Thursday, November 29, 2012

Solar Coaster Rolls

I have fallen prey to couching my talk on solar with defenses for why Solyndra failed,  why coal is cheaper,etc etc.

Fact is in six years this industry has slashed prices, increased output, refined technology, chosen winners and losers, gotten closer to parity in under a decade and likely will gut the number of manufacturers in China from over 200 to less than 50.  All this while we have no national policy, a slow-growing economy and political detractors from every corner.

Solar has been a massive success!

Anyone who remembers $12w installed knows Solar has made it over the hump.  Not only that  but we need to stop defending base load capacity.  If the coal trucks stopped rolling 29billion short tons a year then coal has no storage capacity.  100yrs of infrastructure and no wonder we are reliant on 50% of our energy from digging up dirt to burn.  How big a hole are we willing to dig waiting for 21st century energy solutions?

Our transportation and Energy sector equate to $17trillion of investment.  We can continue to do more of the same or we can accept that change is inevitable, needed and exciting and start the build out of a new energy grid.

I don't know about the rest of the nation or the world but in South Carolina we need to bring the country kicking and screaming into the 21st century.  For years I have heard nothing but negativity and stalling and it has worked.  No more, any time I hear anything negative on Solar I am calling them out loud and clear.  Its time for facts and the fact is one day directly mined solar energy will power the world because today solar already powers the world.  In the last several weeks I have seen or heard about some absolutely amazing things taking place in the automotive and energy sector.  it is exciting, real and coming before I (hopefully) kick this mortal coil.  I personally discovered today that something I thought impossible is not only being done but on large commercial scale.  You can be sure I will do everything I can to introduce this 'new' technology to every sector where it fits and it is a doozy.  The solar coaster continues to roll, everytime I hear a new hurdle to jump, I know its coming and solar will clear the hurdle and make those obstacle pushers wish they had been 'on' the ride sooner rather than later.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Will SC open the door to Solar?

