Author Archive: KaibaWhite

Vote Early, Vote Local, Vote Solar

Early voting is in full swing and Texans are showing up at the polls to exercise their precious right to vote.  Austinites have a petty long ballot to vote on and we know it can be difficult to get educated on all of the races.  Local leadership is critical for advancing the use of solar energy and addressing climate change though.  Climate change and energy issues aren’t often front and center in campaigns, so we worked with our partners at Earth Day ATX, Shades of Green and 350 Austin to develop a climate and energy questionnaire for the Austin mayoral and city council candidates. 

We encourage you to read the candidates responses before deciding who most deserves your vote for Austin mayor and your city council member (if your district is up for an election this year).  If you don’t have time to read the questionnaire responses though, we made a shortcut for you.  We scored all responses based on two measures:

  1. Support: How much the candidate’s response demonstrates support for expanding the use of solar energy and phasing out the use of fossil fuels, and, more generally, support for action to slow climate change and respond to the impacts of climate change. (High, Low, Medium)
  2. Knowledge: How much the candidate’s response demonstrates knowledge of the problems and potential solutions. More specific, detailed responses generally score higher, as long as they are based on facts. (High, Low, Medium)

Candidates were scored based solely on their written responses to the questionnaire.  Responses to questions asked at the candidate forums Solar Austin co-hosted, and other information (from candidate websites, for example), was not factored in.

Solar Austin is not endorsing specific candidates, but we do encourage all Austin voters to keep support for clean energy – especially solar – in mind when voting. 

Don’t forget that city elections are non-partisan, so voting “straight ticket” won’t cast a vote in the mayoral or city council races.  Keep clicking through and vote all the way down the ballot.  Many important decisions are made at the local level.

Bluebonnet Solar Tour

Solar Austin is excited to co-host the second Bluebonnet Solar Tour in partnership with the Texas Solar Energy Society and the Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative as part of the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour. The event will start at 9:00 a.m. at the Bluebonnet Eco Home in Brenham.  The Eco Home was built to demonstrate energy and water efficient building techniques, as well as the use of on-site solar and wind energy, geothermal heating and cooling, and rainwater collection. 

There will be a short Solar 101 presentation, a tour of the Eco Home, and solar installation companies on site to provide additional information.  Bluebonnet Electric Co-op representatives will explain how their process works to connect a solar installation to the grid, and how co-op members are compensated for the energy they produce. 

Free breakfast tacos, coffee and juice will be provided.  Attendees will also be entered to win a solar backpack, which can charge your phone after a sunny walk.

The self-guided tour of nearby homes with different types of solar setups will give attendees the opportunity to see solar in action. Homeowners, installers and Bluebonnet employees will be on hand at each home to talk about the installation process and answer questions.

WHAT: Bluebonnet Solar Tour
WHEN: Saturday, September 9, 9 a.m.
WHERE: 2601 Longwood Dr, Brenham, TX 77833

RSVP and get any last-minute updates here. 

And please invite any Bluebonnet Electric Co-op members you may know!

May Happy Hour: Austin Solar Policy Update

Austin Energy has been a leader on renewable energy adoption, including distributed solar for many years.  That’s both because of leadership at the utility and the Austin City Council and because of public demand for progressive energy policies.

That’s the beauty of having a democratically controlled electric utility – it’s responsive to the public.  That benefit comes with the responsibility to stay engaged.  And that’s a role we play at Solar Austin – helping people learn about the benefits of solar and then getting involved to continue improving local policies and programs to keep solar growing in the Austin area. 

Solar Austin was involved in getting the solar rebate program started at Austin Energy and we’ve worked to ensure a steady budget for the solar programs over the years.

There are several potential changes to Austin solar policies and programs in the works.  Join us to learn what we’re working on and how you can get involved.

Whether you work in the solar industry, have solar on your home or just think we need to use more solar to reduce our impact on the environment and create local jobs – we want you to get involved.

May 23, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St.
Please RSVP

You’ll hear from the Solar Austin board of directors about our vision for several policies and programs:

  • Commercial Value of Solar tariff
  • Solar for affordable housing
  • Solar for low-income customers in single-family homes
  • Solar goals
  • Solar rebates and performance-based incentives

Now is the time to get active.

 

April Happy Hour: How to Go Solar in the 21st Century

The solar power market has already moved greatly through its early development: from the isolated labs of researchers and inventors, the tinkering workshops of hobbyists, the reclusive sites of off-the-grid applications, the strident efforts of green activists, to the singular homes of early adopters, to wall street’s long-term investors, and more recently, to the doorstep offering. In this ever-expanding industry, there continues to be new horizons, each bigger than the last. 

In this talk, industry experts convened by Solar Austin will discuss how solar power solutions in the 21st century are “crossing the chasm” to mass adoption.

Featuring:
 Stan Pipkin: LighthouseSolar
 Katharine Beisner: Consultant (software, SunPower, CleanTX)
 Mark Begert: Mapdwell, Meridian (Finance)
 Dave Dixon: Native
 Allison Mond: GreenTechMedia (via Skype)

April 25, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St.
Please RSVP

What new ways of acquiring solar power are emerging? Where is the innovation? How do we make the process simpler? When will it show up on new construction? And what are the evolving roles and blind spots of Utilities, Installers, technology manufacturers, policy makers, bankers and the marketplace?

Building off a similar talk at a recent Solar Austin speakers series, we’ll take a tour of what’s to come and answer audience questions about how to go solar effectively while maintaining the inherent promise that solar can deliver a cleaner, more affordable and more resilient future of electricity.

March Happy Hour – Solar for Low-Income Customers

SolarHost San AntonioThere was a time when solar energy was only accessible to those with cash on hand to buy a system outright. Then financing for solar became common place and middle income people with decent credit scores could go solar without paying up front. Now, there is finally a focus on making solar accessible for low-income residents as well. San Antonio’s electric utility – CPS – has launched an innovative new program called Solar Host that allows customers to benefit from solar without making any investment.

At the same time, CPS has rolled out its first community solar program. The program – called Roofless Solar – is ideal for customers who want go solar, but don’t have a suitable roof or other space on their own property. With community solar, a shaded roof or a roof in need of repair is no longer a barrier to going solar.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 28 (5:30 – 8:00 p.m.)

WHERE: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin

RSVP: Please RSVP and make a donation, if you wish to support our work.

SPEAKERS: CPS is working with a private developer to implement the Solar Host program, so both Rick Luna from CPS and Tuan Pham from PowerFin Partners will speak at our happy hour.

Rick LunaRick Luna is Sr. Manager, Product Development for CPS Energy. Rick oversees a program portfolio that includes a variety of solar, demand response and energy efficiency offerings for residential and commercial customers. Rick’s team is instrumental in achieving the Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP) goal of reducing demand by 771 MW by 2020. Rick’s work has included account management, rate design and economic development. He holds a B.A. in economics from Columbia University.

Tuan PhamTuan Pham is the head of PowerFin, a solar development, financing, and operating company, with offices in Austin and San Antonio. Throughout his career, Tuan has focused on areas where energy and finance converge. Prior to his role in business development at HelioVolt, a thin-film solar company, Tuan covered energy and chemical companies at Morgan Stanley and Banc of America Securities in New York. Tuan’s experience also includes time at the Austin Clean Energy Incubator and Strategic Value Partners, a $5 billion hedge fund, where he served as a Director overseeing energy and industrial investments. Tuan also served on the Austin Local Solar Advisory Committee, a City Council-appointed committee to devise a plan for citywide solar development.