Solar on Wissahickon Avenue

A young tradesman had been looking for DIY kits to install solar on his own rooftops when he came across posters for the 2015 Solarize Northwest Philly pilot program. He went to an educational meeting, assuming he’d meet many homeowners in his age group, all concerned about climate and wanting to participate in the clean energy scene, only to  discover that he was the youngest in attendance; that most of the others were property managers only looking for a financial incentive to install solar.

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He signed on to the program, got Exact Solar to install the panels in July of 2015, and now proudly sports 13 panels on their second and third floor roofs on Wissahickon Ave in Mt Airy.

This 3.3kW system cost them a total of $12,500. The 30% federal tax credit helped. As did a 10 year solar loan from Admiral Bank for the balance, which works out to a payment of about $100 per month.

Their peak usage month has been June. On a sample month, this family’s PECO bill showed usage of 205 kWh, and generation of 182 kWh. The bill reflected this, and only billed them for generation, transmission and distribution for 23 kWh.

sample-bill

He thinks that all new construction should have solar in it’s design. I agree! What’s not to like?

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Roxborough home with rooftop solar

Yesterday, I learned of another home in the northwest that had rooftop solar installed last summer, as part of the 2015 Solarize Northwest Philly pilot program organized by the Clean Air Council & Sustainable Business Network last year, with Exact Solar & Solar States as the two preferred contractors. which resulted in about 15 homes with solar on their rooftops.

If you’re one of these area residents, and would like to share your story, please contact Meenal at nwphlsolar at gmail.comfowler

This 10.66 kW system is on a gracious 3000+ square foot, 3 story home on Fowler Street in Roxborough, with almost 40 panels spanning the 4 roofs.

The family is very happy with the installation, especially the monthly bill of about $7 during the months when they don’t use the air conditioner.

The total cost was $32,000, which reduced their taxes the following April by about $9,600, thanks to the 30% Federal tax credit.

Curious about a solar installation for your home? Write us with your address and we’ll do a quick check on whether solar is possible on your rooftop.

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Second in the series of local solar installations

Area residents happy with their 1+ year solar installation recently spoke at their neighborhood group. We learned of this, and met up with them to learn more.

This family was part of the 2015 Solarize Northwest Philly pilot program organized by the Clean Air Council & Sustainable Business Network last year, with Exact Solar & Solar States as the two preferred contractors. which resulted in about 15 homes with solar on their rooftops. If you’re one of these area residents, and would like to share your story, please contact Meenal at nwphlsolar at gmail.comstory2

Residents of Cresheim Road in Mt Airy, they had their solar panels installed June 2015. They’ve been happy with the installation. Though they discovered they needed a new roof, the roof replacement was well coordinated between local roofer Russell Roofing and solar installer Exact Solar.

The system cost them about $17,000, paid in two chunks. The first payment of about $12,000 was made when the job was completed. The balance was paid the following spring, when they used the 30% Federal tax credit to finish paying Exact Solar the balance of about $5000 owed them on the installation.

The 21 panel system was sized to generate about 92% of their electricity usage, about 5940 watts. Though their bill peaked at $127 when both the air conditioner and dehumidifier were running, the most recent bill has been about $8. Having lived a full year with this installation, they report seeing many months with just the minimum $8 charge.

To occasionally check on the electricity being generated by the rooftop panels, they open up the Solar Edge app on their phones.

Curious about a solar installation for your home? Write us with your address and we’ll do a quick check on whether solar is possible on your rooftop.

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In case you missed our kickoff party last week…

In case you couldn’t make it to our kickoff party last week…here’s what you missed!

Several members of our Board were present, notably Arthur Waskow, Barb Bloomfield,  Chris Hill, Meenal Raval & Peter Winslow, plus Cheryl Pyrch, Pastor of Summit Presbyterian Church and Chair of Philadelphia chapter of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light.

Barbara opened up the P’Nai Or space inside Summit Church with a nice spread of snacks. We were honored to have Arthur’s presence for the opening as well as the closing, and for bringing us all together.

Our guest speaker was Anya Schoolman of Community Power Network (CPN) in DC. Anya’s passion was infectious, as she shared how her organization was formed, initially as Mt Pleasant Co-op, then DC-SUN (Solar United Neighborhoods).

We spoke of our recent decisions…

  • to bring together people in Northwest Philadelphia to buy into rooftop solar;
  • to work on clean energy advocacy at the City & State level;
  • to help folks who can’t install solar on their roofs to still participate; perhaps initially with a local lending club to assist others to solarize and later, with community solar where they could invest in solar on someone else’s rooftop (or parking lot) and still get credited on their electric bill.
  • to working with CPN, which is a non-profit supporting multiple communities engaged in adding solar to their homes. That perhaps over next next few months, we could morph into a Philly-SUN.
  • to working with Exact Solar on the first round of installations while we learned about the industry, coordinating a weekly check-in, and a pledge towards collaborative problem solving.

