Solar Austin Happy Hour: Smart Inverters and Distributed Energy Resources for a Smarter Grid

As solar and other renewable energy technologies spread further throughout society, effectively connecting these distributed means of generation to current transmission infrastructure and expanding and modernizing the grid become ever more pressing issues. Solar Austin is excited to present our July Happy Hour speaker, Raghu Belur, the co-cofounder of Enphase, who will tell us more about the exciting advancements in smart inverter, smart grid, and distributed energy resources technology, particularly as related to the residential market. Enphase has also generously provided for food and drinks at this month’s happy hour.

July 25, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten 
1607 San Jacinto St.
 
Raghu has more than 20 years of experience in the clean energy and high technology industries. Prior to Enphase, he developed high-speed optical communication technology for Cerent, which was later acquired by Cisco Systems for $7 billion. Before Cerent, Raghu was an engineer at the Indian Institute of Science, where he played a key role in the development of an alternative energy gasification system. He co-founded Enphase Energy with Martin Fornage in 2006.  Raghu has a MSEE from Texas A&M University and an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
  
Because solar and wind energy are both distributed and intermittent, power generated from these sources must be closely monitored in order to ensure reliability of the electric grid and efficient delivery of electricity. This means that cutting-edge technology must be used to upgrade old transmission infrastructure. Solar panel systems, however, require an additional layer of complexity because they only produce direct current electricity. These systems are connected to inverters, which convert the electricity produced to alternating current so that it can be fed into a specific building’s electric system or into the local grid. Although inverters can be expensive and add further complexity to an electric system, “smart” inverters and other new technology can allow us to control and automate specific electrical systems and extremely fine resolution of the grid to make the grid more resilient.
 
Smarter inverters and other new transmission infrastructure can help renewable resources to further penetrate into the market and promulgate throughout the grid—an essential foundation for expanding renewable energy generation to fight air pollution and climate change, mushroom the number of local clean energy jobs, and provide solar to even more people.

June Happy Hour: Sustainable Design & Architecture

Contemporary architectural design incorporates many new innovations to reduce energy usage and improve overall sustainability of new projects.
 
Next Tuesday Jonathan Smith, Associate Partner at the architecture firm Lake Flato, will recount various sustainable design features, including solar-readiness, that are employed in projects right now like the new Austin Central Library.
 
Jonathan’s projects include the Austin Central Library, which will power 1/3 of its energy usage from rooftop solar panels, and the mixed-use, sustainably-minded development Sylvan Thirty in Dallas. He will discuss many of the challenges and opportunities of integrated design of solar and other energy innovations within architecture, so this is a great opportunity for small business owners, home owners, and other Austin constituents who hope to incorporate solar, energy efficiency, and other innovations into new developments.
 
Tuesday, June 27, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto Blvd
 
Join us to learn about the most up-to-date and effective integrated design features happening in our very own community and how you can become more involved.

May Happy Hour: Austin Solar Policy Update

Austin Energy has been a leader on renewable energy adoption, including distributed solar for many years.  That’s both because of leadership at the utility and the Austin City Council and because of public demand for progressive energy policies.

That’s the beauty of having a democratically controlled electric utility – it’s responsive to the public.  That benefit comes with the responsibility to stay engaged.  And that’s a role we play at Solar Austin – helping people learn about the benefits of solar and then getting involved to continue improving local policies and programs to keep solar growing in the Austin area. 

Solar Austin was involved in getting the solar rebate program started at Austin Energy and we’ve worked to ensure a steady budget for the solar programs over the years.

There are several potential changes to Austin solar policies and programs in the works.  Join us to learn what we’re working on and how you can get involved.

Whether you work in the solar industry, have solar on your home or just think we need to use more solar to reduce our impact on the environment and create local jobs – we want you to get involved.

May 23, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St.
Please RSVP

You’ll hear from the Solar Austin board of directors about our vision for several policies and programs:

  • Commercial Value of Solar tariff
  • Solar for affordable housing
  • Solar for low-income customers in single-family homes
  • Solar goals
  • Solar rebates and performance-based incentives

Now is the time to get active.

 


April Happy Hour: How to Go Solar in the 21st Century

The solar power market has already moved greatly through its early development: from the isolated labs of researchers and inventors, the tinkering workshops of hobbyists, the reclusive sites of off-the-grid applications, the strident efforts of green activists, to the singular homes of early adopters, to wall street’s long-term investors, and more recently, to the doorstep offering. In this ever-expanding industry, there continues to be new horizons, each bigger than the last. 

In this talk, industry experts convened by Solar Austin will discuss how solar power solutions in the 21st century are “crossing the chasm” to mass adoption.

