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Oh! Good! Spring is here; or is it? It's April 16th, I'm deep in the Heart of Dixie, and there's frost on my windshield. Some people say Mother Nature is bipolar and off her meds. Whatever is happening, winter seems to be hanging on much longer this year. Weather forecasters say we are likely to break a temperature record set in the 1800's.

Skeptics are scoffing at "Global Warming," and some are even scoffing at "Climate Change" saying ice ages just happen every so often. Whatever the reason, it has been cold this year, and that's good for folks with solar.

If you have a photovoltaic (PV) system, you will generate more electricity in cold weather. Solar panels quickly heat up to 50 Centigrade degrees (90 Fahrenheit degrees) above ambient so starting with a very cold ambient temperature means the panels perform better.

If you use solar thermal for either hot water production or radiant heating, your gain is even greater. Solar radiation from the sun is converted directly into heat; PV has to first convert sunlight into electricity and then convert electricity into heat. Starting with colder water out of the ground means you need more solar radiation to generate the same hot water temperatures.

So, does Alabama have enough sunshine to make solar practical? Read Morton's latest blog at:

Free Professional Development Hours

See free and low-cost opportunities to learn more about renewable energy. Most offer professional development hours for professional engineers. Visit the ASA Solar Classes and Training Opportunities page.

Breaking News:

Monday, September 2, 2013: Five US nuclear reactors shuttered in recent months. Now what?

November 20, 2012: STILL IMPORTANT Pssst! Hey, buddy, can you spare a few hours?

The Alabama Solar Association is looking for a few good men and women who want to leave a better future for our children and grandchildren. Will you help?

Read more.

Energy Links

Thought for the day: Friday, March 14, 2014

Question: What is the one thing every single human being on the planet can do that's considered green? Whatever the answer is, multiply that by billions of human beings and you create some noticeable Green results.

Walk more, drive less."
by Doug Elgin, President, Alabama Solar Association, Huntsville, Alabama USA

See more "Green" tips.

From the Philippines

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Four days with four "Brown-outs."

Well “brown-outs” aren’t that bad, are they?

Wait! These are not US “brown-outs.” These are tropical “brown outs.”

You see, Filipinos define a “brown-out” as when the power goes completely off but for less than 12 hours. It may be because an overloaded sugar cane truck took out a few power poles, or it might be workers are repairing something.

Friday, the power was out all day. A power company worker phoned his friend at the machine shop to explain the duration and extent of the day’s “brown-out,” and he called a worker at my son-in-law’s motor scooter repair shop who told us. Forewarned, we loaded in the car and headed south for the day. We ate a leisurely lunch at an air-conditioned restaurant in a mall in Angeles City, enjoyed a new movie, shopped leisurely, and headed back home just as the power came back on.

The following days had shorter power outages from half a day to half an hour on successive “brown-outs.”

Now in the USA, we generally recommend against battery-backup PV systems whenever a power grid is reasonably close. A simple, grid-tied system will work almost seamlessly for 25 years with little or no maintenance. An off-grid system, or even a grid-tied system with battery backup, requires extra expense and maintenance. Initial costs may be as much as 50 percent higher, and replacement of batteries every three to ten years (depending on use) may stretch payback periods close to the 25-year lifespan of the system. “If you have a grid, use it,” advises ASA Technical Director Larry Bradford of Southern Solar Systems.

But during a tropical climate like the Philippines, power outages are frequent and repairs often slow. We need to rethink Bradford’s philosophy.

Unless your business is part of a big shopping mall or other facility with backup generator power, your business comes to a complete stop. In the case of our family scooter shop, all day Friday and part of Monday was a complete loss.

On a ship somewhere on the Pacific Ocean right now are two very large batteries. I brought a charge controller and inverter with me. I’ll buy panels and rails locally. In a few weeks, I hope to have a PV system in place to deal with “brown-outs” here.

If I am fully successful, I will reduce the power outage problem in one small mom-and-pop shop in one small town in one country in the most populous part of our globe. What I really hope is that I will inspire other businesses here to cover their empty roof spaces with solar panels to reduce the need for backup generators.

