Solar Means Business

Solar Means Business: Kelly Subaru is Seeing Green

The top corporate solar users in the United States have now installed more than 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar capacity, enough to power 193,000 homes. These Fortune 500 companies have installed solar at nearly 2,000 individual installations nationwide. –SEIA

Kelly Subaru owner Tim Kelly says the auto dealership was the first business to settle in the rebranded Golden Gateway area of downtown Chattanooga in 1971. He (Kelly) marked a nearly $2 million makeover of the car store, which is the newest investment in a part of downtown that’s undergoing a vast transformation involving residential, commercial and public ventures.

“It’s been a long wait for the neighborhood to come around,” said Kelly at the dealership located at M.L. King Boulevard and Riverfront Parkway.

While the upgrades don’t increase the store’s footprint, the work included a variety of improvements with an emphasis on the environment, he said. (Kelly Subaru gets nearly $2 million makeover as sales increase nationally,September 9th, 2016 by Mike Pare)

The 50kW system is expected to decrease the the powerbill of the dealership by 1/4, saving tens of thousands of annually. Expertly installed by Solar Solutions, member of SEIA and TenneSEIA, but powered by the sun.

Many of the nations leading companies are going solar. As a recent report from SEIA shows below.

  • Target takes top spot, besting Walmart for first time
    • 1)Target: 147.5 MW  2)Walmart: 145 MW  3) Prologis: 108 MW
    • Walmart had taken the top spot in each of the last 4 reports
  • Report grows to cover 1,092 MW across 1,947 installations
    • Up from 907 MW across 1,686 installations in 2016
  • These systems collectively produce 1.5 million MWh annually
    • Equivalent to the electricity needed to power 193,000 homes
    • Offsets 1.1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year
  • Through the first 3 quarters of 2016, companies in this report installed 142 MW
    • Well ahead of the 130 MW installed in all of 2015

Showing really mean business and a great return on investment; but not to mention a 30% federal Tax Credit. Contact Solar Solutions for more information. 

 

Solar Myths Revealed

Image result for solar myths

Here are the realities behind five common solar myths:

Myth 1: Solar is a new, unproven technology. Solar technology roots reach as far back as 1885, when Charles Fritts built the first solar cell using selenium. In 1954, researchers at Bell Labs harnessed the photoelectric effect on silicon, setting the course for modern solar technology. Since then, solar has powered space exploration, oil derricks, cellular networks and grid-tied businesses and homes.

Myth 2: Solar only works in warm climates. While sunny states like California lead the U.S. in solar deployment, northern residents still have much to gain from installing residential solar panels. Just as people don’t require full sunshine to see, solar panels don’t require full sunshine to produce electricity. Germany, the country with the most installed solar capacity worldwide, counts on solar irradiation comparable to Seattle’s.

Myth 3: All solar panels are created equal. Consumers should be aware that differences in quality and workmanship can curb the amount of energy produced. Be wary of solar panels manufactured in poorly regulated factories with questionable quality-control, labor and environmental practices. Instead, look for home solar panels from a reputable manufacturer, which can guarantee the highest power production and stand behind a 25-year warranty.

Myth 4: Solar panels are unattractive. To meet customer demand for attractive installations, a few companies now offer true-black solar panels, designed to blend well with residential rooftops. The panels are made from the most powerful solar cells available, meaning a homeowner can produce more electricity with fewer panels.

Myth 5: Solar is too expensive. Thanks to technological advances and attractive rebates, residential solar systems are more affordable than ever. In many parts of the U.S., homeowners can use financing programs to reduce upfront costs and spread payment over 20 or more years.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO CHARGE AN ELECTRIC CAR?

By Tom Moloughney – UPDATED November 2016

There are many reasons for considering making an electric car the next car you buy or lease. Besides the many environmental benefits, the promise of energy security, the silky-smooth driving experience with instant torque available without delay, and low maintenance, one of the best characteristics of electric vehicles is how little they cost to operate.

Just as with gasoline cars, some electric vehicles are more efficient than others, and the average EV needs about 30 kWh of electricity to power the vehicle for 100 miles. For example, the EPA rating for the Nissan LEAF is exactly 30 kWh per 100 miles. A Tesla Model S 60D is rated at a combined 32 kWh per 100 miles and uses a little more energy since it’s heavier and more powerful than a LEAF. The Chevrolet Bolt is currently the most efficient electric car and has a combined consumption rating of 28 kWh per 100 miles. The consumption for all electric vehicles can be viewed at the US Department of Energy’s website: www.fueleconomy.gov

According to Researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, the sales-weighted average fuel economy of all new vehicles sold in the United States in 2016 was 25.3 mpg. The average cost for a gallon of regular gasoline in the US over the past two years was $2.35/gallon. Using 15,000 miles as the average amount of miles a person will drive in a year, the annual cost of gasoline for the average car will be about $1,400 per year, using the average cost of gasoline in the US from 2015 through 2016. One thing to also consider is that the cost of gasoline is currently much lower than it has been through most the past decade and it’s likely to rise again sometime soon.

