Infinite Solar http://infinitesolar.com Tue, 25 Feb 2014 21:50:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 New Off-Grid and NABCEP PV Installation Professionals Exam Review Class in October http://infinitesolar.com/new-off-grid-and-nabcep-pv-installation-professionals-class-in-october/ http://infinitesolar.com/new-off-grid-and-nabcep-pv-installation-professionals-class-in-october/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 20:42:12 +0000 Andrew Zimdahl http://infinitesolar.com/?p=2247 Due to numerous inquiries from all over the world, Infinite [...]

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Due to numerous inquiries from all over the world, Infinite Solar is super excited to offer a new one day Battery Based Solar PV Systems Class.

We are inviting back our acclaimed Advanced Solar PV Instructor, Dan Fischl, to lead this seminar. It is perfect for anyone seeking the freedom and independence of being “off the grid” and will be crucial for solar PV installers in developing countries.

The first time this class will be offered will be October 11th. The following day, we will offer a NABCEP Installer Exam Crash Course review on Saturday October 12th at 9am. Just in time for those planning on taking the NABCEP Solar PV Installation Professionals Exam on October 19th.

Finally, don’t forget about our Solar Thermal Class on September 23 – 27th and our Advanced PV Class October 21 – 25th in addition to our monthly Entry Level Solar PV Design and Installation Workshops September 16 – 20th and October 14  18th!

To find more info on these new courses, check out these links:

http://infinitesolar.com/battery-based-pv-systems/

http://infinitesolar.com/nabcep-review/

Or just call us directly at 215-464-6460 or info@infinitesolar.com

 

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Burnham Energy Seeking PV Quality Assurance Inspectors http://infinitesolar.com/burnham-energy-seeking-pv-quality-assurance-inspectors/ http://infinitesolar.com/burnham-energy-seeking-pv-quality-assurance-inspectors/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 19:55:18 +0000 Andrew Zimdahl http://infinitesolar.com/?p=2243 Burnham Energy is teaming up with Infinite Solar to expand [...]

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Burnham Energy is teaming up with Infinite Solar to expand professional opportunities for its students and alumni. Please read the article below. If you are interested in pursuing this opportunity, please contact David Inda at dinda@burnhamenergy.com

In just a few short years, the solar industry has grown from a few boutique businesses into a multi-billion dollar industry. To ensure the growth of the industry, it is essential that solar installations maintain the highest standards of safety, longevity and performance. To maintain these standards, it is critical that the industry has a network of independent solar professionals of the  highest integrity who understand solar installations, electrical and building codes. Burnham Energy is looking for just such solar professionals for our field inspector network.

Burnham Energy is the nation’s premier solar inspections and compliance services company. Inspectors for Burnham Energy have conducted over 2,500 inspections in 20 different states throughout the U.S. and our reach is continually growing. The largest solar integrators, solar leasing and financing firms and Utilities rely on Burnham Energy to ensure quality installations and high performing systems.

Burnham Energy offers our field inspectors generous compensation on a per project basis, continual solar manufacturer updates and training opportunities, the ability to review and learn from other solar professionals across the country and the professional credibility that comes with being a Burnham Energy affiliate. Burnham Energy offers scheduling flexibility and the opportunity to conduct multiple inspections per trip, making it ideal for solar contractors, senior solar installers and other trades professionals interested in expanding opportunities to grow with the industry.
Solar professionals interested in joining our field inspection network should meet the following
criteria:

  • NABCEP certified or equivalent solar certification 
  • Journeyman level electrician or higher 
  • Possess a valid drivers license and vehicle insurance 
  • Possess ladders sufficient to access two story roofs (+20’) 
  • Trained in the operation of a Solmetric Suneye or Solar Pathfinder 
  • Possess basic tools, including but not limited to compass, pitch finder, irradiance measuring tool and digital camera 
  • Ability to attend one webinar a month

Burnham Energy strives to be the standard of authority for solar installations. As the solar industry
grows, Burnham Energy is poised to continue its growth, providing significant opportunities for solar professionals.

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Methane Leakage Ruins Another Party http://infinitesolar.com/methane-leakage-ruins-another-party/ http://infinitesolar.com/methane-leakage-ruins-another-party/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 14:04:23 +0000 Andrew Zimdahl http://infinitesolar.com/?p=2238 Written by Infinite Solar Executive Director Andrew Zimdahl Energy production [...]

