Islands Going Green with Hybrid Solutions

Islands Going Green with Hybrid Solutions


Islands are vulnerable places, battered by climate change, pollution and migration. But a mounting sense of urgency is counterbalanced by the realization that islands offer an important opportunity to find innovative, “hybrid” solutions that combine renewable and traditional energy sources, making them test-beds that the wider world should invest in and learn from.

Since mainland governments are mostly deaf to the plight of islands, leaving them to protect their environment and the quality of the life of their inhabitants on their own, these often remote, small places are now coming together and finding they have more in common than their differing locations and economic, social and historical context would suggest.

Islands are on the front line of contemporary challenges


Island locations capture our imaginations: exotic, often remote places that are home to unspoiled land- and seascapes. Yet minor islands are not just enticing tourist destinations but places where people live and work. They face a very particular set of sustainability challenges, revolving around issues of energy, water and mobility.

  • Security of supply issues can arise when it comes to water, electricity or fuel, especially when many islands like Bocas depend on incredibly polluting diesel for power generation
  • Islands have a more fragile environment than continental areas because of their limited surface, accelerating depletion of resources, such as forests, water sources, fish stocks and biodiversity
  • Their smaller size makes it harder to absorb waste and pollution of any kind, including garbage and other pollution generated by tourism and transport
  • Islands like Bocas are generally more exposed to the direct effects of climate change, including rising sea levels and weather instability

Islands represent an opportunity for the rest of the world

And yet, islands are important not only because of the pressures they face but because those very pressures act as a powerful catalyst for innovative and economically efficient solutions. Islands are becoming laboratories for the kind of integrated, hybrid solutions that all of us will need to implement, both in fragile, remote locations and on the mainland.

What is important from this perspective is that islands’ small size tends to favor integrated solutions in which, commonly, power generation from renewable sources is mixed with diesel generation, or renewables are combined with electric mobility.


When it comes to road transportation, it’s easier to adopt electro-mobility (Electric Cars) because distances are smaller and the advantages generated from the protection of vulnerable environments and savings on fuel costs are even higher than in other places. Benefits are of course greater if accompanied by solar power generation.

Finding a single voice to call for support for islands

The Greening the Islands conference recently brought together a group of leading islands – with delegations coming from Italy’s minor islands, the Canary and Balearic Islands in Spain, Greek Islands, the Azores and Malta.

Those islands have discussed and agreed on some key messages that the Greening the Islands conference has summarized in a recommendations document for the Paris 2015 UN climate change conference, calling on national governments and international organizations to actively support their plans to go green. They want support in encouraging:

  • Action to preserve islands’ fragile environments and increase their resilience to climate change
  • Best practices and investment in research, development and deployment of sustainability solutions on islands, by reduction of red tape and tax incentives.

A Greening the Islands Scientific Committee is already working on the next event to identify priorities and best practices. Islands have strong reasons for being self-reliant and are therefore unique life-size laboratories, capable of demonstrating in the short term the benefits of a transition to electrified transport and renewable power generation. The more groups that join this call to action, the more chance we have of learning the importance of greening the islands.


Net Metering in Nevada

Net Metering in Nevada:

Have you ever heard of “net metering?” Net metering is slightly different depending on your location but the basic idea is that utilities have to buy rooftop solar power from customers who produce it, at current retail electric rates. If someone generates as much power as he consumes, his utility bill can zero out. Currently 44 states and Washington, DC have mandatory net metering and utilities in three of the remaining states allow some form of it.

This is the debate in Nevada. It has been extremely popular and has helped established a thriving solar industry. According to the Solar Foundation, solar businesses employed 5,900 in Nevada in 2014. This is the most employees in the solar industry than in any other state. Tech companies and data centers have been seeking cleaner power in Nevada, the sunny dessert.  $569 million was invested in Nevada solar installations in 2014, a 427% increase from 2013.

Net metering is popular in Nevada; however, NV Energy is not a fan. NV Energy was recently acquired by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy and continues to pressure the state legislature to keep a low cap on the program’s size, which will likely halt growth in the industry.

The tension among players in the solar industry is not unique. Utilities have never been fans of net metering but as prices in rooftop solar drop, they see it as a threat. Legislation to make net metering illegal or more costly has been introduced in nearly two dozen state houses since 2013. Some of the proposals were virtual copies of model legislation tied to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

California Installed Solar Capacity

California Installed Solar Capacity

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recently released the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report citing some exciting news! If California was a nation, it would rank sixth in the world for installed solar capacity.

