REC Solar Hawaii Hosts Inaugural Solar Innovation Series Event in Honolulu

Hawaii’s mandate to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045 places the state at the forefront of solar and renewable energy adoption in the United States. Since 2007, REC Solar has been a leader in commercial solar on the islands. Recently, the solar landscape in Hawaii has seen several changes that include the end of the energy buyback program, meaning solar customers can no longer sell excess power back to the utility.

Hawaii’s mandate to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045 places the state at the forefront of solar and renewable energy adoption in the United States. Since 2007, REC Solar has been a leader in commercial solar on the islands. Recently, the solar landscape in Hawaii has seen several changes that include the end of the energy buyback program, meaning solar customers can no longer sell excess power back to the utility.

To answer questions about the latest energy policies and trends in Hawaii, REC Solar recently hosted our inaugural Solar Innovation event in Honolulu. Attendees included a mix of business leaders, representatives from Hawaiian Electric (HECO), energy policy experts, battery storage companies and others in the energy ecosystem.

We had three expert moderators leading our discussions: Brody McMurtry (Business Development Manager of Energy Solutions Group for Johnson Controls, Inc.) focused on the topic of energy storage, Erik Kvam (Managing Director of Hawaii Energy Law Services and Director of REACH) explained the latest updates in Hawaii energy policy, and Drew Bradley (Director of Business Development for REC Solar) discussed the newest “Solar plus Storage” PPA offerings, as well as other financing options for commercial solar.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

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Erik Kvam (Hawaii Energy Law Services) answering an energy policy question from a guest

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Drew Bradley (REC Solar) and Brody McMurtry (Johnson Controls, Inc.) explain some key principles for the success of solar storage in Hawaii

ENERGY LAWS AND UTILITY POLICIES

  1. A proposed Energy Storage Tax Credit bill would provide additional opportunities for cost savings, as well as contributing to the necessary policy shifts needed to achieve 100% renewables by 2045. Business owners and local energy partners are encouraged to consider joining REACH (Renewable Energy Action Committee Hawaii) in order to support the advocacy of bills that would support solar and other renewable energy.
  2. Three Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) representatives were present for the discussion, and they shared some insight into the current state of the utility and what they are planning for the future. These goals include creating a model to value solar/exported power, completing a pilot test for time-of-use (TOU) rates, installation of smart meters, adding demand response capabilities, and distributed energy storage.

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Guests get a chance to mingle over cocktails and pupus in the Ice Garden at the Honolulu Design Center

 

SAVING MONEY WITH SOLAR AND STORAGE

  1. Despite the end of energy buyback programs like net metering and customer grid supply, there are still a number of opportunities for businesses to cut costs by going solar, including:
    • Commercial Standard Interconnection Agreement (SIA)
    • PV + Storage
    • Microgrids
    • Federal Investment tax credit (ITC) & state tax credit
  2. Storage can reduce energy costs for businesses, either in conjunction with PV or in some cases, even on its own.
    • Energy storage can help balance the load or maximize the advantages of time-of-use (TOU) rates. This is especially important for businesses that require high energy usage during peak hours because it allows you to save the energy generated in off-peak hours to use later when the rates would be much higher. Even without PV, this makes sense for anywhere that has a peak hour upcharge of $0.10/kWh or more.
    • Storage also provides UPS (uninterruptable power supply) as energy security for businesses/industries that require large quantities of reliable power, like hospitals, military bases, data centers, and critical infrastructure like water and heat.
    • Additional ways to lower energy costs through the use of storage include demand reduction, demand response (where available), frequency response, and power factor correction
  3. There are several financing options currently available for solar and/or storage customers:
    • Commercial solar can be financed through a standard Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), lease, or cash deal.
    • Storage projects can be purchased with cash, or with “Storage as a Service” financing, which is similar to PPA models in that the customer pays a fixed monthly fee for the savings generated by the storage system but all the risk can be put on the battery technology provider. Storage can also be purchased via shared savings models where the customer and provider both get a percentage of the savings generated by the storage.
    • For projects that will incorporate both solar and storage, there may be a “Solar plus Storage” PPA opportunity. This option provides solar energy generation and battery storage at a fixed cost per unit of power produced by the solar, while all project development and maintenance costs remain as the responsibility of the solar and storage providers.
  4. JCI and REC Solar have already partnered on solar plus storage projects in the islands. This partnership is beneficial to customers because it allows them to combine the energy savings from both technologies into a package that can be financed, installed, and maintained under a single contract.

