China Moving To Distributed Solar Over Utility-Scale

by Giles Parkinson.

China solar installation
China currently has around 2GW of distributed solar PV, according to Bloomberg data, but wants to increase this ten-fold to 20GW by the end of 2015.

Originally published on RenewEconomy

China is looking to switch the emphasis of its booming domestic solar market towards the “distributed” market – essentially rooftop and small, local, plants – rather than large, utility-scale solar farms.

China, for several years the largest exporter of solar modules, is widely expected to emerge as the world’s largest consumer of solar modules in 2014. The official target stands at 12GW, although some private forecasters such as Deutsche Bank think this could rise as high as 15GW.

Most major solar manufacturers expect China – along with Japan and the US – to account for most of their growth in coming years. But what’s got them a little worried is a draft proposal that will require two thirds of this growth to be from distributed systems.

The solar companies make higher margins, and bigger profits, from large scale installations, but it seems that the Chinese administration is worried about the potential transmissions issues and costs.

According to a Credit Suisse analyst report quoted in Barron’s, the solar market is also concerned that the central government’s focus on distributed generation, at the potential expense of utility scale projects, may make the ~12 GW target unrealistic if utility scale projects are capped at 4 GW.

“The emphasis on the distributed generation segment may make utility scale project approvals from the central government less obtainable,” the report said. And it noted there were concerns about how quickly the rooftop market could grow, given ambiguity about rooftop ownership, and the fact that new feed in tariffs for distribution generation do not commence until the new year.

However, another report from Nomura Securities says it would  make more economics sense for the government to install distributed systems instead of utility scale projects.

“The policy makes economic sense as retail/commercial tariffs are high in the eastern provinces and thus the policy’s focus on distributed installations will generate higher economic returns. In addition, lack of land availability will constrain utility scale projects.”

But that may disappoint some of the major manufacturers, who had big plans for utility-scale projects. These include GoldPoly (which had a pipeline of 1~3GW of large scale projects), Shunfeng (3GW), Hareon Solar (1~3GW), GCL (1GW), Jinko Solar (~300MW), JA Solar (~300MW), Trina Solar (500~800MW), and Yingli Solar (500~800MW). It is thought at 6-7GW of projects are already in development. Some Chinese solar stocks have taken a hit on the stock market in recent days as a result.

China currently has around 2GW of distributed solar PV, according to Bloomberg data, but wants to increase this ten-fold to 20GW by the end of 2015. That would require around 8GW to be installed in 2014, and another 10GW the following year.

Most of the installations are targeted for the major population and industrial centres around Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing.

This article, China Looking Towards Distributed Solar Over Utility-Scale, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Giles ParkinsonGiles Parkinson is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.

The Solar Leasing Explosion In California [Chart]

by Zachary Shahan.

California solar leasing
New California Solar Leasing Contracts vs. New California Solar Panel Purchases. Credit: Climate Policy Initiative

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

The solar leasing trend has certainly taken off. Over 75% of new solar homeowners in California are now leasing solar. This finding comes from a Climate Policy Initiative report on California solar policy and consumerism that includes a comparison of California solar leasing and California solar purchases.

The report comes to a number of interesting findings, but the finding on the shift from solar ownership to solar leasing is probably the most interesting. In 2007, only 10% of California homeowners were going solar through a solar panel leasing arrangement. The shift to over 75% solar leasing in 2012 is clearly significant.

As I just noted the other day, there are some huge reasons why California solar leasing (and solar leasing in other states where it’s available) has taken off — primarily, people love $0 down payments and financial savings from Day 1.

People are going solar for financial reasons more than anything else. Many people could probably save much more money down the road by purchasing solar panels (or, at least, their families could… if they don’t outlive the long lifespan of increasingly efficient solar panels). But waiting several years to get money back on an investment is not the route many people want to take. Who knows what will happen tomorrow?

Also, it’s worth noting that solar leasing companies don’t give you a bad deal. Solar leasing companies can actually take advantage of some federal solar panel incentives that normal homeowners can’t take advantage of. From Day 1, or very close to Day 1, solar leasing customers should benefit from savings on their electricity bills that outweigh their monthly solar leasing payments. The leasing companies also take care of maintenance, doing the paperwork to collect on your solar tax credits and rebates, and other such issues.

So, at the very least, solar leasing companies are giving us a much better deal than utility companies offer. What is there to complain about?

