Solar trackers help one of North Bay's largest recyclers reduce energy costs
Cotati, CA – February 26, 2014 … When the North Bay’s largest recycler of rubble materials saw their electric bills double overnight due to a rate redesign, they looked to solar to help.
Through local solar installer North Coast Solar, the Soiland Company recently commissioned a 202 kW, 33 "dual axis" solar tracker installation in Cotati, California.
The 52 year old company provides innovative approaches to construction and material supply needs. They produce rock, soil, and compost products at their three locations in Sonoma County, California and they are a leading recycler of rubble materials in the area.
“The decision to go solar not only made economic sense, but really aligned with Soiland’s environmental values. Since the Soiland Company’s inception, we have always strived to be as sustainable and environmentally responsible as possible,” said Mark Soiland, the second generation owner of Soiland. The company first went solar in 2007 and has pursued other environmental measures, such as equipment upgrades to reduce smog even before it was required by state regulations.
Working with their local utility, the newly installed system will help Soiland cut their energy bills by more than half and is projected to pay for itself in just seven years.
Local installer North Coast Solar recently partnered with the Vermont-based AllSun Tracker manufacturer AllEarth Renewables to bring their innovative solar tracker to northern California.
The solar trackers use GPS technology to accurately follow the sun from dawn to dusk, producing up to 40 percent more energy than fixed rooftop or ground mount systems. The dual axis tracker was named a “Top-10 Green Product of the Year” by BuildingGreen magazine. The ground-mounted solar systems are designed for homes, businesses, non-profits, and commercial-scale installations. More than 1,750 units are operating throughout the United States.
“When the Soilands approached me about helping them reduce their sharply escalated electric bill I turned to AllEarth Renewables in Vermont. Their AllSun Tracker gives the best return on their investment with significantly higher electrical output during the day. It will help with stabilizing their energy budget over the long term and reduce inflation risk. It will provide decades of energy cost security for this local green business leader,” saidBrian Hines of North Coast Solar.
President and CEO of AllEarth Renewables, David Blittersdorf added, “It is great to be partnering with North Coast Solar to bring our technology to northern California and particularly exciting to see it help such a great family business like Soiland go solar and save on their electric bills.”
Photo: A 202kW solar farm of AllSun Trackers provides energy and savings to the Soiland Company in Cotati, CA.
Chaffey Joint Unified High School District projected to save millions through solar energy project
SACRAMENTO - Last week, in a unanimous vote, the Chaffey Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees approved a 7.2 MW solar system across eight of their high school sites, becoming the latest California school district to look to solar power to save money.
The project, to be designed, built, and operated by PsomasFMG, LLC, is expected to provide nearly 50 percent of the total electricity the schools consume and save them millions of dollars over the course of the agreement between Chaffey Joint Unified School District and PsomasFMG.
“We are very excited to be working with such a forward thinking District,” said PsomasFMG President Paul Mikos. “The savings generated from this solar project can go directly back into classrooms, where it is needed most. The School Board and District staff did their homework before going forward with the project. They have shown excellent vision in championing this project.”
The Chaffey Unified School District will join over a dozen California school districts who have turned to solar power, including Antelope Valley Union School District (9.6 MW), Milpitas Unified School District in Santa Clara County (3.4 MW), and Sweetwater Union High School District in San Diego, who not only has a 5.3 MW solar PV system, but also a solar thermal system that heats two swimming pools, among many other school districts that have gone solar.
“This cutting-edge partnership serves immediate and long-term needs – saving energy, saving money and creating educational opportunities for our students,” said Mathew Holton, Chaffey District Superintendent.
With a partnership with PsomasFMG, Chaffey Unified School District plans to further capitalize on going solar to use the project to provide a mentoring and internship program, as well as educational opportunities in science and technology for the students as they prepare for future careers.
“Schools have only just begun to tap into the enormous potential solar has for helping schools cut costs and provide clean air for its students to breathe,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Executive Director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA).
CALSEIA, the California Solar Energy Industries Association, is the nation’s oldest and largest state-based solar industry association representing manufacturers, installers, and distributors of solar panels and related components and technologies throughout the state.
50,000 Californians Petition Regulators to Stand Strong for Rooftop Solar
Public Outpouring Urges Fair Treatment of Existing Solar Customers in Upcoming PUC Decision
SAN FRANCISCO—People with solar panels on their roofs and their supporters teamed up with solar advocacy and environmental groups to deliver more than 50,000 signatures urging the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to not change the rules on existing solar customers. Specifically, the petition asks the PUC to allow customers to continue under current net metering rules for at least thirty years.
