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Speaking of Solar Blog

Welcome to the ISEA Speaking of Solar Blog. This blog provides interesting and up to date articles about solar from ISEA board members and staff.

All opinions expressed in the SOS blog are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of ISEA.

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  • 14 May 2018 3:28 PM | Anonymous

                    When the alarm went off at 4:30 am, in the pitch black without even the dogs stirring, I mumbled to myself “Am I really going to do this?” After a moment’s hesitation, I answered myself by hustling to get ready and on the road to Springfield, hoping traffic and storms wouldn’t keep me from arriving on time. As the sun crept over the horizon, my mind began to wonder what my first ISEA “Solar Lobby Day” would hold for me. Would the rest of the participants welcome me, a newcomer, to the process? Would I know what to say when the time came? Would we get to talk to any legislators and would that matter? As I would find out soon, the answer to all those questions would be an emphatic “Yes!”

    I arrived right on time to Café Moxo for the pre-lobbying breakfast and briefing and was greeted with a warm smiles and hot coffee- both much appreciated after over 3 hours on the road. I had missed the prior evening’s Legislative Solar Social, so it felt a bit like the first day of high school where everyone else seemed to know one another. However, I was quickly welcomed into conversation and community by fellow solar enthusiasts. Drawn together in the backroom of this tiny café just around the corner of the capitol were representatives of every aspect of the solar industry. I met people involved in planning, finance, land acquisition, installation, marketing, environmental policy, and owners of arrays, just like me.  All of us came from all over Illinois and even beyond to improve the solar energy landscape of the Land of Lincoln. Some of us were strangers and competitors in commerce, but all were friendly, energized, and united in purpose for the day’s work.

    ISEA Executive Director Lesley McCain and board members Kevin Borgia and Sarah Wochos called us together and gave us pointers for the day as we got to know our groups. We formulated talking points and strategies to ensure we stayed on message and made the most of what often would be a few fleeting minutes with a state senator or representative, or more often their assistants. With a folder full of materials in one hand and a coffee in the other, we were off to the capitol with a checklist of legislators to lobby. My fellow team members, Tim Powers from Inovateus, Amy Heart from Sun Run, and Brian Haug from Continental Electrical Construction, emboldened me with their confidence and experience as we headed off to the offices on our list.

    We visited dozens of offices that day and talked with many senators and representatives touting the merits of the bills before them on solar. Our team, representing so many different aspects of solar, naturally settled into a pitch team, with each of us sharing our perspective. Almost everyone we spoke with was receptive to our advocacy, especially as we touted the jobs and economic growth solar energy brings to Illinois. With members of my team representing companies that were expanding into our state, it was easy for us to highlight the real progress that Illinois is making in solar energy. The highlight of the day for me was speaking with my state representative and getting him to indicate that he would support our legislation. As a former social studies teacher, I really felt like I was living the idea of democracy in action that I had talked about with my students for all of those years.

    Most of the approximately 50 members of our ISEA Solar Lobby Day team ended the day where it began, back at Café Moxo. We shared another meal and stories from the day. As I got back on the road and prepared for the long drive home, I had none of the trepidation from the morning. It had been replaced with energy and enthusiasm- I met new people, I had fun, and, in some small way, I made a difference for solar energy in Illinois. I can’t wait to go back next year.


  • 01 May 2018 10:46 AM | Anonymous

    Sunrun is excited to expand its solar offerings to Illinois. Sunrun is the nation’s largest residential solar, storage and energy services company.  With a mission to create a planet run by the sun, Sunrun has led the industry since 2007 with their solar-as-a-service model, which provides clean energy to homeowners with little to no upfront cost and at a saving compared to traditional electricity. Sunrun designs, installs, finances, insures, monitors and maintains the systems.


    Sunrun has over 3,000 employees, over 180,000 customers, and a presence in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Sunrun support and applauds ISEA and other solar advocates who worked to make Illinois as a prime contender for a robust home solar market. Supportive state policies like Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) reduce financial barriers for households who want to be a part of the clean energy solution, and demonstrate Illinois’ strong commitment to renewable energy. As an instrumental supporter in the creation of the legislation, Sunrun stands with ISE, advocates, and local representatives to bring clean energy jobs and opportunities to communities across the state.


    • Sunrun is in currently hiring positions to build out their Illinois branch, specifically focusing on sales teams and installation crews. For a full listing of Illinois positions, visit http://bit.ly/SunrunJobsIllinois
  • 28 Mar 2018 11:05 AM | Anonymous

    My friends, family, and colleagues, not to mention my wife, never miss an opportunity to chide me gently about my title as a “Solar Ambassador.” After all, the title seems to reference someone that might make an appearance in a science fiction movie trying to negotiate an intergalactic deal. In some ways, that’s not the worst comparison. For many consumers, switching to solar power is akin to something from another galaxy. To that end, a solar ambassador has to represent the technology and help consumers find the motivation and trust to go solar.

