Week in Review: Solar strong as holiday season approaches

PV rooftop at a Toys R Us facilityAs we head into the holiday season, people continue to dig out from Sandy, the elections are settled and solar continues to grow at an ever faster pace. Last week saw such news in solar as a new ranking of best states for investing in solar based on which states offer the best value for consumers to go solar. The dependability of modules is being better identified thanks to work from PV Evolution Labs and GTM Research. Meanwhile SunRun partnered with a major U.S. homebuilder to offer solar on some of its new homes.

A new report from Ernst & Young ranked the top five states in the U.S. for solar installations. It found that the leading states for solar are California, Nevada, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Mexico. The report evaluated state renewable energy resources, incentives and costs for installing solar, wind and mixed renewable energy installations. The report also looked at the overall picture for renewables. All but Hawaii were on the overall top five list, with Texas rounding out the top 5 states for all renewables.

So many modules, so little time. Today there’s a plethora of PV manufacturers out there. However, some of them are likely to fail and some don’t make the best product and largely no one’s been evaluating and benchmarking how well the modules and their manufacturers are doing. That’s what PVEL and GTM Research’s PV Module Reliability Scorecard is working to do. The scorecard relies on testing and evaluation to help PV installers understand how modules perform and what quality to expect from each manufacturer.

National homebuilder Shea Homes has partnered with Sunrun and will offer solar on home it’s building in certain Phoenix, Ariz., neighborhoods. Under the program, homebuyers in the area can get a SunRun PV array on their home when it’s built, at no additional up-front costs. Under the program the homeowners will choose the solar option, which will be owned and maintained by SunRun, and the homeowners will pay for the system under a power-purchase agreements or lease.

Solar isn’t just good for providing hot water and electricity. It’s also being used to create fuels. For instance, Swiss researchers are using solar to split water into hydrogen—and they’re doing it with rust. The researchers have created a solar device that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen when exposed to sunlight. The most expensive part of the device they plan to make—the glass.

A big part of making sure that solar continues to grow is making sure that people are aware of it. One of the most important places to do that is to educate children. That’s what Citizen Power has been doing in Pennsylvania. It recently announced that it has over 1,000 Pennsylvania teachers in solar, other renewable energy and energy efficiency classes. The organization offers free training to teachers so they in turn will pass it on to their students.

Meanwhile in project news, Nanosolar has completed what may be the largest PV array with printed PV. It’s new 10 megawatt array in Spain is its largest to date. The company is now working on other installations but doesn’t have any others as large planned.

A few years ago, a 10 megawatt solar farm alone was big news, but these days, plants just keep getting bigger. For instance, 8minutenergy Renewables broke ground on its first solar project, a 800 megawatt DC farm known as the Mount Signal Solar power plant. It’s being built in Imperial County, Calif. on 1,940 acres of low-productivity farmland. Since its being built on previously disturbed land, the project has the support of environmental groups like the Sierra Club.

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