Is Solar Financially Smart? What You Need To Know About Your Rising Energy Bill And How Solar Mitigates Your Costs

With energy costs on the rise and the fear of global warming, it’s no surprise that people are beginning to turn more towards renewable energy solutions. 

We’ve all heard about the power of the sun and the benefits of solar on the roof of our homes. However, it also seems like no one has explained why solar could be the future proof solution to our energy.

This is what you need to know about solar costs and your energy bill.

Why Energy Rates Matter When Considering Solar 

Before going solar, you’ll want to consider the costs associated with solar energy against how much you pay for energy from your utility company. Project Sunroof’s solar calculator can help you get started. 

Solar makes absolute financial sense if energy costs continue to increase.

As anyone who pays an energy bill knows, your rates fluctuate from year to year and even from month to month.

So, is it actually worth it to go renewable if energy rates are fluctuating so rampantly and the financial benefits of solar rely on that price point? 

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), residential electricity costs have steadily increased in the last decade. These rates have increased in the U.S. by about 15% in the last ten years. 

And that’s on average. In some states, like Oregon, electricity rates climbed by 40% over the last decade. 

The following graph from the EIA demonstrates this incline since 2009. Yes, there are ups and downs, but energy rates show an overall upward trend.

average retail electricity prices

Though the trend doesn’t immediately look “bank-breaking,” these numbers add up over time. By the time a decade passes, you pay a lot more than you would have if prices stayed the same.

How Electricity Costs Fluctuate By Location Over Time

How big these fluctuations can be depend entirely on your location. 

The graph below demonstrates different parts of the U.S. and how electricity costs vary by region.

regional retail price of electricity over time

In some areas, such as the East North Central region of the U.S., electricity costs increased at a steady rate. However, other regions, such as the West South Central region of the U.S., stayed quite high, decreased slowly, and then stayed about the same for the rest of the decade. 

residential state electricity prices change

As shown in the graph above, there are some states that have had more dramatic cost increases than others. But this data demonstrates a mostly-upward-trend, and, more often than not, a large increase in costs.

We can gather that while the financial solar benefits will be more dramatic in some states, solar energy will likely insulate you from the fluctuations and the increasingly expensive growth of energy costs.

The Bottom Line Of Energy Costs

PC: Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy

So, we know that energy costs get more expensive over time – but how do we know that electricity will continue this trend?

There are various reasons why it’s highly unlikely for electricity rates to fall rather than rise.

The EIA (Energy Information Administration) predicts, based on their years of data and research, that electricity costs are only going to continue to increase both in the short and long-term.

Climate change and extreme temperatures will also drive up the demand for energy. People who don’t make the switch to renewable energy options may be stuck paying exorbitant amounts for fossil fuels. 

As for natural gas – though natural gas prices have been falling the last few  years, many experts believe that it’s only a matter of time before the prices trend upwards. Why? Mainly because as export terminals (basically terminals to export and import liquified natural gas) are completed and exposed to international markets, companies can charge more. Right now Japan and Europe pay quite a bit more for natural gas than the U.S. does. We can expect the same pattern to follow in the U.S.

The takeaway is that solar can be very beneficial to a large majority of the U.S., and you can count on that for longevity – based on patterns of increasing energy costs. 

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Frequently Asked Questions about Solar:

Q: What is the ITC?

A: The Federal Government in the year 2019 will pay for 30% of your solar cost. That's like the Federal Government paying 30% of your electric bill for the next 30 years.

Q: Is there a solar program that is 100% free?

A: No. There are programs without any enrollment, install, or maintenance costs. However, you still have to pay the lower power bill that comes accompanied with your electricity use.

Q: What energy efficient program offers the most savings?

A: Solar offers massive savings to the homeowner. Especially as electric rates tend to rise year after year, and homeowners are using more power as they are adding in home automation, tvs, speakers, etc.

Scale of Solar Prices Over Time

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Solar Costs Decline And Electricity Rates Rise; But Is Solar Still A Good Financial Investment?

If solar energy is becoming more affordable, and energy rates are becoming increasingly less affordable, going solar makes total sense financially. 

A report from the investment firm, Lazard, quotes that the levelized cost per unit of electricity from new onshore photovoltaic power plants dropped 90%. Which means that the cost of generating electricity from renewable energy (especially wind and solar) is declining and becoming just as feasible on a utility scale as conventional energy generation.

Some studies suggest even though renewable energy is becoming more affordable, recent mandates that require the use of renewables actually drives up the cost of electricity

While this may just seem like an expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this process may be just the right way the energy industry can transform from using fossil-fuels to renewables. 

Keep in mind: these costs are on a bigger scale than residential use. It’s important to know for future use as the energy economy changes. But your personal energy bill will go down (even zero out) with your own residential solar system.

