Groundswell Unveils Community Solar Financing Model

Groundswell is changing the way community solar energy is financed. Working with Sustainable Capital Advisors, consumer credit scores will no longer be factored in the financing process, removing an obstacle for consumers across the country. In addition, the program will help the two companies fulfill promises made at the White House Summit last November to create five demonstration projects over the next 18 months as well as launch $25 million of private capital aimed at financing community solar projects located in low and moderate income communities.

“Nearly 50% of Americans aren’t able to switch to solar because they don’t own their roof, don’t have a roof in the right location, or are struggling financially and can’t qualify for financing even if it could help lower their energy bill,” said Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell. “We’re grateful to work with Sustainable Capital Advisors to pioneer a program that will work for all families by bringing community organizing together with community solar project finance.”

CommunitySolarCommunity solar programs are designed to help consumers collectively tap into the power of the sun. This model allows families and small businesses the ability to purchase subscriptions to a central solar array located within their utility territory – making it possible to switch to solar without having to install solar panels on the roof. Community solar can also create more distributed generating capacity for America that promotes greater reliability, resiliency, and sustainability across the grid.

Sustainable Capital Advisors Founder and CEO Trenton Allen added that the company works to create innovative financing solutions for sustainable infrastructure that broadens the pool of participants while being replicable and scalable. “We’re committed to working with Groundswell to create economic opportunities in clean energy for low and moderate income communities that haven’t been able to participate before.”

According to a press release, while solar power adoption grows across the country, affordable clean energy remains out of reach for more than 90 million Americans including families that rent their homes and people with credit scores under 650. Overall, the National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that 49 percent. of households and businesses can’t access rooftop solar. Community solar is an emerging solution, and is currently a modest but growing part of America’s energy mix. In total, fewer than 150 projects have been implemented across the United States, including more than 40 located in Colorado alone. However, the market is projected to grow rapidly over the next five years. The hope is that this new financing program will enable more consumers to join the solar revolution.

IndyCar Pit Crew to Run on Solar at Indy 500

wilsonsolar1An IndyCar pit crew will be the first ever to be powered by solar. IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson and the #ThinkSolar campaign team will be sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) for Wilson’s 2016 Indianapolis 500 bid.

Wilson aims to realize a dream of following his late brother Justin Wilson’s path to the Indy 500 by merging the worlds of motorsports and solar energy through #ThinkSolar. ASES and Wilson share the common goal of moving solar forward, faster.

ASES is the nation’s leading association of solar professionals and advocates. For 61 years, ASES has provided leadership in the renewable energy sector hosting important annual events such as the ASES National Solar Tour and ASES National Solar Conference, and also publishes the award-winning Solar Today publication. Alignment with Wilson’s #ThinkSolar campaign represents an interesting collaboration for the organization in bringing the solar, renewable energy and IndyCar industries together.

The ASES mission to “inspire an era of energy innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy” aligns well with Wilson’s #ThinkSolar objectives. Among these are connecting race teams, track and sanctioning body officials with solar companies that can design and engineer solar systems to power practical needs in the sport such as charging stations, lights, other electronic assets, beginning with his own.

This endorsement by ASES is a really exciting development and validation of the #ThinkSolar campaign’s vision,” said Wilson. “They’ve helped shape an industry that’s committed to solving many of the energy challenges we face today. Together, we’ll strive to invigorate conversations around commonplace solar applications as well as the design and engineering innovations that will drive the future of renewable energy for this sport and the world.”

ASES Executive Director Carly Rixham is equally excited about the partnership. “We think Stefan’s #ThinkSolar campaign is a great way to get solar in front of people in a new way. There is already some solar in the racecar industry. In fact, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a 9 MW solar farm nearby with 39,312 solar panels,” she said. “Now, bringing solar onto the track will increase the visibility of the technology with a diverse audience. It’s an honor to support Stefan and his earnest interest to reduce environmental impact.”

Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition Adds Solar

The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition has added solar energy to its lineup of renewable energy promotion and has changed its name to reflect the new addition: Governors’ Wind and Solar Energy Coalition (GWSC). The Coalition’s goal is to support renewable energy technologies that among other benefits, help to put Americans to work in all 50 states.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 9.45.48 PM“We are proud of Iowa’s leadership in wind energy and we are also encouraged by the recent growth in solar energy,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad who just last week highlighted Iowa as one of the country’s leading wind power producers. “The addition of solar to the Coalition’s portfolio represents a commitment to future economic and renewable energy growth, and further diversification of our nation’s energy portfolio.”

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said of the announcement, “I support the foresight of my colleagues to broaden the Coalition’s focus and include solar energy development as a policy priority. Wind and solar provide complementary benefits to the U.S. electric grid and will help diversify the country’s energy mix. The need for states to take a broader view of renewable power is clear.”

According to SNL Energy, wind and solar energy added 61 percent of all new generation capacity in 2015 through November. As states make plans to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, wind and solar power are expected to continue supplying large amounts new electricity in the years ahead.

“I am proud to work with governors from across the country, and both parties, to advance renewable energy. The exciting growth of both wind and solar energy provide our states with tremendous economic opportunities, as well as the ability to reduce emissions, protect public health, and build a more prosperous and sustainable American clean energy future,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind power has surpassed the 70 gigawatt (GW) milestone of installed wind capacity. Per AWEA, if the pace continues, wind power can become one of the largest sources of electricity in the U.S. by supplying 35 percent by 2050. Tom Kiernan, AWEA CEO noted the group has been very effective in getting policy results that help grow the wind energy industry, and said the decision to combine forces with solar energy reflects the economic and environmental value of diversifying the country’s electric grid.

61st Anniversary of 1st American Solar House

US Census Bureau logoThis week marks the 61st anniversary of the first house in America with solar heating and radiation cooling. Located in Tuscon, Arizona, the house featured a large, slanting slab of steel and glass that coverts sunlight into heat that was ducted into the house. Today, many homes use solar panels to capture the natural heat of the sun and solar is currently the power source for around 83,000 U.S. homes according to the U.S. Census Census Bureau.

While solar accounts for a .7 percent of the power fueling American homes, its growing. However, of the 117 million occupied housing unit, gas remains the most heating fuel, outpacing electricity – about 57 million to 44 million.

The January 17th edition of Profile America focuses on solar power using data gathered as part of the American Community Survey. The program is produced by the Center for New Media and Promotions of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Profile America Looks at Solar

New Hampshire Favors Solar

New Hampshire is one of several states that has a cap on solar net metering placing a cap on in-state solar growth. To assess how consumers living in the state feel about solar, The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) conducted a poll and found that 4 out of 5 New Hampshire voters favor solar as an energy source. In addition, 70 percent support the state’s net metering law that allows solar customers to receive credit for the extra energy their solar panels produce. The support for net metering is consistent across political parties with two thirds of both Republican and Democratic respondents support the net metering law and three quarters of Independents support it.

The Alliance for Solar Choice logo“New Hampshire voters – including solar workers, consumers, schools and businesses – are urging policy makers to lift the cap and keep net metering in place this legislative session,” said TASC spokesperson Evan Dube. “The future of the state’s solar industry hinges on preserving net metering.”

The poll also found a surprising majority supports legislative intervention with the Public Utilities Commission to continue the state’s solar net metering program. Results show that Politicians who want to cap solar metering may find themselves out of a job at the next election. Only 14 percent of polled voters are more likely to vote for such a legislator, while more than three times as many voters would be less likely to vote for the legislator.

The poll also found that although New Hampshire has traditionally one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, voters are enthusiastic about the prospect of new clean-energy jobs created by the growing solar industry in the state. The industry has already created hundreds of solar jobs across the state with the help of policies like net metering.

SolarCity Stops Sales in Nevada

SolarCity has stopped sales in Nevada due to the decision by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to “undermine Nevadans’ ability to go solar” according to the company who opened an office in the state in 2013. The company says the decision by the PUC to raise fees for rooftop solar” amounts to a “massive bait and switch” for both the solar industry and more than 12,000 customers including school for what SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive is calling, “what appears to be an attempt to protect profits of the state’s largest utility”.

solarcity-logo“This is a very difficult decision but Governor Sandoval and his PUC leave us no choice. The people of Nevada have consistently chosen solar, but yesterday their state government decided to end customer choice, damage the state’s economy, and jeopardize thousands of jobs,” said Rive. “The PUC has protected NV Energy’s monopoly, and everyone else will lose. We have no alternative but to cease Nevada sales and installations, but we will fight this flawed decision on behalf of our Nevada customers and employees.” The decision to raise solar fees ways made right before the holidays.

