About a month ago, I used George Harrison’s song “Here Comes the Sun” to highlight the continued expansion of solar energy in the US. It was noted that California has passed 1 gigawatt of solar energy which is more than produced by many countries.Solar energy continues to become more affordable and is a job creator, as well. Also mentioned was the success of a Durham, NC company called Semprius which is a joint venture between the US Department of Defense, Siemens and Pratt Whitney Rocketdine. Semprius makes the state of the art photovoltaic panel in the world which converts 33.9% of the sun’s energy into electricity, a significant increase from the previous conversion rates of 24%. Instead of 1/4 conversion, it is now 1/3 about a 40% increase in productivity.
Yesterday, I saw two more highlights in my home state of NC.These observations are state specific, but I wanted to highlight what can be done when things are set in motion.Other states are having success as well, with California leading the way. In NC, a huge part of the success is a mandate for utilities to provide 12.5% of their energy from alternative sources by 2021, something that Duke Energy is taking seriously. Duke just rolled out yet another 12.5 megawatt solar farm in eastern NC which can power 3,000 homes. The two additional highlights are unrelated to Duke Energy, but build on the success of Duke’s efforts in NC and the Charlotte metro area which has become an alternative energy hub in its headquarter city.
The first highlight involves an Italian company solar panel installation and photovoltaics developer setting up an US headquarters in Charlotte called Siser USA LLC. Siser will start small with ten employees, but they have a five-year track record in Europe and have developed 50 megawatts of solar energy in Italy, Germany, Spain and Eastern Europe. They picked Charlotte for its infrastructure and dedication to solar energy. An additional foreign-owned solar panel maker, Jetion Solar out of China helped recruit Siser to the Charlotte area. I should add that within 45 miles of Charlotte are several solar farms created Google and Apple for data centers they will be powering in Hickory, NC.
Further east, the second highlight is from Chapel Hill based Solar Strata, whom I have written about before. It plans to build a 100 megawatt solar farm in Duplin County breaking ground at the end of the year. This site will be able to power 11,500 homes. In 2012, Solar Strata announced a dozen solar farms under construction and this year they plan to announce another 25 more. By my count that is 37 solar farms which is pretty heady stuff. I noted in my last “Here Comes the Sun” post a month ago, solar energy projects need not be big and that is perhaps their elegance. They can be set up pretty much anywhere there is a large field and can supply power to nearby homes and data centers or plants. I passed by the Google site the other day on my way back from Asheville as it is noticeable from the road. One other irony is it is very near the famous Maiden minister who was severely criticized for wanting to put gays behind the electrified fence. I will let you write your own punch line to this.
As before, I mention all of these success stories for solar and wind energy as the stories need to get out. These are building energy sources, they are becoming much more affordable and scalable, they are creating jobs and they are continuing to be dismissed by the fossil fuel industry and the political party it funds. I worry about the GOP led NC state legislature who is talking about rolling back the 12.5% alternative energy requirement, who passed a fracking bill and wants to begin drilling with a stacked deck of fracking friendly oversight, and who dismissed a peer-reviewed rising sea level estimate that was similar to predictions made in Virginia, Louisiana and other coastal states and went with a looking backwards forecast that was 1/5 the estimated increase of the peer-reviewed report. Stephen Colbert rightfully lampooned the NC state legislature for their folly on holding back the tide with legal briefs. This was before Hurricane Sandy crushed New Jersey and New York due to coming ashore over higher sea levels.
Solar energy is a key part of the solution to our global warming crisis. Wind and other alternative energy sources play a key role as well. Plus, solar energy is much cleaner and will not pollute the environment with chemicals like many of the other solutions, fracking for natural gas and coal to name two. So, in my best George Harrison….here comes the sun doo-da-doo-dah, here comes the sun……and I say it’s alright……Let’s celebrate our many solar successes and spread the sunshine.