News - Local / Metro

Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012


Sun farms boom across South Carolina state line

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ROWLAND, N.C. — Just off a country road, a few miles from the South Carolina border, is a sight few people ever imagined around here.
Solar panels cover a 35-acre field that once produced corn, tobacco and other crops in this corner of southeastern North Carolina. When the sun shines, the panels generate enough electricity for hundreds of homes.
“I initially thought this was a pipe dream,” said farmer Billy Dean Hunt, recalling discussions with a solar company about using his cornfield for a sun farm. “But I started talking to them. They convinced me they would honor what they said. So I did it.”
Video from around the world
The scene near Rowland is found increasingly across North Carolina. Solar farms dot the landscape from the Blue Ridge mountains to the sandy coastal plain – the result of an emerging renewable energy industry.
In many cases, solar farms are replacing cropland that doesn’t generate enough income from traditional farming. Other times, solar farms are being placed on vacant industrial sites or land that hasn’t grown crops in years.
Unlike South Carolina, North Carolina has encouraged the development of solar power through generous tax incentives and a state law requiring electric utilities to use some renewable energy. These policies are a key reason North Carolina often rates high in national rankings of solar-friendly states – and why solar farms are growing steadily.
“This shows we are progressive,” said Laurinburg Mayor Thomas Parker, whose community has a solar farm similar to the ones in nearby Rowland. “Anytime we can add a dollar to the tax base, we are interested. I believe in it. I think this will be more prevalent in the future.”
Since 2007, when North Carolina began requiring power companies to use renewable energy, about 100 solar farms have registered to open, according to the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, a group that tracks the sun business.
Some of those may not have cranked up yet, but the association says the number of companies registering with the state gives an indication of the interest. Before the law passed five years ago, North Carolina didn’t have any solar farms, the association reports.
The increase in solar farms reflects a larger trend in North Carolina, where investor-owned utilities must provide up to 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources.
North Carolina’s renewable and energy efficiency industry employs more than 15,000 people and has generated some $3.7 billion in gross revenue this year, the association says. Companies providing solar services have increased 76 percent since the renewable energy requirement passed the N.C. Legislature five years ago, according to surveys by the Sustainable Energy Association.
The idea behind North Carolina’s solar effort is to diversify energy sources and stimulate the economy with a relatively new type of industry.
Solar will never replace traditional power sources because the sun doesn’t shine all the time. But if North Carolina’s effort continues, solar boosters say the state could reduce dependence on coal and nuclear power and stabilize electric bills for customers. Coal and nuclear power plants, both of which create toxic waste, buy fuel from out of state to make energy, and fuel supplies such as coal are subject to price variability.
Solar farms are large-scale projects intended to provide power for the electrical grid, which has historically relied almost entirely on coal, nuclear, hydro and natural gas. Solar farms provide far more energy than solar panels on homes, which also feed power to the grid.
In contrast to North Carolina, South Carolina has no solar farms, even though the states have many similarities, according to the S.C. Clean Energy Business Alliance, a group that favors renewable power.
Nationally, the Palmetto State is one of the least-friendly places in the country for solar power, studies have shown. Unlike North Carolina, the state has no requirements that energy companies use solar, wind or biomass. And last spring, S.C. legislators failed to pass a solar tax credits bill that mirrored North Carolina’s and was expected to make development of sun farms easier.
Solar farms periodically spark questions about whether they are appropriate in some communities. Some people say they are unsightly and take up too much space, while others question whether it’s a good idea to replace productive farmland with solar farms.
Conservative lawmakers also question the wisdom of adopting government policies to encourage an industry they say would have trouble surviving on its own. Efforts are under way in North Carolina and, possibly at the federal level, to scale back incentives and requirements for renewable energy.
Sunny days in N.C.
To Helen and Tom Livingston, solar farms are a great idea.
She and her younger brother decided this spring not to replant a 47-acre cotton field their family has owned for generations. For much of the next three decades, their family will be paid to rent the land to Strata Solar, one of North Carolina’s leading sun power developers.
Details of the arrangement were not available, but Strata typically pays about $500 to $600 per acre annually. That would be more than $20,000 each year for the 47-acre plot in Robeson County.
“It is almost too good to pass up,” said Helen Livingston, 71. “For us, it wasn’t just the money. It was the excitement of having a solar farm. But I think people would see that it does pay more than farming.”
Livingston said producing energy from the sun helps reduce dependence on fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, which hurt the environment when they are extracted from the earth.
“All of our family is environmentally conscious,” she said. “We were the right contact for a solar farm because we knew the importance of this.”
Hunt, the farmer from Rowland, said his reasons for leasing to a renewable energy company were almost purely financial.
“It is guaranteed money,” said Hunt, 63, a Marine Corps veteran. “Farming is a risky business. If you can take some of the risk out and the liability, you are ahead of the ball game. If I die, my wife will have income because she couldn’t farm the land anymore.”
Like Livingston, Hunt hasn’t abandoned farming other land he owns. His solar farm is surrounded by cornfields that are a short jaunt from the South-of-the-Border tourist stop and the S.C. state line.
Sun farms typically develop in the way Strata Solar Inc. built those for Hunt and the Livingstons. A renewable energy company will strike a deal to rent or buy property, build the sun farm, then resell the power to an electric utility. The solar company makes money, and the utility meets state requirements that it use renewable energy.
Most solar farms contain dozens of rows of large glassy panels, facing south to absorb the best sunlight. Wires send energy to nearby electrical substations. Duke Energy, which also operates in South Carolina, buys some of the power. Many farms can produce up to five megawatts, but one is large enough to produce 20 megawatts.
For much of this year, Robeson County was a busy place for solar farms, where Strata Solar developed six of them. Statewide, the company has built about 15 farms and plans more than 20 next year, company spokesman Blair Schooff said. The company’s 12 total solar projects this year employed about 360 construction workers, company officials said.
O2 Energies Inc., another solar development company, opened a $15 million sun farm near Fairmont earlier this month. The company has developed and owns seven farms statewide and plans to develop at least five more next year, said the company’s chief executive, Joel Olsen.
Jerry Bass, Strata Solar’s construction manager for sun farms, said his company trains mostly local workers, then moves them from one job site to the next in areas where the company is building clusters of farms.
Willie Locklear, a Maxton area native who helped build the Livingston family’s solar farm, said sun projects have created badly needed construction jobs. Many of the people who landed solar jobs in Robeson County are Native Americans, like himself, who were skilled at general construction work, he said.
But Locklear said those jobs have dwindled and solar farm construction “gave us a chance to show we could do something besides hang a piece of sheetrock.”
Robeson County, just across the border from Dillon County, S.C., has an unemployment rate that hovers near 13 percent, one of the highest in North Carolina.
“When I think of solar, I think of Texas, Arizona – places out West,” said the 42-year-old Locklear, now a supervisor with Strata. “But the opportunity has proven itself here. All it takes is an open land mass and somebody willing to take a chance. Sunlight is going nowhere. I think it’s 100 percent more of the future than a lot of people imagined.”
South Carolina debate
Despite the popularity of solar farms in many parts of North Carolina, the business has detractors, including some lawmakers.
N.C. Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherfordton, said it’s a mistake to dangle tax incentives, which drain state revenues, for an industry that he contends would not be competitive otherwise. He and others question whether North Carolina is gaining any real economic benefit since solar farms don’t produce many jobs after the initial construction phase.
“I think this has set the wrong precedent,” said Hager, a former Duke Energy employee. “You take taxpayer dollars and prop up an industry that can’t survive on its own. Why do we do this? Why is it any better than any of the other ones?”
The development of solar farms has not caused major increases in power bills, but Hager said even extra pennies on a bill matter to people who are unemployed. He predicted the state’s generous tax incentives and energy requirement would be examined by the N.C. Legislature next year. Questions also have arisen about whether federal tax incentives for solar companies will be reduced if Republican Mitt Romney defeats Democratic President Barack Obama.
S.C. Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, noted that taxpayers lost when the government-supported Solyndra solar panel company went under in California, so he questions why South Carolina should follow North Carolina’s lead. He said it’s wrong to mandate that power companies use renewable energy when natural gas is increasingly available and affordable.
Utilities argue that it is more expensive to produce sun power than traditional energy forms. They also say the best solar can ever do is supplement more reliable energy sources. It will never replace coal or nuclear because the sun doesn’t always shine.
Still, solar supporters say fossil fuels are finite and subject to price fluctuations.
They also say it’s obvious the industry is flourishing in North Carolina – and that could also occur in South Carolina under the right circumstances. National Renewable Energy Laboratory data show that South Carolina is among the top 20 states in solar intensity, higher even than North Carolina.
S.C. state Sen. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg, said South Carolina would benefit if it required power companies to use renewable energy, a plan so far opposed by Palmetto State utilities. Large-scale renewable energy projects, including solar and biomass, can provide jobs, he said.
“You’ve got to have a requirement to get them to move in that direction,” Matthews said. “North Carolina seems to be much more progressive, more forward thinking than we are.”

