Join our 2nd buying group

Live in the Northwest? Have a sunny roof? Wondering how to harvest that roof to generate your own electricity?

We invite you to consider joining our second buying group. It’s in full swing now, with Solar States as our selected installer. We have secured excellent group pricing, with price breaks at 5, 10 and 15 households.

Having educated over 40 households about their options with rooftop solar in just the last couple of months, we’re confident we can answer yours as well!

Call Meenal at 267.709.3415 or write nwphlsolar@gmail.com or look for us at these upcoming events in the neighborhood…

  • Friday November 3rd @ 5pm at the Weavers Way Fall General Membership meeting
  • Monday November 6th @ 7pm at our informational gatherings next door to Weavers Way Mt Airy, 555 Carpenter Lane, Philadelphia
  • Monday November 20th @ 7pm, also at 555 Carpenter Lane, Philadelphia

Know that you have until December 15th to join this buying group. So help yourself, and help a neighbor, by buying rooftop solar as a group! Get started now…

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Whatever became of our 1st buying group from February?

Having recruited a dozen households for rooftop solar in February, the first installation began in early March. Seven months later, we have ten completed installations enjoying electricity from the sun.

The last two installs were in late August and early September.

Our eleventh household had some challenges with PECO’s transformer supplying their house. This has caused a major delay, but they are now waiting on PECO to do some work and should be able to move forward soon.

The first install, completed in late April, has produced seven megawatt hours of electricity so far! The homegrown electricity not only runs their household, it also charges the family car, a Nissan Leaf, while pushing the surplus generation back onto the electrical grid. Their monthly electric bill has dropped to $8.45, the minimum to maintain an account with PECO.

If you like charts, you’ll love the one below about this same household. Yellow is daytime electric use; blue is nighttime electric use. Columns are the 23 months before their installation went live, and the few months after. You’ll notice the expected seasonal variation, but see what happens after April. At night, they still get electricity from the grid. But their monthly average usage is negative, and has been for the six months so far. They are thrilled with their decision.

Pushing electricity onto the grid has many steps: Make the decision, Sign the contract, Obtain interconnection go-ahead from PECO, Obtain permit from the City, Order the solar panels & components, Install the system,
Coordinate City inspection, Coordinate meter replacement by PECO, Register for SRECS (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates). Remember if you are considering solar, you only need to do the first two steps. The installer takes care of the rest!

Below is the chart showing all the steps, completed and not, for each household in our first round. The steps are down the side, and the number of households is along the bottom. Soon, this chart will be all green!

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Electricity for the house. From Renewables, please!

You understand all the reasons to switch to renewables: the climate pickle we’ve got ourselves into, and the resultant unbreathable air from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to generate our electricity.

You also understand the need for a rapid transition to renewable energy, particularly in the electricity sector. But… you may live in an apartment, a condo, or just a house with a shady roof — all of which made it impossible to invest in solar panels on your own roof. Or, though your roof gets tons of sun, you may not have the funds to invest in rooftop solar.

What do do?

  • We suggest you switch your electricity supplier to The Energy Co-op, choosing their EcoChoice 100 product.
  • We also suggest you join us: The Northwest Philly Solar Co-op for a $25 annual fee. We offer tips like this, and also one-on-one energy efficiency help. 

Why?

The Energy Co-op is a local, well established company, spun off from Weavers Way Co-op. Their EcoChoice 100 product offers 100% renewable electricity, 99% from PA wind farms and 1% from solar. With a fixed rate, you won’t get surprised 6 months from now! Other companies may offer cheaper options, but most promote renewables in other states, and all appear gimmicky to us. Don’t take my word for it. Read Marion & Dave Brown’s experience; then read Chrys Brown’s experience, both shared in the Weavers Way Shuttle. Then, buy local!

How?

Go to The Energy Co-op’s website.. Or call their only office, in Center City Philadelphia, where someone from their small staff will assist you with the switch. Their number is 215.413.2122. Tell them Meenal sent you!

