Tuesday, February 13, 2007

CitizenRE - Solar Snakeoil Salesmen?

Some of you may have noticed a bit of buzz kicking up around a new player in the solar power industry, Citizenre. It's hard not to kick up some serious buzz when you're making claims like Citizenre is...

The new solar energy company claims it will soon open the world's largest solar photovolataic manufacturing plant - a 500 MW facility located in the Northeastern United States - will launch the world's largest vertically-integrated solar manufacturing, marketing and installation company and begin to install 100,000 solar PV systems in the United States annually (that number incidentally being larger than the total number of installations completed in the United State to date and about the same as the number of installations that Germany's highly-tuned, efficient solar infrastructure installed in 2006).


Oh, and they're going to do all this while offering residential solar systems for just $20,000, or about half the current market rate, enough to provide you with clean, solar power at the same rate you are currently paying for electricity, the company claims.


Citizenre is taking sign-ups now, and a lot of folks are getting caught up in the big promises. After all, who wouldn't want to generate their own solar power instead of paying their utility without paying any more than they do right now?!

Well, you know what they say about things that seem too good to be true, and Citizenre's hyped-up promises surely fit the bill.

RenewableEnergyAccess.com just posted a RenewableEnergyInsider opinion piece by Jeff Wolfe, CEO and co-founder of groSolar, one the nation's largest solar energy distribution and installation firms. He's been following the Citizenre debate, has interviewed their Chief Technical Officer, and makes some very good points about the company's claims.

While he's certainly part of the 'establishment industry' that would presumably be threatened if Citizenre's can deliver on their claims, his points are valid: to be as punny as possible, Citizenre is promising us the sun, and they haven't given us any indication that they can make good.

On to the article...


Citizenre: A House of Cards?
by Jeffery D. Wolfe, P.E., groSolar, CEO & Co-Founder
(groSolar's Jeff Wolfe has been tracking the Citizenre debate; the opinions expressed in this article are his own.)

There has been a buzz in the air lately. It's the sound of U.S.-based Citizenre, a new multi-level marketing machine targeting solar power. Their plan? Build "the world's largest" solar cell and module manufacturing plant with the stated intention to install 100,000 residential systems annually. Their pitch? You can have solar electric power for the same price that you currently pay for electricity. Sign up now and they will do the installation in September as long as your state offers net metering.

Does this mean that solar electricity has finally hit the mainstream? Is solar now affordable for all and at a scale that will make a difference in the U.S. and worldwide? Not so fast.

After several weeks of reviewing this new company's claims, discussing the manufacturing build out plan and its network marketing approach with others in the solar energy industry, plus reading online commentaries from a variety of sources and actually talking with representatives of the company, I have pieced together enough information to express my opinion that Citizenre is not going to be able to stand up to their promises.

There has been no financial announcement for a deal of significant proportion, which would be the enabling factor to meet the product or installation capacity required. This company is building is a "house of cards" and attracting a lot of customers who want a deal that's too good to be true.

So, you ask, what's the problem if Citizenre is not real or if they fail, and the public just gives early buyers a told-you-so, buyer beware shrug of the shoulders? The answer is we all lose.

As soon as someone signs up for a Citizenre solar system, they are removed from the pool of potential customers for other reputable solar dealers in the U.S. Already, photovoltaic (PV) dealers are telling me that they are losing business because potential customers are signing up with Citizenre -- people are waiting until the reported 500 megawatt "largest fully-integrated PV manufacturing plant in the world" comes online this fall.

But it will be September -- the deadline for the build out of the manufacturing facility and beginning installations will have come and gone -- before reality sets in for these customers when they do not receive their solar system on time as promised. Plans seem poised to fall apart, and at that point we'll have four results:

  • A lot of very disappointed and upset people.
  • A lot of traditional PV dealers who are out of business.
  • Reduced or eliminated federal and state incentives for solar electricity due to a perceived lack of need.
  • A solar electric industry in the U.S. that has been set backwards 5 years.

