Middle-Class Families Are Set To Receive Solar Panels With No Upfront Costs In The U.S.


The US is the best country in the world if you want to go solar – but only if you’re rich enough. Due to the steep upfront costs of around $32,000 in cash, only those upper-income families can afford to install solar arrays. A novel initiative is, however, looking to change that. This new project hopes to help middle class communities see the sun in a different light.

Using money raised by U.S. government incentives and private investors to help fight global warming, the Alternative Energy Solar Project goal is to get solar panels on the roofs of those who cannot afford them. According to recent news, the plan is to use the rebates set aside for solar and the money raised by companies who want to lower the per ton of carbon dioxide emitted.

The cost for the installation to the families: nothing. The homeowner gets solar panels on their roof and a new reduced electric rate from the power produced by the solar panels. Alternative Energy Solar Project predicts that it could save individual families up to $2,400 a year, which they hope could then be spent on other essential bills.

Alternative Energy Solar Project has been made promotional manager over the Solar Affordable Verified Establishment  (S.A.V.E.) project, one of the country’s first dedicated solar repayment system for middle class families. The goal is to install solar arrays to over 32,000 homes by the end of next year. One of the benefits to this reduced electric rate program is the homeowner isn’t responsible for the installation costs, maintenance costs, or upkeep costs as they are not the owners of the panels. Additionally, if you are interested in owning the panels, there are programs where the homeowner can purchase the panels with no money out of pocket and own them outright.

The United States government has talked about how they can contribute through raising money to be able to provide more rebates. In the attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and move toward installing solar arrays. In total, the solar program has totted up to an impressive movement.

By ploughing at least 30% of the money from government incentives and using private investors to back the solar installation, the project aims to kill two birds with one stone – saving Middle-Class families money, while also making big fossil fuel polluting companies help to cut energy emissions in the country even further.

Anyone who is currently living in a neighborhood in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Utah and is classed as middle-class is qualified to apply to get the arrays installed. More states are being added monthly so apply to see if your state has joined the program. The sun sets on the initiative as the year ends in 2017, so if you’re living in one of these states, you might want to jump on board soon.

Alternative Energy Solar Project invites everyone to find out if they qualify by signing up for a free visit. To increase the ease of finding out if you’re in the middle-class and qualified they specifically created a new website solarvisit.com. They hope that the funding put towards this new site will be well spent, if they can get interested homeowners reaching out to them, they estimate that they’ll be able hit their goal of 320,000 homes by the end of the year 2017.


BT to go big on wind energy with $230 million deal


U.K. telecoms operator BT has announced the signing of a new power agreement with a Scottish wind farm.

The power purchase agreement (PPA) is worth £185 million ($230.79 million) over 15 years and, in a statement earlier this week, BT said that thirteen wind turbines in the north of Scotland were providing the business with 100 gigawatt hours of renewable energy annually.

BT’s general manager of power procurement said that the company had been purchasing 100 percent renewable energy in the U.K. since 2012.

“By 2020 we aim to be purchasing 100 per cent renewable electricity worldwide, so soon all of our power will come from sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat wherever we operate across the globe – where markets allow,” Rob Williams added.

Scottish Renewables’ director of policy welcomed the deal. “The fact that we’re seeing more and more large companies like BT contracting most or all of their power from sources like wind, solar, hydro and biomass shows that renewable energy makes good business sense,” Jenny Hogan said.

“Renewables are already Scotland’s biggest source of power – ahead of nuclear, gas and coal – and have the potential to provide half of all Scotland’s energy – electricity, heat and transport — by 2030.”

Wind power is fast becoming an integral part of Scotland’s energy mix. Scottish wind turbines sent more than 1.2 million megawatt hours of electricity to the National Grid in March, according to recent analysis of data from WeatherEnergy by WWF Scotland.

The environmental group said that turbines produced enough electricity to meet, on average, the electrical needs of 136 percent of Scottish households, equivalent to 3.3 million homes. This represented an increase of 81 percent compared to March 2016.

