Archive for October, 2011

Colorado tops in U.S. for new wind-energy facilities in Q3

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Denver Business Journal, by Cathy Proctor, Reporter

Colorado led the nation in the amount of new wind energy installed during the third quarter of 2011, according to a report released Tuesday by the American Wind Energy Association. The association, based in Washington, D.C., said 1,204 megawatts of wind power were installed in the third quarter, nearly 80 percent more than the 671 megawatts installed during the third quarter 2010. Through the first three quarters of 2011, about 3,360 megawatts of wind power have been installed, up 75 percent over the first nine months of 2010, according to the report.

One megawatt of wind-based power can support about 250 homes. Colorado installed 501 megawatts worth of wind power during the third quarter, the most in the nation. Colorado was followed by Minnesota with 103 megawatts, Oklahoma with 130 megawatts and West Virginia with 98 megawatts. Texas was fifth, with 88 megawatts installed during the third quarter, according to the report.

Xcel Energy Inc., the largest electricity and natural gas utility in Colorado, also projects that a proposed 200-megawatt wind farm in Limon will save its customers nearly $278 million in electricity bills over 25 years, compared to forecast electricity prices using natural gas, according to the report. The savings are due to low wind-energy prices that incorporate federal tax credits, according to the report.

General Electric to Locate $600M Solar Panel Factory in Colorado

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Published October 14, 2011 | NewsCore

General Electric Co. has chosen Colorado as the location for a $600 million solar panel factory, the Denver Post reported Thursday.

The state was among a group of 10 states contending for the facility, which GE announced in April that it planned to build.  At the time, GE said the facility would be the biggest photovoltaic panel factory in the entire US.

Colorado development officials said the state beat out New York for the facility.

According to one source, the plant is to going to be built in Aurora, just outside of Denver.

OB/GYN’s Solar Suitcase Saves Lives in Poor Nations

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

by James Temple

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In March 2008, Dr. Laura Stachel arrived in the obstetrics ward of a state hospital in Zaria, Nigeria, determined to find out why so many women were dying in childbirth.

The poverty-stricken country on the coast of West Africa accounts for 2 percent of the world’s population but 10 percent of maternal deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Stachel, an obstetrician-gynecologist then pursuing a doctorate of public health at UC Berkeley, expected to provide clinical advice on ways to improve procedures.

But she learned something far more basic was going wrong: The hospitals and health clinics simply didn’t have electricity for large and unpredictable parts of the day.

Stachel saw midwives delivering babies by kerosene lantern. She observed a cesarean section during which the lights went out, forcing the surgeons to finish using her flashlight. She watched as a woman who arrived with a uterine rupture and barely a pulse was told to find a clinic with power.

“I was seeing the sickest patients I’d ever seen in rooms not as well equipped as an American garage,” she said. “I would be there at night and think, ‘I’m just here to watch these women die.’ ”

Without reliable electricity and standard tools, “(hospital workers) couldn’t do the job they were trained to do,” she said.

So instead of giving medical advice, she decided to get them more reliable power. As it happened, she knew whom to ask. Her husband, Hal Aronson, has spent more than a decade teaching about renewable energy systems throughout California.

Dr. Laura Stachel and her "Solar Suitcase"

When Stachel returned from Nigeria, they set to work designing a solar system for the hospital. The project would eventually lead them to form WE CARE Solar (, a Berkeley nonprofit that’s now delivered 80 compact solar systems to health clinics around the world, including Burma, Liberia and Haiti. Dozens more will soon be en route to Uganda, Nigeria and India.

On Thursday, the organization will be recognized as one of 15 laureates at the Tech Awards in San Jose, an annual event celebrating individuals and organizations around the globe that leverage technology to benefit humanity.

Stachel never intended for any of this to happen.

She spent 14 years as an obstetrician-gynecologist, building up a Berkeley practice that she loved, helping thousands of women deliver healthy babies. But a degenerative back condition made it harder and harder to do the job, eventually forcing her to give up all deliveries and surgical procedures in 2002.

“I had this injury where I couldn’t do what I was trained to do,” she said, echoing the words she used for those doctors in Nigeria. “I was robbed of that.”

She decided to study public health, which was what brought her to Nigeria as a consultant. The Zaria solar project eventually became the subject of her dissertation. But even that was supposed to be a one-off – until things took an unexpected turn.

