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Appearing in The Union Newspaper | November 10, 2019

 

Western Gateway Park in Penn Valley is a community hub of sports, nature, entertainment and many picnics and get-togethers. With electricity available at several of the sites, it was a natural choice that a solar array be installed at the park. It was a natural fit that California Solar Electric Company (Cal Solar) install the system.

“It really came down to dollars and cents,” said Nancy Pierce, chairman of the board of directors for the park. “The park was paying about $12,000 per year for electricity and we have plenty of areas where the solar exposure is excellent. We are now expecting to see a total savings of about $175,000 over 25 years! The park can use that savings to do many other things for our users,” Pierce added.

The Western Gateway Recreation & Park District Board of Directors chose to use the solar array as rentable picnic space. “We have little in the way of roof space that is correctly oriented for a solar project,” Pierce said. “This necessitated utilizing a ground-mount system. Because we are a public space, it was logical to use a carport structure for security. We have a huge parking lot with great solar exposure and so that seemed a natural fit. The structure would cover about eight parking spaces, not really much of a gain there to make it an advantage. One night it suddenly dawned on me that moving the structure to the adjacent green area and using it as a covered picnic area made more sense.” The park board and Cal Solar agreed it would work.

“We already have three covered picnic areas that are very much in demand and contribute to our park rental income,” Pierce said. “Having a fourth for our park visitors, especially located so close to our parking area, restrooms, and the frequently used bocce ball courts is a tremendous addition to our park facilities. Plus, it’s generating electricity!”

Installing the array as a covered space also blends with the park aesthetics.

“We have the array nestled back in a tree line over a grassy area so it’s not that noticeable,” Pierce said. “Now that there are tables under it, it looks just like a covered picnic area.”

And it is a good model for other parks.

“In our situation, the solar array over a covered picnic area is a winning combination,” Pierce said. “The project would have cost less had we been able to use an existing roof. I think it would work for other parks in our situation.”

And it blends so well that the park staff has not had much feedback from the public. “I think it is just an accepted addition to the park,” Pierce said.

Which is also why Cal Solar was such a natural fit for the project. With it’s dedication to community and the environment, the park setting and Cal Solar are symbiotic.

“The board of directors went through a careful and extensive process to become educated on solar as a means of generating electricity,” Pierce said. “We called a number of solar companies in our area to ask for bids on our project. Three companies responded and after a period of about a year we finalized with California Solar. Not only were they the lowest bidder, they were the only company with the commercial solar expertise we needed for this installation.”

Pierce went on to say that as construction projects go, it was a smooth process. “I loved working with Cal Solar and appreciated their experience and knowledge,” Pierce said. “They were key in demystifying the intricacies of a solar project. Reid England was the lead on the actual construction. He was efficient, knowledgeable, and produced a quality product. Angelica Niblock was our office support. She made sure I got documents signed and helped smooth out wrinkles with the paperwork and the county. Martin Webb was always available and in contact when needed. He knows the solar industry, patiently answered questions, and was the project’s biggest cheerleader.”

 
While there are many benefits to a grid-tied solar system, having power for your home or business during a blackout is not one of them. 

There are two reasons that grid-tied solar does not work during a PG&E blackout:

#1 The primary reason for solar systems to shut off during a blackout is safety. A Grid Tied Solar Inverter is required by regulation to not produce power in the event of a power outage.  This is because when PG&E sends Linemen to repair any downed power lines, they could be electrocuted if a solar array is back feeding power into the grid. Solar inverters are programmed to recognize when the power coming from the grid is unstable, or down, and will automatically turn off for safety.

#2 A secondary reason is that the power produced by your Grid Tied Solar Inverter varies throughout the day and rarely matches the instantaneous power needs of your home or business.  For example, if your solar array was producing less power than you needed at any given moment, your house would effectively “brown-out,” your lights could dim and your appliances may not function.  This would not only be inconvenient but could damage sensitive equipment, like computers. With a grid-tied solar system, any difference between the power you need and the power your solar can produce is provided by the grid. On the other extreme, if your Grid Tied Solar Inverter is producing more power than you need at any given moment, that power has no where else to go and could cause catastrophic damage.  With a grid-tied system any excess power is sent back into the grid and PG&E credits you for that power.

 

To have power in a Power Outage you need a battery backup system.

A battery backup system will power your home or business during a blackout, and be recharged by your solar array. However, a reliable whole house battery storage system is around an $25,000 + investment, depending on your needs.

If you are seriously interested in a solar rechargeable battery backup system please let us know, and we would be happy to go over the details with you.

You can fill out the online form here, or call (530) 274-3671 and ask to speak with one of our qualified solar designers today.

In most cases a battery system can be eligible for the 30% Federal Tax Credit. Please consult with your CPA to make sure you qualify.