Renewable Energy Is Influencing Energy Cost On A Large Scale

PC: Vishnu Varma

Renewable energy brings down the wholesale price of electricity for generators. So why do they contribute to rising energy costs?

  • Economists of Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago wrote a paper questioning cost-effectiveness of renewable mandates. The paper questions effects of RPS programs, how they’ve raised retail energy prices, and how they aren’t doing enough to lower greenhouse gasses.
  • Wholesale prices for energy are paid to generators; retail prices are paid by customers. So the benefits aren’t evenly spread.
  • Generation of renewables account for about 44% of their total cost. Other parts of the cost are transmission, distribution, maintenance, depreciation, and taxes.
  • Renewable energy systems cost also depends on the cost of electricity that it is replacing. This is also affected by the location of the energy system. These flexible power plants are usually expensive to operate which can raise total system costs.
  • Renewables on a large scale take up a lot of land in order to effectively utilize their resources. This means they’re further away from population hubs and require much more transmission to meet the populations demand. This also drives up system costs.
  • If a state allows wholesale or retail competition it could drive up costs of energy.
  • Some observed RPS effects on retail may be because of older and more expensive technologies when programs first started. Updating them could even things out more. 
  • The National Renewable Energy Lab released a report that says a large grid system with 30% variable renewable energy (VRE) operates will without much disruption. Beyond that, it gets more problematic. The Lawrence Berkely National Lab (LBNL) also reported an annual wholesale energy price decline on average as VRE increased. But this also increased the price volatility. 
  • Improvements around capacity, cost of grid-scale, as well as economic and institutional fixes (like regional transmission organization) could bring generation costs down though may have higher transmission costs. 
  • The more we move into renewables, the more likely the whole business model for energy and it’s cost will need to change. The emphasis would be on customer pays for quality rather than quantity in order to keep renewable energy enticing and affordable. 

Renewable Energy Prices Have Dropped, And That’s A Good Thing

PC: Ciel & Terre

Research and funding have improved the development, product design, and energy distribution of the different renewable energy options. We now have products with increased capacity and utilization possibilities. 

Efficiency in the manufacturing process has lowered the cost of producing solar panels, which in turn makes them more affordable. As solar grows, the installation has expanded beyond single rooftops to solar farms that are hundreds of acres each. 

Once upon a time, renewable energy used to be too expensive and required subsidies and mandates to even maintain them or encourage the adoption of them.

However, at this point, renewable energy, like solar, has been made more available and affordable through tax credits, feed-in tariffs, and RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standards). This makes renewables very competitive against traditional sources of power.

So even though renewable energy isn’t necessarily bringing energy costs down everywhere it’s implemented, these are necessary growing pains as the energy economy transitions to renewable energy.

Overall, the changes are good and residential solar (solar panels on your home) will bring your energy bill down and even zero it out since you have your own system.

Key Points

  • Residential energy costs are proven to trend upwards, getting more expensive over time. The average increase in the last ten years was about 15% but has trended as high as 40% in some states.
  • Based on the data, the upward trend of energy costs is not likely to change as natural gas prices are marked to rise and climate change creates more drastic temperature/energy needs. Energy experts, like the EIA, have projected a continued cost increase based on years of data and research. 
  • Depending on the state/area of the U.S. you live in, your solar savings could be dramatic, moderate, or minimal. This factor is influenced by your grid utility costs. Some states will see huge savings and others will have smaller savings simply because they have lower pre-existing energy costs. 
  • A solar energy system can protect you from energy cost fluctuations and the increasing cost of electricity from fossil fuels. 
  • Purchasing a solar energy system with cash or a solar loan is the best way to reduce your energy bills immediately. In fact, most homeowners never have to pay an energy bill again. Considering the payoff time being between 5-12 years, and a solar panel system’s lifetime of 25-30 years, you can expect to be saving a lot of money over the life of your panels.
  • Solar lease and PPA financing options will still almost certainly save you money over the long-term despite fluctuating energy costs and can save you money in the short-term depending on the energy costs in your area. 
  • Before you go solar, make sure you know everything you need to know. Budget out your energy costs over the lifetime of your solar panels. Because solar is renewable, clean energy, even if you end up saving less than you thought simply making a change to renewable energy helps reduce climate change, pollution-based diseases, and deaths caused by fossil fuel emissions. 
  • Gather several solar quotes before going with a company; choose the financing option that’s going to save you the most in the long run. 

The Solar Takeaway: How This Information Helps You

We have seen how non-renewable energy costs have increased and why they will continue to increase. These costs will bounce around and fluctuate every year. 

Solar gives you control over your energy as it reduces your power bills. The electricity generated by your solar energy system is yours. You may not be able to control how much it’s saving you month-to-month. But based on the data, it’s almost certain you’re going to be saving money – especially over the long-term.

