Tag Archives: Sustainable energy

New Research Could Help Increase Diffusion Rate of Residential Solar

According to Dr Varun Rai, solar adopters who installed solar arrays most quickly typically looked to their community for informational support. (Photo credit: www.inhabitat.com)

According to Dr Varun Rai, solar adopters who installed solar arrays most quickly typically looked to their community for informational support. (Photo credit: http://www.inhabitat.com)

As the unmistakable signs of climate change become more apparent by the day, homeowners are putting an increasing amount of thought into their sources of power. One of the most popular alternatives to purchasing fossil fuel-based power is undoubtedly that of solar energy. In purchasing residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, however, there are barriers (mostly financial) that have kept the technology from diffusing as rapidly as some would like. While these financial barriers are well-studied, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are now studying how certain barriers to trustworthy information affect the adoption of residential solar systems and how, if such information were accessed more easily, the process of adoption might become less daunting for consumers while accelerating diffusion.

The Energy Systems Transformation (EST) research group, led by Dr. Varun Rai, an assistant professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and Cockrell School of Engineering, notes in a paper titled “Effective Information Channels for Reducing Costs of Environmentally-Friendly Technologies: Evidence from Residential PV Markets”, which is co-authored by Scott Robinson, that solar PV adopters face particular “uncertainties and non-monetary costs” (UNMCs) that delay the installation of their systems. These UNMCs include information search costs, uncertainties about the future performance and required maintenance of the system, and perceptions of quality, sacrifice, and opportunity cost. By analyzing household-level data that compiled the survey responses of residents who have gone through the process of adopting solar PV systems, the group was able to gain valuable insight into how the delaying effect of UNMCs might be circumvented in the future via an improvement in the organization and exchange of credible information.

Credibility, as it turns out, was found to be a key characteristic of the kind of information that facilitated the decision-making process. This was apparent in the way that those adopters whose decision times were shorter were typically those that had access to trusted information networks, such as friends, family, and neighbors who had adopted solar PV systems. Through these networks, adopters were able to utilize the knowledge that their peers had gathered from experience – which, as the data suggests, was far more compelling than the information they could gather elsewhere. Moreover, those adopters that had simply observed solar PV systems on neighboring households were found to have shorter decision times, which further supports the idea that trusted information about the functionality of residential solar, even if collected passively, is very influential in the decision-making process. Ultimately, the research suggests that an increase in the exchange of information through trusted networks (in both passive and active forms) has the potential to decrease adopter decision times by about two-thirds, which is equal to roughly six months.

So, while information about the use and installation of residential solar systems is not difficult to find, at all – the internet is chock-full of it – the key, according to Dr. Rai, is that adopters obtain information that is from local or trusted sources; preferably a combination of both.

Ultimately, these findings could change the way that government and industry approach the development of residential solar power. Rai suggests that one useful approach might be the establishment of an online communication platform that harnesses the power of local information-sharing, which could provide tremendous benefits at a relatively low cost. Furthermore, they suggest such a platform could be a federally administered hub that aggregates regional installation information, which would be useful in serving as a “one-stop shop” of knowledge for potential solar adopters.

Regardless of the strategy that is ultimately implemented, however, the research is sure to contribute to the development of residential solar power generation. This is especially important, being that current adoption levels are nowhere near market potential.

Dr. Rai’s research paper and accompanying video abstract can be found here.

Written by Diego Atencio, Beyond Coal Intern

SA2020 & CPS Plan For Clean Energy Future

San Antonio 2020
The New Energy Economy is an innovative new concept using cleaner energy resources and energy efficiency technologies to create economic opportunity in San Antonio.   Mayor Julian Castro and Doyle Beneby, CEO of CPS announced plans for bringing clean energy to San Antonio.  This occurred after years of debates between the Sierra Club and CPS–a battle that included lawsuits and compromises.  It was an amazing end to a new beginning for San Antonio.

Here are some related stories:

Mayor Julian Castro recommends a link.


At an event this afternoon at UT-San Antonio, Mayor Julian Castro announced a suite of green energy projects that he said would position San Antonio as the nation’s leader in sustainable energy.

We are living in exciting times, my friends, but we must remember to stay diligent.  Given the opportunity, the “powers that be”  will take the path of least resistance.  Our job is to help them stay on the right path by being involved.  We are an integral part of the process.  Our job has just begun.
Karen Seal, Alamo Sierra Club
Enhanced by Zemanta

San Antonio Expected to Close Coal Plant

This happened!!!

Sierra Club and Partners celebrate with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (second from right) and CPS CEO Doyle Beneby (back row, second from left)

Sierra Club and Partners Celebrate First Announced Closing of a Publicly-owned Coal Plant in Texas

San Antonio’s Deely Plant Expected to Close by 2018, Replaced by Clean, Solar Power

Monday afternoon, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is expected to announce that City Public Service’s (CPS) Deely coal-fired power plant will shut down by 2018. Additional solar power contracts for the San Antonio area will replace that dirty electricity and bring clean energy jobs to Texas. In advance of today’s expected announcement, the Sierra Club, SEED Coalition, and Public Citizen issued the following statement.

