Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Warning of SunEdison bankruptcy risk issued by yieldco subsidiary

  • By Mark Osborne

  • Mar 29, 2016

  • These $150,000 Prefab Houses Don't Need Any Energy From The Grid

    Deltec's factory-built houses get their power from solar panels—and incredible gains in efficiency.

    <p>Deltec Homes has been developing a line of net-zero homes for the last decade.</p>
    BY: Adele Peters 03.14.16 6:00 AM
    VIA http://www.fastcoexist.com

    When a home-building company called Deltec Homes first launched in 1968, they focused on designing houses that could survive a hurricane. Now one of their main focuses is a different challenge—how to make affordable prefab houses that don't require any electricity from the grid.
    The company has been developing a line of net-zero homes for the last decade. "People 10 years ago didn't call them net-zero homes," says Steve Linton, president of Deltec. "But people were building homes that essentially produced all their own energy and asking us to play a big part in that type of project. It's sort of a long evolution for us."

    At first, it was a limited experiment, but the company quickly realized that they could make an entire line of houses. "We kind of had an 'aha' moment where we said look, we've gotten really good at designing homes this way," he says. "We really can drive down the energy consumption piece so that the amount of renewable energy required is really affordable—so why not apply it to other architecture?"
    The company currently makes nine different models of net-zero houses, each designed to cut out two-thirds of the energy used in a typical house of the same size. The rest is powered by rooftop solar.
    "It starts the energy conservation," Linton says. "We know that ultimately it's better to save a kilowatt hour of electricity than to produce an extra one." By making the walls in a factory, for example, it's possible to include gaskets that make them more airtight than if they were built piece by piece on site. The company also works with clients to plan a design based on their land—how the sun can warm and light the house, and how trees can keep it cool. Windows are chosen to either let in heat from the sun or keep it out, based on the location.

    The company also helps save energy by encouraging people to buy smaller homes. "The average home size today in America is twice what it was in the 1950s," he says. "It's gone from a 1,000-square-foot home average to over a 2,500-square-foot home average. That, at the end of the day, is really driving energy consumption. . . . We've got to find a way to start changing that dynamic for new homes if we're really going to have an impact on the overall sustainability of homes."
    Though the line includes larger houses for larger families—up to around 2,100 square feet—it also sells models that are only 800 square feet.
    By making the pieces of the house in a factory, it's possible to completely build the exterior in a few days, as opposed to weeks or months for a typical house. That means the house is weatherproof more quickly, and ultimately can last longer. Prefab materials also help keep the cost down; the shell of some of the basic homes starts at around $66,000 (building out the inside, with local contractors, brings the cost of the cheapest model up to at least $145,000).

    "You know when you talked to people 10 or 20 years ago about a modular home, a panelized home, a prefab home, they generally saw that as a lower product than a site-built home," says Linton. "But I think in the last decade or so there's really been a paradigm shift in people's perception of that—where they realize they're getting so much more now than they can get by doing it the old way. I think about all of the products that we use in our daily lives, and really houses are the last product that isn't, for the most part, built in an advanced manufacturing facility."
    After launching two additional sizes of one of their houses a month ago, Deltec plans to add another two or three new styles of homes later this year. "We're continually innovating and adding more," Linton says.

    Friday, March 25, 2016

    Why this new solar market could be set to explode

    VIA https://www.washingtonpost.com
    By one of my favorite reporters:

    A rooftop solar power project is shown in 2014 in Berlin-Lichtenberg’s “Yellow Quarter” district in Germany. Hundreds of tenants are supplied with power from the roof. (Jorg Carstensen/AFP/Getty Images)

    Right now, there’s an odd thing about solar in the United States (and elsewhere). It’s either really big — at the scale of massive solar farms with the capacity to generate tens or hundreds of millions of watts of electricity — or pretty small: on your rooftop, with maybe as little as 5 kilowatts, or thousand watts, of capacity.

