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Take aways from the Dec. 18th Arizona Corporation Commission hearing

Quick take away from Thursday, December 18th's  Arizona Corporation Commission hearing: The ACC approved the TEP 2015 Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) plan. On the down side, they eliminated solar hot water incentives, which reduced the price of a system by about $1,000. We at TFS believe that for higher volume hot water users, solar is the best energy source, and we are sorry to see the commission withdraw it's support.
On the plus side, the "Utility Owned DG" program to install up to 600 systems on residential roof tops under a special tariff was approved. We support this TEP program as expanding choice for solar consumers, as well as paving the way for a better grid and a more responsive utility. Look for more news to come as TEP's program is rolled out in the spring, and the selected solar contractors that will install the projects are announced.

TFS Becomes a Certified B Corporation

Technicians for Sustainability becomes a Certified B Corporation

Locally owned solar installation company joins prestigious group of ethical companies committed to environmentally and socially conscientious business practices. Using Business as a Force for Good

Tucson, Ariz. (August 5, 2014) Technicians For Sustainability (TFS), a locally owned and operated solar installation company in Tucson, announced today that it has completed a rigorous certification program to become the first Certified B Corporation in to be headquartered in Southern Arizona.

"B Corporations have committed to high standards of social and environmental performance and accountability. Much of it falls into the category of things we at TFS have already been doing," says co-owner Kevin Koch. "By joining the B Corp community and going through the certification process we can support and help grow a movement we believe in, a movement that believes corporations and businesses are not only instruments of social change but have a responsibility to support our communities."

Since its beginning, TFS has striven to provide renewable energy systems to homeowners and businesses, using high quality, clean, proven technologies. Their mission is to ensure that Southern Arizona’s natural resources are used efficiently and with respect for present and future needs. Committed to practicing what they preach, most TFS employees live with the systems they install, make fuel-efficient transportation choices, and whenever possible, do business with companies that hold values, standards, and ethics comparable with theirs.

B Corporations are a new kind of company which use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Aspiring B Corporations must qualify through a comprehensive assessment which measures a company's impact on its employees, suppliers, community and the environment.

TFS joins over 1,045 other mission-driven Certified B Corporations from more than 60 industries in 32 countries with 1 unifying goal – to redefine success in business. Koch says, "We are excited to continue to grow as a business and to strive for more positive change and impact."

b corp sign

About Technicians For Sustainability

Technicians For Sustainability (TFS) is a solar energy design-build firm helping businesses, public institutions, and homeowners translate environmental values into practical reality. The company employs reliable technologies, including solar electricity and solar hot water, to meet customers' specific needs. TFS has installed over nine megawatts of solar power in southern Arizona. For more information about Technicians For Sustainability visit

About B Corp

Certified B Corporations meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, legally expand their corporate responsibilities to include consideration of stakeholder interests, and build collective voice through the power of the unifying B Corporation brand. As of June 2014, there are more than 1,045 Certified B Corporations from over 60 industries and 32 countries, representing a diverse multi-billion dollar marketplace.

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Tiernay Marsh Technicians For Sustainability 520-740-0736

TFS becomes a Certified B Corporation - Press Release

Youth Stewards Project Seeking Applicants

Calling all youth—ages 15 to 23!  The Community Water Coalition wants you to participate in their Youth Stewards for a Secure Water Future program!

Do you want to:

  • Add your voice to the vital conversation about water in our community
  • Gain valuable experience and build your resume
  • Make strong connections in local government, non-profit groups, and community organizations
  • Become a leader and informed advocate—shape the future of Tucson
  • Get to know other local youth who care about the same things you do

Download the application today, and get started on a great future for yourself and for Tucson.

The Community Water Coalition works to:

  • encourage local leadership to act in the best interest of sustainable water policy for our region
  • inform the public on important issues related to water security, quality and use
  • engage statewide networks to respond to threats that impact our local watershed

Learn more about the Community Water Coalition and their Youth Stewardship Program.

