How Rooftop Solar Companies are Complementing Community Solar

There’s no question that solar is booming. Over the past ten years, the industry has seen an “…Average annual growth rate of 50%…” and now employs over 242,000 people in the United States. Even with this boom, there is still a huge amount of unmet need when it comes to solar. Rooftop solar installers and community solar companies can work together to move the country towards a clean energy future. In fact, a number of rooftop solar companies profit by referring customers to community solar when they can’t or won’t install on their home.

Community Solar Complements Rooftop Solar

A recent survey of solar installers revealed that traditional rooftop solar installers don’t view community solar as competition. In fact, rooftop solar companies had a overwhelmingly positive response to community solar. That’s because community solar serves different customers that rooftop can’t. According to the US Census, about forty percent of Americans live in housing that would not support a solar array. And even for those who do, obstacles like finances, structural concerns and shading prevent a majority of customers from taking advantage of the environmental and financial advantages of rooftop solar. Community solar can fill this gap, removing financial and siting obstacles that customers face when looking to make clean energy choices.

Community Solar Builds Awareness and Normalizes Solar

The survey also points out another major benefit to community solar. Having large public arrays like the ones along the Massachusetts Turnpike help to normalize solar. The more arrays there are, the more people will think of solar as a regular fact of life, rather than a futuristic and expensive pipe dream. These arrays can act as advertisement too, sparking interest for both potential rooftop and community solar customers as they pass by them.

We’ve Only Scratched the Surface

There’s good synergy between rooftop solar installers and community solar, and the market is still mostly untapped. In 2018, the United States only got 1.6% of its electricity from solar, while 76% of voters support increasing solar capacity. Both types of solar should find ways to work together to transform our energy grid.

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Solar is Becoming Cost-Effective in More Places

Incentive-free solar projects are becoming more common. Unsubsidized developments in favorable climates like southern Europe have already achieved price parity with other types of energy, and the falling cost of solar installations is making this feasible in more places.

Northern Europe

  • A German utility signed a contract earlier this year for an eighty five megawatt solar farm in Northern Germany without incentives.
  • There are also two farms planned for the U.K. in York and Kingston upon Hull.
    • The incentive-free system in York will be “37.4 megawatts of PV tied to a 27-megawatt, 30-megawatt-hour Samsung battery system, the largest solar-paired energy storage asset in the country.

Alberta

  • Alberta’s Ministry of Infrastructure has agreed to buy the energy produced by a 94 megawatt solar installation, which is being installed without the assistance of incentives.
  • The installation is using solar panels which can produce on both sides, making use of the reflected light from long lasting snow.
  • The installations are 50% owned by the Conklin Métis, an indigenous community from the oil-sands region of Alberta.

China

  • China has been aggressively installing clean energy, but caused concern in the solar world last year when they halted incentives due to the large bill from so many projects.
    • Their solution to continue rapid development while keeping costs in check is to develop several pilots for incentive-free solar.
    • “The new subsidy-free projects will generate renewable power for sale at the same prices as non-subsidised coal-fired power plants, and will not have to comply with capacity quota restrictions…”

It’s clear that even in snowy northern climates, solar is a viable option. And as costs continue to come down, more and more solar won’t need assistance, subsidies or incentives to compete with fossil fuels.

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Why Coal Plants are Going Out of Business

Coal plants are struggling to keep up with the fast paced changes in the energy sector, despite federal efforts to prop them up.

Coal Doesn’t Make Economic Sense

  • It’s expensive to build and run coal fired plants
    • “In many areas, it is not cost-effective to building a coal plant: Increasingly, building a new solar or wind farm is cheaper than just operating an existing coal plant.”
    • The average coal fired plant in America is 43 years old, meaning they require lots of maintenance and run less efficiently.
  • It’s important to acknowledge the decline, and to plan how we want our power grid and economy to develop.
    • A town in Montana had proposed to purchase a struggling coal plant a few years back, fearing what it going under might do to the economy.

Can We Use Decommissioned Plants?

