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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 3 Comments | Updated on Nov 3, 2011

Public Solar Often a No-Go With Fed’s Favor for Solar Tax Incentives

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/public-solar-often-no-go-feds-favor-solar-tax-incentives/

You’re a city manager hoping to cut electricity costs at sewage treatment plant, a school administrator looking to power schools with solar, or a state park official needing an off-grid solar array for a remote ranger station. 

But unlike any private home or business, you can’t get 50% off using the federal tax incentives for solar (a 30% tax credit and ~20% from accelerated depreciation).  That’s because the federal government’s energy policies all use the tax code, and your organization is tax exempt.

What about a public-private partnership?  The private entity puts up some money and gets the tax benefits, and the public entity only has to pay half.  It can work, if you’re lucky, although a good portion of those tax benefits (half, in recent years) pass through to that private entity for their return on investment, not changing the price of your solar array.

But the legal niceties also matter.  One common option is a lease, where the public entity leases the solar panels from the private one.  One big problem: the IRS doesn’t allow the private entity to collect the 30% tax credit if they lease to a public entity. 

The cash grant program in lieu of the tax credit allowed leasing, but it expires in December.  Furthermore, it disallowed depreciation of the solar array, equivalent to 20% off.

Another clever arrangement is a power purchase agreement (PPA), where the third-party owns the solar array and simply sells the power to the school or city.  The third-party can claim both the tax credit and depreciation, but if you live in a state with a regulated utility market (and no retail competition), your utility might slap you with a lawsuit for violating their right to exclusive retail service.

The following chart illustrates the financial challenge for public entities created by using the tax code to support solar. 

Chart of public sector options for solar purchase and federal incentives lost

Even with a lot of legal creativity, the public sector is often stymied in accessing both federal solar incentives.  The result is that private sector solar projects always get a lower cost of solar, because the public sector can only access federal incentives through (costly) partnerships with third parties.

Using the tax code for solar (instead of cash grants, production-based incentives, or CLEAN Contracts) is bad for the solar business, bad for taxpayers and bad for ratepayers.  It’s time to change course, and let the public sector go solar, too.

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 5 Comments | Updated on Nov 2, 2011

Citizens give “going Boulder” a new meaning: local energy self-reliance

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/citizens-give-going-boulder-new-meaning-local-energy-self-reliance/

By a razor-thin margin, Boulder citizens gave the city a victory for energy self-reliance on Tuesday, approving two ballot measures to let the city form a municipal utility.  If the city moves ahead, it would capture nearly $100 million currently spent on electricity imports and instead create up to $350 million in local economic development by dramatically increasing local clean energy production.   

The stage was set over several years, as the city’s multiple pleas for more clean energy were given short shrift by the incumbent electric utility, Xcel Energy.  Instead of meeting local demands for more wind and solar power, Xcel instead financed a new coal power plant and told Boulder that it could have more wind power only if it paid extra, and paid when the wind didn’t blow.  In response, the city authorized two measures for the Nov. 1 ballot to allow the city to pursue municipal clean energy production.

The campaign was enormously lopsided.  Xcel dumped nearly $1 million into a vote ‘no’ campaign,  outspending local clean energy supporters by a 10-to-1 margin and spending nearly $77 for each no vote.  On the flip side, nearly every local business or newspaper endorsement (and nearly 1000 individual citizen endorsements) supported a ‘yes’ vote.  Despite the financial disadvantage, the local grassroots groups won, though their margin of victory was less than 3%.

The victory margin was small, but the clean energy and economic opportunity is enormous.  According to a citizen-led and peer reviewed study, the city could increase renewable energy production by 40 percent from multiple, local sources without increasing rates.  In contrast to the $100 million in revenue sent to Xcel under the current arrangement, the economic value of local energy production and ownership could multiply within the city’s economy to as much as $350 million a year, according to research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.   

If the city uses its new authority to become a utility, future generations may look back at 11/1/11 as the shot heard round the world – a shot fired for clean, local energy – and ask why more Americans didn’t “go Boulder” sooner. 

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Article, ILSR Press Room filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by admin | No Comments | Updated on Oct 27, 2011

John Farrell Talks Solar Powered America in 2026 on the David Sirota Show

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/john-farrell-talks-solar-powered-america-2026-david-sirota-show/

On Tuesday, ILSR Senior Researcher John Farrell was invited on the David Sirota Show on AM760 in Denver to talk about his article on Local Solar Could Power America in 2026. Click here to find the podcast from iTunes (Sirota Tuesday 10-25-11, Hour 3), the segment starts at 16:24. Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 3 Comments | Updated on Oct 26, 2011

Group Purchase Gets Residential Solar to Grid Parity in Los Angeles

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/group-purchase-gets-residential-solar-grid-parity-los-angeles/

Back for a second round, the Open Neighborhoods organization in Los Angeles has organized another group purchase of residential and commercial solar PV, bringing the cost of solar incredibly close to the cost of grid power. With grid prices constantly rising, the lifetime savings of going solar have never looked better.