Our three biggest challenges of solar today are, in order of priority:

  1. Education of engineers, scientiswtsw, legislators, utility officials, the public, etc.
  2. Education, and
  3. Education

Posted from Tarlac City, Philippines, by
A. Morton Archibald, Jr., P.E., C.E.M.
President, Alabama Solar Association

ASA Solarite goes International:

Affordable Energy Solutions of Huntsville is going to work in the Philippines. Normally limited to Alabama and Southern Tennessee, the firm is branching out. A team from the firm will be developing and teaching a two-day class on “Energy Efficiency Planning for Optimization” in Manila this spring. While there, we will install at least one grid-tied photovoltaic system with battery backup.

Nothing shows the energy situation in the Philippines than the lighthouse on the fortress island of Corregidor. The original 19th Century Spanish lighthouse used whale oil lamps to guide ships from the South China Sea into Manila Bay. Electric lights replaced the oil lamps and eventually the lighthouse evolved into the tower shown to the right. Brimming with electronics and powered by solar panels, the tower still guides ships safely into and out of Manila Bay.

Life is hard in the Philippines. Gasoline cost about five bucks a gallon. It takes the average Filipino worker two and a half day of 10 to 12 hours a day to buy one gallon. Electricity is 25 cents per kilowatt-hour, or about double what Alabama Power charges now. That’s more than an hour’s wages for just one kWh. “Brown-outs” are common. A “brown-out is defined as grid power being shut off for less than 12 hours; longer than 12 hours is a blackout.

At just ten degrees north latitude, there’s a lot of sunshine in the Philippines. “As we enter 2013, we would like to focus on the solar rooftops because we believe this is going to be a major initiative by the [solar] industry in providing solutions to our problems in the energy sector,” said Theresa Cruz-Capellan, one of the founders of the Philippine Solar Power Alliance (PSPA).

ASA president and Solarite Morton Archibald will travel to Manila in April to help Filipinos achieve their goal of more rooftop solar. The two-day class will include the current energy crisis, energy efficiency - the best source of new energy, building energy efficiency, transportation energy efficiency, utility energy effi¬ciency, recycling-the third best option, solar - the source of all energy, energy economics, solar hot water, photovoltaics, maintenance and repair, and ways you can implement the lessons learned to today’s energy challenges.

Morton will then proceed to the provincial capital of Tarlac City on Central Luzon about 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Manila. The economy of Tarlac Provence is primarily agricultural with principal crops of rice, sugarcane, and other fruits and vegetables. Tarlac City supports the surrounding farmers of the province with mills and machinery. May daughter and her husband own a business that manufactures and modifies motor scooters – the primary means of personal transportation there.

“Brown-outs” are very common in Tarlac City. Businesses often have to shut down and air conditioning has to shut down with a brown out, and it’s no fun to stay inside in a tropical climate without AC. In other words, all work stops until the power comes back home.

Morton will organize a crew of local workers and train them to install a grid-tied photovoltaic system with battery backup in Tarlac. This will show local businesses there how they can keep critical systems operational while the power is out—which is a lot.

Working conditions? We’ll have a view of a volcano across a green pasture as we work. That’s it to the right.

Learn more about the class at April 2013 Class in Manila. Learn more about photovoltaic systems at<.A>.

Green Fields to Green Energy

I hesitate to call any Alabama solar project small; while the typical US state had 88 megawatts installed as of January, Alabama had less than one. A five-kilowatt solar garden is small by the megawatt standard, but I could make a huge difference in a state lagging so far behind our neighbors.

The Frog Pond Manor Solar Garden above is an excellent example. This modest system more than meets the needs of the Franklin County homeowners; at 5 PM on July 3rd, we watched the meter turn backwards. Their system was putting power back onto the Alabama Power grid, as their solar garden met all the home’s energy needs and then some. It was a thrilling moment.

RAIS® (Redundant Array of Integrating Solar) Wave systems consist of alternating rows of 180-watt photovoltaic (PV) modules and patented reflectors. Look carefully at the photo above, and you can see rows of blue-tinted glass behind each row of modules. Viewed from above and in sunlight, these reflectors appear bright orange. They are designed to reflect the optimum wavelength of sunlight onto the adjacent modules.

Most flat-plate PV panels only produce significant electricity from 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM solar time. A glance at the local sun chart shows why. The sun does not even reach the face of a traditional panel until the sunlight passes the 90° solar azimuth, and even then light is parallel to the face plate; sunshine perpendicular to the face is the most efficient.

