Final hurdle cleared in California’s solar mandate for new homes

In the words of Kelly Knutsen, it’s officially official. Today the California Building Standards Commission unanimously voted to confirm a change to the state’s building code which will require that all newly built low-rise (three stories or less) residential units in the state either incorporate rooftop solar or hold a community solar contract, starting in 2020.

“These highly energy efficient and solar-powered homes will save families money on their energy bills from the moment they walk through their front door,” stated Knutsen, the director of technology advancement for the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA). Knutsen also notes that this will include a solar plus storage option.

It’s hard to say how many new homes will be built with solar on them come 2020. The state has seen between 36,000 and 213,000 homes built each year for the past 15 years, and last year was somewhere in the middle at 113,000. CALSSA estimates that only around 15,000 of these new units featured solar, meaning that the mandate could spur a 7-fold increase in the market for solar on new homes in 2020.

After the mandate was approved by the California Energy Commission (CEC) in May, GTM Research estimated that this could mean a 14% increase in the California residential solar market to 1.2 GW in 2020.

But the greatest impact may be on prices. According to an analysis by pv magazine USA Correspondent John Weaver and ASU energy security researcher Dr. Wesley Herche, the soft cost savings of installing solar in massive volumes on new homes – including economies of scale – could drive these installations down to $1.12 per watt. The pair further found that the electricity from these homes could be as cheap at 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

And here is where the savings come in. By the CEC’s more conservative estimates, homeowners will save $40 per month and $500 annually due to the new standards – even with a $40 per month increase in mortgage payments.

Expansion of the mandate?

And this may be just the beginning. A poll by Morning Consult has found that nearly 2/3 of Americans – across the political spectrum – support such a mandate, and a city council member in Milwaukee has proposed legislation for his city based on California’s mandate.

This does not seem to surprise Sunrun, which as one of the larger residential solar companies is one of those best poised to supply large homebuilders. “Home solar is a cost-effective way to support clean air and energy savings for families and we are optimistic that other states will adopt similar common sense policies that expand access to clean energy,” stated Lynn Jurich, Sunrun’s CEO and co-founder.

Additionally CALSSA’s Knutsen says that CEC is planning to push a similar version of this mandate for larger residential and commercial buildings, which could take effect in 2023.


Final hurdle cleared in California’s solar mandate for new homes, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, December 5, 2018.

Stanford University to become 100% solar powered

Much like the mighty redwood tree featured in the school’s logo, Stanford University, through a deal with developer Recurrent Energy, will now get all of its energy needs from the sun.

The deal is a 25-year power purchase agreement between Canadian Solar subsidiary Recurrent and the university for the 88 MW Stanford Solar Generating Station #2. This project, in conjunction with with Stanford’s existing 67 MW solar power purchase agreement (PPA) and its 5 MW rooftop installation, will be the last piece in completing Stanford’s solar power puzzle when it enters operation in 2021.

“This power purchase agreement with Stanford University demonstrates Recurrent Energy’s ability to work with a diversified customer base in California and across the U.S.,” said Dr. Shawn Qu, chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar, in a release announcing the deal.

“We’ve long partnered with different types of load-serving entities, such as investor-owned and publicly-owned utilities, and we’re a known leader for our partnerships with CCAs. Now, we are delighted to also demonstrate our ability to meet the needs of direct access customers.”

Stanford now joins the University of Richmond and Massachusetts’ Hampshire College as the only schools in the nation capable of entirely offsetting their electricity usage with solar. The University of Hawai’i and University of California systems have both got in the mix as well, making 100% renewable energy a near-future goal. Additionally, Duke Energy supplies the University of North Carolina system with 250MW of renewably-generated electricity each year as a part of its Green Source Advantage Program.

The university anticipates the project will reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 14%, bringing the school’s total emissions reduction to 80% below peak levels. Stanford’s previously existing solar PPA for Stanford Solar Generating Station #1 went online in 2016 as part of the university’s 2008 plan to make major cuts to its overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Image from PV Magazine

“As a university, we are pursuing an ambitious plan to further reduce our carbon footprint, and our second solar plant is a critical new component of that plan,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne in a Stanford news release touting Stanford Solar Generating Station #2.

