ANGELA CHARLTON | May 28, 2009 05:01 PM EST | AP

PARIS — The top U.S. environment official says it’s time for the United States to shed its energy-wasting image and lead the world race for cleaner power sources instead.

After several years with a relatively low profile under President George W. Bush, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “is back on the job,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told The Associated Press on Thursday during a trip to Paris.

What the EPA does domestically this year will be watched closely overseas. Nations worldwide are working toward a major meeting in Copenhagen in December aimed at producing a new global climate pact. The U.S. position on curbing its own pollution and helping poor countries adapt to global warming is seen as key to any new pact.

Jackson was in Paris for international talks on how rich governments can include global climate concerns in overall development aid.

She dismissed worries that economic downturn was cutting into aid commitments or investment in new energy resources. She said the United States should take the lead on clean energy technology, recession or no.

“We have to get in the race now _ and win it,” she said. “I don’t expect a moving backwards because of recession.”

At climate talks in Paris earlier this week, European environment ministers welcomed greater U.S. commitment to environmental issues under the Obama administration _ but said it still wasn’t aiming high enough in its targets for cutting U.S. emissions.

Jackson said a shift in the American mindset is only beginning.

Talking about energy efficiency and saying companies should pay to pollute _ “that’s a revolutionary message for our country,” she said.

For a long time, she said, “People didn’t even expect the EPA to show up” at events, much less set policies that could be seen as examples for the rest of the world.

“Now it seems like every day we’re rolling back or reconsidering a Bush era policy on clean air,” she said.

She said it was time for the United States to take a more active role in limiting chemical pollutants, after falling behind Europe in that domain.

The U.S. also has lessons to learn from countries such as the Netherlands, she said, after visiting its low-lying, flood-prone lands to study ways cities like her native New Orleans can better manage water.

Our Perspective:

It is good to hear the administration making positive comments about our energy’s future. Alternative energy is a growth business and the correct path for insuring our future energy indepenence.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

Would you like to know more about the financial opportunities that drive this investment. Feel free to contct us.

May 15, 2009, 8:15 am

SolarKirk J. Condyles for The New York Times Not all homeowners associations approve of this sort of thing.

John Wood, a homeowner in Woodbury, Minn., wanted to put solar panels on his roof. Last month, his homeowners association rejected his application.

“I felt extremely disappointed,” Mr. Wood said by telephone.

He added: “It made me think that homeowners associations are in place to do only one thing, and that is to maintain the status quo, and they have no interest in any sort of change whatsoever.”

Al Rudnickas, the president of the board of the Wedgewood Association, the homeowners’ group, said that the board was open to less obtrusive technologies like solar shingles. But in this case, “The feeling of the board was that what was proposed wasn’t aesthetically pleasing in keeping with the standards of the community,” he said.

Mr. Rudnickas said that the association invited Mr. Wood to submit a modified application, but Mr. Wood — who is the first homeowner in the association to apply for solar panels — said he was not sure whether he will do so.

Mr. Wood’s case, first reported in the Woodbury Bulletin, has echoes around the nation.

 

In Somerset County in New Jersey, a homeowner was ordered to take down 28 panels.

In California, another homeowner, Marc Weinberger, sued his homeowners association last year after his efforts to put solar panels on his roof were rejected.

Mr. Weinberger and his lawyer, Michael McQueen, have since told Green Inc. that their motion for summary judgment was granted, and Mr. Weinberger installed a system early this year.

In another California case, Marty Griffin, a homeowner in Santa Clarita, applied to put solar panels on a hillside on his property. The association said no, but he went ahead anyway and got sued.

The litigation has been under way for more than a year. Mr. Griffin says the association did not respond in a timely way to his application; a lawyer for the association, Ricardo Cestero, told Green Inc. that Mr. Griffin “did not follow correct procedures.”

Mr. Griffin details his saga, including legal documents, on his Web site.

For solar installers, the roadblocks can be frustrating. John Berger, the chief executive of Standard Renewable Energy, a Houston-based firm that designs and installs solar systems for homes, said that the homeowner associations’ prohibitions had already cost him more than $1 million in business.

