There’s been surprisingly little press about the eight solar-powered cars driving from Austin, Texas to Minneapolis. But the cars and their collegiate creators are making history.
The best among them set out on a long north-south journey July 21 in the 21st American Solar Challenge, which pushes solar vehicles created by teams of college students to race across country and prove the road-worthiness of a car powered by nothing but the sun. The competition takes place every two years.
Utilities lost a little more ground in their ongoing battle with the solar industry last week when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that solar installers are allowed to sell power through power purchase agreements.
When solar advocates talk about “monopoly utilities,” they’re not being disparaging. Utility companies in most states are granted monopolies and are allowed to protect their rein over a region. No other utility companies can operate in their territories. State regulators are in place to protect the public and keep the monopoly from exploiting its customers.
Alliant Energy, whose parent company is Interstate Power and Light Company, appealed to Iowa regulators when solar installer Eagle Point put solar panels atop a Dubuque municipal building and signed a power purchase agreement with the city.
A power purchase agreement allows home and business owners along with nonprofit and government groups to install solar panels with no upfront cost, much like the solar leasing model employed by popular SolarCity. Instead of leasing the panels, the home and business owners agree to purchase the power they produce from the installer.
Battery storage paired with residential rooftop solar arrays are not a thing of the distant future. It’s happening now and companies like SunPower and SolarCity are already selling package systems.
SolarCity partnered with Tesla to manufacture a lithium-ion battery storage system. In a pilot program, SolarCity is offering the battery setup to California customers for $1,500 down and $15 a month on a 10-year lease agreement.
As most major US utility companies, in their concern over self-preservation, try in vane to squash net metering programs and slow the growth of the solar industry, NRG is innovating and evolving.
NRG is not a cute little clean energy startup out to save the world. It’s the largest power generator in the country. In addition to directly serving electricity customers coast to coast, NRG is a major electricity wholesaler, providing power to other utility companies for a price.