What’s Happening in Solar

National Solar News!

Benefits of Co-locating Solar and Crop Production

Are you a farmer or investor looking to add solar on a large property? The benefits of adding solar to your land will benefit not only the environment but also you financially. Contact Solar Chief for a free quote and evaluation.

Benefits to Agricultural Land Managers Include:

  • Reduced electricity costs
  • Diversification of the revenue stream
  • Increased ability to install high-value, shad- resistant crops for new markets
  • Marketing opportunity to sustainability-mindful audience
  • Ability to maintain crop production during solar generation
  • Allow for nutrient and land recharge of degraded lands.

Benefits to Solar Developers Include:

  • Reduced installation costs – The use of previously tilled agricultural may prevent the need for expensive grading to flatten land to a usable level.
  • Reduced upfront risk – Geotechnical risks can increase the cost of solar installation due to increased testing needs. Previously tilled agricultural land was identified as the “least risk option” during a series of surveys with solar installers.
  • Reduced legal risk – By using previously disturbed land, solar installers can reduce the risk of up front litigation during the environmental review process.
  • Potential increase PV performance – Vegetation under modules can contribute to lower soil temperatures and increase solar performance.

Source: Energy.gov

The Solar Panel Recycling Process

Recycling solar panels is a relatively complex task because they contain many different types of materials. Panels contain metals, such as lead, copper, gallium and cadmium; an aluminum frame; silicon solar cells; and synthetic material that encapsulates the silicon. The various materials must be separated to be properly recycled. Undamaged solar cells, for example, can often be recovered and reused in new products.

Solar panel recycling has both tremendous environmental and economic benefits. A 2016 study by IRENA estimates the recyclable materials in old solar modules will be worth $15 billion in recoverable value by the year 2050. IRENA predicts solar panel recycling can help spawn new industries and will create green job opportunities.

Article from Earth911

Check out this great video demonstrating the process of recycling silicon-based PV modules.

Innovations in Solar: U.S. Solar Market Adds 10.6 GW of PV in 2018

Source: SEIA Press Release

For the third year in a row, the U.S. solar industry installed double-digit gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, with 10.6 GW coming online in 2018.

“The solar industry experienced growing pains in 2018, in large part due to the unnecessary tariffs that were imposed on solar cells and modules, but this report still finds a significant reason for optimism,” said SEIA’s president and CEO, Abigail Ross Hopper. “The total amount of solar installed in America is on track to more than double in the next five years, proving solar’s resiliency and its economic strength. It’s clear, this next decade is going to be one of significant growth.”

Total installed PV capacity in the U.S. is expected to rise by 14 percent in 2019 with annual installations reaching 15.8 GW in 2021.

In total, solar PV accounted for 29 percent of new electricity generating capacity additions in 2018, slightly less than in 2017 due to a surge in new natural gas plants. However, in 2018, 13.2 GW of utility-scale solar power purchase agreements were signed, pushing the contracted project pipeline to its highest point in the history of U.S. solar.

Ask the Experts: Can Solar Panels Harm Your Roof?

Many people interested in solar panels are concerned with the impact it will have on their roof. I took this question to our lead installer Trip.

About Trip: Trip is our reputable and skilled lead solar array installer. Trip is a straightforward guy that is trusted by the members of our community. He prides himself on educating the buyer on everything solar. Trip takes a personal approach with the customer even gives out his personal cell phone number in case they have any questions or concerns.

Can solar panels damage your roof?

Trip: Not if they are installed correctly.

The racking system joins the solar panels to your roof. A hole must be created in the rafter to secure the racking system. To prevent water from getting through the new hole, the bolt will be surrounded by flashing, which is a metal or plastic shield that fits under existing roof tiles. This flashing is additionally sealed with tar or comparable material. The lag bolt hole is also filled with a sealant to protect against water drainage in your roof.

Solar panels actually serve as a barrier to protect your roof from sun, rain, snow, and hail. The panels are made to withstand exposure to various weather conditions.

In addition to providing a barrier from harmful weather, rooftop solar arrays allow air flow between the roof and the solar panels, which increases airflow and adds a cooling effect of the solar array. In turn, the cooling helps the efficiency of solar panels.

