A lot has changed in the local solar energy industry since last year’s Solar Fest. This Saturday, event organizers are expecting solar experts, beginners, and even those just there to enjoy a day of play in Roosevelt park, from noon to 5 p.m.
There are two new solar options for CPS Energy customers this year that will be getting a lot of attention: solar hosting and roofless solar. Solar Fest is an opportunity for curious community members to find out more about those pilot programs, meet solar installers, learn how solar energy and home energy efficiency works, environmental sustainability, and more. The park’s pavilion will also host a pop-up lecture series (see details below).
Solar Fest has been a bit of a “nerd fest” in years past, said Build San Antonio Green Director of Communications Jacob Eyer. “For the most part it was an educational event for vendors talking amongst themselves.”
This year, “we want to bring back the festival portion of it. There will be bands, food, beer, art and while you’re there, every type of solar rebate and program you can get at CPS Energy. But if you don’t want to, you don’t have to learn anything,” he joked. You’d be hard pressed not to pick up at least the knowledge that San Antonio and its public utility have sights set on continuing its mission to be a leader of Texas’ solar economy.
Since Solar San Antonio and Build San Antonio Green (BSAG) merged under the same nonprofit umbrella earlier this year, the connection between solar energy and energy efficiency will be even stronger during this year’s event, organized by staff from both organizations. Information on weatherization, thermostat technology, and personal energy use monitoring programs will be available amid the solar-focused booths.
“There is a whole village dedicated to CPS Energy programs at this year’s solar fest. This is maybe the first time that they are not only going to have the ability to sign people up for SolarHost and roofless solar programs but they are going to have the customer service team there, Mission Solar Energy and OCI Solar Power, Sun Action Trackers, Honeywell, ThinkEco, and more,” he said. “It’s kind of a one stop shop for programs and rebates available to the public for energy efficiency from CPS Energy.”
Combined with an arts market and kids activities, the festival will have “a little bit of something for everyone.”
Through the hosting program, SolarHost – operated by local solar project developer PowerFin – will pay customers $0.03 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) that the panels installed on residential or commercial roofs produce for 20 years – at no cost to the customer. The roofless, or community, solar program will essentially allow CPS Energy customers to “rent” panels in a large, commercial-scale solar farm and receive discounts on their energy bills based on how much electricity their panels produce.
The SolarHost program has received hundreds of applications from residential and commercial customers so far, according to PowerFin Vice President Jason Pittman, and they’re in the process of reviewing them now. Projects will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis, but not all rooftops are suitable for solar installations. Location, roof materials, and shading will be considered in the evaluation.
The roofless solar option, operated by Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective, is in the process of acquiring land and construction contracts to build the solar farm. Representatives from both pilot program operators will be at the festival explaining how residential and commercial customers can benefit from and sign up for the programs.
“There’s been some confusion in the community about the difference between the two programs,” Eyer said, Solar Fest will be a great opportunity to find out if ownership, hosting, or roofless solar options are the right fit for them.
This will be the festival’s first time at Roosevelt Park, having tried out Lions Field, Maverick Park, and Eco Centro in past years. The Southside’s park proximity to the under-development EPIcenter on the Mission Reach was “too good to pass up.”
There is talk about expanding the festival next year at Eco Centro, closing off Main Avenue for a block party feel, Eyer said. “If we do get really big it would be cool to do it on multiple stops … and have people bike to each location.”
SA Next, a BSAG lecture series, has lined up seven speakers to share their perspectives on several different pieces of the sustainability puzzle:
- 1:05 p.m. – Solar 101 with Joseph Chavez, Global Energy Market analyst with OCI Solar Power
- 1:30 p.m. – Matthew Schwarts, Edwards Aquifer Authority
- 1:55 p.m. – Cultivating the Latino Arts Field with Gabriel Magraner, director of programs of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC)
- 2:30 p.m. – Update on Urban Farming in San Antonio with Mitch Hagney of Local Sprouts urban farm
- 2:55 p.m. – Corporate Culture, Sparking Creativity and Team Work with Sun Action Trackers
- 3:20 p.m. – Garden Based Learning in Schools with Stephen Lucke of Gardopia Gardens
- 3:45 p.m. – Becoming a World Heritage Site with Susan Snow of Missions National Park
Local bands will perform throughout the day on a solar-powered stage including La Chichada, Snowbyrd, XesXes, Boca Negra, and Lonely Horse.
*Top image: Solar Fest 2015 logo courtesy of Build San Antonio Green.