Technicians For Sustainability & Easter Seals Blake Foundation Celebrate Installation of State-of-the-Art Solar Parking Shade Structures

For Immediate ReleaseContact: Nicole Koch Office: 520-740-0736 Email:


Technicians For Sustainability & Easter Seals Blake Foundation Celebrate Installation of State-of-the-Art Solar Parking Shade Structures

Over $600,000 in utility savings for the non-profit projected over 20 years


TUCSON, Ariz. (November 7, 2013) – Easter Seals Blake Foundation, one of Southern Arizona’s largest non-profits, will be celebrating the completion of a new solar parking shade system with a public open house and reception on November 14th at their new headquarters, 7750 East Broadway Blvd.  Tucson-based solar company, Technicians For Sustainability (TFS), designed and installed this 346 kW system, which covers over 100 parking spaces, to power the Foundation’s 50,000 square foot campus.

The steel structures provide shade for a large portion of the parking lot and incorporate high-efficiency solar panels made by industry-leader SunPower®. Notably, using these high-efficiency SunPower®panels allowed TFS to design a system that will deliver over 30 percent more energy than conventional panels would allow at this site.

Easter Seals Blake Foundation CEO Ema Kammeyer said, “Technicians For Sustainability have a vast comprehension of this technology, yet they convey it seamlessly to non-tech audiences. They really made it accessible and understandable for our board to have complete confidence in moving forward with this installation. True professionals.”

While cost has long been perceived as a barrier to “going green”, Technicians For Sustainability assisted the Easter Seals Blake Foundation in securing financing for the project that, due in part to federal and TEP incentives, will have no upfront costs to the organization. Also, the Foundation reports it anticipates that after eleven years the cost of electricity at the campus will be virtually nothing, with a projected $600,000 - $1,000,000 in savings over the next twenty years alone. The savings would be enough to offset state budget cuts and provide 50 working poor families, every year, with tuition assistance to its nationally accredited childcare program.

In addition to the financial benefits, the move to solar reinforces Easter Seals Blake Foundation’s organization-wide mindset of environmental accountability.

"Tucson will be a better place to live because of the forward looking vision of organizations like Easter Seals Blake Foundation,” said TFS President, Kevin Koch. “Not only are they lowering their operating costs for the long term, enabling them to serve the community more effectively, but they are building a cleaner future for our community by producing their electricity with solar energy.”

Easter Seals Blake Foundation’s Solar Open House and Reception is Thursday, November 14 from 4:30 to 6:30pm at their headquarters, 7750 East Broadway Blvd. For more information, or to RSVP for the event please contact Jennifer Turner at


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 practical reality.  The company employs proven technologies to meet customers’ specific needs, including solar electricity and solar water heating. TFS has installed over 7 megawatts of solar power in southern Arizona.  For more information about Technicians For Sustainability visit

About Easter Seals Blake Foundation

Easter Seals Blake Foundation has been providing services to children and adults with disabilities since 1950. Their educational, therapeutic and community living programs are designed in accordance with their mission: to enable each individual served to discover and meet his or her maximum potential for independent, productive living and developmental growth. For more information please visit

About SunPower®

SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR) designs, manufactures and delivers the highest efficiency, highest reliability solar panels and systems available today. Residential, business, government and utility customers rely on the company's quarter century of experience and guaranteed performance to provide maximum return on investment throughout the life of the solar system. Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., SunPower has offices in North America, Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia. For more information visit

About the project

Tucson Electric Power estimates that a project of this type results in the following environmental savings:

  • Water NOT used in the production of electricity: 27,700 gallons/month
  • Coal NOT burned to produce electricity: 55,410 lbs/month
  • Carbon Dioxide NOT emitted into the atmosphere: 123,400 lbs/month
  • Lifetime benefit to air quality is equivalent to planting 2,482 trees

Amicus Solar Cooperative

Amicus Solar Cooperative, of which TFS is a founding member, was interviewed by SolarPro Magazine.  The interview discusses Amicus' role in facilitating the exchange of ideas between other local (although in different markets) companies, as well as increasing each individual company's purchasing power through group-buying, among other things.           Link: Stephen Irvin, Amicus Solar Cooperative

TFS Open House 2013

Casa Maria Food Drive

To celebrate the 2nd anniversary of Casa Maria Soup Kitchen's solar system, we're hoping to raise awareness and fuel a small food drive for Casa Maria.  Who's with us?

