Archive for June 21, 2012

Reducing the Cost of Customer Acquisition through Online Web Portals

Bringing the cost of installed solar down to $1 per watt entails many challenges, many of which aren’t technical. EnergySage is building a solar PV price quote comparison platform. The founders come out of the financial services world, and think that customers should look at solar as an asset class, similar to stocks and bonds. “Our belief is clean energy will only become pervasive if it impacts the bottom line of the consumer and not just the environment,” said Vikram Aggarwal, CEO of EnergySage.

Solar Mosaic, received up to $2 million to lower the cost of solar financing and customer acquisition through a crowd-funding platform. Solar Mosaic’s platform currently allows people to invest in solar for community organizations. When there is enough funding, panels are put up and the community building pays Solar Mosaic a lower rate than they would pay a utility.

Clean Power Finance also received up to $1.5 million to reduce the cost of customer acquisition through its online platform and also to reduce the operations and maintenance and financing costs through its online marketplace. CFP essentially connects the capital market with the solar market, and has already financed more than $1 million dollars a day of residential power purchase agreements and leases.

TSEA is working on an article on the Hawkins Schools that rented their roofs for solar production. The company chosen installed 300,000 watts of solar panels on three schools with no cost to the school system. In fact, the school system will be collecting $14,000 per year for the roof rental. The program hinges on TVA Green Partners program. Without it, this could not have happened.

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Happy Summer Solstice!

The sunniest day of the year!

For more information about the summer solstice, click here.

Getting to Market with Steve Bank

The Scientific Method for Getting Technology to Market

A Webinar with Steve Blank

Thursday, June 21st
Presentation: 1:00-2:00 pm EDT
Live Q&A Discussion: 2:00-2:30 pm EDT


Join us for an encore broadcast of The Scientific Method for Getting Technology to Market followed by a live Q&A discussion with entrepreneur, Steve Blank.

Great technologies don’t automatically attract users and thrive in the real world. Successful entrepreneur and professor Steve Blank will show how hypothesis-driven discovery and experimentation can turn your innovations into successful products with societal impact. Learn how to hone in on the true value of your technology through early and effective engagement with customers, and see why Silicon Valley startups, corporations like GE, and the National Science Foundation have adopted this methodology to advance their leading innovations.

Be sure to register to participate in the live event. If you attended Mr. Blank’s presentation during the 2012 Summit, then you can opt to join us at 2:00 pm for the live Q&A discussion only.

NOTE: In order to watch the rebroadcast from 1:00 – 2:00 pm, you will need to log into the webinar from a high-speed internet connection. If you experience buffering issues, then we will provide you with a direct link to the recording and a PDF of Mr. Blank’s slides.

This is the second in an intended series of rebroadcasts of practical seminars originally delivered at the 2012 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. Each seminar focuses on a different core concept or skill that can help transition breakthrough technologies into successful commercial products.

DoD Taps Florida’s Premier Solar PV School for Veterans Training

No fuel trucks to be targets

The Department of Veterans Affairs has recently selected US Solar Institute (USSI) to help train its service members to safely install PV technology.  As the country’s first dedicated, licensed photovoltaic college to receive this distinction, USSI will play an important role in the post-service career training that has become a staple feature of the GI Bill. When you add in solar PV installation training programs like USSI, it becomes clear that the Department of Defense is committed to meeting its target of 25% renewable energy by 2025.
Although USSI has become an official Veterans Affairs partner, it also provides solar PV training to active duty personnel and civilians as well. For a complete list of training courses, visit

original article

Last Chance to Register for Photovoltaic Systems Training with Gexpro and Jim Dunlop Solar

Gexpro and Jim Dunlop Solar are pleased to announce another photovoltaic systems training program, scheduled for June 27 – 29, 2012 at the Gexpro branch in Nashville, TN.

Course information and registration details are available online at:

Come join us for one of the most informative courses on PV systems available, delivered by Jim Dunlop, a leading industry expert and author of the popular textbook Photovoltaic Systems. Learn about new developments in the PV industry and installation requirements based on the 2011 National Electrical Code, and explore your opportunities in this emerging field. All registrants receive a copy of the Photovoltaic Systems textbook and Photovoltaic Systems Study Guide.

Gexpro (formerly known as GE Supply) was founded by the General Electric Company in 1904, and now a subsidiary of Rexel, the largest electrical distributor in the world. Gexpro is a leading distributor of photovoltaic systems equipment and Gexpro’s Energy Solutions team assists numerous contractors and developers in successfully executing PV projects. For further information about Gexpro products and services, please visit:

Additional classes are being planned for other Gexpro locations across the U.S. For further information or requests for training services, please contact

Photovoltaic Systems Textbook and Training Resource Guide

Jim Dunlop Solar offers discounted pricing on the Photovoltaic Systems textbook for schools and training organizations. Jim personally responds to phone calls and emails from customers concerning the text content, course development and delivery — a value-added service available only from the author that no others provide.

