Tag Archives: solar installations

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Arizona ranked second in solar installation capacity

A report released this week shows that Arizona is ranked second nationwide when it comes to the capacity of solar installations.

The report issued by the Solar Energy Industries Association covers the third quarter of 2012.

According to the report, Arizona came had 192 megawatts of energy installed during that time behind California. Rounding out the top five were New Jersey, Massachusetts and Nevada.

Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Gary Pierce says policies adopted by the commission over the past two years have positioned Arizona to get more solar power at lower costs. He says the commission has been reducing incentives as demand for solar rises.

Solar Panels - AZRE Magazine July/August 2011

Solar Panels And Installations Make Good Financial Sense

Figuring out the bottom line return on investment figures for installing solar panels on commercial buildings is a bit like hitting a moving target. Incentives from utilities are apt to change and sow uncertainty in the market, thus access to capital can be iffy in these challenging economic times.

But some business owners who have installed systems in the past year agree: The right incentive package from Arizona Public Service or Salt River Project, combined with federal and state tax incentives, makes solar a good financial — as well as environmental — bet.

Here is a snapshot of two businesses that managed to put the right ingredients together.

Cowley Companies and APS

Cowley Companies, a Phoenix real estate investment firm, placed one of the largest commercial rooftop solar arrays in the country on one of its warehouses near 25th Avenue and Buckeye Road.

The project cost $11.5M and includes 7,872 panels, which generate about 2.4 megawatts of power. According to CEO Mike Cowley, the solar array is producing half of the electricity needed in the 850,000 SF building, which includes tenants with industrial refrigeration requirements. His annual bill had been running about $1M.

Cowley says he had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with APS and cannot reveal what the utility company is paying him per kilowatt hour, but the agreement obligates APS to pay incentives until 60% of the project costs — the amount he borrowed to finance the project — is paid off. The incentive payments cover the loan payments. Cowley estimates that will take about 12 years.

He’ll recoup 30% of the cost through a federal tax credit. Additionally, tenants now reimburse him for power used. With that mix of incentives and payments, he calculated his self-financed portion of the project, about 10%, will be paid off in about six years.

With a 25-year warranty on the panels, the decision to erect the array made good financial sense, Cowley says.

In 2009, APS established a reverse-auction system that requires commercial entities to bid for an incentive package. Spokesman Steven Gotfried says APS scores each application and awards the bid to those who produce the most electricity for the lowest incentives.

APS’ calculator takes into account the system size, the amount of energy it is expected to produce, the incentive requested and years of payment. The lower the score, the smaller the incentive per kilowatt hour requested. Incentives are then awarded starting with the lowest score. This continues until all the funds are allotted. It’s a competitive, market-driven process designed to lower incentives.

Lower incentives, Cowley says, would have made his deal less feasible.

“People are not going to get excited about a 20-year payback,” he says. Businesses may even “be waiting for SRP and APS to bring the rate back up to where solar makes sense again.”

Gotfried says APS is trying to find the right balance between offering too few and too many incentives, with a finite pool or resources.

“The goal at the end of the day is to drive down the cost of solar,” he says. “The incentives weren’t meant to go on forever, they were meant to get things started.”

The price of solar panels has dropped 50% in the past three years, says Lee Feliciano, president of the Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association and a solar developer with CarbonFree Technology.

There may come a time, he says, when the industry no longer offers incentives for the panels, but that day is not yet on the horizon.

“The incentives are there to position the industry,” Feliciano says. “A lot of the biggest industries in the country would not be here without incentives.”

Even with incentive amounts dropping, installing solar panels on a commercial building can still be a good deal, says Gary Held, sales and marketing manager with Harmon Solar, which worked on the Av-Air project.

With incentive rates running around 10 cents to 12 cents per kilowatt hour, someone with access to capital can have a system paid off in about eight years. With a 20-year production-based incentive, that still makes financial sense, he says.

An owner who leases a system can see the end of lease payments in about 12 years and have eight years of incentives.

“We shout from the rooftops: If you are a commercial business owner with cash or access to capital with good credit, putting solar on your rooftop is a sound investment,” Held says.

Av-Air and SRP

“I am extremely satisfied with the way it is turning out for us,” says Bob Ellis, president of Reason’s Aviation, the parent company of Av-Air, a Chandler-based company that offers aftermarket parts and services to the airline industry.

Harmon Solar of Phoenix installed a 151,800-watt photovoltaic system made up of 550 solar panels on Av-Air’s rooftop, which is equivalent to about 20 residential-sized systems.

Ellis says the total cost of the project was $808,000. About 30% of the cost was covered by a federal grant and $25,000 will come back to him as a state tax credit, which is available to companies whose solar systems are operational this year.

The solar array covers 100% of his energy needs and SRP, he says, is paying him an incentive of 21.4 cents per kilowatt hour for 10 years, which comes out to $6,000 a month. Add that to the approximate $4,000 a month his tenants pay him for solar generated electricity and the fact that he’s no longer paying an electric bill, and the decision to go solar was “a no-brainer.” Ellis says it will take him about four years to pay back his $560,000 in up-front, out-of-pocket expenses.

The only downside to the process occurred when none of the four or five banks he does business with would lend him money for the out-of-pocket expenses, saying they were too unfamiliar with the incentive process.

Ellis also concedes it may be difficult for companies today to replicate Av-Air’s circumstances because SRP’s incentives are much less generous than they were in 2009.

“It was a really good deal and I got in on it just at the right time,” he says.

Both SRP and APS have production based incentive (PBI) programs for medium- and large-sized commercial customers. PBIs pay a customer over time based on the amount of energy produced, as opposed to the up-front incentives given to homeowners or small-business owners.

