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Month: July 2019

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Utility providers have something in common; they want you to use less of their service. Of course, one of the reasons is to enhance the power grid, especially during the hot summer months. While utility providers are providing tips to help reduce your electric bill, solar panels are a cost-effective solution too.

You can switch to harnessing the power of the sun with solar panels efficiency to reduce your bill. 

Solar panels convert energy to electricity with sunshine, which lowers customer’s overall energy bills. In order to maximize your savings as a solar user, you should watch your energy usage and create your home to be as energy efficient as possible.

One kW hour is equal to 1000 watts used in an hour. On your utility bill the cost of use is based on how much kilowatts (kW) you use, which can also be affected by how many days are in the month.

By lowering your consumption you can get closer to a net zero bill and put energy back into the grid. 

Take CPS Energy for example, who is the largest municipally-owned electric and natural gas utility company in the nation. For the past few summers the question of “Will your rates increase” rises. CPS hasn’t had a rate increase in five years. Yet, in the summertime, your bill goes up. That may be due to your behavior toward saving consumption. 

Have you heard of the Save For Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP)? It was introduced in the year 2008, to be “an aggressive energy conservation program,” according to the City of San Antonio – Office of Sustainability website. “The goal of the program is to save 771 MW of electricity between 2009 and 2020.” 

CPS Energy’s Energy2Business Team member, Christine Patmon, mentioned there are a lot of different programs that are covered under STEP. “We’ve reduced about 620 MW. 1 MW powers about 200 homes depending on what time of the year it is,” said Patmon. 

If you want to understand your electricity use, Patmon explained that the rate at which you consume electricity, or demand, is equivalent to the speed you are driving. 

“When driving [you] multiply the average speed by the number of hours driven,” said Patmon. “When looking at electricity [you] multiply how many hours your equipment was on by the demand to get your consumption.” 

A solar panels efficiency can reduce your consumption by converting energy into electricity. According to the City of San Antonio website, “In FY 2018, 3,131 residential solar PV systems totaling 24,410 kWdc were installed, and $14.5 million in rebates distributed.” 

CPS still provides rebates and incentives as part of the STEP program to consumers who want to go solar. 

Patmon provided another scenario to understand your utility bill. 

Take a look at your air conditioning and heat, which makes up about 60% of your bill. “Your AC will only work at an efficient level with about a 20 degree differential of your thermostat setting and the temperature outside. Once it gets above that it starts working all the time,” said Patmon. This explanation sets an example to have your system set to 78 degrees when at home and 82 degrees when not at home. 

By doing your part to help the grid you are reducing your electric bill. Solar panels can also do its part to help the grid and help you reduce your electric bill. Both utility providers and solar panels efficiency rely on your overall consumption. 

Solar installations in San Antonio have become purchasable and that may have been due to the Energy Efficiency Fund.

The fund was passed by the City Council in August of 2011, “to fund energy conservation projects in its facilities that reduce utility expenditures. The fund was designed to receive utility saving dollars from completed utility conservation projects as well as project incentives or rebates received from CPS Energy and SAWS,” according to the City of San Antonio website. 

https://www.sanantonio.gov/sustainability/Energy-Efficiency

While this funding has been beneficial to residential and commercial consumers, there are other terms of funding that are also leaning toward sustainability. 

Today, the city of San Antonio is on a revenue fund, but when it comes to our Regional Storm Water Management Program, the city of San Antonio finds that the stormwater regional fund, also known as fee in-lieu-of (FILO), lies a benefit. 

The Transportation and Capital Improvements – Stormwater City of San Antonio Assistant Director, Nefi Garza, PE, spoke on the matter of low impact development, its expectations, and successful examples in the city.

He explained that we live in an area known as “Flash Flood Alley”. “The reason it is called flash flood alley is that the National Weather Service cannot give us good predictions of river and stream increases,” said Garza. 

While we do have many low water crossings; by implementing low impact development (LID) practices throughout the city, the city can be able to absorb some of that water. LID is a practice that mimics mother nature. 