Wind energy industry surging



The nation’s wind energy industry is surging, adding jobs at nine times the pace of the US economy as a whole. And Xcel Energy remains the top utility producer of that renewable source.

Those were among the trends announced by industry players in a State Capitol press conference that coincided with the release of the American Wind Energy Association annual report.

“We added over 14,000 jobs in one year, over 14,000 jobs hired in the wind industry,” Tom Kiernan, the association’s CEO told reporters. “Now we have over 100,000 men and women working in this industry, and that includes 25,000 in manufacturing.”

President Trump last month signed an executive order loosening restrictions on coal burning power production, but in the Upper Midwest utilities are embracing wind as a lower cost alternative that also happens to be cleaner.

“The fuel of tomorrow is literally on sale today,” Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke remarked, explaining that the technology is becoming more cost effective.

Currently 19 percent of Xcel’s power across its eight-state service territory is derived from wind turbines, and Xcel expects that number to grow to 34 percent by the year 2021. And as wind energy becomes more efficient, it should translate to savings in customers’ electricity bills.

Fowke said investments in transmission capacity has also made it easier to add wind power to the grid and draw on that source when production is peaking. It’s one of the reasons Xcel is moving ahead with more wind farms.

“I look at wind as a fuel, so I might have to have that natural gas plant on the ready. But if I’m not firing up with natural gas, and instead I’m letting wind — which is more economical — do it’s work, then everybody benefits.”

Kiernan conceded the wind generation industry has benefited greatly from federal and state policies and tax incentives intended to offset the high startup costs of wind power. He thanked Minnesota lawmakers who attended the press conference for their support of clean energy, and Congressman Tom Emmer who wasn’t able to make it.

He said the wind industry is generally in agreement with the idea of phasing out those incentives over a five-year period, as long as the rules aren’t changed to the advantage of competing energy sources.

Chris Brown, the president of Vestas Americas, which manufactures turbines and blades, said wind power is in a much stronger position now than it was a decade ago.

“From our perspective wind energy will be here,” Brown told reporters. “We’ll have to compete with solar, we’ll have to compete with natural gas. We say bring it!”

The booming wind sector has also meant more jobs for those who install the wind turbines, and the companies that build the transmission infrastructure.

One of those companies, Minnesota based Blattner Energy, is riding the wind energy wave.

“Wind power’s steady growth and policy stability helps Blattner create thousands of new American construction jobs at our projects throughout the US,” Doug Fredrickson, Blattner’s vice president of operations, said.

India shows the path for cheaper solar energy: World Bank



It is better to move towards solar energy than to continue to build coal plants, World Bank President Jim Young Kim said today, citing India’s massive efforts in solar energy which has made it “cost effective” and “quite competitive”.

“There’s some really good news. We’ve our IFC (International Finance Corporation), our private sector group, has been working in India and as recently as a year and a half, two years ago, the price of solar was still around 10, 11 cents per kilowatt hour.

“And so coal was still much cheaper than solar. But the latest option that we’ve been involved in got that price down to 4.4 cents a kilowatt hour. So now solar is quite competitive with coal,” Kim told reporters.

He said there was need to keep doing that as the options around the world, even in emerging markets, have gone down below three cents a kilowatt hour at which point it “becomes cost effective”.

“The incentives are clear that moving towards solar is better than continuing with the building of coal plants. So we need to find ways of accelerating that process. We hope to come out of these spring meetings with a platform like that in place,” Kim told reporters at the news conference held at the start of the annual Spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

He said climate change issue continued to be a priority for the Bank.

“We are thinking about how we can bring together the private sector, the public sector, philanthropists, environmental organisations, governments, to try to really create momentum around financing for climate change,” he said.

On coal, he identified six countries – China, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam which are putting most of the coal-based carbon in the air.

