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Utility Company’s Rate Hike Becomes Massive Financial Burden For California Customers

Sunny California: What could possibly ruin that reputation? Well, a wet and cold winter for one. Couple that with a recent rate hike by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and you’ve got the perfect storm set to ruin that sunny disposition. Given the continued rising cost of electricity in Northern California, some industry experts say investing in solar energy has never been a smarter decision. Factor in the fact that a typical 5 kilowatt residential unit has been shown to increase the worth of the home by at least $20,000 and you’re looking at a planet-saving, value-boosting investment.

According to a February 2017 Sacramento Bee article, PG&E took the step to raise natural gas rates in August 2016 and electricity rates saw three increases last year. Utility customers taking the rate hikes on the chin expressed severe discontent with the moves,  telling the newspaper that their bills have never been higher following this past winter’s cold snap.

The report adds that the rate hikes were properly approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.  In response to the public discontent, a PG&E spokesman told the newspaper that PG&E rates remain lower than the national residential average of $59.17. In a Jan. 11, 2017 statement from PG&E, the company says it is “streamlining management” and “implementing efficiency measures” to “keep customer bills affordable while investing in the future.”

“We are reducing support services costs in order to continue to invest in important safety initiatives and in modernizing our system to meet our customers’ future needs while keeping their bills as low as possible,” Geisha Williams, of PG&E, said in a press release.

What does this mean for the typical utility service customer looking to cut down on their bills? As evidenced above, solar energy harnessed by panels installed at your home or business is the best way of circumventing rate hikes and saving thousands of dollars on electric bills over the lifetime of your system that typically lasts about 25 years.

For the environmentally-conscious investor, the average 5kW system provides carbon offets that are equal to planting 4,753 trees, recycling 654 tones of waste, buring 99.4 tones of coal or driving an extra 408,000 miles. For additional information how to avoid falling victim to the rising cost of electricity in Northern California, call 415-458-5870.

Global Warming Facts!

We at Sun First are committed to be advocates for renewable energy, clean energy technologies and being stewards of the Earth. We feel global warming is an immanent threat to the future of our planet’s diversity, climate stability and our quality of life. Here are some interesting facts that we all should contemplate and hopefully will improve our awareness of the present state of our World.

Here are some interesting facts we want to share with you:

2016 is the hottest year on record.

In early December, the sea-ice cover at the North and South Poles is smaller than recent averages by an area the size of India.

Global CO2 emissions remained flat in 2016 for the third year in a row.

Concentrations of toxic mercury in bluefin tuna are declining, apparently because so many coal-fired power plants have closed.

According to the International Energy Agency, demand for gasoline has peaked, largely as a result of electric cars and more-fuel-efficient engines

August and September are the hottest on record, with August tying July for the hottest month in history. They are the 16th and 17th straight months to set heat records. Earth is the warmest it has been in 100,000 years.

Shell Oil Company says that its carbon-capture-and-storage project in Alberta, Canada’s tar sands fields sequestered 1 million tons of CO2 in its first year of operation.

Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide never drop below 400 parts per million in September, a month when CO2 is usually at a minimum. Earth’s CO2 levels will now likely remain above 400 pp.

For six months in 2016, solar panels in the United Kingdom produce more electricity than does coal.

More than 100 nations agree to limit their use of hydrofluorocarbons, a class of very powerful greenhouse gases used in air conditioners.

Between 2011 and 2014, Greenland lost a trillion tons of ice.

On Tuesday, July 12, California’s industrial-scale solar plants set a new record by generating enough electricity to power 6 million homes.

All these interesting facts just show how important it is to protect out planet and reduce emissions. Going solar is one of the steps you can take to make a change to our environment and protect the future of our children and their children to come.

Solar Power Advances: New Energy Policy Passed In Senate

Sun First Solar

On April 20, 2016, the U.S. Senate passed the S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016, which has been an effort in the works for over a year by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell. This is good news for the solar power industry because it’s the first comprehensive policy bill to pass in the Senate since 2007. Despite the challenging congressional environment regarding solar power, the new policy contains many wins for the solar industry.