California Solar Leasing Booming Due to Solar Incentive Changes

The solar market is anything but stagnant. Due to solar energy’s many advantages (and lack of significant disadvantages), the market is growing fast, but the avenues along which it grows vary a lot from place to place… largely based on policies in those places.

California’s strong solar power growth has actually taken place “in the face of declining financial incentives for solar installations at the state level through the California Solar Initiative,” as the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) notes. The California Solar Initiative (CSI) did a tremendous job stimulating solar power growth while solar panels cost a lot. However, a rapid drop in solar panel costs combined with remaining federal solar incentives has made solar even more competitive today without support from CSI than it was a few years ago with such support. And California solar leasing options have made the attractiveness of going solar without CSI support even more attractive for many people… well, over 75% of solar customers, according to the CPI study.

In actuality, right now might be one of the best times in the coming decade or so to go solar in California. Federal solar incentives are currently scheduled to expire in 2016. Solar panel prices recently fell through the floor due to economies of scale in manufacturing, oversupply of solar panels due to extreme ramp-up of solar panel production in China and other countries, and the cut-throat competitiveness that resulted. After the dramatic drop in solar panel prices mentioned above, supply has started to better match demand and prices have started to rise a little in 2013. Solar panel prices could fall again and go a little below where they were at the beginning of 2013, or they could rise a bit more — the future is uncertain. With costs near a record low, incentives still available, and solar leasing companies offering amazing 20-year leasing contracts, now is an excellent time to look into going solar.

But, as noted above, policies influence how people go solar, and how it would be best for you to go solar. Solar leasing is only legal in about a dozen states. And various states and municipalities have other solar policies that make other ways of going solar more attractive. For example, some states have “Community Solar Garden” legislation that makes community purchasing of solar power possible. Some municipalities have “PACE” legislation that allows you to go solar using a loan that you pay back through higher property tax payments. The practical result is very similar to that of solar leasing — you enjoy monthly electricity bill savings that outweigh your property tax increase, and you get to skip the high initial price of purchasing a solar panel system.

The solar leasing trend is certainly a hot one, as you can see from the California solar leasing and solar ownership study referenced above. However, there’s a lot of variation in solar policies across the US, and the best solar option for your neighbor may not even be the best solar option for you. The only thing that is more or less constant is that going solar is a smart financial decision for people all across the country, saving each of them tens of thousands of dollars. You can find out the best solar option for yourself by completing our very short form. We can help you to find what solar incentives and policies exist in your area, and we can help you examine the advantages of solar leasing versus solar panel ownership. Don’t delay and lose out on the tremendous solar options available today!

Join the US solar power rooftop revolution!

California solar leasing savings
California Solar Leasing Savings

This article, Solar Leasing Explosion In California (Chart), 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.

11,000+ support ‘3000MW-by-2030’ Colorado solar plan

by Zachary Shahan.

Colorado Solar
A growing number of Colorado residents want to go solar.

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

A passionate coalition of over 11,000 citizens and 280 businesses are pushing hard for their state, Colorado, to become a true rooftop solar power leader. They are pushing for 1 million solar rooftops, or 3,000 megawatts of solar power capacity, in the state by 2030. Currently, the state’s solar power capacity is equal to 300 megawatts.

According to some estimates, the Colorado solar industry has already brought $1.42 billion and 10,000 full-time jobs to the Colorado. With a ten-fold increase, that could mean $10.42 billion and 100,000 jobs.

How much will solar save you?
Find out in about 60 seconds!

5 Reasons Colorado Should Go For 1 Million Solar Roofs By 2030

We’re a solar-focused website, so we’re obviously quite supportive of the idea that Colorado could and should aim for this 1 million solar rooftop target. But we’re not thoughtlessly for solar power — we promote going solar because it makes sense to do so!

Below are 5 key reasons why the state should get behind this strong citizen and small business push:

1. $10 Billion, 100,000 Jobs

Let’s start with the obvious. Of course, the numbers extrapolated above don’t come out of a thorough study, but it’s clear that a ten-fold increase in solar power development in the state would considerably boost the state’s economy and provide jobs for many more Coloradans. Whatever the billion-dollar total and jobs total would be, homegrown electricity would be a huge win for Colorado.

