Tag Archives: solar power

Solar power has been growing for decades. Then coronavirus rocked the market.

As the coronavirus outbreak rages on, renewable energy is taking a hit. Factory shutdowns in China have disrupted global supply chains for wind turbines and solar panels, with consequences for clean energy progress this year around the world.

The spread of COVID-19, now declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, is expected to slow solar energy’s rate of growth for the first time since the 1980s. On Monday, two major solar panel manufacturers that supply the U.S. utility market, JinkoSolar Holding Co. and Canadian Solar Inc., both saw their stock prices fall by double digits. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research firm, previously predicted that global solar energy capacity would grow by 121 to 152 gigawatts this year, but on Friday, the group issued a new report dialing back its prediction to just 108 to 143 Gigawatts.

Solar’s rate of growth has been increasing for decades. Clayton Aldern / Grist

Disruption in supply is only part of the equation. The new report predicts that as policymakers and businesses focus on short-term stimulus packages to help the economy, energy infrastructure investments and planning will temporarily go by the wayside. This has already happened in Germany, where a scheduled government meeting to resolve questions over the future of renewable energy on Thursday was used instead to plan for the coronavirus. According to the Bloomberg analysis, these trends will slow battery demand and result in lower-than-expected returns on investments in wind.

In the U.S., the utility-scale wind and solar markets are dealing with uncertainty in their supply chains. Utility-scale wind developers have received “force majeure” notices from wind turbine suppliers in Asia who cannot fulfill their contract obligations in time. The term refers to a common clause in contracts that gives companies some leeway in the case of extreme disruptions, like wars, natural disasters, and pandemics. The delay jeopardizes wind projects that were banking on taking advantage of the wind production tax credit, which expires at the end of this year.

Meanwhile, major U.S. solar developers that can’t get their hands on enough panels are issuing their own “force majeure” notices to utilities. Invenergy and NextEra Energy, the developers of the first two utility-scale solar farms in the state of Wisconsin, both cited the clause in late February and warned of delays to the projects. Now NextEra claims its 150 megawatt solar farm is back on track, while Invenergy’s 300 megawatt project is still up in the air.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of force majeure claims under the coronavirus, up and down the supply chain,” Sheldon Kimber, CEO and co-founder of utility-scale clean energy developer Intersect Power, told Greentech Media.

Factories in China are reportedly starting up operations again, but the ripple effects of the short-term disruption strengthen the case for local manufacturing of renewable energy equipment, according to the Bloomberg analysis. If there’s any silver lining in this story, it’s that governments may now have an opportunity to do just that. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, encouraged governments that are planning stimulus packages in the wake of the pandemic to prioritize green investments and capitalize on the downturn in oil prices to phase out fossil fuels.

“We have an important window of opportunity,” Birol told the Guardian. “We should not allow today’s crisis to compromise the clean energy transition.”

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Solar power has been growing for decades. Then coronavirus rocked the market.

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Cosmos: Possible Worlds – Ann Druyan


Cosmos: Possible Worlds

Ann Druyan

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $14.99

Publish Date: February 25, 2020

Publisher: National Geographic Society

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

This sequel to Carl Sagan's blockbuster continues the electrifying journey through space and time, connecting with worlds billions of miles away and envisioning a future of science tempered with wisdom. Based on National Geographic's internationally-renowned television series, this groundbreaking and visually stunning book explores how science and civilization grew up together. From the emergence of life at deep-sea vents to solar-powered starships sailing through the galaxy, from the Big Bang to the intricacies of intelligence in many life forms, acclaimed author Ann Druyan documents where humanity has been and where it is going, using her unique gift of bringing complex scientific concepts to life. With evocative photographs and vivid illustrations, she recounts momentous discoveries, from the Voyager missions in which she and her husband, Carl Sagan, participated to Cassini-Huygens's recent insights into Saturn's moons. This breathtaking sequel to Sagan's masterpiece explains how we humans can glean a new understanding of consciousness here on Earth and out in the cosmos–again reminding us that our planet is a pale blue dot in an immense universe of possibility.

