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El Cielo Winery in Baja California Uncorks the Power of the Sun with KYOCERA Solar

Photovoltaic System Provides 75 Percent of the Winery and Restaurant’s Total Energy Consumption

Nestled in the verdant Valle de Guadalupe winemaking region and with an eye on sustainability, El Cielo Winery in Baja California now offsets approximately 75 percent of its energy needs with a new Kyocera solar installation. El Cielo, which translates as “the Sky,” has installed 220 high-reliability Kyocera 245 watt solar modules for a 53.9kW system as part of its mission to be as environmentally friendly as possible. The rooftop and carport system will produce approximately 91,000 kWh annually, saving the winery $1,000-$1,200 a month in electricity costs and enhancing its bottom line.

“The use of solar energy must be a priority not only for wineries, but also for all businesses,” said Gustavo Ortega, General Director of El Cielo. “We chose Kyocera panels because of their longstanding, proven reliability and local production right here in Baja. In this way, we keep more jobs here in our own state.”

From its inception, the owners of El Cielo set out to design a sustainable property, looking to protect the environment around their 90,000 vines because of a strong personal commitment and a hope to inspire other properties in Mexico’s burgeoning wine tourism region to follow suit. Together, the winery and its associated restaurant have also adopted energy-efficient LED lighting with automated motion sensors, thermal materials, solar tubes and reclaimed water for landscaping as further examples of how environmental impact can be minimized.

“Experiences in Riviera Maya tourism taught us that investing in energy efficiency and using natural resources responsibly not only agrees with our personal commitment, but also we owe it to the environment, to Mexico and to future generations,” Ortega continued. “Our goal is to bring best practices for the environment to El Cielo, which includes powering as much of our winery and restaurant via solar energy as possible."

Solar was a crucial element for El Cielo. The winery building was constructed with a flat roof in anticipation of adding solar when it became financially viable. Just one year into operations, the winery is already one of the region’s most popular, with a photovoltaic system that includes both rooftop panels and a carport to shade vehicles while simultaneously producing renewable energy from the region’s abundant sunshine.

“El Cielo represents best practices in the wine tourism industry, proving that being environmentally friendly can enhance a winery’s popularity and profitability,” said Cecilia Aguillon, Director of Marketing for Kyocera Solar, Inc. “Kyocera enjoys a special relationship with Baja California, having manufactured solar modules in Tijuana for more than a decade. We’re honored to support this important project in the region.”

The photovoltaic system was installed by Scaee from Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, and was financed in part by the Mexican government through SAGARPA and FIRCO programs.

Kyocera is the only solar module manufacturer to earn the highest rating across all six PV module test categories in GTM Research’s July 2014 PV Module Reliability Scorecard.

To learn more about Kyocera Solar Inc.’s solutions for both residential and commercial projects in the U.S. and Mexico, please email infosolar@kyocera.com or call 800-223-9580.

KYOCERA Solar Helps San Diego-area Firefighters Save Money, Reduce Environmental Impact

North County solar installations designed for seven-year payback by Sullivan Solar Power

Kyocera Solar, Inc. and Sullivan Solar Power recently announced that they have joined forces to equip San Diego’s North County Fire Protection District (NCFPD) with photovoltaic (PV) solar systems at four fire stations in the Fallbrook, Bonsall and Rainbow communities. Anticipating further increases in utility rates, the NCFPD, which serves approximately 50,000 local residents, chose solar to offset the cost of rising energy bills.

“This project will insulate the District from future utility rate increases, while promoting an environmentally responsible message in our community,” said Greg Wilson, Battalion Chief for the NCFPD.

The four PV systems, totaling 121 kilowatts (kW), are located on East Ivy Street, Winterwarm Drive, Olive Hill Road, and Rainbow Valley Boulevard. Together, they incorporate 431 high-efficiency Kyocera KD320 solar modules, with SunLink ballasted ground mounting systems and SMA power inverters. Collectively capable of generating an estimated 180,000 kilowatt hours of clean energy annually, the systems are expected to pay for themselves within seven years.

“We have used Kyocera solar modules on many of our residential and commercial projects, and have had nothing but positive experiences with their long-term reliability,” said Daniel Sullivan, Founder and President of Sullivan Solar Power. “Kyocera solar modules are manufactured in the region, allowing us to be as green as possible by locally sourcing as well.”

Sullivan Solar Power is a turnkey solar design and installation company headquartered in San Diego.  The local firm won the contract for the solar projects for the North County Fire Protection District in a competitive bidding process last year.

The four-system project received rebates from the California Solar Initiative, which offers incentives to non-profit entities, including California’s 800+ fire stations. It was financed with a low-interest loan available only to non-profit and government entities.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to our firefighters, who protect our lives and contribute so much to the communities they serve,” said Cecilia Aguillon, Director of Market Development for Kyocera Solar. “Kyocera is honored that our solar modules are protecting the NCFPD against out-of-control rate increases, and thus helping to save taxpayer funds.”

