erika

Measuring up to SunPower’s Tips for Selecting a Solar Installer

With 20 years of “Empowering People with Solar” under our belt, we think you’ll find we more than measure up to these 6 Tips to land the perfect solar installer compiled by SunPower.  We deal with only highly vetted manufacturers and components (like SunPower,) we’re licensed and insured,  we’re experienced in both residential and commercial solar, and we work customers through all aspects of an investment in solar…. Current incentives, financing, and monitoring your production.

We’d like to add another important tip to this list: #7  Find out if they have a Service Department for ensuring your system’s optimal performance years into the future. (Yeah, we have a great one!)

Give us a call at 828 645-2080 if you’ve been thinking of solar energy  for your home or business… time is narrowing to take advantage of NC’s tax credit of 35% while it is still in place (it could be late September or even October before we know if legislators will support a renewal into 2016.)

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Here’s SunPower’s wise advice for selecting a solar installer:

Solar is a booming industry. New companies and contractors are popping up every day to get in on the action. If you use Yelp to search for “solar installation” in the San Francisco Bay area, you’ll get nearly 500 results. With hundreds of hit or miss options, what’s next?

Let’s narrow down the field of potential solar contractors so you can start generating clean energy without worrying about what’s happening to your roof.

  1. Find out which types of solar systems they offer
    There are many pieces of hardware involved in a home solar installation. Solar panels, inverters, wiring and cables. Many (even most) solar installation companies tend to “Frankenstein” their solar systems together without testing how they’ll really perform in the real world. This may cause problems. Not just problems in the initial installation, but down the road in terms of overall system performance. If you’re shelling out thousands on a solar system, make sure your installers are using quality equipment that works well together. They should be able to provide you with an accurate energy estimate for how much your system will produce each year. If you choose wisely, it’s likely that your system will be generating energy for decades. (If you choose a SunPower solar system, it’s likely to be over 40 years.)1
  2. Find out how long they’ve been installing solar 
    Yes, it’s true that every master was once a beginner. However, experience matters in solar. When people are attaching heavy equipment to your roof, tying it to your electrical system, and in most cases allowing you to sell energy back to the grid, you want someone who knows what they’re doing. In that vein, it’s extremely important that you know that they are licensed in your state, insured and certified. Ask to view their credentials (solar, electric and general contractors licensing). The best solar installers have staff members that are certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)Another common practice is subcontracting. Ask if they use subcontractors for different parts of the installation. Checking the credentials of the core company isn’t as meaningful if people who don’t have the same credentials install the system. Simplify the process and have peace of mind by choosing a company that can manage your project from start to finish, including design, installation, permits and system maintenance.
  3. Find out if they are familiar with all the incentives 
    Most people don’t have time to research every possible rebate or tax incentive. Rebates and incentives vary wildly by state, county, city and even utility provider, leading to a patchwork of regulations. Good local solar installers know the ins and outs of all the incentives you are eligible for. The best companies will file all the paperwork for you so you don’t have to worry about it.
  4. Find out what is under warranty and how long
    There’s nothing worse than getting everything installed and then finding out that your solar system isn’t working like it should be. A great way to compare solar installation companies is to ask them about what happens when something goes wrong.

    • ​What’s covered under the product warranty? How long does the coverage last?
    • What’s covered under the power warranty? How long does the coverage last?
    • Who pays for the shipping and labor to replace defective components?
    • Is there a warranty on the installation itself?
    • What happens if something goes wrong and the installer is no longer in business?
    • What happens if my system doesn’t generate the amount of electricity I was expecting?
  5. Find out what your payment options are
    There are many ways to pay for a home solar system, but not all companies offer every option. Leasing isn’t for everyone. Ask the solar installation company up front for their available options so you can compare them to other bids you’ll receive. While you’re at it, make sure they clearly explain any annual fees your utility may charge for your system to be connected to the grid, if any.
  6. Find out how you can monitor your system’s performance
    Many companies offer monitoring applications that work on both Apple and Android phones so you can monitor your solar system’s performance. It can be very fun and gratifying to watch your system save (or even make) you money and its positive effects for the planet.

