Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arizona Utility To Pay Consumers For Rooftop Space For Solar

Michael Kanellos Contributor
Will consumers let utilities use their roof for $30 a month?
Arizona Public Service, the dominant utility in the state, has filed for permission to install approximately 20 megawatts of solar on 3,000 homes in its service territory.  APS will recover the cost of the systems—approximately $57 to $70 million—through charges across its entire customer base. In exchange APS will be delivering solar to customers.
It will also pay those customers with systems on their roofs $30 a month.
The proposal—if ultimately implemented—could potentially have a large impact on solar installers like SolarCity. From the perspective of  some customers, it could be attractive. APS will take care of the installation and maintenance of the solar systems. The cost of them will be spread across the customer base, just like the cost of any power plant, and some lucky customers will qualify for a rebate.
It’s solar without the hassles. In areas with large numbers of lower income homeowners who can’t get credit to install their own solar systems, it could be attractive. APS serves 1.1 million customers so there is room to grow.
English: Solar Array – Arizona State University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On the other hand, it takes one of the big advantages of going solar out of customers’ hands: namely, the ability to save money and keep your energy costs stable. Over the 20- to 30-year lifetime of a solar system, consumers can save thousands of dollars: in Hawaii the savings can reach $60,000 by some estimates.  Loan and financing options are also expanding and lowering the cost of solar. Barry Cinnamon, CEO of installer Cinnamon Solar, has said that the declining price of systems is prompting many consumers to buy their solar systems outright.
Under APS’s plan, consumers will still likely get hit with annual increases in energy costs.
The APS plan also won’t go down without a fight. The utility was part of a successful effort to impose a property tax of 70 cents per kilowatt on residential solar systems. It also donated funds to an anti-solar campaign that alleged that “California billionaires” were getting rich of state tax dollars.
Solar developers will also argue that, unlike APS, they can’t apply to a state agency to get a fixed rate of return for the systems they install.
“After attacking rooftop solar companies in Arizona relentlessly for more than a year, this latest tactic by APS has a ‘Trojan Horse’ smell to it,” the Solar Energy Industry Association said in a statement. “Our member companies welcome fair and equal competition, but this move would stack the deck in favor of a company which can rate base solar with a guaranteed rate of return.  How is that fair?  The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) needs to think this through very carefully.”

Monday, September 29, 2014

Why Now Is A Good Time To Invest In Solar Manufacturing and Marketing In The U.S.

Contributor -- Ucilia Wang
The growth of U.S. market and the ongoing government investigation of Chinese solar manufacturers are creating new opportunities that perhaps didn’t exist for the European and other Asian companies.
On Thursday we heard from Yaskawa Electric, a Japanese power electronics maker, and its plan to buy Massachusetts-based Solectria Renewables. The purchase gives Yaskawa a greater foothold in the U. S. market, where Solectria was the fifth largest seller of inverters in 2013, said IHS IHS, a market research firm.
Yaskawa has been growing its own inverter business in Japan and currently has about 6% of that market, IHS said. Japan has been a booming solar market thanks to generous government renewable energy subsidies that materialized after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. Japan is set to become the largest solar inverter market in 2014, with $2.2 billion in sales, followed by the U.S. with $1.3 billion, IHS said.
An inverter converts the direct current from solar panels into alternating current for use at a home or business, or for feeding into the grid.
Yaskawa’s move exemplifies the bullish outlook of the U.S. market, which is on its way to install 6.6 gigawatts of solar panels during 2014, a 39% jump from 2013, according to GTM Research. While Japan is a hot market now, its subsidies won’t always be around, and the country is small compared to other major markets such as the U.S. and China.
The pending investigation by the U.S. Department of Commerce over whether Chinese solar cell and panel makers have played fair seems to be creating opportunities for rivals. Last month, the commerce department issued preliminary tariffs of 19% to 35% on silicon solar panels and their components that are made in China.
The tariffs reflect the government’s belief that Chinese companies have gotten too much financial support from the Chinese government to compete fairly. China has come to dominate the world of solar manufacturing because of its companies’ ability to build many large factories and outbid their competitors in price.
Next Friday, the commerce department is scheduled to announce its preliminary decision on whether the Chinese manufacturers have been pricing their products at below fair market value. That decision could see another set of tariffs slapped on imported silicon solar cells and panels from China.
There is a strong likelihood that Chinese solar panels will become more expensive if the manufacturers have to pay hefty tariffs. That will make it harder for them to win business here. One way for the Chinese manufacturers to deal with a fall in sales is to devote more energy into selling their products in markets where they don’t face tariffs.  That’s happening already in emerging markets in Central and South America, said Arndt Lutz  senior vice president of sales and marketing at REC Group, a Norwegian solar panel maker, when I caught up with him at the Intersolar conference in San Francisco last week.
For installers, project developers and their investors in the U.S., the possibility that they will have to pay more for solar panels — or they may not have ample supply like they did in previous years — is quite worrisome. I previously wrote about SolarCity’s surprising move into manufacturing, a strategy the company said will help ensure it will have not only a plentiful supply of solar panels but also panels that won’t be subjected to government sanctions.
REC is trying to take advantage of the uncertainty over the Chinese solar panel supply by stepping up its marketing effort to tout its Singapore-made solar panels.
“Utilities, large developers and construction companies are actively reaching out (to REC). They are thinking long term and are afraid of insufficient supply in the U.S. market due to the trade case,” Lutz said.
Meanwhile, Solar Frontier, a Japanese solar panel maker that is owned by Showa Shell, is looking at building a factory in New York. Solar Frontier has benefited tremendously from its domestic market as well. Over 90% of its sales in 2013 took place in Japan, said Charles Pimentel, chief operating officer of Solar Frontier Americas, told me during Intersolar. The company became profitable last year, thought Pimentel declined to disclose the revenue and profit.
Solar Frontier is currently building its fourth, 150-megawatt factory in Japan. The design of that factory will be used to build factories in other parts of the world, Pimentel said.  The company is doing a feasibility study for its U.S. factory, which would have a minimum of 150 megawatts of annual production capacity as well.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Leaves Change Color Each Fall Because of Dieting Trees

