The Incredible Scam of Rooftop Solar

As more homeowners install rooftop-solar, new issues are arising. Too much solar is putting a strain on the local electric grids. Rooftop solar panels push unused power onto the grid during the day when no one is home and power consumption is lowest, the grid is forced to waste this energy whenever consumption falls below the base load supplied by local power plants. This is a waste of energy and utility payers’ money.

Net Metering policy is attractive in theory, but terrible in practice. Under many states’ net metering policies, rooftop solar costumers get to displace power from the utility company, and if the homeowner has more power than needed, the utility company is required to purchase the excess power at a retail price. By being forced to buy this energy at the high retail price, utilities must shift the cost of grid maintenance and other costs to non-solar customers. Forcing utilities o buy overpriced rooftop electricity results in higher costs on non-solar grid users and taxpayers.

The Solar industry has pushed net metering on utilities at absurdly electric rates. It is a policy that is touted to help Americans have a lower electrical cost by going solar, but raises the rates on non-solar users.

The Incredible Scam of Rooftop Solar

By Norman Rogers

A modest proposal:

We’ve all heard about “shop local” and “get your food from local farmers, not distant corporate farms.”  Lots of people have apple trees in their backyards.  Often they can’t begin to eat or give away all the apples.  In the meantime, big supermarkets sell corporate apples for one dollar a pound and up.  I propose that people with backyard apples be able to take them to the supermarket and sell them to the supermarket for the same price at which the supermarket is selling apples.  Furthermore, they should be able to take them at any time and receive payment.  If the store gets too many local apples, it can reduce its purchase of corporate apples.

My apple proposal may seem ill advised, but that is exactly how rooftop solar power works.  The homeowner gets to displace power from the power company, and if the homeowner has more power than he needs, the power company is obligated to purchase it, often for the same retail price at which it sells electricity.  That policy is called net metering.  In order to accommodate the homeowner’s electric power, the utility has to throttle down some other power plant that produces power at a lower wholesale price.

The exact arrangements for accepting rooftop solar vary by jurisdiction.  In some places, net metering is restricted in one way or another.

A large-scale natural gas-generating plant can supply electricity for around 6 cents per kilowatt-hour.  Rooftop solar electricity costs, without subsidies, around 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, or five times as much.  Average retail rates for electricity in most places are between 8 cents and 16 cents per kilowatt-hour.  Yet, paradoxically, the homeowner can often reduce this electric bill by installing rooftop solar.

It is actually worse than forcing the power company to take 30-cent electricity that it could get from a natural gas plant for 6 cents.  When the company throttles down a natural gas plant to make room for rooftop electricity, it is not saving six cents, because it already has paid for the gas plant.  All it saves is the marginal fuel that is saved when the plant is throttled down to make room for the rooftop electricity.  The saving in fuel is about 2 cents per kilowatt-hour.  So 30-cent electricity displaces grid electricity and saves two cents.

But where does the other 28 cents come from?  Who pays for that?  Part is paid for by the federal 30% subsidy for solar energy construction cost.  That takes care of about nine cents per kilowatt-hour.  That leaves the homeowner with electricity costing him 21 cents per kilowatt-hour.  The cost comes from his monthly payments on the loan to build the solar system divided by the number of kilowatt-hours generated that month.  If he pays cash for the solar system, then the monthly cost is his lost investment return on the cash he paid.  If he lives in a jurisdiction where electricity costs 11 cents, then he is losing 10 cents for each kilowatt-hour generated (21 cents minus 11 cents).  But if he lives in California, where larger home users of electricity pay 53 cents per kilowatt-hour if they consume beyond a baseline limit, he saves 32 cents for each kilowatt-hour of solar electricity generated.  In that case, the power company is losing kilowatt-hours it could have sold for 53 cents.  Other customers have to pay more to make up the lost revenue.

From the standpoint of society, rooftop solar substitutes 30-cent electricity in order to save two cents.  If the homeowner is at least breaking even, as he usually is, he hasn’t lost anything due to the substitution.  The money to pay for the 30-cent electricity comes from the taxpayer-provided subsidy and revenue that is no longer paid to the power company.  The taxpayers and power company pay for 30-cent electricity that could have been obtained for two cents by burning a little more natural gas.  If the homeowner makes a profit on the solar power, then the burden on everyone else is even greater.  Since the power company is guaranteed a rate of return, or at least has to break even, rates have to be raised enough to pay for the overpriced rooftop electricity.  The burden falls on society to pay for the scheme.  The purveyors of rooftop solar, crackpot environmentalists and rooftop solar-owners, are happy.  Everyone else is screwed.

Here is an example of rooftop solar that costs 30 cents a kilowatt-hour.  A 5-kilowatt rooftop system costs about $21,000 installed.  It will generate 7,000 kilowatt-hours per year.  If it is financed over 20 years at 8% interest, the annual payment will be $2,139.  The cost per kilowatt-hour is $2,139/7,000 = $0.306, or 30.6 cents per kilowatt-hour.  Of course, costs and interest rates vary, as does sunshine.  If you think 8% is too high for the interest rate, ask yourself if you would loan your neighbor $21,000 for 20 years for less.  Rooftop solar is expensive compared to utility-scale solar, because it is a small custom installation.  The orientation and slope of the house roof may be less than ideal.  Large-scale utility solar, in contrast, can be as cheap as seven cents per kilowatt-hour.

