Sunday, June 30, 2013

Solar Powering Your Community Workshop

On May 20, 2013, a free interactive workshop, was held and presented by the SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership (, which provided actionable information on creating local-level solar programs in the Dallas and surrounding areas.  Areas of focus included: an overview of solar technology and why it is viable for the Dallas region; planning and zoning for solar; and innovative financing options for solar projects.

Presentations and video replays of the workshop are now available online. Go to the webpage - then, on the right side of the page, look under the section "Recent Events" for links to each of the presentations and videos.

The workshop agenda and the same links are included below in this blog article for easy access.  If you were not able to attend, you are encouraged to take some time to view the videos and presentations.  Share the information with your neighbors and utility representatives to help increase the awareness and understanding of solar energy.

Workshop Part 1 - This section includes:
  • Introductions
  • Solar 101
  • Creating a Regulatory Landscape for Solar
  • Texas Policy Environment
Links to the presentations and video reply for part 1 are given below:

Workshop Part 2 - This section includes:
  • Benefits and Barriers Activity
  • Strategies to Grow Your Local Market
Links to the presentations and video reply for part 2 are given below:

Workshop Part 3 - This section includes the local speaker session:
  • Oncor
  • Axium Solar
  • City of Irving, West Library project
Links to the presentations and video reply for part 3 are given below:

Best Regards,
Plano Solar Energy Advocates (LH)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Learning and Fun with Solar Powered Cars!

What they say is very true – teachers can really learn a lot from the students they are teaching!

Recently, Plano Solar Advocates volunteers had the wonderful experience of engaging in lessons, discussions, and Q&A with elementary students in 14 different class sessions (a total of 215 students) while helping them assemble demonstration solar powered cars.  And when the sun was shining, those cars went really fast!

In collaboration with the Texas Solar Energy Society, the North Texas Renewable Energy Group local chapter, and the Live Green in Plano volunteer program, Plano Solar Advocates volunteers went on a mission the last 5 weeks of the school year to share information about solar energy with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at area elementary schools.

The Solar Car Class

We started each class by talking about the huge amount of energy that reaches the earth from the sun. We described the four types of solar energy we can use – passive, thermal, concentrating, and photovoltaic (PV). We showed photos of PV installations around the area, and showed photos and websites about experimental solar airplanes, boats, and cars.

We then discussed the difference between non-renewable and renewable sources of energy. We discussed how conventional cars are powered by burning gasoline, and we described how an electric car powered by solar panels would work.

The students then worked together in small teams to assemble the solar car kits.  Outside, they then put the cars through their paces and even had a few races. The students made observations and conclusions about sun and shade and how switching the electrical connections changed the direction of the car.

Once we were back in the classroom, the students practiced one of the three “R’s” of sustainability (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) by disassembling the cars so that they could be “reused” at the next solar car class session.  We had a little more time for Q&A, and then encouraged the students to continue to learn and strengthen their knowledge in math and science so that they could become future scientists, researchers, engineers, and business people to capitalize on the untapped natural energy resource of the sun.  We closed the class by having the students watch a short video called – “Solar Energy in Texas – Don’t you wonder?”

Good Timing

Regarding our future migration to more renewable sources of energy and the pioneering spirit and creative thinking we will need to accomplish this, we were very fortunate that the Solar Impulse solar airplane ( was arriving and staying at the DFW airport during for the latter part of May. Many of the students were able to go see the plane and learn more in person!

The Experience, Next Steps, and More Info

We had a great time speaking and teaching these classes, and we received similar feedback from all the other volunteers who were able to participate. Most importantly, the students were engaged, excited, asked very good questions, and will be the future ambassadors (and consumers) of solar energy.  We received many various thank you letters and even songs composed about solar energy to be sung to current tunes that older folks (like us) might not recognize….

We hope to be able to reach more students next year, so be ready to help answer the call to lead or assist the solar powered car lessons next spring.  It is a great experience to encourage and motivate our next generation to learn about and use renewable energy. It will create fond memories for both you and the students that will be remembered for a long time.

More information about the Texas Solar Energy Society solar car project and its originator can be found by viewing a recent presentation given at the North Texas Renewable Energy group in April of this year.  Check the website ( in the download section to find the presentation Solar Cars for All Ages.

Plano Solar Energy Advocates (LH & RL)

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A report released this week by the Solar Foundation titled "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Encouraging Solar Development through Community Association Policies and Processes" identifies three simple actions HOAs can take to bring more solar to their communities: Learn, Clarify, and Collaborate.  The report includes information about solar energy basics, benefits, and barriers. In regard to advancing community education on solar energy, it outlines a number of factors commonly impacted by potential HOA restrictions that can have significant negative impacts on system performance.  These include PV array size, array orientation, array title, and system shading.

An overview of the report is available at:

As residential solar deployment continues to grow, this report provides some great information on how HOAs and homeowners can collaborate for win-win solutions.

Additional information about solar installations and HOAs can be found in the sections titled "Texas Legislation/Policy" and "Policy & References related to HOAs (Home Owners Associations)" on our Useful Links page

Plano Solar Energy Advocate (LH)