Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SEIA Applauds 1603 Tax Credit

WASHINGTON, DC – Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA®) President and CEO Rhone Resch released the following statement today applauding the Senate's inclusion of a one-year extension of the Department of Treasury Section 1603 program in their tax bill compromise:

"The 1603 tax credit has created flexibility for funding renewable energy projects and is fundamental for keeping the solar industry growing in America. To date, the program has facilitated the construction of more than 1,100 solar projects in 42 states. At a minimal cost to the tax payer, the 1603 program has supported $18 billion in investment in new renewable energy projects throughout the country and has created tens of thousands of jobs. Plain and simple, this program provides the greatest return on taxpayer dollars. The program has allowed the solar industry to grow by over 100 percent in 2010, create enough new solar capacity to power 200,000 homes and double domestic solar employment to more than 93,000 Americans. This program has created new opportunity for electricians, plumbers, and construction workers during the worst economic climate since the great depression.

"An extension of the program will keep our U.S. industry growing and help achieve the industry's goal of installing enough new solar energy to power 2 million new homes each year by 2015. None of this would be possible without the tireless leadership of solar's champions on Capitol Hill on both sides of the aisle. In particular, Senators Cantwell, Feinstein, Ensign and LeMieux stepped up to support American jobs in the renewable energy industry and helped convince the Senate to include this provision in the final bill.

"But this is not over yet. Congress must now move swiftly to pass this compromise bill and keep solar working for America."

The TGP was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Section 1603) to provide commercial solar installations with a cash grant in lieu of the 30 percent solar investment tax credit (ITC). President George W. Bush signed the 8-year ITC into law in 2008, but the economic conditions created by the global recession made it clear that few would be able to utilize the tax credit.

So far, the TGP has helped move forward more than 1,100 solar projects in 42 states. A report on the impact of the extension of the TGP by EuPD Research projected it would create 65,000 new U.S. jobs and 5,100 megawatts of solar capacity – enough to power more than 1 million households.

Background Materials
SEIA policy overview of Treasury Grant Program: Treasury Grant Program
Fact sheet on TGP and job creation: Fact-sheet TGP.
Summary of solar projects awarded a Treasury Grant: TGP Awards
EuPD Research "Economic Impact of the Extension of the TGP": EuPD Research Solar Report.
The Solar Foundation National Solar Jobs Census 2010: Solar Jobs Census 2010
SEIA and GTM Research US Solar Market InsightTM Executive Summary: SEIA Q2 2010 Executive Summary.

Friday, December 10, 2010

New Solar Energy System Financing Options

Massachusetts residents and businesses can take advantage of new financing options for solar energy systems. Sol Systems, a solar renewable energy credit (SREC) aggregator, has introduced a new three-year, fixed rate SREC financing option for Massachusetts residents and businesses.

According to a recent article in  Solar Thermal Magazine, Massachusetts solar system owners can cover approximately 25 percent of system costs through an SREC agreement with Sol Systems. Sol Systems says it gives homeowners and businesses a variety of ways to harness the value of SRECs.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tampa Electric Offers Solar Water Heating Incentives

As appeared in Solar Thermal Magazine

Tampa Electric received approval yesterday from the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) to expand its current lineup of energy-efficiency programs for customers. In addition to the new programs and enhancements to existing programs, $1.5 million in incentives will be offered by Tampa Electric each year for five years to help customers install renewable technologies.

Those measures include:

Residential Solar Water Heating — Provides customer incentives up to $1,000 for installing new solar water heating systems. Solar PV Systems — Provides incentives to customers who install PV systems at their homes or businesses. PV for Schools — Tampa Electric will install five 10-kilowatt (kW) systems with battery backup power (one school per year over five years) at schools that also can function as emergency shelters. The PV technology will provide educational opportunities to teachers and students. Low-Income Solar Water Heating — Solar water heating systems will be available for installation on new construction in collaboration with nonprofit building organizations.

The new programs should be available to customers in first quarter of 2011. The availability of these incentives is limited and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations will be accepted online at

The New Programs, to Be Available to Customers in the First Quarter of 2011, Include $1.5 Million in Incentives Tampa Electric Will Offer Each Year for Five Years to Help Customers Install Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Systems and Solar Water Heating

Saving energy is important to our customers during these challenging economic times,” said Gordon Gillette, president of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas. “In designing these new programs, we considered the growing interest community leaders and small and large customers have in renewable technologies, energy conservation and, smart and efficient-energy management equipment and systems. These new and enhanced programs can help customers lower their energy bills.”

