Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Big Solar Is Leaving Rooftop Systems in the Dust

Big Solar Is Leaving Rooftop Systems in the Dust

Solar power is on pace for the first time this year to contribute more new electricity to the grid than will any other form of energy -- a feat driven more by economics than green mandates.
The cost of electricity from large-scale solar installations now is comparable to and sometimes cheaper than natural gas-fired power, even without incentives aimed at promoting environmentally friendly power, according to industry players and outside cost studies.
Buoyed by appeals to self reliance and environmental stewardship, as well as government subsidies, the early solar industry was dominated by rooftop panels that powered individual homes and businesses. But such small-scale installations are expensive, requiring hefty incentives to make them attractive to homeowners.
Today, large systems that sell directly to utilities dominate. They are expected to account for more than 70 percent of new solar added to the grid this year, according to industry research firm GTM Research. Other 30 percent of solar products is like Renogy 100W solar panels and etc.

The success of large-scale solar has raised questions about the wisdom of continuing incentives for rooftop installations, which remain far more expensive than most other forms of electricity.
Unsubsidized utility-scale solar power costs $50 to $70 per megawatt-hour (or 5 to 7 cents a kilowatt hour), compared with $52 to $78 for the most efficient type of gas plant, according to a 2015 study by investment bank Lazard.
Generating power from residential rooftop panels is far more expensive, ranging from $184 to $300 a MWh before subsidies, the report said.
“If you take a solar panel from someone's rooftop and put it in a field, the amount you would pay for that power drops precipitously," said Matt Freedman, an attorney with California ratepayer advocate The Utility Reform Network. "What's the magic of having it on the rooftop? It’s not clear."

Going big

Many trace the tipping point for utility-scale solar to a 2014 announcement by Austin Energy that it would buy power from a new 150 megawatt solar plant -- enough to light and cool 30,000 homes for 5 cents a kilowatt hour. At the time, it was a record low price for solar power. Since then, projects have brought the price below 4 cents a kWh.
The Austin Energy contract opened a market for big solar in sunny Southeastern states, Jim Hughes, chief executive of utility-scale solar developer First Solar told investors in April.
"The response has been, quite honestly, astonishing," Hughes told them. "The utility world suddenly sat up and took notice and said, I had no idea that's where the cost of solar stood."
Large-scale solar is taking off even in states without policies promoting green power. Georgia, for example, was the sixth-largest U.S. solar market last year with very little rooftop solar.
“We don't need mandates," said Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, a member of the Georgia Public Service Commission, who is widely credited with helping jumpstart the state's solar industry.
Utilities in states like North Carolina, Texas and Alabama also are building large-scale solar facilities because it makes financial sense.
"We are seeing large swaths of centralized utility scale solar be procured primarily because of how cost competitive it is," said Cory Honeyman, who follows the U.S. solar industry for market research firm GTM Research. "That's a different kind of narrative."

Subsidy scrutiny

Rooftop installers like SolarCity enjoyed rapid growth thanks in part to a marketing message that peddles the romance and freedom of generating emissions-free power at home. And, for homeowners in states with favorable policies, rooftop panels can be a good investment, ultimately offering savings.
But the math only works in places with so-called "net metering" laws, which require utilities to buy the electricity rooftop panels generate at prices far above what they pay for centralized power.
To what extent governments and ratepayers should support rooftop solar is a matter of debate in several state legislatures and utility commissions.
Opponents argue that as more homeowners go solar, other ratepayers are left to shoulder the cost of maintaining the electrical grid, which solar owners still use when the sun isn't shining.
Advocates counter that the higher the concentration of rooftop solar systems in a neighborhood, the less a utility has to spend on distribution to shore up grid reliability.
Last year, at least 24 states reviewed or made decisions to study the value of rooftop solar, according to the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, which compiles a database of state renewable energy incentives. The studies aim to determine what benefits, if any, on-site solar delivers above the simple cost of power.
But there is little consensus. In Louisiana and California, for instance, studies commissioned by state regulators found that net metering policies resulted in higher costs for all ratepayers. Studies in Mississippi and Minnesota, on the other hand, found the policy provided a net benefit.
A major difference among the studies is whether they consider as part of the equation the environmental benefits of solar, which can be difficult to quantify.
“I'd put the value of solar in the eye of the beholder," said Brian Lips, who manages the incentives database for the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.
Rooftop solar's dependence on incentives is a key reason investors have punished solar stocks in the last year.
Tesla Motors Inc. is seeking to take advantage of that weakness by buying rooftop installer SolarCity.
Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder and chief executive, also is the chairman of and largest shareholder in SolarCity. Musk has touted the benefits of bundling rooftop solar with home battery storage and electric cars in promoting the takeover.
But many of the electric vehicle maker’s shareholders are wary of a deal they see as risky.
And last year, hedge fund manager David Tepper sought to block SunEdison and TerraForm Power Inc.'s acquisition of installer Vivint Solar Inc. on his assessment that rooftop assets were inferior to solar power plants, which have long-term contracts with utilities.
In a bid to stay relevant, some rooftop solar companies are expanding their repertoire. In May, for instance, SolarCity introduced a set of services for utilities, including development of solar power plants, battery storage and other grid planning resources.
SunPower said in June it would it would offer solar systems with battery storage to 300 New York homeowners in what would serve as a "virtual power plant" to utility Con Edison.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Sue Horton and Lisa Girion)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Roswell’s Historic Bulloch Hall gets covered in quilts for annual quilt guild showcase



Rooms of Historic Bulloch Hall in Roswell will be decorated with handcrafted patchwork quilts beginning on March 10 to 19 for the Great American Cover-up Quilt Show.