The savings from the group purchase are enormous.  With prices are around $4.40 per Watt installed for solar, Open Neighborhoods gets residential solar for $2.00 cheaper than the average prices reported by the Solar Energy Industries Association for the second quarter of 2011.  That equates to a 6 cents per kilowatt-hour savings on solar over 25 years.  Even with solar typically being cheaper in California, the group advertises savings of as much as 33% on a residential solar array.

The low group purchase price means that those who go solar will have cheaper electricity from their rooftop panels than average grid electricity by 2015.  If the solar user is on a time-of-use pricing plan, they’ll already have cheaper electricity from solar than from their utility.

The following chart illustrates the comparison between the cost of power from a rooftop solar array purchased as part of this group buy versus grid electricity at a flat rate.

 

 

The results are promising and show that economies of scale can be achieved even with residential solar, if folks work together.

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Article filed under Broadband | Written by admin | No Comments | Updated on Oct 25, 2011

Christopher Mitchell Analyzes Community Network Opportunities in Colorado

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/christopher-mitchell-analyzes-community-network-opportunities-in-colorado/

10/25/2011 – Christopher Mitchell sheds light on community networks and lobbying in Colorado in the Huffington Post. Longmont, Colorado has become ground zero for the battle over the future of access to the Internet. Because big cable and telephone companies have stopped us from having a real choice in Internet Service Providers and failed to… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | 3 Comments | Updated on Oct 24, 2011

Half of Germany’s 53,000 Megawatts of Renewable Energy is Locally Owned

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/half-germanys-53000-megawatts-renewable-energy-locally-owned/
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Article filed under The Public Good, The Public Good News | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Oct 21, 2011

The Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/the-tea-party-vs-occupy-wall-street/

A few days ago NBC’s Meet the Press host David Gregory complained about Occupy Wall Street protestors “demonizing banks” and wondered, “Is this not a reverse tea party tactic?” Gregory is right.  In many respects Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is indeed a mirror image of the Tea Party. To the Tea Party government is the… Continue reading

Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Oct 20, 2011

One Year of Energy Self-Reliant States: Stats

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/one-year-energy-self-reliant-states-stats/

Happy Birthday!

For the numerically inclined and because no series of posts should be complete on Energy Self-Reliant States without a chart, here’s the weekly site visits to Energy Self-Reliant States starting with our launch last October.  We started slowly, but have been steadily piling on the new visits since early this year.  The early summer drop can be blamed on the person pictured below.

 

The cause of our mid-summer slide:

We’re also getting more people to sign up for our weekly update email, and follow yours truly on Twitter.

Thanks again for a wonderful first year at Energy Self-Reliant States!  Help us keep producing these great charts and great analysis of distributed renewable energy by donating!

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Oct 20, 2011

One Year of Energy Self-Reliant States: Greatest Syndicated Hits

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/one-year-energy-self-reliant-states-greatest-syndicated-hits/

Happy Birthday!I’ve shared the greatest hits on Energy Self-Reliant States from our first year, but we were honored to be invited to syndicate this blog at Grist, Renewable Energy World and CleanTechnica before the year was out.  With a bit of time to revise before we re-published, the top 10 Greatest Syndicated Hits list differs a lot from the list of ones our direct readers selected:

  1. Busting 4 myths about CSP and PV – (140 comments on Renewable Energy World)
  2. Cost of nuclear, not Japan crisis, should scrub nuclear power -  (78 comments on Grist)
  3. Want local communities to support wind?  Put them in charge. – (94 tweets from Grist)
  4. Value of solar far exceeds its cost -  (359 tweets from Grist)
  5. Concentrated solar power plants are all wet (the water use issue of concentrating solar power) -  (91 comments on Grist, 100 tweets from CleanTechnica)
  6. Local solar could power the Mountain West right now, all of America in 2026 -  (325 tweets, 29 comments on Grist; 1400 views and 140 tweets and 2,200 views at CleanTechnica)
  7. State Energy Self-Reliance Map – (2,300 views at CleanTechnica)
  8. Solving wind power variability with more wind – (85 tweets and 46 comments across multiple sites)
  9. New York City’s solar windfall illuminates America’s clean energy future – (over 100 tweets and 25 comments across multiple sites)
  10. Is the Bloom Box cheaper than solar? – (43 comments across multiple sites)

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Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Oct 20, 2011

One Year of Energy Self-Reliant States: Greatest Hits

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/one-year-energy-self-reliant-states-greatest-hits/