going green

Five ways to decrease energy costs

energy auditsCutting costs and saving money is essential to the health of any business. But too many small business owners focus on direct spending and not the indirect costs of intangibles such as energy costs. Every penny saved on conserving energy goes straight to the bottom line. Here are five strategies for cutting energy costs in your business.

Empower an Energy Manager

Put someone in charge of your energy savings and empower them to make decisions and cut costs. This person can be someone in accounting or a general office manager. It needs to be someone familiar enough with the day to day operations to understand where, when and how energy costs can be cut without impacting services. Give this person reasonable and attainable goals and hold them accountable for savings. You might even offer an incentive for meeting specific goals.

Get an Energy Audit

The new energy manager should first be required to perform an energy audit. They shouldn’t have to do this alone. Your power provider and other local groups can be called upon to help create energy audits, often at no or low cost. Identifying where energy can be saved is the first step to cutting power costs. Don’t forget to audit the energy consumption of all equipment as compared to newer energy-efficient models. Have the manager look at both short and long-term savings for purchasing new equipment and replacing old power hogs. Many replacements will pay for themselves in less time than you think.

Get Regular Maintenance of all HVAC Equipment

Keeping the equipment healthy that makes your environment comfortable is a significant step in energy savings. Replacing dirty filters and other minor changes can make huge boosts to your energy conservation. Take a look at your annual heating and cooling costs for general office systems. Now imagine cutting 30-40% of that cost annually. Also, have your HVAC maintenance company make recommendations on ideal settings for your thermostats and have all thermostats replaced with ones that can be set to timers or operated remotely.

Don’t Forget Your Computer Rooms

While saving on cooling costs, you can’t afford to risk your valuable data servers. But you don’t need to dump a fortune into keeping them cold either. First, have an expert make recommendations on optimal temperatures for your server rooms and computers. Next, find ways of maintaining these temperatures more efficiently. A low power electric fan can make a massive difference without impacting your cooling system budget. Install equipment and/or software that puts the computers in a low-energy standby mode when not in use.

Invest in Alternative Energy Sources

Depending on your location, alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power may be available. Solar energy can be installed for almost any business depending on the type of building and local zoning ordinances. Installation of solar panels is often tax-deductible, and even better, your solar farm may produce enough energy to sell some of it back to your power company.

Energy savings not only helps the environment but can drastically improve the bottom line of your company. Make decreasing energy costs a priority today and reap the benefits for years to come.


How green are electric vehicles?

Electric vehicles claim to be the green and sustainable solution. But where does this electricity come from?

Electric Vehicles, also called EVs, can either be recharged via a plug connection or by exchanging the drained battery with a charged one at designated locations. The latter variant is referred to as AC charging (Alternating Current) or fast charging and enables to reach 80% of the maximum capacity within 30 minutes. DC charging (Direct Current) on the other hand can reach 100% in about 3 to 8 hours.

The most common AC type is Combined Charging System . It enables to reduce charge times for an EV with a large battery up to 40%. Therefore, charging stations need less powerful circuits that are easier to install.

In case EVs become more popular, the network of charging stations will need to be extended and modernized. An interesting effect is that these evolutions typically escape from being adopted by a free market mechanism due to the missing infrastructure for buying and selling green electricity . How green are electric vehicles?

So far, most electric vehicles recharge at night when demand is low and power plants produce excess electricity, which in many countries is not used in the evening. The advantage for the power plant: it can sell excess electricity at a high price to “load leveling” companies that distribute it when demand peaks during the day. The disadvantage: when load leveling companies cannot purchase this excess electricity, they have to buy power from a nearby power plant at a high price as well.

Theoretically, this situation offers an interesting option for the use of green electricity in electric vehicles: load leveling companies could install their own charging stations, which would enable them to get their expensive electricity for free. However, the unavailability of green electricity at night, when demand drops anyway and thus power plants produce more than enough electricity, makes this option unattractive.

