By Mike Sloan
Residential-Scale Solar Installation: The Speers, Lorton, Virginia
The Speers are an average American family. They have two kids. Wes Speers works in food services for the public school system and his wife works for a non-profit. They do not consider themselves wealthy, and they do not consider themselves extreme environmentalists either. But when Wes and Camela Speer began building their home, incorporating solar power was a foregone conclusion. However, it took a while to find the right company for their project.
The Speers looked at several different solar installers for their system, but did not find the right fit until they contacted Standard Solar. Wes said one thing that gave him confidence is that Standard Solar is one of the largest solar companies in the region.
“I went through a number of different solar companies and I never got the measured assurance, the feeling of confidence that I got when I started talking to Standard Solar,” Wes said.
Wes also really liked that Standard Solar offered a turnkey solution─the company provided him with the necessary state grant applications, registered him as an energy company and made sure he did not miss any deadlines. Standard Solar managed every piece of the puzzle, so Wes did not have to worry about the details.
The Speers bought the lot next door to their existing home about seven years ago and decided to build a new house on it, specifically a green house. The Speers believe anyone─on any budget─can make their renovation project green and they set out to make their house a prime example.
The Speers included many green systems in their new construction─from geothermal heating and cooling, to a central vacuum system. They posted signs on the fence around their home to promote the companies that provided materials and services for their build, and even created a website to chronicle their entire project (http://speerhouse.org) to show that a green home is within reach for everyone.
The Speers have become known in their community as the people, who own ‘that green house on the corner’, and they are very proud of that.
“Sometimes when you see an opportunity to do something right, you do it,” Wes said.
The Speers’ solar electric system was installed in April 2010 and they moved in about three months later. When they were settled in, the Speers held an open house for friends and neighbors. One thing they got to show off during their open house was their energy bill─for US$0.
“The neighbors were beside themselves because they were paying upwards of US$500 a month,” Wes recalled. “Here I am looking at potential annua energy costs equal to about 3 months of the energy costs of the houses that surround us.”
Wes expects the annual energy total cost for his ‘green house on the corner’ to be about US$1,500. That includes heating, cooling, hot water, cooking and more. The solar electric system, Wes said, will be a very worthwhile investment in the long-run. From working with their Standard Solar Expert, the Speers also estimate a 3.7-year payback period for their system─ thanks in part to US$8,500 in federal tax credits and a US$7,200 Virginia State rebate. The Speers are also selling Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) for about US$1,300 per year. By 2014, the Speer’s system will have paid for itself. After that, it is all the proverbial icing on the cake.
“The solar panels will still be there and still producing energy long after they are paid for,” Wes said. “We just weren’t willing to send increasing amounts of money to the energy company for the rest of our lives.”
Instead, it may be the other way around. During the summer months, the Speers’ solar system produces more energy than they use.
“The system runs my electric meter backwards, giving me a credit for the amount of energy I’m putting back into the grid,” Wes added.
With their commitment to environmentally smart practices and the sound investment in their home, the Speers are perhaps a new kind of average, one weighted toward a green future.
Commercial-Scale Solar Installation: The Maven Group, Bethesda, Maryland
The Rockville Ice Arena in Montgomery County, Maryland is one of the region’s largest sports complexes. And keeping everything on ice demands an enormous amount of electrical power─its largest variable expense─annually. As the costs of electricity continue to rise, the Arena’s tenant and owners needed to find a more economical energy source to power the facility.
The Maven Group, a Bethesda, Maryland based company which owns the Arena, decided solar power could be an efficient way to help maintain the ice while helping trim the operating budget.
But they needed a partner to help them execute the plan. They decided to turn to a competitive bidding process that would highlight the most appropriate and economical solution. And Standard Solar was selected for its solar power system plan.
Standard Solar proposed a customized design with 2,600+ panels situated across approximately 78,000 square feet of roof space. Standard created a custom financing agreement which created a new, independent entity to purchase the system outright. The arrangement allows co-located sports complexes the flexibility to potentially share the clean, renewable energy source.
The Maven Group earns one Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) for every megawatt hour of electricity the system generates each year. The estimated annual generation of 865 megawatt hours reduces the payback period for The Maven Group. With a new Maryland net metering law in place, any excess electricity earns credits that can be banked to offset future consumption.
The Maven Group’s foresight proved valuable. By fixing one-third of its consumption for 10 years, the Hockey Association that uses the Arena is able to serve hundreds more youth each year. In addition, the organization no longer needs to worry about volatile energy pricing swings for a portion of its load and has acquired the financial clarity needed to succeed far into the future.
At the time of its purchase in the spring of 2010, the Arena’s solar system was the largest roof-mounted solar array in Maryland. Its CO2 reduction offsets 38 average-sized cars, or 17 typical single-family homes. Ultimately, the vision of The Maven Group and the Montgomery Youth Hockey Association with Standard Solar’s help has provided clean, financially viable solar power. The solar energy system benefits the environment and sets the standard for renewable energy enhanced sports complexes.
Mike Sloan, Vice President, Commercial, Standard Solar (www.standardsolar.com) has more than 20 years of experience in managing, developing and fielding commercial electronics systems. He is a former business area manager with Raytheon Corporation managing a fully integrated team focused on U.S. Military command and control products including energy management. During his tenure at Motorola, he served as a technical consultant to dozens of Fortune 100 companies specializing in product design and deployment. Formerly an ISO-9000 auditor and Six Sigma certified, Sloan is holder of 2 patents issued by the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office and has 20+ applications in process. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
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