600 million people without power – and those were the ones expecting to have power. I’m not going to join the chorus of critical voices reacting to two of the world’s largest power black-outs this week in India. While surely there is ample blame to go around, it’s not really clear what happened. It could have been the lack of infrastructure investment, the light monsoon weather causing farmers to use more electricity for pumping irrigation water or states taking more than their allotted share of electricity from the grid. But one thing is clear, this power outage ground India’s economy to a halt, left 10% of the world’s population without power and rolled through 22 of India’s 28 states. And that’s not counting the 300 million people there who have no regular access to electricity.
Last year, the Japanese government announced the creation of a national feed-in tariff (FiT) for solar, joining Germany and China in creating robust public policy to drive deployment of renewable energy. The program is set to launch on July 1, 2012 and solar is regarded as one of the brightest spots in the Japanese recovery from the tsunami.
The new program will guarantee payment of 40 Yen/kWh ($0.50) for solar energy produced by projects >10kw (non-residential) and 42 Yen/kWh ($0.53) for energy from projects <10kw (residential) for twenty and ten years, respectively. Today, installed system prices in Japan far exceed global norms – 2011 system costs averaged ~$6.25/w reflecting a high cost of regulation, grid connection, land, labor and construction costs in Japan as well as a module supply largely dominated by higher priced domestic manufacturers. Solar panel prices in 2011 ranged from 150-200Yen/watt ($1.90-2.70/w) which is almost twice what installers in the U.S. pay.
A recent Department of Defense (DoD) study found huge potential for solar deployment on military bases in California. Responding to a Congressional request, the DoD spent a year evaluating the potential for affordable solar energy on military bases in California and Nevada. Although 96% of the land on the bases was deemed incompatible with solar, the DoD identified 25,000 acres that are “suitable” and 100,000 acres that are “likely” or “questionably” suitable for solar.
If solar were deployed on all the suitable land and 25% of the likely suitable land, seven thousand (7,000) megawatts (MW) of energy could be generated – equivalent to the output of seven nuclear power plants and 30 times the energy consumed by the bases today!
This week marks an important milestone in the development of a robust solar industry in the US. The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) and the Solar Alliance have merged to form one voice advocating for policies that advance solar deployment in the US.
SEIA traditionally focused on federal legislative and regulatory policy which drives solar deployment like clean energy standards, the Investment Tax Credit for renewable energy generation and the loan guarantee programs for renewable energy projects. Meanwhile, the Solar Alliance was a state based organization, working to advance renewable energy standards and incentive programs at the state level as well as ensuring that appropriate net metering policies and renewable energy credit mechanisms are in place to allow solar markets to flourish.
With the merger, the two entities will now speak with one strong and consistent voice about the jobs created by growing domestic solar energy, the advances the industry has made in cost reduction, and the value of including solar in the US’s energy generation mix.
It’s time to ponder a rational comparison of historical U.S. energy incentives. In a thoughtful analysis called “What Would Jefferson Do?” authors Nancy Pfund and Ben Healey of DBL Investors offer some revealing insight to inform the debate.
There is no free market in energy … and calls to action for renewables “to stand up to competition without any government support” would be better informed by a look at historical efforts to promote energy transitions in the U.S.
Coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy did not emerge as fully matured, low cost energy sources. Instead, they were the beneficiaries of decades of permanent and significant federal government incentives and supportive regulation. As part of a larger push to create jobs, support expansion, and fuel economic growth, the U.S. government has used a variety of financial and regulatory incentives to support energy innovation for over 200 years.
Recently, Japan’s Parliament passed an aggressive national feed-in-tariff (FiT) for renewable energy, positioning itself as the next large growth market for renewable energy. The new energy law calls for 30,000 megawatts of renewable energy to be deployed over the next ten years.
Feed-in-tariffs have been remarkably effective in accelerating renewable energy deployment, because they enable long term planning and financial models that more easily attract investment. China’s national wind feed-in-tariff powered the country to world leadership in wind energy production. Likewise, Germany – Japan’s global competitor in heavy machinery, autos, and steel – has used a system of feed-in-tariffs since 2000, making the country the world leader in renewable energy deployment.
On August 1, 2011, the China National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced a national feed-in tariff (FiT) for solar PV. Although details are still being released, the plan looks like a serious first step toward unleashing significant demand for solar PV in China.
Now, here’s an interesting fact. In addition to reducing your electricity bills and enhancing the value of your house by an average of $17,000, putting solar on your roof actually keeps your house cooler. That’s according to a research team led by Jan Kleissl, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of California, San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
Typically, the sun beats down onto a roof, pushing heat through the roof and inside the ceiling of a building. But when solar panels are in place, the panels take the direct hit of the sun and filter the heat. The effect is even greater when the panels are mounted and tilted, allowing air to circulate below the panel and further dissipate the heat. The researchers determined that solar panels reduce the heat reaching the roof by 38%, making the building’s ceiling five degrees cooler under solar panels than under exposed roof.
The top 10 US Utilities ranked by solar capacity additions installed 561 megawatts (MW) of new solar capacity in 2010 – demonstrating 100% growth over 2009, according to the Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA) Top 10 Utility Solar Rankings released recently. SEPA’s annual top 10 list ranks utilities by solar megawatts added as well as solar watts-per-customer. It provides great insight into the trends of solar deployment across the country.
