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Turning Solar Farms into Actual Farms

Consolidating precious natural resources in a warming world is a must. Which is why literal solar farms make sense — and maybe dollars — to Stanford scientists recently researching a colocation approach for simultaneously creating solar power and biofuels. It’s a simple idea, really: Grow some agave plants beneath vast solar farms across Earth’s increasingly arid regions, and voila! You’ve got a potential agritech solution for decreasing lethal emissions, and perhaps a reliable source of domestic fuel.

More microcosmically, the solar sector could reduce its water footprint by relying instead more heavily on agave, and what Stanford’s colocation announcement called “other biofuel crops,” to capture runoff and moisture to keep our photovoltaic panels cleaner in inhospitable climates. It sounds good on paper; specifically, the new issue of Environmental Science & Technology wherein Stanford’s scientists explain their collocated energy concept.

“It could be a win-win situation,” said Stanford postdoc Sujith Ravi in a press release. “Water is already limited in many areas and could be a major constraint in the future. This approach could allow us to produce energy and agriculture with the same water.”

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Home Solar Will Have Another Boom Year in 2014

This year’s outlook for cleaner fuels is bright, according to a recent report from the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). But it is much brighter for some technologies than others.

Solar and wind specifically, which remain the cleanest of the cleantechs in the emerging global renewables market, have a very promising future. The same cannot be said of less-efficient, more-vulnerable alternatives like biofuels, biomass, biodiesel and ethanol, which create cost-prohibitive emissions and demands for land and water on a planet increasingly succumbing to the expensive droughts, floods and storms wrought by climate change.

ACORE’s 2014 outlook — comprised of solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, marine energy, biomass, waste-to-energy, ethanol and biodiesel sector performance reports from their respective trade associations — found wide-ranging successes, improvements and opportunities “at the federal, state, and local levels for industry advancement and investment.” But one competitor stood out the most in the Obama administration’s “all of the above” renewable energy mix.

“Solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the United States, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all new electric generation capacity installed in 2013, second only to natural gas,” said Ken Johnson, vice president of communications for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “In fact, more solar has been brought online in the past 18 months than in the 30 prior years combined.”

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OneRoof’s Affiliate Program Brings Solar Advocacy

Now that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is practically demanding investment in renewables — if humanity wants to survive climate change, that is — solar power is immediately positioned as Earth’s brightest alternative energy. Cross-sell at will!

That could be a good rallying cry for San Diego-based solar services provider OneRoof, which is building a Professional Affiliate Network to spread the good word about its zero-down photovoltaic leasing option, as well as its 25-year protection guarantee against utility rate hikes. OneRoof previously only cross-sold solar panels through its roofing pros, but it has since reportedly trained over 130 affiliates from “financial services, home improvement and education,” according to the company’s press release, to cross-sell us much-needed sunshine power. Hopefully, OneRoof is on the lookout for even more cross-sellers.

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How the Alberta Carbon Tax Funds (Some) Renewable Projects

Alberta is stuck on tar sands — a well-known final destination for dinosaurs. So should it pivot faster to renewables like solar?

Yes please, say those concerned that Alberta, “the carbon emissions capital of Canada” is restricting its mandated flow of investment and support to renewables. Specifically, revenues from the $15 carbon levy Alberta demanded, along with emissions reductions, from large emitters coughing up over 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually. These levies, managed by the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC), have reportedly pulled in nearly $400 million since 2009, with nearly $100 million of that funneling toward renewables so far. But even the Alberta carbon tax revenue CCEMC has diverted to solar is running into controversy.

“It’s basically a money-laundering scheme where they wash the carbon dioxide out of [the cash] and give it back to the large emitters,” SkyFire Energy CEO David Kelly recently argued, pointing to Calgary’s much larger solar player Enmax, which reportedly landed nearly $15 million, as an unfairly unsubsidized hog. “It’s frustrating having a city-owned utility trying to put small tax-paying businesses out of business. It damages our business and other businesses in Alberta.”

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Georgia Power Promotes Energy-Efficient LED Lighting

Georgians looking to reduce lighting power and cost can turn to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) more cheaply this April. Georgia Power joins Home Depot to hand off CFLs and LEDs at a 25 to 50 percent discount for those looking to quickly slash energy consumption from less efficient lights by 75 percent.

“Helping our customers become more energy-efficient is a top priority for Georgia Power,” spokesperson Brian Green told SolarEnergy. “One of the ways we achieve this goal is through our portfolio of energy efficiency programs created to help customers save money, use energy efficiently and help the environment.”

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79% of Americans Want Solar to Replace Fossil Fuels

Almost 80 percent of American consumers favor solar as their renewable energy champ, but 71 percent also have much love for wind power too.

That’s the major takeaway from Navigant Research‘s annual consumer survey, which in fall 2013 averaged 1,000 respondents’ favorability towards “clean energy, clean transportation, smart grid, and building efficiency.” With interesting timing, Navigant’s poll results hit the presses this week alongside the IPCC’s terrifying tale of two futures. That apocalyptic report warned that further dirty fuel consumption and investment will doom the world to planetary dystopia, while utopian renewables like solar and wind can save us, right now, from obsolete infrastructures and unsustainable habits.

The IPCC practically demanded an international pivot to renewables, which is no problem because “solar energy is one of the most popular and least controversial green technologies in the eyes of consumers,” Navigant managing director Clint Wheelock explained in a statement.

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Watcher, Marvel Comics' Galactic Voyeur, Falls

[Photo: Marvel Comics]

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IPCC: Only Renewable Energy Can Save Us from the Worst of Climate Change

The new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that Earth is already swimming in catastrophic dystopia — and only renewable energies like solar can save us from much, much worse.

No one on the planet, the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) reminds us, will be left untouched.

Societies around the world are already being hammered by increasing heatwaves, firestorms, floods, hurricanes and other extreme weather, due to exponential melting of Earth’s ice caps and shelves. The ripple effects are accelerating dramatically outward, annihilating crops, disrupting food systems, drying up freshwater aquifers and snowpacks, swallowing homes and cities under rising sea levels and lethally intensifying violence worldwide because of worsening poverty and economic shocks.

“Therefore, climate change is already becoming a determining factor in the national security policies of states,” explained a press release (PDF) from Christina Figueres, secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

None of this is a shock to anyone who has been paying attention.

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