U.S. Residential Solar Just Beat Commercial Installations For the First Time

how-solar-panels-work-illustration

Great news!

In addition to being the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power, a method of large-scale solar generation that uses a unique ‘salt battery’ to allow the solar plant to keep producing power even when the sun goes down, it was also the first time in the history of SEIA’s reports that residential solar installations surpassed commercial in the same time period. 232 MW of residential PV were installed in the first quarter, compared to 225 MW of commercial solar.

Solar-friendly policies like incentives are particularly important for ensuring middle class families are able to adopt solar power for their homes. And, as a recent analysis by the Center for American Progress found, it’s middle class families that are driving the rooftop solar revolution in the U.S., with “more than 60 percent of solar installations are occurring in zip codes with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000.”

This revolution is a threat to utilities’ current business model, since more customers going solar means they’re buying less electricity from the utility. The result in several states has been a push by utilities to scale back incentives or even charge solar customers an additional fee. In Arizona, for instance, Arizona Public Service (APS) has aggressively sought to undercut residential solar and last fall, the state’s energy regulator voted to add what amounts to a $5 per month surcharge on solar customers. The decision was widely viewed as a compromise, particularly considering the considerable amount of money spent by APS and outside groups, several of which were funded by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch.

In this various battles, the utilities often claim that solar customers aren’t paying their fair share of costs. But an increase in residential solar not only reduces the amount of electricity coming from polluting sources like coal-fired power plants, it provides a clear value to the utilities that’s often left out when they argue for additional fees. Solar generates during peak hours, when a utility has to provide electricity to more people than at other times during the day and energy costs are at their highest. And solar panels actually feed excess energy back to the grid, helping to alleviate the pressure during peak demand. In addition, because less electricity is being transmitted to customers through transmission lines, it saves utilities on the wear and tear to the lines and cost of replacing them with new ones.

Read the full article at U.S. Residential Solar Just Beat Commercial Installations For the First Time

May 29 Webinar – Residential Solar in North Carolina: What you need to know

Residential_Solar_Solutions.gif

Residential Solar in North Carolina: What you need to know

Thursday, May 29, 2014

1:00-2:00pm ET

Register

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) continues its webinar series with a presentation on residential solar in North Carolina. The presentation will provide valuable information on the options and tradeoffs for homeowners thinking about going solar in the Tar Heel state. It will also include overviews and insights into two Solarize Campaigns currently accelerating residential solar adoption for North Carolinians.

This webinar will be moderated by Charlie Coggeshall, Renewable Energy Manager for SACE.

Guest speakers include:

  • Jim Kennerly, North Carolina Solar Center (NCSC). Jim will highlight the details and options that every customer interested in going solar needs to know, as he provides an overview of NCSC’s recent reports: Residential Customer Guide to Going Solar.
  • Katie Bray, Solarize Asheville. Katie will provide some background on the “Solarize” movement, and the successes and lessons learned with Solarize Asheville over the past year.
  • Jeff Redwine, Renewable Energy Design Group, L3C (RED Group). Jeff will discuss why RED Group was selected as the solar contractor for Solarize Charlotte, and the status and outlook for that campaign.

This program was developed in collaboration with and supported by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Solarize Charlotte.

Register today!

For more information, contact: charlie@cleanenergy.org

Happy Mothers’ Day – Why Moms Love Solar

Thanks to Hanna Mitchell and Greenpeace for this great message. And special thanks for these Charlotte area Solar Moms – Deanna Hamm, Cynthia Redwine, Kathy Sparrow, and Desiree Zytkow – who talk about the water and air pollution from coal, the benefits of solar and their concerns for their children’s health and future. Please enjoy and share!

5 Reasons Why Moms Love Solar

By Hanna Mitchell

This Mothers’ Day, moms are taking a stand for solar. Check out this video that shines a light on the stories of solar moms. Moms not only support the use of solar energy to meet home energy needs, but women are increasingly driving the decision to go solar. One household at a time, moms are leading the way to a cleaner, safer and more affordable energy future. Here are some of the reasons why moms are proudly putting panels on their roofs.

1.) Installing solar brings down monthly energy bills: As the industry expands, the cost of solar is coming down fast, and promises to keep dropping. Nationwide, the average cost of solar panels has declined 60% since 2011. Moms appreciate the power of solar to reduce energy bills and these days, as much as 80% of women control household budgets. Solar is a smart financial investment because an installation can return two to four times its cost in saved energy bills, while also increasing the resale value of a home.

