Saturday, April 28, 2012

EVENT - May 23 San Francisco Solar Confluence

From Rosana Francescato, Solar Gardens Institute's regional coordinator for California's Bay Area:


I'd like to invite you to an event I'm organizing along with the Solar Gardens Institute. Whatever your professional affiliation, if you're interested in community power in California, this event is for you -- and it's free! You do need to sign up and can do so here:

See details below, and please spread the word to others! A promotional poster is attached and is also available here.

San Francisco Bay Area Community Solar Confluence: Bringing Community Solar to California

Date: Wednesday, May 23
Time: 7:00 – 9:30 pm 
(5:30 dinner gathering at nearby restaurant for those interested)
Location: Pacific Energy Center, 851 Howard Street  San Francisco, CA 94103

The San Francisco Bay Area Community Solar Confluence 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 community solar to communities across California. Among the speakers are groups that have led successful community solar initiatives around the country and solar experts from California. Participants will outline obstacles and brainstorm the key ingredients to bringing community solar to California—the policy and financing solutions, organizing efforts, and other initiatives. This event is part of a series of community solar “confluences,” with similar events happening in Boston, New York, Omaha, and Denver. The event is FREE but donations are welcome.

Presentations by:
  • Joy Hughes, Founder of Solar Gardens Institute
  • Erica Mackie, Co-Founder of GRID Alternatives
  • Ted Ko, Associate Executive Director of CLEAN Coalition
  • Eric Brooks, Campaign Coordinator at Our City (SF)
  • Other speaker announcements to come
Discussion and brainstorming will follow


What is community solar?

Community solar refers to programs that bring solar power to communities through collective efforts and pooling of resources, generally either through the installation of large solar PV systems with community members owning or subscribing to proportional shares in the system or a process where neighbors join together to collectively install PV systems on their own homes.

Community Solar Can Benefit ALL Californians

Community solar provides opportunities for California residential and commercial renters and building owners to go solar, and is especially beneficial to low-income communities that are unable to afford the high upfront costs of solar. Community solar benefits all Californians, offering opportunities for farmers and rural communities to supplement their income by leasing their land to clean energy projects.

To learn more about community solar and solar gardens, please visit:


EVENT - May 12 - Omaha Community Solar Confluence

I'll be traveling to Omaha for a May 12 community solar confluence. There is a groundswell of activity there to establish a community solar cooperative. The Midwest has always hatched co-ops, and many of the "original gardeners" hail from those farm states. For those interested, we have a new Solar Gardens Midwest discussion group at

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New York City Solar Map

90 prople attended SGI's New York Solar Confluence last night. I had a chance to see this amazing map of every single one of New York City's million rooftops. You can instantly find out whether any roof has adequate sun exposure, how much solar the roof could support, and

The City has defined several zones in which distributed solar will have a particularly positive impact.

Big thanks to all the speakers and sponsors of the event at El Puente Center in Brooklyn.

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

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Arctic Methane in Vicious Cycle of Global Warming: Study | Common Dreams

This is bad. Really bad.



As the Arctic warms due to global warming, the Arctic Ocean itself may be releasing vast amounts of methane, contributing to even more global warming, according to a study published today in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Read more:

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

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Can There Be “Good” Corporations? by Marjorie Kelly — YES! Magazine

Solar gardens are customer owned, so it makes sense for solar garden companies to be employee owned.


The alternatives emerging in our time represent an unsung ownership revolution. This revolution is about broadening economic power from the few to the many and redefining the purpose of economic activity. The aim isn't to endlessly grow gross domestic product or to create wealth for a financial elite, but to generate the conditions for the flourishing of life.

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

A Refundable Federal Tax Credit Could Remove Barriers To Community Wind | ThinkProgress

I'm here in Scituate, Massachusetts, where a community wind turbine has recently been installed. As one of four Massachusetts Green Communities last year, Sustainable Scituate surveyed 350 roofs for solar in this lovely, forested town. Only 30 went solar, so a solar garden is next - but wind will always be the renewable workhorse in this breezy coastal town.

John Farrell's excellent commentary on community wind:


Since community-owned wind projects create up to twice the jobs and over three times the local economic impact compared to absentee-owned projects, small policy changes that make community ownership easier can have a big impact.

There are other solutions afoot for community wind, including the Community Wind Act.  This U.S. Senate bill would allow distributed wind projects – 20 megawatts and smaller – to take the upfront Investment Tax Credit instead of the PTC.  The change provides one big advantage: community wind projects have a harder time getting capital, so upfront cash helps secure financing.

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

Thursday, April 19, 2012

SEC releases guidance on JOBS Act and seeks comments before any rulemaking | Law and Beyond

Solar finance geeks, sharpen your pencils! Crowdfunding is coming, and it could be very helpful for community solar projects. (The post is rather wonkish.)


Over the last couple of days, the Division of Corporation Finance of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC") gave some interesting information regarding the implementation and application of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the "JOBS Act"), which has been enacted on April 5, 2012.

