Tag Archives: Rooftop Solar

Patagonia to Fund Rooftop Solar Installations on 1,500 Homes

By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch, March 11, 2016

While many major retailers—including Apple, IKEA and recently Whole Foods—are investing in solar to supply their own businesses with power, Patagonia wants you to have this clean, green renewable energy yourself.

The outdoor clothing and gear company is bringing rooftop solar to 1,500 homes in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. The company made the announcement Thursday in a blog post:

Led by Patagonia and Kinaʻole Capital Partners, LLC, a first-of-its-kind group of five certified B-Corporations has come together to create a $35 million tax equity fund that will make the benefits of solar power available to more than a thousand U.S. households. The new fund uses state and federal tax credits to direct Patagonia’s tax dollars for residential development of affordable, efficient Sungevity solar energy systems.

The five B Corporations involved in the project are: Patagonia, which will be the tax equity investor; Kinaʻole, as the fund manager; New Resource Bank and Beneficial State Bank as lenders; and Sungevity, Inc., as the project developer.

The homeowners taking part in the venture will pay no up-front costs as they will sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) to buy solar energy for less than their utility’s rates. Any surplus power the panels generate will be sold back to the utility.

In all, the rooftop systems installed through Patagonia’s new solar fund are expected to produce 200 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity over the solar installation’s typical 20-year life span.

Read full article from EcoWatch

Utilities look to reverse net metering decision

By Rob Nikolewski, The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego Gas and Electric and two other major California utilities Monday filed applications urging the California Public Utilities Commission to hold a rehearing to vacate or make “modifications” to its decision keeping retail rate net metering in place until 2019.

“We feel it’s in the best interest of our customers to re-look at this issue and consumer advocates actually agree, as they have taken similar action,” said SDG&E representative Amber Albrecht.

In January, in a tense 3-2 vote, the CPUC sided with solar backers over utilities that insist they are not trying to blunt the growth of solar power in California. Instead, utilities say the net metering system that pays rooftop solar customers for the excess electricity their systems send back to the grid is unfair to consumers who don’t have solar energy systems. Solar companies and their customers say the power their systems generate helps lower strain on the electrical grid and reduces the need to buy power during times of high demand.

The commission — in a ruling that ran more than 150 pages — agreed to keep tying credits to retail rates, rather than near wholesale rates that other states use. The CPUC said it will continue to re-evaluate the rules but the decision was widely viewed as a big win for solar, as other states such as Nevada have rolled back some solar incentives.

SDG&E filed its application for rehearing jointly with Southern California Edison, calling on the CPUC to make changes to its decision. Pacific Gas and Electric also filed paperwork Monday, the deadline for applications for a rehearing, looking to get the commission to vacate its ruling. The CPUC has 120 days to respond to the requests for a rehearing.

Read full article in the San Diego Union-Tribune

Whole Foods teaming with NRG and Solar City to install rooftop solar at 100 stores

By Samantha Masunaga, The Los Angeles Times

Whole Foods Market Inc. is embracing solar power. The Austin, Texas-based grocery chain has signed agreements with SolarCity and NRG Energy Inc. to install rooftop solar units at up to 100 stores and distribution centers.

NRG, based in Princeton, N.J., will install the units at up to 84 locations in nine states, according to a joint statement from the two companies. San Mateo, Calif.-based SolarCity will install the rest, Whole Foods spokeswoman Blaire Kniffin said.

The companies did not disclose the locations of the stores that will receive the rooftop solar units, but Kathy Loftus, Whole Foods’ global leader for sustainability, said the company’s goal was to have rooftop solar units in every region. A store’s rooftop solar unit can generate about 5% to 20% of the yearly electricity that store needs, Loftus said. In a statement, Whole Foods said it would buy discounted power from SolarCity.

Whole Foods says it currently has rooftop solar installed at 20 stores. Tuesday’s announcement comes 14 years after the chain installed solar-powered lighting for the first time, at a store in Berkeley. Installation of the newly announced solar units will begin in the spring, Loftus said.

Read full article in the Los Angeles Times

Smug About Your Solar Roof? Not So Fast

By Severin Borenstein (Professor, UC Berkeley), The Los Angeles Times

If you’ve installed solar panels on your roof and feel aglow with environmental virtue, you may be in for a rude awakening. There’s a good chance someone else has purchased your halo and is wearing it right now.

In most states (including California), rooftop solar panels earn Renewable Energy Certificates, which quantify how much clean electricity they produce. But if panels are leased or installed under a power purchase agreement, it’s the “third-party owner” — not the homeowner — who gets those certificates. Most then turn around and sell the RECs, a process that magically turns brown electrons green.

Here’s how it works: Joe’s Solar puts panels on your roof that produce 7,500 kilowatt-hours a year, and Joe sells you the electricity under a power purchase agreement. Because Joe still owns the panels, he gets credit — in the form of RECs — for that renewable electricity. Meanwhile, Bob’s all-fossil utility wants to “green up” so it buys RECs from Joe. That allows Bob to relabel 7,500 kilowatt-hours of his coal- or gas-fired power generation as “renewable energy.”

It may sound strange, but a market to sell or trade RECs can be extremely useful. California, for instance, has a mandate for its utilities to generate 33% renewable power by 2020, but some parts of the state have little sun or wind resources. Still, utilities in sunny or windy spots can produce more than their requirement and then sell the extra RECs to areas where it would be much more costly, or impossible, to hit the target. Thus, the RECs market allows a utility in one region to finance additional green energy production in another where it is cheaper, supporting more carbon reduction at a lower cost to consumers.

That seems sensible enough. But something’s wrong if the buying and selling utility companies both claim that green power as their own. And that’s essentially what’s been going on with solar rooftops.

Read full op-ed in the Los Angeles Times

 

A Trifecta for Solar Energy and Distributed Generation

We all have good weeks and bad weeks. For proponents of Solar Energy (and all other inhabitants of our planet) this has been an historic week, with major achievements at the International, National and California-state levels. Setbacks will be inevitable, but the events of this week will have memorable and lasting impact.

The first and International achievement was the December 12 Agreement of 188 countries at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris to take measureable actions with the eventual goal of keeping global temperature rise to less than 2ᵒ Celsius (3.6ᵒ Fahrenheit) by 2050 compared with pre-industrial levels. As we have repeatedly been informed, this is the level estimated by numerous scientists to avoid the worst affects of atmospheric warming and ocean rise.

Though yet to be ratified (a process that starts in April 2016), the agreement commits those countries that do ratify the agreement to establish national emission targets and report on progress every 5 years. While the agreement calls for zero net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to be reached during the second half of the 21st century, lowering the target would (according to some scientists) move this goal forward to the 2030 – 2050 timeframe. Either way, implementation of this agreement puts pressure on countries to support low- and non-carbon energy sources, solar very much included, accelerating their deployment and continued improvements.

The second and national achievement has not been enacted as this is written, but is the tentative agreement by Republican and Democratic House party leaders incorporated into the Appropriations bill that would extend tax credits for solar and wind projects from the current end-2016 expiration date through 2021. The agreement was the result of a compromise where-in Democratic Representatives would support eliminating the ban on US oil exports in exchange for Republican support for the Tax Credit extension.

While the vote can still go awry, a senior analyst at GTM Research (who closely follows the Solar market and industry) commented “the extension to the federal ITC is without question a game-changer for U.S. solar’s growth trajectory. Between now and 2020, the U.S. solar market is poised to see a number of new geographies open up with a 30% ITC, within both distributed and utility-scale solar.”

Finally, the third and California state achievement was the December 15 proposed ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to leave in place most of the charges and fees now in place between the state’s major investor-owned utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric) and customers who have installed residential and commercial PV systems. Though yet to be finalized (in January 2016), the proposed ruling leaves in place most of the terms that allow customers with PV systems to recoup their investments in a timely manner thereby increasing the desirability of these systems.

Challenges to PV-favorable net metering terms and (lack of) other fees have been raised in many states, and regulator decisions have been mixed. The proposed CPUC ruling is perhaps the strongest pushback by any state regulator to utility claims of the high costs distributed PV systems impose on other (non-PV owning) rate payers. While new costs are proposed, and some uncertainty is introduced by requiring PV-system owners to be placed on Time-of-Use rates (with unknown impact on their bills), the proposed ruling is seen as leaving the business environment favorable for continued expansion of distributed generation.

For now the sun shines on distributed generation and the growth of solar-sourced clean energy. Let us hope that all three events help realize solar’s potential contribution to our future energy mix for the sake of maintaining our habitable planet.

New Report: Greatest Growth in Consumer Adoption of Solar Energy Among Middle Class

A new report on residential rooftop solar installations indicates the growth in California’s rooftop solar market is trending toward greater adoption by middle class households. The trend, seen over the course of eight years, aligns with a steady decline in the cost of solar power and in the increase of financing options.

