Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Imagine! Community Solar Farm Proposed for Bega Valley | Energy Business News

A proposed community solar farm for the Bega Valley on the south coast of New South Wales, is being looked at by the local council.

Clean Energy for Eternity (CEFE) has put forward the solar farm proposal for construction at the Tathra Sewage Treatment Plant, in the town of Tathra.

Read more:

Joy Hughes
in community service
Solar Gardens Institute
(719)207-3097 direct

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

City of Aurora, Xcel Energy, EPA Celebrate New Community Solar Site

On a fittingly sun-filled day, the City of Aurora Mayor Pro Tem Marsha Berzins acknowledged the grand opening of the Aurora/Arapahoe Community Solar Array, the first community solar facility to serve ratepayers in the City Aurora and Arapahoe County, Colorado.

Praising community-based renewable energy solutions as a key component of our renewable energy future, the mayor, along with representatives from the EPA, Xcel Energy and event host Clean Energy Collective, cut the ribbon on the 498 kW, 1,684-panel array.

Read more:

 I'm really happy to see Aurora gain a solar garden, and proud of the work EPA is doing to put solar on brownfields. 

There were a lot of people (including me) involved in the process of bringing a solar garden to Aurora, and many twists and turns to the story!

 - Joy


Solar Panel Hosting, Namaste and Solar Power Financial teamed-up to win 497-kilowatt projects in Aurora and Saguache County.


The site was moved from its original location in part of Aurora located in Adams County:

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

Lake Region Electric Coop kicks off new community solar garden project | Clean Energy Resource Teams

Lake Region Electric Cooperative (LREC) members now have the opportunity to purchase part of the output from their newly-installed HQ Prairie solar project being built on the restored native prairie at LREC headquarters.

The HQ Prairie solar array consists of 96 solar panels with a combined capacity of 39.36 KW or 39,360 watts. The array is expected to produce about 1.1 million kWh of clean, renewable electricity over the next 20 years. Each module has a nameplate capacity of 410 watts and will produce an average of 588 kWhs of electricity each year.

Read more:

Joy Hughes
in community service
Solar Gardens Institute
(719)207-3097 direct

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Iowa: How one small community is going big on solar | Grist

... Next came the solar garden, which allows residents to purchase solar panels — at a reduced cost — in the cooperative’s growing solar array behind the company’s main building. The value of power generated on the panels is then deducted from the customer’s electric bill.

Maria Urice, a consultant who helps coordinate and market the cooperative’s renewable and energy efficiency efforts, said the solar garden was an immediate success.

“We offered 20 (panels) and they were sold out in less than a week,” she said. “We ended up tripling the offer.”

Read more:

Friday, November 22, 2013

LISTEN - Power Shift - Generating Community Solar Power | Public Radio International's "Living on Earth"

      I've had the pleasure of meeting Worth Robbins and the very committed group of people working on the Harvard Solar Garden.  You may have heard them on the radio!  But if not, listen to this informative segment ...


Some roofs are oriented the wrong way or shaded by trees, making it impossible to install solar panels. But as Living on Earth’s Bobby Bascomb reports, some residents in rural Massachusetts have worked out a novel way to install their solar panels some distance away from their homes.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Solar and Energy Efficiency Securitization Emerge | Renewable Energy World

Organizations are beginning to securitize solar and energy efficiency loans to allow greater levels of investment. Securitization involves pooling loans to create consolidated securities that investors can purchase. Recently, SolarCity securitized $54.4 million in loans for solar photovoltaic installations. Also, the Green Jobs – Green New York program has achieved a high bond rating for securitized energy efficiency loans. 

“I think, ultimately, securitization through the asset-backed market is the only thing we can do to achieve large scale,” said Cisco DeVries, president and CEO of Renewable Funding. He said it is crucial to get the secondary market to scale to reach national and state solar power and energy efficiency goals.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Game Changer! IRS Provides New Guidance on Off-Site Solar Tax Credits

The IRS has released a new guidance for off-site solar systems which may, under certain circumstances, allow residential subscribers to claim tax credits for panels they purchase in a solar garden.  I am not a lawyer, and certainly not a tax lawyer, but let me give the lawyer's answer "it depends".  Whether or not the tax credit is claimed may depend on whether the subscriber owns the panels (rather than leases or purchases power), and on the contractual structure between the utility, subscriber, and any third party involved (subscriber organization).  It is possible there may need to be changes to contracts currently in use, and/or in legislation or PUC rules, in order for subscribers to realize these benefits.