2.) Solar means clean air and water: Solar energy does not produce pollution or waste and contributes to healthier communities. Going solar also reduces the demand on the grid which diminishes the need for dirty energy plants. As caregivers, moms appreciate that solar does not create pollution that causes health issues such as asthma and cancer.

3.) Solar mitigates climate change: By switching to solar, the average household can save tons of greenhouse gas emissions and help diminish extreme weather patterns such as hurricanes, droughts, and severe cold fronts. Putting solar on your roof contributes to creating a healthier climate for future generations.

4.) Solar supports the local economy: Solar installations require skilled labor that cannot be outsourced. As of November 2013, the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 people and grew 19.9% from 2012. Going solar supports jobs for thousands of American families.

5.) Solar demonstrates energy leadership: One of the major questions for the next generation is how we will supply our energy needs. Going solar is a bold decision to become part of the solution to a more just and sustainable energy future.

But don’t just take my word for it! Check out this inspiring video about moms in North Carolina that are standing up for solar.

“Bag It: Is your life too plastic?” ” – Film, discussion, reception on May 16

This will be a great way to spend a Friday night – a chance to talk trash to some like minded folks. It definitely won’t be a waste of time for you and your friends. I doubt that there will be any filthy jokes, but you never know.  So skip the garbage on TV and make plans to be there!

You might also want to check out these recent articles from PlanCharlotte.

photo Lacking incentives, some Mecklenburg businesses lag in recycling

Lacking incentives, some Mecklenburg businesses lag in recycling

Charlotte-Mecklenburg ordinances do not require all businesses to recycle, and officials are unable to determine how much they do recycle. (Photo: Nancy PIerce)

– Mae Israel

 

photo In CMS, recycling's possible but not always practical

In CMS, recycling’s possible but not always practical

Recycling containers sit in classrooms in every Charlotte-Mecklenburg public school, and students at nearly half of them make the extra effort to dump leftover liquid from milk and juice cartons before tossing them into bins.

– Mae Israel

Announcement by Mary Newsom

Film, discussion, reception to focus on plastics

Bag It
The movie “Bag it: Is your life too plastic?” will be part of the May 16 KEEPING WATCH event. Photo: bagitmovie.com

Americans use an average of 60,000 plastic bags every minute – single-use disposable bags that we mindlessly throw away. It takes an estimated 12 million barrels of oil a year to make the plastic bags that Americans consume. And that’s just bags. Plastics surround us. Although Mecklenburg County now accepts most types of plastics for recycling, the county’s recycling rates still trail the national average.

Join KEEPING WATCH in its next event May 16: A Clean Martini night, documentary film screening of Bag it: Is your life too plastic? and a panel discussion will all focus attention on plastics, waste disposal and recycling

The event is Friday, May 16, 6-9 p.m. at the UNC Charlotte Center City Building.

Bag it: Is your life too plastic? follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier as he navigates our plastic world. Berrier is an average American who decides to take a closer look at our cultural love affair with plastics. The documentary about Berrier’s journey starts with simple questions: Are plastic bags necessary? What are they made from? What happens to plastic bags after they are discarded? What he learns quickly grows far beyond plastic bags.

The event is part of the three-year KEEPING WATCH initiative, a project of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and its PlanCharlotte.org online publication, and the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture. From 2014 until 2016, the initiative will use arts, community engagement, history, science and online publication to highlight environmental issues of significance to Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the metro region.

Mary Newsom of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and PlanCharlotte.org will moderate the panel discussion. Panelists are:

  • Mike Lizotte, the UNC Charlotte sustainability officer.
  • Laurette Hall, Mecklenburg County Solid Waste, environmental manager of waste reduction programs.
  • Meg Fencil of Sustain Charlotte, a local sustainability education and advocacy group that studied Mecklenburg’s recycling rate, comparing it with other cities.
  • Sam Perkins, of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, who will discuss the problem of trash, especially plastics, and how they affect our waterways.

The May 16 event is co-sponsored with Slow Food Charlotte and will feature “clean martinis” made from local products at local distilleries, as well as light, locally sourced hors d’oeuvres.

The event is free and open to the public.

Parking: The UNC Charlotte Center City campus does not offer free parking to guests. A number of public parking lots are available nearby, as is the Seventh Street stop of the Lynx Blue Line. Parking information and directions to UNC Charlotte Center City.

