Solar Powered Greenius Producing Massive South Bay Energy

Marilyn Lyon of the SBESC with your Creative Greenius at the PV Street Fair June 7
Marilyn Lyon of the SBESC with your Creative Greenius at the PV Street Fair June 7

As our climate change crisis worsens and spins out of control with each passing day there’s no time to spare for those of us whose job it is to educate and motivate our fellow citizens to actions that cut our greenhouse gas emissions.  I’m talking about committed environmental journalist/activists like myself who believe we have a responsibility to play more than a stenographers role in covering the single greatest threat to our civilization of our lifetimes.

That’s just one reason I spent 12 hours on behalf of the South Bay Environmental Services Center talking to people at the Palos Verdes Street Fair last weekend.  And when you hear the questions folks ask at events like these you instantly realize just  how little people know and understand about what’s happening to our climate and their world.  Most have no idea.  It’s not their fault either – their local governments and the mainstream media have failed them big time.  That’s certainly the case here in Torrance, California where I live and work.

The good news is that positive things ARE happening and our efforts are starting to make a difference.  It’s all happening excruciatingly too slowly of course, and at the pace we’re currently on we are quite simply as doomed as doomed can be – but in the meantime it IS starting to happen and the first signs of momentum are now starting to show.  As all Lakers and NBA fans know, if you’ve got Mr. Momentum wearing your jersey you’re going to go on a scoring run.  It’s a slam dunk. We’ve now got some Mo going with:

  • California solar loan financing that will eliminate the big up front cost of solar

  • With the coming solar feed-in tariff legislation moving through Sacramento that will pay us for the extra solar energy we produce and feed back into the grid

  • With my pal, Brad Bartz, of ABC Solar forcing the City of Torrance to back down and stop breaking the state solar rights law,

  • With the growing numbers of electric cars and plug-in cars headed our way and the price of oil hitting $71 a barrel yesterday

  • And with the unabashed interest and enthusiasm the average person has for all of the above when someone like me tells them the truth, offers them the latest information – and most of all busts the right wing myths designed to fool and scam them into continuing to enrich the carbon-based industries who are literally killing them every single day.


I continue to be an aspiring policy wonk on the solar financing issue known around the state as AB 811 financing, since we need it if we’re going to make it possible for people to install solar right now, instead of waiting till electric rates triple and the greenhouse gas situation makes it mandatory.  Or waiting for do-nothing local governments to do the right thing.

Just as a reminder, the way AB 811 works is that it allows property owners to receive a 20 year no paperwork/no credit check loan to finance their installation of solar PV electric system or other energy efficiency improvements.  The property owners pay off the loans as an assessment item on their property tax bills.  The loans are financed through the sale of assessment district bonds.  AB 811 programs and AB 811 type programs are up and running in Berkeley and Palm Desert and in various stages in several other places.  But they’re not a slam dunk in today’s economy.

interest_ratesAs I learned at the day-long April 29th California Energy Commission Staff Workshop on AB 811 and AB 811 type programs in Sacramento, programs done on an individual city basis, like the City of Berkley’s, don’t enjoy the necessary economies of scale that countywide, JPA or statewide programs (now in development) can bring.

It’s much tougher to raise the level of funding necessary and get the interest rates below the 7%-9% range.  It’s almost impossible in the current economic climate to do more than a pilot-sized program covering 40 properties with 7.75% interest rates and $1.5 million in total funding – that’s the Berkeley program I’ve previously written about.

Interest rates need to be down in the 5%-6% for widespread adoption rates.  If rates were below 5% solar would blow up bigger than Lindsey Lohan going YouTube at Pinkberries.

Los_Angeles_County_Seal copyOne way rates might get driven that low is through a powerhouse large scale program like the County of L.A. is trying to put together driven by Howard Choy the County’s Energy Services Manager.  Howard’s team is holding a conference on June 24th for city managers throughout the county that I’ll be attending.

The county has tremendous resources it can bring to the table and if it has the will and commitment to make L.A. County the national leader in solar energy it has the power to make that happen.  To put that in perspective for you, if Los Angeles County were a state, it would rank ninth in population behind the states of California, New York, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan.  If Los Angeles County were a nation, its economy would be the 18th largest in the world.

I’ll be anxious to learn their plans, hear the reaction those plans get from cities and report back to you on the overall sense of urgency that may – or may not – be present by city stakeholders.

This Friday, June 12, I’ll be attending the EcoMotion Palm Desert AB 811 Conference specifically to cover it for this Creative Greenius blog.  All of the key players throughout the state on this issue are expected to attend or make presentations and I plan on capturing video, soundbites, photos and of course, all the presentations throughout the day.

