By Timothy B. Hurst, redgreenandblue.org
Interior Sec. Salazar and Sen. Reid announce plans to fast-track commercial-scale solar power development on public lands.
In a plan announced on Tuesday, federal agencies will work with western leaders to designate tracts of U.S. public lands in the West as prime zones for utility-scale solar energy development; fund environmental studies; open new solar energy permitting offices, and; speed reviews of industry proposals.
Under the zoning portion of the initiative, 24 tracts of Bureau of Land Management land located in six western states, known as Solar Energy Study Areas, would be evaluated for their environmental and resource suitability for commercial-scale solar energy production. Those areas selected would be available for projects capable of producing 10 or more megawatts of electricity. The Solar Energy Study Areas (maps) located in Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah encompass about 670,000 acres.
Speaking alongside Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Secretary Salazar vowed to have 13 “commercial-scale” solar projects under construction by the end of 2010. He set a goal of producing a total of 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity.
Essentially, the plan would streamline the entire development process; coordinate zoning and environmental studies, and; prioritize the processing of the projects. The new plan will tap resources made available in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law by President Obama.
“This environmentally-sensitive plan will identify appropriate Interior-managed lands that have excellent solar energy potential and limited conflicts with wildlife, other natural resources or land users,” said Secretary Salazar. “The two dozen areas we are evaluating could generate nearly 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity.”
“It’s about time to make the permitting process more efficient and provide greater guidance to solar developers,” Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association trade group, said in a statement.
But the plan will likely face opposition from some environmental groups and political leaders. In particular, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation opposing solar development on BLM land in the Mojave Desert back in March, calling the proposals “unacceptable.”
The federal Bureau of Land Management has received applications for 158 solar projects on 1.8 million acres capable of generating 97,000 megawatts, enough to power an estimated 29 million homes.
Light, flexible solar panels made with nanotechnology will soon bring down the cost of installing household solar energy systems, and new federal and state tax credits are providing additional incentive.
By Ariel Schwartz, CleanTechnica.com
I’ve always wanted a solar water heater in my imaginary house that I own, and now I think I know what brand I want, too. EnerWorks solar water heaters are the first to qualify for the new ENERGY STAR residential water heater program. The heaters were judged based on numerous factors, including solar fraction (portion of hot water delivered by solar energy), solar energy factor (energy delivered by the system divided by electrical or gas energy put into the system), and warranty.
According to ENERGY STAR, solar water heaters can save a typical household $220 each year.
EnerWorks solar water heaters are available in 1, 2, 3, and 4 panel systems, and all models come with a 5 year warranty. In colder climates, a solar water heater can provide up to 50% in energy savings. Warmer climates can yield up to 80%.
So in the long run, investing in a solar water heater might be a wise choice— especially when you consider the 40% to 50% greenhouse gas reduction compared to traditional heaters.
By LESLIE BERKMAN, The Press-Enterprise
Although sunshine is free, a rooftop a solar system can cost $30,000 to $50,000 — enough to discourage even ardent environmentalists when financing is hard to find and households are holding tight to their cash to weather a recession.
But more affordable options are being touted by the solar industry. In recent months new financing programs have been introduced for homeowners who prefer to lease a solar system or to buy the power produced by a solar system on their home that is owned and maintained by someone else.
Mike Corral, 39, said in an effort to hedge against rising electricity rates, he considered buying a solar system for his family’s 4,300-square-foot home in Eastvale. But he said he wanted to avoid the $50,000 cost of such a system, which would cut a chunk out of his family’s rainy day savings and take many years to recoup in lower utility bills.
So late last month, Corral paid nothing to have a 5.6 kilowatt solar system with 28 photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of his two-story house.
The system is owned and maintained by SolarCity, a Foster City firm that began leasing solar systems in April and so far has signed leases to place systems on nearly 1,600 houses in California and Arizona.
“I have been saving money from day one,” said Corral, who on a bright Monday morning was enjoying watching his meter run backward, as it fed power into the utility grid and earned him credits to lower his utility bill.
He also said he liked the worry free aspect of letting SolarCity take responsibility for repairs.
“We knew the biggest barrier to adopting solar power was the upfront costs,” said SolarCity chief executive Lyndon Rive. So Rive said Solar City designed the financing program, then recruited Morgan Stanley to fund it.
Corral pays $151 a month to lease the system on his roof that is designed to meet about 79 percent of his family’s needs, based on their history of electricity consumption.
In the first year of his solar lease, Corral is expected to pocket a monthly average savings of $12, which will grow over time, said SolarCity salesman Mike Schmel. He estimated that over the 15-year term of the lease Coral could save between $11,000 and $14,000.
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By Debra Atlas, Contributing writer, Redding.com
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Do-it-yourselfers can now reduce home water bills while taking advantage of a new solar energy system.
Hot2o is a lightweight, affordable solar DIY solar water heater. Launched in 2007 by Chico-based FAFCO Inc., this system was designed in conjunction with Oregon’s Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Hot2o is a complete solar system in a box. Weighing about 65 pounds (traditional solar panels weigh hundreds), the system can be easily self-installed in less than a day. It is designed to work with existing electric or gas water heaters.
It doesn’t depend on heat, only sunshine, says Doug Kohl, spokesman for FAFCO. Kohl, who lives in the Sierra Nevada and installed his Hot2o system in under eight hours, said “if the panels are seeing sunshine, even if it’s in the 40s, they generate hot water around 104 degrees.”
A switch senses when the roof temperature exceeds the tank temperature, turning the collector on. It channels water through the unglazed panels, absorbing the sun’s heat. Heated water is then transferred to the hot water tank for storage until needed.
When not in use, water in the solar collectors is stored in the drainback tank, preventing the water from freezing.
FAFCO’s solar panels heat water up to 120 degrees. Their low profile makes them almost invisible to passers-by and enables them to withstand severe weather conditions.
FAFCO’s DIY system qualifies for federal tax credits, pricing a basic system to about $2,200. Dealer-installed systems average $5,000. This is significantly less than a standard home solar electric system’s price of up to $50,000.
Homes with gas water heaters require adding an additional storage tank to accommodate this innovative system, to offset the tank’s internal heat exchanger, which normally heats the water.
“The net effect is your gas hot water heater goes to sleep,” saving energy and lowering utility costs, said Freeman Ford, FAFCO’s CEO and co-founder.
Realistically, said Kohl, the return on investment is four to five years on a FAFCO solar heater. Compare that to the normal 20-year ROI for traditional solar heaters.
For eco-minded consumers, there’s an added plus. “When you install one of our systems, you’re parking a car for a year in terms of carbon saving equivalents,” said Ford. “It’s the right thing to do.”
You can find a Hot2o dealer at www.hot2o.com.
Debra Atlas is a freelance environmental writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. View her blog at www.envirothink.wordpress.com.