Solar Energy News in California – Solar Tribune https://solartribune.com Solar Energy News, Analysis, Education Sun, 07 Oct 2018 18:18:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 The 5 States Making Solar Mainstream https://solartribune.com/the-5-states-making-solar-mainstream/ https://solartribune.com/the-5-states-making-solar-mainstream/#comments Thu, 04 Oct 2018 14:38:19 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=13863 Solar energy is more mainstream now than ever before thanks to rapid innovations in the industry that have slashed prices of solar panels over the past several years. The rapid maturation of the solar market in the U.S. has been fueled primarily by a handful of states who have made the sector’s growth a top […]

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Solar energy is more mainstream now than ever before thanks to rapid innovations in the industry that have slashed prices of solar panels over the past several years. The rapid maturation of the solar market in the U.S. has been fueled primarily by a handful of states who have made the sector’s growth a top priority.

Cumulative Solar Capacity by State

California continues to outpace rival states when it comes to cumulative solar capacity, boasting over 21,000 MW of solar capacity through 2017. North Carolina (4,308 MW), Arizona (3,400 MW), Nevada (2,595 MW), and New Jersey (2,390 MW) round out the top five.

Source: SEIA

#1 California

California is in rarefied air as the longtime leading solar market in the United States. The amount of cumulative solar capacity in California through 2017 (21,074 MW) is roughly the same as the rest of the next top 9 states combined (21,173 MW).

State Solar Quickfacts

  • State Homes Powered by Solar: 5,791,397
  • Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 16.68%
  • Solar Companies in State: 2880 (493 Manufacturers, 1449 Installers/Developers, 901 Others)
  • Total Solar Investment in State: $44,241.17 million
  • Growth Projection: 13,281 MW over the next 5 years
  • Number of Installations: 829,532

Source: SEIA Factsheet

California may have the nation’s strongest solar market, but the state’s solar industry suffered significant job losses in 2017. This fact can be chalked up primarily to the very wet year the state experienced in 2017 with torrential rains early in the year being especially disruptive to planned solar projects. The adoption of new Time-of-Rate rates designed to shift energy consumption from consumers away from peak periods also put a damper on the residential PV market. Look for California’s solar industry to rebound in 2018.

Source: National Solar Jobs Census 2017, the Solar Foundation

Solar-friendly state policies:

  • Renewables Portfolio Standard: California’s dominance as the nation’s leading solar state is primarily a result of its ambitious RPS goals first established via legislation in 2002. The most recently amended piece of legislation calls for 33% of the retail sales of California’s electric utilities to come from renewable sources.
  • Net Metering: California continues to have one of the nation’s most appealing net metering programs. This statewide incentive allows solar homeowners to receive bill credits for excess solar energy their home produces at the retail rate from their utility company.
  • Residential Solar Mandate: Earlier this year, California became the first state in the country to mandate that new residences be affixed with solar panels. The mandate will apply to buildings built after January 1, 2020, and it will help to propel the state’s already lofty solar capacity to even greater heights.

#2 North Carolina

The abundance of utility-scale solar farms in North Carolina has helped to establish it as a top state for solar capacity for years. While the state’s utility-scale solar capacity continues to dominate, increased capacity in the residential and commercial markets are helping to solidify the Tar Heel State’s position as one of the best solar markets in the United States.

State Solar Quickfacts

  • State Homes Powered by Solar: 504,119
  • Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 4.64%
  • Solar Companies in State: 249 (42 Manufacturers, 118 Installers/Developers, 83 Others)
  • Total Solar Investment in State: $6,504.31 million
  • Growth Projection: 8,893 MW over the next 5 years
  • Number of Installations: 7,527

Source: SEIA Factsheet

The solar industry in the Tar Heel State continues to be a major element of the state’s overall economy. From 2015 to 2017, the state’s solar industry grew by 28.1%, highest among the other top five states for solar capacity on our listing.

National Solar Jobs Census 2017, the Solar Foundation

Solar-friendly state policies:

  • Competitive Energy Solutions Law: In July 2017, North Carolina Governor Cooper signed landmark renewable energy legislation into law that would allow 3rd-party leasing of solar arrays for rooftop and community solar projects. As a result of a competitive bidding process also established by the law, the state’s largest utility, Duke Energy, announced a $62 million solar rebate program.
  • Property Tax Abatements for Solar Energy Systems: Solar energy systems increase residential property values, creating a major selling point for prospective solar homeowners. Higher property values also result in higher property taxes, but in North Carolina, the added property value that solar adds to a home is exempt from taxation.

#3 Arizona

Solar energy has long been popular in Arizona, but the implementation of a net metering charge in 2014 and the elimination of some incentives programs in recent years have brought turbulence to the state’s market. Still, more than half a million homes in Arizona are powered by solar energy and the industry’s future remains bright.

State Solar Quickfacts

  • State Homes Powered by Solar: 514,079
  • Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 6.09%
  • Solar Companies in State: 454 (77 Manufacturers, 248 Installers/Developers, 122 Others)
  • Total Solar Investment in State: $8,174.76 million
  • Growth Projection: 2,574 MW over the next 5 years
  • Number of Installations: 117,485

Source: SEIA Factsheet

Solar jobs in Arizona have grown by a robust 21.1% since 2015. The growth has been most notable among solar installation jobs (+42.3%), an indication of how rapidly the state’s residential PV market has expanded in recent years.

Source: National Solar Jobs Census 2017, the Solar Foundation

Solar-friendly state policies:

  • Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST): Like most top solar states, Arizona’s rapidly expanding solar industry was fueled by an ambitious renewable energy standard first established in 2006. The standard initially required regulated electric utilities to generate at least 1.5% of their energy from renewable resources by 2006. Legislative revisions have bumped that goal to 15% by 2025.
  • Residential Arizona Solar Tax Credit: This tax credit reimburses the solar homeowner 25% of the cost of the solar panels, up to $1,000 on their personal taxes in the year of the installation.
  • Solar Equipment Sales Tax Exemption: The exemption is for 100% of the sales tax equipment on eligible equipment, including; photovoltaics, passive solar heating, active solar space heating, and solar water heating.

#4 Nevada

Las Vegas may be most well-known for its casinos and entertainment venues, but it also happens to be one of the sunniest cities in the world, receiving over 3,800 hours of sunlight a year. The abundant sunshine in Nevada and its flat, arid landscape are ideal for utility-scale solar developments, while solar is an inherently appealing option for homeowners looking to cut high energy bills in this desert state.

State Solar Quickfacts

  • State Homes Powered by Solar: 425,022
  • Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 11.52%
  • Solar Companies in State: 129 (17 Manufacturers, 72 Installers/Developers, 36 Others)
  • Total Solar Investment in State: $4,122.21 million
  • Growth Projection and Ranking: 4,528 MW over the next 5 years
  • Number of Installations: 27,308

Source: SEIA Factsheet

The national headwinds that have stunted solar job growth across much of the country over the past year have been especially acute in Nevada. The state’s solar industry lost 1,807 jobs from 2016 to 2017, which was the third largest reduction in solar jobs by any state over the same time period. Recently passed net metering legislation is expected to reverse the negative trends that the state’s solar industry has seen in recent years.

National Solar Jobs Census 2017, the Solar Foundation

Solar-friendly state policies:

  • NV Energy SolarGenerations ProgramThis is a solar rebate program offered by the state’s top utility company, NV Energy, to solar users of all types. The amount of incentives are based on the size of the solar energy system. Up-front incentives (UFI) are available for systems that generate up to 25 kWh of electricity, while Production-Based Incentives (PBI) are available for larger systems.
  • A.B. 405: In June 2017, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law A.B. 405, which reestablished net metering for residential solar projects in the state after the program was abruptly ended by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission in 2016. The passage of A.B. 405 resulted in a significant uptick of SolarGenerations applications in 2017 which are expected to continue through 2018.

#5 New Jersey

New Jersey isn’t located in the heart of the Sun Belt like the other top solar states in the country, but the Garden State still has a thriving solar industry. The state’s history of supporting pro-solar policies initiatives like net metering, the SREC market, and a solar RPS have help to entrench New Jersey as one of the best states for solar in the country.

State Solar Quickfacts

  • State Homes Powered by Solar: 381,918
  • Percentage of State’s Electricity from Solar: 3.87%
  • Solar Companies in State: 570 (83 Manufacturers, 363 Installers/Developers, 118 Others)
  • Total Solar Investment in State: $7,775.60 million
  • Growth Projection and Ranking: 4,081 MW over the next 5 years (ranks 8th)
  • Number of Installations: 91,039

Source: SEIA Factsheet

New Jersey is one of the few states that bucked the national trend and actually added solar jobs from 2016 to 2017. The state added 1,050 jobs in that time period, which was only behind Utah (+1,762), Minnesota (+1,383), and Arizona (+1,070).

National Solar Jobs Census 2017, the Solar Foundation

Solar-friendly state policies:

  • Net Metering: Like many solar-friendly states, New Jersey offers solar homeowners the opportunity to sell excess power back to the grid. This incentive is especially attractive in New Jersey since the retail rate for net metering is typically much higher than most other states.
  • Property and Sales Tax Exemptions: Solar equipment purchased by homeowners in New Jersey is exempt from sales tax, and solar homeowners are also exempt from paying additional property taxes on the value that their solar panels add to their home.
  • A.3723: In May, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed landmark clean energy legislation (A.3723) that would mandate NJ utilities to source at least 50% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. New York, Hawaii, California, and Vermont are the only other states with renewable portfolio standards meeting or exceeding New Jersey’s new mandate. The bill also established an ambitious energy storage target and a community solar program that are expected to continue to fuel growth in the state’s solar industry.

 

Cover photo source: www.fpl.com

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New Solar Opportunities Are Benefiting Lower-Income Families https://solartribune.com/new-solar-opportunities-benefiting-lower-income-families/ Mon, 22 Jan 2018 05:04:32 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=12509 Solar panels are no longer just a luxury item. As the American solar industry waits anxiously to see if President Trump levies a tariff on Chinese solar panels, new solar installations continue to go up at a steady pace. Despite uncertainty on how the trade decision may effect panel prices in the years to come, […]

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Solar panels are no longer just a luxury item.

As the American solar industry waits anxiously to see if President Trump levies a tariff on Chinese solar panels, new solar installations continue to go up at a steady pace. Despite uncertainty on how the trade decision may effect panel prices in the years to come, both large-scale solar farms and indie rooftop solar projects just keep chugging along. One segment of the solar market that has been growing steadily is among lower-income residents and the organizations that address their needs. Once considered a luxury item for environmentally-conscious early adopters, more and more people in lower income brackets are discovering opportunities to take advantage of solar energy’s benefits, and cash-strapped charities are reducing their overhead costs through new solar programs.

