Hawaii Tax Credit to Drop – Go Solar NOW !

PV tax credit ‘successful’ incentive — survey

More than 80% of homeowners cite subsidies in switch to solar

April 14, 2013
By EILEEN CHAO – Staff Writer (echao@mauinews.com) , The Maui News

The state tax credit is a major incentive to install solar photovoltaic systems, and eliminating or reducing them would drive Hawaii homeowners away from using the sun to power their homes. At least that is what a recent survey by the Blue Planet Foundation suggests.

The survey, published this month, found that more than 80 percent of Hawaii homeowners who have installed a PV system cite the state tax credit as one of the top two reasons they made the switch to solar. The number one reason was, not surprisingly, to lower electric bills.

In Maui County, approximately 4,000 homeowners have installed solar PV systems, according to county officials. Only three out of 10 existing PV owners said they still would have switched to solar if there had been no tax credits. As for those who are considering the installation of a PV system, only 28 percent say they still would install solar systems if tax credits were “reduced considerably or eliminated.”

These findings come at a crucial time in the legislative session, as lawmakers debate whether to pass a bill that would reduce the state’s renewable energy tax credits over four years. House Bill 497 proposes that solar tax credits be gradually reduced from 35 percent of a system’s installed cost to 15 percent by 2017. Tax credits for solar hot water heating systems and wind energy systems would remain the same under the bill.

“We want to equip lawmakers with accurate, real-world data so they fully understand the implications of their decisions regarding the solar tax credit,” said Jeff Mikulina, chief executive officer of the Blue Planet Foundation, a group dedicated to ending Hawaii’s dependence on imported oil by switching to local, renewable sources of energy.

The study is the first of its kind to examine exactly how the state tax credit affects Hawaii residents’ decision-making to go solar, he added.

“We know that the credit has been highly successful in helping free residents from high fossil fuel energy costs, so we want to proceed cautiously with any changes,” Mikulina said.

The tax credit started in 1976 as a measure to promote the purchase of solar energy systems and reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. But now, as solar energy has become more popular, the state is having more difficulty in affording the tax subsidies.

“Why reduce the credit? Mainly because the cost is rising dramatically as more and more people add solar,” said county Energy Commissioner Doug McLeod.

“If the state is trying to fund 35 percent (for every household), it will cost (the state) more every year. Lowering the percentage is the only way to flatten the cost impact,” he said.

Also, McLeod noted that switching to solar is a lot more cost-effective now than it was nearly 40 years ago, so there is less need for such a large tax credit. The price of the solar panels has dropped dramatically. For example, a 250-watt panel that would have cost $800 two years ago now costs only $125, McLeod said.

Regardless of what the state does with its tax credit statute, the federal tax credit of 30 percent will continue through at least 2016.

The county and the University of Hawaii Maui College are sponsoring a “Solar Summit” to provide residents with information about photovoltaic power on Maui. The event is “tentatively scheduled” for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 22 at the college.

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DWP to Pay for Excess Solar Electricity

DWP will buy excess solar energy

Customers will be paid for power produced on their own equipment.

January 12, 2013|Catherine Saillant

The Los Angeles DWP will allow customers to sell back excess solar energy… (Los Angeles Times )

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers for the first time will be able to sell back excess solar energy created on rooftops and parking lots under a new program approved Friday by the city utility’s board of commissioners.

Described as the largest urban rooftop solar program of its kind in the nation, the so-called feed-in-tariff program would pay customers 17 cents per kilowatt hour for energy produced on their own equipment. The DWP has already accepted more than a dozen applicants and will be taking dozens more as it accepts contracts for up to 100 megawatts of solar power through 2016.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, January 13, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 Local Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Solar rooftop impact: In the Jan. 12 LATExtra section, an article about a rooftop solar energy program offered by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said that it would likely create $500,000 in new economic activity. The figure should have read $500 million.

Environmentalists, business supporters and solar vendors were thrilled by the vote. Feed-in-tariff programs help generate jobs and economic activity while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, they say.

“Today’s vote is a major step forward for the economic and environmental sustainability of Los Angeles,” said Mary Leslie, President of the Los Angeles Business Council, a group advocating the Clean LA Solar program since 2009.

Fred Pickel, the city’s ratepayer advocate, told commissioners that 17 cents per kilowatt hour was above market rates and could force significant rate increases on DWP customers. Higher DWP bills could drive jobs away, Pickel told the board.

But the board unanimously decided to move ahead, and to reassess the program at regular intervals.

In March, the commission will decide whether to add an additional 50 megawatts of energy to the buyback program. The full 150-megawatt program would create enough solar energy to power 34,000 Los Angeles homes, advocates say.

Once qualified, DWP customers with large multi-family dwellings, warehouses, school facilities and parking lots can sell solar energy at 17 cents per kilowatt hour. The DWP is offering a tiered-pricing schedule that drops to 13 cents per kilowatt hour as energy contracts are reserved, DWP officials said.

