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The Northwestern Energy Solar PV Grant

As a company with a NABCEP Certified Solar Installer, we are one a few companies in the state that qualifies for special $6,000 grants from Northwestern Energy for Solar PV installs. We’ve been granted access to 11 such grants and have already allocated a few of them.  Our goal it to have them all in install mode by Halloween.  If you have been considering Solar PV, this sort of assistance really starts to make it affordable, especially coupled with State and Federal Tax Credits.

Consider that the average US home uses 9000 kWh (kilowatt hours) of power per year.  This is roughly 26.5 kWh per day. For example’s sake, we’ll say 25 kWh, which would be easy to obtain with minor energy retrofits).  If you figure that we have, on a annual average in Western Montana, 5-hours of sun per day to make energy from, that would mean we’d need to produce 5 kW of energy from that system, per hour, to get to 25 kWh.
5 kW x 5 h = 25 kWh

Now consider that the average panel produces 185 W.  This would mean the 5.5 panels would be needed to produce 1 kW.
185 W x 5.5 panels = 1000 W
1000 W = 1 kW = 5.5 panels

So, to get to the 5 kW system we’re looking for, the average system would require 27 panels.
5.5 panels = 1 kW
27 panels = 5 kW

Now, most folks are not interested in offsetting 100% of their energy quite yet.  Here in Missoula we have annual net metering.  This means that you are assessed a bill each month depending on how much energy your system will put back in the grid (i.e. in January that might only be 10% and in July it could be 120%).  At the end of the year your total usage and production are assessed.  If you produced a deficit of energy, you will already have paid that amount through your monthly billing.  If you produced a surplus, well, you’re neighbor thanks you for putting clean, solar energy back into the grid.  But, at this point, Northwestern Energy doesn’t pay you back.  That’s not to say they won’t someday, with energy rates increasing at 4.4% on average.   However, since they currently do not pay you for your surplus, we usually design and install systems that cover 90% or less of your annual energy needs.

So, back to the example above.  Take the 5 kW system.  Let’s say we only want to go with 75% coverage.  We’re now at 3.75 kW (or 3750 watt system).  At an average rate of $5-$8, per watt, installed, we’ll use $6 in this example.
3750 W x $6/W = $22,500

Now, apply the $6000 Northwestern Energy Solar PV Grant, 30% Federal Tax credit, and $500 per MT tax payer credit (so, $1000 for most households):

$22,500 (gross)
– $6,000 (NW Energy)
– $4,950 (30% Federal Tax Credit)
– $1,000 ($500/person MT Tax Credit)
_____________
=$10,550 (net)

This is, of course, just an example.  But is a good indicator of what’s out there today.  If you don’t have tax liability this year, the tax credits can be carried forward for up to 5 years.  There are also other incentives and tax deductions out there, as well as some forms of revolving loan financing that can be applied to either the net or gross amount.

IECC 2009 Energy Code Compliance – Are you Ready? SBS is.

By designing and/or building above and beyond the new IECC 2009 energy code you will set yourself and your business apart.  And in the process, your high-performance buildings also improves the comfort, safety, health, durability, and affordability of your projects.

Anyone building a new home after June 2010 will have to meet the requirements of the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code® (2009 IECC) for residential buildings. Not only does SBS know WHAT the code requires, we also specialize in HOW to meet it and how to go BEYOND with energy conservation.

Bring yourself up to speed on the significant changes with help from this document on the City of Missoula’s website.  And take a look at our flier on MEETING THE CODE.

Simple Payback Not Simple

I was emailing recently with Bradley E. Layton  Ph.D., Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics at Drexel University, after reading his article A COMPARISON OF ENERGY DENSITIES OF PREVALENT ENERGY SOURCES IN UNITS OF JOULES PER CUBIC METER.  We had been bantering back and forth on the concept of simple pay back.  Sometimes if feels like there is really no such thing as simple payback, as we’re not comparing apples to apples.  The goal of his paper is “to provide a new perspective on how to compare energy sources on a more fundamental basis. Finally, the article provides a method of estimating the dollars-per joule for natural resources versus human resources and concludes with commentary on how political decisions may be affected by energy densities and energy costs.”

In the banter relating to the energy analysis SBS gives to a customer after an audit, Layton replied to me:

Dang dude, that’s a lot for one house. Do you give them a “break even” point? I would hate to have to go out and buy an new toilet if I was broke, if I knew it would only save me money on my water bill after I was dead.