Partners: Funders and community partners of the three-year KEEPING WATCH initiative are: Arts & Science Council, Blumenthal Foundation, Discovery Place, Foundation For The Carolinas, Knight Foundation Fund, North Carolina Arts Council, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, City of Charlotte, Clean Air Carolina, Keep Charlotte Beautiful, McColl Center for Visual Art, Mecklenburg County Land Use & Environmental Services Agency, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Slow Food, Sustain Charlotte and the UNC Charlotte Office of Sustainability.

- See more at: http://plancharlotte.org/story/film-discussion-reception-focus-plastics#sthash.axQnxTbY.dpuf

The event is Friday, May 16, 6-9 p.m. at the UNC Charlotte Center City Building.

Bag it: Is your life too plastic?”
follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier as he navigates our plastic world. Berrier is an average American who decides to take a closer look at our cultural love affair with plastics. The documentary about Berrier’s journey starts with simple questions: Are plastic bags necessary? What are they made from? What happens to plastic bags after they are discarded? What he learns quickly grows far beyond plastic bags.

The event is part of the three-year KEEPING WATCH initiative, a project of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and its PlanCharlotte.org online publication, and the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture. From 2014 until 2016, the initiative will use arts, community engagement, history, science and online publication to highlight environmental issues of significance to Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the metro region.

Mary Newsom of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and PlanCharlotte.org will moderate the panel discussion. Panelists are:

Mike Lizotte, the UNC Charlotte sustainability officer.
Laurette Hall, Mecklenburg County Solid Waste, environmental manager of waste reduction programs.
Meg Fencil of Sustain Charlotte, a local sustainability education and advocacy group that studied Mecklenburg’s recycling rate, comparing it with other cities.
Sam Perkins, of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, who will discuss the problem of trash, especially plastics, and how they affect our waterways.

The May 16 event is co-sponsored with Slow Food Charlotte and will feature “clean martinis” made from local products at local distilleries, as well as light, locally sourced hors d’oeuvres.

The event is free and open to the public.

Parking: The UNC Charlotte Center City campus does not offer free parking to guests. A number of public parking lots are available nearby, as is the Seventh Street stop of the Lynx Blue Line. Parking information and directions to UNC Charlotte Center City.

Partners: Funders and community partners of the three-year KEEPING WATCH initiative are: Arts & Science Council, Blumenthal Foundation, Discovery Place, Foundation For The Carolinas, Knight Foundation Fund, North Carolina Arts Council, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, City of Charlotte, Clean Air Carolina, Keep Charlotte Beautiful, McColl Center for Visual Art, Mecklenburg County Land Use & Environmental Services Agency, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Slow Food, Sustain Charlotte and the UNC Charlotte Office of Sustainability.

 

Charlotte Energy Strategy Presentation – May 15

The Charlotte Economic Development & Global Competitiveness Committee will meet May 15 at 12:00 PM in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center (600 E. Fourth Street, Charlotte NC). They will be meeting to determine the appropriate role for the City in supporting and accelerating the economic growth of energy-related companies and suppliers in Charlotte. Plan to attend and show your support for the need for clean, renewable energy and programs like Solarize Charlotte!

Char Eco Dev Comm Mtg April 15 2014

Speak out in support of the 2015 Park and Rec budget

Below is a message from County Manager Dena Diorio. Make plans to attend at least one of the meetings and speak out about increased funding for nature preserves, greenways, and other Mecklenburg Park and Recreation programs.

Click on the link to learn more about the Mecklenburg County Fiscal Year 2015 Budget.

Taking the FY2015 Budget ‘On the Road’

In anticipation of presenting my recommended budget to the Board on May 29, over the next few weeks I will be making informational presentations to six different civic groups throughout the County.

During these “roadshow” presentations, I will be talking about how the overall budget process works and then taking questions from the audience. I believe these interactive, face-to-face meetings will help increase public engagement and interest in County government as we head into FY2015.

My first presentation will be at Charlotte Senior Centers, Inc. at 2225 Tyvola Rd. on Wednesday, May 7 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. For more dates and locations, please see the calendar reminders below.

Calendar

Environmental Leadership Workshop -Taking Passion and Activism to the Next Level

Make plans to join us this coming Saturday! The workshop is free but please RSVP to register.

