Distributed Energy Resources: Here's How We'll Build a Modern, Reliable, Sustainable Energy System   

By Emma Beaulieu  

With cities growing, global economies expanding, and standards of living getting higher in countries around the world, one thing has become clear: the best way to ensure that energy infrastructure can support our needs is by building small, sustainable, and distributed energy resources.

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Much of our existing energy infrastructure consists of huge, centralized power plants, that are costly, unreliable, and harmful to the environment. And changes in technology have global leaders asking themselves how they can adapt to better serve their communities’ needs and sustainability goals.

One of the best steps we can take is to move away from the large, centralized generation plants of the past, and towards a decentralized, dynamic electrical grid that is made up of distributed energy resources.

Distributed energy resources (DERs) are any sort of small-scale, localized energy technology that offers an alternative to the traditional electric power system. Generally, DERs are renewable energy resources, like rooftop solar, solar gardens, and wind turbines, but they also include other energy assets, such as battery storage.

RELATED: The Top 5 Reasons Why Solar is the Way Of The Future

5 BENEFITS OF DISTRIBUTED ENERGY RESOURCES

Distributed energy resources create flexibility in electricity production and distribution, and, as a result, bring several major benefits to the electrical grid and to society at large. Here are a few of the main reasons why many states and municipalities are working towards incorporating more DERs into their electrical systems:

1. DISTRIBUTED ENERGY IS RELIABLE & RESILIENT 

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Distributed energy resources mean that we don’t have to rely solely on our electric utilities for energy reach our homes. In the past, large storms could cause outages across an entire region’s electrical grid. But Hurricane Maria and other recent tropical storms have left no room for doubt: the homes most likely to have power in the wake of a disaster are those with rooftop panels installed.  

But the benefits of DERs go beyond the individual home. This is because groups of DERs can easily be connected to micro-grids—small versions of our larger power grid which can then connect to the traditional electrical grid.

The benefit of microgrids is that, like, individual DERs, they can be disconnected from the larger grid network in the case of an outage—providing reliable and resilient power all on their own. Before long, a growing number of standalone, distributed resources could put an end to the days of massive, region-wide power outages.

2. DERs ARE MORE EFFICIENT

  Solar panels on the roof of a Walmart in Chula Vista, California. One of Walmart’s broad sustainability goals is to be powered by 100% renewable energy. 

Solar panels on the roof of a Walmart in Chula Vista, California. One of Walmart’s broad sustainability goals is to be powered by 100% renewable energy. 

One of the biggest inefficiencies in current electric grids is the energy loss that happens when electricity is transmitted across long-distance, high-voltage power lines. Distributed energy resources can easily be located close to where the energy that they produce is actually needed. This reduces the amount of energy that is lost when it flows from where it’s generated to where it’s used. What this means is energy savings: by using distributed resources, we save energy AND save money.

 

3. DISTRIBUTED ENERGY RESOURCES ARE COST-EFFICIENT

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Solar’s 70 percent price decline since 2010 has been the energy story of the decade, putting DER generation costs on par with fossil fuels—or even cheaper. Additionally, distributed energy resources benefit communities and electrical grids so much that many states have put policies in place to incentivize DER development and save consumers money on their electricity bills.

A recent study by researchers at Stanford University suggests that the net costs of electricity can be reduced by almost 50 percent simply through the targeted construction of DER infrastructure. Though distributed energy resources may threaten utility’s traditional bottom line, following the Stanford researchers’ plan can significantly reduce a utility’s operating costs and bring benefits to every energy consumer.

RELATED: How Community Solar Contributes to a Thriving Sharing Economy

4. DERs Positively Impact THE ENVIRONMENT

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Distributed energy resources have the ability to significantly reduce pollution in two main ways. First, renewable DERs reduce the amount of electricity that must be generated at centralized plants, which generally use highly polluting fossil fuels, like coal. Second, DERs like wind and solar release no harmful emissions.  

Fossil-fueled air pollution causes millions of premature deaths every year, and is driving extreme climate impacts to our cities, natural ecosystems, and agriculture.

Solar and wind are a welcome break from these destructive impacts. Whether on a rooftop or in a solar garden, when developed appropriately, even the infrastructure required for solar panel systems have very low environmental impact, especially compared to traditional electrical generation systems.

5. DECENTRALIZED ENERGY PROVIDES GREATER SECURITY AGAINST ATTACKS 

  This microgrid system in San Antonio is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory's operating base of the future demonstration. Solar panels are placed on top of tents for energy production. A trailer holds software and batteries that form the smart grid and provide backup should the grid fail. The project also evaluates energy reduction technologies such as shelter insulation and efficient heating. Air Force Photo by Donna Lindner.

This microgrid system in San Antonio is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory's operating base of the future demonstration. Solar panels are placed on top of tents for energy production. A trailer holds software and batteries that form the smart grid and provide backup should the grid fail. The project also evaluates energy reduction technologies such as shelter insulation and efficient heating. Air Force Photo by Donna Lindner.

In the modern world, we are more dependent on technology than ever, and electricity is not just a daily necessity, but also a crucial piece of our national security.

Groups tied to foreign governments, including Russia, have breached U.S. power grid systems multiple times in recent years. And much as they display greater resiliency in the face of storms and natural disasters, DERs can provide a stronger defense against cyber attacks. With careful planning, we can give distributed energy systems the ability to operate independently from the larger electrical grid, giving DERS and microgrids the ability to provide flexibility and resiliency from power outages—protecting communities and institutions from damaging outages.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE OF DERs

In an America powered by distributed energy, the power is in your hands. Communities and institutions alike would have the ability to become self-sufficient by producing their own energy, while feeding excess energy back into the grid. By investing in renewable, decentralized energy resources, energy consumers can make the electric system more efficient, reliable, and sustainable, all while gaining greater control over their energy bills.

Learn About Your Options for Contributing to a Distributed Energy Future!

The Top 5 Reasons Why Solar is the Way of the Future

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By Emma Beaulieu

The future of solar energy is looking bright. Recent developments in the energy world have experts saying that solar will, before long, replace fossil fuels to become the leading energy source of the future. Its advantages have been convincing enough that everyone seems to be jumping on board— from households to big businesses, from environmentalists to oil majors.

But the energy space can be complicated, and it’s reasonable to wonder: is solar really the best future energy source? To help make sense of it all, we’ve broken down five key advantages that we believe will help propel solar to the top spot in global energy production.

1. SOLAR CAN BE USED BY ANYONE, ANYWHERE

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Solar energy has proven its versatility over the years, and nowadays, solar can be found everywhere that people choose to live their lives. Solar panels are bringing renewable energy to places it has never been before—some of which haven't previously had any sort of electricity—such as rural communities in India and research bases in Antarctica.

Some places where clean energy accessibility is still an issue are even closer to home than you’d think. More than 250 million Americans have been unable to access solar energy, but new innovations, such as community solar, are helping to change this by bringing solar access to renters, low-income Americans, and other underserved communities. Solar is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after energy sources for people of all walks of life; from high to low incomes, from the equator to the arctic, from small business owners to environmentalists, and from rooftop owners to solar farm subscribers.

RELATED: Affordable Solar For All: Solstice’s Approach to Democratizing Clean Energy Access, Explained.

2. SOLAR TECHNOLOGY IS MORE AFFORDABLE THAN EVER—AND IT'S ONLY GETTING CHEAPER

As the solar industry continues down the path of greater innovation and lower prices, we can expect solar energy to become significantly cheaper than oil and gas.

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To put things into perspective, the average cost per kilowatt-hour (kwh) of energy in the U.S. is around 13.30 cents, according to a recent Choose Energy report, but these rates vary quite a bit from 31 cents/kwh in Hawaii to 9 cents/kwh in Louisiana. Solar is expected to bring down electricity costs in states across the country.

Since 2010, we have seen more than a 70% decrease in costs for solar energy. Even with the recent solar tariffs, within the next few years you can expect to be paying between 4 and 12 cents/kwh for electricity produced by large-scale solar farms, and only slightly more for rooftop solar.

Even better, after they're installed, solar panels have almost no ongoing costs—making prices much less subject to fluctuating global fuel prices. And new innovations, such as battery storage, will continue to lower the prices of solar and eliminate the need for fossil fuels, even when the sun’s not shining.

Related: Solar too Expensive for your Household? Not Anymore.  

3. OUR CLIMATE IS CHANGING AND WE NEED TO KEEP UP

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Traditional electricity production is dirty; burning coal, oil, and gas is extremely harmful to the environment. Older electricity production sources contribute to around a quarter of the annual carbon dioxide emissions, and getting fossil fuels out of the ground drives further pollution and climate impacts. It also uses massive amounts of water, causing problems for cities and towns in arid locations around the world.

Solar energy is a profoundly impactful answer to these problems. Though we cannot yet claim that solar is 100% emission- and water-free, any water used or emissions produced are limited to the manufacturing and shipping processes, and are vastly lower than those linked to “traditional” electricity production. Once panels are installed, solar electricity production is emissions-free and requires little water, if any.

Related: Here’s How Solar Developers can Maximize Solar’s Positive Impact on the Environment.  

4. WE CAN RELY ON THE SUN 

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Unlike fossil fuels, sunlight is a guaranteed resource that we can rely on for the long run. Even in places where solar was not originally thought to be a possible source of energy, such as Antarctica, solar panels are gaining ground.

