solar

The Price of Large-Scale Solar Keeps Dropping

JOHN ROGERS, SENIOR ENERGY ANALYST, CLEAN ENERGY | SEPTEMBER 13, 2018, 11:49 AM EST
View the original article here.

PV modules at the Kerman site near Fresno, California
The latest annual report on large-scale solar in the U.S. shows that prices continue to drop. Solar keeps becoming more irresistible.

The report, from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and the US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, is the sixth annual release about the progress of “utility-scale” solar. For these purposes, they generally define “utility-scale” as at least 5 megawatts (three orders of magnitude larger than a typical residential rooftop solar system). And “solar” means mostly photovoltaic (PV), not concentrating solar power (CSP), since PV is where most of the action is these days.

Here’s what the spread of large-scale solar looks like:

Solar Drop 2

In all, 33 states had solar in the 5-MW-and-up range in 2017—four more than had it at the end of 2016. [For a cool look at how that map has changed over time, 2010 to 2017, check out this LBNL graphic on PV additions.]

Watch for falling prices

Fueling—and being fueled by—that growth are the reductions in costs for large-scale projects. Here’s a look at power purchase agreements (PPAs), long-term agreements for selling/buying power from particular projects, over the last dozen years:

Solar Drop 3

And here’s a zoom-in on the last few years, broken out by region:

Solar Drop 4

While those graphs show single, “levelized” prices, PPAs are long-term agreements, and what happens over the terms of the agreements is worth considering. One of the great things about solar and other fuel-free electricity options is that developers can have a really good long-term perspective on future costs: no fuel = no fuel-induced cost variability. That means they can offer steady prices out as far as the customer eye can see.

And, says LBNL, solar developers have indeed done that:

Roughly two-thirds of the contracts in the PPA sample feature pricing that does not escalate in nominal dollars over the life of the contract—which means that pricing actually declines over time in real dollar terms.

Imagine that: cheaper over time. Trying that with a natural gas power plant would be a good way to end up on the losing side of the contract—or to never get the project financed in the first place.

Here’s what that fuel-free solar steadiness can get you over time, in real terms:

Solar Drop 5

What’s behind the PPA prices

So where might those PPA price trends be coming from? Here are some of the factors to consider:

Equipment costs. Solar equipment costs less than it used to—a lot less. PPAs are expressed in cost per unit of electricity (dollars per megawatt-hour, or MWh, say), but solar panels are sold based on cost per unit of capacity ($ per watt). And that particular measure for project prices as a whole also shows impressive progress. Prices dropped 15% just from 2016 to 2017, and were down 60% from 2010 levels.

Solar Drop 6

The federal investment tax credit (30%) is a factor in how cheap solar is, and has helped propel the incredible increases in scale that have helped bring down costs. But since that ITC has been in the picture over that whole period, it’s not directly a factor in the price drop.

Project economies of scale. Bigger projects should be cheaper, right? Surprisingly, LBNL’s analysis suggests that, even if projects are getting larger (which isn’t clear from the data), economies of scale aren’t a big factor, once you get above a certain size. Permitting and other challenges at the larger scale, they suggest, “may outweigh any benefits from economies of scale in terms of the effect on the PPA price.”

Solar resource. Having more of the solar happen in sunnier places would explain the price drop—more sun means more electrons per solar panel—but sunnier climes are not where large-scale solar’s growth has taken it. While a lot of the growth has been in California and the Southwest, LBNL says, “large-scale PV projects have been increasingly deployed in less-sunny areas as well.” In fact:

In 2017, for the first time in the history of the U.S. market, the rest of the country (outside of California and the Southwest) accounted for the lion’s share—70%—of all new utility-scale PV capacity additions.

The Southeast, though late to the solar party, has embraced it in a big way, and accounted for 40% of new large-scale solar in 2017. Texas solar was another 17%.

But Idaho and Oregon were also notable, and Michigan was one of the four new states (along with Mississippi, Missouri, and Oklahoma) in the large-scale solar club. (And, as a former resident of the great state of Michigan, I can attest that the skies aren’t always blue there—even if it actually has more solar power ability than you might think.)

Capacity factors. More sun isn’t the only way to get more electrons. Projects these days are increasingly likely to use solar trackers, which let the solar panels tilt face the sun directly over the course of the day; 80% of the new capacity in 2017 used tracking, says LBNL. Thanks to those trackers, capacity factors themselves have remained steady in recent years even with the growth in less-sunny locales.

What to watch for

This report looks at large-scale solar’s progress through the early part of 2018. But here are a few things to consider as we travel through the rest of 2018, and beyond:

  • The Trump solar tariffs, which could be expected to raise costs for solar developers, wouldn’t have kicked in in time to show up in this analysis (though anticipation of presidential action did stir things up even before the tariff hammer came down). Whether that signal will clearly show in later data will depend on how much solar product got into the U.S. ahead of the tariffs. Some changes in China’s solar policies are likely to depress panel prices, too.
  • The wholesale value of large-scale solar declines as more solar comes online in a given region (a lot of solar in the middle of the day means each MWh isn’t worth as much). That’s mostly an issue only in California at this point, but something to watch as other states get up to high levels of solar penetration.
  • The investment tax credit, because of a 2015 extension and some favorable IRS guidance, will be available to most projects that get installed by 2023 (even with a scheduled phase-down). Even then it’ll drop down to 10% for large-scale projects, not go away completely.
  • Then there’s energy storage. While the new report doesn’t focus on the solar+storage approach, that second graphic above handily points out the contracts that include batteries. And the authors note that adding batteries doesn’t knock things completely out of whack (“The incremental cost of storage does not seem prohibitive.”).

And, if my math is correct, having 33 states with large-scale solar leaves 17 without. So another thing to watch is who’s next, and where else growth will happen.

