Solar Tax Credit is Extended – Remains 26% for Two More Years

As part of the $900 Billion COVID Relief Bill that was passed and signed at the end of December, the item that will most immediately affect our clients this year is the extension of the 26% ITC (Investment Tax Credit.)  It has been slated to decrease to 22% this year and expire next year, however we now have the 26% for this year and 2022, then 22% for 2023, then expiration.

SO – if you have been considering solar for your roof, there has never been a better time than right now!

There were other clean energy related aspects of the bill, and several policies that solar advocates have been working for that still need to be worked towards with the next administration.  Green Tech Media provides a nice summary here  https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/what-renewable-energy-and-energy-storage-did-and-didnt-get-from-congress-this-week

We are looking forward to a very positive, very sunny year, and working hard every day to install as much local clean solar for our clients as possible.  Happy New Year to all.

10 Kw Ground Mount, November 2020

 

Year-End Rebate Available from Sunpower

We have been Sunpower dealers for over 10 years now, and we are happy with this partnership.  Sunpower has navigated the changing solar industry with aplomb, and we are confident in the quality we are providing for our customers with this product.  Their 25 year warranty guaranteeing 92% power output leads the industry.

Promotions and any savings are nice, though the reason we work with Sunpower is because of the high efficiency, long-term reliability, and the stability of the company.  Sunpoower is not generally big on promotions, however they are offering homeowners a $1,020 manufacturer’s rebate in the form of a VISA Reward Card through year-end.  If you have been considering installing a solar pv array on your home, this may be the news you are looking for to call you to action.

Promotion Details

  • Promotion available until December 31, 2020.
  • Homeowners are eligible for a $1,020 manufacturer’s rebate in the form of a VISA Reward Card.
  • Customers must sign a purchase or loan agreement by midnight on December 31, 2020.
  • System must be deployed by March 26, 2021.
  • This offer is only valid on SunPower Equinox® AC systems.
  • Minimum size systems of 2.8 Kw
  • Cannot be combined with any other SunPower promotions

5.25 KW Sunpower pv array on Clallam PUD grid in Sequim, Sept 2020

80% of Americans Can Not Install Solar on their Roof. Are you a member of the 20%?

This statistic in itself is not new, and Solstice arrived at this number using simiilar methodolgy I have seen used to yield similar results in the past. They are considering homeownership, shade vs solar resource, credit worthiness, and local regulations.  Credit to their article, link is here –  https://solstice.us/solstice-blog/why-americans-cant-access-rooftop-solar/

Our original quick and easy estimate of houses with roofs that could install solar on the Olympic Peninsula came from our friend Jake Wade, who used to work for PSE.  He guessed that 1/3 of the homes were owner-occupied by people with good credit, and that 1/3 of the homes had a good sunny roof – yielding 1/9, or 11% of homes here being good candidates for solar arrays.  Other estimates often yield a slightly higher potential percentage.  Currently in Jefferson County, about 2% of all electrical meters are net metered, indicating we could increase the number of solar arrays by a factor of 5 to 10 times, and that is our goal.

Community Solar in WA – past and future

For the remaining ~80%, many people support the idea of Community Solar.  This is a structure in which many people buy shares of a large array, and get the proper credit on their electric bill, the benefit of whatever portion of the larger array they own.  Community Solar has seen a couple of iterations so far here in Washington State, neither of which was easy to put together.  We installed two such projects, one of which we developed ourselves, with a team of fantastic partners, all figuring it out as we went, hoping to develop a project design and manual that others could replicate.  While the project itself was a success (if we don’t count only dollars and not the time and value of countless hours of work on development, we will count that as education), we did learn that we didn’t think the laws and programs in place at the time supported healthy community solar projects, so did not accomplish our goals of developing a replicable project.  The second project was installed for Clallam PUD, and was their baby, well-executed.  We just helped promote a bit, and performed an inexpensive, efficient, aesthetic installation.

