The State of Solar

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The State of Solar

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Is there a deadline coming up for solar?

Yes (and no!). There are some changes coming to TEP’s “Net Metering” policy, which makes it more favorable to go solar before those changes are implemented. The date was originally thought to be the end of July 2017, but changes to the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) hearing schedule postponed the hearing until October, making a vote and implementation unlikely before December 2017.


What is the current status of Net Metering for TEP customers?

TEP customers who apply for interconnection of a grid-tied solar electric system before the ACC decision on Phase II of the rate case will qualify for net metering, and will be grandfathered on that rate structure for a period of 20 years from the date of their solar installation. Once the application for interconnection has been accepted by TEP, the customer has 180 days to install the system and have it inspected.


When is the ACC going to make a decision on Net Metering?

Hearings for Phase II of the TEP rate case have been postponed from July 2017 to October 2017. This means that the issue will not reach the Commissioners for a vote until December 2017 at the earliest, at or after which the grandfathering deadline will occur. For a link to the schedule, please see the Commission order.


What will replace Net Metering for future solar homeowners?

There are several changes that we know about, as well as considerable uncertainty about other factors. What we know is that solar electricity that is exported from a home will have a different value than the energy purchased or imported from TEP. That value will be set every year, and customers who apply for interconnection during that year will keep the established rate for 10 years. We also know that the export rate cannot decline by more than 10% per year. What we do not know is what the export rate will be initially set at, nor what the underlying rate structures available to solar customers will be. These factors will have a profound impact on the economics of future solar installations within TEP service territory.


Is there anything I can do to voice my support for rooftop solar?

Yes! You can write a letter to the ACC docket (E-01933A-15-0322), or an email to ACC chairman Tom Forese, expressing your opinion about the TEP rate case, and Net Metering specifically. Some of the points we feel are important to make include:

  • Make sure the changes the ACC approves are a gradual step so that innovation is encouraged, but the opportunity to go solar remains viable for homeowners/business owners.

  • Don't change the underlying solar rate structures at this time. Changing Net Metering is enough of an impact on the opportunity to go solar right now.

  • Set the initial solar “export rate” high enough that as it declines, there are at least a few years where traditional grid-tied solar is still economically viable for homeowners. This will allow the solar industry to come up with solutions that provide additional benefits to the grid beyond standard energy production, such as storage capabilities and load shifting.


We encourage you to share why you think solar energy is important, and why customer-owned solar energy systems are valuable.


Rooftop solar:

  • Encourages citizen participation in renewable energy generation.
  • Takes steps toward recreating the energy grid, and modernizing it to be more resilient, dynamic and efficient. Without encouraging these 'baby steps' now, it will take much longer to develop a grid that can provide '21st century' value.
  • Provides a platform for technological innovation.
  • Supports community vitality because people want to live in a place where solar energy is abundant.

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TEP's New Pricing Plans & Solar

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TEP's New Pricing Plans & Solar

Tucson Electric Power (TEP) has recently begun offering new pricing plans.

Out of the four plans that TEP offers, the residential Basic pricing plan is most compatible with solar and is thus the plan we recommend for solar homeowners. 

1) Time-of-Use (TOU)
The idea is lower energy charges by shifting a majority of your usage away from on-peak hours when customers typically use energy the most.

Time-of-use and solar: This plan will move away from the 1:1 exchange rate by decreasing the value of energy during the day and increasing it during TEP's peak periods. Meaning, when you are not at home consuming electricity during the day, the value of your solar production will be at the lower rate. When you return home at the end of the day, where the solar production is low or zero, you will purchase electricity at the higher rate. This plan makes sense for customers who do not have solar, and who can avoid using energy during the peak periods.
 

2) Peak Demand
The idea is to space out your use of large appliances and equipment such as air conditioning, lighting, computers, copiers and printers during on-peak hours to reduce your peak energy demand and increase your savings.

Peak Demand and solar: The majority of our clients would not do well on this plan. Although the energy charges are lower, you pay the highest power usage during peak demands. There are no advantages with this plan if you get most of your energy from solar.  However, if you are a high energy user (more than 1500 kWh/month) and get half or less than half of your energy from solar, this plan may work for you if you are very proactive with your usage. Under this plan, you would need to shift your large appliance usage to operate when the solar is producing (i.e. not at the end of the day) and decrease the use of power at other times. The best way to manage your usage under this plan is with a "demand controller", which prioritizes the operation of large appliances such your AC and water heater.
 

3) Demand Time-of-Use (TOU)
The idea is to shift the majority of your usage to off-peak hours and avoid the simultaneous use of equipment during on-peak hours to maximize your savings.

Demand Time-of-use and solar: This is a more complex version of the Time-of-Use (TOU) plan. This plan will not work well with solar unless you are looking to actively manage your energy and power usage. Solar customers can expect to see higher bills with this plan.
 