The FPSC also approved the company’s plans to add new features or enhancements to its existing residential and commercial energy conservation programs, including:

For residential customers:

Free Energy Audits — An inspection of customers’ homes that identifies areas where they may be wasting valuable energy. The company provides three convenient audits (Online, Phone-Assisted and In-Home). Each type of audit includes a free pack of energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Heating and Cooling — Pays an incentive up to $400 to encourage the installation of high-efficiency heating and cooling systems in existing dwellings. Ceiling Insulation — Pays an incentive up to $350 when new insulation is added; up from the previous incentive of $200. Window Replacement/Upgrades — Pays an incentive of $2.65 per square foot with no maximum; the previous maximum amount was $350. Window Film — Pays an incentive up to $2 per square foot with no maximum; an increase from the previous $1 per square foot with a $200 maximum. Wall Insulation — Pays an incentive of $0.31 per square foot with no maximum; up from the previous $200 maximum for all exterior walls. HVAC Maintenance Program — A new program that pays an incentive up to $75 for maintenance and tune-up of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment to ensure operation at optimal efficiency. HVAC Motor Replacement Program — A new program that pays an incentive up to $135 for installing a more energy-efficient motor in an existing air handler.

For business customers:

Free Energy Audits — A free program designed to increase awareness of energy use, includes a free pack of energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Commercial Lighting — Offers an increased incentive of $175 per kilowatt (kW) for lighting upgrades, as well as $25 for each exit sign upgrade to LED technology. Commercial Cooling — Increased incentives for installing high-efficiency cooling systems in existing dwellings. Commercial Duct Repair — Pays an incentive of $350 for the repair of leaking duct systems; up from the previous level of $200. Chiller Program — Increased incentives to $175 per kW for replacing inefficient cooling equipment with higher efficiency equipment. HVAC Maintenance Program — A new program that pays an incentive up to $25 per ton of costs for maintenance and tune-up of HVAC equipment to ensure operation at optimal efficiency. Standby Generator — Pays an increased incentive of $4 per kW for utilization of a customer’s emergency generation capacity during peak periods. Commercial Energy-Efficient Motors — Pays an incentive of $6 per horsepower for energy-efficient motor upgrades. Occupancy Sensors — Offers $25 per sensor installed to control indoor lights and reduce energy costs. Electronically Commutated Motors — A new program that pays an incentive up to $180 per horsepower to retrofit and/or replace inefficient evaporator motors for HVAC or refrigeration equipment. Roof Insulation — A new Building Envelope program that pays $0.15 per square foot of insulation. Ceiling Insulation and Wall Insulation — Two existing programs available as part of the Building Envelope program will offer increased incentives. Energy Recovery Ventilation — A new program that pays an incentive for installing an energy-recovery ventilation system designed to reduce indoor humidity. Cool Roof — A new program that pays an incentive up to $0.60 per square foot for the installation of a cool roof system designed to reduce heat transfer. Commercial Load Management — Increased incentives for allowing Tampa Electric to control operation of air conditioning or specialized equipment during critical energy-use periods.

Low-Income Program Enhancements

Tampa Electric’s existing Low-Income program will receive additional weatherization measures, such as free insulation and duct repair. The company will work closely with established organizations, such as the Centre for Women, to identify and mass-deliver free and low-cost energy-efficiency measures to qualifying neighborhoods throughout the company’s service area.

In addition, Tampa Electric also will partner with neighborhood service centers to offer free energy-efficient packages to low-income residents who qualify for assistance with their energy costs. The packages will include energy-saving light bulbs, air filter change reminders, faucet aerators, hot water temperature check cards and more.

The company began its conservation program initiatives in the late 1970s, prior to any federal or state energy conservation requirements. From 1979 through 2009, Tampa Electric has performed more than 390,000 energy audits and paid almost 385,000 incentives and rebates to customers who have participated in Tampa Electric’s conservation programs — offsetting the need to generate enough electricity to serve more than 683,800 average-size homes over a 12-month period.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

DHW, Still a Great Investment

As appeared on

Georgia Power to expand solar program

Georgia Power recently received state permission to almost double the size of its solar energy program, opening the door for more homeowners and companies with solar panels to sell the sun’s energy to the electric grid at a premium price.

Georgia Power now pays 17 cents per kilowatt hour for solar energy and sells it to customers who sign up to pay extra for blocks of “green power.”


