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Solar Panels Unveiled Friday: 'World's Most Efficient'


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Calling their new consumer solar panels the "holy grail" of home solar energy, officials with SolarCity said Friday morning the technology "will be the most efficient in the world, with a module efficiency of just over 22 percent."

SolarCity, one of North America's largest solar panel manufacturers, is the brainchild of billionaire business magnate Elon Musk, who told an audience in New York City's Times Square that while the new panels are the same size as traditional rooftop panels, they produce 30-40 percent more power.

When Musk's new SolarCity 1 gigawatt factory near Buffalo, N.Y., reaches full capacity in 2017, company officials said they plan to produce as many as 10,000 solar panels a day. According to figures given at the New York presentation, solar energy accounts for approximately "35 percent of new energy production, ahead of natural gas, wind power " and other alternative sources.

While a growing number of Idaho consumers may be adding solar panels to their rooftops, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission sent a clear message in August that it wasn't a fan of long-term contracts between Idaho Power and large solar developers. The PUC granted a request from Idaho Power to reduce the length of negotiated solar contracts from 20 to two years, saying the longer contracts resulted in "utilities and, consequently, customers paying unreasonable costs for renewable generation."

The PUC ruling came in the wake of a June 24 public hearing where not a single citizen testified in favor of the plan to dramatically limit the solar contracts.

""[Idaho Power] chooses to be on the wrong side of environmental health and the wrong side of history," said self-described alternative energy promoter Reed Burkholder during the hearing.

But Idaho Power argued that it already was flooded with solar providers who are expected to be online in 2016 and 2017:

"We already have, under contract, 400 megawatts that will be coming in from new solar projects next year," Idaho Power attorney Donovan Walker said in March. "Then on top of that, there's another 900 MWs from proposed contracts. To put that in perspective, that's larger than our entire Hells Canyon three-dam complex. It exceeds the total load on our system."