Thursday, March 29, 2012

Community Solar Confluence - Boston 4/18, New York 4/23

The Solar Gardens Institute is happy to present a series of events called the Community Solar Confluence.  We will bring together community-based organizations, neighborhood residents, advocates for renewable energy, solar developers, local officials, and funders of programs for low income communities and renewable energy projects to learn about community solar models nationwide  - and opportunities to bring solar to people everywhere!

The Solar Gardens Institute is a for-benefit corporation providing tools and training to help develop community solar everywhere. Everyone is welcome to sign up for our weekly newsletter at our home page, and join the free training program.

Boston, Massachusetts - April 18,  Noon - 2 PM
Federal Reserve Bank, Paul Connolly Center, 4th Floor, 600 Atlantic Avenue, Boston (right across from South Station)

Joy Hughes, Founder and CEO, Solar Gardens Institute
Jay Silva, Scituate Renewable Energy Committee

We will discuss how the solar gardens model is the perfect complement to community rooftop purchase programs like Solarize Mass.

Brooklyn, New York - April 23, 6 - 9 PM (see flyer above for list of sponsors)
El Puente Williamsburg Leadership Center,  211 South 4th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 11211 

Joy Hughes, Founder and CEO, Solar Gardens Institute
David Brosch, Founder, University Park Solar
Peter Olmsted, Mid-Atlantic Solar Advocate, The Vote Solar Initiative
Max Joel, Energy Connections Program Director, Solar One
Laurie Reilly, Communications Director, Sustainable CUNY

Participants will outline obstacles and brainstorm the key ingredients to bringing community solar to New York State - the policy and financing solutions, organizing efforts and other initiatives. 

Look for upcoming events in Denver (to coincide with the World Renewable Energy Forum May 13-17) and San Francisco (on or around May 23).  Let us know if you'd like to help organize a confluence in your own area.

Other events where I'll be speaking:

Aurora, Colorado - April 9, 6-9 PM Subscriber Information Event, Aurora Municipal Building

Arvada, Colorado - April 14, Interfaith Power and Light conference on Faith and Climate Change

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Solar Panel Hosting LLC to Develop Community Solar Garden in Aurora, Colorado - Public Event at Aurora Municipal Center April 9

Aurora Sustainability Coordinator 
Karen Hancock, Solar Panel Hosting Company 
CEO Joy Hughes, and Solar Host Marc Collins 
sign Memorandum of Understanding 
at Aurora City Hall

For immediate release – March 22, 2012
Contact:  Joy Hughes, Solar Panel Hosting LLC
4800 W. 80th Ave suite 260, Westminster, CO 80030

The Solar Panel Hosting Company, a community energy developer based in Westminster, has signed a letter of intent with Hawkeye Right Now LLC to develop a community solar garden.  Three acres of a retired dryland wheat farm will house about 2000 panels to produce 500 kilowatts of community owned energy.

A community solar garden is a solar array connected to the grid.  XCEL customers in Aurora or Adams County will be eligible to become subscribers and have their own solar panels in the array.  Each subscriber receives a credit on their electric bill from the power the panels produce.

Landowner representative Marc Collins “The partners of Hawkeye Right Now LLC are pleased to be one of the first community solar garden hosts in Colorado.  With our site right next to the Aurora Campus for Renewable Energy (ACRE), we believe the Citizens of Aurora and Adams County will benefit for years to come.  We encourage other land owners to become solar garden hosts at”

State Senator Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora) was the Senate sponsor of the Community Solar Gardens Act, signed into law by governor Bill Ritter.  Said Williams: “I’m interested in seeing a solar garden in Aurora.  I plan to subscribe.  Again, Aurora will be leading the way.”

