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!



1 comment:

  1. I've been interested in having and owning a solar garden myself but can't seem to get it off the ground and flying ? I have plans to build solar panels and battery hook-ups as well as wind energy .My problem is getting the financing to start the business..... How can Solar help me do this ? Contact me at >> or 706-865-0076 <<
    Thank you Robert Swisher