RALEIGH, NC (January 13, 2015) – Today, as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership (SolarOPs), the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (formerly the N.C. Solar Center) announced the release of the second report in its Going Solar in America series:
The first Going Solar in America report, released last week, ranked America’s 50 largest cities by the financial value rooftop solar offers residential customers. According to the authors’ calculations, a financed solar PV system can be a better investment than the S&P 500 in 46 of the 50 cities.
The second report, released today, provides actionable information to homeowners as a follow-up to these rankings. This customer-facing guide includes descriptions of the policy and incentive options available to homeowners considering solar and information on how to get started. Among topics addressed are solar PV technology, financing options (loans, leases and power purchase agreements), and net metering and “value of solar” tariffs.
Many Americans are not aware of the degree to which solar costs have declined, and the emerging value that solar offers as a savings and investment opportunity, so the Going Solar in America reports are intended to build support and awareness by providing estimated values for each of America’s largest cities. Contrary to popular belief, rooftop solar is already cheaper than utility rates in 42 of the 50 cities, and this is set to increase as the cost of solar continues to decline and utility rates increase.
“We wanted to first draw attention to the financial value that solar offers today and then have a resource available to assist homeowners who are interested in taking the next step,” said Autumn Proudlove, co-author of the Going Solar in America reports.
Another reason why many homeowners are unaware of solar PV’s value is due to the fact that most people do not have a point of reference for understanding how much it costs them. This report provides customers with a common point of reference most Americans can understand well – the cost of a new (and best-selling) car.
“It may surprise many homeowners, but the fact is, the upfront cost of a typical size solar PV system, even without various policies, incentives, tax credits, and other low-cost financing options, is about the same as the upfront cost of a 2015 Toyota Corolla™ in all regions of the country,” said Jim Kennerly, the lead author and project manager for the Going Solar in America reports.
“Given that a car’s upfront cost does not include ongoing gas and maintenance costs, it really shows that going solar right now is a great financial value, no matter who you are, or where you live.”
Below is a table from the report that compares the regional price of solar (generously provided to the Center by EnergySage, an online solar marketplace), with the average prices paid for a 2015 Toyota Corolla™ (courtesy of U.S. News and World Report):
To obtain a full copy of the report and rankings, please click here.
For a copy of the Technical Appendix to this report and to “Going Solar in America: Ranking Solar’s Value to Consumers in Americas Largest Cities” (released last week), please click here.
About the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center
The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, as part of the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University, advances a sustainable energy economy by educating, demonstrating and providing support for clean energy technologies, practices and policies. It serves as a resource for innovative, green energy technologies through technology demonstration, technical assistance, outreach and training.
Germany, a thriving economic powerhouse under the Chancellorship of Angela Merkel, is also a renewable energy superstar and a country that is loaded with potential.
Lately, the Germans have taken a break from aggressively adding renewable energy to their grid by ending a lucrative feed-in-tariff (FiT) subsidy program that ramped-up the adoption of solar, wind and biomass installations across the country.
Not that these so-called ‘lucrative’ subsidies approached anywhere near what fossil fuel and nuclear power plant operators receive and have received since the postwar period began, as all energy in Germany (like most countries) is heavily subsidized by taxpayers but only the (much smaller) renewable energy subsidies get the headlines. Go figure.
Chancellor Angela Merkel made the courageous decision to accelerate the shutdown Germany’s nuclear power plants in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in 2011 after stress tests of German nuclear power plants showed safety concerns existed within their nuclear fleet. She ushered in meaningful FiT subsidies to speed the German Energiewende program towards its goal of transition to renewable energy and greater energy efficiency — which had received only sporadic subsidies prior to Merkel.
Snapshot of the German Energiewende program
A popular Germany-only program to move towards a highly industrialized, sustainable green economy
Full phase-out of nuclear energy by 2022
80-95% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050
Minimum of 80% renewables in the power sector
50% increase in energy efficiency by 2050
Germany’s utility companies haven’t seen change like this since WWII. After a century of serving conventionally-generated electrical power to a captive electricity market — approximately 1/3 of all German electricity is now generated via renewable energy if you include nuclear, biomass and hydro-power. That’s historic change by any standard.
Although solar panel outputs are lower during the winter months, over the late spring and summer of 2014 renewable energy generated more than 75% of total demand on many of those days. Not bad, for 5 years of relatively minor renewable energy subsidy euros provided by a (now ended) Feed-in-Tariff!