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Cosmos: Possible Worlds – Ann Druyan

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Coal isn’t dying. It moved to Asia.

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Coal isn’t dying. It moved to Asia.

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Can Growth in Sustainable Energy Reduce Natural Resources Overspend?

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Globally, we are consuming resources faster than the Earth can replenish them. If we think of these resources — such as timber, water, and clean air — like an allowance, then we spent our allotment for 2019 on July 29. We are over-fishing, extracting, mining, polluting, depleting, and harvesting resources across the globe.

We reach Earth Overshoot Day, the day when annual consumption exceeds the Earth’s capacity to renew itself, earlier and earlier each year. This means that we are consuming more resources than ever before — and at an increasing rate. For example, Earth Overshoot Day occurred in September in 2000, while in 1980 society overshot in November.

“It’s a pyramid scheme,” said Mathis Wackernagel, CEO and founder of Global Footprint Network. “It depends on using more and more from the future to pay for the present.”

Another daunting thought is that many people throughout the world consume far fewer resources than people in developed countries. Thus, one person in the United States will consume as many resources as 35 people in India. We would need 5 Earths to sustain us if the whole world lived like Americans. For comparison, we would need 3 Earths if we all lived like Germans, or 2.2 Earths if we all lived like Chinese. If the whole world lived like Indians, we would need 0.7 Earths to sustain us — in other words, we wouldn’t consume resources faster than our planet can replenish them.

Per capita carbon emissions in the United States are nearly double that of other wealthy nations, and roughly twice as many Americans are obese as our European counterparts. In other words, Americans could live a very comfortable life but consume far fewer resources.

What can be done to reverse this trend? It will take a political and cultural shift. Thankfully, there are many actions that we can all take to move in the right direction.

Calculate Your Ecological Footprint

A great way to get started is to calculate your personal ecological footprint. This can help pinpoint areas for improvement. Some of the easiest ways to reduce your impact are to use renewable energy, to reduce overall energy consumption, eat fewer animal products, buy less new stuff, live in a smaller home, drive less, and waste less food.

Celebrate Clean Energy Production Gains

Although the concept of Earth Overshoot Day is quite daunting, there is also good news about conserving resources. U.S. power generation from renewables  (that is, biomass, wind, geothermal, solar, and hydropower) surpassed coal in April 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Wind and hydropower comprise the lion’s share of renewable energy production, but solar energy production is increasing. Renewables now comprise 23 percent of U.S. power generation compared to 20 percent from coal. This trend is helpful for reducing carbon emissions and resource consumption.

Power production from coal has decreased from its peak a decade ago, and another 4.1 gigawatts of capacity is expected to be retired this year. Meanwhile, much of the growth in renewable energy is attributed to growth in wind and solar energy capacity. In 2018, 15 gigawatts of capacity came online. To put this big number in context, 1 gigawatt of power is equal to the energy production from 3.125 million photovoltaic (PV) panels or 412 utility-scale wind turbines. It is enough energy to power 110 million LED lights.

This happened for a variety of reasons. The price of renewable energy is decreasing, people and companies have been demanding cleaner power.

Determine Your Electricity Mix

There are many simple items we can do to cut our personal ecological footprints, which can make a big difference collectively.

A great place to start is by examining where your power comes from and finding greener sources of energy. The power mix varies largely by subregions of the country. Some areas use more wind and hydropower, while some areas still use a lot of coal — and this has a big impact on our ecological footprint. The Environmental Protection Agency provides this information by subregions.

If your area uses more fossil fuels for power generation, then you will generate more emissions when consuming electricity. Look into how to offset your dirty-energy emissions.

Switch to Clean Power

Many utility companies offer optional programs to source more renewable energy. This is a great way to support clean energy without installing solar panels. CleanChoice Energy has a website to find out more about programs offered in your area.

Consider Going Solar

Installing solar panels on your roof is a great way to go green. In many states, homeowners can save money by going solar rather than purchasing power from the local utility company. As utility rates increase, going solar becomes more lucrative. Installing a solar system is also a great way to increase your property value.

