Written by Rob Perks

Visit NRDCs Switchboard Blog


The clean energy economy is upon us — but will the U.S. heed the call?

That’s the gist of today’s Washington Post story with this stark headline: Asian Nations Could Outpace U.S. in Developing Clean Energy.

 

Excerpt:

President Obama has often described his push to fund “clean” energy technology as key to America’s drive for international competitiveness as well as a way to combat climate change.

“There’s no longer a question about whether the jobs and the industries of the 21st century will be centered around clean, renewable energy,” he said on June 25. “The only question is: Which country will create these jobs and these industries? And I want that answer to be the United States of America.”

But the leaders of India, South Korea, China and Japan may have different answers. Those Asian nations are pouring money into renewable energy industries, funding research and development and setting ambitious targets for renewable energy use. These plans could outpace the programs in Obama’s economic stimulus package or in the House climate bill sponsored by  Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and  Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).

In due time fossil fuels will be gone — no one can dispute that.  So why is it that so many people — including an alarmingly high number of those serving in Congress — would rather waste time and energy denying the clear and present danger of climate change and resisting the solutions promised by a clean energy future?

[UPDATE: This just in…A new Harvard study finds that wind energy potential is considerably higher than previous estimates by both wind industry groups and government agencies.]

In my mind I can see a television commercial with just an hour glass on screen and this narration:

“Oil is running out.”

“Coal is running out.”

“Whether we like it or not, fossil fuels are going the way of the dinosaurs.”

“But we know that the wind and the sun will never run out.  And we can generate power from these natural, safe and limitless sources.”

“It’s time to move beyond the dirty energy of the past and embrace reliable clean power for the 21st century.”

“As a nation, we need to do this…before time runs out.”

Let’s all remember that America is a nation built on the foundation of freedom, independence and self-sufficiency — and those values must be at the heart of our strategy for energy policy.  We shouldn’t be losing ground in the world economy, buidling up massive trade deficits to pay for foreign oil.  It’s time we commit ourselves as a nation to develop clean, safe energy from the sun, wind and other natural sources that will create millions of jobs and rebuild our manufacturing base.

It just so happens that the best way to bring jobs and prosperity back to this country is also the way to end our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and protect the Earth we leave our children.  Let’s get back to building things again, starting with wind turbines, solar panels, and energy-efficient products that say ‘Made in America.’  After all, we have led every technological revolution of the last two centuries — electricity, railroads, the telephone, automobiles, the television, computers — and there’s no reason we can’t lead this one.

I have to question the logic (and patriotism!) of those politicians who would do the bidding of polluting industries — Big Oil, Big Coal, Nukes — when those dirty and unsafe technologies offer only short-term energy generation benefits at an extremely high cost to our heath, air and water, and climate.  The sun, the wind, and the geothermal energy at the core of the Earth provide a limitless supply of clean energy — our scientists can harness them and our workers can build them.  Our leaders should harness — not hamper — the greatest source of power we have in this country: American ingenuity.

The fact is, we already have wind and solar technologies that can dramatically cut our reliance on dirty coal plants that create most of the pollution that is poisoning our lungs and damaging our atmosphere.  What we need now are leaders who can build on this progress by partnering with business to develop and deploy innovative energy technologies that will recharge our economy and create jobs. 

As Thomas Friedman wrote in his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded”:  “[T]he ability to develop clean power and energy efficient technologies is going to become the defining measure of a country’s economic standing, environmental health, energy security, and national security over the next 50 years.”

The story in the Washington Post today is yet another wake-up call.  We shouldn’t need countries in Asia or Europe or South America to show us how to compete in the emerging markets for efficient appliances and alternative fuels.  We need leaders with vision and courage who will invest in technological breakthroughs that will once and for all end our reliance on oil and spur manufacturing jobs that can’t be outsourced.  That way, America can start exporting clean energy instead of jobs.

As a nation, we have a choice to make.  Fortunately, we don’t have to choose between clean, new energy sources and economic prosperity.  The choice is between accepting the status quo by holding tight to the dirty energy of the past or boldy embarking on the path to safe, reliable clean energy — an investment which promises both immediate and long-term gains. 

