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Renewable Energy Update – July 2017

July 2017 (www.jdsupra.com)

Renewable Energy Focus

DOE’s SunShot awards $46M for solar tech-to-market research

Greentech Media – Jul 13 The Department of Energy may be facing potentially massive budget cuts and interference in how it gives out green technology research grants, but it is still getting the money out there. The latest installment is $46.2 million from DOE’s SunShot Initiative, aimed at bringing a host of solar PV, solar thermal, energy storage, and inverter technologies closer to market. The grant awards, announced Wednesday, are split among 48 companies, universities, and research organizations. The largest grants fell under the Advanced Module Design and Fabrication category, including $1.2 million for SunPower to work on “newly conceived surface bonding procedures” for manufacturing interdigitated back contact solar cells, which are highly efficient yet hard to make. The new concepts, if they work, could cut the number of process steps by more than half and “significantly reduce the cost of module fabrication.”

Renewable sources of electricity outpace nuclear plants

PBS – Jul 7 For the first time in decades, the United States got more electricity from renewable sources than nuclear power in March and April. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said last Thursday that electricity production from utility-scale renewable sources exceeded nuclear generation in the most recent months for which data is available. That’s the first time renewable sources have outpaced nuclear since 1984. The growth in renewables was fueled by scores of new wind turbines and solar farms, as well as recent increases in hydroelectric power as a result of heavy snow and rain in Western states last winter. More than 60 percent of all utility-scale electricity generating capacity that came online last year was from wind and solar.

SolarWorld Americas initiates mass layoff, announces cash infusion

Solar Industry Magazine – Jul 13 SolarWorld Americas, which operates a large PV manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Oregon, is cutting its workforce in half but also announced it expects a double-digit-million-dollar infusion of cash to enable the company to stabilize and optimize operations through 2017 and beyond. Ever since its parent company, Germany-based SolarWorld AG, entered insolvency in local court, the U.S. subsidiary has consistently said it would work to maintain operations despite the parent’s financial woes. However, SolarWorld Americas issued a warning of an impending mass layoff to its approximately 800 employees in late May. In addition to the significant workforce reduction, SolarWorld Americas has announced its lenders have agreed immediately to forward $6 million in cash to the U.S. company.

PUC will consider changing energy exit fee

Marin Independent Journal – Jul 7 The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has decided to review the mechanism by which Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and other investor-owned utilities are compensated when customers switch to community choice aggregators, such as Marin Clean Energy. The utilities and the community choice aggregators agree that the current mechanism for compensation is flawed. They are at odds, however, over how it should be changed or what should replace it.

‘Community choice’ could provide cheaper, greener electricity for San Diego, report says

San Diego Union-Tribune – Jul 12 A government-run alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric could deliver more green energy while costing residents and businesses less money over time, according to a report released Wednesday by the city of San Diego. The study looked at the feasibility of launching a community choice aggregation (CCA) program in San Diego, which might eventually be adopted to satisfy the city’s pledge to tap only solar, wind, and other green energy sources by 2035. The new report found that a community choice program has the potential to deliver cheaper rates than SDG&E’s while providing 50 percent renewable energy by 2023 and 80 percent green power by 2027. SDG&E currently offers about 43 percent renewable energy to its customers, and under state law must get to 50 percent by 2030.

Advanced Microgrid Solutions raises $34M from utilities, investment firm in Series B funding

Utility Dive – Jul 11 California startup Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) has raised $34 million in a Series B funding round, bringing on board a wide range of investors looking to dip a toe into the distributed energy resource space. The funding includes commitments from DBL Partners, Energy Impact Partners (which is backed by about a dozen utility companies), Southern Co., Macquarie Capital, and others. Macquarie last year agreed to commit $200 million to finance energy storage projects. Greentech Media points out that instead of project finance, AMS will use the $52 million it has raised so far to expand into new markets and grow its software.

8minutenergy, Capital Dynamics announce 328MW project in California

PV-Tech – Jul 12 8minutenergy Renewables and Capital Dynamics plan to develop the 328-megawatt Mount Signal 3 PV project. The plant, located near the city of Calexico in California’s Imperial Valley, is the third phase of the 800-megawatt Mount Signal Solar Farm, which will be one of the largest PV installations in the world. Capital Dynamics acquired the 328-megawatt project’s equity interests from 8minutenergy, which will continue to serve as the project developer. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but Capital Dynamics is currently arranging tax equity and debt financing for the project, with financial closing expected in late July 2017.

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Nevada Supreme Court Blocks Rooftop Solar Referendum

by Julia Pyper (Aug. 8, 2016) www.greentechmedia.com

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The Nevada Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling on Thursday that blocks constituents from voting to restore favorable rates to rooftop solar customers. The decision puts increased pressure on lawmakers to implement a policy change during the next legislative session.

The court ruling addresses a ballot initiative championed by the Bring Back Solar Alliance, a rooftop solar advocacy coalition backed by SolarCity. The referendum sought to repeal a piece of law that allowed utility regulators to impose higher fees on home solar customers.

Regulators approved the new tariff rate in late December. The order increased the fixed service charge for net-metered solar customers, and gradually lowered compensation for net excess solar generation from the retail rate to the wholesale rate for electricity over four years. The changes took effect on January 1, 2016 and promptly brought the rooftop solar market in the state to a standstill, causing companies to cut jobs. The changes were applied retroactively to all net-metered solar customers, eliciting a strong backlash from solar companies and consumer groups.

In February, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada rejected requests from NV Energy and solar advocates to approve a 20-year grandfathering period for Nevada’s roughly 32,000 existing solar customers (previous estimates put the number at 18,000). Instead, regulators voted unanimously to transition rooftop solar customers onto the contentious new rate plan over 12 years, instead of the initially proposed four.

More than 115,000 people signed the Bring Back Solar Alliance’s petition to overturn the solar rate changes. But after expressing some concern over the ballot wording last month, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled this week that the motion is not a referendum, but rather an “initiative petition,” which means solar advocates would have to launch a new petition urging lawmakers to pass a bill undoing the solar rate changes. Only if legislators fail to approve the measure during the 2017 session can it go to voters in 2018. The initiative petition requires more than 55,000 new signatures by the fall in order to proceed.

“The Supreme Court decision basically invalidated the ballot signatures,” said Chandler Sherman, deputy campaign manager for the Bring Back Solar Alliance, in an interview. “115,000 people said they want the opportunity to vote on this issue in November, but since this can’t be in the hands of the people because of the Supreme Court decision, we hope the legislature will take action to enact the will of the people and reverse the PUC decision, restore net metering and allow people to go solar again.”

Sherman said the Alliance does not currently plan to file a ballot initiative, although it is still an option. Now that the referendum is off the table, solar advocates are looking into filing a “bill draft request” with the state legislature instead. Similar to an initiative petition, a bill draft request calls on lawmakers to take up a legislative issue.

“Either way, it’s in the hands of legislators going forward,” said Sherman.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval also plans to push lawmakers to alter the new solar rates. In May, the governor’s New Energy Industry Task Force, convened in response to the net metering decision, passed a motion to grandfather existing solar customers on the old solar rates for 25 years. Recommendations from the Task Force will underpin legislation introduced by Governor Sandoval next year.

In an interesting twist, Sandoval announced last month that he will not reappoint PUCN commissioner David Noble, who wrote the order to increase solar fees and not allow grandfathering. Sandoval has been critical of the PUCN’s decision not to grandfather existing solar customers (which has become a highly politicized issue in the state) and appears to be holding Noble accountable.