California currently has more solar assets than the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Australia and Belgium. It is the first state in the United states to top 10,000 megawatts of installed solar capacity. It first made history in the first quarter of 2015 by installed 718 MW of solar energy, increasing the state’s total capacity to 10,649 MW. This is enough to power almost 2.6 million homes. Of all the new capacity added to the state, 231 MW were residential, 88 MW were commercial and 399 MW were utility scale. This totals to $1.7 billion investment throughout the state in just the first quarter.

California is leading the nation by demonstrating how to create clean energy jobs and protect the environment. Just to get some context, California has 10 times more installed solar capacity today than the entire U.S. had in 2007. The legislative leaders of California as well as Governor Brown definitely deserve at least a pat on the back or a congratulations for taking the lead in America’s efforts to create a vivacious, growing, clean energy economy.

Public policies such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and Net Energy Metering (NEM) have all been effective in contributing the California’s explosive growth in solar. Solar is still the fastest growing source of renewable energy in the nation. The completion of the Desert Sunlight project located in the Mojave Desert was a huge addition to the use of solar in California.  The project generated 550 MW of electricity, enough to power 160,000 California homes.

The residential market also boomed, in part because installed system prices dropped 4% year after year and is now down 50% since 2010. It is expected that residential installations will continue to boom according to a recent report by the California Energy Commission.  According to this report, a quarter of all new homes being built in Southern California are constructed with solar energy systems. There are currently 2,226 solar companies working throughout the state, employing 54,700 Californians.  The golden state is doing well for themselves and our planet.

Record Breaking Q1 Texas

The Solar Biz

According to the recently released U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, Texas has recorded its best Q1 ever with 49 megawatts (MW) of newly installed solar capacity. This brings the statewide total to 379 MW, which is enough to power more than 66,000 homes, and nearly as much as the entire country had in 2004.

But that’s not all. Texas is still expecting to install more than 200 MW of new solar capacity by the end of 2015. For some perspective, that’s nearly three times more than was installed in 2013.

What’s inspiring the change? Well, the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), for starters. The ITC is a 30 percent federal tax credit for solar systems on residential and commercial properties. The tax credit benefits both companies that install, develop, or finance the projects, as well as homeowners who have the projects installed on their homes.

It has also been a welcome boost to Texas’ economy, as the 404 solar companies in Texas are currently employing more than 7,000 people. $87 million was invested in new solar installations in Texas in the first quarter, and nearly $340 million has been invested since the beginning of 2014.

Finally, from an environmental perspective, solar installations in Texas are helping to offset more than 410,000 metric tons of harmful carbon emissions. That’s equivalent to removing 86,000 cars off the road or reducing gasoline consumption by 46 million gallons.

Texas is currently only trailing behind five states in new capacity: California, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. But you know what they say, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” It’s only a matter of time before they catch up.

from The Solar Biz The Solar Biz’ Latest Post:

Pie in the Sky?

Sometimes environmentalists are perceived as though they are asking the rest of the world to make grand sacrifices and live on leaves, berries and tofu.  This tends to be the stereotype.  However, environmentalists are solely trying to come up with a plan that will provide a more promising future where if sacrifices are needed, it is for something even better.

What if the environmental movement could create an inventive plan that could possibly improve the lives of 99% of the population?  It is unlikely that we will ever be able to affect American politics or remove major corporations that control the government.  However, there must be a plan that can help and can have a positive effect.  There are a great number of people: scientists, environmental activists, “nerds”, and regular people who believe something needs to change.  If we can combine forces, there must be a way.

There must be a plan that meets the majority of Americans’ basic needs without existential want should not be difficult.

Obama is the first president in post-war history whose economy gave more money to the top 10% than the entire value of all productivity gains in his Presidency.

Increased productivity and the promise of automation mean that fewer workers are needed to provide the needs of our society.  This process has usually referred to the dislocation for workers caused by jobs and income loss. Economists call this “creative destruction.” However, people should be living in harmony with the earth with dignity and moderate comfort. Advocates of climate change mitigation will have to develop a plan that satisfies many and challenge the media- a daunting task. But it has been done before.

Environmentalists must reach out to people in the red states and to unions with plans that are comprehensive and compassionate, which raise the interests and power of the 99%. Then we have to make the 0.1% see the wisdom in fixing the solution.

from The Solar Biz The Solar Biz’ Latest Post: