EGEB: Affordable solar for Nevada’s lower-income residents, Detroit Zoo goes 100% renewable, more

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • How to make solar power more affordable for low-income Nevadans.
  • The Detroit Zoo plans to be on 100% renewable energy by 2021.
  • Utah has a big housing pollution problem, but its builders are implementing solutions.
  • How to have an all-renewable electric grid.

EGEB: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Las Vegas brags more than 290 sunny days a year, but solar power isn’t possible for many Nevadans due to cost. The price of rooftop solar installation is between $10,000 and $15,000.

So Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed bill AB465 this year, which aims to expand direct solar access to low-income customers.

The Las Vegas Sun explains:

The bill creates a pilot program requiring public utility companies like NV Energy to develop three to 10 solar access programs, with about a quarter of these programs directed solely at low-income customers and half toward customers who aren’t able to install rooftop solar panels.

This follows the Lower Income Solar Energy Program, which was made permanent in 2017. The program is a joint initiative between NV Energy and the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy. It offers incentives for solar power installation on businesses that serve low-income communities like apartments, shelters, and food banks.

Guy Snow, president of Solar NV, says he’d like to see a focus on properties rather than residents, due to the transient nature of the state’s population. Snow said:

I think [AB465] was a large step for us. I’ve always thought we were on the forefront for clean energy and we have some of the best resources for solar energy.

Detroit Zoo goes green

The Detroit Zoo is on track to be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2021.

The Zoo will be powered by wind and solar projects in Michigan that will be launched by late 2020, which “will enable the zoo to offset the 7,425 metric tons of carbon dioxide carbon dioxide it releases each year,” according to CNN.

Further, the zoo installed an anaerobic digester, which converts herbivore waste and food scraps into energy and compost. It’s also discontinued plastic water bottles on-site and now uses electric or solar golf carts.

Utah builds more energy-efficient homes

The Salt Lake Tribune is exploring how “more energy efficient homes may help reduce pollution problem along the Wasatch Front” in a three-part series.

The Wasatch Front, where Salt Lake City is located, is in north-central Utah, and most of the state’s population lives there. The mountains that surround the bowl-shaped valleys trap polluted air.

By 2024, pollution generated by Utah homes and small businesses will overtake all other pollution sources in the winter… according to the Utah Department of Air Quality… The American Lung Association says Salt Lake City, Provo, and Orem have some of the worst air in the country.

So Utah developers are increasingly building energy-efficient homes. So how are they doing it?

At Granite Legacy, a 75-home subdivision under construction by Garbett Homes in South Salt Lake, a tour of an unfinished home reveals the key to low-emission construction: The framing looks typical, but the exterior lumber is spaced further apart, allowing more space for more blown-in insulation — meaning it will take less natural gas to heat the house. The roof design also allows more space for more insulation. The joints and electrical outlets that can’t be insulated are caulked. And gray paint seals off tiny openings in all the ducts. It results in homes that will use 50% to 60% less energy … All are built “ready” for solar panels so they could generate as much electricity as they use.

And Ivory Homes, Utah’s largest homebuilder, has also jumped on the bandwagon. The company is “using extra insulation, energy-efficient lighting and furnaces, high efficiency water heaters, and better windows.”

“We’re building the most energy-efficient and pro-environment homes we’ve ever built,” says Michael Parker, Ivory’s senior economist and vice president of public affairs. “We don’t do them as one-offs. This is across 1,100 homes [a year].”

There’s also the issue of bringing older homes up to code, which Ivory Homes says will need to be addressed.

Can we achieve an all-electric grid?

David Timmons, an associate professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston, gets right to the point in his Conversation article about achieving an all-renewable electric grid:

The main solution to climate change is well known: stop burning fossil fuels… We make electricity with renewable sources and electrify almost everything.

So, how feasible is it? Timmons says very much so, and each location has to adopt appropriate, location-specific sources of energy. But it requires both government and public support.

Research from me and others shows that fully renewable electric grids are feasible with current technology at current prices; barriers to using renewable electricity are more political and cultural than technological or economic.

In other words, everyone’s got to get on board, as we have the technology to do it. Read the full article here.

Photo credit: Stan Hanel RJNewHomes.Vegas

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.