Beyond the Trend: Maximizing the Impact of Your Energy Efficiency Solution
Renewable Energy World, October 6, 2015. Image credit: Liza
A revolution is happening in the energy sector. From the new regulations pushed out earlier this summer by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to the continued hype around renewables like solar and sophisticated technologies such as Tesla’s batteries, energy providers and consumers alike are facing the challenge of moving beyond what is “trendy” to actually identifying and implementing solutions that will have a long-term impact when it comes to reducing energy use and cost.
For instance, a commercial building manager looking to reduce bills should first evaluate energy usage to identify areas of waste, such as buildings running heating and cooling systems simultaneously; or leaving lights on during hours of inactivity. By addressing these simple operational changes ahead of investing in rooftop solar, the manager can maximize the impact of implementing solar while also reducing the price tag on the project.
With pressure mounting on utilities, commercial entities and residential consumers alike to lower energy costs and improve energy efficiency, the urge to jump on the latest trend might be tempting, but implementing renewable doesn’t always equal out to dollar savings.
One building we analyzed at FirstFuel, a Mid-Atlantic school with a recent PV installation, actually ended up seeing an increase in their energy spend year-over-year after implementing a renewable solution. While the school was able to avoid a total of $4,400 in electric charges by installing the solar panels, their bill jumped by $4,800 due to power factor penalties directly associated with the PV installation. Power factor penalties look at the amount of power being drawn from the energy supply to run machinery or systems, in this case to power the school, in comparison to what is actually being used. By not evaluating their existing usage and equipment ahead of the PV installation, the school ended up increasing costs, with its power penalty jumping more than 1000 percent from pre-installation to post because solar was installed without regard to several factors, including addressing load balancing and peak demand that occurred outside of daylight hours.