It's crazy. It'll never work. They cost too much. They'll crack. They're too delicate. You'll slide off them. Oil companies will never let it happen.
Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer from Idaho, has heard it all before. Over the past eight years, skeptics (like this one) have been telling him his concept for solar roadways — replacing America's roads with solar panels, creating a power grid where pavement used to be — won't work. But Brusaw suddenly has a reason why it will — actually, 2.2 million of them.
Solar Roadways' crowdfunding campaign, which closed on Monday, raised $2.2 million — more than double what Brusaw was seeking — in just two months. The campaign, the most popular in Indiegogo's history, attracted more than 48,000 backers from all 50 states and 165 countries.
"It's been humbling," Brusaw, 56, told Yahoo News. "Really, really humbling."
The success can be attributed, in part, to a cheeky seven-minute video ("Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!") that has been viewed more than 16 million times on YouTube.
Many people, even fanatical advocates of solar power, are unaware quite how close we are to reaching a critical milestone in the industry. Within a fairly short space of time, solar generated electricity will be fully cost competitive with coal-powered electricity -- at least if the governments of the world’s two largest energy consuming nations have their way.
Both the U.S. and China have a stated goal of reducing the cost of solar generated electricity to that level, and quickly. How they are going about it says a lot about how each economic system works.
In the U.S., despite the complaints of some that a drift toward government control is taking place, private initiative and free markets still rule. The Department of Energy launched the SunShot initiative in 2011, with a stated goal of reducing the cost of solar power to be fully competitive with conventional energy sources by the end of this decade. The program funds grants, incentives and competitions to encourage private sector research that will improve the efficiency and lower the cost of solar energy.
The Chinese, faced with what is in many ways a more urgent need to achieve the same thing, have taken a different approach. In a manner more in keeping with their history and current economic system, they are beating the problem over the head with piles of cash until the desired outcome is achieved. It looks, if this excellent Michael Sankowski piece at Monetary Realism is to be believed, as if they are getting mighty close.
Massachusetts Deval Patrick and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced plans for a new proposed offshore wind power area of more than 742,000 acres, or 1,160 square miles, which would make it about the size of Rhode Island (1,214 sq-miles). This new area, where space would be auctioned in 4 different leases, would nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for large wind energy projects.
Secretary Jewell said that the government has learned from the Cape Wind offshore wind project in Nantucket Sound, which faced over a decade of opposition and lawsuits, and have picked a spot farther from the shore that should not be as contentious.
"We put in zones that we believe have both high potential and lower conflict," Jewell said. "But it's going to actually get down to a specific construction plan on a specific site and (an environmental) analysis to determine what people want to do economically and what that impact is going to be.
SolarCity is already the largest installer of residential solar panels in the United States. Now the company is going a step further, buying up solar manufacturer Silevo and planning to build one of the world's biggest solar-panel factories in upstate New York.
The immediate goal here is vertical integration. The company, which was co-founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, wants to handle all aspects of the solar supply chain, from design to manufacturing to sales to installation. It's basically the Apple model — only for solar panels.
But SolarCity's ultimate aspiration is to drive down prices dramatically. In a call on Tuesday, Musk said that the aim was "to have solar power compete on an unsubsidized basis with fossil-fuel energy from the grid." (The company was also founded by brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive, who currently run it.)
Is that doable? SolarCity has had success with its current business model — offering rooftop solar systems at no upfront cost to customers who make monthly payments spread out over many years. The company now handles 25 percent of all US residential solar installations — and is aiming for 1 million customers by 2018. This latest move means SolarCity will be able to produce its own panels for these systems and try to lower its costs even further.
U.S. Residential Solar PV Installations Exceeded Commercial Installations for the First Time in Q1 2014
Driven by strong year-over-year growth in the utility and residential markets, the United States installed 1,330 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the first quarter of 2014. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industry Association’s (SEIA) Q1 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the U.S. installed 232 megawatts of residential PV, exceeding the non-residential (commercial) market’s 225 megawatts for the first time in the history of the report.
Ongoing strength in the residential sector and volatility in the non-residential market spurred this historic milestone. Despite the dip in non-residential installations, GTM Research and SEIA expect the market to rebound and exceed the residential market in 2014 annual PV installations.
In another significant development, Q1 2014 was the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power (CSP) due to the completion of the 392 megawatt (AC) Ivanpah project and the Genesis Solar project’s second 125 megawatt (AC) phase. With a total of 857 megawatts expected to be completed by year’s end, 2014 is on pace to be the largest year for CSP in history.