At this point, to my understanding of what is in place at the state level, any utility could develop a community solar project any time, and design the program and pricing as they see fit.  There are no special state incentives at this moment, and utilities are mainly tasked with providing reliable and inexpensive electricity, and they really focus on that which they should.  So it is not a surprise to me that we don’t see utilities developing new community solar projects at this moment.  There will be new and improved legislation proposed in Olympia in the spring, and this moment will require ingenuity to find positive paths towards some economic recovery – just exactly what is available in community solar programs.  We will let you know more about those efforts soon as they firm up.

Today – Solar for your Home

In the meanwhile, if you are one of the 20%-ers that has a good sunny roof on a home you own, and sufficient funds or credit to make this investment in your home, there has probably never been a better time to make that investment in solar.  There is a 26% federal tax credit available through the end of the year, next year it becomes 22%, and then gone after 2021.  In times of uncertainty, we know the sun will rise tomorrow and that investments in your self and your home are a safe and wise choice.

11.7 KW – Bremerton Residence – 2019

Rebuilding the World We Want – Clean Safe Infrastructure

Globally, we are experiencing a significant disruption to the economy to which we had become accustomed, due to our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  While the questions remain as to if and how we should go about resuming our previous businesses and consumer habits, we can view this moment as a great opportunity.  At an individual level, many people have expressed appreciation for the opportunity to leave behind some old habits, and embrace some of the aspects of life that have been foisted upon us, but which we find fulfilling.  Spending more time with family, working on our homes and in our gardens, and less time spent commuting are all some positive results that some people have experienced in the last several months.

As a country, we have not been taking care of many things, including our transportation infrastructure as well as we could have, and as a result, we find many bridges and highways are old and in poor condition.  We need to perform many seismic retrofits as we now better understand the dangers of earthquakes, and have better materials science available to us to build more resilient structures.  Many of our public buildings are aging and inefficient, and present great opportunity for us to re-invest in improvements which will result in greater energy efficiency and improved indoor air quality.

We also need to address our carbon emissions, and we are now in the position to greatly improve the cleanliness of our transportation and public infrastructure through electrification and clean renewable energy sources, mostly solar.  In our buildings, we will leave behind fossil fuel-based heat sources, and utilize highly efficient and clean electric heat pumps, in addition to improved insulation and windows, and greater understanding of passive solar opportunities to decrease energy needs and improve the quality of the work and living spaces inside.

Regarding transportation, we continue to see Electric Vehicles increase in the personal transportation market, and we are on the verge of seeing larger segments of the transportation market be addressed by EV’s – notably school buses, garbage trucks, and delivery vehicles (Amazon, UPS, and Federal Express).  These vehicles are ideal for EV technology since the start-stop nature of their driving maximizes the benefits of regenerative braking, wherein re-routing kinetic energy to battery charging slows the vehicle.  The retirement of our country’s diesel school bus fleet would be especially beneficial to our kids as it would decrease their exposure to harmful diesel emissions and particulates.

In summary – this is our opportunity – to invest in clean infrastructure and transportation by using the massive economic power of the federal government, which creates good jobs to assist with our economic recovery, and improves the environment and public health for generations to come by decreasing pollution and carbon emissions.

We urge you to let your representatives know that these are important decisions you want made on your behalf.  Please support candidates that understand and agree with these goals.

While our individual influence over the state and federal government policy may be frustratingly limited, the decisions that you do have within your control are regarding your own home and vehicles.  You may wish to consider a sensible EV for your personal transportation, and placing solar panels on your sunny roof to create clean local renewable energy.

8.4 kw Sunpower array on garage, Sequim, March 2020

Clallam PUD Commissioner Waddell gives voice to those critical of Lower Snake River dams

Commissioner Waddell has made waves in stilled waters.  By questioning the goals and claims of a power industry trade organization which the Clallam PUD has long supported, Waddell has alienated the leadership of the Public Power Council and caused the expulsion of Clallam PUD from the group, incidentally saving the ratepayers the $22,597 in annual dues for this year.  Waddell has pointed out that there may be benefits to the removal of the four Lower Snake River dams through his involvement with Dam Sense, www.damsense.org.

