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Duke Energy-Backed Bill Takes Aim at Solar in North Carolina

by Jan Lee (May 31, 2017) www.triplepundit.com

Duke Energy, America’s largest utility company, made a surprising announcement earlier this year. In its February filing to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the company declared the cost of solar unaffordable in the state.

The argument went like this: Federal law requires electric utility companies to buy back the power generated by renewable energy at a price set by the local utilities commission (called the “avoided” costs). In North Carolina, that rate is set every two years.

But with natural gas prices dropping, Duke claimed the cost of solar became too high to justify. The company estimated the cost discrepancy amounted to as much as $80 million a year or $1 billion over the course of completed contracts.

For the residential customer, that equates to about $20 more a year in utility bills, Duke further claimed.

Not surprisingly, local solar developers, such as Strata Solar, disagreed and challenged Duke’s computations.

Now, a handful of North Carolina state representatives have come up with an answer, and it has the enthusiastic support of Duke Energy.

North Carolina House Bill 909, otherwise known as the Sound Energy and Renewables Policy Act, would force independent clean-energy startups into a cumbersome bidding process controlled by the state’s utility company. The bill would set an artificial ceiling of 400 megawatts for each of the next five years.

The renewables sector in North Carolina estimates it would have access to more than 1,500 megawatts of renewable energy projects each year without the legislation.

The North Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance is opposing the bill. Chris Carmody, executive director of the trade association, said the bill would make it unaffordable for small solar providers to compete with Duke, which does offer solar energy to its customers.

“[It] would allow Duke to eliminate all competition,” Carmody told Southeastern Energy News.

Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union) said he sponsored the bill because of what he calls “stagnation” in communications between stakeholders in the state’s clean-energy industry, big and small.

But a number of critics see Duke Energy as the winner – and the instigator of the bill.

Although Duke Energy doesn’t agree, it has a history of objecting to the large number of solar farms in North Carolina, which it reportedly attributes to North Carolina’s adherence to the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). Carmody says the concept of a privately-established bidding process was supported (and some say proposed) by Duke until last February when the company suddenly backed out.

Duke Energy isn’t the only large utility company to take issue with PURPA, which requires companies to “pay back” homeowners that can generate electricity on their own property, such as with a wind or solar installation. In Montana, Colorado and even California, utility companies, solar installers and often consumers are locked in debates over a federal law that makes small solar installations possible. To the large-scale utility company, that “avoided” cost is lost revenue. To the solar installer, it means a foot in the door in a utility industry once only operated by large companies like PG&E and Duke Energy.

Solar installers call Duke’s efforts to limit new projects under PURPA illegal. Last year the company got into hot water with state regulators when it stopped hooking up small solar projects to its grid. Installers accused the company of preventing the construction of new projects and blocking consumers from having solar energy.

Duke denied the charges, saying that it would “do what we need to maintain the reliability and resiliency and the quality of the power on our grid.”

Bill 909 would not only reduce the number of solar installation companies in North Carolina, but it would also shrink avoided costs for utility companies. Current revisions of the House bill also cut the size of projects that could qualify under PURPA in North Carolina, a step that some clean-energy advocates like John Wilson of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy say would “reconstruct [PURPA} as a barrier to participation in energy generation by independent companies.”

And this may not be the end of arguments over PURPA, a law that was created in the 1970s in recognition of a budding renewables industry.

Oregon, Utah, Montana and other state utility commissions face pressure from utility companies that want new rates, contract lengths and other considerations when it comes to utility markets that they don’t necessarily control.

As consumers have become more educated about PURPA, what is often called an obscure federal law with big clout, utility companies like Duke Energy are looking for ways to protect profits in an industry that once had few regional competitors.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

VOTE NO ON FLORIDA AMENDMENT 1!

by Brent Sauser

The November election is quickly approaching and NetZeroMax is working hard to defeat Florida’s Amendment 1 . . . . the “so-called” Solar Rights amendment.  Please take the time to view the attached videos that go into detail regarding the level of deception involved with the wording of this misleading amendment.  It gives the noble impression of assuring that non-solar consumers will not end up subsidizing roof-top solar owners.  That sounds reasonable to most who have not researched this issue. 

Florida does not rank in the top 10 states for solar production.  Of those top 10 solar producing states NOT ONE has demonstrated any evidence that roof-top solar results in a negative financial burden on non-solar consumers . . . NOT ONE!  On the contrary, roof-top solar is a BENEFIT, not a burden to all power consumers.  We don’t need deceptive and false language in the Florida constitution.  Having this clause in the amendment gives the powerful power monopolies the green light to assess additional fees on roof-top solar owners in response to assuring the non-solar consumers are not financially burden (which is not true anywhere in the USA).  In reality, those additional fees go right to their bottom line profits as they laugh all the way to the bank, knowing that they pulled one over on the Florida voter.  

Amendment 1 will stifle solar progress to the point where Florida will have to change their motto to “The anti-Sunshine State”.   Amendment 1 BLOCKS the sun in Florida.  VOTE NO ON AMENDMENT 1!

Solar Panel Installations Soar as Prices Fall to an All-Time Low

by Mike White (Sep 24, 2016) www.trendintech.com

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More and more people are opting to have solar panels installed in their homes, offices, and other buildings as they recognize the potential savings and environmental benefits there are to be made.  It’s because of this rise in demand that firms have been able to sell them cheaper than ever before and are now at an all-time low, allowing, even more, people to reap the benefits.

There are two separate Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory Reports that offer a detailed analysis of the lowering prices in solar panels. The first is called Tracking the Sun IX and is centered around installed pricing trends in the rooftop solar market and the second is entitled Utility-Scale Solar 2015 and focuses on large-scale solar farms that deal with bulk power supplies.  Both reports show a significant fall in prices in installed solar technologies since 2010.

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The installed price of solar technologies takes into consideration everything that is needed to get the solar system running effectively such as the panels, electronics, and hardware.  Estimates suggest that the cost of solar installation has fallen consistently at around 5 percent per year since 2012.  Even though both commercial and residential solar installation prices fell there is still a huge difference in the price they both pay comparably.  When looking at residential systems, the cost ranges between $3.30 and $5.00 per watt, while commercial users pay between $1.60 and $2.60 per watt approximately.

According to the reports, the price of solar power purchase agreements (PPA’s) has also fallen to below $50 per megawatt-hour in four out of the five areas that were examined. Currently, the cost of electricity is around $30-$40 per megawatt-hour, so the gap is closing in between the two.  Also, with the extension of the federal renewable energy investment tax credit to run until 2019, this should push solar sales even further and will force prices down to match.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Can Existing Homes Achieve Net Zero?

by Brent Sauser

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Is it possible to convert a 23 year old tract home, built in Orlando Florida, to achieve Net Zero?  Granted, not all 23 year old tract homes are created equal.  But in our specific case we can state without hesitation . . . OUR 23 YEAR OLD HOME HAS ACHIEVED NET ZERO!  How do we know this you ask?  We have proof.

After implementing a three-year plan to reduce our overall electrical consumption, we had a 7.5kW solar array installed on our roof.  The net-metered array was activated on September 9, 2015.  Since then we have tracked our daily solar production.  These are the results:

  •   Total time elapsed:  12 months
  •   Total solar production on-site:  9,375kWh
  •   Average monthly solar production:  780kWh
  •   Average monthly power consumption:  668kWh
  •   Daily average kWh (net) use from utility:  ZERO
  •   Extra solar kWh produced on site and “banked” with utility:  1,363kWh.  That means we are not only a Net Zero home, but we are Net Positive.  We produced more energy than we consumed on site.
  •   Total electrical utility costs for the year:  $126 (Minimum monthly charge to utility = $10.47.  This charge is for net meter hook-up to utility.)
  •   Total estimated yearly savings:  $2,500

Being net-metered means that we are still linked to the local power utility.  We produce electrical power while the sun shines and feed the excess power back to the utility.  At night and early morning hours we rely on the local power utility for our electrical needs.  So, we are NOT off the power grid, but rely on the grid for when the sun is down or on excessively cloudy days.

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We become Net Zero when the excess power we produce during the day exceeds the utility power we use at night and early morning.  In our case we were able to produce enough excess power to cover the difference and have 1,363kWh left over, to our credit.

Our goal was to lower our monthly expenses and in the process put $2,500 back in our pockets.  We are overjoyed with our decision to go Net Zero and will continue to monitor our daily production.   We are confident next year’s results will be similar.

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Sometimes the hardest part of any journey is taking the first step.  We have proof it IS possible to retrofit existing homes to achieve Net Zero.   Isn’t it time you find out for yourself what it will take to achieve Net Zero for your home?

Solar Energy: Pros And Cons Of Off-The-Grid vs. Grid-Tied Systems

by Kim McLendon (Aug. 10, 2016)  www.inquisitr.com

Solar energy is a very liberating concept for most people. Words like energy independence and going off-the-grid have a very exciting feel to them. They spawn images in the minds of potential buyers, ranging from sustainable living to a rejection of, or at least freedom from, the constraints of modern society. The truth is actually a bit more mundane, but far more practical.

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Before discussing off-the-grid v. grid-tied solar applications, it is important to consider a few practical points. First, it is a good idea to make sure the home is as energy efficient as possible before installing solar energy panels. The more energy a home uses, the more solar panels it takes to either defray or eliminate the electric bill. Often an inefficient hot water heater, dryer, or air conditioning unit will cost more in electricity over the course of a few short months, than the purchase price of a new appliance. It is important to replace inefficient appliances before estimating usage and installing solar equipment.

Solar energy needs are based on overall electricity usage, so it is necessary to calculate the number of panels necessary to create an efficient panel array for the house. Solar Estimator offers a tool for estimating how much energy one needs.

Choosing off-the-grid v. grid-tied systems really depends first on the location of the home, reliability of electrical service in the area, and the overall goals of the individual. Some people just want to save money on the electricity bill while others want to have electricity in the event of an emergency. A few just want that sense of freedom and independence. Some live in remote areas where electricity is not readily available.

Choose a grid-tied system if money is the only concern. In many areas, the energy company will pay to use the homeowner’s excess electricity and some people actually turn a profit at the end of each month. Grid-tied solar panels are also the most economical investment because that kind of system is far cheaper to install. Grid-tied solar panels don’t use the expensive battery arrays required in off-the-grid applications.

Off-the-grid v. grid-tied decisions are most commonly determined by budget considerations, and generally in a low budget situation grid-tied wins. Most home solar energy applications are grid-tied because it is a lot cheaper to install those battery-free systems that use the grid’s resources.

Solar energy applications in areas with excellent electrical repair response time may lend best to a grid-tied system. But for someone who wants emergency power, in the event of a long-term power failure, this just isn’t the way to go.

An off-the-grid system is by far the only choice for those interested in backup power in the event of a power failure. The biggest drawback of a grid-tied system is that in a power outage, the homeowner cannot use the solar array to restore electricity. Mother Earth News explains why the electric company ensures solar panels attached to their grid are not going to function in a power failure.