“It is a big problem,” he said.

Lawmakers in Texas are considering a bill that would prevent homeowner associations from banning solar panels, and similar laws are already in place in a dozen or more states, according to the Database of State Initiatives for Renewable Energy — including Arizona, Colorado, Florida and California, among others.

Mr. Wood said he planned to contact his state legislators in the hopes of enacting this type of law in Minnesota.

The laws, however, are rarely comprehensive, as some of the California cases suggest.

Rusty Haynes, a project manager at the North Carolina Solar Center, which manages the D.S.I.R.E. database, said that some applied only to new construction, and others might be vague or limited in scope.

In Arizona a few years ago, a homeowner was challenged over the color of her panels (they were apparently too dark), despite a state law intended to smooth the process.

Has this happened in your community? Is this an issue for you? Feel free to comment below, or e-mail george@hbsadvantage.com

Monday, April 13, 2009

BY LISA CORYELL
Special to the Times

EWING — It may have been God who said “Let there be light,” but it was a couple of business- savvy local church leaders who found a way to turn that divine gift into a money-saving venture for their congregation.

Grace Cathedral Fellowship Ministries church on Calhoun Street has plugged into the sun with a $600,000 solar energy system expected to cut church energy costs in half.

“Parishioners are strained by the economy and churches have cut costs where they can,” said Ronald Cobbs, chairman deacon of the church. “God will do a lot for us, but we have to some things our selves. Churches have to have good business sense.”

Installed by Trinity Solar of Freehold, the 95.13 kilowatt system is expected to produce approximately 120,000 kilowatt hours per year for the church — the largest solar energy system on any church in Mercer County.

The system is expected to generate enough energy to reduce church utility costs by about $40,000 a year. Church leaders say they expect to reap another $70,000 each year by selling Renewable Energy Credits to electricity providers in the state.

“We believe within six years we’ll have this system paid for,” said Bishop Jerome Wilcox, church pastor.

The giant solar panels needed to harness the sun’s energy sit cheek-to-jowl on the rooftops of the sprawling church sanctuary and an adjacent fellowship hall. A massive “inverter” on the north- side of the sanctuary changes the energy from DC power to AC power.

“We use what we need and what we don’t need goes back to the grid for PSE&G to use,” Cobbs said.

While the financial savings are a blessing, the ecological impact is divine, Cobbs said.

“We see the significance of going green,” he said. “If we can take the energy from the sun its much better for the environment.”

Ewing Mayor Jack Ball congratulated Wilcox on the completion of the new system, which is expected to be up and running in the next few days.

“Bishop Wilcox has done some wonderful work in this community through the years and the installation of this clean, environmentally- friendly energy system demonstrates his ongoing commitment to his fellowship and the community at large,” Ball said….

Our perspective:

Bravo! We are currently speaking to 3 different churches regarding the possibility of installing solar.

Maybe God is leading the charge afterall!!!

Should you be intersted in learning more about your own solar solution or solar possibility, give us a call. 856-857-1230.

You mail also email  george@hbsadvantage.com 

We can show you how to structure your solar investment and take advantage of all the federal and state incentives.

Daniel C. Esty

Posted April 20, 2009 | 03:50 PM (EST)  As reported in Huffington Post Green

Talk has begun to turn to the new economy that will emerge from the present collapse. General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt has suggested that the current crisis is not just a recession but a fundamental “reset” of how business gets done. And Time magazine has taken up this theme with a reset cover story. But there has been little discussion of exactly what changes – in principles and practices — should be made so that we rebuild our economy on firmer foundations. As we celebrate Earth Day this week, it is a good time to commit to “sustainability” as a centerpiece of a revitalized regulatory system.

For the past three decades, debate has raged over whether and how to deregulate. But while markets offer the prospect of promoting innovation, growth, and prosperity, few now believe that capitalism is self-correcting or that the private sector needs only minimal supervision. From the demise of Lehman Brothers and AIG to the skullduggery of Bernie Madoff and Allan Stanford, the signs of inadequate regulation and market failure surround us.

