Obama’s Tour of Solyndra Plant Gives Hope

President Obama recently toured solar manufacturer Solyndra’s plant, in an attempt to bring awareness to and promote clean energy. Prompted perhaps by the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama took an extensive tour of Solyndra’s facilities, then addressed a select crowd of 250 people at the Fremont company’s new factory. “The spill in the Gulf, which is just heartbreaking, only underscores the necessity of seeking alternative fuel sources,” he said.

Obama praised the entrepreneurial spirit of California and said the Silicon Valley company was “leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” He stressed the need for renewable energy, giving a nod of appreciation to the Solyndra employees and construction workers for their efforts, saying,  “Every day that you build this expanded facility, as you fill orders for solar panels to ship around the world, you’re demonstrating that the promise of clean energy isn’t just an article of faith — not anymore… It’s happening right now. The future is here.”

Last year, the Department of Energy gave Solyndra a $535 million loan guarantee funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Solyndra was only five years old at the time, and was the first company to receive a loan guarantee.  The company grew rapidly, and quickly turned into the poster child for the success of federal stimulus initiatives.

Solyndra manufactures solar panels that use nonsilicon materials known in the industry as “thin film,”, a technology which has significantly reduced the costs of commercial solar system installations.  Solyndra’s panels are normally used on flat, commercial rooftops and are installed in 200 locations around the world, including New Jersey, where local solar installation company Arosa Solar recently installed a Solyndra system for a major local business

Executives at Solyndra used the visit to impress the need on Obama to spur domestic demand for solar, saying that the federal government could install solar panels on government buildings across the country as a sterling example.

“We drove home the point that solar manufacturing creates jobs along the supply chain,” CEO and director Dr. Gronet said. “His ears perked up when he heard that.”

Solyndra has 1,000 employees and expects to hire an additional 25 employees a month for the remainder of 2010. They are expected to make an IPO very soon.

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New Solar Initiative May Create Jobs

President Barack Obama  announced a new initiative in his weekly radio and online address late in June; according to new directives, the government will be handing out nearly $2 billion for new solar plants.   Two companies, Abengoa Solar (which will build one of the world’s largest solar plants in Arizona, creating 1,600 construction jobs) and Abound Solar Manufacturing, which builds plants in Colorado and Indiana, will be receiving a lions share of the funding.

Obama was quoted as saying the money is part of his plan to bring new industries to the U.S., and that the initiative will create more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs, and increase the use of renewable energy sources.

“We’re going to keep competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America,” Obama said. His announcement  came a day after the Labor Department reported that employers slashed payrolls last month for the first time in six months.

This was driven by the expected loss of 225,000 temporary census jobs. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate dropped to 9.5 percent, and private-sector hiring rose by 83,000 workers. New jobs in the solar energy sector are hoped to bring relief to towns in the Southwest and Midwest, where initiatives to create wind farms are also in progress.

The capacity for generating solar power in the US is as follows:

United States map showing annual average daily solar radiation per  month
Annual average daily solar radiation per month, using a flat-plate collector facing south at a fixed tilt equal to the latitude of the site. Capturing the maximum amount of solar radiation throughout the year can be achieved using a tilt angle approximately equal to the site’s latitude.

The initiative in Arizona should prove extremely efficient not only in bringing jobs to the region, but in productiveness alone.

Elsewhere, solar power use is still on the rise.  New Jersey continues to inch up on California for usage and companies like Arosa Solar are doing everything they can to encourage ordinary home and business owners to branch out into solar generation to save money and even turn a profit once the system has paid for itself. With generous rebates and stimulus packages being offered by state and federal government agencies at regular intervals, the cost of installing a system can often be almost completely recouped.

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New Jersey Solar Installations Still on the Rise – But For How Long?

New Jersey has been forging ahead on the solar scene. The New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program was boosting employment for contractors and sub-contractors in the state, according to recent reports from the NJ Spotlight; however, budget cuts with funds being diverted from the clean energy program to solve other budgetary issues has caused that spike to drop off sharply. A portion of the story, published in March, related:

Ed Hutchinson figures his heating and air conditioning business would be a lot less robust. He might even employ up to 60 fewer people than the 200 now working for Hutchinson Mechanical Services in Cherry Hill. That’s why he and at least a dozen other contractors showed up in Trenton today to protest deep cuts in the program, an initiative that gives rebates and other incentives to homeowners and businesses to dramatically curb how much energy they use. “We should further invest here because we’re putting people to work,” Hutchinson told the Board of Public Utilities commissioners at the state Department of Environmental Protection building.

