Sat, May 27, 2017
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Arizona Solar Center Blog

Commentary from Arizona Solar Center Board Members and invited contributors.

While blog entries are initiated by the Solar Center, we welcome dialogue around the posted topics. Your expertise and perspective are highly valued -- so if you haven't logged in and contributed, please do so!

The Story of the Year is Fake

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”  --Winston Churchill

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Were these the good old days?

The future is not what it used to be.

In the 1990s, the push for electric vehicles gained momentum in response to national security concerns over our reliance on imported fuels and tailpipe emissions.

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There is No Plan(et) B

Climate change is no longer an issue that our politicians can kick down the road for someone else to deal with at some point in the future.

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High Noon

Nearly 40 years ago, President Carter proclaimed the dawn of the solar age. But that proclamation may have been a little premature.

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We are all frogs

The parable of the frog and boiling water is hundreds of years old. It has been used throughout history as a metaphor for circumstances in life when people are unable to see gradual change around them.

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The Politics of Climate Change

Four years ago the issue of climate change did not come up even once in the three presidential debates between President Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney.

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The New Clean Energy Economy Invests in American Jobs

Employment opportunities in the energy sector are exploding. New enhanced exploration techniques have created a boom in the oil and gas fields. Jobs in this sector are projected to double by the end of the decade.

But perhaps even more promising is the boom in the clean energy field. This emerging market sector involves a number of new technologies and industries such as wind, smart grid, energy efficiency, renewable fuels, electric vehicles, natural gas vehicles, hybrids, public transportation, and more.

Solar energy is also a part of the clean energy market sector. And as the solar industry grows, so does its beneficial effect on society, such as greater energy independence, improved environmental enhancements, and positive economic impact on jobs.

Research studies and reports examining the clean energy economy over the past couple of years include analysis from a wide variety of sources: public, private and non-profit. A common theme in these studies points out that as home-grown sources of clean energy have become more cost-competitive and mainstream, they are spurring the creation of more jobs locally than traditional fossil fuels.

Despite the fact that these studies have varying estimates as to the future size of this new energy sector, one thing that is not in dispute is that clean energy generates more jobs per unit of energy delivered than fossil fuels. And in the case of solar PV, the average employment is several times more per unit of energy produced than jobs in coal, natural gas or even nuclear.

The solar industry experienced explosive job gains throughout the great recession. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in 2012 there were more than 281 companies at work throughout the solar value chain in Arizona, employing 9,800 people. This was more than double the number of jobs in Arizona associated with the solar sector in 2011. By contrast, the coal industry has one mining operation and 16 power plant operations throughout Arizona. Coal is the largest source of electricity for Arizona consumers. But according to the Energy Information Administration, less than 1500 people are employed in coal mining and power plants in Arizona.

Make no mistake about it -- the clean economy is real. It's going to be the biggest job creating sector in the coming decades. Currently, there are approximately 120,000 full-time, permanent jobs nationwide related to solar and 1.2 million in the entire clean energy sector.

In July of 2011, the Brookings Institute, in collaboration with Batelle's Technology Partnership Practice, released the first comprehensive national clean economy study to quantify the clean job trends in the U.S. The study found 26 percent of all clean energy jobs are in manufacturing -- substantially greater than the nine percent of manufacturing jobs that comprise the whole of U.S. economy. Because manufacturing jobs require more specialized skills and pay higher salaries, the average clean energy worker earns 13 percent more overall than the average worker.

Community colleges, technical colleges, private and public universities recognize the jobs of the future are in the clean tech sector and are beginning to implement curriculum, programs and degrees for the sustainability professions and the clean economy.

Significant policy uncertainties, however, are threatening this economic boom in clean energy. Smart policy support is critical just as it has been throughout our history for the development of many of our modern industrial sectors, from the railroads to autos to the electric utilities and the internet. Government policy, money, expertise and coordination have contributed to the development of many beneficial industries; thus a strong argument can be made that helping the solar and the clean energy sector grow helps America prosper.

