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Solar Power Rocks

Clear info on home solar power rebates, tax credits, and other benefits

San Francisco Solar Incentive Program Approved by Board of Supervisors 6-3

Solar bill approvedFrom Alissa Pines and Wade Crowfoot at sfgov.org (I’m not sure which of the two actually wrote it, they both sent the same email):

“I wanted to give you a brief (very positive) update on the solar incentive program that Mayor Newsom and Assessor Ting have championed.

It was approved at first reading by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday by a vote of 6-3. Supporting the ordinance were Supervisors Ammiano, Chu, Elsbernd, Maxwell, Peskin, and Sandoval. Supervisors Daly, Mikarimi and McGoldrick voted against the ordinance. Supervisors Alioto-Pier and Dufty were absent from the meeting.

As a result of this vote, Mayor Newsom has withdrawn the solar incentive proposal from consideration on June ballot. Attached is his letter communicating this withdraw to the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors must vote again on this on Tuesday (March 4) for the proposal for it to be approved. (Passing ordinances require two votes at the Board of Supervisors.)

Please consider emailing or calling Supervisors to thank them that voted for the legislation:”

I don’t want to publish their emails, but if you email addresses on the web, but email me at and I’ll give it to you so you can thank them, or can encourage those who voted against to vote yest on Tuesday (Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi, and Jake McGoldrick)… or….

“It’s key to give positive feedback to those who supported the ordinance to ensure the program’s passage on Tuesday. More info on phone numbers and contact info for the Board can be found at http://www.sfgov.org/site/bdsupvrs_index.asp

If it’s passed on Tuesday, we look forward to getting back in touch late next week to discuss details of the immediate implementation of the incentive payments.

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in contact. Thanks much for all of your advocacy on this important program!

Alissa Pines
Policy Director
Office of Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting
City and County of San Francisco


Wade Crowfoot
Director of Climate Protection Initiatives
Office of Mayor Gavin Newsom

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solar news

Renewable Energy Bill Passes House

Funding will be an Issue for the Senate

Thousands of solar citizens sent messages to their U.S. representatives in the last few days to urge support for the House bill that would create tax credits for renewable energy.Here’s what happened:

A few minutes ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax of 2008 (H.R. 5351). The final vote was 236 – 182 with 11 members of the House not voting, and was largely split along party lines.

In a joint statement, Speaker Pelosi, House Majority Leader Hoyer and sponsor of the bill Rangel said: “The bill extends and expands tax incentives for renewable electricity, energy and fuel, as well as for hybrid cars, and energy efficient homes, buildings, and appliances. It does not add to our deficit, but rather repeals $18 billion in tax subsidies for Big Oil companies.”

“The bill extends and expands tax incentives for renewable electricity, energy and fuel, as well as for hybrid cars, and energy efficient homes, buildings, and appliances,” the Democratic leaders’ statement continued. “It does not add to our deficit, but rather repeals $18 billion in tax subsidies for Big Oil companies. By strengthening our renewable energy sector, the bill will help create the next generation of good-paying, green collar jobs and bring down energy prices in the long term.”

House Democrats spoke out in favor of the bill, saying that it will help push the U.S. toward energy independence. On the other side of the aisle, House Republicans spoke out against it on the grounds that it would do nothing more than single out America’s domestic oil industry with higher taxes that will hurt the economy and the pocket books of consumers.

H.R. 5351 will increase investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency and will pay for that investment by repealing unnecessary tax breaks to traditional energy companies. It is similar to the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act (H.R. 2776) that passed the House as part of a bipartisan energy package in August 2007 but was stripped in order for the package to pass in the Senate.

The Bush Administration has already issued a letter indicating that the president will veto a bill that rolls back tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, so all eyes are now on the Senate, to see whether the Finance Committee can find less objectionable sources of revenue.

Watch this space!


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Need More Fossils

I received this message from a satisfied reader:

HIM:  solar power rocks, you know, I mean it’s basically free energy from the sun

HIM: of course, oil is free energy from the ground so maybe it’s no different

ME: HAHAHHAHHAHHAHAHHAHAHA, yah but the  sun lasts way longer

HIM: yeah but the ground is way closer, if we could just get more plants to die and start the fossilization process we’d be golden

Just Need to Make More Fossil Fuels

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Unethical Practices in the Solar Power Industry


Most of the People in Solar Power are Good…

…And some steal your cheeseburgers. It’s like this:

When I visit a home to do a solar evaluation, I crunch the numbers and get a very precise estimate of the output of the system based on orientation, tilt, and shading. Now that I know that, I can get an accurate ROI. After I have this data, I present them to the customer with everything on the table. I often say, “look, you’re gonna have to either cut that tree or this just doesn’t work for you financially.” After that, even with systems that are not cost effective due to shading some people still move forward because it’s something they want to do for the earth.