Here in Jefferson County, our PUD is a current member of the Public Power Council, whose goal is the preserve and enhance the benefits of the Federal Columbia River Power System for it’s member utilities.

 

Public Power Council expels Clallam PUD

Rebuilding the World We Want – Specific to Fairness and Equity to Clean Energy Access – Community Solar

As I take a deep calming breath, and anticipate the day we bring our crew back to work and resume installing solar arrays, I am thinking about opportunities to do things better societally, not just resume exactly as we have done until now.  In the US, we strive to balance rewarding ingenuity and hard work, removing barriers for people to better themselves, while also taking care of those who struggle because of lack of access to opportunity, discrimination, disability, ill-health, or just plain bad luck.  Achieving this balance is one of the ideals my country holds.  That being said, we all recognize there is, and has always been, a significant inertia in the reality that the rich get richer, and the rest are sometimes left behind.  Removing the unfair advantages brought by wealth and privilege should be one of our collective goals when examining any policy, federally or locally.

So what does this mean in terms of access to clean energy?  There are two unfortunate examples of our failure to do this on my mind from recent conversations.

A friend from Bainbridge Island lives in a condo in downtown Winslow.  She works within 20 miles of her house and visits her parents here in Port Townsend a few times a month.  It is rare for her to need to drive more than 100 miles in a day.  She wants to trade in her existing aging car for a newer model, and she wants an electric vehicle for her and her young child.  I am a fan of Nissan Leafs, but there are now many excellent choices across a spectrum of price and range, and there is no doubt it would save her lots of money on gasoline (and decrease her personal carbon emissions.).  The challenge is that because she is not a homeowner, she does not have access to a dependably available EV charging location.  There are a couple of EV spots for recharging within a few blocks of her house, but even that distance is inconvenient when she has her child and perhaps groceries in the winter.  Ideally she needs the dependability of being able to charge when she needs to, close to home.  She has been doing a little on-the-ground research and sees that the equipment and spots are often occupied by another EV when she would park.  She does not feel comfortable with the prospect of having to park elsewhere when she gets home, and having to go back out to check the availability of the charging spot and move her car in the evening so its is full again in the morning.  Her workplace has one EV spot in the garage, but it also is often occupied by customers or other employees.

This is an example of how increasing our public investment in EV Service Equipment infrastructure, and incorporating requirements for EVSE spaces in new development would help provide fair access to clean electric vehicles to people who are not currently homeowners.  These are important policies we need to adopt now, since we have not already done so.  It is past time for this in my thinking.

Regarding the Community Solar Project here in Port Townsend, it appears that the current application submitted by Jefferson PUD to build a community solar array will not be approved in time for the project to come to fruition.  This is a great shame for many reasons.  Primarily it was the opportunity to utilize generous state funds for projects just like this in a way that would benefit our community, especially those who don’t own their own homes.  Are you seeing a trend here?  Homeowners that want access to clean solar energy generally have it installed on their own roof, provided it is not too shady.  Even in the case that someone doesn’t have immediate access to the cash for these projects, there is a significant federal tax credit, and also several sources of local credit unions offering low interest energy efficiency loans.  Access to solar is much more difficult for a renter or condo-dweller since they don’t own their own roof on which to install solar.  Community solar projects are common sense and economical ways to make the benefits of solar available to everybody in small slices.  People who are able to participate in community solar projects enjoy a long term economic benefit; these projects can help individuals and households hedge against rising energy costs while participating in the clean energy future most of us envision.  From my observation, it appears that some neighboring homeowners had objections to this project on an aesthetic basis, and successfully have prevented the project through active obstruction through the public permitting process.  The concept that an existing utility sub-station might not be an appropriate for a ground-mounted solar array is mind-boggling to me, but apparently the city staff is sympathetic to these views of some neighboring homeowners.  I am making a strong statement here, which would surely be vigorously disputed by some.  I would welcome respectful communication, and will gladly admit if I can be shown to be wrong.  The missed opportunity of about $110,000 of state funds, and our city’s failure to nurture this project is a loss for our community in many ways.

