California State Assembly Bill Could Lower Cost of Residential Solar

Californians who want to put solar panels on their roofs could benefit from a state bill headed to the governor’s desk. The Legislature on Thursday passed the Solar Permitting Efficiency Act, which promises to streamline the solar permitting process throughout … Continue reading

California to Start Giving Millions of Dollars of Climate Credits to Electricity Users

Starting in April, millions of California households will received a $30 to $40 “climate credit” on their electricity bills. On Monday the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and California Air Resources Board made the announcement, which is part of California’s … Continue reading

Three Key Features Of LA’s New Local Solar Program - Officially launched in January after years of development, a new CLEAN (feed-in tariff) program from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (the city’s municipal electric utility) promises 100 MW of new local renewable energy by 2016. In absolute size, the program will be among the largest CLEAN programs in the US, but compared to the size of the population it serves, the new LA program ranks behind national leaders like Gainesville, FL, or Vermont (the city’s peak demand tops 6,000 MW). Even so, the Los Angeles program is a good example of a community increasing the capture of local energy dollars with local energy generation. Continue reading

Solar House Blends In With Surrounding Vineyard -

To grow fine wines, a vintner must have precise amounts of sunshine, moisture and fertilizer to produce grapes at the peak of their perfection. With all the attention wine lovers focus on climate and weather, designer Michael Jantzen has decided to put a similar emphasis on a house that reflects the needs of vintners.

The result is the Solar Vineyard House concept, a smaller version of a similar plan Jantzen had proposed last year for a large winery operation. In this latest version, the house would be designed specifically for wine aficionados in the temperate wine country of coastal California. In addition to being influenced by the wine-making process, the house design also has several sustainable features that can help reduce its carbon footprint.

Architect Michael Jantzen's plan for a house that merges with the rows of a vineyard. Image via Michael Jantzen.

Architect Michael Jantzen’s plan for a house that merges with the rows of a vineyard. Image via Michael Jantzen.

Measuring 5,000 square feet in area, the Solar Vineyard House would be suitable as both a residence and as a small wine-making operation, Jantzen says. The rounded contours of the house would not only be surrounded by vineyards but also made almost a part of the vineyard grid. The wooden pathways through the vineyard rows, made of sustainably harvested timber, meet the sides of the house directly and are carried up of over the partially glassed-in roof, continuing on again through the rest of the vineyard. The overall effect makes the house resemble a smooth boulder that has been left in a field while the land around it is cultivated.

A conception of the lower floor of the structure, containing the vats for the wine-making operation. Image via Michael Jantzen.

A conception of the lower floor of the structure, containing the vats for the wine-making operation. Image via Michael Jantzen.

In between the paths of wooden slats arcing over the house, four long, narrow strips of solar panels are incorporated into the south side of the structure, providing most of the electrical needs of the house. Natural ventilation for the interior would be provided by open window on either end of the sideways barrel-shaped structure. Broad overhangs over the windows would also provide additional shade from the California sun.

On the south side, alternating strips of solar panels will provide electricity needs. Image via Michael Jantzen.

On the south side, alternating strips of solar panels will provide electricity needs. Image via Michael Jantzen.

Rainwater will also be collected from the roof and contained in storage tanks for reuse as irrigation and for other non-potable uses around the house. The extensive use of glazing will provide natural daylight illumination, which will be filtered through the strips of slatted-wood panels.

The entire shape of the Solar Vineyard House is meant to echo both the rolling hills of California wine country and also the cylindrical barrels and fermentation tanks used in the process. The upper level, containing a smaller arc than the lower floor, would contain the residential and social activity areas. The ground floor would contain space for equipment used in the wine-making process, which Jantzen envisions mounted on wheels for easy portability.

