Mission statement

Who we are: A grass roots volunteer group of Plano citizens
Our Mission: To increase awareness and use of Solar Energy for electricity generation in Plano
The Blog: http://PlanoSolar.blogspot.com - for articles, useful links, resources, surveys, how-tos
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pvplano - for community dialog, sharing ideas, relevant events calendar
**** Check out our 1 minute video **** Solar Energy in Texas - Don't you wonder?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Learn about Solar in Texas, North Texas, and Plano (in 5 minutes)

Watch these three short informational videos. Spread the word and help them go internet viral in Texas, North Texas, and Plano!
  1. Solar Energy in Texas - Don't You Wonder? (Plano Solar Advocates)
  2. Solar Ready II Initiative (North Central Texas Council of Governments)
  3. Solarize Plano 2014 (Plano Television Network)

Video 1 - Let's set the stage. Imagine you are watching commercials during the Superbowl. :-). Maybe you have just watched a neat multi-million dollar commercial from an energy company (oil, natural gas, etc.), and then this short (1 minute), zero dollar commercial plays...... anyway, just imagine..... Don't you wonder?

Video 2 - The North Central Texas Council of Governments currently has an initiative underway called Solar Ready II. Check out this 2 minute video to learn about it.  It features one of our 2013 Solarize Plano participants. Also see www.nctcog.org/solar

Video 3 - The Plano Television Network prepared this 2 minute video about the 2014 Solarize Plano Project.  Watch it to learn more.  If you don't live in Plano, we encourage you to start a "solarize" group purchase in your neighborhood.  See DFW Solarize Projects. Don't live in the North Texas area, check out www.SolarizeTexas.org to learn about other solarize projects starting to shine all across Texas

Shine On!
Plano Solar Energy Advocates (LH)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Solarize YOUR Neighborhood

What IS a "solarize" event??

Let's explain by asking .. are you ready to generate some or all of the electricity you need right at home? Are you ready to go solar, but not sure where to start? Are you ready to tap that untapped local energy resource – the SUN?

On January 11, from 10am to Noon, join the North Texas Renewable Energy Group and Plano Solar Advocates to discuss the "Solarize" concept. "Solarize" is a group bulk-purchase process that can help neighborhoods and cities install rooftop solar photovoltaics at reduced cost. Come join us (and bring your neighbor!) to learn how you can start a Solarize program in your neighborhood! 

Topics for discussion: Program setup. Outreach and Education. Selecting a Solar Company. Install Solar!

The goal of the meeting will be to begin creating a network of people across the DFW area that are interested in launching projects in their own communities.  For example, a group in Garland has already started getting together. If you live in Garland, check out Solarize Garland and reach out to this group using their contact us form.

For more meeting details and logistics, check out the NTREG Events page - http://www.ntreg.org/events.shtml - and scroll down to the section titled NTREG Monthly Meeting, Saturday, January 11, 2014.

For some background before you attend, check out:

  1. This great - short - 3 minute video - Purchasing Solar Collectively with Solarize
  2. These recent articles about Solarize Plano:
    1. "Solarize Plano" Initiative Exceeds Installation Expectations in Energy-Rich Texas
    2. Grass-roots group hopes to make Plano a solar power leader
Also, if you know of any DFW area solarize projects being launched or groups that are considering to start projects, please share information in the comments to this posting.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Solarize Plano Awarded "Local Initiative of the Year" by the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association

The Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA) is a non-profit trade association of companies and individuals engaged in renewable energy in Texas.  TREIA has been an advocate for clean energy, energy security, energy independence, and Texas jobs since 1984.  (For more background, see www.treia.org)
 
