Category Archives: Uncategorized

Charleston Solar Co-op selects DT Solar to serve group

The Charleston Solar Co-op has selected DT Solar to install solar panels for the 25-member group. Co-op members selected DT Solar through a competitive bidding process over two other firms. The group will hold its final public information session on Tuesday, October 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the Charleston Area Alliance Building, 1116 Smith St, Charleston WV 25301, to educate the community about solar and the co-op process.

Co-op members selected DT Solar because of its competitive pricing, quality equipment, excellent warranties, and union workforce.

The co-op is open to new members until November 17. Charleston-area residents interested in joining the co-op can sign up at the co-op website: www.wvsun.org/charleston.

Joining the co-op is not a commitment to purchase panels. DT Solar will provide each co-op member with an individualized proposal based on the group rate. By going solar as a group and choosing a single installer, participants receive the same fair and competitive base pricing and have support from WV SUN throughout the entire process of going solar.

Information session details:

Tuesday, October 24, 5:30 p.m.
Charleston Area Alliance Building
1116 Smith Street
Charleston, WV 25301

Click here to RSVP

WV SUN names Autumn Long as new Program Director

WV SUN has announced Autumn Long will serve as the organization’s Program Director. Long previously managed WV SUN’s solar co-ops across the state. In her new role, she will work with the state’s community of solar supporters.

“As a solar homeowner myself, I see the power of being able to produce my own electricity everyday,” Long said. “If you have ever thought about going solar, now is a great time to do so.”

WV SUN has helped nearly 100 West Virginia residents go solar. It has saved homeowners more than $300,000 and spurred more than $1.7 million in local economic development in the process.

In addition to operating a garden-care company in Harrison County, Long has been a community organizer, advocate, writer, editor, researcher, and homesteader. Karan Ireland, former program director, now leads the West Virginians for Energy Freedom campaign.

PSC Hearing times for First Energy case

Tomorrow marks beginning of hearings in FirstEnergy case

September will be a pivotal month in the effort to stop Ohio-based FirstEnergy’s attempt to soak West Virginia ratepayers by offloading its unprofitable Pleasants Power Station on us. The West Virginia Public Service Commission is holding a series of public hearings on the matter. These public forums are a terrific opportunity for us to make our voices heard.

Under the current ownership structure, FirstEnergy makes a profit (or loss) based on whether the revenues obtained from selling the plant’s electricity cover the costs of owning and operating the plant. Currently, the plant is running at a loss for FirstEnergy. FirstEnergy wants to transfer ownership of the plant to another subsidiary the company owns. If FirstEnergy is allowed to transfer ownership to Mon Power and Potomac Edison, West Virginia ratepayers, not FirstEnergy, will be on the hook for covering the plant’s losses.

A recent study found this cost could be as high as $470 million, or $69 per West Virginia household per year for the next 15 years. This is a cost we shouldn’t be forced to bare. West Virginia ratepayers have been down this road before. The acquisition of the Harrison power plant four years ago has already cost us $160 million.

We can stop this bad, unfair deal, but we’ll need strong public support to persuade the Public Service Commission that they should reject this unnecessary waste of our money.

Schedule:

PARKERSBURG: September 6, 6 p.m., Municipal Building, Council Chambers, 3rd and Avery streets, RSVP here

MARTINSBURG: September 11, 7 p.m., City Building, Municipal Courtroom, 232 North Queen Street, 1st floor, RSVP here

MORGANTOWN: September 12, 6 p.m., Monongalia County Justice Center, 75 High Street, Judge Tucker’s Courtroom, 3rd floor, RSVP here

If you are unable to attend a hearing, you can submit public comments to:

Ingrid Ferrell, Executive Secretary

P.O. Box 812

Charleston, WV 25323

All written comments should be marked with Case No. 17-0296-E-PC.

Public comment may also be made online at http://www.psc.state.wv.us by clicking on “Submit a Comment” in the left column and by following the directions provided.

