5 clean energy advancements and trends we’re thankful for

By SolarCity

November 25, 2015


Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday in the U.S. in 1863, by none other than President Abraham Lincoln. Americans have since gathered with their families, on the last Thursday in November, to break bread and express thanks.

We at SolarCity are celebrating Thanksgiving too - we’re thankful for recent advancements and trends in clean energy that are changing our industry, and changing the way we power our lives.

Here are five of them:



Simple, effective and affordable battery storage solutions have the potential to change the solar game. We’re thankful that many people have been working on the challenge for a long time. Earlier this year, we made a breakthrough by announcing our own battery backup service.


High-efficiency home appliances

For a homeowner wanting to benefit from clean energy, usage is the flip side of generation. Thankfully, many modern appliances are dramatically more efficient than those of even a few years ago. It’s a story that probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves. If, for instance, every gas furnace sold in the U.S. met Energy Star requirements, people would save about $171 million per year. Greenhouse gas emissions would drop annually by an amount equivalent to that produced by 177,000 cars.



Few clean-energy products have captured peoples’ attention like electric vehicles. EV sales in the U.S. are flourishing, with an impressive four-year CAGR of 309%. We’re thankful that EV battery prices are trending downward, and more options are available to consumers - a range of manufacturers are offering EVs now, headlined, of course, by our sister company, Tesla. This year saw the release of its highly anticipated Model X crossover. Would anything be cooler than charging your Tesla with a SolarCity system on your roof?


Wind efficiency

It’s possible that our clean energy future will be fueled by a variety of technologies. So, while we’re pro-solar, we’re also thankful for advancements in wind. According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), modern turbines generate close to the theoretical limit of power that can be extracted from a stream of air. GWEC also estimates wind could provide more than a quarter of our power by 2050.


Support for solar

According to our 2015 national poll of homeowners, conducted by national polling firm Zogby Analytics, nearly nine in 10 Americans say renewable energy is important to the country’s future. Solar power was the top choice among a wide range of demographics. Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, liberals, city and rural dwellers, youth, and the elderly all voiced their support.


Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. And thank you for helping make SolarCity America’s #1 solar provider.

Stay Current: Our Top Solar Links

By SolarCity

November 13, 2015

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

One in ten solar industry employees is a veteran, says Examiner.com.

Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey and Liam Neeson are among those giving voice to nature, in a film series on conservation. TreeHugger checks out the latest video.

Apple has already achieved 100% carbon neutrality in its U.S. operations. Now it’s doing the same in China, with the launch of two new clean energy programs, Fortune reports.

Farmers in New Mexico are growing produce with solar energy- and saving money in the process. KOAT has details.

Can solar cookstoves help reduce greenhouse emissions in developing countries? The Guardian takes a look at the Ohio startup disrupting the clean stove industry.

Veterans in Solar

By SolarCity

November 11, 2015

Frank Sandoval, veteran and SolarCity employee, works with a customer while on the job.

Frank Sandoval, a U.S. Army infantry sniper, returned from the front lines with a virtual lifetime of stories, some to tell, others to forget. Frank served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere for 12 years. “Grunts and infantrymen, snipers, shooters, we’re notorious for being one thing,” he says, “the bad boys.” 

But life back home presented a challenge Frank wasn’t prepared for. He is exceedingly proud of his service, which included peacekeeping missions that saved lives and restored countries torn apart by civil war. But, unable to find a job and pay his bills as a civilian, “no longer the pride of the United States,” he felt lost and utterly worthless.

“That feeling,” Frank says, “is worse than combat.”

Today, all that’s changed. Frank serves as a senior inspections coordinator for SolarCity, where he’s had four promotions in four years and a sense of purpose and pride he never anticipated. He’d always thought renewable energy was for “tree-hugging hippies,” but now serving planet Earth is his passion. (Click here for a brief video of Frank on and off the job.)

“I’m all about solar,” he says.

Another surprise Frank encountered shortly after coming on board: The striking similarities between military culture and life with SolarCity, which counts almost 900 veterans among its ranks. That number and our work installing solar on military housing helped make Frank’s transition feel like “going from one army to another.” But it was more than that, he says, pointing to SolarCity’s resolute emphasis on teamwork. As an example, every panel installer has a partner who might tell his buddy to take a break if it appears he’s had too much sun.

“At SolarCity we have a saying: One Team, One Dream,” Frank says. “That’s identical to how we operate in the military, we look out for each other.”