Casa Maria Soup Kitchen's solar systemThe solar soup kitchen helps feed many hungry people each month, and an extra donation always helps!  Please drop off donations at the TFS warehouse, at 612 N 7th Ave (north of downtown), or you can drop if off directly to Casa Maria at 401 E 26th St (south of downtown).

Suggested food donations include:  Pinto beans, mayo, mustard, coffee, sugar, canned goods, fresh fruit, tomato sauce (or anything like it), fresh vegetables, any kind of meat, anything that would go in a bag lunch.  They can use almost anything.

They are also in need of some volunteers so if you have a couple hours to spare, sign up to volunteer at their website.  The kitchen is open every morning from 8:30am - 11:30am, but if you cannot be there the entire time, please stop by for an hour or two.

There are many different donation options.  To find something that works for you, please check out the Casa Maria website.

Casa Maria received a matching solar grant from TFS in 2011.  To learn more about their donated solar system you can check out the Casa Maria case study on the TFS website, go directly to the Casa Maria website, or check out this news article from KVOA.


The Tucson Nature Conservancy's solar turns 5!

Tucson Nature Conservancy Solar Electric Vehicle Charging Station The Nature Conservancy, an international organization, is dedicated to preserving the lands and water necessary for life on Earth.  They have been operating in Arizona for many years and besides their Tucson office, have 6 satellite campuses and preserves.  The Nature Conservancy has long been dedicated to "walking the talk" and took a big step five years ago when they installed their first solar system.

Donated by Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and installed by Technicians for Sustainability (TFS) in 2008, the small 2.8kW system was added to again in 2010.  The entire system is now 92.2kW and provides 95-100% of the electricity used by the Tucson campus, which lets the The Nature Conservancy create their own electricity and "walk the talk."

For the Tucson branch, one of their most important goals is to help conserve and preserve natural water resources.  The entire facility practices water harvesting with several cisterns both above and below ground and have worked very hard to create a natural landscape, complete with native plant species and rainwater catchment basins.  Even the specially designed gravel driveway helps prevent water runoff by capturing the water and encouraging it to sink into the soil and eventually, the Tucson aquifers.  The solar helps with their goal as well by offsetting 6,587 gal of water each month that is used for conventional electricity generation.

In addition to their on-site energy efficiency and conservation measures, The Nature Conservancy  has an electric vehicle (EV) charging station, powered by the sun.


Tucson Nature Conservancy Solar Parking Array

Arizona Nature Conservancy Campuses with Solar:

  • Tucson Nature Conservation Center- 92.2kW system installed by TFS in 2008 and 2010 saves 79,000 gal of water from being used to create conventional electricity annually.
  • Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area- 14.6kW system installed by TFS in 2011 annually offsets almost 60,000lbs of CO2 annually.
  • Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve - 12.6kWh system also installed by TFS in 2011 saves over 22,000lbs of coal from being burned each year.
  • Hart Prairie Preserve in Northern Arizona

Win a Solar Revolution Shirt!

For the next five days we will send out one shirt to the winner of our daily raffle!  Just email a photo of yourself with your solar panels along with your name and address to  Please also include your preferred t-shirt size (women's or men's) and color (grey, sandy brown, blue, or grass green) and you will be entered into the drawing.  Open to all TFS customers. Raffle runs from Monday, July 8th to Friday, July 12th.  (Keep in mind the women's shirts run small) By submitting a photo, we assume the right to use the photograph on our website and/or Facebook. Your name and contact info will never be shared, or included with use of the photo.  You can revoke this permission anytime by dropping us an email. Questions? Contact us at

Solar Revolution T-Shirt DesignMatt, Tamarack, Erika and Bobby model Solar Revolution Shirts


Erika, Tamarack, Mat and Bobby from the TFS Family model with our solar panels!Solar Revolution!

St. Monica's Solar Install: Part 2

St. Monica’s Roman Catholic Parish’s solar electric system has been installed and their green remodel is finished! The 5kW donated system will produce 765 kWh of clean electricity for the church each month, and will help to reduce their electric bills by about $900 every year. On March 18th TFS got back on the roof to finish installing the solar grant system. The installation happened in two parts. First we installed standoffs, setting the groundwork for eventually installing the system. Then, roofers came in to install new foam sealant and insulation. Now, the roof has an additional 6 inches of insulation to help keep the building cool.