Here is the relevant text:

Q-25: If a taxpayer installs solar electric property other than directly on the taxpayer’s home, may the taxpayer claim the § 25D credit?

A-25: Section 25D(d)(2) defines a qualified solar electric property expenditure, in part, as an expenditure for property that uses solar energy to generate electricity for use in a dwelling unit that is used as a residence by the taxpayer. Therefore, if solar panels that are not directly located on the taxpayer’s home use solar energy to generate electricity directly for the taxpayer’s home the taxpayer may claim the § 25D credit.

Q-26: A taxpayer purchases solar panels that are placed on an off-site solar array and connected to the local public utility’s electrical grid that supplies electricity to the taxpayer’s residence. The taxpayer enters into a direct contractual arrangement with the local public utility that supplies electricity to the taxpayer’s residence to allow the taxpayer to provide electricity to the grid using a net metering system that measures the amount of electricity produced by the taxpayer’s solar panels and transmitted to the grid and the amount of electricity used by the taxpayer’s residence and drawn from the grid. The contract states that the taxpayer owns the energy transmitted by the solar panels to the utility grid until drawn from the grid at his residence. Absent unusual circumstances, the panels will not generate electricity for a specified period in excess of the amount expected to be consumed at the taxpayer's residence during that specified period. Can the taxpayer claim the § 25D credit?

A-26: Yes. Section 25D(d)(2) defines a qualified solar electric property expenditure, in part, as an expenditure for property that uses solar energy to generate electricity for use in a dwelling unit used as a residence by the taxpayer. The taxpayer’s expenditure for off-site solar panels under this type of contractual arrangement with a local public utility that supplies electricity to the taxpayer’s residence meets the definition of qualified solar electric property expenditure.

Q-27: A taxpayer purchases and installs solar electric property to generate electricity for the taxpayer's own home and to allow the taxpayer to sell excess electricity to a utility. Unlike the taxpayer in Q-26, this taxpayer generates more than a minimal amount of excess electricity. Does this taxpayer qualify for the § 25D credit on the full amount of the solar electric property?

A-27: No. Under these facts, the taxpayer may not claim the § 25D credit for the full amount of the solar electric property expenditure because the property not only generates electricity for use in the taxpayer's home, but it also generates electricity for sale by the taxpayer. The taxpayer may only claim the § 25D credit for the portion of the solar electric property expenditure that relates to the electricity generated for use in the taxpayer’s home. In addition, the taxpayer may be able to claim the § 48 credit for a portion of the solar electric property expenditure if the requirements of § 48 are satisfied.

I've uploaded the full document to the SGI website at the link below:

Wow, how 'bout that!

- Joy

Microgrid powers Borrego during emergency |

 This is just what the doctor ordered for the folks who went through Superstorm Sandy!  Microgrids with solar, storage, and generators can be community-owned, just like solar gardens, and can provide the resiliency needed to survive the recent uptick in severe weather and blackouts.

- Joy


On the afternoon of Sept. 6, 2013, intense thunderstorms blew into Borrego Springs, causing heavy rain, flash floods, high winds and severe lightning in the area. Lightning from the storm struck and shattered a power pole on the only transmission line serving the community, cutting electricity to all the town’s 2,780 power customers.

SDG&E crews work to restore power to Borrego Springs residents after intense thunderstorms cut electricity service to the area. — SDG&E

SDG&E repair crews quickly arrived on the scene and worked throughout the night to restore power to all customers. But this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill power restoration, as crews were able to make use of a special advantage: SDG&E’s Borrego Springs Microgrid. A first of its kind in the area, this Microgrid uses new smart grid technology – including local power generation, local energy storage, and automated switching – to create a more robust, resilient grid that can dynamically react to the changing environmental and system conditions. The Microgrid is connected to the grid, but can disconnect and function independently during emergencies, supplying vital electricity to the local community through its on-site resources. The project is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission. 

Minnesota - What’s Wrong With Xcel’s Proposed Community Solar Program? | Grist

In my talk at the recent Department of Energy workshop on community solar, I addressed the Colorado experience with XCEL's solar gardens program.  The program has a good concept, but there is significant room for improvement - a first-come, first serve application process that crowds out small projects, and high fees that limit access to small developers and community groups.  Let's hope XCEL can iron out the glitches in an improved Colorado program, and in new programs rolled out in other states.

- Joy

John Farrell weighs in on XCEL's proposed new standards for community solar in Minnesota.  There are some great charts in the article comparing program fees to other programs in North America.

Fees and illegal caps, for starters.