The ability to rapidly adapt to constant change is another cultural similarity Frank describes. “You’ve got surprises all the time in military: new techniques, different weapons, different scopes. It’s no different at SolarCity, which is ever changing. When I started, it might take a week and a half to install a typical five-kilowatt system on a home. Now the guys can knock out two of those in a day. Any suggestion is welcome, because we’re constantly innovating, constantly changing.”

Copy that, says fellow veteran Jeff Gill, a SolarCity channel account manager who oversees a large sales staff. Gill was a helicopter rescue swimmer whose roles ranged from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, which he did in the Philippines during Typhoon Haiyan, to door gunner for an anti-surface warfare mission in the Strait of Hormuz.

“In the military, we cannot perform our missions without looking out for the well being of our brothers and sisters in arms,” he says.

Jeff sees many similarities through the prism of his aviation training. “In an aircraft, unplanned conditions always arise,” he says, also citing the frequent need to make split-second decisions. “Then there’s leadership. Everyone has a leadership role to play in the military and at SolarCity.”  

Jeff also cites Jigaro Kano, the founder of Judo and a prominent teacher during Japan’s Meiji period. “He has a famous maxim that describes the essential logic which animates both SolarCity and the military: ‘Maximum efficiency, mutual benefit.’ Maximum efficiency represents a tireless dedication to improvement, a drive towards an ideal that we may never achieve. In the military maybe maximum efficiency stands for a world without war. At SolarCity, it may mean a world without the need for fossil fuel.”  

Nearly one in 10 solar industry employees is a veteran. It’s impossible to overstate how proud SolarCity is to have so many among our ranks. We’re deeply honored that the feeling can go both ways. 

“I put on my green SolarCity shirt,” Frank says, “and I have as much pride as wearing my camouflage. This job completely saved my life.”

How old homes stayed cozy when temperatures got chilly

By SolarCity

November 02, 2015

This summer, we published a blog on how older homes kept cool in the days before air conditioning. It was one of our most popular posts, inspiring a lot of great feedback.

Now, with winter on its way—and with much of the country facing months of sub-freezing temperatures—we thought it would be a good time to reboot the topic. This time, we’ll look at the flip side: How older homes kept people warm in the days before modern heating systems.

We’ve again reached out to registered architect Mary Wheeler Schap. Her Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm, Schap Architects, specializes in restoring older buildings to their former glory. Mary has a passion for old homes. And, she has a wealth of insight on how they were designed to keep their occupants comfy when the mercury level dipped. Here’s a bit of what she shared:


Enormous fireplaces

Used for both heating and cooking, fireplaces in early American homes were often enormous—big enough to stand in. Modest homes usually had a single, central fireplace and chimney to take advantage of radiant heating. Homes of wealthier families might have had two or more chimneys on opposite ends of the house, and in multiple rooms. By the end of the 19th century, cast-iron radiators and coal-fired boilers eliminated the need for large fireplaces.


A “keeping room”

In colonial times, families escaped to a “keeping room,” just off the kitchen, when the rest of the house was too cold. The room was heated by the kitchen stove or fireplace, and was often the only warm space in the house. It was a place for families to gather, read, talk and play games, and evolved into what we today call the family room, great room or hearth room.


Cold-weather architectural styles

Common in New England, the "Saltbox" and “Cape Cod” architectural styles were developed with a long roof facing the northern wind, and a central chimney to radiate heat. Both styles also had low ceilings and small rooms, each with a door to trap heat. Small windows allowed some light, while keeping the heat loss to a minimum. And, steep, narrow stairways provided less space to heat.


Thick walls

Older homes had thick walls made of brick or stone. These materials absorbed the sun's heat during the day, and released it into the house for hours after sunset. Fiberglass insulation wasn’t developed until 1932, so older homes might have used mud-plaster and straw within their walls to cut down on heat transfer.


South-facing windows

The south side of some homes had larger windows to allow in sunshine, providing both light and heat. Thick, long draperies were often used in these windows at night. This helped to prevent fireplace heat from escaping through the single pane of glass.


Overhangs, eaves and smart landscaping

Large overhangs and eaves helped shade a house from the higher path of the summer sun, while allowing rays from the lower-arcing winter sun a way inside. Leafy landscaping was also a popular tactic: Leaves that blocked the sun’s rays in the summer would be gone by winter, allowing sunshine to hit the house. And, a bank of evergreen trees on the north side of a house could help shield it from strong winter winds.