The pandemic we are currently experiencing, the concern over potential loss of lives, and our necessary short-term economic pain to try to prevent the worst losses, are bringing new perspectives to our values.  What do we truly deem important for our future?  The challenge of carbon emissions and the opportunities of cleaning our energy portfolio have not gone away while we have focused on more immediate concerns.  The past does not have to determine our future.  What steps can we take to build the world we want to emerge from this time of quiet disruption?  How can we make clean energy technology and its benefits available to all?

Leaf and RAV4EV able to recharge from homemade solar electricity in Port Townsend, 9.5 kw SunPower array on Jefferson PUD grid.

COVID-19 Update – We Are Working from Home and Here For You

Taking Care During An Emergency – We are Available to You via Phone and E-mail – Some Thoughts on Emergency Preparation

During the epidemic our office is closed and installations are temporarily suspended.  We are working via phone and email from home, and we are able to perform virtual site evaluations and proposals.  Our crew is at home taking care of their families, and eager to resume our solar installations.  Please give us a call or send an email to  learn what you can do at your home or business in terms of solar.  Please be prepared to send us a copy of your power bill, and photos of your electrical service panel.  The house and roof can be reviewed using Google Earth and some other online tools.

For all of us, our health and safety is paramount at this moment.  We are grateful for those in essential jobs who are working for all our benefit – thank you to them.

Many years ago, I came across a theory of a continuum of disasters, that may be useful to consider when preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.  The theory that one one end of the continuum are small emergencies – that would affect you and a very small number of people around you, would last a relatively short time, and which are relatively easy to prepare for.  For example individual disasters like this for example would be a job loss, or perhaps neighborhood-wide if a car hit a power pole and knocked out.  Disasters on the other end of the spectrum affect a large number of people in a large geographical area, are long-lasting, and can be difficult and expensive to prepare for.  In the past, I would always think of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy as examples, involving long term power outages, perhaps loss of clean municipal water supplies, and perhaps physical danger and structure collapses.  The current Covid-19 pandemic surely is at the very serious side of the spectrum.  The odd thing about this disaster is that for many of us, the most difficult effect so far is staying home, and for many of us there is loss of income.  If we have successfully avoided infection and illness for ourselves and our loved ones at this point, there is no immediate loss of physical safety or discomfort, no loss of food, power, water, or shelter.  At this point, we are all affected by it, and it sadly appears that the disease will become so widespread that we will all know people seriously affected.

I bring up this concept of disaster continuum as a framework for how we can think about how to prepare for such events.  It seems prudent to take the steps initially to prepare for the more likely and smaller disasters, while working your way up to more robust systems.  Initial thoughts go to one gallon of stored water per person per day, food for a month, some emergency cash on hand, first aid supplies, and none of us will probably ever forget the grocery store shelves bare of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.  Providing your own electricity is a little higher up the spectrum, and should be considered after taking care of several other basics.  We continue to receive an increasing number of inquiries about batteries as a way of using your solar array in the event of a power outage, and we have been installing more of these systems as wall-mounted residential scale lithium batteries are becoming more common.  During this particular event so far however, we have seen that stocking up on basic supplies has been the most useful preparations, in addition to doing everything you can to maintain a healthy immune system, which is always a good idea.  At my house it means focusing on the garden and orchard, and adding some new chicks to the small (and aging) flock of egg-laying hens.

Last year at our home, we replaced our small lead acid battery with a larger lithium battery from LG.  I say larger in terms of capacity only – it is actually 8 times the usable capacity, while being physically smaller.  We have only noticed one brief outage in the time this new battery has been present, but it is a significant part of our overall preparedness.  Our 10 kwh LG lithium battery backs up our refrigerators, chest freezer, kitchen and living room lights and receptacles, and the small circulating pumps on our solar thermal collectors and for our radiant floor heat.  The battery is recharged by the solar array on the roof of the house, and so will be recharged during an outage.  In the winter, we would have to be very conservative with our usage to stay within the amount of energy our array makes during winter months.  In the summer, the array would be making more energy than we could use or store.