Many of the missing states are in the Great Plains, where the wind resource means customers have another fabulous renewable energy option to draw on. But solar makes a great complement to wind. And the wind-related tax credit is phasing out more quickly than the solar ITC, meaning the relative economics will shift in solar’s favor.

Meanwhile, play around with the visualizations connected with the new release (available at the bottom of the report’s landing page), on solar capacity, generation, prices, and more, and revel in solar’s progress.

Large-scale solar is an increasingly important piece of how we’re decarbonizing our economy, and the information in this new report is a solid testament to that piece of the clean energy revolution.

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

The company confirms hybrid systems are a growing focus area.

By Jason Deign
View the original article here.

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

Siemens Gamesa, the leading turbine manufacturer, is looking to go beyond wind — into hybrid systems with solar and storage.

The company’s chief technology officer, Antonio de la Torre Quiralte, told GTM that Siemens Gamesa remains committed to the wind market. However, it is increasingly interested in other technologies to reduce renewable energy intermittency.

“Following the merger about one year ago, we realized that our two former companies were quite interested in resolving the renewable problem, which is discontinuity,” he said.

“As part of our business strategy, there is a clear mandate from our CEO and our board that we will resolve, with a huge investment in new technologies, solutions for the market that will allow, quite soon, stable renewable procurement of energy.”

The development of systems that can provide baseload or near-baseload capacity could involve the hybridization of potentially complementary generation technologies such as wind and solar. But storage is a big part of the equation.

“It definitely is in our roadmap,” de la Torre said.

De la Torre said the manufacturer is focused on solutions rather than products, integrating energy storage with renewable plants at the project level.

He also said Siemens Gamesa is looking beyond today’s existing utility-scale battery storage capacities, which typically run to tens of megawatt hours, to gigawatt-hour levels of storage.

Batteries will remain the company’s technology of choice for standalone hybrid and off-grid systems, which demand storage capacities of between 500 kilowatt-hours and 50 megawatt-hours for onshore wind and PV plant balancing.

But Siemens Gamesa is also investigating a thermal storage system called the Future Energy Solution, which could boast much higher capacities. A demonstration plant currently under construction in Hamburg will be able to deliver 1.5 megawatts of power for 24 hours.

Siemens Gamesa hopes to use this kind of technology for round-the-clock renewable energy generation. “We have to integrate several renewable sources,” said de la Torre. “Currently we are investigating all relevant sorts of storage.”

Recently, for example, Siemens Gamesa started testing a 120-kilowatt, 400-kilowatt-hour redox flow battery at its La Plana test center near Zaragoza in Spain.

The test center had previously been used by Gamesa to put together a hybrid system combining traditional gensets with wind, solar and storage in 2016. Customer interest in hybrid systems with storage has grown in the last six to nine months, de la Torre said.

One example is the Bulgana Green Power Hub project owned by Neoen in Australia, where Siemens Gamesa will be acting as an engineering, procurement and construction contractor, and will be integrating a 194-megawatt wind farm with 34 megawatt-hours of Tesla storage.

Hong Zhang Durandal, a business analyst with MAKE Consulting, said Siemens Gamesa’s growing interest in hybrid systems reflects a wider trend within the wind industry. OEMs are not interested in having storage as a product, he said, but see value in adding other technologies to wind farms, for example to help avoid curtailment or smooth out imbalances.

It also makes sense for Siemens Gamesa to explore thermal or redox flow technologies for bulk, long-duration storage, he said. “For lithium-ion, getting to gigawatt-hours is just cost-ineffective,” he said. “It’s too large a system to justify the cost of the batteries.”

In a recent question-and-answer session published by Wood Mackenzie, Durandal said wind-plus-storage could offer new opportunities for energy production in the U.S.

“Wind farms paired with energy storage can shift energy from periods of low prices to take advantage of spikes and shift energy in bulk when it is most needed,” he said.

Pairing wind with energy storage also helps with ramp-rate control, can avoid curtailment and could open the door for project owners to compete for ancillary services revenues.

“We are seeing increased interest by wind turbine OEMs across the globe in exploring and developing utility-scale wind-plus-storage systems,” Durandal said. “Not only can the development of such systems strengthen the portfolio of the OEMs in key markets, [but] hybrid systems can also play a significant role in the deployment of more wind energy in the future.”

EMERALD SKYLINE TO DEVELOP SOLAR FARM IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA WITH RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FACILITY TO PURSUE ELECTRICAL STORAGE TECHNOLOGY.

“Solar generation and electricity storage technology are rapidly evolving sustainable energy alternatives. The combination of solar power generation and electricity storage is being utilized in projects around the world”

 May 1, 2018 from Emerald Skyline Corporation

BOCA RATON, FL, May 1, 2018 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Today, Emerald Skyline announced that it will develop land located in southern Arizona for the purpose of solar generation and electricity storage technology research. The project, Emerald City Solar, recognizes that both solar generation and electricity storage technologies are rapidly evolving and will continue to become more cost effective. The southern Arizona project will include research and development facilities to continue to evaluate new technologies as they emerge. It is expected that the total generation of the solar farm will continue to increase along with the value per kilowatt hour of the electricity generated as new technologies are deployed. Emerald Skyline believes the future of renewable energy is in the storage technology and will be exploring novel ways of delivering and storing energy. They have assembled a world-class team to conduct research and development to drive innovation and advanced sustainable technologies to manage surplus renewable power for use on demand and supply of power.

SOLAR FARM

The site of the solar farm development enjoys the best solar profile in the United States and is near major urban centers including San Diego, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. The electricity generated could be sold to the local electric power utility company at prevailing Power Purchase Agreement rates of about .07 per kilowatt hour (KwH). However, through the use of proven electric storage technology, the value of the electricity could be significantly increased through the selling into the power grid during peak demand periods at much higher spot market prices. Selling power in this manner is called Regulation Services.