NAACP Celebrates MLK Day with launch of National Solar Equity Initiative

In observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday and National Day of Service, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)  launched its new partnership, the Solar Equity Initiative in Los Angeles at The Jenesse Center, the headquarters for a nationally recognized non-profit domestic violence prevention and intervention organization. Lifetime financial savings for the Jenesse Center are estimated to be approximately $48,825, which will enable Jenesse to infuse more funds into continuing its 35 years of services.

According to the NAACP, the project is a civil rights economic and environmental justice initiative designed to connect 30+ communities of color and low-income communities across the nation with solar energy infrastructure for homes and community centers, as well as skills training for solar jobs, all supported by strengthened solar equity policies. The NAACP has made a year-long commitment to provide solar job skills training to 100 individuals, installation of solar panels on 20 households and ten community centers, and strengthen equity in solar access policies in at least five states across the country.

“Underserved communities cannot be left behind in a clean energy transition,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “Clean energy is a fundamental civil right which must be available to all, within the framework of a just transition.”

Along with the NAACP, partners in the Solar Equity Initiative include GRID Alternatives, the Solar Energy Industries Association, Sunrun, United Methodist Women, Vote Solar, and others.

photo: Everyday Energy

New California Program for Low-Income Solar

According to NextCity.org, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved the creation of the Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program, which will allocate $1 billion for rooftop solar installation on low-income homes over the next ten years. Funds will be drawn from a statewide greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program and will provide $100 million in annual solar installation incentives for the owners of affordable multifamily buildings.

Framework for the program was created by the state legislature in 2015 and is now ready for implementation. SOMAH was designed to help California meet its climate goals, help reduce energy bills for low-income residents and ensure that green energy infrastructure isn’t just for the wealthy.

A high credit score is no longer a prerequisite for solar

A recent Bloomberg article showcases a company that is achieving major gains in the solar installation market by taking on new customers that other solar installers might reject. PosiGen LLC works with lower-income customers that other companies reject, but they have had just 47 defaults out of almost 13,000 installations. At a default rate of only 0.4 percent, PosiGens low-income customers have a track record that compares positively to other companies that only serve upper-income clients.

“We want the people on disability, the people living paycheck to paycheck,” Executive Officer Thomas Neyhart told Bloomberg. “They’re the ones who can benefit the most from $50 off their monthly utility bill.” Neyhart expects to add as many as 3,000 homes this year.

PosiGen captured 80 percent of Louisiana’s rooftop solar market by helping rebuild blighted parts of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The firm has since expanded to Connecticut, Minnesota and New Jersey.

New Hampshire Nonprofit launches Solar Shares

In an article by Annie Ropeik, New Hampshire Public Radio reports that the city of Plymouth will be home to the state’s first small solar panel arrays designed to help low-income families. A new program, Solar Shares, has raised more $115,000 for the projects and plans to break ground on the first one in the spring.

Sandra Jones co-directs the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative, which created Solar Shares. She says they plan to choose about 30 low-income families to share the renewable energy credits from their first three arrays. That will amount to about a $25 monthly savings.

“We like the idea that it’s going to give access to solar energy for a population that really can’t afford it,” Jones says. “It’s also going to obviously help the environment … and provide more local energy on the grid.”

The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, which serves residents in the area, is helping fund the project and will distribute the renewable energy credits the arrays generate.

“I think one of the misconceptions is that folks that can’t afford solar aren’t thinking about it, and it’s not true,” said Jones. “They’re hearing about it, they’re hearing about the savings from their neighbors, and they’re the folks that need the energy savings the most.”

The array near Common Man will go on donated land off Route 3. Jones says it will double as a picnic area, and may include solar panels decorated with art by local students that shade the picnic tables.

Puget Sound Energy funds solar projects for local charities

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) announced recently that they will be giving five organizations in its service area the gift of solar energy. The recipients are organizations that are either food distribution centers or emergency warming shelters in their respective communities.

PSE is donating $350,000 to install solar panels at Northwest Harvest in Kent, Community Action of Skagit County, Island Senior Resources, Salvation Army Bremerton and the Upper Kittitas County Senior Center. All five projects will be installed by June.

“Whether it’s providing food or emergency shelter, the organizations that were selected have a history of helping people in their communities, which is aligned with what’s important to PSE,” said Bob Stolarski, PSE director of Customer Energy Management & Renewables. “We’re excited that funding these solar projects will help reduce the energy costs for our recipients, so they can put more money towards supporting their core mission while helping to reduce their carbon footprint.”

The grants will allow each organization to meet at least 10 percent of their load with solar energy. Not only will these organizations receive energy savings but eight years of renewable energy production incentive payments from the state.

“Northwest Harvest is very appreciative of this grant from PSE,” said Thomas Reynolds, Northwest Harvest’s CEO. “We know that for every dollar we can save in keeping our lights on and our food cold, is an extra dollar that goes toward helping feed those in our community who are suffering from hunger.”

A little solar power is a big improvement for Berkeley homeless

Sam Clune was a mortgage broker until he lost his home in Albany, New York, in 2009. He migrated to California in a camper outfitted with solar panels, until he lost the van due to expired smog permits. Now Clune lives in a homeless camp in Aquatic Park in Berkeley. Despite the difficult circumstances, Clune has used his knowledge of solar tech to help his fellow homeless residents.

Sam Clune’s dog, Trouble, watches him clean the solar panels he installed at his homeless camp, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, in Emeryville, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Clune has installed donated solar panels at three different homeless encampments in Berkeley.

“It allows you to charge your phone and your computer,” Clune said of the 915-watt setup at Aquatic Park, consisting of three solar panels, a controller, four golf cart batteries and lots of wiring — “Here every tent has an extension cord running to it,” he said.

“The big difference is not what you can do with electricity. It’s what you do not have to do,” Clune said. “Instead of sitting in a coffee shop for three hours a day charging stuff, building your whole day around it, we can now accomplish something else with our day.”

Over at the Adeline Street camp, resident Karma Bear seconded Clune’s observation:

“Instead of going to the library, where there are 90 homeless people trying to charge their phones at one time, we can charge up as many as we need here, up to 10 or 12 a day,” Bear said.

By providing electricity for charging devices, Clune is helping residents to get access to employment information, health resources, and emergency services.

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California Is Becoming the Solar/Storage Test Bed https://solartribune.com/california-becoming-solarstorage-test-bed/ Sun, 12 Mar 2017 23:41:14 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10652 California utilities are working hard to discourage new indie rooftop solar projects, but their upcoming changes in rate structures will simply accelerate the adoption of new storage technology. San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) are all proposing new rate structures that will move on-peak rates […]

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California utilities are working hard to discourage new indie rooftop solar projects, but their upcoming changes in rate structures will simply accelerate the adoption of new storage technology.

San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) are all proposing new rate structures that will move on-peak rates to later in the day, reducing the value of solar produced during the sunniest hours of the day. In California, real-time wholesale energy prices often hit zero during the day while the need for energy at night can spike them to as high as $1,000 a megawatt hour.

In testimony submitted as part of SDG&E’s time-of-use rate proposal,  California Solar Industry Association (CALSEIA) member Kevin Weinberg, commercial sales manager for Baker Electric, pointed out that some commercial solar customers could see a 9 percent to 22 percent reduction in bill savings due to the loss of premium pricing during high-sun hours. Weinberg stated that this move  “could put a lot of customers underwater with their power-purchase agreements, leases, loans and property-assessed clean energy assessments,” he wrote.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will grandfather existing solar customers for up to five years for residential systems and 10 years for commercial, industrial and institutional systems before switching them to the new rates, which will allow the systems to payback at the rates they were financed at.

This action on the part of California utilities is part of a nationwide trend to punish small indie solar producers and discourage new installations while allowing the utility companies themselves to develop large-scale solar projects and retain control over electrical generation. Their slavish devotion to out-dated central station generation models is driving new indie solar technology development, and the results may be more and more households and businesses choosing to keep their solar-generated electrons stored on-site, reducing their need for grid power even more. However, the utilities are not oblivious to that fact, and are looking ahead to capitalizing on battery storage as well, as soon as the early adopters bring the price down.

SDG&E has proposed a pilot project and a special tariff that would reward battery system users for letting the utility company  control the storage system and use it as part of its overall system balancing strategy, which may appeal to some customers. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that  PG&E, Edison International and Sempra Energy are testing battery storage to create “virtual power plants” that manage green power and feed it into California’s power grid.

Meanwhile, the CPUC is itself encouraging solar storage. The CPUC’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) provides rebates for qualifying distributed energy systems installed on the customer’s side of the utility meter.  According the the CPUC website, the planned reopening of SGIP to energy storage applicants is due to occur in mid-April or early May 2017. Once reopened, SGIP will reserve 75% of its incentives for energy storage projects and 25% of its incentives for generation projects. 15% of the energy storage reservation will be reserved for residential energy storage projects less than or equal to 10kW in size, and 40% of the generation reservation will be reserved for renewable generation projects.

Many storage companies are anticipating the reopening of the SGIP. In a press release from  SimpliPhi Power and CivicSolar, they announced their partnership to bring new energy storage solutions to residential installers in California. The AccESS all-in-one-box storage system from SimpliPhi is now available from CivicSolar.

“Because of the inherent safety and non-toxicity of SimpliPhi’s lithium ferrous phosphate chemistry and proprietary battery architecture and management, the AccESS allows installers to eliminate the complexities of ancillary equipment necessary for thermal monitoring. They can now standardize on an integrated solution without the risk of thermal runaway or fire characteristic of cobalt-based lithium batteries and safely install energy storage inside or outside the home,” said SimpliPhi CEO Catherine Von Burg. “CivicSolar, like SimpliPhi, believes in empowering customers to make informed decisions about their power storage and generation needs with systems that are dependable, safe and enduring; without having to wait for ambiguous product availability dates that have not been deployed or validated through years of performance and field tests.”

Ms. Von Burg is obviously taking a shot at Tesla, another major player in the California storage scene. Tesla has made news in recent months by building a large storage facility for SCE comprised of their large-scale “Powerpack” batteries. Tesla’s “Powerwall” residential-scale system has yet to gain widespread adoption.

