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Category Archives: ‘Solar’


Your gas appliance is making climate change worse

JUNE 15, 2017 1:00 PM


Special to The Bee

Rachel Golden is senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club in Oakland. She can be contacted at


California leaders have said loud and clear that we won’t back away from our commitment to build clean energy and reduce climate pollution.

But for California to achieve its goals, it must address a source of climate pollution that is largely unchecked and literally hits close to home: the buildings where we live and work.

Gas-powered appliances such as space and water heaters produce massive amounts of climate-damaging pollution. In fact, gas burned for heating is responsible for nearly as much carbon pollution as all of the state’s power plants combined.

A recent investigation by the California Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Commission found that the state’s dirty gas networks leak more methane – 86 times more damaging than carbon – every year than the entire Aliso Canyon gas blowout, which is considered one of the worst man-made environmental disasters ever.

Our buildings are a major source of pollution because there is a lack of public education and funding. Those who want to do something about climate change are missing one of the easiest ways to act – switch from gas appliances to cleaner, electric ones.

Communities are already benefiting from doing so. The state is home to several of the nation’s largest all-electric low-income housing developments. Residents in these homes with on-site solar have utility bills about 90 percent lower than residents with gas appliances and no solar. The $1,000 a year in savings is no small change to families that are struggling to make ends meet.

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Big solar projects potential boon for rural areas

By Ryan Maye Handy, Houston Chronicle Published 10:49 am, Tuesday, June 13, 2017


OCI Solar Power is building the 110-megawatt, Alamo 6 solar farm in Iraan in West Texas to provide renewable power to the city of San Antonio. The project is slated to come online by the end of the year. OCI ... more

Utility-scale solar power is poised to become a boon for Texas' rural economies, particularly those hit by the oil downturn.

In Pecos County in West Texas, just south of Midland, the oil and gas industry accounted for about 90 percent of the county's tax revenues, said Helen Brauner, director of origination strategy for 7x Energy, an Austin-based utility-scale solar company. But that tax revenue plunged during the oil bust, she said, and has yet to recover.

But renewable energy is helping to restore some of Pecos' lost tax base, said Brauner. The county already hosts 400 megawatts of solar power and 700 megawatts of wind power.

"The typical 100 megawatt solar project should give the county about $30 million in property tax revenue per year," Brauner said  Tuesday at a summit on solar power in Austin.

Most of the solar power in Texas comes from utility-scale projects, which are greater than one megawatt, or enough to power 200 homes on a hot Texas day. Texas has lagged behind in the spread of solar energy, in part because the state offers no incentives for solar power. Nonetheless, solar industry analysts and executives expect utility-scale solar to grow in Texas.

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Building the ‘Solar Protection Factor’ Into an Increasingly Green-Powered Grid


A new ScottMadden report describes the challenges of balancing renewables and natural gas with retiring baseload power plants.

by Jeff St. John

June 12, 2017

Utilities need to prepare for the rise of wind and solar power and the retirements of baseload power plants, and that includes building “solar protection factors” into their long-term planning.

That’s one of the recommendations from consultancy ScottMadden in its latest energy industry update. The report, which covers subjects ranging from Trump administration energy policies, to blockchain, to smart cities, also gets into detail on today's key grid paradigm shift -- the increasingly frequent retirements of coal and nuclear power plants and their replacement by natural gas and renewables.

In the past decade, for the first time ever, baseload retirements outpaced baseload additions, with 23 gigawatts of net retirements since 2010, the report found. Of the 84.2 gigawatts of retirements, 61 percent were coal and 29 percent gas steam turbine plants, while the 61.1 gigawatts of additions have been 74 percent combined-cycle natural gas and 24 percent coal steam turbines.

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Today’s Top Solar Developers Have Become Storage Developers Too


Photo Credit: Cypress Creek Renewables

All this talk of solar-plus-storage is converting into action.

by Julian Spector

June 13, 2017

The solar industry is no longer just talking about pairing energy storage with solar generation.

An increasing number of solar-plus-storage projects have been cropping up around the country, as lithium-ion prices drop lower and customers get more comfortable with storage technology. The AES plant in Kauai set a record low price in January, only to be beaten by Tucson Electric Power's sub-4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour PPA announced in May -- proving this technology isn't just for islands and remote microgrids any more.

For the large developers in particular, storage makes the solar product more appealing to a utility by giving the power plant flexibility and mitigating its effects on grid operations. On the islands of Hawaii, storage has already become necessary for adding major solar capacity; on the mainland, its value increases along with renewable penetration.