On July 27, two days before the Nevada Supreme Court ruled on the referendum, NV Energy reentered the solar policy fray, filing a request for regulators to keep customers who installed their rooftop solar systems prior to December 31, 2015 on the previous net metering rates for 20 years. The utility asked for the grandfathering rule to also apply to customers with active or pending applications as of December 31, 2015.

When NV Energy initiated the request to reduce net metering compensation in July 2015, the utility asked that no changes be made for existing customers. Facing criticism, NV Energy also issued a statement in February saying it supports grandfathering. With its latest filing, utility executives blamed the unfavorable outcome squarely on national solar companies.

“Unfortunately, it appears that these out-of-state solar suppliers are more concerned with increasing the subsidies needed to run their businesses than taking care of their approximately 32,000 contracted customers, who are our customers too,” said Kevin Geraghty, senior vice president of energy supply at the utility. “It seems that they created uncertainty for customers who purchased or leased a rooftop system by not clearly communicating that their rates were subject to change in future regulatory proceedings. Many of these net metering customers entered into 20-year leases believing that they would be locked into a rate, and that they would save money because NV Energy rates would increase every year. Neither of these sales pitches are true.”

NV Energy’s latest filing requests a response from regulators in 90 days. However, it may be too late for meaningful regulatory action. The net metering docket has been untouched since the February rehearing. So to approve grandfathering, the PUCN would have to open a proceeding and decide to go back on a ruling it has already passed twice. NV Energy’s filing, coming amid the referendum and action from the governor, could help make grandfathering a reality. Though some may question why the utility didn’t take stronger action sooner.

A report from Credit Suisse notes that the approval of grandfathering in Nevada could have ramifications for the entire solar industry, “as it could restore nationwide faith in the grandfathering precedent.” But even if the old rates are restored for customers who installed their systems before December 31, 2015, the change does nothing to reboot the Nevada rooftop solar market going forward.

A recent poll found that a majority of respondents are in favor of bringing back net metering “to allow better rates for rooftop solar customers.”

“Constituents are paying attention — it’s a top-of-mind issue for Nevada voters and something people care about and want to fix,” said Sherman. “Now it’s up to the legislature.”

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Confused About Solar Policy In Your State? Follow The Money

by Steve Hanley (July 31, 2016) www.solarlove.org

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The state of Maine makes a good case study for trying to make sense of the tug of war going on across much of America when it comes to small scale solar power for homeowners and small businesses. A recent article in the Bangor Daily News lays out the arguments for all stake holders clearly and succinctly. As usual in the course of human affairs, it comes down to money, or as the Romans would say, “Qui bono?”

Most people would probably agree with the proposition that making electricity from sunshine instead of fossil fuels is a good thing. Even the rapacious Koch Brothers and Warren Buffett would concur. But business is business, as they say. Building power plants and the grid that brings electric power to our homes and businesses costs money — lots and lots of money. The total investment by the utility industry just in North America alone amounts to trillions of dollars.

To make investors more willing to lend money to the utilities, policy makers decided generations ago to grant the industry monopoly status. In return, investors are guaranteed a specified rate of return on their money. Utility stocks are not sexy, but they are a safe investment. Today when banks are paying a meager rate of 1% a year or less, the 5 to 7 percent return guaranteed on utility stocks looks quite attractive.

Some companies sell cars. Some sell clothing or food. Utility companies sell electricity. It’s what they do. Anything that lowers the amount of electricity they sell is a dagger pointed right at the heart of their business model. No wonder they are less than thrilled when some homeowner installs solar panels on his roof and buys less electricity from the local utility as a result.

Even though the cost of solar systems has declined significantly in the last 10 years, a residential solar installation can still cost $15,000 or more. Many residential solar owners want to sell the excess electricity their system makes back to the utility. The process is known as net metering. The electric meter on the home keeps track of how much electricity flows in and how much flows out. The customer then gets a credit on the monthly bill for the amount of electricity fed back into the grid, which helps pay for the cost of the system.

The biggest bone of contention between residential solar owners and utility companies is how much the utility should pay for that excess electricity. Home owners say they should get paid the same rate they pay to buy electricity from the company. That seems logical, but the utilities contend that sort of parity does not adequately compensate them for their cost of maintaining the electrical grid.

That’s where the trouble begins. Solar power advocates point out that utilities benefit from certain “avoided costs” when they take back electricity from solar customers. They don’t have to spend money to increase the size of the grid. Plus, the community gets the advantage of electrical energy that adds no carbon emissions to the local atmosphere.

Maine is currently governed by a Tea Party governor who has made a career out of denigrating individuals in favor of the large corporate donors who paid to put him in office. The governor’s energy office cites with approval a comment by the Dirigo Electric Cooperative in a 2008 rate case before the state’s public utilities commission. It referred to net metering as “a reverse Robin Hood program, taking from those who cannot afford self-generation to give to those who can.”

The Maine Public Advocate’s Office has expanded on that argument. It suggests that state and federal solar policy largely limits the benefits of solar power to landowners with high federal tax liability. In other words, the well-to-do. The federal tax credit for solar installations is not a cash rebate but rather an offset against any federal tax due.

“If all customers bear the costs of the program, all customers should have the opportunity to participate and obtain those benefits,” the Public Advocate says. By definition, people who rent their homes are ineligible for rooftop solar systems and cannot benefit from net metering programs.

What has solar customers in Maine riled up is a fear that what happened recently in Nevada will happen to them. The Nevada PUC allowed NV Energy to unilaterally amend its net metering program. Not only did it eliminate that benefit, it sanctioned the imposition of new monthly fees for residential solar customers, making it impossible for them to help offset the cost of their systems.

In Maine, the governor’s office is making noises that suggest it would favor a similar plan, one that would limit the net metering period to three years. Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon of Freeport called the governor’s suggestion a “reckless, ill-conceived plan.” Gideon sponsored a solar policy bill last session that proposed a successor to net metering and would have grandfathered existing customers for 12 years.

The heart of the dilemma is the fact that electrical grids have always been constructed on the assumption there would one or two large local generating facilities that would supply power to the community at large. They were never intended to accept input from multiple sources at the edges of the grid and are relatively inefficient at doing so.

In the final analysis, it comes down to how much economic pain each stakeholder should endure as society transitions to zero emissions alternatives to fossil fuels. If the utility companies get their way, they will put that transition off as long as possible in order to protect their economic interests.  While that is rational behavior in a traditional capitalist model, it makes no sense for a world imperiled by fossil fuel pollution. Ultimately, business as usual is a death warrant for the people of the world.

The only sensible policy is to eliminate the artificial market advantage fossil fuels enjoy due to subsidies and policy considerations. Only when the cost of fossil fuels equals their true economic impact on the community will the transition to zero emissions begin in earnest. The capitalist system contains a fatal flaw at its heart. As Chief Seattle once asked, “Who speaks for the Earth?”

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Renewable Energy Update – July 2016

by William R. Devine, Barry Epstein, Emily L. Murray/Allen Matkins Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP (July 8, 2016) www.jdsupra.com

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Renewable Energy Focus

Senator Heinrich to introduce energy storage tax credit bill

Greentech Media – Jul 5 There will soon be an energy storage tax credit proposal in both the House and Senate. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) will introduce an investment tax credit for energy storage, based on the existing credit for solar energy, next week. The legislation would give businesses and homes a 30 percent credit, but the credit would taper off starting in 2020. Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced similar legislation on the House side in May. The U.S. storage market is still a fraction of the size of the wind or solar industries; it totaled $111 million in 2013 but rose to $441 million last year, according to GTM Research. It’s expected to grow to $2.9 billion by 2021.