Rive says Governor Sandoval’s Office of Economic Development helped bring SolarCity to Nevada in 2013, and encouraged the company to create local jobs. Accepting the Governor’s invitation, the company expanded to Nevada and has hired more than 2,000 local workers in just over two years. The state also created a rebate program to entice Nevadans to go solar, and many took advantage. The rooftop solar industry helped Nevada become number one in the nation in solar jobs per capita in 2014. With abundant sunshine and a populace eager to adopt solar energy and save on electricity bills, the industry was poised to become a cornerstone of the state’s innovation economy. All three members of the PUC, who voted unanimously to change the rules, were appointed by Governor Sandoval.

“Most disturbing is the PUC’s decision to retroactively sabotage existing solar customers’ investments by changing the rules on them,” continued Rive. “The Nevada government encouraged these people to go solar with financial incentives and pro-solar policies, and now the same government is punishing them for their decision with new costs they couldn’t have foreseen. These actions are certainly unethical, unprecedented, and possibly unlawful. While the rest of the country embraces a clean energy future, Nevada is moving backwards.”

New Report, Some Hits…Some Misses for Renewables

A new report, “Some Hits, Some Misses…All-in-All…To Be Taken with a Grain of Salt,” looks at the accuracy of the forecasts for renewable electricity made by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its monthly “Short-Term Energy Outlook” (STEO) reports. Published by the SUN DAY Campaign, the report finds 2015 forecasts have generally followed the actual pattern of ups-and-downs in electricity generation rates from renewable energy sources. However, finds the report, with a few exceptions, EIA underestimated the actual overall growth.

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign notes that EIA’s monthly predictions of new capacity from renewable sources including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind, have been lower than what went into production. He says EIA has failed to capture the magnitude of the swift growth rates in utility-scale solar. Forecasts, he predicts, will likely be exceeded by actual growth. For example, EIA’s 2016 predictions of 0.6 percent – 0.7 percent for utility-scale solar’s share of total U.S. electrical generation will very possibly be met a year earlier. Predictions of 10 – 12 GW of new utility-scale solar capacity installed between 2014 and 2016 are also likely to be exceeded.

Bossong finds that 2015 reports began with more optimism about the prospects of hydropower and wind, than what has actually gone into production. However, generation by wind and hydropower new appear to be bouncing back, he says. Despite a slow start to the year, Bossong ultimately, EIA forecasts will be underestimated as wind generation is headed for levels above those recorded in 2014 while hydro’s shortfall for 2015 will more than likely be less than EIA anticipated.

“While EIA’s short-term energy forecasts can provide a very useful pulse of changes in the nation’ energy mix, they tend to mirror the agency’s long-term forecasts which notoriously low-ball expectations for renewable energy growth,” explains Bossong. “In recent years, renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, have vastly outpaced and outperformed EIA’s predictions – even those made for very short-term time periods.”

In addition, Bossong’s analysis finds actual end-of-the-year figures for new capacity and electricity generated by both nonhydro renewables, and renewables including conventional hydropower, will likely exceed EIA’s predictions by at least modest levels. It is almost certain, adds Bossong, that the majority of new electrical generating capacity installed during 2015 will be from renewables and renewables will account for more than 17.5 percent of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity by year’s end.

Solar Industry Celebrates Passage of Tax Extenders

The solar industry is celebrating the passage of the tax extenders package on Friday, December 18, 2015 that included several clean energy credits. The omnibus appropriations bill included a 5-year solar investment tax credit (ITC) extension. The 30 percent ITC for solar will be extended for another three years. It will then ramp down to 26 percent in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021 and then remain at 10 percent permanently beyond 2022.

“This historic vote brings the solar industry to the forefront of the conversation about American energy. The ITC extension makes America and its solar industry the world’s preeminent producer of clean and affordable energy,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “We commend members of Congress in both parties for taking this bold step and we look forward to delivering on the promise that this policy now offers all Americans.”

© Martinlisner | Dreamstime.com - Solar Energy Panels With Blue Sky Photo

© Martinlisner | Dreamstime.com – Solar Energy Panels With Blue Sky Photo

Resch noted the ITC will will lead to more than $133 billion in new, private sector investment in the U.S. economy by 2020 with much of this growth will coming from small businesses, which make up more than 85 percent of America’s 8,000 solar companies.