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California Solar + Storage Project Will Be A “Win-Win” https://solartribune.com/california-solar-storage-project-will-win-win/ Mon, 20 Feb 2017 07:00:03 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10601 Enphase energy and GRID Alternatives have partnered in the past to bring clean, affordable solar energy to low-income homes in California. Now, with net-metering caps kicking in, they are adding storage to this successful program. Based in Oakland, California, GRID Alternatives is a non-profit organization that brings together community partners, volunteers and job trainees to […]

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Enphase energy and GRID Alternatives have partnered in the past to bring clean, affordable solar energy to low-income homes in California. Now, with net-metering caps kicking in, they are adding storage to this successful program.

Based in Oakland, California, GRID Alternatives is a non-profit organization that brings together community partners, volunteers and job trainees to implement solar power and energy efficiency for low-income families. They have a history of successful projects in California and were in the middle of installing 50 rooftop systems in the Imperial Irrigation District’s (IID) service territory, when IID’s 5% net metering cap kicked in and stalled the project. GRID Alternatives was only able to complete 18 of the 50 projects when the cap put a stop to the project.

Thankfully, microinverter pioneer Enphase Energy has a solution. Enphase was already a partner with GRID Alternatives on many of their low income and job training programs, and Enphase saw this setback as an opportunity. By adding storage to the new systems, this new solar-plus-storage project is forecast to cut a low-income customer’s monthly energy bill by 45% and save US$810 annually, according to the companies. In addition, the system is claimed to produce more power than it consumes for around 10 of 12 months.

Introduced last year as a part of their “Home Energy Solution”, their AC battery storage system  is a small, modular lithium-ion-based storage system that is both affordable and expandable. Although Enphase has struggled in the market recently, investor sites like Seeking Alpha are taking note of Enphase’s impressive innovations and successes with lower-end battery storage systems they have test-marketed in Australia. Despite the hype around Tesla’s Powerwall, Enphase is quietly eating Tesla’s lunch, increasing market share quarter-over-quarter, and in California alone, to an impressive 30%.

The GRID Alternatives program is the perfect American testbed for the AC battery. Utility companies around the country are capping net metering, and California is among the first states to see those caps taking effect. The market for storage is taking off, and innovators like Enphase and Grid Alternatives are among the first out of the gate, seeing storage not just as a boutique product for environmentally-conscious early adopters, but as a real cost-saving alternative for budget-conscious homeowners.

The work that Enphase is doing with GRID Alternatives is not just charity work, though. GRID Alternatives is America’s largest non-profit solar installer bringing clean energy technology and job training to low-income families and underserved communities through a network of community partners like Enphase,  GRID has installed 5,400 rooftop solar systems with a combined installed capacity of 18.5MW, saving $136 million in lifetime electricity costs, preventing 426,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and providing over 21,000 people with solar training. “Continuing our partnership with GRID Alternatives exemplifies Enphase’s commitment to putting clean, affordable energy on rooftops across America,” said Jeff Loebbaka, senior vice president of global sales, marketing and support for Enphase. “We’re also proud to play a role in the job training of underserved communities who otherwise may not be able to join the transition to clean energy.”

Meanwhile, the utility companies may be shooting themselves in the foot by increasing the demand for storage systems by capping net metering. It will be up to them to avoid underestimating the enthusiasm for solar again, and realizing all of the systems benefits that they can receive if they choose to. Meanwhile, innovators like Enphase and GRID will continue pushing out beyond the status quo, whether the utilities like it or not.

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Has California Reached “Peak Solar?” Not Even Close. https://solartribune.com/california-reached-peak-solar-not-even-close/ Sun, 22 Jan 2017 17:34:00 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10456 Solar detractors are pointing to the 2016 dip in California solar installations as the beginning of the end of the solar boom. Others see it for what it is; a sign of a maturing industry settling into a sustainable growth rate. On January 1st of this year, breitbart.com pronounced “Peak Solar Hits California.” The use […]

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Solar detractors are pointing to the 2016 dip in California solar installations as the beginning of the end of the solar boom. Others see it for what it is; a sign of a maturing industry settling into a sustainable growth rate.

On January 1st of this year, breitbart.com pronounced “Peak Solar Hits California.” The use of the term “peak solar” has been thrown around recently by those who are trying to confuse readers with an apples and oranges comparison to the concept of “peak oil.” What we are seeing in the solar industry is, in fact, the exact opposite of peak oil. As we reach peak oil, more and more money and energy are needed to extract less and less usable oil. What we are seeing in solar is a plateau where a large bulk of infrastructure has been put in place and is continuing to produce cheaper and cheaper energy. If California has reached a peak, it is “peak distribution.” Unlike oil, the resources are not running out… the infrastructure is.

The obvious reason for the 2016 dip in installed solar capacity in California as compared to other states was the uncertainty surrounding the reauthorization of the federal investment tax credit (ITC.) A large number of projects were rushed to completion in 2016 in other parts of the country, while California had completed record numbers of projects in 2015 due to state requirements for increased renewable generation.

The real reason for the slower growth in California installations is the fact that California has lead the nation in early adopters of indie and rooftop solar, and naturally, that market is reaching saturation. The “low hanging fruit” has been picked in California, and focus is moving to the new technology that can make solar practical for the next tier of renewable energy adopters. Meanwhile, utility companies are rushing to catch up and modernize their systems to accommodate more new solar.

Utilities Gain Grid Services From Maturing Solar Industry

A recent study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL), California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) and solar generation owner First Solar.According to the report:

“ As the electricity grid transforms into a greener grid, operational challenges are surfacing. The CAISO is experiencing significant ramping needs during sunrise and sunset, as well as periods of oversupply conditions, especially pronounced during weekends when electricity demand is low and renewable production is high. These effects are primarily due to a large amount of solar resources connected to the transmission grid. The ISO is also seeing peak net-load demand on the system shifting towards the hours after sunset, which intensifies resource ramping needs in the afternoon when the system is losing solar production.

The test demonstrated that the advancement in inverter technology now allows renewable resources to provide essential reliability services similar to traditional resources using fossil fuels. The test was important because it shows that the advancement in inverter technology now allows renewable resources to provide essential reliability services, which means that with the right type of power control technology, renewable resources can help support further integration of renewable resources on the system. This is important to meet the 50-percent RPS target and beyond.”

The Sierra Nevada Brewery recently added Telsa Powerpack storage.

California Businesses Take The Lead In Solar Storage

The next step in the solar industry’s march toward a cleaner future is the implementation of energy storage systems. As usual, California is taking the lead, with an increasing number of industries joining the ranks of early technology adopters.

This week, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company announced that it has installed 500 kilowatts/1 megawatt-hour of Tesla Powerpack batteries at its Chico, California brewery. Sierra Nevada is the nation’s top-selling craft brewery, producing nearly 1 million barrels of beer a year, with more than $200 million in sales. The new Tesla storage system buffers the company from high demand charges and substantially reduces peak demand on the local grid.

According to the Aquion Energy website: “Alpha Omega, a family-owned winery in the Rutherford Bench area of Napa Valley, announced today that it has placed into operation a 400 kilowatt (kW) solar and 580 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery microgrid system that includes a first-of-its-kind, fully integrated solar and battery facility back-up power system. This groundbreaking microgrid system, which encompasses solar power generation, energy storage and demand management, is the largest commercial microgrid system to date for a Napa Valley winery and in all of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s 70,000-square-mile service area in northern and central California, according to renewable energy developer Blue Sky Utility, which handled the project.”

It is quite obvious to anyone observing the rapid advances in solar technology that the 2016 California cool-down is more-than-likely a settling-in to an extended period of sustainable growth.

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California Solar Farm Produces Power At Record Low Price https://solartribune.com/california-solar-farm-produces-power-record-low-price/ Mon, 26 Dec 2016 05:06:57 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10383 Claims that solar is now “cheaper than fossil fuels” are popping up all over social media. What does that really mean? Understanding the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) is key to understanding the future of energy economics. A relative newcomer in the development of utility-scale solar projects, 8 Minute Energy is claiming that it’s latest […]

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Claims that solar is now “cheaper than fossil fuels” are popping up all over social media. What does that really mean? Understanding the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) is key to understanding the future of energy economics.

A relative newcomer in the development of utility-scale solar projects, 8 Minute Energy is claiming that it’s latest project is producing power at a price well below that of coal and even natural gas. Springbok 2 is a 155 megawatt plant AC/191 MW DC project located in Kern County, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles. Springbok 2 has come on line producing power at just $58.00 per megawatt-hour. Located on approximately 700 acres of abandoned farmland taken out of production more than 20 years ago, the project is creating an estimated 300 direct and 400 indirect jobs during construction in Kern County. The amount of greenhouse gas emissions expected to be avoided each year through operation of the projects is comparable to removing 111,000 cars from the road according to 8 Minute Energy’s press release.

Obviously, this is all great news. Solar advocates are pointing at Springbok 2 as a clear example that solar has reached maturity, and in a time when the incoming administration is claiming that solar is expensive and inferior to coal, these numbers offer indisputable evidence. But how are these new, low, low cost estimates generated?  The answer is LCOE.

Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) and its limitations

Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competiveness of different generating technologies. It represents the per -kilowatt hour cost (in real dollars) of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. Key inputs to calculating LCOE include capital costs, fuel costs, fixed and variable operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, financing costs, and an assumed utilization rate for each plant type.

The importance of the factors varies among the technologies. For technologies such as solar and wind generation that have no fuel costs and relatively small variable O&M costs, LCOE changes in rough proportion to the estimated capital cost of generation capacity. For technologies with significant fuel cost, both fuel cost and overnight cost estimates significantly affect LCOE. The availability of various incentives, including state or federal tax credits, can also impact the calculation of LCOE. As with any projection, there is uncertainty about all of these factors and their values can vary regionally and across time as technologies evolve and fuel prices change. It is important to note that actual plant investment decisions are affected by the specific technological and regional characteristics of a project, which involve numerous other factors not reflected in LCOE values. The projected utilization rate, which depends on the load shape and the existing resource mix in an area where additional capacity is needed, is one such factor. The existing resource mix in a region can directly impact the economic viability of a new investment through its effect on the economics.