4) Basic


This plan is TEP's traditional "two part" rate. There is a fixed part of the rate for having service, now set at $13/month, and a variable part of the rate based on the amount of energy you use each month (in kWh). Under the current Net Metering rules, energy produced for customers subscribing to this plan either offsets energy usage from TEP, or is back fed into the grid and you are credited for later use on a 1:1 basis. In other words, if you are paying $0.11/kWh for electricity, every kWh your solar electric system generates will be worth $0.11. This plan is the simplest to work with for solar customers, and will provide the most savings in almost all cases.

To see TEP's description of their new pricing plans visit: https://www.tep.com/rates/

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The State of Solar for TEP and TRICO Customers

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The State of Solar for TEP and TRICO Customers

Update On ACC Decisions

Following the ACC's open meeting on solar rate structures in Tucson on February 8th, 2017 - the current status of TEP and Trico's proposed changes are as follows:

TEP:

  • New and prospective solar customers will be able to get in under grandfathering rules for the current, more favorable net metering structure so long as they have their TEP interconnection application in by the implementation of Phase 2 proceedings decisions, likely August 2017 or later. 
     
  • Everyone who signs up for solar with TEP, from here on out, will be subject to a monthly bi-directional meter fee of $2.05/month, or a one time payment of $143. This will not apply to customers who already have solar or who had their applications in before the hearing this week.
     
  • TEP customers will be able to stay on the traditional two-part electric rates, however the basic service charge will go up to $13/month (from around $10). There will be three tiers in the rates instead of four as previously. As you use more electricity during your monthly bill period, the price goes up with each tier. This is a positive step for energy efficiency. A more tiered structure is important for encouraging energy efficient decisions, i.e. when people make decisions about replacing appliances in their homes.
     
  • The total rate increase (including basic service charge increase) that was approved for TEP was 8.5%, but the increase for residential customers as a whole will be 12.6%. This applies to all electric customers, not just solar users.
     

TRICO:

  • The net metering grandfathering window will end this week (Feb. 4th). All solar customers who sign up after that time will be subject to the new net metering rates, which include a $.077/kwh export rate. (That means the extra energy they produce during the day will be credited at that rate rather than the retail rate it was previously credited at -more like  $.12-$.13). That new export rate is fixed for a 10 yr period, and may go up or down after that.
     

Published Coverage of the Meeting:
AZPM    |    Arizona Daily Star


Share Your Thoughts Directly:

To contact the ACC with your thoughts on solar energy in Tucson, you may reach out via direct email or social media, or by submitting a formal file to the docket. Contact points for all methods are outlined below:

The ACC on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Arizona-Corporation-Commission-236191902948/?fref=ts

The ACC does not maintain an active twitter handle, but previously used: @AZCorpComm and is still tagged by others in tweets.

Contact a Commissioner Directly:
Chairman Doug Little: Little-web@azcc.gov
Commissioner Andy Tobin: Tobin-web@azcc.gov
Commissioner Tom Forese: Forese-web@azcc.gov
Commissioner Boyd Dunn: Dunn-web@azcc.gov
Commissioner Bob Burns: RBurns-web@azcc.gov


To file a docket:
Docket Number: E-01933A-15-0322

By emailing any, or all, of the commissioners listed above, your comments will be automatically filed to the docket. (Personal information will be redacted for privacy concerns.)


Now's the Time to Go Solar

With the above-mentioned changes to solar rate structuring on the horizon, now really is the time to go solar. Customers who go solar before changes are enacted will receive grandfathering, securing their access to current rates, which currently offer an average solar energy system repayment window of 8 years.

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Technicians For Sustainability Receives NABCEP Company Accreditation

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Technicians For Sustainability Receives NABCEP Company Accreditation

Technicians For Sustainability (TFS) becomes only the seventh solar installation company in the US, and the first in Arizona, to receive NABCEP Company Accreditation.

NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) is - in their own words - "the most respected, well-established, and widely recognized certification organization for North American solar professionals."

The NABCEP Company Accreditation program provides a way for residential renewable energy installation companies to distinguish themselves by adhering to a set of industry recognized best practices, establishing a set of benchmark requirements with respect to staffing and policies.

Since their inception, TFS has aimed to offer the highest quality solar energy systems available, with the finest trained staff, and top-notch customer service for life of the systems they install. Preceding company-wide accreditation, TFS had seven staff members that held individual NABCEP PV Installation Professional certifications, demonstrating a high level of commitment to quality from the company’s staff. During this time, multiple other TFS team members passed the requisite examinations for NABCEP Entry Level PV credentials, strengthening TFS’s preparedness for Company Accreditation with a demonstrably skilled workforce.

“We’ve seen how studying and preparing for NABCEP Professional Certifications has given our staff the increased expertise and in-depth knowledge that our customers have come to expect from us. Similarly, going through the company accreditation encouraged us to ensure that all of our operations were up to the highest levels possible, so that we could deliver the absolute best service to our customers.”

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A Quick Primer for Tucson's Proposed Changes to Solar Energy

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A Quick Primer for Tucson's Proposed Changes to Solar Energy

Why is rooftop solar good for Arizona?