Our network of dealers has installed tens of thousands of home solar energy systems around the globe. Find a local certified SunPower installer >

- See more at: http://us.sunpower.com/blog/2015/06/08/choosing-home-solar-installation-company/#sthash.gQycZqI2.dpuf

erika

NC and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan

The Sierra Club has been drawing attention to the critical issue of how NC will develop its Clean Power Plan according to recent EPA rulings. We credit them for the following informative update:

Later this summer, the EPA will release its first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. This is a big deal as well as a big opportunity. States will now have the chance to create their own plans to meet the requirements of the Clean Power Pan with clean energy solutions that will protect health and support local economies.

Unfortunately, instead of seizing on this opportunity to help North Carolinians forge our own path to a clean energy future, Governor McCrory is continuing to sit on the sidelines – or sometimes even cheerleading for the opposing team – denying that we need to act at all.

On July 21, thousands from across the state are going to put pressure on the governor from all sides. We will place hundreds of calls into the governor’s office and thousands more will raise our voices of support on social media to urge him to begin a state stakeholder process for the Clean Power Plan.

Tell Governor McCrory it’s time to start developing a climate plan that works for all North Carolinians. Send him a message now.

The solutions are at hand: North Carolina has been a powerhouse in developing clean energy for decades. Our solar leadership has been key in attracting hi tech employers like Google and we’ve just broken ground on our first wind farm. North Carolina is uniquely poised to be a leader on clean energy. By starting a stakeholder process now, Governor McCrory can make sure we reduce pollution and build clean energy in the most impactful way.

You can click this link to send McCrory a message  Together we can keep North Carolina moving forward in a clean and sustainable way.

erika

Special Legislative Update

Salutations Readers. As the direction of clean energy in NC will be critically impacted by the outcomes of several pending legislative issues, we would like to focus this blog  on the current legislative landscape for renewables in North Carolina.There are 3 areas of pending legislation that could really change things for North Carolinians: The Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit, The effort to repeal the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards, and The Energy Freedom Act.

According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, last year North Carolina is in second place, behind California, for new solar project installations in the United States. It is believed that 2014 had 22,995 people employed directly in clean energy jobs. This includes jobs in geothermal, biomass, wind, energy efficiency, solar, and hydro-power sectors. This figure does not include the many indirect jobs. Renewable Energy offers a sustainable, healthy and viable way forward for our state. It will take education, effort and citizen participation to keep our state renewable energy friendly. Policies like the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit and the REPS have created a favorable environment for the growth and success of renewables. We’d like to see North Carolina take the lead in installed solar, we think you would too.

We’d like to give a shout out to NCSEA – the North Carolina Solar Energy Association for all of their amazing and relentless work on behalf of solar for North Carolina. They always have the most current information on all things solar. Check them out. Also, NC WARN is on the frontlines of keeping us informed on issues and giving us ways to take action. In this issue of our newsletter, rather than moving to the “Action You Can Take” section, you’ll find the action you can take in each update.

The Renewable Energy Tax Investment Credit

The North Carolina Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit was established in 1999 and has been renewed in 5 year increments since. Currently, the tax credit will expire on 12/31/2015. The credit can be taken against both personal and corporate income tax. The credit amount is 35% of the eligible installation costs up to 50% of a taxpayer’s tax liability. The commercial credit is limited to $2.5 million per installation and must be taken in five equal annual installments. Click this link here to see what resources are eligible for the tax credits as well as more details about the tax credits.

As of this week, the Senate has delayed the rollout of the proposed budget but it is anticipated later this week. The Senate is considering the House budget (HB97) which includes a 2 year extension of the tax credit.

At this point in time, the most helpful thing you can do is to contact your Senators (now- don’t put this off) and let them know that you want them to support an extension of the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit. If you are unsure of your Senators, or how to best contact them, use this link . This is a great campaign to involve friends and family in as well.

Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards

The growth of NC’s solar industry was spurred significantly in 2007 when NC passed Senate Bill 3 and adopted a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS.) This bill mandated that  Utilities generate 12.5% of their energy through renewable resources. The North Carolina General Assembly prioritized the use of solar electric/thermal and swine and poultry waste with “set-asides” for each. The solar industry met its targeted set-aside of at least 0.07% in 2012 much more quickly and cost-effectively than could have been predicted, and has led to significant economic impact and job creation in our state.

