Latest News

24

Feb 16

IS THE STATE PROTECTING GOVERNMENT MONOPOLIES BY BANNING TRANSPARENCY?

 

logosolar

For Immediate Release: 2/9/2016        Contact: solar@gasolarfreedom.com

Yesterday, Chris Perkins on behalf of Georgians for Solar Freedom and the Atlanta Tea Party, testified in front of the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee in OPPOSITION to SB 321, which would ban transparency of utility energy data by expanding the definition of a “trade secret” to include a person’s utility data. This is in response to the ordinance unanimously passed in Atlanta in April 2015 that would make above-average energy performance scores available to the public. Georgians for Solar Freedom and the Atlanta Tea Party promote individual liberty, limited government, and free market energy solutions.

“Senate Bill 321 hides important data from consumers, threatening free-market choice,” said Debbie Dooley, Chairman of Atlanta Tea Party.  “Voters and consumers have a right to access information that can help them make responsible consumer choices. This goes to the buildings we buy, rent, and invest in. To say that a building’s energy data is a trade secret or proprietary is like saying a car’s mile-per-gallon (MPG) rating is a trade secret.” Big corporations or people influential with a select few state legislators should not be able to use the State government to shield important information from consumers that would improve the free market.

“What scares me the most is the potential for over reach,” said Chris Perkins, of Georgians for Solar Freedom. “Because Senate Bill 321 hides utility data, this could easily become a state monopoly protection plan, giving local EMC’s and Georgia Power the authority to act with absolutely zero transparency.  Think about it, what if Georgia Power was over charging customers or there was a glitch in their billing process.  Legally we as consumers would have no right to investigate those possibilities.”

Georgians for Solar Freedom is a grassroots movement of like minded individuals that understand the value of generating more solar energy in our state. We push for more solar energy based on core conservative principles of national security, free market competition, and technological innovation. For more information, visit www.gasolarfreedom.com.

29

Jan 16

Georgia Southern Installs Solar-Powered Patio Furniture

sun-trees

Every year, students, faculty and staff members at Georgia Southern in Statesboro, Georgia submit proposals for sustainability projects. Recently, $40,950 from the Student Sustainability Fees at the university was used to install four solar-powered tables at the university!

In December, the university had “four SolGreen Evodia Mini SmartTables—solar-powered patio tables with built-in charging stations” installed outside the IT Building on the campus of Georgia Southern. These tables will provide students a space to not only spend free time, but a space to charge devices as well. The tables come with “four power outlets and four USB outlets, shut down automatically during rainstorms, can last five to seven days on stored power during overcast weather and contain LED lights for nighttime use.”

All four tables will be wheelchair accessible, with one being designed specifically to meet wheelchair accessibility needs. The tables are near “a high-traffic area and popular lunch spot,” and will be able to provide the students of Georgia Southern a place to relax between classes, work on assignments, and charge their electronic devices.

Georgia Southern continues the trend of Georgia-based higher education institutions aiming to go solar. Last October, we told you about several solar initiatives at the University of Georgia. In November, Agnes Scott College detailed the challenges they faced as the first nonprofit institution to produce solar power. And then, in December, UGA teamed up with Georgia Power to bring a solar tracking demonstration project to their campus.

More and more each day, homeowners, business owners, and higher education institutions realize the power in going solar. If you have any questions about going solar, please let us know!

Source: The George-Anne

22

Jan 16

Energy Department Announces $18 Million Funding to Advance Solar

Solar Panels - Natural Energy (XXL)
Solar Panels – Natural Energy (XXL)

Last week, Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the Energy Department’s Grid Modernization Initiative. In an effort to “improve the resiliency, reliability, and security” of the electrical power grid in the United States, the Department of Energy has announced that they will use $18 million in funds to fund six solar projects throughout the USA! These six projects will “enable the development and demonstration of integrated, scalable, and cost-effective solar technologies.”

Going solar is a trend in the state of Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation as a whole. Now, the federal government has begun to increase their efforts to further going solar in the nation. The six projects that the funding will go toward
“will dramatically increase solar-generated electricity that can be dispatched at any time – day or night – to meet consumer electricity needs while ensuring the reliability of the nation’s electricity grid.”

According to the Department of Energy press release announcing the funding, the six projects are as follows:

  • Austin Energy (Austin, Texas) will receive $4.3 million to create a distributed energy resource management platform that is adaptable to any region and market structure, aiming to establish a template that can help to maximize the penetration of distributed solar PV.
  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pa.) will receive $1 million to develop and demonstrate a distributed, agent-based control system to integrate smart inverters, energy storage, and commercial off-the-shelf home automation controllers and smart thermostats.
  • Commonwealth Edison Company (Chicago) will receive $4 million to utilize smart inverters for solar PV and battery storage systems, working synergistically with other components within a microgrid community.
  • The Electric Power Research Institute (Knoxville, Tenn.) will receive $3.1 million to work with five utilities to design, develop, and demonstrate technology for end-to-end grid integration of energy storage and load management with PV generation.
  • Fraunhofer USA Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (Boston) will receive $3.5 million to develop and demonstrate a scalable, integrated PV, storage, and facility load management solution through the SunDial Global Scheduler system.
  • The Hawaiian Electric Company (Honolulu) will receive $2.4 million to show the system-level benefits of enhanced utility visibility and control of the distribution system by enabling the proliferation of distributed renewable energy technologies.

The aim of the Energy Department’s Grid Modernization Initiative is to not only modernize the electrical grid, but to further the usage of solar energy nationwide. We support this mission, and believe that these six projects will enable the United States to be a more solar-dependent nation!

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

22

Jan 16

52 MW Solar Plant Coming to Georgia

solarpanelThe state of Georgia continues to become more solar by the day! Construction on a new solar plant in Hazlehurst, Georgia will begin February 1. The solar plant will be operated by Nashville, Tennessee-based Silicon Ranch Corporation, while construction will be led by Phoenix, Arizona-based McCarthy Building Companies. The agreement for the project was originally announced in June 2015, with the agreement being met by Silicon Ranch and Green Power EMC.

The “450-acre site” that the solar plant will sit upon “will include technology that enables the panels to track the sun from east to west and will produce enough electricity to power roughly 8,500 households.” This solar plant means that Green Power EMC and Silicon Ranch will have brought two, large scale solar facilities “online” in less than a year. The first facility is a “20 MW AC facility” that is “located less than a mile” from where the second facility is being built.

According to Green Power EMC President, Jeff Pratt, these two facilities represent the commitment to renewable energy that the EMC’s of Georgia have begun. Also, according to Pratt, over 30 EMCs within the state of Georgia will be able to share in the energy that is produced by the two facilities.

This new solar plant represents the continued efforts of Georgians to continue the trend of going solar. An added benefit is that McCarthy Building Companies will be looking to local subcontractors “to provide the majority of on-site construction work.” Going solar not only provides relief in the energy sector, but also provides jobs for the solar energy workforce.

Source: Solar Industry Magazine

 

15

Jan 16

Make Money by Going Solar

slide2In a recent blog post, Going Solar Saves Money, we shared how the Chatsworth Water Works, located in Dalton, Georgia, has begun to save money by making the switch to go solar. Along with saving money, the business is able to make money by selling solar energy back to Georgia Power. More recently, a Mooresville, North Carolina businessman, Michal Bay, has begun to sell solar energy to his local energy supplier as well.

Bay owns two businesses side-by-side, Merinos Home Furnishings & Alino Pizzeria, in Mooresville, N.C. By installing 5,100 solar panels on the roofs of his businesses, Bay is able to “generate 1.595 megawatts per year, which is 60 percent more energy than is required to heat and cool the buildings.”

Bay has been interested in installing solar panels since he bought the buildings. Interestingly enough, Bay does not currently use the energy produced, but instead sells it back to a local energy supplier, Duke Energy.

Bay is planning to install solar panels on “his other furniture stores and pizzerias in Jefferson, Ga., and Fort Lawn, S.C.”

The state of Georgia and the Southeast region as a whole are great for making the switch to going solar. And, with the technological innovation that is currently behind solar energy, going solar is easier than ever. If you are interesting in going solar at your home or at your business, we would love to assist you with any questions you might have. Feel free to call us during regular business hours at 770-337-0949, or email us at Sun@GaSolarFreedom.org.

Source: Mooresville Tribune

NOTE: While it is possible to potentially make money by going solar, it may not be the case for all.

24

Dec 15

Going Solar Saves Money

3793f99feb0fa7cc59bf30caeff4f57b1

We are always asked if going solar truly does save money. We decided to share an example with everyone, that comes from the Chatsworth Water Works, located in Dalton, Georgia.

Near their main office, the Chatsworth Water Works has developed a “five-acre array of solar panels.” Steve Smith, the general manager of the water works, believes that going solar will assist in the water works becoming “more efficient” so that they may better serve their customers.

Currently, they are able to produce 1 megawatt hour of solar energy a day, which is “enough to run the utility’s main office as well as the nearby water treatment plant.” It is believed that by not having to buy electricity, the water works will save “some $2.2 million over the 25-year life of the panels.”

So yes, going solar can in fact help you save money! Not only can businesses such as the Chatsworth Water Works save money, but this means that home owners can save money as well. Also, the solar array is working so efficiently that the water works can actually sell back some of the energy generated to Georgia Power. So, not only are they saving money, but the Chatsworth Water Works will be able to “earn $1.9 million from selling excess electricity.”

There are many benefits to going solar in the state of Georgia. If you have any questions, we would love to provide the answers. Or, if you would like to join our case, please sign up for our email newsletter! Our newsletter is the easiest way for us to help us keep you informed on solar issues that are affecting our state.

Source: Dalton Daily Citizen

22

Dec 15

ENERGY FREEDOM FACES OPPONENT IN LOCAL EMC?

GEORGIANS


ENERGY FREEDOM FACES OPPONENT IN LOCAL EMC?

As utility bills go up year after year, more consumers are beginning to seek out options for controlling their personal or business cost.  We buy LED light bulbs, energy efficient appliances, and other smart technologies that can help us save on our energy bills.  And, now that costs have come way down, we can look to solar panels to generate our own power on our personal properties or businesses.  

Unless utilities get in the way.  Our state utilities have long held monopolies on the sale of power retail electric customers, and they aren’t going to give up that power easily.  I have come to see this first hand.  I am currently dealing with an ongoing issue with my utility, North Georgia Electric Membership Coop (NGEMC).  

I installed a 3.6 kilowatt solar PV system at my home in May of 2014. After completing my project, I called NGEMC to supply my bi-directional meter, as required by Georgia law, for a residential installation 10kW or less.  A bi-directional meter allows for the two-way flow of electricity, meaning that my system’s output can provide energy to the grid when I’m producing more energy than I consume.  This excess power saves the utility by taking the place of power it would otherwise have to generate for my neighbors.  Despite these benefits, and despite my rights under Georgia law, NGEMC has refused to provide me with a bi-directional meter.  They argue they don’t have to follow Georgia law because they get their power from TVA. They further argue that because TVA has its own programs, that I must join one of those programs. I do not wish to join any TVA program; I just want NGEMC to follow Georgia law.  

NGEMC’s stance is at odds with recent trends.  Georgia’s solar industry has seen remarkable growth over the past two years. Thanks to the strong conservative leadership at the Georgia Public Service Commission and State Legislature, the state is on track to have nearly 1 gigawatt of solar power on the ground by the end of 2016, enough to power over 125,000 homes.  And solar customers now have more options to finance their solar installations thanks to the  Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, which the conservative Georgia legislature passed unanimously.   These are welcome developments, but are the electric co-ops now the enemy of solar?  Is NGEMC’s refusal to supply my bi-directional meter their way of discouraging the roof top solar movement?  Customers should have the freedom to make energy choices on their own properties without endless foot-dragging from utility monopolies.  

Brandon Carter is a member of Georgians for Solar Freedom and small businessman in northwest Georgia where he resides with his wife and children.  Georgians for Solar Freedom is a grassroots movement of likeminded individuals that understand the value of generating more solar energy in our state. We push for more solar energy based on core conservative principles of national security, free market competition, and technological innovation. For more information, visit www.gasolarfreedom.com.

28

Oct 15

Solar Growth at UGA

UGA-Solar-Growth

Businesses and homeowners alike are making the switch to solar energy. Solar energy is a renewable energy source that makes it easier to power a business or home, while also making it more affordable. The University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. sees the ease and affordability in going solar, as well.

According to Red and Black, UGA’s own newspaper, the university has several initiatives on the 759 acre campus. Most recently, the campus has installed a solar charging station at Herty Field. The station is a picnic table with an umbrella, and the umbrella is “made up of solar panels and allows between 75 to 150 devices to be charged per day.”

The campus has a total of 70 “solar-powered waste reduction stations” that “compress the materials so that more can fit and in turn allow the bins to be emptied less often.”

The UGArden Teaching and Demonstration Farm has a total of eight solar panels, which charge a farm building, but also allows for the charging of an electric vehicle.

The Jackson Street Building at UGA has 72 solar panels installed on the roof, and they “provide 3 to 5 percent of the power used in the facility.”

According to Red and Black, the Club Sports Complex will have a 1-megawatt solar array that will be completed by 2016. The solar array is being installed in partnership with Georgia Power, and according to Kevin Kirsche, director of sustainability at UGA, “will provide a significant opportunity for solar energy research and teaching at UGA.”

Lastly, there is a solar initiative underway at the UGA-Tifton campus. Although “there are several steps to complete before this becomes a reality,” the campus hopes to be able to generate 3 megawatts of solar electricity.

We commend the University of Georgia for all of their solar projects and initiatives!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

18

Sep 15

Georgia is the No. 2 state for solar growth capacity

solar-835894_1280A new report, “Lighting the Way,” was released this month by the Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center this month. According to SaportaReport, the report “provides a status report on the nation’s solar power industry and shows Georgia ranks second in the country in terms of growth in solar capacity since 2012.

The report determined that “states the produce the most electricity from solar are those that have policies that encourage installation of solar facilities.” This is definitely true for the state, since House Bill 57 was signed into law in May by Governor Nathan Deal (for a recap on H.B. 57, read one of our previous blog posts about it here).

An interesting find in the report is that “every state has more than enough sunshine to meet its energy needs.” This hopefully means that other states will begin to follow the trend of going solar, making it easier for citizens and businesses to seek solar power and other energy alternatives. And, according to SaportaReport, this is already true for North Carolina and Florida. North Carolina has “pending legislation” that “would legalize third-party sales” of solar energy, and citizen activist groups in Florida are “promoting a ballot measure in 2016 to allow third-party solar ownership.”

Georgians for Solar Freedoms believes that solar freedom means using traditional energy sources more responsibly, creating more jobs, and that the United States can become an even more independent nation.