  • It connects people to their energy use and generation. 
  • It encourages people to participate in our community's energy use and policies. 
  • It paves the way for a more resilient and secure energy grid in the future, with electric vehicles, batteries, etc.
  • It creates an economically vibrant community to live in.
  • It supports a cultural identity of sustainability and caring about the health of our community
  • Solar energy adoption and energy efficiency are both in the long term public interest.

     

We Are Asking That the ACC:

  • Preserve net metering or, if changes are to be made, to have slow and gradual reduction in net metering with current solar owners grandfathered in.

The ACC should provide grandfathering of rate structure and net metering for the numerous Arizonans that have invested in solar while the Commission supported it. The rules of the game shouldn’t be changed midway through their investment in solar.

Potential Change Note: TEP has changed their request, and only seeks to effect consumers who go solar after the implementation date of the forthcoming decision.

  • No abrupt changes in rate structure or net metering, which are devastating to the adoption of solar.

The ACC should make changes to rate structures gradual, either through optional new rates or with changes that are less than 5% different per year. The people that will be most impacted by the changes being proposed are lower income citizens.  Any changes in rate structure should continue to put increased costs on higher energy users which incentivizes energy efficiency and doesn't put more financial burden on low income users.

  • Make any and all changes in a way that continues to encourage people to put solar on their homes.

If the ACC determines that long-term changes to rate structures should be made, they should be gradual changes that continue to encourage people to put solar on their homes and to focus on energy efficiency.

 

Tucson Electric Power's (TEP's) Proposals:

  1. Change how we pay for electricity in a way that reduces the incentive to conserve energy and focuses instead on keeping maximum energy use at any given moment of the day down to a minimum.
     
  2. Increase the current fixed charge that we all pay on our electric bills (from ≈ $10 to $15/month). Lower energy using households, which are often the lower income households, would be more proportionally hit by this increase.
     
  3. Drastically change net metering, or in other words, reducing the $ value of solar energy that you produce and don't use right away during the day from ≈ 10-12¢ per watt to less than 6¢ per watt.



How would this impact Tucsonans?

About half of ratepayers will pay more per month than they have been while the top 15% of users will end up paying less. Anyone with an average electric bill of less than $100 per month is likely to pay more under this proposed rate structure. Reducing net metering would deflate the current win-win situation of solar for homeowners.


Share Your Thoughts Directly:

To contact the ACC with your thoughts on solar energy in Tucson, you may reach out via direct email or social media, or by submitting a formal file to the docket. Contact points for all methods are outlined below:

The ACC on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Arizona-Corporation-Commission-236191902948/?fref=ts

The ACC does not maintain an active twitter handle, but previously used: @AZCorpComm and is still tagged by others in tweets.

Contact a Commissioner Directly:
Chairman Doug Little: Little-web@azcc.gov
Commissioner Andy Tobin: Tobin-web@azcc.gov
Commissioner Tom Forese: Forese-web@azcc.gov
Commissioner Boyd Dunn: Dunn-web@azcc.gov
Commissioner Bob Burns: RBurns-web@azcc.gov


To file a docket:
Docket Number: E-01933A-15-0322

By emailing any, or all, of the commissioners listed above, your comments will be automatically filed to the docket. (Personal information will be redacted for privacy concerns.)

Some of the items up for decision will be made post-election season. For a full rundown of prospective ACC candidates, please visit our blog entry below:

Get to Know Your ACC Candidates


Now's the Time to Go Solar

With the above-mentioned changes to solar rate structuring on the horizon, now really is the time to go solar. Customers who go solar before changes are enacted will receive grandfathering, securing their access to current rates, which currently offer an average solar energy system repayment window of 8 years.


Note: Bookmark this page! We will be continuing to follow news and developments over the coming weeks, and will keep this post updated regularly to reflect those changes.

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The Race for Solar at the Arizona Corporation Commission

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The Race for Solar at the Arizona Corporation Commission

There are 5 candidates running for 3 open seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) this fall. The ACC regulates our utilities, including TEP and Trico, which serve the Tucson area. The Commissioners decisions will have a profound impact on the future of energy in Arizona, including how much and what types of renewable energy we install as a state in the coming years, as well as the payback on solar that consumers receive.

TFS urges you to vote for the ACC commissioners who will best represent your vision for the future of energy, water, and the environment in Arizona.

Below are statements from the ACC candidates, as well as links to relevant news articles which we hope will help to inform your decision.


Bill Mundell and Tom Chabin

Running together Website

  • Protect consumers from massive rate hikes. Complicated pricing schemes that only benefit the profits of monopoly utility companies are not fair to the hard working people of Arizona.
     
  • Clean up the corruption that has overtaken the Arizona Corporation Commission and stop APS and other utility companies from spending RATEPAYER money to buy elections. Unlike their opponents Andy Tobin & Boyd Dunn, Tom & Bill will work with current Commissioner Bob Burns to force APS and other regulated utilities to fully disclose campaign spending and prevent them from secretly spending millions of dollars to hand-pick commissioners who will be puppets for a pro-utility agenda. 
     
