Posted by Danny TarlowGuest post by Andrew Peterman from an op-ed piece in the Idaho Statesman, dated 05/28/09.
Andrew and I will be giving a joint presentation in Scotland next month on a data-driven approach to predicting energy consumption in buildings -- I was the data guy, and he was the energy guy. He grew up in Boise, has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University, and currently works for the Walt Disney Company on worldwide sustainability, energy and environmental issues.
I've written a little bit about energy issues in the past, but most of the posts have been inspired by conversations with Andrew. This is meant as a test -- if it's received well, we might ask Andrew to write guest posts here more often about a variety of energy and energy policy issues. Let me know what you think.
Idaho should be a leader when it comes to solar energy
By Andrew Peterman
(Previously published in the Idaho Statesman)
I often find myself wondering why, as a state, we are not yet a leader in centralized or rooftop solar energy generation. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Idaho is not even ranked in the top 10, yet our close neighbor, Nevada, is ranked third in large-scale generation and second in per capita small and large solar PV generation.
The sun has incredible potential within Idaho to provide a key source of non-carbon emitting electricity and heating. Solar is on the cutting-edge of providing a financially smart method to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the deadly buildup of greenhouse gas emissions. We can bring Idaho to a state of foreign oil independence with an array of options, but not without harnessing the power we naturally absorb from the sun.
Idaho gets a lot of sun. Across the state, engineers and energy analysts have estimated that we have the potential to produce 60 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually from solar energy (Department of Energy) - over 40 percent of Idaho's total energy demand using solar alone (EIA).
Solar technology can scale from the single-family homeowner to the large utility companies building massive collector systems and investing in our state.
Given Idaho's premium location for solar collection combined with nationally rising energy costs driven by high oil prices, solar technology has the potential to bring foreign oil independence to the state, reduce Idahoans' monthly utility bill, and protect Idaho's lakes, streams, mountains and valleys from the potentially harmful effects of global warming.
Solar is one of the cleanest technologies that makes financial sense. Incentives are currently in place to make the initial investment in solar panels more affordable and often financially beneficial for the individual or family. Through incentive programs such as Northwest Solar Cooperative - Green Tag Purchase, every Idahoan has an opportunity to receive money for every kW of solar electricity produced.
Solar produced electricity is estimated in some cases to be as low as 2 cents/kWh. Solar projects have the potential to create numerous jobs locally to help install, maintain, and monitor the performance of solar projects. Installation and maintenance jobs - nearly 50 percent of the total cost - cannot be shipped overseas.
Solar benefits all. Solar has the potential to provide the following meaningful benefits to Idahoans, without singling out a particular group:
- Lowers peak electricity demand across the state.
- Reduces the need to build new transmission and distribution.
- Protects Idaho streams and rivers.
- Lowers emissions of global warming pollution.
- Challenges citizens of Idaho to take action and own the solution to the climate change problem.
The benefits of solar sound obvious.
Why is our state lagging? In these tough economic times, the last thing on Idahoans' minds is solar electricity production. This is why we need our local leaders to help bring about the necessary incentives and training to implement progressive technologies. As individuals, we have to take on much of the responsibility of reducing energy consumption and switching to cleaner sources. Idahoans have to own the solution to global warming, but our leaders must first provide resources to help create these new market opportunities.
The global imperative to move toward cleaner energy sources has presented unprecedented opportunity to create new jobs and bolster the struggling economy of Idaho. Through hard work, we have the potential to be on the cutting edge in this newly forming green economy - but not without solar.