At this important juncture in our history, what choice will our elected leaders make?  It’s up to each and every one of us to help them make the right decision.

This post originally appeared on NRDC’s Switchboard blog.

CHRIS KAHN | June 29, 2009 03:27 PM EST | AP

NEW YORK — The government will help companies build powerful solar farms in the desert Southwest by pre-qualifying huge swaths of federal land for development.

The Department of Interior said Monday it will designate 670,000 acres of federal land in Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah as study areas for utility-scale solar projects.

The land will be divided into 24 tracts called Solar Energy Study areas.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the department will work with states on environmental studies and permitting to speed solar development in those areas.

Our Perspective:

This is good news. Finally, the government is stepping forward and acknowledging the opportunities provided by alternative energy development.

I hope this is only the beginning!

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

CHARLES BABINGTON | May 27, 2009 06:26 PM EST | AP

President Barack Obama on Wednesday hailed solar energy as a cost saver for a major Air Force base, one stop on a Western trip devoted to raising political money and promoting his economic policies.

Obama’s aides had mocked reporters for making a fuss over his first 100 days in office, but the president was eager to assess the first 100 days of his $787 billion economic stimulus package.

It has “saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs,” he said, including “jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; making homes and buildings more energy-efficient.”

The White House job claims are difficult to verify because they are based on estimates of how bad the economy might have been without the stimulus rather than actual employment data. The country has lost 1.3 million jobs since February, a figure the Obama administration says would have been far higher if not for the recovery effort.

Obama also announced more spending for renewable energy after touring a large field of solar panels at Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas. The sun-powered cells provide a quarter of the base’s power needs, Obama said, speaking in a large hangar warmed by the desert heat.

“That’s the equivalent of powering about 13,200 homes during the day,” he said, and it will save the Air Force nearly $1 million a year.

Obama said more than $467 million in stimulus money will be used “to expand and accelerate the development, deployment and use of geothermal and solar energy throughout the United States.”

The president sandwiched the midday event between two political fundraisers: one on Tuesday night in Las Vegas for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and one set for Wednesday night in Los Angeles for the Democratic National Committee.

At Nellis, Obama addressed 400 people, including Air Force personnel, civilian workers and families living on the base.

The base’s $100 million public-private solar power system covers 140 acres and generates more than 14 megawatts of electricity.

As he departed the hangar, Obama bypassed his limousine and walked a quarter-mile along the tarmac to examine fighter jets, chatting with Air Force personnel as he went.

Our perspective:

Solar is the new energy growth maket. For the first time, with Federal and State incentives, the investment is solar finally makes sense.

To find out more how you can make solar your solution email george@hbsadvantage.com  or call 856-857-1230. We will review your opportunity and discuss the financial options available.

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.

by Brian T. Murray/The Star-Ledger

Sunday April 05, 2009, 7:12 AM

The relicensing last week of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, the nation’s oldest nuclear power plant, guarantees that nuclear energy is here to stay in New Jersey, for at least a few more decades, even as state officials continue to push alternative sources of energy.

The Garden State draws about 53 percent of its electricity from four nuclear plants — a reliance on nuclear energy far above the national average of about 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Along with Oyster Creek in Lacey Township, which was cleared by federal regulators for a new license on Thursday to operate another 20 years, the state’s electricity flows from the Hope Creek and the twin Salem Creek reactors in Salem County.

 

“Right now, one of every two households in New Jersey gets its electricity from nuclear energy. If you take nuclear energy off line, where will the energy come from?” said David Benson, a spokesman for Oyster Creek.

Gov. Jon Corzine has vowed to have 30 percent of the state’s electricity produced through wind and solar power by 2020 — an initiative that even his supporters call ambitious.

Renewable sources, including solar, wind and landfill gases, currently provide only 3 percent of New Jersey’s electrical energy. Coal-burning plants generate 20 percent, natural gas generates 21 percent and petroleum plants generate 16 percent.

Even critics acknowledge that New Jersey’s nukes are not about to be replaced.