ELECTRICITY STORAGE

Deployment of electricity storage is increasing at explosive rates and has been described by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) as a game changer in the industry. Several new companies can provide large battery-based storage units and have the operating systems required to interact with the electricity grid. Through storing electricity and injecting the stored power into the grid during peak demand periods the cost of peaking power can be greatly reduced. By selling power into the grid during peak demand at much higher prices the value of the solar power farm can be greatly enhanced.

“As a sustainability and resiliency consulting and LEED project management firm, this partnership enables us to collaborate with a host of industry partners to not only produce energy but also to test and demonstrate the benefits of solar energy storage technologies. When electricity storage is not available, excess solar electricity is wasted. When storage is installed, the excess energy can be saved and subsequently used to reduce the use of a fossil fuel,” reports Abraham Wien, LEED AP O+M, Director of Architecture & Environmental Design for Emerald Skyline.

To find out more information about Emerald City Solar or electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar and the current development in electrical energy storage technologies for a greener tomorrow, please contact Abraham Wien at aw@emeraldskyline.com or call us 305.424.8704.

 

The Importance of an Energy Assessment for Commercial Buildings

By John Losey, Owner and Founder The BP Group, Energy Manager Today, 9/1/2016

View the original article here.

Building owners and property managers that take on the responsibility of limiting energy consumption can be looked at as environmental leaders. While energy management adds extra tasks to everyday lists, the benefits outweigh the time and money spent, which is usually returned in savings.

There are numerous areas to take into consideration when it comes to commercial buildings, and being that commercial buildings are generally large, the impact can be large as well. These areas include the HVAC system, chillers, windows, lighting, electrical equipment, and any other factors that may be contributing to the building’s energy consumption.

While there are various ways to be involved with bettering the environment outside of where you live and work, starting in a place that you occupy everyday has the potential of having long term results if the actions are carried through as often as you’re there.

Consider creating an outlined approach for managing the building’s energy with these areas in mind:

Identify Sustainable Alternatives Where Energy is Being Used:

  • Are there upgraded, energy-efficient versions of the equipment you can be using instead?
  • Could you use different settings on the equipment?

Assess the Purpose of Every Area:

  • Is the lighting being utilized in every room?
  • Is the size of the HVAC system an adequate fit for the building and its purpose?

Evaluate Maintenance Plans:

  • How frequent are the utilities maintained?
  • Do the maintenance technicians practice with energy efficiency in mind?

Look for Possible Areas of Energy Loss:

  • Are the building’s windows sealed properly?
  • Is the equipment too old for efficient functioning?

These are questions you should ask yourself if you’re trying to assess energy consumption and find that alternative route to save not only energy, but money as well.

After addressing these questions, you may find yourself planning to make some changes. Here is the information you should know for doing so:

Energy Efficient Equipment: Whether it’s the HVAC system, the utility lighting or the other various appliances being used in the building, there are energy-efficient options to consider. This includes ones with ENERGY STAR ratings, which match the standards set by the government.

Settings & Thermostats: Just by being knowledgeable about specific settings and the different types of available thermostats, you can be saving a substantial amount of energy. Depending on the type of building and the function(s) of the building, settings can be applied to use less energy in an area that doesn’t need it. The same idea goes for thermostats. Programmable thermostats allow for precise regulation of energy consumption. This means making sure the temperatures aren’t set too high or too low when the building or part of a building isn’t in use. Programmable thermostats keep the location comfortable when needed, but help save energy when it’s not.

Lighting: It’s better to be the building that turns its lights off when it isn’t being used, than a building that keeps them on 24/7. It’s also important to consider energy-saving types, such as LED or solar. With these kinds, you can also invest in timers and dimmers.

HVAC Size: According to ENERGY STAR, “at least 25% of all rooftop HVAC units are oversized, resulting in increased energy costs and equipment wear.” Determining what size HVAC system the building needs is a job for a professional technician, and it’s an important part of the overall building assessment.

Maintenance: Building maintenance is not only important for saving energy and money, it’s important for the building’s health and those occupying it. This includes electrical, HVAC, plumbing, etc. While there are tasks you can manage on your own, there are specific tasks that are recommended for the hands of a professional technician. Whatever the area, it’s important to have maintenance scheduled. Having a definite schedule helps to prevent sudden issues, which prevents sudden energy loss as well.

Technicians: Certain companies know the importance of offering energy-efficient services. This means that they practice in ways that are beneficial for the environment. Research the companies in your area and look for the ways they’re working to save energy and you money. This is an important quality, and more companies are beginning to realize that.

Windows, Replacements & Other Areas of Loss: Other ways to assess energy is by looking into the not so obvious. This includes windows, old systems that don’t show signs of stress until it’s too late, and too many running appliances and pieces of equipment causing heat. If windows aren’t sealed properly, especially in summer and winter, your HVAC system may be working harder than it has to in order to reach the desired temperature. Leaks of hot or cold air will cause this. Another concern are systems that don’t show signs of stress. If the system is old, it’s definitely recommended to have it maintained, even if you think otherwise. The inside has moving parts that may be working very hard to keep it running, and the machine giving out might be the first sign if you wait too long. Lastly, there may be too much heat. Too many heat producing appliances or pieces of equipment may cause the air conditioner to work harder, similar to an open window on a hot summer day.

Commercial buildings don’t function alone, they need the help of energy, and all building owners and property managers can help conserve it.

John Losey is the owner and founder of The BP Group, a leader in Commercial HVAC Services

Solar Technology Update: New Device Does the Work of Plants

KG ResizeBy Kendall Gillen, LEED Green Associate

ARTIFICIAL-LEAFThe latest in solar technology is unlike what you would expect. Traditionally, solar cells harness sunlight and convert it into electricity, which is then stored in batteries. This is one of the cleanest forms of renewable energy that can be used to power your home or business. This type of solar cell isn’t going away any time soon, but a different type engineered recently by researchers at the University of Illinois is capable of doing the work of plants. This new solar cell could be a game-changer as it “cheaply and efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into usable hydrocarbon fuel” according to Solar Daily. The process is powered entirely by sunlight and requires no battery storage.

