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Sell Your Excess Solar Power Back to the Grid with Net Metering

Net Metering Solar To The People

Photo by Solar to the People

If you have solar panels installed on your home, in all likelihood during the summer they produce more energy during the daytime than you use — probably a lot more. Net Energy Metering (NEM), or net metering for short — allows you to profit from this excess energy. To net meter, you use your existing energy meter to track the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) you send back into the power grid, which your utility company then credits against your energy consumption. This results in a lower energy bill, as you can roll over your electricity credits from the sunny summer months to the cloudier months of winter.

You might think your utility company frowns on individuals producing power — that would make you a competitor, right? — or that doing so requires special equipment. In fact, many state and local governments give you the right to connect the grid.

And as the Solar Energy Industries Association explains, sending energy to the grid helps the utilities maintain a liquid energy supply. This means everyone gains energy that’s more reliable during peak hours and far less wasteful.

If you’re concerned that net metering is technically complex or a hassle, think again. Your existing energy meter is likely bidirectional, which means you already have the equipment you need to meter the energy you return to the grid.

Further, it’s common practice for solar installers to set up net metering for their clients, which means that your primary concern as an end user is to understand how you will receive compensation, and to feel good about becoming a clean energy producer.

To get you started, Solar to the People has written an easy to understand primer to net metering, and PG&E has provided a simple visual guide.

Do All Utilities Allow Net Metering?

In 1978, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) created a protected class of “small power production facilities” — that would be your solar-powered home or business — with the Public Utilities Regulatory Act (PURPA). While the act establishes fair energy rates for consumers and guarantees some rights, FERC’s guidelines leave most regulation up to the states. This means the amount of energy you can sell, how much you’ll receive, and the form of repayment varies widely by state and your utility company.

On the plus side, 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted clear net metering policies. The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) has provided a map of which states have mandatory NEM policies, and those without.

Even if your state lacks clear regulations, many municipal and local governments require utilities to buy back energy, and provide credits to the utilities to offset their costs for doing so, so even if you don’t see your state listed in the map, make sure to check with your local government!

New York Solar Installation Crew

Photo by Kasselman Solar

Net Metering Benefits Your Community and the Environment

When a community’s energy needs grow, the usual response is to build a new power plant. Whether this plant is fueled by nuclear power, coal, a dam, or a wind farm, the process always carries steep environmental costs. This doesn’t have to be the case.

Though humanity’s energy demands are escalating, the truth is households consume the vast majority of power at certain times of day and seasons, while offices and factories have peak demands at different times. For example, most households consume less during the day because the adults are working and the kids are at school, while homes in areas with cold winters consume less energy in the summer, when they don’t require heating.

Simply put, by connecting solar-powered homes with a power-hungry grid, a community can offset its energy needs without building a costly power plant, and at the same time, reducing the cost of solar panels. That, in a nutshell, is why the government encourages net metering.

How to Start Net Metering

As mentioned, your home or business is likely connected to the grid with a bidirectional meter. Assuming that’s the case, getting started with net metering only requires a simple application to your utility company if you choose to have panels installed. While most installers will provide this service for you, if you’d like to learn more, the applications can be found on your utility company’s website, or on the website of your state or local energy agency.

For example, in California, all three major utilities — PG&E, SDG&E, and SCE — offer several options for crediting solar customers’ generated energy, and California provides a useful guide to applying for net metering on its Go Solar website.

One catch is that utilities limit the size of the power system you can connect to their grid, essentially to prevent people from setting up a commercial solar plant on their property. However, it’s highly unlikely your home or business solar power system comes anywhere near that limit.

How to Receive Credits from Your Utility Company

Credits. While net metering can greatly increase the savings generated by your solar system, note that the utility typically provides rebates in the form of credits. Most utilities allow you to use credits to offset your current energy bill, roll-over credits into the next year, and a few allow you to convert them into a cash rebate at the end of the year.

