Using EagleView and Pictometry to Determine Solar Suitability and Prepare a Proposal

Contractors can access high-resolution aerial imagery of properties - top-down and north, south, east and west views.

As California Faces Record Drought Levels, Wind Energy Provides A Vital Service

In 2014, wind energy saved 2.5 billion gallons of water in California by displacing water consumption at the state's fossil-fired power plants, playing a valuable role in alleviating the state's record drought. Wind energy's annual water savings work out to around 65 gallons per person in the state - or the equivalent of 20 billion bottles of water, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).   According to AWEA, one of wind energy's most overlooked benefits is that it requires virtually no water to produce electricity while almost all other electricity sources evaporate tremendous amounts of water.   In California - where the state is combating record drought levels - Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed an executive order to reduce household water consumption by 25%, from about 140 gallons per day per household to 105 gallons. Wind energy's water savings are, therefore, equivalent to what would be saved by nearly one week's worth of the required reductions for a typical household.   In 2008, U.S. thermal power plants withdrew 22 trillion to 62 trillion gallons of freshwater from rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers and consumed 1 trillion to 2 trillion gallons. By displacing generation from these conventional power plants, U.S. wind energy currently saves around 35 billion gallons of water per year - the equivalent of 120 gallons per person or 285 billion bottles of water.

California first state to generate more than 5% of electricity from utility-scale solar

All of the top 10 states-with the exception of Florida-have a renewable portfolio standard in place. Most of those policies include a specific target for solar power or customer-sited generation.

Obama wants to train 75,000 new solar workers by 2020

President Obama launch a new initiative to expand the nation’s solar industry workforce during a visit to Utah’s Hill Air Force Base on Friday, seeking to gain support for his economic agenda in a heavily-Republican state.   The Energy Department will seek to train 75,000 people — including veterans — to enter the solar workforce by 2020, increasing the goal it set in May 2014 by 25,000.   “We’ve got to be relentless in our work to grow the economy and create good jobs,” Obama said after touring the brief tour, adding that other nations are seeking to expand their economies as well. “And that’s why we have to redouble our efforts to make sure that we’re competitive, to make sure that we’re taking the steps that are needed for us to be successful.”

Retrofitting Buildings to Improve Energy Efficiency

Making a building more sustainable while completing the retrofit could attract more higher-paying tenants, which would cause a greater appreciation by the time the owners plan to sell. Properties with Energy Star certification have sold for 2-5% more than buildings without such certification.

Simple Change Enables Darts Farm to Generate 1/3 of its Energy Needs Onsite

How solar is reducing farm shop's CO2 emissions and overheads.

The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA)

As fuel cells continue to increase sales and installations in existing markets and prove themselves in others, companies in synergistic energy technology sectors will hopefully consider joining FCHEA to become more involved in the industry.

Bringing Sustainable (and Cool) Ideas to Life

Solar energy is not the only sustainable resource Cool Idea! Award winners have harnessed thus far.

Tesla's New Product Secretly Tested By 330 Consumers

From Benzinga: Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry has revealed some interesting information about Tesla Motors Inc 's new product line.   Outside of the fact that it will not be a car, very little is known about what Tesla plans to announce. Some experts think it could be a motorcycle. Others assume that it will be an in-home battery that involves solar energy.   If Chowdhry's information is correct, it seems that Tesla is ready to launch the latter.   In a note to investors, Chowdhry said that he knows of two people that own a residential battery from Tesla. He spoke to one of those owners and detailed the following bullet points:   "There are about 230 Households in California, who currently have Tesla Stationary Battery installed in their Homes. Another about 100 Households are out of California. This customer had the Tesla Stationary Battery for about One and a Half years, and is installed in his garage." Last year, Chowdhry attended a sustainability conference and learned that Google Inc is "widely believed" to have a few Tesla (commercial-grade) batteries in some of its buildings. Apple Inc. might also purchase some of these batteries for its new campus.   Chowdhry believes that Tesla's commercial-grade batteries are rated at more than 400 kWh.

