Another Battery Back up System On Line!

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A week ago we brought on line a 14 kW solar system with 48 kW-h of battery back up storage. This homeowner can be off grid for years at a time with little or no interaction with the utility.
As we move forward and develop new technologies, battery interactive systems with become more affordable and commomplace.
For now, this is still a custom installation with batteries and inverters that may not be cost effective for everyone.
If you have critical loads or are running a business, a battery back up system can pay for itself in less than a year.
We have several business that remain operational during power outages. Enabling 40 people to keep working has enormous value and pays for the battery back up element in one day.
Give us a call to learn more.

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Solar Santa Monica Initiative Wins Climate Protection Award At U.S. Mayors’ Conference

SANTA MONICA MIRROR

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Olympic Studios Apartments uses solar panels to generate electricity for common area loads such as lobbies, laundry, and garages.

The US Conference of Mayors honored Santa Monica with a US Mayors’ Climate Protection Award for its successful Solar Santa Monica initiative.

Solar Santa Monica has helped Santa Monica residents and businesses convert their homes and commercial buildings to solar power for nearly a decade.

Adopting green energy sources like solar power is a key component in Santa Monica efforts to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions.

The City received the award in the small cities category on Friday, June 19 at the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) 83rd Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

“Santa Monica is being recognized because we’ve done more than just study climate change — we’ve taken action to slow it, and to protect our community from the impacts,” said Mayor Kevin McKeown.

With less than 1 percent of the City’s solar potential tapped, the City decided to create a program to stimulate installations, to help home and business owners, as well as the college, schools, and all others to invest in solar.

Solar Santa Monica was created by the City in 2006 to focus on energy efficiencies and growing solar energy use in the community, offers technical assistance to prospective residents and businesses by evaluating solar potential, navigating regulatory and rate changes, identifying financial mechanisms, vetting contractors and evaluating bids. In its first year, Solar Santa Monica doubled solar capacity in the City.

Since the program inception, Santa Monica has seen solar capacity increase twelve-fold increase from 376 kW to 4,656 kW as of the first quarter of 2015, enough energy to power over 1,170 California homes.

To date, community-installed solar has reduced annual emissions by 2,584 MTCO2e (equivalent of the average car circling the earth 267 times), helping the City of Santa Monica to achieve its 2015 target of reducing city-wide emissions by 15% from the 1990 baseline.

“We continue to take effective action, playing a leadership role for other cities,” said Mayor McKeown. “We’ve shown that reducing greenhouse gases, conserving water and other resources, and shifting our thinking about what we build and how we live, can all be done — and must be done — on the local level.”

Solar Santa Monica exemplifies how Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment helps to connect residents and businesses with smart energy solutions.

The program has helped residents, businesses and academic institutions go solar by reducing the anxiety and risk to the prospective consumer. The prevalence of solar technology throughout the community has continued to reinforce Santa Monica’s commitment to being a leader in sustainability.

The result is Solar Santa Monica is a valued resource and recognizable brand in the community.

“We’re excited that this program was recognized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors because it has been wildly successful here in Santa Monica and is a great model for other cities to follow,” said Dean Kubani, who manages the Office of Sustainability and the Environment for the City. “Solar Santa Monica has been embraced by residents and businesses alike and is responsible for increasing the amount of solar energy installations in Santa Monica more than 12 fold and eliminating 2500 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.  It’s a good example of how local governments can kick-start sustainable actions in the community that provide multiple benefits for everyone.”

The award was presented during the Mayors Climate Protection Luncheon with an audience of nearly 300 of the nation’s mayors attending the USCM Annual Meeting. The work of the Mayors’ National Climate Action Agenda in the U.S. is a global cooperative effort among mayors and city officials working towards the reduction of local greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing resilience to climate change, and tracking progress transparently.

To learn more about Solar Santa Monica, visit www.solarsantamonica.com.

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Tesla Ventures Into Solar Power Storage for Home and Business

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California Governor Orders New Target for Emissions Cuts

By ADAM NAGOURNEY APRIL 29, 2015

LOS ANGELES — Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order Wednesday sharply ramping up this state’s already ambitious program aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, saying it was critical to address “an ever-growing threat” posed by global warming to the state’s economy and well-being.

Under Mr. Brown’s order, by 2030, emission levels will have to be reduced by 40 percent compared with 1990. Under existing state law, emissions are supposed to be cut 80 percent from what they were in 1990 by 2050, and Mr. Brown said this tough new interim target was essential to helping the state make investment and regulatory decisions that would assure that goal was reached.

