As the Day is Long
The long days of summer are the busiest time in the solar industry, and this summer has been SolarCity's most active season in memory. We're currently installing several hundred solar power systems each month, with no signs of slowing down. Here are some highlights:
- To keep up with the summer rush, SolarCity has been hiring. We passed the 700-employee mark in July and set a company record when 20 new hires started on Monday, August 16. SolarCity passed the 8,000 customer mark as it celebrated its fourth birthday in July, which we believe represents the greatest amount solar adoption generated by a single solar installer in any four-year period in American history.
- In July, SolarCity extended residential and commercial services to Tucson, AZ., and is moving into a new office there this month.
- We have also launched a new community program. Solarize Salem is our third community program in Oregon, and our 40th overall (more on the history of community programs in the next story).
- Together with the Electronic Power Research Institute (EPRI), we announced a project to install a 187 kW PV research system at EPRI's laboratory in Palo Alto, CA. In addition to generating solar power for its four-building campus, EPRI will be using the solar system to conduct a research project on real-time data on how electricity generated is impacted by variability, such as cloud cover. EPRI's selection of SolarCity is a nice endorsement for us, as EPRI is the leading research institution for the electric utility industry.
- Together with the City College of San Francisco and Young Community Developers, we announced a new solar scholarship program for economically disadvantaged residents of the Bayview/Hunter's Point neighborhood in San Francisco.
- SolarCity was also visited by two U.S. Senators this summer. Colorado Senator Michael Bennett laid one of the panels on a SolarCity residential installation in Denver in June, and California Senator Barbara Boxer stopped by a SolarCity warehouse in July to share her views on the importance of environmental policy in creating green collar jobs.
Building Solar Cities
SolarCity launched its first community program in 2006 in the tiny town of Portola Valley in the Santa Cruz Mountains, helping 30 homeowners adopt solar power. Since then, SolarCity has launched 40 more community programs, which have resulted in more than 1,200 customers going solar! Our community program model is being adopted by cities across the nation to promote cleaner power and create green jobs.
How community programs work
SolarCity partners with local governments and private financial institutions on a citywide scale to help homeowners and businesses in a community to go solar together. SolarCity works with cities to provide permitting and inspection guidelines, educational programs, and affordable financing options.
Creating green cities and green collar jobs
Homeowners and businesses aren't the only ones that benefit from community programs. Many local governments want to support ways to generate electricity without issuing bonds or using public funds. SolarCity's community programs help local governments achieve their environmental stewardship goals without depending on taxpayers to offset costs.
Our recent program with the city of Lancaster is one of our most ambitious community solar programs ever undertaken. The Solar Lancaster program was created to offer area residents, businesses and non-profit organizations more affordable ways to adopt solar power. The program also includes the creation of local solar training in partnership with the local university, Antelope Valley College. The city's leadership is also "walking the talk" so to speak. Lancaster is installing solar at six city sites, including City Hall, and Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris wasted no time in signing up to become the first residential customer of Solar Lancaster.
The Lancaster program is only the most recent example of SolarCity's developing the community program concept. In May, the City of Beaverton and SolarCity announced the launch of Solar Beaverton, a community program to help Beaverton residents go solar. This partnership pilot program offers residents a more than 80 percent discount on the cost of a solar system purchase after factoring in federal and state tax credits and incentives from the Energy Trust of Oregon. Solar Beaverton surpassed the city's total number of 2009 solar applications in its first two weeks, and is on pace to surpass its 50 solar home goal by September.
Community programs will continue to evolve, as each community wants to do things in its own way. Regardless of approach, community programs will continue to be an important way to increase the adoption and use of solar power.
Casa Dominguez's Unique Green Design
Casa Dominguez is an innovative development comprised of affordable housing that offers its residents and community members support services throughout the year. Casa Dominguez is the first multifamily housing development in Los Angeles County to be awarded LEED for Homes platinum certification.
Developed, designed and operated by Abode Communities, Casa Dominguez was built with a green focus, benefiting both its residents and the environment. As part of this effort, SolarCity installed a 84 kilowatt solar electric system that is expected to offset 100 percent of the development's electricity in common areas.
In addition to solar, every aspect and design of Casa Dominguez incorporates green elements. Toilets are dual-flush, gardens are landscaped with a graywater irrigation system and residents are encouraged to use environmentally friendly detergents and fabric softeners without synthetic chemical. Units also feature mechanical equipment that use outside air to maintain room temperature, ENERGY STAR appliances and high efficiency-low emissivity windows--all part of Casa Dominguez's state-of-the-art green design.
"In the East Rancho Dominguez neighborhood, families are paying too much for rent as compared to their income, and are often living in overcrowded conditions. At the same time, low-income residents are increasingly impacted by high utility costs," added Robin Hughes, President of Abode Communities. "The comprehensive approach of Casa Dominguez is a model that is transferable and necessary."
Solar Citizens: The Justices, El Sobrante, CA
Home Improvements Become Home Savings
Genny and Bob Justice were always curious about the potential to use the sun's energy to power their home. When, the Justices learned that they could pay less for solar than they previously paid for electricity with SolarCity's SolarLease option, they decided to move forward.
As part of an energy efficiency pilot program, a SolarCity consultant evaluated all aspects of their home's energy use and discussed ways for the couple to save energy, not just produce it. He explained that a small investment in home energy efficiency improvements could result in big energy and financial savings. In addition to reducing electricity costs, the Justices could also reduce their natural gas expenses and improve the environmental benefit of their home by combining solar and energy efficiency.
"SolarCity explained that we didn't need to put the largest solar system we could fit on the roof. We could be smarter about it, and that looking at ways to save from all angles made the most sense," explained Bob.
SolarCity performed a comprehensive home energy evaluation and identified the most effective options to save the Justices' energy and money. These included updating old appliances, sealing ductwork gaps and replacing the couple's aging swamp coolers.
"We were impressed with SolarCity's thoroughness," continued Bob. "Their auditors discovered we were losing 60% of our heating through leaks in the ductwork. We were also impressed that they didn't try to sell us things we didn't need. Even though our appliances are old and newer models are more efficient, they advised us that it would be difficult to recoup the cost."
In the end, the Justices asked SolarCity to replace the old ductwork and to change out the old cooling system for an energy efficient air conditioning system. As a result, the couple is saving money, producing clean power and enjoying a healthier, more comfortable home.
"It's nice to watch the electric meter spin backwards during the day," said Genny