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Better, cheaper technology and novel financing schemes could help far more organizations take part in the energy transition.

In early 2018, Google proclaimed that it had achieved its 100 percent renewable energy target. The global IT giant has the scale and resources to invest in novel power-purchase agreements for clean energy, tackle energy efficiency projects and leverage its assets in wholesale energy markets.

Within the same year, large corporate customers signed more than 5 gigawatts’ worth of power-purchase agreements (PPAs) for wind and solar in the U.S., nearly doubling the number of gigawatts signed in 2017, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.

And then there is everyone else.

Despite the headlines about bold renewable goals and organizations committing to deeper sustainability missions, comprehensive energy strategy continues to be a struggle even for large energy users.

According to a study by Centrica Business Solutions, one in three organizations are thinking about how energy can contribute to business growth, drive deeper efficiencies and reduce risk. And yet, the study found that more than half of businesses identified themselves in the “least advanced” category when it comes to energy strategy, while less than 10 percent considered themselves “most advanced.”

In other words, there’s a pretty sizable disconnect between businesses that would like to approach energy differently and those that actually do.

“It’s not that they don’t have the interest; it’s just that they don’t have the resources and time,” said Dan Svejnar, vice president, head of commercial North America for Centrica Business Solutions.

But the time is ripe for the self-described “least advanced” organizations on the energy spectrum to get access to some of the same opportunities the Googles of the world have long embraced. A confluence of technological advancements, regulatory changes, overall price declines and novel financing packages now make a range of clean energy solutions attainable for many large energy users and not just a few sophisticated, global organizations.

While the energy sector is evolving faster than it ever has before, many corporate and municipal leaders still see energy as a fixed cost of doing business, and not necessarily an asset to be flexed. In many power markets and utility territories, there are increasing options to monetize behind-the-meter assets that did not exist even five years ago.

“Companies on the progressive end are looking to monetize their energy infrastructure in exchange for long-term service agreements,” noted Svejnar, an approach that less progressive companies can take advantage of, especially as other costs, such as labor, are rising for many corporations.

For any entity that is looking to use its capital more efficiently, exploring electricity use can often provide solutions. Investing in assets like advanced demand response solutions or flexible backup power does not necessarily require deep expertise or even a dedicated energy manager; rather, it calls for finding an energy partner that understands what solutions fit a company’s energy profile and economic needs. That partner can then go build a tailored solution.

For example, Centrica Business Solutions brought together various companies, including O,R&L Construction and Power Island Energy, to deliver a combined heat and power system for the city of Bridgeport, Conn. Three CHP units and a standby generator formed the backbone of a microgrid that can power key municipal buildings while offering 100 percent grid redundancy. The project came at no cost to the city but saved the municipality on long-term costs while reducing its environmental footprint.

For the Bridgeport project, the city pulled together various financing mechanisms from both a traditional bank as well as the state’s green bank and other state incentives.

A host of innovative financial solutions — from shared savings models on efficiency projects to green tariffs from energy providers and novel energy commodity procurement options — are offering businesses and cities of varying sizes an opportunity to make investments that even a decade ago would have been too much of an upfront capital expense.

And innovation is happening faster and faster. There is now energy production insurance available for solar installations and third-party insurance available for energy storage agreements. Large players like Centrica Business Solutions, which is backed by global energy and services company Centrica, can aggregate clients that are not operating at a big enough scale to have the investment-grade credit ratings to allow them to hedge their credit risk. That allows for projects to move forward where otherwise they wouldn’t, because risk-averse financial institutions often shy away from businesses without a credit score that easily allows the bank to quantify risk.

Even for those that live and breathe in the clean energy sector, it’s amazing what capabilities have been developed in the realm of virtual power plants, advanced demand response and renewable procurement options in the past few years. But for the one in three organizations that Centrica found are thinking about how energy can contribute to business growth, the solutions — both technical and financial — must continue to be simplified.

“Many businesses are focused on more traditional methods of adding revenue streams or cost-cutting in their business,” said Svejnar, “and they just aren’t thinking about using energy in this way.”

“To date, the industry and product innovation has largely been driven by various incentives, such as utility RFPs and large corporate goals,” he added. “Going forward, simplified products will be key to engage the long tail of less-sophisticated customers that want to take part in the distributed energy transition.”

