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Back to News Announces First Commercial Solar Plant to be Constructed as a Result of Customer Choice

132 KW Solar Plant to be Located at Real Goods Solar Living Center

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Sept. 7, 1999 —, through its Green Mountain Energy(SM) brand, the nation's leading brand of cleaner electricity, announced that it has entered into an agreement with GPU Solar and Real Goods to build the first commercial solar plant in California directly resulting from customer choice.

The Real Goods Solar Living Center in Hopland, Calif. will host the 132 kW solar plant. GPU Solar, a joint venture between AstroPower, Inc. and GPU International, will build, own and operate the solar plant which will provide clean power to the California electric grid.

On behalf of their 100% Renewable 2.0 energy blend customers, Green Mountain will purchase the electricity generated by the solar facility, which will be located at the Real Goods Solar Living Center. This 12-acre demonstration site, one of northern California's premier attractions, hosts over 150,000 annual visitors.

It is run by the Real Goods Institute for Solar Living, a non-profit corporation, and features the largest straw bale building in the world, a 5,000 square foot retail store for sustainable living products, acres of beautiful permaculture gardens, renewable energy interactive displays, and an oasis of water features including a "stonehenge of the future" comprehensive solar calendar.

"Generating electricity is the largest industrial source of air pollution — most people don't know that," said Julie Blunden, president of Green's Western Region. "Customers can now choose the kind of power they want to support. New sources of renewable power, such as this solar facility, are part of the solution to air pollution that results from electricity made from fossil fuels."

Constructed with solar panels from AstroPower, Inc., the plant will take only one month to build. This fast construction time is due to AstroPower's advanced modular photovoltaic technology and the simplicity of the plant's design by PowerLight Corporation of Berkeley, Calif. "The deregulation of California's electricity business provided this opportunity," said Jim Torpey, GPU Solar's president. "We are looking for other opportunities to work with AstroPower to finance and build independent solar power across the country as more states deregulate and offer customer choice."

Since December 1997, Real Goods and Green Mountain have established a business relationship — the first of its kind — that paired an environmentally responsible retailer and an environmentally preferred electricity provider within California's deregulated energy market.

"We're excited to greatly increase our on-site solar generation capacity from 10kW to 142kW, adding an additional 132 kW, thus continuing our commitment to support renewable energy," said John Schaeffer, chief executive officer of Real Goods. "This plant solidifies the community of Hopland's position of having the most photovoltaic power per capita in the world and will further our educational efforts to our over 150,000 visitors per year."

A dedication of this new solar plant is expected in October 1999 at the Real Goods Solar Living Center in Hopland, Calif.

About Real Goods

Real Goods Trading Corporation, a leading California based supplier, sells a broad range of environmental and renewable energy products through its catalogs, retail stores and the Internet. The company is the largest supplier of products for renewable energy and sustainable living in the world. Real Goods common stock is publicly traded on the Chicago Stock Exchange under the symbol "RGT," as well as on the NASDAQ. For more information on Real Goods, visit their Web site at or call (800) 762-7325 for a complimentary catalog.

Real Goods further endorsed Green as its energy provider of choice by selecting their Wind for the Future 2.0(SM) energy blend for its Solar Living Center in Hopland, Calif., its corporate offices in Santa Rosa, Calif., and its store in Berkeley, Calif.

About GPU Solar

GPU Solar, Inc. develops, finances, and provides solar power services to electricity customers seeking renewable, clean sources of electricity. GPU Solar is a joint venture corporation owned by AstroPower, Inc. of Newark, DE and GPU International, Inc. of Parsippany, N.J. AstroPower is currently the largest US-owned manufacturer of photovoltaic (PV) solar power cells and panels. GPU International is a worldwide developer of independent power plants.

About offers products and services online for environmentally concerned consumers, including Green Mountain Energy(SM), the leading retail brand of electricity featuring renewable generation sources to residential customers. Green Mountain Energy(SM) is currently available in California and Pennsylvania. For more information on Green Mountain, visit our Web site at or call (888) 246-6730.

Editor's Note: (GMTN) and its Green Mountain Energy(SM) brand are not affiliated with Green Mountain Power Corporation (GMP).

Green Real Goods GPU Solar 132 kW Solar Array Fact Sheet

This 132 kW solar electric facility will be one of the largest operating photovoltaic arrays in the State of California, and the first grid-connected solar plant built exclusively to sell into the competitive deregulated electric market. The solar plant is located at the Real Goods Solar Living Center in Hopland, Calif., 150 miles north of San Francisco, off Highway 101.

  • Generation: The solar plant is rated at 132 kW (DC electric kilowatts). During an average "sun" year, this distributed generation power plant will generate about 160,000 kWh (kilowatt-hours) of AC electricity.

  • Construction: The solar array consists of 1,200 individual 110-watt solar electric (photovoltaic) panels fabricated using 43,000 single crystal silicon cells. AstroPower of Newark, Delaware makes the advanced solar panels and PowerLight of Berkeley, California provided the system integration service. The panels are angled towards the sun on four PowerShade(TM) structures that provide shade for picnics below while power is produced above. Total land area required is about 1/3 of an acre.

  • Operation: The solar plant operates automatically, has no moving parts, and consists of solid state electronics. The plant is designed to be a zero maintenance system, and is expected to have a lifespan of over 25 years.

  • Grid-connection: The plant is connected to California's high voltage transmission grid through the local PG&E electric distribution system. A solid state inverter made by Trace Technologies of Livermore, Calif. converts the DC electricity generated from the solar array to utility-quality AC electricity.

  • Financing & Support: The project benefits from participation in the U.S. Department of Energy supported TEAM-UP Program as well as California's renewable energy program managed by the California Energy Commission.

  • Carbon Dioxide Displacement: During its lifetime the solar plant will displace over 1,600 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, based on the average electricity mix that serves California. This is equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by a car driven 4 million miles.

General facts about solar energy:

  • Sales of solar cells have been growing throughout the 1990's, with an average growth rate of 23% over the last five years and a 1997 growth rate of 43%. (WorldWatch Institute, "Vital Signs 1998", Lester Brown, Michael Renner, Christopher Flavin)

  • Solar technologies are likely to follow similar market penetration commercialization paths to that of other high technology products such as the fax machine, the cellular telephone and the personal computer. (SEIA Task: NREL TOA 84. Public Roles in Technology Innovation and Commercialization. July, 1996)

  • From 1972 to 1992, photovoltaic module costs have dropped one hundred fold. Current prices are as low as 20 to 30 cents/kWh. (Utility Photovoltaic Group, National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

  • The annual US Market for PV on buildings could top $2.5 billion in the next 10 years with Japanese and European markets having similar potential. (Solar Electric Buildings: An Overview of Today's Applications. National Renewable Energy Laboratory for US Department of Energy. February 1996.)

Real Goods Trading Corporation Contact - Tanya Queen, (707) 521-4462 Contact - Karen Woodbury, (415) 439-5310

GPU Solar Contact - Pat Dool, (973) 263-6951

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