Sunjammer’s success is the key to enabling several science and exploration missions that can only be accomplished with a solar sail, said Les Johnson, deputy manager of the Advanced Concepts Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The panels, operating in a private-public partnership at 28 schools, are intended to save the district at least $941,000 over 20 years, according to initial estimates. But contracts, approved as early as 2009, indicate that if the district backs out of any of the schools, developers will be paid a substantial termination fee.

“We found that a Sunjammer-derived sail could visit up to six NEAs within six years of being launched. This would be impossible with chemical rockets and might not be achievable by electric propulsion. And it’s all because the sail uses no propellant … deriving its thrust from sunlight, making it a very ‘green’ space propulsion system,” he said.

It was clear from the beginning – from the early days of Spain’s prolonged fiscal crisis – that the country’s solar sector would take a hit of some sort. After all, it had been blessed for too long with what many called unsustainable incentives to keep it thriving and growing into the force it was expected to be. Meanwhile, utilities were locked into selling power for regulated prices in exchange for later support from the government, which helped build an enormous sector deficit. Something was going to have to give, that much was clear. Solar proponents just hoped it would be quick, clear and concise.

Back in Brussels, ANPIER representatives warned that the actions had already resulted in a 30 percent loss in revenue and if expanded, would drive about 80 percent of the country’s panel producers into bankruptcy.

Solar arrays were slated to be placed on the roofs of schools. But one of the two arrays at Place Bridge were placed on a vacant lot near homes instead. Crews appeared without warning one day in September, surprising neighbors when they began installing solar panels.

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