As a company, our primary focus is helping our clients make clean energy with grid-tied solar (without batteries), which is good economics, a good investment in the home, and good for the environment.  For some people, batteries are a good companion technology, though the benefits are in terms of resilience and preparedness, not easily quantifiable environmental or economic benefits.

We look forward to hearing from you, and to getting back up on the roof as soon as we are able – in the meanwhile, stay safe and stay healthy!

10 kWh LG lithium battery and SolarEdge StorEdge inverter

Interesting Times – Flattening the Curve of COVID-19

Here at Power Trip Energy, we are in the same situation as everybody else – concerned for the health of our employees, families, clients, and community.  We are reading the news, reacting to event closures, and making sure everyone performs the best safest practices to prevent illness in ourselves and others.  Immediately relevant is the cancellation of two home shows this weekend, and since cancellation was was not required, and because it surely represents a loss of revenue and time spent, we appreciate these decisions being made by KONP in Port Angeles and the Kitsap Builders Association.  It is not the right time to conduct an event like a home show.

Since the nature of our work is generally outdoors, we are thankful to be proceeding with solar installations on regular schedule, while in the office, we are being especially clean and considerate of each other.

I love graphs, so I want to share a couple you have probably seen, which help me to understand the nature of the challenge ahead of us.  In regards to statistically tracking what is known about the virus in the US, the Center for Disease Control site is simple and helpful.  As of Friday March 13, yes, it appears we are on the upward curve as predicted.  Check the bar graph titled “COVID-19 Cases in the United States by date of illness onset, January 12, 2020 to March 12, 2020 at 4pm ET (n=792)**” at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html

The reasonable question is when we will see leveling and what this curve will eventually look like over time.  The “Flattening the Curve” originally from the CDC in 2007, and updated for this epidemic by Drew Harris, helps us understand the benefits of suppressing the curve as much as possible, in order to preserve as much health care capacity for those who need it most.
Yesterday, I got a much-appreciated smile when a friend shared a “Cattening the Curve” graph, encouraging us to be lazy kitties, stay home, and get some rest, thereby helping to flatten the curve, and keep the rate of illness within the capacity of our health care system to handle.  Nicely done, Anne Marie Darling https://twitter.com/amdar1ing/status/1237880129575157760?s=19
Please take a moment to take care of yourselves, your family, and neighbors.  We are here for you if you also want to take this moment to talk about clean solar energy.

Dana Roberts Community Solar Array

Kudos to the Jefferson PUD for listening to their constituents and pursuing some sensible renewable energy generation.  By taking advantage of a soon-expiring state program incentivizing community solar, the PUD will harvest some of our local sunshine, make some of its own clean power, and make available an opportunity to invest in solar for folks who may not have their own sunny roof or the ability to install a full array for themselves.  By purchasing shares in the Community Solar Array, Jefferson County rate-payers would be able to see the benefits on their own bill for their fraction of ownership of shares in the large array.

Dana Roberts, may he rest in peace, was a local clean energy activist and a PUD commissioner before our PUD became an electricity provider and when our county was still served by the Investor-Owned-Utility PSE.  Dana was involved in 2008’s Proposition 1 campaign in which the public vote gave our PUD the authorization to become our own electric utility, negotiate terms with PSE, and purchase their assets.  This was a truly remarkable campaign and event, and Dana’s knowledge and tenacity were invaluable resources for our community.  Apart from that Dana was a lover of good stories and dark beer, with a dash of revolutionary flair.

It is appropriate that the project at the PUD substation on Kearny St in Port Townsend will be named the Dana Roberts Community Solar Array.

Our company has been privileged to install the community solar array on Washington St in Sequim for Clallam PUD, and also the small community solar array at the Jefferson Airport for the Jefferson Solar Group.  With the support of the current state program, projects like this make economic sense and give access to solar to everyone.

Clallam Community Solar Array, Sequim, WA
30 KW SunPower, Sept 2019

 

Community Solar Array, Jefferson Intl Airport, Port Townsend, 17 KW Silicon Energy, February 2011

 

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