As production of energy around the world moves to the next generation of renewable, cost-effective sources, we should strive to find means to do this more effectively than the past. It is very important that solar and wind energy successfully support life and communities, rather than follow the wrong path.

We believe three steps are needed to make everyone better off:

    1. End utility bills: Community solar can ensure access to solar and wind energy for everyone, but it has to become simpler. As we produce energy that is perpetual (i.e. sun and wind), why do we need utility bills? Can't we get rid of bills? All we need is a mechanism to even out production and demand once a year, and make sure it is fair and financially viable. 
    2. Enable access to renewable resource no matter where you are: as more wind and energy sources are connected to the grid, we need to make it simpler for people to receive the energy their solar panels produce as they move across towns and states.Why do you need to register with a new utility every time you move? All we need is a mechanism to evenly communicate your production of electricity from one utility to another. In this way, your share in a community solar system can be always producing electricity for you, no matter where you are.
    3. Allow you to access your energy anytime from anywhere: as more vehicles become electric and more accessories (e.g. phones, watches, wearable...) require power, people need to be able to plug in from everywhere. Why should you pay for or struggle to find energy on-the-go, when your community solar share produces electricity somewhere else on the grid? All we need is an underlying infrastructure for identifying where you consume and where you produce energy. This infrastructure should be reliable, open and easy to access.

    When you step back and look at the overall picture of energy for life, it is easy to see that this infrastructure will make access to energy much easier, more cost effective and will create many jobs in maintaining and managing it around the country. Everyone wins.

    Community solar is going to change solar energy production. Aggregating a neighborhood around the construction of a single project allows us to use the best rooftops and land for solar energy production. In other words, community solar makes sure that the structures that lend themselves better than others to solar energy are producing energy for the entire neighborhood, maximizing their potential, rather than just for their owners.

    However, let me step back for a moment. What have you heard about solar energy?  Over time, we heard many claims and accusations about solar energy. One fact remains undisputed. The panels you install on your roof are just the last link in a long chain of energy transfer. It starts 150,000,000 miles from earth in the largest nuclear power plant in the vicinity of earth. While everyone seems captivated by clean nuclear power, indeed, we should not forget about the biggest nuclear energy source, with a 4 billion years remaining lifetime…the sun! Solar energy allows you to benefit from this incredibly powerful source. Some of the key concerns about solar energy include:
    - Why should I invest now? What if the panels I buy become obsolete in 10 years?
    - Should I bother installing the panels? What if there is a problem with the roof? What if I move?
    - What if I don’t have access to a roof or a space for solar?

    Community solar is set to solve them. Community solar can provide electricity cheaper than your utility bill without any installation required. Anyone can participate and receive the benefits of cheaper and cleaner energy at home.

    Sounds like some sort of dark magic? Solar installations in your neighborhood provide electricity to the grid in your area. This electricity is up for grabs by anyone in the neighborhood - luckily this is where Potluck makes life simple for you. Simply sign up and buy a share of one of Potluck’s community shared solar installations in your area. You’ll start seeing net metering credits in your utility bill, running your electricity charges backward. If you move somewhere else, just let us know, and we will transfer your membership to somebody else on your grid.

    The way it works is simple. Once completed, participants in the community solar project start receiving net metering credits in their utility bills, as if they installed the solar panels on their roof. Net metering is a credit towards your utility bill that rewards you for your share of electricity production from the community solar installation.

    Potluck Energy takes care of figuring out the best land and rooftops, and organizing a community around them. We let members of this community invest and share the solar energy installation, cutting down the cost of the development. We are creating something new and exciting for your community, and hopefully many others.

    So, how can you participate? Pre-register today at www.PotluckEnergy.com and we will put you on the waiting list of community solar participants. Your neighborhood will never be the same again!

    As you all know COP 21 climate agreement is a step change in the progress towards renewable energy. In short, this is my reading of the agreement's key conclusions:

    1. Clear and transparent goals - Keep global increase in temperature within 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels, with clear commitment on and tracking of each participating country
    2. Performance monitoring - 5-year plans to meet reduction goals, with a first review on 2018
    3. Integrated monitoring of sources of CO2, with CO2 sequester - Not only sources of CO2 will be monitored, but also forests that naturally reduce CO2 will be tracked as a way to tackle this issue from every viewpoint

    I think this initiative raises two questions at this stage. The first and most obvious one will be how each country will follow on the Paris agreement. The hard part of implementing this directive will be to translate it into a regulation that works. Unfortunately, environmental regulation is complex to implement and it might cause unforeseen consequences, as in the case of the European Carbon Trading.

    My second thought about the Paris agreement is on how it will be received by communities, the energy industry and everyone else potentially involved in reducing emissions. How quickly renewable and energy efficiency companies can react and fill the space drawn by this new policy. In this regard, community solar has a real chance of providing a step change. It is cheaper than normal electricity, but it is also reliable and clean for neighborhoods and communities, despite as I explain below the way energy markets are set up do not necessarily support it.

    One of the ways in which energy innovation is stimulated is through competition. We set energy markets to put in competition energy sources with one other, and rightly so. We want the most efficient power plants possible servicing our homes. It works great for large markets, when you need to constantly match demand and supply of electricity on scale.

