Mother Nature rules the weather, but that doesn’t mean she can’t use a hand now and then.


Solar Panel

A large solar tracking system standing sentinel outside The Chef’s Garden’s in-progress, state of the art research facility is doing just that. 

The system’s panel looks like a giant’s enormous flat screen television, but the unit, installed early in July, is there to harness as much solar energy as it can between sunup and sundown. 

“It’s our first foray into renewable energy,” said Bob Jones Jr.

Solar Panel Tracking System: Glow Power

Plants being researched in the facility will be part of a multi-layer setup in the building’s attached greenhouses. LED grow lights powered by the captured solar energy will allow for nighttime lighting.

The rotating action of the solar tracker allows it to produce 50 percent more energy than a solid mount panel (the style typically seen mounted on rooftops). To do so, the tracker rotates on a dual-axis swivel, following the sun’s arc from east to west so that its “face” remains at a constant perpendicular angle to the sun for optimal energy absorption.

Solar Panel Tracking System: Remote Control

The solar tracker is manufactured by AllEarth Solar, a Vermont company. (Jones said AllEarth Solar builds its solar system components with American-made materials, which gave them a distinct edge over their competitors.)

Via an internet connection, the company can remotely access the unit as needed for adjustments or to troubleshoot. The online connection also records daily calculations of how many kilowatt hours the tracker generates each day.


Solar Panel Use

A continuously updating bar graph showed that July’s numbers were consistently high, but August’s recent string of rainy, cloudy days showed up as a dip on the graph. As summer turns to fall, Jones said shorter daylight hours will have a direct impact on the unit’s power generation as well.

Decisions, Decisions

In addition to solar energy, Jones said he is continually exploring and researching other methods of on-farm energy production for the future − options that dovetail with The Chef’s Garden’s pledge to sustainable farming practices. To meet the farm’s sustainability criteria, Jones said potential methods require three things.

“Is it environmentally friendly? Is it socially responsible? Is it economically viable?” Jones said.

Been Doing it for Years

Those three touchpoints are nothing new at The Chef’s Garden. Some of the farm’s other “green” practices include a biofuel burner in one of the large greenhouses that heats water than runs through an underground network of tubes to warm the soil. Corncobs from a neighboring seed-corn farm is the burner’s primary fuel. When the corncobs run low, Jones turns to pellets made from recycled waxed cardboard − the byproduct of a large paper mill.

Corn Burner

The farm’s own discarded (unwaxed) cardboard is baled and taken to a nearby roofing manufacturer where it is made into asphalt shingles.

“All of our packaging materials are either biodegradable or recyclable,” Jones said. “Composting and cover crops increase soil biology and reduce the amount of fertilizer used. We heat our maintenance shop with used motor oil.”

Jones explained that whenever the farm mechanics change the oil on a truck or tractor, the used oil becomes fuel to power the shop’s forced air furnace.  “We can either use it, or pay someone to take it away,” he said.

A Way of Life

Solar power is just the latest example The Chef’s Gardens’ efforts to minimize waste, conserve energy and be responsible caretakers of our land, our air, our neighbors, our business and, most importantly, our chefs. 

“Farmers have been sustainable their entire lives – been good stewards of the earth,” Jones said. “Solar is just the next and the newest.”


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press release

Guelph, Ontario, and Pretoria, South Africa — Canadian Solar Inc. (the “Company” or “Canadian Solar”) (NASDAQ: CSIQ), one of the world’s largest solar power companies today announced it established a joint venture with ET Energy, a global clean energy developer and operator. Together they will provide Engineering, Procurement and Construction (“EPC”) services for two solar power projects totaling 132 MWp in South Africa for BioTherm Energy, an independent African power producer.

The projects, Aggeneys (46 MWp) and Konkoonsies II (86 MWp), are located in northwest South Africa and cover an immense area of 387 hectares. They are Round IV projects of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).

The two solar power plants are expected to be grid-connected by the end of 2019 and early 2020, respectively. Over 400,000 Canadian Solar’s 1500V high voltage modules, CS6U-P, will be installed on single-axis solar tracking systems, with a total of 34 central inverters for the two solar projects. Construction of the projects is expected to start in September 2018.

Dennis She, President and CEO of ET Energy, said, “In partnership with Canadian Solar, BioTherm Energy, and other market leaders in South Africa, we have met all the requirements of the REIPPPP. With our South African subsidiary founded in 2016, and years of experience in project operation and EPC management, ET Energy will offer professional EPC and O&M services to utility scale PV plants in Sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa.”

Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Solar, said, “These projects are the first large-scale applications of our products in Africa’s high voltage market. We hope to set more benchmarks for the renewable energy market in South Africa with high-quality products, advanced PV technology, and global expertise.”

As a signatory to the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, South Africa has long been a leader in the African renewable energy industry. In November 2016, the country released the latest draft of its Integrated Resource Plan, which outlines the country’s electricity strategy to 2050. Under the plan, the country seeks to add 18 GW of PV plants over 2021-50. In recent years, the successful implementation of the REIPPPP has ensured that the South African renewable energy sector has adhered to this strategy.

About Canadian Solar

Founded in 2001 in Canada, Canadian Solar is one of the world’s largest and foremost solar power companies. As a leading manufacturer of solar photovoltaic modules and provider of solar energy solutions, Canadian Solar has a geographically diversified pipeline of utility-scale power projects in various stages of development. In the past 17 years, Canadian Solar has successfully delivered over 29 GW of premium quality modules to over 100 countries around the world. Furthermore, Canadian Solar is one of the most bankable companies in the solar industry, having been publicly listed on NASDAQ since 2006. For additional information about the Company, follow Canadian Solar on LinkedIn or visit www.canadiansolar.com.

About ET Energy

ET Energy is a global leading clean energy developer and operator. With innovative solar technologies and tailored financial solutions, ET Energy provides professional one-stop solutions across the entire solar power plant lifecycle including development, financing, engineering, procurement, construction, and operations & maintenance. To learn more about ET Energy, please visit http://www.etsolar.com.

Canadian Solar Safe Harbor/Forward-Looking Statements

Certain statements in this press release are forward-looking statements that involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. These statements are made under the “Safe Harbor” provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by such terms as “believes,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “intends,” “estimates,” the negative of these terms, or other comparable terminology. Factors that could cause actual results to differ include general business and economic conditions and the state of the solar industry; governmental support for the deployment of solar power; future available supplies of high-purity silicon; demand for end-use products by consumers and inventory levels of such products in the supply chain; changes in demand from significant customers; changes in demand from major markets such as Japan, the U.S., India and China; changes in customer order patterns; changes in product mix; capacity utilization; level of competition; pricing pressure and declines in average selling prices; delays in new product introduction; delays in utility-scale project approval process; delays in utility-scale project construction; delays in the completion of project sales; continued success in technological innovations and delivery of products with the features customers demand; shortage in supply of materials or capacity requirements; availability of financing; exchange rate fluctuations; litigation and other risks as described in the Company’s SEC filings, including its annual report on Form 20-F filed on April 26, 2018. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in the forward looking statements are reasonable, it cannot guarantee future results, level of activity, performance, or achievements. Investors should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. All information provided in this press release is as of today’s date, unless otherwise stated, and Canadian Solar undertakes no duty to update such information, except as required under applicable law.


