Solar University

I was reading about NRG Energy, whose CEO has spoken enthusiastically about the potential of distributed generation, and came across a fairly impressive array of solar on rooftops and over parking lots that the company has installed. Although I disagree with the company's investment in the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the distributed generation project at Arizona State University is proof of the clean energy we can generate in our cities.  ASU's facilities boast over 20 megawatts of solar panels, and they plan to expand to 25 megawatts.  You can even monitor real time generation statistics at the campus' website.

[click on image to expand] The orange borders highlight buildings with rooftop solar. Other buildings with rooftop solar are in the area, but the image would have less detail if I zoomed out enough to capture  them.  Good job, ASU!
Back in my own hometown of Victorville, Victor Valley College recently received an award for its own solar installations over parking lots and on already-disturbed lands.  The efficiency and solar investments have so far yielded an annual savings on utility bills of 500 thousand dollars.  The college is also taking out water guzzling lawns and replacing them with turf.  

Elsewhere in the world of distributed generation, SunRun received over 630 million dollars in financing for rooftop solar projects, bringing its total project commitments to over two billion dollars.  Other rooftop solar leasing companies are also doing well. Solar City received over 500 million dollars of financing in May, and the company also announced plans to launch a battery storage option for rooftop solar users in the next couple of years.  What this means is that rooftop solar users could avoid hostile utilities by not bothering with net metering, and keep any excess energy for use at night.

And by now you've probably heard the good news about Los Angeles officially launching its feed-in-tariff program with a new rooftop solar array in North Hollywood.  I think we all wish the FiT rates were more robust (over 20 cents per kilowatt-hour), but it's good to see at least one utility company expanding (instead of opposing) local solar.  The program will support 150 MW of rooftop solar, but the new Los Angeles may plans to expand this to 600 MW.  Hopefully that is still just the beginning.

In Colorado, the Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center released "A Million Solar Roofs for Colorado" report in late June.  The report notes that if solar panels were installed on all of the suitable and appropriate rooftops in Colorado, the state could generate over 16,000 MW of clean energy.  The report notes that generating 3,000 MW through rooftop solar is feasible by 2030 with the right incentives, which would cover roughly half of Colorado utility Xcel Energy's peak summer demand.  Colorado's utilities are heavily dependent on coal and natural gas, so a significant expansion of distributed generation would kick out fossil fuels and reduce the need for peaking plants.

Senator Udall of Colorado endorsed the Million Solar Roofs initiative, and also reintroduced the Solar Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Act, which would make Federal energy tax credits available to communities who invest in a local solar project.

Distributed generation is on a roll.


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