Thursday, August 30, 2007

PV op-eds

Eicke Weber, director of Fraunhofer ISE, makes the case for a feed-in tariff in California in his new op-ed:

This follows on the heels of an article by Dan Kammen, promoting sustained, coordinated investment in PV R&D:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

National Solar Technology Roadmaps

If you have a stake in PV, you may wish to check out the drafts of the national (US) PV roadmaps:

These roadmaps are national roadmaps, although they are being coordinated by NREL (each of the project leaders is an NREL employee).

Fresh minds bring fresh ideas, so feel free to contact the project leaders listed by each research topic to contribute. I will surely be sending in my comments, and I encourage you to do the same.

As our beloved Dick Fenner loves to say, "lead, follow, or get out of the way"!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What is the proper incentive structure for PV in MA?

Dave raised some pretty interesting points in his comment to the previous post, as well as an interesting question: "what is the proper incentive for PV?" There are some pretty strong opinions out there on this subject, but before we jump into those, let's point out that Gov. Deval Patrick made it very clear, that he would like to see MA not only develop technology, but also build and apply it locally (i.e., capture a larger percentage of the entire knowledge-based economy value chain).

Now incentives: On one hand, the “Hermann Scheer fans” like the concept of a “market pull” feed-in tariff, and they tout the several distinct advantages: no need for pouring money into a "CEC module rating" structure, less bureaucracy for the consumer, greater transparency... On the other hand, you have others who favor tax breaks and buy-downs, which don't show up as line items on a utility bill. The debate has raged in CA for some time... and one may wonder if their legislation is more shaped by political realities than by socio-enviro-economic ones.

Looking at MA, you see features of these two different types of incentive mechanism: The incentives for a consumer to purchase a renewable energy system comes in the form of a tax credit and buy-down (flat tax credit of ~$1000 for medium sized systems, and up to $2.75/Wp buy-down incentive, depending on whether some of the main components are made in MA and if the purchase price of home is below a certain low level), and we do pay a line item in our electricity bill (~$6/yr) to fund renewable energy projects around the state (via the Renewable Energy Trust).

I can assure you that folks in high places in the MA state gov't are doing their homework right now, taking several factors (incl. our energy situation at the end of the natural gas pipeline, vision for socioeconomic growth, emissions targets, and historical political baggage) into consideration in order to draft an appropriate and results-producing incentive plan for our beloved MA. Stay tuned, or get involved.

Btw, this topic might make an interesting discussion session during the Energy Conference 3.0, or/and an Energy Club sponsored discussion session... we might even consider distilling and compiling the ideas and recommendations and reporting on them to the appropriate individuals...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Growth Potential for Solar in MA

As anyone here will readily tell you, the MA Bay Area is undoubtedly an awesome place to be right now in the sphere of cleantech. During the last couple months, I've been trying to put a finger on what exactly makes this place so special. Besides the high density of players in the New England energy community (Dave Danielson's point), an exciting piece of this puzzle is growth potential.

When one compares the distributions of population and solar energy companies throughout the U.S., one can't help but notice the high population density east of the Mississippi. The strong industrial, technology, and academic traditions of the Bos-Wash and Chi-Pitts corridors creates unique and favorable conditions for new entrants. Don't be surprised to see East Coast brands (e.g., IBM) as well as new entrants (spin-offs) joining in during the next months.
(this map is by no means complete!!)

Nocturnal view of U.S. from space, from GE Energy

Solar resource base of Germany and the U.S., compared on same scale. Source: SEIA