These dog houses are more energy efficient than yours

Meet Miles.

His wardrobe is better than mine (I cannot pull off a monogramed scarf).

He owns a canine Fitbit ...

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These dog houses are more energy efficient than yours

West Highland White The

Groups were challenged to create dog houses that fit the dog’s size, personality and individual preferences. They also include sustainable features like rainwater collection, solar-powered lights, reclaimed materials and passive cooling.

Key Points

  • Miles is cool.
  • Way cooler than any of us.
  • His dog house will likely soon feature solar-powered water pumps to keep his dish fresh. 

Meet Miles.

His wardrobe is better than mine (I cannot pull off a monogramed scarf).

He owns a canine Fitbit and a doggy cooling mat for those hot summer days.

And now, thanks to a challenge from the U.S. Department of Energy, his house will soon likely be nicer — and more energy efficient — than mine.

You win, Miles. You win.

Miles, a 25-pound West Highland White Terrier, is going to flip when he sees the dog houses Denver-area architectural and engineering firms put together for the BARKitecture competition.

Groups were challenged to create dog houses that fit the dog’s size, personality and individual preferences. They also include sustainable features like rainwater collection, solar-powered lights, reclaimed materials and passive cooling. (One house has a solar chimney and underfloor heating system. Another has a solar-powered pump to circulate water to a drinking bowl.)

I can only assume that Miles prefers slightly chilled sparkling Perrier, but if he has to settle for flat water, he would want it fresh and circulated in on the hour.

Check out this slide show to see more canine creations.

These dog houses were inspired by the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon where college teams build energy efficient, solar-powered houses (for people, not dogs). The competition is taking place in Denver through Oct. 15 and is open to the public.

Miles will probably be escorted to Denver in his luxury dog car seat (yep, those exist too), wearing doggie sunglasses, and sipping a canine scotch on the rocks.

Because he’s Miles, and that’s how he rolls (and I’m a little jealous).


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Your CrossFit friends will freak about what’s growing under solar panels

How can you tell if someone does CrossfFit?

Don’t worry; it will come up in nearly every conversation.

“Ready for the meeting?

“Yes, but I can ...

Tagged: crossfit, solar

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Your CrossFit friends will freak about what’s growing under solar panels

Woman appears exhausted after CrossFit workout

Farmers are figuring out ways to grow crops under solar panels. And it just so happens that the produce that can thrive in the shaded area under the panels include CrossFitter favorites like mushrooms, broccoli, Swiss chard and potatoes.

Key Points

  • Solar panels are big and cover a lot of land.
  • Farmers are figuring out a way to use the land under solar panels.
  • Crops like mushrooms, potatoes and kale don’t need a lot of light and can grow under the panels.

How can you tell if someone does CrossfFit?

Don’t worry; it will come up in nearly every conversation.

“Ready for the meeting?

“Yes, but I can barely get out of my chair because my CrossFit WOD this morning was bananas.”

Or

“Want to go grab lunch?”

“Yes, but only if they have hamburgers with mushrooms for buns and organic kale salad. My friends and I at CrossFit — you know, the best and only workout anyone should do — only eat foods that our primal ancestors ate, and I can’t believe you’d even think of wrecking your digestive system with bread, and also I can do 55 pull ups in case you wanted to know, which of course you did because CrossFit is amazing. Did I mention that I love CrossFit?

You get the idea.

So just imagine how excited they’ll be when they hear about this.

Farmers are figuring out ways to grow crops under solar panels. And it just so happens that the produce that can thrive in the shaded area under the panels include CrossFitter favorites like mushrooms, broccoli, Swiss chard and potatoes.

Solar panels cover lots of ground. Using all that space under the panels could let farmers add panels to their farmland and make some extra cash by also selling electricity.

Some farmers in Japan are trying it out with mushrooms, and a farm in the U.S. is giving potatoes a try. The solar farm/veggie farm combo is being called “solar sharing.”

Now if they could just figure out a way to add some space for weights so you could also complete a CF WOD Rx’d for time and set a new PR, we could take solar sharing to a whole new level. We’ll call it CrossFit-solar-shrooming.

Don’t worry: Your CrossFit friends will let you know when one comes to a city near you. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Are you ready for the ‘Super Bowl of the Sky’?

Today’s the day!

Time to bust out your stylish eclipse glasses, head to the closest community in the path of totality, and belt out your own rendition of “A total eclipse ...

Tagged: eclipse, total eclipse of the heart, solar, Natural Gas

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Are you ready for the ‘Super Bowl of the Sky’?

Total solar eclipse August 21, 2017

Think of the moon as that tall guy with a big head who sits right in front of you at the movie theater. But since solar panels need sunlight to make energy, when the moon blocks the sun, it will do more than just block the view.

Key Points

  • Today is the solar eclipse.
  • Thanks to advanced planning, most of us won’t even notice the dip in solar energy available.
  • Natural gas is expected to help compensate for the lost solar energy.

Today’s the day!

Time to bust out your stylish eclipse glasses, head to the closest community in the path of totality, and belt out your own rendition of “A total eclipse … of the sun.”

And don’t even pretend that you’ve never sung the lyric “turn around bright eyes” in the car when no one was watching.

While we’re out gazing at what has been called the “Super Bowl of the Sky,” energy providers will be working behind the scenes to make sure electricity is still available — even when solar energy goes off line.

Think of the moon as that tall guy with a big head who sits right in front of you at the movie theater. But since solar panels need sunlight to make energy, when the moon blocks the sun, it will do more than just block the view.

At the movies when you can’t see the screen, you might change seats to see better. But energy companies can’t just move their solar panels to peer around the moon. They have to find an alternative source to make energy. Most providers will depend on natural gas-powered turbines to fill in the gaps.

The Department of Energy believes that thanks to lots of advanced planning, most of us won’t even notice the dip in solar energy:

“The National Renewable Energy Laborabory (NREL) conducted a study of Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) territory, which covers the vast majority of the Mountain and Pacific Time zones including 14 Western states.

“Examining the WECC as a whole, and assuming the worst case scenario — a bright and sunny day — the rolling effects of the eclipse are expected to have the biggest impact at approximately 10:30 a.m., when PV output is projected to drop 5 GW below typical generation levels. This represents the amount of energy needed to power approximately 1 million homes and, if not already anticipated, could create difficulties for portions of the grid network that use solar to meet a significant fraction of electricity demand during the day. The burden of compensating for the lost energy from solar generators will fall mostly on natural gas powered turbines, which are able to ramp up ahead of the eclipse.” 

And thank goodness they planned ahead to make sure the electrons will keep flowing. It would have really hurt my viewing party’s mojo if I couldn’t crank up Spotify and bust out “once upon a time I was falling in love, now I’m only falling apart …”

Enjoy the total eclipse of the sun.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Drones could help drive down solar energy costs

Drones are becoming a solar developer’s best friend.

The remote-controlled flyers are making the design process for solar farms smarter and more efficient, and that could ...

Tagged: solar, drones

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Drones could help drive down solar energy costs

A drone flies in the waning light of day.

Drones are deployed to survey a site. They map the topography and take aerial photos. Developers then use that information to figure out the best spot to place a new type of solar panel that is modular and flexible.

Key Points

  • Drones are helping solar farms produce more energy.
  • They help designers figure out the best spots for each panel.
  • Using drones and software takes 90 percent less time than surveying and design took in the past. 

Drones are becoming a solar developer’s best friend.

The remote-controlled flyers are making the design process for solar farms smarter and more efficient, and that could mean lower costs for some energy consumers.

Here’s how it works. Drones are deployed to survey a site. They map the topography and take aerial photos. Developers then use that information to figure out the best spot to place a new type of solar panel that is modular and flexible.

Seems simple, but before drones, it would take multiple human trips to do all that measuring. And even then, the designers wouldn’t have as much information as a drone can provide with one flight.

This is especially helpful for solar farms on sites where there is topography variation (anything other than a big, flat surface). Thanks to all of the information the drones gather, designers can analyze hundreds of options and then precisely place each panel to get the most sunlight possible.

The cost of solar power has dropped 62 percent since 2009, and with new technology like this, it will hopefully become even more affordable in the future.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Solar glitter is here!

This one could be a hit. Solar glitter is similar to regular solar panels in that it’s made from high-efficiency silicon and makes electricity out of the sun’s rays. But the ...

Tagged: solar glitter, solar, energy technology

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Solar glitter is here!

Solar glitter is super shiny

These glitter-sized, interconnected networks could significantly drive down the cost of solar.

Key Points

  • Solar glitter: It’s real.
  • It’s kind of like regular solar panels but mini.
  • The glitter-sized solar cells make the solar panels bendable, portable and cheaper. 

This one could be a hit. Solar glitter is similar to regular solar panels in that it’s made from high-efficiency silicon and makes electricity out of the sun’s rays. But the similarities stop there.

Let’s just hope it does better than that other Glitter.

Scientists from Sandia National Laboratory figured out a way to make traditional solar panels mini. The small size of the solar cells makes the panels bendable, portable and nearly unbreakable. 

These glitter-sized, interconnected networks could significantly drive down the cost of solar. Since they’re light and transportable, they are much easier to move around and cheaper to install. They’re also more durable, so decrease repair costs. And they require less material to manufacture, making them cheaper to make.

Conventional solar panels “are brittle because they're crystalline,” Murat Okandan, CEO of mPower Technology, the startup making the new technology, told Co.Exist. "If you bend or flex them, at some point they'll just break and shatter. By making our cells small and then interconnecting them, we're able to make them almost unbreakable."

According to Co.Exist, a satellite could carry a tightly-folded solar array into space and then deploy it when it reaches orbit; a drone could carry a folded array on its wing. Someone on a camping trip could easily fit a large folded array in a backpack.

"You can charge your devices when you're out backpacking, fold it back up, put it in your backpack, and just go," Okandan says.

We’re rooting for you, solar glitter! 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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French put a twist on solar

A new road in France will do more than get you from point A to point B.

It will also provide electricity to an entire 3,000-person village.

The one kilometer-long ...

Tagged: solar, solar roads, solar project

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French put a twist on solar

Futuristic view of a solar road with wind turbines in the background

This could either be an amazing breakthrough for renewable energy or a very expensive experiment.

Key Points

  • A kilometer-long solar road just opened in France.
  • The country plans to eventually build 1,000 kilometers of solar roads.
  • The costs are still unknown, but similar projects have proven to be much more expensive than other energy sources. 

A new road in France will do more than get you from point A to point B.

It will also provide electricity to an entire 3,000-person village.

The one kilometer-long solar road near Normandy is just the first stretch of a plan for France to build 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of solar roads in the next five years. 

This could either be an amazing breakthrough for renewable energy or a very expensive experiment. 

The road is the world’s first of its kind to be completed, but similar projects haven’t been as cost effective as a major energy source.

A solar sidewalk in the Netherlands built two years ago only generated enough electricity to power one home. According to Popular Mechanics, the cost of that project could have funded a hundred times the amount of electricity from other sources.

Granted, the small Dutch project was more focused on research than on making the system commercially viable, but it’s hard to ignore that huge of a cost difference.

