WXXI AM News

SOLAR ENERGY

Three local villages made the switch to solar energy in 2019. We talk with leaders from Brockport, Lima, and Sodus Point about their decisions and what switching to solar means for their residents. 

In studio:

Changes are coming for solar. At the end of 2019, we will see the residential federal solar tax credit go down, the commercial federal tax credit go down, and the NYSERDA residential solar grant only has 20 percent left in it before it drops from 35 cents to 30 cents/watt, which could happen before the fall. 

Does this mean that solar will necessarily become a lot more expensive? What does it portend for homeowners and business owners? Our guests explain:

Rochester Regional Health

Rochester Regional Health has activated a solar farm in Parma that it says will power more than 100 of its smaller facilities.

It’s part of an effort announced last year to power the company’s operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025.

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.

Quick question: how much power in New York State comes from carbon sources? How much comes from wind? How much from nuclear? And how vulnerable is our grid? There are massive questions about how to bring new sources of energy to New Yorkers, and how the grid can -- or can't -- accommodate it.

The New York Times recently published a story about this challenge, and the ways our power arrives at our homes. We explore it with the author and one of her primary sources for the piece:

  • Emily Rueb, New York Times reporter
  • Suzanne Hunt, Hunt Green LLC
  • Jim Gallagher, New York State Smart Grid Consortium

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.