RELATED: Yes, solar panels do work during the winter, and in cold climates!

A 100 x 100 mile area of land covered with solar panels, and just one square mile of battery storage, has the potential to power our entire country. Tesla CEO Elon Musk proposed this idea last July at a meeting of the National Governors Association. The switch from an America powered by fossil fuels to a solar-powered America could mean more stability in energy prices, an abundance of energy, and long-term freedom from our dependency on foreign oil.

5. SOLAR ENERGY IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS

 Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, in part from a 17-megawatt onsite rooftop solar installation.

Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, in part from a 17-megawatt onsite rooftop solar installation.

One of the greatest indications of the promise of a solar-powered future is the rapid increase in the number of organizations that are ‘going solar’. The majority of Fortune 100 companies have now invested in renewable energy, with large tech companies like Apple and Google even achieving 100 percent renewable energy targets.

 

Even oil giants are jumping on the bandwagon: Shell has invested almost $2 billion on clean energy; recently the company bought a European electric vehicle charging station company and a large share of Silicon Ranch, a major U.S. solar company.

What better display of trust in the future of solar energy than billions of dollars being poured into the industry, and by none other than big oil companies? Solar is already well on its way to taking over the energy industry. We can't wait to see what happens next.

Want to know more? Here’s Our guide to Understanding Your Solar Options.

 

 

 

Solar for Landlords: The Easiest Way for Rental Owners to Save in 2018

Solar has taken off in America, with more homeowners and tenants benefiting from clean energy and utility bill savings than ever before. But landlords and property owners have taken a more tentative approach to the market, given the extra effort and investment required to put panels on the rooftop and the lack of readily apparent benefits.

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Now, community solar is changing the calculation for property owners—and more landowners are beginning to jump on the solar bandwagon.

RELATED: How Do I Know if I’m Eligible to Be a Community Solar Customer?

How Can Landlords Benefit from Solar?

If the tenant is paying the energy bill and seeing the savings, why would a property owner switch their properties to solar energy?

We get this question from a lot of property owners, and it’s a fair point. If you’re considering putting a $10,000 solar system on your roof, it’s understandable to want to see a return on your investment.

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But more and more landlords are realizing that solar can be about more than just living their values—it can make financial sense as well.

Some property owners we talk to, especially those of you who live on the property and rent some part of your home or property to tenants, will see the benefits show up on their electric bill. If you have multiple electric meters for different units, you can even have all of the energy bill credits go directly to a single electric bill. And, much like a home renovation, rooftop solar can also increase your property value if you’re considering selling the property at some point down the road.

RELATED: Understanding Your Solar Options

Community Solar Is a Simpler Option for Landlords

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Now, there’s an easier way to support solar and see financial benefits: community solar. Community solar allows you to enroll your home in a local solar farm, bringing savings to whomever is paying the electric bill, and allowing you to support local, clean energy.

Community solar is a great option for landlords who pay the utility bills for their properties (or who are willing to do so), because it’s easier than going through the process of installing panels on your rooftop, and because it requires no extra investment on your part.

This alternative can also give you a clear edge in advertising your rental property, since it gives tenants clear and tangible benefits on a monthly basis, both lowering their monthly costs and giving them a chance to participate in solar energy.

RELATED: Solar Problems? The Truth Behind 10 Common Concerns About Solar Energy

As a Landlord, What Are My Options for Going Solar & Saving?

Landlords have two clear options to go solar and save:

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  • Rooftop solar: Increases the value of the property and allows the bill-payer to save, but requires a substantial upfront investment (often more than $10,000). Not all properties make it easy to install solar: Many buildings, including multifamily homes and homes with shading and structural issues, are simply unable pursue this option.

  • Community solar: Easy sign-up, no installation or extra investment. The property’s electric bill still supports local, clean energy, and the bill payer still sees savings. Doesn’t increase property valuation or taxes.

RELATED: 7 Downsides of Solar Energy

Solar Is About Savings as Much as It Is Clean Energy

As costs come down and more options become available, solar is becoming a more attractive option for property owners. Community solar, in particular, can be a win-win for landlords, allowing them to brag about their connection to clean energy and utility bill savings, and without the extra costs associated with other forms of solar.

Affordable Solar for All: Solstice’s Approach to Democratizing Clean Energy Access, Explained.

By Forrest Watkins

When Solstice Co-Founder & CEO Steph Speirs first decided that she wanted to bring affordable solar to every American household, she was halfway around the world. She had been working with local communities to expand solar access in off-grid rural communities in India, and one day she realized that the households that she talked to on a daily basis were often more likely to get access to solar than the average American household.

 Solstice's Co-Founder & CEO, Steph Speirs, speaking at the Acumen Fund annual gala

Solstice's Co-Founder & CEO, Steph Speirs, speaking at the Acumen Fund annual gala

So Speirs joined forces with Co-Founders Sandhya Murali and Steve Moilanen to form Solstice. The more they looked into the issue of American energy equity, that more they encountered the same contradiction: while many people felt like they were the only ones with a shaded or unsuitable roof, or who couldn’t justify the upfront expense, approximately 80 percent of all American households couldn’t get rooftop solar.

The seeming uniqueness of each household’s solar barrier had rendered the problem invisible, but together, they formed a growing nationwide issue. The solar industry was beginning to reproduce many (but not all) of the same inequities of fossil-fueled energy systems.

Community Solar Can Be a Path to Energy Equity

Fortunately, a new model for solar was just gaining ground, and Solstice’s founders saw its potential to bring affordable, clean energy to more households. Community solar allows households to enroll in a local shared solar array and see savings on their electric bill, without any of the extra costs or installation problems introduced by putting it on a rooftop.

Still, a few key factors meant that many of the same households that were left out of rooftop solar were also excluded from community solar. Since its founding, Solstice has sought to change that, pursuing three key areas of action:

Solstice Makes Community Solar Contracts Affordable for All

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When Solstice began, most community solar subscriptions required customers to sign on for the full 20-year life of the project and pay steep cancellation fees if they ever decided to cancel their contract or move out of the area. These measures allayed the fears of risk-wary solar financiers, but they were far from the bold and inclusive industry that we wanted to be a part of building—and even putting aside equity concerns, it made little long-term business sense to exclude the 42 million American households that rent their homes.

So, even as the Solstice team has used our community organizing expertise to help solar developers fill their community solar gardens, we have negotiated on behalf of our customers, working to shorten contracts and get rid of cancellation fees. And while we can’t take all the credit, the industry has started to realize that customer-friendly contracts are the way of the future: developers are increasingly waiving cancellation fees, and we’ve begun to see contract lengths of six years or less.

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To directly address the concerns of solar financiers, we’ve also set out to create a fund, called a loan-loss reserve, that will protect financiers of pilot solar projects serving low-income communities from bearing any additional risk associated with shorter contracts.

RELATED: How to Bring Solar to Every American.

The EnergyScore: A More Accurate and Inclusive Replacement for Restrictive Credit Score Requirements

Credit scores have long been used to predict whether or not people can be expected to pay certain bills. But the truth is that people’s ability to pay is a lot more complex than a single number—and credit score requirements disproportionately exclude low-income and communities of color. There are plenty of households that have paid their utility bills on time for years, but have a low credit score because they’re living paycheck-to-paycheck or using credit to make ends meet.

That’s why we’ve been working with the Department of Energy and analysts at MIT and Stanford to make a way of qualifying people that is specifically designed to understand their ability to pay their community solar bill. We’ve analyzed a truly massive amount of (anonymized!) consumer data and put together a metric that is projected to be both more accurate than FICO credit scores in predicting people’s ability to pay their energy bills and more inclusive of low-to-moderate income households.

This year, we’ll be testing the EnergyScore in real-life community solar projects around the country. We’re already working with Bright Power, Sol Purpose, Green City Force, and SolarOne to use the EnergyScore to bring solar and energy bill savings to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) affordable housing residents, and we’re expecting to announce other project partnerships in the near future.

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Solstice Advances Solar Policy for the Rest of Us

The evidence is clear: solar policies, and the solar industry as a whole, have so far failed to serve the needs of low-income communities in a truly representative fashion. That’s why it’s so important for advocate for the policy frameworks that have a measurable impact in increasing participation by underserved communities—policies which don’t just mandate low-income participation, but which provide businesses and organizations with the resources necessary to prove out project designs and outreach methods to serve these communities.

Through our leadership in the New York Energy Democracy Alliance, Solstice’s Inclusion Team has advocated for policies that directly address barriers to low-income participation, including:

  • Helping to shape a $21 million incentive for low-income community solar research and development

  • Pushing forward policies to increase compensation rates and private-sector financing for low-income community solar

RELATED: Community Solar Brings You Savings on Your Electric Bill. These Are the Policies that Make it Happen.

Community Solar Can Provide Affordable Solar for Every American Household

In recent years, rooftop solar has provided a cheap and easy way for many to generate their own clean energy. But a disproportionately low-income piece of the American populous will never be able to ‘go solar’ if rooftop solar is their only option.

By partnering with communities to help community solar take off and addressing key access barriers, Solstice is making solar a reality for underserved American communities and pushing the energy industry to addressing inequities that have existed since its inception.

Want to learn more about our work? Click here to get in touch with us.