“Sustainability is a major focus for Stanford and a priority for our local community. Completing our transition to clean power builds on the groundbreaking research of Stanford faculty and students, and it marks a major advance in our efforts to provide a sustainable learning environment for our campus.”

Stanford Solar Generating Station #2 is a part of Recurrent Energy’s Slate project portfolio, which includes another 150 MW-AC portion that hold PPAs with Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Monterey Bay Community Power.


Stanford University to become 100% solar powered, by Tim Sylvia, PV Magazine, December 4, 2018.

SV Clean Energy Signs Major Contracts for California’s Largest Solar-Plus-Storage Projects

Sunnyvale, Calif. – Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) signed two long-term agreements for the largest utility-scale, solar-plus-storage projects to be built in California. The two projects will provide 153 megawatts (MW) of solar and 47 MW of storage and will be developed by Electricité de France (EDF) and Recurrent Energy Development Holdings, LLC. (Recurrent). These projects will come online in 2021 and will harness enough energy to power 39,000 homes annually.

Image from Silicon Valley Clean Energy

Building storage in addition to solar turns the sun’s energy into a resource that can be used on demand, rather than only when the sun is shining. These projects will combine solar panels with large batteries to store energy that the sun produces during the day so that more clean energy can be discharged onto the grid during times of high energy usage in the evening.

“As a Community Choice Energy agency, we’re proud to partner on these groundbreaking developments that not only increase the long-term supply of renewables to our customers, but also make the electricity grid cleaner,” says Courtenay Corrigan, SVCE Board Chair. “These projects show our maturity as an agency, our financial strength and our continued commitment to decarbonization.”

“We are excited to help California lead the transition to clean, reliable and flexible energy,” said Girish Balachandran, CEO of Silicon Valley Clean Energy. “These new renewable energy projects are a significant investment towards reaching our state’s carbon-free energy goals and contribute to solving the state’s grid integration problem by investing in large grid-scale energy storage.”

The contracts are the result of a competitive bidding process that began in September 2017. SVCE’s collaboration with its neighboring Community Choice Energy agency, Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) took advantage of economies of scale for the combined four counties, allowing for more purchasing power to invest in these long-term agreements. The two agencies issued a joint RFO which received over 80 offers for new projects that were in various stages of development. The overwhelming response represents the vast amount of interest in new renewable energy development that continues to grow.

The RE Slate 1 project, developed by Recurrent, will be built in Kings County and will provide 150 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity, plus 45 MW of storage, for a 15-year agreement. The BigBeau Solar project, developed by EDF, will be built in Kern County, providing 128 MW of solar capacity and 40 MW of storage and is a 20-year agreement. These projects will support approximately 840 jobs during construction. SVCE will receive 55% of the output, and MBCP will receive 45%.

SVCE signed long-term power purchase agreements with each development, ensuring that customers will be receiving clean power from California renewables for years to come.

About Silicon Valley Clean Energy

Silicon Valley Clean Energy is a community-owned agency serving the majority of Santa Clara County communities, acquiring clean, carbon-free electricity on behalf of more than 270,000 residential and commercial customers. As a public agency, net revenues are returned to the community to keep rates low and promote clean energy programs. Member jurisdictions include Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Saratoga, Sunnyvale and unincorporated Santa Clara County. SVCE is guided by a Board of Directors, which is comprised of a representative from the governing body of each member community. For more information, please visit

Media Contact:
Pamela Leonard
Communications Manager
(408)721-5301 x1004

460,000 solar panels on their way in the Imperial Valley

As California leads the nation’s push to renewable energy, many parts of the state have seen intense development. Leading these regions is California’s Imperial Valley, and perhaps no route been transformed to the same degree as the area along California state route 98 west of Calexico.

Here the irrigated green of farmlands gives way seemingly endless rows of blue-black PV modules, lining both sides of the highway just north of the Mexico border. A stretch of only a few miles hosts 711 MW-DC of solar in four massive plants – together representing more solar capacity than the bottom 16 U.S. states combined – with another 252 MW under construction at the Mount Signal 3 Solar Farm.

Earlier this month construction giant Swinerton broke ground on a sixth project, the 200 MW-DC Mount Signal 2 project, in collaboration with New Energy Solar and the project’s previous owner D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI).

