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.
While other Southeastern states are surging ahead with solar energy, advocates say a unique combination of policy obstacles, burdensome fees, and one reluctant utility company has Alabama lagging behind.
The low numbers are the result of several regulatory issues, said Daniel Tait, CEO of nonprofit Energy Alabama.
“At the end of the day, Alabama has three things not going for it,” he said. “There are no basic conditions that most states have, like operating procedures of how to handle solar; in most areas of the state there are onerous fees; and there are terrible buybacks.”
Alabama says it is open for business, but does it really mean it? A recent piece in AL.com explored many of the ways Alabama is, in fact, closed for business when it comes to renewable energy.
The AL.com profile looked at a report titled the Corporate Clean Energy Procurement Index authored by the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade group representing large retailers like Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. Alabama’s score on the index was 1.82 out of 100. The next-lowest score was a 13.60; putting Alabama about as far behind as is technically possible.
Huntsville, AL – One of Huntsville’s most prominent professional organizations, the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS® (HAAR), has joined the North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge, committing to achieve ENERGY STAR certification within 10 years. HAAR is reducing operating costs to deliver more resources toward their members and and ultimately the community at-large.
“We strongly believe this is not just financially beneficial but also the right thing the do,” says Josh McFall, CEO of the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS®. “Energy efficiency is increasingly important to home-buyers and we want to lead the way.”
The North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge aims to support the Department of Energy’s goal of helping businesses save energy costs, enabling them to grow, invest in new technology, and create American jobs. The North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge has identified over $50 million dollars of low hanging savings potential in Huntsville alone.
“HAAR is clearly stepping up to the plate,” says Daniel Tait, CEO of Energy Alabama. “Homeownership is fundamental to the fabric of our community and it’s great to know our local professionals want homeownership to be as affordable as possible.”
The North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge is a collaborative effort of Avion Solutions Inc., the Energy Huntsville Initiative, and Energy Alabama. The Challenge now boasts over 8 million square feet of participating building space.
About Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS® Founded in 1948, the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS® (HAAR) is a 2,000 member organization of real estate professionals engaged in every aspect of the industry, including residential/commercial sales and leasing, appraisal, etc. They also maintain ValleyMLS.com, the leading real estate source in North Alabama.
About Energy Alabama Energy Alabama is a non-profit organization accelerating the transition to clean, sustainable energy throughout Alabama. We accomplish our mission by educating at all levels, informing smart energy policy, building the next generation workforce, and providing technical assistance to deploy more sustainable energy. We believe in 100% sustainable energy for all.
If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Daniel Tait by phone at 256-303-7773 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Daniel Tait — CEO of non-profit group Energy Alabama, which advocates for renewable energy policies within the state — the index results were disappointing but not surprising.
“We’re just kind of standing in our way,” he said. “If a company wants to go solar, for example, and participate in these types of projects, they have to work really, really hard here and they’re just going to go to a state somewhere else where it’s going to be a much easier pathway for them to make these types of investments.”
A North Alabama nonprofit is the recipient of a $77,680 federal grant to study strategies to develop an advanced energy economy with an emphasis on coal-impacted communities.
Energy Alabama, founded in 2014 by CEO Daniel Tait, will use the technical assistance grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to identify the advanced energy industry of the coal-impacted areas and jobs within that industry. The organization will also seek workforce training resources from local community colleges and career placement to assist unemployed workers in the advanced energy sector.
To calculate an Energy Use Intensity (EUI) score, all you really need is a few key pieces of information and some basic math skills. Sure, you’ll have to learn what a kBtu is, but it’s really not as complicated as you might think.
To understand what you EUI means—well, that’s what we’re here to discuss today. But first, let’s practice those basic math skills as we walk through a quick scenario.
So, you have a building and you may or may not want to know its EUI. You’re not really sure what an EUI is, but you’ve heard it can be a valuable metric. (This is true, by the way. More on that later.) Great. First order of business: Find out how much energy your building uses per year.
Got it? Now divide that number by your building’s total area. The resulting number is your EUI. That’s it.
So What Does My Energy Use Intensity Mean?
Unlike an ENERGY STAR score, which runs from 1-100, a lower EUI number generally represents better performance. Just like an ENERGY STAR score, however, you’ll be able to compare your building to others that are similar in age and size. It just won’t be in the form of a percentile ranking.
Some types of buildings will always have a lower EUI than others, as this chart from Energy.gov illustrates.
Some good news: At Energy.gov, Portfolio Manager will do all the math for you. So no matter which units you use to input your energy consumption and building area, you’ll be fine. At the end, Portfolio Manager will spit out a number expressed in kBtu/square feet.
(In plain English, a “kBtu” is one thousand British thermal units. So now you know, and it’s up to you to decide whether you’ll ever use that information again.)
But here’s the kicker: It’s possible to calculate an EUI for virtually any building. (That’s not the case with an ENERGY STAR score.) So if you’re taking the North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge, calculating your building’s EUI could generate some seriously valuable energy-efficiency information for yourself and your company.
Even if your building doesn’t produce enough data for an ENERGY STAR score.
So basically, when you calculate your EUI, you’ll know how exactly how well you’re doing with your efficiency efforts. What’s more, you’ll be able to identify areas for improvement.
And most importantly, you’ll continue to make progress toward your overall goal of improving your building’s energy efficiency.
A rate increase proposed by Huntsville Utilities, a municipally-owned utility in northern Alabama, has spurred discussions around the importance of making energy efficiency programs more widely available in a state where efficiency policies have not been widespread.
“A major first step in moving the needle and opening access to energy efficiency is to start an open dialogue with utilities and make the case for financial models that remove disincentives and encourage customers to save energy,” said Daniel Tait, CEO of Energy Alabama. “We are hopeful that the Huntsville City Council members heard the message, and we look forward to future discussions with Huntsville Utilities to establish a robust, transparent process that includes all stakeholders going forward.”