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 Author: Bruce
PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2011 10:57 am 
This is a discussion of community solar energy investment inspired by the Gila Community Investment Forum started by Gordon West. At the first meeting of the forum, I raised the possibility of community based investment in local solar electric energy production. Rather than mix this specific topic with other local investment topics, I started a new topic.

I’m going to be writing about various aspects of this opportunity, but to start the discussion I want to point out two web pages from a recent issue of Home Power magazine.

Solar Gardens a Growing Trend


Growing Solar In Your Community


These articles talk about solar energy gardens in other states. The basic idea is that instead of each home having its own solar power, energy users band together to invest in a large collection of solar panels at one site. People who don’t have sunny, south-facing roofs can still have solar energy. As far as I know, this hasn’t been done in New Mexico. There may be regulatory hurdles to overcome before doing it here.

This is a site for discussing the possibilities, and organizing the investment. It’s a difficult long-term project, but this is the start.


 Author: Bruce
PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:28 pm 
Here are some questions to ask yourself about solar power. In this discussion, a Community Solar Garden is a large field of solar panels that community members buy shares in.

1. Do you have a shade-free roof or empty land for solar collectors? Most efficient is a south-facing roof or slope, but you can also use a flat area if it’s large enough.

2. If yes, would you install solar collectors at that location if:
a. You had to pay $15,000 up front to get a system that would save you $15,000 over 20 years?
b. You could get a low-interest 20-year loan that would break even over 20 years? You would just pay the bank instead of the electric company.
c. You could get a low-interest 20-year loan that would cost you a little money over 20 years, but would make you feel really good about saving the world?
d. You could get a low-interest 20-year loan that would save you money over 20 years? Your principle and interest payments would be less each year than what you would have paid PNM for power.

3. If you don’t have a spot for solar panels, would you buy shares in a community solar garden if:
a. You had to pay the cost of your share of the garden up front (say $10,000)?
b. After a deposit, you could make payments of your share yearly?
c. You could make payments of your share monthly?
d. Your payments would cost a little more than what you would have paid for power, but you could feel really good about saving the world?
e. Your payments would approximately break even compared to your electric bill?
f. Your payments would save you a little bit of money compared to your electric bill?
g. Your payments would save you a lot (say 25%) compared to your electric bill?

This is what we’re really talking about with a community solar garden. Would it really be cost effective given all the complicated factors involved? Could we deal with government regulations (or lack of them)? Could we finance it? Could we pay for a location and maintenance? But before we start the hard work of research and organization, we need to answer the most important question.

Are enough people interested to get it going?

Keep in mind that the ideal situation where you pay monthly and get huge savings over what you would have paid the power company probably isn’t going to happen—at least not at first. It’s a goal to shoot for, but most likely there will be tradeoffs.

So what’s it going to be? Is anyone interested in heading down this difficult road?


 Author: ynotwrite2
PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2011 7:42 am 
from Bruce's first link: “Locally produced solar is the best kind of solar. Using
rooftop solar gardens instead of industrial solar farms helps
protect important landscapes like
Colorado’s San Luis Valley,” says Joy
Hughes, founder of the Solar Garden
Institute, a nonprofit cooperative
that advocates community-based
energy development. The group was
instrumental in getting state lawmakers
to pass the Community Solar Gardens
Act last year."
here's the first rub. you'll need new state legislation.
the second:
first solar, one of the largest manufacturers of solar panels claims to be able to make panels for 65 cents per peak watt, and other manufacturers claim to be approaching 1 dollar per watt, yet when you look through the internet you find that the ones you can buy are costing more than $2 per watt. assuming your facility will get ALL the available tax credits your cost net just for the panels will exceed considerably that first solar cost.
3rd: the device that converts the electricity from the panels to grid electricity, likely doubles the cost per watt, yet the technology inside the unit is only slightly different from the technology inside a computer power supply and the cost is a factor of 5 to ten more expensive. you'd be paying a cadillac price for a function that has not yet been commoditized.
4: washing clothes, a parallel example: before the personal laundry those that could afford it had a servant to do their laundry, the masses had their women and children do it, then the washing machine and the birth of the laundromat, then costs of the equipment dropped where almost every household could go to the store, buy the washer and dryer and with widely available skills for hire have their own, in their house. solar photovoltaics isn't at that point.

you don't build your own car,
you don't make your own personal computer,
or construct your own 52 inch 3d home theatre.
so watch and keep good notes:
the early adopters, the ones who have money to buy what the rest of us can't afford, who can pay the net $6 to $10 per watt for a custom installation to lead the way into the possible solar future. they have the cash or credit to explore and risk their capital.
Watch our town build a solar carport, I recommend waiting for the plug in energy source, in the meantime conserve,reduce, simplify.

 Author: ynotwrite2
PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 1:13 pm 
hi, its the 2 year anniversary of the last post on this blog. the price for photovoltaic panels has collapsed to about $.75 a peak watt from the $2 of 2 years ago, and is predicted to fall to 40 cents by mid 2017. solar farms are coming on strong around the world and there's modest action in our sun belt. silver city had a performance contractor install one megawatt at the sewage plant planned to save money and provide 80% of the plant's electricity. another 23 megawatts is on deck for new mexico. you still can't do what bruce has proposed: have a solar farm coop. you still can't do what i'd like. buy it at your local hardware store or box store and, like a barbeque, do some simple assembly and plug it in, voila you're an electricity producer. nobody seems interested in going head to head with the utility so far. prices keep falling as installers and manufacturers learn by experience, not as fast as the panel prices have been falling. soon, in the sun belt at least the economics will be irresistable, even to the utilities.

 Author: Bruce
PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 7:36 pm 
Too bad our state supports the utilities to make it hard to install solar gardens. They are allowing this in Colorado and a few other states. It makes a lot of sense for individuals, but it doesn't pay off for utilities, and they are the ones who call the shots. It's going to take one tough and determined individual to get past all the regulatory hurdles.


 Author: ynotwrite2
PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:40 am 
Well, Bruce, you and I have, on occasion appeared to be tough and determined. perhaps we should start the ball rolling. so to speak.

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