solar energy

Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative Co-Hosting Local Workshop to Boost Solar in Alabama

Huntsville, AL – The Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative, the National Association of Regional Councils and Energy Alabama are hosting “Solar Powering Your Community: Actionable Steps for Adopting Solar in Alabama” on April 28th, 2016. The workshop runs from 10AM to 3PM at the Terry-Hutchens Building in Downtown Huntsville and is open to all local government officials from across North Alabama.

Communities interested in learning more about solar development in Alabama are invited to work with national and local experts. This interactive workshop will provide actionable information on creating a local-level solar program, with a focus on:  

  • The benefits and barriers of solar development in Alabama;
  • Creating solar friendly planning and zoning codes and ordinances;
  • Understanding the regulatory landscape of solar; and
  • Innovative financing options for solar projects.

About Energy Alabama

Energy Alabama is accelerating the transition to clean, sustainable energy throughout Alabama. We accomplish our mission by educating young and old alike, informing smart energy policy, and providing technical assistance to help deploy more sustainable energy. We believe in 100% sustainable energy for all.

About Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative

The Solar Outreach Partnership (SolarOPs), the event co-sponsor, is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program designed to increase the use and integration of solar energy in communities across the United States. The SolarOPs program is part of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to make solar energy systems cost-competitive with other forms of energy before 2020. To drive down the cost of solar electricity, the US Department of Energy is supporting efforts by private companies, academia, and national laboratories, to innovate, educate, and apply best practices in solar energy.

About the National Association of Regional Councils

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) serves as the national voice for regionalism by advocating for regional cooperation as the most effective way to address a variety of community planning and development opportunities and issues. NARC’s member organizations are composed of multiple local governments that work together to serve American communities – large and small, urban and rural. For additional information, please visit www.NARC.org.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Daniel Tait by phone at 256-303-7773 or by email at dtait@alcse.org.

solar isn't the answer to energy efficiency

Solar Isn’t the Answer to Energy Efficiency

We talk a lot about solar here at Energy Alabama and I think sometimes that confuses people and makes them think that that’s what we are all about, but it’s not true. Solar is great, solar is awesome, but solar isn’t the total answer to energy efficiency.

First off, there are many areas where solar just isn’t even a possibility. I live in the woods so installing solar on my house would just be silly because of all the tree coverage. However, there are many things I can do to improve energy efficiency and we’ve been working on that quite a bit lately.

In January we had Southern Valley Services come out to our house and provide an energy audit. We live in a home that was built in the mid-1960’s, and while it was well-built for the time, it has some issues and we knew it. It was pretty interesting to watch Tommy Marr go through our house with an infra-red camera and point out spots where the cold was getting in. He then provided a very thorough list of ways that we could improve our home’s energy efficiency. His list included things that would benefit older homes including a heat barrier in the attic area above our garage, proper insulation in a variety of areas (sometimes I wonder if the insulated this place at all), sealing of duct work, finding and sealing air leaks in our sunroom windows, and encapsulation of our crawl space.

None of these were huge things as far as price goes, but the all work together to cause major energy inefficiency. We’ve not done everything on the list yet but just the few things we chose to do first have made a big difference in our home’s comfort level.

You may recall our interview with Rick & Pat Trescott; their home is about the same age as mine. They’ve spent years improving their home’s energy efficiency before they finally reached a point where they were ready to install solar panels. They live in an area where they have the right solar access so solar made sense after they had completed all the other improvements. They knew that if they’d put solar on first it would have been a huge waste of money, because they would simply be grabbing energy from the sun only to have it escaping due to improper insulation, unsealed ductwork, poorly sealed windows and poorly selected blinds. The list of small things you can and should do to improve energy efficiency is endless. Solar is just the icing on the cake.

Here are just a few things you can and should do to your home to improve energy efficiency before you consider solar:

  • Seal all ductwork (including the spots where ducts enters the house)
  • Make sure that all walls and attic areas are properly insulated
  • Encapsulate your crawl space
  • Update your water heater and/or heat pump to ENERGY STAR rated versions
  • Update all light fixtures to LEDs
  • Replace all appliances with ENERGY STAR rated appliances
  • Replace windows with ENERGY STAR rated windows

So, the next time you start getting a little anxious that you don’t have solar yet, calm down. You might not be ready for solar yet. In due time. Look for the small things that you can do now to improve the energy efficiency of your home. Solar will just keep getting cheaper and it’ll still be there when you are ready.

Jeff Baker Electric Car charging station

Sustainable Energy Superstar – Jeff Baker

 

Solar Panels, Electric Cars, and new friends to nosh on pizza with: those are just a few of the many gifts Jeff Baker receives from his sustainable lifestyle.

Jeff drives an electric car.Chevy VoltHe has his own charging station attached to the side of his garage.Electric vehicle charging portHe also has 12 solar panels on his rooftop.

“Does that power your house completely?” I ask.

“It covers more than my car charging I know that.” Jeff says

“Is that why you put the solar in, to charge your vehicle?” I ask.