“However, for safety reasons, grid-tied systems cannot function when the grid power goes down (a live load on the line would present a danger to utility workers coming in to fix power outages), and to many independence-seeking homeowners, that is the biggest drawback of grid-tied systems.”

Solar energy users who feel comfortable with being without electricity whenever the grid fails to provide can cash in on the savings of a grid-tied system. If one lives in an area with consistently reliable utilities, and homeowners cannot imagine a situation in which the power could go out for days, a grid-tied system would be a good solution.

Off-the-grid systems can also leave their owners without power as well. Any time that usage exceeds output plus battery storage, power outages happen. For that reason, an ample array of batteries is desirable, and even a backup generator might be a good safeguard, especially in remote areas, in a situation of extended periods of cloud cover.

Off-the-grid solar applications require specialized deep cycle batteries, and it is these batteries that provide energy at night and on very cloudy days. Batteries are expensive, but the costs are going down.

Elon Musk, the Tesla car mastermind, is heavily invested in creating lithium ion batteries that would be cheaper and more efficient. He calls his latest invention a “power wall.” It is already competitive in price for the capacity it has. This 10kWh battery sells for just $3,500. Someday, not too long from now, these superior battery systems are expected to reduce considerably more in price, according to Revision Energy.

Off-the-grid solar energy systems will be revolutionized by this innovation, and become more reliable and affordable. So affordable, that according to Cleantechnia the power grid may eventually become obsolete. That isn’t happening soon, though.

Solar energy is currently far more commonly of the grid-tied variety rather than the off-the-grid application. That could change in the near future, as the cost of deep cycle batteries reduces and overall efficiency of the batteries increases.

Are there extremely inexpensive off-the-grid solar solutions now? Sure, there are, but they are generally designed by the homeowner and do not involve using traditional home wiring. These are minimalist systems that will afford very few modern conveniences. They usually involve moving a couple of golf cart batteries and an inverter around on a dolly from one usage point to another. It isn’t great, but it will work, and keeping such a primitive system around might be a good emergency preparedness measure. There are some determined individuals who use them every day, in cabins and tiny houses, but they aren’t designed to accommodate contemporary suburban lifestyles.

Off-the-grid v. grid-tied solar energy questions are easily answered by each individual depending on their needs, desires, and circumstances.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Top 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar Energy

by Erin Pierce (June 16, 2016) renewableenergyworld.com

Top 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar Energy – Renewable Energy World

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The solar industry is changing rapidly as it experiences unprecedented growth. Here are 6 facts that may surprise you about this increasingly popular source of power.

6.   Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth — 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously. That’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use.

5.   The first silicon solar cell, the precursor of all solar-powered devices, was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954. On the first page of its April 26, 1954 issue, The New York Times proclaimed the milestone, “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams — the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”

4.   The space industry was an early adopter of solar technology. In the 1950s, the space industry began to use solar technology to provide power aboard spacecraft. The Vanguard 1 — the first artificial earth satellite powered by solar cells — remains the oldest manmade satellite in orbit — logging more than 6 billion miles.

3.   Today, demand for solar in the United States is at an all-time high. The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased more than 23 times over the past eight years — from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 GW at the end of 2015. That’s enough energy to power the equivalent of 5.4 million average American homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The U.S. is currently the third-largest solar market in the world and is positioned to become the second.

2.   As prices continue to fall, solar energy is increasingly becoming an economical energy choice for American homeowners and businesses. Still, the biggest hurdle to affordable solar energy remains the soft costs — like permitting, zoning and hooking a solar system up to the power gird. On average, local permitting and inspection processes add more than $2,500 to the total cost of a solar energy system and can take up to six months to complete. The SunShot Initiative’s soft costs program works to make it faster and cheaper for families and businesses to go solar.

1.   California’s Mojave Desert is home to Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, the world’s largest operating solar thermal energy plant. It uses concentrating solar power (CSP) technology to focus 173,500 heliostats, each containing two mirrors, onto boilers located in three power towers. The plant, which came online in 2014, has a gross capacity of 392 megawatts (MW). CSP technology is unique in that it allows for solar energy to be stored for use after the sun sets — a key focus for our recent research and development efforts — which addresses some of the concerns over delivering solar power when and where it is needed most.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Consumers Can Profit from Leaving the Grid

by Joshua Pearce (May 31, 2016) www.huffingtonpost.com

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Secret is Out

It is no secret that solar energy is a money maker. Since 2011, the cost of solar electricity has been less than what consumers pay their electric utilities in a growing swath of America. Solar costs have plummeted like a rock and are continuing to drop.

This has created a surging market for solar technologies – 2015 was the biggest year in solar in U.S. history. Yet the American solar industry is set to more than double installed solar power this year. It is now economical and indeed profitable for a growing number of Americans to even go off grid.

These solar systems use photovoltaic technology that converts sunlight directly into electricity. The vast majority of these systems are connected directly to the grid. Such grid-tied systems are normally net-metered meaning they provide energy for their neighbors during the day and pull power from the grid at night or during cloudy weather. The solar prosumer simply pays for the net electricity they use from the grid. This can be a boon for everyone as solar is a well established sustainable technology. Solar cuts expensive and polluting conventional power and cuts losses during transmission over power lines, as net metered solar’s surplus energy flows to the grid and is consumed by neighbors. Most importantly it benefits all ratepayers by preventing the need to build new, expensive power plants or transmission lines.

Utility Responses

This sounds pretty good and some utilities have embraced solar energy, but sadly others fear it.

Cowardly electric companies are getting nervous that their customers are gaining some power over their “power” and they have used old tricks to make solar less economic and have even attempted to take away fair payment for solar electricity provided to the grid.

Long Term Thinking

This may work in the short term, but a new study released by the journal Energy Policy indicates this could be a disaster in the long term. Solar is not the only distributed technology that has been gaining prowess. Batteries with the help of companies like Tesla have been improving rapidly and have just started cost declines similar to the those seen in solar. In addition, small-scale combined heat and power (CHP) technologies are finally ready for prime time. CHP units about the size of a small refrigerator can provide both electricity and heat for homes economically. This technological triple threat is driving a virtuous cycle of technological improvements and cost reductions in off-grid electric systems that increasingly compete with the grid market.

This is a big change as for the first time in history consumers could actually make money for leaving the grid. An environmental group did a study showing this – but they cherry picked prime states (e.g. California) to evaluate.

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Remarkably, the new study used one of the worst places in the U.S. as an example – the frigid Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where yes it literally snowed in May. Amazingly this study showed that already some households in the tundra of Michigan could save money by switching to a solar hybrid off-grid systems now in comparison to electric rates they are currently paying.

Across the region by 2020, 92% of seasonal households and about 75% of year-round households are projected to meet electricity demands with lower costs.

Furthermore, ~65% of all Upper Peninsula single-family owner-occupied households will both meet grid parity and be able to afford the solar systems by 2020.

What do you think they are going to do?

What this means is that simple economics could spur a positive feedback loop whereby grid electricity prices continue to rise and increasing numbers of customers choose alternatives, particularly in areas where utilities have chosen to treat their customers as threats rather than to embrace customer generated solar energy. There is a name for this effect: utility death spiral. If utilities want to survive and prosper in the longer term their best approach is one of embracing distributed solar power to keep as many solar homes as loyal paying customers as possible.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

LETTER: DON’T PAINT SOLAR POWER THAT WAY

by Gary Gentry (May 13, 2016) www.azcentral.com

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It would help to understand the controversy over rooftop solar power if we understand how the electricity grid works.

The electricity grid is like a full tank of water with a pipe putting water in (generators) and a pipe taking water out (electricity users). The volume being removed must exactly match the volume coming in; the laws of physics don’t allow it to be otherwise.

John Kannarr’s letter in The Republic (May 8) is totally wrong in concluding that producing solar power during the day is of no benefit.

Everyone knows that peak demand occurs in the early evening and that demand earlier in the day is lower. But demand during the day is not zero. Refrigerators and clocks don’t shut down in the afternoon. Offices, businesses and homes still use electricity during low demand periods and APS still produces it.

In that sense there is really no such thing as “excess power.” So every kilowatt produced by rooftop solar panels goes into the grid, allowing APS to avoid burning fuel to produce that kilowatt. That’s a benefit to APS and the environment and should be considered in the pricing.

CKICK HERE to read the original article.

Excess Solar Goes to Arkansas Co-ops

by Derrill Holly (April 14, 2016) www.ect.coop

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A large solar project built to meet the needs of a major aerospace and defense contractor is also providing electricity for Arkansas electric cooperatives.

The utility-scale 12.5-megawatt array serves a manufacturing and testing facility operated by Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings in East Camden, Ark. With an annual output capacity of 16.8 MW, the power is primarily used for plant operations. But builder Silicone Ranch Corp. has a power purchase agreement with Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. to buy the balance.

Little Rock-based AECC estimates the facility will annually provide approximately 20,000 MWh of excess energy that will be wheeled into the wholesale market. Officials at the G&T said the actual amounts of power for purchase could vary based upon manufacturing plant operations and local weather conditions.

“This innovative partnership benefits electric cooperative members by providing predictable energy costs and contributing to the strong economic growth in the Camden area,” said Duane Highley, AECC’s president and CEO. He said they’re “constantly evaluating energy sources to ensure that our 17 retail distribution cooperatives and their more than 1.2 million members have reliable electricity that is affordable.”

East Camden is served by Ouachita Electric Cooperative Corporation whose technical and engineering staff provided consulting services to Silicon Ranch throughout development of the project.

Mark Cayce, general manager of Camden-based Ouachita EC, said such projects help keep electricity rates affordable for members and promote economic growth in the co-op’s service territory.

System testing of the more than 151,000 solar panels and other components began late last year and the single axis ground mounted pedestals reportedly worked well.

“With the unusually sunny Arkansas winter we have been witness to the exciting potential solar has in Arkansas,” said Gary Vaughan, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s director of production operations.

The facility was formally commissioned during a brief ceremony March 31. Arkansas Republican Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton attended the event along with Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Rooftop solar companies ask Ducey to veto Lesko’s bill

by Ryan Randazzo (March 21, 2016) The Republic/azcentral.com

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Rooftop solar companies are hoping Gov. Doug Ducey (Arizona) vetoes a bill passed by state lawmakers that would put new requirements on the way they describe and market their products.

Senate Bill 1417, sponsored by Republican Debbie Lesko, was transmitted to the governor Thursday.

It prevents installation companies from beginning work on rooftop panels unless an interconnection has been approved by the utility. This requirement is waived if a utility takes more than 60 days to approve an interconnection.

It also puts new requirements on how solar companies must describe the estimated amount of money customers will save on their utility bills and disclosure regarding how those savings are calculated, including how they estimate utility rates to increase.

“The legislation feigns to protect consumers from bad actors but results in placing all solar business at a disadvantage by increasing costs through burdensome red tape,” said a letter endorsed by the Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association and a handful of solar companies sent to Ducey on Friday.

The letter said that the industry already is heavily regulated, noting the the Registrar of Contractors and Attorney General have oversight of companies that somehow harm consumers.

