Monday, September 22, 2014

China Update

A very long flight took me to Beijing, and a high-speed train took me to the city of Qingdao at over 300 km/hr. The seaside city is famous for its Tsingtao beer, and its wonderful seafood. Solar hot water heaters sit on almost every building!

The air-quality in China leaves a lot to be desired. Solar energy will help address China's most pressing environmental problem.

The Low-Carbon Earth Summit is a high-powered event with sustainability leaders from all over the world. The entertainment has been amazing! I have attended a variety of presentations about exciting new solar technologies.

The Solar Gardens Institute presentation cover community and shared so the models from all over the world. I discussed the opportunity for China, which is hands-down the world's largest potential market for shared solar.

Next I am off to Beijing to meet with NGO leaders about the possibility of using shared solar models in China. I will be traveling throughout China for the next several weeks, so I will have many updates for you as I go along.

Thank you to all of you who donated money or air miles!

Joy Hughes
Solar Gardens Institute Founder

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hawaiian Electric Has Plans For Community Solar Gardens - KHNR

(Honolulu, HI) -- Hawaiian Electric is working on plans for community solar gardens across the state. "Pacific Business News" reports the program is designed to give businesses and residents an opportunity to invest in renewable energy by owning portions of an off-site solar energy facility that sells power back to the utility. Officials say they're open to suggestions.

See more at:

Minnesota Community Solar Garden Program Approved, Set to Open | Renewable + Law

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission today issued its long-awaited Order approving (with modifications) Xcel Energy's Community Solar Garden (CSG) Program - Solar Rewards*Community.  The Order starts the clock for the program to open no later than 90 days from issuance of the Order (mid-December) and officially plows the furrow for community solar projects in Minnesota.  It is not, however, clear that Xcel Energy will have the luxury of using the full 90 days for opening its CSG program- the Minnesota CSG Statuterequires Xcel Energy to begin crediting subscriber accounts for each CSG within 180 days of the CSG plan's approval. Stay tuned for additional details.

SEPA Report on Utility-Led Community Solar - Solar Novus Today

Community solar projects are popping up across the United States, offering those without the perfect solar roof, or no roof at all, the chance to cut their electric bills with solar energy. And leadership in the growth of this emerging trend is coming from an unexpected source -- electric utilities.

A new study from the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), "Expanding Solar Access Through Utility-led Community Solar," finds that the number of these programs in the US has jumped 64 percent in the past 18 months and an overwhelming majority, more than 90%, have been developed by utilities.

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Community Solar for Our Schools | San Juan Island Update: News about the things that make living here great.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

For Minnesota churches, clean energy is a higher calling | Midwest Energy News

Bethel Evangelical Lutheran and Minnesota Community Solar came together earlier this year to promote a solar garden that will sit atop the roof of the Minneapolis church.
Without a panel yet installed, the 40-kilowatt (kW) solar garden attracted enough support from the church’s members and surrounding Bancroft neighborhood to be fully subscribed. The project encapsulated for Rev. Brenda L. Froisland a deeper spiritual tug that speaks to her faith and the teachings of Christianity.
“Part of our vision is that in gratitude, Bethel amplifies God’s grace, nourishes God’s creation, reaches out and builds community,” she said. “This is very much a manifestation of those points and our vision. “We’re noting this incredible resource called solar energy God gives us, and we’re nourishing God’s creation by reducing our carbon footprint and consuming less coal — all that’s connected to global warming, sustainability and simplicity.”

Routt County commissioners hesitate to invest public monies in community solar garden

 — The Routt County commissioners placed an emphasis on the goal of transitioning to “future energy economies” in their recent strategic planning process, and they already oversee a significant solar array on top of the Routt County Justice Center on the west side of Steamboat Springs. But they weren’t ready Monday to tell Facilities Director Tim Winter to continue to explore investing in the new community solar garden that Clean Energy Collective is planning to begin constructing next month in Craig in collaboration with Yampa Valley Electric Association.

Commissioners Steve Ivancie and Doug Monger said they were uncomfortable investing public dollars given CEC’s unwillingness to share with them some of the financial details involved in building the solar array.

Read more:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Off to China!

From Thursday September 18 until November 5, I will be traveling in China for the Low-Carbon Earth Summit and to meet with renewable energy professionals and NGOs. Depending on the access I have available, I may be able to blog as I travel. However, if my access is limited, there may be a gap in blog postings until I return.

Thank you so much to the Solar Gardens community! Thanks to all of you SGI has raised the full $5000 in cash and in-kind contributions to make this important journey a reality.

many thanks,

Joy Hughes
Founder, Solar Gardens Institute

Friday, September 12, 2014

Intelligent Generation: Integrating Solar And Storage Profitably - Forbes

In 2009, Jay Marhoefer observed what was going on in energy markets and decided it was time to create a virtual power plant.  There were few actors in the space at that time who were talking about virtual power plants, and most of them were demand response (DR) providers such as EnerNOC, Constellation, or Energy Curtailment Services. Those actors were looking at 'dispatching' energy from customers who would otherwise be consuming it at certain times.

