Friday, March 2, 2012

Infographic: what if Solar were on every roof?

I just thought this is so cool that I have to share it

found here

What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.

Renewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels for the first time

Welcome to 2012, the year of breakthroughs for sustainable thinking. Just read this amazing news: Renewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments, shaking off setbacks from the financial crisis.

Electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance using the latest data. Accelerating installations of solar- and wind-power plants led to lower equipment prices, making clean energy more competitive with coal.

Last week, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that renewable energy investments are projected to double over the next eight years and reach $395 billion per year. No, that isn’t enough to stabilize emissions and control climate change, according to the International Energy Agency. But it is still very impressive.

Find the report here
What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Go Big Apple, go! Grab the Solar chance!

A report released this week by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority shows significant potential for solar energy investment in the state over the next decade.
The “Power New York Act of 2011″ analyzed the pros and cons of increasing solar energy in the state.
Various economic and environmental models were constructed and analyzed, leading the organization to report that “fossil fuel consumption could drop by 4 percent and carbon dioxide emission by 3 percent if the state were to increase its solar power to 5,000 megawatts by the year 2025.” At this point in time, only 19 megawatts of solar energy are generated in New York state.

Last but certainly not least given the nation’s hunger for job growth, the report estimated that 3,200 jobs would be created by the solar energy industry if solar demand rises over the next 10 years.
The downside of increased solar activity, critics are quick to point out, is the cost. Ratepayers would see an annual rise from 0.1 percent to 5 percent by 2025, which could equal as much as $9 billion in expense passed on to utility payers in that amount of time.

The assistant director of communications for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Dayle Zatlin, believes that the benefits outweigh the costs given the critical state of New York’s environment and its dependency on foreign oil. She urges the state legislature to invest in more research on the subject.

Tria Case, university director of sustainability for the City University of New York system, agrees: ”The environmental, climate and energy challenges of New York City are staggering, complex and interwoven with the aging infrastructure of America’s largest city. The widespread adoption of renewable energy and efficiency habits can help address these concerns.”
find the report here

What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Midtown Manhattan has more energy use than the whole country of Kenya

Whenever the Columbia University is in the news I am thrilled by their latest work. The Solar Map was groundbreaking and helped to raise the awareness of the unused potential of Solar Energy in NY. Their latest work provides an even more stunning insight to New Yorks energy usage.

New York City urban planners now have an important tool to help create energy reduction plans. An interactive map of New York has been developed by the Columbia University Engineering School to show the energy consumption of individual buildings across the five boroughs. Users can select a building on the map, see how much energy it uses, and what it uses the energy for. The data will help planners initiate energy conservation programs and know exactly which buildings and areas to target.

The map really brings to light the massive amounts of energy that New York City consumes. “Midtown Manhattan has more energy use than the whole country of Kenya, and New York state uses more energy than all of sub-Saharan Africa,” head of development Vijay Modi told Metropolis at the Wall Street Journal. “There is just this intense use of energy in cities like New York.”

Read more at Inhabitat

What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism (by A.Gore, D.Blood)

I felt I had to share this find from Wall Street Journal:

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, when the United States was preparing its visionary plan for nurturing democratic capitalism abroad, Gen. Omar Bradley said, "It is time to steer by the stars, and not by the lights of each passing ship." Today, more than 60 years later, that means abandoning short-term economic thinking for "sustainable capitalism."

We are once again facing one of those rare turning points in history when dangerous challenges and limitless opportunities cry out for clear, long-term thinking. The disruptive threats now facing the planet are extraordinary: climate change, water scarcity, poverty, disease, growing income inequality, urbanization, massive economic volatility and more. Businesses cannot be asked to do the job of governments, but companies and investors will ultimately mobilize most of the capital needed to overcome the unprecedented challenges we now face.

Before the crisis and since, we and others have called for a more responsible form of capitalism, what we call sustainable capitalism: a framework that seeks to maximize long-term economic value by reforming markets to address real needs while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics throughout the decision-making process.

