Localized Dutch energy cooperatives create explosive solar energy growth

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

Local energy cooperatives boosting PV deployment.

Holland will never be known as the sun capital of Europe. Amsterdam’s daily average solar radiation is only about 3 kWh/m2, about the same as Berlin. For comparison, sunny Boston’s daily average is 4.6 (50% more) and Miami’s is 5.3.

While Holland does not yet have the prevalence of solar that Germany has, its people tread the same development path the Germans trod: cooperatives. In Germany, individuals or groups of individuals that formed their own energy cooperatives installed most of the solar. Energy cooperatives power the Dutch solar growth for likely the same reasons:

  • “On the one hand people want to contribute to a sustainable green energy.
  • “On the other hand, they want to be independent of large organizations such as banks and energy companies.
  • “All this has the hallmark of a booming grassroots movement.”

I would love to have answers to some of the questions that come to mind:

  • Why do the Dutch and Germans get together and cooperate to create their new energy future?
  • Why do rural electric cooperatives in Colorado on municipal utilities in Nebraska shun wind and solar?
  • Why did the federal government choose tax credits and accelerated depreciation to promote renewables, when it rewards inputs, not outcomes, and requires some level of wealth to take advantage of it?
  • Most importantly, what would it take to make it easy to create energy cooperatives in the U.S.?

I would love to hear your answers!

SolarPlaza: Dutch solar energy growth explodes through local initiatives

Last year in the Netherlands 145 megawatts (MW) of new solar panels were installed, and 3.5 times more solar power was generated than in 2011. Most PV panels are purchased through the joint initiatives of the general public.

“In the Netherlands there are currently more than 300 local energy cooperatives. This is an indication of its popularity. Netherlands is truly a country where growth takes place at grassroots level. I call that the power of the people,” says René Moerman. He is the director of business development at Solar Insurance & Finance, and Chairman of CALorie in Northern Holland. This local public initiative recently opened its first solar power plant with 112 panels, and plan to put another two to four solar powered plants into operation before the end of the year.

“We have been in existence since 2010 and are actually an established club. We have already realized several projects, while new cooperatives will come come to fruition next year. Therefore I expect that solar energy in the Netherlands will more than double in the coming years, purely through the power of growing from grassroots level, “said Moerman.

Cooperatives show people that PV is cost effective and cheaper than electricity from the power company

This opinion on future development is shared by Dr. Frans Stokman, professor of sociology at the University of Groningen and president of Grunneger Power, the local energy cooperative.

“Despite the limitations of net metering and the difficulties of investing in solar energy at other locations besides your own roof, we envisage tremendous potential for growth. This is evidenced by cooperatives such as Grunneger Power that show people that it is cost effective and cheaper than electricity from the power company,” says the professor.

Grunneger Power constructs a roof fitted with solar panels in Groningen every two days.

“Worldwide, you see the number of solar panels growing at an amazing rate. Every year it exceeds the previous year. In the Netherlands, people on the same street collaborate and help each other to purchase solar panels. That is the social impact that we have always envisaged and that is now becoming a reality,” says Stokman.

In the Netherlands, a kilowatt-hour of solar power now costs about 16 cents. Power from an outlet costs on average of 21 cents.

via KW17 | SolarPlaza: Dutch solar energy growth explodes through local initiatives - SolarServer.

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

UK and Italy: invest in solar or “pay the price”

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

Energy market analysts with GlobalData have sent a warning to U.K. and Italian consumers, saying that they should “invest in solar or pay the price”.

Douglas Short‘s insight:

The analysts say that rising gas prices are a key driver, as well as rising electricity prices from non-fuel items. Put another way, lower sales and higher fixed costs are driving increases in volumetric prices for transmission and distribution. The same phenomenon is going on in Germany.

I think it is going to be a race for the utilities: can they reform their pricing structures fast enough to beat the drop in energy storage prices. They must charge for T&D using a non-bypassable charge, i.e., customer charge, but they cannot raise it too precipitously; customers need time to respond. This means they need to start a series of progressive, largely revenue neutral price structure changes now, while they have time.

