WXXI AM News

Solar

On January 23, the Trump administration imposed a 30 percent tariff on solar cells and modules made abroad. President Trumps says the move will increase U.S. manufacturing of solar equipment and create jobs. Since the tariff was imposed, one Chinese solar company has announced it will build a plant in Florida. While plans for the plant were in the works prior to the Trump administration's announcement, the company said it "continues to closely monitor treatment of imports of solar cells and modules under the U.S. trade laws."

Some say this is an early victory under the tariff, but critics say the move will harm the solar industry in the U.S. According to research conducted by Greentech Media, the tariff could result in an 11 percent decrease of installations over the next four years, and lead to tens of thousands of job losses.

Our guests weigh in on the issue and answer your questions about solar. In studio:

Have you heard of geothermal energy systems? It's a growing trend in renewable energy, and it's becoming more popular in homes in our area.

We toured a home in Fairport that uses solar and geothermal systems. We talk to the owner about the technology, and the financial and environmental impacts. Our guests:

  • Martin Smith, Fairport resident who installed solar and geothermal systems in his home
  • Jesse Cook, president of Geotherm Inc.

Elon Musk says Tesla’s new solar roof production will cost less to manufacture and install than basic shingles. The electricity is “just a bonus,” Musk adds. It’s edgy! It looks great! Is it the future? And further, is this what solar needs to take the next leap, or is it missing the larger point?

We debate the Musk announcement, and review the year in solar and what lies ahead.  In studio:

SHUTTERSTOCK

 

You may not notice it at first, but atop the roof of the wine press building at Lakewood Vineyards is something that marked the beginning of change in the region.

The 47-kilowatt solar energy system has been invaluable to the Watkins Glen, New York winery, according to president and winemaker Chris Stamp. If he has his way, workers will install more panels once the building’s expansion is complete this summer.

We've heard it said many times that we need to eventually get off fossil fuels. There is growing urgency about that, but there's usually a lot less emphasis on one important word: how?

The Greater Rochester section of the National Council of Jewish Women is hosting an event this week titled, "Repairing the Planet, Starting in the Flower City." Representatives join us in studio to discuss the goals, and we hear from the Rochester People's Climate Coalition about related issues coming up later this month. Our guests:

  • Arlene Schenker, past president and current board member of the National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Rochester section
  • Mark Dunlea, executive director of the Green Education and Legal Fund
  • Linda Isaacson Fedele, Rochester People's Climate Coalition

What's going on with solar? Recent headlines offer a confusing picture. Solarcity in Buffalo on hold! Direct Energy is closing its local site! Solarize the Flower City is in full swing!

We spend the hour sorting through the latest developments, with a fresh look at the cost of solar energy. Our guests:

This summer, the New Yorker wrote that solar power "makes utility companies nervous." Some utilities are hitting customers with a fee if they install solar. But others, like Green Mountain Power in Vermont, are helping customers diversify their energy options. Why the disparity? And what will RG&E ultimately do?

WROC-TV's Adam Chodak sparked this conversation with a recent series of reports, including his reporting that RG&E was considering a fee, but had made no decision. Our panel explores the energy future:

It's our Monthly Science Roundtable, and we're heading out to the Rochester Museum and Science Center, which is hosting its Science on the Edge Lecture series.

We explore the physics of photovoltaics, the electrical signals that drive our brains, and the science of frogs. Yes, frogs: there's so much to learn from a species that is able to adapt to so many environments, from sure-footed tree frogs, to Argentinian horned frogs, to jewel-toned poison dart frogs. Our guests:

  • Dan Menelly, chief program officer for science and technology, RMSC
  • John O’Donnell, M.S., Ph.D. candidate, University of Rochester Medical Center (research focus: astrocytic responses to neuromodulators)
  • Stephen Polly, Ph.D., Rochester Institute of Technology (research focus: microsystems)

Nearly ten percent of the Finger Lakes wine industry is now turning to solar power, and that number could grow substantially in the next year. Many winery owners oppose fracking and gas storage in the region; now they're interested in showing that they can power their operations with new technologies.

Our panel explains how it's happening, what it costs, and what's next for solar. Our guests:

NATCORE TECHNOLOGY

In a move expected to drive down costs to the industry, Natcore Technology says it has developed  a way to swap silver for aluminum in its solar cells.

Silver is a highly conductive metal, and that efficiency is one reason it has been used in solar cells for nearly 60 years.

When sunlight hits a silicon cell, it generates electrons, and silver has been used to collect these electrons in order to form a useful electric current.

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