In addition, a similar bill that passed last year has hardly had a chance to take effect since Jan. 1.

The letter reminds Ducey of his pledge to “get out of the way of business” and avoid new regulations.

Ducey issued an executive order in January 2015 placing a moratorium on regulatory rule making.

“Onerous regulatory mandates on businesses are one of the greatest barriers to job creation,” Ducey said at the time. “As a state that has yet to fully recover from unprecedented job losses during the recession, it is imperative that we take every possible action to ease the burden on Arizona employers and continue to move our economy forward. This order is a significant first step toward achieving that mission.”

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

Duke Energy vs. Solar Energy: Battle Over Solar Heats Up in North Carolina

by Alex Kotch, DeSmogBlog (EcoWatch,com)  March 13, 2016

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Around the nation, big utility companies are successfully lobbying lawmakers and regulators to restrict individual and corporate access to solar power, denying people significant savings on electricity bills and the opportunity to take part in the growing green energy economy.

In third-party solar financing, a non-utility company installs solar panels on a customer’s property at little or no up-front cost, sometimes selling the solar energy back to the customer at rates typically lower than a utility would charge.

Duke Energy, the largest utility in the U.S., has so far succeeded in keeping third-party solar illegal in North Carolina, but conservative and liberal factions alike are trying to change that, in different ways.

At least four states—Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma and North Carolina—currently ban third-party sales of solar energy. Twenty states have murky laws and in the remaining 26, companies are allowed to install solar panels on customers’ roofs and sell energy generated from these panels to the customer. But major electric utilities that burn coal or natural gas are ill-equipped to change their business models to accommodate renewables, which explains their frequent opposition to state initiatives that expand solar access.

“When you get fully disrupted, you’ve got to find a new model,” Zach Lyman of the energy consulting firm Reluminati told Rolling Stone. “But utilities are not designed to move to new models; they never were. So they play an obstructionist role.”

Utility monopolies are threatened by rooftop solar for three main reasons:

  • The more rooftop solar installations, the fewer new power plants are built by utilities, which are able to finance these building projects by raising rates on customers and in some states they have a guaranteed rate of return on their investments.
  • Customers with solar panels buy less energy from the grid, operated by the utilities.
  • Utilities often have to pay owners of home solar installations for the surplus energy their panels return to the grid.

While purchasing utility-scale solar farms to increase its profits, Duke Energy—the most powerful political entity in North Carolina—has actively campaigned against solar policies that benefit individuals.

Duke Energy has claimed that rooftop solar hurts the poor by causing rate increases and has even targeted black leaders with this misleading message.

The company opposed the Energy Freedom Act, a bipartisan bill to legalize third-party solar. Although that bill, sponsored by Republican state Rep. John Szoka, died in committee last year, future legislative attempts could face similar opposition from Duke Energy.

Meanwhile, Duke Energy purchased a majority stake in California-based REC Solar, which operates solar projects and sells the energy to commercial customers in other states where third-party sales are legal.

A Conservative Push for Solar Freedom

Rep. Szoka hopes to pass something similar to the Energy Freedom Act next year. Seventy-nine percent of North Carolinians support third-party solar sales, but at least some in the legislature prefer to ignore the citizens’ preference. North Carolina lawmakers have also allowed the state’s solar tax credit to expire.

Rep. Szoka, a mortgage lender, was stationed at the largest military installation in the country, Fort Bragg, during his career as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army. Now representing a district that surrounds the city of Fayetteville and includes Fort Bragg, Szoka first spoke of the military’s energy consumption when explaining why he proposed the bill.

Third-party solar sales to the military would save money while increasing energy security, Rep. Szoka argued, noting that on-site power generation would decrease the military’s dependence on the electric grid, which is vulnerable to attacks. Rep. Szoka also says his bill would help the military base to fulfill a Department of Defense mandate that facilities get 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.

The state representative says there’s a strong free-market argument for third-party solar. “What made America great is free enterprise,” he says. “We need to unleash entrepreneurs in our state to do what they do best.”

He also cites private property rights, ratepayer savings and job creation as compelling reasons to legalize third-party solar.

Rep. Szoka’s 2015 bill to legalize third-party contracts had wide support from major corporations with business in the state including Wal-Mart, Target, Volvo and Macy’s. These and other businesses wrote a letter to all state legislators, saying that power purchase agreements (third-party sales) would allow them to avoid major up-front expenditures, the risks of operating solar arrays and fluctuating energy rates.

Big-Energy Insider Stands in Solar’s Way

The legislature’s Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy had scheduled a March 1 press conference to announce the formation of a subcommittee that would study renewable energy issues such as third-party solar, net metering and the state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS). But on Feb. 29, they canceled the announcement because Rep. Mike Hager “reconsidered his position and withdrew his support for … the comprehensive study,” said Szoka.

Rep. Szoka had “a long conversation” with Hager this week but hasn’t yet succeeded in changing Hager’s mind.

Rep. Hager, who worked for 17 years at Duke Energy prior to his election as a Republican state representative, has been a staunch opponent of renewable energy, as Facing South’s Sue Sturgis has consistently reported.

Hager has tried to end renewables requirements for utilities, pushed for legalized hydraulic fracturing, downplayed the dangers of coal ash contamination and supported offshore drilling.

Duke Energy is the top corporate contributor to Hager’s political campaigns, with Piedmont Natural Gas in second, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Hager is also tied to the controversial corporate bill mill, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has played a key role in attacks on solar in North Carolina and other states.

With Hager a vice-chair of the House committee on public utilities and co-chair of the Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy, renewables-friendly legislation will continue to face an uphill battle in the North Carolina General Assembly.

“Hager and I are on opposite sides of a few energy issues on solar, wind and REPS, but we’re in agreement [a study] is what’s good for the state,” Szoka told DeSmog earlier this month, before Hager cancelled the announcement. “I hope and pray we can negotiate.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire article.

Expect a Major Spike in U.S. Solar Growth

by Chris Morris (March 9, 2016) fortune.com

Technicians working on solar panels

Get ready to see a lot more solar panels.

U.S. solar installations will more than double in 2016, increasing by 119%, says the Solar Energy Industries Association. That’s a continuation of the energy subset’s ongoing growth, which has seen a tenfold increase since 2011.

Study says it will double in 2016, thanks to tax credits and falling prices.

“This is a new energy paradigm and the solar industry officially has a seat at the table with the largest energy producers,” said SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch. “Because of the strong demand for solar energy nationwide, and smart public policies…hundreds of thousands of well-paying solar jobs will be added in the next few years benefiting both America’s economy and the environment.”

Still, traditional energy companies are hardly in danger of going out of business. Solar power today accounts for just 1% of the nation’s electricity. And the group expects that to jump to 3.5% by 2020.

Two factors are credited for the rise in interest in solar power. The cost of panels, which used to be prohibitively expensive, has fallen 67% since 2010, says the group. And a 30% federal tax credit, which was recently extended through 2019, is giving homeowners, businesses, and utility companies more incentive to explore the technology.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

WHY BIG RETAILERS ARE GOING SOLAR

By Katie Fehrenbacher (March 8, 2016) fortune.com

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It’s about economics, not just environmentalism.

Years ago, big retailers and tech companies installed solar panels as a way to take an environmental stance. But these days it’s often an economic choice that is fueled by the promise of lower and less volatile energy costs.

On Tuesday, Whole Foods WFM 1.43% said that it planned a huge project to cover nearly one-fourth of its stores with solar panels. After construction is complete, Whole Foods says it could be among the top 25 biggest commercial U.S. solar suppliers alongside Walmart WMT -0.01% , Walgreens WBA 1.04% , and Target TGT 0.81% .

According to a report last year by the Solar Energy Industry Association: “While solar has long been viewed as an environmentally responsible energy choice, businesses now deploy solar because it is a smart fiscal choice as well.”

Whole Foods’ global sustainability leader, Kathy Loftus, said in a statement that the move was about “lower energy costs,” among other goals. Whole Food’s global energy coordinator, Aaron Daly, told Fortune that the solar project is about “environmental stewardship while saving money and reducing the power price volatility for our stores.”

Another report from SEIA found that in every quarter in 2015, the average cost of solar systems for commercial businesses dropped steadily. Across 2015, the cost of solar systems for commercial businesses slid by an average of 10% to a low of around $2 per watt by the end the year.

Whole Foods is working with solar panel suppliers NRG NRG -2.72% and SolarCity SCTY 4.86% to cover its stores in solar. These companies, which build solar projects for homes and businesses in huge numbers, can provide Whole Foods and others with attractive deals that potentially make solar cheaper than a typical monthly utility bill. These solar deals also fix the rate that companies pay for solar power over time so companies can hedge against a spike in grid prices.

Add in attractive state and federal incentives, and solar looks like a good deal. That is particularly true in California, which is expected to be home to a third of the solar installations for commercial companies and community solar farms next year.

Overall, U.S. solar is growing rapidly. Last year, the U.S. built more solar power than natural gas power for the first time ever.

Indeed, SEIA’s list of the top 25 commercial solar companies reads like a who’s who of the Fortune 500 including Walmart, Apple AAPL -0.20% , Intel INTC 1.01% , Costco COST 1.28% , and General Motors GM 0.46% .

Don’t expect the trend to reverse. There are still ample ways to reduce the cost of solar for commercial companies.

In contrast to the really cheap solar deals that utilities are doing, commercial companies are still facing hurdles with so-called soft costs, or the added costs of everything that isn’t hardware like marketing, software, and paper work. The soft costs edge up the total cost of commercial solar. But solar companies expect to be able to reduce these soft costs for commercial solar deployments, too, through new algorithms, use of data and even new startups.

CLICK HERE to read the original article. 

Duke Energy in Florida Supports Customer Owned Solar

by Brent Sauser

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Duke Energy in Florida boasts a 500% increase in customer owned solar in the past five years.  My humble 7.5 kW roof top solar array is included in that remarkable growth.  In fact, with only 29 days in the month of February, we still managed to generate 760kWh of power.  Considering our average monthly consumption is around 580kWh, we should be banking quite a few kWh’s for the future. 

The unfortunate recent anti-solar legislation in Nevada has crippled renewable energy for next foreseeable future.  Nevada is the EXCEPTION to the growing renewable market, NOT the rule.  Few states share that backward, 19th Century, non-renewable energy resource mindset.  Nevada has decided to sit on the sidelines of 21st Century progress by watching other states like Florida, Hawaii, South Carolina, etc. take a giant step into the environmental benefits of renewable, sustainable energy.  I can get used to paying $7.44 per month on my energy bill.  How about you?

It is encouraging to see Duke Energy and other utilities embrace the move toward renewable energy, as well as inviting the general public to participate in the sustainable energy process.  This tax season we have taken full advantage of the 30% Federal Tax Credit ($7,800), which lowered the overall installation costs considerably and substantially reduced our tax burden. 

Aside from those living in Nevada, I invite you to check into installing your own roof top solar array.  Oh, and be sure to check the current and pending state legislation regarding solar.  Chances are you will find your power utility willing to work with you with your solar installation.  It is a money saving benefit to you and an energy resource for them . . . win-win.  

