Welcome to the Arizona Solar Challenge Tumblr! We're your source for the latest updates about our work to put solar on 5% of homes in your community by the year 2015. We'll regularly feature photos, news clips and profiles of Solar Ambassadors from across the state. Learn more at the Arizona SmartPower website.

Posts tagged "solar coach"

Goodyear homeowners Mike and Cher Zeman recently moved to Arizona and witnessed the widespread adoption of solar on homes in their PebbleCreek neighborhood. They began asking neighbors about their experiences with solar and soon they were hearing all about the good savings that could be achieved. But when they asked questions about purchasing and installation, they were overwhelmed. Every homeowner was telling a different story and sharing different advice, but the one suggestion that they heard from all of their neighbors was that they needed to talk with a Solar Coach.

Mike and Cher called Arizona SmartPower to speak with Solar Coach Dru Bacon. In the ensuing conversation, they mentioned that they had several neighbors who had also recently moved into their immediate neighborhood who had questions about solar. Mike and Cher invited nineteen homeowners to attend a meeting in the Zeman’s living room, where Solar Coach Dru gave a brief background about SmartPower and the Arizona Solar Challenge. After a discussion of how solar energy works, homeowners began asking questions. And Dru had the answers.

Since that meeting, Dru has continued to work with the PebbleCreek homeowners to address their concerns and provide solutions.

Solar energy is new to most homeowners and can be an intimidating process when trying to integrate all the variables that impact the best solar solution for each home. Such things as electricity usage, roof space, roof azimuth, rate plan, pattern of usage and other factors all have important impacts on determining the optimum solar system. The process is further complicated by the question of whether to buy or lease a solar system. Fortunately, the Solar Coach is there to sort it all out.

Please contact Solar Coach Dru Bacon at dbacon[at] with your solar questions.

"When I was looking to go solar I felt caught in the middle of various solar companies, all wanting me to buy, but with Dru’s help and expertise, I went ahead and chose a PV system feeling confident in my decision based on his ‘brass tacks’ real world knowledge. 

With Dru’s help, I feel I made a much more informed decision than I would have otherwise. I would highly recommend that anyone looking to go solar take the time to get Dru’s invaluable input as a Solar Coach.”

- David Snyder, Scottsdale, Arizona

Please join the Arizona SmartPower team at this Green Cave Creek event on Earth Day 2012 to learn more about solar. Solar Coach Dru Bacon will be speaking at 11am and 1pm, so be sure to come by then!

Arizona SmartPower, with the help of the Anthem Council, sponsored a booth at the 13th annual Anthem Days event in North Phoenix on March 24-25th. The booth welcomed a steady stream of homeowners eager to learn more about how they can obtain solar energy for their homes.

Many event goers signed up for Solar Coach services and several of those who had already installed solar signed up to become Solar Ambassadors so that they could share their solar experience with friends and neighbors.

Among the new Solar Ambassadors were several young professionals who have solar homes and who were interested in ways they can share information about the benefits of solar with other young families. With such a high return on investment, solar is an excellent choice for homeowners at any stage of their life. Arizona SmartPower looks forward to working with these new Solar Ambassadors to encourage more young professionals to make the solar investment.

The community of Anthem already has a high percentage of solar homes, but Anthem Days certainly helped Arizona SmartPower and its team of Solar Ambassadors set a high standard for community events and for homeowners looking to go solar.

How old is your water heater? If it’s more than six years old, you could soon be confronted by an inconvenient leak and the task of replacing your old water heater at the worst of times.

But don’t despair! Here is a plan to get one step ahead of that inevitable water heater failure:

Homeowners should plan to either replace their old water heater now or put plans in place to do it when it actually fails. Since you will be spending a few hundred dollars to replace your water heater no matter what, it’s a good time to consider switching to solar hot water. Follow these simple steps to see if solar hot water is right for you:

  1. Call three solar water heater installers and get quotes for installing a properly sized solar water heater. 
  2. After doing your due diligence in checking out the installers you are considering, you can either install the water heater now or have your chosen installer prepare your house for a quick change to solar when that leak actually occurs. 
  3. Solar water heaters have incentives in the form of rebates from APS and tax credits from the Federal and State governments. Since it’s inevitable that you will be spending money for a new water heater and generous incentives are available for solar water heaters, you should do some preplanning and save yourself an inconvenient leak … and some money! 