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PORTSMOUTH – The City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution at its Tuesday, Sept. 4 meeting to expand the city’s current solar energy system exemption.

There will also be a public hearing on the proposed expansion of the tax exemption, according to City Councilor Josh Denton.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.

In addition to expanding the existing solar energy system tax exemption, there will be public hearings on Sept. 17 on two initiatives pushed by Denton to create tax exemptions for wind power and wood pellet systems.

The wood pellet systems would be used for heating homes only, while solar and wind power would be used for creating electricity, Denton said.

The city’s existing solar energy system exemption is capped at five years and $25,000, Denton said.

“Right now if you have a house that’s assessed at $400,000 with a $25,000 solar array system, the city is not allowed to charge you for the solar array,” Denton said.

But to promote sustainability and environmental friendliness, Denton wants to eliminate the five-year limit and $25,000 cap, both of which he says are “self imposed.”

He added that if the resolution passes to create an exemption for wind power and wood pellet systems, the exception “would work exactly the same way solar works if the council eliminates the cap and time limit.”

He stressed the wood pellet exemption he is seeking to have passed, would relate to only using wood pellets to heat your home, not produce power.

“Using wood pellets to power the home is a little controversial and that’s why I’ve proposed just using them to heat the home,” Denton said Tuesday.

The City Council voted unanimously to hold the upcoming public hearings on the three resolutions at its meeting last week.

Denton noted all three resolutions need only one reading to pass, and the City Council is not required to hold public hearings on them.

“I just thought it was a good idea to hold the public hearings,” he said.


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Atlas Renewable Energy, a developer formed by UK-based private investment firm Actis, along with Mexico’s National Bank of Foreign Trade (Bancomext) recently announced the closure of a long-term financing agreement for the construction for the Guajiro Solar Project that will be located in the state of Hidalgo.

According to a press release by both companies, Bancomext will provide US$88.5 million to finance the construction of the project, along with a line of credit of the Value Added Tax (VAT) of US$17 million. 

The project was awarded in the first long-term energy auction, carried out in 2016 as part of the energy reform, with a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), and will have an installed capacity of approximately 129.5 megawatt peak (MWp).

Guajiro Solar Project is expected to begin operating in the second quarter of 2019, on an area of 410 hectares of land in Nopala de Villagrán, Hidalgo. The plant will generate an estimated 300 gigawatts per hour (GWh) annually, equivalent to the demand of approximately 120,000 homes. Atlas Renewable Energy estimates that the operation of the project will prevent the annual emission of more than 215,000 tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to eliminating more than 46,000 cars in circulation.

Carlos Barrera, CEO of Atlas Renewable Energy, said in the press release that “the financing of the Guajiro project marks an important milestone for Atlas Renewable Energy and consolidates Mexico as one of our main markets, as well as strengthening our successful track record in financing renewable energy projects throughout Latin America.”

The Guajiro project is part of Atlas Renewable Energy’s strategy to strengthen its position in Mexico. This project will be the company’s first solar energy project in the country. 

Furthermore, Bancomext said it considers the energy sector as strategic for the development of the country, so it accounts with a program for the financing of renewable energy projects through the granting of long-term resources, in local currency or U.S. dollars, to support companies during their project’s construction, operation and maintenance stages.


Related News

Acciona, Tuto Energy secure US$264 million financing to build solar farm in Sonora

Canadian Solar secures US$45 million fund to build photovoltaic plant in Aguascalientes

Mexico’s clean energy tenders to trigger US$8.6 billion investments by 2021


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A white-hot market for leased solar energy systems has cooled off dramatically since 2016, in the wake of customer complaints about hard-sell tactics, rising bills, questionable installations and a lack of government oversight, a Newsday investigation found.

During the past decade, the environmental appeal of “going green” and reducing monthly electric bills has been promoted by state and federal governments, which enacted policies and subsidies that opened the door to a surge of solar panel sign-ups.

Today, Long Island is New York’s solar king, with more customers than any region in the state – nearly 40,000 home and small office rooftops at last count. More than $1.3 billion worth of residential solar panels have been installed in Nassau and especially Suffolk since 2000, a Newsday computer analysis of state and utility records shows.

These high-tech rooftop panels allow homes to draw electricity from the sun while displacing the utility’s need to draw power from conventional energy sources. And at a median cost of $35,000, these units have been offered by large companies, including SolarCity Corp., a subsidiary of Tesla Inc. run by entrepreneur Elon Musk.

But the arrival of no-money-down solar lease deals on Long Island also has brought a host of problems.

While the market grew at a steady pace from the first home solar system sales in 2000 with relatively few complaints, a move by LIPA in 2012 to allow solar lease companies to access its popular rebate led to a market explosion.

Hawking systems at shopping malls, Tupperware-styled parties and invitation-only dinners, the solar industry sometimes aimed its efforts at senior citizens and others with limited incomes who unwittingly got locked into long-term leasing agreements for “no money down,” often with add-on costs in the fine print.

‘We are paying more now than we did previously.’
-Edward Maccone, North Bellmore resident

In some cases, homes with newly installed panels were shaded by trees or other obstacles, making them poor candidates to derive sufficient power from the sun to lower their existing electric bill, some critics and customers charged.

“We are paying more now than we did previously,” before his SolarCity panels were installed, said Edward Maccone, 77, of North Bellmore. “I lost all faith in them after seeing the numbers” in his resulting electric bills.

In other cases, customers who signed 20- or 25-year deals for solar panels on their roofs have encountered complications selling or refinancing their homes. Homeowners say they were surprised to learn that little-known documents filed by the solar firms at county clerks’ offices listed them as “debtors,” complicating refinancings and attempts to sell their homes.

Critics, including consumer watchdogs, say solar customers, particularly elderly homeowners, were enticed by hard-sell tactics that didn’t pan out as promised, affecting the public perception of this fledgling industry, originally promoted by government with various tax incentives and rebates.

Word of no-cost solar deals spread rapidly across the Island until 2016 and last year, when the boom in leased and other systems saw a sharp drop-off. Along with fewer customer sign-ups, the solar leasing market suffered from changes in government tax credits and rebates, financial and legal problems faced by some key leasing companies, and the looming prospect of foreign tariffs.

