Monday, October 19, 2015

Bakersfield Backs Solar 5-1 Vote!

Bakersfield Backs Solar 5-1 Vote! 
City Council Becomes 1st City in Nation to Pass Resolution Calling on Congress to Extend ITC 

BAKERSFIELD — Tonight, the Bakersfield City Council passed a resolution in support of extending the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar energy, requesting that Congress take immediate action to protect local solar jobs and consumer savings.  Bakersfield, more commonly known for its oil and gas production, is now the first city in the nation to call for congressional support of solar power, highlighting the growing influence of renewable energy in the biggest oil and gas-producing region in the state.
“The federal solar investment tax credit is critical for supporting local jobs and reducing energy bills for Bakersfield homeowners and businesses,” saidCouncilmember Willie Rivera, sponsor of the city resolution that calls on Congress to extend the federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).  “I am pleased that the Bakersfield City Council passed by 5 to 1 this resolution urging Congress to extend this credit to keep our local solar economy growing.”
The resolution was first proposed at the September 2, 2015 City Council meeting by Councilmember Rivera, following strong public comments requesting the City’s backing of the extension of the solar tax credit. 
The resolution highlights how solar energy spurs local economic development and supports local solar jobs, adding more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy and employing 54,000 Californians statewide.  It also emphasizes how long-term policies like the federal solar investment tax credit have helped lower the cost of solar and stimulate the growth of local solar markets. 
“Losing these tax credits would cost jobs and increase the cost of solar energy to residents and businesses,” said Councilmember Bob Smith, cosponsor of the resolution. “I strongly support Bakersfield’s growing solar economy, and for the sake of our homeowners and enterprises, these tax credits are worthy of extension.”
The federal investment tax credit (ITC) is a 30 percent credit for solar systems on residential and commercial properties.  Unless Congress takes action, on December 31, 2016, the ITC declines to 10 percent for commercial installations and completely expires for residential projects. 
The ITC has helped the solar market grow significantly since it was passed in 2006. The solar industry now employs over 170,000 people nationwide and is growing at a rate nearly 20 times faster than job growth in the overall economy, according to the Solar Foundation.  In addition, long-term supportive policies, such as net metering, and proper incentives have brought about significant cost reductions within the solar industry, enabling the growth of local solar businesses. 
“Solar is in the middle of a strong growth phase, creating local jobs and supporting local businesses,” added Glenn Bland, founder and chairman of Bland Solar and Air.  “We’ve been installing solar on homes and businesses in Bakersfield for 30 years and given the current growth of the industry, now is not the time to change course by letting the federal solar tax credit expire.”
There are now over 10,000 households and businesses with solar in Bakersfield, making Bakersfield one of the top cities in the state, not to mention the country, for solar. In fact, according to the California Solar Statistics database, Bakersfield has twice as many solar installations as San Francisco. The city of 363,000 also has comparable amounts of solar installations to much larger cities like San Diego and San Jose.
“Solar is a bright spot in the Central Valley’s economy,” said Kelly Knutsen, policy advisor for the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA),which gives voice to the more than 2,000 solar companies doing business in the state.  “We applaud the Bakersfield City Council’s leadership on this issue and urge the valley’s congressional delegation to prioritize extending the solar tax credit now.” 
Copies of the resolution will be transmitted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Majority Leader of the Senate, and to each of California’s U.S. Senators and Representatives.  A similar resolution passed the California state legislature on September 11, 2015, by a strong bipartisan vote of 38-0 in the state senate, and 77-1 in the state assembly.

“Without the ITC, research shows jobs of more than 100,000 Americans – nearly 34,000 in California alone – are at risk,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch, which is leading the fight to extend the ITC in Washington D.C.  “More cities should follow Bakersfield’s lead, sending a message to Congress that the American public deserves energy independence and the well-paying jobs that solar produces.”

"This was a huge team effort. Many thanks to CALSEIA's Central Valley chapter and especially all our Bakersfield companies like Bland Solar who pulled this whole thing off tonight," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of CALSEIA.  "Now its time to get the rest of the Central Valley cities and counties, and others throughout the state, to follow Bakersfield's lead."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Solar Thermal, the Other Solar

Thursday, March 21, 2013 9:34 AM
Solar thermal can be used to heat hot water and even heat homes. But the technology is most commonly used to provide cheaper hot water than can oil or conventional electric. For Ben Mailloux of Belfast, the payback has been considerable. After having his three-panel system installed in 2011, Mailloux says he cut his oil use by two-thirds in the first year, saving about $1,200.