To get a handle on just how extensive the interest in storage-backed solar is, I got a list of the 10 largest utility-scale solar developers from my colleagues at GTM Research, and tracked down the storage status of each one.

Seven of the top 10 solar developers have incorporated storage into their business strategy, and have either deployed storage alongside PV or are pursuing hybrid installations. The remaining three did not comment on how storage fits into their plans.

"This is well beyond one developer -- this is really a trend we're seeing in the industry," said Colin Smith, a solar markets analyst at GTM Research. "Solar-plus-storage has become a forced differentiator in the industry."

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Google’s New Product Puts Peer Pressure to a Sunny Use

The company’s “Project Sunroof” now shows you which of your friends have already put solar panels on their roof.


Project Sunroof now puts red dots over houses that appear to have solar panels on their roof, such as this neighborhood in Boulder, Colorado.



Updated on June 12 at 11:30 a.m. ET

One of the best predictors of whether people install solar panels on their house isn’t their age, their race, their level of income, or their political affiliation.

It’s whether their neighbors did it first.

This finding has been shown repeatedly across space and time, including in California, Connecticut, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. “It happens at the street level, it happens within zip codes, it happens within states. It seems to be a common feature of human decision-making that crosses many boundaries,” says Kenneth Gillingham, a professor of economics at Yale University whose study helped establish the finding.

On Monday, Google will put the finding into practice with Project Sunroof, its free online tool that aims to make it easier for people to obtain and use home solar panels. Project Sunroof will now not only inform users how much sun hits their roof, or how much solar panels would save them per month, but also which of their neighbors have taken the plunge first.

Project Sunroof was launched in 2015 by Carl Elkin, an engineer at Google who had worked on local solar-installation campaigns in Massachusetts. It now provides data for 60 million homes across the United States that it has already assessed with its algorithms.

For the past two years, Project Sunroof has walked people through all the information-gathering steps of installing solar panels: After you tell it where you live, its algorithms estimate how much solar energy falls on your roof, calculate how much solar panels would reduce your electricity bill, and deliver estimates from local installation firms like Solar City.

It can also walk you through similar steps if you’re interested in leasing or borrowing panels. “It highlights that, for many people, solar is often free. In many cases, including for my house, solar is better than free,” Elkin told me last week.

Now—in a nod to the powerful peer effects of solar power—it will also show you which of your neighbors have already installed panels. In its map view, Project Sunroof will show a red dot over any home or structure that appears to have rooftop solar.

“People want to know: ‘What if there’s some hidden gotcha in the contract?’and usually there isn’t. ‘Does this work for other people like me? Is solar really viable in my neighborhood?’” Elkin says. “You can zoom around through your town and understand how common solar is in your neighborhood. And many people have found: Wow, there is a lot more solar in my neighborhood than I’d realized.”

“We want people to realize solar is absolutely part of the fabric of American life,” Elkin says.

Google created the data for this feature in-house, training a machine-learning algorithm on the common appearance of rooftop solar panels and then letting it loose on the cities and towns that Project Sunroof already covers. Right now, the company has analyzed installations on about 60 million buildings in the United States; it hopes to get to the remaining 40 million buildings in the next few years. The methodology doesn’t seem to be perfect yet—I noticed some rooftop solar installations in my own neighborhood that the algorithms missed—but it seems to identify most of them.

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Summit in Austin to focus on future of Texas solar power

By Ryan Maye Handy, Houston Chronicle Published 6:51 am, Tuesday, June 13, 2017

  1. pastedGraphic.pdf

    OCI Solar Power is building the 110-megawatt, Alamo 6 solar farm in Iraan in West Texas to provide renewable power to the city of San Antonio. The project is slated to come online by the end of the year. OCI signed a long-term power contract with San Antonio's municipal utility, CPS Energy.

    How does solar power affect electricity prices in Texas? What is the value of solar power in a state without net metering? And how much will the solar industry grow in Texas over the new few years?

    These are just a few questions that speakers will address during a two-day summit for solar power companies in Austin this week.

    Hosted by the national trade group the Solar Energy Industries Association, the conference on Tuesday and Wednesday will feature speakers from some of Texas' leading retail and electric companies.

    Looks for more stories from the conference on

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    The Buzz

    JUN 2017

    Legislation to expand the carbon cap-and-trade program was waylaid by an oil slick of campaign contributions to Assembly Democrats.  Thus, the life span of a key Senate cap-and-trade bill looks as promising as an oiled bird.

