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November 10 News: California Installs 1 GW of Solar, Exeeding Total Deployment of All But Five Countries

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Other stories below: Vestas Wind CEO Warns U.S. Wind May “Fall Off a Cliff”; Senate Republicans Fight the EPA


California Hits Renewable Energy Milestone: 1 GW of Solar Power Installed to Date

California has hit a major renewable energy milestone: 1 gigawatt — or 1,000 megawatts — of solar power has been installed on rooftops throughout the state, according to a report to be released Wednesday by Environment California, a statewide advocacy group.

One gigawatt is … enough energy to power 750,000 homes. Five countries have hit the 1 gigawatt installation mark to date: Germany, Spain, Japan, Italy and the Czech Republic. California has installed more solar power than France, China and Belgium.

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The cumulative tally for California includes solar panels installed on existing homes and commercial buildings as well as new-home construction. It includes solar connected to the electric grid by large utilities like PG&E as well as solar within municipal utilities in cities like Palo Alto and Santa Clara.

The report credits the California Solar Initiative, the state’s aggressive program to encourage homeowners, businesses, local governments and nonprofit organizations to install solar panels on their roofs, with the milestone. About 600 megawatts has been installed through the California Solar Initiative.

“California can become the Saudi Arabia of the sun if it continues to get behind big, successful solar programs,” said Michelle Kinman of Environment California and co-author of “Building a Brighter Future: California’s Progress Toward a Million Solar Roofs.”

U.S. Wind Market May ‘Fall Off a Cliff,’ Vestas Says

U.S. wind turbine sales may “fall off a cliff” unless lawmakers extend tax credits supporting the market beyond 2012, said Ditlev Engel, chief executive officer of Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the biggest maker of the machines.

The so-called production tax credit gives an incentive of 2.2 cents a kilowatt-hour of wind power on payments by turbine operators. Markets have disappeared in the past when such relief is removed, Engel said yesterday in a telephone interview.

“Our concern is that if the PTC is not extended, history has shown us that these markets tend to fall off a cliff,” he said from the company’s main office in Aarhus, Denmark. “We should prepare ourselves for it.”

Ending the program would be a blow to producers including Vestas and General Electric Co., the third-biggest wind turbine maker, already struggling with falling prices amid increased competition from Chinese rivals. Lewis Hay, CEO of clean energy company NextEra Energy Inc., last week said he didn’t expect the business to develop any new wind projects in 2013 and 2014.

Vestas delivered 1,093 megawatts of turbines to the U.S. in 2010, or 19 percent of sales, according to its annual report.

Republicans test Senate’s will to stand up for EPA

Republicans will get a rare chance to test just how deep the Democrat-controlled Senate’s support for environmental regulations goes.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., plans to offer a resolution Thursday to block newly adopted regulations aimed at curbing power plant pollution that causes unhealthy air downwind.

The Senate has successfully blocked numerous GOP measures to roll back environmental regulations during this Congress. But now Paul is invoking the Congressional Review Act, a rarely-used tactic that requires a simple majority to pass. That means the bar for passage is lower than the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. And some Democrats — most likely from states with coal-fired power plants — can safely defect and side with Republicans.

For the GOP, it’s another chance to press the Democratic majority on one of its major election-year issues — rolling back environmental regulations Republicans claim will kill jobs and harm the economy. The Republican-controlled House already has passed a bill that would nullify the cross-state pollution regulation.

Obama back in treacherous political waters with new offshore drilling plan

The Interior Department on Tuesday announced a proposed five-year offshore oil-and-gas leasing plan that’s far less expansive than what the Obama administration envisioned before the BP oil spill.

The plan formalizes the White House’s retreat from opening areas off the Atlantic coast and deep into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which was contemplated before the April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

It remains to be seen whether the plan will hit a political sweet spot for the White House or alienate Obama’s allies heading into 2012.

The administration’s Tuesday energy announcement arrives as President Obama’s overall energy agenda comes under the microscope.