What does this new solar cell mean as far as real world problem solving? The benefits are two-fold. If entire solar farms were made up of these so-called artificial leaves, it could greatly reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere while simultaneously generating energy-rich fuel. Essentially, we can reverse some of the climate change damage done from burning fossil fuels and decrease the concentration of atmospheric CO2.

The product of this process is synthesis gas or syngas, which can be burned itself or converted into other hydrocarbon fuels. The artificial leaves convert carbon dioxide into fuel at a cost comparable to one gallon of gasoline. Read below for an explanation of the chemical process that made this possible as explained by Solar Daily:

“The new solar cell is not photovoltaic – it’s photosynthetic,” says Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC and senior author on the study.

Chemical reactions that convert CO2 into burnable forms of carbon are called reduction reactions, the opposite of oxidation or combustion. Engineers have been exploring different catalysts to drive CO2 reduction, but so far such reactions have been inefficient and rely on expensive precious metals such as silver, Salehi-Khojin said.

“What we needed was a new family of chemicals with extraordinary properties,” he said.

Salehi-Khojin and his coworkers focused on a family of nano-structured compounds called transition metal dichalcogenides – or TMDCs – as catalysts, pairing them with an unconventional ionic liquid as the electrolyte inside a two-compartment, three-electrode electrochemical cell. The best of several catalysts they studied turned out to be nanoflake tungsten diselenide.

“The new catalyst is more active; more able to break carbon dioxide’s chemical bonds,” said UIC postdoctoral researcher Mohammad Asadi. In fact, he said, the new catalyst is 1,000 times faster than noble­metal catalysts — and about 20 times cheaper.

solar farm panelsThis is truly a breakthrough in the field of solar technology that can have large and small-scale applications. This is the first solar cell that could render fossil fuels obsolete based on its affordability and efficiency. Fuel could be produced locally as opposed to relying on unstable regions. Scientists have been working since the first ‘artificial leaf’ was produced last year to find a cost-effective process that uses only sunlight and carbon dioxide to mimic the natural process of photosynthesis in plants to produce fuel, and it appears they finally have something that will stick.

Emerald Skyline is always looking for ways to provide superior products and services to meet our client’s needs. My bachelor’s degree in biology allows me to bring a unique perspective on sustainability and mimicking the biological processes found in nature within the built environment. This allows us to provide our clients the latest technologies and largest and most open network available today.

Information on Emerald Skyline is available on our website: www.emeraldskyline.com.

Using Daylighting to Save Energy and Enhance Views

JulieBy Julie Lundin, NCIDQ, LEED AP ID+C, ASID, Director, Emerald Skyline Corporation

My post on the design and progress of our commercial building focused on an overview of what sustainable design is and how it impacts a building’s design and construction and on-going building operations. You can see that post here. A sustainable building utilizes many concepts, solutions and products to incorporate the six fundamental principles of sustainable design:

  • Optimize Site Potential
  • Optimize Energy Use
  • Protect and Conserve Water
  • Optimize Building Space and Material Use
  • Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
  • Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices

This post explores the concept of Daylighting and Views, which impacts two areas of the fundamental principles of sustainable design: Optimization of Energy Use and Enhance Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ).

Daylighting is the ability to maximize or control the use of natural daylight in a building in order to reduce the need for artificial lighting and reduce energy use. Access to daylight inside a building helps create a healthy, comfortable and productive environment for its occupants while reducing as much as one-third of total building energy costs.

Implementing daylighting on a project goes beyond simply listing components to be gathered and installed. Daylighting requires an integrated design approach to be successful. It can involve decisions about the building layout, site, climate, building components such as windows and skylights, lighting controls and lighting design criteria.

The science of daylighting design is not just how to provide enough direct daylight to an occupied space, but how to do so without any undesirable side effects. Beyond adding windows or skylights to a space, it involves carefully balancing heat gain and loss, glare control, and variations in daylight availability.

To implement daylighting into a project it requires systems, technologies and architecture. Below are some of the typical components that are utilized:

  • Daylight-optimized building footprint
  • Climate-responsive window-to-wall area ratio
  • High-performance glazing
  • Daylighting-optimized fenestration design
  • Skylights
  • Tubular daylight devices
  • Solar shading devices
  • Daylight redirection devices
  • Daylight-responsive electric lighting controls
  • Daylight-optimized interior design (furniture, space planning, room surface finishes)

Since daylighting components are normally integrated with the original building design, it may not be possible to consider them for a retrofit project. We are fortunate that the retrofit of our building in Boca Raton lends itself to use daylighting to positively impact two of the fundamental principles of sustainable design. Below are some of the components that our project will utilize:

