The Presidential race is heating up and both candidates are making a push to win the election in November. While there are many issues affecting the vote, it may be beneficial to understand what the candidates have in mind when it comes to renewable energy. Wind energy, specifically, is a hot topic on the campaign trail for both President Obama and presidential hopeful Romney.
Right now, the federal Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC) that has supported wind energy for almost 20 years will expire at the end of 2012. The president was in Iowa recently and spoke about the benefits of the wind energy solutions and the efforts his administration has made to increase wind energy usage.
“Homegrown energy, things like wind energy, is creating new jobs all across the states like Iowa,” Obama said at a rally held on Monday. “America now produces twice as much electricity from wind as we did before I took office.”
The president was shrewd to bring up this topic in Iowa, where wind energy is a massive industry. The enormous amount of rural farmland serves as a perfect foundation for numerous wind energy turbines. The local economy relies heavily on a need for wind energy and many jobs are created whenever the demand for such a source increases. Additionally, according to Iowa Code 476C, wind energy users receive a tax credit of 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour.
And, while Iowa is typically considered to be a conservative state, many residents have voiced frustration with Republican nominee Mitt Romney as a result of his current stance against the extension of federal wind energy incentives. If he is elected, the wind energy industry and related jobs could be in serious trouble.
Rob Hatch, owner of an Iowa-based wind energy provider and staunch Republican, told the Associated Press last week that wind energy is “critical for the economy” and said that he plans on voting for Obama if Romney won’t join other members of his party in embracing wind energy and providing incentives for progressive-thinking businesses who wish to do the same.
“Right now, the midwest is experiencing an intense drought, and the wind turbines are producing revenue for the farmers, while the crops are not,” said Hatch, who stressed the importance of keeping farmers in the state. “Iowa is known for brain drain, when talented farm kids leave the state, but wind turbines could help bring them back.”
But all hope may not be lost. Romney could endure a significant amount of pressure from other Republicans who are definitely in favor of wind, among other sources of renewable energy. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, South Dakota Senator John Thune and Iowa Representative Tom Latham all support tax credits for those using wind power systems. In fact, according to the U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, 81 percent of wind capacity installed in the US comes from districts represented by Republicans.
Other issues aside, how do you feel about the future of wind energy in the US? Will your vote be influenced by the clashing candidate sentiments regarding wind energy?
Like many other states in the country, New Jersey is charging forward with renewable energy initiatives, offering lucrative benefits for those wishing to adopt alternative energy sources to offset their business’s electricity consumption. In New Jersey, solar, landfill gas, biomass CHP/cogeneration, anaerobic digestion and renewable fuel cells are all eligible for state incentive programs.
When most people think of renewable energy incentives, they think of solar electric systems — also known as photovoltaics or PV. However, unlike Florida, photovoltaic (PV) installations in NJ are not eligible for state incentives like credits or rebates. However, they are eligible for solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) which pay a market price-driven dividend from the utility while the system is in operation. Recently awarded Governor Christie’s signature, the state legislature has passed a measure that would reenergize the state’s solar industry and potentially increase the value of solar credits, now lingering in the low $100’s. If you’re interested in solar thermal or solar electric for your business, stay tuned! And, keep in mind that, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE), all system sizes installed in NJ are eligible, but they must be grid-connected to the distribution system.
While the most popular program is solar, there are plenty of other state incentives for you to consider! There are a few requirements, rules and regulations that renewable energy users must abide by to qualify for the programs. “Generally, systems and components must be new, in compliance with all applicable performance and safety standards, and must carry a minimum five year all inclusive warranty,” says the DSIRE New Jersey page.
Biomass, Fuel Cell and CHP Systems
Biomass and fuel cell systems are eligible for rebates, but if the system that you are planning to install combines both heat and power (CHP), you can get even more money back.
- A biomass or fuel cell system can earn back $2.00 per watt for the first 500 kW. For the next 500kW, users receive $1.00 back per watt. This can total up to quite a bit of rebate money back to the user but rebates are currently capped at 30 percent of the installation costs.
- Biomass and fuel cell systems that include CHP can earn users back $3.00 per watt for the first 500kW and $2.00 per watt for the next 500 kW. For Combined Heat and Power systems, the state incentive increases to cap at 40 percent of installed costs.
Wind Energy Systems
New Jersey has quite a few wind turbines located throughout the state, especially along the coastline. Utility-scale offshore wind projects are in the pipeline but have a long development time. Unfortunately for business owners that would like to add turbines to the roof or property in New Jersey, wind incentives have disappeared. Under previous legislation, owners of wind energy systems received
- rebates based on expected energy output based on factors including turbine size and the average wind speed of a turbine’s location.
- $3.20 per kWh for the first 16,000 kWh and $0.50 from 16,000 kWh until 1,000,000 kWh. Once again, this is based on projected output.