    As a solar customer, I am incredibly passionate about the technology and need almost no invitation to share why I went solar, but I know that my audience is not sure yet. My first step to help ease concerns is to stop talking and listen. My goal is not to convey why I went solar, but rather to understand why you are reluctant to go solar. There are certainly perennial concerns, such as cost, but each consumer and potential customer has a unique set of concerns that must be understood if they are to be addressed. I try to listen respectfully, reflect the concern back to my audience to show comprehension, and respond in plain language in order to further a conversation rather than spark a debate.

    Motivation is key. If you are concerned about cost, trying to convince you of the environmental merits is pure folly. I would effectively be negotiating in a different language at that point. Worse, that may cement in your mind that your concerns are in fact valid and can’t be addressed. As an ambassador, I find my job to be turning fears into motivation. If cost is the main concern, I break down the investment over time, including tax rebates, SRECs, and lifetime earnings. If the cost-conscious consumer starts to see solar as a viable option, I will have tapped into all the motivation I needed to help them go solar.

    Trust is key. Most solar professionals and solar ambassadors are technology aficionados and possess a deep well of background knowledge about solar panels and electrical markets. Many of those who have the potential to become new solar enthusiasts have none of this background knowledge and have set their electrical bill to auto-pay. My goal is not to turn my audience into subject matter experts, but rather to help them understand solar on their own terms. For example, one of my most effective metaphors for solar adoption is homeownership. We seek to buy rather than rent homes because we need shelter, want tax benefits, want to pay ourselves rather than the landlord. Similarly, as a solar adopter you can provide yourself electricity, deduct 30% of the cost, and enjoy the benefits of net metering. I often don’t have time to fully educate consumers on the science of solar and attempts to do so make most people feel insecure about the topic. By instead building on the background knowledge of my audience, I build trust by tapping into information about which they feel secure.

    Whether I am talking to passersby or presenting in a library to audience of more than 50 people, as a Solar Ambassador, I am always listening for motivation and building trust. I have already gone solar, so my journey is less significant than finding the obstacles in the way of my audience’s journey to solar energy. By addressing these obstacles with respect, I can change going solar from a science fiction story to a real-world reality.


  • 07 Feb 2018 12:36 PM | Anonymous

    When Mike Borkowski learned that he was the winner of the Illinois Solar Energy Association's (ISEA) 2017 Tesla Model X raffle, he and his wife and three kids were very excited to take their new electric vehicle on the road. But after the initial surprise wore off, he began to have second thoughts - the purpose of this raffle was to raise money to advance clean energy. Owning a Tesla would help his family reduce their fossil fuel usage, but what if they could make a bigger difference? Together with his family, Mike made the decision to invest in a clean energy future by donating a portion of his winnings back to ISEA, as well as to other environmental and renewable energy-focused nonprofits.

    Mike is already a leader in the solar energy world as the Managing Member of Community Power Group (CPG). CPG is "dedicated to helping utilities, co-ops, municipalities, land owners, non-profits and other agricultural groups meet the increasing need for clean and cost-effective renewable energy solutions," according to their website.

    The founders of the organization started working on renewable energy projects in 2010, Mike says. "Our mission was to develop, own and operate industrial scale solar farms. Today we have projects in seven states and recently launched a consulting practice to work with municipalities and non-profit organizations to help them evaluate their renewable energy options and the related financial benefits." Mike first became interested in clean energy options when his father tried to explain the haze and pollution he saw around the city near where he grew up, and the memory of this spurred him into action as an adult.

    The coming weeks, months, and years will be important ones in the story of renewable energy, particularly in Illinois after the implementation of the Future Energy Jobs Act. CPG has already begun to make their mark – they have over fifty megawatts of community and distributed generation solar projects in process, many of which will be on underutilized land, for the benefit of nonprofit organizations and low-income communities, and will use trainees of the Illinois Job Training program. Mike considers this the "trifecta of renewable energy projects," as it makes good use of land, helps those in need, and provides the opportunity for training in an increasingly popular field. CPG hopes to continue this work in the future - their mission is "to develop projects that are right for communities and the environment," says Mike. Their team will continue to develop renewable energy assets and leverage their expertise to help organizations that might not have the resources to invest in renewable energy on their own.

    Mike's decision to donate his raffle winnings back to ISEA and other clean energy-focused organizations reflects this mindset.

    While a brand new Tesla Model X would be great, for an industry leader like Mike, it is important to support the continued growth of solar and other renewable energy sources. These donations will go towards advocating for strong renewable energy and environmental policies, educating the public, and ensuring a sustainable future.


