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Energy Alliance Brings Together Dialogue on Residential Energy Efficiency

New and Better Ways of Bringing Efficiency to Greater Cincinnati

Energy efficiency can be difficult to promote because the wide range of its benefits tend to resonate differently from one homeowner to the next. We have recently partnered with Empower, a new residential energy efficiency provider that is starting an innovative model to work with local communities in increasing the number of home energy upgrades completed.

Empower and the Energy Alliance co-hosted a forum last week to discuss new ways of bringing residential energy efficiency to Cincinnati homeowners. More than a dozen local contractors, many from the Efficiency First Home Performance Network, were on hand to share insight into their process and explore new models for delivering high value improvements to local residents.

Coming This Summer

In partnership with the Energy Alliance and the City of Cincinnati, Empower plans to begin its rollout this summer. The team will build on the City’s aggregation model to take energy efficiency opportunities to the next level. Empower will draw on cutting edge data analysis and an intimate understanding of customer behavior to create a package tailored to the needs of individual homeowners. With cost effective financing, these new projects will allow energy savings to pay for the cost of each project.

Stay tuned for more information on the Cincinnati roll out and how you can bring Empower to your community.

 

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Dan Gray, Operations Director for Empower Gas and Electric, presents for local contractors and Energy Alliance staff.

 

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Adventures in Energy Efficiency: Daniel Beard Home Attic Upgrade

The owner of the beautiful 1821 Daniel Beard (“the Father of Scouting”) home in Covington, KY, has engaged our Home Performance Contracting Service to carry out a full workscope of energy efficiency improvements. Our Building Analyst, Dane Ervick, is busy overseeing and coordinating this multi-faceted project.

Last week, we were in the attic with our partners Insulating Sales and National Heating and Air working to bring it into conditioned space so that a new air handler could be installed. When work began, the attic was barely insulated:

Insulating Sales created a framed and insulated room so that the heating system won’t be fighting near-outdoor temperatures as it supplies heat to the rest of the home.

National Heating and Air insulated and sealed the new duct work and connected the air handler to an existing closed loop geothermal heating and cooling system.

The once uninsulated attic now features closed cell spray foam on the roof deck, fiberglass batts and rigid board insulation on the knee walls, and R-49 blown in cellulose on the attic plane behind the knee walls. These improvements will keep heat from escaping the home and make it easier for the air handler to operate. As always, we are installing all materials in compliance with manufacturer’s specifications and national fire codes.

Next up: Under the home in the crawl space!

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Energy Alliance In the News: Senator Rob Portman Energy Bill

Our CEO, Andy Holzhauser, was asked to comment on the interesting history of and possible benefits from Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s currently stalled energy efficiency bill (the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2014).

The colorful account of the bill’s history can be read in the Cincinnati.com article: www.cincinnati.com/story/news/politics/2014/12/27/portman-energy-bill/20942371/

 

 

Andy Holzhauser featured in news media commenting on the stalled Senator Rob Portman energy bill.

 

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New Energy Alliance Program: Solarize Cincinnati

We’ve launched a new program: Solarize Cincinnati.

Focusing on solar power is yet another way we can create significant local economic development for Greater Cincinnati. We have taken our mission of making energy efficiency easier and more affordable and applied it to solar PV installation.

By bringing residents together to purchase solar panels, we are able to tap into the power of bulk purchasing to drive down costs for homeowners. When combined with the 30% federal residential energy tax credit, installing solar becomes even more affordable.

And we’ve partnered with local installers Seco Electric and Dovetail Solar and Wind to ensure quality installation and service.

For more information, visit our page or give us a call: 513-621-4232 ext. 128.

 

Solarize Cincinnati Webpages and Flyer

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Saving Money with Solar

Purchasing solar panels for your home is a valuable investment. We are all familiar with the costs, but what about the benefits? Here are three financial benefits to consider as you determine if a solar investment is right for you.

