Solar Austin’s mission is to accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy in Central Texas and to expand access to the benefits of solar to everyone to mitigate climate change, create a healthy community and support a strong local economy.

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Solar Austin Happy Hour: the Solar in Your Community Challenge

This month, Solar Austin will focus on efforts across Central Texas to make solar more accessible to low- and moderate- income families. Low- and moderate- income families represent 40% of America’s population, but less than 5% of all solar customers. These households, non-profits, and government organizations face several barriers to going solar, including limited financing options, low or no credit history, and lack of access to the 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit.

The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative aims to make solar energy a low-cost electricity source for all Americans through efforts in collaboration with public and private partners. SunShot has given rise to many programs, including the “Solar in Your Community Challenge.”

Teams are competing for a $500,000 grand prize, and the Department of Energy has committed up to $5 million in cash prizes and technical assistance through this competition to support innovative and replicable community-based solar business models and programs that will bring solar to underserved communities. Solar Austin is excited to present representatives from three Central Texas “Solar in Your Community Challenge” teams:

  • Eric Coffman, founder and Director of Trailhead Energy, from the Waco Community Solar Farm team;
  • Scott Nguyen, PhD, founder and CEO of Braket Technologies and 1PlanetSol, and team lead for 1PlanetSol; and
  • Ramsey Cripe, an ERCOT market and regulatory analyst, from the Kerrville Area Solar Partners team.

Tuesday, October 24th, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd
RSVP here.

The Waco Community Solar Farm will significantly reduce energy costs for 87 low and moderate income families living in affordable housing by partnering with Green Mountain Energy to take advantage of a “virtual net-metering” solution. 1PlanetSol is developing the 1AustinSol Community, leveraging consumer interest and buying power to support the installation of solar on the homes of low-income families in Austin—the 1AustinSol Community will soon reach 1000 members and 100 businesses to support 100 kW of solar to benefit low-income households. Kerrville Area Solar Partners will work with a solar developer, local non-profits and property owners to install a 999 kW solar project with 100% output dedicated to support a new, lower cost rate class for qualified low- to moderate-income families and non-profit customers.

We hope you’ll join us on October 24th for this exciting conversation!

September Happy Hour: Solar PV in Africa—Challenges, Opportunities & Trends

This month, Solar Austin is going to step outside of our Austin bubble and hear about solar development in Africa. While industrialized countries face the challenge of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, many developing countries – particularly those in Africa – don’t even have widespread access to electricity. While 80% of the global population has some access to electricity, only 30% of people in Africa do. About 600 million Africans live without electricity, mostly in rural communities.

Solar is helping communities in Africa leapfrog past polluting fossil fuels to expand access to this essential service. With access to electricity comes improvement in educational opportunities, health services, and access to clean water and information. Instead of relying on massive transmission line investments, the electrification of Africa is utilizing on-site solar and micro-grids, which allow development to proceed much quicker.

This month, we will hear from Bako Ambianda, the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Labacorp Group, and an international development specialist, business strategist, and global African entrepreneur. Mr. Ambianda will discuss his experiences facilitating off grid and large-scale solar projects in Africa including his involvement with Akon Lighting Africa. In 2012, he developed a game plan and “blue print” for tapping into Africa’s opportunities in key sectors, facilitating international solar, biomass, hydro, and hotel construction projects in 16 African countries, with clients from China, India, US, Turkey, France, and Germany. He will talk about the challenges, opportunities, and trends in developing solar in Africa.

Tuesday, September 26th, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto Blvd
RSVP here.

Solar Austin is excited to present Mr. Ambianda, as our September Happy Hour speaker, and we hope you’ll join us for this exciting conversation.

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!

August Happy Hour: Mayor Adler on Cities & Climate Change

With every passing day, society’s reliance on fossil fuels further exacerbates the climate change crisis. The reality of climate change impacts on central Texas is sobering—unless we move past fossil fuels, even more severe storms, droughts, and extreme heat will become the new normal.

Knowing these facts while watching Trump pull the US from the Paris climate Change agreement was horrifying. Fortunately, Trump’s decision has served to galvanize many local leaders to redouble their action—Austin Mayor Steve Adler is one of those local climate leaders reaffirming commitment to the Paris Accord. Solar Austin is excited to present Mayor Adler as our August Happy Hour speaker.

August 22, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten 
1607 San Jacinto St.

Mayor Adler will share his views on the decision to pull out of the Paris agreement and how Austin fits in among a coalition of cities both taking action right now and planning future efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and general environmental impact.

Austin’s Community Climate Plan provides a roadmap for the Austin community to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2050 through efforts to reduce and hopefully eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production, natural gas, transportation, solid waste management and industrial processes. Action items include investing in renewable energy, investment in energy storage, mass transit, expanding composting, and promulgation of electric vehicles and smart grid technologies.

Join us to hear from Mayor Adler about Austin’s efforts to reduce the community’s impact on the climate and what you can do to make a difference.

Solar Austin Happy Hour: Smart Inverters and Distributed Energy Resources for a Smarter Grid

As solar and other renewable energy technologies spread further throughout society, effectively connecting these distributed means of generation to current transmission infrastructure and expanding and modernizing the grid become ever more pressing issues. Solar Austin is excited to present our July Happy Hour speaker, Raghu Belur, the co-cofounder of Enphase, who will tell us more about the exciting advancements in smart inverter, smart grid, and distributed energy resources technology, particularly as related to the residential market. Enphase has also generously provided for food and drinks at this month’s happy hour.

July 25, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten 
1607 San Jacinto St.
Raghu has more than 20 years of experience in the clean energy and high technology industries. Prior to Enphase, he developed high-speed optical communication technology for Cerent, which was later acquired by Cisco Systems for $7 billion. Before Cerent, Raghu was an engineer at the Indian Institute of Science, where he played a key role in the development of an alternative energy gasification system. He co-founded Enphase Energy with Martin Fornage in 2006.  Raghu has a MSEE from Texas A&M University and an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
Because solar and wind energy are both distributed and intermittent, power generated from these sources must be closely monitored in order to ensure reliability of the electric grid and efficient delivery of electricity. This means that cutting-edge technology must be used to upgrade old transmission infrastructure. Solar panel systems, however, require an additional layer of complexity because they only produce direct current electricity. These systems are connected to inverters, which convert the electricity produced to alternating current so that it can be fed into a specific building’s electric system or into the local grid. Although inverters can be expensive and add further complexity to an electric system, “smart” inverters and other new technology can allow us to control and automate specific electrical systems and extremely fine resolution of the grid to make the grid more resilient.
Smarter inverters and other new transmission infrastructure can help renewable resources to further penetrate into the market and promulgate throughout the grid—an essential foundation for expanding renewable energy generation to fight air pollution and climate change, mushroom the number of local clean energy jobs, and provide solar to even more people.