances that use significant amounts of electricity.

While it was close, the family’s solar panel system and energy storage systems were able to provide for all of their energy needs for seven days.

There must be a catch, right? They must be paying a fortune for this ability. Actually, no. Stoddard mentioned – “It typcially takes seven or eight years to pay off a system and get free electricity. Depending on how much of your electric bil you want to cover, you figure you get about a 14 percent return on your capital investment. If I could get that same return on investment in my retirement account, I’d put it all in solar. You can’t count on the stock market, but you can count on the sun. Solar provides the one opportunity for the average American homeowner to save money while saving the planet.”

What’s truly exciting about this story out of Florida is not just that the experiment was a success. This is no surprise because the technology has been tested and proven reliable. Instead what is exciting about this is the fact that adding solar plus energy storage is now cost effective, especially in the higher priced electricity areas of the country. The fact of the matter is that no matter how many homeowners would like to do the right thing environmentally and be energy self-sufficient, they won’t unless they can afford it.

It’s great that mayor Philip Stoddard is doing his part in creating awareness for his fellow Floridians about what is possible concerning solar and energy storage.

Hawaii Adds More Solar Power Storage

The state of Hawaii is taking yet another step towards meeting its goal of utilizing 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

This post is courtesy of a recent utility dive article.

Energy storage will become an increasingly important and vital part of avoiding any use of fossil fuels for power consumption. As a step in this direction, the state has announced the addition of 1.4 gigawatts of solar power storage by 2022.

Tesla solar plus storage site in Hawaii

This energy storage system will help cover the loss of power that two fossil fuel plants currently provide. One of them is a coal plant in Oahu. The other is an oil-fired plant in Maui. This will total 220 megawatts of power that will need replacing.

What is especially notable about Hawaii is the fact that, in 2015, the state became the first in the union to proclaim that it has plans to get all of its energy from renewable sources.

Currently, Hawaii is at 27 percent of its Renewable Portfolio Standards eventual goal of 100 percent clean energy. The next part of the total goal is to achieve 30 percent by 2020.

The second part of the plan by the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) is to eventually add 295 gigawatts of renewable energy generation. The state is open to a variety of options to meet this goal. This includes solar, wind, solar plus storage, standalone storage, and grid services.

Peter Rosegg, HECO spokesman, has mentioned that “….we are confident in exceeding the 2020 milestone of 30 percent and far exceeding the 2030 milestone of 40 percent. This reflects our Power Supply Improvement Plan, which envisions, if all goes well, the meeting of the RPS mandate of 100 percent earlier than 2045. For the utility, the challenge is keeping the grid stable and reliable.”

Hawaii is providing a great example of what can be done in terms of the transition to sources of renewable energy. Now that prices of clean energy are quite attractive, we’ll see the transition begin to happen much more quickly, However, as Rosegg pointed out, there will be challenges concerning grid stability and reliability. It’s good to know that utilities in Hawaii and on the mainland will find ways to rise to this challenge and help take us to a much better world, powered by renewable energy.

U.S. Now Has Almost 50 Times As Much Solar Than 11 Years Ago

Much can change in a decade.

The solar power industry is a great example. There’s now 48 times more solar in the United States than there was 11 years ago. In 2008, solar only provided 2 terawatt-hours of electricity. That figure grew to 96 TWh by 2018, meeting more than 2 percent of the nation’s total electricity needs.

While 2 percent certainly is not a large figure, the question is – what will the next decade will bring? Solar has grown, on average, 47 percent per year over the past 11 years. Of course, this trend cannot continue as this would lead to solar providing 100 percent of the country’s needs by 2030. Technological, political, logistical, and industrial barriers would prevent this from happening. For example, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, if every rooftop in the country was covered with solar panels, that would only provide 39 percent of the nation’s total electricity needs.

Image source: Cleantechnica

So while solar will not meet the total electrical needs of the country by 2030, and in fact has suffered recent slowdowns, the industry is still on a general growth trend. In addition to very low prices for solar, the 30 percent savings from the Investment Tax Credit has been a significant factor in explaining the growth of the solar industry. This tax credit does not expire until the end of 2021.

Another consideration in how quickly we will utilize more solar power has to do with Renewable Portfolio Standards policies. Most of the states in the union have government mandated policies that state how much of their power needs must be met with sources of renewable energy. Quite a few of the more progressive states have goals of meeting 50 percent of their electricity needs with renewable sources by 2030. Even with these mandates, it’s difficult to predict how much any given state will invest into solar power in the coming years.

Over the next decade or so, it’s fair to say that the growth of solar power will resemble a bit more of a linear growth pattern as opposed to an exponential one. Although the growth rate will slow, we can expect solar to become a significant percentage of total electricity production in a decade from now.

Toyota To Turn Coal Site Into Solar Site

In another example of corporations starting to see the value in solar, Toyota has announced a plan to develop a large scale solar plant on a coal site in Kentucky.

This post is courtesy of a recent article from wfpl.org

This project is part of the car manufacturer’s larger plan of purchasing 365 MW of solar electricity per year from contractors in the South and Appalachia regions of the country.

Credit: Kenny Stanley via RH Group

The size of the solar panel system comes in at 100 MW and will cost approximately $130 million. A 700 acre reclaimed mining site is where the panels will be set up. This particular project will also create somewhere between 50 and 100 new jobs. It is expected to be completed by 2021.