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Written by Infinite Solar Executive Director Andrew Zimdahl

Energy production has long been a hot button topic. Proponents of natural gas view it as a better alternative than coal, given it’s lower carbon emissions. However, recent studies regarding methane leakage from natural gas extraction have led many to take a second look its environmental merit. However, the high emotions in this debate distract from more comprehensive solutions: reducing energy waste and advancing alternative energy sources.

The natural gas industry plays an enormous role in our energy economy, as shown in this graph from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In 2005, the nation produced around 19 trillion cubic feet.1 In 2012, this figure rose to over 25 trillion cubic feet; an increase of over 31% in seven years. The peak price in 2005 was $10/thousand cubic feet, which fell to a low point of under $2/thousand cubic feet in 2012, though average prices have only declined by around 50%.2

This boom undoubtedly helped the nation overcome the financial crisis of 2008. Proponents of natural gas utilization also point to the fact that burning natural gas releases significantly less carbon dioxide (CO2) than burning coal or oil. The EIA provides the following comparison table:

The difference is significant. Coal produces around 75% more CO2/kWh than natural gas, while oil hovers at 43% more. These facts have lead proponents of natural gas utilization to call it a “bridge fuel” to a 100% clean fuel economy. This is an important point as US coal consumption has steadily increased since they were only 1/4th of what they are today in the 1960s. It wasn’t until 2005 that this trend reversed.3 This chart4 details how the United States energy mix has shifted:

However, CO2 is not the only contributor to greenhouse gas accumulation. Methane (CH4), the primary component of natural gas, also has a significant impact on global warming. In a recent op-ed article in the New York Times, Cornell University Professor Anthony R. Ingraffea warns that methane leakage is highly prevalent in the extraction, distribution, and storage of natural gas. He estimates that methane traps 72 times more heat than CO2 over a 20 year time period. This hypothesis led Ingraffea to conclude that a “gangplank” was a more accurate metaphor than a “bridge” when describing natural gas energy production.5

However, the precise amount of such leakage is unknown and a source of controversy, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration estimates it to be between 2% and 9% of all extracted natural gas. Even within this wide range, disagreement exists regarding how much of this leakage is recaptured by the industry and how much is released into the atmosphere.6

Fortunately, methane does not linger in the atmosphere as long as CO2 does. The EPA estimates that CH4 stays in the atmosphere for only 12 years (other sources say this might actually be as low as 8 years) after which the molecules naturally break down. This compares to the 50 – 100 year timespan of CO2.7

Therefore, the long term consequences are less worrisome than the short term. However, as Keynes warned, “we will all be dead in the long-term.” Indeed the “long term” may be rapidly approaching. According to NASA, in 2010, arctic methane levels were pegged at 1850 nmol/mol; twice as high as at any time in the 400,000 years prior to the 18th century industrial revolution.8

Returning back to the original debate as to whether natural gas is significantly less deleterious to the atmosphere than coal, we must consider a second unfortunate fact: coal production also leads to  lots of methane emission. In fact, the EPA recently decided to scale back it’s enforcement of such emissions, despite protests from several US Senators.9

One of the most difficult aspects of climate science is that we only have one laboratory to test our hypothesis and we happen to depend on it to live. Might some scientists exaggerate claims to spur people into action or attract grant money? Sure. Would some corporate interests spread misinformation and obfuscate science in order to preserve their high profits? Definitely. The truth lies between the extremes.

It’s important not to get too bogged down in the details of the debate as to which source of energy is killing us more quickly and focus on concrete actions that we know will help:

1. Reduce energy waste. The US only uses 42% of the energy it produces- the worst of other nation in the world. In other words, we waste more total energy than we produce with natural gas and coal combined! It’s wasted through the production of excess heat, inefficient machines, and general carelessness. It’s always cheaper to save existing energy than it is to produce new energy. Weatherization, upgrading appliances/lighting, lighting timers, and the adoption of smart grid technology.

2. Further testing, analysis, and regulation of methane leakage. If this leakage can be eliminated, it would be safe to call natural gas a safe “bridge” from Coal. Not only is this imperative for the climate, it is also in the interest of the gas companies to retain value and avoid future litigation. Currently, the EPA only provides voluntary guidelines for curbing these emission, though new rules are being considered for a rollout in 2015.10

3. Accelerate deployment of solar and wind energy. It’s shameful that the United States gets less than 10% of its energy from these sources. These energy sources emit nothing when converted into electricity and become more price competitive every day.

