I’ve said it before. As solar energy overtakes just about every other competitor, state by state, look for claims about “solar cell syndrome”, and “lowered property values”.  It’s a template.


Bill may raise utility fees

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill Monday that would allow regulated electric utilities to establish a new customer class for users of rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines.

In signing Senate Bill 1456, Fallin also took the rare step of issuing an executive order directing its implementation.

SB 1456 would allow electric utilities to apply to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to establish a higher base customer charge for users of rooftop solar or small wind turbines. The higher fixed charge would be used to recover some of the infrastructure costs to safely send excess electricity back to the grid.

Fallin’s executive order emphasized the importance of renewable energy in her Oklahoma First Energy Plan, which was released in 2011.

“A proper and required examination of these and other rate reforms will ensure that Oklahoma appropriately implements the Oklahoma First Energy Plan while protecting future distributed generation customers,” Fallin wrote in the executive order.

SB 1456 drew opposition from solar advocates, environmentalists and some conservative groups opposed to what they saw as an unnecessary roadblock to solar development by regulated utilities. The bill goes into effect Nov. 1, and any new tariffs covering distributed generation users would have to be finalized before the end of 2015

Combination of no action on climate change, plus no action on rebuilding a rapidly crumbling, vulnerable grid.  Same forces behind both.


new report from Climate Central has found that major power outages have increased ten times over since the early 1980s — and extreme weather is by far the biggest culprit.

The analysis defined a “major power outage” as a loss of electrical power for at least 50,000 people for at least an hour, or where the power supply interruption reached at least 300 megawatts, or where demand exceeded supply by at least 100 megawatts. It found the big upswing in such events occurred in the 2000s. Weather drove 80 percent of all outages between 2003 and 2012, and only three years in that time period saw non-weather related events account for more than 10 percent of all outages.

Furthermore, the average number of weather-related outages doubled over the 2003-2012 period. More specifically, 59 percent of the weather-related outages covered by the analysis were due to storms and extreme weather; 19 percent were due to severe cold and ice storms; 18 percent were due to hurricanes and tropical storms; 3 percent were due to tornadoes; and 2 percent were caused by extreme heat and wildfires.

It’s a big question.

As disruptive technologies of energy production and efficiency take greater shares of the energy service business, can traditional electrical utilities survive? Should they survive?
The most desirable outcome may be that they change to accommodate and facilitate the new world. Whether they will or not is anyone’s guess – some look ready to make the leap, others drag their feet.

Suggest following links to help get the whole scope of this issue.

Amory Lovins at RMI Blog:

Laments for Europe’s money-losing electric utilities were featured in an October 2013 cover story in theEconomist. It said Europe’s top 20 energy utilities have lost over half their 2008 value, or a half-trillion Euros—more than Europe’s banks lost. Many utilities therefore want renewable competition slowed or stopped. Indeed, some European giants, like Germany’s E.ON and RWE, are in real trouble, and five of Europe’s top ten utilities have suffered credit downgrades. So have some U.S. utilities—most recently Jersey Central Power & Light and Potomac Electric Power Co.—from the likes of Fitch, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, Credit Suisse, and others.

Should old, long- and often still-subsidized oligopolies be bailed out or shielded from competition when they bet against innovation and lose? Those big European utilities were supposed, but failed, to prepare for renewables by reinvesting their hundreds of billions of Euros’ windfall from billing customers for the first decade’s tradable carbon emission credits they’d been given for free. Now they’re griping that disruptive technologies are upending their old models—just as innovators had warned them for the past few decades.

Disruptive technologies are meant to upset the status quo to bring worthwhile change. Should we have rejected mobile phones because they threatened to displace landline phones? Didn’t digital cameras make film cameras largely obsolete? Shouldn’t print newspapers have to invent new business models to confront the rise of the Internet?


Ken Munson, CEO of Stockton, Calif.-based startup Sunverge Energy, doesn’t want you to think of his company’s product as a “battery in a box,” backing up a roof full of solar panels — even if that’s one very accurate way to describe what it packages up into a closet-sized, UL-certified form.

Instead, he’d like you to consider the Solar Integration System as an energy manager for the modern, solar-PV-equipped home — and, importantly, one that utilities see as an asset, not a threat.

“We’re very utility-centric,” Munson said in a March interview. “We believe that, inherently, a utility focus, utility ownership, even utility rate-basing [of] our devices as an asset, is where the industry is moving.” That’s a view that doesn’t align with the ‘customer-owned solar+storage=utility existential threat’ views we’ve seen expressed lately. It’s also a departure from the way thatcompetitors like SolarCity or Stem have targeted building owners as their storage customers.

