Get your solar panels now! While stockpiled supplies of Chinese panels last!

It may never be a better time to get solar panels for your home or business. Net metering has not gone away, and prescient solar installers still have reserves of low-cost Chinese solar panels.

As Trump was signing his tariffs on Chinese solar panels into law, solar installers like ICON, located outside Cincinnati, were deliberately stockpiling the cheaper, foreign panels.

ICON System Designer Jaye Meier says he wouldn’t call it “stockpiling.”

“I’d call it smart business,” Meier says.

ICON estimates that the installed cost of solar panels will rise ten percent, once tariffs affect local distributors and installers.

Despite those tariffs, the immediate future for solar is so bright, we’re hearing a term we never thought we would hear: “solar investors.” Depending on your state and the amount of sun exposure on your roof, solar panels will actually make a modest return on investment for some purchasers.

Businesses, in particular, can benefit. A tax policy called MACRS (Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System) allows businesses to depreciate the cost of solar panels directly off their income over five years. Or, if it’s beneficial, a business can take one hundred percent of the costs off its one-year income, according to John Vann, a volunteer with Solarize Indiana.

Vann, himself, is getting his first installation of thirty solar panels. According to his calculations, they will pay for themselves over the next ten years. After that, “it’s free energy,” he says.

With incentives and a discount afforded by Solarize Indiana, his array will cost only $15,000.

You might not think of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky as sunshine states, but ICON started up in 2011, serving just those three states, and business has doubled every year.

“We get more sun than Germany where half the energy is from renewable, says Meier, suggesting that going solar in the U.S. is, maybe, more about will than sunshine.

ICON’s clientele is diverse. They get their expected share of college professors wanting to do the right thing.

But, “It’s not one type of person that I’ve seen,” Meier says. “We’ve got farmers who hate the utilities, got screwed over by them once or twice.”

The Indiana legislature has not incentivized solar power. Instead the state legislature has ruled that it will phase out net metering over the next ten years. Net metering is a system which reimburses solar investors for the excess energy they create at a retail rate.

In Indiana and other states, net metering will be replaced or has already been replaced with “net billing” which reimburses the same investors at wholesale rate. Home owners who take the solar challenge count on net metering to defray the initial outlay for solar power which typically costs something like $20,000 for a full array on an average-size house.

So eliminating net metering hurts the growth of the solar industry. And Trump solar panel tariffs could hurt it some more when stockpiles of Chinese panels run dry.

So why did the use of solar power in Indiana increase twenty percent last year despite politicians at every level legislating against it?

It helps that the cost of solar panels, across the board has fallen eighty percent since 2009, Vann says. And groups like Solarize Indiana are stepping into the breach, securing deep discounts that make solar installations attractive despite disincentives.

“Long term it might be detrimental. But now it might push people into going solar before that [tariffs and loss of net metering] goes into effect,” says Meier.

 

 

Trump undermines solar power, but that hasn’t saved coal

Trump undermines solar power at the peril of us all.

By Lynn Hamilton

United States President Donald Trump has devastated the solar industry in America without bringing back coal jobs.

You may remember that Trump allied himself with coal during his run up to the presidency. And coal families gave him their unthinking votes.

This is personal for me because I live in Kentucky, and I taught for two years in eastern Kentucky. During that time, I received numerous papers from students about job loss in their families due to the failure of coal. The tone of these papers was always a mixture of victim mentality, nostalgia, and blame.

Trouble was: they didn’t always know who to blame. Former President Barack Obama figured as a convenient scapegoat because of his modest federal incentives for renewable energy. And his insistence that the coal industry moderate its damage to the environment. He gave sustainability a fighting chance, in other words.

Trump undermines solar power while coal miners die of black lung

black lung

But the real reason the coal industry is dying is the same reason whale oil went down as an industry: We’re running out of coal, just as we ran out of whales. Secondarily, both industries are far too dangerous to the front line workers, and

healthy lung

coal cannot be harvested without the same measure of cruelty as was exercised in the mass murder of whales. Just ask anyone whose community was devastated by mountain top removal. Ultimately, coal is an unsustainable

resource for energy.

We need to unmuddle some thinking here: Bashing solar has not brought back coal jobs and will not bring back coal jobs. Coal jobs have steadily declined since 2005. Trump undermines solar power at the peril of us all, because we are running out of coal without a plan B for keeping the lights on.

The national media has not come right out and said that the loss of ten thousand jobs in solar last year is the fault of Donald Trump, but to use a trope from John Oliver:

It is.

It totally is.

Solar companies, large and small, were already nervous when Trump was elected. The threat of tariffs shook the confidence of the industry until the reality of tariffs replaced it. The loss of federal incentives for energy improvements also played its part.

Let’s recap why this matters to animals, particularly wildlife. Coal burning causes carbon dioxide emissions which cause climate change. Climate change is the main reason for mass extinctions of wildlife. Climate change is the main reason that monarch butterflies are declining in numbers. Climate change, among other things, messes with migration. Birds and monarch butterflies can’t figure out when to migrate because weather patterns are so disrupted. Cool autumns whisper “Time to fly” to the hummingbird. When the fall comes with eighty degree temperatures in the Midwest, the birds get confused.

