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All things to all people
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Oct. 25, 9a-3p. The premise is simple: Get outside and meet community groups, non-profits, government organizations, retailers, outfitters and...
Oct 25. Nevada State Museum. Historians Larry Gragg, Eugene Moehring and Michael Green hold forth on the fabled home of the Rat Pack, that...
Oct. 25, 3:30-8:30p. Are you ready to run for your life? Lace up your sneakers and try to survive the post-apocalyptic world. Outsmart dozens of...
Another roadside attraction
by Scott Dickensheets | posted October 24, 2014
There's a great work of documentary art — perhaps some mashup of journalistic sketch, overheard oral history and maybe lyric poem — to be created out of the humanity flux you encounter at middle-of-nowhere highway rest stops in the American West. "Hey, mom, whatcha doing?" a young girl trills, at the door of a stinking outhouse in the middle of outback Utah. Well, kid, the options are limited. People of every size, shape and human flava pull into these places; few things are as democratizing as bursting bladders and cramped legs. They stretch their car-weary bodies, walk their dogs, drink in the epic vistas … and browse the merch being sold by Native Americans — bowls, jewelry, dream-catchers and more. You wonder, Does this micro economy really work, all the way out here? But the answer must be yes because they're there, year after year, goods spread under the big sky. Just waiting for whomever comes along.
Asked and Answered
Speaking of solar ...
by Heidi Kyser | posted August 23, 2014
Rooftop solar has been the subject of a lot of mainstream debate lately, most of it having to do with grid access and the role of individual homeowners in a predominantly investor-owned utility game. But there’s another player that often gets overlooked: Co-ops. These member-owned, often-nonprofit power companies tend to do things a little differently.
A case in point is Valley Electric Association, the Pahrump-based utility founded in 1965 that serves 45,000 people over a 6,800-square-mile service area along the California-Nevada border — a drop in the bucket compared to NV Energy’s massive market. Responding to its members’ demands, Valley has been aggressively pursuing a pro-renewables agenda, including joining the California ISO system, which gives it the necessary grid access to export renewable energy created in Nevada to California. And Valley’s efforts aren’t all utility-scale, either. The association has a range of programs to help individual members go solar at home.
In June of this year, Valley hired Chris Brooks, a local pioneer in the solar energy movement, to lead its distributed generation programs (among other duties). Brooks told Desert Companion his plans for his first year on the job. The following excerpt, as told to Heidi Kyser, shows how a smallish company with a limited consumer base can get ahead of the curve on service innovations.
Our primary motivation is not profit, but to take care of our members. So, in response to their demand, we’ve offered them every alternative that’s out there for going solar at a lower price than an outside for-profit entity can do it. …
We're going to structure a metering program that won't be net metering as it currently exists. It will be a time-of-use metering program that's based on avoided costs at the time they're produced. Like any utility, we have different costs for energy at different times of the day and year. So, we’ll incentivize our members to make the energy when we need it the most and to not force us to take the energy when we need it the least. We will do that through pricing — paying them a higher rate for energy they produce when it costs us the most, and a lower rate for energy they produce when it costs us the least. That’s called a feed-in tariff program, or FIT. …
We are also offering participation in a solar garden. We're building a large-scale solar project, and a piece of it will be set aside for customers who want distributed generation but can’t or don’t want to install it on their property. Possibly their home isn't the best for it, or they can't afford the up-front investment, or they don't want to be involved in some exotic contract. This offers them the lowest-cost alternative to get solar distributed generation in their home. If they reserve 5 kilowatts in the solar garden program, we will view it as if they have 5 kilowatts of solar on their roof, but without any up-front capital, construction on their property or liens on their home. …
Then, if one of our members says, I do want to have the solar array on my roof or in my back yard, we're going to provide them with that option as well. We would pass on our bulk purchasing power to provide the lowest-cost alternative, and come up with a financing model internally. We're still working out the details, but it will likely be an on-bill financing method. So, the installation costs would be absorbed, and we would bill them for it monthly through their power bill.
That's how we're doing the solar hot-water heater program that we’ve had for a number of years now and we’re very proud of. We did a bulk contract, bulk purchasing, and developed a streamlined model for engineering and permitting. Then we finance the cost through their power bill. We offer zero-interest financing on that. I don't know that's necessarily going to be the case with the rooftop solar program. I just got here. But all these things will be launched this year. …
The costs of solar technology have come down and the technology itself has gotten very, very good. Today, consumers can make the decision whether to invest in renewable energy themselves. Rooftop solar isn't going anywhere. It is here to stay.
by Andrew Kiraly | posted October 17, 2014
Yes, this display of mannequins is as eerie in real life as you'd expect.
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