SRP now offers a PBI of 12 cents per kilowatt hour for 20 years for the first two megawatts of power applied for, but lowers the funding to 11 cents and then 10 cents respectively for each successive two megawatts. Its annual pool is for six megawatts.

Lori Singleton, SRP manager for sustainable initiatives and technology, says the utility simply has a finite set of resources and is trying not to over-subsidize an emerging industry.

“As the cost of solar decreases and demand increases, we have restructured our solar incentives to reflect that,” Singleton says. “It has been our intent from the beginning to reduce the rates as prices come down, so one day the industry can stand on its own without incentives.”

Reducing incentives also allows SRP to provide them to more customers, she says.

For more information about solar panels and incentive programs, visit srpnet.com or aps.com.

AZRE Magazine July/August 2011

Solar Installations

New Solar Installations At The University Of Arizona And Luke Air Force Base, Strange Global Weather Patterns And More

There’s so much going on in sustainability, it’s hard to narrow down the news to share. This week we’ve gathered stories about new solar installations at the University of Arizona and Luke Air Force Base, weird global weather patterns bringing to mind global warming, falling worldwide carbon dioxide levels and others.

Arizona Gets Two New Solar Installations
The University of Arizona and Luke Air Force Base will be home to two new solar panel power plants within the next year.  UA will host a 1.6 mega-watt plant while Luke upstages the university with a 15 mega-watt plant.

San Diego Schools will be Home to Solar Roofs
Schools in the San Diego Unified School District will lend their roofs to Amsolar.  In turn the schools can buy power at a significantly discounted rate.

Harvard Offers Online Sustainability Course
Executives and employees have even less time than before, so this online class offered by The Harvard University Extension School gives people a chance to learn at their own time.  The adjunct professor teaching the class expects as many as 130 people from 20 countries to enroll.

“Global Weirding”
With a cornucopia of strange weather events – everything from floods to fires to huge chunks of glaciers breaking off – trouncing the Earth this summer, can we deny global warming?  Or should we just call it global weirding?

There’s Some Good News, and Some Bad News
Global carbon dioxide levels fell 1.3 percent in 2009.  In a world that seems to be falling apart (see article above), it’s good to know that going green does have an effect.  Although the decrease could have been greater, Asian and Middle Eastern countries increased their output while Europe, Russia, Japan and the United States decreased their outputs.

Alternative Energy Leaders Award - AZ Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010

BIG Green Awards: Alternative Energy Leaders Award

Twelve categories, hundreds of nominations — but only one will take home the green. It’s the first annual Southwest Build-it-Green Awards, where BIG teamed up with the USGBC to bring you the leanest sustainable leaders and projects in Arizona.

Recipient: CarbonFree Technology

CarbonFree Technology campaigns for the use of green energy solutions throughout the United States and North America. The company, which was founded in 2006 and is headquartered in Ontario, Canada, is a solar power project developer. It helps businesses and institutional customers develop solar power solutions for their energy needs.

CarbonFree Technology’s 2009 merger with SolEquity allowed it to increase its potential. The company negotiated the first successful implementation of a solar power purchase agreement in Arizona. This deal allowed Arizona State University to create a leadership position in its sustainability programs through the financing of two solar rooftop top installation and one rooftop. These installations create more than 1.5 megawatts of solar power. The ASU solar installations also are a visual reminder of the power of creativity and environmental responsibility that CarbonFree Technology champions.

CarbonFree Technology recommends appropriate solar solutions and securs available government incentives based upon each individual project. The company’s other duties include managing project construction, arranging financing, finding contractors to build the system and arranging monitoring and maintenance for the life of the system.

CarbonFree Technology’s work has a beneficial impact on the environment and the economies of the communities in which it works. In addition to creating solar power, CarbonFree Technology also creates jobs with each solar power installation. Every installation requires workers for everything from installation and arranging permits to painting and maintenance.

www.carbonfreetechnology.com


Finalist: Green Fuel Technologies
www.greenfuelsolar.com

Green Fuel Technologies combined its original vision and market-savvy timing to become a leader in technology development and implementation.

At its inception in 1999, Green Fuel Technologies’ goal was to provide economically and environmentally conscious alternative energy sources to Arizonans.  In 2006, CEO John Casey and president Dustin Hamby decided to explore the green building industry.
Now, not only does the company consult on developing technologies like bio fuel, wind and solar thermal, but it also develops unique green power systems for its clients. Green Fuel Technologies works with existing structures as well as conceptual designs to integrate alternative energy sources.

The company is currently partnering with Coulomb Technologies to create a network of 4,000 electric vehicle charging stations throughout the Southwestern United States by the end of 2010.  This partnership exemplifies Green Fuel Technologies’ key to long-term growth — bringing new energy technologies to the marketplace.


Finalist: Republic Services, Inc.
www.republicservices.com


Republic Services not only provides trash collection services, it also derives useable energy from its landfills. Headquartered in Phoenix with 34,000 employees in 40 states and Puerto Rico, Republic Services has continually striven to be an industry leader since its founding in 1998.

The company has 74 landfill gas-to-energy projects nationwide, in more than one-third of its landfills.  Landfill gas is methane produced by organic materials as it decomposes in landfills.  After it is captured, the gas can be converted to an alternative fuel source for cars or to generate heat, steam, and electricity, among other things.  These landfill gas-to-energy projects combine to produce the equivalent of removing four million cars from the road.

Landfill gas-to-energy projects have economic impacts as well as beneficial environmental impacts.  These projects create jobs for professionals from engineers to equipment vendors.  Along with the landfill gas conversion, the company continues to research, develop and implement environmentally friendly technologies.

Arizona Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010