With Only $0 down Solar Can Save You up to $34,000 Over 20 Years

by Zachary Shahan.

Originally published on Cost Of Solar.

How Much Are Solar Panels? Wrong Question. How Much Can Solar Panels Save You?

OK, it’s true, How Much Are Solar Panels? can be a useful question. But, really, this question is largely of minimal importance today. Either through $0 down loans or 3rd-party-ownership models that let you lease a solar power system instead of buying one, most residents and businesses with a decent roof or ground space for solar panels should have an opportunity to go solar without buying the entire solar panel system up front.

The real question — the real ways in which ‘going solar’ affects your finances — is how much it saves you and how soon, or when, it starts to save you money.

I’ve recently created the short infographic below to highlight the 20-year savings from going solar in some of the most populous states in the country, as well as in Hawaii, which has the greatest average savings per project.

Solar savings graphic
Renewable Energy solar savings graphic (USA).

Notably, those savings are based on 2011 research. The cost of solar has dropped tremendously since then, so the savings should be even greater (on average). Unfortunately, I haven’t seen more recent research on this matter. The specific data points — average 20-year savings from going solar — for those states are as follows:

  • California: $34,260
  • New York: $31,166
  • Florida: $33,284
  • Texas: $20,960
  • Hawaii: $64,769

These numbers were included in a cool solar power infographic I shared last week. However, the map displaying these numbers was number 3 of 4. I’ve gone ahead and pulled out this key map and will insert it below so that you can see savings in your specific state if you don’t live in one of the four most populous states or Hawaii.

Renewable Energy. Solar Power savings over 20 years in the U.S.A.
Renewable Energy. Solar Power savings over 20 years in the U.S.A. Image by 1BOG

These savings are tremendous. Even the national average (again, in 2011, when solar panels were much more expensive) is above $20,000! How much are solar panels… going to save me? That’s the question to ask. (Of course, you can request a quote on Cost of Solar to get a savings estimate and even a follow-up site visit for a more exact estimate, and it will also give you an estimate of how much solar panels for your house or business will cost.)

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This article, How Much Are Solar Panels? Wrong Question. How Much Can Solar Panels Save You?, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Renewable Energy. 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.

High-Speed Rail Between Mexico and Texas by 2018?

by Important Media Cross-Post Heather Carr.

A proposed high-speed rail line between San Antonio, Texas and Monterrey, Mexico could improve trade, reduce travel time, and increase tourism between the two countries.
A proposed high-speed rail line between San Antonio, Texas, Laredo, Texas, and Monterrey, Mexico could improve trade, reduce travel time, and increase tourism between the two countries. The Mexico portion is already funded and completion on that side of the border should happen by 2018.

Originally published on Gas2.

Representative Henry Cuellar (who represents a crazy-shaped district in Texas that runs from the west side of San Antonio, around to the south of the city, then takes a sharp left to the Rio Grande above Laredo and down to McAllen) is the author of the idea.

Rep. Cuellar, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Commissioner Jeff Austin, and Mexican officials met with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to discuss the plan on Thursday.

The proposed high-speed rail line would run from San Antonio, Texas to Monterrey, Mexico through Laredo, Texas. The trip, which usually takes five hours to drive, not including stops, would take less than two hours on a high-speed train.

High-Speed Rail Between Monterrey and San Antonio

Monterrey is a wealthy industrial and business center in Mexico, and is home to the headquarters of many large Mexican and international corporations. In 2008, the GDP of the city was US$102 billion. More than four million people live in the Monterrey metropolitan area, and several naturally beautiful areas surround the city. Combined with the year-round gentle climate, this makes it attractive to outdoors enthusiasts as well.

San Antonio, at the other end of the proposed high-speed rail line, is similarly bustling with industry. The metro area is about half the size of Monterrey’s, with a little over two million people. Caves, natural areas, and theme parks in the region make it a popular tourist destination. It’s also very romantic, if you’re looking for a nice place for a wedding or weekend getaway.