    Solar has been growing extremely fast in these existing markets. But more and more, analysts say, there’s a middle-range market whose large potential is just becoming clear. It’s bigger than individual rooftop installations but smaller than vast solar farms. And it’s for a much broader and diverse range of people than fairly wealthy, suburban homeowners.

    It’s called community or “shared” solar, meaning that multiple people get electricity from a mid-sized solar array on the top of, say, a condo building, or in a lot centered in a community, or perhaps an array or resource designated by their power company. This means people living in more densely populated cities, who may not own the roofs over their heads or who may not have the best credit, could also participate in the solar wave — without having to purchase or finance panels themselves.
    As of 2015, only a tiny sliver of all solar capacity in the United States fit into this category. But according to a new report from the energy think tank the Rocky Mountain Institute, the potential for community solar to expand is vast. The group said that as much as 30 gigawatts (or billion watts) of solar capacity, at the extreme upper end, could be added in this space by the year 2020, which would more than double all currently installed solar capacity in the United States.
    Granted, that also requires a redefinition of what community solar is — the group calls it “community-scale” solar to denote mid-sized arrays, whether owned by a group of individuals or by a power company.

    By this definition, “community-scale solar reaches millions of U.S. customers that so far rooftop solar has not or cannot,” notes the report. It found that almost half of all U.S. homes and businesses cannot have solar even if residents want it “because they rent their home, live in dwellings such as a multi-unit apartment building or high-rise condo, or have a roof unsuitable for solar.”

    Hence the size of this market: The Rocky Mountain Institute says it is larger than prior estimates for three main reasons. One, solar tax credits have again been extended; second, the price of the technology keeps falling; and third, the institute defines the market more broadly, to include offerings by different types of power companies, including rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities.

    “Community-scale solar is at a sweet spot between utility-scale and behind-the-meter solar,” says the document. “It is neither too big nor too small; it is just the right size to capture community and distributed energy benefits on the one hand and utility-scale solar’s economies of scale on the other.”
    Another report on the subject, released by the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions, details why it is likely going to be good business for more utility companies of all types — ranging from large, investor owned utilities to rural electric cooperatives — to offer more shared solar programs to customers. Like the Rocky Mountain Institute, then, Deloitte is focused in particular on the kind of community or at least community-scale solar that would be offered by power companies, rather than set up by a group of individuals (like, say, a condo building).

    This follows on research published last year, which suggested that utility companies are getting quite interested in these types of programs — in part because they could allow them to give their customers a taste of solar without the risk of losing some of their business because they start generating their own rooftop electricity.

    The Deloitte report suggests interesting ways that power companies can integrate shared solar into their businesses. For instance, power companies can bundle together the option of joining a shared solar plan with other services — such as the installation of new, more efficient electric water heaters. Then, solar could be used to power those heaters at night, in effect “storing” that energy in the form of hot water for use during the day. This could reduce overall energy use during peak afternoon and early evening hours, when electricity is most expensive on the grid. The Deloitte report notes that at least one utility, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric in Minnesota, is doing just that.

    In another example, if a utility installs an array of solar panels and lets customers opt to receive part of their electricity from them, the Deloitte report notes that these panels could be faced west to capture sunlight late in the day. Again, that’s the period of high demand and so could offset the utility’s costs.

    “As innovation takes its course, shared solar business models are continuing to evolve, and the opportunity is becoming more evident,” the report observes.
    Granted, community solar also needs policy to help it along. Some states have passed laws allowing for “virtual net metering,” an extension of standard “net metering,” in which rooftop solar owners get credited for extra power that they generate and send back to the grid, and thus lower their utility bills.  Virtual net metering goes a step further by allowing the participant in a community solar arrangement to do the same, even if he or she does not individually own the actual solar panels in question.

    This can make community solar more financially advantageous to those who participate. But according to the Rocky Mountain Institute, while changes to net metering policies can greatly alter the financial picture for individual rooftop solar owners, it’s not as crucial with all forms of community solar. “Unlike most behind-the-meter solar, community-scale solar can be cost-competitive even in the absence of net metering,” the report says.

