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Colorado: Green coalition aims for 1 million solar roofs

3 gigawatts of solar by 2030

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A grassroots Colorado coalition of government leaders, business and environmental organizations want to increase the production of solar power tenfold in the next 15 years, but the effort faces a major challenge, as Xcel Energy wants to cut the rate it pays to consumers who feed power into the grid.

Xcel has proposed cutting its net metering rate in half, and the company has also asked the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to declare net metering a subsidy.

Renewable energy advocates said the utility’s arguement is flawed: A comprehensive study done by Crossborder Energy found that far from being a subsidy, net metering contributes up to $11 million in benefits each year to the grid. The debate over net metering is currently before the PUC as part of Xcel’s 2014 Renewable Energy Standard Compliance Plan.

Net metering requires investor-owned utilities to credit customers who invest in solar panels for the excess electricity they supply the electrical grid at the retail rate. Net metering is fundamental to the viability of rooftop solar for both homes and businesses.

Regardless of the potential challenges, the coalition has called on Gov. Hickenlooper to to think big on solar with a goal of one million solar roofs. The Million Solar Roofs campaign is touting the economic benefits of solar energy, and it nearly goes without saying that the effort could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado. Continue reading

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Germany: Full speed ahead on renewables

Germany forges ahead with ambitious renewable energy plans

Germany’s rail corridors are lined with medium-size photovoltaic installations.

A cluster of wind turbines is barely visible in the lower righthand corner of the image.

By Bob Berwyn

MUNICH, GERMANY — It’s been a whirlwind week of travels here in the ‘old country’ where I grew up, but as I scan the news from back home in the USA and Colorado about the politics of renewable energy, I’m still thinking about what I saw as we flew into Frankfurt a little more than a week ago.

The U.S. Senate is playing politics with wind power, and presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he would do away with even the most harmless way to promote renewable power, the so-called wind energy production tax credits.

Meanwhile, even from 30,000 feet, the change in the German landscape is striking — hundreds, and even thousands, of power-generating wind turbines dot the countryside, in small clusters near villages, in lines along ridge tops, and in seemingly random clumps around some of the larger cities.

It all adds up to about 29,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply 8 percent of the industrial country’s needs, and Germany has been adding new wind capacity at a healthy rate. Continue reading

Energy: The big GOP lie about renewables and fossil fuels

German solar energy production peaked at 20 gigawatts recently, equivalent to the production from 20 nuclear power plants.

Seduced by cheap natural gas, U.S. may lose ground in the path away from fossil fuels

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Closing in on the peak of the presidential election season, it’s probably too much to expect honesty from politicians desperate to get elected or re-elected.

But it’s especially disturbing to hear lies about things that can easily be proved with fact-based reality checks. Energy is one of those issues that’s been twisted beyond recognition by the Republican Party, mainly because so many of the GOP’s candidates are heavily financed by fossil fuel companies — and by the way, so are plenty of Democrats.

The latest political twist is the claim that high gas prices are due to President Obama’s policies of pursuing renewable energy at the expense of fossil fuels, and that we can merrily drill and frack our way to cheaper fuel prices, all the while upping emissions of greenhouse gases. Continue reading

Solar power to boost Chilean agriculture

Verdant agricultural areas contrast with the surrounding desert and mountains in northern Chile.

Photovoltaic plant will pump groundwater for farm irrigation

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Fruit growers in a remote region of Chile plan to boost their output by building a 300-kilowatt photovoltaic plant in the Atacama Desert. The solar power facility will help the farmers pump groundwater in a region where a thriving mining industry competes fiercely for scarce electricity.

With a $32 million loan and technical assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Subsole plans to increase output 60 percent over the next four years, mostly by expanding farming in the rich agricultural area of Copiapó Valley, a region 800 kilometers north of Santiago that is surrounded by the Atacama desert. Continue reading

Scientists urge caution on Southwest solar development

USGS report says impacts of large-scale installations are not well-understood

Potential for solar energy is high the desert Southwest, but there is also the risk of unintended impacts to rare wildlife.

Agassiz’s desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). Large areas of desert tortoise habitat are developed or being evaluated for renewable energy development, including for wind and solar energy. PHOTO COURTESY JEFFREY E. LOVICH.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Ramping up large-scale solar power installations could have unintended environmental consequences, including significant impact to wildlife, according to a new study by the US Geological Survey’s Southwest Biological Science Center.

The report calls for more extensive studies on how to balance solar energy development with resource conservation before rushing headlong into the renewable energy future. It can downloaded at this website for the remainder of the month.

The issues raised with regard to rare and endangered species like the Agassiz’s desert tortoise present a conundrum of sorts, for if fossil fuel use continues unabated, the climate may become too warm for those species to survive — solar energy development or not.

Nonetheless, the USGS researchers present a reasoned argument for assessments both onsite and offsite impacts, as well as the effects of include construction and decommissioning, saying, “to date almost no peer-reviewed studies on the impacts of solar installations specifically.” Continue reading

Breckenridge goes solar in a big way

Breckenridge hopes to generate 10 percent of its municipal electricity consumption from several new solar arrays coming online at town facilities.

Renewable energy a big part of town’s long-term sustainability plan

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A new array of solar panels in Breckenridge will generate 10 percent of the town’s municipal electricity consumption, officials said Tuesday after flipping a ceremonial switch to turn the system on.

Installed at seven locations, the combined arrays will save the town more than $900,000 in the next 20 years and offset about 18,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. Installations are complete on the town’s ice rink, rec center and vehicle maintenance shop, and work is under way to finish arrays at several other town facilities.

“Adopting renewable energy as part of our long term strategic SustainableBreck Plan is right in line with the priorities of the Town of Breckenridge, Mayor John Warner said during the ceremony. Warner was joined by Greg Bohan of Renewable Social Benefit Funds, Eric Westerhoff of Innovative Energy, and Breckenridge Town Councilmember Jennifer McAtamney. Continue reading

Summit County: Free webinars on solar rebates today

Get info on Xcel's new solar rebate program during a couple of free webinars today.

Get the beta on changes to Xcel’s cash-back program

By Summit Voice

With the Xcel Energy Solar*Rewards program restarting today, with rapidly decreasing incentives, installers are trying to get  backlogged applicants into the Xcel system as fast as possible. If you are considering a photovoltaic system , making a move toward applying for the rebate would be prudent now as the rebate rates will drop rapidly.

Several local installers will be helping potential customers get up to speed on the changes in the program.

Today, Alpine Solar in Silverthorne will present two webinars  to explain the program changes and other financial incentives. Click on the link when the program is about to start. The webinars are limited to 25 participants.

Wednesday, March 23, 11 a.m.
https://www.fuzemeeting.com/fuze/a556c32f/12714713
And again at  2 p.m.
https://www.fuzemeeting.com/fuze/a556c32f/12714837

Just click on the link for the webinar you wish to attend.  The webinars will be about 30 minutes.

Innovative Energy will host a March 24 solar cafe from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Abbey’s Coffee in Frisco. Innovative Energy also has information on federal tax credits and state rebates from Colorado Governor’s Energy office online at www.renewablepower.com.

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