Single-family homes generally don’t produce enough energy to qualify.

Some of the contracts will be set aside for smaller solar producers to give them a better chance at winning slots, officials said. Customers participating in other solar-incentive initiatives, such as net-metering, do not qualify for the buyback contracts, DWP officials said.

Environmental groups have long pushed for a feed-in-tariff, arguing that it would spur more commercial property owners to go solar. Sacramento and San Diego have their own versions, and Florida is experimenting with buybacks.

Evan Gillespie, campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said the vote will allow the DWP to curtail its dependence on out-of-state energy generators. In addition, it promises 4,500 jobs and $500,000 in new economic activity for the city, he said.

“In the 21st century, it is simply unacceptable for 40% of L.A.’s energy to come from aging out-of-state polluting coal-fired power plants,” Gillespie said.

After the vote, Toronto-based Solar Provider Group announced that it would expand its operations in Los Angeles by opening an office and hiring 30 people. The company plans to invest up to $50 million by the end of 2016, said President Christian Wentzel.

Posted in Featured Solar News

California Sets Solar Record

It looks as though California has broken another solar power record, and it’s done so in one of the least-sunny times of year possible. According to preliminary figures provided by the California Independent System Operator, the state’s grid received more than 1,300 megawatts of power from solar arrays for a few hours on Wednesday, likely an all-time record — in a month when the sun shines with less intensity than at most other times of year.

Keep in mind that California only passed the 1,000-megawatt mark in its solar generating output on August 20, 2012, and Wednesday’s apparent output is around 33 percent higher. That’s despite the fact that the February sun stays lower in the sky than it does in August, and delivers less energy to each square foot of solar panel as a result.

This record has to be the result of a rapid increase in installations of solar panels since August, which means that as the sun arcs higher in the sky as we approach summer, that solar energy output is only going to grow — even if Californians don’t continue to install more solar panels, which we assuredly will.

In other words, 2013 is going to be a year of one record after another for solar energy feeding into the grid. We may be forced to decide only to report the records when they pass multiples of 1,000.

Lest Californians get cocky, though: Germany announced a world record of 22 gigawatts of solar feeding into that nation’s grid almost a year ago, and that was before the additional 7 or so gigawatts of new solar capacity Germany installed in the rest of 2012. We’ve got a ways to go to catch up.

Posted in Featured Solar News

Lancaster, CA to Require All New Homes to Have Solar Panels

Lancaster, California to Require All New Homes to Have Solar Panels

by , 03/04/13

Roof-mounted solar panels, solar panels, solar power, solar energy, solar photovoltaicPhoto via Shutterstock

We’ve heard of mandatory recycling and composting, but mandatory solar panels? Lancaster, California — a small city of about 150,000 people in the high desert near Los Angeles — is planning to update its residential zoning code to require homebuilders to add solar panels to all new-construction homes. The move was announced by Republican mayor Rex Parris while speaking at an event hosted by Lancaster homebuilder KB Home. The new requirement would require all new-construction single-family homes built after January 1, 2014 to include at lease a 1.0 kilowatt solar system.

 

Roof-mounted solar panels, solar panels, solar power, solar energy, solar photovoltaicPhoto via ShutterstockThis isn’t the first time that Lancaster has made headlines for its investment in solar energy. In 2010, the town partnered with SolarCity to develop about 27 megawatts of solar energy to power City Hall, local parks, and a variety of businesses and residences. All that solar is expected to earn the city $1.5 million per year for the next five years,and $800,000 per year after that. The building industry is reportedly resisting the change to Lancaster’s zoning code, according to GreenTech Media, but Mayor Parris, who has made it his goal to make Lancaster the ‘solar energy capital of the world,’ is confident that the city council will approve the measure.

The zoning code updates will require homes that are built on lots larger than 7,000 square feet to include a solar system of 1.0–1.5 kilowatts. Homes that are located on rural lots that have more than 100,000 square feet will be required to have a solar system of at least 1.5 kilowatts.

“The purpose of the solar energy system standards is to encourage investment in solar energy on all parcels in the city, while providing guidelines for the installation of those systems that are consistent with the architectural and building standards of the City,” reads Lancaster’s new Lancaster’s Residential Zones Update. The document continues to outline some basic rules for installing both roof-mounted and ground-mounted solar energy systems.

Via GreenTech Media and Cleantechnica

 

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California Solar Project Includes Energy Storage

California Solar Project Includes Energy Storage

By | Yahoo! Contributor Network – Mon, Jan 28, 2013

On Monday, the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the sale of power from SolarReserve’s 150-megawatt Rice Solar Energy Project to Pacific Gas & Electric via a 25-year power purchase agreement. This project will be the first large-scale solar project in the state to include energy storage capabilities, SolarReserve reported.

 * The Rice Solar Energy Project, located in eastern Riverside County and bearing a $750 million price tag, is expected to generate more than 5,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs during its 24-month construction period, the Santa Monica-based company stated.

