Third Sun Solar Added to $7 Billion Renewable Energy Multiple Award Task Order Contract

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., July 25, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Army today awarded the final round of solar technology contracts that will support a $7 billion renewable and alternative energy power production for Department of Defense installations Multiple Award Task Order Contract (MATOC).

The U.S. Army Energy Initiatives Task Force (EITF) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, established the $7 billion MATOC primarily to use for Power Purchase Agreements involving renewable or alternative energy projects greater than 10 megawatts.

These contracts will support the Army’s achievement of its congressionally mandated energy goal of 25 percent production of energy from renewable sources by 2025, and improving installation energy security and sustainability.

Today’s contract awards add 12 small businesses to the pool of qualified contractors who will be eligible to bid on future individual solar technology project task orders. Companies receiving contracts include Third Sun Solar of Athens, Ohio, the only Ohio small business that made the cut for this work. To pass muster for this assignment, Third Sun Solar had to complete a rigorous set of application procedures and be judged as a healthy, reputable company well-equipped to do work for the Department of Defense.

The MATOC involves third-party financed renewable energy acquisitions and involves no Army capital or Military Construction appropriation. The Army only purchases the power from contractors who own, operate or maintain the generating assets. The MATOC’s total estimated value of $7 billion refers to the total dollar value of energy available for purchase under all Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) task orders for their entire term (up to 30 years).

As renewable energy opportunities at Army installations are assessed and validated by the EITF, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, will issue a competitive task order RFP to the pre-qualified MATOC companies for the specific technologies. Task orders will specify the type and amount of energy to be supplied to the Army installation or other federal user as well as other pertinent information for the developer to prepare a response that meets the government’s requirements.

SOURCE U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville

Solar in Ohio: Trust and Ratings Trump Price

Part of what we do for our customers — and prospective customers — is keep an eye on solar market trends and market intelligence. We want to know where the value is in solar, and how to maximize that value for our customers. Often, that research reflects back upon us, and other companies that install solar in Ohio, showing us what customers think about, and look for, in a solar installer. So it is gratifying to see a survey like this, conducted by EnPhase and published in Renewable Energy World magazine.

When solar homeowners were asked, “Why did you select the installer you chose? (check all that apply,)” a huge 69% said that they chose their residential installer because they were the most trusted or highest rated installer, while just 56% of responders selected price. So price is certainly important, but trust and ratings are a much more common factor.

SURVEY

 

“It’s pretty clear that strengthening the trust of prospects and customers leads to solar sales and referrals, and reviews and other information found on the web are also important for acquiring and converting residential solar sales.” (Tor Valenza)

All of that said, it’s honest communication, follow-up and follow-through that win peoples’ trust. And maintaining focus. Each solar installation we do is the most important one we have ever done. That’s where our reputation comes from.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is a solar marketing and communications consultant and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact him through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.

U.S. Energy Grid in Trouble

The U.S. grid is the worst in the industrialized world (outages are up 285%!)

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Power outages in the United States are up an astonishing 285% since 1984. The U.S. ranks last among the top nine Western industrialized nations in the average length of outages. That dismal performance costs American businesses as much as $150 billion every year according to the EIA.

“The U.S. electrical grid, once one of the world’s great marvels, is crumbling after decades of underinvestment,” trumpets Bloomberg BusinessWeek. “It’s… something of a relic, largely built after World War II from designs that date to Thomas Edison.”

Although talk of a smart grid has been around for years, many utilities are now starting in earnest on a huge infrastructure makeover. It could cost almost $500 billion before it’s completed, according to the Electric Power Research Institute.

Smart Grid News. Author Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.

Lennon + McCartney + Solar + B Corporations

Here is an Op-Ed by David Brooks, a conservative columnist for The New York Times. In it, he comments upon The Beatles, creativity, and B Corporations (like Third Sun Solar) — how the confluence of creativity, capitalism and the desire to “do well by doing good” leads to a potent, positive force in American business culture. [Our emphasis added in bold.]

Two minds finding one song

Two minds finding one song

In the current issue of The Atlantic, Joshua Wolf Shenk has a fascinating description of how Paul McCartney and John Lennon created music together. McCartney was meticulous while Lennon was chaotic. McCartney emerged out of a sunny pop tradition. Lennon emerged out of an angst-ridden rebel tradition.