Taking Action on Clean Energy: Five Great Ways to Support Solar in Your Area

By Nina DeSilva

This last year has been a turbulent one for the solar industry, between new tariffs and threats to federal funding for energy innovation programs.

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Solar has been through its share of challenges, though, and the industry is used to weathering storms like these. Moreover, nearly nine out of every ten Americans now support increasing our solar output—but while it may seem fair to expect our leaders to follow suit and, at the very least, create a level playing field for solar, U.S. action on clean energy still lags behind popular will.

With all that's going on, you're not alone if you find yourself asking: what can the average person do to support local clean energy?

One thing we’ve learned in the years we’ve been working to support inclusive solar energy is that there isn’t a community in America that lacks the energy and talent to drive impactful, local change.

Here are some of the best ways to build power and make a difference in your community:

RELATED: Here’s How We Can Work With the Natural World to Fight Climate Change

1. Stand with local organizations building the movement for inclusive clean energy.

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This might be the question closest to the core of our own mission: what if we could unite all of the individual households that have installed solar, joined a community solar garden, or simply believe that solar is the right choice for our energy future? Build a national movement for inclusive, clean energy? That’s the work we do every day as we work to build community-level support for community solar and policies that incentivize the solar industry to address the 80 percent of American households who can’t access solar energy.

It’s also the work of thousands of community-based organizations and groups that promote renewable energy in every state—for example, in Otsego County, NY alone, groups like Otsego 2000, OCCA (Otsego County Conservation Association), and Sustainable Otsego are making their communities more sustainable. Seek out local orgs in your community and find out how you can make an impact, be it through advocacy, fundraising, or organizational work.

RELATED: Solstice and NY Solar Companies Help Local Communities Thrive

2. Go solar.

What better way to show your support for solar energy than to raise your hand and solarize your energy bill? Rooftop solar may make the most sense for your household financially, or you may prefer to enroll in a local community solar garden and avoid the upfront cost and rooftop installation.

To learn more about your options, read our blog on the subject or get in touch with our community outreach team!

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The most important solar victories in the past decade have all happened at a local and sates levels, where the voices of everyday citizens hold real sway. Asking your representatives about their environmental views and voting for candidates that support solar energy are two ways of making your views known and pushing representatives to take action

 

RELATED: Your Guide to Energy Savings: Ten Easy, Effective Steps You Can Take to Live More Sustainably

4. Support local businesses that use solar energy.

Can you imagine Apple or Microsoft on a path to 100 percent renewable energy even ten years ago? Corporate giants’ climate action is proof that support for the energy transition is growing. But it is not only the upper level businesses that are switching to clean energy. Solar panels can now be seen atop car repair shops and other small businesses—helping them to avoid the impact of fluctuating energy demand prices.

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Find the greenest local businesses. When you can, buy from the most sustainable local businesses and don’t hesitate to let your local shops know that you support their decision to support clean energy.

RELATED: Solstice Helps Local Institutions Spread Solar in Their Community

5. Inform your friends and neighbors about their solar options.

A recent study out of Yale showed that solar is contagious: if you support solar by installing it on your roof, your neighbors are more likely to do the same. You can inspire your neighbors to take action! Let them know what you’ve been doing to support solar energy, help them understand their options, and above all, share your enthusiasm for a future powered by clean energy.

RELATED: Ambassador Spotlight: Dick & Linda Rosin

Thanks to local organizations, programs like community solar, and people like you, supporting clean energy is easier than ever before. And we’re here to help—if you’re interested in getting involved, click here to get in touch, and we’ll do what we can to support you taking action in your community.

A Carbon Tax to Stop Climate Change? Here's the Lowdown on Carbon Pricing in 2018.

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The consequences of climate change are here. Sea levels are rising, heat waves worsening, crops losing productivity, and deserts spreading. And the costs of these climate-related damages aren’t paid by polluters—instead, everyday citizens take on the burden.

But what if there was a way to more accurately represent the true cost of carbon pollution, to make sure that climate impacts factored into the financial decisions that people make on a day-to-day basis?

RELATED: Your Guide to Energy Savings: Ten Easy, Effective Steps You Can Take to Live More Sustainably

Carbon taxes and other forms of carbon pricing are being implemented in countries around the world, with exactly this goal in mind. But what is the best way to factor in these costs without hurting everyday people, and without introducing loopholes that allow polluters to skirt the rules?

The True Social Cost of Carbon

Fossil fuels are the largest source of human-caused CO2 emissions, and contribute to numerous other types of harmful pollution. The results are not only detrimental to the environment, but to your health and the health of future generations.

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The extreme weather and sea level rise that result from climate change also impose significant financial costs to society due to damaged infrastructure, lost agricultural productivity, and other factors.

A recent report coauthored by leading climate scientist Sir Robert Watson put the annual costs to the U.S. economy at $240 billion, and these staggering yearly costs are only projected to get worse in coming years. Meanwhile, say leading scientists, global carbon emissions are not falling fast enough to prevent catastrophic climate change.

RELATED: How Does Community Solar Benefit the Environment?

Carbon Pricing and the Carbon Tax

Recognizing that business interests share their fate with the well-being of future human societies, environmental advocates and conservative economists have found rare common ground in promoting one solution to climate change: a price on carbon. This solution enforces a fee on carbon emissions, ensuring that businesses will think twice about excessive pollution, and encouraging them to move to cleaner sources of energy.

Carbon taxes are commonly recognized as the most effective form for carbon pricing. By charging a direct fee on carbon-emitting fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, this type of carbon price leaves polluting industries few loopholes and has been shown to significantly reduce carbon emissions (and are expected to have a greater effect when prices are set closer to the true price of carbon).

How Does A Carbon Tax Reverse Climate Change?

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Only in the past decade have wind and solar energy become significantly cheaper than coal and oil. Even in this short time, though, their growth has been astonishing. It was once unthinkable that China would ever give up coal as its main energy source, but in 2017, the country installed more than 52 gigawatts of solar—that’s more generating capacity than the electric grids of 193 individual countries around the world.

By making polluters pay upfront for the impacts of their actions, carbon taxes help fix a glaring problem in world markets, and improve the financial value of renewables relative to fossil fuels.

So, what’s stopping renewables from truly taking over?

RELATED: Community Solar Brings You Savings Without the Hidden Charges. Here’s How.

The Electrification of Everything

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The attraction to fossil fuels often stems from the fact that they’ve historically been the cheapest and most convenient source of raw energy. Because of this, many industries (in particular, manufacturing and transportation), directly use the heat and pressured produced by burning fossil fuels without ever converting it to electricity.

But the future is electric. New technologies are already rolling out into the world that ensure that transportation and manufacturing technologies don’t have to rely on expensive, polluting fossil fuels forever.

A carbon tax hastens the transition to clean energy by ensuring that the market price of energy and consumer goods include the full social cost of the carbon used to produce them, and that the cheapest, most effective low-carbon technologies are allowed to scale, regardless of the mechanism used to power them.

Carbon Taxes Inspire Innovation

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At the most basic level, carbon taxes reshape our economy to naturally seek the ideal of a clean, efficient energy system.

This doesn’t just make our economy more advantageous for efficient technologies, but it triggers greater investment in next-generation game changers. From energy storage technologies that allow solar panels to power the grid 24/7 to new electrification techniques, a carbon tax spurs the energy industry into a low-carbon future.

RELATED: Here’s How Solar Developers Can Maximize Solar’s Positive Impact on the Environment

Revenue-Neutral Carbon Taxes Gain Support Across the Political Spectrum

Many carbon tax proponents have suggested leveraging the revenues to further support renewable energy and sustainable technology development. However, one element of the American political landscape has consistently stood in the way of implementing a price on carbon: a strong opposition among certain interest groups to any increase in federal taxes.

In recent years, though, a solution has emerged, as leaders in the republican party have come out in support of a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Such a tax would take the revenues generated by the tax and give them directly back to taxpayers, in the form of a tax rebate—offsetting any increased tax burden, and potentially helping to offset the fuel costs of low-income populations.

RELATED: EnergyScore: For a More Inclusive Solar Future

Looking Forward, Not Back

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Once it leaves the tailpipe, carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere  between 50 and 200 years. Climate change is already upon us, and every molecule that we can keep in the ground will be a step towards a more sustainable future. Keeping polluters honest by putting a price on carbon can be a step in the right direction on greenhouse gas emissions, and one that draws agreement from across the political spectrum.

Here’s How We Can Work With the Natural World to Fight Climate Change

By Forrest Watkins

We’ve covered the climate benefits of solar energy extensively, because we know that our energy systems are the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases—but we also know that when it comes to climate change, that’s only half the story.

When experts such as the writers of Drawdown consider how best to halt climate change, they take a holistic view of our activities and their carbon emissions. They also look at the tools we have to reverse climate change, taking carbon from the air and putting it back in the ground.

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Among those resources, our natural systems are wonderful tools to help us stop climate change, either by changing the way we carry out certain activities, or by starting new initiatives which can both fight climate change and lead to significant economic opportunity. Here we’ve assembled a list of five of the most compelling new ideas that allow us to work with our natural world to fight climate change.