An increasing problem, already present in California, is too much solar.  The electric grid has a combination of base load power and additional peaking loads.  The base load runs 24 hours a day and is not easy to throttle down.  Solar power peaks around midday.  If there is so much solar as to threaten the base generation, solar has to be curtailed.  In California, this happens in the spring, when sunshine is plentiful but the air-conditioning load is not yet large.  When solar dies, in the hour before sunset, peak power consumption is often being reached.  In that case, solar aggravates the rate at which the rest of the grid has to increase power output to handle the early evening peak.  If the homeowner is at least breaking even, he is probably generating surplus electricity during the middle of the day, adding more solar during the critical midday period and increasing the size of the sudden surge in power demand when the sun fades.

Utility-scale solar costing seven cents is a big waste of money.  Rooftop solar costing 30 cents is insane.  Special interests  – the solar industry and environmentalist crackpots – have convinced legislatures and public utility commissions to stack the deck with net metering and absurdly high tiered electric rates.  The result is to make it profitable for homeowners to invest in what otherwise would be very expensive electricity.  Society as a whole pays for the economic waste, amounting typically to 28 cents per kilowatt-hour of rooftop electricity.

It is foolish to justify rooftop solar on the grounds of reducing CO2 emissions, because if you work the numbers, it costs about $800 to avoid emitting a metric ton of CO2 using rooftop solar.  You can buy a carbon offset that does the same thing for $10.  Reducing CO2 emissions is dubious in any case.  Global warming-climate change ideology is struggling because warming is not remotely meeting expectations.  Believers are starting to lose their faith in global warming.  It is dawning on them that global warming is another scary disaster in a long parade of scary disasters that never materialize but make money for interested parties.  Fewer people want to waste billions on a quixotic quest for renewable power.

The most prominent remaining global warming believers are now advocating nuclear power as the best means of reducing CO2 emissions.  CO2 is plant food that makes plants grow better with less water.  It greens deserts and increases agricultural productivity.  Bring it on.

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Solar power: This NJ woman said she was burned; here’s how to save money and headaches

Leasing solar panels is one of the cheapest ways to become solar, quickly making it the most attractive way to purchase it. Unfortunately, many issues have been arising from misleading lease terms resulting in increasing bill rates over time and contracts lasting 20 or more years. It is important for consumers to know what to look for before signing any contract in order to avoid major setbacks. Make Solar Safe prioritizes consumers rights to safety when going solar.

Solar power: This NJ woman said she was burned; here’s how to save money and headaches

By David P. Willis

Nearly five years ago, Karen Coon signed up to put solar panels on her Lacey home without any upfront cost. She was attracted to the advertising and sales pitch that promised big savings on her monthly energy bills.

Coon said she didn’t realize that when she signed the contract to lease the panels from Tredegar Solar Fund the agreement had a built-in rate hike that boosted the cost for her solar-generated electricity by 2.9 percent every year for 20 years.

With compounding, a $200-a-month bill today could top $340 a month at the end of the two decades — a 72 percent increase over the life of the contract.

Now, Coon said shemade a mistake in signing up for solar power.

Coon,72, said she thought the monthly electricity price of about $111 quoted by a sales person wouldn’t change. The solar-powered utility bill would be about half of what she paid per month to Jersey Central Power & Light in 2013.

“I was under the impression I was paying a lease for solar panels that would be the same amount every month for 20 years,” Coon said.

By 2018, however, Coon’s annual savings were virtually nonexistent.

While she saved about $36 a month during the first couple of years of her solar power agreement, the energy from the sun sometimes had to be supplemented the old-fashioned way — with electricity from JCP&L, a Press on Your Side review of her contract and utility bills from 2013 through 2017 showed.

Her pre-solar July 2013 JCP&L bill, for example, was $206. Her July 2017 bill for only the solar power from Tredegar was $199. Add in another $112 for JCP&L energy and her monthly utility bill was $312. 

Dallas-based Tredegar, a privately held fund, could not be reached for comment.

In an emailed statement, a representative for Spruce Finance, which provides customer support services for Tredegar, said: “We strive to help our customers resolve any issues they may have with their solar agreements and we encourage this homeowner to reach out to our homeowner support team with any issues they may have with their solar agreement, including options for contract termination if they have not done so already.”

Coon said she has called Tredegar to complain about her changing bill. “It was a runaround and didn’t make any sense,” she said. “I called at least two times and then I gave up.”

While thousands of solar customers in New Jersey appear to be satisfied with their leases, a number of homeowners have formally complained about their solar contracts. 

The Better Business Bureau has processed 125 complaints regarding New Jersey-based solar equipment dealers since June 2015, including 45 in 2016 and 33 in 2017, said Melissa Companick, president and chief executive officer. It’s a small number compared to 31,625 complaints processed by the BBB about cellphone companies over the past three years.

But complaints about solar companies over the last 12 months allege misrepresentation of contracts, such as the ability to cancel and the amount of savings to be realized, she said.

“Consumers also allege difficulty contacting the business to get issues resolved,” Companick said.

Coon has not filed a complaint. On BBB’s website, Tredegar Solar has a D+ rating, on the A to F scale.

Solar energy is booming in New Jersey. The Garden State ranks number 5 in the United States behind No. 4 Nevada and No. 1 California, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group.

The sun, which provides 3.9 percent of the state’s electricity, powers 382,000 homes in New Jersey, according to SEIA figures.

 As of March 31, more than 90,000 solar projects have been installed in the Garden State, 94 percent were atop homes and the remaining were commercial installations.