Ted Flanigan, EcoMotion
Ted Flanigan, EcoMotion

I’m especially eager to meet conference host Ted Flanigan, President and founder of EcoMotion and a guy whose work I’ve been following and admiring.  First of all he’s already gone where I want to go by installing solar, back in 2007. But he and EcoMotion have accomplished far more than that in the solar field and on a wide variety of green projects and missions.  I’m sorry it’s only going to be a one day conference, because Cisco Devries, the Godfather of AB 811 will be there too.

Another development I learned about at the April 29 CEC Staff Workshop was that in addition to AB 811 programs which create Special Assessment Districts for cities and counties, another viable alternative are SB 279 (Hancock) programs which create Special Tax Districts through an amendment to the Mello-Roos act.

A key difference is that SB 279 is available to all local agencies in addition to cities and counties.

You’ll be very happy to know that SB 279 is currently moving smoothly through the State Legislature with its next hearing on July 1.  But it sure wouldn’t hurt to let your California State Senator know you support this new bill and want to see it become law.  I wonder if my friend, Sharon Weisman, State Senator Jenny Oropeza’s Chief of Staff will read this post…



Right now if you put solar panels on your roof and those panels generate twice the electricity than you use, the best you’re going to get from your electric company is a $0 bill.  But with what’s called “Feed-In Tariff” programs you would be paid the going retail rate for any extra solar production you generate. The Greenius says that can make you a Jed Clampett:

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin crude.
Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.

So if you had a big warehouse that nobody was currently renting you could fill your giant rooftop with solar panels and have your own now power station feeding clean, green, renewable energy right into the existing grid.  Good for the grid, good for you, good for the electric company (who won’t meet their AB 32 state mandates for renewable energy generation without our help).  It’s a classic win/win/win. No wonder it’s taking so long.

Or if you didn’t want to invest in solar system yourself you could rent out your roof space to someone who does.  Or maybe you’ll want to rent vacant land in town that’s not good for anything else and fill it with ground mount solar panels and turn that nonproductive land into a power plant turning the suns rays into a cash crop for you.  Or maybe you just want to put ten extra panels on your own home’s roof and supplement your income.

Star_Trek_wallpaper_USS_Enterprise_in_Earth_orbit_computerdestkop_lWe’ve got a bill moving through the California legislature that would make feed in tariffs a reality for us here in the Golden State and when AB 920 passes and is put in place it’s going to be the jump to lightspeed button that drives the installation of grid tied solar systems.

That’s just not another expert Greenius opinion my friends, that’s what is going on in Gainsville, Florida right now after they became the first city in the USA to enact a feed-in tariff law.

Here’s what Gainsville Mayor, Pegeen Hanrahan, P.E. has to say about their program:

The program was approved on March 1, 2009. Already to date approximately 250 kW of projects have been installed. We have 23 MW of projects signed up, well into the 2014 allocation based on 4 MW per year.

Most of the applications are from local property owners of substantial businesses, multi-family developments, etc. The rate of $0.32 cited is for rooftop systems, not greenfield systems, and the vast majority of applicants are for roofs of established businesses. These are local investors who are very well capitalized and are personally known to the staff of the utility and city officials.  I will be speaking on Gainesville’ program in Berlin on July 9.

I’m planning on talking to AB 920 co-author, my state Assemblyman, Ted Lieu, about his efforts and commitment to getting this bill passed and working on behalf of California.  So far Ted has been so busy raising money for his Attorney General run he hasn’t been spending any time pushing AB 920.  He’s been silent about it in the media and his own web site doesn’t even list the bill or offer any info on it.

So I’m going to lobby Ted personally at the Torrance Environmental Fair  on Saturday where he’ll be making a campaign stop, and I’ll try to light a little solar fire under the current Assemblyman for the 53rd District.  And I’m going to have to tell him that I don’t really care about his next ambitious move up the political ladder as much as I care about him serving me better in his current responsibilities to me as his constituent.  Ted could be a champion for the solar we all need – if he wanted to.


Brad Bartz at the PV Street Fair on behalf of the SBESC / photo by Creative Greenius (c) 2009
Brad Bartz at the PV Street Fair on behalf of the SBESC / photo by Creative Greenius (c) 2009

As we reported in our exclusive interview with ABC Solar’s Brad Bartz last month, he was battling the City of Torrance on behalf of a homeowner in my very own Hollywood Riviera neighborhood who was being blocked from installing solar by the City.  Here’s the report from Brad as reported to Solar Daily on what happened:

Bradley Bartz and ABC Solar are proud to announce the decision of the City of Torrance to exempt solar installations from planning review. In April of this year ABC Solar took the extraordinary step of suing the City of Torrance asking the local superior court to rule that design review is against the Solar Rights Act.