Generate  your own energy

1. Generate your own energy, save money on your energy bill

The energy that you generate from solar panels means you will purchase less energy from your local utility. Each kilowatt hour generated is money that you save. A 6 kilowatt solar array will generate around 7,674 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year. At a standard cost of electricity (around 11 cents), that’s around $844 per year in money saved. And with energy costs continuing to rise, the value of your savings will increase over time.

30% Federal Tax Credit

2. 30% Federal Tax Credit

The federal government provides tax incentives for the purchase of solar and other renewable energy assets. Upon installation of a solar array on your home, you will be eligible for the federal Residential Energy Tax Credit which is equal to 30% of the cost of your system. If you install a 6 kilowatt system through Solarize Cincinnati (estimated price $23,340), then you are eligible for a tax credit of $7,002.

Ohio SREC Incentive

3. SRECs, a state based credit system

Most states provide some additional credit for solar investments. In Ohio, public utilities must purchase a small percentage of solar for each kW of energy they sell to customers. Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) represent one mega-watt hour of electricity (1,000 kWh). For each mega-watt hour (MWh) that your system creates, you can sell the renewable attribute of the energy on the market. Due to changes adopted by Ohio earlier this year, the value of SRECs has declined. However, the current market will pay around $10 per SREC. As in the above example, a 6 kilowatt system could generate 7 SRECs or $70 per year.

How much do Solar Panels REALLY cost?

Here is the example above in more detail:

  • We purchase a 6 kilowatt solar PV system ($23,340)
  • Of that cost, we spend less on energy because we created our own ($844 in the first year or $19,481 over 20 years)
  • Plus, we received the federal Residential Energy Tax Credit ($7,002)
  • Finally, we sold our solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) ($70 per year or $1,400 over the projected life of the system)

So, in the above example, the system we purchased generates $19,481 in utility bill savings, $7,002 from federal tax credits, and $1,400 from SRECs. That’s $27,883 in benefits which puts $4,543 back into your pocket.

Here are some more examples of how much you might save by installing Solar:

More examples of how much you might save by installing Solar

 

* Based on an $0.11 per kWh base rate with a 2.2% annual escalation in the cost of electricity (US EIA projection).
* Based on a SREC value of $10 per mWh over 20 years.

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Solarize Cincinnati Assessment

Solarize Cincinnati takes the guesswork out of purchasing solar panels by providing you with all the information you need to make a decision. Here are some of the steps we take to help you determine if solar panels are a good fit for your home.

Online Feasibility Assessment

Step 1: Solar Feasibility Assessment

Once you complete our sign-up form, one of our solar installers will begin a solar feasibility assessment. Our solar installers are certified professionals specializing in residential solar who are trained to design a system that is right for you.

The solar installer will begin by reviewing a solar map of your home (like the one on Google Maps) to obtain basic information about the location of your home, the orientation of your roof (a south facing roof will attract the most solar energy), and the existence of any obstructions (like large trees) that may diminish your roof’s solar potential. This information provides a basic understanding of the solar feasibility for your home.

If the solar installer identifies major challenges, they will let you know when they reach out to discuss next steps. They’ll want to know the age and construction of your roof and to get a general sense of your electric usage (usually available on your monthly energy bill).

On Site Solar Assessment

Step 2: On-Site Solar Assessment

Once the feasibility assessment is complete, your solar installer will contact you to schedule a free, on-site solar assessment.

During the assessment, the solar installer will examine your roof and calculate the best location to install solar panels on your home. Among the key items that your solar assessment will review are:

  • Age and condition of your roof
  • Degree of tilt and orientation of your roof
  • Presence of any obstacles to sunlight on your property
  • Ideal location to install solar panels on the exterior of your home
  • Location of appropriate interior connection points

In addition to these items, your solar installer will conduct a solar shading analysis to document the solar resource potential.

With this information, your solar installer will be able to determine the projected solar energy generation potential of a custom designed system for your home.

Solar Assessment Proposal

Step 3: Proposal

After the solar assessment is complete, you will be provided with an installation proposal tailored to your home. The solar assessment does not obligate you to act, but simply provides a recommendation for how solar can help meet your home’s energy needs.

