Posts tagged: solar

Solar Revolution: Pushing Utilities Into Action

title=”American pushing a car. The car symbolizing the status quo of energy & utilities.” src=”×199.jpg” alt=”American pushing a car. The car symbolizing the status quo of energy & utilities.” width=”300″ height=”199″ />

Old 'energy' America is out of gas.

The renewable energy revolution and, specifically, the solar revolution, is on a charge like never before… full charge. It’s a trumpets- blaring kind of charge. The status quo, aka utility companies, are having a difficult time adapting and adopting
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to the surge in demand. Most likely with the onset of higher energy costs, nuclear meltdown and awareness on price decreases in solar. The adoption rate has occurred at such a high level that LA Department of Water & Power (LADWP), released a statement explaining how they are changing their solar rebate policy because: A) The demand has overextended their fiscal budgeting

by almost 300%, and; B) Citing safety concerns since they don’t have the bandwidth to inspect more than 80% of the installs in a timely fashion. SB 1 passed in 2006 (coined “The Million Solar Roofs Bill”), requires state municipal utilities to create their own solar rebate program for their utility ratepayers, among other mandated components & enforcement directives through 2016. The utility companies across the country have typically lobbied against pro-solar legislation, like SB1, so there is natural skepticism as to LADPW motive of “temporarily”

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suspending their rebate program. LADPW isn’t the first utility to maneuver this direction, other utilities in pro solar states like Colorado & Florida have take similar evasive action, too. Regardless, of honest vs. dishonest intentions, the one powerful statement this is making is that Solar ubiquity in America Is for real! Demand/solar adoption rates are increasing, and supply is really the biggest threat to getting the pricing to the sweet spot of making adoption as mainstream as super sizing your french fries. Pricing at All Time Low Since 2008, WholeSolar has been bringing solar buyers together to increase their buying power. The result is lower wholesale pricing. It’s like “Groupon” for solar. Pricing has dropped extensively since 2008, but frankly there has never been a better time to buy solar than right now – even if all the utilities who are mandated by State approved rebate programs, revolted. Literally, at the publication of this post we have negotiated unheard of pricing on behalf of the WholeSolar buying group. Consumers, are eating this up, given that solar, typically returns that cost within a 6-7 years of savings. More importantly, the home owners “cost-of-doing-nothing” is staggering. Nobody knows where pricing will go later this year and on into 2012. Even, with a pricing flux, the fact is that more states are going to be passing bills like

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SB1, and the momentum of the energy revolution in America is going to continue. The solar surge has the momentum that is going to help recharge the economy, and not be stopped by a utility lobby, or a presidential election, unless they want to be on the wrong side of history. With pricing being at this level of a low & demand increasing to an all time high, utilities like LADPW are going to be forced to seriously review their rebate programs, refine them and meet the demand. Currently, LADPW is budgeted $30 million for 2011 rebate programs, and has confirmed requests for $112 million and we just started the 2nd quarter of the year! Granted, this reveals that LADPW, most likely under budgeted their rebate program to barely meet the law of the California. But, it tells a terrific legislative success story, and more importantly paints a great economic picture of how solar adoption is slowly changing the way Utilities do business.

Earth Day 2011: PG&E – Change or PR Charade? (Part 3)

I’m hanging out at Asilomar, surrounded by nature. With Earth Day itself in the rear view mirror, I guess I’m basking in an Earth Week glow which began a week ago at San Diego’s gigantic EarthFair and has continued here at one of my favorite p

laces in the world. It seems that every newspaper I pick up has another article pertaining to the Solar Tribe. In Part 1, I wrote about National Solar Quote Month, the EarthFair in San Diego and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories’ new study that shows how much value solar adds to solar home prices. In Part 2, I wrote about the benefits of group purchases of solar (exactly the way we do it at WholeSolar) becoming more broadly understood and put into practice. Here, in Part 3 of the Earth Day blogs, we’ll take a slight departure and suspend judgment as to whether this subject calls for Solar Tribe celebration.

Earth Day afternoon was spent at the Monterey Aquarium. What a wonderful place of learning, most of which is interactive in a way that captivates attention and leaves the child or adult with knowledge about the ocean, its living creatures and the climate change challenges it faces. We ended up spending several hours there. We could have spent another day there, as well. If you have not yet experienced the Monterey Aquarium, I highly recommend putting it on your list. As we left the aquarium and walked down Cannery Row, I saw the headlines of the Earth Day edition of the San Francisco Chronicle: “Pacific Gas & Electric CEO Resigns.” My first thought was, “It’s about time. What took him so long?” Then I bought and read the paper and started thinking.