Tariffs. Simply put, a “tariff” is in the context of net metering is the price paid per kWh. Many states and utilities allow individuals who export more energy than they consume to receive money for this net surplus at the end of the year, as energy credits aren’t much use if you don’t owe the utility anything for consumed electricity. The rates are stipulated in a tariff schedule provided by your utility. Additionally, a tariff schedule may offer alternative repayment options, such as a system for transferring excess credits to additional utilities accounts, or for refunding tenants if you are a landlord of a multifamily property through a process known as Virtual Net Energy Metering (VNEM).

Another Way Solar Pays

If you have solar, chances are you can be saving even more money by net metering. If you don’t, net metering offers one more financial incentive to install a solar system. After you’ve installed your solar system, net metering is usually as simple as filing an application with your utility company.

And provided you live in the 43 states with mandatory net metering policies — and the many more cities with even more advantageous policies — you will be fairly compensated for providing reliable, clean energy to your neighbors.

Ryan Willemson founded Solar to the People to help "shine light" on the solar industry for the benefit of homeowners. Connect with Ryan on Facebook and Twitter.


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When Will Tesla's Solar Roof be Available, and Should You Wait for It?

tesla roof 1

Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, has a well-earned reputation for creating innovative 21st-century products that combine attractive designs with exceptional performance – and generate high levels of consumer interest as a result. The latest Musk technology to make a splash is the Tesla solar roof, which he revealed to great fanfare in October 2016.

According to the company, Tesla will begin accepting on a waiting list for the solar roof in April. Tesla’s roof is now expected to reach homes before the end of 2017, leading many homeowners to wonder – is the Tesla solar roof worth waiting for, or should you install solar panels now?

It Depends on Your Priorities

Standard solar panel technologies are typically evaluated based on their performance, durability, and warranties. However, there are relatively few technical details available for Tesla’s solar roof shingles. Tesla has not revealed how efficiently the panels will generate power, what kind of warranty the company will offer, or how they will be installed.

The company has also claimed that their tiles are significantly stronger than a traditional roof tile, and even shared video footage during the launch to demonstrate their durability. That being said, Tesla hasn’t provided any information about durability or stress tests – standard information that is publicly available from most solar panel manufacturers.

One thing is for certain: Tesla solar roof shingles look great. The shingles, which are made of glass, come in four different patterns that have the look of a standard roof, with one key difference – they generate electricity for your home. The solar cell embedded in Tesla roof tiles isn’t visible from the street, unlike a traditional solar panel.

tesla roof tiles

Tesla solar roof pricing is unclear, but experts expect it will be expensive.

Tesla hasn’t released any official pricing information for their solar roof tiles. However, their own website states that the solar roof tiles will have a “lower cost than a traditional roof when combined with projected utility bill savings.”

Multiple journalists have attempted to come up with price estimates based on Tesla’s guidance, and they’ve all come to the same conclusion: the Tesla solar roof, like most of Tesla’s other products, will be a high-end purchase that comes with a premium price tag.

Consumer Reports crunched the numbers and determined that a Tesla solar roof would cost somewhere between $70,000 and $100,000, based on Tesla’s own pricing guidance. This is much more expensive than a standard asphalt roof replacement, which should cost homeowners between $8,000 and $16,000 depending on their roof size and property location. Labor and installation costs could add an additional premium to the price of the Tesla solar roof, although the lack of information about its technical design makes this price premium difficult to estimate. But think of it this way: roofers aren’t trained as electricians and vice versa, so it’s likely that more highly-specialized contractors will be needed to install the Tesla roof shingles, increasing costs further.

Timeline: when will the Tesla solar roof come to market? 

Tesla solar roof technology isn’t available on the market yet. According to the latest reports from Tesla, the solar roof will be rolled out sometime in 2017. However, it’s unclear exactly when the product will be ready for consumers.

