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Geek Out On Solar Energy

Geek Out Huntsville was awesome enough to let us guest post about going solar in North Alabama. So here it is!

Time to geek out on solar. Let’s be honest. Solar is sexy as hell. You know you want some. There’s a lot to know about solar before you take the leap.

I’m going to share all the knowledge I’ve gained over the last 5 years working on solar projects so you know the best way to go solar, if you decide to go down that route. Also, if you’re not motivated to go solar after this, I’ve failed you.

To continue reading the full post, please visit: https://geekouthuntsville.com/2017/04/25/geek-out-on-solar-energy/

utility bill explained

Your Huntsville/Decatur Utility Bill Explained

It’s that time of the month: bills. You go to your mailbox and get those white envelopes. You get to your utility bill and open it up. All the other times you’ve gotten this bill, you just look at the amount you owe, write the check, and you’re done with it. But, this time, you open it, and you decide you want to know what the heck you’re actually being charged for. Well, we are here to help! We are going to be looking at a couple of bills from Huntsville Utilities and Decatur Utilities and break them down so can find out what they mean for you.

Huntsville Utility Bill Explained

The image to the right  is a sample of the front of a Huntsville Utilities bill. The top sections are pretty obvious. They are the parts of the bill that tell you your account information, what you owe, and when you owe it by. Below that section, there are a couple of parts that break down your usage. The sections we are going to look at are indicated in a red box marked with a red A and a purple box marked with a purple B.

Section A: This section details the meter reading.  The utility company uses the meter reading to determine how much electricity you used that month. This section of the bill shows you the date the meter was read for this month and last month, the previous and present reading, and the amount of electricity used.

Section B: This bar chart portrays the electricity usage of the past 13 months, if available. You’ll notice that in our example there is not 13 months of usage perhaps because this person has not yet lived at the address for 13 months. This is just a visual representation for you to see how your usage changes month to month.

The photo to the left shows an example of the back of the Huntsville Utilities bill. This breaks down what you are being charged for in the bill.

Section C: This section breaks down the two charges of the bill: the availability charge and the consumption charge. The availability charge is the fixed cost of maintaining service to the resident and is the same no matter how much energy you use. For example, it covers things like meter reading and maintenance. The consumption charge is the charge for the amount of electricity used.

Section D: This section details the consumption charge. In this example, this customer consumed 695 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity. The charge per kWh is 0.088410. When you multiply 695 kWh by the charge of 0.088410, you get the charge for the consumption, which is $61.44. Adding the $61.44 to the availability charge, $8.88 in this example, gets you the charge, before tax, of your electric bill.

Decatur Utility Bill Explained

To right you’ll find a sample of a Decatur Utilities bill. Just like the Huntsville Utilities bill, the top half of this bill is pretty self-explanatory. It shows your account information, the amount you owe, and when you have to pay it by. There is one section in this particular bill that is important in understanding your charges.

This section of the bill gives you some details of your consumption analysis. It shows you the current usage, the usage from the last month, and the usage from a year ago. The section circled in red is where the information for your electricity usage will be. In one column, it shows you the total consumption in kWh (kilowatt hours), and in the next section it shows the daily average in kWh.

Note that your utility may show more than just electricity depending on how many products you purchase from the utility company. Each of the other products, like gas or water, will have breakdowns like the ones for the electricity; the main difference will be the units in which the consumption is measured, like gal (gallons) for water.

Electric cars more appealing as gas shortage conversation continues

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.– It’s National Drive Electric week, and the timing couldn’t be better. With the recent oil spill issues and gas shortage conversations, more people might be looking toward electric cars as another viable option. Energy Alabama hosted an event at the Whole Foods Saturday where people could come and test electric cars.

To continue reading the full article, please visit: http://whnt.com/2016/09/17/electric-cars-more-appealing-as-gas-shortage-conversation-continues/

Energy efficiency

Energy Alabama Picks: 4 Great Energy Efficiency Products

Energy efficiency is something we think about a lot here at Energy Alabama. Accelerating the transition to sustainable energy is our ultimate goal, but there’s plenty of groundwork to do in the meantime. Part of that groundwork is helping people make their homes and businesses more efficient.

