Monday, March 24, 2014

From Blackouts to Independent Power Systems: SolarCity says, "We Can Make It Happen!"

Take a look at this picture...what automatically comes to mind when you see this? My first thought was, “Good lord, where in the world is this?”

As it turns out, that question was pretty appropriate because this picture was not taken in the United States – it was taken in India. Less than two years ago, on July 31st, 2012, India suffered astronomically when three of its interconnected northern power grids all failed at the same time. The collapse affected an area that held about 670 million people…or roughly 10% of the world’s population. There were enormous traffic jams as there were no working traffic lights, and subway lines were stopped. Shops closed, businesses were halted, and coal miners were stranded in underground mines. Movement absolutely ceased without power.

According to a New York Times article, a historian named Ramachandra Guha said, “India needs to stop strutting on the world stage likes it’s a great power, and focus on its deep problems within.” And indeed, according to article authors Jim Yardley and Gardiner Harris, India does have an “inadequate infrastructure and a yawning absence of governmental action and leadership.” When your power lines look like a giant prehistoric bird nest…well, suffice it to say there are definitely some issues that need to be taken care of.

Despite India’s increased economic success, it is still considered a developing country because it lacks the infrastructure that would allow it to succeed fully, and many areas in India are ravaged by poverty and disadvantage.

Well, according to this article written by Stephen Lacey, a company called SolarCity might have the answer for many Indian citizens who want a reliable source of energy! In the third quarter of 2013, SolarCity installed “nearly a third of all U.S. residential PV [Photovoltaics],” and is now looking to move overseas! The company provides solar services to people who can’t necessarily afford to pay upfront for a power system. They have invested $7 million into Off-Grid Electric, a company based in Tanzania that provides solar energy services in Africa.

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said in a statement, “Solar power is already more cost-effective than kerosene and other polluting power sources that are common in the developing world. Many emerging economics skipped the build-out of phones lines to go straight to cell phones, and the combination of solar and storage can obviate the need for more power lines. Off Grid’s growth could have a profoundly positive impact on the economics, human health, and air and water quality in the markets it serves.”

Eliminating the need for power lines in India seems like a pretty great option when looking at that picture, and solar energy seems like a great option for people who are concerned about their health, their finances, and the health of their environment. Solar companies are ready to take off…they just need everyone else to demand lift-off!


Friday, March 21, 2014

How to Solve the Energy Crisis...

Happy Friday everyone! Here is a quick cartoon to get us all thinking about energy and energy policy today. How do we solve the energy crisis? The sun, which we can finally all see today, just might be the answer. Check this cartoon out, and then go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Quick Hit: Five Facts About Wind Energy

Even though SUNRNR is a company that puts its interest most
solidly in solar power, it is also a proponent of other alternative,
sustainable energy sources. That includes wind energy! Thanks to “Into the Wind,” the AWEA blog, here are five
quick facts about U.S. wind energy:

U.S. wind energy development is currently on
track and even ahead of the goal of producing 20% of America’s electricity by 2030.

American wind power has grown by more than 29%
on average every year for the past five years.

The land based American wind resource alone
could electrify the nation more than 9 times over.

It would take the fuel of a coal train 9,000
miles long (enough to cross the U.S. 3 times) to produce as much electricity as
U.S. wind turbines generated this year.

With technology advancements, the price of wind
energy has dropped by 43% over the past few years, delivering one of the most
competitive forms of power.

...what do you think about that?!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Jobs AND Environment: The Solar Industry Economically Benefits Our American War Veterans

Let’s face it; the environment is currently a seriously hot topic. The first Earth Day took place on April 22nd, 1970, and launched the modern environmental movement. Ever since that initial launch, traditional American pastimes – like tourism or farming, to give some examples – have tangled with more modern “green” views – like preservation and sustainability – to create a new American value. As Americans, we can say to the world that we value the environment and all that it has to offer.

All that being said…the environment is not only a hot topic, but it is a topic that causes many Americans to “get all hot and bothered.” We not only value the environment, but we also value the concept of the American Dream and all that it has to offer – happiness, prosperity, and the cash that it takes to achieve said happiness and prosperity. Oftentimes, these two ideas are pitted against each other in debate: would we rather improve the environment or the economy? It always seems like the argument is “Jobs vs. Environment,” with a capital “J” and a capital “E.”

A great new report highlights the fact that this doesn’t have to be the case! We shouldn’t be talking about Jobs vs. Environment – instead, we should be talking about how we can make the environmental movement benefit the American economy…

…because it can! Check THIS REPORT out. Operation Free and The Solar Foundation have released a new report that details some really exciting news for proponents of the “Jobs AND Environment” argument. This report details, “the U.S. solar industry employs 13, 192 veterans of the armed forces, a figure which represents 9.2% of all solar workers in the nation, exceeding the percentage of veteran employment in the overall economy.”

According to THIS recent article released by the Washington Post this past Veteran’s Day, the unemployment rate for recent veterans is around 10%...a rate which is abnormally high. The solar industry, an industry that depends on the push for more sustainable energy and a cleaner environment, creates economic support for those veterans that may not have it otherwise. 

