Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Frack No!

Live from New York! Anti-frackin' rally with Josh Fox of Gasland.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wall Street protesters occupy SunShare groundbreaking

     From the Colorado Springs Business Journal:

A groundbreaking ceremony today for the SunShare community solar garden was  hijacked by a dozen Occupy Wall Street protestors who showed up to confront Gov. John Hickenlooper.


Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Jan Martin began to introduce Hickenlooper to the crowd of about 150 when she was interrupted by protesters chanting slogans deriding big banks, government bailouts and Wall Street.

Read More:

I decided to comment on this one!  Here's what I wrote:

I’d like to point out that investing in a community solar project like SunShare’s is exactly the thing that people should be doing to get their money out of Wall Street. I’d encourage people to go to solargardens (dot) org and start such a project of their own – community solar gardens are a way of addressing wealth inequity and stop sending money to frackers, strip miners, and big utility companies.

Just like the Hoovervilles of Great Depression #1, the occupy protests are constitutionally protected free speech. Perhaps we are moving into an age where ONLY corporations are considered people with rights!

The Solar Gardens Institute is becoming a B Corporation, a corporation that is for profit, for benefit. This means we respect a triple bottom line – Planet, People, Profit.  This begs the question – why is EVERY corporation not a B corp? Shouldn’t every corporation have to work for the public good as a condition of its charter?


Joy Hughes
Solar Gardens Institute

Monday, November 28, 2011

Improving on the "Data Furnace" - Filling Your Roof with Solar Panels

This article recently appeared in the New York Times:

    Two researchers at the University of Virginia and four at Microsoft Research explored this possibility in a paper presented this year at the Usenix Workshop on Hot Topics in Cloud Computing. The paper looks at how the servers — though still operated by their companies — could be placed inside homes and used as a source of heat. The authors call the concept the “data furnace.”

     The data furnace would be really useful for people who have extra roof space for solar panels.  In most places, the electric utility limits the amount of solar power that a home can sell back to the grid, and pays for excess power at "avoided cost", far below retail rates.  At the Solar Gardens Institute, we have been thinking of useful, green ways that people can increase their electricity demand to match their roof's capacity, such as plug-in car charging for their neighbors and distributed server farms.  But it hadn't occurred to us that you could also use the servers to heat your home!

what do you think?



Protect the Poconos - Lease Your Land for Solar, Not Fracking!

The Solar Gardens Institute has been leasing land for community-owned solar arrays in several states.  Some of our landowners have mentioned that they have refused leases for oil or gas drilling (usually hydraulic fracturing).

This issue really hits home for my family as both my sister and uncle own homes in the Poconos of northeast Pennsylvania.  My uncle has found potential gas leases very near his home.  We will offer the landowners solar leases instead, and the same is true anywhere that a solar array can be economically constructed.

One complicating factor - solar power is intermittent, and gas turbines are frequently used to provide backup power.  To lessen the effects of this "gotcha", we present a study from John Farrell at the Institute for Local Self Reliance that shows that having lots of small solar arrays, rather than a few big ones, means you need less gas for buffering.  A lot less.  Just another reason to support distributed solar power!

Our goal is to bring solar arrays into local ownership, which will keep both the power and the money local.  Solar power can help keep the air and water clean, and help protect the precious Poconos from climate change.

Learn more about gas fracking here:
twitter: @gaslandmovie
facebook: GASLAND

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks to our Trainees! Training videos are here.

Thank you Solar Gardener Trainees, and big thanks to the SGI staff for helping pull this off!  We had 20 on the webinar for Sunday's Community Solar Day, an ideal class size.  Some couldn't make it due to scheduling or technical difficulties, so anyone can make up the class.

Videos of our in-person solar gardener training are available at the Solar Gardens Institute YouTube Channel.  I describe the training program and how it works.

Trainees - the above are required viewing, and don't forget your homework (find out your monthly kilowatt hour usage to determine how large a subscription you would need.)

We are assigning mentors for our trainees as we move into our class.  Look for the announcement for our next online training.

You can still apply to join the program!  Download the registration form: Solar Gardener Training Registration form and return to

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Online Solar Gardener Training 11/20 Registration Form

Online solar gardener trainings will be held on November 20th (Community Solar Day).    We will be starting at Noon Pacific, 1PM Mountain, or 3PM Eastern.  Registrants will be provided with webinar and dial-in information.

(Times shown are Mountain Standard Time)
1-1:15  Welcome, virtual meet and greet.

1:15 - 1:45  Solar 101 – Doug Southard, Southard Solar - Introduction to basic solar, finance, and utility terminology.  What is the difference between a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour?  How many solar panels does it take to power the average home?

2:00 - 2:30  Introduction to Solar Gardens - Joy Hughes, Solar Gardens Institute – Answers to basic solar gardens questions - What is a solar garden?  How does it work?  How can I start one in my area?  How can the Solar Gardens Institute support your program?

