solar power

Tesla Model 3 + Solar PV: Perfect Pair?

A Repower homeowner and Tesla Model S driver asked me this weekend: What impact will Tesla’s just-announced, $35k, 215-mile-per-charge Model 3 have on the solar business? Timely question that prompted navel gazing, given last week’s announcement of the Model 3, the deposit I placed to purchase one, and Repower’s mission to help as many homeowners as possible go solar.

Good question, I replied. Wow, I pondered. Big, I think. Perhaps a game-changer/tipping point for the electric vehicle industry. My thoughts were shallow and streaming, yet to codify.

(BTW, Chuck Jones, one of Repower Director John Walter’s Stanford pals, has a worthy article in Forbes about the Model 3.)

From a car-driving, solar-consuming perspective, a few thoughts:

- Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Saturday that 276,000 $1k deposits have been placed for the Model 3 … in two days. (IMO: The Chevy Bolt is DOA.)

- Today’s reasonably-priced, all-electric vehicles, including my Nissan Leaf, have limited range. Therefore, if you own a contemporary electric vehicle (sans a Tesla S or X), your demand for electricity is moderate.

- Repower homeowners are generating solar electricity for an amortized cost of $0.10 (or less) per kWh.

- For every kWh of electricity, you receive ~4 miles of charge.

You can see where I’m going. For a dollar, you can drive 40 miles (with no emissions). With the Model 3’s extended range, drivers will rack up more electrically-charged miles (versus hybrid electrics like the Volt or my range-constrained Leaf). And, with Tesla’s ever-expanding network of super charging stations, road-tripping to the Bay Area, SoCal, Oregon, et al is now feasible … with a $35k (pre-tax credit) car. At no cost.

What’s the impact on solar for homeowners with extended range electric vehicles? Let’s say you drive 15,000 miles per year and charge your vehicle 50% of the time at home (7,500 miles/year). Divide 7,500 (miles) by 4 (miles/kWh) and you would consume 1,875 kWh of electricity. If your solar system generates ~ 1,400 kWh per kW of capacity, you would need an additional 1.3 kW of solar panels. The math is simple and the trend is, well, trending.

And, the punchline: You purchase a Model 3 for $25,000 (after tax credits); drive 15,000 miles per year (with 50% charging done at home); maintenance with Tesla’s is free; and, your annual automotive expense would be $187.50 for carbon-free, no compromise driving.

That’s cool. Contact us today if you own or are considering acquiring an electric vehicle. 

The future is bright.

Community Choice Energy: Coming to Yolo County?

I’ve had the — sometimes frustrating, but ultimately rewarding — pleasure of working with a team of Davis residents to evaluate Community Choice Energy (CCE) for the city and county. Over the past year, our Community Choice Energy Advisory Committee has taken a deep dive into CCE: Does it make sense for our community and, if so, what’s the best approach? Last night we had a productive discussion with the Davis Chamber of Commerce's Government Relations Committee, and our committee is nearing a recommendation to the City Council.

In simple terms, CCE provides PG&E ratepayers with a second option for their electricity source. Competition — providing customers with options — is, of course, good for a market, particularly when the sole provider is a regulated, investor-owned monopoly. Under CCE programs, PG&E continues to manage the grid and deliver customer service. Status quo. Except, CCE (it’s happening in Marin and Sonoma Counties) reduces electricity costs for ratepayers while delivering cleaner energy.

CCE is not a slam dunk, here or elsewhere. Utilities will continue to fight to protect their entrenched monopolies. Ultimately, consumer choice is good … let the market work. And, if we can develop additional renewable energy resources locally (and keep the dollars here, versus filling PG&E’s pockets), our local economy will benefit.

You can learn more about the City’s CCE assessment here.

And, on Feb. 11 (6:30 at the Vet’s) we are facilitating a public forum to elaborate CCE and engage community input. Please join.

Or, of course, feel free to give us a call if you'd like to learn more.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh solar!

Over the past month or so, three regulatory and financial developments have strengthened the investment viability for homeowners who go solar. I love lions, tigers and bears ... let's review the three solar life springs.

1. The 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit was, surprisingly, extended for four years. Originally set to expire at the end of 2016, the tax credit was extended thanks to a bit of horse-trading between  Dems and Republicans in Congress. Via the Omnibus spending bill, Republicans were granted removal of the 40-year ban on exportation of domestic oil. Democrats received an extension of the solar tax credit. An all-of-the-above energy approach? Yes, but to the benefit of homeowners who repower with solar.

2. Today, the California Public Utilities Commission extended solar net-metering for PG&E (and the other two investor-owned utilities') ratepayers. This comes on the heels of the PUC grandfathering -- for 20 years -- net-metering for existing solar customers. Big deal? Yes. It is a continuation of compensating PG&E solar customers at the full retail rate. Doesn't get better. Here's a good overview of the PUC's decision.