Tesla has indicated that they will manufacture the tiles in partnership with Panasonic at the company’s factory in New York, which won’t be open until mid 2017. However, the auto manufacturer is notorious for production delays across its line of luxury electric vehicles, most famously on the Tesla Model X crossover SUV. Whether Tesla solar shingles will face the same production delays as Tesla cars remains to be seen. Our own estimate is that homeowners shouldn’t expect the Tesla solar roof to be available nationwide until mid-2018.

Not Every Home Is a Good Candidate for the Tesla Solar Roof

Price is a serious consideration if you’re deciding whether to wait for the Tesla solar roof. However, an equally important factor to keep in mind is whether your home is a good candidate for solar roof tiles.

Most existing solar shingle technologies are also known as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) because they are integrated with your existing roof, and are a similar size and shape to standard roof tiles. Tesla has created something different.

In August 2016, Musk first explained the difference between solar shingles and Tesla’s solar roof: “It’s not a thing on the roof. It is the roof.” Unlike other solar shingles, Tesla’s roof tiles are designed to completely replace your existing roof. As a result, the most cost-effective way to install them is when your home is being built, which means that they are best suited for homebuyers who have a say in the design and materials of their newly constructed home.

While this doesn’t mean that they can’t be used on existing homes, retrofitting your roof with Tesla solar tiles will come at an additional expense, because you’ll need to pay contractors to remove your old roof first. As a result, retrofitting your roof with Tesla solar tiles is only practical when your roof is already due to be replaced.

Learn How much solar Can Save You Today Before You Make your Decision

Just as Tesla Motors doesn’t make electric vehicles for the masses, Tesla Energy isn’t developing a solar roof that belongs on every home. In many ways, the company’s solar roof product is similar to its first electric car. If you are an early adopter of new technologies, don’t care about price, and are prepared to wait for a product with an uncertain manufacturing timeline, then waiting for Tesla solar roof tiles could be the right decision for your home.

However, there are always risks associated with installing a brand-new, untested technology. Unlike Tesla’s solar roof tiles, many of the premium solar panels currently available on the market today are produced by well-known consumer electronics manufacturers (such as HyundaiPanasonicKyocera and LG) that have been producing solar panels for a decade or more.

Additionally, waiting to go solar has its risks, even if you’re interested in a brand-new technology. The cost of going solar is falling every year, and there are premium solar panels already available today that come with high efficiency ratings and a sleek black design. If you wait years for the Tesla solar roof, you will lose out on years of savings on your electricity bill. You also run the risk of missing out on financial incentives for solar – many state tax credits have already expired, and the federal investment tax credit for solar will be phased out starting in 2020.

Before you make the decision to wait for the Tesla solar roof, use a solar calculator to learn how much you can save today by going solar. If you’re ready to explore the solar options for your home, join the EnergySage Solar Marketplace and get custom quotes from solar installers in your area. You might be surprised by just how much you can save now by installing traditional solar panels on your roof today.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Off The Grid: How To Power Your Disconnected Lifestyle

offthegrid

Want to get away? Like, permanently away? Maybe it’s time to go off the grid. An estimated 180,000 Americans families are currently doing it. Living off the grid can mean a lot of things for different people, but it’s fundamentally defined as being disconnected from most infrastructures like sewer systems, electric and gas utilities.                        

People choose to go off-grid for a multitude of reasons. Some families want to live on acres of land or a very rural landscape. Others feel the need to downsize their material possessions and adopt a tiny-house lifestyle, taking their home wherever they roam. Whichever desires going off the grid may fulfill, it’s a completely different way of living, and there are many things to consider when making this kind of move. A lot of preparation is required when adopting this lifestyle, but with a little extra work, a lot of families are making it work and enjoying it. One of the biggest changes involved in detaching from utility companies is how you are going to power your everyday habits and needs. Here are differences you’ll facing when producing your own energy.

