Infographic: Celebrity Homes, Solar Edition

posted by Matthew Wheeland on September 23rd, 2013

Solar potential for celebrity homes
Celebrities have an economy all their own. Buying homes, renovating them, renovating them again… or just generally spending money with ease are all part of the rites of being rich and famous.

Of course, the most expensive homes also tend to be the biggest and most secluded, and while that might be great for peace of mind and escaping paparazzi, it also means a whole lot of rooftop. And what better way to decorate a rooftop than with an array of beautiful, sparkling solar panels. Below we take a look at what kind of power these celebs could produce if they went solar — and how many average U.S. homes they could power.

Rihanna’s Crash Pad

Pop’s edgiest princess isn’t like to settle down any time soon. But she did just buy a 7-bedroom home for a permanent playground in Southern California’s lovely Pacific Palisades. Sadly, though, while she could have a killer solar array, due to shade and her sun deck she’d probably only offset about 25% of her approximate energy use.

Location: Pacific Palisades, California
Details: 7 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, dining room with 14-foot ceilings, pool, rooftop sun deck, hot tub, and a stunning view of California’s coast
Cost: $12 million

Solar Appraisal:
Solar Potential: 28 panels (without sun deck), 10 kW system
Annual Energy Produced: 13,000 kW @ 6 hours of daily direct sunlight
How many “normal” homes could her system power? 1.6

Jennifer Aniston & Justin Theroux’s Temporary Love Nest

The soon-to-be newlyweds are camping out in a modest home in Beverly Hills until their nearby Bel Air mansion is built. Although renters usually can’t add solar panels to their homes, Hollywood’s hottest couple could probably finagle a deal with the landlord to pull some weight for the planet. Regardless of how the Aniston-Therouxs adorn their temporary residence, we can’t wait to see what they do with their $21 million Bel Air home, as early pictures show lots of open roof space.

Location: Beverly Hills, California
Details: 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, closed gate
Cost: $40,000 per month

Solar Appraisal:
Solar Potential: 30 panels, 110.35 kW system
Annual Energy Produced: 17,453 kW @ 6 hours of daily direct sunlight
How many “normal” homes could her system power? 1.7

Tom Brady & Gisele Bündchen’s Green Mansion

Solar panels already help this power couple run their home — both on the house and on the ground. Even in sunny California, however, solar energy will only go so far on a house this size. We estimate that their current system only offsets about 51% of their household energy usage, leaving their home light green at best. Going the extra mile, Gisele has stated on her blog that more than 80% of the house is built from recycled materials and also features a rainwater recovery system.

Location: Brentwood, California
Details: 8 bedrooms, 6-car garage, spa, pool, gym
Cost: $20 million

Solar Appraisal:
Solar Potential: 150 panels, 39 kW system
Annual Energy Produced: 19,280kW @ 4 hours of daily direct sunlight
Star Power Potential: 12.85 stars

Will & Jada Pinkett Smith’s Calabasas Castle

Nestled in a Malibu canyon, the Smith abode is protected from much of the coastal haze, soaking up much more sunlight (and heat). With its solar-friendly California location and expansive grounds, the Fresh Prince and fam’s home makes an ideal candidate for solar energy conversion.

Location: Malibu, California
Cost: $20 million
Details: 9 bedrooms; yoga and meditation room; guesthouse; horse facilities; basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts; private lake

Solar Appraisal:
Solar Potential: 80 panels, 19.6 kW system
Annual Energy Produced: 33,051 kW @ 6 hours of daily direct sunlight
Star Power Potential: 13 stars

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

It probably takes a
 village to run Brad and Angie’s brood’s daily lives, and it’d take a village to power their French estate, as well. If Château Miraval was relocated to Hollywood, they could use a system like Tom and Gisele’s to produce 72,000 kW per year and offset about 10% of their assumed energy usage.

Location: Château Miraval, France

Jessica Simpson’s Post-Osbourne Dwelling

Once home to Sharon, Ozzy, Kelly, and Jack Osbourne (and their army of small dogs) in the early 2000s, Jessica Simpson has since undertaken major renovation on the place, including converting Sharon’s famous walk-in closet to a nursery for her new baby. This Hidden Hills home’s expansive rooftop access is capable of accommodating some serious solar paneling, although shade might be an issue and require some landscape pruning.