These comments were made at a hearing concerning the diversion of $158 million in funds from the clean energy program; although the state’s precarious financial position is understood by most, the prevailing majority who spoke up at the meeting  protested the move and said there had to be a better way to balance the state budget. In addition to the confiscation of clean energy funds, $128 million was diverted from the Retail Margin Fund, which was earmarked to build more energy efficient power plants, and another $65 million taken from a fund designed to combat greenhouse gases.

The BPU will rule on whether or not to downsize the state’s energy efficiency program later this year, but in the meantime the latest round of funding for photovoltaic installations was claimed inside of a week. Many local New Jersey players are concerned that the state’s previous commitment to clean energy may be faltering; New Jersey is solidly at #2 among the states in terms of solar installations, and was anticipated to eventually pass California (currently #1). Quotes include a vast array of contractors, clean energy advocates and concerned citizens:

  • Bruce Grossman, program manager for South Jersey Gas: [sic] reducing incentives in the energy efficiency program will have a “chilling effect on economic momentum in the marketplace.”
  • Grace Sica, Sierra Club of New Jersey: “We’re setting New Jersey’s green economy to flounder.”
  • John Conforti, of Air Group in Whippany (HVAC company:  “This program is working excellent.”
  • Sara Bluhm, a vice president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association: [sic] more money needs to be invested in commercial solar installations and industrial projects where an $11 ROI is common compared to only a 4% ROI in residential installations.
  • Matt Elliott, clean energy advocate for Environment New Jersey: “It sends a signal that maybe we are not as serious about clean energy as we say we are.

With utility prices continuing to climb, and rebates and incentives for solar installations still to be found elsewhere, many are still moving towards photovoltaic installation – but cutting funding will cause a slowdown. Arosa Solar in Lakewood New Jersey is already offering a ‘rebate’ to customers who missed the latest funding cycle, to keep customers coming in.

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Solar Stampede in New Jersey

New Jersey’s second phase of the Clean Energy program that offered rebates to those seeking to install photovoltaic panels for energy savings went well – almost too well. The program which opened again May 3, is already closed again – the huge flood of applications that inundated the state program in just one short week exhausted resources.

Fortunately, the program is set up for this possibility, with plans for funding to be done several times this year in expectations that cycles would see this type of response.The Clean Energy Programs’ website now says:

“In just three days, an entire cycle worth of applications were submitted for residential and nonresidential solar projects through the Renewable Energy Incentive Program… The Office of Clean Energy anticipates having a recommendation for consideration of additional funding or potential program changes at the June 7th board meeting… Please check this website on a weekly basis for updates and additional information.”

The new cycle should open September 1, instead of applicants having to wait an entire year. In the meantime, there are still plenty of rebates and incentives available at the state and federal level. These include a federal energy-efficient property tax credit for homeowners of up to 30 percent of the cost of a solar photovoltaic installation, as well as the renewable-energy credit program, which is designed to serve as a long-term inducement for installing solar PV systems.

According to data from the federal Energy Information Administration, New Jersey residents pay nearly 16 cents per kilowatt-hour as of January 2010, one of the higher average residential rates nationally. No wonder hundreds of residents are stampeding to apply for funding, making New Jersey second only to California in solar use; the state has 5,582 solar-electric projects installed as of March 31, totaling a capacity of about 149 megawatts.

While some residents may be waiting for the new cycle of rebates to begin, others are moving ahead with installation plans. Arosa Solar, a PV installation company operating out of Lakewood, New Jersey, anticipates a rise in client requests over the coming year thanks to the support being provided to make the switch to clean energy affordable for the average homeowner.

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New Jersey Renewable Energy Incentive Program Continues

On May 3rd, 2010, New Jersey began once again accepting applications for  its Renewable Energy Incentive Program (REIP).This is welcome news for residents of Lakewood and surrounding areas, as well as for local installer Arosa Solar, a leader in photovoltaic system installs in New Jersey.

The second cycle of the popular state run program offers rebates of USD$1.35/watt residential and USD$0.80/watt commercial rebates for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems up to 10kW and 50kW respectively.This is an incredible benefit for homeowners and business owners alike, especuially when applied in conjunction with various federal programs designed to lower the up-front cost of installing a clean energy system such as PV panels.

New Jersey has rapidly become the second strongest solar market in the United States, with only California boasting more installs. In the previous cycle of the REIP program, over $17 million in rebates was awarded at higher rates.  The REIP program is one of two rebate programs for solar in the state of New Jersey, where $318 million has been awarded and  5,364 projects supported. Overall, 57MW of new PV was installed in New Jersey in 2009, bringing the total amount installed to date up to a staggering 149MW, according to state officials.