As soon as the sun peeks over the horizon, however, sunlight begins reflecting onto the modules north of each reflector. This continues before the sun even strikes the face of the modules themselves. This captures sunlight that would normally be lost on a traditional system.

The tenKsolar RAIS® PV module with its ground-breaking Cell Optimizing technology is the only flat plate PV module capable of efficiently harvesting reflected light. Other solar panels depend on uniformly distributed light to balance the cells in the system. They can only make as much electricity as their least productive cell. This means that shading or adding extra light to a cell creates a problem for conventional panels. However, tenKsolar RAIS modules integrate the light across the entire module surface and turn it into power. Because of proprietary Cell Optimizing internal to the module, spots of shade, soiling, even physical damage to a portion of a module will have minimal impact on the individual module or array output.

The RAIS® Wave is designed from the ground up to be a complete solar harvesting system. if you are going to the trouble of installing solar, pick a system that will gather the most energy available to you.

So how many of these modest projects would it take to make a difference? If only 3.31 families in each of Alabama’s 67 counties were to install one of these solar gardens, that would add up to a whopping megawatt of clean energy from the sun to replace the coal-produced electricity we now use. That’s still a long way behind the 88 megawatts a typical state has, but it would double what we have now.

Will you be one of the four families in your county?

Alabama has grid parity now: Make your own electricity at home cheaper than you can buy it from the power company.

“Grid parity is the point at which means of generating electricity from alternative energy produces power at a cost that is equal to or less than the price of purchasing power from the grid” (Wikipedia, We have grid parity in Alabama now.

A five-kilowatt, grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) array will power a typical, energy-efficient, Alabama home. This system will produce almost 160,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity over the 25-year expected life of the system. You can get this 5 kW system installed on most homes for $20,000 or less. You can get a 30-percent Federal Investment Tax Credit on any PV system you can install on your home. Residents of North Alabama are also eligible for a $1,000 credit from TVA, and you may even be eligible for a $3,000 Federal grant for homeowners who have already made significant energy efficiency improvements to their home.

You can produce your own electricity for only 8.8 cents per kilowatt-hour in most of Alabama and even less (8.2 cents) in the TVA service area. This rate is guaranteed for 25 years. The Alabama Power and TVA residential rates are expected to top 45 and 35 cents per kilowatt-hour respectively within 25 years.

We may not have reached grid parity yet for self-contained or off-grid systems. First of all, you will need a slightly larger system to meet your needs year-round. PV systems naturally produce better in the summer than in winter. Generally expect an off-grid system to cost about 50 percent more initially. Add to that the cost of replacement batteries every five to ten years.

Off-grid may still be right for you under certain conditions. Several Alabama homeowners just live too far from the grid to connect economically. One Dadeville homeowner lost his house in the April 27th Tornados last year. the new location he selected was a beautiful hillside meadow nearly a mile from the nearest power line. Alabama Power quoted him $30,000 to connect, and their rates are 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour now and expected to climb to more than 45 cents in 25 years. This homeowner could install a new off-grid system for less than the $30,000 he was quoted for the new power line. He could produce his own electricity for only 15.76 cents per kilowatt-hour, the rate projected for Alabama Power in five years.

Battery technology is advancing rapidly and prices are declining. By the time you need to replace your off-grid batteries in five to ten years, newer, more-efficient batteries may be available for less than you paid for your first set. Consider all your options.

Experts recommend that, if a grid us available, tie your PV installation to it. It is less expensive for you and it actually does more to reduce the carbon footprint for the neighborhood than does an off-grid system.

Contact an Alabama Solar Association Solarite (see to find the best solution for your home or small business.

Education is the biggest problem facing solar in Alabama.

The March Photon magazine cover proclaims “PV Parked in Alabama: Dim prospects for accelerating solar without changes.” But in Huntsville, retired Army General Jim Pillsbury is heading the Alabama effort of the “Sun Shot” initiative. Patterned after JFK’s “Moon Shot” program, DoE wants research and development to bring solar costs down to $0.6 per kWh. General Pillsbury (US Army, Retired) believes that if we can make solar practical and popular in Huntsville, the rest of Alabama will follow.