Such sustainable capitalism applies to the entire investment value chain—from entrepreneurial ventures to large public companies, seed-capital providers to institutional investors, employees to CEOs, activists to policy makers. It transcends borders, industries, asset classes and stakeholders.
Those who advocate sustainable capitalism are often challenged to spell out why sustainability adds value. Yet the question that should be asked instead is: "Why does an absence of sustainability not damage companies, investors and society at large?" From BP to Lehman Brothers, there is a long list of examples proving that it does.

Moreover, companies and investors that integrate sustainability into their business practices are finding that it enhances profitability over the longer term. Experience and research show that embracing sustainable capitalism yields four kinds of important benefits for companies:
• Developing sustainable products and services can increase a company's profits, enhance its brand, and improve its competitive positioning, as the market increasingly rewards this behavior.
• Sustainable capitalism can also help companies save money by reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency in the supply chain, and by improving human-capital practices so that retention rates rise and the costs of training new employees decline.
• Third, focusing on ESG metrics allows companies to achieve higher compliance standards and better manage risk since they have a more holistic understanding of the material issues affecting their business.
• Researchers (including Rob Bauer and Daniel Hann of Maastricht University, and Beiting Cheng, Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafeim of Harvard) have found that sustainable businesses realize financial benefits such as lower cost of debt and lower capital constraints.
Sustainable capitalism is also important for investors. Mr. Serafeim and his colleague Robert G. Eccles have shown that sustainable companies outperform their unsustainable peers in the long term. Therefore, investors who identify companies that embed sustainability into their strategies can earn substantial returns, while experiencing low volatility.
Because ESG metrics directly affect companies' long-term value, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, foundations and the like—investors with long-term liabilities—should include these metrics as an essential aspect of valuation and investment strategy. Sustainable capitalism requires investors to be good investors, to fully understand the companies they invest in and to believe in their long-term value and potential.
We recommend five key actions for immediate adoption by companies, investors and others to accelerate the current incremental pace of change to one that matches the urgency of the situation:
• Identify and incorporate risk from stranded assets. "Stranded assets" are those whose value would dramatically change, either positively or negatively, when large externalities are taken into account—for example, by attributing a reasonable price to carbon or water. So long as their true value is ignored, stranded assets have the potential to trigger significant reductions in the long-term value of not just particular companies but entire sectors.
That's exactly what occurred when the true value of subprime mortgages was belatedly recognized and mortgage-backed assets were suddenly repriced. Until there are policies requiring the establishment of a fair price on widely understood externalities, academics and financial professionals should strive to quantify the impact of stranded assets and analyze the subsequent implications for investment opportunities.
• Mandate integrated reporting. Despite an increase in the volume and frequency of information made available by companies, access to more data for public equity investors has not necessarily translated into more comprehensive insight into companies. Integrated reporting addresses this problem by encouraging companies to integrate both their financial and ESG performance into one report that includes only the most salient or material metrics.
This enables companies and investors to make better resource-allocation decisions by seeing how ESG performance contributes to sustainable, long-term value creation. While voluntary integrated reporting is gaining momentum, it must be mandated by appropriate agencies such as stock exchanges and securities regulators in order to ensure swift and broad adoption.
• End the default practice of issuing quarterly earnings guidance. The quarterly calendar frequently incentivizes executives to manage for the short-term. It also encourages some investors to overemphasize the significance of these measures at the expense of longer-term, more meaningful measures of sustainable value creation. Ending this practice in favor of companies' issuing guidance only as they deem appropriate (if at all) would encourage a longer-term view of the business.
• Align compensation structures with long-term sustainable performance. Most existing compensation schemes emphasize short-term actions and fail to hold asset managers and corporate executives accountable for the ramifications of their decisions over the long-term. Instead, financial rewards should be paid out over the period during which these results are realized and compensation should be linked to fundamental drivers of long-term value, employing rolling multiyear milestones for performance evaluation.
• Incentivize long-term investing with loyalty-driven securities. The dominance of short-termism in the market fosters general market instability and undermines the efforts of executives seeking long-term value creation. The common argument that more liquidity is always better for markets is based on long-discredited elements of the now-obsolete "standard model" of economics, including the illusion of perfect information and the assumption that markets tend toward equilibrium.
To push against this short-termism, companies could issue securities that offer investors financial rewards for holding onto shares for a certain number of years. This would attract long-term investors with patient capital and would facilitate both long-term value creation in companies and stability in financial markets.

