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Run on Sun Monthly Newsletter

In this Issue:

July, 2011

Volume: 2 Issue: 7

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Can Solar Light the Hollywood Sign?

We have previously lamented solar's PR problem - but here is one approach to changing that with some really good press. A group of volunteers is looking to use a portable solar power system to light the famous Hollywood Sign the night of the Academy Awards. Now how cool is that?

We became aware of this project through fellow solar fan, Deep Patel, who is one of the advisors to the project. The plan is simple and designed to minimize the impact on the environment - and the residents near the Sign who are understandably anxious over anything that might increase the traffic in their community. Here's how they describe it:

Our plan to light the Hollywood Sign will have no adverse affect on the natural habitat in Griffith Park, where the Sign is situated, or the surrounding neighborhoods. Because LED lights create a directional, focused light and not a spherical light field, they will cause no light pollution, nor will they 'bounce' into nearby homes.

The lightweight system we have designed consists of:

#1- One mobile solar array parked on the road above the Sign

#2 - One extension cord

#3 - Eighteen lightweight ground-mounted LED lights

The set-up and the removal of the solar equipment will take a matter of hours. The system and the production will be completely noise-free.

Residents in the vicinity of the Hollywood Sign are, understandably, sensitive to tourist and sightseeing traffic on their streets. This is the primary reason the Hollywood Sign is not currently lit at night, and it is why our plan calls for lighting it, as a symbolic act, only one night a year.

A traffic abatement plan will be worked out with the LAPD and the neighborhoods closest to the Sign. Our plan includes a PR campaign to let people know the best view of the lighted Sign will be from the commercial areas of Hollywood, not from the residential areas in the Hills.

Because Solar The Sign is funded by sponsorships and private donations, we can do this at no cost to taxpayers.

As symbolic gestures go, this one seems quite appealing. A chance to showcase solar power as part of one of the most publicized events in the year (at least here in SoCal) can only help raise public awareness of solar's potential.

The group is trying to get the word out and - more importantly - get folks to sign on to their petition. If you agree, please sign up at: Light the Hollywood Sign with Solar Power the Night of the Academy Awards .

Please sign the petition to Light the Hollywood Sign with Solar Power the Night of the Academy Awards!

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Solar in California Just Got Cheaper!

As the summer season starts to heat up, one thing has just occurred which is very cool - the cost of installing a solar power system has gotten cheaper! Effective July 1, the baseline sales tax rate charged throughout the State of California just dropped by 1%. For example, here in Pasadena, the combined sales tax rate fell from 9.75% to 8.75%. (You can determine the sales tax rate for any city in California by looking it up at the Board of Equalization's website.)

For small residential systems, this is not a huge deal but for larger systems - and especially for commercial systems - this is a real boon. But you shouldn't wait - given how cash strapped California is, to say nothing of local governments, these reduced sales tax rates may not last for long!

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Report from LADWP's Solar Workshop

On July 14 we attended LADWP's morning workshop on the re-launch of the Solar Incentive Program (SIP), here is our report.

The program got underway with an introductory statement from LADWP General Manager, Ron Nichols, who told the 150 or so participants that the SIP was an "important part of the big transition that LADWP needs to make" and he thanked us for coming and providing our insight into how to make the program better. The rest of the program consisted of four parts - an overview of the SIP followed by the participants being divided into breakout groups to address specific issues, then a presentation about the proposed Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program with a breakout session for the Fit as well. (We will have a later post just about the FiT - the balance of this post will only concern the SIP.)

LADWP promised to make all of its presentation materials available online and you can find them here. There were some interesting aspects that popped out of the presentation, for example:

  • Staff mentioned several times the desire to avoid the "boom-bust cycle" so common with solar incentive programs. Instead, they were hoping that this program would:
  • Maintain [a] steady pace of installations and funding so that our customers and [the] solar industry know what to expect and can plan appropriately.
    Foster and grow [the] sustainable solar industry in L.A.
  • However, it was made clear that the program will allocate up to $40 million per year in rebates. Once that amount is reached, the program will stop accepting rebate applications until the next fiscal year. That doesn't really sound like a "steady pace".
  • The program, before the current hiatus, was on track to be fully subscribed (i.e., out of money) by 2012. The new program expects to be out of money by the end of 2014. That's an improvement, but still not great for a program that was intended to continue until 2017.
  • All of the rebates under the SIP will be EPBB rebates - that is, paid out all in one lump sum. This is a good deal for system owners, but a rotten deal for LADWP (click here for our general discussion of PBI vs EPBB rebates.) The LADWP rep suggested that the overhead problem was too much to handle to implement PBI rebates. Really? It would seem that the greater productivity insured by PBI rebates would more than offset the cost, and smaller utilities - like PWP - somehow seem to manage it.
  • Even under the new SIP, there will be no payments made to system owners who produce more energy than they consume over the course of the year. (In other words, no AB 920 compensation is being implemented.) It is true that LADWP is expressly exempt (albeit in a very roundabout way) from the requirements of AB 920, but no cogent argument was advanced for not providing compensation along the lines of what every other utility in the state must do.

You can read our full report, including our questions to LADWP staff, in our article, Report from LADWP SIP Workshop, at our blog.

Even under the new SIP, there will be no payments made to system owners who produce more energy than they consume over the course of the year...

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Is PACE Staging a Comeback?

After having been left for dead by federal regulators, PACE - Property Assessed Clean Energy funding for solar power and energy efficiency projects - is making a comeback thanks to bipartisan (Yes!) legislation gaining momentum in the House. You can help get this important legislation passed by contacting your representative.

To overcome the objections that somehow PACE-funded projects increased the risk of default - the only legitimate basis for an objection from the mortgage industry including Fannie & Freddie - the proposed legislation requires that homeowners who participate are on a sound financial footing in terms of home equity, limitations on the cost of the project and the requirement for proof that the project will pay for itself over the lifetime of the assessment.

These are mostly legitimate requirements and more than two-thirds of all homes in the U.S. could qualify for the 15% equity requirement. (It is worth noting, however, that this requirement eliminates from the program most recent home buyers who purchased during the boom years of the housing market. Given that the data overwhelming shows that PACE programs actually lower the risk of mortgage default, it is most unfortunate that this equity requirement is deemed necessary to get the legislation moving.)

The bill is to be introduced at a joint press conference on Wednesday, July 20th (after that a bill number will be assigned). Given that hope for passage will decline if the bill gets bogged down in election year politics, it is important for the legislation to move this year.

That is where you come in - please contact your Representative NOW and encourage them to co-sponsor this legislation and to vote for it in the House.

Read the full article, On PACE Again? at our blog.

Please contact your Representative NOW and encourage them to co-sponsor this legislation and to vote for it in the House.

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