  • 28 Sep 2016 10:36 AM | Deleted user

    2016 has been a growth year for solar in Illinois!  Incentive opportunities in Illinois have changed in recent years and will continue to evolve.  The intention of this post is to give an update on the current state of solar incentives in Illinois at this time.

     

    Rebates: Many of the 2016 tour host sites benefited from rebates offered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).  Although this program  was extended until 2020, due to the budget situation in Illinois this program is currently unfunded and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

     

    Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SRECs): New solar purchasers can receive SREC’s* from the Illinois Power Agency’s(IPA) Renewable Energy Credit Program  to make their systems more affordable.  The value of the SRECs offered in this program has been equal or greater than the DCEO rebates offered in past years.  The primary difference being that the rebate was a onetime cash reimbursement and under the Renewable Energy Credit Program system owners are paid quarterly over 5 years. Many local installers have secured SRECs from the IPA’s Renewable Energy Credit Program for their prospective customers.

     

    *What is a SREC? A Solar Renewable Energy Certificate is a tool to measure the clean energy attributes that are produced from a solar array.  Every 1,000 kWh produced from solar equals 1 REC.  System owners are paid for their SRECs, generating an additional revenue stream over and above their energy savings.  


    This video will further explain RECs. 


    SREC Opportunities in 2016

    The (IPA) held three procurement auctions in 2015 and 2016 to purchase $30 million of SRECS from new or proposed systems. There were two categories in the auction - one for systems <25kW and one for systems >25kW. The <25kW category allowed solar installers to reserve speculative SRECs in bulk. Installers can “assign” new customers SRECs and registered those customers with a 3rd party aggregator who then handles the contracts with the State.

     

    The last pool of RECs must be “assigned” to customers by December 30, 2016 who will then have 12 months to install their system with a possible 6 month extension if construction is delayed.  Pricing for the SRECs was set in a competitive auction so will vary from installer to installer, prospective buyers will need to confirm the actual value with their installer. 

     

    SREC Opportunities 2017

    Prospective buyers who aren’t ready to commit before December 30th 2016, will be able to join the 2017 Illinois SREC program. Solar installation companies will once again be able to reserve SRECs for 2017 and 2018 projects. SREC values will vary from installer to installer and new buyers should ask installers for details when they are ready to shop. 

     

    Additionally, ISEA continues our ongoing work on the Clean Jobs Bill, a program that aims to provide strong policies that will grow solar and wind in Illinois as well as expand upon successful energy efficiency programs. States with stable clean energy growth have a strong Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) or guidelines that encourage and enable clean energy goals and investment.  Illinois passed an aggressive RPS in 2007 but that mechanism has been broken for a number of years.   As part of the Illinois Climate Table the Illinois Solar Energy Association has been working on the development of a new RPS for Illinois as part of the Clean Jobs Bill.  Keep up to date on this and all things solar by joining ISEA or signing up for our Community Newsletter


  • 14 Jan 2016 12:03 PM | Anonymous

    Hourly Electricity Pricing

    by Anne Evens, CEO | Elevate Energy


    What goes hand in hand with a residential solar array? Hourly pricing. Hourly electricity pricing programs allow participants to pay hourly, market-based prices for electricity, with no markup. Market electricity prices vary from hour to hour and tend to be lower during off-peak times when demand is less, such as nights and weekends. With these programs, shifting electricity usage to lower priced hours can help participants save on their electric bills. For net metering customers, the opportunity to reduce electric bills is even greater. Not only could these customers pay less for the electricity they purchase, but they could also receive larger credits for their excess generation.

    Because market electricity prices increase with demand, prices tend to be highest during hot summer afternoons when people are running air conditioners. Applying those higher prices to the net kilowatthours that net metering customers provide back to the utility means higher dollar credits toward their electric bill. And during the night and on weekends when demand is low, so are the prices – which means that solar customers could pay less when they are buying electricity from the utility.

    There are two robust hourly pricing programs in Illinois: ComEd’s Hourly Pricing program and Ameren Illinois’ Power Smart Pricing program. If you have solar on your own home, or if you advise homeowners about solar or install solar arrays on residential properties, please take a few minutes to learn about the  hourly pricing options in your community.

  • 15 Dec 2015 12:52 PM | Anonymous

    The Illinois Solar Energy Association 2015 Annual Membership Meeting drew 60+ clean energy advocates from around the state. The attendees enjoyed networking with other like-minded solar industry experts and enthusiasts.

