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EGEB: Musk not so crazy; SolarCity pays Feds $29.5M; Scared of used solar panels?; more

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial and political review/analysis of important green energy news. Featured Image Source

SolarCity to pay $29.5 million to settle federal probe – SolarCity said it installed 29,000 solar energy systems from 2009 to 2013 that were eligible for grants under the Treasury program. The company said those projects were valued at about $1.8 billion by “independent appraisers, accountants and investors.” The Treasury Department, after conducting its own review, valued the projects at $1.7 billion and paid SolarCity $510 million in cash grants. Here’s the way this went down – SolarCity would build a project, then sell it to a second company that was partially owned by SolarCity and partially owned by an investor. The investor was usually a group buying the tax benefits – depreciation and the 30% tax credit. SolarCity said a residential solar project was worth $5/W (my estimate) and the Feds said the project was worth $4.72/W. I don’t know enough about the internal machinations to give you my opinion…I do know that some companies settle because it’s in their best interests to not be in a lawsuit, and I do know that sometimes the Federal government settles suits to get the company involved to pay a lot more attention. Complexities.

Used Chinese solar panels set off quality fears – Reading through the entirety of the article I see nothing talking about quality issues, but instead the thought that there might be issues. 25¢/W for panels that have a one year warranty – would any of you be interested?

Not Just Another Day of Sun: Reviewing the Solar Eclipse’s Effect on PV System Performance – Two data points: It is interesting to note that the irradiance peaked at 958 W/m2 at 1:10 pm and reached a minimum of 65 W/m2 at 2:40 pm and At its peak, the solar system lost 99.6 percent of power compared to a sunny day, aligning very well with the calculated eclipse percentage. One site lost just short of 100% and the other site lost 94%. Solar eclipses are no joke when it comes to solar electricity generation. We will have no choice but to plan appropriately.

Norway’s REC Silicon has announced that it will lay off around 30 employees at its polysilicon factory in Butte, in the U.S. state of Montana – Remember back in 2012 and 2015 when the USA imposed tariffs on Chinese solar cells and solar panels? Well – China imposed a tariff on US polysilicon. The USA used to be the world’s largest polysilicon producer until the Chinese ended that game. Check out this article for some hard data on the consequences of tariffs against US companies. The question now becomes – what will Trump do and how will the Chinese respond?

A new all-electric and autonomous cargo ship is planned for operation in 2018 – I wanted to add some data one piece of information from Fred’s breakdown: Some of the world’s largest cargo ships emit pollution comparable to millions of passenger cars put together. That datapoint is for one ship. Researchers at the oil giant BP and the Institute for Physics and Atmosphere in Wessling, Germany reveal that annual emissions from shipping (70,000 ships) range between 600 and 800m tonnes of carbon dioxide, or up to 5% of the global total. These ships burn the dirtiest oil we extract – they release the most noxious chemicals aside from CO2. And some research suggests that the areosols released by these ships lead toward more intense storms. Already, these ships travel the world with minimal crews – imagine they were clean, and truly autonomous.

Elon Musk’s Solar Partnership Strategy Doesn’t Look So Crazy Anymore – This article is interesting because it continues the conversation about the evolution of residential solar power. A lot of the people who read this page, like FreedomEV and others, seem able to build a solar system on their own. Many regular folks definitely need a contractor – but their purchases are evolving from leases to cash purchases due to falling prices. Even the technique of sales are evolving – Tesla to stop door-to-door solar sales as it moves SolarCity’s operations in-house. Maybe the biggest shift will be that solar shingles become the defacto roofing product, led by Tesla. In the long game – a game that doesn’t fully exist yet – houses will come with its energy needs accounted for by default, because it’ll be weird not to have a house without solar shingles/windows/siding/batteries/electric car hook up/etc…but we have more than a hundred million houses in the USA before we hit that game. Change is the only constant.

South African factory beats power cuts with Redflow batteries – Flow batteries in the real world, doing the heavy lifting. “It could cost as much as 10,000 rand per power failure. What was more of an issue was that we lost our delivery time, which created inconvenience and concern for our customers, who depend on us.” There are enough places in the world with an inconsistent grid – something someone like me from the heavily developed and very consistent power grids of the USA cannot comprehend – that companies like Redflow can make big money and scale up their production facilities. If anyone knows what this hardware costs, please let us know in the comment so I can talk about how long they’ll take to payback in situations like this.

Most interesting thing about these charts of California electricity production to me – look at the wind chunk. I know wind cannot be depended on like a natural gas burning facility, but my lord does it looks like it is producing a consistent amount of electricity. 66% of electricity coming from renewables – with some extra in that import volume.

Featured Image Source from the ‘Hit me with your SunShot‘ photography contest. Since I’ve shown each of the winning photographs – I’ve now moved into showing off some of the images that didn’t ‘win’ – but are beautiful nonetheless. These images are located on the flickr account page of SunShot. Genesis Solar 250 MW CSP in Blythe, California; October tarantula migration. Photo by Evan Derouen.

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