BEAU CABELL/THE TELEGRAPH John Hintermaier stands Wednesday in front of his family’s Tattnall Place home, where solar panels on the roof convert energy to electricity to heat water.

The solar price is more than four times the cost of energy produced by burning coal, which is the source of two-thirds of the electricity that Georgia Power supplies, spokeswoman Lynn Wallace said.

Last month, the Georgia Public Service Commission approved allowing Georgia Power to buy 2,500 more kilowatts of solar energy. That includes 1,500 kilowatts at the 17-cent rate, plus another 1,000 for larger projects that companies can propose at a lower rate, Wallace said.

Until now, Georgia Power had purchased about 2,900 kilowatts of solar energy.

“We’re just enhancing opportunities for independent solar producers to come into our state,” said the commission’s chairman, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr.

The expanded program could encourage people interested in installing solar electricity but wary of the expense, which is steep.

John Hintermaier, a Mercer University professor who lives on Tattnall Place, considered converting his home to solar electricity but decided on installing a solar-powered water heating system last year instead. Panels on his roof heat the water, saving him about 15 to 25 percent in electricity costs a month (and providing hotter water than electricity does, he said).

Hintermaier said his electricity bill has averaged $65 a month for a family of six.

“This makes sense from a hard-headed capitalist perspective: I’d rather pay myself than a utility company,” he said. “We’ve really not been doing all we could do to bring solar into the state, and I think that’s a big mistake.”

Wallace said Georgia Power wanted to expand its solar program largely because so many customers were lobbying to sell the solar power they generate.

The company also believes it likely that the federal government will eventually require power companies to generate a percentage of their energy from renewable sources, she said. (Many states, although not Georgia, already have a renewable standard of this kind.) Starting now prepares Georgia Power for that change.

Hintermaier said without a renewable energy standard, big energy companies have no incentive to expand their solar portfolios because they don’t control the source of the power -- and reap all the profits -- as they do with their own coal and gas plants.

“I’d like to see the state open up power generation to more competition,” he said.

A lot of sunlight

In past years, Georgia Power had said Georgia had little solar potential. It may not be very efficient for the centralized power plant model that Georgia Power relies on.

However, the National Renewable Energy Lab ranked Georgia 10th among states based on the amount of sunlight it receives. The Georgia Solar Energy Association estimates that Georgia could generate almost a quarter of its electricity from solar arrays, based on receiving an average of five hours of sunlight a day.

And for a short time, federal incentives are still available for solar projects, a fact Georgia Power pointed out in its proposal to expand its solar purchases. Federal grants of 30 percent are available to customers until Dec. 31. After that, customers can file for a federal tax credit of 30 percent on their tax return between 2011 and 2016, Wallace said in an e-mail.

Hintermaier’s solar hot water system cost about $10,000, but after tax credits, his family’s net cost was about $4,200, he said. That’s compared with solar electric systems that he priced at around $70,000.

Solar electricity is a big investment, but some people are making it.

Wallace said more than 130 customers, most of them residential, are now selling solar energy to Georgia Power. The company will buy no more than 100 kilowatts from a single customer.

The Public Service Commission, which regulates private power companies, must approve each increase to the cap on Georgia Power’s solar program. That’s because if the company has more solar energy than customers want to buy at the higher price, then regular ratepayers will have to subsidize solar costs, said Bill Edge, public information officer for the commission. The commission wants the green energy program to be self-supporting, he said.

“It’s a fine balancing act with green energy,” Wallace said. “We have to balance expenses and revenue so it’s break even.”

However, the Green Energy Program is not expected to break even for several years and will likely have to be subsidized from the company’s fuel recovery fund, Wallace said. This is funded by all ratepayers, but Georgia Power can only use it to recover costs, not make a profit.

Eventually, the Green Energy Program could cause customers to have to pay more or less for fuel, but that hasn’t yet happened, Wallace said.

Georgia Power has a waiting list of customers who would like to sell the solar power they generate to the electric grid, and those will have first priority, Wallace said.

Participants must agree to file cost and operational data with the company and the Public Service Commission, to help both learn more about the solar market in the state.

The energy will supply Georgia Power’s Premium Green Energy product, which has a 50 percent solar component and is available in 100-kilowatt-hour blocks for $5 per block. A separate Standard Green Energy program, which is generated from biomass sources, costs $3.50 per block.