  • What follows is an exploration of Citizenre's claims based upon extensive communication from others in the industry, Internet postings and a telephone conversation with Rob Wills, Citizenre's Chief Technical Officer. Wills volunteered to join an industry list serve (RE-Markets@Topica.com) and answer questions regarding the company. From all sources, I have consolidated the results in each "Summary Opinion" below.

    This summary represents my opinion of the viability and status of Citizenre today:

    Questions & Issues: Citizenre is indicating publicly that they have raised $650 million, and are constructing the world's largest PV manufacturing facility (PR Web, January 23, 2007, "Is the Sun Finally Rising on Solar Power? An Interview with Rob Styler, President of Powur of Citizenre. This would be the single largest investment in solar power ever, yet we've heard not one detail -- not who, when, or where..

    Summary Opinion: What I found is that construction has not even started on the proposed manufacturing facility -- again the largest in the world. A ground breaking date is not set, nor a location. They will not break ground until they have closed on their major financing. They have not closed on their financing although they indicate it is lined up and they simply need to clear a few hurdles. Citizenre stated that they could have a plant on line in 12 months. In my opinion, that puts their available manufactured product supply out by at least 18 months.

    Questions & Issues: The PV manufacturers worldwide are experiencing a shortage of polysilicon. Industrial-strength PV giants have been forced to their knees, and signed up in advance for long term multi-million dollar contracts for silicon. New-comer Citizenre apparently plans on making silicon appear on command, at pricing they dictate. There has been no announced contract like every other major silicon deal. Like "where's the beef", I ask "where's the silicon"?

    Summary Opinion: Rob Wills indicated that Citizenre has a source for silicon at "significantly below $60/kg". My opinion is that when an established international PV companies like SCHOTT Solar cannot obtain sufficient silicon, there is no way for an unproven startup to obtain silicon, and certainly not at below market prices. Without public details, there is no way to justify this position.

    Questions & Issues: Citizenre claims they will install 100,000 systems. At $20,000 each (about half the cost of an average system today) that's $2 billion of installations per year. That's equivalent to 450 installations every business day -- a great goal. But 100,000 installations is more than the total number of installations completed in the U.S. to date. From zero to 100,000 is not an easy ramp up. Before millions of dollars in customer contracts are sold, we should know much more about the company's plan and its team to manage this steep trajectory of growth and speed.

    Summary Opinion: It turns out that the entire marketing effort to-date has been a "pilot program", according to Wills. He says they are now thinking 25,000 systems, yet the many Citizenre web sites and their representative "downline distributors" are still telling others 100,000. The marketing in the public domain is going to be revamped to "correct some issues" according to Mr. Wills, yet the question remains as to who is in control of the messaging to vulnerable consumers.

    Questions & Issues: Citizenre states it will be able to reduce material costs sharply because they have "vertical integration" and will "be able to produce the final product at half the cost of our competitors", according to Rob Styler in the interview quoted above. Unfortunately, the price of solar power is not purely a function of volume production. Glass, aluminum extrusions, Tedlar (R) and lead wires are all commodity products, but all comprise a significant piece of the cost that Citizenre can not affect. To think that a startup is going to beat world leaders like Sharp, Kyocera and Suntech (that are currently producing at scale) is naive. What technology is Citizenre planning on using? With more knowledge, we can then understand the probable costs of the technology for comparison purposes.

    Summary Opinion: I received no answer to the questions and issues above.

    Questions & Issues: Rob Styler, in the above cited interview, states that installation will take "about half a day". I've done installation work. I don't care what kind of fancy technology the modules have, they still need to get fastened down to a roof, and 200 to 500 square feet of panels are needed. Then a wire needs to be run to the electric panel, through an outside disconnect. On most jobs, after half a day the ladders are set up, and the conduit to the ground is run. Installations taking a day (in areas with one story homes and low slope roofs) are possible. Does Citizenre have some secret to speeding up installations beyond their AC PV module currently in design as stated? Have any installations been done by Citizenre that have approached this time schedule?

    Summary Opinion: Mr. Wills said he believes Citizenre can get to this reduced installation time. He speaks of automation and standardization to achieve this, but has presented nothing concrete on how to achieve this goal. So, Citizenre has no secret to lowering the cost of installation, they just believe they are smarter than the entire rest of the industry that has been installing on-grid non-battery systems. Even in Germany, which is so often touted as a model of efficient and quick installation, systems installs do not approach the half day goal.

