Solar Power Gets Massive Boost In Connecticut As States Continue To Support …

December 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

MANCHESTER, Conn. (AP) — As Connecticut pushes aggressively to expand solar energy to homes across the state, few supporters are more enthusiastic than Eugene DeJoannis.

The retired mechanical engineer from Manchester has long been a booster of green energy and boasts a keen interest in home energy issues. He’s now serving as a volunteer solar ambassador promoting a state program that subsidizes home solar projects and urges homeowners to participate.

“I have a personal fascination with the residential energy picture,” DeJoannis said. “Whenever we go to church, I invariably take out my literature and display it there.”

Backed by a $27 million fund supplied by utility ratepayers, a campaign known as Solarize Connecticut joins as many homeowners as possible to lower the cost of residential solar installation. It annually earmarks $9 million of the available funding to finance residential installation by solar panel businesses competitively picked.

The intent is to boost nonpolluting energy, reduce demand on the electric grid relied upon by utilities and cut dependence on overseas sources of power such as oil.

Bob Wall, director of marketing and outreach at Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, said the agency is running solar panel installation campaigns in 22 of the state’s 169 towns and cities and has completed solar energy installation campaigns in nine towns.

In the past 22 months, 2,160 residential solar systems contracts have been approved.

Gary and Debbie Sweet, looking for information about putting solar panels on their house, attended a recent meeting in Manchester organized by state energy officials, bankers and solar installers. Sweet, an architect, said solar panels could slash his electricity costs.

“It doesn’t cost me anything. Why not?” he said.

The cost to homeowners is significantly reduced, and although it’s touted by Connecticut as a “once in a lifetime bargain,” it’s not free. Glenn Cucinell, solar division manager at Encon Solar Energy Division, which won the contract to install solar panels on homes in Manchester, said a typical system in Connecticut would cost about $24,000.

After a state rebate of about $8,000 and a 30 percent federal tax credit available for the remaining $16,000, a homeowner’s cost for a residential solar system would be cut by more than half, to $8,000 to $12,000, which can be paid for in long-term financing.

Connecticut’s subsidy is not unusual. Virtually every state offers loans, grants, rebates and other incentives to support broader use of residential solar panels, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. “It’s an incentive driven industry at this point,” Cucinell said.

In 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, solar energy received $1.13 billion in federal subsidies in the form of direct spending, research, tax benefits and loans, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In contrast, wind power received nearly $5 billion in subsidies, and coal was the beneficiary of $1.36 billion in subsidies.

Andy Pusateri, a utilities analyst at Edward Jones, said solar power will not be weaned off federal and state subsidies anytime soon. Wind power is the fastest growing alternative source of power, but solar energy has a greater growth potential, he said.

“We’re still a ways off from a competitive generation source without subsidies,” he said.

Pusateri said politics is a factor behind the push for public subsidies of solar energy.

“Democrats tend to favor renewable energy,” he said. “I think that’s driving that.”

The solar campaign is part of a broader effort by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to rework Connecticut’s energy policy. It includes a greater reliance on hydropower from Canada, an increase in natural gas connections to homes and businesses and a push for renewable power such as solar.

DeJoannis promises to keep at it with his campaign for home solar projects.

“There’s a garden club meeting tonight. Maybe I can break in there,” he said.

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    Renewable energy made up 9 percent of all energy consumed in 2011, according to the a href=”http://www.eia.gov/”U.S. Energy Information Agency/a, and that number is a href=”http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/er/pdf/0383er(2013).pdf”predicted to grow throughout the next decade/a.

    Here’s a breakdown of the top sources of renewable energy in the country, from wind to water and everything in between.

    emInformation courtesy of the a href=”http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/perspectives.cfm”U.S. Energy Information Agency/a./em

  • Solar Power – 2 Percent

    Solar power and photovoltaic cells make up the smallest percentage of U.S. renewable energy production, but its future looks fairly promising. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/03/warren-buffett-solar-power_n_2398816.html”invested $2.5 billion in Calif. solar company SunPower/a earlier this year.

