Archive for July, 2010
We Moved to New Offices!
Last week, EmPower Solar moved to new offices. If you’re eager to come by, we are still VERY easy to find. We’ve only moved 2 doors down the street – about 30 seconds from our old offices. Our phone number is the same (516) 837-3459, but we can now be found at:
221 Long Beach Rd
Island Park, NY 11558
Over the past year, EmPower has experienced significant growth which required us to acquire more space. In 12 months, EmPower’s number of employees more than doubled from 12 to 30. Our lifetime number of installations has surpassed 200, cumulatively greater than 1 megawatt of solar. Recently, EmPower designed and installed the largest commercial solar installation on Long Island – a 117-kW system at Piece Management in New Hyde Park. All of these underscore the strength of the solar market on Long Island and the promise for continued growth for EmPower and the renewable energy industry!
David Schieren Published in Long Island Business News
EmPower’s CEO David Schieren was featured in the Long Island Business News (LIBN) last week. He wrote an op-ed explaining the benefits of solar energy and why utilities and the government should continue to provide incentives for renewables, at least in the short-term. You can read the article at LIBN’s website if you have a subscription. If you don’t have a subscription, the full text of the article is below.
Schieren: Reasons to take a shine to solar power
By David Schieren
Long Island’s and our nation’s current energy paradigms are not sustainable. Every day we buy about $1 billion of oil from other countries, some of which are hostile to America. Every day, air pollution from our fossil-fueled power plants creates serious public health problems, including increased asthma rates, cardiac issues and premature deaths. Every day we wait for BP to plug the Gulf oil leak as we helplessly witness the destruction of wildlife and the livelihoods of thousands of Americans.
A renewable energy economy is the solution. A renewable energy economy will stabilize future energy prices, create jobs and increase domestically supplied energy while decreasing imports. A renewable energy economy will create a more prosperous, healthy and civil world for ourselves and future generations.
Locally, there is a pressing need to bring new energy sources into our power mix. Renewables, including solar energy, are beneficial for all Long Islanders. Solar rebates and tax incentive programs not only benefit those who choose solar energy systems for their homes and businesses, but also are good for all ratepayers. Here’s why:
As grid electricity prices continue to go up because of volatile and increasing fossil fuel prices, solar prices are coming down. Electric bills have consistently increased in recent years while solar costs have decreased at a rate of nearly 4 percent a year since 1998, a trend expected to continue. Many industry experts predict solar energy will achieve “grid parity” (the moment when solar electricity costs the same as traditional electricity) within the next five years. Through net metering, excess solar capacity is sold back to the Long Island Power Authority resulting in significantly lower bills for the solar user and a supply of clean, low-cost power for the other ratepayers. Read more…
PACE Financing Threatened by Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac
Today, the New York Times reported on a looming risk to the future of PACE financing – America’s largest mortgage guarantors, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy liens, are a creative financing mechanism designed to make weatherization and renewable energy improvements affordable for more homeowners. First developed in Berkeley, California in 2008, PACE allows homeowners to pay for energy improvements through a municipal property tax lien. They are assessed a property tax increase – instead of needing to secure a bank loan – and if the property is sold, the energy lien passes on to the new owner.
Although only a small number of communities have PACE programs in place, PACE has been heralded as one of the most promising ways to encourage investment in home weatherization and solar energy systems. The process of acquiring a PACE lien is less strenuous than securing a loan AND since the benefits of the improvements are tied to the home, it makes it easier to sell the home (and the energy project) to a new owner who will continue to pay off the investment. Moreover, PACE is based on existing property lien models which use the same method to pay for things such as sidewalks, making their structure familiar to municipalities. PACE has been so well received that the Obama administration allocated $150 million to help communities establish PACE programs.
But, all of that may come to halt after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sent out a letter May 5 warning mortgage lenders that energy liens are “not senior to any mortgage delivered to Freddie Mac.” They claim that if a homeowner defaults on a mortgage, taxpayers will unfairly bear the burden of covering the cost of the energy lien. It is unclear why Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are singling out PACE for this special treatment, when they accept other property liens without concern.
Already, many homeowners (most in California) have been told they will need to pay off the PACE lien in its entirety before they can acquire a new loan or refinance their mortgage. Many PACE programs have been suspended and energy projects in the pipeline have been canceled.
PACE is an excellent method of encouraging investment and deploying renewables such as solar. The Federal Housing Finance Agency should clarify its position on the issue and make it so that improving a home’s energy efficiency or installing a renewable energy system will not make it harder to secure a mortgage.