All of the electricity we use in America is domestically produced, and that’s a large part of why the cost remains stable. The average cost of electricity in the US is 12 cents per kWh. Therefore, the average person driving the average EV 15,000 miles per year pays about $540.00 per year to charge it.

Tesla Model S charging

The cost of electricity throughout the US varies much more than gasoline does, but its cost over time is much more stable. Unlike with gasoline, there aren’t huge spikes in electricity rates if a refinery has a problem, and neither does the price skyrocket when there is political instability in one of the large oil producing countries as we have often seen in the past. All of the electricity we use in America is domestically produced, and that’s a large part of why the cost remains stable. The average cost of electricity in the US is 12 cents per kWh. Therefore, the average person driving the average EV 15,000 miles per year pays about $540.00 per year to charge it. As mentioned, the cost of electricity can vary greatly depending on where you live, but in order to equal the price of the average gasoline car’s fuel costs, the price of electricity would have to be 2.5 times the national average, and cost 31 cents per kWh. The average person would save roughly $860 per year in fuel alone, and that’s assuming gasoline prices remain at their historically low current levels. Gasoline prices frequently spike up and down, but in the long run they always goes up. Electricity costs do eventually increase also, but not nearly at the pace of gasoline. Plus, with fewer moving parts, EVs cost much less to maintain. If you combine the fuel savings with the reduced maintenance costs, it’s clear to see an EV will cost you much less in the long run, even if it costs a little more up front.

100 Watt light bulbs

Another great thing about electric cars is that since you can easily reduce your electric bill by $40 to $50 per month by being more efficient, you can actually completely eliminate your transportation fuel cost! You really can’t use less gasoline unless you drive less or buy a more efficient car, but you can reduce your electricity usage at home and still drive as much as you always have. Simple measures like using a programmable thermostat, the use of LED light bulbs, replacing older appliances with Energy Star rated ones and turning off unnecessary lighting can make a big difference. In fact, five 100 watt light bulbs left on continuously for a year use nearly the same amount of energy as it takes to power an electric car 15,000 miles! Here’s how: Five 100 watt light bulbs use 500 watts. In 24 hours they use 12,000 watt-hours or 12 kWh. In 365 days they use 4,380 kWh. A typical EV that uses 30 kWh for every 100 miles will use 4,500 kWh to drive 15,000 miles. Simply by turning unnecessary lighting off at your home, you can drastically reduce or completely eliminate your annual transportation fuel cost. Try doing that with a gasser!

 

Lightening Soldiers’ Loads by Lifting PV Cells onto Flexible Surfaces

Two thousand years ago, Roman legionnaires lugged 100-pound packs into battle. A lot has changed since then, but technology hasn’t really reduced an infantryman’s load. On the battlefield, mobility is critical—but a typical, modern Marine may shoulder an 80-pound backpack containing 20 pounds of back-up batteries for an array of electronics.

“What if we could grow solar cells on the same heavy substrate we use in the standard high-efficiency, low-cost polycrystalline processes?” asked Matthew Reese, an NREL staff scientist in PV research. Afterwards, researchers could transfer the high-efficiency cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide cells to lighter-weight packaging—trimming the weight of the cells.

When soldiers or supply convoys are forced to move slowly on repeated trips, they can become “targets of choice” for enemy combatants. Because of this, the Energy Department and Department of Defense are looking for ways to ease such heavy burdens, and a team of researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is exploring novel approaches for making renewable power sources lighter.

Photovoltaic (PV) cells are the military’s choice to power remote bases, but the ones it uses are not only large and inflexible, they aren’t very efficient. Last summer, NREL embarked on a $1.5 million, three-year research and development contract with the Office of Naval Research to explore making lightweight solar cells. In this work, the journey has been marked by fundamental science—and creative thinking. Read more 

 

TenneSEIA Announces Solar Champion Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TenneSEIA Logo

November 17, 2016 Contact: Matt Beasley, 615-577-4616

Knox County Honored as 2016 TenneSEIA Solar Champion NASHVILLE—The Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association (TenneSEIA), awarded the 2016 Solar Champion Award yesterday to Knox County, at the reception following the organization’s annual meeting at the Bradley, Arant, Boult Cummings, LLP office in Nashville. “TenneSEIA is proud to present our Solar Champion Award to Knox County for its leadership in solar within the local government community” said TenneSEIA Vice President Steve Johnson. “Knox County is a leader within government organizations in furthering the advancement of solar penetration in the state and ‘moving the needle’ in terms of innovative solar project models that benefit the school system and taxpayers.” “Our solar project is fiscally responsible, saves taxpayer money and makes good business sense for our entire community,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. “This project will pay for itself and reduce utility costs, which means it’s good for our taxpayers and the environment.” TenneSEIA has been working closely with TVA, Local Power Companies (LPCs), local government officials, and solar stakeholders since the industry association incorporated in 2010. Local governments are integral to solar development in the Valley, as they own and operate a sizeable portfolio of buildings that that often could benefit from deploying solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Over the past year, Knox County has interconnected over 5 Megawatts (MW) of solar energy capacity across a portfolio of 15 buildings, including 11 schools and the Knox County Central Office. Knox County’s forward thinking management, dedication, and leadership coupled with their commitment to serve the needs and priorities of all its constituents has provided a model for other government organizations to replicate throughout the State of Tennessee.