After the roof work was complete we were ready to get on the roof again. We built racking, mounted modules, hooked everything up and installed the inverters downstairs. The last step was to have the City of Tucson inspect the system, which passed on April 1st. Check out the pictures below to learn more about the building of the racking and the module installation process.

St. Monica’s Church- TFS’s 2012 Solar Grant Recipient!

St. Monica’s Solar Install: Part 1

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TFS on Downtown Low Down

Danielle was invited to speak on KXCI Community Radio to discuss our 2013 Open House that took place on Feb. 28th. KXCI Community Radio

St. Monica's Solar Install: Part 1

Last week the TFS solar technicians were up on the roof of St Monica’s Church, beginning to install their new solar electric system.  St. Monica’s, which was the 2012 recipient of the TFS Solar Grant, is undergoing significant remodeling of the interior, exterior and roof of the building.  We’ve been working with the primary architect on the project to help streamline the process of installing solar so that the install and roof renovation can be expedited. First, solar technicians, Karl and Jenner got up on the roof and measured where the system will be placed.  The array will sit on the north side of the slightly pitched roof while still facing south in order to avoid some shading from nearby trees and telephone poles.

Next they installed the standoffs, which affix the solar to the roof.  These standoffs, which are 7 inches tall, are screwed into the roof and then sealed.  After the standoffs are installed, a roofing company will add a three inch foam sealant to roof (leaving 4 inches of standoffs rising above the foam) for insulation and roof protection.

System Facts: -          System size:  5 kW -          Monthly Production:  765 kWh -          Panels:  20 LG 255 Watt Modules

In a couple of weeks , TFS technicians will return to St. Monica’s to finish installing the flashings (an added layer to protect against leaks) and build the frame the solar panels will rest on.  We’ll keep you posted!

You can read more about St. Monica’s, our 2012 grant recipient at our first blog entry, here.

The church is half way through a significant remodel - here the outer walls have been insulated and stuccoed. Dust flies as the interior of St. Monica's Church is being remodeled. Jenner climbs to the roof. This Solar Tube helps bring more natural light into the church below, therefore reducing the need to turn on the lights.

Karl checks the plans to make sure they are followed to a "t" Karl and Jenner measure the roof and lay a chalk line so they know where the array will be. Using a hammer, Karl will hear where the beam of the roof is so that he knows where to lay the screws. The line is layered with chalk, and when placed on the roof will leave a straight guiding line.

Jenner carefully measures the distance between standoffs. The standoffs are placed less than 5 feet apart on the roof and will support the weight of the panels. The first standoff is screwed and sealed in place. Using a small and long drill bit, we drill into the roof.
After the holes have been drilled we add sealant to the holes as the first step to prevent leaking. The standoff is lined up over the drilled and sealed holes. While the sealant is still wet, screws bolt the standoff in place. When the first two standoffs are placed at either side of the chalk line, we add a second line to ensure each additional standoff is installed along the same line.

St. Monica's Church- TFS's 2012 Solar Grant Recipient!

Technicians for Sustainability (TFS) has long been concerned about the environment and the community.  It is our belief that to help one is to help the other, and in our line of work, we are happy to be able to do just that.  By installing solar hot water and solar electricity across Tucson, we are partnering with our customers, both home and business owners, to make the changes we think are critical to helping our environment  and our community.  As a testament to this commitment, TFS has offered a solar grant to Tucson nonprofits for the last few years. Each year TFS has invited nonprofits that qualify as 501(c)(3) organizations to apply for our solar grant.  Since the program’s inception in 2008, TFS has been able to offer a variety of grants, both full and matching for many different organizations across the Tucson area.  Giving a solar energy system, either solar electric (photovoltaic) or solar hot water, allows us to give back to our community by helping organizations reduce their energy bills, which allows them to redirect those funds towards their community-supporting missions.

