Posts Tagged ‘Energy Efficiency’

SMCC SEA Center Puts Solar on Center Stage

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
SMCC Sea Center - Solar Hot Water and Solar Power
SMCC’s SEA Director John Brautigam standing before a suite of solar energy systems recently installed by ReVision Energy.

ReVision recently wrapped installation of a suite of solar systems at Southern Maine Community College’s Sustainable Energy Alternatives (SEA) Center.

The SEA Center is a major part of SMCC’s efforts to become a regional center for education and training on renewable energy and sustainable building practices. The building is equipped with cutting-edge professional equipment and state-of-the-art educational tools designed to help students understand theories of building science including air infiltration, insulation issues, and thermal properties of building materials to help equip them for a career in energy efficiency and/or renewable energy.

To showcase the variety of solar energy installations likely to be encountered, SMCC had ReVision install two solar hot water systems, one with evacuated tubes and the other with flat plate collectors, as well as a modest photovoltaic (solar electric) array. All of the “guts” of the system – pipe run, tank, wiring, etc. – is on display and labeled so students can understand how it works and observe it in practice. The systems also feature robust web-based data monitoring options that will be viewable by both students and the public.

ReVision has had the pleasure of working with an SMCC Electric Engineering student, Melanie Janarelli, as an intern this summer, who helped install the system. Director John Brautigam is featured in one of our upcoming Solar Road Tour episodes, so stay tuned!

More Photos:

ReVision Energy Talks Sun at UBEC Energy Efficiency Rally

Monday, April 11th, 2011

ReVision joined energy auditors, architects, and builders last week for a rally in support of UBEC, the Uniform Building and Energy Code, which sets standards for how homes and commercial buildings are built, from structural strength to ventilation, foundations and even the size of aggress windows. The Code also includes tough standards for energy conservation to help ensure new homes in Maine are less fossil-fuel dependent than their predecessors.

In a speech given by ReVision’s Jennifer Albee, we took the opportunity to highlight the value of the energy efficiency industry as a bright spot in a tough economy. Albee emphasized how exciting it is for a young person born and raised in Maine, to be in an industry geared for the future!

Jennifer Albee at Maine Efficiency Conference

Solar Energy Qualifies for 30% Federal Tax Credit and Other Incentives in 2011

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Solar Federal Incentives Make Money

Make it a Sunny New Year!

UPDATED: 2/12/13

There is bright news for both homeowners and businesses who are ready to make 2011 the year they finally go solar – several federal credits remain in place or have been extended.

In short:

  • The uncapped 30% federal tax credit on residential solar electric (PV) and solar hot water (SHW) systems remains in effect through 2016.
  • In 2013 businesses can get a 30% federal investment tax credit in addition to state rebates (up to $4,000 in Maine, up to $50,000 in New Hampshire)
  • For Maine homeowners, up to $2,000 is available as a state rebate for SHW and PV though funds are running out.
  • For New Hampshire homeowners, up to $3,750 is available for PV and $1,500 on average for SHW
  • New Hampshire residents in New Hampshire Electric Co-op (NHEC) territory are eligible for an additional PV rebate up to $2,000
  • Through 2013 bonus depreciation has been extended, allowing businesses to depreciate system costs up to 50% in year one for systems installed in 2013 (with the rest coming over the next five years)

Read on for more specifics about each incentive.

Residential 30% Federal Tax Credit

Residential Solar Federal Tax CreditThe 30% federal tax credit is called the “Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit” and was established by the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005.

This credit was initially capped at $2,000 for solar energy systems, but was expanded by The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to be an uncapped rebate for 30% of the cost of a renewable energy system (both photovoltaic and solar thermal are eligible, along with small wind and geothermal heat pumps).

The 30% includes all cost of labor as well as equipment costs for the renewable energy system. The credit can also be carried forward to future tax years if you cannot take the full credit in the year the system was installed.

More information:

Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

US Treasury Grant Solar Power

Businesses as well as homeowners can benefit from a 30% tax credit on renewable energy systems, called the energy investment tax credit.

This program was expanded significantly by the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424), enacted in October 2008. This law extended the duration — by eight years — of the existing credits for solar energy, fuel cells and microturbines; increased the credit amount for fuel cells; established new credits for small wind-energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, and combined heat and power (CHP) systems; allowed utilities to use the credits; and allowed taxpayers to take the credit against the alternative minimum tax (AMT), subject to certain limitations. The credit was further expanded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, enacted in February 2009.

More information:

MACRS + Bonus Depreciation

MACRS Bonus Depreciation Solar Power

Under federal tax code, renewable energy systems qualify for a 5-year Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System (MACRS) depreciation schedule.

The exact benefit of this depreciation is complicated and varies depending on your businesses’ tax rate, but typically it adds up to an additional 25% of a solar energy project’s cost being offset by reduced tax payments.

To further sweeten this incentive, in 2011 bonus depreciation has been extended, letting a business enjoy most of the benefit in year one, rather than waiting for the entire five year schedule.

