Month: June 2017

Anyone who’s been paying attention to Virginia state government policy and infrastructure development knows that solar is making its way into the picture. In a new digital report called “2017 Guide to Virginia Wind and Solar Policy,” Ivy Main describes Virginia’s solar boom from the perspective of someone who’s familiar with the state energy markets.

 

Main writes that “the nationwide boom in utility-scale solar has hit Virginia full force” and describes some of the factors in play. It’s not just low panel prices, she says, although solar infrastructure costs have come down. It’s not just government tax policy, either. Another factor that Main mentions is very relevant to the solar energy question — Virginia residents, she said, can often find good sites near transmission lines, which can make solar projects more feasible.

 

“We are a long way from unleashing our full potential,” Main writes. “In spite of this, Virginia is now attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in solar energy investments, and today the solar industry employs more of our residents than the coal industry.”

 

That’s saying a lot, as various corporate interests are still trying to revive the coal industry in Appalachia. At a time when renewable energy is becoming so much easier to harvest, most credible analysts would see any coal revival as a short-term phenomenon.

 

Later on in the report, Main contrasts the state of Virginia’s solar building record with those of other states in the region, finding that Virginia’s overall installed capacity at the end of 2016 was 238,000 kilowatts, or 238 megawatts. For reference, Maryland built 637 megawatts, while Tennessee built 171, and West Virginia built only 3.4.

In documenting the state of Virginia’s utility business, Main answers a big question — can Virginia residents access solar energy and sell it back to the grid?

 

Noting that Virginia’s largest utilities, Dominion and Appalachian power, have not instituted straightforward green power purchase plans, Main said most customers who want 100% solar energy need to build infrastructure themselves. Citing Virginia code 56-594, Main describes how it is possible to sell energy back to the grid, so that solar users are only charged for their net use.

 

All of this is exciting news for business owners or property owners who may have been on the fence about investing in a new solar project. There is the ability to easily scale these projects according to your needs, and the option of cutting your energy bills by installing solar panels somewhere on a property.

 

Sun Day Solar can help those in the Central Virginia area who may have concerns or questions about how to start out with a solar plan. Ask us about available government grants and tax incentives, and the most practical ways to put in place solar projects that will generate a lot of green electricity locally. Get in on the ground floor of the solar revolution and make your business or property a shining example of green power and sustainability.

 

This year, administrators at Monticello High School are seeing results from a solar energy project done in the summer of 2016. Solar infrastructure was installed at six schools throughout Albemarle County for a total of over 1.1 megawatts of capacity.

 

A press release from October of 2016 shows how the project factors into Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s “Energy in the New Virginia Economy” plan, which contemplates the use of solar to drive green business in the state.

 

“Today’s installation is the perfect venue to formally unveil an update on the progress we are making toward ensuring Virginia is a leader in the global energy economy,” McAuliffe said at an October 2016 ribbon-cutting for the school project. “The clean energy sector has been a central part of our efforts to build a new Virginia economy and that effort has paid off as revenue in the sector has grown four-fold to $2 billion. The Albemarle County Public Schools project embodies the countless benefits of growing the clean industry, such as lower energy bills and carbon emissions, more education for our students, and economic activity for our local businesses.”

However, before this project was the apple of the Governor’s eye, it was a grass-roots proposal from the high school students themselves.

 

An article in VASUN: Virginia Solar United Neighborhoods shows some of the background — in 2014, Monticello High School students wrote a letter to the school board, recommending the adoption of solar installations.

 

“Student concerns drove the decision-making process,” School Board member Stephen Koleszar said, adding that students were also involved with figuring out how to make the solar project cost-effective. A new type of “power purchase agreement” means the schools did not have to put down traditional up front capital to fund the solar operations.

 

While the Monticello school project does synchronize with the governor’s plan for bringing strategic growth in the energy field, promoting alternative fuels and pursuing workforce development, it also illustrates what happens when people in their communities make smart decisions about tackling climate change and innovating in local economies.

 

People are catching on that solar power has reached a critical mass where it’s now fundamentally affordable. They understand the difference between drawing power from the sun, and drawing power from finite and problematic fossil fuels resources. And that kind of knowledge is exemplary in our young people — that’s what’s on display in central Virginia, where local schools shine as prime examples of renewable power projects, and other new solar projects are still moving forward to source more local energy from renewables.

 

Sun Day Solar can help businesses or property owners to pursue their own solar plans. We understand the process of making solar projects practical, and we assist with advising on various grant options. Even projects like the Monticello High School project relied on certain USDA grants, and Sun Day Solar understands the process by which clients use rural development grant processes to their vantage. Let us help build a solar power project on solid ground.