Even former solar-haters are coming around to the idea that these numbers are legit. Forbes magazine, traditionally a bit of a solar-bashing publication, ran an article just two years ago by William Pentland entitled Levelized Cost Of Electricity: Renewable Energy’s Ticking Time Bomb? In which he concluded that; “… LCOE is like a bad line of code in a software program used to develop other software programs. It has dangerously skewed investors’ understanding of the economics of generating electricity from renewable energy resources. It has also had perverse and difficult to undo impacts on local, state and federal energy policies.” A year later, Forbes was acknowledging  the writing on the wall, pointing to a report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, finding that under power purchase agreements signed this year, developers will deliver power from large utility-scale solar plants will be selling at below the price of electricity from natural gas by 2021. Between 2017 and 2040, the lifetime of the solar plants, the average levelized cost of power from these solar plants will come to $42.1 per megawatt hour, wrote Mark Bolinger and Joachim Seel, versus $48.1 for the cost of gas alone.
It’s going to be very, very hard for fans of fossil fuels to put the solar genie back in the bottle, even if utility company lobbyists manage to cut existing incentives. The market has spoken, and solar will gradually take the place of coal, replacing dirty, dangerous jobs with safer, higher paying jobs, while reducing emissions and creating a more robust energy grid.

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PG&E Hits 5% Indie Solar– New Fees Kick In https://solartribune.com/pge-hits-5-indie-solar-new-fees-kick/ Sun, 18 Dec 2016 19:07:13 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=10377 It’s a “good news, bad news” scenario for Northern California solar. Pacific Gas and Electric  provides service to more electric customers than any other utility in the country, so when they announce that they are now receiving 5% (approximately 2.4 Gigawatts) of their generation from independently owned rooftop solar, it is a BIG deal. Not […]

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It’s a “good news, bad news” scenario for Northern California solar.

Pacific Gas and Electric  provides service to more electric customers than any other utility in the country, so when they announce that they are now receiving 5% (approximately 2.4 Gigawatts) of their generation from independently owned rooftop solar, it is a BIG deal. Not only because it represents the ongoing success and growth in the solar market, but because it marks the end of net metering for PG&E customers who wish to own new solar arrays.  It marks another milestone along the road from independent early adopters to large-scale central station solar generation, but it by no means means an end to rooftop solar.

In January 2016, solar advocates and California’s utility companies debated the future of net energy metering (NEM) before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and reached a compromise that allows existing solar owners to continue to receive retail credit for the power that they provide to the grid for 20 years from the commissioning of their system. New solar customers, however, will have to pay a one-time fee, estimated at $75 to $150, to connect their system to the grid. They also will face increased monthly charges to pay for costs shared by most utility customers, such as subsidizing electricity bills for low-income households. Those increased charges will add about $5 to a typical solar homeowner’s monthly bill.

Finally, to pay for the energy they still use from the grid, new solar customers will switch to “time of use” electricity rates, which charge different prices at different times of day.  PG&E is the second California utility to have the new “NEM 2.0” rules kick in- San Diego Gas and Electric Co. was the first utility to hit that mark, reaching it in June.

PG&E, which serves most of Northern and Central California, now has more than 275,000 customers with their own solar arrays. Another 6,000 hook up every month. That’s more than any other utility in the United States, according to the company, so it isn’t surprising that they are one of the first to move away from the existing net metering model. NEM was vital to allowing early adopters fair access to the grid, but times have changed. The installed cost of solar has dropped and new financing and technological alternatives are making traditional net metering less essential. NEM 2.0 is designed to allow the utility companies to manage the distributed energy sources (DES) like indie and rooftop solar in a way that more closely matches demand.“The lead-up to the transition has been smooth. There was not a big surge in interconnections as PG&E approached the cap, so the transition did not come suddenly and catch customers off guard,” notes Brad Heavner, policy director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), which led the fight to protect NEM against utility opposition. Heavner added, “The industry should be prepared for some hesitation in the market as the new tariff sinks in, but I expect it to be short-lived because NEM 2.0 continues to offer substantial value to most customers.”

CALSEIA estimates the combined impact for a typical residential solar customer will be in the neighborhood of $10.00 per month compared to NEM 1.0, so the new rules will not be a deal breaker for most customers looking to go solar.

The real question mark in the NEM 2.0 plan lies in the time-of-use (TOU) rate requirements. TOU rates are designed to discourage use of electricity during peak demand hours, usually in the afternoon when air conditioning demand is the highest. For solar customers currently, TOU works to their advantage, as peak demand comes at the time of day that coincides with peak solar generation. However, if peak periods shift to the evening hours, solar customers will be selling low and buying high.

According to Solar Industry Magazine,  Each of the California investor-owned utilities has proposed evening peak hours due to shifts in system peak caused by solar already on the grid – both utility-scale and distributed. Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) main residential TOU rate already has a 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. peak period. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has proposed moving its peak period to 4:00 p.m. to 9 p.m. Depending on the specifics of the rates set by the CPUC, additional expenses may affect solar users.

However, the real game changer when it comes to TOU will be the increased use of energy storage and battery technology. Original net metering rules may have worked for several decades as solar came of age, but look for NEM 2.0 to become obsolete in a much shorter time. Those who are keeping their eyes on the rise of storage are already thinking about NEM 3.0.

 

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San Diego Battery Storage Tariff May Be Good for Solar Customers https://solartribune.com/san-diego-battery-storage-tariff-may-be-good-for-solar-customers/ https://solartribune.com/san-diego-battery-storage-tariff-may-be-good-for-solar-customers/#comments Sat, 05 Sep 2015 20:56:13 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=9228 The San Diego-area utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) claims that rooftop solar without battery storage isn’t helping SDG&E address its peak-period energy demands for residential customers in its service area. So the utility is exploring the potential of energy storage by proposing, as part of its recently published distribution resource plan, a pilot […]

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The San Diego-area utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) claims that rooftop solar without battery storage isn’t helping SDG&E address its peak-period energy demands for residential customers in its service area.

So the utility is exploring the potential of energy storage by proposing, as part of its recently published distribution resource plan, a pilot program, called the residential energy storage rate program, which would provide households and small businesses that generate solar power an incentive for the purchase of large, grid-connected batteries.

battery-icon-1241933-640x360The residential energy storage rate proposal differs from similar projects virtually everywhere else in that SDG&E won’t own the batteries it is testing. The utility would take control of the customer’s storage system’s charge and discharge functions at certain times of day. As SDG&E says, “This pilot provides an opportunity to test the ability of customer-owned, behind-the-meter storage assets to potentially defer circuit upgrades (e.g., re-conductor or new circuit extensions).” Put another way, customers’ batteries might save the utility the cost of making infrastructure upgrades as often as it does now, and such savings would be shared with the utilities’ shareholders.

According to SDG&E officials, the three keys to the program’s success would be: 1) if the rate savings are high enough to attract customers; 2) if the utility could make use of the batteries often enough and during the appropriate times of day; and 3) if the utility could reach an arrangement with companies (e.g., SolarCity, Tesla) to offer customers third-party-funded batteries at no upfront cost. (At the same time, as a kind of experimental control, SDG&E has proposed a separate pilot project involving batteries it manages itself, so as to compare and contrast the two programs.)

The plan would be advantageous for SDG&E customers, who now pay the highest electricity rate among the major utilities in California: 23 cents/kWh. It would be advantageous for the utility as well, because, according to a new report, “The Economics of Load Defection,” it is vital for the survival of utilities to adopt new business models, even if they succeed in efforts to limit net metering or establish fixed fees for solar in their service areas.

“This is a little ray of light through the darkness of the traditional utility business model,” said James Fine, senior economist with the Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s a new way to sustain and support the utility operations, to get away from the incentive to put more steel in the ground.”

 

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Bay Area City to Add Free Solar to 130 Low-Income Homes https://solartribune.com/bay-area-city-to-add-free-solar-to-130-low-income-homes/ https://solartribune.com/bay-area-city-to-add-free-solar-to-130-low-income-homes/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 23:38:27 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=9131 Over the next three years, the city of Richmond in the East Bay area will be adding solar to 130 low-income households there – without the city or homeowners paying a dime. At a city council meeting on July 21st, Richmond approved the new $550,000 contract with nonprofit GRID Alternatives. In June 2014, Richmond had […]

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Over the next three years, the city of Richmond in the East Bay area will be adding solar to 130 low-income households there – without the city or homeowners paying a dime. At a city council meeting on July 21st, Richmond approved the new $550,000 contract with nonprofit GRID Alternatives.

Two solar workersIn June 2014, Richmond had greenlighted an Environmental and Community Investment Agreement (ECIA) with Chevron Richmond, through which the city will receive, over ten years, $90 million. (This agreement was a result of the planned $1 billion modernization by Chevron of its Richmond Refinery.) One third of the $90 million is slated for projects to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. The costs for the current project will be paid out of these funds.

The schedule for the installations, according the city’s contract, is as follows:

  • First year (FY 2015/2016): estimated 25 solar installations
  • Second year (FY 2016/2017): estimated 50 solar installations
  • Third year (FY 2017/2018): estimated 55 solar installations.

Again according to the contract, the project will provide during the three years “over $2.2 million in energy cost savings for families in need, over 15,000 hours of job skill building experience in solar installation for community volunteers and job trainees, and [prevent] nearly 7,000 tons” of emissions.

The installations also require GRID Alternatives to employ trainees from RichmondBUILD, a successful local career-training program also supported by Chevron. The nonprofit will be hiring at least one RichmondBUILD trainee per project.

GRID Alternatives’ mission is “to make renewable energy technology and job training accessible to underserved communities.” It has installed well over 1,000 solar systems in the Bay Area since 2005. Since 2007, it has completed 145 installations for low-income households in Richmond.

 

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Second Time Around: Bay Area Gets PACE Financing… Again https://solartribune.com/second-time-around-bay-area-gets-pace-financing-again/ https://solartribune.com/second-time-around-bay-area-gets-pace-financing-again/#comments Wed, 10 Jun 2015 21:18:28 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=9058 The PACE financing program for solar installations – standing for Property Assessed Clean Energy – has recently experienced a revival in the Bay Area. The program makes solar financing easy by allowing residential homeowners to borrow the upfront costs of installing solar panels, and then to repay the loan as a line item on their […]

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The PACE financing program for solar installations – standing for Property Assessed Clean Energy – has recently experienced a revival in the Bay Area.

The program makes solar financing easy by allowing residential homeowners to borrow the upfront costs of installing solar panels, and then to repay the loan as a line item on their property tax bills over a 20-year period. Because it is considered a special tax assessment, it remains with the property if the house is sold. And PACE can help with the California drought as well, since the program now also covers water-saving home renovations, such as systems to collect “gray water” from sinks and showers.

solar_coinsIn California, the first commercial and residential PACE programs were inaugurated in 2008, and were first established in Berkeley about five years ago. However, it was at about that time that the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, began to oppose PACE. PACE loans are essentially attached as liens on properties. This means that, in event of foreclosure, PACE loans would have to be paid off first, which might become a major problem for the Federal government if many PACE program homes with government-sponsored mortgages went into foreclosure. So in 2010, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced that they would cease purchasing mortgage loans secured by properties with outstanding PACE loans.