    Questions & Issues: In one of the emails, Mr.Wills asked: "Is it better to try for a quantum leap that results in PV power costing less than retail electricity? Or should we sit back doing business as usual, letting the government tell us they are supporting solar. Please give us a chance to move this ahead and to succeed. There is plenty or work for all of us. Solar Energy is abundant."

    Summary Opinion: I'd love for solar to become ubiquitous, and it will. However, it takes more than clever marketing and unsubstantiated claims to do this. It takes the following items that it seems to me Citizenre is missing:

  • PV panels. The manufacturing facility will be operational in 18 months at the earliest in my opinion.

  • Inverters. Inverters have proven to be very difficult to create. Most new inverter companies fail before they succeed, and many established companies have new products fail before being fixed. The real world of PV is a harsh environment, with difficult input parameters. No beta tests mean that you cannot know when or how the inverter will function, or even if it can be produced at your super low vertically integrated required cost. And that says nothing about the arduous UL certification process.

  • Integrity. Say what is true, and deliver what you say. Citizenre cannot feasibly deliver what it has promised to date. Citizenre knew that the September installations could not happen at least as of January (with no plant under construction...) but has yet to make a public acknowledgment.

  • Realistic Plan. A complete integrated business plan that has sales coordinated with production and supply.

  • In its current incarnation, it is my opinion that Citizenre represents a significant threat to the solar industry. Exaggerated claims, inability to deliver product, sales to areas where they do not intend to install soon. These issues can taint the entire solar industry. Worse, misled customers will delay or not buy products from reputable dealers, putting these sound businesses at risk.

    This is not the reaction from people who are scared of change. This is the response from committed individuals and businesses who want the solar industry to succeed. To see Citizenre endanger that vision by over-promising and under-delivering reminds me of a teetering house of cards.

    Jeffery Wolfe is the CEO of groSolar, a national solar integration firm focused on designing, distributing and installing high quality energy systems. Jeff is a recognized leader in the solar industry and has led the design and installation of some of the largest solar projects in the U.S. He serves on the board of the Solar Electric Industry Association (SEIA) and chairs the PV division. While a partner at the engineering firm Bard, Rao & Athanas, he designed over four million sq. feet of construction and nine MW of power generation. He is a certified professional engineer and has a BSME degree from Cornell University.

    Stay tuned for a special report on Citizenre in this Thursday's episode of Inside Renewable Energy [which I will cover], featuring an interview with company CEO David Gregg.

    30 comments:

    Save and Conserve said...

    Seems like a reasonable summary of the situation.

    CitizenRE looks good on the surface but the substance is lacking. Plus, it feels like a ponzi scheme with the way they are marketing it ...

    Anonymous said...

    Looks like a phishing scheme to me, directed towards attracting financial backing, at the expense of established sound business models. Solar firms spend capital to attend home shows in an effort to attract new consumers, and currently these shows are being polluted with Citizenre followers, who do not pay to attend, instead mingle with attendees, offering brochures as well as advice to hold off making decisions today, because free solar will be available soon, for the masses. These potential consumers are not informed that ground has yet to be broken for a manufacturing site, and in the meantime, sales are lost to those serving legitimate markets, while the wait list grows for Citizenre. I do not believe the wait list is currently as deep as the founders envisioned, and large scale backing appears less inevitable. I hope the smoke clears soon.

    Solar John said...

    I think we should give CitizenRE a chance to live up to their claims. If they fulfill their promise, it will be a great benefit to the planet.

    Disclaimer: I have nothing at all to do with CitizenRE. I do, however, publish a blog where I encourage others to conserve, and to embrace renewable energy. I've installed a solar PV system and a bio-fuel stove.

    http://solarjohn.blogspot.com

    DED said...

