The Fight to Curtail Rooftop Solar

California, the leader in renewable energy policy, is in the midst of a political, corporate power struggle that might well determine the fate of the state’s rooftop solar, distributive energy future. Since California is a renewable trend setter, this is a battle worth watching.

The New York Times reports:

The dispute is about who will get to build the green energy economy — utilities or smaller companies that install solar panels and batteries at homes — and reap billions of dollars in profits from those investments.

The big utility companies want to upgrade the power line transmission lines and build enormous wind and solar farms. The solar roof people want the people to control a greater piece of the power production and battery storage, home by home.

The Times adds:

The proposal would raise monthly costs on people who already had solar panels in the 15th year after their system was connected to the grid. New solar users would pay higher fees right away.

Other states, like Nevada and Hawaii, cut solar incentives but reversed course after public outcry and when regulators reassessed their policies.

The last paragraph demonstrates that people activism can make a difference.

The power struggle now includes big utilities and the union members that work for them. They won’t want their business model changed. Also advocates for low income families say solar favors people with money and causes higher electricity bills.

The roof top solar folks say distributive power makes the entire electrical system more  efficient and resilient and protects individual homes, via storage batteries, to keep the power on when large utilities like PG&E have to institute blackouts.

“Solar power” photo by davidagalvan is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


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EV Pickup Trucks: Amazing, Powerful

Lawrence Ulrich of the New York Times gives a raving, Rivian review for the company’s new electric pickup. First paragraph reads:

The redoubtable Rivian R1T, the first crusher in a coming wave of electric pickup trucks, can soar unscathed over gnarly boulders, hitch an 11,000-pound load and scorch 60 m.p.h. in about 3.5 seconds. The truck brings everything and the kitchen sink, with outdoorsy options such as a rooftop tent and a track-mounted Camp Kitchen, which lets owners whip up a trail-side omelet and wash up afterward. And after its hot-starting initial public offering, Rivian is already valued at nearly $100 billion, more than such behemoths as Ford Motor and General Motors.

As we reported earlier, the EV revolution is here. This truck can do so much more than pickups on the road now. For example, it has an electric motor for each wheel taking all wheel drive to a new level and can automatically lower or increase the tire air pressure depending on terrain. The price is still high, but with competition on its way from Tesla, Ford and GM the prices will drop. Plus President Biden’s Infrastructure and the pending Build Back Better bills will help build out the infrastructure needed to power this revolution.


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Rural Solar, Pros and Cons Discussion

The Sandwich Climate Action Coalition (SCAC) in October 2021 held two rural solar community discussions lead by Sandwich, N.H. residents. The first was with residents who live off the grid with solar. It’s not for everyone, learn the pros and cons in the first video of their Zoom discussion. Experts give their opinions too. Watch Part II: Solar on the Grid, the second video below, which unless you can’t get on the grid will be the best choice for most rural residents.

Solar Off the Grid Discussion: 

Solar on the Grid Discussion:


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Australian Billionaire, Mine Owner Might Save the Planet

The New York Times, in a wonderful story, asks: Can a Carbon-Emitting Iron Ore Tycoon Save the Planet? Then adds: Andrew Forrest made a mining fortune. Now he wants to lead a climate change revolution — and beat the fossil fuel giants along the way.

Andrew Forrest

Andrew Forrest, Fortescue Chairman

The story demonstrates how people with the resources and knowledge can help change the climate and save the world. Forrest gets his miners behind his vision by saying, “It’s like being there at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Someday you’ll look back and say, ‘I was there.’”

We should all be saying and thinking those same words as we spread the climate change message. Plus follow his mother’s advice, “Enjoy your life, but make sure you’re as useful as you can possibly be.”

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Hanover Debuts NH’s Largest Municipal Solar Array

Solar panels under a partly cloudy sky

The New Hampshire Bulletin reports:

Hanover debuted a new solar array on Thursday that will produce enough energy to power almost all of the municipality’s electrical needs.

The array, which is on 8 acres, is made up of 4,560 solar panels that will generate 2 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year. That makes it the largest municipal solar farm in the state, according to ReVision Energy, the solar company that installed it.

The Eagle Times added:

This solar array is one step Hanover is taking to meet its goal of switching to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030.

“In battling the impacts of climate change, communities need to be in a leadership role” said Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin. “One very important component of that is solarizing the heck out of every possible rooftop, and to pursue at the Town level large ground-mounted solar arrays.”

The town of Sandwich, N.H. also has a goal of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and its newly formed Energy Committee will be researching projects similar to Hanover’s as well  community power options like the one in Keene.

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Town of Sandwich Revives Energy Committee

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Katherine Thorndike, Energy Committee chair

The Town of Sandwich, N.H., recently revived its Energy Committee as an outgrowth of a warrant article passed in 2019 “to commit to a goal of 100% reliance on renewable sources of electricity by 2030 and for all other energy needs, including heating and transportation, by 2050.”

Its members include: Katherine Thorndike, Chair; Tim Miner, Vice Chair; Wharton Sinkler, Secretary; Hollis Heichemer and Leonard Witt.