Visit the EnergySage website for free solar quotes from local solar energy contractors.

Join a Community Solar Project

Unfortunately, many homes aren’t ideal for solar panels. Renters, condo dwellers, low-income households, and people with shaded roofs might not be good candidates for solar. In some cases, community solar farms or solar gardens are a great option.

Solar gardens are solar energy plants that are owned by a community of people or a third party. These projects allow a group of people to use the solar power that is generated nearby without having solar panels on their property. In many cases, the energy from community solar farms costs less than what people otherwise pay the local utility company. It often works like a subscription where you pay more to the solar farm but have a lower electric bill.

The prevalence of community solar farms varies a lot by state because some states have policies that make it difficult to develop such projects.

Launch a Clean Energy Campaign

If your utility company generates a lot of power from fossil fuels, consider launching a campaign to get your utility to use more clean power. Change.org is a great platform to utilize to gain momentum behind this project. You can also urge your state politicians to create stringent renewable portfolio standards. These state-wide regulations vary greatly by state and require utilities to increase their use of renewable power sources. If you live in an area with a weak standard, consider launching a campaign for stronger standards.

When will Earth Overshoot Day occur next year? Ultimately, it depends on our collective actions. Let’s get started to reduce our impact in 2020.

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Can Growth in Sustainable Energy Reduce Natural Resources Overspend?

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Greta Thunberg to Congress: ‘You’re not trying hard enough. Sorry.’

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Greta Thunberg to Congress: ‘You’re not trying hard enough. Sorry.’

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Should I Replace My Roof Before Going Solar?

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If you have decided to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on your roof, it is a good idea to do some advanced planning. Solar panels are designed to last 25 to 30 years. Some roofs only last 20 years or less depending on the climate. If you are going to install a solar system and the roof needs to be replaced soon, it is best to do this first.

Removing the solar panels to do roof work is a labor-intensive project in itself. A simple way to avoid this additional expense is by replacing an old roof before going solar.

Asphalt Shingle or Composite Roofs

Asphalt is the most common roofing material in the United States. These roofs are typically less durable than the solar panels and are designed to last 20 years. In fact, it is relatively common for solar panels to protect asphalt shingle roofs from hail damage. Attaching solar panels merely involves drilling into the roof and attaching the mounting hardware to roof studs. The roof penetrations are then sealed off to prevent water infiltration.

Tile or Ceramic Roofs

While it is possible to install solar panels on a ceramic roof, it requires care to avoid damage to the roof. First, the ceramic tiles are removed, then the brackets are installed with flashing to prevent roof leaks. Although there are other approaches, drilling through tiles can result in them breaking.

Standing-Seam Metal Roof

These are the best roofs for solar panels but do come at a higher upfront cost than asphalt shingle roofs.

Metal roofs are designed to last between 40 and 70 years, which is longer than solar panels. Because of their longevity, the roofs are inexpensive to maintain, resulting in long-term cost savings.

The seams in the roof can be used for mounting hardware for the panels, eliminating the need for roof penetrations. Because it is simpler and quicker than installing solar panels on other roof types, you might also have lower installation costs. If you do decide to replace your roof,  make sure the roof is designed for energy efficiency and indoor comfort.

Another advantage of metal roofs is that they are more eco-friendly than asphalt shingles. Metal roofs can also significantly reduce heating and cooling costs when a batten/counter batten system is used. This configuration promotes home efficiency because it helps stop heat from entering the home in the summer and prevents heat from escaping in the winter. Metal roofs last two to three times as long as shingles, thus they require fewer materials over the life of the roof. Another advantage is that they are recyclable at the end of life and commonly contain recycled materials. Metal roofs with gutters are also great for harvesting rainwater.

Like with any other major purchase, it is a good idea to do some advanced planning. Installing a solar energy system can result in significant cost savings, but needing to remove the panels a year or two after the installation to replace the roof would decrease your solar investment return.

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Should I Replace My Roof Before Going Solar?