2. Cleaner Air, Healthier & Happier People

Coal power costs the US about $500 billion a year in health costs alone, according to a study conducted by the former director of the Harvard Medical School. Colorado residents pay their fair share of that at the hospital and through premature death caused by coal pollution. The human suffering is actually incalculable. Asthma, cancer, loss of life, and so on — who wants that? Colorado can quickly move away from this electricity source of the past, and also avoid many of the health and water problems associated with natural gas through strong development of solar power and wind power. This would be a clear win for the beautiful state and its residents.

3. A Clean Climate Conscience

I don’t think people who decide to do nothing to fight global warming actually “get off the hook” for it. Not acting to fight global warming surely wears on their conscience. It’s hard to quantify, but it certainly has an effect on people’s contentment. Avoiding problems is not a good thing, and we know that. With a 3,000-megawatt-by-2030 push, Colorado residents could certainly feel better about themselves in this regard.

4. Citizens & Small Businesses Would Save Money

Aside from the health savings briefly mentioned above, solar equals long-term electricity bill savings. Electricity from rooftop solar power doesn’t compete with wholesale electricity; it competes with retail electricity. Getting electricity from a rooftop solar power system is akin to cutting your electricity use, not akin to selling power on a wholesale electricity market. Solar panel prices have fallen off a cliff in recent years. With solar incentives that correct for the market failures related to pollution from natural gas or coal power plants, rooftop solar is a cost-competitive option for homeowners and business. It also helps that solar power systems generate electricity at times of peak electricity demand, when electricity is the most expensive. Of course, the indirect benefit of all of this for the state as a whole is that people who go solar have more money to spend in the local economy. (Pro tip: check how much you’re projected to save from switching to solar.)

5. Democratization of the Electricity System

Overall, a very decentralized network of power provides actually creates a more secure and reliable grid. It also means that the financial benefits of producing electricity are democratized, spread amongst the populous to a much greater degree, rather than hogged by energy monopolies. A more empowered citizenry and a stronger middle class benefits the state’s economy and culture. It improves morale and residential satisfaction. And, to put it bluntly, it’s simply much more equitable or fair.

Putting power production in the hands of citizens is also proven to make them more energy conscious and energy efficient. There’s no point in wasting energy and money, and there are large economic and environmental benefits to be had from a more energy conscious and energy efficient populous.

Colorado is often seen as a beautiful place to visit and a wonderful place to live. It’s also a leader in a number of respects. Becoming a, if not the, leading solar power state would certainly add to those credentials. It would put Colorado in an even more positive light. It would benefit the the US; it would benefit the world; and it would offer many strong benefits to the people of Colorado. Indeed, it would benefit the citizens of Colorado more than anyone else. A 2030 target of 3,000 MW of solar power capacity, the majority of it being on the roofs of homes and businesses, should be pursued. And Colorado isn’t the only state that should be pursuing it!

How much will solar save you?
Find out in about 60 seconds!

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This article, 11,000+ Citizens Push For 1 Million Colorado Solar Roofs By 2030, 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 links.

Which Solar Prices Really Matter To You?

by Zachary Shahan.

Credit: One Block Off The Grid

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

When it comes to solar panels, prices vary considerably. However, when it comes to residential rooftop solar panels, prices are fairly easy to quote. But taking another 180-degree U-turn on this, there’s one more “however” to throw in there — when it comes to putting solar panels on your roof, you won’t find a set global or even national price that is likely to fit for your situation.

Let’s delve into this…

First of all, solar panels are a bit like cell phones — there are many different types that are made of different things and vary considerably in “quality.” These different types of solar panels also have varied costs. For a much more detailed run-down, check out our post on the most efficient solar panels.

The bottom line is, different applications require different types of solar panels. NASA needs high-efficiency solar panels that don’t take up as much space, even they are most costly. (Think real estate in NYC is expensive? Consider how precious and expensive real estate on a satellite or rocket is.) Campers who want a clean, portable source of energy for their cell phones or such do better with lightweight and flexible solar panels, even if they are a bit less efficient and cost more per watt-hour of electricity.

More likely than not, however, you are looking for solar panels for your home or business. Am I right? In such applications, the prices are obsessively tracked and are quite easy to find. In Q1 of this year, the average cost of solar panels was $0.65/watt, according to U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research. In Q2 of this year, REC Solar reports that the price was $0.73/watt. On July 31, PVinsights, a global solar PV research firm, reported that the average price of silicon solar panels was $0.69/watt, with a range from $0.55/watt to $0.99/watt (even within this segment of the market, there is some variation in efficiency/quality and, thus, price).