Another possibility is that EV owners can install solar panels on their garage roofs and thus provide energy for charging stations during the day. This option is attractive for individual users but becomes less promising due to the limited amount of roofs on which this scenario would be viable.

The overall result is that recharging EVs at night or on weekends brings us closer to a green electrical grid , while fast charging during the day does not. The latter option can even contribute to polluting the atmosphere due to the higher demand for coal power plants when no “green electricity” is available.

How green are electric vehicles?

In order to make charging EVs greener, 2 solutions are conceivable:

1. Charge them via DC fast charging at night when demand is typically low and green electricity can be provided for free by load leveling companies. However, this solution requires a massive extension of the power grid and “green” power plants, because individual home owners cannot provide energy for the whole country.

2. Provide cheap green electricity over night via load leveling companies and make it available to EV owners during the day, also for fast charging . While this solution is economically more reasonable, it would mean that not only green power plants are required but also a market mechanism to buy green electricity from power production companies at night and sell it to EV owners during the day.

The power grid has to be better developed and individual households and companies might even need to purchase new solar panels. In addition, a market mechanism has to be created that allows load leveling companies to buy green electricity from power production companies at night and sell it to EV owners during the day.

In case EVs become more popular, this scenario will also reduce demand for coal power plants as a consequence of an extended charging infrastructure . The latter effect is typically neglected by most reports considering the question, “How green is an electric vehicle?”

How green are electric vehicles?

electric vehiclesIt is worthwhile to know about how long it will take to charge your electric vehicle (EV) before buying it, and hence, many prospective buyers would probably research the charging times for different EV models. Charging times would vary by the type of the EV, and the type of the charging station in question.

1. Type of EV

EVs today are classed by the degree of electricity used as their energy source. As such, we have three main types of electric vehicles, including BEVs (Battery electric vehicles), PHEVs (Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles), and HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles). This article is about BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles).

Battery Electric Vehicles are typically referred or called EVs and are fully electric with rechargeable batteries and no gasoline engine. Electric vehicles use electric motors other than internal combustion engines (ICEs).

EVs store electricity on their high capacity battery packs and use battery power to run their electric motor and all other functions of the EV.

When it comes to charging times, this can range between 30 minutes to 20 hours or more based on the type of the EV, as well as the kind of battery, how depleted it is and capacity. In this case, BEVs take longer to recharge when their cells are entirely used up than their hybrid EV counterparts.

Most EVs seem to use lithium-ion batteries of various designs, similar to those used in cellphones and laptops computers, but use these types of cells on a much larger scale. For instance, the Nissan LEAF uses lithium-ion batteries and can charge at about 8 hours using a 220/240-volt Nissan charging dock at your home or charge at a 110/120-volt outlet but would take a little bit longer.

electric vehicles

However, other EVs for instance cars from GEM (Global Electric Motorcars) use lead-acid batteries which is much an older technology that is proven to be reliable and charges in about 6 to 8 hours at a standard 110-volt outlet.

2. Type of charging point

Your charging point is another determinant of how fast you can charge your EV. There are three types of chargers, that is level 1 charging stations, level 2 charging stations, and level 3 charging stations.

  • Level 1 stations use the regular 120-volt connection or the standard household outlet and hence do not have their extra costs. However, this type of charge is a little bit slow.
  • Level 2 uses a higher-output 240-volt power source, like the one that you plug your oven or clothes dryer into and charging times are much faster than with a Level 1 EV charging station.
  • Level 3 chargers are fast-charging devices that use very high voltage and can add 90 miles of range to an EV in just 30 minutes in some cases. These chargers, however, are costly, costing tens of thousands of dollars, and routinely using a Level 3 chargers can ultimately hurt your car’s battery.

Why solar panels compliment EVs?

How long it takes to charge an EV is just one consideration; however, you also want to save money despite what type of charger or EV you have. Charging your EV with solar energy is probably one of the most exciting aspects of driving a fully electric vehicle because you increase your energy efficiency by utilizing the power from the sun.solar panels

As such, the EnergySage has written an article about why solar panels compliment EVs. According to the EnergySage, a solar PV system will charge your electric car just as it will supply energy for the rest of your home appliances. Even a small solar panel array with only ten (10) solar panels can provide enough power to charge your vehicle’s battery.