Big solar is leaving rooftop systems in the dust

Reuters – Jul 5 Solar power is on pace for the first time this year to contribute more new electricity to the grid than will any other form of energy, a feat driven more by economics than green mandates. The cost of electricity from large-scale solar installations now is comparable to and sometimes cheaper than natural gas-fired power, even without incentives aimed at promoting environmentally friendly power, according to industry players and outside cost studies. Buoyed by appeals to self-reliance and environmental stewardship, as well as government subsidies, the early solar industry was dominated by rooftop panels that powered individual homes and businesses. But such small-scale installations are expensive, requiring hefty incentives to make them attractive to homeowners. Today, large systems that sell directly to utilities dominate. They are expected to account for more than 70 percent of new solar added to the grid this year, according to industry research firm GTM Research.

MGM Resorts International expands solar array, now nation’s largest

Las Vegas Sun – Jul 6 The nation’s largest rooftop solar array is now on the Las Vegas Strip. After expanding a rooftop solar array atop the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, MGM Resorts International announced this Wednesday that its roughly 26,000 solar panels that span 28 acres set a record as the largest rooftop array in the U.S. At full production, the system will provide Mandalay Bay 25 percent of its energy.

GRID Alternatives and L.A. mayor announce low-income solar pledge

Solar Industry Magazine – Jul 1 GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles (GRID GLA), the largest affiliate of U.S. nonprofit solar installer GRID Alternatives, has unveiled its new LA 500 pledge. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined the nonprofit to make the announcement last Thursday at a low-income Los Angeles family’s home, where GRID GLA and students from three local vocational schools were installing a rooftop solar system. Through its LA 500 pledge, GRID GLA says it will provide no-cost rooftop solar to 500 low-income families in single- and multi-family dwellings and provide hands-on solar workforce training to 500 individuals in Los Angeles in the next two years.

Southern Company subsidiary acquires Henrietta solar power project from SunPower

PennEnergy – Jul 6 Southern Company subsidiary Southern Power has acquired a controlling interest in the 102-megawatt Henrietta Solar Power Project in Kings County, California, from SunPower, which will own the remaining interest in the project. The Henrietta Solar Project represents Southern Power’s first joint venture with SunPower, which developed, designed, and is constructing the facility and will operate and maintain it upon completion. Construction began in May 2015, and the project is expected to be fully operational in the third quarter of this year. Once operational, the facility is expected to be capable of generating enough electricity to help meet the energy needs of approximately 24,000 average U.S. homes.

Disclosure: Allen Matkins represented SunPower in connection with this transaction.

NextEra Energy Partners completes $312M acquisition of renewable projects

South Florida Business Journal – Jul 5 NextEra Energy Partners has completed an acquisition of renewable projects that includes two wind facilities: Cedar Bluff Wind Energy Center, located in Kansas, and Golden Hills Wind Energy Center in California. NextEra purchased the assets for about $312 million. The acquisition expands the contract renewable energy projects in the company’s portfolio to about 2,656 megawatts. Umbrella company NextEra Energy Inc. has over 44,000 megawatts of generating capacity.

SunEdison hopes to sell California solar stake to D.E. Shaw affiliate

SeeNews Renewables – Jul 7 Bankrupt renewables developer SunEdison hopes to sell its interest in the Mount Signal 2 solar project in California to hedge fund D.E. Shaw for $80 million, court papers show. As first reported by The Wall Street Journal, D.E. Shaw affiliate DESRI MS2 Development LLC has sealed a deal to acquire SunEdison’s stake in the project, but needs the approval of a U.S. bankruptcy judge, who is to decide whether the asset should change hands through a private sale or an auction process.

The Three Biggest Factors That Will Determine the Success or Failure of Solar Energy

by David Arfin (May 13, 2016) www.huffingtonpost.com

Are we going to see a bubble in the Clean Energy Space in the next 15 years? 

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Nope. A “bubble” suggests massive growth then a burst. Of course some companies and trends will indeed be overhyped and will disappoint while others will experience tremendous and continuous growth.

The trajectory of clean energy industry expansion and dips will depend on three primary factors: technology, public policy and investment. From this, business models will be created and evolve that leverages (or influences) the three primary factors.

Technology: growth in solar, wind, storage, electric vehicles, carbon reduction, energy efficiency will all require better, faster, smaller, smarter, data driven technological innovation. This will come from physics, chemistry, earth science, engineering, data science, etc. The rate of change will depend on how global economies choose to motivate the best minds and other resources to enable breakthroughs and progress.

Public Policy: policy comes in many shapes, sizes and flavors. They range from direct incentives (rebates, tax credits, Feed in Tariffs), to energy policies (net metering, community solar, rewarding efficiency) to pricing externalities (taxing carbon) to how infrastructure is funded (expanding roads for urban sprawl vs. putting in EV lanes or EVE charging stations). Of great concern to the clean tech industry is having stability in policy. Two great successes for stability can be found in the California Solar Initiative with a 10-step plan to reduce rebates and another in the long-term extension of the Investment Tax Credit in 2008 and in 2015.

Investment: achieving breakthrough technology and market deployment requires money and people who are provided tools to enable growth.

With these three factors in mind, entrepreneurs and intra-preneurs can create new businesses and industries that leverage the opportunities afforded by technology, policy and investment.

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Deal Between SolarCity Corp And APS Ends Fight, For Now At Least

by Aman Jain (April 29, 2016) www.valuewalk.com

SolarCity made a deal with Arizona Public Service, putting an end to the public fight pitting the utility company against solar companies. On Thursday, the agreement between Arizona’s biggest utility and the nation’s largest solar company was announced, and hopefully this deal means the competing measures asking voters about how to treat rooftop solar power are finally being removed.

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Strong foundation for future reforms

Both sides have agreed to negotiate how solar customers who produce extra power on their rooftops are to be paid. Lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey negotiated with SolarCity and APS. The governor’s office will participate in the talks, and if all goes well, then eventually, other solar firms and utilities will sign on as well.

Less than an hour after Republicans in the Arizona Senate started taking steps to send Arizona voters separate rates for rooftop solar users and regulate solar leasing companies as utilities, Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, announced the deal. Lesko said these actions are intended to enable constructive discussion between Arizona electric utilities, including APS and SolarCity.

The fight started two years ago when utilities started preparing rate cases and began pushing added fees for rooftop solar customers. The rooftop solar industry fought back, saying the utilities were protecting their profit by trying to kill the industry.

Citizens’ initiative from SolarCity: the hero

The SolarCity-backed citizens’ initiative is seen as the primary reason behind the announcement. The initiative commanded utilities to pay people who produce power with rooftop solar panels the full retail price for the power they send back to the grid.

After a citizens’ initiative was filed earlier this month, Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, and Lesko crafted the voter referrals with help from APS. This task needed a massive signature-gathering effort, while only House and Senate approval was required for the legislative referral.

In less than two weeks, the initiative collected more than 40,000 signatures, said Kris Mayes, the former Arizona Corporation Commissioner who was chairing the citizens’ initiative. The initiative needed 225,000 signatures to get on the ballot by July 7.

