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Documentary Shines A Light On The Solar Solution
May05

Documentary Shines A Light On The Solar Solution

What do an American worker, a Tea Party activist and a Chinese entrepreneur have in common? They’re all are racing to lead the global future of clean energy and their journeys are featured in Catching the Sun, a new documentary that showcases how doing good by the environment has created a boom in the renewable energy job sector.   “I was fascinated by the idea that solar power could democratize and decentralize energy in a way that creates economic opportunity for workers and entrepreneurs,” said Director Shalini Kantayya.   Kantayya’s film jumps between countries around the world that are fast-tracking solar production and follows some of the stories that have unfolded in its wake.   Among these stories are  Zhongwei Jiang’s , an entrepreneur in Wuxi, China, who grew up without electricity until he was 7. In 2003 Jiang took out a small interest loan from the Chinese government to start a solar company WesTech, which has grown by 50% every year and has expanded to Germany.   Other stories include those of solar installers in America who’ve found job opportunities in the burgeoning industry and a mayor who has fought tooth and nail against an oil corporation’s interests after a spill devastated her town.   The movie shows how one out of 83 new jobs created in the U.S. in 2014 was in the solar industry as a result from nearly 784,000 homes and businesses in the country embracing solar to save money and elevate property values.   Catching the Sun can be viewed on Netflix, downloaded on Vimeo or seen at select screenings taking place around the country....

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Bernies Love For Solar Burns Brightest
Apr28

Bernies Love For Solar Burns Brightest

  Of the three presidential candidates hoping to secure the oval office in 2016, Bernie Sanders’ advocacy of solar initiatives outshines his competitors Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.   As for the latter, Mr. Trump, who believes that climate change is a conspiracy theory and has publicized his dislike of clean energy, the policy agendas between him and Sanders are flagrant; while the differences between Sanders and his party opponent Clinton are less obvious, though still substantial.   Both Sanders and Clinton have publicized plans to transition the country’s energy from fossil fuels to renewable options, but unlike Clinton, Sanders’ plan openly opposes the fossil fuel industry by aiming to rid politics of corporate lobbyists, ban fracking and exploration for oil on public lands. Clinton, on the other hand, whose campaign has taken money from the fossil fuel industry, has avoided outright attacks on it, instead focusing on large government incentives to urge more people to convert to solar.   A look at both candidates’ plans reveals that Sanders is much more detailed when it comes to how he aims to steer Americans to become 100 percent dependent on renewable energy. He also, touches on issues such as bringing the United States’ transportation emissions to zero and taking a much more aggressive position in the global theater to reduce greenhouse gasses–all of which are absent on Clinton’s side.   Sanders’ past political initiatives leave little room for doubt that he will fight for his vision. In 2015 he introduced the Low Income Solar Act, which would provide $200 million in loans and grants through the Department of Energy to make solar more accessible to low-income families and communities.   Then there’s the fact that the environmental super PAC Climate Hawks listed Sanders as the No. 1 climate leader in the Senate for the 113th Congress and endorsed him as its choice for president.   Though Sanders is currently trailing in the primary elections behind Clinton, his efforts have given voice to millions of supporters that are not shy to demand better environmental policies from their government.        ...

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Hillary Clinton’s Sunny Side
Apr26

Hillary Clinton’s Sunny Side

As the dust for the 2016 presidential primaries settles, we’re left with three likely White House hopefuls–Trump, Clinton and Sanders–whose views on solar could steer industry policies in different directions. Earlier this month we reviewed the republican front runner Donald Trump’s inimical position towards renewable power, which is in stark contrast his possible democratic challengers Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. This week we’ll look at the Democratic party front runner, Hillary Clinton, who has aligned herself as a champion of the sun: To start, there’s her ambitious vision to produce enough clean energy to power all homes by 2027. The plan, a free PDF of which can be found by googling “Hillary Clinton Green Energy Plan”, calls for installing more than half a billion solar panels on homes by the end of her first term. It will also “aggressively” seek to extend Obama’s Clean Power Plan, cutting carbon emissions from power plants and aiming to reduce the country’s overall emissions to 30% of its 2005 levels.  The United States currently generates about 21 gigawatts of solar energy. To deliver on her goals, Clinton aims to bring this number to 140 gigawatts by 2020–more than double the industry’s projected growth should it stay on its current course: Clinton’s voting record and public tweets leave little room to doubt she will be a much more favorable candidate for the clean energy sector than her opponent Trump; though her party opponent, Sanders, has a track record that proves him to be as (if not more) favorable an...

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How to cash in on the IRS’ Investment Tax Credit
Mar24

How to cash in on the IRS’ Investment Tax Credit

Anticipating that the solar-plus-storage market could experience the same type of expansion the PV market did in the last decade, the IRS recently updated an eligibility ruling for a 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) on renewable energy storage.   The updated rule, passed before the start of 2016, extends the 30 percent ITC until 2021 and aims to clear up some of the confusion with regards to when solar energy storage qualifies for the tax credit.   “The federal government does not want to incentivize people to arbitrage energy from the grid,” Senior Consultant at the Engineering consultant firm DNV-GL Mike Kleinberg explains. “You cannot charge from the grid in the evening and then discharge during the day to supplement your PV — and also qualify for the ITC, because you’re not then really charging from renewable energy.”   In order to accomplish this, the IRS dictated that in order to be eligible for the ITC, taxpayers must not draw more than 25 percent of stored electricity from the grid. Additionally, if they draw more than 25 percent of power from the grid during the first year of applying for the credit, they will not be allowed to collect any portion of the energy tax credit in later years even if the system improves and complies.   In order to prevent batteries charging more than 25 percent from the grid, homeowners have taken to installing inverters on both their PV systems and their AC/DC power systems, linking them to a site master controller that monitors when and how fast storage units charge.   While the updated 2015 rule might seem more strict than the original one set forth two years earlier (which was much more vague about solar battery two-way grid charging) it also expands its definition of what constitutes “storage technology”, allowing for greater flexibility when applying for the credit.   For example, smart water heaters or ceramic heaters that know the weather and draw 25 percent or less from the grid would qualify....

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Cash in on net-metering while you still can!
Mar14

Cash in on net-metering while you still can!

The rationality of net-metering is hard to deny: If your home generates more energy than it consumes and that energy is added back into the grid, it’s only fair you should be compensated for the contribution. However utility companies, who usually end up footing the bill, are of a different opinion. As of January 2016 more than half of the 40 U.S. states with net-metering incentives have had their policies come under scrutiny. At the start of the year, homeowners in California breathed a collective sigh of relief as state regulators narrowly voted to uphold the existing net-metering benefits. However their neighboring solar enthusiasts in the state of Nevada weren’t so lucky. As more people are switching to using solar and generating their own power, state regulators have been forced to balance on a high wire of encouraging the trend while also pacifying the big energy companies that power houses during non-daylight hours. Check out the map below to see if you’re in one of the blue states where net-metering incentives are still applicable. If you are, and haven’t yet made the switch to solar, time might be running out to cash in on making more sun energy than you...

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