Marhoefer, on the other hand, thought he could dispatch actual power from storage located on the customer premise.  In this way, he could create the same types of value as demand response, but without inconveniencing the customers by turning things off. The idea was to develop a software-as-a-service business, controlling storage assets behind the meter while creating value for the customer.

Read more:

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Oregon: Central Electric Cooperative plans 'community solar project' meetings |

To educate its members about national and regional growth in utility-developed community solar projects and the possibility of establishing one of its own, Central Electric Cooperative today announced a slate of October informational meetings. Members can attend any one of eight meetings that fit their schedule.

A community solar project is a single, large facility powered arrays of solar photovoltaic panels and supported by the direct participation of individuals, businesses or agencies. In CEC’s case, participants must be co-op members.
“We want to explain the concept to our members and hear their ideas,” said Dave Markham, CEC president and chief executive officer.
Read more:

Soulardarity: Donate to bring solar streetlights to inner-city Highland Park, Michigan

This is an amazing grassroots, youth-led organization that is bringing solar-powered streetlights to a community that has been left in the dark. Please watch their video and donate to the cause!
Soulardarity is a community organization formed in response to the repossession of over 1000 streetlights from the city of Highland Park, MI. We’re building community power, promoting community-owned clean energy, and creating self-determination in Highland Park through the collective planning and cooperative ownership of 200 solar-powered streetlights. We just installed our second streetlight at a community park in HP. In the next year, we are launching a community cooperative and installing the first 20 streetlights owned by the Co-op. We need your help to raise $25K to pay local organizers, build the cooperative, and leverage full funding for the 20 streetlights in 2015, with the full 200 coming within two years.
Watch video and donate here:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Washington: Community solar program pursued | The Columbian

Clark Public Utilities is pursuing a community solar project that would allow customers to purchase a stake in putting electricity generated by the sun onto the grid.
The utility is working with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes renewables, to develop the project's design and to prepare a request for bids to build an installation of solar panels.
Not all of the details have been worked out. And the utility's Board of Commissioners must give the final OK before a contractor goes to work, and before marketing and operations begin. But plans call for the utility to build and operate a solar panel array near the corner of Northeast Padden Parkway and Northeast 117th Avenue at the Clark Public Utilities Operations Center.

Solar Gardens for China - Update, Thank You, and Request

I will be speaking at the Low Carbon Earth Summit to be held September 21-23 in Qingdao, China. The title of my talk will be Powering Planet Earth — Community and Shared Solar Worldwide (see the abstract below).

On behalf of the Solar Gardens Institute, I will be visiting Beijing and other Chinese cities to meet with members of climate, environmental, and renewable energy organizations to discuss the possibility of shared renewables models in China, and to learn about the recent surge of solar power development there. This research will be very valuable for my upcoming book on community solar.

The Institute would like to extend enormous gratitude to the donors who have made this possible, including one anonymous contributor of air miles for the flights to and from Beijing. There are only eight days left until my September 18 departure from Denver! Of our $5000 goal, we still need to raise $2328 to cover internal travel, lodging, and other expenses. The more we raise, the more cities I will be able to visit to spread the word about solar gardens.

Click here to donate to the Solar Gardens Institute and support community solar in China and worldwide!

Chinese Solar: Wikipedia
Your donation will be tax deductible through our fiscal sponsor, Grand Aspirations. 


Not everyone can install solar panels on his or her own roof. Many people live in apartments or have roofs that are shaded by trees or other buildings. Shared solar systems, also referred to as community solar or “solar gardens,” have the potential to allow everyone to own their own solar panels. An investor or cooperative member in a shared system receives a credit on his or her electric bill through Virtual Net Metering or a specialized shared solar tariff. Solar gardens have become increasingly popular in the United States, the European Union, and Australia. Shared solar offers the potential to power millions of people in urban areas worldwide, and for rural electrification in developing countries. This is an important tool to conserve fossil fuels and reduce air pollution. The Solar Gardens Institute provides training and tools for community solar projects everywhere. This session will discuss strategies for implementing community and shared solar systems throughout the world.

