A coalition composed of the Institute For Local Self-Reliance, Solar United Neighbors Action, the Initiative For Energy Justice, and Solar United Neighbors has created a white paper urging the federal government to create policy and funding initiatives that would support the addition of rooftop solar to 30 million US homes.
The proposal claims the 30 Million Solar plan would create 1.77 million new jobs and save $69 billion in energy costs in the first 6 years. Thereafter, it would reduce the nation’s energy bills by $30 billion a year. In addition, the amount of carbon dioxide kept out of American skies would be equivalent to shuttering 48 coal-fired generating plants for an entire year or taking 42 million conventional gasoline and diesel powered vehicles off the road.
That last part gets a Wow! from us here at CleanTechnica. Imagine how long it is going to take to get 42 million cars off the road at the current rate of EV adoption.
Policy Help & Financial Assistance
A big part of the 30 Million Solar initiative is convincing Congress to expand and extend the federal investment tax credits available for solar projects, many of which are scheduled to shrink in the near future before expiring altogether. The plan calls for bumping those credits back up to 30% and extending them for an additional 10 years. The critical elements include:
- Restoration, extension, and democratization of the Investment Tax Credit to provide a direct pay option for distributed solar projects and a 30% credit.
- Substantially increased investment in energy assistance and weatherization programs to permanently reduce energy burdens, especially with rooftop and community solar.
- New financing programs, including a national green bank and Clean Energy Victory Bonds.
- Substantial expansion of federal matching grants and loan guarantees for schools, rural homes and businesses, tribal communities, and equitable community solar projects.
- Loan loss reserves, especially to support clean energy portfolios within community development financial institutions.
- Virtual permitting, a national solar marketplace, rules supporting net metering and community solar requirements, and other market-boosting policies.
- Support for solar workers and small business owners from underrepresented groups.
- Measures to make sure federal programs and agencies are accountable to communities.
The Executive Summary of the plan reads as follows:
“The 30 Million Solar Homes policies leverage federal power to spark investment that can serve more than 30 million households with rooftop or community solar over the next five years. This decentralized approach to reaching one in four households with solar maximizes and disperses the economic benefits of expanding clean energy in the fight against climate change, directly benefiting as many Americans as possible.
“More than three quarters of total federal investment benefits marginalized communities, including low and moderate income communities, environmental justice communities, and solar deserts. Over 300 advocacy organizations, solar businesses, and faith communities have signed on in support of 30 Million Solar Homes.”
Two Thirds Of Benefits Will Flow To Underserved Communities
As of the end of the first quarter of this year, the U.S. solar industry had installed 102.8 GW of capacity, enough to power roughly 18.6 million homes. Adding rooftop solar to 30 million homes would equate to 151 GW in new solar capacity — 50% more than all the solar capacity currently in place.
Along with job creation, installing solar on 30 million homes would lead to 100 GW of the 151 GW of proposed capacity being installed in marginalized communities, helping to improve access equity to solar and easing the historic economic imbalance of the resource. The benefits of local solar are particularly important for these communities as many have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and face a slow economic recovery. Specific proposals that would benefit underserved communities include:
- A bonus 10% tax credit for commercial projects that provide Davis-Bacon prevailing wages and benefits.
- A 10% bonus credits to commercial projects primarily serving marginalized communities, or that provide resilience by combining solar and energy storage.
- A 10% bonus credits to residential projects also serving marginalized communities or providing resilience.
- Modifications to prioritize projects that provide a direct financial benefit to residents through electricity bill credits and other benefits.
The proposal also calls for:
- DOE loan guarantees for equitable community solar projects.
- Reauthorizing clean energy block grants for state, tribal, territorial, and local governments.
- Establishing solar plus storage grants for resiliency in marginalized communities.
- Instituting solar grants for schools to reinvest energy savings into operations.
- Establishing grants for developing residential and community solar in marginalized communities.
Speeding Up Solar Permitting
The so-called soft costs associated with rooftop solar can add a third to the cost of a system. The Solar Automated Permit Processing platform from the US Department of Energy hopes to speed up the permitting process and lower costs. It provides a standard portal for local governments to process permit applications that automatically checks codes to ensure safety while generating a standardized inspection checklist installers and inspectors can use to verify compliance in the field.
