Hot off the presses, a new report released today by SEIA, The Solar Foundation, and Generation 180 shows vast growth in solar on K-12 schools in the United States. Solar capacity on our country’s schools has nearly doubled since the last version of this report in 2014, with 5,489 K-12 schools now powered by solar, totaling nearly 1,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity.
It’s no secret that many American schools are underfunded and classrooms often lack necessary resources for students to learn. Well, with the cost to install solar plummeting, schools are making the switch and seeing their electricity bills shrink, freeing up funds to use to strengthen what schools are here to do, which is teach our nation’s children.
The cost of a solar school installation pops off the page in this report, dropping 67% in the last decade and 19% last year alone. The result is a boom in installations allowing 4 million students in the United States to receive their education in a school powered by solar.
“There’s a reason solar is spreading so quickly across America’s school districts, and it’s pretty simple — when schools go solar, the entire community benefits,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO.
These 5,000+ schools are running with much lower electricity bills, and those savings can go toward higher pay for our nation’s teachers, school supplies, textbooks and other essential resources. An investment in solar on a school is a direct investment in that community. Plus, what could be better than a science and conservation lesson right on the school grounds?
“When schools go solar, the entire community benefits.” – SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper
California schools lead the way in solar adoption with nearly 2,000 schools making the switch. But it’s notable that other states have picked up the pace including New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts, and New York. These states are setting an example and laying the groundwork for other states to follow.
When a school goes solar and cuts their energy costs, that puts investment back into what matters most: the students. Learn more about the report here and see if your community’s school has made the smart choice to invest in their community and go solar.
Utilities that need to build new power generation facilities or replace old ones are going to have a hard time justifying anything but renewable energy in 2017 and beyond. Investment bank Lazard recently released its 11th analysis of the cost of new electricity generation, titled Lazard’s Levelized Cost Of Energy Analysis–Version 11.0, and showed that wind and solar energy are now cheaper than diesel, nuclear, coal, and in most cases natural gas.
Utilities and regulators are going to be hard-pressed to justify anything but renewable energy generation in the future. From Maine to Hawaii, the U.S.’s energy future is renewable.
The table below shows Lazard’s analysis of the cost, on a per kWh basis, to build new power plants with different fuel sources and technologies. You can see that the lowest cost option is wind at 3 cents per kWh, followed by gas combined cycle that’s as cheap as 4.2 cents per kWh, and solar, which costs between 4.3 cents and 5.3 cents per kWh.
|Energy source||Low-End Estimate||High-End Estimate|
|Crystalline Utility-Scale Solar PV||4.6 cents per kWh||5.3 cents per kWh|
|Thin-Film Utility-Scale Solar PV||4.3 cents per kWh||4.8 cents per kWh|
|Wind||3 cents per kWh||6 cents per kWh|
|Coal||6 cents per kWh||14.3 cents per kWh|
|Natural Gas Combined Cycle||4.2 cents per kWh||7.8 cents per kWh|
|Nuclear||12.2 cents per kWh||18.3 cents per kWh|
|Diesel||19.7 cents per kWh||28.1 cents per kWh|
What you’ll also notice is that the range of costs is much wider for fossil fuels like natural gas. That’s because construction costs can be different depending on the state, fuel prices, and how often the plant is being used. Renewable energy, on the other hand, gets to cut to the front of the line on the grid, meaning nearly 100% of its electricity production is used, allowing for predictable electricity pricing.
What’s clear is that diesel, nuclear, and coal are all higher cost than both wind and solar energy on a per kWh basis. No matter how you slice it, renewable energy is winning versus fossil fuels on economics.
I’ll also point out that there’s no fuel cost risk for renewable energy. The wind and sun are zero-cost fuel sources, unlike extracted fuels, which could conceivably spike from current levels.