On Long Island, new solar units dropped from a total of 11,444 in 2016 to 6,400 in 2017, a 44 percent decline, according to PSEG Long Island data. PSEG now expects about 6,600 solar connections this year, still far from the market’s peak two years ago. Nationally, for the first time ever, the top 10 states for solar installations, including New York, experienced a decline, experts say, as the rush for solar power has slowed.

“No question the number of complaints and legal cases against solar leasing is contributing to this drop-off” in installations both nationally and in New York, said Tyson Slocum, an energy expert with Public Citizen, a Washington-based watchdog group. “It’s part of the larger factors that are making solar leasing not as attractive financially as it was a few years ago.”

What determines if you’re a good candidate for solar?

1ShadingThe more coverage from trees, chimneys and neighboring buildings your system receives, the less electricity that will be generated. The solar company might recommend trimming back branches or cutting down trees. Source: Solar Energy Industries Association

2Orientation and pitch of your roof Typically, solar panels perform best on south-facing roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees, though other roofs may be suitable, too. North-facing roofs are viewed as the least optimal, because they do not receive direct sunlight. Sources: Department of Energy, Solar Energy Industries Association

3Size of your roof vs. energy consumptionDetermine if your house is large enough to accommodate a system that will support your energy usage based on the roof’s size and your current electric bills. Sources: Department of Energy, Solar Energy Industries Association

4GeographyLong Islanders are fortunate that both Nassau and Suffolk counties receive a good amount of daily sunlight hours, more than Westchester and upstate New York, but not quite what the sunniest parts of Arizona, New Mexico and California receive, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A solar professional can calculate the amount of sunlight expected to reach a planned system over the course of a year. Sources: North America Land Data Assimilation System via CDC WONDER, Solar Energy Industries Association

5Rainfall is a factorHomes located near the water may require higher levels of maintenance of solar panels, given ocean and bay breezes. If it doesn’t rain enough in a given year, you may have to have the panels cleaned.

Some industry officials say they believe the drop-off in installations is temporary and express confidence in solar’s lasting appeal. Encouraged by state and federal policies, Tesla’s SolarCity, Vivint Solar and other large firms have promoted themselves as the front line of a new wave of energy for Long Islanders — an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way for customers to get free of the local power company’s monopoly grip.

“Utility rates here are the highest in the country, which means the customers who get solar are going to get some of the biggest savings,” said Chance Allred, chief sales officer for Vivint Solar, which offers mostly long-term deals known as a Power Purchase Agreements.

With PPAs, customers pay for power based on a per kilowatt hour rate, while other lease deals usually rely on an fixed monthly fee.

But even solar advocates, pleased by the industry’s overall growth during the past decade, say they’ve heard complaints of high-pressure sales tactics by some firms and a lack of sufficient oversight to curb abuses.

“There are some bad apples in any industry and any successful industry attracts some scammers, so we have heard complaints from customers,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president for state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, a nationwide trade group promoting solar since 1974. “Where there are mistakes by solar companies, we’re trying to come up with a procedure so that those mistakes aren’t repeated.”

Locally, Newsday found a growing number of complaints in various places ranging from the New York State attorney general to consumer agencies to hundreds of frustrated homeowners seeking help at their local county clerk office. Real-estate experts warn consumer complaints and other problems facing the solar leasing industry threaten to complicate future home sales.

Solar’s big boom on Long Island

Solar power has been around for decades. The scientific roots date back to Albert Einstein, who won a Nobel Prize in physics for identifying the photoelectric effect of sunlight, and America’s space program, which equipped spacecraft with solar cells. But generally solar wasn’t commercially viable until the late 1990s, when the sky-high price of panels dropped dramatically.

For most customers today, “photovoltaic systems” on their roofs create electricity from glossy rectangular panels that absorb and convert the sun’s rays. This homemade wattage can be either used by the owners directly, or traded for credit with their utilities, who add the solar power to their grids serving other customers.

On Long Island, solar power started to take off around 2000, spurred by generous Long Island Power Authority rebates and other state and federal incentives favoring environmentally clean energy. Only two units were purchased that year, and another 13 the following year, records show. By 2010, about 1,000 units were purchased on Long Island annually.

In the early years, experts say, generally affluent homeowners bought solar systems, with price tags ranging from $30,000 to well over $50,000, depending on the size and power potential of the unit. A Newsday analysis of solar installations with state incentives since 2000 shows that many units in the early days were placed on rooftops in places such as East Hampton, Southampton, Dix Hills and Gardiners Island.

Local contractors who installed these systems touted them as capable of paying for themselves in seven years — and they often did. Tax credits for buying solar units could be taken off homeowner’s income tax bills. Many found the idea appealing — like having your own power plant on the roof. These state incentive records for Long Island — which reflect about two-thirds of the entire residential marketplace in Nassau and Suffolk — provide specific locales and prices on installed units.

“Back then, it was ‘early adopters,’ as I would call them — folks who believed in the environment and had the ability to pay for a system,” recalls Michael Voltz, director of energy efficiency and renewables for PSEG Long Island, who witnessed solar’s initial growth. LIPA rebates were “fairly generous because they needed to be in order to stimulate the market.”

One of those satisfied solar customers was Harry Kubetz, a 65-year-old business executive whose ranch house in Northport was fitted with a large system purchased in 2005. The total $81,000 price tag eventually cost him about $27,250 out-of-pocket, after he received various federal and state tax credits and utility rebates, he estimated. The solar panels reduced his annual electric bill by half, he said, but that wasn’t his main motivation.

“I didn’t do solar to reduce my bill but because I felt it was the right thing to do environmentally, in being responsibile,” Kubetz said. “I’m really happy I did it.”

By 2012, the doors for solar were flung wide open on Long Island. Federal income tax credits already provided a 30 percent credit for the cost of a system. But that year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo extended to the leasing market the same tax credit of up to $5,000 to help finance residential projects that purchasers already enjoyed. Utilities were directed by state regulators to buy excess power created by solar units. And significantly, LIPA provided a boost by extending to leased systems rebates valued at thousands of dollar per customer. As part of these deals, customers signed over their rebates to these leasing companies.

Solar installations peaked on Long Island in 2016

Data from PSEG show the number rose to 11,444 and then dropped the following year.

Cuomo pushed for New York State to become a leader in solar power. Nationally, it now ranks 10th in total installations. “As the federal government abdicates its responsibility to address climate change — at the expense of our environment and economy — New York is leading the nation in advancing a clean energy future,” Cuomo proclaimed last year.