"I'm surprised that we don't have at least some requirement to put solar hot-water systems in every house in Maine," said Mailloux. "For the amount of money that it's saved us in one year, it's well worth it."

There are different types of solar hot-water systems. Direct-circulation systems circulate water to solar collectors on the roof, where it is heated by the sun and then sent back to a tank or used directly. These are more commonly used in temperate climates, due to the risk of freezing. Closed-loop systems use a type of antifreeze solution that transfers heat from the roof solar collectors through a heat exchanger to the water storage tank. Passive-solar hot-water systems move water to the tank through the natural convection process, while forced-circulation systems use electric pumps. In closed-loop pump systems, an electronic sensor automatically turns on the pump when the collectors on the roof are hot enough to heat the water. The antifreeze solution is then pumped down to the storage tank, where it runs through a heat-exchange coil, transferring the heat to the water. Solar hot-water systems usually have some kind of boiler or electric backup for when sun power isn't coming in, particularly in the winter months.

Economic Benefits?

Solar hot-water systems are generally recommended for households of over three people consuming the amount of water produced in a typical 80-gallon tank. According to Efficiency Maine, for a family of three, with a solar thermal hot-water system providing 70 percent annually, the cost is about $164 a year. Comparatively, a standard oil boiler with an indirect tank is about $675, and natural gas with a direct-fired tank is around $378 a year. Those in the industry estimate that the payback time for solar hot water is about six to eight years, but it depends how much the household's water usage is. Unlike solar electric systems which can store energy credits, solar hot water has to be used within a certain number of days or the heat is lost. In the summer months that means there can often be a surplus. For an average family, the cost of solar hot water installation is around $4,700 to $5,500 after state and federal incentives. The warranty on the systems runs about 10 years, but they are expected to last at least 20 years.

Monday, March 2, 2015

March 1, 2015


The economics of solar water heating just got a huge shot in the arm!  While the payback for apartment systems was already a reasonable 3 to 6 years, rebate reservations were not moving fast enough for the California Energy Commission.  Therefore, they increased the rebate by 39% (29% for low income housing), effectively lowering the complete payback to only 2 to 5 years.

With the 30% Federal Tax Credit and 5 year accelerated depreciation considered, many owners get back 70 to 90% of a system’s cost in the first year.  If you want to replace and update your old solar hot water system from the 80’s, you get the same rebate resulting in a 1 to 2 year payback.  Want to heat an apartment swimming pool?  The Gas Company will also pay around half the cost of that installation.

If you have no “tax appetite” (non-profit of low-profit entity), there are several PPAs that will install the system for you at no cost and sell you hot water at a deep discount…no strings attached.  All maintenance and monitoring are included, and in 15 to 20 years you can buy the system from them if you want…cheap. 

Of course, this means that reservations will accelerate rapidly as word of this deal gets spread…and the rebate will decrease as certain “Steps” in rebate allotments are reached.  Each utility territory has its own pool of rebate funds, and some have already reduced to the Step 2 level.  The Gas Company, however, is still in Step 1, so rebates are still at their highest here.  Even new construction qualifies.  The building must have gas service from The Gas Company, which means Long Beach or Vernon customers cannot apply for these rebates. 

While gas bills are perhaps not the biggest concerns of an apartment owner, rates have been increasing over 10% per year for the last two years, with similar announced for this year as well.  This is an excellent opportunity to reduce your cost of operation, increase profitability and resale value, and hedge against inflation.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Super Bowl Teams are competing in the Solar Bowl too!

It appears that the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are competing in another type of championship.  In what some are calling the “Solar Super Bowl,” the stadiums of the Patriots and Seahawks rank third and fourth respectively among all NFL stadiums in installed solar capacity.  Ranked by total cumulative capacity in kilowatts, only the stadiums of the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins beat Sunday’s Super Bowl rivals.

A growing number of sports facilities are going solar not only to be good citizens and protect the environment, but because solar is much cheaper than conventional energy!  Twenty seven major professional sports teams have solar venues.  To put that in perspective, last year in the U.S. nearly 30 million sports fans attended an event at a facility powered by the sun.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (, the solar systems installed at sports facilities across the United States saved nearly 20,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of planting half a million trees, or offsetting the equivalent CO2 emissions of 2.2 million gallons of gasoline.  

We commend the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks for recognizing that teams win when they go solar! May the best team win on Sunday, but we hope that the Solar Super Bowl continues to make champions for our planet earth, one solar system at a time.