We look for organizations that share our dedication to community and the environment even if they are not directly involved in environmental issues and who have already started on the road toward making their premises more eco-friendly.   Awarded in 2008, our first grant recipient was Arts for All, which provides accessible art education, training and experiences to children and adults with and without special needs in central Tucson.  This nonprofit exercises recycling and bring your own bag programs to reduce landfill waste and also replaced high water use plants with a native landscape.  Since then, we have been able to donate solar energy systems to Southside Presbyterian Church, KXCI Community Radio, Native Seeds SEARCH, Casa Maria Food Kitchen and Amity Foundation.

Our latest recipient is St. Monica’s Roman Catholic Parish.  Located in the East Tucson area, St. Monica’s was founded in 1964, and boasts approximately 3,000 members.  TFS was impressed by their commitment to a green remodel that is already dramatically reducing their energy consumption, making them more energy efficient.  Specifically, the church is replacing an entire wall of single paned windows, which are notorious for being poor insulators, with better insulation.  The money saved from the solar system for St. Monica’s will allow the church to make more energy efficiency adjustments, save more money and provide better care to their congregation and community.

The grant was awarded at the beginning of June, 2012 and will be installed at the church later this year.  We will keep you informed of the process through a real-time blog, complete with pictures of the installation, interviews with different church members and culminating in a blessing ceremony for St. Monica’s new solar system.  Check back to learn more about St. Monica’s solar!

Read about the installation process here.

New Southwest Gas Solar Hot Water Incentive

Tucson Electric Power (TEP) has been offering incentives to switch to solar hot water for several years and now Southwest Gas is offering their own incentive.  The new Southwest Gas rebate has limited funding, and is a great deal.  If you need an excuse to save the environment and reduce your monthly expenses, then check it out now, before it’s gone. Homeowners can take advantage of the rebate which offers $15/rated therm, up to 50% of the total cost. This rebate works best under the following conditions:  current Southwest Gas customers with more than four people in the home, and/or large hot water usage, with room next to the current gas water heater for a second storage tank (25 square inches).  If you fall into this category then solar hot water may be a great, financially savvy option for your home.

The system works by keeping the existing gas water heater and adding an additional solar hot water storage tank.  Water will be taken out of the solar tank first, and when it is exhausted the gas heater will take over.  Each day as the sun rises, the hot water in the solar tank will be replenished and the gas tank will stand in as the backup.  Using this system, home owners can save up to 70% on their hot water energy consumption.

A solar water heater will help you reduce your impact on the environment while allowing you to save money at the same time.  Not only will the system provide hot water without consuming as many resources as a traditional hot water tank, but you will also be protected from escalating fuel costs since sunshine is free and abundant!

Learn more about the Southwest Gas rebate here.

TEP 2012 Incentive Q&A

The solar industry in Tucson has been experiencing a number of changes regarding the TEP utility incentives. We are happy to keep you in the loop: below you will find answers to some common questions. Is there still money for solar? The incentive for solar electric (photovoltaic) systems in Tucson Electric Power (TEP) service territory has been reduced from $0.50 to $0.20/watt due to high demand. In just the first month of this year, 25% of TEP's annual solar incentive budget was reserved.  At the beginning of May 50% of the annual budget was reserved, dropping the incentive just $0.05. In July the incentive dropped again to $0.50/watt when 75% of the budget was reserved.  This latest drop results from 90% of the budget being reserved.  This reflects the fact that over 815 systems have been reserved so far in 2012, most of which are solar electric systems. Where will TEP's incentive go from here? The new $0.20/watt incentive will remain until all of the annual budget is reserved. What does this tell us? The first incentive drop indicates that there was pent up demand from the fall, when no incentives were available, and that at the $0.75/watt incentive level, solar was a good enough deal that many people were motivated to install systems. At the $0.60 level, solar remained a great deal under the leasing model. At the $0.20/watt level, both leased and customer-owned systems are experiencing a similar pay back period. More questions? Call us at 520.740.0736


2012 Solar Policy Update

On December 20th, 2011, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) passed the Tucson Electric Power 2012 Renewable Energy Standard Implementation Plan, throwing a lifeline to commercial solar opportunities, but failing to deliver on hundreds of letters and comments from Southern Arizonans requesting more residential solar rather than a lower surcharge. As some of you may know, achieving compliance in 2012 would have required no additional commercial installations. In addition, the tax advantages of residential leased systems have driven the utility incentive levels down so low that customer owned systems are impractical. Below are some details and anticipated consequences from the ACC’s decision.

