Recently, Washington D.C.’s city council voted unanimously to require the district to use 100% renewable energy by 2032. Additionally, all public transport vehicles and privately-owned fleets will be required to be emissions free by 2045. With the threat of climate change becoming more and more prevalent, this fast-tracked plan will hopefully set a precedent across the country. Quite a few cities have already set renewable energy goals, but D.C. has by far the biggest. There are only two statewide policies, in California and Hawaii, of becoming 100% renewable energy dependent. As we see federal regulations becoming more lax, it is inspiring to see so much change at the lower levels of government.
Much of the funding for this initiative will come from large utility companies who will be making payments into the Renewable Energy Development Fund. Some D.C. residents are already paying additional rates for using natural gas and electricity, which have been funding the REDF. Part of the funding will be allocated to low-income residents, as transitioning a home to clean energy can require more of an upfront cost.
With this push for clean energy, we are pleased to see a boom in solar energy. Washington D.C. mandated that at least 10% of its energy be from the sun by 2041. On the other side of the country, California has already implemented a requirement that every new construction build to include solar panels. There have been countless smaller solar subsidies in other areas that have progressed the industry; including North and South Carolina.
Did you know the price of solar energy has dropped 99% since its major debut four decades ago?! A recent analysis by MIT researchers contributes this radical reduction in pricing to not only innovations in technology but also, and mostly, to government policy.
Solar energy, not unlike most technologies, has benefited greatly from the common contributors: research and development, private investment, and growing economy of scale. Researchers found that private investment and R&D only got the technology so far in its early years. It wasn’t until policy began stimulating market growth that solar energy really began to advance. Policy changes included renewable portfolio standards, feed-in tariffs and subsidies. With government invested in the growth of solar energy technology R&D funding followed; this funding accounted for even more reduction in costs.
Now, with a much larger economy of scale, manufacturers had the financial means to push the limits and reach for greater efficiencies from the many pieces of equipment used in solar energy systems. Solar panels themselves continue to become more energy dense; capable of capturing more energy given a smaller surface area. Inverters are nearing 100% efficiency and utility grids are adapting to make better use of distributed energy sources.
With these findings it is easy to see how policy can play a critical role in the progress of technology. Researchers feel that there is still more to come for the solar industry and see potential for continued advancements in the technology and also further reductions in costs.
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With all the recent talk about the Duke Energy solar rebate there has been little highlighting of funding available for rural businesses and agricultural producers provided by the United States Department of Agriculture. Small businesses in rural areas and many agricultural producers are eligible for guaranteed loans and unrestricted grants to help finance energy efficiency programs. To see if your business is located in a designated rural zone click here.
There are no location restrictions on agricultural producers if 50% of their gross income comes from agricultural operations.
USDA currently offers grant funding up to 25% of the total cost of a project and loans funding up to 75% of the total cost of a project. This program makes achieving energy efficiency for small and rural businesses an attainable goal. This funding may be applied not only to solar energy systems but to hydro-power, wind generation, biomass, and high efficiency HVAC systems.
The goal of this program is to increase energy supply from the private sector and provide more independence for people located further from big energy hubs. Taking large demands off the grid brings down demand and cost for everyone while also providing jobs to local alternative energy installers.
Similar to the Duke Rebate, there are deadlines to apply for these incentives. Click here for the official North Carolina USDA website for details about eligibility, deadlines, and financial statistics about these loans. The South Carolina USDA webpage can be found here.
Give us a call and we can tell you if your company qualifies for a USDA grant and/or loan for your solar energy project.
There is a lot to consider when making the decision to put a solar energy system on your home- upfront financial costs, tree shading on your roof, your home’s roof orientation (North/South, East/West), and environmental benefits- but HOA regulations should not have to be a factor. When initially talking to people considering solar power, they are often worried that their HOA will not allow anyone in the neighborhood to install solar panels and that is, by law, false.