2:45 - 3:15  Solar Gardens Policy – Peter Olmstead, Vote SolarOverview of State and municipal legislation for solar gardens and the U.S. Federal SUN Act.  Learn how to promote good community solar policy.

3:30-4:00 Solar Gardens Finance – Stanley Florek, Solar Gardens Institute - Tax and securities laws and their implications for community solar, advantages and disadvantages of cooperative and LLC models.  Ownership, leasing, and power purchase agreements.

Download the registration form here and return to

Crowdsourcing the Energy Revolution - SmartPlanet

For the last six weeks I have outlined the big picture on energy, and advocated for transitions in energy and infrastructure that must really be addressed at the federal level. But if federal leadership on these big objectives fails to materialize (as it has, so far), what do we do?
If you’re a resident of Denmark, Colorado Springs, Boulder, Tucson, Orlando, Sacramento, and dozens of other communities, the answer is right in your town. You don’t even need to have an unshaded, south-facing roof and $20,000 to $30,000 to invest in a solar PV system on your house. All you need is an energy co-op.
Today I’ll survey how those strategies work. But first, I want to tell you about a dream I had about a year ago.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Virginia's Dominion Power plans 33 Megawatts of Utility-Owned "Community Solar"

"While details of the program remain to be sorted out, the company says it would own and operate the PV systems, and program participants would receive credit for leasing space for the installations."

Joy Hughes, Founder, Solar Gardens Institute
CEO, Solar Panel Hosting LLC
(719)207-3097 direct

Friday, November 11, 2011

Community Solar Day November 20- Register for a Solar Gardener Training! is having an online solar gardener training on Community Solar Day, November 20 starting at 1 PM - Mountain Time (Noon Pacific, 3PM Eastern).  Training is free!  

Register your interest by emailing and we will send you registration forms.

A community solar garden is a solar array on a very large rooftop or a few acres of ground. Those who rent or have shaded roofs can subscribe, owning panels in the array and receiving an electric bill credit.  Solar gardens laws are coming into effect in several U.S. states.

A solar gardener is a combination community organizer / project manager who organizes the subscribers, finds the site, and guides the project through the development process. Solar gardeners aren't hired - they emerge. A solar gardener works with local nonprofits, utilities, counties and municipalities, and the press.

Topics include:

Intro to Solar Gardening - What is a solar garden? How does it work? How can I start one in my area?

Solar 101 - Basic solar, utility, and finance terminology.

Solar Gardens Policy - Federal, State, Local, and Utility policies that encourage or impede solar gardens.

Solar Gardens Finance - The wide variety of community solar ownership and finance models. Find one that works for your local area!

Learn more at and register for the training by emailing, posting on the Solar Gardens wall on Facebook, or tweeting to @solargardens.  Let us know what classes you are interested in, and we will send you registration details.

We salute the hard work of Solar Mosaic, Community Power Network, and our "community of communities" in bringing this event together!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Community Power 'Communities Taking Charge' conference

Represent your community at the Community Power conference.

Community solar and wind projects are proving local electricity generation is possible, and we'd like you to come to the Community Power: Communities Taking Charge conference and learn how.

For two days next week, from Monday 14 to Tuesday 15 November, Bendigo is hosting a 2 day national event attended by regional and international stakeholders, business leaders and experts in the field.

The conference aims to address the challenges facing regional communities around the social, economic and environmental issues in creating a sustainable future as well as learn how regional communities have been able to access to renewable energy.

Joy Hughes, Founder, Solar Gardens Institute
CEO, Solar Panel Hosting LLC
(719)207-3097 direct

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

ALERT: Gather your subscribers! Colorado PUC Opens Door to 2011 Program

PUC Appeal Process Makes 2011 Colorado Solar Gardens a Possibility 

Attention all citizens groups, community energy coordinators, and solar integrators!  Gather your subscribers now and let us know at so we can help you move your project forward in the next few weeks. We will let everyone know as soon as we get final application forms from XCEL.

On November 1, 2011 the Colorado PUC issued a decision on the appeals (RRR) process for the solar gardens docket.  This means that XCEL has the green light to start the application process for solar gardens as soon as the current month.

Contrary to Public Service's concern about a delay, nothing in the Commission's rules precludes the utility from submitting an application for a pilot CSG project in order to meet the legislative intent of beginning the program in 2011.

Potential subscribers have been waiting, and waiting, to see what the final program rules will be so they can make a decision.  Now, there may be a very narrow window before the program.

This is contingent on a settlement decision in XCEL's Compliance Plan docket - currently being made behind closed doors by heavily lawyered parties.  Let me say once again the Colorado PUC is deeply in need of reform to allow citizens their constitutional right to due process, and to better serve the public by having the sort of reasonable deadlines we are familiar with in the private sector.