Energy and Global Warming News for August 24th: Shift to solar power easy, affordable with group-discount program; France announces massive investment in cleantech

Shift to solar power easy, affordable with group-discount program

The high cost of installing solar panels can be one of the biggest roadblocks when it comes to homeowners deciding whether or not to embrace solar energy.

A San Francisco-based company called One Block Off the Grid is hoping to use a combination of government incentives and a group discount to persuade Pittsburgh-area residents to invest in the alterative energy source.

“Most homeowners are only slightly curious about solar,” said Dave Llorens, CEO of One Block Off the Grid. “They are not at a place where they are ready to call a solar company for quotes and installation.

“We want to provide a place for them to get the very basics of what solar will mean in their home without getting a hard sell.”

Now through late November, the company is offering a 15 percent group discount to residents here.

It still won’t be cheap. For an average-size system for a homeowner in Pittsburgh, the company estimates it would cost $16,800 to install solar panels on the roof — after receiving a state rebate and federal tax credit.

But the argument is that the investment would amount to about $750 a year in power savings and an increased home value of about $11,250.

On the federal level, homeowners, business owners and even utility companies that invest in solar energy systems can take 30 percent off the cost of installation, equipment and labor as a tax credit. Pennsylvania offers a rebate through the Sunshine Solar Program, which refunds a maximum of $12,500 or 35 percent of installed costs. Homeowners and business owners are required to apply for the rebate before purchasing a solar system because the rebate does not apply to previous solar panel installation costs.

Founded in 2008, One Block is one of the nation’s largest solar group discount companies. It selects a company to perform installations in a particular market and then acts as a clearinghouse for customers to get what it describes as free and impartial advice on the merits of switching to solar power.

Cape wind’s cost: Fossil fuels are the variable

IN RESPONSE to Joan Vennochi (“Unknown costs, unanswered questions,” Op-ed, Aug. 19): There is nothing unknown about the cost of Cape Wind’s power, which would make up just 3 percent of the electricity supplied to National Grid consumers. The simplicity of a fixed-price contract is that we know exactly what the price of that electricity will be each year from 2013 to 2028. What’s unknown is the price of conventional electricity, most of it coming from fossil fuels, which quadrupled in price between 1998 and 2008 “” that accounts for the other 97 percent of the electric bill.

So, customers could save money from Cape Wind when, if history is any indicator, the cost of coal, oil, and natural gas returns to recent highs, or spikes even higher. Conversely, consumers would pay a modest premium for this clean energy source if other fuels stay at today’s recession-driven lows, which is unlikely. But one thing is certain. The price of this clean, renewable energy will not fluctuate, and there will be no surprises down the road for consumers.

Ian Bowles,
Secretary of energy and environmental affairs Boston

Auto union joins labor, green groups on climate bill push

The United Auto Workers is the latest union to join the BlueGreen Alliance, which unites labor and environmental groups pushing for greenhouse gas limits and other policies to create “green” jobs.

The UAW “” also known as the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America “” claims to have more than 390,000 active members.

“UAW members produce best-in-class cars and trucks, key vehicle components, and top quality heavy-duty trucks, and we know that we can rebuild the American auto industry by building cleaner, more efficient vehicles “” and developing the technologies that will get us there,” UAW President Bob King said in a statement Monday about joining the BlueGreen Alliance.

“We have enormous opportunities to revitalize this industry, and the American economy, by embracing the clean energy economy of the future,” he said.

If a country sinks beneath the sea, is it still a country?

Rising ocean levels brought about by climate change have created a flood of unprecedented legal questions for small island nations and their neighbors.

Among them: If a country disappears, is it still a country? Does it keep its seat at the United Nations? Who controls its offshore mineral rights? Its shipping lanes? Its fish?

And if entire populations are forced to relocate — as could be the case with citizens of the Maldives, Tuvalu, Kiribati and other small island states facing extinction — what citizenship, if any, can those displaced people claim?

Until recently, such questions of sovereignty and human rights have been the domain of a scattered group of lawyers and academics. But now the Republic of the Marshall Islands — a Micronesian nation of 29 low-lying coral atolls in the North Pacific — is campaigning to stockpile a body of knowledge it hopes will turn international attention to vulnerable countries’ plights.

“At the current negotiating sessions and climate change meetings, nobody is truly addressing the legal and human rights effects of climate change,” said Phillip Muller, the Marshall Islands’ ambassador to the United Nations.

France announces massive investment in cleantech

The French government recently announced a large investment program for renewables and green chemistry. The investment, totaling 1.35 billion euros ($1.75 billion) will be allocated over the next four years.

Named “ D©monstrateurs ©nergies renouvelables et chimie verte ” – or renewable energy and green chemistry demonstration – this program plans to allocate 450 million euros in subsidies and 900 million euros in low-interest loans.

These sums will be allocated progressively : 190 million in 2010 and 290 million per year until 2014.

The program wants private investors and research organizations to join in to bring more than two billion euros to help finance all the projects.

