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White House energy plan offers solar to the masses

White House energy plan
offers solar to the masses

by ROB McMANAMY | Aug 25, 2015

Speaking this week at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, President Barack Obama pledged $1 billion in federal loan guarantees to encourage U.S. homeowners to install rooftop solar panels. Just one of several new initiatives announced, the funding will come from existing programs.

"Now is not the time to pull back," said Obama, referring to federal investment in renewable energy.  "For decades, we’ve been told that it doesn’t make economic sense to switch to renewable energy.  Today, that’s no longer true," he stressed, citing recent investments in renewable energy by corporate giants like Google, Apple, Costco, and Walmart. (For the full speech, click here.)

"They're not in the business of giving away money," the President added, drawing laughter from the crowd. "They’re not doing this just out of altruism. They’re doing it because it means big cost savings."

That’s power. That’s the future. It’s an American energy revolution. Good utilities... are adapting business models to seize the opportunities of this emerging energy reality.
— President Obama

President Obama made his remarks from the Mandalay Bay Resort Convention Center, which boasts one of the world's largest rooftop solar arrays. Aimed at the residential market, new federal programs will offer no-money-down solar panels to consumers nationwide. Soon, they will be able to tell their "utility company that they want renewable energy and have solar on the roof by the weekend," he said. "That’s power. That’s the future. It’s an American energy revolution. Good utilities recognize this and are adapting business models to seize the opportunities of this emerging energy reality."

And the private sector increasingly is embracing that reality, as well. "One example: Google plans to retrofit the site of a retired coal plant in Alabama into a data hub run entirely on renewable energy," noted Obama. "Recently, they also created a new online tool (Project Sunroof) that lets you plug in your address to see if solar power is the smart choice for you... So if you care about climate change, the very fact that companies realize clean energy and energy efficiency are not only cost-effective but cost-saving should give you a big jolt of hope."

Private sector commitments and White House executive actions add to the growing international momentum now seeking to address climate change. Almost lost in all this news is the emerging reality now that the long-running U.S. debate over the very existence of climate change is essentially over.

  • For the White House FACT SHEET detailing all the new initiatives, click here.

Last year, the U.S. brought online as much solar energy every three weeks as it did in all of 2008, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy.  Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50%. In fact, distributed solar prices fell 10-20% in 2014 alone, and currently 44 states have pricing structures that encourage increased penetration of distributed energy resources. 

The tide has turned and the shadow has lifted. A new era of energy competition has begun.

Among the many energy announcements made this month, this research piece ultimately may touch the most people:

Pushing the Bar on Low-Cost Solar Technology: The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy’s Micro-scale Optimized Solar-cell Arrays with Integrated Concentration (MOSAIC) Program also announced $24 million for 11 projects in seven states to develop innovative solar technologies to double the amount of energy each solar panel can produce from the sun, while reducing costs and the space required to generate solar energy.

  • California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA) - Micro-Optical Tandem Luminescent Solar Concentrator
  • Glint Photonics, Inc. (Burlingame, CA) - Stationary Wide-Angle Concentrator PV System
  • Palo Alto Research Center (Palo Alto, CA) - Micro-Chiplet Printer for MOSAIC
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) - Integrated Micro-Optical Concentrator Photovoltaics with Lateral Multijunction Cells
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) - Wafer-Level Integrated Concentrating Photovoltaics
  • Panasonic Boston Laboratory (Newton, MA) Low Profile CPV Panel with Sun Tracking for Rooftop Installation
  • University of Rochester (Rochester, NY) - Planar Light Guide Concentrated Photovoltaics
  • Semprius, Inc. (Durham, NC) - Micro-Scale Ultra-High Efficiency CPV/Diffuse Hybrid Arrays Using Transfer Printing
  • The Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA) - Wide-Angle Planar Microtracking Microcell CPV
  • Texas A&M University Engineering Experiment Station (College Station, TX) - Waveguiding Solar Concentrator
  • Sharp Laboratories of America (Camas, WA) - A High-Efficiency Flat Plate PV with Integrated Micro-PV atop a 1-Sun Panel

For more information on all the announcements, click here.

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