But the fact is, most of us aren’t going to buy solar panels directly. Most of us are going to buy the installation of solar panels on our roof by a certified professional. That side of things swings the panel back in the direction of wide variation in prices.

Solar Panel Prices for Most of Us

For various reasons, the price of installed solar panels is very different in different locations. Different labor rates, different permitting requirements and costs, different levels of market competition and maturity, and different solar incentives are some of the key factors that end up making the average price of residential solar panels less than $3.00 per watt in some places in the US and almost $8.00 per watt in other places.

To actually find out what it would cost to go solar in your area, you need to get connected to local or regional solar installers. You need to get a quote or two. We can help you with that — we can hook you up with a solar panel installer in your area. Simply enter a few pieces of information on our homepage and we’ll get rolling.

Why Solar Panel Prices Are Not The Most Important Thing

Before I leave you to go do that, I’ll just add a few important notes that you may be overlooking.

  1. Buying solar panels is actually not like buying a cell phone. With a cell phone, you want to evaluate the various things you can do with the phone and what capabilities you want or “need.” However, with solar panels, there’s basically one key goal: save as much money as possible. (Or, if you are truly altruistic, your key goal could be: reduce pollution as much as possible.)
  2. Most of you can now get a $0-down or little-money-down loan from the bank or a $0-down or little-money-down solar panel lease, which means that you don’t need to consider the price of the solar panels alone. What you need to consider is the long-term savings.
  3. In every state in the country, people are saving thousands or tens of thousands of dollars from rooftop solar panels. In other words, if you have a roof that doesn’t have serious issues, you would very likely save a ton of money by going solar, and you would be throwing away thousands or tens of thousands of dollars by not going solar. The decision is really that obvious.

But, anyway, to find out how much solar panels would cost for you, how much you’d likely save each month from going solar, and how much you’d likely save over several years, just answer the short questions on our homepage. We’ll shoot you over some initial projections immediately, and we’ll follow that up by connecting you with a solar panel installer (or more) in your area who can give you quotes on installed solar panel prices.

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This article, Which Solar Prices Really Matter To You?, 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.

Rooftop Solar Can Meet 58% Of Peak Power Demand

by Guest Contributor Mari Hernandez.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Originally published on Climate Progress.

A new study by the Pecan Street Research Institute found that residential solar panel systems can cut electricity demand during peak summer hours by 58 percent.

The study used data gathered from Pecan Street’s demonstration project — an innovative living test lab that allows the research institute to provide original research on customer energy use, renewable energy integration and smart grid technology.

By monitoring 50 single-family homes in Austin, Texas with west- and/or south-facing solar panels from June through August this year, the study found that west-facing solar panels produced 49 percent more electricity during summer peak demand hours than south-facing panels, a finding that should make utilities think twice about excluding west-facing solar panel systems from solar rebate programs. According to the study, west-facing rooftop systems cut peak demand 65 percent, while south-facing systems reduced peak demand 54 percent.

Though west-facing systems may be better at cutting summer peak demand and add more value to the grid in certain regions, south-facing systems still have an advantage in total annual energy production — an important distinction mentioned in the report.

The Pecan Street study also looked at how much solar power was being used in the homes versus being returned to the grid. It found that during peak hours, homes used 80 percent of the solar power generated on-site, while just 20 percent was sent back to the grid. Over the course of a full day, 64 percent of the solar power generated on-site was used in the home.

Overall, the study concluded that solar panel systems can be an effective peak demand reduction tool, especially during hot summer months when utilities are trying to keep up with energy consumption.

“These findings suggest that rooftop solar systems can produce large summer peak reductions that benefit utilities and customers alike without requiring customers to change their behavior or sacrifice comfort,” said Pecan Street CEO Brewster McCracken in the report’s press release.

The Pecan Street study makes it clear that utilities have a lot to gain from rooftop solar, which isn’t the prevailing sentiment coming from the utility sector lately. Just last month, Arizona Public Service, the largest utility in Arizona, admitted that it had funded anti-solar ads during its campaign to change the state’s net metering policy.

During peak energy demand in the summer, the cost to provide electricity is extremely high and often unprofitable. By cutting summer peak demand more than 50 percent, solar panel systems offer benefits to the grid that could reduce costs for both utilities and their customers.

Mari Hernandez is a Research Associate on the Energy team at the Center for American Progress.

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This article, Rooftop Solar Can Meet 58% Of Peak Power Demand, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Guest Contributor is many, many people all at once. In other words, we publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. 😀