Now to get my own mother to switch back to The Energy Co-op after someone came to her door and presented a gimmick…

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Solar installer selected for second buying group in Northwest Philadelphia, Installations to start in September

Press Release: Solar installer selected for second buying group in Northwest Philadelphia, Installations to start in September

Philadelphia, August 10, 2017 — Buoyed by the success of their first buying group, the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op is poised to double their membership with their 2nd buying group. After reviewing competitive bids from other local solar installers, they have decided to work with Solar States for their bulk buying group. Joining a buying group results in about 10% lower price for the turnkey systems for area homeowners.

“We received three excellent responses to our request for proposals,” NPSC Board Member Marion Biddle said. “All were local installers with excellent customer reviews. The decision to go with Solar States was based on competitive pricing, a strong local job development program, company size, as well as support for unsecured loans to help people invest in solar.”

Formed last September by three local organizations — The Shalom Center, the Philadelphia Chapter of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light, and Weavers Way Food Co-op — the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Cooperative is building on the community’s interest in clean energy. Their first buying group was organized in February with a dozen households. The newly installed rooftop systems are being monitored on smart phones, and members are seeing super low electric bills during this record-breaking hot summer.

“This is a great opportunity to grow our community,” Northwest Philadelphia resident and solar panel owner Peter Winslow said. “If you had the opportunity to decrease pollution and bring good-paying jobs to your neighbors, you’d take it.”

The solar energy industry is expected to add jobs at a faster pace than any other energy sector. Currently, the solar industry employs 100 people in the Philadelphia region and produces only 1% of the region’s electricity needs. However, solar has the potential to employ 4,000 workers and supply more than 20% of the area’s power.

Consumers benefit from going solar. Solar panels increase property values, resulting in overall savings within seven to ten years of their installation, while the house becomes part of the clean energy revolution. There is still a 30% federal tax credit to take advantage of and lower the installation cost.

One of the main reasons scientists and environmentalists like renewable energy sources like solar is that they greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions–substantially slowing climate change–as well as improve air quality and public health outcomes.

“Renewable energy is the future,” NPSC treasurer Meenal Raval said. “And we’re doing what we can to make it a bright one.”

So far there are over 30 households considering having solar panels installed through the Co-op. Area homeowners interested in adding solar panels to their home should contact Meenal Raval or Marion Biddle at nwphlsolar@gmail.com, or come to an informational meeting on Monday August 14th at 7pm at 555 Carpenter Lane, Philadelphia with a recent PECO bill in hand! More at nwphillysolarcoop.com.

 

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Declare Independence from the Fossil Fuel industry: Electrify Everything & Power it All with Rooftop Solar

image credit: NW Philly Solar Co-op

It’s time we declared independence from the Fossil Fuel industry. They’re killing the planet while raking in mega profits. How to walk away from them? Many of us are discovering that we can generate our own electricity from rooftop solar, and meet all of our energy needs by that same clean electricity. To heat & cool our homes, to cook with, for our appliances, and for getting around.

Think you can’t install solar because you have a flat roof? They’re actually great for solar, as are roofs that face somewhat south.

Wondered about the tax incentives out there to motivate your decision? There is still a 30% tax credit that homeowners can claim for solar projects.

We’re neighbors, and waiting to wean you off dirty energy!

You’re invited to one of our upcoming member meetings.

When? 7pm on Monday July 10th & Monday July 17th
Where? 518 Carpenter Lane, down the street from Weavers Way Food Co-op

It’s ideal if you come with a recent PECO bill in hand or on your phone. You’ll learn how we use this to size your system.

Can’t make the meeting? Write us at nwphlsolar@gmail.com. We can offer you a back-of-envelope cost estimate.

About us – We’re the NW Philly Solar Co-op, educating and encouraging people to install solar on their rooftops. We organize people into buying groups. And we even make it easy for folks to advocate for clean energy policies. To date, we’ve formed one buying group, and most of the households already have the systems installed. We’re currently organizing our second buying group.

We offer an initial roof assessment & a back-of-the-envelope estimate for a rooftop solar installation that could generate most of your electricity needs. You save money in the long run, and reduce your carbon footprint right away.