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Mike Billet (REC Solar) discusses commercial solar options with a customer

 

RESOURCES FOR BUSINESS OWNERS

  1. What should a customer know before selecting a solar provider?
    • Get help understanding your utility rates and energy bills – many business owners pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in energy costs without ever analyzing at their bill from the utility.
    • Recognize the importance of system design experts; solar is not a one-size-fits-all solution, so make sure you are selecting a provider with a proven track record to help customize your energy system.
    • Utilize a legal expert to better understand financing options, contracts, and tax incentives.
  2. What should a customer know before selecting a storage technology provider?
    • Research legislation and tax credits that may help to lower the cost of storage
    • Make sure you select a storage provider with extensive knowledge and experience to ensure that you get the best storage system for your business and that it is properly installed and maintained to maximize your ROI
    • Choose a reliable manufacturer with a large balance sheet – the performance guarantees and warranties for your batteries are only effective if the manufacturer is still in business!

Mahalo to everyone who attended and participated to make it a fun, educational evening.

 

If you are located in Hawaii and would like to receive an invitation to our next event, email Lowell Burton (Hawaii Marketing Manager at REC Solar) at lburton@recsolar.com.  

Business Owners: Are You Ready to Enter the Energy Business?

According to data from the Rocky Mountain Institute, the largest non-fixed operating expenses for businesses is utility costs. Other operating expenses include labor, rent or marketing. When a business is looking for ways to improve cash flow and reduce overall operating costs without cutting back on staff, reducing advertising spend or trying to find cheaper rent, energy is “the final frontier” of where brands can conserve. A comprehensive energy reduction plan will include many different types of strategies, such as improving technologies, equipment and processes, as well as investments in onsite or offsite power generation.

According to data from the Rocky Mountain Institute, the largest non-fixed operating expenses for businesses are utility costs. Other operating expenses include labor, rent or marketing. When a business is looking for ways to improve cash flow and reduce overall operating costs without cutting back on staff, reducing advertising spend or trying to find cheaper rent, energy is “the final frontier” of where brands can conserve. A comprehensive energy reduction plan will include many different types of strategies, such as improving technologies, equipment and processes, as well as investments in onsite or offsite power generation.

At REC, we believe that by investing in solar power generation, a business is entering the energy business. No matter what the business does, they are now producing power to offset their energy usage and run the rest of the business more effectively. This “entering the energy business” mindset has big implications for commercial solar customers.

Entering the energy business requires an energy partner that puts your business first.

Solar is a long-term investment that generates significant ROI over the 25+ year life of the system. Who do you want to trust your investment with? Local electricians that have installed half a dozen systems? A company driven by shiny objects and Wall Street’s short-term expectations? Or a company with a long reputation in solar leadership, that is backed by one of the largest energy companies in the United States? In my newly announced role as CEO at REC, I am taking my 12+ years of experience working for Duke Energy, and applying it directly to how we build energy solutions for our customers. Our goal is to make the business of solar as easy as possible for our customers through things like flexible financing options, great customer service, quality workmanship and an integrated approach that ensures solar is part of your overall business and energy strategy.

Pick a partner that gives you more options, not fewer.

In the residential market, the solar industry leaders captured market share by standardizing solutions and reducing costs. Commercial solar customers tend to demand more flexibility in what their solution looks like. Factors like business type, business goals, size, location, higher system costs and their broader energy strategies all come into play. Generating your own onsite energy with solar demands a system made of best-in-class solutions, not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to solar. Rather than trying to vertically-integrate all the technologies and services that are needed to meet commercial customer needs, at REC we have focused on creating a platform based business model. That means we bring the solar and energy expertise of REC and Duke Energy, along with best-in-class partnerships that gives commercial customers more options, not fewer. Examples of solution-based partnerships include Green Charge Networks (a battery storage leader) and Phoenix Energy Technologies (a data management leader). We are also giving more options to small and mid-sized businesses who might want to work with a regional solar company, by expanding our channel partner program. Through this program we provide financing, credit review services and other project development services to or authorized partners in regions across the United States.