Solar suitcase

Using a grant from the Blum Center for Developing Economies and funds from UC Berkeley, Stachel and Aronson went to work on a more than $20,000 project to provide a blood bank, communications system and nearly 1-kilowatt solar system at the hospital. It would be enough to keep the lights, suction machines and other critical infrastructure humming when the power flickered out.

To test their design, Aronson and Stachel created a miniature prototype that fit into a suitcase, in part to minimize customs issues. That small system, however, had a big, immediate impact at the hospital.

The local doctors pleaded with Stachel to leave the suitcase while the full system was under development. Smaller health clinics in outlying regions that got word of the hospital’s solar system would later petition for one as well.

The couple realized they’d inadvertently struck upon what could be a scalable solution for health clinics throughout Nigeria and other impoverished regions. The prototype “solar suitcase” contained less than $1,000 of gear. How could they say no?

In the year after the large solar system was installed in the Zaria hospital, the maternal mortality rate dropped by about 70 percent.

Stachel deflects credit for the success rate, saying the role that light and communications played required further study. Aronson, though, points out that the local doctors couldn’t cite any variables other than the power supply.

Finally, Stachel allows this much: “It’s been a driving force for us doing this now for three years. This experience really changed our lives completely.”

Getting to scale

That’s evident with a stroll through the backyard of the couple’s Berkeley home. The roof of the rear workshop is lined with solar panels. Wires, LED lights, electrical components and half-built suitcases clutter the walls and work spaces.

Giving a quick tour, Aronson explains that he assembles the 40- to 80-watt suitcases by hand, a process that takes about three hours each.

They’re designed to be simple to use and difficult to break. The basic components include a folding solar panel, a battery that can be replaced locally, a charge controller that regulates the flow of energy and an array of sockets. The newest suitcases, which cost around $1,500 to produce, also arrive packed with headlamps, rechargeable solar lanterns, walkie-talkies and other goodies.

So far, the operation has been funded through personal savings, donations and grants, including from the Blum Center and the UBS Optimus Foundation. Stachel turned her 50th birthday party into a fundraiser that covered the cost of two suitcases.

The organization is now in the midst of significant change, as Stachel and Aronson attempt to transform it from a scrappy group with a perpetual handout to a self-sufficient nonprofit. They’ve added three full-time staff positions this year, and a MacArthur Foundation grant last year was designated to crank up production from a unit at a time to full manufacturing scale.

The hope is they can push down costs through greater economies of scale and partner with larger nongovernment organizations and other third parties to cover the overhead for the suitcases delivered to specific regions.

Eyeing the workshop, Stachel jokes that the photographer scheduled to come the following week might finally get Aronson to tidy up. She admits that it sometimes feels like WE CARE Solar has taken over their lives.

But when every donation you collect and suitcase you construct represents saved lives, it’s hard to justify a vacation. For that matter, it’s hard to take time to go out to dinner.

There’s also the fact that Stachel already lost the physical ability to help mothers and children. She seemed determined not to give up another tool to save lives.

“To think that you have to wonder whether you’re going to die every time you get pregnant in some countries is such an injustice,” she said. “Once we saw what was going on, it was impossible to turn our back on it.”

Solar – Did You Know?

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Did you know that the solar industry now employs more than 100,000 Americans, double the amount of solar workers in 2009?  They work at more than 5,000 companies, the vast majority being small businesses, in all 50 states.  Arise Energy Solutions is proud to be one of those small businesses delivering value to our clients here in Colorado and providing an income for our work force.

Journey to the 1,000,000th Microinverter

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Arise Energy wishes to congratulate its strategic partner, Enphase Energy, in reaching a key milestone. In September, Enphase passed a significant business milestone: the production of its 1,000,000th microinverter.

This is a major accomplishment for Enphase, and co-founder Raghu Belur talks about how this milestone also shows Enphase’s successful collaboration with the company’s integrator/installer partners.

Read the blog post

Arise Energy Solutions’ co-founder and CEO Jim Bartlett commented on Enphase’s milestone: 

“Enphase has been a key partner and supplier to our company since its inception, making it possible for us to deliver countless solutions that all outperform energy production projections from NREL’s PVWatts program by a substantial margin.  With introduction of its M215 microinverter in May/June of this year, Enphase once again widened the gap between itself and those who might hope to copy or follow its lead.  The new 25-year warranty is a substantial selling point and added value to our clients, while the new cabling system is a cost and labor saver for us.   Lastly, the increased efficiency helps Enphase continue its leadership position with little to fear from wannabe competitors.  Keep it going Enphase!”