About TenneSEIA TenneSEIA is the state chapter for the national Solar Energy Industries Association, and represents the interests of the solar energy industry in Tennessee. The mission of TenneSEIA is to make solar energy a mainstream energy source and realize the full potential of the solar industry in Tennessee. The Association serves as the primary advocacy group for the solar industry in Tennessee. For more information about TenneSEIA, please visit http://www.tenneseiasolar.com/

Autonomous Cars or EVs? Why Not Both?

Autonomous Cars or EVs? Why Not Both?

11.01.2016 – by Mary Kathryn Campbell

We’ve read a few pieces in recent weeks which seem to relish pitting autonomous vehicle technology against electric vehicles. One pundit even speculates that we should say “goodbye to EVs.”

We see a false equivalency argument between the problems that the two technologies solve. Electrified drive trains offer cleaner air, fewer parts to maintain, and most importantly, a break from the grip of fossil fuels. Autonomous, or self-driving cars, theoretically provide increased mobility, safety, and energy efficiency.

While the evolution of EVs has admittedly suffered starts and stops, the last decade has seen a steady rise in options for consumers. These commercially available production vehicles benefit from rapid advances in batteries, OEM manufacturing investments, and strong policies and incentives in many states, from California to Massachusetts, from Colorado to Tennessee, and many others. Manufacturers in Europe and the US are also striving to achieve regulatory goals which EVs help them meet. Thanks to all of these factors, and education and advocacy work by groups like Plug In America, more than a dozen vehicles are available for purchase in all 50 states, with two long-range, groundbreaking cars on the near horizon, GM’s Bolt and Tesla’s Model 3.

Meanwhile, the nascent autonomous vehicle sector is still in its infancy.

Google's self driving car

Google’s self driving car

Adding complication to the technologies’ development, clear policy mechanisms for autonomous vehicles have not been established or are still in the works. Most states have no regulations yet to address autonomous vehicles. Policymakers face an extremely steep learning curve with self-driving cars. Additionally, without an overarching federal approach, there is a great deal of room for conflict among states, which will also curb their deployment.

The final, and maybe the most difficult potential barrier to a fully automated fleet, in the US, anyway: the American consumer. Americans still love to drive. And the vast majority of American EV drivers cite the experience, the cars’ superior driving performance as a key reason for never returning to an ICE vehicle. Although the movement away from personal vehicle ownership is trending, changing user and consumer behaviors is often on an evolutionary scale: long and arduous.

All of this said, we see great potential synergies for combining these new models and modes of transportation. Tesla has taken the lead here, with autonomous tech standard in its Models S and X. Looking forward a decade or two, imagine car sharing networks of autonomous vehicles serving neighborhoods with notoriously poor air quality. Or widespread deployment of electric buses and trucks which will be automatically directed to the most efficient routes possible, all while mitigating the potential for catastrophic human error. We’d encourage pundits to look for ways to transform the transportation sector which will benefit consumers and the environment, not pick winners or pit markets against each other. We’d also encourage policy makers and car makers to look at combining these technologies, and even consider mandating that new autonomous vehicles be electrified.

What if my tax bill is smaller than my tax credit amount?

Using the example of the $10,000 solar system, the ITC amount you would be eligible for is $3,000. But what if your total tax liability for that year is only $2,000? Can you carry over the remaining $1,000 to the next year?

It is fairly clear in form 5659 that, yes, you are allowed to carry unused credits forward into the next year (see lines 12-16 of the form) – and possibly beyond. This means that your tax liability for year 1 would fall to $0, and you would have an additional $1,000 of credit to put towards the following year’s tax bills.

However, it is yet unclear whether you will be able to carry unclaimed credits in the years after the ITC is discontinued.

ITC three scenarios

Figure 1: Comparing how the ITC would apply in three tax liability scenarios: a) $5,000 annual tax liability, b) $2,000 annual tax liability and c) $0 annual tax liability. For simplicity’s sake, we assume that the solar system costs $10,000, making the ITC amount would be $3,000. In scenarios a) and b), the ITC benefits are applied over 1 and 2 years, respectively. In scenario c) the ITC cannot be claimed due to insufficient tax liability (meaning that a solar lease might be a preferable option to purchase).