4. Continue investment into researching clean nuclear power. While the Fukashima disaster underscored the many problems in dealing with waste from Uranium reactors, these plants do not contribute to global warming. Many researchers speculate that a comparable, if not greater, amount of energy can be produced using thorium as an energy source for nuclear reactors. The ostensible reason we didn’t first develop thorium reactors? We can’t build bombs from their byproducts :(

References:

  1. Natural Gas Production (EIA): http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9050us2a.htm

  2. Natural Gas Prices (EIA): http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9190us3m.htm

  3. Carbon Dioxide Emissions (EIA): http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=74&t=11

  4. Energy production by sourece (EIA): http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/pecss_diagram.cfm

  5. Ingraffea Op-Ed Article (New York Times): http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/29/opinion/gangplank-to-a-warm-future.html

  6. Methane Leakage Estimates (Nature): http://www.nature.com/news/methane-leaks-erode-green-credentials-of-natural-gas-1.12123

  7. Methane atmospheric cycle (EPA): http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html

  8. Methane Atmospheric Levels (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methane

  9. Coal Methane Emissions (US Senate): http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?q=news/rep-waxman-and-sen-whitehouse-urge-epa-to-reconsider-decision-not-to-regulate-methane-emissions

  10. EPA Regulations on Methane: http://www.epa.gov/ttn/ecas/regdata/RIAs/oilnaturalgasfinalria.pdf

  11. Energy Waste: http://theenergycollective.com/sbattaglia/193441/us-most-energy-waste

If you have a question about this article, please contact Andrew Zimdahl at andrew@infinitesolar.com

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The Mighty Ivanpah Solar Thermal Power Tower Rises as a Beacon of Ingenuity in the Clean Energy Sector http://infinitesolar.com/the-mighty-ivanpah-solar-thermal-power-tower-rises-as-a-beacon-of-ingenuity-in-the-clean-energy-sector/ http://infinitesolar.com/the-mighty-ivanpah-solar-thermal-power-tower-rises-as-a-beacon-of-ingenuity-in-the-clean-energy-sector/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 14:20:18 +0000 Andrew Zimdahl http://infinitesolar.com/?p=2146 While on the East Coast, the dominant renewable energy resource [...]

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While on the East Coast, the dominant renewable energy resource is wind, the Southwestern United States experiences a much larger amount of solar irradiation. In the coming months, NRG’s Solar Thermal division is soon set to complete on a huge 377 Megawatt solar thermal power tower called Ivanpah an hour south of Los Vegas just across the state line with California.

Ivanpah snip

Diagram of Ivanpah Solar Thermal Power Plant 

Ivanpah uses 300,000 concave mirrors that track the course of the sun each day and reflects thousands of beams of light to the top of the tower which heating the water contained within. The resulting steam is used to spin turbines that generate clean electricity for 140,000 households.

Infinite Solar’s Executive Director Andrew Zimdahl recently spoke with company representatives to get a sense of what motivated them to pursue such an ambitious endeavor. They explained that it represented an opportunity to further diversify their energy portfolio and push the boundaries on what was previously thought possible.

Being an early mover in a new market has many advantages, including the discovery of cost saving innovations. Cost of construction is constantly being learned with both new and conventional designs. The company improved their logistics of commissioning heliostats, project time of completion estimation, and gauging the learning curve on automated equipment. One of the biggest cost saving techniques they employed was developing an on-site heliostat production facility to make the supply chain more efficient and nimble.

Most photovoltaics have lower upfront capital costs, can be built very quickly, and a solid project is easily financeable. However, when clouds obfuscate the sun, solar collection from PV can be reduced or eliminated, leading to inconsistent power generation.

Solar thermal technologies tend to have a much smaller footprint than photovoltaics, and are less disruptive to the grid during cloudy conditions given the thermal inertia associated with the technology. As such, solar thermal systems are a more natural utility-scale solution for energy providers with a clear path toward future costs reductions that will eventually support grid parity. That said, subsequent projects will likely have higher towers with more concentrated land use along with a taller tower for less shading.

For more information on this exciting project, please click here. If you are interested in starting a career in the solar thermal energy sector, please take a look at Infinite Solar’s acclaimed Solar Thermal Hands On Design and Installation Workshop.

