erika

Solarize Asheville Closes with a Strong Finish

Friday, February 28th, the deadline for contract signing for the pilot Solarize Asheville program, was a big day for our team. Six months after this community campaign was announced to the public and the first Solar 101 info session was held, the final numbers were in: Fifty Asheville homeowners signed on to have a solar electric system installed at their homes. From young families with children to retirees, the group is diverse, but all were excited to be embracing clean energy through this initiative.

The average system size was 4.2 kW, with systems ranging in size from 2.0 kW to 8.7 kW. The collective impact of these fifty systems, which total 236.257 kilowatts DC, is that 225,936 pounds of coal will be displaced by clean solar energy each year, offsetting 210 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere. This is the equivalent amount of Carbon sequestered by 5,394 tree seedlings grown for 10 years!

(These estimates were calculated using PV Watts, a Performance Calculator for Grid-Connected PV Systems, and the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.)

Congratulations to everyone who Solarized! Indeed, every system that is installed is part of the solution! And for those who weren’t able to participate in the pilot program, be assured that we will continue to offer the best value, and the best service, to you. Just give us a call!

erika

When Solar spills its just called a nice day

Is it just me? Or, does there seem to be an unprecedented number of energy related spills going on right now?

In November, in rural Alabama, a train derailed and exploded, releasing 2.7 million gallons of crude oil. In January, a massive chemical spill (a toxic chemical used to clean coal) into the Elk River in West Virginia has left residents still unable to use their water. February has seen spills left and right: a coal slurry spill on the Kanawha River in WV- basically the same area that is still suffering from the earlier chemical spill; a massive release of coal ash into the Dan River in Virginia; another train derailing up in Minnesota that has 12,000 gallons of spilled crude oil; a train derailed and spilling Canadian crude oil in Pennsylvania and just this week- so close to home- 5,000 gallons of fuel oil were spilled in Hominy Creek and have since made it into the French Broad River.

What is going on? At what point do we stop the madness? When we no longer have clean water to drink- it’s game over. Between the spills, the accidents, the fracking, the coal ash, the heavy metals- things are looking ominous.

What happens when solar spills? Oh- right, it’s called a nice day.

There are a number of ways in which we really need to step up and take action. First- we need to pay attention and hold the corporations behind these spills accountable. Next, we need to let our elected officials know that we are paying attention and we demand accountability. And- we need to take steps to reduce our dependence upon fossil fuels- through efficiency, reducing our carbon footprint and making the switch to clean, sustainable and renewable solar, wind and water power.

Some ways we can begin to address the spills include the following:

*Greenpeace has a petition, started by campaigner Ben Kroetz, to Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good, which says: I am writing to demand that Duke Energy clean up the coal ash in the Dan River and prevent future disasters from occurring at its other unlined coal ash dumps. This toxic waste must be removed and stored in dry, lined landfills to protect the safety of our drinking water, rivers, and lakes. You can sign this petition here: Sign Ben’s petition

*To support the citizens of WV there are a number of groups on the ground working on the spill issues. Check out West Virginia Citizen Action Group at http://www.wvcag.org/action_alerts/ as well as Climate Ground Zero at http://climategroundzero.net/. There are also numerous campaigns at Earth Justice http://earthjustice.org/action that address all of these issues.

*2013 was the worst year yet for rail car spills – this one is harder to address as effective work is almost always needed state by state. However- one big step with far reaching consequences is to take action against the Keystone XL pipeline. You can find more information on this in our “Take Action” section. Don’t postpone this action as the deadline for comments is March 7th. Fast approaching.

(photo credit to AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

erika

Accessing The Sun

The Solarize Asheville campaign, as you’ve likely heard, received tremendous response, with well over 360 homeowners enrolling to see if this could be their opportunity to go solar. As we’ve been working with these solar enthusiasts, the big question I’ve been asked is “how many will end up going solar?”  Given that the program offers solid components, quality system design and exceptional service (if I may say so myself!) at a reduced cost, one would expect a high percentage of enrollees to move forward with an installation. It is difficult to determine at this point in time, but I’m being conservatively realistic, with projections of 30- 40%; 50 % would be incredible! So, what might keep folks that are eager to bring solar energy systems to their homes from Solarizing?

Limited access to the Sun itself has been one common barrier that our consultants are seeing, which was expected, considering that many of these homes are in shaded neighborhoods.  Some homeowners have been willing to engage an arborist for tree trimming, or even removal in some cases.  But when the shade comes from a neighbor’s tree, and is significantly impacting the insolation on one’s site, that could be a damper on a solar dream.

While shading or other physical barriers may be inflexible, the other limitations to solar access that can arise take form as restrictions imposed on the homeowner by outside parties.  Fortunately, these limitations are not as rigid as some perceive, and have been changing as solar is becoming mainstream and more widely adopted. Fortunately, we don’t hear people say things like “my HOA won’t allow solar” as much as we did five years ago.