Can you believe it’s fall already?  And one of the first things I think of when I think of fall is the changing leaf color. Here’s an article on why the leaves change color.  I’ve probably posted articles like this in the past but it’s always good to have a new perspective on this.  While South Florida is not known for its fall tree color, we all know about it and sometimes wonder “why?”.  Also, along with the article, there’s a very informative short video on why leaves change color.  --Gene
September 23 2014
No offense to Pumpkin Spice Lattes and decorative gourds, but the real signs of fall are the leaves—leaves that transform from green to red. And green to orange. And green to yellow. Autumnal romance aside, it's a change that is, of course, chemical in nature.
It goes like this, as the video above, from the American Chemical Society, explains: Trees eat sunlight, essentially, converting solar rays into energy through photosynthesis. (That process results in glucose for the trees and oxygen for Earth's atmosphere—a nice win-win.) Photosynthesis requires chlorofyll, the pigment that accounts for the luscious green color leaves have in the spring and summer months; chlorofyll production, in turn, requires energy.
To survive the relative darkness of winter, the trees start watching their weight.
And trees, like all organisms, are hungry. But trees, like not all organisms, are good planners. As daylight hours lessen, they try to save up as much energy as they can to sustain them through the fall and winter. They essentially go on diets to make sure that they survive the reduction in sunlight that comes with the winter months.
Chlorophyll also contains a structure called porphyrin—and as there's less sunlight available for trees to "eat," the porphyrin begins to break down. Which causes it to break down. And when the breakdown occurs, other pigments —including carotene (the stuff that makes carrots orange) and lycopene (found in tomatoes)—are revealed.
The most vibrant colors, if you're into leaf-peeping, are the result of the sugars trees produce. Those stored sugars help the trees boost their production of anthocyanin, a pigment that provides a brilliant red leaf. That production, in turn, is bolstered by sunlight—so a sunny fall means, generally, a colorful fall. (A less-sunny fall? You'll get more yellows and browns, the results of consistently-produced caratenoids and tannins in the leaves.)
So there you have it: The world reddens in the fall because trees, like so many other creatures, are watching their weight.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

For the Broward folks -- Join Us Saturday at the Secret Woods (Another Public Lands Day event)

A great group and park that could use your help!  Gene

  Florida Native Plant Society


September 279 am - noonish
... anytime Saturday morning
Caring for the Secret Woods
Secret Woods Nature Center,
 2701 Florida (W. State Rd.) 84, Dania Beach, FL 33312.
PLEASE JOIN US to create a sizable team of people caring for the Secret Woods Nature Center this Saturday morning. Perhaps you can bring friends or family or just come yourself. The Secret Woods is an important intact natural park of riverside wetlands much as it was for centuries or even millennia.  As with all land now surrounded by development, it requires regular maintenance to thrive despite the threats of invasive plants, river garbage, poaching, and its biological isolation. That's where our care helps tip the balance for nature.

You can be late (if 9 am is too early). You can stay for as long as suits you. You can be a bit choosy about what you do, but please do come. Contribute to the park's health. Show park staff your appreciation. Join the rest of us in clean up, planting, assisting sign-up, or supporting other volunteers. Just come, for however long. Give nature your hand. Enjoy seeing the park beyond the boardwalks.