Featuring:
 Stan Pipkin: LighthouseSolar
 Katharine Beisner: Consultant (software, SunPower, CleanTX)
 Mark Begert: Mapdwell, Meridian (Finance)
 Dave Dixon: Native
 Allison Mond: GreenTechMedia (via Skype)

April 25, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St.
Please RSVP

What new ways of acquiring solar power are emerging? Where is the innovation? How do we make the process simpler? When will it show up on new construction? And what are the evolving roles and blind spots of Utilities, Installers, technology manufacturers, policy makers, bankers and the marketplace?

Building off a similar talk at a recent Solar Austin speakers series, we’ll take a tour of what’s to come and answer audience questions about how to go solar effectively while maintaining the inherent promise that solar can deliver a cleaner, more affordable and more resilient future of electricity.


March Happy Hour – Solar for Low-Income Customers

SolarHost San AntonioThere was a time when solar energy was only accessible to those with cash on hand to buy a system outright. Then financing for solar became common place and middle income people with decent credit scores could go solar without paying up front. Now, there is finally a focus on making solar accessible for low-income residents as well. San Antonio’s electric utility – CPS – has launched an innovative new program called Solar Host that allows customers to benefit from solar without making any investment.

At the same time, CPS has rolled out its first community solar program. The program – called Roofless Solar – is ideal for customers who want go solar, but don’t have a suitable roof or other space on their own property. With community solar, a shaded roof or a roof in need of repair is no longer a barrier to going solar.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 28 (5:30 – 8:00 p.m.)

WHERE: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin

RSVP: Please RSVP and make a donation, if you wish to support our work.

SPEAKERS: CPS is working with a private developer to implement the Solar Host program, so both Rick Luna from CPS and Tuan Pham from PowerFin Partners will speak at our happy hour.

Rick LunaRick Luna is Sr. Manager, Product Development for CPS Energy. Rick oversees a program portfolio that includes a variety of solar, demand response and energy efficiency offerings for residential and commercial customers. Rick’s team is instrumental in achieving the Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP) goal of reducing demand by 771 MW by 2020. Rick’s work has included account management, rate design and economic development. He holds a B.A. in economics from Columbia University.

Tuan PhamTuan Pham is the head of PowerFin, a solar development, financing, and operating company, with offices in Austin and San Antonio. Throughout his career, Tuan has focused on areas where energy and finance converge. Prior to his role in business development at HelioVolt, a thin-film solar company, Tuan covered energy and chemical companies at Morgan Stanley and Banc of America Securities in New York. Tuan’s experience also includes time at the Austin Clean Energy Incubator and Strategic Value Partners, a $5 billion hedge fund, where he served as a Director overseeing energy and industrial investments. Tuan also served on the Austin Local Solar Advisory Committee, a City Council-appointed committee to devise a plan for citywide solar development.


Solar Austin Seeks Part-Time Communication & Event Coordinator

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF POSITION:  

Solar Austin’s mission is to accelerate the transition to clean renewable energy in Central Texas to build a healthy community and a strong local economy.  Solar Austin is currently a 100% volunteer run organization.  Solar Austin works with utilities (mostly Austin Energy) and decision makers to improve and expand solar programs and policies and works to educate the public through monthly happy hours with speakers, emails, social media and other events.  

The Solar Austin Communication and Event Coordinator will work under the supervision of the President or another member of the Board.  The Communication and Event Coordinator will take on many of the routine duties required to host monthly happy hour events as well as other administrative and research duties, as assigned.

We expect this position will require 20-30 hours of work per month, depending on what events and other activities we have planned.

SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITIES:

  1. Attend monthly Solar Austin board meetings on the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  2. Coordinate and Attend monthly happy hours on the 4th Tuesday of each month from 5 to 8pm (including setup). Coordination includes:
    • Speaker Coordination: working with Board Members to identify happy hour speakers, contacting and confirming speakers at least 6 weeks in advance, putting together short biographies, photos and a brief descriptions of speaker and topic.
    • Event Marketing (at least 1 month in advance): creating an Eventbrite invitation for each event, posting happy hour information to the Solar Austin website, sending an email blast to the Solar Austin supporter list, creating event pages on  Facebook and MeetUp, and effectively promoting all events on Facebook, Twitter, MeetUp and any other useful platforms and calendars.
    • Event Management: Bring all needed materials to and from event and staff the sign-in table.  Show people where to sign in; collect donations; be welcoming and answer questions (or direct questions to a board member).
  3. Manage sign-in sheets and petitions by adding contacts to Solar Austin database.
  4. Communications: Write regular bi-monthly  blog posts on Solar Austin website.  Share posts via the Solar Austin Facebook and Twitter accounts. Post daily updates to the Solar Austin Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  5. Assist with solar, utility, and other research as needed.
  6. Other administrative duties as assigned.

