Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fwd: Strange Bedfellows: Why the Tea Party is Fighting for Solar

Strange Bedfellows: Why the Tea Party is Fighting for Solar

Christopher Martin 
November 13, 2013  |  0 Comments


New York -- When do Tea Party Republicans stand together with Sierra Club environmentalists? The answer is on their support for solar energy against the monopoly power of traditional utilities in some of the most conservative U.S. states.

A Georgia splinter group known as the Green Tea Coalition, which is part of the broader anti-big-government movement, is reviving the Republican link with the Sierra Club that dates back more than a century to President Theodore Roosevelt's work to protect the environment. Its influence is being felt in other states, from Arizona in the West to North Carolina on the East Coast.

"Some people have called this an unholy alliance," said Debby Dooley, founder of the coalition and a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots. She's working with the Sierra Club to fight for solar and against nuclear power in Georgia. "We agree on the need to develop clean energy, but not much else."

The alliance is a danger for utilities such as Southern Co.'s Georgia Power unit and Pinnacle West Capital Corp.'s Arizona Public Service, which are resisting the spread of solar energy as a threat to their business model. It may help solar developers such as SolarCity Corp. and panel manufacturers including SunPower Corp. of San Jose, California.

What's uniting the environmental and Republican groups is the view that plunging prices for solar panels may mean consumers don't need to buy all their electricity from utilities and their giant centralized generation plants.

'Strange Bedfellows'

"The free market approach works well in Republican circles, so I can understand how these strange bedfellows come together," said Frank Maisano, an energy specialist at the Washington law firm Bracewell & Giuliani LLP. "It becomes an economic argument."

Solar panel prices have fallen 59 percent since the start of 2011 to about 83 cents a watt, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That means solar power costs an average $143 a megawatt-hour worldwide now, down from $236 in the first quarter of 2011, according Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Nuclear costs about $101 and natural gas $70, by comparison.

In Georgia, Southern's plans to build two nuclear reactors at its Plant Vogtle site south of Augusta, each with 1.1 gigawatts of capacity, has drawn the ire of Dooley's Green Tea group. Georgia Power customers already are paying a surcharge on their bills for the $14 billion project, even though they won't start producing electricity until 2017 and 2018.

'No Competition'

Dooley said the growing use of solar power is pressuring utilities to open their grids to other energy sources that may become even cheaper in the next few years. Customers should have a choice of buying electricity from the grid or making their own at home.

"There's no competition here," Dooley said in an interview. "Solar is our only way to force them to compete."

Dooley's group worked with the Sierra Club to successfully lobby regulators in July to require Southern to buy energy from 525 megawatts of solar panels owned by other parties, including about 100 megawatts from rooftop systems.

Georgia Power has excess supplies of energy and doesn't need the additional generation from solar installations, said spokesman John Kraft.

"This wasn't something we were seeking but we didn't oppose it in the end," Kraft said in an interview.

Solar Rooftops

The odd-couple partners also are working to overturn a Georgia law that bars third parties from owning residential rooftop solar projects. The rule keeps developers such as SolarCity from installing rooftop panels at little cost to customers in return for revenue earned from selling solar power over the lifetime of the panels. That forces consumers who want rooftop power systems to shoulder all upfront costs and makes solar prohibitively expensive for most households.

Republican lawmakers are discussing lifting a similar ban in North Carolina, where Ruth Samuelson, a Representative from Mecklenberg, helped fight off attempts to gut the state's renewable energy mandate earlier this year.

"Where the Tea Party and the Sierra Club align is on pro- fairness and about the future of the planet," said Colleen Kiernan, director of the environmental group's Georgia chapter.

Environmental Links

Republicans had close links with the environmental movement until a few decades ago. John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club in 1892, took Roosevelt camping for three days in May 1903 among the giant sequoias and deep valleys of what would become Yosemite National Park in California. That helped win the Republican's backing for 1906 legislation allowing the federal government to restrict activity on public land.