“The people of Arizona resoundingly support solar,” Mayes said. “And I think that’s why the governor’s office decided to show some leadership in this process and help these parties along.”

This is a big deal, especially that even without a precedent, a large utility like APS and the nation’s largest solar company, SolarCity, are coming together for negotiations, said Mayes.

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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.

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Renewables investment grew 300% in last 10 years, double that of coal and gas

By Sami Grover (March 30, 2016) www.mnn.com

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Last year was a remarkable year for renewables and renewable energy investment. So good, in fact, that investment in renewable generation during 2015 was twice as high as investments in new coal- and gas-fired power plants. That’s just one of the snippets of good news from a new report from the United Nation’s Environmental Program entitled Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016. Another eyebrow-raising factoid: Renewables represented 53.6 percent of the gigawatt capacity of all energy generation technologies installed in 2015 — the first time renewables had ever represented a majority of newly installed capacity.

But the truly good news is that this appears to be a long-term trend.

Tracking year-on-year renewable energy investment shows a rise from $73 billion in 2005 to a whopping $286 billion in 2015, which represents a growth of nearly 300 percent. This figure is, of course, even more impressive when you consider that the price of solar panels and wind turbines keeps on dropping, so every dollar spent in 2015 buys a whole lot more than it did back in 2005.

Now, we should be careful not to get too carried away. Investment in 2012, 2013 and 2014 actually dipped, and shifts in economic headwinds or policy decisions can have a significant impact on the short-term prospects of clean energy growth. So just because last year was a banner year does not mean that every year moving forward will break similar records. Indeed, the report points out that investment in European renewable energy, for example, slumped thanks to fickle government policy and a rapid scaling back of subsidies that had proved more popular than expected.

But short-term policy volatility aside, it really is beginning to look like a fundamental transition in energy generation is underway on a global level. Given that the Paris Climate Agreement has sent a signal to investors that almost every government in the world is committed to a low carbon transition, we can expect increased policy certainty that should drive a continued growth in investment. And as renewables get less and less subsidy dependent, their vulnerability to policy shenanigans will also be reduced.

No wonder investors are beginning to see the economic case for divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewables instead. The only question now is not whether this transition will happen, but whether it will happen fast enough to curtail the worst impacts of global climate change. Here, sadly, the jury is still out. In a press release announcing the launch of the new UNEP report, Prof. Dr. Udo Steffens, President of the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, pointed to low commodity prices as a potential incentive for governments to keep relying on fossil fuels:

“Despite the ambitious signals from COP 21 in Paris and the growing capacity of new installed renewable energy, there is still a long way to go. Coal-fired power stations and other conventional power plants have long lifetimes. Without further policy interventions, climate altering emissions of carbon dioxide will increase for at least another decade. […] The commitments made by all nations at the Paris climate summit in December, echoing statements from last year’s G7 summit, require a very low- or no-carbon electricity system.”

So, in summary, 2015 was a great year for renewables. But we’re going to need a whole lot more great years if we’re going to pull this off.

CLICK HERE to access the original article. 

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Will SRP ever see the light on solar energy?

by Nick Brown (March 25, 2016) www.azcentral.com

Viewpoints: Salt River Project, the nation’s largest public electrical utility, only gets about 5 percent of its power from renewable sources. That’s not nearly enough.

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Salt River Project  has a rich history of providing dependable and affordable electricity to its ratepayers, which number nearly one million accounts and about two million people in metro Phoenix.

The nation’s largest public electrical utility, SRP’s electrical district ended 2014 with a $40 million surplus on just under $3 billion in revenues. Fiscal responsibility, high quality customer service, dependable electrical service and overall sound management are hallmarks of the utility.

Yet, SRP’s progress toward renewable energy deployment is poor.  Only 5.7 percent of its power is generated by renewable energy sources, according to the utility’s own website.  By comparison, 23.8 percent of PG&E’s power is from renewable sources, 21.6 percent of SoCal Ed’s, and 23 percent of Austin Energy’s.  By capitalizing on Arizona’s abundant solar energy, SRP can become a leader in clean energy.

The district must become more innovative and more supportive of rooftop and utility-scale solar energy.   Several policies and projects will result in a greener SRP, including:

Get rid of the rooftop solar tax

Roll back the E-27 rooftop solar tariff that has taken away the solar option for ratepayers and crippled the solar industry in the SRP service area.  In February 2015, SRP implemented a demand charge for new solar customers that lacks a technical basis, and that drove 2,200 solar jobs out of Arizona last year.

This knee jerk reaction to the solar boom has turned out to be bad for SRP customers who want to use clean energy, bad for Arizona’s solar industry and awful for the state’s reputation among businesses that are looking for friendly places to locate innovative enterprises.

Developing SRP rate plans should be done through an even-handed, unhurried, transparent fact finding process that considers multiple studies, expert opinions and public input.

These things didn’t happen last year, and unlike rate making processes of the Arizona Corporation Commission, SRP’s deliberations rarely include any of these features.

SRP decisions should include these ideas:

  • Develop a pricing plan that incentivizes solar rooftops to face west

  • Solarize select areas of the canals

  • Build solar farms at Apache Lake and Canyon Lake

  • Couple demand reduction with solar energy

  • Develop a microgrid project

  • Develop thermal energy systems in commercial centers

SRP will continue to develop and purchase energy from regional wind farms, solar farms, hydroelectric facilities, biomass plants, and geothermal plants.  It will continue to subsidize energy audits, LED lighting, home insulation and time-of-day use plans.

Continued success of these programs, in conjunction with initiatives such as those outlined above, will maintain the financial strength of the SRP Electric District, reduce exposure to fuel price increases, reduce SRP’s greenhouse gas emissions, provide cleaner air and water for Arizona, and provide ratepayers and our grandchildren the lowest cost electricity over the long term.

CLICK HERE to read the entire article.

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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.

Net Metering: Who Pays for Energy Subsidies?

It’s looking like the battle lines have been drawn.   Power utility companies are fighting back by demanding to pay wholesale rates, instead of retail rates,  for power produced by roof-top solar net-meter customers.  Not only do roof-top solar energy producers currently pay the same monthly fees and taxes as non-solar customers, but now the power company giants insist roof-top solar producers pay more . . . . much more, $50 per month on top of the other fees and taxes.  Why $50?  Why not $75 or $100? I mean, if we are going to be forced back to the 20th century to sustain the mighty energy monopolies why not go all the way and crush the renewable energy movement altogether!  How much insanity does it take to turn our backs on renewable energy technology that has been proven to benefit the environment, reduce CO2 emissions, and that is renewable and sustainable?  What will be our destiny? Will we be permitted to continue our renewable energy revolution, or will short sighted politicians enforce solar energy obstacles (see recent Nevada legislation) that result in the total return to fossil fuels . . . all in the name of the almighty dollar?  Perhaps the following news article can shed more dollar driven evidence to where the lines are being drawn.    (by Brent Sauaer)

By Earl. J. Ritchie (University  of Houston Lecturer) March 16, 2016 forbes.com

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A huge controversy has arisen in California and other states over the way solar electrical generation is subsidized by net metering, or the way in which people who produce solar energy – usually through rooftop panels – are reimbursed for the energy they generate and send back to the electric grid. Proposed or already approved reductions have been greeted by public protests, lawsuits and even a proposed amendment to the national Energy Policy Modernization Act, which would limit the ability of states to reduce subsidies.

