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Renewable Energy’s Hottest Conversations of 2013

Here at RenewableEnergyWorld.com, we pride ourselves on our active community of readers who click, share, and comment on the articles that we post every day. While we don’t always agree with their take on the pieces we post, we always value constructive feedback and the high quality discussion that sometimes ensues.

When readers take the time to start a discussion at the bottom of our articles, we try to follow along and add our own insights when appropriate because we believe that dialogue is important in order to move any industry forward.  Especially with renewable energy, we know it is as important to listen to the critics as it is to gather the support of the cheerleaders.

So take a look at what readers were talking about in 2013.  The list below represents our most-commented articles and spans the entire renewable energy industry with some seemingly innocuous topics like wood-based biomass or electric vehicles and some hot-button issues like Cape Wind and net-metering. Have a look and if you are so moved, add your own voice to the discussion. 

[Did you know that you can prompt our website to send you an email each time someone posts a comment on a particular article? Simply click “track comments” in the comment box at the bottom of an article page and watch the magic happen.  It’s that easy!]

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#10

Net Metering Debate Rages On Despite Calls For Calm

By: James Montgomery, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com 

Published: February 14, 2013  |  60 Comments

Net metering is one of the most emotionally charged issues in renewable energy, and now it's back in the spotlight. A panel discussion at PV America East in Philadelphia last week explored ways that utilities and ratepayers can agree on how to quantify net metering's benefit. Almost simultaneously, a major utility exec's public criticism of net metering is fanning the flames once again.

Net metering policies are in place in 43 states and Washington DC -- a "wildly successful" expansion, noted PVA panelist Evan Dube from SunRun. Two studies released in recent weeks, looking at California and Vermont, calculate that net metering's annuals benefits to ratepayers outweigh costs. The Vermont study in particular takes a broader view of net metering "writ large" and should be a model to use going forward, he noted.

Read the entire article here.

Image: Clean Power Research

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#9

Resolutions To Reverse the Unsustainable Solar Industry

Here are 25 resolutions for the industry to live by.

By: Paula Mints SPV Market Research/Strategies Unlimited 

Published: March 28, 2013  |  61 Comments

Viewing the solar industry (and all of its technologies) from the outside an observer would be confronted by two distinct views. View number one: THIS IS THE GREATEST TIME IN THE WORLD FOR SOLAR. GROWTH IS OFF OF THE CHARTS. THIS IS THE BEST YEAR YET. View number two: This is the worst time for manufacturers of photovoltaic technology. Enter at your own risk and consider failure the likely outcome.

Unfortunately both of these views are both true and untrue depending on the prism of the vested interest involved. Currently solar industry participants (particularly those involved in PV) are lined up behind these two viewpoints.  It is time to all line up together behind a common cause – battling entrenched and well-funded (including subsidies) conventional energy and unseating it to become the primary source of electricity globally and make money doing it.

Read the entire article here.

Lead image: Business people via Shutterstock

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#8 

(This one also made our most-read article list.)

Solar Energy Battery Backup Under Attack in California?

By: Lauren Poole, Correspondent 

Published: August 07, 2013  |  67 Comments

California is no stranger to rolling blackouts. When Charles and Elke Hewitt installed a solar electric system with batteries for emergency backup power on their home this April, they were shocked when Southern California Edison rejected their application for grid connection under their net metering program. And the Hewitt family was not alone. Soon all homeowners with solar electric systems with battery backup in California could be affected by Edison’s stance on backup power.

Edison informed the couple their application for grid connection was denied because the batteries they used to store energy for emergency backup power when the grid went down were considered “power generators” and not energy storage devices, said Charles Hewitt. Edison said Hewitt did not qualify for their net metering program because the utility could not distinguish between power produced by the solar panels and power produced by the batteries, which it considers a nonrenewable source of power, he said. Edison explained their policy had not changed. It was the equipment that had changed. Members of the solar industry refute Edison's position.

Read the entire article here.