This workday is an annual event (on Public Lands Day) for the Broward Chapter to do something tangible to protect nature and to say "thank you" to park staff for the free use of the Secret Woods facilities and their support. Wear clothes to get a bit dirty, sun protection, and study shoes to be ready for anything, or just come as you are and do what you can. Bring your own gloves, shovel, rake, or hand pruners, or use the park equipment. See you there, Saturday morning!
Copyright © 2014 Broward Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this mailing from the Chapter because you signed up on our website or an email list or became a member. Thank you.

Our mailing address is:
Broward Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society
1704 SW 10th Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312-3239

Hey, all you Floridians! This Saturday get involved at a park near you! NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS DAY TO HIGHLIGHT VOLUNTEERISM

Florida DEP Banner



~Sixty-six volunteer events happening this Saturday in state parks across Florida~

TALLAHASSEE – On Saturday, the nation will observe and celebrate National Public Lands Day. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Recreation and Parks have joined with the Friends of Florida State Parks, the National Environmental Education Foundation and many other citizen support organizations across the state to host 66 events at Florida's state parks.
"For more than 20 years, residents and visitors have recognized the importance of volunteering on National Public Lands Day," said Donald Forgione, director of the Florida Park Service. "This year, we join with the Friends of Florida State Parks and park volunteer groups to offer an opportunity for citizens to spend time in parks, working to restore and maintain the landscape for all to enjoy."
Volunteers will come to Florida's state parks to participate in the largest nationwide, single-day volunteer effort to clean up public lands. For more than 20 years, volunteers of all ages have collected tons of trash, cleared thousands of invasive plants and contributed millions of hours through their collective efforts.
The Florida Park Service is proud to hold multiple events throughout the state. In 2013, Florida's state parks held more than 70 National Public Lands Day events with more than 1,550 volunteers contributing 6,740 hours of time picking up litter, conducting trail maintenance, landscaping grounds and removing invasive exotic plants.
This year, many of Florida's state parks are offering activities, which include restoration projects, recreational lessons, informational speakers, kids' activities, live music and plenty of chances for volunteers to assist with National Public Lands Day.
Below are some of the many events happening this Saturday. For a complete list, click here
Northwest Florida
Northeast Florida
Central Florida
Southwest Florida
South Florida

About Florida State Parks, Greenways and Trails

The Florida Park Service is the proud recipient of three National Gold Medals for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, making Florida America's first three-time Gold Medal winner. The awards were received in 1999, 2005 and 2013 from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration and the National Recreation and Park Association.
Florida's 171 state parks and trails inspire residents and visitors with recreation opportunities and scenic beauty that help strengthen families, educate children, expand local economies and foster community pride. With 161 parks, 10 state trails, nearly 800,000 acres, 100 miles of beaches and more than 1,500 miles of multi-use trails, visit soon and often to enjoy Florida's natural treasures. Download the Florida State Parks Pocket Ranger® mobile app, available on iTunes and Android Market, to plan your trip and enhance your experience while visiting.  For more information, visit www.FloridaStateParks.org 


Florida Department of Environmental Protection Logo
Sign up for email updates
Visit us on Twitter
EasyAsOne Blog
Manage Preferences  |  Delete Profile  |  Help


This email was sent using GovDelivery, on behalf of: Florida Department of Environmental Protection · 3900 Commonwealth Boulevard · Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000 · 850.245.2118
Powered by GovDelivery


Wildlife Wednesday - 100,000 Acres for Wild Bighorns

While this is not a local wildlife issue, I think it's important to see what's going on in other parts of the country.  At the end, there is information on how you can help if you choose to do so.  Gene
9/22/2014 // By Jane Kirchner
Scores of wild bighorn sheep across the Northern Rockies are catching a devastating disease and dying within a few days or weeks.
Wild bighorn lamb and ewe in the Northern Rockies. Photo by Steve Woodruff.
The bighorns are contracting deadly pneumonia from domesticated sheep that are grazing in important wildlife corridors and key areas of the bighorns' habitat. Once a single bighorn sheep has been exposed, the pneumonia virus quickly spreads, and is often lethal for every single member of the herd: rams, ewes and especially lambs.
Wildlife advocates and conservationists are concerned as disease is taking a toll on the bighorn population that has been declining dramatically since the 1980′s. Bighorn sheep herds that live near domesticated sheep grazing areas in Montana's Bear Canyon and Indian Creek have suffered tremendously—with two catastrophic die-offs from disease within the last 30 years. And the population in Idaho has plummeted by nearly 50% over the same time period.
Naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton estimated that at one time we had more a than million wild bighorn sheep. Right now, there are only about 33,000 bighorns left across all our western states.
Since there is no way to treat bighorns once they become sick, or vaccinate healthy ones against the disease, the only way to protect bighorns is to keep them separated from domesticated sheep.
Safeguarding Bighorn Habitat
Unfortunately, limiting contact between bighorns and domestic sheep isn't simple.
That's where National Wildlife Federation's Adopt a Wildlife Acre program comes in. Through the program, sheep ranchers who graze their livestock on public lands through "grazing allotments" are paid to voluntarily retire the allotments and move their domesticated sheep off of those lands. At the same time, federal land management agencies permanently close the lands to livestock use.
For less than $5.00 an acre, more than 685,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat has already been safeguarded for vulnerable bighorn sheep, bison, grizzly bears and wolves.
We're committed to doubling wild bighorn numbers over the next two decades and have identified over 100,000 acres in Wyoming and Idaho that, if secured, would have an immense impact in reducing disease transition and increasing bighorn populations.
Today, we need your help to secure the 100,000 acres for bighorn sheep and their offspring. Donate to the Adopt a Wildlife Acre program through Animal Planet's R.O.A.R Campaign and your gift will be matched.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The coming era of unlimited — and free — clean energy