Good old Yankee ingenuity

Even the best home design sometimes needed a little help. To take the edge off the cold, people used glass or ceramic bed warmers filled with hot coals or embers. Wingback chairs—a style imported from England during the colonial era—were designed to trap the heat radiating from the fireplace, keeping the occupant warm. Portable tin, brass or silver foot warmers were carried when out and about. And people wore many, many layers of clothing, including long underwear, caps, wool socks and gloves.

The modern idea of energy conservation was not the original intent of these design features. Nevertheless, understanding how your old home “works” might help you save energy. An energy advisor or architect specializing in vintage buildings can help you take advantage of all your older home has to offer.


Go solar in any season

Winter … spring … summer … fall. No matter the season, it’s a great time to go solar with SolarCity. Our dedicated installation teams work year-round to help homeowners benefit from clean, money-saving, solar energy. Join the 260,000+ SolarCity customers who’ve made the switch.

SolarCity’s guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

By SolarCity

October 29, 2015

Like many of you, we at SolarCity adore Halloween. We’re looking forward to our neighborhoods filling up this weekend with all manner of zombies, ghosts, witches and other frightful ghouls.

But we can’t help but wonder … what if that parade of the undead was real?

Image: David Simmonds via CC / retouched from original

Yep, the Zombie Apocalypse is on our minds. And Halloween seems like the perfect time to ask ourselves, what would we need to survive? How would we outfit our zombie-proof survival compound?

Well, heavy armament would be an obvious priority. Also, we’d want a selection of bladed implements, like those in the Gerber Zombie Apocalypse Kit.

But some other recent technology has caught our eye as being potentially very useful for coming out on top when civilization hits rock bottom. Here’s our list:


Luna Optics Night Vision Monocular

Indispensible for those nights it’s your turn to guard the perimeter of the compound. You’ll find a lot of quality scopes out there, but the Luna Vision LN-EM1-MS gets high marks among experts. We like its small size and light weight, making it easy to stow whether you have to pack up and run or stand and fight.


Aeroponic Tower Garden

Military-style meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) are pretty standard fare for survival situations. But, eventually, you’ll likely miss the satisfying crunch of a fresh garden salad. And because space might be at a minimum in your zombie-proof compound, you could choose a Tower Garden®. It’s a freestanding, fully hydroponic garden that requires minimal space to grow nutritious vegetables.


BigDog Rough-Terrain Robot

You surely could figure out a post-apocalyptic use for BigDog. It’s a 30-inch tall, four-legged robot—sort of a robotic mule. And, it can run over just about any surface while lugging up to 340 pounds. BigDog was developed by robotics company (and Google subsidiary) Boston Dynamics for the U.S. military, with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA).



Another DARPA-funded project, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS), is currently under development for the U.S. military. It’s a lightweight, armored exoskeleton, popularly dubbed as the “Iron Man suit.” And, it’s what you might want to be wearing if you were to find yourself going mano-a-mano with a hungry zombie.


Gibbs Quadski

If you had to leave the zombie-proof compound, and were near water, you might opt for a versatile Gibbs Quadski. It’s a four-wheeled ATV that quickly converts to a personal watercraft. Powered by a 1,300cc BMW motorcycle engine, the Quadski can reach speeds of 45 mph on both land and water. That seems like plenty of speed to outrun the undead.


Ripsaw EV2 Luxury Supertank

For transportation with a little more “muscle,” consider the Ripsaw EV2 Luxury Supertank. It’s described as the “fastest dual-tracked vehicle ever developed.” Get your order in soon—they’re custom-made by Howe and Howe Tech, and require six months of production time. Sadly, there’s no plug-in version, so you’ll need to stockpile diesel—probably lots of diesel—for this 600-horsepower beast.


Solar, with storage

Naturally, you’ll want power for your zombie-proof compound. And, SolarCity has the answer: An easy-to-install solar panel system, complemented by a Tesla Powerwall. You’d collect the sun’s energy during the day, and store it for use during the night. Imagine heating up some burritos in your microwave … catching up on all the Walking Dead episodes you’ve recorded … cozying up under an electric blanket … all while those poor zombies outside have nothing to do but sniff for brains.


…or, just go solar now

You don’t have to wait for the Zombie Apocalypse to go solar. We’d actually prefer that you don’t! SolarCity makes it a snap, with multiple financing options and easy installation and maintenance. 

From all of us at SolarCity, have a safe and fun Halloween … and best of luck during the Zombie Apocalypse.

About This Blog

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

Subscribe to Email Updates

Social Profiles

32-twitter-1 32-facebook-1 32-googleplus-1 32-linkedin-1