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Infinite Solar Now Offers Online Enrollment and Payment Gateway http://infinitesolar.com/infinite-solar-now-offers-online-enrollment-and-payment-gateway/ http://infinitesolar.com/infinite-solar-now-offers-online-enrollment-and-payment-gateway/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 12:56:58 +0000 Andrew Zimdahl http://infinitesolar.com/?p=2141 Infinite Solar now offers a super convenient online enrollment system [...]

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Infinite Solar now offers a super convenient online enrollment system for those ready to skip to the beginning of the line and jump into the booming solar energy industry ASAP.

You can access the enrollment form by clicking on this link: https://infinitesolar.com/enrollment/

Infinite Solar’s payment plans have become exceedingly popular with our students. Adopting these plans has allowed the school to teach students whose cash flow issues have restrained their ability to access Infinite Solar’s industry leading hands on training programs.

If you are currently on a payment plan with Infinite Solar, you may not make all of your payment plans online by going to this link: https://infinitesolar.com/secure-payment-gateway/

Remember, of you are as student who is on a payment plan, it is your responsibility to make payments on time. Please call us in advance if you are having difficulty putting the payment together.

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Deregulated Energy Markets Supporting Renewable Energy Deployment http://infinitesolar.com/deregulated-energy-markets-supporting-renewable-energy-deployment/ http://infinitesolar.com/deregulated-energy-markets-supporting-renewable-energy-deployment/#comments Tue, 16 Jul 2013 13:18:21 +0000 Andrew Zimdahl http://infinitesolar.com/?p=2078 While the distribution of electricity seems to be a natural [...]

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While the distribution of electricity seems to be a natural monopoly, many states have embraced the fact that electrical production is more effective in a competitive marketplace. In Pennsylvania, this process began over a decade ago. Increased competition was able to hold down prices, lower subsidies to utilities, and reduce bureaucratic waste. Importantly, it provided customers with a method of choosing how their electricity is produced. This provides an opportunity for any individual to support renewable energy production, even if they are not able to invest directly into a PV (photovoltaic) system for their roof.

Green Mountain Energy is a leader in the deregulated energy market and a strong supporter of solar energy deployment. The company is able to connect environmentally responsible consumers with like-minded investors and developers. In Pennsylvania, the company begins this process by offering ratepayers the ability to purchase electricity that was generated from 100% renewable energy sources, which has steadily increased in popularity. There is an inherent challenge when it comes to retailing renewable energy: competing with price on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels have taken hundreds of thousands of years to concentrate solar energy into chemical. Then, humans release all that energy in a matter of seconds when they burn it.

Thankfully, technological advances in the renewable energy sector have allowed prices to become extremely competitive. In Philadelphia, Green Mountain Energy’s 100% renewable plans cost less than 2 cents more per kWh than PECO’s standard rates. By directly engaging with potential customer, companies like GME are able to educate the public about environmental responsibility. After all, each year Americans spend billions of dollars on luxury cars, shake weights, bombs, sham wows, and snuggies. Why not spend a few pennies on clean air, clean water, and a stable climate?

As a further commitment solar energy development, Green Mountain Energy also facilitates a program called The Sun Club, a charitable arm that donates solar PV equipment to non profits. To date, the organization has given over 550 kilowatts of PV to grant recipients in myriad forms: standard arrays, mobile power stations, trams, and trash compactors. If you know of a non-profit that you think would be a great candidate for one of these solar grants, please email their PR Director Katie Ryan at Katie.Ryan@greenmountain.com for more information. The deadline is August 2nd, 2013.

For more information on how you can get 100% renewable energy in your house, please click here.

This Article was written by Infinite Solar’s Executive Director Andrew Zimdahl

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Philadelphia Solar Career Moves Completes Another Course with Infinite Solar http://infinitesolar.com/philadelphia-solar-career-moves-completes-another-course-with-infinite-solar/ http://infinitesolar.com/philadelphia-solar-career-moves-completes-another-course-with-infinite-solar/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 10:28:41 +0000 Adam Burton http://infinitesolar.com/?p=163 Last week, students from the Philadelphia Solar Career Move program [...]

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Last week, students from the Philadelphia Solar Career Move program completed their three week intensive training session and are now prepared to make waves in the energy industry. This is an exciting opportunity for local employers to get highly skilled, pre-trained workers to help them meet their hiring goals in 2013.