Two particular forms of market failure underlie the meltdown of the past year and make sustainability the right touchstone for our regulatory reset efforts:

• Externalized costs and risks
• Incomplete information

Both of these problems require that we rethink our approach to regulation — and re-establish the fundamentals of our economy on a more sustainable basis. And note that this principle should apply broadly, not just in the financial arena.

We need regulations which ensure that companies cannot structure their operations so that any upside gains accrue to their owners (or worse yet their managers), while risks or costs get shifted onto society as a whole. In the banking sector, rules against over-leveraging are urgently required. The recently released Turner Report in the UK outlines the first steps in this direction that should be taken. More generally, financial reporting rules must be designed to expose hidden risks and externalized costs.

We should likewise insist that companies which send emissions up a smokestack or out an effluent pipe cease their pollution or pay for the harm inflicted on the community. In our “reset” world, economic success cannot come at the price of harms imposed on the public in the form of contaminated air and water or risk of climate change. Thus while we lay the foundation for a more sustainable economy, let’s similarly adopt rules that provide for a sustainable environmental future. This will require overhauling the traditional approach to environmental regulation which countenances way too much in the way of externalities by offering “permits” up to a certain level of harm.

President Obama’s call for a price on carbon dioxide emissions represents a good first step in the “no externalities” direction. But let’s broaden the push and make polluters pay for all the harm they cause. If companies — and each one of us in our personal lives — had to pay for our waste and pollution, behavior would change. Putting a price on harm-causing creates incentives for care and conservation — efficiency and resource productivity.

More importantly, these price signals will drive a market response. Companies that are positioned to help others reduce their waste or cut their emissions will find customers eager for their goods and services. And where no easy solutions are available, harm charges will motivate “cleantech” innovation as inventors and entrepreneurs recognize the prospect of making money by solving environmental problems.

In parallel with a commitment to internalizing externalities, we must adopt transparency as a watchword. Market capitalism does not work without adequate information about economic actors. This reality has been understood in theory, but now needs to be advanced in practice. Government has a critical role to play in establishing the terms of disclosure about companies, markets, products, investment vehicles, and more. Public officials must also be empowered to ensure that disclosures are complete and accurate.

Well-designed reporting rules make it easier to spot externalized costs or risks and harder to hide malfeasance. Widely available metrics also facilitate benchmarking across companies, which offers a mechanism for assessing performance, highlighting leaders and laggards, and spurring competitive pressures that drive all toward better results. Studying the leaders offers an important way to identify best practices in everything from corporate strategy to pollution control. Likewise, outliers (such as those who make 10% returns year after year without fail) can be isolated for special review and scrutiny.

Such transparency would make it easier to refine our compensation systems to reward superior performance and real value creation. Carefully constructed disclosure rules could help, on the other hand, to unmask mere financial engineering, which should not be credited with outsized rewards.

There is a great deal of work to be done to re-establish prosperity across our country and the world. Smart regulation can channel corporate behavior and individual effort toward sustainable economic growth — that is durable because it rests on solid underpinnings not hidden risks or externalized costs.

Daniel C. Esty is the Hillhouse Professor at Yale University with appointments in both the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is the co-author (with Andrew Winston) of the prize-winning book, Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage (just released in a revised and updated edition published by John Wiley). A former Deputy Assistant Administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency, Professor Esty advised the Obama Campaign on energy and environmental issues and served on the Obama Transition Team.

Austin, Texas, is getting closer to its self-imposed goal of using more renewable energy, and creating jobs in the bargain. The Texas-sized solar plant being planned would be the largest in the Unite States, according to Austin Energy.

The Council approved an agreement under which the City’s municipally-owned electric utility, Austin Energy, will purchase all of the electricity produced over a 25-year term by a 30 megawatt (MW) solar project to be built on city-owned property located about 20 miles from downtown Austin.
Gemini Solar Development Company, LLC, one of 15 companies competing for the massive project, will construct, own and manage the solar facility. The project of photovoltaic solar panels will span approximately 320 acres, producing energy each year sufficient to power about 5,000 homes. Austin Energy will pay about $10 million per year for the power.