    Also floundering in the current is Senate legislation that seeks to thwart refilling the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field until a study on the root cause of the massive months-long leak is concluded.

    Power utilities aren’t swimming against California’s carbon trading program tide because of the state’s green energy laws. JUICE insists clean energy mandates are not only good for California’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, the power sector, but also for the largest source: transportation and petroleum refineries that fuel it.

    Although the California sun is strong, the solar rooftop market has dampened because of less favorable rates and a heavy rain season. But outside the Golden State PV installations are booming, a report finds.

    At the same time, repowered gas plants on the Southern California coast may get washed up. Both the Los Angeles DWP and Energy Commission are warming to the idea that clean energy can keep the grid and planet robust.

    In the nation’s Capitol, the two Republican Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nominees were approved by a key U.S. Senate committee.

    The U.S. EPA’s reversal on the Obama Administration’s rule to slash methane emissions from new oil and gas plants and pipes provoked a suit by environmentalists.

    –The Editors

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    US Solar Market Adds 2 Gigawatts of PV in Q1 2017


    Utility-scale solar prices fall below $1 per watt for first time; capacity expected to triple over next five years.

    by Mike Munsell

    June 07, 2017

    Following rapid growth across the industry in 2016, the United States solar market added 2,044 megawatts of new capacity in the first quarter of 2017.

    As installations grow, prices continue to fall to new lows, with utility-scale system prices dropping below the $1 per watt barrier for the first time, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report.

    The first quarter of 2017 was the sixth straight quarter in which more than two gigawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) and more than one gigawatt of utility-scale PV was installed.

    The residential and non-residential PV markets are both expected to experience year-over-year growth, even as the quarterly numbers saw a drop from last year’s record-setting pace, the report said.

    “The solar market clearly remains on a strong upward trajectory,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Solar is delivering more clean energy, adding jobs 17 times faster than the U.S. economy and creating tens of billions of dollars in investment. With its cost-competitiveness, we know solar will continue to play a growing role in America’s energy portfolio.”

    The utility-scale segment continues to drive the market, representing more than half of all PV installed during the quarter. Much of the capacity comes from projects that were originally slated for completion in 2016, but ended up being pushed back due to the extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit. And this entire year is expected to benefit from those “spill-over” projects.

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      “Utility solar is on the cusp of another boom in procurement,” said Cory Honeyman, GTM Research’s associate director of U.S. solar. “The majority of utility solicitations are focused on maximizing the number of projects that can come online with a 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit in 2019, or later by leveraging commence construction rules.”

      FIGURE: Annual U.S. Solar PV Installations, Q1 2012-Q1 2017
      Source: GTM Research / SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, Q2 2017

      The non-residential solar market -- which includes commercial, industrial and community solar installations -- grew 29 percent year-over-year, but was down 39 percent from a record high fourth quarter 2016.

      The report highlighted Minnesota’s growing community solar market. The state nearly doubled its cumulative community solar deployment in Q1.

      Several other states not as well known for their solar markets saw particularly large jumps in installations this quarter, including Idaho and Indiana. Meanwhile, emerging state markets such as Utah, Texas and South Carolina continued their growth.

      More than a half-gigawatt of residential PV was installed in the quarter, down 17 percent from the first quarter of last year. Part of the slowdown can be attributed to national installers pulling back operations in unprofitable geographies and customer acquisition challenges in more mature residential state markets like California.

      According to the report, residential PV installations in California will fall year-over-year for the first time this decade. Despite this, California remains the largest state market for residential solar installations.

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      Renewable Energy Push Is Strongest in the Reddest States



      The Smoky Hills Wind Farm outside Lincoln, Kan. Last year, Kansas generated more than 30 percent of its power from wind.

      Credit Christopher Smith for The New York Times

      Two years ago, Kansas repealed a law requiring that 20 percent of the state’s electric power come from renewable sources by 2020, seemingly a step backward on energy in a deeply conservative state.

      Yet by the time the law was scrapped, it had become largely irrelevant. Kansas blew past that 20 percent target in 2014, and last year it generated more than 30 percent of its power from wind. The state may be the first in the country to hit 50 percent wind generation in a year or two, unless Iowa gets there first.

      Some of the fastest progress on clean energy is occurring in states led by Republican governors and legislators, and states carried by Donald J. Trump in the presidential election.

      The five states that get the largest percentage of their power from wind turbines — Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma and North Dakota — all voted for Mr. Trump. So did Texas, which produces the most wind power in absolute terms. In fact, 69 percent of the wind power produced in the country comes from states that Mr. Trump carried in November.