By 2014, some of the nation’s biggest solar firms — including SolarCity and Vivint Solar — had arrived on Long Island with a big marketing push. Some were represented by well-known political names. For example, NRG Home Solar’s parent company hired the lobbying firm headed by former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato to promote its solar business with state lawmakers.

But the biggest change was in the type of Long Island customers signing up for solar. Along with wealthy homeowners buying their panels, many Long Islanders of more modest means agreed to long-term leases or similar power purchase agreements, or PPAs, touted by large national firms that made solar affordable to them as never before.

“On top of the savings that they [consumers] get from cheaper energy, there’s also a tax benefit for them that really incentivizes them to go solar,” explains Vivint Solar’s Allred, watching his workers install solar panels in Islip Terrace. “So we really appreciate the policy makers here. We feel that they’ve given solar a tail wind.”

Sunrun, another national firm offering primarily 20-year lease deals, says many customers are concerned with the reliability of Long Island’s electric grid. The desire for an alternative method of energy is particularly strong “because of how hard Sandy hit” in 2012, said Chris McClellan, regional director for East Coast sales.

Following a national trend, New York’s big solar boom occurred in 2014-15, with Suffolk and Nassau accounting for nearly a third of all installations statewide. While solar units continued to be purchased in wealthier neighborhoods, lease-like solar deals were now found in more modest-income communities such as Lindenhurst, West Babylon, North Babylon, Brentwood and Bay Shore, records show.

However, the terms of these new deals were more complicated than some customers realized. Under these “no money down” leases and PPAs, solar companies owned and operated the rooftop units, collected federal tax credits, and sold the power to the cooperating homeowners. Many of these deals included “escalator” clauses, calling for annual hikes of up to 3 percent. And the solar bill came atop of the regular monthly PSEG bills homeowners still received, particularly apparent during months when there was not enough sunlight for the solar panels to pay for themselves.

‘Often the target customer who is ripe for abuse is somebody who is retired, has a fixed income, and who is taken in by the promise of a constant electric bill.’
-Daniel Stevens, executive director of Campaign for Accountability

Many of the leasing sign-ups started with a knock on the door, a telephone solicitation or salespeople pushing the benefits of solar at local shopping centers. Seniors in retirement communities or living on fixed incomes were particularly susceptible to the clarion call of saving money while being “green” with a nonpolluting power source, critics say. Too often, these older customers were poor candidates for solar and wound up disappointed in the results.

“I’ve seen solar panels being sold to seniors that had 20-year leases and they didn’t even generate enough electricity because the size of the roof wasn’t big enough,” said attorney Sean Walter, a former Riverhead Town supervisor who now practices elder law. “If you can catch some of the seniors in internet scams and phone scams, think about how vulnerable the seniors are when you’re going door-to-door.”

Nationally, Campaign for Accountability, a Washington-based group critical of solar, has tracked a sharp rise in company complaints by consumers in the past five years. “Often the target customer who is ripe for abuse is somebody who is retired, has a fixed income, and who is taken in by the promise of a constant electric bill,” said its executive director, Daniel Stevens. “The individual will wind up being charged more for their electric costs than they were before they installed solar panels. It’s one of the clearest ways that these companies mislead customers.”

Similar complaints of misleading, hard-sell “no money down” tactics are reflected in the fraud and racketeering lawsuit brought by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas against Vivint Solar, a prominent player in Long Island’s market. He said Vivint Solar’s sales force assured New Mexico consumers of cost savings of up to 40 percent compared with their prior utility rates “when, in fact, they will likely pay more.”

Vivint goes to great lengths to advertise that it will design, install and maintain a solar system for a consumer’s home ‘for free,’ ” said Balderas in court papers filed in March. “Vivint’s ‘free’ trap, in truth, is not free at all; rather it hooks consumers into paying more for energy.”

Vivint Solar denied the New Mexico allegations and said it offers customers “the opportunity to adopt clean, renewable energy while always adhering to the highest ethical sales standards.”

When Vivint Solar arrived on Long Island in 2012, said Allred, the chief sales officer, the company went door-to-door in neighborhoods to build up its clientele, but now relies mostly on word-of-mouth from satisfied customers. Allred says he hasn’t seen any drop-off in new installations, as reflected in state numbers, and rejects the idea that enthusiasm has waned for solar because of the industry’s tactics.

“We have a big customer base that is really happy,” Allred said. “If a customer calls in and they have a concern, we take care of them and we make it right. We take care of them. That’s how we get our referrals and grow our business.”

But for many customers on Long Island, the once-glowing promise of solar energy has not been so easy.

Longtime residents in long-term leases

Mort and Marilyn Kinzelberg, a senior couple in their 80s who live in Commack, first heard about the benefits of leasing from a SolarCity salesman inside a Huntington mall. The Kinzelbergs liked the idea of “going green” by getting solar energy panels put on their roof. But they were particularly enticed by the promise of lowering their electric bills.

Not willing to buy a solar system outright, the retired couple signed a 20-year lease and hoped for the best outcome. Under their agreement, the Kinzelbergs say, they expected to save as much as $1,000 a year.

A former electrical engineer, Mort liked the idea of drawing power from shiny black solar panels on his roof rather than from a local utility plant. “There’s no effect on the environment — I’m conscious of that,” he explained. “I was told it would save me a lot of money.”

‘There’s a certain amount of sentiment I have for this tree, so I was not going to cut it down under any circumstances.’
-Mort Kinzelberg, Commack resident

But there was a hitch. A giant tree in their backyard, draped over the roof like an outstretched umbrella, threatened to block the sun. The Kinzelbergs said they didn’t want to cut down the tree, attached to the second-floor porch of their two-story home.

“There’s a certain amount of sentiment I have for this tree, so I was not going to cut it down under any circumstances,” Mort said. “And he [the SolarCity rep] said the amount effect of this [tree] would be minimal and not to worry about it.””

But the solar savings were not as much as the Kinzelbergs expected. Indeed, some months they even paid more to SolarCity than they used to pay with their old bills to the utility company. “They [SolarCity] were not honest with me and didn’t save me as much money as they said they would,” Mort said. After they signed their contract, they also realized it contained a 2.9 percent annual hike in their leasing fee.

“Over 20 years, it comes to quite a bit that they are benefiting from,” said Marilyn with a rueful smile. “We’re not stupid and we should have gone through it more. But we believed the salesman. He said, ‘Don’t worry about it[the contract terms], it’s a good deal.’ We’re seniors — we don’t think that far ahead.”

Tesla officials, who now oversee SolarCity’s assets on Long Island, declined to be interviewed.

But Jonathan Lane, the lead solar instructor at Farmingdale State College, who examined the Kinzelberg home, said the elderly couple should have been told they were a poor candidate for solar – especially since they were unwilling to cut backyard trees overhanging the south portion of their roof.