The party supported clean air legislation and President Richard Nixon's creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s. More recently, the conservationist wing of the party has been drowned out by Sarah Palin's call in 2008 to "drill, baby, drill," promoting oil exploration in Alaska.

Many Republicans remain opposed to solar energy mainly because it's more costly than fossil fuels, according to Americans for Prosperity, a group founded by the billionaire Koch brothers that's often allied with the Tea Party movement.

"We've had disagreements over solar," said Virginia Galloway, director of Americans for Prosperity's chapter in Georgia. Coal and gas both can generate electricity cheaper than solar, and requiring utilities to buy it will boost costs. "We oppose any mandates that would raise utility rates."

Still, solar is beginning to attract the support of prominent Republicans including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Former President George W. Bush also endorsed solar power.

Arizona Dispute

The next big test is in Arizona, where the son of Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential candidate, is campaigning against the local utility in favor of solar energy.

On Nov. 13, regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission in Phoenix are expected to consider a request by Arizona Public Service to charge customers as much as $100 a month to feed solar power onto the distribution grid.

Arizona is one of 43 states that requires utilities to buy electricity from household solar systems, potentially cutting into revenue for the company known locally as APS. The regulator's staff recommended Oct. 1 that the utility's request be rejected and the issue taken up again at a regularly scheduled hearing in 2015 for rates that would take effect the following year. Some conservatives are siding with the solar industry.

'Solar Tax'

Utilities "don't like the competition," said Barry Goldwater Jr., son of the late senator and presidential candidate. "I'm a conservative Republican and I think people should have a choice."

Arizona Public Service spokeswoman Jenna Shaver declined to comment on growing conservative support for solar energy.

Goldwater founded Tell Utilities Solar won't be Killed, or TUSK, which calls APS's proposal a "solar tax" that's unfair to people who have invested in rooftop solar systems. Tom Morrissey, former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, joined the group as co-chairman in October.

"Utilities have had their heads in the ground for so long they didn't notice that it's become cheap enough to compete with them," he said.

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg

Lead image: Tea Party Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky, via Shutterstock

Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy

Fwd: Floating wind power turbine, substation begins operations offshore Japan

Floating wind turbine, substation begins operations offshore Japan

November 12, 2013


Installation work has been successfully completed for a 2 MW downwind-type floating wind turbine, 66kV floating power substation, and extra-high voltage undersea cable offshore Japan.

The consortium behind the project announced operations have successfully commenced, marking the start of an experimental study to evaluate the safety, reliability and economic potential of the offshore floating wind farm.

The experimental study will be carried out until 2015, and also aims to establish the method of operation and maintenance for the floating wind project. Phase 2 of the study will commence in 2014, and will involve the installation and operation of a two 7 MW oil pressure drive-type floating wind turbines.

The consortium, comprised of Marubeni, the University of Tokyo, Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan Marine United, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, Hitachi, Furukawa Electric, Shimizu, and Mizuho Information & Research have been participating in the project sponsored by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry since March 2012.

Total capacity of the completed renewable energy project will be 16 MW, making it the world's biggest floating offshore wind farm.


Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy

Monday, November 11, 2013

Microwave signals turned into power

Microwave signals turned into power

Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy
+1 646-402-5076

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Global Warming Gases at Highest Level Ever

Fwd: News Alert: U.S. economy grew at 2.8% rate over summer

US economy was picking up steam until the tea party decided to play chicken with our credit and budget again.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: The Washington Post <>
Date: Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 8:43 AM
Subject: News Alert: U.S. economy grew at 2.8% rate over summer

U.S. economy grew at 2.8% rate over summer
The Washington Post Thursday, November 7, 2013 8:42:55 AM

News Alert

U.S. economy grew at 2.8% rate over summer

The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.8 percent annual rate from July through September, a surprising sign of strength ahead of the 16-day partial government shutdown. Exports rose, businesses stocked up, home construction increased and state and local governments spent at the fastest pace in four years.

