Archive for February, 2011

Details on Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Program Changes

Monday, February 28th, 2011

On February 16, 2011, Xcel Energy petitioned the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to change the structure of the Solar*RewardsTM rebate program, significantly reducing the funds available to its customers who install solar energy systems.  The Solar*Rewards program rebate includes two components for residential customers.  One is a straight rebate of $2.00 per Watt.  If you install a 4kW system (4,000 Watts) you would receive a rebate of $8,000.  The other component is the Renewable Energy Credit or REC as it is more commonly known.  Under the current structure (until February 16th) the REC was on a scheduled decline as more solar energy systems were installed.  For example, at the beginning of 2010, the REC was $0.70 per Watt, and remained at that level for 1 megawatt of installations.  If you installed a 4kW system during that REC level, you received an additional $2,800 for the REC.  Add that to the $8,000 rebate and you have a total of $10,800 in incentives toward the cost of your system.  Once the $0.70/Watt tranche was used up, the REC was reduced to $0.55/Watt for another 1 megawatt of installations, then to $0.45 for another 3 megawatts, then to $0.35 for another 4 megawatts.  It was then scheduled to drop to $0.25 for another 4 megawatts, then to $0.15 for another 4 megawatts, and so on – until it reached $0.05 per Watt.  In fact, the current program actually began with a REC level of $1.50 per Watt back in October of 2009, and the previous program had a REC level of $2.50 per Watt in 2008.

Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards program was initiated in response to Renewable Energy Standards that require them to attain a certain percentage of their energy portfolio from renewable energy sources by a certain date.  The program was helping to achieve that goal for Xcel and helped to develop the solar industry in Colorado.  In fact, more than 5,000 jobs were created, schools were built to train renewable energy workers, 400 new renewable energy companies were established, and thousands of people throughout the State have been able to offset a portion of their energy usage with solar energy systems.  Xcel rate payers fund this program with a 2% surcharge every month (this funding was not halted when the program was halted!).  Xcel, along with the PUC, structured the rebate program with a planned, tiered declining approach that was based on the amount of solar energy systems installed rather than a program based on time, which enabled Xcel to align the cost with their objective.  The reason for the planned decline was so that solar energy companies (and their customers) could plan their businesses and client installations around a scheduled rebate decrease rather than have an immediate halt to the rebate program.  On February 16th, when Xcel petitioned the PUC and effectively halted the Solar*Rewards program, the program had consumed about 1.85 megawatts out of the target of 4 MW set aside for the $0.35/Watt REC price tier.

Xcel has applied to reduce the $2.00 per Watt rebate to $0.25 per Watt, with the “intent” that the REC would be raised to $1.00 per Watt.  The PUC determines the rebate rate, and Xcel has full autonomy and flexibility to make adjustments within the REC portion of the incentive.  This proposed change would give Xcel Energy the flexibility to decrease the combined incentive to $0.26 per Watt at any time, without notice.

In Xcel Energy’s petition to the PUC they state that their “intent” and their “plan” is to offer a $1.00 per Watt REC.  However, in their 2011 budget for the Solar*Rewards program, they state that after the PUC decision, they will acquire 10 more megawatts of customer-owned solar for $6.7 million.  This comes to $0.67 per Watt, or nearly half the “intended” rate as stated in their letter to the PUC.  If their budget figure is correct, then it’s not possible for Xcel to maintain the $1.00/Watt REC payments that they’re proposing – they would need to drop that to less than $0.67/Watt fairly quickly to stay within the stated budget.  Thus, what Xcel is saying they’ll do and what it appears they’re prepared to do are two very different things.

As an industry, we would like to see the PUC respond in a number of ways.  First, we would like the PUC to reinstate the Solar*Rewards program as it was prior to February 16th until a decision is made regarding the change in rebate structure.  This would allow the solar energy industry to continue operating while the proposed changes are ironed out, keeping the more than 5,000 solar workers in Colorado employed.  Second, we would like to see the total incentive amount back above $2.00 per Watt because the decline in equipment pricing has not occurred as fast as the decline in the incentive.  Third, we would like to see the PUC structure the incentives so that the larger portion is contained within the rebate portion, rather than the REC component.  This will help create stability and predictability as we scale down the rebates.  Lastly, we would like the PUC to appoint an independent third party to administer the program.  This will help to keep the program objective, stable/predictable, and transparent.

At Arise Energy Solutions, we believe that solar energy in Colorado makes sense.  Colorado voters proved that they believe solar energy in Colorado makes sense when they passed amendment 37 back in 2004.   Let’s get the program that we (all Xcel Energy rate payers) are funding back on line, so we can continue toward making Colorado the Solar Capital of the US and so that we can continue to grow our State’s economy leveraging clean, renewable energy.

Tim Meisinger, Co-Founder & CFO

Jim Bartlett, Co-Founder & CEO

Arise Energy Solutions, LLC

** Solar*Rewards is a trademark of Xcel Energy.

Arise Offers FREE VIP Tickets to Home Show!

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Arise co-founder Tim Meisinger offers two free VIP tickets to the Colorado Home Show this week.  The first person to call Tim at 720-254-5864 and schedule to have Arise come out and do a site evaluation for a solar system and also asks him about the tickets will receive our free tickets!

Microinverters: Maximizing Output from a Solar Array

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

This week at the Colorado Home Show we’re demonstrating how we help our clients get the maximum performance from their photovoltaic solar systems through the use of Enphase microinverters.   This video outlines some of the reasons that these advanced devices are usually the optimal solution for grid-tied arrays.   We’re in booth #215 at the Denver Convention Center, so please stop by and learn more!   