At the city’s development services building there is a parking lot across the street. “There is a beautiful lid feature that does its job. It collects trash and water. There are other features like that throughout the city and we are learning from them,” added Garza.

On the other hand, some LID features didn’t reach the city’s expectations. 

There is a policy on LID, but Garza acknowledges that it can be strengthened. 

Sustainable Landscape Ecologist at the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), Lee Marlowe, BS, says SARA has been trying to promote LID practices for a while now. “We realized if we are going to be telling other people to do this, we need to do it ourselves,” said Marlowe.

SARA has, in fact, converted landscapes to retrofit LID. 

At their  main office location on the river, Marlowe explained how they received a 319 grant through the EPA and TCEQ. “We retrofitted that facility and we incorporated these three practices: rainwater capture, permeable pavement, and bioretention,” added Marlowe. The practices were installed to slow down and clean the stormwater runoff before it enters the San Antonio River.

While LID is implemented to retain stormwater and improve water quality, there are also low-impact solar development practices that could benefit the city of San Antonio. 

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) publication, in an article written by Harrison Dreves, titled Beneath Solar Panels, the Seeds of Opportunity Sprout, Dreves acknowledges the research of an ongoing study in central Minnesota. The study is “To quantify the benefits of a new approach to solar installations: low-impact solar development,” wrote Dreves. 

The article states, “To better understand the benefits of—and barriers to—low-impact solar development, the Innovative Site Preparation and Impact Reductions on the Environment (InSPIRE) project brings together researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory, universities, local governments, environmental and clean energy groups, and industry partners. The project is funded by DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office.” 

If the San Antonio LID policy ever strengthens the thought process of implementing solar installations to a “Flash Flood Alley” can be beneficial to the sunshine state too. 

Consumers in Texas who want to go solar are doing it and loving it. With products for solar energy, helping modify a customers roof preference; rooftop solar panel installations are happening more and more.   

Take a look at S-5! Metal Roof Innovations, LTD., a metal roof direct attachment clamps, and brackets manufacturer. The clamps are a useful product for solar installers and solar consumers. “The clamps are primarily used for metal applications, S-5! clamps are going to attach to the standing seam without penetrating the roof panel,” said Clint Funderburk, VP of Marketing for LMCurbSolar, a distributor of S-5! products. 

S-5! is located in Iowa Park, TX. Fifteen years ago the company was introduced to the solar market. 

Other useful products for solar energy come from the solar racking manufacturer Ecolibrium Solar, based out of Athens, OH and Boulder, CO. For example, the EcoFoot, a solar panel mounting and racking system used for commercial flat roofs or their EcoX Universal railless flush mount for residential installations. 

“[What] we are super excited about right now is the Metal X, [made] for any kind of metal roof system,” said Jason Comstock, training manager at Ecolibrium Solar. 

The Metal X, is a racking system that consists of small components making it beneficial for solar installers. 

But when it comes to preassembled parts that make flat roof racking installations quick and easy, Comstock highlights on the EcoFoot5D.

“It’s easy to ship, transport, [the] logistics [on] getting it to the roof, [and] moving it around. All of the bonding is integrated into the system, which is nice. You don’t have to worry about putting in a bunch of ground lugs or running a bunch of copper or ground wire because all the bonding is integrated into the racking,” explained Comstock. 

Products for solar energy are being introduced to the solar market to meet the needs of the consumer and installers. 

In fact, some solar manufacturers are collaborating to maintain innovative flow. Ecolibrium Solar acknowledged the fact they had a great solution for clamping to the panel, whereas others had great solutions for metal roof attachments. 

“We got ahold of S-5! and they provided us with a really great attachment solution for our panel and corrugated metal roofs,” said Comstock. “We think it is going to be great in Texas because there are so many metal roofs here.”

Whether you are a commercial or residential solar consumer there are products for solar energy that are being made to better the customer and installer.

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