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As printed by the Auburn Journal, June 19th, 2019

 

Auburn Presbyterian Church is all set up to harness energy from the sun with solar panels recently installed by California Solar Electric Company.

The church was built in 2000 and members first considered solar about six years ago.

“At the time they thought it was not feasible, that it was too expensive, not cost effective,” said Pastor Paul Bagai, who has been with the church for three years.

The church recently decided to revisit the idea and take bids, ultimately choosing Cal Solar for the job.

“Their bid was lower, and the panels were more superior,” Bagai said. “(The array) is not intrusive, we needed less panels, it was less money, and more effective.”

The project was complete in two days. “That’s just by planning it out properly with the crew,” said Cal Solar electrician and lead installer Reid England. “It’s streamlined coordination and logistics. It was a straightforward project.”

“And they were on time, efficient, on top of everything,” Bagai said. “They were contacting us every day with updates, contacting Placer County about the permits. I was really pleased with every part of the service they provided.”

Now for looking forward to the energy savings.

“How we priced it out, it’s going to take about six to six and a half years to break even,” Bagai said. “But that’s at the current rate. Rates will be going up and up. It will more likely be about five years for that breaking point.”

 

Link to story here.

In the first three months of the year, the U.S. installed 2.7 gigawatts of solar PV, making it the most solar ever installed in the first quarter of a year. With the strong first quarter, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables forecasts 25% growth in 2019 compared to 2018, and it expects more than 13 GWDC of installations this year, as reported in its new “U.S. Solar Market Insight Report.”

The news comes after the United States surpassed 2 million solar installations in May.

“The first quarter data and projections for the rest of the year are promising for the solar industry,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “However, if we are to make the kind of progress we need to make the 2020s The Solar Decade, we will need to make substantial policy and market advances.”

FIGURE: U.S. PV capacity installed in the first quarter, Q1 2010 – Q1 2019 (MWDC)

Source: Wood Mackenzie / SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, Q2 2019

The largest share of installations during the record-breaking quarter came from the utility PV segment, with 1.6 gigawatts coming online, making up 61% of PV capacity installed. The report notes that with 4.7 gigawatts of large scale projects under construction, 2019 is on track to be a strong year for utility PV, with 46% growth over 2018 expected.

FIGURE: U.S. Utility PV Pipeline, Q2 2019

Source: Wood Mackenzie / SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, Q2 2019

“Voluntary procurement of utility PV based on its economic competitiveness continues to be the primary driver of projects announced in 2019,” said Wood Mackenzie senior solar analyst Colin Smith. “While many states, utilities and cities have announced or proposed 50 or 100% renewable energy or zero-carbon standards, the announcements have not yet resulted in an uptick in RPS-driven procurement,” added Smith.

The residential market experienced annual growth as well.

According to the report, the U.S. saw 603 megawatts of residential solar installations during the first quarter, up 6% annually.

“Despite steady installations in Q1 2019, the residential market is still highly reliant on legacy state markets, such as California and the Northeast, which have seen only modest to flat growth over the past several quarters,” said Wood Mackenzie solar analyst Austin Perea. “As these major state markets continue to grow past early-adopter consumers, higher costs of customer acquisition will challenge the industry to innovate product offerings and diversify geographically.”

In fact, the report notes that 29% of residential capacity in Q1 2019 came from markets outside the Top 10 solar states by capacity, the highest share for emerging markets in industry history.

The non-residential segment, which represents commercial, industrial and public sector distributed solar, saw 438 megawatts of PV installed on the quarter, which was down on both a quarterly and annual basis. According to the report, this is largely a result of state-level policy reforms in historically strong markets for the segment including California, Massachusetts and Minnesota. The authors point to new community solar mandates in New York, Maryland, Illinois and New Jersey that will help reinvigorate the segment beginning in 2020.

Total installed U.S. PV capacity will more than double over the next five years, with annual installations reaching 16.4 GWDC in 2021 prior to the expiration of the residential federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and a drop in the commercial tax credit to 10% for projects not yet under construction.

