Posts Tagged ‘solar-panel’

Let the Sun Shine!

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Chicago burning bright on solar power.A once-abandoned 40-acre industrial site in Chicago’s West Pullman neighborhood has become home to 32,000 solar panels since December, part of the nation’s largest solar plant capable of generating 10 megawatts of clean power. That’s enough to power 1,500 homes.  According to Kevin Lynch, who trains electricians to install solar panels for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), “We have been frustrated over the years that solar has not become more mainstream.  We understand it’s still a relatively expensive technology, but the cost is much less than it was a few years ago.”  The cost of photovoltaic solar panels – the biggest obstacle to the growth of solar energy – fell 40 percent last year, thanks to a supply glut, the Solar Energy Industry Association notes, creating increased interest in this clean energy source.

The solar plant’s owner, Exelon Corporation, financed the $62 million project by taking advantage of local real estate and federal tax incentives.  The firm wants to recoup even more of the upfront expense by selling solar renewable energy credits.  Across the country, there are more than 22,000 megawatts of large-scale solar plants under development – enough to power 4.4 million homes.  The federal government is providing a 30 percent manufacturing tax credit that has spurred the development of 58 new solar plants, according to Jared Blanton of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Even with this emphasis on solar power, the majority of Illinois’ clean energy still comes from the wind.  By 2025, the state’s utilities must obtain at least 25 percent of their energy from green sources.  According to Mark Burger, president of the Illinois Solar Energy Association,

75 percent of that must come from Illinois’ reliable wind; just six percent will be derived from solar power.  Supporters believe that Illinois must change the rules that determine how solar producers are paid for net metering – the way in which they are paid for exporting clean electricity to the grid.  If the legislature acts to clarify that, solar power has the potential to thrive in Illinois.

Tornado-Ravaged Greensburg, KS, Rebuilding Itself as a Green Town

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Greensburg, KS, saves itself by going green.  Three years after an EF5 tornado tore apart tiny Greensburg, KS, the town of approximately 900 is making a conscious effort to rebuild itself as a green community.

City officials, residents and business owners are leading by example, making Greensburg a national model for environmentally conscious living.

For example, a wind farm five miles south of town now provides the majority of Greensburg’s energy.  Newly rebuilt houses supplement the wind power with dedicated solar panels.  Streetlights use LED lighting, which cuts energy use, operating and maintenance costs by approximately 70 percent.  Cisterns capture rain, which is used to water the town’s plants and trees.  The construction of zero energy homes and high-performance modular homes is encouraged to further Greensburg’s quest to become a green town.

This is the nation’s first project of its kind and is a key element in developing eco-tourism, a vital element in Greensburg’s successful comeback following the tornado’s devastation.  By partnering with local builders, Greensburg is providing educational opportunities to contractors and homeowners alike who can spread the message of what they have learned in going green.

Make Green Buildings Grow

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Buildings four stories and higher use 65 percent of electricity generated in the United States, according to a recent article on the website

Several states – notably California – are requiring all new government buildings to qualify for green certification.  Additionally, California is looking at the possibility of granting preferences to private building owners that are environmentally friendly when renewing leases with government agencies.

“All the people in the L.A. region want to come to my place to work,” said Peter Cho, chief engineer of the futuristic California Department of Transportation regional headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.  The 13-story green building, which occupies an entire city block, is attracting people with its sleek horizontal architecture, abundant natural lighting and healthier indoor air.

The building incorporates one monolithic solar-panel wall, which makes it 35 percent more energy-efficient than California state building codes require.  Another environmentally friendly element is the elevators that are programmed to skip two floors at a time to encourage building occupants to use the stairs.

Not unexpectedly, getting companies to build green is not easy.  According to the United States Green Building Council’s Lance Williams, “There is resistance to anything new, especially if it requires people to invest in something new or to believe in something new.  But there are people being converted…every single day.”

For their part, commercial building owners believe it is more effective to have direct financial incentives for going green.  Government’s green-building programs help in this way, and the Building Owners and Managers Association International is lobbying Congress to extend tax incentives to retrofit buildings to conserve energy.