  • Restore integrity to the Commission so that it works for regular people again, not political insiders and big corporations. The Commission shouldn't be doing the bidding of big utility companies. It should allow every customer the opportunity to choose how they produce & consume energy for their own property. Unlike the majority of the current Commission, Bill  & Tom believe property rights and individual freedom are more important than the profit margins of monopoly utilities. 
  • Implement a Code of Ethics for the Arizona Corporation Commission. This code will prohibit commissioners from having relatives who work for regulated utilities, secretly communicating with regulated utilities, using state resources for campaign purposes, and supporting one company's financial interests over competitors, among many other things. The code of ethics will ensure integrity and accountability are restored to the Commission in order to protect consumers.

Bill Mundell was one of the ACC commissioners who voted for and established the Renewable Energy Standard. After some time off of the ACC, he is looking to be re-elected as a commissioner. Both candidates are explicit in their support of solar in general, as well as rooftop solar specifically.


Bob Burns

Bob Burns is currently serving as an ACC commissioner. Website.

  • Fighting for you against special interest groups. “One of the key responsibilities of the Arizona Corporation Commission is to provide oversight and regulation of power and utility providers for Arizona residents…. If regulated public service companies are going to financially support or oppose candidates campaigning for the Corporation Commission (as they have the legal right to do), it must be with full disclosure and transparency. As a member of the Commission, I have fought to require utilities to disclose their political campaign spending, particularly with regards to the elections for Corporation Commission.”

  • Leading the charge on emerging technologies in energy. “I initiated the Commission's study on emerging technologies in energy. Through this study, I learned the Commission never passed statewide interconnection rules, which is something we are now working to adopt in order to make the integration of technologies more streamlined and consistent. We also learned about ways to improve our resource planning for the future process and I continue to lead efforts to implement those improvements.”

  • Ensuring affordable and reliable electricity and water supplies. “In my view, the most important role of a commissioner is to find the balance between safe, reliable electricity and affordable, reasonable prices. The commission's constitutional charge is to keep prices low while also ensuring our utilities are healthy enough to provide reliable service. “

  • Effective Commission divisions. “The divisions within the Corporation Commission must remain vigilant not only for ratepayers, but all Arizonans. The Corporation Division must always strive to operate as swiftly and efficiently as possible in order to provide a user-friendly system for corporate entry into the Arizona business community.”

  • Standing up to the EPA. “During my tenure at the commission, I have actively worked to prevent EPA overreach. I voted to sue the EPA over Clean Power Plan Rule 111(d) which would all but shut down coal production in our state and, consequently, lead to exorbitant electricity rates.”

Bob Burns has led the charge asking APS to disclose it’s political spending in the 2014 election. He has also focused on emerging technologies.


Andy Tobin

Andy Tobin is currently serving as an ACC commissioner after being appointed to fill the seat left by Susan Bitter-Smith when she was forced to resign. He is running to servea full-term elected seat as a commissioner. Website.

  • Protect the Grid. Arizonans in all parts of the state must have access to a reliable electrical grid that is well maintained and affordable to the taxpayer.
     
  • Water. While California faces draconian measures to conserve water because of years of no planning, Arizona has led the way in water management, which has allowed our state to grow and thrive.  Now, the Corporation Commission must work with water companies across Arizona to ensure that their water is safe, their infrastructure sound, and that they provide top-tier customer service to all citizens.
     
  • Lean Government. Since being appointed as Commissioner, I have led the effort to get the Corporation Commission to adopt Governor Doug Ducey's "Lean Government Initiative" and use it in every aspect of Commission business. In other agencies I have managed, Lean saved my employees and the taxpayers time and money by simplifying agency processing, developing a more positive organizational culture, and evaluating our purpose and practice to best serve Arizonans.
     
  • Securities. Our senior citizens must be protected from unscrupulous financial managers who seek to take advantage of those seniors who have scrimped and saved throughout their lives so that they might live comfortably in their golden years.  The Commission must have a "No Tolerance" policy for wrong-doing in this area.


Boyd Dunn

Website.

  • The role of a commissioner is very similar to that of a judge, to be the impartial decision-maker based on the facts presented to you on each individual case, regardless of personal feelings or outside influences,” Dunn said. “That is how I ran my court, and that is how I will serve as a Corporation Commissioner. The function of the Arizona Corporation Commission is critically important to the success of our state. It’s time we move past all the rhetoric and return to the basics of protecting the public interest.


Where do the candidates stand? 
 

Climate Change:

  • Boyd Dunn: “I don’t think it’s been proven absolutely for me,” said former judge Boyd Dunn.
  • Bob Burns:  Has expressed skepticism of human-caused climate change.
  • Andy Tobin:  Said it would be foolish to believe that humans are not affecting climate. “The question is, to what extent?”
  • Bill Mundell and Tom Chabin: Both acknowledge climate change and both have said they would push for the state to shift away from reliance on coal-fired power plants to develop more alternative energy sources — including solar and wind.

Source 1, 2
 

On APS spending disclosure?

  • Andy Tobin opposes forcing APS to reveal its political spending.
  • Bob Burns, Tom Chabin and Bill Mundell support new rules to require utilities to disclose their political spending on the political seats that regulate the utility.
  • Boyd Dunn says it’s legal for APS to not disclose their funding.

