Solar News

Phil, Anne and Jackson Starr owners of Sierra Starr Winery pictured at their end of the year sparking wine event

Phil Starr is a big fan of solar. Starr is owner, along with his wife Anne and son Jackson, of Sierra Starr Winery.

“We’ve had solar at the vineyard and winery for just about a year longer than downtown,” he said.

And it’s been just about a year since Starr called on California Solar Electric Company (Cal Solar) to install the commercial solar array at the downtown Grass Valley tasting room.

“It was a business and a conscious decision,” Starr said. “I’ve always kind of felt mistreated with the price we pay for energy. It’s very difficult to cut the cord, so-to-speak. I looked into wind as well, not so much for downtown, but I don’t think it was quite enough. The best option was to have solar at both locations.”

Starr has four meters at the vineyard and winery, that includes the well and house. “The first year we owed $881 for the year with solar,” he said. “It would have been between $13,000 and $17,000 without it.”

Starr is looking forward to the end of November, the one-year anniversary of the solar installation at the tasting room.

“We’ll know we sized it correctly based on our usage,” he said. “We expect we won’t owe PG&E any money. If the system is too large, PG&E pays us a little.” Starr reiterated that sizing the installation is important. And he is confident in the expertise of the Cal Solar staff.

Reid England, Lead Solar Electrician

“I’m very happy with Cal Solar,” he said. “The process was fine, it was relatively painless. They do all the interaction with the city or county. They handle all of those details that tend to be pretty painful for individuals to do.”

Starr also gave high praise to the installation crew.

“The head of the crew: Reid England, was very knowledgeable, a very nice person,” he said. “I’m very happy with the work they did and the interaction. I’m very happy with all the Cal Solar folks.”

Another benefit is that the solar array is not in view from the street. “Customers don’t even know it’s there,” Starr said.

Overall, Starr recommends solar and Cal Solar. “I absolutely would recommend Cal Solar and I have done so.”

With 2019 fast approaching, and decreasing tax credits on the horizon, now is the time to schedule your free feasibility survey with Cal Solar.

We have all the information you’ll need on solar, including important details on the federal tax credits and special financing. While deadlines are seasons away, booking now to discuss solar options is a smart first step.

Due to the looming tax credit deadline, “It is anticipated that at the end of next year every solar company is going to be booked out and extremely busy,” said Martin Webb, Commercial Sales Manager with Cal Solar and a solar professional for 20 years. “It’s never too early to start looking at solar and plan for a project next year to beat the rush.” Webb said it is also important to check with your tax professional for clarification on how the credit may apply to you.

Homeowner Jay Schwabe is a proponent of solar and recently had a new home system installed by Cal Solar. “I worked for 36 years for Philips Medical as a field engineer installing CAT scanners and MRI machines, so I have a lot of experience with electrical and mechanical repair,” he said.

Schwabe’s neighbors had solar on their roof and recommended Cal Solar. “I called Rob Totoonchie [Residential Sales Manager] at Cal Solar for a quote,” Schwabe said. “He came out, took shade reports from the roof from four locations and presented a quote a few days later. The entire process was extremely easy and fast. Hint: Let the experts do it!

“There was a recent IRS ruling stating that commercial installations don’t have to be completed in the calendar year to get that specific calendar year’s higher level of tax credit,” Webb said. “The project just has to have been started – or at least incurred 5 percent of the project cost – in that calendar year to get that year’s higher tax credit … As long as the project is completed before 2024.”

Where the residential tax credit cannot be used: Rentals.
The residential tax credit is only good for homes where the taxpayer lives. It doesn’t have to be the primary residence, so a vacation home or a second home qualifies, but it does have to be a home where the taxpayer lives. So if someone owns a rental home as a landlord and wants to put solar on it, then the residential tax credit cannot be used, since they don’t live there, the tenant does. The only way a property owner can have a rental qualify is if they structure their rental income as an LLC or corporation, and then they claim the 30% commercial tax credit.

Where the commercial tax credit cannot be used: Nonprofits.
No taxes are paid from churches, schools, government buildings, fire stations, parks, and other nonprofits, so the tax credit cannot be captured by those types of groups.