Lead image: Battle via Shutterstock

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#7

Wood-based Biomass Blossoming in Asia

Wood-fired biomass has tended to mean feedstock from North America and generation in Europe, yet recent developments in Asia suggest the picture could soon become more complex.

Piers Evans, Production Editor, Renewable Energy World magazine 

February 04, 2013  |  68 Comments

In 2012, as Gangnam Style alerted the world to Korean pop, Seoul also made waves in the biomass sector. With a roaring economy to feed, Southeast Asia's emerging powerhouse opted to insert a sizeable slice of wood into its energy mix.

An overwhelming reliance on imported fossil fuels provides a compelling motive for embracing renewables. Although ranked 109th globally by land mass, South Korea is in the top ten for power consumption, despite lacking its own fuel reserves.

Under a compulsory quota introduced last year, South Korea’s power generators must now deliver 2 percent of their energy from renewables. With each year this renewable portfolio standard (RPS) will now ratchet up, reaching 10 percent in 2022.

Read the entire article here.

Lead image: Biomass pellets via Shutterstock

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#6

Fueled vs Electric Cars: The Great Race Begins

By:Thomas Blakeslee 

Published: August 26, 2013  |  73 Comments

The amazing success of the Tesla model S proves that electric cars may have a chance of replacing liquid fueled vehicles in the long run. Skeptics point out that most of our electric power today comes from coal, which is dirty and inefficient. We must change to clean, renewable energy sources but is that really practical? The Tesla has proven that we can use photovoltaic solar power to recharge pure electric cars. Let’s calculate how much land is needed to renewably fuel a car using several possible electrical and biofuel approaches.

I recently purchased a Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid car. It is the perfect laboratory for this experiment because it can run on pure electricity or as a gasoline hybrid. In the electric mode it can go 38 miles on a 10.8 kilowatt-hour recharge. That’s 3.5 miles per kilowatt hour. Allowing for power transmission and charging losses, let's use 3 mi/kWh. I will compare the land use efficiency of several real approaches to renewable power using both liquid fuel and electricity. We will calculate the number of miles per year that can be driven using an acre of land to produce the power. We can then compare the miles/year/acre numbers for some real-world renewable energy approaches.

Read the entire article here.

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#5

Cape Wind: Regulation, Litigation and the Struggle to Develop Offshore Wind Power in the U.S.

By: Tom Zeller Jr, Contributor 

Published: February 28, 2013  |  73 Comments

In 2001, Jim Gordon, a well-heeled developer of natural gas plants in New England, took up a long-discussed but never-pursued idea that advocates said would usher in a new era of clean energy in America: an ocean-based wind farm off the shores of Cape Cod.

The advantages of the site seemed plain: Relentless, hard-driving winds, shallow shoals several miles offshore on which to anchor large turbines, and, perhaps most importantly, a left-leaning population inclined to support what was already viewed at the time as an overdue migration away from dirtier sources of electricity.

"We have real and looming environmental problems on the horizon," Gordon told reporters that summer, as he prepared to apply for the necessary federal and state permits. "Is this going to solve these problems? No. But it is going to help."

Almost 12 years later, the now 59-year-old Gordon, who graduated from Boston University during the 1970s oil crises with a degree in communications and, he says, vague designs on film school before he set his sights on the energy business, is still pressing his case. Not a single turbine is in the water.

Read the entire article here.

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#4

How Obama Should Tackle Climate Change and Energy Independence in His Second Term

Tam Hunt, Contributor 

February 07, 2013  |  78 Comments

President Obama has already provided climate change and energy issues a prominent place in his second term rhetoric, giving climate change and the environment the most space of all issues in his inaugural address. He also vowed in December to make climate change and energy one of his top three priorities in his second term.

But we’ve been here before. It’s a little known fact – already lost in the sands of time for most people – that Obama’s first State of the Union speech stated: “It begins with energy.” Energy was in fact the most prominent issue in many of his talks and other communications for the first part of his second term. That is, until it became clear that dramatically lower energy prices, from the crash of 2008 until the middle of 2009, had weakened public support for tackling the sources of record high energy prices, and for tackling climate change issues in a struggling economy.