The DOE piloted the SolarAPP+ program in Tucson and Pima County in Arizona, and Menifee and Pleasant Valley in the California. “In Tucson, for example, SolarAPP+ reduced permitting reviews from approximately 20 business days to zero,” according to DOE.
“We have 3 million households today that have solar on their roofs, but the potential is so much greater,” DOE’s solar energy director told Reuters. “Having streamlined processes and an automated permitting platform that can make it faster, easier and cheaper for homeowners to go solar promises to really help expand the residential solar sector.”
Local governments and installers can now sign up to get started with the app or attend webinars listed on the DOE’s blog. It’s all part of the its Summer of Solar campaign aimed at lowering soft costs — design, siting, permitting, installation, and so forth — associated with rooftop solar power.
The distinguishing feature of rooftop solar is it typically is not something done by traditional utility companies. They love solar because the cost of fuel is effectively zero. But they hate to see electricity democratized. There are a few progressive utility companies out there, but most of them take the position that, “It’s our electricity, dammit, and we alone will decide who gets it and how much you pay for it.” It’s a natural consequence of the monopoly model that has been the standard of the industry for over a century.
The 30 Million Solar plan would explode that status quo. Utility industry lobbyist are salivating over the prospect of driving a stake through the heart of this proposal.
Tesla releases stealth update with new features
Tesla has released a new software update to its fleet and while the release notes remain unchanged, there are a few exciting features that were stealth updated.
The automaker has started to push its 2023.11.4.2 software update.
The update’s release notes are the same as the previous update, but Tesla often updates or adds features without discussing them.
That’s the case with this new update, according to Green, a well-known Tesla hacker who often discovers new features inside Tesla’s code.
He reported that the latest update includes several stealth changes:
Like most premium vehicles today, Tesla has an automatic wiper system that automatically matches the speed of the wipers to the intensity of the rain or snow.
However, unlike most other automakers, Tesla doesn’t use a rain sensor for its system.
Instead, the automaker is using its Autopilot cameras to feed its computer vision neural net to determine the speed for the wipers.
It has been deployed in Tesla vehicles since 2018, but many owners have been complaining that it is not as accurate as other systems using rain sensors.
Tesla’s solution was an update called ‘Deep Rain’ that used a new neural net to power the feature. It came out in 2019, but it was a marginal improvement.
Now Green reports that owners can shut it down if they don’t like it.
Another important stealth update for safety in this new software update is the ability for automatic emergency braking (AEB) to brake for vehicles cutting into your lane. Previously, it would try to avoid things with steering, but AEB was reserved to prevent or reduce the impact for something blocking your way.
For FSD Beta users, the update also now reduces suspensions, which occur after misuse, like not paying attention to the road when using, to one week instead to two weeks.
America’s first US-built electric mini-truck begins street-legal homologation
The AYRO Vanish has grabbed headlines over the past year as it rolls ever closer to production at AYRO’s Texas factory. Now the electric mini-truck’s final step ahead of manufacturing has begun as the Vanish starts street-legal homologation.
The AYRO Vanish is an electric utility vehicle that is designed to fit into the low-speed vehicle (LSV) federal designation. The mini-truck uses a lightweight architecture to limit the entire vehicle weight and maximize the allowable payload.
The Vanish boasts a payload of up to 1,200 lb (544 kg), which is fairly close to many standard-sized pickup trucks. For comparison, a 2023 Ford F-150’s payload capacity starts at 1,310 lb (594 kg). The company also indicated that it plans to produce a non-street legal variant that will have a higher payload capacity of 1,800 pounds (816 kg). That model would be applicable to work sites, campuses and other areas where use on public roads is not required.
Unlike standard pickup trucks, the Vanish offers highly adaptable configurations. Optional rear cargo configurations including food boxes, flat beds, utility beds with three-sided tailgates, and van boxes for secure storage all point to potential commercial applications for the vehicle.
And those future commercial customers could be getting their hands on the Vanish’s steering wheel sooner rather than later. Heading for homologation testing means that the company is now closer than ever to putting those various designs on the road.
As AYRO CEO Tom Wittenschlaeger explained:
“Now that we’ve completed our internal testing, it’s time to ensure that the award-winning Vanish meets requirements of our national governing bodies. Once we’ve completed this process and receive final approval, we can begin delivering vehicles to our customers and dealers.”