We also spoke of our need to build teams for

  • Outreach – to speak at community events and recruit more people
  • Roof Assessment – to see if roof of an interested participant could indeed be viable for solar
  • Bid Selection – for a later stage
  • Loan Committee / Legal – for our neighborhood lending program, because we want no rooftop left behind, especially for lack of funding.

And  of the history of local solarization projects…

  • Solarize Northwest – Organized by Clean Air Council and the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadephia in January of 2015, in partnership with solar contractors Exact Solar and Solar States, this resulted in about 15 homes in the Northwest getting solarized. One resident who participated in this and has rooftop solar on her home, was present tonight.
  • Solarize Greater Media – Organized by Transition Town Media and Solar States this Spring of 2016, about 50 households signed up. More about this effort is found here. Sari Steuber, the President of Transition Town Media was present to share their experiences. Of note is that about 30% of the households were denied inter-connection by PECO because of antiquated lines. PECO needs to prepare for more and more people demanding clean energy.
  • and lastly, Solarize Center City has their kickoff event coming up on Wednesday Oct 5, 2016. It’s organized by Center City Residents Association and Solar States. Read about it here, and if you’re a Center City resident reading this, please plan on attending by registering here.

Also present were…

  • Ron Celentano of Celentano Energy Services and Pennsylvania Division of MSEIA (Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association. Ron suggested we support a campaign; that of Vera Cole for State Rep in Bucks County, who has worked tirelessly at the MAREA, the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association.
  • Robert Monk of Solar States
  • Eileen Flanagan and Duncan Wright of Earth Quaker Action Team, who spoke of their campaign to push PECO to power local green jobs, notably to build up PV installations within Philadelphia.
  • Rita Varley, a resident of Far Northeast Philadelphia was present. Rita mentioned comparing her electric bill with her neighbors this past very hot summer (hers was $50, theirs was about $250), and now has their interest in how she acheived this. We’ve been asked to perhaps speak on energy conservation, insulation & draft sealing, with their civic association.
  • and about 13 neighbors considering solar! We tried to field the questions bubbling up, and agreed to meet again, as a smaller group to work on roof assessment.

Meenal will be learning about roof assessment from Exact Solar this week, and plans to share her learnings with interested neighbors the following week.

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Kickoff Party for Solar Co-op

38717fb4-3423-4c83-9cea-dc37268babb3Next week, we’re having a kickoff party for our budding co-op, the Northwest Philly Solar Co-op. All are invited.

  • When? Thurday September 29 2016, 7 – 9pm
  • Where? Summit Presbyterian Church, Greene & Westview Streets, Philadelphia PA 19119.
  • RSVP or questions, contact Barb at nwphlsolar@gmail.com

Our guest speaker will be Anya Schoolman. In 2007, Anya looked into solarizing her house, and then her street, which led to the founding of DC SUN and the solarizing of hundreds of homes in Washington, DC.

Our other speaker, Meenal Raval, Treasurer of NPSC, will also speak, explaining next steps in gathering memberships and working with solar-collector installation companies to begin solarizing homes and other buildings in NW Philly.

Below is a video of Anya speaking to a prospective group of bulk buyers in Maryland. The video is about an hour long, and covers all of the basics.

Of course, Pennsylvania has different rules, and we will have to develop our own way of doing things, but how exciting it will be to meet the one of the creators of a powerful force for community and environment in our country.

Become the future that we want to see: a world empowered by renewable energy!


 

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Solarize Center City – Campaign Kickoff

An invitation from a friend, Judy Wicks, who is a Center City resident.


Reduce carbons – Save money – Create green jobs

This fall, I’m teaming up with the Center City Residents Association and Solar States, a local solar installer, to launch a Solarize Center City campaign in which residents in my neighborhood of west Center City can use their collective buying power to purchase solar systems for their properties at greatly reduced costs.

To register for the campaign kick-off event, click here.

Early this year, Solar States installed solar panels on my roof and I am very happy with the quality of their work and the tremendous savings I’ve seen. Importantly, displacing fossil fuel-produced energy with renewable energy curbs climate change and improves air quality, reducing asthma and other illnesses caused by pollution. Rooftop solar provides significant savings to homeowners, while contracting with locally-based Solar States creates green jobs and supports our local economy.

When neighbors solarize together, Solar States can offer discounts – the more neighbors the greater the discount. Solarize campaigns have the potential to reduce the cost of a home solar system by 15% compared to buying a solar installation individually as I did. Combined with the federal tax credit of 30% (click for info on tax credit) that produces savings of 45%, and that’s just the beginning – savings from greatly reduced electric bills will continue over the years.  After all, the sun is free!