    A bit of irony. A friend of mine forwarded me the link to CitizenRE to me today. I skimmed through their site but something didn't seem right. I didn't have the time to investigate further. But then later today another friend forwarded me a link to this post, clearly bringing to light what I couldn't put my finger on. Thanks! :)

    robert veach said...

    anonymous said:
    These potential consumers are not informed that ground has yet to be broken for a manufacturing site, and in the meantime, sales are lost to those serving legitimate markets, while the wait list grows for Citizenre.

    What potential consumers? The solar market has failed miserably, bringing in less than .5% of the grid energy market. Lets have a conversation about this company on this thread. I have looked into their buisiness model and to me -ti makes sense. Let me know whtat you think:
    www.jointhesolution.com/yorkville
    www.powur.com/yorkville

    DED said...

    Let me know whtat you think:

    Well, you could start off by responding to the points that were made in the blog entry. Since you work for Citizenre, I'd think that they'd keep you in the loop, right?

    WattHead said...

    That's exactly the point, DED! There are several very good concerns laid out in this article, and yet there has been no adequate response from Citizenre addressing any of it (or at least none that I am aware of).

    I'd love to see Citizenre succeed - who wouldn't want to see ubiquitous solar panels producing clean energy on every home in America?! - but I don't want their hyped-up, overinflated promises to have lasting repercussions on a the more legitimate solar industry if (when) they come crumbling down.

    So sure, Solar John and Mr. Anomymous, I'll give CitizenRE a chance ... a chance to respond to these concerns in a way that a legitimate business would. Let's seem some reassurance their their business plan isn't just hype.

    Terry Poupart said...

    Today 1/2 of 1% of people in the United States has Solar Power. I have absolutely NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER of getting Solar Power by making you and your friends rich. I have yet to see any idea being offered by anyone to help us actually make a difference with solar power. Sounds like you and your bigoted no it all friends are afraid that someone might have a better idea. By the way, I have read the responses to Dr. Wolf by CitizenRe and your summary is full of lies and distortions. It's obvious that you don't care anything about the environment and are more interested in boosting your ego by making sure that only you are your elitist friends can actually use Solar Power. Thanks for nothing.

    WattHead said...

    Terry,

    Wow! Simply, wow... I'm not sure I've ever gotten a comment with as much venom in it as that one. I'm not even sure where to begin...

    First, as to your accusations about my interests aligning with some elitist club interested in keeping solar power for the rich and powerful only, you couldn't be farther from the mark. First of all, I do not own a solar panel, I make less than $25,000 a year and I'm a recent college graduate, not some fat cat executive with an estate in Beverly Hills!

    Second, I don't know where you get off accusing me of caring nothing for the environment when I've devoted just about every waking hour I have to fighting for a clean, sustainable energy future. And if you have read anything I've written here on this blog, including comments in this post, you'll see that I would love nothing more than to see solar power an ubiquitous feature of every home and building in America. In fact, I fervently hope that someone can make good on the promises that CitizenRE is making.

    I have no vested interest, financially or otherwise, in the success of any solar company, entrenched businesses or upstarts like CitizenRE included. My only interest is in seeing the solar industry become as successful as possible and move as quickly as possible towards the goal of ubiquitous solar power for everyone.

    But as an informed and critical individual, I can't help but take a look at the grand promises CitizenRE is making and see what looks like a lot of hype without much assurance that the company can actually pull it off. And if they go out in a blaze of glory that damages the credibility of the solar industry as a whole, that helps no one.

    If you have seen a good response to the (in my opinion very valid) concerns expressed in the above post, please share them with me and the readers of this blog. I would love to hear CitizenRE's responses and if they are well reasoned and valid, I will be happy to revise my current skepticism accordingly. But until then, I'm going to be more concerned with the success of the solar industry as a whole than one particular company like CitizenRE.

    And please, try to keep the tone of your comments more civil in the future. What do you gain by accusing me "and my friends" of bigotry, lies and egotism, other than to make meaningful discussion more difficult?

    Terry Poupart said...

    You wonder why I was upset!

    You concluded the following:

    A lot of very disappointed and upset people. (As if all of us that have no hope and no way to obtain alternative energy are not already disappointed and upset.)

    A lot of traditional PV dealers who are out of business. (There is no basis for this conclusion. Millionaires and the industrial users can still purchase system and would not be interested in renting anyway. These traditional PV dealers aren't offering anything normal people can buy anyway.)