In order for any road-worthy vehicle to be considered for sale, the vehicle must go through homologation to ensure it is safe and complies with government regulations.
LSVs have reduced regulatory hurdles, but there are still many safety requirements and design considerations to be addressed. The vehicles must meet regulations for the construction, design, durability, and performance requirements as outlined by federal governing bodies. In the US, this process is governed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
This complex process of homologation allows for vehicles to be officially classified by date and category as well as have official and certifiable technical information and specifications. The Vanish is completing homologation for both the United States and Canada, for which testing includes the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) 500, Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS) 500 and California Air Resources Board (C.A.R.B.).
In parallel with its homologation phase, AYRO is now planning to begin Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) by early June to begin building the first 50 Vanish units that will be used as demo models for signed dealers.
The company plans to enter full-scale production upon the successful completion of its first 50 units.
As AYRO’s senior vice president of programs added:
“Our team has worked diligently to prepare for this day. This is one of the final steps in our product development process. Concurrently with homologation, we plan to begin LRIP and immediately following begin delivering vehicles to our customers and dealers.”
The AYRO Vanish opened for orders earlier this month, launching at a starting price of $33,990. While that price is more expensive than several other imported electric mini-trucks, the Vanish’s modular design (and soon-to-be street legal status) is a key differentiator.
AYRO’s vice president of Dealer Sales, Terry Kahl, previously explained the advantages of a modular platform:
With swappable bed configurations, we believe dealers can find a use case for the Vanish with almost any of their existing clientele. We have indications of interest from a rapidly growing number of dealers and now incoming dealers can find added value in that AYRO is accepting their pre-orders even before they join our dealer network. It should be an absolute win-win for our existing and onboarding dealers as well as future dealers.
WAU Project Cyber teased as ‘revolutionary’ high performance electric bike
We see new e-bike launches practically every week here at Electrek, but we rarely seem something quite so… futuristic looking as the upcoming WAU model currently being teased. The UK-based electric bike company is dripping out imagines of its upcoming Project Cyber, which looks like something between a high performance electric bicycle and a light electric motorcycle.
It’s not uncommon for e-bike companies to expand into the moped or light motorbike space. We watched it happen with SONDORS when the company unveiled the Metacycle, SUPER73 with the C1X, and several other smaller e-bike companies.
And while we don’t yet know how the Project Cyber e-bike will be classified, it’s certainly looking like it could be headed in a similarly aggressive direction.
WAU is best known for its long range, urban-oriented electric bikes with enclosed frames and iconic seat stay tail lights that also serve as highly visible turn signals.
It’s a welcome, distinguished design that sets itself apart from many of the other cookie cutter e-bikes we’ve seen over the last few years.
And it appears that WAU may be sticking with some of the same design language for its upcoming Project Cyber, based on the first few teaser images.
The company has been dripping out images and information in a Facebook group set up for sharing details about the upcoming e-bike.
One of the more revealing pieces of information includes a set of design drawings from early in the project. Multiple concepts can be seen, including some with and without bicycle pedals.
The inclusion of bicycle pedals would lend credence to this being a high performance e-bike, while a lack of pedals would put the two-wheeler into light motorbike territority.
WAU seems to be investing heavily in the bike’s technology, though it isn’t quite clear yet what that could mean in terms of features. Many new e-bikes have started to feature advanced connectivity features closer to that of electric cars, including telemetrics and remote operations. A teaser on the company’s site seems to imply that built-in GPS tracking may be included on the WAU Cyber e-bike.
The company is still playing it close to the vest with most details, but suggests that the new model could “revolutionize the industry.”
As WAU explained in the Facebook group description, “Get ready to be blown away by the most stylish pedelec the world has ever seen. Our state-of-the-art technology and design are set to revolutionize the industry, and we are thrilled to have you join us on this journey.”
The company also released several images showing a prototype frame being welded together, seen below.
We don’t yet know what else the WAU Cyber will hold in store for us, but with the reveal expected to come soon, we shouldn’t have to wait for long.
What do you think WAU will unveil as part of Project Cyber? Share your thoughts and guesses in the comment section below.
We’ll be sure to update as soon as we have more information on the upcoming e-bike.
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