“That’s why there are new financing outfits geared towards helping nonprofits go solar,” Webb said. “[The finance company] will own the system for the first few years, capture all the tax benefits, and then pass some of them through to the nonprofit in the form of lower monthly payments. After six years, the lender has exhausted all the tax benefits, so at that point they turn full system ownership over to the nonprofit.

“So nonprofits can now get some of the tax credit value that they used to have to pass up, by letting someone else own the system for the first few years,” Webb explains. “It’s like lease-to-own in a way. Most of our recent commercial jobs have been nonprofits – churches, fire departments, public parks – where a third party gets the tax credit and shares that savings with the nonprofit. Whether commercial, nonprofit, or residential, with our special financing you can still capture that value somehow.”

Clean and green
Solar is clean energy, and most solar loan payments are lower than your PG&E bill. With the current 30% tax credit and $0-down financing, you can now free up the extra money that you typically send to an out-of-town energy company.

Schwabe received an email from PG&E on July 17, 2017 allowing him to turn on his solar system and start producing electricity.

“Exactly 13 months later, August 17, we reached a milestone when the production of electricity reached 10,000 kilowatt-hours,” Schwabe said. “More than I expected, but pleasantly surprised. Rob had predicted about 8,500 kWh in one year and we produced almost 8,900 kWh. As it turned out, we had a very small surplus, and after 365 days, our PG&E bill was minus $30. Pretty cool to get money back after one year.”

Get a quote from Cal Solar today to take advantage of the tax credit.

 

Tax Credits By The Numbers

Residential Federal Tax Credit, By Year
For solar electric or solar water heating systems:
– 30% for systems “placed in service by” 12/31/2019
– 26% for systems “placed in service by” 12/31/2020
– 22% for systems “placed in service by” 12/31/2021
– No residential tax credit after 2021
Note: Home being served by solar does not have to be your primary residence.

Commercial Federal Tax Credit, By Year
For solar electric or solar water heating systems:
– 30% if “starting construction by” 12/31/2019 and system “placed in service by” 12/31/23
– 26% if “starting construction by” 12/31/2020 and system “placed in service by” 12/31/23
– 22% if “starting construction by” 12/31/2021 and system “placed in service by” 12/31/23
– 10% for systems “starting construction after” 2021
Note: Excess commercial tax credit value can be carried forward 20 years.

– Source: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

The Sahara desert is expanding, and has been for at least a century. It’s a phenomenon that seems impossible to stop.

But it hasn’t stopped at least one group of scientists from dreaming of a way to do it. And their proposed solution, a grand scheme that involves covering vast areas of desert with solar panels and windmills, just got published in the prestigious journal Science.

Eugenia Kalnay, a prominent atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland, has been thinking about this idea for a decade. Kalnay is small in stature, soft-spoken. But she’s made her name with big and bold ideas. And what could be bigger and bolder than reversing the course of the world’s biggest desert?

Her academic adviser at MIT, Jule Charney, was among the first to describe the vicious cycle that can lead to desertification. With drought, green vegetation disappears, and the light-colored dirt that remains reflects more of the sun. This cools the land surface, which in turn means that there’s less heat driving air upward into higher and cooler levels of the atmosphere – the process that normally produces precipitation. So there’s less rain, killing even more vegetation.

Kalnay wondered if there might be a way to revive those atmospheric currents. “It occurred to me that the same [cycle] would go in the opposite way, so it would increase precipitation, and vegetation, and then more precipitation,” she says.

And then she thought of solar panels. They’re dark, so they don’t reflect the sun’s light. Could they heat up the surface and revive those rain-bringing air currents?

Kalnay convinced one of her post-doc researchers to create a computer simulation of an otherworldly Sahara where 20 percent of the land is covered with solar panels. The computer model also turned the desert into a giant wind farm, covered with turbines. Kalnay thought they might also help boost those beneficial air currents.

And the simulation turned out just the way she’d hoped. It showed rainfall increasing by enough to bring back vegetation. The model showed the biggest increases in rainfall along the southern edge of the Sahara, the area called the Sahel.

