BLOG - Some News Under the Sun
By Chris Rogers, Solar Energy Program Intern
If you had solar panels installed on your roof over the last decade, you more than likely do not own your installation because you entered into a 3rd party contract with the vendor. Now however, due to the increased demand for solar power, lower prices, the simplicity of financing and solar-friendly state policies, more opportunities have opened up for local solar installers across the country. This means you can work with a local vendor, obtain local financing and buy your rooftop solar installation so that you own it outright when it’s paid off.
You can read the complete article about this solar news update, written by Andrew Beebe called “The Revenge of the Long Tail” at https://medium.com/obvious-ventures/the-revenge-of-the-long-tail-9f80fa93bf25#.6os7vuz9w
Andrew Beebe states that over the last decade, non-local national solar companies have helped bring solar within reach for millions of Americans with what is known as ‘the tax equity-based power purchase agreements’ (PPAs). These contracts allow third parties to own individual systems and sell energy generated by them. During the period from 2010-2014, we saw a market dominated by a few third-party ownership players, with no room for the thousands of small solar installers across the country.
Today, local vendors can offer simplified loans to home and business owners, giving them real ownership in their low-cost clean energy future. A loan is much less complex, but also does not require specific tax equity partners and therefore can easily be offered by a smaller scale solar installer. The County of Sonoma also offers financing for solar installations through their Sonoma County Energy Independence Program (SCEIP). Going local makes sense and brings competition back to the local level for the national players.
Contact us today and we can answer any questions you have about converting your home or business to solar energy, solar financing or getting a referral to a trustworthy local vendor.
Geoffrey Smith, Your Clean Energy Advocate
Solar Sonoma County, a program of The Center for Climate Protection.
Getting Personal About the Sun’s Energy
By Geoffrey Smith, Solar Energy Program Coordinator
That gigantic star in the sky that we call our ‘Sun’ has been a focal point of human culture and reflection since us humanoids set our biped feet on the planet. In this modern era of photovoltaic technology, we are redefining our human connection to this intergalactic source of life. A new documentary movie, ‘Catching the Sun’, shares the very personal stories of some people who are discovering a new relationship with their Sun in exciting and meaningful ways.
In the context of today’s national political landscape (POTUS 45), the stories of personal engagement that were shared this evening filled me with hope for a future that is bright with solar energy. It will be a long road to sustainability, but we are all on that road now. I am hopeful. What else can I be?
(Visit http://www.catchingthesun.tv/ to learn how you can watch this film on your PC or TV.)
PS - Half the fun of putting on events like this is the promotion!
Geoffrey in the studio with Drive with Steve Jaxon on KSRO
“Catching the Sun”
Congregation Shomrei Torah
2600 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa
“Catching the Sun” shines a solar powered light on how we can confront climate change by accelerating our transition to renewable energy, and in the process create needed jobs and train people to fill them. In this NY Times Critics’ Pick, hope for the future rests in an unlikely set of characters: an unemployed American worker, the charismatic activist Van Jones, a Tea Party solar advocate, and a Chinese solar entrepreneur.
A panel discussion following the film will feature local experts: Geoffrey D. Smith, Coordinator, Solar Sonoma County, a program of the Center for Climate Protection; Laura Goldman, educator and consultant on solar energy and VP of Solar Works; Tor Allen, Executive Director, The Rahus Institute; Alana Macken, Youth Advisory Board, Center for Climate Protection.
Come early! Representatives from groups working on these issues will be present to share information.
Open to the public. Free (donations accepted). Limited parking, carpools encouraged!
This is the second film in the fifth annual Social Action Goes to the Movies award winning series. Theme of the 2017 series is: Sparks of Hope: Healing Through Innovation and Creativity. The series is sponsored by the Social Action Committee of Congregation Shomrei Torah and has 20 co-sponsors—local synagogues, churches, and community groups.
The final film in the series: "Homes for the Homeless--A Better Way," a snapshot of homelessness and some new solutions, . Save the date!
Our Qualified Vendor member, Barry Cogbill, recently delivered ten off-grid solar/battery power systems to the water protectors at Standing Rock. This is his story.
I want to say thank you for all of the support you gave me, helping me get to and from Standing Rock, and accomplish some good things while I was there. With your help, over a 2 week period, we built 10 off-grid solar arrays to support Oceti Sakowin camp, the prayerful camp located closest to the front lines where the DAPL pipeline is being constructed.
While no one knows how this will ultimately play out, one this is now certain: the world is now watching.
Once I started paying attention to what was really happening at Standing Rock, the more I learned about the human rights abuses, and the utter lack of media reporting on it, I knew I had to go. I couldn’t not go. I started asking around, not knowing who I would travel with, or if my idea of bringing solar would be well received. But once I set a travel date of November 21st, magic and serendipity started occurring in profound ways.
I attended a training in Oakland (who knew I’d ever hear a lecture on what to do if tear gassed), and met 3 of my 5 travel mates. One has solar experience. With another, sitting on a cob bench in Oakland which was made by an unbeknownst mutual friend sealed the deal. 6 of us left from my house on the 21st, having placed tremendous faith in one another.
A solar colleague’s wife contacted me. She had spent summers as a youth near Standing Rock. She brought a friend in to the conversation, and between the two of them, they ensured us a welcome entrance in to camp. We also got to meet the spiritual leader of the Sioux peoples, Arvol Looking Horse, as a result of this connection. Thank you both so much.
When my van broke down in Buffalo, WY, we had the good fortune of renting the last box truck in town, a
Only 4 days before our arrival, hundreds of water protectors were trapped on a bridge and sprayed with high volume water cannons. A women’s arm was decimated by a concussion grenade (still not sure if her arm was saved). I have aging parents who count on me. I had to remain safe, but what guarantee was there? We learned that airplanes not only crop dusted people at the front line, but also over the camp. This singular possibility was my greatest fear. Followed close behind by susceptibility to injury, either at camp or traveling to get there and back.
We offered tobacco prayers and smudged ourselves and vehicles with sage. I felt like our prayers were answered. Even with the van troubles and extra costs, I knew something bigger than ourselves was protecting us.
I decided that I could not risk going to the front lines. But I could play a supporting role around camp, build and deploy some welcome solar, and I could shine a spotlight in a way that was not being done to much degree. It turns out the latter was the most important thing I accomplished. So many people let me know how valuable they found the information I reported. So many others started to pay attention and learn about the standoff because it now had a familiar face attached to it.
The media finally came. Where were they before? Paid off? Scared? I can’t say. Maybe it was the Veterans announcing their support and expected arrival that got the media to pay attention and show up. Regardless, bless the Vets. What a huge statement their presence made.
Long about day 10, I had a long conversation with a camp neighbor, Mike. He’s my age, works in energy, and is full Native American. It took a while for Mike to lower his guard. It was clear he’d been taken advantage of before by, well, white folks. Over about 90 minutes of talking, he started to warm up. We both wound up better people as a result of our time together. He talked about how we need to find love for the DAPL folks, even though they work to harm the land, the water, and the people. I have some work to do in this regard.
By the time we left camp, I felt good about accomplishing what I set out to do. We built 10 solar arrays and deployed 9 of them (we gave one to Arvol but were not able to set it up yet). The whole world now knows about Standing Rock and the struggle there. I know I had a small piece in delivering this message.
More serendipity found us as we left camp and started on the long drive home. A blizzard cut our driving day to 2 hours. We took refuge in a nearby casino, as thousands of others decided to do. We were able to deliver Arvol’s solar panels to him there, and bear witness to an amazing congregation of Native Americans and US Veterans. Conversations, ceremonies and healing ensued. I am so grateful for what I experienced there.
We spent two nights at the casino, which was completely overrun by the sheer number of people there. With very little organization, people just figured it out. We all took care of one another and I think most folks felt blessed to experience the energy and power that was on full display in the middle of a blizzard.
Finally the weather broke and we headed south to pick up my van in Rapid City. 24 hours after that, we arrived in Santa Rosa, where my housemate (and brother from another mother) had hot coconut chocolate waiting for us, along with a shot of whiskey. I was never happier to be home! My folks were never happier either.
I’m flat broke as a result of this trip, but mostly don’t care. I’m sure I’ll care more next month. The van repair and box truck rental costs overran my fundraising efforts by nearly $5000. I am humbly still accepting donations (www.generosity.com/community-fundra…/solar-for-standing-rock).
I want to give a sincere thank you to all who have supported me along the way. Besides the monetary and equipment contributions, so many of you made me feel loved and connected. I felt your prayers for my safe return. Thank you for reaching out to me. I have never felt such gratitude for the people in my life. Thank you all.
As I reflect back on all that happened, all that I witnessed, all I pondered, I am left with some messages I’d like to share with you. The first is that cars can now run on sunshine. The combination of solar and electric vehicles is the way of the future, and the technology is here now. We do not need yet another pipeline. Buy an electric vehicle next time around. I sure will.
Next is that the Standing Rock movement is about social and environmental justice versus greed and
This brings me to my last message: an old friend texted me while I was at camp. He said this struggle, this movement, is the awakening of a sleeping giant. That giant is us, we the people, with liberty and justice for ALL. The fight is far from over. No one said it would be easy. Please join me.
#NODAPL Water is Life Mni Wiconi
See more photos of the mission here.
Discover your pathway to clean energy
NEM is the program, established by the state regulators, that determines the compensation rate for solar energy that is generated by rooftop solar 'behind the meter'. It is defined as the 'net' of energy consumed from the grid, less energy produced by the panels.
Read about the NEM2.0 changes here. (PDF)
A more thorough treatment of the subject, including the definition of NEM -- or 'Net Energy Metering' -- can be found here.
*5% of aggregate customer peak demand for the PG&E service area
(Photo: Synergy Solar)
Pacific Gas and Electric, Inc. (PG&E) established its Solar Choice program pursuant to Senate Bill 43 (Wolk, 2014) that created the Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program. This program enables the three large utilities in the state to offer programs to their customers that credit their accounts for payments to support solar facilities constructed in the utility’s service territories, and to offer other increased renewable energy options.
Community Choice Energy proponents have consistently argued that choice and competition in the electricity market are fundamentally good. This argument extends as well to PG&E’s Solar Choice Program. PG&E’s step to compete in the market instead of opposing Community Choice through ballot initiatives and legislation is a positive sign.
PUC backs selling of solar surplus
Decision affecting homeowners, businesses hailed by SR advocate
By SCOTT SMITH ASSOCIATED PRESS
January 29, 2016
FRESNO — California homeowners and businesses installing rooftop solar panels can keep offsetting their energy bills by sending surplus power back to the grid, regulators said Thursday in a decision celebrated by the solar industry.
New guidelines narrowly approved by the Public Utilities Commission add fees to future solar users, but they fall short of what utility companies sought to charge customers for their use of the grid. Solar customers will pay up to $150 in a onetime fee for connecting to the grid and up to $10 each month. Existing solar customers aren’t affected by the changes approved by the commission in a 3-2 vote.
Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, said that the ever-dropping costs of solar equipment should offset the new fees.
“At the end of the day, going solar in California will remain a very good economic investment,” Del Chiaro said, adding that Nevada and other states have raised fees on customers, pushing the solar industry out of the market.
“This has been a clear signal that California is building our grid in a different way,” she said.
Geoffrey Smith of Solar Sonoma County, part of the nonprofit Center for Climate Protection, hailed the decision as a way to bring certainty to consumers considering whether to buy solar panels. A typical home installation costs $16,000-$20,000 and takes 5-7 years to pay for itself, he said.
“It’s very exciting,” said Smith, who attended the commission meeting in San Francisco. “I would say people are in a very celebratory mood tonight.”
Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and PG&E pressed the commission to charge solar owners heftier fees so the cost of running the grid doesn’t fall on non-solar customers.
PG&E spokeswoman Ari Vanrenen said in a statement that the power company supports the continued growth of rooftop solar in California, but she called the decision disappointing.
Chaz Mathias of Synergy Solar installs solar panels on a Santa Rosa home.
JOHN BURGESS / THE PRESS DEMOCRAT