2011 will bring sunnier outlook for solar technology

2011 will bring sunnier outlook for solar technology

Summary: Right about now, I'm wishing for a sunny spring day in New Jersey, where there are 20 inches of snow between me and my perennial flower beds. So, naturally, I've been thinking a lot of one of the renewable energy technologies that I expect to be covering more closely in 2011, solar.

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TOPICS: Telcos
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Right about now, I'm wishing for a sunny spring day in New Jersey, where there are 20 inches of snow between me and my perennial flower beds. So, naturally, I've been thinking a lot of one of the renewable energy technologies that I expect to be covering more closely in 2011, solar.

I've been stashing information about solar-related market developments that came fast and furious as the year drew to a close. Taken separately, these developments are intriguing. Considered together, they point to the strong probability that 2011 will carry much brighter prospects for progress in solar installations across the United States. Here are three of those leading indicators:

  1. The bipartisan move to extend (for another year) the Department of Treasury Section 1603 program, which provides cash grants for commercial solar installations instead of the 30 percent solar investment tax credit. The extension is seen as much-needed stimulus, since few have been able to take advantage of the credit during the economic downturn.
  2. A move by the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and the Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to pinpoint six "solar energy zones" in six western states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah) that appear to be "suitable for environmentally sound, utility-scale solar energy production." The study, which is called the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, could lead to the development of renewable energy projects on public land. The areas in question are administered by the Bureau of Land Management, and the report figures there are about 22 million acres that are appropriate. The department has already "fast-tracked" eight utility-scale solar projects in the past three months and it has developed a fee schedule for those who wish to "rent" public land for their projects.
  3. 2010 photovoltaic solar installations surpassed those for 2009 ... by the end of the third quarter. So, even the economy wasn't all that supportive, solar projects kept pushing forward. According to the U.S. Solar Market Insight, 3rd Quarter 2010 from the Solar Energy Industries Association, there were 530 megawatts of solar capacity installed in the first three quarters of 2010. That compares with 435 megawatts of capacity for ALL of 2009. Here's the projected total for 2010, according to the report: "Early fourth-quarter data suggests that there will be a late-year surge in installations, resulting in total 2010 demand of 855 megawatts, well above the current pace." The top five markets for solar continue to be Californai, New Jersey, Florida, Arizona and Colorado. Taken together, the association reports that these states account for 74 percent of the nation's solar demand.

There are several other factors that point to solar progress, which have been bubbling up throughout the year. They include:

Of course, solar isn't appropriate everywhere in the United States. But it represents a chance not only to help us continue reducing our dependence on fuels based on old carbon but to help create some new sorts of career opportunities for those whose jobs have permanently evaporated. Put on your sunglasses, because I'm predicting it will be a bright year for solar.

Topic: Telcos

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13 comments
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  • The problem with current solar tech ....

    ... very low return for the investment.

    I want to install solar cells on the roof of my house. But when I sit down to calculate the cost vs benefit, I end up changing my mind. In a nutshell, the cost of electricity would have to double before the current solar tech becomes cost effective.
    wackoae
    • True - For Now

      @wackoae while what you say is true, that will change rapidly. Advancements in solar technology are compared to what happend with personal compters over the last 20 years. Soon it will become more cost effective to install solar panels. When that happens, economies of scale will also kick in, making those installations even cheaper. The future is good for solar technology.
      Stoshie
  • RE: 2011 will bring sunnier outlook for solar technology

    There was talk a while back about a fluid that could be used for solar heating of the home that had the same energy output at natural photosynthesis. I have no idea what happend there. Also, there is research to reduce the toxicity as well as size of photo cells.<br><br>If they can come up with a sub $1000 panel that can effectivly power one large appliance (washer, drier, fridge), as well as send any excess electricity back to the power company, I'm in. Another thing to look out for is wind power. I wouldn't minda home wind turbine, assuming the cost of maintainence for both of these products is low.
    KBot
    • Power from wind turbines? Rethink that.

