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EPA’s Plan to Curb Carbon Pollution Can Save Billions

27/11/2014 at 2:04 pm | Solar Blog | No comment


Those are the results of an NRDC analysis released today. It re-evaluates the costs of EPA’s June 2014 Clean Power Plan proposal using more accurate and up-to-date cost data for clean generating resources such as energy efficiency, wind and solar power. Our analysis shows that EPA overstated the amount the utility sector would pay to implement the proposed Clean Power Plan because the agency used a series of outdated assumptions to represent the costs and performance of energy efficiency and wind and solar generation. Using up-to-date data turns the overall impact of meeting EPA’s proposed standard from a cost into a savings for the utility industry and its customers. Further, the lower costs of energy efficiency and renewable generating technologies open the door to getting substantially more carbon pollution reductions from the nation’s largest emitters.

The EPA originally estimated in June that the CPP would cost between $5.5 to $7.5 billion in 2020. But the proposed plan will actually save utilities between $1.8 and $4.3 billion during that year. When the power sector spends less to meet the Clean Power Plan targets, customers enjoy the benefit of lower electricity bills. Plus, the public health and climate protection benefits (including saved lives, reduced illness, and climate change avoided) will likely outweigh the costs by $9 to $15 billion more than the $27-50 billion the EPA estimated for 2020.

The savings ramp up through the 2020s, reaching $6 billion by 2030. So, rather than costing $7.3 to $8.8 billion in 2030, as EPA estimated in June, the proposed plan will save utilities between $6.4 and 9.4 billion. By 2030, the health and climate benefits can outweigh the EPA-estimated costs by $64 to $99 billion.

Before we go further, let us give some background and an overview of our approach. The EPA assembled its base case, the business-as-usual scenario, based on the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2013 (AEO 2013). Since AEO2013’s publication, though, the costs of building wind turbines and solar panels have dropped steadily. As a result, the cost data for wind and solar power that the EPA used is 46 percent above current averages. Likewise, the EPA very conservatively estimated the cost at which utilities can implement energy efficiency programs at nearly twice the cost of what has been observed in practice. These cost estimates are critical in an analysis like this because they drive the overall compliance costs.

To get a more accurate calculation of these costs, NRDC surveyed studies from a range of sources including the U.S. Department of Energy and Lazard. LBNL just this week released an extensive study covering efficiency programs throughout the United States and found that the average total resource cost of efficiency is 4.4 cents/kWh. Our analysis adopts a relatively conservative range of efficiency costs between 4.7 and 6.4 cents per kilowatt-hour. The costs of adding renewable generation are also significantly lower than what EPA estimated. Since 2010, the costs of installing onshore wind turbines has dropped by 23% while the costs of developing utility scale solar installations have declined by nearly 50%.

NRDC provided updated data reflecting these changes to ICF International, Inc. (ICF). NRDC engaged ICF to run the Integrated Planning Model (IPM®), the same model EPA uses, with the updated data. IPM® determines a least-cost compliance pathway by re-dispatching existing resources and building new resources.

The results?

Meeting the targets proposed under the CPP will save utilities and customers between $1.8 and $4.3 billion in 2020, rather than costing $5.5 to $7.5 billion. The savings would grow in 2030 to between $6.4 and $9.4 billion. That means the EPA overstated the costs of compliance by $9 billion in 2020 and $15 billion in 2030. See the figure below for additional details.


We’ll present these results to EPA in NRDC’s formal public comments on the CPP, by December 1.  We’ll cite the sharply lower costs of energy efficiency and renewable power as one of the reasons why EPA can and should strengthen the final power-plant standards so that they further reduce the power sector’s carbon pollution.  As proposed, the standards are expected to cut power-plant carbon pollution 26 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030. But we’ll show that EPA has room to finalize a standard that achieves significantly greater carbon pollution reductions at a reasonable cost.

This post co-authored with Starla Yeh, principal analyst of NRDC’s new report.

This article was originally published on NRDC and was republished with permission.

Lead image: Piggy bank via Shutterstock

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What a Thoughtful Idea! Renewable Energy Gift-giving for the Holidays

27/11/2014 at 2:04 pm | Solar Blog | No comment


It’s that time of year again. Are you prepared for the gift giving season? 