  • Optimized Building Footprint – Although usually limited to new construction, our building and site enables us to make design decisions that will allow us to create a daylight-optimized footprint. The redesign of our building will maximize south and north exposures, and minimize east and west exposures. Our new façade will face due south which is the optimal orientation for best solar access and ease of control.
  • Climate-Responsive Window-to-Wall Area – With the building sited facing south, we are specifying high-performance glazing (windows). The area is being designed to be a careful balance between admission of daylight and summertime heat gain since our project is located in South Florida.
  • High-Performance Glazing – High performance windows will generally admit more light and less heat than a typical window, allowing for daylighting without negatively impacting the building cooling load in the summer. For our project, being located in South Florida, high performance glazing is very important.
  • Daylighting-Optimized Fenestration Design – An optimized fenestration design will increase the system performance. Windows have two essential functions in a building. 1) Daylight delivery or admittance, and 2) provide a view to the occupants. Daylight admittance requires a window with high visible light transmittance and windows for view need to be clear. Our daylighting fenestration design will be composed of both of these with correct height requirements.
  • Skylights and Tubular Daylight Devices – Both of these devices utilize what is called toplighting, or admitting daylight from above. We are incorporating the use of tubular devices in our building design. These devices employ a highly reflective film on the interior of a tube to channel light from a lens at the roof to a lens at the ceiling plane. They tend to be much smaller than a typical skylight, yet still deliver sufficient daylight for the purpose of dimming the electric lighting. They will be used on the second floor where there will be interior spaces that do not have access to any windows due to our north side zero lot line site.
  • Daylight Redirection Devices – Redirection devices take incoming direct beam sunlight and redirect it. These devices serve two functions: glare control, where the sun is directed away from the eyes of the occupants, and daylight penetration, where sunlight is distributed deeper into a space that would not be allowed otherwise. We will be utilizing both of these methods in our project.   Lightshelves will be used on the south façade of the building, on both floors. The second floor interior will contain clerestory glass components that will distribute light into rooms that have no access to daylight.
  • Electric Lighting Controls - Lighting controls are essential to any daylighting system. No daylighting design will save any energy unless the electric lights are dimmed or turned off when there is sufficient illumination from daylight. If daylighting features such as windows and tubes are not paired with daylight-responsive dimming controls, then the daylighting-enhanced building will likely use more energy, not less, than a comparable building without any daylighting features. Lighting controls consist of continuous dimming or stepped-ballasts in the light fixtures, and photocells to sense the available light or turn off the electric lighting in response. We will incorporate a lighting control system in our building to take full advantage of our daylighting design and the energy savings it will provide.
  • Interior Design – An often-overlooked element in a successful daylighting design is the interior design. The interior design should consider furniture design, placement, and room surface finishes and how they relate to daylight performance. Interior walls may interfere with daylight transmission into a space. The south facing façade of our project, on the first floor will have an open concept so that daylight can penetrate and distribute more fully into the interior space. Walls and ceilings will be as reflective as possible.

To design and implement a daylighting strategy into a project requires a collaborative design process and the daylighting strategies must balance with other project design goals. Access to daylight inside buildings provides a healthier and comfortable environment for its occupants and is also linked to greater productivity. When designed with proper glare control and minimized solar heat gain, daylighting provides high-quality light while reducing energy use for lighting and for cooling.

 

 

http://www.wbdg.org/resources/daylighting.php  

Costa Rica powers nation sans fossil fuels, serving as example for the region

By Nancy San Martin, nsanmartin@MiamiHerald.com
View the original article here

NEW POWER SOURCE: Arenal, a dormant volcano, is seen in the town of La Fortuna in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The power company managed to produce all of the electricity for the nation from renewable energy sources for 100 consecutive days ending in mid-March. The milestone was reached with the use alternative power sources, including hydroelectric power plants. Joe Raedle Getty Images

NEW POWER SOURCE: Arenal, a dormant volcano, is seen in the town of La Fortuna in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The power company managed to produce all of the electricity for the nation from renewable energy sources for 100 consecutive days ending in mid-March. The milestone was reached with the use alternative power sources, including hydroelectric power plants. Joe Raedle Getty Images

GUANACASTE, COSTA RICA

In the heart of this western province where scalding water emerges from the earth and peaks of volcanoes kiss the hovering clouds, sunshine, wind and rain have been culled to create a source of power that has earned this nation a gold star in renewable energy.

For 100 consecutive days ending in mid-March, Costa Rica did not use any fossil fuels to generate electricity. Instead, it relied on primarily hydropower plants to light up households across the country, with added power generated from wind, geothermal and solar projects.

Experts say Costa Rica’s fossil fuel-free streak is impressive though not a surprise: The nation of nearly 5 million people has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2021 and the country’s electricity matrix, on average, is already nearly 90 percent renewable, making Costa Rica the second most “renewable country” in Latin America following Paraguay in terms of electricity generation, said Juan Roberto Paredes, senior renewable energy specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Paredes points to the country’s diversified sources for renewable energy as its hallmark. By relying on various sources, Costa Rica has been able to both provide electricity and keep costs down by not having to import a large amount of costly fossil fuels.

“The lesson to be learned is in diversification,” Paredes said. “You can have stability in the longer term, as it relates to electricity prices, if you rely on various renewable sources as the fuel price will always be zero.”

Felix Mormann, a University of Miami law professor who teaches and writes about environmental law and policy, said Costa Rica’s achievement is noteworthy.

“Sourcing 100 percent of energy needs from renewables is amazing,” he said. “The fact that they did not have to burn any fossil fuels is outstanding.”

Like other countries relying on renewable energy, Costa Rica gets most of its carbon-free electricity juice — about 80 percent — from hydropower plants operated by the state-run utility provider, Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE). But this year, geothermal, solar and wind energy sources have given the nation an additional boost to limit the use of coal or petroleum to keep light bulbs glowing and appliances humming.

Hydropower

At the ICE hydroelectric plant and reservoir in the shadow of the Arenal volcano near the town of Tilarán, the production of electrical power is generated through the use of the gravitational force of water stored in the reservoir that flows through turbines connected to large generators. This plant provides some 21 percent of energy for the country, said supervisor Alberto Sanchez Fernandez.

“Since we were children, we have been taught to respect nature,” Sánchez Fernández said. “In that sense, this country has gotten better because those lessons go back a generation and it’s ingrained in our children. The fact that my country is producing energy from 100 percent clean sources, makes me very proud and satisfied that we are helping protect this planet, the only place we have to live.”

Sánchez Fernández said when children visit the plant on field trips, “I always tell them that mankind, before dying, should have at least conceived a child and planted a tree.”