The plant’s site occupies 1,200 acres of former farmland near the banks of the New River, and here Swinerton plans to install 460,000 of First Solar’s Series 6 PV modules on NEXTracker single-axis trackers, for a combined capacity of 200 MW-DC.

This is another validation for the Series 6, which only began rolling off of production lines earlier this year, and Mount Signal 2 is one of many projects which will mount the large-format modules on NEXTracker trackers. These modules will in turn plug into Power Electronics inverters and feed power lines owned by San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), with Mount Signal 2 expected to churn out enough electricity to power 70,000 homes when completed late next year.

This is double the population of nearby Calexico, but by now the Imperial Valley is generating far more mid-day power than it consumes. Instead, the Valley’s many solar plants are feeding the Los Angeles and San Diego metro areas. In the case of the Mount Signal 2, the plant has a 20-year power contract with utility Southern California Edison to meet demand in the sprawling Los Angeles metro area.

This does not mean that there are not benefits for the Imperial Valley. Swinerton notes that unemployment in the Valley is around 20%, and building the plant will require 200 construction workers, as well as providing other local economic benefits.

“Mount Signal 2 exemplifies the lasting economic impact a solar project can have on a community,” said George Hershman, general manager of Swinerton Renewable Energy. “This project will offer the underemployed local workforce not only hundreds of well-paying jobs, but also the opportunity to build a skill set that can be used on future solar projects in the area.”

New Energy Solar picked up the project in March from DESRI and put in $85 million in equity. The remainder is funded with non-recourse construction debt provided by a syndicate of banks including HSBC Bank USA, KeyBank NA and Santander. Wells Fargo will supply tax equity when construction is complete.


460,000 solar panels on their way in the Imperial Valley, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, October 29, 2018.

First Solar sells 100-MW California solar project

First Solar and D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI) today announced the acquisition by a DESRI affiliate of the 100-MW Willow Springs Solar Project in Kern County, California. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The project, which was developed by First Solar, is currently under construction, with completion estimated at the end of 2018. The project will supply power to Southern California Edison Company through a long-term Renewable Power Purchase and Sale Agreement.

“DESRI is thrilled to close on the acquisition of Willow Springs from First Solar,” said Bryan Martin, CEO of DESRI. “This project is a testament to the strong partnership that our firms have built over many years. We are looking forward to using First Solar’s leading Series 6 module technology to deliver clean energy to the Kern County community for years to come.”

“We are grateful for the opportunity to build on our strong relationship with DESRI as they grow their solar portfolio,” said Georges Antoun, First Solar’s chief commercial officer. “We are also pleased to play a part in helping enable Southern California Edison deliver clean, renewable energy to their customers.”

Antoun also noted the importance of the positive business environment provided by Kern County as a factor in realizing the benefits of solar as a fundamental power generation source of the future.

When in operation, the power plant is expected to annually provide enough clean, affordable sustainable electricity to power about 41,000 typical California homes and displace more than 77,000 metric tons of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions each year–the equivalent of taking almost 15,000 cars off the road.

Willow Springs is the fourth renewable energy project DESRI has acquired from First Solar. In 2017 a DESRI affiliate acquired the 40-MW Cuyama Solar Project in Santa Barbara County; in 2016 DESRI affiliates acquired the 31-MW Portal Ridge Solar Project in Los Angeles County and the 11-MW Rancho Seco Solar Project in Sacramento County.

News item from D. E. Shaw Renewable Investments


First Solar sells 100-MW California solar project, by Billy Ludt, Solar Power World, October 17, 2018.

Solar Parking Canopies going up fast at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa

If you have visited the Kaiser medical center on Bicentennial Way in Santa Rosa recently, you will have noticed that parking is temporarily a bit trickier with a large chunk of the spaces roped off while gleaming solar parking canopies are being installed.

This is a wonderful reason to temporarily lose parking and we applaud Kaiser for making this investment. Solar parking canopies are a win/win for electricity customers as well as motorists who can park in shade and avoid that dreadful experience of entering an oven-hot car during the warm months. There is even an “icing on the cake” greenhouse gas benefit gained by avoiding the fuel use needed to cool down a hot car with the AC cranked to Category 5 force.