In case you need some extra help, we here at (REW) wanted to give you some ideas for holiday gifts that you might not have thought of yourself. Below please find some ideas to inspire you to give the gift of renewables.

Disclaimer: Part of this list is my own personal wish list.

You see, I’ve just purchased some land and plan to start building a home in the next year.  Over the past seven years at, I have learned about some amazing green building techniques and I plan to employ as many of them as I can as I build.  I also plan to blog all the way through the building process here on REW.  So while today’s blog will hopefully inspire you to give renewable-energy inspired gifts to your friends and family, it’s also just the beginning of my compilation of ideas that I am accruing before I start to build.

These ideas mostly consist of “big ticket” items, but there are some that can be broken down into increments that you could easily give a friend or family member. Hopefully these will inspire you to think outside the box with your own gift giving.

Lead image: Presents via Shutterstock

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Can Biofuels Make a Comeback?

27/11/2014 at 2:04 pm | Solar Blog | No comment


Len Rand, CEO of xF Technologies, says his company has come up with a material that can dramatically reduce the particulate matter in diesel emissions.

It also fights corrosion.

And it can be used as a food additive.

“It can smell like almonds…anise,” he said.

The magic material is furoate ester, a multipurpose industrial chemical that the Albuquerque-based company says it can make from corn stover or some other relatively low cost biomass through an innovative two-step process. The chemical can be added to diesel or gas—a 5% blend with diesel will cut particulate matter in half—as well as biodiesel. The FDA has declared it safe to eat. It is also hydrophobic and works across a wide range of temperatures.

And at scale, it will be economical, he says: volume production costs will be under $2 per gallon, a figure that includes an estimate for the cost of the waste biomass. Biochar, a byproduct of the process, can be sold to farmers as a soil supplement for $100 a ton. Put another way, the revenue from biochar will cut the cost of fuel by about 8 cents per gallon.

“There is the lack of a good oxygenate that doesn’t harm diesel,” said Rand, who back in the late 90s sold communications chip company NetBoost to Intel.

Former IT executive?  Biofuel?  Compelling economic claims and performance benefits? Some of you no doubt are already thinking “Haven’t we seen this movie before?”  In fact, the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference in San Francisco opened on the same day that Kior, a company that Vinod Khosla once championed as the future of fuel, filed for bankruptcy protection.

Rand and others will certainly acknowledge that it is a challenging market, and oil hovering around $80 a barrel makes investors skittish. But give biofuel execs credit: they learn from the past. Much of the activity centers around developing fuels and chemicals out of waste products and virtually everyone is adopting strategies to minimize the capital requirements to get their technology to market. Many say they will deliver modular processing units to market that will allow for distributed production. Many are also probably also better categorized as alt feedstock fuels rather than biofuels because they rely on methane or CO2 from any source.

XT, for instance, won’t even try to build plants. It plans on licensing its technology, mostly to people who can incorporate it into existing facilities. A former VC, Rand asserted that trying to raise money to build facilities would be the “death knell” for start ups.

Similarly, Liquid Light will try to commercialize its CO2-to-fuel process by leveraging existing plants. The company, which raised $15 million earlier this year from VantagePoint Capital Partners among others, uses electrochemical processes to turn CO2 into ethylene glycol, which serves as a foundation for a number of materials. The original idea for the process dates back to 1870, said CEO Kyle Teamey.

“Carbon dioxide is a cheap form of carbon available in huge quantities. We turn it from being a liability into an asset,” he said. “We minimize the amount of electricity needed to make CO2 into something valuable. It is almost like artificial photosynthesis.”

Another advantage: industrial carbon dioxide streams are somewhat predictable, unlike the output of an oil or gas well. Price fluctuations, therefore, could be less extreme.

Kiverdi and LanzaTech, meanwhile, say they have created microbes convert carbon dioxide into fuels and other marketable materials. The companies use the same low cost feedstock as Liquid Light, but they harness metabolic processes.

In a similar vein, Mango Materials says it can make PHA, a biodegradable plastic that is more tough and reliable than many of the consumer bio plastics of today, out of methane escaping from landfills. Enough methane leaks from landfills in the U.S. to make 3 million plastic bottles a year, said CEO Molly Morse.

