Changing the Solar Picture in Minnesota

Posted on April 21,2015 by ScottG in Minnesota

Less than a month after regulators voted to adopt a new and innovative approach to calculating the value of the electricity produced by owners of residential PV systems, Minnesota’s largest electric utility has formally asked the state's Public Utilities Commission to back up and try again. Under the plan approved on April 1, utilities may elect to reimburse customers for excess electricity they generate in one of two ways: with the net-metering rules already in place, or with a new "value of solar tariff," or VOST.

Solar Panels May Last Longer Than You Think

Posted on April 21,2015 by ScottG in NREL

The rule of thumb on the long-term performance of photovoltaic panels is that output will decline by about 1% each year. After 20 years in service, panels should still be able to produce roughly 80% of their rated capacity. But research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory finds that rate of degradation is probably overstated, according to a post at

Google and SunPower Create a $250 Million Solar Fund

Posted on April 21,2015 by ScottG in Google

Google Inc. and SunPower Corp. are creating a $250 million fund to finance rooftop solar systems that will be leased to homeowners. Google will contribute as much as $100 million and SunPower will chip in as much as $150 million, the companies announced. SolarPower, which already has lease arrangements with about 20,000 homeowners, said the program should be able to finance thousands of new rooftop systems.

Oklahoma Approves Surcharge for Rooftop Solar

Posted on April 21,2015 by ScottG in distributed generation

Oklahoma residents who install small wind turbines or photovoltaic panels will be paying a new surcharge beginning in 2015, thanks to a bill that zipped through the state legislature and was headed to Governor Mary Fallin for a signature. called the measure "the first complete defeat for solar advocates" in their efforts to prevent electric utilities from recouping money they claim they're losing to distributed generation (DG).

How to Detect an Internet Solar Energy Scam

Posted on April 21,2015 by ab3 in photovoltaic

All I was trying to do was find some sports scores on Yahoo the other day when I saw it. I don't go looking for this stuff, and when I do see it, I try to ignore it. But this one clotheslined me with an unfair term. That's the ad in question to the right. Have you seen it? I probably shouldn't tell you the name of the website (, but the kryptonite term that made my fingers go apoplectic was “free energy.” Seeing it capitalized intensified the effect. And the photo! Is that a diseased wireless router robot surrendering its secrets to me?

Deep Energy Retrofits Are Often Misguided

Posted on April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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 April 21,2015 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.

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