David Levine, an East Bay resident who is in the process of going solar at his home, helped submit the heavy stack of petition names at today’s meeting of the PUC. “The state created policies to encourage me to install solar panels on my home, and now they are talking about changing the rules,” said Levine. “I’m proud that my solar system will help reduce the need for expensive power plants and utility infrastructure to power my neighbors’ homes and businesses. I invested my own money in those panels and expect the investment to result in financial savings.”
Levine was joined by Jim Happ, CEO of Labcon, a laboratory supplies and equipment manufacturer that has been headquartered in the North Bay since 1959. An 800-kilowatt (kW) solar energy system Labcon installed in 2011 meets almost one-third of the company’s power needs. “My business is one of thousands throughout California that have invested in solar in order to show clean energy leadership and to manage our utility bills,” said Happ. “We made the decision to go solar based on state rules that we expected to remain consistent for the lifetime of our solar energy systems. I hope we can count on the Commission to uphold those rules.”
Net metering gives solar customers fair, full credit on their utility bills for the excess clean power they deliver to the grid for use nearby. In place in 43 states, this simple billing arrangement is one of the most important state policies clearing the way for individual investment in solar. In California, the successful program has supported the installation of nearly 200,000 solar energy systems on homes, schools, businesses, and public buildings.
Legislation passed last year requires the PUC to consider new net metering rules for customers that install systems after July 2017. Existing customers expected to be able to use the current net metering rules as long as their panels produce electricity. Those customers will be able to keep using the current rules for a period of time that the PUC will soon determine. Solar and environmental advocates are calling for 30 years or more, commensurate with the expected lifespan of solar energy systems, while utilities want to change the rules for these customers in 6-12 years. The PUC has a March 31 deadline to make a decision.
The petition comes after a wave of other communications on this issue from the public to the PUC. Letters have been submitted from agricultural groups, school officials, business associations, solar energy companies, and others.
The agricultural letter stated: “Investment decisions were based on the NEM program structure that is premised on the terms for net-metered energy that existed in statute at the time these investments were made. The suggestion that this basic understanding of the NEM agreement could now change for existing investments is unfathomable to the participants and must be quickly remedied by the Commission.”
“Fair is fair and a deal is a deal,” said Brad Heavner, Policy Director for the California Solar Energy Industries Association. “Customers were given certain expectations and the state needs to hold up its end of the bargain.”
“Solar power enjoys enormous public support in California, as the messages delivered today show. The Commission should stand strong with solar customers and keep net metering rules consistent,” said Susannah Churchill, West Coast Regional Director for Vote Solar, one of the groups that circulated the petition.
“Solar owners trusted that their investment in going solar would lower their carbon footprint and their electricity bills,” said Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate for Environment California. “Changing the rules of the game would be unfair to current solar customers and could deter future solar investments, slowing progress towards California’s clean energy goals.”
Groups and companies that circulated the mass petition include the Vote Solar Initiative (Vote Solar), CREDO Action, the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Sierra Club, Environment California, and many solar companies. Many Californians signed the petition via CREDOmobilize.com.
San Francisco—School districts, ranchers, business associations and others sent a letter today to Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey and Governor Jerry Brown urging them to honor existing agreements with solar customers.
At issue is net metering, the program that allows a solar customer’s meter to run backward at times when solar panels are producing electricity that is not being consumed in the building. The customer is only billed for net electricity usage. The program has been a fundamental component in the decision to go solar for most solar customers.
“The state has stood behind Net Energy Metering for over a decade as a way to encourage our investments in clean energy,” the parties stated in the letter, adding, “We would feel wronged if the state changed the rules we agreed to.”
The letter was signed by the Los Angeles Business Council, the California Cattleman’s Association, the California Association of School Business Officials, and other businesses, organizations and districts.
Last year, the California Legislature passed a bill to revamp the state’s net metering program. The first decision by the PUC in implementing that bill is determining when the current net metering agreements will be transferred over to a new agreement that has not yet been defined. Gov. Brown has supported fair treatment for current net metering customers, but the PUC has not issued a ruling.
“A deal is a deal,” said Brad Heavner, Policy Director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association. “People went solar when the state encouraged them to do so, and the state needs to hold up its end of the bargain.”
California’s Solar Industry Sets 2014 Policy Priorities