Header image alt text


The Path to a More Sustainable Life

payday loans no processing fees

SolarFlare – News Flash

Posted by Mac on November 10, 2011
Posted in A Sustainable LifeAboutSolarSolmac Solar  | Tagged With: , , | 1 Comment

The Solar Oregon Board of Directors met and welcomed three new members who were elected by the organization’s membership at the annual meeting on November 5th.

I am pleased to present the new board members to solarflareblog.com readers …

 Robert Cross  * Erin Greeson * David Petersen

To them, I say congratulations on being elected to the board of directors and welcome! 

The Board also elected new officers and I’m proud to present the executive committee:

Ron “Mac” McDowell – President

Linda Barnes – Past President

Kacia Brockman – Treasurer

Ellen Crivella – Secretary

Yep, that’s my name right there – I am the new President of Solar Oregon!!

I was honored to be selected.  Thanks to my fellow board members for your approval and encouragement.  I look forward to taking on the responsibility of the position, but I must warn you, I have a lot of energy for this organization and our mission. :-)  

Solar Oregon Leadership - Claire Carlson and El Presidente

It’s an exciting time for solar power in America. I look to Solar Oregon as more than just a stakeholder – I see us as a leader and a difference-maker. I’ll work with Claire Carlson and our great new staff to ensure that we are indeed. 

The future for Solar Oregon looks as bright as the sun, my friends.

I am your humble servant.

Last week was a good one for Solar Oregon!


Some of my friends jokingly call Solar Oregon “the little non-profit environmental engine that could”.  And boy, could we. This past week we hosted our first fundraising dinner, celebrated our 32nd year as an organization, held our annual meeting, showed off our electric cars, and then added three new people to our board of directors. Whew … no wonder we’re tired.

Solar Oregon Staff - Emily (L), Adam, Imogen, Claire, Joe

I may be biased, but I think the Solar Oregon staff, under the leadership of ED Claire Carlson, is doing a remarkable job.  They’re a relatively new team and are just starting to gel, but they’re getting the job done and our members are expecting big things from them this year. They are the foundation for all that is possible.

A Cena Ristorante

Solar Oregon Community Dinner

Kudos to staffer Adam Sage, Director of Development, for dreaming up this fundraising dinner and getting the board to go along with it. He then went forward and made it the successful event it was! Indeed a memorable night of fabulous food and great company – as advertised.  [Thanks to Roberto and Cap’n T. for tagging along with me.]

A Cena Ristorante owner Chris Custer and Chef Gabe Gabreski served a five-course dinner of traditional Sicilian pastas, secondi, and sweets, paired with local wine. [OMG the breadsticks!!] So, thanks also to Chris and his staff for a tremendous evening.  If you’re looking for the best Italian food in the Portland metro area, then head over to Sellwood and visit a cena ristorante y enotec http://www.acenapdx.com/.  [Hey, this is my very first restaurant recommendation!]

Dinner event at A Cena

Thanks to everyone who joined us in support for Solar Oregon. We were humbled by your generosity.

Has it been thirty two years already?

I’ve already blabbed about the 32nd annual celebration and meeting in a previous post http://solarflareblog.com/?p=3092 … so I’ll move on to the shoutouts.

Thank You Solar Oregon’s Professional Members for participating and supporting the work we do for solar in our beautiful state. Many of you were there at our dinner and at the  Saturday event too and we appreciate that.

Thanks also to the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association and our friends and members for bringing their electric vehicles to share with others.

Kacia Brockman explains things

I was impressed by the standing-room-only presentation provided by Kacia Brockman. Her topic was Solar: The ABC’s of Residential Solar Financing and she talked about the differences between leasing a solar system and owning it. This choice is hotly debated within the residential solar market and I’ll write about this later. In the meantime, Kacia said she’d post her presentation on the Solar Oregon website, so look for it there soon.

We had several past board members stop by our meeting to say hello and show support – thanks guys, it was great to meet you!  Claire presented the highlights of this past year, and we celebrated our successes, and acknowledged our solar ambassadors and dedicated volunteers.  In all, the event was well worth taking most of my Saturday afternoon.

One door closes …

Kathy Bash (R) chats with Imogen Taylor at NW Solar Expo

Kathy Bash announced she is leaving the board of directors. Kathy was the President of Solar Oregon when I first became involved with the organization. Her dedication, passion and leadership compelled me to join the board and I will miss her terribly. She tells us she’ll still be involved with the Goal Net Zero

Kathy conducted many workshops for Solar Oregon

Interest Group to teach others about net zero energy design and construction … and that’s a blessing.

Kathy is a LEED accredited professional with a Master of Architecture Degree and a Certificate for Teaching Technology in Architecture from the University of Oregon.

You may recognize her from the movie “Deep Green” written and directed by Oregon’s Matt Briggs. Kathy was interviewed for this documentary and I’d like to honor her by sharing a part of it with my readers. I embedded a clip from the movie to give you some idea how important Kathy is to the sustainability community in our region.


“All I know is, I’m alive now and I can do something today, and I can’t in good conscience wait for somebody else to do it. I think the time is now; for me the time is absolutely now. It’s the only time anybody has”. ~ Kathy Bash from “Deep Green” (2010)

Pictures from the annual meeting – World Trade Center, Portland, Oregon

Fall is the time for colorful LEAFs


Cindy Hickman shows off her LEAF to Doug and Jason

 Claire Carlson welcomed the attendees



 SA Anders of the Citizen’s Utility Board (CUB) also presented at our meeting.

Chad Biasi of EV4Oregon was there too!


We hope to see you next year at our 33rd annual celebration!    Go Solar!  Go Oregon!

Solar Oregon is a chapter of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) http://www.ases.org/

Opening Day * Dallas Convention Center 

SPI 2011 – Dallas, Texas Oct 17-20

I don’t much care for Texas, never have, other than that cultural oasis they call Austin, there isn’t much to like really. Therefore, I wasn’t crazy about attending the Solar Power International (SPI) Conference this year because it is being hosted in Dallas. I went anyway as it is an uncertain time to be in the solar business, I wanted to know what is really going on, and I needed to be with my peeps.  


A representative from Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) one of the conference sponsor/organizers told me that Rhone Resch, President and CEO, invited Governor Rick Perry to attend the conference to welcome twenty thousand plus visitors to Texas.  [Years past, when the SPI was held in California, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger always found the time to welcome attendees to the conference and to his golden state.]  John Stanton (SolarCity) told one session audience that his CEO, Landon Rive, visited Gov. Perry personally to urge his participation; but to no avail, and in the end Perry is a no-show.    

Downtown Dallas

Gov. Perry must be smarter than he appears, because he didn’t bite the hand that feeds him, namely the massive oil and gas industry. For some strange reason, Perry just can’t seem to find a way to support both – Texas’ fossil-fueled economic engine and solar power – and I just don’t understand that?!    

Solar supporter!

Is the little engine that could (the solar business – representing 1% of U.S. energy mix) really be threatening the big, bad, billions of the fossil fuel industry here on its own turf?    

If so, then the solar business has arrived!     

State of Solar Roundtable including Arno Harris, Recurrent Energy, and Barry Cinnamon, Westinghouse Solar

I like the experience of registering at an international industry conference like SPI. I look at the official conference program guide and glance at the main sessions and panels, verify times, and then attack the exhibitor list with a vengeance.  I find out who’s here and who’s not. That is very telling. The market is in chaos and competition is stiffening, and what may have once been a collaborative industry in its infancy, is now dog-eat-dog, especially for the low margin businesses     

As I made my list of booths to visit, I realized how many are Chinese companies. This shouldn’t surprise, as this is indicative of the real-world global solar industry. China is fully committed to it, especially as an export business, and we’re clearly not. And, because of the recent failures of Solyndra and Evergreen Solar, U.S. government investment in solar is being lauded as the thing NOT to do. Most of this noise comes from the media, national political circus, and the oil & gas companies, but this concern is also shared by millions of Americans.  More on this later.

First Impressions    

Everything is BIG in Texas – including the carbon footprint

The Dallas Convention Center is a sprawling concrete edifice and not much on aesthetics. Inside the building, it takes about 20 minutes to walk from end-to-end, and I’d say the exhibit floor held the largest number of booths ever for SPI North America.  I haven’t seen the official attendance, but my guess is more exhibitors, and fewer conference attendees, this year than last.    

More of a Latin flavor at this show with Solar Mexico signs, South American company logos, and Spanish being spoken all over the exhibit floor.  This makes sense – Texas location. I ran into a guy from Iquitos, Peru who I had met in China earlier this year, his name is Hector Soto Arrue’ and he is Gerente General of PROENERGY AMAZON.  It was interesting talking with him about his dream of bringing distributed solar to the Amazon. 
It is hard not to notice the growing presence of some of the largest U.S. corporations now in the solar industry.  Some examples from the exhibit floor:  
  •  Dow Corning – Solar Solutions
  • General Electric – GE Energy
  • DuPont – Photovoltaic Solutions 

Celebrity Sightings    

Hollywood Stars Larry & Matt

 Larry Hagman, known for his role as J.R. Ewing the oil baron on the “Dallas” television show of yesteryear, is now a spokesman for SolarWorld and was seen hanging out at their booth with Matthew Lind, who is an account manager for commercial sales.    

Environmentalist and actor Ed Begley, Jr. of “Living with Ed” fame is a featured guest at the Sanyo booth.     

Trends & Big Announcements    

  • The Solar Foundation 2011 Jobs Report was published and released at the conference. 
  • Leasing programs are booming and will comprise half the residential market in the coming year.
  • The only product in short supply is credit. Expect financial institutions to soak up a larger piece of the solar profit pie.
  • Utility-scale solar developers are exploring outside of the Southwest, and are moving away from the multi-hundred megawatt (MW) systems in favor of systems in the 10-MW to 30-MW range.
  • SunEdison, a large scale solar developer owned by MEMC, is aggressively moving into the residential solar market.  Same for First Solar.
  • The Solyndra stink is difficult to scrub off – like a skunk spray … however, political and legal maneuvering isn’t affecting the global market: installations will double, module production will quadruple, driving prices ever lower. It is assumed that most players will make money, except for solar module makers.
  • As the module price war intensifies and margins shrink, many module manufacturers are diversifying into additional products and services: BOS, leasing, project development, etc… Horizontal integration now looks safer than vertical integration. [Hey, Ocean Yuan, Grape Solar, might have been right all along!]
  • Molten Salt systems are coming to drive down the cost of Concentrated Solar Power.

  • Price Break!  Sun Electronics Int. announced the lowest price/watt for solar energy … ever.  Their solar module pricing at $1.00/watt is the first time in solar history we’ve seen a price this low.  It came a lot sooner than most were prepared for and is a harbinger for the future, for both good and bad, of the global solar business.  Buyer beware, I’m thinking these might be cast-offs, so check it out at www.sunelec.com.

 Solar Jobs: Real and Growing    

The Solar Foundation 2011 Jobs Report    

In the political realm and in the media, there are questions being raised regarding growth of “green jobs” in America.  While I know little about other RE markets and their impact on jobs, I do know that there is solid data about the U.S. solar market supporting the proclamation that solar companies employ over 100,000+ workers in America. This was verified by the publication of the National Solar Jobs Census  which was presented at this conference by The Solar Foundation, SEIA, and NREL/DOE. As of August 2011, the National Solar Jobs Census 2011 identified more than 17,198 solar employment sites with 100,237 jobs, a growth rate of 6.8 percent.    

If this data is accurate there is good growth in the solar market sector and it is bucking the employment trend in America.  Overall employment in the sector was up 18-36% at the end of 2010. Solar (PV) Installers grew 51-66% and electricians 42-55% as compared to 2009. The numbers flux because not every job is “solar-specific” … that is to say some are combo-jobs for large businesses (like developers, general contractors, electrical firms), so the employee may not be working solely on a solar project.  Of course, 100K is very small when compared to 177 million jobs in USA, but it is important to note that it is the fastest growing energy segment.     

Hype Factor  Thousands of people are now being trained, or are considering training, for green jobs, but many still cannot find a paying job. This causes frustration in the work force, especially for the unemployed or underemployed and there is a backlash as many people ask …“where are all of these green jobs?”     

People who casually follow the headlines are bombarded by reports of “explosive green job creation” in a down economy, but they don’t see much evidence to support this, so they consider it so much hype.  In fact, it is both … a reality (jobs are being created in solar) and hype (not as much as was/is being reported, projected, expected or promoted.    

Azuray Technologies – an Oregon company

Oregon is doing better than most and our solar energy industry employs more than 3,300 workers, making it the nation’s eighth biggest state for solar jobs (tied with Texas), according to this new study by The Solar Foundation. 

PV Tracker – an Oregon company

Perhaps more noteworthy is how much Oregon’s solar workforce has grown in one year. Our solar industry was identified as having just 872 jobs in the 2010 census, (which we all knew was too low!) and it has grown 284% to 3,346 across 545 different employers, ranking it eighth overall and among the six fastest growing markets for solar employment.    

Naturally, sunny California topped the list by a sizable margin. Here’s the breakdown of the top 10 states for solar jobs:    

  • California – 25,575 solar jobs
  • Colorado – 6,186
  • Arizona – 4,786
  • Pennsylvania – 4,703
  • New York – 4,279
  • Florida – 4,224
  • Texas – 3,346
  • Oregon – 3,346
  • New Jersey – 2,871
  • Massachusetts – 2,395

Contrast this information with the fact that the fossil fuel industry is shedding jobs every year, not creating them. The oil industry is down -2% in employment while their prices and profits are ever-increasing. I’m told they’ve lost 11,000 jobs and the coal industry now only has about 60,000 jobs total in the U.S..  (*Warning, I hadn’t fact-checked this data at the time of this posting.)