Solar energy disrupts climate change. It does not emit carbon dioxide, therefore it does not make climate change worse. When solar replaces coal, it has the potential to reverse the damaging effects of climate change which include wildlife loss.

Even if you don’t care about wildlife, you should care about solar energy and the solar industry. At least if you care about having your television and laptop turned on. We’re running out of coal without having smoothed the way for a replacement source of energy. This is what happens when you mythologize a fuel like coal instead of viewing it as something that was useful in its day.

 

 

Fiddling while Rome burns

Animal rights activists are wasting time protesting circuses instead of protecting endangered species

By Lynn Hamilton

Many well meaning animal rights groups devote considerable resources every year to protesting circuses.

As someone who has, somewhat reservedly, participated in one of these protests, I have a few observations.

Circus protests are pointlessly divisive

Circus protests pit animal welfare advocates against too many relatively innocent members of the community.

Your neighbors and friends are going to the circus. They are taking their children to the circus because parents are desperate to give their children some kind of visual stimulation that is bearable for everyone.

When I protested the circus in Hilton Head, several drivers, on the way to the show, stopped to ask us what we were doing. They were friends of the protesters.

More worryingly, other people who might have supported us, if we had protested fish nets that trap turtles, saw us and mentally put a dividing line between us.

We get judged for inconsistency

It puts us in the ridiculous position of being judged by people who have no moral compass. People slow drove past us and counted our leather shoes.

Mine were fake leather, but that does nothing to prevent this kind of thing.

Admittedly, there will always be judgment from people who live unexamined, selfish lives. But to set ourselves up for that, in such a dubious effort, seems ill considered.

Most importantly, circuses that exploit animals are dying out naturally

Circuses who use animals are already getting phased out. The Ringling Brothers will soon give its last show. They can’t make a profit anymore.

Who wants to see captive elephants lumbering around out of their habitat when you can go to Cirque Du Soleil? Extreme ballet (which is basically what Cirque Du Soleil is doing) will trump captive wild animals every time.

And animal advocates are still wasting their time hammering a dying industry while frogs species are going extinct, dozens at a time.

We support the Wildlife Selfie Code

Lynn Hamilton and Joel Worth, publishers of the Animal Rights Channel, have signed the Wildlife Selfie Code and we encourage others to do so. You can sign the selfie pledge here: https://www.worldanimalprotection.us.org/wildlife-selfie-code

By taking the pledge, you promise not to take a selfie if the animal is being restrained or is being held captive. It seems that this pledge is necessary because many monkeys in Asia are basically being held captive for the purpose of tourist entertainment. They are often tied down between selfies. Obviously you don’t want to encourage an industry like this.

The code also constrains people from picking up or hugging wild animals. We don’t want to send the message that it’s okay to pick up turtles or hug baby wolves, no matter how much they might look like puppies. Doing so endangers their development as wild animals. Worse, we are likely to transmit bacteria that will make them sick or dead.

Wild animals should also not be fed. A fed animal is a dead animal because feeding animals erases their natural fear of people. Bears and wild cats who lose their fear of people are likely to be shot. Don’t offer a dolphin a fish in order to get it to smile for the camera.

When is it okay to take a selfie? Only when the animal is free to run away from you. Learn to use the zoom function on your smart phone or, better yet, learn to take real pictures with a camera.

Guest post: Indonesia’s plastic trash mountains are killing coral reefs

A study published on Thursday found that an estimated 11.1 billion pieces of ocean plastic trash are lodged in coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific region, increasing corals’ susceptibility to potentially deadly diseases by as much as 89 percent. Scientists examined 124,884 corals at 159 reefs from Thailand to Australia, finding plastic bottles, bags, fishing line and even Nike shoes wedged among colorful corals. The region is home to 55.5 percent of the world’s coral reefs, which harbor a quarter of marine species and provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people.

“Plastics are a triple whammy for coral infections,” said Drew Harvell, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University who conducted reef surveys in Indonesia for the study published in Science.

First, plastic debris can cut open corals’ delicate skin, exposing them to infection. Second, ocean plastic trash is often colonized by bacteria that can directly introduce disease to corals. And third, plastic can shade corals, blocking light and creating conditions that allow certain pathogens to thrive.

Plastic debris entangled on corals. (Dr. Kathryn Berry)

“These diseases are pretty damaging to corals,” Harvell said. “Once a coral has one of these diseases, it can kill the whole colony, and once an infection starts on one coral colony, it can build up steam and spread to other ones.”

“I think it’s a huge new impact to show that these plastics are so dirty that they can be creating wounds and infectious disease,” she added.

The researchers predict the amount of plastic caught on coral reefs will spike 40 percent by 2025 to 15.7 billion pieces.

The findings come as coral reefs are under unprecedented stress from climate change. Rising ocean temperatures have triggered back-to-back coral bleaching events in which the algae that live in corals and provide them with nutrition and their color, become toxic. The corals expel the algae and turn bone white. Deprived of nutrition, corals can die unless ocean temperatures cool and the algae return. A groundbreaking study published January 4 concluded that coral bleaching – a phenomenon virtually unknown before 1980 – is now accelerating at a rate that will not give reefs enough time to recover before the next heat wave hits.