RELATED: The World’s 10 Most Beautiful Solar Farms

1. Regrowing Forests for Their Climate and Economic Benefits

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Restoring tropical and temperate forests come in at #5 and #12, respectively, on Drawdown’s list of the 100 most powerful tools to reverse climate change. And before you take the authors for tree-hugging hippies, note that a $350 billion overall investment in forest regrowth could yield $170 billion in economic benefits every year, from forest products, to watershed protection, to improved agricultural production.

Eyeing these benefits and growing international incentives for the climate benefits they provide, countries in tropical areas, where the bulk of the restoration potential lies, are beginning to scale their forest protection initiatives.

Restoring less than 60 percent of tropical forestland and continuing with the natural reforestation that is already occurring in cooler climates would yield 83.8 trillion tons of carbon sequestration—equivalent to 83 trillion pounds of coal not burned, or a million wind turbines turning each year for the next 20 years.

RELATED: The Real Deal of Solar Subsidies

2. Silvopasture - Raising Our Cows Among the Trees

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Particularly attentive readers may be wondering “Increased agricultural production? How can restoring forest land increase agricultural production?” Well, in 2018, the agriculture vs. forestland struggle is old news. From tropical tree crops to innovative livestock practices, agriculture and forestry are increasingly going hand-in-hand.

It just makes sense: with a richer diet and more shelter from the elements, interspersing pasture with some degree of tree cover has been shown to increase the production of milk, meat, and offspring. It also allows farmers to diversify their production with forestry products like nuts, fruit, timber, and maple syrup.

Silvopasture is ranked as the ninth most impactful climate change solution by Drawdown. These climate benefits come from improved livestock digestion, an increased ability of the soil to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and space efficiencies that prevent the need for further forest clearing.

RELATED: Feeding Cows Seaweed Can Make Cattle Farming More Sustainable. Seriously.

3. Using Bamboo in Industry

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Bamboo is, simply put, a natural wonder. It can grow faster than any other plant, more than an inch every hour, and has the compressive strength of steel, the tensile strength of steel, and uses from construction to clothing production.

Moreover, it sequesters carbon in quite an unusual way, producing small stones that can keep carbon in the soil for hundreds of thousands of years. By sequestering carbon from the air and replacing carbon-intensive materials like cement and aluminum, bamboo can have an important impact on the fight against climate change.

4. Bringing Life to the City: Green Roofs

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Humans are biophilic, meaning that we draw energy and mental well-being from being around natural environments. What if we could bring more genuine life to urban jungles, and fight climate change in the process?

By incorporating plant life into roofs, walls, and other structures, builders have found that they can provide both insulation and a valuable cooling effect for hot urban centers (plants absorb much less heat energy from the sun than asphalt shingles), saving significant heating and cooling costs and drawing carbon from the air.

RELATED: More than 250 Million Americans Can’t Access Rooftop Solar. Here’s Why.

5. Regenerative Agriculture

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Industrial farming may seem to increase productivity on its face, but a new wave of farmers is challenging that conventional wisdom. Combating insects with pesticides and driving yield increases with fertilizers are like using heavy medication to treat illnesses and steroids to drive muscle growth. They may achieve visible results, but if we don’t stop to think about our long-term health, we’re likely to need more chemicals than ever just to maintain the status quo, and our long-term health will suffer.

No-till farming with relatively low chemical use is likely the most sensible path forward, according to Drawdown, and increasing the variety of crops that we grow on a regular basis, will allow farmers to rely on soil health rather than expensive industrial chemicals. It will also increase the crops’ resilience to droughts and other harsh conditions—a benefit that will be increasingly important as the effects of climate change become more apparent.

RELATED: How Community Solar Farms Can Be Developed to Protect Their Local Environment

I Can't Put Solar Panels on My Roof. Can I Do Community Solar?

By Nina DeSilva

Say you want to switch to renewable energy. Say the cost for attaching solar panels to your home is outside of your budget. Say your roof doesn’t get enough sun exposure anyway. Say you don’t own your home—say you rent an apartment.

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Is solar out of the question for your household?

Not so fast. Your home may be unsuitable for rooftop solar. But that doesn’t mean that you’re shut out from renewable energy. Community solar gardens offer homeowners and renters like you—the 90 million American households that cannot access rooftop solar—the ability to enroll in a shared solar array and see savings on their electricity costs. And it does this without the additional fees and without you needing to own a suitable rooftop (or piece of property).

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How is this possible?

As with rooftop solar, state policies allow community solar participants to receive credit on their monthly utility bill for the energy their panels generate. Though the compensation rate varies from state to state, community solar gives households like yours the ability to support local solar energy and save—regardless of how your rooftop is oriented.

RELATED: Community Solar Brings You Savings Without the Hidden Charges. Here’s How.

So, what can a community solar subscription do for you?

With no need to install panels on your home or property, community solar allows you to forego the expensive upfront fees. No extra charges will ever pop up, either—state policies help to ensure that you see savings at the end of the day.

RELATED: Solar Too Expensive for Your Household? Not Anymore.

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Renters rejoice!

Unless your landlord is pro-solar, rooftop solar panels are probably not in the cards for you—but a community solar subscription may still be a possibility!

In fact, even if you’re signed on to a year-long lease or not intending to stay in your current home for too many years, community solar can usually accommodate your needs. That's because community solar usually allows you to avoid long-term contracts: Community solar developers are increasingly opting to give their customers the freedom to leave at will, with 1-2 months’ notice to allow them to find a replacement. So if you’re moving out of your apartment, relocating to another town, or you happen to get tired of the savings, you’ll have the freedom to go on your way.

Community solar provides options for more American homes.

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Even if your roof is ridden with sunlight and you have the savings to purchase a solar array outright, community solar is still a great option. Solar gardens are ideally sited in sunny open spaces, and you still receive the benefits of clean energy without the hassle of installing it on your rooftop.

Want clean energy? Community solar may be your easiest and most affordable option.

Ready to learn more? Click here to get in touch with us.

(And, yes, that’s a real person on the other end!)

5 Truly Odd Ways to Reverse Climate Change

By Forrest Watkins

Recent changes in energy, agriculture, and transportation have made clean solutions more efficient and cost-effective, and changes to the way we use those technologies have made low-carbon energy accessible to more people than ever before.

Despite all this progress, we’re still a long way from a path to avoiding the worst costs of climate change. Scientists believe that we need to keep warming below 1.5 °C to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, but we’re on track to more than double that amount under the current international framework.

Fortunately, a growing number of people are dedicating themselves to finding solutions. A collection of their work recently came out in the form of Drawdown, a book profiling 100 solutions that, together, would not only halt global climate change, but actually reverse it.

The Solstice team has collectively spent decades studying solutions to climate change, but even we were shocked by some of these solutions. We got so excited that we put together a list of the five most interesting and unexpected solutions.

RELATED: The World's 10 Most Beautiful Solar Farms

Most of the items on this list are understandably considered “Coming Attractions” by the Drawdown team, meaning that they’re game-changers that are not exactly ready for the limelight yet. But, so what? It’s good to dream. And besides, look at this first solution:

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1. Sending Wooly Horses to Siberia

Yakutian horses can survive temperatures up to -100°F, and they get by in the far northern climates they call home by scraping away snow to reach the grasses and other plant life that are buried beneath it. This behavior has the side benefit of exposing the land to frigid air, keeping permafrost cold and making sure that the 1.4 trillion tons of carbon that are buried beneath Arctic soils stay there!

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2. Farming WITH Microscopic Organisms

One gram of soil can hold up to 10 billion individual life forms, and having a healthy and diverse population of microorganisms is vital to plants’ growth and nutrition.

What if all nitrogen fertilizers (which use more than a percent of the world’s energy supply and release a greenhouse gas 298 time more powerful than CO2) could be replaced by carefully cultivating a community of microorganisms? The impact would be profound for the climate, and for the environment as a whole.

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3. Feeding Seaweed to Cows

It’s no secret that cows’ digestive systems produce an abundance of impolite gases. But methane, which is primary among them, is also a potent greenhouse gas. Recently, a Canadian farmer named Joe Drogan discovered that cows in seaside pastures were healthier and produced less methane that others. The reason? A key chemical in a certain kind of seaweed that disrupts methane formation and turns that gaseous waste into useful nutrition. Most remarkably of all, scientists dosing sheep with the compound showed a drop in methane production of up to 80 percent. Perhaps one day soon, that hamburger might not be quite so bad for the climate.

RELATED: 8 Pros of Solar Energy

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4. Making CO2 Melt Rocks Faster

Carbon dioxide is naturally a little acidic when it combines with water. When rain falls on certain kinds of rocks, it reacts with them, removing itself from the atmosphere and weathering the rocks—sometimes to beautiful effect. 

Now, researchers are finding ways to accelerate this process. By grinding up the most reactive forms of rock and spreading them over relatively warm, wet land, they have found that they can accelerate weathering and remove more carbon from the atmosphere (though it’s important to note that the environmental impacts of this technique have not yet been fully explored!).

RELATED: How Does Community Solar Benefit the Environment?

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5. Building Skyscrapers out of Wood

Human cities are marvels of engineering. But what if we could make them greener and more friendly at the same time? 
Today, architects and engineers from all over the world are coming together to design huge buildings made of wood. It may seem perilous, but by using modern polymers and processing techniques and avoiding heavy construction materials like steel and cement (both of which require an extreme amount of carbon to produce), builders have found that they can construct light, strong buildings while avoiding fire safety issues.

