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The Past, Present, and Future of Solar Shingles

Kyle Pennell, Guest Blogger

When Tesla acquired solar panel manufacturer and installer SolarCity back in 2016, it energized both the solar industry and homeowners interested in switching to solar power. Tesla’s solar roof makes it possible to produce clean, abundant solar energy without installing bulky rooftop panels.


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Five Cool Facts About Solar that Kids Should Know

This blog was submitted by Nicky Palmer, 7th grader in Foster City, California.

Did you know that if we add up all of the solar energy that is taken in by the Earth’s atmosphere, land and oceans every year, we end up with about 3,850,000 exajoules? To put it in more understandable terms, this amount of energy is equal to 2.7 million earthquakes of the same size as the 2011 earthquake in Japan. That's a lot of energy we can use!

Another cool thing is that NASA has been working on a series of solar powered unmanned aircraft since the 1980’s. Pathfinder, Pathfinder Plus and Helios Prototype, is the result of NASA’s efforts to use solar power for long duration high altitude flights. The Helios Prototype reached a record altitude of 96,863 feet in late 2001, which is the highest altitude reached by an aircraft that is not powered by rockets for sustained horizontal flight.

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Net-Zero Energy, Soup to Nuts

Ann V. Edminster, M.Arch, LEED AP (Author of Energy Free: Homes for a Small Planet)

Ready or not, by executive order, California homes have been mandated to achieve net-zero energy: new homes by 2020, existing homes by 2030. In the simplest terms, this means that a home will have to produce at least as much clean, renewable energy each year as the occupants of the home use in that year. While definition details and implementation specifics have yet to be worked out, California’s Public Utilities Commission and Energy Commission are working furiously to put the infrastructure in place to achieve this extremely ambitious goal.

Net-zero energy is also taking hold nationally and internationally, with help from the US DOE’s Builders Challenge, the US-Canada Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition, the international Passive House movement (along with its domestic adherents), and other initiatives in Europe and beyond.

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Solar Permitting Fees Update

You may have read – or experienced yourself – that the fees charged by cities and counties for solar installation permits vary tremendously across the state – even in cities right next to each other. Some of those fees are exorbitant compared to the average. Kurt Newick, a NorCal Solar member and an activist, couldn’t take it anymore.

Several years ago, Kurt worked with his local chapter of the Sierra Club (Loma Prieta chapter) to begin contacting jurisdictions across California county by county to find out their permitting fees, to be able to compare them and understand the depth of the problem. We published some of his results in the 8th edition of this Resource Guide, and Kurt and his team keep updated information on their website.

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