Mr. Brown faulted Republicans in Congress for “pooh-poohing” the threat of global warming. He said that he wanted California to set an example for the rest of the country and the world on the urgency of responding to what he described as a slow-moving crisis.

The fountain has been turned off and the pool drained in front of Compton City Hall. But in upscale Cowan Heights, homeowners shower their lush lawns and top off pools and koi ponds.

“It’s a real test,” Mr. Brown, a Democrat, said in a speech at an environmental conference in downtown Los Angeles. “Not just for California, not just for America, but for the world. Can we rise above the parochialisms, the ethno-centric perspectives, the immediacy of I-want-I-need, to a vision, a way of life, that is sustainable?”

Mr. Brown’s order marks an aggressive turn in what already was one of the toughest programs in the nation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under the law put into place by Mr. Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state was required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 on the way to reach the 2050 target; California is already well on its way to meeting the 2020 goal, and may exceed it, officials said Thursday.

“With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it’s one that must be reached – for this generation and generations to come,” Mr. Brown said.

The order marks the latest effort by Mr. Brown to position California as a leading force in the world’s effort to address climate change – and himself as a leader of that campaign effort as he faces his final years in public office. In his State of the State address in January, the governor called for reducing gas consumption by cars and trucks by up to 50 percent over the next 15 years.

These efforts come as this state has been struggling with a drought that Mr. Brown has said is, at least in part, exacerbated by global warming. “Climate change poses an ever-growing threat to the well-being, public health, natural resources, economy, and the environment of California, including loss of snowpack, drought, sea level rise, more frequent and intense wildfires, heat waves, more severe smog, and harm to natural and working lands, and these effects are already being felt in the state,” Mr. Brown said in his executive order.

The governor’s speech, coming at a time when he has been trying to rally the state behind tough water conservation measures, was a reminder of the often conflicting demands of these twin challenges. Some of the central efforts proposed to alleviate the drought – including the building of desalinization plants to make ocean water potable – are highly energy intensive.

Interactive Graphic: How Water Cuts Could Affect Every Community in California
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The governor’s order did not give details of how the state would reach the new goals, though Mr. Brown in his speech here noted the success of the auto and energy industry so far in meeting the emission targets that the state has set over the years. He disputed the argument — voiced by Republicans in recent years — that such efforts would increase the cost of doing business in California.

“We’re sending the signals to the private economy to create, to innovate, and to make the kind of response that will enable Californians to live in compatibility with the environment,” he said. “We can do it.”

Lawmakers in Sacramento have been pushing through legislation intended to help achieve long-term cuts in emissions. Kevin de Leon, the Democratic leader of the State Senate, said Mr. Brown’s order exemplified “California’s global leadership on climate change.”

“We see the framework of a new economy for tomorrow,” Mr. de Leon said in an interview. “And that’s why it’s critical that we move forward with these far-reaching and progressive policies. That is why the world is watching what we are doing here in California.”

California’s target reflects those set by other governments — including the European Union — ahead of the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris this year. Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the conference, issued a statement praising Mr. Brown’s order.

“California’s announcement is a realization and a determination that will gladly resonate with other inspiring actions within the United States and around the globe,” she said. “It is yet another reason for optimism in advance of the U.N. climate conference in Paris in December.”

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Solar Power Battle Puts Hawaii at Forefront of Worldwide Changes

HONOLULU — Allan Akamine has looked all around the winding, palm tree-lined cul-de-sacs of his suburban neighborhood in Mililani here on Oahu and, with an equal mix of frustration and bemusement, seen roof after roof bearing solar panels.

Mr. Akamine, 61, a manager for a cable company, has wanted nothing more than to lower his $600 to $700 monthly electric bill with a solar system of his own. But for 18 months or so, the state’s biggest utility barred him and thousands of other customers from getting one, citing concerns that power generated by rooftop systems was overwhelming its ability to handle it.

Only under strict orders from state energy officials did the utility, the Hawaiian Electric Company, recently rush to approve the lengthy backlog of solar applications, including Mr. Akamine’s.

It is the latest chapter in a closely watched battle that has put this state at the forefront of a global upheaval in the power business. Rooftop systems now sit atop roughly 12 percent of Hawaii’s homes, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, by far the highest proportion in the nation.

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Household panels for solar power and hot water in Kapolei, Hawaii. Installing new electrical panels was blocked there until recently. Credit Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

“Hawaii is a postcard from the future,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a policy and advocacy group based in California.

Other states and countries, including California, Arizona, Japan and Germany, are struggling to adapt to the growing popularity of making electricity at home, which puts new pressures on old infrastructure like circuits and power lines and cuts into electric company revenue.