Jim Dunlop Solar also offers the Photovoltaic Systems Training Resource Guide (TRG) for instructors and course developers. This resource package contains 1000 fully-editable PowerPoint slides, most with instructor notes and commentary referencing page numbers in the Photovoltaic Systems text, websites and other resources. It also includes updates for the 2011 NEC and contains over 200 images not found in the Photovoltaic Systems text. This is an indispensible resource, especially for instructors new to teaching about PV systems. A student version of the TRG is available in Adobe PDF format.

Please contact us for a quote on textbooks or the resource guide at:

Free Solar for members

This is a test to get an idea of how many people view our website after receiving email message.  Even though we are well positioned on google search, we are not expanding our reach.  Any suggestions on how we can reach out to more people?

Here is the portal to the  executive summary for GTM Research “U.S. Solar Market Insight”



U.S. Installations of solar photovoltaic power hit 506 megawatts in the first quarter of this year

Jersey Gardens, one of New Jersey's largest shopping malls, is setting an important precedent by installing a 4.8 MW solar system

With so many solar company bankruptcies, you’d think the industry is in a death spiral. But a study out today shows that manufacturers’ pains–and new financing options–have led to brisk business for installing solar power.

Installations of solar photovoltaic power hit 506 megawatts in the first quarter of this year in the U.S. across 18,000 sites, an 85 percent jump in megawatts from the first quarter last year, according to a report from the Solar Energy Industry Association done with GTM Research.

The surprisingly strong numbers led forecasters to revise estimates for total installations this year upward to almost 3,300 megawatts, or 3.3 gigawatts of newly installed capacity. Financing has matured substantially in the past few years to the point where dozens of companies now offer a solar lease or power purchase agreement to consumers and businesses. Financing options–either by paying for the power panels produce or a monthly lease–means consumers don’t need to spend a lot of money upfront to purchase solar panels, a perennial barrier to broad market penetration.

“We’re seeing these new innovative models such as solar leasing taking off in many of the states where it’s legislatively allowed,” said Tom Kimbis, the vice president of strategy and external affairs at SEIA.

article can be found here

Look at the latest U.S. PV map of installations

note: With all this going on in this country, tell us why you think Tennessee is not experiencing the same growth in solar adoption as other states, after all, we have a major solar panel manufacturer (Sharp), polysilicon manufacturers (Wacker and Hemlock), a manufacturer of solar structures (Outpost Solar) and it solar wire harnessing (Shoals Technologies Group)?

University of Tennessee Researchers take big step to develop nuclear fusion

University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT), engineers have made a giant step toward making this scenario a reality.

UT researchers have successfully developed a key technology in developing an experimental reactor that can demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy for the power grid. Nuclear fusion promises to supply more energy than the nuclear fission used today but with far fewer risks.
Since 2008, UT engineering professors and about fifteen students have worked inside UT’s Magnet Development Laboratory (MDL) located off of Pellissippi Parkway to develop technology that serves to insulate and provide structural integrity to the more than 1,000 ton central solenoid.
Mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering professors David Irick, Madhu Madhukar, and Masood Parang are engaged in a project involving the United States, five other nations, and the European Union, known as ITER. UT researchers completed a critical step for the project by successfully testing their technology that will insulate and stabilize the central solenoid—the reactor’s backbone.

complete article

PV Tech Newscast – June 8, 2012

Let’s stop using solar as a political whipping post: both candidates supported a solar company that got money from the government then failed

What made Ted Williams, the great  Boston Red Sox baseball slugger, so great a  hitter was reportedly that he could keep his focus on the pitched ball as it sailed towards the plate. I wish we could say the same for our political leaders as the citizens of this nation are calling for a cleaner more secure environment offered by renewable energy. The Republican take the example of government funding of Solyndra as an example of why we are not ready for solar, while the Democrats retaliate with then Governor Romney’s supporting $2.5 million for Evergreen Solar that has since relocated to China.  Both parties have lost sight of home base.

What about what we the citizens of this country want?  Can’t we all agree that our vision should be on renewable energy as a base for industrial growth and jobs?  We are told by the economists that the world-wide supply of solar PV panels exceeds demand and that the road ahead for solar is going to be bumpy.  Well, there are two parts to the equation: supply and demand. To balance the equation we need to raise the demand for solar.

How do we increase the sales of solar systems when the average citizen cannot afford the upfront cost?  That thought has been my constant companion for some time.  I believe that there is an answer and the answer is based on the successful financing world war II through the contributions of everyday citizens.

