Author Archives: John Farrell

Hourly Electricity Pricing Boosts Value of Distributed Solar by 33%

January 30th, 2012 | by John Farrell

What if electricity cost more when the sun was shining? Many utilities are using new electronic "smart meters" to adjust the price of electricity as often as every hour, to reflect supply and demand. And charging more when electricity is in short supply can be good news, increasing the value of solar by 33% or more

Some Skepticism on Solar Thermal Power’s Storage Potential

January 24th, 2012 | by John Farrell

Earlier this month, New York Times reporter Matt Wald had a piece on the role of energy storage in supporting the expansion of renewable energy. However, his specific focus on solar thermal power generation overlooks the potentially high costs of relying on solar thermal power and also overlooks the potential for distributed “storehousing” of renewable energy.

Solar Getting Cheaper, But Not Equally

January 19th, 2012 | by John Farrell

In January 2011, I plotted the size of state solar markets against their average installed cost and found surprisingly little correlation. When Lawrence Berkeley Labs put out its 2011 version of Tracking the Sun (IV), it was possible to update the chart, which I did in two stages. The first chart simply overlays the 2010 average installed cost on the original chart, with arrows indicating the movement of the prices in most states (I ran out of room in the small market states). It's almost like a rainbow rain of falling solar prices.

Solar Grid Parity 101

January 12th, 2012 | by John Farrell

  Solar grid parity, when installing solar power will cost less than buying electricity from the grid, is considered the tipping [&hellip

Gainesville, Florida, Becomes a World Leader in Solar

January 6th, 2012 | by John Farrell

You don't have to be big to go big on solar power. That's the lesson from the Gainesville Regional Utilities, the electric utility whose feed-in tariff solar policy has brought over 7 megawatts (MW) of solar to the city's 125,000 residents. The raw number isn't much, but it puts Gainesville among the world leaders in solar installed per capita, beating out Japan, France, and China (and besting California, with 32 kilowatts -kW- per 1000 residents).

Federal Tax Credits May Handcuff Clean Energy Development

January 4th, 2012 | by John Farrell

Clean energy advocates should cast aside their worries about increasing Republican scrutiny of energy subsidies. The clean energy industry's foolish reliance on tax incentives has already handcuffed its expansion. Unlike the leading nations in the clean energy race, the United States has no coherent energy policy.

America’s Energy Future a Battle Between Entrenched Utilities and Clean, Local Power

November 28th, 2011 | by John Farrell

While Americans transition their electricity system to the 21st century, they should ask this question: Does it make sense to pursue strategies such as accelerating the development of new high-voltage power lines that reinforce an outdated paradigm of electricity delivery, or should scarce energy dollars be spent on adding new, clean, local energy to the grid in the most cost-effective manner?

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

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