Key findings from this quarter’s report include:

  • In Q1 2019, the U.S. solar market surpassed 2 million installations – just three years after the market surpassed the 1 million installation milestone. The industry is expected to hit 3 million installations in 2021 and 4 million installations in 2023.
  • In Q1 2019, the U.S. solar market installed 2.7 gigawatts of solar PV, marking the largest Q1 ever recorded. This represented a 37% decline from Q4 2018 and a 10 percent increase from Q1 2018.
  • Residential solar continues its modest rebound, with a third consecutive quarter of more than 600 megawatts of installed capacity.
  • Non-residential PV saw 438 megawatts installed – its lowest quarter since Q1 2017 – as policy shifts in states like California, Massachusetts and Minnesota continue to hamper growth.
  • There were 1.6 gigawatts of utility-scale solar installed in Q1 2019, accounting for 61 percent of U.S. capacity additions this quarter.
    Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables forecasts 25% growth in 2019 compared to 2018, and it expects more than 13 GWdc of installations
  • Total installed U.S. PV capacity will more than double over the next five years, with annual installations reaching 16.4 gigawatts in 2021 prior to the expiration of the residential federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and a drop in the commercial tax credit to 10% for projects not yet under construction.

News item from SEIA

 

California’s wildfires may be the best thing to happen to home batteries

Article By Michael J. Coren,

 

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) may leave millions of Californians in the dark this summer. The alternative is worse. Last summer, power lines sparked wildfires in remotes areas of the Sierra Nevada mountain range that killed at least 100 people, some still trapped in their cars, as fires consumed whole towns and more than 1.5 million acres.

The state’s bankrupt utility, which is facing a $30 billion bill (paywall) for wildfire damages, according to filings with regulators, see few options but to intentionally cut off power for millions of people during days with high fire risk. The intentional blackouts will be the largest in US history, reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

Such “Public Safety Power Shutoffs” aren’t going away. As transmission lines age and electricity loads increase, the risk grows that a new wildfire will break out. Power lines ignite fires after branches brush against them, or transmission poles snap, leaving live wires. Clearing trees and brush can take years, and improving infrastructure even longer. That’s compounded by extreme weather driven by climate change, which has turned America’s western forests into furnaces in waiting. Years of extreme droughts, followed by torrential rains, have left California’s wild lands full of dead and dying trees, as well as fresh growth to fuel new flames.

PG&E’s guidance to prepare for wildfire season (pdf) has little on offer: stay with friends and relatives, test your flashlights, and buy a generator. What it hasn’t promoted until recently is batteries (the utility’s page on self-generation warns batteries are “not likely…[to] save you money over the long-run”). But in a first this May, PG&E lawyers testified to regulators that the utility is proposing home batteries as a primary measure to cope with the expected blackouts. PG&E sent a statement but did not answer questions directly when contacted by email.

California’s wildfires appear to be supercharging a national trend. Solar installers are now retooling as battery installers.

The market for residential batteries remains is small — only a few hundred megawatt-hours were installed in 2018. But it’s growing tenfold year-over-year, reports Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. Home solar company Sunrun has installed 5,000 of its Brightbox systems — solar panels and lithium-ion batteries with eight to 12 hours of backup power — in the US and expects sales to double this year. “We are seeing increased consumer awareness of outages due to [the California] wildfires and receiving more questions from customers about home batteries,” said spokesperson Georgia Dempsey of Sunrun.

That’s the pattern after most natural disasters, says Nick Liberati of EnergySage, an online marketplace where people buy and sell home solar panels and batteries. After massive hurricanes struck Texas and Florida in 2017, EnergySage saw installations of the systems surge on its platform. Similarly, in Puerto Rico, record numbers of the island’s residents installed home battery systems after Hurricane Maria cut power for months. The pattern appears to be holding in California. Liberati says between July 2018 and March 2019, customer interest in energy storage on its marketplace rose 11% within PG&E’s service territory, more than double the national average.

Local installers in California are responding to a spike in solar panel and battery inquiries. “It’s definitely increasing the conversation around batteries,” said Martin Webb, [Commercial Manager] for California Solar Electric Company in Grass Valley near last year’s wildfires. “People want to explore anything to get out of this relationship [with PG&E] they feel is very one-sided.” While many conversations hasn’t yet turned into installations, he suspects that may change once people experience being without power for days on end.