House Bill 332, Energy Policy Amendments, would stall the standards at 6 percent. Initially introduced to address cost recovery for natural gas utilities, the REPS amendment was added later. The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) and the national group Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) oppose the proposed changes to REPS. Several AEE member companies working in North Carolina’s nascent but growing solar market issued statements against the “job-killing” legislation. “H332 is unfair to the entire ecosystem of local businesses who supply solar in N.C. This bill threatens many of the 23,000 jobs and the $4.8 billion in annual revenue that have been created in N.C. thanks to the REPS,” said Melanie Santiago-Mosier, director of government affairs for SunEdison. “It would disqualify many solar projects from longstanding benefits that make clean, renewable energy valuable for owners, on grounds that are arbitrary and capricious. Changing the rules of the road like this is anti-business and anti-consumer.”

The bill passed in the House and was sent to the Senate in late April. Language on reforming the REPS contained in H332 also exists in HB 760, the state’s omnibus regulatory reform bill, which is currently making its way through the state Senate. A third bill with the same language (HB 681) failed in the state House in late April.

NCSEA’s Legislative Weekly reported on Friday, June 12, that there was no movement that week on these bills. Time is of the essence to reach out to your Representatives asking them to oppose House Bill 332 and any energy policies that put our clean energy future at a stall.

The Energy Freedom Act – Third Party Sales

The Energy Freedom Act, introduced in March as House Bill 245, would allow third-party sales of electricity. Currently, NC is one of five states that prohibit the sale of electricity by any other entity than the Utility company. Adoption of this Bill would introduce market competition to the current utility monopoly by allowing solar leasing options by renewable energy companies.

The leasing model has been very popular in states like California where companies like Solar City and Sungevity have been very active. According to GTM Research, two out of three new residential solar installations in the US were third-party owned in 2013.  Leasing has expanded the penetration of solar significantly in mid to lower income households as it eliminates the upfront costs of purchasing.  Customers enter into a long-term contract and ownership is maintained by the solar company. While this model has undeniably led to more widespread adoption of solar energy systems, the benefits and disadvantages need to be weighed carefully against direct ownership itself. For customers who can take advantage of tax incentives and have the financial resources or financing to purchase the system themselves, direct purchase may offer greater financial savings.

However, as pointed out in a recent blog by NCSEA entitled “In NC, Everyone Can Win with Third-Party Sales of Electricity” leasing would be a boon to our military facilities and university system. Government institutions, non- profit organizations, faith communities, and others that can’t directly benefit from tax credits may find that a leasing contract offers an opportunity to bring clean energy generation to their facilities.  Large corporations such as Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes and Family Dollar support the legislation, and interestingly, Duke Energy Renewables, the unregulated arm of Duke Energy, recently made a major investment in REC Solar, a leading third-party solar company.

NCSEA reports that action has been taken on this legislation these past few weeks, but support for this bill is growing every day.  Call Your Legislator and ask them to support House Bill 245 today.

erika

Cheers To Efficiency!

We are excited to share this blog BUILD-A-BREWERY: COLD BEER, WARM FEET that featured our radiant floor installation in the liquid center at New Belgium’s new brewery being constructed in Asheville.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

This month we poured the concrete floors in the Asheville Liquid Center, and while it may look like any concrete floor, embedded in it is approximately 4,000 feet of ½ inch PEX tubing, installed by Asheville-based renewable energy company Sundance Power Systems.

Laid out in carefully calculated looping pathways to ensure even heat distribution, this network of tubing is part of a hydronic radiant floor heating system. Come late fall and cooler temperatures, hot water will be pumped and circulated through this tubing, and the floor will essentially become one large radiator, warming the surface of objects in the space as well as the air itself. This even heat provides great comfort, but radiant floor heating is a highly efficient way to heat a building as well. Most people feel comfortable at room temperatures 3 to 5 degrees cooler than in rooms heated by forced air systems, resulting in less fuel use. It’s also quiet and clean as there’s no forced air blowing dust, dander and other unknowns about.

We’re all about producing world-class beer, while proving business can be a force for good. Partners like Sundance Power Systems help us do that by helping us implement continuous, innovative quality and efficiency improvements. Thanks Sundance! Cheers to warm feet and cold beers!