It wasn’t long ago that Lazard’s analysis wasn’t so favorable to renewable energy. In 2010, version 4.0 of Lazard’s levelized cost of energy study had wind costs at 6.5-11.0 cents per kWh and solar at 13.4-19.4 cents per kWh. Natural gas, coal, and nuclear all beat solar on a cost basis, and in some cases beat wind.
|Energy source||Low-End Estimate||High-End Estimate|
|Crystalline Utility-Scale Solar PV||13.4 cents per kWh||15.4 cents per kWh|
|Thin-Film Utility-Scale Solar PV||13.4 cents per kWh||18.8 cents per kWh|
|Wind||6.5 cents per kWh||11.0 cents per kWh|
|Coal||6.9 cents per kWh||15.2 cents per kWh|
|Natural Gas Combined Cycle||6.7 cents per kWh||9.6 cents per kWh|
|Nuclear||7.7 cents per kWh||11.4 cents per kWh|
Clearly, the tides have shifted in the energy industry. Fossil fuels is at best flat and in some cases getting more expensive, while renewable energy costs are coming down every year. There’s no indication these trends will reverse course, and investors need to consider whether they’re using renewable energy’s growth as a tailwind for their portfolio or fighting the clear trends in energy. If these charts are any indication, fossil fuels’ days may be numbered.
President of the Jamaica Public Service Company, JPS, Kelly Tomblin, is rejecting claims that she’s using scare tactics to keep businesses from turning to renewable sources of energy.
In an interview yesterday on Nationwide This Morning, Chief Executive Officer of Solar Buzz Jamaica, Jason Robinson, accused JPS of using ‘scare tactics’.
This was in response to comments attributed to Ms. Tomblin in a recent Gleaner report that the company could be forced to raise electricity rates if its top customers leave the grid.
But speaking with Nationwide News yesterday, Ms. Tomblin sought to clarify the comments she made to the Gleaner newspaper.
She’s insisting she’s not using a scare tactics.
Ms. Tomblin says she would prefer companies stay on the power grid.
This, as the intermittent use of the grid is more of a burden on JPS than if a company were to be removed completely.
And, Ms. Tomblin says the JPS doesn’t build LNG plants contrary to Mr Robinson’s claim.
He’d said the light and power company has been offering to set up small LNG plants for large companies, which would also take them off the grid.
She’s also refuting his claim that JPS’s rates are going up.
Electric avenues that can transmit the sun’s energy onto power grids may be coming to a city near you.
A subsidiary of Bouygues SA has designed rugged solar panels, capable of withstand the weight of an 18-wheeler truck, that they’re now building into road surfaces. After nearly five years of research and laboratory tests, they’re constructing 100 outdoor test sites and plan to commercialize the technology in early 2018.
The electricity generated by this stretch of solar road will feed directly into the grid. Another test site is being used to charge electric vehicles. A third will power a small hydrogen production plant. Wattway has also installed its panels to light electronic billboards and is working on links to street lights.
The next two sites will be in Calgary in Canada and in the U.S. state of Georgia. Wattway also plans to build them in Africa, Japan and throughout the European Union.
“We need to test for all kinds of different traffic and climate conditions,” Harelle said. “I want to find the limits of it. We think that maybe it will not be able to withstand a snow plow.”
The potential fragility joins cost as a potential hurdle.
“We’re seeing solar get integrated in a number of things, from windows in buildings to rooftops of cars, made possible by the falling cost of panels,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Pietro Radoia said. “On roads, I don’t think that it will really take off unless there’s a shortage of land sometime in the future.”’
What will Donald Trump actually do?
It’s a question many Americans are asking themselves now that the U.S. has wrapped up one of its least policy-specific elections ever. The president-elect has offered only the loosest of legislative prescriptions, including whatever plans he may have for the energy industry.
The mystery hangs over turbine manufacturers like Vestas Wind Systems, which fell 12 percent since the election, and coal companies such as Peabody Energy Corp., which soared 73 percent. In his only major energy speech, Trump, 70, said he would rescind “job-destroying” environmental regulations within 100 days of taking office and revive U.S. coal. It’s terrible news for efforts to slow the pace of climate change, but the impact on the renewable energy revolution may be limited. Here’s what it could mean for America’s clean-energy darling, Tesla Motors Inc.:
Tesla is, first and foremost, an electric car company. But on Nov. 17 shareholders will vote on final approval of CEO Elon Musk’s $2.2 billion deal to buy SolarCity Corp. The acquisition would make Tesla the biggest U.S. rooftop solar installer and the first major manufacturer to integrate solar panels with battery backup to extend power into the night.