 

via GTM

Everyone  should have the right to go solar on their property. Some states enshrine that right with solar access laws, which prohibit local governments and homeowners’ associations (HOAs) from preventing homeowners from going solar. Unfortunately, not every state has these laws; even in some that do, HOAs may still have outdated policies that block homeowners’ solar access and propagate solar myths about aesthetics and property values. Our guide can help you overcome HOA objections to your solar installation and to provide practical advice to make your HOA solar-friendly.

Step 1: Know your solar access laws

Map of solar rights & easements by the Community Associations Institute.

Twenty-five states have solar access laws on the books. An additional fifteen provide limited protection for solar easements.

Most states offer at least some protection for solar access, but the details can vary widely. Before you get started, research the laws in your state. We recommend starting with Solar Rights & Easements by State from the Community Associations Institute.

Step 2: Learn about your HOA

Your HOA may have a positive solar access policy already, but more than likely it does not. HOAs are private organizations, not governments. This means that members of an HOA do not have the same rights and protections that you would expect from your local government. Nevertheless, as representatives of the residents, the HOA is accountable to the residents, and they can change policies, including those affecting solar installations. Our guide assumes that you will need to find a way to change your HOA’s policy regarding solar. This may involve addressing outdated myths about solar on homes, including concerns about aesthetics or the effect of solar energy on property values. The complete guide has a entire section dedicated to addressing those myths.

Step 3: Make your case for solar access

If your HOA has placed unreasonable restrictions on your right to go solar, the next step is to join with your neighbors to convince your HOA Board to reform their policies. We’ve found that the best way to do this is to make your case directly to your neighbors and convince them to support you. Most HOAs are willing to change their policies if the residents demand it, and we’ve found that most people will support your right to go solar, even if they don’t plan to do so themselves. The complete guide lists everything you’ll need.

Step 4: Get your pro-solar neighbors on board

These people are your new best friends. As we mentioned above, HOA boards are not necessarily democratic in the same way your local city council is, but they should be – and generally are – responsive to the concerns of their members. Our experience is that most reasonable people will support your right to go solar if presented in the right way, and the complete guide is designed to help you do just that.

Step 5: Meet with your HOA board

Once you have the support of your neighbors, it’s time to make your formal case to your HOA’s governing board. The important things here are to make your case compelling, show that other residents support you, and directly ask them to change the policy.

Step 6: Overcome solar access objections

Like some politicians, your HOA board may try to avoid giving you a direct or immediate answer. You may need to continue to talk with your neighbors to show support, or reach out to the local media to rally more support. Your HOA may ask for your solar installation to be reviewed, or they may issue a decision that conflicts with your state’s solar access law. The complete guide covers several of the possible outcomes; for the others, you can always become a Solar United Neighbors member to get expert help from our Solar Help Desk.

Step 7: Celebrate your success and go solar!

If your board doesn’t raise objections, congratulations! You’re free to go solar and – more importantly – you’ve secured the right of future residents of your HOA to go solar as well. This situation represents one of the potential roadblocks to going solar in the U.S., and those barriers will only fall if we all make knocking them down a priority. We hope you’ll consider going solar with Solar United Neighbors, either by joining a solar co-op or as a member.

via Solar United Neighbors

Homeowners and businesses thinking of going solar (as well as adding battery storage) should act in 2019 to take advantage of the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) before it begins to step down in 2020.

The ITC allows homeowners and businesses to take a 30% percent tax credit for the cost of solar systems on their properties. This is a one-time tax credit that you receive the first year you own your solar system, and there is no cap on the amount.

However, due to recent legislation, 2019 is the last year of the 30% tax credit. Beginning in 2020, the ITC will step down to 26% for projects that begin construction in 2020 and 22% for projects that begin in 2021. After 2021, the residential credit will drop to zero while the commercial and utility credit will drop to a permanent 10%.

Homeowners and businesses must invest in solar systems that commence construction through 2019 in order to qualify for the 30% credit. Earlier this year, the IRS clarified the definition of “commence construction” and explained the requirements that a taxpayer must meet to establish that construction of a qualified solar facility has begun for purposes of claiming the credit. SEIA, the solar trade group explains that taxpayers must show that “physical work of a significant nature” has started, or by “paying or incurring five percent or more of the total cost” of the system.

The process for getting the ITC is simple. Generally, your solar installer will give you a receipt for the total cost of your system after it is installed. You can then give this receipt to your accountant and receive a 30% tax credit off the total cost of your system. If you cannot realize the full value of your credit in the first year, you may be able to roll it forward to reduce your tax burden in subsequent years. (Please consult with a tax expert or your accountant).