Dreams do come true!
September 21, 2014
Vivek Wadhwa
In the 1980s, leading consultants were skeptical about cellular phones. McKinsey & Co. noted that the handsets were heavy, batteries didn't last long, coverage was patchy, and the cost per minute was exorbitant. It predicted that in 20 years the total market size would be about 900,000 units and advised AT&T to pull out.
McKinsey was wrong, of course. There were more than 100 million cellular phones in use 2000; there are billions now. Costs have fallen so far that even the poor, all over world, can afford cellular phones.
The experts are saying the same about solar energy now. They note that after decades of development, solar power hardly supplies 1 percent of the world's energy needs. They say that solar is inefficient, too expensive to install, and unreliable, and will fail without government subsidies. They too are wrong. Solar will be as ubiquitous as cellular phones are.
Futurist Ray Kurzweil notes that solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years, as costs have been dropping. He says solar energy is only six doublings, or less than 14 years, away from meeting 100 percent of today's energy needs. Energy usage will keep increasing, so this is a moving target. But, by Kurzweil's estimates, inexpensive renewable sources will provide more energy than the world needs in less than 20 years. Even then, we will be using only one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth.
In places such as Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and the Southwest U.S., residential-scale solar production has already reached "grid parity" with average residential electricity prices. In other words, it costs no more in the long term to install solar panels than to buy electricity from utility companies. The prices of solar panels have fallen 75 percent in the past five years alone and will fall much further as the technologies to create them improve and scale of production increases. By 2020, solar energy will be price-competitive with energy generated from fossil fuels on an unsubsidized basis in most parts of the world. Within the next decade, it will cost a fraction of what fossil fuel-based alternatives do.
It isn't just solar production that is advancing at a rapid rate. There are also technologies to harness the power of wind, biomass, thermal, tidal, and waste-breakdown energy, and research projects all over the world are working on improving their efficiency and effectiveness. Wind power, for example, has also come down sharply in price and is now competitive with the cost of new coal-burning power plants in the U.S. It will, without doubt, give solar energy a run for its money. There will be breakthroughs in many different technologies, and these will accelerate overall progress.
Despite the skepticism of experts and criticism by naysayers, there is little doubt that we are heading into an era of unlimited and almost free clean energy. This has profound implications.
First, there will be disruption of the entire fossil-fuel industry, starting with utility companies, which will face declining demand and then bankruptcy. Several of them see the writing on the wall. The smart ones are embracing solar and wind power. Others are lobbying to stop the progress of solar power — at all costs. Witness how groups in Oklahoma persuaded lawmakers to approve a surcharge on solar installations; the limited victory that groups backed by the Koch brothers won in Arizona to impose a $5 per month surcharge; and the battles being waged in other states. They are fighting a losing battle, however, because the advances aren't confined to the United States. Countries such as Germany, China, and Japan are leading the charge in the adoption of clean energies. Solar installations still depend on other power sources to supply energy when the sun isn't shining, but battery-storage technologies will improve so much over the next two decades that homes won't be dependent on the utility companies. We will go from debating incentives for installing clean energies to debating subsidies for utility companies to keep their operations going.
The environment will surely benefit from the elimination of fossil fuels, which will also boost most sectors of the economy. Electric cars will become cheaper to operate than fossil-fuel-burning ones, for example. We will be able to create unlimited clean water, by boiling ocean water and condensing it. With inexpensive energy, our farmers can also grow hydroponic fruits and vegetables in vertical farms located near consumers. Imagine skyscrapers located in cities that grow food in glass buildings without the need for pesticides, and that recycle nutrients and materials to ensure there is no ecological impact. We will have the energy needed to 3D-print our everyday goods and to heat our homes.
We are surely heading into the era of abundance that Peter Diamandis has written about: the era when the basic needs of humanity are met through advancing technologies. The challenge for mankind will be to share this abundance, ensuring that these technologies make the world a better place.