This is how Net-Metering works for Duke Energy:

Duke Energy supports renewable energy and has a program that allows customers that own renewable generation, such as solar or wind that is installed at your residence or business, to use the energy output at your site to offset your electric consumption from Duke Energy.  At any time your system produces more energy than required to power your home or building, the excess energy may be applied as a credit to any current and future bills. This process is known as net-metering.

What Will the Year 2016 Bring?

by Brent Sauser

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2015 is quickly coming to an end and we are left with more questions than answers.

  1.  Will the debate over human influenced global climate change continue to divide a world?
  2.  Will politics over human influenced climate change continue to dominate the conversation instead of common sense?
  3.   Will we waste more time pointing fingers and name calling those on both sides of the issue?
  4.  Will the growing movement toward renewable systems slow down, speed up, or stay the same due to recent legislation by Congress to extend the 30% solar tax rebate program beyond 2016?
  5.  Will more people come to the realization that it makes good common sense to lower our overall power consumption and decide to go solar to offset what power we do consume?

These and more questions face us as we transition from 2015 to 2016.  It is anticipated that because of the recent solar tax rebate extension by Congress, the total number of solar installations will increase over 2015, but not to the levels projected when 2016 ended the tax rebate program.  Now that the solar rebate program extends through 2020, the forecast is indicating a moderate increase of solar installations each year.

It is a fact that in many parts of the USA power parity has already occurred.  Just check out costs per kWh in San Diego and Hawaii.  Going solar already makes good common sense . . . . . dollars and cents!   We installed a 7.5 kW roof top solar array in early September.  Last month we paid $10.44 for our power bill.   That is the minimum amount we pay and reflects the fee for net meter hook up as well as taxes.  Our bill also indicated a 97kWh surplus that the utility has “banked” in our favor.  What did you pay on your power bill last month?

Do the math . . . .  we paid $24,000 for our 7.5kW solar array.  The 30% federal tax rebate brings that total amount down to $16,800.   Our Enphase microinverters and Axitec solar panels are warranted for 25 years.   Assuming our system achieves Net Zero . . . . our total investment remains $16,800 over the 25 years.  Those who decide to stay on grid power will, in contrast, pay over $26,000 over the same period of time, and that is without taking into consideration rate increases.  So, you decide which makes more sense, staying on grid power or going solar.  Putting close to $200 back in my pocket each month is no small thing.  And here’s the good news; we managed to do all this in a 20 year old home with an eastern orientation.  I promise, it can be done.  It takes a lot of planning, research, along with a bit of lifestyle adaptation to make it work, but it works.

Let the politicians and intellectuals point fingers all they want.  All I know is I’m saving close to $200 every month on money I’m not spending on power bills.  That really adds up over time.  If you can’t afford to pay for a solar array outright, there are low interest loans increasingly available throughout the USA.  Check it out.

If this is the time of year to make resolutions I hope you will consider moving to a more Net Zero life style.  I wish you not only a happy new year, but a sustainable new year too.

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Smart Meters: FACT vs. FICTION

by Greg Miller, Senior Tech. Analyst (Wall St. Daily)

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If you think we live in a connected world, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

By the time the Internet of Things (IoT) gets up to speed, just about everything will be connected to the web – systems, networks, devices, homes, appliances… you name it.

The upside here? Greater streamlining and functionality, as well as bigger savings.

But there’s a downside, too – one we’ve previously highlighted: security concerns.

One of the most controversial IoT devices is also one of the first – smart meters.

These meters – whether for water, gas, or electricity – hold the compelling promise of both reducing energy demand and saving millions of dollars for consumers. With electric meters, for example, consumers could ease demand for the fuels needed to produce electricity.

But in many cities, these meters, particularly the electric ones, have met with opposition.

So what’s the truth here?

Smart Meters: Friend or Foe?

To be blunt, many of the concerns and fears over smart meters are downright farcical. For example…

Smart Meters Make You Sick: Yes, some people really believe this. It’s entirely baseless.

However, it’s not uncommon for such fears to accompany new technologies. Remember when cellphones were supposed to give you brain cancer? They didn’t – and they don’t.

Some early smart meters used public spectrum similar to Wi-Fi, but almost all of them now use the same frequencies as your smartphone. So if you have a smartphone and don’t get sick from it, the same theory applies to your smart meter when it reports data back to the utility – it’s that simple.

Similarly, there was a remarkable phenomenon once known as Wind Turbine Syndrome – people said the windmills were making them sick.

But when Simon Chapman, a public health professor in Australia, looked into it, he found that not a single complaint had been lodged by people on land where the turbines were actually located when they received rent from the turbine company.

It turns out that the “cure” was money! So if people think smart meters are making them ill, the cure is for them to save money.

Smart Meters Are Harmful to Wildlife: Another claim that’s devoid of evidence. Unless you believe we should tear down every cell tower over a specific concern about smart meters, it’s unwarranted.

Smart Meters Are Dangerous: Specifically, this refers to the fear that electric meters are prone to catch fire. Well, one now-discontinued model in particular was allegedly responsible for an unusual number of fires.

But there are also fires associated with standard meters. After all, whenever you have electricity, there’s a fire risk. But a properly installed, modern smart meter that meets National Electric Safety Code standards doesn’t have any hazards that old-school meters don’t already have.

Smart Meters Infringe Civil Liberties: This one does have some factual merit – but only a little. You see, these meters not only report how much water, gas, or electricity you consume, but when.

They also report this data much more efficiently, easily, and immediately. The concern is that authorities might use the data to snoop on people or sell the information to other parties.

It’s true that law enforcement has used electric data in the past in order to identify indoor marijuana-growing operations. But on balance, this is a minor concern, easily remedied with legislation.

In fact, smart meters can actually increase your privacy. Under the old system, whenever a utility employee walks onto your property to take a reading, you can’t stop him.

How’s that for an invasion of privacy? With smart meters, human readers become unnecessary and utilities won’t be on your property unless there’s a malfunction.

Smart Meters Are Inaccurate: Some smart meter opponents claim that the new meters are woefully inaccurate and, far from saving consumers money, actually lead to higher electric bills.

There was indeed an issue with this several years ago. But today’s smart meters are really quite accurate. In fact, if they were as inaccurate as opponents say, they wouldn’t have privacy concerns!

Even if a consumer ends up with a “lemon” smart meter, there’s an easy way to guard against overbilling: Simply keep your old bills!

Electric usage doesn’t change much from one year to another unless there are big temperature differences. You should compare new bills to old ones and ask about any usage or billing discrepancies.

The real concern with smart meters isn’t overbilling, though. It’s that they might not save consumers as much money as they should!

But it’s still better than the old school method…

We’re All Getting a Raw Deal

For years now, consumers have gotten a raw deal from utilities. That’s because they’ve tended to be charged a flat rate per kilowatt hour – with that rate based on the utilities’ average cost of producing or buying the power.

But there’s no such thing as an “average cost.”

As you know, electricity tends to be more expensive during the day when there’s greater demand from businesses. By contrast, it’s cheaper at night. In fact, sometimes the nighttime cost of energy even becomes negative.

Unlike businesses, though, home consumers use most of their electricity at night. That means they should pay less per kilowatt hour than business customers. Smart meters make that possible.

But even in areas where utilities have introduced time-of-day pricing, they haven’t shared the full benefits with homeowners. Why? Two reasons…

First, much of a utility’s costs lie not in producing or buying the power, but in the electricity grid that gets it to customers. That cost is more or less fixed and it’s higher for homes than for businesses per unit of power sold.

Second, utilities aren’t installing all these expensive smart meters with the idea of losing money!

Your Smart Meter Checklist

So if you have a smart meter now or if your utility proposes installing them, here are the real questions you should ask:

  • Who’s installing the meters? Can you be sure that the utility’s employees or contractors are competent? And will a senior electrician sign off on each installation before turning the power on?
  • Who checks meters for accuracy? Is there a tester independent of both the utility and manufacturer? Do utilities have an easy way for new smart meter customers to dispute their bills, or will customers have to Twitter-shame them every time they’re wrong?
  • Who gets usage information? Does the law prohibit utilities from selling the information to third parties? Does law enforcement need a warrant to get it? How will utilities try to prevent hacking and improper use of the information by third parties?
  • How much of a discount will homeowners get for nighttime electricity use? The appropriate amount will vary depending on where you live and how your utility gets its power, but the discount should be substantial – a real long-term saving if you schedule big electricity usage for off-peak hours. If the utility doesn’t have time-of-day pricing, why not?
  • How will these meters work with self-generated electricity? I’ve warned before that utilities are starting to feel a big challenge from solar power and they’re changing how they bill consumers to discourage further solar development.

With smart meters, utilities should pay daytime rates for the power they buy from solar homes, but only charge nighttime rates when the home is taking power off of the grid.

If you get proper answers to these questions, you should welcome smart meters. You’ll probably save some money and you’ll help lower the amount of resources dedicated to electricity generation.

If you don’t get satisfactory answers, then it’s fair to ask what the utility is hiding and what’s actually in it for you.

How Much Was Your Power Bill?

by Brent Sauser

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I know this will sound like bragging, but we paid $11.08 for our electric bill last month.   That’s right . . . . $11.08!  Our total billable power consumption was only 5kWh.  The cost for that power was only 55 cents, but then you add the mandatory taxes and net meter hook-up fees and you get to $11.08.  Can’t get much lower than that per month while still being connected to the power grid.  Hey . . . I’ll take it. 

As we are moving into the fall and winter seasons the sun is at a lower angle in the sky and the days are shorter, which means less time for direct sunlight on the solar panels.  My daily records show fewer kWhs per day than in the summer months, which is understandable.  However, in like manner our overall power consumption is reduced by cooler temperatures.  Less A/C time means lower power consumption.  So, even though the sun is at a lower angle  and there is less of it,  power consumption has decreased as well. 

We are using Enphase micro-inverters that enable us to monitor each solar panel individually.  We are only into month #4 in the Net Zero process and look forward to see how our energy consumption balances with our energy consumption during the cooler months of the year. 

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Habitat for Humanity Goes Solar!

by Brent Sauser

I had the honor of working with the Orlando chapter of Habitat for Humanity from 2008 thru 2013.  They are a great organization that not only lefts up individuals and families, but local communities. The services they provide are deeply rooted in their love for those who need help with getting into a home of their own.  Habitat depends on donations and volunteers to keep the costs down and help enable the worthy needy to afford a modest home of their own and feel the satisfaction of home ownership.  Habitat has recently decided to go solar in an effort to save more money by producing their own energy for one of their ReStores.  I invite you to watch the video (below) for more information.

Which State Is the Most Energy Efficient?

by Kasey Panetta (Editor of ECN)

October 23, 2015

Energy efficiency is a hot button issue in the United States, and every year the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) releases a survey of all 50 states (plus D.C. and three territories) ranking them in order from most efficient to least efficient. Considering savings from 2014 the electricity efficiency programs totaled about 25.7 million MWh, this survey highlights what states are succeeding and which states aren’t keeping up.

