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SOLAR IN THE NEWS

Keeping an ear to the ground on the sun in the sky.

 
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NASA’S MARS LANDER CLEANED SAND OFF ITS SOLAR PANELS USING MORE SAND

Ryan Whitwam | June 3, 2021

NASA’s InSight lander has been on the red planet since 2018, and it relies on solar panels for power, unlike the nuclear-powered Perseverance rover. That means there’s the potential for dust build-up on the solar panels, which is becoming an issue as the planet descends into another frigid winter. Luckily, engineers at JPL devised an ingenious way to get the sand off the solar panels. All it took was more sand. 

InSight got its mission extension in early 2021, shortly before the team decided to give up on the burrowing HP3 heat probe that stubbornly refused to burrow. However, the SEIS instrument has exceeded expectations as the first seismometer on another planet. The team has been working to wrap up InSight’s science operations for the season. The robot was designed to go quiet during the long Martian winter to save power for its heater and communication gear. Maybe there’s a little wiggle room, though?

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GENIUS AWARD FOR A STUDENT-DESIGNED PORTABLE SOLAR CARPORT

Tim Sylvia | June 3, 2021

Ginsberg-Klemmt’s Gismo Power is a foldable solar carport that’s entirely mobile and can be folded for storage in a garage, in the event of a hurricane or any other extreme weather occurrence. In operation, the appliance can fit up to 24 solar modules on its frames, which can be angled or lowered depending on the position of the sun at any given time.

The appliance also utilizes a SolarEdge Inverter/EV charger. This is connected to a 50ft extension cord, which serves as the plug for the Gismo Power to connect to the grid.

The OZY Genius Award is a $10,000 prize awarded to 10 college students pursuing “projects or ideas that have a positive impact on society.”

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13 NEW SOLAR ARRAYS TO BE ADDED TO PUBLIC BUILDINGS, SCHOOL BY END OF 2021

Suzie Romig | June 4, 2021

The city of Steamboat Springs and other governmental partners collaborating in a regional solar installation project have selected vendor McKinstry Essention to construct 12 solar power arrays by the end of this year, including the largest array at the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Solar array materials will be delivered in early July, and construction will start in early August for a ground-mounted 418-kilowatt array at the wastewater plant off Routt County Road 33 at a cost of $850,058, including grant money from Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ Energy Impact Fund.

“The wastewater treatment plant was selected because it is the city’s largest user of electricity and because we had the ability to install a larger solar array at the site,” said Winnie DelliQuadri, project coordinator for the regional grant and the city’s intergovernmental services manager.

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FORMER COAL MINE LAND IN WESTERN VIRGINIA TO BE TRANSFORMED INTO SOLAR ENERGY SITES

Kaylyn Kluck | June 4, 2021

Collaborating groups in southwest Virginia plan to repurpose land previously used for coal mining and convert it into sites for solar development.

Five different sites in Wise County are designated to become utility-scale solar farms over the next few years. 

The project was initiated by the Nature Conservancy, a global environmental organization that has had a conservation program in Southwest Virginia since the early 1990s. The Nature Conservancy manages the Cumberland Forest Project, which spans parts of Southwest Virginia, Eastern Tennessee, and Eastern Kentucky. 

Clinch Valley Program Director Brad Kreps said the Cumberland Forest area contains several thousand acres of flat and non-forested land. 

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THE SOLAR INSTALL GAME IS CHANGING: WILL YOU BE READY?

John Fitzgerald Weaver | March 29, 2021

Massachusetts is again considering a new-construction rooftop solar mandate, seeking to join California and, if polling is anything to believe, other states as well.

The two states total 46.5 million people, representing almost 15% of the U.S. population, and hundreds of thousands of new structures each year.

Mandates such as these make this a good time to take a hard look at the retrofit rooftop solar industry’s evolving business structure and consider the need for it to drive down installation pricing.

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TOWN CONSIDERING CHANGES TO LOOSEN HDC GUIDELINES FOR SOLAR PANELS

Brian Bushard | March 26, 2021

"Town officials are considering changes to the Historic District Commission’s guidelines on rooftop solar panels, although at least one HDC member says no changes are needed.

“We’re trying to protect the look of this island and having solar panels on every south-facing primary building is not doing our mission as the HDC,” Diane Coombs, vice-chair of the HDC, said.

The debate comes one week after the Select Board overruled the HDC’s denial of a rooftop solar array at 85 Eel Point Road.

“This is not a mission that we made up,” Coombs said. “This is a federal mission. We have done our best. They’re supposed to put up trees or vegetation. We asked for that on Eel Point Road.”