Rooftop solar can turn your roof from a liability to an asset. Your rooftop goes unused without solar. Rooftop solar can produce your own energy with the option to net meter unused energy.

Going Solar: Solar Sheep

A ground-mounted solar array is a great option when going solar, especially when a roof does not provide enough space for an efficient solar array. The disadvantage of the ground-mounted solar array is the landscape maintenance around the system. The grass could get too high and cast shade on the panels, which will reduce energy production. Luckily there is a great eco-friendly solution to this problem… Solar Sheep. Below are the benefits of investing in sheep to maintain your ground-mounted solar array. Source: Nicole Duimstra

1. Solar sheep reduce operation and maintenance costs

At the Carilion New River Valley Medical Center near Roanoke, Virginia, the site of the 1.3 megawatt ground-mounted solar array installed by Secure Futures in 2017, takes about two days to mow with mechanical equipment and costs about $3,000 a pop. That’s no sheep date! Multiply this by a few times a year and the cost really starts to add up. Maybe we’re sheep-skates, but we would rather cut out the cost of mechanical mowing and pass along the savings to our customers.

Carilion NRV solar array
The 1.3 megawatt ground-mounted solar power system at Carilion New River Valley Medical Center.

2. Sheep drastically lower the need for mowing and herbicides

Of course, there are many options to maintain grassy fields. Mowing and the use of herbicides are the traditional choice to keep weeds at bay – although the use of gas-powered mowers and toxic herbicides seem counterintuitive for a solar farm, which should boast a low environmental footprint. By contrast, sheep can organically maintain a majority of the fields with much lower emissions from fossil fuels while trimmers and herbicides are only used to clean up what the sheep won’t eat.

3. Other livestock don’t compare to sheep

Don’t let other cute farm animals pull the wool over your eyes. Other livestock have been used to maintain solar farms, but without much success.

Cows and horses, like mowers, are so tall that their bodies cast shade on solar panels while they’re grazing. Bigger animals also can bump into solar panels and racking, causing damage. Goats, as you’d expect, do a great job of grazing not just the field but the solar equipment too. Apparently, goats enjoy chomping on electrical wiring as much they enjoy chewing on grass.

Solar sheep are the answer. They are low cost, quietly do the job, and look cute doing it too.

4. Solar sheep provide opportunities for partner-sheeps with local farmers

Solar farms are actually providing a new market for farmers across the Ewe-nited States. Partnerships between solar farms and, well, plain old farms are becoming increasingly popular. For example, in North Carolina, a state known for many large solar arrays in rural areas, sheep farming has jumped from 21,000 to 30,000 livestock in just a decade. Sun-Raised Farms alone provide 4,000 sheep for their partnerships with solar developers at 28 separate solar farms.

Shepherds lend their sheep to graze as they would at a normal pasture without fear of overgrazing farm land, and the sheep can be sold at a profit at the end of the grazing season. Solar sheep boost the agricultural industry and promote an even lower-cost source of clean energy.

At Carilion’s New River Valley location, Secure Futures is partnering with local Pulaski County, VA shepherd Cecil King. In a barter agreement, Secure Futures will prepare the site for sheep and provide Cecil with free pasture for his flock and he will cut the grass and weeds at no cost. This partnership is an agreement promoting both renewable energy and local agriculture. I think the folks on Wool Street would call this a win-win-win situation.

5. Sheep maintain pasture, rather than paving over paradise

Of course, you can avoid mowing altogether if you pave over a site before you install a ground-mounted solar array. Asphalt or concrete will certainly keep weeds, and any other living things for that matter, at bay. But paving creates its own problems for a ground-mounted solar array – it increases both stormwater runoff and excess heat that damages solar panels. By contrast, sheep can maintain pasture and restore otherwise depleted soil by natural means (yup, you know what I’m saying).

By maintaining a pasture, sheep also support native vegetation and pollinators.  With less mowing, herbicides, or pavement, solar farms can be retrofitted with native vegetation. While solar sheep maintain local vegetation, pollinators like butterflies and bees can flourish in an environment with little noise or chemicals.