Read more:

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Solar power works best when it stays small and local |

In the spring of 2010, I was minding my own business, directing a small nonprofit whose focus for 15 years has been to fight any and all attempts to privatize public land. From bad land swaps that benefit billionaires and cheat the public to congressional selloff schemes, we thought we'd seen it all. Then along came the Obama administration's push to deal with climate change and energy dependence by turning our Southwest deserts into factories for industrial-scale solar energy.

Cheered on by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and subsidized through the Energy and Treasury departments, what's come to be called "Big Solar" was on track to take over hundreds of thousands of acres of public land. While the developments would be on land leased, not purchased, from the government, it became clear to us that the transformation and permanent industrialization of the land really amounted to privatization.

Read more:

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

Friday, April 13, 2012

Utilities facing a distributed generation future? | Intelligent Utility

Farrell touched upon the use of community energy aggregation by the Marin Energy Authority, which fought for that right with Pacific Gas & Electric; the benefits of feed-in tariffs for renewables at the Gainesville, Regional Utilities in Gainesville, Florida, the state feed-in tariff in Vermont and the municipalization efforts in Boulder, Colo.

"Only time will tell if Boulder ultimately is successful in increasing its self-reliance without  raising rates or compromising reliability," Farrell said. "I'm fairly confident on those two metrics because municipal utilities aren't rocket science. But there are wrinkles to be ironed out. If anyone can do it, it will be Boulder. Those folks are very, very smart."

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 15 Dial in Discussion - The Founding Principles - What do we mean by "community"?

The Founding Principles - Dial in Discussion

Sunday, April 15th, 5PM Mountain
(4 Pacific, 6 Central, 7 Eastern)
(213)417-9250 Code: 1051673#
Please RSVP to 

This open class, part of the Solar Gardener Training, does not require registration. You can view previous lessons at - register for future sessions by filling out a form at this site or emailing a query to

Course Materials:

SGI Mission Statement:

SGI Founding Principles:

SGI Principles of Responsible Solar Development:


"Community Solar" is suddenly the buzzphrase of the day. Money is suddenly flowing into this formerly sleepy sector.  At the minimum, the word "community" just describes a group of people that have some relationship to each other. There is no inherent value, good or bad - as social creatures we often associate positive feelings with the idea of community.

There are three camps in this world that don't always communicate. We can broadly call these the "community" people, the "solar" people, and the "utility" people.

The "community" people talk about local democratic control, money staying in town and creating a multiplier effect, steady jobs. Often these local communities are beset by the man-made disasters that surround energy extraction - coal export terminals, transmission lines, bird-frying and tortoise-squishing solar towers, and of course fracking. Folks at the community level face an enormous learning curve around solar technology, finance, and utility and legislative policy.

Just a few years ago, there were only a handful of players in the solar finance industry, with closely held information and connections. Today there are many providers of power purchase agreements -  the Solar Gardens Institute has been contacted by over 100 companies wanting to finance, design, and build community arrays. To the "solar" camp, "Community solar" is any kind of solar array that is using virtual net metering or a subscription model.

Utility people are required to avoid cost-shifting, and often see rooftop solar as shifting costs from relatively affluent people to the customer base as a whole. They see virtual net metering policies as a way to even things out. So utilities often are agreeable to community solar - as long as it doesn't raise the cost of electricity to other subscribers.

How can these groups better understand each other? How can we assure communities get a fair deal and democratic control? How can we make sure community solar is a vibrant and thriving sector? The Founding Principles are offered for discussion as a potential way forward.

Other events where I'll be speaking:

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

Boston, MA - April 18, Massachusetts Community Solar Gathering

Brooklyn, NY - April 23, 
New York Community Solar Confluence

Omaha, NE - May 12, Omaha Community Solar Confluence

San Francisco, CA - May 23, Bay Area Community Solar Confluence

SGI Mission Statement

Our 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.

Principles of Responsible Solar Development

SGI Founding Principles

We are independently owned with a voice for all members", and follow responsible business practices.

We are vendor-neutral and technology-neutral, supporting a level playing field for installers.

We work with local designers, artists, and contractors, and seek partnership with local nonprofits, companies, and agencies.

We follow responsible solar principles, going above and beyond existing rules to produce responsible green power.

We work with the land and the urban environment at human scale to create a solar age we can be proud of.

We respect farming and ranching ways of life, and past and future generations.

We listen to the community, giving a hand up to those who need it.

We support an open forum for all stakeholders, and an honest discussion of the trade-offs.

We agree to respect one another, understanding that distributed energy supporters can have differing views on climate and energy development.
We support excellence in our team by offering flexibility and giving every member a chance to make their best contribution.

SGI Principles of Responsible Solar Development

Tree Preservation: By hosting panels on another rooftop or a community solar garden, people can protect the trees that shade their houses.

Share the Landwith ecological restoration and agricultural stewardship, using easements.  Plant trees and hedges for visual screening that also take carbon out of the air.  Combine with features like roads, power lines, and snow fences.

Shade Over Pavement instead of competing with photosynthesis.  It’s better to place the solar panels on shade structures above paved areas such as parking lots and driveways.  New cars can plug in here.

