When I first decided to investigate the feasibility for going solar at our Naples, FL warehouse I did a lot of research. I needed to see what was available regarding electricity, its carbon footprint and what I could expect if I converted from traditional grid power to solar. What I found out was more than startling. Following are a few truths about electricity and solar power.
I started by checking out The United States Energy Information website. (Basically the site breaks down every kilowatt of electricity produced and used throughout the country. You can view the website here.) The statistics listed on this site were what really got me motivated to act on my solar initiative.
There was one statistic that stood out to me: The U.S. uses about 370 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year. We create an astounding 4.2 trillion
pounds of carbon dioxide generating this electricity. To put this into perspective, let’s convert all this carbon dioxide (CO2) into truckloads of dirt. An average semi-truck can hold about 30,000 lbs. Using this example, we’re dumping the equivalent of 140 million semi-trucks of dirt into our atmosphere every year just to produce our electricity.
Next, I looked at the carbon footprint for the electricity we used each year at our 34,000 square foot facility. It amounted to almost 160,000 pounds of CO2 per year (or about 5 semi-trucks of dirt.) The positive environmental impact made the decision to go solar very simple, but I still needed to know what my costs versus savings would be.
Here in Florida, the Sunshine State, there are literally no state incentives for going solar. (Even the not-so-sunshiney-state of New Hampshire has several incentives!) The 30% federal tax credit is the only incentive for going solar here in Florida. Consequently, it really came down to my cost of electricity versus the 30% reduction in my upfront costs. Florida power suppliers don’t buy excess power but they do offer “net metering.” This essentially means that they buy the extra power that your solar array generates. That amount of energy is then deducted from your bill or credited to a future bill in the same calendar year. The theory is that your solar system combined with net metering should allow you to achieve a “net zero” electric bill. (I have since found out that that is not necessarily true…)
The bottom line return on investment (ROI) for my solar system turns out to be just about 6 years. On the surface this may not seem like a good business decision since most ROI’s are calculated in 5 years or less, to be prudent. After seeing the American Appraisers web site on increased resale value, I found that the resale value of a solar system on a facility or house increases by approximately one and a half times the initial investment. Since the panels last an average of 25 years, this further added to the value of the investment.
Once I made the decision to go solar, I had to decide where I was going to come up with $350,000 for a system large enough to handle our
air-conditioning needs. The system needed to generate enough power for my existing facility and the additional 10,000 square foot facility that is currently under construction. The answer came very quickly; There are finance groups who specialize in financing 100% of alternative energy systems. With a phone call and a couple of emails and signatures, we were approved and money was available to finance the entire project. Of course, hiring the most qualified installers is key to having the system installed properly and efficiently. We hired Urban Solar Group from West Palm, FL and the 137 kilowatt system was installed in less than 60 days.
Here is a summary of some truths surrounding electricity and solar:
- Conventional generation of electricity is extremely harmful to the environment
- Solar power is efficient and can practically eliminate anyone’s current electric bill
- Solar electricity adds resale value to a person’s home/business
- Solar systems can easily be financed for not much more than 10% above the cost of a monthly electric bill
We’ve now had our system now for a little over 8 months and we have managed to save over 180,000 pounds of CO2 from going into our atmosphere. In the fall of 2016 I will be speaking at various forums throughout Florida as an experienced, educated advocate for the virtues of solar power. In 2017 we will be converting our entire heating and cooling system for our NH facility to solar. I’ll soon be installing solar on my residence and will advocate for all of my staff members to follow suite with converting their homes.
I believe that the statistics are overwhelming and show that we need to change the way we view electricity. We need to actually act on these truths, not just talk about them.