    Reduced or eliminated federal and state incentives for solar electricity due to a perceived lack of need. (I have no idea what I have to smoke to come up with this conclusion but it clearly demonstrates your desire to steal our tax dollars, so that the rich and famous can put up solar panels and brag about their contribution to the environment but still only provide ½ of 1% of real energy used).

    A solar electric industry in the U.S. that has been set backwards 5 years. (Aside from the fact that there is no basis for this conclusion, it's hard to be concerned about a solar electric industry that at it's present rate will not be producing much solar power until long after the earth is destroyed).

    Be honest! We all know that this endeavor could fail. If we are going to make a difference we have to take chances. Why do you have to make up unrealistic consequences to scare people away from being innovative?

    Do your evaluation and publish your opinion about CitizenRe's chances of success and I have no problem with that. It was your unrealistic and frankly absurd conclusions about the consequences of their failure that angered me.

    You want CitizenRe to prove everything. Well I expect the same from you. Justify these absurd conclusions.

    Terry Poupart

    Jenny said...

    Terry,

    Your comments spit fire and brimstone upon this blogger, Jesse Jenkins, but it seems you failed to notice that the opinions you take issue with in this article are not those of Jesse, but of Jeff Wolf, CEO and co-founder of groSolar. In his commentary, Jesse explicitly acknolwedges your concerns about Jeff as a fat cat in the solar industry by stating that he is "certainly part of the 'establishment industry' that would presumably be threatened if Citizenre's can deliver on their claims."

    We are left relying on opinions of the competition to explain the cracks in the CitizenRE business model because CitizenRE has failed to explain these calculations itself. And by cracks I mean their promises which everyday citizens and experts can point to as to-good-to-be-true advances and practices.

    I disagree with you Terry, the burden of proof falls solely upon CitizenRE to explain its pie in the sky conclusions. It is the job of the rest of us to question their business practices until satisfactory answers are provided.

    You say that to make a difference we have to take some chances. And theoretically I do agree with this. However, in this case, the consequences of CitizenRE failing may have a devastating effect upon the solar industry and the costs are simply too great. They are building their business image upon mystery/anticipation (a bit like the Krispee Kreme model) instead of proven conclusions. If they fail they will inevitably negatively affect the rest of the solar market. If CitizenRE was more forthright about its business model and the model was found trustworthy, I would gladly support this new company and sign up for a system myself. However, their lack of transparency leads me to believe that the best way to support the solar industry at this time is to question CitizenRE until they present satisfactory answers or buckle under public criticism.

    WattHead said...

    Here's an update on the continued CitizenRE controversy:

    A CitizenRE presentation/memo written by one of the company's regional sales managers was leaked recently that discusses many of the concerns outsiders have raised about the company. According to EE/RE Investment blogger, Tom Conrad, the sales manager was subsequently fired and his 'down-line' sales network taken away.

    The presentation details concerns about the state of CitizenRE's sales network which the presentation characterizes as "out of control." The presentation lays out a number of "red flags" including disregard for production supply constraints, "deceptive income claims," "excessive unethical behavior driven by lack of training, incentives and lack of controls," as well as "excessive secrecy and lack of verification."

    The sales manager recommends "Immediate action" to avoid "losing significant portion of the more experienced and ethical" sales staff.

    Rob Styler, CitizenRE's CEO has said the presentation/memo does not reflect the opinion of CitizenRE decision makers and that it "changes nothing." He plans to plunge forward with the existing business model, despite continually voiced concerns (apparently both internally and externally) and a growing (and probably well-deserved) PR disaster.

    I would imagine that this 'renting' model for residential scale PV systems will pencil out soon, but likely only in certain states with strong incentives and then only when production capacity can support it. Businesses that will make this model work will likely start much smaller than CitizenRE's grand plans, will start in states with strong incentives where they can concentrate their sales force and integrate production and installation chains and then grow organically over time. Prices for solar panels will still be more expensive than traditional utility costs for power, but will hopefully be within a reasonable premium that enough people are willing to pay. Amortizing the cost of the system over time through this rental model, even if more expensive than you pay your utility still puts solar power in reach for more folks than can currently afford the large up-front capital costs of installing and owning a solar system on your home. As things scale up and prices for PV systems hopefully decrease, costs will likely fall, leading to the point when it truly will be cheaper to purchase power from a solar array installed on your home than from your utility.

