At least some of the solar energy that happens in Vegas will soon stay in Vegas, powering Sin City’s iconic welcome sign by as early as year’s end. A recently approved plan will rig fake trees with solar panels to light the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign; ground is set to be broken on the project this fall, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The Vegas sign’s switch to solar power is largely symbolic, but it illustrates the industry’s recent growth. Driving that growth? Affordability, both in initial costs and long-term payoff, according to a report released Sunday by the financial firm Lazard. Utility-scale solar power has seen the break-even price for energy production (known as the levelized cost of energy) drop by more than 50 percent since 2009. “Utility-scale solar (photovoltaics) is a competitive source of peak energy as compared with conventional generation in many parts of the world, without any subsidies,” Lazard stated.
Despite its cost-effectiveness, the viability of utility-scale solar is still uncertain at the residential level, the report said. “Residential-scale solar [photovoltaics] in the United States (and elsewhere) is benefiting from the concentration of multiple levels of federal tax subsidies, state-level tax subsidies, and/or feed-in tariffs. Currently, residential-scale solar PV remains expensive by comparison to utility-scale solar PV.”
Subsidies may be needed to make solar power palatable for homeowners, but industry statistics suggest they are having the desired effect. Since the second quarter of 2012, the residential solar market has grown 48 percent, according to a Solar Market Insight report conducted by the Solar Energy Industries Association and Greentech Media’s GTM Research. The full report — including additional numbers on solar affordability — will be released Thursday.
And solar isn’t the only alternative energy source to see a sudden boost in affordability. Wind power, Lazard says, has dropped its levelized cost of energy more than 50 percent over the past four years. While wind power’s capital costs are similar to solar’s, it is even more competitive when it comes to break-even energy pricing.
The report also notes the difficulties facing more-traditional energy sources, such as coal and nuclear. Along with high costs, the specter of “policy uncertainty” looms, as Congress and the Obama administration wrangle over climate regulations. Still, given the government’s mixed — and controversial — record on backing solar projects, the industry might be on its own as it tries to gain traction as a major energy supplier.
Solar has a long way to go before it can power a significant part of the nation’s electricity needs. Right now, renewable electricity makes up just 12 percent of the total supply, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, and solar generates just 1 percent of all renewable electricity — a miniscule fraction of the total U.S. supply.
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As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."