Friday, January 30, 2015

American Supporters Banner.png
Dear Ted,
For the fourth time in just three years, a major professional sports championship will be decided on Sunday by teams which have invested significantly in clean, dependable solar energy. In what some are calling the “Solar Super Bowl,” the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, whose stadiums rank fifth and sixth among all sports franchises in installed solar capacity, will play for the NFL championship in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, and bragging rights for fans of clean energy.

According to a new, first-of-its-kind analysis conducted by SEIA, 25 stadiums, arenas and raceways in 12 states – which are home to 27 professional sports teams – now have either a solar photovoltaic (PV) or solar hot water system, with construction underway at two additional stadiums. Today, all leading sports leagues in the United States, including professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, NASCAR and the IndyCar Series, boost sizeable solar assets. To put that into perspective, last year nearly 30 million sports fans attended events across the U.S. at facilities powered by the sun.

In 2014, total PV capacity in professional sports facilities soared to 21.7 MW, generating a combined 28,000 MWh of electricity a year and offsetting nearly 20,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. That’s the equivalent of saving 2.2 million gallons of gasoline or planting half a million trees.

On behalf of the 173,000 workers in our industry, we're extremely proud that solar energy has helped 'light up the scoreboard' for both the Patriots and Seahawks on their march to the Super Bowl.

For more breaking news and important data updates, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook
Thank you for all that you do,
Ken Johnson,
Vice President, Communications
Solar Energy Industries Association

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Proposed decision on Natural gas cap and trade...

The CPUC has just issued a proposed decision on the first steps of bringing natural gas under the state’s cap and trade program. This allows the utilities to participate in auctions and begin complying in January. The decision sides with the one recommendation we made — to not limit the percentage of allowances that utilities have to pay for after 2015. In 2015, they only have to pay for 25%, which is CARB’s minimum requirement. For 2016 and beyond it remains to be decided.

We have two interests in this. We want the price of natural gas to incorporate GHG impacts and we want some of the auction revenue to be used to continue the CSI-Thermal program after the CSI money starts drying up.

Next step in the proceeding is to decide how much of the auction revenue should be used for programs versus given to customers as bill credits.

Monday, September 29, 2014

U.S. ranks 13 of 16 in ACEEE ratings.

The World Cup of Energy Efficiency 

Germany Tops the Chart

This year, Germany won the World Cup of soccer in Brazil. What a tournament. I was stunned by how many people were excited about it. Germany also won the World Cup of Energy Efficiency, a ranking developed by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). It evaluated 16 leading world economies on 31 categories. These 16 economies represent 81% of global gross domestic product and 71% of global energy consumption.

The ACEEE ranking system looks at both "policy metrics" and "performance metrics" to measure a country's overall energy efficiency. Examples of "policy metrics" include the presence of a national energy savings target, fuel economy standards for vehicles, and energy efficiency standards for appliances. The "performance metrics" measure energy use and provide quantifiable results. Examples of "performance metrics" include average miles per gallon of on-road passenger vehicles and energy consumed per square foot of floor space in residential buildings. New metrics for this year's edition include water efficiency policy, agricultural efficiency, building retrofit policies, heavy-duty fuel efficiency standards, and investment in energy efficiency by the private sector.

1. Germany
2. Italy
3. European Union
4/5. Tie: China and France
6/7. Tie: Japan and United Kingdom
8. Spain
9. Canada
10. Australia
11. India
12. South Korea
13. United States
14. Russia
15. Brazil
16. Mexico

ACEEE divided the 31 metrics across four groupings: those that track cross-cutting aspects of energy use at the national level, as well as the three sectors primarily responsible for energy consumption in an economically developed country -- buildings, industry, and transportation. The top-scoring countries in each grouping are: E.U., France, and Italy (three-way tie for national efforts); China (buildings); Germany (industry); and Italy (transportation).

ACEEE noted that the United States, long considered an innovative and competitive world leader, has progressed slowly and has made limited progress since its last report, even as Germany, Italy, China, and other nations surge ahead. The EPA's new carbon pollution standards for existing power plants proposed this June would be a major stride in raising the US score. ACEEE documents dozens of other international best practices that the U.S. could implement to improve its score.

U.S. Congressman Peter Welch (Vermont) said: "There's really no excuse for the U.S. lagging behind other nations on energy efficiency. States like Vermont have demonstrated that energy efficiency saves money, reduces environmental impact, and creates jobs. And, in an environment of gridlock, there is bipartisan common ground on this issue in Congress." In fact, Vermont recently increased its net energy metering cap, nearly quadrupling the percent of power that the state's utilities can accept from distributed resources. Vermont's bipartisan cap is now a whopping 15%!