“It kills the performance,” said Lane about the trees casting shadows over the solar panels. “The amount of energy generated by the system will be reduced by half and the amount of money collected by the customers will be reduced by approximately half.”

Lane, who installs solar systems privately, says only about 60 percent of Long Island’s 1.1 million residences and businesses are good candidates for solar. He says the rest have some obstacle – such as trees or limited roof space – that keeps solar panels from being a wise choice. Yet, he said, large, aggressive solar leasing firms too often sign up customers despite these obvious warning signs.

“Unfortunately it gives the whole industry a black eye,” Lane said. “There is a lot of profit-potential in the industry and some people are a lot more concerned with taking the profits from customers … than with delivering on promises made.”

Green-energy advocates emphasize that the many solar transactions, particularly those with established, reputable companies, are positive, and that most customers are happy with their systems.

‘My system paid for itself in a few years; it’s paid off and it’s still cranking.’
Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island

Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a green-energy advocacy group, was among the first LIPA customers to have a solar system put on the roof of his East Hampton home in 2002. “My system paid for itself in a few years; it’s paid off and it’s still cranking,” he said.

With rare exception, he said, complaints about the early systems were few. But that changed in 2013. “Of course, it became a totally different thing when the lease companies came in. At that point everybody could sign a lease and we know what happened.”

Raacke’s group was often consulted by customers who were contemplating solar, and he began to recognize a pattern. “One thing I was always surprised by was when people sent me their proposals from leasing companies, they [the leasing companies] were often inflating the assumed LIPA annual rate increase,” and tying an annual adjustment clause in their leases to that expected increase. The problem was that LIPA’s actual rate was frozen for many of those lease years and has moved only marginally since. “The numbers just weren’t real-world figures,” Raacke said. “In one case I saw 5 percent annual increase every year. That misrepresented the potential benefit to the customer. It was deceptive sales practices.”

Raacke said by any measure, “A leasing deal is a complex deal for the average customer to understand and get into. And I think a lot of people signed agreements they didn’t understand and that’s a problem. We always told people they should definitely compare a leased option to an owned, and don’t sign on the dotted line until they got multiple proposals.”

He and others were concerned when leases grew to upward of 75 percent of sales on Long Island. “They used very aggressive sales tactics, they went door to door and now we know what happened. From a customer perspective it was so attractive: no money down, get solar installed, but it’s like the Mercedes in the driveway. It looks good …”

He said Renewable Energy Long Island has gotten complaints or calls or emails from people who had “orphan systems from installers who went out of business. It’s very difficult to get someone else to fix. Many installers don’t want to deal with it because they’re taking on a problem they didn’t want to have. Shoddy installations.”

Maccone, who lives with his family in a North Bellmore home, is another senior who says he’s stuck with a long-term, under-performing solar deal. Maccone first considered solar when a telephone saleswoman called his home interrupting dinner. He remembers the saleswoman had the same first name as his daughter.

Speaking with the aid of a oxygen tank, Maccone said he didn’t think he could afford solar. He said the estimated pricetag of nearly $30,000 to buy a unit for his house was always too exorbitant for his family’s finances. The retiree said solar only became affordable because of a promise of no money down under the leasing agreement he signed in 2014.

Maccone said SolarCity promised big savings when it installed panels on the house where his family has lived since the 1950s. But that reduction in electricity costs never happened, he said.

SolarCity officials, now part of Tesla, declined to be interviewed.

Maccone used to pay about $450 a month to the utility company, but now he said he pays on average about $300 monthly for electricity and another $175 a month for a leasing fee.

There were also other factors in the fine print. As an older person who gets around with a respirator, Maccone said he was surprised to learn he’d be responsible for maintaining the heavy solar panels up on his roof, keeping them free of snow and leaves. Without luck, Maccone complained to government agencies and the Better Business Bureau. “There are no oversight people for solar as far as I know,” said Maccone. “They couldn’t help at all. It wasn’t in their jurisdiction.”

Little government oversight for solar

In New York, solar panel installation companies experienced their largest period of growth between 2014 and 2016 as an industry without oversight of the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.

‘The solar industry, to my knowledge, is not a regulated industry and they can sell to whomever chooses to purchase their product.’
-Michael Voltz, director of energy efficiency and renewables for PSEG Long Island

Even though they are connected to the region’s overall power grid and local utilities are required to buy excess power produced by homeowners, the state has only recently undertaken efforts to rein them in. For the past several years, the Cuomo administration has pushed new initiatives promoting solar power, but state regulators refrained from fielding complaints or reviewing the services provided by solar firms.

“The solar industry, to my knowledge, is not a regulated industry and they can sell to whomever chooses to purchase their product,” explained Voltz of PSEG Long Island in an interview earlier this year. “It’s not our position as an electric utility to determine whether the government should have greater regulation or a complaint bureau. It’s just not our role.”

The Public Service Commission in October adopted rules for oversight of energy service companies that for the first time included solar panel installers, but because LIPA isn’t subject to PSC jurisdiction, the rules don’t apply to Long Island. Nevertheless, the commission “anticipates” LIPA will adopt the rules in the future. LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan said the authority’s staff has “reviewed PSC’s consumer protection standards and plans to bring a resolution to the LIPA board of trustees by year’s end.”

The New York Attorney General’s Office told Newsday it has received 48 complaints statewide since 2016 from upset solar unit owners and is reviewing the actions of one particular solar company that it would not identify. “Our investigation remains ongoing and we encourage any impacted New Yorkers to contact our office,” the spokesperson said earlier this month.

“Distributed energy providers, such as solar panel installers, are instrumental in helping build a cleaner, more resilient electric grid,” PSC spokesman James Denn said in a statement. “However, while we encourage these companies to grow in New York, we will also ensure that consumers are protected from fraud and dishonest marketing. Under our recently enacted rules, consumers will be protected.”It’s unclear why the agency didn’t adopt the new rules until this year.

Across the nation, critics say, customers with solar problems are similarly at a loss about whom to complain to — other than the solar firms themselves.

“Because state utility commissions do not regulate the leasing contracts, consumers may find themselves in a regulatory-protection limbo should a dispute arise,” explains Public Citizen’s Slocum. The solar leasing company “in effect becomes the utility for the consumer,” he said.

Slocum said seniors and other consumers are often surprised by the fine print in solar contracts calling for mandatory arbitration, eliminating the chance to file a lawsuit for alleged wrongdoing, or to file class-action suits to help defray litigation costs. “They are poorly equipped to deal with these companies because they are denied the ability to go to court,” Slocum said.

Instead of pleading their case before a judge, Slocum said, these consumers usually are strapped by contract terms that “require use of a company-friendly arbitration process that advantages the solar leasing company and leaves the consumer unable to appeal.”His group has asked the Federal Trade Commission to ban mandatory arbitration and to allow solar customers to go to court if necessary.