Image Source: Pixabay

31

Aug 15

U.S. Navy Working Toward a Solar Future

solar-power-71705_1280Last month, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported that Georgia Power will be building a “30-megawatt facility at a U.S. Navy base near St. Mary’s, Ga.” The facility is estimated to be a $75 million investment, and should be “online by the end of 2016.”

The Navy continues to keep their trend of investing in solar power on the rise. According to PV-Tech.org, the Navy will be developing “210MW of solar PV [solar cell technology]” across the United States at 14 different military bases. This means that the U.S. Navy has purchased the largest amount of renewable energy that a federally recognized organization ever has. This commitment will aid the Navy in achieving their goal of having “25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025,” a goal set in 2009 by the U.S. Congress.

The entire project will be made up of 650,000 solar panels, which will provide “around one-third of the total energy demand of 14 separate Navy and Marine Corps facilities.”

The Navy, along with other military branches, has been furthering their solar energy production. The Navy and Air Force jointly commissioned three solar projects on Florida’s Gulf coast in January. Last month, the Marine Corps commissioned a 46 MW facility at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Ga.

Georgians for Solar Freedom supports the decision of the military branches to grow their solar energy production. This is great progress, and will set an example for our nation in terms of renewable energy resources.

Source: PV-Tech.org

17

Aug 15

Solar Power on the Rise in Georgia

solar-power-862602_1280On July 1, 2015, House Bill 57, The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, became law and is making it easier for Georgians to secure third party financing for the installation of solar energy technology. This bill allows our state to join 22 other states in allowing these sort of financial agreements. It has also made it easier for not only homeowners to receive solar energy, but also churches, businesses, and even military bases. (Read more about House Bill 57 here).

Along with this bill, a 2013 Public Service Commission mandate has catapulted the solar energy production within the state of Georgia. The commission has required Georgia Power to boost their solar production capacity up to 525 MW by the end of 2016. Since the commission went into effect, Georgia Power has been growing their solar production throughout the state. Electric membership corporations, or EMCs, are currently providing solar power to almost half of the population in the state of Georgia.

Solar power is rising in the state of Georgia, and it will continue to do so in the coming years. We want to thank all who have supported our cause, and continue to do so. Our cause is a great one, and it is a continued effort. Georgians for Solar Freedom is a true grassroots movement. There is no membership fee. If you would like to join our cause, please sign up for our email newsletter. Then we will send you email updates on solar issues in Georgia and let you know how you can help us persuade your elected officials to support the cause.

Source: http://www.georgiatrend.com/August-2015/The-Energy-Future-Is-Now/

11

Jul 15

Georgians for Solar Freedom Statement on Snapping Shoals EMC Misleading Consumers about Solar Energy Savings

GEORGIANS

Georgians for Solar Freedom Statement on Snapping Shoals EMC Misleading Consumers about Solar Energy Savings

It is disappointing to see Snapping Shoals EMC disseminating misleading information to its customers and the public about solar panel energy savings. This seems like a particularly despicable show of public deception on the heels of partnering with Georgians for Solar Freedom at the Capitol to pass the solar financing bill that was nearly unanimously passed in a rare show of bipartisanship.

The table and the narrative conclusion featured in the Snapping Shoals EMC’s most recent, and ironically named newsletter, Illuminator, is an egregious misrepresentation of facts.  It fails to factor in the solar panel tax credits. They seem to have factored in an “average” rate of 5 kW per household when average residential solar usage is 4 kW. They provided a shorter time of financing than what is allowed and conveniently forgot to mention that once the panels are paid for the energy is free.

This dishonest propagandizing to consumers must stop. One wonders if the EMC intended all along to reap the rewards of good publicity for supporting the solar panel financing legislation during the Georgia General Assembly while planning to undermine its implementation and success once it passed.

Snapping Shoals EMC owes their customers and the public an explanation for their decision to misinform the public about solar energy savings.

###

Georgians for Solar Freedom is a grassroots movement of likeminded individuals that understand the value of generating more solar energy in our state. We push for more solar energy based on core conservative principles of national security, free market competition, and technological innovation. For more information, visit www.gasolarfreedom.com.

1

Jul 15

House Bill 57 Legislation Takes Effect Today!

GEORGIANS

House Bill 57 The Free-Market Solar Financing Legislation Takes Effect Today

Brings affordable solar financing options to Georgia property owners

ATLANTA, GA–House Bill 57, The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, becomes law today. The new law will enable Georgians to secure third party financing for the installation of solar energy technology.

Twenty-two other states allow for such financing agreements, and even more do not directly prohibit them. Due to a lack of clarity in current law, Georgia homeowners, businesses, churches, and military bases wee missing out on an abundance of free market financing options for solar. The solar financing law addresses these barriers to energy freedom and ensures the best possible financing options available for Georgians to choose the best solutions for their families or businesses. The new law represents the work of an unprecedented coalition of environmentalists, consumer groups, power companies and other corporations coming together to make the bill possible.

“Government should not be placing unnecessary barriers in the way of property owners,” said Donna Sheldon, Former Representative and Majority Caucus Chair, presently with Georgians for Solar Freedom. “The solar power financing law recognizes that Georgians have the ability in a free market to decide what is in their best interests regarding their private property.”

“With technology becoming more affordable, the new law will spur growth in our state’s solar industry while attracting new investments from local, national, and international companies, and most importantly create high quality new jobs while offering Georgians more choice when energy options. We thank Governor Deal and the Georgia General Assembly for making this happen,” said Donna Sheldon.

###

Georgians for Solar Freedom is a grassroots movement of likeminded individuals that understand the value of generating more solar energy in our state. We push for more solar energy based on core conservative principles of national security, free market competition, and technological innovation. For more information, visit www.gasolarfreedom.com.

29

Jun 15

Solar Power Continues to Blaze

3793f99feb0fa7cc59bf30caeff4f57b1Solar energy continues to grow in the state of Georgia! Announced on Thursday, June 24, 2015, Southern Power purchased the 20 megawatt (MW) Butler Solar Farm from Strata Solar. Due to this acquisition, the company now produces more than 400 MW of solar power in the state of Georgia.

The solar farm is located on 150 acres in Taylor County, and should begin being used for commercial purposes starting in the fourth quarter of this year. The farm is one mile away from the already acquired Butler Solar Facility, which produces 103 MW of solar power.

Georgia Power will be the purchaser of the energy that is generated from the 20 MW Butler Solar Farm. The purchase agreement will last 20 years, with Southern Power retaining the associated renewable energy credits, which could be sold to third parties.

According to a press release, Southern Power is a leading U.S. wholesale energy provider for consumers and businesses alike. Due to this acquisition, the company produce over 9,800 MW of energy in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Here at Georgians for Solar Freedom, we believe that Southern Power’s acquisition will continue the Peach State’s solidification as a national leader in solar energy. We believe that this will continue to help our state be more conservative when it comes to green energy, especially that of solar power. Solar options are the right thing to do politically and economically for the state and nation.

If you believe in solar energy, we would love to have your support! Join our grassroots movement and help our state continue to grow in solar power options. There is no membership for you to join our cause. Simply sign up, and we will email you updates as well as information on how you can help persuade elected officials to support our case.

5

Jun 15

Millennials Desire Green Initiatives

3793f99feb0fa7cc59bf30caeff4f57b1

Millennials who align themselves with the Republican party are calling for both conservation and innovation. According to a study recently conducted by the Pew Research Center, 48% of millennials who considered to be Republican believe that the government should protect the environment.

Some Republican Millennials believe that the private sector needs conservative support as well. Programs such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification have already proven their worth in the private sector (Georgia is ranked 8th in LEED certified buildings). Along with constructing sustainable, energy efficient buildings, LEED construction is beneficial to the workforce by creating new jobs. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED spending created 15,000 jobs from 2000-2008, and the study forecasted an additional 230,000 jobs would be created by 2013.

Furthermore, Millennials want to see America be able to compete in a global economy. The global economy is becoming more and more green, so Millennials believe that the United States should do the same as well. America has always prided itself on being the best in innovation and conservation, and Millennials believe we can continue the trend with green initiatives.

Georgians for Solar Freedom believe that solar freedom is a powerful green initiative that can help not only the state of Georgia achieve green success, but the nation as well. Solar options are politically and economically sound. Georgians for Solar Freedom believes that America has always been a frontrunner in technological innovation, and we believe that our nation continues to do so with solar technologies.

Source: Georgia Association of College Republicans

Source: U.S. Green Building Council Green Jobs Study

12

May 15

Governor Deal Signs House Bill 57!

GEORGIANS

Governor Deal Signs House Bill 57 The Free-Market Solar Financing Legislation
Brings affordable solar financing options to Georgia families and businesses

ATLANTA, GA–House Bill 57, The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, was signed by Governor Deal today. The bill will enable Georgia families, businesses, churches and military bases to secure third party financing for the installation of solar energy technology.

Across the country, many Americans who utilize solar and clean energy today choose to do so through financing options to remove upfront costs and help lower power bills. Previously, state law prevented Georgians from taking advantage of these same options. HB 57 addresses this barrier to energy freedom and clears the way for Georgians to choose the best financing options for their families or businesses.

“By signing this legislation, Governor Deal recognizes that government should not be placing unnecessary barriers in the way of property owners,” said Donna Sheldon, Former Representative and Majority Caucus Chair, presently with Georgians for Solar Freedom.

Governor Deal said a diverse group of Georgians came together to make sure this bill would be successful and that was why the bill passed both legislative bodies with overwhelming support. He also commended Rep. Mike Dudgeon on his hard work to ensure all interested parties were brought to the table as the bill was being crafted.

“With solar technology becoming more affordable and accessible to consumers, House Bill 57 will spur growth in our state’s solar industry while attracting new investments from local, national, and international companies, and most importantly create high quality new jobs while offering Georgians more choice when energy options. I applaud Governor Deal for his vision and forward thinking,” said Rep. Mike Dudgeon.

Georgia is one of the fastest growing solar markets in the nation. More than 150 solar companies employ thousands of workers across the state. Passage of HB 57 provides further growth opportunities for the state’s solar industry and for private investment in a more secure energy system.

###
Georgians for Solar Freedom is a grassroots movement of likeminded individuals that understand the value of generating more solar energy in our state. We push for more solar energy based on core conservative principles of national security, free market competition, and technological innovation. For more information, visit www.gasolarfreedom.com.

 

8

May 15

Solar: Your Choice. Your Environment.

GA4SFGeorgia grows pine trees and kudzu…the sun is definitely working in Georgia! Germany is the international leader in solar power, and Georgia has twice as many hours of sun than Germany, more than five working solar hours per day. Here are some benefits of solar energy (for Georgia):

  • Renewable, abundant, and sustainable
  • Reduces the cost of electricity
  • Job growth (There are currently more than 150 solar businesses supporting manufacturing and installation jobs throughout Georgia.)
  • Economic development
  • Power revenue from the sun

The Solar Power Free-Market Financing and Property Rights Act allows property owners to contract directly with solar financing companies and avoid the up-front costs of purchasing and installing solar panels. And with the recent passage of HB 57, homeowners and businesses are now able to receive affordable financing. The solar project on your home could take just days or weeks.

Sources: Southeast Green

22

Apr 15

It’s Earth Day; get your hands dirty!

GA4SF blog picEarth Day is a day to recognize ways you can take action by giving back to your community and your environment. The commitment to protect our environment doesn’t just last this one day though, it’s a year-round commitment. You can volunteer, donate, organize an event, plant a tree or a garden, buy local produce, stop using disposable plastic, recycle, pick up trash, reach out to your local representatives, install solar panels on your home, and much more. It’s all about having fun while making a difference.

Can you imagine the difference that could be made if 1 billion people took action? This is the hope of ‘A Billion Acts of Green’, an international movement to protect the planet and secure a sustainable future. With this movement, you can take action by signing a climate petition, support environmental education, reduce energy consumption, or create art to raise awareness. You don’t have to be a large organization to make a difference; we can all be activists for change!

The best way to get started is to be educated. Research what is already taking place in your community, and find out how you can get involved. We need your help here in Georgia to develop a domestic energy policy, especially in promoting more solar energy options. Working together, we can educate, motivate, and activate our elected officials into becoming champions for our cause. If you would like to join our movement, click here.

Source: Earth Day

8

Apr 15

Solar is becoming more than just a trend!

solarblogGeorgia has solidified itself as a national leader in solar energy over the past few years. For one, the rise of solar in Georgia is creating more jobs. Currently, there are more than 150 solar businesses supporting manufacturing and installation jobs throughout the state. Fighting for free markets and property rights is a priority, so everyone will have the opportunity to install solar in their own homes. Solar costs have plummeted over the years, making solar more affordable for all. We’ve hit a huge milestone with the recent passing of House Bill 57, allowing for third-party leasing options.

North Carolina is currently fourth place nationwide in solar energy development, and they have been fighting for solar freedom as well. They recently introduced the Energy Freedom Act that would end a state ban preventing independent energy developers from selling electricity directly to homeowners and businesses. It would essentially allow for independents to compete for customers against utilities. They are also trying to help military bases achieve a Department of Defense goal of generating at least 25% of their power from renewable resources.

About 50% of US states are now allowing for third-party leasing options. We need to continue to do our part in fighting for solar freedom so Georgia will continue to be a national leader in solar energy!

 

Source: The Charlotte Observer

Photo credit: Photo by Serge Bertasius Photography FreeDigitalPhotos.net

27

Mar 15

HB 57 Passes Senate!

GEORGIANS

House Bill 57 The Free-Market Solar Financing Legislation Passes Senate
Brings affordable solar financing options to Georgia property owners

ATLANTA, GA–House Bill 57 The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, passed the Georgia Senate today. The bill will enable Georgians to secure third party financing for the installation of solar energy technology. The bill will now head to Governor Deal’s desk to be signed into law, bringing affordable solar financing options to Georgia property owners.

“The legislation makes it clear that Georgia energy customers should be allowed to choose the best financing solutions the free market has to offer,” said State Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) who will be carrying the bill in the Senate. “I believe individuals and businesses can make the best decisions about their energy solutions.”

Twenty-two other states allow for such financing agreements, and even more do not directly prohibit them. Due to a lack of clarity in current law, Georgia homeowners, businesses, churches, and military bases are missing out on an abundance of free market financing options for solar. HB 57 addresses these barriers to energy freedom and ensures the best possible financing options available for Georgians to choose the best solutions for their families or businesses.

“Government should not be placing unnecessary barriers in the way of property owners,” said Donna Sheldon, Former Representative and Majority Caucus Chair, presently with Georgians for Solar Freedom. “HB 57 recognizes that Georgians have the ability in a free market to decide what is in their best interests regarding their private property.”

“With technology becoming more affordable, House Bill 57 will spur growth in our state’s solar industry while attracting new investments from local, national, and international companies, and most importantly create high quality new jobs while offering Georgians more choice when energy options,” said Donna Sheldon.

