Commentary

Report: Solar power from big box store roofs could power seven million homes

Sometimes the answers to big problems are staring you right in the face. A powerful new report from the good folks at Environment North Carolina provides a classic example. This news release explains:

Solar power potential

Potential Solar PV Capacity on Big Box Stores and Shopping Centers, by State (Megawatts) – Image: Environment NC

Report: Big-box stores could save big, reduce pollution by going solar

Raleigh, NC- Big-box stores, grocery chains, and shopping centers in North Carolina could cut pollution and save $246 million dollars with rooftop solar, a new report said today.

The Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center analysis, Solar on Superstores, found that Target, Home Depot, and other large retailers could avert 2.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually if they used all their available roof space for solar panels.

“Our report shows that rooftop solar on big box stores like Target is good for the environment, good for electricity consumers, and good for business,” said Dave Rogers, Environment North Carolina Director.

The report came as North Carolina continues to see the benefits of solar, including ranking 9th for solar jobs nationally last year.

“Solar offers any business owner the ability to lower their energy bills and hedge against unpredictable rising energy prices. The falling cost of the technology and renewable energy incentives have increased the attractiveness of these investments dramatically,” added Henry Dziuba, Senior VP Commercial and Industrial at Strata Solar. “In addition, the energy savings help to increase the businesses’ profitability as well as add value to our customer’s building at the same time, the system helps to reduce the impact of CO2 emissions both locally and globally.” Read more

Commentary

The McCrory administration’s LOL “concerns” about solar panels and the environment

Solar power

Solar panels

Images from Dan River coal ash spill

Images from Dan River coal ash spill

Sometimes the transparency of fossil fuel industry apologists and their hired helpers who masquerade as government regulators is just so outrageous as to be Saturday Night Live skit-worthy. Such is the case with the latest claims by a McCrory administration official in the eviscerated Department of Environmental Quality that he’s deeply concerned about the potential environmental impact of decommissioned solar panels.

As WRAL.com reported this morning, DEQ Deputy Secretary Tom Reeder — who spends most of his time fighting efforts to control carbon pollution and promoting offshore oil and gas drilling — is now in a tizzy about solar:

‘There are 250 million pounds of these photovoltaic cells in North Carolina,’ Reeder told the [Environmental Review] commission, urging lawmakers to consider adding a bond requirement to solar farms for eventual decommissioning, as he says California and the federal Bureau of Land Management do.

‘They do contain toxic materials,’ he warned. ‘There’s no market for recycling these things.'”

Uh, excuse us Tom, but while the issue of properly decommissioning 250 million pounds of solar panels two decades from now certainly is an issue worth discussing and planning for, the matter of what to do with 264 billion pounds of coal ash right now (not to mention the horrific impacts of climate change that continue to mount as the result our unfettered use of fossil fuels) would seem just a trifle more important. How about you get to work on those matters?

The bottom line: Reeder’s supposed concerns about the fate of solar panels register about as high on the common sense and sincerity meters as a 1980’s tobacco boss railing about the dangers of too much bubble gum chewing by ex-smokers. Fortunately, as a bevy of Facebook commenters recently made plain in response to DEQ’s latest propagandizing against the Clean Power Plan, a growing number of North Carolinians are seeing through the department’s disingenuous smokescreens.

Commentary

Report, editorial: Allowing NC schools to go solar would be a win-win

The lead editorial in the Greensboro News & Record hits a home run this morning by highlighting a powerful new report out of N.C. State on the enormous potential benefits of equipping North Carolina schools with solar panels.

“A pair of new reports from renewable-energy experts propose a bright idea for enterprising school districts in North Carolina: solar arrays on public school rooftops and in school parking lots.

Such an arrangement could save millions, they say, and, in time, even generate revenue for cash-strapped schools.

It’s as brilliant a notion as a noon-day sun in August. And it’s being pushed by an advocacy group called Repower Our Schools in Durham, whose schools spend $5.7 million a year on electricity, and in Charlotte, whose public schools’ electric bill totals about $18 million a year.

By comparison, Guilford County Schools paid $12.3 million for electricity in 2014-15.”

And this is from the summary to the reports themselves:

“Two reports by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) released February 3rd found that Charlotte­-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and Durham Public Schools (DPS) can meet 100 percent of their electricity needs and save millions over the next 25 years by installing solar panels to power their schools. With solar-friendly updates to solar policies in the state, including the allowance of third party energy sales and changes to net metering policy, CMS and DPS could produce renewable electricity for 25 years and reduce their total electricity cost by 11 percent.”