In addition to system design information, each proposal will include information on available financial incentives and expected power production. Finally, your report will have a price for a solar PV system sized to fit your home. If a roof-mounted solar PV array is not possible, the installer will explain other potential options for solar energy production on your site.

If you decide that solar is right for you, the solar installer will work with you to schedule a time to install your solar panels so you can begin producing your own energy.

 

 

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Establishing PACE in Ohio: Clean Energy Finance Breakfast

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing is designed to drive investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy in Greater Cincinnati. By making energy investments easier, PACE has the power to spur economic and community development in our region. With these goals at the forefront, the Energy Alliance has been making an ongoing effort to help educate our community on these issues.

On November 11, we convened a diverse group of finance leaders, municipal leaders, and commercial contractors for a breakfast discussion about how to expand PACE in Greater Cincinnati. The focus of the event was to provide attendees with an understanding of how PACE is being utilized in other parts of the country and to answer their questions about how to grow PACE locally. We were fortunate to have the discussion led by David Gabrielson, George Caragthiaur, and Kristina Klimovich from PACENow, a national organization that promotes and assists the development of PACE programs. It was a lively conversation and we look forward to providing additional opportunities to learn about PACE in the future.

 

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Basic Solar FAQs

What are the components of a solar PV system?

Solar array – Solar arrays are made of a group of solar panels strung together. Each panel is composed of solar cells used to capture the sun’s energy.

Inverter – The electric grid utilizes AC (alternating current) electricity while solar panels generate DC (direct current) electricity. The inverter is a device used to change the DC electricity into AC form. Once your inverter has performed this conversion, the electricity can feed directly into the electric grid and your home.

Remote monitoring system – A monitoring system that helps to track the amount of energy being generated by your system. This enables the contractor to ensure that your system is operating effectively.

 

Solar Equipment Terminology: Solar Cell, Panel, and Array

How does a solar panel create electricity?

Solar panels generate electricity when sunlight hits the surface of a cell. Electrons in the silicon absorb energy from the sun. These energized electrons jump from their atoms to a conducting material in the cell, which creates an electric charge. This charge is then captured by solar panels that have been wired together.

 

General illustration of how energy from the sun turns into electric current.

Does Cincinnati receive enough sunlight for solar panels to work properly?

Not only does Cincinnati have more than enough sunlight to generate electricity with solar PV panels, but we receive more sunlight than Germany, the global leader in the use of solar energy. Solar maps can tell within a few percent the amount of sunlight that will hit a specific spot on the earth’s surface in a given year.

How is solar energy measured?

The energy produced by solar panels is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). The average sized home uses approximately 900 kWh of electricity per month. This number will vary based on age of home, heating and cooling systems, and other features.

Where should my solar panels be installed?

To collect the most energy, solar panels need to face the sun and not be obstructed by shade. This makes a roof the ideal location to install an array. A 1 kW array takes up 90 to 100 square feet of space, and a 5kW array requires about 500 square feet to produce about 6,000 kWh per year. In some cases where a rooftop installation is not possible, it may make sense to install an array on the ground.

Will there be a battery with my system?

Most solar PV systems do not have a battery backup included. Battery technology can help retain energy for use when the sun is not shining or during an electric grid outage, but can add significant expense to the cost of a system.

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Solarize Cincinnati Installers

Solarize Cincinnati is proud to partner with local installers to bring reduced cost solar to the region. Each of the participating installers brings a high level of experience and customer service to the program. In addition, the Energy Alliance has reviewed each contractor to ensure that they met the following requirements:

  • Valid state electrical license
  • NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certified employees
  • Background checks performed on all employees
  • Current liability and workers’ compensation insurance

Participating Installers

 

Dovetail Solar and Wind was founded in 1995 and has more than 19 years of experience in renewable energy system design, installation and green building.

As one of the oldest, largest, and most experienced renewable energy firms in the Ohio area, Dovetail is quality focused, customer centered, and mission minded, not money driven. It has completed over 340 system installations across all regions of Ohio and the surrounding states. That includes more than 10,200,000 watts (10.2 MW) of solar and wind systems. Its employees are experienced implementing net metering and off-grid systems, and interfacing with all the major utility companies. Dovetail is also one of the few companies, regionally, that provide all three major technologies: solar electric, solar thermal and wind.