The White House is weighing TransCanada Corp.’s application to build a major pipeline linking Alberta’s oil sands projects to Texas refineries, a plan that’s attracting intense lobbying from environmental groups battling the pipeline and major business groups pushing for its approval.

The oil-and-gas leasing plan’s scope is not a surprise: Interior officials announced they were scaling back the planned leasing expansion last December.

U.S. Solar Installers Oppose China Trade Complaint

A trade complaint filed against China’s solar manufactures three weeks ago has forced members of the U.S. solar industry to take sides. A group of 25 manufacturers and installers, including SunEdison and SolarCity on Tuesday said they are banding together to oppose the complaint.

The formation of the group, called the Coalition for teAffordable Solar Energy (CASE), is the latest twist in a fight over complex issues about fair competition and the role of government subsidies. The trade complaint, filed by a group led by SolarWorld, contends that Chinese solar panel makers – which receive hefty financial support of the Chinese government – have been flooding the U.S. market with products at unfairly low prices. SolarWorld’s group is asking the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Commerce Department to investigate Chinese silicon solar cell and panel  makers and impose duties on what they export to the United States (solar cells are assembled to form solar panels).

Will Climate Change Kill Off Joshua Trees?

It’s hard to imagine the national park’s iconic Joshua trees disappearing, but a few ecologists say climate change could threaten the species.

Dr. Cameron Barrows, an assistant research ecologist at University of California at Riverside’s Palm Desert campus, has spent the last few years working with Joshua Tree National Park to study environmental changes and their affects on plants and animals. Barrows conducts many of the research initiatives at the university’s Center for Conservation Biology.

Barrows creates scientific models and uses what he calls “citizen scientists” to collect information in the field about Joshua tree distribution in JTNP.

“The models we create show how Joshua trees or other species change in response to a warming climate,” Barrows said from his office in Palm Desert Monday.

Based on his findings, Joshua trees will survive in the national park, but not at the levels we see them at today.

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35 Responses to November 10 News: California Installs 1 GW of Solar, Exeeding Total Deployment of All But Five Countries

  1. Michael T says:

    NOAA relaeased their U.S. state of the climate report for October:

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/2011/10

    Looking at the year to date, 7 states in the Northeast had their wettest Jan-Oct, while Texas had its driest Jan-Oct on record:

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/national/Statewideprank/201101-201110.gif

    Texas has had its warmest Jan-Oct on record:

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/national/Statewidetrank/201101-201110.gif

  2. Paul Magnus says:

    Just gobsmaked. Why are we doing this. How can we get our leaders to see how bad these decisions are.

    We actually have a carbon tax here in BC which is rising. Whats the logic?
    The mining industry is exempt of course!

    What the Hell is Going On?

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/11/09/bc-china-mining-deals.html

    One of the projects is a coal mine near Hudson’s Hope in northeast B.C., and the provincial government says it could operate for more than 40 years and produce two million tons of coal a year.

  3. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Can anyone estimate the number of square meters of installed panels in CA or globally?

    • Tomas Martin says:

      a kW of solar photovoltaics is typically around 8m^2 on average (high efficiency silicon PV requires smaller areas, low efficiency thin film requires larger areas) so 1MW would be 8000m^2 and 1GW would be 8 million square metres.

  4. Watch out for the conversion of GW to # of homes. By my calculation, PV at 20% capacity factor (typical for the SF Bay Area) can power about 160,000 average US homes. US avg homes used 10,896 kWh/year in 2009 (US EIA http://205.254.135.24/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3).

    The 750,000 applies for nuclear plants, which run more than 90% of the year in the US.

  5. John Tucker says:

    So real capacity around 200 – 250 MW.

    Calf has a total capacity now of around 52 GW with 1-2 percent growth per year. (~500 MW per year)

    So the ENTIRE installed solar capacity of California doesn’t replace ONE year of growth??

