SOLAR BASICS

Solar Basics
With the availability of more efficient and affordable solar photovoltaic technology, building owners now have an easier means of participating in that transition.  Not only will your decision to go solar deliver some degree of energy independence, it will:

1.  Reduce your electric bill
2.  Increase the value of your real estate
3.  Deliver more sustained and secure returns than the stock market
4.  Support environmental health and social equity.

The concept behind solar technology is that of harnessing sunlight and converting it into usable forms of energy to perform work.  Given that the sun is predicted to shine for the next 4.5 billion years, we have an essentially endless supply of it, which makes solar power an attractive source of clean, renewable energy.  One of the increasingly popular ways to harness sunlight is via photovoltaic (PV) cells located on a roof or free-standing over open spaces such as parking lots, yards, farm fields, etc. Following is a brief “Solar 101″ on how it works:
1.  Sunlight hits the solar PV cells and creates DC (direct current) power.  Typical panels are made of crystalline silicon and convert energy from the sun into electricity. They are mounted on the roof of your building or otherwise on your property in a grid of panels called an ‘array’, the size of which is determined by the desired electrical output.

2.  The DC (direct current) power then flows to an inverter which converts it into AC (alternating current) power, which is the form that is typically used in buildings.  The inverter is usually installed at ground level and converts the electricity generated by the solar panels from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) so that it can be used in the facility.

3.  The AC power flows from the inverter through the building’s distribution panel (aka “panel board”). When the sun is shining, power from the solar array is used to power a building’s electrical loads (lights, appliances, equipment, etc.), and any excess power generated from the system is sent back to the grid, which actually causes the electric meter to turn in reverse.  However, at night, when the sun is down and the panels are not producing energy, the house draws energy from the grid and the energy meter then spins forward.

Economics
National electricity prices have been increasing at an annual rate of 6.7% since 1970. By installing a solar electric system you will see an immediate reduction in your electric bill and protect yourself from future price increases.

Added Value
In most cases, the value that a solar system adds to your facility exceeds the cost of installation. At least one study has concluded that every $1,000 saved in annual operating costs through having a solar energy system will result in a $20,000 increase in appraised home value (Nevin, Appraisal Institute, 1998). The rationale behind this position is that the money saved on electricity costs is available to service a larger mortgage payment at no net change in the cost of living.

Secure Investment
The best way to determine the ultimate value of an investment in solar is to look at the return on investment (ROI). The “investment” is the amount you pay to have your solar system installed and your “return” is the electricity savings that you realize, in addition to any applicable incentives. Solar investment returns can range from 10-20%. If you consider that the stock market has returned about 9.3% and governments bonds less that 5% annually over the past 100 years then you can see that it makes financial sense to invest in solar. On top of that you should also consider that you do not pay taxes on the electricity savings but you do pay capital gains on the returns that you realize from most other investments.

Clean & Renewable Energy
By choosing to generate your own solar energy you will be reducing your dependence on power generation that causes destruction of mountain landscapes, air and water pollution, persistent toxification, social and political strife.

Solar Worthy?

Is your home worthy of solar power? 

We will examine your house (or business) to determine how energy is being used. Any opportunities to decrease energy usage will make the most of your solar system. 

This video link is a set up of a blower door. This tool will measure the air leakage of your home to determine if unecessary holes in the building envelope can be sealed. Reducing air leakage will keep conditioned air in the house longer reducing the run time of your heating and cooling unit and lowering your utility bills. 

#solarenergy #homesolar #solarpowercosts #solaradvantages #homeenergy #blowerdoor

 

 

Solarize RVA - Solar Coops on the rise

Coops are sprouting up all over the state of Virginia and making solar for you home more affordable. By purchasing together community members leverage the economy of scale to drive down installation costs up to 20%. The Virginia Beach and Rappahannock solar coop sign up deadline is October 31st. The Richmond coop meets this week for an information session at the Tuckahoe Public Library (October 28th 1901 Starling Dr. Henrico, Va 23229). Come out to learn more about solar panels for your home. 

Keeping the Lights On - The LED Lighting Upgrade

Beyond realizing when the lights go out, most people don't even consider the lights in their workplace. But 'keeping the lights on' in a business is a phrase that holds more weight than you might think. In a typical office setting, lighting is one of the dominant utility expenses in the commercial market. Second only to heating and cooling expenses, commercial lighting accounts for as much as 30% of the utility bill. 

But these statistics are changing quickly. Enter the LED (Light Emitting Diode). At this point none of us are strangers to the acronym and we may have formed some misconceptions. We all thought we had to evacuate our homes for 24 hours after breaking a CFL bulb and now we have become leery of the LED for one thing - the $$$ price tag. Just like the DVD player you paid $300 for in 1999 that is now replaced with a new unit for $50; the LED is now cheaper and better than it was just a year ago. And just like the extinction of the VHS tape soon too we will reminisce fondly upon the days when we used Edison 'originals.' Heck, they already make an LED knock-off. At some point here in the near future the stock pile of disastrously inefficient lights no longer being manufactured will run out and the option of whether you want to start saving money today or start tomorrow will cease to exist. 

Let's look at an example of the financials. Let's assume the place where we punch the clock is burning a very popular 1990's Watt hog, the T12 fluorescent lamp (think of a light saber on steroids). It's not uncommon to find 4 of these lamps per fixture, each humming along at 40W a piece. Factor in the ballast (a device that helps the lamps start up and maintain current) and we are looking 1 light that uses about 144W per hour. Let assume our office has 100 lights and we are following the trend of the typical American and working at lease 10 hours/day. This puts us at about $4,100 a year. Upgrade to an LED and we are looking at a total fixture wattage of 40W and an annual bull of about $1,100. Makes sense? 

Right now a commercial customer within the Dominion Power territory can take advantage of a rebate program which in most cases saves the customer about 30% of the cost to upgrade.  Leveraging this rebate in the example above the business owner will recoup the investment of the lighting upgrade in about 3 years. Financing is available for energy efficiency upgrades that allow for the business to be cash positive from day one of the installation. Rebate funds are limited and so is the supply of lamps that are no longer in production so don't wait to upgrade.