Lennon wrote the song “Help” while in the throes of depression. The song originally had a slow, moaning sound. McCartney suggested a lighthearted counter melody that, as Shenk writes, fundamentally changed and improved the nature of the piece.

Lennon and McCartney came from different traditions, but they had similar tastes. They brought different tendencies to the creative process but usually agreed when the mixture was right. This created the special tension in their relationship. They had a tendency to rip at each other, but each knew ultimately that he needed the other. Even just before his death, Lennon was apparently thinking of teaming up with McCartney once again.

Shenk uses the story to illustrate the myth of the lone genius, to show that many acts of genius are the products of teams or pairs, engaged in collaboration and “co-opetition.” And we have all known fertile opposites who completed each other — when they weren’t trying to destroy each other.

But the Lennon-McCartney story also illustrates the key feature of creativity; it is the joining of the unlike to create harmony. Creativity rarely flows out of an act of complete originality. It is rarely a virgin birth. It is usually the clash of two value systems or traditions, which, in collision, create a transcendent third thing.

Shakespeare combined the Greek honor code (thou shalt avenge the murder of thy father) with the Christian mercy code (thou shalt not kill) to create the torn figure of Hamlet. Picasso combined the traditions of European art with the traditions of African masks. Saul Bellow combined the strictness of the Jewish conscience with the free-floating go-getter-ness of the American drive for success.

Sometimes creativity happens in pairs, duos like Lennon and McCartney who bring clashing worldviews but similar tastes. But sometimes it happens in one person, in someone who contains contradictions and who works furiously to resolve the tensions within.

When you see creative people like that, you see that they don’t flee from the contradictions; they embrace dialectics and dualism. They cultivate what Roger Martin called the opposable mind — the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time.

If they are religious, they seek to live among the secular. If they are intellectual, they go off into the hurly-burly of business and politics. Creative people often want to be strangers in a strange land. They want to live in dissimilar environments to maximize the creative tensions between different parts of themselves.

Today we live in a distinct sort of creative environment. People don’t so much live in the contradiction between competing worldviews. We live in a period of disillusion and distrust of institutions.

This has created two reactions. Some monads withdraw back into the purity of their own subcultures. But others push themselves into the rotting institutions they want to reinvent. If you are looking for people who are going to be creative in the current climate, I’d look for people who are disillusioned with politics even as they go into it; who are disenchanted with contemporary worship, even as they join the church; who are disgusted by finance even as they work in finance. These people believe in the goals of their systems but detest how they function. They contain the anxious contradictions between disillusionment and hope.

This creative process is furthest along, I’d say, in the world of B corporations. There are many people today who are disillusioned both with the world of traditional charity and traditional capitalism. Many charities have been warmheartedly but wastefully throwing money at problems, without good management or market discipline. Capitalists have been obsessed with the short-term maximization of shareholder return without much concern for long-term prosperity or other stakeholders.

BCORP

B corporations are a way to transcend the contradictions between the ineffective parts of the social sector and myopic capitalism. Kyle Westaway, a lawyer in this field and the author of the forthcoming “Profit & Purpose,” notes that benefit corporation legal structures have been established in 22 states over the last four years. The 300 or so companies that have registered in this way, like Patagonia [and] Method [and Third Sun Solar], can’t be sued if they fail to maximize profits in order to focus on other concerns. They are seeking to reinvent both capitalism and do-gooder-ism, and living in the contradiction between these traditions.

This suggests a final truth about creativity: that, in every dialectic, there is a search for creative synthesis. Or, as Albert Einstein put it, “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.”

<End of Op-Ed>

That last statement from Albert Einstein is where solar comes in. We cannot solve the problem of reliance upon dirty fossil fuels by digging and burning more of them. We can solve the problem — gradually, one rooftop at a time — by taking it to a different level, by incorporating clean, renewable energy into the mix, and by slowly but definitively breaking our addiction to deadly fuel sources. We won’t solve the problem in my lifetime. But if we start now, we will solve it in our kids’ lifetime. Creatively, cooperatively, and by joining the unlike to create harmony.

You can read the full Op-Ed here.

Who Buys Solar?

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Who is buying solar in Central Ohio these days?