The states are all ranked on a 50-point scale. They’re awarded points across six major policy areas: utility-sector energy efficiency, building energy codes, transportation efficiency, state-led initiatives, combined heat and power and appliance and equipment standards. They also take a look at which states have showcased the most improvement over the past year. This year, states can add points for areas like energy savings–up to six points for electricity savings and three for natural gas–and they also increased the importance of transportation when it comes to efficiency. States could earn a total of 10 points for their transportation category. Most importantly, the survey looks at how policies are shaping efficiency since good policies means good changes.

The scorecards break all the aspect of the point-system down on a state-by-state basis. It looks at things like if emergency vehicles are electric, the adoption and enforcement of building codes, or emissions programs.

So what state is the most efficient? This year the honor goes to Massachusetts followed by California, Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, New York and a 10th place tie between Minnesota and Illinois.

Like middle school, the ACEEE also gives awards for most improved: California, Maryland, Illinois, Washington D.C., and Texas. All of these states enacted efficiency-friendly policies like California’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases, Illinois and Texas adopted the newest building energy codes, and D.C. got props for it’s Sustainable Energy Utility Program.

The lowest ranking states have a lot of work to do. In last place is North Dakota, preceded by Wyoming, South Dakota, Louisiana and Mississippi. New Mexico dropped the farthest from last year’s rankings because it failed to adopt building energy requirements past the 2009 standards. In viewing the scorecards, many of the states that struggle are merely maintaining their energy efficiency. They’re being outpaced by states that are actively working to improve and implement better plans.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

State Ranking Energy Efficiency 2015

SAUSER HOME GOES SOLAR!

By Brent Sauser

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After three years of preparation the Sauser home has finally taken the “leap” and installed a 7.54 kW roof-top solar array. Because our 22 year old, east facing home is not oriented to the south, we ended up placing solar panels on the east, south, and west roofs. We are on track to produce close to 700 kWh of electricity this month. By the way, our electrical consumption last month was only 564 kWh. A year from now we hope to report that we are a Net Zero home.

We decided to go with:IMG_1259

  • (29) 260W Axitec polycrystalline solar panels (2 on east roof, 10 on south roof, and 17 on west roof).
  • (29) Enphase M215 micro inverters (for maximum flexibility in solar panel orientation, maximum potential for energy production, and best tracking and reporting software).

3 Guys SolarOur system was installed by a local solar installer with a long and impressive resume of solar installations . . . 3 Guys Solar. I highly recommend 3 Guys Solar to all those living in the Central Florida region. They can be reached at: http://www.3guyssolar.com, or at (407) 865-9338. Ask for Andy or David and drop my name. They will be happy to help you design and install the right solar array for you . . . from start to finish. They were able to install our complete system in one, very hot day.

DSCN4989If you are thinking about going solar and taking advantage of the 30% Federal Tax Rebate (that expires at the end of 2016) I suggest you follow the Sauser plan for preparation. Remember, a solar installation should be the LAST thing you consider AFTER doing as many energy conserving things beforehand. Three years ago our electrical consumption was over 2020 kWh per month. Since then we:

  • Replaced our aging asphalt shingle roof with an Energy Star rated roof system.
  • Added daylighting with a Solatube for our living room.
  • Installed a solar powered attic exhaust fan.
  • Replaced all incandescent bulbs and CFLs with LED bulbs
  • Installed a NEST thermostat and raised the temperature to 80 degrees during the day and 79 degrees at night. Turned off the thermostat (A/C) when the house was empty.
  • Replaced our old, energy-hog water heater with a GE GeoSpring hybrid water heater. I have adjusted the setting to “Heat Pump”, which is the most energy efficient setting.

IMG_1262Each one of these energy saving decisions has served to reduce our overall electrical consumption to be where we are today, that is, 564 kWh consumed on the hottest month of the year! The solar array required to support a 564 kWh usage will be much smaller than the one needed to support a 2020 kWh consumption rate.

IMG_1267My wife and I couldn’t be any happier with our decision to go solar. We are excited to see what the next 12 months will bring in energy production and see if we achieved Net Zero or not. There is something about being sustainable that gives a feeling of peace and security. Now is great time find out for yourself before the 30% Federal Tax Rebate runs out. Remember, to be eligible for the rebate your solar array must be totally functional. Plan on a minimum of three to four months for that to happen.

Obama’s Recent Renewable Energy Push . . . Too Ambitious?

by Brent Sauser

The Obama administration recently announced its intention to accelerate their efforts to reduce CO2 and Greenhouse gas emissions by severely restricting coal production in the USA.  The objective is to clear the way for greater use of renewable energy on a larger scale.  This will result in higher electric energy bills in areas where coal is a substantial supplier for energy production.  The Obama administration has stated that the more rapid transition to renewable energy will NOT be without sacrifice in the form of higher power bills to finance the transition.  OUCH!

In a personal effort to reduce the “pain” of this transition the Sauser household is installing a 7.5 kW roof top solar array.  Our calculations have determined  (at least on paper) that we should be able to generate as much (or more) energy on site than we consume over the course of a year.  We will be Net Zero.  Being Net Zero will insulate us from whatever cost impacts this recent Obama declaration will create.  In other words, we will be on the positive side of this transition  . . . saving energy and saving money in the process.  I invite you to do the same for your home.   Remember, there is a 30% tax rebate until the end of 2016.  Time is running out.

PV Solar Is a Bargain

by Brent Sauser

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Biting the bullet to go solar can be a big decision.  Not too many people have that kind of money to invest all at once.  Yet, today there are numerous ways to finance a PV solar system if you are lacking the total funds up front. 

Once that investment has been paid you can enjoy the benefit of your own private power plant for the next 25 to 30 years  . . . . without any additional costs.  Meanwhile, your power utility continues to raise your electrical rates on a regular basis.  Over the course of 20 years it is conceivable that you will pay up to twice as much for utility power versus having your own PV solar array.  

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The Sauser household is in the process of having a 7.5kW roof top solar array installed.  We have managed to reduce our monthly kWh consumption to be covered by a 7.5kW PV system.  We should be able to generate enough power to satisfy our monthly electrical needs.  On paper, we believe we can achieve Net Zero in our humble 3-bedroom home.  The future of Net Zero is in the ability to retrofit existing homes to come as close to Net Zero as possible.  The transition of our home to Net Zero will serve as the primary case study for my next book:  Retrofit to Net Zero. 

SAVE ENERGY, SAVE MONEY 101-1

by Brent Sauser

July 2015 marks the three year anniversary for NetZeroMax.com.  In that time we have achieved close to 2.4 million site “hits” and over 15,000 subscribers.  Over 225 NetZeroMax articles reside throughout the internet covering the Money clip art 4full range of renewable energy subjects.  Our singular focus has been the promotion of renewable products, systems, and methods that not only benefit the community and environment, but saves you moneySAVING ENERGY SAVES MONEY!

Since July 2012 my wife and I have prepared a plan to retrofit our humble, 3-bedroom, Orlando, Florida home to come as close to Net Zero as possible.  Our wood framed home was built in 1992 when energy conservation was not a priority.  We moved into the house in March of 2004, three months BEFORE hurricane Charley (but that’s another story!).  We have added:

  • Energy Star Roof (asphalt shingle)
  • SEER 14 Heat Pump
  • LED and CFL lighting
  • Daylighting (Solatube in living room)
  • Energy Star appliances and devices
  • Solar powered attic exhaust fan
  •  NEST thermostat
  • GE GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater

Take a close look at this comparison of power usage from our most recent power bill to this time last year: 

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To summarize:   From the billing period of July 9, 2015 as compared to July 9, 2014 we have the following results:

  •  Reduction of 16 kWh per day
  •  Savings of $2.12 per day
  •  469 Less kWh used
  •  Total kWh consumed= 846 versus 1,315 kWh same time last year
  •  Total savings = $73.69

clipart 23We attribute our increased savings to the recently installed NEST thermostat (June 9, 2015) and the GE GeoSpring Hybrid water heater (July 2, 2015).  Our overall goal is to consume less than 900 kWh per month.  We are in the process of having a 7.5 kW solar array installed on our roof.  We hope to generate more than 900 kWh of power per month (which remains to be seen).  However, if so, we can achieve Net Zero in this typical suburban three-bedroom tract home.   Isn’t this worth checking out for yourself?

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I will continue to track our energy savings and report our solar renewable power generation from time to time.  Suffice it to say . . . . Saving energy is saving us money and in the times we are living every penny counts! 

New GE GeoSpring Hybrid Installed at Sauser Home

by Brent Sauser

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A couple weeks ago the Sauser household “bit the bullet” and installed a 50 gallon GE GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater.  Our 17 year old standard water heater was way past due for replacement and costing us too much per month in electricity.  We estimated $35 of our monthly power bill went to inefficiently heating the water.  We researched solar water heaters and the TruTankless electric water heater, but in the end the GeoSpring Hybrid won the day.  Why, you might ask?  Good question!

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Our decision is based on our specific needs.  We are only two people in a humble 3-bedroom home in Central Florida, and only use hot water for showers and the dishwasher. We wash our clothes in cold water . . . and so should you.  The solar water heater is a great solution but is set up for a much larger load.  It requires an 80 gallon tank that wouldn’t fit in the space provided.  As much as I hoped to install a TruTankless water heater, in the end I simply didn’t have 120 extra amps in my electrical service (at the panel) to power the system.

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The GE GeoSpring turned out to be a great fit for our needs.  It claims to cut a water heating bill in half.  I will track that and let you know.  The heat pump (on top of the unit) is louder than expected, but since it is located in the same room with the air handler and washer/dryer, I consider it just another frequency of white noise.  We set our water heater to 120 F and are quite satisfied with its performance.  There are several settings to choose from.  GE recommends using the “Hybrid” mode that heats the water using a combination of the heat pump and internal electric heating element.  I, on the other hand, prefer using the most cost effective setting of “Heat Pump”, which relies only on the heat pump to recharge the hot water.  It takes longer, but uses less energy and has an added benefit.  The heat pump discharges cold air as a result of using incoming warmer air to heat the coils.  That cold air is as cold as an air conditioner and cools the surrounding space.  If you can handle the noise, the cool air will be a welcomed way to reduce your cooling needs.

If you are interested in saving money on your power bill and need to replace your old water heater anyway, I invite you to check into the GE GeoSpring Hybrid water heater.  We are very glad we did and look forward to the 30% Federal Tax Rebate!

CLICK HERE for more information regarding the GE GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater.

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Garbett Homes Partnership with Energy Department Brings Zero Energy Ready Homes Within Reach

Salt Lake City, Utah (PRWEB) June 18, 2015

Community of Homes Designed, Engineered and Constructed for Extraordinary Levels of Excellence; Ranks in Top 1 Percent of Homes in the Nation for Quality and Energy Efficiency Specified by U.S. Department of Energy Guidelines

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Garbett Homes, a Department of Energy (DOE) Housing Innovation Award winner, announced their commitment to certify all 15 single-family homes in the new community of Treseder at Little Cottonwood as DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes. According to DOE, Zero Energy Ready Homes are the homes of the future because they meet or exceed next generation energy codes and include substantial innovations and best practices recommended by leading housing experts working with the DOE Building America program. Homebuyers can buy these visionary homes today, including Treseder, which is available for sale now with the model home opening on August 1, 2015. By meeting or exceeding DOE requirements, these homes will effectively be in the top 1 percent of homes in the nation for outstanding levels of energy savings, comfort, health and durability.