  • Coal plants suddenly shutting down could cost jobs, and burning coal causes contamination at the old sites.
    • There have been some creative solutions – to avoid losing around 1,600 jobs, Acme Equities LLC purchased an old coal plant in New Mexico that was about to shut down for $1.
      • They plan to keep the plant running, but install carbon capture technology and sell off the CO2 as an additional revenue stream.
    • A coal plant in Germany was faced with a similar issue.
      • They’re investigating turning the old plant into molten salt storage unit – basically a huge battery that would preserve the coal plant jobs and also add storage capacity for renewable energy.

What’s Taking Coal’s Place?

  • There are several drivers of coal’s decline. Although GDP is up, energy usage has remained fairly flat due to efficiency increases.

Cheap natural gas and explosive additions to our solar and wind capacity are a more economically feasible way to meet our current energy demands.

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Fighting Climate Change for Kids’ Sake

We’ve Left it up to the Kids

Children and teenagers have gone on strike this past Friday to protest inaction on climate change. Around the world, young protestors like Greta Thunberg feel that we’ve reached a tipping point and they must take action into their own hands, even though they are not yet out of grade-school.

What they’ve had to say is powerful. Greta’s speech included moving lines like this:

  • “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes…Because the adult generations have used up all our carbon budget.

What’s the Impact of Inaction?

The IPCC’s climate report gives us ten years to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and it’s had a big impact on these Generation Z activists, who are mostly aged in their mid teens. In ten years’ time, they’ll be in their mid twenties and dealing with the repercussions of older generations’ inaction.

These bleak prospects have a real impact, even beyond the climate. The United States has an aging population, and young people have cited climate change as a concern for having children. Business Insider conducted a poll which found

  • Nearly 38% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 agreed that climate change should be a factor in a couple’s decision about whether to have children. And 34% of Americans between the ages of 30 and 44 agreed.

What Can We Do?

By powering most of the world on electricity that comes from wind and solar and other renewable, carbon-free sources and offsetting things like plane travel that have to use fossil fuel with higher prices and carbon capture, we can put a stop to the worst of climate change.  “It’s 2050 And This Is How We Stopped Climate Change” outlined a clear vision of the future:

  • “This is the foundation of a zero-carbon world: Electricity that comes from clean sources, mainly the sun and the wind, cheap and increasingly abundant. Today, it powers this house; tomorrow, it could drive the world.”

The good news is that we still have a few years to turn things around, and we have the solutions we need to do it – all that’s missing is action.

  • “In order to have impact, timely impact, I figured that I need to leave research and focus on impactful things that I want to do. And fast,” she says.

As consumers and citizens, we can also have a big impact. Voting, both at the polls and with our dollars, combined with individual choices on things like transportation, are powerful ways to combat climate change. One easy switch to make is to support the transition to clean energy through community solar, which is becoming increasingly available in many states.

You can help Fight Climate Change by joining a Community Solar Farm.

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solar field

Climate Change isn’t the whole problem

So much of the discussion around clean energy currently focuses on climate change and pricing, but we shouldn’t forget another important reason to “go green” – pollution. Fossil fuels and nuclear produce dangerous pollutants which have a direct impact on our health and the sustainability of our planet.

Coal

  • Coal use is declining, but we still get almost 30% of the country’s power from it.
  • Coal extraction uses harmful techniques such as mountaintop removal and strip mining, which pollutes water sources and damages ecosystems.
    • Underground coal mines pose threats to safety from collapse and methane leaks.
  • Burning coal releases heavy metals such as mercury, as well as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates
    • These pollutants are linked to respiratory illness, neurological damage, smog and acid rain.

Natural Gas

  • Natural gas burns cleaner and more efficiently than coal, but it still emits pollutants and accounts for about 32% of our energy.
  • The extraction of natural gas can be problematic.
    • Laying pipelines to transport natural gas requires clearing land, and when the pipelines leak they release methane, a strong greenhouse gas.
    • Hydrogren sulfide is burned off, or “flared,” when extracting natural gas, which releases varying pollutants
    • Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, uses a fluid that contains unknown chemicals – only 28 states require the disclosure of some of the chemicals in fracking fluid. This fluid can leak and pollute water supplies.
  • Fracking has also resulted in earthquakes at wastewater injection sites.

