LG – A Global Solar Manufacturer Exits the Business

LG has been a leading brand of solar modules in the US, and less so, world-wide for over a decade now.  I noticed them enter the market in 2010, along with so many new entrants that year at the Solar Power International in Los Angeles.  When I saw that LG, Samsung, and Hyundai among others were making a big splash at that trade show, it was a clue that the market would be dramatically changing and growing.  Through the first half of that decade we not only saw continued geometric growth of the industry, but jaw-dropping price decreases.  Those price decreases helped fuel industry growth, but also herlded the failure of many good American companies that could not cut costs and survive (RIP Evergreen, UniSolar, Stirling Energy, NanoSolar, Solyndra, Day4, SpectraWatt, etc.)  At that time, we had just begun our relationship with Sunpower, based in San Jose, CA, which had been in the solar industry since 1985, and has been consistently recognized as the highest efficiancy and quality.

I was surprised to see LG walk away from the solar sector since they have such a good reputation, a good product, significant market share, and some of the greatest electronics manufacturing expertise on the planet.  If they can’t make good profit with all those advantages going for them, what does that say about the industry as a whole?  The low cost of multiple giant Asian solar manufacturers, the difficulties produced by Chinese dumping (substantiated by the FTC, and a basis for tariffs), and the consumer expectation that solar will continue to decrease in price, have combined to create difficult market conditions for manufacturers.

The official announcement from LG cites supply chain issues, and increasing materials and logistics costs.  https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2022/03/lgs-advice-to-u-s-installers-as-it-exits-solar-panel-manufacturing/

As recently as last year, LG was forecasting growth and continuing to commit to the sector.   https://www.lg.com/global/business/solar-blog/solar-market-trend

Sunpower has been able to weather the difficulties present in this market through growth, cost-cutting, price decreases, outside investment, and various restructuring over the years.  Sunpower is not the least expensive product on the market, far from it.  We feel that going with the highest quality company, with a track record of reliability and consistency, is the best way to make this solar investment for your home.

10 KW Sunpower Array, Sequim, WA, October 2021

 

PNNL in Washington Running Large Smart Grid Simulation

The Pacific Northwest National Lab in Richland is running a Smart Grid simulation and implementiing it on their campus and also in Spokane’s Eco District in conjunction with Avista, the electrical utility there.

In general, the ability to coordinate between the consumer’s needs and ability to provide power with distributed generation and storage, and the utilities needs and costs on the variable wholesale power market, will make the grid more efficient, cleaner, and less expensive for everyone.  The study is linked below, and we view this progress as key to allowing individuals to maximize their economic returns from installing solar while having the greatest possible reduction of carbon emissions and other pollution.

PNNL Researchers are estimating consumer savings nationally as $50 Billion per year, and reducing energy output equivalent to 180 coal fired power plants.  What a gross disgusting waste and what a tremendous opportunity for improvement – let’s do it!

We are hopeful for progress along these lines, especially in conjunction with Electric Vehicles.  In the meanwhile, the best thing you can do is to install a grid-tied pv system on your home or business today.  That will save you money now, and give your home the foundation to take best advantage of whatever energy policies are coming our way.

https://www.pnnl.gov/news-media/how-smart-electric-grid-will-power-our-future

9.8 KW Sunpower PV Array, Port Hadlock, WA, Jefferson PUD Grid, Sept 2021

More Oil On Our Hands

Oil spills are heart-wrenching anywhere, here at home on our own Pacific coast hits me the hardest.  I feel these accidents are the result of our collective laziness and a few people’s greed.  We can do so much better.
Workers in protective suits clean the contaminated beach after an oil spill in Newport Beach, California, on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.

Workers in protective suits clean the contaminated beach after an oil spill in Newport Beach, California, on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.

