Here are some additional notes I took from the Solar Energy conference. I was meaning to post this one earlier, but life and time got away from me. This session dealt with the Growth of Solar. It was not one of the more interesting sessions, but some of the people on the roundtable were very interesting.
The first person to speak was Edwin Hill, President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
His major focus for the reason why he and the IBEW was attending the conference is to state that they want to be a partner in the Solar industry. There were a few rolled eyes in the audience and I don't have a full understanding of the complete back story. I understand that most Union and Business relations tend to be strained. There was also a mention that the IBEW may have been one of the major factors in killing the "Million Solar Roofs" initiative in California. So with all that background he had to make a compelling case as to why he was there and why the IBEW should be part of the solar industry.
Here were some highlighted notes from his presentation:
The union shares the commitment for renewable energy and they wants to be part of the solution. They have already formed an excellent partnership with the Sharp Solar manufacturing facility in Tennessee and are proud to be part of their success story. They are prepared to forge this type of relationship with the other manufactures.
The IBEW can also provide their expertise with all the various coding standards for the various jurisdictions. They have already made a substatial commitment to alternative energy technologies and have taken the steps to encourage the IBEW members to gain additional training and certification in solar technologies. The new International headquarters has also installed solar panels on the roof of the building. Many of their local union offices have also taken the step to install solar and wind turbines to supply energy to those buildings as well. A key asset they can also bring to the solar industry is a long history of political action. They have a significant voice in the energy issues discussed in the public policy debate. They have already started to encourage the politicians to look at net metering and also increased rebates for alternative energy installations.
He understands that the IBEW was painted as the villain with regard to the fate of SB1 in California. The prevailing wage issues are often brought up as the cause to the demise of this bill. However, our stance on the prevailing wage rate was dropped. The major sticking point is the requirement for licensed electricians only are able to get the solar work. Now is the time to resolve the differences so they can work together in the future. They want growth and feel that they can be an ally to the industry. Work with us. Talk with us. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
There were a few laughs at that last statement by Mr. Hill. Since I'm not in the industry, I don't know the entire history of that relationship. But I get the distinct impression there is History.
The next speaker was Edward Mazaria, a founding partner with Mazria Odems Dzurec. He was there representing the architecture and building community.
His presentation dealt mainly with green house gases, global warming argument, and the reason why we need to seek carbon neutral solutions to provide our energy needs. He had a very extensive slide presentation and the notes and data are too numerous to mention here. I will be receiving the powerpoint slides sometime in November and I will see if I can reproduce that data here for those that are interested.
The most interesting aspect of his presentation is one that is not commonly presented when you discuss green house gas emissions. Many people look at the transportation industry as a way to combat green house emissions. However, his focus as being an architect is that the largest portion of green house gases generated is used to produce energy for all the millions of homes and buildings in the world. If energy efficiency was a mandated part of all new and reconstruction, we can make a serious dent in the power required for these buildings. In the next 30 years, over 50% of all the buildings in the United States will be turned over either to new construction or renovation. If there was a government standard that all of these buildings be made to fit a zero emissions standard of being carbon neutral by 2030, global warming will be history. He also feels that we should start to train the future students of construction and architecture now to meet this goal.
The next presenter was Kathleen McGinty, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Hands down, I felt she was the most engaged and motivating speaker of the entire conference. She was highly energetic and actually got me excited about the plans that PA has with regards to alternative energy. I only live about an hour south of the PA border and have visited that state frequently. I may just have to visit some more. Here are the notes from this session.
The reality has changed for Pennsylvania. It is not the first place you think of when you think of clean energy. It is always thought of as the dirty steel industry and coal state. PA was also the home of the first commercial oil well. I'm here to tell you that we are thinking differently and to tell everyone in the green energy business that Pennsylvania is open for business. In the last 2.5 years in office here is what has happened. PA is now second to California in the number of LEED certified green buildings. 2 of the 6 mining offices are now LEED gold certified and are powered by solar and wind. The recycling industry has also become a $23 billion business in PA.
PA also has the largest farmland preservation program in the US. They also host the largest deployment of wind farms East of the Mississippi. They also have a very large interest in the fuel cell industry and Hydrogen generation. PA was the dirtiest and their goal is to become the cleanest.
The first question everyone here may want to know, what are we doing with solar in PA? We have a wonderful success with Abera Solar. They are reclaiming abandoned brown fields for mixed zone use to make walkable communities. Half of the homes will we zero energy emissions and make extensive use of solar. They are also making solar a cornerstone in homeland security preparedness. They are taking a intensive look at the energy component of government continuance. This aspect is often overlooked in many disaster plans.
The big new thing for PA is an extensive alternative energy portfolio standard. They have create a market set aside specific for solar guarantees. Currently they have 1 megawatt of solar installed. With the new law they need to have 680 megawatts of solar installed in PA. It is now a law and they have a mission to fulfill this requirement. PA is almost 2 months away from net metering rules at the state level. There is also a great deal of money set aside to meet their green goals. PA is committed to green technologies and is putting their money to good use with tax free bond investments, a $1 billion setaside for clean energy, numerous grants and loan guarantee all totaling an additional $80 million. There is also a $100 million set aside created by the Governor that will be used for farmers that want to make clean energy investments for solar, wind, etc.
They are also willing to think out of the box. They are willing to take risks and are willing to be a partner in a real way. They will even be a co-signer to your loan. That is how committed they are. Last week they had a waste coal cleanup company that could not get funding without a customer. The state of PA stepped up and guaranteed the company a 10 year contract and they were able to receive their funding.
They have establish many great policies. These policies are needed not to meet a goal. It is a requirement and they are willing to work with you. The DEALS are OPEN in the Commonwealth of PA. Come and see us.
The next presenter was US Senator Lamar Alexander. He was instrumental in crafting and eventually passing the largest federal tax incentive with the 2005 Energy Bill.
There was a standing ovation when he came to the podium. He was also given an award by the Solar Energy Industry.
Here are my notes from his presentation:
Today is all about carbon free energy and conservation. There has been significant changes on the Senate floor. There have also been changes in attitude. They are realizing that carbon free is the future. Right now nuclear is the only source that can significantly replace carbon based fuel sources. However, there are many alternative sources that also need to be in the mix, solar included. We are just in the beginning phases of finally getting federal support. The initial bill had a 6 year lifetime and $7,500 in residential credits. We ended up with 2 years and $2,000. He is still very happy with the provisions that were passed.
He feels that we need to do three things at the Federal level to increase alternative energy.
We need to leverage the tax break we did get this year. Don't complain, use it.
We need to embrace new transformational solar technologies.
We need to extend the tax credits to 6 years as originally proposed.
At the end of his presentation he left a bit of advice. I suggest that everyone in the solar energy should follow the following hiring practices. For every 2-3 engineers that you employ, please hire at least one designer. The biggest growth potential for the solar industry is to improve the asthetics rather than the engineering. That is how you are going to obtain market penetration. There is a very big market out there and to win you need more than an environmental benefit, you will win on attractiveness. The best looking design will be the winner.
This last point I agree with 100%.