The road in France isn’t a small pilot project. It aims to generate electricity for 5 million people, about 8 percent of the French population. We don’t know yet how much the solar roads will cost — although the first stretch through the Normandy village cost more than a million dollars. It's also not clear if the road will stand up to regular highway wear and tear or if it can handle extreme weather.

I’m excited to hear if it works — and how affordable it ends up being.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Solar’s secret costs might rain on its parade

I really wanted a family bike for Christmas and nearly had my husband convinced to get me one.

I shopped around and found what I thought was an amazing deal on a Yuba. ...

Tagged: solar, affordable energy, energy costs

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Solar’s secret costs might rain on its parade

Solar's hidden costs

But much like I didn’t initially account for the total costs of the coolest bike I’ve ever seen, many aren’t taking into account the other parts of the system needed to support solar.

Key Points

  • Recent reports are touting solar energy as being cheaper in some countries than coal.
  • Others are projecting that solar will be cheaper on average globally by 2025.
  • Most of these projections don’t include total system costs — including the backup energy needed when the sun doesn’t shine. 

I really wanted a family bike for Christmas and nearly had my husband convinced to get me one.

I shopped around and found what I thought was an amazing deal on a Yuba. It’s a cargo bike that can haul two kids, their bikes and all of our groceries. I had grand visions of me pedaling down the bike bath in all my mommy glory, singing songs and laughing with my two little sweeties nestled behind me all the way to the park.

But then I realized that the amazing deal I found had a lot of hidden costs.

Shipping. Assembly. Those cargo bags, cute basket and kids seats? All extra.

In the end, the total costs of the bike proved to be beyond our budget.

A similar thing is happening with the solar industry. Solar is great. I really want it. But many are forgetting the total project costs.

Solar itself is getting much cheaper. In fact, solar prices are down 62 percent since 2009.

Here are more solar cost statistics gathered by Bloomberg:

  • GTM Research expects that some parts of the U.S. Southwest that are approaching $1 a watt today may drop as low as 75 cents in 2021.
  • The U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Lab expects that costs of about $1.20 a watt now will decline to $1 by 2020. By 2030, current technology will squeeze out most potential savings.
  • The International Energy Agency expects utility-scale generation costs to fall by another 25 percent on average in the next five years. 
  • The International Renewable Energy Agency anticipates a further drop of 43 percent to 65 percent for solar costs by 2025. That would bring to 84 percent the cumulative decline since 2009.

This is all great news, and I hope solar will continue to be more affordable as technology develops, manufacturing becomes more advanced and economies of scale kick in.

But much like I didn’t initially account for the total costs of the coolest bike I’ve ever seen, many aren’t taking into account the other parts of the system needed to support solar.

Unfortunately the sun doesn’t shine all the time. I like to have electricity 24/7. So if my utility invests in a big solar project, it has to have a whole other source of energy to ramp up when solar isn’t available. When those costs are included, solar isn’t necessarily the cheapest option.

Hopefully, someday, a family bike and solar power will be affordable for me — all costs considered.

In the meantime, let me know if you hear of anyone looking to sell a used Yuba, Xtracycle, Babboe, Douze or Surly bike.

Bonus if it’s a little beat up.

Better chance of it fitting in my budget. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Google is even greener than you thought

Quick – what was the last thing you Googled?

  • Mozart in the Jungle season 3 release date
  • Singing Ariel costume (don’t ask)
  • How to remove ...

Tagged: Google, alternative energy, Wind, solar

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Google is even greener than you thought

Google face

Last year, Google set a goal to triple its clean energy purchases by 2025. And it seems that the hard work is paying off. Last week, Google announced that in 2017, it will get all its energy from wind farms and solar panels.

Key Points

  • Google will get all its energy from wind and solar by 2017.
  • That includes all the energy its data centers and offices use.
  • The company purchases renewable energy to offset its fossil fuel use. 

Quick – what was the last thing you Googled?

  • Mozart in the Jungle season 3 release date
  • Singing Ariel costume (don’t ask)
  • How to remove chocolate stains from furniture

Whatever your search is, our collective Googling uses a lot of energy. Google is the largest corporate buyer of clean energy and has a renewable energy capacity of 2 gigawatts.

Last year, Google set a goal to triple its clean energy purchases by 2025.

And it seems that the hard work is paying off.

Last week, Google announced that in 2017, it will get all its energy from wind farms and solar panels.

Recent deals are helping it achieve that goal including partnering with Duke Energy on a solar project in North Carolina. The company is also adding 842 megawatts of renewable energy to its mix by investing in a Swedish wind farm and a solar plant in Chile.

Google sees these investments as a way to set a good example for other companies and help new renewable energy plants. Landing a customer like Google can give a new wind or solar farm the financial security it needs to succeed and be in business to sell even more energy to other companies.

The investment will hopefully help the company’s bottom line too. “For our part, these contracts not only help minimize the environmental impact of our services — they also make good business sense by ensuring good prices,” Google said.

While this is great news for Google, what does it mean for us? Other than knowing that the data centers needed to store all my junk Gmail (I’m looking at you Old Navy 40 percent off the whole store notifications), it might also help renewable energy costs come down.

In an interview with the New York times, Jonathan Koomey, a lecturer in the school of earth, energy and environmental sciences at Stanford, broke the cost benefits down to economies of scale and innovation.“Every time you double production, you reduce the cost of solar by about 20 percent. Wind goes down 10 to 12 percent,” he said.

Of course, I want to check my Gmail and Google things like, say, “what is Ina Garten’s husband’s profession” any time I want, even when the sun isn’t shining and wind isn’t blowing. So critics are quick to point out that Google does still rely on good ol’ coal and natural gas for many of its operations, even if this energy use is offset by purchases of renewable energy.

Either way, good job Google. I like that you’re trying. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Solar garden growing some serious savings for Colorado community

“Solar garden” kind of sounds like some magical place where you can grow your own solar panels.

Although that’s not quite how it works, the savings these kinds of ...

Tagged: solar, florence colorado, solar arrays, solar garden

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Solar garden growing some serious savings for Colorado community

Solar farm in Colorado

Clean Energy Collective, “a leading developer for community solar solutions,” recently presented the Florence, Colorado, city council with a plan to participate in the company’s community solar arrays for Black Hills Energy customers. And under that plan, the city could save $1.5 million over 20 years.

Key Points

Solar gardens are a great way to take advantage of energy from the sun without having to buy solar panels.

One Colorado community could realize some serious savings from such a garden.

Black Hills Energy Colorado customers can take advantage of the utility company's roofless solar program.  

“Solar garden” kind of sounds like some magical place where you can grow your own solar panels.

Although that’s not quite how it works, the savings these kinds of gardens produce can be pretty magical — or at least substantial.

That’s what one Colorado city is finding to be true.

According to an article from the (Colorado) Daily Record News, Clean Energy Collective, “a leading developer for community solar solutions,” recently presented the Florence, Colorado, city council with a plan to participate in the company’s community solar arrays for Black Hills Energy customers.

And under that plan, the city could save $1.5 million over 20 years.

Kevin Morse, vice president of commercial sales, told the council that CEC builds commercial-sized solar arrays. Those arrays connect to Black Hills Energy’s grid.

Here’s how Morse explained it:

“… [I]f the City of Florence were to purchase a number of panels, then the solar panels would then be used to generate power to the power grid.

“This generated power is then bought by Black Hills Energy and then Black Hills Energy uses the power to supply its customers.

“During this time, Black Hills Energy will then apply ‘Community Solar Garden Service Credits,’ for the power they produce.”

Black Hills Energy works with business like Clean Energy Collective so that customers can take advantage of energy from the sun. Colorado customers can also take advantage of our roofless solar program.

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If solar power had a prom, this would be its prom queen

“Wow, I just love your solar charging station. It’s so beautiful.”

Not a comment you’ve probably heard before.

But a new company is working to change ...

Tagged: solar, alternative energy, pretty energy

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If solar power had a prom, this would be its prom queen

Solar flowers

In addition to its aesthetic appeal and functionality, the product can serve as a resilience center during power outages since it doesn’t rely on the power grid.

Key Points

  • If solar power had a prom, Totem Energy would be prom queen.
  • The company’s new solar power device looks like a flower.
  • It could be a new tool for cities to move away from distributed energy. 

“Wow, I just love your solar charging station. It’s so beautiful.”

Not a comment you’ve probably heard before.

But a new company is working to change that with its flower-shaped device that harvests and stores solar power, serves as a Wi-Fi and 4G communications tower, and is a street light and electric vehicle charging station.

Basically, it’s pretty and smart too.

The company behind this prom queen of the solar industry is Totem Power. CEO and founder Brian Lakamp wants to bring solar into the spot light. “Right now, all of this infrastructure is relegated to the back of the building — you know, to non-glorious places like next to the dumpster,” Lakamp told Fast CoExist. “By really rethinking what the product is and putting a true design mentality to it you can create something that fundamentally changes the equation for people.”

In addition to its aesthetic appeal and functionality, the product can serve as a resilience center during power outages since it doesn’t rely on the power grid. Or when power is abundant, it can feed excess electrons back to nearby buildings.

The company hopes this will be another tool for cities to use to be less dependent on power transported into cities. Instead, several small stations like these can help supply energy right where it’s generated.

No word yet on if this local energy will be more affordable than the kind that is delivered by transmission lines, but we’ll know more when it goes on the market in 2017. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Space: Solar energy’s final frontier?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where the sun always shines? A magical location where clouds never block the sun’s rays and the sun never sets?

Turns out, ...

Tagged: solar, space, alternative energy

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Space: Solar energy’s final frontier?

Solar in space

Scientists are figuring out a way to bring solar panels straight to the source: the sun.

Key Points

  • Scientists are close to making space-based solar energy a reality.
  • The technology and engineering is ready to go.
  • If successful, it could create affordable and dependable solar energy. 

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where the sun always shines? A magical location where clouds never block the sun’s rays and the sun never sets?

Turns out, such a spot exists.

Just look up.

Scientists are figuring out a way to bring solar panels straight to the source: the sun.

Here’s how the smart people at the Smithsonian describe the process:

“There are dozens upon dozens of ideas for how to build a space-based solar collection system, but the basic gist goes something like this: launch and robotically assemble several hundred or thousand identically sized modules in geosynchronous orbit. One part comprises mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto solar panels that convert the energy into electricity. Converters turn that electricity into low-intensity microwaves that are beamed to large, circular receivers on the ground. Those antennae re-convert the microwaves back into electricity, which can be fed into the existing grid.”

Here’s a quick run-down of what researchers see as the pros and cons of space-based solar energy.

The good:

  • The technology already exists. Researchers have been looking into this idea since the 1970s. The engineering and technology is ready to go.
  • It’s expensive but not crazy expensive. Estimates are that it would cost about $4 billion to $5 billion to build a space-based solar system. Yeah, that’s a whole lot of money. But, by comparison, China is currently spending $28 billion on its Three Gorges Dam, and the Watts Bar nuclear plant in Tennessee cost $4.7 billion.
  • It would produce affordable electricity. Based on current designs, the electricity produced by the project would cost consumers about 3 centers per kilowatt. That’s as affordable, or even cheaper, than electricity from currently available sources.
  • It won’t make a death ray. The power coming back to earth from space would be spread across a large area. Project leaders insist that no one will get burned up or die.

