Solar power is on the rise and is fast becoming a mainstream energy alternative for homes, businesses, and public places. With lower costs and due to innovative and efficient designs, more people are getting on board as the price tag on solar installations is falling, becoming an opportunity for consumers and businesses to cash in.
In Riverside County, UC Riverside has installed over 9,000 panels in a solar farm that will produce enough power for nearly 1,000 homes each year. Homeowners from nearby cities like Murietta are joining in the trend with rooftop solar installations. Murietta is among the towns that enjoy the lowest prices ever for rooftop solar installations.
Consumers are taking advantage of the benefits of solar energy through government incentives and tax credits for homes and businesses. Rooftop solar and solar farms provide a choice to consumers whether to install solar panels on their roofs or rely on solar farms to reduce their carbon footprint and save money.
Photovoltaic panels made from silicon use the sun directly to generate power. These photovoltaic panels, installed on rooftops, collect and generate electricity for the home or business. Net Metering connects to the solar panel system and measures the power generated by the solar panels and your power usage. The surplus power goes back to the utility grid and is credited to your overall energy consumption. It is feasible to pay for all or most of your electricity with solar panels.
A solar farm has many panels arranged in arrays over a large area of land that receives a lot of sunlight. Solar farms benefit the community by directly supplying the grid with cheap, clean energy. Some are owned and operated by a third party that sells the power to the power grid directly. Farms in the form of Community Solar allow consumers to benefit from Net Metering through the lease or purchase of one or more solar panels tied to their utility account.
Solar farms are expanding in record numbers across large areas taking up a substantial amount of usable land. And while they provide much-needed alternative energy, there are concerns about the reduction of available land for agriculture and development. Future regulation may have an impact on the profitability of large solar farms.
YOU CAN GO SOLAR IN MURRIETA
Whether you choose a residential solar installation in Murrieta; invest in energy produced by a solar farm; want to save money or promote clean energy, there is more than one way to go solar.
Here are some points to consider:
Contact us to schedule an evaluation of your Murrieta home. With Semper Solaris, you can help shape the future of renewable energy.
As much as dogs love to feel the sun on their backs, it was only a matter of time until someone started using it to fill their stomachs.
Mars Petcare has flipped the switch on a new solar garden linked to the company’s San Bernardino, California manufacturing facility that produces Pedigree Brand dry dog food.
Mars partnered with Ahana Renewables, a subsidiary of ATN International, Inc., to develop and fund the project under a 25-year power purchase agreement.
The new solar garden features 3,420 individual solar panels that will annually deliver 1.9 million kilowatt hours, which can power more than 50 percent of the 78,000 square foot site’s daily energy needs. The four-acre solar garden is projected to yield a 549-tonne reduction of greenhouse gases. The San Bernardino site opened in 1983 and was acquired by Mars Petcare in 2006. The company currently employs 75 full-time associates at the site.
This is the third solar garden constructed by Mars in the US – joining Mars Wrigley Confectionery solar gardens in Hackettstown, New Jersey, and Henderson, Nevada. Mars also co-owns a 25,000-acre wind farm near Lamesa, Texas, featuring 118 turbines, that annually generates nearly 800,000-megawatt hours of power. As part of the Sustainable in a Generation Plan, Mars plans to reduce its total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its entire value chain by 27 percent by 2025 and 67 percent by 2050. We’re happy to see these solar panels installed in the Inland Empire!
“At Mars Petcare we’re working towards our mission: a better world for pets, because we wholeheartedly believe they improve our lives,” said Kevin Rabinovitch, global VP of sustainability at Mars, in a press release. “This new solar garden is a great example of the steps we need to take in order to achieve the ambitious goals set out in our new Sustainable in a Generation Plan to reduce the total environmental impact of Mars to ensure we foster a healthy planet for future generations – of people and pets.”
In conjunction with the unveiling of this new solar garden, Mars Petcare will also be making a US$20,000 charitable contribution to GRID Alternatives Inland Empire. The donation will go towards furthering the organization’s mission of providing access to clean, renewable solar energy to low-income families throughout the Inland Empire area.
With solar becoming a more viable option for residential and commercial applications, some companies have taken it upon themselves to become greener. With Mars Petcare taking such steps it bodes well that others will continue to take steps in the right direction by adding solar panel farms and making the manufacturing process more sustainable.
Billboards across Southern California are now advertising electricity supply company Southern California Edison’s new rate plans, which include three “time-of-use” rate options that charge consumers different rates based on what time of the day they use the most electricity. So how do these electricity rate plans affect solar powered Inland Empire residents?
The switch to time-of-use rates comes after the California Public Utilities Commission directed the state’s major utilities companies to default their customers to time-of-use plans by 2020.
The goal behind implementing the time-of-use plans is to lessen the strain on the electrical grid during its peak hours when the use of renewable energy is at its highest. This should help the grid adjust later in the day when it switches to more conventional sources such as natural gas.
Kari Gardner, Senior Manager of Consumer Affairs at Edison, explained that “[t]here are a variety of different of residential TUO plans that are available for our customers, so what that means is for time of use rate plans it offers different pricing during different times of day, the week, and the season. So your bill will be determined by both when you use electricity and how much you use.”
The times of the day where electricity will cost the most – known as “on-peak hours” – will be either noon to six p.m. or two to 8 p.m., depending on the plan that customers choose. That doesn’t include weekends, which are considered “off-peak” hours.
According to Gardner, “For customers who can adjust their schedules, if you will, to where perhaps during the peak periods they’re not using as much electricity, they would maybe want to consider a plan like that.”
If you’re an Edison customer, switching over to time-of-use plans is voluntary for now – but Gardner says some customers can already benefit from them.