Location: Hidden Hills, California
Cost: $13 million
Details: 6 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, swimming pool, patio, nursery

Solar Appraisal:
Solar Potential: 55 panels, 22,723 kW system
Annual Energy Produced: 33,051 kW @6 hours daily direct sunlight
Star Power Potential: 2.24 stars

Conclusion

Seeing celebrities use their notable influence for good is inspiring. We’d love to see more people take a note from Gisele and Tom’s blueprints for green home renovations to extend their solar energy in their homes and around the world — showing us their true star power.

4 Cities Brawling for the Most Solar-Friendly in the U.S.

posted by Matthew Wheeland on September 18th, 2013

NREL US Solar MapWhat a wonderful thing to have people fight about! Who is the Most Solar-Friendly?

In reading the daily news about all things solar, as I do for our news coverage on SolarEnergy.net, I start to pick up on the occasional trend piece lurking among the stories of people fighting against and for rooftop solar systems.

One inescapable trend in recent weeks is the push by cities to become the “solar capital of the U.S.” Whether through abundant sunlight, residents passionate about saving money and/or reducing their carbon footprint, or smart solar policies — or more likely, a combination of the three — there are a number of cities doing right by solar.

While I’m going to start this list in the most predictable of places, you’ll see below that the contenders for Solar Leader are by no means confined to the Sun Belt.

And before we begin, perhaps it will be helpful to review a couple of similar lists from weeks and years past: In 2008, this blog covered the Top 10 States for Solar Power; and back in July 2013, we covered a more recent list, created by Environment America, ranking the 12 best solar states based on their solar capacity per capita. Together, here’s how those rankings stack up:

 

2008
Rank
2012
California
1
Arizona
Colorado
2
Nevada
Connecticut
3
Hawaii
Maryland
4
New Jersey
Massachusetts
5
New Mexico
Minnesota
6
California
New Jersey
7
Delaware
New Mexico
8
Colorado
Oregon
9
Vermont
Pennsylvania
10
Massachusetts
11
North Carolina
12
Maryland

 

OK, now that that’s behind us, let’s start our own, completely, willfully unscientific list based on recent headlines.

1. San Diego, California.

There is perhaps no city less surprising as a contender for Best Solar City. San Diego is a sun-drenched, sprawling, wealthy metropolis that has also managed to put smart and encouraging policies in play to make solar affordable and desirable.

The city benefits from a number of state-level incentive programs, including the California Solar Initiative (CSI) rebate, the Multi-Family Affordable Housing (MASH) program and the SASH program for single-family homes. Although those incentives were all very much on the brink at the close of the latest legislative session, as we reported last month, the good news is that the state passed four laws that ensure a bright solar future for California.

At the commercial and municipal building level, San Diego has set design standards for county facilities as well as a Sustainable Building Policy, both of which encourage the use of solar and other renewable and efficiency technologies in commercial and public buildings.

But the local utility, San Diego Gas & Electric, is also encouraging rooftop solar installations through the California Advanced Homes program, which pays homeowners back when they build or renovate a home to be at least 15 percent more energy-efficient than the state’s 2008 building code requirements.

The results speak for themselves: According to research published by Sunible, San Diego had the most solar installations between the beginning of 2012 and the beginning of 2013.

And one could also make an argument that the first signs of a “culture of solar” are appearing in the San Diego region. Case in point: The local newspaper, the Union-Tribune, has included in its last two annual “Best of San Diego” listings a category for Best Solar Panel Company, which this year included five winners and five more finalists. Granted, solar companies are still competing for attention against, say, Best Casino Buffet, but I still take it as an interesting sign. (Also: congrats to the Seasons Fresh Buffet at Barona Resort & Casino!)

What better indication of the mainstream awareness of home solar than being able to shop for it at the mall? In August, Sunrun opened the doors on a pop-up solar information store in San Diego’s Fashion Valley Mall. The location is primarily a way to raise awareness about the many affordable ways to install a rooftop solar system, but it also features other ostensible crowd-pleasers like “energy-analyzer photo booth, weekly yoga classes, and theme days.”

With all that in mind, it’s clear to see why San Diego is in a pretty good place to claim the Best Place for Solar award. But there are plenty of other contenders out there — we’re only just getting started.

2. Lancaster and 3. Sebastopol, Calif.

In a blog post that started this whole idea for me, Devi Glick, an analyst at the Rocky Mountain Institute, wrote about two California cities that are pushing for the title of Solar Capital of the U.S.: Lancaster and Sebastopol.