The bad:

  • There might be a wavelength traffic jam. We all use safe wavelengths every day to use our cell phones, radios and satellite transmission. It’s crowded, and some worry that there might not be room for solar microwaves to get through.

 For more on space-based solar energy, read this great article by Michelle Z. Donahue.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Tesla makes solar pretty

Solar panels are bulky and probably won’t win you many curb appeal points. But don’t worry; Elon Musk is on it.

He unveiled Tesla’s ...

Tagged: Tesla, solar, alternative energy

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Tesla makes solar pretty

Tesla solar roof

There are still a lot of questions about the new solar roof. Who would I call if I wanted it installed? And the big question remains pretty murky: Will a solar roof be affordable?

Key Points

  • Tesla unveiled its new solar roof last week.
  • It’s made of textured glass and gives solar panels more curb appeal.
  • It’s unknown how affordable it will be. 

Solar panels are bulky and probably won’t win you many curb appeal points. But don’t worry; Elon Musk is on it.

He unveiled Tesla’s new solar roof last week. And it’s pretty. It looks like a regular roof, only it’s actually textured glass layered over solar panels. According to Tesla’s website, there are four styles to choose from including Tuscan, slate, textured and smooth. Sure, not as many options as the book of shingles your roofer has, but there’s likely one that would fit the style of your home.

The textured glass allows the light to pass through and onto a standard solar cell. If all goes according to plan for Tesla, the company will acquire SolarCity after a shareholder vote on Nov. 17, and together they will produce the solar cells and glass components.

There are still a lot of questions about the new solar roof. Who would I call if I wanted it installed? My roofer? My electrician? Or maybe my utility? And the big question remains pretty murky: Will a solar roof be affordable?

Tesla says yes. Its website touts that it will be “lower cost than a traditional roof when combined with projected utility bill savings.”

But there are a lot of variables to consider. I’m sure I paid much less to replace the roof on my house with asphalt shingles last year than someone who chose something like a Spanish clay roof. Plus, electric rates in my area are generally pretty low, so it might take a little longer for me to recover any additional expenses than someone who lives in an area with higher rates.

I’m excited to learn more about Tesla’s solar roof and appreciate them looking into ways to make renewable energy more appealing. Time will tell if this latest take on rooftop solar will be a viable — and affordable — option. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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How Millennials might make over the energy industry

Here’s what we know about Millennials:

  • They were born in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
  • They make up the largest share of the U.S. population, at 28.7 percent.
  • Twelve ...

Tagged: millennials, solar, the grid

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How Millennials might make over the energy industry

Millennials are so likely to choose new energy systems that they might completely change up utilities’ traditional business models.

Key Points

  • Millennials might change how utilities do business.
  • This huge generation wants new, green options.
  • They’re more likely to go off the grid if given the chance. 

Here’s what we know about Millennials:

  • They were born in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
  • They make up the largest share of the U.S. population, at 28.7 percent.
  • Twelve percent are faithful vegetarians (and another significant portion are meatatarians and are very offended that the vegetarians are eating their food’s food).
  • They might dramatically change how our energy companies treat their customers.

I know, you’re mostly impressed that so many 20-somethings don’t eat meat. Me too. But that little tidbit about changing how utilities work with us is kind of interesting too.

A recent article in Forbes outlined what utilities need to do to keep Millennials as customers. In the past, the companies who provide our electricity didn’t have to worry too much about getting your business. Many utilities are regulated monopolies, which means you don’t have a choice about who you buy your energy from. Instead of competition, these monopolies have elected officials who make sure the companies keep our needs top priority.

This system makes sense. The infrastructure to make and deliver electricity is expensive and complex, so having multiple electric lines strewn across our landscape wouldn’t help anyone.

But now there are new ways to get energy, like solar panels on your house, that don’t require that big grid. And Millennials are much more likely to adopt them. The study in Forbes notes that Millennials are significantly more likely than other generations to be early adopters of new technology, especially for energy-related products and services.

“More than half of them are likely to sign up for solar panels in the next five years, double the proportion of Baby Boomers,” said the authors of the article.

The article suggests that Millennials are so likely to choose new energy systems that they might completely change up utilities’ traditional business models. 

In most areas of the country, going off the grid would be too expensive and too unreliable for most customers, but for a few, that might not be the case. The general consensus is that it won’t be cost-effective to cut ties with your utility until 2030 or beyond.

In the meantime, many utilities are offering new options like adding renewable energy to their mix, offering ways to make your home more efficient, or even coordinating community solar projects for their customers to participate in.

Has your utility offered any new technologies? If it were cost-effective, would you want to go off the grid, even if it meant giving up some of the reliability your utility offers?


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Bubble wrap: solar thermal energy tool?

Just looking at this picture of bubble wrap gives me the urge to pop all those little bubbles. Whether you’re a one bubble at a time kind of person, a “wringer” or a put-it-on-the-floor-and-walk-on-it ...

Tagged: bubble wrap, MIT, solar

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Bubble wrap: solar thermal energy tool?

Roll of bubble wrap

Those little plastic pockets of air are good for more than our amusement or packing needs.

Key Points

  • Bubble wrap is good for more than popping fun or packing needs.
  • Researchers at MIT are using it in solar thermal energy systems.
  • Using bubble wrap might make the systems much more affordable. 

Just looking at this picture of bubble wrap gives me the urge to pop all those little bubbles. Whether you’re a one bubble at a time kind of person, a “wringer” or a put-it-on-the-floor-and-walk-on-it type, you have to admit that there’s something about that pop that is very satisfying.

Those little plastic pockets of air are good for more than our amusement or packing needs. Mechanical engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are using it in solar thermal energy systems.

These systems usually use mirrors to concentrate sunlight and are very expensive. Enter the bubble wrap. Using the same stuff as your local UPS store, the researchers bypassed the need for costly mirrors. Bubble wrap worked as a top layer to their new device that lets sunshine in and traps heat.

Here’s how George Ni, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained it to IEEE Spectrum: “We found the performance of bubble wrap in this system quite surprising. Though it is commonplace and low cost, bubble wrap has good properties for solar applications. It is transparent enough to allow solar energy to pass through to an absorber; however, the large air pockets allow bubble wrap to trap the absorbed heat, leading to higher efficiencies. The bubble wrap can be likened to a greenhouse."

The researchers believe they can make the system for about $2 per square meter, compared to $200 per square meter for traditional systems.

Read more about the project here.

Now go ahead: Start popping.  


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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The delightful light: Watch this sweet couple get power back after 20 years in the dark

Meet Milka and Stevo Balac. They live in a remote village in Croatia. When they were young, they lived without electricity. During their lifetimes, their village was connected to ...

Tagged: electricity, the grid, solar, UNDP, Croatia

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The delightful light: Watch this sweet couple get power back after 20 years in the dark

Couple stands outside their home

My favorite quote from the video was when Stevo says "I will live like a king now!"

Key Points

  • This couple’s genuine excitement over getting power back will make your day.
  • They lost power when war destroyed their village’s infrastructure in the 1990s.
  • Now, thanks to a solar energy system, they can turn their lights back on. 

Meet Milka and Stevo Balac. They live in a remote village in Croatia. When they were young, they lived without electricity. During their lifetimes, their village was connected to the grid, and they quickly became accustomed to life with power.

Then in the 1990s, local infrastructure was destroyed by war, and as described by Fast Company’s Co.Exist, it was too expensive to rebuild.

Watch this video to brighten your day and see these two finally get power restored to their home.

The effort was part of a project led by UNDP Croatia. The group installed a solar system in the Balacs’ home. In this case, solar was reportedly 30 times cheaper to install than connecting the home to the grid. That’s not always the case, but it does show just how expensive all those poles and wires in a full grid system are to build and maintain.

My favorite quote from the video was when Stevo says "I will live like a king now! I'll have all sorts of meat. And sausages.” Thanks for the reminder, Stevo, of just how lucky I am to live like a queen, every day. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Enough about wind power: Breeze power might be the solution.

If you’ve ever ventured a little too close to a speeding car, you know that an automobile can create quite a breeze as it hustles down the highway. One company found a way to use ...

Tagged: windmill, Capture Mobility, turbine, solar, breeze

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Enough about wind power: Breeze power might be the solution.

Speeding traffic

A windmill on the side of the highway uses air movement to make energy.

Key Points

  • Traditional wind turbines are big and expensive.
  • A new version is small, light and portable and only requires a slight breeze to work.
  • It also has solar panels and cleans the air. 

If you’ve ever ventured a little too close to a speeding car, you know that an automobile can create quite a breeze as it hustles down the highway. One company found a way to use that air movement to make energy.

Capture Mobility created a windmill that can sit on the side of the highway and only needs a car to pass it to start making energy.

But wait, there’s more!

It also has a solar panel and boasts an air filter that actually helps offset the pollution from vehicles passing by.

It doesn’t look like the classic windmill we all picture. It’s more vertical, light weight, small and mobile. The company hopes the product will be an energy solution for rural areas. The windmill includes an adapter to give residents in small villages without access to a power grid a convenient way to charge phones or other small devices.

Here it is in action:

Capture Mobility Prototype from Sanwal Muneer on Vimeo.

I hear the next version can also slice AND dice. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Wind would totally swipe right on solar

I’m not hip with the online dating craze. I’m a happily married woman. But a friend of mine was trying to explain the ins and outs of Tinder ...

Tagged: renewable energy, Wind, solar, Tinder

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Wind would totally swipe right on solar

Man uses a dating app on his phone

If wind and solar power got together, their love child might be the best of both worlds.

Key Points

  • Solar and wind are hooking up.
  • Their love child can harvest energy from wind and solar.
  • The small device could someday cover rooftops.

I’m not hip with the online dating craze. I’m a happily married woman. But a friend of mine was trying to explain the ins and outs of Tinder to me. It sounds bananas. Apparently you swipe right if you like someone, and then you’re notified if that person also swipes right on you. When that happens, you’re a match.

Here’s what I imagine solar energy’s Tinder profile to include:

Name: Sunny

Hobbies: Photosynthesis, producing energy

Dislikes: Red heads

In search of: A life partner who doesn’t mind if I disappear for 8-12 hours at a time

And here is wind’s:

Name: Gustof

Hobbies: International whistling champion, producing energy

Dislikes: Network weathermen trying to look cool while reporting live from the storm

In search of: A soul mate who is good under pressure

Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? And now, scientists are giving us a glimpse of what Sunny and Gustof’s love child might look like.

It’s a device that can harvest energy from the sun and the wind. At the same time. It’s flat, and is about the size of a candy bar. It uses the triboelectric effect (fancy word for static electricity). Wind helps move parts of the device, creating electricity. Another part of the device has solar cells. Best of all worlds. Researchers hope that some day, these devices could cover rooftops, allowing buildings to take advantage of the sun and wind.

Aww, Tinder love. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Hey tiny house, you just got story-topped

I know you’ve been there. You’re at a social gathering, telling what you believe to be a great story. And then that guy in the corner with skinny jeans and an ironic beard chimes ...

