Mar 012014
 

By Beth Bond.

Georgia House Bill 874 (HB874) which is intended to clarify a gray area in current Georgia law has had an interesting trip in the halls of the Georgia Legislature this year. The proposed bill has a broad base of support and is entitled the Solar Financial Freedom Act.

The bill has had one expected and one unexpected hearing and looks like it is on the fast track after a slow start. Georgia’s legislative session is a short 40 days and its amazing what gets accomplished in the last 10 days of each session.

The bill enjoys broad support from the Atlanta Tea Party, Georgia Interfaith Power & Light, the Georgia Property Rights Council, the Georgia Republican Assembly, Georgia Association of Realtors and over a dozen other groups including both of the state solar industry groups: Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association and Georgia Solar Energy Association.

James Marlow of Radiance Solar, representing state solar installers, presented in the first committee hearing this legislation was a simple financial bill that did nothing to threaten the Territorial Act. Marlow using the example of how small business finances equipment to make them more competitive said solar should work the same way. “In our office we lease a copier so we didn’t have to buy a big expensive copier and that makes our office more productive, the same thing can happen for solar.” Marlow added passing the bill would create more jobs across Georgia and was good for free-market business.

Alexis Chase, Executive Director of Georgia Interfaith Power & Light, testified that because third-party financing, which is available in 22 other states, was not available to churches in Georgia that churches were being left out of the solar conversation. A small group of churches did try to participate in Georgia Power’s Advanced Solar Initiative and they were left out of the program primarily because of over-subscription to the program. “It (HB874) would help congregations across Georgia install solar because this bill will help finance solar.”

Other proponents included veterans looking to see solar on Georgia military bases, the Georgia Property Rights Coalition and Debbie Dooley, Tea Party leader and one of the founding members of the Green Tea Coalition.

The most surprising testimony was Georgia Power who stated they supported solar and the bill but would like to see language changes and then six days later said it could not support the bill because of the language exceptions they had. It’s a bit of confusing messaging. On the day the bill got tabled for more study they were for the bill but on the day it looked like it would get out of committee they were against it.

Opponents included the usual suspects: the EMCs and MEAGs. The EMCs say they are for renewable energy and point to their meager Green Power program that has not grown since its inception seven years ago. But they made the strongest argument against the bill stating that they felt it was in direct conflict with the Territorial Act and the MEAGs simply agreed with that position. There were no citizen groups who stood up against the bill.

Unfortunately, many citizens across the state don’t realize that Georgia Power is not their energy provider. Georgia Power customers are the most fortunate electric consumers in Georgia because Georgia Power has been forward thinking about renewables. Most EMCs and MEAGs have very limited buy back programs, if any and have fought all solar legislation for the past five years. This leaves half of the state citizens sitting on the sidelines asking repeatedly why they can’t sell solar back to their local EMC and why can’t they finance solar when citizens in 22 other states can?

Even though a vast majority of Georgians support more solar, state legislators have continued to rely on the electric producers to dictate energy policy for the state. With the advent of renewable energy and overwhelming proof that solar in particular does not put upward pressure on rates proven by the utility’s own programs, state legislators have a compelling case to move Georgia’s energy legislation into the 21st century. Georgians will have to wait and see what the results of the legislative session bring.

Beth Bond is a writer on Southeast Green, a sustainable business and environmental policy website.

Jan 312014
 

In India, a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by six companies for the construction of 4,000 MW of solar power plants. This is classified as an Ultra Mega Solar Power Project (UMSPP).

Smog in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. Image obtained with thanks from Tawheed Manzoor on Flickr.

Smog in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
Image obtained with thanks from Tawheed Manzoor on Flickr.

That is enough to power up to 1.3 million homes (assuming that they consume an average of 3 kW). This project will be constructed in Rajasthan, India, starting with a 1 GW phase.

This a big step towards the reduction of smog emissions in India, which, in some cases, is enough to create a thick cloud of smog/smog bank which prevents people from travelling due to a lack of visibility. This smog also causes lung cancer, which costs people their lives, and also a great deal of money.

Apart from that, this solar power project would lessen the likelihood of power shortages (due to fuel shortages) in India as well. The best thing about sunlight is that you don’t have to buy it from anybody.

The presence of more clean energy in the electricity market of India is an environmental incentive for more people to adopt electric vehicles, which can also act as energy storage (due to their large battery banks), facilitating the use of surplus solar energy which otherwise would have gone to waste.

Fortunately, solar power plants automatically load follow (but to a limited extent). They generate the most electricity during the hottest afternoon hours (called peak hours by energy companies), which is when electricity demand is highest, partly due to increased air conditioner power demand.

According to PV-Tech:

‘The agreement was signed with attendance from Shri Praful Patel, Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and the Minister of New and Renewable Energy, Farooq Abdullah.

The consortium of companies will be registered as a public enterprise under Druk Holding Investments (government investment arm of the ministry of finance), with headquarters in Delhi.’

Source: PV-Tech.

Jan 022014
 

People have long stated that cars cannot be solar-powered (with panels solar panels mounted only on the cars). They were proven wrong by some solar-powered prototype cars. However, those cars were very basic, and had very little cabin room (they seated only one person). Ford developed a plug-in hybrid vehicle, which is based on a more traditional hatchback car design called the C-Max Solar Energi Concept. It has room, so you don’t have to squeeze into it as you would a Formula 1 car (unfortunately, the older solar-powered cars were like this).

2013 Ford C-Max (solar model not shown). Image obtained with thanks from mariordo59 on Flickr.

2013 Ford C-Max (solar model not shown).
Image obtained with thanks from mariordo59 on Flickr.

The reason people decried the concept of solar-powered cars is: Solar panels are too large. They usually generate only 100-250 watts (this translates to an efficiency range of 10% to 25%) of power per square metre (this is the efficiency issue people have been debating), therefore, a roof cannot accommodate enough panels to generate a significant amount of electricity. However, it is significant enough to assist the vehicle, provided that the panels are relatively efficient.


Video Credit: Ford via Zachary Shahan‘s Youtube channel.

The development of this vehicle matters, as the solar panels generate a quantity of electricity that is useful to the vehicle. According to Bloomberg, the solar panels can generate 300-350 watts of power.

That is enough electricity to:

  • Extend the C-Max range considerably (by at least 14 miles per day, assuming an average power consumption of 120 Wh/mile, and that there are only 5 hours of sunny weather daily). 14 miles is half the average distance traveled by most people, and it is also 69% of the C-Max Solar Energi electric-mode range, which is 34 km (21 miles) per charge.
  • Fully compensate for the battery’s self discharge, so the vehicle could be left unattended as long as necessary. No one would have to periodically start it or plug it in for you when you’re away, even if you left the headlights on. You won’t have to give anyone your keys!
  • Power the dashboard fan during the day during hot weather. This can ventilate the C-Max Solar Energi concept, so it won’t be as scalding when you first step into it. I haven’t confirmed that the C-Max Solar Energi concept has this feature, but, it is a good idea.

Apart from that, the C-Max Solar Energi Concept can travel 620 miles using gasoline. I should mention that this vehicle utilizes a solar canopy that concentrates sunlight onto its rooftop panels. It generates 300 watts without the canopy.

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Source: Bloomberg.