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.

Shining a light on solar

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 …

Don't Forget the Small Stuff

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 …

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 …

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) …

Glass half empty

Federal solar tax credits rule out half of Americans

The difference between democratizing clean energy policies and the U.S. system can be illustrated with a look at the federal solar tax credit.

There's no place like home

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

The Canadian province of Ontario has launched a clean energy strategy to maximize economic development while reducing pollution.

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. …

Running Guns on the Sun

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

In Iraq, new distributed renewable energy systems could help the Marines reduce fuel consumption, saving lives and money.

now i'll go renew my gym membership...

California launches compromise small-scale renewable auction

The California Public Utility Commission launched its Renewable Auction Mechanism last week, to spur more development in renewable energy projects.

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