If, as a nation, we can stop arguing “Jobs vs. Environment” and start looking for solutions to the strain that many Americans are feeling on their wallets, then the solar industry (or the sustainable energy industry in general) might be able to flourish more readily. The environment will benefit, our American citizens will benefit economically, and seemingly binary American values will both be able to thrive within the concept of the American Dream.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

What We Do and Don't Know About Energy

As we all know, energy is a hot topic in many different
ways. The citizens of the United States are hooked on energy! We are talking
about energy and energy policy, and also arguing about energy and energy policy
at every turn. What is the best option for our energy needs in the future,
considering the fact that we have an incredibly high demand for energy? Should
we continue to predominately use fossil fuels, or switch to more sustainable
alternative forms of energy? Should we mine coal here in the states, or put mining
on hold in order to take advantage of foreign resources? Should we build an oil
pipeline between Canada and the United States, or are we not willing to take
that environmental risk? How long will it really be before we are going to be
forced to utilize sustainable forms of energy…and will we be ready when that
time comes?

There are many questions that, as Americans, we haven’t completely
answered (or come to an agreement on) concerning our energy policy. However,
there are a few definitive facts that Americans can all agree upon:

Air pollution is bad.
I don’t think anyone particularly enjoys the strong industrial smell of
factories and ash, and the fact of the matter is that it is also bad for us. If
you can smell it, it has definitely infiltrated your lungs. We know that as a
society, we have to swallow certain risks when we live in certain areas…one of
those risks is air pollution. As the writer of this blog post, I know that I
would much rather live in and breathe the clean mountain air of the Shenandoah
Valley. However, as a writer, there may be better job opportunities in DC – an incredibly
populated and highly urbanized area. The air pollution there is a risk to my
health that I am willing to take. I wouldn’t be willing to live in Beijing,
Hebei, or Tianjin, however, where 30 percent of China’s pollution is produced
in an area that only takes up 8 percent of the country’s territory. I know that
the sheer amount of smoke that infiltrates the air there cannot be good for me,
or any human being.

Natural resources are
not limitless.
It would be so great if they were limitless, and we could
continue using them with the reckless abandonment with which we use them today.
However, according to the National Academy of Sciences, we have enough coal
reserves in the United States to meet the nation’s needs for more than 100
years…if we continue at the current rate of consumption and are mainly using
coal for electric power. The Energy Information Administration determines that coal
provides around 37% of our nation’s energy needs, and fossil fuels (coal, natural
gas, and petroleum) provide around 68%. What happens in 100 years when our coal
reserves start to run low, and we need some other source of energy to make up
that 37% we are missing? Natural resources are finite, and cheap, abundant
energy is something that we need as a nation.

The United States
utility grid is stressed.
This January, the PJM power grid skirted
incredibly closed to blackouts with the frequent winter storms. According to an article by Jim Pierobon, a blogger for, “The five
biggest demands – ever – on PJM’s grid, and eight of the 10 largest, occurred between
January 7 and January 30.” As temperatures dropped lower and lower on those
days, the Eastern portion of the PJM energy grid (that’s us!) continuously “flirted
with rolling blackouts,” typically around 8 am and 7 pm. As Americans, we
understand that we have an incredibly high demand for energy – sometimes so
high that the people who provide us with that energy can’t really keep up. Our
energy infrastructure is pushed to the brink.

And finally, As
American citizens, we need to make informed choices about any and all factors
that might affect our country.
This includes energy demand and energy
policy! If we are to be good, solid American citizens, we need to educate
ourselves on what is best for our country. On the surface, citizenship is
simply the status of a person who is accepted by law as having the rights and
privileges of an area. However, I think it means so much more than that. Active
citizenship requires participation in our communities and our political choices
as a country. So let’s all be active citizens and educate ourselves on the ins
and outs of energy possibilities. It is incredibly important for our country,
especially in the coming years, to be able to develop an inclusive energy policy
that meets the needs of every citizen…so let’s do it!

Like I said previously, we don’t necessarily have the
answers to the big questions. We know that, at SUNRNR, we take all facts into
consideration when we think about energy and energy policy. Hope you all had a
great weekend, and that the beautiful sun we got today sticks around!  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tired of the Winter Weather...?

...maybe this will cheer you up! Credit to Bill Amend for his funny (and all too true, for some of us) comic strip commenting on the snow storms that have been plaguing us these past months. Tired of the ice? We know we at SUNRNR, we're ready for the sun!

Monday, March 3, 2014

SUNRNR Meets With JMU's CoB!

There is a great opportunity in Harrisonburg for business owners to benefit from students. Many students who attend James Madison University and other surrounding colleges, like Eastern Mennonite University and Bridgewater College, have a high level of expertise in their prospective fields. While they are still in the beginning stages of their careers, they have gathered a great amount of knowledge from their classes, and are ready to set out into world to gain on-site experience!  

On a balmy afternoon last Friday, Jenny and Scott met with some of JMU’s finest international business students in order to discuss development of a marketing plan for SUNRNR (Click on that link to check out the JMU press release if you are interested in some more about this venture). Jasmine, Alex, Tess, and the Frenchs took a seat at Greenberry’s on the corner of South High and Grace St. They grabbed a coffee, and proceeded to talk about what could be done to market SUNRNR to a broad audience.    

The group explored multiple places where there could possibly be strong markets for SUNRNRs, as long as they could get the word out about their product. These included even international markets, in places like Africa and the Caribbean. They also examined the positive facets of the company. When Jasmine asked Scott what he really wanted to get out of his company and his product, Scott said, “We’d like to see it create jobs…and benefit mankind.”   

Jenny also pushed the fact that she and Scott wanted a “socially responsible company.” They want to develop their company into a concept that is not only sustainable and creates profit, but also benefits a wide array of peoples, possibly all across the world. 

By making their company available for these students to analyze, Jenny and Scott are helping the students get some great real-world experience…all while benefiting from their highly valuable feedback and intensive business background. The Greenberry’s meeting was a great success, and the Frenchs are looking forward to seeing what the CoB can do in the coming weeks! Click the link to check out the JMU press release and get all the details!