DOE Offers $32M for Solar

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $32 million in funding to train Americans to enhance the country’s solar energy workforce. The monies are part of the DOE’s SunShot Initiative. The funds will also go to company’s that can develop innovative, low-cost concentrating solar power collectors and to increase access to solar data.

DOE STEP programAccording to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) the new opportunities will:

  • The Solar Training and Education for Professionals funding program will tackle soft costs by addressing gaps in solar training and energy education, both within the solar workforce and in professions that play a crucial role in solar deployment.
  • The Solar Bankability Data to Advance Transactions and Access funding program will increase data accessibility and quality, and will facilitate the growth and expansion of the solar industry by creating a standardized data landscape for distributed solar. The goal of this funding program is to support the creation and adoption of industry-led open data standards for rapid and seamless data exchange across the value chain from origination to decommissioning.
  • The CSP: Concentrating Optics for Lower Levelized Energy Costs funding program seeks to further CSP system technologies by soliciting disruptive, transformative projects for the concentrating solar collectors in the CSP plant. These innovative projects will seek to enable CSP to be cost-competitive with conventional forms of electric power generation.

“Last year, a new solar energy project was installed every two and a half minutes in the United States,” said Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. “To ensure the continued growth of the U.S. solar industry and our clean energy economy, it is critical that we support workforce training programs that will give American workers the skills they need for well-paying jobs and also make sure American consumers have access to highly-trained, credentialed professionals when they choose solar to power their daily lives.”  Continue reading

EcoTech: Clean Jobs Continue to Grow

Clean jobs continue to grow with more than one million green energy job postings across the nation during Q1 2015 according to Ecotech Institute’s Clean Jobs Index. The index is based on Bureau of Labor Statistics and includes jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their company’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use few natural resources.

Clean Job Openings Q1 2015“As more businesses look for ways to conserve energy and renewables continue to gain traction, more jobs are becoming available,” said Chris Gorrie, Ecotech Institute’s President. “States have come to see clean energy sources as an important piece of infrastructure, opening the door to great opportunities in renewable energy.”

In Q1 2015 there were 1.2 million clean job postings in the U.S. with the top states for jobs being California, Texas and New York. States with the Highest Rise in Clean Jobs Openings, Compared to Q1 2014 include: Rhode Island, New York, Texas, North Carolina and Maryland.

States with Most Clean Jobs per 100,000 People:

  • North Dakota
  • Iowa
  • Rhode Island
  • Colorado
  • Wyoming
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Ohio
  • Indiana
  • South Dakota

EcoTech Institute created the Clean Jobs Index to provide objective information about renewable energy jobs and to compare states’ use and development of clean and sustainable energy.

Solar Goes to Space

Solar has gone to space. SolAero Technologies has announced that 32 of its SolAero solar panels populated with high-efficiency triple-junction ZTJ solar cells are powering the four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission spacecraft that launched successfully on March 12, 2015 aboard the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

SolAero Solor Panels on MMS spacecraftThe MMS will study magnetic reconnection, a fundamental process that occurs throughout the universe when magnetic fields connect and disconnect explosively, releasing energy and accelerating particles up to nearly the speed of light. Unlike previous missions that have observed only evidence of magnetic reconnection events, MMS has sufficient resolution to observe and measure reconnection events as they occur. While MMS will fly through reconnection regions in less than a second, key sensors on each spacecraft are able to capture measurements 100 times faster than any previous mission. In addition, MMS consists of four identical observatories, which together will provide the first ever three-dimensional view of magnetic reconnection.

SolAreo said this mission is unprecedented. Building four spacecraft at the same time – something that had never before been done at Goddard – required a unique set of engineering, management and production skills. In addition, SolAero said they provided solar panels for each spacecraft designed and built at the highest efficiency and to the highest standards necessary for a successful mission.