REQUIREMENTS:

Education:  High school diploma or GED required; some college work prefered

Knowledge: How to utilize social media to engage the public; some knowledge about solar energy and/or policy

Work Experience:  Some previous professional experience required; experience putting on events and using social media professionally strongly desired

Skills:  Excellent written and oral communication skills; well organized; good computer skills (experience with WordPress required; basic HTML beneficial, but not required); good social media skills (particularly Facebook and Twitter); graphic design and video skills valued, but not required  

Capabilities:  Self-motivated; organized; ability to work independently, desire to learn about and advance solar energy policies and programs

APPLY

To apply, email info@solaraustin.org with your resume, cover letter, writing sample and social media samples.


February Happy Hour – Bruce Melton on Climate Change

Join us for a visually stimulating discussion of the challenge of our age: climate change. The topics that may be covered are enumerated below and with some audience input a select few will be explored.

Bruce Melton

Bruce Melton, PE

Bruce Melton is a science author and filmmaker, outreach specialist, professional engineer with primary research in stormwater treatment, and CEO of the Climate Change Now Initiative (nonprofit 501c3). Founded in 2005, the Initiative has created over 400 reviews of academic climate science literature, 50 popular press articles, two experimental documentaries (rockumentaries), a book, and 36 songs. ClimateDiscovery.org

Bruce holds a unique perspective built on personal observations collected from around North America and Greenland, dedicated review of scientific publication, and a clear understanding of the profound risks with which we are encumbering ourselves. Yet he combines this understanding with a deep optimism regarding what can be done to confront such risk.

February 28, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St.
Please RSVP

The Climate Change Now Initiative, the oldest independent climate science education organization in the world, presents scientific and policy interpretation of the most critical new scientific publishing and global developments of 2016. The program’s backdrop is the Initiative’s field work in reporting major climate impacts happening now across North America and Greenland. What Climate Change Now considers critical to the discussion includes:

  • Ecoregime change( forest die-off) in high latitude forests of Western North America
  • Apparent drought where an increased warm season can create drought conditions even with above normal precipitation
  • Increasing extreme weather
  • Abrupt sea level rise and beach disintegration ongoing on barrier island beaches in Texas
  • Dramatic increase in Greenland ice discharge
  • Ongoing shutdown of the Gulf Stream
  • Collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet:
        New modeling of timelines and dramatically increased rate of collapse
        Feedback from warming induced increase in sea ice
        Prevention of complete collapse initiation through ocean heat content reduction
  • The history of current climate reform strategies and their efficacy considering successful implementation
  • Definition of Dangerous Climate Change and new developments reducing the dangerous limit
  • Global Warming Psychology: a description of the disconnection between climate science, the public, policy makers, and environmental advocates,  and the role of global warming psychology in increasing climate science awareness
  • The psychology of a healthy climate, what this is and how we can achieve it
  • The need for strong negative emissions
  • Well-developed industrial scale atmospheric CO2 capture technology, the controversy over economic feasibility and a “license to pollute” given the opportunity to remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere
  • The demise of fossil fuels and the ongoing disconnection of CO2 emissions from future scenario projections, the role of fracking and dramatically reduced costs of alternative energy, and implications of future cost reductions of solar PV and fugitive emissions from methane.

January 2017 Happy Hour – EV Charging Infrastructure

Electric vehicles are poised to transform transportation.  Effective charging solutions are critical to that transformation.

Established in 2007, Smart Charge Residential was born right here in Austin, TX as one of the first companies in America to focus exclusively on electric vehicle charging station (EVSE) installation and has been delivering that promise across Texas ever since. For the past few years Smart Charge Residential has worked closely with industry leading companies like as Tesla Motors providing home charging station installation services for their customer base, in addition to other electric vehicle EV OEM’s, e.g. Nissan, BMW, Ford, Chevrolet, etc. Smart Charge Residential has also established working contracts with local utility companies like Austin Energy in an effort to both grow and maintain the City’s valued public EV charging station infrastructure. As one of ChargePoint’s leading distribution partners, Smart Charge Residential is “plugging-in” the gap between EV drivers and their much needed ease of access to power.

Join us for a happy hour presentation and discussion with Smart Charge Residential CEO Joseph Barletta.

January 24, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St.
Get your ticket/RSVP.