“So if we can change the incentives, and change the way that financing for energy works in those six countries, we could potentially have a huge impact on how much carbon we put in the air,” Kim said.

“We call this our following the carbon initiative in that we have to make progress in these six countries of moving them much more quickly to renewable source. All right, so now the good news is that renewable source are getting cheaper,” he said referring to the low price of solar.

“I’m told that storage technology is getting better very quickly, and that within a few years, we may have some major transformations in the ability to store energy from intermittent sources. So, with all that happening, we think that a major issue is going to be cost to finance, the cost of capital,” Kim said.

However, he rued that a grant of hundred billion was promised, but is not coming.

“I mean the Green Climate Fund is still right around 7.5 billion after two or three years. The estimation was that there would be many more billions of dollars than that. So we’re using this meeting to bring all of the leaders together to come up with a new plan,” he said.

Kim said the bank was going to put on the table a different kind of platform where all the different groups that are trying to have an impact on climate can work together to put the financing tools together.

“The bottom line is this, that the science of climate change didn’t change with any particular election. And I don’t see that it will,” he asserted.

Jamaica on track for 30% renewable energy by 2030



Jamaica is on course to achieving 30 per cent of its energy consumption from renewables by 2030, according to the country’s Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Dr. Andrew Wheatley.

Speaking at the 2017/18 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday 18 April – Dr. Wheatley said as of last year, 10.5 per cent of net electricity generated was obtained from renewables.

The Minister stated that Jamaica added 80 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity from renewable sources last year.

He said: “Specifically, 24 MW was commissioned in June 2016 with the implementation of Wigton III by Wigton Wind Farm Limited; 36.6 MW [of] wind power was commissioned in August 2016 by Blue Mountain Renewables Limited; and Content Solar completed construction and began supply of 20 MW of electricity to the grid.”

Dr. Wheatley also noted that a licence was awarded to Eight Rivers Energy Company to supply up to 37 MW of electricity from a solar photovoltaic (PV) plant located in Westmoreland.

The total investment for the project stands at approximately US$50 million, he said.

The Minister went on to say: “This is slated to be at a record low wholesale price of US8.54 cents/kilowatt hour to be commissioned in December of 2018.”

In addition, the Government has estimated that more than 50 per cent of Jamaica’s electricity demand – almost 700 MW – will be met by renewables within the next two years.

The news follows the announcement that Jamaica has moved 74 places up on the World Economic Forum’s Global Energy Architecture Performance Index for 2017, from 166 to 92.

The report analyses countries’ transition towards more affordable, secure and sustainable energy systems.

Britain Set to Have Its First Coal-Free Day Since Industrial Revolution



The United Kingdom’s grid operator just announced an incredible prediction—April 21 is probably going to be the country’s first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution.

“Great Britain has never had a continuous 24 hour period without #coal. Today is looking like it could be the first,” according to a tweet from the National Grid’s Electricity National Control Centre.

The National Grid confirmed with the Mirror that Friday is on track to be “the first time the UK has been without electricity from coal since the world’s first centralized coal fired generator opened at Holborn Viaduct in London in 1882.”

“The first day without coal in Britain since the industrial revolution marks a watershed in the energy transition,” Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, told the Guardian. “A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again.”

The UK intends to phase out the polluting fossil fuel, with plans to switch off its last coal power station in 2025 in order to meet climate commitments.

“The direction of travel is that both in the UK and globally we are already moving towards a low carbon economy. It is a clear message to any new government that they should prioritize making the UK a world leader in clean, green, technology,” Martin added. 

Great Britain’s use of renewable energy has vastly expanded in recent years and the country is now a world leader in offshore wind. And last month, the nation’s large expanse of solar fields and rooftop panels reached a milestone when the amount of electricity demanded by homes and businesses was lower in the afternoon than at night.

Solar power turned the country’s grid demand “upside down,” Duncan Burt, National Grid’s head of real time operations, explained in a tweet at that time.

