We Need a Movement
I came away from the SOLAR 2008 conference with a
renewed sense of optimism for solar energy as a key building
block in a post-carbon society, and with a renewed sense of
urgency. We need to act now to meet the challenges ahead
on the downward slope of peak oil.
We now know what we need to do. In his closing plenary
speech, Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow at the Center for
American Progress, stated it simply and clearly: “We need a
Conference speakers — leaders in the policy, social jus-
tice, solar technology, buildings and community sectors —
shared their vision for
that movement. The
highlights for me:
■ Van Jones of the
Green for All campaign
that solar energy will
serve as a tool to “
connect people who most
need work with the work
that most needs to be
done.” He challenged us
to “retool, reboot and
re-energize” our nation
through a “green-collar”
jobs movement that the
solar industry is ripe and
■ In the Renewable
and electrical grids now allow us to set ambitious yet achiev-
Energy Solutions plenary,
we learned that recent
advances and cost reduc-
tions in wind, concen-
SOLAR 2008 Chair trating solar power
(CSP), solar electric (PV)
able goals for renewable energy as an integral part of our
power purchasing alternatives.
■ Ed Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, offered us
Blueprint 2030, an economically viable plan to improve the
efficiency of new buildings so dramatically as to eliminate
the need for coal-fired electric generating plants.
■ Daniel Lerch presented local governments with strate-
gies for planning our postcarbon cities.
As we move forward from SOLAR 2008 and return to our
jobs, our homes and our communities, we need to continue
to support this sense of optimism and urgency through personal and professional actions. Please spread the word: Solar
is here, solar is now, and although the conference has ended
there is still time to Catch the Clean Energy Wave! See you in
Buffalo in 2009!
— Margot McDonald, AIA, LEED-AP; Chair, SOLAR 2008;
ASES Board Member, Chair-Elect
the installed cost of solar systems by 50 percent before 2012.
“Market penetration will soar
over the next year,” she promised.
Blunden expects that worldwide
installed capacity will increase by
about 10 gigawatts annually by next ye ar,
rising to 28 gigawatts annually by 2011 —
roughly half the new clean energy capacity
needed to meet worldwide carbon reduction goals.
One result of the drop in cost is that PV installations have
been growing 41 percent per year since 2001, said SunEdison’s Shah.
PV is now a $6 billion industry, equal to the wind turbine industry.
Distributed generation is faster to install than utility-scale generating
plants, he pointed out, and doesn’t require the slow, expensive creation of new transmission lines. It’s therefore less expensive than central power generation.
The California Energy Commission has established a New Solar
Home Partnership aimed at getting 400 megawatts of new PV capacity installed on the rooftops of new production homes, according to
Timothy N. Tutt, first advisor to the commission’s chair.
Tools to accomplish the mission include performance incentives,
energy efficiency requirements, certification and verification requirements, and a couple of clever marketing campaigns aimed at homebuilders (“Solar is another word for sold”) and consumers (“Solar is hot,
solar is cool, solar is working”). The number of applications received for
the programs have zoomed from an average of about 225 per month in
the second half of 2007 to over 800 per month in the first quarter of 2008.
CSP Can Power the U.S. Grid
Chuck Kutscher of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory,
noted that at 14 cents per kilowatt hour, CSP now competes successfully with natural gas as intermediate generation, and utilities like it
as a hedge against spiking gas prices.
The U.S. resource for new CSP is about 300 times richer than new
hydroelectric power, or for any other conventional resource, Kutscher said. If 2 percent of Colorado’s San Luis Valley were developed for
CSP, it would supply twice the state’s peak load and could export power
to other states. A high-voltage transmission line from the U.S. Southwest could supply the Eastern states at their peak evening-hour loads.
Wind Can Preclude 80 Gigawatts of Coal Plants
Ed DeMeo, president of Renewable Energy Consulting Services
Inc., said that it’s feasible that we could get 20 percent of our electricity from wind by 2030. According to DeMeo, the price of wind power
has dropped to less than 6 cents per kilowatt hour, easily competitive
with “conventional” utility generation. Integration costs are now
less than 10 percent of wholesale energy costs.
Unlike thermoelectric plants, wind requires no cooling water,
DeMeo said. Widespread adoption of wind could reduce utility water
use by 17 percent, while avoiding the construction of 80 gigawatts of
new coal plants.
Jobs, Government Policy and Infrastructure Ramp Up
Green jobs lift all boats: Van Jones, director of Green For All,
brought the audience to its feet with a rousing call to build a green
workforce to transform the American economy.
“We must change from a pollution-based economy to a clean