      In Europe, which relies a bit more on wind power than the U.S., they're having to rethink the wisdom of relying on forces beyond their control, namely the weather, such as the brutal cold spell which has gripped the continent this fall/winter.<br><br>Take a look: <b>'Green' Scotland relying on French nuclear power</b><br><br><a href="http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/news/39Green39-Scotland-relying-on-French.6672024.jp" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/news/39Green39-Scotland-relying-on-French.6672024.jp</a><br><br><b>SCOTLAND'S wind farms are unable to cope with the freezing weather conditions grinding to a halt at a time when electricity demand is at a peak, forcing the country to rely on power generated by French nuclear plants. <br><br>Meteorologists say extremely cold temperatures can occur only when there is little or no wind and icy pockets of air are trapped close to the ground, prompting accusations from anti- wind-farm campaigners that wind power cannot be relied on to meet Scotland's electricity needs in the depths of winter.<br><br><br></b>
      adornoe
      • RE: 2011 will bring sunnier outlook for solar technology

        @adornoe@...
        I apologize. I did not mean rely entirely on wind. I meant using wind as a supplement to other green energy to further reduce our need on fossil fuels. You also have geothermal energy for local energy needs, like homes.
        KBot
  • SOLAR -A BIT LATE WHAT??

    WE KNEW IN THE 1960's THAT THERE WOULD BE AN ENERGY PROBLEM IF WE CONTINUED TO BREED LIKE RATS. DID WE STOP AT THE RATIONAL POPULATION OF 150-160 MILLION? NO= VERY STUPID.. NATURE DEALS WELL WITH THE VERY STUPID -LET IT RUN ITS' COURSE.
    MASS DEATHS WILL RESTORE THE EQILIBRIUM.
    abookcliff9
    • Gee, I hope you're not breeding and adding to the problem

      You must be feeling like a burden to society and to nature. We could do with a lot less people like you, and you'd be helping out the environment and humanity in general. I hope you're not consuming any of those precious minerals and environmentally destructive energy sources. You'd be a hypocrite if you enjoyed your life as the rest of us out here might be doing.
      adornoe
    • RE: 2011 will bring sunnier outlook for solar technology

      @abookcliff@...

      you're ignorant. For that matter, then by improving medicine, we're elongating the lives of people, so we should blame it on the large population of old people. t is obvious that we are procreating a lot, but this argument isn't simply black and white
      KBot
    • Can't Wait, Huh?

      @abookcliff@... I bet you are looking forward to this kind of disaster happening, aren't you? How sad to want bad things to happen to people.
      Stoshie
  • RE: 2011 will bring sunnier outlook for solar technology

    Solar Thermal, hot water and hot air panels are cheaper to install with quicker savings paybacks. I installed 3 hot air panels that replaced over 400 gallons of heating oil every year. Savings over first 3 years have paid for cost. Now free heat...
    brewster_13
    • RE: 2011 will bring sunnier outlook for solar technology

      @brewster_13@... - that works well for areas that aren't cloud-covered for months on-end in the winter - north and western Great Plains etc. ( storms sweep thru followed by clear dry air ) but for points in the Corn Belt / Rust Belt superinsulation ( including windows ) and other co-generation and ground-source heating choices will be necessary -- been working with all the above since the early 1970s and have been often reminded that cold isn't the problem - consistently available sunlight is -- most of the populations in NA and Europe don't live in winter high available light areas ( or have access to sufficient easily/cheaply installable non-shaded areas for collection of sunlight when the angle is really low ) -- Minn. and the Canadian Plains yes, but the Corn & Rust Belts need much more
      IAFarm2
  • RE: 2011 will bring sunnier outlook for solar technology

    I agree with brewster_13. Thermal heating of the home and domestic hot water is where the biggest savings can be achieved. The technologies aren't as 'sexy' as photovoltaics but they work with relatively rapid payback. I have both installed and on this mildly cold -3 celcius Canadian day, I fully expect to come home to a house heated by the sun.
    jdsteele1
  • RE: 2011 will bring sunnier outlook for solar technology

    To get off fossil fuels and quit funding terrorists/criminal regimes we need to go nuclear. Use that created space to develop solar, wind, and other green technologies. All of the green energies that need large government subsidies or tax breaks are just not ready for prime time and not yet practical. We need to eliminate ALL tax breaks.
    James-SantaBarbara