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Shared Renewables Bills Moving Forward In California - A lot of people can go solar today and get a very good return on their investment, while also feeling great that they are doing something to help protect our climate, air, and water. However, many people cannot. Have a roof covered by trees? Rent your home? Live in an apartment building? You know know what I’m talking about. California is no exemption to this problem, and with its strong and successful California Solar Initiative (CSI) sunsetting, renewable energy leaders in the state have been looking to jump to the next step of the solar revolution by making solar power (and wind power) a possibility for people in homes like those mentioned above. The effort to offer such an option is running under the name “Shared Renewables.” Continue reading

California Shines Brightest In Solar Energy Jobs -

California, the state that the Hollywood film industry calls home, can boast 43,700 paying jobs in the solar industry in 2012, versus only32,300 paid actors. Texas clocked in with 3,200 solar jobs, in comparison to the state’s270 to 2,410 ranchers. And across the entire nation, 119,000 Americans were employed by the solar industry in 2012, versus only 87,500by the coal mining industry.

image via Shutterstock

image via Shutterstock

All that’s according to the Solar Foundation (TSF), which compiled its 2012 survey of solar jobs in the United States several months ago, and just released the numbers via a new interactive map. That map also provides info on each state including solar jobs per capita, number of solar companies, number of solar-powered homes, and the legal status of third-party ownership.

The Solar Foundation’s announcement contains further details:

“In comparing our estimates with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we find that California now has more solar workers than actors and that there are more solar jobs in Texas than there are ranchers. Economies of scale are also making our industry more labor efficient, requiring only one-third the number of workers to install a megawatt of solar today as it did in 2010,” [said Andrea Luecke, Solar Foundation Executive Director.]

The top ten states for solar jobs in 2012 were: California, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New York, Texas, Michigan, and Ohio. In comparing solar employment estimates from today’s release with previous state figures that examined solar jobs in only a few states, six states – California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado, and New York – are in the top ten for the third year in a row. Many of the highest-ranked solar jobs states are also those with the greatest cumulative installed capacity in the nation.

TSF’s work also determined that several of the top ten states — New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and Ohio — actually rank in the bottom 30 percent of states in terms of available sunlight. The strong industry presence despite a seemingly unfavorable climate is thanks to “high electricity prices and favorable tax and regulatory policies” as CNN Money put it. Skeptics might consider that evidence of an artificial market created through government intervention, but then our national failure to properly price carbon emissions and natural capital ismassively subsidizing non-renewable power in the opposite direction.

Other facts the Solar Foundation dug up included a 13.2 percent job growth rate in the solar industry from 2011 to 2012 — which added almost 14,000 jobs — versus a mere 2.3 percent growth rate in the overall economy. 86 percent of those were 14,000 were entirely new jobs, as opposed to previously existing positions that simply added on solar components. And finally, another 17.2 percent job growth rate is expected in the industry for this year, meaning another 20,000 jobs.

center-americanprogressEditor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of Center for American Progress. Author credit goes to Jeff Spross.

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The Path to 100% renewables -

Negative media coverage has a lot of people thinking solar and other renewable energy sources are not yet ready for prime time. But nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, we have the technology to get 100% of our energy from renewable sources.

So what’s stopping us, and how do we get to 100% renewables?

That question is being answered everywhere I look these days. A recent study claims that by 2030, we could power a large electrical grid with renewable energy 99% of the time -- without spending more than we do on electricity today. The key, given the intermittency of wind and solar, is to generate power in a distributed manner. But why stop at 99%? We have many tools at our disposal, including demand response programs, to get to 100%.

On April 16 in San Francisco, we’ll have an exciting opportunity to learn more at the Pathways to 100% Renewable Energy Conference, organized by Renewables 100 Policy Institute and its Partners. This will be the first time that international experts meet in the US to discuss a complete switch to renewables. People from finance, academia, government, policy, labor, and technology will join in an intensive discussion about what’s working and the best ways to overcome the challenges to achieving 100% renewable energy targets in all sectors and regions.

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California Solar Initiative Lifespan Extended -
Jan 1

California’s investor-owned utilities have quietly confirmed that financial incentives for residential, commercial, and non-profit/government solar systems provided via the California Solar Initiative will last longer than expected, due to project fallout and the low incentive levels now offered in final program steps. This development carries greatest importance in SDG&E service territory, where California Solar Initiative incentives for residential solar were expected to be depleted in Q4 2012.

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