Tagged: tiny house, solar panel, solar, Oregon

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Hey tiny house, you just got story-topped

Fancy man with a mustache

There's a new tiny house on the block. It's like that skinny jean-beard-IPA guy who always has the best stories.

Key Points

  • Tiny houses are getting even cooler.
  • A company in Oregon created one that can rotate.
  • That allows the house to take better advantage of the sun’s energy. 

I know you’ve been there. You’re at a social gathering, telling what you believe to be a great story. And then that guy in the corner with skinny jeans and an ironic beard chimes in. His comments include a reference to the last time he was traveling abroad and is punctuated by long pauses to sip a micro-brewed IPA. Suddenly no one is interested in seeing the amazing video of your 3-year-old’s ballet recital.

You’ve been story topped.

I can only imagine this is how the run-of-the-mill tiny house will feel when it sees the 359. It’s a tiny house, only way more hip. It can rotate 359 degrees. That allows its solar panels to take better advantage of the sun’s rays.

It’s exceptionally energy conscious and according to Slate can be totally off-grid with a composting toilet, a bank of batteries, an ultra-efficient heat pump and a waste water system that uses a circular filtration trench. This off-grid version of the house costs $90,000. You can add full plumbing and electric hookups for a version that runs $145,000.

And just like skinny jean-beard-IPA guy, the company who makes this rotating tiny house is based in Oregon and has a strong following in Portland.

Don’t worry, average tiny house; I feel your pain. And if it will cheer you up, I have a completely adorable video of my 3-year-old on my phone you can watch.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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How to change lives with a valiant vacation

School’s out, and it’s time to start planning family vacations. Before you book that ticket to Orlando or load up the camper, consider another way to spend those two weeks.  

One ...

Tagged: Haiti, lights, microgrid, solar

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How to change lives with a valiant vacation

I heart Haiti

When Daniel Schnitzer was asked to head to Haiti to build solar-powered street lights, he discovered that most of the folks in the small village he was visiting would rather have something a little more simple: Lights for their homes.

Key Points

  • One guy’s vacation lead to making solar microgrids in Haiti.
  • He started with bringing simple solar lights for homes and then began building the microgrids.
  • EarthSpark is now working on building 80 microgrids in Haiti by 2020. 

School’s out, and it’s time to start planning family vacations. Before you book that ticket to Orlando or load up the camper, consider another way to spend those two weeks.  

One guy’s vacation changed lives.

Daniel Schnitzer worked in the energy industry, and someone asked him to head to Haiti to build solar-powered street lights. He took some vacation time to look into it. He knew that those lights can cost a million to install, so he did his homework to see if that was the best use of funds. After conducting a series of surveys, he discovered that most of the folks in the small village he was visiting would rather have something a little more simple: Lights for their homes.

He brought Haiti solar lamps with the help of a $25,000 donation from Frontier Utilities, a Texas-based retail electricity provider. That simple act made it possible for kids to study at night without having their eyes burn from kerosene. In addition to lamps, he soon began building solar microgrids.

What started as something that filled his vacation time turned into a career, and now his company, EarthSpark, is working toward building 80 microgrids in Haiti by the end of 2020.

Learn more about Daniel’s story here. You might even get inspired to change your own vacation plans.

Even Mickey would approve of that. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Transportation mullet: business in the front, bike in the back

Beards are cool again. I’m all for this facial-hair trend making a comeback, but I’m also afraid. I worry that it’s a gateway drug to another trend from decades past: the mullet. ...

Tagged: The Elf, Organic Transit, solar, bike

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Transportation mullet: business in the front, bike in the back

Mullet Hairdo

There might be an application for this business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back concept I can actually get behind. It’s called the Elf, and its half bike, half car.

Key Points

  • The mullet is making a comeback.
  • A new vehicle is car in the front, bike in the back.
  • It has three wheels powered by pedaling or with an electric assist using solar energy. 

Beards are cool again. I’m all for this facial-hair trend making a comeback, but I’m also afraid. I worry that it’s a gateway drug to another trend from decades past: the mullet. I’m sure you, or someone you love, sported one at some point. My dad had a perm mullet, or “permlet.” I’m still recovering from this childhood drama.

But there might be an application for this business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back concept I can actually get behind. It’s called the Elf, and its half bike, half car. The company behind it, the Organic Transit, is aiming to transform cycling into practical transportation.

The Elf has a hard shell and electric assist. You can use it in the rain, haul groceries and get a little help making it up a steep hill using energy from its 100-watt solar panel. The makers call it “the most efficient vehicle on the planet” that gets the equivalent of 1,800 MPG and can reach 30 mph.

It runs around $7,000-8,000, so it would take several commutes to recover your investment in fuel savings. But on the bright side, it’s really, really cute in yellow. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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This park bench can charge your cell phone

Someday I’ll be the mom at the park who actually sits on a park bench. My park time is currently spent giving underdogs, catching brave little ones who want to go on the “biiiiiiiiiig” ...

Tagged: solar, cell phone, WiFi, renewable energy, solar energy bench

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This park bench can charge your cell phone

Park playdates just got a lot more appealing to mom.

Key Points

  • A new solar-powered park bench can charge your phone and offer free WiFi.
  • It can also rake in some revenue with ad space.
  • Investors are already on board for 20 benches.

Someday I’ll be the mom at the park who actually sits on a park bench. My park time is currently spent giving underdogs, catching brave little ones who want to go on the “biiiiiiiiiig” slide, and playing hide and go seek. When the day comes that I spend that time sipping coffee on the park bench, I hope we have something like what Ricardo Barbosa Vincente, PhD candidate at with the KIC Innoenergy PhD School, has been working on.

Vincente created a solar-powered bench that includes ad space, a phone-charging station and free Wi-Fi.

Each bench includes a solar microgrid panel. The solar-powered voltaic cells provide electricity so moms can recharge their phones and never miss an opportunity to Instagram an adorable picture of their little ones on the teeter totter (in sepia, no doubt). The invention also has the potential to make a little money with ad space that can be maintained remotely.

The project, named PVSPARK, is getting off the ground in a hurry. Two companies are already interested, and Vincente has investors to create his first 20 benches.

Until one of the benches hits my park, I’ll have to settle on running around the playground. But truth be told, I’d prefer that over sipping a coffee anyway. Underdogs and all. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Unlikely source of power: Windows

In “really, we can make energy from that?” news, researchers may have figured out a way to make your windows into solar collectors.

Los ...

Tagged: renewable energy, solar, windows, quantum dots

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Unlikely source of power: Windows

Woman stretching in front of window

One of the challenges of using solar energy is finding a place to put those big solar panels. So it makes sense that we’d use our big windows instead.

Key Points

  • Windows could replace solar panels.
  • New technology can make windows into solar collectors.
  • The secret is in the quantum dots.

In “really, we can make energy from that?” news, researchers may have figured out a way to make your windows into solar collectors.

Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy are working on the project. One of the challenges of using solar energy is finding a place to put those big solar panels. So it makes sense that we’d use our big windows instead.

Here’s how Los Alamos National Laboratory explains the new technology that makes it happen:

Quantum dots fashioned from a light-emitting material make it work. As nanocrystals roughly one-billionth of a meter across, or just 10 to 50 atoms wide, quantum dots obey quantum-mechanics laws. That trait gives them properties that can be manipulated in the laboratory. Quantum dots can absorb light at one wavelength, efficiently convert it and re-emit it at another wavelength. A bigger quantum dot emits on the red end of the spectrum, a smaller dot on the green-blue end. By adjusting the dots’ size, we can precisely tune those wavelengths to suit our purposes. A luminescent solar concentrator consists of quantum dots dispersed in a clear plastic material, which forms a waveguide. The quantum dots absorb sunlight and convert it to a wavelength best suited for the PV cells. Then the waveguide directs light toward the solar cells installed at its edges, which make electricity.

This is being considered a disruptive technology that could change our energy future. According to www.energy.gov, the windows on the One World Trade Center building in New York City could power more than 350 apartments. That makes me quantum leap for joy. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Your next house could be 3-D printed and have a brain

Our homes of sticks and bricks might soon be traded for sleek 3-D printed structures with centralized brains that can create and dispatch electricity.

One prototype is ...

Tagged: 3-D, printed, integrated energy system, solar

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Your next house could be 3-D printed and have a brain

3D printed house

A 3-D printed house really is possible. And it’s smart.

Key Points

  • A team recently created a 3-D printed house.
  • It has its own power source and can talk to its own 3-D printed SUV.
  • The two share energy with one another and can use power from the grid when needed. 

Our homes of sticks and bricks might soon be traded for sleek 3-D printed structures with centralized brains that can create and dispatch electricity.

One prototype is already out there, showing that a 3-D printed house really is possible. And it’s smart. It has solar panels to provide the home’s power needs, and it connects to a 3-D printed SUV that can also feed energy into the house based on current energy needs. It can also store energy and even pull electricity from the grid when needed.

This home of the future was created by the architects who designed 1 World Trade Center, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee’s College of Architecture.

The team used 3-D printing because it allows them to create exactly what they want with no waste, unlike traditional construction that sends lots of material to the landfill unused.

They also created an integrated energy system for the structure. Their goal was to find a way for the building and a vehicle to talk to each other, helping each one pull and produce electricity as needed.

The building can generate and store energy with rooftop solar panels. The SUV has a battery or can use gasoline to power its engine. Depending on the day, the two can connect and share resources.

This system shows how one solution for energy in the future might include smaller systems that talk to each other at a local level to meet energy needs and only rarely taps into the grid for power from far-away places.

Depending on program funding, the team hopes to start printing homes people could actually live in within a year. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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This magic kingdom isn’t a fantasy

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there was a city that needed more space for its citizens. So the queen asked her best and brightest to come up with a solution.

The ...

Tagged: Paris, energy efficient, renewable energy, geothermal, wind energy, solar

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This magic kingdom isn’t a fantasy

Floating village in the middle of a forest

Architects are calling a new, energy-efficient building in Paris “a floating village in the middle of a forest.”

Key Points

  • Paris will soon be home to a “floating village in the middle of a forest”.
  • The new building will act as a pedestrian bridge and contain homes, apartments, restaurants and office space.
  • It’s energy efficient and uses renewable energy. 

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, there was a city that needed more space for its citizens. So the queen asked her best and brightest to come up with a solution.

The queen was not disappointed. A knight (rumored to wear shining armor) delivered a castle that boasted an indoor forest, space for both princes and paupers to rest their weary heads, areas to hold feasts fit for a king, and a daycare facility.

Sound like a fairytale? Other than the queen bit, it’s totally true (yes, even the daycare). And it’s happening in Paris. The building’s architects are calling it “a floating village in the middle of a forest.” The roof is covered with trees that keep wasted energy from escaping. The building will use solar, wind and geothermal energy. The structure will act as a pedestrian bridge and contain single-family homes, apartments, offices and restaurants.

Pending a never-ending winter, takeover from a wicked stepmother or a poison apple outbreak, construction should be completed around 2021.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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How drones might solve all our problems

About a billion people in the world don’t have access to electricity. Even more only have power that isn’t reliable.

