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.

Europe still a solar hot-spot

Portugal’s solar market remains one of the hottest for investors able to build systems under the installations cap. The country’s internal rates of returns (IRR) for the 6 major solar technologies remained high in 2011 along with Cyprus and Greece, though the financial crisis in Europe could significantly hinder that market.

“Uncertainty surrounding Europe’s financial situation and its countries’ ability to pay out incentives will prevent wild growth – keeping that market relatively constant,” says Matt Feinstein, the Lux Research Analyst who led the Demand Forecast.

“However, a number of Asian markets have high returns going into 2012 – notably Malaysia at 24.1%, the Philippines at 22.6%, and Japan at 20.9%. They will push demand toward that region in 2012 and 2013.”

IRR is the discount rate at which the net present value (NPV) of future cash flows from a capital investment equals zero. Capital expenditure is the primary factor in determining a market’s IRR, along with incentives and operating expenses. Put simply, it provides an apples-to-apples metric for investors to compare demand and project growth for solar across disparate markets.

found at renewable energy focus here

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

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What's the future of energy, Mr.Slocum?

"The future of energy is renewables. The longer we wait to create domestic demand for these products, the farther we fall behind on cleantech development and manufacturing. Our energy infrastructure was designed to accomodate cheap access to fossil fuels, but those days are over. We must move towards a localized, distributed energy system anchored by renewables, investments in sustainable energy use, and regulations that end the ability of energy corporations to price-gouge families."
Tyson Slocum
director of Public Citizen's Energy Program

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What's in Store for 2012?

Amy Harder, an energy and environment reporter for National Journal, started a discussion to find out, what energy and environment issues President Obama and Congress should focus on this year?

Among others this discussion contains the statements of experts like Rhone Resch, President & CEO of SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association), Danny Kennedy (President, Sungevity Solar Home Specialists) and Josh Freed (Vice President for Clean Energy, Third Way)

very interesting!

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

Monday, January 9, 2012

Household electricity bills skyrocket

Electric bills have skyrocketed in the last five years, a sharp reversal from a quarter-century when Americans enjoyed stable power bills even as they used more electricity. Households paid a record $1,419 on average for electricity in 2010, the fifth consecutive yearly increase above the inflation rate, a USA TODAY analysis of government data found. The jump has added about $300 a year to what households pay for electricity. That's the largest sustained increase since a run-up in electricity prices during the 1970s. Electricity is consuming a greater share of Americans' after-tax income than at any time since 1996 — about $1.50 of every $100 in income at a time when income growth has stagnated, a USA TODAY analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis data found.
Greater electricity use at home and higher prices per kilowatt hour are both driving the higher costs, in roughly equal measure:
•Residential demand for power dropped briefly in 2009 but rebounded strongly last year to a record high. Air-conditioners and household appliances use less power than ever. A new refrigerator consumes half the electricity as a similar one bought in 1990. But consumers have bigger houses, more air-conditioning and more electronics than before, outpacing gains in efficiency and conservation.
"People have made a lot of money selling weight loss programs. It's the same for energy. Behavior is hard to change," says Penni Conner, vice president of customer care at NSTAR, a Boston-based utility.
•Prices are climbing, too, hitting a record 11.8 cents per residential kilowatt hour so far this year, reports the Energy Information Administration. The increase reflects higher fuel prices and the expense of replacing old power plants, including heavily polluting — but cheap to operate — coal plants that don't meet federal clean air requirements.
Electricity cost varies widely depending on where you live. Cheapest: Northwest communities near hydropower dams — as low as 2 cents per kilowatt hour. Most expensive major utility: Consolidated Edison, supplier of New York City — 26 cents per kilowatt hour, according to EIA.
High taxes, limits on air-polluting fuels and the expense of maintaining an underground transmission system keep consumer costs high, says ConEd spokesman Chris Olert.

Find the USA Today here

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

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Surface Area Required to Power the Whole World With Solar

According to the US Department of Energy (Energy Information Administration), the world consumption of energy in all of its forms (barrels of petroleum, cubic meters of natural gas, watts of hydro power, etc.) is projected to reach 678 quadrillion Btu (or 7.15 exajoules) by 2030 - a 44% increase over 2008 levels (levels for 1980 were 283 quadrillion Btu and we stand at around 500 quadrillion Btu today). [...]

Dividing the global yearly demand by 400 kW•h per square meter (198,721,800,000,000 / 400) and we arrive at 496,804,500,000 square meters or 496,805 square kilometers (191,817 square miles) as the area required to power the world with solar panels. [...]

If divided into 5,000 super-site installations around the world (average of 25 per country), it would measure less than 10km a side for each. The UAE has plans to construct 1,500MW of capacity by 2020 which will require a space of 3 km per side. If the UAE constructed the other 7 km per side of that area, it would be able to power itself as a nation completely with solar energy. The USA would require a much larger area and approximately 1,000 of these super-sites.

According to the United Nations 170,000 square kilometers of forest is destroyed each year. If we constructed solar farms at the same rate, we would be finished in 3 years.

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

Saturday, January 7, 2012

How hard the EU Is kicking our Clean energy A..