Georgians for Solar Freedom is a grassroots movement of likeminded individuals that understand the value of generating more solar energy in our state. We push for more solar energy based on core conservative principles of national security, free market competition, and technological innovation. For more information, visit www.gasolarfreedom.com.

###

26

Mar 15

Financing Options For Solar Installation

House Bill 57Solar Panels (The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015) allows Georgians to secure third party financing for the installation of solar energy technology.

Financial options have been allowed in 22 other states, but Georgia has been missing out. Our Georgia military plans to be the first to install solar, but homeowners need to jump on this plan too. Why pay a big company when you can control your own power? Yes, solar panel installation would run you in the thousands, but with financing options available, it is feasible. In the past, big utility companies could sue banks for lending money for solar panels. House Bill 57 would ban these companies from interfering with your lease or loan agreement.

Small business owners can benefit from this piece of legislation as well. Sungevity is a company best known for their leasing options and have just expanded into North Carolina (hopefully they will make it into Georgia in the near future). They plan to offer leasing options for homeowners and small businesses with zero money down, and can help the consumer start saving money from their current utility bill. Set your business apart from the competition with a little help from the sun! We are happy to know that the Georgia Chamber is recognizing the importance of renewable energy with HB57! Let the sun shine on your home or business. Visit Georgia Power’s website to learn how you can get started.

Sources:

The Cherokee Ledger-News

AccessNorthGa.com

treehugger

Photo source:

www.morguefile.com

About Georgians for Solar Freedom:

Georgians for Solar Freedom is a grassroots movement of likeminded individuals that understand the value of generating more solar energy in our state. We push for more solar energy based on core conservative principles of national security, free market competition, and technological innovation. For more information, visit gasolarfreedom.com.

12

Mar 15

HB 57 PASSES SENATE COMMITTEE

House Bill 57 The Free-Market Solar Financing Legislation Senate Passes Committee

Brings affordable solar financing options to Georgia property owners

ATLANTA, GA–House Bill 57 The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, passed the Georgia House of Representatives unanimously with 165 votes. The bill enables Georgians to secure third party financing for the installation of solar energy technology. Today the bill was passed out of Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

“The legislation makes it clear that Georgia energy customers should be allowed to choose the best financing solutions the free market has to offer,” said State Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) who will be carrying the bill in the Senate. “I believe individuals and businesses can make the best decisions about their energy solutions.”

Twenty-two other states allow for such financing agreements, and even more do not directly prohibit them. Due to a lack of clarity in current law, Georgia homeowners, businesses, churches, and military bases are missing out on an abundance of free market financing options for solar.

“Government should not be placing unnecessary barriers in the way of property owners,” said Donna Sheldon, Former Representative and Majority Caucus Chair, presently with Georgians for Solar Freedom. “HB 57 recognizes that Georgians have the ability in a free market to decide what is in their best interests regarding their private property.”

“With technology becoming more affordable, Georgia has emerged as a national solar energy leader,” said Senator Rick Jeffares. (R-Locust Grove) “HB 57 will spur growth in our state’s solar industry, attract investment from local, national, and international companies, and most importantly create high quality new jobs while offering Georgians more choice when energy options.” Senator Jeffares is Chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries committee.

The legislation has already received bipartisan backing from Republican and Democrat bill sponsors as well as support from a broad-based coalition of conservative and environmental groups. “Georgians for Solar Freedom will be there to help and support the bill as it works it’s way through the Senate.” said Donna Sheldon.

About Georgians for Solar Freedom:

Georgians for Solar Freedom is a grassroots movement of likeminded individuals that understand the value of generating more solar energy in our state. We push for more solar energy based on core conservative principles of national security, free market competition, and technological innovation. For more information, visit gasolarfreedom.com.

###

9

Feb 15

Solar Financing Bill Clears GA House

Solar Financing Bill Clears Georgia House

Energy Freedom Advocates Praise Legislation to Give Consumers More Energy Choices
ATLANTA, GA– Legislation that would give Georgia families and businesses more energy options cleared a major hurdle today. House Bill 57, the Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, passed the Georgia House of Representatives unanimous with 165 votes late Monday morning, making it the first bill to clear the House this year.

The legislation would allow property owners to contract directly with solar financing companies and avoid the up-front costs of purchasing and installing solar panels. The consensus bill is the result of a year of negotiations between the state’s electric utilities and solar advocates.

“I have long been an advocate of energy freedom and an all of the above energy strategy,” said Representative Don Parsons (R-Marietta), Chair of the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. “I’m pleased we could move forward this proposal to give Georgians more options for taking advantage of innovative technology.”

The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek), said “My legislation makes it clear that Georgia energy customers should be allowed to access the best energy financing solutions the free market has to offer,” said Representative Dudgeon. “I believe individuals and businesses can make their own decisions about controlling their energy costs with solar technology.”

By eliminating the high upfront costs, leases and other forms of financing can make solar affordable for many more consumers. Twenty-two other states allow for such financing agreements, and even more do not directly prohibit them.

The bill has broad support from stakeholders including Georgians for Solar Freedom, a grassroots organization pushing for more solar in the state. Republican leaders formed Georgians for Solar Freedom to advance financing options and other commonsense conservative solar policies in the state.

Georgians for Solar Freedom spokesperson, former Georgia State Representative Donna Sheldon, said, “Georgia families, businesses, churches, and schools should have the option to use innovative technology to lower their power bills. This bill advocates property rights which are a cornerstone of our conservative principles.”

“Government should not be placing unnecessary barriers in the way of property owners who want to take charge of their energy bills with solar,” said Bobby Baker, a Republican who served on the Georgia Public Service Commission and now sits on the board of the Georgia Property Rights Council.

Georgia is one of the fastest growing solar markets in the nation. There are currently more than 150 solar companies employing thousands of workers in the state. Passage of this solar financing legislation would enable further private investment in local industry and job growth.

“We commend Representative Dudgeon and his colleagues for advancing legislation that will drive investment in the state’s solar industry,” said Jason Rooks of the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association. “With technology prices becoming more and more affordable, this legislation would clear the way for innovative solar companies to meet the changing demands of Georgia energy customers.”

Following today’s vote, HB 57 advances to the Georgia Senate, where it will likely be first taken up by the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities. Lawmakers anticipate a Senate vote on the bill in March.

28

Jan 15

Solar Bill Advances to General Assembly

Free Market Advocates Praise Legislation to Give Consumers More Energy Choices

ATLANTA, GA– Legislation granting Georgia families and businesses more energy options passed a major hurdle today in the Georgia General Assembly.  House Bill 57, the Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, passed the House Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications on a unanimous vote.

The legislation would allow property owners to engage directly with solar financing companies and avoid the up-front costs of purchasing and installing solar panels.  The consensus bill is the result of a year of negotiations between the state’s electric utilities and solar advocates.

“I have long been an advocate of energy freedom and an all of the above energy strategy,” said Representative Don Parsons (R-Marietta), Chair of the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. “I’m pleased we could move forward this proposal to give Georgians more options for taking advantage of innovative technology.”

The bill’s sponsor, State Representative Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek), said “My legislation makes it clear that Georgia energy customers should be allowed to access the best energy financing solutions the free market has to offer,” said Representative Dudgeon. “I believe individuals and businesses can make their own decisions about controlling their energy costs with solar technology.”

By eliminating the high upfront costs, leases and other forms of financing can make solar affordable for many more consumers.  Twenty-two other states allow for such financing agreements, and even more do not directly prohibit them.

The bill has broad support from stakeholders including Georgians for Solar Freedom, a grassroots organization pushing for more solar in the state. Republican leaders formed Georgians for Solar Freedom to advance financing options and other commonsense conservative solar policies in the state. The organization is pushing for more solar energy based on the core conservative principles of national security, free market competition and technological innovation.
Georgians for Solar Freedom spokesperson, former Georgia State Representative Donna Sheldon said, “Georgia families, businesses, churches, and schools should have the option to use innovative technology to lower their power bills.” Sheldon continues, “This bill advocates property rights which is a cornerstone of our core conservative principles.”

“Government should not be placing unnecessary barriers in the way of property owners who want to take charge of their energy bills with solar,” said Bobby Baker, a Republican who served on the Georgia Public Service Commission and now sits on the board of the Georgia Property Rights Council.

Georgia is one of the fastest growing solar markets in the nation. There are currently more than 150 solar companies employing thousands of workers in the state. Passage of this solar financing legislation would enable further private investment in local industry and job growth.
“We commend Representative Dudgeon and his colleagues for advancing legislation that will drive investment in the state’s solar industry,” said Jason Rooks of the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association. “With technology prices becoming more and more affordable, this legislation would clear the way for innovative solar companies to meet the changing demands of Georgia energy customers.”

Following today’s vote, HB 57 advances to the House Rules Committee, and lawmakers anticipate it will be taken up for vote by the full House in February.

 

20

Jan 15

CL-ATL: GA 2015 Legislative Preview

Energy Section
“Some lawmakers, including Dudgeon, will continue pushing for homeowners to have the choice of financing solar panel installation on their rooftops.”  

As stated by Peach Pundit, “Max Blau and Thomas Wheatley teamed up as only Creative Loafing can to offer a comprehensive list of predicted legislation this year.It’s written in their own ‘informanarchic’ style, which is sometimes a bit coarse, but usually accurate. ”

 

The dust has settled after 2014’s high-stakes election. With Gov. Nathan Deal back for another term and the GOP’s dominance intact, state reps and senators returned to Atlanta this week for the 153rd General Assembly.

The 40-day session will feature political jockeying, grandstanding, and taxpayer-funded frat house antics. A flurry of new bills ranging from pointless proclamations to meaningful measures will be considered. Only a few of the latter have a chance of passing. Over the past month Creative Loafing has interviewed dozens of legislators, lobbyists, advocates, and political observers about the upcoming legislative session’s key issues. And from what we’re hearing, it appears to be business as usual, with a few twists.

This year attention will revolve around Georgia’s pressing transportation needs, education reforms, insolvent rural hospitals, and budget, budget, budget. The state’s lack of cash has led lawmakers to take serious looks at raising taxes — and possibly expanding a major program offered by the dreaded federal guvmint.

Lawmakers will also spend their energy discussing controversial social issues, such as legalizing medical marijuana while avoiding total decriminalization, and giving people the right to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. Guns, immigration, and abortion — seemingly always at play during the legislative session — are expected to take a backseat in 2015. But everything’s subject to change inside the Gold Dome. Never rule out anything. Besides legal pot or an assault weapons ban, that is.

BUDGET

The Georgia General Assembly does many things every year. But it’s only required by law to do one thing: Pass the budget. This year, three big issues — transportation, education, and health care — will fight over a limited pool of cash.

An improving economy has helped state tax revenues climb more than $700 million since December 2013. Despite the extra money, funding shortfalls remain throughout many departments. So that means state reps and senators more inclined to cut taxes are contemplating a tax hike, expanding Medicaid, and other measures unheard of in the GOP-controlled statehouse. Some lawmakers have personally called for re-evaluating all of Georgia’s tax credits (Delta still enjoys a special fuel tax break despite projecting a more-than-$4 billion profit in 2014). But who are we kidding? The chances of that happening are slim to none. So back to the taxes, or, er, um, “user fees.”

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT

First off, forget any talk of lawmakers taking action on climate change. Many state lawmakers prefer to keep their heads in the sand rather than do anything about how the state can help address the issue. Many won’t even comment on whether it’s happening and what role mankind plays. But that doesn’t mean the environment will get overlooked this year. Some lawmakers, including Dudgeon, will continue pushing for homeowners to have the choice of financing solar panel installation on their rooftops. Georgia Power has fought the measure. Not only could it help homeowners save money, but it’d boost solar power business in Georgia. Environmentalists, including the Sierra Club of Georgia, will also be watching for resolutions opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to curb emissions across the country. An eco nonprofit called 100 Miles — that’s approximately how many miles of coastline Georgia has — and other members of the Georgia Water Coalition want to make sure lawmakers don’t assault stream buffers on the state’s vital waterways.

TRANSPORTATION FUNDING

Every few years, when a situation reaches a crisis level, the General Assembly is forced to respond. It happened in 2011 when lawmakers finally approved legislation allowing voters to decide whether to levy a 1-percent sales tax to fund new roads and transit. Metro Atlanta flatly rejected the measure, though intowners supported it. Lawmakers threw up their hands and walked away from the problem.

But the issue never went away. Georgia ranks 49th nationally on transportation funding per capita. It allocates no cash to operate MARTA, the state’s largest transit system. Metro Atlanta’s various bus systems run independent of each other. According to a new transportation committee study, Georgia needs to spend up to $1.5 billion a year — roughly 7 percent of the state’s budget — just to maintain Georgia’s current roads and bridges.

Lawmakers this session are dead set on finding the money and are using the 23-page committee report as a guide. Though the state could continue cutting into bone to carve out cash for transportation, making a difference could require raising revenue, or a tax to maintain the existing roadways and build new roads and transit. The easiest option would be to raise the state gas tax, which, at 45.89 cents per gallon, is lower than the national average of 49.28 cents. Other ideas being entertained include fees on electric vehicles, toll lanes, shifting that portion of the gas tax that currently goes into the general fund to pay for transportation, and a statewide sales tax. If this last notion were to pass, some lawmakers have pondered allocating half of the revenues to reducing the state income tax. In other words, levying a tax that could hit low-income people the hardest and put more money in the pockets of wealthier people.

The one shining spot from the entire report is the recommendation that lawmakers in an anti-transit state finally “acknowledge” mass transportation. Some observers think the turnaround job MARTA CEO Keith Parker has performed could help persuade the state to give the transit agency some cash. Whether new transportation cash should be spent operating or expanding transit could get ensnared in rural and urban politics. Mayor Kasim Reed says 55 percent of new funding in metro Atlanta should fund roads, with the rest going to transit. The Sierra Club of Georgia thinks at least half the new funding should favor transit. And other groups will be watching to make sure additional needs aren’t starved.

“If the idea is, how do we bring in a billion dollars and how do we raise that money, that’s the conversation we need to have,” says Alan Essig of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. “If it’s about accounting gimmicks, robbing the general fund to pay for transportation, we need to avoid that altogether.”

See how complicated this could become?

EDUCATION

For the first time in recent memory, the governor and state lawmakers made education a top priority in 2014. Deal poured $547 million dollars into the state’s annual K-12 education budget and promised major education reforms in his second-and-final term as governor. Critics viewed those promises as an election-year tactic largely designed to undercut Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter’s campaign platform. Throughout the campaign, Deal never properly addressed more than $8.3 billion in austerity cuts since 2003. Now Deal must decide whether education will remain a priority or return to being ignored.

The issue is expected to take a backseat, at least until the transportation cash grab threatens education funding during budget talks. If the GOP attempts to siphon money from schools, Dems will likely drum up fierce opposition.

“We hear a lot of talk about resolving funding for transportation,” says Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson. “But we’re hearing less conversation about how to address the education funding shortfall.”