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New Yorkers might soon have a constitutional right to clean air and water

Lawmakers in Albany saw green on Tuesday as the Dem-controlled New York State Legislature passed a broad package of environmentally friendly bills, including nods to toxic toys, solar power, and even the humble dragonfly. But one of the biggest proposed changes is an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee New Yorkers the right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.

“For far too long, common sense environmental measures that would protect our air, water, and our health had little chance of becoming law in New York,” Peter Iwanowicz, the executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, told the New York Daily News. “Now, in just one afternoon, the Legislature is making up for lost time by passing a suite of bills that will protect New Yorkers’ health and the precious natural resources we all love and enjoy.”

Here’s a roundup of a few of the measures, which will now go to Governor Andrew Cuomo to be signed or vetoed:

Show me the hazards

Bill S.181 requires the Department of Environmental Conservation to publish a list of areas in New York that are most adversely affected by existing environmental hazards. Senator José Serrano, who sponsored the bill, said he hoped the list would call more attention to environmentally overburdened and disadvantaged communities when the state considered future projects.

“As we move toward a greener, cleaner New York, we must make balanced and informed decisions on environmental matters as we protect the health and well-being of all New Yorkers,” he said.

It’ll get safer to chew on toys and jewelry

A handful of state bills took aim at harmful chemicals in toys, agriculture, and jewelry — happy news for crunchy parents and not-so-good news for several New York manufacturers.

Bill S.501B establishes strict regulations on certain chemicals in children’s products. Another bill, S.5343, prohibits the use of the widely used brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos (except, for some reason, on apple tree trunks). Studies have linked prenatal exposure of chlorpyrifos to a variety of developmental issues in children, including lowered IQ.

If you’re a compulsive necklace gnawer, you’ll be happy to know that bill S.4046 requires jewelry containing 40 parts per million of lead to carry a warning to notify parents and consumers about jewelry that “may be harmful if eaten or chewed.”

And a light bit of legislation: Bill S.2139 ensures mercury-added lamps (which include fluorescent lamps, neon signs, and car headlights) sold in the state do not contain excessive levels of mercury.

A neighborly approach to solar power

Bill S.4742A prohibits homeowners’ associations from restricting the installation or use of solar power systems and bill S.752 increases the tax credit provided for solar energy system equipment.

A day for dragonflies

What are you doing on Saturday, June 8? Well if you’re in New York, you could celebrate the state’s new dragonfly day, courtesy of a new proclamation from Governor Andrew Cuomo. Organizers say it’s an opportunity to recognize the environmental value of the state wetlands and learn more about ways to reduce CO2 emissions.

Life, liberty, and clean air and water

That’s not all, folks. Perhaps the biggest piece of legislation is the Green Amendment, a.k.a. bill S.2072. The bill proposes a 15-word amendment to Bill of Rights in the New York State Constitution: “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.”

Proponents say the new wording would allow the justice system to prosecute violations of the amendment, while critics point out that the vague wording could create confusion. “What is clean?” asked Republican Assemblyman Andy Goodell during Tuesday’s floor debate.

If Governor Cuomo signs off on the bill, New York would only become the third state — after Montana and Pennsylvania, which passed similar measures in the 1970s — to recognize environmental rights as on par with other political and civil liberties.

“The Senate Majority is working to protect our environment for future generations even if our federal government continues to counter important efforts to mitigate climate change,” Senator David Carlucci and Green Amendment sponsor said. “This package of bills […] will help ensure New Yorkers have healthier communities, safer drinking water, more sources of clean energy, and less exposure to harmful chemicals.”

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New Yorkers might soon have a constitutional right to clean air and water

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How Can I Finance a Solar Energy System?

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How Can I Finance a Solar Energy System?

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Solar-power benefits aren’t reaching communities of color

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Solar-power benefits aren’t reaching communities of color

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Don’t mean to alarm you, but there’s a big hole in the world’s most important glacier


Don’t mean to alarm you, but there’s a big hole in the world’s most important glacier

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