This sad situation brings several larger issues to mind for me; things I don’t understand well, but I feel they are all related.
– Our country is going further into debt each year, (blowing through the 100% debt to GDP ratio during the Trump administration, and reaching about 125% for 2020.)
– We are essentially borrowing money from China at this point, to subsidize the oil industry and our gasoline-based import consumer culture.
– Our oil based consumer import economy is decreasing American manufacturing jobs, and harming our ability to provide for ourselves.
– The drilling, refining and burning of oil and gas is causing horrendous damage to oceans, wetlands and wildlife here at home, and globally altering the atmospheric chemistry in a dangerous manner.
– There is a finite amount of oil, which is a base ingredient for mountains of plastic junk in addition to incredibly useful items like contact lenses and bike helmets that plastic is great for, where a small amount of plastic makes products that make our lives much better.  However we take that oil and we waste nearly all of it by burning it.
I know these issues can not be remedied by installing solar panels on roofs here on the Olympic Peninsula, but I am stumped as for a better thing for me to be doing at the moment.
Please do what you can to help address these complex issues, which may include riding a bike or driving an EV, buying less unnecessary stuff, or maybe even installing a solar array on your roof.

5.25 KW Sunpower Array, Nordland, September 2021

New Orleans Shows Need for Distributed Renewable Energy and Storage

Here on the Olympic Peninsula, we don’t face the same issues as they do in the Gulf States, but we are not beyond the reach of severe weather, so would do well to learn from the mistakes of others.  This article at Canary Media discusses energy issues in New Orleans after Hurricane Ida, where at least 300,000 people remained without power two weeks after the storm.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the utility was required to rebuild power lines to withstand 120 mph winds, and they were allowed to rate-base those costs, thereby charging extra to the consumers.  Ida’s winds reached 100 mph and there were numerous significant failures of those lines.
Entergy, which is the utility, overcame significant opposition to building a new polluting natural gas power plant in New Orleans.  One of the promises Entergy made was that this plant would be able to operate a micro-grid to keep the power on power on the core of the city even if there were widespread outages.  It failed during Ida.
The gas plant is especially galling to local clean energy activists since it is the direct actions of the oil and gas industry that contribute to New Orleans’ vulnerability through destruction of the buffering wetlands, and globally through carbon emissions’ contribution to climate change.
Resilience is attainable through replacement of those gas plants and above ground power lines, with solar, wind, and storage in a distributed manner, along with underground power lines.

 

11 KW Sunpower Array, Bremerton WA, January, 2021

There Is No Moderate Response to Climate Change

David Roberts recently wrote that we will either make radical changes to shape our future, or radical changes beyond our control or ability to avoid will be visited upon us.  He is a clear writer and interesting observer of climate issues, you can see his article and other work here:

https://www.canarymedia.com/articles/there-is-no-such-thing-as-moderate-climate-policy/

The only responses that accomplish what we need are rapid installation of clean electricity generation, early retirement of as many fossil fuel consuming equipment, and electrification of as much of the economy as possible.  It is incumbent on each of us to analyze how we can lead fulfilling healthy lives while radically reducing our gasoline and overall energy consumption.  Your quality of life does not necessarily depend on your energy consumption, and the energy your family does need can be provided with clean renewable resources.

 

Leaf and RAV4 EV charging from 9.5 kw Sunpower solar array in the North Beach neighborhood of Port Townsend.

Solar Tours Return – Jefferson Solar Tour July 31

We are resuming our solar educational events beginning with the Jefferson Solar Tour 2021. This will be an outdoor event with an optional indoor presentation. The solar tours have traditionally been regarded as valuable events bringing updated information and the opportunity to speak with homeowners to learn about their first hand experiences with solar.

This will be a free outdoor and indoor optional in-person event at 10 am until 1 pm, starting at the Power Trip Energy building at 83 Denny Avenue in Port Townsend. Starting at 10 am will be a Spin Your Meter Backwards presentation which can be considered Solar 101 with a focus on local regulations, the state of grid-tied solar technology, and incentives. Limited refreshments will be provided, please bring your own cup. Please bike, drive electric, or carpool if you can. One or two additional homes TBD will be available for viewing in Port Townsend.

