April 2019 Innovate

The Sun


Written By: J.S. Gonos

What does the future look like to you? To us at Power Production Management (PPM Solar), the future is electric. The future is clean air and water and blue skies for all to enjoy. It sounds nice, doesn’t it?

We are in the midst of one of the biggest transitions the world has ever seen – the replacement of dirty fossil fuels as our main energy supply. Solar photovoltaic power (PV, or electric), electric vehicles (EV) and energy storage systems (ESS, or batteries) are rapidly becoming ubiquitous, and will be central to all of us in the near future.

According to Stanford University economic research, petroleum-powered cars will no longer be popular in as little as eight years. GM has announced that it is going 100 percent electric. China is in the process of banning gasoline and diesel engines altogether. Half the cars sold in Norway in 2018 were electric. Ford has committed to releasing 13 electric models in the next four years. VW alone is investing $84 billion into its immediate electric car model lineup development.

This transformation is prompting local leaders to make a very important decision –to get in front or be left behind. For example, some utilities are choosing to offer EV incentives to replenish revenue lost in solar electrification to drive revenue from transportation.

As batteries become cheaper and more abundant, we will experience less need for a utility to provide a baseload and more need for the utility to become an energy management service that controls where electricity goes on the grid.

Smart grid technology will allow us to plug our cars into our houses and share electricity between devices where it is needed most. Through Virtual Power Plants (VPP), utilities are beginning to manage baseload through solar and battery storage. This means that we can use solar power 24 hours per day. This is incredibly exciting.

Imagine, in this near future (and for some of our customers, today), that you have a power outage on the grid somewhere nearby your home. You are equipped with solar panels and battery storage and have an electric vehicle. You will not even know the grid is down because your batteries will be handling your electricity needs. When the sun comes up, your solar panels will recharge your batteries and car.

Solar power is at the forefront of this incredible transformation of life on Earth as we know it. We are shifting from a dirty and barbaric way of powering our lives to a clean and sustainable world in which all renewables will play a major role.

Clean and Cheap

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Solar energy is the cleanest and most abundant energy source on the planet. The sun provides us a limitless supply of energy every second of every day that can be converted to electricity or used directly as thermal energy. Ultimately, our entire existence on this planet is owed to the sun; even fossil fuels are the result of plant and animal life that died long ago that originally received all of its energy from the Sun.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, enough solar energy strikes the planet every hour to power the world’s energy needs for an entire year.

Not only is it the most abundant energy on the planet, but according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, it is also the cheapest electricity to generate when you consider the hidden costs of electricity from traditional fossil fuel generated and nuclear power.

Surprisingly, solar is also the cheapest globally when you remove subsidies.

Currently, solar costs are the lowest they have ever been due to the high rate of adoption and advanced manufacturing. At the same time, we are upon the last year of full tax credit before it is scheduled to sunset, starting in 2020. This unique situation in combination with lower financing costs creates an incredibly fast return on any solar investment. Why Isn’t

Everyone Doing Solar?

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Many people ask me, “Why isn’t everyone doing solar?” I usually respond by asking them why they haven’t done it yet. I get a range of answers that are usually one of the “solar myths” outlined in the story following this article.

One of the biggest barriers to solar being adopted on a mass scale, unfortunately, is political. Solar power has become a partisan issue in many instances and can threaten the status quo of the fossil fuel industry. The chosen denial of overwhelming climate science through political forces has stagnated the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels.

Other reasons that may not be as noticeable are the soft costs of solar and their potential delays and obstructions. For example, there is not much consistency in the permitting process across regions. I can walk into the building department in Jacksonville and pay a small fee and walk out with a permit for a solar system for a home or business in minutes. In Gainesville and many other communities, this may take weeks.

Utility companies play a big role in the progress that we see in solar power – positively and negatively. The large utilities are the biggest owners and developers of solar in the state of Florida (and the United States) on the large, or utility-scale systems, but can cause major delays for the homes and businesses that choose to go solar. For example, we have had some small residential systems within Gainesville city limits be rejected by GRU because the grid was “at solar capacity.”

GRU has introduced additional complexities and resulting costs to the processes of pre-approval, installation, inspections, requirements from the owner, as well as fees added for systems over a certain size – none of which are present with most utilities. For example, to install a solar system to fully offset the electricity needs of a typical 2,000-square-foot house, GRU charges a $400 interconnection fee. As a result, some solar contractors actually add an additional fee to perform work in the City of Gainesville.

Solar is for Everyone

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We have worked with more than 500 homeowners and businesses since our inception in 2009. Many different profiles apply to the “solar customer.” Below are some of the companies we have worked with and what their leadership has to say about solar:

Exactech, Ryan Loftus, director of manufacturing: “Beyond just an attractive return on capital, solar at our facility has added to our story of the intentional way in which we restore mobility and independence for patients all over the world.”