Seems line a no-brainer, right? Well it clearly is, but unfortunately, when it comes to a shortage of brains in the  North Carolina energy policy world, you can probably already guess who the problem children are. That’s right, it’s the state’s conservative, Koch Brother-loving political leaders and the fun people at Pat McCrory’s old employer, Duke Energy.

Until we get McCrory, the General Assembly, Duke and the denizens of the Flat Earth Society “think tanks” to back down from their destructive obstruction of all things renewable and sustainable, this splendid idea will likely be left moldering on the shelf somewhere.

Commentary, News

Friday afternoon good news: Amazing solar power plant goes online

If you’re looking for a measure of good news to get you through the weekend (and are willing to look outside North Carolina), check out this story (and the amazing photos) on NPR.org detailing the massive new solar power plant in the northwest African nation of Morocco. To quote:

Image: http://www.maroc.ma/en

Image: http://www.maroc.ma/en

“Morocco has officially turned on a massive solar power plant in the Sahara Desert, kicking off the first phase of a planned project to provide renewable energy to more than a million Moroccans.

The Noor I power plant is located near the town of Ouarzazate, on the edge of the Sahara. It’s capable of generating up to 160 megawatts of power and covers thousands of acres of desert, making the first stage alone one of the world’s biggest solar thermal power plants.

When the next two phases, Noor II and Noor III, are finished, the plant will be the single largest solar power production facility in the world, The Guardian says.

Morocco currently relies on imported sources for 97 percent of its energy consumption, according to the World Bank, which helped fund the Noor power plant project. Investing in renewable energy will make Morocco less reliant on those imports as well as reduce the nation’s long-term carbon emissions by millions of tons.”

The plant is especially exciting because it uses a technology that will allow it to generate electricity well after the sun goes down each day.

Mind you this is a country with roughly one-fifth the gross domestic product of North Carolina. And still, somehow, it has managed to muster the kind of world-changing investment that all nations need to be pursuing. If the Moroccans can do it, surely so can Americans (and North Carolinians). The fact that the U.S. solar industry added jobs twelve times faster than the rest of the economy and created more jobs than were created by the oil and gas extraction and pipeline sectors combined last year indicates that we’re already on the right track.

For more information on North Carolina’s mixed/wavering commitment to this essential field, check out a pair of interviews on yesterday’s edition of WUNC’s The State of Things by clicking here and here.

Commentary

Editorial: Solar is our energy future

This morning’s Fayetteville Observer gets it exactly right with this editorial deriding efforts to undermine North Carolina’s promising solar energy industry. Here’s an excerpt:

“A state program that let solar developers deduct 35 percent of their startup costs from their state tax bill helped North Carolina become one of the top states in solar energy production. Anti-solar zealots who want to leave us dependent on the energy sources of the past succeeded in killing the tax break last year, but the state still has aggressive targets for renewable-energy use. More solar farms are coming, including a 200-acre development in Hoke County that was approved this month.

Critics of solar want to stick with conventional plants, especially now that fracking has given this country a near glut of natural gas. They want, too, to encourage a return to nuclear power. But even a traditional energy giant like Duke Energy is aggressively developing solar, believing a diverse array of energy sources is the best approach to an uncertain future.

State Sen. Andrew Brock, a Davie County Republican, has led the efforts to undo solar incentives and he may return to the fight in the next session. “I’m a free market person,” he told an Observer reporter. “I think the market should take hold.” We think it already has, but if he wants to end solar subsidies, we encourage him to get rid of all the tax breaks the General Assembly has given to the power industry, not just those that helped solar.

But that’s not the wisest course. Solar equipment costs have dropped dramatically and innovative battery technology will soon solve solar’s difficult relationship with sunsets and cloudy days. It’s a big part of our energy future, and it has brought new tax revenue and jobs to our most troubled rural economies.

Fayetteville’s state Rep. John Szoka is a solar fan and co-chair of the Energy Policy Committee. He believes we need to continue our commitment to solar and that attempts to repeal other renewable energy laws will fail. They should, and the solar tax credit should be brought back to help smaller developers and homeowners. We have seen the future of energy, right here in our own backyard, and its name is solar.”