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Solar Tariff Blues and Confusion – What it Really Means for American Solar

Earlier this week the Trump Administration announced that it was levying a tariff (tax) on all imported solar panels. This tax was supposedly levied to protect American manufacturing jobs, but in reality there are very few USA solar manufacturing jobs to protect. Less than 2% of American solar jobs are in solar panel or cell manufacturing, and the tariff will marginally increase the cost of solar to consumers and therefore slow the growth of more robust sectors of the USA solar industry, which currently employs more than 260,000 Americans. Those of you reading the headlines may be wondering “how big will the impact be?” or “will this impact my ability to save money with solar?” Read on for answers to these questions and to learn more about the tariff and what it really means for our domestic solar industry, and for all of us as potential consumers of clean affordable solar energy.

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Solar Power for Affordable Housing

Solar One today announced the launch of Affordable Solar New York. The nonprofit initiative will bring low-cost solar power to affordable housing providers in New York, which provide critical housing and services to low-income residents. Solar can significantly reduce energy costs for both operators and tenants, yet up-front costs, credit scores and complex financing remain significant barriers for this sector to access the technology.

Affordable Solar New York will address these barriers by providing no-cost technical assistance, reduced-cost installation and zero-down financing options to Housing Development Fund Corporation cooperatives and other affordable housing providers in New York City. Projects will include both job training and energy efficiency education opportunities for residents.

“To reach Mayor de Blasio’s landmark OneNYC vision for a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient New York City, all New Yorkers will need the ability to tap into the cost and energy saving benefits that solar energy can provide,” said Mark Chambers, Director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “I applaud Solar One, GRID Alternatives, and Co-op Power on the launch of Affordable Solar New York, an important step toward a more inclusive energy landscape in New York City.”

Affordable Solar New York’s inaugural project is with Nazareth Housing, a supportive housing organization that serves vulnerable New Yorkers on the Lower East Side and promotes housing stability and economic independence among low-income families and individuals in New York City. Solar One provided technical assistance for the project, which will be installed by GRID Alternatives in early 2017 through its unique workforce development model, and financed through Co-op Power’s innovative financing. The solar electric system will provide more than 80% of the building’s annual common area electricity and is projected to save the organization 30% on its overall electricity costs over the system’s 25 year life, savings that will allow Nazareth Housing to better serve its constituents.

“For nearly 35 years, Nazareth Housing has creatively endeavored to develop sustainable, affordable housing in the Lower East Side and the Bronx,” said Michael Callaghan, Executive Director of Nazareth Housing. “I am truly pleased that our building will be the inaugural solar project of Affordable Solar New York. Being in a flood zone that was significantly impacted by superstorm Sandy, solar capacity brings environmental and fiscal benefits, while also helping us build resiliency for the future.”

Through Affordable Solar New York, the partners plan to develop and install a number of multifamily affordable solar projects in 2017 and facilitate dozens more through technical assistance. The initiative dovetails with new state funding for low-income solar announced last week by Governor Cuomo, which could further reduce costs for housing providers.

Affordable housing providers and Housing Development Fund cooperatives interested in solar technical assistance can visit www.affordablesolarny.org to get started.

Affordable Solar New York is made possible by The JPB Foundation through its support of GRID Alternatives’ multifamily program, and The Kresge Foundation, The 11th Hour Project, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation, Rosin Fund of The Scherman Foundation, and The Mertz Gilmore Foundation for their generous support of Solar One. Nazareth Housing was connected with Affordable Solar New York through Solarize LES, a community campaign supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

If you are an affordable housing developer, an HDFC co-op board member, or low or moderate income resident in NYC and would like to know more, please click here and fill out a short survey and we will get back to you.

Meet Here Comes Solar’s Newest Group on Windsor Place!

Our third group of solar homeowners has now officially launched in Brooklyn! With three contractor selections under our belt, we’ve seen our group solar model produce real savings for our members: each group has secured pricing over 20% cheaper than the average solar installation cost in the borough!

We are excited that our newest group started off as four rowhouse owners on the same block of Windsor Place in the South Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. Even with just four households, the efficiency of synchronized site visits and installations and the greater visibility of four new solar arrays on one block makes the project more attractive to installers and therefore more affordable for our members.

The Windsor Place solar group all came down to the leadership of Garry Golden, a block resident and father of two young boys. As a professional Futurist who writes, speaks, and consults about the driving forces that will shape society and business in the 21st century, Garry sees the rise of distributed generation of renewable energy and says that he “prefers to be on the front end of the market transition” in order to access the deepest savings.

Garry kicked off the solar group by hosting an interest meeting at his home and inviting his neighbors via a Facebook group for the block and individual outreach to homeowners he suspected would be interested. After an initial round of outreach, seven households signed up for free site assessments, in which Here Comes Solar staff measure the shading and usable space on the roof and confirm the suitability of the home’s electrical system. Of those seven households, four signed on to the solar group, one household was found to have insufficient roof space, and another two households plan to go solar in the future.

Our Here Comes Solar team then worked with the group to release an “Opportunity Notice” to our Qualified Installers to bid on the project, and the group received three proposals. We all met up over pizza to select the most favorable bid, and the group reached consensus to select Green Street Solar Power, a new company based in the Bronx who offered great pricing for top-of-the-line SunPower panels with a 25-year warranty.

Once the group members locked down this deal, they asked Green Street if they could bring on new members and the installer agreed that they'd offer the same great group price to anyone in their neighborhood! Another group member, Carl Robichaud, offered to host a second info session, and after a round of outreach by Carl, Garry and their kids, over 20 neighbors showed up for the meeting. We currently have an additional 25 households in the Windsor Place area who have signed up for solar site assessments.

What we love about this group is that it can be replicated in just about any block in NYC! Through the Windsor Place neighbors’ experience, we’ve seen that getting a sizable group discount can be as simple as connecting with two or three of your immediate neighbors and committing to work with the same installer (to get started, fill out our interest form). Once this initial batch of households has shiny new solar panels on the roof, all the members expect that there will be a ripple effect for other neighbors who preferred to first see the technology in action before taking the leap to solar themselves. We expect to see a second and maybe even third wave of interest on the block and surrounding neighborhood within the coming months. And that’s how changing our energy system happens!

UPDATED: 7/29/15

HCS featured in DNAinfo article about grassroots solar initiatives in NYC!

Yesterday (May 13) reporter Amy Zimmer at DNAinfo wrote a really nice article on grassroots solar initiatives in NYC that features our work and the experiences of some of HCS's first members. Big thanks to Prospect Gowanus Neighbors Adel Sarhan and Ann Schaetzel for providing Ms. Zimmer with such excellent accounts of your experiences with HCS! Since the article was posted yesterday we've gotten a huge response on our interest survey.

It's still early days for HCS, but we are incredibly excited and encouraged by the impact we've been able to have so far. Two groups of wonderful Brooklyn homeowners have now selected local qualified solar installers through our SunBlock platform, and have enjoyed great pricing through our strength in numbers approach. We're very appreciative of DNAinfo for bringing very welcome attention to our early efforts and success.



Row house solar: a two minute tour of a solar electric system in Brooklyn

Not only are residential solar electric systems on row houses still relatively rare in New York in 2014, they are also rarely visible since they are typically installed on flat roofs, three or more stories above the street.  So it's understandable that many row house owners might have difficulty envisioning what a solar system on their home might even look like. In this short video, Here Comes Solar technical expert and seasoned solar installer Matt Myshkin gives a two-minute tour of a recently installed solar electric system on a brownstone in Sunset Park.

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