While San Francisco solar power projects and others around the country will continue to expand, the new policy has the inclusion of solar heating and cooling as technologies to meet the federal government’s renewable portfolio standard. Since we all know that heating and cooling are major energy consumers, it paves the way to establish green and eco-friendly initiatives to propel them into solar technologies! Additionally, the policy has language directing the Energy Department to discover the costs and benefits for the proper valuation of distributed generation solar.

On top of that, the new policy also has provisions to improve the permitting process of placing solar power plant sites on federal lands, which opens up the doors to creating more opportunities of generating renewable energy. Furthermore, the policy also directs the Energy Department to conduct studies regarding avian populations to establish a baseline of scientific information. Inclusion of the SAVE Act, also incorporates language to incorporate the savings from energy-efficient upgrades into residential mortgage underwriting, which will benefit homeowners.

It’s without a doubt that the policy brings exciting news to the solar industry because pro-solar initiatives will continue to make the United States less dependent on non-renewable sources of energy. This goes hand-in-hand with Paris Agreement, which is a global action plan to dramatically reduce emissions, where 196 countries, including the United States, signed to decrease the reliance of fossil fuels in favor of cleaner forms of energy – like solar power!

Our Solar Power System Is Live!

When Good Earth opened our new store in February 2012, solar panels atop our building supplied the energy to heat our hot water. Since then, we have leased the rooftops of the Fairfax Plaza across the street from us to complete our large photovoltaic system.

The total size of our system is 201.5 kW AC (238.6 kW DC) with two KACO 100 watt inverters buried within our parking lot. The total expected annual output is 346,273kWh. Our solar project was partly funded by a federal grant.

Good Earth worked with local San Rafael-based Cooperative Community Energy to manage the project, and with Sun First! Solar also located in San Rafael for installation. Installation began in January 2013, and as of April 100% of the solar energy captured is being delivered back to Good Earth, with the remainder coming from Marin Clean Energyʼs Deep Green Renewable Energy Program.

LIVE ENERGY OUTPUT DISPLAY

This is what our system is outputting right this minute, with interesting information on the positive impacts of obtaining our power from the sun vs. traditional sources. Best viewed on computers or tablets in landscape orientation.



“At Good Earth, respect for the Earth is what we are all about, so we go out of our way to reduce our footprint whenever possible. We are thrilled to be able to take such a big step toward sustainability with this solar project.” – Mark Squire, Partner

“We just built a very energy efficient grocery store, as grocery stores go. But the reality is full service grocery stores are huge energy suckers and we did what we could by building a 200+kW PV system. So along with being a customer of Marin Clean Energy’s Deep Green program, we and our incredibly supportive community, can feel good about supporting a truly green business for a long time. We are also grateful for our continued partnership with our Fairfax Plaza landlords for partnering with us in the use of the expansive rooftops across the street.” – Al Baylacq, Partner

Which Is The Best Direction For Solar Panel Placement?

new house with solar panelsThe concept of installing solar panels on your home seems basic in theory – you hire a bay area solar company to place them on your roof and you are good to go. But, when that concept is expanded to real-world applications, there are more technical factors that go into the installation like roof angle, direction, etc. This often begs the question as to what direction should your solar panels face? While each install is unique, your solar installer will be able to determine the best angle and direction based on your home but the general rule of thumb is directing them true south. Also, it’s typical for panels to have an angle between 10 to 30 degrees, but it depends on how north or south you are in the US.

True South Placement

Since the United States is located in the Northern Hemisphere, the best direction for your solar panels is true south because they will receive the most sunlight throughout the day. This also means your solar panels will be harnessing the most power from the sun and that converts into monumental savings on your energy bill! At any rate, houses can face literally any direction and the angle of the roof can sometimes make it harder to position the solar panels in the prime direction. Nevertheless, the angle or direction of the roof on your home doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the solar panels and you can trust the solar installer to find the optimal position.

To determine the placement of your panels, you might be inclined to grab a compass and head out the front door to see where the compass points. However, using a magnetic compass doesn’t give you the true south direction. While it can give you an idea of where south is, a compass will point towards the South Pole because of the geomagnetic field – it’s point is in the right direction but isn’t exact. This means the compass direction may vary based on your specific location! So, keep that in mind if you are trying to imagine where your solar panels will be installed.