Deal has already pledged to partially expand the HOPE grant during his campaign. State Rep. Stacey Evans, D-Smyrna, has returned with another series of proposals that aim to restore funding and expand eligibility for both the HOPE grant and scholarship. But her decision to back Carter’s HOPE track record in the heated 2014 election drew ire from Republicans, namely state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, who chairs the subcommittee responsible for higher education spending. So while there’s more money to be spent as lottery revenues climb, expect any movement on the issue to be Republican-led.

The governor and state lawmakers are likely to begin figuring out a plan to retool the state’s Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula, a complex methodology used by education officials to distribute state funds to local school districts, for the first time since it was created 30 years ago. Everyone agrees that changes are needed. Deciding how to reform is much more divisive. Many lawmakers expect a committee to study QBE in 2015 in hopes of approving a new funding plan during the 2016 session.

Deal will also likely form a committee to look at a “Louisiana-style” recovery district model, which would allow state education officials to take control of failing school systems or convert them into charter schools. Public school proponents could revolt if he pursues such changes. Look for additional legislation pushing for stricter cyberbullying laws and a proposal that, according to state Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Johns Creek, would make the state school superintendent a position elected by the General Assembly rather than voters.

HEALTH CARE

In 2014, it was good politics for Republican politicians to thumb their noses at the Affordable Care Act. President Barack Obama’s health care mandate prompted numerous bills blocking its rollout. Deal even helped pass a bill last year that allowed him to give up his sole authority to expand Medicaid, a move that would provide more than 400,000 uninsured Georgians with medical coverage. But reality has set in with some GOP lawmakers: Georgia is facing a health care crisis.

Democratic lawmakers and health care advocates will continue to raise hell, as they did last year, in their efforts to expand Medicaid. Several states with Republican governors decided to expand Medicaid after the 2014 election. In those states, officials found ways to make the federal health care mandate more politically palatable. A growing number of conservative lawmakers in Georgia are willing to look at possible alternatives.

Why? Some federal funding that used to help cover costs for patients who couldn’t afford to pay their medical bills is set to expire in 2016. Expanding Medicaid would help offset the loss of funding. If Georgia officials don’t do so, they’ll need to find funding in the state budget.

The forthcoming funding gap doesn’t affect just an urban safety-net institution like Grady Memorial Hospital. It will also affect numerous rural hospitals on the brink of insolvency. No hospitals have taken up Deal’s offer to scale back services to keep open their doors. Raising the state’s cigarette tax could be one way to find more cash. There isn’t a clear-cut solution to the problem except for, well, Medicaid expansion.

“Medicaid expansion is the elephant in the room,” says Cindy Zeldin, executive director for Georgians for a Healthy Future. “This is the biggest funding source available to hospitals. It’s not a silver bullet. It’s not the only thing they need. Without doing this piece, it’s going to be very difficult for rural hospitals to continue to serve the role they do in communities.”

CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND MILITARIZED POLICE

Protesters nationwide have called for drastic changes to policing laws throughout 2014. That movement has grown in the wake of numerous high-profile killings of young unarmed black males at the hands of law enforcement officers, who suffered few-to-no repercussions for their actions. Police in Ferguson, Mo.; Staten Island, N.Y.; and even in Atlanta responded to demonstrators by bringing out military-style weapons and armored vehicles in excessive fashion.

“Public trust in many communities, if it ever existed, has been destroyed,” says state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, who also wants to repeal the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law and reform the grand jury process. “The question is: ‘Can we survive when you have such broad distrust of the police?’ It’s not a rural, urban, or suburban problem. It’s not a white or black problem. It’s a Georgia problem.”

Clamping down on militarized local police, though supported by some state officials, likely needs to take place at the federal level. Lawmakers will instead turn their attention to requiring police officers to be equipped with body and dashboard cameras. But doing so comes with a hefty price tag: at least $125 million to equip all officers throughout the state. Given the costs, lawmakers will probably look at whether it makes more sense to require all officers to install cameras or to incentivize cameras through financial subsidies. Atlanta, which has taken the lead to equip its officers with body cameras, will be watched closely by state lawmakers as a test case.

Bipartisan support has grown around the need to reform no-knock warrants following a botched drug raid in Habersham County, Ga., during which a stun grenade nearly killed a toddler. Fort has promised to once again push legislation that would limit the use of no-knock warrants — echoing an unsuccessful 2007 bipartisan effort following the death of 92-year-old Atlanta resident Kathryn Johnston during a police raid. State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, will also push a related bill that limits no-knock raids to daytime hours, forces officers participating in drug raids to attend training sessions, and require a supervisor to oversee raids. Tanner, who in 2013 authored a law that made the state’s death penalty process less transparent, now wants to open up the secretive decisions of the state board of pardons and parole for public review and more transparency.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

The biggest surprise of the 2014 legislative session came in the form of Republican-backed legislation seeking to legalize medical marijuana. Not the leafy kind that can be smoked, but a specific kind of marijuana-derived oil to help people suffering from seizures and a limited number of other diseases. But the bill pushed by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, stalled during the session’s final hours. Some parents have since relocated to Colorado to gain access to treatment unavailable in Georgia.

After studying the issue for months, state lawmakers are now rallying behind Peake’s legislation with a sense of urgency. Georgia’s recently launched its first clinical trial for medical marijuana. Now comes the hard part in passing legislation. Some final details are still being sorted out regarding which illnesses would qualify for medical marijuana use, according to state Rep. Margaret Kaiser, D-Atlanta. After briefly considering the legalization of medical marijuana production, Peake scaled back his bill to simply protect residents from prosecution. Law enforcement officials, as expected, have also expressed some concerns about legalization.

Progressive groups would like to see legislation include medical treatment with higher ratios of THC and to make more diseases eligible for treatment, including multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. They have at least one champion under the Gold Dome in state Sen. Curt Thompson, D-Norcross, who’s pushing such a bill as well as gunning for the outright decriminalization of marijuana. Sounds nice, right? Don’t get your hopes up.

“It’s ridiculous to think Georgia would [fully] legalize marijuana, being a red state,” says state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford. “[Sen. Thompson’s bill] expands it down to PTSD. I told some committee members that I have PTSD every session — I think I could qualify for it!”

ETHICS REFORM

Last year, Georgians paid more than $3 million in settlements to several former ethics commission staffers who were effectively ousted from their government positions for attempting to investigate Deal’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Those payouts, plus the general dysfunction of some state-appointed ethics watchdogs, reignited a long-standing push to do two things: establish an independent commission to oversee public officials and create a funding stream to help that group do its job.

That effort could clash with a 2014 campaign promise from the governor to turn the current ethics commission into a 12-member body made up of four appointees each from the judicial, executive, and legislative branches. Ethics commission members would recuse themselves from investigations involving the branch of government that appointed them. State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, who has championed ethics reform in years past, isn’t sold on Deal’s approach.

“We need to reform how the commission is composed,” McKoon says. “I don’t know if the 12-person thing makes [the] most sense. But it’s the right concept.”

CITYHOOD AND ANNEXATION

As DeKalb County works to redeem itself after numerous corruption scandals involving its suspended CEO and county commissioners, growing numbers of residents want to form their own cities to reassert local control. Or just distance themselves from the train wreck. Cityhood proponents in north DeKalb are pushing two proposals: LaVista Hills (population 65,000) and Tucker (population 35,000). After a contentious fight over Northlake Mall, lawmakers split the surrounding business district in half, requiring each group to revise its feasibility study to proceed through the legislative process. Residents in the county’s southern reaches that haven’t seen major investment in years are pushing Stonecrest (population 50,000) and South DeKalb (population 294,000). But it’s unclear at this point whether either one has a large enough tax base to cover basic government expenses.

Other residents of unincorporated DeKalb would rather join another city than start anew. Together in Atlanta, a group of Druid Hills residents hoping to be annexed into Atlanta, have already submitted a proposed map to state lawmakers that includes Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The initiative has found some supporters. But state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, says residents could push back over potential tax hikes or the loss of DeKalb’s more favorable homestead exemption. Some residents outside the neighborhood, whose taxes helped pay for DeKalb schools and the Fernbank Science Center, are furious over losing those public assets.

And it’s not just DeKalb. State Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, has once again prefiled a bill to create the city of South Fulton in the county’s final frontier of unincorporated land. But some residents of the Sandtown community (population 20,000) near southwest Atlanta are pushing for annexation by Atlanta, especially after Mayor Kasim Reed hinted that he’d offer the area a 10-year freeze on property taxes. According to sources, annexation attempts in south Fulton County, a predominantly black voter bloc, would counter the influx of white voters brought into the city by Druid Hills’ potential annexation.

“RELIGIOUS FREEDOM”

It’s back! One of the lawmakers behind the contentious “religious freedom” bill last year is planning to resurrect his measure that, essentially, could bring back discrimination to the good old state of Georgia. State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, says the measure would protect Georgia resident’s right to freely exercise religious beliefs, which is protected at the federal level, but not the state level.

But LGBT community members fear the legislation would let business owners deny gay people services or open the door for workplace discrimination based on religious grounds. There’s also concern from opponents that such a bill would make it more difficult for women to get access to birth control or for someone to leave a household affected by domestic violence. Or that religions could claim smoking marijuana is a religious ritual.

State lawmakers anticipate the “religious freedom” scrap will take place sooner rather than later during the session. LGBT and business group leaders started drumming up opposition as far back as Thanksgiving. “Georgia is better than this,” wrote Trey Childress of business coalition Competitive Georgia in a lengthy missive to lawmakers on Dec 16. “Our reputation, as a state, is at risk.”

McKoon claims the fears about his bill are misguided. He says it will do the opposite. But expect Democratic lawmakers — and maybe even some Republicans — to fight this bill.

ATLANTA’S WISH LIST

Every year, City Hall officials put together a list of issues that they want state lawmakers to address at the Gold Dome. The city has a few on its 2015 list that have popped up in the past: raising 911 call fees to cover rising costs, allowing the city to take quicker action against blighted properties, and loosening alcohol sales laws at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Officials also want the state’s OK to raise fees for people who pass through its courtrooms and jail.

Those higher fees — including a $10 court surcharge, $20 jail-bonding fee per charge, and $125 jail-booking fee per inmate — could raise more than $3 million each year. Megan Middleton, the city’s intergovernmental affairs manager and point person at the Gold Dome, says court fees would help cover rising costs and modernize the city’s judicial branch with much-needed software upgrades. The jail-booking fees would go toward training officers to better take care of inmates’ mental health needs and provide inmates with drug treatment programs. And the bonding fee would help cover construction, operating, and staffing costs for the jail.

The Southern Center for Human Rights has expressed concerns about the burden those fees potentially place on low-income or homeless residents. Should any of the proposals gain traction under the Gold Dome, SCHR attorney Melanie Velez says lawmakers should adopt specific instructions outlining what happens if people can’t pay the fees and consider waiving some fees for low-income individuals.

“While a single fee may not seem like a lot, for a person with nothing it is,” she says.

GUNS

Republican lawmakers — and plenty of Democrats — last year passed the now-infamous “guns everywhere” bill that made it easier to carry firearms in airports, bars, churches, and government buildings. There likely won’t be a repeat performance from gun toting legislators and lobbyists in 2015. Georgia Carry Executive Director Jerry Henry wants to see clarification on gun carry restrictions inside government buildings. For the most part, he says it’s likely to be a quiet year when it comes to Second Amendment issues.

“We don’t expect any comprehensive bills,” Henry says. “But it doesn’t mean we won’t try to get something passed.”

That is, of course, unless any gun control legislation lands in the hopper or someone attempts to scale back last year’s measure. And what about campus carry? Maybe next year. But don’t hold your breath for that fight in 2015.

CRAFT BEER

Georgia’s craft brewery industry has exploded in recent years. But despite the growth, the state’s industry lags behind that in most of the nation, ranking 47th in breweries per capita while having the nation’s eighth-largest population. Georgia is one of five states, and the only one in the South, where direct beer sales are still illegal.

To change that, the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild has hired a lobbyist for the first time in hopes of passing legislation that would allow breweries and brewpubs to sell up to six pints during on-site tastings and a 12-pack for off-site consumption. New legislation will need to be introduced, as the last effort died during the 2014 session. Brewers say they don’t want to change the current “three-tiered method,” which requires that three different companies make, distribute, and sell alcoholic beverages. Expect distributors and wholesalers to talk about higher costs and concerns over fewer regulations on a controlled substance in response.

If such a bill passes, the Guild estimates that more than 1,400 jobs would be created, $375 million would be pumped into the economy, and more brewers would be persuaded to open up shop.

UBER, LYFT, AND TESLA

Disruptive tech companies that have eaten the taxi cab industry’s lunch and wooed an increasing share of car buyers’ attention are on the defensive this year once again. The battle over ridesharing services offered by Uber, Lyft, and other Silicon Valley companies will pick up from where it left off last year, when lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would have required the companies to register with the state. At issue now is how much, if at all, the state should regulate this industry — with more stringent background checks and fees, perhaps, or let that good ol’ fashioned free market decide. A laundry list of recommendations released by a special committee that studied the issue late last year suggests requiring drivers to obtain chauffeur’s licenses, having companies register with the state, and even eliminating the safety inspection to help deregulate the entire industry. Considering the lobbyist might hired by Uber and Lyft (and the outrage from the companies’ fans and free-market boosters), expect fireworks. The auto dealer lobby will also set its sights once again on forcing Tesla, which bypasses the traditional dealership model and instead sells directly to consumers, to comply with the outdated law.

STUPID BILLS

State lawmakers don’t face voters again until 2016, which means we won’t see stupid legislation aimed at pumping up their base and scoring headlines, right? Wrong. The Gold Dome runs deep with boneheaded bills about abortion, seceding from the rest of the country, and involuntary microchip implantation (yes, really). We’ve already seen one imaginative measure filed in advance of the session: McKoon’s bill that would make driver’s licenses off limits to undocumented immigrants who have received special status from the feds to not be deported. But we’ll also see measures aimed at legalizing pari-mutuel betting and horse racing in Georgia and lawmakers bending over backward to discourage college sports fiends from coaxing athletes into situations that could get them suspended, à la University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley. Mention college football and lawmakers are quick to react. Say rural hospitals are shutting down and you won’t hear a peep. And if one lawmaker has his way, you’ll see fireworks all across Georgia, literally.

Source: Creative Loafing ATL

17

Jan 15

Musk: Solar & Utilities Can Co-Exist

The dreaded “death spiral” hanging menacingly over the heads of leading utility companies across the globe need not come to pass said Elon Musk this week during a speech at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Speaking to a packed press conference, the enigmatic entrepreneur behind Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX, said that the increasing penetration of electric vehicles, allied to a growing solar sector that sees more and more residences and businesses act as distributed generators, is likely to have a transformative impact on electricity demand.