World’s Biggest Oil Exporter Sets Ambitious Renewable Energy Goal



Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude oil exporter, is launching an ambitious renewable energy program to transform its power sector.

The kingdom is pledging between $30-$50 billion to develop 30 solar and wind projects over the next 10 years to boost electricity generation and curb oil consumption.

Saudi Arabia wants 10 percent of its electricity to come from renewables in the next six years, energy minister Khalid Al-Falih said Monday at a conference in Riyadh.

He said that the new projects will help the country reach a goal of about 10 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2023. The plan also includes an unspecified amount of electricity generated from nuclear plants.

Here’s what Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy program entails, according to Bloomberg:

“The country is currently seeking bids to build 700 megawatts of wind and solar power capacity in a first round of tenders. It plans a second tender round for rights to build 400 megawatts more of wind power and an additional 620 megawatts of solar plants, Turki Al Shehri, head of the ministry’s renewable energy project development office, told reporters. Saudi Arabia will tender for the wind project in the fourth quarter at a project planned for the northern area of Domat al-Jandal, Al-Falih said.”

The “Saudi Vision 2030” plan seeks to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil. Renewable energy projects are a major component of this plan. 

Starbucks continues renewable energy push with deals to use wind and solar energy to power stores



About a month from now, a solar plant on a 260-acre site in North Carolina will open, and that will be a big deal for Starbucks.

That’s because the company invested directly in the solar farm, and has been monitoring progress week after week via drone, like eager customers peaking over the counter to check on their morning coffee. When it is operational, the solar farm will deliver the clean energy equivalent to the electricity used to power 600 stores North Carolina, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Starbucks has invested in renewable resources since 2005, and it reached a goal of using 100 percent renewable electricity to power its stores two years ago. Starbucks has traditionally purchased renewable energy. The North Carolina plant is a more direct model.

“The corporate sector is driving the conversation at the moment, which is a very interesting dynamic,” Patrick Leonard, who is in charge of sourcing renewable energy for Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement. “We’re happy to partner with utilities to do this but we now also have options to engage with projects directly. For a company like Starbucks and some of the tech companies that use a lot of energy, to be able to source their needs in a positive way is a win-win.”

Meanwhile, in its home state of Washington, the coffee giant recently got the OK from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for a deal with Puget Sound Energy to expand its use of wind energy to power 116 stores, including its roasting facility in Kent.

The deal is through a subscription-style program called Green Direct that lets users decide exactly what type of renewable energy they want to use, versus the utility making that decision. PSE says the program will eventually produce enough energy to power nearly 30,000 homes. REI and Target among other big companies participating in the program.

Behold the hippest tech on Earth: Blockchain for peer-to-peer solar energy markets



Most of us are aware of the environmental benefits of solar energy over fossil fuels, we’ve heard it numerous time: blah blah, cleaner air, blah blah, sustainability, and so on. You know, less world-endingly in general.

But adopting new energy sources won’t just mean cleaner energy, it can also lead to better utilization of the energy we’re producing. Many companies have been developing ways for solar panel owners to put their access energy out into the grid, but LO3 Energy is taking it a step further.

LO3 Energy launched a peer-to-peer transaction system called Brooklyn Microgrid, which allows users to sell excess energy directly to their neighbors. This creates a peer-to-peer market that allows people to buy locally generated green energy — boy are hipsters going to love that.

To achieve this, LO3 Energy uses blockchain technology, which electronic currencies such as BitCoin are based on. By combining advancements in solar and blockchain technology LO3 Energy has taken a step to decentralize the energy market. The participants of microgrids have become less reliant on central repositories for energy production and transaction ledgers.

LO3 Energy’s founder, Larry Orsini spoke about the project at conference on blockchain, organized by MIT Technology Review. Orsini explained that the new system wasn’t simply about settling energy bills and that’s why blockchain is vital to their system.