Subpar Solar Irradiance Undermines East Coast Project Performance

The East Coast of the U.S. experienced up to 5% lower than average levels of solar irradiance in 2014, negatively impacting overall performance of solar sites in the region. Concurrently, the West Coast enjoyed irradiance levels up to 10% higher than average, widening the productivity gap between projects in the country's two areas of highest solar development.     This disparity is clearly seen in the 2014 Solar Performance Maps of the United States, released today by Vaisala, a global leader in environmental and industrial measurement.    While it is well-established that the solar resource of the East does not match that of the West, the Atlantic Coast has a large volume of operational capacity and it is therefore of critical importance for project operators in the region to understand the reasons behind below average energy output and whether it is due to malfunctioning equipment or weather variability.    Vaisala's 2014 study illustrates the impact of short-term, month-to-month weather variations on performance at U.S. solar projects and places them into a long-term context. This reveals frequent and significant deviations from long-term average irradiance conditions and highlights the clear requirement to analyze the effect of solar resource variability on both over and underperformance.   From an annual perspective, this year's weather patterns had an adverse effect on a large number of installations along the Atlantic Coast from Florida to Massachusetts, as well as Texas, while the bulk of projects in California and the Southwest saw an uptick in solar irradiance that may have increased overall 2014 production at many sites.    However, these annual variations only offer a high-level view of project performance. Vaisala also conducted a monthly analysis that gives a much more robust understanding of how specific weather conditions affected solar production throughout the year.   

CloudSolar Helps Renewable Energy Fans Who Can't Install Their Own Solar Panels

Catherine Shu for TechCrunch:  Solar panels are becoming increasingly affordable, but many people still face barriers to harnessing the power of the sun for their own homes. For example, they might live in an apartment or in a house where the roof is angled or structured improperly for solar panel installation.   A new Boston-based startup called CloudSolar is offering an intriguing solution. Founded by a team including two electrical engineering Ph.D. candidates and currently raising funds on Indiegogo, CloudSolar lets people buy a solar panel, or a share in one, on a farm that is expected to be completed by 2016 (erecting the solar panels will only take a couple of months, but the company also has to deal with utility and land permits, which will take longer).   Once the farm is up and operating, electricity generated by the solar panels will be sold to local utilities. Solar panel owners are promised 80 percent of the total proceeds created by the panels over the next 25 years, and help with applying for whatever tax credits they are eligible for. They can monitor how much energy their panel is producing, and how much carbon dioxide emissions it is estimated to offset, through an app.

These States Are the Early Leaders in the US Energy Storage Market

Eric Wesoff for GreenTech Media:  Energy storage is a small market experiencing fierce growth. The U.S. installed 61.9 megawatts of energy storage in 2014, and GTM Research is forecasting 220 megawatts to be installed in 2015. But, as with the U.S. solar industry, energy storage projects are clustered in states with incentives or in regions where markets are able to place a value on storage.    So it's no surprise that California, Hawaii, and New York have assumed early leadership in energy storage by virtue of their unique incentives, mandates and markets, according to the inaugural GTM Research and Energy Storage Association U.S. Energy Storage Monitor report.   Cont'd...

See-Through Solar Is Tomorrow's Threat to Oil

The engineers at Ubiquitous Energy are developing solar panels that are completely transparent and as thin as a laminate. They can do this by creating see-through solar cells that absorb only the invisible parts of the solar spectrum—ultraviolet and infrared radiation. The technology still has a way to go because the cells must become more efficient to prove cost-effective, but their promise is big: solar cells that could become a part of any glass or plastic surface. They could sit, invisibly, atop a smartphone’s display, allowing the phone to charge itself under natural or artificial light. And if the process became part of glass and window manufacturing, homes and skyscrapers could draw power from the sun without the spatial and aesthetic limits of current, opaque solar panels.

US Energy Storage Market Could Triple This Year

The energy storage market is poised for substantial growth over the next five years, with installed capacity this year expected to more than triple to 220 MW from last year’s 62 MW.   A recent report from GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association, ‘U.S. Energy Storage Monitor,’ projected that the market will grow from $128 million last year to $1.5 billion by 2019, when more than 800 MW will be installed.   Moreover, non-utility storage – residential and non-residential – will grow from just 10% of installed capacity last year to 45% over the same period.   This is a bullish forecast for downstream residential vendors identified in the report, such as Schneider Electric, Outback Power, Sunverge, and Solar City.

Solar eclipse illuminates importance of energy storage

Friday's solar eclipse highlights the importance of energy storage to the continued growth of solar, experts have claimed.    Energy consultancy Frost & Sullivan estimate that by covering 85% of the sun; the eclipse removed 35GW of solar power from the European grid - equivalent to 80 conventional power plants.    This sort of instability will drive generators to invest in better storage facilities to ensure a constant security of supply, according to the consultants.    "Dealing with events like this one requires investment in various storage tools and monitoring techniques which create a certain amount of flexibility in the energy system," said the report.    The nascent technology of pump storage - pumping water uphill into large reservoirs when power is abundant and then letting it flow down again to generate power when needed - will reportedly be valuable in preparing for the eclipse in Germany. 

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