DSIRE sums it up nicely:

The federal Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, enacted in February 2008, included a 50% first-year bonus depreciation (26 USC § 168(k)) provision for eligible renewable-energy systems acquired and placed in service in 2008. This provision was extended (retroactively for the entire 2009 tax year) under the same terms by The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, enacted in February 2009. Bonus depreciation was renewed again in September 2010 (retroactively for the entire 2010 tax year) by the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297).

In December 2010 the provision for bonus depreciation was amended and extended yet again by The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (H.R. 4853). Under these amendments, eligible property placed in service after September 8, 2010 and before January 1, 2012 qualifies for 100% first-year bonus depreciation. For 2012, bonus depreciation is still available, but the allowable deduction reverts from 100% to 50% of the eligible basis.

The short of this is that a business that installs a qualifying solar energy system in 2011 can enjoy a 100% bonus depreciation the first year the system is commissioned, rather than waiting for the entire 5 year depreciation schedule. Also, a 50% bonus depreciation is available through 2012.

Given the time value of money and the tough economic climate, this benefit helps make solar energy systems more accessible in the near-term by businesses that will be able to save significant fossil fuel energy costs over the life of the system.

In fact, between the treasury grant, bonus depreciation, and generous state rebates, many businesses (particularly heavy water users like inns and restaurants) can enjoy a year-one payback on solar energy systems!

More information:

What Do Rebates Mean for Me?

Here are a few example solar energy projects to help illustrate how federal incentives affect solar energy economics.

Scenario #1- Residential SHW system

$10,500 installed cost
-$1,000 ME Solar Rebate (avg. $2,600 NH state rebate)
-$3,150 30% Fed Tax Credit
$6,350 Final Cost (40% savings with current incentives)

Scenario #2- Residential PV system 4kw (5,200 kWh/yr)

$19,000 installed cost
-$2,000 ME Solar Rebate (currently no NH state rebate)
-$5,700 30% Fed Tax Credit
$11,300 Final Cost (40% savings with current incentives)

Scenario #3- Commercial PV system

$100,000 installed cost
-$2,000 ME Solar Rebate (up to $50,000 in New Hampshire)
-$28,900 accelerated depreciation – avoided taxes over 5 years thanks to lowered net income, assumes 34% marginal tax bracket
-$30,000 30% Fed Tax Credit
$39,100 Final Cost (60% savings with current incentives)

Interested in learning more? Contact Revision Energy for a free consultation about how to take full advantage of the current government incentives available for renewable energy projects.

New Hampshire Expands Solar Hot Water Rebate

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Clean energy advocates in New Hampshire have two big reasons to be thankful this season – the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission has announced an expansion of the solar hot water rebate available to homeowners and has released the application for their commercial solar hot water and solar electric rebate (PDF).

Here are some details on both programs:

Residential Solar Thermal is Hot

The solar hot water rebate in New Hampshire is tiered based on the performance of the system, which is expressed in MMBTU / year. This consists of a state rebate that ranges from $600-900 and a federal rebate which has been raised from $750 to $2,000.

Here’s what the rebate program looks like for different kinds of systems:

Estimated MMBTU Per Year Previous Max Rebate New Max Rebate Est. Fed Tax Credit Total Incentive
6 MMBTU – 19.9 MMBTU $1,350 $2,600 $2,175 $4,775
20 MMBTU – 29.9 MMBTU $1,500 $2,750 $2,775 $5,525
30 MMBTU or greater $1,650 $2,900 $3,375 $6,275

For a typical residential project (2 flat plate collectors which produce ~18.25MMBTU/yr) installed at a cost of around $10,500, the incentives amount to $5,750, well over half the cost of the system!

The rebates are retroactive, as well, so if you recently installed a solar hot water system and qualified for the New Hampshire state rebate, you can expect a holiday gift from the PUC soon.

Rebates Arrive for Business

Moat Mountain Brewpub - North Conway, NH
The solar hot water system for Moat Mountain Brewpub will save the brewery an estimate 520 gallons of oil a year

Equally exciting is the arrival of the much anticipated commercial solar hot water and solar electric rebate.

This program makes $1,000,000 available to solar thermal and solar electric projects for businesses, schools, municipalities, apartment buildings – basically any structure not eligible under the residential program.

The rebates are pretty straightforward:

  • Photovoltaic (Solar Electric): $1/Watt up to $50,000 (or 25% of the project cost, whatever is less)
  • Solar Thermal rebate: $0.07 per kBTU/year up to $50,000 (or 25% of the project cost, whatever is less)

Like the residential solar hot water program, a RETScreen modeling analysis is used to calculate the kBTU/year performance of the solar hot water systems.  Solar electric is fixed based on the nominal wattage.

Solar Economics are Amazing

The generous rebate makes it extremely attractive to invest in solar if you’re a business.  Let’s take, for example, a medium scale solar thermal project for a business that uses a lot of hot water – a hotel or retirement home, perhaps – and is currently heating that water with oil.