The EU signed Kyoto in 1997, and passed laws to lower emissions by 2005. Five years later it had double the wind power of the US, and ten times the solar power. I know that it has been customary to compare the metrics on renewable energy development within the US as a whole to just one nation within the European Union, but it is misleading, as a comparison of our relative progress, because the US has a bigger economy than any one EU nation such as Germany or Spain, that it is typically compared to. It is time for us to compare the US with the EU as a whole to get an accurate picture, because it is easier for a larger economy to beat a smaller one in anything. This applies in any metric, but especially when comparing things like numbers of wind farms or solar farms, because how many people there are in a given area, and how much electricity they need (to produce and consume what percent of the global GDP) needs to be comparable, or the comparison is nonsensical. A comparison of the size of the two economies, the population and geographic size suggests that we should be comparing US progress as a whole, not to a single country within the union, but to the whole European Union. Our total economies are similar in size. According to the IMF, the EU’s economy is $16 trillion and the US’ $14 trillion. The EU and the US combined represent about half the global economy. Each puts out between 20% and 25% of the global GDP. Our geographic spread is similar. The European Union is about 3.8 million square miles, and the US is a similar 3.6 million square miles.

And our numbers are comparable. The core of the EU, the EU 15 (that signed Kyoto, and implemented the renewable legislation) is 384 million people, and the US population is 313 million. These three similarities mean that comparing progress between the two unions – one of states, and one of nations – makes a lot more sense in comparing the US progress on solar, for example, than comparing it with that of one EU nation. There are only 46 million people in Spain, which has a GDP of $1 trillion, so its economy is hardly comparable with the entire $14 trillion US economy.

How does US progress look when compared to the entire EU? Not good.

The EU as a whole is far further along the clean economy road than the US, since signing Kyoto in 1997, and implementing feed in tariffs and cap and trade by 2005 to lower emissions. Five years later it had double the wind power of the US, and ten times the solar power. The EU has 84 GW of wind power capacity installed as of 2010, according to the AWEA. The US has about half that, at 43 GW. EU solar power capacity totaled 29 GW through 2010; ten times the cumulative grid-connected PV in the US of 3 GW as of 2010, according to a GTW report quoted at Earthtechling, or to be precise only 2.6 GW confirmed by SEIA figures – which includes all types of solar, not just PV, and counts residential, commercial, industrial and utility-scale installations.

While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) made a huge investment in utility-scale solar that is now beginning to break through the lengthy review process – so that there is at least 17 GW in the pipeline now as of mid-2011 – even this ‘Manhattan Project’ jump in the level of investment will only bring the US up to two thirds of what the EU had installed as of 2010.

This one-time heroic lift for renewables and climate action was accomplished in the rare few months of 2009 when the US had functional Democratic majorities big enough to overcome Republican obstruction. It is sad that voters in the US are not aware that that represents what could be accomplished again, and added to, if they could get those majorities in the House and Senate once more.

But US voters are increasingly so dismayed and baffled by what the media tells them is simply “congress” that now only 48% of US voters even bother to vote, far below the rates of the 1960s and 1970s, when the US passed the Clean Air Act. By contrast, most EU countries have over 80% voting participation, and their EU-wide energy legislation is much more 99%-friendly as a result. But just how far ahead they are was a shock to me in researching this.

Comparing wind and solar capacity as of the end of 2010, the EU had between twice and ten times the US amount. That is pretty sobering.

by Susan Kraemer, on EarthTechling

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

Energy problems elsewhere

1.6 billion people on the planet don’t have access to electricity. That’s one quarter of the world’s population. This energy poverty has a female face which is often ignored - 70% of those without basic electricity access are women and girls for whom the darkness is quite literal.They rely on kerosene lanterns and candles for light. They spend hours each day collecting wood to burn for cooking and heat. They spend up to 40% of their family income on energy that is insufficient, hazardous and unhealthy.

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

December 2011: record month for California rooftop solar

Another record in solar sales...

read more here

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How has NASA improved solar energy?

There are no electrical outlets in space. No gas stations, either. For space explorers hovering in the cold, airless regions beyond our atmosphere, power (or the lack thereof) is a matter of life and death. Thanks to our sun, however, solar power is readily available.
Solar technologies generate a majority of the power used during space missions, keeping life support and other vital spacecraft systems working. Solar power is so critical that NASA spends considerable time and money to make solar panels must more efficient, lightweight and affordable.
You don't have to look far to see how important solar power is to NASA. Just gaze skyward. One of humankind's most ambitious projects, the ISS (International Space Station) is dwarfed by the size of its eight 114-foot (35-meter) long solar array wings. Each wing contains around 33,000 solar cells, which convert about 14 percent of the sunlight that hits them into usable energy [source:NASA]. That may not sound very efficient, but even after life support and other vital functions have the power they need, there's still enough juice to power the equivalent of dozens of homes on Earth.
But the ISS features decades-old technology. Thanks to NASA's research and development teams, contemporary solar power designs are significantly better than those aboard the ISS. In fact, NASA has an entire division, called the Photovoltaic & Space Environments Branch, dedicated to addressing solar power and related challenges. This branch actively partners with private companies and shares scientific knowledge in the hopes of accelerating technological developments.
This knowledge-sharing strategy works. In 1989, NASA partnered with Iowa Thin Film Technologies, Inc. (now PowerFilm, Inc.). PowerFilm devised a way to incorporate paper-thin solar cells onto flexible sheets that can be rolled up for storage. The film is incredibly efficient, too, converting 90 percent of the light that strikes its surface into energy [source: NASA].
In other words, these are nothing like antiquated solar cells from the 1970s. Today's solar cells and associated products are getting better all the time. Keep reading to see how NASA's investments are improving solar power for space missions -- and for those of us stuck on the mother planet, too.

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

Sunday, January 1, 2012

12 Most Hopeful Trends to Build on in 2012

Happy New Year everyone! I wish you all the best in 2012... my first post/link this year is supposed to give an outlok on trends to the Huffington Post article here

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