The journey begins
So, how did it all come together? COSE was contacted in June 2014 by the owner who heard about the Dominion Nonresidential energy assessment program. He thought he was spending too much money on his utility bills and was interested in finding additional ways to save. An assessment was done and I went out to visit the business to learn more about its goals and to discuss savings opportunities.
The report from the energy assessment revealed mainly behavioral tweaks that wouldn’t cost anything but time. The building itself was relatively new and the lighting had been upgraded for efficiency and light quality a couple of years prior. While this particular assessment did not identify significant savings opportunities, the owner appreciated the information provided and was excited to have a new resource in COSE when energy questions developed. From our initial meeting in June through November, I received several questions from the business regarding electric and natural gas rates, contract terms and other related issues. Now that the he was confident in the efficiency of his facility, the question of what could be done next was bound to happen. We met again in November 2014 to discuss the options for generating electricity on site.
The business owner was interested, but like many in Northeast Ohio, skeptical of the opportunity solar provides in this region. After our meeting and the introduction of Bold Alternatives, a local solar installer and member of the COSE energy contractor network, all the questions that needed to be answered before entering a project like this were figured out.
- What are the security risks to the investment (vandalism, theft etc.)?
- How much electricity does the facility use?
- Is the building well situated for solar with minimal shade (i.e. trees) and the correct orientation to the sun?
- What will be the cost of installation and how long is the payback? W
- What are the financial opportunities in terms of tax credits, rebates and other incentives?
- How long does the system last, what are the warranties and other implications for adding it to the existing structure?
- How much experience and what certifications do the installers have?
Once the business and Bold Alternatives answered these questions and the true benefit of a solar array was made clear, there were only a few hurdles left: financing, permits, and installation.
The number of options for financing solar arrays and other energy efficiency projects has grown in recent years and the owner was able to find a method that he was comfortable with a good rate. Once permits were secured and everything was ready to go, the installation required less than a week and ended with a beautiful solar array creating power and saving dollars for the business.
It can be done
The energy efficiency journey of this business started with an interest in saving money and led to the point of securing their electricity rates for the next 25 to 30 years. Many people think that Ohio does not get enough sun to make solar an option but this project providing 80%of the electric need and generating a 9% rate of return shows that it can be done. The opportunity to save money on utilities and add to your businesses’ bottom line is real and should be investigated.
One thing to keep in mind is the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that applies to solar arrays will be decreasing in value from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016. The tax credit is not the reason to do solar but it does help reduce the payback period so if you are considering this step, the time to act is soon.