     

    Shannon Fulton, ISEA Board Presidents’ speech was a passionate rallying cry for the industry to raise their voices for strong, supportive renewable energy policies in the state.  ISEA Executive Director, Lesley McCain, reported on the advocacy work that ISEA has done in 2015 to advance the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill as well as other Illinois and Federal clean energy legislation.  Lisa Albrecht, ISEA Policy Committee Co-Chair, outlined of the numerous issues that the committee has driven forward in 2015, which include:

    • IL Launched a Renewable Energy Credits
      • Supplemental Procurement
      • Regular DG Procurement
    • ISEA bill for the IL DCEO Rebate & Grants - Extended to 2020!
    • Chicago Zoning Changes - garages OK

    Attendees also enjoyed a fascinating presentation on battery research and advancements from guest speaker Brian Ingram, Materials Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory.

     

              ISEA capped off the evening with the drawing for 2015 Tesla Model S!

     

    Event participants had a great time getting their Illinois Clean Jobs photo messages taken to send to Governor Rauner and our state legislators!   Check out the photo slide show of the solar advocates at the meeting below.

     

    You too can add your good energy to the #ILTeamSolar campaign by downloading one of these poster messages, snapping a photo of yourself, your coworkers, family or friends who want to see strong clean energy policies.  Then tweet the photo, tagging @ILSolarEnergy and @GovRauner to get the message across.  You can also post to the Illinois Solar Energy Association Facebook page or if you prefer email to contactisea@illinoissolar.org.

     

    Thanks for all you do!

     

    Lesley McCain

    Executive Director

    Illinois Solar Energy Association

    lesley.McCain@illinoissolar.org

     



  • 02 Nov 2015 3:50 PM | Anonymous


    Almost a month has gone by and we are reflecting back on a very successful 2015 Solar Tour!


     


    Here is the solar tour by the numbers:

     

    - 97 Host Sites

    -1000+ Individual Tour Visits

    -34 Media Hits

    -88 State Legislators Invited

    - 10 Chicago alderman and local Mayors Invited


       

               

     

    We are very proud of the 2015 Solar Tour Results.

    Thank you to everyone who completed the follow-up surveys.

    Your input will make the 2016 Solar Tour event better!


     

    Here are what some of the Tour attendees had to say:

     

    • "This was the best possible way for us to start thinking about installing solar. The tour is a great idea!"
    • "...an interesting, enjoyable, and inspiring day"
    • "Very informative, and an intro to the field for average consumer."
    • "Great service to the communities of Illinois, very pleased with your hard work!"
    • "my visit with a gentleman in East Peoria was very well organized, informed..."
    • "Looks like the industry has grown up and it is exciting to me!"

     

    Thank you to our 2015 Sponsors & Advocates!


    Sponsors:






    ISEA Media Sponsor:


     

    Solar Tour Advocates:


    Collinsville Recreational District

  • 14 Oct 2015 4:09 PM | Anonymous

    ISEA Board President Shannon Fulton discusses her passion for solar energy with Jim Browne on WGLT's Sound Ideas program, including her unique path to the clean energy workforce and how solar energy holds benefits for homeowners and businesses alike. 


    As a resident of Central Illinois and alumna of Illinois State University's Renewable Energy Program, Shannon clearly outlines how solar energy is easily integrated into the average home and how strong policy measures have supported the increasing adoption of solar and other renewable energy sources in Illinois.


    Click here to listen now!


  • 08 Jun 2015 7:32 AM | Shannon Fulton (Administrator)

    Content provided courtesy of StraightUp Solar and ISEA Board President, Shannon Fulton


    A common question in solar is “Why are you installing a 260 watt (W) solar module on a 215 W microinverter?” Or for central inverters, “Why is my system a 9,000 W system on a 8,000 W inverter?”


    Solar modules don't produce their nameplate (DC) rating even with perfect sunlight that is perfectly oriented to the modules -- and even when this is approached, it's for very limited times in very specific, short-term situations.


    When a solar module's nameplate says 300 watts, this means that in perfect conditions the module will produce 300 watts of power. In controlled conditions with a constant irradiance of 1,000 watts/sq. meter at 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit, a manufacturer will measure how much power comes out of the module. This measurement is called Standard Test Conditions (STC for short), thus the nameplate rating is known as STC watts.


    In the real world, the irradiance is usually lower and the temperature of the module is higher. The module production decreases with increase in temperature and decrease in irradiance. Dirt and soil covering the module will further reduce its production. The characteristics of each module in an array are never rigorously identical. Electrical losses occur due to slight differences caused by manufacturing imperfections, referred to as array mismatch loss.


    The temperature loss, irradiance loss, dirt/soil loss and mismatch loss typically reduce an array's production by 20%. This is why the inverter is usually sized 80% of the array capacity.  There will be a few days in a year when the modules will receive bright sunlight on a cool day. On such days the array will exceed the maximum input power capacity of the inverter and the system will experience minimal power clipping on the inverter monitoring as shown below.




    This only occurs a few times and over the short and long-term, driving the inverters to their maximum production maximizes financial return and keeps the customer's up-front costs down by not buying more inverter capacity than is actually needed.


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