Methane sold to generate electricity fetches around 25 cents per pound, Morse added. As a feedstock for PHA it is worth about $1.35 per pound. She further added that most biogas today has not market value because most people don’t capture it.

And, who knows? Over time, the current economic circumstances in the oil industry could help. The G20 economies will spend $88 billion a year on fossil fuel exploration, according to a new study from the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International. Forbes energy reporter Chris Hellman pointed out earlier, the average oil company generates around $15 per barrel in net when oil sells for $100 a barrel.  (It’s a great article—you should read it.) If the price drops to $90, profits drop to $5 a barrel, or by 67%.

Higher costs? Lower profits? Huge multibillion dollar processing plants? Maybe trying to extract energy from garbage will start to look like the safer option as time goes on.

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U.S: five new wind farms boost wind energy capacity

27/11/2014 at 1:59 am | Solar Blog | No comment


According to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission‘s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, wind power provided over two-thirds (68.41 %) of new U.S. electrical generating capacity in October 2014. Specifically, five wind farms in Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, and Texas came on line last month, accounting for 574 MW of new capacity.

In addition, seven “units” of biomass (102 MW) and five units of solar (31 MW) came into service accounting for 12.16 % and 3.69 % of new capacity respectively. The balance came from three units of natural gas (132 MW – 15.73 %). Moreover, for the eighth time in the past ten months, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for the majority of new U.S. electrical generation brought into service. Natural gas took the lead in the other two months (April and August).

Of the 9,903 MW of new generating capacity from all sources installed since January 1, 2014, 34 units of wind accounted for 2,189 MW (22.10 %), followed by 208 units of solar – 1,801 MW (18.19 %), 45 units of biomass – 241 MW (2.43 %), 7 units of hydropower – 141 MW (1.42 %), and 5 units of geothermal – 32 MW (0.32 %). In total, renewables have provided 44.47 % of new U.S. electrical generating capacity thus far in 2014.

The balance came from 45 units of natural gas – 5,373 MW (54.26 %), 1 unit of nuclear – 71 MW (0.72 %), 15 units of oil – 47 MW (0.47 %), and 6 units of “other” – 7 MW (0.07 %). There has been no new coal capacity added thus far in 2014. Thus, new capacity from renewable sources in 2014 is more than 37 times that from oil, coal, and nuclear combined.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.39 % of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.44%, wind – 5.39%, biomass – 1.38%, solar – 0.85%, and geothermal steam – 0.33%. Renewable energy capacity is greater than that of nuclear (9.23 %) and oil (3.97 %) combined.

Katharina Garus / Ken Bossong

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Full integration: Bluestar Elkem is acquiring REC Solar

27/11/2014 at 1:59 am | Solar Blog | No comment


RSS icon Photovoltaic Feed

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Efficient Emergency Lighting Stays Ready to Work

27/11/2014 at 1:59 am | Solar Blog | No comment


Sponsored Posts
emergency lighting

Published on November 26th, 2014
by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg


emergency lighting

Emergency appliances – from lighting to smoke alarms to security systems – aren’t necessarily the biggest energy users in our homes. But not only do you not want to waste electricity, you also want to know that your equipment is ready to go when you need it. Just as you don’t want your home to burn down because the smoke alarm has an old battery, you also don’t want your emergency lights to not function because of burned-out bulbs.

Efficiency elements not only keep energy use in check, but also keep necessary parts fresh longer. Here are some ideas for keeping those lighting systems burning bright… without using up tons of electricity.

How to Keep Emergency Lights Efficient and Effective

Use LED Bulbs: As we’ve noted numerous times before, LED light bulbs are efficiency powerhouses, using 10% of the wattage of incandescent bulbs. They also last a really long time: 50,000 hours vs. 8000 for a CFL. Choosing an emergency lighting system with LED bulbs helps insure that your lights will go on when you need them on.

Use Motion Sensors: If you’re planning to use your lighting system primarily for security, there’s really no need to have those lights blazing away at all hours. Motion sensors will keep intruders away without running up the electric bill or creating unnecessary wear on the system.

