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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions > Solar Energy

Creative Solar Applications for Savings and Power

Smart design that works with the power of the sun is the greenest solar solution.

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california precipitation landscape and solar solutions

Sustainable Applications of Sunlight

Light is a “free” source of energy being harnassed with the use of passive solar design strategies such as orientation of the building and heat retention floors. Indirect lighting adds pleasant, solar workspace lighting through the use of windows, skylights and solar tubes.

Solar water heaters aren’t new inventions. In the 1890s solar water heaters were in use across the entire US. Today these flexible solar energy tools are making a comeback with more than a million solar water heaters installed in California alone. They heat water for use inside homes and businesses, as well as swimming pools.

GREEN SOLUTION STRATEGY

Step 1: Familiarize yourself with available business options for solar savings and opportunities

Step 2: Put a person in charge of auditing your current energy profile

Step 3: Set a goal for sustainable progress

Step 4: Create a plan to achieve tangible results

Step 5: Share your vision and strategy with your team, your vendors, your customers..and ask for their participation.

Step 6: Track and share progress with your participants.

Step 7: Reinvest your savings in sustainable practices until you're "green"

  • Sunlight acts as a cleanser or bleach through the process of photons in the violet or ultraviolet range disrupting bonds of the chromophore, and rendering the substance colorless. When sunlight mixes with bleach it also strengthens the cleaning action.
  • Plants require sunlight as a nutritional ingredient. We animals require plants for food, oxygen production and carbon dioxide scrubbing. Plants transform sunlight into cellulose using photosynthesis and animals turn that cellulose into protein. How? Caterpillars eat leaves. Birds eat caterpillars. Or consider the human food cycle. Not only do we eat plants that thrive on photosynthesis, but we take in protein from the milk and muscles of cattle.
  • Animals also need sunlight to process vitamin D, and we need light to go about our daily rituals of hygiene, eating, courting and raising our families. Sunlight plays a role in sight, in emotional health as a preventative for depression and skin diseases and it helps absorb calcium. What would we do without sunlight?
  • Sunlight is also an active agent. When light mixes with modern industrial chemicals, it creates smog. Overexposure to UV rays can create skin cancer.

Sunlight's role in smog requires careful engineering to prevent problems for innocent bystanders. California has programs in place to incentivize manufacturers and operators of diesel vehicles and equipment to clean up pollution from fleets: school buses, transit buses, garbage trucks, and other heavy-duty diesel engines. These vehicles produce some of emissions that contribute to smog.

Moyer Program

In 1999, California created the Moyer Program to reduce smog-forming Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) from diesel engines and replace diesel with cleaner alternatives such as natural gas and electricity.

These programs have proven to be cost-effective in reducing air pollution and protecting public health. However, we’re not done – Many communities in California have high asthma and respiratory problem rates because of vehicle emissions. Some areas have 9% of their children suffering with shortness of breath and health risks of asthma – when the national average is 6%.

Low Emission School Bus Program

With the nation’s third largest school bus fleet, California maintains some of the oldest and dirtiest school buses on the road. Almost half of California’s 24,000 school buses are more than a decade old. In a single year, the average state school bus emits as much soot as 170 cars.

These buses are safety hazards as well as major polluters. To address these problems, CARB started the Lower Emission School Bus Program in December 2000. This incentive program provides funds for replacing older buses, especially those built before 1977, with new, cleaner buses.

Some of the “greenest” solar solutions include:

Passive Solar

Smart design that works with the power of the sun is the greenest solar solution. Building design that uses sunlight in the winter to heat the building and shades it in the summer is one smart design strategy. Planting the best-matched plants to their best exposure to sunlight...is another "passive solar" strategy. Using water or solid mass to store heat can provide natural savings. "Passive" means simple. But simple also requires careful planning.

Cash Back for Solar on Your Business or Industrial Facility

Solar energy is one of our state's most abundant - and least utilized - renewable resources. The California Solar Initiative offers cash incentives on solar systems - currently, $2.50 a watt. California Solar Initiative incentives, combined with federal tax incentives, can cover up to 50 percent of the total cost of a solar system.

In 2007, systems that are smaller than 100kW will be paid incentives up-front, but based on their expected performance. Expected performance will be calculated based on equipment ratings and installation factors, such as geographic location, tilt, and shading.

Federal Tax Credits

In addition to rebates available through the California Solar Initiative, you can save by taking up to $2,000 in Federal income tax deductions - up to 30% of net installed cost by installing solar electric power. You can also deduct for purchasing a range of energy-efficient products and systems.

Making simple energy-efficiency improvements can further lower the costs?