There are a couple of financing options for going solar. And each option will influence your energy cost and savings once you’ve gone solar. 

  • Purchase Financing Option: Purchasing your solar energy system outright with a loan or cash is the number one way to save the most money with solar. It’s basically going to eliminate your energy bill as soon as it’s set up.
    You’ll pay off your solar system in about 5-12 years on average. So you can consider your old energy bill going into paying for your solar energy for the first while. Once it’s paid off, you’re getting your “free” solar energy for the rest of its life (about 25-30 years).
    Fluctuations in energy costs in your area won’t really affect you or your payoff time frame. 
  • Power Purchase Agreement Option (PPA): The PPA or a solar lease will most likely have you saving immediately.
    These programs usually come with a contracted flat rate that you pay to use that solar system for the agreed upon time (about 20 years). A flat rate would be ideal for consistency and to keep you under your utility energy costs.
    Some contracts are set with an adjustment pay rate so that it may increase by a small percentage every year.
    Because of this, you may have small periods of time that you’re actually paying more for solar than you would for fossil fuel energy. The reason for this would be if the energy costs in your area went through a “drop” period in its timeline.
    So considering this, you may want to only go solar if the quoted price from the solar company is quite a bit lower than your current energy rate.
    However, even if you do have small periods that you’re paying more for solar, you may still expect to save plenty of money since costs trend upwards.
    This option may work best in areas with high energy costs. 

To illustrate this cost/benefit relationship with a solar lease and solar PPA, the example graph below shows how your solar rates could be lower than your current energy rates over 20 years. 

This graph illustrates the total amount you would pay for electricity over 20 years under the different examples in the preceding graph.

Graph credit: energysage


2019’s Top Ten Emerging Technologies According To The World Economic Forum

International technology experts gathered together at the World Economic Forum. After assessing and agreeing to proposals and criteria, they put forward 2019’s top emerging technologies–technologies that can possibly change the world.

They listed these technologies in their report as follows.

Bioplastics For a Circular Economy

© picture-alliance/Photoshot

World industries created 311 million metric tons of plastics in 2014 alone. A number which is expected to triple by 2050. And less than 15% of those plastics are recycled according to the World Economic Forum

Why is this a problem?

Plastics that aren’t recycled are abandoned in nature or sit in landfills where they wreak havoc on ecosystems, wildlife, and even our bodies via contaminated meat. 

Biodegradable plastics can help minimize this problem. These bioplastics would be created from biomass and converted back into biomass–a“circular” plastics economy

Most recently, plastics have been made from cellulose or lignin, which is the dry matter in plants. And these components can be gathered from non-food plants, agricultural byproducts, and waste wood as well. 

Though in development, bioplastics still have some way to go until they are used on a world wide scale. Cost and minimizing land and water use in these new developments are among the foremost concerns. Yet the progress being made towards biodegradable plastic promises a better and smarter way for industries and consumers to interact with a different version of this common material.

Social Robots

©Hallowell house/S. GOLDWYN/EUROPACORP DISTRIBUTION/COLLECTION CHRISTOPHEL

Though technology has some way to go before we have the perfect AI, there have been great developments in “social robots.” And they’re expected to become more sophisticated and common in the coming years.

Robots have greater interactive and performing capabilities, which makes them more useful than ever before. Using AI, these social robots use information gathered through sensors and cameras to respond in ways that seem lifelike

Of course, this AI is backed by research into human perceptions, social/emotional intelligence, and how to mimic it. Psychological and neuroscientific insights allow scientists to create algorithms that help robots respond to faces, voices, nonverbal and complex verbal cues among other things.

These social robots will continue to fill roles in society such as hotel check-ins, cashiers, customer service, and even assisting the elderly population.

Tiny Lenses For Miniature Devices

Photo Credit: guvendemir/iStock

Shrinking optical components (lenses) to fit their smaller counterparts (phones, notebooks, etc.) has been a technology challenge. 

Glass lenses are hard to shrink in size while keeping their needed properties, so engineers found out how to create metalenses. Metalenses are a smaller and lighter alternative to the glass lens

Disordered Proteins as Drug Targets

Photo Credit: Vanessa Branchi

New types of drugs are being researched for proteins that drive cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. 

These disordered proteins that causes these diseases constantly change, making them difficult to treat with one type of drug. 

However, scientists are researching new and promising drugs and how they can bind these proteins and treat diseases.

It’s predicted in the next three to five years these disordered proteins may meet their match in pharmaceutical progress

Smarter Fertilizers Can Reduce Environmental Contamination

The need for food is increasing as the population increases.

Fertilizers play a crucial role in crop yields, yet are still inefficient and may harm the environment. 

Many current fertilizers don’t feed the plants as well as it should, and instead release a lot of nitrogen goes into the atmosphere and contributes to greenhouse gases. 