Field trips are a common occurrence for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s staff, but they’re usually acting as the host, not the guest. Last month, nineteen 6-8th graders and staff from OSMI’s summer science camp visited Yoshida Foods International for an “Eco Class” and a tour of the Portland sauce factory. These 10-12 year olds also had the opportunity to see first-hand how a business uses solar technology to provide for their energy needs, and I was there with Solar Oregon to participate and share in the experience. 

The Yoshida Group is a conglomerate comprised of diverse companies, but is it best known for the teriyaki-style gourmet marinade created in Junki and Linda Yoshida’s kitchen more than 20 years ago.

Junki Yoshida

Yoshida Chairman, Junki Yoshida, personally greeted the class and invited them to tour the factory to see how his sauces are made.  As he handed out his sauce samples, he jokingly cautioned them not to disclose any industry secrets they may discover on their visit. Watching Junki meeting the youngsters at his factory reminded me of a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you know, when Willy Wonka first met the children who’d found the golden ticket and offered them a tour of his factory.*

Cameron Coleman, InSpec Group, greets the students on the roof

The group was escorted to the factory roof so students could see the solar array that covers most of the 70,000 sf roof.  Cameron Coleman of InSpec Group, a local engineering and construction (EPC) firm, explained to the class how solar panels generate clean energy and feed electricity back to the grid. I was impressed with Cam’s solar knowledge, but was more impressed by his teaching skills.

He held the attention of pre-teens … on a blazing hot roof … with snowcapped mountains in the background … and airplanes flying past!  He certainly earned my respect. 

Sanyo partnered with InSpec Group to install these 798 SANYO HIT Power solar panels to generate electrical power for the Yoshida Foods factory.

It was hot and sunny on that roof!

Seeing hundreds of those Sanyo solar modules answered a question for me. In 2009, when we were installing our residential solar electric system at naturehouse, we couldn’t find a single 210w Sanyo HIT panel anywhere, so we grudgingly stepped down to the Sanyo 205w. Now I see where they all went!  

HIT® stands for Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin-layer. [It’s a mouthful, I realize, so just say H-I-T.] These solar cells employ a proprietary technology developed by Sanyo whereby hybrid solar cells composed of single (mono) crystalline silicon wafers are surrounded by ultra-thin amorphous silicon layers. The unique structure minimizes defects and produces highly efficient cells capable of achieving up to 17.8% module efficiency.

Megumi Marsh, Megumi Marsh administers Sanyo’s solar educational program called “Power Our Planet with Sunlight”

Following the rooftop excursion, the students headed to a classroom for an Eco Class hosted by Sanyo’s Megumi Marsh who told the group about the “3Rs – Reuse, Recycle and Reduce.” Megumi held their attention because she tapped into the curious nature of a kid who is in an OMSI summer science camp. She asked great questions, and prodded, until the bolder ones offered up an answer. Megumi was assisted by colleague, Tim Kary, from Sanyo Solar of Salem Oregon, who presented Sanyo’s solar manufacturing process to the group. He brought along wafers, solar cells and a polysilicon ingot that the class really appreciated.

“Touching the actual crystal wafer and feeling how thin it is … was amazing” - OMSI class participant

Megumi Marsh administers Sanyo’s solar educational program called “Power Our Planet with Sunlight” which teaches students about the benefits of solar power. This Sanyo program began in Nevada last year and is now expanding and collaborating with non-profit environmental organizations such as Solar Oregon. 

Claire Carlson & Tomoko Renner

That’s one reason Claire Carlson (Solar Oregon Executive Director), Tomoko Renner, (Solar Oregon Volunteer), and myself, were invited along on this field trip.

Thanks to Tomoko for coordinating!

Artwork courtesy of InSpec Group and Wayne Chin

System Specifications Solar Modules:  Sanyo HIT 210A

  • Inverter: (2) PV Powered 75kW
  • Racking:  Sunmoto
  • Roof  Space:  70,000sf
  • System Capacity:  166.3kW
  • System Production: 172,000kWh (Annual)

* Willy Wonka is a major character in the classic Roald Dahl children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He is the founder of the Wonka Candy Company and proves an unparalleled genius in confectionery development, inventing seemingly impossible products that capture the world’s imagination. From his factory, his products are shipped and sold worldwide. 

I dunno, sounds like Junki Yoshida to me … without the Oompa Loompa slavery, of course.

Now, where did I put that golden ticket?

Note: I wrote about Junki Yoshida once before, see my post Honoring a self-made man http://solarflareblog.com/?p=1135


About Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) – OMSI is a scientific, educational, and cultural resource center dedicated to improving the public’s understanding of science and technology. OMSI seeks to inspire wonder by providing engaging science learning experiences through exhibits, programs, and experiences that are presented in an entertaining and participatory fashion.  OMSI is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and relies on admissions, memberships, and donations to continue their educational mission, programs, and exhibits. http://www.omsi.edu/home 

About InSpec Group – InSpec Group is an innovative multi-disciplinary engineering and construction group providing facility and energy solutions to customers across the nation. In addition to its PV solar integration business, InSpec Group has project expertise throughout the entire supply chain of Energy Solutions industries. For more information, visit http://inspecgroup.com.

About Sanyo – Sanyo North America Corporation, a subsidiary of Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd. is a global leading company providing solutions for energy, environment and lifestyle applications. The Energy System Solutions Division is headquartered in San Jose, California, and handles sales and services for photovoltaic and Smart Energy Systems. For further information, visit Sanyo’s web site at http://us.SANYO.com.

Solar power and Santa Barbara are a good fit!

Santa Barbara Goes Solar! 

The headline read …  “The Community Environmental Council counts Solarize Santa Barbara a Success! “

I’ve been writing about solarizing neighborhoods for awhile now, but with a Pacific Northwest slant because that’s where I live and work.  I moved to Portland Oregon twenty years ago after living in Santa Barbara California for nearly half my life. [This is when most people just shake their head at me.]  I’ve never looked back, but I still have love for my old hometown.  Therefore, I’m quite proud that SB has taken a page out of Portland’s sustainability book and completed their first residential solarize campaign, quite successfully too, I might add.  

The Community Environment Council (CEC) of Santa Barbara sponsored this program and it was expertly managed by Megan Birney, who is the renewable energy specialist for the organization.  

She told me, “As I’m sure you can tell, we have borrowed quite a bit from the Solarize Portland and Solarize Salem projects.  The people in Portland and Salem that we have spoken with have been extremely helpful in getting this program up and running.  I honestly don’t know if we could have done it without them.”

