Why the sun is rising on commercial solar energy

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Written by: Alexa Stone

In recent years, the commercial use of solar energy has evolved from pilot programs and public showplaces to practical full-scale implementations. Declining cost has been a great boost. Most states have seen a 9% cost reduction since 2016. Their average per watt cost is likely to be within forty cents of the 2017 national average, $3.16.

Solar panel system costs continue to fall. Several factors are driving that.

Increased supply

For 2017, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) project 11% growth in power generation from solar and wind farms along with other renewable energy sources. One gigawatt (GW) is enough to power a medium-sized city, and the EIA reported that almost 22 GW capacity had been created by the end of 2016. They estimate that to grow to 32 GW during 2018. That would equate to 1.5% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2018.

More efficient equipment

The latest, most efficient equipment is likely to have the latest price tag. Even if that price is higher, gains in the amount of energy produced per hour of sunlight can more than offset any added cost. The warrant for that equipment may be stronger as well.

Legislative changes

The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that 26 states have active community solar projects. Legislatures from Washingon state to Nevada, and from Minnesota to Florida are debating how solar systems are funded, where they can be installed, and what can be done with the surplus energy they generate. Last November, Florida voters approved a statewide amendment beneficial to commercial property tax rules. The amendment was signed into law in June, 2017.

New technologies

A great resource for solar energy development was literally unearthed in 2009. Perovskite, a calcium titanium oxide mineral, can trim processing costs while providing features unavailable in silicon solar installations. They weigh less, are more flexible, and can be semi-transparent. Issues of toxicity, higher cost, and shorter lifespan are now being addressed in laboratory studies. Their light-to-energy conversion efficiency has improved from under four percent in 2009 to over 20 percent in 2017. This makes perovskite a likely resource for electric vehicle batteries, commercial solar installations, and more.

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AWARE of CDC and NIH guidelines

The Baseline Property Condition Assessments described in ASTM E2018-15 do not specify consideration of infectious disease transmission concerns. In a pandemic and post-pandemic environment, that inspection and documentation is essential.

Buildings open to the public must comply with local regulations. For best results and greatest public acceptance, any planning for building repairs and maintenance should not overlook current CDC and NIH guidelines.

Optionally, ecoPreserve's can assist with a comprehensive GBAC STAR™ Accreditation which extends beyond the building to include the goals, actions, equipment, and supplies needed to implement best practices for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

Tools tailored to location and need

Disaster resilience requires a select toolset, identified, adapted, or created as needed based on planning calls and inclusive workshop participation.

Business and government organizations today are confronted by threat categories that range from drought to flood, from fire to hurricane, and extend globally to pandemics and sea level rise. Threat categories are broad and diverse, but ecoPreserve and collaborating organizations design resiliency tools for specific local context.

Local needs are identified and verified. Building from that essential understanding, tools are designed, tested in pilot programs, refined, then implemented through action plans.

Today's challenges/
tomorrow's potential

ecoPreserve collaborates with major community and private organizations in optimizing the resiliency and resource efficiency of their workplaces, venues, and public spaces.

In response to ever-increasing environmental, sociopolitical, and public health challenges, we advocate for and participate in assessment and planning actions that directly address disaster preparations, recovery activities, infrastructure improvements, and smart building/city design.

Online and in-person workshops

ecoPreserve designs and leads workshops in varied formats, to achieve varied goals.

Often an event is held for skill and knowledge development, but some needs of an organization or community are better resolved through collaboration to identify requirements and to design solutions. A range of Disaster Resilience workshops are available for solutions planning and development, as well as for training and communication.

Disaster Planning and Recovery Workshops

  • Identify technical and business process gaps
  • Define stakeholders, recovery teams, and processes/functionalities necessary for operation
  • Highlight missed expectations from a data loss and recovery time perspective
  • Address compliance with regulatory agencies and industry standards
Here's how to request further information. Thank you for reaching out!

Here's how to request further information. Thank you for reaching out!

Facility Condition Report

The report is prepared in accordance with the recommendations of ASTM E2018-15, Standard Guide for Property Condition Assessments. This is a partial list of contents:

  • PHYSICAL CONDITION
    • General condition of the building, grounds, and appurtenances
    • Physical deficiencies, their significance, and suggested remedies
    • Photographs
    • Safety issues observed
  • INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPREAD POTENTIAL
  • OPPORTUNITIES
    • Potential operating efficiencies
    • Electricity and water use reductions
    • High-efficiency interior and exterior lighting
  • ORDER OF MAGNITUDE RENOVATION BUDGET
    • Recommended interior finishes
    • Construction costs

Risk Mitigation Improvements

  • IAQ
    • Airflow
    • Temperature and humidity
    • Vertical transportation (escalators and elevators)
  • HVAC EQUIPMENT
    • Settings
    • Conditions
    • Capability
    • Filtration
  • FLOORPLAN
    • Traffic patterns
  • FURNISHINGS
    • Placement for social distancing
    • Clear barriers where social distancing is not possible

Interior Elements

  • Foundation
  • Building frame and roof
  • Structural elements
    • Floors, walls, ceilings
    • Access and egress
    • Vertical transportation (escalators and elevators)
  • HVAC equipment and ductwork
  • Utilities
    • Electrical
    • Plumbing
  • Safety and fire protection

Grounds and Appurtenances

  • Façades or curtainwall
  • Topography
  • Storm water drainage
  • Paving, curbing, and parking
  • Flatwork
  • Landscaping
  • Recreational facilities
Here's how to request further information. Thank you for reaching out!

AWARE of CDC and NIH guidelines

The Baseline Property Condition Assessments described in ASTM E2018-15 do not specify consideration of infectious disease transmission concerns. In a pandemic and post-pandemic environment, that inspection and documentation is essential.

Buildings open to the public must comply with local regulations. For best results and greatest public acceptance, any planning for building repairs and maintenance should not overlook current CDC and NIH guidelines.

Optionally, ecoPreserve's can assist with a comprehensive GBAC STAR™ Accreditation which extends beyond the building to include the goals, actions, equipment, and supplies needed to implement best practices for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

An OPTIMIZED Assessment

Certified Sustainability Consultants on a facility assessment team can discover ways to lower energy costs. Their understanding of HVAC equipment suitability and condition along with the specifics of LED lighting retrofits can provide offsets for needed investments in upgrades and replacements.

Knowledge of water systems can bring further savings while averting water waste. It can all be part of an assessment which might otherwise overlook water fixtures and irrigation schedules.

How should a facility be ASSESSED?

A thorough facility assessment finds the issues - on the surface or below - which have a potential negative impact on the building. That brings the facility to meet building codes. Beyond that, the assessment proactively addresses the deficiencies not covered by code.

The occupants of a building benefit as the assessment reveals conditions having a potential impact on their health or safety. The assessment must not overlook those conditions, nor fail to consider the frequency and duration of occupant visits.