Arizona SmartPower, with the help of the Anthem Council, sponsored a booth at the 13th annual Anthem Days event in North Phoenix on March 24-25th. The booth welcomed a steady stream of homeowners eager to learn more about how they can obtain solar energy for their homes.
Many event goers signed up for Solar Coach services and several of those who had already installed solar signed up to become Solar Ambassadors so that they could share their solar experience with friends and neighbors.
Among the new Solar Ambassadors were several young professionals who have solar homes and who were interested in ways they can share information about the benefits of solar with other young families. With such a high return on investment, solar is an excellent choice for homeowners at any stage of their life. Arizona SmartPower looks forward to working with these new Solar Ambassadors to encourage more young professionals to make the solar investment.
The community of Anthem already has a high percentage of solar homes, but Anthem Days certainly helped Arizona SmartPower and its team of Solar Ambassadors set a high standard for community events and for homeowners looking to go solar.
While solar energy proponents, skeptics and pundits were debating the renewable energy source’s future, solar became mainstream.
ABOVE: U.S. Solar 2011 Year in Review in One Graphic via GreenTechMedia.
2011 will likely be judged as the year solar energy came of age, as examples of solar and wind energy developments last year are too numerous to list. Below are a few highlights.
- U.S. Photovoltaic Solar energy installations grew from 152 megawatts of power installed in the first quarter of 2010 to 776 megawatts in the fourth quarter of 2011. Year over year increases were 887 megawatts in 2010 to 1,855 megawatts in 2011 or a growth rate of 209%.
- Solar energy attracted massive investments from big money investors such as Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, KKR, MetLife and John Hancock. These well-known investors claim solid 15% returns from their solar investments. “A solar power project with a long-term sales agreement could be viewed as a machine that generates revenue,” said Marty Klepper, an attorney at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, which helped arrange a solar deal for Buffett. “It’s an attractive investment for any firm, not just those in energy.”
- General Electric, already a major player in wind energy, broke ground on a $400 million solar panel manufacturing plant in Aurora, Colorado, which will be the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the nation. GE will be competing with First Solar in CdTe thin film solar technology that has already established the world’s lowest manufacturing cost for solar panels. The entry of GE into thin film can only mean even lower prices for solar and more widespread adoption for residential, commercial and utility scale projects.
- Solar PV panel prices decreased 50% in 2011, resulting in an average 20% drop in total installation costs. The rapid price decline caused business failures for manufacturers introducing new technology and for non-cost competitive companies.
- Solar electric energy grew in all market segments including residential, solar and utility scale.
- California reached a total of one gigawatt of residential solar power. California homeowners’ roofs now generate power equal to one nuclear power plant.
- “With 30-year Treasuries yielding about 3.4 percent, investors are seeking safe places to park their money for years at a higher return. Solar energy fits the bill, with predictable cash flows guaranteed by contract for two decades or more. Those deals may be even more lucrative because many were signed before the cost of solar panels plunged 50 percent last year.”
- Dan Reicher, executive director of Stanford University’s center for energy policy and finance in California, said, “The beauty of solar is once you make the capital investment, you’ve got free fuel and very low operating costs.”
- Renewable energy is cheap today. The following are some key quotes from Climate Progress’s report on the solar market:
The road ahead for solar and wind now seems clear. Prices are falling dramatically; leading financial institutions and manufactures have accepted solar and wind as mainstream industries; the use of fossil fuels continues to decline in energy production; electric power from coal in the U.S. has dropped from 50% to less than 40%; plans for more than 100 new coal fired power plants have been cancelled as retirement of older coal fired facilities has increased; the economics of solar and wind have made renewable energy the fuel of choice.
The transition from mining and burning coal and uranium for electric power to harnessing the free fuel of solar and wind will take a few years to complete, but the outcome is inevitable. Solar and wind will win.
You Solar Coach is here to give you his best insight on the 2012 solar industry. He expects the combination of tax credits, increased efficiency, cost reductions and major investments from industrial giants like GE and Google to spur even more interest in solar technologies in the coming year.
Solar Electricity Incentives:
For homeowners considering solar energy, 2012 will be a great year to move forward. Strong support for solar continues with a 30 percent Federal Tax Credit and a $1,000 Arizona Tax Credit.
Arizona Public Service (APS) customers are probably aware that the APS rebate has decreased from $1.00 per watt of installed power to $0.75 per watt. The good news is that the price of solar has decreased more than the rebates. Solar electric costs were as high as $7.80 per watt when the APS rebate was $3.00 per watt. While the APS rebate has decreased by $2.25 per watt, the installed price of solar electricity has decreased by about $4.00 per watt.
As the price of solar continues to decrease, all rebates and incentives will gradually disappear, which is great news. This is central to the concept of sustainable energy!
Solar Panel Efficiency:
Silicon-based solar panels continue to be the technology of choice for residential solar systems. As demand continues to grow, fierce competition among solar panel manufacturers continues to expand. One facet of that competition is the incremental improvements in solar panels.
While maintaining the same dimensions, panels have gradually grown from about 165 watts per panel to 240 watts per panel in the past 3 to 5 years. The advantage to homeowners is that they can get the same power output with fewer panels. Fewer panels means lower costs for labor and materials and, ultimately, lower costs for the homeowner.
Researchers continue to develop new solar electric technologies. Although many of these technologies hold great promise for the future, residential solar is expected to rely on silicon technology for the foreseeable future.
Silicon solar panels have no moving parts and come with a 25-year performance guarantee from the manufacturer. Now that we have several years’ experience with residential solar, many industry observers predict that silicon panels will easily last for 50 years.
Manufacturers’ performance warranties usually guarantee loss of productivity of panels of less than 0.5 percent per year. Again, industry observers say that productivity loss is actually 0.1 percent or less. So those silicon panels on your roof are likely to meet your home’s electricity needs for many years.
Solar Industry Developments:
The lowest cost solar panel technology is Cadmium Telluride, CdTe, dominated by First Solar. First Solar supplies panels to utility scale solar projects and has not been a supplier to the residential market.
In 2011, General Electric announced that they will enter the CdTe solar market with the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the U.S., which is currently under construction in Aurora, Colorado.
This is great news for the solar industry to have an industrial giant such as GE entering the market. Even though First Solar has the low cost process, GE obviously plans to meet or exceed First Solar’s quality and price and still make a profit. With GE making such a large investment in solar, solar is no longer a small market, but a worldwide juggernaut industry.
Major Industry Leaders:
Go Green with Solar Google has become perhaps the most visible leader in adopting solar energy. Google’s investment in solar to date is about $1 Billion. Google has installed solar to meet their internal power requirements and has invested in Solar City. Solar City has been able to expand their business to the US east coast states with the investment from Google.
As we enter an exciting 2012 for the Arizona Solar Challenge, we thought we’d take a moment to review some of the excitement from the past year.
The Arizona SmartPower team achieved record solar growth in 2011 by implementing our COR approach: community outreach, online platform/social marketing, and rewards and incentives.
The most prominent example of our COR approach is the Arizona Solar Challenge, which, in just its second year, has become a model case study for successful solar power marketing and outreach.
In 2011, the Challenge reached more than 11,000 Arizona residents. We are proud of our Arizona Solar Challenge Communities for reaching more than 4,200 solar installs and look forwards to seeing The SmartPower COR dig deeper in 2012 with the help of our community leaders across the state.