Project Sunroof - Shedding Light on Solar Potential

With the price of solar dropping, more homeowners have questions about the viability of rooftop solar on their homes. Project Sunroof is an essential first resource for those entertaining the idea of rooftop solar. 

Project Sunroof is a Google venture dedicated to providing property owners information on the viability of residential solar. By using imagery from Google Maps, Google Earth, 3D modeling, and data comparison, Project Sunroof can estimate solar production, potential shading issues, and even rebate and tax credit savings that may be available to a homeowner interested in rooftop solar. 60 million buildings have been analyzed thus far and it's helping potential solar owners determine if solar "make sense" on their roof.

The collated data is also producing helpful reports on solar viability on a larger, nationwide scale. With the data recorded from the analyzed rooftops, Project Sunroof has determined that:

  • 79% of all rooftops analyzed are viable for solar
  • 90% of homes in Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico are viable
  • 60% of homes in states like Pennsylvania, Maine, and Minnesota are viable
  • Houston, TX has the most solar potential of any US city (with an estimated 18,940 gigawatt-hours of rooftop solar generation potential per year)

To put rooftop solar into perspective, if the above mentioned top ten cities reached their solar potential, they would produce enough energy to power 8 million homes across the US. 

Check out Project Sunroof here

Barefoot College Solar Trainees Tackle Climate Change and Gender Injustices

Amarmani Oraon, an indigenous woman from the conflict zone of Chhattisgarh in India, learns to make a circuit for a solar lantern. Photo credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Amarmani Oraon, an indigenous woman from the conflict zone of Chhattisgarh in India, learns to make a circuit for a solar lantern. Photo credit: Stella Paul/IPS

In 2002, Magan Kawar left her village for a job – resulting in her being ex-communicated by her in-laws.  

“Women never stepped out of the house alone to go outside of the village and work in the office alongside men was a disgrace. My parents-in-law said I had brought them that disgrace.”

Eight years later, though her formal education never extended past 3rd grade, she is now one of India’s top renewable energy experts and lead instructor at Barefoot College in Tilonia, India – where rural women from across India and the world are trained in solar technology and installation.

The Barefoot College of Tilonia was established by an educationist and environmentalist named Bunker Roy. Roy wanted to build a place where women with little or no formal education could learn livelihood skills and play a leadership role in their communities. The College courses feature many different programs, including sewing, welding, and carpentry, but the most notable is a six-month bi-annual course in solar technology.

The solar program accepts women of 35 years or older mostly from economically or socially underprivileged communities living in area that may have little to no electricity.  Each solar trainee is selected by her own community and sent to the college by their respective governments where they are provided a fellowship by the government of India. This covers their cost of their stay at the college campus, including food and accommodation.

The current group of 30 solar trainees includes women from India, Myanmar, Syria, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Botswana and will be graduating on March 15, 2017. After completing the course, trainees receive $700 to use as seed money for starting their own solar business in their home countries.

Many of the women taking part in the training come from conflictzones and countries with social and economic injustices. Hala Naseef and Azhar Sarhan are from Damascus, Syria – where power outages are frequent and many live in fear of a grid collapse. Solar is not popular there, but it is possible that it will become the only source of power if the war does not end soon. “I miss home and the food…but to see other women who have come from difficult places, we forget our own struggle,” says Naseef.

As for Magan Kawar, who was disowned by her in-laws and went on to become a core teacher at the Barefoot College, she invited her in-laws to visit the college in person. “They came, saw me teaching and my mother-in-law said, ‘but it is just women educating each other!’ That day, she welcomed me back into the family”.

The City of Lancaster Passes "Zero Net Energy Ordinance"

 

The city of Lancaster, CA recently passed the Zero Net Energy Ordinance - an ordinance requiring all new homes to be built with rooftop solar systems already in place. 

Previously, a bill passed in 2014 requiring all new homes to feature small scale rooftop PV systems. Lancaster, a city well known for being a pioneer in the solar industry, decided to set the bar even higher than before by requiring new residences to be built with a solar rooftop system capable of generating 2 watts per square foot. 

