The State of Cleantech in 2014

by Guest Contributor Maud Texier.

Where does cleantech stand?

 

Renewable Energy. A technician standing on top of a wind turbine. Image Credit: Glenn J. Asakawa.
Renewable Energy at work. A technician standing on top of a wind turbine. Image Credit: Glenn J. Asakawa.

After a big boom in early stage investments and a green policies kick-off a few years ago, the cleantech industry has been through the struggles that always come with a young and maturing industry. Where are we standing now?

Unavoidable growing pains

Back in 2008, VC funds for cleantech were blossoming; some of them arguing that it would be the next internet boom. Politics started to raise their awareness about climate changes and environmental issues. Europe had led the way with the first feed-in tariffs for renewables and even a cap and trade market for CO2 in 2005. The US introduced Renewable Energy Standards in 30 states, and created ARPA-E as the new government agency to support innovation in the energy industry.

However, overproduction of solar cells and panels, combined with rapidly falling prices for that and other reasons, led to the demise of numerous solar startups. Meanwhile, many European countries, facing a financial crisis, stepped back and reduced their support for cleantech. The early growing pains that face all industries as they mature also showed up. That included some innovators going bankrupt or struggling to make it to their teenage years. Iconic cleantech companies such as Fisker, Better Place, and A123 went bankrupt; a lot of other startups had poor exits as they were struggling raising new funds.

Now VCs are defiant and most of the main teams are being dismantled as their cleantech portfolio did not perform well enough. Was that to be expected? Actually, VCs historically targeted rapidly growing markets in order to ensure high returns in a few years, whereas the energy industry bets on 20+years returns. There has obviously been a mismatch. Also, a lot of investors and entrepreneurs — new to the energy industry — underestimated the barriers of entry for this market, as well as the resistance of utilities.

However, a few VCs did well and are still in the game. Today, most of them are either targeting this new “cleanweb” segment, which is more likely to be capital-light with a rapid return by focusing on apps and softwares. Others are partnering with corporates to ensure a more sustainable investment and facilitating industry alliances for the ventures.

The cleantech coming of age

Funding a hardware cleantech company is currently very difficult, if not impossible. However, we still need those technologies to evolve and mature, as they will be the pillar of the next infrastructures. Cleanweb, new business models, and financing are key and definitely necessary to mainstream those innovations, but let’s not forget our final goal by focusing too much on the means….

I believe that the solar industry has never been better than it is today. It is true that a lot of people are struggling, we have seen the number of module manufacturers dramatically dropping over the last two years, and now the pressure is put on other types of hardware from the balance of system, such as inverters. But the price drop has been so strong and the emergence of new business models so impactful that PV is becoming mainstream. The market has been maturing into a more sustainable industry, and it will keep growing but likely with a trend towards verticalization.

Also, storage is going to see a huge change this year. A lot of companies have been working on their technologies for years now, and the market is finally getting ready, one step at a time. Timing is always critical for innovations: now as energy demand keeps increasing despite limited and decreasing capacities, storage starts making sense even at a higher price. California once again pioneered by introducing the AB 2514 bill that makes storage capacities mandatory for the state IOUs (PG&E, SCE, SDG&E). Is storage on the same path as solar was a few years ago?

I will just add a few words on the energy efficiency industry, this low-hanging fruit that companies have been trying to grab for some years now. Despite huge potential, energy efficiency is still looking for the right model. The concept of monetizing negawatts needs a lot of structure: policies, regulations, standardized measure, and verification processes. Some promising technologies for consumption disaggregation and new financing structures could dramatically change the picture with the right business models.

The energy industry is re-shaping itself as it faces new challenges. The emerging segments of this market have definitely been going through difficulties to reach technology viability and find the right business model. This market is a tough one, where you need heavy investment and strong will to upgrade infrastructures and modify a legacy system which has been running for decades. But we are finally witnessing the development of those technologies at large scale, creating new economies. Beyond solar, the grid is finally starting to change with storage, energy efficiency and consumer-oriented services.