“Honestly,” grins Jeff. “It was more about publicity. I just wanted to be an early adopter and I really liked the idea of having [solar panels] located right here, co-located with the charging equipment, to showcase how well the technology synergizes.”

solar panels

 

 

“If I lived in California I’d be behind the times. But in Madison…. we’re the third household that’s even done this.”

There were lots of inspections and permits and electrical upgrades involved in getting the permit for solar on Jeff’s thirty-year-old house. At one point, he thought he might have to stop the whole effort but things worked out and now his home is up to code and his solar panels are creating about 3 kW of power per day.

“This allows me [freedom] to make my own energy here, use it to get where I’m going, and also if you add the right accessories, to store it and use it to respond to a natural disaster, or other kinds of power outages.”

Much of our conversation revolved around what its like to own and drive an electric car. If the thought of searching for a charging station while traveling makes you uneasy, you aren’t alone. There’s even an application called “Plug Share” Plug Share appwhere electric car drivers can locate charging stations.

In fact, the whole phenomenon has led to rather unusual friendships for Jeff.

Chevy Volt charging

 

“I’ve had through travelers that found me on Plug Share. Someone from Nashville came down to visit the Space and Rocket Center and realized they didn’t have enough charge to get back home…they called roadside assistance and got sent here because I’m listed publicly. “

Electric cars require planning because you have to allow for charge time. Jeff says drivers approach it in many different ways. Some sit in their cars and wait.

“Maybe they have a hot spot in their cars and they just surf the web.”

“Using the battery on their phones while they’re charging the battery on their car….” I say.

TurboCord electric car chargerWe get a shared laugh over that dichotomy.

Jeff says there are now higher-end electric vehicles that charge more quickly. But the Volt is designed for overnight charging.

“How long will that take?” I ask.

“Well it depends. There are different rates. It depends on the voltage as well as the current.”

“There’s a portable charger that comes with the car that will just run off the basic wall outlet. It doesn’t need any specialized circuitry or anything. It’s gonna take a whole night, maybe 9 – 10 hours. It still gets you there.”

“What I’m connected to right now is a dual voltage charger called a Turbocord.”

The cost and technology are changing rapidly. Volts emerged around 2011 and marketed at around 40K. Four years later, they sell for around 33K with better batteries and better technology all around.

 

“I just read today that 80% of 14 year-olds think their first car will be electric.

Jeff, you really are way ahead of the times! Thanks for sharing.

Jeff Baker - Electric car driving Sustainable Superstar

Mission: Net Zero Solar House

Mission: Net Zero Solar Marketplace Launched in North Alabama

Huntsville, AL – Mission: Net Zero, a marketplace designed to drive down solar costs and increase solar installations, launched this week in Huntsville. The program is administered by Energy Alabama and its partner Solar Site Design. Mission: Net Zero pairs solar originators, those who add projects to the marketplace, with solar fulfillment companies, those who can build the installations. The two largest solar companies in the area, Southern Solar Systems and Lightwave Solar, joined the program.

This partnership allows non-traditional solar companies to enter the market in a low-cost, low-risk way and provides traditional solar companies with a more consistent sales engine built on trusted relationships.

“Economics drove us to create this program. Solar on rural small businesses right here in North Alabama can see paybacks between two and four years,” says Daniel Tait, CEO of Energy Alabama. “People and businesses need to know the possibilities. This is real.”

“The next few years will be revolutionary for solar energy across the Southeast United States,” said Jason Loyet, Solar Site Design founder. “Demand is increasing, public policy is becoming more supportive and carbon-based fossil fuels are being regulated more and more as the public calls for cleaner energy solutions. At the same time, solar equipment costs are continuing their historic decreases. And that’s where Solar Site Design comes in, to reduce what remains the most challenging portion of the cost structure in the solar equation – soft costs and customer acquisition. We have teamed with Energy Alabama to activate the next generation of solar originators and referral agents.”

Companies or individuals who are interested in becoming solar originators or exploring the economics of solar at their home or business can learn more at: http://alcse.org/mission-net-zero

About Energy Alabama

Energy Alabama is accelerating the transition to sustainable, clean energy throughout Alabama. We do this by widely promoting sustainable energy as a feasible, state-wide goal by executing high-impact clean energy projects across the state, and by providing people with information and opportunities to help make clean energy choices. We work with policy makers, public agencies, local governments, educational institutions, utilities, business and civic leaders, and individuals to transform Alabama’s energy marketplace and beyond.

About Solar Site Design

Solar Site Design is a collaborative, cloud-based platform that connects highly-qualified solar project referrals to leading solar companies to drive down customer acquisition costs. Our proprietary business process is designed to reduce the solar industry’s customer acquisition costs by up to 50%. In May of 2015, Solar Site Design won the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Award. The aim of SunShot is to bring the cost of solar energy down to parity with fossil fuels as quickly as possible. To learn more, please visit www.solarsitedesign.com.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Daniel Tait by phone at (256) 303-7773 or by email at dtait@alcse.org.