So when I read the Sunhot announcement that they were willing to listen to anyone that had an idea of how to reach the $1 per watt goal, I gave it my best shot.  Here is my submission:

The idea is very simple: give the public the same economic growth opportunities offered to banks and investors.  Use the microbank concept.  Promote community solar by changing the IRS tax regulations to give the solar the same economic benefits as the real estate investment tax credit.  Profits will go directly to the investors who will be the public.  Under a social based for-profit corporation model, shares in the corporation that will used to  purchase, install and maintain of the  community  solar systems. Expand on the example of the micro-banks by reducing the buy-in cost.   Income from the investment without other government, utility based subsidies, will be paid as dividends once a year along with the identification of how their investment is creating wealth.  Treat the income from the investment as tax-free for the majority of the public that cannot afford to finance the up-front cost. 

Sell savings stamps for those who could not afford the price of a share but can buy stamps at the price of a soft-drink.  Once the stamp book is filled, the owner can exchange it for a share.  The idea worked during the second world war and energy security is a national goal.   The public wants solar and by extending the financial opportunities to all of us, we can increase the wide-spread demand through affordability with affordability becoming  the mechanism for reducing the cost.  There are no barriers to cost reduction through the route of increased demand in reaching a dollar a watt installed.    

Some may argue that the proliferation of solar in our grid infrastructure will degrade the power quality of delivered power.  By locating the community solar in areas that have the capacity to accept solar we can postone the need for energy storage for the near term.  If we need dispatchable electric power power to supplement the solar use distributed natural gas generation, it will be during periods of low light levels.  Low light levels reduce NOx and SOx resulting in  an improvement in air quality.

Using the same economic principle that increased product demand will reduce cost, the price of energy storage should also become more affordable in the not-to-distant future.  

Our 501c3 corporation is located  to the nearby resources of the University of Tennesse, ORNL, TVA and EPRI.  This is the ideal testing ground for the concept.  The cost of adopting such a program are minimal and should be politically neutral.

Figuring that at least I did something to get the idea out there, I dismissed the thought and went onto other tasks.

To my utter surprise I received the following reply:

Dear Mr. Levy:

Congratulations! The SunShot team finance experts have reviewed your proposal, and invite you to present at the SunShot Grand Challenge Summit and Technology Forum.  The Summit will be held next week, June 13-14, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Denver Colorado.  Please let us know as soon as possible if you will be able to attend. Of course, it is preferable that you present your idea, but if you absolutely are unable to do so we can arrange for someone from SunShot to present on your behalf.  

Your presentation will be in front of an audience and panel of judges. It should be limited to 3-5 minutes and 4 PowerPoint slides.  

Approximately 650 people have registered to participate in the Summit. Our “expert” panel will include:

  • David Arfin, CEO, First Energy Finance
  • David Danielson, Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy
  • David Graham, Founding Partner, Greenstart
  • Nat Kreamer, CEO, Clean Power Finance

Additionally, we expect at least 200 members of the solar and funding communities to be in the audience during your “pitch.”

Again, thank you for submitting your proposal.  We hope you will be able to join us in Denver.

- The SunShot Team

Having less than a week to prepare the four page proposition I needed help.  I sent requests for help with the presentation and the delivery of the presentation by remembering the outstanding presentation of Professor Rupy Sawhney <> given at the recent TVA sponsored Solar Solutions Conference.  Professor Rupy Sawhney is the associate head of the Department of Industrial and Information Engineering at the University of Tennessee.  I contacted Professor Sawhney and he responded that he was out of the country but to contact his associates.  I did as he suggested and held a meeting with two of his team and explained the concept and the short fuse to complete the presentation.  Before meeting with them I did some research on how this country financed world war II.  One of the most striking facts that came out of my googling was that savings stamps and E bond sales offered the public raised $33 billion dollars over the duration of the world war II. The citizens of the U.S. bought a total of $12,380 million worth of E bonds  during 1944 when the average family income was about $50 per week.

The nation had a goal that all agreed was to win.  What is our national goal today?  Could we all agree it is again  national security?  If so, do we listen to one of this country’s outstanding military leaders, Wesley K. Clark, the retired Army general and former NATO supreme allied commander?  He recently published an article in which he said,

“while all eyes are on the economy, let’s not forget that those same clean energy investments are mission critical to another top national priority: to strengthen American energy security.”

I have emailed the Sunshot person who sent me the acceptance notice that I need information on those signed up to attend the Denver meeting next week from the Knoxville area so that I can ask one of them to present the concept.  I have a followup meeting on Monday with Professor Sawhney’s team.

I have emailed the Sunshot person who sent me the acceptance notice that I need information on those signed up to attend the Denver meeting next week from the Knoxville area so that I can ask one of them to present the concept.  I have a followup meeting on Monday with Professor Sawhney’s team.

Friday evening I received an email stating that the 4 slides had to be sent to the DoE contractor no later than 5 pm Monday.  The presentations are to be given next Thursday and there are no rooms available but if you wanted to attend, you would be put on a waiting list.  Also, no compensation, no prize just the benefit of the exchange of information.  I suggested that the presentation could be Skyped so avoid the last minute maneuvering, and await their reply.

What ever happens to this effort will be reported in a follow-on blog.

Stephen Levy