1.       The TEP’s renewable energy budget for new distributed generation systems was cut from approximately $18.5 million in 2011 to approximately $8 million in 2012. The maximum surcharge residential customers will pay dropped from $4.5 to approximately $3.15 per month.

2.       Commercial solar incentives have been reduced. The ACC did authorize funds beyond what is required by the REST rules for 2012, which theoretically may be enough to cover a similar number of installations as 2011. However, the reductions in incentive levels are so aggressive that they risk stalling the commercial market in 2012, which would likely result in lost jobs and lost brain trust. The rationale put forward by Chairman Pierce was that installations which are not required by compliance should be at a great deal to the ratepayer. In contrast, we would have liked to see full funding for a robust commercial market employing a competitive bidding process to harness competition and give the ratepayer a good deal. We also would have preferred funding for up front incentives (UFI) for the commercial market rather than performance based incentives (PBI), as the latter have legacy costs totaling as much as $17 million dollars, whereas up front incentives could have been used to fund the entire amount at $6 million or less.

3.       The Commission chose not to address differences between leased systems and customer owned systems, in effect making it impractical for Tucsonans to own their own PV systems going forward. We expect almost all new systems to be leased this year. The Commission denied a request to provide higher incentives for customer owned systems than for leased systems, thereby effectively shifting the subsidization of solar from the ratepayer to the federal tax payer, and ultimately increasing the cost of solar with all funding sources accounted for. This is due to the fact that leased systems take advantage of depreciation, and they typically use a higher value for calculating the basis for the 30% tax credit. Each of these practices reduces federal tax revenue as compared to a residential solar purchase.

4.       Incentive levels will likely drop throughout this year. The Commission adopted a “smart trigger” which will cause reductions in relation to the rate of reservations for residential incentives. Incentives will start at $0.75 per watt, and will drop to $0.60 if 25% of the budget is reserved before March 31. We support the smart trigger system, and hope that it will result in incentives which track the market better than in previous years. We do have concerns about the potential for the incentives to adjust should the cost of solar increase due to higher cost modules, higher cost capital for the leases, or other unforeseen market dynamics.

5.       For all new reservations, customers adopting solar will continue to pay the REST surcharge, even if they have a net zero bill in any given month. The surcharge customers pay will be equal to what they would have paid if they had not installed a solar system. Customers who previously installed systems will not be affected by this decision.

The end result is that opportunities for Tucsonans to install solar systems on their homes continue to exist. In fact, the lease option not only allows for a 100% prepaid option, which is very similar to the customer owned system purchase, but it also offers an option to pay monthly for a solar system, with the saving on the electric bill exceeding the payments into the lease. As long as incentives remain at a reasonable level, install costs remain low, and financing (and investors) remain available, the residential solar market should be robust this year.

And for profitable businesses with significant federal tax liability and straightforward installations, the commercial market will continue to be a good investment.

What exactly is net metering?

One of the exciting aspects of going solar is that your business becomes its own mini power plant. When you make the switch to solar electricity (PV), your utility company will switch out your current meter with a NET meter. The NET meter keeps track of the amount of energy your PV system sends back to the grid, as well any extra energy your business pulls from the grid to meet your business' additional electricity needs. This is known as “Net Metering” and it allows you to get the full benefits of your solar electric system. There will be times of the year (e.g. during the spring) when your solar electric system is pumping out more energy than your business is using. When this happens, the excess energy is sent back to the utility grid, and the utility company gives you a credit for the electricity it received.

For those times of the year, when your solar electricity system may not cover all of your energy needs (e.g. during the winter when there are shorter days, or when it’s cloudy for several days in a row), you will pull additional electricity from the utility grid. You don’t have to switch anything on or keep track of anything.  No extra steps need to be taken on your part. This electricity you’re using from the grid is sent to your business exactly like it was prior to you installing solar.  You will never notice a difference between electricity produced by your solar panels or utility-produced electricity.