I snapped the photo for this brief blog on my last visit and took the time to ask one of the Collins Electrical Company workers a quick question… will electric vehicle (EV) charging stations be integrated into the installation? I was surprised by the response. “You are the 100th person that has walked up and asked that question.” Unfortunately the answer was “no.”

So, even though that worker was exaggerating, I am clearly not the only one who cares. In fact, I always notice EVs when I am at Kaiser, so yes, people who visit there would probably make daytime use of them. In fact, this is an important consideration due to the fact that daytime is when the sun is shining and the cars can charge on sunshine. And, Kaiser could promote employee adoption of EVs if for no other reason the health benefits of tailpipe exhaust-free transportation.

It’s great to see these structures, and similar ones under construction at Santa Rosa parking garages, going up. The planning and construction period is the optimal time to consider including other technologies that enhance the value of solar. Integrating EV charging and/or storage into the construction financing and closing down the parking for construction once instead of twice is the efficient way to go financially and logistically. The revenues accrued by EV charging can be shared with the host (Kaiser) and the electric service provider to recoup the installation cost over time.

Solar is no longer a siloed technology; it has evolved to what we call Solar-Plus. It is now considered a component of what is known as Distributed Energy Resources where multiple energy technologies are integrated in an optimized deployment. Solar combined with smart technology, onsite energy storage, and EV charging, is the way to go. With a mission to get 140,000 EVs on the road in Sonoma County by 2030 to help meet emissions reduction goals, future commercial solar parking canopy project developers, commercial & industrial customers, and electricity service providers should take a close look at this kind of integrated deployment.








Lancaster Choice Energy Accelerates City’s Quest to Be Solar Capital of the World

Located in the North Los Angeles, Antelope Valley region, Lancaster has suffered from unhealthy levels of smog, ozone (see Air Pollution), and dirty air for years. To address this, Lancaster has initiated various clean energy programs, led by Mayor R. Rex Parris, with a goal to make the city the “solar capital of the world.” The city was first in the nation to require that new houses include solar panels. It installed high-efficiency LED street lights, and it hosts an electric bus manufacturing facility.

The single most powerful action Lancaster has taken to obtain affordable, clean energy is implementing Lancaster Choice Energy, California’s third operational Community Choice Energy (CCE) program. A growing number of local governments across California have established CCE, thereby providing cleaner electricity at lower rates for their communities. Is Community Choice Energy something that Tulare County and its cities should explore, especially in light of recent survey data showing that ratepayers are interested in more local, clean, renewable energy? 

Lancaster Choice Energy (LCE) launched in 2015 and reduced electricity costs for its 51,000 residential and business customers by 3 percent while providing cleaner electricity. When given a choice of LCE or Southern California Edison, 93 percent chose LCE, according to Energy Manager Patricia Garibay.

What is Community Choice Energy?

How CCE WorksCCE is a local, not-for-profit program that buys and may generate electricity for residents and businesses. The program is enabled by California law passed in 2002, allowing local governments (cities and counties) to take local control of millions of dollars of electricity generation revenue. CCEs give consumers choice, open up competition in the energy sector, and offer the potential for lower rates and a boost to the local economy.

When it formed, LCE was unique because it was the first single-jurisdiction program, meaning that Lancaster alone created the Community Choice program. This contrasts with the first two Community Choice programs in California, in Marin and Sonoma, that formed as Joint Powers Authorities (JPAs). With JPAs, multiple jurisdictions come together to start and operate the Community Choice program. Each model offers advantages and disadvantages.

LCE offers customers four energy options ranging from the choice to stay with existing energy providers to a 100% renewable energy option.

Clear Choice [Basic] -Standard “default” program

-35% renewable energy, 3% lower electricity rates

SMART Choice Customers have the option to “opt-up” to 100% renewable energy for a $10 flat rate premium
Personal Choice Customers with their own solar panels benefit from a superior net metering arrangement with LCE that pays for clean power they feed the grid
Opt-out Ability to remain a “bundled” customer of the large incumbent utilities Southern California Edison or Pacific Gas & Electric

Clear Choice offers competitive rates and cleaner energy. LCE and SCE have collaborated to produce joint rate and generation mix comparisons so that customers can have confidence about the claims being made.