Enviro Leadership Workshop May 10 2014

Please join us for for a workshop to find out how you can do more in your community and become a leader! For most people activism consists of lobbying officials from ‘outside’ the decision making process, but you can help change the future by getting involved in decision making on the inside. At this event you’ll hear from environmental-minded local leaders, learn how to make positive changes in your local community, and explore how to go from concerned citizen to service on a board or commission.

Event Details

When: 9:30am – 11:30am, May 10, 2014

Where: Central Piedmont Community College, Elizabeth Classroom Building, Auditorium Room #ECB 1106

Cost: FREE, light breakfast and refreshments will be provided from 9:30am-10:00am.

For more information or to register: leadership@ncconservationnetwork.org

*Pre-registration is required for this event.

 

 

And the winners of the 2014 Sustain Charlotte awards are…

Congratulations to all these companies and individuals that help to preserve and protect our environment!

Here’s the announcement from Sustain Charlotte:

WHAT A NIGHT!
We’d like offer a heartfelt word of thanks to everyone who helped make our 3rd Annual Community Sustainability Awards + Earth Day Celebration such an inspiring evening!

270 gathered at UNC Charlotte Center City to celebrate the 2014 Sustain Charlotte Awards.

This was our biggest awards event yet — here’s a few numbers!

  • 270 attendees!
  • 200 pounds of electronic waste collected from attendees for responsible and localrecycling by eCycleSecure!
  • 70 nominees honored!
  • 18 sponsors!
  • elected officials in attendance including: Charlotte Mayor Clodfelter, Charlotte City Council Members Autry, Lyles, Mayfield, Kinsey, and Howard and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Cotham!
  • waste created!  All items needed are being reused or composted!
(L-R): Charlotte Mayor Clodfelter, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Cotham, City Council Member Howard

Sustain Charlotte Founder and Director Shannon Binns opened the evening by reminding the audience that, “We are all just a few of the one billion people who are participating in an Earth Day event today, making it the largest civic observance in the world. The tremendous turnout this evening is a testament to our region’s growing awareness and commitment to caring for that which sustains us, and those who will come after us.

Sustain Charlotte Executive Director Shannon Binns

City Council Member John Autry welcomed the audience by thanking our nominees, and Sustain Charlotte, for making our community better: “It’s wonderful to have a partner like Sustain Charlotte — an organization you can count on for accurate information, strong advocacy, and a passion for a sustainable community.

 

                        
City Council Member John Autry
Keynote speaker Alicia Roskind, founder and owner of Okra Yoga, Massage, Tea & Coffee, spoke about the importance of vision and intention as Charlotte moves toward a more sustainable future:The Charlotte 2030 Vision for Sustainability that Sustain Charlotte launched four years ago laid the foundation of possibility and created an open invitation for others in the Charlotte community to create, dream, and inspire change. And those people being honored tonight accepted this invitation and are helping realize this vision, whether knowing it or not, by having their own unique and powerful visions for themselves, our community, and our world.”


Keynote speaker and founder of Okra Alicia Roskind
Ashley Batey of WBTVgenerously donated her time and talent as our Master of Ceremonies during the awards presentation.

WBTV Meteorologist Ashley Batey
In addition to highlighting 70 local organizations and individuals for their innovative work to move us towards sustainability, we presented 11 awards to our most outstanding nominees as selected by a panel of Sustain Charlotte volunteers.  
And our 2014 winners are…

Danny Pleasant (far left) and Vivian Coleman accepting 2014 Transportation award on behalf of Charlotte DOT.
2013 winner Ray Atkinson (center) presenting.

Tobe Holmes and Allison Billings (center) accepting 2014 Land Use award for Charlotte Center City Partners.
2013 Buildings + Homes winner Craig Lewis of Lawrence Group (far left) and 2013 Parks + Open Space winner Jim Garges of Mecklenburg County Park & Rec (far right) presenting.


Mike Davis accepting 2014 Energy award on behalf of the NC Sustainable Energy Association.
CMS’s Diana Kooser presenting on behalf of 2013 winner Phil Berman.


Ronnie Goins (L) and Joe Fass (R) accepting 2014 Waste Reduction award on behalf of Eaton Corporation.
2013 winner Jennifer White presenting.


Rebecca Cheatham, June Blotnick, + Mary Stauble accepting 2014 Air Quality award for Clean Air Carolina.

Sustain Charlotte Board Chair Jenifer Daniels presenting on behalf of 2013 winner Leslie Rhodes of Mecklenburg County Air Quality.