 * When complete, the Rice Energy Solar Project is expected to provide enough electricity to power more than 65,000 homes during peak electricity periods.

 * The project — now fully permitted — will be located in the Sonoran Desert and will utilize a dry-cooled system to minimize water usage. It will use less than 20 percent of the water used per kilowatt of electricity produced by conventional coal or nuclear facilities, the company stated.

* Bloomberg reported that the agreement will begin on June 1, 2016.

 * SolarReserve’s energy storage capability comes from the use of thousands of mirrors that focus sunlight onto a central tower containing molten salt, Bloomberg reported, which is funneled through a steam generator to produce electricity. The salt retains heat and can produce power at night.

 * “Eight to 10 hours of fully dispatchable storage is quite impressive and offers significant benefits to the system that we don’t yet know how to quantify fully, but there’s definitely value there,” said CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio.

 * According to SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith, the CPUC was clear that the storage ability was a key factor in approving the Rice contract. “This capability will be crucial as California progresses towards its 33 percent renewable target,” said Smith.

 * SalarReserve’s technology allows from seven to more than 20 hours of full power energy storage and can operate on demand like a conventional coal, natural gas or nuclear power plant, the company stated.

* The flagship project for SolarReserve began construction in September 2011, near Tonopah, Nev. That plant, scheduled to be operational at the end of this year, features 10 hours of integrated energy storage and is the first commercial scale solar plant of its kind in the world, SolarReserve stated.

* The company received recognition recently, receiving an Award of Excellence in Corporate Stewardship at the 2012 Platts Global Energy Awards ceremony, held in late November. CEO Kevin Smith received the Rising Star award for Vision and Leadership for his dedication and entrepreneurship in the power and energy industry worldwide, SolarReserve announced.

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In California, Affordable Solar Power for the 99%

In California, Affordable Solar Power For The 99%

It wasn’t too long ago that rooftop solar panels were yet another expensive add-on for high end homes, but then again, it wasn’t too long ago that only the rich kids at your high school could afford pocket calculators, let alone mobile phones. Affordable solar power is starting to make its way down the income ladder, and a pair of statewide California solar programs show how that’s good news for utility customers and taxpayers, too.

affordable solar power in California

Affordable Housing, Affordable Solar Power

One program is MASH, for Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing. That program qualifies eligible buildings for solar incentives. The basic aim of the program is to reduce electricity costs for low-income households, which can help ease the need to subsidize those expenses through utility rates or other public programs.

Included in the package is the goal of raising energy awareness among the occupants and property developers, too.

An even more interesting program is SASH, for Single-family Affordable Solar Homes, funded by multiple public and private sources. It is administered for California by the nonprofit group Grid Alternatives, which works one-on-one to engage low-income families in sustainable energy while promoting workforce development through the state’s booming solar industry.

One reason why rooftop solar panels are so expensive is the “soft costs” of installations including permitting, site design and grid connection. Under the SASH model, Grid Alternatives helps families through the entire process, including filing for rebates.

The SASH model also includes weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades to help the homeowner get the most bang out of the solar installation.

Grid Alternatives is a licensed solar installer as well as a nonprofit, which qualifies it to lead teams of solar industry trainees and other community members through the installation process.

That’s a win for households with lower energy bills and for underemployed workers with new experience that matches in-demand skills, while easing the need for public assistance.

Public Housing and Affordable Solar Power

SASH and MASH apply to privately owned low-income housing, and as it turns out there is a parallel movement afoot in government-owned housing as well.

Back in 2009, the San Francisco Housing Authority began installing solar panels on public housing. Solar projects in Chicago and Portland took it up to the next level by treating solar panels as one element in the design of healthier, more sustainable public housing.

Solar Power for the 99%

What could really blow the lid off the affordable rooftop solar market, though, is the skyrocketing popularity of power purchase agreements (PPAs). Under a PPA, the property owner pays only for the solar power, typically at a rate far below grid-supplied electricity.

Just last summer the Baltimore Sun reported on a company called Skyline Innovations, which installed solar thermal hot water systems under a PPA for the “cash-strapped” housing authority in Annapolis, Maryland. With no money required up front, the new system is saving about 30 percent on hot water heating.

Another opportunity has been demonstrated by the Department of Defense. Back in the 1990′s, DoD privatized its on-base housing, which now serves as the launching pad for solar PPA projects including $1 billion in rooftop solar projects by solar industry leader SolarCity. Called SolarStrong, that PPA project alone will total up to 300 megawatts and cover up to 120,000 military housing units.

As for households that don’t fall into low-income or military brackets, PPA opportunities are beginning to dovetail with the Obama Administration’s public-private initiative to lower the cost of rooftop solar installations.

It seems that it won’t be long before solar power is just as accessible and ubiquitous as, say, heating and air conditioning systems.

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