We are a partner that truly understands the business of energy generation and I am excited about the opportunity to help more commercial customers take advantage of their solar investments.

How To Choose the Best Solar Provider for Your Project

Last week saw the bankruptcy of SunEdison, one of the largest solar companies in the world.
This news might make you feel nervous if you are considering a solar installation for your home or commercial space, but worry not – there are some easy steps you can take to ensure you choose a solar company that can provide the service you need for the lifetime of your installation.

You have questions or concerns about choosing the right solar company to handle your projects. We have answers.

Last week saw the bankruptcy of SunEdison, one of the largest solar companies in the world.

This news might make you feel nervous if you are considering a solar installation for your home or commercial space, but worry not – there are some easy steps you can take to ensure you choose a solar company that can provide the service you need for the lifetime of your installation.

Today, solar is a better deal than ever with an even brighter future. Solar technologies have been proven over decades in the field. Large corporations are investing billions in the industry, powering a record number of installations in 2015. Total solar installations hit the 1 million mark in February, and total industry growth is projected to hit a staggering 119% this year. As the solar market expands logarithmically, prices are plummeting. Right now, solar can help business owners and homeowners around the country slash energy costs while going green.

That said, any maturing industry will see consolidation and growing pains from time to time, as the SunEdison situation demonstrates. If you’re wondering how to choose the best partner for your solar installation, we’ve identified some key questions you can ask. Even if your company has already selected a developer or installer, the guidelines below can help confirm if you are on the right track to finding a stable and sustainable solar energy partner:

  1. Track record. Check out the length of time in business — the longer the better. Ask your salesperson how many failed/unbuilt contracts the company has accrued.
  2. Financial strength. Are they cash flow positive or profitable? Can they weather an occasional downturn? Take a look at financial backing or the stability of a notable parent company or partner. For publicly traded companies like SolarCity, you can take a look at their earnings and analyses to review any skepticism about their financials. If the company is private but owned by a parent company, look at the financial strength of the parent.
  3. Delivering as promised. Request operations statistics, including first-year system performance, on-time delivery of projects and project cycle times. It’s always good to ask for existing customer referrals to get a real sense of how the project went from their perspective. Companies should have good monitoring capabilities and be able to explain how their maintenance teams are deployed.
  4. Customer base. Look for experience working with big brands, which will have already done some extensive vetting for you in choosing their partners.

While the bankruptcy of an industry trailblazer has many wondering what the future holds, we see sunny days ahead for commercial solar. REC Solar has been installing for 18 years, and we have adapted to each new challenge in this rapidly-growing field. In partnership with Duke Energy, we strive to run our business for the long-term, focusing on customer satisfaction and running a profitable company. Our experience and strong backing puts us in a position to be a responsible and reliable energy partner to our customers for decades.

If your solar provider is going out of business or you’ve been planning a solar installation but don’t yet have a provider, you may have additional questions about how to apply these guidelines to your search. The REC Solar team is happy to help review your options to ensure that you’re choosing the best solar partner for your business. Please contact us and our team will get back to you as soon as possible with the answers to your questions.

 

More Businesses Turned to Solar in 2015

The number of U.S. businesses with solar energy installations grew to a new high in 2015. Enterprises ranging from family-run companies to some of the country’s biggest corporations are producing their own energy, cutting operating expenses, and achieving environmental sustainability.

The number of U.S. businesses with solar energy installations grew to a new high in 2015. Enterprises ranging from family-run companies to some of the country’s biggest corporations are producing their own energy, cutting operating expenses, and achieving environmental sustainability.

recent report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) provides data and insights into the diverse mix of corporate offices, office buildings, retail, manufacturing, data centers, distribution and logistics centers, and convention centers that have gone solar.

A key reason for the commercial solar boom can be seen in the significant system price reductions over the past few years, according to the report. “The average price of a commercial photovoltaic (PV) system has dropped by nearly 30 percent in the past 3 years,” SEIA finds.