Says Solar Panel Hosting CEO Joy Hughes:  “Two thousand panels is a lot of power, but only a tiny fraction of the solar that Aurora will need.  It is likely that demand will be high and capacity will fill quite quickly.  Now anyone with an electric bill, whether a home, business, or house of worship can get clean, renewable power and save money. “ 

On Monday April 9 at 7 PM, Hughes will be giving a presentation for potential subscribers at the Aurora Municipal Center, 15151 E Alameda, in the Aurora Room.  “Even those from outside Aurora can come to learn more about community solar gardens, as there is probably one planned in your area too.” says Hughes.  To learn more about the meeting or subscribing to the solar garden visit, email, or call 719-207-3097.

Volunteers - combination community organizers and project managers called ‘solar gardeners’ help build the subscriber organizations.   Prospective solar gardeners can receive free training from the Solar Gardens Institute at or by emailing

The Solar Panel Hosting Company is a for-benefit company based in Westminster, Colorado.  The Solar Panel Hosting Company is particularly interested in bringing clean solar power to people in need.  SPH makes partnerships with local nonprofits, and plans to become a for-profit, for-benefit B Corporation.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Urban Permaculture: Community Solar Picnic Shelters in Seattle

Based on our Founding Principles at we "work with the urban environment at human scale." Seattle City Light is a perfect role model for this! They've installed beautiful translucent panels on picnic shelters in a city park. 500 subscriber-investors will join together to make this possible.

The system itself is highly subsidized with both grant money and generous benefits for in-state panels. One could imagine a lower-cost, scaleable system that could provide shade structures throughout cities. Positioned cleverly, such structures could shade a sidewalk in the summer while allowing the winter sun to melt off any snow or ice. Rain that runs off the panels can be caught and directed to an infiltration area (bioswale), reducing runoff in the streets.

Shade and cooling stations are important adaptation measures in our warmed-up cities. Energy from sunlight is carried away on the wires, lessening the urban heat island effect. Solar cells can be incorporated into public art projects and sculptures.

This way, every city becomes a solar permaculture project! Urban solar gardeners can take a page from Portland's City Repair project - ... Solar gardens can graciously provide power while actually making the cities nicer places to be and giving residents a sense of ownership and pride.

It's dawn. Do you know where your panels are?

- Joy


"Rather than attaching solar panels on an existing structure, Seattle City Light designed the Community Solar project so the panels are the roofs of three new picnic shelters. This is the first installation of its kind that City Light is aware of. Jefferson Park users have sought covered picnic areas for more than a decade, but tight budgets had kept the Seattle Parks Department from providing them until now.
By working together, Parks and City Light were able to create a project with multiple benefits for program participants and the community at large..."

Other than the lack of "quote" marks, this article in Power Engineering Magazine covers it pretty well.

Look at the great artists conception of the arrays here at the Seattle P-I

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

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Community Solar, not Fracking!

New York State is preparing to vote on a goal of 5000 Megawatts of solar energy over the next decade - equal to the output of a large nuclear plant. Community solar gardens allow people who live in apartments or under trees to subscribe and receive an electric bill credit from a neighborhood solar array on as if the panels were on their own roof.

 In Colorado, the Community Solar Gardens Act of 2010. The Solar Gardens Institute is assisting local government and nonprofits to develop ten community solar gardens. One of these is on land that was planned for oil fracking, but now will be reserved for solar.

 There are lots of ways to get involved in the community solar movement! You can register for a weekly email newsletter at and learn more at the solar gardener training page:

 Be a solar host - lease your land for solar energy instead of fracking.

 Be a solar subscriber - receive clean solar energy at low cost through the grid

 Be a solar gardener - organize your community for solar .

 Many thanks,


 Joy Hughes
Founder, Solar Gardens Institute

Friday, March 16, 2012

Solar Gardens in the "other" Westminster

The Solar Gardens Institute is headquartered in Westminster, Colorado, with a 10 kilowatt array.

The UK and other Commonwealth nations seem to be at the forefront of community solar.



Community group Repowering South London is set to shortly open a 40-50kW solar photovoltaics (PV) project on the roofs of the Loughborough Estate in Brixton, one of the UK's most economically deprived areas.

Andre Pinho, director and chairman of Repowering South London, told BusinessGreen it has already raised £10,000 from investors towards a £75,000 target since launching a share offering earlier this month.