The solar project represents a major step towards fulfilling a Council goal to develop 100 MW of solar capacity for Austin by 2020. The Council also has set a goal that 30 percent of the power delivered to customers by Austin Energy by 2020 will come from renewable resources. Construction on the project is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2010 and completed by the end of that year. The project will result in at least 600 local construction jobs.

 

The Austin American-Statesman said that critics remain — they’re worried about the financial
aspects of the plan, like how much the power will cost.

By unanimous vote, the council approved a partnership with Gemini Solar Development Co. to build and operate the facility and sell all its power to Austin at $10 million a year for 25 years. City officials say it would help them get closer to the city’s goal of using more renewable energy.
Other questions remain that critics said they would raise at the meeting. The city won’t say how much the power from the plant would cost, although most estimates are around 16.5 cents a kilowatt hour — more than most other types of power. Even that calculation is foggy, though, because federal tax credits could reduce the construction cost, thus making the electricity cheaper. But the city isn’t sure how much cheaper. The credits weren’t factored into Gemini Solar Development’s pitch.

As reported in NJ Biz Written by Shankar P

Vineland and Ocean City are implementing ambitious programs to attract investments in renewable energy, particularly solar power, and their city administrations are leading by example. Investors from across the world are showing interest in their projects, according to municipal officials in both cities.

New Jersey has the second-biggest solar energy program in the country, according to Mark Sinclair, executive director of the Montpelier, Vt.-based Clean Energy States Alliance, an organization of 20 states with renewable energy programs.

Vineland is the state’s only city with its own electricity-generating plant, but the 100-megawatt facility uses coal and oil as fuels, and needs replacement, said James Lelli, the city’s director of economic development. The city plans to replace the plant with one operating on solar power, and also build a 60-megawatt natural gas generator, financed by a $60 million bond issue, by 2012.

Five companies have shown interest in building a solar panel farm to supply the city’s needs, including one from China, Lelli said. The city is negotiating with some of the interested parties, and expects to make an announcement soon. Power generated at the plant would be sold to the regional grid, he said.

One of the proposals is to build a 50-megawatt solar panel farm at a cost of some $150 million, Lelli said. About 300 acres would be needed to generate that much power; the city already has earmarked 100 acres for the farm and a 100,000-square-foot plant building, he said. All that land would cost the prospective investor $4.5 million at the prevailing market rate of $45,000 an acre, he added.

Vineland has kept the site shovel ready, with utility infrastructure and an industrial zoning status, Lelli said. He expects to have a deal by the year’s end, and the solar farm up and running nine months afterward.

Vineland also last week signed a deal with utility company Conectiv to build a 4-megawatt solar farm in the city, Lelli said.

Ocean City, another old hand at implementing green projects, is also exploring a plan to band together business owners who might want to install solar panels on their premises. Together, they would be able to justify the investment in solar panels that might otherwise not be feasible, said Jim Rutala, Ocean City’s business administrator.

Rutala said over the past month, the city has been in talks with several businesses about solar energy plans, and that Nicholas Asselta, commissioner of the state Board of Public Utilities, is helping in the process.

Ocean City, in fact, has one of the state’s largest municipal solar energy projects, Rutala said. In February, it completed an ambitious project to install 1,800 panels on five city-owned buildings, providing 550,000 kilowatt-hours. It plans to extend panel installation to another half-dozen buildings, he added.

The city chose Entech Solar Inc., of Fort Worth, Texas, through a competitive bidding process to install the required infrastructure, he added. The solar project deal allowed Ocean City to lower its energy costs as Entech earns a return on its investment, Rutala said; the city sells leftover power to the regional grid.

The deal also allows the city to purchase its power at a concessional price of 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, said Jim Bryan, commercial and municipal markets manager at Entech in its Ewing offices. That price could go down to as low as 2.5 cents after factoring in the value of tradable renewable energy certificates the city gets, he said. The prevailing price of such electricity would be between 12 and 18 cents a kilowatt-hour, he said.