Scott Laskey, founder and CEO of Sandbar Solar in Santa Cruz, said a surge in installations is “imminent.” He’s seen a steady increase in customers installing solar and battery systems, and more firms opting to install batteries instead of generators. “Everyone is preparing for it,” he said. Laskey himself ended his connection with PG&E last year. After building a new 11,500 square foot warehouse, he was facing $70,000 in utility connection costs, a year-long wait, and $1,000 monthly electricity bills. Instead, he installed a solar and battery system that he says cut his monthly energy bill to zero except for a $9 natural gas charge. He expects it to pay for itself in the coming years. It may even prevent the next wildfire.

 

By: Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. April 23, 2019 – On Saturday, April 6th, NCSOS opened the doors of the Main Street Center at the Nevada County Fairgrounds and the Northern Mines Building and welcomed approximately 2000 visitors to the 4th STEAM Expo 2019. Inside, students were able to compete in on-the spot robotics competitions, experience hands-on math challenges, create with 3D printers, assemble and launch paper hot air balloons, code and control robots, experience science-based art projects and play musical instruments from flutes to tubas. Families and other visitors enjoyed perusing student competition displays, local classroom STEAM art projects, free bicycle tune-ups by local students, musical performances by our local youth, and much, much more.

New this year was the partnership between NCSoS and the Nevada County Tech Connection, Economic Resource Council and Cranmer Industries in bringing local industries raising awareness of the link between educational goals and dreams and the career opportunities provided by local businesses and organizations. Students were able to experience green screen video making, create original art, learn how to separate soil through sifters, learn about the local watershed, wear 3-D virtual glasses, see the power of solar energy and so much more that we haven’t listed here.

Since its first year, NCSOS still maintains the steam education philosophy of a STEAM framework for teaching is based on natural ways of learning, customizable for ALL types of students and programs and is FUNctional! Shifting to a STEAM perspective means understanding learning contextually; not only in terms of having a framework that illustrates where the subjects overlap, but also in providing a living and adaptable learning structure for ever-changing personal and global development.

Planning for the Expo began by reaching out to Nevada County schools, local businesses, community members, and others who use or have vested interests in the type of educational opportunities STEAM encourages. The response is growing every year, with this year being the largest yet for having hands-on activities for attendees to experience. Students brought in their science projects, investigations, and problem solving challenges in the categories of Scientific Inquiry, Rube Goldberg machines, Environmental/Agricultural Innovation, Science Fiction, Robotics/Computer Science, Reverse Engineering, Invention, Art, and Problem Solving and Design in Math. These students proudly delivered their products to the event site to be judged. On the eve of the Expo, county board members, retired teachers, community members, principals, local engineers, and NC Arts Council members evaluated and scored each and every eligible student submission.

The NCSOS STEAM Expo 2019 closed with an awards ceremony during which over 50 students were recognized for their work in each STEAM category. In addition, student winners who participated in the TechTest Jr. math competition held in early March were recognized. Congratulations to all the category winners, schools and organizations who brought in their amazing hands-on exhibits. Forty-five Leonardo Da Vinci Awards were given for outstanding artistic communication of the students’ processes and products. NC Tech Connection awarded the winner of a raffle competition with a new drone. The Nevada Irrigation Department and Nevada County Engineers’ Association distributed cash awards for the top three student submissions that demonstrated excellence in engineering, and three projects were selected to move on to the California State Science Fair to be held in Los Angeles in April.

NCSoS would like to thank our sponsors for their support (many of whom were exhibitors at the STEAM Expo): American Association of University Woman (AAUW), AJA Video Systems, Autometrix, California Solar Electric Company, Geo-Logic Associates Grass Valley, A Belden Brand, Grass Valley Police Department, Music in the Mountains, Nevada Irrigation Department, Nevada City Film Festival, Sierra Soil Biology Association, Sierra Streams Institute, South Yuba River Citizen’s League (SYRCL), Telestream, and Traitware. I would also like to thank the entire STEAM Expo 2019 Committee, all volunteers who came to help set-up, break-down and judge some of the exhibits.

STEAM Expo 2020 has been tentatively scheduled for March 28, 2020! Details will be rolled out in the fall, but all information needed by teachers, to prepare students for STEAM Expo 2020, can be found at http://www.nevcoexpo.org.