Customers who buy green energy must purchase at least 400 blocks at the standard or premium rate, plus at least 500 blocks more at a negotiated rate, Wallace said. Robins Air Force Base is the only large volume customer in Middle Georgia, Wallace said.

According to a Georgia Power news release, since the company began its Green Energy program in October 2006, nearly 4,200 customers have committed to purchase about 3.8 million kilowatt hours of green energy, or enough electricity to power about 3,800 homes using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month.

To reach writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.

Read more:

First Commercial Rebate Check Delivered by California Solar Initiative

On Tuesday, a Taco Bell restaurant in Albany became the first business in California to get a solar thermal energy rebate for its newly installed solar hot water system.

Pacific Gas & Electric granted the franchise a rebate check of $3,654 for replacing its conventional hot water system with a solar thermal system.

The California Solar Initiative, after much lobbying by the solar industry, has been offering a residential solar thermal hot water system rebate since May, and a commercial rebate beginning Oct. 8.

Cash rebates are available up to $1,875 for residential solar thermal systems on single family homes and $500,000 for commercial properties and multi-family dwellings.

The rebate is set by a formula based on 12 cents per therm of natural gas saved or replaced, and 37 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity saved.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Solar Hot Water Systems: An Urban Renewable for the Northeast

As appeared in, written by Richard M. Cherry, Community Environmental Center

New York, NY, USA -- Using solar energy to heat water in the multifamily apartment buildings of the Northeast has traditionally been considered a challenge. It has generally been assumed that in a city like New York, the installation and implementation of solar panels, connecting pipes and water storage tanks would be dauntingly complicated and expensive. Too many high-rise buildings casting shadows, so the argument goes. (Or too many high-rise buildings, period). Add to that, a climate that would not be suitable for collecting solar energy the year-round.

But the Community Environmental Center (CEC) has discovered that the high cost of fossil fuels and the urgent need to mitigate the climate crisis are gradually leading New York City’s apartment-building owners to consider solar energy for domestic hot water in multifamily buildings. And in New York City more than 65 percent of the residential buildings are from 5 to 15 stories high, suitable heights for installing affordable SHW systems.

The Challenges   

The challenges to SHW in a city like New York cannot be ignored. In fact as CEC learned this past summer, implementing a 42-collector SHW system on 12,000 square feet of roof at Wadsworth Terrace in Northern Manhattan--the largest SHW system to date in a New York City apartment complex--these problems must be anticipated if at all possible and faced head-on.

While it is obvious that a structural engineer needs to assess the integrity of a roof—any roof—before an array of collectors can be installed, New York City presents unique difficulties: aging and uneven roof decks that are not easily hospitable to the installation of solar panels, and an army of building codes can delay implementation. The city’s fire codes require that a certain amount of roof space remain unobstructed and that pipes which cross a rooftop can be no more than 1-foot high.

There is that question of the pipes. How to connect the panels with water-storage tanks in a basement perhaps 6, 7 or 8 stories down? Is there room for the pipes to run inside a building’s structure, or will the pipes have to run along a building’s exterior walls? How much pipe will be needed? (The Wadsworth installation required 960 feet of pipe running between the panels and the holding tanks, and approximately 370 feet of pipe connecting those tanks to the building’s boilers.)

And of course urban basements come in a variety of awkward configurations and sizes, most of them small. The imaginative designer of a SHW system must explore collapsible tanks that fit around stairway landings, through narrow doors, and take up a minimum of space. 

Finally, and very importantly, is the question of cost. Although there is a New York State personal tax credit for “solar water heat” in multifamily residences (capped at $5,000), New York City’s tax incentives currently apply only to solar PV. In any case, NYC installation costs for solar are among the highest in the country.   

In addition, most solar thermal collectors are not manufactured in or around New York City, and the cost of shipping a medium-sized system of 20 panels, each of which weighs in the vicinity of 100 pounds, can be expensive.

These costs become problematic for a residential building owner who is looking for payback preferably within 5 years of the installation.

Challenges Are Not Obstacles

But these are challenges not obstacles. In a comparatively new field, the pioneers will always encounter unaccommodating regulations. To its credit, New York City’s Department of Buildings is trying to streamline the process involved with approving solar thermal designs and installations for residential buildings. By identifying problems early on, and sharing experience, CEC and like-minded companies committed to renewable energy in the Northeast can help future SHW installers acquire a more realistic idea of the costs and processes associated with implementing systems in multifamily buildings.