Entech makes its money in the turnkey construction of the solar energy project, and was helped by a $1.5 million BPU rebate, Bryan said. But New Jersey now is moving away from rebates, to a more market-based mechanism to power such projects.

Our Perspective:

This is a big step. We have clients in Vineland and I have read the story about this proposed conversion.

This makes perfect sense. Solar is a true Clean Energy Alternative that can help support Vineland’s Municipal Utility sustainability.

Should you like to know more about the proper financial structure needed for these initiatives, you may call 856-857-1230 or email george@hbsadvantage.com.

We will show you how to properly structure the deal and take advantage of all the Federal and State initives that will lower your ROI.

HBS….Tomorrow’s Clean Energy…Today!

THE Pentagon may seem an unlikely promoter of alternative energy, but the biggest consumer of oil in the United States is looking at ways to become just that by partnering with private firms.

From correspondents in Washington, USA

March 29, 2009 12:33pm

 

“When you don’t use as much fuel, not only does it not cost you as much, but it also saves lives and injuries of those people who would have to deliver fuel through hostile territory,” Assistant Army Secretary for Installations and the Environment Keith Eastin said.

Despite reducing its overall energy consumption by five per cent between 2005 and 2007, the US military spent $US13 billion ($18.46 billion) on energy in 2007 and requested an additional $US5 billion ($7.1 billion) due to a spike in oil prices.

The stakes are high, with the army estimating that reducing fuel consumption by just one per cent translates to about 6400 fewer soldiers in fuel convoys, a favourite target of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All of this has added up to renewed urgency for the Pentagon to reduce its energy consumption. It is already federally mandated to obtain 25 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

Hundreds of small companies are expected to benefit from the military’s green energy push, developing everything from alternative fuels to electric vehicles and efficient power generators.

One low tech initiative that has yielded surprisingly big results is spraying tents with a layer of hard foam. The insulation helps maintain steady temperatures inside the tents, reducing fuel consumption for heating or cooling by 50 per cent and saving an estimated 100,000 gallons of fuel or $US2 million ($2.84 million) per day.

“Each gallon you save is a ton of money that can be used elsewhere, either at the installation or fighting the war,” Mr Eastin said. He estimated that a three-dollar gallon of fuel can end up costing up to $US28 ($40) on the battlefield after factoring in transportation and security costs.

With a staggering $US7.7 billion ($10.93 billion) spent last year on aircraft fuel alone, the US Air Force is the military’s biggest energy consumer.

It is purchasing renewable energy, reducing aircraft loads and certifying its entire fleet to fly on a 50/50 synthetic fuel blend by 2011.

“Our efforts to drive a domestic source of synthetic fuels is a piece of the puzzle to be more secure as a nation and as the air force,” said Kevin Billings, acting air force secretary for installations, environment and logistics.

Our Perspective:

It is good the government is willing to take the lead with this issue. Too much has been spent on business as usual. By setting a good example the public wll soon follow. Thet will also be looking for alternative solutions to help reign in cost.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

As reported In Huffington Post Green

Written by Mary Ellen Harte and John Harte

Nobel Laureate and Energy Secretary Steven Chu noted recently that we need “Nobel-level breakthroughs” to address our climate crisis in the areas of solar power, electric batteries, and the development of new crops to turn into fuel. Is it really that difficult? A look at the developments already underway in these three fields indicates that common sense is the real need here.

A good example of a common sense way to produce renewable energy is the second area mentioned above, solar power. Advances in just the past few years show that US research and development is up to the task, whether people win Nobels or not. Ever more efficient solar cells (14-18% is the current range of efficiency) are being developed to harness the sun’s energy, and new ways of utilizing them promise greater efficiency at lower cost. Recent developments include: plastic solar cells that can be used on a wide variety of sunlit surfaces; organic solar concentrators that allow sunlight to be directed towards window edges, where far fewer of the costly solar cells are needed to absorb it; roof systems that include venting ambient heat energy for household use, in addition to the solar electricity created; and most recently, the development of a liquid battery, far cheaper and more durable than other batteries, that could store solar energy overnight. Both wind and solar derived electricity are showing the most practical promise in terms of production efficiency and cost for renewable energy. Once again, common sense dictates that these should receive most of the governmental funding focused on promoting clean renewable energy. A feasible and common sense goal here is to provide the economic incentives that encourage photovoltaic installations on every appropriate US roof.

