A Good Year
As 2010 draws to a close, SolarCity is busier than ever. We're currently installing 500 new projects per month across our territories. In the hustle and bustle of fall, we passed a few more milestones, too.
- Growth. More and more customers are going solar. SolarCity grew to 900 employees in November and also passed the 10,000 customer mark earlier this month! We believe we're the first solar provider in the U.S. to reach that milestone, and (thanks to you!) we did it in less than five years.
- A Great Honor. SolarCity was recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as a Green Power Supplier of the Year, in the non-utility category. Each year DOE recognizes the actions of organizations, programs, and individuals that significantly advance the development of green power sources.
- Big-Box Solar. We announced our largest project to date in September, and we will be installing solar on more than 30 Walmart stores this year and next in California and Arizona. We believe that this project will create more than 20 megawatts of new capacity when completed.
- Solar Power at Night? In September, SolarCity was awarded a grant from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to research and develop a system that will combine advanced battery storage with a solar electric management and production system. The battery storage will collect excess PV power production so that during peak periods, the utility can pull electricity from battery storage rather than power plants, which have greater emissions. The New York Times wrote about this new development.
When Less is More
At SolarCity we've made it our business to enable businesses and homeowners to generate more clean power, but one of the greatest ways to make energy cleaner is to use less of it. Studies show that for every $100 spent on heating and cooling air in the home, the typical homeowner loses $40 to leakage and inefficiency.
The cost saving potential of energy efficiency measures is astounding. A 2009 study from McKinsey & Company suggests that energy efficiency improvements in the U.S. could generate more than $1.2 trillion in energy savings in the next ten years if they are enacted on a large-scale. Integrated solar and energy efficiency measures are a powerful combination that creates more clean energy and uses less polluting energy at the same time.
SolarCity is in the process of rolling out energy efficiency services across our service territory. When this rollout is complete, our energy advisors will be able to use advanced diagnostic tools and software to conduct a thorough evaluation of your home's energy usage, and energy waste. Based on this analysis, SolarCity can present you a prioritized list of where it would pay to make energy-efficient upgrades, and can make some of the improvements the same day.
For example, drafts caused by leaks in your home's building shell and ductwork can represent a significant waste of heat in the winter and of cooling in the summer. In fact, leakage alone can account for 10 percent of your total energy usage. To check how much it's costing you, SolarCity advisors can use sophisticated tools like a blower-door system to test air leakage in your home and identify opportunities to fix the leaks.
If the tests show significant air leakage, SolarCity can then perform upgrades to seal your home more efficiently. Once completed, SolarCity will perform the same blower test to verify the improvement. In addition to saving energy, air sealing can have a dramatic, immediate effect on the comfort and air quality of the home. Here's an email we received from a customer in Southern California last week after we completed an energy efficiency upgrade.
Sent: Thursday, December 09, 2010 8:14 AM
To: SolarCity Customer Care
Subject: Re: Your Upcoming Site Audit
Just want to take a minute to thank you and let you know the crew you sent out yesterday ...Sam, Juan Carlos, Juan and Shaun were absolutely great. They were the nicest four guys anyone would ever want to meet. They really worked hard all day and were a pleasure to have in our home. All four were totally professional and my wife and I were simply "blown away" by all that they did. Our lower den, which we affectionately call "the dungeon", is where we watch TV at night and it was warm for the first time ever since we've been in this house. Fantastic!!!
Again, thank you so much. If this is going to be a typical SolarCity experience, I will recommend your company highly to all of my friends and customers.
Take care and please let the "guys" know they are welcome here anytime.
Half Moon Bay, CA
In addition to building SolarCity can also make simple, relatively low-cost upgrades such as installing a new programmable thermostat that saves energy by adjusting temperatures based on your schedule (away, home, asleep). These not only make your home more comfortable but also cut energy usage while you are away. Other remedies can include insulating hot water pipes, installing new high-efficiency heating, cooling, hot water systems, pool pumps and insulation and other cost-saving measures. While these energy efficiency measures may not be as "exciting" as generating electricity from the sun, solar and efficiency add up to far more savings together than on their own.
A Solar Education
Cholla Elementary, part of the Elementary School District in Casa Grande, Arizona, is not a typical elementary school. Cholla is a solar school.
After reviewing budgets and looking for ways to reduce expenses, Cholla realized an opportunity existed to save big by going solar. After conducting a little research, the district found out about SolarCity's pioneering work to create a solar service option that would allow Arizona schools to pay less for solar power than they would otherwise pay for electricity from the grid.
Cholla Elementary, currently the only school in Casa Grande to go solar, was selected due to its location. Its campus is ideal for a ground mounted system that can accommodate the electrical needs of both Cholla Elementary and Cactus Middle School. The Casa Grande school district signed a Solar Service Agreement for a 264 kilowatt (kW) system at Cholla, and a 340 kW system at Cactus. Together, the systems are expected to offset 70 percent of the schools' power usage — enough to power 76 homes! And best of all, the schools are expected to save thousands on their net energy costs over the next 20 years that can be used for teacher salaries and facility improvements.
In addition to saving money, Cholla will set an example by incorporating solar education into its curriculum and will be using SolarGuard®, SolarCity's solar monitoring system, to educate its 510 students about solar energy. SolarGuard will allow students to view their school's solar power production, financial savings and environmental impact in real time, and help a new generation of students see the benefits of clean power firsthand.
Representatives from SolarCity and APS visited the schools in early November to cut the ribbon on the solar systems and answer questions from students.
Solar Citizen: Tom Van Alsburg
Solar Cost Savings Make Colorado Customer Golden
With a five-bedroom house in Golden, Colorado, a town known for cold winters and hot summers, Tom Van Alsburg kept a watchful eye on his electric bills. Now, thanks to SolarCity's SolarLease® program, Tom finds himself watching his meter spin backward to see how much electricity his new solar system is generating.
After hearing about SolarCity and doing some research, Tom was surprised to discover how much money he would save with a SolarLease. By applying for the various solar power incentives available and rolling them into the lease, SolarCity could deliver a system big enough to power his home for approximately $75 a month compared to the hundreds of dollars he had been paying for electricity. In the end, he decided to save even more by prepaying for the lease up front. "It will pay for itself in three or four years, and then my solar electricity will be free."
As a custom builder, Tom appreciated the way SolarCity handled the installation. He recognized right away that he was dealing with a company that knows the ropes and fields experienced crews. "They did everything—from designing the system to the going down to the building department and pulling permits to showing you where to sign the paperwork for the rebates," continued Tom. "And when they engineered the system they knew to reinforce the rafters to handle the added weight of the panels."
With the panels solidly on the roof and the system running, Tom pulled in 1,200 kilowatt-hours from his solar system in the first month. "What they told me I would get, I got, and more; it has worked more efficiently than they predicted," said Tom.