The conventional solution to bring power to all ...

Tagged: renewable energy, solar, drone, solar panel

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How drones might solve all our problems

Hovering drone

A German solar panel company is testing drones that can deliver solar panels instead of trucks.

Key Points

  • Solar panels are a good power solution for communities without access to an electric grid.
  • It can be difficult to deliver the panels to places that need them.
  • One company is testing using drones to get the job done and even uses its own customers’ solar energy to power up.

About a billion people in the world don’t have access to electricity. Even more only have power that isn’t reliable.

The conventional solution to bring power to all the people has been to build power grids. But the grid is very expensive. And the households that currently don’t have access to the grid wouldn’t likely be big customers, so it’s hard to make a business case for companies to spend a lot of money they might never make back.

Another solution is to use distributed energy systems instead. Distributed energy systems don’t require the miles of transmission lines to deliver power from a far-away power plant to a community. Instead, power is generated right where it’s needed, like with solar panels on top of homes.

The challenge with installing solar power in remote areas like Rwanda or Tanzania is getting the bulky solar panels there. The panels are big, and the roads are difficult to travel.

But one company is looking at a solution that might be a win-win for everyone involved. German solar panel installer Mobisol is testing drones that can deliver the panels instead of trucks.

But here’s the catch: Drones need power to run too. So the distributor would bring its customers in on the deal, using the solar panels already installed as charging stations for the drones. Customers would benefit by getting credits on their bills, and the company would have a great network in place to expand its reach.

The company is still testing the system out but will hopefully have it up and running soon.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Corporate kilowatt karma: IKEA

Have you ever been to IKEA? If not, there are a few things you need to know first:

  • Make sure you allow yourself at least five hours and bring a U-Haul.
  • Never, ...

Tagged: Corporate kilowatt karma, IKEA, climate change, solar, Wind, renewable energy

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Corporate kilowatt karma: IKEA

Woman shopping at IKEA

The furniture giant has committed $1 billion toward its projects to help tackle climate change.

Key Points

  • Ikea has great kilowatt karma.
  • The company and its foundation have committed $1 billion toward climate change projects.
  • Many of its stores have solar panels and use wind energy from offsite farms. 

Have you ever been to IKEA? If not, there are a few things you need to know first:

IKEA group and the IKEA Foundation have committed $1 billion toward its projects to help tackle climate change. Here are a few:

  • IKEA has invested in 314 offsite wind turbines and 700,000 solar panels on IKEA buildings.
  • The IKEA Foundation has given $435.7 million to help poor communities adopt renewable energy technologies.
  • All lights sold at IKEA use LED bulbs, which use 85 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.
  • IKEA ramped up its energy-efficient appliance section to include cooktops, fridges, freezers and washing machines.

One of my favorite IKEA projects is the company’s Sustainable Life at Home initiative. The site has loads of information about how you can save energy, water and other resources every day.

That’s some good kilowatt karma. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Three energy predictions for 2016

Energy is a hot topic these days. Paris Climate Talks. Low oil prices. New energy sources. We’re living in the middle of a big change and will someday tell our grandkids about ...

Tagged: energy industry, nuclear power, solar, Coal

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Three energy predictions for 2016

Your energy future in a crystal ball

This year energy will no doubt make headlines again as the industry continues to evolve.

Key Points

  • 2016 will be another big year for the energy industry.
  • Many predict that solar power will continue to set records and coal will continue to decline.
  • Nuclear power might also make a comeback. 

Energy is a hot topic these days. Paris Climate Talks. Low oil prices. New energy sources. We’re living in the middle of a big change and will someday tell our grandkids about how different things were when we were little (“yes, kids, we used to use this thing called coal”).

This year energy will no doubt make headlines again as the industry continues to evolve. 

Here are a few trends that Fortune Magazine predicts for 2016, summarized for your skimming pleasure. Full predictions available here.

  1. Solar gets even hotter – Solar panels are getting cheaper, new technologies are making it better, and tax credits are making it more stable. Solar is already setting records in the U.S., and China and India are also predicted to start using the resource more as well.
  2. Coal continues decline – Coal is being phased out of our energy mix. The Paris agreement confirmed its decline. The U.S. and China are decreasing their reliance on the fuel. The wildcard is India, which will continue using coal to meet its growing power needs.
  3. Nuclear comeback – Nuclear energy has had a hard streak since 2011’s nuclear disaster in Japan. But things might be looking up for the energy source this year. New technology is addressing what to do with nuclear waste, and environmentalists dig the fact that nuclear power emits no carbon emissions. Many are predicting that China will turn to this resource to help replace its coal-fired plants.

Any takes on what else we’ll see this year? 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Hydricity: More Brangelina, less Bennifer

I hope hydricity is more Brangelina and less Bennifer. If it lasts, it will be a game changer.

So what is hydricity? Well, for one, its proof that even scientists like ...

Tagged: Hydricity, renewable energy, solar, hyrdopower, base line energy

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Hydricity: More Brangelina, less Bennifer

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt walking the red carpet

So what is hydricity? Well, for one, its proof that even scientists like to make word mash

Key Points

  • Hydricity is a combination of solar power and hydrogen production.
  • It could create a truly 24/7 energy source.
  • Solar energy could be used when available and then hydrogen could produce energy when it’s not. 

I hope hydricity is more Brangelina and less Bennifer. If it lasts, it will be a game changer.

So what is hydricity? Well, for one, its proof that even scientists like to make word mash (I bet they get hangry too).

But more importantly, it’s a combination of solar power and hydrogen production. It would be a truly 24/7 energy supplier. Utilities refer to that as base line energy. Unfortunately, a lot of good renewable energy sources like wind and solar are only available when the wind is blowing or sun is shining. This is a problem since we like to consume energy whenever we want it. Until now, power plants fueled by things like coal or natural gas have provided that always-there-when-you-need-it energy.

Researchers from Purdue University and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, a research university in Switzerland, title their work on hydricity “Round-the-clock power supply and a sustainable economy via a synergistic integration of solar thermal power and hydrogen processes.” OK, so maybe they’re not as good with words as “hydricity” might suggest. But it’s still amazing.

In simpler terms, it’s a way to use solar energy when the sun is shining and then store it in hydrogen so we still have energy when the sun doesn’t shine.

Here’s how one of the researchers explained it to www.phys.org:

“In the round-the-clock process we produce hydrogen and electricity during daylight, store hydrogen and oxygen, and then when solar energy is not available, we use hydrogen to produce electricity using a turbine-based hydrogen-power cycle,” said co-author Mohit Tawarmalani. “Because we could operate around the clock, the steam turbines run continuously and shutdowns and restarts are not required. Furthermore, our combined process is more efficient than the standalone process that produces electricity and the one that produces and stores hydrogen.”

Right now it’s just a study, but here’s to hoping it becomes a real energy option in the near future. Team hydricity!  



Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Santa might be quitting his night job

Ol’ Saint Nick is sun-lighting (the opposite of moon-lighting. He he he, see what I did there?). With solar energy becoming more popular, his rooftop experience is a highly sought ...

Tagged: Santa, Oregon, solar, renewable energy

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Santa might be quitting his night job

With solar energy becoming more popular, Santa's rooftop experience is a highly sought after job skill.

Key Points

  • Residents in Oregon are installing home solar panels to help reduce energy bills.
  • Santa was just the man for the job to help them out.
  • He’s not afraid of heights and has a lot of free time after today. 

Ol’ Saint Nick is sun-lighting (the opposite of moon-lighting. He he he, see what I did there?). With solar energy becoming more popular, his rooftop experience is a highly sought after job skill.

He tried out the new job recently in Oregon.

Check out this video.

KPTV - FOX 12


Hope you have a Merry Christmas! And Santa, please don’t let this new gig interfere with your full-time job. We’re counting on you.  


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Three cheap ways to start using solar energy right now

Sure, using solar energy in our homes sounds great. But installing solar panels is a pretty big investment. Here are some small, inexpensive ways to start using solar power right ...

Tagged: solar, cheap, LED

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Three cheap ways to start using solar energy right now

Solar-powered path light

You don’t even need a bank loan to get these solar-powered lights up and running

Key Points

  • There are cheap ways to use solar energy.
  • Solar motion-activated lights and solar-powered phone chargers run under $20.
  • I’m pretty sure Martha Steward digs solar-powered LED string lights. 

Sure, using solar energy in our homes sounds great. But installing solar panels is a pretty big investment. Here are some small, inexpensive ways to start using solar power right now, and you don’t even need a bank loan to get them:

1. Security lights

Motion-activated lights are a great way to add security to your home. Using ones that use solar power make lighting your home’s exterior easy since you can skip all the wiring. Plus, they’re pretty inexpensive at around $16. Just make sure you put them in spots that get direct sunlight during the day so they can store the energy needed to illuminate the night.

2. Phone charger

When we had a huge winter storm a few years ago, we stayed in touch with friends and family using our cell phones. When the power went out, we had to watch those power bars very carefully. Something to consider adding to your emergency kit is an emergency phone charger. For as little as $15, you can get a solar version that can charge your phone and tablet. Might come in handy for camping, too.

3. String lights

I attended a holiday party the other night where the host went full-blown Martha Stewart on her center pieces. We’re talking mason jars filled with fresh evergreen and the cutest little twinkle lights peaking out of burlap strips. And she didn’t even have to run an extension cord to the dinner table. Instead she used solar-powered LED string lights. Solar lights: Martha Stewart approved. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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NFL teams tackle green energy

My husband is a huge football fan, and he’s passing the tradition on to our daughters. Although most NFL headlines aren’t exactly positive these ...

Tagged: NFL, energy efficient, solar

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NFL teams tackle green energy

Football

The San Francisco 49ers' stadium creates enough solar energy every year to completely power the team's 10 home games every season.

Key Points

  • Many NFL teams are going green.
  • Several stadiums now have solar panels.
  • They are also using energy efficient lighting. 

My husband is a huge football fan, and he’s passing the tradition on to our daughters. Although most NFL headlines aren’t exactly positive these days, it’s stories like this that remind me this American pastime has a lot of good in it. Makes me feel a little bit better about my 3-year-old’s love of the game.

Checkout some of the great energy initiatives your favorite teams have taken on:

Lincoln Financial Field: Philadelphia Eagles

  • First professional stadium in the U.S. capable of generating its own electricity on site.
  • Largest solar-power capacity in the NFL including 11,000 solar panels and 14 micro-wind turbines.
  • Reduced electricity consumption by 33 percent.

CenturyLink Field: Seattle Seahawks

  • Uses point-of-use lighting in all restrooms, storage facilities and concession stands.
  • Only stadium in professional sports to receive the EnergyStar Portfolio Manager Partner Certification.
  • Installed 1,350 solar panels on the ring outside the stadium that produce 830,000 kWh per year.

 Levi’s Stadium: San Francisco 49ers

  • First stadium of its kind in the U.S. to receive LEED Gold Certification as a new construction building.
  • Creates enough solar energy every year to completely power the team's 10 home games every season.
  • Installed a 27,000 square foot green roof to provide insulation and reduce heating and cooling costs.

Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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How the Grinch (should have) stolen Christmas

If you’ve ever forgotten to buy the batteries needed for your child’s Christmas present to work, you know just how important batteries are. The Grinch didn’t need to dress ...

Tagged: battery, batteries, utilities, solar, solar panel

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How the Grinch (should have) stolen Christmas

The Grinch stealing a Christmas tree

The Grinch could have stolen Christmas by simply taking all the batteries off the shelves.

Key Points

  • The battery business is booming.
  • Utilities, solar panel manufacturers and commercial building owners are getting on board.
  • Batteries are getting cheaper with mass production. 

If you’ve ever forgotten to buy the batteries needed for your child’s Christmas present to work, you know just how important batteries are. The Grinch didn’t need to dress up like “Santy Claus” and steal Cindy Lou Who’s stocking; he could have stolen Christmas by simply taking all the batteries off the shelves.

Batteries are starting to be just as important to utilities, solar panel manufacturers and commercial building owners.

Energy storing devises are getting really popular. According to Fortune, in the second quarter, the amount of energy storage projects installed was nine times higher than the amount built during the same time in 2014 and six times more than during the first quarter of 2015. That’s some rapid growth.

There are lots of reasons why we’re seeing a battery boom:

  • Mass production is driving down costs — The consumer electronics industry has paved the way for making low-cost lithium-ion batteries. Now we get to see new ways to use them.
  • Utilities are getting on board — Some utilities are starting to use big battery banks. Utilities can store energy when people aren’t using much electricity and then use it during peak grid times. Using this stored energy can help avoid having to fire up natural gas plants when energy demand is high.
  • It makes sense with solar — One of the biggest challenges with solar energy is finding a source for times when the sun doesn’t shine. Some companies are now pairing batteries with solar panels to offer a 24-hour power solution.
  • They can lower utility bills for commercial buildings — A few startup companies are targeting commercial building owners for battery use. With batteries, buildings can use stored power when grid electricity rates are high.

Looks like Christmas might come early for the battery business. Time to carve the roast beast. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Uncle Jesse’s going to love this

2015 is going to be one for the record books. Kanye announced he’s running for president, “Fuller House” made my dreams come true, and solar energy is set to break records.

Yep, ...

Tagged: solar, solar power, GTM research, Solar Energy Industries Association, energy mix

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Uncle Jesse’s going to love this

Fuller House tv show logo

In the second quarter this year, residential rooftop solar installations saw 70 percent year-over-year growth.

Key Points

  • Solar is having a great year.
  • It will set a new growth record in 2015.
  • A new report is projecting 7.7 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic installations this year. 

2015 is going to be one for the record books. Kanye announced he’s running for president, “Fuller House” made my dreams come true, and solar energy is set to break records.

Yep, you read that right. “Fuller House” will premiere on Netflix later this year. Oh, and solar really is doing great. In the second quarter this year, residential rooftop solar installations saw 70 percent year-over-year growth.

A recent article in the Washington Post noted that a new report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association has the U.S. solar industry on course for a new growth record in 2015.

Last year saw 6.2 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic installations, but the report is projecting a total of 7.7 gigawatts this year, as a large number of utility scale solar projects (the single biggest part of the market) come online, even as residential solar continues its rapid growth as well. “There’s no way it’s not a record year. The question is how much we break the record by,” says Shayle Kann, senior vice president of GTM Research and lead author of the report.

For context, the U.S. had over 1,000 gigawatts of electricity installed as of the year 2012. But adding 7.7 gigawatts of solar is still a big deal because it shows a trend that solar is continuing to play a more significant role in our energy mix.

The report attributes solar energy’s banner year to declining costs, low interest rates and a federal solar investment tax credit.

So just think, a year from now we could be watching “Fuller House” with Kanye for President commercials on a TV powered by solar power. Have mercy! 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Back to school solar quiz

School supplies are the best. I could shop for folders, pencils and backpacks all day. But lurking in the school supply section at Target when you’re in your 30s gets you some ...

Tagged: solar, Energy Quiz, solar panel, Grid

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Back to school solar quiz

Sharpened pencils

In honor of all things back to school, we’re taking a quiz today. A solar energy quiz.

Key Points

  • The cost of PV solar panels is decreasing. A lot.
  • There’s a lot more solar power on the grid today than a year ago.
  • California is knocking it out of the solar power park. 

School supplies are the best. I could shop for folders, pencils and backpacks all day. But lurking in the school supply section at Target when you’re in your 30s gets you some weird looks. Thank goodness my daughter is starting preschool this year, giving me a totally legitimate reason to drool over the amazing pencil selection.

In honor of all things back to school (I’m eyeing you, pumpkin spice latte), we’re taking a quiz today. A solar energy quiz. And I may, or may not, have failed to get a passing score.

First, go here to test your solar IQ. If you did well, feel free to brag in the comments section below. If you didn’t fare so well, just shrug it off. You’ll do better next time. You’re smart enough. You’re good enough. I don’t know you personally, but I bet people like you.

Anywho, here are a few interesting takeaways from the quiz:

  • The cost PV solar panels is decreasing. A lot. From 2008 to 2014, the cost went down by 80 percent. The Energy Department attributes this dramatic change to its SunShot Initiative that supports the development of more efficient solar cells and cost-effective manufacturing processes. I guessed 60 percent. I was wrong.
  • There’s a lot more solar power on the grid today than a year ago. Thirty-two percent more in fact. According to Energy.gov, solar accounts for less than 2 percent of U.S. electrical generating capacity, but it’s growing quickly. Nearly one-third of all new generation capacity that came online last year was solar.
  • California is knocking it out of the park. It is the first state to get more than 5 percent of its annual utility-scale electricity from solar power. That’s about 9.9 million megawatt hours of electricity. Arizona came in second.  

Now back to Target to purchase no less than eight glue sticks and three sets of paints. Any school that plans on going through eight glue sticks sounds like a winner to me. Oh to be 3 again. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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The best use for a golf course yet

Several golf courses in Japan will soon replace their greens with green energy. At least three projects are underway to build solar plants on old golf courses.

The first ...

Tagged: solar, reusable energy, Japan, golf course, green

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The best use for a golf course yet

Golf course

Several country clubs in Japan overbuilt golf courses back in the 1990s and early 2000s, leaving behind the perfect space to repurpose

Key Points

  • Japan will soon be home to several solar golf projects.
  • Abandoned golf courses are the perfect space for solar farms.
  • Similar projects are underway in New York and Minnesota.

Several golf courses in Japan will soon replace their greens with green energy. At least three projects are underway to build solar plants on old golf courses.

The first will be ready to power homes with 26,000 megawatt hours in September 2017. Even bigger projects are planned to come online in 2017 and 2018.

Several country clubs in Japan overbuilt golf courses back in the 1990s and early 2000s, leaving behind the perfect space to repurpose as the country tries to fill the energy void left by Fukushima.

Japan’s not the only one to go green with their greens. Here in the U.S., golf isn’t as popular as it once was (we’re looking at you, Tiger Woods), leaving several courses seeking new opportunities. Solar plants will soon spring up in New York and Minnesota.

It looks like Japan is emerging as a leader for coming up with new ways to squeeze solar wherever it will fit. Last week, we discussed Japan’s new solar farms being built over water. Building on golf courses won’t include the added expenses that building over water has, making it a more affordable option.

Just watch out for the sand traps.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Solar takes to the seas

Japan doesn’t want another Fukashima on its hands. So it’s turning to solar for some of the country’s power needs.

But ...

Tagged: solar, Japan, floating solar, renewable energy, keadown, solar panel

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Solar takes to the seas

Kyocera's floating solar panels

The floating mega-plants might be able to generate power more efficiently than their landlocked cousins because the water underneath them helps keep them cool.

Key Points

  • Japan is installing two floating solar power stations.
  • Floating solar allows areas with limited land available to harvest the sun’s energy.
  • It’s more expensive to build and maintain than traditional solar plants. 

Japan doesn’t want another Fukashima on its hands. So it’s turning to solar for some of the country’s power needs.

But to use the sun’s rays, the country had to overcome a big challenge: a lack of land available to install solar panels. 

The solution? Floating solar power stations.

Japan will soon be home to two stations on the sea. One in Kato City will generate enough power to power about 920 typical households when it goes online later this month. Another just east of Tokyo will generate enough electricity for almost 5,000 households when it powers up in March 2016.

Here’s your KEA lowdown, or keadown, if you will.

The Good:

The floating mega-plants might be able to generate power more efficiently than their landlocked cousins because the water underneath them helps keep them cool. They also have a side benefit of helping reduce water evaporation and algae growth thanks to the shade they provide.

The Bad:

Water is unpredictable, especially when a natural disaster strikes. Some worry that the plants won’t be able to survive severe storms, but the manufacturer has assured Japan that the panels can withstand hurricane-speed winds. They are also reportedly earthquake-proof. 

The biggest strike against the floating stations is the price. They can be costlier to install and maintain than the panel on the roof of your local Walmart.

The Bottom Line:

These stations seem to be a nice option for areas with limited land available to use solar energy. However, since the plants are more expensive to install and maintain than traditional solar options — not to mention other forms of energy — this innovation won’t do much to keep energy affordable. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Energy Department spending $32 million to drive down solar costs

The Energy Department wants to make solar power cheaper. But sometimes you have to spend to save. Or, at least that’s what I told my husband when I “saved” us 40 percent on ...

Tagged: Energy Department, solar, workforce

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Energy Department spending $32 million to drive down solar costs

Solar money house

Altogether, this funding will help make solar energy more accessible and affordable for American families and businesses.

Key Points

  • The Energy Department announced new funding for solar projects.
  • It will help pay for workforce training research.
  • The improvements will hopefully drive down costs. 

The Energy Department wants to make solar power cheaper. But sometimes you have to spend to save. Or, at least that’s what I told my husband when I “saved” us 40 percent on a new dress at The Gap last week. It’s like money in my pocket.

My husband might not have agreed with my reasoning, but I think the Energy Department would. They get me. They’re spending $32 million to help us all save money on solar power. 

A big chunk of that money – about $12 million – will help train American workers including technicians and other people who help behind the scenes with things like real estate, insurance, finance and fire and safety. It will also create certifications for solar professionals.

The other main pot of money will go toward funding innovation. $15 million will help researchers work on projects that can make one of the key components of a solar plant more affordable. They will focus on the solar collector field, which makes up 40 percent of the cost of solar systems. They also hope to improve the device’s accuracy and durability.

The rest of the dough will go toward data. The Energy Department anticipates that funding $5 million on special projects will help make the industry more transparent, leading to fair pricing. More information will hopefully enable new business solutions.

Learn more about how the Energy Department is boosting the solar workforce.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Bill Gates on state of energy revolution

This minute-and-a-half clip from CNN is worth your time. In it, Bill ...

Tagged: Bill gates, Energy, Green Energy, carbon footprint, solar

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Bill Gates on state of energy revolution

Bill Gates

When you buy power, what you're really buying is reliability.

Key Points

  • Hear what Bill Gates has to say about the future of energy.
  • He tells us why solar is not currently cost competitive with natural gas energy production.
  • He also touches on what needs to be done to change the system.  