The vital argument in favor of solar thermal remains its potential. We need to think of solar thermal as one of a rainbow of energy solutions in an urban residential setting. True, in Manhattan, where apartment buildings can be 20-to-30 stories high, installation costs for solar thermal are often prohibitive. But in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, where the majority of residences are either stand-alone homes or 6- to 8-story buildings, solar thermal can be a cost-efficient, environmentally sound antidote to fossil fuels. And the majority of these low-rise apartment buildings do not stand in the shadow of taller ones, so that thermal can often be effective where solar PV cannot. 

Well-designed solar thermal systems in the Northeast can provide 50 percent of a building’s annual hot-water usage. There are roughly 3 million housing units within NYC, according to 2008 figures from the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. So if even 10 percent of these buildings were to be outfitted with solar thermal installations, the energy saved would have an impact on the city’s consumption of fossil fuels. Simply by having a medium-sized SHW system on 300,000 roofs, there could be a reduction in the city’s use of oil and natural gas. And if a combination of lower hard costs and progressive tax incentives bring down the expense of implementing a SHW system, then those building owners would see a viable return on an investment within a reasonable amount of time.  

We must remain optimistic and determined about bringing SHW systems to residential buildings in U.S. cities, particularly in the Northeast, where the consumption of fossil fuels is high. CEC’s experience is that the rewards of persistence can be enormous. Already, increasingly sophisticated technology is enabling SHW systems to function effectively in Northern climates that have fewer days of sun than Southern climes. Installing these systems has created a call for new skills, and increased demand on the part of landlords will produce jobs for which these skills are needed.

If we can build a coalition of innovative builders, building owners and imaginative government agencies, then SHW systems will become an accepted part of our cityscapes. Both the industry and the environment will thrive. 

UMA Solar Expands Licensure Scope

As appeared in Solar Industry Magazine

UMA Solar, a manufacturer and distributor of solar thermal products for residential and commercial applications nationwide, says that UMA Solar Senior Engineer Michael Studney is now multi-licensed as a professional engineer in Texas and Arizona, as well as in Florida.

The additional licensing is part of UMA Solar's ongoing effort to provide solar engineering services to its family of dealers throughout the nation, according to the company.

"These additional licenses will expand UMA Solar's broad spectrum of engineering consulting services and capabilities," says UMA Solar Vice President Robert Zrallack. "Our multi-licensed and multi-disciplined engineering department continues to grow in scope and experience, providing advanced technical support and training for new and existing partners throughout all 50 states."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

HUD Announces Pilot Program to Help Homeowners Pay for Energy Improvements to Homes

Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced a new pilot program that will offer credit-worthy borrowers low-cost loans to make energy-saving improvements to their homes. Backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), these new FHA PowerSaver loans will offer homeowners up to $25,000 to make energy-efficient improvements of their choice, including the installation of insulation, duct sealing, doors and windows, HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels, and geothermal systems.

HUD and FHA developed PowerSaver as part of the Recovery Through Retrofit initiative launched in May 2009 by Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force to develop federal actions that would expand green job opportunities in the United States and boost energy savings by improving home energy efficiency. The announcement is part of an 18-month-long interagency effort facilitated by White House Council on Environmental Quality with the Office of the Vice President, 11 departments and agencies and six White House offices.

Vice President Biden said, “The initiatives announced today are putting the Recovery Through Retrofit report’s recommendations into action – giving American families the tools they need to invest in home energy upgrades. Together, these programs will grow the home retrofit industry and help middle class families save money and energy.”

“HUD and FHA are committed to lowering the cost and expanding the availability of affordable financing for home energy retrofits,” said Secretary Donovan. “PowerSaver will help more homeowners afford common sense, cost saving improvements to their homes, and will create jobs for contractors, installers and energy auditors across the country.”

More homeowners are interested in making their homes energy efficient, according to industry forecasts. Yet options are still limited for financing home energy improvements, especially for the many homeowners who are unable to take out a home equity loan or access an affordable consumer loan. HUD today published a notice seeking the participation of a limited number of mortgage lenders in the two-year pilot program slated to begin in early 2011.

PowerSaver provides lenders with a new product option to serve a potentially growing market,” said David H. Stevens, FHA Commissioner. “We believe there are a number of lenders who will be interested in working with us to help save energy and money for homeowners, while creating jobs and cutting greenhouse gas emissions”

Lenders will be selected to participate in the PowerSaver pilot based on their capacity and commitment to provide affordable home energy improvement financing. Lenders will be required to serve communities that have already taken affirmative steps to expand home energy improvements. HUD will help lenders identify such markets – which exist in many suburban, rural and urban areas across the country.