About the Author: As an engineer, Maud dedicated her efforts towards the energy market. She hails from the oil & gas industry, and started her career working in electricity markets. As an analyst on a power trading desk, she studied the market mechanisms that can develop new demand-response models. She has been scouting new technologies such as renewables, storage or energy efficiency for a large power utility in Silicon Valley before joining a solar start-up.

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, The State Of The Cleantech Industry, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

California ranks 7th in the world for installed solar

Originally published on Cost of Solar by Zachary Shahan

California Solar Facts

Here are a number of California solar facts for you:

  • Over 1,721 solar companies employ 43,700 people are located across California.
  • 1,045 megawatts of solar power capacity were installed in California in 2012 — more than any other state.
  • Over 3,761 megawatts of solar power capacity are now installed across California — more than any other state.
  • Enough solar power is installed in California to provide electricity for over 800,000 homes.
  • “In 2012, $2.6 billion was invested in California to install solar on homes and businesses. This represents a 31% increase over the previous year, and is expected to grow again this year.”
  • “Average installed residential and commercial photovoltaic system prices in California have fallen by 13% in the last year.”
  • California has more solar power capacity installed than all but 6 countries.

California is a solar giant. Well, it’s a giant in general. It’s the most populous state in the United States, home to 1 out of every 8 Americans.

Also, the state has a larger economy than all but 8 countries (US included). Being quite progressive, it’s a given that California would be a solar energy leader.

Indeed, it’s the #1 state in terms of total solar power capacity. But what solar incentives are available to homeowners or businesses who want to jump into the solar market?

There are quite a few, so I’ll run down these in a rather concise way with links for more information.

California Solar Incentives

California Solar Initiative (CSI) Solar PV Rebates: Nearly used up, the residential solar PV portion of the CSI offers attractive rebates for solar PV projects installed in the state. A sister program is also in place for solar thermal systems and for solar on new homes. Despite the residential solar portion of the CSI being essentially used up, other state incentives combined with the now very low cost of solar power systems has kept residential solar in the state growing fast.

Net metering*: When customers with solar power systems create more electricity than they use, electricity is sent back to the grid and the customers’ utilities then pay retail rates for that electricity. (*The policy details linked above apply for all utilities in the state except LADWP. A different net metering policy is used in the LADWP district.)

Feed-in tariffs: As mandated by a state law, California’s investor-owned utilities and publicly-owned utilities have to develop and offer renewable energy feed-in tariffs for their customers totaling 750 MW of capacity (investor-owned utilities — 493.6 MW; publicly-owned utilities – 256.4 MW). If you’re not familiar with the policy, a feed-in tariff allows an electricity generator (including someone with solar PV panels on their home) a specified rate for the electricity they generate for a specified period of time, often 15 or 20 years.

The rate should be high enough that it provides the owners of renewable energy projects with enough profit to stimulate the targeted amount of renewable energy growth. Notably, if a customer participates in a feed-in tariff program in California, they cannot participate in other state solar incentives. Here are details regarding feed-in tariffs in the LADWP district and in Marin County.

Property Tax Exclusion: As simple as the name implies, certain types of solar systems can be excluded from property taxes through this policy.

Rebates are also offer in numerous cities, counties, and special districts:

Most of those places also offer similar rebates for energy efficiency projects. You can check out the full list of rebates here.

A number of cities, counties, and special districts also offer a handful of other special incentives:

I know — all of that is a lot to navigate. Luckily, good and experienced solar installers in your area should have a firm grasp on what incentives you could and should apply for. Go through our quick and free system to get connected to an recommended solar installer in your area.

There’s no doubt that California will continue to be a solar power leader for years to come. The only question is whether or not you will be a part of that.

Image Credit: SEIA

*CleanTechnica and Cost of Solar are now owned by the same company, and thus have a financial relationship.