“Solar accounted for 74% of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in Q1 2014, further signaling the rapidly increasing role that solar is playing in the energy market,” said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research. “Expect to see a resurgence in the non-residential market, combined with continued incremental residential growth, throughout the rest of this year.”
Not to be outshone by the success of the residential sector, the utility PV market continued its dominance, growing 171% between Q1 2013 and Q1 2014. With 873 megawatts installed, it accounted for two-thirds of total installations during the quarter. Large-scale projects that were under contracts and negotiations between 2010 and 2012 are now becoming a reality.
Congressional inaction on key clean energy tax policies, coupled with attacks on state renewable energy programs, led to a dramatic decline in clean energy job announcements in the first quarter of this year, according to the latest report from the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).
About 5,600 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced in the first three months of this year, down from 12,000 such jobs reported in the comparable period in 2013.
A major geothermal project in Idaho accounted for the most clean energy jobs announced on the state level in the first quarter.Idaho was followed by more traditional clean energy leaders. The remaining states in the Top 10 were: Texas, California,Missouri, New York, Kansas, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico and Louisiana..
Despite adding thousands of new jobs to the economy, the dramatic drop in clean energy and clean transportation job announcements in the quarter is a clear reflection of mixed signals American businesses are getting from Capitol Hill and state capitals when it comes to policies such as the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) and various state-level renewable energy standards (RES), according to E2.
The top 20 module suppliers to the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry are guiding an increase in annual shipments of more than 30 percent in 2014, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz Module Tracker Quarterly report. Leading Chinese module suppliers Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, ReneSola and Jinko Solar are forecasting the most aggressive growth in shipments during 2014, with the upper-end of guidance exceeding 40 percent.
Yingli Green Energy is forecasting the highest shipment volume in 2014, with the upper end of shipments at 4.2 gigawatts (GW). This shipment level would result in Yingli Green Energy heading the annual shipment rankings for PV suppliers for the third consecutive year.
Leading Japanese silicon-based PV module suppliers, Sharp Solar and Kyocera, are forecasting a 15 percent increase in shipments in 2014, reflecting continued strength in the Japanese solar PV market. Sharp Solar and Kyocera command strong market shares, within their domestic markets.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday that the world will need to build several lithium-ion battery factories to meet a "quasi-infinite demand for energy storage."
Speaking at the World Energy Innovation Forum, Musk said Tesla Motors alone needs its planned $5 billion lithium battery factory to continue the company's rapid growth. Without the proposed "gigafactory" the electric-car maker would lack the batteries it needs to ramp up car production and introduce new models, he said.
"We're building the gigafactory because we can't think of any other way to scale," Musk told the energy forum at the company's factory in Fremont. "We either hit the sides of the Petri dish, or we build a bigger Petri dish."
The forum, which focused on market-transforming ideas in energy, took place in a corner of the sprawling auto plant where Tesla makes its second car model, the Model S.
The proposed gigafactory would double worldwide production of lithium-ion batteries, which could help lower battery production costs 30 percent just in its first year of full-scale operation. Tesla hopes to use those savings to create its $35,000 Gen 3 car, the company's first car aimed at the middle class.
Demand for solar energy is heating up across the United States, and the nation's military is becoming one of the sector's major customers. The Department of Defense wants renewable energy to make up at least one quarter of its total energy use by 2025, and solar energy is squarely within its sights.
The Military just recently began construction of a solar power plant at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, where solar panels will be installed over 68 acres, constituting the largest solar array of any military base in the U.S. According to the commanding general of the base, Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, the project reflects the military's commitment to energy security.
Whether it be engaged in disaster relief, humanitarian missions or in military operations, the military needs reliable energy that is "off the grid," since public electrical utilities are vulnerable to adverse weather conditions and potential sabotage. The military also needs to be ready for possible disruptions to the oil supply, which could cripple it and the nation's economy.
Such risks to national security are turning the armed forces into a vast laboratory for the development of solar technology and the creation of "net-zero" environments, where energy consumption equals the energy created on-site. The military already used solar arrays at fixed-site locations in Afghanistan.
By moving to solar power, the military could also avoid the high costs of transporting gasoline to remote areas of the world. In the past, moving gasoline to bases in Afghanistan could cost up to $400 per gallon.
US Wind power's role in addressing climate change and renewable portfolio standards were major themes at today's opening session of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)'s annual conference in Las Vegas.
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