The Solar Career Move is a project funded by the Green Jobs Innovation Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Labor and is a part of the Jobs for the Future Greenways Initiative. It consists of a partnership between Infinite Solar, the Smart Energy Initiative of Southeast Pennsylvania (SEI), the Federation of Neighborhood Centers (FNC), the Job Opportunity Investment Network, and Philadelphia Works. The team members carefully screened over one hundred applicants to identify those individuals who best exemplified the qualities that lead to success in the skilled trades: ambition, math & reading proficiency, leadership experience in construction projects, reliability, and an entrepreneurial spirit.

The Federation was able to identify the 12 applicants that best demonstrated these qualities through a rigorous testing and interview process. They then put them through two full weeks of training in which they honed their math, electrical, mechanical, and professional development skills. Following this session, students participated in Infinite Solar’s week long, industry acclaimed Solar PV Hands-On Design and Installation Workshop. Now the students are preparing to take the NABCEP Entry Level Exam in a few weeks.

If you are employer in the area, or have an affiliation with employers in the clean energy, skilled trades, or construction industries, we encourage you to reach out to Infinite Solar’s Executive Director, Andrew Zimdahl at andrew@infinite-solar.com and describe what kind of candidates or skills you are looking for. We are confident that the Solar Career Move participants can help you move your business to the next level and meet the demands of a quickly evolving industry.

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New York Pushes to Be Leader in Renewable Energy http://infinitesolar.com/new-york-pushes-to-be-leader-in-renewable-energy/ http://infinitesolar.com/new-york-pushes-to-be-leader-in-renewable-energy/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 10:25:40 +0000 Adam Burton http://infinitesolar.com/?p=159 The solar industry in the Northeast in the past five [...]

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The solar industry in the Northeast in the past five years has seen many ups-and-downs. Pennsylvania’s once booming market struggles while awaiting new support through legislation, Maryland and Delaware, while small, have seen strong and steady growth, and New Jersey just doubled down on its support for the solar industry through new funding. As things start to pick back up, New York State joins the ranks of strong support for the solar industry.

New York has held recent support for green jobs and its solar industry through NYSEIA, NYSERDA, the New York Solar Jobs campaign, and the NY-Sun Initiative. Earlier this month during Governor Cuomo’s 2013 State of the State address, he explicitly declared support for green jobs, stating:

“The economy of tomorrow is the clean tech economy. We all know it, it’s a foot race – whatever state, whatever region gets there first wins the prize, and we want it to be New York. We want to create the New York Greenbank, which is a $1 billion bank to leverage public dollars with private sector matched money to spur the clean economy. We want to extend the New York’s sun solar jobs program at $150 million annually for 10 years to increase solar panel installations for home and business. It’s good for the environment and it’s good for the economy.”

With Governor Cuomo’s charge, the year old NY Sun-Initiative is now solidified as New York’s flagship enterprise in moving towards a future of sustainable energy. With the proposed 1.5 billion dollar decade-long budget, the program will continue its dedicated mission of providing financial incentives for current and new solar photovoltaic (PV) system owners, reducing costs of project development and permitting, and providing funding for training for new workers for the solar industry.

Meanwhile, the proposed New York Greenbank’s goal is to provide funds for new renewable energy projects and programs that are sure to support the solar industry along with other sustainable ventures. Coming in the form of low-risk loans, grants, and investments, the Greenbank will help finance these projects with a mix of private and public funds. By doing this, the bank intends to increase market confidence in the private sector during a recovering economy, while boosting consumer assurance and public opinion.

In the third quarter of 2012 SEIA’s Solar Market Insight ranked New York as 12th in the nation for solar capacity, with a job market employing thousands of workers. Look for that ranking to rise quickly in the next few years with these new initiatives in place.

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The Illusion of a Free American Energy Market http://infinitesolar.com/the-illusion-of-a-free-american-energy-market/ http://infinitesolar.com/the-illusion-of-a-free-american-energy-market/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 10:23:11 +0000 Adam Burton http://infinitesolar.com/?p=154 Written by: Andrew Zimdahl—Executive Director of Infinite Solar The consequences [...]

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Written by: Andrew Zimdahl—Executive Director of Infinite Solar

The consequences of a government’s energy policy are of immense scale. An insufficient long term plan can lead to the lights shutting off and an abrupt halt of economic activity. Because of the gravity of a potential market failure, the U.S. government has played a more active role in developing energy markets than it has in other sectors of the economy.

2013 will be a year in which Americans continue to come to terms with the unsustainability of their traditional habits. Some form of fiscal austerity seems to be inevitable. The pace and manner in which it is implemented will determine whether the nation rises to meet the challenges at this point in its economic history.Given this, it will be helpful to examine how the U.S. provides public subsidies to the production and development of renewable energy.