Our timeline – On June 30th, we invited 5 area installers to bid for our next buying group. By July 31st, we expect to have decided on an installer. We will work with this installer to get a better roof assessment, cost estimate, and to streamline the installation process should you wish to proceed. Expect to get proposals in August and installation in September.

One of the most common questions asked us is… Is my neighborhood considered part of the Northwest? Yes! For our second group, we have interested households from Mt Airy, Germantown, Chestnut Hill, Roxborough & West Oak Lane, and also from the bordering suburbs of Ambler & Wyndmoor.

Have too much shade? Or don’t own your roof? Then you could be a great solar advocate.

Want to support our effort? Become a member of the Northwest Philly Solar Co-op. It’s only $25. More here.

 

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Be a great Solar Advocate

Have too much shade? Or don’t own your roof? Then you could be a great solar advocate.

image: Clean Energy Revolution Art Group

We need you to ask your state senator to support Senator Mario Scavello’s Senate Bill 404.

This bill would “close the borders” on PA’s solar renewable energy credit purchases; i.e. our utilities would need to purchase required solar-generated electricity from in-state projects, instead of the current procurement from Virginia & North Carolina.

Several of our area Senators (Art Haywood, Stewart Greenleaf, Vincent Hughes and Sharif Street) are co-sponsors. Please thank them, and ask them to push on this bill.

We’ve heard from the industry that this will be a game-changer for solar in our region.

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Equipment loans for residential solar

Have a sunny roof but don’t have the upfront cash to get rooftop solar? You’re not the only one.  In February, we wrote about whether you should buy or lease a system.

And recently came across this list of banks & lenders who offer unsecured (not home equity) loans for equipment.

Of note are these: Admirals Bank ~ EnerBank USA ~ Green Sky Credit ~ Home Loan Investment Bank ~ Lightstream ~ Provident Credit Union ~ SunPower Corporation ~ Sunnova Energy Corporation

If you’ve used any of these lenders to fund a solar installation, please write us and share your experience for others in Greater Philadelphia!

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Chestnut Hill United Church invites the public to learn about installing solar power

The Environmental Justice Center at Chestnut Hill United Church has been working for years to slow climate change.  Although climate disruption will hurt almost all sectors of the natural and human worlds, the Center recognizes that those at the margins of society – the elderly, the very young, the medically fragile, the poor – will be disproportionately and unjustly harmed.  Thus, addressing climate change is a moral imperative for the Center and its host organization, Chestnut Hill United Church.

Recognizing that current political leadership in Washington is not likely to take any meaningful actions soon to promote clean energy, which avoids the pollution of fossil fuel energy and slows climate disruption, the Environmental Justice Center is encouraging individuals to do more to lower their carbon footprints. “We are distraught that President Trump has chosen to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord,” said Joy Bergey, the Center’s director. “While we will keep the pressure on our elected leaders to move us towards a clean energy economy – the only ethical choice, we also want to help community take their energy future into their own hands, as it were.”

To that end, the Center is partnering with Northwest Philly Solar Co-op to help residents learn what’s involved in putting solar panels on the roof. The Solar Co-op is working with solar installers to arrange neighborhood-by-neighborhood buying groups. This will result in lower prices and a more streamlined process for everyone involved.

According to Meenal Raval, the co-op’s coordinator, a group of twelve Mt. Airy households has formed the first neighborhood buying group, with solar panels being installed on all these properties, with a cumulative carbon reduction of 55.8 metric tons. Raval says, “We’re actively forming more groups in Northwest Philly neighborhoods, and we’re eager to create groups in the nearby suburbs like Cheltenham, Erdenheim, Ambler, and Lafayette Hill.”

“Come learn about what’s involved in getting rooftop solar on your home. We’ll discuss what makes a good site for solar panels, as well as issues like pay-back periods and available tax breaks.”

The group will meet on Sunday, June 25 2017 at 11:30 at Chestnut Hill United Church, 8812 Germantown Avenue (directly across from the Women’s Center.) There’s no cost to attend, and all are invited.

Contact joybergey@gmail.com or 215-313-1311 for more information.

 

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How much electricity do I use each year?

Ever wondered how much electricity you use in a year?  For those of you who get a paper bill from PECO each month, turn to page 2.