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Loft Cinema Takes the Show on the Road with New Solar-Powered Mobile Cinema

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Loft Cinema Takes the Show on the Road with New Solar-Powered Mobile Cinema

Loft Cinema has gone mobile! In collaboration with Technicians For Sustainability, Loft Cinema has unveiled their solar-powered mobile movie theater - making them the first member of the Solar World Cinema movement in the US!

Peggy Johnson, Executive Director of Loft Cinema, has spent years dreaming of having the ability to bring art films, documentaries, and classic cinema to communities without convenient access to an independent movie theater, introducing a new audience to an art form that they may not otherwise be exposed to.

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That dream of accessible, on-the-move cinema can now be fully realized with Loft’s new solar-powered mobile cinema, the first of its kind to debut in the US. The van utilizes a 1.24 kW solar electricity installation, comprised of 4 LG 315 W modules, paired with an off-grid inverter and battery array, installed by Technicians For Sustainability, allowing the van to store energy generated during day-time hours for evening operation, inflating the screen and projecting up to 3 hours of film and audio..

Loft’s solar-powered mobile cinema will travel to neighborhoods throughout the Southwest and beyond, as well as become a regular staple at festivals and other outdoor events in Tucson, enabling a simple solution for on-the-fly screenings of cinematic and multimedia experiences to audiences of unlimited attendance.

Read more about the Loft's new EcoVan in Tucson.com's recent write-up here.

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Tucson Home Wins SunPower’s  2015 National “Intelegant Award for Excellence”

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Tucson Home Wins SunPower’s 2015 National “Intelegant Award for Excellence”

Technicians For Sustainability, a Tucson-based solar installer and SunPower Elite Dealer, today announced that it has received the SunPower “Intelegant Award for Excellence” for a residential solar photovoltaic project commissioned in 2015. The company won this national award for its installation of a 10.29-kilowatt solar power system at the Catalina Foothills 

“We congratulate Technicians For Sustainability on receiving this SunPower award for demonstrating the highest quality of design and installation, as well as system owner satisfaction for this project,” said 

Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “Technicians For Sustainability has demonstrated a commitment to excellence worthy of this prestigious award, and we look forward to their continued success as a SunPower Dealer in 2016.”  

From the outset, the Catalina Foothills homeowners sought to build their new solar-powered home in the Tucson Foothills with minimal impact on the surrounding desert environment. Moving from an energy-intensive residence equipped with pools and a fishpond/garden, the homeowners wanted to ensure that their newly constructed home would have a smaller carbon footprint. 

The architect – Ibarra Rosano Design Architects (principals Teresa Rosano, AIA LEED AP, and Luis Ibarra) - worked directly with Technicians For Sustainability to maximize a tilted portion of the roof for solar energy generation, as the angle allows for sun to penetrate the panels over a longer period of time throughout the day, converting that sunlight into clean solar electricity. The roof was also designed and pre-wired to allow for system expansion over the garage and guest quarters if energy needs change in 

 “Technicians For Sustainability is honored to receive the 2015 ‘Intelegant Award for Excellence’ from SunPower,” said Kevin Koch, owner of Technicians For Sustainability. “SunPower’s high efficiency solar technology combined with Technicians For Sustainability’s reputation for quality craftsmanship and customer service will help ensure that the Catalina Foothills SunPower system will reliably deliver economic and environmental benefits for the next 25 years or more.”   

About Technicians For Sustainability
Technicians For Sustainability (TFS) is a locally owned, mission-driven business, committed to walking their talk. They provide businesses, public institutions, and residential homeowners with high-quality, clean, renewable energy systems, helping to translate environmental values into a practical reality. The company employs proven technologies to meet customer’s specific needs, including solar electricity and solar hot water heating. TFS has installed over two megawatts of solar power in southern Arizona. 

About Ibarra Rosano Design Architects
Luis Ibarra and Teresa Rosano founded Ibarra Rosano Design Architects in 1999, since earning recognition as one of Arizona’s top design firms for their modern site-responsive architecture. Their internationally published work has received over sixty design awards.

With their first project, the Garcia Residence, they were selected by Architecture Magazine to represent their state in its issue on “the Arizona School” – an issue dedicated to the design vanguard of Arizona. 

Ibarra and Rosano have been invited to present their work in places as far as Quito, Ecuador but their work aims at remaining true to the regions where they work.

 

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Solar Stories: Episode 4 - Meet Julio

Solar Stories: Episode 4 - Meet Julio

Julio is, first and foremost, a family man. When discussing the need for renewable energy and action against global warming, Julio does so with an outlook of hopeful optimism, viewing each effort as a step towards ensuring a healthy, well-cared for planet for his grandchildren to inherit.

"I want my grandchildren to live happily on this planet," says Julio, "and the only way for my grandchildren to live happily on this planet is to begin by reducing how much we pollute now." 

Julio, in his devotion to environmental stewardship, does not plan to end his green efforts at solar: with plans to transition his family to electric vehicles, and more in the works, the quest to minimize his personal and family footprint is of great importance to him.

