A Bright Future? Yes, With These Solar Power Technologies

Solar-panels-in-sun-with-blue-skyOver the past decade, the amount of solar power produced in the United States has grown 139,000 percent. The International Energy Agency projects that solar will be the world’s biggest single source of electricity by 2050. Solar power is currently a fraction of one percent of our total energy production.

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Solar Roadways – the future is here

I’ve written several times about the fascinating invention called Solar Roadways, developed by Scott and Julie Brusaw in 2006.

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Stay safe and be seen with the Solar Bike Light

Solar Bike Light 1

A shared road between drivers and bikers makes taking extra safety precautions a must, especially after sunset. Drivers have a tough time seeing bicycle riders and reflective decals may not be enough.

Solarrific, a manufacturer of solar and dynamo (hand cranking) powered products and innovative devices, has created the Solar Bike Light Kit, an easy-to-use system that may be the ultimate in nighttime safety for bikers.

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With climate change comes … lilypads?

Living Lilypad 2Even conservative estimates suggest that by the year 2100 many low-lying islands and nations around the globe will be under at least a foot of water. With those kind of rising sea levels, where will those displaced folks live?

Belgian architect Vincent Callabaut has come up with an intriguing solution. His amphibious city – aptly named Lilypad – will be a car-free, clean energy paradise that can support 50,000 people with no additional external supplies. Wind and solar power will provide renewable energy, and suspended rooftop gardens will be for food production. This would be the most efficient, advanced, self-contained community ever dreamed of.

Living Lilypad 3Since the lilypad floats, it can be placed in any lake or on any ocean body, towed where needed. Each city will have a lake at its center for fresh water collection and will use solar, wind and wave power for energy generation.

Though Mr Callebaut is still working out the cost of this amazing concept community, one wonders if world leaders will give it credence or scoff it away. Then again, politicians being what they are, seeing the larger picture and taking effective action aren’t usually on their gameboard unless and until disaster is truly imminent.


Shell's solar follow-through not so bright

Solar in Sri LankaThe World Bank and a number of green energy companies have accused Royal Dutch Shell of renegging on honoring warranties for solar power systems in impoverished countries in the developing world.

Although Shell exited the solar business in 2009, critics argue that it has a responsibility to continue with after-sales service and warranty replacements.

The World Bank told The Guardian that about 700 solar systems appear to have failed in Sri Lanka, and that local suppliers were at risk of going out of business. Shell has responded, saying their Shell Solar Sri Lanka business was transferred to Environ Energy, a a third-party purchaser, and that the majority of its solar module manufacturing operation has been transferred to a new owner, Solar World.

Shell Solar.2Environ Energy claims Solar World won’t replace any unless it has the appropriate warranty documents, which Environ claims were destroyed by Shell prior to the transition to Solar World. Shell claims that this was untrue.

And round and round we go, with the consumers and vendors  caught in the middle. Can anyone say “shell game”?

Solar's too complicated and expensive? I think not, Mr. O'Reilly

The following is a guest post by Mr. Tom Rooney of SPG Solar. It’s also a follow-up to a story I did recently on a soon-to-be implemented solar program in Irvine, California.
Last night (Wed.) on the O’Reilly Factor, Bill said solar power was too expensive and too complicated for him.

His unusual comments came just hours after a school district in Orange County voted to build a solar power system at no cost to the district — and which will save the district $17 million over the life of the project.


FarNiente Winery's Floatovoltaics by SPG

FarNiente Winery's "Floatovoltaics" by SPG Solar

My company, SPG Solar, is building that system — and there is nothing complicated or expensive about it.


You want complicated? Go to one of our solar installations in Napa Valley where we built a solar energy array on top of a pond of water — the panels actually float.

You want complicated?  How about building an acre of solar panels in one of the most desolate places on earth: A hotel in the middle of Death Valley.

We did those, and more, including movie theatres, farms, and yes, plain old office buildings.

The owners do not operate these systems any more than they operate their oil or gas or electric heat.

Between the tax credits and rebates, and the cost cutting in the price of installing and buying solar panels, solar energy is a simple decision that thousands of people are making every day.


Guest blogger Tom Rooney

Guest blogger Tom Rooney

Nothing expensive or complicated about it. Just good business (and) sound economics.

—-  Tom Rooney
          President and CEO
          SPG Solar
         Novato, California
         415 883-7657

Solar Panels for Rent

Massachusetts homeowners can now lease solar panels

Massachusetts homeowners can now lease solar panels

Residential solar panels – generally a hefty $25,000 or more to install – can now be leased for a fraction of the cost in Massachusetts.

Sun Run has entered the solar lease business in the Bay state, the first company to do so. Now homeowners can pay an up-front fee of $1,000, sign up for an 18-year long-term lease (similar to signing up for cable TV) and have solar panels installed on their roofs. Homeowners will likely make back their investment within 7 years or less and, by locking in the rate they pay for electricity generated, will save on future bills as well.

SunRun owns the solar panels but partners with local installers like Alteris Renewables and groSolar in Massachusetts. Homeowners who sign up to lease their panels don’t have to worry about upkeep or breakage. If a panel breaks, it’s replaced at no extra charge.  Homeowners also don’t have to worry about details like tying the panels in to the electric grid or applying for the rebates and subsidies as the companies gets the state and federal subsidies (it owns the panels).

But homeowners do have some perks and options. When they move, they can transfer their solar agreement to the new homeowner, buy out the contract, or purchase the panels.

Governor Deval Patrick is hoping “solar as a service” will help Massachussetts reach an ambitious goal of getting 250 megawatts of solar power by 2017.  Currently the state has $68 million available for solar electricity rebates between 2008 and 2011.