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  • Over the last five years, Lebanon has been in the midst of a solar energy revolution. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) technology, once considered to be expensive to install and operate, has become increasingly cost-competitive in a relatively short period of time. In late September 2016, the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Decentralized Renewable Energy Generation Project published Lebanon’s first Solar PV Status Report, which detailed the year-over-year market growth at 149 percent for 2015, with a total installed capacity of 9.45 mega-watt and a total investment amount of $30.5 million. To further understand the dynamics of the market and anticipate its future outlook, the report examined the cost, financing, growth and sector share of Solar PV. One of the report’s key findings is blatant: the industrial sector has a lot of potential to unlock through investment in Solar PV.

    The cost of solar

    The cost of installing and operating Solar PV systems has been steadily declining in Lebanon, in line with the rest of the world. Since 2010, the average cost of installing Solar PV has dropped from $7.2 per watt of electricity power generation in 2010 to $2.7 per watt in 2015, a reduction of 63 percent in a span of six years. More precisely, the average cost of installing the bigger hybrid or on-grid batteryless Solar PV systems, which are mainly used in factories and commercial facilities, has dropped from $5.3 per watt in 2010 to $1.7 per watt in 2015, a whopping decline of 68 percent in six years. This in turn has enabled the technology to be cost-competitive while simultaneously filling the supply-demand gap for electricity in the country, which reaches upwards of 1,500 megawatts during the summer and has plagued Lebanon for decades.

    The estimated monetary savings from all the Solar PV projects in Lebanon grew from $191,000 per year in 2010 to $2 million per year in 2015, for a total cumulative of $7.3 million saved through 2015. These are the savings reaped by the operators of Solar PV systems in Lebanon by deferring a portion of their electricity consumption from the grid and diesel gensets to Solar PV electricity generation. On the other hand, the estimated reduction in CO2 emissions from all the Solar PV projects in Lebanon increased from 351 tons of CO2 in 2010 to 18,000 tons of CO2 in 2015.

    To further quantify and gauge the performance of Solar PV systems and their resulting savings, a numerical analysis was conducted for batteryless Solar PV systems implemented in 2015. These systems were built with the lowest average cost the market has seen yet, which is indicative of a continuing drop in cost for the future. The total capital investment for these systems was $7.5 million, the operation and maintenance cost was assumed at 2 percent per year of the total capital investment, the yearly energy yield degradation for the panels was taken to be 0.8 percent per year, the discount rate was set at 5 percent, and finally, the lifecycle for these systems was assumed to be 25 years. The findings of this study reveal that the levelized cost of energy for these systems is 13.7 cents per kilowatt hour, whereas the cost for saving one ton of CO2 emissions is $198. While $198 might sound expensive to save a single ton of CO2 emissions, this number comes from relatively small, decentralized systems where economies of scale do not apply as effectively. If Lebanon scales up its Solar PV sector by venturing into utility-scale projects – upwards of 20 megawatts – the cost for emissions savings will drop significantly.

     

    Business survivability in this sector hinges heavily on the energy bill, and, by investing in solar PV, there are big savings to be reaped

     

    Financing

    The growth of the sector, although positive, did not exceed the 100 percent year-over-year mark until 2013, which is when the National Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Action (NEEREA) came into effect. NEEREA is a successful and ongoing financial soft loan program initiated by Banque du Liban, Lebanon’s central bank, with the support of the Ministry of Energy and Water, UNDP and the Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation. Cumulative investments in Solar PV totaled $2.3 million in 2010, grew to $9.4 million in 2013 and skyrocketed to $30.5 million by the end of 2015.

    Growth

    Driven by falling costs, increased savings, and proven reliability, Solar PV installations surged in 2015 with 5.65 megawatts of new capacity added. In 2010, the total installed capacity for Solar PV in Lebanon was 320 kilowatts. By the end of 2015, this capacity grew to 9.45 megawatts. This constitutes an average yearly growth rate of 100 percent. Furthermore, the year-over-year growth rate for capacity increased from 41 percent in 2011 to 149 percent in 2015, while the year-over-year growth rate for the number of new Solar PV projects increased from 27 percent to 72 percent during the same time period. This indicates that the average size of a system increased from five kilowatts to 21 kilowatts. This means that trust in the technology and in local engineering companies to support bigger size systems has increased, and, in turn, led to more investor comfort in making larger investments in Solar PV.

    Sector Share

    The top four sectors leading the Solar PV market in Lebanon are the commercial sector with two megawatts at 22 percent, the residential sector and the agricultural sector with 1.7 megawatts at 18 percent each, and the industrial sector with 1.6 megawatts at 17 percent. It is paramount to shed light on the fact that the share of the industrial sector needs to increase. Business survivability in this sector hinges heavily on the energy bill, and, by investing in solar PV, there are big savings to be reaped.

    By investing in Solar PV technologies and deferring a portion of their electricity consumption from the grid and diesel gensets, local industries and businesses will have the comfort of knowing exactly how much a portion of their electricity needs is going to cost them for the next 25 years. This kind of risk hedging is worth money.

    In other words, these industries and businesses will be able to produce energy at prices equal to or less than local energy rates, and at the same time ensure price certainty for a percentage of their facilities’ electricity consumption against the volatility of energy prices. This will set a clear example in Lebanon that other industries and businesses can follow, demonstrating that solar power can reduce pollution and lower operational costs at the same time. The sun is always shining. Its energy should not go to waste.