In a briefing to General Pillsbury, I listed the three biggest problems facing solar in Alabama today, in order of priority, as:

  1. Education
  2. Education
  3. Education

In the early 60’s there was still a law on the books that required that anyone bringing a “horseless carriage” into town must send a flagman 100 yards ahead, carrying a lantern if at night, to warn others of its approach. I don’t know when the law was written—perhaps around the turn of last century, but obviously the “horseless carriage” was not then seen to be the defining future of personal transportation. Oh, by the way, the town was Detroit.

Solar is the 21st Century’s “horseless carriage.” We need education efforts to bring it out of the dark. Solar is too little understood and often feared by engineers and architects, legislators, utility companies, the general public, and the dinosaurs of big oil. Conoco-Phillips just spent $75 million producing a series of TV ads telling the public how clean and plentiful natural gas is as an energy source. The ads ignore all the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” used to get the gas out of the ground. Matching the TV ads is a $75 million lobbying effort.

Professional engineers (PEs) are those engineers certified to look out for public safety. I have gotten daily news feeds for PEs for over a year now. Since last March, the number one concern of PEs for public safety has been nuclear safety. Second on the list, recently moving to number 1, is fracking. Third is pipeline safety. The three top PE daily concerns on the list, of a dozen or so, are energy.

We can’t hope to spend $150 million to match the one oil company’s campaign to promote oil and gas, but we can do a lot better than Proton magazine’s approximation that Alabama PV is parked. One way to do that is with “Firefly,” the ASA solar trailer. We have a number of opportunities to use firefly to bring our message to the general public:

  • April 14th, Earth Day, Florence
  • April 21st, Earth Day, Huntsville
  • June 23rd, Solar Day, Decatur
  • August 25th, Green-U, Huntsville
  • October 6th, National Solar Tour
  • More opportunities that ASA Solarites and other members can develop

We are within $600 of being able to meet our first two obligations. Firefly has wings—the solar panels donated by Renogy. Now she needs a brain—a $600 charge controller. Can you help us put Firefly on the road to solar education?

If your dues are current, please consider paying next year’s dues now. If your dues are not current, please renew now. If you are not a member, please consider joining now. Please consider buying a lifetime membership for $250 for regular members or $150 for seniors. Regardless of your status, please consider making a donation for Firefly today. We are so close to finishing her.


Firefly needs your donations of both time and money now -- Got wings, needs brain.

We have been asked to bring Firefly to The Shoals for Earth Day on Saturday, April 14th. ASA volunteers are working frantically to get her finished in time, but there is another snag. A critical piece of equipment, the battery controller we thought was going to cost $100, will actually cost us $600. We would also like to buy a nice inverter, but this is not critical right now.

Firefly now has her wings. As a minimum we need to complete the supporting frame underneath the three solar panels. We can then attach the hinges to let the array tilt up to an optimum angle. We then have to wire the panels and connect them to the new controller.

If time and money permits, we want to install an electric winch to tilt the array to the optimum angle. Since this angle changes throughout the day, an electric tilt system will help us adjust tilt easily. We also want to install meters showing the current status of the array, the controller, the battery, and other components. Again we need money and manpower to finish this project.

Please consider making a donation now and possibly coming by Morton’s house on Saturday to work on Firefly. She has so much potential, and we are so close to making her functional. Won’t you help?

The work parties are each Saturday from 10 AM to 3 PM at 2117 Rothmore Drive SW Huntsville. From Memorial Parkway, go west on Rothmore from just north of the Mountain Gap Road traffic light -- it’s right across from the Bojangles Fried Chicken place. Go ½ mile and take the first left turn onto Pembrook. My driveway is the first on the left. Call Morton at 256-658-5189 for more info.

Several people have asked me for more information on why we need a $600 piece of equipment for Firefly. The battery controller is essential to regulate the fluctuating output of the solar panels into a steady charge for the battery. The three panels can produce up to 135 volts direct current, but the 12-volt nominal battery needs closer to 15 volts to charge properly.

The Outback Flexmax 60 will handle up to 150 volts DC and 60 amps of power. We can later add another array of three panels and still use this one controller. We can also add remote metering and logging or use the controller's internal readout to measure system performance. This controllor usually costs $750, but we can get one for about $600.

