By: John F. Spisak Issue: Energy & The Environment Section: Collaborator Profile
New Value Equation for Solar Energy
Alternative energy has been making a comeback worldwide and capturing the public spotlight with solar and wind energy leading the way. The new Obama Administration and the 111th Congress have made alternative energy a centerpiece of business and tax policy and rule making in a concerted attempt to move it into the national mainstream and begin the process of reducing foreign carbon fuel dependence and effecting climate change. The 2009 stimulus package and the 2008 Troubled Assets Relief Program both extended existing incentive programs and added significant new ones to push alternative energy to the forefront with solar as one of the leaders.
In order for any technology and new business to achieve long term success and acceptance, it must achieve economic viability within the niche or arena in which it is implemented. The same will hold true for solar energy even though it is currently advantaged with tax credits, subsidies, grants and strong political backing. Solar energy and other alternatives face the competitive realities of the marketplace in which fossil fuels are still inexpensive overall where the national grid system has not been upgraded to handle the intermittencies of alternatives, and where the national transmission system will have to be significantly modified to accommodate these large alternative projects currently being planned. In the current worldwide economic environment, addressing all of these costly issues in a timely manner will be problematic. Eventually, alternatives will begin to lose their subsidy and tax advantages as they will begin to compete with other social and political imperatives which are a normal part of societal evolution.
As admirable as the goals and results of “green” energy are, they must also make economic sense at the end of the day and that means that there must be a tangible “value-added” component.
Within this context of alternative energy’s resurgence and the complexities of world geo-politics, SolaRover concluded that if solar power is to be successful in the short and mid-term, that it must provide real value beyond simple power generation and the replacement of CO2 and hydrocarbon emissions.
That is why SolaRover has created special engineered mobility and portable energy storage as the key value-added equation that will move solar to the forefront today.
Remote locations in Africa, Central and South America and Asia-Pacific can benefit enormously from portable, clean sun-powered energy for village clinics, school houses, communications and clean water systems.
Mobile Solar in the Developing World
This value equation has three distinct parts. The first is the most obvious. Mobile solar energy can provide powerful value to those remote parts of the world that are most in need of reliable, clean and adaptable electrical energy.
These areas of the world have plentiful sunshine and are in great need of alternatives to non-existent infrastructure, insurgent-interrupted infrastructure, heavily polluting and health-damaging wood and coal cooking and unreliably supplied diesel. Mobile solar units can be readily moved as needed and can supply critical services where they are needed most. A mobile solar unit can run a clean water treatment unit and pump during the day, and with its fully charged batteries, can run the village lights and cooking plates at night. Mobile solar units can also carry internet satellite capability and cell phone communications. Since solar-produced electricity is pure, clean sine wave power, there is no need for power cleaners or filters that are required for diesel generated (dirty, noisy) power and for much grid-produced power. Laptops, communications and sensitive medical devices can all use clean solar electricity directly.
SolaRover recognizes that many developing countries have neither the financial means nor (in some cases) the political will to provide the most needy members of their population the type of support that will allow the introduction and use of mobile solar power systems. Therefore, SolaRover will be joining forces with a foundation so that monies can be collected for the sole purpose of purchasing mobile solar power systems for the areas of the world that need them the most. Through this foundation, SolaRover will provide its mobile solar power units at a discounted price and SolaRover will also donate $5000 per unit to various foundations that assist the developing world’s children through medical, food, clothing and educational support. Anyone interested in helping SolaRover in supplying clean, mobile solar energy to the world’s most needy can contact Donations@solarover.com.
Mobile Solar in Disaster Zones
The second part of the value equation is found in the perennial need for emergency and restored power that cities and states which are in the path of regular hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and ice storms cannot depend on today. Mobile solar power provides a plethora of solutions to a series of intractable problems that face millions of people in the U.S. every year.
When a major natural disaster strikes, there is inevitably major and protracted damage to the power grid. Neighborhoods, cities, emergency services and general commerce all find themselves without power for weeks on end. The cost in human health, life disruption, loss of commerce, further damage and suspended activity is incalculable.
Major response agencies like FEMA, the National Guard and state emergency services agencies are primarily reactive and days typically pass before damage is assessed, disaster declarations are made and the logistics of relief start to engage.