At the end of the monthly billing cycle the utility company will check your meter to determine how much you owe (or don’t owe) them. Throughout the month the NET meter has recorded the amount of excess energy you’ve sent back to the grid and how much energy you have pulled from the grid. If you sent more electricity back to the utility grid than you have received, a credit will appear on your bill that will be applied to your next month’s electricity usage. On the other hand, if you have pulled more electricity from the grid that you have sent back to it, you will owe the utility for the electricity that you used.

Now that you understand the concept of net metering, you still may be wondering why you wouldn’t want to install a system that provides more electricity than you need. After all, you can make money on the excess electricity that you send back to the grid, right? Unfortunately, in Arizona it doesn’t work quite like that.

Once a year at the end of the October billing cycle, TEP will give you a final credit for the balance of any excess energy you sent back to the grid. Although, it’s nice to receive this credit, it’s not exactly ‘apples to apples’. The utility company pays you wholesale (about 3-4 cents per kWh) for your electricity even though you paid retail prices (about 8-10 cents per kWh) for the electricity when you used it. The result is a very small credit that will not increase your return on investment faster than simply sizing your system to meet your business' energy needs. An appropriately sized system is the best way to get the full financial benefits from your PV system, and the best return on investment.


Is Solar Hot Water Right for Your Home?

Need some help understanding the financial ins and outs of solar hot water?  If you are considering installing a solar hot water collector, the following table will give you some tips about the best way to take full advantage of your investment. TFS strongly believes that getting hot water from the sun is the best way to go, but in some cases, the conventional options may be more financially feasible.  This all depends on your water consumption, how many people live in your home and your current method of hot water generation, whether it’s an electric or gas water heater.  We based our calculations on the following water use patterns: the typical American two-person household will use approximately 40+ gallons of hot water a day.  A three-person household will use approximately 55+ gallons of hot water a day.

Things to take into consideration: These are numbers based on the usage patterns of standard Americans.  Also, they assume constant natural gas and electricity prices: it is important to note that these prices are likely to go up.  Experts assume electricity prices will increase on average 2% a year, which will increase the return on investment (ROI) significantly.  The same is true of natural gas prices.  When looking at the long term investment, it is important to take these trends into consideration.

Southern Arizona Solar Standards Board

As the solar industry continues to shine in Southern Arizona, a new organization, known as the Southern Arizona Solar Standards Board (SASSB), has been introduced to ensure that consumers receive professional, quality service when solar equipment is installed at their homes. Why? With the tremendous growth of the solar industry in southern Arizona, Tucsonans have seen the local industry expand from around 17 solar companies in 2007 to more than 100 today. As the industry expands, consumers are increasingly at risk of poor installations, shoddy workmanship, and unsavory business practices.  This rapid growth has sometimes made it difficult for consumers to know which businesses are qualified to properly install solar energy systems.

Who? Enter SASSB: a 501(c)3,  locally grown out of a solar installers’ “best practices” group, and later adopted as a program of Pima Association of Governments.  SASSB is working to strengthen the local solar industry in two ways.  First, by increasing the level of installation quality through the creation of industry standards, and second by informing and educating consumers so they not only pick the right installer, but the right system for their particular needs.

How? SASSB has developed standards for professionals installing photovoltaic or solar hot water systems.  Companies are eligible for membership and accreditation contingent on meeting the core requirements and agreeing to adhere to industry best practices as they are defined by SASSB. Standards include:

  • Having at least one full-time employee certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners
  • Being in business for at least two years and having completed at least 10 utility-verified solar system installations
  • Being in good standing with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors
  • Being deemed an "approved installer" with applicable utility companies
  • Being properly licensed through all applicable southern Arizona entities
  • Offering customers a 10-year workmanship warranty and data monitoring for all systems

Consumers interested in solar are able to choose from a list of SASSB accredited installers, thereby adding some peace of mind to the selection process.  SASSB has also published a list of Buyer Tips & Steps for the Consumer as well as a Useful Definitions page on their website.

To find out more about SASSB’s mission and local accredited installers visit



TFS's Nissan Leaf: Real World Electric Vehicle Performance in Tucson

The TFS Nissan Leaf is powered by the sun. Durring the month of May, we drove 685 miles which translates to 142 kWh of electricity consumed. The car can easily be powered by a 1kW solar PV system.