The swift spread of rooftop solar in the U.S. has been made possible by two government policies. First, most utilities are required to credit homeowners for the excess power they send back to the grid. Those requirements are state-level and shouldn’t be affected by Trump. Second is the 30 percent federal tax credit to offset the cost of installations. The credits were first signed into law under Republican President George W. Bush in 2005 and extended by a Republican Congress late last year. Given their broad support, the subsidies are unlikely to be repealed.
Solar panel prices have dropped, on average, more than 15 percent a year since 2013. On a utility scale, solar power is already cheaper than coal-fired grid electricity across most of the U.S., after subsidies. Even if the incentives were suddenly removed next year—an improbable and economically destructive scenario—the industry would eventually recover as prices continue to fall.
Incentives are designed to make superior new technologies initially affordable, but once those technologies take off, economies of scale take over.
A loss of the federal tax credit could slow the rollout of Tesla’s unusual new rooftop solar shingles. Traditional rooftop panels, however, are almost ready to stand on their own. The payback period currently ranges from about 5 to 10 years, after subsidies and state rebates. If Tesla can achieve the cost savings it hopes for with the merger, it won’t be long before that’s the payback timeline without subsidies.
One of President Barack Obama’s most significant climate achievements was to push through ambitious fuel-economy regulations for U.S. vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled next year to re-asses rules intended to double the average efficiency of cars and trucks to almost 55 miles per gallon by 2025. Those goals could be delayed or dismantled under Trump, accelerating America’s shift to trucks and SUVs. Stocks of Detroit carmakers have predictably surged, while Tesla shares fell 4.9 percent in the two days after the election.
This is obviously bad news for human health and the environment, but it’s impact on Tesla won’t be catastrophic. The price of batteries is dropping rapidly, and by the early 2020s electric cars should be cheaper and better performing than their gasoline-powered equivalents across the board. Lowering efficiency standards will make gasoline cars a bit cheaper to manufacture, but it will also make them more costly to drive over the life of the vehicle.
The U.S. push for electric cars was set in motion by a $7,500 federal tax break. The Trump administration could eliminate the subsidy, but the impact would be short-lived for electric pioneers including Nissan Motor Co., General Motors Co., and Tesla. That’s because the electric-vehicle subsidies were already designed to phase out after each automaker reaches its 200,000th domestic EV sale. Tesla may be first to cross that finish line, probably in the first half of 2018.
The incentives were intended to overcome steep startup costs and slow initial demand for new electric vehicles. Removing the tax break now would effectively pull the ladder up behind Tesla and make it more expensive for other automakers to transition to battery power, a result that wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest.
Some of the biggest incentives in renewable energy are offered by states, not the federal government. Each state has authority over its own solar and wind rebates, credits for power sold back to the grid, renewable-mix requirements for utilities, and electric-car subsidies. These policies cross ideological borders into deeply Republican states. For example, Louisiana residents can get an additional tax credit of almost $10,000 for buying a long-range electric car. In Colorado, it’s an extra $5,000.
The more efficient the solar panel, the less space used.
Solar giant SunPower announced on Monday that it can now make a solar panel that can convert 22.8% of the sunlight that hits it into electricity. According to SunPower, that’s a new world record.
The efficiency of solar panels is an important metric to both solar companies and to its customers. When panels are more efficient it mean that rooftops can be covered in fewer efficient panels, which use less materials, but that can generate the same amount of energy as more less-efficient panels.
SunPower says its highly efficient panels can generate 70% more energy in the same space over the first 25 years, compared to less efficient panels. Many solar panels are somewhere between 15% and 18% efficient. SunPower and others have been working to boost the efficiency of panels using material science and optics tech innovations.
Solar companies are in a battle to boost the efficiency of their panels and tout new records. SunPower SPWR -5.85% says its 22.8% solar panel was verified by the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Last year, SolarCity claimed that it had started making its own highly efficient panels, with an efficiency that “exceeded 22%,” verified by the Renewable Energy Test Center (which isn’t one of the more commonly used verification labs). But SolarCity’s SCTY -5.92% solar panels were also planned to be made in small volumes on a pilot solar panel manufacturing line in Fremont, Calif.
Creating solar panel efficiency breakthroughs in the lab or on a small scale, is far easier than making those efficient panels in very large volumes. But SunPower says the average efficiency of its solar cells (which make up panels) at the end of last year was close to 23%.