6. Solar panels maintain sheep health and shepherds’ well-being

Solar panels benefit sheep and farmers by providing shade. Livestock are susceptible to heat stress from sun exposure. A sheep’s thick wool usually serves as great insulation from the sun, but sometimes this isn’t enough to save them from the Virginia heat.

Heat stress can cause or worsen several health problems in sheep, such as weight loss, reduced milk production and quality, shorter pregnancies and underweight births, compromised immune systems, and reduced male fertility. The effects of heat stress are passed onto a farmer’s well-being, where a flock’s health is particularly significant in terms of profit.

Carilion’s solar panels are in “table-top” position, providing plenty of shade for grazing sheep

Although the effects of heat stress are serious, the fix is relatively easy.  A simple shade shelter, like hanging tarps or cloth, significantly reduces the likelihood of heat stress.

Mounted a few feet off the ground, solar panels provide the sheep excellent shade from the heat while they graze underneath. As an extra bonus, the Carilion solar array has a tracking system, which means the solar panels follow the sun during the day to maximize production. So, at the hottest time of the day, the panels are at “tabletop” position – providing great sun cover for sheep.

Solar shade will maintain sheep health by reducing the risk of heat stress, and shepherds will benefit from healthy solar sheep with a higher market value of their flock.

7. They’re living their best lives

What do sheep do? They bleep and they graze. Really, that’s it. The best part about solar sheep is that allowing them to simply exist on site is the most cost-effective, sustainable way to maintain solar farms.

These sheep are living their best lives. At Carilion, they will be enclosed by a high fence to protect both the sheep from predators and the solar panels from outside disturbances. After all, we don’t want any pesky deer eating our solar panel wiring.

8. You can peep the sheep at Carilion

This year, Carilion will host 30 sheep during the month of September. While everyone involved is excited to practice sustainability, promote renewable energy, support local farmers, and reduce cost for the medical center, livestock can be unpredictable.  This September will serve as a learning experience for Secure Futures in how to best manage the solar sheep. If all goes well at Carilion, we will hopefully see more solar sheep at our sites.

Dominion Energy Rebate Disaster: SC Ratepayers Not Getting Rebate Check

Article Here

Author: By JEFFREY COLLINS Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — For more than 700,000 customers of a private South Carolina utility, the $1,000 rebate checks aren’t in the mail.

A year ago, Dominion Energy proposed writing the average South Carolina Electric & Gas customer a $1,000 one-time cash payment if lawmakers facilitated and regulators approved their merger. They spent millions of dollars touting the checks in ads that seemed to run on every TV newscast and local show.

During merger negotiations, Dominion executives, consumer groups, and regulators decided on lower power rates over 20 years by roughly $20 a month instead of the rebate. They said it would be a bigger benefit over a much larger period of time than the one-time payment.

But those $1,000 checks remain burned in the minds of many customers, and Dominion finds itself doing another advertising blitz over the next several weeks, this time introducing the Virginia-based company to its new South Carolina customers and explaining to them that the checks aren’t coming.

“We understand some customers will be disappointed that refund checks are not included in the final approved plan, but we believe customers and South Carolina will benefit from the lower payments,” Dominion spokeswoman Rhonda Maree O’Banion said in an email.

Some lawmakers, especially those who represent poorer districts, feel like Dominion pulled a bait-and-switch on their constituents, pushing hard to get support among African-Americans, then backtracking on promises. The original ads touting the rebates urged viewers to call their legislators and give their support for the merger.

“It seems that you were trying to advertise to the black community to impress upon us on this $1,000 charity,” said Democratic Sen. Margie Bright Mathews of Walterboro told Dominion officials attending a meeting of the Black Legislative Caucus.

“Your first order of business was to get a couple of black lobbyists and go to black colleges and advertise in black medium radio,” she said.

SCE&G’s parent company, SCANA Corp., was looking to sell because it spent $5 billion on construction and design of two nuclear reactors that never generated a watt of power. South Carolina law allowed the utility to put all that debt on the backs of its customers, although the merger deal cut the customers’ share of that debt about in half, leading to the monthly reduction in bills.