Why these two cities, each unlikely but one more unlikely than the other? Both Lancaster and Sebastopol have recently passed solar mandates: All new homes in both cities are now required to have solar panels included, or designed to be ready for solar installation, at the time of construction. Sebastopol goes one step further and requires all new commercial buildings to be solar-powered as well.

As Glick points out, the two cities couldn’t be more different; Lancaster is a bustling city of more than 150,000 situated in the high desert of northern Los Angeles county; Sebastopol is a sleepy little burg of 7,400 on the outer edge of San Francisco’s commute zone in Sonoma County. Lancaster is staunchly Republican, Sebastopol even more staunchly Democratic (according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index).

Although both cities are following similar paths to solar growth — and although Glick gives both cities a tie on who’s likely to be the state’s solar leader — I’d give a clear edge to Lancaster.

As Glick points out, Lancaster’s size means that its mandate will bring more solar online: “Two hundred new homes are forecasted to be built in Lancaster this year, which means that at minimum 200–300 kW of solar will come online in Lancaster as a result of new buildings…. In Sebastopol only 16 new homes were built per year in both 2010 and 2011 … [which] works out to around 70 kW…”

And comparing the landscape of both cities, via Google Maps, shows just how much more solar potential Lancaster has, even if it wasn’t 20 times larger than Sebastopol.

Lancaster:

A Google Map of Lancaster, Calif.

vs. Sebastopol:

A Google Map of Sebastopol, Calif.

Even though we’re clearly picking winners here, it’s important to note that these policies are a great boon to rooftop solar, no matter where they are implemented. (But mandating solar in a big, bustling and conservative city goes a bit further in my book than in a small, liberal, already envrironmentally focused town.)

4. Gainesville, Florida.

When you’re a booming college town in the heart of The Sunshine State, solar seems like a no-brainer, right? Until 2009, it wasn’t. That’s when the city implemented its feed-in tariff (FIT) for commercial and residential solar. The program means the city’s utility will offer a fixed-price, 20-year contract to any homeowner or business owner that installs a solar system.

As the Institute for Local Self-Reliance explains, “The basic premise behind the feed-in tariff program is that anyone who wants to be a solar power generator can connect to the grid and get a 20-year contract for their power from the municipal utility. The long-term contract makes getting financing for solar projects easier and the prices are attractive. The utility pays 24 cents per kilowatt-hour generated for large-scale ground-mounted systems and up to 32 cents for small, rooftop systems.”

The program has been extremely successful, too; as of the end of 2012, more than 14 megawatts of generating capacity have been installed in Gainesville since the program launched. In a recent profile of the city leaders that helped usher the FIT into existence, John Farrell writes: “The program was also not terribly expensive, resulting in a rate increase of less than 1%. It also remains wildly popular, with support from over 70% of Gainesville residents.”

The broad adoption by city residents has made a huge impact on Gainesville’s standing in the solar community. As of the end of 2011, the per capital solar installations in Gainesville made it a global leader in solar, as this chart from ILSR shows: Based on kilowatts generated per 1,000 people, Gainesville ranks fifth in the world, behind four European nations and ahead of Japan and the U.S. as a whole.

Gainesville's global solar ranking.

Just as with the solar feed-in tariff program in Ontario, Canada, that we wrote about last week, Gainesville’s FIT is also undergoing changes, with the contract payments steadily declining since the program launched as the cost of solar falls. But the program so far has shown just how much demand there is for renewable energy, especially when homeowners can get a steady, fair price for the energy they generate.

Future Listmakers?

Seemingly everyone is vying for some leadership position in solar energy, to the point that Renewable Energy Corporation has created a series of infographics called Solar Smackdowns, which pit one state against another to see who’s got the most solar jobs, solar companies, solar homes, and the best solar policies. And while these aren’t city-by-city matchups, it’s interesting to see the shape that solar takes in each state.

So far in this series, Oregon has defeated North Carolina, North Carolina and Maryland have defeated Virginia, California has defeated Texas, Tennessee has defeated Alabama, and Georgia has defeated Louisiana.

And speaking of Georgia, a recent interesting development has put that state on my list of hopefuls: Over the summer, the Sierra Club teamed up with the Georgia Tea Party to push for more solar in the state’s 20-year plan. Through the groups’ lobbying efforts — under the Green Tea Coalition moniker — Georgia Power committed to increasing its goal to 785 megawatts of solar power capacity over the next 20 years, almost triple the previous target of 260 megawatts over 20 years.