Read more here:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sun shines brightly in GA

GA Power, a typically conservative utility has taken the lead in the SE by asking the Public service commission in GA to allow them to buy 210MW of solar power over the next three years.  GA power has said this will not increase rates.  I think what GA has found is that solar has become cost competitive to the point that investing in a small power plant's worth of solar will teach them about how much they can actually deploy.  Germany is at 8% power production from solar and climbing.  On May 22nd of this year, that 8% of production met 40% of demand on a sunny spring Saturday.

Makes you wonder why the South Carolina is still waiting to do any real testing and development of Solar.  Solar is fast becoming main stream clean, safe energy nationally and across the world.  Most of the popular cliches from detractors have been proven false.  One of the largest investors in Solar deployment is the oil and gas industry.  They typically don't make investments lightly.

Solar, here today, will be here tomorrow.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Respecting Islam

For the US it's tough being number 1.  This past week has shown that the big kid on the block is always going to be the target of attacks.  6 months after the US supported Libya's release from an oppressive dictator some 'fanatics' decide we are somehow responsible for an absolutely laughable 'home made' video on You tube.  If you haven't seen the questionable video don't bother, my 11yr old could make a better video and if something like it can incense people to murder then things are worse than I thought.  I read today that the Egyptian media is reporting this video is in theaters and has mass appeal?!  Something is wrong here, obviously Al-Queda is trying to get new recruits.  What most people in the Middle-east don't seem to understand is we don't care about your religion, freedom of religion is present in the USA. If you'd stop reminding us about Islam with mob attacks and death threats we'd leave you alone except for buying your oil.  As bad as you think America is, we do pay for what we want, when we could easily just take it.  I am fully aware that 95% of the Muslim world wants the same thing we do, respect and the opportunity to prosper, the problem is the 5% represent you to the rest of the world.  I had neighbors who were Muslim who were nice, decent, honorable people just like everyone else.  I am not saying that all white people are responsible for Timothy Mcveigh nor are all Muslims responsible for the embassy attacks but it sure would be nice for the Muslim world powers to take a hard stance against mindless mob actions.  Instead I saw a demand for an apology for the movie!!
Really are there no Muslims out there who are as irate as I am that killing diplomats is the response to something so unrelated it should be compared to us deciding to cut all aid to Africa because a Brazilian swimsuit model broke up with her American boyfriend.  It's hard to respect a religion when all you read about is death threats to journalists, scholars and diplomats, they are typically the ones trying to help the situation not hurt it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Georgia Tech Prof brings Research to the commercial world

SolBright uses Suniva modules on a lot of our installs.  They are a US based company with manufacturing facilities in GA and they have a competitive price point.  The founder of Suniva is an India and US educated expert in photovoltaic research and development.

"Ajeet Rohatgi, Ph.D.

Founder, Chief Technical Officer
Dr. Ajeet Rohatgi is a Regents' Professor and a Georgia Power Distinguished Professor in the School of Electrical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), where he joined the ECE faculty in 1985. He is highly regarded as one of the world's leading research scientists in photovoltaic (PV) technology, and is the founding director of the University Center of Excellence for Photovoltaic Research and Education (UCEP) at Georgia Tech. Dr. Rohatgi is also the Founder and CTO of Suniva®, Inc. and has positioned the company as a U.S. leader in the research, development and manufacturing of high-efficiency, low-cost monocrystalline PV cells, using unique processes and techniques that evolved from his work at UCEP. Dr. Rohatgi continues his research interests in the development of cost and efficiency roadmaps for attaining grid parity with silicon PV, and innovations in cell design and technology.
Under Dr. Rohatgi's leadership, Suniva has accomplished several industry firsts and achievements in manufacturing, technology, research, and development, including the fastest ramp-up to 100MW production in the industry; the raising of $130 million in capital following the formation of Suniva in 2007; the successful production of cell efficiencies exceeding 19% and R&D cell efficiencies exceeding 20%.
Dr. Rohatgi is an IEEE Fellow. He has published more than 370 technical papers in the PV field and has been awarded 16 patents. Dr. Rohatgi has been widely recognized for his research and development contributions." Suniva web site

Suniva sales staff are technically capable and have provided excellent service after the sale on a number of occasions so I recommend them.  In my blogs in the past I have always had a US centric slant.  I am a firm believer in multi-national trade and cooperation but never at the expense of a strong domestic economy.  If it can't work here then to me it can't work.  Suniva is a great example of this and there are many others.  Dr. Rohatgi has contracts across the world but started his company through his previous employer, Ga Tech.  We need entrepreneurs around the world to unleash the potential of solar.  The founder of SolBright is a hard charging very successful businessman and I fully expect SolBright to continue growing and employing people locally and across the solar spectrum.  With a can do attitude and excellent attention to detail in service we can make a difference.  The Solar coaster continues on.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

SC Senate blocks the sun!