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From solar panels to increased insulation, new homes in Salt Lake City by Garbett contain the latest in energy efficient building practices. DOE Zero Energy Ready Homes are verified by a qualified third-party and are at least 40-50 percent more energy efficient than a typical new home. This generally corresponds to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index Score in the low- to mid-50s, depending on the size of the home and region in which it is built. The homes in this community are expected to achieve a HERS Index Score of 50, meaning the home is nearly 50 percent more energy-efficient than an average new home in Utah and as much as 70 percent or more energy-efficient than the average existing home. The annual energy cost of this home is $1,186 dollars less than a house built to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code.

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Samuel Rashkin, Chief Architect for DOE Building Technologies Office said, “Zero Energy Ready Homes like Garbett’s live, work, and last better with incredibly low or no energy costs. And what’s exciting for American homebuyers, this better homeowner experience is available today thanks to leading builders across the country.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire article.

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The Self Learning NEST Thermostat Comes to the Sauser Home!

by Brent Sauser

They say some birthdays are better than others.  If that’s so, than today is my most awesome birthday ever!  My one and only gift was the NEST self learning thermostat.  I can’t really say I was surprised because I put a “bug” in my children’s ears just in case they hadn’t thought of anything yet. Considering the $249 price tag I told them it could also count for Father’s Day too.  To say the least I am overjoyed to be able to install this 21st Century, energy saving device in my home.

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I have been keeping an eye on the NEST for a few years and was hoping that my heat pump AC system would, some day, be compatible with the NEST.  The first generation NEST left me on the outside looking in, but the second generation NEST was upgraded to include my type of heat pump AC system.  It was very easy for me to verify that by checking the existing colored wires against the online chart.  After checking all the wires the NEST website will tell you if your system is compatible and provide a diagram showing exactly where the wires connect to the NEST back plate. 

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It only took 21 minutes to hook-up and another 10 minutes to program (set-up) the NEST to my specific location.  It was that easy.  And . . . having the added bonus of being able to control the NEST from my smart phone anywhere I might be is a definite PLUS.  I invite you to check out the NEST for your home.  Yes, it’s expensive, but it will provide energy savings as it learns your habits.  Cooling expenses in Florida represent the biggest bite to our energy consumption.  Anything we can do to reduce that consumption means more money in our pocket.  The NEST will pay for itself in short order. 

Without doubt, this has been a great birthday!

NetZeroMax.com Passes 2 Million Site “HITS”! WOW!

by Brent Sauser

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July of 2012 seems a long time ago.  Back then NetZeroMax.com launched somewhere behind the distant moon of Triton, with very little interest or website attention.  But, sure as the rising sun, each new article brought a few more interested people and subscribers.  It took close to 18 months to achieve our first 1,000 subscribers.  Today we are grateful to the over 14,500 subscribers who keep coming back to read from the over 200 “green” articles on the website.  NetZeroMax.com now appears throughout the internet by links and cross-links, and can be found listed under numerous sustainable design and energy saving topics.

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Eclipsing 2,000,000 site “HITS” is no small accomplishment and we are very thankful for those who found NetZeroMax.com and keep coming back for more interesting Net Zero information.  Our website is no longer hiding behind some distant moon, but in clear site for so many to see and enjoy.  Perhaps, most importantly, those who visit will continue to learn about how easy it is to take Save Energy 1affordable steps toward becoming Net Zero themselves.  I’m pleased to report that we have managed to lower our power bill by $50 per month, and are taking steps to improve upon that by adding a TruTankless electric water heater this summer, and a 7kW roof top solar array in April of 2016.  Saving energy saves money! 

There is so much more to do before the 30% Federal Tax Rebates end at the conclusion of 2016!  We must make plans NOW to assure that when the door closes we are NOT on the outside looking in . . . and paying higher energy prices to offset those who took advantage of the rebate.  Time is running out. 

Let’s get going!

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WHY GO SOLAR?

By Brent Sauser

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Not only is solar power totally sustainable and environmentally friendly . . . . it puts money back in your pocket! In fact, going solar provides a greater rate of return on investment (on average) than the stock market. It’s time we understand the simple truth:

                     SAVING ENERGY SAVES YOU MONEY!

 We only have 20 more months to take advantage of the 30% Federal rebate program for solar installations. The time to decide to go solar is NOW! The following video helps to explain the benefits of going solar in greater detail.

Philips’ newest LED: a five-buck bulb

c/net.com (April 21, 2015)

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It’s only been a few years since LED light bulbs sold for thirty bucks a piece or more, but — thankfully — prices have since fallen steadily. These days, you’ll find plenty of strong options that cost $10 or less, but Philips is pushing things a step further, with a new 60W equivalent LED that’ll retail for less than $5.

At that price, Philips’ new bulb is already the least expensive big-brand LED we’ve seen, but to further sweeten the deal, the Dutch manufacturer is offering two bulbs for the price of one at Home Depot for the first ninety days of its shelf life. That brings the cost per bulb down to something less than you’d pay for a morning latte — and makes outfitting a whole home’s worth of bulbs seem a lot more feasible.

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 The new 60W equivalent draws 8.5 watts and puts out a stated 800 lumens, putting it right on par with other, comparable LEDs in terms of brightness, and making it slightly more efficient than many of its competitors. Philips rates the bulb with a 10-year lifespan — notably shorter than most other LEDs, which will typically promise to last well over twenty years.

Still, the aim here is more focused on upfront appeal, and on getting LED skeptics and incandescent hold-outs to give the bulb a chance. It’s a very similar approach to what Cree’s doing, especially the Cree 4Flow LED, which costs $8. Both bulbs eschew heat-sink-centric LED design in favor of inexpensive, plastic-bodied builds that mimic the look of incandescents. They’ll fight it out side by side on Home Depot shelves.

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The Science of Net Zero Construction

By Brent Sauser

The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) has completed their Net Zero experimental home in Maryland. The Net Zero data illustrates a building that is not only zero net energy but reaps a surplus of power over the course of a year. The attached video demonstrates its energy efficiency and energy savings. The home is aesthetically conventional and aside from the solar panels on the roof, does not look much different from other homes in the general vicinity. However, the big difference is this home saves over $4,200 a year in energy bills. Isn’t it time we all take a closer look at crossing over the “line” from wasteful 20th Century construction methods and embrace a 21st Century, Net Zero approach to construction. Costs have come down significantly to no longer point the finger at budget busting GREEN systems. It is affordable and doable. The “line” is in view. Let’s cross over it together!

Green Key Village – Net Zero Community – Update

by Brent Sauser

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It’s been fifteen months since the launch of Green Key Village – a Net Zero residential community of single family homes, located near the Villages in Central Florida.  I thought it would be a good idea to return to the development to assess its progress.  Admittedly, it was a glorious winter day in Florida that cried out, “ROAD TRIP”, so Geri and I decided to make the hour long journey to the development.

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When we arrived I was pleased to see more Net Zero homes constructed.  We spent the better part of the the afternoon talking with Matthew (Green Key Village sales rep) regarding Net Zero design, original expectations versus current status, and potential ways to increase public awareness to the benefits of building Net Zero.

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As of today only four phase one lots have been sold, which is far below original expectations.  Inside the sales office I noticed that Green Key Village had taken the time to conduct energy audits for each model constructed.  The results of each audit was indicated on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) created by the DOE.  A rating of 100 is considered industry standard based on current building codes.  Anything lower than a 100 rating is considered BETTER than industry standard (good thing), and any score higher than a 100 rating is considered LESS ENERGY EFFICIENT than industry standards (bad thing).  In each audit (except two) the Green Key Village homes rated BELOW ZERO . . . . . . over 100 points BETTER than industry standard.  Of the two homes that rated above zero, one rated at “2” and the other “7”.  Matthew said that an investigation is underway to make the necessary modifications to assure these two models score below zero in the future. Green Key Village is dedicated to providing an Net Zero product.

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It may be a combination of factors that have contributed to only four homes sold in the last 15 months.  Remote location, proximity to the Villages (retirement community), price (they are a little pricey), style (Key West architecture), or the perceived “trendiness” of building Net Zero.  Perhaps the public isn’t aware of how beneficial it is to live in a Net Zero home.  I suggested that they might consider conducting Net Zero seminars to the residents of the Villages and other nearby locations.  The public needs to be made aware that Green Key Village represents where the future is going.   It is the new “mainstream”.  The wasteful construction practices of the 20th Century are still occurring around us only because the public doesn’t know any better . . . and the current codes still allow it, to some degree.  Green Key Village has boldly taken a giant leap forward setting the bar high for the rest of us to follow.  Who wouldn’t get excited about saving $150 per/month (on average) for the life of their home?  Over 20 years that amounts to $36,000 right back in the owners pocket!   That’s what Green Key Village has to offer.  If you are in the area, why not take a couple hours and check out Green Key Village for yourselves.  It makes for a great Saturday afternoon drive! 

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 CLICK HERE to read my original article on Green Key Village.

Truly smart meters will speak a language that people understand ($$$)

by Michael Graham Richard (January 29, 2015 – TreeHugger.com)

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A few years ago, smart meters and the smart grid were hot ideas in the media. Even the president of the United States extolled their virtues in a 2009 speech, saying that they would help average people save energy and cut their utility bills. While the number of smart meters installed since then has mushroomed:

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With 50 million US homes now having one, about 43% of the total number of households, the expected changes in behavior and energy savings haven’t quite yet blown anyone away. That’s probably in good part because having a smart meter on the side of your house and getting a slightly more detailed bill isn’t enough to make people change their habits.

The random person on the street probably only have a vague idea of what a kWh is, and most people seem to think that they don’t have too much impact on their energy consumption; you just get a bill periodically, pay it, and that’s the extent of your thinking about electricity.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Smart meters are a foundational block to get us to the next level, but they are not sufficient in themselves. What we need is a system that speaks a language that the average person can understand, and convey the information in such a way that energy isn’t just an afterthought.

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The first thing to do is to translate less intuitive figures like kWh into how much money the electricity use is actually costing you. Above you can see some examples of readouts from the Rainforest Automation energy monitoring unit (pictured at the top of this post).

The second thing is to make the feedback real-time. If you clearly see on a monitor in your living room that you’re spending X number of dollars per hour right now, and then turn off a few lights and lower the A/C and see that number drop, you get powerful feedback that immediately rewards you and encourages you to pick up good habits. This doesn’t happen when you only get a bill weeks later.