Funding for Texas High Speed Rail

The project would be a joint effort between the U.S. and Mexico. On the Mexican side, funds are already in place to build the infrastructure necessary for new high-rail lines. Construction is planned to begin in 2015 and be finished as early as 2018.

Funding for high-speed rail on the U.S. side is a little more uncertain, although Rep. Cuellar says he believes the proposed high-speed rail would be built using mostly private funds. In recent years, the south Texas economy has relied more and more on construction (and wind farms! We love the wind farms!). Building a high-speed rail line through the area would continue the current economic boom.

With trade between the U.S. and Mexico at about US$500 billion, high-speed rail makes good sense for both the local and national economy. But can a deep-red state like Texas take the lead on a light-blue infrastructure project like high-speed rail?

Source: Daily Mail | Image: Jon Curnow/CC

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This article, US–Mexico High-Speed Railway Proposed, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

U.S. Fossil Fuels Losing to Wind and Solar Power

by Giles Parkinson.

Wind turbines
Fossil Fuels, Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas, are losing the electrical generation battle to Solar and Wind Power.

Originally published on RenewEconomy

The price of new power purchase agreements for wind farms and new solar projects in the US continue to defy all expectations, making some energy experts wonder why anyone would contemplate a new fossil-fuel plant.

A new report by UBS analysts in the US has crossed our desk. It is basically a write-up from a webinar hosted by UBS and Declan Flanagan, head of local renewable energy group Lincoln Energy, but  it provides some fascinating insight of what is happening in that market.

The first notable conclusion is the declining cost of wind energy. Contracts in Texas, which accounts for around one quarter of all US installations, are regularly below $30/MWH, and some are at $25/MWh. Even with a tax incentive, this still put wind well below $50/MWh.

Why is this happening? New equipment is lifting capacity factors by 5 percentage points, and Texas’ excellent wind conditions mean that wind farms are getting capacity factors in the high 40s or low 50’s (per cent). Nearly half of this occurs during peak load, defying most characterizations of wind as essentially an off-peak power source.

What does this mean? Greentech Media recently quoted Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley’s Head of North American Equity Research for Power & Utilities and Clean Energy, speaking at the Columbia Energy Symposium in late November.

“Compare that to the variable cost of a gas plant at $30 per megawatt-hour. The all-in cost to justify the construction of a new gas plant would be above $60 per megawatt-hour.” So who would build gas?

Not as many people. Citigroup recently reported that some peaking gas plants were already being replaced by solar PV plants.

Why is this so? The UBS research note says that in Colorado, local utility Xcl has just announced new contracts for solar PV plants below 6c/kWh ($60/MWh). This, UBS said, was the lowest reported solar pricing it had seen in the US, although it confirms a recent survey by the National renewable Energy Laboratory, which found pricing in that range and with no inflation kicker, meaning that the solar plants would be producing for an effective $40/MWh by the end of their contracts.

That would match even depreciated fossil fuel plants. The variable costs of gas fired plants are likely to be at least $30/MWh, and that does not include their capital costs.

This article, US Fossil Fuels Losing Out To Wind And Solar, 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.

City-Owned Texas Utility Already Serves 40% Renewable Energy

by John Farrell.

City of Denton, Texas
City of Denton, Texas logo.

Is having local control of a utility the key to ramping up renewable energy?

In 2011, Boulder citizens voted to have their city take over the electric utility, joining 1 in 7 Americans served by municipal electric utilities. Their feasibility study suggests they can more than double renewable energy on their system to over 50%, slashing greenhouse gas emissions. A study in Santa Fe, NM, suggests a similar increase (to 45% clean energy) is possible, while reducing electricity costs. Other cities, like Minneapolis, MN, are also studying the option.

Many of these communities are inspired by examples like Denton, TX, a municipal utility that already gets 40% of its power from renewable energy. The presentation to the Boulder city council is from Mike Grim, the head of the Denton city utility.

Mike Grim Presentation from Boulder, Colorado on Vimeo.

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This article, City-Owned Texas Utility Already Serves 40% Renewable Energy, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His latest paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (energyselfreliantstates.org), and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at jfarrell@ilsr.org.

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. 😀