“It is wonderful!” she says, and her eyes go wide with an infectious joy. “We were so happy because it seems like a major solution for some of the problems that we have.”

The super solar farm she imagines is huge, as big as the entire United States. And it would generate four times as much electricity as the entire planet consumes right now. Kalmay talks of novel high-capacity transmission lines delivering power to Europe and the rest of Africa.

I told her that the whole scenario sounds like science fiction. Kalnay disagreed. “It would be science fiction if the technology was not available,” she said.

“So you could imagine it?”

“Yes,” she said, confidently.

After all, she’s used to imagining the workings of the entire planet’s atmosphere.

A few billion solar panels and windmills in the desert? No big deal.

A number of investors have explored the possibility of large solar farms in the Sahara, though nowhere near as massive as the scenario that Kalnay has simulated. Those ideas, however, remain stuck on drawing boards.

Story By: Dan Charles, NPR

California is ready to remake the U.S. West — or at least its power grid.

The legislature is considering a plan to expand a grid serving 30 million Californians to encompass as many as 13 other Western states — if they choose to join the effort. The California Independent System Operator, which currently manages a $9.3 billion wholesale market, would cede authority to a regional body under the proposal, which requires federal approval.

“We are worried that California would have to give up its climate leadership in order to form a regional grid,” said Matthew Freedman, a lawyer for the Utility Reform Network. Under a regional system, the state would lose the ability to appoint all of the grid manager’s board members.

A regional grid would seek to unify the 38 different grid operators that span the West

Source: Western Electricity Coordinating Council

As state legislators consider whether to pass the bill by the end of next week, here’s a look at the challenges to making it happen:

Enron’s Ghost

A regional system could give way to the kind of market manipulations that Enron was infamous for in the early 2000s, exposing consumers to soaring energy costs, critics say.

“The ghost of the energy crisis is definitely haunting the whole conversation,” said Rick Umoff, the California director of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, which supports the regional grid bill. “There’s a fear of losing control.”

Consumer advocates warn that a single market could stick California’s electricity customers with the bill for an entire region if something goes awry.

“We are going to have a lot more of an opportunity for speculation and it is going to come at the expense of California consumers,” Consumer Watchdog’s Liza Tucker said.

Proponents say that a number of provisions have been put in place since the energy crisis to prevent market manipulation including enhanced federal enforcement and independent market monitors. “Speculators are quickly caught and punished,” said Carl Zichella, director of Western transmission for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The California Independent System Operator says the regional grid could actually save consumers as much as $1.5 billion a year by 2030, according to a report it commissioned that also indicated pollution could be reduced.

Federal Rule?

Another worry is the feds — whether a multistate system would leave California at the mercy of Trump administration appointees by increasing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s oversight.

“Our concern is that the federal government could say, ‘We are going to put a thumb on the scale and make sure coal wins,’” said Travis Ritchie, an attorney for the Sierra Club, “because that’s what we are seeing in other parts of the country.”

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Chris Holden, and the Natural Resources Defense Council say those fears are overblown. FERC already oversees California’s grid.

READ: Trump Proposes Unwinding Obama’s Coal-Plant Pollution Curbs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday unveiled a plan that would dramatically weaken pollution limits on coal-fired power plants by shifting most of the regulatory burden to states in a further assault on the Obama climate legacy.

Conflicting Policies

But would greater federal involvement tether environmentally friendly California to policies designed to help coal states that don’t share Western clean-energy ambitions?

Some green-energy advocates like the Sierra Club think so, though Holden says the way it’s written ensures that the state will be able to pursue its own climate goals.

The governor of Utah — a coal-heavy state — has worried the opposite would happen, saying his state would be subject to California’s green energy mandates.

Who Joins?

Even if all the kinks get sorted out, the benefits of a regional grid could ultimately be limited if there aren’t enough participants or too many conditions are set.

For example, the Bonneville Power Administration, the giant Northwest hydropower marketer for the federal government that also operates transmission ties between California and Oregon, says it wouldn’t participate.

