Distributed Solar Power Trades in Farms for Roofs
Solar power is becoming more economically viable as technology advances. With higher efficiencies and higher-than-ever oil prices, solar panels are finally becoming a competitive way to harness energy. However, one big problem still remains. Where exactly do we develop solar energy at the utilities-scale? While solar farms are being constructed all over the world, they can take up thousands of acres each to produce the same energy (or less) as a coal, diesel or natural gas power plant built on just a few acres of land. To resolve this issue, companies are trading in the solar farm for the roofs of buildings in pursuit of a distributed solution to solar power.
SolarCity has been making headlines since its establishment in 2006 for a unique business model. The company offers convenient solutions to homeowners, businesses and government, providing solar power system design, financing, installation and monitoring services from a single source. The company’s SolarLease and solar Power Purchase Agreements offer the advantage of no upfront costs and the opportunity to over time feed electricity back into the grid at a profit. Essentially the company is helping solar purchasers turn their homes or businesses into a small piece of a solar farm. The more people in a city that join in, the bigger the distributed solar network becomes.
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NRG Energy has teamed with Prologis and Bank of America Merrill Lynch to develop the largest distributed solar roof project in the world. Securing a massive loan guarantee of $1.4 billion from the U.S. Department of Energy, the joint-venture will see the installation of 733 megawatts of distributed solar power on home and business rooftops across the U.S.
"NRG believes rooftop solar is a smart choice for industrial, commercial and residential property owners in markets around the country, and this program provides the commercial scale that will bring the benefits of solar power to customers across the country," says Tom Doyle, president of NRG Solar, NRG's solar subsidiary. "This program will nearly double the amount of grid-connected solar online in the United States today and make another positive contribution to cleaner air and a healthy environment."
Distributed solar energy offers the benefit of conserving land and using the power of community to develop renewable energy. Solar farms may soon be a thing of the past as we look to cover our buildings in energy generating solar panels.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.