Pacific Gas & Electric Corp.’s top executive is stepping down with a $35 million retirement package following a “challenging year” that included a gas pipeline explosion in a San Francisco suburb that killed eight and destroyed 38 homes, the company announced Thursday. Chairman, chief executive and President Peter Darbee will retire on April 30, PG&E said in a statement.

$35 million for a voluntary resignation. Hmm. I wonder what Californians would think of that, particular the affected PG&E ratepayers. We didn’t have to wait long to read a response (from

With outrage growing over PG&E’s plan to award outgoing CEO Peter Darbee $35 million as he retires under a cloud of controversy, Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday that ratepayers should not be required to pay any of Darbee’s retirement package.

“At a moment when so many Californians face foreclosure, unemployment and depressed wages, it’s about time for corporations to rein in executive compensation,” Brown said. “At the very least, California ratepayers should not be footing the bill for this.”

As Brown weighed in on the controversy, however, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates PG&E and other utilities, acknowledged late Friday that ratepayers will pick up nearly one-third of the bill for Darbee’s retirement.

It turns out, that with recently issued stock options, Darbee’s actual payoff

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will be nearer $40 million. I guess this makes up for the $2 million cut in pay that Darbee was forced to take for being CEO during such a tough year for PG&E as 2010. In addition to the San Bruno disaster, Darbee supposedly led the a $45 million spending spree on a statewide initiative to hamstring local competition to PG&E’s power business and followed that losing debacle with a very clumsy roll out of wireless Smart Meters. So, are we to believe that with Darbee gone that PG&E will “straighten up and fly right?”

The irony of all of this was that Peter Darbee had such a promising start as PG&E’s CEO. He was billed as an outsider, a guy with “fresh eyes.” The San Francisco Chronicle wrote it well today in its editorial:

There were striking and bold steps at the start such as his conviction that climate change was real and that PG&E should adopt policies on renewable energy to meet the problem.

What happened? Was the initiative decision his or that of the PG&E Board of Directors? Was Darbee

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really the problem or was he one of two sacrificial lambs? So far, the PG&E CEO and COO have resigned. Its President, Christopher Johns and its Board remain in their entirety. One of the Board members, Lee Cox, will serve as Interim Chairman and CEO. Cox has been on the PG&E Board for 15 years. According to the Chronicle, speculation is that the search for Darbee’s permanent replacement is nearing completion. Michael Peevey, head of the California Public Utilities Commission, is encouraging that Darbee’s permanent replacement be someone with deep experience in the utility industry. State Assemblyman Jerry Hill, who represents San Bruno, has a totally opposite point of view:

“It has to be someone from outside, someone who can come in with no baggage,” said Assemblyman Jerry Hill. ” The utility industry and the regulators seem to have an incestuous relationship.”

Clearly, it remains to be seen whether Darbee’s resignation is good news or not. Earth Week certainly has not been uneventful.

Earth Day 2011: There Is A Lot To Celebrate (Part 2)


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iStock_000011455057Large-300×225.jpg” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”225″ />Today is the the 40th anniversary of Earth Day: Earth Day 2011. Earlier, in Part 1 of this blog, I shared about hanging out at Asilomar, reflecting on the recent EarthFair, the last week of National Solar Quote Week and reading many wonderful articles about our industry in the local newspapers. In Part 1, I wrote about reading yesterday of a new study that documents how solar boosts home values. This morning, I picked up the local Monterey newspaper, the Monterey Herald. It carried an article by Tracy Seipel of the San Jose Mercury News titled, ” ‘Solar Group Buy’ Program launched in California.” This one warmed my heart, because its about EXACTLY what we’ve been doing at WholeSolar for the past couple of years. It turns out that the article was written weeks earlier, but had finally found the its way, through syndication, to Monterey. While the concept is not new (see One Block Off the Grid), it certainly is important enough to repeat again and again. What the City of San Jose has done is develop a pilot program, with the help of a $100,000 grant from the Federal government, that encouraged city workers “to band together to increase their buying power and simplify the sometimes confusing process of going solar.” They have named the program “SunShares.” The article indicates they have also “launched a new program that will allow businesses and governments throughout the region to take advantage of similar “solar group buys.” The goal in all of this is simple: to bring the cost down, generate jobs and demonstrate how simple it is to go solar.

“It’s the Groupon of Solar”

When I Googled the article title, I found that it is being picked up in strong numbers through syndication across the United States, which is great as far as the goal of Solarizing America. Rafael Reyes, director of the Bay Area Climate Collective put like this:

“It’s the Groupon of solar. Our challenge is to take a good model like San Jose’s and replicate it throughout the region.”

I love the comparison of SunShares to to the extremely popular online coupon program called Groupon. WholeSolar has been championing a version of the SunShares program to both independent installers, as well as homeowners, long before San Jose launched SunShares. It just makes sense. No one of us has the buying power of all of us. Together, we can reduce costs. Together, we can simplify the process of going solar. And in the process of doing so, we will create jobs. Together, let’s solarize America! To Be Continued… Format Today is the the 40th anniversary of Earth Day: Earth Day 2011. Earlier, in Part 1 of this blog, I shared about hanging out at Asilomar, reflecting on the recent EarthFair, the last week of National Solar Quote Week and reading many wonderful articles

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about our industry in the local newspapers. In Part 1, I wrote about reading yesterday of a new study that documents how solar boosts home values. This morning, I picked up the local Monterey newspaper, the Monterey Herald. It carried an article by Tracy Seipel of the San Jose Mercury News titled, ” ‘Solar Group Buy’ Program launched in California.” This one warmed my heart, because its about EXACTLY what we’ve been doing at WholeSolar for the past couple of years. It turns out that the article was written weeks earlier, but had finally found the its way, through syndication, to Monterey. While the concept is not new (see One Block Off

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the Grid), it certainly is important enough to repeat again and again. What the City of San Jose has done is develop a pilot program, with the help of a $100,000 grant from the Federal government, that encouraged city workers “to band together to increase their buying power and simplify the sometimes confusing process of going solar.” They have named the program “SunShares.” The article indicates they have also “launched a new program that will allow businesses and governments throughout the region to take advantage of similar “solar group buys.” The goal in all of this is simple: to bring the cost down, generate jobs and demonstrate how simple it is to go solar. “It’s the Groupon of Solar” When I Googled the article title, I found that it is being picked up in strong numbers through syndication across the United States, which is great as far as the goal of Solarizing America. Rafael Reyes, director of the Bay Area Climate Collective put like this: “It’s the Groupon of solar. Our challenge is to take

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a good model like San Jose’s and replicate it throughout the region.” I love the comparison of SunShares to to the extremely popular online coupon program called Groupon. WholeSolar has been championing a version of the SunShares program to both independent installers, as well as homeowners, long before San Jose launched SunShares. It just makes sense. No one of us has the buying power of all of us. Together, we can reduce costs. Together, we can simplify the process of going solar. And in the process of doing so, we will create jobs. Together, let’s solarize America! To Be Continued… Path:

Earth Day 2011: There Is A Lot To Celebrate (Part 1)

I’m sitting here at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, one of my favorite places on Earth, enjoying pure nature surrounding me. And it’s the forty year a

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nniversary of Earth Day. For those of you who have not experienced Asilomar, it is located out on the end of the Monterey Peninsula (between Monterey and Carmel). It’s a place where it seems as though mountains meet the sea and wildlife is plentiful. Deer, raccoons, squirrels and blue birds are friendly, and so are the people who stay here. Reading the local paper these past few days has reminded me that the Solar Tribe has much to celebrate.

WholeSolar at EarthFair 2011

WholeSolar at EarthFair 2011

First, we’ve got a week to go for our National Solar Quote Month. April has been very good to many of us. WholeSolar was one of many exhibitors at San Diego’s annual EarthFair last weekend. The fair, which is held at the vast Balboa Park, drew more than 70,000 visitors. Needless to say, WholeSolar had a great opportunity to talk about solar, solar quote month and set many appointments with curious homeowners. This was my second time as an exhibitor at EarthFair. I love the people who attend. Mix that with National Solar Quote Month and the experience was a clear winner. Yesterday I opened the San Francisco Chronicle and read a great article titled Solar Panels Boost Values. In a nutshell, the article reaffirmed what many of us in the industry already knew from a financial valuation perspective, but couldn’t put our arms around any third party verification. Well here it is:
“Shell out the money to install solar panels on your home, and you’ll probably recoup that investment when it comes time to sell the house. You might even make a little profit. A study to be released today by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that solar boosts the value of homes, both new and old,” writes David R. Baker, Chronicle staff writer.

In addition, the home owner will get the benefits of reduced or even free electricity while living in the home. We’ve always known that solar increases home values in a manner greater than any home remodeling work does, we just couldn’t point to objective proof. Now we can. And, if you ask me, the study,

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which analyzed home sales between 2000 and 2009, might still come up short on the real increase in value that can be negotiated at arms-length by an informed home buyer and seller. To the home

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buyer, the value is derived from the free electricity received as a result of buying a solar home. The realistic question to be negotiated between the parties is the length of time that the buyer will receive this benefit. For example, quality solar panels and inverters will generate free electricity for many years, with minimal

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maintenance. And what about

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valuing increasing utility rates during this free electricity period? The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study documents that on 2,000 home resales, sellers at least recouped the cost they paid for their solar system, and then some. Perhaps it reflects the theory from the buyer’s point-of-view that, notwithstanding how much free electricity the buyer will save, that the maximum amount most buyers are willing to assign to solar is the cost that they would incur installing it themselves. Since the sale and purchase of a home IS a negotiation between two parties, if you are the seller with a solar home, make sure you are represented by a real estate broker who fully understands the benefits and has the ability to present them in terms of present values. If you do, I’ll bet your results will be better than indicated in this new study. Having said that, it’s wonderful to have the new study as “baseline” third party evidence about the value of reselling a solar home. To

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be continued…

Slurpees & Solar: 7-11’s Tips to Become Energy Independent

ll wp-image-971 ” title=”slurpee” src=”” alt=”Solar Nation honors 7-11 by displaying large blue slurpee next to 2 cherry ones” width=”96″ height=”181″ />

7-11 retrofits 100 stores with Solar in 2011 - Today, We honor the Slurpee

Along with the photovoltaic panels on its roof
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that generate as much as a third of the store’s electricity, the 185-square-meter, or 2,000-square-foot, “eco-konbini” in Kyoto also has a light-reflecting floor and sensors that automatically adjust the lighting. What’s an eco-konbini?, it’s the Japanese word for ‘convenient stores’ and

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7-Eleven is retrofitting 100 of them in Japan this year. At that rate, it would take more than half a century to turn the 12,000 7-Elevens in Japan green, but the company says that as the costs of outfitting a store come down, the number of conversions is expected to go up. The company also makes the claim that doing 100 stores is just like removing 600 cars off the road. Needless to say, much of the solar industry in the US right now has been and still is predicted by what we see happening overseas first. Solar panel adoption and green energy attitudes started sweeping across Europe long before in the United States. Asian markets, particularly China, has ramped up manufacturing ahead of the US, and a monolithic convenient store chain, personal to the American psyche, is now retrofitting stores with solar – in Japan. Sense the irony here? Solar adoption, as well as green energy as a whole, is among the most democratic movements thus far this century. It is capitalism at its core. The demand for the alternative is percolating among the masses like a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts coffee brewing every morning before rush hour. It’s the people who are pushing this, not the energy companies. It’s demand, not supply. Yet as we watch, America, who’s serious about energy independence , can at least extract a blueprint lesson in the 7-Eleven example:

1. In 2008, they retrofitted the first store with energy saving lights. 2. In 2009, they retrofitted stores with solar panels & LEDs. 3. 2010, they combined the retrofit to combine energy saving lights, Solar Panels & LEDs 4. Final step is they are adding Electric

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Vehicle chargers, powered by Solar.

With that illustration, we have foreshadowed of what is soon to come to the USA. Though, it’s ironic that we have to look elsewhere for technology that we are clearly capable of adopting & innovating better than any country. 2011, is starting to feel like that Americans have finally recognized themselves in the proverbial mirror. At last, seeing that it is time to shine, after all, the world has been waiting.

From Solar Nation: What Happens in California May Not Stay in California

This is one of the rare times I have read something and immediately want to share it with the Solar Tribe. I debated whether to blog along the same lines and work in quotes, but in the final analysis, this says it all for

Internet-Based Business

me. So, without further ado, the following email was received today from Solar Nation: Voters of California won a big one for climate and clean energy on Tuesday when they decisively beat back Big Fossil’s attempt to mold state laws to its liking. The infamous proposition 23, the attempt by out-of-state oil

American holding sign "Im Ready for a Green Economy"

80% (of Americans) want federal subsidies shifted from fossil fuels to solar

companies and others to sideline California’s
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sent the message to the rest of the country that, in a state where voters understand and care about such issues, polluting industries don’t automatically get their own way. Not only that, but this is a state where the success or failure of energy and environmental legislation has a way of getting exported to many other states. That’s how critical this particular battle was. If their chiropractors are OK with it, Californian voters should twist around and pat themselves on the back for

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that one. Prop. 26 The story with that state’s proposition 26 is a little more complex. Also backed by Big Oil, its passage means that certain environmental fees will be reclassified as taxes, meaning that they will require a two-thirds vote of the legislature to be imposed. This makes it politically more difficult to, for instance, charge polluters and raise funds for the benefit of clean energy, water and air. However, a senior Administration official said on Wednesday that this will only apply to laws passed from next year on; since the threatened Global Warming Solutions Act – AB32 – was passed in 2006, it should not be affected. Why It Matters The voting results on prop. 23 matter, and not just for California. Many of the freshman class of newly elected U.S. Congresspersons are fond of pointing at Democrats’ embrace of green causes as a factor in their poor Election Day showing. But here are some recent findings from a Kelton Research survey of solar/climate issues:

  • 94% of Americans polled believe it’s important to develop and use solar power;
  • 80% want federal subsidies shifted from fossil fuels to solar;
  • 70-80% want the Government to tackle climate change;
  • 49% would pay more for clean, reliable solar energy.

The implication is that the California ballot initiative results, not to mention the results of many of

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the statewide and U.S. races in that state, fairly well reflect the mood of the country on these matters. And that means that the 112th Congress should think very carefully before nullifying the progress made, to this point, on clean energy legislation around the country. Assuming, of course, they’re paying attention. Special thanks for Solar Nation

How Do We Figure This Smart Grid Out? Introducing CADER: Communities for Advanced Distributed Energy Resources

My, but we learn so slow, And heroes, they come and they go And leave us behind, As though we’re supposed to know ~ Joe Walsh, The Eagles, Pretty Maids All in a Row BPoilspillThe recent coal mine collapse and the gulf oil spill has caused the blogoshere to once again heat up with debates about clean energy versus the fossil fuel stuff. Scientists are saying that the Deepwater Oil Disaster could be more than 10 times worse than initial estimates — and the well could keep spewing oil into the Gulf for months before the oil companies figure out how to stop it. Meanwhile, some elected officials who insisted all along that offshore drilling was safe are trying to tell us that we just need better “backup blowout preventers” on offshore oil rigs. Glenn Beck continues to compare Global Warming to Nazi propoganda, but as Lewis Black points out so humorously, Glenn Beck has “Nazi Tourette’s” (you’ve got to see the video ~ I had tears in my eyes laughing so hard). On the other side, I just read a great blog today written by Green Builder Media’s Ron Jones. It’s titled Hostage Situation and makes many great points. This point stood out for me:

Why is it so difficult to get people to admit that we not only have the ability to make intelligent decisions and effect positive change in the way we conduct our lives, but that it is our moral obligation to do so? We know how to reduce the environmental impacts of our industries, our transportation, and our built environment. We are not forced to continue to pass the poison for the sake of profit.”

Getting off the poison and embracing the light, as I’ve written in earlier blogs and articles, is not a simple matter. In fact, it will take the coordination and cooperation of many disciplines to achieve the morally imperative change. At the end of last month we were very fortunate to attend the CADER Conference 2010 at the University of California at San Diego. The venue was spectacular, on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The gathering was even better. Attending were representatives of the California utilities, the Department of Energy, major universities, non-profit advocacy organizations, large and small manufacturers, green builders and green designers, among others. Over the three-day conference there were several threads or themes that emerged. I will blog about them in the weeks and months to come. Most importantly, it is clear that to get from where we are to where we need to be it will take a cooperative effort by the broad range of disciplines representated at CADER 2010. In fact, I got a chuckle recently when someone made me aware of an

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article in Smart Grid News about the Smart Grid’s Most Powerful Men. More likely, an earlier Smart Grid News article on The Networked Grid 100: Movers and Shakers of the Smart Grid probably better captures the essence of our challenge. Many attending the CADER 2010 event were not on this list and clearly should be. And what does all of this mean to the Solar Tribe? Jigar Shah, CEO of The Carbon War Room, founder of SunEdison, and brilliant futurist, put it very well in a recent email:

I think there needs to be a pivot by the solar industry away from solar advocacy towards Distributed Generation (DG) advocacy. This includes DG (solar, CHP, wind, small hydro, geothermal, etc) and, more importantly, aggressive electrical engineering (EE,) targeted storage, and smart grid.

Bringing together stakeholders in these various disiplines is the only way to sort out obstacles and opportunities. As we look around, we can find an unbelievable number of conferences and seminars on Smart Grid. Many organizations are creating forums for wide discussion and debate about where to go with with DG, EE and targeted storage. A quick search of the Internet identified the following gatherings in the very near future: Two Day Smart Grid Conference in Palm Springs, California May 18-19, 2010 Community Energy Roadmap Summit and Workshop Bellevue, Washington June 2-3, 2010 Smart Grid Technology Conference & Expo 2010, San Diego CA, June 2-3, 2010 Smart Grids – China 2010, Shanghai China , June 8-11, 2010 Smart Grid Interoperability Summit, Toronto Ontario, June 15-16, 2010 …and that’s just the next thirty days. In addition, these organizations exist for the purpose of advocating for distributed energy development: World Alliance for Decentralized Energy (WADE) California Energy Commission’s Distributed Energy Resources Guide Distributed Energy – A Journal of Energy Efficiency & Reliability Galvin Electricity Initiative There

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are many more I have not listed. Several blog installments can written on each of these organizations and others. They are necessary for the smart grid dialogues to take place. CADERlogoSo why does CADER have the opportunity to be different from these other conferences and organizations? It’s really quite simple and something of which I had not been previously aware. Communities, or microgrids, are natural innovation zones. They provide opportunities to perfect Smart Grid technologoes because communities have experimentation scalability. These microgrids also provide flexibility. At the community level, utilities can create partnerships with universities, as well as small and large businesses. At the community level, potentially contentious stakeholders are more likely to come together in cooperative efforts to jointly find solutions to the many technical challenges involved in creating a distributed energy smart grid. Perhaps most importantly, at the community level stakeholders can afford the trial-and-error required to acheive optimum cost reduction, without wide-scale public opinion slowing

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down or halting progress. CADER is all about taking a community approach to

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advanced distributed energy. From the beginning to the end of the 2010 conference, attendees heard about progress being made at the microgrid level from a broad range of community spokesmen. We heard different perspectives to common challenges shared by stakeholders. We heard from community leaders in the city of Chula Vista about the real world challenges and accomplishments for turning a decent-sized community green. We heard from representatives of the University of California – Davis about their development of a net zero community. We heard about the development of microgrids in India, Borrego Springs CA, and Canada. All with different challenges and points of view. We heard from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), Sacramento Metropolitan District (SMUD) about the utilities community plans and actions. We heard from the current and former commissioners of the California Energy Commission, as well as the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) Coalition and World Alliance for Distributed Energy (WADE). We heard panels talk about the critical role that water is playing and will continue to play in the energy-water nexus. We took a tour of UCSDs 30MW microgrid. I’ll cover all of these and more in upcoming blogs and articles. In the meantime, you can find many of the CADER presenters’ powerpoint presentations here. This is important and relevant to all of us, especially the solar tribe. We need more of this. In the past, the CADER Conference has been held bi-annually. Hopefully, it will shift to an annual event and broaden both its attendee base, as well as its media coverage.

What the BP Gulf Oil Spill Means to BP Solar

[THIS BLOG WAS UPDATED ON JUNE 16, 2010 – Please click this link for access]

The recent cheap discount viagra

“” target=”_blank”>Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico left eleven dead and wide ranging debate about the future of offshore drilling. Clearly the full extend of damages has yet to be assessed and BP has agreed to pay the costs of the leak catastrophe, but ironically, one of the interesting questions coming out of this mess is what will become of BP Solar?

BPsolarWhile BP Solar has been one of the major players in the photovoltaic solar panel industry over the past several years, rumors have been flying around the past couple of years that BP would be exiting the solar space. All along BP has held steadfast to its commitment to BP Solar, even while cutting 600 jobs last year. So, how will negative publicity affect BP Solar strategic partner relationships? BP Solar’s relationship with Home Depot comes to mind, as an example. BP Solar panels are the only solar panels currently offered to Home Depot customers. How will consumers react to the negative BP publicity? How much will BP Solar sales take a hit? Will it matter anyway, in the midst of a slump in retail traffic?

On the other, if BP remains committed to solar, does BP Solar represent a public relations opportunity to put a more positive face on who they are and where they are going? They are, after all, the only Big Oil company in the PV market. They have been and continue to be a major sponsor for the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and the Solar Power International trade shows.

Installers that

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I have been speaking with are concerned. Many are taking a wait-and-see attitude, buying panels from other manufacturers while they wait. What is the extent of brand damage and will it be overcomable? And if the rumors of the past about BP getting out of the solar business had no real basis in truth, will the oil spill push the old rumor into the reality category? It’s ironic that the only Big Oil company actively participating in the PV solar arena, is the one who caused unimaginable damage from the “Drill-Baby-Drill” side of its business. It’s ironic that the a catastrophe

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involving the energy of the past could have such a negative effect on the energy of the future, but such is life when your corporate name is really British Petroleum.

Here’s to hoping that, in the end, BP Solar, Home Depot, BP solar’s partners and installers all overcome this unfortunate setback.

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categories WholeSolar Blog | May 10, 2010 | comments Comments (0)

The Solar Revolution

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10/03/whole-solar.logo.08.jpg” alt=”whole-solar.logo.08″ width=”232″ height=”84″ />Recently, I read Senator Bernie Sanders’ blog entitled It’s Time for a Solar Revolution. He writes about how he and 10 of his colleagues (Senators Whitehouse, Cardin, Gillibrand, Merkley, Lautenberg, Leahy, Boxer, Menendez, Specter, and Harkin) are introducing the Ten Million Solar Roofs Act. The bill calls for 10 million new solar rooftop systems and 200,000 new solar water heating systems over the next 10 years. The idea is a knock-off of the “million roofs” program in California. Essentially the plan is to create 30,000 megawatts of solar power in ten years by offering consumer rebates for the purchase and installation of solar systems. So far the California program is on track to create 3,000 megawatts of solar power by 2016. What makes Senator Bernie’s bill different is that it is a Federal bill that supplements and complements state and local solar efforts. The idea is a good one, using a distributive approach, however the bill is but a small step in creating a full-scale solar revolution, but it is certainly an important one.

Jeff Wolfe groSolar CEO

Jeff Wolfe groSolar CEO

Ten million roofs is certainly a great start for a solar revolution, but it reflects limited thinking. My friend Jeff Wolfe, the founder of groSolar, made a presentation over a year ago entitled Thinking as Big as Oil. Jeff pointed out that as strong as growth has been for the solar industry, the entire industry’s revenues equal less than two days of ExxonMobil’s revenues. We have a long way to go to be as “Big as Oil.” Jeff gave several examples of where the solar industry was, perhaps, limiting itself in its goals and vision. And then he made a statement that should resonate with every member of the solar tribe: “I, for one, am not in this game to play; I’m in it to win ‐‐ to accomplish our
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mission for our company, for our country, and for our planet.”

Rhone Resch SEIA CEO

Rhone Resch SEIA CEO

Thinking as Big as Oil is certainly worthy of being called a Solar Revolution, but a revolution needs many, many passionate people with a shared conviction. Al Gore likes to talk about political will being the only thing missing, but more importantly that political will is a renewable resource.
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Unfortunately, the obstacles in this arena are as big as Oil. Obstacles mean opportunities. These obstacle/opportunities lie in

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the areas of technology, politics and basic human behavior and create exciting potential for history-changing achievements. The next step in building and advancing our movement, it

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seems to me is about increasing the general awareness. The ARRA program certainly is helping. Rhone Resch’s declaration of a Solar Bill of Rights is another step. There a few trail-blazing non-profit organization for us to get behind and support. I love Vote Solar. Their mission is “to bring solar energy into the mainstream.” I couldn’t have said it better myself and their every single action is doing exactly that. Vote Solar works at the state, federal and local level to implement programs and policies that allow strong solar markets to grow — working to remove serious regulatory roadblocks impeding solar adoption — and pave the way for a transition to a renewable energy economy. SolarTech is a PV industry consortium focused on creating a Solar Center of Excellence in the Silicon Valley. Their goal is to identify and resolve the inefficiencies inherent in the delivery of solar PV systems. This last January Solartech hosted a Solar Leadership Summit to Address Solutions that Cut Procedural Red Tape by 75% and Reduce Costs for Solar Customers and followed that up by announcing the launch of a new, free resource for solar professionals called SolarHub. In Solar Nation’s own words, Solar Nation “is the place where solar citizens live ” and “where citizens rally and convince their leaders to make America a true solar power.” There are probably many more similar organizations that part of the solar revolution. If you know of some, please let us know in an email: And if you are

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not familiar with Vote Solar, Solartech and Solar Nation, please check them out and get involved. A solar revolution starts with you and me. As I heard Buckminster Fuller say, “each one reach one; each one teach one.” To quote Vote Solar’s website: “The clock is ticking. Join the Team” or, perhaps a paraphrase is in order — Join the Solar Revolution.

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categories WholeSolar Blog | March 16, 2010 | comments Comments (0)

The Solar Bill of Rights

On October 27 through 29, 2009, I attended the Solar Power International show. Wow, what a great three days. So many good things to cover in the next few blogs. Today, I want to share the

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Solar Bill of Rights which was presented by Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). In a message of industry unity that was later complemented by calls for exerting political by New Mexico Govenor Richardson, Rhone laid out eight amendments of the Solar Bill of Rights and then stated, “We declare these rights not on behalf of our companies, but on behalf of our customers and our country. We seek no more than the freedom to compete on equal terms and no more than the liberty for consumers to choose the energy source they think best. These rights, like those on which country was founded, are a simple matter of common-sense. In fact, you might even call them ‘self-evident.’ But that doesn’t mean they’re self-evident in the halls of power, especially when our opponents are pumping as much haze into the energy debate as they are into the environment.” So here it is, in Rhone’s own words: Solar Bill of Rights. First Amendment: Americans have the right to put solar on their homes or businesses. Today’s systems beautify and add value to communities and homes, and yet antiquated rules prevent many homes and businesses from going solar. From restrictive covenants to onerous connection, permitting and inspection fees these rules create fundamental barriers to solar. Utilities should not be allowed to restrict green power with red tape. Second Amendment: Americans have the right to connect their solar system to the grid with uniform national standards. This is as simple as creating a standard jack for telephones. Can you imagine buying a phone in Nevada and bringing it home to California and finding out it doesn’t fit into the wall jack? Other industries don’t stand for this and neither should we. Third Amendment: Consumers have the right to Net Meter and be compensated at the very least with full retail electricity rates. Call this solar’s eminent domain—utilities use the power we make, and we expect to be compensated at its actual value. This is not just the cost, but the true value of solar including our security benefits, peak power benefits and environmental benefits – as well as the true price for carbon. Fourth Amendment: The Solar Power Industry has the right to a fair competitive environment. It’s the most basic right there is—equality under the law. Today, solar has anything but. And that’s not just an opinion, that’s a fact. From 2002 to 2008, federal subsidies for fossil fuels were $72 billion while solar received less than $1 billion. This is completely disconnected with the desires of the American people. Recent independent polling shows that 92% of the public supports greater use of solar. And yet taxpayers are forced to subsidize companies like ExxonMobil, companies that are the richest in the history of the world. It’s that simple—and that wrong. Subsidies aren’t the only issue of fairness, which leads me to number 5. Fifth Amendment: We also have the right to equal access to public lands. Oil and natural gas companies are operating on 45 million acres of public lands. Today, solar companies have access to ZERO. America has the best solar resources in the world and we can’t harness the full potential of the sun without accessing our sun-baked lands of the West. Of course, there’s little point in collecting energy unless there’s a means of distributing it. Sixth Amendment: We have the right to interconnect and build new transmission lines. Here, too, we seek no more than what other industries already have. The next great build out of our transmission lines

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must connect the vast solar resources in the southwest to the population centers across the United States. Seventh Amendment: Americans must have the right to buy solar electricity from our utilities. Consumers have no choice but to buy power from utilities. Although recently some utilities have started to listen to the 92 percent of Americans who want them to prioritize a kilowatt of power drawn from the sun over any other energy source. We have a long way to go. Therefore, for any renewable portfolio standard to be effective, at either the federal or state level, it must contain a large carve out for all solar energy technologies. Eighth Amendment: Consumers have the right, and should expect, the highest ethical treatment from the solar industry. From minimizing our impact on the environment to providing systems that work better than advertized to ensuring that we accurately communicate how incentives work for consumers, our industry must operate at a higher ethical standard than any other. We will not stand for those who cheat, lie and take advantage of the good name of solar energy. We declare these rights not on behalf of our companies, but on behalf of our customers and our country. We seek no more than the freedom to compete on equal

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terms and no more than the liberty for consumers to choose the energy source they think best. These rights, like those on which country was founded, are a simple matter of common-sense. In fact, you might even call them “self-evident.” But that doesn’t mean they’re self-evident in the halls of power, especially when our opponents are pumping as much haze into the energy debate as they are into the environment.

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categories WholeSolar Blog | October 30, 2009 | comments Comments (0)