India and US to collaborate in large solar energy research project

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This story is a composite of several press releases (see links below).

India and the United States have started an initiative – a $US50 million project – to develop solar energy through photovoltaic (PV) projects and concentrated solar power (CSP), also known as solar thermal.

This comes four months after India experienced one of the world’s biggest blackouts, which affected more than 680 million people.

The project, dubbed ‘SERIIUS’ (Solar Energy Research Initiative of India and the United States), the project would be conducted by the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science and the Washington-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“We are expecting the project to produce desirable results within five years,” Rajeev Deshpande, a senior energy official, told an energy conference here.

Unlike traditional solar panels, CSP projects concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a small area of contained liquid. The liquid heats up, emits steam, and a generator converts the steam into electricity.

This is not the first time that the US and India have collaborated on green projects.  Back in 2009 (which seems so long ago as we head into 2013!), the two countries participated in a high-level Energy Partnership.

At EarthPM, it’s our hope, as we head into the new year, that these types of collaborations increase.  Besides the obvious immediate benefit to our field (more project managers!) this is the type of good work that needs to be done to get ourselves less and less dependent on energy sources which aren’t renewable, aren’t clean, and simply no longer make sense in the long-term.

Article from The Hindu
Article from Green Technology
Article from The Deccan Chronicle

Sunny Savings – A guest blog post from Brent Hardy of Extraspace

Sunny Savings

Solar energy costs reaching average consumer price range

Whether you’re looking into selling your home or staying in it a while, now is a really good time to look into the value of solar energy in homes. For long-term homeowners, the cost of installing a system has dropped dramatically over the past couple of years, and for those looking to sell, the value of homes with solar energy systems installed is on the rise.

For states with solar installation incentives, solar energy systems, or photovoltaic (PV) energy systems, in homes are on the rise and real estate agents are scrambling to keep up.

According to a 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110421122408.htm), there is significant evidence that solar powered homes are selling for a premium over standard homes. And according to Ben Hoen, lead author of the study and Berkeley Lab researcher, not only are the sales price premiums about the same as the average investment a homeowner would have to make to install a solar energy system, the homeowner would also get to enjoy the savings on his or her utility bill before selling the home.

There are also benefits to the home buyer, such as the significant savings (from a U.S. average of $100 a month to the possibility of $2.20 a month; http://1bog.org/blog/real-estate-market-seeing-solar-in-a-new-light/) on their utility bills and in some cases, the fact that they could make money if they are in a state that offers net metering. Through net metering, home owners with solar power are able to sell back the unused power generated by their home to the utility company.

On an economic side note, along with saving homeowners some needed funds, solar energy is also creating jobs; not only for solar home installation and sales, but also in green home education. To keep up with all the benefits and improvements being made through green home building and home improvements, new companies are starting to blossom such as Ecobroker International (http://www.ecobroker.com/), an organization that educates real estate agents in green home sales.

Saving money with solar

If things are looking up with solar home sales, then how has the cost for installing a solar energy system in your home improved, if at all?
It’s actually doing a lot better than most people think, according to Dr. Joshua Pearce, Adjunct Professor of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Queens University in Ontario (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111207132916.htm).

In a recent study, Dr. Pearce found that many analysts looking to determine the average cost of solar energy installation don’t take into account the fact that just the cost of solar panels is 70 percent less than it was in 2009. Additionally, several advancements have been made over the past few years in solar panel technology leading to more cost effective products.

Savings on solar don’t just stop at the physical product, either. As of 2008, the U.S. government extended a federal tax credit allowing up to 30 percent credit on residential and commercial solar installations for the next eight years. From there, you can look to your state for even more savings. Many states currently offer great tax incentives on solar installation. For example, the state of Massachusetts offers a solar rebate program that pays homeowners a base incentive of $750/kw to install a solar energy system in their home plus an additional $100/kw if you purchase your panels in state, as well as a sales and property tax exemption for 20 years. This on top of a 15 percent state tax credit for installing the system and a net metering program that allows energy companies to buy excess power generated by your home (http://solarpowerrocks.com/massachusetts/).

You can find out what incentives your state offers by visiting the Database for State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (www.dsireusa.org) or at Find-Solar.org (http://www.Find-Solar.org).

Just a little sun

If you’re still a little cloudy on solar power, or if you’re renting a home and have a good relationship with your landlord, you could also consider solar leasing. Solar leasing allows you to forego the bulk of the upfront costs of solar power installation and just pay for your solar power on a month to month basis. You still save money and add to your green footprint without the hassle of dealing with a long term commitment. To find out if solar leasing is available near you, check out websites such as One Block off the Grid (http://solarfinancing.1bog.org/solar-lease) and Sun Run Home (http://www.sunrunhome.com/solar-lease/) for providers.

The U.S. Department of Energy provides a lot of useful information on solar power installation in your home. For details, visit http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/electricity/index.cfm/mytopic=10710 or check out the “Own Your Power!” online booklet provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/43844.pdf.

Brent Hardy is Vice President of www.extraspace.com, responsible for all corporate construction & facilities management. He writes about corporate sustainable practices at http://extraspace.com/blog/category/Sustainability.aspx.