 

Bloomberg News, one of the pre-eminent business news sources in the U.S., is coming out with revised estimates on the outlook for renewables. These show that solar is taking over in a big way — faster than most of us thought just a few years ago.

 

A June 15 article lays out the premise pretty clearly with the title: “Solar Power Will Kill Coal Faster Than You Think.” A projection out to 2040 shows a clear tipping point at $60 per megawatt-hour in 2021 or 2022 — after which the cost of wind and solar rapidly decreases to under $40 per megawatt-hour around 2030, while the cost of coal rockets up above the $60 mark.

 

All of this, as Bloomberg points out, has big new ramifications for energy markets and climate change agreements. In a way, researchers are suggesting that the sustainable energy models we work so hard to promote are actually going to occur through market forces pretty soon, and that we can drop the ideas about U.S. industry clinging stubbornly to outmoded sources of energy 20 or 30 years from now. The article breaks down projected energy consumption by the biggest current customers of coal – U.S., China and India, and shows a world map projecting the U.S. solar costs will decrease 67% by 2040.

 

What does this mean for businesses and homeowners right now?

 

Well, we’re already in a place where the solar energy is a cost-effective way of modernizing systems. Homeowners can run major systems and even, in some cases, sell energy back to the grid, and as for businesses, commercial solar customers can apply for a Rural Energy for America Program or REAP grant or other government incentives to build solar into an enterprise model.

 

At SunDaySolar, we can help customers in the Central Virginia region to really take advantage of current savings right now, and build new systems that will save even more money later, when big oil and big coal suddenly become unfashionable. Ask us about the way forward to a solar future, and how your business or property can get there quickly and easily.

 

The addition of hundreds of solar panels on the roof of the UVA Clemons Library has gotten a lot of attention this spring, in news outlets and locally, as state government officials made their appearances.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe visited the campus in April to witness the ribbon cutting ceremony for an installation that’s estimated to produce nearly 200,000 kWh of electricity each year.

 

“When I came into office, there were 17 megawatts of solar electricity being generated, and now there are 1,600 megawatts either approved or in production now,” McAuliffe said April 18, according to UVA Today. “And we have gone from 1,600 to 3,500 jobs in the solar industry. That is twice the number of jobs in coal in the state.”  Now, the Clemons Library project is in full swing, turning the natural energy of the sun into useful services to students. But the library project is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to UVA’s aggressive move towards renewable energy.

 
University reports show that the university is poised to buy solar electricity from a major solar farm in Hollyfield, and will also lease building space rooftop to local energy utility Dominion, to get even more solar power into the local grid. To go even greener, UVA is also analyzing its transport fleet and looking at energy conservation in certain areas of operations, for example, in scientific lab environments.


All of the above work that the university is doing shows the passion that Charlottesville residents have about clean energy and green unity. The university isn’t the only stakeholder in the drive to make Charlottesville and Albemarle County a standard-bearer for solar power. More business owners and homeowners in the community are looking to connect themselves to that network of renewables, to source their own energy needs from the sun, rather than from coal or natural gas or oil.

 
SunDaySolar can help. We have experience helping clients to navigate various grant options and otherwise work toward renewables in the most affordable and efficient ways. Ask us about the potential for changing your energy model and going solar in 2017. We can help to plan the best ways to get solar installations on site for a property or commercial project. Ask us about what types of businesses can apply for REAP grants and economic opportunities to make a solar project a better deal, and what kind of solar is best for your needs.

Farmers and manufacturers and other small business leaders are flocking to a program called Rural Energy for America or REAP that was first established in 2002 — over the years, the USDA has been busy awarding eligible beneficiaries grant funding through this program. Many of these innovations feature solar energy as a renewable and efficient source of power for agricultural production and much more.
An April article in Agri-Pulse online shows that the USDA REAP program has hit a total of $3 million billion in grants and loan guarantees since a 2008 reauthorization. REAP funding can deliver renewable energy grants up to a maximum of $500,000 – or half a million dollars.
A USDA fact sheet shows that agricultural producers need to have at least half of their gross income coming from agricultural or farm operations to take advantage of this program. However, in America’s rural areas, many other different types of businesses can apply as well, utilizing various rural Business Service programs.
As a major component of REAP applications, “small and large solar generation” is listed as an eligible use of REAP funds.