“We know it will take at least 20 years, maybe longer, for us to generate enough power to replace them. We would like it to be quicker, but we know they are not going away anytime soon. … Our issue is, we need to find cleaner, safer, more reliable sources,” said Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Sierra and the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group allege Oyster Creek is unsafe because of corrosion found in the late 1980s in the drywell liner or shell that encases the reactor. Federal regulators contend the problem has been repaired and the plant is safe.

Regardless, NJPIRG contends renewable power is safer — and that all four nuclear plants could be replaced by 2,139 windmills.

“That being said, efficiency improves every year in wind turbine technology, unlike nuclear generation, and over the next decade will increase dramatically, making it highly unlikely that we would need anywhere near that number,” said Jacob Koetsier of NJPIRG.

“In 2005, Congress passed a subsidy bill that included $5.7 billion in operating subsidies for the nuclear industry and $2 billion to insure companies for costs in delays in getting licenses for six new reactors. If that kind of money had been switched to renewable energy back then, we’d already be up and running,” he added.

DIFFERENCE OF OPINION

But windmills require miles of space, and plans to begin erecting about 300 of them off the Jersey Shore have divided even environmental groups, with some organizations fearing a negative impact on marine life. The potential costs pose a greater obstacle.

“The Department of Energy’s own numbers estimate the cost of offshore wind will be more than twice that of coal, twice that of advanced nuclear, with or without government subsidies. There is reason you don’t have a lot of wind power — it is more expensive,” said Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a Washington, D.C. research group that supports free-market models for energy production.

The statistics were cited as projected consumer costs in the Department of Energy’s Annual Energy Outlook for 2009. While market prices on energy may fluctuate, Kish said windmill power also faces the added financial complexities of bringing the new electrical power into the nation’s existing power grid — the national system by which power is delivered to households and businesses.

The problem is being realized in Texas, which is leading the nation in developing renewable energy sources, but must expand its grid to deliver it.

“To anybody who believes New Jersey is going to be 30 percent on solar panels and wind power by 2020, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. It’s just not going to happen,” Kish said.

Additionally, the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine. That raises concerns about what is known in the energy industry as “baseload” — the ability to constantly generate electrical energy, as do nuclear and coal plants.

“But that is more of an issue for land-based wind-turbines,” Tittel countered. “The further offshore you go, which New Jersey plans to do, the steadier the wind. The efficiency increases 60 percent offshore, as opposed to 30 percent on land.”

While building windmills may have obstacles, so does a future reliance on nuclear energy, experts say.

The nation’s 104 existing plants are operating at about 90 percent, and no new ones are being built largely because federal officials have not determined where to bury the radioactive waste and there is a 30-year-old federal prohibition against reusing it.

There also is the growing price-tag on building new reactors — $7.5 million for a 1,000 megawatt facility such as the ones in Hope Creek and Salem Creek, according to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission figures released last year.

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.

TRUST IN THE WIND

April 8, 2009

ATLANTIC CITY – Windmills off the East Coast could generate enough electricity to replace most, if not all, the coal-fired power plants in the United States, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said yesterday.

His view was challenged as “overly optimistic” by a coal-industry group, which noted that half the nation’s electricity currently comes from coal-fired power plants.

The secretary spoke at a public hearing in Atlantic City on how the nation’s offshore areas can be tapped to meet its energy needs.

“The idea that wind energy has the potential to replace most of our coal-burning power today is a very real possibility,” he said. “It is not technology that is pie-in-the sky; it is here-and-now.”

A spokesman for Salazar said yesterday evening that the secretary does not expect wind power to be fully developed, but was speaking of its total potential if it were.

Offshore energy production might not be limited to wind power, Salazar said. A moratorium on offshore oil drilling has expired, and President Obama and Congress must decide whether to allow drilling off the East Coast.

“We know there are some people who want us to close the door on that,” he said. “We need to look at all forms of energy as we move forward into a new energy frontier.”

Salazar said ocean winds along the East Coast can generate one million megawatts of power, roughly equal to 3,000 medium-sized coal-fired plants, or nearly five times the number of coal plants now operating in the United States, according to the Energy Department.