Independently Powered

Homes that are truly “off the grid” do not rely on utility power at all. These homeowners must decide how to produce energy for the household. Renewable energy sources such as wind and residential solar power are essentially what make off the grid living possible! If you go the solar route, this will be a little bit different than installing a solar panel system in a suburban environment. The whole point after all is to not be connected to the grid, which means that you won’t be able to give or take power from it. Therefore, you will need to purchase a system that is big enough to produce energy for all of your needs. The best way to figure out how big of a system you need is by first noting the amount of energy you currently use each month. You should be able to find this on your utility power bill. The typical homeowner, consuming 11,000 kWh per year, will need 28-34, 250-watt solar panels to cover complete usage. If this is larger than you wanted to start with, you could downsize the array if you practice downsizing the amount of electricity you use per month. Try these home energy-saving techniques to painlessly use less power.

Using renewable energy is beneficial to homeowners in many ways. For one, independence from electrical utility companies means no longer being vulnerable to power outages or power rate increases. Your solar-generated electricity will always be free! Secondly, by using renewable energy source instead of costly fossil fuel-sourced power, your carbon footprint is decreased dramatically. Living with renewable energy can also be more cost effective compared to utility power prices. Solar panels require a bigger investment upfront, but the savings add to thousands over the system lifespan.

Storage

If you’re disconnected from the utility grid, you’re going to need to store your power independently somehow. To do so, you’ll need batteries that can be charged by your renewable energy source. This will be your source of power at night, or when your solar production is low. When your panels are soaking up the sun and transforming it into energy, the batteries will be charged and ready to reliably pump out power. Batteries do require some maintenance, such as ensuring that its charge does not fall below 50 percent is good practice, as well as periodically adding distilled water to them. There is some daily monitoring and maintenance required when keeping your battery bank at peak functionality. You can read more about battery system maintenance and repair here.

Location, Location, Location

Some regions are better than others for off the grid lifestyles. You could do it just about anywhere, but considering land prices, building codes and property taxes, there are some area with obvious advantages. Northern California has reasonably priced land and a milder climate. It also provides easy access to water and less-strict ordinances, according to offgridworld.com. Get estimates on solar panel systems in California at 123solarpower.net. Another state with relatively affordable rural land and plentiful sources of water is Florida. Your main considerations when searching for a region to put down your off the grid roots should be things like climate, laws, taxes, zoning, land price, and access to building materials.


 All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How Have Solar Panel Cost and Efficiency Changed Over Time?

changeovertime_header

Solar panel technology has been around in some form for a long time – Bell Labs invented the first useful solar cell more than 60 years ago, and scientists have known for centuries that the sun can be used to produce energy. However, it’s only in the last ten years or so that solar photovoltaics (PV) has really taken off as a renewable energy source. There are two major factors influencing the technology’s growth: the steady improvement of both solar panel cost and solar panel efficiency over time.

Solar Panel Efficiency Over Time

The very first solar cells, invented in the 1800s, were less than one percent efficient, not nearly enough to make them a useful energy source. It wasn’t until 1954 that Bell Labs invented the first useful silicon solar panel, which was about six percent efficient.

Since then, solar PV technology has evolved at a rapid pace. Manufacturers have been able to create solar panels that are nearly 30 percent efficient, and homeowners on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace regularly receive quotes featuring solar panels with 19 to 21 percent efficiency from solar installers. These high efficiency panels can produce 25 percent more electricity than the lower-tier economy panels that made up the majority of the market in past years.

The technology exists to increase solar panel efficiency even further. Researchers have managed to achieve 46 percent efficiency in certain laboratory tests using advanced cell structures. However, super high-efficiency panels are typically made of more expensive materials not used in rooftop solar panels, and as a result, they aren’t currently cost-effective. 

solar panel efficiency graph

Graph: Solar panel efficiency over time

Cost of Solar Panels Over Time: a Tale of Falling Prices

Less than 10 years ago, in 2008, the cost of a solar panel installation was $8.82 per watt. The solar industry today looks very different: in addition to solar panel efficiency increasing dramatically, solar panel producers have significantly improved their manufacturing processes. Solar installers, too, can deploy solar PV across the United States more efficiently now than they could ten years ago. The result: the price of solar has fallen by over 60 percent, to just $3.36/watt.