While the majority of REAP funds may have been used for energy efficiency, a significant number of applications have focused on using solar energy to grow America’s food and deliver agricultural products from the country’s heartlands.
A paper on Solar Energy Use in U.S. Agriculture looks in-depth at solar activities by farmers and ranchers and how these type of types of projects work.
Another element of USDA explanations of the REAP program shows that eligible businesses have to be in a geographical area with less than 50,000 inhabitants, which makes many areas of Albemarle County and surrounding counties perfect places for filing one of these grants.
SunDaySolar is an experienced solar contractor with broad knowledge of the REAP program and what it takes to utilize this federal law to improve a farm or business. Work with us to scale up and get renewable and sustainable energy resources, not just to help the planet, but also to build your business on a firmer foundation. We excel in the kinds of small business projects that applicants often apply for under REAP. We can also advise clients on what types of projects have been successful in the past, and what’s typical in the Central Virginia region. Let us help you to figure out your way toward cleaner, more reliable energy.

The Internet is abuzz with reports that utilities company Excelon may be planning to put Pennsylvania’s famous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, one of America’s most iconic energy installations, on ice.
Thirty-eight years after near meltdown, one of the most frightening moments in many American’s lives, TMI is still working, albeit at limited capacity. However, cost issues are threatening the plant’s future: after being unable to sell the plant at auction, Excelon has said that it will need assistance from the state to continue operating the plant past 2019, as releaved in a recent Time magazine article.

In asking for a nuclear bailout, Excelon is citing similar plans in states like New York and Illinois, along with existing help for renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. But does nuclear power deserves the same kinds of support as renewable energies?
Nuclear power is affordable — an infographic from CleanTechnica shows an average of 2.14 cents per kilowatt hour for nuclear power in general, with coal being the next most economic energy generator — wind power is estimated at 12 cents per kilowatt hour, and solar at anywhere from 10-14 cents per kilowatt hour.
However, the same resource also cites the risk factors involved in nuclear power, including the storage of nuclear waste, and the potential for nations around the world to build nuclear weapons. The report also shows huge investments in renewable energy, both in the United States and abroad.
Answering the question of why renewable energy isn’t taking while in a more substantial way, CleanTechnica calls renewables both “capital-intensive” and, in some cases, “geographically remote.”
However, costs for solar setups have come down: a 2016 Guardian article cites a kind of ‘Moore’s law’ of returns for solar energy, contending that solar panels have gotten 10% cheaper each year since the 1980s.
Now, with solar costs going so low, the affordability of solar energy is reaching a tipping point. That’s why so many businesses and property owners are now adding solar arrays to roofing or other areas of a property.
Solar power can generate small amounts of electricity for low-maintenance properties, provide for the needs of a family in a household in a single-family home, or generate large amounts of power for a business. Solar power can be stored in batteries, and, in some cases, sold back to energy utilities.
Ask SunDaySolar how to get your hands on solar solutions in the Central Virginia area. As a top Charlottesville solar contractor, SunDaySolar has given many clients the ability to draw cheap power from natural and sustainable sources. Let us help you to harness the power of the sun.

News from the federal Naval Research Laboratory shows how solar energy is becoming more important to national defense and military systems.

A May release described the use of photovoltaic arrays and solar gear in ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ or ‘UAVs,’ also referred to as ‘drones.’ UAVs represent a real path to innovation in many areas of our lives, from environmental research to e-commerce. Getting solar power under the hood is going to add new possibilities to how we use these independent flying vehicles.

New experiments at the NRL are looking into the power of “cooperative autonomous soaring” to enable UAVs to do more with less power, and operate more efficiently for such purposes as surveillance and reconnaissance.

Dr. Dan Edwards, an NRL aerospace engineer, explains the benefits of “solar-soaring” research as ways to “extend the flight endurance and mission operations of an aircraft.”

These trials are by no means the only example of solar drone work: in this video, Ali Jaafar of Altran Aerospace describes a 100% solar “airbus” that can go long distances.

The NRL’s design involves a photovoltaic array put into the center wing panel of a UAV, converted into useful DC voltage.

The NRL is actually testing two modes of solar flight. One is passive soaring, where low-energy goals allow for coasting. Another mode, supported by algorithms, allows the aircraft to catch updrafts to move like some bird species, making use of the natural power of wind vectors.

These tests, which have been taking place for some time, are just one of many examples showing how solar power is finally becoming a mainstream power source. We’re hearing a lot about solar, in many industries and many spaces. The NRL drone tests are an example of solar power in defense research, where the vanguard work on new energy sources often takes place. But solar is also being aggressively pursued for commercial and residential use, and for use in cars, and on boats, and on buses. It’s a natural, renewable power source for today.

SunDaySolar is one of the most active local companies working to help companies and property owners make the leap to a more affordable and sustainable power supply, around the Albemarle County area and beyond.

We understand how solar is taking off in a big way, now that the technology is here, and cost issues have been largely worked out. The past few years have seen a “solar boom” that’s not going to stop any time soon. Let SunDaySolar work with you to outfit your business or residential property with easy, user-friendly and cost-effective solar systems to make you an early adopter while saving money and saving the planet.