The ability to immediately (within 24 hours) restore power to critical activities such as emergency clinics, police, fire, and ER facilities, refrigeration storage units, street lights to mitigate looting and begin to restore rudimentary commerce is absolutely critical in reducing the total cost of the disaster and preventing significant collateral and follow-on damage that typically results in the aftermath of these events. Recent storms and disasters have proven over and over that reactivity is inefficient, late and not nearly as effective at being fully prepared with contingencies in place. Mobile solar power units can be ubiquitously distributed across a city or town in virtually any conceivable location where they can and will be immediately available for emergency use when needed. Also, as opposed to diesel and fuel-fired generators that have to be stored, fueled, resupplied and kept clean and tuned, mobile solar units can continuously generate clean, quiet pure power between events, even if those events are years apart. There is no need for emergency planners to try to guess where to store generators and their fuel hoping that they guess right. Facilities that mount fixed foundation solar systems on buildings, do not have to worry what will happen if their structure is severely damaged during an earthquake or hurricane and power is needed two miles away at an emergency clinic. A mobile solar unit can simply be unplugged and quickly moved to the location of most need. If smaller cities and towns across the U.S. Gulf Coast were alternatively equipped with mobile solar units, they would act as a reserve of clean, quiet power always within a couple of hours of any city that finds itself devastated by a major storm.
This distributed disaster insurance policy will also provide unique benefits to the local utility, grid manager and states that have enacted RPS standards. Highly distributed power units, like mobile solar units, don’t burden the grid in ways that large fixed systems do. Furthermore, with mobile units there is no additional transmission infrastructure investment required.
The benefits of reduced greenhouse gases and particulate pollution can be achieved today instead of waiting 5-12 years for these major projects to be cited, permitted, built and integrated. Tax incentives, carbon credits and grants can be realized today.
Electricity can be managed to maximum benefit. For instance, the batteries can be fully charged during the day and all of the power can be drawn off during the peak load evening hours. And of course, if there is a major disaster, power is in place where it is needed the most. Solar panels can be easily washed or swept off, while diesel fuel that is contaminated with water or mud is a major problem. The same sets of arguments readily apply to earthquake prone areas with even more urgency as damage there is typically more severe and can be prolonged. Mobile solar power can provide the security and the solutions.
Mobile Solar for the Military
The third part of the value equation is the support of military units flung far and wide. The military must never be without power - as lives are in danger. Alternatives will never supplant conventional power sources nor will they ever gain a dominant position with forces whose mission it is to defend and protect peoples and resources worldwide. However, alternatives – especially solar – can play a critical and important role in reducing the military’s dependence on hydrocarbon fuels and saving lives. The cost of getting fuel into a generator at remote forward field and combat positions approaches $100 US/gallon. This is because the fuel can be lost or stolen and it must be transported, defended in convoys, and protected in storage bunkers on site which must be secured and guarded. Further, it takes significant numbers of soldiers to defend those targeted convoys, defend those bunkers and defend the other soldiers who regularly fuel, service and maintain the diesel generators. These are soldiers directly in harm’s way.
Should mobile solar power generators merely supplant 30% of all of the military’s forward position fossil fuel needs for power, billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of troop exposure days would be saved. SolaRover has adaptive military designed units that are rugged and durable, can be tough in the field, easily moved and adapted to hybridization with existing diesel units designed to save the military fuel and soldiers. Given the current cost being expended on forward position fuel for power, SolaRover units can achieve a payback within 16-18 months against current conventional systems – a good value for the American taxpayer.
Thus, mobile solar energy can be brought to remote locations, distributed everywhere in cities and towns for immediate clean power benefits without dependency on upgraded grids and transmission systems and can provide vital insurance to those who need it the most against natural disasters.
SolaRover firmly believes and is committed to the business model that there is an enormous worldwide opportunity for distributed mobile solar power with substantive value added components. SolaRover believes that there is a confluence of politics, demand, need and history that makes this particular period ideal for a major development in the area of renewable energy, especially solar. The challenges facing everyone in the alternative energy industry today are those that derive from the economy and credit crisis and ironically enough, the stimulus package itself. The lack of credit and worldwide slow down are obvious. The stimulus, with all of its changes, lack of current clear interpretation and yet to be determined rulemaking has acted in concert to stop many projects and investments in their tracks until some semblance of stability and clarity of impact is achieved. For the sake of this tremendous opportunity in alternative energy, SolaRover hopes that these problems will be quickly resolved.
John Spisak is President of SolaRover, an early stage company that has perfected a “universal mobile design” that can be mass produced and fit into standard international shipping containers. SolaRover produces fully engineered complete “turn-key” mobile solar energy generation systems that are very mobile, rugged, can travel anywhere, require virtually no training to operate, can be fully deployed in under 5 minutes and carry a full suite of batteries for power at night or for surge. SolaRover is working with governments, agencies and key decision makers to make distributed, value added solar power a reality across the world. Please contact Sharon Linhart of Linhart PR in Denver: # 303-620-9044 or John Spisak of SolaRover in Lone Tree, CO: 303-810-6602.