PG&E operational and meteorological teams are monitoring a potentially strong offshore wind event for Wednesday, Nov. 20. There is the possibility of another Public Safety Power Shutoff event on Wednesday.

Please keep checking Yubanet.com for updated info about outages.
You can also visit the PG&E outage map, where you can input your zip code to see if your exact area will be affected.

PG&E plans to notify potentially affected customers beginning Monday morning (Nov. 18)—about 48 hours before a potential shutoff—by phone, text and email. PG&E says they are “working closely with state, county, local and tribal partners to prepare for the potential PSPS.”

 
At Cal Solar we do not install or service back up power generators.

It is a good time to service your generator if you ran it for days at a time during PG&E’s most recent blackouts.

No matter the brand, check the owners manual for specific service needs on your equipment.
You can do most routine service needs on your own by following the instructions in the manual.

Some brands require an oil change after 200 hours of runtime.
Some newly installed units need oil changes and valve adjustments after the first 25 hours of runtime.

If you go to the manufacturer’s website, you can find a list of local certified technicians that will service your generator.
You can also contact them and ask for recommendations in your area.

During the recent PG&E shut-offs we have received many inquires into batteries, generators, and other power security solutions. So we have made this brief summary to go over a couple of basic options for back up power in a power outage.

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I just want the cheapest way to temporarily get some power to a couple of critical appliances.

Solution 1:
Propane/Gas powered Generator or Battery Based Generator.

This temporary solution involves having extension cords running from the generator to fridge or appliances that you want powered.

Small gas powered generators: Can cost $500 and up, excluding fuel costs.

Small standalone Battery based generators: Can cost $3,000-$6,000 and up and can include a small separate solar panel which can be plugged in to recharge the battery.

We recommend: Goal Zero for standalone Battery based generators.

If this is the direction you would like to explore, we do not install generators, but here are a few local generator installers we recommend:

Precision Electric – (530) 274-3438
Pegv.net

Karl Sherry Electric – (530) 432-7566
KarlsherryElectric.com

C.A.S.E Contracting Inc. – (530) 575-6838
CaseContractingInc.com

Sola Williams – (530) 305-5851

Situation 2:
I want power for most of, or all of, my home for an extended period of time.

Solution 2:
Whole House Generator or Solar Charged Battery Back Up.

This more permanent solution involves tying into the homes electrical panel.

To use a Generator if you have Solar, an electrician needs to make sure the generator is electrically separated from the solar circuit with a Transfer Switch, or it could cause catastrophic damage.  We can install a manual transfer switch starting at around $2,000. This would involve one of our electricians doing a site survey to determine if there would be any additional costs. The cost of the generator will vary from home to home.  We can recommend a local generator specialist to help you.

If you have Solar and want a Battery Back Up, the smallest systems we recommend start at $18,000-$25,000 for limited battery back up that can be recharged by your solar or a generator.  If you are interested in a solar rechargeable battery based system please let us know, and we would be happy to go over the details with you.

In most cases a battery system can be eligible for the 30% Federal Tax Credit. Please consult with your CPA to make sure you qualify.

If you are interested in seriously exploring Situation 2 you can fill out the online form here, or call (530) 274-3671 and ask to speak with one of our qualified solar designers today.

For Immediate Release:  September 23, 2019 from The South Yuba River Citizens League

Yuba River Cleanup Removes 9 Tons of Trash & Recyclables

SYRCL Supports Nevada County’s Water Quality Investigation Along South Yuba

Nevada City, CA – From the headwaters along Donner Summit to the confluence of the Yuba and Feather Rivers, hundreds of people turned out for the South Yuba River Citizens League’s (SYRCL’s) annual Yuba River Cleanup on Saturday, September 21, 2019. The numbers are still rolling in from 36 sites. So far at least 900 volunteers removed more than 18,000 pounds of garbage and recyclables from 82 miles of rivers, creeks and lakes. Volunteers also assisted Nevada County by posting “No Swimming” advisory signs as a response to a yellow-colored plume of water that appeared along the South Yuba River the previous day.

“SYRCL’s Cleanup happened to take place during a critical NO SWIM ADVISORY that was issued by Nevada County’s Environmental Health Department,” said Melinda Booth. “Thankfully we were able to use our dedicated volunteer corps to help the County post signs for the public and get the word out.”

On Friday afternoon, September 20, SYRCL received photos from one of its members that showed yellowish, discolored water in the South Yuba River. SYRCL advised the public, Nevada County, State Parks and the California Office of Emergency Services. All relevant agencies began coordinating a response. To support this collaborative effort, SYRCL and partners conducted water quality testing throughout the South Fork of the Yuba. These data are still being analyzed.