Along the hilltops, giant wind turbines like those of an airplane propeller, can be seen circulating at various speeds, depending on the strength of winds that flow through the area. The windmill project began in the 1980s and about 30 wind turbines can now provide electricity to about 26,000 homes.

“This accomplishment is the result of making use of our natural resources and experimentation,” said Carlos Manuel Quiros, a company spokesman.

Tilarán, the town’s name, comes from the indigenous word “Tilawa.” It means place of wind and rain.

Geothermal

Billboards in Bagaces and nearby towns dub the area as the cuna (cradle) of geothermal. Power lines emit a high-pitched sound that can be heard for miles, like crickets on steroids. And the smell of sulfur is reminiscent of the odor that comes from cracking warm hard-boiled eggs.

The geothermal plants Miravalles I y II use subterranean heat to produce electricity. Wells are drilled deep into the earth and the water that comes out of the wells are 85 percent liquid and 15 percent steam. The steam is used to turn large turbines, which run electrical generators. Some 35 wells in the area are used for production, said Darlyn Gutierrez Rodriguez, an assistant engineer.

“The advantages of geothermal is that it’s not dependent on seasonal variations,” she said. “It isn’t dependent on whether it rains or is windy or sunny. It’s constant production.”

Geothermal now contributes about 14 percent of Costa Rica’s energy and will likely grow as the government makes further investments. In a country with six active volcanoes and dozens more inactive, geothermal provides an exceptionally reliable source of power, experts said.

Solar

Just a short drive away, is a solar panel farm built with equipment donated by Japan. The project, comprised of 4,300 panels, began in 2012 and now provides electricity to about 550 homes, said supervisor Mauro Arias.

“For us, it’s been very novel, very important, because it’s an experimental plant,” he said. “Without a doubt, we have a good location for this solar plant…We are able to document, minute by minute, the output of solar energy…We are the pioneers in Central America.”

While the power produced by this method remains small, Arias said similar farms have been built in neighboring Nicaragua and Panama. “It’s cheaper, cleaner for the environment,” he said.

Other countries in the region could follow Costa Rica’s steps about diversification as they also have untapped renewable potential. This is the case of geothermal resources in the Andean countries where volcanic activity is comparable to Central America but no electricity so far is produced with the heat of the earth, said Paredes of the IDB.

But even as the use of renewable energy is applauded, there are potential setbacks. Droughts come from limited rainfall, which can affect electricity production. Wind and solar availability can vary from year to year. And, of course, there’s the issue of climate change.

“The but is maybe the variability of these renewable sources,” Paredes said. “We can’t be 100 percent sure of what will happen next year.”

Storing energy in an efficient manner also is a work in progress that will get better with technology. In Central America, the IDB is supporting the electricity market with Costa Rica and five other nations: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and Nicaragua.

“In order to cope with this variability, you can diversify and use complementary renewable sources such as wind and hydro, use smarter grids to manage variations better and have more interconnections to other countries in case you have excess electricity,” Paredes said.

For Costa Rica, the more measurable results of its renewable energy success will be known by early 2016 when a full year worth of data will be available to compare with the previous year. By then, the largest hydropower plant in Central America should be in operation. The Reventazón Hydroelectric Project, located in the eastern province of Limón, is expected to be ready for operation by January.

Whether Costa Rica’s renewable energy model can be implemented in other countries will depend on the topography and climate, said Mormann of UM.

“Costa Rica is a small country and has a very special resource mix,” he said. “Costa Rica did not do this to do the rest of the world a favor. In their particular situation, it made the most sense. This is more about setting an example that it can be done.”
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/issues-ideas/article19542720.html#storylink=cpy

 

LEED Project Update

4/19/15

Julie

 

By Julie Lundin, Founder,
Director of LEED Process Management for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

Emerald Skyline Corporation in conjunction with Golden Spiral Design, is designing, renovating and repurposing an unoccupied industrial building located in Boca Raton, FL. This distinctive commercial building will include many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification from the USGBC.

Existing

Existing

Proposed

Proposed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proposed LEED Certified Building

For general information on this project please Click Here to see our last post.

We have been busy working on the design and drawings in preparation for submission to the City of Boca Raton Development Services Department. The design of the building has taken many twists and turns over the last few months. Since we are doing a major renovation and constructing a second floor, the design and location of the stairs and an elevator have been instrumental in our building’s design. As with any project, the site plan and its setbacks limit the building footprint that will be utilized.

Based on our site plan, we do have the space to bump the front of the building out to accommodate our new staircase. This allows us to construct the stairs without having to penetrate the existing building ceiling membrane. In addition, it creates an interesting design element that does not deduct precious square footage for the stairs construction.

We have also decided to locate the elevator on the outside of the building. Again, an exterior location will not deduct square footage from the base building plan. Since the elevator shaft will be located on the exterior, building fire codes will be different than if the elevator was located internally. We are anticipating that the elevator will be a prominent design feature and contribute to the aesthetics of our project.

As stated in our previous post, this project is a proposed LEED certified building. A key component of a LEED project is its reduced energy use. Our initial design utilized solar rooftop panels to generate power for the building even with the hopes of generating enough power to sell back to the grid. Florida’s large utility monopolies and lawmakers have worked successfully to block and control who can generate solar energy and what it can be used for; thereby restricting its use by homeowners and businesses. The Florida legislature, at the direction of the utility companies, have gutted the state’s energy savings goals and entirely eliminated Florida’s solar-rebate program. Due to this situation, we are now exploring alternative methods of energy including fuel cell technology powered by natural gas.

There is a pro-solar group in Florida, Floridians for Solar Choice, that is seeking to make solar more accessible in the state. Their ballot petition seeks to expand solar choice by allowing customers the option to power their homes or businesses with solar power and chose who provides it to them. Please visit their website to learn about this initiative and sign the petition. www.FLsolarchoice.org.

