Sunday, November 21, 2010

Solar Gardens Workshops at Colorado PUC

Community Solar Gardens Workshops at the Colorado PUC

   The Colorado Public Utilities Commission will be sponsoring a series of
   workshops to help write the rules for the Community Solar Gardens Act and
   other community energy legislation.
   The workshop dates and topic areas will be as follows:

   December 2, 2010......    Application criteria and priority parameters (SEC
   and  Queue),  allocation  notification  requirements,  definitions,
   billing  methodology  and  real  time  production  data  (subscribers  and
   Qualified  Retail  Utility (QRU)), QRU acquisition and application.

   December 16, 2010........  Customer protection, subscriber organizations
   and  business  models  (minimum  capitalization),  share  transfers.

   January 6, 2011........  Issues regarding H.B. 10-1418.

   January 20, 2011........  Low  income  and  agriculture  participation  in
   Community  Solar  Gardens  and  issues  regarding  H.B. 10-1349.

   The topics outlined above may change, primarily as a result of discussions
   at a  prior  workshop.    Further  workshops  may  be  scheduled  by
   separate  order  based  upon  the  experiences in these workshops. 

   All workshops will be held at the Colorado Public Utilities  Commission, 1560
   Broadway, Suite 250, Denver, Colorado, 80202.  The workshops will begin at
   9:00 a.m. and end at 12:00 p.m.


   We are keeping in touch through the Solar Gardens Google Group
   at - feel free to sign in and
   invite interested folks

   Joy Hughes
   Founder, Solar Gardens Institute

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Want to cut energy expenses? Install solar!

A white paper co-authored by Westinghouse Solar and California Solar Energy Industry Association (CALSEIA) suggests that nationally, the new frontier for saving money on utilities is local generation solar.
Researchers used software from the U.S. department of energy to create and compare 30virtual homes in different parts of the United States, with a variety of home ages, climatic and economic factors.
The paper shows homes will see more savings with local power generation compared to further energy conservation measures.
Now, we at The Solar Gardens Institute say insulate and seal the structural envelope of your home, but then generate some electricity for yourself and a few friends!

The complete text of the paper is available at

Researchers evaluated three different ages of homes (old, typical and new) in 10 cities for a total of 30 different test simulations to determine what combination of energy efficiency and renewable generation makes the most sense for homeowners.
The conclusions are significant given that the residential sector consumes 22 percent of the energy in the United States, and there are only two ways to structurally reduce a home's energy costs: energy efficiency and energy generation.

Ok, that is great for people with optimal roofs for solar panels.
The rest of us can band together and create electricity that will not be subject to energy cost adjustments, swings in natural gas and coal markets, will not create air pollution with electricity and will build community through solar gardens.

"This study proves what common sense would tell us - it's simpler to put an energy source near to the load," said The Solar Gardens Institute Founder Joy Hughes. "With local energy generation and storage, we can efficiently use a smarter, smaller grid. Public and private investment should be steered towards distributed energy development."

See more about Solar Gardens at

Here are the by-project findings of the paper:

The results of these 30 different home simulations are that climate, local utility rates and home condition are the biggest factors in determining what are the most cost effective energy savings measures.
Lighting retrofits are always cost effective.
Weatherization and insulation energy efficiency measures are most cost effective in old homes in cold climates, but are not cost effective in newer homes or in temperate climates. Basic building shell and ventilation energy efficiency measures are most cost-effective in cold climates, but have long paybacks in more temperate zones.
Rooftop solar power systems have good paybacks regardless of home condition in sunny areas and in areas with either high electric rates or high solar incentives.
Solar thermal systems have good paybacks when the fuel source for hot water is electricity. Upgrades to Energy Star appliances and equipment are generally cost-effective when replacing broken or obsolete equipment, but are generally not cost effective when the existing equipment is still functional (analogous to not upgrading to a new, higher mileage car if the old one still works).
according to CALSEIA, most homes built since the mis 1980s have already gotten many efficiency upgrades or taken advantage of solar rebate, bonus and reward programs. Executive Director Sue Kateley called such improvements and payments "low-hanging fruit," and homeowners have harvested those savings.

Solar is usually assessed as the payback time or price per watt, have greatly improved.
"The economics for rooftop solar power systems have improved dramatically since 1980," said Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Westinghouse Solar. "According to these 30 home simulations, the most cost effective actions homeowners can take are to install energy efficient lighting and a rooftop solar energy system. We can't conserve our way to energy independence; but fortunately, with affordable rooftop solar we can now generate much of the energy we need."