    This rental model is already starting to pencil out for large-scale commercial installations (100 kW to 2+ MW kinds of sizes) in states with good incentives (CA, NJ, PA, AZ, maybe WA, OR and NM). The economies of scale involved in these large scale installations help make things pencil out though in a way that installing an equivalent number of MW in several dozen small (2-3 kW) residential systems does not.

    Ubiquitous solar power will be a reality ... someday. But it still appears to me that CitizenRE is not going to be the company that makes that happen. While we all wish it weren't the case, these things take time, and if we expect it to happen tomorrow, all we're setting ourselves up for is disappointment.

    Terry Poupart said...

    Dear Mr. Watthead and Jenny,

    You are correct Jenny. I apologize to Mr. Watthead for the misunderstanding.

    I will try to control my anger which has now dissolved into disappointment.

    I pray that Mr. Watthead’s assessment (both of CitizenRe and what we can expect from the Solar Industry, in general) is wrong, because if he is right we are in serious trouble.

    Today most scientists believe that we are already experiencing the negative effects of global warming and yet our ‘Solar Industry’ experts are telling us that we must wait patiently for more government handouts while a minuscule number of industrial sites and a few wealthy people's status symbols still encompass the whole of our solar contribution to the power supply.

    I appreciate your positive attitude that ‘Ubiquitous solar power will be a reality ... someday’ but your prediction of when and how is not nearly good enough and we should not have to accept it.

    Even if you are right about CitizenRe, I don’t agree that this will have a negative impact on the Solar Industry.

    According to your analysis, we have no hope to see a significant part of our energy production come from Solar Power until long after we suffer the disastrous consequences of global warming. At this point I don’t think it could get much worse, so any impact can only make it better.

    If nothing else it has (by your own analysis) clearly demonstrated the futility of the existing rate of growth within the solar industry and the desperate need for new ideas, both technical and business oriented.

    Unfortunately (however pie in the sky CitizenRe might be) according to your own analysis it’s only hope. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could offer myself and thousands of other Ecopreneurs another way to invest our time and energy to help achieve our goal.

    Until an alternative is offered I suppose we will continue to support the only game in town.

    Terry Poupart said...

    I am sorry but I just go found some new information regarding this subject.

    In the interest of fairness I strongly urge you to go the following link: http://ecoboulder.blogspot.com/2007/02/citizenre-proof-by-negation.html

    Please read this response and make it available to your readers the way you made that fake presentation available.

    I strongly recommend that those of your audience (including yourself) read the information at this site before simply writing CitizenRe off as a scam.

    Skeptism is one-thing but the treatment of CitizenRe up to this point sometimes resembles a lynching.

    Thanks,
    Terry Poupart

    DED said...

    Uhhhh, that link doesn't work, Terry. Got another one?

    simpleray said...

    Phishing scheme sounds about right. The industry's treatment of CitizenRE is not a lynching. We, as an industry, are asking legitimate financial questions of a business that seems to have no products, no means of production, no legitimate financial backing, and no paid/well-informed sales staff. In the mean time CitizenRE is using borrowed money to market a "free" cure-all to unsuspecting clients (and their sales force) looking to do the right thing and promote solar energy. The only response to these questions is 'Why don't you believe?' No other industry has grown as fast as CitizenRE claims it can. This company is nothing more than a repeat of the mistakes made during the internet bubble.

    WattHead said...

    Well said Ray. All we're asking for is answers to legitimate questions about their business model and Citizenre has not been forthcoming with answers. Their response to legitimate criticisms has not inspired confidence.

    Anonymous said...

    The CitizenRE approach seems reasonable to me. They make money off the excess energy generated at your home (which will likely increase in value), you pay them for electricity at non-wholesale rates, and they get free locations to install panels (likely without having to go through all kinds of legal issues: zoning, planning committies, challenges by eco-groups, etc.). Mass produce equipment and limit to places that have net metering (which sadly leaves me out). They own the equipment, refurbish it and move it as contracts end and/or as it makes financial sense. Seems like a workable model.

