Huntsville

Huntsville Better Buildings Challenge

Why You Should Participate in the North Alabama Building Performance Challenge

If you’ve been around this blog long enough, you’ve probably heard something about the North Alabama Building Performance Challenge (NABPC). But what you might not have thought about is why you should take the challenge yourself. It’s time for us to change that.

6 Reasons to Participate in the North Alabama Building Performance Challenge

Simply stated, the goal of the HBBC is to reduce energy consumption by a targeted 20% in participating buildings across the city. Huntsville has already committed itself to becoming one of America’s most sustainable cities, but the municipal government simply can’t do this on its own. That’s where the Challenge comes in. By increasing efficiency by just 20%, we can save literally millions of dollars in North Alabama alone.

So why should you participate? Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons.

1. The North Alabama Building Performance Challenge will save you money

We couldn’t start this any other way. The first, most obvious—and probably most important for lots of people—reason you should participate in the North Alabama Building Performance Challenge is because it will save your business money.

How? Simple—increasing efficiency means paying lower utility bills. A lower utility bill means your company is saving cash. Most business exist to make money, so this is a win-win situation all around.

2. And you can reinvest that money

You’ve just saved your company bundles of cash by increasing energy efficiency by 20% in your building. Great, but now what? Well, you could reinvest those savings in any number of ways. With more capital freed up, your company could raise wages, make further improvements to the building, or embark on a totally new venture.

It really is up to you. But the main thing to remember is that these investments will come entirely from energy savings—and would essentially cost the company nothing.

 

3. You’ll help the community

By taking the Challenge, you won’t just be helping your own company. You’ll also be bringing loads of benefits to the community.

To understand why, think of the big picture. Plenty of businesses just like yours will be participating. Together, your upgrades will foster new business opportunities throughout the area while creating a more sustainable footprint.

And the upgrades will show up everywhere: Municipal buildings, hospitals, universities, and commercial sites are just a few places that could take the challenge.

 

4. You’ll spread the word

We believe in 100% percent sustainable energy for all, but we can’t do it alone. By taking the Challenge, you’ll help spread the word about sustainable energy.

The NABPC will publicly recognize partners and participants when they reach their goals. In addition, we’ll use a public map to promote buildings and owners who achieve ENERGY STAR certification. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, as the saying goes, and that’s especially true here. Who doesn’t like hearing about increasing efficiency and saving money?

 

5. It’s a good way to go green

Have you ever thought to yourself that it would be nice to go green, if only you could find a way? Here’s your chance.

Increasing efficiency is good for the environment. Using less electricity reduces demand and lessens the burden on the grid. And that’s not all. It also helps reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

From Energy.gov:

More efficient commercial, institutional, multifamily, and industrial buildings reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, protect the environment, and save billions of dollars in energy costs that can be spent growing businesses, investing in new technologies, and creating American jobs.

More jobs. Economic growth. A better and greener environment. What’s not to like?

 

6. And most importantly…

…You’ll get this sweet participation decal.

So what are you waiting for. Contact us today for more information.

Going Solar in Huntsville is different from Birmingham

Going Solar in Huntsville vs. Birmingham

Thinking about going solar in Huntsville or Birmingham?

One of the many factors in your decision probably has to do with how long it’ll take for your solar power system to pay for itself. Of course, since Huntsville and Birmingham are only about 100 miles apart, you might assume that the timelines are roughly the same.

Nope. Not so much.

If you live in Huntsville—or Madison, Decatur, Athens, Florence, or any other part of north Alabama under the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)—you can reasonably expect a payback on your solar investment within 10 to 12 years. But if you live in Birmingham—or most anywhere else in Alabama—the payback time on your solar project will be much longer. In fact, it might never happen. Well if you want to connect to the grid.

Why the difference? It has everything to do with policy.

 

An investment in your future

Let’s look at a couple of examples based on real solar projects right here in Alabama. The first is a 6,000-watt solar setup at a residence in Huntsville. The up-front cost was $18,000, for an average expense of $3 per watt. Subtract $5,400 right away for the 30% federal tax credit that all new solar projects currently earn. That leaves $12,600 to pay off. In this example, 71% of the residence’s energy needs would be offset by solar, which means that household would only need 29% of its energy from the grid—and would thus pay only about 29% of its usual utility bill. Imagine the savings.

Thanks to TVA incentives, going solar in Huntsville has certain advantages.

In addition to that, the TVA pays solar customers the current retail rate for any electricity they generate. (According to the Huntsville Utilities website, the current rate is $0.08856 per kilowatt-hour for the first 1400 kWh.) This fair purchase price reduces the payback time considerably. For our example project, the estimated payback time is 10-12 years.

Think about that for a moment. Sure, 10 or 12 years might sound like a long time up front. But for residential solar generators, that timeline makes plenty of sense. After a dozen years or so, your solar system would produce pure savings. So if you’re in a house for 20 or 30 years, the incentive is strong. And if you build your solar array at the time of purchase and roll the cost into your mortgage, your earnings from selling electricity could be greater than the increased cost to your mortgage.