“With Congressional approval on a five-year extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), we have a fresh runway that will only accelerate the global energy transformation to clean, sustainable sources such as solar,” said Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO. “The ITC extension provides a sense of certainty that allows for new investments that might not have been possible in its absence. We thank our elected representatives for supporting the continued growth of solar power in the U.S. – for the health and prosperity of our communities, our country, and the planet.”

Jason Bak, chairman and CEO of Finavera Solar Energy commented, “The extension of the solar ITC provides long term certainty for the U.S. solar industry in general, and for our San Diego-based subsidiary Solar Alliance of America in particular. Our customers in southern California have benefited from the ability to offset the purchase of a residential solar system with these tax incentives in the past and this extension will give new customers that same incentive. The Solar ITC extension passed today will have a positive impact on our bottom line and will drive an increase in revenues that will benefit shareholders. It also provides the ideal platform for us to aggressively move forward with our expansion plans for Solar Alliance.”

Report: Renewables Fastest Growing US Power Source

According to GlobalData, non-hydro renewable energy will be the fastest growing power source in the U.S. through 2025. Installed capacity is expected to increase from 121.9 gigawatts (GW) in 2015 to 216 GW in 2025. “US Power Market Outlook to 2025, Update 2015 – Market Trends, Regulations, and Competitive Landscape,” finds the strong rate of growth suggests that the current U.S. government fully supports the growth of clean generation technologies. The U.S. was one of signers of the most historic climate treaty agreed upon in Paris earlier this month during COP21.

GlobalData logoChiradeep Chatterjee, GlobalData’s senior analyst covering Power, warns that this positive forecast for non-hydro renewables could be subject to the result of the 2016 US presidential election, with a Republican victory likely to mean considerable changes to present policies due to the party’s lower support for green energy projects in general.

“There are several renewable power regulations that have been implemented or revised by the Obama administration in 2015 that will aid the production of renewable energy,” explained Chatterjee. “For example, the Fannie May Green Initiative provides smart energy through financing solutions, while the Weatherization Assistance Program, instituted by the Department of Energy, offers grants to improve the energy efficiency of resident low-income families. Such initiatives are positive steps to achieving green targets established by US states.”

Targets take the form of Renewable Portfolio Standards programs, state policies that mandate a certain percentage of energy supplied to consumers by a utility within the state should come from renewable sources.

“Generally, the objectives are ambitious, ranging from 10% to 40%, with a variety of target dates. However, there is considerable variation between individual states, as Hawaii is aiming for renewables to constitute 100% of all energy use by 2045, while South Carolina is targeting just 2 percent by 2021.” Chatterjee concluded, “Attitudes towards the growth of green energy differ throughout the US, and it must be acknowledged that other sources of power will remain dominant throughout the forecast period.”

SolarCity Awarded Multiagency PPA

SolarCity has been awarded a power purchase agreement (PPA) as part of the Federal Aggregated Solar Procurement Pilot (FASPP) program that combines multiple mid-sized PV installation projects in northern California and northern Nevada. The first-ever joint project was awarded by several agencies, including U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Forest Service.

The FASPP is a contracting solution designed to take advantage of economies of scale in solar installation with no up-front cost to the government. This project brings together multiple federal agencies and one private company to demonstrate that combined procurement and project management resources results in greater efficiency and cost effectiveness. This multi-agency energy procurement will not only save the government $5 million in energy cost, says GSA, it will also help achieve the Administration’s 2025 Renewable Energy Goal as outlined in Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade.

Solar InstallationFederal Chief Sustainability Officer, Christine Harada said of the first of its kind project, “This groundbreaking project will make it easier for federal agencies to use onsite renewable power while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving taxpayer dollars. This initiative is a great way to showcase how the federal government is leading by example and taking advantage of the incredible opportunities to build a clean energy economy, especially given the historic agreement in Paris.”

Under this PPA, SolarCity Corporation will install and operate the PV systems, spanning nine federal sites in San Jose, Menlo Park, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Bruno, Santa Rosa, Vallejo, Carson City and Reno, and sell power by the kilowatt-hour to the federal government.

DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program Director, Tim Unruh, added, “Innovative procurements like the FASPP effort are a critical element in DOE’s strategy to facilitate broad adoption of renewables at federal sites in order to achieve federal mandates, reduce taxpayer costs, increase the resiliency of power supplies, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The federal government leads by example, and the FASPP procurement has broad applicability in both the public and private sectors.”