Solar hot water benefits are especially good for homes with a high demand for hot water. Homeowners should consider the hot water needs and the climate when considering which solar hot water technology to use.

Solar hot water technology has several variations depending on different climate conditions. For example, solar hot water systems suitable for cold winters in Flagstaff are much different than those used for mild winters in Phoenix. In mild non-freezing climates, water is often circulated directly through a rooftop collector that heats water for domestic use. For subfreezing conditions, a non-freezing heat transfer liquid captures solar heat. The captured heat is then transferred to water in a hot water storage tank.

As with anything solar, people have a lot of questions about how the technology adjusts depending on the weather conditions. Solar water heaters use temperature sensors, temperature transmitters and electronic controls to maintain water in proper quantity and temperature to meet domestic needs. For cloudy days, backup heat is provided by either natural gas or electric heating — either can be connected to your solar water heater as backup.

Before you make the switch to solar hot water, remember that it’s always best to get quotes from at least three installers that have credentials with the BBB and the Arizona Registrar.

For independent, free and unbiased advice, homeowners can contact the Arizona SmartPower Solar Coach at dbacon[at] or call [623] 606 – 8846.

West Valley residents have an opportunity to learn about the benefits of residential solar energy at the Buckeye City Hall at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, February 27. The meeting will allow homeowners to learn about solar energy in an informal setting, along with the Arizona SmartPower team and the Town of Buckeye, the hosts of the event.

Buckeye and all West Valley residents are invited to attend the event and learn about current solar financing opportunities. Visitors will also learn how solar can reduce energy costs. If you’ve wondered whether or not you can afford solar or if it’s right right for you, join us to learn about recent solar price decreases and attractive funding options.

We know that solar energy can be confusing and intimidating for homeowners. Those seeking solar information often have no choice but the seek resources from solar industry representatives, but Arizona SmartPower and Solar Coach Dru Bacon offer unbiased information regarding the benefits, barriers and costs of solar energy.

As a non-profit, Arizona SmartPower can offer information without cost of pressure to make a sale. All Buckeye residents and the rest of the West Valley community are invited to attend the solar energy information session on February 27. See you there!

Solar Coach Corner is a weekly column by Arizona SmartPower’s Solar Coach. These posts will go up every Tuesday and are meant to spark conversation about clean energy and energy efficiency topics, so join in by submitting your own comments below!

Modern industrial society is highly dependent on energy to power our economy — energy costs and uncertain energy supplies are closely correlated to recession and prosperity — yet strong fossil fuel lobbying has hampered U.S. development of a comprehensive strategic energy plan.

As an advocate of renewable energy, I’m placing my BET on three areas of energy upgrades: Buildings, Electricity and Transportation. 

Better Buildings:

Buildings consume 43 percent of the energy used in the United States. Much of this energy is used for heating, cooling and lighting. When we go shopping at the mall or dine out at our favorite restaurant, one large component of the price we pay goes towards the building’s energy costs. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

We know how to build net-zero energy homes using off-the-shelf technology at only five percent above traditional construction costs. We also know how to dramatically reduce the energy consumption of commercial buildings. The U.S. Green Building Council has shown the way to energy and environmental responsibility in new construction, now it’s just a matter of us following their lead.

Evolution of Electrical Power Generation:

On a level playing field, solar and wind are much cheaper than fossil fuels. If renewables received federal subsidies equal to fossil fuels, we would have witnessed a much speedier transition to a clean economy. Even without the same federal support, renewables are quickly gaining traction across the world as a better, cleaner and safer form of power generation.

Solar and wind have the potential to provide all our energy needs, yet the electric power industry continues to support the notion that we will always need coal, natural gas or nuclear power for base load. To that I say that we put a man on the moon, sequenced the human genome and invented the internet. Surely we can replace costly, polluting fossil fuels with cheap, clean and renewable energy.

Scientific American published an article in 2008 regarding the potential of solar electricity. The article documented that a 96 square-mile land area in the Southwest U.S., achieving 10 percent efficiency, could produce the equivalent of all the energy used in the United States. Because solar electricity is now highly price competitive with fossil fuels, thirty thousand utility scale solar projects will soon be energizing our homes and businesses. Each of these projects, and each solar rooftop installation, advances us toward that 96 square-mile goal.