Nuclear

  • Some says nuclear energy could help with climate change, but we should not take the potential health risks lightly.
  • Used nuclear fuel emits dangerous levels of radiation long after it’s used and there is currently no long-term solution on where and how to store this waste.
  • Nuclear meltdowns may be relatively infrequent or unlikely, but when they happen they’re disastrous.
    • Incidents like Fukushima and Chernobyl have a high human cost, and render cities uninhabitable for the foreseeable future.

Solar is a Solution

  • The guaranteed lifespan of solar panels is twenty to twenty-five years, which is much better than many consumer electronics such as cell phones or laptops, and in many cases they can be recycled.
  • Using the sun for energy doesn’t emit water, air, or carbon pollution.

You can help Fight Climate Change by joining a Community Solar Farm.

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Everett, MA

Everett Mayor Announces Community Solar Partnership

Everett is Going Green

This past Wednesday, Mayor DeMaria announced that Everett has decided to purchase solar energy credits from solar farms built by Syncarpha here in Massachusetts. He cited the effects a changing climate has on a coastal community like Everett, including increased flooding and storms. Taking the city solar will also have cost-savings that can be put to use elsewhere in the budget.

Residents Can Participate Too

These farms are also open to any MA residents served by National Grid electricity, and Mayor DeMaria encouraged Everett to join him in choosing clean energy: “I hope our residents will take advantage of the residential portion of the Community Shared Solar opportunity to purchase clean, renewable, solar energy credits. Those who opt into the new residential program will also save money.”

How Does it Work?

Residential community solar is a relatively new offering in Massachusetts. Many homeowners have investigated rooftop solar but found that their roof wasn’t well suited for it, or that the arrays were too expensive. Community solar offers a much simpler way to “go solar.” Residents receive discounted credits on their electric bill, based on what their “share” of the solar farm produces – giving them guaranteed savings. There are no upfront costs and there is no installation required. Joining a community solar farm not only supports clean energy, it has economic benefits right here in Massachusetts.

You can help Fight Climate Change by joining a Community Solar Farm.

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Customer Success Stories

“We have a challenging roof that prohibits rooftop solar. So I love that Relay Power offers an alternative. On top of helping the environment, we save money, which is a great bonus.” – Greg N. from Beverly

 

 

“This was a great opportunity to take meaningful action to reduce our carbon footprint, with the added benefit of actually paying less for the energy I use at home. It’s a no-brainer for those looking to live more sustainably. For a long time, we have been looking into solar panels for our house but for one reason or another haven’t been able to pull the trigger. This is a great alternative.” – Michelle L., Manchester, MA

 

 

“The process was quick and easy really. My wife and I both work full time and we have two kids under five, so I’m usually not into things that are time intensive. I would recommend this to my family and friends.” – Matt P. from Beverly

 

winter street scene

Global “Weirding:” Cold Weather on a Warming Planet

Many responded to the cold snaps this winter with skepticism towards climate change. How can the Earth be warming if we’re having record low temperatures? But a globe that’s heating up overall doesn’t necessarily mean warmer temperatures everywhere all the time, it may mean more extreme weather and changing weather patterns.

Colder Winters for North America

According to National Geographic, a warmer Arctic will affect larger climate patterns and ironically may likely result in colder winters in North America.

  • “As more Arctic air flows into southern regions, North America can expect to see harsher winters. That was the conclusion of a study published in 2017 in the journal Nature Geoscience.”
  • “A separate study published in March of last year in the journal Nature Communications found the same link but predicted the northeastern portion of the U.S. would be particularly hard hit.

Why Should We Care if the Weather Changes?

Our new weather patterns are not only going to be unusual, they’re also likely to be dangerous.