“It has been very popular and continues to be popular,” said Joseph L. Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which oversees the state’s clean energy program.

What you need to know before you sign

Many solar companies offer to lease panels to customers, the least expensive way to go solar. 

Solar panels bolted to the roof generating pollution-free electricity from the sun’s rays is a big selling point for the environmentally minded. There’s also the prospect of cheaper electric bills and no upfront costs.

Even if you don’t have to pay for installation, there are strings attached. A solar contract can be a 20-year, or longer, commitment.

Contracts may come with automatic rate increases each year. You may also be unable to get out of the deal without buying the system for thousands of dollars.

And ironclad, you-can’t-sue-us clauses will force you to take any dispute to an arbitrator, usually chosen by the company if there’s an issue, said Joseph A. Osefchen, a Marlton attorney who specializes in class actions and has reviewed solar contracts. 

Before you sign up for solar, review every word of the contract, seek legal advice if you are unsure of a term, and ask the following questions:

  • Will your monthly rate per kilowatt hour, or monthly charge to lease the panels, increase automatically every year?
  • What will happen if you, or your heirs, want to sell your house?
  • How can you get out of the contract and what could it cost?
  • If you encounter a problem, can you sue the company?

Solar power does have benefits for many homeowners, advocates say.

“People are getting more aware that solar can save them money,” said Vikram Aggarwal, founder and chief executive officer of EnergySage, a website that helps consumers compare solar companies, offers and technology. “You can lock in your electricity costs. It is good for the environment.”

It can be expensive to put solar panels on your house if you want to forgo leasing a system. Depending on how many panels you want, a solar system in New Jersey typically costs a homeowner $10,000 to $20,000, according to EnergySage.

Those costs are tempered by a 30 percent federal tax credit and the sale of solar renewable energy certificates, or SRECs, which go to the owner of the solar power system and represent the renewable qualities of solar power. They accrue for every megawatt generated by the system and are sold on a commodities market to utilities and power suppliers.

For instance, a SREC in May was worth $212, according to the New Jersey Clean Energy program’s website. A 10-kilowatt solar system takes about one month to generate a megawatt, EnergySage states.

If you buy a system, you get all the benefits of your panels: the free solar electricity, the tax credit and the solar renewable energy certificates.

Solar companies offer other alternatives. Leases, where you pay a flat rate every month, and power purchase agreements, where you only pay for the solar electricity generated by the system. You don’t have to worry about maintenance. The company monitors the system and takes care of any problems.

But you don’t own the solar panels. That means you won’t get the tax credit or solar renewable credits, but you will get a credit on your utility’s electric bill if the solar system produces more electricity than you use and sends it to the grid for your neighbors.

In addition to the monthly bill from the solar company for the power generated by the system, you’ll still receive a utility bill. You’ll pay the utility if your solar system doesn’t generate enough electricity for your house.

Charges, leases and power purchase agreements are typically lower than the utility’s prices, giving the homeowner savings, said Lyle Rawlings, president of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group based in Bordentown.

Leases are popular,said Rawlings, who also is president and chief executive officer of Advanced Solar Products in Raritan Township.

“People seem attracted to not having to put money up front,” he said. “They don’t have to go through all the logistics of finding someone to hire (to install the system) and figuring out the design and having it approved. It’s easy and it doesn’t require them to invest.” Lease or buy? Check out the video at the top of this story on the differences.

It’s not a decision that consumers should make quickly, solar experts agree.

“We find it incredibly important to make sure the consumers fully understand the transaction,” said Thomas P. Kimbis, the Solar Energy Industries Association’s executive vice president and general counsel. “Am I even right for going solar?” 

Here are five ways to help a move to solar go smoothly:

1.Know your situation. How much electricity does your house use a month? You’ll need to know so your system can be designed properly. What’s the condition of the roof and its shingles? “If some are cracking, that is an indication they need to replace the roof,” Rawlings said. How is the roof situated? Remember that a roof that faces north doesn’t get direct sunlight, so it’s not right for solar panels.

“People should beware of people coming and saying we will put solar on the northside of your house or when you have trees shading the whole roof,” Rawlings said.

EnergySage has a handy online calculator to help estimate your solar savings based on your address.

2. Research the solar companies. Find at least three installers, compare their offers and even try to negotiate rates and other terms. Ask for references and call them. Check out reviews online and the Better Business Bureau. According to New Jersey’s Office of Clean Energy, you can call the New Jersey Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractor’s license verification line at 973-273-8090 to find out if a contractor has pending or active judgments. A solar installer also must be registered with the state Division of Consumer Affairs as a home improvement contractor.

The industry is competitive. According to the SEIA, there are 363 solar installers and developers in New Jersey, so there are plenty of choices. “If a company has terms they don’t like, find another,” Rawlings said.

3. Will your rate change? If you have a power purchase agreement or lease, your rate may go up annually. Why? The increase is intended to account for the fact that utility electric rates typically increase, said Steven Burg, associate general counsel for Vivint Solar, a Utah-based company that does business in New Jersey.

But utility electric rates are impossible to predict. “We don’t make any assumption on that being the case,” he said. “Our business in based on that increase.”

At some point, you may pay more than the utility rate.

“There is a possibility that there will be a year or maybe longer when the rate will be higher for the solar than it is for the utility,” Burg said. Vivint’s power purchase agreements have a 2.9 percent annual increase. “It is reasonable to assume that over the life of the agreement that the utility rate will, over time, increase by more than 2.9 percent a year, but there is no way to know.”

