Friday Field Notes 050319

There’s good news, and there’s bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first, shall we? Apparently, last week’s field notes never posted. There was some good stuff in there, too–we didn’t want you to miss out. So, we went ahead and pushed it through. Hence, the two emails this week if you subscribe to the blog. Apologies for the snafus. Now, the good news: Goldman Sachs “sees an end to the gloom for solar manufacturers,” calling a bottom in solar. (Bloomberg Technology)

Now, for more solar news from the week . . .

In the last six years, solar power has doubled in most U.S. cities. Bret Fanshaw, Director of the Go Solar campaign at Environment America, answered a few questions about this growth for Clean Technica. For example, when asked if most of the cities going solar were “blue” or Democrat-run cities: “Not necessarily. San Diego is #2 for total and per capita solar and the city has a Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, who has championed the city’s commitments to solar and moving to use 100% renewable energy. Jacksonville is top 20 in both categories and has a Republican mayor, Lenny Curry. Beyond who is in charge, solar is a bi-partisan or non-partisan issue in most places. Polling consistently shows it favored by most of the public.” So, there. One, we need to stop being Judgey McJudgerson when it comes to Republicans and renewable energy. Second, we can (and must) learn to set aside our differences to work toward a cleaner, brighter future.

Renewable energy is set to surpass coal for the first month ever. “Five years ago this never would have been close to happening,” says Dennis Wamstead, analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). “The transition that’s going on in the electric sector in the United States has been phenomenal . . . renewables are just a better bet at the moment.” (CNN Business) While renewable power isn’t expected to surpass coal on an annual basis for several years, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon challenges college students to construct buildings powered by renewable energy. This year, students from the State University of New York (SUNY) and Syracuse University took first place in the mixed-use, multi-family building category. Junior Micheal Schmidt, one of the project leaders, explains, “. . . designing a building, we could design anything we like, but if it’s not going to fit into the community or impact the community in positive ways, why do it at all?” So true.

Eric Weber, architecture professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is leading a team of 15 architecture students + 45 interdisciplinary students competing in the 2020 Solar Decathlon. Their entry, Desert Bloom, intends to not only be energy efficient, but solve problems specific to war veterans. Will the home be functional and beautiful? Weber thinks so: “If you understand really well the nature of what you’re trying to solve then it will make for better architecture. That extends to the aesthetics, understanding how these complex systems work, responding to the user’s needs. If you do all those things beautifully and the building functions beautifully, inherently that tends to drive it toward being a beautiful building.” (UNLV)

Another hospital is going solar. Sutter Amador Hospital in Jackson, California, flipped the switch this week. Their 1.58 megawatt (MW) solar system, installed on parking structures and rooftops, will generate more than half of their electricity needs. “Sutter Health and Sutter Amador Hospital have been looking for ways to continue our mission of superior health services to the community while at the same time contributing to a healthier environment,” says Stephen Lockhard, M.D., Sutter Health Chief Medical Officer and executive sponsor of Sutter Health’s environmental stewardship program. “The main reason for bringing this sustainable energy source to the Sutter Amador Hospital campus and other locations is to reduce our carbon footprint in the communities that we serve. Now it can be Earth Day every day here at Sutter Amador Hospital.” (Yahoo Finance)

The city of Minnetonka, Minnesota is a community of just under 50,000 residents. It boasts 49 community parks, over 81 miles of maintained sidewalks and trails . . . and by the end of 2019, the city will run solely on solar power. In the words of Brian Wagstrom, the city’s public works director, “I wanted to be early to the party. We jumped into it early because, at the time, I thought . . . the quicker we could get contracts, we would be first in line to get the savings. Turns out that was true.” (Sun Sailor) I love it when a plan comes together.

Speaking of plans, if you’re collecting ideas for summer travel, or maybe just dreaming of an adventure or two, check out this video of the world’s first 100% solar powered train (Clean Technica). Look at that, the little engine that could . . . 


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 commentary are purely the opinions of the writers. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the company, nor should they be considered professional opinion, backing, and/or advice.