Monthly Archives: March 2016

Looking for a book to give to a K-8 school in recognition of Earth Day 2016?

Investigating Solar Energy is a new book published by Vernier Software and Technology that contains nine hands-on experiments and two culminating engineering projects that enable students to learn about solar energy and develop solutions to real-world problems.

About Vernier Software & Technology
Vernier Software & Technology has been a leading global innovator of scientific data-collection technology for 35 years. Focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Vernier is dedicated to developing creative ways to teach and learn using hands-on science.

Vernier creates easy-to-use and affordable science interfaces, sensors, and graphing/analysis software. With worldwide distribution to over 130 countries, Vernier data loggers are used by educators and students from elementary school to University. Vernier technology-based solutions enhance STEM education, increase learning, build students’ critical thinking skills, and support the science and engineering practices detailed in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The Vernier business culture is grounded in Earth-friendly policies and practices, and the company provides a family-friendly workplace. For more information, visit

‘Community solar’ systems may add savings to local, cooperative energy projects

A residential use of solar energy in Wisconsin is pictured. Credit: Matt Montagne, courtesy of Oregon State University

A residential use of solar energy in Wisconsin is pictured. Credit: Matt Montagne, courtesy of Oregon State University

By Phys.Org 

Part of the future of solar energy, especially for residential use, may be small “community-based” systems in which neighbors join together in the construction and use of solar systems to optimize the energy produced in their neighborhood – and share in the benefits.

New research by engineers at Oregon State University indicate that an optimal development of neighborhood solar energy might increase the total electricity produced by 5-10 percent, a significant gain by the standards of solar energy efficiency. At the same time, it can reduce the variability and unpredictability of the solar resource. Read more here.

Rooftop Solar Panels Could Power Nearly 40 Percent Of the U.S., by Mary Beth Griggs, Popular Science. The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) issued a report last week that analyzed the ability of America’s roofs to host solar panels. They looked at rooftops in 128 cities across the country, analyzing buildings large and small for their suitability for hosting photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, and how much power could be generated in each location. The estimates varied by state and by region, but overall, the report found that 39 percent of the country’s energy could be generated by rooftop solar panels.

Experts Explore Global Role of Solar PV, Solar Industry Magazine. The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) says its scientists, along with their counterparts from solar energy research institutes in Germany and Japan, gathered recently to discuss the future of photovoltaics and assess its contributions to increasing global prosperity, energy security and mitigation of climate change.

Detroit council approves 10-acre solar energy plant on vacant city-owned land, by Joe Guillen, Detroit Free Press. Members of Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration described the project as a catalyst to enhance the neighborhood, along with concurrent plans to use federal funds for nearby blight demolition and a commitment to train residents for “green collar” jobs focused on the reuse of vacant land.

Officials To Flip Switch On 100-Acre Solar Plant in South Arkansas, UALR Public Radio. The switch will soon be flipped on 151,200 solar panels that will provide electricity to the growing defense industry operations in East Camden. The 12-megawatt solar field will generate electricity equivalent to powering 2,400 homes.

Study: Home values increase when solar panels get installed, by Kelsey Ramirez, Housingwire
A new study from The Appraisal Journal, the academic publication of one of the nation’s largest association of appraisers, shows that homes that use solar panels are sold at a premium.

Will utilities become Uber for DERs?

Utility Dive Photo

Utility Dive Photo

As the industry debates the role of the utility in a distributed energy future, utility leaders are touting a network approach, by Krysti Shallenberger, Utility Dive

It’s no big secret: The utility sector is undergoing a transformation, and new disruptive and distributed technologies are increasingly driving that change.  “We’re witnessing a convergence of old and new technologies,” Bob Stump, an Arizona utility regulator, said in a speech at Edison Electric Institute’s annual Powering the People event. “Distributed resources in some way or another are here to stay.” The majority of utility executives surveyed by Utility Dive
acknowledge the utility business model needs to change and is indeed changing, with only 5% of those surveyed saying their utility should not build a business model for distributed energy resources. Continue reading.

This new transmission line will help unleash wind energy in the Great Plains

Photo by Michael Kappel

Photo by Michael Kappel

By David Roberts, Vox

Wind and sunlight have many advantages as fuel sources, but one big drawback is that they aren’t portable. You can’t carry them to a power plant. You have to build the power plant wherever you find them.

That puts the US in an awkward situation, because the most intense wind and sunlight tend to be found in remote, low-population areas — think the sunny desert Southwest or the windy Great Plains.

Continue reading.

In states implementing additional charges, net metering caps & other regulatory changes: “Can storage rescue solar?”

By Todd Olinsky-Paul, Clean Energy Group

Todd Olinsky-Paul postIn addition to benefiting customers: From the utility perspective, behind the meter storage should be viewed as an opportunity as well. After all, the more storage is paired with solar, the more control we will have over solar’s variable output, which is the main issue utilities cite for limiting the amount of solar on their networks (a potential $2 billion in lost revenue to conventional generators from rooftop solar is rarely mentioned). The more forward-looking utilities are even investing in small behind-the-meter storage systems at customer sites, which they can use to provide grid services and cut costs, while providing resilient power and other services to the host.