After the state’s solar energy law passed in 2013, Minnesota’s largest electric utility, Xcel Energy, was required to create a program to support the development of community solar energy. Since 3 in 4 people can’t have solar on their own rooftop (because they rent, or have a nice shade tree), community solar dramatically expands the opportunity for the average person to reduce their energy bill and participate in a clean energy future.

Xcel Energy published their proposed community solar program on Sept. 30, 2013 and I’ve got a few choice words about their proposal, in response to questions posed by the state Public Utilities Commission.

Read more:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Arizona - Commission votes to raise APS solar customers’ bills

 Looks like the Arizona regulators split the baby ...

- Joy

The state’s rapidly growing solar industry suffered a setback Thursday when the Arizona Corporation Commission narrowly voted to impose an average $5 monthly fee on new solar customers’ bills to make them pay for using the power grid.

The 3-2 vote was a blow to the industry, which says it will make solar less affordable for people, and a disappointment to Arizona Public Service Co., which had sought higher fees to prevent non-solar customers from subsidizing solar users.

Read more:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

SEC Clarifies Crowdsourcing Rules, What's the Impact on Renewables? | Renewable Energy World

JOBS Act crowdfunding is a long time coming, but when it happens it can transform small scale community renewable projects!  James Montgomery of Renewable Energy World has the scoop:


Title III of the JOBS Act created an exemption under securities laws for crowdfunding, which set the table for its regulation by the SEC -- that was supposed to happen by the end of last year. Two weeks ago the SEC finally issued its proposed rules on crowdfunding (summary here, full 500+-page PDF here). Here are the highlights:
  • Companies are capped at raising $1 million cap per year through crowdfunding.
  • Investors with less than $100,000 annual income and net worth, could invest up to $2,000/year or 5 percent of annual income or net worth (whichever is greater).
  • Investors with at least $100,000 annual income and net worth, investment amount levels rise to 10 percent of annual income or net worth (whichever is greater), and purchase no more than $100,000 of securities through crowdfunding.
  • Non-U.S. companies are ineligible for the crowdfunding exemption, as are companies that already report to the SEC, some investment companies, those who aren't compliant with certain reporting rules, and others with no business plan or pending M&A deals.
  • Securities purchased via crowdfunding can't be resold for a year.
  • Under the proposed rules, issuers publishing notices advertising an offering can include terms: the nature and amount of securities offered, their pricing, and the closing date of the offering period.
Read more:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The importance of women as solar consumers

Women control 80% of household spending. And women spend a lot of time on the Internet. But many women feel misunderstood by marketers. To gain insights on how to market solar to the keepers of household budgets, Raina Russo and Glenna Wiseman have been conducting the industry's first woman-directed survey. They unveiled their preliminary findings recently at Solar Power International.

Joy Hughes of SGI was on hand to talk about solar gardens. She described how a woman subscribing to a solar garden might inform her partner: “Oh honey, by the way, we have solar power now.”

Read more:

Community solar helps put 2 states on list of 5 hidden markets to watch

What are the top 5 solar states to watch? They're not the ones you might expect. (Hint: Two of them feature community solar programs.) At Solar Power International, Cory Honeyman of Greentech Media identified some markets whose favorable regulatory landscape, state and utility incentives, and strong market fundamentals prime them for strong solar growth in the next few years.

Read More:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Colorado - Logan County looking at becoming subscriber to community solar garden

Logan County is looking at joining as a subscriber to the community solar garden Ecoplexus, Inc. is planning to install here soon. 

During a work session on Tuesday, the Logan County Commissioners met with Gary Eberhart, senior project manager for Ecoplexus, who talked about the steps involved in order for the county to determine whether it would be beneficial for them to join.

At a meeting last month, the commissioners approved a conditional use permit to install a two megawatt community solar garden at Right of Way Road and Riverside Drive. At that time Eberhart said major subscribers they were working with to become part of the project included the Colorado Department of Corrections, Northeastern Junior College, the city of Sterling and Sterling Housing Authority. He was unsure if the county had been approached about being a subscriber.

Read more:

Community solar finding its way to Pennsylvania

For solar advocates who live in apartments or have shady roofs, or those who don't have the means to install their own array but want to be part of the solar movement, there's community solar.

But not so much in Pennsylvania.

Community solar can mean several things, and all of them are difficult to accomplish in the state. At its most basic, it's a group of people chipping in to finance the installation of a single solar project. They could be donors, who receive no returns from the project. Or they could form a cooperative or even a for-profit company and reap the tax benefits of investing in solar.