To remedy the situation, in 2013 Gov. Brown signed into law Senate Bill 96, which established the PACE Loss Reserve Program to mitigate the risk to mortgage lenders from PACE financing. The program created a $10 million fund, designed to cover any of Fannie Mae’s or Freddie Mac’s losses attributable to PACE liens. However, a spokesperson for the FHFA was recently quoted as saying, “We have not changed our policy at all” towards PACE.

Despite concerns that the FHFA might redline entire cities or towns participating in the PACE program, however, this has not occurred, and the agency does not appear to object to PACE in cases where other lenders are willing to bear the risk of mortgages for homeowners who participate in the program. In December, San Francisco became the first large city in California to return to residential PACE financing since the program was halted. The Executive Director of PACENow, David Gabrielson, says: “State and local government sponsored PACE programs are driving economic activity, creating local jobs, and helping achieve carbon reduction and other environmental goals.”

 

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Two Sacramento Area Universities Compete for Solar Home “Bragging Rights” https://solartribune.com/two-sacramento-area-universities-compete-for-solar-home-bragging-rights/ https://solartribune.com/two-sacramento-area-universities-compete-for-solar-home-bragging-rights/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 19:51:53 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=9034 Two universities in the Sacramento area are competing with 15 other college and university teams – and with each other – in the Solar Decathlon 2015 contest, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The two institutions – California State University, Sacramento (a.k.a., Sacramento State, or CSUS) and UC Davis (UCD) – were among those […]

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Two universities in the Sacramento area are competing with 15 other college and university teams – and with each other – in the Solar Decathlon 2015 contest, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The two institutions – California State University, Sacramento (a.k.a., Sacramento State, or CSUS) and UC Davis (UCD) – were among those that had been selected from a field of 140 entries to compete in the two-year event. It will conclude in Irvine, CA, in October.

Computer-generated model of part of the design for CSUS' solar house, Reflect Home

Computer-generated model of part of the design for CSUS’ solar house, Reflect Home (from the Team Solar NEST webpage: http://bit.ly/1AICayx)

The Solar Decathlon 2015 rules require each competing team to construct a net-zero house (i.e., one that uses no more energy than it produces), which must be not only cost effective and energy efficient, but attractive. The two university projects are known as “Reflect Home” (CSUS) and “Aggie Sol” (UCD). There is no monetary prize, but only, according to Lindsey Crosby, architectural manager of the Reflect Home project, “bragging rights” for the institution that constructs the winning solar home.

The Reflect Home team’s project executive, “decathlete” Rosni Pann, said, “We wanted to reflect Sacramento not only in the house’s architecture but its openness.” Amber Archangel, reviewing the plan for the house for the website CleanTechnica, was impressed by this very aspect of it, praising its “spacious outdoor deck that expands the interior spaces and lets the light ‘cascade in,’” and noted that it had “surprisingly more livable space than we usually see in a Solar Decathlon home.”

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“Sneak preview” of part of UCD’s solar house, Aggie Sol (from the Aggie Sol Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/1Q3cu6y)

Aggie Sol is an M-Power house which, so far, has involved the efforts of about 250 UCD students from various fields of study. As stated on the project website, “In designing a wooden house, we will minimize cost by using a widely available material and by tapping into an existing pool of wooden construction expertise.” Notable features of the house include a home plumbing system relying on gravity, not pumps, an all-electric HVAC system, passive heating and cooling, thick straw bale walls to retain heat, and occupancy sensors.

After Solar Decathlon 2015 ends in October, both teams have plans for the houses they are building. The Reflect Home team intends to turn their house into a sustainability learning lab, and the Aggie Sol team hopes that its house will be of use as a residence for agricultural students.

In California, the other teams competing in Solar Decathlon 2015 are: California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and, collectively, University of California at Irvine, Chapman University, Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College.

 

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San Diego Still #2 City for Solar in U.S., But Will It Remain a “Shining City”? https://solartribune.com/san-diego-still-2-city-for-solar-in-u-s-but-will-it-remain-a-shining-city/ https://solartribune.com/san-diego-still-2-city-for-solar-in-u-s-but-will-it-remain-a-shining-city/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 11:29:09 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8937 As had been the case the previous year, San Diego attained the number two spot, after Los Angeles, in overall solar capacity in the second annual survey of major U.S. cities (65 in all), called Shining Cities, published earlier this Spring by the Sacramento-based Environment California Research & Policy Center. The other three top five […]

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As had been the case the previous year, San Diego attained the number two spot, after Los Angeles, in overall solar capacity in the second annual survey of major U.S. cities (65 in all), called Shining Cities, published earlier this Spring by the Sacramento-based Environment California Research & Policy Center.
san-diego-bay-737005_1280The other three top five cities were Phoenix, Indianapolis and San Jose. In addition, according to an Environment California press release, San Diego exceeded Los Angeles in the growth of solar power capacity, as it installed 42 megawatts of solar power in 2014, as opposed to 34 MW for Los Angeles. The document also revealed that the city came in fourth in solar-per-capita, behind Honolulu, Indianapolis and San Jose. San Diego is also among the group of cities that Environment California calls its “Solar Stars”: that is, the 14 cities that can claim 50 or more watts of installed solar PV capacity per person.

Although it would seem only natural that a sunny city such as San Diego would be a solar leader, Dan Jacobson, a program manager at Environment California, was quoted as claiming that sunshine had little to do with it. “The reason San Diego is in such good shape for solar is that [the city has] done such a good job of making it financially attractive,” Jacobson said. For example, multifamily housing complexes can gain special solar incentives, and home loans are available for the installation of solar systems that can be repaid through property tax assessments. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said: “Solar energy is a key element to the City’s proposed Climate Action Plan, which calls for 100 percent renewable energy use in the City by 2035.”

However, the Environmental California release also notes that utilities throughout the country are “campaigning intensely” to slow solar adoption by increasing fees for solar households, seeing the phenomenon as a “direct threat to their business model.” An executive with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), James Avery, claims that, though his utility does not oppose solar power, solar adoption makes the grid harder to run, and solar customers pay less towards maintaining it. However, this infographic by Vote Solar, based on a published report, suggests that for California energy users in general, benefits to the grid through net metering outweigh costs by over $92 million.

 

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Disadvantaged Households in Fresno to Get Solar… and Financial Relief https://solartribune.com/disadvantaged-households-in-fresno-to-get-solar-and-financial-relief/ https://solartribune.com/disadvantaged-households-in-fresno-to-get-solar-and-financial-relief/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 11:25:00 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8943 A new statewide pilot program in California is giving free solar panels to households in disadvantaged areas, starting with communities in Fresno. Called the Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP), it is eventually intended to serve about 1800 households throughout the state. Senate Bill 535, passed in 2012, directed state and local agencies to try to improve […]

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A new statewide pilot program in California is giving free solar panels to households in disadvantaged areas, starting with communities in Fresno. Called the Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP), it is eventually intended to serve about 1800 households throughout the state.
fresno-391271_1280Senate Bill 535, passed in 2012, directed state and local agencies to try to improve California’s most vulnerable communities through the investment of part of the proceeds from quarterly auctions of the state’s cap-and-trade program. A total of $75 million has so far been set aside for LIWP.

The LIWP solar panel program is administered by the California Department of Community Services and Development (CSD) and has three purposes:

  • to produce greater environmental sustainability in heavily polluted communities in order to combat climate change;
  • to provide cheaper energy bills for low-income residents of such communities;
  • to provide local job training in solar panel installation.

A community’s eligibility for the program is determined by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) through an analysis tool known as CalEnviroScreen 2.0, which, according to its website, determines “California communities that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution.” Fresno was chosen to inaugurate the program because of the high number, more than a dozen, of disadvantaged and polluted neighborhoods in the city, including the downtown, south and west areas.

To implement the program, CSD partnered with the Fresno Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), which in turn partnered with the corporation Sunrun to provide the solar systems. Brian Angus, the CEO of Fresno EOC, said: “We are helping to improve the lives of these low-income families, providing job training in solar installations and contributing to our state’s environmental goals.”

The program profiles two early recipients of the program, Fresno residents Salvador and Ricarda Mendoza. Ricarda, 61, works a low-wage job, and Salvador, 66, who is unemployed, is ill and requires very expensive medication. They applied for the program because it is projected to reduce the couple’s energy bills by 75 percent. Ricarda was quoted as saying: “I am glad, because now we will have more money for my husband’s medical expenses.”

A number of solar installation companies in Fresno are eligible for the program.

In addition to Fresno County, Sacramento, Merced, Madera, Tulare and Los Angeles counties will be served by the program.

 

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Can Elon Musk Push Solar Storage Over The Top? https://solartribune.com/musk_batteries/ Fri, 03 Apr 2015 14:58:37 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8761 The tweet may have been a hint about the teaser Musk tweeted out the day before, announcing, “Major new Tesla product line—not a car—will be unveiled at our Hawthorne Design Studio on Thursday at 8 pm, April 30.” The visionary entrepreneur is the CEO and of SpaceX, CEO of Tesla Motors, and chairman of the […]

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The tweet may have been a hint about the teaser Musk tweeted out the day before, announcing, “Major new Tesla product line—not a car—will be unveiled at our Hawthorne Design Studio on Thursday at 8 pm, April 30.”

The visionary entrepreneur is the CEO and of SpaceX, CEO of Tesla Motors, and chairman of the board at SolarCity, and now it looks like he may be eyeing solar energy storage as the “next big thing.” However, affordable storage has long been the holy grail of the solar industry, and has so far proven elusive. Can the man who put Paypal on the map generate enough buzz to help push solar storage out of the lab and into the marketplace at long last?

Elon Musk looks to the future.

Elon Musk looks to the future.

Battery technology is certainly not a new subject of interest for the South African born wunderkind. His electric car company, Tesla Motors, has been making huge advances in battery technology in the last few years. Musk knows that, obviously, electric cars can only be considered “Green” if they use a non-polluting source of electrical generation to charge their batteries, and he also clearly understands that the same people who are buying electric cars are often the same people buying solar for their homes. According to a recent survey done by the Center for Sustainable Energy, 40 percent of America’s plug-in electric cars have been sold in California, and about half of electric vehicle owners currently have solar, or want to install it at their home or business. Electric vehicles, or “EVs” currently make up less than 1 percent of all U.S. car sales, but Musk plans to change that… and the solar industry along with it. Could a larger version of the Tesla batteries soon be powering our homes?