“The Zero Net Energy Home Ordinance expands upon Lancaster’s residential solar ordinance so that new homes built in Lancaster now will not only be environmentally friendly, but have a zero net impact on our environment, while reducing energy costs for the homeowners,” said Republican Mayor R. Rex Parris in a statement. “This is a great stride in Lancaster’s journey to become a Zero Net City.”

Before the Zero Net Energy Home Ordinance takes effect, there are a couple hurdles to jump. First, a feasibility study, projected to close in April, must conclude. Second, Lancaster will seek approval from the CA Energy Commission. Pending the success of those two projects, the ordinance is scheduled to take effect before the close of 2017.

The advantage of the ordinance? The price of the system is included in the price of the home. A homeowner’s monthly mortgage would increase slightly, but the system would pay for itself without the hassle of dealing with the research, price comparisons, warranties, contractors, inspectors, etc.

The city of Lancaster is instrumental in making renewable energy more accessible to home owners and the general population – in line with the legislation that was filed in the state of California that mandates 50% of its energy be from renewable sources by 2025 (and 100% by 2045).  Sponsors of the pending law claim that the current legislation, which calls for 50% of all energy be renewable by 2030, is not enough. The passing of this law would make CA one of the most ambitious climate conscious states in the nation.

What can you do to help encourage CA in our mission to be a pioneer in the solar and renewable energy industry? Call your state representative and tell them you are in support of Bill SB584 & that climate change and renewable energy is an important issue to Californians.  

Find your local representative here.

Read the original article here.

Highlights from The Solar Jobs Census 2016

The Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census is considered one of the most credible reviews of the solar workforce in the U.S. The report focuses on current employment, trends, and projected growth in the U.S. solar industry. Check below for report highlights!

  • One out of every 50 new jobs added in the United States in 2016 was created by the solar industry, representing 2% of all new jobs.
  • Solar jobs in the United States have increased at least 20% per year for the last four years, and have nearly tripled since the first Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010.
  • Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total solar industry employment increase by 10% to 286,335 solar workers.
  • In 2016, the five states with the most solar jobs were California, Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada, and Florida. 

Read the original article and get the full report here.

Instead of Building A Wall, Let's Build A Solar Border!

President Trump claims he will build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, in order to keep illegal immigrants out. Concerns have been raised over what exactly that would accomplish. Is it the wisest use of our tax dollars? What effect will it have on relations between us and our neighbor country?

Homero Aridjis, poet and environmentalist, and James Ramey, professor at Metropolitan Autonomous University and documentary producer are asking another question: what if instead of building a wall, we built a “solar border”? What if the solar border could provide solar to both countries at an affordable rate, could alleviate environmental burdens, safen borders, and repair possibly damaged relations between the US and Mexico? Some reasoning on their concept:

-         Sunlight in the northern deserts of Mexico is more intense than in the US due to lower latitude and better cloud formations.

-         Construction and maintenance costs for solar are substantially cheaper in Mexico.

-         Power generated from these plants could power cities on both sides faster and more cheaply than similar arrays built north of the border.

-         The U.S./Mexico border is almost 2000 miles long

- Solar plants planted on the southern border could immediately benefit San Diego, Tijuana, Mexicali, Tucson, Phoenix, El Paso, Ciudad Juarez, San Antonio, Monterrey, etc.

- Depending on quantity of arrays, it’s plausible to expect sufficient energy would be produced to also supply Los Angeles, La Vegas, Albuquerque, Dallas, and Houston.

-         Given the recent news that solar energy is already being generated at lower prices than those of coal, this would be an excellent way to produce cheaper and cleaner energy than many others.

-         The grid could extend to the coasts, where energy produced could power desalination plants to produce fresh water, which could be pumped inland and to the CA central coast. Funneling water to the California Central Coast (where much of U.S. produce is grown) would alleviate drought effects, which has affected the area for many years.  

-         A solar “border” would also provide security to the areas around the solar plant, making it more difficult to traffick drugs, arms, and people in the area.

-         The plant would create construction and tech jobs for both countries, which could absorb a significant number of migrant workers.

In short, investing in solar along the US/Mexico border would be an investment in our future with great benefit to both countries and indeed the global battle against climate change. Here's to hoping we can approach more ideas like this with an open mind!