“The future for utilities is actually not a bad future; it’s pretty good,” Musk remarked. “As we transition to electric transport, we’re going to see a significant increase in the demand for electricity.”

Musk’s remarks came amid fears among many utility companies that the rise in distributed generation (DG) in the U.S. could threaten the old centralized model of electric generation. As more and more people find it cheaper and easier to go off-grid with solar and battery storage, the cost of maintaining the grid increases, forcing expense on to remaining customers who, in turn, are more likely to extricate themselves from the grid.

This “death spiral” phenomenon comes at a time when electrical demand in the U.S. is falling. Figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) suggest that large-scale generators in the U.S. will produce less power in 2015 than they did in 2007 – despite a recovering economy.

However, this trend may well be reversed with the rise of electric vehicles, suggests Musk – a rise that is being facilitated by the growth of solar power. Indeed, the decentralization of power supply does not necessarily spell the end for the grid, SolarCity chief executive Lyndon Rive told the Financial Times, rather, it is a step-change that needs to be embraced.

“When you’ve had a monopoly for a hundred years, and you’ve never seen change, change may seem like death to you,” Rive said, adding: “People misinterpret what we [SolarCity] are trying to achieve and think that there isn’t going to be any grid.

“It is important that there is a grid.”

Rive’s cousin and SolarCity investor Elon Musk sought to assuage such fears further at the Detroit auto show. Speaking about utilities’ role in the future of the energy mix, he said: “Long-term, I think [electricity] demand approximately doubles, and if half of that is met from solar and half from existing utilities, to a first approximation the utilities’ business [share] remains about the same.”

Source

15

Jan 15

U.S. Solar Jobs Climb 22% Aiding Economic Recovery

U.S. Solar Jobs Climb 22% as Clean Power Aids Economic Recovery
By Justin Doom –

U.S. solar companies boosted their employee rolls by 22 percent last year, and now employ 86 percent more workers than they did in 2010, driven by rising demand in the world’s third-largest market.

Almost 174,000 people are working in the U.S. solar industry, compared with 143,000 in 2013 and 93,500 in 2010, according to a report today from the Solar Foundation. Another 36,000 solar jobs may be added this year, including factory workers, salespeople, installers, developers and researchers.

The growth indicates that solar energy is one of the industries helping drive an economic recovery in the U.S., while slumping oil prices are prompting oil companies to reduce capital spending and cut employment. About 3 million Americans found work last year, the most in 15 years, and one out of every 78 new positions was in solar.

“These are good, high-paying, high-skilled American jobs,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of the Solar Foundation, a Washington-based non-profit.

About 97,000 people worked last year as system installers, with 32,000 in manufacturing and 20,000 in sales. Approximately 15,000 helped develop projects and another 9,000 performed work that includes research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

SolarCity Corp., the largest U.S. rooftop developer, hired 4,000 people in 2014, almost doubling its headcount to 9,000, Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Rive said yesterday in an interview.

Jobs in the U.S. solar industry can’t be shipped overseas, Rive said. Fewer than 20 percent are in manufacturing, a sector threatened after government-backed Chinese panel makers flooded the market and drove down prices, leading to a trade dispute.

“These jobs will never be able to go to China — it’s impossible,” Rive said. “And they’re not just located in specific hubs — like technology in Northern California, entertainment in Southern California, the financial sector in New York. With solar, the jobs are super local, in your community.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Doom in New York at jdoom1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net Will Wade, Carlos Caminada

source

13

Jan 15

GA Lawmaker announces Landmark Agreement

Georgia Lawmakers Announce Landmark Agreement on Solar Financing Bill
Conservatives Praise Legislation to Give Consumers More Energy Choices

ATLANTA, GA– State Representative Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) today presented the Solar Power Free-Market Financing and Property Rights Act of 2015. The legislation would allow property owners to contract directly with solar financing companies and avoid the up-front costs of purchasing and installing solar panels. This consensus bill is the result of a year of negotiations between the state’s electric utilities and solar advocates.

“I have long been an advocate of energy freedom and an all of the above energy strategy,” said Representative Don Parsons (R-Marietta), Chair of the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee.

“My legislation makes it clear that Georgia energy customers should be allowed to access the best energy financing solutions the free market has to offer,” said Representative Dudgeon. “I believe individuals and businesses can make their own decisions about controlling their energy costs with solar technology.”

By eliminating the high upfront costs, leases and other forms of financing can make solar affordable for many more consumers. Twenty-two other states allow for such financing agreements, and even more do not directly prohibit them.

The bill has broad support from stakeholders including Georgians for Solar Freedom, a grassroots organization pushing for more solar based on conservative principles of national security, free market competition, and technological innovation.

Billy Kirkland of Georgians for Solar Freedom said, “Georgia families, businesses, churches, and schools should be able to install solar technology on their property using whatever form of financing makes the most sense for their situation.”

“Government should not be placing unnecessary barriers in the way of property owners who want to take charge of their energy bills with solar,” said Bobby Baker, a Republican who served on the Georgia Public Service Commission and now sits on the board of the Georgia Property Rights Council.

Georgia is one of the fastest growing solar markets in the nation. There are currently more than 150 solar companies employing thousands of workers in the state. Passage of this solar financing legislation would enable further private investment in local industry and job growth.

“We commend Representative Dudgeon and his colleagues for advancing legislation that will drive investment in the state’s solar industry,” said Jason Rooks of the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association. “With technology prices becoming more and more affordable, this legislation would clear the way for innovative solar companies to meet the changing demands of Georgia energy customers.”

Representative Dudgeon anticipates that he will formally introduce the bill later this week, then it will proceed to a hearing of the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. The legislation has already received bipartisan backing from Republican and Democrat bill sponsors as well as support from a broad-based coalition of conservative and environmental groups.

 
About Georgians for Solar Freedom:
Georgians for Solar Freedom is a grassroots movement of likeminded individuals that understand the value of generating more solar energy in our state. We push for more solar energy based on core conservative principles of national security, free market competition and technological innovation.

for more information visit GaSolarFreedom.org

6

Jan 15

Georgia: Nat’l Leader in Solar

Georgia’s abundant sunshine, coupled with the business strategies of Georgia Power and the state’s electric power cooperatives, have combined to make the state a national leader in solar energy, Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols told a small gathering on Monday in Oconee County.

Speaking to a group of about a dozen elected officials, reporters, utility representatives and others at an event he sponsored, Echols said Georgia is the nation’s “fastest growing solar state.”

Echols’ claim is backed up by a November report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Referencing 2013 data from the Solar Energy Industries Association, Pew called Georgia “the fastest growing solar market in the nation.”

Since 2010, when Georgia Power was generating 50 megawatts of solar power, the utility has been moving to add hundreds of additional megawatts of solar generating capacity, according to Ervan Hancock, Georgia Power’s renewable power implementation manager.

Among the projects in which Georgia Power is involved are initiatives at three Army bases in the state — Forts Stewart, Benning and Gordon — that will generate a total of 90 megawatts of solar electrical power. Georgia Power will own and operate those facilities, but it will also be involved in projects in which it will purchase solar power from facilities built by private developers, Hancock said.

In moving to become a national leader in solar power, Georgia and its utilities have opted largely against promoting the private installation of rooftop solar arrays, a strategy common in other parts of the country, in favor of “utility scale” projects installed on the ground.

Part of the reason for that, according to Robert Rentfrow, senior vice president for power supply at Walton Electric Membership Corporation, is that the cost of solar power equipment has dropped, particularly as China has gotten into the business of manufacturing that equipment. Now, utility-scale solar power equipment is “dirt cheap,” Rentfrow said.

Echoing Georgia Power’s Hancock, Rentfrow said “solar power is going to become an important part of our mix.”

Another part of the credit for Georgia taking a leading role in solar power generation, Echols said, should go to the Georgia Public Service Commission. Every three years, the PSC works with Georgia Power on an “integrated resource plan” in which the company charts a 20-year course for meeting the state’s electrical needs. As the last few plans were developed, the PSC urged Georgia Power to continue to investigate the feasibility of solar power options.

As a result of that incremental approach, both Echols and Hancock said, Georgia Power has been able to introduce solar power into its mix of electrical generation options with “no upward pressure” on rates paid by customers.

In other comments Monday, Hancock said solar power projects are becoming a part of Georgia’s economic development mix — particularly in the southern part of the state, where land is readily available and sunshine is plentiful — as private developers move into the solar arena.

Interestingly, while Echols used the Monday session to tout Georgia’s status as an alternative-energy leader, he also took a few minutes to criticize the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, a proposed agency rule aimed at cutting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. Echols said the rule, if implemented later this year, will drive up utility rates.

His comments echoed an open letter issued earlier this year by Georgia Power and two other electric utilities operating in the state, which noted that under the proposed rule, “electricity rates will go up.” The utilities’ letter went on to say that the proposed rule “usurps the authority” of individual states, and doesn’t recognize steps already taken by utilities to release carbon emissions.

Source

6

Dec 14

How Renewable Energy Jobs Are Changing America

How Renewable Energy Jobs Are Changing America

Few industries in the U.S. are growing as fast as renewable energy. As a result, renewable energy jobs are growing rapidly in everything from manufacturing to installation to maintenance. Workers with the right skills in the right location have a chance to not only find work but grow along with an emerging industry.

Companies like SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY ) , Vivint Solar (NYSE: VSLR ) , SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR ) , and General Electric (NYSE: GE ) are just a few of the fast growing renewable energy companies, creating the renewable energy infrastructure that is providing cleaner energy and jobs for the U.S.

As the industry grows, it’ll snowball: lowering the cost of energy for everyone and creating even more jobs. Here’s what you need to know about the industry.

Renewable energy job growth is astounding

To start, let’s put the global renewable energy industry in some perspective. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s Renewable Energy and Jobs-Annual Review 2014, there are 6.5 million people employed in renewable energy around the globe. Leading the way was 2.3 million people employed in the solar industry.

In the U.S., according to Environmental Entrepreneurs, there were 80,000 clean energy jobs created in 2013 and another 36,100 have been announced through the first three quarters of 2014.

The number of U.S. solar industry jobs grew 20% last year to 143,000, according to The Solar Foundation — 10 times the national average growth rate. In 2014, the number of jobs is expected to grow another 16% to 165,000.

The bottom line is job growth in renewable energy is strong and the industry continues to grow as costs fall.

Where the jobs are

Most of the renewable energy industry is currently concentrated in the Southwestern U.S. and Hawaii. California has an astounding 15,397 renewable energy projects announced, under construction, or in operation. Texas follows with 6,368 projects and Hawaii has 5,748 projects. Hawaii leads the country in solar rooftop systems per capita, a big driver of employment in the industry.

California and Hawaii have strong solar resources and Texas has abundant wind, which is driving renewable energy in those states. But what’s changed of late is the growth of renewable energy in the Northeast. Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey have put in positive policies and incentives for renewable energy, changing the landscape there. There are also shifts in the kind of renewable energy jobs being created, growing beyond just installing and maintaining projects. Companies like Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) , SolarCity, and even GE are building renewable energy manufacturing plants in the U.S. That’s something that wasn’t happening a decade ago.

The companies looking for new workers

Two of the fastest growing renewable energy companies in the U.S. are SolarCity and Vivint Solar. They’re rapidly adding installation and sales jobs as they spread around the country, installing solar on rooftops. These are medium skill jobs and installers may need electrician experience, but they’re not exactly high-tech. The same goes for installing wind turbines, which has become routine for companies like GE.

Where the interesting job growth is taking place is in manufacturing. Tesla Motors announced its gigafactory will employ around 6,500 direct workers and could add another 15,000 indirect jobs in Nevada. SolarCity’s gigafactory in upstate New York promises 3,000 jobs in Buffalo and 5,000 jobs statewide. We could also see SunPower announce a manufacturing facility in the U.S. in coming months, which would be another big job creator in solar manufacturing.

The bottom line is that the breadth of renewable energy jobs is growing from just installing projects to every part of the supply chain here in the U.S. This will drive more installations, more innovation, and even better policy for renewable energy companies as politicians support local jobs as they have in Nevada and New York.

How renewable energy jobs are changing America

Job growth in double digits is impressive for any industry. But in renewable energy, it may just be the start of a long-term trend. Costs for wind farms and solar installations are falling, making them more competitive with the grid and increasing demand. According to GTM Research, 67% of new electricity generation built in the U.S. in the first half of 2014 was wind or solar. Installations will need to grow as coal plants are shut down and nuclear plants age beyond their useful life.

Renewable energy is a booming business and that’s a big opportunity for investors and job seekers alike.

The backdoor Holy Grail investment into “Oil Boom 2.0″
A single, under-the-radar company has its hands tightly wrapped around both the hydraulic fracturing technology and know-how that has allowed this shale boom to take off in the first place. The Motley Fool just completed a brand-new investigative report on this significant investment topic and the company helping fuel its boom. Simply click here for access.

GA4SF Editor note: In Georgia alone there are 148 solar companies at work throughout the value chain.  These are jobs that can’t be outsourced.  

Author of the sourced article -Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of General Electric Company and SunPower. Travis Hoium is personally long SunPower shares and options. The Motley Fool recommends SolarCity and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Company, SolarCity, and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Original Source

3

Dec 14

WSJ- Builders Tap the Sun

“Any savings, especially when you buy a new house, is huge….Twenty percent off our electricity bill is a monthly discount that we’ll get forever.”

GOLDEN, Colo.—When Donnie and Michelle Holsworth bought a three-bedroom house here in October from builder Lennar Corp.  they got more than a home. The purchase included 20 years of cut-rate electricity powered by a Lennar-owned solar system on the roof.

Many companies have been trying to make it easier and cheaper for homeowners to generate electricity from the sun, chipping away at the utilities’ monopolies. The number of residential solar installations has climbed, aided by their declining cost and government incentives.

Now home builders have jumped in. Such systems are less expensive to install during a house’s construction than afterward, while some builders offer the cheaper option to lease a system rather than buy one.

The moves are applauded by solar advocates, who say the involvement of builders will increase solar usage while eliminating the steep upfront cost of the equipment, which can run from $10,000 to $20,000.

“Up to this point, retrofits have been by far the largest portion” of homes with solar power, said Rhone Resch, chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group. But that could change, he said, as more builders incorporate solar.

Few companies have gone as far as Lennar, the nation’s second-largest home builder. Consumers shopping for a Lennar home in more than 100 of its developments in California, 11 in Colorado and a handful in Nevada find that almost all the houses have solar panels. The company plans to expand the program to more states, focusing on locations that have programs to encourage renewable energy.

“We aren’t offering homes with solar as an option—it’s a standard feature” in certain communities, said David Kaiserman, president of Lennar Ventures, which oversees the builder’s solar project.

Lennar allows buyers to decide whether to purchase the system and generate their own electricity, or lease the system from a Lennar subsidiary, which retains ownership of the equipment and sells the power to the homeowner at prices Lennar promises will be 20% cheaper than the local utility’s.