4. What will happen if you have to sell your house? Typically, a homeowner or heir has the option to transfer the agreement to the new homeowner. The new owner would pick up the monthly payments. A contract also can allow a homeowner to buy the panels or prepay the agreement for the new owner.

Sometimes a solar company will move a system for a fee to a customer’s new home, Kimbis said. 

What you can’t do is just cancel the agreement or forget about the payments once you sign on the dotted line.

Solar system owners file a legal personal property notice, called a Uniform Commercial Code filing or asset lien, that informs homeowners, prospective homebuyers and everyone else that a company owns the solar panels on the roof.

While it won’t hold up a home sale, the homeowner must satisfy the terms of the lease or power purchase agreement or be in violation of the contract, Kimbis said.

The UCC lien protects the owner of the solar panels and gives them the right to remove them if there’s a violation of the contract, said Toms River lawyer Harold Hansel, who specializes in real estate law. 

But typically, a solar agreement is transferred to a new homeowner.

“The solar companies don’t want to come and take their panels back,” Hansel said. “They are going to encourage the assignment” of the lease to the new homeowner.

It’s something you should know about before you sign a contract.

“The important point here is that before entering into a lease or a PPA, the homeowner should ask the solar company about his/her options upon moving,” Kimbis wrote in an email.

At least one state views the PPAs and 20-year leases as “fraud.” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed suit in March against Vivint, one of the largest solar companies in the nation, claiming in court papers that the company’s liens, sales tactics and built-in annual rate hikes were akin to “fraud and racketeering.” Vivint denied the claims, saying it does not jeopardize a homeowner’s right to sell his or her property.

For New Jersey consumers, the SEIA offers a consumer guide online to help homeowners navigate their decision to go solar, Kimbis said.

How does a solar system affect the value of your house? Solar adds value at a rate of 90 times the monthly savings, said Jeffrey Otteau, president of the Otteau Valuation Group in Matawan. So if solar saves $100 a month, the panels will add $9,000 in home value, he said.

But that diminishes as the panels get older. And where they are located on the roof matters.

“When the panels face the street, they will have a detrimental effect on value because of their influence on curb appeal,” Otteau said.

5. Read your contract. Every word. “This is a contract that you really need to understand before you sign,” said the BBB’s Companick. “Don’t fall victim into being pressured into signing a contract. A legitimate company will leave it with you, give you time and you can sign it on your time.”

Coon, of Lacey, signed a contract with Tredgar Solar in November 2013 to put solar panels on her roof. Her solar system, which was installed after her roof was replaced, was turned on in early 2014. She decided to go solar after hearing an advertisement on the radio. 

“I thought it would be an economically sound thing to do and would cut down on my bills,” Coon said.Although she didn’t realize it was in her contract, she said she was not told she would have to pay for each kilowatt hour generated by her panels.

Coon discovered that her bill from Tredegar Solar was different every month. It was higher in the summer and lower in the winter, the peak and low periods for a solar system. She also discovered that her electric rate increased every year.

Press on Your Side looked at Coon’s electric bills and payments, and compared them with an eight-month period after she moved back into her home in 2013 following repairs from superstorm Sandy. The bottom line: Coon saw the most savings in 2014, the first year. Those savings lessened afterward.

For an eight-month period in 2014, the first year she had solar power, Coon saved $321 on her electric bill, an average of $40 a month, over the same period in 2013. Her savings dropped to $256, or an average $32 a month, in 2015 compared to the time when she didn’t have solar.

For the eight-month period in 2016, solar alone saved her $261, but when JCP&L supplemental power was added in, she ended up spending $57 more on her electric bill that in 2013, her pre-solar year. Her total average monthly bill, with solar and JCP&L, in 2017 was a wash as she paid an average $2 a month more.

According to her power purchase agreement, her estimated average monthly payment in the first year of her agreement was $119. Coon’s bills show the solar cost averaged $132 a month that year.

“I wouldn’t have done it again,” Coon said. “To me, I am not getting any benefits from it. I don’t think I am.”

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Governor Sununu Vetoes Net Metering Bill in New Hampshire

Earlier this week, Governor Chris Sununu vetoed two energy bills, one of which would have expanded electric net metering practices in New Hampshire. Renewable energy advocates hope legislators will override his veto and push the bill into law. S.B. 446 would increase limits on net metering by towns and businesses, allowing bigger solar, wind, hydro and biomass projects to receive larger subsidies for the energy they generate. In a letter released Tuesday, Governor Sununu detailed his concerns, principally the massive economic costs the increased net metering caps would have on ratepayers across the state.

“These bills send our state in the exactly wrong direction. We need to be taking steps to lower electric rates, not passing legislation that would cause massive increases,” Governor Sununu stated in his missive following the vote. The Governor went on to point out that S.B. 446 would cost ratepayers at between $5 to 10 million annually and was a ultimately a handout to large solar energy developers.

Net metering is a bad deal for small businesses across New Hampshire. If signed into law, S.B. 446 would have quadrupled the state’s net metering caps, allowing residents who use solar panels to sell more of the excess energy they produce back to the power companies at inflated prices. This practice shifts the cost of grid upkeep back to non-solar users. Many small businesses who fit into this category ultimately pay higher rates and see no tangible benefit. Family Businesses for Affordable Energy believes that energy incentive projects should be able to compete on their own merits, and not place additional financial burdens on businesses and working families. Family Businesses for Affordable Energy applauds Governor Sununu on his decision and encourages leaders in other states to follow his example.