Homeowners and farmers are going solar in growing numbers, for good reasons. For homeowners, solar puts their rooftop to work supplying clean energy for the home. Carefully-installed solar panels produce surprising amounts of electricity in Central Ohio and throughout the state. A quality solar installer will mount the right number of panels, in the right location, correctly tied into your home electric panel and your utility meter. With Net-metering, your utility will credit you on your bill for every kilowatt-hour of solar power you put back onto the grid, in effect, sharing it with your neighbors. This can shave your monthly bill down from, say, $125 per month to below $10 per month. The amount you no longer pay the utility is your solar investment, and once the system is paid down, you are making free electricity.

For many of us, these technical points and financial analysis model are of less interest than the opportunity to take control of our power and make a positive step toward a cleaner, more sustainable planet. No matter which comes first — the financials or the environmental commitment — solar makes sense across the board.

With utility rates rising, an investment today in a solar electric system offers predictable long-term energy costs and a strong hedge against energy rate inflation. A homeowner can often see a 7-9% internal rate of return on their solar investment, a far better return than many investments currently offer. And the higher and faster your electric bill rates rise, the higher the IRR and the faster your return on investment.

Farmers are also buying into solar in a big way lately. Why is that? Our experience has been that farmers, as businesspeople, tend to plan on a longer cycle than many other kinds of businesses. They plan years in advance, and they understand how major investments in equipment can multiply profit potentials. Among the long-term costs farmers seek to manage are their energy costs, which can be high with energy-intensive tasks as milk pumping, refrigeration, grain drying and grinding, barn lighting and fans. Solar can eliminate the volatility of energy costs; for farmers, who deal with volatility in many aspects of their operations, eliminating one area of uncertainty is worth more than money. Peace of mind is priceless.

Will Solar Raise My Property Taxes?

In most places, no.

But it depends on where you live and how they appraise for property tax purposes. In Ohio (where we are) there are protections in place — Ohio has two solar property tax exemptions: one for solar electric systems up to 250 kilowatts,  and a payment in lieu of property tax for systems greater than 250 kW. (250kW is a large, commercial-scale system — it would certainly not fit on any house I’ve ever lived in!)

In June 2010, Ohio enacted legislation granting these exemptions from public utility tangible and real property taxes. Prior to this exemption, property taxes were cited as a major barrier for renewable-energy deployment in Ohio, as a renewable-energy facility that sold electricity to a third party was considered a “public utility” for tax purposes.

In Cleveland and Cincinnati, they actually abate property taxes for adding green energy like solar.

More than 30 U.S. states (and Puerto Rico) offer some form of property tax incentive for solar installations. In the majority of these states, the incentive follows a simple model that excludes the added value of solar-energy equipment in the valuation of the property for taxation purposes. Although most property tax incentives do not have an expiration date, a handful of states allow the tax break only for a limited period, ranging from five years in Iowa and North Dakota to 25 years in Hawaii. With a few exceptions, these policies apply to all sectors, and both to solar-thermal systems and solar-electric systems (and passive solar, in some cases). Some states specify that a system must produce energy for on-site use to qualify.

In addition, several states authorize, but do not require, local governments to provide property tax incentives for solar. New Hampshire, for example, allows cities and towns to offer exemptions from local property taxes for certain renewables. The Office of Energy and Planning web site lists more than 80 municipalities that offer the exemption for one or more types of renewable-energy systems. New York’s exemption, on the other hand, is valid unless a local government opts out of the exemption, as opposed to the more common practice of requiring governments to opt in to grant an exemption. Other states with a “local option” policy include Alaska, Colorado, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. Maryland, which requires a solar property tax exemption, allows counties to offer a property tax credit for solar systems for up to three years. Several counties in Maryland now offer such credits.

Due to the recent growth in large-scale solar and other renewables, a few states have developed separate policies for utility-scale renewables to preserve at least a portion of property tax revenue for local governments, or to assess such systems at a value comparable to a non-renewable energy facility. Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Nevada provide a partial abatement of property tax attributable to the solar facility using various assessment methods. Customer-sited installations, on the other hand, qualify for a full exemption in Arizona, Montana and Nevada, and, if authorized by the applicable local government, in Colorado. North Carolina’s property tax incentive, established in 1977, stipulates that solar heating and cooling systems not be assessed at more than the value of a conventional system. In 2008, North Carolina created a new incentive for solar-electric systems by exempting 80% of the appraised value of the system from property tax.

In California, they do not allow property tax increases resulting from adding solar (California Revenue and Taxation code codified this change in section 73, way back in 1980). Other tax jurisdictions vary.

Thanks to dsireusa.org and the U.S. Dept. of Energy for this info.