Finally, I will turn the question to you: What cities am I missing? Who stands out as a solar leader that hasn’t made this list? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter: @MattWheeland.

Eight Ways (At Least) the Sun Can Help Your Home

posted by Matthew Wheeland on September 4th, 2013

130904-rmi-infographic

Eight Ways the Sun Can Help Your Home:

The good folks at the Rocky Mountain Institute have just published a neat infographic clearly explaining how to make the sun work for you — not against you — in powering your home with clean energy, and keeping your heating and cooling costs to a minimum.

The “Going Solar Infographic: Options for Homeowners” (posted below, but also originally posted on RMI’s blog), lays out 11 ways that the sun positively and negatively impacts your home — from the obvious (photovoltaics and window shades) to the less-obvious (solar pool blankets and low-e window film).

What’s more, RMI has done the work to identify how long it will take each of these 11 projects to pay for themselves. For instance:

Photovoltaics:
Generate some or all of your electricity with a solar PV system.
Average Payback: 0–23 years, depending on factors including financing, ownership, utility retail electricity rates, and incentives.

Clothesline:
Use the sun to dry your clothes — possibly the simplest and most affordable use of solar power.
Average Payback: Immediate.

 solar_options_for_homeowners_infographic-1440
Going Solar: Options for Homeowners

• Solar Light Tubes for Daylighting

Bring natural daylight into deeper interior spaces with solar light tubes.

Average Payback: 5–7 years

• Skylights

Bring natural daylight into rooms with skylights

Average Payback: Highly variable, depending on design, performance, and other variables, including home resale value

• Install Awnings & Blinds on Windows

Keep the summer sun from heating your house by installing awnings and/or blinds on windows that face east, south, and/or west.

Average Payback: 1–4 years

• Apply Low-E Window Film

Let light, but not much else, into your home with low-e window films that reflect up to 90 percent or more of heat.

Average Payback: 2–5 years

• Solar Pool Heating

Heat your pool with solar hot water panels.

Average Payback: 1.5–4 years

• Pool Cover / Blanket

Let the sun heat your pool and keep that heat in at night with a black solar cover / blanket.

Average Payback: < 1 year

• Photovoltaics

Generate some or all of your electricity with a solar PV system.

Average Payback: 0–23 years, depending on factors including financing, ownership, utility retail electricity rates, and incentives.

• Plant Deciduous Trees

Planting deciduous trees on the east, south, and/or west sides of your home keeps the hot sun out during summer but lets the light and its warmth in during winter.

Average Payback: variable

• Clothesline

Use the sun to dry your clothes — possibly the simplest and most affordable use of solar power.

Average Payback: Immediate

• Solar Landscape & Patio Lighting

Light walkways, patios, and landscaping with inexpensive, solar-powered lights

Average Payback: 2 years

• Solar Hot Water

Heat your water with a solar water heating system, saving 50–80 percent off water heating bills.

Average Payback: 6–10 years, depending on cost of gas or electricity and how much solar offsets the total hot water bill.

Home Energy Management: Getting the Most Out of Your Solar Home

posted by Matthew Wheeland on August 28th, 2013

130828-alarmpost1[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of blog posts about smart home energy management from our partners at Alarm.com, makers of the Connected Home platform. In the coming months, their experts will examine the features and benefits of energy management in the connected home. This month, Jay Kenny offers an introduction to how energy management can dramatically reduce your energy use, allowing you to get even more benefit from your rooftop solar system.]

You’re reading this blog because you’re either already invested in a home solar energy system or are considering installing rooftop solar — clearly, you’re concerned about your energy use. But one overlooked aspect about home energy use is that managing your energy can have as big an impact on your monthly bill than where your energy comes from.

At Alarm.com, we have more than 1 million homes signed on to our Connected Home platform, giving us plenty of insight about the power of connecting all the home’s critical devices together through a single technology platform. With a unified approach to energy management, you can boost your efficiency by making your smart thermostat smarter, giving homeowners more control over more power-hungry devices, and make energy management effortless with the latest automation technologies.

Smart-ER Thermostats

The connected home makes smart thermostats even smarter. While single devices create schedules and patterns based on one room, the connected home uses data from all around the home to provide a more accurate and comprehensive automation schedule.