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Canadian owner of Michigan company gets 21 felonies in solar powered generator scam

Owner of the Michigan-based solar company, VSP North America, has recently been arrested for a solar-powered generator scam. Investors were conned out of millions of dollars believing the company worked in manufacturing solar-powered generators. Investors were told that VSP sells generators to dealers across the United States and sells the invoices to investors at a 20 percent discount.  Under these false pretenses investors never received any of the promised payments. On Friday, Von Stach was charged with 21 felonies in connection with the $2 million generator investment scam.

Canadian owner of Michigan company gets 21 felonies in solar powered generator scam

By Derick Hutchinson

LANSING, Mich. – The Canadian owner of a Michigan-based energy company has been charged with 21 felonies in connection with a $2 million generator investment scam, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced.

John Von Stach and VSP North America are each charged with one count of conducting a criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony, and 20 counts of obtaining money by false pretenses.

Von Stach is accused of scamming multiple investors out of millions of dollars in a solar-powered generator scam through his company.

“This individual is alleged through the guise of his company to have taken advantage of Michigan residents and their hard-earned money for personal gain,” Schuette said. “I want to thank my Corporate Oversight Division for their dedication to uncovering fraud and protecting Michigan residents.”

An investor in Von Stach and his business filed a complaint alleging that he hadn’t received the funds promised to him. Investigators found multiple others had responded to advertisements seeking investors for VSP.

VSP sold itself as a renewable energy company that specializes in manufacturing solar-powered generators. Investors were told that VSP sells generators to dealers across the United States and sells the invoices to investors at a 20 percent discount, officials said.

The dealer then paid the full amount of the invoice to the investor within 90 days, according to officials.

It is alleged that the generators sold to dealers were sold on consignment and could be returned if not sold.

Investigators said many others fell victim to the scheme, totaling more than $2 million.

Here are the charges against Von Stach:

  • One count of conducting a criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony;
  • Eight counts of false pretenses $100,000 or more, a 20-year felony;
  • Two counts of false pretenses $50,000 or more but less than $100,000, a 15-year felony;
  • Five counts of false pretenses $20,000 or more but less than $50,000, a 15-year felony; and
  • Five counts of false pretenses $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, a five-year felony.

Von Stach was arrested Friday when he entered Michigan from Canada. He and his company were arraigned Monday, and he is being held on $1.5 million bail.

Von Stach is also required to stay in Michigan and surrender his passport. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 19.

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San Isabel warns of fraud

Many solar installers are using outlandish claims to help sell solar panels, some so outlandish San Isabel Electric is calling them fraudulent. Claims of massive savings, to the point of eliminating consumer’s electric bill, have officials concerned about how the fraud will affect customers. San Isabel is telling customers the best way to find out how solar panels will affect their monthly bill is to talk to the utility directly and take the claims on salesmen with a grain of salt.

San Isabel warns of fraud

A solar energy company based out of Provo, Utah, is being accused by San Isabel Electric of making fraudulent claims, using the electric co-op’s name and trusted reputation as a sales tactic in the Pueblo West area.

Several San Isabel Electric members have reported experiences of Ion Solar sales representatives going door to door making claims that Ion Solar is working with San Isabel Electric on solar projects, working for SIEA or is affiliated with SIEA — all as part of their sales pitch.

“They are telling our customers false information about our business practices like what would happen to their rates if they went solar and also they are saying that customers will no longer get a bill from San Isabel Electric,” said Paris Elliot, spokeswoman for the utility.

Elliott said San Isabel Electric fully embraces solar power, the positive business opportunities solar power growth is providing to the Southern Colorado community, as well as the potential energy bill savings for some consumers.

“However, San Isabel Electric is not in any way affiliated with any solar contractor, or any other contractor of any other trade,” she said.

“This is starting to damage our reputation because our members are getting false information about solar.”

Elliott said the utility has its own solar energy facility.

“This is the second time in a year that Ion has been making these claims door-to-door. They said they were going to stop last year in August and they apologized,” Elliott said.

“They actually went to a San Isabel executive’s door as well as a board member.”

Elliott said the first instance occurred during July 2017. Ion Solar has made apologies by email and have promised to correct the problem in both instances.

“San Isabel Electric Association takes great pride in our ability to provide Southern Colorado with superior customer service, reliable power, local control and steady rates and we’ve done so for 80 years. The misrepresentation of Ion Solar’s relationship with San Isabel is confusing our Members, thus damaging our credibility and honorable reputation.” General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Reg Rudolph said.

San Isabel Electric is asking members who have been contacted by Ion Solar, or any other company misrepresenting San Isabel Electric, to email the name of the company, the phone number/means of contact and an explain of how they misrepresented San Isabel Electric to

Members who are considering adding solar panels to their home or business are encouraged to contact San Isabel Electric’s Energy Services Department to discuss how it will affect your rate and system interconnection (net-metering).

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Celebrity chef Adam Harvey arrested for poisoning seven-story maple tree blocking his solar panels

Celebrity chef Adam Harvey proves owning rooftop solar isn’t always about being “pro-green” after his vicious attack on a neighbor’s 60-year-old silver maple tree. Harvey trespassed into his neighbors’ yard and drilled eleven holes into the massive maple, filling them with herbicide. His motive for such a distasteful crime is because the tree is blocking his solar panels. Harvey’s action has created an uproar in his neighborhood. As the owner of the tree says, “The tree has a right to be and has a right to survive.” The attack was not the trees fault. Before purchasing rooftop solar, Harvey should have foreseen all conditions.