Joy Hughes
Founder, Solar Gardens Institute

Solar for All: Making Solar PV Accessible to Low-Income Families in the U.S. | Rocky Mountain Institute

While it’s great to see large homes owned by the likes ofWoody Harrelson and Will Ferrell being solar-powered, rooftop solar should be accessible to people across the socio-economic spectrum of the U.S., not just the one percent. But putting solar on all of these different roofs is currently a serious challenge.
Even with lowered PV costs and the prevalence of third-party financing programs, solar is largely out of reach for many low-income families. Many are renters who do not own their homes, putting them at the mercy of their landlord. For those that do own their homes, few have enough tax liability to take full advantage of federal and state tax incentives for rooftop solar. That’s largely a moot point anyway, since even with incentives the steep upfront cost of rooftop solar in the U.S. still puts a PV system financially out of reach for low-income families. That’s where third-party leasing can come in, but many low-income families have low credit scores and most solar leasing companies require a credit score of at least 700. It’s one potential financial barrier after another.
Fortunately, there are groups around the country working to overcome these barriers to market participation and ultimately bring solar to low-income households. Giving low-income families access to solar PV systems can help lower their utility bills, provide employment opportunities, and bring about an element of environmental justice.

Friday, September 5, 2014

CFC, Federated and NRCO Celebrate First Anniversary of Community Solar Program | Power Engineering

INDIANAPOLIS, IN--(Marketwired - Sep 4, 2014) - The National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC), Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange (Federated) and the National Renewables Cooperative Organization (NRCO) are celebrating the first anniversary of their landmark Solar Cooperative Community Projects (sCOOP) program, which offers electric cooperatives access to cost-effective and locally-generated solar electric resources to their members. CFC marked the anniversary at its District Meeting today.
The organizations created the program in response to growing interest among electric cooperatives in deploying small-scale solar generation resources, allowing members to purchase part of the output of the solar arrays on a voluntary subscription basis.
"Over the past year we've seen a significant amount of interest in solar on the part of electric cooperatives," CFC CEO Sheldon C. Petersen said. "The collaborative efforts behind the sCOOP program have enabled those co-ops interested in solar to pursue projects in a more cost-effective way."

Energy Storage: A Different View from Germany | Solar Energy Power Association

Germany leads the world in solar photovoltaic generation, so it would seem to follow that the country’s interest in energy storage would also be soaring. But when Ben Kaun, an expert storage specialist with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), traveled to an international energy storage conference in Dusseldorf earlier this year, he found that storage is viewed somewhat differently there than in the U.S.
As Germans look to the future, Kaun notes that they have a broader definition of energy storage than in the United States. The U.S. definition of energy storage typically focuses on electric power in, electric power out – that is, electricity storage. In Germany’s definition is broader, characterized by three main categories: power to heat, power to gas (specifically hydrogen) and power to power, which can utilize a range of storage technologies, including electrochemical (batteries), mechanical or thermal.

In the first category, electric power is stored and converted to heat for direct use as heat in buildings, district heating or industrial processes. For power to gas, electricity is converted to hydrogen through an electrolysis process and then stored (with some challenges), combusted and used in fuel cell generators. It can also be further converted into natural gas or liquid transportation fuels. Power to power — or direct electricity storage — may be lagging, in part due to a historical lack of enthusiasm for electric cars in Germany when compared to the growing electric vehicle battery market in the U.S.

Solar gardens grow power | The Durango Herald

The first collective solar energy project to be built under a La Plata Electric Association policy approved last year should be delivering power by Oct. 1.
John Shaw, who installed the first solar panels in the LPEA service area 13 years ago, is building the area’s first solar garden in Ignacio.
A community solar garden allows investment in solar energy by LPEA customers who are renters, who can’t afford the investment alone or whose house isn’t oriented to receive sufficient sun.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

SunShare Announces Program to Provide Free Electricity from its Community Solar Garden to Families

DENVERAug. 28, 2014 /PRNewswire/—Flanked by more than a dozen kindergarten students, the founder of SunShare, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and the principal of Academy 360 public charter school today announced a new program to provide free solar energy to all families of children who attend the school.
“We are grateful to SunShare for helping us bring green, sustainable solar energy to our families. Not only are we contributing to a healthy environment, but every dollar that is saved on electricity is a dollar that families can spend on healthier foods, after school programs, books for their home, and other essential family needs,” said Sally Sorte, principal of Academy 360.

Clean Energy Collective opens two Denver community solar arrays | Denver Business Journal

Two community solar power systems, each capable of generating 500 kilowatts of power, have opened in Denver — and are available to Xcel Energy Inc. customers who live in the city.
Boulder’s Clean Energy Collective (CEC) developed the systems, which went on-line Thursday.

Community solar project to ride out RET threat | The Australian

A planned solar farm in the southern NSW coast town of Tathra, which will spell out the word 'Imagine' in 50m-high letters, is set to push ahead despite concerns about the future of the Renewable Energy Target, ABC Online reports.
According to the news service, organisers of the community project – which is set to provide 50% of the power to the council-owned sewerage treatment works with the savings to subsidise the cost of operating community venues – say fundraising efforts are continuing, with backers Clean Energy for Eternity hoping to raise $80,000 by year's end with the tally already over $50,000.