Controlled-release fertilizers, however, helps the plants get more nutrients, which in turn reduces the amount of fertilizer needed. 

Slow-release fertilizers have been sold for some years now. Controlled-release fertilizer does an even better job at altering the nutrient-release rates in a better way of interacting with soil temperature, moisture, and acidity changes. 

Though controlled-release fertilizers are better, they still have issues such as contributing to greenhouse gasses and global warming. 

But for now, controlled-release fertilizers offer a better crop yield and minimize the impact other fertilizer would have had on the environment

Collaborative Telepresence

Photo Credit: g-stockstudio/Shutterstock.com

Technology research aims to make collaborative telepresence as seamless and real as possible. 

This means that it will feel pretty much exactly like it would if the person was in the same room as you. 

This technology would render geographical location irrelevant, kind of like Skype and other similar apps have radically changed how people interact on the internet. 

Collaborative telepresence will change how doctors and patients interact, bringing them into the same room without the hassle of driving somewhere. It will change how families can get together. And how businesses manage employees and hold meetings. 

AR and VR technologies are more affordable than they’ve ever been and are being widely adopted into people’s lives. 

Collaborative telepresence is still very much an emerging technology and has a way to go. But the pieces are there and this technology can start to surface in 3-5 years according to the World Economic Forum report

Advanced Food Tracking and Packaging 

About 600 million people get food poisoning every year. Finding the source of the problem takes retailers and providers weeks sometimes, which increases the time the infection has to get around. 

Blockchain technology allows food industry partners to see the train of actions that their partner’s take. They are able to see every participant and action in the food development process. This technology will help the supply train to be transparent, and it will allow retailers and providers to catch possible food contamination or sources of infection quicker. 

Additionally, researchers and involved companies are creating small sensors that will help monitor the safety and quality of food. 

Safer Nuclear Reactors

Photo Credit: Kernkraftwerk Gosgen-Daniken AG / Creative Commons


Many people hear “nuclear” and are immediately uncomfortable or scared. And after Chernobyl and Fukushima, it’s not a reaction without basis. 

But while it has basis, it is unbalanced. 

The World Economic Forum reports that building resilient fuels and innovative reactors could call for more nuclear energy as a means of clean energy and reducing our carbon footprint.

Carbon and other greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere are causing drastic climate change, and our common coal resources are running scarcer. Better means of energy are needed, and it is needed soon.

Nuclear energy has the potential to be one of our greatest clean energy resources. And it is 100% renewable.

Nuclear energy doesn’t emit any carbon and is infinitely renewable, yet because of a couple major tragedies, many have blacklisted it. 

The risk of nuclear energy can be greatly reduced. 

For decades commercial reactors have used  the same fuel. As the World Economic Forum states, the fuel consists of “small pellets of uranium dioxide stacked inside long cylindrical rods made of a zirconium alloy. Zirconium allows the neutrons generated from fission in the pellets to readily pass among the many rods submerged in water inside a reactor core, supporting a self-sustaining, heat-producing, nuclear reaction.”

This is all fine and safe. Trouble comes if the zirconium overheats. At that point it might react with water and create hydrogen, which causes an explosion. In the case of Chernobyl, there was a faulty reactor design and operation. 

Since nuclear energy holds so much promise, manufacturers are researching and working hard to develop accident-tolerant fuels. These fuels are less likely to overheat and would produce little to no hydrogen. These new and safer developments could easily be installed on existing nuclear reactors. These updates would also make nuclear energy even more efficient, creating a larger demand and making it cost-competitive. 

Combining green energy technologies with safer nuclear energy is a promising emerging technology.

DNA Data Storage

This emerging technology takes storage to a whole other level. 

It’s estimated that by 2020, each person will create about 418 zettabytes of storage in one year alone. For scale, this equates to 418 billion “one-terabyte” hard drives of information. As it stands, the magnetic data-storage we currently use that holds these volumes of 0s and 1s can’t even last for more than a hundred years–if that. 

And running these data centers demands large quantities of energy, which is a high cost. 

Essentially, we are about to have a major storage crisis that will only get worse as time goes by. 

To combat this crisis, new and innovative means of storage are being developed. One of the top research projects is DNA data storage

DNA consists of long chains of nucleotides (A,T,C, and G). And it stores the information of life. 

This tech could allow data to be stored in these DNA letters–literally creating storage space inside DNA. And it would hold massive storage potential. 

Utility-Scale Storage of Renewable Energy

Photo Credit: Vanessa Branchi

A lot of renewable energy is intermittent. Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. So there needs to be a way to back up and save energy for those times. 

Lithium-ion batteries are particularly being refined for possible energy storage, but the cost of the batteries is a factor to consider as they go up. So other long-term storage possibilities, such as flow batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, are being looked at as well. 

