Tag Archive: Solar energy

Is the Philadelphia Inquirer Trying to Emulate The Onion?

When I opened up today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, my eyes went to a headline that read: “A Republican greens can support” accompanied by a photo of Chris Christie. Even before I read the column, I checked the date to make sure I wasn’t reading the April 1 issue.

As the headline indicates, the columnist tries to convince the reader that Chris Christie is a friend of the environment. He mentions that New Jersey is among the nation’s leaders in deployment of solar energy (true), and that the governor opposed offshore liquefied natural gas terminals (a.k.a. highly explosive and dangerous potential pollution factories).

Cherry-picking some positive steps that have been made by the governor does not make him a friend of the environment. Christie has still refused to say that human activity contributes to global climate change and that most reputable scientists have concluded that events like Hurricane Sandy are exacerbated by global warming. The columnist does not mention that Chris Christie unilaterally, over the objection of the legislature, pulled the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. And Christie’s pro-fracking stance does not exactly jive with promoting clean drinking water supplies.

The author misleads the reader by stating that “in 2009, leading environmental groups … backed Christie over incumbent Jon Corzine.” Yet, the leading and most credible environmental group, the Sierra Club, took a pass in that election, endorsing a third party candidate over both Christie and Corzine.

The column ends with a swipe at Barbara Buono’s campaign, so one has to wonder what the motivation of the author was. Was it to really tout Christie’s environmental record? Or was it just another instance of the Norcross Newsmedia working to re-elect their friend?

Will the GOP Lawmakers Do the Right Thing for Their Own Kids?

Now that Governor Christie’s national political ambitions are put on hold, the question remains whether he will release his stranglehold on GOP legislators, or remain beholden to his Koch Brothers benefactors.

The first test may be coming soon. Earlier this year, in a surprise and profoundly misguided move, Christie withdrew the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This “cap and trade” policy is reducing the harmful effects of fossil fuels and promote clean alternative energy sources.

The state legislature directed the governor to keep New Jersey in RGGI, but  kowtowing to the extreme right, the Governor vetoed that bill.

Now Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27) is leading an effort to override the veto. He told News 12’s Walt Kane, “In the first three years since [its] enactment, RGGI has supported an estimated 1800 local jobs in New Jersey, generated more than $150 million in economic value and brought in $181 million from auction proceeds.”

If there’s a silver lining in the climate change debate, it’s that its deleterious effects are felt by people of all political stripes. As a society we are creating serious problems for the children of the most radical conservative legislators, as well as those of more sane and rational people. If the governor sends word that his GOP colleagues are permitted to vote their conscience, there’s a chance that the veto can be overridden and New Jersey can regain its leadership in the domain of environmental stewardship.

All of our energy comes from that nuclear fusion device that we call The Sun. As solar advocate Danny Kennedy is quoted in today’s New York Times:

When we burn coal, gas or oil, we are simply harnessing an archived version of that same energy from the sun, stored in plant and animal life, compacted and preserved under the earth’s crust. As Kennedy puts it in his passionate but rational way: “Think about it this way. We’re killing people in foreign lands in order to extract 200-million-year-old sunlight. Then we burn it … in order to boil water to create steam to drive a turbine to generate electricity. We frack our own backyards and pollute our rivers, or we blow up our mountaintops just miles from our nation’s capital for an hour of electricity, when we could just take what’s falling free from the sky.”

We have been raping the environment for the last 200 years. The best legacy to leave our children and grandchildren is to start down the long, hard road to reversing the damage we continue to cause.

What if the Entire United States and Canada were Without Electric Power this Summer?

An intriguing question – and I’ll discuss that below. But first, let’s talk about energy in general. Within state government, there’s no one better or more passionate about fixing our nation’s energy problems than Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula.

An engineer by training, Chivukula is the “go to” person in the Assembly on all things related to our crumbling power infrastructure, and how to bring it into the 21st century. Chivukula not only gets the technology, but understands the business and jobs implications of energy legislation.

Earlier today, I spoke with him on the floor of the Assembly chamber about a solar energy bill that he sponsored, and (to his credit) Governor Christie has recently signed.

We also talked about other non-solar renewable energy initiatives, and the power outage in India that affected more people than live in the U.S. and Canada combined. Could it happen here?

And lest you think I’ve gone soft by complimenting Governor Christie, I spoke with Chivukula and Assemblyman John McKeon about the governor’s veto of our state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. My interview with McKeon will be posted soon.

Also, stay tuned to Blue Jersey for another interview with Upendra Chivukula – this one on his challenge to Leonard Lance for the Seventh District congressional seat. Coming soon!

