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."

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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.

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