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

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On-line petition supports community solar gardens in DC

see the petition at Force Change

I'd like to note this is not a SGI petition.

We at the Solar Gardens Institute very deliberately decided that access to solar power should be available to all people without the large upfront costs of a full installation. Solar Gardens that we assist have a minimum requirement of low income participation.

Supporting community solar gardens in Washington, DC is supporting a more egalitarian system of renewable energy generation and distribution.

Tidal Garden Proposed on the Isle of Skye

THE Scottish Government is actively considering radical proposals which would see Glenelg and surrounding communities taking a stake in a tidal energy scheme proposed for the Kylerhea narrows, The Oban Times can reveal.

This follows face-to-face talks in Edinburgh between First Minister Alex Salmond and Glenelg and Arnisdale Development Trust (GADT) representatives,at which they proposed a Community Renewable Development Fund (CRDF) to finance community investment in local green energy projects.

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

Molten Salt Energy Storage - For Batteries, not Towers

This technology uses molten salt for electrochemical energy storage, rather than thermal. These batteries will thus be able to store energy coming from PV panels rather than large solar thermal plants.

Solar power towers will shortly be obsolete, thanks to batteries.



Flow batteries have been fielded in the U.S., Japan and Australia. A number of systems – up to 25 MW – are in the process of being demonstrated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) administered by DOE's Energy Storage Systems Research program. Zinc bromine and vanadium redox systems are among the top contenders. But the materials involved are moderately toxic, and vanadium is subject to major price fluctuations. In addition, the aqueous solution limits the amount of material that can be dissolved and how much energy can be stored, and outside temperature can hurt performance.

Sandia is pioneering research on flow batteries that avoid these problems by not using water. Anderson assembled a multidisciplinary team of experts from the Labs, including electrochemist David Ingersoll, organic chemist Chad Staiger and chemical technologists Harry Pratt and Jonathan Leonard. What they've designed is a new family of electrochemically reversible, metal-based ionic liquids, or MetILs, which are based on inexpensive, non-toxic materials that are readily available within the U.S., such as iron, copper and manganese.

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Solar Punishment for Boulder

SGI will continue to organize solar gardens in Boulder. Some potential hosts have been deterred by the current uncertainty.

An abused partner is at the greatest risk at the moment when they leave their abuser. I say: stand strong, Boulder!

- Joy

From the Boulder Daily Camera:

In November, voters gave the city permission to continue to study the costs involved in starting a municipal electric utility and to move forward if leaders like what they see.

Xcel is asking the PUC to restructure the Solar Rewards payment program so that Boulder customers would not receive any rebates up front, and, instead, would receive only payments over time. Customers now receive both an up-front rebate and payments over time, though Xcel is working to phase out the up-front payments for all customers.

The utility also has asked to limit the amount of energy-efficiency investments that the utility would make in Boulder -- which often happens in the form of rebates for things such as upgrades to heating and cooling systems -- to the amount of money Boulder customers pay into the system.

Xcel also wants to bar Boulder customers from participating in the upcoming solar gardens program -- which will allow for renters, condo owners and others without the ability to install solar panels on their own property to purchase panels in a "solar garden" set up on a separate piece of land -- and the proposed long-term Windsource program.

Read more:

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

SunPower Insights | Dispersed PV: The Antidote to Short-Term Power Variability

Owners of PV systems know first-hand that passing clouds cause rapid changes in the amount of energy produced from second to second. The impact of this short term power "variability" on system owners is usually seen rather than felt because during times of low production, electricity from the grid picks up the slack. This is good for PV system owners, but makes it difficult for grid operators, who are charged with providing reliable energy for their customers. 
One way for utilities to manage variability is to ramp up other power plants, but that increases the costs and complexity of managing the electric power distribution system. Fortunately, recent studies have found that renewable energy sources that are distributed across a wide geographic range greatly reduce the effects of weather-related variability to the overall electric system. This means that more "dispersed" residential and commercial PV is good for utilities. 
Read more:

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

Republicans vote against reducing taxes on business

And against tax credits for renewable energy.
see how your Senator voted.

Monday, March 12, 2012

BBC News - The Cherwell School Oxford installs solar panels

They're doing community arrays in sunny old England!


Seventy-five people in the community raised more than £145k to finance the scheme. "This is a fantastic example of the sort of community solar initiative we desperately need," she said.

The scheme was arranged by Oncore (Oxford North Community renewables), a cooperative set up by Low Carbon Oxford North (LCON).

Read more:

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

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Japan phasing out nuclear, a third of its electricity

The New York Times
reports that Japan idled 52 of 54 reactors.
Concerns arose a year ago in the hours following the tsunami.

Fully one third of Japan's electricity was generated by nuclear power.
With most reactors offline, the country has enacted methods to conserve electricity.

When American officials are asked about renewable energy, the argument that there are times when the sun doesn't shine and wind doesn't blow.
Rarely does conservation come up.
Could Americans do what Japan is doing? Could we reduce grid demand to allow for more renewables and less coal, natural gas and nuclear power?
Can we afford not to long term?

Joy Hughes to speak at Creation Care Conference on Climate Change and Faith 4/14

My father, J. Donald Hughes, is both an ordained Methodist minister and a Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Denver. His studies have focused on the role of environmental factors in the rise and fall of civilizations. Growing up, I heard the word "sustainability" a long time before most.

I'm going to be speaking about community solar gardens for houses of faith. A congregation can crowdfund a community supported solar array to power their church. A synagogue with a shaded roof can become a subscriber and receive credit for power produced by an offsite solar array.

This is an example of stewardship of the Earth... God gave us these two great gifts of love, the Earth and the Sun, and it is with God's gift of knowledge that we use one to protect the other.


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

Friday, March 9, 2012

Guest Post: Great news--Community Solar Gardens coming to DC!

From: Anya Schoolman

DC Solar United Neighborhoods (DC SUN) has been working hard to make solar affordable and accesible to every resident of DC.  I'm excited to report that CMs Cheh and Alexander introduced the Community Renewables Act of 2012 on Tuesday.  A summary and the full text of the bill is available online at

If you live in an apartment building, a Condo, a Coop, if you rent or live in a shady area this bill is for you! It will let you own part of a commuity solar array somewhere else in DC and then let you "virtually net meter" the production from that array right to your electric bill.  You will be able to buy solar and see your Pepco bill DROP! You will also be able to support local green jobs and help fight climate change! The bill also has really important provisions to support solar in low income households.

We are so excited by this news! If you see Council members Cheh or Alexander say "thanks for taking leadership on Community Solar."   Stay tuned for updates.


PS: Check out this great radio story on the Community Solar bill--

A Maryland Twofer: SREC Fix & Community Solar Bills on the Move

From CleanTechies Blog -

New 'community solar' models use shared off-site projects to empower new members of the community to tap renewables for their electricity needs. But community renewables require policymakers to rethink the rules and regulations that support the traditional on-site approach. Maryland has an opportunity to be among the first in the nation to accomplish just that. The Community Renewables Energy Act (SB 595, HB 864) would establish new opportunities for Marylanders to subscribe to off-site solar and other renewable projects – and reap the bill saving benefits as if those clean energy systems were on their own roof. These shared projects would extend clean energy to a much larger and more economically diverse set of energy consumers. Hooray.

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

5000 Megawatts in New York?

I'm hoping a lot of this can be community solar and solar gardens. I know our allies have been working very hard on this!



Unlike surrounding states, New York does not currently have a binding, long-term megawatt goal for solar energy, thus compelling the market to pursue opportunities elsewhere, according to the coalition. The group - which includes representatives from the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, the NY Solar Energy Industries Association, Vote Solar and other organizations - says the Solar Jobs Act currently has bipartisan support in both the State Assembly and Senate.

The legislation would call for the development of 5,000 MW of solar energy by 2026 and create tens of thousands of new jobs, according to a legislative summary. 