The ITC also applies to battery storage. Solar owners who install a battery system at the same time as their solar panels can roll the storage costs into their tax credit but only if the battery is charged entirely from the solar. In March 2018, the IRS indicated that existing solar owners who retrofit their solar array with battery storage are also able to take the full 30% tax credit for the cost of their battery installation.

The ITC is a good example of how a well-planned tax incentive can jump start a key clean energy market, driving economic growth and local jobs while promoting energy choice and independence for millions of Americans. If you are planning on installing solar on your home and/or business, now is the time!

 

 

via Solar United Neighbors

If you’ve been following solar even just a little bit, you know how dramatically the cost of going solar has dropped. In 2007, the cost to install a residential solar array was more than $8 per watt. Since then, solar technology has improved, the market has grown considerably, and costs have continued to fall. According to the most recent data, from 2017, the average cost of going solar for homeowners is less than $2.90 per watt. This cost varies a lot depending on your location. Many installers, when they give you a proposal do not tell you the cost per watt. For some reason they give you the total cost and the total number of panels. Don’t worry, you can easily calculate the cost /watt by taking the total cost (that should include the panels, the labor and all of the permits and installation) and divided by the total number of watts or kilowatts listed on the proposal. It may seem logical to wait for an even lower price, but changing policies (e.g. the 30% federal income tax credit) and the opportunity costs of offsetting rising utility costs make now the most compelling time to go solar.

In addition to the money you’ll save on your utility bill, your initial investment in  solar is eligible for a 30% federal income tax credit. The 30% tax credit is based on the system’s gross cost and is only available for a limited time. You can only claim the credit if you purchase the system and pay federal income tax. If you lease your system, the lessor will take the tax credit. The tax credit will be phased out in the coming years, dropping to 26% in 2020, 22% in 2021, and to zero in 2022. 2019 is your last opportunity to take full advantage of the 30% credit.

Beyond the tax benefits to going solar now, you also have to factor in the increasing cost of electricity from your utility. It doesn’t pay to wait. The Energy Information Administration, the federal agency responsible for providing data about the energy market, reports that utility costs have increased on average 1.6% per year between 2006 and 2016. The sooner you go solar the sooner you start saving on your electric bill. Plus, you have the added benefit that the money you save with solar isn’t taxed. Your earnings are savings. So, if you were to consider the value of investing in solar compared to other investment options, solar becomes even more attractive

You should also consider the value that solar adds to your home. A 2015 study conducted by the Berkeley Lab Group found that solar does increase the value of a home. The study encompassed 22,000 home sales. On average, the systems added $15,000 dollars to the value of the home.

 

via Solar United Neighbors

The Solar Power World Top Solar Contractors list includes Charleston based solar firm

Charleston, SC, July 26, 2018 – More than 10,600 megawatts of solar power were installed last year in the United States, and local installer Alder Energy Systems has been recognized by Solar Power World magazine for its contributions to the industry. Alder Energy Systems has been listed as 199 out of 450 solar companies on the magazine’s 2018 Top Solar Contractors list.

The Top Solar Contractors list was developed by Solar Power World to recognize the work completed by solar contractors across the United States. Produced annually, them Top Solar Contractors list celebrates the achievements of U.S. solar developers, subcontractors and installers within the utility, commercial and residential markets, and ranks contractors by kilowatts installed in the previous year. The 2018 list was released on July 24.

“Solar Power World is very excited about the 2018 class of Top Solar Contractors,” said Kelly Pickerel, editor in chief of Solar Power World. “Our 2017 list showed impressive installation numbers after 2016’s huge rush to meet ITC requirements, and many companies were hesitant to show unavoidable installation dips after last year’s high. We’re happy to feature a strong group of thriving U.S. solar installers on the 2018 Top Solar Contractors list. These companies truly are at the top of their markets.”

The U.S. solar market had its biggest year ever in 2016, installing more than 15,000 MW. Installations in 2017 were 10,608 MW growth over 2015 numbers.

A major highlight of 2017 was the non-residential market growing 28% year-over-year, the fourth straight year of annual growth for commercial, industrial and community solar. In 2017, 30% of all new electric generating capacity brought online in the United States came from solar, second only to new natural gas capacity.

The first quarter of 2018 showed a 13% growth over the first quarter of 2017, and Alder Energy Systems will continue to contribute to the wave of increasing solar generation. By 2023, more than 15,000 MW of solar is expected to be installed annually.