The fight pits solar rooftop owners and the solar industry against utility companies and free marketers.

The issue

Forty-three states have mandatory net metering plans. Most net metering plans in the United States require utility companies to buy back excess electricity generated from distributed (residential and business) solar installations at the retail cost of electricity.

With the slightest bit of thought you will recognize that this is not a valid business model. No business can cover the cost of operation and profit necessary while buying their product at the same price that they sell it. In the case of utility companies, they must provide billing, support services, grid maintenance and other operational functions. For the amount of electricity provided by net metering, these costs are not covered. Typically, unrecovered costs are transferred to customers who do not have solar installations by raising electricity rates.

This is not a problem as long as the fraction of feed-in energy is small. Once solar capacity becomes a significant portion of electricity generated, as has happened in California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii, there is a free-for-all over who will pay these unrecovered costs.

The California example

California has by far the largest amount of solar generating capacity in the United States, representing over half of total U.S. installed solar capacity. The combination of government incentives and the decreasing costs of solar photovoltaic panels has made solar installations highly profitable, resulting in explosive growth of solar installations and the industry that markets, finances and installs the equipment.

Since solar electricity now represents 7.5% of California supply and is expected to continue to grow, the subsidy is no longer a trivial issue. A heated controversy began as a result of requests in 2015 by the major publicly traded utilities, Southern California Edison , Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric, to be compensated for unrecovered costs of net metering by additional fees and lowering the price they pay for net metered electricity. The solar industry and green power advocates responded with vociferous objections, with one spokesman calling it a “war on solar.”

In a 2016 decision generally regarded as a victory for the solar industry, the California Public Utilities Commission retained net metering at retail cost but imposed certain fees on residential solar installations. To some extent, the Commission kicked the can down the road by indicating that they will reconsider net metering in 2019.

The bigger picture

Net metering applies to rooftop solar, which represents about one third of U.S. solar capacity. The issue of subsidizing renewable energy is much broader: utility scale generation is roughly twice the size of rooftop solar, and subsidy considerations also apply to wind power and other renewables. In addition, it is a worldwide issue. The U.S. only represents about 10% of installed solar photovoltaic capacity; the largest capacities are in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Public discussion often focuses on economic analyses, which are typically slanted to the viewpoints of the authors. Analyses by utility companies tend to focus on the cost of providing generation; analyses by solar advocates often include imputed environmental benefit and avoided cost of transmission and other generation facilities. Although pro-solar analyses may conclude that solar is currently economic, the IEA reports that only 4% of solar installations in 2014 were economic without subsidy. This means continued growth of solar in at least the near-term will be dependent upon subsidies.

How much should the subsidy be?

There is no reason net metering credits need necessarily be at full retail cost. Some international jurisdictions value credits below retail cost. A recent “value of solar” calculation by the Minnesota Public Utility Commission places the value above retail cost, largely on the basis on the value of avoided carbon emissions. Ideally, subsidies should be no higher than is necessary to achieve the desired utilization. As solar costs decrease, subsidies should also decrease.

The drafters of net metering legislation recognized the limitations discussed here and often included reductions when caps on the amount generated are reached. This has not prevented the beneficiaries of subsidies from complaining when they are reduced.

Who pays?

There is strong public support for alternative energy development and renewable energy incentives. This does not answer the question as to what the form and amount of incentives should be. Net metering at full retail cost transfers the cost to utility customers who do not install solar. Other forms of incentive, such as tax credits, are paid by state or local governments out of general tax revenue.

Even if the imputed environmental benefits and avoided costs of future fossil fuel power plants are taken at face value, someone has to pay the up-front cost of new solar installations if solar capacity is to grow at the rate that solar advocates desire. It has been well demonstrated that the number of homeowners and businesses willing to install solar drops dramatically if subsidies are reduced. For example, when the Nevada Public Utilities Commission voted to reduce net metering credits, the solar installation companies SolarCity, Vivant and SunRun announced they would pull out of the state. Plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the changes were quoted as saying they would never have invested in their PV systems had they known Nevada’s net metering program would be scaled back.

So, who is to pay? Will you and I pay through general taxes? Will utility customers pay through higher rates? At present, the utility companies would have solar users pay through lower credits. The solar companies would have utility customers and the general public pay. Free marketers would eliminate subsidies and have no one pay. As the late Sen. Russell B. Long said, ”Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire article.

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UTAH Senate Approves Bill Critics Say Hurts Solar Growth, Favors Power Utility

by Robert Gehrke – The Salt Lake Tribune (March 4, 2016)

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The Utah Senate approved legislation Friday, that would make significant changes to the way electricity rates are calculated — a move that opponents contend would devastate Utah’s rooftop solar industry and mean major increases in electricity bills.

Senate Majority Whip Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said his intent was to have the Legislature set policy that would benefit Utahns and use money more effectively to clean up the air.

“We need to be able to move to solutions that are environmentally friendly,” Adams said. “If we’re going to spend those monies, we ought to be doing it to protect the air quality we need.”

Adams’ SB115, third substitute, would do the following:

•  Would allow Rocky Mountain Power to use $10 million from customers for the utility’s “Sustainable Transportation and Energy Plan,” to fund charging stations for electric cars, research on clean-coal technology and alternative energy programs

•  Would eliminate a solar-power incentive program for residential and large-scale solar users

•  Would allow the utility to recoup 100 percent of the cost of buying power, as opposed to the current 70 percent level

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, called SB115 an attempt to “judge shop,” because Rocky Mountain Power recognizes it can’t get the rate increases it wants through the normal path of the Public Service Commission.

“This is a powerful utility saying, ‘You know what, we don’t think we’re going to like what’s coming down the track [with the PSC] … we want to short-circuit it because we want a different result,’ ” Dabakis said.

Adams said he thinks the bill would actually keep energy prices down because Rocky Mountain Power wouldn’t have to pay retail rates to buy solar power produced by rooftop arrays and can instead buy cheaper watts from other sources, and the money saved can go to other clean energy.

“We’re stopping that so rates should actually go down, and we’re redirecting that money … into clean fuel vehicles, at least part of it,” Adams said.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, said there is a disparity now where most of the subsidies go toward renewable energy that provides minimal benefit, while the coal industry — a major business in his central Utah district — struggles.

“Think about the jobs that [have] been lost in the coal business as well,” Hinkins said. “The poor people, the ones who can afford it, don’t need tax credits — they have no benefits. … The only ones that can afford [solar] are the businesses and rich people.”

South Jordan resident Michael Acton invested $22,000 to put solar panels on his roof, in part because the ability to sell electricity back to Rocky Mountain Power allowed him to recoup part of the cost on his utility bills. Acton fears the bill would change how much he and others would be credited for any excess power they produce, leaving it up to the utility to decide how much they’ll be paid.

“It made financial sense to me. The other reason is I wanted to be more self-sufficient,” he said. “It’s going to affect my investment. It’s going to affect all these solar companies out there. There are going to be hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs lost.”

Tom Mills, who works for Alpenglow Solar, a Utah solar company, said a similar bill in Nevada has been devastating for the solar industry, and he fears Rocky Mountain Power will hike fees so high that “it won’t be cost effective and basically nobody can put in solar” until battery technology evolves.

“You’ll see the solar industry dry up here just like it did in Nevada,” said Mills. “Overall, what they’re doing is they’re circumventing the Utah Public Service Commission. Every item that is in that bill would normally be brought to the Public Service Commission for review,” Mills said.

