Archive for January, 2010

What Obama’s State of the Union Means for Solar Power

Thursday, January 28th, 2010
Completed Solar Project in Dedham, New Hampshire
A solar power project completed this week in New Hampshire – clean energy is ready to go!

In his first official State of the Union address, President Obama offered a rousing challenge to Congress to get to work on a variety of issues – jobs, security, health care, and the transition to a clean energy economy.

With 2009 behind us, but its challenges far from over, Obama took an approach that was urgent, while at times light-hearted, as he analyzed the country’s problems and his suggestions for implementing change.

We were pleased to see “clean energy” make it into the speech some dozen times, though Obama mentioned “solar panels” only once.

Here’s our take on some of the key points raised during the State of the Union address:

  • Obama Lauds Success of Recovery Act

    “Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. Two hundred thousand work in construction and clean energy”

    Obama put a lot of effort into defending the actions necessary in 2009, both the unpopular bank bailout and the ongoing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), aka the Stimulus.

    While Obama’s focus on clean energy jobs was on the manufacturing side – he mentioned both “the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels” and a need to create “new factories that manufacture clean energy products,” the Stimulus also has had a big positive effect on those who install those panels thanks to financial incentives that were part of ARRA.

  • Obama Sees Clean Energy as the Route to Tomorrow

    “We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow … There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products… I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here’s the thing — even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -– because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.”

    Obama seemed very cautious about making the environmental case for a switch to a clean energy economy, instead rooting his argument in the need to create very real clean energy jobs.

    While we couldn’t agree more, and laud Obama for finding common ground, it’s a bit disappointing that the very real crisis facing our planet is still a point of argument.

    The reality is that regardless of the state of the economy, we need to make a move to clean energy now as an act of survival.

    That Obama was cautious to acknowledge this threat points to an even greater challenge of worldview we still have to resolve.

  • Getting There – Incentives and Innovations

    “We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs. … Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history, an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched.”

    Again, Obama mentions investment in research as a major player in the move to a clean economy. While we agree, the reality is that there are plenty of technologies that are already here which are reliable, affordable, and available.

    Both grid-tied photovoltaics and solar hot water are energy investments that make economic and environmental sense.

    We’re eager to see what Obama plans to offer with “rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient,” and wish we’d heard something about a feed-in tariff.

  • The Economy of Old – Nuclear, Oil, and Gas?

    “But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.”

    After so much invigorating news from Obama, it was disappointing to hear his last word on energy mention nonrenewable sources of energy.

    While it may be necessary to find some common ground with Republicans to move the overall initiatives forward, we still disagree that more power plants and “clean” coal are the best way to build the nation’s infrastructure.

Disappointments aside, it’s encouraging to see how large a role clean energy fits into Obama’s plans to move the country back into recovery.

As Obama acknowledged, we have some mighty challenges ahead of us, but the technology is here to move to a clean economy.

What is difficult is mustering the will to act.

Shelter Institute Grads Share Observations on Wind Vs. Solar Power

Monday, January 25th, 2010
Installing Wind Generator Maine
Wind energy works in certain regions of Maine, but most homeowners are better off with solar power
Photos courtesy of Blueberry

Last week, our friends at the Shelter Institute posted a report from two of their Small Housebuilding Class graduates.

James and Kim wrote about a small-scale wind project they have recently finished on one of the islands off of Friendship in Muscongus Bay, Maine.

Not only is their story fascinating and impressive, but they make some serious and thoughtful analysis of how wind compares to solar power as a renewable energy.

They remark that while their wind system is performing as expected, for most people they think solar is a better option:

I think the main lesson we have learned (and would like to pass along to others) is that PV panels (solar panels) are much more cost effective as a means of autonomous energy production than wind, unless the wind site is very unique … We did our own informal wind survey and felt fairly confident we’d get at least 1 kWh of production daily in the winter months (but only when the prevailing winds shifted to northerlies), and we’ve met that. However, many people we’ve spoken to have mistakenly used turbine specs rather than an integrated formula for wind speed and time to calculate what they will generate, only to be disappointed in the small amount of energy they actually are able to produce.