The results outlined in the white paper are somewhat contrary to "conventional wisdom" regarding cost effectiveness for energy efficiency and solar energy systems.

Let's break with the "conventional wisdom" or power generation miles and limes away from the end users.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

San Luis Valley Citizens’ Distributed Energy Project

     The Solar Gardens Institute presents a plan for reliable, renewable energy for the San Luis Valley, using smaller  arrays or ordinary solar panels.  Joy Hughes presents the Citizens' Distributed Energy plan on Sunday, November 14 at 6PM at Jillian's studio in Crestone (behind the Elephant Cloud Tea House), and on Monday, November 22 at 6:30 PM at the Ute Theater in Saguache .  Learn about human-scale solar energy that makes sense for our valley.  For more information call 719-207-3097 

1.  Provide reliable power by producing and storing energy locally, and coordinating demand
2.  Provide all the SLVs electric power with renewable energy
3.  Export up to 200 Megawatts of renewable power by upgrading the existing grid
4.  Bring electrical generation into community ownership, with revenues going to public benefit

Respond to utility-scale requests for proposal
Provide utility-scale power by distributed means
Aggregate project finance and power purchase
Municipal, church, and nonprofit benefits from community ownership

Example:  Lake County, Oregon is planning to become a net energy-exporter through biomass and solar production, using existing transmission.

Virtual Power Plants

    A “smart grid” application called a Virtual Power Plant uses software control to coordinate distributed generation, storage, and demand management resources.  VPPs can respond to grid conditions by adjusting supply or “generating” additional energy from subscribers who agree to reduce their load on demand.

    While individual solar arrays will spike up and down on partly cloudy days, they will collectively show a smoother behavior.  The VPP can match supply to demand by using dispatchable resources like biomass, withdrawals from storage such as hydroelectric, or by adjusting demand.

is a company in New Jersey that can “generate” energy based on customers who sign up to curtail their load by actions such as cycling their air conditioners.  Siemens, in Germany, aggregates the capacity of nine different hydroelectric plants with a total capacity of 8.6 MW using its Decentralized Energy Management System.  Cisco Systems is working with Southern California Edison, is now constructing 500 MW of distributed power.  Iberdrola, Spain’s largest utility, is beginning a project in Alava, Spain to coordinate 100 MW of renewable energy generation (Iberdrola is also collaborating on a project in the San Luis Valley).

In December, 2009, XCEL Energy contracted with SunEdison to build 5 10-Megawatt PV plants in New Mexico.  This is similar to our proposed PV backbone.

SLV Virtual Power Plant

    The San Luis Valley micro- and mid-scale generation from home systems up to 30 Megawatt wholesale distributed PV plants.

Distributed PV Backbone
– 150 Megawatts of Silicon, Flat Panel, and Concentrated photovoltaics (solar panels) provide variable bulk power.  25 Megawatts to be located in each of the Valley’s six counties, including wholesale distributed at substations, irrigation corners,  Existing PV plants can be incorporated into the system.

Battery Buffering – Advanced batteries, such as Lithium and Sodium-Sulfur, can back up PV plants that can be suddenly shaded by clouds.

Hydroelectric Storage – Retrofit existing dams to store energy by pumping water back over the dam.  “Micro-hydro” units can be used for storage as well.

Geothermal Base Load – Geothermal plants produce energy day and night.

Biomass Dispatchability
– Biomass fuel can be a byproduct of agriculture, forestry, or can be grown under the solar panels.  Biomass plants can produce power on demand.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
– “Waste” heat from natural gas or geothermal generation can be used to heat structures such as greenhouses.  Heat storage can provide dispatchable power.

Demand Management
– Rather than storing energy, farmers and towns can store water, pumping it into water towers and reservoirs when energy is most plentiful, and using it when needed.  This allows the VPP to “time-shift” demand to when renewable energy is most plentiful.

Finance, Standard Offer, and Community Ownership

    A virtual power plant aggregates its energy output, and can also take advantage of aggregation in construction finance and power purchase agreements.  A “standard offer” will be made to landowners willing to host solar panels, similar to oil or gas leasing.  Tax-motivated investors can transfer ownership to non-profit organizations after claiming accelerated depreciation.
Joy Hughes
Founder, Solar Gardens Institute
CEO, The Solar Panel Hosting Company,