  • National Geographic went on to warn: “As the air in the Arctic warms, those jet streams slow and prevent normal weather patterns from circulating—floods last longer and droughts become more persistent. One study published in Science Advances last October predicted extreme, deadly weather events could increase by as much as 50 percent by 2100.”
  • The EPA warns that extreme fluctuations in weather and more extreme weather events could have consequences ranging from crop damage, increased spread of diseases, property damage, changing precipitation patterns resulting in drought and flooding, and population displacement.

Some of the impacts of global warming may be difficult to predict, but unusual and extreme weather is one consequence we’re already starting to see. The good news is that it’s not too late to act. Many states are pushing for aggressive carbon offset targets, and coming up with innovative programs to solve climate change. Here in Massachusetts, we have accessible programs like community solar that empower more people than ever to be part of the solution.

You can help Fight Climate Change by joining a Community Solar Farm.

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The Green New Deal: Can We Both Solve Climate Change and Build the Economy?

Last week Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey released details on the ambitious, if potentially divisive, Green New Deal. Whether you agree with it or not, it is catapulting climate change back into the national political conversation.  

What is “The Green New Deal?”

  • The Green New Deal is a plan to address some the biggest issues facing the US: climate change, social justice, and economic inequality. It’s styled after the New Deal of the great depression era, which aimed to fix an economic crisis with public works projects.
    • The resolution aims to offset enough carbon to meet the deadline set by the IPCC recently to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
    • It calls for heavy investment in clean technology and energy efficiency projects.
    • These efforts would focus on areas of the country that previously relied on fossil fuels, as well as rural and poor areas that have historically suffered from pollution.

What Makes it Controversial?

  • Opponents to the plan argue that it’s too expensive and ambitious.
  • There has also been pushback on the resolution’s focus on a social safety net, including union protections, affordable housing, and universal health care.
  • Defenders of the resolution argue that previous American achievements such as going to the moon were also ambitious and thought to be impossible, but they started with a goal and a timeline.
  • Whether you agree with the scope and goals of the Green New Deal or not, at least it has brought the topic of climate change back into public discussion.

Can we Strengthen the Economy by Fighting Climate Change?

  • Skeptics have long argued that transitioning to “greener” technologies would be prohibitively expensive and harm the economy.
  • But in practice, states investing in clean energy have seen an economic boost.
  • There are practical success stories of clean energy addressing pollution and climate change as well as social justice and economic issues.
    • For example, community solar delivers jobs, offsets pollution, and brings financial saving to the communities where the solar farms are installed.
    • Community solar and programs like it are more accessible to people who are not in an economic position to buy or install clean energy individually.

The Green New Deal may be criticized as divisive and ambitious, but the idea that we can boost the economy, address inequality, and fight climate change may not be so far fetched.

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climate change

Climate Change Is Current Threat: Shifting Attitudes in the US

According to a recent survey from Yale and George Mason University, National Geographic reports that the attitudes towards climate change are shifting. A record number of Americans are acknowledging it, and those that believed in it before now see it as a more pressing issue.

What Changed?

  • 60% of respondents acknowledged that humans are responsible for climate change, the highest level for the annual survey since its inception in 2008.
  • Recent wildfires, hurricanes, and extreme temperature swings seem to have left an impression – most (76%) cited “extreme weather events as the most influential factor shifting their views.”

Climate Change: A Current Threat

  • Many respondents who had previously believed in climate change now see it as a pressing current issue, rather than a future threat
  • 51% of respondents said they felt “helpless”
  • A mental health phenomenon called “eco-anxiety” or “climate-anxiety” has become common, especially in areas prone to natural disasters

What’s the Solution?

  • The bright side is that we seem to have reached a tipping point; people have acknowledged the problem and are concerned enough to support solutions
  • Surprisingly, 67% of respondents supported a carbon tax, with the proceeds going to conservation and restoration work
  • Although many people report feelings of anxiety, the best antidote seems to be empowerment through action, especially within your social network
  • Rather than adding costs, some climate solutions are now money-savers as well.

Be Part of the Solution

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