This article, California Solar Incentives & Fun Facts, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary ShahanZachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

Study: Rooftop Solar Improves Home Resale Values

by Silvio Marcacci.

Rooftop solar can add curb appeal and resale value to homes.
Rooftop solar can add curb appeal and resale value to homes and when connected to the grid, is then termed ‘Distributed Energy’ or simply, ‘Distributed solar’ which adds electrical generation capacity to the grid and stabilizes local grid systems. Rooftop solar PV installers image via Shutterstock.

Installing rooftop solar panels boosts a home’s resiliency and green credentials while cutting utility bills, but does it also increase a home’s resale value?

The answer according to Exploring California PV Home Premiums, a new Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study, is a resounding yes – at least in California.

Data analyzed from 2000-2009 highlights a clear trend of solar homes selling for a higher premium than non-solar homes statewide, meaning going green also creates economic opportunity and empowers homeowners to make some greenbacks.

Rooftop Solar Values Undefined And Underestimated

Fast on the heels of America’s record-setting third quarter for new residential solar installations, the LBNL study fills a major gap in adequately valuing home solar systems.

While several previous studies (including a 2011 LBNL report) recognized solar homes command higher prices, many appraisers assign no additional value to a solar PV system. And, those who do assign value have little data in terms of comparable home sales to determine the exact value to assign to the home. Considering sales of green goods have outpaced the overall economy and clean energy investments have been shown to significantly boost commercial building values, it’s a timely quandary.

LNBL decided to solve this problem by examining sales data for 1,894 solar homes and 70,425 comparable non-solar homes sold across California between 2000-2009. Analysts took three factors into consideration: regression analysis of actual sale prices over time, sensitivities of estimated solar premiums to the system age and size, and comparison of actual solar premiums paid compared to predictions made through estimated system cost and income.

$5,900 Resale Value Increase Per Installed Kilowatt

Their results are as clear as the sun on a cloudless day. LBNL’s report estimated that each 1-kilowatt (kW) increase in rooftop solar system size adds $5,911 to a home’s resale value. “Our analysis offers clear support that a premium exists in the marketplace, thus PV systems have value and their contribution to home values must be assessed,” states the report.

California solar home resale premiums
California solar home resale premiums chart via Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

However, consumer misperceptions about a rooftop solar array’s age diminishing its output and value often hang over solar homes. The report found that for each year of a system’s age, solar premiums decline 9% – falling much faster than either system income (which decreases .5% annually), system cost (which increases 5% annually), or system output (which decreases around 1% annually).

This means consumers look at solar panels the same way they do most consumer electronics – as the item gets older, it gets less desirable, even if it work just as well as a newer model. Interestingly, the LBNL findings track with data from PV Value, a spreadsheet tool developed by Sandia National Laboratories to determine the value of solar PV systems through system income.

What About Other States Or Third-Party Systems?

The LBNL report is great news for homeowners in California, but it’s not surprising considering the state is the epicenter of the US clean tech market while leading America in distributed solar generation. What about the rest of the country, or the growing number of homes that install solar through leasing programs or third-party companies?

Not to worry – the report’s authors plan to cover those questions starting with the next edition of their research. Subsequent studies will examine solar home premiums from markets beyond California, the change in premium through the housing market crash and recovery, sale price differences between customer-owned and third-party owned solar arrays, and the impact system age and retail electricity rates have on solar home premiums.

Add it all up, and America’s sizzling solar industry could get even hotter as homeowners look past environmental benefits to see the pure investment opportunities rooftop PV systems generate.

This article, Study Shows Rooftop Solar Adds Thousands To Home Resale Values, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

15 Solar Facts You Should Know

by Zachary Shahan.

.

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

If you’ve missed many of the articles we’ve published over the past couple of months, I figured it was a good time to catch you up on some things. Below are 15 solar statistics or key facts that I think are worth your consideration:

1. About of the solar PV installed around the world was installed within the last 2½ years. In the US, the number was 68% in the last 2½ years. (There’s a reason or two for that.)

