We need some help: we want to remind Florida’s esteemed Public Service Commissioners, and
Commission staff, of all solar has to offer — say, when they drive into work everyday.
It just so happens
that there are a couple of billboards on the Capital Circle. Help us come up with
some slogans and design ideas for the Florida Solar Roofs Initiative, and we’ll make it happen.
Submit ideas by replying to this post or send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep it short, sharp,
witty, and kind. More flies with honey, etc…
Winner gets a free
Junior high, 1991 — that’s the last time I’d been to a mega-concert. Until last Wednesday, that is.
With an invitation from Reverb (a cool nonprofit that sets up EcoVillages at rock concerts), Vote Solar trekked out to San Jose’s HP Pavilion to set up a booth at the nearly sold-out show of solo artist John Mayer. And I’m not exaggerating — check out this crowd:
Vote Solar had good placement:
Next to Sierra Club volunteers that handed out free cookies to entice concertgoers (cheaters!), and across from Blackberry, whose promoters passed out shiny blinky blue LED necklaces, Vote Solar’s trusty volunteers — Ben and Rich — skillfully worked the crowd, engaging people on the value of national and local solar energy policies as a means to combat global warming.
Proof that the solar movement is rapidly expanding:
In February I was invited to present on solar energy business opportunities and market development at the First Annual Renergex conference in Dubai. Since they offered to pay my travel and lodging expenses and it was an opportunity to help spread the solar gospel in the heart of the petrol world, who was I to refuse?
My first day in Dubai, looking a little travel weary with Dherar al Hussaini, Managing Director of Quality Fairs, the Fair Organizer.
I made two presentations, one on growth trends in the solar industry and the other on case studies of solar market development in Japan, Germany and the up and coming industry in China.
Here’s me doing my shtick
Obviously the attendees were enthralled.
There is a tremendous amount of interest in developing renewable energy in the United Arab Emirates and solar energy in particular. Petroleum profits have skyrocketed recently, providing a windfall to regional governments. The Royal families of these traditional oil states have been extremely successful at diversifying out of the oil business by investing abroad, and are now looking to diversify within the energy portfolio and solar is a prime focus. My hope is that the investments are not only in companies abroad, but that the Middle East can develop into yet another solar market.
After two days of conferencing it was time to get out and meet the folks abroad. My first stop was with the United Arab Emirate Ministry of Energy. I met with the Deputy Minister of Energy for a couple of hours and talked about the reality of solar as a reliable source of energy and the massive developments that are occurring with solar right now. The interesting thing about our conversation was the Deputy Minister’s intensity regarding the fact that oil and natural gas were a limited resource that will be running out. His main question was, "How can solar energy meet 100% of our energy needs once petroleum runs out? How can we continue to serve electricity when the sun is down?" I’ve experienced the same phenomenon in Texas, people in the oil states understand that the resource is limited and running out, meanwhile the rest of us just keep moving about our daily lives as if it’ll be around forever.
Mohamed Ghanem, me and Ali Bin Abdullah Al-Owais, Deputy Minister of Energy for the United Arab Emirates
The meeting went well and I was invited back later in the week to meet with the Deputy Minister again, along with 7 of his staff, for a 2 hour discussion of how solar can be used in the UAE.
While in Dubai I travelled around by taxi, which generally took far longer than necessary because the traffic is terrible. It was difficult to schedule more than 2 meetings per day. But it did offer the chance to take a lot of photos from the window of a speeding (or crawling) cab. Many of the pictures are of things you’ve heard or read about - like the indoor ski area in the world’s largest shopping center (below)
There were also many sections along the road like this, where all you could see on both sides of the highway were hundred story buildings under construction. I’m not really sure who will be in these buildings, but they are filing up as fast as they can build them. Dubai is quite the bustling city.
The extent of the construction going on across the country is astounding, including the Burj Dubai building which will be the tallest building in the world, at 700 meters and 205 stories.
As you’ve probably heard Dubai is also in the process of constructing a series of ‘islands’ in the Persian Gulf that are creating large tracts of waterfront property. I could see the construction of the Palm Deira out from my hotel window. There was a ship pouring sediment to create the island 24 hours a day. You can see part of the island in the picture below.
When completed the Palm Deira will look like this.
While in Dubai I also met with people at the Masdar Initiative, a group funded by the Abu Dhabi government to invest in renewable energy and clean technology. They are doing great work both at home and abroad, investing in a clean tech research facility and graduate education campus as well as solar production facilities. They are interested in developing solar markets in the Region, so we had a good talk about the different models of market creation that could be utilized in the area.
All in all the trip to Dubai was a tremendous success, I met with many different organizations and people, all very interested in investing in solar energy to meet energy needs both at home and abroad. We will continue to work with the contacts there to ensure that any programs that are created have a high chance of success and increase the rate of adoption of solar energy in the heart of the petroleum world.
Onwards and Upwards, JP
Despite having a great solar resource, there has been very little development of a solar PV market in Florida. Ditto for other indigenous renewable resources. There isn’t a lot of info as to how much renewable energy capacity actually exists in the state, but estimates fluctuate between 1% - 3% of total capacity. Most of that is biomass or municipal solid waste.
But the passage of last year’s 2006 Energy Bill has provided grants and incentives for solar and there are the beginnings of a buzz in the air. So far, I’ve made two trips to Florida this year to talk about solar policies. The first trip was to participate in a renewable energy workshop held by the FL Public Service Commission. The second trip was to give presentations to the sister committees on public utilities for the FL Senate and House.
|Here I am at the Florida House Committee on Communications & Public Utilities, most likely describing the size of the solar market in Florida today.|
|Now I’m persuasively demonstrating how big it COULD be with the right policies and programs in place. See? Much bigger.|
I’m optimistic that we’ll see more action from Florida in the near future. Floridians certainly stand to benefit from a robust solar market — there’s that nickname to live up to, of course, and the fact that they are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate. But there is also a real need to diversify Florida’s energy mix and move away from a pretty hefty dependence on natural gas and oil. Very little petroleum is actually used to generate electricity in the US — its only about 2% of the fuel mix. However, according to US Energy Information Administration, a whopping 34% of that is consumed in Florida — this represents the single largest share.