A home featuring Tesla solar shingles

Solar shingles: Creating excitement and raising questions

Tesla’s Solar Roof has created excitement as it comes closer to market. While we are technology and installer neutral, we hope to demystify this new building integrated solar system and raise some of the key questions that have not been addressed. Solar roofs can appeal to people averse to the look and style of traditional framed solar PV modules. Aside from aesthetic considerations solar roofs are guaranteed for the lifespan of your home.

Experts who have examined the cost of the solar roof have calculated its price per watt to be between $6.00-$6.50/watt. The average cost for a residential solar install today is about $2.84/W according to SEIA and GTM. However, this lower cost does not factor in the cost of the actual roofing components that the solar roof replaces. Also, it is not 100% clear whether the entire cost of the new shingle roof will qualify for the Federal Tax Credit (30% of system cost) or just the shingles that contain solar cells.

If you’ve recently installed a new roof, the integrated solar roof may not make financial sense, since it is much more expensive when compared to a standard solar system. The economics of this product depend on the type of roofing material you would be replacing. If you are replacing a slate roof, but want the slate aesthetic with the solar roof, it may make more sense since a traditional slate roof is costly. However, if you are replacing more common asphalt shingles, the price of a solar roof may not be as competitive as a full roof replacement with asphalt shingles plus a standard solar install.

Another consideration to keep in mind when evaluating this product is that it is in fact a roof. Roofs require more code compliance than solar systems themselves. Their installation is more complex than a standard solar install. Tesla has not made it clear who will be handling the actual installations of the roof.

As the company rolls out this product into new markets, will Tesla subcontract with established roofers or will they utilize their existing installation teams to facilitate the work? Further, Tesla has yet to show how it will manage the complexities of the roof installation. Will the shingles be wired to one central inverter or will they be grouped and wired to micro-inverters or optimizers? Will local jurisdictional electric, building, and fire codes support this type of building integrated solar system? Will the failure of one tile effect the energy production of other tiles? What are the replacement costs for failed tiles or will they be abandoned in place, reducing the overall energy production value of the roof? Along with the complexities of the install, Tesla has stated that they do not have a solution for flat roofs, a relative minority in the housing stock, but ubiquitous in urban environments.

We are excited to see how this product will be deployed and we are eager to see any solar technology that helps individuals take control of their energy production. We hope that the cost of solar roofing technologies like the Tesla shingle will be brought down as production scales, enabling more to take advantage of solar.

A group of installers places two arrays on a standing seam metal roof

Three co-ops launch across Eastern Panhandle

Neighbors across the Eastern Panhandle are forming solar co-ops to save money and make going solar easier, while building a network of solar supporters. The Jefferson County Solar Co-op, the Berkeley & Morgan Counties Solar Co-op, and the Potomac Highlands Solar Co-op are each seeking members and will host a series of public information meetings throughout the panhandle during the last week of August to educate the community about solar and the co-op process.

Residents of Hardy, Mineral, Grant, Hampshire, and Pendleton counties are invited to join the Potomac Highlands Solar Co-op at www.wvsun.org/potomac-highlands. The Potomac Highlands Solar Co-op is sponsored by Eastern WV Community & Technical College, the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the League of Women Voters-WV.

Residents of Berkeley & Morgan counties are invited to join the Berkeley & Morgan Counties Solar Co-op at www.wvsun.org/berkeley-morgan. The Berkeley & Morgan Counties Solar Co-op is sponsored by the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters-WV.

Residents of Jefferson County are invited to join the Jefferson County Solar Co-op at www.wvsun.org/jefferson. The Jefferson County Solar Co-op is sponsored by Renew Jefferson, the League of Women Voters of Jefferson County, and the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club.

WV SUN expands access to solar by educating West Virginians about the benefits of distributed solar energy, helping them organize group solar installations, and strengthening the state’s solar policies, as well as its community of solar supporters. The group has worked with a dozen West Virginia communities to develop solar co-ops over the past three years.

Joining a co-op is not a commitment to purchase panels. Once each group is large enough, WV SUN will help the co-ops solicit competitive bids from area solar installers. Co-op members will select a single company to complete all the installations for their group. They will then have the option to purchase panels individually based on the installer’s group rate. By going solar as a group and choosing a single installer, co-op participants receive fair and competitive pricing as well as support from WV SUN throughout the entire process of going solar.