  6. Tim Kelly says:

    I was at the KXL protest on Sunday and it was impressive. But, in a country with a population our size, I can’t help but think the crowd could have been bigger. It needs to be. I just got done ripping Senator Toomey a new one over his opposition to the cross-state rules proposed by the EPA. I’m so sick of what the Republicans are doing, I can’t describe it.

    Two days ago, Dr. Richard Feely and former Corgressman Dr. Brian Baird appeared on KUOW radio, talking about ocean acidification. The case is compelling, but how you get the political parties to act on these issues is beyond me. I guess we need a BIGGER crowd in DC.

  7. Greg Junell says:

    Keystone XL tabled (defeated?) Hoooray!

  8. Artful Dodger says:

    Statement by the President on the State Department’s Keystone XL Pipeline Announcement

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/10/statement-president-state-departments-keystone-xl-pipeline-announcement

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    Methane May Be Answer to 56-Million-Year Question: Ocean Could Have Contained Enough Methane to Cause Drastic Climate Change

    ScienceDaily (Nov. 9, 2011) — The release of massive amounts of carbon from methane hydrate frozen under the seafloor 56 million years ago has been linked to the greatest change in global climate since a dinosaur-killing asteroid presumably hit Earth 9 million years earlier. New calculations by researchers at Rice University show that this long-controversial scenario is quite possible.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111109111542.htm

  10. Michael Barnes says:

    As a Bay Area homeowner who has had 16 PV panels for six years, I’m skeptical that subsides for solar power are a good idea.

    Let me give you some real data from six years of operation of my system. After subsidies, I paid $15K for 16 panels installed on an ideal, unshaded, south-facing sloped roof.

    The maximum power production I have seen at solar noon on a summer day is 2500 watts. So I paid $6000 per kilowatt, about what nuclear power costs.

    But the load factor for nuclear (the percentage of the time it runs at full power) is 80 to 90 percent. Since I average about 3500 KWH hours per year of production (about what the estimates had predicted), the load factor for my system is 16 percent. After all, the sun is down half the time during the course of the year, so a load factor for solar of over 50 percent is impossible (except maybe for solar thermal).

    Given the simplifying assumption that the interest rate is equal to the rate of cost increase for grid electricity, we can ignore time discounting. So I pay about 20 cents per kilowatt hour. That would be cost-saving if I were a big user, but I am not. At my house, no one is at home during the day, and I don’t need air conditioning (I have a time-of-use meter).

    The trouble with most solar contracts is that I get no incentive to save electricity. At best I will be reimbursed for extra production at the wholesale spot price of 4 center per KWH,which I think is fair. I don’t think I have the right to free ride on the grid while others pick up the tab.

    However, I have become compulsive about saving electricity anyway. Even with my college-aged son bringing home his laundry and drying it in the electric dryer, my house only uses 2000 KWH annually (about one-fifth the U.S. average). At that rate, I will never break even on the installation of my panels.

    A far better use of the solar subsidies would have been to invest them in residential energy efficiency.

    UC Berkeley professor Severin Borenstein has written extensively on this topic, here is an example:

    http://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/borenste/SFChron080421.pdf

    • Joe Romm says:

      You left out that you are replacing residential peak power in a state with very high peak pricing. So your analysis compares apples and oranges and I’d be more interested in knowing the payback time, since nukes never pay for themselves.

      But I have always agreed with the statement that incentives for efficiency deliver more immediate benefits that ones for renewables, but a state like California wisely does both.

      • Colorado Bob says:

        Michael Barnes -
        Many thanks, now for a cheap joke.
        Teach your son about solar clothes drying, a wire outside with pins to hold the clothes.

        • Colorado Bob says:

          Solar Power, and low hanging fruit.
          Around 20% of our yearly energy use at home, goes to heating hot water. Of all the ways to catch the sun’s energy, heating water can’t be beat. The systems in use now are more concerned with the collector exploding from excess heat, rather than how the payback works.