East-West Roofs

If your roof faces east and west rather than north and south, don’t worry because they can still harness the energy from the sun. While a roof setup that is east-west won’t take in as much sunlight as the latter, your solar installer will be able to determine which direction would be more beneficial. Additionally, some homeowners opt to have the solar panels installed in their yard if they have the space to accommodate a system. Mounting them on the ground does make it easier for homeowners to clean them off as needed, but then again, objects that cast shade like trees or neighboring houses could impact the potential of solar gains. Or, if you have a large shed or garage on your property, you may be able to have solar panels installed on the roof of those structures.

At any rate, a solar installation professional will be able to determine the best spot for the panel placement and angle. Once you have your system installed, you can reap the rewards of solar energy!

The Solar Trends You Need To Know

solar energy Solar power is a booming industry because the technology is getting better and better each year with no signs of slowing down. While the 2015 numbers aren’t in yet, we can talk about how it has grown over the past few years.  First things first, the utility-scale sector saw a growth of 38% in 2014 compared to 2013. The residential sector bridged the 1 GW barrier for the first time and grew 51% over 2013 according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. And with over 20,000 MW of cumulative solar power capacity in the United States, that’s enough to provide energy to over 4 million average homes!

Just in 2014, nearly 645,000 homes and businesses have gone solar and every two and a half minutes, a new solar project was installed. Some statistics from SEIA state that residential costs have fallen by 45% since 2010 and utility-scale costs have dropped even more. This of course is good news for everyone because it reduces energy costs and decreases the consumption of energy from traditional resources such as coal and oil. Besides the favorable reduction in energy costs, why are homeowners and businesses switching to solar power?

Lower Costs

The cost of solar installation has plummeted by 73% since the initiation of the Solar Investment Tax Credit. But that’s not the only reason, solar technology and manufacturing has reached a point that’s more affordable than ever before. If you take a look back at average solar prices from a decade ago, they could range anywhere between $40,000 and $50,000, but in 2013, that price was around $20,000. This price drop makes it much more affordable, which allows a homeowner to see the energy savings pay off much faster.

Plus, when you think about the general costs of home renovations and the grand scheme of things, solar panels typically come with warranties that span across many decades. This makes it a very smart investment; you’ll see energy savings each month. Compare that to installing granite countertops or new appliances during a home renovation, does that save you the same kind of money? While home improvement trends change in terms of what’s hot and trendy, a stylish look can come and go in a small matter of time but solar panels provide you with benefits for decades, regardless of the latest home design trends.

solar on house Did you know that California is the leader in cumulative solar electric capacity compared to any other state in the country? The Golden Coast is taking advantage of all that sunshine to harness the power from one of the most prominent and free resources available! In fact, many residents all over the state including those in Marin County are going solar. But, homes and businesses aren’t the only ones thinking about the beneficial technology from solar power, it could soon be something you see on roadways.

Roads Soaking In The Sun

While we are still probably years away from this idea to be implemented across every roadway, a company from Idaho is developing solar powered roads. The company, Indiegogo, is in the research and development phase of their project that would bring solar roadways to the streets. These solar powered roadways would replace traditional streets that could house solar cells to collect energy. This would provide numerous benefits because the amount of energy they have the potential to collect could end up paying for itself over time. On top of that, the energy collected could obviously be used to power a plethora of things like homes, businesses and anything else that requires energy.

The solar powered roads also have the potential of making the streets safer to navigate in almost any driving condition. For instance, we are used to painted lines on the roadways that segment lanes, and a solar powered road could use LED lights to “paint” the road lines. With this in mind, these LED road lines could be flexible in a sense that they could change road patterns or alert drivers of road hazards such as accidents or pedestrians and animals on the roadways. Additionally, the LED lines could enhance visibility at night and make it easier to see where drivers are going by lighting up the roadway. Plus, northern regions that are subjected to ice and snow covered roads could see a drastic difference in vehicle handling. The solar powered roads would keep the surface clear through heated surfaces that would prevent ice and snow accumulation.