This minute-and-a-half clip from CNN is worth your time. In it, Bill Gates discusses what hurdles we need to overcome for an energy revolution to happen. He discusses how we do not currently have an economic way to convert our energy system to a “zero CO2 system.”

I like how he makes the connection of how “when you’re buying power, you’re really buying reliability.” He talks about how you need, say, your hospital to have electricity all the time, even when it’s not sunny.

He notes that we need to fund thousands of entrepreneurs to drive costs down and come up with new technology to tackle this issue. 

Enjoy.



Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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4 things you need to know about the Tesla home battery (No. 3 might surprise you)

Editor's Note: Due to overwhelming demand, Tesla's Powerwall has completely sold out. You can still reserve a Powerwall for yourself; however, it won't arrive until mid-2016.

Last ...

Tagged: Tesla, Powerwall, solar, Energy

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4 things you need to know about the Tesla home battery (No. 3 might surprise you)

Tesla building

Last week, electric-car maker Tesla Motors announced that it will now sell battery packs for homes. And the energy world exploded.

Key Points

  • Tesla Motors is now in the home energy storage business.
  • The home battery can store things like sporadic solar power, and release it when you need it.
  • It’s expected to cost $3,000 - $3,500.

Editor's Note: Due to overwhelming demand, Tesla's Powerwall has completely sold out. You can still reserve a Powerwall for yourself; however, it won't arrive until mid-2016.

Last week, electric-car maker Tesla Motors announced that it will now sell battery packs for homes. And the energy world exploded.

Analysts instantly began speculating that this could be the missing link — a real game-changer — to make solar the main source of energy for homes nationwide.

For $3,000 - $3,500, a Tesla battery can store your sporadic solar power and release it when you need it.

Here are four things you need to know about the Tesla battery:

  1. It’s not a new invention — This is a standard lithium-ion battery, similar to many that are already on the market.
  2. Tesla’s version might be cheaper than its competitors — We don’t know how much Tesla’s larger batteries for businesses and utilities will be, but the version for homes will be $3,000-$3,500 plus the price for installation and electronics that are required for connecting it to your home system. That price tag is a bit cheaper than other models currently available. Some speculate that Tesla might be selling the batteries at a loss for now, with hopes to turn a profit once it scales up production.
  3. The utility-grade battery is probably too expensive for your local electric provider — Utilities have a responsibility to keep electricity affordable for customers. So even though the batteries might be good in theory, it’s hard to justify using them when it’s still much cheaper to manage loads by firing up gas turbines. According to this article in the Scientific American, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that for energy storage to be competitive, it must not cost much more than $150 per kWh. Assuming a cost of $700 per kWh, Tesla’s systems are still much more expensive than that.
  4. It’s a good step, but not the final answer — It doesn’t look like Tesla’s battery will change the world overnight. But, this is still a positive step in the right direction. Tesla is a pioneer in the open source movement, meaning it gives everyone access to its patents to help encourage a “rapidly-evolving technology platform.”  Tesla is including this latest product launch in that philosophy. 

Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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How solar power is just like ‘Empire’

We’re in that toddler-plus-baby-stage where we don’t get out much. So when a new guilty pleasure show comes our way, it’s a really big deal. Our favorite this season is “Empire.” ...

Tagged: Empire, solar, Energy, FOX

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How solar power is just like ‘Empire’

Cookie from empire

Solar power and “Empire” are as alike as a form of renewable energy and Fox TV teen hit can be.

Key Points

  • Yes, you read that right. We’re comparing a form of renewable energy to a Fox TV show about rappers.
  • They’re both popular.
  • They both like to give nods to the past and corporations love them (spoiler alert: it’s for different reasons). 

We’re in that toddler-plus-baby-stage where we don’t get out much. So when a new guilty pleasure show comes our way, it’s a really big deal. Our favorite this season is “Empire.” I probably shouldn’t announce it publicly, but it’s true. I love “Empire” and I don’t care who knows it.

Here are three things “Empire” and solar power have in common.

  1. They’re both runaway hits. Fox’s “Empire” is shattering Nielsen records as the only series to rise in the ratings for seven consecutive weeks since its premiere. It’s averaging 15.6 million viewers a week. Solar power is also gaining popularity. Globally, the installed capacity of solar electricity has grown six-fold from 2010 to 2013, from 23 gigawatts to 180 gigawatts. 
  2. They both have old-school flashbacks. I love a good “Empire” flashback. Who didn’t cry when Cookie recalled saying goodbye to her three baby boys as she started her federal prison sentence for selling drugs? Who’s with me? Anybody? Anybody? Solar power has flashbacks too. Like the Ivanpah Solar Plant in California that uses the sun’s heat to make power the old fashioned way — with steam. Most solar farms use photovolataics. That means special materials convert solar energy into electricity. But at solar plants like Ivanpah, hundreds of thousands of mirrors track the sun and reflect the heat to boilers that make steam to turn a turbine and create electricity. Solar power, kickin’ it old-school Cookie style.   
  3. Corporations love them. “Empire” is Fox’s most popular show for young adults since “The OC.” And that makes it prime advertising real estate corporations love. Corporations are also showing some big love for solar power. Apple is planning on investing almost $1 billion in a solar power plant. That investment will push Apple past Walmart as the largest corporate user of solar power.

So there you have it. Solar power and “Empire” are as alike as a form of renewable energy and Fox TV teen hit can be. I can’t believe I didn’t see the similarities before. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Black Hills customers, keeping energy affordable by letting the sun shine in

Nothing makes us geek out more than good energy-saving advice. So when one of our Black Hills Energy customers shared an efficiency tip of his own, we were thrilled.

Martin ...

Tagged: solar, heat, Energy, Energy Information Administration

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Black Hills customers, keeping energy affordable by letting the sun shine in

Sunny window

Nothing makes us geek out more than good energy-saving advice.

Key Points

  • Let the sun shine in!
  • 42 percent of your home's energy usage goes toward space heating.
  • Our customers know how to keep energy affordable.

Nothing makes us geek out more than good energy-saving advice. So when one of our Black Hills Energy customers shared an efficiency tip of his own, we were thrilled.

Martin Foxwell of Castle Rock, Colo., lives in a house that gets plenty of exposure to the sun—particularly through the windows facing south and west.

“I make a point to open all of our blinds that face the sun, and leave them that way during the day, whether we’re home or not,” Martin said. “By late afternoon, the temperature throughout much of the house is 5 to 10 degrees higher than it would be otherwise.”

Even better, the warmer temps linger into the night, decreasing slowly and keeping the furnace from kicking in until early morning. “It really is amazing how forceful the sun is,” Martin said.

We agree. And why not use that force to help heat your home and cut energy costs? After all, the Energy Information Administration will tell you that if you’re the typical homeowner, 42 percent of your home’s energy usage goes toward space heating.

Hearing what Martin had to say made us wonder what else our customers do to keep energy affordable.

Tell us, what’s your best energy-saving advice?

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Amsterdam and Portland have this in common — and it’s not what you think

Solar energy isn’t just for rooftops and solar farms anymore. They’re now popping up along the interstate in Oregon and on the bike path in Holland.

Our Dutch friends ...

Tagged: solar

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Amsterdam and Portland have this in common — and it’s not what you think

This kid is surprised!

It’s also appealing in a country where there’s not a lot of spare space available. But there are a lot of bike paths. The Dutch love their bikes. And their ice skates. And Heineken. But bike paths are probably the best bet for producing electricity.

Key Points

  • Solar power is evolving.
  • The Netherlands is using panels as a bike path.
  • Oregon uses solar panels along the highway. 

Solar energy isn’t just for rooftops and solar farms anymore. They’re now popping up along the interstate in Oregon and on the bike path in Holland.

Our Dutch friends recently spent $3.7 million on a bike path made of solar panels in Krommenie, north of Amsterdam. This project isn’t putting solar panels along the bike path.  The panels are the bike path.

But The Netherlands isn’t particularly sunny.  It snows. Won’t snow on the ground get in the way of soaking in the rays, especially since the stationary panels can’t be angled toward the sun?

The group behind the project is more concerned about what they’ll learn from this pilot project than the energy it will produce (about enough to power two homes). The project is being funded both by public funds and companies who want to commercialize similar solar power opportunities. They see a lot of upside to using things like bike paths to generate electricity. For one, they may be able to more easily connect these long paths to a grid. This would be much cheaper than connecting individual solar panels on separate homes to the grid.

It’s also appealing in a country where there’s not a lot of spare space available. But there are a lot of bike paths. The Dutch love their bikes. And their ice skates. And Heineken. But bike paths are probably the best bet for producing electricity.

Closer to home, Oregon opened its Solar Highway back in 2008. The 594 solar panels help power the lights along the interstate south of Portland.

Minnesota is thinking about doing something like this too. The Minnesota Department for Transportation accepted proposals from companies in November. If a project moves forward, it will help the state achieve its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.   

Projects like these are innovative — if expensive — advances on where our energy may come from. What other spaces do you think we should look at to build energy production? Windmills on skyscrapers? Solar panels on Mount Rushmore? Tell us below.  

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You won’t believe what he’s selling door to door

Our neighbor kids came to the door the other day to sell me cookie dough for their school fundraiser. I started yelling “noooooo” just as I noticed them on the landing. I love ...

Tagged: solar, sales, door to door

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You won’t believe what he’s selling door to door

. Instead of investing in spendy panels for your home, you get a power purchase agreement with them.

Key Points

  • A company is selling solar energy door to door.
  • The approach seems to be successful.
  • Experts believe innovative marketing approaches like this are needed to get people to use renewable energy. 

Our neighbor kids came to the door the other day to sell me cookie dough for their school fundraiser. I started yelling “noooooo” just as I noticed them on the landing. I love our neighbor kids, but it was too late. They. Rang. The. Doorbell. In the afternoon. Both my girls were napping ,and I hadn’t posted a sign saying “Babies sleeping. Please knock.”  So yes, it was entirely my fault. And yes, I ordered cookie dough and am planning to eat it right out of the bucket.

So when I saw an article about a company selling solar energy door to door, my first thought wasn’t about how this innovative marketing approach could help increase use of renewable energy.  It set off alarms in my head about how I really, really need to make that “don’t ring the doorbell” sign. And made me want to eat cookie dough.

But the article was pretty interesting. It talks about how to make renewable options more available, we need more than just advancements in technology. Instead, we need new business models to get that technology to consumers. And one way to do that is to go door to door, just like your local boy scout.

A company based in Utah, Vivint Solar, is doing just that. A nice salesman rings the doorbell (or, hopefully, knocks on your door) and tells you about the benefits of using solar energy.

The innovative part is how they help overcome the barrier of the high upfront costs. Instead of investing in spendy panels for your home, you get a power purchase agreement with them. That means the company owns the panels, and you just agree to buy the energy those panels produce for 20 years, usually at a fixed price that is cheaper than you’re currently paying.

In states where net metering is allowed, you even get credit when the panels produce more than you’re using (more on that subject and why most states don’t allow homeowners to sell their electricity back to the grid available here). (link to Carrol story)

The company is active in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. These states generally have high utility prices and allow folks to sell their energy back to the grid, making the PPA deal pretty appealing.

