The solar energy industry experience a lot of highs and lows during 2012. The biggest development has been the continued growth of solar energy in the United States. As recently reported, if you compare the third quarter of 2012 with the third quarter of 2011, you would see that there was a 44% growth in the amount of solar photovoltaics (PV) installed in the United States. By anyone’s measure that is a huge growth rate. In our first blog post on the solar energy year in review, we discussed the huge price reduction in solar panels, dwindling incentives, and the effect of competing energy sources particularly natural gas on the adoption of solar energy in the U.S. In this blog post, we can’t avoid talking about some of the troubling issues facing the solar energy industry. We will discuss the Department of Energy loan program and tariffs.
We know this much about the solar industry as we approach the end of the year. It was another year of fast moving changes in the industry. The good news is that in 2012, there were a whole lot of solar panels going up on homes and businesses in the U.S. And there were some setbacks for the industry. At the beginning of the year, few had even heard of Solyndra—but by the end of the year, Solyndra had become a household name. As the New Year approaches, we want to reflect back on what 2012 meant for the solar industry. In our blog, we will discuss some of the highs and lows for the solar industry this past year. In this first of two blog posts, we will reflect on the decrease in the price of solar panels, on the effect of natural gas and coal on the solar industry, and finally on the dwindling incentives available to support solar energy.
Are you looking for green or eco friendly gifts to give for the holidays? Every year, we at SolarTown are compiling a list of some gifts that you may want to consider. Take a look at our solar gifts that we are recommending this year in our learning section.The first gift you can give is to educate yourself and your friends about the power of solar energy. My family and I went to the Science Museum in Baltimore over the Thanksgiving weekend. It is easy to forget that the sun is 1.3 million (yes, million) times as large as the Earth. If you open up the sun and dump over a million earths in it, you can begin to imagine that the sun carries a pretty large punch. The challenge is of course how to garner all of that energy. The answer is that we don’t need to garner very much of that energy to meet our energy needs; we just have to do it efficiently.
Have you ever closed your eyes and wondered what a solar utopia would look like? If you are like me, you would think of sandy beaches, a lot of sun, a healthy native population. Maybe you wouldn’t see solar collectors or solar panels in such obvious places. You need not dream any more. The three tiny islands that comprise the New Zealand territory of Tokelau, Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo, have recently achieved something no other place in the world has accomplished: complete and total freedom from fossil fuels.
After every recent emergency or disaster, our customers call and ask us what off grid solutions might help them prepare for the next event, whether it is here in the U.S.or somewhere else. The short answer is that solar energy products can be part of your emergency preparedness plan. Just ask Haitians who were able to cook their food on solar ovens after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Or you might want to talk with relief workers who are able to maintain vaccines in a solar refrigerator in Africa. We are supplying the U.S. armed forces with portable solar modules for power of small equipment in combat zones.
I was excited to see the presidential candidates discussing energy independence and alternative sources of energy during the second presidential debate. Both candidates acknowledged that they would use an all-of-the-above approach to make America an energy independent nation, but in different ways. Governor Romney’s major focus is supporting the oil industry, increasing off-shore drilling, and constructing an oil pipeline from Canada. President Obama, who has thus far refused to build such a pipeline, supports oil and natural gas, but wants to increase the focus on renewables like solar and wind. While the candidates debated energy independence for several minutes, they failed to discuss climate change. It’s surprising that climate change didn’t come up, especially because it is crucial to consider when discussing which sources of energy our country should be developing.
You may have heard of flower power in the 1960s and now in the 2010s we have solar power—that you can wear. You may already have purchased from us a solar bag or solar backpack, but soon you may be able to purchase solar couture. Several companies have come out with solar-powered articles of clothing meant for outdoor adventurers. This solar innovation is coming from an unlikely source, the designer and stylist behind Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress, Nicola Formichetti. Formichetti will be releasing his new line of solar-powered clothing online in mid-2013. Not only will his designs allow their wearer to make a unique fashion statement, they will also charge the wearer’s cellphone.
I know that I may be a little behind the times, but I just watched James Cameron’s blockbuster smash “Avatar” with my kids on the “small” screen, and was surprised to see just how many “Going Green” messages there were in this futuristic movie. You may remember that the only application for solar energy used to be on the Space Station–or the Mars Rover. The technology hasn’t changed much in 25 years, but what has changed is the cost of photovoltaic, which now allows homeowners and business owners throughout the world to use solar energy on Earth. You don’t have to have a futuristic home to place solar panels on your roof. Any view of the future requires the adoption of solar or other renewable energy.
Now even lions are getting into the solar action. San Diego Zoo is installing a large solar panel system for its customers and its residents. While the environmental benefits of the project are evident, it will also have educational benefits. As the zoo hosts millions of people annually, “…the solar canopies and EV chargers will be part of an educational experience about clean energy…” It is imperative to remember that the zoo draws many children to visit, “so they will be able to learn about animals, clean energy, and climate change in one setting.” Connecting the Solar-EV exhibit to the effects of fossil fuels and climate change on animals present at the zoo, such as polar bears, will further emphasize the importance of renewable energy sources to future generations.
As most loyal SolarTown customers know, we try to get you the best guidance on selecting solar energy products from our selection of home solar panels to solar water pumps and other products. We recently played with the idea of doing the same thing with our selection of solar inverters, but came to the conclusion that the inverter market may not have as many objective standards or features to make that kind of comparison as useful as with solar modules. Some excellent brands, like Outback, don’t stack up in the numbers because they are specialized in other areas like being installable in almost any tropical or harsh environment or switching between on and off grid mode. That said, sometimes the numbers have a point, and we want to share that point with you so at least you have some information on which to base your decision of which solar inverter to choose for certain size solar panel systems. So here is our first rundown of Solar Inverters: Best in Show!