As a result, many utilities are trying desperately to stem the rise of solar, either by reducing incentives, adding steep fees or effectively pushing home solar companies out of the market. In response, those solar companies are fighting back through regulators, lawmakers and the courts.

The shift in the electric business is no less profound than those that upended the telecommunications and cable industries in recent decades. It is already remaking the relationship between power companies and the public while raising questions about how to pay for maintaining and operating the nation’s grid.

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The issue is not merely academic, electrical engineers say.

In solar-rich areas of California and Arizona, as well as in Hawaii, all that solar-generated electricity flowing out of houses and into a power grid designed to carry it in the other direction has caused unanticipated voltage fluctuations that can overload circuits, burn lines and lead to brownouts or blackouts.

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Load dispatchers monitor the electrical grid at the Hawaiian Electric Company’s operations center in Honolulu. The utility says power from household solar panels can destabilize the system. Credit Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

“Hawaii’s case is not isolated,” said Massoud Amin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota and chairman of the smart grid program at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a technical association. “When we push year-on-year 30 to 40 percent growth in this market, with the number of installations doubling, quickly — every two years or so — there’s going to be problems.”

The economic threat also has electric companies on edge. Over all, demand for electricity is softening while home solar is rapidly spreading across the country. There are now about 600,000 installed systems, and the number is expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The Edison Electric Institute, the main utility trade group, has been warning its members of the economic perils of high levels of rooftop solar since at least 2012, and the companies are responding. In February, the Salt River Project, a large utility in Arizona, approved charges that could add about $50 to a typical monthly bill for new solar customers, while last year in Wisconsin, where rooftop solar is still relatively rare, regulators approved fees that would add $182 a year for the average solar customer.

In Hawaii, the current battle began in 2013, when Hawaiian Electric started barring installations of residential solar systems in certain areas. It was an abrupt move — a panicked one, critics say — made after the utility became alarmed by the technical and financial challenges of all those homes suddenly making their own electricity.

The utility wants to cut roughly in half the amount it pays customers for solar electricity they send back to the grid. But after a study showed that with some upgrades the system could handle much more solar than the company had assumed, the state’s public utilities commission ordered the utility to begin installations or prove why it could not.

It was but one sign of the agency’s growing impatience with what it considers the utility’s failure to adapt its business model to the changing market.

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A technician adjusts a power meter in Honolulu. Credit Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

Hawaiian Electric is scrambling to accede to that demand, approving thousands of applications in recent weeks. But it is under pressure on other fronts as well. NextEra Energy, based in Florida, is awaiting approval to buy it, while other islands it serves are exploring defecting to form their own cooperative power companies.

It is also upgrading its circuits and meters to better regulate the flow of electricity. Rooftop solar makes far more power than any other single source, said Colton Ching, vice president for energy delivery at Hawaiian Electric, but the utility can neither control nor predict the output.

“At every different moment, we have to make sure that the amount of power we generate is equal to the amount of energy being used, and if we don’t keep that balance things go unstable,” he said, pointing to the illuminated graphs and diagrams tracking energy production from wind and solar farms, as well as coal-fueled generators in the utility’s main control room. But the rooftop systems are “essentially invisible to us,” he said, “because they sit behind a customer’s meter and we don’t have a means to directly measure them.”

For customers, such explanations offer little comfort as they continue to pay among the highest electric rates in the country and still face an uncertain solar future.

“I went through all this trouble to get my electric bill down, and I am still waiting,” said Joyce Villegas, 88, who signed her contract for a system in August 2013 but was only recently approved and is waiting for the installation to be completed.

Mr. Akamine expressed resignation over the roughly $12,000 he could have saved, but wondered about the delay. “Why did it take forceful urging from the local public utility commission to open up more permits?” he asked.

Installers — who saw their fast-growing businesses slow to a trickle — are also frustrated with the pace. For those who can afford it, said James Whitcomb, chief executive of Haleakala Solar, which he started in 1977, the answer may lie in a more radical solution: Avoid the utility and its grid altogether.

Customers are increasingly asking about the batteries that he often puts in along with the solar panels, allowing them to store the power they generate during the day for use at night. It is more expensive, but it breaks consumer reliance on the utility’s network of power lines.

“I’ve actually taken people right off the grid,” he said, including a couple who got tired of waiting for Hawaiian Electric to approve their solar system and expressed no interest in returning to utility service. “The lumbering big utilities that are so used to taking three months to study this and then six months to do that — what they don’t understand is that things are moving at the speed of business. Like with digital photography — this is inevitable.”