There’s evidence that the rate at which solar prices are decreasing is picking up speed, too. From the second half of 2014 to the first half of 2015, prices featured in quotes to homeowners on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace fell by 1.85%. Between the first half of 2016 and the second half of 2016, however, the average price per watt fell by a remarkable 6.25%. 

changeovertime_graph

Graph: Solar panel cost over time

The price decreases over the past ten years are major reason why more and more homeowners are interested in installing solar panels. For a standard 6 kW home solar system, the average gross cost has fallen from $52,920 to just $20,160 in the past decade. Subtract the 30 percent federal tax credit for solar, and you’re looking at $14,110 for a home solar PV system that can cover most, if not all, of your electricity needs. If you own your home, why wouldn’t you consider solar?

Changes in solar panel cost over time can be explained by Swanson’s Law, which states that the price of solar PV modules decreases by about 20 percent for every doubling in global solar capacity. The law is named after Richard Swanson, founder of high-efficiency solar panel manufacturer SunPower, and indicates a phenomenon seen across many different technologies: new industries face a major learning curve, and as they improve, prices fall.

In this way, solar panel manufacturers aren’t that different from computer manufacturers. Think about how much more expensive, and less powerful, your laptop was in 2007 compared to the technology that’s available today. If solar PV technology continues along the same trend, it’s easy to envision a future where solar is on every rooftop. 

How to Get the Most Efficient Solar PV System at the Best Price: Compare Options

Solar panel efficiency is improving dramatically, and costs are declining at a similarly rapid rate. However, the solar industry is diverse. Depending on where you look, you may not find the best deal on a system for your home or business.

The best way to ensure that you choose a solar PV system with the right combination of high efficiency and low cost is to compare all of your options on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace. Homeowners who get competing solar quotes from installers on EnergySage typically save 10% on their solar installation costs, and frequently choose packages that include some of the most efficient solar panels on the market (from companies like SunPower, LG, and Panasonic).

Vikram Aggarwal is the founder and chief executive of EnergySage, the online solar marketplace. EnergySage simplifies the process of researching and shopping for solar. By offering shoppers more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency, EnergySage allows consumers to select the solar installation quote that provides the best value for them, quickly and easily. Read all of Vikram's posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Save on Solar With Net Metering

 

Since 2009, solar prices have gone down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs, according to Bloomberg news. Advancements in technology also play a large part in cost reduction by improving efficiency and energy output, which in turn lowers a system’s cost per kWh. The evolving solar power landscape continues to make it easier and cheaper for all types of households to adopt solar. There are several more ways that you can save on the cost of going solar, one of which has to do with policies determined on a state level, namely net-metering. Let’s look closer into exactly what net metering is and how it can save you hundreds of more dollars each year paired with your solar panel system.

Net Metering Basics

Net metering refers to the billing procedure that allows residential customers who produce their own electricity from solar power to feed excess electricity back into the utility grid. The owner of the system for that electricity then receives credit at the same retail price that paid for electricity taken from the grid. What this means, is that if you have a residential solar system that is net-metered, your electricity meter can run actually backwards to provide your credit against what electricity you use from the grid, since you’re only billed for the net energy you use. You basically get paid for any excess energy that you produce but don’t use. This can add up to a lot of savings in the long run and offset the initial investment cost of your solar panel system.

Net metering policies are decided on and regulated by each state differently. A majority of states in the U.S have authorized net metering, but even then, they all have different approaches to policies with variations in multiple criteria. The differences between state regulation mean that the cost benefits of net metering can vary. If you live in a state without net metering, you can still receive credit for excess electricity, just at a different rate. In these cases, the utility company will likely pay you back at the wholesale rate, which is usually lower.