Making sure that the wood is harvested sustainably will be vital to the success of these builders in lowering carbon emissions, but a Yale study recently showed that wooden buildings could reduce annual global emissions by a staggering 31 percent.

RELATED: Ten Easy, Effective Steps You Can Take to Live More Sustainably

What is the Difference Between Net Metering and Feed-in Tariffs?

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A conversation is being held in states across America that will shape the future of solar energy. Strong opinions have come to the fore as citizens debate the merit of feed-in tariffs and the answer to one fundamental question: how should Americans be compensated for the renewable energy that they produce?

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This question has sparked such a strong debate precisely because it gets to the heart of how people envision the future of energy in America—namely, should utilities maintain their monopoly on energy systems, or should we enable everyday households to contribute to the energy supply that flows through our electric lines?

So what are the policies at the heart of this debate, “net metering” and “feed-in tariffs”, how do they work, and what is the source of the back-and-forth?

Net metering and feed-in tariffs are both methods for compensating households and organizations for the energy they produce, whether through community solar or via rooftop solar panels—the biggest difference being how much savings consumers see at the end of the day.

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What is Net Metering?

With net metering, the power your panels produce brings you credits that help to offset your utility electric bill. So, if you enroll for a community solar allocation that produces 800 kwh (kilowatt hours) during the month of April, you are given 800 kwh worth of credits on your April bill. If you use less than 800 kwh amount, your credits will carry over to the following month, so that they can be used in times when your panels produce less energy than you consume.

The important distinguishing factor her is that net metering provides energy generators with compensation equal to the rate they pay for electricity—commonly known as the “retail rate” of electricity.

RELATED: Community Solar Brings You Savings Without the Hidden Charges. Here’s How.

What are Feed-in Tariffs?

Feed-in tariffs can be considered to be much the same as net metering—the major difference being that feed-in tariffs, unlike net metering rates, are not pinned directly to the value that consumers pay for energy. In other words, instead of getting a kilowatt-hour's worth of credit for every kilowatt-hour your panels produce, you get a monetary credit that corresponds to the value of that energy. This value can be either higher or lower than the retail cost, and this rate can determine the viability of solar energy in the state.

Feed-in Tariffs and the Value of Solar Energy

This question lies at the heart of current debates over solar compensation: If solar energy has a value separate from the retail rate of energy, what is that value, and how much should solar energy households be compensated?

On the positive side, solar energy provides clean, reliable energy to the grid, avoiding significant social and monetary costs related to pollution impacts and climate change. Small-scale energy generation also makes our energy grid stronger in the face of cyberattacks and natural disasters, and the cost of that energy doesn’t vary based on unreliable fuel prices.

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On the negative side, adapting to a grid run on solar energy does introduce some challenges, namely the initial costs of adjusting the grid to handle the new energy sources, and the need for new energy storage capacity to help keep the lights on after dark.

As we’re increasingly seeing, the balance falls in favor of more solar and higher compensation rates. Early results from models such as Illinois’ CREST model for the value of solar energy suggest that the value of solar today is likely greater than the average retail rate. And while its value will change based on location and various other factors, this is a strong argument for feed-in tariffs that match the retail rate of electricity.

RELATED: How Much Does Solar Cost in 2018?

How do feed-in tariffs affect existing solar households?

Many people who have already installed solar panels or enrolled in community solar rightly ask: if my state introduces feed-in tariffs, will this change the amount of savings that I see on a monthly basis?

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The short answer is that compensation rates for existing customer aren't likely to be affected. In the vast majority of cases, states have rules ensuring that existing solar households will continue to see the same compensation rates that they signed on for in the beginning; those who are new to solar will be the ones to receive the new rates.

 

Positives and Negatives of Net Metering and Feed-in Tariffs

Still not sure where you stand on net metering and feed-in tariffs? Here is your chance to consider what both methods offer, and inform yourself on the positive and negative aspects of each.

RELATED: Solar Problems? The Truth Behind 10 Common Concerns About Solar Energy

Net Metering Drawbacks:

  • Net metering doesn’t always pay energy generators for the true value of their energy

  • Some energy utilities are concerned that net metering may cause households who don’t enroll in solar to pay some of the costs of introducing more solar, and argue that utilities should instead have control of energy generation.

Net Metering Perks:

  • Simplicity: you only pay for your net energy use, energy consumed minus energy produced

  • Some states guarantee your right to net meter and lower your electricity bill, and forty-three states including DC have implemented net metering policies.

 

 

Feed-in Tariff Drawbacks:

  • The implemention process can be complex. Feed-in tariffs can be lower than the retail rate and slow down solar development.

  • Value of solar models are still relatively early in their development, and their impact on solar deployment is not yet clear.

Feed-in Tariff Perks:

  • Feed-in tariffs are more likely to pay people for the actual value of the energy that they generate

  • Feed-in tariffs can be adjusted to account for considerations like time and location of the energy generation.

  • Feed-in tariff rates can be higher than the retail rate, making solar more attractive to households.

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Net Metering and Feed-in Tariffs Offer Solutions to Grow Clean, Renewable Energy

Both net metering and feed-in tariffs have their appeal and both have their trade-offs. Some long-time supporters of net metering have pushed back against efforts to transition to feed-in tariffs, but most have come to realize that feed-in tariffs that are truly representative of the value of solar energy will also provide strong incentives for the ongoing growth of solar energy. With feed-in tariffs advancing in states across the country, it will be vital that advocates for clean and affordable energy come together to support policies that provide solar households the compensation they deserve.  

Are You Eligible For Community Solar?

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In recent years, community solar has begun to open clean energy access for communities that are locked out of other forms of clean energy. This model, which was the fastest-growing form of solar energy last year, allows households to subscribe to a solar farm in their area and see savings on their electric bill.

But community solar is not yet available to every American household—and the substantial benefits of community solar could be irrelevant to you if you’re not eligible to take advantage of them.

RELATED: Here’s How Community Solar Works For Your Household.

So what are the eligibility requirements for a typical solar garden, and how can you find out if you’re eligible for community solar?

Three main criteria determine whether you can participate in community solar:

1.Most community solar gardens have credit score requirements.

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Most community solar projects have minimum credit score requirements in the 650-700 range.  This is because solar investors want make sure that they will see a return on funds that they dole to develop each new a project. Solar developers use credit scores as a way of giving them this assurance—even though credit scores are a highly imperfect way of predicting households’ energy bill payment behavior.

FICO credit score credentials are an eligibility factor that Solstice continually strives to challenge. We push all of our developer partners to lower their credit score requirements or to get rid of them entirely, we are currently working under a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop and implement a new, more accurate and inclusive form of qualifying people for community solar, We call this new metric the EnergyScore, and our analysis of over half a million consumer records suggests that it is significantly more inclusive and more accurate than FICO scores.

LEARN MORE: EnergyScore: For a More Inclusive Future

2.     You must live within the same service territory as your solar garden.

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State laws divide the state map into different “service territories” to help clarify utilities’ responsibilities and ensure a reliable electric grid. Utilities use these service territories to set geographic boundaries for community solar projects to help ensure that the benefits of community solar stay local.

For example, the areas of New York that are under the control of NYSEG are divided into nine service territories, labeled A-I. Solar gardens are located throughout the NYSEG area, but are only accessible to residents that live in their same service territorys ( Residents of NYSEG A can only subscribe to projects also located in NYSEG A).

RELATED: Solstice and NY Solar Companies Help Local Communities Thrive

Unsure of where the nearest community solar offering is in relation to your home? No worries! You can get in contact with one of our solar experts to see if there are openings in your area - click on the orange box in the lower right-hand corner of your screen to get in touch with our team of experts!

3.     You (Often) can’t get community solar for Businesses.

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It is important to note that some states limit the type of customers that can enroll in a community solar project. In New York, for example, there are regulations set up to ensure that community solar primarily serves residential users—and businesses that are demand-metered can’t participate.

On the other hand, some states do allow for participation by even large commercial establishments. Under California law, for example, shared solar farms serving households can also generate energy for commercial and industrial clients. In Massachusetts, large commercial clients often serve as “anchor tenants” that take up 30-40% of a garden’s capacity and help developers to make it more secure for investors

What do you do now?

So, how do you know if you are eligible for a local solar garden? You could dive into the details of your state’s energy regulations and service territories…

Or, you could just reach out to our team of solar experts - and don't worry, we won't ask you to commit to anything right away, and we won’t bug you if you decide you’re not interested. We take an educational approach to our mission of spreading solar energy.

Ready to learn more? Click here to get in touch with us.

(And, yes, that’s a real person on the other end!)

How Much Does Solar Cost in 2018?

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By Forrest Watkins

You’ve probably heard by now that installing solar on your home can bring you savings in the long term. And it’s true: if you’re among the 20 percent of Americans who can install solar on your roof or property, buying your own rooftop array will help you squeeze the most savings out of your panels.

Despite solar panels’ remarkable cost declines, though, installing solar is still a sizeable investment for most households. In their annual U.S. Solar Insight Report, released last week, leading solar industry analyst Greentech Media puts the cost of rooftop solar at around $3 per watt—or, in terms of the total cost for an average home solar array, approximately $18,000.