See on www.pv-magazine.com

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

Mosaic offers solar crowdfunding

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

Crowdfunding – the idea of pooling small investments online to back a project – has paid for plays, films, fashion accessories and park benches.

Douglas Short‘s insight:

This is another way to do community solar, although the definition of “community” is based on who funds the project instead of some geographic definition. More broadly, though, this appeals to people because they can do good by helping the environment and non-profit groups, and do well by receiving a 4.7% return on the money they invest. Also, they are not risking their money based on solar production or electricity prices; the monetary value to them is simple and clear to understand and compare: 4.7%.

See on www.sfgate.com

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

Solar-powered lamp-post provides ray of light for Mali

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

An Italian architect has transformed life in the Mali village of Sanogola by designing a portable, locally manufactured solar lamp post

 

Douglas Short‘s insight:

This is especially good for a couple of reasons: Italian architect Matteo Ferroni spent a few years studying how the Mali manufactured donkey carts so he could use materials and construction techniques that were already available and he made sure it was easily mobile, even by children, so they can be put where needed and even rented out. 90% of the Mali population have no access to electricity and women often perform tasks using costly and dangerous paraffin lanterns. The best part is the name the women gave to the lamp: Foroba Yelen, or Collective Light.

See on www.guardian.co.uk

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

Windfall Ecology Centre Starts York Solar Cooperative

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

Windfall Ecology Centre is a community based, non-profit organization that brings environmental solutions to homes, businesses, institutions, and communities.

Incorporated in September 2012, York Solar Co-operative Inc. has been established to offer York Region residents an opportunity to invest in local community owned rooftop solar energy projects. Our solar systems will be built atop high profile buildings throughout York Region.

Douglas Short‘s insight:

This is an interesting new twist on community solar. Here, the Windfall Centre is creating a cooperative and will handle distributing all the benefits that come from solar energy production that will be paid the provincial feed-in tariff. Conceptually, there is no reason this couldn’t be done absent a feed-in tariff. A cooperative could own and install solar on commercial or residential roofs, share the savings with the host, and use it share of the savings and sales to pay off the cost of the solar panels and remunerate its members. It would have the incentive to size the system to the capability of the site instead of the usage of the host.

See on www.windfallcentre.ca

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

‘Solar sisters’ spreading light in Africa

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

See on Scoop.itSolar Electricity

Solar Sister is a network of women who sell solar lighting to communities that don’t have access to electricity.

“It makes me feel proud to see that I’m bringing an income to my family,” she says. “Because if I can support my family, I feel good — other than seeking helplessly and looking for everything to be sponsored.”

Douglas Short‘s insight:

With this approach, women are empowered because they do so much of the work and make the buying decisions. If they decide to buy solar lights instead of more kerosene, they can. It is only a matter of time until they start selling solar panels for more general electricity use. As the founder of Solar Sisters says, without electricity and light, you cannot escape subsistence living.

See on edition.cnn.com

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

Member co-ops add more solar to their systems

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

See on Scoop.it - Solar Electricity

This month, two of Tri-State’s member systems are adding significantly to their renewable portfolios with projects that will generate a combined maximum of 3 megawatts of solar power for their memb…

 

Douglas Short‘s insight:

Cooperatives and municipal utilities continue to lead the way on community solar. As noted elsewhere, coops and munis are concerned about their customers’ costs, not their own profit or their prices. The less their customers pay, the better job they are doing.

See on www.poweringthewest.org

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

German energy consumers transform into local energy providers

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

See on Scoop.it - Solar Electricity

Long before Germany announced it would decommission its nuclear plants, its people were changing the way they produce and consume energy

Across Germany, an energy revolution is underway. Dotting across the landscape are hundreds of wind rotors – but even if they look like the giant wind turbines you might see off the coast of the UK or the Netherlands, more than half of them have not been installed by the big energy incumbents. These are financed by private individuals, local energy associations or nearby communities.