Here’s the synopsis …

Solarize Santa Barbara                     


Campaign Started:        May 2011

Sponsored by:               Community Environmental Council (Non-profit)                           

Coordinator:                 Megan Birney

Chosen Contractor:     REC Solar & Sun Pacific Solar Electric            

Participation:               187 sign-ups         75 workshop attendees

Contracts signed:        49

Total or projected installed:   205 kW

(Note: 4 contracts are on hold, if they move forward the total will be 220 kW) 

[Note: For your reference, I’ve posted below the results of a number of residential solarize program/projects, many I am personally involved or familiar with so I validated the numbers.  Judge for yourself whether or not these programs do as advertised or are worth the effort.]


Imagine Energy was the first solar contractor to engage

Has Solarizing Gone Viral?

The first Portland campaign, Solarize Southeast Portland (2009), was sparked by a homeowner who wanted to install solar power and partnered with Tim O’Neal (SE Uplift) and Lizzie Rubado (Energy Trust of Oregon) to create a neighborhood group purchase program.  They borrowed from 1BOG, put a Portland spin on it, and the program received lots of media attention (Solarize SE in USA Today) as it was seen as innovative and a potential market game-changer.  Over this past year, many individuals who participated in a Solarize Portland program have traveled to national conferences to present and explain this successful model to others. 

Solarizing supports city sustainability goals and helps meet RPS

The Northwest cities that adopted this same model, like Beaverton, Salem, and Seattle all got press and accolades for their own successes too, but my favorite coverage was for Solarize Pendleton which had their story told in an Associated Press article that was picked up and broadly published in the New York Times, CBS News, Huffington Post, and scores of other outlets.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/09/pendleton-oregon-solar-energy_n_847061.html

And, as recently as last week the Huffington Post Green section published an article entitled, “Group Buying the New Thing in Residential Solar – And Beyond?” By Lewis Milford and Anne Margolis of Clean Energy Group  http://www.cleanegroup.org/blog/group-buying-the-new-thing-in-residential-solar-and-beyond/.  It is a good article on the subject and I’ll leave it up to you to read, but I do want to call attention to this quote:

“The [Solarize Portland] model is potentially replicable by communities across the U.S., and is particularly important to study in light of declining state incentives and challenges to the PACE residential financing program … Since then, several other “Solarize” -type programs have popped up all over the U.S. (and beyond), in cities, states, and utility territories, and, based on their apparent success, these programs may be just the ticket to keep up the solar energy momentum in these times of diminishing state and federal incentives.”

Solarize campaigns create buzz and bring attention to renewable energy

Then it goes on to ask, “So what is so great about the Solarize model?” and provides the appropriate answers.

Yeah, we get the headlines and deservedly so. I think we’ve proven this model will stimulate and create demand, while promoting awareness and educating residents, but now we’ll see if it is sustainable.

This guidebook was published in January 2011

One tool that will certainly help keep the solarize momentum going is …

The Solarize Guidebook: A community guide to collective purchasing of residential PV systems

Authored by Linda Irvine, Alex Sawyer and Jennifer Grove of NW SEED (Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development ) and sponsored & funded by DOE/NREL’s Solar America Communities program,  The Solarize Guidebook describes key elements of the Solarize campaigns in Portland, and offers several program refinements from projects beyond Portland.  

Educational workshops are crucial for a successful solarize program

Contributors include: Lee Rahr, Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability; Lizzie Rubado, Energy Trust of Oregon; Ross Swartzendruber, Salem Creative Network; Lee Jorgenson, Solarize Pendleton; Jessie Denver, City of San Jose; and Dave Llorens, 1BOG.

The guidebook provides lessons, considerations, and step-by-step plans for project organizers to replicate the success of solarizing. If you’re considering doing something similar for your community, you owe it to yourself to do the homework and this book is it. [Including reading solarflarebog.com of course !]

Download The Solarize Guidebook (PDF)

The results of solarizing are obvious - a raising tide lifts all boats

Solarizing:  Results and Comparisons (These are the campaigns I know about – there are others, no doubt!)

Solarize SE Portland (2 campaigns)


Campaign Started:    1 – 2009                            2 – 2010

Sponsored by:  SE Uplift & Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association                                    

Coordinator:     Tim O’Neal, Jonathan Cohen

Chosen Contractor:   Imagine Energy                                                    

Participation:   1 – 350 sign-ups      2 – 300

Contracts signed:    1 – 130               2 – 109

Total or projected installed:  1 – 350 kW       2 – 358 kW

 Solarize NE Portland


Campaign Started:   January 2010

Sponsored by:  Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN)                                              

Coordinators:   David Sweet, Kelly Rogers

Chosen Contractor:  Solar City                                                              

Participation:   1000 sign-ups    

Contracts signed:   204

Total or projected installed:  549 kW

The City of Portland was a good partner - this promo was in the Portland Curbsider


We had over 100 people at this Earth Day Solarize SW Portland workshop


Solarize SW Portland


Campaign Started:   April 2010

Sponsored by: Southwest Neighborhood  Inc.                                       

Coordinators:   Todd Farris, Leonard Gard, Ron McDowell

Chosen Contractor:   Mr. Sun Solar                                                                 

Participation:         700 sign-ups        300+ workshops

Contracts signed:  168

Total or projected installed:  480 kW

 Solarize North Portland


Campaign Started:  January 2011

Sponsored by:      North Portland Neighborhood Services and Neighbors West-Northwest

Coordinator:         Mary Kelly, Carrie Richards Andrews

Chosen Contractor:  Imagine Energy                                                                               

Participation:             200 sign-ups    150-175 site assessments

Contracts signed:        32 (+15 more possible)

Total or projected installed:  Estimate = 100 kW

Solarize NW Portland


Campaign Started:   February 2011

Sponsored by:   Neighbors West-Northwest and North Portland Neighborhood Services

Coordinator:   Alison Wallisch

Chosen Contractor:  Mr. Sun Solar                                                                       

Participation:    157 sign-ups         110 site assessments

Contracts signed:   26    (plus 1 SHW & 3 solar pool heating)

Total or projected installed:   74.6 kW

Solar Beaverton


Campaign Started:  March 2011

Sponsored by:   City of Beaverton (Community driven)           

Project Coordinator:  Rebecca Fitzsimmons  

Chosen Contractor: Livelight Energy (2009 = SolarCity)                                                      

Participation:   580 sign-ups      (2009 pilot = 400 sign-ups)

Contracts signed:  75                    (2009 pilot = 50)

Total or projected installed:  225 kW     (2009 pilot = 150 kW)

Solarize Corbett


Campaign Started:  July 2011

Sponsored by:      Resident-driven                                  

Coordinator:         Cecelia Giese, David Rossman, Michael Guebert

Chosen Contractor:  Mr. Sun Solar                                                                  

Participation:            69 initial sign-ups

Contracts signed:    TBA

Total or projected installed:  TBA

Solarize Eugene        


Campaign Started:  June 2011

Sponsored by:      Energy Design  (Contractor driven)

Coordinator:         Vince McClellan

Contractor:           Energy Design                      

Participation:        Lowest pricing via group buy in Pacific NW = $4.95-$5.05/W installed

Contracts signed:  Unknown

Total or projected installed: Unknown

Solarize Massachusetts  (Involves 4 cities) 