See you next year!

If you are looking for ways to minimize your carbon footprint, solar energy is the way to go. As a clean alternative to fossil fuels, solar power is reliable, non-polluting and an endless source of renewable energy. Why wait?

 

May Day in Nevada County usually means maypoles and the coming of spring, but there’s another May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, that focuses on workers. It is this May Day that the Nevada County Left Coalition in partnership with the Nevada County Peace and Justice Center will be celebrating on Wednesday, May 1, from 3-8 p.m. at Seaman’s Lodge in Nevada City.

This will be a free, family-friendly event for all those who want to stand in solidarity with workers, waged and unwaged. It will be a potluck, so please bring a dish to share. There will be speakers, music, art and children’s activities.

The origin of this international holiday dates back to the Haymarket Affair of 1886, a brutal repression of workers agitating for an 8-hour work day that took place in Chicago. May Day commemorates this struggle and the loss of those killed at Haymarket, while celebrating the victories that would follow and all workers’ struggles.

Featured speakers at the event will include Angelica Niblock of California Solar Electric Company, a Grass Valley solar company in the process of transitioning from a single owner into a worker-owned cooperative. Such cooperatives are a form of workplace organization considered by many to be a democratic step forward, and a possible solution to some of the excesses of the current economic system.

“I’m participating in May Day because I want to stand in solidarity with our community’s labor activists,” says Niblock, Senior Project Manager at Cal-Solar. “Workers’ self-management is a principle of the labor movement and workers’ co-ops.”

Niblock says that she has been practicing democratic management in her role at California Solar for years, and is excited to be embarking on the next leg of the journey of forming a workers co-op.

“I hope that more people can see the value in self-management and will consider what cooperatives can do for them,” she says. Actions like this, she says, “can make Nevada County a better place to live, with more prosperity and peace for all its residents.”

In addition to the two co-sponsors of the event, also present will be Central Foothills Democratic Socialists of America and climate change activists Extinction Rebellion.

For more information email ncleftcoalition@gmail.com.

What: International Workers’ Day Celebration
Date: May 1, 2019 3 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Where: Seaman’s Lodge, Nevada City
Cost: Free. Food will be potluck style so bring a dish to share

 

This Saturday April 6, 2019 9:00am – 3:00pm @ The Nevada County Fairgrounds in the Northern Mines Building

 
Photo above: Oliver Bach, left, in 2017 as a Cal Solar Intern. Facilities Manager Josh Jozefowski, right.

 
The solar industry is one of the leading industries in the U.S. and offers great local opportunities for young people entering the job market after high school.

On April 6, Grass Valley-based business, California Solar Electric Company will have an outreach booth at the fourth annual Nevada County STEAM Expo where kids can learn more about how they can get involved in solar internship and apprenticeship programs.

Cal Solar will join about a dozen other local technology and science-based companies at the event held at the Nevada County Fairgrounds and organized by Nevada County Superintendent of Schools. Employees from California Solar will be on hand with a solar phone charging station and a solar powered golf cart. Older teens interested in renewable energy and sustainable future career paths, will have a chance to find out more about becoming an intern.

“What we want to do is give kids the ability to be on the top of the food chain in the solar installer market and kickstart their careers,” said Lars Ortegren, Co-Founder and Director of Operations at Cal Solar.

It all started back in 2011 through a partnership with One Stop Career Center where Cal Solar employees taught classes on pathways to green careers to at risk young adults age 19 – 23. Since then, an internship program has evolved, mixing education and on the job training for young people.

“Out of that came this idea that we want to get people when they are younger so they get the bug and begin to accelerate. That really started to highlight where we want to be – a place where we can empower people,” said Ortegren.

Now in its fourth year, the program is designed for high school students 16 years of age or older who are willing to work hard and have a drive for solar energy and renewable resources. Young women are encouraged to apply.

Interns start with one day a week during the school year with a strong expectation that internships will evolve into an apprenticeship the following summer. At the end of the second year, California Solar will equip grads of the program with the experience and education for the highest certifications in the Solar Industry, qualifying them for the highest paid jobs in the fastest growing industry in the country.