The traditional utility providers may not be quaking in their boots yet, but they certainly are keeping a close eye on what Elon Musk is up to. Musk has announced that he is putting his money where his mouth is, and will soon be breaking ground on a huge, 500-1000 acre, five billion dollar battery mega-plant. Texas, New Mexico and Arizona are competing ferociously to bring the project to their state, and the decision is set to be made in the very near future.

The Tesla Model S outside the factory. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

The Tesla Model S outside the factory. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

All is not entirely rosy on Musk’s solar horizon, however. SolarCity, the giant California leasing company that Musk has taken under his wing, is under attack in the press. A recent article in The Daily Caller featured the explosive title “Study: Is Elon Musk’s SolarCity The Next Enron?” The article points to a new report by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. The report claims that “Like Enron, SolarCity and the solar industry’s complex financing schemes could create a “bubble” that will eventually burst and leave taxpayers exposed…SolarCity is a major player in this sketchy financial game.”

SolarCity wasted no time in firing back, pointing out that “Taxpayer Protection Alliance represents the interests of monopoly utilities, and its goal is to kill one of the most free market developments in the history of United States electricity markets. SolarCity has thousands of conservative customers who believe in their right to produce their own power by putting solar panels on their roofs,” the spokesman said. “Taxpayer Protection Alliance is working to protect monopoly interests, not the public interest in more jobs and more consumer choice.”

Musk’s Tesla Battery efforts, along with his part in making SolarCity the highest profile solar provider in the nation make his companies an obvious target for the ire of the utility industry. However, consumers don’t seem to be falling for cynical claims by monopoly electrical providers that the solar industry is “attacking the free market.” In fact, no greater sign in consumers enthusiasm for solar can be found than yesterday’s news that SolarCity continues to surpass its own electricity generation records at astounding rates. According to Musk, SolarCity has exceeded the 5 Gwh per day benchmark just two weeks after reaching 4 Gwh per day of electricity generation. By comparison, In 2010 a SolarCity alone did not generate 1 Gwh per day of electricity.

It must be pointed out that Musk, Tesla and SolarCity are not the first to take on the solar storage issue, nor are they the only competitors in the current race for marketable solar storage. Also, batteries are not the only options being explored. There are several projects looking at converting solar electricity to thermal energy and storing it underground, as compressed gas or as hot water. There is even a project in which solar power is stored as molten aluminum. However, these large-scale projects feel more like the utility industries attempts to maintain hold on the central-station generating model than practical projects. It is clear that consumers would prefer to make their own power, store their own power, and interact with the utility grid, rather than being at the mercy of it.

All eyes will be on the Hawthorne Design Studio for Musk’s April 30th announcement. If it is, in fact, the release of a ground breaking residential battery, will it be a game-changer? We won’t know right away. But one thing is for sure… Twitter will be abuzz, as will Wall Street.

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Solar Profile: Beth Spence, American Solar Direct https://solartribune.com/solar-profile-beth-spence/ Wed, 18 Mar 2015 18:51:45 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8743 Beth Spence, American Solar Direct’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, prides herself on helping communities reduce carbon while improving the economy and creating jobs. Please tell our readers a little about your background, and how you got into the solar industry. I’ve been in the energy business for most of my career. Earlier on […]

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Beth Spence, American Solar Direct’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, prides herself on helping communities reduce carbon while improving the economy and creating jobs.

Please tell our readers a little about your background, and how you got into the solar industry.

Beth Spence: American Solar Direct

Beth Spence: American Solar Direct


I’ve been in the energy business for most of my career. Earlier on I worked my way up through sales support, sales management, marketing and operations for Energy Savings Group (now Just Energy), one of North America’s largest retail energy providers. I left that company and the energy space for a couple of years, but was drawn back in when the former CEO of Just Energy and current CEO of American Solar Direct, Brennan Mulcahy, contacted me about helping to build a solar power company in California. It was a great opportunity for me to employ my energy and direct sales background to the clean energy space. I jumped on board without hesitation. We started with a very small team in Los Angeles, and have now grown our staff at American Solar Direct to a little over five hundred, while receiving recognition for our noteworthy growth along the way!

How many years have you been with American Solar Direct?

September will mark 6 years at American Solar Direct.

Tell us a little about American Solar Direct and your role there.

American Solar Direct provides a full-service solar power solution for homeowners across California. We inspire homeowners to go solar for the benefit of saving them money on their utility bills and helping them reduce their carbon footprint. As Vice President of Sales and Marketing, I work with the executive team to establish goals, plan sales and marketing strategy and then oversee our corporate team and 5 field sales offices to ensure everyone is equipped with the proper tools to meet these goals.

What do you find exciting about the projects that you are currently working on?

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What I find exciting is seeing all of our collective hard work come together to support our overarching goal of providing the best residential solar solution homeowners. I work with an amazing team of capable and hard-working people and we strive to deliver the very best customer experience in residential solar. This industry is in a state of constant flux, so there’s never a dull moment!

I also find it exciting and rewarding that we get the opportunity to create meaningful work for people in their local communities through what we do. How amazing is it that when a homeowner chooses clean and affordable power, they’re also putting local residents to work in great jobs in sales, installation, customer care and administration? It’s an industry and an opportunity unlike any other in terms of what a contribution we can make to the economy, to the environment, and to families.

If you were to choose three words that you would like readers to associate with American Solar Direct and its products, what would they be, and why?

Reliable: we pride ourselves on doing the very best work in the residential solar business. Our systems perform and are backed by our guarantee.

Innovative: we stay ahead of the curve on the best equipment and financing options; we’re always looking for ways to bring more value to our customers and our employees. We also strive every day to be a little bit (or a lot!) better than we were the day before, and that means constantly innovating.

Enthusiastic: we always say that our people are our differentiator in the solar business; people can choose among many solar power providers, but we aim to be the one that builds a long-term, supportive relationship with the homeowners that choose us. We even have homeowners that have come to work for us after having a great experience with our people – that’s the enthusiastic reaction that we hope to inspire.

Where do you see American Solar Direct fitting into the solar industry now, and where would you like ASD to be in 5-10 years?

Now, American Solar Direct is a full-service major player amongst residential solar providers in California. Our explosive growth over the last few years has even been formally recognized by Inc. Magazine in 2014 (as 17th Fastest Growing Private Company according to their Inc. 5000 List) and we certainly plan to continue fueling this growth as solar continues its widespread popularity. In 5 to 10 years, I expect to that you will see American Solar Direct become increasingly visible on a national level.

Where do you see areas for growth in solar, and what are the roadblocks to achieving market growth?

Solar is a constantly evolving technology that literally knows no boundaries. Obviously, growth opportunities abound geographically where state legislatures and municipalities actively embrace it, and that progress has been increasingly rapid. We see continued development of these policies that support clean energy, bringing solar to more and more cities and states.

Political uncertainty is always a potential roadblock to solar progress; as we approach an election, there is always the possibility of a less favorable political climate for solar power. But we believe that consumer demand for clean energy will continue to create the conditions necessary to sustain continued industry growth, regardless of the outcome of elections!

If you care to, tell us a little about your passions outside of solar.

Never-ending self-improvement: reading, learning new hobbies, or continuing my education. Enjoying the California (solar producing!) sunshine outdoors. Great friends. Game of Thrones.

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California Tech Giants Google and SunCity Partner on Residential Solar Fund https://solartribune.com/california-tech-giants-google-and-suncity-partner-on-residential-solar-fund/ Tue, 03 Mar 2015 19:28:10 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8726 Forward-looking California tech giants Google and SunCity are partnering again to create the largest residential solar financing program in US history. Google has announce its largest foray to date by working with San Mateo, California based SolarCity to create a fund which could finance as much as $750 million in residential solar projects. The new […]

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Forward-looking California tech giants Google and SunCity are partnering again to create the largest residential solar financing program in US history.

Google has announce its largest foray to date by working with San Mateo, California based SolarCity to create a fund which could finance as much as $750 million in residential solar projects. The new fund will cover the upfront cost of solar panel installations for thousands of homeowners in 14 states and the District of Columbia, and make it possible for them to pay less for solar power than they pay for electricity generated by fossil fuels.
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Google, whose base of operations is in Mountain View, California, has committed $300 million to the new fund. The new fund is the largest of its kind ever created for residential solar power, and the second such collaboration between the two companies

“We’re happy to support SolarCity’s mission to help families reduce their carbon footprint and energy costs,” said Sidd Mundra, Renewable Energy Principal at Google. “It’s good for the environment, good for families and also makes good business sense.”

The fund covers the cost of the installation, solar panels and other equipment. The homeowner pays SolarCity for the electricity the solar panels produce, or monthly rent for the panels in the case of a lease. In most cases it’s very similar to the arrangement homeowners have with their local utility, which finances the construction of a centralized power plant and delivery grid and then sells its residential customers.

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SunRun opens New Design Center in Irvine https://solartribune.com/sunrun-opens-in-irvine/ Wed, 25 Feb 2015 02:37:13 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8713 San Francisco-based Sunrun, the nation’s largest solar company dedicated to residential systems, is expanding its presence in Orange County, California with the recent opening of a new solar design engineering center in Irvine.

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San Francisco-based Sunrun, the nation’s largest solar company dedicated to residential systems, is expanding its presence in Orange County, California with the recent opening of a new solar design engineering center in Irvine.

Orange County Register, about 50 full-time employees work at the office. Ethan Miller, Sunrun’s senior vice president of operations says that this year, Sunrun plans to hire an additional 50 workers. “We’re interested in expansion and Irvine has a great access to talent,” he said. “We’re doing design and very technical work, and we felt there’s great synergy with other companies and skills sets in the area.”

Sunrun currently serves customers in 11 states– Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania. The design team in the Irvine office will serve customers in all of Sunrun’s service area, not just California.

“All that design work is coming through this hub and being pushed back out,” Miller said. “Every system is a custom design for that house,” which takes into account the home’s orientation and other factors.

The Wall Street Journal recently included SunRun in its list ODF “Ten Billion Dollar Ideas You’ve Never Heard Of.” The Journal Reports: “In 2006, the year before Sunrun Inc.’s founders launched their business, solar energy powered just 30,000 American homes, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. By the end of 2013, there were about 400,000 homes in the country powered by solar, and Sunrun —and its business model— are a big reason why.

In the past, few homeowners were willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a rooftop solar installation that would pay off in smaller utility bills at some distant date in the future. Sunrun was the first company to cover the cost of the solar system installed on a residential roof, own the system, and handle maintenance. Homeowners pay the company monthly for the electricity the system produces, leading to lower utility bills.