But the lower bills might not last for long. Dominion can ask for a rate increase for its base costs of generating and distributing power at the start of 2021. Old SCE&G customers haven’t seen the base costs for power increase since 2012, even though there were several rate hikes to pay for the failed nuclear plants.

Consumer advocates warn that any such increase could be massive and if the rebates had been paid, electric bills would have ended up even higher without any monthly relief.

“In the longer term, it was more important people pay lower rates,” said Frank Knapp, president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and a frequent critic of SCE&G’s management.

The hearings on additional rate changes will start in 2020.

In the meantime, there doesn’t appear to be any effort among a majority of lawmakers or regulators to revisit the terms of merger and the possibility of rebates, although the Public Service Commission has asked Dominion to explain exactly what it is doing to tell customers there was a change in plans.

Democratic Rep. Wendell Gilliard of Charleston said the bad taste over no rebates has left some of his constituents asking if anything with the power company will change even with SCE&G and SCANA out of the picture.

“Dominion is coming in on the same tide that SCANA left out on,” Gilliard said. “That’s not good.”

Innovations in Solar: Australia’s Largest Solar Development Begins Construction

Australia begins construction on their largest solar project to date.

From pv magazine Australia.

A project boasting 1.5 GW of solar PV and 500 MWh of energy storage broke ground 100 km north of Brisbane on Wednesday, becoming Australia’s largest solar development to enter construction. While no public announcement was made, renewables industry body the Smart Energy Council posted a photo from the ground breaking ceremony today on Twitter.

Not much is known about the developer, Sunshine Energy, as the plant appears to be its first and only project, judging from its website. According to a company extract from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Sunshine Energy Australia was registered in 2017 in Mitchell, in the Australian Capital Territory, with a headquarters in Melbourne. Its principle shareholder is Hong Kong-based Eastern Union Limited, and the bulk of its shares are owned by former director Anthony John Youssef and current director Chi Man Li, both of whom have a residence in Australia.

The massive project was given the green light by Queensland’s Somerset Council in mid November, following a review. The council noted the application had been referred to various government departments and agencies for input.

“This was a complex development application put together by Ethos Urban planning consultants, who have been involved in other large infrastructure projects throughout Australia, on behalf of Sunshine Energy Australia Pty Ltd,” Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said at the time.

The plant is set to sprawl across 2,055 hectares east of Harlin along the D’Aguilar Highway, and be developed in three 500 MW stages. It will connect to the 275 kV high voltage national distribution network in Queensland.

Alongside the 1.5 GW solar farm, the project will feature two substations and a 500 MWh energy storage facility to be added later, putting the estimated cost at around $3.5 billion.

“The site has been largely cleared in the past and is within one hour of the 570 MW pumped storage hydroelectric plant at Splityard Creek, which is also in the Somerset Regional Council area,” Lehmann had previously stated, noting the site was attractive because of its proximity to the high voltage power network and Brisbane.

Grid and economic boost

According to the project website, the solar farm will be able to generate, on average, around 2,259 GWh of green energy per year and supply around 300,000 Queensland households.

The development is being mooted as bringing an economic boost to the region, with the expected creation of 1,000 jobs – on-site and logistically – plus 30-60 permanent positions.

According to Sunshine Energy, the solar farm is expected to require approximately 6-8 months for the initial site preparation and further 16-24 months to complete construction. It could eventually expand to a whopping 2 GW within 36 months, depending on the suitability and size of the land around the site.

This project dwarfs any other PV plant under construction in Australia, such as Innogy’s 349 MWp Limondale Solar Farm and Maoneng’s 255 MWp Sunraysia Solar Farm in New South Wales or Total Eren’s 256.5 MWp Kiamal Solar Farm, in Victoria.

As for the energy storage component, Sunshine Energy’s website refers to a patented solution called SEA-Power (SEAP). It says each SEAP unit consists of 4 MW of lithium-ion battery storage, a battery management system (BMS), fire suppression equipment, thermal management system, switchgear and other components, housed in a 40-foot shipping container. Sunshine Energy says that the SEAP solution can provide a range of grid services, along with “renewable energy smoothing and power quality management.”