On Long Island, Newsday found consumer watchdogs rarely investigate or even receive solar complaints. Responding to a Newsday Freedom of Information Law request last year, Suffolk’s Department of Consumer Affairs reported eight complaints from 2014 to 2016. Most were marked “satisfied after mediation” or unresolved by some factual dispute. Nassau said they didn’t receive any complaints. Local officials said they didn’t know if solar contracts, which often require mandatory arbitration, had affected the number of complaints they received.

But on Long Island, there’s one place receiving plenty of inquiries from upset solar homeowners – the county clerk’s office. And the problem usually involves a little document known as a UCC-1. Most homeowners had no idea that these documents had been filed by their solar companies, listing them as “debtors,” until they tried to sell or refinance their home.

“We get daily calls with reference to UCC statements in regards to solar panels,” said Christopher Como, Suffolk County special deputy county clerk. “On a daily basis people inquiring where it came from, what do I have to do to dispose it? Just trying to get information about it. And those are usually people who are making some type of financial change or looking to sell.”

In the past four years, 23,525 UCC statements were filed in Suffolk alone, the majority reflecting the big upsurge in sun-powered renewable energy during the past decade. In Nassau, the number of UCC-1s filed nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016, officials said. One firm alone, Vivint Solar, had nearly 1,000 UCC-1s filed in Nassau in recent years, records show.

Solar companies say they file these certificates as a way of protecting their ownership of the “fixtures” installed on the roofs of their customers. But they can cause unforeseen hassles for solar homeowners.

Just ask Barry Geller. He said the UCC on the solar system attached to his West Hempstead house created a nightmare when he tried to refinance.

Battle of the rooftops

Geller said he was attracted to leased solar power when he saw a TV ad for a company called NRG Home Solar, which promoted itself during the Super Bowl. Its slick Hollywood production values and futuristic message were impressive.

“Enough sunlight hits Earth every hour to power everything on it for an entire year…,” said one of the company’s commercials, over images of the sun and houses equipped with solar panels. “…All you have to do is let it in.”

Geller said this commercial for NRG Home Solar spurred him to look into leasing panels from the company.

Geller decided to let it in, in October 2014. “We were watching the Super Bowl and there was NRG solar,” he remembered. “I figured if they can afford that they must be in business for a while.”

But various complications left the system installed but not hooked up for a year. And while NRG gave him $800 to remove a tree in his front yard, the total cost for the job was $2,000, and he had to pay the balance himself.

Geller said he’s been dissatisfied to learn that his system is only saving him around $50 a month on his electric bill, and that in some months, the bill is even higher than it was prior to his having the solar installed.

But his biggest nightmare came when he tried to refinance his home to do some costly remodeling.

‘If they told me they were going to put a lien on my house for solar, I would have told them to take their panels and put them somewhere else.’
-Barry Geller, West Hempstead resident

“The day after we hired contractors, we went to the bank to refinance, because the mortgage was just about paid,” he said. “And [a bank official] gave me a call back and said they can’t finish the refi because there’s a lien on my home. And I said, who has a lien on my home? We didn’t owe anybody anything. And he said, ‘The solar company.’”

That left the Gellers stunned. “I said, Really, a lien?” He’d worked with three different sales people from NRG, he said, and the “only thing they didn’t tell me was that they were going to put a lien on my house.” He suspects why they may have left it out. “If they told me they were going to put a lien on my house for solar, I would have told them to take their panels and put them somewhere else.”

The UCC problem was compounded by the fact that the Gellers had already hired contractors to rebuild their house, so they couldn’t wait for the delayed refinancing to go through. Instead, they put tens of thousands of dollars on their personal credit cards to pay for contractors and materials.

“We maxed out our charge cards waiting to close, because now the title company lawyers and the bank lawyers were discussing with them to get a paper to take this lien off temporarily and put it right back on after we close, which I asked them not to, but it’s on.”

Geller’s stress level only increased when NRG announced in February of 2017 that it was exiting the home solar market on Long Island. “I think they came on the island, they got what they wanted … and left. They don’t care.”

NRG declined to comment.

Geller said he’s been told he can permanently remove the lien on his house – if he pays the full value of the solar system, which he said is $32,000. But as far as he’s concerned the system is worth only $12,000, given his estimated savings of only $50 a month.

Five tips for avoiding solar pitfalls

Geller said he didn’t realize how much trouble the UCC could cause. “There’s so many pages they sent me time after time after time with new contracts. I read it. I saw something that said UCC. I never heard of it. I didn’t know what it was. I actually thought it was something that they did. Not a lien on my house.”

Nationally, critics like the New Mexico attorney general say UCCs have created unexpected headaches for solar homeowners around the country. Potential buyers, mortgage companies, title searchers and their attorneys may balk at purchasing property with UCCs attached to them, they say.

Solar firms contend that UCCs are not liens and say they cooperate with homeowners who want to sell their homes. “We are aware that lenders prefer not to see anything on the title so it’s common practice for us to release the UCC-1 fixture filing for financing purposes and re-file later,” said Solar City on its website, with a team dedicated to this task.

But this fine-print distinction may be enough to scare away potential home buyers. “I can see an average consumer being confused by that language,” said real estate law expert Peter Marullo of the Uniondale-based firm Ruskin Moscou. “People get caught up on whether it’s a lien on the house or on the [solar] fixture. But bottom-line, as a buyer, you have to realize that you’re going to be taking over these lease payments.”

‘We do see that there is a potential disaster looming for home buyers who are stepping into these transactions not aware that there are potential leases.’
-Susan Hamblen, owner-broker at Exit Realty Achieve

While leasing companies say UCC filings can be temporarily lifted for refinancing transactions, new owners of a home with a leased system must either qualify for and assume the lease, or the seller must buy it outright.

Real estate agents are bracing.

“We do see that there is a potential disaster looming for home buyers who are stepping into these transactions not aware that there are potential leases,” said Susan Hamblen, owner-broker at Exit Realty Achieve in Smithtown, who, like other firms, now requires her agents receive extensive solar training to navigate the complex transactions.

Walter, the former Riverhead supervisor and a real estate lawyer, said he’s had at least three clients in the past year who’ve had a home closing set back by a solar contract. “The solar lease is a debt,” said Walter. “The solar companies are not telling people that if you are not planning to live in their homes for 20 years, it becomes a drain.”

Despite claims to the contrary, Walter said solar leases most definitely encumber homeowners with financial liens against their homes. “It’s absolutely a lien,” he said. “They [leasing companies] file a UCC and a financing document in the clerk’s office.” In one case, Walter said, a client actually had a second mortgage on his home tied only to the solar panels and installation costs.