Those homeowners still must contract with the power company for conventional electricity for times when the solar gear can’t generate enough, such as at night and on cloudy days. In addition, when their system generates more power than they use, they often can send the surplus to the public grid and get a credit from the utility.

By retaining the solar hardware, Lennar gets to collect the federal and various state rebates for installing it. The federal subsidy gives a 30-cent tax credit for every $1 spent on a system. States like California provide a rebate to cover part of the costs of installing solar. Colorado and others pay solar-power generators, usually homeowners, a subsidy based on how much extra power they produce to be sent to the public grid.

The energy savings that homeowners reap from owning the system and getting most of their electricity free often covers the system’s cost within five to 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL. That doesn’t include the impact of federal, state and local incentives. However, obtaining a mortgage for a new house equipped with solar can be tricky because the appraisal a bank uses for the mortgage might not value the system at full cost.

In contrast, leasing a system—by far the most popular choice among new-home purchasers—lets buyers avoid the costs and hassles of buying one, but they could end up paying more over the long term because they are often locked into contracts that last decades. If a homeowner with a leased system sells the house before the contract expires, the new buyer often must assume the lease.

“It’s a trade-off,” said Robert Margolis, a senior energy analyst at NREL. “A lot of people don’t want to put all of the money out upfront,” even if it means they “break even several years down the road.”

Technically, Lennar’s offering is a power-purchase agreement rather than a lease because Lennar doesn’t charge the customer a monthly rate for the system’s use, just for the power. Other solar-leasing companies charge a small monthly fee for leasing a system plus a fee for the power.

“Any savings, especially when you buy a new house, is huge,” said Mr. Holsworth, a 37-year-old firefighter who bought his solar-equipped house from Lennar in October for $405,000. “Twenty percent off our electricity bill is a monthly discount that we’ll get forever.”

Other builders, including KB Home and Meritage Homes Corp. , don’t keep ownership of the hardware but opt to either sell the entire system to buyers or let a third-party provider install and operate the solar gear.

Meagan and Kevin Randall bought a $462,000 Lennar house near Golden in October, contracting to buy the power from Lennar. The couple opted against buying the hardware out of concern it would become obsolete and lose value during the 20-year contract.

Ms. Randall says her family spent $212 a month on average for conventional electricity at their previous house. She expects that will be “cut in half” by buying solar power from Lennar, combined with her new home’s better insulation and windows.

Source :Write to Kris Hudson at kris.hudson@wsj.com

19

Nov 14

Pew Research- GA Emerging Solar Industry

Georgia’s Emerging Solar Industry Spurred by Policy

“The state is now realizing the economic benefits of renewable power, including solar jobs, which grew 225 percent last year to 2,600—the largest gain of any state.”

Abundant biomass and solar resources, falling materials costs, and innovative research have launched Georgia into the national spotlight as a clean energy leader. State and federal policies have helped to make the Peach State the fastest-growing solar market in the country. In addition, the state ranks No. 1 nationally in commercial timberland, making woody biomass—energy made from wood and wood waste-derived products such as wood pellets—a major component of its renewable energy sector.

Research by The Pew Charitable Trusts, released during a webinar with industry leaders, found that Georgia attracted $666 million in private clean energy investment from 2009 to 2013 and will generate an additional $4.4 billion over the next decade. Hydropower and biomass currently represent the largest installed capacity of clean energy technologies in the state, with 2 gigawatts and 765 megawatts, respectively, but solar power is the fastest-growing and is projected to increase by 535 percent between 2014 and 2023. Georgia’s installations represented 3 percent of all new clean energy capacity additions in the United States in 2013.

“Solar is more affordable and efficient than ever, and there are several reasons for this continuing trend,” said James Marlow, president of Radiance Solar in Atlanta, who presented during the webinar. “The cost of solar equipment is much lower, tax incentives now capture the total system installation costs, and the state’s utility industry now sees solar as a flexible, affordable addition to its electric generation resources.”

Although Georgia does not have a renewable portfolio standard—a requirement for utilities to obtain a set amount of energy from renewable sources—it does foster clean energy policies that have spurred economic growth, most prominently in solar power. Last year the Georgia Public Service Commission approved a motion for Georgia Power, the state’s largest utility, to add 525 MW of solar power generation to its portfolio by 2016.

The program, known as the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative, includes a solar buyback option that allows customers to purchase electricity from the utility’s solar portfolio. Interconnection guidelines let residential customers who have installed clean energy systems such as wind or solar link to the main electricity grid, and net metering laws allow them to generate electricity from these systems to offset bills from the power company.

“A suite of policies—a target, a buyback program, interconnection guidelines, and net metering—have catapulted Georgia into a national leadership position in solar,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s clean energy initiative. “The state is now realizing the economic benefits of renewable power, including solar jobs, which grew 225 percent last year to 2,600—the largest gain of any state.”

In addition to its leadership in solar power, Georgia ranks third in the nation for biomass electricity generation. In 1938, the state established the Herty Advanced Materials Development Center in Savannah, which, in partnership with Georgia Southern University, has been a leader in innovating wood waste-derived products such as biofuels and biomass power for over 75 years. The state added 100.5 MW of biomass energy capacity in 2013 and attracted over $150 million in private investment.

Research and development in the state is also driving solar innovation. Georgia Tech in Atlanta is home to one of the country’s two University Centers of Excellence for Photovoltaics Research and Education, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy. The program gives students an understanding of the technology behind advanced photovoltaics, researches device performance, and provides training for prospective workers. The center also offers recommendations to the Energy Department and industry on how to lower costs and increase efficiency of photovoltaic installations, helping to make U.S. companies more competitive in the global marketplace.

Source 

19

Nov 14

ICYMI- How Many Solar Businesses are in GA?

ICYMI- Did You Know how many Solar Companies serve Solar in Georgia?

There are currently more than 148 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in Georgia. These companies provide a wide variety of solar products and services ranging from solar system installations to the manufacturing of components used in photovoltaic panels. These companies can be broken down across the following categories: 32 manufacturers, 11 manufacturing facilities, 82 contractor/installers, 9 project developers, 9 distributors and 16 engaged in other solar activities including financing, engineering and legal support.

Additional Fun Facts about GA solar

Social Circle Solar Farm was completed in 2013 by developer Silicon Ranch. This photovoltaic project has the capacity to generate 30 MW of electricity– enough to power over 2,800 Georgia homes.

At 12 MW, Camilla Solar Farm is among the largest solar installations in Georgia. Completed in 2013 by Origis Energy, this photovoltaic project has enough electric capacity to power more than 900 homes.

Source

18

Nov 14

Deutsche Bank- Rooftop solar cheaper than Oil/Coal

The cost of rooftop solar-powered electricity will be on par with prices for common coal or oil-powered generation in just two years — and the technology to produce it will only get cheaper.

The prediction, made by Deutsche Bank’s leading solar industry analyst, Vishal Shah, is part of a report on Vivint Solar, the nation’s second-biggest solar panel installer. Shah believes Vivint Solar is doing so well that it will double its sales each year for the next two years.

The sharp decline in solar energy costs is the result of increased economies of scale leading to cheaper photovoltaic panels, new leasing models and declining installation costs.

Today, only 10 states boast solar energy costs that are on par with those of conventional electricity generation methods, such as coal-fired power plants. Those states include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico and Vermont.

Last year, those states using solar power accounted about 90% of U.S. installations. But, by 2016, Deutsche expects solar energy to reach price parity in all 50 states.

For example, the cost of solar-generated electricity in the top 10 states for capacity ranges from 11-15 cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh), compared to the retail electricity price of 11-37 c/kWh. In those states, there is currently about 6 gigawatts (GW or billion watts) of solar electricity installed. However, with the price of solar panels dropping, new solar leasing programs and the availability of low-cost financing, Deutsche expects an installed capacity growth of about 400% to 500% over the next three to four years.

Currently, the U.S. has 16GW of installed solar capacity, with nearly 5GW of solar capacity was added last year alone, according to Deutsche.

One of the factors spurring growth is the expiration of the federal government’s solar investment tax credit (ITC). That measure, passed in 2008, offered a 30% tax credit for residential and business installations. When it expires in 2016, the tax credit will drop to a more permanent 10%.

“Consequently, we expect to see a big rush of new installations ahead of the 2016 ITC expiration,” Shah stated in his research document.

At the same time, Deutsche Bank believes the cost to finance solar installations will also drop from 7.9% today to about 5.4% next year. Financing for installations is expected to stabilize at around 6.5% by 2019.

Amit Ronen, director of George Washington University’s Solar Institute, authored the ITC legislation in 2008. Along with the ITC law, one of the driving forces behind adoption of solar power and the ensuing reduction of costs, he said, has been the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative, which helps fund research, manufacturing and market creation. SunShot has a goal for solar energy to reach price parity with conventional power sources by 2020.

“They say they’re about 60% of the way there because [of solar] panel prices…. They’ve come down 80% over the past five years,” Ronen said.

The cost of solar panels, or solar hardware, used to represent two-thirds of the overall price to install solar power. Over the past five years, however, that has flipped to where “soft costs,” which include labor, permitting and advertising, now represent the majority of the cost.

The U.S. has lagged behind some other countries in progressive solar energy policies that have been successful in lowering soft costs of solar installations.

Germany, for example, has a generous fee and tariff policy, that guaranteed if a residence or business installed solar, costs would remain fixed for 20 years. The uptick in installations lead to massive price drops in solar energy costs.

“Germany made this massive investment in solar even though they have relatively poor solar resources,” Ronen said, referring to both a lack of solar hardware resources and sunny days. “For example, in the U.S. the worst place in the country for solar is Seattle. Germany’s worse than Seattle.”

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Germany also decided to shutter its oldest nuclear plants, and set its sites on phasing out all plants by 2022 in favor of renewable energy.

“So Germany is on the leading edge of high solar penetration rates,” Ronen said. “Overall, the experience shows that it is possible even in a place like Germany with relatively poor [solar] resources.”

Deutsche said solar system prices in the U.S. are expected to decline from just under $3 per watts today, to under $2.50 per watt over the next 18 months, leading to a further decline in the price per kilowatt-hour of solar to 9-14 cents, “driving further acceleration in solar shipments.”

The U.S. solar installer market is still highly fragmented, Shah noted in his analysis. But he expect that to shift dramatically over the next three to five years as large solar manufacturers and installers, such as First Solar and SolarCity, grow to facilitate economies of scale in a post-ITC environment.

 

“We believe the availability of residential leasing options…also acts as a significant growth catalyst for the sector, considering the fact that solar leasing companies are highly profitable and have strong incentive to maximize the number of leasing customers ahead of ITC expiration in 2016,” Shah said.

One area of concern is net metering, Shah noted. Net metering is the ability for residential and commercial solar installations to sell unused power back to utilities, making the electrical meter a two-way street.

Currently, 43 states and the District of Columbia have implemented net metering policies, some of which are more favorable than others.

Several states, such as Arizona, California, New Mexico, Idaho, Louisiana, Wisconsin, are discussing revisions to their net metering policies to include fixed monthly charges for residences and businesses that install solar to make it less competitive with conventional energy. The rationale, as given by utilities, is that they must build and maintain the electrical grid over which all power is transferred, so solar installations should be charged a fee to help pay for that.

Last year, for example, Arizona’s largest power utility — Arizona Public Service — sought a monthly rate increase of $50 to $100 for solar-using customers. Arizona regulators settled on a roughly $5 per-month fee for those solar customers of Arizona Public Service.

“Fixed monthly charges would make solar less competitive if implemented,” Shah stated.

(Source)- Lucas Mearian ComputerWorld

14

Nov 14

SEIA -Solar Energy Can Be a Game Changer for US States

Rhone Resch
President SEIA

With the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) annual meeting kicking off on Saturday, I wanted to take a moment to welcome the commissioners to San Francisco and talk a little about how important solar power is to the health of our nation, our economy and our grid.

NARUC is a national association of state Public Service Commissioners – the people who regulate utility services in California and around the country. Its members are responsible “for assuring reliable utility service at fair, just, and reasonable rates.” That means they are looking at things like where we get our power from, who pays for it and what they pay.

Commissioners, I urge you to look around you at what California has accomplished with solar energy. California has been a leader in grid integration – and it’s working. This year, a record amount of California’s energy has come from solar. According to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), in May between 11:00 a.m. and noon, solar supplied 14 percent of the total power used.

California will continue to increase the deployment of solar beyond these record numbers without compromising system reliability because of the establishment of standards for mandatory advanced inverters, energy storage mandates and the recent implementation of CAISO’s Energy Imbalance Market, to name a few. In fact, the California Public Utilities Commission has been spearheading the storage and smart inverters proceedings.

Rooftop solar means that utilities have to spend less on building new power plants, and it means electricity is used right at the point of generation, putting less strain on the grid. In fact, a Nevada study found that rooftop solar has benefits for all utility customers.

There are 50,000 solar jobs in California. Last year, it was a $7-billion industry, and since a year ago, the industry has continued to grow at an astounding rate. There is enough solar energy generated in the state to power nearly 2 million Californian homes. In fact, if California were a country, it would rank 7th in solar capacity in the world.

California already gets 5 percent of its electricity from solar. This investment in clean, renewable energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions each year equal to not burning 10.2 billion pounds of coal. Picture 500 miles of railroad cars – a line from here to San Diego – full of coal. That’s been taken away, put back in the ground and not burned. That’s 9.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide not put into our air. That’s 2.5 coal-fired power plants not pumping particles into our air.

Half of the solar installed in 2013 was in California. That’s a feather in California’s cap, for sure, but it’s also a sign that the rest of the country needs to do more. Commissioners, as you gather this week with your colleagues, ask yourself: How can my region add clean, renewable solar energy to the mix?

(Source)

13

Nov 14

Fortune: Republicans will be good for Solar

Vivint Solar boss Greg Butterfield, who explained his thinking in a phone interview with Fortune.

What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation:

FORTUNE: How important is the federal government to the solar industry, regardless of which party is in control?

BUTTERFIELD: I think the federal government steps in whenever something must be done to benefit the broader public. For example, it has offered subsidies for oil and gas since just about forever. It also provides the ITC tax credit for solar, which has been instrumental for us to build a renewable, lower-cost energy service. There is a step-down in the credit anticipated for 2016, but we believe we’ll still be successful after that happens. Actually, from a competitive standpoint, it may be good for us because one challenge to any subsidy is that it can prop up some under-performing companies that otherwise might not exist… But I don’t know that it would be good for the consumer.

Conventional wisdom has been that Democrats support green energy companies and Republicans do not. Is this not a fair dichotomy?