Every year, TREIA organizes an annual conference called the Texas Renewables Conference (see www.texasrenewables.org).  This year's conference was held in San Antonio, Nov 11-13. The conference program covered four important topical areas:
  • Renewable Energy Opportunities Related to Fossil Fuels
  • Market Opportunities and Economic Development in Rural Texas
  • Renewable Energy Opportunities with the Defense Community
  • Innovative Renewable Energy Policies and Projects Across the State
Also, on an annual basis, TREIA's Award Committee identifies organizations, projects, and individuals to honor at the conference for their contributions to renewable energy in Texas.  This year's awards included:
  • Project of the Decade
  • Local Advocate of the Year
  • Local Initiative of the Year
  • Statewide Collaborative of the Year
  • Community Project of the Year
  • Community of the Year
  • Individual Member of the Year
Plano Solar Advocates was very excited and honored to be recognized as the award recipient for the "Local Initiative of the Year".  When introducing this award, Mark Begert of the TREIA Awards Committee, gave this introduction.

"TREIA's 2013 Local Initiative of the Year, recognizes an outstanding, promising, and replicable effort that can serve as a model to grow renewable energy in Texas. This year’s Local Initiative of the Year is the Solarize Plano Project, organized by Plano Solar Advocates.

The Solarize Plano Project demonstrates how great things can come in small packages. The program connects residential homeowners that are ready to install solar, with local, qualified installers and available incentives via a group purchase process that benefits both customers and installers.

For customers, the process gets questions answered up front, provides a means of self-screening, and increases customer satisfaction throughout the quote and installation process. By purchasing as a group, customers receive a standard system design at the lowest possible cost.

For installers, much of the up-front work of educating and qualifying customers is already complete, so they are able to more efficiently serve those who ultimately choose to contract for solar. Installers were asked to submit pricing in tiers depending on the total capacity contracted, the more solar contracted, the lower the price.

Solarize Plano initially targeted 20 enrollees in their community, and in their first pilot this year they achieved enrollment of over 200. The project selected a contractor, Axium Solar, who has completed over 52 site assessments resulting in commitments 25 contracts for 120 kW of new solar, a volume that has entitled all enrollees to the lowest cost pricing tier.

Solarize Plano is replicable model and demonstrates how the initiative of just a few individuals can make a lasting change for the better."


To learn more about the awards and award recipients, see the photographs section of  TEXAS RENEWABLES 2013 Wrap-Up. At this website, you can also check out all the presentations from the conference speakers, including Plano Solar Advocates' presentation, Solarize Plano - Educating the Community, Facilitating Installations.

And great news for the DFW area, the 2014 conference will be held in Dallas.  Learn more at Texas Renewables 2014

Plano Solar Advocates would like to thank TREIA for this award, and strongly encourages neighborhoods and communities across the state to join together to initiate SOLARIZE projects in their communities, and to take advantage of that locally available untapped energy resource - energy from the SUN!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Planning for Solar, Plano’s Next 20 Years

What do Plano Solar Advocates, Plano’s comprehensive plan update, the American Planning Association, and local clean energy generation have in common? They are all coming together to help build a vision for Plano that includes tapping our untapped local energy resource – solar energy from the sun!  The American Planning Association has prepared briefing papers and webinars to help city planners better understand how to include solar resource planning in long range plans.  And Plano Solar Advocates and our city planners are participating in these webinars to help us lay a stronger foundation for tapping this local clean energy resource.

The City of Plano is in the process of revising its Comprehensive Plan. This plan, called “Plano Tomorrow” will be the guiding document for land use development and transportation planning for the next 20 years, helping to ensure that Plano continues to be a thriving employment center and great place to live.  Citizens can become involved and provide inputs to the development of this comprehensive plan by taking an online survey, using the “engage Plano” website, and participating in a group meeting process called “Take the Case”.  Information about the process and how to get involved can be found by following this link - How Can I Get Involved?

On September 24, 2013, a number of Plano Solar Advocate volunteers met together to participate in one of the “Take the Case” group meetings.  The main objective from the meeting was to develop three to five leading ideas to provide to city planners that they would consider for including in the comprehensive plan update.  The results from our session is given at the end of this blog posting.