According to North Carolina Senate Bill 670, there are solar access laws that give the homeowner power over local ordinances to “utilize solar radiation” as energy on their “detached single-family residence” homes.
Occasionally homeowners associations will ask that a solar array not be visible from a road or common area of a neighborhood. If the orientation they request is “preventing reasonable use” of the solar panels, this is an illegal request. For example, if an HOA asks you to put the solar array on the back of your home which happens to be in a shaded or north-facing area, you are by law allowed to still install a solar energy system on the front side of your roof. It is illegal for the price to be driven up “beyond the financial means” of homeowners, which would result from an under-producing system.
If you are interested in installing solar panels on your home and believe you are under HOA restrictions, please contact us to start a conversation with our knowledgeable staff. Although we know the law is on our side, our first step is to talk tactfully and kindly with your homeowners association and neighbors to ensure your access to clean energy production. For more details, and all legal verbiage, please review the bill here.
Similar to the rebate that Duke Energy is offering locally here in North Carolina to its customers for the installation of solar energy, the Southern Australian government has just announced a $70M subsidy for residential battery systems. Currently, batteries are by far the most expensive aspect of a solar energy system but are not necessary components unless your goal is to be completely off-grid or have sustainable backup power during power outages. Adding batteries to a solar energy system can tack on an additional $10,000 or more, but this subsidy would offer up to $6,000 back to homeowners; making batteries a more realistic option.
The goal of the battery subsidy is to provide 40,000 households with energy storage systems to reduce peak hour energy usage. Removing this large of a load from the grid will drastically reduce demand of traditional energy power plants thus lowering the cost of energy for every customer.
For traditional energy sources, such as coal fired power plants, it is very costly to ramp up production to meet peak demands. Unexpected peak demands are worse in that, in some cases, it may take hours for a plant to drastically increase production to meet an unplanned, sudden demand. Unexpected peak demands can cause blackouts (loss of power) and brownouts (low voltage) in the event that the power plant cannot meet the sudden increase in load.
Hopefully we can expect more clean energy incentives such as this in the US as we see the positive implications they have had in other progressive countries.
Interested in a free quote for battery backup power for your home or business? Give us a call!
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Green built housing, energy awareness, and conscious living are all very prevalent here in Asheville, NC which is why many of us choose to live here. I wanted to explore other neighborhoods that had similar values and found the Clean Energy Authority’s top ten neighborhoods for green homes.
Unexpectedly, three of the top ten neighborhoods were outside of Cleveland, OH. In these areas near Lake Erie, over 60% of the homes sold have green-built features. After a predominantly industrial past, this city has had implementations of reducing its carbon footprint since 2002, and even has a government funded climate change task force to promote change, awareness, and research.
Moving down the list, two more neighborhoods that lead in sustainability are just outside of Philadelphia, PA. The city is planning on reducing its carbon emissions 80% by 2015. Plans have been implemented for creating bike lanes, storm water management, and exploring solar power already. Like the Ohio cities, many homes in this area are very old and people want to do everything they can to make their beautiful and historic neighborhoods efficient and earth-friendly in the coming years.
Other top cities that made this list are in Orange County, CA, Brooklyn, NY, and Seattle, WA. Every neighborhood that made the cut has over 55% of homes built with green features and range from median home prices of just $212,250 to over $1,414,000- showing that green living is attainable not just for the elite.
Here is the list of the top 10 Green Built Neighborhoods according to the Clean Energy Authority:
- Malvern (Cleveland, OH)
- Fernway (Cleveland, OH)
- Chestnut Hill (Philadelphia, PA)
- Spruce Hill (Philadelphia, PA)
- Red Hook (Brooklyn, NY)
- Baker Ranch (Orange County, CA)
- Echo Ridge Village (Orange County, CA)
- Georgetown (Seattle, WA)
- Painted Trails (Orange County, CA)
- Mercer (Cleveland, OH)
To read more, Click Here for details of the cities listed above.