Everyone in the industry has the capability and the tools to make their numbers very snug and correct with not a lot of effort.

Most of the providers out there are good people, but there are a few who are giving us a bad name. I won’t name names, because I can’t. I don’t know where these pictures were taken or who installed them. I only know my friends gave me these photos of installations they had seen that they knew, by eyeballing, shouldn’t have been done (the first picture being far more egregious than the second) unless there is some giant weird exception. In the following two photos of bay area solar installations, both trees are to the south, making the solar array shaded to all hell. Unless your company has lots of referral resources they can give you, or you know them personally, ALWAYS GET A SECOND QUOTE.

Another Bad Solar Install

Bad Solar Install

To be fair… I don’t know who installed these solar systems or what their story is. I don’t know that a solar salesman conned anyone into anything here… The owners could have plans to cut the trees… The owners could be super-altruistic and have money to burn on solar… They could even be uneducated solar do-it-yourselfers, I have no idea. What I DO know is that some solar installers get people to install systems that they shouldn’t. It’s rare but it happens. Addionally, to be fair to the hamburgler… I’ve met him. He’s got a habit… what’s he gonna do? When you get down to it he’s a nice guy… and with that laugh, how can you not love him. Dude just LOVES humburgers… Cut him a break!

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Cage Match: Solar Panel Boy vs. Redwood Man

Tree Man

This was a good radio show on NPR. Mark my words, there are going to be lots of lawsuits concerning casting shadows on solar panels.

Solar Panel Owner Sues Redwood Tree Planter

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Solar Powered Airplane Avionics

solar airplane
I just found this email in my “pics” folder and I thought it was interesting:


I represent Powerenz.com, they specialize in coming up with custom portable solar power units to meet almost any application. Here is a really cool solar power solution that they came up with for a pilot and his plane and some information to go with the pictures.

A commercial pilot who also owns a personal, single-engine, four-seater aircraft was looking for a better way to power his avionics system. The glass cockpit package in his airplane is a Garmin G1000 avionics, and is a 24-volt system. In order to power up the aircraft’s avionics system, either the battery must be turned on via a switch with the engine off, or the aircraft engine must be started and running. This either wastes battery power, or creates heat, loud noise and smoke, and burns and wastes high-cost aviation gas. On the front right side of the aircraft, there is an electrical DC power port that can be used to jump-start the airplane’s engine in case of battery failure by using a spare battery or to charge the airplane battery using AC power and a transformer. The pilot flies his airplane to several remote locations where there is no AC power. In addition, to carry a spare aircraft battery on flights occupies limited space, is heavy, and is expensive.

The pilot came to Powerenz and asked if they could design a portable power system that would allow him to power up the aircraft’s 24-volt avionics system with the engine off. He needed a unit that would not require him to use the aircraft battery, and could:

a. utilize solar energy for fuel instead of liquid fossil fuel
b. be stored and carried in one bag or case, by one person
c. be charged by AC power when available
d. provide durable, long-term independence from the power grid.

We assembled a portable solar panel-battery system that included the following components:
a. high-quality 12-volt, sealed lead acid battery
b. regulated 12-24-volt step-up DC-DC converter with a peak output power of 700 watts (29 amps)
c. two 42-watt foldable solar panels
d. 7-amp solar charge controller
e. proper fusing and wiring
f. 3-amp, automatic, 12-volt, AC-powered lead acid battery charger
g. proper connecting adapter that mates with the aircraft DC power port.

The step-up DC-DC converter was chosen over a second portable battery in order to save on weight. A second 12-volt battery could easily be substituted for the DC-DC converter, connected to the first battery in series, and provide 24 volts. This would be less expensive, though heavier than the DC-DC converter. The pilot chose the DC-DC converter option.

The entire system could be housed in either a heavy-duty tool-carrying case, a military tanker’s tool bag, or in a hard case such as those manufactured by Pelican, Hardigg, and HPRC.

The above portable power system can power up the aircraft avionics silently, without smoke, and without wasting aircraft fuel. The unit can be used for approximately 90 minutes before the portable battery required recharging. Ninety minutes of power was more than sufficient time to plan a flight, check weather, etc. During these preflight checks the aircraft engine does not have to be running, nor does the aircraft battery have to be used. To recharge the portable battery when low on charge would require 3-4 hours of good sunlight when using two 42-watt solar panels. The solar panels can be draped and secured over the aircraft wing, and left in place while the aircraft is parked on land until the next flight. When not in use, the portable system can be stored inside the aircraft until it is needed again.

To find out more information on Powerenz you can visit their website at Powerenz.com.

Thanks. It would be great if you could let me know if you decide to use any of the pictures. I also have the story in a case study form if you think your website visitors would be interested in that too.


Jon Davis
Internet Marketing Analyst

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