We are encouraging other citizens to take time to provide your inputs about Plano’s future, and in particular, Plano’s solar future by doing one or more of the following:
Please feel free to utilize ideas from our “Take the case” session when submitting your inputs if it helps you to formulate your ideas.

Shine On!
Plano Solar Advocate (LH)

***** *****
Plano Solar Advocates - Leading Ideas for Plano for Comprehensive Plan suggestions developed during our Sept 24, 2013 “Take the Case” group meeting.

1. Establish an Environmental and Sustainability Citizen’s Advisory Board with representation from the City Council similar to other Boards and Commissions. This board would address all aspects of environmental sustainability including sustainable transportation, economic viability and opportunities for community engagement. Economic viability might include expanding the Research Technology area of Plano to attract higher income employment opportunities.

2. Develop and maintain a long range Energy Plan that includes all energy consumers - municipal, residential and business. Plano currently imports all of its electricity. The energy plan should include the objective of meeting 40% of electricity needs from locally generated solar power, 40% from imported clean energy, and the remaining 20% coming from reduced consumption and conventional energy sources. Utilizing local distributed solar energy will help offset peak demand periods, especially in the summer, and reduce stress on the utility distribution grid. A goal for the energy plan would for Plano to become known as the leader of Solar Friendly Communities across Texas and the nation. Plano should be also become a leader in the implementation of the Texas PACE program, the Texas Property Assessed Clean Energy Act legislation passed in June 2013. (See http://www.keepingpaceintexas.org/)

3. Update and enhance building code standards to promote energy net zero buildings for both new structures and re-development projects. This should include public education regarding the importance of natural resource stewardship.

4. Establish plan and vision to address long range water challenges, including reuse of gray water.  In combination with an energy plan that promotes local solar energy for electricity generation, water resources can be conserved because electricity generation from PV solar does not require water, unlike conventional centrally generated electricity power plants. Also, the treatment and delivery of our water supplies to our home and businesses requires a significant amount of electricity. Let’s make sure we understand the percentage of our water bills that are due to electricity costs and look for ways to improve efficiencies and reduce these energy costs. And, let’s make sure we are using clean energy resources like solar to generate electricity in the treatment and delivery of water.

5. Re-development of retail and commercial areas, including vacant strip centers. Possible options could include zoning for shared solar farms (or gardens) that would allow persons who are renters or whose homes are not suitable for solar installations to buy shares of the solar farm and receive credits on their electric bills for the production from their share of the solar farm.

***** *****

Monday, October 7, 2013

Plano Solar Advocates wins Community Partnership Award

On Sept. 25 the City of Plano presented the 2013 Environmental Community Awards (ECA) to honor outstanding environmental initiatives and achievements by schools, organizations, businesses and individuals throughout the community who make a difference.  Winners of the various awards were announced during the celebration luncheon at the Collin College Spring Creek Campus Living Legends Conference Center. Information is available at the Plano Environmental Community Awards website.

The Community Partnership Award recognizes an organization that has partnered with the City to accomplish an environmental objective that benefits the Plano community, or causes residents to take action to protect the environment in some way.  Plano Solar Advocates won this award for 2013.

Plano Solar Advocates is a grassroots group of volunteers with a passion for increasing awareness and expanding clean, local renewable energy, particularly the use of solar energy for electricity generation in Plano.  Their efforts have included delivering solar classes at local high schools, providing presentations at city sponsored energy seminars and local rotary clubs. Over the last year they have given 32 presentations to 1,220 people.  In addition, they have provided booths at local events like Learn 2 Live Green.  Their community involvement includes organizing solar projects and programs that impact the community.  Using solar car kits provided by the Texas Solar Energy Society, they taught solar energy to 14 PISD classes reaching 215 students while helping them assemble solar powered cars.  Their Solarize Plano initiative has connected homeowners ready to install solar with local qualified installers, and takes advantage of generous local utility incentives and a group purchase process resulting in lower costs to homeowners.