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Solar Forward Wins Sunpower Intelegant Award 2015

Solar Forward has received the SunPower “Commercial National Intelegant Award” for a commercial solar photovoltaic project commissioned in 2014. We won this national award for an installation of a 33kW solar power system on the roof of a private sound mixing studio used to produce major motion picture scores in Pacific Palisades, CA. North American SunPower dealers are selected to receive the “Commercial National Intelegant Award” for projects demonstrating the highest quality system design and installation, as well as owner satisfaction.

 

Below are some photos of the completed installation and award:

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St. Andrew’s Celebrates Solar Sunday

St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mar Vista recently celebrated a huge milestone in their efforts to reduce their environmental impact. On Sunday February 16th, they held their “Solar Sunday” event, an afternoon filled with great food, tours of the facility’s green aspects, a skit about the hazards of being wasteful, speeches from community leaders, and a blessing of the 28 shiny new SunPower solar panels we installed for them.

It was wonderful to work with Pastor Caleb, Jan Peters, and the rest of the congregation at St. Andrew’s to truly help them put into practice the environmental stewardship they preach. Their 9.2 kW system will generate clean, renewable energy and reduce their dependence on the energy coming in from the grid, which is mostly generated using fossil fuels.

Solar Forward was happy to be a part of St. Andrew’s Solar Sunday event to educate attendees about the ins and outs of generating clean energy. If you’re a member of a church interested in going solar, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 310-433-3770. Utility rebates are still available for tax exempt customers. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through the process from start to finish.

Check out the photos below to see highlights from the day:

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Go Solar, Defeat Terrorism?

Will installing solar panels on your home make you more secure against terrorist attacks on utilities? We think your own personal solar system may be your best asset and your best defense.

The security of our national electrical grid has always been a concern. Last year, snipers attacked a power substation in Northern California. Data and control lines were cut and over one hundred well placed bullets knocked more than fifteen transformers off line.

Aside from beefing up security at power plants and substations, an effective way to ensure our homes and businesses can keep running is by decentralizing the grid, i.e. installing solar panels so every home and business owner can have their own power plant right on their roof. Better yet, installing a battery backup system ensures you’ll still have power even if the grid does go down.

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Lighting Up Lincoln, Part 2

A few months back, we introduced you to Evan Meyer’s Beautify Lincoln project, a volunteer funded effort to make Santa Monica’s Lincoln Boulevard vibrant through art and community. We were interested in using our solar expertise to become involved, and as of last week, we helped Lincoln Boulevard become a little brighter.

One of the businesses that received a Beautify Lincoln makeover was TRiP, recently named Best Neighborhood Music Venue of 2013 by the LA Weekly. In addition to the huge splash of color that Evan’s mural added to TRiP’s entryway, TRiP’s owner had a vision to immerse a tree adjacent to his business with light.

To help him out, we installed twelve 35-watt solar panels recycled from a previous project that charge a gel battery throughout the day, and light up LED flood lights aimed at the tree at night. Here’s how it works: the solar panels, lights, and battery are hooked up to a charge controller. During the day, the panels charge up the battery, and when the sun goes down, a timer sequence is initiated. As soon as the timer winds down, the tree is lit up by the battery powered LED lights, and these lights stay on for about 6 hours throughout the night.

TRiP tree lit up by solar powered lighting

TRiP tree lit up by solar powered lighting

Between art murals, solar powered lights, live music, and a great beer selection, there’s no reason not to include TRiP on your next weekend outing.

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Oil spills…earthquakes…jellyfish?

There are many risks associated with conventional sources of energy, but who knew they came in such a squishy form? This past week, nuclear engineers in Sweden were dealing with a problem they probably didn’t study in their “Fundamentals of Nuclear Engineering” class.

A huge group of jellyfish clogged the cooling pipes at a nuclear power plant, forcing one of its units to shut down. After a couple days, the jellyfish had finally been cleared and the reactor ready to be restarted.

So next time you’re up on your roof giving your solar panels a gentle cleanse, feel secure in knowing that the only thing you have to worry about is some bird poop. And while the jellyfish situation is comical, having to shut down a nuclear reactor can be dangerous. So you’ll be breathing a little easier knowing that going solar means relying less on conventional energy.

Why is everyone looking at me? I was just exploring a cool looking pipe. Photo courtesy of http://www.clker.com/cliparts/W/u/i/2/i/y/cartoon-jellyfish-md.png

Why is everyone looking at me? I was just exploring a cool looking pipe.

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