Bartz and ABC Solar asked the court for an injunction against the City of Torrance for the city’s practice of requiring an aesthetic review of solar energy system installations enforced via Article 41 – R-H Hillside and Local Coastal Overlay Zone of the Torrance Municipal Code. He opined that the California Legislature passed the Solar Rights Act to help speed the adoption of solar and prevent needless red-tape.

“The Solar Rights Act clearly makes a path for cities to make it easy to go solar. The intent of the act is to fast-track solar,” Said Bradley Bartz, president of ABC Solar Inc. He continued with, “Solar photovoltaic and thermal systems are rapidly being adopted by Californians. The faster we can get permits, the faster we can send the state tax revenue, hire great crews and spin another meter backwards.”

It’s a good thing I talked to Brad personally and that he wrote up the story of what happened because my failed local paper, the soon to be defunct Daily Breeze, has had no followup coverage after their initial article.  Luckily we’ve all stopped counting on the newspaper to actually bring us the news.


Convert your Prius to a plug-in hybrid and rock the world

Plug In Conversions Corp. (PICC) has completed a breakthrough software upgrade to its plug-in conversion kit that for the first time will allow all-electric mode driving at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour in a converted Prius.

Previous Prius conversion kits have been limited by Toyota programming to a top speed of 34 mph in all-electric mode.

The software upgrade also will allow Prius drivers with PICC conversion kits to boost highway fuel efficiency to 170 miles per gallon (until the rechargeable battery is depleted), as recently measured by Argonne National Laboratory. Chicago-based Argonne reported even higher all-electric mileage in city driving tests of vehicles equipped with the software upgrade and PICC’s Nickel Metal Hydride battery conversion kit, now in its third generation.

“What we’re essentially offering is all-electric performance for about 25 miles at highway speeds,” said PICC founder and president Kim Adelman. “The car is no longer limited to 34 miles per hour, all-electric. This also allows a Prius to perform much like the Chevy Volt, but for a much lower cost.”

This is great news and something you’re not going to read in your newspaper, see on  TV or hear on NPR because they don’t understand the significance of this news or how urgent it is that we start converting our existing fleet of cars.

Felix Kramer,, at Plug In 2008 in San Jose / photo by Creative Greenius (c) 2008
Felix Kramer,, at Plug In 2008 in San Jose / photo by Creative Greenius (c) 2008

But one person who understands this better than anyone else is Felix Kramer of  He’s been doing phenomenal work on the plug-in hybrid front for a long time now. And if you want to read what I read from Felix on a regular basis check out the news page of his CalCars web site.  You read his take on the new PICC conversion kits and a whole lot more.

I’ve got a whole lot more to tell you about what I’ve been up to, but you’ll have to wait for Part II later today.

Coming in Part II:





5 thoughts on “Solar Powered Greenius Producing Massive South Bay Energy

  1. You are so right about the Torrance city govt! I have been wondering about the solar loan programs, so thanks for posting such valuable, well written information. I’ll definitely be coming back to your site, Very kind of you to share this info with us!

  2. Great Blog !! Site Bookmarked. I love using the power of the Sun in my every day Life. Solar Energy is a gift from God.

    Thanks for the kind words and the visit. Lots of people around the world worship the sun. Your God, A god, The God – it all adds up to a lot of free, clean renewable power delivered every day to those enlightened enough to use it.


    Hey, what do you know, the Daily Breeze finally reported the news about Brad Bartz giving the City of Torrance a solar education a few days after it happened. Here’s the core of the story as reported in the June 12 issue of the Breeze on line, followed by a link to the story on their eye-pleasing website:

    The city had required Bradley Bartz, owner of Rancho Palos Verdes-based ABC Solar, to obtain the approval of nearby residents before he could install a solar system on the roof of a home in the Hillside Overlay.

    That area of the city has policies governing “view, light, air and privacy” because of its hilly topography.

    Bartz sued, alleging that policy violated the state’s Solar Right Act. That piece of legislation prohibits local governments from imposing unreasonable restrictions on solar energy systems that cause their installation to be “willfully avoided or delayed.” That includes aesthetic review.

    Upon review, city officials agreed with Bartz.

    “We appreciate the assistance Mr. Bartz has given to educate us and we intend to adhere to the Solar Rights Act,” said Jeff Gibson, community services director. “We cannot require discretionary review.”

    The city will now stick to ensuring solar panels are safely installed.

    The Greenius sez that’s what the city should have been doing all along and only their own arrogance and ignorance of the state laws got them into this embarrassing situation.

    The headline of this story should have been:

    But the Daily Breeze editors went with this headline instead for their slant on the news:

  4. Great post. this is what I looking for, thanks. I’m pretty ignorant on this issue (like most issues) and now I at least have a small clue. I was going to try to use your comments section to pimp some of my product but then I realized that would be wrong and that my product isn’t really very good or worth the money so I’ll just say thanks for not running any advertising on your blog!

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