      Renewable energy that produces no carbon dioxide emissions is not solely a coastal, blue-state phenomenon. From Georgia to the Dakotas, business and political leaders are embracing clean energy sources even as the Trump administration pushes for more exploitation of oil, gas and coal.


      These red states are not motivated by a sudden desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nor are they joining solidly Democratic New York, Washington and California in defending the Paris climate agreement that President Trump walked away from last week. Instead, their leaders see tapping the wind, and to a lesser degree the sun, as an economic strategy.

      Red States Lead the Way on Wind

      States won by Donald Trump in 2016 are shown in red, those won by Hillary Clinton in blue.

      State Power generated from wind Total wind MWh (millions)
      Iowa 37% 20.4
      Kansas 31% 15.1
      South Dakota 29% 3.2
      Oklahoma 28% 21.4
      North Dakota 23% 8.8
      Minnesota 18% 10.9
      Colorado 17% 9.3
      Maine 16% 1.8
      Vermont 16% 0.3
      Idaho 14% 2.3
      Texas 13% 61.0

      Wind power generation estimates over 12 months, April 2016-March 2017. Mrs. Clinton won three of Maine’s four electoral votes in 2016. Source: Energy Information Administration

      The New York Times

      The clean energy push allows their utilities to lock in low power prices for decades, creates manufacturing jobs, puts steady money in the hands of farmers who host wind turbines, and lures big employers who want renewable power.

      “We export lots of things, and in our future, I want us to export a lot of wind power,” Kansas’ conservative Republican governor, Sam Brownback, declared in a speech in 2011. “We need more of it, and we need more of it now.”

      Mr. Brownback got what he wanted: Since he spoke, wind power production in Kansas has nearly tripled, and the state is now an exporter of clean electricity.

      Whatever the motives, the push in the red states does help to lower emissions, which means their goals tacitly align with those of blue states worried about global warming.

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      Solar’s rise lifted these blue-collar workers. Now they’re worried about Trump


      By Danielle Paquette June 5


      Mike Catanzaro, panel installer at Accelerate Solar, finishes installed electrical wiring at a solar array he recently installed at a job site in East Charlotte. (Logan Cyrus for The Washington Post)

      CHARLOTTE — Mike Catanzaro, a solar panel installer with a high school diploma, likes to work with his hands under the clear Carolina sky. That’s why he supported President Trump, a defender of blue-collar workers. But the 25-year-old sees Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement as a threat to his job.

      “I’m a little nervous about it. The solar business is blowing up and that’s great for a lot of people around here,” Catanzaro said, just after switching on an 86-panel array atop a brick apartment building.

      “I was in favor of Trump, which I might regret now,” he said. “I just don’t want solar to go down the wrong path.”

      While some employed in particular industries have celebrated the U.S. exit from the Paris agreement, the responses of workers such as Catanzaro add a considerable wrinkle to Trump’s promises that scrapping the accords could save millions of people “trapped in poverty and joblessness.”

      The more complicated truth, experts say, is that while there could well be some winners — such as workers in the coal industry — the Paris departure embodies the government’s abandonment of a suite of policies that promised to create hundreds of thousands of  jobs at the same time as fighting climate change.

      About 370,000 people work for solar companies in the United States, with the majority of them employed in installations, according to the Department of Energy. More than 9,500 solar jobs have cropped up in North Carolina alone, the study found. That’s more than natural gas (2,181), coal (2,115) and oil generation of electric power (480) combined.

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      A Journey to the Center of the Solar Industry


      In this episode of the Interchange: We explore current turmoil, growth trajectories and the future of market design.

      by Stephen Lacey

      June 07, 2017

      There are two stories playing out in solar today.

      One of them is decidedly negative. The other is extraordinarily positive. And they're both unfolding at the exact same time.

      The Interchange is brought to you by AES Energy Storage. AES is helping utilities harness the power of battery-based energy storage to make the electric power system cleaner, more flexible, and more reliable. Find out more.

      In this week's podcast, we detail the different stories playing out in solar. We'll weave reflective conversation together with excerpts from Shayle's keynote address at last month's Solar Summit.