Read more:

Nebraska - Solar gardens: a way to share the cost of renewable energy

A panhandle leader in renewable energy thinks Nebraska should better utilize its solar power capabilities to provide electricity to consumers.

Owner of Nebraska Wind and Solar Larry Cooper says the state ranks 13th in the nation for potential solar production.  Yet only half a percent of the energy produced in Nebraska is, in fact, solar.

But that could change if Nebraska would allow residents to join a community solar garden, similar to a co-op in exchange for credit on their electric bills.

Read more:

UK - Wedmore community 'solar farm' switched on

A community-owned solar power plant in Somerset has been officially switched on.

The 4,000 panels, which can generate up to 1MW - enough to power about 300 homes - have been installed on farmland close to the village of Wedmore.

More than 120 investors from the area bought shares in the scheme.

Rob Richley, director of Wedmore Power Co-operative, said he had been delighted with the level of support from the community.

Read more:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Public power means local control | Boulder Daily Camera

Mark Crisson gives his opinion in the Boulder Daily Camera

"Xcel Energy contends that there is "simply no advantage to forming a utility in the way that Boulder is attempting." This unsupported statement gives me pause and compels me to set the record straight."

"The public power option is not new. Local communities have long had the right to own and operate their own electric utility or to grant a franchise to a private or investor-owned (IOU) utility. The reason to do so varies. Many communities choose public power because they want lower rates, or better reliability, or improved service. This freedom to choose how electric service is provided is a local rights issue and a cornerstone of consumer protection."

Read more:

Rural Electric Cooperatives and Renewables: The Future of Distributed Generation? | Community Power Network

When we think about renewable energy, we often envision futuristic technology and progressive ideas. When we think about rural America, we might picture older traditions rooted in an agricultural lifestyle. And yet, we are increasingly finding some of the most exciting examples of renewable energy development far from busy metropolitan centers.

In particular, rural electric cooperatives, which provide power to sparsely populated areas of the country, are becoming increasingly involved in the politics of renewable energy and distributed generation (DG). Some stand in direct opposition to progressive energy policies or DG. Others, however, have begun to champion change.

Read more:

SlideShare Presentation - Introduction to Community Solar

Power shift presentation from Joy Hughes

Introduction to community solar models including bulk purchase, crowdfunding, and solar gardens. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Harvard, MA Solar Garden Breaks Ground

(Note - this is the town of Harvard, not Harvard University -- Joy)


Community Shared Solar Workshop to be held November 12 at River Valley Coop in Northampton

Harvard Solar Garden, A Community Shared Solar project, announces the opening of new subscriptions for Harvard Solar Garden Phase II to electric customers of National Grid in Central and Western MA;

Harvard, MA – October 25, 2013 - Harvard Solar Garden, LLC, the first wholly member-owned community solar electricity project in Massachusetts has begun to offer subscriptions to new members from communities supplied with electricity from National Grid in Central and Western Massachusetts.  Unlike other solar PV projects, the Harvard Solar Garden offers individuals and small businesses the opportunity to share solar electricity generation through a unique direct ownership model.  Phase One of the Harvard Solar Garden has been fully subscribed by Harvard residents and is expected to begin construction in the next month.  Now, members of the broader community have the opportunity to benefit from solar generated electricity without having to install it on their rooftops.  By purchasing shares in this Community Solar project, members can have the production of solar electricity generated by their share of the solar garden credited to their own meter and utility account as if the panels were mounted on their own roof. In addition to displacing the actual brown energy used from conventional fossil or nuclear based fuel, members receive the benefit of the state’s incentive programs through Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs). Members may also receive the benefits of a grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, along with a Federal credit as a direct grant through the US Treasury's 1603 solar grant program.  No new solar project today can still offer these incentives, grants, and 10 years of SREC I income, now fully subscribed at the State level.  Solar Garden share benefits may be able to be transferred to another location or may be able to be sold or gifted to another party within the National Grid utility load zone.
SREC I status allows the Harvard Solar Garden to obtain more valuable, but very limited, state incentive payments for solar. The Community-shared Solar concept allows members to benefit from solar generated electricity without having to install it on their rooftops.

Shares in the Solar Garden cost $3.85/Watt installed, or less after incentives.

The Harvard Solar Garden is being designed and engineered by Solar Design Associates of Harvard, MA – a firm with 38 years of dedicated experience in renewable energy systems engineering.

There will be a community shared solar workshop open to the public on November 12, 2013 at the River Valley Coop community room. Contact the Customer Service Desk for times, and to pre-register.

