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Here in Utah, the government is committed to having 20% of the state’s power coming from renewable resources by 2025 … ‘if it is cost-effective’ (frankly, a confusing and counterproductive statement). That’s civilized.

According to this story from the Salt Lake Tribune an appointed panel of people are beginning to define ‘renewable energy zones’ throughout the state.

Isn’t the whole point of renewable energy that not only are our current methods of generating power NOT cost-effective (for consumers in any way), but that they are also destroying our own habitat, piece by piece?

It is a start, but not nearly good nor soon enough, I’d say.

The trib story also reports the following facts about solar energy, current and potential, in Utah:

  • Utah has considerable solar potential, especially in the western and southwestern parts of the state.
  • Southern Utah has about 300 sunny days per year.
  • There is no commercial development of solar power in Utah.
  • … Cost of development and access to transmission lines are the biggest obstacles.

Hmmm. Currently bleak. But plenty of potential…

Read the full blurb for the full scope of Utah’s current renewable energy situation regarding wind and geothermal.

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I read this tidbit today and it thought it was great.

From Paul Thurst’s Sun Volt Blog:

“PV [photovoltaics] and all solar energy systems work rather like a marathon versus a sprint. Over long periods of time, large amounts of energy can be collected and used. High energy short term needs are still best met by hydrocarbon energy systems.”

The guy who writes this blog is in solar sales and installation somewhere in Delaware – he’s got a lot of great, sensible, usable information here. He makes a lot of sense.

I don’t pretend to be an expert (just someone who cares and wants to learn) but this ongoing debate in the U.S. to choose a better regulatory framework for solar power has really piqued my interest – mostly because there already seems to be a market-proven way to go about this in Europe. But as usual, if America’s not the first to come up with the idea- anything else is considered spurious.

Come on, America’s ego – stop making excuses and get to work!

A tariff by definition is a table of fixed charges. ‘Net metering’ is used to describe the current U.S. policy on paying consumers who tie in to the grid with their renewable energy sources, but because net metering guarantees the power company profits from your generated power and you just get a ‘zeroed’ meter, generating your own power still seems out of reach for most Americans.

In Germany (and Spain, and Greece, and France, and Italy) they’ve developed a model where you, the consumer, gets paid more than three times what the power is actually worth and you get paid for every single kilowatt hour you generate – not just the excess left over after your personal Kwh-usage is deducted. These are your incentive to generate your own power – you will get a paycheck from the power company at the end of every month for the power you’ve sold them. You will generate your own power and power to spare for others to use. The system supports itself.

It’s called distributive generation.

We’ve thrown a lot of money in this country at far less conscientious, non-market proven, rich-get-richer schemes…

Nissan just announced it will be equipping all cars sold in the U.S. and Europe with these $50 solar powered car battery chargers. ICP manufactures a whole range of solar car battery chargers for the general public, costing from $50 to around $1,400. Right now the chargers will be used to keep the batteries nice and charged up while the cars sit on the dealership lot. But if you are a car owner with uncovered parking, this could be a great buy for you, too!

ICP solar charger for car batteries

ICP solar charger for car batteries

The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy is where you can find details about the rebates and incentives offered to residential and commercial roof-top solar projects in Utah and every other state in the nation.

Also, in other related Utah solar news, the northern city of Logan has extended a rebate program available to local customers of Logan Power & Light that rivals that of regional utility Rocky Mountain Power.

It’s a start…

Marc A. Baldo of MIT has lead a team of engineers in designing a new technique for collecting solar energy. This technique involves dyed panels which lead the energy to their solar cell-lined edges. The previous need for covering entire panels with solar cells is one of the costlier factors of solar panel creation. This innovation should significantly decrease the cost of solar power- Possibly within the next three years!

For more info: MIT opens new ‘window’ on solar energy

The Drake Landing Solar Community located in Okotoks, Alberta has 800 solar panels located throughout the community. It is also the first implementation in North America of seasonal solar thermal energy storage. This means that it collects solar thermal energy during the summer for wintertime use!

Web site: DLSC
Note the Project Status and Highlights listed on the main page. 🙂

Solar calculators, as I am learning, are all about you typing in all available information you have about your own solar home project, then the calculator will return detailed cost estimate information. Some of them are more generalized to just give you a ballpark price. Others are mind-bogglingly complicated, taking into account your area of residence and what rebates/incentives are available to you and how that will impact the price of your project.

Some will tell you the available sunlight in your area based on your latitude and longitude.

Here are a few we found (there are at least 10 really functional and free solar calculators to be found online):

  1. Solar Water Heating Calculator: Solar water heaters are a great way to get into the solar lifestyle. This tool can tell you how your current heater is performing and whether or not you will save money using solar.
  2. Solar Position and Intensity Calculator: This crazy creation is brought to you buy the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Given your location, this calculator can show you everything from the time of sunrise and solar elevation to the solar azimuth angle and about 30 other desired outputs.
  3. PV Watts Calcualtor: This is for people who’s current photovoltaic systems are tied into the ‘grid’. Dollar value and energy production are the big draws here. But make sure you know your current cost and have all the system details.
  4. Sun Chart Program: This is from the University of Oregon and can tell you, based on your position, hours of usable daylight for solar power purposes.
  5. Solar Collector Efficiency Calculator: From Build It Solar, this tool does exactly what it says, but be prepared to know the technical details of your system…

It’s not new or solar necessarily, but I just found out about it…

This is a very useful gadget if you are transitioning into a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Simply plug any of your home appliances into the Kill-A-Watt to instantly measure the amount of wattage the appliance is emitting.

kill-a-watt

kill-a-watt

Product information from ThinkGeek says:

The Kill-A-Watt allows you to connect your appliances and assess how efficient they are. A large LCD display counts consumption by the Kilowatt-hour, just like utility companies. You can figure out your electrical expenses by the hour, day, week, month, even an entire year. Monitor the quality of your power by displaying Voltage, Line Frequency, and Power Factor.

Uh, awesome. Even just for the forecasting abilities – being to able to know how much killowattage you can afford to use, let alone the green elements make this a really great tool for understanding your own impact on the environment. And it costs like $25.

Get this: new legislation was recently passed in Hawaii mandating solar hot water heaters on all new construction (single-family homes). By 2010 it will be illegal in Hawaii to issue a single-family building permit that does not include a solar water heater. For a state that was importing almost 90% foreign energy, this is a giant step toward energy dependency. Full story here.

Also notable – In Israel 90% of homes already utilize solar hot water heaters since an energy crisis in the 1960s. In fact, according to this story 60% of Israelis were already using the sun to heat their water. Spain is another country with this policy. See story here.