But with 2 megawatts of its systems deployed from Sacramento, Calif. to Auckland, New Zealand, Sunverge is on its way to getting a pretty broad set of test utilities for its behind-the-meter storage platform. In fact, Sunverge ranks third behind SolarCity and Stem in terms of total megawatts of advanced battery projects planned in California, according to the state’s Self-Generation Incentive Program records. With California regulators moving to break a year-long impasse between utilities and customers over how to connect battery-backed solar systems to the grid, those projects could accelerate in the months to come.

Now Sunverge is turning to the next phase of its plans: networking those distributed solar-storage systems into a virtual power plant that is able to store, shift and balance electricity at grid scale. “Stuffing lithium-ion or flow or any kind of battery in a box and putting it in as a simple backup device is not that exciting,” Munson said. “But putting a cloud layer with real-time energy services on top, and being able to aggregate and control a fleet of devices on the grid in near-real time — that’s something special.”

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Hat tip to reader todaysguestis for pointing this out in a comment thread. I thought it was good enough to make a post of its own. Dr. Jason Box is interviewed at length on the Greenland ice by Vice Media, part of HBO.

This is one more indication that the Dark Snow Project has been more than meeting its communication goals. More news coming on some very compelling scientific results, as well.  I’ll be making some more detailed announcements soon, but by all means, go check out the Dark Snow site, and if you can, support this work.



Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), the electric vehicle maker co-founded by Elon Musk, plans to use only raw materials sourced in North America for its proposed $5 billion U.S. battery factory.

The Silicon Valley company won’t look overseas for the graphite, cobalt and other materials needed for its so-called Gigafactory, said Liz Jarvis-Shean, a spokeswoman.

“It will enable us to establish a supply chain that is local and focused on minimizing environmental impact while significantly reducing battery cost,” she said in an e-mail.

The move comes amid heightened interest in curbing graphite pollution and a widespread corporate sensitivity about avoiding the use of industrial minerals from global trouble spots such as central AfricaChina’s government, for example, has begun to shutter mines producing graphite, a major ingredient in lithium-ion batteries, over air-quality issues,Bloomberg News reported March 14.

Tesla “is a high-profile company that is entering an age of supply-chain transparency,” said Simon Moores, an analyst at Industrial Minerals Data in London.

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Barry Goldwater:

“While I am a great believer in the free competitive enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment. To this end, it is my belief that when pollution is found, it should be halted at the source, even if this requires stringent government action against important segments of our national economy.”

– Leftist, tree-hugging, Big Government environmentalist whacko…and 1964 conservative Republican Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, from 1971′s The Conscience of a Majority.

Hat tip to Bradblog and D.R. Tucker

60 Years of Solar Cells

April 19, 2014

“Let it Shine” by Amory Lovins, via NewEnergyNews:

Bell executives presented the first practical solar cell to the world at a press conference on April 25, 1954.

At the time of Bell’s announcement in 1954, all the solar cells in the world delivered less than one watt. Today, more than 120 gigawatts of generating capacity of photovoltaics have been installed worldwide. This year not only marks the 60th anniversary of the silicon solar cell but also the beginning of reaching the Holy Grail solar scientists have only previously dreamt of before “ entering the Era of Grid Parity, where solar panels begin to generate power at costs equal to or less than electricity produced by fossil fuels and nuclear energy.


What does this mean? Simple! Massive amounts of cleanly produced electricity will become a reality in our lifetime.

In fact, on April 26, 1954, The New York Times noted on page one, that the Bell solar cell “may mark the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams“ – the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.  U.S. News and World Report came out with a story as full of hope as the Times piece with the title: Fuel Unlimited,” exclaiming that the silicon solar cells “…may provide more power than all the world’s coal, oil and uranium.¦Engineers are dreaming of silicon powerhouses. The future is limitless.”

On April 18, 2014, a formal celebration will take place in Palo Alto, CA to mark the milestone of 60 years of practical PV. Palo Alto is becoming a living demonstration that we’ve come a long way since that first Ferris wheel was lit up by solar technology in 1954, and that in fact, whole cities can be powered by solar and other renewables. The City of Palo Alto recently started covering its entire community’s power demand through renewable purchases and credits and is on track to procure 100% renewable power by 2017. Solar is expected to make up 18% of that portfolio.

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