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Archive for February, 2013

Now it is possible to imagine solar energy (photovoltaics and concentrating solar thermal) contributing 20 to 30 percent of total energy on the grid in 10 or 12 years.  This is mind shattering.  This will be a jump from less than one tenth of one percent only a few years ago.  The industry is growing at an annual rate of 13 percent.  These are the words from Energy Secretary Steven Chu.  It’s sad to see him leaving the Department but he has successfully set a winning direction for his successor.

During his administration at the DOE large scale solar has become “bankable.” Investors such as Warren Buffet are taking positions in solar farms.  Power Purchase Agreements are proving successful financing tools for mid-size systems. The reliability, certainty and rate of return of solar have elevated it to investment grade.  Installed utility scale solar cost $8 per watt in 2004.  Now the cost is about $3.  The dramatically declining costs are following a track similar to what we saw in the computer industry.

Thanks to the Secretary’s “Sunshot” Program the technical / manufacturing /storage hard costs of solar are now less than the soft costs of permitting and installation.  The goal of the Program is to make solar competitive with all fossil and other forms of energy without subsidy by the end of the decade.  This includes natural gas.  Chu says “the goal is within our grasp.”

Watch this interview with the Secretary and a panel of solar experts.  Learn about the 392 MW solar tower project coming on line in California this summer and how Broward County here in Florida is making it easier for homeowners to cut the red tape on their own solar installations.  The states with renewable procurement standards will see the biggest boost to their economies.  Florida isn’t one of them.

Sam Kendall

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President Obama renewed his commitment to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.  His welcome words in the inaugural address committing to action on climate change and his nomination of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State certainly indicate he still feels strongly about this issue.  Senator Kerry has a long record of environmental protection.  In 1992 he attended the first world summit on climate change in Rio.

In June of 2012, the 20th anniversary of the Rio Summit, Kerry delivered a powerful speech on the Senate floor.  He denounced the current “conspiracy of silence and denial on climate change” which “empowers misinformation and mythology to grow where science and truth should prevail.”

The Rio Summit organizer, Republican President George H. W. Bush said at the time, “The United States intends to be the world’s leader in protecting the global environment.”  Kerry’s concern was that we now find ourselves in a place the former president wouldn’t recognize; the conspiracy has “demonized any constructive effort to put America in a position to lead the world on this issue.”

Three of Kerry’s demons were on the Senate committee that recently approved his nomination.  These three are supporters of the proposed Keystone pipeline down from Canada.  They evidently fear that Mr. Kerry is serious about reducing dependency on carbon fuels.  The State Department must approve the pipeline application before it goes to the president.  Mr. Kerry promised he will look at the science of the request and not the ideology.

Why should the US encourage continued fossil fuel combustion while risking pipeline spills?  Would it be to support the Canadians’ economic interest by having an ocean port in Texas to market their resources to the world?  The issues continue in Canada: tar sand mining ravaging the Boreal Forest, emitting tons of carbon dioxide with energy intensive extraction and contaminating water with chemical residues.  Tar sand partisans tell us building an oil refinery in Canada’s  back yard would be more expensive than plowing an 1,179 mile pipeline through the United States’ back yard.  Is something rotten in the state of Denmark?

These environmental and economic concerns go beyond our friendship with the Canadian people.  They too have a large environmental constituency which opposes tar sand mining.

On February 17, environmental and clean energy advocates will rally in Washington to “give their back” to the President and new Secretary of State.  The green grassroots need to get out and demonstrate support when national leaders challenge long-standing, powerful interests.  You can sign up for the rally HERE.

Both these men have stood up to big oil and the legacy of dirty, liquid fuels that have been a barrier to progressive change.  Rally organizers believe an historic showing of massive public support will break the old energy regime’s back.  Hope to see you in Washington.

Sam Kendall

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