Goals under consideration include:

  1. Pursue Cost-Effective Energy Efficiency Projects Early and Often
  2. Transition to Renewable Energy Sources for Electricity
  3. Transition to Clean Energy Transportation and Alternatives
  4. Develop Thermal Energy Alternatives
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220 Medical Journals Demand Climate Action Now

The Huffington Post reports:

A coalition of more than 220 of the planet’s leading medical and public health journals issued an urgent rallying cry to address climate change …, saying the greatest threat to global health was the planet’s ongoing failure to rein in carbon emissions.

The editors of the journals wrote the impassioned joint plea, warning humanity was already facing irreversible threats to public health just weeks before the United Nations is set to meet for its general assembly later this month. The threat was so urgent, they wrote, that countries can’t wait for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic to begin reducing emmissions.

The journals’ editorial ends saying:

The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5° C and to restore nature. Urgent, society-wide changes must be made and will lead to a fairer and healthier world. We, as editors of health journals, call for governments and other leaders to act, marking 2021 as the year that the world finally changes course.

They add:

… governments must make fundamental changes to how our societies and economies are organized and how we live. The current strategy of encouraging markets to swap dirty for cleaner technologies is not enough. Governments must intervene to support the redesign of transport systems, cities, production and distribution of food, markets for financial investments, health systems, and much more. Global coordination is needed to ensure that the rush for cleaner technologies does not come at the cost of more environmental destruction and human exploitation.

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We Must Apply Political Heat Demanding Climate Action

The New York Times The Daily podcast has an excellent piece: Putting a Price on Pollution

Towards the end of the podcast The Times reporter says in November she will be covering a crucial international climate summit in Glasgow.

The world saving goal is to halve the world’s carbon pollution by 2030. She says this is the most important decade, the most important year to address climate change. The major countries are not on track now. She adds:

I’ve really been wondering the last few days is whether these world leaders feel the heat at home themselves, literally feel the heat and whether they feel the political heat from their citizens to take swift action.

That’s a call for all of us to apply that political heat. Ours and our children’s future demands it. These next few months leading up that conference is the time to demand action to save our world as we know it.

Below is The Times summary of the show:

Extreme weather across Europe, North America and Asia is highlighting a harsh reality of science and history: The world as a whole is neither prepared to slow down climate change nor live with it.

European officials are trying to change that. The European Commission, the E.U.’s executive arm, recently introduced ambitious legislation aimed at sharply cutting emissions to slow down climate change within the next decade, specifically by weaning one of the world’s biggest and most polluting economies off fossil fuels. But can it generate the political will to see it through?

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The Electrification of Everything

The Wall Street Journal gives an excellent overview of how most everything we use from the vehicles we drive to the homes and businesses we heat will be powered by electricity as the era of fossil fuels ends.

A main thrust of the article is: “The electrification of (almost) everything is coming, and we’re just not ready for it.”

We have to build a secure and reliable infrastructure to accommodate the increased demand for electricity, but if we pull it off, the environment and all of us will be better off.

Photo credit: “Electrical Plug” by One Tree Hill Studios is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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National Report: All Renewable Transition Possible by 2050

Inside Climate News, summarizing the final report of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Electrification Futures Study, concludes that by 2050:

a transition to mostly renewable energy is possible, but will require households and businesses to be flexible in how they consume electricity.

Ella Zhou, a senior modeling engineer at NREL and a co-author of the report, told Inside Climate News:

The transformation to a highly electrified economy is an opportunity for consumers and businesses because of the potential for cost-savings and for developing and selling new generations of products.

“This offers useful information literally for everyone, because electricity touches all of our lives.”

Here are some highlights from the four-year  project:

  • The United States already has the technologies it needs for the power system to reliably operate with high levels of electrification and high levels of wind and solar…
  • One of the keys to making the power system work will be flexibility in electricity demand, encouraging owners of electric vehicles to recharge them at times of low demand and offering incentives for households and businesses to reduce their power use whenever demand gets uncomfortably close to outstripping supply. Much of this flexibility can be run by software in ways that are barely noticeable to consumers.
  • A power system that is more flexible costs a lot less to operate than one that isn’t because it can avoid short-term spikes in demand that lead to high prices, and it can avoid big ramp-ups of electricity generation that put severe strain on equipment.

The Inside Climate News author Dan Gearino points out:

The growth in electricity consumption would require a massive build-out of solar arrays, along with onshore and offshore wind farms, with those resources providing about two-thirds of the country’s electricity generation. The remaining one-third would come from hydroelectric, natural gas, nuclear and other resources.

He adds:

Considering that many wind and solar projects face local backlash from residents, building on such a large scale would require some way of getting local people on board or overcoming their opposition.

So ultimately the success of reaching a nearly 100 percent renewable goal by 2050 will depend not just on politics, but also on everyday people like the residents of Sandwich, N.H.

For the wonks among us, the NREL will host a deep dive, final report webinar from noon to  1 p.m.  EDT on Thursday, June 17, 2021 with report authors Ella Zhou and Trieu Mai.


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