What we are seeing with Solarize Asheville, however, is that several of the more active neighborhoods, such as Montford, are registered as Local and National Historic Districts, where keeping the homes in historic character is important. Recognizing that this can be sensitive territory, the SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, through which Solarize has been templated, has prepared a series of briefing papers designed to help planners and public officials understand some key issues in planning for solar energy use. In one, entitled “Balancing Solar Energy Use with Potential Competing Interests” it is acknowledged that historic preservation and solar power generation are often both part of a community’s plan to become more sustainable. However, while solar is part of an energy solution for the future, historic preservation is the key to protecting the community’s past. Tension has developed between these two interests as communities struggle with how to both preserve their past and ensure a sustainable future.

While the above paints a possible scenario of struggle, we have seen that the Historic Resources Commission here in Asheville has been pro-solar. In examining Montford’s Historic District Guidelines, the verbage addressing solar  is positive:

 As alternative energy producing technology continues to improve and become more available and affordable, homeowners may be interested in retrofitting their historic homes with these new devices. In the spirit of sustainability and conservation of energy and the environment, the Historic Resources Commission welcomes the introduction of renewable energy systems while preserving the architectural integrity of the district. It is strongly recommended that solar collectors be sited, oriented, and installed by a licensed solar installer to prevent any damage to the structure.

However, it does continue to lay out specific guidelines, some of which may be directly limiting:

1. Solar energy collectors shall be located as inconspicuously as possible while still allowing for reasonable use. Every effort should be made to limit impact to historic character defining features.

2. Installation of solar devices on roof surfaces facing the primary public right-of-way shall be considered only when no other option is possible and there is no detrimental impact to the integrity of the historic structure and neighborhood. All work must be easily reversible.

3. Solar energy collectors shall not be located in the front yard.

4. Every effort shall be made to screen solar energy collectors from the public view, provided this restriction does not have the effect of preventing the reasonable use of a solar-energy collector

5. Solar collectors must be mounted as flush as possible with the roof and not extend beyond any roof ridge.

6. Trees or existing historic structures should not be removed to provide adequate solar exposure but should be taken into account when siting collector location and orientation to allow for reasonable efficiency.

The above is an attempt to clarify the circumstances in which a solar installation may not be appropriate in a historic neighborhood, and variations of restrictions can be found in HOA covenants all over, for various reasons. However, recognizing that statewide guidelines could help ensure that solar access wasn’t unduly restricted, NC adopted Senate Bill 670 in 2007, known as the NC Solar Access Law:

AN ACT TO PROVIDE THAT CITY ORDINANCES, COUNTY ORDINANCES, AND DEED RESTRICTIONS, COVENANTS, AND OTHER SIMILAR AGREEMENTS CANNOT PROHIBIT OR HAVE THE EFFECT OF PROHIBITING THE INSTALLATION OF SOLAR COLLECTORS NOT FACING PUBLIC ACCESS OR COMMON AREAS ON DETACHED SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENCES.

Interestingly enough, this bill was initiated by a Montford homeowner, Nathan Boniske, a long time solar enthusiast. After learning of a similar bill being adopted in California, he spoke with Representative Susan C. Fisher who introduced it to legislature and saw it into law.  Mr. Boniske is enrolled in Solarize Ashevlle and is in the process of evaluating his site for solar. He does not anticipate that he’ll have problems getting it approved as it will likely be sited in his back yard.

So, the question of when solar can be denied, and by whom, may be narrower than many think, and there is always room for interpretation. We appreciate that there are circumstances in which a solar installation may not be appropriate, or feasible, and that is unfortunate, but we expect that this will be the exception, rather than the norm. So, what is your bet? We’ll have to wait until the contract signing deadline of February 28 closes to know for sure. Hopefully it will be on the high side… this is Asheville!

erika

Solarize Asheville Update!

Friday, October 11th was the deadline to enroll in Solarize Asheville, and when we came in on the following Monday morning we were eager to see what the final count was. Wish we would have held a company-wide guessing contest, but we didn’t. However, I’ll venture that not many of us would have guessed a whopping 367!
Yes, Solarize Asheville has been received with much enthusiasm, but that shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise. This is a great community, we know that, and the program offers an incredible opportunity for homeowners to go solar with its community pricing, streamlined process, and vetted installers (us!)
As you might imagine, this response has kept us busy, and our Customer Service (Extraordinaire, I might ad) person, Sera Turner, has been working hard to respond to everyone in a timely manner. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to serve your interests. There are still many that we are working to connect with, and site visits are currently being scheduled into November, and are expected to go well into December.  As of this time, 11 Solarize projects have been contracted, putting us into the Tier 2 pricing, and we anticipate reaching Tier 5 (the largest group purchasing discount available) by the end of the program.
As to “what’s next?” beyond this pilot program, we’ll be meeting with Katie Bray, Solarize Program Director, later this week to discuss that. There will be a community Solarize celebration to be sure, and we’ll announce details as they are confirmed. Meanwhile, if you have questions, don’t hesitate to call. Keep on the Solarize side Asheville!
erika

Solarize Asheville- preyed upon by Baker Renewables.