The major challenge facing us as these new technologies and industries emerge is whether or not our political leaders will continue to effect policies that provide certainty for private investment in a clean energy future. There are concerns that negative political pressure from vested interest groups and their lobbyists may force politicians to pull the plug, thereby allowing solar and clean energy and its associated jobs to develop elsewhere.

As we celebrate Labor Day, we must ask ourselves: Will solar energy, born here in the USA, carry a "Made in China" label in the future? Or will we take a stand in support of American jobs and ingenuity in a new clean energy economy?

Jim Arwood
Communications Director
Arizona Solar Center
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Renewable energy: victim of trade war – or winner?

A row between China and the United States over imports of cheaper solar products won't be the sector's death-knell but will ultimately speed innovation and cut costs, a top U.S. renewable energy official said.

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7 Ways The Solar Thermal Industry is Laying the Foundation For Explosive Growth

The solar thermal market has been showing steady growth, but I predict the U.S. industry is on the path for record growth on par with the solar photovolatic industry. Let me explain why.

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Interior Dept. Anoints Solar Energy Sites

The Interior Department is pressing on with its efforts to channel solar energy development into the areas with the best sunshine, the fewest potential environmental disturbances and the least political resistance.

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Distributed Photovoltaics Poised To Experience Continued Market Growth According to Recent Report

As small renewable energy systems are increasingly deployed at the sub-utility scale, distributed solar photovoltaic systems will continue to be the leading form of renewable distributed energy generation installations, according to a new report from Pike Research.

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Two major Arizona solar installations dedicated this week

Two solar installations, including one of the largest in the country, will be dedicated this week as projects in western Maricopa County begin coming online.

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Solar Array Designed To Float On Treatment-Plant Reservoir

New Jersey American Water has energized a 135 kW solar array that floats atop a reservoir at the company's Canoe Brook Water Treatment Plant in Millburn, N.J.

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US solar jobs: Arizona third, California first

Arizona ranks third in the U.S. in the number of jobs related to the solar industry, with nearly 5 percent of the nation's solar workers residing in the state. The report, released Monday by the Solar Foundation and Green LMI, showed Arizona has about 980 businesses dedicated to the industry, employing 4,786 people.

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From Dung Power to Solar Power

We usually speak of "alternative energy sources" as positives. Across the developing world, however, these "alternatives" take the forms of dung and wood for cooking, candles and kerosene for lighting. Governments have done an absolutely dismal job of rolling out access to modern energy.

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Solar Energy Tested In Earth’s Sunniest Spot

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Yuma, Ariz., is the sunniest city on Earth - making it the perfect place to put solar energy technologies to the test. Arizona Western College, in Yuma, will soon be home to a 5-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic array that will do just that.

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Turning Arizona's Dry Heat Into a Comfy Chill

An innovative solar-thermal heating and cooling system installed on top of the UA's Student Recreation Center is expected to harvest almost 200 million kilowatt hours of solar energy per year - enough to power more than 180 households.

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Arizona food production plant using five solar installations on site

Whether its SunChips, Doritos, Lay's, Cheetos or Fritos, many of your favorite Frito-Lay snacks are now coming out a plant that gets two-thirds of its power from onsite renewable resources, including five different solar installations on one site in Casa Grande, Ariz. The company, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, remodeled the facility as a near net-zero facility.

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Database on US Campus Solar Power Released - AZ Universities Lead

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has released a new online database that tracks solar installations on college campuses. The database shows that solar power has grown by 450 percent over the last three years, to a total capacity of 137 megawatts, or enough to power 40,000 homes.

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See also: www.aashe.org/resources/campus-solar-photovoltaic-installations/top10/

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The Sun has Hardly Set on Solar

Solyndra is a blip

Reports of the death of the solar industry are greatly exaggerated. Yes, there have been some high profile bankruptcies of US solar companies -- Solyndra, Evergreen, Spectrawatt -- in 2011. But the solar industry as a whole is on a boom that is only going to increase in coming years, which will transform how we produce and use energy.

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