Celebrity chef Adam Harvey arrested for poisoning seven-story maple tree blocking his solar panels

By Jame Fanelli

A tree dies in Brooklyn.

A celebrity chef with a warped sense of going green poisoned a neighbor’s giant silver maple tree because it blocked sunlight from the solar panels on his Windsor Terrace home, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office says.

Adam Harvey, 33, was arrested in May after neighbors spotted him drilling 11 holes into the trunk of the seven-story tree and filling it with herbicide, prosecutors say. The former “Top Chef” contestant, who owns the Gowanus restaurant Bar Salumi, was arraigned on May 15 with two misdemeanors charges: criminal mischief and criminal trespass. A judge also issued an order of protection against the foliage fiend, barring him from going near the tree’s owner.

Meanwhile, the sprawling, majestic maple — which is more than 60 years old, measures 53 inches in diameter and resides in the backyard of a Seeley St. home — is clinging to life. Half of its leaves have wilted since the April 30 attack. An arborist who inspected the tree told its owner that it’s a matter of waiting and seeing if it will pull through.

“The tree has a right to be and has a right to survive,” said the owner, a heartbroken retired city teacher who has lived in her home since 1992 and asked not to be identified.

“Why would you have solar panels and try to take down a tree? That to me is the linchpin of everything. It says a lot.”

Aside from the criminal charges, Harvey also faces the wrath of his neighbors, who have no plans of extending an olive branch to him. He and his wife, who purchased their Seeley St. row house for $1.5 million last summer, have yet to move in because they are renovating.

Neighbors said he should make like a tree and leave the block for good.

“He has outraged everyone in a half-mile radius,” said one neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous. She said the tree is a beloved fixture that towers over the backyards on the street.

Harvey declined to comment when reached on Tuesday at his Gowanus restaurant on Fourth Ave.

Quick-thinking neighbors said they caught Harvey green-handed with their cell phone cameras on April 30.

One neighbor recorded him after he sneaked into his own yard from his neighbor’s around noon that day.

Video footage shows him taking off a mask and gloves with a power drill connected to his house and a jug lying on the ground near him. Prosecutors believe the jug contained the herbicide Roundup, sources said.

Neighbors said that after they saw him they called 911. By the time police arrived, Harvey had disappeared. However, he returned to his backyard after officers left, neighbors said.

Cell phone video from another neighbor shows him then use a hand drill to bore holes into the tree, which sits on the edge of his yard.

The police were called again, but Harvey left before they arrived, the neighbors said.

The neighbors contacted the owner, who spends much of her time at a home in the Hudson Valley. With the evidence, they filed a complaint with police, and Harvey was later arrested.

But the bad blood between Harvey and the Seeley St. residents started long before the alleged attempted arborcide. After purchasing the home, Harvey reached out to the tree’s owner saying that it was dead and he could help her cut it down. He also told neighbors that the tree created too much shade, blocking the solar panels he installed on his roof from harnessing the sun’s light.

The owner responded to Harvey with several letters, telling him that the tree was very much alive and that an arborist who inspected it confirmed as much.

Harvey didn’t listen, the owner and neighbors said. He had a crew of arborists go onto the owner’s property on April 6 and saw off major limbs of the tree, they said.

“It’s really hard for me to follow what he’s thinking,” a neighbor said. “It’s arrogance and a wrong sense of entitlement to come here and destroy his neighbor’s property.”

The owner said her lawyer sent Harvey a cease and desist letter after his crew cut down the major branches on the tree.

“The neighborhood is in mourning because of that tree suffering,” the owner told the Daily News.

She said she purchased her home three decades ago largely because of the maple.

“I bought that house because there was a full-blown beautiful tree in my yard,” she said. “That just blew me over.”

She said the tree created a beautiful ecosystem in her backyard, acting as a home for squirrels, birds and other creatures.

“Do you know what it’s going to be like not to see a bird up there in anymore?” she said. “These are the pleasures of life.”

Harvey appeared on the 12th season of “Top Chef” in 2014, bowing out about midway through the 15-episode competition.

He previously cooked up another half-baked scheme that also infuriated people. His restaurant, Bar Salumi, was previously called “A&E Supply Co.”

In fall 2017 the restaurant stenciled “A&E Supply Co.” with temporary paint on sidewalks in Gowanus and Park Slope to attract business, but the graffiti annoyed some residents.

He and his business partners switched the name a few months after a guerrilla marketing campaign backfired.

Harvey is due back in court on Friday.

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Solar installer charged with fleecing state, customers

Without proper consumer safety measures in place, it is far too easy for bad actors to prey on unsuspecting solar customers. Fraudsters are using state and federal programs to collect incentive money aimed at increasing solar usage without actually installing any solar panels. State’s must ensure any programs using cash incentives have adequate consumer protections to stop fraudulent collection of incentives.

Solar installer charged with fleecing state, customers

The owner of a Shelton solar power installation company has been charged with stealing more than $62,000 in state energy incentives and fleecing nearly two dozen customers in Fairfield and New Haven counties.

Christopher Stapleton, 56, of Fairview Oregon, was charged Friday with two counts of first-degree larceny and one count of first-degree larceny by defrauding a public community.