Sun Edison & GRID Alternatives “RISE”

SunEdison and its SunEdison Foundation has announced a $5 million solar/funding contribution to GRID Alternatives to launch a two-year initiative called RISE to connect the solar industry’s demand for skilled workers with communities that need jobs. Building on the successful 2014 SunEdison and GRID Alternatives partnership to bring more women into the solar industry, the RISE initiative will provide underserved communities with solar job training and job placement through GRID Alternatives’ workforce development program.

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives announce major solar workforce initiative called RISE. SunEdison and the SunEdison Foundation contribute $5 million to train women and members of underserved communities for jobs in the solar industry. (PRNewsFoto/SunEdison, Inc.)

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives announce major solar workforce initiative called RISE. SunEdison and the SunEdison Foundation contribute $5 million to train women and members of underserved communities for jobs in the solar industry. (PRNewsFoto/SunEdison, Inc.)

This partnership is making solar more accessible for everyone in America. For lower income families, that means lower electricity bills, more money for necessities, and the opportunity to receive valuable job training,” said Ahmad Chatila, president and chief executive officer of SunEdison. “I’m very proud that with this contribution, SunEdison is truly helping the people who need it most.”

The RISE initiative will provide hands-on training and real-world solar installation experience to over 4,000 people across the country. In addition, the initiative will connect job trainees with solar companies looking for skilled workers. As part of the initiative, GRID Alternatives through its SolarCorps program will provide 40 individuals with one-year paid fellowships in GRID Alternatives’ offices around the country. In addition, SunEdison employees will donate over 2,000 hours of their time installing solar systems for low-income families and supporting job-readiness for trainees.

“The solar industry is adding jobs at a rate of more than 20% year over year,” added Erica Mackie, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of GRID Alternatives. “This is an incredible opportunity to connect an industry that needs good people with people that need good jobs, and that’s just what this partnership is doing.”

SunEdison and GRID Alternatives will also be working with the White House to help President Obama meet his goal of installing 100 megawatts of solar capacity on federally assisted housing in a way that provides job training opportunities to the residents of those communities.

Vernier Offers Wind Energy Lab Book

A new lab book, Investigating Wind Energy is now available for students in grades 4-6. Vernier Software & Technology spearheaded the effort. The book was written for and aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The lesson plans encourage students to apply learned knowledge as they explore electric circuits and investigate blade design variables using a variety of materials and technologies using a variety of materials and technologies, including the KidWIND MINI Wind Turbine, the Vernier Energy Sensor, and more.

Investigating Wind Energy“Our new lab book provides students with multiple hands-on investigations that explore renewable energy science, as recommended by NGSS,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and former physics teacher. “These types of inquiry-based investigations engage students in scientific discovery at an earlier age and provide the foundation needed as they progress through STEM instruction.”

The lab book includes ten investigations and one culminating project where students design, test, and refine a wind turbine blade set that converts wind energy to electrical energy. The investigations are designed to help students explore quantitative current, potential difference, power, energy and more in an engaging, hands-on way.

The lab book includes a table showing the Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science and Engineering Practices covered in each investigation, making it easy to use with the EQuIP rubric from Achieve. Additionally, it includes information on related skills, estimated completion times for the investigations, equipment tips, teaching tips, answers, sample data, and graphs in the teacher information pages. An accompanying CD with editable Word files for all of the student pages allows teachers to adjust lessons to meet their needs.

Gigawatt Global Grid Connects Solar Project

The Rwanda field, a $23.7 million, 8,5 MW solar energy plant has been connected to the power grid. Developed by Gigawatt Global, this is the first utility-scale project to reach financial close and come online under the Africa Clean Energy Finance (ACEF) program that is part of the Power Africa Initiative. The Rwanda field – constructed in the shape of the African continent – brought together an international consortium of financing partners.

Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. James Musoni, and the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), John Morton, led a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) near where the solar plant is located.

“Top quality developers like Gigawatt Global are the keys to success for President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, president and CEO of OPIC. “After OPIC provided critical early-stage support through the ACEF program, Gigawatt smoothly and swiftly brought the project online to give Rwanda enough grid-connected power to supply 15,000 homes. Gigawatt Global in Rwanda is a clear demonstration that solar will be a key part of Africa’s energy solution.” The project was completed in one year.