The companies sampled in the report, representing businesses in 37 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have deployed 1,686 systems totaling 907 megawatts (MW-DC), producing enough electricity to power more than 158,000 homes. The amount of solar installed at the U.S. corporations and businesses surveyed offsets at least 890,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

The report breaks down the Top 25 companies by the number of solar systems and by installed solar capacity in megawatts (MW). Topping the list in both categories is one of the royals of retail, Walmart. The big-box giant has 348 mostly rooftop PV systems accounting for 142MW, or about 407 kilowatts (KW) per system—very close to the overall average commercial rooftop system size of 419KW found in the SEIA data set. Walmart is also a driver of the booming category of carport-style installations, with at least 23 such systems coming online over the past three years.

The report notes that large retailers with prodigious square footage and unutilized roof space, the largest single commercial solar sector, “…have seen perhaps the most consistent and steady growth over the years as they typically have a similar building structure, which allows them to make large solar installation deals for multiple locations throughout the country.” These projects account for 397MW of the total and range from 4.4KW to a 1.63MW system powering an IKEA in Round Rock, TX.

The steady growth of massive ground-mount commercial solar projects represents another key sector to the SEIA database. The likes of Apple and Amazon are already benefitting from 20MW and larger solar projects supplying clean energy to their big data centers and server farms.

Another key driver of commercial solar growth has been solar financing options now available to businesses. Electricity bills are a non-discretionary annual expense for almost all organizations, and financing solutions allow businesses to reduce those annual bills with little to no capital outlay.

With the extension of the Investment Tax Credit and continued declines in solar system prices, 2016 will be a great year for businesses to go solar. Our flexible financing solutions and turnkey capabilities make the decision easy for business owners. In the end, thousands of solar-powered businesses will see millions of dollars in energy savings and returns on their clean energy investments.

REC Solar’s Countdown to 2016

2015 was another record-breaking year for REC Solar. Before we turn our focus entirely to 2016, I’d like to reflect on the path we’ve travelled and recognize those who made it possible.
Here’s my “top 10 list” of reasons we’re thankful and excited for the New Year:

2015 was another record-breaking year for REC Solar. Before we turn our focus entirely to 2016, I’d like to reflect on the path we’ve travelled and recognize those who made it possible.

Here’s my “top 10 list” of reasons we’re thankful and excited for the New Year:

  1. Global progress made to tackle climate change. REC Solar is excited by the progress and commitments made by global leaders at the recent climate change summit in Paris.
  2. The solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) extension, which will allow for the installation of an additional 25GW of solar panels in the U.S. over the next five years. This is a huge win for the planet that will propel our industry further along our proven learning curve. Further, the new legislation recognizes that the need for a 30% ITC will diminish over time and stair-steps it down in a sensible manner – no more “cliff”!
  3. We’re honored to be part of the solar industry for 18 years now. We’ve passed many milestones on our journey, including our pivotal decision in 2014 to sell the residential business and focus REC Solar exclusively on commercial energy solutions. This focus provides an extraordinary opportunity to create unique value for our customers.
  4. Our new main office in San Luis Obispo, CA. In addition to our new main office, we also have a new office in Petaluma, CA and one in Honolulu, HI to call home. We’re looking forward to continued growth in 2016 and years ahead.
  5. Our latest partnership with Green Charge Networks allows us to provide our customers with optimized energy solutions that integrate the best of solar and storage, seamlessly.
  6. The addition of the exceptional Stellar Energy team. When this team became part of REC Solar, we not only added 62 projects totaling more than 60 MW to our pipeline, but also benefited from the centerpiece of any successful company: its people.
  7. A new portfolio of solar financing solutions. Through our new, streamlined PPA and solar lease offerings, enabled by Duke Energy’s efficient financing, we’re able to deliver compelling economic value to our customers simply and quickly.
  8. Duke Energy’s continued support of REC Solar. Duke Energy is the nation’s largest electric power company and a valuable contributor to REC Solar’s growth. In February, Duke purchased a majority stake in REC Solar and committed to fund up to $225 million of solar projects for our commercial customers.
  9. Our dedicated employees, for working tirelessly to develop and deliver industry-leading solar projects, now surpassing 500 projects totaling over 200 megawatts. One great example is the KIUC Anahola 14.5 DC (12 MW AC) array, which is the largest solar array in Hawaii on the gorgeous island of Kauai. This project provides the Kauai community with approximately 20 percent of its daytime electricity needs. This project would not have been possible without the vision and commitment of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC).
  10. We are most thankful for our customers. Our success is a direct result of our customers’ commitment to sustainability and operational efficiency. Thank you for showing the world how reliable and affordable solar technology is, and for leading the way to a sustainable energy future.

