Renewable Energy
All things energy, from solar and wind power to efficiency and off-grid living.

Record Year for European Wind Power

windIn 2017, Europe saw a record 3,148 megawatts (MW) of net additional installed capacity. This is the due to the addition of 560 new offshore turbines cross 17 wind farms, including the first floating offshore wind farm. In the upcoming year, 11 new projects will be in the works, particularly across Germany and the UK.

WindEurope reports that Germany has become the leader of wind power capacity in Europe. The country installed the most wind power capacity in 2017, making up an astounding 42 percent of the total EU new installations.

These new installments of offshore wind turbines and farms brings Europe’s total installed wind capacity to 15,780 MW; this corresponds to 4,149 grid-connected wind turbines across 11 European countries, with 82 turbines equivalent to 1,927 MW awaiting grid connection. With a total net installed capacity of 169 gigawatts (GW), wind energy remains the second largest form of power generation capacity in Europe, closely approaching gas installations.

Wind power installed more than any other form of power generation in Europe in 2017. Wind power accounted for 55% of total power capacity installations.

The 3.1 GW of capacity installed in 2017 doubled the capacity installed in 2016. The average offshore wind turbine is also getting larger; the average size of the turbines installed in 2017 was 5.9 MW, 23 percent larger than 2016. The budget for wind-powered energy investments is also growing with lenders extending 6.2 billion pounds in non-recourse debt for the financing of new and operational offshore wind farms.


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Solar Pioneer Party

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Although I was doing solar before solar was cool (started in 1990) I don't think I consider myself a solar pioneer as there were so many before me that inspired me and helped me but I got to spend a weekend in November at the Solar Pioneer party; hanging out with my heroes, my mentors, my colleagues. together we have made solar the wave of the Now instead of the wave of the future #SolarNow #GetEnergized #GoSolar #Empowered.

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Photo by Jason Vetterli at the Real Good Solar Living Institute

That  weekend in November 2017  I spent two days flying to spend three days in Northern California with more than 300 of my friends, colleagues, and mentors at the third and final solar Pioneer Party. Most of them I knew personally or through reading Home Power magazine over the years or through being in the industry for more than 20 years myself.

By Tyler Kanczuzewski ----The documentary shares many of these common stories of how the solar pioneers devised elaborate Rube Goldberg-like machines to rig their car batteries to play their stereo systems or to power a single 12-watt light. Kerosene lanterns and candles were common lighting alternatives, but so were cats that could knock them down and start a fire. After various happy accidents, the pioneers learned about solar panels that were being used for industrial off-grid applications. They were expensive, but they weren’t noisy and smelly like diesel generators—and they weren’t a fire hazard with house cats either.

Other rural “off-gridders” began to hear about the magic of solar PV that used the sun’s energy to light their neighbors’ homes and play their music. To pay for their PV, many used the income they earned from an infamous agricultural business; you could say that solar spurred the modern marijuana industry as well.

Driven by the need for light and music, many of these same off-grid pioneers became solar entrepreneurs. They began calling up executives from Arco Solar, Solarex, Sharp and other early solar PV manufacturers and ordered solar panels to be shipped to rural California, the Southwest and the Midwest. In one hilariously described scene, solar executives couldn’t believe the $100,000 order that they’d received, so they put on their three-piece suits and drove up in a Porsche to Humboldt County to meet their new customers, who were dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Here is more from Tyler Kanczuzewski.

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Tthe solar Pioneer party started when a relatively newcomer to the industry, Jeff Spies, realized what the history of solar was and that it needed to be documented and had the great idea of inviting the Pioneers to a get together to film interviews with them to create a documentary. That was the first Solar Pioneer party. Jeff and Jason Vetterli didn't realize how much work would be involved and it turned into a three-year project with the culmination in early November 2017 of a private showing to the solar Pioneers themselves. I missed the first Solar Pioneer party due to in being my dad’s memorial but made it to the second; where I was one who got to facilitate a round-table discussion and then I got to go the Third and Final Solar Pioneer party showcasing the film Solar Roots.

We started the weekend on Friday reconnecting with old friends and making new ones as people showed up at the KOA campground barn. As a relatively youngster I felt a bit awkward being around so many of the greats in the solar industry, truly some of the ones who started it all. What I love about the solar industry is people aren't afraid or are just open-hearted enough to share their experiences and knowledge to help grow the industry by helping our fellow solar addicts. As I volunteered at the coffee/tea cafe I got to interact with hundreds of my fellow solar people who, even the ones who didn’t know me, welcomed me in the techo babble of solar. Friday we had a taco truck pull up and by some miracle keep serving for over an hour the endless line of a couple hundred of hungry Solar Pioneers. The energy and excitement of the hundreds of conversations was in itself energizing!

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Saturday started relatively early for me as I set up the coffee cafe and then went to the world debut of Solar Roots, the story of some of the Solar Pioneers of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. We got to see it on the big screen at the Noyo Theatre in Willits CA.  Walking into the theater in Willits California with probably 60% of the people who were in the movie were also in the theater was intensely awe inspiring. Seeing the movie I was expecting a standard talking head documentary but it turned out to be an emotional rollercoaster and extremely entertaining partially because I knew a lot of people in the film but there was enough people in there that I didn't know personally, I just knew of them. There will be some private viewings of the Solar Roots film it may be a awhile before the general public sees the film due to figuring copyright issues of music and pictures. But sign up here to find out https://www.solar-roots.com/ The untold, colorful history of the birth of solar electricity

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The Skunk train ride was optional and I originally didn’t book a ticket thinking I can always ride a train. Once it was explained that this train would be going through old growth redwoods I booked a ticket. I didn’t book the ticket in time to get the meal provided but thanks to the generosity of a fellow attendee who was on a special diet I was gifted her meal ticket. We had our picnic in an open air car.

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Riding on the Skunk train, a 131-year-old train with all of its creaks and wheezes, visiting the huge redwoods was an experience I hope many can have. I spent the afternoon (over 4 hours) riding this train at a sedate pace over the hills and through the very rural forest seeing big trees, even moss covered trees, deer, deep ravines, creeks, seeing tremendous beauty deep within the forest from a comfortable seat with my feet up. There was sing alongs, there was drinks, there was intense conversations, there was relaxed conversations. Doing this was great but became a once in a lifetime experience due to my fellow passengers;  a few hundred fellow solar Pioneers and mentors.  

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Spending the day on Sunday at Real Goods Solar Living Institute was a flashback as I read the Solar Sourcebook like it was my solar bible years ago and my first “large” solar module (a Kyocera 45 watt) was bought from Real Goods and powered my offgrid living for 18 years.

I am so glad that this film documented history but even more so that it lead to the 3 Solar Pioneer parties to allow people to get together for the soul (misspelled for a reason) purpose of storytelling, inspiration, and energizing each other. The guiding principle behind this non-commercial event was cultivating an environment that facilitates meaningful conversation and connection between solar pros new and old. Power to the People! Let's #GetEnergized #SolarNow

I look forward everyday to the interactions I have on my Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page and hope you will join the discussion there.

Stay energized, aur

Aur Beck has lived completely off-grid for over 35 years. He has traveled with his family through 24 states and 14,000 recorded miles by horse-drawn wagon. Aur is a presenter at The Climate Reality Project, a fellow addict at Oil Addicts Anonymous International  and a talk show co-host at WDBX Community Radio for Southern Illinois 91.1 FM. Find him on the Living Off Grid, Really!?!?Facebook page, and read all of Aur's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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