Either way, all of the savings come from simply running your system as you normally would any other time. So it’s not like you have to change any behavior drastically. Even better, you’re investing in yourself and your home.

Why incentives matter

The incentives for going solar in TVA territory are less enticing than they used to be. But then again, solar prices have dropped dramatically. That said, TVA’s stance on renewables is the best in Alabama. To understand why, let’s look at another example project, this one in Birmingham. 

Instead of reaping the benefits of incentives, many potential solar homeowners in Alabama are penalized by being charged a grid access fee. That means solar generators incur an extra tax of $5 per kilowatt of capacity to connect their system to the grid. This fee, which is one of the highest of its kind in the country, can reduce your monthly solar revenue by as much as 50%. Non-solar customers do not pay the fee.

Furthermore, most solar producers in the rest of Alabama are only paid what is known as the avoided cost. As of this writing, that’s approximately $0.025/kWh. This “avoided cost” represents a buyback of less than one-fourth of TVA’s and seriously dampens your return on investment.  This makes it virtually impossible for our example system in Birmingham, or any grid-tied residential solar array in the bottom two-thirds of Alabama, to pay itself off, regardless of how long it’s in service.

Of course, commercial solar is different. More on that next time!

UAH sustainability program brings changes to campus

Since 2013, Haley Hix, Sustainability Coordinator at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, has been hard at work, creating and implementing environmentally conscious projects. Her goal in each new endeavor is two-fold: to educate the Huntsville community about sustainable options and to make the UAH campus more environmentally friendly.

The small town girl from Tennessee has always been keenly aware of her environment.

ALCSE: “Is there something in your life that makes you love sustainability – or be a champion of it?”

HALEY: “I think it probably had a lot to do with growing up, the way I was raised on a farm, and learning to be protectors and promoters of our environment. In my eyes I just saw it as a very sacred thing. I mean it doesn’t belong to us. We’re here to be caretakers of it.”

Her position as Sustainability Coordinator required a little more initiative, but that’s something Haley isn’t lacking.

ALCSE: “So. Tell me how you got this job… because my co-worker.” Uncomfortable pause. “she said that you basically…” More pause. “kind of…”

HALEY: “Created it?” Laughter.

ALCSE:   “Well.” Laughter. “Let’s start with that.”

HALEY: “I started 2013 as an intern here for our energy manager. I was a Power Save Campus Intern. It was a position through the Alliance to Save Energy, which is a national nonprofit that encourages universities to do energy conservation and energy efficiency. I was about two months in when I realized: we don’t have any sustainability projects going on campus. We don’t have a budget for sustainability or any sort of way for students to start sustainability projects.”

 ALCSE: “What were your tasks when you began the internship if there weren’t any projects?”

HALEY: “We would do lighting audits of the buildings, make plans for upgrades for new lighting fixtures. We hosted events where students could come and switch out bulbs for more efficient bulbs in their dorm rooms. We would do energy competitions for the residents halls on campus where they would compete for three weeks in the spring to turn all their lights off and save energy and the winning dorm won a prize.”

ALCSE: “That’s kinda cool.”

HALEY: “We didn’t do any institutional changes. It was more an awareness program. And so I thought we needed to do something a little bit deeper. As a student I wrote a proposal for a campus green fund, researched other universities’ student green funds and put together a proposal for the vice president of finance. I proposed in August of 2013 and we got approval for 20K the first year.

“Then I started doing little projects here and there and I eventually convinced this department that they needed a sustainability coordinator.” Laughter.

ALCSE: “I love that.”

Haley loves her job. She’s implemented a lot of projects in the two short years she’s held the position.

If you’ve been to the Charger Union, or any academic building on the UAH campus, you’ve seen Haley’s first campaign: Hydration Stations.

Fact: Only 1 in 5 plastic water bottles really find their way into recycle bins.

Other projects followed, getting larger and larger in scale. Take for instance, the recent composting project, with four departments and three student groups involved.

Haley Hix, UAH Sustainability Coordinator heads up Ban the Battle

“That was actually my first project. We did a Ban the Bottle Project to get rid of all the little plastic bottles.”

Rainwater used for garden, recycle

ALCSE: “Which one of these [projects] is your fave? Or, to ask a different way, which one are you most proud of?”

HALEY: “Actually our composting project is really cool. I don’t know if it’s my favorite…but it is neat because it’s solar-powered and rain-water fueled.”

“Mike Marshall and I wrote a proposal for the Green Fund to start a composting project here at the community garden.

“We built – and I mean we literally, physically built – this composting facility with solar panels on top to power the compost tea brew room. Solar panels power the tea brewer for the compost. We have a rainwater catchment system. We use the rainwater to make the compost tea.

“We collect food scraps – this is in process – from the dining facilities on campus.”

ALCSE: “How big is it?”

HALEY: “Half the size of this room…the pile is….about 9×12. Our grounds crew turns it for us.

“We also have a vermiculture system. We take the compost and the worm castings [from the vermiculture system] and we use both of those things to make the compost tea.

ALCSE: “Where do you get that part?”

HALEY: “The castings?’