Energy storage technology is one of the top emerging technologies of 2019 because the demand for renewable energy is going up every year. Better storage means better access to clean, renewable energy. 

Middle-Class Families Are Set To Receive Solar Panels With No Upfront Costs In The U.S.

homes_power

The US is the best country in the world if you want to go solar – but only if you’re rich enough. Due to the steep upfront costs of around $32,000 in cash, only those upper-income families can afford to install solar arrays. Green Energy Tribune is, however, looking to change that. This new project hopes to help middle class communities see the sun in a different light.

Using money raised by U.S. government incentives and private investors to help fight global warming, the Green Energy Tribune goal is to get solar panels on the roofs of those who cannot afford them right out. According to recent news, the plan is to use the rebates set aside for solar and the money raised by companies who want to lower the per ton of carbon dioxide emitted.

The upfront cost for the installation to the families: nothing. The homeowner gets solar panels on their roof and a new reduced electric bill from the power produced by the solar panels. Green Energy Tribune predicts that it could save individual families up to $2,400 a year, which they hope could then be spent on other essential bills.

Green Energy Tribune is excited to be promoting one of the first dedicated solar repayment systems for middle class families allowing them to get a low solar bill and an even lower electric bill. The goal is to install solar arrays to over 32,000 homes by the end of next year. One of the benefits to this reduced electric bill program is the homeowner isn’t responsible for the maintenance as there is now a 25 year warranty on the panels. 

The United States government has talked about how they can contribute through raising money to be able to provide more rebates. In the attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and move toward installing solar arrays. In total, the solar program has totted up to an impressive movement.

By ploughing at least 30% of the money from government incentives and using private investors to back the upfront costs of the solar installation, the project aims to kill two birds with one stone – saving Middle-Class families money, while also making big fossil fuel polluting companies help to cut energy emissions in the country even further.

Anyone who is currently living in a neighborhood in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Utah and is classed as middle-class is qualified to apply to get the arrays installed. More states are being added monthly so apply to see if your state has joined the program. The sun sets on the initiative as the year ends in 2019, so if you’re living in one of these states, you might want to jump on board soon.

Green Energy Tribune invites everyone to find out if they qualify by signing up for a free visit. To increase the ease of finding out if you’re in the middle-class and qualified they specifically created a new website solarvisit.com. They hope that the funding put towards this new site will be well spent, if they can get interested homeowners reaching out to them, they estimate that they’ll be able hit their goal of 320,000 homes by the end of the year 2019.

Find Out If You Qualify For Solar Funding!

Success!

(Scroll down to see how you can win a $500 gift card to Home Depot)

Thank you, we have sent your information to our most trusted company in your area. They will be reaching out to you shortly from a number you don’t recognize, please answer the phone when they call.

They will need to verify your information over the phone before they will know if you are a good candidate for solar.

Frequently Asked Questions about Solar:

Q: What is the ITC?

A: The Federal Government in the year 2019 will pay for 30% of your solar cost. That's like the Federal Government paying 30% of your electric bill for the next 30 years.

Q: Is there a solar program that is 100% free?

A: No. There are programs without any enrollment, install, or maintenance costs. However, you still have to pay the lower power bill that comes accompanied with your electricity use.

Q: What energy efficient program offers the most savings?

A: Solar offers massive savings to the homeowner. Especially as electric rates tend to rise year after year, and homeowners are using more power as they are adding in home automation, tvs, speakers, etc.

Scale of Solar Prices Over Time

Featured Promotion:

We protect your information.

Dong Energy plugs offshore wind farm into world-first battery system

(www.telegraph.co.uk)

Offshore wind giant Dong Energy has become the first to plug an offshore wind farm into a battery system to store power to be used as needed.

The world-first hybrid system has powered up on the Merseyside coast to store electricity generated from the first phase of Dong Energy’s 90 megawatt (MW) Burbo Bank wind farm in order to help to balance the frequency of the power grid.

The new 2MW battery system helps to combat criticism that renewable power could lead to flickering light bulbs, or even blackouts, by disrupting the normal power grid frequency of around 50 hertz.

Richard Smith, National Grid’s head of networks, said the system operator plans to call on Dong Energy to release electricity into the grid to help stabilise the frequency.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the Dong Energy solution of storage connected to the offshore wind farm will provide services to help us respond to day-to-day operational challenges,” he said.

Benj Sykes, Dong Energy’s UK boss, told The Telegraph last month that battery storage technology is “a game changer” for the booming offshore wind market.

Mr Sykes was speaking ahead of the launch of the second phase of the Burbo Bank offshore wind project which uses the world’s largest operating wind turbines to produce almost 260MW of power.