With the capacity of 500 MWh, the Sunshine Energy battery will be among the nation’s largest, including the South Australian Tesla big battery (110 MW/129 MWh) at the Hornsdale Power Reserve and the construction-ready 200 MW solar PV+120 MWh battery project that form part of the Solar River Project in South Australia, the size of which could double at a later stage.

Another gigawatt project was waved through in Queensland two years ago, when Singapore-based Equis Energy secured approval to begin constructing the 1 GW Wandoan South Solar Projects.

Meanwhile, Australia’s other GW renewable energy projects are still awaiting a regulatory nod – a 4 GW renewable energy hub for New South Wales proposed by Energy Estate and MirusWind, and the 11 GW Asian Renewable Energy Hub , which is planned to export power to Southeast Asia via subsea cables and supply big miners and green hydrogen projects in the Pilbara region, in northwest WA put forward by a consortium comprising Vestas, Intercontinental Energy, CWP Energy Asia and Macquarie Group.

Innovations in Solar: China Plans To Build The World’s First Solar Power Station In Space

China is planning to build the world’s first solar-powered space station. They hope to reach a source of “inexhaustible clean energy” for their space station. China claims to have tested the technology and expect to build the space station by 2050.

“We plan to launch four to six tethered balloons from the testing base and connect them with each other to set up a network at an altitude of around 1,000 meters. These balloons will collect sunlight and convert solar energy to microwave before beaming it back to Earth. Receiving stations on the ground will convert such microwaves to electricity and distribute it to a grid.”

– Gengxin

In 1968, aerospace engineer Peter Glaser proposed the concept of a power-generating platform in geostationary orbit, but in terms of development there were to many technological and financial hurdles.

Source: Forbes

Solar Development on Public Lands

The debate over developing solar energy projects on public land has proven to be a controversial topic. The article below describes the benefits of solar development on public land.


Solar development on public lands offers many benefits, from reducing the threat of climate change to creating green jobs. Large-scale projects can have serious impacts on the land, so it is important that they are built in the right places and the right ways.

By focusing on development in smart places and off-setting or mitigating the impacts, we can:

  • Protect wildlands and sensitive wildlife habitat.
  • Facilitate responsible development by taking advantage of nearby existing roads and power lines. This makes development faster, cheaper and better for the environment, solar developers and consumers.
  • Restore and repair damaged wildlands and wildlife habitats in areas where renewable energy development is occurring.

The Wilderness Society continues to work in collaboration with:

  • Conservation partners at regional and national organizations. 
  • Solar developers. 
  • Government agencies, including the BLM and Department of Energy. 
  • Utilities that manage the power grid and deliver power to consumers.

Going Solar: Net Metering

The article below is from the Solar Energy Industries Association. Solar Chief is a proud member of the SEIA.

Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid. Many states have passed net metering laws. In other states, utilities may offer net metering programs voluntarily or as a result of regulatory decisions. Differences between states’ legislation and implementation mean that the benefits of net metering can vary widely for solar customers in different areas of the country.

Image result for net metering

What Is Net Metering?

Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on the home’s rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use. On average, only 20-40% of a solar energy system’s output ever goes into the grid. Exported solar electricity serves nearby customers’ loads.

Giving Customers Control Over Their Electricity Bills

Net metering allows utility customers to generate their own electricity cleanly and efficiently. During the day, most solar customers produce more electricity than they consume; net metering allows them to export that power to the grid and reduce their future electric bills. California public agencies and schools will save $2.5 billion in electricity costs over the next 30 years using net metering.

Creating Jobs & Encouraging Private Investment

Net metering provides substantial statewide economic benefits in terms of jobs, income and investment. Net metering increases demand for solar energy systems, which in turn creates jobs for the installers, electricians, and manufacturers who work in the solar supply chain. Today, the solar industry employs more than 250,000 American workers in large part due to strong state net metering policies which have allowed the solar industry to thrive.

Protecting the Electric Grid

Unfortunately, some utilities perceive net metering policies as lost revenue opportunities. In fact, net metering policies create a smoother demand curve for electricity and allow utilities to better manage their peak electricity loads. By encouraging generation near the point of consumption, net metering also reduces the strain on distribution systems and prevents losses in long-distance electricity transmission and distribution.

Source: Solar Energy Industries Association