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John Farrell's Posts

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Can states keep clean energy jobs at home?

Photo: GreenforallCan a state with a renewable energy mandate require green jobs to stay at home? Litigation has made states into tepid defenders of their job rights, but states have the legal ground to go great lengths to keep more of the economic development from their renewable energy industry inside their borders. No renewable energy mandate passed a state legislature without the promise of thousands of new jobs, but many states have shared the recent experience of Massachusetts: the state’s largest solar manufacturing plant announced that it is moving production to China. Evergreen Solar is moving despite the state’s commitment …

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FHA PowerSaver Loans – a PACE Replacement?

Late last year, the Federal Housing Administration announced a new PowerSaver loan program to provide financing for home energy efficiency improvements.  The program comes on the heels of the downfall of residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, which allowed homeowners to pay back energy efficiency improvements via long-term property tax payments, as well as to pass the payments on to the next homeowner.  Can PowerSaver adequately replace PACE? Sadly, no. First, a bit of background on PowerSaver.  The loan program is part of FHA’s Title I Property Improvement Program and the basic principle is that the FHA provides loan …

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Busting 4 myths about solar PV vs. concentrating solar

Although both produce electricity from the sun, there are significant differences between solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar thermal electricity generation. This guide provides answers to the most pressing questions about the two solar technologies. 1. Isn’t concentrating solar power cheaper? No. Five years ago, the two technologies were relatively comparable, but in 2011 there’s no doubt that distributed solar PV is cheaper than concentrating solar power.   A concentrating solar power plant has a capital cost of $5.50 per watt without storage, and $7.75 per watt with six hours of thermal storage. The levelized cost of electricity from a Mohave …

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Distributed renewable generation = big numbers

Distributed renewable energy comes in small bites, but it makes mouthfuls -- gigawatts -- of renewable energy capacity. Americans tend think big, but it is countries that built small that are hitting big renewable energy targets. Take Germany. In 2009, it installed 3,000 megawatts (MW) of solar PV, more than three times all the solar PV installed in the U.S., ever. Over 80 percent was installed on rooftops.Distributed wind power scales, as well. Of Germany's 27,000 megawatts of wind power projects (third most in the world and most per capita), nearly 90 percent are smaller than 20 megawatts, with most …

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Community wind projects still require financing acrobatics

Wind projects shouldn't require financial acrobatics.Photo: Chris GawThis is part of a series on distributed renewable energy posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Community wind projects deliver larger economic returns and encounter less local resistance, but a new report released last week shows that developing community wind still requires a daunting effort. The report, by Lawrence Berkeley Labs wind guru Mark Bolinger, illustrates the new heights of financial acrobatics required to finance community wind projects. The history of community wind was already rich with terms like …

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Los Angeles residential solar PV less costly than any concentrating solar power plant

This is part of a series on distributed renewable energy posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. A residential rooftop solar PV system in Los Angeles, Calif., has a cheaper cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity delivered than the most cost effective, utility-scale concentrating solar power plant. In 2010, a buying group called Open Neighborhoods openly advertised an opportunity to get a residential solar PV system installed for $4.78 per watt (not including any tax credits, rebates, or grants), a system that would produce approximately 1,492 kilowatt-hours (kWh) …

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Federal solar tax credits rule out half of Americans

This is part of a series on distributed renewable energy posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. The difference between clean energy policies with a democratizing influence and the bewildering U.S. system can be illustrated with a close look at the federal investment tax credit for solar power. The investment tax credit returns up to 30 percent of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system value to the developer, and the credit can be carried over for five years (until 2016, when the entire tax credit may expire as …

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American states can learn much from Ontario's 'buy local' clean energy strategy

This is part of a series on distributed renewable energy posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. The Canadian province of Ontario has launched a clean energy strategy to maximize economic development while reducing pollution. "Maximizing Jobs From Clean Energy: Ontario’s ‘Buy Local’ Policy," a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ISLR), details how Ontario’s bold clean energy program -- in just over a year -- has resulted in the promise of 43,000 clean energy jobs and over 15,000 megawatts in applications by clean energy …

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Why don’t larger solar power markets have lower prices?

This is part of a series on distributed renewable energy posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Before the holidays we posted a chart illustrating the average cost of solar by state, highlighting Minnesota’s claim to the most expensive solar PV in the nation. The data came from the brilliant report, "Tracking the Sun III: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the U.S. from 1998-2009" [large PDF].  But are solar costs high in some states simply because the market is small? The answer seems to be no. …

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U.S. military sees great value in distributed renewable energy

This is part of a series on distributed renewable energy posted to Grist. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. There's no better illustration of the value of distributed renewable energy than the U.S. military. In Iraq, the 50,000 U.S. troops (as of August 2010) use 600 million gallons of fuel per year at a cost of dozens of lives of U.S. soldiers who die protecting fuel convoys and the financial cost of nearly $27 billion for fuel and security ($45 per gallon!). New distributed renewable energy systems can help …

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