Best States For Net Metering

States with vast solar adoption and net metering programs allow solar system owners to get the most money out of their investment. Some states that are leading the way in solar-friendliness include Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and California.

Residential solar customers in California that feed excess solar power back into the grid, get one bill credit for each one kWh of utility-generated power they give. These customers are able to receive a huge amount of electricity bill savings by installing a solar system and taking advantage of net metering. How much exactly? According to GTM Research $700 to $1,000 of savings on their annual electricity bill compared to a scenario with no net energy metering at all, equivalent to savings of an additional 54 percent to 85 percent. 

 Massachusetts is another state that gets an “A” on its net metering report card. In 2016, the state’s governor lifted the reimbursement cap utilities had to pay to solar energy producers. Its new policy will allow for continued solar development, but at a reduced cost to ratepayers, according to MassLive. This new policy was a compromise between government and business and now reimburses solar owners 11 or 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. Although lower than the retail rate, this reimbursement adds up big in the long run and longevity of a residential solar power system.

 Adopting solar power is a powerful investment for your home and environment. If you want to see exactly how much you can save by going solar, you can use our solar calculator. You can also see the exact net metering policies and other solar rebates and incentives online at DSIRE, the Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

Image credit: Pilar Blasco

Sarah Kezer is passionate about helping others take advantage of the power of solar energy. At 123SolarPower, Sarah assists in answering questions and providing expert information for users to explore their options when it comes to going solar. 123SolarPower connects individuals with the largest network of solar power providers in the U.S. Connect with Sarah on Twitter and Facebook. Read all of Sarah’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Solar Panel ROI Guide

 

Are solar panels a good investment, even if you may sell your home in the future? Research says yes! Buying a solar panel system is good investment not only in the wellness of the environment, but also the value of your home. A study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBL) concluded that homebuyers have consistently been willing to pay more for a property with photovoltaic systems. This was found to be true across a variety of states, housing and markets, and home types. Who wouldn’t want a home with extremely low utility bills?

 Buying into residential solar power is a great way for homeowners to save on their electricity costs every month, and make the home more desirable once it goes back on the market. If you’re thinking about going solar, there are specific steps you can take to help make sure you get the greatest return on investment, whether you move sometime in the future or not!

 Local Advantage

A good first step to take is to do some research on the benefits of solar power in the state you live. The federal investment tax credit , which applies to residents in all 50 states, will allow you to apply 30 percent of the cost of your solar system as a tax credit to your income tax bill. In addition to this, there may be local and state incentives that you can take advantage of to cut the cost of your initial investment.

 Another consideration is the utility rates in your area. This will have a hand in determining the savings you’ll reap over the life of your solar system. The more expensive the electricity, the more money you’re saving when you switch to solar. Hence, making it an even more attractive feature for future homebuyers.

 The third location-based factor is the net-metering policy in your state. Net metering allows homeowners who generate their own electricity from solar panels to receive credit for feeding the extra electricity they don’t use back onto the utility grid. When you’re hooked up the grid, you’ll only be billed for the net energy use. So when your panels produce more energy than you need, perhaps in the middle of the day, your electricity meter can literally run backwards to provide you with a credit against what electricity is consumed during other periods when the electricity use exceeds the system's output. 

 If all three of these incentives are in your favor, than you’re in for the optimal return on a solar investment.

 Get The Most Power From Your Panels

The more power your system produces, the less money you pay the utility companies. One of the biggest factors that will affect your systems output is where it is installed. Rooftop installations are the most common because it best exposes the panels to the most sunlight. What kind of roof do you have and how much sun exposure does it get? A south-facing roof with a 30-degree pitch is the ideal situation, but panels can also be installed on the ground, it just depends on what is the best place on your property. Even if your roof doesn’t fit the ideal criteria, there are plenty of solutions that a solar installation professional can help you find.