Salazar could not estimate how many windmills might be needed to generate one million megawatts, saying it would depend on their size and how far from the coast they were located.

Jason Hayes, a spokesman for the American Coal Council, said he was puzzled by Salazar’s projections. He said wind-power plants face roadblocks including local opposition, concerns about the impact on wildlife, and problems in efficiently transmitting power from far offshore.

“It really is a stretch,” he said of Salazar’s estimate. “How you put that many new [wind] plants up, especially in deep water, is confusing. Even if you could do what he said, you still need to deal with the fact that the best wind plants generate power about 30 percent of the time. There’s got to be something to back that up.”

Yesterday’s hearing was hosted by Salazar and was the first of four nationwide to discuss how energy resources including oil, gas, wind and waves should be used as the Obama administration formulates its energy policy. It was held at the Atlantic City Convention Center, whose roof-mounted solar-energy panels are the largest in the nation.

Salazar said it is essential that the nation fully exploit renewable energy resources to reduce its reliance on imported oil.

By buying oil from countries hostile to the United States, “we have, in my opinion, been funding both sides in the war on terrorism,” he said.

Environmentalists are urging the Obama administration to bar oil and gas drilling off the East Coast, and invest heavily in wind, solar and other energy technology.

Our Perspective:

I have found there is no silver bullet. There are multiple forms of alternative energy solutions, each playing a unique part in the overall solution.

To install wind mills out in the ocean and rid ourselves of the mining of coal would amount to a homerun! Safety is always a concern. Not only the safety of our workers mining the coal but also the safety of the environment. All the pollutants discharged into the air from its’ use.

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

Have a question about financing your investment in alternative energy? Contact us. We specialize in creating the financial structure that make sense. 

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!

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.

By Philip Elliott  from AP

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s aides say the administration will work with Congress on his budget proposal, but energy independence is not subject to wheeling and dealing.

Obama planned to make the case Monday for a budget proposal that invests billions in research designed to reduce climate change and guarantees loans for companies that develop clean energy technologies. Obama has tied his first budget proposal as president to a renewable energy program to help the United States move toward energy independence.

In a fact sheet released Monday, the White House said Obama’s meeting with “clean energy entrepreneurs and leaders of the research community” will outline an energy program that draws on the administration’s $787 billion stimulus package for $39 billion at the Department of Energy and $20 billion in tax incentives for clean energy.

It also disclosed that his 10-year budget proposal contains spending of nearly $75 billion to make permanent existing tax cuts for energy research and experimentation.

“The president is prepared to negotiate on this budget with folks like those at this table … and the president’s been very clear about this, as has our budget director: We don’t expect these folks to sign on the dotted line,” said Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s economics adviser.

“What we do expect and what we are going to stand very firm on _ because this president, this vice president have made this clear _ that there are these priorities that brought them to the dance here: energy reform, health care reform, education, all done in the context of a budget that cuts the deficit in half over our first term.”

Obama and his aides plan an aggressive push to deliver a $3.6 trillion budget that contains many of his campaign promises. He plans to speak about the energy portion of his budget at the White House on Monday, highlighting research and development in clean energy. He also will highlight how part of the $787 billion economic stimulus package already is working to create much-needed jobs.

Obama plans to follow that with a prime-time news conference on Tuesday. The president is back in campaign mode as he stumps for a budget proposal that, so far, has faced opposition from members of both parties.

Democrats worry the plan inflates deficit spending; the Congressional Budget Office estimates Obama’s budget would generate $9.3 trillion in red ink over the next decade. Republicans say it would impose massive tax increases, including on polluters; Washington could raise billions from companies that use unclean fuels, what GOP leaders called a carbon tax.

Obama said the country must provide incentives for so-called green businesses.

“I realize there are those who say these plans are too ambitious to enact,” Obama said in his weekly video and Internet message. “To that I say that the challenges we face are too large to ignore. I didn’t come here to pass on our problems to the next president or the next generation. I came here to solve them.”

Bernstein spoke Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”