"I feel very satisfied because making the switch to solar is a project that I had been wanting and planning for a long time. I feel very happy to have fulfilled a goal I set out for myself."

In addition to environmental responsibility, Julio admires the accuracy and transparency of modern solar systems on a technical level: "It’s a system that truly works on its own. I know exactly how much energy the system is generating, and I know how much energy I’m using. It has very precise meters - it really is a wonderful thing, a wonderful system."

Visit our 'Case Study' page for Julio to see his solar system information, and be sure to share his story!

We Went Solar: Terri & Carol

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We Went Solar: Terri & Carol

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For TFS customers Terri and Carol, the decision to go solar was one motivated by sustainability in both the ecological and financial sense. We recently sat down with Terri and Carol to discuss their experience with going solar, and what they have to say to others who may be on the fence about making the switch.


"I had been learning, from researching and talking to people, that solar was an option that would make a difference in terms of not only an ecological context, but also in terms of our electric bill. That was big - and in the summer, when we’re running AC, that’s a big issue.

I think we’re right on the cutting edge of a lot of sustainability stuff and so solar, I think, we probably looked at our electric bills and decided ‘We need to do something for the future!’ 

We were interested in working with TFS because I had talked to friends who had worked with them, and I knew that they walked their talk. I’ve seen some of their employees riding bicycles with all of their materials rigged up so they can go to job sites - it was just interesting to me that they were interested in sustainability themselves separately from the business.

If other people are interested in going solar, I would absolutely encourage them because we have all these beautiful sunny days and it’s a great way to move towards sustainability and make this a better place for everybody. 

Look at days like today, and most days here in Tucson, we’ve got to use that sun, so we’re happy with that!"

Keep an eye out for our upcoming Solar Story video, featuring Terri and Carol, produced in collaboration with our good friends at Edible Baja!

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Surf Thru: A Carwash Devoted to Water Conservation

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Surf Thru: A Carwash Devoted to Water Conservation

Surf Thru is an incredibly unique company: Being a carwash, they operate within an industry entirely based upon the usage of water, yet that doesn't stop them from setting their goals on water conservation, looking to reduce their environmental footprint as much as possible without sacrificing the quality of their service.

An average load of laundry uses roughly 45 gallons of water. A full carwash at Surf Thru uses as little as 10 gallons - all of which are recycled safely back into the environment for reuse. When cars are traditionally washed directly on the street or pavement, water runoff carries waste along with it into storm drains, resulting in as much as millions of gallons of fuel and motor oil filtering directly into our storm drains and rivers.

Surf Thru decided to go solar with TFS as part of their continuing effort to reduce their water consumption. With their 113kW solar system, 94,614 gallons of water that would otherwise be used to conduct their required electricity are offset every year! 

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Net Metering: What's Happening & What to Expect

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Net Metering: What's Happening & What to Expect

A hot topic around solar in Arizona these days is net metering. Tucson Electric Power (TEP) had submitted a proposal to the utility governing body, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), earlier this year requesting a major change to net metering that would not be in the interest of homeowners wanting to go solar in the future. TEP recently withdrew its initial proposal to the ACC to change net metering rules, however, TEP has indicated its intention to resubmit the same proposal as part of a rate case sometime this fall. The ACC is not planning on deciding the case until late summer or early fall of 2016. TEP has indicated it is still going to ask that any excess power sent back to the grid will automatically be converted into a dollar amount credit at a rate of $.058/kwh, rather than at the customer's retail rate. TEP will likely ask that this change to a less favorable net metering policy be applied to any customers who submitted a TEP solar contract after June 1, 2015.  

The ACC can, of course, either accept this proposal as is, deny the proposal, or choose parts that they feel are appropriate. 

One of the AZ Corporation Commissioners stated that the ACC will not engage in retroactive rate-making. ACC Staff has also stated that they will seek a solution that applies to all customers irrespective of any grandfathering dates. Based on this, prospective customers should assume that rates will change, and that savings from grid tied solar will be less than it is currently. But it is unclear what the form or magnitude these changes may be.

With the existing net metering rules, solar energy systems are sized so that "over-production" (producing more solar energy that can be used in the moment) will occur both seasonally and daily, in the middle of the day. With the proposed net metering policy changes, this excess energy would no longer be exchanged equally for energy use later, but would instead be compensated at a much lower rate.

For solar customers who are concerned that the ACC will adopt TEP's proposed net metering changes, or something similar, we can size solar energy systems smaller than would make sense under the existing net metering rules. Additionally, many customers are choosing to proceed with solar systems sized to meet 90-100% of their energy needs under the current net metering rules, hopeful that the ACC will rule in favor of solar customers.

Although the ACC may ultimately decide something completely different which would dictate a different Analysis, an easy way to approximate the effects of TEP's proposal is to assume solar energy is worth 8 or 9 cents per kwh, as compared to 10.5 to 11.5 today. Also, if your household uses a lot of energy during the day (you are home most days, or have a pool pump) you will be less effected than someone who's house is shut down during the day.

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TFS named a Silver Bicycle Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists

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TFS named a Silver Bicycle Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists

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Today, the League of American Bicyclists recognized TFS with a Silver Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) award, joining more than 1,000 visionary businesses from across the country.