“There is still a long way to go with storage but when I look at the pace of innovation in offshore wind I’m very confident that this will all come, and it’ll be faster than I think any of us can imagine,” he said.

The company’s share price bounced up almost 3pc to DKK305 on the Copenhagen exchange this morning after HSBC lifted its rating for the renewables developer ahead of an expected boom in the sector.

The bank said recent subsidy auctions which have resulted in lower than expected winning bids are likely to spark interest within countries along the Baltic coast and will deepen the commitment within other major markets.

HSBC said Dong “should be a prime beneficiary” of the market growth given its size and experience in the burgeoning sector.

A fresh report from Renewable UK has found that that the UK’s offshore wind capacity could expand to almost five times its current level by the end of the next decade.

The independent study, commissioned by the trade body WindEurope, claims that a total capacity of at least 25 gigawatts could be installed in UK waters by 2030, more than one and a half times the capacity of the UK’s existing fleet of 15 nuclear reactors.

RenewableUK’s Emma Pinchbeck, said: “The Government can help us by continuing to hold fiercely competitive auctions for financial support, as well as putting offshore wind at the heart of its upcoming Industrial Strategy. Clear, bold, modern energy policy will attract billions of pounds of investment”.

Santa Barbara Joins Clean Energy Revolution, Commits to 100% Renewables

(www.ecowatch.com)

Santa Barbara, California became the 30th city in the country to commit to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy. The Santa Barbara City Council approved a measure Tuesday that establishes a community-wide goal of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

The resolution also commits the city to transition all municipal buildings and operations to 50 percent clean energy by 2020. Santa Barbara represents the first city on California’s Central Coast to make this commitment.

“President Trump may be withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, but cities are stepping up and re-committing to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris climate goals,” Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider said. “I’m proud that Santa Barbara just adopted a 100% renewable energy goal and is joining other cities across the nation leading the way on clean energy at the local level.”

In April, Mayor Schneider became one of the first mayors in the U.S. to join the new Mayors for 100% Clean Energy initiative and endorse a vision of powering her community with 100 percent renewable energy. The passage of the measure reinforces how mayoral leadership in cities across the U.S. is accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels to 100 percent clean energy. Mayor Schneider is joined in Mayors for 100% Clean Energy by Central Coast mayors Fred Shaw of Carpinteria, John F. Johnston of Ojai and Heidi Harmon of San Luis Obispo.

“We salute Santa Barbara for their leadership on 100 percent clean energy,” Katie Davis, chair of the Sierra Club’s Santa Barbara group, said. “To meet our international climate goals, we must transition away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. Moving to 100 percent renewable energy isn’t just the right thing to do for our climate, it’s the smart thing to do for our local economy. Renewable energy costs have decreased dramatically and are now cost competitive with fossil fuels, and Santa Barbara County already has eight times more jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency than in the oil industry. The transition to 100 percent clean energy is represents a better and more prosperous path forward for our community.”

Coming on the heels of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, Santa Barbara’s commitment to 100 percent clean, renewable energy showcases how cities can lead the transition away from fossil fuels. On Thursday, just hours after Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. from the Paris agreement, the Portland, Oregon and Multnomah County councils committed to transition all of Portland and Multnomah County to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2050.

“Today marked a significant victory—one that was over a decade in the making,” Sigrid Wright, executive director of Community Environmental Council, said. “I take incredible inspiration from the thousands of individuals and business leaders who stepped up to support—to demand—a rapid shift to cleaner, healthier renewable energy. We’re proud of our City Council for emphasizing California’s commitment and leadership.”

Other California cities to commit to 100 percent renewable energy include San Diego, San Francisco, South Lake Tahoe, Del Mar, and Palo Alto.

In Germany, solar panels are transforming home life and offering energy independence

(www.cnbc.com)

In Germany, something of an energy transition is taking place. In 2016, renewables made up 29 percent of gross electricity generation, with wind power, biomass and solar photovoltaics leading the way.

Now, a number of German households are looking to harness the power of the sun and gain energy independence by combining solar photovoltaic (PV) panels with ‘smart’ battery storage.

According to its makers the sonnenBatterie, combined with a PV system, could help users meet around 75 percent of their annual energy needs with self-produced, clean energy.

Markus Grillinger is one such user. His home has solar panels on its roof and a sonnenBatterie system inside. “It takes the electric power right from our roof – we get it over the panels – and then it is saved within the sonnenBatterie,” he said.

Having a storage system enables flexibility. “We… can use the electric power during the whole day, and save it here and use it also by night,” Grillinger added.

SonnenBatterie’s offering is just one of many domestic storage systems being developed. Much like the sonnenBatterie, Tesla’s Powerwall, for example, enables users to store solar in the day and then use it during the night, when the sun has gone down.