From all of us here at REC Solar, we wish you a happy and prosperous New Year!

 

The Case for Solar in Manufacturing Operations

If you work at a manufacturing center, logistics hub, or warehouse operation, the value of installing a solar energy system has never been stronger. Escalating utility rates and decreasing solar system costs, in addition to attractive local and national incentives, have led hundreds of American manufacturers to embrace solar energy to reduce operating expenses, limit cost variability, and demonstrate environmental sustainability.

If you work at a manufacturing center, logistics hub, or warehouse operation, the value of installing a solar energy system has never been stronger. Escalating utility rates and decreasing solar system costs, in addition to attractive local and national incentives, have led hundreds of American manufacturers to embrace solar energy to reduce operating expenses, limit cost variability, and demonstrate environmental sustainability.


Evaluating Your Facility for a Rooftop Solar System

When evaluating the viability of solar for a manufacturing facility, it’s important to know the size of your rooftop; the larger the roof, the better. Rooftop space of 100,000 square feet or more usually offers an opportunity to offset the vast majority of electric bills with solar technology.

As with any solar consultation, an assessment of the condition of the roof itself should take place early in the process. An older structure may need replacing before the solar construction begins, which could impact the economics of the project.

The consultative solar evaluation process should also include a close examination of the customer’s utility bill and analysis of the energy use and demand profile. How does the company use its power? Is the business subject to high demand charges, including peak charges during the summer months? Does the business operate around the clock or just one shift daily?

Solar design engineers will carefully examine electric bills and the rates the industrial customer is currently paying. With an efficient solar design, there’s often the possibility of switching to other utility rates that will provide more savings once a solar system is installed.

For example, if a facility has a fairly flat demand curve and reaches its peak energy consumption after the sun goes down, then installing solar has less of an effect on the customer’s demand profile. Some utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) offer rate codes that provide a discount on demand charges in exchange for increased summer peak energy charges. If the business owner is able to purchase a solar PV system that offsets most of the site’s summer peak, then switching rates could be advantageous and actually increase the value of solar.

Solar Financing Options

The choice of financing and the ownership status of the buildings are critical elements of any industrial solar consultation. There is a wide range of options available to potential customers: from power purchase agreements (PPAs) to leases, and from loans to cash payments. Whether the industrial building is owned or leased by the prospective customer also affects how the deal is structured.

REC Solar offers a range of commercial solar financing solutions including a solar PPA backed by Duke Energy, which is a great fit for businesses looking to conserve capital. We work closely with each company on a case-by-case basis to determine the best financing options given their particular situation and tax appetite. Our goal is to provide your business with the most financially beneficial and environmentally responsible solar system.

Commercial Solar ROI & IRR

We often receive questions about the internal rate of return (IRR) or return on investment (ROI) for an industrial business that goes solar. The answer varies depending on the size and output of the system, utility rates, location, and financing package. However, the bottom line is that a commercial solar installation – costing just pennies per kilowatt-hour – will often be much cheaper over the 30-year lifetime of the system than grid power. And of course, your business is under no obligation to commit until you’ve confirmed the numbers.

For example, a hypothetical 1 MW solar system located in PG&E’s service area, purchased with cash at $2 million and a 6% discount rate, would generate between 1.7 and 1.8 million kilowatt-hours of clean electricity per year and provide an IRR of about 17.4%. Put another way, the system would pay for itself in about five years and potentially add hundreds of thousands of dollars to a company’s annual operating profit.

Last, but certainly not least, solar can play a major part in helping industrial companies (and their vendors) reduce harmful emissions and to clean up their energy footprints. Let one of our commercial solar experts take a look at your facility and see how solar technology could help your business’ bottom line and our planet.

 

What’s COP 21, and How Can Your Business Make a Difference with Solar?

At the end of November 2015, leaders from around the world will gather in Paris at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21), with the goal of negotiating a binding, universal agreement on measures to reduce human-caused climate change.

At the end of November 2015, leaders from around the world will gather in Paris at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21), with the goal of negotiating a binding, universal agreement on measures to reduce human-caused climate change.