About Solar States

Solar States is an experienced solar installation company with its heart and roots in Philadelphia. As a B Corp, they are committed to the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. With over 250 solar installations throughout the region, including two past campaigns – Solarize Northwest Philly and Solarize Greater Media – they’ve proven a positive environmental impact. Through their partnership with Clean Air Council, Solar States educates students through the YouthBuild Philly Charter School and PowerCorps PHL fellowship program, helping them to enter the green collar economy, a field with sustaining wages and career opportunities. These classes have impacted hundreds of Philadelphians and allowed Solar States to employ a talented workforce representative of our diverse city.

My Experience

My rooftop solar went active in March, 2016, and I have been thrilled to see monthly electric bills as low as $7, even though I have an all-electric house (no natural gas).  Of course, this will not be the case in winter, but nevertheless, it is remarkable to see my electric bill under $20 for months in a row, with no gas bill. By using an app on my phone, I am able to monitor my energy generation and consumption in several different graphs in order to coordinate my consumption with the sun. judy-on-roof

This will be demonstrated during the Center City House Tour on Sunday, October 23, 1-5pm.

More than anything, it feels great to know that I am doing my part to reduce carbons. This collaborative campaign gives center city residents a simple and cost effective way to address climate change, the most serious and urgent challenge of our times. Our grandchildren will thank us.


Wednesday, October 5th
Trinity Center for Urban Life
22nd & Spruce Streets
Philadelphia, PA
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

5:30 Wine & Cheese Reception; 6:00 pm – Program


 

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Solar in the Northwest

I’ve been hearing about solar panels since I was in high school, over 3 decades ago. But yesterday, as a member of the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op, I interviewed a Mt Airy couple who have had solar panels on their roof for a year and a half now. Both were eager to talk about their experience.

They raved about their installers. Showed me their 2 electric meters; one for electricity coming from PECO and the second one added to track the electricity that their rooftop was pushing back onto the grid.

I asked where all their other equipment was that I’d read about: the inverters and batteries and such. And realized that when a solar installation is grid-tied (meaning not off-the-grid), it’s a lot less involved. All they had were the 13 panels on the roof, and the second meter. No other equipment on the porch or basement.

For 7 months of the year, I learned, this system produces in excess of the household’s consumption. During this time (April thru October), their bill is about $7 per month. The other 5 months, it triples to about $20 per month.

They have monitored their production and consumption via an online application, and once noticed a spike in their usage. Concerned that someone was tapping into their system, they drilled into the data and discovered usage during one month, in the wee hours of the night.  A month that coincided with a visit from their teenage granddaughter with all her electrical devices!

When asked why they invested in this solar installation, it was simply… Why, for the common good! Sitting on their serene back porch, I realized the beauty of this. There was no need to explain the horrifying effects of climate, nor of the immediacy of action required.

Weavers Way Co-op and The Shalom Center have teamed up to get more solar installed in Northwest Philadelphia, by forming the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op, explained on the flyer here. We all benefit from increased reliance on renewable energy and it is important to develop community-based initiatives that increase its use.

Know that a solar photo-voltaic (PV) system generates clean electricity using a free energy source that will never run out and never go up in price. The fuel requires no mining, no drilling, no mountain-top removing and no transporting, doesn’t require burning or processing, and is never in danger of spilling, emitting, or polluting. In fact, the clean energy produced by your solar energy system emits no greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and helps reduce global climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels and the volatile fossil fuel market. As with all manufacturing, there is some waste in that process.

When will solar become the norm, so that every Philly structure with the solar potential achieves this potential? To get to this tipping point, we’re sharing stories from people who already have solar installed at their home or workplace. Each installation will be summarized on a Solar Facts sticker, shown below, for easier comparison.

Solar-FactsAs you’ll see, the 30% Federal tax credit really made this investment affordable and economical. I remember when we got an estimate 11 years ago, a 2kW system was priced at $18,000. And there was no Federal or State incentive that we could apply for. That’s going from $9 per watt to $2.8 per watt!  With the industry scaling up, and government policies to support & encourage us all, this one example looks to be a third cheaper than what we were quoted.

Want to join NPSC? Or simply share your story? Please contact NPSC via Barbara Bloomfield at (215) 247-9204 or barbbloomfield2 [at] aol.com.

What is it that’s keeping people from installing solar on their rooftop? Some of the responses we’re heard are:

  • We’re tenants.  Have your landlord contact NPSC.
  • We’re in a condo. Have your condo association contact NPSC.
  • We have plenty of sun, but are short on cash. The Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op is looking at financing, perhaps thru the Free Loan Association of Germantown(FLAG). Please contact NPSC.
  • We have too many trees and not enough sun. No solar potential. I hear you. Keep the trees. Maybe you’d like to lend through the Free Loan Association of Germantown for other solar installations.

The Earth needs YOU!

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