SunPower’s stock was up over 3% in morning trading to $21.84. Oil giant Total owns 66% of the Richmond, Calif.-based SunPower.
Last week SunPower announced fourth quarter and year 2015 earnings. SunPower says it generated $1.58 billion in revenue in 2015, with an annual loss of $299.44 million. The company was profitable on an annual basis in 2014 and 2013.
Check out Fortune’s recent interview with SunPower CEO Tom Werner.
PARIS, France (UNFCCC) – Sixteen game-changing initiatives from around the world were honoured as winners of a prestigious United Nations climate change award at a special ceremony at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, on yesterday evening.
“These ‘Lighthouse Activities’ shine a light on the groundswell of climate action around the world,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a keynote address. “As the world moves toward a future built on low-emissions sustainable development, these bold ideas can inspire leaders to be more ambitious in their own policies and actions.”
The Momentum for Change initiative is spearheaded by the UN Climate Change Secretariat to shine a light on some of the most innovative, scalable and replicable examples of what people are doing to address climate change. This year’s winning activities range from a seriously cool smartphone that puts social values first, to an initiative that is enabling 40 Latin American cities to take concrete climate action.
“I am honoured to celebrate the leadership shown by the people, organisations, companies, and governments recognised as winners of the 2015 Momentum for Change Awards tonight,” UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said.
“By showcasing these remarkable solutions and the people behind them we can strengthen efforts that must not only start with an agreement here in Paris, but must continue to build, as we accelerate the global transition to a low-carbon, highly resilient development path,” she said.
To help celebrate and recognise the achievements of the 2015 Lighthouse Activities, attendees at the gala event were treated to powerful photos, inspirational videos and a lively musical performance by Sean Paul.
M Sanjayan, a conservation scientist, writer and Emmy-nominated television news contributor, introduced Conservation International’s newest video in its critically acclaimed Nature for Speaking series, titled Home. Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse CEO and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, served as the evening’s master of ceremonies.
“Modern clean technologies have transformed the expensive problem of climate change into a profitable opportunity,” said Dr Piccard. “A global economy that is powered by renewable energy, implements energy efficient and minimises waste will not only tackle climate change, but will also generate health, job creation and profit in the communities where they take place.”
Each of the 16 winning activities touches on one of Momentum for Change’s four focus areas: Urban Poor, Women for Results, Financing for Climate Friendly Investment, and ICT Solutions. All 16 were showcased at a series of special events during the UN Climate Change Conference.
•E-waste: From Toxic to Green, India: Creating jobs to keep e-waste out of landfills
•Solvatten Solar Safe Water Heater — Kenya: Reducing emissions while securing access to safe drinking water
•Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative | Latin America & the Caribbean: Supporting sustainable growth in emerging cities
Women for Results
•Fostering Cleaner Production — Colombia: Reducing emissions in manufacturing
•Harvesting Geothermal Energy — El Salvador: Generating income with geothermal waste-heat
•Planting Trees to Save the Mangrove — Guinea: Establishing women-led groups that protect forests and generate income
•SELF’s Solar Market Gardens — Benin: Empowering women farmers through solar drip irrigation
Financing for Climate Friendly Investment
•Azuri PayGo Energy — Africa: Innovating pay-as-you-go energy systems for rural homes
•Deforestation-free Cocoa — Peru: Using a carbon-asset-backed loan to protect forests and produce cocoa
•Microsoft Global Carbon Fee — Global: Transforming corporate culture by putting a price on carbon
•ChargePoint Electric Vehicle Charging Corridors — United States of America: Building a network of electric vehicle express charging stations
•Enabling Farmers to Adapt to Climate Change — Uganda: Using ICT solutions to build resilience
•Fairphone — The Netherlands: Producing a phone that improves lives and the environment
•Lifelink Water Solutions — Kenya and Uganda: Using ICT tools to provide safe, sustainable and affordable water
•Mapping Exposure to Sea Level Rise — Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea: Preparing for risk with online spatial tools
•Mobisol Smart Solar Homes — Rwanda and Tanzania: Powering homes with solar energy
The 2015 Lighthouse Activities were selected by an international advisory panel as part of the secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative, which is implemented with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, and operates in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative.