Friday, February 28, 2014

Edison Electric Institute Really Does Not Want You to Go Solar | Greentech Media

The latest from Adam Browning of Vote Solar:

The Edison Electric Institute, the trade association representing U.S. investor-owned utilities, is at it again. Over the past year, this monopoly of monopolies has been working overtime -- taking extraordinary, unprecedented actions -- to rid the world of the scourge of people generating their own power with solar.

Some pertinent quotes:
  • “Grid security and reliability values should not be considered in rates.”
  • “Environmental and social externalities should not be included in DG rates.”
  • “DG systems should not be compensated directly for reducing market prices.”
  • “Even if it can be determined that DG systems may make known and measurable net contributions to the security and reliability of the system...they should not receive additional compensation.”
  • “EEI believes that although avoided transmission and distribution may be theoretically relevant to determining adequate compensation for DG, the measurement of such components is too speculative at this time.”
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How Securities Regulations Cast a Shadow on the Growth of Community Solar in the United States | UCLA Law Review

The cascading cost of solar photovoltaic technologies over the past five years presents a ripe opportunity to change the way people think about solar energy, and the nascent community solar model offers the vehicle for such change. Community solar offers any electricity ratepayer the opportunity to purchase a small portion—as little as one panel—of an offsite, local solar array in exchange for reductions in the ratepayer’s utility bill for the entire life of the solar system. By removing traditional siting and financial barriers to solar ownership, community solar drastically expands access to solar energy to persons of all socioeconomic levels while also conferring a host of ancillary benefits.

Although traditional financial barriers to solar ownership have been effectively eroded, inflexible securities regulations continue to pose a formidable threat to the fledgling community solar model by imposing onerous and expensive registration and information disclosure requirements—essentially creating a minefield of potential liability for community solar developers. Due to the novelty of the community solar model, however, courts have yet to consider whether this arrangement constitutes a “security” within the meaning of the Securities Act of 1933. Nonetheless, an analysis of the case law to date quite strongly suggests that community solar interests are, in fact, securities. On the other hand, this Comment posits that the policy underlying securities regulations points in both directions, and therefore the classification of community solar interests as securities is not as airtight as some judges might think.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Solar plus battery storage could destroy utility business model | Clean Energy Authority

Solar plus batteries could kill utilitiesRooftop solar panels combined with battery storage have very real potential to destroy the reigning grid utility model, according to a study released this week by the Rocky Mountain Institute. And the destruction could happen quickly.

“We weren’t really surprised to see that it could happen,” said Jon Creyts, RMI managing director. “What surprised us is how quickly it could happen. Within 10 years, we could have tens of millions of utility customers who have favorable economics for defecting from the grid.”

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Invitation for Discussion - Open Standards for Shared Renewables

I've proposed this abstract for the Solar 2014 conference in San Francisco this coming July.  I'm interested in getting your thoughts for open communication protocols that would empower broader adoption of shared renewable systems.  Feel free to discuss in the comments below, or send commentary to me privately at

- Joy


Shared renewable energy systems offer credit on customer utility bills through virtual net metering. Shared systems are often managed by third parties, which must communicate the proportional ownership for each account to the utility on a regular basis. Utilities use a variety of different billing software packages and billing credit methodologies. Open communication standards would allow billing software vendors to develop shared renewable APIs, and might encourage the creation of open source tools for shared system managers.  Such tools might lower fixed costs and lower the barriers to entry for community nonprofits, solar integrators, and small utilities, thereby speeding development of shared renewable systems.

The Department of Energy's SunShot initiative has set a goal of 5000 megawatts of community and shared solar systems by 2020.  Open standards are one approach to meeting this goal, along with standardized business structures for shared systems in the public domain and open source software for shared system managers such as nonprofits and municipalities.  By partnering with these entities, utilities can gain public relations benefits and lower the overall costs of managing the systems.  Small, local solar integrators would be able to enter the shared solar marketplace, increasing the community character of the systems.

Information communicated between utilities and system managers includes proportional ownership by customer participants, moves and transfers of ownership by participants, and system production details which might assist in the operations and management of the systems.  Customer participants might be able to access this data on the web and on mobile devices in real time.  Standard protocols for protecting the privacy and security of customer data can be put in place.  This paper proposes, in sample form, a set of open standard for shared renewable communication for general discussion.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Could A Solar-Powered Currency Be The Next Bitcoin? | Climate Progress

 I think they are on the right track.  Solar panels naturally produce "interest" in the form of electricity, unlike gold that just sits there - bitcoins and dollars don't exist at all!

- Joy


A new digital currency that rewards solar panel users could not only encourage more people to switch to solar energy but provide a new, more stable model for future alternative currencies.

SolarCoin debuted last month and builds on the same technology as Bitcoin — the popular cryptocurrency most notable for attracting an online criminal element. Like Bitcoin’s decentralized model, anyone can get SolarCoins by buying them via Twitter or helping create digital coins through mining. What separates the two is that instead of relying on mining, which involves solving complex math puzzles, SolarCoins are incentives for homeowners who use solar panels.

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ESA Commissions Community Solar Farm In Florida

ESA Renewables has completed a 400 kW community solar farm on the Gardenia campus of the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) in Orlando, Fla. Spear Point Energy acquired the array and is selling its output to the OUC under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

The solar farm covers approximately 2.5 acres in a canopy arrangement over the parking lot and is expected to produce about 540 MWh of electricity per year. ReneSola modules are mounted on Schletter racking systems. Chint Power Systems provided the three-phase inverters for the project.

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Minnesota closer to terms on community solar gardens | Midwest Energy News

Minnesota utility regulators on Thursday answered most but not all questions about the shape of a new community solar gardens program.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission indicated that it would reject a proposal by the state’s largest electric utility to limit the number of community solar gardens that can be installed per quarter.

The board also voted to set a higher rate for electricity purchased from the shared solar projects than the one originally sought by Xcel Energy, and it said the company must pay for renewable energy credits associated with the solar gardens.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

First solar garden in Minneapolis sold out | Energy Central

The first community solar garden on Xcel Energy's electrical system in Minnesota has been sold out and construction is expected to begin later this year, the developer said Monday.

MN Community Solar, which plans to install solar panels atop a Minneapolis commercial building, said 25 subscribers have signed up to share in the output of the array at a maximum cost of about $950 for a 205-watt unit.

read more:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Destructive Ivanpah Solar Project To Finally Start Operations | Mojave Desert Blog

Government officials and executives are expected to flip the switch on the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System on February 13, over three years after BrightSource Energy and its lead investor, NRG, began bulldozing pristine desert to build the project.   During the 3+ years it took these companies to replace over 5.6 square miles of intact ecosystem to build 377 megawatts of solar capacity, Californians have added at least twice as much solar capacity with panels installed on rooftops or over parking lots, and even more capacity has been added with utility-scale projects built on already-disturbed lands.

Years of public relations efforts by NRG and BrightSource have not changed the fact that the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the eastern Mojave Desert arguably represents one of the most destructive renewable energy projects permitted on public lands by the Obama administration.  The Ivanpah Solar project is to the Mojave what oil drilling would be to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge- unnecessarily destruction with the proven risk of ongoing impacts to wildlife from operations.  The Ivanpah Solar project is yet another monument testifying to an unsustainable centralized grid that incents corporate destruction of public lands, and ignores the spaces in our cities and already-disturbed lands that are perfectly capable of generating energy from the sun.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Green Banks Can Multiply the Impact of Clean Energy Financing | Clean Energy Finance Forum

 Clean Energy Finance Forum is a newsletter that has popped up this year, with many interesting articles on the topic.  I encourage everyone to check them out!



Last Friday, the Clean Energy Finance Forum spoke with Reed Hundt, CEO of the Coalition for Green Capital, which has led the movement to create green banks in the United States during the last several years. Green banks are financial institutions that use public funding to leverage private financing of clean energy.

