Solar

Let’s Get Solar – Part Three


From Michael Laybourn
Hopland
Parts One and Two

Keep in mind that the system in Germany has been proven. It works.
The State of California doesn’t appear to be plugged in…
…So what about Ukiah?

First of all, Ukiah owns its own utility. Let your imagination soar…. The city already has a rebate program for installing solar electricity. But it is fairly puny in the sense of Germany, where they were committed to a quick move to alternative energy.

Here is the City of Ukiah program:
“Under SB 1, solar program incentives must decline to zero by the end of 2016 to achieve a self-sufficient solar electric industry within 10 years. The City presently offers a $2.24 per Watt AC incentive for the installation of solar systems. “
Proposed City of Ukiah 10 year declining solar incentive schedule:

Fiscal Yr 2007- 08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Incentive $2.80 $2.52 $2.24 $1.96 $1.68

and so forth…

Hey we’re going in the wrong direction!

The hard part is trying to figure out what the rebate actually amounts to for Ukiah. Take a 2.4 KW system like mine, which supplies most of my electrical. $2.24 * 2.4KW = about $5376 + various tax rebates. Now the state has a different rebate, and I called the state to see if you can stack the rebates. (City and State). I was told no with a chuckle.

The State rebate is relatively pitiful at $1.55 / watt.

Here is the state rebate program with a calculator link:
“The incentive is determined using the NSHP PV Calculator and will be reserved for you at that amount once your application is approved. Later, it will be verified by a field test. This program is called Expected Performance Based Incentive (EPBI) and the incentive amount reduces as installed mW triggers are reached.

Commercial and Existing Residential Systems less than 50kW initially will receive a similar, one time, up front incentive based on expected system performance. This rebate will be administered by the California Public Utility Commission thru your Electric Service Provider. Commercial and Residential rebates are currently $1.55 per watt.”

Or $3720 for the above system. Even adding the two together doesn’t reach the rebate of 5 years ago. As I’ve noted, Guv Schwarzenegger and the California lawmakers haven’t done anything to improve our need to wean ourselves from oil, or make it easier for us to go solar in our homes. Actually they haven’t done much of anything period.

What if?… the City of Ukiah followed the proven German model and provided:
1. Low interest loans for solar conversion.
2. Bought the electricity from solar houses at a rate that would pay back the loans.
3. Gave a larger rebate: 1/2 or more of the system cost.
Certainly, many homes and businesses would elect to go solar. This would give the City an increasing amount of energy that would not have to be purchased from other sources. This energy is not only cleaner, but is more stable and the City would benefit from decentralized and more stable energy sources. It might be somewhat more expensive at first, while the homeowner is paying off the cost of the system, but eventually Ukiah could be creating much of its own power and that energy could be less expensive and not controlled by the so-called free market by companies like Enron, etc.

On top of that, electric autos could be purchased and plugged in at night. Most driving is not over 40 miles and an electric car would take care of local driving. Talk about lowering our carbon footprint!

Where to get the money to do this? Like the Germans, charge a little more energy rates to spread the costs. That cost the German energy user an increase of a dollar of two monthly, which wouldn’t be that expensive.

But now… we live in even more exciting times. This just out a few days ago:

“1/16/2009: The U.S. House of Representatives today unveiled a draft of the $825 billion economic stimulus plan that contains $54 billion in key provisions for the development of renewable energy projects and improving the electric grid, according to published reports. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 includes $8 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy and transmission projects, $11 billion to improve the electrical grid, $6.9 billion to improve federal buildings and make them more energy efficient, plus $2 billion in loan guarantees and grants for advanced battery technologies and $1.5 billion in grants and loans to help schools become more energy efficient.”

There will soon be money available for projects such as developing our own local energy. Mendocino County is full of people that know how to write grants and speak the language of government. Keep in mind that this would also be creating jobs and another possible industry: Training people for these jobs. Energy independence. We can show the nation how to do this.

How about it, City Council? Let’s get local with energy production!

See also Congressman Thompson introduces solar energy legislation in today’s UDJ


Let’s Get Solar – Part 2


From Michael Laybourn
Hopland

After advising Obama the way to go (see Solar Letter To Obama), I thought that maybe I would write down my reasoning to see how it held together. Time for some research. I knew Germany had created an explosion of alternative energy growth and has now become the worlds most advanced alternative energy country.

So, let’s take a trip to Germany.

How did Germany become the leading country for renewable energy production? It wasn’t fear of power outages or high gas prices but economic incentives that jump-started the solar revolution in Germany. (When I say solar, think renewable energy, including wind, biomass, geothermal, etc.)

“The rocketing growth of solar energy in Germany is the direct result of the German Renewable Energy Sources Act(EEG). The law guarantees that farmers, homeowners, and businesses can connect to the electric grid and the law spells out exactly how much they will be paid for their electricity and for how long.” – -Gerhard Stryi-Hipp of the German Solar Industry Association.

Unlike other mechanisms used to develop renewable energy, the German law asks for the active participation of its utilities, citizens and small businesses. German homeowners typically install solar systems about 3 kilowatt (kW) in size, sufficient to provide two-thirds of the electricity used by an average German home. German government instituted low interest loans and subsidies for alternative energy, then wrote into law that the utility companies had to pay a higher price for this new and clean energy they were getting from all sources, including the solar homes and businesses.

Continue reading Let’s Get Solar – Part 2

See also Passive Solar Design – Part 1 at The Oil Drum


Solar letter to Obama


From Michael Laybourn

I was contacted by the Obama Transition Team for input. So I did some input for them, wondering if anyone would ever read it, much less take some action. Here is what I wrote:

Transition Team:

Thanks for this opportunity.

Solar could meet 74% to 86% of total US residential electricity demands by 2010 and 2025, respectively. (Navigant Consulting study)

A solar house can power a new electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid and it could provide enough electricity to be its own energy source. Multiply that for over 200 million cars to drive 12k miles per year. That’s enough to replace the oil we currently import.

How do we get there?

If the government subsidized 1/2 to 2/3 the cost of a home or small business solar system and did low interest loans for the rest of the cost, it would be very attractive for anyone (with enough sun) to go solar. Then, as they did in Germany, have the utility companies pay for the electricity they would be receiving at a somewhat higher than market rate until the loans are paid off. Then when the loans are paid off, the utilities could pay the market rate and possibly purchase the electricity cheaper than it costs now, even though clean energy is worth more as a product.

Clean energy creates millions of jobs, helps global warming, and creates the infrastructure for electric autos.

Don’t subsidize? Let me scoff: We subsidize the auto and oil industry with highways, tax credits and bailouts. We have always subsidized nuclear and coal both in research and  tax breaks. We have not included the costs of cleanup (the Superfund, etc), which is another subsidy. We seem to be stupidly subsidizing Wall Street without any checks and balances at the moment.
Clean energy is the smartest way to help the economy, release us from dependence on oil and rebuild our national infrastructure.

——-

Now, in your mind, transfer this locally. The City of Ukiah would end up with very cheap energy, I think.


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