Oregon Takes a Clean Energy Policy Lead, Even Among Neighboring West Coast States

The Oregon legislature has now enacted a 100% carbon-free electricity standard by 2040, including 80% by 2030 and 90% by 2035.

This fits our simplified strategy of 1) Electrify everything, 2) Make as much clean electricity generation as quickly as possible, 3) Use that electricity as efficiently as possible, 4) decommission all carbon emitting power generation as soon as possible.

https://www.utilitydive.com/news/oregon-leaps-ahead-of-california-and-washington-as-legislators-ok-bill-to-d/602610/

 

6.5 kw Sunpower array on Clallam PUD Grid, Sequim, May 2021

Texas Grid Regulators Have Recommended Winterizing Resources Many Times, No Requirements Though

As it turns out, the winter storm and historic outages in Texas have been predicted and warned against for decades.  However there has been little regulatory requirement for utilities, generators, or grid operators to take action.  Texas Was Warned a Decade Ago Its Grid Was Unready for Cold (yahoo.com)

I found this discussion on The Energy Gang podcast regarding the Texas outages to be enlightening.  Of note this was Jigar Shah’s second to last appearance on The Energy Gang; he was hired by the Dept of Energy Loan Office, which is very good news for renewable energy companies trying to bridge the gap and scale their innovations up to market.  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-03/jigar-shah-to-run-u-s-energy-office-that-backed-tesla-solyndra

Regarding the Texas grid failure, and its much less regulated grid, we will be learning much over the coming months, and it will be interested to see how those monthly electric bills work out for people.  You can anticipate there will be plenty of greed and corruption on public display.

Our vision is to avoid the worst of what we saw in Texas by promoting clean renewable and distributed energy generation.  The more grid-tied arrays are at the point of use, the better off everyone will be, not only the owners of those arrays saving money on their bills.  Ultimately the entire grid will become more stabile and less reliant on  centralized energy sources and those that control them.

 

5 KW Sunpower array in Chimacum on Jefferson PUD Grid, July 2020

 

Lithium Batteries Experiencing Tremendous Growth in Market

Lithium battery production have been on a strong growth curve for many years and is poised for ten-fold increase development in the near term with support of the current administration and significant venture capital investments across the industry.

According to Gene Berdichevsky, CEO of Sila Nano, and formerly Tesla employee #7, there is currently about 285 GWh of annual production capacity for lithium batteries.  He states there is an additional 2000 GWh of production capacity under development that will be complete within the next 5 years.  Gene was recently interviewed by Shayle Kann on The Interchange.  Sila Nano is itself building a plant that will provide anode materials for up to 100 GWh of lithium batteries annually targeted for the EV market, and sufficient for about one million vehicles per year.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/alanohnsman/2021/01/26/sila-nano-hauls-in-590-million-to-make-materials-for-better-electric-car-batteries/

While we recognize there are issues with the procurement of lithium and other materials, there are groups addressing the issues currently, and it appears that the use of electric motors and lithium batteries is currently the best practice for all ground transportation, be it personal vehicles, freight, or rail.

Here at Power Trip and for all of us in Washington State, we are installing batteries, though there is still no economic impetus for batteries in conjunction with your solar array.  While the percentage of our clients that initially state they want batteries is increasing, after we conduct an analysis of their energy needs, we usually determine the most sensible path is to install as much solar as possible up to the amount of energy you use, make certain you are using an electric vehicle as much as possible rather than buying and burning gasoline, and make other improvements in energy efficiency and emergency preparedness prior to considering a lithium battery installation.

11.7 KW Sunpower array on barn, Sequim, WA

Solar Spring Enhanced by Sunpower $500 Rebate

We are happy to be able to offer a $500 from Sunpower on projects ordered by March 31, 2021.  Rebate will come after project completion in the form of a pre-paid VISA card from Sunpower.

3/17/2021 Note – Some details: Available on New Sunpower Equinox AC systems, minimum size 2.8 KW.

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