      • In part one, the brutal year for many businesses: Public solar companies are getting thrashed; module oversupply is causing severe financial pain for manufacturers; and even downstream companies who’ve benefited from cheaper equipment and growing demand have struggled. What does this tell us about the state of in the industry?
      • In part two, the macro trends: While the industry is in upheaval, the prospects could not be better for the technology. It’s one of the strange contradictions in solar. Where do we stand on the growth trajectory today?
      • In part three, preparing for explosive growth: How do you manage the coming wave of solar with better market design and integration techniques?
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      Nevada Legislature Passes Bill to Restore Net Metering for Rooftop Solar


      The legislation is now on track to become law, which solar advocates say will reboot the state’s rooftop solar market.

      by Julia Pyper

      June 05, 2017


      The Nevada State Legislature has passed a bill that's expected to revive the state's ailing rooftop solar market. The Assembly voted to approve a Senate version of the bill late Sunday night, with just a day remaining in the legislative session.

      The bill (AB 405) would reinstate net energy metering for residential solar projects, but at a discounted compensation rate.

      AB 405 would immediately allow rooftop solar customers to be reimbursed for excess generation from a solar system at 95 percent of the retail electricity rate. Over time, though, customer compensation would decline. The amended bill would create tiers, where credit rates decrease in increments for every 80 megawatts of rooftop solar generation deployed -- to a floor of 75 percent of the retail rate. A previous version of the bill lowered compensation in increments based on peak load.

      If signed into law, AB 405 would also allow net-metered customers to lock in their rate for at least 20 years, eliminating the risk that rates could change retroactively.

      Rooftop solar advocates, including the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), say the bill will reboot Nevada's rooftop solar market, which has been effectively stalled since a 2015 policy change.

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      California grid sets record, with 67% of power from renewables

      By Dominic Fracassa Updated 5:10 pm, Thursday, May 18, 2017

      A stretch of sunny, windy days, combined with brimming reservoirs at hydroelectric plants across the state, helped California reach a renewable energy milestone last weekend.

      Early Saturday afternoon, renewable sources produced a record 67.2 percent of the electricity on the portion of the state’s power grid controlled by the California Independent System Operator. That figure does not include large hydropower facilities, which added another 13.5 percent. Based in Folsom, the ISO runs 80 percent of the state’s grid.

      More than half of the renewable energy flowing across the grid at that moment on Saturday came from large solar facilities and wind farms. The ISO’s numbers do not even account for electricity from rooftop solar arrays.

      Overall, renewables accounted for 42 percent of the California grid’s power on Saturday, not counting the large hydropower plants.

      “The fact that the grid can handle 67 percent renewable power from multiple sources — it’s a great moment, and it shows the potential we have,” said Sachu Constantine, the director of policy at the Center for Sustainable Energy, a nonprofit clean energy advisory firm in Berkeley.


      Sustaining such high levels, however, will be challenging, he said.

      California law requires utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, rising to 50 percent by 2030. Last year, California's three large electric utilities collectively got 32.3 percent of their electricity from renewables. (Neither the state requirement nor the 2016 figure includes large hydropower facilities.)

      Saturday’s numbers are the latest benchmark in what is expected to be a record-setting year for renewable energy production in California, because of the growing number of solar power plants in the state, the seasonal increase in sunshine and the flush hydroelectricity reserves produced by last winter’s rain.

      For a span of three hours on March 11, solar power met roughly half of all electricity demand across much of the state, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s statistics division. The proportion of power produced from renewables that day peaked at 56.7 percent — a record at the time.


      The torrents of rain that fell in the state have filled hydroelectric dams to levels not seen in decades. Up to 21 percent of the state’s total electricity output could come from hydroelectricity this year, according estimates from the California Energy Commission.

      And on Tuesday, the state set a new record for wind power generation, producing 4,985 megawatts. A megawatt is a snapshot figure roughly equal to the amount of energy used by 760 homes at any given moment.

      “It’s going to be a dynamic year for records,” said Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for the ISO. “The solar records in particular are falling like dominoes.”

      It is possible, Greenlee said, that the state could cross the 70 percent threshold for renewable production this summer.

      The steady stream of record-breaking days is a positive sign that the grid is adapting well to the influx of renewable energy, according to Greenlee. “That shows how our grid is shifting from the old paradigm, the old grid we used to have,” he said.

      Given current weather forecasts, it is not out of the question that the state could push past the new record by this weekend, Greenlee said.

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      The Energy Endgame: We Already Have the Tools to End the Fossil Fuel Age


      Tyler Norris lays out a vision for an energy transition driven by today’s technology advancements.

      by Tyler Norris

      May 17, 2017

      Tyler Norris (Teryn) served as a Special Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Energy in the Obama administration. Until May 2017, he was a Director at S&P Global Platts/PIRA, a market intelligence consultancy, where he co-led the firm’s cleantech practice.

