Friday Field Notes 102116


Election season is in full-swing here in the U.S. So unless you’ve already holed up in your off-grid, self-contained bunker, you’ll be hard pressed to avoid election discourse. Of course, digging through to the drivel to reach any amount of substance is another matter. And we’re not just talking the presidential race. Take Florida’s Amendment 1, which is not all that it seems (specifically, it’s not so much “pro-solar”). David Pomerantz, executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute sums it up: “The groups behind Amendment 1 ‘ were very clear about the utilities’ plan when they thought the public wasn’t listening: They’re trying to confuse voters into believing their utility-backed ballot initiative is pro-solar. It’s a dirty trick, and Floridians should show them that they’re too smart to let them get away with it.'” (Miami Herald)

With that, here’s the week in solar news . . .

Businesses going solar continue to dominate the news. The latest: Target has dethroned Walmart as leader of corporate solar installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) latest report. Take a look at their slideshow for other companies at the top.

Egypt’s first solar-powered village is up and running in Bahariya Oasis. Principal architect Karim Kafrawi explains, “The idea was to create an architectural character that would smoothly blend into the natural landscape so that from a distance, this rather large building would be discreet, almost invisible except for the towering stone structures highlighted by the PV solar panels reflecting the sky and sun.” The village is unique, and quite lovely. Check it out.

What happens when a landfill is decommissioned? How about giving it new life as a community solar project? That’s exactly what’s happening with the South Burlington Landfill. “We are excited to be a leader in repurposing a closed landfill for the generation of renewable energy. This otherwise unusable property will now provide savings, energy, and opportunity for our community, ” says Helen Riehle, City Council Chair (VT Digger). Sounds like a brilliant plan.

Solyndra–ever since the company went belly up in 2011, it has been the rallying cry of those opposed to solar. Solar doesn’t work, just look at Solyndra, they say. It’s their drum, and they shall beat it (to death, apparently). Well, it looks like the Energy Department may be getting the last laugh. According to the latest update, their loan program has actually been a success.  As for the losses from Solyndra, they were cancelled out by interest on other loans by 2014 (Clean Technica). The DOE has moved on; perhaps it’s time others do the same. Just a thought.

There was a day–not that long ago I might add–wherein women were relegated to the fringes of the solar industry. Sure, you’d see them at the big conferences–but they were more . . . how shall we say? They were more “modeling the wares,” if you will, than actually contributing to their talents in math and science, installation and design. Thankfully, the tides are beginning to turn. If you’d like a glimpse at what that looks like, check out Renewable Energy World‘s Sustainable Women Series . . .

Speaking of women in solar, Vivian Ferry is part of MIT Technology Review‘s 35 Innovators Under 35 series. So what’s her claim to fame? Oh, you know, she’s using nanocrystals to trap light and boost efficiency of solar cells.

Wait — there’s more. Daphin Juma is a solar engineer and entrepreneur in Kenya. Trained under the Women in Sustainable Energy and Entrepreneurship (WISEE) collective, Juma has started her own business. “Top priority of my business model is to restore people’s faith in solar. If you travel in remote areas, so many will just point at a dead solar panel and say ‘solar doesn’t work,” she says. “But often it’s just a matter of replacing a battery. Perhaps the system was badly designed, or poorly maintained. Nothing that can’t be fixed.” To restore trust, she plans to launch “Solar Doctor” the first part of next year, where she’ll travel around Kenya to collect and repair systems free of charge. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to go ahead and put Juma on my list of people I’d like the opportunity to meet someday.


Now, for our disclaimer: Friday Field Notes is a weekly post about the goings on in (and possibly around) the field of solar. We simply link to news articles from the week to help you stay in the loop. While we try to stick with reputable sources, we cannot attest to the accuracy of each and every piece. Furthermore, the links and subsequent views and commentary are purely the opinion of the writers. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the company, nor should they be considered professional opinion, backing, and/or advice.