For a third year SC failed to create an economic development package to help unemployed workers move into the solar arena and support a growing new industry.  In the same month that Germany hits 20GW of solar power installed, (20 nuclear plants worth of solar power) Senate members stalled a very good Solar bill until today it died.  These gentlemen are on the wrong side of history.  The world is deploying solar, the US is supporting solar and the Southeast is putting people back to work through solar.  I think that’s what bothers me the most, if you look at other southern states, they are all ahead of SC in this regard.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pale Blue Dot

Pale Blue Dot

Andrew Streit 
George Carlin said it is likely the earth considers us at best a flea infestation, and she will be just fine with or without us.  I have to agree with him on our relative insignificance but we are an industrious species, and the earth’s ability to be a diverse biosphere with or without humans is fully in our hands.  I am concerned for the human race in a timing and a strategic manner.  We are not guaranteed success, and we are currently dependent on a very new and limited energy source even in relation to our short history as a species on this planet.
At some point, we have to recognize that the earth is a closed system.  Nothing comes in or out of our atmosphere but sunlight.  All of our resources are here, and they have a limit.  Our resources, therefore, are finite except for sunlight.  If we all do not recognize the absolutely undeniable fact that the earth has limited resources, and one of those resources is fossil fuel we will quickly deplete them and in doing so we will have invested in a dead-end.
NASA Voyager1 picture of Earth
from 3.7billion miles away 1990
If you look at the earth in relation to our solar system and the galaxy as a whole it is easier to understand how important stewardship of the earth is to our survival.   It was at Carl Sagan’s request that NASA commanded Voyager1 to take a picture of earth before leaving the solar system.  Known as the “Pale Blue Dot,” this now famous picture shows how small our world is, and it reminds me how important it is to get this balance between human endeavor and the earth’s ability to provide for us right.  The problem, as I see it, is, with the advent of modern media, we are bombarded with “news” of new discoveries of fossil fuel, “the economic challenges” of other forms of energy, intermittent supply of sunshine, protecting established economic models of growth, and politicizing all forms of energy.  It can feel that all of these events are out of our control, too big for us to intervene or impact in any way, and, even if we did, the scope of the earth is so vast we can’t possibly have any impact.
I believe it’s wrong to describe the challenge ahead only in terms of CO2 emissions.  While I can’t deny that discharging millions upon millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year will have detrimental effects by trapping more and more solar energy; the more pressing concern is how will we power our air conditioners or put fuel in our cars when we’ve run out of dirty energy to burn.  This is horribly self-serving, but I believe that the needed change in our energy economy is so great that incremental change within the confines of the current political divisions in America today is the only practical way forward.  If we put the argument in concrete terms of, ‘what will we do when fossil fuel is gone’ then everyone will understand that fossil fuel is a dead-end investment; a reliance on a finite energy source that more and more people will be accessing will only deplete it all the more quickly.  Moving to sustainable energy sources is the only worthwhile end result.
Around the world, changes are taking place but in small and incremental ways.  Germany hit 22GW of solar capacity in May of 2012, reaching 40% of German electricity requirements.  Saudi Arabia has announced a $1.9 billion solar initiative.  Around the world, industries, people and societies are recognizing that good ideas like solar are key to moving us to a sustainable future.  Closer to home, New Jersey, Tennessee and North Carolina have installed, in one month, more solar than South Carolina has installed period.  We have the resources here in South Carolina.  We have the same technological capabilities.  Why has South Carolina done so little work in the renewable arena even though everyone recognizes it will be more and more important going forward?
It could be South Carolina’s failure to develop a Renewable Energy Portfolio (RPS).  A RPS is a legislative consent for electric utilities to invest in renewable energy.  SC has a state controlled energy industry.  Either the Public Utilities Regulatory Council or the Public Service Commission decide what utilities can and cannot do and what they charge for electricity.  Many times I have heard from utility representatives that they can’t invest in solar because of mandates from the PSC.  It could also be because SC is primarily a rural state but so is Tennessee.  Even though South Carolina is investing massive amounts of money in Nuclear power, the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.  There are several regulations that bar investment in renewable energy, and there is currently very little state support for renewable investment.  I believe that a large part of the reason is we are not asking for investment in a secure energy future.  I am asking you to demand solar energy research and development in South Carolina.  We have such a long way to go and only so much time.  Our generation can be the turning-point in moving from a finite, dirty energy power to renewable and sustainable energy; we won’t see the end result, but we can see the tide change.  You will be securing future generations of fleas a shot at living on this pale blue dot.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Can we build a New world in 150yrs?

I am basically re-posting this article from Grist but I narrowed it down to critical components.   

Me: So what the article below brings up is the real question, at some point in the very near future we will have to admit that the pastoral, 19th century version of America will change.  It already has but allof us have memories of how it was when we were young and they are often fond memories.  I believe with smart planning all the good things can be preserved; green spaces, hunting, fishing, wildlife, camping, community and independence.  It will take tremendous effort and coordination and investment, the alternative is to stick our head's in the sand and hope its all fixed by someone else.  I grew up loving horsepower and dirt roads, I am not taking this lightly, if anything I'm involved because not enough other pragmatists are.  See the well articulated points from Grist:


"...As Nelder says, our entire $6 trillion infrastructure was built around the assumption of cheap oil. It is utterly unsuited to a world of peak oil and climate pressure. Forgive me as I quote him at length:

In this context, the current debate over energy subsidies seems entirely misbegotten. What’s the point in arguing over some $4 billion per year in oil industry subsidies (which I have long opposed) when we’re already on the hook for $1.6 trillion per year to remain with our current transportation regime? …
This context also demonstrates why the US High Speed Rail Association’s newly-updated $600 billion price tag for a system that would cover all our major metropolitan cities is decidedly cheap. The $40 billion or so we’ve spent on Amtrak is peanuts. Who wouldn’t think it makes sense to spend a bit more than one-third of our existing annual transportation commitment to permanently retire a substantial portion of our unsustainable air and road traffic?
Instead of incremental spending on an effectively dead transportation regime, we should be thinking about one that can survive the challenges ahead, and deliver more economic benefits than costs. ( Me: I disagree somewhat here, America is neither willing nor ready to move away from personal transportation, but electric cars can and will replace 'once and done' gas burning cars.)  We should be setting an ambitious target, like replacing all commercial passenger air flights with high speed rail for trips under 1,000 miles, replacing 90 percent of our city street traffic with light rail, and moving all long-haul freight traffic to rail. Even if the cost of all that rail infrastructure were in the range of $3 trillion, it would be a fantastic investment.