Between committee meetings, I had a little time to explore Tallahassee. Near Florida State University, I found a colorful community in a neighborhood called Railroad Square. Art galleries, vintage thrift stores, a small cafe, and (my favorite) the local rock climbing gym. No matter what town I’m visiting, finding a place to do a little climbing makes me feel at home. Here I am enjoying the scenery…
|An airplane banner flies the message over the Ferry Plaza. These banners can be seen flying during rush hour traffic all this week.*|
Doctors and nurses stage dozens of interventions on unsuspecting oil addicts:
Plenty of press was on hand to cover the event, including the local Fox affiliate, KTVU. Ming Pao and Sing Tao, two popular Chinese dailies, both featured the event — to see the clips, click here and here. (My Chinese is a bit rusty, but I’m pretty sure they both say that voting YES on Prop 87 is a no brainer).
Many thanks to our participating doctors and nurses, as well as to our friends at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Sierra Club SF Group for help organizing and spreading the word. Thanks to Plug-In Bay Area for the plug-in and electric cars.
To view other images from the day’s event, click here. (Thanks to Matt Leonard of RAN for the great documentation!)
This effort was sponsored by our members and the Vote Solar Action Fund.
Vote Solar Action Fund
182 Second Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94105
ph. (415) 874-7435
Vote Solar Friends,
Here is an update of my recent travels to Germany, where I was invited to speak at an international renewable energy conference called RENEXPO (http://www.renexpo.de/english/profil_ren.shtml ). Once I realized my plane and hotel were paid for, who was I to reject an offer to visit the largest solar market in the world?
I started in the ancient city of Augsburg, just outside of Munich, in the heart of Bavaria. My first day there I gave my presentation to a full audience of interested Germany businesses who are interested in expanding into California to serve the growing demand for solar systems. There was a lot of excitement about SB1 and the California Solar Initiative, as well as some confusion as to how it all works here. In Germany the rebate program is very different. They are simply paid an incentive of ~$0.55/kWh - $0.70/kWh for solar PV production, which provides a healthy return on investment and a strong market demand. So they were very interested to see the interaction between state and federal incentives in California, as well as the fact that utility rates play such an important role in driving the California solar market. I felt that explaining that difference was my role there, so I spent some time trying to clarify the market differences.
After making my presentation I headed out to meet the folks integral to the German solar market and visited some of the world’s largest solar installations. My first meeting was with Albert Edelmann, Board Member with Conergy in charge of international expansion. Conergy is one of the largest renewable energy companies in the world and was started in Hans Ruter’s living room in 1998, and is now a $1B company (yes, Billion, with a B). That’s not bad for 6 years of work. We talked about the California market and other emerging markets in the world that will help bring solar into the mainstream in the not so distant future.
After meeting with Mr. Albert Edelmann I jumped into my rented Audi Turbo Diesel Wagon
and jumped on the autobahn. Germany’s famed highway system. The Turbo Diesels are great cars, I got about 40 miles per gallon for my whole trip, including the times I was cruising along at 207 kmh (that’s just under 140mph in American). As you can see the ride was still pretty smooth, even at that speed!
Not only did the car run great and get me where I needed to at a good clip. I was able to fill it with biodiesel from normal petrol stations, so I could shed my guilt about driving around a country with a great public transit system.
One of the great things about driving around Bavaria was that everywhere I drove there were solar systems on the rooftops. Here is a solar system on a little apartment building.
Another solar system that I liked was this one on top of a beer hall. I only took two shots, because everyone drinking beers started looking at me. I guess it was unusual to see a stranger taking pictures of a solar system.
After driving past the beer house I arrived at one of the largest solar parks in the world. The Solar Park Mulhausen is a single axis tracking system, meaning it follows the sun over an East-West path over the course of the day, increasing production significantly.
This solarpark is around 6.5 MW and was the largest PV installation for a while, until a 12 MW facility was built further north. For reference sake, 6.5MW is about enough electricity to power 6,500 European households. That’s pretty cool stuff.
From this vantage point it was all solar all the time!
After the solar park I jumped back in my trusty wagon and sped north to my next solar destination. The Leipziger Solar park. Leipziger is a dual axis tracker, so it tracks the sun through the day and over the seasons, increasing the output even more.
Seeing these two solar parks was extremely interesting. There are only a couple large installations like this in the US, but they are all over the place in Germany, in addition to the rooftop systems that dot the country side.
The other interesting thing about Germany is that the solar resource is extremely low! In fact, the solar resource in the best parts of Germany is only as good as the solar resource in the worst parts of the US.
And when I say the worst parts, I’m not kidding. Only Northwest Washington and Alaska are comparable to Germany’s solar resource, proving that the limits to solar are not technical, but merely political. If Germany can install 700MW in 2005 surely we can do better in the US (The US installed ~80MW of grid-connected PV in 2005).
Raising the political will for solar energy in the US is our challenge and we plan to win. It was great to spend time in Germany, where solar energy is playing such a major role. I’ve come back raring to go.
We need ideas for the airplane
banners for our Prop 87 campaign. C’mon–‘Methadone for the Planet’? Surely you can do better. 30 characters or
less is best, and winning suggestions will receive a Vote Solar T-shirt. Not to mention temporary infamy.