Matzah and the Environment

What does environmental protection have to do with matzah? Plenty – but you’ll have to watch my interview with Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, to find out.

On a more serious note, following today’s press conference (What the Frack?) Jeff talked about the record of the governor and the legislature as it relates to the environment, how some of the rollbacks hurt not just our air and water, but the economy as well, and the future of solar energy in the state. He concludes with what citizens and businesses can do to improve the quality of life in the Garden State.

The Right Way to Create Jobs in New Jersey

There are ways to create jobs, and there are ways not to create jobs. Over the past several years, it has been proven time and again that the Republican mantra of giving tax breaks to the wealthy does not create jobs. Providing stimuli to incentivize worthwhile endeavors does create jobs.

The solar power industry in New Jersey has been a fantastic jobs creator in part due to incentives. Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) have been one of those incentives, but they have been a victim of their own success. Sold on the open market, SRECs have lost value due to the glut of credits resulting from the expansion of the industry in New Jersey.

Today, the Assembly Utilities Panel will review Bill A2507, introduced by Assemblyman Vincent Prieto that gives the renewable energy industry a shot in the arm. The “Solar Thermal Expansion and Jobs Creation Act” will provide loans and grants to promote green energy.  And green energy means jobs. Not jobs that don’t add value by pushing paper and dollars around on Wall Street exchanges, but jobs that help keep our air and water clean and reduce our dependency on foreign imports. That’s the kind of leadership we need in Trenton and Washington.  

How To Really Save the Economy

Today’s NY Times has an op-ed by Robert Barro, of the Hoover Institution and Harvard University. It’s not surprising that someone from the Hoover Institution says “Austerity not Stimulus.”  But as Franklin D. Roosevelt proved during the Depression, while both business and government may be able to hire in times like these, ONLY the government is willing to hire.  Therefore we need stimulus. The question is “Which stimulus?”

Because of the NJ Clean Energy Program, we went form 9 kilowatts of solar power to about 400 megawatts in the last 11 years. Suppose we expanded the NJ Clean Energy Program to put a 40 KW solar array on every school in NJ, and the US?

What would it cost? What would it buy?

For starters, taxpayers pay the electric bills of schools. So if new solar is cheaper than new coal or new nuclear then it seems like a good idea.  

And what happens in an emergency?

Here’s the letter I sent the Times, Pres. Obama, Rush Holt, and Senators Menendez and Lautenberg.

Solar Energy Could Provide Free Electricity and CASH

Solar Energy Saves Money, Could Provide Free Electricity and CASH to Municipalities & Schools in New Jersey

New Jersey taxpayers could net $36.9 million per year, $369 million over 10 years, with the installation of 152.5 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity systems on public schools, community colleges, and each of the public universities in the state.

The systems would pay for themselves within the first 8 years. At 2010 values of electricity and  Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs), these systems would generate electricity worth approximately $300 Million and SRECs worth $1.2 Billion over the first 10 years, approximately $369 Million in excess of the cost of the systems, and provide virtually free electricity over the remainder of their 35 to 40 year lifespan.

Widespread deployment of solar energy increases the resilience of the electric grid, strengthens national security and can enhance local emergency response capabilities.

Solar Energy and the Tax Cut Deal

While Senator Bernie Sander’s old-fashioned filibuster has become a trending topic on twitter and is being live-streamed, our Senator Bob Menendez announced his support for the tax cut deal. I was intrigued by one of the reasons Menendez gave:

It also has several provisions I championed, including tax relief for transit riders and to spur the use of solar energy.

Compared to the tax cuts for the rich and payroll tax issues, the solar energy energy bit is minor, but a description is in The Solar Home & Business Journal:

A bill that embodies the controversial tax-cut deal negotiated by President Obama’s administration and Republican congressional leaders includes an extension of a Treasury Department grant program for solar energy installations…

The Treasury grant program has approved nearly 1,500 awards totaling more than $5.5 billion in payments, mostly for wind and solar electricity projects.

So far, the largest awards have been for wind projects, ranging up to about $218 million for a project in the state of Washington. Solar electricity projects have received the highest number of awards, with almost 1,200. Solar electricity awards have ranged from a few thousand dollars to about $62 million for a Florida Power & Light Co. project.

Basically, developers can get “cash back” instead of a 30% tax credit that often has little value, but if they didn’t start construction by the end of the month they’d have been out of luck. The tendency to offer subsidies and then let expire, then bring them back, then expire, has really hurt the wind industry over the years. Indeed, solar energy stock prices are soaring, showing that the uncertainty was hurting them.  

Hopefully besides encouraging solar energy, these grants will also encourage construction projects to start up now while people really need the jobs.