Special financing for commercial and large-scale solar projects is now available directly from Kyocera. The company is also involved in providing low-interest loans to home owners for residential solar installations.

Kyocera is the only solar module manufacturer to earn the highest rating across all six PV module test categories in GTM Research’s July 2014 PV Module Reliability Scorecard. To learn more about Kyocera’s solar solutions in the U.S. and Latin America please contact infosolar@kyocera.com or call 800-223-9580.

Financing: Key to Making Solar More Widely Available

Written by Cecilia Aguillon

With solar incentives gone in most states, does the consumer or business owner now need a big up-front investment to “go green” with solar energy?

Short answer: No. Financing opportunities specifically designed around the benefits of solar power are one of the latest tools available to support the adoption of solar energy in the absence of state incentives. The goal is to ensure diversity in financing options to meet the unique needs of every system, owner, and situation.

As you may expect, big differences exist among the financing solutions for purchasing a residential, large commercial or utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) installation. But what if you’re not planning to buy?  Many individuals and companies that want solar have no need or desire to own their PV system – particularly if someone else will install and maintain it for them, with no upfront investment and savings from Day One. Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), sometimes called Solar Services Agreements, are among the easiest ways to make that happen, and even manufacturers like Kyocera are making them available for a wide range of projects. For non-taxable entities like schools, municipalities and non-profit organizations, working with PPAs is a solution that helps grow solar.

Another option is the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, a community/government initiative that can help finance renewable energy, as well as energy efficiency upgrades to buildings through a long-term loan secured against the value of the property. Interested property owners can borrow up to 20% of the value of their property, repaid as a property tax assessment for up to 20 years. According to pacenow.org, “By eliminating upfront costs, providing low-cost long-term financing and making it easy for building owners to transfer repayment obligations to a new owner upon sale, PACE overcomes challenges that have hindered adoption of energy efficiency and related projects in our nation’s buildings.” With a PACE program, a PV system is attached to the property and can be sold with the property.

Banks and credit unions are another great option to help customers go solar. Now that homes are once again gaining equity, banks and credit unions are finding it easier to make loans. But questions remain in residential lending — such as, what happens to a solar installation if the borrower goes into default? The industry is on a learning curve about how to deal with solar systems in such cases. If the homeowner defaults on the loan and doesn’t pay for a solar system, does the bank repossess the panels? Is there a secondary market for them? Until these questions are answered, many potential lenders will remain on the sidelines.

On the residential side, one challenge is that loans are available only for owner-occupied properties. But what about those who lease or rent their homes and still want to benefit from clean, renewable solar energy? If someone is planning to lease a house for many years, could we develop solar financing that is paid through their energy bill? Opportunities abound for the banking community to establish on-bill financing options with utilities, to open more avenues for people who lease or simply don’t have the credit scores to take out a loan for a residential PV system.

One option for people who are renting is on-bill financing of a Solar Shares program (Also referred to as Community Solar). This option involves a large “solar garden,” ideally located near a utility substation. If someone renting an apartment wanted solar energy, they would purchase a share of the project, perhaps 2 kilowatts. The local utility would install it, and the customer would sign an agreement that all the energy from the customer-owned 2kW portion would be credited to them. The customer pays for and benefits from their share of the solar garden as if it were on their own rooftop.

The advantage of a solar shares program is that it increases the potential opportunities for people who are not homeowners to benefit from solar. They can move anywhere within the utility’s territory and still get credit for their solar share. Financing concepts like this, which recognize the mobility Americans increasingly enjoy, have the potential to open significant new demand for solar energy.

California tried to enact a solar shares program but unfortunately the Senate Bill SB43 was turned into a green tariff. In other words, utilities will build solar farms on the order of 5-megawatts (MW) and if customers want their electricity to come from it, they can sign up to pay a higher green tariff. While this is similar to a solar share, the customer doesn’t own anything; they merely pay a tariff for the solar energy. The benefit of a solar share is that the customer owns it outright, and can sell it when needed.

Many manufacturers, including Kyocera, are partnering with financial entities to offer financing for residential properties. In addition to manufacturing PV modules and systems, Kyocera is an Independent Power Producer that offers Power Purchase Agreements for commercial installations — and can even help non-taxable entities install solar systems through tax-equity agreements and PPAs.

Together, these options constitute a broad financing menu for prospective solar power users, and I’m happy to see finance offerings become increasingly diverse. Today’s homeowner or business owner who wants to finance a solar installation has more choice than ever on how and when they make their payments. We are no longer limited to leases and loans; we have many other creative options. And more choices mean more opportunities for projects to get installed.

That’s a smart way for solar to continue to grow as we wean ourselves off state rebates and move toward grid parity for a clean, renewable future.  There are Solar Energy Industries Associations in most states that provide lists of qualified professionals to help better understand options available in that specific region.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, Cecilia Aguillon. Cecilia is director of market development and government policy for Kyocera Solar, Inc., recognized as a world-leading supplier of solar electric energy products since 1975.