Electric batteries for automobiles are already developed enough to enable the Chinese BYD (Build Your Dreams) F3DM to travel up to 60 miles on an electric battery, which is enough for most daily trips by US commuters. Yes, much more work needs to be and is being done on developing better batteries. Just the development so far, though, indicates that it’s a feasible, not extraordinary goal. The real goal, of course, is energy efficiency, and Aptera Motors is banking that energy efficiency can be significantly increased via improvements in structural design. Nonetheless, common sense dictates that research and development of even better electric auto batteries should be a funding focus for the Obama administration.

In contrast, common sense also means that less promising technologies should not take up significant resources or time. Carbon sequestration, which only addresses one facet of “clean” in “clean coal technology,” holds some promise, but not on the horizon anytime soon. Given that track record and the practical options we already have for clean energy, we should be devoting any coal industry related funding towards training coal workers in green energy jobs in the production, installation or maintenance of infrastructures that generate, store and distribute solar and wind based electricity. The US does not have the money to chase “clean coal technology” dreams, or the time, as the latest increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases and their re-assessed impacts show.

Biofuels have already been shown to be far less efficient than solar or wind electricity, especially when the true costs are folded in. Under ideal conditions, the conversion efficiency of sunlight into stored plant energy is 1%, as compared to the minimum 10% efficiency of solar farms and even more efficient solar cells. Then there is the energy devoted to harvesting the plant matter and converting it into electricity. Finally, competition for cropland translates into the loss of Amazonian rainforest, one of our best means of storing carbon on earth, when Amazonian farmers clear it to plant newly valuable energy crops, or food crops that North American farmers have forsaken for energy crops. When these true costs are folded in, biofuels often are shown to worsen not help the climate crisis overall, and you don’t need Nobel prize-winning research to figure that out, as our recent book shows. Common sense here dictates that we should be including the true costs of biofuels in our budget, which should result in massively paring back funding for such a relatively inefficient and potentially damaging source of renewable energy.

Solving the climate crisis does not require rocket science, or earth-shaking technological breakthroughs. It does require common sense to recognize what is most effective and can be deployed fastest, and the political courage to cut out what isn’t. Our free online book, “Cool the Earth, Save the Economy” is a primer for understanding and assessing the technologies and policies that already exist, and understanding the climate crisis in general.

Our perspective:

God has placed at our disposal all that we need to be self sufficient.

He gave us the sun (solar),

He gave us the wind,

He gave us the water (Hydro),

He gave us the heat in the earth (geothermal).

But do we ever do anything that would prove to be easy? We are our own biggest enemy!

Instead we look to drill thousands of feet into the earth, looking for a finite (fossil) solutions.

Mary and John are right!

Let’s use our common sense. (Although that never seems to be our strong point).!

The answer has always been right in front of us. Let us have the wisdom to use these resources wisely

Would you like to know more about how to incorporate a solar solution? We specialize in laying out the financial structures needed to take advantage of all the Federal and State incentives and produce the most optimum return on your investment.

You may email george@hbsadvantage.com or call us 856-857-1230

As reported in Huffington Green

Written by Chris Kahn  AP

After 30 years of trying to squeeze electricity from sunlight, the solar energy industry is finally gaining some traction in its effort to compete with fossil fuels.

Does that mean most of the power in our homes will soon be coming from the sun?

Here are some questions and answers about solar energy as a source of electricity.

Q: Is solar energy getting close to being able to compete with fossil fuels?

A: It’s definitely moving in that direction.

Rooftop solar panels already are producing cheaper electricity than traditional power plants during the day in California and Hawaii. And industry analysts say that as early as next year utilities could build solar power plants able to compete with traditional coal-fired or natural gas power plants.

Q: Has something changed recently to give solar a leg up?