Read the original article here.

2016 Solar Additions Double That of 2015

2016 Solar capacity additions reached a new record of 7568 MW, twice as much as the 2015 additions, according to Administration’s Monthly Electric Generator Inventory report.  

Though solar installations have grown significantly in the last 10 years and solar is the leading employer in the energy industry, solar only represents ~1.5 percent of electricity in the U.S. Renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and natural gas, accounted for over 92 percent of capacity additions in 2016. California alone accounted for over 36 percent of new solar capacity in the U.S. – a total of 2,749 mW. North Carolina is second to California with additions of 708 mW, and Utah is third with 660 mW capacity additions. 

Read the original article here.

Read more information on solar penetration by state here.

Solar Employment Grew by 25% IN 2016, According to U.S. DOE

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The US Department of Energy recently released a new report regarding the Energy industry and its employment stats.     The US Energy and Employment Report shows that renewable energy, namely wind and solar, added 98,000 new jobs in the country in 2016. In fact, the energy industry ass 300,000 new jobs in 2016 (14% of the nation’s job growth), with the solar industry alone accounting for 73,000 of those jobs.  Of those 300,000 new jobs, jobs dealing or relating to energy efficiency increased by 133,000 – making the total number of energy efficiency jobs 2.2 million!

With the total amount of Americans working in the solar industry at an all-time high (373,807 Americans, to be exact), the US solar workforce increased by 25% in 2016.

The detailed report released by the DOE can be read here.

The original article, by Solar Industry Magazine, can be read here

Seven Most Progressive Cities for Renewable Energy

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Climate change is happening, whether you acknowledge or not. We’re of the opinion that fighting climate change is not only a personal responsibility, but also the responsibility of communities, cities, and states. Let’s take a look at the top seven cities in the United States, according to renewableenergyworld.com, that are actively fighting to stop the progression of climate change.

Cities were ranked by emission ordinances, public transportation options, wind and solar installations, tax credits for renewable energy utilization, and amount of green-minded residents. 

1.       Miami. Miami is a major tourist destination, but the city is worth far more than its affordable hotels and attractions. Miami is working hard to cut back on emissions and corporate pollution, while simultaneously offering incentives for residents and business owners who commit to more energy efficient practices.

2.       Boston. Boston is all-around one of the best cities in the country in terms of efficiency. Its provision of utilities and water are increasingly controlled, with more initiatives in renewable resources, and there are green options for travel with public transportation available everywhere.

3.       Portland. Portland has developed its own plan for addressing climate change, with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. These goals are realistic in part due to the progressive-minded nature of its citizens.

4.       New York. New York is packed with businesses and residents, as one of the most densely-populated cities in the country. Thankfully, the city is taking extraordinary measures to reduce pollution and provide cleaner, safer, low-emissions traveling options for its citizens.

5.       Washington, DC. It makes sense that our nation’s capital would be one of the most progressive cities in the country. Washington, DC topped Energy Star’s most recent annual list of best cities for energy efficiency, with 686 Energy Star-certified buildings in its metropolitan area. Washington, DC also has a fantastic public transportation system, and is working toward producing cleaner energy.

6.       Los Angeles. Unfortunately, LA remains one of the worst cities in the country in terms of pollution—but that’s mostly due to its enormous population. The city is making a serious effort to cut back on both residential and corporate emissions, and is incentivizing more renewable energy efforts.

7.       Atlanta. Atlanta has an extensive plan and timeline for making itself a more progressive city, and a big part of that plan is preparing for and responding to climate change. These efforts include reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pursuing cleaner energy options.”

Congratulations to these seven green cities. The rest of us still have a long way to go, but look forward to contributing to a cleaner and brighter future!

Congrats to Kristin Ashwood for earning her NABCEP PV Installation Professional Certification

This past December Kristin Ashwood was notified she was one of the recent recipients of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Certification for PV Installers. To earn her NABCEP Certification, Kristin was required to first document relevant education and experience related to PV system installation. The she had to pass a rigorous exam that covers the breadth of the multi-craft knowledge, skills, and abilities required to competently design, install, and maintain PV systems. The exam assesses knowledge on subjects as diverse as electrical and mechanical system design, job site safety, the National Electrical Code, roofing and construction techniques, and system maintenance and troubleshooting. 

