June 18, 2012 – Vol.17 No.14
SEVEN DAYS OF SOLAR 6-3-12
Here are two really important solar questions waiting for answers: At what point will solar power be competitive with electricity generated by conventional, fossil-fuel plants? How long will subsidies need to remain in place before the solar industry can stand on its own?
A new working paper “The Prospects for Cost-Competitive Solar PV Power” attempts to answer those questions and others. For example:
Q: What happens if subsidies disappear or are sharply reduced?
A: The current federal tax subsidies come out of the Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and will be in place until 2016 unless Congress changes the rules. The solar panel manufacturing industry has been on a remarkably steady learning curve for several decades now, which has pushed down the systems price of solar panels at a dramatic rate. However, this learning curve seems very much dependent upon production volume. So, if the tax subsidies were to cease, new production volume would probably be lower, and the effect of that would be to slow down the rate of cost improvements.
If the current preferential tax treatment is kept in place for about the next 10 years, and the observed learning curve holds up, we are projecting that, at that point in time, solar-generated electricity would be competitive with that generated from fossil-fuel power plants.
The paper is by Stefan Reichelstein, William R. Timken Professor of Accounting at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Michael Yorston, graduate student in the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University
During the week beginning June 3, 2012, this publication received news announcements regarding 2.85 megawatts of solar projects completed in the United States.
--- MAGE SOLAR has announced that Western Michigan University is utilizing maximum efficiency MAGE SOLAR modules for a 50 kW solar photovoltaic project on its Kalamazoo campus.
216 of MAGE SOLAR’s maximum-efficiency modules are mounted onto 18 individual customized poles in a parking lot across from the university’s James W. Miller Auditorium. Each of the arrays can be adjusted individually within a range from vertical to 80 degrees. Students can therefore test how the tilt of the array impacts energy yield of the modules.
The system was designed, furnished and installed by The Green Panel, Inc., a Michigan based turnkey integrator that provides renewable energy solutions for Fortune 500 companies, universities, and municipalities. The company’s team also customized inverter and charging station monitoring systems that will give real-time access to the system’s performance data.
--- Affordable Solar, PNM and the Albuquerque International Sunport have officially turned on Phase III of a 411 kW solar array mounted on the airport's parking structure. With Phase III completed, Sunport reaches 1 MW in solar power capacity.
Taking advantage of the VALE (voluntary airport low emissions) Federal Aviation Agency grant, Phase III of the project added 1,750 panels to the parking canopies on the top deck of the public parking garage. The additional solar panels will offset approximately $30,000 in annual energy cost savings the Sunport project creates for the City of Albuquerque.
--- Conergy recently completed construction and installation of a fixed tilt ground and roof-mounted 510 kW solar electric installation for Kirschenman Enterprises at their cold storage facility in Bakersfield, California. This project marks a number of “firsts” – for the region, for Kirschenman Enterprises and for Conergy. This is the first solar system installed in the region using the Conergy concept of an “Elevated Agricultural Solar Structure.” The new structure is 20 feet tall on the lowest edge and does not interfere with the loading dock operations beneath it.
Kirschenman Enterprises is a grower, packer and shipper of potatoes, table grapes and watermelon.
--- Sidwell Friends School (SFS) is generating its own electricity from sunlight and reducing its impact on the environment and utility grid thanks to 224 new solar panels. The new 53 kW system is the result of a unique partnership between the school, SolarCity and Common Cents Solar.
SFS worked with Common Cents Solar, a local nonprofit that facilitates solar projects, to launch a program of community-based “solar bonds”. The bonds will be repaid over about ten years after which the SFS community members may donate the system to Sidwell Friends, providing free energy for the remaining life of the system, estimated at 20 years or more. In 2010, the school and CCS installed a 120-panel system on the SFS Lower School gym roof using a similar financing model.
--- Enfinity America Corporation (Enfinity) has announced the completion of a 1.1 MW, fixed-tilt solar array on the rooftop of a Macy's distribution center in Edison (Middlesex County), New Jersey – approximately 20 miles southwest of Newark. The development covers the purchase, construction and interconnection of the solar panels and related components.
Through a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA), Enfinity owns the solar energy plant and will sell the electricity generated to Macy's at a fixed rate. Local utility PSE&G also provided long-term financing for the project through its SREC-based solar loan program. The project was codeveloped by SunConnect.
--- Suniva has announced that its panels are powering Redstone Energy’s photovoltaic (PV) demonstration site near the main gates of the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.
The 137 kW, multipurpose facility, which serves as a demo site and training grounds in addition to an energy production facility, represents a much larger collaborative effort by Redstone Energy and Suniva to provide cost-effective, innovative PV solutions to U.S. military bases with no upfront taxpayer cost. A key aspect of the PV demo site is the power purchase agreement (PPA) mechanism set in place by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
The Redstone PV array, is one of the only PV arrays in Alabama. It offers an unparalleled opportunity for everyday citizens to visit and get an up-close look at how the 137 kW worth of Suniva panels are used in dual access, rooftop and parking lot canopy installations including a proprietary Redstone Energy PV-powered carport complete with PV-powered electric vehicle charging station.
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