We’ll propose a system of 20 flat plate hot water collectors and several super-insulated tanks that will produce over 182,500,000 BTUs/year of clean thermal energy.  We’ll imagine that the system will save 2,300 gallons of #2 oil per year, a result of both reduced oil use and greatly reducing standby losses of the oil boiler in the summertime.

Assuming this hot water system costs around $100,000 gross to install, the fuel savings alone will pay for the cost of the system within its first decade of operation.

However, now there is an exciting suite of rebates to apply:

$100,000 gross installed cost
($30,000) federal tax credit
($28,900) accelerated depreciation – avoided taxes over 5 years thanks to lowered net income, assumes 34% marginal tax bracket
($12,775) state rebate – $0.07/modeled kBtu/year
$28,325 net investment – less than a third of the total cost of the project!

Within this new context, that same solar hot water system will pay for itself within two years thanks to the fuel savings.

While the wasteful boiler imagined in this formula is a “best case” scenario for solar, the economics work out for businesses of all sizes who are ready to both take an enormous cut out of their carbon emissions and save money while doing it.

Contact us for more information about both the commercial and residential solar rebates or to schedule a free site evaluation.

New York Times Highlights Importance of Passive House Design

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
GO Logic Passive Solar Home - Belfast, Maine
Passive homes such as the GO Logic model house in Belfast, Maine, are still rare in America, but forward-thinking homeowners, builders, and architects are increasingly incorporating the strict German standard in new homes.

This weekend the New York Times highlighted the growing effort of architects, builders, and homeowners to create houses that meet the strict German Passive House standard.

The article, Can We Build in a Brighter Shade of Green?, follows the story of one super efficient home built in Vermont.

It notes both the challenges both with designing such an efficient house, and getting the required skills and materials to construct it in America:

While some 25,000 certified passive structures — from schools and commercial buildings to homes and apartment houses — have already been built in Europe, there are just 13 in the United States, with a few dozen more in the pipeline.

“Even though the passive house standard is tried and true, and is used all throughout Europe — we know it works, we know there’s some simplicity to it,” says Mrs. Landau, “here in the United States, we were reinventing the wheel.”

… In Europe, this design-and-construction balancing act has an established manufacturing base to feed it; in the United States, not so much.

“If we were in Europe, most of the materials and equipment would be off-the-shelf and readily available from local suppliers,” says Tedd Benson, owner of Bensonwood Homes, a high-efficiency timber frame builder based in Walpole, N.H., that is constructing the Landau house. “And they would have already been vetted and certified by the Passivhaus Institut, with their performance specifications already linked into the passive-house software.

“Here, we have to invent the systems and try to find the materials, products and equipment that will help us meet the passive-house standards.”

Despite an initial price premium (for additional design time, thicker walls and insulation), over the course of its life a Passive House will return the initial investment many times over. The Landaus (featured in the Times article) expect to have the energy efficiency investments pay for themselves within 10 years.

Here’s a video the Times produced on the project:

Journalist Tom Zeller Jr. went on to write about the general state of green building in a follow-up blog, When Green Building Is Not Green Enough.

In it, he cites design-focused (rather than energy-focused) architecture as one of the problems with building design, stating that “American architects are well schooled in matters of design, they often receive little training in the physics of how a structure breathes, how it consumes energy and how best to elevate its overall efficiency.”

While it is an accomplishment to see that “more than 1 million Energy Star qualified homes, which consume at least 15 percent less energy than conventional construction, have now been built in the United States,” Zeller goes on to say the “lack of [more] ambitious targets may actually be hindering the effort to address pressing problems like global warming.”

Why Code-Built is Not Efficient Enough

To understand why exceeding Energy Star ratings is desirable, Zeller includes a graphic of the HERS Index, a chart that shows the energy consumption of typical homes on a scale from zero to greater than 100, showing how different types of construction stack against each other.

Here’s the graphic, courtesy of Zero Energy Design:

HERS Energy Index

We express the discussion in slightly different terms. Here’s a graphic from our renewable home heating page, where we frame the discussion of mechanical systems for heating a home in terms of btu/hrs required per square foot:

Home Performance Heating Systems

The underlying principle remains this: the more energy efficient a home is, the less heating load it requires. When minimal heating load is required, smaller, modest, and renewable heating options make sense, and monstrous fossil fuel heating systems are unneeded and uneconomical.

Going Passive in Maine

ReVision has worked on a number of high performance homes, here are links to a few:

  • GO Logic Passive Solar Home - Belfast, MaineThe GO Logic home in Belfast, Maine is the state’s first true passive house home. The prototype home has produced more energy than it has used to date and is a model for a new Belfast cohousing community.
  • Belfast, Maine - Solar Hot Water Space HeatingThe home of architects Ian and Zofia Weiss uses many passive house principles. It uses radiant heat powered by solar hot water collectors with electric backup, and should eventually have grid-tied solar electric to make it near net-zero.
  • Rockland, Maine - Bright Built BarnThe Bright Built Barn is a net-zero home in Rockland that incorporates leading-edge building practices and an innovative LED system to inform you as to whether the home is generating more energy than it is using.