Honesty, integrity, and environmental stewardship are core values for Dovetail. It designs your system to be high performing, clean, safe, low maintenance and durable. It utilizes top quality components from suppliers that have both a proven track record of performance, and a commitment to support what they sell so that your system will work properly and reliably for many years. Dovetail consciously buys most of its components from USA manufacturers.

“The guys who worked here were just fantastic. I would appreciate them coming back anytime, every time. They were all fantastic. This is the second time I have used Dovetail Solar and Wind, and they were so good the first time they were here, I didn’t even call other companies for quotes this time – I just called Dovetail right away. This is the second time I’ve used them, and I would use them a third time. Everything was perfect.” – Phil Smith

www.dovetailsolar.com

Seco Electric Co. Inc. Logo

Celebrating 25 years of service in the Tri-State area, Seco Electric is a family owned business based in Covington, Kentucky. Seco Electric has been installing solar since 2009. Matt Kolbinsky leads the Renewable Energy Department for Seco and is a leader in solar design and installation.

Matt recognizes that customers have different reasons for going solar. Some residents value creating jobs in the local community, others appreciate being able to generate their own power, but everyone enjoys reducing their monthly utility bills. He likes to remind customers that enough sunlight falls on the earth every hour to meet the world’s energy demands for an entire year.

Seco takes pride in investing in its workforce and the quality of service they provide to customers. All the Seco Electric team have employer paid family care, retirement plan, and training. Seco Electric is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Green Umbrella, and a Duke Energy Trade Ally Partner.

www.secoelectric.net

 

 


 

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A Commitment to Saving Energy: The Kroger Company and Melink Corporation

The reasons that motivate an organization to pursue energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements are often as diverse as the organizations themselves. Recently, Energy Alliance staff spent a day visiting two very different organizations that have made a commitment to saving energy: the Kroger Company and Melink Corporation.

The Kroger Company:

Kroger grocery stores consumes large amounts of energy to power everything from lighting and refrigeration to air conditioning and electronic equipment. With over 2,600 stores across the country, any energy savings Kroger can produce in each store results in a substantial positive financial impact for the company.

To witness their efforts first hand, we visited the Branchhill-Guinea Pike store in Loveland, which serves as one of Kroger’s testing facilities for energy efficiency measures. We were given a thorough tour of the facility by Denis George (Kroger Corporate Energy Manager), Ryan Stuckenberg (Kroger Energy Engineer), and Andrew Finton (Kroger Energy Coordinator and former Energy Alliance staff member). We were taken almost everywhere in the store, from the sales floor to freezer rooms to mechanical rooms. We learned about how Kroger uses skylights to reduce the amount of lighting needed in stores and how improvements in their refrigeration and monitoring systems have improved their bottom line. We even climbed up to the roof to view their rooftop solar arrays.

For Kroger, the decision to invest in energy efficiency was a practical business decision that has resulted in a 35% reduction in energy consumption.

The Melink Corporation:

The Energy Alliance also visited the Melink Corporation, located near Milford. Melink’s mission is to “provide clean energy solutions that help its customers become strategically competitive, and to inspire them by its example“. Melink is led by a proactive CEO, Steve Melink, who not only provides sustainable energy solutions as a service, but uses his own organization to lead the way.

Our visit was spent touring Melink’s solar canopies, electric car charging stations, solar thermal water heating system, interactive energy production display, geothermal installation, and their admittedly low-performing wind turbine. The organization encourages its employees to actively participate in reducing their energy consumption, and its CEO leads the charge.

Sustainable energy is their service, but it is also their lifestyle. Melink saves energy and is fueled by their positive impact on their community.

Many thanks to the Kroger Company and Melink Corporation for spending time with us to get a deeper understanding of their energy saving initiatives.

Here’s a few photos from our visits:

 

 

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