Author Archives: John Farrell

Going Boulder: a Vote for Energy Self-Reliance

November 15th, 2011 | by John Farrell

By a razor-thin margin, Boulder citizens gave the city a victory for energy self-reliance on Nov. 1, approving two ballot measures to let the city form a municipal utility. If the city moves ahead, it would capture nearly $100 million currently spent on electricity imports and instead create up to $350 million in local economic development by dramatically increasing local clean energy production


Big Wind Farms Cost More Than Small Ones

October 20th, 2011 | by John Farrell

It seems obvious: every extra turbine in a wind farm comes at a lower incremental cost, making the biggest wind power projects the most cost effective. If you bet $20 on that proposition, you just lost $


Utility Fights Dirty in City’s Battle for Clean, Local Energy

October 19th, 2011 | by John Farrell

In just three weeks, citizens of Boulder, Colo., will vote on whether to begin a big, formal process to unplug from Xcel Energy’s system and plug into local energy self-reliance. The vote to form a municipal electric utility could set a precedent for communities across the United States to keep millions of dollars local instead of sending them to remote electric utilities each year


SolarShare Bonds Let Citizens Make Money and Finance Local Solar

October 10th, 2011 | by John Farrell

You’re an earth-friendly person and want to go solar, but a large tree shades your house; or you’re a renter; or you don’t have $20,000 to drop on a solar power system. Or maybe you just want to get more than 0.5% interest on your savings account while getting a piece of the clean energy economy


Local Solar Could Power the Mountain West Right Now, All of America in 2026

October 7th, 2011 | by John Farrell

The Germans have installed over 10,000 megawatts of solar panels in the past two years, enough to power 2 million American homes (or most of Los Angeles, CA). If Americans installed local solar at the same torrid pace, we could already power most of the Mountain West, could have a 100 percent solar nation by 2026, while enriching thousands of local communities with new development and jobs


Can Cash Payments Win Over Wind Project Opponents?

October 3rd, 2011 | by John Farrell

A 50-turbine wind farm in Goodhue County in southeastern Minnesota has met with stiff local resistance, a frequent tale in the wind industry. Recently, the project developer won a key court case to move forward, after making concessions about the distance ("setback") between the wind farm and local homes. However, many residents remained unconvinced that the project was in their best interest


German Small Solar Cheaper Than U.S. Big Solar

September 28th, 2011 | by John Farrell

The U.S. has a hodge-podge of utility, state and federal tax-based incentives. The Germans have a comprehensive feed-in tariff, providing CLEAN contracts (in the U.S. parlance) to anyone who wants to go solar (or wind, or biogas, etc). What does that mean for the price of solar


Could California Save 30% or More on Solar Power?

September 14th, 2011 | by John Farrell

The Golden State has covered over 50,000 roofs with solar PV in the past decade, but could it also save 30% or more on its current solar costs? Renewable energy guru Paul Gipe wrote up a study last month that found that Californians pay much more per kilowatt-hour of solar power than Germans do (accounting for the difference in the solar resource). The following chart outlines the various ways Californians pay for solar, compared to the Germans (averaged over 20 years, per kilowatt-hour – kWh – produced)


Energy Self-Reliance Worth 20 Times the Economic Benefit for Missouri

September 6th, 2011 | by John Farrell

In a stunning reversal of popular wisdom, overzealous state legislators and interest groups are jeopardizing over $4 billion in economic activity and thousands of jobs promised in Missouri’s 3-year old renewable energy law. Missourians should override their mistaken legislators, reaffirming their commitment to local renewable energy and even consider the benefits of maximizing the state’s clean electricity production


Mapping Solar PV CLEAN Contracts in the U.S.

August 25th, 2011 | by John Farrell

The price of solar is dropping fast, opening new opportunities for community-scale renewable energy across the country. But despite the improving economics and tremendously sunnier skies, the United States lags far behind Germany in installing new solar power. The biggest difference is policy. The U.S. has two major federal incentives (a 30% tax credit and accelerated depreciation) for solar power, and a few state programs for solar power. Germany and most other developed countries use a feed-in tariff for renewable energy, a policy responsible for three-quarters of the world’s solar power capacity


Solar PV Makes Most Sense at Modest Size

August 18th, 2011 | by John Farrell

Is bigger better when building solar PV power plants? When looking at historic data in the U.S., no. But when considering other sources, perhaps. Ultimately, “community scale” solar is likely to provide the best combination of affordability, speed, and opportunity for local economic benefit


Gas is Greener? Smearing Renewables Over Land Use Exposes Ignorance of Fossil Fuel Lovers

August 15th, 2011 | by John Farrell

A recent column in the New York Times suggested that land use is the greatest environmental problem facing new renewable energy. While getting the facts terribly wrong, it opens a door to talk about the advantages of distributed generation rather than large, central-station power generation. A prime example is a unique proposal by Republic Solar Highways to put solar PV on highway right-of-way in California



Back to Top ↑