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The LADWP proposes a "feed-in tariff" policy to put more solar on rooftops.
Today’s talk in the LA City Council’s Energy and Environment committee underlined the absence of a ratepayer advocate in Department of Water and Power territory.
The council committee was discussing the idea of a “feed-in tariff.” (Terrible name.) It's a policy mechanism that lets people who own rooftop solar installations of a certain size to sell back energy those panels generate to the Department of Water and Power. It’s different from “net metering,” what we have with solar-topped homes right now, whose meters spin forward and back depending on use and generation. Renewable energy advocates and champions of solar power argue a feed-in tariff could help the U.S. get to grid parity faster: that’s a state where renewables are no more costly than their old-school counterparts.
Pushed in part by California's greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy mandates, the DWP has begun to seek permission to enter into a sort of contract, a sort of "Standard Offer Power Purchase Agreement," with owners of solar projects that qualify for the feed in tariff policy. Last week, DWP board members heard about the pilot project to make this happen with a publicly-available PowerPoint presentation that’s still available on the DWP’s feed-in tariff website.
In September, SolarCity feared its SolarStrong project could wilt on the vine thanks to Solyndra. Now with Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, SolarCity is moving forward with a project almost as big as if it had won an Energy Department loan guarantee. So how important are those things?
Back in September, one of the echo-effects we talked about with regard to the Solyndra/DOE fiasco concerned a project called SolarStrong. Run by SolarCity, it was intended to install residential rooftop solar at up to 124 military bases in 33 states. SolarCity said, at the time, that this project "has the potential to be the largest single residential solar electricity project in the world and would nearly double" the total number of residential solar installations in the US.
Then the DOE’s loan financing program stalled out under the weight of Congressional scrutiny. So SolarCity wrote to Congress and said the stakes for blowing off its loan guarantee were high:
Halting the project will mean sacrificing more than $1 billion of private investment into economically hard-hit military communities throughout the United States. It would also mean the loss of jobs we believe the project would create, many of which would have gone to veterans and the family members of our active duty military servicemen and women. We believe that the valuable work done to move the SolarStrong project to completion should not be lost because of the Solyndra bankruptcy.
Joshua Tree National Park, October 9, 2011. The park's border is now further away from the edge of proposed federal solar energy zones under the final tweak of a massive programmatic environmental impact report.
Yesterday the Interior Department released its final proposed maps for "solar energy zones." As we reported last year, these zones are for projects that come NEXT: not the "fast-track" solar projects that are already underway in California, Nevada and other states.
Nearly a year after the Interior Department started making these zones in which solar could speed ahead, some of the zones are shrunken or elminated under the final plan on which the public will comment. Interior officials say the zones were "found to have resource conflicts and/or development constraints."
In the Inland Empire, eastern Riverside county bears the brunt of the scrutiny. And in San Bernardino, that means the Pisgah Crater and Iron Mountain. Pisgah is about 37 square miles of land; Iron Mountain is a patch 166 square miles big. According to the Press-Enterprise:
Ellen Mackey's Sun Valley home is a National Solar Tour standard. She says they're always working to get more efficient.
Four years ago, 30 Los Angeles and Orange County homes threw out the welcome mats as part of the National Solar Tour.
This year, it's the 16th year of the tour, sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society, which bills it as the world's largest grassroots solar event. The ASES says more than 160,000 participants will visit some 5,500 buildings in 3,200 communities across the U.S. And it's been steadily growing, nationally. In the DC area, they'll have 55 tours to choose from.
So how many in LA? Five, according to the website. But is that necessarily bad?
One of the five is the Westside Solar Tour, which, according to its site will "combine guided and self-guided tours of structures, including residences and businesses including The Sidewalk Cafe, The Brig and The Electric Lodge in Venice and Oasis Healing Center in Mar Vista." That's not one site, that's a pile of them. (Silverlake gets a similar deep and rich tour.)
This week, Google announced that they are investing $75 million to bring solar panels into residential homes. The search giant will own all of the hardware, including the power cells and inverters. In essence, they hope to allow up to 3,000 homeowners in western sunny states to “refinance” their power bills through solar energy.
As Msnbc.com reports, Google will “provide the financing so 3,000 homes can get hooked up, at no out-of pocket cost, to a system that typically runs between $30,000 and $40,000. Local installers will do the work, and then homeowners will pay a fixed, monthly rate for their electricity. All maintenance is covered by the rate.” Google gets paid when the customers buy the energy that the panels produce, though they haven’t revealed what kind of return they expect.