Click here to learn more about why solar panels compliment EVs.

go solar

Energy poverty in Africa

Can we end the energy poverty in Africa?

Many countries in Africa remain not connected to the main grid and they never will be. Why do I say this? These countries may leapfrog from using power from the main grid to use of decentralized renewable energy packaged solutions. Just the same way Africa leapfrogged from using grid type connected telephone lines to use of cellphones—there is a potential and the technology is available to use to help homes or businesses in going solar through the use of packaged solar PV solutions, that may include smart grids, smart meters, financing, service, warranties, etc.

With electricity, children would not have to gather wood in order to boil water – a simple electric stove could do that. A light could be turned on at night so that they could read before bed. And the aged grandparents or infant sibling could enjoy the breeze from a simple fan on sweltering, 40+ degree Celsius days – it could make a difference between life and death.

I believe we can make this happen by offering decentralized energy solutions to these homes. Governments alone cannot solve this problem, because we are talking about 600 million people without electricity and this translates to $19 billion a year in energy investments. This huge population of Africans without electricity is almost twice the population of the USA.

Therefore, this problem could be solved by the private sector with support from the governments and civil society. The solutions would center around creating decentralized renewable energy solutions rather than constructing massive power plants or grid extension which may take time to develop and may require huge investments.

It would take simple renewable energy-based packaged solutions that come with power, financing, service, warranties and energy-efficient appliances (in this case solar PV or wind technologies where there is a good wind potential).  This solution has failed in the past, because of the mode of delivery or approach. In the past, the donor approach failed to deliver; because development agencies would provide “free stuff” which would stop functioning at some point, maybe because of lack of maintenance, no training and lack of after-sales service by the provider. This model, therefore, proved it couldn’t work because the donor approach is reliant on “targets” rather than provide a service to the people that would develop a long-lasting customer relationship.

If it was a private sector entity providing this service, this would change because a truly private sector would want to develop a relationship with the community or village, then train the villagers on how to use the equipment, install, and then provide after-sales service if needed. This model would work because the private sector entity is incentivized by profits they make as well as the number of sales they obtain. Hence, it is to the advantage of the private sector to provide a better service for them to remain in business and expand in other areas.

Just like the telecommunications sector changed from the grid type of sector to mobile phones, a similar paradigm shift could take place when it comes to energy access in Africa or other developing countries. These countries may leapfrog to the mobile type or renewable energy packaged solutions. In this regard, solar will play a major role in technology advancement, solar will become cheaper and affordable to reach millions of individuals in rural Africa and other developing countries.

The government and development agencies like the World Bank would provide the regulatory and policy frameworks to eradicate the barriers of inferior quality of solar products entering the market and encourage fair competition among the private sector companies. Also, governments would set up financial mechanisms and schemes to overcome the investment or cost issues by the private sector or the end-user.

Since the initial cost is a huge barrier for rural communities, and a solar set could cost up to $200, the private sector can be provided guarantees or other incentives by the government to allow people to pay small installments or buy in credit in order to overcome this barrier. This lowers the risk for the private sector entity and encourages them to invest in decentralized renewable energy solutions. The communities would get service from the private sector and in-return the private sector will get paid by communities. On the issue of quality, communities distrust solar solutions, because they have been sold cheap products that don’t last long or they’ve bought appliances and haven’t been taught how to use them properly. Private sector companies that are service-minded can help solve this problem.

In conclusion, I would say this issue is solvable and currently many players including the World Bank are already applying these models, but to accelerate and solve this problem will require targeted campaigns that would raise awareness about this issue and how to solve it. It will take you and me to raise this awareness about the best models for energy access, the best financing solutions available, the best technologies to adopt and how or even how to solve the energy access problem. The private sector also needs this information, as most of them may not have the capacity to conduct meaningful data analytics to determine what models work or how to fine-tune them and get the desired results.

