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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • The Green Space: Understanding solar, options for energy independence

  • Just imagine — cheap solar energy. It's what books, movies, and dreams are made of. Well, folks it's coming. According to several sources, solar energy will be as cheap as coal within five years and certainly by the end of the decade.As solar energy costs drop, installations for solar panels surge. In Butler...
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  • Just imagine — cheap solar energy.
    It's what books, movies, and dreams are made of. Well, folks it's coming. According to several sources, solar energy will be as cheap as coal within five years and certainly by the end of the decade.
    As solar energy costs drop, installations for solar panels surge.
    In Butler, Mo., or "The Electric City," as it has been referred to since the 1800s, MC Power Companies, Inc. continues work this winter toward a spring launch for its new solar array.
    Rising from a site at the Butler Industrial Park, the plant will be one of the largest in the Midwest with a three-megawatt generating capacity. When complete, the facility will feature a 20-acre spread of 10,000 solar panels and state-of-the-art components converting energy to match the current and voltage on Butler’s power grid. The company is currently on track to get the "farm" online as Missouri’s first utility scale solar plant, according to Alliance Advantage, a newsletter of Missouri Public Utility Alliance.
    Solar Link US Inc., a subsidiary of MC Power, is shouldering the projected $14.5 million construction costs of the Butler Solar Power Farm.
    According to an article in the Kansas City Business Journal by Alyson Raletz, “solar energy is slightly more expensive than wind projects, Grotzinger (Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commissioner) said the farm’s ability to generate power during peak daytime hours brought added value and would make up the difference. Wind farms typically generate the most power during early morning hours, when use isn’t high.”
    Ehren Goossens of Bloombergs, an online source, quoted Shawn Qu, chief executive officer of Canadian Solar Inc. in an interview: “We are already in this phase change and are very close to grid parity.
    "In many markets, solar is already competitive with peak electricity prices, such as in California and Japan. … Chinese companies such as JA Solar Holdings Ltd., Canadian Solar and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. are making panels cheaper, fueled by better cell technology and more streamlined manufacturing processes. That’s making solar economical in more places and will put it in competition with coal, without subsidies, in the coming years.”
    Michael Liebreich, chief executive officer of New Energy Finance, said at the company’s annual conference in New York, “In a decade, the cost of solar projects is going to halve again."
    According to Sami Grover, of Treehugger.com, “With even mainstream homebuilders offering solar options, and some tantalizing hints that solar could be as cheap as coal by 2015, interest in solar for homeowners looks set to rise in coming years. Now there’s also an increasing interest in 'solar gardens' that allow energy users to invest in solar on someone else’s property and still reap the economic rewards.”
    Page 2 of 2 - In fact, in 2010 Colorado passed a law to legalize community solar gardens for renters and condo-owners to be able to take advantage of solar energy, and to support non-fossil fuel sources.
    The idea of every day, every house solar energy is exciting. It’s revolutionary, and it’s about time. Yes, researchers have been working on this all along. The subject has not been a sleeper.
    To find out more about understanding solar energy and options for independence, join Indy Energy at the Independence Mid-Continent Library at 10 a.m. Saturday.
    Lynn Youngblood is executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association, a certified residential energy client service coordinator by the National Energy Retrofit Institute, and a past nature center manager for 20 years, including more than 17 with the Missouri Department of Conservation. You can reach her at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.

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