3. Commencing January 1, 2016, PG&E raised residential electricity rates 8.7%. Across the board. Predictable but painful (for homeowners who do not have solar). But, higher rates increase the avoided cost -- what you would pay PG&E -- for solar homeowners, thus boosting their investment returns.

Importantly, extensions of the tax credit and net-metering programs temper the urgency to go solar. Homeowners we work with obviously want to monetize the tax credit and receive full value for their solar-generated electricity. They're locked. That said, the primary urgency in their decision is twofold: Do the right thing (for environmental reasons) and stop paying PG&E.

Please contact us if you would like to elaborate any or all of the above. Quite a trifecta in the solar world, and a great month for Yolo County homeowners.

Make plans: 2016 Capay Organic events

Capay Organic and Farm Fresh to You are Yolo County treasures. At our home, it's a bi-weekly treat to receive our produce box ... inspires us to cook new and healthy eats. Better yet, a visit or two to Capay Organic's beautiful farm in Capay Valley is a treat. Check that: A must do! 

Get to know your farmer, harvest your own fruits and veggies, ride the tractor-tram, picnic near the fields and participate in Capay's fun farm activities.

Here's their just-released 2016 schedule of events:

February 25 | Seasonal Dinner*, Mulvaney's B&L Restaurant, Sacramento (Benefiting the Health Education Council) 

March 12 | Farm Tour, Capay

April 16 | Farm Tour and 5K Fun Run*, Capay

May 7 | Cinco de Mayo Festival*, Capay

June 4 | Outstanding in the Field, Capay

July 16 | Capay Tomato Festival*, Capay

August 20 | Farm Tour, Capay

September 17 | Capay Crush Festival*, Capay

October 15 | Farm Tour, Capay

November | Seasonal Dinner*, San Francisco (Benefiting the SF-Marin Food Bank)

FARM TOUR ADMISSION:$5 per adult | Children 12 and under FREE!

No RSVP necessary for Farm Tours. Just come out and have fun!

FESTIVAL ADMISSION:$15 per adult | Cinco de Mayo

$20 per adult | Capay Tomato

$15 per adult | Capay Crush

Children 12 and under FREE!

For more information go to WWW.FARMFRESHTOYOU.COM

PG&E’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) is Wonderfully Simple

[Originally posted September 1, 2015]

PG&E’s accounting methodology for solar homeowners (aka, Net Energy Metering) is wonderfully simple. It’s the bill credit mechanism that makes solar lucrative for Yolo County homeowners. Unfortunately, many solar homeowners we speak with are caught off guard when they receive their annual “true up” bill from PG&E. In all of these cases, the homeowners have leased their solar system from a national company and said that the company's salesperson did not explain the process.

To wit, when you have solar, here’s how it works:

1. You are enrolled in PG&E’s Net Energy Metering program, and you have a 20-year contract with PG&E whereby they are required to credit you for the solar electricity you generate.

2. When you generate electricity, you are credited at the full retail price (per kilowatt hour), the same rate you pay when you use electricity.

3. As a solar homeowner, you only pay your PG&E electricity bill once a year. Every month, PG&E sends you a Net Energy Metering statement, quantifying and valuing your net electricity use. Some months, you are a net generator (you make more electricity than you use) and PG&E owes you money; conversely, there are months where you use more electricity than you generate and you owe PG&E money.

4. At the end of your 12-month solar year with PG&E, you receive an annual true-up, reconciling each month’s net electricity use. Thereby, if you were a net user, you pay PG&E; if you were a net generator, PG&E pays you.

It’s that simple. Please feel free to contact us — whether you already have solar or are considering it — if you have any questions.

Synergetics, à la Aleksy Golovka

[Originally posted August 21, 2015]

Did you know that Stanford University, the alma mater of Repower cofounder John Walter, has a Solar Poetry section, among many fascinating soulful solar-related expressions--art, photography, folklore, ancient observatsion and more--on its Stanford Solar Center website? Check it out. 

Synergetics is written by Aleksy Golovka, a Russian Solar-Terrestrial Physicist. Enjoy! And, by the way, if you've been wondering about whether or not going solar is right for you, fill out the form to the right of this post. We'll get back to you right away. 


Through the telescope I observe the Sun,
And I must aver: no, the ancient
But still unanswered key question
Of life's relation to the Sun is not simple.

A flower grows, collecting in its stem
Particles of air, and moisture, and earth.
And in about the same way, playing in forms,
A spot grows, adorning the Sun's face.

Cascades of flares, webs of fibrils,
A waterfall-like sheet of a prominence -
The work of the fire-breathing dragon,
Bathing in plasma, stuns us.