    This market competition argument breaks, in my opinion, when it comes to the specific context of neighborhoods and communities. Markets, I believe, work best if they take into account all of the consumers’ preferences. Energy markets, however, do not reflect our choice, because we don’t have much of a say on how our electricity is produced. If I don’t see the power plants and energy markets select the most efficient plants, I don’t see a problem with my electricity. In a confined neighborhood, however, optimizing for just efficiency does not lead to an optimal outcome. In my neighborhood I also want energy to be clean and reliable, because I don’t want my kids to have asthma and I want electricity not disrupted during meteorological events. For this reason, you polluting power plants are rarely located near towns or communities. However, if power plants are too far, electricity might become unavailable during emergency situations like storms and hurricanes (e.g. 3,000 homes affected by outage during Revere tornado in 2014).

    Yet we keep hearing how solar energy is not competitive against other types of electricity. And ironically, this argument tends to freeze rather than support innovation and progress. Nuclear against solar; wind against coal; gas against nuclear, etc. The latest example comes from Peter Thiel, an investor in a nuclear company. His article makes the point that this new nuclear offers a better long-term alternative to solar and wind. Consequently, we should hold our breath until this technology comes around. It assumes that homeowners and residents should have no choice or input in how their electricity is produced. Whether you agree or not with climate change, it’s hard not to see the case for a community’s freedom and ability to pick their own energy source, which could be there also for emergency situations. There is nothing wrong with a clean and reliable futuristic power source, but why not start harvesting solar energy today?

    At this stage, collecting energy directly from the sun is likely the easiest method to generate power for a community, which is why solar is being captured and monetized all over the United States. All you have to do in order to capture solar energy, is to place a PV panel on the ground or on the roof and connect it to the grid. It then starts operating on its own. That's all there is to it.

    When you compare this with the eye-staggering complexity of extracting, refining, transporting, storing, and putting hydrocarbons through incredibly sophisticated engines, it is mind-boggling why anyone would oppose solar. Let’s move away from this artificial competition argument, and do what makes the most sense. It's about common sense.

    If we want safe nuclear energy and we are willing to wait for another 5 or 10 years, we can do that, but in the meantime why not install simple, easy-to-manage solar community farms across our beautiful towns? We need to get the power back to decide which form of energy we should rely on. Who said that energy should be decided in a board room? Why shouldn’t our neighborhoods be in charge of their own electricity selection?

    True, there are some financial mechanisms by which you can ask the utility which form of energy to supply to your house, usually at a premium price or on fixed contract. You can pick solar or wind energy, as an example. Solar farms are beautiful, however, and if combined on-the-premise batteries they can work during emergencies. Coupled with energy storage, they can provide an emergency source of electricity for the neighborhood. In case of a black-out, the batteries attached to a community-owned solar farm can be a last resort source of electricity. You could even charge your electric car connecting it to the solar farm, and then bring it back home to power your appliances. There are so many possibilities with community solar I and everyone else should really be excited about.

    Community solar for Boston - what would it look like

    While the debate between different forms of energy grows stronger by the day, with complex arguments being made for new pipelines and gas power plants, the COP 21 has demonstrated that the time for argument is over and the time for action is upon us. It is clear that climate change is upon us, and the attempt for a top-down solution is underway. While this proposed solution is welcome news, it is well known that the costs associated with such system can be extremely high. Therefore it is up to each community to do their part to mitigate these issues and it is clear to many that solar energy is the way to do this.

     

    We live in an interconnected world, which leverages technology to extend our social and knowledge reach. The information we receive, however, is pre-digested and filtered through an algorithm meant to optimize the likelihood of us taking action on it. Not only that, but the internet could soon be monopolized by a few companies, if net neutrality is going to be cancelled. Is this anything new?

    Probably not, American and international media’s independence has always been questioned. However, we should still preserve our ability to source the information, and to publish content in the same way as any other individual on the web does. The combination of this converging trends could seriously undermine our freedom to take action, particularly on the issues we care about.

    We live in a filter bubble. Or maybe we tend to think that we are in a bubble more than what it really is. However, we don’t know what gets filtered out - what if outside of our bubble there is a solution that could prevent other damages from climate change?

    We launch Potluck Energy in a world that is crowded with information and distractions. Yet when other successful enterprises started their own website they had the equal reach of any other websites. Is it now the right moment to take a collective action and help spread renewable energy, before our voices will be softer in the new web?

    Solar energy has never been as affordable and accessible as today. Anyone, in theory, should be able to benefit from the stable returns of electricity produced from solar irradiation. Yet, solar is still in the hands of few privileged. The capital required upfront, the long-term commitment and the access to a suitable roof makes solar energy still a luxury product. A recent paper from Stanford’s researcher Jacobson showed that the state of New York’s 500,000 commercial buildings and 5 million houses, through their rooftops could power up the entire state, potentially replacing 5 large nuclear power plants. We can catalyze the power of online social communities to exponentially increase the access to solar-powered electricity. Through community shared solar multiple residents and businesses can tap into their town’s solar farm, without installing anything on their roof.

    With annual weather anomalies in continuous increase and virtual consensus among scientists on the origin and cause of such anomalies, we must curtail the emissions from polluting power plants and cars. There are multiple ways to tackle this problem; shared clean energy is the only way, however, to capitalizes on the power of communities to spread emission-free energy. Rheinold (“How to thrive online”) illustrates how the currency of social capital are trust and reciprocity. If trust is fueling solar communities, this socially-driven innovation. can spread virally. This is what the world needs to preserve its environment.

    The bottom online is: we need your help. Please join us to change your community electricity sources, protect the environment and invest in tomorrow's energy.