More broadly, Walter said, the contracts give the solar companies all the leverage.

“They are putting a lien on the solar panels,” he said. “They can come up on your roof and take back their solar panels.”

With a solar lien attached to a home, a new buyer of that home has to be creditworthy to assume the lease — if they want it at all. If not, the seller has to make an accommodation in the price, or buy the system outright and essentially give it away as part of the sale.

“You have to be creditworthy in the solar company’s book in order for the lease to be transferred,” Walter said. And your credit score can actually be lowered by the amount of cost tied to the solar lease. “You can borrow less money” with a UCC solar lease on your credit record, he said. In one case, a client paid around $20,000 for the solar system that didn’t increase the value of the home proportionately when he sold it. “He’s basically gifting these solar panels” to the new owner, who gets a free electric system and a zero energy bill, Walter said.

Real estate agent Amblen said she’s become so aware of the pitfalls of lease or power-purchase agreement transactions that she now trains and certifies all her agents on solar’s potential impacts

“Leases have potential increases as well as very faulty guarantees in some circumstances,” she said. “The buyer really has no knowledge of what they’re getting into, what they’re signing up for. Unfortunately, we’re also finding that some of the vendors in the field, the real-estate attorneys, the mortgage people, are not yet brought up to speed with the things in solar. So we’re trying to educate buyers.” She’s also conducting educational programs for the attorneys, mortgage managers and even other Realtors, she said.

Sunny or cloudy days ahead for solar?

Overall, experts offer a number of reasons for the recent drop-off in solar panel installations on Long Island — and what it might mean for the future.

Some point to state and federal incentives — such as rebates and tax write-offs that fueled the industry’s rapid rise earlier in this decade — that are now on the decline. A national study for the trade group SEIA found solar installations in 2017 fell 30 percent from the year before and predicts sign-ups will be lower through 2022 because of new tariffs on imported panels and changing tax laws.

Another reason for the dropoff is that Long Island’s largest installer, Solar City, is moving away from lease deals for solar panels toward cash sales and loans, and promoting a full solar roof model considered more profitable.

The overall market decline in Solar City’s panel installations in recent years is compounded by the departure of other large solar companies that once competed in the Long Island market. Word-of-mouth among solar customers with long-terms leases — angry about such controversial issues as “escalator clauses,” UCCs and other factors in the fine print — has also taken its toll.

But looking toward the future, some like PSEG’s Voltz say Long Island’s once booming solar market has plateaued rather than fizzled, reflected in a slight upturn expected this year. “We think it’s been a healthy market,” he said. “It maybe got a little overheated for a couple of years from many leasing companies — that’s just my perspective.”

-With Tim Healy


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While Apple stole headlines this summer, becoming the first company to reach a $1 trillion market cap, the renewable energy industry celebrated a different milestone beginning with the letter “t.” According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), global capacity for solar and wind power generation has exceeded 1 terawatt. And it won’t be long before we celebrate the next terawatt. BNEF estimates that the second terawatt of generating capacity will be installed in 2023 at a cost 46{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974} lower than the first.

Along with the growing acceptance of renewable energy, a variety of investment opportunities have emerged, presenting more diversity than solar panel and wind turbine manufacturers. So let’s look at some of the different ways in which investors can electrify their portfolios.

A row of wind turbines stretch across a mountain ridge as fog blankets the landscape behind it.

Image source: Getty Images.

A hankering for the hardware

Producing thin-film solar modules that use a cadmium-telluride compound instead of the more prevalent multi-crystalline silicon technology, First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) primarily provides its solar modules to utility-scale projects. Besides the production of modules, the company offers its customers operations and maintenance (O&M) solutions. In fact, Greentech Media, in late 2017, named First Solar, which has 6.3 GW of projects under management, the top O&M provider for the fourth year in a row. Indicating the bright future that lies ahead of it, First Solar recently reported that the total projects in its pipeline equal more than 6.1 GW. For context, the company, as of the end of 2017, had sold more than 17 GW of solar modules throughout its history.

With roots stretching back to 1898, Vestas Wind Systems (NASDAQOTH:VWDRY) represents one of the most recognizable names in the wind industry — an industry that has had the wind at its back so far in the 21st century. From 2001 to 2017, for example, global cumulative installed wind capacity has grown a whopping 2,156{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974}. Demonstrating the company’s large presence, it accounts for the second-most cumulative installed offshore wind capacity (a market much greater around the world than in the U.S.) in Europe. Vestas’ footprint, in all likelihood, will continue to grow. The company’s backlog, between wind turbine orders and service agreements, totals 23 billion euros as of the end of the second quarter. And peeking at its past proves how lucrative its business can be. Over the past five years, the company has averaged 1.2 billion euros in free cash flow, according to Morningstar.

Get paid while you wait

Yieldcos offer investors another viable approach. Inking long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) to sell the electricity to a utility or other entity, yieldcos generate stable cash flows over extended periods of time; in turn, this cash is returned to shareholders. One such example is Pattern Energy (NASDAQ:PEGI), which is primarily focused on wind power facilities, although the company’s 2,860 MW portfolio includes 24 utility-scale projects, representing wind, solar, transmissions, and storage projects in the U.S., Canada, and Japan.

One of the greatest risks facing Pattern Energy is the potential for its counterparties to default on their PPAs. Management, however, mitigates this risk by partnering with entities with high credit ratings. The average credit rating (from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s) of its off-takers is an A. Currently, Pattern Energy pays out more than 90{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974} of its cash available for distribution (CAFD), but, according to a presentation from 2017, it intends to take a more conservative approach, targeting a CAFD payout ratio of 80{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974} by 2020. For dividend-minded investors, Pattern Energy’s appeal is clear, as its dividend yield is currently north of 8.3{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974}.

Icons for renewable energy sources circle a bright light bulb, held by a hand, in front of a globe.

Image source: Getty Images.

Instead of a yieldco perhaps a master limited partnership like Brookfield Renewable Partners LP (NYSE:BEP). which also secures PPAs will pique investors’ interests. With 876 generating facilities, including hydroelectric, wind, solar, and storage, Brookfield Renewable Partners has a portfolio of projects that represents 17,400 MW of installed capacity. Looking ahead, the company targets annual investments of $600 million to $700 million in high-quality assets, which will provide 12{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974} to 15{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974} returns on investment. Similar to Pattern Energy, Brookfield returned more than 90{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974} of its CAFD to shareholders in 2017; however, unlike Pattern Energy, Brookfield Renewable Partners identifies a long-term payout ratio of 70{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974} from its CAFD. Of greater appeal to conservative investors may be the fact that the company maintains an investment-grade balance sheet based on credit ratings from both Standard & Poor’s and DBRS.

