Direct Energy Solar Offers Community Solar Programs

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viagra arial,sans-serif; font-size: 12pt;”>What is the “community solar movement?”

 

By Tim Pompey

California is moving swiftly toward expanding the use of renewable energy sources (wind, solar, geothermal) as part of the state’s overall energy package for its customers.

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Governor Jerry Brown announced in his most recent state of the state address last January that he would like to increase the state’s renewable energy goals from one-third by 2020 to 50 percent by 2030. He followed up in October by signing legislation that would require state-regulated utilities to get 50 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Of course, there are many different ways you as an energy consumer can be involved in using renewables and becoming more energy efficient. One of those options is to consider installing solar panels.

Since the concern for some has been the up-front costs of solar installation, the common question asked by many potential solar customers is usually twofold:  If I install solar, how much will it cost and how long before I receive a decent return on investment?

The answer to this always depends on how much electricity you use and how much it costs to install your panels, and it usually assumes that the purchase is a one-to-one business transaction. A homeowner buys the panels and pays for the cost up front. A solar company installs the system. Your solar power system starts working.

There are many different ways to purchase and install solar. The community solar movement in the United States began in Portland, Ore. in 2009 as a community-level bulk purchasing program for residential solar systems. The Community Environmental Council, located in Santa Barbara began running programs in 2014.  Seeing the benefits, many communities are choosing to run their own community programs.

According to Pendrey, community is defined “as a group of people who live in a geographic area where they have a common point of communication.”

Defining community groups in a local area allows Direct Energy Solar to reach out to all members of that specified community. “It can be a church and its membership,” said Pendrey. “It can be a business and its employees. It can be an HOA and all of the homeowners. It can be a whole town, a whole city or even an entire county.”

As an example, here in Oxnard, Direct Energy Solar is currently working with the Ventura County Contractors Association (VCCA), which has 396 companies as current members.

The deal is this: Direct Energy Solar establishes a memorandum of understanding with a community group (that may include payment options and financing).  The intent of a community solar program is to drive the adoption of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems through a partnership between local solar ambassadors and a highly-qualified solar installer. The community volunteers lead the outreach effort with support from the installer. The installer provides high-quality solar installations under a tiered pricing structure that reduces the price for everyone as more people participate in the program. According to Pendrey, the end result is a solar installation that costs well below market rates because as more people sign up the price for all in the group goes down. The process is streamlined and simplified.

Installing solar doesn’t mean a customer goes completely off the normal power grid Rather, after installing solar, the customer usually agrees with their electric provider to be put on what Pendrey terms a “net energy metering,” or NEM.

An NEM is an agreement with Southern California Edison or Pacific Gas & Electric that allows you to turn the meter backwards during the day when you’re generating solar and then use normal metering when the customer is pulling from the grid during the night. “Effectively, you’re trying to make enough electricity during the day to generate enough power for a 24-hour consumption,” said Pendrey.

Direct Energy Solar can customize an installation according to what you want—whether it’s an NEM or installing just enough solar to reduce your electric consumption and avoid an energy “tier.” Solar panels can also allow you to avoid the seasonal rate tiers that happen during spring and winter.

How does one start a community solar program?

“They basically need to come to us and let us know they’re interested,” said Pendrey. “We would assess the community and figure out what kind of offering we can make for that community and then we’ll present it to them.”

The important question for the community group is: Whom do you know? What groups are you a part of that might make up a community? From church to HOA, to country club, to a business, to a group of elected city officials, the larger the group, the greater the savings. To maximize those savings, Pendrey suggests groups that add up to a thousand or more customers.

As usual, you the customer should do careful research to find out what options are best for your needs. Shop and compare among solar companies to see what installation options are available in your area. Check out recommendations on the Better Business Bureau website (https://www.bbb.org) and find any consumer reviews that might allow for customer comments.

In line with what Governor Brown is hoping to accomplish in California, this may be your time to install solar panels and reduce your electric bills, protect the environment, and enjoy the benefits of clean energy. Best of all, it could be more affordable than you think.

DirectEnergySolarDirect Energy Solar is one of the largest full-service, residential solar providers in the Eastern United States. The company is headquartered in Maryland and 600 employees sell and install solar arrays in six Mid-Atlantic states, throughout New England, Washington, D.C. and California. Our mission is to spread solar power to the rooftops of America and ensure that customers get the most out of their solar panels—the most energy generated, the most electricity savings, the most beneficial environmental impact, and the most joy each time they see a sunny day. Direct Energy Solar has a regional office in Corona and a new local office in Simi Valley.

For more information on Direct Solar Energy’s community solar program, contact Wayne Pendrey at (805) 212-2362 or email him at [email protected]

 

About the Author

PompeyTimVisit Amazon’s Tim Pompey Page

Tim Pompey is a news writer and poet living along California’s Central Coast. He was awarded the Still Waters Press Winter Poetry Award 2000 for his chapbook, Getting Through the Fog. His previous collections of short stories, One Side Leads to the Other, Burnt by Sun, Blind Spot, and Primitive Terrain, as well as his novels, Freeland, Nightfly, The Perilous Paintings of Lily and Find Walter are available on Amazon.
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