Critical components in U.S. energy policy are the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (RPS) that many states have adopted. RPS are a legislative mandate that a state’s utilities produce a certain percentage of their total energy consumption from renewable energy sources. If a utility can’t produce it themselves, they can purchase it from private producers, such as a family that installs a grid-tied solar PV system on their rooftop.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a “nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, and the general public” , advocates for the elimination of the RPS system in favor of a free market approach to energy deployment. Todd Wynn, Director of Energy, Environment, and Agriculture provided the group’s rationale behind this policy stance:

  1. Forcing utilities to purchase renewable energy reduces total supply and increases the cost of electricity. This increased cost has a greater impact on lower income ratepayers who devote a higher percentage of their expenses to energy costs.
  2. Free markets lead to more cost effective, reliable, and sustainable forms of energy.
  3. It is not ethical for the government to favor one particular form of energy over another.

The first point is difficult to disagree with. If clean energy producers were instead paid from income tax or property taxes, lower income folks would be spared from the regressive nature of this de facto tax. The second premise is impossible to evaluate however, because the U.S. hasn’t had a “free” energy market in at least two centuries. Nancy Pfund and Ben Healey offer a comprehensive summary of energy subsidization in a report called What Would Jefferson Do? The Historical Role of Federal Subsidies in Shaping America’s Future, which chronicles historical government intervention in various energy markets:

1823 – 1837

States subsidized geological surveys combine with tax waivers lead to significant growth in the coal industry.

1841 – 1878

Land grants subsidize development of the timber market in the West.

1916 – 1985

Tax accounting rules are changed, adding a “percentage depletion” loophole that allows coal and oil producers to benefit from accelerated depreciation.

1947 – 1990

The federal government invests heavily in research and develpoment of nuclear power, indemnifies utility companies from damages caused by nuclear meltdown, signficantly reducing their insurance expenses.

1955 – 1970s

NASA invests heavily into developing photovoltaic technology to power space aircraft.

1978

Energy Tax Act establish tax credit for installation cost of solar and geothermal systems.

1992

Energy Policy Act establishes production tax credit for renewable energy.

1983 – Present

Individual States begin enacting Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards.

These historical facts have led advocates of renewable energy production to argue that the current subsidies are needed to level the playing field for a new industry that is competing against the heavily subsidized traditional energies, like fossil fuels. ALEC responds in the following way to this claim:

The Energy Information Administration calculates the per megawatt hour subsidies for different energy forms which is an apple to apple comparison. For an energy source that barely exceeds one percent of electricity output in the U.S., total 2010 federal subsidies to wind generation are $56.29 per megawatt hour. This is around 88 times that of the $0.64 per megawatt hour that go to the foundation of U.S. electrical power output, coal and natural gas. Coal and natural gas account for over 70 percent of U.S. electrical power supply. For solar power, the subsidies totaled $775.63 per megawatt hour which is nearly 1,212 times that of coal and natural gas. The playing field is not level. In fact, it is heavily tilted towards renewable energy and these figures do not even take into account the subsidies and tax breaks given at the state level nor the monetary value of state governments mandating their products to be purchased.

Setting aside serious problems surrounding the methodology of this data from the Union of Concerned Scientists, this view is rather biased. Scientists, researchers, and engineers have had many decades of government support to improve the efficacy of fossil fuel based energy. Pfund and Healy depict the magnitude of this support in the following graphs from the What Would Jefferson Do? Report :

comparative-graph_blog

The graph shows historical trajectories of energy subsidization during the first 30 years of their respective implementation:

history-graph_blog

The final premise of the “free trade argument” for abolition of the RPS cites a moral obligation for the government to refrain from limiting the production of energy from technologies that are not “politically preferable”. This ethos seems to promote a belief that the push for cleaner, more sustainable energy is some kind of fad, nothing more than a superficial mark of sophistication.

However, this opinion of the clean energy movement ignores some indisputable facts: 2012 was the hottest year in recorded history. Billions of dollars were spent recovering from Hurricane Sandy and prolonged droughts in the West have led to massive forest fires and increased food scarcity. If one holds that government has an obligation to protect its citizen’s health, property, and economy, then it must act to combat global warming and dwindling supplies of limited resources.

One can make a defensible case for reforming the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards system. However, if the only alternative policy recommendation is to “let the free market decide” how energy is produced, we’ll first need to invent a time machine.

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