Over 12 days, these world leaders will try to build consensus on measures to bring Earth’s temperatures down to 36 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Though it won’t be easy, the assembled business leaders, policymakers and heads of state believe it’s critical to the survival of the planet that these actions be embraced by every country. While we can’t predict what the outcome of these negotiations will be, it’s clear the United States must lead on this issue—and that’s where your business can act, no matter what happens at COP 21.

Untapped Market

According to expert estimates, the U.S. has approximately 50 billion square feet of commercial rooftop space, about 25 percent of which is suitable for solar installations. If you assume a production capacity of around 10 watts per square foot, those commercial rooftops could produce nearly 125 GW of clean power—nearly seven times what’s currently installed in the entire U.S.

A commercial rooftop is defined as a rooftop that’s not on a residence; in other words, the definition covers markets that you wouldn’t traditionally think of as commercial. For example, REC Solar serves retailers, farmers, hospitality businesses, office complexes, warehouses and schools—and that’s not even a complete list.

Leading national consumers of commercial solar like Apple, Google, IKEA and Walmart have already realized that solar installations reduce utility bills and cut carbon emissions, and they’ve invested heavily in putting solar arrays on buildings throughout their operations.

So how much can your business make a difference in terms of carbon reductions if you install solar panels? That answer depends on many factors, but let’s be very clear: Every reduction in carbon-based energy counts for our planet. For the sake of simplicity, here are three scenarios for three solar installations in sunny California:

  • If you install a 1 MW solar array on the roof of your Southern California business, each year you’ll reduce carbon emissions that are the equivalent of 100,000 gallons of gas consumed or 963,000 pounds of coal burned.
  • A 750 kW system each year eliminates carbon emissions equivalent to 75,000 gallons of gas consumed or 722,000 pounds of coal burned.
  • A 500 kW system each year eliminates carbon emissions equivalent to 50,000 gallons of gas consumed or 481,000 pounds of coal burned.

(Calculations based on equivalence data from the Environmental Protection Agency)

Financial Savings

Putting a solar installation on your business isn’t only about protecting the environment. After all, installing a solar system is a business investment and, like any other investment, you should expect a return. A solar installation could help you reduce your utility bills: the exact amount that you’ll be able to save will depend on a number of factors, including which utility serves you, its electricity rates and your business’ energy consumption. In addition, a commercial solar installation would serve as a powerful demonstration of your company’s commitment to sustainability and climate change.

The Bottom Line

As world leaders find common ground to break the international impasse on bringing human-induced climate change under control, let them know how serious you are about climate change by making a difference in your own company and local communities. Installing a solar array is a good first step to providing future generations with a livable planet.

 

Castoro Cellars Pairs Winemaking & Solar Power for a Winning Blend

California’s Central Coast wine region ranks as one of the top viticultural areas on the planet, with more than 300 wineries spread across the area’s rolling hills and lush valleys. A growing number of local winemakers’ share a commitment to sustainability, which includes investing in solarphotovoltaic (PV) systems that offset electricity costs with the same clean energy source that gives life to their vineyards.

California’s Central Coast wine region ranks as one of the top viticultural areas on the planet, with more than 300 wineries spread across the area’s rolling hills and lush valleys. A growing number of local winemakers’ share a commitment to sustainability, which includes investing in solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that offset electricity costs with the same clean energy source that gives life to their vineyards.

Templeton-based Castoro Cellars was an early Central Coast solar adopter and has continued to add new PV capacity since its first installation in 2006. The company’s initial systems power its Cobble Creek Vineyards’ tasting room, a nearby house and a small well pump. The 18 kilowatts (KW) of arrays built by REC Solar incorporate both ground-mount and rooftop solar elements and generate more than 30,000 kilowatt-hours (KWh) annually.

“The reason we went solar was that it was the right thing to do,” said Niels Udsen, owner of Castoro Cellars. “Our original goal on the first project was to get to the first tier of power on the Pacific Gas & Electric rates. Even then, we were in the fifth tier with a lot of our power for the first one, so it didn’t take that long for it to pay for itself, like three to five years.”