Adam Edelen, current Democratic candidate for Governor in Kentucky, a coal company – RH Group, and EDF Renewables – a French Renewable Energy company are the three parts of this collaboration.

At first glance, it may seem very strange that a coal company would be involved in a renewable energy project, but their reasoning is sound. “It doesn’t matter whether you care about the environment or not, this is pure economics.” – Ryan Johns (vice president of business development at RH Group. It’s a win-win-win. The land gets put to use again, money is made on cheap solar power, and the local economy gets a boost with job creation.

This partnership with RH Group is part of Toyota’s plan of being carbon negative by 2050. Toyota will now also be considered one of the major corporate players in the wave of companies going green.

Kentucky’s solar capacity would triple when this project is finalized. This should not be surprising to anyone as the state has not exactly been a leader in the adoption of solar power. In fact, the state’s restrictive net metering laws have made payback periods for solar much longer than what is typically available in other states.

Another reason why this project is being considered in Kentucky is the fact that natural gas has all but killed coal companies in the region. While RH Group is not abandoning their coal business, they admit that it makes good financial sense to at least take advantage of the opportunity that solar represents to help diversify their energy portfolio.

Assuming this project is a success, Johns plans on persuading other coal companies to do similar projects on their unused coal sites.

In a way, Toyota is living up to their slogan, “Moving Forward”, by investing in solar power.

We can expect large corporations and many smaller ones to continue to invest heavily into solar power in the coming years.

More Than 10 GW Of Solar Installed In America In 2018

2018 was another strong year for the solar power industry in the United States.

Last year was the third year in a row that the country installed gigawatts of solar in double-digits. A total of 10.6 GW of solar PV (photovoltaics aka solar panels) were completed, bringing the total amount in the U.S. to 64.2 gigawatts. While this actually was a 2 percent decline from 2017, there are signs that the residential market is rebounding. Actually, over the next five years, we can expect a significant amount of new solar (details below).

The CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, Abigail Ross Harper, has stated – “The solar industry experienced growing pains in 2018, in large part due to the unnecessary tariffs that were imposed on solar cells and modules, but this report still finds significant reason for optimism. The total amount of solar installed in America is on track to more than double in the next five years, proving solar’s resiliency and its economic strength. It’s clear, this next decade is going to be one of significant growth.”

Source: Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables

A few key facts and figures from SEIA’s report include;

  • Q4 2018 saw an additional 4.2 GW installed.
  • Solar was a top source of new electrical generation for 6 straight years.
  • A total of 6.2 GW of utility-scale solar was added in 2018. This was 58 percent of new energy capacity.
  • Over the next 5 years, total solar capacity will double.

Installations are expected to increase by 14 percent in 2019, with the industry maintaining at least 15 GW of installed solar capacity every year after.

The primary indicator that the residential market is back on track relates to the fact that the fourth quarter of 2018 was the strongest quarter over the past 2 years. More than 300,000 households installed solar panels in 2018. In addition to the solar powerhouse state of California, other states that did especially well last year included Nevada, Texas, and Florida.

As a total of new electrical capacity added in the U.S. in 2018, solar PV accounted for a significant 29 percent. This number is bound to increase quite a bit as more than 13 GW of utility-scale solar contracts were signed in 2018. This figure represents the largest amount of potential capacity in the solar pipeline. Renewable portfolio standards and increasing corporate interests help explain this upcoming boost to the solar industry.

In conclusion, the U.S. solar industry is looking strong after an upswing in installations to close out 2018. The market is adjusting to tariffs, experiencing a more diversified field of contractors, and continuing to take advantage of the low cost of solar power.

Solar Is Becoming The Next Cash Crop For Farmers

Farmers across the country are starting to install solar panel systems as a new way to make money.

This particular post will highlight a WaPo article that focused on farmers in Illinois. According to the article, hundreds of farmers have applied to have solar panel systems be connected to the grid so that they can sell the excess energy that the systems generate.

These farmers have realized that the profits generated from excess solar will lead to more money than what can currently be attained from crops. According to the University of Illinois, prices for corn are 7 percent lower and soybean prices have fallen 15 percent. Also, farmers are doing their part to help the state reach its mandated goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.

 (Youngrae Kim/For The Washington Post)

The state is expecting about 1,000 total applicants for this solar program. About 100 of them will receive agreements to be accepted into the program starting (now) March, 2019. This will bring the solar production capacity to between 80 and 100 MW. According to the Illinois Solar Energy Association, a total of 10,000 MW of solar capacity will eventually need to be installed to meet the state’s goals.

There is concern, however, that taking prime, fertile farm land away from food production might have dire consequences. “The soils here in Illinois are some of the most productive soils in the world” – soil scientist Robert Rhykerd. The U.N. expects world’s population to rise to 9.8 billion by 2050 so feeding that additional 2 billion people is a concern, to say the least.

While Rhykerd and other experts see the importance of increasing food production, they also realized that farmers need to be able to make a living. For many of these farmers, solar power is helping them make ends meet.

Farmers and universities are also being very smart about exactly where solar farms are set up. Obviously, less fertile areas are chosen for solar panel installations. Evan DeLucia, director for the center of Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, knows the importance of this. “As an ecologist and sustainability person, I really am concerned about the expansion of solar onto prime farmlands. So that’s something to look at really closely.”

Much like the general solar industry across the country, it’s very early days for solar power on farmlands. They certainly have the land and financial incentive to consider utilizing solar energy.

Farmers will surely continue to install more solar panel systems well into the future.