Campaign Started:  April 2011

Sponsored by:  Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) in partnership with Green Communities Division of the Massachusetts Dept of Energy Resources          

Coordinator:     Jake Lambert

Chosen Contractor(s):  New England Breeze Solar (Harvard), Alteris Renewables (Hatfield & Winchester), Munro Distributing Clean Energy & Electrical Solutions (Scituate)          

Participation:                        TBA

Contracts signed:                 TBA

Total or projected installed:  TBA

Solarize  Minneapolis – Make Mine Solar H2O: Solar Hot Water 


Campaign Started:  August 2010

Sponsored by:         Minnesota Renewable Energy Society  (non-profit ASES chapter)

Coordinator:            Laura Cina

Chosen Contractor:   Customer chooses from an approved list                 

Participation:          150 workshop attendees,  216 sign-ups

Contracts signed:   14

Total or projected installed:  TBA

Nike Solar Initiative project


Campaign Started:  March 2011

Sponsored by:  Nike Corporation (Workplace participants)                                   

Coordinator:  Larry Lowery

Chosen Contractor:   Northwest Solar Solutions                                                           

Participation:   116 sign-ups

Contracts signed:    Estimated = 25

Total or projected installed:  Estimated = 80 kW

Solarize Pendleton  (Note: 2nd campaign started March 2011) 


Campaign Started:   April 2010

Sponsored by:      City of Pendleton (Community driven)

Coordinator:         Lee Jorgensen, Larry Lehman, Lindsey Hardy

Chosen Contractor:  LiveLight Energy                                                                             

Participation:     Workshops were full

Contracts signed:   56

Total or projected installed:  135 kW

Solarize Salem


Campaign Started:   August 2010      (Note: 2nd campaign started May 2011) 

Sponsored by:   Salem Creative Network (Co-op)                                                         

Coordinator:      Ross Swartzendruber

Chosen Contractor:  Solar City and RS Energy.                                                                         

Participation:   Fee-based service for co-op

Contracts signed:   52

Total or projected installed:  165 kW

San Jose Credit Union / SJ Employee buy program

Sponsored by:   San Jose Credit Union, SunPower, City of San Jose

Coordinator:   Jessie Denver

Participants:   130 sign-ups

Contracts Signed:    40 (35 PV, 5 thermal)

Total or projected installed:  140 kW

Solarize Seattle – Solarize Queen Anne     


Campaign Started:  July 2010

Sponsored by: Northwest Sustainable for Economic Development  NW SEED          

Coordinator:         Linda Irvine, Alex Sawyer

Chosen Contractor:  Sunergy Systems                                                                            

Participation:        160 sign-ups     150+ workshop attendees     96 Assessments

Contracts signed:   30

Total or projected installed:   130 kW

Solarize Seattle – Solarize Magnolia      


Campaign Started:  July 2011

Sponsored by:  NW SEED                                        

Coordinator:    Alex Sawyer


Residential Solarize Campaigns Sponsored by …

Non-Profit Organization:    Community Environmental Council (Santa Barbara), Salem Creative Network, Northwest Sustainable for Economic Development – NW SEED (Seattle)

Community Based:   City of Portland, City of Pendleton, City of Minneapolis, City of Madison, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center

Employer Sponsored:  Columbia Sportswear, Nike Corporation, San Jose City employees

Associations:   San Jose Credit Union, Forrest Heights HOA (Portland), Creekside HOA (Salem)

Publicly-owned Utility:   City of Santa Clara’s electric utility – Silicon Valley Power

Contractor Driven:   SolarCity (multiple cities), REC (multiple cities), Gulf South Solar – 1 Solar Block Group Buying Program (Baton Rouge),  Energy Design (Eugene), Spearhead Solar (Davis), Imagine Energy (SE Portland 2nd campaign)

For Profit/Business:  1Block Off the Grid, Group Energy, Open Neighborhoods Community Solar,  Clean Energy Logistics Lab – CELL (Gainesville)

Solarizing makes a connection with community

* About Santa Barbara’s Community Environmental Council

Since 1970, the CEC has led the Santa Barbara region – and at times California and the nation – in creative solutions to some of the toughest environmental problems.  Today CEC is focused on eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the Central Coast region in one generation – Fossil Free by ’33.

Find the CEC on the web at www.cecsb.org  on Twitter @CECSB and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CECSB

Solarize N-NW Portland just ended (photo by Event Image Photography)

 If done right residential solarizing has a community feel about it.    

It is something neighbors can do together and it engages and binds a community. Solarizing is more than just bulk purchasing (lowering the cost barrier for homeowners) and putting solar panels on our home’s rooftop, solarize programs also drive local market transformation, create jobs, and generate collateral business.  These are all bonus in times of economic morass.    

Above all, solarizing stimulates demand for solar energy in the residential heartland of America.      

It is one of the paths our citizens need to move ourselves from the early adopter phase to mainstream.  After being involved in several solarize projects myself, including consultation with other communities’ solarize project leaders; hours spent in discussion with key solar stakeholders and policy-makers; plus tons of research and analysis; I see no major obstacles to achieving proliferation of solar panels on U.S. residential rooftops by 2016.    

Ten million rooftops, indeed. *   It may happen.    

The Solarize Approach      

Solar seeds were planted by DOE/NREL and harvested by the Portland Community

Solarizing is leveraging the buying power of a community.   

It promotes and coordinates group purchasing programs for home owners interested in solar power. Neighbors leverage their collective purchasing power to negotiate bulk discounts with local solar installation companies while securing their energy future with low-cost, grid-tied solar installations.  

Over the past two years we’ve proven this concept here in rainy Oregon, to the tune of hundreds of houses and megawatts installed of distributed rooftop solar power in cities such as Beaverton, Pendleton, Portland, Salem, and now rural Corbett (pop 2,300).   


These communities have seen the potential and/or garnered results when taking this approach, such as; an increase in demand, reduction in softcosts, volume pricing, local job creation, and overall process improvement. Portland’s certainly had our share of sucess and national attention, and I’m happy to report that this approach is being replicated and quickly expanding across America.   


Solarized Smart Meter (Image by Event Image Photography)

Here’s the reason why … it helps communities with: 

    • Market transformation
    • Reaching RPS objectives
    • Stimulating local economy and creating “green” jobs
    • Providing education and lowering costs for participants
    • Removing and/or streamline barriers to ubiquity
    • Engaging neighborhoods and creating a sense of community

All community-wide projects will have some direct benefit and cost that result from the goods and services it produces and the resources it uses.  My own experience working with on Solarize Portland taught me about social benefits gained by the local community.     

Solarize campaigns create jobs and produce results

I learned that a community solarize program not only creates jobs, it generates collateral business.  Besides the obvious labor involved with solar system installations, others shared in this economic opportunity, some associated with upstream activities like marketing, education and support activities. (e.g. promotional and educational printed materials, yard signs, database support, and workshops.)  