A third opportunity to be charged up about

Instead of investing in a single business, some investors may be more comfortable with choosing a basket of stocks. In this case, there are several exchange-traded funds (ETFs) from which they can choose. For example, the Invesco Solar ETF (NYSEMKT:TAN) offers investors 23 holdings that represent various companies in the solar industry, ranging from solar panel manufacturers to utilities to financiers. The ETF is not actively managed — it tracks the MAC Global Solar Energy Index — so it has a moderately low expense ratio of 0.74{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974}. And shareholders can expect their portfolios to heat up in December when the ETF makes its annual distribution, which yields about 1.95{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974} based on last year’s amount.

For those afraid of getting burned with the solar ETF, the iShares Global Clean Energy ETF (NASDAQ:ICLN) may be a more attractive option since the fund’s stated objective is to “track the investment results of the S&P Global Clean Energy Index.” The fund’s 30 holdings represent global leaders in renewable energy, ranging from solar power to geothermal to waste-to-energy. Like the Invesco Solar ETF, the iShares Global Clean Energy ETF is not actively managed and carries a fairly low expense ratio of 0.47{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974}. Distributions are made semiannually and currently offer a trailing-12-month yield of 2.34{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974}.

Which opportunity is most electrifying for you?

Investors charged up about the prospects of renewable energy have a variety of approaches from which they can choose, whether pure plays in solar and wind via First Solar and Vestas, respectively, a yieldco, a master limited partnership, or ETFs. Moving forward, investors should look to see that backlogs in products and services continue to grow for First Solar and Vestas. Similarly, the development of projects in the pipelines — and addition of new projects — of Pattern Energy and Brookfield Renewable Partners should energize investors’ optimism.


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SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – Solar energy advocates are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to change the way the state determines compensation for solar projects.

Solar array in the town of Clay that provides electricity to the town office building. ELLEN ABBOTT / WRVO PUBLIC MEDIA

The problems began about a year ago, when the Public Service Commission replaced net metering with a policy called the Value of Distributed Energy Resources, or VDER for short. Chris Carrick, the Energy Program Manager at the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board said the new policy ultimately reduces the worth of solar power.

“The outcome of this is driving solar development towards very limited areas of the state where the VDER policy is not so bad, but taking an axe to parts of the state like central New York,” Carrick said.

And that has been a death knell for solar power projects. So far, Carrick said the state has lost $800 million in local investment, and $258 million in central New York alone. That could include a project in the town of Clay. Supervisor Damian Ulatowski said there are plans for a solar array on six acres of town-owned land for a community solar project.

“It is in jeopardy at the moment because of this so-called VDER concept, which makes it less attractive for developers of these project to participate, because usually it’s a shared effort,” Ulatowski said.

Net metering replaces the complicated VDER concept with a simple reimbursement method. The Assembly has passed a bill that would put VDER on hold for community solar projects, but it has not moved in the state Senate. Carrick said boosters will continue to look for legislative relief. But time is of the essence, so they are also turning to the governor.

“Because solar developers will simply pull up stakes and move to other states where the policy is more friendly,” Carrick said. “Time is money, and if it takes another six months or a year to sort this out, then we’ll be behind.”


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News Release — SunCommon
Aug. 28, 2018

James Moore, SunCommon, 802.882.8144, c 802.505.8698

SunCommon report shows 14{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974} reduction in energy costs during heat wave

A third-party analysis, released today by SunCommon, demonstrates how the solar energy produced by a relatively small number of homes and businesses benefits all electric ratepayers. Wholesale costs were decreased by 14{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974}, or $20 million dollars, when temperatures soared across New England in the July heat wave. The report cites as much as $4.8 million in savings on just one day of the July heatwave, as solar systems across the region helped meet its elevated energy needs. The current heat wave could drive even higher electric demand that will be similarly tempered by the region’s solar power.

“We’ve always known that solar contributes in a big way to our region’s energy needs on long, hot, sunny summer days. We wanted to put numbers to it,” said James Moore, SunCommon co-founder. “$20 million in savings in one week is impressive! The amount of solar produced was the equivalent of removing 850,000 homes from New England’s grid.”

SunCommon hired Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., a research and consulting firm, to analyze the financial impact of solar to the New England electric grid between July 1 and July 7. In the midst of a heatwave, solar systems produce huge amounts of power during the same hours that energy prices soar.

“Solar power is the perfect match for heat waves. During a heat wave, energy demand goes through the roof and so do energy costs. The power that solar produces allows our utilities to buy less of the most expensive – and often the dirtiest – energy,” explained Patrick Knight of Synapse Energy Economics.

“I love checking my solar monitoring on these long, sunny days,” said Ryan Dudley, a SunCommon solar customer and middle-school teacher. “Knowing that my solar system produces enough power to keep up with our needs, and sends extra savings to my neighbors and community is even more satisfying. I feel like I’m doing my part.”

The Synapse-authored analysis reports localized energy savings that strongly reflect the penetration of solar in each New England state.

Massachusetts boasts half of New England’s solar capacity and contributed $9.3 million in savings from solar during the period analyzed.

Vermont, the smallest of the New England states by population, hosts 17{0b7da518931e2dc7f5435818fa9adcc81ac764ac1dff918ce2cdfc05099e9974} of its solar capacity and contributed $1.3 million in savings.

Maine and Rhode Island saved the least with $1.2 million each, due to their relatively low solar adoption.

“Every home and business-owner who’s made the decision to go solar should know that they did more than just make the right decision for the planet. Their solar systems are contributing significant energy savings across our region on hot, summer days,” said Moore. “As the climate warms, and heat waves become more frequent, our solar systems will only do more to temper energy costs.”


For more information, including the full Synapse report: www.suncommon.com/heat-wave


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WASHINGTON – Solar installations continue to slow in the United States, according to new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In June more than 486,000 kilowatts of solar panels were shipped, a more than 40 percent decrease from a year ago.

RELATED STORY: Does Donald Trump have it in for the solar industry?

After a record year in 2016, with more than 13.4 million kilowatts of solar panels installed, the industry has steadily pulled back. Analysts attribute the shift to a rush to install panels in 2016, to take advantage of a federal tax credit that was scheduled to expire but Congress ultimately extended.

And the solar industry faces further headwinds, after President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on imported solar panels earlier this year, to boost domestic manufacturing.

But even with the slowdown, the rise of increasingly affordable solar energy on the U.S. power grid is not going away. Solar capacity is expected to more than double over the next five years, with annual installations reaching 14 million kilowatts by 2023, according to GTM Research.


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Mr. Trash Wheel is a solar and water powered trash cleaner that keeps garbage from the ocean and it's then converted into energy.


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