Monday night as I was camped out in front of my Twitter feed — safe and dry in San Francisco — friends and family in New York started tweeting about power failures all over lower Manhattan. Their cell phones, running on batteries and tapping into their carrier’s high speed wireless networks — many that are backed up with diesel generators — were still up, even as the power grid went down across many parts of the East Coast.
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Michigan is playing host to a major battle over renewable energy this fall. On one side are clean energy proponents promoting a ballot initiative that would increase the state’s renewable electricity targets to 25 percent by 2025. On the other side are large coal-dependent utilities fighting to prevent any new increases.
Great Falls High decided to expand their science solar project after the first installation of two solar panels went so well. Now there are 72 solar panels on the roof of south campus, helping to power the entire building.
The array of solar panels all facing south give the appearance of a shimmering lake. And by late December, the 300,000 solar panels, each roughly the size of a 46-inch flat screen television near the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown off Roxbury Road, are expected to generate a peak of 20 megawatts of power per hour.
Clean energy has become a dirty word in presidential politics. In their second debate, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama each tried to outdo the other’s love of fossil fuels: Obama extolling his record on oil and natural gas production, Romney vowing to take “advantage of the oil and coal we have here.” The Republican candidate has ridiculed the administration’s $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra, the bankrupt California-based solar panel maker, and accused Obama of living “in an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy.”
A team led by the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) has launched the Solar Friendly Communities initiative, which is designed to help streamline permitting for solar energy installations.
On Tuesday San Diego-based Borrego Solar Systems announced the completion of a 3.4 megawatt solar plant at Edwards Air Force base, which is located near Lancaster, California. The photovoltaic system consists of three single-axis tracking units mounted to the ground.
GE Energy Financial Services, part of General Electric (GE.N), said on Wednesday it bought a stake in a large U.S. solar power project for $100 million, bringing its investments in the sector to $1.4 billion in the last year.
Hundreds of start-ups are presenting advanced energy technologies at a Department of Energy conference this week. Their early-stage efforts are funded by a government grant program, called ARPA-e, but what happens next is a difficult question.
As governments around the world tinker over how best to support solar energy, a number of large corporations have thrown their weight behind the renewable resource. These moves could potentially shift the momentum driving the solar industry away from the public sector and onto private enterprise.