Back in Germany, sonnenBatterie’s Philipp Schroder sought to highlight the potential energy transformation that could take place over the coming years, in which homeowners become ‘mini utilities’.

“In Germany we have 1.7 million solar systems, they are all owned by citizens,” he said. “So what we see is that consumers become producers,” he added.

“If you become a producer, why should you pay for your electricity? You’re your own producer… all we do is we link them together to become a sustainable and effective utility.”

The New Colors Of Solar Energy

(www.seas.yale.edu)

The technology of solar energy has progressed dramatically in the last few decades, as it operates with increasing efficiency and at lower costs.

But the matter of how solar panels look remains an obstacle. Most photovoltaic panels are blue or black and cover large portions of buildings with a monotone hue. That might not jibe with your personal taste – or that of your homeowners’ association. It’s a limitation that has hindered the integration of solar energy into some commercial applications. In fact, architects and designers have long requested a wider choice of colors for solar cells to allow them to seamlessly blend into a building’s façade or an electronic system.

Up to now, however, expanding the palette of colors that solar energy engineers can work with has proven notoriously difficult. That could be changing, though, with work from the lab of Andre Taylor, associate professor of chemical & environmental engineering. Researchers there have developed a solar cell that widens the choice of colors without decreasing its power conversion efficiency. Their findings are published in Nano Energy.

Researchers have previously tried a few methods to vary the colors of solar panels. One approach involved adjusting a layer of the solar cell so that it would reflect different colors – this has proved to be costly and with limited results, however. Another method introduced what’s known as a “dye molecule” to allow for more colors. This approach, however, diminishes the efficiency at which the system converts sunlight to energy.

The research team in Taylor’s Transformative Materials and Devices Lab also used a dye molecule, but this one doesn’t diminish the power conversion efficiency. Jaemin Kong, a post-doctoral associate and lead author of the paper, explains that this is because the molecule – a squaraine known as ASSQ – acts not only as a color agent, but as an energy transfer donor. It works in conjunction with two polymers – one that serves as an electron donor and the other as a non-fullerene electron acceptor. By changing the ratios of those three elements, the researchers were able to make adjustments that allowed for a gradual color variation from blue-green to purple-red.

“I think that’s a pretty impressive part of this paper – there was no major sacrifice of the power conversion efficiency,” Taylor said. “And the nice thing about this is that the dye can be used at low concentrations, so it doesn’t necessarily affect the overall mechanism.”

Solar Power Has Finally Proven That It’s The Energy Source of the Future

(www.futurism.com)

A NEW AGE IN ENERGY?

As with most energy and cost efficient power alternatives, there’s a lot of misinformation surrounding solar energy — even when we’re faced with hard facts outlining their benefits. Consider the fact that it took nearly 30 years for fluorescent light bulb (also known as CFL) sales and dependency to rise, as Americans were unwilling to switch over from incandescent bulbs until 2010.

Tried and true sustainable products often sit on the market for a while before they become “trendy enough” to be purchased. But now, thanks to some promising developments from Tesla,(including some slicker-than-expected solar panel roofs) the value and importance of solar power is finally getting the momentum it so critically needs.

These moves are important because, not only is solar power cost effective, it reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, which is an imperative issue we need to tackle. Humanity’s current net emission is

Humanity’s current net emission is 37 gigatonnes of CO₂, meaning we’ll need a reduction of at least 700 gigatonnes to keep global warming within safe limits. By switching over to solar power, we reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by over 37 million metric tons. And while it might be hard to see past your own finances, switching to solar power saves the United States over $400 billion in healthcare and environmental cleanup costs. But back to your wallet: solar panels pay for themselves in six to 15 years and increase the resale value of a house by about $15,000.

But solar power technology is nothing new. In fact, a similar standard of today’s models has been around since the 1960s. And since that time, panels have only become more efficient, more dynamic, and more attractive. So, what’s taken us so long to consider the switch?

MAKING A CHANGE

It’s the myths that deter people from trusting in the technology. Most commonly, potential consumers worry that solar panels will not work in cold or cloudy climates. The truth is, they’re highly functional in cold climates, as conductivity is increased at colder temperatures. And, Germany, a country that receives half as much Sun as the sunniest city in the United States, has the most successful solar power system in the world.

Now that Tesla has shown us how chic the solar panel roof of the future will look, skeptical homeowners will be more likely to make that change.

If you’re curious about the potential to save money and the planet, check out a solar power advocate like Understand Solar and get a proper estimate for your home. When faced with the facts, it’s hard to see it any other way: solar power roofs are essential investments for your home and the future. Fill out a cost estimate form and get access to exclusive deals in your area, and a fast and easy estimate to get things started.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Solar:

Q: What is the ITC?

A: The Federal Government in the year 2019 will pay for 30% of your solar cost. That's like the Federal Government paying 30% of your electric bill for the next 30 years.