The home’s security system includes motion detectors, door and window sensors (as well as an alarm’s status itself) can give a complete and real-time view of activity and occupancy. We call this “whole home data,” and it’s the backbone of creating highly accurate activity patterns and automation schedules for maximizing savings while maintaining your comfort.

Connect Everything

While smart thermostats hold great promise for reducing energy consumption, it’s important to know that heating and cooling no longer represent the biggest segment of energy use for the average U.S. home. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration appliances and electronics are the fastest growing segment today. To make a real dent in energy costs homeowners must also control and automate these power-hungry appliances and devices.

Comprehensive control over devices in the home gives the homeowner greater options to achieve ambitious energy savings goals. In addition to thermostats, home energy management automates lighting and shading, and even controls power use at each individual plug and any individual appliance connected to it. For instance, you can shut down your electric hot water heater for a few hours every night, or use a light control module on motion sensitive, outside security lights so they don’t waste power during day light hours.

Effortless Automation

Creating this complex level of automation in home energy management is one thing — and no small feat, at that — but the next big step is to make it easy, or even invisible. That’s where your smartphone can help with energy management. With a smartphone connected to your energy management platform, you can automatically adjust your home to a personalized energy savings mode by doing nothing more than taking your smartphone with you when you leave the house.

These types of geo-services help homeowners create effortless energy management practices.

Implementing these practices in your solar-powered home can go a long way toward getting the most out of your rooftop solar system, but they’re really just the beginning. In our next post, we’ll talk about the more advanced capabilities of a comprehensive home energy management platform, and the ways it can target power hungry devices and drive your energy bills even lower.

jay-kennyJay Kenny is the VP of Marketing for Alarm.com, the makers of the Connected Home platform and advanced energy management services.

Alarm.com has well over 1 million homes subscribed to our Connected Home platform, and we have seen growing consumer interest across all the entire range energy management capabilities in the Connected Home. This includes core energy management capabilities like smart thermostats, lighting control and schedule optimization, as well as the more comprehensive energy features for monitoring appliance and whole home consumption, integrating green button data, connecting to the smart grid, and leveraging cleaner energy sources like solar power. With the Connected Home consumers can create a personalized energy management plan that’s easy to implement and that fits their goals; whether it’s saving money or the planet.

Plug photo CC-licensed by Wikimedia user Kiddo.

Are Solar Companies Really Committed to Sustainability?

posted by Matthew Wheeland on August 23rd, 2013

130824-solar-pollutionDoes it really matter if solar manufacturers aren’t that green? That’s the question I asked last week, in the wake of a report from the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC).

The report, which scored the top 40 solar manufacturers on 12 social and environmental factors, found pretty dismal results: even the best companies — Trina, Yingli, SunPower, Upsolar and Solarworld — scored only so-so overall: Trina leads the pack with a score of 77 out of 100, while SolarWorld scored 64. Most of the companies — 25 out of 40 — earned fewer than 30 points in the rankings.

In response — though never directly mentioning SVTC’s report — the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is reiterating its commitment to sustainability.

Writing in RenewableEnergyWorld, John Smirnow, SEIA’s Vice President of Trade & Competitiveness, underlines the steps that SEIA has taken to get its member companies in line with sustainability best practices.

Starting in 2010, the SEIA convened representatives from across the solar industry to draft guidelines for social and environmental responsibility. The result was the creation of the Solar Industry Commitment to Environmental and Social Responsibility. Smirnow writes:

“The Solar Commitment established a set of solar-specific and general best practice provisions regarding the environment, labor, ethics, health and safety, and company management practices. The Solar Commitment has been adopted by companies throughout the solar supply chain, and companies that sign on must provide an annual report on several key performance indicators.”

Smirnow also lays out some of the areas where SEIA has created guidelines:

Of course, what’s missing is any kind of mandatory, binding requirement for SEIA members to abide by these practices — or, barring that, some clear, vocal commitment from the leading lights of the solar industry to support them. Sunpower, which scored third on the SVTC scorecard, has a sustainability page, including a sustainability report (albeit one that dates back to 2010…).

In fact, on the SVTC scorecard, nine of the top 10 companies have some kind of sustainability page — only REC Solar doesn’t have a page, but lists a commitment to “sustainability and environmental stewardship” on its About page. That’s a decent first step, but a report published earlier this month by two European waste-collection agencies, PV Cycle and Ceres, found that only 10 percent of the European Union’s solar waste gets recycled. Clearly, there’s plenty of room to improve.