I would agree with that from a historical perspective, but the unique thing about solar’s value proposition now is that it’s equally important to both political parties. Whether blue or red, left or right. For Democrats and environmentalists, it’s positive because it helps change how the world views energy and helps us quit depleting natural resources. For the other side, solar can be about freedom of choice and companies that are creating thousands of jobs. What you really have here is capitalists making environmentalists happy, which doesn’t happen too often, and consumers are getting lower overall energy costs.

But hasn’t that ‘freedom of choice’ issue always been present? There’s no more freedom in choosing solar panels in 2014 than in 1984.

I think the main difference is that the solar industry is now much more mature. There have been significant advancements in making the technology more efficient and cheaper. By the time of the proposed step-down, we’ll have more than 40 states at grid parity — so this is really a new model and new way to create a more reliable choice in powere.

Any concerns that the tax credit ‘step-down’ could become more pronounced by this Congress?

I have not heard of anyone saying it will be a cliff, although I have heard certain people propose that the step-down not be as significant. If you look at the state level, the public utilities commissions are being more than fair.

From a business standpoint, are you just rationalizing or are you truly pleased with last Tuesday’s results?

I’m truly pleased. I live in Utah, which is very conservative, and my background in in building companies from nothing to billions of dollars in value. This is probably the best solution I’ve seen in my 25-plus year career, and think it is appreciated by red and blue because both of them include consumers and shareholders.

How important is the future success of companies like Vivint to getting venture capitalists to once again take chances on early-stage cleantech companies?

I think the better we do, the more fuel it adds back on the fire. I’ve been in VC myself, prior to coming here, and I think what happened is that a lot of people lost a lot of money and got scared. But there have been major disruptions in the technology. Whereas before you had subsidies holding up certain companies that maybe weren’t sound financially without them, we now have us and Tesla and SolarCity and a bunch of companies doing well by using more modern technology. I think that, over time, it will help create more early-stage investment.

 

(Source)

10

Nov 14

AZ Central- Utility Regulators want to hear

For Solar Freedom in Georgia to be considered as a solution, action by those who are advocating for solar will find it necessary to let our elected officials hear your thoughts.  The article below is an example of what we’ll need you to do to help make solar a reality in Georgia.

Arizona Republic (source)

Arizona’s energy regulators are making it easier for utility customers to voice their concerns over issues such as rooftop solar, smart meters and efficiency programs.

The Arizona Corporation Commission regulates utilities such as Arizona Public Service Co., Tucson Electric Power and Southwest Gas Corp. Five commissioners are elected to statewide office, and a staff of experts is in charge of researching utility matters and proposing rates and other policies through the proceedings at the commission.

The public has always been allowed to submit comments on commission matters and speak at hearings, but the commission is making that participation easier.

“The commission wants to be sure that citizens all across the state have the ability to participate in our important decision process and this new online access is an exciting new opportunity that makes that participation more accessible to all Arizonans,” Commissioners Susan Bitter Smith said.

In recent weeks, the ACC has added the capability to submit comments to a particular matter. The web site www.azcc.gov has a new link on the right side to “Submit a Public Comment for a Utility.”

An investigation into utility “smart meters,” which use radio frequencies to transmit data from house to house back to the utility, avoiding the need for meter readers. E-00000C-11-0328

•And a related application for APS to charge customers a fee to use traditional meters. Docket No. E-01345A-13-0069.

•A review of energy-efficiency programs, in which the ACC staff has suggested cutting the state requirements for utilities to conserve of their projected electricity sales 22 percent by 2020. Docket No. E-00000XX-13-0214.

•A general review of the rate structures used by utilities. Docket No. AU-00000C-14-0329.

For those who prefer to mail their comments to the commission, the street address is 1200 W. Washington St., Phoenix, 85007. And for those who don’t want to write their comments, they may call consumer services at the commission at 602-542-4261 or 800-222-7000 and share their thoughts verbally, which will be transcribed and added to the corresponding docket.

The commission also revamped the online docketing system, making it easier to find the documents on any given case.

Some people prefer to show up in person and speak during a hearing when commissioners are addressing an issue they are passionate about. The ACC made it easier to sign up online to speak during the public comment period during meetings. The feature is on the right side of the commission website at www.azcc.gov. During hearings, those who have signed up to speak will be called to the podium by the chairman of the commission.

The online submission form asks which utility “docket” a customer would like to address. Submitting comments to a specific docket ensures the comments will become a part of the official record for that matter and be available to all of the parties to the case.

Here are a few of the more popular dockets pending at the commission:

•A proposal from APS to put free solar panels on 3,000 customers’ homes. Docket No. E-01345A-14-0250

•An investigation into utility “smart meters,” which use radio frequencies to transmit data from house to house back to the utility, avoiding the need for meter readers. E-00000C-11-0328

•And a related application for APS to charge customers a fee to use traditional meters. Docket No. E-01345A-13-0069.

•A review of energy-efficiency programs, in which the ACC staff has suggested cutting the state requirements for utilities to conserve of their projected electricity sales 22 percent by 2020. Docket No. E-00000XX-13-0214.

•A general review of the rate structures used by utilities. Docket No. AU-00000C-14-0329.

5

Nov 14

GreenTech-Solar Shines without Subsidies

“72 percent of all residential solar projects in the state were completed without any state incentives in the second quarter of 2014…By 2018, California could be installing more than 2.5 gigawatts of residential and commercial systems with zero state incentives.”

 

The Legacy of California Solar Initiative
Over the last decade, most of the leading solar markets around the world have faced some kind of dramatic slowdown or freeze after starting out strong.

Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic have all had to suddenly adjust or eliminate incentive programs in recent years due to a frenzy of activity. In some cases, as in Spain and the Czech Republic, the solar industry virtually disappeared overnight after feed-in tariffs were retroactively rolled back.

American states such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have also gone through their own boom-bust cycles as incentive programs were changed, or tradable credit markets collapsed.

And then there’s California, which has had a much different experience.

While many solar incentive schemes have crashed and burned, California is quietly closing out its own state program two years ahead of schedule — and hardly anyone has taken notice.

“The program ended with a whimper. The California Solar Initiative did exactly what it was supposed to do,” said Bill Stewart, the president of SolarCraft, a solar installer based in Northern California.

The California Solar Initiative (CSI) was created by the state’s legislature in 2006 with strong support from then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had a vision of putting solar systems on 1 million roofs around the state. The goal of the CSI incentive program, implemented in 2007, was to support nearly 2,000 megawatts of residential and commercial projects by 2016.

Today, the state’s investor-owned utilities have exhausted nearly all available incentives through the program, surpassing the initial target by hundreds of megawatts. But unlike in other regions, installers in California are not closing their businesses or complaining about the end of the solar market as incentives disappear. Instead, they’re installing projects in record numbers.

According to data from GTM Research, 72 percent of all residential solar projects in the state were completed without any state incentives in the second quarter of 2014. California installers will deploy more than 1 gigawatt of residential and commercial projects this year, the majority completed without the help of the CSI incentives.

By 2018, California could be installing more than 2.5 gigawatts of residential and commercial systems with zero state incentives.

“Solar is still a really good deal for customers,” said Stewart, who has long since ceased applying for CSI incentives. Stewart did note that the federal Investment Tax Credit and net metering rules are still essential for making projects work in California, however.

How did California create a program with such a smooth phaseout?

The most important element, according to installers and program administrators, were volumetric reductions in incentives. Every time a certain number of megawatts was deployed, payments stepped down accordingly. That allowed the market to dictate incentive levels, instead of relying on lawmakers or an artificially imposed annual timeframe.

Even when utilities started running through their allotted CSI rebates — which fell to just a few hundred dollars per residential system last year — installers never slowed down. That’s because solar companies were able to drop their costs and rely less on state subsidies as the market matured.

By contrast, Germany, the world’s biggest solar market in terms of cumulative capacity, was slow to make legislative fixes to its feed-in tariff as the market exploded between 2010 and 2013. It is now dealing with billions of euros in yearly costs for contracts signed at the height of the boom.

“It really does speak to the importance of volumetric reductions. It was very predictable,” said Katrina Morton, a senior project manager at the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE), the organization that administered SDG&E’s incentives through the CSI.

The shift to a performance-based incentive model also ensured that higher quality projects got built.

Before the CSI, California’s utilities simply issued rebates based on nameplate capacity, with no performance requirements. In 2007, regulators created a performance-based incentive for commercial projects and an “expected performance” rebate for small commercial and residential projects based on geography, tilt, equipment type, shading and solar resource availability. The state was trying to avoid past problems that had occurred when some installers put up shoddy systems as quickly as possible to capture the rebate.

“I was around in the ’80s when they had the state tax credit with no guidelines. It got very scammy toward the end,” said SolarCraft’s Stewart. “We learned our lesson from that, and I thought this program was really well designed.”

There was vigorous debate within the industry over whether to establish a pure performance-based model or some kind of rebate structure. Ultimately, a compromise was reached: commercial systems of 100 kilowatts or more would get a performance-based incentive, and systems under that size would get the expected performance-based rebate.

“As the industry got accustomed to it, things started clicking for both residential and commercial in California,” said GTM Research solar analyst Cory Honeyman.

Both of those sectors now account for 2,825 gigawatts of capacity in the state, surpassing the initial CSI target of 1,940 megawatts by 2016. And California’s solar industry now supports more workers than all of the state’s investor-owned utilities combined.

However, for some, the legacy of the CSI is not as clear-cut.

Glenn Harris, CEO of the California solar consultancy SunCentric, believes that factors outside the program contributed to the growth of the state’s solar industry far more than the CSI design.

“The CSI program got some lucky breaks,” said Harris, who pointed to the eight-year extension of the uncapped federal Investment Tax Credit, the crash in global solar panel prices, and the growth of third-party financing as factors that were more important to the success of the program.

No one disagrees that California got a lot of outside help. But so did every other state with an incentive program at that time, said CSE’s Katrina Morton. California had a structure in place to take advantage of those external market forces.

“I think it was the perfect storm,” said Morton. “It wasn’t all on the shoulders of the CSI, but [it] certainly had something to do with it.”

Harris, who was an early critic of the program’s administrative costs and slow uptake during the first year, agreed that the incentives provided a measure of certainty for installers in 2009, during the worst of the economic downturn. “You could definitely say it helped the industry through some of those pains,” he said.

But it wasn’t clear in the beginning how successful the CSI would ultimately become. By October 2008, more than a year and a half into the program, the industry had only installed 90 megawatts of capacity. Harris and numerous installers complained about high administrative costs and long lead times for incentives. They also worried that incentive levels would step down too quickly if companies rushed to submit applications, even if the project never went forward.

“It was, in many ways, an overly burdened government program that made installers into administrators,” said Harris. Having a different program administrator for each of California’s three investor-owned utilities also added complexity.

Benjamin Airth, a senior project manager at CSE responsible for administering SDG&E’s residential incentives, said that the concerns from installers were heard. After a series of town hall meetings with the solar community, program administrators eventually created a paperless application process, streamlined incentive approval, and beefed up customer education and lead generation programs.

“Many of the efficiencies that were implemented were a direct result of installer feedback,” said Airth.

The changes worked. After a couple of years of modest growth, the California market eventually began to ramp up. According to a recent report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the CSI realized an incentive pass-through rate of 99 percent. That means almost all incentives were given directly to consumers — a sign of an effective system.

The results “suggest a reasonably competitive market and, at least from the perspective of incentive pass-through, a well-functioning subsidy program,” wrote the authors.

That effectiveness was proven by the lack of news about the program as it wore on. After some initial public concerns, focus on the CSI outside of California largely faded. That, say onlookers, was a very good thing.

“No news is pretty fantastic news for a solar program,” said GTM Research’s Honeyman. “If it works well, you shouldn’t be hearing about it.”

Attention has now turned to other issues related to distributed generation in California: net metering policy, storage procurement targets, distribution grid planning, and a bidding process for smaller utility-scale solar plants. Having fulfilled its mission, the CSI is quietly coming to an end — something that can’t be said for many incentive programs around the world.

Although California wasn’t installing close to the volume of solar that Germany did between 2010 and 2013, the state created a sustainable market without burdensome legacy costs. It now rivals some of the leading countries in the world in terms of cumulative solar deployment.

Attributing California’s solar surge entirely to the CSI would be wrong. But SolarCraft’s Bill Stewart believes the program was as influential as any other external factor guiding the U.S. solar market: “Without the CSI, the industry wouldn’t be nearly what it is today.”

(Source)

3

Nov 14

CPR- Residential Solar Expands as Cost Decrease

The price of solar panels is dropping fast. In the last five years the cost has plummeted seventy percent. That’s why one of the largest homebuilders in the country is making solar power a standard part of a home.
When buyers move into a Lennar home, solar panels are already on the roof. Lennar has built more than 100 subdivisions in California, there are four Lennar subdivisions in Colorado and the company plans to expand all across the state.

Lennar’s David Kaiserman says only 450,000 rooftops in America have solar panels on top, however he expects that number to grow quickly as the cost of solar continues to decrease and consumer demand increases. He believes there is a lot of opportunity to mainstream solar because more than 900,000 new homes are built in the U.S. every year.

Lennar is one of only a handful of builders in the country who are adding solar panels as a standard feature of a home.

Source Colorado Public Radio
Lesley McClurg

30

Oct 14

Bloomberg: Price Drops Solar Becoming Mainstream

Every time fossil fuels get cheaper, people lose interest in solar deployment. That may be about to change.

After years of struggling against cheap natural gas prices and variable subsidies, solar electricity is on track to be as cheap or cheaper than average electricity-bill prices in 47 U.S. states — in 2016, according to a Deutsche Bank report published this week. That’s assuming the U.S. maintains its 30 percent tax credit on system costs, which is set to expire that same year.

Even if the tax credit drops to 10 percent, solar will soon reach price parity with conventional electricity in well over half the nation: 36 states. Gone are the days when solar panels were an exotic plaything of Earth-loving rich people. Solar is becoming mainstream, and prices will continue to drop as the technology improves and financing becomes more affordable, according to the report.

Solar has already reached grid parity in 10 states that are responsible for 90 percent of U.S. solar electricity production. In those states alone, installed capacity growth will increase as much as sixfold over the next three to four years, Deutsche Bank analyst Vishal Shaw wrote in the Oct. 26 report.

The reason solar-power generation will increasingly dominate: it’s a technology, not a fuel. As such, efficiency increases and prices fall as time goes on. The price of Earth’s limited fossil fuels tends to go the other direction. Michael Park, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein, has a term for the staggering price relationship between solar and fossil fuels: the Terrordome. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it doesn’t sound very forgiving.

Solar will be the world’s biggest single source of electricity by 2050, according to a recent estimate by the International Energy Agency. Currently, it’s responsible for just a fraction of one percent.

Because of solar’s small market share today, no matter how quickly capacity expands, it won’t have much immediate impact on the price of other forms of energy. But soon, for the first time, the reverse may also be true: Gas and coal prices will lose their sway over the solar industry.

