Ben Higgins

James Hughes, CEO of First Solar, recently gave a hugely interesting interview to Australia’s Renew Economy in which he discussed his company’s future, the state of the global solar market.

Hughes’ views on utility scale v. rooftop solar are intriguing and worth reading, as First Solar is one of the largest solar manufacturers in the world and a major player in the U.S. utility-scale solar market. The company has paid considerably less attention to small-scale commercial and residential solar, and this focus is reflected in Hughes’ comments about the future of distributed renewable energy generation: Keep reading →

With each passing month, it’s becoming more evident that increasingly inexpensive and abundant supplies of natural gas are overhauling America’s energy landscape. The price of natural gas is at a 10-year low and is roughly half of what it was this time last year, due largely to technological advances – in hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ especially – which allow for recovery of enormous stores of natural gas found in shale deposits. Fracking has in turn led energy magnates including General Electric CEO Jeffery Immelt to suggest that natural gas could be “permanently cheap,” and that the U.S. is entering a new era of domestically produced fossil fuels.

In response, analysts and pundits such as Thomas Friedman have expressed concern that the shale gas boom will significantly defer the transition to solar and other renewables. This is a valid point – the long-term goal of the solar industry has always been to be truly price-competitive with conventionally produced electricity, and cheap natural gas makes that a more difficult task. Keep reading →

California solar installations are trending massively upward, despite historically low levels of state incentive.

With more than 120,000 commercial and residential solar energy systems now online, California leads the nation’s clean energy economy. As a result of this growth more than $10 billion in private-sector investment has flowed into California’s clean energy sector, and employed more than 25,000. Millions of California’s residents enjoy the benefits of low-priced solar energy delivered by systems installed on homes, businesses, schools and public facilities. Keep reading →

Nationwide, utilities face increasingly stringent renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements. California, for example, requires utilities to derive 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. As utilities examine options for renewable energy generation, solar continually emerges as an ideal solution for utilities looking to boost renewable generation using proven and cost-effective technologies.

Traditionally, utilities procured two basic forms of solar: small customer-sited projects, which offset the customer’s own electricity use (sometimes referred to as retail distributed generation) and large central-station facilities, to which the ‘bigger is better’ maxim has often been applied. To reduce the cost of these facilities to the absolute lowest possible price-point – on either a dollar-per-watt or cents-per-kilowatt basis – they have grown to enormous sizes, sometimes to hundreds of megawatts (MW). This has also been a function of utility procurement processes, which often use the delivered price of electricity as a sole awarding factor, thus favoring very large projects over small or mid-sized ones. Keep reading →