Unfortunately, the majority of utilities seem to be either neutral or negative on the question of distributed energy resources in general, and solar in particular. As Rocky Mountain Institute predicted more than a year ago, the more utilities try to decrease incentives and add fees for solar customers, the more incentive these customers will have to invest in storage, as a way to protect the value of their solar investment and further reduce their reliance on grid-purchased electricity.
Read the entire post here.

The Case for Solar+Storage Tax Credits: Clean Energy Group’s Comments to the IRS Vermont Microgrid Included in State Energy Plan as Example for Replication
New Jersey Opens First US Energy Storage Rebate Program 

New NREL study details US rooftop solar PV potential at 1,118 GW plus

By Mark Osborne, PV-Tech.Org

Photo Credit: PV-Tech

Photo Credit: PV-Tech

A new technical study that is more detailed and extensive than previously achieved, the US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has significantly increased the potential for US building rooftops to generate electricity from solar PV (photovoltaics) systems.

The analysis within the report entitled “Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic Technical Potential in the United States: A Detailed Assessment,” used detailed light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data for 128 US cities across the country, along with improved data analysis methods and simulation tools, to update and make more accurate estimates of technical potential of PV on rooftops at the national, state, and zip code level. Read more.

Download the NREL Report.
The report states that the technical potential of 1,118GW of capacity and 1,432TWh of annual energy generation was possible, equivalent to 39% of current US electricity sales. This is almost double (664GW – 800 TWh) the previous analysis undertaken and reported in 2008.

U Offers Discounted Solar Panels In Effort To Empower Families To Go Green

By Katie Buda, The Daily Utah Chronicle

Image Credit: The Daily Utah Chronicle

Image Credit: The Daily Utah Chronicle

Clean Energy Utah and U Community Solar are offering a discount on solar panels to all university students, faculty, staff and alumni from March 15 through Sept. 30, 2016. Clayton Johnson, clean energy project coordinator for Utah Clean Energy said they have a simple goal. “We want to empower more Utah families with clean solar energy on their homes,” Johnson said. In 2014, U Community Solar (UCS) provided panel installation to almost 400 households. Johnson said the program would save a combined $7.7 million over the next 25 years. The continued effort is to prevent over 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. Continue reading.

#DoTheMath: How Rooftop Solar Will Save Us Billions

By Sean Gallagher, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Blog
When we do the math, the increase in electricity supply provided by distributed solar generation and its associated reduction in demand trickles down to all ratepayers, in at least two ways. First, grid operators buy less power, reducing their costs. Second, reduced net demand leads to a reduction in wholesale market prices, further reducing grid operators’ costs.  Both streams of reduced costs are passed through to local utilities, which then result in reduced retail prices for ratepayers.

Remember this the next time your local utility tells you that your neighbor with solar is “shifting costs” onto the system. The fact is that the system is transforming, and that is good for us all.

Read the entire post here.

How utility collaboration can cut community solar costs up to 40%

Image Credit: Clean Energy Collective

Image Credit: Clean Energy Collective

By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) Manager Joseph Goodman left a position in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot program for the opportunity to show how to make community solar markets happen, he told Utility Dive in an interview.

Under Goodman’s leadership, RMI is now working with community-based organizations, rural electric cooperatives and public and investor-owned utilities to demonstrate that it is possible to deploy community solar installations at prices up to 40% lower than installations today.

Read more here.

RMI Insight Brief: Community-Scale Solar: Why Developers and Buyers Should Focus On This High-Potential Market Segment

Nebraska Solar Schools Website Is Now Launched

"Earth House" at Prairie Hill Montessori School in Roca, Nebraska, one of two "hybrid schools" (wind and solar). Nebraska has no other K-12 solar schools.

“Earth House” at Prairie Hill Montessori School in Roca, Nebraska, one of two “hybrid schools” (wind and solar). Nebraska has no other K-12 solar schools.

Nebraska Solar Schools is an online program that provides K-12 teachers with resources and tools for incorporating renewable energy education into their classrooms and schools. The program is available to public and private schools, as well as places like schools such as children’s museums, zoos, nature preserves and science and technology centers. Purchasing and installing a solar energy system is not a requirement for participation in the Nebraska Solar Schools program or for certification and designation as a “solar school.”

Current Program Partners 

  • Nebraska Green Schools
  • Nebraska Department of Education
  • Nebraska Energy Office
  • Creighton University, UNL, UNO, Nebraska Community Colleges
  • Lincoln Public Schools, Omaha Public Schools
  • Nebraska Chapter of USGBC
  • Nebraskans for Solar

Partnership Between Nebraska Solar Schools and Nebraska Green Schools

Nebraska Solar Schools is one of many program partners involved in Nebraska Green Schools, a new certification program sponsored by the Nebraska Department of Education. To achieve certification, students complete investigations through an online course and implement action projects. The 5 areas for student investigation are: Energy, Water, School Site, Waste and Recycling, and Environmental Quality. Nebraska Solar Schools & Nebraska Green Schools will launch this fall. For more information,