After factoring in the 30 percent federal tax credit for solar, the average American home would be facing a $12,600 upfront cost for their home system—though local subsidies and rebates could reduce that cost further. This cost is so much lower than it was a decade ago that solar can act as an investment for households that can either pay for the installation upfront or finance it through low-interest methods like home loans.

Related: Community Solar Offers Savings Without the Upfront Costs

Cost Varies Between Solar Farms and Rooftop Installations

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While solar costs have decreased enough to make rooftop solar a viable investment for homeowners, and there are other good reasons to support smaller-scale solar installations, solar farms can provide power at a significantly reduced upfront cost. The solar panels themselves cost roughly the same, but the scale and simplicity of solar farms allows for efficiency in other areas—for example, the time and effort that goes into connecting with customers, managing the installation process, and dealing with engineering and permitting.

Community solar, which allows households to subscribe to a local solar farm and see savings on their electric bill, falls somewhere in the middle: solar gardens get some of the scale and simplicity benefits of larger, utility-scale solar farms, but the cost savings are shared more directly with the community.

Related: Understanding Your Solar Options

Tariff Threat Stalls Reduction in Solar Costs

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Last year was the first in recent memory that residential solar costs increased. This was in large part due to fears over impending taxes on imported solar panels, which led to a spike in panel prices. The organization predicts that the tariffs, which the Trump Administration finally imposed in January, will make for a flat year for the industry as a whole.

One bright spot in all this has been community solar. Despite the headwinds affecting solar this year, community solar was one of the main areas of growth for the industry. With several states working to finalize their programs and open them for enrollment in 2018, we expect to see continued growth in community solar and increased solar access for American households.

Community Solar Offers Savings Without the Extra Costs

As we’ve outlined in past blogs, enrolling in a local community solar garden can bring you energy bill savings without your having to pay thousands of dollars upfront—or, in fact, to pay anything extra at all. Given that the new tariffs are set to expire after four years, this model offers an alternative for households who want to support local, clean energy, but who:

  1. Can’t afford the upfront cost of solar and don’t have access to affordable financing

  2. Encounter other barriers to installing rooftop solar, such as limited access to suitable rooftop space

  3. Simply want to bide their time until rooftop solar costs decrease

As a long-time solar advocates, the Solstice team has been amazed to watch as solar overtakes its dirtier, non-renewable competitors to become one of the cheapest sources of energy around the world. And despite roadblocks that prevent many Americans from accessing clean energy, models such as community solar will allow us to continue to build a more sustainable and prosperous future.

New York Community Solar Explained in Solstice's Latest Webinar

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In our newest webinar Solstice solar experts Taro Gold and Sean Hutton bring you all the information you need to participate in community solar: the pitfalls of rooftop solar panels, how community solar offers a solution, and the savings you receive when you subscribe to a community solar garden. With enrollment quickly closing in our latest solar projects, now is the time for you to buff up on community solar and enroll your household.

Community Solar: The Basics

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Technological advancements have caused the solar industry to thrive by decreasing solar panel costs and passing those savings on to American households. With more and more investment in clean energy alternatives, solar jobs now outnumber those in the fossil fuel industry.

RELATED: How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

Still, four out of five American homeowners cannot put solar panels on their roofs. Maybe you have a shady roof, or you rent your home, or maybe you just can’t afford the $20,000 average cost of a rooftop solar system. Whatever the hurdle, community solar allows you to enroll in a local solar garden and see immediate savings on your energy bill.

RELATED: EnergyScore: For a More Inclusive Solar Future

Want to learn more about the obstacles that face Americans trying to access rooftop solar, and how community solar can help? Fill out the form at the end of this page to get access to our webinar!

Community Solar: The Benefits

Enrolling in a local community solar garden allows you to support clean energy and reap savings on your electricity bill—without the hassle of home panel installation. There are several benefits to this model:

  • You support local, clean, renewable energy

  • You save 10 percent on your energy costs, without paying any additional costs

  • You don’t have to make any changes to your property, and you can cancel your agreement any time you want

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We’ve been lucky to build strong relationships with our customers. In the webinar, Solstice customer Alison Galley shares her story with solar energy and tells how her solar subscription enabled her to give back to her local community.

RELATED: Ambassador Spotlight: Dick & Linda Rosin

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Solstice’s most recent project has finished construction near Elmira and is set to go live at the end of March. The solar garden is nearly full, but there’s new capacity coming online every day in New York and we maintain a waitlist for households who are interested in community solar and want to hear about new projects in their area.

 

Webinar Gives you the Tools You Need to Go Solar

Solstice takes an educational approach to enrolling people in community solar, because we want you to be well-informed about the best option for your household. This webinar is a great opportunity to learn more about how community solar works, and to gauge whether it is a good fit for you. Educating yourself on your community solar options before making a final decision is a necessity, and the webinar gives you the information you need to proceed.

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Ambassador Spotlight: Dick & Linda Rosin

Dick and Linda Rosin are Solstice subscribers from friendly Chemung, who have gone the extra mile to help their friends get involved with community solar.

The couple have been superstars at attracting the attention of people in their neighborhood. They used their friendly personalities and ability to connect with people to support their mission of being protectors of Mother Earth.

We’d like to share with you just how they did it, so you can help your neighbors save on their electric bills too! 

 

Why Solstice?

Like you, and the 800 other subscribers from New York, Dick and Linda loved the benefits that came with signing up for community solar.

It solved their previously experienced problems with installing solar and it helped them pursue their ultimate goal - keeping the environment clean.

“[Solstice] wasn't like some long distance energy company where you have no idea what’s going on. In this case, you actually see the progress of the farm."

"The idea of signing up with no fees whatsoever to join and being able to cancel anytime, if I feel like it, with with no charges of any kind. Just that along, I thought this is great there is no risk whatsoever as far as I can tell. To get a discount on top of that is very attractive,” says Dick.

  Here's the solar garden on Lowman, NY that is powering Dick & Linda's home. 

Here's the solar garden on Lowman, NY that is powering Dick & Linda's home. 

From there on, it came naturally for Dick and Linda to encourage their friends to save through community solar too. I’m sure many of you feel the same, but aren’t sure where to start.

Well luckily for you, I understand that and I have your back - here are some tips from Dick and Linda.

 

Why Become A Solstice Ambassador?

Dick and Linda began their journey as Ambassadors by simply talking to all sorts of people about this opportunity with Solstice.

As Dick said, “[Solstice] interested me so much. It was such an appealing idea: no charge, cancel anytime, save money. I thought who wouldn't want to be part of this? I just can’t see any risk whatsoever, so I started telling my friends.”

Dick spoke to neighbors, friends, auto repair shop workers, bike repair shop employees, and even someone at the Verizon store - talk about making new friends!

They wanted to lend a helping hand to anyone who would lend them an ear. And the hard work payed off.

The couple also actively used their Facebook accounts by sharing and commenting on posts to connect their friends and families to the wide possibilities of Solstice. They wanted to show their close friends how simple it is to help save the environment and the money in their wallets. 

As effective Ambassadors, Dick and Linda managed to get people excited about going solar - they got the word out among their network and connected those who were interested in community solar with the Solstice team.

After all, we're here to help your friends determine if solar is a good fit and answer all the hard questions on your behalf!

We understand community solar isn’t always the best conversation starter to make new friends. That is why we made it even easier for you by putting together an Ambassador’s Guide that you can find online.

Or just simply reach out and we’ll help in any way we can.

Not all Ambassadors need to be like Dick and Linda - you can help through your own way. Every grain of sand counts, so feel free to reach out and let us help you discover how.

 

Why We Love Dick & Linda

Dick and Linda might love Solstice, but we love them more.

  Dick and Linda with Taro Gold, our Head of Outreach at a local event in Elmira, NY.

Dick and Linda with Taro Gold, our Head of Outreach at a local event in Elmira, NY.

They redefine passion by driving to every one of our events that we have hosted. They attend these events to challenge us so we can help you more.

Sometimes they even answer questions from other attendees, from what they have learnt through their experiences with community solar.

Dick and Linda are also never afraid to share their wisdom. Dick personally advised us to include yard signs and bumper stickers in our advertising materials because he saw the effectiveness of them through his volunteer work at the Boys Scouts.

More importantly, Dick always answers our phone calls with a warm greeting and updates of new people he has spoken to about Solstice.

So, the next time you want to help your friend, tell them about community solar! Send them our way and we'll help them figure out if solar is a good fit.

After all, we will do the hard work and give them the good stuff! As Linda would say, “What do you have to lose?”


Interested in hearing more from Dick & Linda?
Here's their full interview

Customer Reviews Set Solstice Apart from Other NY Solar Companies

By Forrest Watkins

Community solar is taking off in New York, and around the nation. This increasingly popular model allows you to enroll in a local solar farm and see savings on your energy bill. But as the industry grows, the number of available projects and contract options is growing—and it can be confusing.

 Douglas, a Solstice customer from Dover, MA, with Madeline, a member of our community outreach team.

Douglas, a Solstice customer from Dover, MA, with Madeline, a member of our community outreach team.

That’s why it’s more important than ever that you feel you can trust the organization that brings you your community solar. And though we take pride in our educational approach and non-profit solar inclusion work, we also know that it can be more helpful to hear from the folks that actually have experience working with us.

RELATED: See Solstice’s Press Features

We recently sat down with three of our customers to learn more about their personal experiences with community solar and with Solstice as an organization. We hope that these reviews will provide better context for our work—but we’ll let Linda, Dick, and Jim speak for themselves!