Touche!  And right back to simple payback (and his toilet example above).  I agree on the simple payback on a toilet.  I think most folks would.  But we know the value of water and how simple it is to conserve, so we just buy the better toilet without the simple payback analysis.  So how do we get to apples on energy?  Hence, Layton’s article (and my response to his email above.)

Yes, we usually do include pay-back information.

But due to the size of this project and the client’s desires we didn’t feel like we needed to with them.

We’ve also developed some bigger picture financial payback info that looks beyond “simple pay-back” which is typically not a strong selling point of these technologies.

I had a chance to read your article more carefully. Very cool and something we struggle with all the time. (i.e… comparing energy savings between gasoline usage, propane usage, natural gas usage and electricity usage for our customers, each of them using a different measure.)

From a broader picture- here is something to consider: (just very rough notes)

From your article it is so very clear that oil and it’s derivatives are a massively compact and powerful source of energy. As we are forced to transition away from these fuels and from “the age of oil” is there anything on the radar screen technology-wise that offers similar amounts of energy in such a small package with the same mobility? Right now obviously the answer is NO, but can we expect to replace this incredible gift of energy that we have enjoyed for the last 200 years?

From an economic perspective, it is certain that the growth we have experienced in the last 200 years is absolutely tied to the amount of inexpensive energy we have had access to through these liquid fuels. To continue to grow and prosper as a species we must be able to continue to feed at the trough of an INCREASING energy source in a world that shows an ever DECREASING ability to provide this through traditional discovered forms of energy. Is it scientifically realistic to replace the amount of energy consumed currently, and to indeed, increase that level of energy consumption in order to continue to grow? Or are we doomed to run out of energy and see a decrease in growth of the species?

How much of a part does efficiency play in this equation? It seems that we can safely assume that there is generally speaking a 15-20% savings in energy to be had through efficiency measures. World wide we continue to waste large amounts of liquid fuels due to the fact that for so many years the supply was huge and the price was low.  If 15-20% is a safe number for “free, inexpensive efficiency measures that wouldn’t get in the way of growth” than how does that play in the macro environment of overall energy consumed and remaining supply.

STUDY IDEA NUMBER ONE- I suspect, that if one were to look at the overall total of available energy through liquid fuels remaining on the planet, as compared to the growing desire to utilize this energy by the earth’s human population, that we would see a near tragic confluence of graph lines coming in the near future. (20-50 years? or sooner?) Then, if one were to graph in the savings made possible through efficiency and the resulting decreased demand, would things look different? (I hypothesize, not really) Then, if one were to graph in the possible energy savings from current renewable technologies employed on a big scale what would the graph look like then?  Probably quite different, but I’m still not convinced that it can transition us from this oil boom train we have been on for so long, to another train of equal speed and size!

STUDY IDEA NUMBER TWO- Does this mean that we must invent new energy technologies to replace oil and it’s derivatives to sustain our growth as a species? Do we even want to try, given the population of the planet? If we don’t find a replacement at equal price and mobility, should we be working on designing a “soft landing” where the planet’s population will shrink slowly and without major unrest? What does that do our current economic models where shrinkage and non-growth are equated with death?  Can you design a society that is peaceful, sustainable, and healthy in an environment of economic shrinkage?

I’d love to see the first question addressed (simple analysis of the world’s supply of available energy as compared to the world’s appetite for the stuff.) Then so many other questions would come to light.

I’m sure someone is working on this already, if you see something will you pass it along?

Jeff Crouch, President
Sustainable Building Systems, LLC
www.SBSlink.com

April Carbon Neutrality Statement

As reported earlier in this blog, SBS is committed to tracking its carbon footprint month by month so that we can track both our efforts to lessen the climate altering use of energy by our company, and determine the offset needed to mitigate the emissions we do create.  As our company has been growing, so too has our footprint.

For a small office based business like SBS, the major generators of greenhouse gas emissions are utility based (from natural gas and electricity consumption), vehicle based emissions, and emissions resulting from company related air travel.

Vehicle based emissions comprise both employee commuting and mileage directly related to business activities.  With the season change many of us are biking and walking to work, but business is picking up and the company truck is busy most days hauling personnel, equipment, and materials to our various jobs.  We look forward to the development of cleaner modes of transportation, but in the meantime we try to keep the number of trips to a minimum.