    Also, unlike other sources of renewables, energy can also be generated by small-scale solar installations (like on the rooftop of a home or business), anda href=”http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=8570″ declining costs/a have made solar much more affordable.

    emInformation courtesy of the a href=”http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/perspectives.cfm”U.S. Energy Information Agency/a./em

  • Geothermal – 2 Percent

    Geothermal power captures naturally occurring heat from the earth to turn it into power. The renewable source is geographically dependent, a href=”http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=3970″but the Western half of the U.S./a has many promising locations for power plants, a href=”http://www.geysers.com/”like The Geysers in Calif./a, the largest geothermal power plant in the world.

    The U.S. is the largest producer of geothermal power on the planet, but growth hasn’t kept up with wind or solar development in recent years.

    emInformation courtesy of the a href=”http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/perspectives.cfm”U.S. Energy Information Agency/a./em

  • Waste – 5 Percent

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    Emissions regulations have been in place at waste incineration plants since the 1960s, but the a href=”http://www.epa.gov/ncer/publications/research_results_needs/combustionEmmissionsReport.pdf”EPA warned in a 2006 report that the toxins released/a during the process could pose a serious environmental risk if not strictly enforced.

    emInformation courtesy of the a href=”http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/perspectives.cfm”U.S. Energy Information Agency/a./em

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    The amount of wind power has grown for each of the past three years throughout the U.S. and accounted for the a href=”http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=9931″largest growth in capacity/a of any energy resource in the country last year. Wind turbines now supply more than a href=”http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/19/us-utilities-windpower-usa-idUSBRE89I0TX20121019″50,000 megawatts a year,/a enough to power 13 million homes, according to Reuters.

    Federal tax credits, which were set to expire at the end of 2012, have made wind farms an attractive form of renewable energy. Congress a href=”http://www.forbes.com/sites/davelevitan/2013/01/02/wind-power-tax-credit-survives-fiscal-cliff-deal/”approved an extension of the credits/a through the end of 2013.

    After production, wind turbines are net zero, meaning they require no energy and produce no emissions. The only problematic thing generated in some cases other than clean power has been a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/24/wind-power-noise-pollution-maine_n_866182.html”a whole lot of noise/a.

    emInformation courtesy of the a href=”http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/perspectives.cfm”U.S. Energy Information Agency/a./em

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    Biofuels, like ethanol, are created from organic matter like corn or soybeans. Gasoline in the U.S. contains 9 percent of the resource by federal mandate under the a href=”http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels/index.htm”Renewable Fuel Standard program,/a and more than a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/us-should-change-biofuel-_n_1764735.html”40 percent of the corn crop/a last year was turned into biofuel.

    The resource is slightly more unstable than other renewables because it depends on the productivity of farms – a href=”http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/10/us-should-change-biofuel-_n_1764735.html”drought or other environmental problems/a can significantly lower yields and increase prices.

    On average, a href=”http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/flexible_fuel_emissions.html”ethanol has 20 percent fewer emissions/a than traditional gasoline but some types, like a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulosic_ethanol”cellulosic ethanol,/a cut greenhouse gas emissions more than 85 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

    emInformation courtesy of the a href=”http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/perspectives.cfm”U.S. Energy Information Agency/a./em

  • Wood – 22 Percent

    Timber accounts for nearly a quarter of all renewable energy created in the country. a href=”http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2012/10/121022-wood-for-heating/”Rising energy costs /ahave led to an upswing in wood burning over the past decade, and nearly a href=”http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/report/winterfuels.cfm”20 percent of New England homes /ause wood for heating, according to a National Geographic report.

    Although it may be a cheaper alternative, wood burning stoves and fireplacesa href=”http://www.epa.gov/burnwise/energyefficiency.html” release more emissions of fine particles /a than other home heating methods, according to the EPA. Burning a href=”http://www.epa.gov/burnwise/bestburn.html”good wood in an efficient burner/a lowers toxic emissions and lost energy. Oh, and always have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors handy.

    emInformation courtesy of the a href=”http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/perspectives.cfm”U.S. Energy Information Agency/a./em

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    In 2011, 8 percent of all power created in the U.S. came from hydroelectric sources, but it’s also one of the most geographically dependent sources of energy. The Pacific Northwest gets more than half of all power via hydroelectric due to prime geography.

    emInformation courtesy of the a href=”http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/perspectives.cfm”U.S. Energy Information Agency/a./em

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