Build-a-Brewery: We have partnered with some amazing folks in the process of building our brewery, liquid center and distribution center here in Asheville, NC. Let us tell you about how they are helping us get our east coast home up and running.

erika

Faith Communities Embrace Solar

“The use of fossil fuels just seems to be something that we can no longer accommodate. If there is any way we can move to better alternatives, we believe that the Church needs to be a leader in that.” This powerful statement by Reverend Randy Orwig of Elon College Community Church in the video Clean Energy works for Us, produced by North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light (NCIP&L,) epitomizes the recent embracement of solar energy by congregations across the state. Undoubtedly, NCIP&L, which works with faith communities to address the causes and consequences of global climate change and promote practical, hope-filled responses through education, outreach, and public policy advocacy, has been a significant force in this movement.

When the 5 kW solar electric system was installed for Elon Community Church in the Spring of 2013, they were only the third congregation in NC to go solar, according to the article Elon Community Church going green with solar panels. First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville led the way and has served as a model since they installed their 10 kW system in April of 2011. David Andes, chairman of Elon’s Green Church Committee, summarized why their group committed to install solar in saying “Eventually, it will save the church money. But it was really to make an environmental statement and have an impact. We want to be a witness to the community and show that earth care is part of who we are as a congregation.”

Caring for creation and the stewardship of our planet is increasingly part of many congregations’ ministries, as evident by the GreenFaith Certification Program. The Episcopal Church of the Holy Family in Mills River, NC, is one of the first in NC to undertake this comprehensive certification process, and the Green Team currently is submitting their final documentation. Their greening initiatives did include the installation of an 8.1 kW solar system, which was commissioned on the 21st of October. (After they’ve seen this system in operation for a few more months, we will do a more in-depth spotlight on their initiatives in the New Year.)

Following with the solar suit, so to say, are two other congregations that our Field Crews are currently installing: The First Christian Church in Black Mountain with a 12.42 kW system, and The First United Methodist Church in Franklin with a 10.7 kW system. Reverend Joe Hoffman of the First Congregational United Church of Christ says in NCIP&L’s video “Being the first faith community in WNC to do this, it was surprising to me how many people noticed.”

Evidently, people are noticing, and these efforts are making a big impact. Opportunities to engage are widening; even the Western North Carolina Alliance, a grassroots organization that has been championing environmental protection for over 30 years, has recently formed a dedicated program to the cause, the Creation Care Alliance of WNC. The Asheville Bioneers Conference this year is dedicating an entire evening to explore and broaden the conversation, with a panel including perspectives from Judaism, Wicca, and Presbyterian faiths. (See calendar for more details.) For all five of the Churches mentioned, installing solar involved significant commitment and strong leadership, (the process is now much simpler thanks to the work of these first models) but these systems stand to inspire and demonstrate what is possible when faith, vision, and community come together.

erika

“Why the Net Energy Metering Debate Misses the Point”

As the topic of net metering is a very important one concerning solar in NC, we thought we’d share this thought-provoking article authored by Matt Lehrman & Peter Bronski and originally published on the Rocky Mountain Institute’s September blog.

“Why the Net Energy Metering Debate Misses the Point”

It’s no secret that net energy metering (NEM) is a controversial topic in the electricity world these days. Customers love the way it helps solar PV offset their utility bill and adds clean energy to their home or business. Some solar advocates argue it is foundational to the continued growth of rooftop solar (as an early-market mechanism, it’s been tremendously successful). And many utilities loathe it, seeing NEM as a “free ride” for solar customers (since a rooftop solar customer could, for instance, net to zero over the course of a month and have a $0 utility bill, thereby avoiding paying for the value of being grid-connected), while also arguing that they can add more renewables to the grid at a lower cost through utility-scale projects than can customers through individual distributed systems on residential rooftops. Then there’s the issue of the benefits that distributed solar brings to the grid.

But the debate around the continuation, expansion, reform, or abolishment of NEM distracts from a much bigger opportunity to unleash innovation and investment in distributed energy resources (DERs) in ways that are better for everyone: customers, DER providers, and utilities alike.