Planet Earth Solar encourages all employees to work towards and earn their NABCEP both to demonstrate full knowledge and competency of solar and safety installation practices. 

 

LOCAL SOLAR PROFESSIONAL EARNS INDUSTRY'S MOST PRESTIGIOUS CERTIFICATION

For Immediate Release - December 15, 2017

San Clemente, CA

Kristin Ashwood, Co-Owner of Planet Earth Solar LLC has earned the solar industry's leading recognition of installation expertise from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) and is now a NABCEP Certified PV Installation Professional. NABCEP is the most highly respected and well established national certification organization for renewable energy professionals. Designation as a NABCEP PV Installation Professional is widely recognized to be the most important and meaningful certification of its kind in the solar industry. 

PV is short of photovoltaic. PV systems produce electricity from sunlight. Most people have used a solar powered calculator or garden light, and seen solar panels on roadside signs, but PV panels can be configured to produce enough energy to power a home, school, business, or even serve as a small power plant feeding electricity into the grid. As the cost of PV systems has declined sharply over the last few years, more and more households, municipalities, and companies are "going solar." NABCEP is a mark of quality assurance that the consumer can use to know that they are choosing a qualified contractor.

"Receiving NABCEP's PV Installation Professional Certification is personally very satisfying," said Ashwood. "I've been in the industry over 10 years now and its an important tool to show that I can offer my customers the added confidence of knowing that their photovoltaic system installations will be completed to the highest standards in the solar industry. This industry is constantly growing and improving so this is just one more tool in my continuing education tool belt." 

To earn her NABCEP certification, Ashwood was required to first document relevant education and experience related to PV system installation. The she had to passa  rigorous exam that covers the breadth of the multi-craft knowledge, skills, and abilities required to competently design, install and maintain PV systems. The exam assesses knowledge on subjects as diverse as electrical and mechanical system design, job site safety, the National Electrical Code, roofing and construction techniques, and system maintenance and troubleshooting.

"One thing you can be assured of when hiring a NABCEP Certified PV Installation Professional is that your project won't be their first," said Richard Lawrence, Executive Director of NABCEP. "Anyone who makes the considerable effort required to earn NABCEP certification has documented their training and experience as part of the eligibility process. They have also made a very real commitment to upholding high standards of ethical and professional practice. I am delighted to welcome Kristin Ashwood of Planet Earth Solar to the ranks of the industry's leading solar professionals."

For more information contact Kristin Ashwood, Planet Earth Solar, www.planetearthsolarenergy.com, 949-899-0823.

About Planet Earth Solar LLC

Planet Earth Solar is a boutique family-owned and operated solar installation contracting company based in southern California that places a high value on customer satisfaction combined with high quality installs at an affordable price.

About NABCEP

NABCEP is a non-profit organization governed by a board of directors consisting of volunteer representatives of the solar industry, NABCEP certificants, renewable energy organizations, state policy makers, educational institutions, and the trades. NABCEP's mission is to develop and implement quality credentialing and certification programs for practitioners by supporting and working closely with stakeholders in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. To learn more, visit ww.nabcep.org.

Solar Market Research Report - Q2

Greentech Media Inc., associated with SEIA, has released its Q2 market research report for 2016, providing data on what everyone in the solar industry already knew - the solar market is growing! Some quick stats to keep in mind as we move further into Q4:

  • 2,051 MW DC was installed in the United States in Q2 2016 - 43% more than Q2 2015
  • 42% of roof-mounted PV installs were in California, which is actually the lowest percentage since Q4 2012. Markets in Utah and Texas are growing exponentially and account for larger shares of residential PV
  • California installed 969 MW in Q2 2016

California continues to be a forerunner in the booming solar industry, but states like North Carolina, Utah, and Texas are quickly catching up - no surprise since the cost of solar has dramatically reduced and researchers have predicted an upcoming boom in the industry. For more information, the Greentech Q2 Market Research Report can be downloaded at their website.