    I recently purchased a biomass stove for supplimental heating. It's the same "scam" for lack of a better term. Just like solar, it's a niche market, where people pay a premium for non-mass-produced equipment from dealers who know they can make a mint off of selling and installing niche equipment. The stoves could easily be produced for 1/4 their current cost and probably be better quality. They could be installed by HVAC professionals instead of hot tub salesmen, and fuel could be delivered much like oil, coal or propane at lower cost than current biomass prices as well. CitizenRE may not be the company to take us away from the current failed solar model, but the niche market game is equally as bad for consumers and solar power's acceptance.

    I think the real question is really, who are the snake oil salesmen? It may not be who you think.

    Heather Flanagan said...

    For what it's worth, I would like to make a comment that is a step removed from this discussion.

    As a society, we have the assumption that hope is dangerous. I think that belief makes it difficult to move forward at an accelerated rate, which is what is called for now.

    Perhaps you have heard the addage, "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." Or, to paraphrase Einstein, problems cannot be solved with the same thinking that created them. Gandhi may have said something about this, too, but it must not have been a very good sound bite 'cause I can't remember it. "You must be the change...?" Naw, that's not it.

    Last century, women did not have evidence that equal rights were possible. They didn't use a tested game plan or model to produce results. Other women probably refused to be a part of the movement because they couldn't understand or see how it could work.

    I think many of us get stuck because we need to know how something is going to work before we'll move forward. Also, history has demonstrated that innovations that don't readily latch onto exhisting technologies tend to fail... until later when we can accept them because all the baby steps in between have happened and we can see their wisdom.

    I don't know if Citizenre's vision will work. But it is a compelling vision to me. I am grateful that there are people who are willing to think new and think big.

    I personally do not know how we will end up creating a world that can continue to support our species for a while longer.But I insist that it is possible and that it will happen.

    I am a bit of a crazy, visionary, enthusiastic, outside the box, don't hafta know how it's going to work, just follow the voices in my head, kind of person myself. For me, it's easier to make the "if they come, you will build it" leap. Than probably for most.

    If we have to know how it will happen, it may be too late. The baby step model for innovation, be it in economics, marketing, or technology, may no longer be the best option.

    I am not advocating for Citizenre, here. I just heard about them today. I am advocating for being open to possibilities, being willing to be visionary, and being able to step way outside the box.

    I recently heard the concept that there are times of accelerated species evolution due to mutations caused by periods of excess cosmic radiation. I don't know if this is relevant, but it sounded interesting. ;) Oh, yeah. We need some pretty major changes and very quickly. This will require that we be willing to scrap what we think we know and expand what we think is possible.

    Thanks for listening. And thanks for caring enough to scrutinize what the impacts of Citizenre's actions may have on our collective goal to find sustainable ways to supply our power needs. It is a really important topic to me.

    Heather Flanagan
    www.VisualizePossibilities.com

    WattHead said...

    Good point (and well said), Heather. Thank you for the thoughtful comment.

    Heather Flanagan said...

    You're welcome!

    Say, be watching for an imcoming link. Gonna give you a little love... or at least traffic. Whether they love you or not is their choice.

    But, I love you no matter what they think! Don't forget!

    Heather

    PS. Come take a look around our site! If you can think of any of your posts that I might want to talk up, let me know. We are really all about the giving of love, here. ;) In the mean time, I'll throw you on my RSS feeder. it will only hurt for a second.

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    please click below.

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    Anonymous said...

    I have heard from a friend of a friend that those installing PV now are essentially subsidizing those who will install in three or more years from now once the technology has advanced substantially.
    Any comments on this?
    Also, what is the average profit on a residential PV sale? If it is large, then, well good for the salesperson and the PV business, but less economical for the PV buyer.
    The concerns over CitizenRe may well be valid, but the road to real impact using residential PV systems may include a rental approach like theirs in combination with increased efficiency and a reasonable, not excessive (however one may reasonably define these terms) profit.
    And also at least for the near term, incentives from the various governments.