… Would you rather spend another $32 trillion over the next 20 years just to maintain our outmoded, unscalable, aged, unhealthy system, plus another $2.8 trillion in lost productivity due to delays and gridlock, only to wind up out of gas? Or would you rather spend $25 trillion to repair our existing infrastructure, transition transportation to rail, transition the power grid to renewables, upgrade the entire grid, and solve the carbon problem, to have free fuel forever? 
I can’t say it better than that. I’ll just add that while Nelder focuses on transportation, the same basic political-economy framework applies to electricity. We built our houses and industries on the assumption of cheap electricity; those practices, codes, and regulations are still embedded in our construction and manufacturing sectors. We built our power transmission lines on the assumption of large, remote power plants. Coal has plenty of lobbying muscle in its own right, but it’s nothing compared to the heavy lifting that utillites, heavy industry, and construction & manufacturing industries do for it.
The simple fact is that modern industrial society was built by, around, and for fossil fuels. The assumption of cheap, concentrated sources of energy is embedded into all of our institutions and practices. Maintaining our status quo industrial infrastructure — a cost that absolutely dwarfs direct subsidies to fossil fuels — is an investment in fossil-fuel dominance. And we pay it every year, even as we pay the rising costs it imposes on us.
Viewed in this light, fossil fuels and renewables are not really “competing” on some common “playing field.” Fossil fuels built the field; it is designed for their game. Renewables don’t just have to produce energy at competitive prices, they must bring along with them new applications, new infrastructure, new institutions and practices. To switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy is not like going from Coke to Pepsi; it is to build a new world.
Comparisons of direct subsidies capture only the tip of a giant iceburg — most of fossil fuels’ big advantages are invisible, beneath the surface, and entirely taken for granted." Grist

Me: The thing is the change they and I are advocating is so huge, incremental and foundation shaking that today's power brokers are resisting it when they should be embracing it.  We have the opportunity to enrich human experience, and create unprecedented economic activity.  With a 95% fossil fuel economy today even if we launched a 'Manhattan project' on transportation and energy infrastructure today the changes would take decades,this would coincide nicely with $12gal gasoline and wars over energy resources.  So let's start building a new world today and hope we get it done in time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Keeping SC money in SC

South Carolina has the chance to pass an incentive for businesses who outlay capital expenses now, today, to reduce operating expenses and use South Carolina produced energy over energy where the fuel source comes from out of state.

If this bill passes $30m in federal tax debt will stay with business owners in SC to be re-invested.

$24.5m dollars of Federal equipment depreciation dollars will stay in SC.

$3,648,000 will be saved in energy costs over 5yrs if this bill is passed.

Between 300-500 jobs will be created by this incentive.  Not one penny will go to anyone until they spend  their own money upfront.

The credit is a one time incentive, it is not a revolving door.

The credit can only go to someone who owns a business in SC and has a building here in SC or who leases a building in SC.

The credit will sunset after five years.

If you are a fiscal conservative or a pro-government progressive this is sound business policy.

This incentive will promote public private partnerships around the state and attract more high profile businesses to SC both big and small.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Inverter Company Opens Shop in Greenville SC

RefuSOL Operation Targets Alternative Energy, Launches New Greenville County Operations

GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC,  - PRETTL Electronics Greenville Inc., a new enterprise, will launch operations this summer to produce inverters for the fast-growing solar panel industry. The new operation will be housed at PRETTL Electric Corporation's existing Greenville County facility, company officials and representatives of the South Carolina Department of Commerce and Greenville Area Development Corporation announced today.

The new business initiative and addition of a custom production line will account for the addition of 80 new jobs and investment of upwards of $1.5 million in specialty equipment and space upfitting over the next three years at PRETTL's facility at 1721 White Horse Road in Greenville. Hiring for at least a dozen positions to launch the effort will begin immediately, officials announced.

Founded in Germany in 1953, PRETTL has grown to encompass over 5,000 employees at 33 locations in 19 countries around the world, through four primary business units: Automotive, Consumer, Home Appliances and Electronics. PRETTL operations were originally established in Greenville in 1988, where upwards of 100 associates are employed.

PRETTL's Electronics Division is a leading end-to-end supplier for electronics providers, offering services ranging from research and development to manufacturing and service after the sale. PRETTL products are found in such diverse industries as medical engineering, telecommunications, automotive and lighting, with the company's diverse product portfolio including electronic components for wireless systems, wireless communication modules, and inverters for photovoltaic and drive system applications.

PRETTL Electronics Greenville Inc. represents the electronics division's first presence in the U.S. marketplace and will result in the assembly of inverters for solar energy producers, with distribution handled by PRETTL's sister company REFUsol. Inverters are electrical devices that convert direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) at any required voltage and frequency with the use of appropriate transformers, switching, and control circuits. Inverters are commonly used to supply AC power from DC sources such as solar panels or wind turbines.