For more information about joining the Harvard Solar Garden,  call (978) 456-9815 or go to

Iowa: Cooperative Community Solar

From Hawkeye Rural Electric Co-op:

The development of a cooperative community solar project for our members is currently underway. While final details of the project are still being finalized, our cooperative solar project will involve the construction of a small solar project (25 kW) at our headquarters. We are in the process of soliciting member interest and participation after the cost of the panels, rate credit and operations/maintenance costs are determined. Members will then be offered to purchase the output of the solar project. While the actual price has not yet been determined, we do know that the price for the output of energy of these panels will be reduced by the upfront payment or investment for the tax incentives by Federated Rural Insurance Exchange. It is equally important to recognize that participating members will not qualify for the individual tax incentives because the tax value will have been incorporated in the reduced panel output price.  Our electric cooperative will provide the insurance and maintain the operation for the entire life of the project, which is anticipated for 25 years. The participating members will receive a monthly credit on their electric bill based on the production and their participation in the community solar project.

 Read more:

Community Solar Farm is 2nd One in the State, First in Central Florida

OUC is developing Central Florida’s first community solar farm at our Gardenia facility. The community solar farm will give OUC’s Orlando residential and small business customers access to sustainable, maintenance-free solar energy without the hassles and costs associated with installing panels on their homes or businesses. The 400 kW array is expected to produce about 540,000 kWh annually, which is enough energy to meet the power needs of about 40 homes and is the equivalent to avoiding 949,316 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. It also will act as covered parking for employees and visitors.

Read more:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

How to Organize a Community Solar Project (SlideShare from Minnesota)

A new SlideShare from Minnesota on how to develop your own community solar project:

San Luis Valley BLM Solar Auction Draws No Bidders

    After years of work and about 10,000 pages of analysis, the Bureau of Land Management put its land in Colorado's San Luis Valley on auction for solar development.  Not one single company submitted a bid!  Mark Jaffee of the Denver Post reports here:

     Why did this happen?  Chris Clarke of KCET's REWire suggests it may be the ascendancy of distributed solar:

     Various other reasons have been suggested for the snafu - lack of transmission, difficulty of interconnection, public opposition - but perhaps it is just the price (over $3000 an acre).  Land in the SLV without senior water rights often goes for $1000 an acre or less.  Solar companies might get a better deal (and less "green tape") purchasing land on the open private market.  In any case, mid-scale solar power is alive and well in the Valley with over 80 MW installed, about equal to the area's peak winter load.

- Joy

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Silicon supercapacitor could store electricity inside a silicon chip

I've always wondered if a solar panel could also store energy. It looks like we might be able to do this soon!

- Joy


According to the researchers, it should be possible to build cheap silicon supercapacitors out of the excess silicon contained inside many electronic devices. One such example are solar cells: supercapacitors built out of the silicon in the back side of solar cells could store energy during the day and gradually release it into the energy grid during the hours of peak consumption.

Joy Hughes
in community service
Solar Gardens Institute
(719)207-3097 direct

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Michigan Community Solar Guidebook

The MEDC Energy Office funded "Guidebook for Community Solar in Michigan Communities" has just been released.  This 8 month effort by lead by Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association with assistance from Michigan Public Service Commission staff, the Michigan Energy Office, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and others is now available for download at: 

This report is intended to help guide Michigan groups through the web of rules and regulations specific to Community Solar in Michigan, and provide up-front information to enthusiasts, community groups, and developers on how to successfully move Community Solar forward in Michigan.

Dave Konkle, GLREA

Beware the Duck of Doom | Center For Global Development

A recent post by Steve Weissman of Berkeley Law on Legal Planet, an environmental law and policy blog, highlights a chart that looks like a duck. The duck chart was produced by the California Independent System Operator, the organization in charge of managing the state's power grid. Weissman calls it the "Duck of Doom" -- with good reason.

The numbers along the horizontal axis are the hours of the day. The fattening body of the duck shows the addition of more and more wind and solar power (WSP) over the coming years. More WSP is a good thing. But as the chart makes clear most of this will be available during the daylight hours, with very little during the peak usage period from around sundown to midnight.

Joy Hughes
in community service
Solar Gardens Institute
(719)207-3097 direct

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Solar's Time to Shine as SPI Kicks off in Windy City

The tone was upbeat as Solar Power International kicked off in the Windy City on Monday this week. Speakers proclaimed that it's solar's time to shine, while cautioning that we must pull together to ensure the industry's continued strength.