It’s a phenomenon that was quite common with early hybrid cars. Drivers for the first time had a big screen showing them their real-time MPG, historical data in easy-to-understand graphs, etc. This feature alone probably saved a lot of gas just by teaching drivers how to be more fuel efficient. The hybrid drivetrain was just an added bonus, which led me to believe that prominent fuel economy feedback should be in all cars.

Part of the reason why it works is that it’s fun. Call if “gamification” if you want, but to many people it’s satisfying to try to do better than you’ve done in the past and optimize your fuel economy or energy use, as long as there’s an easy way to see how you’re doing (doing it blind isn’t nearly as fun).

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A way to push this even further is to have people prepay for their energy (just like they pay for their fuel before driving off, rather than being invoice later). You then see the amount of money in your account drop as you use energy, until you get an automated reminder that you need to top up your account. This approach has been tried in the Phoenix region and in parts of Texas, and results are very promising: “A 2010 study on M-Power found not only that consumers loved it, but that it saved them 12 percent on energy bills, on average.”

So our meters aren’t quite smart yet, but we know how to get there.

Let’s get moving.

CLICK HERE to read the original article.

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Salt Lake City Studies Net Metering for Solar Energy

By Amy Jol O’Donoghue (KSL.com – January 19, 2015)

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The Public Service Commission is going to launch a study to determine a full range of costs and benefits if Rocky Mountain Power were to charge a net metering fee for residents who are also plugged into rooftop solar systems.

Before it embarks on that study, the utility company, solar power advocates and a host of others get to weigh in on what types of costs and benefits are examined as part of that analysis.

In a meeting Monday at the Public Service Commission offices, groups such as Utah Clean Energy, Utah Citizens Advocating Renewable Energy, the utility company and Utah Office of Consumer Services mapped out of tentative schedule for the process that will unfold before the commission in the coming months.

“We really want to have a robust and transparent analysis that fully evaluates all the benefits that solar brings to Utah, as well as the costs,” said Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy.

At issue is an order issued in late August by the commission that rejected an initial attempt by PacifiCorp to charge an extra monthly fee of $4.65 a month to solar customers for what the utility company said was to help cover its fixed costs of delivering energy to households.

Critics of the controversial proposal called it a “sun tax” and asserted it would discourage the transition to clean energy.

In its ruling rejecting the fee, the commission said it could not justify the fee without further analysis, directing instead that a “better course” would be for the utility company and other parties to gather and analyze information on the fee and present those results and recommendations in future hearings.

Net metering allows electricity customers who wish to supply their own electricity from the grid from on-site generation to pay for only the “net” energy they obtain from the utility.

Alternatively, if the customer’s system generates excess electricity, it is exported to the grid. The customer then gets a credit for those kilowatt hours of generated electricity — much like rollover minutes accumulate on a cellphone bill that can be used to cushion averages in the future.

The fee would have impacted 2,500 households in Utah.

Solar advocates want any decision on an imposition of a net metering fee to take into account the “offsets” that come when residential households are plugged into renewable energy that is absent of carbon emissions and the corresponding health impacts, as well as other considerations.

Conversely, the utility company wants to make sure its costs of still having to have infrastructure in place such as substations and lines are appropriately part of the analysis, as well as what shifted costs might be to non-solar customers.

PacifiCorp is already engaged in a “load study” in which energy consumption and output is being examined for 62 solar sites.

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Initiative could dramatically increase solar power production in Florida

by Mike Salinero – The Tampa Tribune (Updated – January 18, 2015)

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Florida may be known as the Sunshine State, but you wouldn’t know it from the state’s ranking at No. 13 for solar energy production.

Proponents of the so-called Solar Choice ballot initiative say they can reverse this by challenging the control major utility companies hold over electricity sales in Florida. The initiative, if passed as an amendment to the state Constitution, would supersede a state law allowing only investor-owned utilities to sell electricity.

“It’s the first glimmer of hope for the widespread use of solar power and it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime,” said Scott McIntyre, chief executive officer of Solar Energy Management, based in Tampa and St. Petersburg, and president of the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy. “It’s going to kick off the solar industry in the state of Florida.”

An unlikely coalition of conservatives, liberals, environmentalists and business people are pushing the initiative, which needs 680,000 petition signatures to get on the November 2016 ballot.

McIntyre, a Republican, said the initiative will promote free markets, a conservative principle. Once anyone can sell electricity, he said, it will spur the sale of solar-powered systems, eventually lowering the cost of solar- and utility-produced electricity.

Here’s how it would work: A homeowner who wants to install solar, but can’t afford the up-front costs, can instead “buy” the electricity produced by the solar arrays from the company that installed them. Proponents say the electricity will be cheaper than power from the utility company. Once the solar panels are paid off, the resident owns the power source, ensuring low utility bills for a decade or more.

“You’re actually paying less at the end of the month and you’re getting solar service over the longer term,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “That solar system is providing you clean power, and your bill is going to be stable from then on.”

For environmental groups, the initiative is another way to incrementally reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas produced by combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. Electric power plants powered by these fossil fuels are the largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Frank Jackalone, Florida staff director for the Sierra Club, said the environmental group hasn’t taken an official position on the ballot initiative and won’t until the club’s executives can review the ballot language. But Jackalone, who is based in St. Petersburg, said he supports Solar Choice in principle because the initiative will benefit consumers and the environment.

“This is going to make a lot of people and businesses energy-independent,” Jackalone said. “And it’s going to move us away from those dirty fossil fuel plants.”

Members of Floridians for Solar Choice say they’re ready for an expensive fight against well-funded utility companies with political clout. The group is buoyed by internal polls showing that more than 70 percent of Floridians support the concept of third-party solar energy sales.

“It’s a David and Goliath battle, but (the initiative) is enormously popular,” Smith said. “The utilities are going to have to spend a bunch of money to convince people that they don’t want it.”

But getting the required 60 percent of the vote necessary to amend the state Constitution is a high bar, particularly on an issue that doesn’t yet motivate voters.

That bar was too high in the November General Election for the medical marijuana initiative, which failed with more than 57 percent of the vote. Solar Choice proponents are hoping for an outcome closer to the 75 percent who approved the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, providing a dedicated source of revenue for land and water conservation.

Spokesmen for the three major utilities that serve the Tampa Bay area would not say where they stand on the solar measure.

“We continue to review the language and have not made a decision how we may support the proposed language,” Duke Energy spokesman Sterling Ivey said in an email. “But key components for us are that any state energy policy is fair and beneficial for all customers.”

TECO Energy spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs, also via email, said the initiative is “likely the first of many energy proposals that will emerge over the next few months.”

“TECO Energy will evaluate the proposals and support the ones that are fair and beneficial to all customers,” Jacobs said.

A spokeswoman for Florida Power & Light Co. declined comment.

If the utilities oppose the initiative, proponents are likely to point to the industry’s missteps and public concern over their influence.

The concern dates to 2006, when the Legislature passed a law allowing utilities to collect money up-front for nuclear power projects. Progress Energy used the law to start collecting the costs of a repair job on the Crystal River nuclear plant and for the startup costs on a new plant in Levy County.

The repair job was botched, Duke Energy bought Progress Energy in July 2012, and the following February the Crystal River Plant was closed.

Later in 2013, Duke Energy announced it was abandoning the Levy County plant due to changes in the energy market.

Fallout from the two failed nuclear plants became an issue in the 2014 governor and cabinet races. The Public Service Commission made Duke Energy return $54 million collected for the Levy County plant.

But soon after, the commission cut energy-efficiency targets for the utilities by 90 percent and scrapped the state’s solar rebate program. Both actions were at the request of the power companies.

“It’s just one thing after another,” said Smith, with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “The utility monopolies are not accountable, and they only have their shareholders in mind.”

Floridians for Solar Choice, on the Web at fl solarchoice.org, has to collect petition signatures in two phases.

First, it needs 68,000 signatures to have the initiative language reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court.

If the court approves, the group has to collect another 612,000 signatures by Feb. 1, 2016, to put the initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot that year.

CLICK HERE to read the actual article.

Price of Electricity Hit Record High in U.S. in 2014

by Terence P. Jeffrey (CNSNEWS.COM) January 16, 2015

Even as gasoline prices plummeted and the overall energy price index calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics declined, electricity prices bucked the trend in the United States in 2014.

Data released today by the BLS indicates that the electricity price indexes hit all-time highs for the month of December and for the year. 2014 was the most-expensive year ever for electricity in the United States.

The annual price index for electricity, published by BLS today, was 208.020. That was up from 200.750 in 2013.

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The seasonally adjusted electricity price index for the month of December was 210.151, according to the BLS. That sets an all-time record for the seasonally adjusted monthly electricity price index. The previous high was 209.341 in March of this year. In December 2013, the seasonally adjusted electricity price index was 203.740.

The average price for a kilowatt hour of electricity in the United States was 13.5 cents in December. That is the highest average price for KWH of electricity in the month of December since the BLS started recording the December monthly price for a KWH in 1978. In December 2013, the average price for a KWH was 13.1 cents.

The average price for a KWH of electricity tends to hit its annual peak in the summer months, decline in the fall, hit its nadir in the winter and rise in the spring. In 2014, the average price for a KWH hit a record high for that particular month in each month of the year. In June, July and August of this year the average price of a KWH hit 14.3 cents—its all-time high for any months on record.

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By contrast, the overall Consumer Price Index declined by 0.4 percent in December with particular help from the decline in the price of gasoline.

“The gasoline index continued to fall sharply, declining 9.4 percent and leading to the decrease in the seasonally adjusted all items index,” said the BLS in its press release on the CPI. “The fuel oil index also fell sharply, and the energy index posted its largest one-month decline since December 2008, although the indexes for natural gas and for electricity both increased.”

The BLS’s price indexes measure relative change in prices against a baseline of 100. The annual electricity price index exceeded 100 between 1983 and 1984, when it rose from 98.9 to 105.3. In the past two decades, the price of electricity in the United States has roughly doubled.

Rising electricity prices have not always been the norm in the United States. In 1913, the BLS annual electricity price index was 45.5. By 1946, it had dropped to 26.6. In 1974, it was still only 44.1—less than it had been six decades before in 1913.

The net production of electricity in the United States peaked in 2007, according to data published by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. That year, the United States generated 4,156,745 million KWH of electricity.

In 2013, that latest full year on record, the United States generated 4,058,209 million KWH of electricity—or about 2.4 percent less electricity than in 2007

The latest data from the Energy Information Administration, published in December, includes electricity generation numbers through the first nine months (January through September) of 2014. In those nine months of 2014, more electricity was generated (3,117,501 million KWH) than in the first nine months of 2013 (3,077,418 million KWH) or 2012 (3,095,504 million KWH), but less than in the first nine months of 2007 (3,166,614 million KWH).

The composition of the sources of electricity generation also changed between 2007–when the nation produced its peak volume of electricity–and 2014.

In the first nine months of 2007, the U.S. produced more electricity with coal (1,523,714 million KWH) than in the first nine months of 2014 (1,231,795 million KWH).

The U.S. also produced more electricity in the first nine months of 2007 with nuclear power (607,846 million KWH) and petroleum (53,802 million KWH) than it did in the first nine months of 2014, when it produced 596,174 million KWH and 24,953 million KWH from those source respectively.