Scherer Construction, Doug Wilcox, owner: “I chose Solar PV due to the tax benefit, No. 1. Secondarily, the green aspect of generating my own electricity with sun power.”

B3 Gym, Chris Marhefka, owner: “We are always looking at ways to increase our health or well-being, so solar was a perfect fit for us. Our solar array also provides an amazing return on investment for the business.”

Several exciting projects are in development locally, and here is what the owners say about solar:

San Felasco Tech City, Mitch Glaeser, co-owner: “We decided to build a community that doesn’t exist. We are integrating the live-work-play community concept in harmony with the environment and nature at every step of the process. Solar power is central to this theme.”

Curia on the Drag, Nick Moscowitz, owner: “Offsetting energy usage through solar has been a dream of mine since I was a child. What better application than powering the operation of our coffee shop, kitchen and bar on reliable and renewable sunlight!”

Going Solar

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Florida is the No. 2 fastest growing market in the U.S. for the adoption of solar power, which is the reason why national solar companies are beginning to expand their operations to the state. You will start to see advertisements and notice many companies offering this valuable service to homeowners and businesses. Use the information below to help make an informed decision on choosing the right solar company to install your solar system.

  1. Get multiple quotes: Preferably, at least three quotes, so you know exactly what you are getting. Make sure that each quote outlines the solar panels, inverters and optimizers, racking system, warranty of components and workmanship, cost and what the expected annual production will be from the solar system.
  2. Visit their work: When you make your decision, do your best to check on the work of the contractors. Visit their recent projects, if possible, and ask for pictures. Specifically, you want to make sure that the installations have a “clean” overall look. Look for wires hanging or anything that is not square and plumb or any evidence of rushed work. Many times, people do not pay attention to these details, but it is important for the longevity of a solar array that is supposed to last for 25 years or more.
  3. Licensing and insurance: Check all licenses by going to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and searching its name. Make sure the license is current and that there are no unresolved complaints. For solar, a contractor typically needs to have a CVC or EC license. Make sure the firm has workers compensation and general liability policies in place. Ask for all of this stuff, and if the business cannot provide it, then go somewhere else.
  4. Subcontractors: Ask if the company uses subcontractors and, if it does, make sure that they are licensed and insured also. Before making final payments make sure that the company provides a release of lien from all subs and material vendors to protect yourself.
  5. Engineering: All building departments require a professional engineer to sign and seal plans to release a solar permit, so this service should not be considered an extra perk by your contractor. It is a standard and basic requirement and is provided by all reputable companies.
  6. Finalizing the project: Make sure that the contractor does a complete walkthrough with you and provides access to your online solar system monitoring. Also make sure that if you are financing the project, that all work is completed before the contractor accepts final payments from the financing company. If you think it did a stellar job, let people know about it and share your experience online. Recommendations are very important for the growth and development of good companies.

It is now easier than ever to implement a solar project for your home or business. All business owners are producers in nature. Now is the best time to become one with respect to your electricity.

Top 10 Solar myths – DEBUNKED

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  1. “Solar is too expensive and takes forever to pay for itself, if ever.” The cost is the lowest it has ever been. Utility rates and incentives are the highest they have ever been. There are many financing options that make cash-flow-positive scenarios possible immediately.
  2. “It doesn’t work in cloudy weather or rain.” It is true that output is reduced, but solar panels still produce power in cloudy and rainy weather. Rain washes panels and helps them maintain their efficiency.
  3. “I won’t live in the house long enough for it to pay back.” Typically, on the sale of your home, you will be able to recover costs of adding solar.
  4. “Solar panels require lots of maintenance.” Solar requires very little attention. There are no moving parts and in Florida, we have lots of rain that helps to keep panels clean. If a cleaning is required, it is very easy, and the cost will be made up with increased production.
  5. “If I don’t have batteries, I will lose the extra energy my panels produce.” Through net metering, any excess electricity that your solar system produces will go to the grid, and you will receive a credit that can be used against any electricity you pull from the grid. The grid is essentially your battery.
  6. “Solar panels raise taxes on my property.” Florida provides a 100 percent property tax exemption for residential renewable energy property and an 80 percent property tax abatement for non-residential renewable energy property.
  7. “The manufacturing process is not environmentally friendly.” According to National Renewable Energy Laboratories, for an investment of from one to four years’ worth of their energy output, PV systems can provide as much as 30 years or more of clean energy.
  8. “Solar won’t work on a mass scale” Both PV and thermal solar is being deployed at an impressive rate globally. Solar is also scalable – from tiny handheld devices to massive utility-scale installations. Solar is already working on a mass scale.
  9. “Solar panels are loud.” Solar panels are silent and do not have any moving parts. The inverters can make a slight hum, but you will not hear it from inside your home and, at night, they completely shut down.
  10. “Solar panels cause roof damage” A properly installed solar array will actually increase the life of your roof by protecting it from UV light and weather damage.  

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