Information meeting schedule

Moorefield
Monday, August 28, 5:30 p.m.
Eastern WV Community & Technical College, Room 104B
316 Eastern Drive
Moorefield, WV 26836

Click here to RSVP

Martinsburg
Tuesday, August 29, 5:30 p.m.
Martinsburg Public Library
101 West King Street
Martinsburg, WV 25401

Click here to RSVP

Shepherdstown
Wednesday, August 30, 5:30 p.m.
The Station at Shepherdstown
100 Audrey Egle Drive
Shepherdstown, WV 25443

Click here to RSVP

Charles Town
Thursday, August 31, 5:30pm
Charles Town Public Library
200 East Washington Street
Charles Town, WV 25414

Click here to RSVP

August 21’s Total Solar Eclipse and the Solar Industry

The earliest recorded eclipse in human history occurred during the 22nd Century BCE. Legends state that two Chinese court astronomers were executed for their failures to predict and prepare for the eclipse, as eclipses were believed to be omens foretelling the health of kings. Since then, eclipses repeatedly have been associated with kings and their nations, with legends and superstitions linking eclipses to the deaths of King Henry I and Queen Anne Neville.

While it’s unlikely the upcoming eclipse on August 21 will result in the overturning of any kingdoms, it pays for the solar industry to be prepared nonetheless. The last time a total solar eclipse was viewable on the continental United States was in February of 1979, a time when the state of the American solar industry was very different than today. The totality of this eclipse will be passing in a line from Charleston, South Carolina to Salem, Oregon, but its impact will be felt across the entire continent.

With 10% of California’s generation coming from solar (representing 50% of solar production nationwide), the upcoming eclipse promises to be a challenge. California Independent System Operator (CAISO) estimates a loss of over 6,000 MW of generating power during the eclipse. Experts estimate 70 MW/minute will be lost as the shadow approaches, and then solar production is expected to ramp up at a rate of 90 MW/minute afterward.

Fortunately a similar eclipse crossed Europe in March of 2015. This will give California utilities insight into how to prepare for the drop in production. Electricity reserved from gas-fired and hydro-electric plants should be enough to offset the loss, particularly given California’s glut of snowfall this year. In the future, storage resources like batteries could also play a role. Similar plans to those in California are in place for North Carolina, where the solar industry is smaller but still a presence. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a nonprofit corporation formed to “ensure the reliability of the North American bulk power system,” expects no major disruption to the grid’s reliability but does recommend utilities prepare and study the eclipse for the future.

{This article contributed to WV SUN by Cal Kielhold}

A Morgantown, WV solar installation

Charleston Solar Co-op releases RFP

The 24-member Charleston Solar Co-op today issued a request for proposals (RFP) from area solar installers. The group members created the co-op to save money and make going solar easier, while building a network of solar supporters. The U.S. Green Building Council-West Virginia, the West Virginia League of Women Voters, and WV SUN are the co-op’s sponsors.

Local installers interested in serving the group can click to download the RFP and response template. Charleston-area residents interested in joining the co-op can sign up at the co-op web page.

Joining the co-op is not a commitment to purchase panels. Co-op members will select a single company to complete all installations for the group. They will then have the option to purchase panels individually based on the installer’s group rate.

Farm uses solar to off-set energy bills

Richard and Tommye Lou Rafes are farmers and retired educators who live on a mountaintop in Greenbrier County. Their diversified farming operation supplies fresh, local produce year-round to area farmers’ markets, schools, restaurants, and CSA subscribers. Richard and Tommye cultivate three-dozen varieties of vegetables and a dozen types of fruits and berries in gardens, orchards, raised beds, and high tunnels. They also raise ducks and sell duck eggs.

In May of this year, the Rafeses went solar through the Lewisburg Solar Co-op. Richard says he joined the co-op after attending a WV SUN solar info session. “The great thing about the co-op is that [WV SUN] handles all the details,” he says. “So we knew we were going to get a quality contractor that was going to be used by a number of people in the area.”