Another benefit of the switch to renewable energy was the added billions of euros of economic activity generated annually by European solar panel and wind manufacturing companies like Vestas, SolarWorld, Siemens, ABB, and the jobs created for hundreds of SME renewable energy installation companies in the country.
Exports of German solar panels and wind turbines went through the stratosphere — once Germany proved to the world that solar and wind could replace lost nuclear power generation capacity at a much lower cost than building new, multi-billion euro, nuclear or coal-fired power plants with their massive footprint on the land and their obscene water usage levels.
For Germany, installing their own solar, wind and biomass power plants proved to the world that large-scale renewable energy could add huge capacity to a nation’s electrical grid and that different types of renewable energy could work together to balance the over-hyped ‘intermittency problem’ of renewable energy.
It turns out that in Germany, during the long, hot days of summer when solar panels are putting out their maximum power the wind actually tapers off, but at night the wind blows at a very reliable rate. Karmic bonus! That about covers the summer months.
During the winter months in Germany, the wind blows day and night, adding significant amounts of reliable power to the national grid.
And now, all of that renewable energy capacity is operating without FiT subsidy — quite unlike the coal, nuclear, and oil and gas power generation in the country which require huge and ongoing subsidies every day of the year to continue operations. That’s every day since 1946, meine Freunde!
Also a factor with coal-fired power plants are the massive healthcare spending to combat the adverse health effects of fossil fuel burning/air pollution on humans and animals, on the agriculture sector. And the hugely expensive security infrastructure necessary to preclude theft of nuclear materials and nuclear related terror attacks.
While the rest of Europe (with the exception of notables like Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg) wallowed in recession or near-recession since 2008, the German economic powerhouse not only set global export records year-on-year, it bailed-out numerous other EU economies like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and others, and began an unprecedented domestic renewable energy program. And now, Germany is an electricity net exporter.
That’s heady stuff, even for this industrious nation of 82 million.
Where to next?
Not only has Germany added many TeraWatt hours (TWh) of clean, renewable energy to its electrical grid to replace lost nuclear power generation, it is now an electricity net exporter — raking in millions of euros per year at present — and make that an electricity exporting superpower if they ever decide to revive their now defunct Feed-in-Tariff subsidy for renewable energy.
Replacing coal with renewable energy in Germany:
If Germany revived the previous FiT regime for 5 years, *all brown coal electrical power generation* could be eliminated within 10 years.
If Germany revived the previous FiT regime for 10 years, *all brown coal and black coal electrical power generation* could be eliminated within 10 years.
Replacing coal with renewable energy in Germany would save millions of Germans, Polish, Swiss, Austrians and others living downwind of German smokestacks from breathing toxic coal-fired air pollution. Think of the health care savings and the taxes involved to support this. Some people believe that the health care savings alone could far exceed the cost of any FiT subsidy.
Not only that, but as a result of leaving coal behind, historic buildings, concrete bridges and roadways would require less maintenance to repair the spalling caused by the acid rain from coal burning. Additionally, Germany would save the millions of litres of water consumed annually by the coal industry.
Replacing coal with renewable energy in Germany would create thousands more jobs for solar, wind, and biomass manufacturing and construction, the agriculture sector would begin to show ever-improving crop outputs and importantly, leave clean air to breathe for tourists, expats and German citizens!
A note about (renewable energy) Hybrid power plants
An energy policy stroke of genius for Germany could come in the form of a new subsidy (a FiT or other type of subsidy) that could be offered to promote the installation of Hybrid power plants — whereby 30% of electricity generated at a given power plant site would come from solar and the balance could come from any combination of wind, biomass, or hydro-electric generation. (30% solar + 70% various renewable = 100% of total per site output)
As long as all of the electrical power generation at such a site is of the renewable energy variety and it all works to balance the intermittency of solar power, then it should receive automatic approval for the (hereby proposed) Energiewende Hybrid Power Plant subsidy.
When all the different types of renewable energy work in complementary fashion on the same site, energy synergy (the holy grail of the renewable energy industry) will be attained.
More jobs, billions of euros worth of electricity exports to the European countries bordering Germany, lower health care spending, less environmental damage and better agricultural outputs — all at a lower subsidy level than coal and nuclear have enjoyed every year since 1946 — are precisely why Germans should renew their commitment to renewable energy.
Seriously, what’s not to like?
Bonus energy graphic shows the various kinds of energy extant in Germany at the end of 2014.
Concluding installment of the Fifth Assessment Report: Climate change threatens irreversible and dangerous impacts, but options exist to limit its effects
COPENHAGEN, Nov 2, 2014 — Human influence on the climate system is clear and growing, with impacts observed on all continents.