The new study by Kevala Analytics analyzed California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) solar interconnection data for 386,000 net metered solar systems installed from 2008-2015. The main takeaway conclusion from the study is that as solar deployment has expanded statewide, an increasing percentage of installations within that time frame are benefiting low- and middle-income median zip codes, with a decreasing fraction of installations in upper-income zip codes.

During these same eight years, there has been a steep decline in the adoption of solar among upper-income households contrasted with a recent increase in the market among the lowest-bracket incomes. In 2015, the statewide number of households in the highest income brackets matched the number in the lowest income brackets.

Read full press release from CALSEIA

Why Rooftop Solar Advocates Are Upset About California’s Clean-Energy Law

By Ivan Penn, The Los Angeles Times

California’s aggressive push to increase renewable energy production comes with a catch for people with solar panels on the roof: You don’t count.

If a home or business has a rooftop solar system, most of the wattage isn’t included in the ambitious requirement to generate half of the state’s electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2030, part of legislation signed in October by Gov. Jerry Brown.

That means rooftop solar owners are missing out on a potentially lucrative subsidy that is paid to utilities and developers of big power projects. It also means that utility ratepayers could end up overpaying for clean electricity to meet the state’s benchmark because lawmakers, by excluding rooftop solar, left out the source of more than a third of the state’s solar power.

Owners of rooftop solar systems and their advocates aren’t happy about the policy…The rooftop solar industry and consumer advocates say opposition to including rooftop solar in California’s renewable energy mandate came from large developers that feared competition for subsidies as well as unions that were upset because rooftop solar installers typically aren’t members.

Read full article in the Los Angeles Times

Not just California: Solar Battles Raging Across U.S.

By Sammy Roth, The Desert Sun

California has more rooftop solar installations than any other state, and it isn’t particularly close. But the Golden State is far from the only place where the solar industry and utility companies are clashing over how much money solar customers should be allowed to save.

Officials in 24 states have recently changed or are debating changes to rate structures for solar customers, according to a report released by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center earlier this month. Many of those battles mirror the one taking place in California, where utilities like Southern California Edison say homes and businesses with solar panels need to pay more.

There’s a reason all these battles are happening now: As rooftop solar prices fall, the industry is growing more quickly than ever. That growth has reduced planet-warming carbon emissions, but it’s also thrown the utility industry into a panic about its long-term ability to make money, clean energy advocates say.

Read full article in the Desert Sun

California Solar Costs & Value

By Jake Richardson, CleanTechnica (originally published on Solar Love)

There seems to be a lot of confusion about how much a home solar power system costs in the year 2015. Solar Power Now says the cost is about $3 per watt, or $15,000 for a 5,000 watt system, which seems to be about the average size for a single-family home. Actually, the size of the system will depend upon how much electricity that home uses, so you might need less than 5,000 watts. Obviously, the benefit is that then you would pay even less.

Did you know that solar power had dropped so much in price and become this cheap? Maybe not, because it does not seem that the public has caught up to the reality of what solar power currently costs. Even an official website managed by the state of California is using information from 2011. It says that the cost is $8.70 per watt and that a 4,000 watt system would cost about $34,000. A lot has changed in 4–5 years, but this website doesn’t reflect that.

If you could purchase a home solar system in California for somewhere between $15,000–25,000, you still get to subtract some of that cost due to incentives like the solar tax credit, which is still 30%. Then, there might also be some local incentives, so the overall cost could be even less.

Read full article at CleanTechnica

18 schools across California turn to SunEdison to save millions with solar

SunEdison, Inc. today announced that it has signed 20-year power-purchase agreements with six school districts across California. These agreements will see more than 9 megawatts of solar installed at 18 elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the state, and is expected to save taxpayers more than $30 million in energy costs over the next 20 years.

The six unified school districts getting new solar systems are Atascadero, Fairfax, Gilroy, Paso Robles, Templeton, and Tracy. The districts worked with California joint powers authority SPURR to arrange the solar power deals with SunEdison.

Each solar system will be installed on a parking canopy, a roof that sits above parked cars at the school. SunEdison intends to start construction during the first half of 2016, and aims to finish by the third quarter. The solar systems are expected to generate enough energy to offset more than 75 percent of the electricity used by the school buildings. That same amount of electricity is enough to power around 2,200 California homes a year. The systems will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 170 million pounds over the 20-year period.

Read full press release from SunEdison