    Energy Revolutionary said...

    I see alot of posts online in regards to Citizenre by Jeffery D. Wolfe of groSolar. It is important to realize that Mr. Wolfe has a very important motive for trying to hurt Citizenre. He is afraid of what they could mean to his business and his livelyhood. It is impossible for Mr. Wolfe to be objective on the topic and no one should expect that he would be. Mr. Wolfe's grosolar sells PV systems. He has a strategy of using home equity loans to pay for the intstallations. This is an excellent strategy and one that I think everyone should consider. I hope Mr. Wolfe is successful and continues to thrive. But, lets be realistic. Citizenre means to him what Walmart means to the local general store. So, anything you read from Mr. Wolfe as a solar expert you can take seriously. However, don't expect to get an objective opinion from anyone when they are asked to review their direct competitor.

    Anonymous said...

    Any new info on this? I just signed up with Citizenre because there isn't a chance in heck I'll be able to afford solar power any other way. If they can't deliver, well, then I'm back where I started.

    I should note that as of today the website does say that they aren't up and running yet, and has a link to other sources and licensed installers. The options in Indiana are not so good and too costly, so if Citizenre isn't able to deliver, well, some of us are just plain out of luck.

    Anonymous said...

    Any new info on this? I just signed up with Citizenre because there isn't a chance in heck I'll be able to afford solar power any other way. If they can't deliver, well, then I'm back where I started.

    I should note that as of today the website does say that they aren't up and running yet, and has a link to other sources and licensed installers. The options in Indiana are not so good and too costly, so if Citizenre isn't able to deliver, well, some of us are just plain out of luck.

    jml255 said...

    I am not sure where the company is going or what they are planning, but if they do produce solar panels the way they say.... I am on board. I signed up becuase I do not want to be at the end of the list if things get up and running. The network marketing way of selling isnt a problem for me either because to be an "Ecoprenuer" there is no cost like normal mlm type programs

    AskAME said...

    Citizenre offers solar panels for the little guy. The rich already are building 'smart homes' with passive solar and solar panel systems because they can afford the upfront cost and will reap the rewards down the road. Signing up for a chance to get a system installed at no cost AND locking in 80% of current electric rates for the next 25 years is a no-brainer. The only ones who profit from the sale of a $50,000 system financed on a 1500 square foot house is the salesman who collects the origination fee, the installer, and the bank who collects the interest.

    Anonymous said...

    To all of you daydreamers out there: Do me a favor and put a pencil to paper and show me how the numbers work w/Citizenre's claims. Simple fact: In Most states,presently the per kilowatt hour cost of electricity you will be credited w/net metering will not even allow you to break even, much less profit with an average residential system. Where you do gain, though, is in state and federal tax incentives. These incentives apply to owners (and to my understanding lessees) of PV systems. Having said that,you do need to have some tax liability to benefit. As for home equity loans to finance PV, you get a tax break on the loan interest you pay. So in conclusion, to come up with "true" numbers for the cost of owning a PV system, put it on paper using all these factors.
    Citizenre will have to do the same thing with their business model, whether they produce the parts, or buy them. Although corporations get a better tax break than individuals, their #'s just DON'T work. As an installer, I won't even get into their wild claim of a 1/2 day average install. I'm a Master electrician licensed in 4 states, and WITH HELP, you would be hard-pressed to just run conduit from the roof to the system components (combiner box, DC disconnect, inverter, AC disconnect, then to the main breaker panel), mount everything, and then terminate in a 1/2 day. Even if you had 4 - 6 guys on the roof mounting and flashing the rack system and wiring the panel strings together at the same time, a 1/2 day is not possible. What the average guy doesn't understand is that EACH PV system is custom designed. This is because of many factors: roof orientation to the sun, roof pitch, roof surface composition, electrical service location, etc. The fact that Citizenre makes that install claim just confirms my opinion that they have a stable full of used car salesman working for them. The real question is: Why would this group want to delay a decision to go solar by thousands of people across the US? Maybe we should be asking "WHO does Citizenre really represent?"