Rwanda Gigawatt Project Drone  Gigawatt Project Rwanda DroneChaim Motzen, Gigawatt Global Co-Founder and Managing Director, and the main force behind the development of the project, noted, “Our project proves the viability of financing and building large-scale solar fields in sub-Saharan Africa, and we hope that this solar field serves as a catalyst for many more sustainable energy projects in the region. The speed with which this project was completed is a tribute to the strength of the Rwandan government’s institutions and their laser-focus on increasing Rwanda’s generation capacity as well as to the nimbleness of our team and partners which spanned eight countries.”

The Rwandan project is built on land owned by the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, whose mission is to care for Rwanda’s most vulnerable children orphaned before and after the Rwandan genocide. The Village is leasing land to house the solar facility, the fees from which will help pay for a portion of the Village’s charitable expenses. Gigawatt Global will also be providing training on solar power to students of the Liquidnet High School on the grounds of the Youth Village.

“This utility-scale solar field at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is a symbol of hope for sub-Saharan Africa’s tens of millions of orphans and 600 million people without power, ushering in a new era of impact investing that we will hopefully be replicating throughout Africa,” added Yosef Abramowitz, president of Gigawatt Global. “We want to thank President Obama and Secretary Kerry, along with our other financial partners, for the opportunity to celebrate this landmark electricity-generating project under Power Africa.”

Are Solar Investments Better Than Stocks?

Investing in a 5 kilowatt solar system may be a better investment than investing in a stock market index fund according to a new report, “Going Solar in America: A Guide for Homeowners Considering Solar PV in America’s 50 Largest Cities,” released by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded study finds that solar is a “real opportunity for anyone looking to take greater control over their monthly utility bills and make a long-term, relatively low-risk investment.”

The first Going Solar in America report ranked America’s 50 largest cities by the financial value rooftop solar offers residential customers. According to the authors’ calculations, a financed solar PV system can be a better investment than Going Solar in America reportthe S&P 500 in 46 of the 50 cities. The report fins that many homeowners are unaware of solar PV’s value because they don’t have a personal point of reference of understanding how much it will cost them.

The second report provides actionable information to homeowners as a follow-up to these rankings. The guide includes descriptions of the policy and incentive options available to homeowners considering solar and information on how to get started. Among topics addressed are solar PV technology, financing options (loans, leases and power purchase agreements), and net metering and “value of solar” tariffs.

“We wanted to first draw attention to the financial value that solar offers today and then have a resource available to assist homeowners who are interested in taking the next step,” said Autumn Proudlove, co-author of the Going Solar in America reports.

Jim Kennerly, lead author and project manager of the Going solar reports notes that the upfront costs of a typical size solar PV system, not factoring into tax credits and other financing options, is about the same as the upfront cost of buying a 2015 Toyota Corolla. “Given that a car’s upfront cost does not include ongoing gas and maintenance costs, it really shows that going solar right now is a great financial value, no matter who you are, or where you live.”

Participate in “Shout Out for Solar” Day

Shout Out for Solar Day” is taking place on Friday, January 16, 2015 on Facebook, Twitter and other social media venues. The event coincides with the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) 41st anniversary as well as the release of The Solar Foundation’s “National Solar Jobs Census” report on Thursday, January 15.

“With the U.S. solar energy industry coming off a record-shattering year, next week’s ‘Shout Out For Solar’ Day is the perfect time for Americans to voice their support for increased development of solar resources nationwide,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “In a short period of time, solar has become a true American success story, benefiting both National Shout out for Solar Daythe U.S. economy and our environment, and we need to be shouting that news from every rooftop.”

According to estimates, the U.S. now has more than 20 GW of installed solar capacity, enough to effectively power nearly 4 million America homes – or every single home in a state the size of Massachusetts or New Jersey – with another 20 GW in the pipeline for 2015-16. SEIA says the growth is being spurred, in part, by the affordability of solar. According to SEIA/GTM Research, national blended average system prices have dropped 53 percent since 2010.