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SPEED OF LIGHT

By Rebecca Nimerfroh | November 22, 2019

Originally run in N Magazine

"For more than a decade, Zach Dusseau and Tobias Glidden searched for a compelling way to teach people about the true power of solar energy. After moving to Nantucket in 2007, Dusseau went door to door trying to convince businesses to convert to LED light bulbs. “I’d just walk in with light bulb samples and run Excel spreadsheets showing how much money and energy they would save,” he explains. “Then I started slowly building up the solar business from there.” Glidden joined Dusseau’s ACK Smart solar company in 2011, helping install solar panels around the island, but the two friends were still looking for a way for solar to gain some real traction on Nantucket. Enter Wheels of Delight."

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U.S. PLEDGES TO SLASH SOLAR ENERGY COSTS BY 60% IN A DECADE

Reuters Staff | March 25, 2021

"The Biden administration on Thursday set a goal to cut the cost of solar energy by 60% over the next decade as part of an ambitious plan to decarbonize the United States’ power sector by 2035.

The U.S. Department of Energy said the goal accelerates its previous utility-scale solar cost target by five years. For the U.S. power grid to run entirely on clean energy within 15 years, a key pillar of President Joe Biden’s climate change agenda, solar energy will need to be installed as much as five times faster than it is today, DOE said."

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IOWA'S FORMER NUCLEAR PLANT COULD SOON BE A SOLAR FARM

Dharna Noor | March 26, 2021

"Last summer, powerful winds from a derecho took Iowa’s only nuclear power plant out of commission. Because it was already slated for closure just two months later, the facility’s owners decided not to bring it back online, and it’s been sitting idle since last August. But there’s a plan to breathe new life into the Duane Arnold nuclear plant, resurrecting it as a massive renewable energy project. 


NextEra Energy first announced the plans to construct a $700 million solar farm where the nuclear plant once stood in a meeting with nearby landownerslast week. While the eastern Iowa nuclear plant generated 619 megawatts of power—almost 8% of the state’s power generation and enough to power 600,000 homes—the new solar project would produce 690 megawatts and also be home to 60 megawatts of battery storage, allowing unused energy to be captured when demand is lower. The firm says it could also create about $41.6 million in tax revenue and result in $50 million in payments to the landowners where it is built. Building it would also create up to 300 construction jobs."

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SOLAR PANELS AND WATER CANALS COULD FORM A REAL POWER COUPLE IN CALIFORNIA

Shaena Montanari | March 25, 2021

"California’s water system is one of the largest in the world and brings critical water resources to over 27 million people. Brandi McKuin, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Cruz and lead author of the study, found that that shading the canals would lead to a reduction in evaporation of water, kind of like keeping your glass of water under the shade instead of out in the open on a hot summer day prevents evaporation from stealing sips. Putting up a solar panel using trusses or suspension cables to act as a canal’s umbrella is what makes the double-whammy of a solar canal. 

“We could save upwards of 63 billion gallons of water annually,” she says. “That would be comparable to the amount needed to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland, or meet the residential water needs of over 2 million people.” Water is of especially critical importance to California, a state regularly stricken with drought.

So why don’t we cover up our water canals already? Micheal Kiparsky, the director of the Wheeler Water Institute at the UC Berkeley School of Law who was not involved in the study, says while the water savings from solar canals may sound really great, they are modest when considering the scale of the project. “Water might not be enough of a motivator to tip the scales to do this for the whole state,” he says. 

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SOLAR POWER EXPECTED TO BOOM IN 2021

January 6, 2021

“With federal tax credits being extended as well as our focus on energy budget being doubled. We really see 2021 being an absolute boom year for the solar industry,” Pupols said.

Locally, 30 homes and small businesses in Portage, Wood, Lincoln and Marathon counties had MREA install 180 kilowatts of solar power in 2020 they hope to double that this year.

“Solar in essence sells itself once we arm citizens and business owners with the information that they need in order to make an informed decision about the investment,” Pupols said.

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BOILING POINT: HOW ROOFTOP SOLAR COULD SAVE AMERICANS $473 BILLION

January 7, 2021

This is the Jan. 7, 2021, edition of Boiling Point, a weekly newsletter about climate change and the environment in California and the American West. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.


"With less than two weeks until Joe Biden takes office — and with Democrats taking control of the Senate — the growth of clean energy is poised to accelerate. Even if Congress doesn’t fully embrace the president-elect’s $2-trillion climate plan, there will be plenty of actions his administration can take to support renewable power and put pressure on fossil fuels. 

So here’s some food for thought: If Biden’s appointees want to help consumers save money, they might consider devoting a big chunk of their efforts to solar panels and batteries that can be installed at homes across the country."