OutBack's industry leading Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) Charge Controllers offer a history of reliability and durability. Innovative solar harvesting and battery charging algorithms allow us to maximize our systems potential and can increase our renewable energy yield by up to 30%.

The controller's brochure is available at

Or does anybody have a good quality controller they can donate to Firefly? The Voc will be 135 volts DC maximum, and the maximum amperage will be 15 amps.

Firefly gets her Wings.

Steve checks the design against plans behind Firefly's solar panels.
Thanks again to Reynogy for donating our modules for Firefly's PVC array.

Alabama has a new NABCEP installer.

What is NABCEP, and why should Alabamians care about it?

Alabama has no requirements for solar installation. Caveat emptor (Let the buyer beware) is especially applicable in our state. While all Alabama Solar Association Solarites (professional members) are proven to be highly qualified, NABCEP is a worldwide standard that guarantees that specific solar professional has the knowledge and experience to design and build a system that will perform well under very specific conditions found on your site.

NABCEP ( is the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. It is the “gold standard” for PV and solar heating installation certification. Designed to raise industry standards and promote consumer confidence, NABCEP offers certification and certificate programs to renewable energy professionals throughout North America and around the world. when your installer is NABCEP-certified, you can be assured they know what they are doing.

Certification of a profession refers to a generally voluntary process in which the certifying organization formally grants recognition to those who meet certain predetermined standards or qualifications. It usually includes an examination of some kind to assess the candidates’ qualifications. Certification offers the public a high degree of protection because practitioners have to meet standards or qualifications and pass an exam, and they do so voluntarily. Developing a certification is a complex and time-consuming process and requires a strong administrative organization in order to maintain its quality. Over a thousand certification programs exist in the U.S., qualifying professionals from crane operators to energy efficiency experts, from financial planners to automobile technicians.

Until the Wright Brothers began the first school of aviation in a cotton field south of Montgomery in 1910, there was no standard certification for pilots. There was no need. There were so few airplanes aloft, that pilots pretty much learned by trial and error. Today extensive and tough certifications guard pilots, passengers, and innocents on the ground. I can’t imagine flying with an uncertified pilot unless I were teaching him or her as part of the certification process.

Voluntary certification programs accomplish three important goals:

  1. They provide a measure of protection to the public by giving them a credential for judging the competency of practitioners;
  2. They provide practitioners with a way to distinguish themselves from their competition; and
  3. By potentially improving quality, they improve the public perception of the given occupation, helping increase the industry’s prominence.

The NABCEP process has been developed and designed carefully following professional credentialing guidelines. Standards, developed by subject matter experts, have been set and the eligibility requirements are reasonably achievable being based on extensive input from stakeholders and deliberation among installers. NABCEP has built a transparent, non-discriminatory program implemented with fair procedures and due process.

Benefits of certification exist for both installers and consumers:

For installers:
  • Identifies installers as professionals, instilling consumer confidence in their work
  • Validates extra resources spent on training and gaining experience
  • Allows for installer mobility as the market moves from state to state
  • Allows installers to distinguish their skills and experience in the field

For consumers:

  • Provides a means to identify qualified installers, promoting confidence in the work performed
  • Preserves consumer choice, maintaining access to both certified and uncertified installers
For years, Daryl Bergquest of Royal was the only NABCEP-certified installer. He is still the only fully certified PV (photovoltaic) installer here.

Jeff Max of ACME Solar Works in Summerdale became Alabama’s only NABCEP-certified Solar Thermal installer.

Morton Archibald, ASA president and chief engineer of Affordable Energy Solutions in Huntsville has earned the NABCEP Entry Level certification. The NABCEP Entry Level Exam is a way for candidates to demonstrate that they have achieved a basic knowledge of the fundamental principles of the application, design, installation and operation of PV systems. It’s basically a license to learn.

The nest step for Morton is to gain some more experience and then take the NABCEP PV Installer’s exam. NABCEP Certified PV Installers are highly experienced individuals who have passed a very rigorous examination and have demonstrated the capability to supervise complete system installations. They must have a detailed working knowledge of the electrical, standards, and accepted industry practice associated with PV installations.

Please consider coming to help us this Saturday, March 24th. We meet at Morton’s house at 2117 Rothmore Drive SW in Huntsville at 10:00 AM. Go west off South Memorial Parkway onto Rothmore just north of the Mountain Gap Road traffic light and directly across from Bojangles Fried Chicken. Go about a half mile, past the house with a circle drive, and take the first left turn onto Pembrook Drive. My driveway is the first on the left.