Ben Franklin famously said, "You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again." Today we have an opportunity to steer by the stars and once again rebuild for the long-term. Sustainable capitalism will create opportunities and rewards, but it will also mean challenging the pernicious orthodoxy of short-termism. As we face an inflection point in the global economy and the global environment, the imperative for change has never been greater.

from the Wall Street Journal here

Mr. Gore, chairman of Generation Investment Management, is a former vice president of the United States. Mr. Blood is managing partner of Generation Investment Management.

What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.

The rise of US Solar is visible, finally!

After the announcement, that schools in Manhattan will soon be equipped with Solar Energy Systems and that modern accountability systems as feed in tarriffs and SRECs are seriously considered, we loved to hear that Solar Systems are now a standard for "Built to order" homes in central Florida. Find the articles about it on the REW Solar USA Facebook page here. The awareness now becomes visible, the difference between talking and doing still has to be eliminated.

What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How Solar makes a change in the developing world

The falling cost of LED lighting, batteries, and solar panels, together with innovative business plans, are allowing millions of households in Africa and elsewhere to switch from crude kerosene lamps to cleaner and safer electric lighting. For many, this offers a means to charge their mobile phones, which are becoming ubiquitous in Africa, instead of having to rent a charger.
Technology advances are opening up a huge new market for solar power: the approximately 1.3 billion people around the world who don't have access to grid electricity. Even though they are typically very poor, these people have to pay far more for lighting than people in rich countries because they use inefficient kerosene lamps. While in most parts of the world solar power typically costs far more than electricity from conventional power plants—especially when including battery costs—for some people, solar power makes economic sense because it costs half as much as lighting with kerosene.
Hundreds of companies are swooping in to grab a piece of this market.
The sudden interest is fueled by the advent of relatively low-cost LEDs, she says. Not long ago, powering lightbulbs required a solar panel that could generate 20 to 30 watts, since only incandescent lightbulbs were affordable. LEDs are far more efficient. Now people can have bright lighting using a panel that only generates a couple of watts of power. 

What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Solar PV prices keep falling, here is why

The structural oversupply of solar modules on the global market has driven down prices for photovoltaic panels at an astonishing pace. This trend will only continue into 2012. While the solar market will continue to grow at a 10 percent to 20 percent pace in the coming years, reductions in the amount of silicon used in each module due to advanced technology means that end demand for polysilicon will grow at a slower pace. The end result is that the current roster of over 170 polysilicon manufacturers and startups will likely be winnowed down to a dozen survivors by the end of decade. Great news for the economics of solar projects, great news for suppliers, users, cities and the environment. Not so great news for smaller, high-cost silicon producers.

It's a cleanup on the market, only the strong will survive. Main benefitor is the evolution and the direction is right. We are still waiting for major reductions in soft costs, the government will have to simplify permitting and speed up the whole process if we want to have solar on 2/3rds of NYC's roofs.

What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Time for NY to see the light on solar power

