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.

New York City's Solar Windfall Illuminates America's Clean Energy Future

This post adapted from Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project. A recently released solar map of New York City found enough room on building rooftops for solar panels to power half the city during hours of peak electricity use. Taking advantage of this solar windfall could allow New Yorkers to save millions on electricity costs and create tens of thousands of jobs. New York City is not alone in its solar power potential. Almost 60 million Americans live in areas where solar prices are competitive with retail electricity costs, but this opportunity …

Why we should democratize the electricity system – part 4

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. Roadblocks to Distributed, Local Renewable Energy Despite technology’s march toward more efficient and distributed energy production, there’s a substantial tension between the decentralized opportunity and the institutional and policy inertia generated from a century dominated by the paradigm of centralized generation. Motivated by the urgency of global climate change, many renewable energy advocates hope to transform the electricity grid by building ever-larger wind farms and solar power projects in remote regions, and sending power across …

Could California Save 30 Percent or More on Solar Power?

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project. The Golden State has covered over 50,000 roofs with solar PV in the past decade, but could it also save 30% or more on its current solar costs?  Renewable energy guru Paul Gipe wrote up a study last month that found that Californians pay much more per kilowatt-hour of solar power than Germans do (accounting for the difference in the solar resource). The following chart outlines the various ways Californians pay for solar, compared to the Germans (averaged over 20 years, …

The Political and Technical Advantages of Distributed Renewable Power

A serialized version of ILSR‘s new report, Democratizing the Electricity System, Part 3 of 5. Click for Part 1 or Part 2. The Political and Technical Advantages of Distributed Generation While technology has helped change the economics of electricity production (in favor of renewables and distributed generation), this new dynamic can as easily be controlled by the incumbent utilities as the old paradigm of centralized fossil fuel power generation. The cornerstone of the distributed generation revolution is its potential democratizing influence on the electric grid, the opportunity unlocked for local ownership and the coincident political support for more renewable energy. …

Energy Policy

Missouri puts payoff of local power in peril

The Missouri legislature's move to jeopardize the state's renewable energy standard misses the huge economic benefits of local clean energy.

The Economics of Distributed Renewable Power

A serialized version of ILSR‘s new report, Democratizing the Electricity System, Part 2 of 5. Click for Part 1. The Economics of Distributed Generation The falling cost of distributed renewable generation has been one of the key drivers of the transformation of the U.S. electric grid. The following chart illustrates the cost of power generation calculated by averaging the total lifetime cost over the total electricity generated (“levelized cost”), as estimated by the investment bank, Lazard.[1]Federal incentives cause a significant reduction in the levelized cost of renewable energy, in the form of upfront tax credits as well as ongoing production-based …

Solar Power

'Solar home rule' could power the D.C. economy

Citizens of Washington, D.C. could generate jobs and keep more electricity dollars at home with rooftop solar power.

Mapping Solar PV CLEAN Contracts in the U.S.

The price of solar is dropping fast, opening new opportunities for community-scale renewable energy across the country.  But despite the improving economics and tremendously sunnier skies, the United States lags far behind Germany in installing new solar power. The biggest difference is policy. The U.S. has two major federal incentives (a 30% tax credit and accelerated depreciation) for solar power, and a few state programs for solar power. Germany and most other developed countries use a feed-in tariff for renewable energy, a policy responsible for three-quarters of the world’s solar power capacity. What might happen if the U.S. adopted Germany’s …

Why we should democratize the electricity system — part one

A serialized version of ILSR‘s new report, “Democratizing the Electricity System,” part one of five. The 20th century of electricity generation was characterized by ever larger and more distant central power plants.  But a 21st century technological dynamic offers the possibility of a dramatically different electricity future: millions of widely dispersed renewable energy plants and storage systems tied into a smart grid.  It’s a more democratic and participatory paradigm, with homes and businesses and communities becoming energy producers as well as consumers actively involved in designing the rules for the new electricity system. Several decades ago, several people – Amory …

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