Even though our company business doesn’t require a lot of air travel (6,453 air miles in April), the GHG emission penalty incurred by that activity is substantial (51% of our total footprint).   The effects of burning thousands of gallons of jet fuel in the upper atmosphere combined with the sheer energy needed to launch these modern behemoths into the air creates huge climatic impacts of which everyone must be fully cognizant  as they consider their travel needs.  Air travel is truly a miracle of modern technology, but so are teleconferencing, web based education, and high speed rail (in some locations).  But a certain amount of air travel is a necessary concession for any business operating in today’s global economy, and we are determined to plan each necessary flight with efficiency and economy of movement in mind.

SBS Carbon Footprint Trend - April 2010

Our utility footprint continues to grow despite a seasonal overall decrease in the office utility based emissions.  The reason for this is found in SBS’s growing presence within the office space which is shared with Kibo Group Architecture, and doesn’t represent a significant overall increase in office GHG emissions.

So that’s where SBS stands in terms of its current carbon footprint.  We’re presently offsetting our emissions through ClearSky Climate Solutions based on the footprint we developed during November and December of 2009, with a 25% margin for growth.  Airline travel is so variable that we offset that part of the picture on a quarterly basis after the fact.  In a way we’re caught between a rock and a hard place in regards of wanting to grow the business (with all of its travel needs and equipment hauling) and the ardent desire to keep our own footprint small.  Hopefully with every pound of GHG we create we’re keeping much more out of the atmosphere.

We’ll keep doing our best.  Feel free to get in touch with comment, questions or advice.

Jim Roach
SBS Energy Project Technician
jroach@sbslink.com

Home Star passed by House

The Obama administration has called on Congress to pass a new incentive program for home energy efficiency upgrades called Home star. Created to help bolster the hard hit construction sector and national security by decreasing foreign energy dependence Home star will create tens of thousands of jobs and save home owners billions of dollars in long term energy reductions not to mention green house gases.  Rebates will be provided directly to the consumers and the federal government will reimburse accredited contractors and utilities for efficiency work performed. (SBS does this type of work.)

There are two tiers of the program: Gold star and Silver star.   Gold star is a two-year program that will provide between $3,000-$8,000 for 20%+ modeled savings for home owners.  Homeowners will need an audit by a RESNET HERS Rater or BPI Building Analyst Certified Professional to assess energy savings through improvements before work begins.  Work must be performed by a Gold star accredited contracting company.

Silver star is a one-year program which will qualify homeowners to receive between  $1,000-$1,500 for each qualified efficiency measure, $250 per appliance, with a cap of $3000or 50% of project costs whichever is less. Qualified measures include: air sealing, attic, wall, and crawlspace insulation, duct sealing or replacement, replacement of existing windows, doors, furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, water heaters, and appliances with high-efficiency models.  When this bill passes through congress (expected in the next few months) there will be a huge demand for audit and efficiency retrofit work.

The Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) Program Act has been submitted to the House Energy and Commerce and House Financial Services Subcommitees.  This bill Requires: (1) the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and implement standards for a national energy and environmental building retrofit policy for single-family and multifamily residences; (2) the Secretary of Energy (DOE) to develop and implement standards for a national energy and environmental building retrofit policy for commercial buildings; and (3) the program to implement such policies to be known as the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) program.

Requirements of the REEP program: (1) facilitate the retrofitting of existing buildings to achieve maximum cost-effective energy efficiency improvements and significant improvements in water use and other environmental attributes; and (2) provide financial assistance to states, to be administered through the State Energy Program, for management and accomplishment of the program’s objectives at the individual building level. Authorizes states and local agencies to offer free or low-cost building audits, incentives, technical assistance, training, incentive financing, and other forms of assistance to individual building owners. Requires the Administrator and the Secretary to assist states and local agencies in establishing revolving loan funds or other forms of financial assistance.

The Caulkers Bill – or “Cash for Caulkers” has not passed the House.  We think this is good news… but the fight isn’t over yet.  Next it’s to the senate.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h4pIOjTWTl06XsauqI72MEvbYgqAD9FHJ4003

News from our Intern

Hi, I’m Larry and I have been serving my internship with SBS as I work toward my AAS in Energy Technology this semester (Spring 2010).

