Helping Nepal rebuild with solar

By SolarCity

May 22, 2015

10997440_10153299564138832_7952186434721272680_oWhen two earthquakes recently hit Nepal, a small group of local solar companies and others quickly coalesced to help. After food and shelter, electricity for lighting and mobile phone charging is a critical need in such situations. Mobile phones can help villagers reunite with family and reach out for relief supplies.

 “You’ve just lost your home, you’re in a tent, you have no light, and you may be separated from loved ones, so lighting and communications are vitally important,” said Alyssa Newman, a global public affairs professional and part of the Rebuild With Sun campaign. Alyssa teamed up with Gham Power, the Kathmandu-based solar company spearheading the effort, d.Light, a global solar company serving developing countries, and Empower Generation, a nonprofit working to empower women to become clean energy entrepreneurs. 

SolarCity’s GivePower Foundation, which brings solar-powered light to schools in parts of the world without access to electricity, has been privileged to help as well. The foundation will outfit 200 schools in Nepal with small portable solar-power generators equipped with batteries for energy storage. 

“Schools in the region, though some are damaged, are now functioning as temporary relief centers for medical triage and community gathering places, as well as phone charging stations,” Alyssa said. “Six months from now, when the schools are fully back up and running, the solar systems will remain. This has been a terrible disaster, but we have an opportunity in a country that is already looking at solar to accelerate that movement and show that solar is part of both a long-term and immediate solution to grid stability, economic development and climate change.”

“Entrepreneurship is needed to achieve this goal,” Alyssa added. “Immediate disaster relief is critical in a situation like this, but we also need people to have meaningful work and income.”

To raise funds for Rebuild With Sun, the Global Nepali Professional Network - a nonprofit fostering entrepreneurship among its members for technological progress in Nepal - joined with Gham Power CEO Sandeep Giri (a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who was born in Nepal) to launch an indieGogo campaign. 100% of donations will go directly to solar power systems that the group will provide to Nepalis and relief workers.

8 technologies that faced resistance before changing the world

By Matt Collister

May 19, 2015


Image Credit: Tricia Banks via CC

It’s tough, sometimes, to be on the cutting edge. And that’s exactly where solar energy is—both the companies that provide it and the consumers who believe in and choose it. 

As we work together to create a future of clean, affordable energy, we face critics and naysayers. They might be traditional utilities fearing a loss of their monopoly. They might be politically influential billionaires. Or, they might be “neighbors” who just don’t like change. (Though, there’s growing evidence that rooftop solar’s growth has been influenced quite positively by neighbor-to-neighbor relationships.)

Solar energy is only the latest in a long list of disruptive technologies that fought to win out over early resistance. Here are a few others:


1. Personal Computers—Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, nixed a project to produce what would have been one of the first home computers. In 1977, he stated, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." Since the mid 1970s, more than 4 billion personal computers have been sold worldwide, with about a quarter for home use. Digital Equipment Corporation, for its part, was subsequently purchased by Compaq in 1998.


2. Satellite communications—In 1961, at the dawn of the Space Age, then FCC Commissioner T.A.M. Craven stated, “There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television or radio service inside the United States.” Today, about 2,000 communications satellites orbit the earth, relaying signals.


3. Television—Darryl Zanuck, one of the founders of 20th Century Fox movie studios, claimed in 1946 that television would flop. He reasoned people would “get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” Today, an estimated 89 percent of households worldwide have a television.


4. The car—Writing in 1925, Princeton University Dean Howard McClenahan warned that Sunday drives encouraged the skipping of church, and would create “devilish and depraved” young people. Today, there are about 250 million cars in the United States … and an estimated 350,000 churches.


5. The phonograph—Composer John Phillip Sousa feared the phonograph, invented in 1877, would deteriorate American music. The advent of jazz and rock-and-roll in the 20th century seems to have proven “The March King” wrong.


6. The telephone—The Knights of Columbus warned in 1926 that the telephone would ruin home life and end the practice of visiting friends. Don’t you call (or text) friends when you’re coming over?


7. The printing press—The 15th century German Benedictine Abbot Johannes Trithemius decried the invention of the printing press. He feared it would make monks—now freed from having to painstakingly hand-copy sacred texts—lazy and immoral.


8. Writing—Yes, even writing—something we do every day—was slammed by none other than the Greek philosopher Plato. He feared it would make people forgetful because they wouldn’t have to memorize facts.


So, what’s the moral of the story?

Maybe it’s that, if history is a guide, resistance to solar energy is happening right on cue.

Like the champions of the world-changing technologies that came before us, we’re in this fight to win it. Together with the hundreds of thousands of Americans who’ve gone solar, we’re changing the world.

Stay Current: Our Top Solar Links

By SolarCity

May 15, 2015


We’re all about saving you energy, so we’ve rounded up the latest in solar so you don’t have to.

Scientific American featured an essay from Prof. Michael Klare on why the age of wind and solar is closer than you think.