About Alder Energy Systems

Founded in 2008, Alder Energy Systems LLC is a locally-owned business specializing in the planning, design, and installation of solar PV energy systems for homes, businesses, and utilities throughout Southeast.

About Solar Power World

Solar Power World is the leading online and print resource for news and information regarding solar installation, development and technology. Since 2011, SPW has helped U.S. solar contractors—including installers, developers and EPCs in all markets—grow their businesses and do their jobs better.

Most of the policy decisions that impact our right to go solar are made at the state and local level. But this does not mean that the federal government can’t play a role as well. A new, bi-partisan coalition of members of Congress has joined together to fight for policies that support solar by forming the Congressional Solar Caucus.

The Solar Caucus’ co-founders are Illinois Democrat Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and South Carolina Republican Ralph Norman. Krisnamoorthi is the only member of Congress with a professional background in solar energy. He served as president of a solar technology research firm. He was also a co-founder of the research institute, InSPIRE. The organization provides solar training to inner-city students and veterans.

Krishnamoorthi and Norman hope to use the new caucus to maintain a robust R&D budget in the Department of Energy, harmonize regulations that might otherwise keep solar from expanding further, and ensure America’s workforce is prepared for the solar jobs of the future.

“Solar energy is an economically viable energy source,” Norman said. “It’s also a rapidly growing energy sector, providing thousands of new jobs in states like my home in South Carolina. Solar power is an industry with bipartisan support, and the membership of the Congressional Solar Caucus reflects that.”

Norman indicated that the caucus was supportive of both large-scale and rooftop solar. “More and more we are seeing consumers choose rooftop solar as a great, green way to cut down on their energy bill,” Norman said. “Additionally, large-scale utilities are investing as well, which are providing excellent job opportunities for my constituents in rural areas.”

“Nothing changes in Washington, D.C. without heightened engagement across the country, and this is the way it should be,” Krishnamoorthi said. “In order to convince legislators that they should focus on the benefits of renewable energy, we need to work with groups like Solar United Neighbors.”

To date, the caucus has brought members together with solar technology and policy experts. This has helped caucus members learn about the challenges and opportunities facing the sector. “The caucus intends to continue to hold these briefings, as well as develop bipartisan policy solutions to solve problems facing the industry,” Norman said.

Currently, the Solar Caucus has 14 members, with seven Democrats and seven Republicans. In addition to Reps. Norman and Krishnamoorthi, they include Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01); Jeff Duncan (SC-03); Carlos Curbelo (FL 26); Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08); John Curtis (UT-3); Mia Love (UT-4), and Democrats Debbie Dingell (MI-12); Matt Cartwright (PA-17); Brendan Boyle (PA-13); Paul Tonko (NY-20); Jacky Rosen (NV-03); Peter Welch (VT). Norman and Krishnamoorthi are eager to grow the caucus.

via Solar United Neighbors

How popular is solar energy? How prevalent are solar panels in the United States? How easy would it be to energize our world if a majority of homes switched to solar panels?

These questions aren’t rhetorical. In fact, they have clear, measurable answers. And if you’re considering solar power for your home or business, these facts might just give you the confidence you need to install your first solar panels. Read more

Not all solar panels are the same. They can vary by size, color, cost, and efficiency. Efficiency refers to how much electricity the panel creates from the sunlight it captures. The electrical capacity of solar panels is measured in watts (W). The typical solar panel is rated at 250-300 W. The higher the rating, the more electricity a panel produces.

There are several factors that make a panel more or less efficient. These include the type of material that is used in the panel as well as the quality of the panel’s construction. Monocrystalline silicon for example, is typically more efficient per square foot than polycrystalline silicon. Monocrystalline cells use a single, purer form of silicon in their cells whereas Polycrystalline cells are composed of several forms of silicon. Both types are commonly available.

External environmental factors also impact a panel’s efficiency. Heat and humidity can reduce a panel’s electric output and so can the amount of shade that falls on a panel over the course of a year. How susceptible a panel is to local conditions like shading and weather-related factors depends upon the materials used to make the panel, the inverter equipment selected, and other design considerations. Your installer will try to design for the maximum efficiency possible given the local conditions, the space available and your budget.

Having the most efficient panel may not be your best option. You may find it makes more sense to install more panels that are lower efficiency, if you have plenty of space for a large system. High-efficiency panels come at a higher cost and are designed for systems where space is limited. Your installer will estimate how many panels can fit on your roof or in yard given the space available and how shady it is over the course of a year to determine the ideal size of your system.

via Solar United Neighbors