Hundt said it is urgent for states to start green banks to finance clean energy as they move away from coal and toward meeting their renewable energy standards. He said green banks can multiply financing resources by a factor of 10.

To build momentum for the creation of green banks, the Coalition for Green Capital is hosting the Green Bank Academy in Washington, DC on Feb. 6 and 7. The academy is a program that invites selected state energy and finance officials to learn how to establish and manage green banks.

Read more:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Community solar farms and storage |

While a number of local residents, businesses and institutions have installed solar panels on their roofs or elsewhere to reduce electrical costs and CO2 emissions, many others do not have the correct roof orientation or size required.

   In addition, because a number of business and residential properties are rented, the occupants do not have the solar panel option.

   And finally, because many properties benefit from tall, shading trees that provide cooling and temperature moderation during the warm months, they are not suitable for solar panels.

   But there are alternatives. One is solar panel farms, an arrangement in which families, neighbors or communities share the installation costs, or investment, and share the profits from generating electricity for the grid. These arrays can be placed on parking lots, buildings or non-arable or “gray” lands. The advantage of this approach is that it accepts capital from investors, and provides credit for the output as well as tax benefits to investors, be they private groups or communal ones.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Empire of the Sun - Opinion by Joy Hughes

Solar Gardens Institute Founder Joy Hughes
What would a civilization of sustainable prosperity look like? We would see a stable population, and a stable economy. Economic growth would be measured not in terms of more stuff, but of greater efficiency and higher quality of life. We would want to minimize energy and material flows in a sustainable world. Solar panels are perfect examples of sustainable technology, because they do not require fuel. We would want the solar panels to last a long time – generations, if possible.

The same would apply to all our society would use; buildings, vehicles, and all items of material culture. Durability would be one of the most important features considered in every purchasing decision. Charging 50% more for something that lasted two times longer would be a smart marketing decision. This is the opposite of our current culture of planned obsolescence. Thus, durable goods and infrastructure would become more capital-intensive. The question of social organization and sustainable world depends on how the infrastructure will be financed, and who will retain ownership in the long run.

I am envisioning a just society in which everyone would be guaranteed the basics of life such as basic housing, food, healthcare, education, and participation in a democracy as human rights. I would also include the ownership of clean renewable sources of energy, sufficient power the basic needs of the human life. There would be some degree of inequality, as there is in any human society.  A just society would minimize inequality, and be more of a meritocracy than a society of hereditary inequality. People could compete for better housing locations, objects of art and beauty, and for acclaim.

In such a future, everyone would own their own solar panels, their own living spaces, and their own shares in community-supported farms. These basics could be passed down from generation to generation. That is why I say: “everyone will have their own solar panel the way they have a belly button.”  This is a world of cooperatives, where each person will own a stake in the systems in which he or she participates.

What must be avoided is a situation where the few - the proverbial 1% - own the sources of energy for generation after generation. I call this potential dystopia the “Empire of the Sun”. Today, a few companies own almost all the fossil fuel reserves in the world, and command political power to match. But sooner or later, those reserves will be gone. In fact, in order to combat ocean acidification and global warming, most of those reserves will have to stay in the ground. So we know the fossil fuel companies’ reign is temporary. But that is not the case with solar power - the sun is not going to run out of fuel for billions of years. Most of us would likely prefer the kind of future for each of us owns our own source of power to such an empire.

In the imperial scenario, solar plants are in some ways similar the centralized fossil fuel plants of today - sprawling solar arrays located far from energy customers, harming desert ecosystems, and connected with giant transmission lines. What is a better way? Customer-owned rooftop systems and community shared solar gardens can be located close to power users. On-site storage systems and microgrids can provide backup power, resilience in the face of extreme weather events.

