Battle Over Solar Permit Costs in Colorado

Solar equipment installers and manufacturers have pointed out for some time now the hassles of dealing with disparate permitting rules and costs from one city or county to the next. A new report highlights this challenge in Colorado, where a bill is pending to cap fees.

Cali Approves 1GW Program to Auction Clean Power

California wants 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, but hitting that goal might be difficult. State regulators approved a 1 gigawatt program Thursday that they believe will help.

Cali Considers New Clean Power Feed-In Tariffs

California state regulators have spent the last few years trying to revise a program that was meant to boost small-scale renewable energy generation but wasn’t popular because it wasn’t lucrative enough to attract many takers. Now, a new proposal has emerged.

Net Metering to Shine on in New York, California

Rooftop solar companies are breathing a sigh of relief – and are getting ready to install more projects in New York and California. That’s because legislatures in the two states have passed new rules that boost net metering, an arrangement that allows customers with small-scale solar and wind installations to get credit for the electricity they deliver back to the grid.

With net metering, as the arrangement is called, customers pay only for their net electricity usage. Their meters run forward when they are using more electricity than they are producing and run backward when they are producing more electricity than they are using. The absence of net metering could cut out much of the economic benefit of building solar systems, at least in places without other financial incentives, such as a feed-in tariff.
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Droid Does an Early Software Update

Although it was expected that Motorola Droid (s mot) would see an update around December 11, there’s a new mandatory software update available today. Information from the Verizon (s vz) support site for Droid breaks out the following fixes and enhancements in software version AP:ESD56/BP:C_01.3E.01P — which just rolls off the tongue, no? 😉

  • OS stability is improved.
  • Battery life is improved.
  • Camera auto focus functionality is improved, and time between shots is reduced.
  • Enhancements for three-way calling.
  • Audio for incoming calls is improved.
  • When receiving a call on call waiting, the speakerphone now remains on.
  • Bluetooth functionality is improved; background echo is eliminated.
  • Improved Bluetooth phone book transfer of contacts to in-vehicle Bluetooth solutions.
  • After closing a GPS application, the GPS icon will now automatically be removed from the notification panel.
  • Users can now receive SMS and MMS messages after an EMS message is received.
  • SMS and MMS may now be sent to seven-digit addresses.
  • Google contact merging has been updated to accommodate seven-digit numbers.
  • Visual Voice Mail notices now arrive instantaneously.
  • The corporate calendar widget user interface is updated.

Droid owners will need at least 40% or more battery power or at least 20% power availability if connected to a power source prior to performing the upgrade. Have at it when you see the update available and let us know if you see any other fixes that might have slipped in as well.

The Biggest Barrier to a Better Grid: Paperwork

powerlines2Policymakers, utilities and renewable energy developers agree: The U.S. is in dire need of transmission improvements. The grid is aging, with many transformers approaching or surpassing their design life, and a lack of maintenance and investment has left the elderly infrastructure overstrained and prone to failure.
The Department of Energy in 2005 found that overall, less and less money had been invested in the grid every year since 1975, and a report from research firm Primen, now part of EPRI Solutions, estimated that grid fluctuations and outages cost anywhere from $119 billion to $188 billion annually. On top of that, as utilities get more of their electricity from renewable projects -– which tend to be smaller than most conventional power plants –- they need more transmission lines over which to distribute it. The California Public Utilities Commission estimates that the state needs seven new transmission lines to reach its goal of getting 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Yet in spite of all the agreement over, and data to support, investment in transmission, the lines are being built far more slowly than needed and at a slower pace than even renewable-energy generation is being built out. Projects in development are now expected to take years -– in some cases, decades -– to materialize. According to Bob Anderson, managing director of the Western Grid Group, it all boils down to two main issues: getting the finances lined up and getting regulatory approval.
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A Whole Lot of Solar Goin’ On in SoCal

Looks like California’s going to be getting a whole lot of solar power soon. After a year of discussions, the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday not only approved Southern California Edison’s 250-megawatt rooftop solar project -– but doubled it.

To jog your memory, the Rosemead, Calif.-based utility announced the ambitious project to install solar power on commercial rooftops, which it plans to rent in power-hungry areas in Southern California, in March of last year. The plan represents SCE’s first direct investment in renewable generation in more than a decade. Even the previous program was to be 10 times the size of any other distributed-generation project in the country.

The decision is exciting for the solar industry because it “absolutely validates” the value of distributed generation for the grid, said Adam Browning, executive director of solar advocacy group Vote Solar. In the decision, the commission wrote that the added value of having electricity generated where it’s used — reducing line losses and eliminating the need to build new transmission facilities — justifies a higher price for this electricity. “This is really precedent-setting,” Browning said. “It shows that solar has come of age and that new solar generation really can be counted on to keep the lights on.”
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Why California Doesn’t Have a German-Style Solar Feed-In Tariff

It’s a question we hear all the time: Why doesn’t California have a German-style feed-in tariff for the solar industry? German utilities pay a high price for any solar electricity fed into the grid, with the cost distributed among the country’s ratepayers. The much-esteemed policy made Germany a huge solar market, with 1.5 gigawatts of new capacity installed last year. For comparison, the United States would need 6 gigawatts of annual solar installations, 20 times more than it has today, to reach the same level of market penetration.

But at a luncheon Wednesday to discuss solar trends in advance of the Intersolar North America conference next month, some California solar insiders voiced skepticism about whether a German-style feed-in tariff would be the end-all policy for the state.

In fact, California already has a feed-in tariff, but it’s ineffective because the price is low, based on prices for natural gas. The state also has a net-metering program in which solar customers use the electricity they generate for their own use, then feed excess electricity into the grid, running their meters backward. In addition, California has a solar incentive program, which offers declining rebates for solar projects, and a renewable portfolio standard, which requires utilities to get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010.
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You Say You Want a Cloud Revolution

structure_speaker_seriesTake yourself back for a moment to 1990, to the era of dueling operating systems: OS/2 and Windows. At the time, many people still used MS-DOS, and Windows was new (and klunky). Microsoft (s msft) had cooperated with IBM (s ibm) to create OS/2 to overcome the limitations of DOS by adding multitasking, protected mode, and enhanced video APIs. OS/2, they both trumpeted, was a revolutionary computing platform.

Oops. Guess what? Turns out no one wanted revolutionary. We all wanted those improvements, to be sure, but we wanted them delivered in a way that didn’t require redesigning and rewriting our applications, or limiting the devices we could use. Voila! Windows 3.0 brought us evolutionary OS advances, and we all know who won.

What does this have to do with cloud computing? Well, the same principle applies to cloud offerings today.  Read More about You Say You Want a Cloud Revolution