With the announcement of 100 new and renewing BFBs today, TFS joins a cutting-edge group of more than 1,050 local businesses, government agencies and Fortune 500 companies in 47 states and Washington, D.C., that are transforming the American workplace.

“The business community’s investment in bicycling is playing a central role in making the country a safer, happier, and more sustainable place to live and work,” said Amelia Neptune, League Bicycle Friendly Business Program Manager. “We applaud this new round of businesses, including TFS, for leading the charge in creating a bicycle-friendly America for everyone.”

As a business that strives to encourage and help achieve sustainability, promoting the practice of clean transportation in and outside of the office has been a no-brainer. TFS encourages bicycling as an easy option for transportation and provides amenities such as a safe, indoor bike rack and incentives such as an equipment reimbursement of up to $250 per year.

Moving forward, TFS will have access to a variety of free tools and technical assistance from the League to become even more bicycle-friendly.

To apply or learn more about the BFB program, visit the League online at www.bikeleague.org/business

About the Bicycle Friendly AmericaSM Program

The Bicycle Friendly Community, Bicycle Friendly StateSM, Bicycle Friendly Business and Bicycle Friendly University programs are generously supported by program partner Trek Bicycle Corp. To learn more about building a Bicycle Friendly America, visit www.bikeleague.org/BFA

 

The League of American Bicyclists is leading the movement to create a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone. As leaders, our commitment is to listen and learn, define standards and share best practices to engage diverse communities and build a powerful, unified voice for change.

 

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Central Animal Hospital: Celebrating 6 Years of Clean Energy

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Central Animal Hospital: Celebrating 6 Years of Clean Energy

In 2009, Central Animal Hospital designed a new, LEED certified facility to provide a clean, healthful and modern environment for its patients, clients and staff. Early this week, Central Animal Hospital's solar system turned 6 years old! 

TFS installed a photovoltaic system and a solar hot water system, which are just a couple of the green features that Central Animal Hospital incorporated into their new building. Central Animal Hospital designed a green building simply because it was “the right thing to do.” 

 

Some of the other sustainable features include:

•Extensive daylighting after taking a mostly windowless building and bringing in natural light via a central light monitor, glass block and solatubes.

•Automatic light adjustment using electric lights, which automatically adjust to provide the needed foot-candles of lighting for that room, at that particular time of day.

•High levels of building ventilation from the placement of carbon dioxide and temperature sensors throughout the building, which adjust the ventilation to provide a healthful and comfortable environment.

•Energy recovery systems that recover energy, hot or cold, from exhausted air and return it to the fresh air that is being pumped into the building.

•Rainwater harvesting for plants using cisterns that store a small portion of the rainwater that runs off the roof.

•Use of sustainable building materials that were produced as locally as possible and from materials that can be easily re-grown or replaced.

•Low-toxin production to prevent fumes and toxins from being released into and lingering in the building and the environment, creating a much more healthful building for all.

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Casas Church Has Gone Solar!

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Casas Church Has Gone Solar!

We are excited to announce that Casas Church has made the switch to solar with TFS! The 686kW photovoltaic system at Casas Church is the largest solar installation in Oro Valley.

"We decided to go solar for two reasons," says Casas spokesperson Seth Kreimeyer-Kelly. "The primary one was that we recognized the economic sense that [solar] made for our church. We're always trying to be wise with our finances and using solar energy seems to be a way to do that."  

The Casas Church system will produce over 1,099,000kWh each year, covering 80-85% of the facility's electrical needs, ultimately saving the church an estimated $2-2.5M in the first 25 years of operation. 

In addition to the financial savings, the church decided to pursue solar for environmental stewardship reasons.  Kreimeyer-Kelly said, "we believe it to be a spiritual thing to be conscious of the earth and environment as God's creation and when we can feasibly find ways to do so we happily want to participate."

For more info, read our full case study on Casas Church.

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Community Solar: Increasing Accessibility

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Community Solar: Increasing Accessibility

Rooftop solar has experienced explosive growth throughout the decade so far. 2010-2014 saw the United States' installed solar capacity increase by an incredible 418%. As the costs associated with solar continue to decrease and consumer financing options broaden, solar has become more accessible than ever to homeowners. 

Alongside the rising rates of rooftop installations, community solar projects have been gaining traction throughout the country, aiming to bring the benefits of clean energy to urban livers, or simply anyone without access to a viable rooftop or home ownership. 

In 2015 alone, community solar farm capacity is expected to see growth rates of up to 500%. By the end of 2016, the industry is projected to have expanded seven-fold, and, by 2020, may see an annual expansion of 500 million watts. 

To learn about the numerous forms of community solar, and keep up to date on industry developments, visit the Shared Renewables portal on the SEIA website.

 



 

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Moving Towards A Renewable Future

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Moving Towards A Renewable Future

In order to achieve sustainability, renewables must become the root of our global energy production. Wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal have all experienced generous year over year growth throughout the last decade, with decreasing production costs resulting in increased accessibility throughout the world.  

