From the WTF File: Xcel Energy Drops Out of Colorado’s Solar Market

In a move that is less than popular, energy company Xcel Energy has pulled its support out of the Colorado solar energy market.  You might remember Xcel Energy from a story I wrote back in 2009 about how Xcel Energy was charging solar customers who were using their solar panels to make electricity but not drawing power from the power grid.  I thought that was kind of a pretty rude move.

This one is yet another unpopular decision by Xcel Energy.  I find it kind of hilarious that their catch phrase is “Responsible by Nature.”

So back in 2004, Colorado voters passed Amendment 37 – the amendment says that by 2015, Colorado’s energy market will have 10% of the total contribution be from renewable energy sources.  At the time in 2004, 95% of the energy coming to the grid was from fossil fuels (coal and gas), and only 2% was from renewable energy sources.  From an article at Inhabitat:

Ammendment 37 was passed by Colorado voters in 2004 and required that public utility companies set aside money for a renewable energy portfolio. A small percentage of that power needed to be installed on consumer roofs where demand was great. Many companies opened shop or grew as the price of solar was cut nearly in half. As prices for solar equipment fell, and Xcel Energy met Ammedments 37′s requirements, they have gradually been able to lower the rebate amount to balance the total cost, while still maintaining a predictable pricing scheme for customers. The rebate money comes from a 2% charge on rate payer bills.

Hmm.  So what exactly does the pulling out of Xcel Energy have to do with Colorado and its future?  Well, tons, actually.  Job losses are expected to be about half of the total renewable energy jobs in Colorado, which is about on par with the entire number of fossil fuel gigs in the state.  Again, from Inhabitat:

While the solar industry was relying on a stepped approach for reducing the rebates, their sudden elimination has put nearly every planned residential and commercial project on hold. Being a capital heavy industry many solar company’s cash flow will be severely restricted, limiting opportunities for distributed generation.

One such project that was finalized the day of the announcement puts solar panels on the Denver Rescue Mission by the nonprofit Atmosphere Conservancy in order to help them reduce energy costs. Executive Director Alex Blackmer said that three solar projects the Atmosphere Conservancy finalized would have to be renegotiated and may not go forward after the announcement. Hundreds of  halted projects  will result in real job losses for a workforce that today totals more than 5,300 people and growing. Early estimates reveal that half of these jobs will be gone – more than the total number of jobs in the coal industry in the state.

Energy companies across the world: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.  One of these days soon, the population of the world is going to get its collective head together and bring you to task for this kind of bullsh*t.  It’s time for one of these corporations to stand up and man up in order to change our future.  Profits are just profits – you all already have more money than you can possibly spend in your lifetimes – how about helping the rest of us by changing the future of the planet Earth?

Where exactly is the disconnect here, Big Oil and Coal companies?  Don’t you realize that if you switched to renewable energy sources to push on the market that you would make unbelievable amounts of money that won’t run out?  Even my neighbor’s five year old daughter realizes this fact.

Perhaps we need to let companies like Xcel Energy know how displeased we are with their decisions.  After all, a corporation by definition has rights and privvies like US citizens do.  If we made poor decisions publicly, people would call us on them, or we go to jail.  If you are affected by this decision or if you want to let Xcel Energy know how it’s doing, you should send the company an email at

All of Texas Could Be Powered By Solar


I just read a pretty incredible article from CleanTechnica – apparently a study was conducted by a consumer advocacy group called Public Citizen that says all of Texas could be powered by solar power collection.  All of Texas – which, if you’ve ever driven across Texas or from the northern most part of Texas to the southern most part of Texas is a long freaking way.

According to the article, Texas has a potential solar capacity of 148,000 megawatts using just one type of solar collection technology.  Holy jesus.  Considering that solar collection technology (photovoltaics) is becoming cheaper and cheaper and quicker to manufacture, we could have something here – that is if people who legislate in Texas will listen.

The study states that a 30 mile by 30 mile solar field could power the entire state of Texas.  That is a pretty large area – I wonder if we could build smaller plants all over the state?

Grid Parity for Solar in the UK… in 2013?

A company called Solarcentury has written a report that says the UK will have solar grid parity by 2013, because PVs will be cheaper than fossil fuel.  Given the rate of growth of PV collection power in the last six months, I think nothing is impossible – but they are strong words.

