rooftop solar

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SoCal Shines Brightest in Solar Rankings

The Bay Area likes to tout its clean, green reputation, but when it comes to installing solar, Southern California shines brightest. San Diego and Los Angeles lead the state in rooftop solar installations, according to a report released today by Environment California’s Research & Policy Center.

Lisa Aliferis / KQED

Rooftop solar panels on a home in Oakland.

San Jose comes in third with more than 2,700 rooftop installations, while San Francisco comes in fourth with more than 2,400 (though it’s fifth in terms of overall capacity). San Diego leads with 4,500-plus installations producing almost 37 megawatts of electricity.

“I think the story with San Diego is that the city was an early and very consistent adopter of solar power,” says Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate with Environment California Research & Policy Center. “San Diego also has a really well coordinated working relationship between the local elected officials, the utility, the solar industry and the advocacy community.” Continue reading

SolarCity’s Military Deal a Boost for the Biz

Craig Miller/KQED

A rooftop solar array on a home in Vacaville.

SolarCity’s announcement this week that the company is moving forward with a massive military housing solar project, may be more than just a boost for one company. It’s another indication that despite a turbulent few months, the solar industry is alive and thriving.

By itself it’s a big deal that SolarCity and Bank of America Merill Lynch are teaming up without a government loan guarantee. That isn’t traditionally how it’s been done. Private investors usually like the security of a guarantee before they get into a big, risky investment. But in an interview with KQED’s Lauren Sommer, SolarCity’s CEO Lyndon Rive says this investment isn’t actually very risky, “We’re selling electricity; the consumer needs it. It’s not like you are financing a car where they can skip on their financing payments. It is a necessity.”

Continue reading

California Hits Solar Energy Milestone

Homeowners and businesses have now installed one gigawatt of roof-top solar panels, according to a report released this week by the advocacy group Environment California.

A gigawatt – or a thousand megawatts – is enough energy for about 600,000 homes. Only five nations — let alone states — including Germany and Japan, have reached that level. “Even in a bad economy, the solar industry has been growing exponentially by 40 percent per year,” says Michelle Kinman of Environment California. Continue reading

Climate News Roundup: the Melting Arctic, Solar Power, and Peak Oil

Rooftop Solar Panels in Vacaville. Photo: Craig Miller

1. MIT study finds IPCC underestimated Arctic ice melt

A forthcoming study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology predicts that Arctic ice sheets are melting four times quicker than was forecast in the latest IPCC report. According to the study, the Arctic may be ice-free several decades sooner than 2100, which was predicted by the Fourth Assessment Report. Study authors say the IPCC data did not include forces such as wind and ocean currents that cause ice to break up.

The Journal of Geophysical Research Oceans will publish the study next month, but you can read the full news release at MIT’s website. Continue reading

Roofing It: Brown Stumps for Distributed Solar

Craig Miller

Governor Brown moves forward with plans to encourage more local solar generation in the state.

California has been on something of a solar frenzy recently, approving permits for more than 4,000 megawatts of new solar power in 2010 alone. Most of that is in the form of large, industrial-scale installations, which will provide lots of power, but also will require transmission infrastructure to get the clean energy from the desert sun to where its needed, primarily, the coastal cities.

This week Governor Jerry Brown is focusing on the other kind of renewable energy: the local kind that is smaller in scale and doesn’t require transmission to get where it’s needed. Continue reading

Yes in Our Backyard

Rooftop solar can make a sizable dent in the West’s renewable energy needs

This week representatives from the federal Department of Energy and Bureau of Land Management wrap up their California barnstorming swing, to gauge public opinion on the topic of siting solar projects. Throughout this often contentious debate, many have claimed that a potentially huge piece of the power solution is being overlooked; rooftop solar.

Acres of flat-roofed commercial buildings in California's Inland Empire. (Photo: Craig Miller)

Fly into Ontario airport in Southern California’s Inland Empire — or just zoom in on Google Earth — and you’ll see hundreds of block-long warehouses. There are acres — probably square miles — of flat, gray roofs sizzling in the San Bernardino County sun.  Soon, though, instead of merely soaking up the rays, hundreds of industrial rooftops in Southland cities will harness them to feed the local electrical grid.

Solar panels ready for installation on Ontario warehouse. (Photo: Ilsa Setziol)

Southern California Edison and independent power producers holding contracts with the utility are building 500 MW of solar panels on warehouses and, to a lesser extent, on the ground at other Southern California locations.

Together these projects are expected to produce enough energy to rival a traditional power plant, enough to serve about 325,000 homes. Continue reading