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Intentional Community Finds Ways to Save

ABC Channel 7 By Alan Wang, Tuesday August 05, 2008

OAKLAND, CA (KGO) -- Some Bay Area people who've made significant lifestyle adjustments aren't feeling the economic pinch.

If you broke down your fences and pooled your resources with the neighbors, you would have an intentional community.

"I was away for the weekend, so I don't even have much food left in my house," said Hank Obermayer, the Mariposa Grove founder. Here in North Oakland, four buildings housing a total of eight units and a community room makeup Mariposa Grove. Founder Hanks Obermayer says it's a type of non-profit called a community land trust.

"And so we actually own our places, but there are restrictions for how much we can sell them for. We can make money, but we can't make a lot of money," said Obermayer.

By doing this, it makes living affordable during tough times for these 22 residents, including six children. They have a group meal two or three times a week. They share the laundry facilities, the water and garbage bill, broad band cable, and the cost for bulk supplies like detergent and toilet paper.

"It's actually going cost me less than living in an apartment by myself, and I get more for my money," said Diane Dew, a resident.

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Bay Area Performing arts groups going green, by Robert Hurwitt, February 25, 2008


Patrick Dooley beams as he shows off the roof of the Ashby Stage in south Berkeley. The top of the theater is encased in a white insulating foam that coats the surface and the ventilation tubes like a thick blanket of fresh snow. Two rows of black solar panels, 88 in all, cover 60 percent of the surface.
On Dec. 27, the Shotgun Players' Ashby Stage became the first theater in the Bay Area - and possibly in the nation - to convert to solar power.

The whole project cost $140,000, Dooley says. That is a considerable expenditure for a company with a $400,000 annual budget, even factoring in the $40,000 rebate the company later received from the state. But he figures that the savings it will bring - about $10,000 a year - will enable Shotgun to increase the actors' salaries.

More than that, he says, it's part of being a good neighbor in south Berkeley. "We address these issues in our art, but we wanted to find a way to pay them more than lip service."

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How Two Nonprofits Paid for Switch to Solar Power

It isn't always easy going green, particularly for nonprofit groups such as performing arts companies. Many local, state and federal initiatives to encourage the use of solar power, including the city of Berkeley's pioneering program, are tied to property tax rates and other tax programs that don't apply to nonprofits.

Shotgun Players financed its solar panels with help from Sun Light & Power, which installed the panels, and the Northern California Land Trust. In a first-of-its-kind financial deal, the Land Trust packaged Shotgun and another nonprofit's solar projects, and connected them with an LLC, or limited liability company.

Under the terms of the agreement, Shotgun sold its panels to the LLC for $1 for a term of six years, after which the theater will buy back the panels at the same price. In the interim, the LLC collects the tax credits and depreciation tax benefits on the panels, which will add up to well over $100,000. It will pay back between $30,000 and $35,000 to Shotgun on its investment.

In terms of energy use, Shotgun's Ashby Stage remains connected to the grid. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. supplies electricity to the theater when the solar energy runs low and collects excess power when the solar panels' output exceeds the theater's use. Under the company's "time-of-use" rate package, it's buying power at 8 cents per kilowatt-hour in the evenings, its busiest period (paying a higher rate during the day), and selling it back to PG&E (for energy credits, not cash) at the peak rate of 32 cents. The company gets a statement each month, and accounts are settled at the end of the year.

Costs versus savings of going green
The Shotgun Players' Ashby Stage solar conversion by the numbers: 140,000
Total cost: 40,000
Rebate from the state: 10,000

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle 

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Non-Profit Solar Alliance Press Release

Northern California Land Trust Uses Venture Capital Funded Non-Profit Solar Alliance to Cost-Effectively Convert Properties to Solar Power

Berkeley, Calif., February 26, 2007 – The Northern California Land Trust (NCLT), one of the oldest and largest providers of permanently affordable housing and community facilities in the nation, today announced the formation of the Non-Profit Solar Alliance, a new program which uses private financing to help community-based non-profit organizations cost-effectively convert their properties to solar power.

Non-profits in the Alliance install photovoltaic panels or solar hot water heating systems and convert their properties to solar power, which is often lower priced and is less damaging to the environment than traditional sources. However, solar energy systems typically have a high initial cost and extremely low operating costs so investors fund the installation. Together the non-profits create economies of scale and qualify for available federal government-sponsored tax credits. The tax credits were created by the government to attract energy consumers away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources. However, in this case, the tax credits go to the private investors funding the Alliance and the installation of solar panels.



Green Theater

This article appeared on page E - 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle February 19, 2007

Never a company to avoid a challenge, the ambitious little Shotgun Players is undertaking to make its Ashby Stage "the first solar-powered theater in Northern California." Why? "Because," the company said in announcing the program, "we simply can no longer afford to ignore the impact of global warming."

No, this doesn't mean tearing the roof off, in a return to the kind of solar power that lit up the plays of Shakespeare and the ancient Greeks and Romans. Shotgun has entered into partnerships with Berkeley's Sun Light & Power, an alternative energy company, and the Nonprofit Solar Alliance of the Northern California Land Trust, with the goal of having its solar panels up and running by October. Sun Light will give Shotgun a donation each time a business or individual mentions the theater's name when contracting for home or office alternative energy, and Shotgun will provide more publicity for Sun Light in promoting its $100,000 capital campaign for the project.

"We believe that the arts have a responsibility to be the conscience for the society," the company says. "What is important is not to feel overwhelmed" about the magnitude of the global warming crisis, "but to take action." It's a good business decision, too. Shotgun's annual electric bill runs about $10,000, and it plans to redirect much of that money to paying its actors and other artists. -- Robert Hurwitt


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Phone: 510-548-7878 Fax: 510-548-7562