If left unchecked, climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. However, options are available to adapt to climate change and implementing stringent mitigation activities can ensure that the impacts of climate change remain within a manageable range, creating a brighter and more sustainable future.
These are among the key findings of the Synthesis Report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Sunday.
The Synthesis Report distils and integrates the findings of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report produced by over 800 scientists and released over the past 13 months – the most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever undertaken.
R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC
“We have the means to limit climate change,” said R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”
The Synthesis Report confirms that climate change is being registered around the world and warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Since the 1950s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.
Thomas Stocker, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I
“Our assessment finds that the atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea levels have risen and the concentration of CO2 has increased to a level unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” said Thomas Stocker, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.
The report expresses with greater certainty than in previous assessments the fact that emissions of greenhouse gases and other anthropogenic drivers have been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20thcentury.
The impacts of climate change have already been felt in recent decades on all continents and across the oceans. The more human activity disrupts the climate, the greater the risks. Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of widespread and profound impacts affecting all levels of society and the natural world, the report finds.
The Synthesis Report makes a clear case that many risks constitute particular challenges for the least developed countries and vulnerable communities, given their limited ability to cope. People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change.
R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC
“Indeed, limiting the effects of climate change raise issues of equity, justice, and fairness and is necessary to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication. Many of those most vulnerable to climate change have contributed and contribute little to greenhouse gas emissions,” Pachauri said.“ Addressing climate change will not be possible if individual agents advance their own interests independently; it can only be achieved through cooperative responses, including international cooperation.”
Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II
“Adaptation can play a key role in decreasing these risks,” said Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II. “Adaptation is so important because it can be integrated with the pursuit of development, and can help prepare for the risks to which we are already committed by past emissions and existing infrastructure.”
But adaptation alone is not enough. Substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are at the core of limiting the risks of climate change. And since mitigation reduces the rate as well as the magnitude of warming, it also increases the time available for adaptation to a particular level of climate change, potentially by several decades. There are multiple mitigation pathways to achieve the substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades necessary to limit, with a greater than 66% chance, the warming to 2ºC – the goal set by governments.
However, delaying additional mitigation to 2030 will substantially increase the technological, economic, social and institutional challenges associated with limiting the warming over the 21st century to below 2ºC relative to pre-industrial levels, the report finds.
Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III
“It is technically feasible to transition to a low-carbon economy,” said Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III. “But what is lacking are appropriate policies and institutions. The longer we wait to take action, the more it will cost to adapt and mitigate climate change.”
The Synthesis Report finds that mitigation cost estimates vary, but that global economic growth would not be strongly affected. In business-as-usual scenarios, consumption–a proxy for economic growth–grows by 1.6 to 3 percent per year over the 21st century. Ambitious mitigation would reduce this by about 0.06 percentage points.
“Compared to the imminent risk of irreversible climate change impacts, the risks of mitigation are manageable,” said Sokona. These economic estimates of mitigation costs do not account for the benefits of reduced climate change, nor do they account for the numerous co-benefits associated with human health, livelihoods, and development.
R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC
“The scientific case for prioritizing action on climate change is clearer than ever,” Pachauri said.“ We have little time before the window of opportunity to stay within 2ºC of warming closes. To keep a good chance of staying below 2ºC, and at manageable costs, our emissions should drop by 40 to 70 percent globally between 2010 and 2050, falling to zero or below by 2100. We have that opportunity, and the choice is in our hands.”
The Synthesis Report, written under the leadership of IPCC Chair R.K. Pachauri, forms the capstone of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. The first three volumes, based on outlines approved by the IPCC’s 195 member governments in 2009, were released over the past fourteen months:
The Physical Science Basis in September 2013
Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, in March 2014
Mitigation of Climate Change in April 2014
IPCC reports draw on the many years of work by the scientific community investigating climate change. More than 830 coordinating lead authors, lead authors and review editors from over 80 countries and covering a range of scientific, technical and socio-economic views and expertise, produced the three working group contributions, supported by over 1000 contributing authors and drawing on the insights of over 2,000 expert reviewers in a process of repeated review and revision.
The authors assessed more than 30,000 scientific papers to develop the Fifth Assessment Report. About 60 authors and editors drawn from the IPCC Bureau and from Working Group author teams have been involved in the writing of the Synthesis Report. Their work was made possible by the contributions and dedication of the Synthesis Report Technical Support Unit.
R. K. Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC
“I would like to thank the hundreds of experts from the world’s scientific community who have given freely of their time and expertise to produce the most comprehensive assessment of climate change yet undertaken,” said Pachauri. “I hope this report will serve the needs of the world’s governments and provide the scientific basis to negotiators as they work towards a new global climate agreement.”