I’ve been around the sustainable business beat for a long time, and solar is definitely not alone in looking up a long, rocky path to achieve real sustainability successes. There is a nearly unimaginable amount of work needed to bring the solar industry up to the same levels that other industries have acheived — but it can be done.

Plenty of companies in other technology- and manufacturing-intensive sectors have done great work on reducing their environmental impacts. The auto industy is a great example of a sector that is indirectly responsible for a huge slice of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and in the U.S. and Europe especially has managed to turn it around in ways that would have been unimaginable even 10 years ago.

Perhaps the big unasked question so far is: Do solar homeowners care?

To some extent it seems like a silly question — of course people who are investing potentially significant amounts of time and/or money to generate some or all of their electricity from the sun are trying to reduce their carbon footprints, right?

But the reality may be much more complicated, or it may be even less complicated, just counterintuitive: Even a year ago, we conducted a survey to find out why people go solar and found that nearly 75 percent wouldn’t have done it just to reduce emissions — the economic incentives were the real driver.

So I’ll put it to you: How much do you, readers, know or care about the environmental and social impacts of the solar systems you’re installing or considering for your homes? Does it matter more or less or the same if those panels were built in your own state (as opposed to overseas)?

Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, or tweet them at me @mattwheeland. I’d love to hear from you!

Cracked solar panel photo CC-licensed by Steve Rainwater.

Solar Leasing: Why It’s a Bright Idea

posted by Ashley Seashore on August 7th, 2013

This post is provided by Chris Long, an associate with Home Depot who covers home electrical topics for the HomeDepot.com.

Housetop with solarIn this day and age of heightened awareness about global warming and how our past actions have impacted the environment in ways we never imagined, it seems crazy to have tools that will helps us correct ourselves but decline to use them.

Of course, fans of solar power need no convincing when it comes to the concept of working with nature rather than against it. But for those who are unsure – or even opposed to it, based solely upon the potentially prohibitive costs associated with establishing a home system for harnessing the power of solar – there’s a lease option. Depending on the provider you go with, at the end of your contract term, you might have the option to purchase the system at a fair market value or possibly be given the system outright. Again though, it depends on the provider.

Already permissible in 15 states and the District of Columbia, solar leasing is one way that the power of the sun can be yours even if you are not financially equipped to invest in an entire solar setup.

The way it works is really easy to understand: In essence, private companies purchase the solar panels, lease them to you, and you pay them instead of your utility company.

However, many states are resistant to this process because legislators argue that the third party provides a utility which is therefore subject to regulation… their regulation. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking means that solar leasing does not exist in over two-thirds of the nation.

So who’s right? Like in every debate, you should familiarize yourself with the merits and shortcomings of both sides before making a decision and to help with that, here’s a bit more on the arguments from different angles.

We, the People

On the one hand, private citizens argue their right to engage in a free market economy in any way they choose – that’s what free means, right? They point to benefits such as:

  • Affordable Upfront Costs: Since many folks lack the upfront funds to outfit their entire property with solar cells, having an option that merely requires monthly payments is financially feasible.
  • Lower Utility Bills: Citizens can start saving right away on utility bills with solar power.
  • Greener Impact on the Planet: Not only do you get to reduce your wasteful energy consumption immediately, but you also pay it forward by encouraging others to do the same as a result of your example.
  • Flexibility: Leasing the solar equipment means you have the ability to grow with the technology – pay for what you use and “upgrade” down the road if you so choose. Right now, upgrades are typically allowed at the end of the lease, which averages 20 years.

Promote the General Welfare?

Of course, the benefits to the individual abound but what about the general public and consumers as a whole: is solar leasing still a great option when you consider the big picture? Well, consider these two points:

  • Job Creation: Many proponents argue solar leasing is a good thing across the board because it creates jobs. In a down economy or one experiencing high levels of unemployment, we can’t afford to turn away opportunities that result in job creation.
  • Stronger as a Unit: Any time we can strengthen the utility grid with renewable energy and reduce our reliance on non-sustainable energy sources, that’s a good thing!

Governmental Grab Bag

At the same time, one argument in opposition to solar leasing is that many governmental incentives specifically created to encourage renewable energy investments by individuals are now placed back into the pockets of the corporations they were designed to circumvent.