“Sierra Club and our partners extend our appreciation to Mayor Julian Castro and City Public Service CEO Doyle Beneby for their vision and leadership,” said Loretta Van Coppenolle with the Alamo Group of the Sierra Club.  “The people of San Antonio will reap the benefits of their decision to create a future with cleaner air and healthier lives.  Closing Deely coal plant and transitioning to a clean energy economy will be a tremendous benefit for San Antonio. ”


The announcements today confirm the new direction taken by CPS Energy which has committed to meeting 20% of its energy needs through renewable energy by 2020, and reducing its peak demand through energy efficiency by 780 megawatts. CPS Energy recently began receiving power from a 14 MW solar plant in South San Antonio, and has signed a contract with SunEdison for an additional 30 MWs of solar power.


“The new leadership at CPS Energy, the Mayor and the residents of San Antonio deserve credit for rejecting the initial love affair with the proposed nuclear plant, and instead embracing an alternative vision — more wind and solar power, a significant investment in energy efficiency, cutting-edge building codes, and the retirement of Deely.  We hope they can phase out Deely even before 2018,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “Loretta Van Coppenolle played a powerful leadership role over many years of negotiations and considers that the deal might not have been struck with out the support and participation of the Alamo Sierra Club.”

Charles English and the Jefferson Heights Association of neighbors living near the coal plant, Cindy Wheeler and the activists of Energia Mia, Karen Hadden with the SEED Coalition (Sustainable Energy for Economic Development), and Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith with Public Citizen also played instrumental roles with Van Coppenolle and the Alamo Sierra Club, Reed, and Neil Carman, .

Environmental groups do not support the west Texas Summit coal plant that could be part of San Antonio’s plan.

“Any purchase of coal power from the proposed Summit coal plant should be conditional upon phasing out Deely,” said Ryan Rittenhouse.  “Furthermore, CPS should commit to running Deely’s two dirty coal boilers as little as possible leading up to the phase out.”

The CPS Deely plant is the first publically-owned coal plant slated for retirement in Texas.

Sierra Club has called for phasing out the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Fayette coal plant, which is partially-owned by the City of Austin. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign has also called for the phase-out of several privately owned coal plants:  TXU-Luminant’s Big Brown coal plant in Fairfield, the Martin Lake coal plant near Henderson , and the Monticello coal plant near Mount Pleasant.  Several recently permitted coal plants in Texas have been prevented from starting, and three, White Stallion, Las Brisas, and Tenaska face additional obstacles.

“San Antonio’s decision to phase out the Deely coal plant signals the beginning of the end of the coal-burning era and its associated air pollution and illness in Texas,” said Eva Hernandez, with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.  “We are ready for Austin to follow suit and for other municipal utilities, the electric co-ops, retail electric utilities, and indeed the State of Texas to move forward with our clean energy economy.  This is the way we will create more jobs while breathing cleaner air in Texas.”

 Contact:  Eva Hernandez, 512-299-1550

#   #   #

Posted by Donna Hoffman


Enhanced by Zemanta

PUC, Make New Jobs with More Solar Power

Rooftop Solar array on Texas urban big box

Clean Energy, Green Jobs Advocates Call on the Public Utilities Commission of Texas to Act Now on 500 MW Renewable Energy Rule

Texas Apollo Alliance Asks PUC to Expand Solar and Geothermal with Increased Renewable Power Rule at June 30th Meeting

AUSTIN – The Texas Apollo Alliance, a diverse coalition of businesses, organized labor, community organizations, and environmental groups are encouraging the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUC) to adopt and implement a rule to increase non-wind, renewable energy goals for solar, geothermal, and biomass energy to 500 megawatts of the State’s energy mix at their next open meeting scheduled for June 30th or July 14th.

“With the legislature again telling the PUC to act on their own to implement the 2005 Law, we strongly encourage the PUC to not only adopt the increase in solar and geothermal power in their January proposal, but to also require the full implementation of these new standards by 2015 instead of the proposed 2018 deadline,” said Dave Cortez with the Apollo Alliance. “This expanded clean energy rule will send a strong signal to investors that Texas is truly open for business and it will sow the seeds for a larger, green-collar jobs boom. The PUC has a unique opportunity to help put Texans back to work by implementing this small, but very important renewable energy goal.”

The PUC published the rule back in January and held a public meeting at which the Texas Apollo Alliance announced its support for full implementation of the 500 MW rule, which was initially authorized by the Texas Legislature in 2005 with adoption of SB 20. Because the proposed rule was published in late January, the PUC Commissioners must act at one of the next two meetings, or the six-month timeline for action runs out. If that happened, they would have to republish the rules, again delaying action on the rule.