Below is a press release from the Solarize  Asheville folks at BRSI.  How very unfortunate that the folks at Baker Renewables have chosen to be so obviously predatory on the Solarize campaign.

__________________________________________________________________________

CONTACT:

Katie Bray, 651-245-3100

Program Director, Solarize Asheville

Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute

kbray@blueridgesustainability.com

Solarize Asheville’s website: www.solarizeasheville.org

 

Dear neighbors,

It has come to our attention that a company out of Raleigh called Baker Renewables has put up a website using the name “Solarize-NC.” They have canvassed at least one of the Solarize Asheville pilot neighborhoods with flyers soliciting business through a tiered pricing structure which closely resembles ours and this may be confusing to neighbors.  Their for-profit venture is not associated with our local non-profit project.

PLEASE BE ADVISED: Baker Renewables is not associated with the non-profit Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute’s project, Solarize Asheville. While they did submit a proposal to the Solarize Asheville team during our competitive bidding process, they were not chosen as our contractor.

Please alert all your neighborhood contacts, newsgroups, Facebook friends, etc., that Solarize Asheville is the only authentic, local, non-profit solar cooperative project endorsed by the City of Asheville and the Department of Energy.  Our contractor is Sundance Power Systems, a local company with a sterling reputation and unsurpassed level of ethics.

Sincerely,

 

Katie Bray

kevin

Solar Energy Projects Continue to Make an Impact in North Carolina

Recent construction has begun on a 5-megawatt solar power project in Beaufort County, North Carolina. The 27,450-panel photovoltaic project will allegedly be able to provide electricity and energy for almost one thousand homes in the region. “The Washington White Post II Solar Power Project brings together the same top-tier team that worked on the original solar facility,” said Duke Energy Renewables President Greg Wolf. “We appreciate working with a community committed to bringing economic development and renewable, emissions-free energy to eastern North Carolina.”

More and more businesses and homeowners are starting to realize the benefits they receive from solar energy in the state of North Carolina. With mostly sunny weather year-round and a growing population, there is a strong desire for this green technology. At Sundance Power, we have installed some fantastic projects as well, including the installation of solar panels at Appalachian State University, AIR Green restaurants, Deltec Homes, All-States Medical and countless others. The country is poised to embrace the benefits of clean technology on a much wider scale, and solar energy is on the front lines.

If you own a business or your own home, and would like to rely less on fossil fuels and the high rates of electric companies, consider investing in solar power in North Carolina. Depending on your energy objectives, Sundance can provide a solar electric system that connects to your electric utility (‘grid-tied’) to reduce or offset your energy bills, or we can provide a system that offers you complete independence from your utility (‘off-grid’). Either way, feel free to contact us at (828)645-2080 for an estimate!

erika

Solarize Asheville Updates!

Solarize Asheville  is well underway, and is generating an incredible amount of interest from people who would like to participate in the reduced pricing and streamlined process for going solar that this community campaign offers.  To date, 229 people have enrolled in the program!

The Solar 101 info session that was held on September 29 had record attendance, and laid out the essentials of the initiative. The following presentations were videotaped, and can be viewed online here: 

-    “Introduction and Why to Go Solar!” – Matt Menne, Climate Scientist and first contracted Solarize homeowner

-   “Solar Photovoltaic Basics” – Wilson Rickerson, Consultant for the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership

-   “A Few Words from the Selected Installer” – Erika Schneider,  Director of   Communications, and Tebbe Davis, Solar Energy Consultant, with Sundance Power Systems

-   “Financing” – Patrick Murphy, Admirals Alternatives Solar Loan Specialist

-   “Tax Incentives” – Mark Goodson, Accounting Professional

During the next few weeks, several informal gatherings will be held in different neighborhoods. These are open to anyone interested in learning more about Solarize and engaging in the community building momentum! See the full calendar for event details.

-  Wednesday, September 18 – 5:30                       GrovePark /Sunset Mountain Neighborhood, 21 Edgemont Road

-  Tuesday, September 24 – 6:00 – 7:30               Norwood Park Neighborhood, 136 Norwood Avenue

-  Thursday, September 26 – 5:00 – 7:30           5 Points Neighborhood, Various Locations

- Wednesday, October 2 – 7:00                               Sierra Club Program, Unitarian Universalist Church

- Wednesday, October 2 – 6:00 -7:30                   West Asheville/Davenport Neighborhood, 109 Estes Court

-  Saturday, October 5 – 3:00 – 4:30                   Haw Creek Neighborhood, 45 Sunnycrest Drive

 

Enrollment   in Solarize Asheville is open through October 11. As the selected installers, we will be in touch to answer any questions and start the process of exploring your possibilities in becoming solarized. We thank you for your patience; we are doing our best to work through the enrollment list and make contact in a timely manner!