Consider a Self-Diagnostic Testing Emergency Light: Sure, we all have the best of intentions in terms of checking the batteries in our smoke alarms… but still forget to do it (even when the time changes). Emergency lighting systems have self-diagnostic testing options available, so why not let the appliance check itself out for readiness.

Consider an Alternative Energy Back-Up Power Source: Since these systems need to operate often when main power systems have failed, having your emergency lighting back-up batteries connected to solar panels can keep them shining bright even when the power’s out.

Got other ideas for keeping your emergency lights running efficiently and bright? Share them with us in the comments.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Tags: alternative energy, emergency lights, energy efficiency, led bulbs motion sensors, solar

About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at Google+

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Innovation and Investment Drive Wind Power Industry

27/11/2014 at 1:59 am | Solar Blog | No comment


For example, 3 models have been employed for financing offshore breeze projects. The initial is a application equity model, in that a application finances a plan wholly on a change sheet. Until recently, offshore breeze was especially saved in this manner. Second is a developer model: a association develops, builds and finances a plan itself, thereby maintaining a construction risk, before offered down a equity seductiveness once blurb operation is achieved. In a third plan finance/developer model, construction risks are insincere by a equity investors, as good as by blurb bank lenders around construction/term financing.

Success in a breeze zone might be due, in part, to integrated offerings of record and finance, that should be strongly positioned to residence a hurdles plan developers now face.  Siemens Financial Services (SFS) upheld Kawailoa Wind, a largest breeze plantation in Hawaii, with $50 million of debt financing. In addition, a 69-MW breeze trickery uses 30 Siemens breeze turbine generators. Developers mostly find assistance with both financing and technology, and Siemens’ ability to deposit a possess collateral to support a record helps teach a required trust to attract a remaining debt and equity collateral required to financial a project.

A series of outmost factors establish a structure and record used for a breeze ardour project, including plcae and a breeze regime. New turbines on a marketplace now produce high ardour produce during low breeze sites. By examining a tellurian market, companies can use their resources and record in a many effective and fit ways possible.

The Gemini offshore breeze plantation in a North Sea is one of a largest in a world. SFS upheld a 600-MW breeze ardour plant consisting of 150 Siemens breeze turbines, with a 20 percent equity investment. In total, over 20 parties were involved, creation Gemini a world’s largest project-financed offshore breeze farm. This multi-source financing indication shows a augmenting need for collateral investment in today’s market. Additionally, a far-reaching operation of investors in this transaction proves a broad-based ardour for offshore breeze assets.

The North American marketplace has been a large concentration in new years, with a good understanding of onshore breeze activity in a U.S. and Canada. Up until now, these breeze projects have been located onshore and are driven especially by renewable portfolio standards imposed during a state or provincial level. However, a Gemini offshore breeze plantation is a good instance of a form of offshore projects that are attracting augmenting financier seductiveness in Europe and might eventually be followed in North America.

Renewable ardour is now one of a biggest singular item classes hold by SFS, and income from renewables has augmenting significantly given 2005. As a direct for ardour continues to expand, a universe needs new ideas to serve foster renewable ardour generation.

We are advantageous to play a purpose in developing, building, and investing in these projects. The cost of wind-generated ardour has declined during a solid gait as a record has evolved. Despite doubt over a prolongation of prolongation taxation credits in a US, Siemens has a full line-up of projects now in growth and construction.  We are on a right arena to see continued long-term investing success in this zone and see a marketplace continue to enhance in for a nearby future.  

Lead image: Wind turbines around Shutterstock

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A Big Change in How a IEA Views Renewables

26/11/2014 at 10:58 pm | Solar Blog | No comment


The destiny is tough to predict.

The International Energy Agency recently came out with a World Energy Outlook 2014, a extensive research of tellurian appetite direct and a underlying supply brew by 2040. Along with BP’s annual forecast, it is one of a many lawful papers of a kind.

But even a IEA can skip a trend. In a 2014 report, a IEA predicts that a share of renewables will grow from 21% in 2012 to 33% by 33%.  Renewables, including hydropower, scarcely triple by 2040 and transcend both healthy gas and spark as a tip source of electricity by 2035. By 2050, solar alone could turn a largest source of appetite by 2050.