Lancaster residents and businesses praise the Community Choice transition. Monica Grado of George’s Cleaners remarks “Not only are we using cleaner energy sources than were available to us before – we’re using resources that are locally controlled.

And with local control comes local benefits. It’s great to know that the money we spend on our energy can now be used to better our community.” Lori Denison, a Lancaster resident, says, “I’m proud to know that I live in a City that cares so deeply about protecting its residents.”

LCE partnered with energy service provider Direct Energy, a leader in the area of renewable energy development. Mayor Parris lauds the company’s “expertise [and], diverse portfolio of energy options, with a priority on renewables, and commitment to customer service.”

LCE has recently been 100% Green e-Energy certified from Green-e, the top independent agency for validating renewable energy generation. In other words, LCE is walking the talk when it comes to their promise on clean energy.  

By partnering with other enterprises like sPower, LCE has encouraged jobs and development of its own solar infrastructure. On August 11, 2016, Lancaster broke ground on a new 10 Megawatt solar generation facility which, upon completion, will provide enough electricity for 1800 homes.

Groundbreaking_group photo

LCE groundbreaking on 10 MW energy facility

LCE won the City of Lancaster a $1.5 million grant for further development of renewable energy infrastructure. Also, LCE is partnering with the Antelope Valley Transit Authority to fully electrify the bus fleet by 2018, thus eliminating carbon emissions from public transit. With funding, sustainable infrastructure, and a wide, diverse base of public support, Lancaster Choice Energy seems perfectly poised to tackle its bold energy goals.

Local actions like Community Choice Energy are part of a worldwide effort that must accelerate as climate-related casualties mount. Tulare County and other regions that are in desperate need of clean, renewable, and sustainable energy would do well to follow Lancaster’s example. LCE is willing to work with cities considering Community Choice Energy by sharing experience, guidance, and information, says Patricia Garibay. Tulare County should take up this offer.

Being a part of Community Choice Energy offers a not-for-profit, locally controlled, innovative platform for advancing energy democracy, allowing our communities to actively participate and explore sustainable options. This is everybody’s planet. If it takes a village to raise a child, it will take much more to heal our climate. With Community Choice Energy we may be closer to realizing that dream. However this all plays out, it’s our move.

Mendocino County Board of Supervisors votes to join Sonoma Clean Power

More than 30,000 residential and commercial customers could be offered a choice between PG&E, the county’s dominant electricity supplier, and Sonoma Clean power by early next summer if things go as planned, said Christopher Shaver, Mendocino County deputy chief executive office.

The next step is for Sonoma Clean Power to grant Mendocino County membership. Its board already voted in early July to offer services in Mendocino County and several of its cities, excluding Ukiah, which has its own electric utility.

Mendocino County supervisors this week unanimously adopted a resolution stating their intent to join Sonoma Clean Power.

 While it’s expected to save residents money on their bills — Sonoma Clean Power officials claim to have saved Sonoma County customers more than $62 million since it launched in May 2014 — the transition was billed more importantly as a step toward reducing greenhouse emissions, supervisors and supporters said.

The agency’s basic service has an energy supply that is 36 percent renewable, from geothermal and wind sources. Contracts for solar projects have been signed, with construction underway on installations inside Sonoma County and outside the area.

PG&E’s basic service is 27 percent renewable. Under state rules the utility’s supply from large hydroelectric projects does not qualify as renewable.

Cities and counties throughout the state have been considering so-called “community choice aggregation” agencies like Sonoma Clean Power since they were authorized by state law in 2002. Marin County launched the first such program, Marin Clean Energy in 2008.

Lake County officials also are exploring energy options.

Once Mendocino County officially joins Sonoma Clean Power, customers in the unincorporated county will automatically become its consumers unless they take action to opt out. The eligible cities — Fort Bragg, Point Arena and Willits — will first need to join the agency before consumers in their jurisdiction are enrolled, with the same choice to opt-out.

Bills will continue to be sent by PG&E, which also will continue to own, maintain and operate the transmission system.

Sonoma Clean Power and similar ventures largely search out and buy power on the wholesale energy market.

The agency serves 196,000 residential and commercial accounts in Sonoma County, representing about 89 percent of eligible electricity customers.

Report: Fresno is No. 1 for Industrial Solar Power in California