 

Source: Bloomberg http://bloom.bg/1u6SoNU

24

Oct 14

AP: Financing erases solar cost barrier

U.S. STUDY: INTEREST IN RESIDENTIAL SOLAR JUMPS WITH LEASING OPTION

Financing erases solar cost barrier

AUSTIN – Opportunities abound for residential solar companies if they offer homeowners solar panel installation for little or no money down and a low monthly fee. A national poll by EnviroMedia shows that a large majority of Americans are definitely or somewhat interested in new solar leasing programs offering just that kind of price structure.

“It’s no surprise we found 70 percent of Americans perceived ‘cost’ was a barrier to installing solar panels,” said EnviroMedia president and behavior change expert Kevin Tuerff. “Consumers are probably unaware of the plummeting cost of solar power, and most have never heard of solar leasing.”

The new EnviroMedia poll shows 48 percent of American homeowners say they have not considered adding solar panels to their home to offset some of their electricity use.  But interest in a solar option spiked when respondents were educated about the benefits of a solar leasing program. About 67 percent said that they were very or somewhat interested in such a program.

 

Green Power Market Untapped By Utilities
The study also found that only 9 percent of respondents said they currently participate in a renewable energy or green power option with their electricity provider. But 69 percent said they might be interested.

“Americans need basic education about where their electricity comes from and how clean energy works,” said Tuerff. “Unfortunately, only one-third of Americans said they definitely know the fuel source of their electricity, so we’ve got a ways to go.”

EnviroMedia’s poll was conducted online among 811 U.S. homeowners via QuickTake September 13-24. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

 

Source: EnviroMedia

 

13

Oct 14

USA Today: Can You Go Solar?

Can you go solar? Leases, loans make it possible

NEW YORK (AP) — A new financing offering could make home solar cheaper and more attractive to homeowners, and keep the adoption of home solar growing.

The offer, announced by SolarCity this week, is a loan that allows homeowners to install their own solar system on their roof for little or no money down, and pay less for electricity. Previous plans, while popular, turned off some because the solar company owned the system.

“The value proposition is becoming clearer and less complicated for consumers,” says Patrick Jobin, an analyst at Credit Suisse. “Solar is going mainstream.”

SolarCity’s new loan deal and current similar deals that involve leases or power purchase agreements can pay off — if you have the right roof in the right state.

For the deals to work, your roof can’t be shrouded in shade and you have to be paying a relatively high price for power.

Your state also has to allow you to trade the solar power you generate but don’t use for the power you need at night or when the sun isn’t shining.For that reason, the national solar companies that offer these deals, such as SolarCity, Sunrun, Sungevity and Vivint Solar, operate only in certain states, concentrated mostly in the Northeast, Southwest and West. For now, solar can’t compete with the power prices and regulations in Southeast and parts of the Midwest.

To help determine if a solar system is right for you, the solar company takes a look at your bill, and your roof, and then figures out if it can offer you a break on your bill.

The plans work by addressing solar’s big drawback: high upfront cost. A typical system costs $30,000. Before the lease deals and power purchase deals were rolled out starting in 2007 and 2008, that steep initial hit turned off many consumers.

A lease or loan deal spreads that upfront cost — reduced by a federal tax credit of 30% of the system — over 20 or 30 years, making the payments look more like monthly electric bills.

As the panels produce power, you need to buy less from your utility. You come out ahead if the savings on your power bill is bigger than the monthly loan or lease payment.

Lease and power purchase agreements now account for two-thirds of home solar installations, according to Shayle Kann of GTM Research.
The difference between a loan and a lease or purchase agreement is that the homeowner owns the system, and the federal tax credit comes to the homeowner, instead of to the solar company or its financier.

When the value of the federal tax credit — $9,000 for a typical system — is factored in, homeowners can pay substantially less for power over the life of the panels.

Most customers would probably prefer a loan, Kann said, assuming the savings are the same.

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said the company can offer the loans now because it has better access to financing, it can predict the performance of panels well, and it has decreased installation costs dramatically.

SolarCity’s loan terms do not require a lien on the house, which should ease the process of selling a home during the loan period. But, like competing lease plans, the loan generally requires a high credit score. SolarCity will only lend to those with a credit score of at least 680.

The loans will be offered initially at 4.5% over 30 years. Customers pay only for the power the panels produce each month, instead of a fixed amount. If the panels produce more in a given month, customers will pay their loan off faster. Solar power is cheaper than power from the electric utility, so a customer’s monthly electricity cost would fall further.

If the panels produce less, the customer pays less to SolarCity and, in theory, will not have to pay the loan off in full. But SolarCity is confident that it can predict the output of the panels over 30 years well enough to ensure the loan will be repaid.

“It takes the production risk of the system off the customer’s plate and puts it on Solar City’s,” Kann says.

Source USA Today

10

Oct 14

CNBC: Why Go Solar?

Why go solar? Homeowners say: ‘To save money’

Pat Kennell’s motivation for installing sun power in his home is typical of the solar industry’s new customer: He did it to save money.
The retired police officer from Stony Point, New York, said his cost of energy per kilowatt hour will go from 20 cents with the local utility company to 13 cents with his new solar technology. And it didn’t cost him anything to install. The firm Kennell worked with, SolarCity, offered him a lease program, where customers with long-term contracts can have the equipment installed and maintained for free. Rivals of SolarCity offer similar programs.

“I needed to save money. I’m retired, my wife is 70, we needed to save some cash, and solar is good for the environment. I expect to save about 25 percent off my energy bill,” Kennell said.

Kennell isn’t alone. The residential solar market is on fire, with homeowners installing solar systems all across the country—sometimes trying to help the environment, other times just looking to save money. And while the trend has sent solar stocks on a tear, it could disrupt some traditional energy companies.

U.S. home solar penetration still stands at less than 1 percent, but estimates suggest it could grow to as much as 20 to 30 percent by 2020. In dollar terms, the market is expected to hit $6 billion in just a couple of years.
SolarCity, one of the industry leaders with 36 percent market share, says that its crews are working seven days a week to meet demand, and sales representatives have multiple consultations per day to talk to people looking to make the transition to solar. Other solar firms express confidence in the overall market as well.

“The market has a ton of potential. It’s already sizable. We have three players valued at over a billion dollars, yet we’re only in less than 1 percent of U.S. households,” said Lynn Jurich, CEO of privately held Sunrun. “So if you look at the 140,000 homes that received solar last year, we can be competitive with local utility power in about 20 million homes.”

The Kennells expect their home to generate 83 percent of its yearly power needs from its new solar panels. And for times when the sun just isn’t enough, the home continues to be connected to the traditional utility grid so that it can have a backup source of energy generation.

When it comes to that traditional utility grid, however, the solar companies’ gain could be utilities’ pain. Companies like SolarCity are operating in their current capacity essentially as utility companies, so they’re disrupting the system and taking market share. Government rules require utilities to support green energy initiatives, so they have to comply and keep solar homes on the grid.

“Basically, we provide power to the customer just like a utility does—it’s just at a reduced rate. We like to consider ourselves a producer of power,” said Tim Ferdinand, a regional operations manager at SolarCIty.

“There are government mandates in place that influence the utilities. So right now, they’re accepting solar systems on a pretty wide scale—maybe not for forever, but for the foreseeable future,” Ferdinand said.

“The relationship [between solar companies and utilities], is mixed, honestly,” said Jurich of Sunrun. “I think we’re a threat to some, and I think people see the adoption, they see that it’s inevitable that solar is going to become a mainstream product. And for some, that’s threatening, and for others, they look at it like a business opportunity.”

Investors have long loved solar stocks, the group has been on a tear. SolarCity, for example, has gone on a run of greater than 400 percent over the last five years. But analysts still like solar stocks because there is so much growth potential.

The exchange-traded funds are one way to play solar, with the Guggenheim Solar ETF and the Market Vectors Solar Energy ETF two of the most popular.

Source: CNBC

30

Sep 14

Washington Post: Benefits of Solar Panels

Benefits of solar panels clear after two years
The Washington Post

By Peter Murtha

My wife and I considered installing solar power in our Silver Spring home after a renovation focused on energy efficiency still left us with large electric bills.

The renovation included geothermal heating and cooling, energy efficient windows and insulation throughout our 1920s bungalow, and sealing all air leaks with the assistance of infrared testing. Our starting point for educating ourselves on solar power was the DC Solar Tour in October 2011, which offered a great opportunity to visit solar users near our home and “ground truth” its costs and benefits. (This year’s tour will be held on Saturday and Sunday.)

The information we gleaned from the tour confirmed that we wanted a photovoltaic (PV) rooftop system. By November, we were getting proposals from five firms, including two that operate primarily in the leasing market. We were impressed with the leasing firms — and with the idea of being able to capture the environmental benefits and a bit of the financial reward of solar power while putting very little of our own money up front. However, given our plan to stay in our home for the better part of a decade, we decided that it would be advantageous to purchase a system.

The next step was vetting several companies via calls with recent customers to assess the accuracy of their production estimates and the quality of their workmanship. We also checked reviews available through Washington Consumers Checkbook and Solarreviews.com before we ultimately hired a local solar installation company.

This company had a strong reputation for quality, a very competitive price and, unlike some of its competitors, provided choices from a range of equipment manufacturers, including the Korea-based company manufacturing panels in the U.S. that we ultimately selected.
As is typical, the installation firm we selected used a sophisticated device called a pyrometer to measure the solar radiance received on our roof. This tool essentially builds a map of the sunlight expected on a particular roofline — preferably oriented south or west — taking into account your precise location (important for determining intensity of sunlight), tree shadows and other obstructions. This information, combined with detailed data on solar variability across seasons and local weather patterns, allows one to calculate the production expected from a particular solar array. It also provides information useful in deciding how large your system should be, and what parts of your roof are most productive.

We had a limited budget and wanted the system that would be most cost-effective over the long run. For our house, this meant a system of 32 solar 240-watt panels, each roughly 5 1/2 feet by 3 feet and 2 inches thick. The overall system size is 7.7 kilowatts. The panels are divided into two “strings” of 16 each, which are in turn connected to an inverter.

The inverters convert the direct current generated by the panels into the alternating current, allowing it to be tied into “the grid” operated by Pepco. Being tied to the grid means that you in essence “sell” the power you produce to the utility — which is great when you are producing more power than you are using. It also permits you to generate renewable energy credits but means that in a power outage, you are “down” with everyone else on the block. Having a solar array also means having a special “smart meter” (supplied at no extra charge by the utility) which measures the amount of power you are producing and the amount your home is consuming, with the “net usage” reflected on the meter.

During times of year like the early fall, when you don’t need heat or air conditioning, on a sunny day the electrical meter runs backward, as your generation is greater than your demand!

Perhaps the most important metric in our purchasing decision was the estimated annual production of 9,636 kilowatt hours per year, slightly more than half of our electricity usage for our 3,000 square foot home. While we could have installed more panels, there would be diminishing returns, as they would have been placed in increasingly less productive positions on our roof. The system — installed in a few days with minimal disruption to our household — covers the south facing part of our top roofline and less than half of our lower roofline (to best avoid shadows). Because they are on the rear of the house, the panels are virtually invisible from the street, and are not even particularly noticeable from the back. They are essentially maintenance free (i.e., they don’t require washing), though snowfalls can shut the system down until the black panels absorb enough heat to melt the snow.

Our gross cost, including all equipment, electrical panel upgrades and installation, was $35,000, which includes a five-year warranty on workmanship and between 12 and 25 years warranty on the components. As a practical matter, the federal tax credit of 30 percent made it far more affordable, and Maryland chipped in another $1,000 as a (taxable) clean energy grant, bringing our net cost down to under $24K. (The federal tax credit is scheduled to be eliminated at the end of 2016.) With solar prices tumbling, a comparable system would cost 25 percent less today.

A separate financial incentive is the Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) one earns in states such as Maryland (as well as the District of Columbia) which have a “Renewable Portfolio Standard” (RPS) mandating that utilities produce a certain percentage of their energy from clean renewable energy, such as solar and wind.

Since our system went online in May 2012, we have averaged 8,860 kilowatt hours annually in production and have netted $2,319 in SREC income (an average of $122 per unit). SRECs are sold at auction and have different prices according to the state you are in — they have a much higher value in D.C. than Maryland. Virginia is among a minority of states, generally located in the South, that lack a RPS that would create a market for its rooftop production.

When you are assessing whether solar is for you, the solar installers all provide detailed information about when you can expect to “break even” on the cost of your investment, factoring in estimates of your production, usage, SREC generation and even the “opportunity cost” of the money you have invested. In our case, it was estimated that we would recoup our investment in just over nine years. Because our production is not quite up to our projection (caused by an unanticipated shadow from our eaves and some down time due to inverter issues and snowfalls), it will probably take us closer to 10 years. Still, not too shabby when you consider that after 10 years we will own a solar system providing us free electricity, with a projected useful life of an additional 15 years!

Assuming that one has a roof positioned to catch the sun and the necessary fund, the prospect of cutting one’s energy bills in half and generating valuable SREC income makes installing solar verge on “no brainer” status from a purely financial perspective.

But that’s not the only benefit: By installing solar, we have already avoided over 16 tons of CO2 emissions. We feel seriously good about doing our part to avoid contributing to climate change and the lung and heart damaging pollutants generated by the coal-fired power plants the Washington area relies upon.

Overall, we are very happy with the combination of saving significantly on monthly energy costs, lowering our carbon footprint and creating a valuable asset for when we eventually want to sell our green home!

Peter Murtha is an environmental lawyer and co-founder of 350 Montgomery County, a grassroots environmental group focused on climate change action. He can be contacted at pete.murtha@gmail.com. His home is on the DC Solar Tour.

Source Washington Post

3

Sep 14

Press Release: Briscoe Named Director

September 3, 2014

ATLANTA, GA- Georgians for Solar Freedom (G4SF) today announced Craig Briscoe as the organization’s Executive Director.  Briscoe is a Atlanta-based political operative who is a veteran of Republican congressional and presidential campaigns. He has been tapped to work with grassroots activists, conservative politicians, and business leaders in an unified effort to advocate for the advancement of solar energy options in our state.

“As someone who has been deeply involved in conservative politics, I can tell you that solar issues are a natural fit for center-right politicians and policymakers.  We just need more conservative voters letting their elected officials know that increasing solar energy is not only good policy, it’s good politics,” said Briscoe. “Georgia is a Red State that is blessed with plenty of sunshine.  I can’t think of a better place to lead a grassroots pro-solar movement that can be a shining example for other states to follow.”

Georgians for Solar Freedom is a grassroots movement of likeminded individuals that understand the value of generating more solar energy in our state. Unlike some advocates, we push for more solar energy based on core conservative principles in order to accomplish key conservative priorities. G4SF wants more solar options because it is the right thing to do politically and economically for our state and our country.

To learn more about G4SF, please visit GaSolarFreedom.org.

# # #