For further information about the IPCC, including links to its reports, go to:www.ipcc.ch
As Nuclear steps aside, Renewable Energy steps up to power Europe | 16/08/14
by John Brian Shannon
Nuclear reactors are starting to shut down in Europe
It began in earnest in the wake of the Fukushima disaster when Germany inspected its problem-plagued nuclear power plants and decided to take 9 of its nuclear power plants offline in 2011 and the rest offline by 2022.
There is plenty of public support in the country for Germany’s planned nuclear closures, even with the additional fee added to each German electricity bill to pay for nuclear power plant decommissioning, which completes in 2045.
Switzerland likewise has decided to get out of the nuclear power business beginning in 2015 and decommission their nuclear power plants by 2045.
Other European nations are also looking at retiring their nuclear power plants. But the news today is about the UK, Belgium, Germany and Spain.
In the UK, four (French-operated) EDF reactors built in 1983 have been shut down after one of them was found to have a crack in its centre spine. (EDF stands for Electricity de France which is a French utility responsible for managing many nuclear reactors)
At first only the affected unit was taken offline (in June) but upon further inspection it was determined that the other three were at risk to fail in the coming months. Whether or not these four reactors can be repaired economically — all were scheduled to be decommissioned before 2020.
The shortfall in electrical generation due to these unscheduled nuclear power plant shutdowns has been met by 5 GW of new wind power generation, which has seamlessly stepped in to fill demand.
Additional to that, 5 GW of solar power has been added to the UK grid within the past 5 years. And that’s in cloudy olde England, mates!
In Belgium, 3 out of 5 of their nuclear power plants are offline until December 31, 2014 due to maintenance, sabotage, or terror attacks — depending who you talk to.
Belgium’s Doel 4 reactor experienced a deliberate malfunction last week and workers in the country’s n-plants are henceforth directed to move around inside the plants in pairs.
Further, the utility has advised citizens that hour-long blackouts will commence in October due to a combination of unexpected n-plant shutdowns and higher demand at that time of year.
Belgian energy company Electrabel said its Doel 4 nuclear reactor would stay offline at least until the end of this year after major damage to its turbine, with the cause confirmed as sabotage.
Doel 4 is the youngest of four reactors at the Doel nuclear plant, 20 km north of Antwerp, Belgium’s second-biggest city.
The country has three more reactors in Tihange, 25 km southwest of the city of Liege.
Doel 1 and 2, which came on line in 1975, are set to close in 2015. Tihange 1, which also started operation in 1975 and was designed to last 30 years, got a 10-year extension till 2015.
The two closed reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were connected to the grid in 1982 and 1983. Doel 4 and Tihange 3, which came on line in 1985, were operating normally until the closure of Doel 4 last week.
The shutdown of Doel 4’s nearly 1 gigawatt (GW) of electricity generating capacity as well as closures of two other reactors (Doel 3 and Tihange 2) for months because of cracks in steel reactor casings adds up to just over 3 GW of Belgian nuclear capacity that is offline, more than half of the total.
In Britain, EDF Energy, owned by France’s EDF, took three of its nuclear reactors offline for inspection on Monday after finding a defect in a reactor of a similar design. – Reuters
In Germany, the nuclear power generation capacity missing since 2011 has been met by a combination of solar, wind, bio, natural gas, and unfortunately some coal. But that sounds worse than it is.
According to the Fraunhofer Institute, renewable energy produced about 81 TWh, or 31% of the nation’s electricity during the first half of 2014. Solar production is up 28%, wind 19% and biomass 7% over last year.
Meanwhile, with the exception of nuclear energy, all conventional sources are producing less. The output from gas powered plants was half of what it had been in 2010 and brown coal powered plants are producing at a similar level to 2010-2012. – CleanTechnica.com
Let’s see what our friends at the Fraunhofer Institute have to say in their comparison of the first half of 2013 vs. the first half of 2014.
Although unspoken by power company executives operating in Germany, Spain, and some other European countries, the panic felt by traditional power generators is due to the massive changes in ‘their’ market since 2009.
Things move slowly in the utility industry — ten years is seen as a mere eyeblink in time, as the industry changes very little decade over decade. Recent changes must be mind-blowing for European power company executives.
European Union renewables by Eurostat — Renewable energy statistics. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons This map displays 2012 results with a total of 20-30% renewable energy for 2012, but in 2013 renewable energy in Portugal registered 58.3% overall. By 2014, Portugal expects that 70% of its energy will come from renewable energy.