“A lot of folks are saying, ‘I don’t know if I’d want to join,’” said Dave Cherney, an energy policy expert for PA Consulting Group.

LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — A new solar project has been announced for the Nevada desert near Las Vegas, one that investors say will produce 690 megawatts of electricity.

Investment group Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners announced Monday the Gemini Solar Project, which will be built on federal land about 25 miles northeast of downtown Las Vegas.

According to a statement from Quinbrook, Gemini would be one of the largest solar projects in Nevada, with a combined capacity of 690 megawatts and 7,100 acres of solar panels, along with the option to include batteries.

The first phase of the project would connect with NV Energy’s Crystal Substation and provide power for the local grid, the investment group says. The second phase would be able to send power to customers in Nevada, Arizona and California.

“Gemini is a uniquely positioned project in close proximity to both Las Vegas and export connections to California and Arizona,” Jeff Hunter, senior managing director at Quinbrook, said in a statement. “Solar energy is on the rise in Nevada and is now being offered at historic low prices which is great news for retail consumers and local industry.”

The site is next to Interstate 15, close to the Apex Industrial Park and south of the Moapa Reservation.

The Bureau of Land Management is reviewing the environmental impact of the site, and a decision is expected by July 2019, with construction due to begin shortly afterward.

BLM officials say they are accepting public comment on the Gemini project through the end of August. Scoping meetings are also expected to be held the week of July 30.

by: Matthew Seeman
Source: News 3, Las Vegas

California Solar Electric Company in Grass Valley is installing 37.6 kW of solar power at the Miners Foundry Cultural Center in Nevada City. California Solar is installing the system using SunPower’s 470 watt panels, which utilize the latest and most efficient technology in the industry.

Due to their high efficiency,  California Solar is able to install the entire system on the most efficient, south facing roof spaces hidden from the street, preserving the historical character of both the Miners Foundry and Nevada City.

“We see going solar as an extension of our legacy and commitment to innovation, sustainability, environment, and our community,” Gretchen Bond, the executive director of the Miners Foundry said.

For nearly 160 years, the Miners Foundry has been the hub of innovation, arts and culture in Nevada County. Now the Foundry serves as a cultural arts and community events center. The installation of solar will help the Miners Foundry save the money needed to make necessary updates to their historic facility.

“In the next phase we plan to replace the old boiler with a state of the art heating, ventilation and air condition unit,” Bond said. “Solar will help us offset these expenses of heating and cooling our 9,000-square-foot facility. Without solar we would have a difficult time implementing these updates that will positively affect our business and our patrons experiences.”

An additional benefit to the Foundry, and other nonprofits, is a new source of special financing offered through California Solar.

“It’s zero dollars down, with fixed monthly payments that are less than the PG&E bills we are eliminating,” said Martin Webb, manager of commercial sales for California Solar. “This allows the Foundry to save money right away and invest the savings elsewhere.”

When completed, the solar system will be the largest solar installation in the downtown historic district. The SunPower solar system has a life expectancy of over 40 years and will deliver over 58,000 kilowatt hours in the first year. By producing 90 percent of its power onsite, and with the special financing offered through California Solar, the Miners Foundry will save more than $235,000 over the next 20 years, followed by even more substantial savings in subsequent years.

“We’ve installed roughly 100,000 watts of solar in downtown Nevada City, including the top of City Hall and the Masonic Lodge, with all of it invisible to the eye from the sidewalks and streets,” said Webb. “This system for the Foundry continues the trend of meeting the city’s demands for new, clean energy sources without compromising the downtown historical experience.”

“We are proud of the vision, leadership, and commitment our local government has shown in transitioning Nevada City’s electricity to be entirely from renewable sources by 2030 and all energy sources will be renewable by 2050,” Bond said. “It shows true responsibility and passion in preserving this beautiful place we call home. We chose California Solar because of their quick response to our many questions, willingness to work out a number of different scenarios, competitive rates, access to creative funding and ongoing commitment to the local community,” she said.