Some of the biggest carrots dangled by the various governmental bodies include:

  • A 30% federal tax credit
  • State and utility-derived cash incentives
  • Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) that companies can purchase to offset carbon emissions

A popular assumption is that you might be out of luck if you lease your system and then decide to sell your home. It’s actually quite the opposite. LBNL found that homes with solar sold faster and for more than their counterparts without panels. (Ed. Note: We at 1BOG even made a video about this.) Systems are actually very easy to transfer and if you do end up paying down the remaining payments, you can add that to the cost of the house.

But at the end of the day, there are ways to make a solar lease work for you – and work for the good of everyone else in the process – as long as you’re fully informed of all lease terms before getting involved.

 

About Chris Long
Since 2000, Chris Long has been a store associate at a Home Depot in the Chicago suburbs. Chris writes on electrical topics for the home, including solar panels and LED bulbs, for the Home Depot website, as well as on other home improvement areas of interest to homeowners.

Infographic: Heroes and Villains of the Renewable Energy Debate

posted by Ashley Seashore on June 27th, 2013

Infographic: Five Weird Signs the Economy is Improving

Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Holmes wants to tell you about solar

posted by Ashley Seashore on June 21st, 2013

mike holmes wants to tell you about solar

MIke Holmes, host of “Holmes on Homes”

We take solar education seriously around here, so any opportunity to help increase awareness and intelligence around the benefits of adopting our favorite renewable energy is something we jump on. Today, we’re taking it in a pretty exciting direction. Our parent company, Pure Energies Group, has worked out a cool partnership with Mike Holmes, host of “Holmes on Homes” on the HGTV channel and general good guy when it comes to anything home-related.

He’s got a great piece up on Make It Right already, detailing everything from how solar works to how to get the best performance from your panels when dealing with roof pitch, shading, daylight hours, and more. It’s a fantastic 101 on solar and a great place to start educating yourself.

 

 

Mass Extinction, Solar Evangelism, and Stock Portfolios: An Interview with Reporter Scott Thill

posted by Ashley Seashore on June 12th, 2013

Ever wonder what people who have been reporting on climate change think about it? Scott Thill, long-time writer and rabble-rouser for outlets like WIRED, Salon, Grist, and AlterNet, talked to 1BOG this week, delivering a wake-up call for even those of us paying attention to what’s happening to our environment. Obviously we here at 1BOG are big on all things solar, but we’re also very aware of the need for a larger scope when looking at what value we’re adding to the world so Scott’s insights are particularly awesome.

For the record, Scott has been reporting on climate change for more than ten years so he’s got some chops when it comes to what’s what. He also runs the online mag Morphizm, where he covers climate change (of course), economy, politics, and, once in a while, produces amazing pieces of smart pop culture (see this and this). Cool bonus factor: he’s a big fan of the Pixies and David Lynch. Read our interview with him below. 

When did you first start reporting on climate change? What was the first story you did on the topic? How did it come about?

I became interested in the topic during grad school in the 90s, but it became a daily obsession after 9/11. Once I became an official freelance journalist in the early 00s, I started writing and reporting foundational articles on the economic recession, climate refugees (“envirogees”), exponential warming (“exponology”), extreme weather, mass extinction, geoengineering and much more for AlterNet, Salon and my own site Morphizm. But this year I shut down most of the pop and culture coverage I’ve written for Wired and others in favor of mostly enviro and economic research and reporting. We’re in a race against time, and losing.

In your view, how has the conversation changed over time? Has it become more sophisticated? White noise? Too splintered?

Read the rest of this entry »

How To Become a Fracking Insurgent

posted by Ashley Seashore on June 7th, 2013

Still from ‘Gasland’ depicts fracking process

“Fighting fracking is unbelievable.” That understatement comes from Sharon Wilson, or TXSharon as she’s become known among the anti-fracking brigade. We got to know her when she decided to go solar through 1BOG, and we’ve been learning from her ever since.

Sharon’s commitment to anti-fracking started slowly after fracking began to happen around her in early 2000. Like everyone else in her Texas town, she thought fracking would be a great economic boon. “I thought I’d get rich,” she says. “I just wanted to hear about the money; didn’t want to hear about the environmental impact. But what was happening around me was so horrific that I couldn’t ignore it.” Read the rest of this entry »

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