PowerSaver loans will be backed by the FHA – but with significant “skin in the game” from private lenders. FHA mortgage insurance will cover up to 90 percent of the loan amount in the event of default. Lenders will retain the remaining risk on each loan, incentivizing responsible underwriting and lending standards. FHA will provide streamlined insurance claims payment procedures on PowerSaver loans. In addition, lenders may be eligible for incentive grant payments from FHA to enhance benefits to borrowers, such as lowering interest rates.

“Home energy retrofits are good investments that save families money,” said Ginnie Mae President Ted Tozer. “As the financing arm of HUD, we are proud to support this important home-improvement segment of the housing market and look forward to working with lenders and FHA to develop appropriate secondary market options.”

PowerSaver has been carefully designed to meet a need in the marketplace for borrowers who have the ability and motivation to take on modest additional debt to realize the savings over time from a home energy improvement. PowerSaver loans are only available to borrowers with good credit, manageable overall debt and at least some equity in their home (maximum 100% combined loan to value).

To read the full text of FHA’s notice, visit HUD’s website.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Solar Trek featured in Ocala Style Magazine

Going green is nothing new for Solar Trek in Ocala. For nearly three decades, the popular local provider of top-quality renewable energy systems has been heating pools, cooling air conditioners, and powering whole homes by harnessing the sun's rays.

Lonnie Jerry never expected to see it, but early one February morning, the needles on his home’s electric meter were slowly spinning backward. As the first rays of the winter sun began to hit the panels of his new five-kilowatt photovoltaic system, the house began earning credit from the power company, and The Villages resident was thrilled.

“It felt great,” Jerry says with a chuckle. “I was generating more than I used. Your bill comes back with a negative on it, so the power company actually owes you money. When the hot season kicks in, they credit it to your bill.”

For Floridians, the notion of utilizing the sun’s intense rays to generate electricity for their homes sounds like a dream. Jerry made the notion a reality when he hired Solar Trek in Ocala to outfit his home with a solar electric system. After many months of research, Jerry settled on the 29-year-old company because of its solid reputation, unmatched expertise, and commitment to staying local. Solar Trek offers solar pool heating systems, Smartcool green technology to improve air conditioning/refrigeration systems’ energy efficiency, water-heating systems, and solar electric photovoltaic panels to power homes.

Though Jerry now has a digital meter without the proverbial needles, he’s still keenly aware of his savings. His air conditioner, for example, currently works 38 percent less than before he had Smartcool technology installed. He’s so pleased with Solar Trek, in fact, he’s having a pool heating system installed this month, which has the potential to increase the number of days he’ll be able to swim in his pool to over 290 per year.

Stories like Jerry’s are what drive Vince Biel after all these years. Walking through Solar Trek’s warehouse, the owner is surrounded by reminders of his long and gratifying career. A large photo of a young Biel working on one of the company’s first-ever solar systems hangs above a work station. A shadow-box frame in his office displays a solar panel repair tool he invented as well as a letter of commendation. A photo of Biel and other contractors atop the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta, where they installed 300 solar panels to heat the pools used during the 1996 Olympic Games, sits on a nearby shelf. In yet another photo, Biel is standing next to Governor Charlie Crist after helping install solar panels on the Governor’s Tallahassee mansion in 2007.

“Vince was green before green was cool,” says the company’s operations manager and Vince’s son-in-law, Patrick Altier. “We have patents on several products he’s developed. He recently invented a valve that we can retrofit onto existing hot water tanks to greatly reduce the cost of a solar hot water installation.”

Biel, however, is quick to gloss over his own personal accomplishments and cite customers’ satisfaction as the true indication of Solar Trek’s success. The company only works in solar and never subcontracts its work. Fully insured Solar Trek employees install each unit, and Biel and Altier are often on-site supervising the installation. Jerry was pleased when both men arrived at his home to supervise the one-day installation of his system.

“They’re first-class,” Jerry says, “and very, very knowledgeable. Any questions I had, they could answer them.”

To date, Solar Trek has installed some 7,000 systems in its four-county area of Marion, Sumter, Alachua, and Citrus. They have exclusive agreements on many of the products they sell, including Heliocol, Solene, Smartcool, and Kyocera.

