Solar subsidies evaporating, but big projects still get greenlight

Solar subsidies evaporating, but big projects still get greenlight

Summary: There's an article today on our SmartPlanet sister site that provides a good overview of the current state of rebates and funding programs for solar projects in the United States. The bad news is that the economic climate still is making it tough to get installations off the ground (ditto with wind projects, as I reported yesterday).

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There's an article today on our SmartPlanet sister site that provides a good overview of the current state of rebates and funding programs for solar projects in the United States. The bad news is that the economic climate still is making it tough to get installations off the ground (ditto with wind projects, as I reported yesterday). What's more, many of these programs had a time limit on them, and they will simply go away.

The good news is that projects are still getting the green light. One big example is the big announcement from Southern California Edison that it has awarded 36 new contracts toward assembling a utility scale solar project that spans California.

Together, these and other distributed sites in the utility's service area will produce 500 megawatts of generating capacity on either unused rooftops or in ground-mount sites. (Most of the locations as part of this part of the deal are rooftops: there are 31 total being earmarked for construction, the other five sites are on the ground.)

When it is complete, the distributed renewable generation project will cover 4 square miles of unused warehouse rooftops, according to Southern California Edison. The capacity generated by the solar panels will produce enough electricity to serve 325,000 homes.

Another example of utility-scale solar progress comes from my home state of New Jersey, even though the project is much smaller than the Southern California Edison one. In this case, Atlantic Green Power has won approval to build a 14.4 megawatt solar farm in Upper Pittsgrove, N.J.

When I spoke with executives at Atlantic Green Power about the project, there were two things that stuck out as indicators of the state of solar -- indeed, in renewable energy programs more broadly.

  1. Communities that are targets for the projects need big-time education. And, in some cases, local laws might have to be tweaked to allow for an installation. "Everyone loves the idea of solar, but until you educate them, it's a concern when it's in their backyard," says Atlantic Green Power President and CEO Robert Demos said that in the case of Upper Pittsgrove. Demos says his company agreed to a deed restriction on the property that will protect the land from real estate development. The site is approved for either farming or renewable energy, but Upper Pittsgrove is leery of wind turbines because of the noise and their size, Demos says. As it is, Atlantic Green Power will be planting hundreds of trees to camouflage the solar panels once they are install
  2. You need to proceed with caution. The project that Atlantic Green Power was greenlighted to undertake is confined to the eastern 90 acres of the site. There is a second tract of land that was not approved because the community wants to assess the impact of the first phase. Demos says his company will revisit its proposal for the western site.

Even so, Demos says that the project is three times larger than any other installation that has been received final approval in New Jersey.

If you're considering solar, either residential or commercial, you should probably also revisit my post from last week about funding options: 3 revelations about solar financing.

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  • RE: Solar subsidies evaporating, but big projects still get greenlight

    Such shame to have subsidies drying-up when more development is required to make solar power mainstream. BTW have you seen the see-through solar windows that generate electricity for commercial application? I believe that someone called New Energy Technologies (or some such) have been researching them but I lost the link. Looked promising last time I saw them, could end-up with whole cities generating solar power through the windows.
    Agnostic_OS
  • RE: Solar subsidies evaporating, but big projects still get greenlight

    If people can't afford to buy solar panels for their house, the Government should subsidize those people to switch to 100% renewable energy producers.
    TxM2xTx
  • Well, shazam. What do you know?

    When you can no longer force someone else to pay for your solar projects, you quit buying them. Who would have guessed?
    frgough
  • Sad.

    I am distressed by the attitudes of well-meaning people who look at "Government" as a kindly father figure, ready to dole out cash. Don't you understand that the cash doled out came from someone else's pocket? Who are you to say you have a better use for that money than the earner?

    There is an obvious reason why solar needs subsidies--it's simply not cost-effective when compared to mainstream energy supplies. Maybe one day it will be, but it's not now. Focus on efficiency, and please leave your "green religion" at the door.
    Dorkyman
    • Because, you see, the filthy rich, defined as

      anyone who makes $1 a year more than you, stole that money from you in the first place, so it is only right you use the power of the state to get it back.
      frgough
  • RE: Solar subsidies evaporating, but big projects still get greenlight

    Would oil be as relatively inexpensive as it is if the oil companies lost their subsidies? http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/05/oil_company_subsidies.html
    http://www.grist.org/article/umbra-oil/
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/business/04bptax.html
    ReebaHenri
  • RE: Solar subsidies evaporating, but big projects still get greenlight

    When solar power is economically viable, it will spring up like flies on a manure heap. In the mean time, there are other ways to waste our tax dollars . . . oh, what tax dollars? We are actually borrowing trillions of dollars just to keep the economy alive. Perhaps we should stop frivolous spending which we can't afford.
    jorjitop