One way we can get to the world of distributed ownership is through low interest loan guarantees for renters and homeowners. These loans can be guaranteed by the fact that people are very likely to pay their electric bills and not have their power cut off. This is similar to what happens when utility builds a power plant. They take out bonds to cover the capital cost of building the infrastructure, backed by the utility bills of all their customers. If the panels are located in a community solar garden, the loan can be further guaranteed by the fact that the panels can be repossessed with just a few keystrokes. Once the loan is paid off, the customer pays only for the operations and maintenance costs of the panels, and the cost of maintaining the grid between the solar garden and the customer. Power becomes much cheaper, and the utility becomes a common carrier for the distribution of electricity. If the utility is a customer-owned cooperative, the customers own the grid as well.

A customer with extra space can also become a host for a solar garden. Ideally, anyone who has room for a few extra panels should receive electricity credits as a hosting fee. Because these panels are owned by someone else, if the property is sold, the new owner would be required to keep them on site or move them to a new location. This doesn't seem too much of a problem, as the panels are income-producing assets. Under today’s system, the devil is in the details. Zoning rules, property tax law, and mortgage policy will have to take solar hosting into account. It's important to streamline this process, as all of these factors can result in additional soft costs. This also challenges utility control of electricity generation, and requires new models for rate design. High PV penetration requires changes to grid operation and design, and may necessitate energy storage.

We can begin with the end in mind, developing business structures and regulations that allow community solar to be built rapidly, with the long-term goal of universal solar ownership.  Let’s steer away from the Empire of the Sun, and create a self-sufficient Solar Age.

Former Duke CEO Jim Rogers: The US Grid Will Be a ‘Blank Sheet of Paper’ | Greentech Grid

 "Decoupling" refers to separating the electricity generation business from the transmission and distribution business.  A decoupled utility's profits do not depend on the amount of electricity sold.  Since decoupling was instituted in California, energy efficiency has improved dramatically.  Jim Rogers has called for "decoupling on steroids". 

It's the same principle we think about when we talk about "net neutrality" - the Internet is a common carrier that treats everyone's data the same.  The highway system allows any company's trucks to transport goods.  Freeing the grid allows anyone to sell power to anyone else, and for community-based systems to thrive.

- Joy


Former Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers predicts that nearly every single power plant operating today -- aside from some hydro and perhaps a few nuclear plants -- will be replaced by the middle of the century. He called it a “blank sheet of paper” that opens up the possibility of a major transformation for utilities.

Speaking at a recent Brookings Institution event on the future of utilities, Rogers offered his candid take on where the power business is headed. Although centralized natural gas and nuclear are at the top of his list for low-carbon technologies, Rogers said he believed a more distributed grid is inevitable.

Read more:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Landscape-Integrated Photovoltaics | Architect Magazine

A compelling renewable energy trend is the increased integration of photovoltaic devices with the designed environment. Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) are a common example of this—but how about landscape-integrated photovoltaics (LIPVs)? Like their building counterparts, LIPVs have the potential to demonstrate design and economic benefits of fusing multiple functions in a single assembly. In addition, they encourage more creative thinking about renewable energy in the landscape—as opposed to the common installations of wind turbines or solar panels in uninhabited fields.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

“PV with Lot” Sales: A New Form of Personal Investment in Japan | Renewable Energy World

In the United States, community solar is a growing phenomenon. Those who live in an apartment or don't have suitable roofs or land are able to invest in, and benefit from, a larger project. In Japan, investing in a "PV with Lot" is becoming popular among individuals who don't own land and wish to generate extra income from the nation's feed-in tariff (FIT).

PV with Lot projects are popping up everywhere and individual investors can pick any site, independent from the location of their primary residency. This is similar to solar securitization and solar crowdfunding as an individual investment tool for solar, but it is different because individuals have actual ownership over solar projects.

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Joy Hughes
in community service
Solar Gardens Institute
(719)207-3097 direct

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Shared Solar Financing Goes Local | Renewable Energy World

The sizable up-front cost of solar has long been a challenging hurdle.  So has rooftop siting — roofs are often shaded, in the wrong orientation, not owned by the people who live there, or otherwise unable to host a solar system.  What if we could overcome both of these obstacles with one solution — one local solution?

A Colorado credit union and solar company may have figured this out.

Read more:
Joy Hughes
in community service
Solar Gardens Institute
(719)207-3097 direct