Tag Archives: Solarcity

Whole Foods teaming with NRG and Solar City to install rooftop solar at 100 stores

By Samantha Masunaga, The Los Angeles Times

Whole Foods Market Inc. is embracing solar power. The Austin, Texas-based grocery chain has signed agreements with SolarCity and NRG Energy Inc. to install rooftop solar units at up to 100 stores and distribution centers.

NRG, based in Princeton, N.J., will install the units at up to 84 locations in nine states, according to a joint statement from the two companies. San Mateo, Calif.-based SolarCity will install the rest, Whole Foods spokeswoman Blaire Kniffin said.

The companies did not disclose the locations of the stores that will receive the rooftop solar units, but Kathy Loftus, Whole Foods’ global leader for sustainability, said the company’s goal was to have rooftop solar units in every region. A store’s rooftop solar unit can generate about 5% to 20% of the yearly electricity that store needs, Loftus said. In a statement, Whole Foods said it would buy discounted power from SolarCity.

Whole Foods says it currently has rooftop solar installed at 20 stores. Tuesday’s announcement comes 14 years after the chain installed solar-powered lighting for the first time, at a store in Berkeley. Installation of the newly announced solar units will begin in the spring, Loftus said.

Read full article in the Los Angeles Times

U.S. solar industry battles ‘white privilege’ image problem

By Nichola Groom, Reuters

Solar power companies have an image problem—and they are beginning to do something about it.

Despite a sharp drop in the price of solar panels and innovative financing plans that have brought the technology to many middle income households over the past decade, it is still seen as a luxury only rich, mostly white, consumers can afford. That perception both hampers solar expansion in less affluent communities and drives political opposition to initiatives promoting greater use of solar power as a renewable alternative to gas, oil and coal.

Though it has grown dramatically in recent years, solar power still makes up less than 1 percent of U.S. energy supplies and relies heavily on government incentives to compete with traditional energy sources. Those incentives help companies such as SolarCity, Sunrun and others market solar power contracts that offer customers 20 percent savings on their energy bills. However, the schemes come with certain credit requirements and are ill-suited for apartment dwellers, homes with low monthly bills or low-income households that qualify for reduced power rates.

Since minorities make up a disproportionate number of low-income households, some advocacy groups have opposed certain solar power initiatives arguing that they deepen social and racial inequality. Solar companies are now trying to tackle both the perceptions and the economics by pushing to diversify their workforce, forging alliances with minority groups, and making solar power more suitable for multi-family housing.

The stakes are particularly high in California, by far the top U.S. solar market where solar power is expected to make up more than 10 percent of the state’s power generation in 2015, according to IHS. Communities with median household incomes below $40,000 account for just 5 percent of installations in the state even though a third of California households fall into that category. That share has not changed over the past seven years even as solar installations in communities in the $55,000-$70,000 income bracket have risen to more than half of the total market.

Read full article from Reuters

The Silicon Valley Idea That’s Driving Solar Use Worldwide

By Mark Chediak & Christopher Martin, Bloomberg News

Silicon Valley has something to offer the world in the drive toward a clean energy economy. And it’s not technology.

It’s a financing formula. In a region that spawned tech giants Apple Inc. and Google and is famous for innovators and entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, a handful of startups began offering to install solar panels on the homes of middle-class families in return for no-money down and monthly payments cheaper than a utility bill. This third-party leasing method — which made expensive clean energy gear affordable — ignited a rooftop solar revolution with annual U.S. home installations increasing 16-fold since 2008, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.

“There is a reason why California is a tech Mecca for the world because the infrastructure is here to attract that talent,” said SolarCity Corp.’s Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Rive, whose company popularized third-party solar leases for homeowners starting in 2008. “All the major innovation is going to occur in California. One of the innovations is the financing of solar assets.”

SolarCity took the leasing model that SunEdison Inc. first developed for the solar industry by a graduate student named Jigar Shah. SolarCity adapted that model for residential consumers in 2008 and many more offered similar arrangements including Sunrun Inc., which developed the first one in September 2007, and Vivint Solar Inc. And now the idea is spreading to other industries trying to sell expensive capital equipment that reduce pollution and fossil fuel consumption.

Read full article from Bloomberg News

Palm Springs to save $25 million by going solar

By Sammy Roth, The Desert Sun

Palm Springs expects to save nearly $25 million over the next 25 years by installing solar panels at eight sites around the city, including the convention center and the downtown parking structure.

The city has entered into final contract negotiations with two national solar companies: SolarCity and SunEdison. SunEdison will install solar panels at the convention center, the downtown parking structure, and several other civic buildings and city parks. SolarCity will tackle installations at the city’s wastewater treatment plant and the Sunrise Plaza complex. The city expects all eight systems to come online by the end of 2016.

City staff estimates Palm Springs will save nearly $33.8 million over the next 25 years on its electricity bills, while spending about $9 million to install the panels and pay off the solar firms over time. The city will pay just $3.2 million in up-front costs, with some of that money covered by grants from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.  The city could save an additional $1.2 million if money from California’s solar rebate program comes through as expected.

Read full article in the Desert Sun

A Revolutionary Roadmap for California’s Distributed Energy Future

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media

California is already changing its utility and energy regulations to incorporate rooftop solar, behind-the-meter energy storage, plug-in electric vehicles and other grid-edge resources, arguably faster than any other state. But a group of utilities and energy industry members have ideas for even more radical transformations ahead.

On Tuesday, the Advanced Energy Economy Institute released a report that calls for California regulators to consider entirely new ways for its major utilities to invest in and operate a distributed energy resource-rich grid, and how to get paid for it. The report, Toward a 21st Century Electricity System in California, lays out a laundry list of concepts that could help utilities shed their institutional need for investing in traditional generation and grid infrastructure, and encourage them to embrace customer-owned and third-party-controlled distributed energy resources (DERs) as an alternative.

The ideas aren’t that novel in and of themselves. What’s more noteworthy is the list of participants in the working group that created the document. That list includes California utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, as well as DER providers like SolarCity, Stem, SunPower, Enphase, EnerNOC, ChargePoint and SunEdison, which have at times sparred with the state’s utilities over how to balance utility and third-party interests when it comes to distributed energy.

Read full article from Greentech Media

Related article: Report—Incentives hold back clean energy (The San Diego Union Tribune)

Creative Solar Finance Grows the Pool of PV Investors and Customers

By Eric Wesoff, Greentech Media

SolarCity and Bank of America Merrill Lynch just announced a $200 million tax equity investment program for solar projects that allows community banks to participate in tax equity — and opens up an enormous potential pool of new investors. Investors can invest $20 million to $25 million, a smaller investment than has been previously possible given the transaction costs.

Lyndon Rive, the CEO of SolarCity, said that with Bank of America standardizing the agreement and leading the initiative, “other regional banks can ride that, put capital to work, and meet their business goals.”

Rive spoke of the “mad rush” to get projects done before the tax equity party ends with the expiry of the federal Investment Tax Credit next year. SolarCity is growing enormously fast (as are its competitors Vivint, Sunrun, and Sungevity) and though well-financed for 2015, SolarCity will need to continue to bring new, low-cost capital into the solar market to continue its lofty growth.

Read full article from Greentech Media