For the first time ever, 63% of the new solar capacity added by utilities in the US came from utilities outside California. Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG & E) maintained it leadership status by adding 157 MW of solar in 2010. However, Florida Power & Light (FP & L) and New Jersey’s Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE & G) raced to grab the number 2 and 3 spots with 87 MW and 68 MW respectively.
What's wrong with this headline? In Washington, D.C., there’s an ongoing debate about whether big oil and gas companies should keep their huge tax-payer funded subsidies. Meanwhile, in Beijing, the government is strategically maneuvering to capture the economic benefits of the future clean energy economy. A study released this week concludes that China’s green tech industry raked in $65 billion last year – making it the world’s leader in green tech production by revenue.
The green tech market contributed an impressive 1.3% of China’s GDP, boosting China’s rank based on percentage of GDP to #2. Windmill production giant Denmark scored highest with its green tech sector contributing 3% of its GDP.
The study (conducted by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund) also ranked the US. Guess what? We’re way down the list at #17.
Homes with solar panels sold for an average of $17,000 more than comparable homes without solar systems over a nine-year time period in California, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Solar advocates have long argued that the initial capital cost of generating solar electricity would be offset both by lower electricity bills and by an increase in home value at the time of sale. This study proves it.
Already the country’s leading producer of oil and gas and wind energy, Texas has an opportunity to take the lead in generating solar energy too. It’s the perfect triple play. Texas has more sun than any other state, ample land resources for large scale and distributed solar installations, and a tremendous need for domestic energy generation. Solar is an ideal solution and the market is growing exponentially in markets where a favorable regulatory scheme exists. So how can we jump start this industry in Texas?
Italy is faced with three very important considerations in determining how to power the nation: Very modest domestic energy resources (it imports 87% of its electricity), resulting high electricity prices and abundance of sunlight. Consequently, over the last few years the Italian government has instituted a series of policies to promote solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment. Growing from just 60MW in 2007, Italy installed almost 2GW of solar PV last year - making it the second largest market in the world.
Everyone in Washington is scrambling to understand how we jumpstart our economy and deliver long term economic growth – especially in the midst of rising oil prices which threaten our fragile economic recovery. One ray of sunshine – solar.
Last week, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, the President of the Solar Industry Association, Rhone Resch, delivered some good news on solar’s role in spurring economic growth. The US solar industry grew from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6.0 billion in 2010, a growth rate of 67%. Today, there are over 100,000 American citizens employed by the solar industry – the industry is a robust, fully functioning ecosystem.
On Wednesday, President Obama reminded us that “in America, innovation isn’t just how we change our lives. It’s how we make a living.” This rings especially true at Applied Materials as our livelihoods depend on changing lives through technology in big ways. We were encouraged to hear President Obama’s plans for the Better Buildings Initiative, focused on increasing high efficiency lighting, on-site renewable energy generation, insulation and coatings and advanced HVAC control technologies. At Applied Materials, we’re providing a map on how to get there and developing solutions in each of these categories.
Buildings consume 40% of all energy in the U.S., 72% of all electricity and 55% of all natural gas. In the U.S., we spend $350 billion on energy for buildings … and that number is growing. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that current trends in energy demand for buildings will stimulate about half of energy supply investments through 2030. If building site energy consumption in China and India grows to current U.S. levels, China’s and India's consumption will be about four and seven times greater than they are today.
The next time that someone complains that solar energy is too expensive and will never be competitive with coal, oil or natural gas, throw a few of these numbers their way: $72 billion – that’s how much money the US government spent between 2002 and 2008 on subsidies for fossil fuels according to a report by the Environmental Law Institute. That’s over $10 billion a year. And how much of that — you wonder — was spent to subsidize renewable energy over the same period? $29 billion – and half of that, was spent on ethanol subsidies alone. Uncle Sam spent twice as much to subsidize fossil fuel production and consumption and only 15% was spent to subsidize the renewable energies that really can change the way the world generates electricity (solar, wind, biomass, etc.).
Did you know that 85% of all consumers worldwide live outside the U.S.? So what does that mean for us? It means that if we can’t access markets around the world freely, we can’t sell to many of them – not products, not services, not ideas, not anything. In a time of economic uncertainty, it’s instinctual to want to hunker down, protect what we have, and think about closing down the borders to trade. But that’s dangerous thinking.
Applied Materials hosted a delegation from China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) recently. Among the key topics discussed was the growing Chinese solar manufacturing industry and Applied’s role in supporting that growth through our Solar Technology Center in Xi’an, China and with our wafering and screen printing tools.
The clean energy movement has an unfortunate history of sacrificing the “good” in search of the “perfect” solution. Here’s an example: Kevin Costner (yes, the actor) reacted to the Exxon Valdez oil spill by investing over $24 million in a company that makes high speed centrifuge machines that can separate oil from water at the source of an oil spill. So, rather than having to skim the oil off the water or collect and transport massive mixtures of oil and water, the machines sends clean water back into the ocean on site and collect oil on the tanker. That way, the oil never reaches land, which greatly reduces the impact on wetlands, birds and sea life.