Three reasons why Germany is kicking our arsch on solar | Grist

More from the amazing John Farrell!


Germany is racing past 20 percent renewable energy on its electricity grid, but news stories stridently warn that this new wind and solar power is costing "billions." What is often left out (or buried far from the lede) is the overwhelming popularity of the country's relentless focus on energy change (energiewende).

How can a supposedly expensive effort to clean up the energy supply be so popular?

Read more:

Joy Hughes
in community service
Solar Gardens Institute
(719)207-3097 direct

Solar ‘Gardens’ Let Communities Share Renewable Power – The Great Energy Challenge Blog

In northern New Mexico the sun shines nearly every day of the year. If solar energy is going to be viable anywhere, it will be here—and a small electric cooperative in historic Taos is taking advantage of it. In addition to supporting new solar projects in its service area, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative is offering its customers the opportunity to buy solar energy from "plots" in a "garden" of solar power generation.

The solar garden concept is one way that some progressive, consumer-owned and governed electric cooperatives are integrating renewable energy into their distribution utility offerings. They construct and operate a "garden" of solar power generation with arrays of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels which convert sunlight to electricity. Consumers can buy panels outright or subscribe to their output, and the "fruits" of their part of the garden are delivered to them over the cooperative's distribution lines. (See related quiz: "What You Don't Know About Solar Power.")

Read more:

Joy Hughes
in community service
Solar Gardens Institute
(719)207-3097 direct

Friday, October 18, 2013

California poised to adopt first-in-nation energy storage mandate - San Jose Mercury News

I think it's time for some "battery gardens"

- Joy


A California law that requires utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind is widely credited with accelerating the state's cleantech economy. Now state regulators are poised to compel utilities to invest in "energy storage," which could jump-start technology long considered the holy grail of the electricity industry.

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote on a groundbreaking proposal that would require PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to collectively buy more than 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage by 2020 -- roughly enough electricity to supply nearly 994,000 homes.

Read more:

Joy Hughes
in community service
Solar Gardens Institute
(719)207-3097 direct

Monday, October 14, 2013

VIDEO: Rob Hopkins Discusses Community Renewables as Part of Transition Movement | Grist TV

"A community renewable revolution in the UK..."
"Creating something that models community resilience as economic development."

Rob Hopkins founded the Transition Towns movement.  In the U.S. it seems to be all about local food systems ... but local energy is just as important.

Bypassing the Power Grid | NY Times

LONDON — For nearly a century, wealthy countries have relied on just one model of power distribution: sending electricity over huge transmission grids from big generating plants to customers in their homes, offices and factories.

That may be starting to change. Renewable-energy technologies like solar and wind power, which in many countries have begun to shake up the mix of energy sources, are now also challenging the traditional distribution system.

Thousands of German Cities and Villages Looking to Buy Back Their Power Grids | Greentech Media

What do Boulder, Colorado and Hamburg, Germany have in common?

Boulder, Colorado and Hamburg, Germany don't seem to have too much in common. One is a small, green-minded city at the foothills of the Rockies, the other one is the second biggest metropolis in Germany with almost 1.8 million people, defined by its busy harbor.

But both cities share motivations to switch off their private utilities and switch on municipal power providers.

Read more:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Harvard Solar Garden to put its issues to the town | Harvard Press

At the Special Town Meeting next week, voters will face a "fish-or-fowl" argument when considering four articles related to the Harvard Solar Garden (HSG) and its request for a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement and modified permitting and inspection fees. Voters are being asked for a decision now, before the Garden breaks ground at its location in the solar overlay district off Ayer Road and before solar incentives expire in December.
Applying standard commercial fees and tax rates to a community solar garden is inappropriate, according to HSG project manager Worth Robbins, who is also a co-owner of the Harvard Press. "The Solar Garden shareholders did not expect the permit fee to be the same as an individual homeowner's fee, but we did anticipate some multiple of the single system cost would be applied to the shared system. The $17,000 fee is excessive."
The Colorado model
Robbins points to the Colorado model, where the Community Solar Garden Act created an entity distinct from residential and commercial systems. Under such a model, fees and taxes for a project like the Harvard Solar Garden would be less than standard commercial fees. California has passed similar legislation. The idea seemed to offer a solution for those who had wanted to participate in the 2011 Solarize Mass pilot project, but couldn't do so as individuals—whether for too little sun, the wrong orientation, or insufficient structural support.
- See more at:

Seattle Aquarium to moonlight as solar power provider | KOMO News

SEATTLE - Don't let the rain and the clouds fool you, Seattle City Light says this is the perfect place to harness the sun's power, and a new partnership with the Seattle Aquarium could soon give interested customers a break on their utility bill.