Adams said those concerns were really based on “hearsay” and not based on the reality in the bill.

“The only effect on the solar industry that I know of is there’s a lottery that’s held [to receive a subsidy] that affects a very, very small number of users,” Adams said.

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.

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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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

Solar Energy Basics 101

by Brent Sauser

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As many are turning to solar energy as a renewable source for power . . . . ME INCLUDED, still others are standing on the sidelines scratching their heads and wondering what all this solar business is about anyway!  Although the fundamentals of solar energy are easy enough to grasp . . . (i.e. the sun comes up and heats the earth, then goes down . . . repeat process daily), the actual chemistry of converting solar energy to usable AC power is a bit more complex.  The attached video does a good job in explaining this sustainable process. 

NOTE:  It’s been 44 days since our installation of a roof-top 7.54kW PV system.  Since then we have generated an average of 24.6kWh of PV power per/day.  That works out to 738kWh for a 30 day period.  Last month our power consumption totaled 556kWh, so at least on the average the Sauser household appears to be on track to become Net Zero.  And because we installed our PV system before the end of 2016 we are eligible for a 30% Federal Tax Rebate.  Isn’t it time you check out PV solar for yourself!

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.

SAVE ENERGY, SAVE MONEY! Register Now

FOR ALL MY FRIENDS IN CENTRAL FLORIDA:

      I will be teaching a class at Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, in October called:  SAVE ENERGY, SAVE MONEY!  The details and link to register is below. 

NOTE:  Under this Rollins program you must be 50+ of age to register.

      Chances are you aren’t a stock holder in Duke Energy.  I’m not either.  So, why are we paying high power bills as if we were stockholders, doing little to conserve energy and put money back in your pocket?  This class will cover numerous ways to take back control of your power bill.  And . . . who isn’t interested in ways to save money?  Please register.  You won’t regret it.  

  • CLASS:  SAVE ENERGY, SAVE MONEY!
    INSTRUCTOR: D. Brent Sauser, AIA, LEED AP
    DESCRIPTION: This class will answer the questions:
        Does “going green” really matter?
        What does sustainability mean?
        How did we get to where we are today?
        What is and isn’t working around the world?
        How does conserving energy save money?
        What are some affordable ways to conserve energy?
             We will review how renewable technologies are contributing to help satisfy the increasing power demands without depleting our non-renewable resources.  We will discuss how each of us can benefit by going green.  We will discover energy saving products, materials, and systems that will reduce energy consumption, and lower our monthly energy bill. The student will leave with a greater awareness regarding sustainability and how to save money by saving energy. Students are encouraged to check out the website: www.NetZeroMax.com for low cost energy saving suggestions and current renewable energy information.  
    DATES AND TIME: Thursdays, October 1, 8, 15, & 22 from noon to 1:30pm
    LOCATION: Bush 212 on Rollins College main campus
    WHO:  Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning STARS (RCLL STARS)
    WHAT: Seniors ages 50+ taking non-credit courses. No tests or finals!
    COST: $65 a course.
    This link takes you to where can register for Save Energy, Save Money!   http://www.rollins.edu/evening/rollins-center-lifelong-learning/senior-courses.html
  • WEBSITE: www.rollins.edu/rcll  
    CONTACT: lifelonglearning@rollins.edu

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.

Solar Impulse 2 Solar Plane to Circle the Globe!

by Brent Sauser

SIMPLY AMAZING!  A technological miracle!  Further evidence that the Sustainable Revolution is well underway and gaining momentum. 

The attached video (below) is of a remarkable solar plane – Solar Impulse 2 – will soon begin its journey around the world, without stopping and without a single drop of fuel! The plane is powered by nothing more than 17,000 solar cells.  Batteries under the wings store enough energy to maintain flight at night.  The body is made of super lightweight materials.  The plane will carry two pilots.

The video is not only entertaining, but inspirational.  The only thing that is slowing this marvelous sustainable Net Zero transition is our ability to understand it and embrace it.  The technology is here, now.  What are we waiting for?

ATTENTION: All Architects, Engineers and Developers!

By Brent Sauser

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2015 is just two days away and it’s high time we ask ourselves some serious questions:

  • What is it that drives us, that truly motivates us in our professions?
  • Has the pursuit of profits overshadowed our obligation to society?
  • Do we allow the minimum code standards to define our depth of commitment in the transition to renewable energy solutions?
  • Are we unwilling to upgrade our specifications to reflect more sustainable materials and methods?
  • Are we relying too much on “what worked in the past” and not taking the time to learn new, sustainable ways to accomplish the same thing?
  • Are we part of the problem or an advocate for the solution?

 be the change

Whether we like it or not, whether embracing the inevitable with open arms or kicking and screaming, the transition to sustainable, renewable energy solutions WILL happen. The questions is, WHEN? What will we do as design, engineering, and construction professionals to accelerate the process? Will we simply stand by and wait for building codes to finally catch up with renewable technology, or take the initiative and proactively incorporate into our designs sustainable solutions that far surpass the minimum code requirements . . . because it is the right thing to do.

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As 2015 approaches, we need to determine if we will be part of the growing Renewable Energy Revolution or remain stuck in the non-renewable practices of the past. My hope is that many more will heed the “call” and join the revolution. We need you. Renewable technology is improving faster than the profession is willing to embrace or implement. That must change. If we don’t do it . . . who will? We must look for ways to incorporate energy saving features instead of placing a punitive premium on each sustainable option, discouraging its implementation. We must look for ways to make it happen . . . by design, not by accident!

That’s my New Year’s wish for 2015. What’s yours?

 HAPPY NEW YEAR

2015 01

NetZeroMax.com Adds 1,000 More Subscribers in 25 Days!

by Brent Sauser

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In just 25 days NetZeroMax.com has passed the 7,000 subscriber milestone!  The website is gaining greater traction and popularity with a daily increase of 40 new subscribers and over 375 visitors every day.  It is very encouraging to witness a greater and growing interest in sustainable design and renewable energy resources.  More Net Zero projects are in development than ever before.  Increasingly more are becoming aware of how easy it is to build Net Zero and how readily accessible renewable energy materials are.

upward trend 01DSCN1924NetZeroMax.com will be attending the 2014 GreenBuild USGBC Convention in New Orleans, LA in October.  As always, we will visit with our renewable energy friends and get acquainted with new sustainable design exhibitors . . . and will bring it to you with photos and videos.  We also hope to get an up close look at the hurricane Katrina recovery efforts in the 9th ward and elsewhere. 

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NetZeroMax Gains 1,000 More Subscribers in 25 Days!

by Brent Sasuser

Trend 02The trend continues to show a more rapid interest in Net Zero awareness and NetZeroMax.com in particular.  We are now adding 1,000 additional subscribers every 25 days!  This positive trend is reflected in the growing number of Net Zero projects under construction throughout the United States.  Check out Green Key Village in Central Florida, or HOUZE Net Zero Homes in Independence Heights, Houston, Texas.  You might also want to check out KB (Net Zero) Homes in San Diego; Eco Village at Dunedin, Florida; Meritage Homes for Net Zero communities in Phoenix, Tucson, and Las Vegas; and zero net energy communities in Massachusetts from Transformations.

Trend 01It is a very hopeful sign that more and more are becoming aware of their Net Zero options.  With the 30% federal tax credit “clock” ticking down to the December 31, 2016 deadline, more are deciding to build or retrofit to Net Zero to take advantage of this generous rebate.