     

    Written by Eng. Jil Amine, the UNDP Project Manager for the Small Decentralized Renewable Energy Power Generation (DREG) Project, in the executive magazine blog.


  • Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to a sustainable energy future by creating products that are so compelling, there is no alternative. Solar energy has always been part of our master plan, and we recognized the need for a roof that is simultaneously affordable, durable, beautiful and integrated with battery storage.

    Solar Roof complements a home’s architecture while turning sunlight into electricity. With an integrated Powerwall, energy collected during the day is stored and made available any time, effectively turning a home into a personal utility. Solar energy can be generated, stored and used day and night, providing uninterrupted power even if the grid goes down.

    Affordability
    Solar Roof is more affordable than conventional roofs because in most cases, it ultimately pays for itself by reducing or eliminating a home’s electricity bill. Consumer Reports estimates that a Solar Roof for an average size U.S. home would need to cost less than $24.50 per square foot to be cost competitive with a regular roof. The cost of Solar Roof is less. The typical homeowner can expect to pay $21.85 per square foot for Solar Roof,1 and benefit from a beautiful new roof that also increases the value of their home.

    Solar Roof uses two types of tiles—solar and non-solar. Looking at the roof from street level, the tiles look the same. Customers can select how many solar tiles they need based on their home’s electricity consumption. For example, households that charge an electric vehicle every day may want more solar tiles on their roof.

    In doing our own research on the roofing industry, it became clear that roofing costs vary widely, and that buying a roof is often a worse experience than buying a car through a dealership. Initial contracts tend to be overly optimistic, and later customers face hidden costs that were never mentioned up front.

    At Tesla, we believe in transparency and putting the customer in control. That’s why we created a Solar Roof calculator that lets homeowners estimate the upfront price of Solar Roof, as well as the value of the energy it can generate for their home. The calculator is based on factors like roof size, the average local price of electricity, and how much sunlight a neighborhood receives throughout the year.

    As shown in the graph below, the cost of our non-solar tiles is comparable to regular roofing tiles.2Although the cost of our solar tiles is more expensive up front, it can be more than offset by the value of energy the tiles produce.3 In many cases, the reduction in a home’s electricity bill over time will be greater than the cost of the roof.


     

    Design & Durability
    Solar Roof will be available in a variety of designs, including Smooth and Textured (available this year) and Tuscan and Slate (available early 2018). Made with tempered glass, Solar Roof tiles are more than three times stronger than standard roofing tiles, yet half the weight. They do not degrade over time like asphalt or concrete. Solar Roof is the most durable roof available and the glass itself will come with a warranty for the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first.

    Availability
    Customers may place an order for Solar Roof today on the Tesla website. Installations of Solar Roof will begin in the U.S. this summer and we expect installations outside the U.S. to begin in 2018.


  • Ecommerce giant Amazon recently announced its impressive plans to make a massive shift to solar. After receiving less than praiseworthy reviews on their commitment to renewable energy from Greenpeace, Amazon decided that it will not continue to lag behind corporations like Walmart, Target, and Apple in reducing is carbon footprint.

    Although the company has made significant strides by installing solar farms, PV arrays on its warehouses, its efforts looked halfhearted at best when comparing them to a number of other forward-thinking corporations. According to Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide, “it’s fair to say we’re taking a very aggressive approach to the amount of square footage in the U.S.” By square footage, he means the sizeable amount of square footage available on their warehouse rooftops.

    By the end of 2017, Amazon plans to have 15 of its largest shipping and sorting centers to be 80 percent powered by solar energy. The sites total an impressive 41 MW of potential solar power, enough to power around 7,000 homes. The reduction in energy costs alone should offset the entire cost of the system components and installation within a year of being operational. The scope of the project could raise Amazon to the top 10 corporate users of solar power with an expected position between 7-8.

    Always wanting to raise the bar, Amazon also plans to have at least 50 of its warehouses set up for solar by 2020. The project will start first in Patterson, Calif., where the company has a 1.1 million square foot warehouse expected to hold 75 percent of its space with solar in the coming months. The power generated by this system will provide power to the hundreds of sorting robotics that is housed in the facility. The known states that will be following include Maryland, Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey — each facility offering an average of the same space and energy needs of the California warehouse.

    The robotics are not the only member of the Amazon team that will benefit from the solar panel systems. The retailer has also announced that it plans to expand its CareerChoice program to pay for educating warehouse employees to get certified as photovoltaic installers.

    Amazon’s current CareerChoice program pays for 95 percent of employee tuition and associated fees on a yearly basis upfront for employees seeking a higher education or trade school. The program promises to introduce many new workers into the solar sector, and will certainly benefit not only Amazon, but the employees themselves.

    Amazon’s promise seems to be rapidly getting underway, with well laid out plans beginning to take effect on their jump to become more immersed in the solar market. Although it has not been made clear yet, the projects may further offer new jobs to many of those already in the solar sector from planning, to turning on the system.

    As we move forward into the future, we hope that Amazon’s example will expand to other corporations with the space and funds available to embark on these utility installations. Amazon further plans to become 100 percent energy independent, perhaps on the use of backup generators, or a battery backup system.

    With regulations increasing from utility companies on power being fed back into the grid, it is a forward-thinking move by the company, and will ensure that the projects do not get hindered by the regulations levied by the numerous utility companies and states that they will be launching their solar projects in.