Especially in the rural areas of the southern German states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, you’ll frequently see solar panels on residential buildings, barns and converted acres of agricultural land. Almost two-thirds of them are owned by private individuals and farmers. More than one million households and small-scale investors in Germany have turned into producers of energy.

. . .

 

Douglas Short‘s insight:

This is an important article that summarizes the extent of the electricity market disruption taking place in Germany. A significant amount of solar and wind, perhaps the majority, is owned by individuals or communities, not companies. Large manufacturers like Volkswagen are designing mass-produced, efficient renewable energy systems for business and residences.

This is the beginning of swift disruption throughout Europe and North America. Utility CEOs need to have a plan.

See on www.guardian.co.uk

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

The Psychology of Small-Scale Solar

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

People are more likely to install solar panels if their neighbors do and if they see more in their area. True even if payback becomes worse through lower renewable energy credits (NJ).

And, if a home retained power after Sandy because of its solar panels and a small amount of storage, I bet neighbors would want to adopt solar even more. The payback would not be just about grid parity.

Original 11/26/12.

Update 12/3/12: New York Times: Solar Industry Borrows a Page, and a Party, From Tupperware. Confirms the real value of a testimonial by someone you know in your situation.

See The Psychology of Small-Scale Solar.

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

Solar power plants burden eastern CA host counties

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

According to the L.A. Times, in eastern CA desert counties, utility-scale solar power plants cost the counties more than they return. The plants require infrastructure improvements and ongoing public safety and other services that increased property tax revenues do not cover, in part because much of the solar plant is tax exempt. Additionally, relatively few permanent jobs are created and land required to offset the loss of habitat goes off the tax rolls.

Solar power plants burden counties that host them – latimes.com.

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

Solar’s better (and cheaper) when you do it with others

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare

With community aggregation for purchasing, solar is cheaper than power from the grid in Massachusetts.  Now!  Not surprising some investor owned utilities are fighting community solar.

Note:  Program was extended until 10/31/12.  Why end it?

The great thing about going out for margaritas with your crew – you can get a deal on a pitcher, maybe even try a new flavor.  All in all, a way better plan than drinking tequila on your own. Same goes for solar – do it with your friends, and it’s cheaper and more fun!

Smart policymakers, businesses, and non-profits are helping homeowners go solar through group purchasing programs.  Here’s how it works:

Rather than going it alone, a group of people – maybe neighbors, maybe co-workers – gets together and issues a request for proposal (RFP) for their combined solar needs.  With the help of technical advisors, the group chooses the best vendor(s).  Then each homeowner works directly with the vendor on the logistics of the actual system installation.

Because so much of solar’s price tag right now is related to non-hardware “soft” costs, models that make processes like customer vetting and acquisition more efficient have a big impact. With homeowners coming together to buy in bulk, group purchasing can save them 20, 30, or even 40% off market rates on solar systems.  We’re talking prices in the $3-4/Watt range for PV systems. It’s the cheaper-by-the-dozen approach to going solar.

Early examples of this “solarize” model come from Portland, OR and San Jose, CA, where each city helped groups of residents review vendor bids and ensure a good, reliable deal.  The model has spread across the country thanks to organizations like 1 Block off the Grid and GroupEnergy as well as a helpful how-to guide from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.  Enterprising policymakers in places like Connecticut and Massachusetts are now taking the model statewide, helping to coordinate solar group purchases for residents.  Massachusetts’ program got a lot of press in September after a report showed that residents were able to get solar for less than the cost of traditional electricity from the grid.

Solar group purchasing is such a no brainer – cheaper clean energy, the reassurance that your investment has been vetted by others you trust, and an excuse to geek-compete with your friends over who can zero out their electricity bill first – this is one of those trends that can really help get solar over the tipping point.

We just love finding new ways to go solar. We love margaritas too, but that’s another story.

via Vote Solar – Solar’s better (and cheaper) when you do it with others.

TwitterLinkedInGoogle+EmailFacebookPinterestEvernoteShare