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Berkeley’s Solar Plan to Serve as a Model for Biden’s Plan

Solar PanelsSolar PanelsThe dilemma for the environmentally conscious consumer often comes down to dollars and cents.    That problem is particularly acute when it comes to solar systems where the investment in a solar panel system can cost on average of more than $20,000.   Yes, there is monthly savings but the payback period can be as long as 10 years.   That’s a tough pill to swallow, even for the most enthusiastic, green-eyed Prius owner, not to mention the average consumer who is just becoming aware of the global warming and energy crisis.

Enter the plan trialed in Berkeley, CA and followed up in several U.S. cities.  Homeowners pay zero upfront dollars.  The plan is financed by the government and paid off with a monthly tax surcharge over twenty years.  The energy savings offset the monthly tax bill.  This makes the upgrade a virtual freebie and may even improve the market value of the home.

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Solar events in the San Francisco Bay Area

Upcoming SOLAR events in the San Francisco Bay Area - Week of October 19 - 24, 2009

Tapping into solar energy has many benefits: reduced burning of fossil fuels, independence from foreign energy producers, a lower electricity and gas usage bill -- and helping protect the planet's climate! ... read more

Dr. Richard Swanson, Founder and CTO of SunPower Corp., "We Are Completely Dependent on Fossil Fuels"

Last night I was given the opportunity to listen to Dr. Richard Swanson, President, Chief Technology Officer and Founder of SunPower Corporation, at an event held by the Common Wealth Club of Silicon Valley.  Dr. Swanson touched on a number of different topics ranging from the founding and success of SunPower as a global photovoltaic powerhouse to the future of the global solar industry.  Filled with memorable lines, the loosely structured talk gave great insight into the man and how SunPower Corporation is structuring itself for future challenges. 

Dr. Richard Swanson

In ways of introduction, Dr. Richard Swanson is the man who saw the future of photovoltaics when many didn't.  Originally obtaining a Ph.D. from Stanford University in electrical engineering and becoming a professor there, Dr. Swanson began to target his research to unlocking the potential energy of the sun.  It was from this research that the backside contact solar cell was invented.  A backside contact solar cell is simply a rear-contact design which eliminates front-side metalization and redundant wires, maximizes the working cell area and makes automated production easier.  This design creates a marked improvement in energy producing efficiency.  This new technology became the basis for Dr. Swanson founding SunPower Corporation in 1985. 

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Interview with Dr. David Lee, CEO of BioSolar - Renewable Plastics In Solar

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Dr. David Lee, Chief Executive Officer of BioSolar.  Dr. David Lee founded BioSolar in 2006 in an effort to make renewable materials for the packaging of photovoltaic cell converters.  Dr. Lee holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University, a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.  It was a wonderful interview that provides insight into the company's mission, research and commercialization. 

I am going to start off by asking about your previous work experience.  You have worked for Applied Reasoning Systems Corporation and RF-Link Technology, Inc.  Both of those did not have anything to do with solar industry.  One was an Internet software company and the other a wireless technology corporation.  What made you take the leap into solar technology?

Actually, it is not a long story.  I majored in electrical engineering for my bachelors, masters & Ph.D.  One of my hobby projects was solar technology, especially the material science side of it.  Even though I ended up getting a Ph.D in communications science, my interest level has always been there.  

My first job was at a defense contractor where we designed satellite communication systems for the U.S. government.  I was a systems engineer.  The job of the systems engineer is to oversee the entire project.  That involves many different disciplines, not just communication systems disciplines but also different sub-systems that constitute the entire project.  My background was much more broad than what most people think.

You mentioned my experience in RF Technology.  It was a wireless technology company that dealt with both terrestrial and wireless communication devices.  Applied Reasoning was a software development company.  It also had a lot of space technology related implications in its application. 

I did not simply start the idea of a solar company all of a sudden.  I always had the dream of making solar technology something we can all take advantage of. 

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Demands for Solar Cells Skyrocket in Japan

A recent survey conducted by the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association shows that Japan is turning increasingly to solar.  During the period of April to June 2009 Japan produced  83,260 kilowatts through solar power.  To put this record in context, this is an 82.5 percent increase of power produced by solar cells compared to the same quarter last year.

The Japanese family is the largest adopter of this new technology, with over 90 percent of the solar cells shipped during the quarter were for individual household use. This adds up to an increase of over 20,000 homes producing solar power compared to the same quarter last year.... read more

White Roofs and Surfaces Overlooked Key to Reducing Global Warming

"Surprisingly, Californians can do more for reducing climate change by simply reducing waste solar heating produced by structures & pavement than by conserving energy alone - but please, still do that!" writes Dr. Alex Cannara.  Dr. Cannara is a member of the Menlo Green Ribbon Committee and a noted  scientist in the field of renewables.  Dr. Cannara proposes that many of our initiatives are misguided since fundamental science is absent.

White Roof House... read more

How to Become a Solar Energy Professional In California

California has been a longtime proponent of solar energy use, which is a major component of the green movement currently sweeping the United States. A recent report from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council supports this fact. Their study shows that solar capacity in California increased by a third from 2007 to 2008, and now represents about two-thirds of the national total.... read more

Charge Your Cell Phone if in Death Valley

Now I am not one to go against new technology, especially in the solar field, but sometimes I just don't get it.  Take for example Sanyo's Eneloop Portable Solar panels, which can charge portable devices through a USB connection.

This tote bag allows the charging of batteries for most mobile devices and comes with, I kid you not, a flashlight.  (Why would you need a flashlight for a solar panel?  Isn't the sun, aka the world's biggest flashlight, necessary to work?)  The book size solar cell weights 8-15 ounces and can be hung from a window.

Sanyo's Eneloop Portable Solar panel can charge mobile devices on the go.... read more

How to Become a Solar Photovoltaic Installer

To become a certified PV installer, you must meet prerequisites of related experience and/or education. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP),, lists the various requirements for solar PV installer certification. Certification is voluntary. To become NABCEP certified, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Meet prerequisites of related experience and/or education
  • Sign a code of ethics and standards of practice
  • Pass a written exam

An installer is certified for three years. To maintain this professional designation, you must meet continuing education requirements and install a specified number of systems per year.

According to NABCEP, "the certification program has been developed and designed carefully following professional credentialing guidelines. Standards, developed by experts in the field, have been set and the eligibility requirements to become certified are based on extensive input from installers and members of the solar industry."

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Eco-Geek Talks of ESolar's First Operational Solar Power Tower

Our buddy Eco-Geek is finally back with a new video today and it already has over 2,000 views.  In his quirky style he presents a great piece about a new Solar Tower in New Mexico.  It is great to get another fun video from him, even his hair is funny.  Just kidding.

"A solar power tower is a solar power plant that uses fields of hundreds of mirrors to focus sunlight on a boiler to produce electricity.

This new power plant has two towers and 24,000 mirrors and produces around 5 megawatts of power, enough to power about 4000 homes in areas near the Lancaster California power plant. ESolar has strong funding from the likes of Google and other large clean-tech focused venture capital firms.

ESolar's new power plant is small scale, but an excellent demonstration of their technology. The goal of the project (one might say this is the goal of all solar power projects actually) is to produce electricity cheaper than coal. But ESolar seems to have a technology that is impressing people in the know. Already they have contracts to build 465 more megawatts of these solar power towers at three sites in California and New Mexico." ... read more

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