RETAIL ELECTRICITY PRICING, NOT NET METERING, THE REAL ISSUE

The real lever for unleashing innovation in DERs, including rooftop solar, is the widely held utility rate structure of bundled, block, volumetric pricing. The per-kWh price customers pay for electricity service bundles many components—energy, capacity, frequency regulation, reliability, environmental attributes, and much more. When we net meter with bundled, block, volumetric pricing, perverse incentives and cross-subsidies emerge that encourage customers to install DERs that maximize benefits on one side of the meter (theirs), which often leaves significant value on the table (or can even discourage customers from installing DERs), including value that can cross over the meter to benefit the grid.

Read More…

erika

News Worth Cheering To!

It was really rewarding to see Kyocera’s press release on Sierra Nevada’s new brewery’s solar installations make the Wall Street Journal, with two mentions to the Sundance team. It’s great to work with great partners like Kyocera, and Sierra Nevada, who is raising the bar for sustainability standards.

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 KYOCERA Solar Modules Tapped by Sierra Nevada to Power New Brewery in Mills River, NC

Solar installation makes energy-intensive brewing process sustainable

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–July 30, 2014–

Nearly everyone enjoys a good beer now and again. A delicious beer sustainably brewed with renewable energy that pours down from the sun might make that happy hour indulgence even more enjoyable.

Kyocera Solar Inc. announced today that Sundance Power Systems Inc. has installed 650 kilowatts (DC) of high-quality Kyocera solar modules on Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s new Mills River, North Carolina brewery. The modules will help power the brewery’s energy-intensive processes, making Sierra Nevada beers brewed there arguably among the most environmentally friendly adult beverages available. A video of the rooftop array can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWjJsbNo7Ws.

“Kyocera has been a leader in the solar industry for nearly four decades, and is committed to helping commercial enterprises operate in a sustainable fashion,” said Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar Inc. “We ‘raise our glass’ to Sierra Nevada for utilizing the abundant power of the sun to brew its delicious beers, and stand ready to assist other companies in following these sustainable footsteps.”

With roots in Northern California, Sierra Nevada takes the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” seriously, and is committed to operating an environmentally sustainable enterprise. The 2,030 Kyocera KD320 photovoltaic (PV) solar modules atop the new brewery’s packaging center and warehouse exemplify this philosophy.

“Integrating renewable energy into our Mills River facility was an important part of our project design,” said Cheri Chastain, sustainability manager at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. “Sundance Power Systems designed and installed our 650kW Kyocera solar system, which covers nearly two acres on our roof. We are looking forward to enjoying many years of renewable energy from this system.”

Over a year, the Kyocera PV modules are estimated to offset 588 metric tons of CO(2) , a carbon impact equal to removing 124 cars from the road according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Kyocera has powered the market’s most demanding solar applications for four decades — from residential rooftops to utility-scale PV plants ranking among the world’s largest. Craft brewers now see solar as a step toward economic independence as well as sustainability and simpler living. Other brewers using Kyocera modules include Central Waters Brewing Co. of Amherst, Wisc., and Pizza Port Brewing Co. of Carlsbad, Calif.

Sierra Nevada will host its first public event for its Mills River brewery on Sunday, August 3, 2014, from 1-6pm, when the company’s Beer Camp Across America, a seven-city touring festival, makes its grand finale in North Carolina. With more than 110 regional craft breweries pouring, attendees will sample artisanal varieties while enjoying live music and — like the Kyocera solar panels on the roof — soaking up the summer sun.

To learn more about Kyocera Solar solutions for both residential and commercial projects in the U.S. and Mexico, please contact infosolar@kyocera.com or 800-223-9580.

erika

Sundance’s Green Yogini Reflects on Solar Solutions

This past weekend I was invited to speak about solar at the Yogis Beyond Coal event in downtown Asheville.  As I thought about what I wanted to say, I thought about how important it is to remind ourselves of all that is going right. Dave and I started Sundance Power because, after years of Greenpeace and focusing on the many problems, we wanted to focus on the solutions. We wanted to LIVE the solution. And solar is a solution! Dave and I started Sundance back in 1995 and we’ve been living in a solar home for that long as well. I really love living on solar- it works better than the grid (we never lose power), it feels good and it makes me happy.