Credit: GTM Research/SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight

Credit: GTM Research/SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight

2. US solar panel installations smaller than or equal to 10kW in size dropped in price approximately 14% in 2012.

3. A record number of solar modules were shipped last quarter (Q2 2013). 21% more solar modules were shipped in Q2 2013 than in Q2 2012 by the top 20 solar module providers. (There’s a reason or two for that.)

4. The cost of solar panels has fallen approximately 100 times over since 1977, and solar panels today are about half as cheap as they were in 2008.

5. The average American who went solar back in 2011 (when solar was much more expensive), will probably save about $20,080 off their net electricity costs over 20 years thanks to that decision (that’s $20,080 after paying off the cost of the solar power system).

Infographic Credit: One Block Off The Grid

Infographic Credit: One Block Off The Grid

6. The average Californian who went solar in 2011 will probably save about $34,260 over 20 years.

7. The average New Yorker who went solar at that time will probably save $31,166, the average Floridian $33,284, and the average Texan $20,960… and that’s only if their solar systems don’t last more than 20 years (some solar systems in the field today have been working to factory specs for over 30 years).

solar energy cost

Credit: Cost of Solar

8. The average Hawaiian who went solar in 2011 will probably save about $64,769 over 20 years, getting their money back after 3–5 years and then having free electricity for as long as the panels are on their roofs.

.are solar panels worth it hawaii

9. Solar power offers a better return on investment (ROI) than many “good investments” for tens or hundreds of millions of Americans. Homeowners, on average, can get a better ROI from going solar than from the S&P 500 stock index (considered a very good investment) in over 25% states now. In ⅔ of states, solar offers a better average ROI than 30-year treasury bonds. In 86% of states, your likely solar ROI beats a 5-year CD (certificate of deposit). Check out the story linked above for a full infographic on these matters, including state-by-state ROI.

10. Not surprisingly, most people go solar because of the financial benefits, not for the environment. Check out the funny video below about that, and check out the story linked above for 3 more videos along those lines.

11. It’s not just the rich going solar, but actually many average-income households.

.top solar cities

12. Many people can actually go solar for $0 or close to $0 down. Seriously. In over a dozen states, there’s the solar leasing or solar PPA option discussed in that story, but word on the street is that there are also $0 loans available for people wanting to go solar.

13. People of all political and religious stripes go solar. Conservatives, moderates, and liberals; religious and non-religious people; as well as a high proportion of military veterans.

14. Solar energy advantages beat solar energy disadvantages 8 to 0.

15. The advantages of solar power are projected to more than double total US solar power capacity within the next few years. Solar is projected to be the #2 source of new power capacity in the US in 2013. Companies such as Walmart, IKEA, Google, Apple, Walgreens, and Kohl’s are going solar to a big degree. (There’s a reason or two for that….)

In other words, if you can go solar and you aren’t doing so, you might want to go in for an insanity check.

Advantages of solar -- money!

Money! (Photo Credit: Cayusa | CC BY-NC)

Join the US solar power rooftop revolution!

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, 15 Solar Facts You Should Know, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

Most Attractive States For Investing In Solar

by Zachary Shahan.

.

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

–> See how much money solar power could save you!

There are a lot of ways to evaluate the attractiveness of a place for renewable energy or solar energy investment, and to evaluate the best solar states. Of course, it depends on what factors and assumptions you take into account, as well as what segment of the market you are actually evaluating.

One of the leading evaluators of such markets is Ernst & Young (EY). The “professional services firm” recently released its most up-to-date renewable energy attractiveness indices for the US, including a solar energy index. The report includes solar market data for 2012 as well as a well-researched ranking of states by their solar energy investment attractiveness. The overall summary is clear, as we have been writing for months here on CostofSolar.com: the US solar market is booming.