Currently Nevada County Environmental Health Department’s “NO SWIM” advisory remains in effect, from the town of Washington to Englebright reservoir.

To ensure volunteer safety during the Cleanup, SYRCL asked volunteers to not swim and to stay at least 50 feet away from the edge of the river during their hours of cleaning and trash hauling.

“The yellow plume of discolored water was heartbreaking to see on Friday afternoon,” said Booth. “We knew we had to act right away by posting a video advisory and contacting our partners. Local and state government are taking this incident very seriously and are leading the investigation.”

Water sample tests revealed dangerous levels of E. coli bacteria at Highway 49 Crossing on Saturday, September 21. By Sunday, tests showed dramatically reduced levels.  The cause of the plume is still under investigation.

The yellow sediment plume did not keep the community from pitching in to remove a summer’s worth of trash during the Yuba River Cleanup on Saturday. Dozens of families, school groups and businesses got their hands dirty for the betterment of trails, beaches and public areas surrounding our local waterways, including Gold Run Creek, Deer Creek, Wolf Creek, the Bear River, Englebright Lake, and Kentucky Ravine. Volunteers ranged from nine-months old to 80 years old and they removed an array of items out of the river including scooters, roofing shingles, a pink flamingo in camouflage, tires, couches, fence parts and more.

Volunteer Party at Pioneer Park
After the Cleanup, SYRCL volunteers gathered at Pioneer Park to celebrate their morning of service. They enjoyed a complimentary lunch, sponsored by Emily’s Catering, the BriarPatch Coop, Diego’s, SPD Market and Flour Garden Bakery. They heard from Nevada County Supervisor Sue Hoek and SYRCL Executive Director Melinda Booth, who expressed their appreciation to all volunteers.

Clean-a-thon Nearing Goal
The Cleanup and the River Ambassador programs keep the Yuba healthy, clean and safe year-round, and they have real costs. SYRCL needs the community’s help to keep them going. So far, $8,500 has been raised to fund these vital programs.

“We’ve had an outpouring of support, and we hope to close our $6,500 fundraising gap in the next two weeks,” said Julie Pokrandt, SYRCL’s Development Director. The Clean-a-thon Campaign will stay open until October 1. “Please visit https://yubariver.org/annual-events/cleanup/clean-a-thon/ or stop by the SYRCL office to make a donation to support these stewardship efforts.”

The Yuba River Cleanup and River Ambassador program are made possible thanks to these generous sponsors and partners. SYRCL would like to express our gratitude to:

The Tahoe National Forest, Yuba Water Agency, and California Solar Electric Company.

AJA Video Systems, Balance Hydrologics, Body Logic Physical Therapy, BriarPatch Food Coop., Caseywood Lumber, Donner Summit Public Utilities District, Grass Valley, A Belden Brand, TYSA, and Western Aggregates LLC.

A. Teichert & Sons, A-One Bookkeeping, CBEC Eco Engineering, Cranmer Engineering, Fit for Life Physical Therapy, 49er Rotary Club of Nevada City, Gold Country Kiwanis Club, Grass Valley HydroGarden, Janet Peake, Financial Planning, SCO Planning & Engineering, Sierra Sungrown, South Yuba River Park Association & Friends of Malakoff Diggins, Stantec Consulting Services, and the Truckee Tahoe Airport District.

B & C Ace Hardware, Clientworks Inc., Coldwell Banker Grass Roots Realty, Four Paws Animal Clinic, Highland Commercial, Mike Bratton & State Farm Insurance, Peters’ Drilling & Pump Service, Sierra College, Sweetland Garden Mercantile.

All Phase Heating & Air, Economy Pest Control, Nevada City Engineering, Nevada City Self Storage, Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, Plaza Tire & Auto Service, SRC Party Rentals, Yuba River Organics.

SYRCL also thanks the Cleanup’s in-kind contributors: Emily’s Catering, Diego’s, Sierra Theaters, Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Company, Grass Valley Brewing Company, Jernigan’s Tap House, the Flour Garden, Caroline’s Coffee, and Waste Management.

SYRCL also deeply appreciates the cooperation and support of these community and agency partners: California State Parks, the U.S. Forest Service & Tahoe National Forest, Waste Management, the Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers, Gold Country Flyfishers, Grass Valley Public Works, Hospitality House, Caltrans, Nevada City, Nevada County, Placer County, Yuba County, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, American Rivers, Soda Springs General Store, Wolf Creek Community Alliance, Nevada County Historical Society and many others.

About SYRCL
The South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) is the leading voice for the protection and restoration of the Yuba River watershed. Founded in 1983 through a rural, grassroots campaign to defend the South Yuba River from proposed hydropower dams, SYRCL has developed into a vibrant community organization with more than 3,500 members and volunteers. See: www.yubariver.org.

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