In our case it also included job referrals for roofers, tree trimmers, inspectors, and electricians, who were hired as a result of one of our solar resource assessments.  The City of Portland itself received a financial benefit from the collection of required permit fees and so on.     

Net direct social benefits for communities derived from this approach include:     

  • Solar demand creation and impact on the region
  • Local market transactions and business for local tradespeople
  • Educating  and creating outreach opportunities that increase awareness of renewable energy
  • Local job creation like use of an electrical company who employs local residents
  • Engaging students at local schools and then hiring to support outreach efforts like sign-making, distributing flyers, tabling at farmer markets, etc…
  • Sponsoring of public events
  • Lowering of CO2 emissions
  • Promotion of the objectives and accomplishments of the community project itself in local, regional, and national publications and media outlets
  • Revenue generated from permits, inspections, ads placed in local media, etc…

Lee Rahr (Portland BPS) presents the Solarize program concept

There are many paths to the mountain top …

The group purchase models recently deployed in the U.S. have all been designed to make it easier for the end-user to get solar installed on their home.  This approach has been modified and tested in several different markets and geographic locations, and by varied sponsors using group purchasing strategies to accelerate the number of solar installations in a given community or subset.   

For example:   

The SOLARIZE Guidebook

The Solarize model used so successfully in Oregon has been replicated by non-profit organizations – in Seattle by Northwest Sustainable for Economic Development (NW SEED) and in Santa Barbara by the Community Environmental Council (CEC) – and now also by enterprises like the Clean Energy Logistics Lab’s Solarize Now! group discount campaign (Gainesville, FL).  www.SolarizeNow.org   

Coordinated by our Solar Oregon buddy, Hadley Price, Clean Energy Logistics Lab, also called CELL, is an American-owned entrepreneurial business which partners with nonprofit organizations, community organizations and other solar initiative programs to promote installation of solar power photovoltaic (PV) and hot water systems.   

The Minnesota Renewable Energy Society coordinated a different kind of a group purchase in Minneapolis – a residential solar water heating (solar thermal) system program. And, the City of San Jose developed a group purchase program organized to encourage its employees to install PV systems on their homes utilizing a special financing deal with partners San Jose Credit Union,  SunPower Corporation and SunWater Solar.   

1BOG has now gone national!

For-profit enterprises are well-established in this methodology and are competing for homeowner or end-user participation and dollars. The top companies in this category are …   

One Block off the Grid (1BOG)  http://1bog.org/.  Started in San Francisco in 2008, 1BOG is in many respects the pioneer of the solar group discount approach. The name “One Block off the Grid” is a metaphor for freeing the world from its dependency on non-renewable power sources one block at a time. They continue to aggregate group buying initiatives based on demand generated through their website, promotions and partnerships.  Just last month 1BOG expanded their services to the entire country. Company founder Dave Llorens explains 1BOG’s success by stating “If you get 200 people getting the same deal, and they know experts have negotiated it, they’re a lot more comfortable taking the plunge.”   

Backed by the same early investors in Groupon, New Enterprise Associates, 1BOG draws frequent comparisons. 1BOG charges solar project contractors .25 cents per watt on a closed customer contract for the marketing, pre-assessment, online infrastructure and customer experience management, and says the discount value proposition to the solar contractor and homeowner comes from group purchasing.   

Neighborhood Solar Discount Power Program http://neighborlysolar.com/.  One of the very first group purchase programs in America was formed to educate homeowners and promote residential solar energy installations in the Denver Metro area. Neighborhood Solar organized homeowners into collective solar purchasing groups and negotiated significant discounts with local solar installation companies on their behalf.  Neighborhood Solar is not affiliated with any solar installation company and does not perform solar installations. They act as an independent buyer’s agent with the goal of providing the best value to residential solar purchasers while helping installers put up more solar at reduced overhead costs.      

Solarize is ... neighbors helping neighbors

Open Neighborhoods http://openneighborhoods.net/gosolar. The Open Neighborhoods community solar program began with a group of eco-minded Los Angeles residents who joined together to flex their group purchasing power and make a bigger impact in their community. Over 130 residents participated in a series of events and free solar assessments in 2009. Solar panels were installed on 32 homes in what became the largest group solar installation in LA history.   

Group Energy  http://mygroupenergy.com/.  A new company (established in July 2011) GroupEnergy pioneered the employee solar group-buy model to help organizations nationwide achieve corporate social responsibility and sustainability goals. [nee Jessie Denver / San Jose] GroupEnergy enables their client companies the benefit of home energy improvements to their workforce or community while achieving the sustainability goals of the organization.   

Solar Contractor / Installer – SolarCity    Of course solar contractor companies, large and small, have initiated their own residential solar group buy programs too.   SolarCity, a leader in this category, has partnered with Northern California communities like the Mountain View (CA) Solar Buyer’s Group Co-op, and has expanded that approach across the entire country, including here in Oregon.   




Residential Solarize Campaigns – by State

  •  California         Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Davis, San Jose, Santa Clara, Mountain View              
  • Colorado           Denver
  • Florida              Gainesville
  • Louisiana         Baton Rouge
  • Massachusetts    MassCEC – Harvard, Winchester, Scituate, Hatfield
  • Minnesota            Minneapolis: Kingsfield
  • Oregon             Portland: Southeast, Northeast,  Southwest, North-Northwest; Beaverton,   Pendleton, Salem, Corbett, Eugene
  • Washington           Seattle: Queen Anne, Magnolia
  • Wisconsin              MadiSUN – Madison 


* Ten Million Solar Roofs and Ten Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act

The U.S. Senate has introduced the “Ten Million Solar Roofs and Ten Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act” by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) chairman of the Senate’s green jobs subcommittee, along with nine co-sponsors. This legislation will encourage the installation of 10 million solar power (PV) systems and 200,000 solar water heaters (SWH) on the rooftops of homes and businesses over the next decade. It would authorize rebates and other incentives to cover up to half the cost of the solar power and heating systems. If made into law, non-profit groups and state and local governments would also be eligible.


As of this post date, this legislation has not been passed by the U.S. Congress.

For more on this subject, check out my March ’11 post entitled “Solar Rooftops” http://solarflareblog.com/?p=1894

Let's Solarize the USA!

It is time to take residential rooftop solar from the early adopter to the mainstream America phase.

For the past thirty years, the U.S. residential solar market was built by American blue collar tradesmen. History will call them solar pioneers.  These folks came from varied skill-sets and backgrounds: real estate, roofing, construction, plumbing and electrical, and they morphed into what is known today as solar contractors, solar installers and/or solar integrators.  Most of these were small companies with fewer than ten employees, yet these mom & pops literally owned the residential solar market.  They created it customer-by-customer, rooftop-by-rooftop, panel-by-panel and system-by-system.  A solar contractor might install a couple systems per month (average) for residential photovoltaic (electric) solar. That’d be a good year back in the day, but no more.