In a executive outline of a World Energy Outlook 2004, a difference “solar” and “PV” do not appear. The share of “other” renewables, i.e. all by hydropower, will triple, though usually from 2% to 6% by 2030. Hydropower is around 16% of universe appetite currently so a bottom figure fits though a prophecy was low.

The same binds for efficiency. “Efficiency” appears usually twice in a 2004 summary. The news revolves around supply and a design is grave for rising markets.

“Huge amounts of new appetite infrastructure will need to be financed. And many of a world’s lowest people will still be deprived of complicated appetite services. These hurdles call for obligatory and wilful movement by governments around a world,” a 2004 news states. “Little swell will be done in shortening a sum series of people who miss entrance to electricity.”

In a 2014 report, potency plays a some-more distinguished role. The slack in a expansion of direct for appetite to 1.1% per year is attributed essentially to efficiency.  Efficiency is also identified as a lynchpin in bringing appetite to rising markets. It will still be a plea to extend appetite to farming areas of Africa and Asia, though wish grows.

“Without a accumulative impact of appetite potency measures over a projection horizon, oil direct in 2040 would be 23 mb/d (or 22%) higher, gas direct 940 bcm (or 17%) and spark direct 920 Mtce (or 15%) higher. Beyond slicing appetite use, appetite potency lowers appetite bills, improves trade balances and cuts CO2 emissions. Improved appetite potency compared with currently reduces oil and gas import bills for a 5 largest energy-importing regions by roughly $1 trillion in 2040,” a news states. “Technological swell and softened appetite efficiency… concede a aloft turn of direct for appetite services to be confident per section of energy.”

Oil? In 2004, oil direct was approaching to strike 121 million barrels a day. In a 2014 report, direct will usually arise to 104 million barrels a day.

Biofuels? Not in a executive outline of 2004. 2014? “Biofuels use some-more than triples, rising from 1.3 million barrels of oil homogeneous per day (mboe/d) in 2012 to 4.6 mboe/d in 2040, by that time it represents 8% of road-transport fuel demand,” a news states. “Advanced biofuels, that assistance residence sustainability concerns about required biofuels, benefit marketplace share after 2020, creation adult roughly 20% of biofuels supply in 2040.”

That prophecy is next a arrange of predictions from biofuel advocates like Vinod Khosla, though it’s positively aloft than in a past.

Again, this isn’t to contend a IEA needs to rethink a methodologies. It’s an lawful source. The doctrine here unequivocally is a biggest source of appetite is tellurian ingenuity. Over a past decade we’ve seen a series in appetite and it has come out since of new materials (i.e. semiconductors) new business models and new ways of meditative about systems.

And some other records from a 2014 report

  • Subsidies for hoary fuels are 4 times larger those given to renewables. Fossil fuel subsidies come to approximately $550 billion a year. Subsidies to renewables come to around $121 billion. Renewable subsidies will arise to $230 billion by 2030 though afterwards dump to $205 billion by 2040.
  • Global investment in appetite infrastructure will sum $21 trillion by 2040. A poignant apportionment will go toward upgrading delivery and placement networks. It’s needed. The normal age of transformers in a U.S. is 42 years. The normal lifetime outlook of a transformer is 40 years.
  • Nuclear shifts to non-OECD nations. In 2013, there were 434 chief reactors worldwide, provision 11% of a world’s power, distant down from a 18% marketplace share in 1996. Nuclear’s marketplace share will grow to 12% by 2040, though a large change is a locations of a reactors. The bulk of a 380GW entrance on line will be in China and other non-OECD nations while a infancy of a 148GW retirements will come in North America, Europe and Japan. Still, chief stays one of a “limited options” for determining emissions.
  • Watch Sub-Saharan Africa. The segment has extensive intensity for solar, geothermal, breeze and healthy apparatus extraction. In a final 5 years, 30% of new oil and discoveries were done there. It will also be a hotbed of grid experimentation. 950 million people will get entrance for a initial time to unchanging sources of appetite by 2040 and 70% of those new business in farming areas will get appetite by microgrids and off grid systems.




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A 2014 Solar Industry Thanksgiving

26/11/2014 at 7:58 pm | Solar Blog | No comment


There’s copiousness to protest about in a solar world, yet I’d like right now to take a few paragraphs to contend what I’m privately beholden for in a solar industry.