    Indeed, if it’s utilities offering community-scale solar programs, then it’s not at all clear that virtual net metering will be involved. Net metering itself has been a key point of contention between power companies and rooftop solar users: According to Varun Rai, a professor at the University of Texas who co-authored the aforementioned study on utility interest in community solar last year, utilities won’t want to go there.

    “For all practical purposes, the only difference between virtual net metering and net metering is, you don’t have the system on your roof,” Rai said last year. “But for the utility, you are exactly the same on your bill.”

    So in sum, solar is certainly booming at the moment — but it may not yet be anywhere near its full potential.

    Thursday, March 3, 2016

    Will HB 2346 Lower Washington’s Solar Incentives?

    Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 1.47.59 PM

    The ECOreport looks at the amended HB 2346 and asks, Will Washington residents get lower solar incentives?
    By Roy L Hales
    Washington’s solar incentives will expire on June 30, 2016. Though new legislation was introduced to the House in January, it went through considerable amendments before passing to the senate. In its’ present form HB 2346 gives consumers the assurance their solar incentive payments will remain fixed for years to come, but leaves many asking should Washington residents get lower solar incentives?

    Will Washington Residents Get Lower Solar Incentives?

    The Solar Installers of Washington (SIW) points to a study prepared by the Centre for Economic and Business Research for Western Washington University, that found, “Every dollar the state invests in production incentive payments generates approximately $7 in payroll and $16 in local economic activity. The majority of the incentive is actually returned directly to the state in the form of taxes.”
    Though HB 2346 co-author Rep. Jeff Morris (Dem) acknowledged there is room to “shape the rates differently,” he appears to believe the subsidies are too high.  They are creating so much demand that  consumers can recoup their investment in four years.
    “What I hear from the people that do the installations is that it is really the amount of recovery in the first six years that may have the biggest price point decision, whether folks get the system or not. I think we could up the rates in those first six years, It may be that we lower the recovery from 100% to a lesser amount,” he told the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee on February 24.
    SIW wonders if the lower rates could stall the growth of Washington’s ’s solar industry.
    HB 2346 co-author Rep. Norma Smith believes the state’s solar industry will be self sufficient when the incentives end in 2020.

    Hazardous Materials

    Her primary concern appears to be handling the hazardous materials that are in solar panels. Smith acknowledged this is changing,  “But until we get to the next generation … (solar panels) have a lot of materials that cannot go into a regular landfill.” Washington needs to have a recycling program in place.
    “It is important that we do not leave to our children the price tag of our consumption,” she said.
    SHB 2346 is now in the senate’s hands.
    Photo Credit: Screen Shot from Washington State Senate Committee Meeting

    Snoqualmie Elementary to get solar power

    Participants in the Solarize Snoqualmie campaign save 5 to 10 percent compared to buying solar independently and can earn back 35 percent of their investment in the first year, the press release said. The program is a group purchase, or “bulk buy” making solar power for homes more affordable.

    Nissan: introducing the Fuel Station of the Future

    nissan and foster + partners to develop the fuel station of the future
    Nissan reveals an exciting glimpse into the future – with the first look at its fully connected vision of the future of mobility in association with renowned architects, Foster + Partners.

    The landmark partnership, between the manufacturers of the world’s best-selling 100 percent electric vehicle and the leading design studio, concluded that the fuel station of the future could actually be the car itself.

    Illustrated in this stunning video, featuring the best-selling Nissan LEAF and futuristic IDS Concept, Nissan’s transformative vision explores how our way of living might change as technology develops.

    The collaboration, which concludes a 12-month consultation, offers a snapshot of what’s to come from Nissan’s vision for Intelligent Mobility; a world in which cars interact with their environment as populations adopt zero emission, Piloted Drive technologies.

    For more information about Nissan products, services and the brand’s commitment to sustainable mobility, visit www.nissan.eu/experience-nissan.html