I don’t think I’ll have any solar salesmen at my door anytime soon, but I like their approach. The only way using solar at my house would be practical would be to have someone deal with the hassle of installation and take away the steep upfront costs. And it wouldn’t hurt to have that person just show up on my doorstep. Anyone selling cookie dough or energy will get a listening ear at this house. Just please, knock.

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CARROLL: Energy grid not free for all

It seems counter-intuitive and more than a little greedy to spend tens of thousands of dollars building green energy facilities so you can live off the grid and then fight the power ...

Tagged: Frank Carroll, Green Energy, solar, Wind

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CARROLL: Energy grid not free for all

Energy Grid

The people who invested in the green energy did not invest and do not invest in the development and maintenance of the grid.

Key Points

  • Distributed genereation is more affordable than it was 20 years ago.
  • Green energy producers want to be paid a premium for the grid they're not paying for.

It seems counter-intuitive and more than a little greedy to spend tens of thousands of dollars building green energy facilities so you can live off the grid and then fight the power company because they aren’t paying you for the extra power you give back to the grid.

Let’s have our cake and eat it, too. Most people invest in solar panels and wind energy to relieve themselves of the burden and insecurity of depending on the giant energy grid most of us depend upon. And it is a dependable grid. Not having power in America is not common and not tolerated for very long, even in the toughest circumstances.

Solar panels and windmills are now much more affordable then they were 20 years ago, so more of us are buying into self-sustaining energy. Just in case, most people who do live off the grid don’t cut the wires that connect us to the grid. And therein lies the rub.

Electrical meters run both ways. They measure how much energy we are using that is produced by the major energy companies. They also measure how much energy is being pumped back onto the grid by people producing green energy. So it has occurred to more than a few green energy producers that they should be paid for the energy they produce and don’t use.

The thing is, the energy they produce and don’t use is being distributed along an incredibly complex energy grid that allocates energy to homes and businesses all over the region. The people who invested in the green energy did not invest and do not invest in the development and maintenance of the grid. Yes, they pay a fee to be connected to the grid but that is their choice. They don’t have to sell the energy to the grid companies. They can cut the wires, cancel their accounts, and call it good.

To add salt to the wound, the energy companies are being asked by the serendipitous green energy producers to let them feed their green energy back to the grid and to be paid for doing so, which only makes sense if the green energy producers are willing to share a prorated share of the cost of the grid.

Green energy producers are apparently arguing they should be paid for green energy at prevailing rates but they should not have to maintain the grid that delivers the energy.

Sorry. If you want to produce green energy and run your place and maybe even your neighbors’ place, invest in a neighborhood grid, and make money producing energy by selling it like energy companies do — fine. But if you want an unexpected windfall from the already existing grid, which I pay full freight to use, then you have to pony up to maintain the grid. When the whole thing is prorated based on the actual costs of producing and distributing energy, you may find it costs you money to feed your “free” energy back to the grid.


Frank Carroll
Frank Carroll's website is blackhillsforestpros.com.
Write to him at frankcarrollpfm@gmail.com.

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The True Costs and Benefits of Rooftop Solar

Solar power is often touted as the all-in-one solution to reducing energy bills and protecting the environment. Yet, further analysis of solar and how it is managed in relation to ...

Tagged: solar, net meter

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The True Costs and Benefits of Rooftop Solar

Who does rooftop solar installations actually benefit?

As the current framework allows for users of solar to benefit at the expense of those who do not, it is appropriate for us to more clearly define our goals related renewable energies and how we aim to achieve them.

Key Points

  • Solar system owners are paid for energy they generate back into the grid
  • Under Colorado’s net metering policies, excess generation is paid back at the same rate utilities charge
  • The utility’s retail rate includes costs such as maintenance on infrastructure and other costs beyond power generation
  • In Colorado, solar customers are essentially receiving a subsidy that is being paid by all other customers

Solar power is often touted as the all-in-one solution to reducing energy bills and protecting the environment. Yet, further analysis of solar and how it is managed in relation to other energies opens new questions about its overall benefits to the public. Is solar power, and the current scheme of subsidies that supports its development, providing real cost savings to everyone or just those with solar panels on their roof?

A new white paper entitled Solar Photovoltaic Power: Assessing the Benefits and Costs, from American Public Power Association, tries to answer this question by examining current solar power usage and policies. It provides decision makers with critical guidelines for managing the inevitable trade-offs associated with this technology.

The paper finds that the unbalanced costs and benefits of residential solar power are largely attributable to the various subsidies and tax credits available for solar projects. Under Colorado’s current billing system known as net metering, solar energy system owners are paid or credited for the excess electricity that their solar panels add to the grid, and are billed only for their ‘net’ energy use. No one disputes that solar panel owners should be paid for the excess electricity they generate. The problem is how much they are paid. Most “net metering” policies, including Colorado’s, insist that utilities pay rooftop solar customers the equivalent of the “retail” rate they are charged for power by the utility.  But that retail rate includes costs to the utility such as maintenance on poles, wires, transformers, and other costs beyond just power generation.

Net metered homes continue to rely on their utility’s distribution network regardless of their own system’s output. So, consumers who are paid at the “retail” rate for what they produce are mostly avoiding their corresponding share of the costs electrical grid distribution and maintenance. In essence, rooftop solar customers are receiving a subsidy that is ultimately paid by all other customers. 

One solution is a greater emphasis on large scale solar PV (Photovoltaic) projects that can be undertaken by utilities. Such projects will have lower, unitized costs, allowing expenses to spread over more billing units, which essentially eliminates current cost shifting (and utility hikes) by making us all solar consumers.

The rapid growth of solar we have seen in recent years is largely not a product of its efficiency and benefit as power source, but from the direct and indirect subsidization of solar projects. As the current framework allows for users of solar to benefit at the expense of those who do not, it is appropriate for us to more clearly define our goals related renewable energies and how we aim to achieve them. 

For more information visit http://coconsumercoalition.org/.

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To the Roof

Rooftop solar installations are on the rise. Estimates say as much as 50% of all new homebuilders by 2016 could have a solar option, for an added cost of course. Potential homeowners ...

Tagged: solar

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To the Roof

Rooftop solar arrays could become more popular.

Potential homeowners could roll in their solar array and installation costs into the price of their new home.

Key Points

50% of all new homebuilders could offer solar by 2016
Solar is becoming more affordable
You can finance solar arrays into your mortgage

Rooftop solar installations are on the rise. Estimates say as much as 50% of all new homebuilders by 2016 could have a solar option, for an added cost of course. Potential homeowners could roll in their solar array and installation costs into the price of their new home. I see some positives and negatives to think through!

Let's start with the positive. Having the ability to add in solar to the cost of your home seems like a no brainer. Let's say you’re financing a $250,000 house at 4%. Honestly adding in another $15,000 isn't going to break the bank or your pocketbook. And if you decide to stay in that home long term you could end up offsetting enough electricity to eventually pay for the system. If you don't say in the home long term, it will be an added benefit to potential home buyers and will give your home the added kick that might set your home apart from the competitors. 

As for the negatives, rooftop solar costs about $4 per watt. If you're building a very efficient home then a very efficient 3.5 KW solar array could reduce electricity costs by up to 75%. So let's do the math, $4 per watt times 3,500 watts. That’s about $14,000, a lot of money, but you could potentially offset a lot of electricity.  Also, the sun doesn’t shine 24/7, so it’s not a source that a homeowner can always count on.

So, would you build a house with solar if you could finance it into your loan? There an array of factors (see what I did there? A little solar humor…) to consider in a big decision like this, which is why some local utilities are working to become energy advisors for their customers.  They know a lot about energy and it makes sense for them to share that knowledge with customers.  After talking it through with the experts, I'm pretty sure I would spring for solar if my house was in the right location. I'd find a couple places to save a few bucks here and there to offset the cost

For more of the story, check out this article on UtilityDive.com

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Germany Jumps Off Solar Cliff And Britain Follows

We've reported before that Europe is jealous of the low energy prices ...

Tagged: solar, german, britain, europe, subsidies

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UK Ignores German Solar Problem

Key Points

Solar can make sense as a part of an overall energy portfolio.

Over-subsidization is only effective in creating economic risks and will hurt the solar market in the long-run.

We've reported before that Europe is jealous of the low energy prices in the U.S., so why would the U.K. decide to blindly follow Germany over the solar cliff into potential economic bankruptcy? Interesting article about this topic over at SmartGridNews.com.

"The UK is the last market in Europe that still has attractive subsidies for large-scale solar plants," said Jenny Chase, lead solar analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. As a result, solar developers from Spain, Italy and Germany are now headed for Britain and Britain gets to go down the same path that Germany is now trying to get away from.

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Taking Candy From Kids

Should you pay for someone else to use solar panels? A customer’s electric bill is based on the electric company’s cost ...

Tagged: net metering, solar, Video

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Video: Is net metering fair?

Key Points

Net metering allows some people to use the benefits of the grid and doesn't fairly share the responsibilities.

Should you pay for someone else to use solar panels? A customer’s electric bill is based on the electric company’s cost of providing electric service. This includes the cost of the fuels used to generate electricity and the cost to transport and deliver the electricity to the customer. Costs also include the maintenance of the grid, as well as utility programs for low-income assistance, energy efficiency, environmental improvements, and other public benefits.

In general, every electric customer has an electric meter that records the amount of power delivered by its electric company. As electricity is used, the meter spins forward, much like a car’s odometer records miles traveled. In the case of an electric meter, the meter records energy use in kilowatt-hours (kWh).

Net-metered customers generally are credited for the electricity they sell to the grid, with their electric meter running backwards to provide a credit against the electricity that these customers must buy from their electric company at night or during other periods when their electricity use exceeds their system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use.

That means that when rooftop solar or other DG customers generate electricity, they avoid paying for the utility’s power, which is fair because they did not use it. But, they also avoid paying for all of the fixed costs of the grid that delivers power when they need it and takes the power they sell back to the utility. As a result, these grid costs are shifted to those customers without rooftop solar or other DG systems through higher utility bills.

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In the end, it’s still about money

If you can get past the hyperbole — “ever more dire, report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” and “our dirty energy consumption” — this article nails ...

Tagged: solar, affordable, net meter

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In the end, it’s still about money

When it comes to energy, it’s always about money.

Key Points

As more people generate their own energy, rates will rise for the rest.

Is solar for the weathly?

If you can get past the hyperbole — “ever more dire, report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” and “our dirty energy consumption” — this article nails it: When it comes to energy, it’s always about money.

Rooftop solar panels and hybrid vehicles and personal wind turbines all sound great in theory.

But largely, they are for the wealthy.

And if more and more people generate their own energy, that leaves “fewer people to pay for the maintenance of transmission lines, substations and control rooms with smart-grid software. Rates will then rise for the rest, prompting yet more customers to defect, and driving rates up more …” 

In the end, under the way things work now, this type of spiral will hurt those who can least afford it.

http://www.hcn.org/articles/the-energy-haves-and-have-nots

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