There are plenty of ways to increase efficiency, and some of them are easier (and less expensive) than you might think. With that in mind, we’ve come up with this list of four great energy efficiency products that will help make your home more sustainable and comfortable.

Have another suggestion? Be sure to leave it in the comments.

 

4 Great Energy Efficiency Products

1. Ecobee3 Smart ThermostatEnergy Efficiency

Installing a programmable thermostat is a great way to save energy. And saving energy is a great way to downsize your utility bill. You win. Your wallet wins. Everyone’s happy.

The idea behind a programmable thermostat is that the temperature inside your house doesn’t always need to be the same. During the heat of the day, for instance, you might want to bump it up a notch or two—especially if you’re not at home. And at night, you might prefer a different setting than at noon. With a programmable thermostat, you can take care of that in advance.

The ecobee3 WiFi thermostat takes all of that a step further. With its remote sensor and compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, the ecobee3 is a fearsomely powerful thermostat. Thanks to some of its really cool built-in technology, it the ecobee3 instinctively knows when to change the temperature in your house—without you having to do anything. Several variables are at play, including the weather outside. And when someone enters a room, ecobee3 reacts to keep the room at max comfy levels.

Ecobee3’s marketers claim it saves homeowners 23% annually on their energy bills. So, do you want one yet?

Where to buy: $249 at Amazon

 

2. Smart Strip SCG-3M Energy Saving Surge Protector

Every homeowner needs a surge protector. Or two or three. If you’re an energy-conscious homeowner, you need a surge protector like the Smart Strip SCG-3M.

Our modern world runs on electricity, but every now and then, a voltage spike can occur. And when a voltage spike happens, any and all of your electronic gadgets are at risk of being fried to a crisp. That’s when a surge protector comes in handy. A surge protector limits the risk to your plugged-in devices either by blocking the spike or diverting it to ground.

The Smart Strip SCG-3M Energy Saving Surge Protector does all of that, but also saves energy in the process. In addition to two always-on outlets, the SCG-3M features four outlets that automatically turn off when not in use. Plus, it has a right-angle plug that hugs the wall. What’s not to like?

Where to buy: $25.99 at Amazon

 

3. LED Light BulbsEnergy efficiency

Great Value ENERGY STAR rated is the best bang for the buck. Make sure they are the ENERGY STAR rated ones. Walmart sells some that aren’t.

LED bulbs are the future. They last longer and use less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs. And if you look in the right places, you can find good deals on them too.

For our money, Walmart’s Great Value brand offers the best bang for the buck. Just make sure they’re the ENERGY STAR-rated models because Walmart sells some that aren’t. This 60-watt equivalent bulb uses only 10 watts and has an estimated lifespan of 25,000 hours. And with 80% savings on energy costs, those 20,000 hours won’t set you back too much.

Where to buy: $3.22 at Walmart

 

4. Niagara Sava Spa Showerhead

Saving energy isn’t the only game in energy efficiency. Using water intelligently with a low-flow showerhead is important, too. Not to mention the savings from reduced heating of water.

The Niagara Sava Spa Showerhead does that while delivering 1.5 gallons per minute. A patented pressure compensator ensures consistent flow no matter what the water pressure is like in your house. That means you’re saving water—and more money on your utility bill.

Where to buy: $9.90 at Amazon

Donate Energy Alabama

Why the Renewable Energy Market Could Be Set to Explode

The market for small-scale renewable energy production might be set to take off, and that could be big news for local utility companies here in Alabama and all across America. And it all stems from a single federal ruling issued in June following a dispute between energy cooperatives in Colorado.