When it comes to choosing the exact type of solar system to purchase, its best to first evaluate how your home consumes energy. Look at your past utility bills for trends and try new habits to reduce your overall electricity use. By gaining control over your energy usage, you can reduce the size of the solar panel system you’ll need, lowering your investment and operating cost. Next, you’ll need to decide the types of panels are best for your home. Monocrystaline, polycrystalline, and thin-film photovoltaic cells are the most common type on the market right now. A good solar consultant can help you determine which suits your property, which brings us to the next point.

Get A Bang For Your Buck

Choosing the right solar power company is a huge part of the process, and possibly the most important in determining your ROI. The best way to find qualified solar installers in your area is by utilizing a trusted marketplace. This way, you can compare several providers at once who will compete for you business. And making sure that you get the best deal to begin with, means a better return in the future.

Sarah Kezer is passionate about helping others take advantage of the power of solar energy. At 123SolarPower, Sarah assists in answering questions and providing expert information for users to explore their options when it comes to going solar. 123SolarPower connects individuals with the largest network of solar power providers in the U.S. Connect with Sarah on Twitter and Facebook. Read all of Sarah’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Abundant Clean Energy Design Competition: You Can Compete

Nothing, Nothing, Nothing, BANG

HeroX, a subsidiary of the Xprize Foundation, has announced a prize design competition for  Abundant Clean Energy.   HeroX proposes that the world will be much better if global clean energy generation is dramatically improved beyond current choices – and that’s why they are developing this XPRIZE.

Key to this prize is the assertion that we live on a planet awash with energy, in a universe where all matter is made of immense amounts of energy (E=mc2), and we find ourselves in a society forced to make bad choices for most of our energy supply from a set of technologies as old as the transistor, not to mention fire. Because the vast majority of mankind’s current energy use is coming from unsustainable and damaging sources, HeroX suggests we need something better.  For this reason, they invite you to help design an Xprize to fund development of a new Abundant Clean Energy source or system. 

This design competition was inspired by a talk by Barry Thompson titled FORBIDDEN ENERGY.

Forbidden Energy Video

The Sustainability Action Network of Lawrence, Kansas recently hosted Bryan Welch, the former publisher of Mother Earth News who presented a talk on using and designing Business as a Force for Good. In his talk he described the invention of the airplane,

“For 3,000 years, nothing, nothing, nothing, BANG!”  Then the Wright Brothers finally succeeded. 

For 3,000 years the best and brightest including geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci had pondered the question of how can man fly? Bygone Einstein’s, Plato, Pythagoras, and others did not see the solution.  Some of the smartest people ever to walk the Earth did not see the answer.  It took a couple of bicycle mechanics to do the job on December 17, 1903.

Where are We Now in Terms of Energy?

Energy conversion technologies invented in the 19th Century

Steam Turbines
Wind Turbines
Electric Generators and Motors
Fuel Cells
Photovoltaics

Nuclear fission and fusion do nothing more than produce steam to run turbines. Fusion reactors are 30 years in the future and always will be.

Physics has given us no new way to use energy since the 1800s. We are now in the 21st century using 19th century energy conversion technology.  We are in need of Wright Brothers moment for a new energy supply. 

A new physics and a way forward will allow us to fulfill Tesla’s Prophecy; 

Ere many generations pass,

mankind will attach his machinery to the very wheelworks of nature.

This is the intent of the HeroX Prize design competition.

Reference: Tesla's Prophecy

Toby Grotz is an electrical engineer who has been involved on both sides of the energy equation: exploring for oil and gas and geothermal resources and in the utility industry working in coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants. He has been a community garden advocate and organizer ever since. Recent projects include lecturing for the Food Not Lawns classes sponsored by the University of Missouri, Kansas City Communiversity. He is a member of the Sierra Club and past officer of the Kanza Group. Read all of Toby's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.