Some of our members were present to receive the award for all of our Plano Solar Advocates volunteers.  See the photo below which includes Plano's Mayor, Harry LaRosiliere, on the left side of the photo.  A link to the photo on Plano's website is given here - http://www.plano.gov/gallery.aspx?PID=695

Environmental Star of Excellence Community Award
Plano Solar Advocates Community Partnership Award

A complete summary and photos of the 2013 Plano Environmental Community Award Winners is available at Plano's Environmental Community Awards program website - http://www.plano.gov/index.aspx?NID=951
Please check out this website to learn more about the various group and individual initiatives happening all around Plano.

Shine On!
Plano Solar Advocate (LH)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The "Real" Power to Choose!

The Texas Public Utility Commission has created and maintains a very good website tool to help Texas consumers shop, compare, and choose a Retail Electric Provider (REP) and electricity rate plan. See - http://powertochoose.org/

However, doesn’t the REAL “Power To Choose” include the consumer choice option to generate some or all of your own electricity?

And what better way to do that than using local energy from the sun! Local energy that isn’t wasted by being transmitted over transmission lines for long distances. And local energy that doesn’t require our precious water resources for electricity generation like that of our existing central generation thermal power plants.

To help distributed generation PV solar become more mainstream in Texas, we are asking our readers to take a few steps to help improve the PowerToChoose website and provide consumer pressure on Texas REPs.  These steps are:
  1. Request upgrades to the PowerToChoose website to enable net metering type rate plan searching and comparing alongside the existing search features.
  2. Contact your REP to apply pressure on them to offer competitive net metering type rate plans.
  3. Contact Texas policy makers and instruct them to insure that REPs are offering competitive net metering type rate plans.
Let’s expand on each of these items.

1. Request upgrades to the power to choose website to enable net metering type rate plan searching and comparing alongside the existing search features.

The current PowerToChoose website offers a separate search for renewable energy buyback plans here - http://powertochoose.org/en-us/Content/Resource/Selling-Renewable-Power. (Note you must read down the page a bit to actually find the link to another page that then allows a search for a REP.) While this provides some useful information to the electricity consumer, it lacks the rate plan comparison feature that is provided for all the other options on the website.  It is important that the website be modified so that the sell back and net metering type rate plans are searchable with actual price/kWh posted like all the other rate plans.  Doing this would allow consumers to find and compare the "competitive" net metering type rate plans, or identify the absence of them. If competitive plans are absent, then consumers can further apply pressure to REPs and the Public Utility Commission as required.  

Our request then to our readers is this. Go to this website - http://powertochoose.org/en-us/Content/ContactUs - and submit a request/complaint similar to this:
 
Reason for Contact: Complaint
Email address: <enter your email address>
Subject: Distributed Generation sell back or net metering type rate plans
As more distributed generation PV solar is being deployed across Texas, we need the powertochoose website to provide a search/filter alongside the other search/filters so that net metering type rate plans can be found and easily compared to other rate plans.  When will you have this feature available?
Thanks,
<provide your name>

2. Contact your REP to apply pressure on them to offer competitive net metering type rate plans.

It will be VERY IMPORTANT for CONSUMERS to provide the necessary influence on REPs to provide competitive net metering type rate plans.   Our research into why there are not state policies requiring all REPs to offer competitive net metering type rate plans is because of the position of Texas policy makers (i.e. the Texas Legislature and the Public Utility Commission).  Their position is that as more people install PV solar systems, the market will drive the REPs to offer net metering rate plans to stay competitive.  Therefore, unless the policy makers have their positions changed by the voters, it must be the consumers who ultimately drive the REPs to offer competitive net metering type plans.