READ MORE: See all of Solstice’s customer reviews

Solstice’s Newest Customer Reviews

Jim Pfiffer

Jim Pfiffer is a long-time Chemung County resident and the Executive Director of Chemung River Friends. He signed up for our most recent project, near Elmira, NY. We're grateful to have the support of such a great community leader!

 

"Lots of people complain, find fault all the time, but that's not what community is about. We all need to work together to make our community better"

RELATED: Solstice and Other NY Solar Companies Help Local Communities Thrive

Dick & Linda Rosin

Linda and Dick Rosin retired to Chemung County and are active members of the Elmira community. They spend much of their time bicycling and traveling the country in their RV. Dick and Linda are practical, easy-going supporters of clean energy—a great fit for community solar!

 

"I felt very confident. The idea that you can sign up with no fees to join, and being able cancel at any time...Who doesn't want to save?"

Solstice's Educational Approach

Dick talked in his review of Solstice about our accessibility. And it's true: We place a lot of value in taking the time to answer all of our subscribers' questions and making sure that they're well-informed about the opportunity. We take this educational approach because we know how important it is for you to make an informed decision about your energy, that will both allow you to support renewable energy and to provide you with the savings and the flexibility that you deserve.

RELATED: Solstice is Not an ESCO

Your Guide to Energy Savings: Ten Easy, Effective Steps You Can Take to Live More Sustainably

By Nina DeSilva

Signs of America’s support for sustainability and energy efficiency are everywhere, from our overwhelming approval for solar development to our rapid adoption of energy-saving LED light bulbs.

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What actions can you take today, though, to make your home more energy-efficient and sustainable? And what are the more effective home modifications for the truly committed? Sometimes the options can be overwhelming and it can be hard to know how to maximize your impact.

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Our new guide to home energy savings offers a straightforward view of the top five most affordable and accessible tips to help you live a more sustainable lifestyle. Practicing energy efficiency does more than just save you money and energy; the energy choices you make in your home impact national and global sustainability efforts.

Download our Guide to Energy Savings Now

The Massive Impact of Energy Efficiency

According to the Alliance to Save Energy, the US uses 56 percent less energy today than if we did not have energy-efficient technologies and policies, enough energy to power twelve states during the typical year. Keeping our energy usage down is vital both to conserving our limited natural resources, such as oil, natural gas, and coal, and to tackling climate change and pollution.

RELATED: When Will Fossil Fuels Run Out? Here’s What “Peak Oil” Means in 2018.

Carbon Emissions Wreak Havoc on the Environment

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It’s a common saying among energy experts that the cheapest form of renewable energy is the energy you don’t use. When we consume energy generated by fossil fuels, we generate harmful greenhouse gas emissions that pollute the environment. This is why home energy efficiency is so vital, and why so many states have programs to help people make energy efficiency improvements to their homes.

Experts can hone in on the specific carbon costs of everyday actions. Washing a load of laundry in cold water generates 0.6 kg of carbon; if you wash it in warm water, the carbon cost is nearly six times as much. Simple changes like this can help you immediately lower your carbon footprint and live more sustainably.

RELATED: How Does Community Solar Benefit the Environment?

Energy Efficiency Boosts Economy

When it comes to larger projects like home efficiency renovations, does it make more sense to look at these changes as a cost, or an investment? For perspective, we can look to the broader economy: Energy efficiency practices save the US government, its employees, and businesses upwards of $500 billion a year in avoided energy costs. In our guide, you can learn which changes will go the furthest for your household in terms of impact and savings.

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Affordable Options

There are many efficiency options for you to choose from, some cheaper than others. Any reduction to your energy output makes a difference, but it is important to consider whether the savings will outweigh the costs, and when. Rooftop solar saves money for many households in the long run, but upfront costs and other factors make it impossible for many households. In contrast, community solar offers immediate savings on your electricity bill without the need for a rooftop installation.

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RELATED: EnergyScore: For a More Inclusive Solar Future

Our energy guide presents you with a variety of energy efficiency practices—both ones that require an investment and ones that are more widely accessible. Learn more about how you can join a growing movement for sustainable living - download our energy efficiency guide by filling out the form below.

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Here’s How Community Solar Works For Your Household.

By Forrest Watkins

Solstice was founded on the belief that every American should have access to affordable clean energy, and the knowledge that community solar is the best tool to make that happen.

What is community solar? By allowing households like yours to enroll in a local “solar garden” and see savings on their electric bill, community solar has become the first form of solar energy to regularly bring savings to renters and households with unsuitable roofs.

The benefits of community solar are simple:

  • More local, clean, renewable energy for households across America - with no roof or property necessary 
  • Yearly savings for subscribers without any extra costs
  • Greater solar access for the approximately 80 percent of American households who can’t do rooftop solar

RELATED: What are the benefits of community solar?

Still, community solar is a new concept for many—and it’s worth going over exactly how it will work if you choose to sign up.

Here’s how community solar works:

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As far as your electric utility is concerned, community solar works in much the same way as rooftop solar. Every day, your panels generate energy. Your utility gives you credit on your electric bill for that energy, and delivers electricity to your house as it normally would.

The major difference is that with community solar, you don’t need to install panels or make any changes to your own rooftop or property.

Instead of paying $20,000 upfront for your solar panels, as you would with rooftop solar, most community solar gardens allow households to enroll on a subscription basis. They offer a discount on the energy that their participants’ panels generate, typically 10 percent, so when you pay your bill for the solar garden, you end up saving money.

RELATED: Community solar brings you savings without the hidden charges. Here’s How

Still have questions? Get in touch or check out the FAQ below:

How do I save money?

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Solstice sizes your ‘plot’ in the solar garden to fit your energy needs. This means that your utility bill will be more or less zeroed out every month, and you’ll be paying for your solar energy at a set discount rate - meaning that with community solar, you can only ever save.

How does my participation put more solar in the ground?

Community solar gardens don’t get built without the participation of people like you. That means that by signing up for community solar, you’re directly helping to bring more clean energy to your area!

How does the solar developer make money?

Solar developers are responsible for financing and building solar gardens. They earn revenue when you pay for your discounted solar energy every month. (Remember, that's money you won't be paying to your electric utility.)

How much will I pay every month to my utility? To the solar farm?

We give you a ‘plot’ in the solar garden that will reduce your annual electric bill approximately to zero. Instead of going to your electric utility, the money you pay for your energy will go to support your local solar garden. You’ll pay for the energy your panels produce, but you’ll pay at a discounted rate—typically 10 percent off compared to your utility rate.

RELATED: Here’s How Much You Can Save With Community Solar

Are there any extra costs or hidden charges?

None! We’ll walk through every word of the contract with you if need be, but we assure you: there are no hidden fees, and you can cancel at any time—all we ask is that you give us two months’ notice so we can find someone to take your place!

Solar Problems? The Truth Behind 10 Common Concerns About Solar Energy

By Forrest Watkins

As solar panels continue their rapid rise as an energy supplier, there are bound to be questions about their faults and drawbacks, both perceived and real.

In the last twenty years, solar panels have quickly become one of the most efficient, inexpensive, and most accessible ways for everyday people to lower their carbon footprints and fight climate change.

Through our work in communities around the Northeast, we’ve encountered many questions and concerns about solar energy. Many of these are based on legitimate concerns and real experiences, while others some stem from myths and disinformation.

To address these problems and separate fact from fiction, we’ve assembled a list of the 10 most frequently asked questions about solar energy. Check it out:

INTERESTED IN GOING SOLAR? OUR COMMUNITY OUTREACH TEAM CAN HELP ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS

Top 10 Solar FAQ

1. Does solar work in cold and cloudy climates?

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The location of a solar panel does matter, but not in the way you might think. The latitude and number of sunny days do matter to a certain extent, but panels in more cloudy and northerly climates produce more than enough energy to be economically viable.

Two other factors are far more important to solar’s overall efficiency:

  • They must be located near where the energy will be used. Long-distance transmission is generally less economical than local solar energy.
  • They must be oriented correctly—towards the southwest—to catch a maximum amount of the sun’s rays.

READ MORE: Snow, Sleet, and Hail, Oh My! Why Solar Still Works in Colder Climates

2. Would solar even make sense if it weren’t for the subsidies?

This is a thorny and controversial issue to be sure, but the reality is that every form of energy, from solar, to wind, to every form of fossil fuels, receives subsidies. What’s more, solar’s plunging prices have made subsidies largely unnecessary, and federal subsidies (unlike those for oil and other fossil fuels) are scheduled to phase out in the next five years.

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So, what would happen if we took all energy subsidies away? Solar would beat fossil fuels in many places around the world, and would be directly competitive in most others—even without taking into account the massive economic and human costs of fossil fuels.

READ MORE: The Real Deal on Solar Subsidies

3. I can’t do solar—The upfront costs are just too much.

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Not anymore! If you have a suitable roof and you own your home, rooftop solar might still be an option for you. But even if you’re among the third of Americans who rent their homes, or you don’t have a suitable rooftop, community solar is a new model (which we proudly offer to people) that allows people to enroll in a local solar farm and still see savings on their electric bill.

 

READ MORE: Solar too expensive for your household? Not anymore.