I admire these early pioneers and give them their due. They suffered years of doubt and discrimination from just about everyone: the government, utilities, politicians, oil companies, HOAs, permit bureaus, public officials, on and on. Add to this equation the enormous product cost and customer acquisition costs, well, it was a labor of love for many.  However, in spite of all this these pioneers prevailed, carved out an industry and built a market.  Many are still in business today.

One reason these guys prospered was that they completely controlled (owned) the customer experience.  Their sales pitch was cleverly crafted and catered to a particular potential buyer.  Every solar sale was sized contingent upon a customer’s ability to pay and every install was a one-off and a priority all its own.

While this approach was beneficial for the solar contractor, it was often hell for the potential customer. [Not quite the car sales experience we all know and love, but similar.] There just wasn’t a whole lot of useful information available for the customer and not many options either. There was some truth behind the “only rich people can buy solar” moniker put on solar by its opponents.

Not to over simplify, but this was one reason why we had a whopping 38 solar electric systems installed on Portland single family homes before the first Solarize Portland campaign began in Summer of 2009.

This paradigm was crying out for change … and change it has.

Two years ago in the Pacific Northwest, homeowners were paying $10/watt (system install price) and today it is almost half that amount.  Yes, the solarize projects in Portland, Beaverton, Salem and Seattle had something to do with it, and it is one reason solarizing has had such a successful launch.

Note:  The lowest residential pricing in America is contained within group purchasing projects and Dave Lorens (1BOG CEO) told me that pricing for their residential group projects currently range between $4.75/w (NJ) to $ 6.65/w (CA), and he even sponsored one project for $4.60/w saying it was a “special pricing situation”. *  Here in the Pacific NW it is closer to $5.25/w.

Naturally, some of the solar old timers are chagrined about what has happened to their business model.  See blog post “In every endeavor there is conflict”  http://solarflareblog.com/?p=929 .   I do understand their distress. The solar business is changing rapidly, with more players entering the market on a daily basis, and the established business model of yesterday has been shattered.

Clearly the customer experience has changed, but solarizing is not for everyone.

Some people require much more of a protracted experience.  For them a bit of handholding and coddling is required.  After all, this is big ticket purchase for any household.  I think people realize that large-scale residential solar programs don’t always allow for a high-quality, individually satisfying, experience.  [In the case of Northeast Portland they were working with a list of over 1000 potential customers, and for the Southwest Portland program we had 700 families sign up.]  So, I believe there is still room in the marketplace for a solar business that caters to this demographic, we’ll soon see.

Image from “Deep Green” a movie by Oregon’s Matt Briggs

I am someone who believes all of the science that points to AGW regardless of the misinformation campaigns that proliferate the internet, and anything that gets us to economies of scale and gets us off fossil fuels sooner, is on my radar.  With respect to the solar old-timers who are very unhappy about community group purchasing or solarizing programs, they need to understand that this is the quickest path to ubiquity. We simply cannot achieve what is required by installing a dozen homes a month!  In my view, we need to scale up and do it very quickly and the solarize approach helps facilitate this objective like no other.

This is the first post of a five-part series entitled “Solarize USA:  The paradigm shift”

*From a panel session at American Solar Energy Society “Solar 2011” annual conference entitled “Community-based Group Purchase Models for Solar – what’s working? – Forum” (moderated by Kacia Brockman, Energy Trust of Oregon & Solar Oregon Boardmember) – May 18, 2011

Me and Cho-Cho

Are you someone who recently installed solar photovoltaics (PV) on your residence? 

Perhaps one of the hundreds of people who took advantage of a Solarize campaign in your neighborhood?!

Well, I feel for you, my fellow sun worshipers.  I feel your pain. I do, because I’ve been there.

Winter is a time of doubt. 

This was certainly the case for me last winter – that was the winter of my discontent.  

We installed PV in late November, right at the beginning of an exceptionally long, rainy, and cold, winter.  It was brutal.  By the end of January, I was feeling a bit of buyer’s remorse to be honest. Then one day in middle of February, on a clear and beautiful day, I could hear my inverter humming loudly from inside the utility closet.  Man, the watts were crank’n.  Our system had been operating for two and a half months and this was the first time the system output was enough to make that inverter hum! 

Oh, the joy!  It was like … hearing your child speak for the first time … or hearing the sirens of Ulysses.  It was wonderful.

From that day forward, I was convinced.  I knew that come spring and summer I’d hear that sound again.  I had faith, but even a devoted follower needs a little reassurance now and then.  I became more patient.  I placed a calendar on the wall in the closet where the inverter and production meter are housed, and I marked readings on the days I’d peek, and always on the last day of every month.  Doing that boosted my confidence, because I could see the progression of days-upon-days of electrical output. I could see it in the numbers, and the numbers were adding up.  After that, my days didn’t seem so long and gloomy.

Inverter and DC production meter live in harmony

In the spring, Portland had about one week of great (rainless) weather.  When I saw the solar production meter putting up big numbers, my heart sang.  Yes, my confidence was in full bloom, and solar power was the promise of a generous spring. 

Then the rains came. 

We felt like Lewis and Clark.  The rains didn’t stop until July 1st and by then I’d been beaten down and doubting why ‘anyone’ would ever buy a solar panel for a house in Oregon’s Willamette Valley?! 

See, I’ve been there. 

Of course once the sun finally broke through, aided by the long days we have here at the 45th parallel, my joy returned.  Indeed, the system was working.  Every day, little by little, but every single day, the solar system quietly, but effectively, created clean and renewable power for our house and neighborhood.  When you add ‘em all up – all 365 days worth – the total is somewhat satisfying.

Winter can be a bummer for a solar lover!

A reader may ask … why did you install your solar PV system on your residence at the beginning of winter?  Surely years of living in the Willamette Valley has taught you something? 

You are right to ask. 

The short answer is … because of the 30% Federal Tax Credit (ITC) and the turn-around time on our investment.  We wanted to recoup our money shortly after the New Year, just a few weeks away from writing that final check to the solar contractor.  If we had installed our system in April, it would have taken almost a year to get that return on investment.  It is a small thing, and may not mean much to anyone else, but that was our thinking at the time. 

Last December, I did our inaugural reckoning and our 4.1 kW photovoltaic (PV) system generated 3622 kWh DC (direct current) total for that first operating year.  Not too bad considering it was a very wet, dark, and nasty weather-year.  June and September were real soakers and produced much less than we’d anticipated.  Taking that into account, we’re optimistic for this current year. 

Point is … you have to look at what a solar PV systems gives you over the aggregate.   Think 25 years.

In our case, we came within 2% of our production estimate (the estimate you provide to Energy Trust of Oregon to get the rebate), which was 3,688 kWh based on an 81% TSRF.  I’ve been told that on an average weather year, we should produce more than estimated.  Mainly this is due to the solar modules we installed here at naturehouse.   They are Sanyo HIT monos with “positive-only tolerance” and that makes a big difference when living in this climate. 