So- let’s take a few moments and just enjoy all that is good and joyful. For example- the price of residential PV systems continues to come down. Right now, solar is costing in the neighborhood of $3.50 per watt and it is predicted that soon, about 2018 – even if coal were free to burn, power stations won’t be able to compete with solar. (say what? – yea- check it here: solar win.) With solar there is no mining, no burning, no coal ash ponds, no toxic burden, no compromise- solar makes use of the sun, which is shining and sending us energy, whether we use it or not.

Yogis beyond Coal is about shutting down the coal fired power plants- as you must know by now, coal fired power plants represent the biggest contribution to global warming, not to mention all of the local health hazards posed for the neighbors of coal fired plants. The thing is – we no longer need to be held hostage by the utilities. It has never been easier to go solar and NC is one of the best places in the United States to go solar! NC is actually #2 in the nation for installed PV in 2013 (woo hoo) AND- more people are now employed in the solar industry than in the mining industry AND Germany produced a record 50% of its electricity needs through solar in the first part of June- a huge milestone on the march to renewable energy!

 The reality is that each solar system installed is a victory. Each system is a step towards the world we want to live in. Through the Solarize Asheville program, Sundance has been able to install 50 new solar systems in the area- these systems will displace 226,000 lbs of coal, each year. These systems will also result in 210 metric tons of carbon dioxide NOT going into the atmosphere.

And- here is more about the Yogis Beyond Coal gathering this past weekend. In addition to learning how to defeat Coal and move forward with renewables, YBC also raised $270 for Homeward Bound- our featured community connection this month. There is a whole lot of good going on right now – and you can be a part of it! Truly, there has never been a better time to go solar- give us a call :)   – Sierra Hollister

erika

The Green Building Boom in WNC

A recent article entitled “Green building booms in Asheville” caught my attention, and I thought I’d share some of the encouraging trends that we are seeing in green building in this region, in place of focusing on a single home this month.  According to Dale Neal, with the Asheville Citizen Times, “Green building accounts for about half of the new home construction underway inside the city limits — 25 certified green homes out of 59 new single family projects. West Asheville is even hotter for green building — eight of the last 13 home projects that sold and closed in the past six months were certified green.”  This is certainly noteworthy! (Green homes are certified in North Carolina through the WNC Green Building Council’s NC Green Built Program.)

“A focus on green building has given an edge to builders and real estate professionals as consumers started looking at smaller, quality-built homes that will save them money on power bills,” it states in the article. Jody Guokas of JAG & Associates Construction, a pioneering Green Builder on the Asheville front, affirmed the pick-up in his business, saying he’s got fourteen projects in progress, a doubling since last Spring.  For Jody, being a leader in green building means staying on the cutting edge. “The baseline is moving in the direction of efficiency and is getting better and better. It makes jobs interesting, and challenging,” he said.  Jody was one of the first builders in the region to incorporate solar hot water in his homes as a standard over five years ago, and with the Davenport Park project, pictured above, has helped solar become more mainstream. This West Asheville green-infill neighborhood (featured back in our April 2009 Newsletter ) was completed last summer with fifteen homes. Five of the homes now sport solar electric systems, as the homeowners choose add pv.

When JAG’s customers choose to include solar, Jody has them pursue this directly, so that the tax incentives can be claimed by the homeowner.  Jarvis Hudson, who is building with JAG in Woodfin, is excited to be finally building a green home. Because it will be so efficient, he is able to include a solar electric, an opportunity he has been waiting a while.

While WNC has emerged as a hub of green building in the region, the trend is national, as “More Builders Going Green” confirms. According to that article, a variety of factors are aiding the move to green; builders and developers said that the three most important factors in their adoption of green building strategies were increasing energy costs, changes in codes and regulations, and wider availability and lower prices for green building products.

According to survey results, they report that the percentage of builders who said that less than 16% of their projects were green shrank from 63% in 2011 to 38% in the most recent study. That number is expected to fall to 16% by 2018.”These findings demonstrate that among home builders, and increasingly among single-family remodelers, green is becoming the standard way to build,” the report said. “This wider adoption of green may help push the single-family home market to become even greener in the future, with homes increasingly needing to be green to be competitive.”

