Posts Tagged: commercial solar energy

Commercial Buildings, Part I

You’ve heard about solar energy, maybe you think it’s great for some people’s houses, but have you considered what it might do to boost your revenue from your commercial building? Let’s consider for a moment what might have happened if you had Installed a solar energy system on your most recently-completed building.

For the first in this series, let’s look at commercial structures made for living.

Apartments

If your most recent building was built for apartments, then you’re on the hook for operations and maintenance of that structure for as long as you choose to keep it. You get the bills for the plumber, the painter, the handyman, the electrician, and the ones who fix broken walls and trim. You also get the bills for electric use in the common areas. Maybe you even supply your tenants with electricity or water or gas. If you get any electric bills at all, you know that over the long term that cost is unpredictable. The utility can raise your rates or change your billing structure without much warning, and you only get to react to it.

A solar electric system that offsets those bills will allow you to be proactive in controlling those costs. Plus, in the long term once your savings has recouped the initial cost of the system, your operating costs are that much lower because the fuel that powers that system is free. If you’re planning to keep your building for more than a few years, you will get to the point where it will be paying you.

Condominiums

If your most recent building was built for condos, then your outlook may be fairly short-term. While some may be interested in continuing to hold the building for the long term, most do not. If you like to hold your condo structures long-term, then see the section above on “Apartments,” because that probably applies more to your situation. If your goal is to get the structure occupied, have the HOA take over, and then move on, then this section is for you.

What will make you most successful? Certainly, a fully-occupied condo structure. What will encourage that? It must be an attractive property. Obviously, solar can do nothing for the location of the structure, nor for its configuration, interior, amenities, etc. But solar can be attractive to many people. Studies have shown that as people’s personal wealth increases, so does their concern for the environment. A condo that comes with solar pre-installed can be a market differentiator for those people, and can attract them to your structure over a competing complex. Solar energy can be a cost-effective amenity to help sell condo units, at a dollar amount that can be quickly recovered (usually with margin to spare) in the price of the unit.

End of Part One

We haven’t even touched on non-residential buildings yet. There’s a whole world of commercial structures out there, and future installments to this blog should attempt to address these other structures. We’ll talk about solar on buildings made for small storefront retail, large retail, food service, hotel/motel, office space, manufacturing, and specialty structures like churches, convention centers, and other venues that are open to the public. Stay tuned…..

Links

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/solarcity-launches-solar-for-affordable-housing

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/ChargePoint-Launches-An-EV-Charging-Product-Tailored-for-Apartments-and-Con

https://solarpowerrocks.com/solar-trends/solar-for-renters-does-it-work/

 

 

What About New Super-Efficient Solar Cells?

solar energy, residential solar energy, commercial solar energyEvery so often, we hear about advances in solar cell efficiency that get people talking. There are advances in silicon, organic materials, perovskites, various exotic chemistries, and even quantum physics. These offer some exciting possibilities for the future, and some of these may end up allowing us to harvest more power from the sun in a smaller area. Smaller solar cells that produce more power means that solar can be helpful in more places.

Possibilities

Smaller and cheaper solar arrays are just more attractive. Right now, the cost of solar is rivaling that of conventional sources. No new coal plants are being built in the US, despite growing demand for electricity. Utilities are adding megawatts of solar energy every year. There are more workers in the solar energy industry in the US than there are people working in oil and gas extraction.

Like any industry, this can only be helped by less expensive equipment.

More efficient solar energy equipment means that more of a building’s electricity use can be covered by solar. Smaller arrays producing more power mean that smaller homes & buildings can benefit. There can be other uses like camping, remote living, transportation, and road signs, among many others.

For some interesting reading:

https://adalidda.net/posts/Dm9DkS8GttT8yHANh/epfl-scientists-achieve-the-highest-yet-reproducibility-for
http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2016/01/harvesting-more-energy-from-photons.html
http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2015/06/strengthening-solar-cell-performance-with-graphene.html
http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2015/02/carbon-nanoballs-can-transform-the-renewable-energy-supply.html

How Soon?

All of these advances that we hear about are all done in a lab somewhere, often in a university setting. Universities are noteworthy for overlooking the practical considerations of the science that they’re doing — and that’s OK for research and learning. But there’s a giant step between research and a practical product. It often involves many years of testing and trials and failures and successes. The product that is produced using the university science has to comply with thousands of regulations on its way from raw materials to finished product, and may look little like the original research.

Historically, things take many years to go from lab to product, and most don’t make it at all. The reasons that many solar advancements don’t make it into a product can be:

  • It doesn’t work in the hot and cold temperatures that it would be exposed to outside, from Alaskan winters (yes, there IS solar in Alaska) to Arizona deserts.
  • It degrades or goes bad after just a few years, just by itself.
  • It degrades or goes bad after just a few years of exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
  • They are difficult (read: expensive) to incorporate into easy-to-use modules.
  • They are built from expensive, hard-to-get, or hard-to-find materials.
  • The product requires hazardous or toxic materials that add to manufacturing costs.
  • The hazardous materials add cost to salvage or recycling, which must be figured in from the start.

What We Have Today

Today’s solar modules are made from silicon, which is one of the most abundant, cheap, and safe materials known to man. If you didn’t know, it comes from sand. Common, everyday sand; highly processed, yes, but easy to find and easy to use.

The silicon cells are processed using various toxic gases, yes, but the handling of these materials is well-known and well-controlled, and the finished product is not toxic.

Every year, silicon cells get more efficient. Year-by-year, the technology that we have today gets better. Often, by the time a technology advance gets out of the lab and into a product, this steady advance of current technology ends up better than the lab technology.

Why Wait for The Lab?

Most of the advances currently in the lab will never show up. Some will, and those will be great! But all those years of waiting for the next big thing means that you will have missed out on years of benefit that you could have had. Think of the years that you may have already missed out on saving money. You don’t have to miss out any more – so take charge of your future – just contact us here and Nemeth Energy Solutions can help you start saving today.