The report says that consumers, not commercial markets, will be at the parity mark in 2013 – commercial will hit in 2018.  An article at the Guardian also says that the consumer price for PV will be around 17p-18p per unit.  This is about 7-8p than is being paid now according to my research on London’s average price.  Londoners, what are you paying per unit for electricity?

The article from the Sustainablog is pretty great, and the report is worth reading.  Get the report here from Solarcentury (PDF link).

Also, I found a cool little video on photovoltaics via Solarcentury’s youtube channel – worth a look-see!

Ten from February 2009

I just spent the last half-hour combing through February’s posts.  I spent a good portion of the day at WordCamp Denver today, and during one of the sessions I wondered why I wasn’t doing this every month.  I try to write a lot for the readers, and I try to make sure that every post is quality.  It’s nice to go back through and remember what I had forgotten from earlier in the month.

Here’s ten posts that I enjoyed rereading from February – this isn’t ranked or anything, they’re just all  things I enjoyed discovering:

The Beacon Installation

A Lamp Robot that Eats Bugs

Masdar’s MASSIVE Photovoltaic Array

DA Therrien’s Beautiful Light

Amendment 175 – Colburn’s Proposed Omissions to the Stimulus Package

Meet the LED

ETC Enters the LED Market with the Selador Line

Sha-Do Play – One of the Coolest Things I Have Seen Lately

A Video Homage to Light

Multiverse, by Leo Villareal

PV Means Photovoltaics

I’ve written a lot of stories about PVs lately – thin films, crystalline silicon, cadmium telluride, etc – and how these technologies are becoming the basis of very, very large power projects, like the one in Masdar, Abu Dhabi.

I found a video with a few of the people involved in the PV industries talking about these technologies.  It’s short, but has some good info.  Check it out:

Blight, by Vincent Gerkens


Vincent Gerkens’ Blight is a solar-collecting and alternate energy using illumination system – during the day it collects sunlight, and when you need the light, you get it from the stored solar energy in your home.  Blight is using electroluminescent foil for illumination, which is very thin and needs little power, and thin film PVs for solar collection.

Blight is in the running with other design projects in the Core 77 Design Competition – check it out.  Lots of good stuff.



Thanks, Inhabitat and DVICE!

Masdar’s MASSIVE Photovoltaic Array

I have been reading a lot lately about Masdar, the “Super City” in Abu Dhabi being built as sustainable.  Recently in both Reuters and Inhabitat, I read about Masdar’s new construction venture – a 10 megawatt grid-connected solar array.  5 MW of the plant is going to be utilizing thin-film panels (which are being provided by Arizona’s First Solar), and the other half crystalline silicon photovoltaics.  This is the largest grid-connected solar plant in the Middle East.  The plant is actually expected to generate 17MW with its 87,777 panels of photovoltaics.

Abu Dhabi-based power company Environmena Power Systems has developed and designed the rig – I am assuming they’re installing as well – which will route any extra power to the Abu Dhabi power grid.

Have you ever heard of these thin-film PV panels?  They operate on 1-2% of the semiconductor material of traditional PV technology, with more watts per kg of material used.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO has predicted that these modules will cost under a buck per watt in the near future.

The Masdar solar array is expected to reduce 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.  It’s going to cost around $50 million when everything’s said and done.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Cadmium Telluride technology used in First Solar’s thin-film PV’s, check out the product page on the technology.

I’ve added a video on thin film photovoltaics below:

Thanks, Inhabitat and Reuters!

A Material Utilizing ALL Wavelengths of Light!

My alma mater, The Ohio State University, and their Institute for Materials Research has come up with a solar material that utilizes all wavelengths of light across the spectrum – so in layman’s terms, this material can absorb energy from the entire visible spectrum of light!  It’s been a major problem for years with solar voltaics and the amount of energy they’re able to absorb – but OSU has solved this problem with their new super plastic full-spectrum light absorber.  From Inhabitat’s article:

The new electrically-conductive plastic includes materials such as molybdenum and titanium. It operates upon the same principles as standard photovoltaic materials, wherein light energizes the atoms of the material and knocks electrons free to generate a current. Whereas in traditional photovoltaics the electrons are removed for a fraction of a second, in the new hybrid material the electrons are excited for much longer (7 million times) than before.