Such harmony of motion exists
In a crystal, a laser, in boiling wax,
The arraying of a row of instants
And positions into a regular network.

We are close to the truth! The mosaic of neurons
Organizes what I took in with a glance:
I think! Bowing, I proffer to the Sun
The Sunlike globe of my head.

-=Aleksey Golovko=-
Senior Researcher of the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics

The Sun, According to Poet Mary Oliver

[Originally posted July 3, 2015]

Welcome to Repower's Friday Solar Poetry Corner. We're as ecstatic about the Sun as is poet Mary Oliver. Mary pegs it! Frankly, solar makes us feel good...really, really good. We're helping Yolo reduce our Greenhouse Gas Emissions and giving our friends and neighbors the opportunity to save big on solar installations and electricity bills. 

Here's to you, Mary Oliver! Enjoy.

The Sun

Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun, 
every evening, 
relaxed and easy, 
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills, 
or the rumpled sea, 
and is gone– 
and how it slides again

out of the blackness, 
every morning, 
on the other side of the world, 
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils, 
say, on a morning in early summer, 
at its perfect imperial distance– 
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love– 
do you think there is anywhere, in any language, 
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you, 
as the sun
reaches out, 
as it warms you

as you stand there, 
or have you too
turned from this world–

or have you too
gone crazy
for power, 
for things?

One Year After Going Solar: PG&E True-Up

[Originally posted July 2, 2015]

Happy Repower homeowner Fred Lee went solar a year ago. Yesterday, he emailed us the numbers on his ROI in Solar. Here is what he wrote:

Subject: PGE True-up on our one year of solar cells

PGE has just released the "true-up" on our one year of our solar cells use. 

Last year, before installation of the solar cells, we paid PGE over $5550 for use of electricity. 

The True Up total electric use was $452.20, i.e., our total electric use cost during the past year compared to solar cell generation was a negative $452.20. Therefore we have saved about $6,000 last year as a result of solar cell generation and our reduced rate of electricity use. 

During the past year, we paid $210/month on the Yolo Federal [Credit Union] loan that enabled us to purchase the solar cells. We also saved about $11,000 in our 2014 federal tax credit due to the solar cell purchase.

Thanks for all your help in obtaining our solar cells.  


We Can Lead by Example, Right Here and Right Now, in Yolo

[Originally published June 25, 2015]

All right. Pope Francis's call for swift action on climate change got me to thinking about leadership toward sustainability. Other world leaders, too, are stepping up to the plate. But it occurred to me that there is a lot that each one of us can do to lead on the very real and mighty micro-levels of our families, neighborhoods, and communities. In other words, I realized that we don't need to be world leaders to benefit the world. But we do need to be leaders and we need to lead by our example ... right here in Yolo County.


The Most Popular Guy at the Party

I then remembered  an article I read a while back about the most popular person at a party. The writer asked, "Who do you think the most popular guy at the party is? The one telling tons of jokes? The handsomest? The richest?" No. The most popular guy at the party is the one who listens well to what others are saying...who shows a genuine interest in others. So doesn't it play out that to lead by example requires us also to be genuinely interested in others? 


The Invitation

Humans are insatiably curious about and aware of one another. They are interested in other humans. Large hotel chains experimented with signs that asked their guests to reuse their towels to help reduce water usage and wastewater output. One type of sign provided facts about water usage and towels, assuming that the facts alone were enough to compel people to change their behaviors and reuse their towels. The other type of messaging invited the guests to join all the other people who are already helping to save the environment by reusing their towels. Which type of messaging was most effective? The invitation to join the others at the party! 


Primary Reasons People Go Solar

For most, economics are the primary motivating force behind the decision to go solar. Freedom from PG&E rate hikes. Greatly reduced or Net Zero energy usage.  The fact that solar is clean and green is a great "added benefit." While the economic rationale of going solar is important, there is something more serious at stake here than mere dollars. 


What We Do and Don't Do

It's interesting that, when people see their friends and neighbors going solar, they become interested in going solar, too. What we do and don't do influences the people around us. Not doing whatever we can to mitigate climate change runs counter to the environmental and economic intelligence we need to exercise to get out of this Climate Change Pickle


The Biggest Yes

Yes, going solar usually a sound economic decision. And, yes, it increases the value of your home. And, yes, it frees you from PG&E's ambiguity and rate hikes. But it's bigger than all this. The biggest "yes" is that going solar feels so good because we're taking action to mitigate the damage we've done to the environment, so that Earth can begin to heal. And, by doing so, you invite others to the party. What we do has a big impact. Can you feel the (re)power?