It occurs to me that the end of the conventional energy stranglehold on Europe parallels the ending of Star Wars VI.
Help me take this mask off
It’s a mask to hide behind when conventional power producers don’t want the facts aired.
Fossil and nuclear don’t want their Subsidies or Externalities advertised. Global fossil fuel and nuclear subsides topped $600 billion dollars in 2014, while the externality cost of fossil and nuclear may be as high as $2 trillion dollars annually. That’s a lot of hiding, right there.
Fossil fuel and nuclear power power producers don’t want the subsidies they’re paid to be publicly advertised — and they don’t want the renewable energy industry to have subsidies at all
Externalities are simply another form of subsidy to the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries which often take the form of massive public healthcare spending or massive environmental spending to mitigate the gigatonnes of toxic airborne emissions, or to monitor or repair environmental catastrophes such as oil spills.
Spain has ended it’s Feed-in-Tariff subsidy scheme for renewable energy, while keeping conventional power producer subsidies in place.
Not only that, suddenly homeowners aren’t allowed to collect power from the Sun or harvest power from the wind unless it is for their own use. Electricity cannot be collected by Spanish residents and then sold to the grid for example, nor to anyone else.
While all of this has been going on, Spain and Portugal have quietly lowered their combined CO2 output by 21.3% since 2012 (equal to 61.4 million fewer tonnes of CO2) thanks to renewable energy.
But you’ll die
Not only has European renewable energy now stepped up to fill the multiple voids due to nuclear power plant maintenance and sabotage shutdowns, it has scooped incredible market share from conventional power producers.
In January 2014, 91% of the monthly needed Portuguese electricity consumption was generated by renewable sources, although the real figure stands at 78%, as 14% was exported. – Wikipedia
Unwittingly, the German and Spanish power companies have provided the highest possible compliment to the renewable energy industry, which, if publicized would read something like this;
We can’t compete with renewable energy that has equal amounts of subsidy. Therefore, remove the renewable energy subsidy while we keep ‘our’ traditional subsidies, until we can reorient our business model – otherwise, we perish!
Nothing can stop that now
Ending the European renewable energy Feed-in-Tariff schemes will only temporarily slow solar and wind installations as both have reached price-parity in recent months — and that, against still-subsidized conventional power generators!
Even bigger changes are coming to the European electricity grid over the next few years. Nothing can stop that now.
Tell your sister; You were right about me
Conventional power producers in Europe provided secure and reliable power for decades, it was what has powered the European postwar success story — but having the electricity grid all to themselves for decades meant that Europe’s utilities became set in their ways and although powerful, were not able to adapt quickly enough to a new kind of energy with zero toxicity and lower per unit cost.
Renewable energy, at first unguided and inexperienced, quickly found a role for itself and is now able to stand on its own feet without subsidies. Quite unlike conventional power generators.
Considering the sheer scale of the energy changes underway in Europe, conventional energy has been superceded by a superior kind of energy and with surprisingly little drama.
Armed with a new sense of urgency to fix the problems of power supply, rising power costs, and increasing dependence on imported coal, the Narendra Modi-led Indian government is planning to enhance the country’s ambitious National Solar Mission. Currently, the mission entails installation of 20,000 MW of grid-connected and 2,000 MW of distributed solar power capacity by 2022.
Given the resource availability and the demand for solar power, tremendous capacity addition potential remains in India. The government has announced plans that it intends to source 3% of the country’s total electricity demand from solar power projects by 2022. To meet this target, a total installed capacity of 34,150 MW is required, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has determined. Thus, the current form of the National Solar Mission would fall short by at least 12,000 MW.
While the MNRE regularly comes up with innovative mechanisms to distribute and allocate solar power capacity among project developers, there are several areas that have not been addressed in the policy. Canal-top solar power projects, something pioneered in Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat, is among them. This would address yet another and more important problem faced by the country — water scarcity and over-dependence of the agriculture on monsoon.
Net metering and feed-in tariffs for rooftop solar power projects is another missing area. While the state government is likely to have the final say on this issue, the central government can certainly announce incentives to promote the implementation of this policy across the country. This policy has also been successfully implemented in Gujarat and had received financial support from international financial institutions such as the IMF.
It is very likely that the “Gujarat model” will be followed for enhancing renewable energy in India as early signs point to the same. The MNRE has scheduled an investors meet in November this year where it hopes to attract investment worth millions of dollars to boost the renewable energy sector, an approach mastered by Mr Modi during his tenure as the Gujarat chief minister.