Energy and climate change issues slowly slid away from Obama rhetorically, even while he enacted some fairly far-reaching reforms in his first term that will do much to mitigate climate change and enhance energy independence. 

Read the entire article here.

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#3

America's Real Problem with Solar Energy

Ter Dines, Honeycomb Solar 

May 03, 2013  |  129 Comments

Each day, our industry sits down and whittles the unsightly knots off the tree we call solar energy. We, as a group, spend more time than we should pointing to one of a growing number of reasons why solar energy isn't taking hold in America: that perhaps our government incentives were cut too quickly, that our state's SREC program is broken, that the net metering requirements aren't strong enough.

Not that those things wouldn't further bolster our industry, but go out and ask your friends and family about solar energy. The problem with solar energy in America isn't a result of the deficiencies of the incentives (although improved incentives would set this industry on fire), it's with the astounding lack of knowledge about a technology that can transform the lives of everyone in our nation and around the world.

Let me be provocative for a moment. Do you know how much of a return on your investment you would receive if you installed solar on your home or business right now? Do you know enough to even estimate the amount of money you'd save over 25-30 years? Would you guess that solar energy is actually a financial investment with recent returns more solid than stocks and bonds?

Read the entire article here.

Lead image: Erase the problem via Shutterstock

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#2

Apple Delves Deeper into Renewable Energy, Offers Wind Energy Storage Concept

Meg Cichon, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com 

January 11, 2013  |  155 Comments

Technology continues to change and expand faster than most consumers can keep up with – but many try their best. And the company that is arguably the most popular and innovative – the one that techies follow like groupies to a rock star – is Apple. But with each new feature, iTunes, iCloud, Apps, and more, comes a greater need for power, which is why Apple is hard at work to find renewable solutions for its ever-growing energy needs.

In order to power many of the features it provides, Apple builds energy-sucking data centers. It has established a clean energy initiative, with plans to power several of its data centers with 100% renewable energy created by the company and locally procured. This past spring, Apple announced that it was building a 20-MW solar farm to help power its data center in Maiden, North Carolina. After construction was completed, it bought another 200 acres of nearby land to build an additional 20-MW solar farm, according to reports. The facility also contains a 5-MW biogas-powered fuel cell installation. Apple claims that it intends to power two additional data centers with renewable energy by early 2013.

Apparently Apple is not settling with its current renewable procurement methods. This week, Apple Insider reported a wind energy storage patent that the company hopes will help mitigate renewable energy intermittency issues. 

Read the entire article here.

Lead image: Andrey Bayda via Shutterstock

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And our #1 most-commented article of 2013 is….

Converting New York State Entirely to Renewable Energy: What Would It Look Like?

James Montgomery, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com 

March 13, 2013  |  380 Comments

While the State of New York hashes out deep disagreement over how to deal with sugary megadrinks that contribute to obesity, maybe they can turn their attention to something a little less complicated — like mapping a full conversion to 100 percent renewable energy in less than 20 years.

Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson previously co-authored studies in 2009 and 2011, outlining what it would take to shift completely to renewable energy at a global and national scale, respectively. In either case, such conversion would be a colossal undertaking in infrastructure, policy, finance, and partnerships.

But could it be more feasible to do it on a smaller scale — say, an individual state? Jacobson has now shrunk those analyses down to what it would take for the State of New York to shift its entire energy needs — transportation, electricity, heating and cooling — to renewable sources. Bottom line: It is all doable, with some important cost comparisons and behavioral shifts. "We think it's feasible to power the grid this way," Jacobson told RenewableEnergyWorld.com. "The assumption that you can't do it, is just an assumption."

Image: Map of New York State via Shutterstock

Read the entire article here.

In 2014, we hope you’ll make a resolution to add your voice to at least one discussion at the bottom of an article on RenewableEnergyWorld.com.  After you do, click “track comments” and see what happens.

Happy New Year!

Lead image: Talk Bubbles Via Shutterstock

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