… So, for the biggest green generation bang, we recommend solar panels. Compared to wind, the sun is ubiquitous. Our situation is unique in that we know we’ll get wind when the sun isn’t out in the winter, so the wind project fills in a gap in our ability to generate power year round, and we have no other means of getting non-fossil power out here. An alternative would have been to double our solar PV bank and add batteries to our current 2,000 pound battery bank, storing excess energy on sunny days for those days when we have wind without sun.

We have to agree – while wind energy has great potential under the right circumstances, most homes are built on poor sites for wind while solar power is available anywhere the sun shines.

If you’re curious as to whether your home or business has potential for harvesting solar energy, ReVision offers a free solar site evaluation.

A complete write-up of their experience with both wind and solar is up on the Shelter Institute blog – there are also some great photos on Picasa.

We want to thank the Shelter Institute again for sharing this inspiring story!

ReVision Hosts Networking Event for E2Tech

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Last night, ReVision Energy hosted a networking event for E2Tech, the Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine, at our solar energy showroom at 142 Presumpscot St, Portland.

The event was the first of its kind for E2Tech and brought together renewable energy advocates in Maine including David Ertz from First Wind, Steve Linnell from the Greater Portland Council of Governments, and Merrill Barter with Baker, Newman and Noyes.

E2Tech members in attendance included Jeff Thaler, the co-chair of E2Tech, Andy Meyer, chair of E2Tech’s membership and development committee, Becky Metivier, E2Tech’s marketing committee chair, and Phil Coupe, who is on the marketing committee of E2Tech and is a co-founder of ReVision Energy.

Also in attendance from ReVision Energy were Jen Hatch, John Capron, Geoff Sparrow, Fortunat Mueller and Fred Greenhalgh.

More photos are available on ReVision’s Facebook page.

Grist Report: Past decade the hottest on record

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

The climate magazine Grist reported that the past decade was the hottest on record. Not so cool.

Without going into doom and gloom scenarios, the reality is that the earth’s temperature is increasing in a real and very tangible way.  Despite fluctuations and bizarre weather patterns in the short term, evidence is showing that overall, the temperature is going up, up, up:

Global Average Temperatures Hottest on Record

Much discussion has been made of temporal, and unusual weather patterns, but Grist reports that there’s much more to the story than that:

These natural cycles alone, however, fail to explain the temperature patterns of the last decade. While the strongest El Niño of the century pushed 1998 temperatures up to their then-record high, temperatures in the hottest year (2005) did not receive a boost from El Niño. And 2007 was tied for second hottest year on record, despite the development of a cooling La Niña. Furthermore, while global temperatures have been climbing to record heights, incoming solar energy has in fact been declining since the beginning of the decade. In early 2009, solar activity reached its lowest level in a century.

This trend is real and continuing.  As individuals, we may not be able to implement dramatic sweeping changes in legislation or the way big business is done, but we can make changes in our lifestyle which, in aggregate, results in big changes.

Of course, ReVision Energy strongly encourages a lifestyle that moves away from fossil fuel use and towards using clean renewable energy sources.

We also encourage everything else you can do to reduce your carbon footprint – drive less, reduce your energy use, support local businesses and energy responsible businesses.

While we don’t have much of it, there is still time to offset our years of environmental neglect and move towards a renewable energy economy.  We can all stay cool together!

Solar Sustainability Crash Course Postponed!

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Due to wintry weather, ReVision Energy will be postponing our Solar Sustainability Crash Course originally scheduled for this Saturday, January 23, at our Portland office.

Stay tuned for when we’ll announce the new date – likely in March – for this hour-long presentation on the most important questions for understanding solar.

Thanks for your understanding!