I was recently in front of a large, friendly group of open-minded people, when I stated my mission...
“I want to help people replace their use of fossil fuels with renewable energy within 10 years or sooner.”
The speaker interrupted me and asked a very simple question: “Why? Why would you want to do that?”
I was surprised, not only by the interruption, but also because in the 35 years I’ve been in the solar industry, no one has ever asked me that question directly.
My reply was inadequate due to my ineptness of thinking fast on my feet, but, after further consideration… you know how it goes… oh I should have said this; I should have said that… here’s my answer:
I want to create a better world, a world that works well (I consider this the best solar energy use):
1) I want to create a world in which all people can bring out the divinity within.
2) There’s something inside of me, from way back that compels me to leave the world a better place than when I got here. (Did my father instill this in me? “If it’s worth doing, it's worth doing right.”)
The area in which I can make a difference is in our use of energy.
Scientific evidence supports my belief that our current use of energy is causing very serious problems.
We each need to address these problems.
If you wait for someone else to address these problems for you, you might not like the solutions or worse; you might not live long enough to solve the problem. YOU need to address these problems because they are YOUR problems. I can help you. I want to help you.
The Bundesrepublik Deutschland and the Pacific Northwest in the United States have one major thing in common – they both get about the same amount of sunshine which translates to “a lot of cloudy days” in plain American English.
In Germany, where the clouds rarely seem to part, there are more photovoltaic installations than anywhere else and it is the third largest producer of solar cells and modules after China and Japan.
So why in the world is Germany the worldwide leader in solar energy and what does that have to do with the Florida Gators?
The answer to that question is Feed-in Tariffs or FIT's.
Now, Germany and the City of Gainesville, Florida have one major thing in common.
Gainesville, in the heart of the Sunshine State, is probably best known for its powerhouse football team – the University of Florida Gators. It is now attracting attention for promoting power of another nature – that being power from the sun - and photovoltaic modules are being installed all over the city. Modeled after the Feed-in Tariff that resulted in Germany’s turbo-charged solar industry, the City of Gainesville was the first in the nation to enact a solar FIT.
The city-owned utility, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), offers its electric customers—both business and residential—the chance to invest in solar photovoltaic systems and sell all the electricity that they produce directly to GRU. Participants signing up for the program before 2011 will be guaranteed a fixed rate of $0.32 per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced for 20 years, an estimated 4-6 percent return on investment.
The Feed-in Tariff for solar energy is the ultimate renewable energy incentive. A solar FIT means that homeowners or businesses sell all their renewably generated electricity to the utility at a premium price and buy all energy used at retail rates. Wow, imagine the tables turned for once. The major difference between FITs and other energy incentives is that the intent goes beyond just supplying energy—the idea is to promote the use of renewable energy by richly rewarding system owners. Per-kilowatt payments for renewably produced electricity are set higher than conventional market prices for fossil-fuel-based electricity, as an incentive to add renewable energy to the grid.
In Florida there is an organization called “FARE” which stands for the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy (www.floridaallianceforrenewableenergy.org). They are a coalition dedicated to educating Floridians about Feed-in Tariffs and other policies that promote the use of renewable energy. The United States would benefit from a national FIT law. A national FIT would encourage more renewable energy in general, create U.S. jobs, and significantly help the national effort to reduce climate changing greenhouse gas emissions…
Go Gators, Go Gainesville, Go Solar.
There are a number of things to consider including good sunlight, financial incentives, net-metering policies, cost of materials, and high electric rates...
We all know that three consecutive days of cloudy, rainy weather in the Sunshine State is rare and when it does occur many of us begin to suffer from light affective disorder (myself included). In fact, the sunlight in our part of Florida is some of the best in the country. According to the Florida Solar Energy Center, Florida has 85% of the maximum solar resource of any location in the country (7.2 kWh/day out of a maximum of 8.5 kWh/day).
The federal investment tax credit (ITC) for solar systems has had such a big impact on the solar market since 2006 that Congress extended it for 8 years in 2008 and dropped the cap for residential systems. The solar tax credit reduces the retail cost of an installed system by 30% and you receive the credit when you file your taxes (it is not a grant). At the state level, Florida offers rebates for solar electric (PV) and solar hot water. For residential PV installations the state rebate is $20,000 for up to 5 kilowatts and for commercial PV installations (10 kilowatt or more) investors receive a rebate of $100,000. In addition to rebates and commercial tax credits, commercial customers of a grid-tied PV system are also entitled to five-year, accelerated depreciation for projects completed in 2009. The State of Florida also provides grants from the Governor’s Energy Office for solar water heaters, solar electric systems and solar pool heaters.
Both LCEC and FPL have enacted net-metering policies for grid-tied, PV systems. Under net metering, electric meters turn backwards when PV systems generate electricity in excess of the demand. This means that their customers receive retail prices for the excess electricity they generate. The kilowatt-hours generated are credited to the next bill at retail rate. At the end of a 12-month billing cycle the utility then pays for solar generated electricity at avoided-cost rate.
Cost of materials…
The price of modules have declined sharply this year but according to Solarbuzz (a portal to worldwide solar data) the trend downward has slowed. The demand for photovoltaic modules was high in 2008 so manufacturers increased production. Then the global recession hit the solar industry so in the beginning of 2009 there were plenty of modules on the market which resulted in lower prices. Just remember when you are comparing prices of modules that brand, technical attributes, and certifications do matter.
High electric rates…
Nationwide, electricity rates have increased an average of 4.4% per year over the past 35 years, twice that rate in some parts of the country. The energy from the sun is free so rates will never increase!
An analysis of the factors influencing an investment in solar reveals that solar energy does pay in Southwest Florida.
It makes economic sense for many but only a hard look at the numbers and a physical analysis of the property will tell if it makes sense for you.
Be sure to visit our web site at www.FafcoSolar.com to learn more about the all of the Solar Energy products available to you.
If you're looking for a great read that discusses creating a sustainable future...I highly recommend reading Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman.
You know may his other work, The World is Flat.
Here's a description from Amazon:
"Friedman explains how global warming, rapidly growing populations, and the astonishing expansion of the world’s middle class through globalization have produced a planet that is “hot, flat, and crowded.” Already the earth is being affected in ways that threaten to make it dangerously unstable. In just a few years, it will be too late to fix things--unless the United States steps up now and takes the lead in a worldwide effort to replace our wasteful, inefficient energy practices with a strategy for clean energy, energy efficiency, and conservation that Friedman calls Code Green."
Let me know what you think!
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