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.

Lighting up solar projects in the USA

solar3

Our US Department of the Interior announced yesterday (16-December-2010) that it has drafted a new environmental policy to expedite large-scale solar power projects in six western states.

The policy, known as the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), designates 24 sites on public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah for renewable energy projects.

We’re not talking about small potatoes here.  This is about over 100 active solar applications covering 1 million acres that developers estimate could generate 60,000 megawatts of electricity.

Why should you care?

Well, if for no other reason: job security. Does this effort trigger projects (and therefore the need for project managers)?  Well, perhaps this will help answer that question.  The 32 page Introduction section of the PEIS document contains the word project of program over 150 times.

Presentation on the document structure:

Click here for a short video on how to use the document.

Link to full PEIS document:

Click here for the full document.

Click here for a set of Questions and Answers on the program.

As we have continued to assert – climate change cynic, or earthy enthusiastic environmentalist, as a project manager, you are best off – and importantly, best suited – to ride the green wave.  Start riding.

President Clinton, Project Manager?

UNITED STATESYou may have often heard said that the Project Manager is like the CEO of their project.

You may also have heard that a President is like the CEO of the country.

So, it doesn’t take too much linking logic to combine those assertions to come up with the ‘conclusion’ that President Bill Clinton is at least ‘like’ a Project Manager.

And in fact, Clinton recently addressed the North American PMI Congress in Washington, DC.  One nice part was that he kept his prepared remarks to a minimum.  Attendees were given a little card in their conference materials to facilitate asking him a question.   So, President Clinton had those questions somewhat before he got up on stage.  Acknowledging the quality of the questions posed by PMI Congress attendees, Clinton said (to applause) that he would not talk too long, and would instead devote more time to a question and answer session – an “Oprah-esque” interview by Greg Balestrero, CEO of PMI.  We were in attendance and listened carefully, taking some copious notes.

You don’t have to agree with Bill Clinton to know that he’s a good speaker.  And here he proved that he’s also a pretty darn good interviewee, ready with a quick wit and a great handle on a whole range of facts and knowledge.  Clinton answered a set of far-ranging questions from the audience.  Here we will focus on Clinton’s comments from his prepared talk as well as his response to the questions, which deal with climate change and project management.  And yes, that topic – and our foundation – the intersection of green and project management – was a major thread (perhaps even a rope!) of the conversation.  There were times when we couldn’t help saying to ourselves: “he really gets it!”.

During his prepared speech, Clinton identified three areas in which Project Management needs to play an increased role.

Those three areas are:

  1. Global instability
  2. Growing economic inequality between rich and poor countries
  3. The need for change in the way energy is produced and consumed in the world

We will focus, of course, on the third item.  However, you can get a perspective on all three and the entire event by reading this recent PMI.org blog entry.

On this topic, President Clinton said, “I happen to believe changing the way we produce and consume energy is the greatest single economic opportunity that the developed nations have had, at least since there was mass mobilization for World War II, and this time, we don’t have to kill anybody….I have a climate change project, and I work in at least 25 countries, 40 cities, on six continents, proving that it is good business to change the way you produce and consume energy.”

Speaking of the Kyoto agreement and the effect it had had on four major economies – those of Sweden, Denmark, Germany,and the UK, Clinton said that after they took the agreement seriously, “those countries had lower unemployment rates, less income inequality, more small business formation, and more job formation, given the size of their economy than we did, and the only conceivable explanation, if you look at all the economic variables, is because they made a very serious attempt to either change the way they consume energy or change the way they produce it or a combination of the two.”

Our favorite quote – perhaps because of the way he introduces it, is this one:

“Deutsche Bank, not Greenpeace, but Deutsche Bank recently did a study on the German subsidies of this last decade, during which Germany leap‑frogged the U.S. and Japan to become the number one producer and user of solar power in a country where the average sunlight is what it is in London, England.

So they had to heavily subsidize it.  Deutsche Bank said, even accounting for the drag of the subsidy, Germany netted 500,000 jobs, which, if we had the German program, we would net 1.2 million, since, if we had the same sunlight, since we have twice the capacity, just implementing that would give us 2 1/2 million jobs, at a time when we desperately need them.  So I think we need to make an economic case, a national security case, and a climate change case together.  People are smart enough to figure this out.”

We like the quote, because:

  • Like us, Clinton is stating that the evidence pointing to the ‘good logic’ (of initiating green projects and putting more green into projects) is not a radical ‘tree-hugger’ idea, but a sound business principle
  • He realizes that people have different ‘channels’ for being convinced of the need to work on sustainability issues.  He combines three biggies here: money, security, and survival.  Pretty basic on the Maslow pyramid, right?  Not too shabby.
  • He uses a reference country – Germany – which has implemented solar power despite its not being a model for sunniness.  Project managers and other intelligent people can do the extrapolation that in areas like the southern USA, Australian outback and the Sahara, the justification should be that much easier

So what do you think?  Were you there?  Did you react positively?

If you weren’t there, based on our reflections and recollections above, what do you think of these connections to our profession that President Clinton made?  And, in particular, what do you think of the very specific connection Mr. Clinton made to the intersection of green and project management?