As far as renewables go, the report  indicates that the number of builders incorporating clean energy systems into their projects also is growing steadily. In 2013, 8% of builders surveyed said they included renewables on all of the projects, which was expected to grow to 20% by 2016. The proportion of builders offering renewables as an option was 34% in 2013 but expected to increase to 40% by 2016.

The article did reference that one limitation on green features is that they haven’t always been recognized real estate appraisers in the past. However, this is changing rapidly, and the Appraisal Institute just published   “Residential Green Valuation Tools,” providing a comprehensive overview of the valuation of high-performance homes. Specifically for valuing solar energy systems, a PV Valuation Tool, developed by Sandia National Laboratories, determines the value of a new or existing photovoltaic (PV) system installed on residential and commercial properties. This is a significant step in ensuring that a solar investment is a solid one, with a quantifiable value-add realized immediately.

These are promising figures for moving our buildings towards increased efficiency, and healthier and more sustainable systems. It’s exciting to be in a community that has been leading the way.

erika

Net- Metering and Solar in NC

Here in North Carolina, the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) requires the state’s two investor-owned utilities—Duke Energy and Dominion North Carolina Power—to make net metering available to customers that own and operate systems that generate electricity using solar, wind, hydro, ocean, or biomass systems. There are actually more options for entering net metering arrangements based on power generation, and you can check them out here:dsire usa.  It has been the standard that customers may net meter under any available rate schedule, however, customers that choose to take service under any tariff other than a time-of-use (TOU) demand tariff must surrender to the utility all renewable energy credits (RECs) associated with the customer’s generation- with no compensation for the customer.

 For the sake of ease, from here on out- we will simply address net metering as an arrangement between utilities and solar power producers (see many options beyond solar at above link). Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid. It is ultimately a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on their rooftop- it may generate more electricity than the home uses during the daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use. On average, only 20-40% of a solar energy system’s output ever goes into the grid.

 Net metering allows utility customers to generate their own electricity cleanly and efficiently. As well, net metering provides substantial statewide economic benefits in terms of jobs, income and investment. Net metering increases demand for solar energy systems- which in turn create jobs for the installers, electricians and manufactures who work in the solar supply chain. Currently, the solar industry employs nearly 143,000 American workers in large part due to strong state net metering policies which have allowed the solar industry to thrive. As well, in a world that is increasingly faced with cheap, dirty power- supporting any and all renewable energy efforts make sense.

 It all sounds pretty great- right? The challenge comes as some utilities perceive net metering policies as lost revenue opportunities. The reality is that net metering policies create a smoother demand curve for electricity and allow utilities to better manage their peak electricity loads. By encouraging generation near the point of consumption, net metering also reduces the strain on distribution systems and prevents losses in long-distance electricity transmission and distribution.

 Earlier this year, Duke’s North Carolina President, Paul Newton, made remarks to a legislative committee about reviewing and changing the net metering rules. While Duke Energy and other utilities have yet to file proposed changes to net-metering at the North Carolina Utilities Commission, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association’s (NCSEA) motion to address the market disruption caused by Duke’s statements earlier this year is still pending before the Utilities Commission. NCSEA asked current net-metering customers to file statements at the NC Utilities Commission to preserve the current rules. Other organizations have also asked the public to file statements in support of the current rules for net-metering. For more information on the landscape of net metering and renewable energy issues, visit the NCSEA at http://energync.org/

 Action You Can Take

 North Carolina is currently a national leader in the production of solar energy, boasting more than 2,400 solar energy jobs. As more people choose to use self-generated rooftop solar, the lower the amount of power we collectively purchase from the utilities, and the fewer the new, costly power plants the utilities would need to build.

 As of March 17, 2014, over 150 statements were filed at the NC Utilities Commission opposing changes to net metering. If you are a solar adopter, a net-metering customer, or have a job in the solar industry and want to preserve the option to self-generate, then write an email to the “Chief Clerk of the Commission” subject line “Docket E-100, Sub 83:Net Metering” to stake your position in the discussion.

Let them know that you DO NOT support changes to net metering.  Please send these emails to statements@ncuc.net. Thank you for taking action on this important issue.