* Thanks to Dale Neal of the Asheville Citizen Times for the recent article on Solarize Asheville.

erika

Asheville- Solar City USA?

For a town its size, Asheville has earned some very large titles; one of the “Best Outside Towns,” “Beer City USA,” and the nation’s “Greenest Dining Destination.” This last accolade was the result of the visionary work of the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute, (BRSI) whose Green Dining Initiative put Asheville solidly on the map for foodies that value healthy, low-impact, and local culinary experiences.  What great community achievement might our fair city lay claim to next?

If Katie Bray, who recently joined the BRSI team, is successful in spearheading their newest campaign, Solarize Asheville, there’s the potential Asheville could be called the “Most Solarized City in the Southeast” or maybe even “Solar City USA”… wouldn’t that be sweet! Solarize is a templated community solar model based on nearly a dozen campaigns across the nation. Portland, Oregon was home to the first Solarize campaign, where it led to over 500 residential solar installations.  Under the SunShot Program, the Department of Energy (DOE) created the Solararize Guidebook, which provides the general structure for other communities to adopt.

While every Solarize campaign is adapted to each community’s unique needs, resources and infrastructure, the model tackles three major market barriers: cost, complexity, and customer inertia.  By bringing group purchasing power to neighborhoods through Solarize, the cost of a solar installation can be significantly reduced. (The Solarize Asheville pricing is 26% less than the 2012 state average!) As Bray reported in a recent press release “The cost of installing solar exceeds the price of inverters, panels, racking, and labor. There are also the “soft” costs… but a lot can be done to reduce them, and that is what we’ve done for Asheville residents.” The Asheville program offers five-tiered pricing, with the savings becoming more substantial as more people sign up.

Through educational outreach, the initiative also aims to streamline and simplify the decision-making process that can often overwhelm homeowners that are interested in solar energy. The pre-selection of a qualified and certified installer is a critical aspect of that value, and this was done through a competitive bid process through which the BRSI team, with assistance from the DOE, examined experience, product offering, pricing, and service, as well as community engagement.   Sundance Power Systems, a local leading renewable energy company, was chosen for their proven capacity and brought into partnership on this exciting initiative. “Our entire Team is honored to have been awarded this project; our proposal represents the strength of the services we have worked hard to develop over the last 18 years,’ said Erika Schneider, Director of Communications with Sundance Power Systems. “This initiative has the potential to bring solar to the Asheville community on a significant scale, and we’re very excited about that.”

To learn more about Solarize Asheville, and to ultimately be one of the homes that makes Asheville a leader on the solar front, plan on coming to Solar 101 on August 29th, where a representative from the DOE will speak, and learn about the technology and its benefits, incentives and financing options, and the process of Solarizing your home.

erika

Thanks to our Solar Partners!

We love all of our solar partners, but are especially grateful to the businesses that have joined us in our 2013 Solar Partner Co-Promotion Raffle Program. Truly, it’s a win-win-win thing; these great businesses that have committed to solar get some recognition, our solar conversation is much more exciting when we can point to their great systems, and some lucky folks that visit with us at solar events out in the community will win some great prizes!

Home Grown, Luella’s, and Mellow Mushroom have generously offered gift certificates for dining at their green restaurants, along with Highland Lake Inn, who is also offering special overnight stays. Grandfather Mountain and Blue Heron Whitewater have given passes for great outdoor adventures, and Deltec Homes has donated a comfy camp chair to go to a lucky winner.

Come and see us at Downtown after 5, RiverMusic and other events throughout the season and drop your name in our can (no hat!) for a chance to win. We’ll draw various prizes randomly throughout the summer, with the last draw following Fall LEAF in October. (The rafting tickets will be given away following RiverFest in August.)

When you are deciding where to have some fun this summer, we hope you will remember these businesses and will choose to enjoy their services. When you  do, thank them for Keeping on the Sunny Side!  Good luck!

erika

We’d Love Your Vote!

Sundance Power Systems has worked long and hard (18 years, in fact!)  empowering people with solar and other clean energy technologies throughout the region. Our team strives hard to give our best, and is committed to serving our customers fairly, efficiently, and for the long- haul.

How about taking a minute to vote for us as The Best in the category of Alt Energy Sales and Installation in Mountain Xpress’ Best of WNC 2013 contest?

We’d appreciate the support- hope you agree that we are worthy of this status!

Vote Here:  Best Of WNC 2013 Ballot