The Commerce Department says growth increased from a 2.5 percent annual rate in the April-June period to the fastest pace in a year.

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Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

BBC News: Fossil fuel subsidies 'are reckless'

Fossil fuel subsidies 'are reckless'

A new study suggests the world is spending seven times more money subsidising fossil fuels than fighting climate change in developing countries.

Read more:

Fwd: Solar Cells Utilize Thermal Radiation

Solar Cells Utilize Thermal Radiation
Mon, 11/04/2013 - 1:38pm

A two-sided silicon solar cell – positioned here on aluminum cylinders – is illuminated from above by an infrared laser. Credit: Fraunhofer ISEA two-sided silicon solar cell – positioned here on aluminum cylinders – is illuminated from above by an infrared laser. Credit: Fraunhofer ISEThermal radiation from the sun is largely lost on most silicon solar cells. Up-converters transform the infrared radiation into usable light, however. Researchers have now for the first time successfully adapted this effect for use in generating power.

There is more to solar radiation than meets the eye: sun- burn develops from unseen UV radiation, while we sense infrared radiation as heat on our skin, though invisible to us. Solar cells also 'see' only a portion of solar radiation: ap- proximately 20 percent of the energy contained in the solar spectrum is unavailable to cells made of silicon – they are unable to utilize a part of the infrared radiation, the short-wavelength IR radiation, for generating power.

Researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg, together with their colleagues at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, have now for the first time made a portion of this radiation usable with the assistance of a practical up-converter. The technology that transforms infra- red into usable light has been known about since the 1960s. However, it has only been investigated in connection with solar cells since 1996. "We have been able to adapt both the solar cells and the up-converter so as to obtain the biggest improvement in efficiency so far," reports Stefan Fischer happily, a scientist at ISE. The potential is big: silicon solar cells theoretically convert about thirty percent of sunlight falling upon them into electrical power. Up-converters could increase this portion to a level of forty percent.

A ladder for light particles

However, how does the up-converter manage to utilize the infrared radiation for the solar cells? As solar radiation falls on the solar cells, they absorb the visible and near-infrared light. The infrared portion is not absorbed, however, it goes right through them. On the back- side, the radiation runs into the up-converter – essentially a microcrystalline powder made of sodium yttrium fluoride embedded in a polymer. Part of the yttrium has been replaced by the scientists with the element erbium, which is active in the optical range and responsible in the end for the up-conversion.

As the light falls on this up-converter, it excites the erbium ions. That means they are raised to a higher energy state. You can imagine this reaction like climbing up a ladder: an electron in the ion uses the energy of the light particle to climb up the first step of the ladder. A sec- ond light particle enables the electron to climb to the second step, and so on. An ion that has been excited in this manner can "jump down" from the highest step or state. In doing so, it emits light with an energy equal to all of the light particles that have helped the elec- tron to climb on up. The up-converter collects, so to speak, the energy of several of these particles and transfers it to a single one. This has so much energy then that the solar cells "see" it and can utilize it.

Researchers had to adapt the solar cells in order to be able to employ an up-converter such as this. Normally, metal is vapour-deposited on the backside, enabling current to flow out of the solar cells – so no light can shine through normally. "We equipped the solar cells with metal lattices on the front and rear sides so that IR light can pass through the solar cells. In addition, the light can be used by both faces of the cell – we call this a bi-facial solar cell," explains Fischer. Scientists have applied specialized anti-reflection coatings to the front and rear sides of the solar cell. These cancel reflections at the surfaces and assure that the cells absorb as much light as possible. "This is the first time we have adapted the anti- reflection coating to the backside of the solar cell as well. That could increase the efficiency of the modules and raise their energy yields. The first companies are already trying to accomplish this by implementing bi-facial solar cells," says Fischer, emphasizing the potential of the approach.

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Monty Bannerman
ArcStar Energy