Leconte Lee (center) and Nick Nock (right) accepting 2014 Food award for their business, Go-Go Fresco.
Sustain Charlotte Board Chair Jenifer Daniels presenting on behalf of 2013 winner Cassie Parsons.


Julie Stancil, Bridgett Williams + Kelly Merkl accepting 2014 Social Equity award on behalf of MGR Charlotte.
2013 winner Barney Offerman presenting.


Rick Roti, Debra Glennon, + Ron Shearin of the Charlotte Public Tree Fund accepting the 2014 Water award.
Diana Daniels presenting on behalf of 2013 winner Rick Gaskins of Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.


Joe + Pamela Robinson accepting the Sustainable Economy award on behalf of their business, PPRE Forevergreen. 2013 winner Shannon Johnson with Albemarle Downtown Development presenting.


Billy Booe accepting Outstanding Educator award on behalf of winner Cindy Moss with Discovery Education.
2013 winner Regina Guyer of UNC Charlotte presenting.


2014 Overall Outstanding Leader David Walters of UNC Charlotte.
2013 winner Bill Gupton of the Central Piedmont Sierra Club Chapter presenting.


All award plaques made from Forest Stewardship Council certified bamboo – a fast growing resource!

Although there could only be one winner per category, we want to congratulate ALL of our nominees for the amazing work they’re doing!

What does McCutcheon decision mean?

McCutcheson Decision

McCutcheon vs. Federal Elections Commission

Last week the Supreme Court handed down a narrow 5-4 ruling, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount an individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle. Prior to April 2, an individual donor was capped at giving $123,200 in a two year election cycle to federal candidates, political action committees (PAC), and political parties. After this very narrow Supreme Court decision, an individual can now contribute more than $3.5 million to candidates, political parties, and PACs. This means one person can give the maximum amount to every single House and Senate race, party and PAC. Super wealthy donors can give money to uncontested races, then those candidates can redirect the money to targeted races.  

The original lawsuit was brought to the Supreme Court by climate change denying, coal businessman, Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee. McCutcheon wanted to be able to have even more influence over elected officials.
Let’s be clear, the elimination of this cap does not help you or me. Only around 1200 Americans met the cap of $123,200 in recent elections. To put this into context, $123,000 is more than double the typical income of an American household. This only helps the 1% of the 1%. When creating policies, elected officials will be even more accountable to wealthy polluters, instead of every day Americans. 
 
What McCutcheon does not do
1) It does not lift the contribution cap to individual candidates. However, the Supreme Court left the door open to potentially overturn campaign contribution limits in individual races. 
2) It does not affect super PAC contributions. McCutcheon was solely about contributions directly to candidates, parties and PACs. 
 
What is the Sierra Club doing about it?
The Sierra Club, along with NAACP, Communications Workers of America and Greenpeace, created the Democracy Initiative to help address some of the greatest threats to our democracy: the undue influence of money in politics, unprecedented attacks on voting rights, and dysfunction of the U.S. Senate. The Democracy Initiative has grown to 44 endorsing organizations, including MoveOn.org, SEIU, AFSCME, National Council of La Raza, and Common Cause. Collectively, we are working to engage issue-based membership organizations to engage more deeply to restore our democracy to one of, by and for the people. 
 
To better incorporate this work into all levels of the Sierra Club we recently created the Sierra Club Democracy Program. The same corporate polluters we all fight against to defend our air and water, are the same people pumping money into the pockets of candidates and the same people supporting laws that suppress voters. We mobilized around the McCutcheon decision with Sierra Club members and staff participating in rapid response events around the country on the day the decision was handed down. With a diverse range of coalition partners we are building a movement of organized people to push back on organized money. 
 
What you can do 
1) Help spread the word. Share this image on Facebook.  
2) Along with our allies we are working to mobilize letters to the editor to local and state papers. 
    *We will provide sample LTE language and messaging in a follow up email. 
3) In the coming weeks, we are reaching out to Sierra Club chapter leaders and staff about how to
    engage more deeply in this work over the long term. 
 
More information on McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission 
1) Sierra Club Statement & Blog on McCutcheon
2) Analyses of McCutcheon decision by Demos
This is a fight we can win because organized people can beat organized money.
Thanks,
Courtney

Courtney Hight
Director, Democracy Program
Sierra Club
50 F Street NW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20001