Soon after Sunrun began financing panels, arch-rival SolarCity Corp. came out with a similar offering and then, in 2012, went public. The two companies, along with competitors such as Vivint Solar Inc. and SunPower Corp. , are trying to capture a market that appears to have room to grow–less than 1% of American homes have solar.”

There is no doubt that the solar industry has had amazing growth in the last few years, and the expansion of Sunrun is just one indication that even recent entries into the solar marketplace are feeling confident about strong future growth.

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Enviros and Tea Party Agree: Solar is Good for Florida https://solartribune.com/florida-ppa/ Mon, 23 Feb 2015 14:24:08 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8703 Far-left environmental activists and far-right small government conservatives may seem like odd allies, but when it comes to making Florida a leader in solar energy, both sides agree. The time has come to open the market to solar power. California, Texas and Florida have a lot in common. They are the nations three most populated […]

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Far-left environmental activists and far-right small government conservatives may seem like odd allies, but when it comes to making Florida a leader in solar energy, both sides agree. The time has come to open the market to solar power.

California, Texas and Florida have a lot in common. They are the nations three most populated states. All three enjoy warm, sunny climates. All three have perfect conditions for producing massive amounts of solar power. However, Florida lags far behind the other two mega-states in solar electricity production. Why?

“Florida is the best solar market in the eastern United States, and it’s clearly underperforming,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which is part of a coalition of groups called Floridians for Solar Choice.

Florida is one of only five states in the United States that by law expressly denies citizens and businesses the freedom to buy solar power electricity directly from someone other than a monopoly electric utility. Now, Floridians for Solar Choice is working to place a question on the 2016 general election ballot asking voters to decide on expanding solar choice to Florida’s families and businesses. The ballot initiative would remove a barrier that currently blocks clean, renewable solar power.

One of the remarkable things about Floridians for Solar Choice is the diversity of its membership. According to In a recent poll, 74% of Florida voters said they would support a proposal to change Florida’s current law and allow Floridians to contract directly with solar companies to power their homes or businesses with solar energy, and the makeup of Floridians for Solar Choice reflects that broad base of support. The impressive list of supporters of Floridians for Solar Choice includes such diverse groups as the Christian Coalition of America, Conservatives for Energy Freedom, Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, Florida Retail Federation, Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, Libertarian Party of Florida, Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, Republican Liberty Caucus of Tampa Bay, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, WTEC, Clean Water Action, Environment Florida, Evangelical Environmental Network, Greenpeace USA, IDEAS for Us, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Florida, ReThink Energy Florida, Sierra Club Florida and The Tea Party Network.

According to a recent article on The Wall Street Journal “…Utilities have long argued that customers should go through them for solar energy because they should help pay for the cost of maintaining the grid, which they still rely on for at least part of the day.”NA-CE750A_SOLAR_9U_20150220171510

Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Duke Energy Florida, which provides electricity in the central and northern part of the state, said the company was committed to working with lawmakers “to achieve energy policies, incorporating solar, that are fair and beneficial to all of our customers.”

As with the wind power industry before solar, many state-sanctioned monopoly utility providers have attempted to hold independent renewable energy generators at bay until the cost of solar production drops to the point at which it is profitable for them to jump in to the market. Now, utility companies like Duke Energy are looking to develop “Community Solar” projects. These “Solar Farms” do offer customers the option of buying clean energy and offsetting dirty coal powered generation, but without the personal and local economic benefits of rooftop solar. In addition, utility-scale solar continues reliance on an aging transmission and distribution system.

“What’s happening now in Florida is really blocking the free market,” said Tory Perfetti, state director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom. Meanwhile, activists in Georgia, Utah, Colorado and Iowa have all recently fought to open up their states electricity market to third party power providers.

Solar growth in states that allow third party power purchase agreement, particularly in the form of solar leases, illustrates clearly that the inability of Floridians to purchase solar power electricity directly from someone other than a monopoly electric utility is one of the major reasons that Florida’s Solar industry has not taken off. In California, for instance, solar installations skyrocketed with the implementation of solar lease agreements. According to a 2013 report from the Climate Policy Initiative:
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“Recently, steep solar panel cost reductions as well as strong federal and state policy supports have helped to catalyze substantial growth in rooftop solar PV deployment in California. Interestingly, this growth has happened in the face of declining financial incentives for solar installations at the state level through the California Solar Initiative. This growth has also been accompanied by a shift in market demand: Most homeowners in California are no longer purchasing the panels on their rooftops, they are leasing them. Over 75% of California’s new residential solar systems in 2012 were leased as compared to less than 10% in 2007.”

The fact that solar installations in California went up “in the face of declining financial incentives” is key to the successful alliance of far-right and far left in Georgia, and now in Florida. $0 up-front costs make installation a no-brainer for many people who want to make the jump to solar with little or no additional cost. Small-government, anti-tax conservatives like the “no government incentives” aspect of third party leases, and see it as a free-market solution which provides the individual with more energy independence. They are not required to agree with their environmentalist allies’ carbon-reduction goals or desire to reduce the effects of anthropogenic climate change.

Debbie Dooley, of the Georgia Tea Party and the Green Tea coalition stated the position clearly in an essay she wrote for Grist:

“The premise is simple: Those who believe in the free market need to reexamine the way our country produces energy. Giant utility monopolies deserve at least some competition, and consumers should have a choice. It’s just that simple, and it’s consistent with the free-market principles that have been a core value of the Tea Party since we began in 2009.”

Could the far-right and far-left find common ground on other issues? With the increased influence of corporate money in politics and the increase in government surveillance of citizens, it is within the realm of possibility that we may see these groups reunite again in the future over issues.

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Solar Profile: Wendi Zubillaga, PetersenDean https://solartribune.com/solar-profile-wendi-zubillaga-petersendean/ Thu, 19 Feb 2015 15:54:38 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8677 Wendi Zubillaga is the Chief Sales Officer at PetersenDean Roofing and Solar and a 29-year veteran of the residential real estate industry. As Chief Sales Officer at the nation’s largest privately-held roofing and solar company, she oversees all facets of the company’s growth, marketing and sales. She also helped create the Builder Advantage program, a […]

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Wendi Zubillaga is the Chief Sales Officer at PetersenDean Roofing and Solar and a 29-year veteran of the residential real estate industry. As Chief Sales Officer at the nation’s largest privately-held roofing and solar company, she oversees all facets of the company’s growth, marketing and sales.

Wendi Zubillaga,President of the  Builder Group at PetersonDean

Wendi Zubillaga,President of the Builder Group at PetersenDean

She also helped create the Builder Advantage program, a rewards program that provides incentives to builders. Zubillaga has a proven track record of success that spans a wide variety of clients, allowing her to work with all styles, technologies, budgets and approaches. Her expansive network and industry background includes a focus on residential roofing and sustainability and she works with many of the nation’s top builders.

Please tell our readers a little about your background, and how you got into the solar industry.

I have been in the home building industry for the past 26 years.  My brother and I opened a fencing company fresh out of school.  After several years with my brother, I met Jim Petersen (Founder and CEO of PetersenDean) at an industry trade show and I decided to join his roofing company as the salesperson.  At that time, PetersenDean was a small roofing company located in Northern CA.  After many years of growth and success, it was a natural progression to move into the “solar world” as solar is a roofing product.

How many years have you been with PetersenDean?

This is my 21st year with this incredible company.

Tell us a little about PetersenDean and your role there.

Petersen Dean was started in 1984 by Jim Petersen and Joe Dean, two young roofers that decided to work for themselves after learning the trade.  The home building industry was attractive to Jim and when I was 202brought on in 1994, he made it clear that we would be in for a “wild ride.” We began to open offices all over California and then moved into other states.  We now operate in five states, CA, AZ, NV , TX and FL.  I have held many positions over the years, mostly in a sales capacity, sales rep to Chief Sales Officer and very recently was named President of the Builder Group.  This is quite an accomplishment that I am extremely proud of as there are very few women in this role in the entire construction industry.

What do you find exciting about the projects that you are currently working on?

I am excited about the growth in solar uptake on the builder side of the business and have recently partnered with some of the nation’s largest builders, DR Horton, KB Home, Standard Pacific, Richmond American and Taylor Morrison just to name a few.

Homebuilding is a very cyclical industry and we have reacted to the market shifts by expanding our consumer solar business.  I am very proud of our consumer teams  growth in revenues over the past few years.

If you were to choose three words that you would like readers to associate with PetersenDean and its products, what would they be, and why?

Quality – With more than 30 years in the business we have a proven track record that proves that we stand behind our warranty.
Innovative – Petersen Dean and our incredible family of employees prides itself on improving its procedures and practices to make sure we produce a product that provides a great value to our customer.
AmericanMade- Petersen Dean partners with US companies whenever possible.  We have an exclusive relationship with Solar World, the only American made panel on the market.  We are committed to providing our customers with the best products available.

Where do you see PetersenDean fitting into the solar industry now, and where would you like PetersenDean to be in 5-10 years?

Petersen Dean has proven to be a force to be reckoned with.  We compete against some well funded, highly marketed companies in the solar industry, yet our “small” privately held organization continues to make great strides in proving that a well managed, PROFITABLE roofing/solar company with a proven track record is the right choice. In the next 5-10 years, Petersen Dean will be installing roofing and solar on more homes in its current markets, as well as expanding our operation in several new states.

Where do you see areas for growth in solar, and what are the roadblocks to achieving market growth?

Currently solar is mostly installed in a handful of states.  The solar market has opportunities for exponential growth.

Some roadblocks the industry faces are the lack of support from governmental entities and local utilities.  Currently, there is a rebate in certain utilities and a 30% federal tax credit.  If/When these are no longer available, the solar industry will suffer.

If you care to, tell us a little about your passions outside of solar.

I am very fortunate to have found a career that allows me to travel and meet new people every day.  I am a mother of three ACTIVE teenagers and there is never a dull moment in our lives.

To learn more about PetersenDean, visit our pages for Orange County and the Bay Area.

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Obama and California Partner to Make Solar available to Apartments https://solartribune.com/obama-california-solar-apartments/ Wed, 18 Feb 2015 15:44:28 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8670 Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Julian Castro and California Governor Brown announced recently a program to expand financing for solar energy on apartment buildings. This is a step toward the President’s goal of installing 100 megawatts of across across federally subsidized multifamily housing by 2020. There are over 3 million apartment units in […]

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Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Julian Castro and California Governor Brown announced recently a program to expand financing for solar energy on apartment buildings. This is a step toward the President’s goal of installing 100 megawatts of across across federally subsidized multifamily housing by 2020.