Baby Firefly is Born

During the big grid-power outage of April-May 2011, Dad and I set up a couple sets of ASA's solar panels. We used them to recharge 12V marine batteries we purchased Thursday after the storms.

In an ideal situation, the panels would be permanently mounted to the house in a calculated orientation that maximizes input from the average position of the sun over a year. In this temporary setting, I just wanted to be able to move the panels now and then during the day to track the sun. One idea (pictured above) popped into my mind.

Now this stuff was quickly and temporarily set on my son's wagon. Perhaps in a more functional setup, the panels would be mounted a little higher up and be adjustable to accommodate various angles of elevation, and the battery would sit as low in the center of the wagon as possible, perhaps even recessed in a cutout in the floor of the wagon. The space between the battery and the panels would provide a small storage area for the controller, a small toolbox, etc. A modified wagon might be a good way to roll a setup from the car to the final display location at events, minimizing setup and tear-down times.

It’s not a very big system, but the 45-watt output will power a few CFL or LED light fixtures, recharge small appliance batteries, and even run a small refrigerator.

Let’s renew our efforts to complete Firefly into a working solar power generating station. It sure would have been helpful after the April 27th storm or other storms yet to come. Folks on the Gulf Coast would have loved to have had some solar trailers after Katrina.

Steve Archibald
Information Director

Please help Firefly!

The Alabama Solar Association is converting your ASA display trailer into a functioning portable photovoltaic system.

We will use the rebuilt trailer for demonstration purposes, for power at outdoor events, and for emergency power when needed. We will have a top array of 4’ x 8’ and possibly a side array of 3’ x 8’. Both arrays will to take best advantage of the sun any time of year.

We have tentatively named the trailer “Firefly.” Like those delightful creatures that brighten Alabama skies on summer nights, “Firefly” will generate its own power albeit small. We need a snappy name, such as the New Mexico Solar Society’s “Sun Catcher.” Please suggest names you feel might be appropriate for this and future generations of solar trailers—we plan two more of progressively larger sizes and power.

We currently have nine 15-watt silicon PV panels. These panels will not provide much 100 VAC power. So we need more. <.P>

Can anyone donate any of these materials?

  • Solar panels, any size, any capacity, any technology?
  • Big batteries, preferably deep-cycle such as golf cart or marine?
  • A charge controller?
  • One or more inverters?
  • Two tires, size 5.750-8, new or used and in good condition?
  • Aluminum bar and angles, new or used, any size?
  • Plywood, marine or exterior grade, new or used, any size?

Can anybody volunteer to help us work on the trailer?

  • Saturday, April 9th at Morton’s house?
  • Saturday, April 16th at the Earth Day celebration at Hayes Nature Preserve on US Hoghway 431?
  • Thursday, April 21st at Alabama A&M Green Living Expo?

If you would like to help but have neither time nor materials, you can always make a cash donation. Any amount would help. Just click on the green “Donation” button on our join or donate web page to use PayPal, or you can send a check to:

To donate materials or time, contact:

Morton at
Call 256-658-5189

Use PayPal on our

join or donate web page,
Just click the "DONATE" button
or mail a check to:

The Alabama Solar Association
PO Box 143
Huntsville, AL 35803-0143

“Firefly” appreciates any help you can give, time, materials, or money.

We want "Firefly" to be an inspiration to school kids and adults alike. Won't you help us explain the advantages of clean, renewable solar power to the people of Alabama.
Acme International Services, Inc.
Affordable Solar
Blue Spectra Solar
Calhoun City, MS
Energy Solutions Group
Green Works
Gulf Coast Solar, Inc
REM Solar Technologies
Renogy Solar
Baton Rouge, Lousiana
Solar Frontier-Americas
Solar World
Camarillo, CA
SolarTech Alabama
South East Solar Energy
Southern Solar
Sun Plans
US Renewable & Efficient Energy

With three damaged Japanese nuclear plants leaking and possibly melting down, Americans are naturally concerned about the safety of nuclear energy. TVA has proposed replacing existing dirty coal-fired plants with cleaner nuclear reactors (see below). This is a mixed blessing. Nuclear releases less harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, unless something goes terribly wrong, as it did in Japan.