 

4. I’ve heard of third party energy providers offering savings and then jacking up people’s prices. Is this a scam?

Solstice is not a third-party energy provider/ESCO. Community solar is an entirely different program, and our contracts give a straight-up percentage discount on your energy (that we’re not allowed to change).

Moreover, pretty much everyone we talk to has experienced the bad sides of ESCOS, or know someone who has. We know the pain these practices cause, and we stand against them. We’re working to bring solar access to every American, not to make a quick buck.

READ MORE: Solstice is Not an ESCO

5. I support renewable energy, but what do these projects really do for my community?

 Solstice team members Taro and Sean visit the our solar garden in Lowman, Chemung, NY

Solstice team members Taro and Sean visit the our solar garden in Lowman, Chemung, NY

Besides the clean energy and electric bill savings, community solar gardens bring revenue to local governments and tax districts (such as schools). They also provide local construction jobs and local jobs with organizations like Solstice, which are dedicated to educating people about clean energy.

READ MORE: Solstice and NY Solar Companies Help Local Economies Thrive

6. Are solar panels really going to stand up to years out in the weather?

Yes, indeed. Most solar panels have 20-year warranties, and they can last much longer than that. Many of the earliest solar installations are still operating after 40 years, with only a slight drop in efficiency. In an era of planned obsolescence, solar panels are one thing you don’t have to worry about.

Besides, with community solar, the project owner is responsible for all ongoing maintenance during the life of your contract

READ MORE: How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

7. So, who actually pays for the solar farms?

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Solar farms are most often financed by investors and banks, who are then paid back over the life of the project through the payments of the farm’s customers (who still see savings in comparison to their normal utility rates) or of electric utilities (who buy the power to distribute to their customers).

READ MORE: Who pays for community solar farms?

 

8. What impact do solar farms have on the environment?

Solar panels are better for the environment than fossil fuels in nearly every way, but solar developers still need to put care into their solar developments to maximize their positive impact. Locating projects on previously developed land and minimizing disturbances to existing life are good first steps.

READ MORE: Here’s How Solar Developers Can Maximize Solar’s Positive Impact on the Environment

9. What are solar panels made of? Do they have any impact on the environment?

In countries where environmental regulations are less well-enforced, it’s an unfortunate reality that some solar manufacturers have been irresponsible in their waste disposal and have harmed their local environments.

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Luckily, the industry has created a rating system to evaluate the manufacturing processes used in creating solar panels. Top-tier panel manufacturers recycle all toxic waste (this actually saves them money, because they can use it to create more panels), and the industry is rapidly moving to source more of its energy from clean, renewable sources.

READ MORE: Manufacturing: What Are Solar Panels Made Of?

10. The Trump Administration just imposed new solar tariffs. Is this the end for the American solar industry?

Not by a long shot! The current lack of national support for the domestic renewable energy industry is certainly unfortunate in an era when this is one of the fastest-growing global industries. But these aren’t the first tariffs that the U.S. solar industry has had to deal with. Moreover, solar costs have come down so much in recent years that these tariffs are more likely to stymie jobs growth in nascent solar states like Alabama and Mississippi than to really halt the progress of more developed solar industries.

READ MORE: Here’s What the Solar Tariffs Mean for a Booming Solar Industry

When Will Fossil Fuels Run Out? Here’s What “Peak Oil” Means in 2018

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Since the turn of the 20th century, a succession of outspoken voices has warned of an imminent crisis referred to as “peak oil”. The idea is that once we’ve reached the apex of available oil reserves, oil production can only plateau or decrease, causing energy prices to skyrocket and limiting the development of modern society

These predictions were often overblown in the popular imagination, and old estimates of remaining oil supplies have been rendered obsolete by new technologies and drilling techniques. After decades of controversy with no actual catastrophe, many folks have been led to believe that oil, and other fossil fuels, will never run dry, and that humankind will be able to continue to utilize them indefinitely.

RELATED: Community Solar Brings You Savings Without the Hidden Charges. Here's How.

Peak Oil: Fact or Fiction?

We still can’t keep drilling forever. As with any finite resource, running out of extractable fossil fuels is inevitable. However, the most recent data suggests that this may not occur for centuries.

That doesn’t give us free reign to keep burning fossil fuels, though. We know that fossil-fueled air and water contamination cause millions of premature deaths every year. Greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuels are already warming our planet at an unprecedented rate. Related sea level rise and flooding already threaten roughly 760 million people in coastal areas – numbers which will only increase as the impact of climate change becomes more apparent.

With millions of people losing their homes and millions more lacking adequate access to food and clean water, continuing to use fossil fuels indefinitely is, very simply, not a morally acceptable option. These far-reaching and potentially irreversible consequences will affect generations to come, and the decisions we make now will define the world our kids and grandkids inherit.

To fully deplete the supplies of available and extractable fossil fuels – no matter how long it would take – would wreak havoc on our natural world and on the most basic necessities of human life: clean air, clean water, and fertile land.

Alternatives to Fossil Fuels: Renewable Energy

There’s one thing that 20th century peak oil scares never took into account: renewable energy. Even as oil companies were developing the techniques for modern fracking, renewable energy was becoming more efficient and reliable – so much so that we are now well on our way to a society powered by the wind and the sun.

RELATED: Local Concerns: How Community Solar Farms Can Be Developed to Protect Their Local Environment

 The Divest Movement on college campuses around the country is just one example of the push towards cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.

The Divest Movement on college campuses around the country is just one example of the push towards cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.

Clean, renewable energy sources do not cause pollution nor emit greenhouse gases. These benefits are enough to justify replacing old fossil fuels with wind, solar, hydro, biomass, and geothermal, but there’s far more at play. Cost reductions in wind and solar have made them economically competitive with fossil fuels, so much so that countries like China and India have cancelled hundreds of megawatts of planned coal plants. In some places, renewable energy prices are expected to plunge so low that they will actually be cheaper to run than existing fossil fuel plants.

The Time Is Now

Instead of continuing to seek out ever more dangerous and expensive reserves of fossil fuels, we must continue to invest in the clean, renewable technologies that will take their place. Not only is the development of renewable energy good for our environment, it’s also an investment in plentiful energy supplies for the coming generations.

We see more stories every day of countries, businesses and individuals shifting away from fossil fuels, and one thing is clear:

The clean energy transition has begun, and it cannot be stopped.

Interested in supporting clean, locally produced energy for free?.

Community Solar Brings You Savings Without the Hidden Charges. Here's How.

By Nina DeSilva

What if you could sign up for solar energy without paying any extra costs?

Millions of Americans can't afford the upfront costs of a rooftop solar array, and thousands of others have been disappointed by the pricing schemes of third-party energy providers (or ESCOs). After thousands of conversations with residents from across Massachusetts and New York, we know that many have written off solar altogether—little knowing that they could enroll in a local community solar garden for free.

RELATED: What is Community Solar?

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Community Solar Brings You Reliable Savings on Your Electric Bill

A community solar garden is an array of grid-connected solar panels, like the one pictured above, that allows renters and homeowners—regardless of the how much sunlight hits their roof—to support local, clean energy. Community solar also brings subscribers a discount on their electricity costs, putting dollars back in their pockets.

RELATED: What are the Benefits of Community Solar?

Is Community Solar Really Free?

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There aren't any extra costs associated with community solar. When you subscribe to community solar, you get credits on your utility bill for the energy your panels produce. We allocate you just enough to zero out your NYSEG bill with these credits, and then you pay for that energy—and here’s where the savings come in—at a discounted rate.

It’s almost as if the panels were up on your own roof, except for the fact that you don’t have to worry about any installation or ongoing maintenance—that means no costs for hardware or installation. And with community solar developers increasingly leaving behind cancellation fees (or most recent projects have none), community solar customers are free to come and go as they please.

So, how much do you pay? You won't see any extra costs associated with community solar—not when you switch, and not further down the line. Though the amount you pay for your energy will fluctuate from month to month (depending on how much energy your panels produce), you’ll see annual savings of around 10 percent, year after year.

RELATED: Here’s How Much You Can Save With Community Solar

How Do Bill Credits Help You Save?

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Your utility will grant you energy bill credits in proportion to the energy generated by your share of the solar garden. In other words, if your share produces 8 kilowatt hours (kWh) of power, you will see a corresponding amount of credits go to your monthly electric bill.

If your credits are greater than your electricity charges for a given month (like when it’s sunny and in months when you use less energy), then the credits will carry over to reduce your next month’s bill. On the other hand, if you use more energy than your share produces credits, you will use up any roll-over credits, and then the rest of the energy you use will be regularly priced.

In the end, though, there’s no need to worry about these fluctuations, because we use your energy usage history to give you just the right amount of solar production. That way, your share is just enough to cover your electric bill, and you’re paying the discounted community solar rate for as much of your energy supply as possible.

RELATED: Solstice Makes it Easy to Sign Up for Community Solar

Paying it Forward

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The movement for universal access to affordable, clean energy depends on your support. When you make the choice to put your bill towards your local solar garden, you directly support our shared transition to renewable energy.

So, tell your neighbor. Spur the transition. Joining a solar garden will bring you utility bill savings, but bringing sustainable solar energy to every American resident—regardless of that resident’s housing location or financial limitations—is priceless.

WANT TO GO SOLAR FOR FREE? LET US KNOW!