Sec. Castro and Gov. Brown  photo:ABC news

Sec. Castro and Gov. Brown photo:ABC news


There are over 3 million apartment units in California. According to the new program, solar makes economic sense for multifamily buildings and brings an economic boost to struggling communities. For these reasons, HUD is partnering with California state government to roll out the Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing program for Multifamily Housing. PACE is a mechanism for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. PACE programs will provide a source of capital to accelerate efficiency retrofits in multifamily housing, making the existing multifamily stock more affordable to renters with low incomes and saving money for consumers and taxpayers.

Governor Brown is establishing a California Multifamily PACE Pilot in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation. The Pilot will enable PACE financing for certain multifamily properties, including specific properties within HUD, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, and the California Housing Finance Agency’s portfolios, opening up financing to an entire segment of commercial PACE projects. Meanwhile, Secretary Castro is issuing guidance clarifying the circumstances under which HUD can approve PACE financing on HUD-assisted and-insured housing in California.

Driving On-Bill Repayment in Affordable Multifamily Properties in California: HUD is committing to support the State of California in creating an innovative California Master-Metered Multifamily Finance Pilot Project. The Pilot will enhance affordable multifamily properties’, which have a substantial majority of a property’s energy consumption billed through a common meter, access to upfront capital for financing energy efficiency improvements, on affordable terms and time frames, and which are repaid through the master meter utility bill. The $3 million program of technical assistance and credit support may include a loan loss reserve and/or a debt-service reserve fund. ‎The pilot is intended to inform project performance and repayment experience while managing finance risk perception.

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New Report: California Leads the Nation in Solar Job Growth https://solartribune.com/california-leads-in-solar-jobs/ Thu, 12 Feb 2015 16:06:21 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8653 The Solar Foundation’s California Solar Jobs Census Finds that California Solar Jobs Grew by Nearly 16% Last Year with Nearly 10,000 More Solar Jobs Expected in 2015. The non-profit research group The Solar Foundation (TSF), released its California Solar Jobs Census 2014 this week, and news was good for the California solar job market. The […]

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The Solar Foundation’s California Solar Jobs Census Finds that California Solar Jobs Grew by Nearly 16% Last Year with Nearly 10,000 More Solar Jobs Expected in 2015.

The non-profit research group The Solar Foundation (TSF), released its California Solar Jobs Census 2014 this week, and news was good for the California solar job market. The new report found that the solar industry employed 54,690 people in California in 2014, nearly 7,500 solar jobs more than the previous year. This represents 15.8 percent growth in California solar industry employment since November 2013. Additionally, California solar employment grew 10 times faster than overall employment in the state during the same period.
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“California’s solar industry has once again proven to be a powerful engine of economic growth and job creation,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “California solar jobs have grown quite rapidly over the last few years, and the solar industry is continuing to attract highly-skilled, well-paid professionals. That growth is putting people back to work and strengthening California’s diverse economy.”

“For decades, our state has been on the cutting edge of clean energy innovations and solar deployment,” said California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. “We’re very proud that we continue to be first in the nation in solar jobs – and to see 16% solar job growth in 2014 reaffirms our leadership in this industry.”
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The full National Solar Jobs Census and State Solar Jobs Census reports with district level jobs for California, Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, Texas and New York are available at www.TSFcensus.org. Job numbers and rankings of economic indicators for all 50 states are available in The Solar Foundation’s updated State Solar Jobs Map at www.SolarStates.org.

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Solar Suds: California Boasts World’s Largest Solar Brewery https://solartribune.com/solar-suds-california-boasts-worlds-largest-solar-brewery/ Fri, 30 Jan 2015 17:08:19 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=8463 This weekend, many Americans will be enjoying the culmination of the 2014-2015 NFL season by drinking some of their favorite frosty adult beverages while watching the Seattle Seahawks and The New England Patriots face off in Super Bowl XLIX. What they may not know, is that they may be drinking beer brewed with solar power. […]

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This weekend, many Americans will be enjoying the culmination of the 2014-2015 NFL season by drinking some of their favorite frosty adult beverages while watching the Seattle Seahawks and The New England Patriots face off in Super Bowl XLIX. What they may not know, is that they may be drinking beer brewed with solar power.

The MillerCoors brewing company has announced the completion of the largest photovoltaic (PV) solar installation at any brewery in the U.S. In the Los Angeles suburb of Irwindale, California. Installed by SolarCity, one of the states premier solar installation providers, The 3.2 megawatt array consists of more than 10,000 solar panels installed across ten acres. The array will produce enough electricty to brew more than 7 million cases of beer each year.

State Senator Ed Hernandez of West Covina commented: “This project will help MillerCoors control its energy costs and support clean energy jobs, and demonstrates that MillerCoors is doing its part to reduce carbon emissions and help the state meet its clean energy goals.”

According to MillerCoors, the project will help to offset electricity use on the local grid during periods of high demand. It will also help further reduce the brewery’s traditional energy use, which has decreased by more than 30 percent over the last five years. The brewery also creates biogas from wastewater to power two GE Jenbacher engines, and the new solar project continues to illustrate the company’s commitment to energy independence.

Kim Marotta, Director of Sustainability, MillerCoors. photo: denverpost.com

Kim Marotta, Director of Sustainability, MillerCoors.
photo: denverpost.com

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World’s biggest CSP plant connects to California grid https://solartribune.com/worlds-biggest-csp-plant-connects-to-california-grid-2013-10-01/ Tue, 01 Oct 2013 22:55:34 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6774 The largest solar thermal plant in the world has connected to the grid for the first time. The first of three units of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System achieved the “first sync” which the project owners – NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy – called a major milestone that proves the viability of the […]

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The largest solar thermal plant in the world has connected to the grid for the first time.

The first of three units of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System achieved the “first sync” which the project owners – NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy – called a major milestone that proves the viability of the technology.

The $2.2 billion concentrating solar power project is located in California and will power over 140,000 homes using large mirror-like heliostats that track the sun and create electricity using a steam generator.

Local utility PG&E has a power purchasing agreement for the electricity from units 1 and 3, whereas the power from unit 2 will be solar to Southern California Edison. Testing for units 2 and 3 will occur in the coming months.

Ivanpah First Sync. Credit: Business Wire

Ivanpah First Sync. Credit: Business Wire

“Given the magnitude and complexity of Ivanpah, it was very important that we successfully complete this milestone showing all systems were on track,” said Tom Doyle, President of NRG Solar.

“Ivanpah is the showcase project for BrightSource’s power tower technology and technical expertise. Validation at this scale demonstrates the viability of our technology as BrightSource increases focus on international markets and applications for concentrating solar power,” said David Ramm, Executive Chairman of BrightSource Energy.

“At Google we invest in renewable energy projects that have the potential to transform the energy landscape. Ivanpah is one of those projects,” said Rick Needham, Director of Energy and Sustainability at Google.

Once the 377 MW power plant is fully operational, it will almost double the amount of commercial solar thermal energy capacity in the United States.

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Another California city mandates solar https://solartribune.com/another-california-city-mandates-solar-2013-05-17/ Fri, 17 May 2013 08:24:09 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6494 A City Council in California has unanimously voted to mandate solar on new buildings. Located in Sonoma County, Sebastopol is the second city in the country to require all new homes and commercial buildings to have solar PV systems. The building code will require all new homes and commercial buildings to have a solar system […]

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A City Council in California has unanimously voted to mandate solar on new buildings.

Located in Sonoma County, Sebastopol is the second city in the country to require all new homes and commercial buildings to have solar PV systems.

The building code will require all new homes and commercial buildings to have a solar system that generates 2 watts of PV energy per square foot of insulated area, or offset three quarters of the total yearly electricity use. If solar is not a practical option, buildings can use other alternatives or pay a fee.

Solar Panels on the Sebastopol Fire Department building. Credit: Solar Works

Solar Panels on the Sebastopol Fire Department building. Credit: Solar Works

According to the Press Democrat, Sebastopol Mayor Michael Kyes had hoped to be the first city in the country to mandate solar – a hope that was dashed when Lancaster, in Los Angeles County, passed a similar regulation earlier this year.

“We were going to be number one,” Mayor Kyes said. “Now we’re number two.” The paper also reported that Mayor Kyes highlighted the fact that Sebastopol is “liberal” while Lancaster is a “Republican community,” showing that solar is accepted across the political spectrum.

The ordinance still has to get final approval from the council; it will go into effect 60 days after that occurs.

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California tops the nation for solar jobs https://solartribune.com/california-tops-the-nation-for-solar-jobs-2013-04-22/ Mon, 22 Apr 2013 07:06:35 +0000 http://solartribune.wpengine.com/?p=6162 A new report has found that the U.S. solar industry now employs almost 120,000 people, with California leading the way. According to The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) third annual National Solar Jobs Census, in 2012 the solar industry employed 119,016 people in the U.S. That’s 13,872 more than 2011, a 13.2 percent increase. The report, a […]

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A new report has found that the U.S. solar industry now employs almost 120,000 people, with California leading the way.

According to The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) third annual National Solar Jobs Census, in 2012 the solar industry employed 119,016 people in the U.S. That’s 13,872 more than 2011, a 13.2 percent increase.

The report, a collaboration between TSF, BW Research Partnership and Cornell University, surveyed over 1,000 companies across the industry, including in installation, sales and distribution, and manufacturing.

Credit: The Solar Foundation

Credit: The Solar Foundation

Since 2010, the U.S. solar industry has seen employment grow 27 percent, eight times higher than employment in the country as a whole, which grew by only 3.2 percent in the same period.

Installation is the largest subsector in terms of employment, now employing 57,177 Americans, a 17.5 percent jump from 2011. Sales and distribution jobs experienced a 23.1 percent increase, now up to 16,005 employees.

“The National Solar Jobs Census 2012 illustrates that the solar industry, as a whole, is a dependable job creator and that solar employers are confident about growth in 2013,” said Andrea Luecke, TSF Executive Director.

“The growth by installers, especially at larger firms, signals that this subsector is heading toward a period of consolidation and maturation on par with other successful industries at this stage of the growth curve.”

Furthermore, the outlook for the coming year is positive: employers in the industry expect growth of 17.2 percent, or an additional 20,000 workers.

“The fact that such a large proportion of employers anticipate adding jobs despite the difficulties facing the solar industry suggests that solar employment will continue its upward growth trajectory,” added Luecke.

The National Solar Jobs Census also broke down employment by state, finding that California leads the way with 43,700 solar jobs. Arizona came in second with 9,800 solar jobs, making it the state with most solar jobs per capita.

For the full breakdown, go to www.solarstates.org.

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