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For each year the industry continues without universal standards, powering every U.S. home and business with solar energy becomes more difficult.
The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on Monday agreed the industry needed to "double down" on a unified effort to lower the cost of residential and small commercial installations. The two organizations issued the Roadmap to 2020 report less than two months ago, but said Monday that some of its short-term goals might not be attainable if changes don't take place. That became crystal clear after meeting with more than 70 solar developers, equipment manufacturers, researchers, installers and government staff at RMI and NREL’s Soft Cost Impact Forum in Chicago, IL.
"As seen below, the summary roadmap charts scream in crimson red about the costs of installation labor," RMI principal Dan Seif and senior associate Jesse Morris wrote in an update about the roadmap. " It’s highly uncertain that installation costs in the U.S. can reach low enough levels to realize [U.S. Department of Energy] SunShot targets by 2020, and the cost trajectory looks like it will hit some pretty rough waters in just three years."
The two organizations took the information from those breakout sessions to develop four suggestions for lowering the cost of going solar:
Develop an agency to ensure photovoltaic standards
- "If you need a new alternator for a 2005 Toyota Tacoma, there’s a standard guidebook for the flat rate of that part anywhere for auto mechanics and their customers," Seif and Morris write, but that's not the case in the solar industry. The industry would benefit from establishing a body responsible for managing installation process, hardware and bidding standards. Construction estimator RS Means is an example of what's needed, according to Seif and Morris.
- A defined presentation method for solar integrators—eliminating reworks and specialized training for each new integrator or integrator program—could lead to fewer administrative costs.
- Establishing a common bidding system would make it easier to find quality installers and savings opportunities while also revealing corner cutters.
Create the solar industry's version of Wikipedia
- Seif and Morris describe this idea as "a business-to-business, crowd-sourced, user-certified information web portal focused on installer input for sharing best practices and product experiences, and for providing consolidated feedback to PV module and hardware manufacturers."
- Shared practices on this site could help with feedback for specific areas and utilities, as well as regional permitting, inspection and interconnection challenges.
- "The true cost savings of various equipment and systems and the ability to best leverage efficiencies from these products with smart work practices are not broadly understood past the salesperson’s claims," according to the RMI. "This knowledge is held within the industry, slowing the pace of cost reductions."
Create a national solar database
- Jurisdictional requirements that drive costs up would be clearly stated and determined by analyzing the installer, project address, electrical configuration, racking system and more.
- "Smart installers would quickly try to determine what clusters of low-priced system or system elements can be implemented in their local markets," the RMI staff members wrote.
Define what solar-ready means through a standards campaign
- "Perhaps we could learn a little from the LEED certification process (or maybe integrate with it) and make these designations certifiable, and possibly also tiered," RMI suggests. "As we’ve seen from LEED and other top green building standards, getting certified is a big deal to many builders and investors."
- A strong “solar ready” standard would better inform home buyers what they’re getting, also potentially helping the real estate market because a cheap, future solar installation would be a selling point for an environmentally conscious consumer.
- A definition for "solar-ready" could inspire future regulators to create and pass new, smarter policies around it.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.