First, I’m beholden for each individual, business, and classification that’s left solar this year and in years past. As most as a solar attention has grown, these people are still a early adopters, and I’m beholden that they’ve had a bravery to lead a creation in producing purify appetite around solar power.

Speaking of leadership, I’m also beholden and beholden for a solar advocacy organizations that work via a year to foster and strengthen a solar industry. We competence not always determine with what they do or how they do it, yet they’re doing something certain on interest of me, a solar industry, and consumers. So, conclude you SEIA, SEPA, The Solar Foundation, Vote Solar, IREC, ASES, 350, NextGen Climate, Oil Change International, TASC, and TUSK off a tip of my head. If you’d like to interjection and commend any other organizations, greatfully do so in a comments territory below.

I’d also like to conclude a internal and inhabitant politicians, application executives, and open application commissioners who have upheld those early adopters who have left solar and still wish to go solar. Yes, we could dispute about a ones who have against solar and finished it some-more formidable for consumers, yet we privately consider a solar potion is some-more full than we know. There’s a reason we have over 90% solar support in a U.S., and I’m certain that a infancy of a politicians and application commissioners will also see a solar light eventually… if they don’t already.

Thanks Solar Industry 2

Hold onto your hats. I’m now going to be publicly beholden for and beholden for President Obama, his energy-related cabinet, and his purify appetite advisors. we know that’s going to be argumentative with many of my tighten solar friends who feel that a President has not finished adequate for solar, yet once again, we ‘m saying him in a brighter solar light. Under his administration, we’ve had some-more solar commissioned than in all a presidents before him, combined. Plus, yet it took him a few years, he did finally put solar PV on a White House roof — a initial and a good symbol…even if he’s not compelling it enough. But it is there, so thanks. Could Mr. Obama have finished some-more for solar? Certainly, yet come on. Just suppose what a solar invocation list competence have looked like with an EPA underneath McCain-Palin or Romney-Ryan administrations. We’d be most over behind than we are today, so interjection Barak. Let’s see what we can lift out of your presidential shawl in a subsequent 2 years.

This competence be self-serving, yet we also have to acknowledge a industry’s solar marketing, journalists, and patron use teams, generally if you’re a group of one. We can have a best solar record in a galaxy, yet if nobody is writing, blogging, Tweeting, FBing, visualizing, Ad-buying, PR-ing about it, who would know? Know that we commend your value and that we conclude your untiring efforts to mount out and teach people about a advantages of solar designation and solar products.

Oh, and we solar sales people, a turkey with all a trappings to you, too. We marketers competence get a summary out, yet we stone for shutting a deal.

And installers, we haven’t lost about you. At my Thanksgiving table, we lift my potion of Guinness Stout to you. My solar selling friends and we could scream about solar 24/7, and a sales people could tighten a million deals, yet solar doesn’t indeed occur though we all removing on roofs and putting stick mounts in a ground. Thank you. The universe is literally a improved place with each solar kilowatt-hour that we companion to a grid. A toast.

And where would a solar attention be though solar financial analysts and CFO’s? I’ve met many of you, and infrequently we sensitively flounder during how cold and clinical we can be when squeezing each cent and euro out of a solar Watt. Still… we have to acknowledge that it’s money, credit, and financial innovations that are essentially pushing a complicated solar boom. So, keep doing what you’re doing, yet greatfully remember that solar attention workers aren’t only numbers.

I’m also beholden for a solar entrepreneurs and engineers. we wanted to turn one of your clan when we was in high school…and afterwards we took calculus. Years later, we satisfied that a solar attention indispensable marketers as most as engineers, and so we found my place in a solar world, yet it’s we people who are designing, hacking, and engineering a solar benefaction and future. Thank we for adhering with solar instead of …ya know… building SnapChat or engineering a new armpit-hair trimmer.

I’m certain I’ve missed some solar attention players, so greatfully pardon me. If you’re still reading this, know that I’m beholden for we for only doing that. We all have solar work to do, and we unequivocally conclude we holding a few mins to review my solar selling thoughts each week, or maybe only this once.

