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.

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 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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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