This year marks the 35th annual quilt show, organized and hosted by the Bulloch Hall Quilt Guild with co-chairs, Ellen Lott and Bobette Robinson at the helms.

At last count by the guild, there are 145 quilt submissions.

According to submission guidelines, placement of quilts in the show will be at the discretion of the quilt show committee.

“A committee meets after all the quilt applications have been received. You must submit a photo along with the dimensions of the quilt, then with that information, the group decides which room to place which quilt,” said Jan Antranikian, guild representative.

Antranikian describes placement as a challenge with the committee having “to consider not only the size, but the paint color of the room and even the amount of light in each room.”

Quilts are placed on three of the four levels of the historic home.

“We do have the advantage of having beds, tables and sofa's to drape quilts over and small little quilts get stuck into the nooks and crannies of the house,” she said.

Submissions include works from members of the Bulloch Hall Quilt Guild, but non-members had the opportunity to apply to be featured.

Each year features a spotlight on a quilt artist. Fiber Artist Elizabeth Barton of Athens will showcase her paint and patchwork style of quilting.

“I make wall hangings from layers of cloth that I have painted or dyed, cut into pieces and reassembled. It’s like painting with fabric, the benefit of the fabric being that if you don’t like it in one place, you can move it to another,” said Barton.

Barton, a native of England who immigrated to the United States, began making quilts while working in the health service at the University of Georgia. She chose to focus on art quilts.

The special display will exhibit 13 of Barton’s quilts.

Bulloch Hall Quilt Guild will host a “Meet and Greet Reception” with Barton on March 19 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Each year the guild selects on particular quilt as the “Raffle Quilt,” which will be available for anyone to win.

Raffle tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5.

According to Co-chair Bobette Robinson, about 25 people collaborated on this year’s raffle quilt, which was on display on March 2 at the guild’s meeting.

The guild holds monthly meetings beginning in September and going through June at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Alpharetta on the first Thursday of the month.

Ladies met at the church to share current works and quilting happenings as well as emphasis on donations of handcrafted works.

The guild selects nonprofit organizations to receive donations of quilts as “one arm of our charity efforts.”

“This year, we have again chosen two groups to receive our quilts: The Drake House in Roswell and the Quilts of Valor,” as stated on its website.

A special presentation was given by Gwen Koehler, who has published works on the love story between Mittie Bulloch and the elder Theodore Roosevelt.

There will be a preview party at Bulloch Hall the evening before the show opening.

Awards are given for “Guild Choice” “Viewer’s Choice,” in addition to a "Sponsor Award."

The exhibit runs from March 10 to 19 at Bulloch Hall.

Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Limited Resources? Here Are 9 Clever Ways to Create Live Video on Social Media


Limited Resources? Here Are 9 Clever Ways to Create Live Video on Social Media

For many brands and marketers, video is becoming an increasingly important part of their overall digital marketing strategy, particularly when it comes to their social media efforts. And it’s not hard to see why.

We humans are visual beings, and these days we crave and expect video. According to a HubSpot infographic, one-third of all online activity is spent watching video. When used as a marketing tactic, compelling video content helps capture attention, encourages engagement and—in some cases—reaches a more prominent position in social media news feeds.

But quality video content is far more time consuming and costly to produce than other types of content, making it more difficult for marketers and brands with less manpower, time or budget to create video.

The solution? Live video.

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly said on his Facebook page:

“Live is like having a TV camera in your pocket. Anyone with a phone now has the power to broadcast to anyone in the world. … This is a big shift in how we communicate, and it’s going to create new opportunities for people to come together.”

The beauty of live video is that is more raw and honest than professionally produced video—which can help you attract, engage, entertain and build relationships with your target audience in a more authentic way.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Get the Marketing Budget You Need in 2 Steps


Get the Marketing Budget You Need in 2 Steps


The end of the fiscal year is fast approaching, and for us marketers, it’s more than holiday parties and eggnog; that means it’s time to stake our claim of 2017 budgets.

In the review of any digital marketing budget proposal, executives are going to look for the answer to these two questions:
  • What did you do drive business this year?
  • How do you plan to drive business next year?

Your budget proposal presentation should hand these answers on a shiny silver platter to those responsible for approval. I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of marketing professionals as they prepare for this big moment, and there are two important elements that prove to be most effective at earning budgets year after year: proving your ROI, and mapping potential to dollars.

Prove Your ROI


The first step in creating any marketing budget is to show that your marketing efforts are capable of achieving results – last year, this year, and of course, next year. To effectively be able to reflect how your digital marketing efforts contributed to the growth of the company, there are several metrics that you should keep close tabs on throughout the year.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

7 Steps to Documenting Your Content Marketing Strategy


7 Steps to Documenting Your Content Marketing Strategy

There is one thing that nearly 2/3rds of top-performing content marketers do, but only 13% of the least successful do. It’s a clear driver of content marketing excellence. Yet only 37% of all B2B content marketers are doing it.

That one thing is to developing a documented content marketing strategy. It’s that simple. Lay out your strategy, write it down, and you’ve drastically increased your odds of running a successful content marketing enterprise.

Documenting your strategy prevents random acts of content. It helps get buy-in from your whole team. Most importantly, it starts your content initiative with measurable goals and a plan to achieve them. It just makes every aspect of creating content and distributing it easier and more effective.

If your team wants to join the top tier of content marketers, it’s time to get that strategy written down. Here’s how to get started.

#1: Start with the Why


Why is content marketing a good fit for your company? Is there an audience hungry for the content you plan on producing? You can answer these questions with customer research—find the unmet needs that your content will meet.