“We only use what we consider to be the highest quality products at the best possible price,” says Altier, who adds that he and Biel also make a point to test every system on their own homes first. “If I won’t use it on my home, I won’t sell it to my customers.”

“Solar is for everyone, from retirees to large families to businesses,” Altier continues. The company is currently installing solar hot water systems at several Marion County Fire Rescue stations. “It used to be exclusive to those with the disposable income to afford it. Now we have so many vehicles to get people into solar, it really is for anyone who doesn’t want to rent their power.”

As for Biel, the thrill of harnessing the sun’s rays to power everyday life has yet to lose its appeal.

“It’s still the most amazing thing to put a panel in the sun, and without any moving parts, it creates electricity,” he says. “It’s still exciting after all these years.”

Solar Trek

202 SW 33rd Avenue, Ocala

(352) 351-1333


Michael Chung of Heliocol Solar to Speak at Seminar

Michael Chung, from Heliocol Solar, will be the main speaker at Carefree's "Going Green" seminar on Saturday, Oct. 30 from 10-11 a.m. at the new Carefree Firestation No. 1, 37401 N. Tom Darlington, Carefree AZ.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Victor Welcomes Dealers to SPI

Our sales team is busy working the aisles of Solar Power International 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  Our own Magnificent Seven, Remo, Bob Z. Greg G. Loren, Doug, Duane, and Greg H., are representing UMA Solar to the world. They are working hard to strengthen our relationship with existing customers and to develop new business leads.

Our trade show team is supported by many of our east and west coast dealers, including: Vince of Solar Trek, Bill G. of Solar Fit, Bob Ellis of Environmental Solar, Rick White of Cal Solar and Ron H. of Solaron.  I am sure many more of our dealers will join our team and make the UMA Solar booth #4001 their home away from home.

 Good luck guys,


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Heliocol Collectors to Heat Preston Center Pool

The swimming pool at WKU’s Raymond B. Preston Health & Activities Center may be indoors but it’ll soon be heated by the sun.

A solar thermal array of 88 Heliocol collectors installed on the Preston Center roof will use the sun’s radiant energy to heat the pool. Each collector contains 3.7 gallons of fluid that will transfer heat from the sun to the pool water in a heat exchanger, keeping the pool a consistent 80-83 degrees, according to Christian Ryan-Downing, WKU’s sustainability coordinator.

“WKU is guaranteed to save at least $10,963 annually by reducing the amount of natural gas required for heating as a result of this installation,” said Dale Dyer, plant operations manager for WKU Facilities Management. “With an initial project investment of $96,410, these annual savings result in a project payback of 8.8 years.”

The solar energy project is part of an Energy Savings Performance Contract with Johnson Controls under way at WKU that includes $9.7 million in energy-reducing and facility improvements across the campus.

“WKU is very pleased that Johnson Controls was able to include renewable energy (naturally replenished) elements in our energy project,” said John Osborne, vice president for Campus Services and Facilities. “The solar panels will significantly reduce the energy needed to heat our swimming pool, which is good for our environment and beneficial for our energy budget.”

The solar thermal collectors are manufactured by Heliocol and are distributed and installed by SunQuest Energy LLC. The same collectors were used to heat the swimming pool facilities for the Summer Olympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta and 2004 in Athens.

“We are very excited about the solar project at the Preston Center,” said Brad Stinnett, assistant director for facilities in the Department of Intramural-Recreational Sports. “There are very few campus recreational sports facilities across the country that have taken advantage of this application. This innovative project will help make the facility even more sustainable and we are appreciative that it was included in WKU’s Energy Savings Performance Contract.”

Ben Johnson, assistant director of Planning, Design and Construction, said other highlights of WKU’s ESPC include the following:

*38 existing buildings (3.5 million square feet) will be impacted with water and lighting improvements, including 35,000 indoor light fixtures and 1,402 occupancy sensors (saving 7.8 million kilowatt hours annually or equal to 709 homes) and 2,114 water saving fixtures and three rainwater collection applications (saving 20.3 million gallons of water annually or enough to meet the needs of 62 families)

*The project will reduce WKU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 21,487 metric tons annually.

*The project has a 15-year payback period, with a guaranteed cost avoidance of more than $1 million in utilities annually.

*The project will create or impact more than 200 jobs for the Commonwealth.

James Lupien Anniversary

National Logistics Manager James Lupien recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary with UMA Solar! Congratulations, James!