Q: Is there a solar program that is 100% free?

A: No. There are programs without any enrollment, install, or maintenance costs. However, you still have to pay the lower power bill that comes accompanied with your electricity use.

Q: What energy efficient program offers the most savings?

A: Solar offers massive savings to the homeowner. Especially as electric rates tend to rise year after year, and homeowners are using more power as they are adding in home automation, tvs, speakers, etc.

Scale of Solar Prices Over Time

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World renewable energy production increases by record levels in 2016 – enough to power half of Western Europe

(www.independent.co.uk)

The world added enough renewable energy capacity to power every house in the UK, Germany, France and Italy combined last year, according to a new report. The record figure of 161 gigawatts cost about £187bn, but this was a staggering 23 per cent cheaper than it would have cost in the previous year.

And, in a further sign of the tumbling price of low-carbon electricity, Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates are all now receiving supplies at less than five US cents (about 4p) per kilowatt-hour, “well below” fossil fuels and nuclear.

The Renewables 2017 Global Status Report, published by international renewable body Ren21, found solar panels made up nearly half, 47 per cent, of the extra capacity added, followed by wind on 34 per cent and hydro-electric schemes on 15.5 per cent.

In a statement, Ren21 said: “Renewables are becoming the least cost option. Recent deals in Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates saw renewable electricity being delivered at $0.05 per kilowatt-hour or less. This is well below equivalent costs for fossil fuel and nuclear generating capacity in each of these countries.

“Winners of two recent auctions for offshore wind in Germany have done so relying only on the wholesale price of power without the need for government support, demonstrating that renewables can be the least cost option.”

Christine Lins, executive secretary of REN21, said the “world is in a race against time”.

She added: “The single most important thing we could do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions quickly and cost-effectively, is phase-out coal and speed up investments in energy efficiency and renewables.”

“When China announced in January that it was cancelling more than 100 coal plants currently in development, they set an example for governments everywhere: change happens quickly when governments act – by establishing clear, long-term policy and financial signals and incentives.”

In total, more renewable capacity was added that the total extra capacity from all fossil fuels combined.

However, the transition to a zero-carbon economy is still not happening quickly enough to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

And investments in new renewable energy installations fell by 23 per cent between 2015 and 2016.

“Investment continues to be heavily focused on wind and solar PV, however all renewable energy technologies need to be deployed in order to keep global warming well below 2C,” the Ren21 statement said.

“Transport, heating and cooling sectors continue to lag behind the power sector. The deployment of renewable technologies in the heating and cooling sector remains a challenge in light of the unique and distributed nature of this market.

“Renewables-based decarbonisation of the transport sector is not yet being seriously considered, or seen as a priority. Despite a significant expansion in the sales of electric vehicles, primarily due to the declining cost of battery technology, much more needs to be done to ensure sufficient infrastructure is in place and that they are powered by renewable electricity.

“While the shipping and aviation sectors present the greatest challenges, government policies or commercial disruption have not sufficiently stimulated the development of solutions.”

In the UK, the number of new solar installations fell by 81 per cent in the first three months of this year compared to the average for 2016.

The industry has complained that government policies – including a massive business rate hike of up to 800 per cent, subsidies reduced to minimal levels while fossil fuels enjoy lavish taxpayer support, and red tape – have severely hampered the sector.

The Government has also withdrawn any kind of support for onshore wind scheme, even though this, along with solar, is one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation.

Syria Opens Its First Solar-Powered Hospital

(www.ecowatch.com)

After months of testing, a hospital in Syria will have uninterrupted power last week, charged by solar power in a project designers hope will save lives and can be repeated across the country.

Syria’s electrical grid has taken a big hit after six years of a volatile civil war with most the electrical infrastructure bombed, dismantled or destroyed, leaving hospitals relying on diesel generators but at the mercy of fuel shortages.

So the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), an international coalition of international medical organizations and NGOs, said it hoped creating the country’s first solar-power hospital would save lives.

“To have those active (hospitals) resilient and operational, it’s a matter of life (or death) for many, many people in the country,” said Tarek Makdissi, project director of UOSSM told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

The France-based UOSSM launched the initiative, “Syria Solar,” with the aim of getting hospitals less dependent on diesel which the organization says is expensive and not reliable. The first solar hospital—the name and location of which the UOSSM would not release for safety reasons—runs on mixture of a diesel generator and 480 solar panels built near the hospital that link to an energy storage system.

If there is a complete fuel outage, the solar system can fully power the intensive care unit, operating rooms and emergency departments for up to 24 hours without diesel, which is 20 to 30 percent of the hospital’s energy cost.

Makdissi said the goal is to get five other medical facilities in Syria running like this by the end of spring 2018 with funding from places like institutions, foundations, government agencies and philanthropists.