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John Farrell's Posts

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Solar power can fit on existing land use

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. While large-scale solar creates contention between environmental advocates and renewable energy proponents, the truth is that there are thousands of acres in already developed land where solar can easily fit.  This infographic explains a few of the many places solar power can fit, not even counting rooftops.

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Here comes the sun – the chart Paul Krugman left out

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Nobel economist Paul Krugman made waves last month when his column "Here Comes the Sun" noted that the rapidly falling cost of solar electricity – "prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year" – meant that "solar is now cost-effective." It's close. But it depends on what's meant by "cost-effective." The first step is translating solar prices into electricity prices.  Installed costs for solar have dropped dramatically, from $8 to $10 per Watt just a few years ago to …

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Group purchase gets residential solar to grid parity in Los Angeles

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Back for a second round, the Open Neighborhoods organization in Los Angeles has organized another group purchase of residential and commercial solar PV, bringing the lifetime cost of solar well under the cost of grid electricity even for individual homeowners. The savings from the group purchase are enormous. With prices are around $4.40 per Watt installed for solar, Open Neighborhoods gets residential solar for $2 cheaper than the average residential-scale solar prices reported by the Solar Energy Industries Association for the …

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Solar for Schools? Not so easy with tax-based solar incentives

You're a city manager hoping to cut electricity costs at sewage treatment plant, a school administrator looking to power schools with solar, or a state park official needing an off-grid solar array for a remote ranger station. But unlike any private home or business, you can't get 50% off using the federal tax incentives for solar (a 30% tax credit and ~20% from accelerated depreciation).  That's because the federal government's energy policies all use the tax code, and your organization is tax exempt. What about a public-private partnership?  The private entity puts up some money and gets the tax benefits, …

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America and Germany Getting Their Clean Energy Just Desserts

Germany is the unquestioned world leader in renewable energy.  By mid-2011, the European nation generated over 20 percent of its electricity from wind and solar power alone, and had created over 400,000 jobs in the industry. The sweet German success is no accident, however, and the following pie chart illustrates the results of a carefully crafted recipe for renewable energy. As the chart illustrates, more than half of Germany's enormous renewable energy generation is in the hands of "ordinary people," according to the German Renewable Energy Agency.  This outcome is more than golden in color, but has been a gold-clad …

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Feed-in tariffs responsible for most renewable energy

Cross-posted from CleanTechnica. Feed-in tariffs are a comprehensive renewable energy policy responsible for 64 percent of the world's wind power and almost 90 percent of the world's solar power (see charts below). With simplified grid connections, long-term contracts, and attractive prices for development, that's policy that works. Image: David Jacobs Image: David Jacobs The basic premise of the feed-in tariff is that the electric utility must connect any wind turbine or solar panel (or other generator) to the grid and buy all the electricity via a long-term contract with a public price. Its use in Germany and its simplicity have …

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How electric vehicles can give a boost to local clean energy

A plug for plug-ins.This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. The Northwest could get an additional 12 percent of its electricity from local wind power if one in eight of the region's cars used batteries. That's the conclusion of a study [PDF] from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories investigating how electric vehicles can help smooth the introduction of more variable renewable energy into the grid system. The study examines the Northwest Power Pool, an area encompassing roughly seven states in the Northwest. With around 2.1 million electrified vehicles, …

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Wind could provide at least 25 percent of electricity for most states

At least 32 states could get 25 percent or more of their electricity from wind power generated within their own borders. This is an updated version of a map included in the report "Energy Self-Reliant States" from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Click on the map to see a larger version. State wind power potential (percent of electricity sales)

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California pushes back against energy imports

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Western grid operators have been making plans for large-scale renewable energy imports into the California electricity market, prompting the governor's senior advisor for renewable energy facilities to write a "self-reliance" response. Here are a few highlights of his letter [PDF] to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC): California has plenty of in-state development: "The California Independent System Operator [CAISO] indicates that renewable projects totaling 70,000 [megawatts] of installed capacity [nearly enough to meet all of the state's peak summer demand] are …