Welcome to Sustainable Benefits – Let’s begin with the benefits of doing a commercial building sustainable retrofit….

2/12/15

PJ Picture
By Paul L. Jones
, Founder,
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

“Who is more foolish: The child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light?” (Maurice Freehill, British WW I flying ace).

Figure 1 Empire State Building - LEED Gold

Figure 1 Empire State Building – LEED Gold

Throughout my 36-year career in commercial real estate, commercial buildings have generally been classified from A to C based on location, construction quality and tenancy. Class A buildings represent the cream of the crop. They secure credit-quality tenants, command the highest rents, enjoy premium occupancies, are professionally managed and have a risk profile that supports lower cap rates and higher values. Class B buildings are similar to Class A but are dated yet not functionally obsolete. Class C buildings are generally over 20 years old, are architecturally unattractive, in secondary or tertiary locations and have some functional obsolescence with out-dated building systems and technology. NOTE: No formal international standard exists for classifying a building, but one of the most important things to consider about building classifications is that buildings should be viewed in context and relative to other buildings within the sub-market; a Class A building in one market may not be a Class A building in another.

Based on years analyzing investments in income properties, it appears to me that in the recovery from the Great Recession the commercial real estate market has evolved to include energy efficiency and environmental design as a requirement for improving the marketability of a building – not to mention optimizing its operating income and value.

COMMERCIAL OFFICE BUILDINGS

On December 1, 2014, Buildings.com, in an article entitled “GSA Verifies Impact of Green Facilities,” reported that a study conducted by GSA and the Pacific Northwest Laboratory conducted a post-occupancy study of Federal office buildings, which varied in age and size and had been retrofit to reduce energy and water consumption. The following results were based on a review of one year of operating data and surveys of the occupants which was compared to the national average of commercial buildings: High performance, green buildings:

  • cost 19% less to maintain
  • Use 25% less energy and water
  • Emit 36% fewer carbon dioxide emissions
  • Have a 27% higher rate of occupant satisfaction.

One of the most famous sustainable retrofit projects undertaken was the updating of the 2.85 msf Empire State Building whose ownership directed that sustainability be at the core of the building operations and upgrades implemented as part of the $550 million Empire State ReBuilding program. According to Craig Bloomfield, of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), “After the energy efficiency retrofit was underway, JLL led a separate study of the feasibility study of LEED certification” which “showed that LEED Gold certification was within reach at an incremental cost of about $0.25 psf.

Graphics on financial benefits of high-performance buildings

Source: Institute for Market Transformation: Studies consistently show that ENERGY STAR and LEED-certified commercial buildings achieve higher rental rates, sales prices and occupancy rates.

Source: Institute for Market Transformation: Studies consistently show that ENERGY STAR and LEED-certified commercial buildings achieve higher rental rates, sales prices and occupancy rates.

According to the report “Green Building and Property Value” published by the Institute for Market Transformation and the Appraisal Institute, a trend is emerging where green buildings are both capturing higher quality tenants and commanding rent premiums. As indicated by the above graph summarizing four national studies for commercial office buildings back up this trend on rents and occupancy, as “certified green buildings outperform their conventional peers by a wide margin.”

  • According to the EnergyStar.gov website, “Transwestern Commercial Services, a national full-service real estate firm, has generated impressive returns through sound energy management. In 2006, Transwestern invested over $12 million in efficiency upgrades, for an average 25% energy savings. The Company estimates that dedication to energy management has increased the portfolio’s value by at least $344 million.”
  • According to John Bonnell and Jackie Hines of JLL – Phoenix, “In Phoenix, owners of LEED-certified buildings can capture a premium of 29 percent over buildings without this distinction.” The premium for Green buildings had disappeared during the Great Recession and reemergence in the first quarter of 2014 as a result of improving Phoenix market dynamics which is being realized in other major markets as well.

RETAIL

For retail buildings, the tenants are driving the shift to sustainability with green building as consumers become increasingly aware of the environment and the need to reduce, reuse and recycle. According to the “LEED in Motion: Retail” report published by the USGBC in October 2014, “LEED-certified retail locations prioritize human health: among their many health benefits, they have better indoor environmental quality, meaning customers and staff breathe easier and are more comfortable. In a business where customer experience is everything, this is particularly valuable.’ Green retail buildings also out-perform conventional buildings and generate financial savings:

  • On average, Starbucks, which just opened their 500th LEED-certified store, has realized an average savings of 30% in energy usage and 60% less water consumption.
  • McGraw-Hill Construction, which surveyed retail owners, found that green retail buildings realized an average 8% annual savings in operating expenses and a 7% increase in asset value.

It is noteworthy that, according to the third annual Solar Means Business report published by the Solar Energy Industries Association, the top corporate solar user in the United States is Walmart. In fact, almost half of the top-25 solar users are retailers (the others are Kohl’s, Costco, IKEA (9 out of 10 stores are solar powered), Macy’s, Target, Staples, Bed Bath & Beyond, Walgreens, Safeway, Toys ‘R’ Us, and White Rose Foods). Other Top-25 solar users with a significant retail footprint include Apple, L’Oreal, Verizon and AT&T.

In the competitive retail market, the study also noted that being distinguished for pro-active and responsible corporate social responsibility attracts customers and investors.

MULTI-FAMILY BUILDINGS

In a study of 236 apartment complexes conducted by Bright Power and The Stewards of Affordable Housing released last July, 236 properties in two programs, HUD’s nationwide Green Retrofit Program and the Energy Savers program available from Illinois’ Elevate Energy and the Community Investment Corp. One year of pre- and post-retrofit utility bills were analyzed. The researchers found the following:

  • Properties in the Green Retrofit Program had realized a 26% reduction in water consumption – or $95/unit annually.
  • The energy consumption in the Green Retrofit Program was reduced by 18% representing an annual savings of $213/unit.
  • Surveyed buildings in the Energy Savers program had reduced gas consumption by 26% and had reduced excess waste by an average of 47%.
  • The water saving measures in the Green Retrofit program reflected a simple payback period of one year while the energy savings measures had a simple payback period of 15 years.