US Solar Market Booming

“In 2012 the US installed 3,313 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, with 1,300 MW coming in Q4 alone, surpassing both annual and quarterly records. Even with falling costs the dollar value of the market size of the US solar industry grew 34% in 2012,” EY writes. “The cumulative total of solar PV in the US is now at 7,221 MW, with cumulative PV installations exceeding 300,000 individual units.”

A new solar panel installation is now occurring every 4 minutes in the US, according to an analysis from GTM Research.

Solar Leasing Is Hot

As I’ve reported a few times previously, solar leasing is hot. This is partly due to the fact that residential solar power has become quite cheap, and partly due to the fact that people are attracted to $0 down purchasing options, especially when the products (i.e., solar panels) save them money from Day 1. This makes going solar a no-brainer (even more than it already is).

EY writes: “Third-party ownership or leasing of rooftop solar PV systems in the US accounted for more than 50% of the residential and commercial market in 2012. Average residential system prices dropped nearly 20% between Q4 2011 and Q4 2012, and industry experts expect this segment of the market to surge as third-party financing options spread throughout the country.”

US Southwest Is Hot

The leading states are largely in the Southwest, thanks in part to its tremendous solar energy potential, but there are some outliers.

“The top five states for solar electric capacity installed in 2012 were California (becoming the first state to install over 1,000 MW in a single year), Arizona, New Jersey, Nevada and North Carolina, while the leaders in cumulative solar capacity installed through 2012 were California, Arizona, New Jersey, Nevada and Colorado.”

The 10 most attractive states for solar energy investment, according to EY, are now:

Best Solar States For Return On Investment (ROI)

Overall, I find the EY report very useful, as it includes fairly comprehensive policy and market analyses, and even does so for the top solar states.

However, as people who have read me for awhile know, I’m a big fan of relative rankings… of which there are very few. Looking at absolute rankings such as total solar power capacity, you miss who is leading the way on a per capita or per GDP basis. And you miss which states offer the best return on investment for a single residential solar power system.

If you’re curious about the latter, you may have noticed that we’ve already shared a great ranking on that, which changed the above order a bit to come up with this top 10 ranking:

  1. Hawaii — 24% IRR
  2. DC (if you want to include it) — 20% IRR
  3. New York — 17% IRR
  4. Connecticut — 16% IRR
  5. Colorado — 15% IRR
  6. Massachusetts — 15% IRR
  7. New Mexico — 13% IRR
  8. California — 12% IRR
  9. South Carolina – 12% IRR
  10. Delaware – 12% IRR
Best Solar States Per Capita

At the end of 2012, the top solar states for installed solar power per capita ranking shuffles the top solar states around yet again:

top-solar-states-per-capita-total

Image Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica. Data Credit: GTM Research / SEIA.

top-solar-power-states-per-capita-total-solar

Image Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica. Data Credit: GTM Research / SEIA.

Best Solar States… Depends On Your Aims

In the end, I think all of this data is quite interesting. And it offers useful lessons of different types. The EY ranking is certainly useful to investors and major companies who want to figure out the policies and market of one or more states in order to invest in solar projects for the best return on investment (ROI). It also helps show how large states and even countries can better promote solar power.

The solar ROI study briefly mentioned after that is actually useful for the same thing (through slightly different data and research). But it’s also useful for individual homeowners or small businesses who are considering the switch to solar.

And the per capita rankings show us who the true state leaders are, showing us which states’ solar or electricity policies would be most worth emulating.

But, really, for our main audience (the common Joe), there’s simply one thing to do: find out how much solar power could save you, get connected to the best installer for your money in your region, and go solar so that you can start savings tens of thousands of dollars off your electricity bills.

The longer you wait to make the switch, the more money you are throwing away on dirty power from a monopolistic utility company. And the fact is, you can get an estimate of how much you’d save in less time than it takes to watch another cat video or Gangnam Style.

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, Most Attractive States For Investing In Solar, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.