To get started in knowing about the benefits of going solar, you can learn more about this solar panel cost calculator.


going solar

Is going solar good for sustainability?

It is true that fighting climate change will take combined efforts of government, private sector and individuals like you and me.

I have worked on a few projects concerning mitigating climate change, and I have come to the conclusion that innovations to reduce the effects of climate change will require huge amounts of finance by the private sector with technical assistance from the government.

Finances alone without innovation in policy and technology will be a waste of time and this calls for a multi-stakeholder approach where businesses work together with government and financiers to solve this sustainability challenge. 

Solar innovations/going solar 

When it comes to solar innovations or going solar, this approach works well because the government creates an enabling environment to attract the private sector and individuals like you and me to innovate and cause a market transformation that will ensure wider adoption of solar PV technologies or cleantech.

For example, the private sector has developed solar PV technologies through innovation and the government facilitates their wider adoption by making it easy to adopt through online solar tools such as the solar panel cost calculator that help individuals and businesses in going solar with reduced customer acquisition cost. 

So far this approach of creating solar energy markets is working because the government is providing tax credits that cause the private sector to innovate by researching how to develop innovative products as well as innovative business models for engaging the end-user.

For example, to obtain solar panels such models like the solar PPA and solar leasing help the end-user to acquire solar panels without any requirement in putting any money down.

Such financing models are developed with the idea that a third-party investor will invest their money into buying the equipment.

Then the investor will charge the end-user a monthly fee that is slightly lower than their current energy bill. This way, the third-party investor bears all the risks but enjoys an attractive rate of return when a customer agrees in going solar.

However, it takes the government to provide the 26% federal tax credits and other additional state tax credits to reduce the high initial costs of solar panels.

Also, the investors or private sector are encouraged to put their money down because they know it will cost them half the actual cost (i.e. when they have a high tax appetite) and thus are able to claim the full 30% tax credit while enjoying a good rate of return.

A solar panel cost calculator can show you the actual cost of a typical solar panel based on your current energy bill and how government tax credits help to reduce this cost by almost half; thus making solar panels affordable to a third-party investor.  

With solar PPA and solar leasing, the end-user or the customer may not be required to put any money down and hence can enjoy the benefits of adopting clean technology while reducing by between 25% to 30% of their total energy cost. 

EnergySage provides a great platform to get started to determine how much you can save with solar energy with or without any money down if you are interested in going solar. 

Is going solar good for sustainability? 

In my personal opinion, going solar in the long-term is good for sustainability because of the cumulative effect it has on reducing your carbon footprint. Platforms like the EnergySage are a great place to start to show you the carbon footprint potential in terms of how much carbon can be reduced by going solar has in the long-term.

For instance, the EnergySage provides a good comparison point to use when thinking about carbon emissions and what a typical vehicle emits 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. EnergySage makes this comparison using the national system size of a PV system in American households which is 6 kW (6,000 watts).

Such a solar PV system can help you reduce about 6.3 metric tonnes of carbon emissions per year. Hence, we can say going solar is good for sustainability i.e. going solar with the right solar panels comes with the “benefit of taking a car off the road” as noted by the EnergySage

When it comes to sustainability, it will take homeowners and businesses to adopt the right solar panels or adopt the right concepts for going green to move towards sustainability.

One way of going green is through going solar or the adoption of sustainable technologies such as solar panels.  It is the combined effect of adopting sustainable technologies that would have a meaningful effect on reducing one’s carbon footprint.

The total cumulative carbon footprint reduced in the long-term will be worthwhile because any good solar panel will last for over 20 years and hence depending on the number of people or businesses that adopt, it will have a tremendous effect. 

Also, clean technology such as solar panels is one solution for helping us to move towards sustainability or fighting climate change and therefore the government and private sector can work together to make it happen. 

If you are interested in going solar today, you can get started by using this solar panel cost calculator to help you determine your solar potential, solar savings and solar panel cost.

EnergySage are good online solar marketplaces that we recommend since they help to reduce the customer acquisition cost of going solar.