As great as this trend is it represents a small percentage of the current construction activity.  Architects and developers need to take the initiative and choose to design and build to Net Zero standards . . . NOT because the building code requires it, or it makes sense for the bottom line, but because it is the right thing to do!  We need to join the Net Zero pioneers listed above and insist on nothing less than a Net Zero solution.

Trend 04

Thank you for your continued support.

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Solar Powered Attic Fan Installed at Sauser Home

by Brent Sasuer

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Eight months ago I called The Solar Guys to install a Solatube daylighting system for our Living Room.  We are so pleased with the results.  Now that we are in the dog days of summer we decided to call Chris at The Solar Guys and invite him to install a 22 watt solar powered attic exhaust fan.  The included photos and video show how quick and easy it was to install.  It all took less than one hour. 

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Attics tend to trap heat captured from the roof, which transfers into our living space requiring more energy to cool.  The exhaust fan forces the hot air back out through the roof and helps to neutralize moisture.  The HVAC system doesn’t need to work as hard because the attic heat is being exhausted instead of transferred into the living space.  That means energy and cost savings back to you. 

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CLICK HERE for more information regarding the Solar Star Attic Fan from The Solar Guys.

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[youtube]http://youtu.be/4-CKXNGzHDc[/youtube]

The Liberty-Box – A Revolution in PV Water Heating Technology

By Brent Sauser

Seems like new ideas using renewable energy are happening every day! New ideas to do every day things, like heating your water. New ideas that don’t deplete our non-renewable resources. The Liberty Box is such an idea, a 21st Century idea that deserves our attention. The cost to heat our water can add up to more than 30% of our monthly electrical bill. Using the Liberty Box puts that 30% back in your pocket in a more environmentally sensitive way. The following is taken from the EDS – Liberty Box website:

Libery Box 02The Liberty-Box is a smart product which is registered as a global patent, intended for quick water heating, at the office or at home, without electricity. The device provides actual, unique solution to the quick water heating problem and is not influenced by the piping temperature.

The device operates by transforming solar energy into electric energy in maximum efficiency. The process is computer controlled (DSP), transforming the solar energy into electric energy, directly to the boiler, without batteries, without connection to electricity and without pumps and pipes. The product is preferable over gas heating both environmentally and safety wise.

The product brings a sizable decrease in expenses for electricity, thus allowing significant savings!

Libery Box 01
The product definitely increases the value of the house: a green innovative house!!!

Liberty-Box advantages over other products in the market:

  • Liberty-Box is registered as a global patent.
  • Liberty-Box has American stamp of approval – UL Certification process.
  • Liberty-Box is environmentally friendly.
  • Liberty-Box is a smart product (controlled via DSP).
  • Liberty-Box is small sized and easy to install. The installation is quick, simple and does not require pipes and pumps.
  • The device does not require use of chemicals in water (such as antifreeze) – The only solar water heating system developed to prevent freezing problems!
  • Installation does not require installing a new boiler.
  • Liberty-Box’s price is affordable.
  • The cost of using the device is significantly lower than the cost of heating the boiler by electricity.

CLICK HERE for more information regarding the Liberty Box.

CLICK HERE to read the Liberty Box Spec Sheet.

CLICK HERE to read the Liberty Box Brochure.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/-itK3kZvt5w[/youtube]



NetZeroMax.com Reaches the Milestone of 5,000 Subscribers!

by Brent Sauser

Milestones 01

NetZeroMax.com has been on-line for 2 years now and I am very pleased to announce that we have reached the milestone of 5,000 subscribers.  That is a remarkable achievement considering our humble beginnings.  The following numbers reflect how fast NetZeroMax.com is gaining subscribers:  Milestones 02

  • It took 18 months to gain our first 1,000 subscribers on Feb. 13, 2014.
  • Our 2nd thousand subscribers came on April 7, 2014 – in 49 days.
  • Our third thousand subscribers came on May 14, 2014 – in 37 days.
  • Our fourth thousand subscribers came on June 20, 2014 – in 38 days.
  • Our fifth thousand subscribers came on July 19, 2014 – in 29 days!

In other words, it took 18 months to achieve 1,000 subscribers, while taking a little more than 5 months to gain the next 4,000.  That is nothing short of amazing growth and we are dedicated to make sure that trend continues.  

IN FACT . . . . . NetZeroMax.com is pleased to announce that our new book, “Getting Back to Net Zero” will we published as an e-book in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned to this website for additional information on how you can download your copy.

Milestones 03We deeply appreciate all those who subscribe to NetZeroMax.com.  We continue to pledge our commitment to sharing interesting and exciting  articles, as well as other current information regarding growth in the renewable energy community.  The movement to design and build Net Zero is growing.  Together we can make a difference for meaningful change, sustainable and renewable change.  Environmentally sensitive change.  Lasting change!

Thank You 02

If John Can Go Low Energy. . . . SO CAN YOU!

From KSL.com – July 5, 2014, by Peter Rosen

Edited by Brent Sauser

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KAYSVILLE, Davis County:   When John Loveless peers up at the sun, he doesn’t see just another hot summer day. He sees dollar signs. Loveless, an electrical engineer, has monitored his energy bills for the last 14 years and hasMoney clip art 4 been interested in efficiency. So he installed a 26-panel, 6.2 kilowatt photovoltaic array, enough to cover about three-quarters of his family’s energy needs. He says in 2012 his annual bill for electricity came to $1.10. “That was a rough year,” he says. “I always jest that getting solar panels was kind of a gateway drug.”

Philips SlimStyle 03Loveless cut his electric bill even more by making his house more efficient — using compact florescent and LED light bulbs, unplugging some devices that draw phantom power day and night, adding insulation and installing a device that recovers heat from the hot water that goes down the drain.

John hired a company to install a ground loop heat pump. It circulates liquid geothernal clipart 3through pipes buried 300 feet under his yard, where the ground is a constant 56 degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter, it draws the heat up to the house and during the summer it sends the heat down to the ground. The pump runs on electricity which is generated by the solar array on the roof. Loveless says he once spent $5,500 dollars a year on energy — $3,500 for gasoline, $800 for natural gas and $1,200 for electricity. Now, he spends about $500.

“(There is a) realization that renewable energy is here now and doable and actually more affordable than staying with what we do now,” he says.

CLICK HERE to view “John Saves Energy” website.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/SgCDEf2Shl4[/youtube]

IKEA COMPLETES LARGEST ROOFTOP SOLAR ARRAY IN MARYLAND

IKEA Announcement (April 2014)

Edited by Brent Sauser

IKEA 06
IKEA 05IKEA officially plugged-in the solar energy system installed at its distribution center in Perryville, Maryland. The 768,972-square-foot PV array consists of a 2,674.9-kW system, built with 18,576 panels, and is the state’s largest rooftop array. The IKEA distribution center will produce approximately 3,397,178 kWh of clean electricity annually, the equivalent of reducing 2,397 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), eliminating the emissions of 499 cars or powering 359 homes yearly.