The SREC program is also doing well in New Jersey, and solar installations over 50kW may qualify to receive solar renewable energy credits. These can be sold to further offset the cost of new systems, and after the systems are paid off, they continue to bring in income. The SREC program was created through the state’s renewable portfolio standard policy.

Arosa Solar is a premier provider of photovoltaic installations in New Jersey, and can help customers qualify for many of these programs to defray the cost of new systems.

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Need for Photovoltaic Installations can Create Jobs

A new report released late last year indicates climate change as a leading net job creator for the U.S. economy. According to the report, the burgeoning need for renewable energy and energy efficiency is creating a flood of deployment towards the goal of creating up to 4.5 million new U.S. jobs by 2030.

The ultimate aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emission in an amount necessary to actually tackle climate change. Among the six possibilities to work towards this goal are photovoltaic solar installations, which is already a booming market in pales like New Jersey.

The report entitled, Estimating the Jobs Impact of Tackling Climate Change, was released by the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) based in Boulder and Management Information Services, Inc. (MISI) based in Washington, D.C.

According to the report, renewable energy and energy efficiency deployment costs would be offset by savings from lower energy bills. The report states:

Tackling Climate Change initiative differ dramatically among technologies and over time.  For example, in 2020, energy efficiency has net savings of $85 billion, and all of the  renewable energy technologies except for biofuels have net costs. By 2030, energy efficiency’s savings attributable to the initiative have declined to $17 billion, and all of the RE technologies except wind and biofuels have net costs.

In early 2009, we projected this 2007 data to 2030 under three scenarios—
base case, moderate incentives, and an aggressive scenario
involving a national sustained commitment to a green economy. In the
aggressive scenario, we forecast that by 2030, industry sales could
reach $4.3 trillion, and the EE&RE industry could be an economic
driver responsible for nearly 37 million jobs—about 17 percent of the
2030 American workforce.

Brad Collins, ASES’ Executive Director, said “The twin challenges of climate change and economic stagnation can be solved by the same action—broad, aggressive, sustained deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency -the solution for one is the solution for the other.”

The jobs created would not be limited to certain regions or sectors, but would be widely dispersed throughout virtually all industries and occupations in the US, including the professions of electricians, plumbers, carpenters, administrative assistants, machinists, cashiers, management analysts, civil engineers, and sheet metal workers.

The report also claims that 57% of carbon emissions reductions would be from energy efficiency and 43% would be from renewable energy, such as solar PV systems and wind power installations. Specifically, the report reveals that ‘The greatest numbers of renewable energy jobs are generated by solar photovoltaics, biofuels, biomass, and concentrating solar power sectors.’ The report assessed six renewable energy technologies: concentrating solar power, photovoltaics, wind power, biomass, biofuels, and geothermal power.

PV installations are now subsidized by state and federal funding, grants, and rebates to allow nearly anyone to reduce emissions, save on power costs, and contribute to the Climate Change effort.

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So… How can PV / Solar Power Help My Business?

Good question. Let’s have a story, shall we? This actually happened, not too long ago, and describes exactly how a photovoltaic system can bring you cost savings and even turn into a way to bring profits to your business!

The Story of How a Business Stopped Paying for Electricity

…and Started Getting Paid Instead:

Once upon a time, in the city of Lakewood, New Jersey, a business owner was tired of paying stratospheric costs for electricity to light and heat his building. He researched different ways to save on power costs, and finally discovered photovoltaic systems for businesses and decided to give it a try…

The up front cost was a little intimidating at first, but the business owner was delighted to find out that not only would the state of New Jersey support his decision with generous rebates to offset the system price tag, the federal government was willing to help subsidize the cost of installation with grant.

Now the business owner happily watches the electric bill plummet to less than 35% of it’s normal level, while the PV system racks up SRECs – certificates he can sell for over $600 each! The system he installed at his Lakewood business will be completely paid off in four years – but will operate efficiently for twenty or more, and continue earning SRECs each year for a steady revenue stream that more than offsets the company’s remaining electric bill.

This true story was made possible by Arosa Solar, a major installer of photovoltaic systems for businesses and homes in and around new Jersey for years. Shimmy Tessler, the company spokesperson commented:

“Most people have no idea how inexpensive it really is to get a system installed and running. The state of New Jersey, the federal government, they both are serious about helping people get these types of systems in place. In five years, there are going to be hundreds of people looking at their energy costs and comparing themselves to businesses who made the move now, and who are now earning money from power instead of the utility company eating their profits.”

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