He was released after posting $100,000 bond.

State police said they received a complaint from the Connecticut Green Bank, a state agency created to accelerate investment in clean energy projects in the state regarding CatchinRays 2 LLC, of Kneen Street Extension in Shelton.

The Green Bank manages the state’s Residential Solar Investment Incentive Program which provides cost incentives to home owners and businesses who have solar power systems installed. The incentives are paid directly to the installers.

State police said in 2014 and 2015, CathinRays 2 received incentive payments from the Green Bank on behalf of 23 customers for a total of $62,0000.

However, a subsequent investigation determined that the customers, who had paid CathinRays 2 between $500 and $25,000, never had the systems installed, police said.

State police said the customers unsuccessfully attempted to receive refunds from CathinRays 2 and were owed a total of $125,000.

When state police later contacted Stapleton by telephone they said he told them he had been dealing with “alcohol abuse issues,” and had been unable to run a successful business. But they said he denied taking any money he wasn’t entitled to.

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Solar installer charged with fleecing state, customers

CathinRays2 was given incentive money as part of installing solar panels to 23 customers. Customers paid around $500 to $25,000 expecting rooftop solar installations. However, customers never had their systems installed. Customers being left empty handed and with empty pockets, led Connecticut Green Bank, a state agency that handles the Residential Solar Investment Incentive Program to file a complaint on the solar installation company. The owner was later arrested for stealing over $62,000 in energy efficient incentives and charged with two counts of first-degree larceny and one count of first-degree larceny by defrauding a public community.

Solar installer charged with fleecing state, customers

By Daniel Tepfer

BRIDGEPORT – The owner of a Shelton solar power installation company has been charged with stealing more than $62,000 in state energy incentives and fleecing nearly two dozen customers in Fairfield and New Haven counties.

Christopher Stapleton, 56, of Fairview Oregon, was charged Friday with two counts of first-degree larceny and one count of first-degree larceny by defrauding a public community.

He was released after posting $100,000 bond.

State police said they received a complaint from the Connecticut Green Bank, a state agency created to accelerate investment in clean energy projects in the state regarding CatchinRays 2 LLC, of Kneen Street Extension in Shelton.

The Green Bank manages the state’s Residential Solar Investment Incentive Program which provides cost incentives to home owners and businesses who have solar power systems installed. The incentives are paid directly to the installers.

State police said in 2014 and 2015, CathinRays 2 received incentive payments from the Green Bank on behalf of 23 customers for a total of $62,0000.

However, a subsequent investigation determined that the customers, who had paid CathinRays 2 between $500 and $25,000, never had the systems installed, police said.

State police said the customers unsuccessfully attempted to receive refunds from CathinRays 2 and were owed a total of $125,000.

When state police later contacted Stapleton by telephone they said he told them he had been dealing with “alcohol abuse issues,” and had been unable to run a successful business. But they said he denied taking any money he wasn’t entitled to.

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We Told You So: Another Net Metering Solar Subsidy Bites the Dust

States are moving to phase out retail net-metering policies realizing it is expensive and unfair to non-rooftop solar consumers. Utilities are being forced to purchase solar energy flowing back into the grid at a higher price than the energy is worth while solar customers get to reap the benefit of not paying their share of the grid. Solar installations are expensive making this a subsidy that financially supports the wealthy and adding costs to ratepayers that can’t afford to go solar. Michigan will now charge solar customers based on the value of energy. Electricity sold to solar customers from the grid will now be at a retail price. This change in policy will help balance the maintenance of the grid for all consumers. Michigan has made sure customers contracted under the previous net metering laws will be grandfathered in and have years to adjust. Make Solar Safe applauds Michigan for making fair solar standards for all consumers.

We Told You So: Another Net Metering Solar Subsidy Bites the Dust

By Natural Gas Now Guest Blogger

Net metering solar subsidies in Michigan are being ended because they’re unaffordable and unfair, something that should have been apparent to all long ago.

Michigan has joined other states in realizing that net metering rules as originally designed are biased against consumers without rooftop solar, raising their electricity rates. Michigan will now charge rooftop solar customers at the retail price of electricity for electricity that they consume and pay them a lower price for the electricity that the utility purchases from them thereby charging them for the use of the electrical wires (i.e., transmission and distribution) that non-solar consumers hitherto have had to subsidize. Customers already in the net metering program will be grandfathered for 10 years. By changing the rules on net metering, Michigan will join several other states that have recognized the bias.

Beginning June 1, Michigan customers who provide solar power to utility companies will be paid an avoided-cost tariff based on how much their utility pays to produce electricity, ensuring solar rooftop customers are “assessed for their fair and equitable use of the electrical grid.”

Under the current rules, solar panel customers are often able to avoid much of the cost of maintaining the electric grid, which they continue to use, resulting in the non-net metering customers paying more than their share to maintain the grid. This is because utilities were required to buy electricity from solar rooftops at retail prices, even though it was a wholesale product, and other ratepayers would end up subsidizing their neighbors’ solar systems by paying the utility more than the product was worth.

States That Have Changed Net Metering Rules

At least five states have implemented alternative compensation methods for solar rooftop customers, including Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, and Nevada. While these states have implemented widely-varying alternative compensation methods, all five states have grandfathered existing customers, allowing them to continue under the previous net metering rules for a set number of years.

In December 2016, the Arizona Corporation Commission lowered the credit residential solar customers receive for excess energy sent back to the grid and limited how long customers can keep their rates. The new rate is based on the cost of energy from large solar farms, which is much lower than the retail rate.