The International Atomic Energy Agency placed a 19-mile no-fly zone around the damaged plants. The U.S. Navy Tuesday detected low levels of airborne radiation at Yokosuka and Atsugi bases, 200 miles away from the nuclear plants. Dangerous levels of radiation are still leaking from one crippled plant forced Japan to order 140,000 people to seal themselves indoors after an explosion and a fire escalated the crisis spawned by the earthquake and tsunami.

Japanese officials told the IAEA that the reactor fire was in a storage pond and that "radioactivity is being released directly into the atmosphere." Long after the fire was extinguished, a Japanese official said the pool, where used nuclear fuel is kept cool, might be boiling.

PV to the rescue!

Workers set up a solar power system for a temporary office building in the town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, March 31. (Daisuke Uragami AP)

Japanese engineers should consider replacing electricity they were getting from the disabled nuclear reactor swith photovoltaic-produced electricity the original nuclear power – solar.

We advocate nuclear power from that star we call “the sun” from 93 million miles away.

TVA publishes the master plan for serving 9 million people in seven states through 2030

TVA has completed its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) titled TVA's Energy and Environmental Future. This plan and the associated Environmental Impact Statement are the result of extensive analysis and collaboration with TVA partners and stakeholders. Alabama Solar Association made verbal and written input into the plan. Read the entire plan at

The final IRP supports TVA's comprehensive mission of service, which includes meeting the electric power needs of its customers in a reliable, affordable and sustainable manner. The plan identifies the resources that will be needed to satisfy expected energy demand in the Tennessee Valley region over the next 20 years. It is consistent with TVA's Environmental Policy and it supports TVA's renewed vision to be one of the nation's leading providers of low-cost and cleaner energy by 2020. We still believe it does not give adequate weight to the potential of rooftop solar to increase renewable energy contribution and reduce transmission difficulties.

The IRP is intended to equip TVA to meet its customers' needs effectively while addressing the substantial challenges that face the electric utility industry. The planning direction it recommends will hopefully give TVA flexibility to make sound choices amid economic and regulatory uncertainty. The recommended planning direction tries to balance costs, energy efficiency and reliability, environmental responsibility, and competitive prices for customers. Components of the recommended planning direction include:

Component Guideline MW Range Window of Time Recommendations
Energy Efficiency and Demand Response (EEDR) 3,600-5,100
(11,400-14,400 GWh)
By 20201 Expand conributions of EEDR in the portfolio
Renewable additions 1,500-2,5002 By 20201 Pursue cost effective renewable energy
Coal-fired capacity idled 2,400-4,7003 By 2017 Consider increasing amount of coal-fired capacity idled
Energy storage 8504 2020 - 2024 Add pumped-storage capacity
Nuclear additions 1,150-5,9005 2013 - 2029 Increase contribution of nuclear generation
Coal additions 0-9006 2025 - 2029 Preserve option of generation with carbon capture
Natural gas additions 900 - 9,3007 2012 - 2029 Utilize natural gas as an intermediate supply source

Note1 – This range includes EEDR savings achieved through 2010. The 2020 range for EEDR and renewable energy does not preclude further investment in these resources during the following decade.
Note2 – TVA's existing wind contracts that total more than 1,600 MW are included in this range. Values are nameplate capacity. Net dependable capacity would be lower.
Note3 – TVA has previously announced plans to idle 1,000 MW of coal-fired capacity, which is included in this range. MW values based on maximum net dependable capacity.
Note4 – This is the expected size of a new pumped-storage hydro facility.
Note5 – The completion of Watts Bar Unit 2 represents the lower end of this range.
Note6 – Up to 900 MW of new coal-fired capacity is recommended between 2025 and 2029.
Note7 – The completion of John Sevier combined cycle plant represents the lower end of this range.

Alabama Solar Association applauds the plan’s proposal to increase efforts on energy efficiency and renewables, but we question the wisdom and the ability of TVA to meet the timetable for nuclear. We fully support nuclear power, as long as it coed from that big nuclear power plant 93 million miles away we call the Sun. we will watch anxiously over the next years as the plan develops. We believe the inevitable spike in energy prices worldwide will drive more conservation and renewable fuels into the mix.

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