At a time when everyone agrees on the need to create jobs and stimulate the economy, an idea exists that would bring thousands of jobs to New York while also pumping billions of dollars into the local economy: a committed investment in solar power. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's commitment to solar power in his State of the State speech and budget proposal has moved the important conversation about this issue in New York forward.
Across the country, more than 100,000 people work in the solar industry today. Year-over-year American solar employment grew by 7 percent. That's 10 times better than the general economy. And yet New York is doing little to put this job creation engine to work in our own state.
The Empire State has a tremendous opportunity to quickly change all that and become a power player in the growing solar economy. Without any more sunshine than us and a lot less land, New Jersey has installed more than 400 megawatts of solar capacity, over 100 megawatts of which was added in the first half of 2011 alone.
By comparison, New York's solar market has limped along with less than 20 percent of New Jersey's total — a meager 64 megawatts installed as of the middle of last year.
For New York, setting a strong new solar target of 5,000 megawatts developed over the next 15 years — enough to power 500,000 average households — would yield thousands of jobs in the next decade. Because installing solar panels has to happen where the solar panels are located, these jobs are local. That means they would help jumpstart our economy all over the state. And by paying those solar installers a prevailing wage, we could ensure that these are good jobs.
Solar power would also be a win for New York's consumers. The state is burdened with some of the highest electricity prices in the country as demand for power frequently outstrips both supply and our aging grid's ability to deliver it.
There is no question that we need to invest in New York's energy infrastructure. We can choose to invest in business-as-usual practices or set the state on a better course forward. Making that investment in solar would tap a reliable, free, local fuel — the sun — to deliver predictably priced power when and where New Yorkers need it most.
A broad coalition that includes members of the business community, environmental advocates, labor and many others is coming together around just such an investment in solar energy. We all recognize that for New York to create jobs and stay competitive with our neighbors in a 21st century energy economy, we have to commit to solar power.
New York was once a leader in solar energy and it's time for New York to again lead the way. Solar energy makes sense for our economy, environment and energy consumers. That's something we can all get behind.

What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.

A little Energy Efficiency Musical

enjoy ;-)

What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Despite Solyndra: Five Reasons Solar Is Still A Good Bet

Yes, Solyndra, the first recipient of the U.S. Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, not to mention billions in venture capital funds, has gone bankrupt. The company is being used by Republicans as a prime example of the failure of Obama’s stimulus package, and by Democrats as … well the Democrats haven’t quite figured out what to do with the story yet.

But here’s the thing: Whether or not Solyndra was a good investment, whether you think the government should be making bets on any particular technology or company, whether Solyndra is, as one blogger recently opined, ”collateral damage in a trade war with China,”and whether or not there was some sort of political back-scratching involved, solar remains a good investment. That might sound ridiculous given the fact that Solyndra isn’t the first U.S. solar company to go under this year, by a longshot. But when you look at the reasons behind all those bankruptcies, what you see is not an industry in trouble but a market that is maturing.

Despite the tendency to want to simplify it, the solar industry is complicated. It’s a global energy industry influenced by a host of market forces, including everything from the availability of supplies to technological innovation to policy in vastly different countries. Amongst all that, right now there are five very straightforward reasons the solar market is behaving the way it is; they happen to also be reasons solar is still a good investment, bankruptcies and downgraded earnings notwithstanding.

1. The Price of Polysilicon Has Dropped 89 Percent Since 2008 A few years ago polysilicon was scarce and the price of the stuff was sky-high. That prompted a lot of the excitement around thin-film technologies like Solyndra’s, which had lower materials costs. Then polysilicon started to fall faster than anyone predicted and all of a sudden photovoltaics have the price advantage. The price of polysilicon is continuing to fall, so much so that some solar players are saying PV is already at grid parity. “What’s happening is solar is basically at grid parity, but it’s sort of a staggering thing. We all thought it would happen further off in the future,” says Dan Shugar, CEO of Solaria.

2. European Feed-In Tariffs Are Changing Feed-in tariffs–artificially high rates paid by the government for renewable energy in an effort to speed installations and bring costs down more quickly–made Spain, Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom attractive markets for U.S. solar companies over the past decade. Those tariffs are set to expire as installations increase, but that doesn’t always happen in a predictable way. Spain unintentionally flooded its market, causing a boom and bust cycle. France, Italy and the United Kingdom have slashed feed-in tariffs, catching some solar companies off-guard. Germany has reduced its tariff more gradually, but there are still those who miscalculated it. While all of this has had some companies scrambling for new markets, those (like First Solar) that can claim to manufacture products in the European Union still qualify for high feed-in tariffs. Others saw the writing on the wall and began looking early for new markets, a move that is paying off now.