Yolo County’s Universe Travelers

[Originally published June 19, 2015]

Just think. We are circling the Sun at the astounding speed of 67,000 miles per hour. We're not getting older, we're becoming more well-traveled. We are Universe Travelers. Great news, right?  

And then, to top that, the magnificent Sun that we're orbiting is traveling 70,000 kilometers per hour and pulling us and the entire solar system with it. It really doesn't get better than this! Everything is in motion and it is...beautiful. 

The science and poetry of Solar Energy are wondrous, as are its economics and environmental sustainability. If you're curious about going solar...about the money you can save on electricity generated by the Sun...or about the great financing options out there, call us or fill out your information and we'll get right back to you. 

Meanwhile, enjoy this short video on our Sun System, aka homesweethome.


Understanding Net Energy Metering and Solar's Relationship with Public Utilities

[Originally published May 12, 2015]

We launched Repower--a community-focused, group purchase program to help our friends and neighbors in Yolo County go solar--18 months ago. After more than 40 residential solar installations, here are a some  observations from PG&E country:

Net Energy Metering (NEM). Net metering helps solar customers, especially when their usage is low in the spring and fall (less air conditioning and heating). In those months, customers bank their surplus energy production and use it to offset summer and winter usage.

ROR. Repower's 40+ installations generate an average of approximatley 6.5 kw--a bit higher than the state average--and customers get their money back in about 6 years, for a rate of return in the 12% range. I characterize solar as a bond investment, i.e., very low risk and steady returns for long periods of time.

Greater Personal Power. Our homeowners value and enjoy the feelings of independence and control that generating their own clean power gives them. Yes, they are tied to their utitlities through Net Energy Metering (NEM), but they are no longer subject to its rate hikes and complicated fee structures. 

Community Choice Aggregation Districts. The Investor Owned Utility's (IOU) general reluctance to change their business models to support locally-generated power is forcing many communities to consider setting up their own Community Choice Aggregation Districts, another poke-in-the-eye to IOUs.

One IOU's Approach. The Modesto Irrigation District, which serves a relatively large customer base in the Central Valley, generates its own power. Because its Net Energy Metering program has already reached capacity, it's no longer available. Instead, solar customers qualify for a new rate structure that lowers their rates across the board. Installing a solar system instantly reduces the total bill by more than 25%, without taking into account the value of the solar generated electricity. While better than nothing, Modesto Irrigation District's fix still falls short of the ROR that homeowners should be getting for the surplus electricity they generate.But, it's a start. 

A Big Game Changer ... Down the Line. On April 30, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed the new Tesla Energy battery for businesses and utility companies. Tesla's relatively inexpensive battery solutions for storing solar-generated electricity will be a game changer, but the extent of the transformation depends in part on the utilities developing favorable rate structures. The other major factor rests with battery development. Tesla's announced battery is intended for backup power supply, not for leveling usage. While Tesla's innovation is exciting, it will take years before it becomes pragmatic and adoptable for IOUs. 

Solar Selfie of a Happy Repower Homeowner

[Originally published May 8, 2015]

When Jeff Tweddale moved from redwood country to sunny Davis, he went solar. Motivated by his general philosophy of energy conservation, Jeff said, "I never doubted it. There are so many options for how we go solar. Anybody who lives in a places that generates so much sunlight is stupid not to go solar." 

The thing that caused him to act so quickly was the hungry sound of his swimming pool pumps guzzling non-renewable electricity. It was wasteful. 

Jeff checked out a few companies, Sunpower and Solar City included. Why did he choose to go solar with Repower? Local owners and the local ownership model. He wanted to invest his money in the long-term of solar to own. With Repower, the solar energy system will stay with the house, if and when he sells it.  The economics of Repower's plan, plus his own personal commitment to energy conservation, sealed the deal.

And, now that he's generating his own electricity, he feels great. In Jeff's own words, going solar makes him feel:

"Excellent. Confident. Appropriate. Empowered."

The installation went "perfectly well and took only six weeks, from beginning to end. Repower gave excellent presale support, and Chris and John were very thorough." 

A Solar Story that Began with Love

[Originally published April 23, 2015]

Richard Kaiser fell in love. Then he moved to Davis to be with his darling and her children. They lived in her home and decided to remodel the inside. In the throes of renovation, Richard bumped into his friend and Repower homeowner, John Mott-Smith, who suggested they go solar with Repower.

"I never talked with anyone else. I'd trust John with my life. And I know that he never wastes money. I don't have a bone to pick with PG&E, but I liked the idea of making our own electricity and saving money. The economics seem to work out.

"Repower's solar energy system installation process was a lot quicker than I expected. It was painless, quick, sooner-than-later."

Repower is community-focused. Richard's story illustrates just how powerful friends and neighbors can be. And this is exactly what energizes our Repower team.