Solar: Saving Energy on Electric Power – Arise Energy

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Arise Energy is showing clients at the Colorado Home Show how they can save on their electric bills, while reducing their carbon footprints.  This video shows us talking about recent rate increases, and the 20-percent increase mentioned in last Sunday’s Denver Post.  These additional rate increases are anticipated within the next several years.  Come see us at the Colorado Home Show, in booth #215.  See you soon!

Solar Energy Exhibit at 2011 Colorado Home Show

Monday, February 14th, 2011

At the show today we demonstrated how a block of pure crystalline silicon is used to make photovoltaic solar cells.  First the silicon is melted and formed into ingots, which are then sliced into very thin wafers.

These wafers are then “doped” with minute amounts of impurities — specifically phosphorous on one side and boron on the other side.  These impurities are what make the silicon an efficient semiconductor, producing electric current when struck by light.  After the doping process, the cells are combined into a module that consists of many cells.  A grid-work of wires is applied so that electric power can be extracted from the cells.  Finally, a very strong tempered glass cover is applied to the front, and a thermally conductive glue is applied to the back side to help draw heat away from the cells.  A metal frame is usually applied around the edge of the entire module to strengthen it and facilitate mounting to rails for a rooftop or ground-mounted application.

Come by our exhibit to check it out….we have the only chunk of pure silicon on display, and you can hold it in your hand!  We’re at the 2011 Colorado Spring Home Show, in the Denver Convention Center.  Show hours are 12-noon to 8:00pm Monday through Friday this week, then Saturday from 10am to 8pm and Sunday from 10am to 6pm.

Our booth is #215 — Hope to see you there!

COSEIA Conference & Seminar

Friday, February 11th, 2011

I just finished participating in the COSEIA conference…great event!  Learned a ton.   Yesterday (2/10) was a series of shorter seminars, and exhibits were open.  Today was an all-day seminar of continuing education for photovoltaic solar system designers and installers.  Two experts from SEI ran the course, and it was well worth the time.  Many changes in the National Electrical Code (NEC) for 2011.  Participation in COSEIA and programs like this help us serve our clients better, by staying up on the latest trends and changes in our industry!

Arise Energy to Attend COSEIA Solar Energy Conference

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Arise Energy will attend the COSEIA solar energy conference in Loveland this Thursday and Friday, Feb. 10-11.   We look forward to seeing many of our business partners as well as fellow members of COSEIA and CRES there!

Offsetting Your Carbon Footprint

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

How do I offset a portion of my carbon footprint?

A solar energy system may indeed be a key part of the solution. These days many people ask us about reducing their carbon footprint. The first thing we typically do is ask a few more questions to better understand the client’s environment, their current energy consumption, their objectives for reducing that consumption, their objectives for reducing their carbon footprint, their budget, and their expectation in terms of the timeframe for full return on the investment (ROI).   This is all part of ensuring we fully understand our clients needs, before designing or proposing a solar energy system for their home (or business).

Steps Toward Reducing Energy Usage

In many cases, we determine that our clients don’t have a good idea of how much energy they are currently using, or what devices (appliances, etc) are using the majority of the energy. In most residential households, the largest single user of electricity is the refrigerator. The next largest is often lighting. If lamps and lighting fixtures have not been retrofitted with high efficiency bulbs (e.g. compact fluorescent, or CFL), this is often one of areas where we can make the biggest and most immediate impact in the home’s energy usage, because CFLs only use about a quarter of the energy required by incandescent bulbs, while emitting an equivalent amount of light. Clients who have tried CFLs a few years ago and were disappointed with the results usually are surprised to learn that technology improvements have led to products that power up and get to full brightness much more rapidly, and that CFLs are now available in a number of different temperatures or “colors” of light….from very “warm” (simulating incandescent bulbs), to bright white, simulating daylight.

Energy Audits

At Arise Energy Solutions, we offer our clients a free energy audit as part of our early “discovery” process.  We use tools such as an infrared thermal imaging system to identify any potential energy “leaks” in the building envelope itself — areas that are allowing heat to escape in the winter, or allowing heat to enter in the summer.  (NOTE:  “Cold” is simply an absence of thermal energy, or heat.)  This audit will identify areas that can be easily remediated, helping to reduce energy losses due to leaks in the building envelope.  We also will make recommendations regarding other areas where clients can save money easily, simply by making changes in daily usage patterns.

The Solar Solution

With the audit data in hand and a plan to improve the client’s usage “baseline,” such that all energy generated by a renewable energy system is put to use more efficiently.  The final step is evaluating the building to determine the “fit” for a photovoltaic solar system.  That is accomplished by measuring the available roof surfaces in terms of their area, azimuth, pitch, and potential shading.  We then develop client proposals based on selecting the optimal combination of roof surfaces to offset the target percentage of energy usage and/or the target carbon footprint offset, while also staying within the indicated budget.  Fortunately, with current incentives available regionally as well as at the state and national level, our clients typically pay less than 40% of the actual total cost of their system — the balance is covered by rebates, renewable energy credits and Federal tax credits.

For more information, or to schedule a no-cost site evaluation, give us a call:  720-468-3225.

State of the Union Address – A Call for Clean, Renewable Energy

Friday, February 4th, 2011

President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 25th 2011 called for the aggressive deployment of renewable energy in the U.S. and elimination of tax subsidies to fossil-fuel producers (to the tune of approximately $4 billion per year). “Clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling,” Obama added. ” I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.” Many are criticizing the inclusion of energy sources like “clean coal” and natural gas, but Obama stressed that the “all-of-the-above” approach to energy is the most realistic strategy for taking major steps toward energy independence. “Some folks want wind and solar,” Obama said. “Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all.”
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Client Installation – Lakewood #102

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

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