“They could change nothing and already benefit on one of these plans or they could also make minor adjustments that might also move them to where they may benefit monetarily and from a consumption perspective under these plans.
While time-of-use plans can benefit some customers, consumer advocates warn it could raise rates for others. A recent paper co-authored by representatives from groups such as Utility Dive and the Public Interest Research Group argued that time of-use-rates “can have adverse impacts on consumers, especially on those who may have less ability to shift their usage to capture the benefits of TOU pricing.”
These plans have also been criticized for potentially devaluing solar energy, which could make it harder for the state to meet its goal of having half of its electricity come from renewable sources by 2030. The San Francisco-based Environmental Defense Fund filed a protest saying the time-of-use plans “potentially creates an economic disincentive for utilizing renewable generation capacity.”
But Gardner says that SoCal Edison is fully supportive of solar. In 2016, the company delivered more solar energy to its customers than any other utility in the nation. She also pointed out that time of use plans can offer an economic advantage to consumers with solar installations.
“Some of the benefits that we do see our solar customers experiencing is they are typically generating during the peak periods.”
It’s a benefit because customers who generate excess solar can sell it back at retail value, which is higher during on-peak times.
On 14 days during March, Arizona utilities got a gift from California: free solar power.
Well, actually better than free. California produced so much solar power on those days that it paid Arizona to take excess electricity its residents weren’t using to avoid overloading its own power lines.
It happened on eight days in January and nine in February as well. All told, those transactions helped save Arizona electricity customers millions of dollars this year, though grid operators declined to say exactly how much. California has also has paid other states to take surplus solar power.
The number of days that California dumped its unused solar electricity would have been even higher if the state hadn’t ordered some solar plants to reduce production — even as natural gas power plants, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, continued generating electricity.
Solar and wind power production was curtailed a relatively small amount — about 3% in the first quarter of 2017 — but that’s more than double the same period last year. And the surge in solar power could push the number even higher in the future.
Why doesn’t California, a champion of renewable energy, use all the solar power it can generate?
The answer, in part, is that the state has achieved dramatic success in increasing renewable energy production in recent years. But it also reflects sharp conflicts among major energy players in the state over the best way to weave these new electricity sources into a system still dominated by fossil-fuel-generated power.
No single entity is in charge of energy policy in California. This has led to a two-track approach that has created an ever-increasing glut of power and is proving costly for electricity users. Rates have risen faster here than in the rest of the U.S., and Californians now pay about 50% more than the national average.
Perhaps the most glaring example: The California Legislature has mandated that one-half of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030; today it’s about one-fourth. That goal once was considered wildly optimistic. But solar panels have become much more efficient and less expensive. So solar power is now often the same price or cheaper than most other types of electricity, and production has soared so much that the target now looks laughably easy to achieve.
A key question in the debate is when California will be able to rely on renewable power for most or all of its needs and safely phase out fossil fuel plants, which regulators are studying.
The answer depends in large part on how fast battery storage improves, so it is cheaper and can store power closer to customers for use when the sun isn’t shining. Solar proponents say the technology is advancing rapidly, making reliance on renewables possible far sooner than previously predicted, perhaps two decades or even less from now — which means little need for new power plants with a lifespan of 30 to 40 years.
Riverside County is already one of the nation’s clean energy hot spots. In fact, the entire Inland Empire solar power initiative is in full effect, installing solar panels everywhere! If you’ve driven from Los Angeles to the Coachella Valley, you’ve seen the iconic wind turbines in the San Gorgonio Pass and the solar panels that cover thousands of Inland Empire rooftops. Drive further east on Interstate 10, through the open desert, and you’ll pass four of the country’s biggest solar farms before you hit Arizona.
Now, the county is poised to generate even more climate-friendly energy.
EDF Renewable Energy has struck a deal to sell electricity from its 150-megawatt Desert Harvest solar project to Marin Clean Energy, a Bay Area power provider. The San Diego-based developer can now start construction on the long-awaited project, which will be built on 1,200 acres of federal land just south of Joshua Tree National Park, next to the existing Desert Sunlight solar farm.
The Desert Harvest contract bodes well for the future of clean energy, which experts say will continue to grow even if President Donald Trump aggressively supports fossil fuels, as he pledged to do during the campaign. That growth will be fueled by solar and wind power, which are now the cheapest sources of electricity across much of the country, out-competing coal and natural gas.
The Desert Harvest contract is also good news for supporters of community choice aggregation, a new business model through which local governments ditch their utility and buy electricity directly from power plants. Marin Clean Energy, which has been around since 2010, was California’s first community choice aggregator, or CCA. It now provides electricity that’s significantly greener than the alternative offered by Pacific Gas & Electric, for a comparable price. And it’s growing, expanding its customer base from 170,000 to 255,000 this year as more Bay Area cities chose to join.
Riverside County is studying whether to form a CCA, as are San Diego and more than a dozen Los Angeles-area cities. A study commissioned by Riverside County earlier this year found that homes and businesses in unincorporated areas alone would save nearly $8 million annually through community choice, with the average home saving between $50 and $55 annually.
EDF first proposed Desert Harvest in 2009, winning approval from the federal Bureau of Land Management in 2013. Along the way, the project faced opposition from conservationists who feared it would disrupt habitat critical to the desert tortoise, which is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. But two of the major protesters — Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council — dropped their objections after the developer agreed to concessions, such as buying private land near the project and setting it aside as protected habitat.
“We wanted to have a pathway for desert tortoises and other species that might wander down through that drainage,” said Jeff Aardahl, a biologist with Defenders of Wildlife. “We wanted a way for them to escape that and then continue on across the valley, and that’s where some of the private land acquisitions would occur.”
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