Joseph Barletta of Smart Charge Residential“Imagine a company intellectually immersed inside the EV market with master certified electricians installing today’s most advanced EV charging systems, laid out strategically across Texas. An entity whose single focus is to provide a complete turnkey solution for their Residential, Commercial and Industrial customers with the highest quality standards in customer service and craftsmanship. Pioneers continuing to provide all EV drivers with the most attractive, affordable and reliable means of EV charging available. Now imagine that company inside every major metropolitan city across America and what such deployment can do to accelerate the advent of EV’s in a worldwide effort to reverse the damaging affects of CO2 emissions on our planet. “That’s the driving force behind Smart Charge Residential” says CEO, Joseph Barletta. “The sheer presence of a Smart Charge Residential inside the marketplace will encourage a general sense of security, piece of mind, reliability, service expertise and understanding for EV’s from today’s mainstream consumers. Such focus is critical to accelerating EV adoption as we move forward with restoring our planet to an environment our children’s children can enjoy. This is the single most important factor that drives our intensity and lays the foundation for our company’s mission.” Barletta is now working on Smart Charge America, SCR’s parent company, in an effort to continue scalability across the US.


Solar Austin Holiday Party – Save the Date!

Our holiday party was so much fun last year, that we’re making it an annual event.  This year, we will honor Tom “Smitty” Smith, who has served as the director of Public Citizen’s Texas office for 31 years and Karen Hadden, who is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.  Smitty and Karen were central to the creation of Solar Austin and have been champions for solar energy in Austin and across Texas for many years.  Smitty is retiring from Public Citizen and Karen recently stepped down from the Solar Austin board after many years of service.  We hope you will help us honor their contributions to solar in Austin.

ben-balmerWHEN: Tuesday, December 13, 7-10 p.m.

WHERE: Brick Oven (1209 Red River St, Austin, TX 78701)

TICKETS: $25 in advance ($15 with valid student ID), $30 at the door

We’ll have live music by Ben Blamer and his band, appetizers, and a drink with each ticket purchase.


October Happy Hour: Texas Energy Policy

In honor of this year’s election season, and given that the election falls 10 short days later, we have chosen to focus on the body politic with a party based panel on:

TEXAS ENERGY POLICY

October 25, 5:30 – 8:00 pm
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St.
Please RSVP.

Some knowledgeable and good-natured persons have agreed to take up the mantel of their political party, wear a partisan hat in public & discuss energy policy – remarkable and appreciated.

When Solar Austin talks energy, we typically mean the optimally distant nuclear fires of the Sun and a quiet panel on your roof. But when in TX one should be ready to talk knowledgeably about oil and gas, its regulatory body – the Texas Rail Road Commission, as well as the many renewable options with which Texas is blessed. All these energy sources will be important to TX for decades to come and become more interesting and intertwined as transportation becomes more electrified and the means and the materials of these systems become more highly engineered and dependent on our chemical, manufacturing and design prowess. The speakers we have lined up are capable of covering much of this ground.

lon-burnam Democratic Party – Lon Burnam is an experienced 9 term (1997-2015) TX Representative from District 90 in Ft. Worth and we are honored to have him join us. He was considered the top candidate in his primary run for the TX Railroad Commission this year. Despite endorsements from many national organizations and several of Texas’ major newspapers he was defeated in the Democratic primary to the surprise of many Texas Observers but has many earned insights to share.

 

 

katswiftGreen Party – kat gruene, is a current candidate for TX Representative District 51 but is joining us principally to share a decade of experience as a Co-chair and at-large State Executive Committee member of the Green Party of Texas. She has dedicated herself to expanding access to the Texas electoral process for the past fifteen years.

 

 

 

mark-miller Libertarian Party – Dr. Mark Miller is joining us in his capacity as Vice-Chair of the Libertarian Party of Texas. He is steeped in TX energy matters as he has indeed written the book on the Texas RailRoad Commission (see the book cover below), had a varied career in the oil and gas industry, and been a petroleum engineering faculty member at UT. He is also a 2016 candidate for Texas Railroad Commissioner, the top statewide office in contention this year, and leads in endorsements from the state’s major newspaper editorial boards, including the Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News.

Republican Party – ?? (we are still working on it…..we will accept suggestions) – The Republican party has dominated state wide offices for over 20 years so we may simply credit the party with the status quo and let that stand as everyone’s favorite straw man for good or ill – to the degree that policy has been responsible.

The intent is to focus on state policy, but as an introduction to our topic and acknowledgement of federal policy’s importance to Texas, we recommend a short reading assignment; an editorial by UT Austin’s Dr. Michael Webber in the Houston Chronicle from Oct.1st:  “Webber: Where the candidates stand on U.S. energy policy matters a great deal to Texas.”

With questions, good humor and magnanimous nature at hand, we look forward to you joining us.

Oil&Gas and TX Railroad Comm_M Miller book cover