"Our goal with this initiative is to provide outstanding customer service, product quality, high value, and rapid delivery to meet the needs of customers in the growing alternative energy space," said Rainer Koschate, chief operations manager of PRETTL Electronics Greenville, Inc. "We are pleased to establish operations here in Greenville County, are very appreciative for the support of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, readySC, South Carolina Department of Commerce, and everyone who assisted in making this announcement a reality."

The jobs being added include assemblers, quality support positions, planners, warehousing and related positions, Koschate noted. To fill the positions, PRETTL is working with readySC in the recruiting and training of associates. All positions being recruited for will pay "competitive market wages with full benefits based on experience," he added. Applications for PRETTL Electronics are being accepted at the One Stop/Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) Office at McAlister Square in Greenville. The jobs are also posted on the Virtual One Stop system where individuals can apply online from anywhere in the state (

"PRETTL has been part of our state's business community for years and we look forward to the company expanding its presence in South Carolina with this new initiative. The announcement of the new jobs and investment serves as another indication that our state is doing the right things to attract business from around the globe," said Gov. Nikki Haley.

"South Carolina has a strong trade relationship with Germany, with a number of Germany-based companies investing in our state. PRETTL's decision to further invest in our state will certainly help strengthen that relationship as well as create new jobs for South Carolinians. We appreciate PRETTL's decision to continue doing business in the Palmetto State," said Bobby Hitt, Secretary of Commerce.

"PRETTL is a wonderful example of a company that combines world-class technology, lean processes and local talent to succeed here in the Upstate," said Chris Riley, Chairman of the Greenville Area Development Corporation. "The company is an important member of our international business community and adds to the economic vitality to be found here in Greenville County."

About Greenville Area Development Corporation
The Greenville Area Development Corporation is a non-profit organization established by Greenville County Council to promote and enhance the economic growth and development of Greenville County. Since its founding in 2001, GADC efforts have resulted in the creation of more than 12,000 new jobs and more than $2.3 billion in capital investment in Greenville County. To learn more, visit or call (864) 235-2008.

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Harry Reid Should GO.

20% of our national electricity usage is now generated by Nuclear power.  104 power plants across the nation provide 790 billion kWh every year.  We each use about 12,000kWh at our homes each year.  For over a decade Nevada has enjoyed the benefits of Federal and private largesse in the form of a federally managed $30billion dollar fund that utilities have been paying up to $500 million dollars a year for a long term nuclear waste,storage facility.  

Yucca mountain was chosen from three potential sites after a ten year study by the DOE and NRC.  
If you have been to Nevada you know that it is one of the least populated places in America, Nye county, where Yucca is located, is a former Nuclear test site and it is surrounded by Nellis AFB, Yucca gets 5-7in of rain per year, the US average is 37.  Nevada enjoyed $12 Billion dollars of construction and site study before the site was closed by Harry Reid, when he became majority leader in the House.  President Obama allowed Yucca to be closed for short term gain.  Secretary Chu said,

"So the real thing is, let's get some really wise heads together and figure out how you want to deal with the interim and long-term storage. Yucca was supposed to be everything to everybody, and I think, knowing what we know today, there's going to have to be several regional areas."

Billions spent, construction 2/3rd's underway and NOW its closed.  Yucca was an interim storage facility, since nuclear waste is deadly for 1000's of years having one central, safe, repository was the interim solution.  In 100 or 200 years maybe we will know how to make the spent fuel inert.

Currently in South Carolina the Savannah River site sits within 2hrs of over 1 million people.  SRS is also on the Savannah river supplying drinking water to large parts of Georgia and South Carolina.  It's time that Harry Reid should go and Yucca mountain should be re-opened.  Even if you hate Nuclear energy,you can see the logic behind safe storage of the nations spent fuel at a remote location instead of peppered around the country in less secure facilities while the stockpiles continue to grow and new power plant applications are being approved by the NRC.  I fully support the President, I think he has done a decent job under dire circumstances and Mitt Romney will do very little to benefit the American public but on this issue I think he dropped the ball.  Finish the job started a decade ago and lets get nuclear storage moving to Yucca.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Eliminate the EPA

South Carolina has weakened the constituency of its Department of Health and Environmental Control or DHEC.  Many people are calling for reeling back the regulatory power of the EPA, or federal Environmental Protection agency.  Wall Street is weakening the regulations put in place after the catastrophe that was 2008. The thought is, there is too much regulation and it is stifling business.  I can't say whether this is true or not but I would like specific examples of regulations that are hurting American business instead of sound bites and rhetoric.  

However until I see these crippling regulations I have an alternative proposal, lets eliminate EPA, SEC and DHEC completely!  I have one caveat to this proposal.  Any business practice that leads to emissions harmful to humans or chemical spills that might endanger anyone, should be dealt with by immediately executing the CEO, CFO and COO of the company at fault.  The same idea should be applied to financial deals.  While this may sound draconian think about it.  No pesky regulations, no hindrance to business, everyone can go about the business of making money efficiently and directly.  CEO's and other top management are not all criminals in fact it is the less than 1% we have to worry about so we won't miss them, we only ever see them on TV when it is too late.

If we do have the occasional mishap where our hunting, fishing, drinking or living areas are damaged  irreparably we can quickly have the executive management team commit public Harikari and make way for more efficient management to run the company. Stock prices will be protected, the public can have peace of mind and profits will soar.  So you ask me,"What if small amounts of pollution are released over time and it not obvious that our overall health and beautiful surroundings are impacted?"