Regardless if solar technology is being used on houses, businesses or roads, it’s the green way of preserving the Earth’s resources and is a viable way to provide us with clean energy. While it is still at the forefront of innovation, solar power tech will continue to advance to the point where we will eventually use it as our main source of power!

How Can Solar Energy Make San Francisco A Better Place to Live?

golden gate

Let’s face the facts; San Francisco is a pretty great place to live. It is frequently noted for being one of the best places in America to live because the residents are always so happy. The residents are known for being pretty laid back and accepting. However, like all other places or things in life, there is always room for improvement. Solar energy in San Francisco can help to make the city an even better place to live in. Here’s how:

  1. Residents will be healthier. One of the top benefits of switching to solar energy is that it is “green.” This means it is a cleaner alternative to more traditional forms of energy that residents may currently use to power their homes. Solar energy is green in the fact that it doesn’t use as much energy as other resources and it also does not give off any emissions. With solar power, there is no harmful air pollution. If more residents would switch to solar energy, the air would be much cleaner which could help improve San Francisco residents’ overall health.
  2. It will be a cheaper place to live. Solar energy may seem expensive at first, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. In as little as seven years or less, residents will see solar energy completely pay for itself. Once this happens, it will be straight sav
    ings from then on. You will see savings in the thousands each year on your electric bill. With the lower cost of energy, businesses will be able to afford to lower the cost of other products too. Simply put, there will be much more money to go around, making San Francisco an overall cheaper place to live.
  3. It will be a more peaceful place to be. Solar energy is very reliable and easy to maintain and residents and business owners who use solar energy won’t have to worry about frequent maintenance or repairs like they may have to with other forms of roofing or power sources. This alone will cause residents to be less stressed. As previously mentioned, overall costs of living will decrease due to lower electric bills. Less stress means better mental health and a better, more positive attitude. What could be more peaceful than that?

San Francisco is pretty great as it is. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how this amazing city could possibly become even better. However, with the use of solar energy, you’ll see that even San Francisco has the potential to become an even greater place to live by making it healthier, cheaper, and more peaceful.

4 Ways to Make Your Home Greener

People living in the San Francisco area are well known for their eco-friendly lifestyles. The community has been a progressive force for years and, when it comes to green living, it’s only getting better! But maybe you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet. Perhaps you were worried about the cost or you simply had other home improvements that were a priority. Whatever the reason for your hesitation, you’re now thinking about making a big green move. But what should you do? Here are some ideas for large projects that will seriously increase your home’s efficiency.

solar panels

1.  Install Solar Panels – This is one of the most well-known ways to go green, and for good reason! After all, most of your other home improvement projects don’t come with government incentives or rebates. Plus, how many of those other upgrades ever result in a negative balance on your energy bill? With solar panels, you’ll pay a bit upfront, but some of that cost will be mitigated by the incentives, and the rest will pay for itself when you don’t have to spend money on powering your home. In fact, if your panels generate more energy than you actually need, the power company will owe you credit that can be put toward later bills. In other words, you may never have to pay for power again!

2.  South-Facing Windows & Overhangs – Did you know that the size and placement of your windows will have a big impact on how much natural light and heat is let into your home? Some of the most dedicated homeowners have taken advantage of the natural winter light by installing larger, south-facing windows in their homes to absorb the rays. This cuts the amount of energy that you’ll need to heat the home when it’s cooler out. But wait, won’t that make it crazy hot in summer? By installing an overhang to block these same windows during the summer when the sun is higher, you can keep the house cool.

3.  Invest in water-saving appliances – Obviously, heating and cooling are not the only things you need to worry about when creating an eco-friendly abode. Water consumption is also a really big issue, especially since we are still facing a drought. By investing in water-saving appliances, such as low-flow faucets and showerheads, high-efficiency washing machines, and water efficient toilets, you can waste less of this precious resource and have lower water bills to boot!

4.  Plant a Living Roof – Have some flat-ish roof space and looking for something unique that will set your home apart from all the rest and make it greener? A living roof is one of the newest eco-trends to hit the environmental community. This roof will usually be covered with grasses, shrubs or other ground covers that will create more oxygen and beautify your home. If you are planning to put up solar panels, too, don’t worry! The panels can be placed on the ground just by your house or you can simply limit the amount of space dedicated to your living roof. Remember, you’ll need to check with your township first and then consult an architect or contractor to ensure that your roof will withstand the weight of the soil and plants. Also, remember to look for drought-tolerant ground covers so that you won’t have to devote extra water to the roof.

