Clean Power Blog

The eighth edition of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Tracking the Sun report, released last month, reflects rapidly falling solar photovoltaic (PV) prices in 2014 that are consistent with previous years’ trends and seem on track to continue into 2015. Data shows that from 2013 to 2014, the national median installed prices dropped by 9 percent for residential systems, 10 percent for small (500 kW or lower) residential systems, and 21 percent for large non-residential systems (greater than 500 kW). 2014 marks the fifth consecutive year that prices have declined at such a steep rate.                         







Fig. 7. Median Installed Price Trends Over Time 

One of the challenges of implementing renewable energy is ensuring consistent energy availability. Wind speeds are not always fast enough for turbines to generate energy, and solar PV panels can only generate electricity when the sun is shining. Numerous solutions are in the works, from batteries that can store the energy until it is needed, to the coupling of clean energy with traditional fuels when wind or solar resources cannot match electrical demand.

But there is already a solution available that helps improve the reliability of clean energy without requiring technological innovation or fossil fuels: combining multiple sources of renewable energy, so that one may be available when the other can’t meet energy demands. The city of Gardner is making major steps towards sustainability and energy independence by supplementing its already-existing wind and solar projects with a new turbine.

Gardner, which has long been a model of the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy, has been awarded a $400,000 grant from MassCEC to support the project. The turbine, which will be placed in Summit Industrial Park, will be Gardner’s fifth renewable energy installment. MassCEC’s grant will support permitting and community engagement activities while the city seeks a private developer. In addition to reducing emissions and increasing energy independence, the city will benefit economically from the turbine through annual lease payments.

The drive out to Hadley on a balmy summer morning is lovely – the bucolic scenery, fresh air and occasional tractor on the Pike are quite the treat for the InnovateMass team from Boston, and it’s almost tempting to call it a day at 9:30 am and simply open a book under a shady tree.

In fact, that exact scene is the backdrop for Hadley Propeller, where inside the engineers of Black Island Wind Turbines are designing, building and testing wind turbines designated for the toughest climates on earth. Black Island is the maker of the HR-3, a wind turbine specifically created to prevail under the combined pressures of extreme temperatures, Category 5 wind speeds, marine environments and super critical loads. This type of reliable energy generation is crucial in any situation where a loss of power can endanger lives: isolated research facilities, desert bases, and military outposts in particular. That same durability, at a lower generating level, is the goal for the HR-1, currently under development with funding from a MassCEC InnovateMass Grant.