Wind-generated electricity is also very low cost and continually getting lower. Technological innovations and economies of scale continue to reduce wind electricity costs, and higher wind towers and offshore wind farms contribute to improved reliability.

Solar and wind will continue to decrease in price as fossil fuel and nuclear costs inevitably increase. We must consider; what are the costs associated with mountaintop removal and disasters such as Fukushima? The threats posed by the extraction and creation of these energy sources simply don’t arise in conversations about clean energy and electricity.

Transportation Technology:

The U.S. spends more than one billion dollars per day to import oil. Economic fairness requires that we consider the benefits of spending one billion dollars per day in developing domestic renewable energy and better batteries for transportation. When we consider the impressive results achieved with the comparably modest investments in car batteries and other technology, it’s easy to imagine that we will soon be driving electric cars powered by solar and wind.

February 1: EVAZ Stakeholder Meeting — Phoenix

February 2, 16: Solar Coach Office Hours, PORA — Sun City West

February 8: EVAZ Policy Working Group — Phoenix

February 28: Clean Cities Legislative Breakfast, State Capitol — Phoenix

March 1, 15, 29: Solar Coach Office Hours, PORA — Sun City West

March 17: Pointe Tapatio Meeting — Phoenix

March 24-25: Anthem Days — Anthem

April 21: Anthem Go Green — Anthem

April 21: Earth Day and Solar Up Cave Creek — Cave Creek

Please contact Aparna P. Mohla at amohla[at] if you would like more information about our events.

Arizona SmartPower Solar Coach Dru Bacon was invited by Jon Finley of the Sierra Club to present to the Alternative Energy Meet Up Group on Saturday, February 14th. The group had a lively conversation about solar, other renewable resources and energy efficiency.

The Alternative Energy Meet Up Group was so enthusiastic about what Dru had to say about solar that several members followed up with him to discuss the process of installing solar on their own homes. If you are considering solar or have questions, please contact Dru at dbacon[at]!

Solar Coach Corner is a weekly column by Arizona SmartPower’s Solar Coach. These posts will go up every Tuesday and are meant to spark conversation about clean energy and energy efficiency topics, so join in by submitting your own comments below!

When it comes to high energy consumption, it’s hard to find a bigger consumer than the U.S. military. The numbers are staggering.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) uses enough electricity to power more than 2.6 million average U.S. homes and burns 4.6 billion gallons of liquid fossil fuels annually. What’s more is the level of dependence and vulnerability of the organization’s energy security. When prices go up, the military faces astronomical energy costs.

But military organizations are renowned for their ability to respond to a problem with a robust strategy — and that’s just what the DOD has been doing to address energy costs and security.

Sustainability and renewable energy are cornerstones of the DOD’s energy strategy. After years of gradual increases in the use of LEED standards, the U.S. Army has officially adopted a new standard for sustainability and green building practices.

“We are on a path to integrating energy and sustainability considerations into our fundamental way of thinking as we progress toward net-zero energy, water and waste in buildings and installations” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and the environment (IE&E).

But can an energy consumer like the military be seriously considering a net-zero energy policy? It seems an impossible stretch at best or an unachievable fantasy at worst. But the DOD has vast undeveloped assets for energy production. Solar energy potential is foremost among those assets.

The DOD recently released the results of a yearlong study that shows nine military bases in California and Nevada have space available to generate 7,000 megawatts of electric power — the equivalent of seven nuclear power plants! The footprint for these installations is a mere 1 percent of the total available space at these facilities. What’s more, converting this 1 percent of available space to solar power production will not interfere with base missions and will not endanger critical wildlife habitat.

If 1 percent of the footprint from nine installations in the southwest can replace seven nuclear power plants, the DOD strategy of net-zero energy seems not only plausible, but very possible.

We have witnessed a free-fall in solar electric prices in recent years. 2011 alone saw a 50 percent drop in the cost of solar electric panels. Observers say that there is no end in sight for the decline in solar prices, so with ever-increasing cost and security issues from traditional energy sources, the DOD seems poised to set an example for other organizations by transitioning to more solar.

I look forward to the day the U.S. can pride itself not only on its military strategies, but also on the energy and sustainability strategies of its military.