          The great thing about a solar hot water system, if you run it at night , it can be an air conditioner.

          • Colorado Bob says:

            Of all the ways to catch the sun’s energy, heating water can’t be beat.

            Google : Israel, solar hot water, images

          • Colorado Bob says:

            These collectors now are made like old school fluorescent lamp fixtures. The whole system doesn’t make us go back to school. It puts plumbers, and electricians to work. It cuts one’s gas bill by 20%.

        • Michael Barnes says:

          Boy, have I tried. You use your political capital carefully with teenage males.

      • Michael Barnes says:

        Joe, not really. I live in a relatively foggy part of the Bay Area, North Berkeley. Often the fog in the summer doesn’t clear until the afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, I love my panels, but I think priority should be given to locations in California with far more sunshine. Even 10 miles inland is a much better choice, where it is hotter, sunnier, and people do tend to have air conditioning. I also think returns to scale are real, and we need bigger installations. Residential solar is a good jobs program, and I highly recommend the company that did my system, but I think we need to get the most bang for the buck out of this technology.

  11. Michael T says:

    James Hansen posted a new paper “Climate Variability and Climate Change: The New Climate Dice” on his website:

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20111110_NewClimateDice.pdf

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    More coffee problem news -
    Climate Change Raises New Challenges for Uganda’s Coffee Farmers

    “Increasingly volatile weather has begun to impact coffee growers in Uganda and around the world.
    When you grow coffee, dead, brown leaves are not what you want to see. But they have been a scourge recently for coffee farmer Ahmed Nsubuga.

    “It’s not good to show to your friends,” Nsubuga said with a laugh.

    Nsubuga manages to maintain his sense of humor, even as the coffee farm where he works in central Uganda has been hit hard by drought.

    Earlier this year, not a drop of rain fell for six months. Some of the coffee trees here died. Others produced only a few red berries.”
    http://www.theworld.org/2011/11/uganda-coffee-climate-change/

  13. prokaryotes says:

    Europe set to revive 30 percent carbon cut debate

    EU has already achieved almost 20 percent

    * Poland has led opposition to higher target
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/10/europe-emissions-idUSL5E7MA26I20111110

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    Yesterday ( We found out.) -
    A man set the world record for surfing the biggest wave. In Portugal , 90 feet. Why is this record being set here ? How did he know to get there ?
    http://darrah–greenville–sc.newsvine.com/_news/2011/11/10/8744677-surfer-crushes-biggest-wave-record?threadId=3269101&commentId=59829657#c59829657

  15. Paul Magnus says:

    Climate Chaos shared a link.

    Vietnam floods kill at least 100

    Forecasters said more rain was expected in the region.
    Nationwide, more than half a million people have seen their homes or livelihoods affected by the rising waters, which have inundated around 140,000 homes.
    Unusually heavy monsoon rains have caused devastation across the region, with more than 500 dead in Thailand’s worst flooding in half a century and around 250 killed in Cambodia.

  16. David B. Benson says:

    “nukes never pay for themselves”

    Then why is TVA (1) continuing to finish the NPP they have under construction (2) contracted with Areva to complete another (3) planning on acquiring 6 B&W mPower NPPs?

    And the one NPP around here continues to “pay for itself” quite nicely, thank you.

    • Speedy says:

      I’ve seen the FiT alone for German solar repoted to be 1 G€/month. For that price they could build 2-3 1,6 GW EPRs per year, each of which would deliver as much electricity per year (~12 TWh) as all their 19 GW of PV delivered in 2010.

  17. BillD says:

    I read that Chinese are going big time into solar on individual homes and apartments, including rural areas and for hot water. Was that over hyped or is Chinese solar being undercounted to make is less than California? I don’t have a citation.

  18. Donna says:

    I’m glad to hear California is stepping up to the solar energy plate. There’s no excuse not to, for the sun is always shining in Southern California.