The Rafeses wanted enough solar panels to offset 100% of their farm’s annual electricity consumption. Solar Holler, the company selected to service the co-op, designed a 70-panel, 21-kilowatt (kW) solar array that completely covers one side of the Rafeses’ barn roof. The panels will produce around 24,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually.

The Rafeses receive credit on their monthly electric bills for the energy their solar panels produce through net metering. “Last month we actually produced more kilowatts than we consumed, so we have a credit with FirstEnergy to offset our future [electric bills],” Richard said.

The Rafeses’ interest in solar stretches back decades, to their time living in Texas in the early 1980s. “We were one of the first families in Denton, Texas, to have solar panels on our roof,” Richard said. “But they only heated water. [Solar technology] has improved so much since then.”

One reason the Rafeses chose to go solar again today was to minimize their carbon footprint. “We have a clear commitment to renewable energy,” Richard said. “We want to actually produce the energy that we consume.”

The Rafeses also invested in solar in order to lower their farm’s operating costs. By producing their own electricity on site, they will benefit from drastically lowered electricity bills for decades into the future. And the cost of solar is more affordable than ever.

In addition to a 30% federal tax credit (in place in full through 2019), the Rafeses received a grant from the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to help offset the cost of going solar on their farm. “It’s a real good investment to go solar,” Richard said. “There’s a really short-term payback [period].”

Solar Holler helped the Rafeses write and submit the grant application. Along with Mountain View Solar and DT Solar, Solar Holler is one of three local solar installers participating in a statewide WV SUN program to help more farmers in the Mountain State go solar.

Through our Ag Producers’ Solar Co-op, WV SUN helps West Virginia farmers access funding for solar such as USDA REAP. WV SUN also provides technical assistance and helps participants solicit and review solar proposals. We support, advise, and advocate for our members throughout the process of going solar.

The Ag Producers’ Solar Co-op is open to West Virginia farmers for whom at least 50% of gross income comes from on-site agricultural operations. For more information and to sign up for the program, visit our website or contact Autumn Long, WV SUN Solar Co-op Coordinator, at 304-608-3539 or autumn@wvsun.org.

"Keep my $$$ in WV, No bailout for FirstEnergy!"

Energy Freedom campaign rolls strong into summer

Ratepayers across West Virginia aren’t taking Ohio-based FirstEnergy’s attempt to put us on the hook for its failing power plant lying down. We are working hard to educate the public about this bad deal for West Virginia.

We received good news last month when Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff issued a deficiency letter to FirstEnergy. FERC is a federal agency responsible for regulating the electricity sector. The staff concluded that FirstEnergy’s application to transfer the Pleasants Plant was incomplete. FERC is requiring FirstEnergy to submit additional information on several topics. The letter found FirstEnergy’s application deficient. Interestingly, the deficiencies FERC identified were issues that West Virginians for Energy Freedom discussed at length in our filing.

Fighting back

Hundreds of West Virginians have signed a petition to the Public Service Commission urging commissioners to reject FirstEnergy’s bid. Click here to sign. You can also sign up to volunteer with our campaign. We have begun holding monthly volunteer calls to provide information and updates on the campaign. We will be working throughout the summer to educate our fellow West Virginians about this bad deal. Public hearings will start in September, so it’s critical that we spread the word now.

How solar takes the heat off

Reducing the amount of electricity you need to buy from your utility isn’t the only way going solar helps you save money. Installing panels on your roof may also reduce your energy demand. This is because rooftop solar can help regulate your roof’s temperature. A study from the University of California San Diego found that solar panel installations can reduce roof heat by as much as five degrees.

Solar panels are typically attached to your roof using a racking system. Most rooftop systems are installed so that there is a gap between the roof and the panel. This separation allows for air to flow under the panels and sweep away some of the heat. Solar panels also absorb heat that would otherwise be absorbed by the roof itself. Researchers calculated that solar’s temperature reduction amounts to an additional five percent return on investment due to lower energy costs due to reduced usage. In the winter months, solar panels can prevent heat from escaping, leading to lower heating costs.