I wrote about measuring our first year’s solar electrical production on a previous post – see “Time to Measure Up!” http://solarflareblog.com/?p=1466

Today, I opened our January PGE (electric) bill … and we put a whopping 4kW hours into the grid … it’s killing me, man, it’s killing me! 

I sure hope that stupid groundhog is right about an early spring!

Solar Beaverton Residential Home Program

It is official, Solar Beaverton is taking off in a big way!

The City recently completed their RFP solar contractor selection, and after a very close contest, the committee selected LiveLight Energy.  http://livelightenergy.com/

Congrats to LiveLight Energy! 

Great selection.  I think they deserve this program after the work they’ve done for Solarize Pendleton.  They exceeded expectations in that Eastern Oregon community.  LiveLight was a few points away from being contractor for Solarize SW Portland last year, but they lost out to Mr. Sun Solar the company eventually selected.  This contract turns those tables, as it was Team Mr. Sun that came in second this time.  Over a dozen solar companies, small and large, submitted their bid, but in the end the committee selected a very good fit – a Beaverton company that knows about residential / neighborhood solarizing.

A nod to Boss-man Keith Knowles.  And also to Jeff Friedman, LiveLight Energy Consultant, who is a board member of Solar Oregon.  You can check out Jeff’s bio at the Solar Oregon website: http://solaroregon.org/about/our-team

I’m looking forward to seeing you folks in Beaverton, as I’ll more than likely be helping out at some educational workshops, if my schedule allows.

In the meantime, best wishes to Cindy T and Rebecca F, I’m sure you’ll run a successful program that’ll make other cities envious. 

Report from the Solar Power International Conference – Oct 11-14, 2010

The exhibit floor on "Public Night" of SPI10

Well, here I am at the Solar Power International 2010 (SPI10) Conference in Los Angeles California.  This is my third year at this annual event and it is getting bigger and better every single year.  So big in fact that there’s not a single hotel room available in downtown LA and many of us are commuting in from Pasadena, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and beyond.  I’m not happy this is in Los Angeles, because I hate LA.  My wife dislikes it even more than I do. 

The World is here at SPI ... including SolarWorld

SPI (previously called Solar Power Conference and Expo), was created in 2004 when the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) joined together in a partnership. With an industry growth rate of more than 40% per year, there was a need for a single event where industry could come together with potential customers, policymakers, investors, and other parties necessary for continued rapid growth. It didn’t take long for the event to establish itself as the premiere solar event in the US, growing from 1,100 attendees to over 25,000 in just six years!  I’m told this year they are figuring about 27,000 attendees coming from all over the world.  Indeed, walking the exhibition floor I heard a great many languages being spoken by the participants, some I’ve never heard before.

LED and Solar go together like peas and carrots

This morning on our cab ride in to the downtown LA Convention Center, our Armenian taxi driver was cursed out by several pedestrians who had the nerve to walk directly in front of us.  One gal greeted us with a few choice words in an accent I couldn’t quite identify, but her message was loud and clear.  

Knowing the LA greeting protocol, I replied in kind and shouted back “hey, you’re yelling at the God of Love here, show some frigg’n respect!” (Our driver’s name was EROS, so I felt compelled.)  He blew his horn at the offenders and I think he appreciated my support.  Typical LA welcome, I assured my companions, many from outside the United States.

At the opening session, leaders of SEPA/SEIA presented this year’s conference theme and slogan Team Solar which they said is symbolic of the collaboration between those building a new solar energy industry here in America. 
Their message was clear Rah, Rah, Rah … Teamwork & Collaboration = Opportunity. 

I am finding this is a consistant theme within the Green community and it’s clear that the nascent green economy is a collaborative endeavor.  That’s good news for someone like me who is collaborative by nature and we can use all the minds and hands we can get. 

Rhone Resch (SEIA) presented his vision which included a large job creation objective that he says will get us to 220,000 new green collar jobs by 2015.  This will require a market growth of 10GW per year increase on average, he said, and he figures doing this will make America the largest solar market in the world.  Rhone stated, “by achieving these goals USA could replace 10 coal burning power plants per year”, which is an admirable goal and one we should all support. 

Noriko's employer, MEMC, owns the solar development company SunEdison

Rhone and Julie Hamm (SEPA) promoted the idea that solar is one of few bright spots in the current US economy and they proudly rattled off the accolades:

  • Solar is the fastest growing energy producer in the USA;
  • Solar is creating jobs & opportunities in a down economy – now employing 93,000 people;
  • Added approx 1GW of photovoltaic power this past year = 100% growth;
  • Installed 3 million feet of solar thermal;
  • Noted that 33 million Americans have already signed the Solar Bill of Rights.  See my previous post if you’d like to know more about this and add your name: http://solarflareblog.com/?p=591

The speakers also pointed out that although solar has experienced the fastest growth over this past year, it is still remains the smallest segment of energy production here in America.  [It is hard to compete with the established fossil fuel industries that are receiving $550 billion in federal subsidies year after year after year.] However, it is evident that the solar community and utility companies are no longer adversarial and are now much more collaborative.  Here in the Pac NW I find this to be true.  Julie mentioned that 5% of the top ten investors in the solar industry are major utility companies.  This bodes well for all solar installations including utility-scale solar plants in America.

Twitter founder, Biz Stone, was one of the speakers on opening day.  I couldn’t pay much attention to what he said though because I was constantly being interrupted by tweets!  My ADHD was kicking in big time, so I left the session and headed over to the exhibit hall.

Great parties at the SPI that's for sure!


Larger turnout than I expected.  More companies represented and the booths/staffing are bigger & better than previous years.  Lots of buzz and crowds on the exhibit floor! 

Bright lights at night ... that's LA

This has truly become an international event, attended by many Europeans, Asians, and South Americans, but well balanced with the good folk from southern and mid-western parts of North America.  The world is here and they see America as a “target rich” environment for solar power. 

The venue … LA Convention Center, Nokia Theater, Staple Center, and LA Live area is modern, clean, bright, and entertaining … but just a few blocks away it looked more like Mumbai than Disneyland.  

They'rrrrre here!

In a strange way I feel like I’m in China … not just because of the dirty and gray LA air, but because China’s presence at this show has increased to such huge proportions. Chinese companies and people are everywhere and it is jarring to see how far-how fast they’ve arrived.  No doubt in my mind that Chinese solar companies will dominate the global marketplace in a very short time. [I’ll write more on this topic later.]

One bummer – I went to watch the movie I mentioned earlier called “The Road Not Taken” about the solar panels President Carter put up and President Reagan took down – and it was cancelled.  The recently completed movie was sent to the conference fresh from Switzerland, but the expo folks couldn’t play it because it was a Swiss-made Blu-Ray format that none of their equipment could play.  Good planning, huh?!  I understand there will be a showing later, but doubtful if I’ll be able to see it ‘cuz my schedule is getting full. 

It's not all work at SPI

There’s just so much going on, but I’ll blog later when I get the chance.