Meanwhile, researchers at MIT are creating a way to use solar to make salt water drinkable, RT says.

The UK installed more solar power than any other European country last year, according to The Guardian.

Bill Nye (‘The Science Guy’) has started a Kickstarter campaign for a solar sailing spacecraft – which would get the energy required for space travel from the sun's radiation pressure, according to Mashable.

China recently issued an update on its solar progress, and let’s just say it’s pretty impressive, via Business Insider.

And in New York City, City Hall got a solar makeover, The Wall Street Journal said.

How to Talk to Your Kids About the Environment

By Charlianne James

May 13, 2015


An oft-repeated reason for concern about the environment is the importance of preserving the earth for future generations. But how do we teach our children the meaning and importance of eco-awareness? It sounds like an overwhelming task, but you don't have to define the ozone layer to instill in your kids a sense of connection with the earth. Get the conversation flowing with these ideas for teaching your children to care about the environment:


Connect with nature.

Children already love to play in the dirt, so why not incorporate some learning into this activity? Plant a tree and watch it grow, or buy some seeds of your children's favorite vegetable and let them start their own garden. Teach them how the soil and sun help plants grow, and give them chances to feel, see and smell during the process. For best results, pick easy to grow veggies such as tomatoes, carrots, green beans and cucumbers. 


Teach with toys.

Explain the difference between their toys made of plastic, cotton and wood and where each material comes from. Have them feel the difference between the textures, and talk about why certain materials are better for the environment than others. You can also use toys to teach about energy. Check out this build-it-yourself solar car kit or this renewable energy science kit that teaches about wind power.


Reuse. Reduce. Recycle.

Recycling is a daily activity all kids can take part in. Let them help separate cans, bottles and paper, and talk about what these items can be recycled into. Discuss ideas for reducing the amount of trash your family creates and how you can reuse items for arts and crafts. Want to take it a step further? Set up a worm composting system and watch as the worms naturally recycle food waste.


Monitor their news.

Coverage of natural disasters can be scary for children, so be sure to listen to and understand your children's fears. That said, instances of floods, hurricanes and tornadoes can provide a chance to talk about why certain weather events happen and how they affect the environment. These events can be tied to discussions of climate change as well, so depending on your kid's age, it may be an opportunity to ask about his or her feelings and ideas concerning the topic.


Use water wisely.

Teach kids where tap water comes from and that it isn’t an unlimited resource. Brushing teeth, watering plants and washing pets are all opportunities to instill the importance of water conservation, and to ask your children about their ideas for lessening water use.


Get online!

For online learning, try websites geared toward kids, where they can play games and learn about topics such as the ecosystem, pollution and saving energy. For ages 6 to 9, the PBS site EekoWorld helps kids understand their role in the environment and lets them create their own “EekoCreature.” The U.S. Department of Energy’s site Energy Kids helps explain difficult energy concepts. The Canadian website EcoKids offers great homework help on a number of environmental topics.

A Most Influential Woman: SolarCity VP is Honored

By SolarCity

May 07, 2015

linkedinAs readers of this blog know, we like to celebrate the talented individuals who make up our growing workforce at SolarCity. Recently, one of our own received some outside recognition: Phuong Y. Phillips, Vice President, Deputy General Counsel and Head of Corporate Securities, was named one of the most influential women in Silicon Valley by the Silicon Valley Business Journal. 

A widely read publication, the journal recognized Phuong along with 99 other highly accomplished women. It comes as no surprise to us. In 2014 Phuong received the MVP award here at SolarCity, and last fall she garnered a national honor, receiving a Law and Finance Leadership Clean Energy Education and Empowerment Award from the U.S. Department of Energy and the MIT Energy Initiative.

At SolarCity, Phuong advises senior executives and our board on an array of matters, including governance, securities compliance, SEC reporting, mergers and acquisitions, and internal and external communications, as she told the journal. By advising on our IPO, among other things, she’s helped support the company’s rapid growth from 2011 to 2014 – when we shot from 1,300 to 10,000 employees. 

“As women role models in this industry, it is absolutely our obligation to mentor and support our women colleagues and nourish our youth with opportunities,” Phuong, who credits mentors, including Seth Weissman, SolarCity’s General Counsel, for her own evolution, told the journal. 

The best advice she’s ever received? “My parents escaped Vietnam to provide better opportunities for my brothers and me in the late 1970s. Through their actions and advice, they taught me the value of believing in yourself and taking risks.”

Having the confidence of colleagues has helped propel her, too, Phuong tells us. “I’m so glad to be a part of the legal department at SolarCity, the members are like family to me. I’m particularly grateful for my corporate team members.”

Read more about Phuong and her thoughts on women in corporate leadership roles and other topics in the journal’s Q&A.

About This Blog

SolarCity's mission is to accelerate the mass adoption of clean energy. Follow solar’s progress here.

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