IKEA 02This installation represents the 36th completed solar project for IKEA in the U.S., with three more locations underway, making the eventual U.S. solar presence of IKEA nearly 90% of its U.S. locations with a total generation of 38 MW. IKEA owns and operates each of its solar PV energy systems atop its buildings – as opposed to a solar lease or PPA (power purchase agreement) – and globally has allocated $1.8 billion to IKEA 03invest in renewable energy through 2015. This investment reinforces the long-term commitment of IKEA to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic (PV) technology. Consistent with the company’s goal of being energy independent by 2020, IKEA has installed more than 250,000 solar panels on buildings across the world and owns/operates approximately 110 wind turbines in Europe. 

Specific U.S. sustainable efforts include: recycling waste material; incorporating IKEA 08environmental measures into the actual buildings with energy-efficient HVAC and lighting systems, recycled construction materials, skylights in warehouse areas, and water-conserving restrooms; and operationally, eliminating plastic bags from the check-out process, phasing-out the sale of incandescent light bulbs and facilitating recycling of customers’ compact fluorescent bulbs. IKEA has installed electric vehicle charging stations at nine IKEA 07stores in the Western U.S., and by 2016 will go L.E.D. by selling and using light bulbs that are only L.E.D. Constructed on 278 acres in the community of Perryville, in Northern Maryland’s Cecil County, this 1.7 million-square-foot IKEA distribution center began operations in 2002, employs approximately 550 coworkers, and currently helps provide inventory to many U.S. IKEA stores. 

NetZeroMax.com Passes 300,000 Site Visits!

by Brent Sauser

celebrate Photo 03My continued thanks to all those who visit our website, especially those that may have discovered NetZeroMax.com for the first time.  Subscriptions are growing at a rate of 1,000 every 40 days (+/-).  We went from 200,000 site visits to over 300,000 in a little over 100 days.  

We find it very gratifying to see this website grow with more subscribers and site visits.  The Net Zero message is starting to reach more of the “masses” and hopefully they are asking good questions and making sustainable decisions that will benefit them, the community, and the environment.  As more people become more aware of what Net Zero is and means, they are in a better position to make plans for incorporating Net Zero passive and active systems into their new design or renovation.  

warning 01As time marches on the option to transition to Net Zero will become more compulsory as new energy codes are adopted in various states.  California has already made it mandatory for ALL new residential construction to be Net Zero beginning in 2020.  Renovation projects will be subject to a full upgrade to Net Zero, depending on the degree of renovation.  Better to understand what is quickly approaching us than to be caught unaware and unprepared to act.  

NetZeroMax.com‘s mission is to raise greater awareness of Net Zero methods and systems, passive and active, that will help to transition you to a Net Zero solution.  Let’s get going!

Five Steps to Net Zero!

by Brent Sauser

Here are five easy steps to help make you more sustainable and less of a perpetual consumer when it comes to making the transition to Net Zero:

1.    Replace all incandescent lights with LEDs.  This the easiest and bestPhilips SlimStyle 03
way to save money with the quickest return on investment.  LEDs last 20 years and use 90% less electricity . . . that’s right, 90% less electricity.  LEDs cost more but the pay back and longevity is well worth the investment.  This is something you can do RIGHT NOW!

2.    Vampire Electronics Management.  Be careful with this one.  Vampire electronics suck power even when not in use.  If the light is on you are burning electricity.  This accounts for about 10% of the overall electric load, and growing.    One way to mitigate vampire loads is to place these electronics on power bars.  This way they can easily be switched on and off.  Radio Shack sells wireless shut offs if you don’t want to take the time to flip the switch.  Set your computer to shut down after 10 minutes of non use.  Doing this should save you at least 10%.

3.    Replace Appliances with Energy Star Appliances.  Your appliances Energy Star Logorequire a lot of energy to function and in many states natural gas is not an option.  All electric homes are more the rule than the exception.  When shopping for new appliances make sure the Energy Star label is on it.  This assures an energy efficient appliance that will save you money for years to come.  

4.    Increase Insulation.  Many of us are staying in our older homes and not “moving up” as we used to.  Retrofitting our homes with more attic insulation Icynene CT6_Sustainability_Res_Hmwnr
(R30-R50 depending on location) and adding wall insulation helps greatly to reduce heating and cooling energy costs.  Many who live in masonry homes can have the open cells filled with foam insulation.  Adding film to existing windows can help to reduce heat gain or loss depending on location.  Adding insulation is an additional expense that pays off quickly in lower energy bills.

5.    Solar Array.  30% Federal tax incentives for renewable systems (i.e. solarNREL 03 and wind, etc.)  expire at the end of year 2016.  It makes good common sense to   take advantage of this incentive.  A 5kW solar array costs around $10,000 installed (after Federal rebate).  Prices for solar installations continue to go down while the efficiencies continue to rise.  I suggest setting the goal for a solar installation around March of 2016.  By that time prices will be lower, efficiencies higher, and more competition to beat the December 31st deadline for Federal rebates.  

These five steps are easy ways to save you money, conserve energy, and reduce or eliminate your dependence on the energy grid.  You can do a little bit at a time and make improvements as you go.  Doing so will move you closer to becoming Net Zero and enjoy the increased savings in the process.

LPL Completes 415,000 SF Net Zero Building in San Diego

by Glenn Meyers-Green Building Elements

LPL Financial La Jolla Commons TowerLPL Financial today announced the opening of its new net-zero energy San Diego headquarters, Tower II at La Jolla Commons. The company reports this facility is the largest net-zero energy commercial office building in the U.S.

The 13-story, 415,000-square-foot office tower demonstrates a company commitment to sustainability and social responsibility, incorporating sophisticated available green technologies, health, and wellness benefits for its employees.

The tower uses three fuel cells to convert biogas into carbon-neutral electricityLPL-Building 03 that will allow the building to achieve net-zero energy status. In order to monitor and manage the tower’s reduced energy consumption, energy meters are located throughout the building and all surplus power is pushed back to the grid through San Diego Gas & Electric. In addition, the tower is furnished with LED lights that feature automatic dimming capabilities based on the degree of available natural light, as well as occupancy sensors that turn lights off by detecting unoccupied offices.

LPL-Building 02

Eighty-eight percent of the tower’s water consumption, nearly 2.5 million gallons annually, is recycled and used for irrigation and other building needs. Employee-focused sustainability programs encourage employees to recycle, compost and carpool. On-site charging stations for electric vehicles are also available for employee use at no cost.

The building will house more than 1,600 LPL Financial employees from seven office buildings in La Jolla moved to the La Jolla Commons facility.

For additional information please CLICK HERE and HERE.

Solar Power Being Utilized in Creative Ways

By Brent Sauser

 [youtube]http://youtu.be/4Ko5jApzu6c [/youtube]

Thin film solar power is being incorporated into the mainstream in very creative ways.  These two videos show how thin film solar can power a small car, as well as cover over 10 acres of an existing landfill in Georgia.  Thin film solar provides the much needed flexibility for certain applications, which results in much needed renewable and sustainable power.  For installations of significant size thin film solar provides a rather impressive visual scene that can be easily detected from aircraft.  Each new application gives the general public more reason to accept solar power as a viable energy alternative that will result in reduced energy bills and provide a more environmentally sustainable solution to our energy demands.  

solar panel photo 17BIPV 09

If you haven’t checked out how affordable going solar is, I invite you to go on-line and check out the cost of solar arrays from Amazon.com, Lowe’s.com, and Home Depot.  Add to that the 30% federal tax credit and it becomes even more affordable.  However, federal tax credits for solar end at the end of 2016.  Time to make plans!  Time to go SOLAR!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/wM2SX2jNEOo[/youtube]

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