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WHY SOLAR ENERGY STOCKS POPPED DOUBLE DIGITS TODAY

January 6, 2021

"The tailwinds continue to support solar energy stocks and the Senate win will likely be an incremental benefit to the industry. That said, solar stocks have had an incredible run over the last six months and investors are pricing in a lot of growth for the industry. It make take time for that growth to materialize, which makes me hesitant to jump into these hot stocks right now. We've seen boom and bust cycles in the solar industry before and more subsidies haven't necessarily translated to higher profits.

With all of that said, the solar industry is set up for a positive policy environment in the near term, at least, and that should help these companies' operations, no matter where their stocks are headed."

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FORGET SILICON. THIS MATERIAL COULD BE A GAME-CHANGER FOR SOLAR POWER

By Adrian Lydon | October 14, 2020

Solar energy is poised for what could be its biggest transformation in over half a century. 

A group of materials called perovskites are being used to create the next generation of solar panels, which could eventually be twice as efficient as current models, and flexible enough to wrap around entire buildings.

The first solar cell capable of powering everyday electrical equipment was made in the 1950s at Bell Labs in New Jersey. Back then the silicon-based panels were hugely expensive and converted just 6% of sunlight into electricity. 

Since then, costs have come down dramatically and today's silicon solar cells can turn up to 22% of sunlight into power. But they're nearly maxed out in terms of efficiency. Now, perovskites offer the potential for dramatic increases in power output, and they could ultimately replace silicon altogether.

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MADISON CELEBRATES LARGEST SOLAR INSTALLATION IN CITY HISTORY

By Juliana Tornabene | October 15, 2020

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway celebrated the city meeting its goal Thursday with the largest solar installation in its history. 
Rhodes-Conway spoke at 9 a.m. Thursday about the project and what it means for the GreenPower Program, an Engineering Division program where trainees with little electrical sills are taught to install solar energy, in the future. 
“Today we achieve our first goal, that we set for ourselves as a City related to solar energy,” Rhodes-Conway said. “In 2014, we adopted a budget to achieve the Madison Megawatt, which aimed to install one megawatt of solar energy on city facilities by 2020, and today we reach that goal.”
The city now has 2.5% of all buildings electric by solar power, or 26 buildings. The mayor explained that solar production causes roughly 950 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, which is equal to the emissions of an average passenger vehicle driving 2.3 million miles.

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CHANEL PARTNERS WITH SUNRUN TO BRING SOLAR ENERGY TO LOW-INCOME FAMILIES IN CALIFORNIA

September 23, 2020

"CHANEL announced today it has committed $35 million toward solar energy projects for low-income multifamily households with Sunrun Inc. (Nasdaq: RUN), the leading residential solar, battery storage, and energy services company in the United States. The partnership will expand access to solar for nearly 30,000 low-income residents across California, offering families on average up to $40 to $50 a month in energy cost savings. CHANEL’s investment will also support more than 20,000 hours of job training in the first year, offering valuable vocational skills and certifications to hundreds of people in disadvantaged communities. Through the partnership, CHANEL and Sunrun will install approximately 30 megawatts of solar energy systems on affordable multifamily properties throughout California."

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ONE SMALL STEP: WHY CITIES ARE SWITCHING TO SOLAR ENERGY

September 21, 2020

"How do we bring more solar power to cities? On this episode of One Small Step, we visit Stuytown Solar, a project that doubled Manhattan's solar capacity by installing 9,761 solar panels on top of 22 acres of apartment buildings. 'It's not always dollars. Sometimes it's about doing the right thing, and sometimes about thinking forward,' says Beam Living CEO Kelly Vohs. 'We've gotta put smart people in office that understand that we've got to make smart investments for our future generations,' says Volt Energy Founder Gilbert Campbell."

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SANTA BARBARA SCHOOL DISTRICT TO MOVE AHEAD ON BIG SOLAR ENERGY PROJECT

By Joshua Malina | September 21, 2020

"The alternative energy project would save the district money over the long run, reduce its carbon footprint, allow the district independence and the ability to operate critical facilities during power outages, keep communications and data active, protect refrigerated food storage, and enable community emergency shelters without diesel generators.
Crews will install solar panels on rooftops in parking lots. The solar panels will generate power for later use, and lower electricity rates by shifting energy use off the grid. 
'We have a long way to go to catch up, and this visionary project will both save the district money while catapulting us forward as a national leader in school microgrids,' said board president Laura Capps. 'When it comes to combating climate change, our students are light years ahead, knowing the threatened planet they are inheriting and the bold action that’s needed now.'
Capps said the complete lack of solar energy usage and minimal sustainability measures in the district were one of the reasons she decided to run for school board in 2016."