Happy Thanksgiving, solar attention people! Take a well-deserved break, and afterwards come on behind and… UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is a owner and CMO of UnThink Solar, and a author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. For some-more solar selling info, pointer adult for the UnThink Solar newsletter or follow @SolarFred on Twitter.

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Investing in Innovative Ideas for a Clean Energy Future

26/11/2014 at 7:58 pm | Solar Blog | No comment


Best Venture winners at the 27th NREL Industry Growth Forum on October 28–29 in Denver were, from left, Craig Hartwig, Lutz Henckels, and Guy Foster of HiQ Solar, which built a new-generation photovoltaic string inverter that promises to reduce the cost of commercial solar installations. Award winners will receive in-kind commercialization support from NREL to help increase their chances of becoming commercially successful. Photo by Dennis Schroeder

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will be the hub of the new Lab-Corps, partnering with five other national labs—Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Building Clean Energy Ecosystems

Hosted by NREL, the 27th Industry Growth Forum was the ideal setting to announce Lab-Corps, as the Forum attracts 30 companies a year competing for the top prizes, and dozens of others pitching their ideas to venture capital firms, large corporations, philanthropies, and national labs.

The global clean energy market is valued at $250 billion this year, but will expand to a multi-trillion-dollar market in the next decade, Danielson said. If the United States is to play the leading role, it will need to rely on its strengths — innovation and entrepreneurship — and avoid “short-term-ism” thinking by venture capitalists and others in the financial community.

This will require effort from all sides, Danielson said.

  • Venture capital firms should try to look more long term — saying yes to great ideas that may take a few years to bear fruit, rather than focusing on safer, but less innovative, bets.
  • All players need to think about energy integration: how to layer devices, communications, and energy sources in such a way that larger loads of renewables can be seamlessly added to the emerging smart grid. He noted that NREL’s new Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) is the place where utilities and their vendors can test-drive the future electric grid.
  • Philanthropic organizations should try to step up with some cash to help great ideas get over the commercialization hump, he said. Partnerships and cooperative research and development agreements should expand.
  • Startups and entrepreneurs need to form more partnerships with national laboratories to tap into the labs’ equipment, expertise, and mentoring opportunities, so they can prove a concept or demonstrate a pilot project for $1 million instead of $20 million. Slowing the burn rate until the company has a product for the marketplace is essential in an era when easy money for clean energy has dried up.

The Energy Department can — and will — help out in all these areas and will be the “glue” that helps hold together the new clean energy ecosystems, he said. “I’m confident that together we can build this new model, engaging corporations and philanthropy like never before, stepping up investments from government, helping venture capital find that sweet spot where they can make money while still supporting these technologies at the crucial stage,” Danielson said. And national labs need to both generate and support innovations, speeding them to the marketplace.

The Energy Department’s Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, David Danielson, announces that NREL will be the leading lab for the newly funded Lab-Corps pilot program to accelerate the transfer of clean energy technologies from the national laboratories to the marketplace. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

No Excuses, Says Best Venture Award CEO

While news of the Lab-Corps announcement rippled through the Forum, it was business as usual for the inventors, entrepreneurs, investors, and venture capitalists looking to join forces to create the next big thing in clean energy. This year, the Forum’s Best Venture award went to HiQ Solar for a solar inverter that weighs about one-third of typical inverters of the same power rating, costs less, and packs inside all the safeguards, reliability, and convenience that the solar industry is looking for.

HiQ CEO Lutz Henckels said he was born in Germany and doesn’t like that Germany is ahead of the United States in percentage of renewables installed to date. “I don’t buy the excuse that Germany has a newer infrastructure,” he said. “America can absolutely regain the lead. The financing might be against us right now, but we have the innovators and entrepreneurs. We value startups.”

Henckels said he has been to many similar industry growth forums, and the NREL-hosted one stands out because of the talent it attracts from both the public and private sectors. “Not many events compare to this…it’s the best I’ve seen.”

One Outstanding Venture award went to ClearCove Systems of Rochester, New York, which takes energy out of waste water in such a way that harvests more organics with four times more gas potential than other methods. “We use half as much power to treat waste,” said CEO Gary Miller, who described his firm as “a blue-collar high-tech company.”

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