Free Crating in October

 UMA Solar is offering FREE CRATING on all Solene products through October. Take advantage of this limited-time offer for BIG solar savings!

Hofstetter Appointment

UMA Solar is pleased to announce the appointment of Gregory J. Hofstetter as National Account Specialist. In this newly created position, Hofstetter will focus on national large-scale commercial and industrial projects as well as on national retailers of UMA Solar products.

“Hofstetter’s experience and expertise will be a tremendous asset to UMA Solar,” said Robert Zrallack, vice president of UMA Solar.

Hofstetter brings 28 years of proven performance in national market development from the golf and pool industries.

“I am very excited to join UMA Solar’s team,” Hofstetter said. “I particularly look forward to introducing the breakthrough advantages of our one-of-a-kind solar preheating solutions to large commercial and industrial organizatons.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More uBUCKS on the way!

It’s time to for us to distribute the 2010 2nd quarter uBUCKS. As you know, uBUCKS is the incentive program that rewards our dealers with in-house points to be used for marketing your individual business. You can see a bulletin from earlier in the year detailing the program by clicking here.  uBUCKS are only applied to accounts that met the minimum sales goal and carry no past due balances at the end of the quarter. We will be distributing uBUCKS on July 30, 2010, so please make sure any outstanding balances are paid in full by then. If you didn’t qualify this quarter, let us know what we can do to help you increase your sales.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
Tod Ellington
Director of Marketing | UMA Solar
P 407.831.1941 ext. 1107 | F 407.379.1059
E |

Friday, July 2, 2010

Meet UMA Solar in San Francisco

We would like to invite you to meet us in San Francisco, July 13-15, 2010 at the Intersolar North America trade show! We will be featuring our full line of solar pool heating, solar domestic hot water, and photovoltaic products. You can find us at Booth 7217 (Moscone West, Level 1).

California Solar Initiative Experts

Also, stop by our booth to speak with one of our exerts on the new California Solar Initiative Thermal Program. According to the California Energy Commission, cash rebates of up to $1,875 are available for qualifying solar water heating systems.

Speak to one of our experts while you’re at the trade show to find out how UMA Solar products such as Solene Solar Hot Water Systems can help you grow your business and drive new revenue streams.

Can’t wait to see you there!


UMA Solar

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

USDA Issues Call for Energy Grant, Loan Applications for 2010

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it has allocated $60 million in 2010 energy grants for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Beginning in 2003, the program has each year offered grants and loans to farmers and other producers, tribal government entities, rural electricity cooperatives and public power utilities. The aim is to promote renewable energy and encourage economic activity in rural America.

On paper, a REAP grant may not exceed 25 percent of the costs of eligible projects, which include solar hot water systems, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, wind turbines, geothermal systems and anaerobic digesters, among other energy technologies. Energy efficiency improvements are also eligible. Grants are limited to $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements.

In practice, however, smaller projects may stand a better chance at receiving REAP funding: according to the USDA, "projects seeking REAP grants of $20,000 or less are greatly favored."

REAP also makes available guaranteed loans worth up to 75 percent of a projects cost, with a minimum loans size of $5,000 and a maximum size of $25 million. A combined loan and grant under REAP may not exceed 75 percent of the project’s cost.

The deadline to apply for REAP loans and grants for the 2010 funding cycle is June 30. To qualify, applicants must operate in a USDA-designated rural area.

REAP was originally called the federal Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program, which began in fiscal year 2003. It was founded by the USDA on the heels of the 2002 federal Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, and was allocated $23 million a year through 2007. A major switch came in 2008, when the Food Conservation and Energy Act changed the program’s name to REAP.

About 88 percent of REAP funds are expected to be used by rural small businesses looking to buy new energy efficient systems or make smaller energy efficient changes. Again, the application deadline is June 30, 2010. Don’t miss your chance to qualify.

**Note that businesses — such as farms and other rural commercial entities — that install a renewable energy system in 2010 may qualify for a treasury grant worth 30 percent of project costs. Since companies are not permitted to participate in more than one federal grant program, the treasury’s program may be a better option of the two for the current year.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Green Business Summit Article Features UMA Solar

A new article in today’s Orlando Sentinel features a quote from UMA Solar director of manufacturing, Paul Hurley. The article outline the upcoming Orlando Green Business summit, which will feature speakers from local and state government, as well as many Fortune 1000 companies.

You can click here to read it online, or pick one up at your nearest newsstand.