Here comes the sun

We’re not fond of taking sides in politics.

But we do like to note when something works.  Especially when that something results in more projects, more PM jobs, and a better outcome for this particular 3rd- rock-from-the-sun.

Today’s Boston Globe newspaper has a short but powerful (excuse the pun) story about how Massachusetts – not exactly the Sunshine State – is tied for second place in the US with Hawaii for the lead in solar projects.  And the reason, at least partially, is subsidies from the government of the Commonwealth.  See the included chart on the left for the top states in the USA, and the chart on the right to see the (cloudy) truth about Massachusetts, in terms of weather.

From the story, here are some extracts.  We strongly encourage you to read the whole thing at the Globe’s site.

Massachusetts is no California when it comes to sun. But that isn’t stopping the solar energy industry from flourishing here.

Massachusetts, better known for long, cold winters, gloomy springs, and gale-driven nor’easters, is undergoing an unlikely solar power boom, attracting solar companies from around the country that are installing systems for homeowners, businesses, and institutions.

Only California has a better solar market than Massachusetts, which tied Hawaii in rankings by Ernst & Young, the Big Four accounting firm that tracks the alternative energy industry. Massachusetts was the only northern state to crack Ernst & Young’s top 10, beating Florida (the Sunshine State), Arizona (home of the Sun Devils), and New Mexico (sun symbol on the state flag).

Here’s an example of one success story:

SolarCity of San Mateo, ­Calif., a six-year-old installation company with 1,800 employees nationwide, entered the Massachusetts market in early 2011. The company installs solar panels at no cost to customers, then sells them power generated by the system, which SolarCity continues to own. The company is then able to take advantage of federal and state subsidies.

Ed Steins, SolarCity’s regional director, said the company already services more than 800 residential and commercial buildings in Massachusetts and has tripled its local staff to 45 from 15 since September.

Among SolarCity’s customers is Tom McDougall, 53, of Whitman. SolarCity installed a 6-kilowatt system on the roof of McDougall’s two-story Colonial. Since the system began operating in February, McDougall said, he has cut his electricity bills in half, paying SolarCity about $60 a month for electricity, compared with the $115 a month, on average, that he paid his utility.

Analysts at Ernst & Young, which does the comparative study of the states, has good insight on the story.

 

Again, from the story:

“It’s not a matter of how sunny it is,” said Michael Bernier, a senior manager at Ernst & Young. The “thing Massachusetts has been really good at is setting up an environment that helps renewable energy projects get done.”

That environment starts with New England’s traditionally high energy costs that can make photovoltaic systems more competitive here. Meanwhile, the falling solar panel prices, which have plunged more than 50 percent in the past two years, have combined with solar-friendly local policies to make solar installations even more attractive to homeowners and businesses.

So, perhaps the ‘environment’ – in this case, the business/political environment – has a more profound effect on solar projects that previously thought.  If that’s the case, as a project manager, you ought to be at least considering the support of regulations and incentives to bring more solar power to your state or territory.

Say, look what THEY’RE doing!!!

One of our favorite cartoonists is Gary Larson, who for many years drew “The Far Side“.

And one of our favorite Far Side cartoons was one in which he depicts a flock of ducks walking on the ground in a”V” formation.  One of the ducks in the back of this walking group looks up and sees a flock of ducks flying in a v-formation.    This duck exclaims, to no-one in particular, “Saaay, look what they’re doing!”.  We couldn’t find the actual image of this cartoon, but you get the idea.  We know you do.

This “flying” flock, obviously, is progressing much more quickly and efficiently towards their goal, and is using the power of the flock more effectively – and in general they’re behaving in a way which has much, much higher benefit and is taking advantage of the inherent capacity given to them by nature.

 

We got that feeling today when we read this story about how China’s government is stimulating the solar industry there.

That article is one of many.  Here’s another.  That one, from Reuters, has this to say:

“Beijing’s bid to boost the solar energy sector could draw more than $10 billion in private funding for projects and put China on track to become a leading market for solar equipment in the next three years.

China’s government said in March it will offer to pay 20 yuan ($2.90) per watt of solar systems fixed to roofs and which have a capacity of more than 50 kilowatt peak (kwp).

The subsidy, which could cover half the cost of installing the system, was popular among developers, attracting applications equivalent to the building of 1 gigawatt of solar power.

One GW, or 1 billion watts, is enough electricity to power a million homes.

China is expected to raise its 2020 solar power generation target more than fivefold to at least 10 GW. With incentives, analysts expect over 2 GW in new solar capacity will be installed as early as 2011, up from just over 100 MW in 2008.”

These incentives have stimulated research and development as well as implementation of solar projects in China.  So you can see why we’re interested: more projects = more project managers.

So the question is this: is your country walking or flying?