The second round of commercial solar installations at Castoro took place in 2012 and consist of a pair of ground-mount arrays and a rooftop system built by REC Solar at the company’s Dos Viñas estate vineyards. The 61.4 KW installed capacity of the three systems generates some 106,500 KWh per year, offsetting nearly 100% of the electricity requirements of a pair of sizeable well pumps and the adjoining apartment, according to Udsen. The installation also paid for itself in a few years.

While a true believer in sustainable, environmentally conscious agriculture practices, the Castoro proprietor also sees the economic benefits of solar. “Financially, it makes sense; if you’re a long-term thinker, it’s completely rational to do,” he explained.

Castoro’s opening forays into solar will soon be eclipsed by a new project that dwarfs the existing systems in size, power generation—and return on investment. Construction by REC Solar is under way on a 625 KW ground-mount installation that will cover three acres in the Stone’s Throw vineyards where muscat canelli grapes grew until recently. The system is scheduled to come online before the end of the year, and when completed, will produce 1.042 million KWh of clean energy annually.

“We would’ve done it many years earlier, but we had to get sole ownership of the property before we could, and we did that last year,” Udsen said. “The system is for our processing facility, where we have fermentation tanks, refrigeration, bottling lines, compressors, whatever it takes to run a good-size winery. We’re shooting for a goal of 100% offset.”

As with all the Castoro solar systems, Udsen will pay for the new installation, an investment that he’s happy to make. “I’m lucky enough to have a good enough cashflow and revolving line of credit that I’ve never specifically financed any of the projects. I’m paying for it as part of our doing business.”

“We’re paying over $250,000 in power bills a year, and it keeps going up,” he said. “With the offset from the new solar setup, I can take that cashflow down to about $30,000 with just the financing aspect of it, and we then have more than $200,000 that can be applied each year to paying off the system. Along with the tax credits we get, it won’t take much to get payback, somewhere between four and five years.”

The Stone’s Throw project will benefit from California’s aggregate net metering (NEM-A) program for agriculture, which allows landowners to choose the best location for solar or wind on their property and then use the power generated to offset their bills from any of their electricity meters on the same or contiguous properties.

“I didn’t realize when we were first getting the project quoted that with the new net metering systems, you can put any meter on the property on that same system, it doesn’t have to be set directly to the meter, “Udsen noted. “There will be several different pumps included, and one of them is quite a large irrigation well pump.”

In addition to its fine pinots and zins, Castoro is also known for its live music programming, especially the annual Beaverstock Festival, a fundraiser for the Templeton public schools, which last year featured established and up-and-coming acts such as War, Dawes and La Santa Cecilia. A friend’s mobile solar generator has helped power the event in recent years, but Udsen would like to have a more substantial solar presence at future shows.

The music fest is not the only place where Udsen wants to add more solar. “We’re building a distillery, and initially there’s no power on the site, so we’re using a generator. Once we get the power, it would be prime spot for solar everywhere up there.”

Please contact us to start a commercial solar energy evaluation for your business or organization. 

 

5 Considerations for Auto Dealers Shifting to Solar

The National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) notes that auto dealerships face close to $2 billion in energy costs annually, their third highest operating expense. Many dealerships and auto manufacturers like Honda, Toyota and Ford are investing in a variety of energy upgrades like solar energy, efficient LED lighting, and electric vehicle charging stations.

The National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) notes that auto dealerships face close to $2 billion in energy costs annually, their third highest operating expense.  Many dealerships and auto manufacturers like Honda, Toyota and Ford are investing in a variety of energy upgrades like solar energy, efficient LED lighting, and electric vehicle charging stations.

Today, more automotive dealers are turning to solar as a way to alleviate energy expenditures, which are a direct result of energy-intensive showrooms and lots accompanied by long operating hours. Dealerships are not only looking to reduce their operating costs and boost margins, but also to build a more sustainable business.

When evaluating a car dealership for a solar installation, here are five factors that come into play:

  1. Dealership location 
     
    Is your dealership located in California, Hawaii, New Jersey or New York? Higher energy prices in these states make solar a particularly attractive option for auto dealerships seeking to reduce their electric bills. Contact REC Solar to find out how much your business could save.
     
  2. Quality and size of roof 
     
    Many dealerships have a limited amount of usable roof space, and solar carports or canopy systems could be deployed to provide shade for vehicles and power for EV charging stations.
     