      Ever since a team of Manhattan Project scientists created the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in 1942, the United States has led a multi-decade project to develop new energy technologies.

      Beginning with its invention of nuclear power and solar photovoltaics, peaking with its creation of the Department of Energy in 1977, and culminating in the Obama administration’s clean energy innovation programs, the United States spent tens of billions of dollars to transform the underlying technologies that power the modern world.

      That historical period is now over.

      On the surface, the proximate marker of its conclusion was the election of Donald J. Trump and his administration’s commitment to dismantle the Department of Energy and wipe out the Mission Innovation program to double U.S. and international spending on energy research and development.

      It is clear that the U.S. is not setting itself up to lead another wave of energy innovation -- at least not one based on new technologies.

      Beyond any single policy decision, the more fundamental reason for the end of the expansionary period in energy innovation has to do with basic technological realities. The world has largely exhausted the low hanging fruits of the physical sciences, and the likelihood of a breakthrough changing the existing technological landscape is vanishingly small. Meanwhile, the developed world is increasingly unwilling to pursue complex, large-scale projects like nuclear power plants and carbon capture and storage systems, let alone the challenge of securing nuclear waste and subterranean carbon dioxide for millennia.

      The other technological reality -- one that has fully transpired in just a few short years to send shockwaves through the energy industry -- is that we have succeeded at making clean energy cheap. Solar is on track to become the world’s cheapest source of power on an unsubsidized basis, even in regions with modest insolation rates. By the 2030s or sooner, electrochemical battery costs will decline so far that stored solar electricity will be nearly as cheap as natural gas electricity, and electric vehicles as affordable as conventional cars -- and even cheaper if the true costs of fossil fuels are accounted.

      After 70 years of public and private investment, the U.S. and its allies have provided the world with the tools necessary to end the fossil fuel age.

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      Mercedes-Benz Brings a New Model (of Battery) to U.S. Homes

      By DIANE CARDWELLMAY 18, 2017


      Mercedes-Benz Energy and Vivint Solar have announced a partnership to bring energy storage units to the United States residential solar market.


      Vivint Solar

      Vivint Solar, a leading provider of residential rooftop systems, has tried many things over the years to gain an edge on the competition. Now it is hoping that offering customers a Mercedes-Benz for $5,000 to $13,000 will do the trick.

      But the offer is not for a car from the German automaker. Instead, it is for a sleek battery the size of a mini-fridge that will allow homeowners to take better advantage of the energy their solar power systems produce, whether to cut costs or to maintain a steady source of electricity during power failures.

      Mercedes has been selling the batteries in Europe and South Africa this year, but its partnership with Vivint, announced Thursday, represents its entrance into the United States market.

      The combination, said Boris von Bormann, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, will allow customers “to take the next step toward a sustainable energy future.”

      To the companies, along with rivals like Tesla and other solar installers that have joined forces with battery providers, that future involves tracts of software-enabled homes with solar panels on their roofs feeding batteries that can charge electric vehicles and power lighting and appliances at times when drawing from the grid is costliest.

      In some states, like California, where Mercedes and Vivint will first focus their efforts, the economic equation is beginning to make sense, investors and analysts say. But in many other states, potential customers may be driven more by emotion — like feeling environmentally responsible or self-sufficient — than by cost savings.

      “Everybody’s adding an energy-storage offering one way or another,” said Shayle Kann, who leads GTM Research, which tracks the solar industry. “Solar plus energy storage at the residential level is almost definitely the future, but it isn’t yet the present.”


      The Mercedes battery, about the size of a mini-fridge, will allow homeowners to take better advantage of the energy their solar power systems produce.


      Vivint Solar

      For solar companies, battery storage may provide a lift in a market whose dizzying pace of growth has suddenly slowed, especially for leading installers like SolarCity and Vivint, which both reduced their installation estimates amid corporate upheaval, and Sungevity, which went bankrupt.

      At the same time, policy changes and proposals reducing incentives in Arizona, Indiana and other states have dimmed the prospects of rooftop solar. And in two leading markets — California and Hawaii — new rates, incentives and rules are pushing customers to obtain batteries along with the solar panels.

      For the automakers, adding solar to the mix allows them to market themselves and their electric vehicles as even more environmentally friendly.

      “The electric-car story is good — it’s better than internal combustion from an environmental point of view — but electric cars powered by solar: That’s kind of nirvana from an environmental perspective,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book.

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