Making your building energy efficient-first-can dramatically improve the returns on a new solar system. California also provides rebates for a number of energy efficiency upgrades via your utilities. Did you know that products with the ENERGY STAR(R) label use 25-75% less energy than their common counterparts? href="http://www.fypower.org/com/index.html">Visit the Flex Your Power website to learn how to receive rebates for these purchases.

Check out this STORE LOCATOR:

Flex Your Power Store Locator

for local sourcing.

California businesses collectively spend more than $15 billion a year on heating, cooling, lighting and other energy uses. Much of this cost is unnecessary. While high and variable energy costs will continue to impact their bottom line, companies of all types and sizes can take action to reduce these impacts.

Organizations that implement energy-efficient measures outperfom their competitors by as much as 10%. To remain profitable and gain a competitive edge, companies need to do more than just turn off unnecessary lights and adjust thermostats. They need to make energy efficiency an essential part of their business plan. By doing so, businesses lower their utility bills and help California ensure a reliable energy supply.

Governor Announces Green Building Initiative

Executive Order S-20-04 creates the Green Building Initiative, which includes the goal of reducing electricity purchased from the grid by existing government and private commercial buildings by 10% per square foot by 2010 and 20% by 2015.

California Climate Action Registry

Registry participants include businesses, nonprofit organizations, municipalities, state agencies, and other entities.

PIER Program’s Technical Briefs on Energy Efficiency in Buildings.

These include briefs on classroom lighting; small heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; modular skylights; compact fluorescent downlights; hybrid lighting fixtures; and a brief describing Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Residential Commissioning Guide.

OUTDATED:

Incandescent lights
T12 fluorescent tube lighting

STATE of the ART Lighting technologies:

T8
Businesses that upgrade to T8 lamps realize a variety of savings. The slimmer (“T12” refers to a 1-1/2” lamp; “T8” to a 1” lamp) T8s use fewer watts per lumen, last longer and require less maintenance than T12 lamps. Plus, because T8s give off better quality light, fewer fixtures are needed per square foot; with fewer fixtures needed, facilities managers and engineers can think about delamping and, owing to lower cooling loads, downscaling the cooling system. Overall, commercial buildings that retrofit their lighting systems can see savings as high as 40% of current costs.

H2

The “Human Factor” makes the greatest difference. Planning, design, and maintenance add up! Name one person to audit your lighting and supervise changes and education of everyone. Then make energy savings part of every job description. And yes, it takes courage and determination to work smarter.

JUST DO IT

Save money at the same time you reduce pollutants from non-renewable energy sources with INCENTIVE programs and TAX DEDUCTIONS.

When I searched for Rebates, Incentives and Services for Commercial Companies in my SoCal zipcode…the Flex Your Power search tool produced 88 INCENTIVES and 6 SERVICES!

  • Federal Tax Credit for Commercial Solar Systems (10% credit + 5yr accelerated depreciation) Year 2006 forms & guide posted here
  • California State Solar Income Tax Form YR 2006- for Both Residential and Commercial PV systems up to 200 kW in size. 7.5% of the Net cost.

Here are a few significant ways to consider engineering your greener bottom line:

DAYLIGHTING

  • Windows that maximize use of sunlight for interior lighting and manage warmth seasonally.
  • Solar tubes that bring light into interior rooms
  • Tinted glass to reduce glare and heat
  • Light colored roofs that reflect sunlight rather than absorb it, reducing urban heat.
  • Open blinds and shades during the day. Turn off lights in unoccupied areas and use natural lighting.

POWER

  • Manual power. Use manual tools, walk, enjoy nature…reduce dependence on electricity and fossil fuels in your everyday lifestyle.
  • Stand alone applications: add solar or wind power without wires in remote locations.
  • Grid-tied photovoltaic systems to add to our renewable energy capacity.
  • Use task lighting instead of room lighting.
  • Use Energy Star compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) in fixtures you use most frequently. They use 66% less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent lights.
  • Replace halogen lamps with Energy star compact fluorescent torchieres. They are cooler, use 60% less energy.

SOLAR THERMAL

Solar thermal collectors are fluid systems that move heat from the solar collector a reservoir for heat storage and subsequent use. Applications include
  • Hot water heaters.
  • Swimming pools.
  • Space heating systems.
More info in available at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_hot_water

LIVING BUILDINGS

  • Living walls that are covered with carefully selected vines.
  • Living roofs of grasses and wildflowers that absorb sunlight and convert it into cooler air and more oxygen.
  • Solar greenhouse that traps heat during cold seasons for release into indoor spaces.
More info in available at Wikipedia.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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