“While the Legislature did not pass any new laws related to the Renewable Portfolio Standard, they did pass laws related to registration and third-party ownership of renewable energy devices through SB 981, and they also made clear during a House floor discussion on that bill that they want the PUC to go forward on the 500 MW rule,”  said Cortez.

Cortez noted that two other bills passed by the Legislature could also spark other renewable energy jobs in Texas:

  • HB 362 by Solomons and West – which eases the use of solar devices in Homeowner Associations – and
  • SB 943 – which allows electric generators to also build renewable storage devices and sell the resulting electricity into the competitive market.

A recent report published by ERCOT – Report on the Capacity, Demand and Reserves in the ERCOT Region, May 2011 – lists nearly 800 MWs of proposed solar plants that could be constructed in 2012, but many of these developments are awaiting word from the PUC that a market for Renewable Energy Credits will be created through implementation of the rules.

“Not only will these new solar plants help Texas meet its electricity needs over the coming years, they’ll help create a new clean economy that will bring thousands of good-paying, sustainable jobs to our communities,” noted Cortez.

The Texas Apollo Alliance is united in the effort to organize for a rapid transition into the clean energy economy. Together, we are working to devise and promote sound policy aimed at sparking a clean energy rush to Texas that will make Texans energy independent, make us a leader in efficiency, cut our state’s carbon emissions, and help create a new generation of safe, good-paying, green-collar jobs.

For more information visit:


Enhanced by Zemanta

Protecting What We Love

One of the photos from the exhibit Protecting What We Love, March 14-18 and April 18-22 in the Capitol Extension 2 Hallway

Photo Show & Tell at Texas Capitol opens Tuesday, March 15 at 12 Noon

Its not too late to make plans to travel to Austin for ACT Lobby Day.  You can still register and come!Part of the fun includes an 11:30 AM press event on the south steps of the Capitol building.  Afterwards, join us at 12:00 Noon in the Capitol Extension 2 Hallway for an interesting underground sunrise below the Capitol Cafeteria.  Its the launch of a photo Exhibit

Goliad County Opposes Uranium Mining – another photo from the Protecting What We Love exhibit

we’re hoping will shed light and maybe help make changes.  Protecting What We Love is the story of ACT environmental concerns in a set of photo posters running alongside either side of the hallway in the Capitol Extension 2 level.

So we’re going to exercise our Freedom of Speech in the Capitol hallway this Spring  — from March 14-18 and again April 18-22 with this photo exhibit — Protecting What We Love:  Our Health. Our Water. Our Air.

We surely could use some help to install this photo exhibit on this Sunday afternoon March 13, from 430-630 — Meet at the Sierra Club at 4:15 to load in or in E2 at the Capitol between the Legislative Conference Center and the Open Air Rotunda.  Remember its Spring forward daylight savings time so don’t come an hour late — the fun and delicious exercise of setting it up will be over.  We also need help staffing some tables at the exhibit on Tuesday starting at 8 am on two-hour shifts through the day.    Email lonestar.chapter@sierraclub.org with subject line re: Photo Installation volunteer or Photo Tabling Volunteer, if you want to help!  I guarantee it will be interesting!

Here’s the stories the photos will tell.

The show includes the work of some of Texas finest nature photographers — Charles Kruvand, Susan Heller, Adrian Van Dellen, and Deana Newcomb.

Alongside these gorgeous art pieces showing Texas natural resources that we want to protect are the documentary evidence of brave advocates exposing to light the dark side of the dream  — the brave Don Young and Sharon Wilson with their photos of gas fracking and drilling in the Barnet Shale, the champion coal fighter Paul Rolke with his photos from Texas coal country;  and the stalwart friend Hilton Kelley’s poignant images of children living and playing near the toxic fence lines of Port Arthur’s refineries and chemical plants.


Clean Energy Creates Jobs — Solar power image courtesy of Texas Solar Power Company

The solutions are here, too — enlightened and effective water conservation programs, solar panels flowering on rooftops across the state, green buildings for energy efficiency, an electric car and other smart transportation solutions to reduce pollution and clean up Texas.
Take a moment with us during an early lunch hour on ACT Lobby Day, Tuesday March 15.  The press event is on the South Steps at 11:30 AM.  We’ll then proceed inside for the photo opening in Extension 2  at 12:00 Noon.  Its even better than the big tent with barbeque outside.  Come inside and celebrate the launch of Protecting What We Love.   If you feel inspired,pick up some Fact Sheets from ACT inside the Legislative Conference Center next to the Photo Display and  go have a word with your Legislator.

After the Session concludes, the exhibit will be available to tour the state.  Let us know if you want it to show in your town!

For more information on ACT Lobby Day, click here.

~ Donna Hoffman, Communications Coordinator, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club

Enhanced by Zemanta