Founded in 2000 and located locally at 149 East Main Street in Grass Valley, California Solar Electric Company has installed more than 5.5 million watts of solar panels. Dedicated to advancing the solar industry and developing the best practices for installation methods, California Solar was listed in the July 2017 issue of industry magazine Solar Power World as one of the Top 500 Solar Contractors in the United States.

 

 

Remember Keystone XL, America’s favorite zombie pipeline? TransCanada’s long-resisted pipeline, intended to carry crude tar sand oil from Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, has been in the works since 2008, but construction still hasn’t started.

The project continues to be hit with protestslawsuits, and seemingly endless postponements. Activists are not giving up — and they’re using new and creative methods to fight the oil infrastructure.

Here’s a quick rundown of how environmental and indigenous rights activists are still building blockades.

Solar XL

This is a cheeky effort by a coalition of tribes, landowners, and activist groups to erect solar panels along the pipeline route. The panels generate energy for the local community, and would have to be removed in order for the pipeline to be built.

“The contracts say you can’t have any permanent buildings along the pipeline route,” says Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, a group that organizes farmers, ranchers, and tribes against the pipeline. “So TransCanada would be forced to remove them.” Destroying community-built solar installations to build an oil pipeline? Not the best look.

Solar XL is part of the broader work that tribal groups have been doing for years to go off the grid, says Faith Spotted Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux Nation in South Dakota and an organizer against the pipeline. “We’ve already been moving in the direction of solar,” she says. Planting those panels in the center of the pipeline path is the logical next step, Spotted Eagle points out.

Land rights

A husband and wife near Neligh, Nebraska, have further complicated the situation for TransCanada by selling a 1.6-acre plot of ancestral land to the Ponca tribe. The land, which has been used for the past five years for planting Ponca sacred corn, has now been returned to the tribe permanently.

This is likely to be particularly irritating to TransCanada, as they have pointedly avoided running the pipeline through any tribal lands. And they were already forced to reroute the pipeline away from environmentally sensitive areas. But now the Ponca owns property directly along the pipeline route — and they can use their special legal status as a tribe in future negotiations.

There are eminent domain battles brewing over the pipeline, too. Bold Nebraska has been connecting landowners who refuse to sign easements with attorneys, hoping to delay and challenge the implementation of TransCanada’s eminent domain claim for as long as possible. Kleeb estimates that around 20-25 percent of the pipeline route is “locked up” by owners who have pledged that they will not give over their land to TransCanada. (The company did not respond to requests for comment.)

In the courts

And — as is increasingly the case in climate and environmental conflicts — there are ongoing lawsuits. Although South Dakota’s Supreme Court shot down an appeal from activists on Thursday, there’s still hope for a similar appeal in Nebraska.

The Ponca tribe, Yankton Sioux tribe, and the Sierra Club filed documents in the Nebraska case three weeks ago, arguing that the Keystone XL will have dangerous impacts on the state’s environment and that the state public service commission violated due process in its original ruling.

The pipeline will also cross the Ponca’s “Trail of Tears,” the route taken by the tribe during their forcible removal by the federal government in the 1870s. This contested strip of land, the Ponca tribe argues, should be preserved for the public interest and for its religious and cultural significance.

The bottom line: There are many ways to skin a cat — or postpone a pipeline. Kleeb is hopeful that Keystone XL will never start construction. “They’re facing at least two years of legal challenge with Nebraska,” she says. “And if a Democratic president gets elected, they would reject the pipeline. There are a lot of factors on our side that support this never getting built.”

By: Shannon Osaka, Jun 18, 2018

California Solar is excited to offer the MPOWER PACE program that has recently arrived in Nevada County. This new financing option opens the door for more Nevada County residents to achieve energy independence and save money at the same time.

“At California Solar, we are always looking for the best solar financing options for our customers and we’ve been waiting for MPOWER to come to Nevada County for a long time. Not only is it a great option for using alternative energy to save money, but the people who work at MPOWER are dedicated to the utmost service and education throughout the entire loan process. It’s a great way to help people OWN their power instead of just renting it.”
– Rob Totoonchie, Residential Sales Manager
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