What’s the energy equivalent of ‘”Know your farmer”?

Solar demand is growing exponentially and some companies see cutting corners as a competitive advantage. The Guardian reports that some solar panel manufacturers are compromising their commitment to recycling in order to increase margins. For example, First Solar, the only major company with a fully-funded Extended Producer Responsibility program, backed off on its commitment to EPR for most of its U.S. based sales. First Solar is publicly-traded, and therefore faces Wall Street pressures in the quarterly-earnings news cycle.

We are grateful for all the hard work put in by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition to create the Solar Scorecard. It empowers concerned citizens by giving them information needed to choose how best to invest their energy dollars.

We are also excited about new possibilities for Minnesota residents to support sustainability with their energy spending. As MinnPost reports, Minnesota took a solid step toward a new energy future by enacting:

a requirement that the state’s four large investor-owned utilities — Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power and Interstate Power & Light — generate 1.5 percent of their electricity with solar power by the year 2020.

That’s not just a “carve-out” for solar within the existing RPS standard, but rather an addition to the portfolio of requirements that will ensure 25 percent renewables by 2025 (30 percent for Xcel, because of special provisions related to its nuclear plants).

The law requires that 10 percent of the utilities’ solar installations be in the form of small, “distributed generation” projects that spread investments more widely and reduce transmission needs. It also created incentives for solar installations atop business and homes, including an option for homeowners to pool their investments in shared systems or “community solar gardens.”

According to the StarTribune, Rockford will take the prize for plugging in the first solar garden, and another is scheduled to come online in Minneapolis in 2014.

As this new market grows in Minnesota, there will no doubt be companies that seek to cut corners in the name of profit. The Alliance for Sustainability plans to continue to provide our members and the broader community with information needed to make sustainable choices.