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John Farrell's Posts

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‘Going Boulder’ means voting for local energy self-reliance

Photo: Zane Selvans This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. By a razor-thin margin, Boulder, Colo., citizens gave the city a victory for energy self-reliance on Tuesday, approving two ballot measures to let the city form a municipal utility. If the city moves ahead, it would capture nearly $100 million currently spent on electricity imports, and instead create up to $350 million in local economic development by dramatically increasing local clean energy production.    The stage was set over several years, as the city’s multiple pleas for more …

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Distributed solar power gets more affordable

Cross-posted from Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Installed costs for solar PV have dropped, and economies of scale improved significantly in 2010, opening the door for much more cost-competitive distributed solar power.  The data comes from the 4th edition of the excellent report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (NBNL), Tracking the Sun [PDF], and shows the installed costs for behind-the-meter solar PV projects in 2010. The following merely copies Figure 11 from that report, showing the average installed cost of "behind-the-meter" solar projects in the U.S. in 2010, by project …

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Why ‘market-based’ is poor criteria for solar policy

The energy market isn't as free as we'd like to believe.Photo: USDAThis post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. When it comes to solar policy in the U.S., there are three flavors: tax or cash incentives, long-term CLEAN Contracts, and solar renewable energy credit markets. Policy makers are often drawn to flavors that taste like markets, but unfortunately "market-based" and "cost-effective" aren't synonyms in solar policy. Furthermore, by virtue of being available almost anywhere, renewable energy presents a unique opportunity to disperse the economic value of generating energy, and …

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Big wind farms cost more than small ones

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. It seems obvious: Every extra turbine in a wind farm comes at a lower incremental cost, making the biggest wind power projects the most cost effective.  If you bet $20 on that proposition, you just lost $20. Instead, data from the U.S. Department of Energy's 2009 Wind Technologies Market Report by Ryan Wiser and Mark Bolinger (a must-read) blows a hole in the conventional wisdom that bigger is better.  The report shows that wind projects between five and 20 megawatts have …

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Solar panels under power lines could be a major electricity source

From this ...Photo: William GibsonThis post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. What if the U.S. could get 20 percent of its power from solar, near transmission lines, and without covering virgin desert? It could. Transmission right-of-way corridors, vast swaths of vegetation-free landscape to protect high-voltage power lines, could provide enough space for over 600,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV). These arrays could provide enough electricity to meet 20 percent of the country's electric needs. (Note: There may not be good interconnection opportunities for solar under these huge towers, …

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New small hydro could add significantly to state renewable power

Over at Climate Progress, Stephen Lacey recently asked why there isn't more development of micro hydro in the U.S., given its potential to provide more than 30,000 low-cost megawatts of power to U.S. states (and bipartisan political support). We can't answer that question any better than Stephen, but we can provide a good illustration of that potential, replicating a map from our 2010 report Energy Self-Reliant States (click here for a larger version): New Micro Hydro Power Potential (Percent of State Electricity Sales)

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Utility fights dirty in city's battle for clean local energy

In just three weeks, citizens of Boulder, Colo., will vote on whether to begin a big, formal process to unplug from Xcel Energy’s system and plug into local energy self-reliance. The vote to form a municipal electric utility could set a precedent for communities across the United States to keep millions of dollars local instead of sending them to remote electric utilities each year.  The vote on ballot measures 2B and 2C is the culmination of a multi-year struggle by the city of Boulder meet the Kyoto greenhouse-gas emission targets by getting less coal power and more renewable energy from …

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SolarShare bonds let citizens make money by financing local solar

You’re an earth-friendly person and want to go solar, but a large tree shades your house; or you’re a renter; or you don’t have $20,000 to drop on a solar power system. Or maybe you just want to get more than 0.5 percent interest on your savings account while getting a piece of the clean energy economy. If you live in the U.S., you’re probably out of options. Not so in Canada. Thanks to innovative energy policy, residents of Ontario can invest in local solar power projects by buying SolarShare bonds. The $1,000 bond provides a 5 percent annual return …

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Local solar could power the Mountain West right now, all of America in 2026

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. The Germans have installed over 10,000 megawatts of solar panels in the past two years, enough to power 2 million American homes (or most of Los Angeles, Calif.). If Americans installed local solar at the same torrid pace, we could already power most of the Mountain West, and could have a 100 percent solar nation by 2026, while enriching thousands of local communities with new development and jobs. The following map shows what could have happened had the U.S. kept pace …