Deep Energy Retrofits Are Often Misguided

Posted on March 02,2015 by user-756436 in deep energy retrofit

All through the 1980s and 1990s, a small band of North American believers worked to maintain and expand our understanding of residential energy efficiency. These were the pioneers of the home performance field: blower-door experts, weatherization contractors, and “house as a system” trainers. At conferences like Affordable Comfort, they gathered to share their knowledge and lick their wounds. These pioneers understood what was wrong with American houses: They leaked air; they were inadequately insulated; they had bad windows; and their duct systems were a disaster.

How Electric Utilities Can Avoid the ‘Death Spiral’

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in death spiral

Former U.S. energy secretary Steven Chu has some simple advice for electric utilities fighting rooftop solar: Get with the program and start selling the systems yourselves. As the price of photovoltaic systems continues to fall, more homeowners are installing grid-tied systems and buying less power from the local utilities. Utilities, in turn, are turning to regulators for permission to raise rates for customers with PV systems, or to block installations altogether, in order to protect their bottom lines.

Experimental House on Track for Net-Zero Operation

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in net-zero

An experimental four-bedroom house 20 miles north of Washington, D.C., was a net-producer of electricity halfway through its first year of operation, producing a surplus of 328 kilowatt hours of power.

Maine Utility Seeks Surcharge for Renewables

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in Central Maine Power

Maine's largest electric utility is seeking permission from state regulators to impose a new “standby” rate that would add roughly $13 to the monthly bill of a residential customer with a grid-tied renewable energy system. The plan would tack on $24.83 a month to the Central Maine Power power bill for a net-metered residential customer vs. the flat $12 charge for a customer without renewables, CMP said. The proposal is part of a rate case before the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Looking for Common Ground in the Solar Debate

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in electric utilities

Two groups seemingly on opposite sites of the renewable energy divide have called on state utility regulators to adopt rate plans that encourage more renewable energy while protecting the financial interests of the companies that buy and distribute it. In a joint statement, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) said the future of the country's electricity industry would remain promising "as long as regulatory policies are fair and forward looking."

Arizona Solar Installations Slow

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in Arizona solar

The number of new rooftop photovoltaic (PV) installations in the area covered by the Arizona Public Service Company is dropping, and the vice president of a California company that finances solar leases says a new monthly fee for photovoltaic systems is the culprit. According to a report in The Republic, the number of rooftop installations fell from 583 in January of last year to 280 last month.

New Solar Calculator Available

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in energy model

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has updated its PVWatts calculator, an interactive program that helps solar installers and homeowners estimate the performance of hypothetical grid-tied photovoltaic systems. PVWatts creates hour-by-hour simulations and provides estimates for monthly and annual energy production, NREL says. A user can use default values that are built in or plug in values of their own, including the location and size of the PV array, the type of array, the tilt angle and the aximuth angle.

Trade Wars over PV Panels Could Boost Prices

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in anti-dumping

The Commerce Department has started new antidumping investigations into Chinese and Taiwanese photovoltaic modules with the potential of closing a big loophole in existing tariff regulations and driving up prices for U.S. consumers. The Jan. 23 decision is the latest development in a long-simmering dispute over claims that solar modules made in China are sold in the U.S. at prices lower than their fair value, which constitutes dumping. A separate countervailing duty investigation concerns financial assistance from foreign governments that unfairly benefit foreign companies.

Hawaii’s Solar Battle

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in Hawaii

Hawaii is the latest arena where homeowners are going head-to-head with their electric utility over residential solar installations. According to a Reuters' report, homeowners on the island of Oahu must now seek the permission of the Hawaiian Electric Co., and possibly pay for upgrades to nearby electrical circuits, before they can install solar panels on their own roofs.

How Much Are Your Solar Panels Worth?

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in Lawrence Berkeley Lab

Each kilowatt of PV capacity adds nearly $6,000 to the value of a California home, but price premiums fall off quickly as the solar electric systems age, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found. In a summary of their findings, researchers report that price premiums are "strongly correlated" with the size of the system, adding $5,911 per kW. But each year the system ages causes the premium to drop.

Industrial Solar?

Posted on March 02,2015 by AlexWilson in industrial solar

When the economy-of-scale with wind power [no-glossary]led[/no-glossary] to larger and larger wind turbines, opponents of these installations took to referring to them as “industrial wind power.” Whenever I see a letter-to-the-editor or news story that uses this phrase, I can tell that it’s going to have an anti-wind bias.

Don’t Hire a Cleaning Crew to Wash Your Solar Panels

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in photovoltaic

Worried that your rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels are cranking out less power than they should because they're dusty? Don't be. Paying someone to wash them is likely to cost more than what you'd gain in electrical output, engineers at the University of California, San Diego, said.

Are Solar Panels a Hazard to Firefighters?

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in firefighting

The growing number of rooftop solar installations means new potential hazards for firefighters and may prompt changes in how effectively fire departments can battle certain fires, according to a recently revised report from The Fire Protection Research Foundation. "Today's emergency responders face unexpected challenges as new uses of alternative energy

Solar Power Fees Are an Issue in Spain, Too

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in grid fee

U.S. electric utilities aren't the only ones worried about the impact of renewable energy on their long-term ability to pay grid operating costs. A number of utilities here are worried that as more homeowners install photovoltaic systems at home, income will fall. That's not only because solar customers buy less power, but also because utilities have been buying their surplus power at retail rates under net-metering programs.

Solar Panels Are Now a ‘No-Brainer’

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in photovoltaic

Photovolatic (PV) arrays are becoming a standard feature in new houses, just as granite countertops once made the transition from expensive novelty to mainstream amenity, according to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Rooftop Solar Panels Have Utilities Worried

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in net metering

The proliferation of rooftop photovoltaic installations is making some electric utilities nervous, according to a report in The New York Times.

Getting Power From Solar Equipment When the Grid is Down

Posted on March 02,2015 by AlexWilson in inverter

One of the biggest complaints I hear about most solar-electric (photovoltaic or PV) systems is that when the grid goes down you can’t use any of the power that’s produced. Consumers have spent thousands of dollars on a PV system, and during an extended power outage on a bright, sunny day when the PV modules are certainly generating electricity, they are disappointed that none of that electricity can be used.

Residential Photovoltaic Installations on the Rise

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in Chinese solar panels

New photovoltaic installations in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2013 totaled 723 megawatts (MW), an increase of 33% over the same period a year ago, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has reported. The residential market grew by 53% over the first quarter of 2012, and was 11% higher than the last quarter of 2012. Non-residential installations, however, were off by 20%, and total first-quarter installations were actually less than fourth-quarter 2012 installations by 45% (723 MW compared to 1,310 MW), the report noted.

A Net-Zero Energy Apartment Complex Opens in San Diego

Posted on March 02,2015 by ScottG in net zero

Florida has the first net-zero-energy bank in the country. Illinois will apparently get the first net-zero energy drug store later this year. And it looks like California has the first net-zero apartment complex in which residents can control their thermostats with a smart phone app. Solterra EcoLuxury Apartments, a 114-unit project in San Diego, welcomed its first residents in May.

Our Barn Roof Gets an 18-kW Solar Array

Posted on March 02,2015 by AlexWilson in metal roofing

When we started planning the rebuild of our house and the rest of the farm in West Dummerston, Vermont, my wife and I knew that we wanted to produce all of our energy on-site. That meant a solar-electric or photovoltaic (PV) system that would generate as much electricity as the house and barn are consuming — net-zero energy.

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