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U.S. finally catching up to rest of world on solar

In the U.S., solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are, somewhat unexpectedly, suddenly the belle of the renewable energy ball -- and their dance card is wide open. There is now more solar PV capacity planned for the immediate future than any other renewable you can name. Wind, solar thermal, geothermal -- it's like they all showed up at prom in powder-blue tuxes and Trump hair, and now they can't get a date with an investor. More than four gigawatts of solar PV are "in development" as of the end of 2010, which is almost as much as the entire sun-baked country …

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Saudi Arabia scrambling to get off own oil, build 5 gigawatts of solar power by 2020

What do you do when you're basically a giant welfare state whose stability depends on keeping the money tap open, yet your population is set to double and your electricity consumption to triple by 2032? If you're Saudi Arabia, the answer is build renewable energy as fast as you can. The first volley is a goal of 5 gigawatts of solar power by 2020. That's an enormous amount of generating capacity to build in just 9 years -- fully a third of Germany's entire installed base. The idea is that replacing the country's current energy mix with renewables will free …

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Report: Homebuyers willing to pay premium for solar

Okay, I’m a little slow on the uptake on this but I’ve been pursing a recent report from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory on the effect of installing a rooftop solar array on the sale price of homes in California. (It makes for dense reading and unless you’re really into “hedonic pricing models” and “difference-in-difference model,” you might want to stick with the two-page summary.) The upshot: California homes that sport solar panels sell for a $17,000 premium for an average newish 3.1-kilowatt photovoltaic array. “This is a sizable effect,” Ryan Wiser, a staff scientist at the Lab and a coauthor of …

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On Coachella’s solar stage

It was a sunny year at the 2011 Coachella Music Festival, and the stage is set for the town's new concentrating photovoltaic farm.Photo: Paige K. ParsonsAn interesting solar development got buried by Thursday’s big news that French fossil fuel conglomerate Total had agreed to acquire a majority stake in SunPower, the Silicon Valley photovoltaic panel maker and power plant development. That $1.37 billion Total is spending on SunPower naturally overshadowed the Southern California desert community of Coachella’s announcement that it had flipped the switch on a 420-kilowatt concentrating photovoltaic farm at its water reclamation plant. Don’t yawn. Here’s why the …

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Is the future of solar centralized or distributed?

Solar power produces only a tiny fraction of America's energy, but that hasn't stopped greens -- who are always up for expending at least as much energy fighting each other as fighting fossil fuels -- from commencing a debate that we'll probably be having for decades, if not centuries to come: Is it better to build gigantic, centralized solar power plants that function like the fossil fuel-powered plants they're designed to replace, or should we do something more radical and create a distributed power generation system, in which solar photovoltaic panels are sited as close as possible to the users …

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Holy crap: giant oil company buys giant solar company

What's Exxon going to do with this years' record-breaking profits? If you said "buy a 60 percent stake in America's largest solar panel manufacturing company," you have wildly underestimated the degree to which its CEO would find that profoundly emasculating. Cheese-eating surrender-monkeys have no such qualms, however, which is why French oil giant Total just dropped $1.38 billion on SunPower, a "stalwart U.S. solar manufacturer in Silicon Valley." This isn't the first time a foreign company captured a large swath of the assets of a U.S. renewable energy firm. As Todd Woody reports, it happens all the time: European energy …

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Developer to make sprawl slightly less bad by putting solar panels on it

Oh man, one more of these and it's a New York Times trend story: First it was sprawl developers who had to give away cars in order to sell their McMansions in the eighth circle of exurban hell, now it's some developer in Phoenix who wants to attract baby boomers to purchase 11,200 new homes by slapping solar panels on the roof, standard. And where are these homes, in this era of $5 a gallon gas? How about: the middle of nowhere, a full hour and a half outside Phoenix. I guess if you're going to live in a neighborhood with the …

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Bloomberg wants to cover New York City’s landfills with solar panels

New York City's mayor Michael Bloomberg puts birds on things, if by "birds" you mean solar panels and "things" you mean the city’s myriad defunct landfills. The so-called greening of brownfields is a nationwide trend, since landfills and other plots of ruined land close to or even within cities are often not suitable for other applications. You can't build houses on a capped landfill, and short of turning them into parks -- an expensive and, to some people, kinda gross proposition -- they have few applications. Solar panel installations, however, tend to be light-weight and require nothing more than open …

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Distributed solar approaches grid parity

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Grid parity is an approaching target for distributed solar power, and can be helped along with smarter electricity pricing policy. Consider a residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system installed in Los Angeles. A local buying group negotiated a price of $4.78 per watt for the solar modules and installation, a price that averages out to 23.1 cents per kilowatt-hour over the 25 year life of the system. With the federal tax credit, that cost drops to 17.9 cents. Since the average electricity …

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Mosaic sells solar panels to people who don’t even have roofs

How many times has this happened to you: You're sitting in your crappy apartment, watching Colbert on stolen wifi, drinking boxed wine and trying to get high on whatever charred resin is left in your roommate's bowl. All of a sudden you're just, like: "Damn, why is it only homeowners with well-sited, south-facing roofs get to power their domiciles with solar power?!" Wonder no more, my friend: Mosaic Solar is here. Like other community sharing projects -- agriculture, fish, gardens -- Mosaic allows you to own a little piece of a collective, only in this case it's a big solar …