In October 2015, Hawaii closed its net metering program to new solar owners, and provided two options: self-supply and grid-supply. Under the self-supply option, solar customers with energy storage in areas of high solar penetration are limited in the amount of electricity they can send back to the grid and do not receive any compensation for it. Under the grid-supply option, solar customers are compensated at the wholesale rate for electricity supplied to the grid. In Hawaii, wholesale prices range from roughly 15 cents per kilowatt-hour to 28 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is about half of the state’s average retail electricity rates. To help cover fixed costs, residential solar customers connected to the grid will pay a minimum monthly bill of $25.

In May 2017, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed into law a measure that lowers the rate of compensation for customers who install solar or wind power, phasing out retail net metering. Systems installed by the end of 2017 were to get the retail rate for 30 years, but the rate will be lowered over a series of years for other customers after 2022. After 2022, solar and wind customers will be compensated at their utility’s marginal cost, plus 25 percent.

Last year, Maine approved new solar rules that would gradually decrease the compensation to customers with solar panels on their homes, grandfathering an existing customer’s rate for 15 years. Regulators agreed to delay implementation until April 30, as technical aspects of the new rules were sorted out.

On December 23, 2015, the Public Utility Commission of Nevada established an alternate compensation method for rooftop solar customers that creates new classes of net metering customers and a structured process for transitioning to the new rules and rates. Over five years, the basic service charge will increase in gradual increments accompanied by a related decrease in the energy charge that net metering customers pay for each unit of energy delivered by the utility and a decrease in the credit that the utility provides for energy delivered by rooftop solar customers to the grid. The rates and credits are to be reset periodically by the Public Utility Commission.

Other states have discovered that their net metering programs have overcompensated solar panel owners at the expense of their other energy consumers. Montana’s largest utility company found that it was overpaying net metering customers by about three times the market value. The value of the rooftop solar energy that was being delivered back to the grid was about four cents per kilowatt hour, but the net metering customers were getting paid about 12 cents per kilowatt hour for that power. In New Hampshire, Governor Chris Sununu shunned renewable energy subsidies that have artificially supported failing solar energy companies.


Net metering is a boondoggle for residential homeowners who can afford to put solar panel systems on their homes. It also hurts non-solar customers by forcing them to subsidize solar panel homeowners through the purchase of a wholesale product at a retail price and the allowing grid freeriding. States are realizing the bias and are implementing alternate compensation methods. But current net metering beneficiaries tend to be grandfathered for at least a period of time and are still absorbing their new wealth.

Editor’s Note: This article gets at two points we’ve been making here for a very long time; (1) renewables depend upon unaffordable subsidies that are often hidden, and (2) net metering is incredibly unfair to other ratepayers. State after state is backing away from net metering because it effectively pays producers of solar energy two subsidies that raise the costs for everyone else.

First, the energy the produced under net metering goes into the system without picking up any of the costs of the grid to deliver it to others, meaning the others have to carry the whole load.

Secondly, the value of energy is based on the need or demand for it. A solar system that produces energy when it’s not needed at the same price as when it is needed only raises the price of electricity. Think of it as buying water to sprinkle your lawn. Would you want to pay the water company to sprinkle your lawn when it’s already raining? Of course not, and that’s what net metering does; it forces others to buy your product when they don’t want or need it.

Moreover, by forcing others to buy your product you also make dispatchable energy providers such as natural gas power plants, who are crucial for providing electricity when you can’t, that much less economical. You steal the cream of the business and leave others to produce and sell what you can’t, which necessarily makes them more expensive. This is why the German Energiewende is such a flop and why New York electricity prices can be expected to increase as far can the eye can see. Michigan knows better.

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Solar panel business owner changes pleas to guilty in fraud case

Consumers considering going solar should be wary of fraudulent solar companies. Unfortunately, fraud is a common trait in the newly sought-after solar industry. Customers pay for solar panels, but never receive their purchase. Before installing rooftop solar, it is best to research the company and follow-up on reviews. 

Solar panel business owner changes pleas to guilty in fraud case

By Sherri Borden Colley

A Dartmouth businessman has changed his plea to guilty on two counts of fraud in a case in which several customers claim they lost thousands of dollars when they paid for solar panels that were never delivered.

Barry Pincock, 51, of Lakecrest Drive, changed his pleas Friday in Halifax provincial court.

The Crown offered no evidence on a third count of fraud and that charge was dismissed.

A judge has ordered a pre-sentence report, which will give the court more insight into Pincock’s background and crimes. Pincock returns to court Aug. 21 for sentencing.

Panels never delivered

In 2016, two men as well as the owners of Dominion Diving, a commercial diving company in Dartmouth, told CBC News that, altogether, they handed over approximately $67,000 to Pincock’s company, Werth Solar, but did not receive the panels. Other customers from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick also complained to police.

One unsatisfied customer, Kit Hood, took Werth Solar and Pincock to small claims court to recoup the $19,000 deposit he paid for a solar energy package. Hood claimed he had not received one solar panel.

A small claims adjudicator sided with Hood and said that Hood had been given “a total runaround” by a company whose excuses were “bordering on fraud.”

In a separate court case, in 2013, Pincock told police that his business partner, Brian Kenneth Penney, wanted to hire a hit man to kill him. Charges against Penney were later withdrawn after the Crown received new evidence and felt there was no chance of a conviction.

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