“By any measurement, these policies [net metering] are paying huge dividends for both the economy and environment,” Resch continued. “Yet despite all of the progress we’ve made, solar faces an uncertain future in Washington and in some state capitals. It’s more important than ever for the voices of our supporters to be heard.”

Anyone can participate in the event. Pictures can be uploaded to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #GoSolar. Supporters can download and print signs for their pictures here. SEIA is also hosting a Thunderclap, which will send out coordinated Tweets and Facebook posts from hundreds of supporters on January 16.

Students Learn About the Power of the Sun

Green Power EMC has released an updated curriculum and enhanced in-class learning laboratory featuring solar power. The program was developed by schools participating in their SunPower for Schools partnership program. The curriculum provides solar arrays on school grounds and software for use in the classroom that when used together allow students to monitor real-time data on solar energy production. Currently, 35 middle and high schools in EMC service territories around Georgia are participating in the program.

The program supports STEM standards (science, technology, engineering and math) and includes 57 lesson plans that cover four main areas for middle and high school students: physical science, physics and chemistry; math; life science, biology Array-Sun-Power_rszand environmental science; and earth science. Additional lesson plans are being developed for other subjects and grade levels as well.

“This professionally developed curriculum and upgraded hardware and software not only help students learn about solar energy but also provide a hands-on laboratory to apply math and science standards taught in Georgia schools,” said Green Power EMC President Jeff Pratt. “In addition, we created the curriculum as an off-the-shelf program that teachers can use with a minimum of preparation.”

The new curriculum was developed by the University of West Georgia in partnership with Green Power EMC and was reviewed this summer in a teacher’s workshop in Savannah to test and evaluate the program. Forty-four middle and high school teachers participated in the three-day seminar and provided feedback that is being incorporated into the curriculum. It will be utilized during the 2014 – 2015 school year.

Pratt said Green Power EMC and the EMCs in Georgia who own the renewable energy cooperative hope to further enhance the program in the near future to provide more hands-on learning opportunities for Georgia’s students. “We’re excited to have developed a curriculum that is like no other in the state,” said Pratt. “We expect that teacher and student feedback received during this first year of implementation will allow us to make it even better in future years.”

Light This Holiday Season with Luci

It is estimated 1.4 billion people, largely in developing communities, live without access to grid electricity. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, 90 million primary students are without electricity. And, each year, indoor pollution from dirty fuels results in four million deaths. To address this issue, the creators of Luci, MPOWERD, have partnered with FCB Garfinkel and the composers from Found Objects to shine a light on energy poverty in emerging countries. The collaborators have released a new animated video follows the journey of a young child and showcases how important access to energy is for his education and quality of life.

According to MPOWERD, Luci is an easy-to-use, high-quality solar lantern and task light that is lightweight, maintenance-free, safe and waterproof. It is a high-impact and low-footprint resource to increase access to reliable lighting across the globe.

Lee Garfinkel, CEO of FCB Garfinkel, said explaining energy poverty is tough when the public isn’t always aware of the problem. “The story of Kiama brings his daily struggle to life and, through the help of the Luci solar-powered light, illustrates how a simple idea can have an incredible impact.”

“Give Luci” tells the story of a boy named Kiama on his journey to and from school. Kiama, like many children, has big dreams. As Kiama heads home from school to have dinner with his family, he settles in but so does the sun. That causes Kiama’s world to go dark. Kiama’s lack of access to light means he, like millions of other children, cannot study at night or do his homework, which in turn dampens his dreams and his potential. That is, until Luci.

“We know that energy poverty is a topic that isn’t discussed very often,” added Scott Kling, President and COO of MPOWERD. “But making a big impact is easy. When people purchase even just one Luci light and gift it to someone in need, it can change the lives of a family of five and keep 320kg of CO2 out of the atmosphere annually.”