Easy, any new CEO must agree to live within 500ft of their largest facility and executive management must agree to have any emissions from their facilities pumped into their homes before emitting to the atmosphere.  Any dumping of waste must go to the CEO's drinking well or % added to their food directly.
The same thing can go for Wall St.  Any contract of employment will have compensation tied directly to performance.  If the company makes money and continues to do well after the CEO's reign they will be supremely re-numerated.  If performance does not improve then all top management and their families down to second cousins once removed will have all of their possessions confiscated,  Cayman Island accounts and US citizenship (or tax sheltered foreign citizenship's) too.

What a simple and purely 'market driven' idea.  I am sure this is something we can all get behind. Because as we all know when huge amounts of money and questions of morality and legacy are at stake our benevolent CEO's always make the right decisions, take full responsibility and quickly resolve any issues without lengthy and frivolous litigation or political manipulation.  So how about it?  Complete removal of hindrance to business in exchange for a paltry executive performance clause in contracts going forward!
Jonathan Swift had a similar proposal almost 300yrs ago when English nobility allowed the Irish to starve.  He was no more serious than I am now.  The problem today is we have sound bites and 30 second segments to address complicated issues and it doesn't work.  I believe people genuinely want more jobs and a simpler America that is safe and secure.  This is something all of us want.  As our society has grown and the world become a more inter-dependent mechanism you can't make sweeping statements that sound promising on the surface but completely ignore the relationships that hold the American Economic engine and our well-being together.  No one wants inefficient regulators hampering progress and ingenuity but we also don't want our rivers posioned, our land stripped of resources, no long term planning and the majority of people left behind for quarterly profits.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Solar, 2012, SC, A good choice

Could it be that 2012 will be the year South Carolina begins to actively promote solar energy mining?  I have spent a fair amount of time trying to explain the benefits of solar to legislators and people around the state.  There was so much more I could have done, so many missteps, lost opportunities to forcefully argue what is clear to me, solar is a safe bet.  As much time as I've spent at the state house, ( I believe I could give tours now) I still have no idea if we'll get it done.  Despite many meetings and requests to be on the calendar we're not there yet?  I have literally talked to 100's if not thousands of people in South Carolina ALL of whom like the idea of solar but were reticent to invest because of the cost.  Cost is what prompted me to work on making it more affordable and widely available.  I can't manufacture solar panels (yet) so I worked on the straightest line I could see, State policy.  For three years I have gone to the state house any time I could to make the case and its a good one.  Economic development, local jobs, domestic energy, stronger grid, sustainable.  Now it comes down to thirteen legislative days.  If we pass out of committee we still have the full senate vote needed, back to the house for amendment consolidation and then the Governor's signature.  We have 13 legislative days left.  This is such a tall order.  I hope one day to look back on this post and ask myself why I ever doubted the right decision will be made.  Wish us luck.  So you know,George Carlin had a hilarious comedy routine about how we pamper kids.  He was right to some degree but he was wrong in that without leaving a solid legacy of caring for each other and our home and hunting grounds we are denying ourselves the enjoyment of "I tried hard, I left nothing on the table and I can leave in peace."

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Does Solar have a bright future

Many things in our society have a short shelf life. Think the first 'brick' satellite phone, Betamax and VHS videotape, Boombox's... you get the idea.
 I am convinced though that solar will not be one of these items in as much as the underlying technology of direct harvesting of the sun's energy will prevail.
Is today's solar as ungainly as an Atari or leather cased phone, possibly but power directly from the sun is here to stay. Change can be painful and frightening, my early memories are of the English countryside where paths were 1000yrs old, castles were over the next hill and pubs worth their salt were older than anyone living. I have a deep appreciation for history, tradition and architecture.
Despite this or maybe because of it I would like to see solar power incorporated into every new building and retrofitted to as many existing buildings as possible. Not because I make my living with solar, but because solar will contribute to my living in the future.

To be interested in solar you have to have studied our energy history and our energy production today. You also have to clearly look at the next 50yrs of uncertainty and change with resolve. America is covered when it comes to electricity production, we use 50% coal powered plants today, we have over 100yrs of coal reserves and a lot of natural gas, we have 104 Nuclear power plants with more to come. Our society will not collapse tomorrow if we don't revolutionize our energy production methods for electricity, so rest easy. 

We do however have to start planning for where our electricity will come from when these reserves deplete. Reason number one is that anytime you are dependent on one resource you are exposed to price spikes and manipulation. Secondly you are guaranteed ever increasing energy prices as fuel sources are depleted. Lastly these are finite resources and we do not currently have an alternate resource plan. This glaring truth is where the uncertainty and challange comes in. We cannot forever continue to do as we have done and this is frightening even to me and I see a prosperous future where we have a sustainable future.

Today the nation gets 47% of its oil from outside sources, we have multinational corporations who no-longer feel the United States is their primary customer and even if the US is their biggest customer they will do whatever they can to promote shareholder value. If you look back to 2008, the price of gas sucked the wind out of the economy as much as housing. 30yr mortgages don't unravel overnight even if they were sub-prime. The engine lost gas when gas was $5. I am not vilifying big oil I am stating a fact, when your corporation is publicly held, in many, many countries and held to higher standard in their host country it can be easy to forget that the fabric of this nation is based on capitalism but that a strong domestic economy is imperative to the overall health of the company.