3. India’s Solar Market Is Heating Up The Indian government has a preference for local manufacturers, but the country’s high temperatures necessitate the use of different materials. Companies able to provide those materials, partner well with local Indian companies or sort out the country’s complicated financing hurdles are finding a booming market there. Colorado-based Abound Solar produces Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) panels that can withstand incredibly hot temperatures; the company has shifted its focus from Europe to India, where that virtue is incredibly desirable. “The only problem in India is that they can’t get enough CdTe panels,” says Julian Hawking, a spokesman for the company.

4. Enterprise and Utility-Scale Solar Suddenly Make Sense With the price of PV panels low and companies competing to keep it that way, utilities are seizing the opportunity to move forward with large-scale projects they’ve mostly just paid lip service to previously. “Just to give you an idea of scale, there’s about .3 gigawatts of PV operating in California right now. There’s 8.6 gigawatts contracted for from PPAs and over 10 gigawatts announced,” Shugar explains. “A lot of those contracts are at what’s called the market price reference – basically the price of new natural gas, determined by the California Energy Commission. Utilities would only sign on to these contracts at those levels. So a lot of folks signed up for these, but at the price that existed when they did so, it was kind of a joke. Well now those projects are actually possible at these new prices, and they can get financed.”

Meanwhile, on the enterprise side, low PV prices are not only encouraging companies to buy their own systems (rather than purchase solar through a Power Purchase Agreement, wherein the system is owned by the provider), but also jump starting projects that had been sidelined. “The low prices mean that our solar initiatives are pencilling out much better now,” says Joseph Roth, Director of Public Affairs for IKEA.

A recent report from ABI Research predicts that the United States will be the largest market for photovoltaics by 2013, thanks mostly to these large installations. Given that the majority of U.S. solar panels are currently shipped overseas, that prediction is a pretty big deal.

In fact, all signs point to a boom in utility-scale solar. Completely separate from the market fluctuations of photovoltaic panels, Abengoa’s Concentrating Solar Plant (CSP) in California’s Mojave Desert quietly received a $1.2 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy this week. It will no doubt be watched closely thanks to the Solyndra debacle, but that probably lends itself more to the project’s success than anything else.

5. Now that Modules Are Cheap, the Industry Is Targeting Other Improvements With PV modules cheap, the solar industry is looking to reduce balance-of-system costs (essentially the cost of everything but the module). A recent Greentech Media report predicted that these costs would outstrip module costs as early as 2012, but the industry appears to be attacking this issue from all sides with companies, National Renewable Energy Lab researchers and nonprofits like the Rocky Mountain Institute all working on the issue. Meanwhile, the dearth of capable installers and consultants that long plagued the industry shows signs of being over. Installer jobs are increasing and customers are starting to notice a greater level of knowledge and skill. “There are more solar providers and installers out there and they’ve been out there for longer, so that makes for a more competitive marketplace and it has also created a deeper expertise among those who are out there,” IKEA’s Roth says. “As solar purchasers, we feel like we have a really good pool to choose from when selecting a provider.”
found at

What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

IKEA's Solar Efforts to Cover Nearly 85% of US Stores

I can't keep up. First IKEA announces it's expanding solar to 75% of US stores, and now Business Wire reports that number is growing to nearly 85%:

IKEA, the world’s leading home furnishings retailer, today announced plans to install solar energy panels on five more of its United States locations – all of them in the Midwestern U.S. Pending governmental permits, installation can begin this Winter, with completion expected in Summer 2012. Implementation of these projects will extend the IKEA solar presence to nearly 85% of its U.S. locations. Collectively, the five stores will total 4.8 megawatts (MW) of solar generating capacity, approximately 20,400 panels, and an annual output of 5.62 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity – the equivalent to reducing 4,273 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) – equal to eliminating the emissions of 760 cars or providing electricity for 484 homes yearly.
It should be noted that they are expanding electric car charging too, provide customers in Denmark with bike trailers to get their stuff home, and have even bought entire wind farms in the UK.
As I argued earlier today, big box stores aren't the first thing you think of when it comes to resilient business, but IKEA's focus on ownership of and access to clean energy suggests they are more aware of the dangers of energy depletion and price volatility than most.
What do you think? Looking forward to read your comments.