So the request to our readers to help provide this consumer influence is in these two parts:
  • If you find, select, and use a REP that offers a net metering type plan, but you feel it is not competitive, then contact them and tell them that the next time your plan is up for renewal, you will switch to a REP that offers a more competitive plan.  Whether you actually do it or not is not significant when you call to tell them - just start applying some consumer pressure.
  • If you are using a REP that has a more competitive rate plan, but does not offer a competitive net metering rate plan, then contact them with these questions and statements:
    • Ask them where does the excess electricity go that you are occasionally providing to the grid? Who uses it? Who gets paid for it?  (See NOTES at the end of this posting.)
    • Then indicate to them that since you don’t really want to provide free electricity to them or someone else on the grid, you will be switching to another REP that offers a net metering type rate plan when your plan is up for renewal. Again, whether you actually do it or not is not significant when you call to tell them - just start applying some consumer pressure.
  • Note - It is not necessary to immediately switch to a net metering type plan for a newly installed PV solar system to operate. However, if you do plan to immediately switch, some of our Solarize Plano participants have had the cancellation fees of their current rate plan waived by asking and making the point that they wouldn’t be switching if their current REP provided a net metering type plan.

3. Contact Texas policy makers and instruct them to insure that REPs are offering competitive net metering type rate plans.

So far, what we have been able to find when searching all across the state using the PowerToChoose website is that there are only three of the 112 REPs that are offering net metering type rate plans.  So now would be a good time to start contacting the Texas policy makers to get them to address this electricity “market design” change.

Additionally, when you contact your state legislators and PUC commissioners be sure to ask them while they are wrestling with ways to tweak the state electricity “market design” to get more peak power generated across Texas to address our peak demand challenges, why they just don’t go outside on a bright sunny summer day and look UP at one of the best solutions available!

For additional information on the significance and importance of distributed generation (DG) and net metering, see this link - Additional Information on Distributed Generation and Net Metering

Thanks in advance for your participation to help improve the competitive landscape in Texas for net metering type rate plans.

Best Regards and Shine On!
Plano Solar Energy Advocates (LH)

NOTES: (added 9/10/13)
1. For all you tax experts out there - if your REP doesn't pay you for your excess production, shouldn't you be able to deduct the value of the excess production on your taxes as a donation to the REP?
2. Or alternatively, how about starting a movement that REPs that are getting free electricity from your excess production be
A. required to account for the total amount of electricity from their customers that is being put into the grid for free,
B. required to put that total amount into a fund,
C. the fund must be used to assist people having trouble paying their electricity bill. 
Thoughts?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Does Georgia have more solar resources than Texas?

Does Georgia have more solar resources than Texas?  Are Georgia officials going to outshine Texas solar resources?  Let's make sure that in Texas we are good stewards of our natural energy resources and do more to add solar energy into our electricity mix.
 
Tapping our untapped natural energy resource in Texas is a bipartisan opportunity. In Georgia, it appears they are taking steps to take advantage of this opportunity. Check out these recent articles, and then contact your Texas state legislators and Public Utility Commissioners and ask for their support for a vision for today and for our future generations that includes a strong contribution of distributed solar energy for electricity generation in Texas!  Like prudent financial diversification, energy source diversification is important, and the competition provided by consumers being able to generate some of their own electricity helps keep electric utilities competitive - maybe something they are not used to, but should be!
 
  • see the last paragraph - “I don’t know what gas prices will be in six years. But I know the sun will come up, and it’s free. It’s not owned by Georgia Power, it’s not owned by Bubba McDonald, it’s not owned by the Public Service Commission,” McDonald said. “It’s free. And to deprive people of the opportunity to take advantage of technology, to me, is wrong.”
  • see the section about water - Solar PV uses less water than any other energy resource.
  • like "local" food initiatives, let's make sure Texas leverages "local" energy resources - distributed PV solar generation on people's homes and businesses takes advantage of local energy resources and reduces stresses and losses on our electric grid!
  • The Georgia PSC voted in favor of adding 525 megawatts of solar energy to Georgia Power’s 20-year resources plan during an afternoon meeting. Of that new solar generation, 125 megawatts will be reserved for smaller projects.

Best Regards,
Plano Solar Energy Advocates (LH)