Solar Good Neighbor Policy:  Consider neighbors’ needs in planning installations.  Since neighbors might be installing as well, develop a neighborhood plan.

Limit Facility Scale:  Build to fit within the urban or rural landscape, with most PV facilities sized under 1 Megawatt.  Use existing distribution lines.  The grid is the tree, and the solar panels are the leaves.

Use Local Designers: Architects, artists, and even kids can create concepts for installations that reflect local character.

Consider Going Off-Grid: At the end of long distribution lines, the cost of maintaining electric poles and lines may outweigh the benefit of staying on the grid.

Responsible Business Practices: Build using local and recycled materials.  Employ local, empowered worker-owners.  Minimize use of toxic materials, use no herbicides, and maximize energy efficiency.

Local Ownership and Micro-Financing: Everyone must have the option to own their solar panels.  Promote a good price for selling responsible solar power to the grid, and low interest public financing.

A hand up for those who need it:  Support a non-profit to provide low cost solar subscriptions to low and middle income people

Super thanks!



Thursday, April 5, 2012

Distributed Solar Power for India - P.S. Deodhar

According to government reports, 400 million Indians today have no access to grid power. Giving them just a solar lantern will not serve any purpose. There is no better way to give electrical power to them than to exploit the local availability of sun, wind and biomass, by focusing on distributed small-scale projects. Distributed-scale projects enjoy important advantages over large-scale projects. These are less complex, faster to interconnect and bypass time-consuming land-use issues that often add years to project timelines.

Read more:

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Massachusetts Community Solar Gathering - April 18

MCAN Steering Committee Meeting – Community Solar Gathering
Wednesday, April 18th, from Noon to 2 p.m.

NOTE: Noon Meeting Time means BYOBB “Brown Bag” if you want lunch!

Meeting Location:
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston600 Atlantic Ave., Boston, Harborside 4th Floor, Paul Connolly Center Room.  Just across the Street from South Station.  Expect standard security screening of your bag and person at the entrance.

Community Solar Gathering
Many Massachusetts towns have made progress in implementing renewable energy initiatives to generate electricity for municipal use.  Outside of the Solarize Mass pilot communities, little has been done yet to address renewable energy for residential and small business consumers.  Learn more about Solar Gardenresidential and small business opportunities!

Joy Hughes, CEO of the Solar Gardens Institute.   She will explain the SGI model which combines community and third party ownership in a large solar array, located on rooftops or open land.   Large investors who stand to reap substantial tax benefits from large community arrays join forces with individual subscribers, including low to moderate income individuals who, over time, acquire equity ownership.  She will be sharing what SGI has learned from projects in ColoradoCalifornia and New York.  Joy lives off the grid in Colorado.

Jay Silva, an energy consultant and member of Sustainable Scituate and the Scituate Renewable Energy Committee will also speak.  He has been a key player in Scituate's involvement in the Solarize Mass Pilot, a solar PV group purchase program managed by the Mass. Clean Energy Center.   He will address the strengths and limitations of the Solarize Mass strategy and describe how the solar garden concept will act as a complement to Solarize Mass.  He will also specifically address how the SGI model might play out in aMassachusetts scenario.

Elizabeth Kennedy, Program Director of Renewable Energy Division of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center will speak briefly about the Solarize Mass program and how that program led someMassachusetts residents to explore Solar Garden opportunities.

Natalie Andrews, Renewable Energy Project Coordinator and Manager of the US DOE “Sunshot” Grant for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources will speak briefly about how the DOE Grant will enable the Green Communities Program to work on community Solar Gardens.
Also Short Presentation from: Gabe Shapiro of Next Step Living about their new residential solar program.    

Phone-in option for this meeting will not be available but briefing materials on Solar Gardens will be posted on the MCAN website shortly after the meeting.

Driving Directions: 
I-93 South or Route 1 South over the Central Artery, southbound:
  • Take the I-93 South/US-1 South towards Boston/Cape Cod to Exit 23 “Purchase Street/South Station.”
  • At top of ramp, continue straight on Purchase Street; at the 2nd set of lights, turn left onto Congress Street
  • The Bank is ahead on the right, at Congress Street and Atlantic Avenue.
From I-93 North (Southeast Expressway) or Route 1 North, northbound:
  • Take Exit 20 “Logan Airport/Worcester/South Station” and follow South Station ramp.
  • At 2nd set of lights, turn right onto Kneeland Street; continue to the end and take a left onto Atlantic Avenue
  • The Bank is approx. ½ mile ahead on the right, at Summer Street and Atlantic Avenue.
From I-90 East (Massachusetts Turnpike) eastbound:
  • Take Exit 24A “South Station."
  • At end of ramp, continue straight on Atlantic Avenue.
  • The Bank is approx. ½ mile ahead on the right, at Summer Street and Atlantic Avenue.

MBTA Commuter Rail    
The Boston Fed is easily accessible by the MBTA's Red and Silver Lines. Take the Red or Silver Line to the South Station stop. The Bank is the tall silver building located at the corner of Summer Street and Atlantic Avenue.