The 49 kilowatt project is expected to produce enough energy to power roughly five and a half average-size homes in Seattle. Each 24 watt unit will cost customers $150, and City Light will allow each customer to purchase a maximum of 125 units.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Place to Be on October 17 in the San Francisco Bay Area! Clean Power, Healthy Communities Conference

LCEA logo

Don't miss the premier gathering of clean energy advocates in the San Francisco Bay Area: The 4th Annual Conference of the Local Clean Energy Alliance.
  • Thursday, October 17, 2013
  • California Endowment Conference Center
  • 1111 Broadway, 7th Floor, Oakland CA
(Also by live video stream)


The Local Clean Energy Alliance is presenting the fourth annual Clean Power, Healthy Communities Conference, promoting local clean energy economies to ensure the economic development, employment, health, and resilience of Bay Area communities.

In recent years many initiatives have emerged to promote decentralized clean energy. These initiatives support energy efficiency (Regional Energy Networks), feed-in tariffs, shared renewables, intelligent grid architectures, and innovative financing and repayment mechanisms, to name a few.

Governor Brown’s call for 12,000 megawatts of local renewable power in California by 2020 has garnered widespread support. However, there continue to be few programs at the state level for implementing a decentralized energy vision. Many communities are looking to local leadership in energy procurement as a driver for decentralized energy development and equitable, sustainable energy solutions.

At the heart of the matter is energy democracy: who controls energy development and for whose benefit. To democratize energy decisions, communities and grassroots organizations need to play an increasingly decisive role.

The San Francisco Bay Area, with its strong advocacy organizations and many renewable energy programs, has provided leadership for local clean energy development on many fronts, including the promotion of Community Choice energy.

The fourth annual Clean Power, Healthy Communities conference convenes advocates, policy makers, financiers, and entrepreneurs who support clean energy and healthy communities in the Bay Area. The conference focuses on finding solutions to the political and financial challenges of developing community-based energy resources and building sustainable, equitable, resilient communities.

  • What’s at Stake for Bay Area Communities?
  • Bay Area Energy Initiatives
  • Overcoming Political and Financial Obstacles

“It has been some time since I have participated in a conference/meeting as relevant and as purposeful... I was completely amazed at the high level of enthusiasm and interest in clean energy, local power, environmental justice and empowerment of local communities.”

Pedro Rosado,
District Representative,
Office of Senator Loni Hancock

LCEA Conference

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

XCEL Announces Minnesota Solar Gardens Plan - Solar Backers Critical

 XCEL Energy put forward its proposed rules for Minnesota solar gardens.  The 20 megawatt program would release new capacity each quarter.  Payments for the power are set fairly low, at 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.


The latest from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Xcel Energy opens way for solar gardens

  • Article by: DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 1, 2013 - 5:13 AM
Xcel will offer an opportunity to invest in a community solar project, but two energy developers say the utility isn’t paying enough for the power.

Xcel plans to build more solar arrays like this one, the first community solar array in Minnesota


The Minneapolis-based utility, which already offers this option in Colorado, filed plans with state regulators for a Minnesota solar garden program. Such projects, also known as community solar, are authorized under a 2013 state law mandating that large utilities get 1.5 percent of their power from the sun by 2020.


And from Minnesota Public Radio:

Solar energy backers criticize Xcel solar garden plan

by Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota solar developers say they're disappointed in Xcel Energy's plans for community solar gardens, which allow people to buy into a part of a solar energy project and get credit on their utility bills instead of installing solar panels on their homes.

Xcel says it will put up to 20 megawatts of community generated solar power on its system in the next two years to help the utility meet a new solar energy standard.

Read more:

Washington, D.C. Unanimously Passes Community Solar Legislation | Renewable Energy World

The D.C. Council voted unanimously today, October 1st, to pass the Community Renewables Energy Act of 2013 (B20-0057).  With this favorable vote, D.C. becomes the tenth state in the nation to enact community solar legislation.  Other states of note that have passed similar legislation include Colorado, Massachusetts, Vermont, California, and, most recently, Connecticut.  Through this innovative structure renters, homeowners and businesses with shaded roofs, and low-income utility customers who are unable to install a solar energy system on their roof – either for financial reasons, or because their property is unfit for installation – will be able to access the benefits of solar energy through virtual net metering.