Read more:

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

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Palo Alto, Calif. Feed-In Tariff

A feed-in tariff is an excellent way to fund community supported energy projects with groups of small investors.

"...a pilot program for the City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) -- the first year is capped at 4 megawatts and meant for medium-sized commercial rooftops with a minimum size of 50 kilowatts per installation. The FIT is applicable to solar only, although other renewable energy sources could be considered later on. The city will pay $0.14 per kilowatt-hour for 20-year contracts."
Joy Hughes, Founder, Solar Gardens Institute
CEO, Solar Panel Hosting LLC
(719)207-3097 direct

Monday, March 5, 2012

UK: New National Fund Launched For Community Renewable Energy Generation

We need this on our side of the pond!


The FSE Group (FSE) and lead partner National Energy Foundation (NEF) are delighted to announce that the Community Generation Fund is now open for applications.

The Fund addresses critical barriers to community-led project development by providing support at both pre-planning development and post-planning construction stages, to community energy generation projects that can achieve technical & financial viability, community inclusion and social impact.

Read more:

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

New Mars Solar Garden in Nevada

Who would care if it's called a solar garden but only has one subscriber, when that subscriber is a chocolate factory!
LAS VEGASFeb. 23, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Mars Chocolate North America, makers of Las Vegas' own Ethel M Chocolates, announced today the grand opening of a new solar garden at its Henderson chocolate factory. The state-of-the-art solar installation provides 100 percent of the electrical energy to the Ethel Ms plant during peak operating hours.
The project's completion was commemorated with a ribbon-cutting event attended by state and local government officials, executives from NV Energy, juwi solar Inc. (JSI), and Mars Chocolate North America leaders. 
read more:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

SGI Letter in support of Maryland solar gardens bill

To:  Maryland Senate Finance Committee Members
Maryland House Economic Matters Committee Members

Honored committee members,

     The Solar Gardens Institute (SGI) would like to announce its support for Maryland House Bill 864 and Senate Bill 595.  Community renewable energy via subscription can extend clean energy to a much larger and more economically diverse market.  Renters, condominium dwellers, and those with shaded property will be able to own solar panels and receive a credit on their electric bill as if the panels were on their own roofs. University Park Solar LLC has demonstrated through its community solar installation how this business model can be marketable.

     We have seen the popularity of the pending Community Solar Gardens Act in Colorado, and broad general interest in local power throughout the country.  We are confident in the particular language of the bills because of the support of Vote Solar.  The bill uses the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) guidelines for community solar policy.  SGI believes the guidelines to be a sound foundation for community solar legislation.

     Based in Colorado, the Solar Gardens Institute advocates for community based renewable power everywhere.  Our members reside in California and Massachusetts as well as Colorado and Maryland.


Joy Hughes,
Founder, Solar Gardens Institute

SGI’s Mission:
·      To educate and learn from the public about community solar energy.
·      To promote good community energy policy at the federal, state, and local levels
·      To assist local organizations in organizing, developing, and managing community-owned solar energy projects everywhere.
·      To provide a way for everyone to own solar panels, making clean energy affordable and available for all humanity.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The end of baseload? It may come sooner than you think: Renew Economy

Thanks to Al Weinrub of the Local Clean Energy Alliance of the Bay Area for passing this along!

...a 100 per cent
renewables electricity grid in Germany may be 40-50 per cent
wind, 30-40 per cent solar, with the rest coming from other
sources. Balancing this generation, however, would be the key

This is not possible with baseload, because you cannot switch
them on and off very fast, he said. It was possible with gas-
fired power stations, but peaking gas stations were also
emissions-intensive, and European countries such as Germany had
to depend on gas imports from Russia. He said new smart grid
technologies and storage, where costs would also rapidly decline,
would provide the answer.

In Germany, we could achieve 100% renewable by 2030 at
existing rates. We have now 20% in 2010. In 2020 with increasing
rates and these are exponential, we could have 50%, and in 2030
we could have 100%. It is possible but it must be supported by a
good political framework, with reduced FiT tariffs, privileged
grid access, and other regulatory changes.

Read more:

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