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As printed in the Union Newspaper, September 1, 2019

Good Sun and California Solar Electric Company have come together in one shared initiative: provide solar power to Utah’s Place, the only year-round emergency homeless shelter in Nevada County, to offset the costs of operating and increase available resources to those in need.

“When Good Sun and Cal Solar called us and said they wanted to get together to discuss free solar, it was quite the surprise,” said Ashley Quadros, development director at Hospitality House, the nonprofit that runs Utah’s Place. “This is an incredible act of goodwill and will be a tremendous benefit to our shelter. Funds we were allocating toward our electric bills will now be redirected to critical needs and services to our most vulnerable community members.”

According to a news release, Good Sun and Cal Solar have combined their resources in order to provide Hospitality House’s shelter with a 40-unit (13.8kW) Sunpower solar panel system, complete with full design, permitting and installation. The entire project is valued at kore than $40,000.

Utah’s Place currently has two meters that supply all electricity to the shelter. The donated solar system will cover 100 percent of the operating costs for one of the meters, a savings of approximately $300 every month with an increase in savings of 5 percent annually projected as PG&E rates increase.

“Every month we save on electricity expenditures … we’ll have increased available resources to help where the need is greatest.”— Nancy Baglietto Executive director of Hospitality House

California Solar brought the prospects of this project to us and we loved the idea right away because of the community collaboration aspect coupled with the mission of helping out needy families,” Eric Stikes, founder of Good Sun, said in the release. “Homelessness is a human issue before it is a political or economical issue. It is an issue, whether we choose to believe it or not, to which no one is immune … and so, we should address the issue from a human perspective with compassion.”

CONNECTION TO THE CAUSE

Stikes, himself, is no stranger to homelessness. During his college years, he lived in the back of his Toyota Tacoma while putting himself through engineering school. Though at times he found the experience liberating, he equally found it lonely.

“I will never forget the feeling of living on the fringe of society and not having a home, a refuge, a safe place that you can call your own,” Stikes said in the release.

Similarly, Lars Ortegren, co-founder of Cal Solar, also has a close connection to homelessness — a connection that only became steadfast through the years after becoming a volunteer of Hospitality House.

“I was an overnight volunteer for the first five years of Hospitality House when it was a roving shelter,” Ortegren said. “On my first day, I recognized one of the guests as my previous bank manager, who had lost his job a couple of months before. He played out his story, one bad circumstance after another: broken leg, unable to get a job, evicted from his home, broken down car. It gave me a new perspective on homelessness.

“We all are a short stack of pink slips away and it can all happen by a few unfortunate events to trigger. Supporting Hospitality House is literally supporting our community and showing that we care about our own.”

Ortegren’s experience helping homeless people firsthand influenced his business model. Over the years, he’s hired homeless folks living at Utah’s Place and now he’s working with shelter staff to introduce an apprenticeship program to give more guests an opportunity at learning engineering to become solar technicians at Cal Solar.

“Cal Solar has an ethical responsibility, like any good local business, to give back to the community that supports us,” he said, noting he’s been working on bringing solar to Utah’s Place since the doors opened in 2013. “Supporting Hospitality House is supporting our very own community-funded social safety net and the most vulnerable population in our community, the homeless. We believe that in supporting Hospitality House and its programs, we are supporting a stronger community by ‘lifting up’ the people who are most in need.”

Stikes said he is in full agreement with his counterpart. His nonprofit has devoted many months toward procuring the necessary equipment for the project, and as recently as last week, Good Sun was able to extend the system from the original 35 solar panels to 40 panels through increased fundraising efforts.

“To us, what Hospitality House does for the community is unique and very important,” Stikes said. “It is precisely the sort of organization that we set out to help when we formed our nonprofit …We hope that these savings can be reinvested to further the shelter’s mission and we’re excited that the savings investment now will compound in the future as utility rates continue to go up.”

The installation is scheduled to begin Friday, Sept. 13. Guests of the shelter will have an opportunity to learn about solar and aid the installation. A group of high school students from Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning will also be onsite to volunteer with the install. These students are learning sustainable building, solar and construction through their teacher, Travis Duckworth, who will also be giving his time.

“This is a perpetual gift,” said Nancy Baglietto, executive director of Hospitality House. “Every month we save on electricity expenditures is another month we’ll have increased available resources to help where the need is greatest.”

Solar system donated to Utah’s Place, Grass Valley’s homeless shelter

 

As printed in the Union Newspaper, August 18, 2019

Prosperity Lanes is one of the latest businesses in Grass Valley to go solar.

California Solar Electric Company installed 215 of the new SunPower 395W P-series commercial solar panels.

“These are the first panels coming out of SunPower’s new U.S. factory located in Hillsboro, Oregon,” Martin Webb, Cal Solar’s commercial sales manager, said in a news release. “At the end of last year, they acquired an existing solar panel factory and re-tooled it to begin making their new high-efficiency P-series.”

For Prosperity Lanes owner Art King, the decision to install solar was about economics.

“When I first thought about having solar installed, I thought it wouldn’t be affordable,” King said. “And I don’t mean to say not economical. We are expecting to save 80 to 90% off our electric bill. It will have a pretty immediate and rapid return on our investment, not counting the tax benefits.”

“With a lot of machinery at work to run pinsetters, ball returns, and air conditioning, plus lights, scoreboards, and a commercial kitchen, Prosperity Lanes uses a decent amount of power,” Webb said. “With PG&E rates higher than ever (their rates went up this year on Jan 1, March 1, May 1, and then again on July 1), the bowling alley was running bills as high as $5,000 in the heat of summer and as low as $1,500 in early winter, for an annual average bill of just over $3,000/mo., and going up 5% a year.”

Webb said with solar on the roof, Prosperity Lanes now produces more than 80% of the facility’s power needs, which eliminates 97% of their annual bill. Factor in the 30% federal tax credit — which sunsets in 2019 and drops to 26% — along with other tax benefits, and he system is expected to pay for itself in under three years, Webb said.

Prosperity Lanes is located at 420 Henderson St. in Grass Valle. Call 530-274-6484 or visit ProsperityLanes.com for information.

Grass Valley’s Prosperity Lanes bowling alley goes solar

The Solar Power World Top Solar Contractors list includes Grass Valley based California Solar Electric Company.

GRASS VALLEY, CA — With renewable energy expected to be the fastest growing source of U.S. electricity generation for at least the next two years, local solar installer Cal Solar is happy to be contributing to the country’s energy mix. Cal Solar has been recognized by Solar Power World magazine for its installation efforts, achieving a rank of 313 out of 415 solar companies on the magazine’s 2019 Top Solar Contractors list.

The Top Solar Contractors list is developed by Solar Power World to recognize the work completed by solar contractors across the United States. Produced annually, the Top Solar Contractors list celebrates the achievements of U.S. solar developers, subcontractors and installers within the utility, commercial and residential markets, and ranks contractors by kilowatts installed in the previous year.

Solar Power World enjoys assembling the Top Solar Contractors list each year, and our 2019 edition features hundreds of companies making big impacts in local energy markets,” said Kelly Pickerel, editor in chief of Solar Power World. “Solar power is becoming competitive with traditional electricity sources in more markets, and cities and states are demanding more renewable energy options. It’s a great time to be a solar installer, and we’re happy to highlight the best installation companies in the country on our list.”

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. If you’d like to learn as to why education providers have moved from STEM to STEAM education, you could look at this infographic for reasons as to why educators are preferring to include the arts in courses, as well as why employers also prefer employees that have experienced STEAM education.

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!