Virtual net-metering allows for any utility rate payer with a meter located in D.C. to purchase a subscription or percentage interest in a solar installation qualified as a Community Renewable Energy Facility.  A Community Renewable Energy Facility must have at least two subscribers and cannot be larger than 5 MW.  Once a subscription has been purchased, the electricity produced by the subscribers’ portion of the solar energy system will be credited to their monthly electric bill at a previously agreed upon rate to offset their electricity demand for that given month.  Ergo, retail customers will save on their monthly electric bills by enlisting in the community solar program.

Read more:

Monday, September 30, 2013

California Shared Renewables Bill SB 43 Signed by Governor Brown

This just in:

     The Governor has signed California's long-awaited "solar gardens" legislation into law.  Here are some details of the program:

-  Utility administered program for Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, and Southern California Edison.  It does not affect municipal utilities such as LADWP and SMUD
-  600 megawatts by 2020
-  Maximum project size 20 megawatts
-  100 megawatts of projects in identified "environmental justice" communities, maximum 1 megawatt project size
-  A directive to market to low income customers (no specific numbers here)
-  A directive to locate generation close to load (again, no specific numbers)
-  Supports a broad range of eligible renewable technologies - ( a summary can be found at )

     SGI has received a number of inquiries about whether specific projects or project types would be supported by the law.  The law paints with a broad brush, and the California Public Utilities Commission and each utility will decide how to implement their programs.  As the process unfolds, we will be working to understand how it will support various models for community projects.  You can download the final text of the bill from the SGI website at

     Now we'll never know if "CEC" stands for "Clean Energy Collective" or "California Energy Commission" ...

     The law itself is a political compromise.  Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary gives the following definition:
     Compromise  n. Such an adjustment of conflicting interests as gives each adversary the satisfaction of thinking he has got what he ought not to have, and is deprived of nothing except what was justly his due.

     We have a California Public Utilities process coming up - so advocates can have some influence in this process to attempt to make sure that community projects can be supported by the various programs. 
     The proposed Solar Gardens Institute Charter gives the following definitions of community clean energy (defined here to help guide the upcoming process):
Definition of Community Clean Energy – the scope of our work
A)                 Community clean energy is initiated through a grassroots process with all stakeholders at the table.
B)                 Community clean energy is as distributed as possible - if not on your roof, in your neighborhood. If not in your neighborhood, within your county. And if not in your county, in a sister community with a complementary energy profile (one sunny, the other windy, say).
C)                 Community clean energy takes into account all externalities - carbon footprint, land use, and visual + auditory impacts.
D)                Community clean energy is integrated into the local environment with multiple uses - providing shade, co-located with local food production, or used as public art. A solar garden should be a place people want to go.
E)                 Community clean energy supports local institutions - agriculture, religious or environmental groups, schools, libraries, community centers, etc.
F)                 Community clean energy is owned in common or fractionally by its users, or leased-to-own.
G)                 Community clean energy keeps money local, re-investing revenue in improvements.
H)                Community clean energy supports local business entrepreneurs, workers, and non-profits.
I)                  Community clean energy keeps people engaged in groups, helping them become more sustainable in every way.
J)                  Community clean energy groups work together, share resources and knowledge, reach out to other communities, and work for further reform
The charter also includes the Principles of Responsible Solar Development:
a.     Principles of Responsible Solar Development – How we work with projects
A)                 Tree Preservation: By hosting panels on another rooftop or a community solar garden, people can protect the trees that shade their houses.
B)                 Share the Land with 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.
C)                 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.
D)                Solar Good Neighbor Policy:  Consider neighbors’ needs in planning installations.  Since neighbors might be installing as well, develop a neighborhood plan.
E)                 Limit Facility Scale:  Build to fit within the urban or rural landscape, with most PV facilities less than 1 Megawatt in size.  Use existing distribution lines.  The grid is the tree, and the solar panels are the leaves.
F)                 Use Local Designers:  Architects, artists, and even kids can create concepts for installations that reflect local character.
G)                 Smart Microgrids:  Renewable energy and storage can power whole neighborhoods, making them more resilient in the face of grid disruptions
H)                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.
I)                  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 financing through public loan guarantees.
J)                  A hand up for those who need it:  Support a non-profit that donates panels to low and middle income people, who then pass on their savings to solarize more homes.
I hope these help give a working definition of what we mean by "community" renewables (this is, of course, a vigorous matter of discussion all the time).

Many thanks,

Joy Hughes
Founder, Solar Gardens Institute