ALCSE: “Yes.”

HALEY: “We built a vermiculture continuous flow system. We put in red wrigglers and we have this system to catch the castings to use for the composting.”

UAH Compost heap

 

UAH Community Garden

Dr. Leland Cseke & Mike Marshall

ALCSE: “Who did that part?”

HALEY: “That was mainly Mike Marshall. He’s the student who headed the garden.”

ALCSE: “So he had other students help him?”

HALEY: “Yeah. That’s the other thing. We have curriculum designed around it.

ALCSE: “Who wrote the curriculum?”

HALEY: “One of our biology professors, Dr. Leland Cjecka. He’s kind of like the faculty advisor for the garden and he also designed a class around this whole system out here, which is called People Plants and the Environment.”

ALCSE: “Who takes it?

HALEY: “Well anyone can take it really. It’s mainly undergrad biology students. I took it as an undergrad. It was a really cool class.”

ALCSE: “That sounds like a neat program.”

 HALEY: “We use the compost tea on the garden and we use a few pieces of the greenway to test it out because we eventually want to use it to replace all our commercial fertilizers that are used on the entire campus. So that’s the big picture.” Read more about UAH’s Community Garden HERE

As big projects morph into even bigger ones, Haley plans to keep sharing the message. She’s most interested in the third piece of the environmental pie: environmental justice. She’d like to see more minorities in leadership roles and less environmental hazards placed in low-income areas.

And of course – more projects! Stay tuned.

OTHER COOL PROJECTS

Haley Hix

Tubeless Toilet Paper

  • Reduces packing waste by 95%.
  • Ensures complete roll usage.
  • Decreases total waste by 11,900 lbs.

Electricity-powered Heat Machines/Chillers

  • Savings Realized: 5.2 million gallons of water
  • Savings Realized: 350,000 therms of natural gas

Hybrid Utility Vehicles

  • Projected Savings: 700 gallons of gas.
  • Projected Savings: $2,000 in maintenance expenses.

electric vehicles for campus use at UAH

 

Tree campus USA - plannting trees at UAH

Tree Campus USA

  • Offsets greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Adds tree canopy to the UAH campus.
  • Creates aesthetically pleasing space.
  • Provides relaxing environment and reduces stress.
  • Shades buildings for lower energy bills.

Solar-Powered Golf Carts

Solar Golf Carts created in partnership with ALCSE

  • Raises awareness of solar power
  • Allows for maintenance-free transportation on campus
  • Develops partnerships with Hunstville-area business. (link to our story)

solar powered golf cart installation

 

UAH Community Garden

Community Garden

  • Provides fresh fruits and vegetables for campus dining facilities.
  • Connects the university with the larger Huntsville community.
  • Offers hands-on learning experiences for Biology Department.

 


5 AWESOME WAYS TO GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY


FUTURE PROJECTS

  • Gala Fundraising Event
  • Community Partnerships
  • Environmental Justice Programs
  • Campus-wide Solar Project
  • Climate Action Plan
  • Tree Planting Project
  • Fertigation

Want to learn more? You can read about Haley’s projects and lots more here: http://www.uah.edu/sustainability/past-and-current-projects

ALCSE Giving Tuesday

#GivingTuesday. T-Minus 1 Month.

December 1st is Giving Tuesday.  That’s just one short month away.  ALCSE Giving TuesdayWe’re working hard for sustainable energy throughout Alabama. But we need YOU!

EDUCATING

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We’re hard at work to bring more sustainable energy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) into local classrooms.

PRODUCING

We encourage and support locally-produced, renewable energy.

We encourage and support locally-produced, renewable energy.

MOVING

Did you know that gas would need to go below $1 per gallon before electric cars didn't make economic sense?

Did you know that gas would need to go below $1 per gallon before electric cars didn’t make economic sense?

ENCOURAGING

Support Sustainable Energy Alabama

We celebrate entrepreneurial efforts that use new technology.

So what can you do?

  • Sign up for a Thunderclap that will happen at 9:00 AM on Tuesday December 1st. Sign up here: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/33882-i-m-solarizing-alabama
    • A Thunderclap is a tool that allows our supporters to simultaneously post on the same message on their social media networks. It will help us make a big splash to start #GivingTuesday
    • Please sign up for the Thunderclap using all the social media accounts you have!
  • Forward this blog post to family and friends and ask them to sign up for the Thunderclap.
  • Give on #GivingTuesday (Dec. 1st). Even $1 will make a big difference.
  • Using that same link, you can start your own fundraising page to help us if you are so inclined. Set your own goal and try to help us fundraise!

UAH Students Install Solar Panel to School Golf Cart

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – A University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) golf cart will never need to be plugged in again. Some young minds outfitted it with solar panels so it gets natural — and free — energy to power it.

With help from Energy Alabama, the golf cart is the only one being outfitted — for now. The team hopes it will become a moving billboard as it moves students and staff across campus to promote the accessibility and convenience of solar power.

To read the full article, please visit: http://whnt.com/2015/07/08/uah-students-install-solar-panel-to-school-golf-cart/