In an article be Chrissa Pagitsas, Director – Multi-family Green Initiative for Fannie Mae, reports that 17 multifamily properties have achieved Energy Star® certification with two of them, Jeffrey Parkway Apartments in Chicago and ECO Modern Flats in Fayetteville, Arkansas, receiving financing from Fannie Mae.

  • The Eco Modern Flats complex is over 40 years old. With the goal of reducing operating expenses, the project was retrofit in 2010 with energy and water efficiency improvements including low-flow showerheads and faucets, dual flush toilets, ENERGY STAR® certified appliances, efficient lighting, closed-cell insulation, white roofing, solar hot water and low-e windows. As a result of the retrofit, the property achieved a 45% reduction in water consumption, a 23% drop in annual electricity use including a 50% savings in summer electricity consumption while increasing the in-unit amenities, obtaining LEED Platinum certification and increasing occupancy by 30% resulting in a significant increase to Net Operating Income.

Multi-family properties made sustainable gain a competitive advantage in marketing to young professionals and other target audiences who prefer to live in an environment that is healthy and energy-efficient which saves money on utilities.

HOTELS

In a 2014 study conducted by Cornel University, researchers compared the earnings of 93 LEED-certified hotels in the US to 514 non-certified competitors. The study included a mix of franchised, chain and independent facilities in urban and suburban markets with three-quarters of the properties having between 75 and 299 rooms.

The results show that green or sustainable hotels had increased both their Average Daily Rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR) with LEED properties reporting an ADR that was $20.00 higher than the non-certified properties (prior to certification, they reported an ADR premium of $169 vs. $160).

The researchers noted that these premiums were realized in price-competitive markets and that the amount of the premium was unexpected. From the results, they concluded that Eco-minded travelers were willing to pay a modest premium to stay at a verified green facility.

Further, the savings realized in electricity and water usage as well as reductions in waste disposal fees and costs as well as reduced maintenance costs go straight to the bottom line resulting in increased Net Operating Income. Here are some examples:

  • The Hampton Inn & Suites, a 94-room facility in Bakersfield, had REC Solar install carport-mounted solar panels which is offsetting 44% of the electricity costs, or up to $8,800/month – adding over $100,000 to the property’s bottom-line.
  • The 80-room Chatwall Hotel in New York completed an LED lighting retrofit project mid-year 2014 which will result in a first year savings of almost $125,000. The cost: just about $1.00 per LED light after rebates.

According to Flex Your Power and ENERGY STAR® statistics, the hospitality industry spends approximately $4 billion on energy annually with electricity, including the HVAC system, accounting for 60% to 70% of utility costs. In fact, excluding labor, energy is typically the largest expense that hoteliers encounter and the fastest growing operating expense in the industry (www.cpr-energy.com). The EPA has concluded that even a 10% improvement in energy efficiency is comparable to realizing a $0.62 and $1.35 increase in ADR for limited service and full service hotels, respectively.

Many studies show that hotels do not realize the full benefit of many energy efficiency measures as guests feel no obligation to employ sustainable practices and wastes the opportunity for savings afforded by the hotel’s energy efficiency measures; however, almost half realize savings in excess of 20% reflecting that many operators have found ways to enlist guest cooperation in saving electricity and water.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) 2012 Commercial Buildings Survey, the United States had approx. 87.4 billion square feet of floorspace in 5.6 million buildings that were larger than 1,000 sf which also excluded heavy industrial manufacturing facilities. Ninety percent of the buildings that will exist in2035 have already been built – and buildings consume 80% of energy used in cities worldwide and represents almost 20% of all energy consumption in the United States.

Source: US Department of Energy 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book, 1/22/2015

Source: US Department of Energy 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book, 1/22/2015

 

The evidence is clear – building and operating sustainably pays dividends – in improved NOI from cost savings and increased revenues. Attracting higher quality tenants, improving market perception and reducing risk indicates that going Green is becoming a key for maintaining the Class of a building – keys to improving long-term values through lower cap rates.

So, why aren’t more building owners and managers going green? We will seek to discern this matter in our next Sustainable Benefits.

Ugly Duckling to Become LEED Certified Building

2/4/2015

Julie

By Julie Lundin, Founder,
Director of LEED Process Management for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

Emerald Skyline Corporation in conjunction with Golden Spiral Design, is designing, renovating and repurposing an unoccupied industrial building located in Boca Raton, FL. This distinctive commercial building will include many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification from the USGBC.

Existing-Building

Existing Building

Proposed-Building-11-x-17-Perspective-

Proposed LEED Certified Building

We are in the process of renovating a 1,950 square foot warehouse located in Boca Raton, FL.  The building was previously used for a towing company so the property is currently a brownfield which will require that we remediate the contamination. This building is a major renovation/new construction project. We will be demolishing the existing interior space and adding a second floor and green terrace.  Our building renovations will include many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED certification.  Here are just a few of our intended design elements:

  • A tank used for rainfall and condensate collection to flush toilets and irrigate native Florida landscaping
  • A green terrace
  • A metal reflective roof
  • Use of low-VOC paints, sealants and adhesives for building improvements
  • Occupancy sensors and photos sensors that monitor daylight and reduce energy needs
  • LED or CFL Lighting
  • Pervious Paver Parking Areas
  • Low Flow Toilets and Faucets
  • Daylight Harvesting to lower Lighting Costs
  • Impact Windows

LEED Certification provides third-party validation that our building was designed and built to improve energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions, resource conservation and indoor environmental quality.

We look forward to showcasing the progress of our much anticipated sustainable renovations.