John Farrell

John Farrell is the author of Energy Self-Reliant States and a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, where he focuses on renewable energy policy.

Solar Power

Solar panels under power lines could be a major electricity source

Moving toward renewable energy won't require massive solar projects. We could get 20 percent of our power just from solar panels under power lines.

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)

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 …

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 …

Solar Power

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

If the U.S. had kept pace with German solar installation, we'd be on our way to being a 100 percent solar-powered nation.

Can cash payments win over wind farm opponents?

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project. A 50-turbine wind farm in Goodhue County in southeastern Minnesota has met with stiff local resistance, a frequent tale in the wind industry.  Recently, the project developer won a key court case to move forward, after making concessions about the distance (“setback”) between the wind farm and local homes.  However, many residents remained unconvinced that the project was in their best interest. But this summer the project developers offered $10,000 payments (over 20 years) to about 200 local residents to try …

Does energy storage compensate for water-thirsty concentrating solar thermal power?

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project. Concentrating solar thermal power has promised big additions to renewable energy production with the additional benefit of energy storage.  But with significant water consumption in desert locations, is the energy storage benefit of concentrating solar enough to compete with the dramatically falling cost of solar PV? In May, I compared the water consumption of fossil fuel power plants to various solar technologies, noting that wet-cooled concentrating solar thermal power (think big mirrors) uses more water per megawatt-hour (MWh) than any other …

German small solar cheaper than big U.S. solar

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project. The U.S. has a hodge-podge of utility, state, and federal tax-based incentives. The Germans have a comprehensive feed-in tariff, providing CLEAN contracts (in the U.S. parlance) to anyone who wants to go solar (or wind, or biogas, etc). What does that mean for the price of solar? From a study of U.S. solar prices reported in Renewables International: Perhaps most surprisingly, the study found that the planned arrays [in the U.S.] larger than one megawatt have an average installed price of …

Overcoming the roadblocks to democratizing the electricity system – part 5 of 5

A serialized version of ILSR‘s new report, Democratizing the Electricity System, Part 4 of 5. Click for Part 1 or Part 2 or Part 3 or Part 4. Overcoming the Roadblocks to Democratizing the Electricity System The electricity grid system has become host to a distributed generation phenomenon that has developed in a largely hostile environment.  It’s possible that distributed generation has enough inherent economic and political advantage to be sustainable, but new policy could significantly expand distributed generation in the electricity system. The following policies illustrate the many ways that the electricity system can incorporate the benefits of  distributed …

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