Costa Rica has been featured prominently in the media this month for their accomplishment of running on 100% renewable energy since January. Hawaii also made headlines after enacting a law requiring that all of the state's electricity must come from renewable sources by 2045.

The Solutions Project has released an interactive map of the United States, predicting growth patterns that illustrate a viable route to a renewable future for each state by the year 2050.

To learn more about projects and targets aiding the global shift towards renewable energy production, visit Go 100 Percent

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What Is Net Metering?

What Is Net Metering?

Net Metering is a billing method used by utility providers to compensate the owners of PV systems for energy they produce and send back to the grid.

When a rooftop PV system generates energy in excess of what is consumed, that energy is sent back to the utility grid, supplying power to other customers in the area. The producer of this excess energy is granted credits, which are used in turn to draw additional power back from the grid at no cost when usage outperforms the PV system’s production.

Since battery storage is not currently the standard, net metering is an extremely valuable mechanism for solar powered homeowners. Solar production is at it’s peak during the day when the majority of homeowners are at work, consuming the least amount of energy. By supplying energy back to the grid this time, it is possible to draw power back from the utility at night - when the sun is down and generation does not occur - at no cost until the production to consumption ratio equals out. Additionally, credits for unreclaimed energy rollover each month if the homeowner maintains a deficit, and will be converted to a financial credit once per year, in the fall.

For additional information on net metering and how solar works, please visit our How It Works page.

Solar Q&A: Part 1

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Solar Q&A: Part 1

As solar power continues to expand in America, more and more consumers are learning about our technology and becoming more aware of alternative energy sources. We at TFS believe in strongly educating our community on not only the benefits of using alternative energy sources, but on the in’s and out’s of living with them. We will be regularly publishing our ‘Ask A Solar Expert’ series, providing brief answers for our most commonly received questions.

 

Q: Should I purchase an oversized system so that I can sell back energy to the utility?
A: No! It is a common misconception that installing more than 100% of a home’s necessary production will allow the owner to lucratively sell back to the utility for a profit. When self-generated energy is sold back to the utility, it is bought at a highly discounted rate, resulting in almost no gain for the owner of the panels. TFS recommends an installation that brings the homeowner into the 90-95% generation range, maximizing the reduction of purchased power without selling back to the utility.

Q: I can’t afford to purchase panels for my rooftop - are there financing options available?
A: Yes! TFS has partnered with TOPCU to offer a highly-competitive, consumer friendly solar loan. We also provide the option to lease your solar system - often at $0 down - allowing you to begin saving on your electricity bill from day one.

Q: Will making the switch to solar allow me to keep my home powered during outages?
A: Not quite - while grid-free options are available via inverter upgrades and battery storage, standard solar systems are grid-tied, meaning that if the grid is offline, the solar modules will not continue to function during the outage. 

Q: How reliable are solar panels? What kind of maintenance is required?
A: Solar panels require close to no maintenance, as they operate free of moving parts. A quality installation should maintain itself very well, with only minimal cleaning required via the natural elements of rain and wind. In the event that your panels do need any sort of maintenance, TFS offers both a 25 year manufacturers warranty on the panels we install, as well as a 10 year workmanship warranty to protect our customers. For cleaning, please refer to our Maintenance & Cleaning blog.

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We Went Solar: Randi & Sherry

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We Went Solar: Randi & Sherry

For Randi and Sherry, solar was an obvious decision. As lifelong practitioners of sustainability, they maintain an organic garden, compost regularly, water harvest, and - now - have made the switch to solar! After years of keeping solar in the back of their minds, all of the pieces finally 'clicked' into place, giving them the perfect opportunity to fulfill their longterm goal of eventually generating their energy from the sun. We sat down with Randi and Sherry shortly after their installation was completed to recap the process with them.
 

What inspired you to go solar?
The sun! We know utility costs are going to go up, and we want to do what we can for our environment, locally and globally. We were in a position to move forward. 

Once we started seriously looking into it - we are closer to retirement than we used to be - and we viewed it as a part of retirement planning. When we get into retirement, we will be on a fixed income. The more we do now to maintain a flat expenditure over time became one of the main reasons.


How did you go about researching solar?
I actually did a lot of research - I did a lot of research online of course, I also talked to 3 or 4 solar companies. I got a lot of estimates - that’s what I do, I get a lot of estimates. I also talked to a friend who works at TEP - as a friend, not as a TEP employee. 

Some of the things we try to practice as a household philosophy are buying American made, buying local, supporting a high quality product. Those were some of the benchmarks for what we were seeking in our research. 
 

What has been your experience since installing?
We’re like giddy school children - let’s go out there and see how much we generated today! We were very excited to have it completed and watch them flip the switches to get all of the meters and things start running. It was a giddy moment. Our usage hasn’t changed since we know we are making it. Nothing of our usage patterns have changed based on that, but it’s just cool to know that’s where we’re getting that from. That’s kind of cool. 

We have been in our house for 18 years, since April Fools Day 1997. It takes a while to achieve your goals, but you can.


Keep an eye out for Randi & Sherri's full case study, coming in the near future!


 

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