What other green measures are you considering for your home? If you live in the Marin area and are interested in solar power, give us a call today at Sun First Solar! We can provide you with an estimate and get you on the road to energy-efficiency in no time!

Green Energy, Saving More than Just Money

The growth of solar energy and wind energy has been the subject of many headlines lately.  The cost of solar cells has decreased drastically recently, partly due to growing demand and China’s entrance into the manufacturing sector of solar cells.  Their efficiency has improved, too, making the amount of electricity produced enough to completely power a household and, now, with the introduction of the Tesla home battery it appears as though excess energy will be storable so owners have electricity even on rainy days.  Green energy provides more than just reduced energy costs though.

The electricity generated from coal and natural gas plants emits pollution which have been linked to heart attacks, cancer, breathing problems and other health issues.  These dire effects on our health and environment are extremely costly. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists we are spending somewhere between $361.7 and $886.5 billion to deal with the “aggregate national economic impact”.  This means 2.5%-6% of our GDP every year is spent on dealing with issues which are preventable.  This type of economic loss is damaging to our society and the effect can cause ripples that grow as we go through time.  One only has to look at China’s current situation with pollution to see how terrifying it can become.

Man Installing Solar Panels

In cities, like San Francisco where there is little in the way of shade blocking roofs, solar power is perfect for generating lots of clean electricity.  Solar and wind energy also have the benefit of not causing water pollution which is becoming a growing problem across the entire world.  California is suffering from a historic drought and the amount of drinkable water across the world is being consumed at an alarming rate.  If we aren’t careful in how we manage our consumption of natural resources it will have serious economic consequences in the future.

Another benefit to the new green energy business is the creation of thousands of sustainable jobs.  Unlike fossil fuel production which is more capital intensive and requires fewer laborers; renewable energy jobs are labor intensive and longer lasting.  Wind energy employed 75,000 people full-time in 2011 alone.  As solar and wind energy installations continue to grow they will produce more full time jobs that are reliable and stable.  Something our economy and people in our country desperately need.  So when you’re considering installing solar panels, realize that not only are you saving money, but you’re helping the economy as a whole and your environment.

Lighting up the Country

Did you know that the amount of solar energy being produced in the U.S. has been more than doubling over the last few years.  The boom for solar energy has finally hit us and while at the end of 2014 it only produced .46% of electricity for the entire U.S. that is a lot compared to where it was just a few short years ago.  A number of economic and political changes have made solar power go from seemingly unachievable dream to a very graspable reality.  As these changes continue to manifest and technology continues to improve it seems the sky really is the limit.

The economic factor that is making prices cheaper in the solar market is the introduction of Chinese manufacturing.  Their ability to produce solar panels at a more affordable rate and on such a large scale has made everything cheaper.  In 2005 a home solar system was roughly $40,000-$50,000 which was a lot, but by 2013 the price was roughly $20,000.  A far more palatable price tag and one which is easier to pay off in energy savings a lot quicker.  The various state governments and federal government have also jumped in by offering tax deductibles and other incentives for people installing solar panels on their building.

panel and sun

A lot of major cities, such as San Francisco, have pushed for more solar power and other methods for becoming greener over the last decade too.  The increasing costs of energy and other issues are driving governments and people to find savings while protecting the environment.  Solar power happens to be one of the best ways available currently.  The technology for solar panels has also been improving with time making them more efficient per square foot.  As technology continues to improve at a quadratic scale the question now seems to be when will we have the breakthrough that jumps solar panels to absurd efficiency levels.

If you’re someone who wants to gain more independence from the power company and the slow grinding increase of their electricity costs then solar power may be the right answer for you.  The prices don’t keep going up just because the cost of natural gas or other resources do and you get to save the environment in the process.  If you’re a business there is the benefit of also using your newly installed solar panels as a marketing technique to attract environmentally conscience customers.  Don’t let the power of the sun go to waste, harness it and make it work for you.