A: There have been vast improvements in technology as equipment and installation costs have plummeted, thanks in part to manufacturing innovations and a huge plunge in polysilicon prices.

Q: Polysilicon?

A: That’s a form of silicon that’s used to make some of the solar cells that gather sunlight to turn it into electricity.

Polysilicon prices have dropped about 30 percent in the past two months as makers of semiconductors _ which also use the material _ curbed production during the recession, said Jesse Pichel, an analyst with Piper Jaffray in New York.

Q: President Barack Obama has talked a lot about encouraging the production of alternative energy. Does anything in the stimulus plan he signed this week encourage the use of solar power?

A: Yes, the stimulus was packed with incentives for solar, including U.S. Treasury grants that will allow consumers to recoup 30 percent of the cost of installing solar equipment.

Robert Margolis, a senior analyst with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said the new federal incentives will allow people in many U.S. cities to immediately lower the cost of home electricity by installing solar panels on their rooftops.

Q: Are there other reasons for the accelerating shift to solar power?

A: States and power companies have begun offering incentives to get people to use renewable forms of energy.

Yet consumers are not only being pulled toward solar power, they’re also being pushed away from fossil fuels. Americans’ electric bills rose for the sixth straight year in 2008, making the increasingly affordable option of solar power more attractive.

The cost to outfit a home with solar panels varies widely, but prices continue to plunge. Ilan Caplan, 34, of Denver, paid $22,000 last year for a rooftop system, but with incentives, it cost him $7,000. Caplan figures he produces about 90 percent of the energy he uses at home.

Q: Rooftop panels are one thing, but are there prospects for large-scale solar power plants?

A: Southern California Edison is building a massive 250 megawatt solar plant, big enough to power more than 160,000 homes. This month, New Jersey’s largest utility said it would install 200,000 solar panels throughout its service area in an ambitious $773 million program. Public Service Electric & Gas Co. supplies power to residents over an area of about 2,600 square miles.

Q: So, are we getting close to the day when solar power becomes the country’s predominant source of electricity?

A: That day’s still a long, long way off. Being able to compete in cost is one thing; becoming a significant player on the American electrical grid is quite another.

For starters, the coal and natural gas plants that fulfill much of the country’s energy needs aren’t going to close down simply because solar energy is getting cheaper. Also, it will take years for manufacturers to build enough solar panels to make a sizable contribution to the electricity supply.

“The industry could grow 30 to 40 percent a year for the next 20 years and it still won’t amount to a hill of beans in terms of energy production,” said Pichel. “If solar is going to be anything other than a cottage industry, the world needs 100 more polysilicon plants and multi-gigawatts more of production.”

The ability of solar energy to compete also depends on the price of natural gas, the fuel used in many power plants. At current natural gas prices, it’s impossible to produce solar electricity at a competitive cost; if gas prices triple, as they did last summer, solar would be close.

Experts say solar panels will eventually be able to compete even with cheap natural gas as they continue to get more efficient.

Q: Let’s say utilities start incorporating solar power _ what’s the first change I’ll see as an electricity consumer?

A: It’s more a case of what you won’t see: those crazy price swings on utility bills.

Some utilities already shift between natural gas and coal to meet demand for electricity, using whichever is cheaper. As commercial-scale solar plants come on line, utilities will have yet another option.

If utilities were using solar power widely last summer, you can bet many would have made the shift as natural gas futures soared over $14 per 1,000 cubic feet in July. (By comparison, natural gas costs $5 per 1,000 cubic feet now.)

Q: Where is solar power going to grow the fastest?

A: Of course, a lot of sun _ and high prices for power from other sources _ play a role. Hawaii and California already have the capacity to provide competitive prices for solar power and Texas could be next, according to Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower Corp. in San Jose, Calif.

But where solar will catch on also depends on investment levels by state and local governments. After California, can you guess which state relies on solar power the most? That’s right, sunny New Jersey, a state that has bought into solar big-time.

Q: Other than the issue of getting solar power stations built _ and the challenge of competing with traditional power plants _ what other obstacles stand in the way of solar?