“We don’t have the data to say whether infected corals would be more susceptible to bleaching, but it seems likely,” said Harvell. Also unknown is the extent that bleaching would make corals more vulnerable to pathogens transmitted by contaminated plastic.

Coral scientists are confident of the link between plastic contamination and coral disease, thanks to the study’s extensive surveys of reefs between 2011 and 2014. Researchers, led by Joleah Lamb, a postdoc in Harvell’s lab, laid down transects at each reef, covering an area that ranged from 645 to 1,290 square feet (60 to 120 square meters). The scientists examined every coral colony more than 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, noting the presence of plastic and disease.

“The real strength of the dataset is that it shows the correlation of coral health with plastic,” Harvell said. “I think we can be pretty definitive that plastics are contributing to the coral dying. It was not uncommon to find dead coral underneath plastic.”

Compared to plastic-free corals, the scientists found significantly higher rates of three debilitating diseases when corals come into contact with plastic: Skeletal eroding band disease (24 percent greater likelihood), white syndromes (17 percent increased likelihood) and black band disease (5 percent higher likelihood).

Coral scientist Drew Harvell surveys fishing nets lodged on a reef. (David Brown)

Study coauthor Courtney Couch, a coral reef researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Honolulu, said the scientists did not determine which types of plastic might be more harmful than others. “Our surveys showed that 71 percent of the plastic debris surveyed was associated with textiles, household goods, packaging and consumable items, while the remaining 29 percent was discarded fishing gear,” she said in an email.

One of the more worrisome discoveries was that plastic trash was eight times more likely to affect reefs with greater structural complexity, such as corals with branches that easily snag bags and other debris. Those corals also provide habitat for fish, meaning plastic-induced coral disease could affect coastal fisheries.

But the risk of disease varied dramatically across the Asia-Pacific region, which the study noted is home to 73 percent of the human population that lives within 30 miles (50km) of a coast.

In Indonesia, the researchers observed 25.6 pieces of plastic entangled on reefs per 100 square meters compared to 0.4 items on areas of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Indonesia is one of the top five ocean plastic polluters – along with China, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a 2017 report from the Ocean Conservancy.

We need to start caring about plastics recycling again

Sure, recycling plastic is boring. But now we have a new reason to care about it. A new report says that eighty-nine percent of Indonesia’s coral reefs are struggling with disease. Diseases like skeletal eroding band disease that literally kill the budding coral that forms the reef’s spine.

And these diseases are not some mystery that science will have to investigate for ten years. It’s that plastic bottle that someone threw off a boat, times a million boats, times six bottles.

Australia is doing a pretty good job of containing its boat trash. Its coral reefs are under a manageable degree of stress. But coral reefs in Indonesia are dying. According to a recent study coming out of the Netherlands, “Indonesia produced 3.2 million tons of plastic waste in 2010, with around 1.29 million tons of that ending up in the ocean.”

Indonesia’s failure to manage its plastic waste is now an international problem. This problem is not an easy fix. It’s obvious that at least three things need to happen:

  1. Entrepreneurs need to invent new end products that can be recycled out of waste plastic and produced with a minimum of machinery and pollution. These end products need to stimulate Indonesia’s economy and provide gainful employment at the local level.
  2. Indonesia’s government needs to do a better job of sealing off the pathways that lead from the garbage mountain to the ocean.
  3. Private industry in Indonesia needs to step up to the plate and package products in biodegradable materials.

Trump tariffs will further endanger endangered animals

Trump tariffs will further endanger species on the climate change hit list

Americans need to just accept the fact that the Chinese have gotten ahead of us on solar panel manufacture. China saw an opportunity and ran with it. Americans sat around with their thumbs up their butts, claiming that solar power would never work.

Fast forward about twenty years. Now U.S. solar manufacturers want to be protected from competition from China, where manufacturers have figured out how to deliver efficient products for cheap. China’s motives may have been entirely rooted in profit, but somehow they have become the world’s savior in the fight against climate change.

Instead of crying into our diapers, the U.S. needs to find the next cool, earth-saving technology.

That’s the message U.S. President Donald Trump should have sent to American manufacturers. Instead, he has announced that he is going to impose tariffs on Chinese panels. Tariffs have never worked, and tariffs on China are going to backfire in some huge way that we just didn’t have the imagination to anticipate.

Around this time, you might be wondering what Trump’s tariffs have to do with animals. This is how it works: Trump imposes these tariffs. Fewer people can afford solar panels. Climate change continues apace, destroying many species who simply can’t adapt fast enough to weather extremes and, in particular, changes that affect food supply.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has compiled a list of the top species that are declining rapidly because of climate change. On this list are coral reefs that are the seas’ nurseries. When the coral reefs go, the collapse of the fish industry will only be the beginning. Also on the list are Beluga whales, leatherback sea turtles, koalas, and arctic foxes.

Please sign this petition asking Trump to rescind tariffs on solar energy: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/258/650/626/stop-trumps-war-on-clean-energy-reject-solar-tariffs/