By contrast the U.S. produced more electricity in the first nine months of 2014 than it did in the first nine months of 2007 by means of natural gas (844,743 million KWH to 688,035 million KWH), conventional hydroelectric (200,614 million KWH to 199,261 million KWH), wood (31,668 million KWH to 28,729 million KWH), waste (14,499 million KWH to 12,723 million KWH), geothermal power (12,170 million KWH to 10,967 million KWH), solar (14,271 million  KWH to 532 million KWH), and wind (133,495 million KWH to 23,522 million KWH).

In the first nine months of 2014, solar power equaled about 0.46 percent of total electricity generation. Wind power equaled about 4.3 percent of total electricity production.

CLICK HERE to read the actual article. 

Another Year of More of the Same!

by Brent Sauser

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As 2014 comes to a close and with 2015 waiting in the wings, I find myself asking the question . . . is the transition to Net Zero making measurable progress?  I’d like to think so.  I am aware of several new developments all over the country that feature renewable energy systems.  I am aware of retail’s recent venture into Net Zero design (refer to Walgreen’s Evanston, Illinois store) as well as many more examples of Net Zero office and institutional construction.

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However, as enthusiastic as I am about the movement to Net Zero I am occasionally reminded of the relentless reluctance of developers to make this inevitable transition. Such has been my experience while visiting my daughter’s family in Utah for the holidays.  I love visiting Utah for many reasons.  Being with family for the holidays ranks high in the why I enjoy a visit to the greater Salt Lake Valley.  It’s been 18 months since our last visit and it’s amazing how much new construction has sprung up.  My daughter lives in a bedroom community where all construction is under 10 years old and where new sub-divisions of single family homes, condos, and townhomes are springing up everywhere.  NONE OF THE NEW CONSTRUCTION IS NET ZERO!  NOT ONE!

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Utah families like square footage and a lot of it.  Many homes feature full basements with two stories above. 3,000 to 4,000sf homes are more the rule than the exception requiring additional heating and cooling for the excessive volume of space.  Prospective buyers purchase these energy hogs thinking they are buying the most current construction  . . . because it is new.  Instead, what they end up getting is construction that meets the minimum standards under the current building codes.  They are buying more of the same that adds to the utility grid burden and forces the buyer into considering energy saving renovations in the near future that SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED IN THE ORIGINAL CONSTRUCTION.  Now the owner is faced with the challenge of how to retrofit Net Zero features into construction that was never intended to be Net Zero.  The developer walks away with the money and the owner is left with the burden of fixing what the developer should have provided.

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Whether done because of defiance, ignorance, or indifference there is no longer ANY reasonable reason to NOT build Net Zero.  Costs have come down substantially to result in a net impact of an additional 10% on traditional construction methods.  Architects may need to be more attentive to passive design features and minimizing square footage and volume as much as possible, but the age of Net Zero construction is dawning just as 2014 makes way for 2015.  When it comes to Net Zero . . . size matters!  Net Zero is not a trend or a fad.  It is Here and Now!  We need to demand Net Zero construction and not settle for convenient, outdated 20th century solutions.  Denial is not a construction method and will not get us closer to cost saving, renewable energy solutions! Hopefully, Utah will make the transition to Net Zero soon.  Because, whether voluntarily or kicking and screaming,  Net Zero is the new mainstream . . . the direction construction is going as sure as the dawning of a new year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar Energy In Utah

By KSL Local (October 9, 2014)

clipart 16Solar energy is a resource with many benefits. It’s sustainable for energy consumption and continuously renewable. Not only can solar power be used to generate electricity, it can also be used to heat water. You may have already known these tidbits of information, but here are five additional facts that may surprise you about electricity and solar energy in Utah.

Utah’s residential electricity is expensive

If you were to research energy costs by state, Utah would appear to be one of the cheapest states. While this may be true in general, there is a big variance Money clip art 4between commercial and residential cost per kilowatt hour. Residential rates average between 9 – 12 cents per kilowatt hour for the average home, and even more for larger homes. Summer costs can get even more expensive, with even higher rates charged to those who use over 1,000 kilowatt hours per month. Kelly Curtis, Director of Operations at Solaroo Energy, a Utah based solar energy supplier, touched briefly on how the costs of residential electricity can add up quickly.

“When it comes to commercial energy, the general rates for an average business are at three to four cents per kilowatt hour. Although that may be cheap, compare it to residential electricity. A house that is 4,000 square feet or more can be charged as much as 14.5 cents per kilowatt hour.”

Solar energy rates are fixed

According to the State of Utah Public Service Commission, one Utah power company has averaged 4.44 percent increases since 2000. In the last seven solar clipart 14years alone, the rates have gone up 50 percent. The latest rate increase was levied just last month. “Utility rates have a history of going up, and they are projected to increase even more, whereas solar energy is fixed. You pay for it up front, but the cost of producing energy is fixed over the life of the system, and results in huge savings,” Curtis says. “Solar gives you the opportunity to control your rates, and control your power.” With solar energy, you are purchasing your own electricity generation at a fixed cost, allowing you to maintain the same energy rates for 25 years or longer. The best part is that the longer your solar panels produce energy, the cheaper your energy will be.

Solar system guarantee

upward trend 04You can now have a warranty on your solar system (not the one made up by planets orbiting the sun) that will guarantee how much energy you will produce over the next 25 years. While many companies offer leases for their solar panels, keep an eye out for a good warranty and production guarantee.

Technology has improved

Advancement in technology is the main reason why U.S.-based manufacturers are now willing to warranty entire systems and components for 25 years. Curtis also mentioned how using specially designed solar panels from SunEdison, a Fortune 1000 company and a global leader in solar technology, can make all the difference when switching to solar energy.

clipart 23“Many solar energy companies continue to purchase their solar panels from China because they are really inexpensive, but they are also poorly made. These solar panels lose their effectiveness only after a few short years,” say Curtis. “SunEdison guarantees that your panels will produce the energy we say they will over 25 years.”

Solar system costs have come down in Utah

goals 02The cost of installing efficient, reliable, and maintenance-free solar systems in Utah is much more affordable compared to other states, according to Solaroo Energy. For example, systems in California can cost up to $7 per kilowatt, whereas in Utah, systems will cost as little as $4 or less per kilowatt. The cost of solar energy has decreased over the last few years. With the ever-increasing electric rates, the time has never been better for installing solar systems in Utah.

U.S. Solar Capacity Nearing 16 GW!

by Barry Casseli (Sep. 5, 2014)  GenerationHub.com

High voltage post against dreamy backgroundAccording to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) Q2 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the U.S. installed 1,133 MW of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the second quarter of this year.

The residential and commercial segments accounted for nearly half of all solar PV installations in the quarter, the association noted in a Sept. 4 statement. The residential market has seen the most consistent growth of any segment for years, and its momentum shows no signs of slowing down. 

Across the U.S, cumulative PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) operating capacity has eclipsed 15.9 GW.

solar clipart 14“Solar continues to soar, providing more and more homes, businesses, schools and government entities across the United States with clean, reliable and affordable electricity,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “Today, the solar industry employs 143,000 Americans and pumps nearly $15 billion a year into our economy.  This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net energy metering (NEM) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS).”

The utility PV segment made up 55% of U.S. solar installations in the second quarter of the year. It has accounted for more than half of national PV installations for the fifth straight quarter. In just two years, the utility segment has quadrupled its cumulative size, growing from 1,784 MW in the first half of 2012 to 7,308 MW at this point.

IKEA 02“Solar continues to be a primary source of new electric generation capacity in the U.S.” said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research. “With new sources of capital being unlocked, design and engineering innovations reducing system prices, and sales channels rapidly diversifying, the solar market is quickly gaining steam to drive significant growth for the next few years.”

GTM Research and SEIA forecast 6.5 GW of PV will be installed in the United States by the end of this year, up 36% over 2013.

Other key report findings include:

  • The U.S. installed 1,133 MW of solar PV in the second quarter of this year, up 21% over Q2 2013, making it the fourth-largest quarter for solar installations in the history of the market.
  • Cumulative operating PV capacity has now eclipsed the 15 GW mark thanks to three consecutive quarters of more than 1 GW installed.
  • As of the first half of 2014, more than half a million homeowners and commercial customers have installed solar PV.
  • For the first time ever, more than 100 MW of residential PV came online without any state incentive.
  • 53% of new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in the first half of 2014 came from solar.

BIPV 04The first quarter of 2014 was the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power, due to the completion of the 392-MW (ac) Ivanpah project and Genesis Solar’s second 125 MW (ac) phase. While the second quarter of this year was dormant for CSP, a total of 857 MW (ac) is expected to be completed by year’s end, making 2014 the largest year ever for CSP.

What’s Your Home Energy Score?

by Brent Sauser

Energy Star Home Energy Rating 02

The DOE Energy Star folks have put together a user-friendly and fast way to find out how energy efficient your home is.   CLICK HERE to access the website and take the survey to find out your home energy score. My home energy score is: DBS Home Energy Yardstick 081814

Not bad! I thought it was about time I checked out my own home energy score after installing an energy star roof, LED lighting, and Solatube daylighting. I have recently added a solar powered attic exhaust fan and raised the thermostat one degree. I will retake the survey in a few months to see if my score improves. Energy Star Home Energy Rating 01Energy Star Home Energy Rating 01

Duke Energy Bill (DBS) 081814

I verified this score by going to the website of my power utility (Duke Energy). It shows that I pay $4.49 per day (on average) for electrical power. Most utilities have a similar survey checklist along with useful suggestions to increase your energy efficiency. Did you know that changing your heating or cooling temperature by just 1 degree will lower your energy bill by 5%? Give it a try! With this information I can make additional energy efficient upgrades to reduce my energy consumption footprint. Since beginning this energy savings process our power bill has been reduced by about $50.00 per month (on average).

 Energy Star Home Energy Rating 03

I invite you to take a few minutes of your time to take the survey and select low cost ways to reduce your energy consumption footprint and put money back in your pocket.

NEST Intelligent Thermostat Saves You Money!

by Brent Sauser

[youtube]http://youtu.be/L8TkhHgkBsg[/youtube]

As I was doing research for my next book I came across an energy saving product that you need to know about . . . . the NEST intelligent thermostat.  It is so much more than a programmable thermostat because it is programmed toNest 01 learn your living habits and in the process save you money on cooling and heating costs.  Designed by those who gave us the Apple iPod Touch, the Nest has those same Apple-like high tech qualities that place it several steps above the competition.  It comes with a hefty price tag ($250), but once you see what this amazing device can do I’m sure you’ll agree that it is worth it.  This device is so awesome I have no doubt you will be showing it off to friends and neighbors who stop by.

Nest 02

I invite you to watch the included videos to see for yourself how such a simple, user-friendly, wi-fi compatible device can make such a difference in your energy bills. 

CLICK HERE to visit the Nest website. 

[youtube]http://youtu.be/PS-ERQ07BIg[/youtube]

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