Blockchain is a really good communication protocol for what we want to do. […] People can now make choices and decisions about how they want to participate in the energy market: peer-to-peer markets, community markets, and other interesting and new business models.

The microgrid is separate from the general grid, but operates along side it, which means that it can still function if the main one fails during storms or other catastrophes. Participants in the project install smart meters in their homes, outfitted with LO3 Energy’s technology, that measure generated and consumed energy and track automatic “smart contracts” using blockchain.

Brooklyn Microgrid launched over a year ago and has yielded promising results, but it’s still micro. Only 50 physical nodes make up the grid so it’s difficult to say when we’ll see larger scale peer-to-peer energy markets.

However, as we covered earlier, there’ll be similar experiments made in Australia later this year and huge conglomerates have shown interest in LO3 Energy’s work.

N.Y. Food Bank Completes State-Backed Solar Projects



The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York have announced that two newly completed solar installations atop the food bank’s warehouse facilities in Albany and the Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson, in Orange County, will lead to estimated savings of approximately $520,000 over a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) and elimination of approximately 7,600 tons of greenhouse-gas emissions – the equivalent of taking 58 cars off the road during that period. NYSERDA says the installations have also been a catalyst for increasing awareness of opportunities available to the food bank to lower its utility bills through changes to its electricity-use habits.

NY-Sun, a statewide program of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, supported the two solar projects with a $353,000 grant from NYSERDA, offsetting a portion of the nearly $2 million cost.

“Congratulations to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York for becoming another example of the positive benefits that solar energy can reap for businesses under Governor Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative,” says John B. Rhodes, president and CEO of NYSERDA. “These projects will help the state combat greenhouse gases while reducing the food bank’s energy bills, thereby freeing up additional funds for the essential services this organization offers to the public.”

“We are always looking for ways to reduce our operating expenses so we can maximize the impact of our core mission – to alleviate hunger and prevent food waste,” states Mark Quandt, executive director of the food bank. “As we strive to be good stewards of the resources our community so generously provides, switching to clean solar power is closely aligned with our principles.”

According to NYSERDA, the installations at the two Regional Food Bank facilities total 2,673 solar panels and are expected to combine for approximately 973,000 kWh of annual generation, to meet approximately 60% of the facilities’ electricity needs. That amount of solar power would be equal to meeting the electricity requirements of 135 average-sized homes, the agency adds.

A significant portion of the Food Bank’s utility bills stems from the energy-intensive refrigeration that its warehouse facilities rely upon for the large donations of food that it collects for the disadvantaged. The solar installations will lessen those costs in replacing higher-priced electricity from the power grid and are leading to even greater savings by allowing the food bank warehouses to stagger the recharging schedule for their battery-powered forklifts. In the past, the warehouses did all the recharging of this equipment at one time, resulting in higher demand charges on their electric bills.

“The solar projects are providing the Regional Food Bank with more options in its warehouse operations,” says Bill Jordan, CEO of Jordan Energy & Food Enterprises, a Troy, N.Y., energy consulting and development company that worked closely with the food bank in identifying financing and construction partners while customizing analytical software for the warehouses’ harnessing of on-site solar power. “We’ve worked with the food bank for over six years to install solar at the right time, and the launch of the NY-Sun program led us to insist this was the right time.”

Dynamic Energy, a New York solar developer with offices in Saratoga Springs, designed and built the two solar projects, completing them in less than six months. At the end of the 25-year PPA, the ownership of the solar installations will be transferred to the food bank, at which point the electricity from the solar panels will be free, for further cost savings on the food bank’s overall electricity bills.

NYSERDA says New York has greatly advanced its amount of state-supported solar energy under NY-Sun. Since December 2011, state-supported solar growth has increased nearly 800%, with nearly 65,000 projects installed through December 2016. As of the end of the year, the projects amounted to nearly 744 MW of generating capacity. In addition, NYSERDA says New York now has more than 8,000 people engaged in solar jobs in various parts of the state.