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Jewish Energy Guide: Let the Sun Shine

Summary: Benjamin Kahane, an engineer who designs photovoltaic solar energy systems for SunEdison, outlines the current state of solar power and its potential as a transformative energy source.

There are two major types of solar power technologies: photovoltaic and solar thermal.

The United States has about 500 megawatts of operational solar thermal power, most of which comes from the largest single project, a 354 megawatt plant in California’s Mojave Desert. Photovoltaic power is much more widespread, mostly because it is a much more scalable technology. The total U.S. grid connected photovoltaic capacity in 2010 was 2,152.5 megawatts — more than four times the total solar thermal electric power installed — and installed photovoltaic capacity is growing at an exponential rate. Currently, solar power represents a very small portion of the total energy demands of the United States — less than half of 1 percent of the country’s energy usage — but advances in solar cell manufacturing processes and competition in the market are allowing the American solar energy sector to grow rapidly.

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The Jewish Energy Guide presents a comprehensive Jewish approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change and offers a blueprint for the Jewish community to achieve a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September of 2014, which is the next Shmittah, or sabbatical, year in the Jewish calendar.

The Jewish Energy Guide is part of COEJL's Jewish Energy Network, a collaborative effort with Jewcology's Year of Action to engage Jews in energy action and advocacy. The Guide was created in partnership with the Green Zionist Alliance.

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