This week in renewable energy: 1/31/14

Every Friday, Community Renewable Energy shares important clean energy developments– and some that are just plain cool.

Here’s what we were reading this week.

Solar careers

  • Joe Recchie's Community renewable Energy backs solar power in the MidwestThe solar power industry continues to be a bright spot in the economy. From the Market Watch blog (a part of the Wall Street Journal):

Solar firms expect solar employment to grow 16% over the next year, adding about 22,000 new solar workers to the 143,000 that were employed by the industry in 2013, the [The Solar Foundation, a solar industry trade group] said earlier this week while reporting the results of its 2013 jobs census.

Community-owned solar

  • America is embracing community-owned solar gardens. Fort Collins, Colorado is one of the most recent cities to explore their community-owned renewable energy options. From Sami Grover’s article on

What’s most interesting about these solar gardens, and FortZED in general, is not the specific technologies being promoted. Rather, it’s a reminder that when communities come together, and when businesses and the public sector collaborate effectively, it’s possible to achieve much larger goals than any single entity could achieve on their own. And that’s something that could have profound implications for communities across the country.

The Midwest goes green

  • Chicago, Philadelphia, and Kansas City are among ten cities that will receive funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation to enhance the energy efficiency of their buildings. The impact? Ten cities could save over a billion dollars in energy expenses. Other cities selected include Atlanta, Boston, Houston,  Los Angeles, Orlando, Denver, and Salt Lake City. (Green Tech Media)
  • Sometimes the Midwest is overlooked when it comes to solar power potential, but increasingly, states such as Iowa are taking center stage. (Iowa City Press Citizen)
  • Midwestern farmers are leading the solar power revolution. From Karen Uhlenhuth’s article in Midwest Energy News:

Solar panels are a natural fit on a farm, a few installers observed. [Minnesota installer Curt]Shellum said that, for several reasons, they’re his “favorite type of installation.”

For one, farms tend to use a lot of power, with monthly electric bills sometimes running into the thousands of dollars. They need electricity to run fans, to heat and cool barns for dairy cows, to cool milk and produce, to dry grain and move it around.

Many farms also have barns with roofs that lend themselves to holding up solar panels. And if there’s not a suitable roof, there’s usually plenty of space for a freestanding array.

In addition, farmers are accustomed to thinking long-term and investing in their business. Many of them have maintained the farm in their family for generations, and expect it to continue as a family-owned enterprise that will reap the benefits of investment in solar energy for decades to come.

And they tend to be an independent lot who like the prospect of producing their own power.

Bright ideas

  • Apple is investing in solar-powered computers. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Yet another example of the amazing flexibility of solar technology: The Blackfriars Solar Bridge over the Thames is outfitted with 4,400 photovoltaic solar panels that provide half of the power the rail station requires. (The Green Optimistic)

What do you think was the most important renewable energy story this week? Share your insights and thoughts below or by email.

For news about sustainable community and economic development, visit Praxia Partners’ blog.

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