Solar Photovoltaic Installers are the fastest growing occupations in the U.S., with a 105 percent growth rate predicted for 2016 – 2026, according to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Electricians have always been one of the hottest jobs in the U.S. Now solar installers are considered in the top jobs in the U.S. We’re really setting interns and apprentices up for success,” said Ortegren. The training prepares young people for a long term position before, after, or in lieu of college.

Already, one graduate of the program has gone off to get his journeyman certification and now runs a solar company in New Mexico. Another went on to find work in Seattle. Oliver Bach, 18, started as an intern through Bitney High School, and is now a full-time solar electrician with the company, an example of Cal Solar’s mission to save the planet and provide meaningful careers locally.

“What we train isn’t a job, it’s a trade and a craft. We don’t hire workers, we train technicians. We look for people with mechanical abilities, teach them the theory behind electricity, the codes, and standards that all electrical work requires, and the art of how to make it beautiful. A trade isn’t a job that is just learned, it’s something that involves learning every day and is in constant refinement,” said Ortegren.

The Fourth Annual Nevada County STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) Expo will be held between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m on April 6 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. The STEAM Expo combines science, technology, engineering, art, and math into a stimulating experience that engages the entire family. It’s also a place where students show off their hard work and compete in several categories.

Other tech-related businesses invited to the event as part of a new pilot program funded by Nevada County Economic Resource Council include: AJA, Autometrix, Geo-Logic Associates, Grass Valley, A Belden Brand, Grass Valley Police Department, Nevada Irrigation District, Nevada City Film Festival, Sierra Soil Biology Association, Sierra Streams Institute, South Yuba River Citizens League and Traitware.

“The idea behind it is to show students a pathway within Nevada County for different technology careers. There are so many options in technology and so many options locally,” said STEAM Expo Coordinator Heidi Lyss.

Learn more about STEAM Expo here: http://www.nevcoexpo.org/
Learn more about California Solar Electric Co. here: https://californiasolarco.com/

March 24th, 2019 by  for cleantechnica.com

Just before 3 o’clock in the afternoon, solar output peaked at 10,765 megawatts, the highest amount ever, though just a smidgen more than the previous record set last June. According to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), demand at that time, not including behind-the-meter solar, was around 18 gigawatts. Los Angeles and Sacramento are not part of the CAISO grid.

That meant solar was meeting 59% of the grid’s power needs at that moment.That’s wonderful news, but what should get solar proponents really excited is that CAISO was a net exporter of electricity to other systems at the time the record was set. As PV Magazine points out, CAISO is required by its existing contracts with out-of-state energy suppliers to import a certain amount of electricity even when it doesn’t need it.

 

 

When that happens, some of the locally generated electricity has to be exported, and in extreme cases, the generation is just shut off or dumped, a process known as curtailment in the industry. Since it is more difficult to decrease output on a moment-to-moment basis from traditional energy sources like hydro or gas-fired generating stations, the electricity curtailed most often comes from renewable energy facilities, especially solar.

Depending on market considerations at the time, sometimes CAISO actually has to pay other utility operators to take its excess electricity, particularly during the mid-afternoon when solar output is at its peak. But that didn’t happen in this instance. Growing battery storage capability in California is one of the reasons why.

The data from CAISO only tells part of the solar record story, however, since behind-the-meter solar — which is estimated to be half as much as grid-scale solar — is not included in those numbers. That means at that time on Saturday, March 16, total available solar energy within the CAISO system was closer to 16 gigawatts.

Based on data from the US Department of Energy, PV Magazine calculates that 14% of California’s annual demand for electricity was met from in-state solar resources last year and that number is expected to be far greater this year as California once again adds more solar generating capacity than any other state.

Opponents of solar and other renewables like to point out the cost of electricity in California has gone up steadily in the past decade, which they attribute entirely to the expense of building wind and solar generating facilities. What they ignore completely is the money utility customers have been forced to expend to keep unprofitable conventional generating facilities running and the burden that existing contracts impose on everyone.

They also totally exclude any intangible but very real health and environmental impacts from drilling for, transporting, and burning fossil fuels to make electricity. In today’s superheated political sphere, half-truths and outright lies are considered business as usual. Despite their distortions, renewable energy is rapidly displacing conventional generating plants, something that means we can all breathe a little bit easier.