At the bottom right, you’ll see Total Annual kWh Usage; 4,896 in the example above.

This accounts for the seasonal swings in each month’s usage. This is also the number I monitor after replacing any electrical appliance with a newer, more efficient one. Within a month or two, I usually see this number go down!

When planning to install rooftop solar, we again refer to the annual usage, building a system that generates close to your current usage.

Curious about lowering your annual usage?

Curious about rooftop solar? Write us at nwphlsolar@gmail.com.

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Rooftop solar and your PECO bill

This post will explore the PECO power bill, before and after going solar. Be sure to check out the “Interesting Issue” near the end of this post.

Looking at a sample of page 2 of a PECO electric bill before going solar, you’ll see 

  • one meter reading showing monthly usage (451 kWh in our sample)
  • one fixed Customer charge of $8.44
  • three charges based on usage for Generation, Transmission & Distribution.

If you’ve gone to PAPowerSwitch and selected another electricity supplier, then you would see Generation & Transmission combined onto one line, with the rate set by that supplier.  

On your first month with solar, it will be a bit complicated for two reasons.

  1. PECO charges the installer for the new meter (part of your payment to the installer), and then PECO gives you a credit on your bill. The amount is between $300 and $400.
  2. You’ll therefore be billed part of the month with the old meter, and the remainder with the new meters.

You’ll see a bill like the one below with 3 meter readings:

  1. Old meter reading, partial month’s usage before switch to solar (sample: 81 kWh)
  2. New “in” meter (also called general service) for electricity you used from PECO (sample :232 kWh)
  3. New “out” meter, for electricity your rooftop system sent to PECO (sample 340 kWh)

plus a Customer charge of $8.43 (or 8.44, not sure why it varies a little).

What this means:
The energy from solar that was sent back to PECO was 27 kWh more than the amount received from PECO (340 – 232 – 81). This surplus 27 kWh will be banked towards next month’s use. You are billed just the Customer charge of $8.43 for the month.

 

To make it more complicated, for this particular bill, the 27 kWh surplus resulted in a  “Renewable Energy Credit” of $2.15 because the bill happened to be in May which is the month when PECO zero’s out the banked distribution of kWhs. They call this “settlement.”

This plus the credit mentioned earlier, for the meter, results in a total credit of $327.06.  Given that the customer charge was $8.43 the bill ends up with a credit of $318.63 that will be carried over to the next month. The image below is Page 1 of the May bill.
Note the “Message Center” which describes the “banked distribution” and the “settlement.”

The following months, when your grid-connected system is in full swing, you’ll see a bill like the one below:

  • 2 meter readings:
    “In” meter, for electricity you used from PECO,  (sample 287 kWh)
    “Out” meter, for electricity your rooftop system sent to PECO, (sample 525 kWh)
  • Customer charge $8.43

In the example, 238 kWh more electricity was sent to the grid than you pulled down  (525-287) . The surplus will go into your “banked distribution” and will be added to next month’s “out” meter reading to determine next month’s bill. If the total of these two is more than the “in” meter, then no charge, if it is ever less than the “in” meter, then you will see the three charges for generation, transmission and distribution for the extra kWh’s used.  This rollover and comparison will occur each month until the next May. In May, PECO will zero out the surplus “banked distribution” with a check or a credit on the bill.


INTERESTING ISSUE – There is one piece of usage information that is not visible on the PECO bill: How much electricity was actually consumed by the loads in the house. Since solar energy is used by the house loads first, PECO does not see this energy so can not meter this energy.

On the 13-Month Usage chart shown above, compare the usage for the prior year’s month of June, before the solar installation, to June of the current year which was after the solar installation. The current year is significantly lower than the prior year. This is because the big usage in June is the air conditioner, and the air conditioner tends to be on during the day when the sun is out and power is being generated by the panels. This is a clear picture of the value of solar because the electricity for the air conditioning load never had to enter the electrical grid. The electricity was consumed right where it was generated.   

The load information is not lost to the homeowner as it is being tracked by the monitoring system from the solar company which is used to track the output of the solar arrays.

This data in combination with the information available on the PECO bill will allow a full picture of the energy flow.

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