To see the big picture here, we’ll need some background. To begin with, let’s meet the two main players in this story.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. is pretty much exactly what it sounds like—a generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative. G&Ts produce electricity by means of their own infrastructure and then sell it on to their member organizations. This G&T is based in Denver, and one of those member organizations is Delta-Montrose Electric Authority. DMEA is a member-owned and locally controlled rural electrical cooperative along Colorado’s Western Slope.

FERC's decision in favor of Delta-Montrose could mean the renewable energy market is ready to explode.

Montrose, Colo., boasts an abundance of natural beauty.

Over the past couple of years, Tri-State and DMEA have been involved in a dispute over how and where DMEA sources some of its electricity. The current long-term contract between the two organizations stipulates that DMEA must derive 95 percent of its power from Tri-State. Per the contract, DMEA can self-generate up to 5 percent of its annual electricity usage, but no more than that.

In 2015, DMEA asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) if it could go beyond that 5 percent mark by entering power-purchase agreements with small, independent producers. It cited the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) of 1978, which requires utilities to buy power from small, renewable sources called Qualifying Facilities (or QFs, which are defined here). FERC agreed, ruling that PURPA’s requirements superseded Tri-State’s contracts with its customers.

Tri-State responded with a petition to FERC. The Denver-based co-op called for a new fee that would effectively penalize DMEA (and any of its other members) if it purchased power from a QF instead directly from Tri-State. The idea was that Tri-State needed to recoup some lost revenue following DMEA’s decision to source greater than 5 percent of its electricity from QFs. Tri-State, after all, has always depended on income from its member organizations to pay for costly investments in the infrastructure needed for large-scale generation. The same is true for just about any G&T.

But in a decision released in mid-June, FERC denied Tri-State’s petition. In its June 2016 Commission Meeting Summaries, FERC noted: “Tri-State’s petition would effectively undo Delta-Montrose’s statutory obligation to purchase from QFs and correspondingly limit QFs from selling power to Delta-Montrose at negotiated rates.”

 

Great, so what does it all mean?

So DMEA won, FERC lost and life will go on as normal. But what does any of this mean for anyone in Alabama?

According to Kevin Brehm and Dr. Joseph Goodman at the Rocky Mountain Institute, it could mean quite a bit. Most significantly, the nationwide market for locally produced, small-scale renewable electricity could be ready to blow up.

FERC's decision could have far-reaching implications for the renewable energy market.

FERC’s decision could have far-reaching implications for the renewable energy marketplace.

“The FERC ruling effectively removes a policy barrier that has substantially constrained solar build-out,” they wrote in a June blog post. “This means that the co-op and muni community-scale solar markets could be even larger than previously predicted.”

FERC’s ruling won’t be the only contributing factor in a market explosion, if one does happen. The costs associated with renewable energy have dropped considerably in recent years, and that trend will only continue. (As Anna Hirtenstein notes at Bloomberg.com.) Lower costs, of course, make it easier for more people to build more solar. But along with that general reduction in costs, this recent ruling has made renewables even more enticing. In effect, FERC has opened the door for co-ops to purchase as much renewable energy as they need from QFs.

 

The economy of scale

That’s potentially huge for small-scale renewable generators all across the country. How huge? Brehm and Goodman estimate that declining prices could lead to the emergence of a 400 gigawatt (GW) market.

Think about that for a second. According to Alyson Kenward at ClimateCentral.org, the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear plant in New York, provides power to about 1.4 million homes with its dual 1-GW reactors. That’s from 2 GW. We’re talking about a market collectively totaling 400 GW.

DMEA CEO Jasen Bronec has hailed the ruling, saying it would help DMEA “diversify” its power supply. Distributed energy is important, but it’s impossible to ignore the financial implications of FERC’s decision. “(The ruling) could also lead to serious local economic development,” Bronec said, “as renewable facilities locate to the area to take advantage of our abundant renewable resources in Delta and Montrose counties.”

It doesn’t have to be just Delta and Montrose counties, though. While FERC’s ruling applied only to a single corner of Colorado, its implications stretch from coast to coast.