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2015 in review February 1, 2016

Posted by Maury Markowitz in Uncategorized.
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As you might have noticed I’ve been a little less than active on the blog recently, but I have an excuse, as you can see to the right.

But now that life is returning to something remotely like normalcy, it’s definitely worth a short note on the 2015: the Year that Was.

What a year!



Enphase S280 mini-review, and the future of Enphase November 27, 2015

Posted by Maury Markowitz in solar.
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The S280; newer, cheaper and a lot cooler looking.

In spite of 2015 being the best year in PV’s history in terms of installs, including residential, Enphase is having a rough go of it.

As CEO Paul Nahi put it, “The fourth quarter of 2015 is more challenging than expected”.

But they’re fighting back with their new S series inverters, and have ambitious plans for the next two years. Lets take a look at both.


PV at 4 cents October 15, 2015

Posted by Maury Markowitz in solar.
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Image of a typical First Solar ground mount installation

The project will likely use FS’s unique thin-film panels.

During the summer, Warren Buffett’s NV Energy in Nevada signed a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) for 20 years at 3.87 cents a kilowatt-hour. This is for PV generated by First Solar’s 100-megawatt Playa Solar 2 installation.

This means that FS is generating that power, including tax breaks, at less than 4 cents/kWh. Those breaks account for less than 2 cents. The Nevada Public Utilities Commission called the rates “very reasonable”, having outcompeted all other bids including NG turbines. Understatement indeed!

This isn’t the only example. NV Energy signed a similar deal with SunPower’s Boulder Solar at an equally eyewatering 4.6 cents only last year, and Dubai’s 200 MW plant, the first major one in the country, is at  5.85 cents, and the Saudi’s at 4.9 cents. The prices in those areas will go down as the supply chain improves.

Now of course all of these are in sunny locations with few clouds, which some will complain about. But that’s like complaining you build hydro where there’s a river. And prices continue to fall. Even if the US tax credits expire, which they will sooner or later, PV will compete even on the utility side of the meter pretty much anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon.

The electric car is happening September 17, 2015

Posted by Maury Markowitz in electric cars.
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The Tesla X in a rather fetching smoky grey.

Thank you Elon for making this happen.

There’s a point where you realize something that was formerly fantasy has crossed a threshold and is really going to happen. The moon shots circa 1967. The internet circa 1994. And today it became clear to me the electric car, circa 2015.

It was the rapid-fire stories on Ars Technica that did it for me. When three major car manufacturers all announce a long-range “Tesla killer” in the same few days, well, what else do you call it? The real, uncompromised e-car has finally arrived.

Yeah, these are still rich kid toys. But they won’t be in 2020. And since our Toyota keeps refusing to die, and that slope is moving ever downward every day, who knows, maybe even a schlub like me will end up in one sooner than later.


Does solar generate more waste than nuclear? No. June 18, 2015

Posted by Maury Markowitz in nuclear, solar.
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Picture of the star of Highlander

There can be only one!

As I noted in an earlier post, one of the things you often come across in the energy blogging world is that supporters of one technology attack others.

This example takes the cake. It’s a somewhat old article (archived here) that claims to demonstrate that solar power generates more waste than nuclear.

Update: a reader pointed out a rather obvious error, and when I checked against my original calculations I found a whole section was missing. Both fixed.


Biofuel vs. PV – stop drinkin’ the ethanol! June 13, 2015

Posted by Maury Markowitz in balonium.
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MacKay's biofuel graphic

MacKay’s biofuel graphic

David MacKay has made a name for himself as the green energy “reality man”, bringing what he suggests is a dose of reality to the new energy discussion.

For instance, in a recent TED Talk he suggested that biofuels are a hopeless alternative for transport. He uses a simple calculation to show you’d need a strip of land 8 kilometres wide beside the road to fuel the cars running on that road.

But we already knew biofuels are a bad solution. What happens when you consider a good solution? (more…)