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WIND AND SOLAR ENERGY IS STEADILY REPLACING COAL

By Justine Calma@justcalma | Aug 13, 2020

"“Countries across the world are now on the same path – building wind turbines and solar panels to replace electricity from coal and gas-fired power plants,” Dave Jones, senior electricity analyst at Ember, said in a statement. Ember’s analysis includes 48 countries that make up 83 percent of the world’s global electricity production."

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THE $16 BILLION PLAN TO BEAM AUSTRALIA’S OUTBACK SUN ONTO ASIA’S POWER GRIDS

By A. Odysseus Patrick |
August 10, 2020

“The cool new thing is to seriously talk about moving renewable energy around long-term as the carbon-free alternative to the existing fossil fuel trade,” said Peter Cowling, chief executive of Vestas Australia, a wind farm builder. “This is the most plausible solution I have seen to helping Asia decarbonize its energy supply.”

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INDIANA COUNTY ADOPTS NEW SOLAR ENERGY ORDINANCE REQUIRING POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY GROUNDCOVER

By Kelsey Misbrener | July 27, 2020

“Solar is going to become a vibrant part of rural Indiana,” said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC). “Such solar farms will not only produce pollution-free energy, but, with the right local policy in place, they will help to preserve soil and water and create habitats that benefit Indiana’s birds, bees, and other wildlife. We know that additional Indiana rural counties are formulating their solar ordinances, and HEC and our partners will be helpful in connecting these counties with resources and experts so that their farmers, businesses, and residents can reap the benefits of not only solar-produced electricity, but the many benefits of land stewardship best practices.”

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SOLAR PANELS ON CAPPED MARSHFIELD LANDFILL EXPECTED TO SAVE THE TOWN MILLIONS

By Wheeler Cowperthwaite | July 19, 2020

Originally run in The Patriot Ledger


The solar power station will generate energy credits for the town toward its total electricity use, part of the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target Program, also referred to as SMART, he said.

“This is the best use for a capped landfill,” Maresco said. “We went out to market, put together a plan, asked companies to give us their best plan of what can be built.”

The solar panels are buffered already, produce no noise or smell and did not result in a single tree being cut down, he said.

“It’s perfect for the environment,” he said.

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BANK OF AMERICA TO POWER ITS NORTH CAROLINA HEADQUARTERS WITH SOLAR ENERGY

By Emily Holbrook | June 30, 2020

Through a renewable energy sleeved-power purchase agreement (PPA), the company is participating in Duke Energy’s Green Source Advantage (GSA) program. The bank is the first company and financial institution to sign a 10-year agreement for electricity and Green-e certified renewable energy certificates (RECs) through this program.
The purchase of a 25 MW solar project’s electricity output and RECs will cover 45% of Bank of America’s electricity load in the state. By participating in Duke Energy’s GSA program, Bank of America is on path to becoming carbon neutral and utilizing 100% renewable electricity across its global operations.
This project will be constructed in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. The project will include the installation of a pollinator habitat surrounding 70,000 solar panels, covering approximately 180 acres, and is expected to be online in 2022.

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SOLAR-POWERED MCDONALD'S OPENS AT DISNEY WORLD

By Irene Jiang | Jul 9, 2020

"These unprecedented times have only heightened the importance of innovation that fosters long-term security and sustainability," Marion Gross, McDonald's North America chief supply chain officer, said in the press release. "While health and safety in our restaurants is our top priority, we must also remain focused on creating positive change for our communities and the planet. This restaurant marks an important step in McDonald's journey to reduce our carbon footprint and identify meaningful solutions in the fight against climate change."

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WHY AMERICA’S SCHOOLS ARE TURNING INTO SOLAR POWER STATIONS

By Amanda Schupak | July 28, 2020

“Some say they haven’t gotten into [solar] because it seems too good to be true,” said Asplund, whose district includes five other schools, three of which have their own new solar arrays. “But it really is true. You can save a lot of money ... and you can help the environment.”

Galesburg High School is one of dozens of schools around the state and some 5,500 schools across the country now producing their own solar electricity, making a strong case for turning schools into power stations. On top of the cost savings (which, in the case of public schools, goes back to taxpayers), adopting solar in schools has the benefit of bringing the technology to areas that might not otherwise have much exposure to renewables, and provides the perfect opportunity for teaching the next generation about green energy.

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NOTRE DAME COMMITS TO NEW I&M SOLAR FARM

By Wes Mills | August 21, 2020

“We’re pleased to partner with I&M on this project, and look forward to the benefits it will provide,” said Paul Kempf, assistant vice president for utilities and maintenance at Notre Dame.
Kempf says the solar farm will provide the university with enough clean energy credits to equal 10% of Notre Dame’s total electricity demand.
“This is the next big step for us with regard to the use of clean, renewable solar energy to aid or offset campus power production, and a piece of a larger puzzle in terms of our overall approach to sustainability.”

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