While New Jersey wind incentives are currently suspended, the old numbers are still important as state officials are currently reworking and evaluating the efficacy of prior wind programs to determine if a similar program is advantageous to the state. Bottom line, check out the DSIRE site regularly to see if there are any updates.
Renewable Energy Incentives Leadership
For years, New Jersey has led the East Coast in renewable energy development for both residential and commercial markets. Government officials want to boost the jobs and economy, protect the Garden State’s environment, and they want its residents to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy while saving money in the process. The best way to bridge the gap between the adoption of new, leading edge technology and the price tag, is to offer a continuous and financially-sound mechanism for purchase, installation and maintenance.
If you’re a New Jersey business owner or facility manager, did you install a PV system before the state SREC market became saturated and crashed? Have you considered other renewable energy technologies that are incentivized by the state?
This blog is part of a series describing various renewable and energy efficient technologies. If you missed the overview, click here and you’ll be able to catch up.
Are you a cubicle dweller? Even worse, a cubicle dweller with little to no natural light at your desk? Me too! Perhaps you know the scene from the movie, “Office Space” where Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) desperately unscrews his cubicle wall and pushes it down so that he has some natural light? It’s not hard to relate to his actions because natural light makes the office feel much more inviting and actually has been proven to boost productivity!
Shedding (Natural) Light into the Workplace
So, what is a “daylight” and how is it different from a skylight? A skylight is essentially a window in the roof that lets light directly into the building. Daylights are similar but have a dramatically different construction. Daylights have a clear transparent lens on the roof that is attached to a column or tube made from a reflective material that diverts the sun’s light through the ceiling and disperses it evenly into the room below. A thermal barrier between the lens and vertical column reduces heat transfer between the internal temperature and the ambient temperature outdoors. The end result is natural light that is spread widely around the room without an overly bright or hot spot directly below. And, of course, a reduced or eliminated need for artificial lighting.
At Pfister, we generally recommend installing photo sensors with a daylighting system to decrease your building’s energy consumption even more. The photo sensors automatically turn on lights when the ambient light from the daylights drops below a given amount light level or luminance due to nightfall or clouds. They also turn the lights off automatically when the room lighting is at the right level or if no one is in the room.
What kind of business or building is a good candidate for daylighting?
Any large, single-story building that is broken up into larger rooms or divided by cubicles. Of course, this can also be applied to multi-story building but only the top floor will benefit from the proper installation.
What rooms benefit the most from daylighting?
Commercial and industrial spaces that can use daylighting (especially with photo sensors built in or as part of the light switch) include conference rooms, recreation areas or gyms, large storage closets, bathrooms, warehouse facilities, workshops, airplane hangars, schools, training centers, classroom, garages, malls, grocery stores, indoor pool facilities, retail outlets, warehouses, production facilities, distribution centers, call centers and more. Access to the roof and sunlight is the most important factor.
What about privacy? I don’t want someone looking down at my employees while they are in the bathroom or working on confidential information.
Daylighting units can be glazed to deter both Peeping Toms, roof workers, and anyone else!
How do I select the right type of daylighting?
Choosing a passive (daylights only) or active (daylights with built-in photo sensors) is best answered by a renewable energy professional like Pfister Energy who understands roof structure, lighting technology and the installation process. Photo sensors have a relatively low cost but that extra energy efficiency tool can have a big time impact on your return of investment.
Benefits of Daylighting
- Increased employee performance and satisfaction
- Reduced employee error resulting from dim lighting
- Better test scores for students
- Significantly reduced power bills
- Excellent ambient light distribution
Daylighting Is Just the First Step
By installing daylighting alone, some of our clients have reduced their lighting power bills by over 80% while improving the work area significantly. However, many Pfister clients install “stacked” energy efficient and renewable technologies. All that means is that we are intelligently installing multiple technologies in their facility to reduce energy usage and then offset any remaining electrical costs. Here are some typical technologies that work well together:
- Adding energy efficient lighting that turns on when the daylighting is not in use reduces energy bills further. (FACT: Lighting that is 10 years old is already inefficient!)
- Replacing the roof with a cool, reflective roof that reduces HVAC costs inside the building by reflecting instead of absorbing the sun’s heat.
- If the roof is in good shape (or ready to be replaced), evaluating the space for solar (PV) electricity, solar thermal (heat), or both. Depending on the type of roof, age, shading, obstructions and locations, daylighting paired with solar may produce enough power to make your bills virtually disappear!
So, if you are looking for a way to reduce power and make your employees happy, consider daylighting (and more). Do you have skylights in your building? Have you considered replacing your skylights to make them more effective and eliminate interior lighting costs during the day?
Next blog: Heat Your Building or Water with the Sun (Solar Thermal): What You Need to Know