A: Solar researchers say they’ve found many ways to get more electricity out of the sun. The challenge is figuring out how to mass-produce that technology.

“The problems you get at that scale are totally different than what you see in the lab,” 1366 Technologies co-founder Ely Sachs said.

Other solar power growing pains may show up in consumers’ wallets. In some communities, electricity bills could rise as power companies invest in solar projects.

In New Jersey, for example, Public Service Electric & Gas plans to charge an extra 10 cents a month for a year, and up to 35 cents a month within five years, for its ambitious solar plans.

Our Perspective:

Investment in Alternative Energy, specifically solar, is more beneficial then it ever has been. Recent incentives approved by the Federal Goverment ( extending 30% Tax Credit to 2017, offering 30% grant for commercial entities along with 5 year accelerated depreciation) plus the state initiative ( grants, rebates, RECs ) have made the payback very desirable.

Should you like to know more about how to structure your investment in alternative energy, contact us.: george@hbsadvantage.com  or call 856-857-1230.

We will be glad to provide an overview and present an outline providing the best opportunities to save and jointhe evolution.

Written by Jeff Schweitzer As reported in Huffington Post Green

A sad fact of modern life is that our ability to plan for long-term energy independence is stymied by fluctuating oil prices. At $150 per barrel and $4.00 per gallon, gas-guzzling SUVs were being dropped faster than quarters at a slot convention in Las Vegas. Panic selling of large cars was fueled by punditry calling for permanently high fuel prices, with some talking heads ruminating about $200 per barrel. Politicians were falling over each other to demand a switch to renewable energies. We wondered with pious regret why the country had not invested more heavily in solar and wind power.

How quickly we forget. At $40 per barrel, we have developed an intense case of amnesia and have quickly mortgaged our future for more immediate gratification. We learned exactly nothing from the oil crisis of the 1970s or from any subsequent spike in oil prices. With every peak we express regret at our shortsightedness and promise to reform, never to drink again, and then with every valley we forget our commitment to a better future, and pick up the bottle once more.

We are behaving like alcoholics oscillating between bouts of sobriety and weakness because that is precisely what we are: oil addicts. Exhibit A is the precipitous decline in hybrid values, which are down almost 24% from the peak last summer simply because fuel is now cheaper. That rational market response is a rather pathetic reflection of our collective obsession with the short-term at the expense of a healthy future.

We need an intervention. We need to change our ways. We need help. Like all addicts, we will not get sober alone. Market forces alone will not come to our rescue. Ronald Reagan famously said that government is the problem, not the solution. He could not have been more wrong.

The immediate demands of the market cannot properly anticipate our longer-term future needs. The current price of oil, for example, does not incorporate the value of energy independence, and with that the commensurate benefits to national security. The cost of gasoline fails to include the future costs of climate change. Refineries do not consider the costs of protecting sources of oil in the Middle East in their price structure. The temporal gap between market forces and societal goals cannot be bridged by appealing to the magic of free enterprise. Government must play a catalytic role.

The time has come for society to pay the true environmental and national security price tag of burning fossil fuels. Even during these times of economic crises, gasoline must be taxed so that the actual costs to society are recovered and properly reflected in the price of fuel. The revenue generated from such a carbon tax must then be used to fund renewable energy infrastructure development and research.

Reliance on foreign oil from the world’s most unstable regions is one of our greatest national security threats. Dumping six billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year is one of our greatest environmental threats. We can solve both problems with an aggressive move to renewable energies. To do so, we must not fall prey to the bad habits of our addiction every time a bottle of our poison comes down in price.

We have a moral obligation to bequeath to our children a world that is at least as good as the one we inherited from our parents. We will not meet that obligation if we cannot see past the next fiscal quarter. Our government policies and personal actions must look toward a more distant horizon. We have to move beyond our ridiculous propensity to abandon our quest for energy independence with every dip in the price of oil. We can do better than this.

Our Perspective:

Alternative Energy is the new Buzzword. We are poised to enter a new energy era. Are we willing to take that step? We can’t afford not to!

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com