American Oligarchs of old did not lose sight of the fact that as they prospered and their employees prospered so did the nation. James Buck Duke saw this and in later life he endowed several Universities, hospitals and other 'greater benefit' projects throughout the Southeast US.  Andrew Carnegie got this too and while both men fought unions and wanted to protect their companies they also saw that corporate re-investment into the fabric of society is the strength that builds companies for generations.

I once read of a house in England that was over 400yrs old, the first owner of the house had planted the tiny seedling of a  great oak when he built the home so that one day the tree could replace the main beam in the great hall, that is resource planning.  To be completely honest I see solar as resource planning but also an expression of the sublime, a sound design with a noble cause.  If more of us could figure out how to both be successful in business and try and create the sublime what a nation this could be.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why Solar

I was asked this week why I wanted government help for solar. It was actually a pretty reasonable question considering all the bad news about solar both locally and nationally. It has taken me literally six years to come up with an answer to the question, “Why solar and why should the government be involved?” First I want to list all the bad things I have seen in the solar industry and also by people professing to have something to do with solar but really just being crooks. The first company I worked for left 2 wires exposed in a circuit box, they were dead but it still bothers me. Solyndra: My personal thoughts are the Federal Government shouldn’t be on the supply side—that’s nationalism. They can, however, help foster demand for a product through tax incentives or deregulation. (Solyndra was a pretty novel idea but they didn’t know that market conditions for all of their competition were about to cut costs by 40% right when Solyndra opened a huge new factory.) Evergreen First Solar Q cells AQT Solar PrimeStar Solar/ GE (GE bought thin film maker Prime star for approx $300m) All of these solar companies have either gone bankrupt or laid people off. Here is the connection between them all. There are two types of solar, Silicon which is made out of sand and Thin-film which is made out of rare earth metals. Some of these typically used metals are cadmium, telluride and indium.
Silicon makes up 27% of the earth’s crust, we have a lot of it and it’s recyclable. The cost of silicon has gone from $475kg in 2009 to sub $30kg in 2012 and it is still headed lower. (If you want to know why, I have another letter Now locally South Carolina has had some missteps too. Solar EOS, Kingstree SC. I knew they were going to be unsuccessful the first time I met them, but no one asked me. Prior to meeting in person I did invite them to join SBA and they did, for one year. After I met the COO and he knew nothing about solar energy, I warned the SC Energy office that the COO was unlikely to succeed, and they told me they had come to the same conclusion. Global Energy Franchise, Blacksburg SC. Again I heard about someone fishing for grants and he had an ‘idea’, not a full business prospectus, not start-up capital, but an idea to open a factory/distributor/ warehouse. If you know solar, you know that manufacturing and distributorships don’t start with big factories they start in a lab or on a Web site. You have to grow these businesses and then expand. Boeing 2.6MW SC project goes to NC based contractor. Despite all these failures, or maybe because of them, I have never been more certain that solar research and development is the single, fundamental key to our energy future. All of our energy comes from the sun, I’ve said this 1000 times and I’ll say it again, all of our energy comes from the sun. Coal, oil and natural gas are fossilized plant matter created by the sun. Nuclear materials needed for fission are created by the sun. I have been extremely lucky to visit a coal plant, a hydro plant and a nuclear plant as a guest of Bob Long, of South Carolina Electric and Gas. Bob is a stellar individual and SCE&G is lucky to have him. His visits and my subsequent research have taught me a lot about energy. I have met many of the energy leaders in South Carolina. They are all very bright people. We are lucky to have them. I watched Catherine Heigel of Duke Energy deftly pit-bull solar activists at the Public Service Commission. She has been promoted to head up Duke’s SC division and rightfully so. Mike Couick of the SC Co-ops is a formidable man with his deep understanding of energy issues. Mike Smith of Central Electric Power Co-op has managed 70 installs of solar as part of a pilot program. Philip Greenway and Liz Kress of Santee Cooper have quietly advocated for smart policy on economically feasible renewable energy for years. Dukes Scott graciously listened to me in a meeting with the Office of Regulatory staff and Ashlie Lancaster of the South Carolina Energy Office has always listened to Solar concerns while balancing what is best for the State of South Carolina. Meeting and listening to these people has helped shape my understanding of energy production in SC. Everything I’ve learned has shown me that energy and government are intertwined and have been since the beginning of the modern age. The federal government taxed and regulated the SC fur trade in the 1740’s when Charleston was one of the biggest trading cities in America. Co-ops were born out of the federal Rural Electrification Agency in the 1930’s before rural America had access to electricity. All research in nuclear energy has been funded by the federal government but private companies have benefitted greatly from nuclear power plants. This is how America works, government protects the people, (sometimes from themselves) and private business prospers. There is no aspect of private business that does not benefit directly from government and taxes are levied to keep the system in balance. Investor owned utilities receive $52 dollars per rate-payer, per year in incentives and non-profit co-operatives receive $23 dollars per year, per rate-payer. Nuclear power is underwritten by the federal government and the state gives tax breaks in county and state taxes to enable power plant expansion. Do I endorse this system of government? Somewhat. Do I condemn it? Yes, somewhat, but it is the way we do things and for solar I know only one thing—eventually it will be an integral part of our energy mix. So when asked the question, “Why solar and why should the government be involved?” The answer is we have always used solar; the future will just be more so… and yes if the government is for the people, by the people and of the people then a definitely yes!