  3. Multiple financing options for dealership-specific needs
     
    There are a range of financing options available to auto dealerships and other business owners that make going solar easier than ever. REC Solar offers financing packages with no upfront expenses, such as solar power purchase agreements (solar PPAs) and solar leases, in addition to cash or loan purchase options.
     
  4. Brand integrity and customer loyalty 
     
    The marketing value of an onsite solar system should not be underestimated, not only as an advertisement for plug-in electric vehicles, but also as a demonstration of the dealership’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
     
  5. Tax incentives 
     
    Combined with lower costs than ever before, the 30% business investment tax credit (ITC) for installing solar is available, but expires at the end of 2016. The window for taking advantage of the ITC, however, is actually much sooner. Unless Congress extends the ITC—which is an open question at this time—business owners should begin planning now for solar projects to be completed by the end of 2016.
     

In a highly competitive market, auto dealers are ideally positioned to benefit from solar in numerous ways. Want to know more about how your dealership can start saving?

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Supermarkets Take a Bite Out of High Energy Costs by Going Solar

One of the biggest challenges facing supermarket proprietors is managing and controlling operational costs. Although labor makes up the biggest portion of those costs, energy use is the next largest expense item. According to an Xcel Energy report, energy accounts for 15% of a supermarket’s operating budget. Refrigeration and lighting consume the most electricity in supermarkets, with air and water heating, ventilation, and air conditioning also adding a significant amount to the monthly bill.

One of the biggest challenges facing supermarket proprietors is managing and controlling operational costs. Although labor makes up the biggest portion of those costs, energy use is the next largest expense item. According to an Xcel Energy report, energy accounts for 15% of a supermarket’s operating budget. Refrigeration and lighting consume the most electricity in supermarkets, with air and water heating, ventilation, and air conditioning also adding a significant amount to the monthly bill.

Increasingly, supermarkets and other large, energy-intensive retailers are turning to solar to cut their electricity costs as well as reduce their carbon footprint and strengthen their sustainability programs.

The “Solar Means Business 2014” report published by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reveals a growing number of U.S. commercial operations adding solar systems to their property, plant and equipment assets. Listed among the leading solar adopters are some of the most recognizable names in the supermarket sector, including Whole Foods, Safeway, and Stop and Shop, as well as many big-box retailers with embedded grocery stores, such as Walmart, Target, and Costco. Other market chains that have cut their energy costs by going solar at retail outlets and logistics centers include Albertsons and Fresh and Easy.

“This growing adoption of solar by the commercial sector is predominantly the result of consistent price declines,” the SEIA report notes. “The average price of a completed commercial photovoltaic (PV) project in Q2 2014 has dropped by 14 percent year over year and more than 45 percent since 2012. As solar prices continue to fall, more businesses in more states turn to solar to cut operating costs.” Since those statistics were issued, the average price of completed commercial PV installations in the United States has continued to decline each quarter.

In addition to the decreasing costs of PV equipment, innovations in financing—from solar power purchase agreements (solar PPAs) to solar leases to commercial solar PACE loans—provide an additional incentive for supermarkets to switch to solar. Full-service solar installation companies like REC Solar now offer these types of financing programs—in addition to accepting cash purchase plans–that help make it possible for supermarkets to take a bite out of their utility bills from day one of their PV system’s operational lifetime.

A sample supermarket case study reveals that if a 300-kilowatt (KW) rooftop solar system were installed on a market in Anytown, California, the PV power plant would generate approximately 500,000 kilowatt-hours (KWh) of clean electricity per year, offsetting about 80% of the store’s energy needs.

Keep in mind that this quote is an example. The ultimate costs and savings for a specific supermarket project will differ based on many factors, such as utility rates (including peak demand charges), hours of operation, shading, and type of financing.

The entire commercial solar process—from site evaluation to financial qualification to permitting to the actual construction of the PV array and interconnection to the grid—typically takes 4-6 months. As an experienced commercial solar installer, REC Solar has built more than 65 supermarket and grocery store PV systems in multiple states over the past decade.

Whether you run a grocery store with multiple locations or are the proprietor of a local organic green grocer, now is the time to get a free solar evaluation from an experienced commercial solar installer. By working with REC Solar, you’re able to compare flexible financing options to identify the best approach to meet your financial and sustainability goals with solar energy.