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Going Solar Just Got Easier

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Yeloha, the Boston-based startup that allows customers to go solar without owning a single panel, was already a game-changer when it first debuted in June. But its latest move could alter the energy landscape even further.

Yeloha, which has been dubbed the Airbnb of solar, has teamed up with its first utility, Green Mountain Power (GMP), which provides electricity to more than three-quarters of Vermont.

"This partnership marks the first utility-adopted Sharing Economy platform to offer its customers the opportunity to generate their own energy and share it with other residents online. The initiative represents a beacon of change for energy nationwide," said Amit Rosner, Yeloha co-founder and CEO.

GMP is a well-regarded energy provider itself. For instance, it's the first utility in the world to receive B Corp certification, and one of the first energy companies in the country to offer Tesla's new home battery.

Solar energy, which is on track for another record-breaking year, is something that many Americans want but, unfortunately, can't have. Not everyone owns their own home, and for those who do, photovoltaic panels might not be an affordable reality, or their roofs might not be suitable if it's blocked by shade. That's why this partnership between Yeloha and GMP could change the status quo.

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The companies are basically making it possible for Vermonters without panels, such as renters and apartment dwellers, to purchase (cheaper and cleaner) solar off another homeowner's or business' roof. On the flip side, Vermonters who do have a suitable roof will be offered to host the panels free of charge in exchange for sharing some of their solar power.

The service seems like a win-win-win for hosts, partners and our clean energy future alike.

"This is a unique opportunity to empower more people to be able to harness the power of the sun," said GMP president and CEO Mary Powell. "We see a tremendous opportunity in leveraging more rooftops around Vermont for the benefit of all those who may currently be renters, or own homes that are not well suited for solar."

"As Vermont's energy company of the future, we are transforming the old grid system into one where power is generated and consumed closer to the home or community where it is needed," she continued. "This partnership with Yeloha will help accelerate this revolution in distributed power."

Powell admitted to Fast Company that the grid today is highly inefficient, citing how GMP needs to maintain two, expensive and rarely used diesel-powered "peaker plants" that generally run only when energy demands are high. She envisions a future in which the grid is merely a backup for local networks.

She also admitted that GMP, which hasn't lost significant revenue due to solar yet, could in the future. According to Fast Company, to make up for possible revenue losses, GMP plans to "[reduce] investment in long-range transmission and distribution, and by being a partner to customers as they upgrade their homes and businesses. Utilities can share in the revenue going to third-party contractors installing solar and associated equipment, she believes."

Rosner envisions expanding Yeloha to other utilities beyond Vermont. "Although utility partnerships are not a requirement for our expansion into new territories, by partnering directly with GMP, the process can be greatly accelerated and can become more flexible," he told Fast Company.

The GMP-Yeloha pilot program will kick off in the Vermont cities of Rutland and Barre.

“We are thrilled to have this new option for our residents who rent or live where solar isn’t possible,” said Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon. “Bringing the value and benefits of solar to more Vermonters is a great step forward and will help economically here and across the state.”

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California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.

The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."

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