The goal behind this is to spur innovation and the deployment of green technologies in energy and chemistry.

This is not likely to be the last program of its kind in France according to Bloomberg Businessweek:

The environment agency plans to open two other programs under the bill, including a 1 billion-euro plan to develop sustainable transportation and a 250 million-euro measure to develop smart-grid technologies, the spokeswoman said.

Can the military lead the clean energy charge?

Aggressive new efforts are underway to end the U.S. military’s reliance on oil by catalyzing clean energy technology innovation and adoption. That is exactly the right approach to enhance the strategic and tactical capabilities of the armed forces, buttress national security, and help repower the economy, according to a recent report published by an elite group of more than a dozen retired generals and flag officers hailing from all branches of the U.S. military.

“Continued over-reliance on fossil fuels will increase the risks to America’s future economic prosperity and will thereby diminish the military’s ability to meet the security challenges of the rapidly changing global strategic environment,” according to “Powering America’s Economy: Energy Innovation at the Crossroads of National Security Challenges,” a July report published by the CNA Military Advisory Board.

America’s “energy business as usual is not a viable option,” the board concluded with blunt honesty befitting the group’s combined military experience.

“The United States government should take bold and aggressive action to support clean energy technology innovation and rapidly decrease the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels,” the report recommends, and DoD should lead the clean energy charge.

The CNA report recommends that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) utilize its vast procurement budgets to accelerating the testing and evaluation of clean energy alternatives while working more closely and effectively with the U.S. Department of Energy and private sector innovators.

11 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for August 24th: Shift to solar power easy, affordable with group-discount program; France announces massive investment in cleantech

  1. (This item is not really news; not because it is humor but because it is stating the obvious … )

    TIME Announces New Version Of Magazine Aimed At Adults,17950/

  2. Bob Wallace says:

    Vice President Joe released a statement today about the Recovery Act with this interesting forecast…

    “As a result of today’s investments, the cost of solar energy is forecast to drop by half between 2009 and 2015. The cost of power from rooftop solar panels will drop from $0.21 per kWh in 2009 to $0.10 per kWh in 2015, which is equivalent to typical household electricity rates. The cost of power from utility-scale solar projects would drop from $0.13 per kWh today to $0.06 in 2015, which is equivalent to the cost of wholesale utility power.

    Further, the cost of rooftop solar power could drop to as low as $0.06 per kWh by 2030. At that cost, solar power will be significantly cheaper than household electricity rates – and an average household could save more than $400 per year in electricity bills.”

    Interesting. Wind at a nickle, lots of it at night, and PV solar at a nickle and a penny filling up the daytime grid. How’s a guy who wants to build a reactor stand a chance? Life just ain’t fair….

  3. GFW says:

    Unfortunately, if too many people listen to how solar is *going* to be cheaper, and decide to wait, the prediction won’t come true. Darned paradox!

  4. Jim Groom says:

    I highly recommend the latest book from Chris Goodall. Published this year, the ‘Ten Technolgies To Save The Planet’ tackles all the issues regarding solar power in addition to nine others. All the facts are exposed and the myths put aside. As usual the real problem is not technical, but political. What a surprise!

  5. Bob Wallace says:

    Jim – also give Jacobson and Delucchi’s November, 2009 Scientific American article a read. They lay out a blueprint for putting the entire world on close to 100% renewable energy in 20 years.

    They also say the problem is not technical, but political….

  6. adelady says:

    Not technical, but political?

    Surely the politics of job creation could be positive? A twenty year program of building, installing and maintaining clean power technology and building city-based light rail and country-crossing high speed rail would employ several thousand people for extended periods in the USA itself. And how many people would the coal and oil companies employ on a BAU basis?

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Repeat – over and over again “Shift to solar power easy & affordable!”

    What is the world waiting for?

  8. Leland Palmer says:

    That’s great news about projected solar costs and the United Auto Workers joining the BlueGreen Alliance.

    If we had spent the 3 trillion dollars we spent in the last decade on invading the Middle East on solar panels, we could have put a thirty thousand dollar solar array on top of one hundred million houses in the U.S.. Those solar arrays could not be powering plug in hybrid vehicles.

    If we had spent our money wisely, instead of using our military for securing oil supplies for a disconnected and apparently malignant financial elite, our own contribution to the climate problem could have been canceled at least a decade ago. At least an additional twenty or thirty billion tons of carbon, or even one hundred billion tons, injected into the atmosphere could have been avoided.

    It’s very late, but perhaps not too late.

  9. Leland Palmer says:

    Whoops! Typo alert!

    “Those solar arrays could NOW be powering plug in hybrid vehicles”.

  10. dbmetzger says:

    China Plays Environmental Catch-Up
    Carbon emissions might be increasing in China, but so are efforts to curb them. In the eastern province of Shandong, these efforts are starting to pay off. The region is home to the headquarters of China’s largest solar thermal company.

    A video from Deutche Welle.