Why GreenI'm interested in Green Energy for many of the usual reasons: global warming and it's consequences, the environment, health issues and because it's become the most economical source of energy. I follow and and support advance in large wind and solar farms but am focused is on distributed generation, roof top solar, battery storage and microgrids. Generating energy where it's needed is the simplest and most efficient way to meet our needs. It also provides the greatest reliability and resiliency as clearly demonstrated during recent hurricanes. Residences and business with solar capabilities had electricity immediately even where the entire electric grids was knocked out and no fuel for generators was available. Click on solution above to see how I'm building a green practice
Going GreenI like being part of "the solution" so a few years ago I decided to get serious lowering my carbon foot print. I started by installing a roof top solar system with 21 panels and a year later added another 10 panels. The following year I replaced my ancient HVAC with 2 geothermal units. In 2016 I replaced one car with a Chevy Volt. The Volt runs 50 miles on electricity and then switches to gas (where it gets 40mpg). This allows me to mostly run on electricity but also have an extended range when needed and to take long trips. Finally in 2017 I replaced my second vehicle with a Chevy Bolt (all electric with a 230 mile range). Over all I generate %85 - %90 of the energy for my house and cars. My solar system has generated 66 Mwh of electricity. Equivalent to 47 tons CO2 or the CO2 removed by 61 acres of forest in a year.
My ExperienceUp front Going Green is expensive but the the return on investment is excellent. See chart below for a summary and the slides for a detailed analysis.
ConsiderationsI was took advantage of great tax credits and a utility rebate to substantially lower the initial investment. While I got great rebates, I was an early adopter, costs today are much lower and dropping. The cost to install solar today is about half the cost it was in 2012 when I put mine up. The state rebate has already expired and the federal rebates start going down in 2019. The federal car rebate I used will also decrease starting next year. These rebates are doing exactly what they should. They offset the high costs early adopters take on and decline a volume drives down costs. A systems life cycle should also be considered. My car was 17 years old. I was going to replace it regardless. My HVAC system was 15 years old and had broken down a couple of times. My guess is it had about 5 years of life left. I prioritized my investments based on how much they shark my carbon footprint. Before geothermal I had gas heat downstairs and a heat pump upstairs. My heating bill which now is all electric was split between gas and electric. Total savings are easy to determine but I can only estimate how much savings is due to solar system and how much geothermal.
|Cost of conventional
|Years to break even
|20 years savings
Green InitiativesI am focusing on several initiatives focused on Green Energy, both as volunteer and as a consultant. I am in discussions with a number of religious, no-profit and for profit organizations and partners on specific areas and projects. Below are initial ideas I will be working on in the coming months. I will be getting feedback, establishing partners and hopefully commit to a couple of projects.
InternationalI am part of a small team about to install roof top solar at an orphanage/school in Haiti. The Orphanage is on the grid but it's unreliable, requiring backup generators. The high cost of electricity, fuel and generator maintenance means they limit the use of electricity to ? hours per day. This project will install a roof top system with 60 panels and battery storage providing ? hours of electricity per day at virtually no cost. Their US partner is funding the initial cost of the system and providing a small team to work with local electricians and volunteers on the installation. I will use the experience from this trip to plan similar projects partnering with the Church and NGOs I'm already connected with. I work part time for an NGO focused on food security and have been on a dozen international mission trips through Church organizations. All these organizations work with partners throughout the world. Working with in country partners assures that projects meet local needs and have the resources required to succeed. We will always be invited to projects by a local partner and deign solutions that meet the needs identified by the partner.
LocalMany Local churches and non-profits have green initiatives and at least on organization (Interfaith Power & Light) advocating for Churches to go Green. However to data there are only a few Churches that have installed solar. This seems like an additional opportunity. It would be especially rewarding to engage on projects connected to affordable housing. Affordable housing projects that develop clusters of small homes or apartments would be interesting targets for a microgrid project.
Meetup and Social MediaPlanning to partner with and compliment the established local resources (solar installers and advocacy groups). The first step will be determine interest and establish a presences. Contact established resources, create a meetup for in person and social media for online interaction. I expect these interactions will provide energy and ideas that shape my projects. It would be great if others use them to improve or launch their own projects.
Analyzing Electric UsageWorking on building a monitoring and analytics offering for homeowners. Utilizing a simple device installed in the breaker box that provides detailed information on the electric usage. The device tracks how much and when electricity is used and can break out usage for for larger appliances. This information can be combined with the utilities rate plan to model potential savings. There is nothing like metrics to create incentives and influence behavior. Adding insulation, upgrading appliances, installing solar and changing behaviors all provide varying savings. Grid tied solar systems in NC and serviced by Duke are require Net Metering and TOUD* (Time of Use-Demand) rate plans adding additional variables affecting electric bills. An analytics application using this data can generate detailed usage reports and potential savings. Being able to accurately demonstrate savings, payback period and lifetime savings is a great incentive for homeowners to invest in Green Projects.
PartnerNC Solar (the company that installed my solar) has indicated a strong desire to support these projects. NC Solar will provide training and technical support for sizing, design and installation of systems. They will also work with us as we procure components and provide technicians as required. * A TOU-D rate plan has a higher electric rate during peak demand hours and lower off peak. Both on peak and off peak rates are lower than the standard plan (same rate all day). But there is an additional demand charge determined by the amount of electricity used during any 15 minute peak period. The peak is determined by observing a sliding 15 minute window during peak hours over the entire month. A single 15 minute period can lead to a significant demand charge. Net metering allows using the utility like a giant battery by send excess production to the grid and drawing from the grid when solar isn't meeting your demand. In essence you are selling and buying electricity at the same price. A much better dealing than the Buy All - Sell All plans utilities favor where everything a solar system generates is pushed to the grid at a wholesale rate and the homeowner is forced to draw all the electricity used from the grid at a retail rate.
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