The work here has been interesting since the company is in the process of defining its market niche.  They already have some pretty hot irons in the fire and so I was tasked with finding a viable, affordable “Home Energy Management System” to be incorporated into the stable of energy efficiency measures that SBS can tender as recommendations to clients.

The research has lead me into some interesting areas that include the use of programmable thermostats, home and small business automation, the differences between use of Radio Frequency (RF), Infrared (IR) and hard wired control technologies.  Additional work here has also involved home energy audits to assist in finding where energy is being used and where it is potentially being wasted.  Let me tell you that the people here at SBS are top notch professionals that sincerely have the interest of not just the client but also the interests of the planet at heart.  The professionals here recognize that the kilowatt save or conserved today will stave off the need to construct additional power plants for the near future.  That saves us all money, now and later our children and grandchildren will appreciate the fact that we have taken a leading position in preserving the earth for them.

The folks here at SBS have shown me that the use of both stand alone Photo Voltaic (PV) systems and the increasingly popular grid-tied PV systems can have a great impact on how to best use the suns energy sources.  The energy production is free once the system is installed and commissioned.  These folks are also heads up with the latest incentives available to the consumer.  The incentives come from the federal government, state government, and utility providers; they take the form of rebates, subsidized low interest loans and direct subsidies.  These incentives go beyond making energy systems affordable-the professional installation stops just short of being making them a piece of art.  The offset in a homeowner’s energy bill every month will wind up leaving money in their pockets for decades to come.  There is something pleasing about watching a meter run backwards!

Insulation here in the State of Montana is a necessity to keep the bite of winter outside where it belongs and during the summer to allow us to rest easy in the comfort of our climate controlled environments.  It still amazes me that more people don’t make the small investment of providing adequate insulation for their homes!  We could concentrate on talking about R-values, yet the bottom line is that we are more comfortable in a snug home and insulation coupled with draft reduction takes us to that level of comfort.

Windows and doors typically can be replaced with the ensuing comfort of living in a draft free, energy efficient home.  The costs, when off-set by the incentives and subsidies are frequently recaptured with the energy savings alone within just a few years.  In essence the homeowner may not see the savings when first repaying the borrowed monies but the financial reward comes soon when the costs of energy go up but the usage cost has gone down because of the gained efficiency.

I’ll be finished here in mid-May and am spending the last couple weeks understanding how much our state legislatures actually know about all this sort of work and what SBS can do to be a positive part of the evolution to a more sustainable and energy efficient world.

Larry “the Intern” Keogh

Insulation is Sexy – New Payment Incentives

When it comes to renewable energy and efficiency measures we have an abundance of Federal, State, and utility based incentives to assist us.   Here are some of the incentive options that are offered federally and in Montana….

FEDERAL LOAN PROGRAM

Energy Efficient Mortgage: Homeowners can take advantage of energy efficient mortgages (EEM) to finance a variety of energy efficiency measures, including renewable energy technologies, in a new or existing home. The U.S. federal government supports these loans by insuring them through Federal Housing Authority (FHA) or Veterans Affairs (VA) programs. This allows borrowers who might otherwise be denied loans to pursue energy efficiency improvements, and it secures lenders against loan default.

Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Yes; specific technologies not identified

Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Passive Solar Space Heat, Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Photovoltaics, Daylighting

Applicable Sectors: Residential

Web Site: http://www.resnet.us/ratings/mortgages

FEDERAL GRANTS

1. Tribal Energy Program Grant: The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Tribal Energy Program promotes tribal energy sufficiency, economic growth and employment on tribal lands through the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. The program provides financial assistance, technical assistance, education and training to tribes for the evaluation and development of renewable energy resources and energy efficiency measures.

Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Clothes Washers, Refrigerators, Water Heaters, Lighting, Lighting Controls/Sensors, Chillers , Furnaces , Boilers, Central Air conditioners, Programmable Thermostats, Energy Mgmt. Systems/Building Controls, Caulking/Weather-stripping, Duct/Air sealing, Building Insulation, Windows, Doors, Siding, Roofs, Comprehensive Measures/Whole Building, other energy efficiency improvements may be eligible

Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Passive Solar Space Heat, Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind, Biomass, Hydroelectric, Geothermal Electric, Geothermal Heat Pumps

Applicable Sectors: Tribal Government

Amount: Varies by solicitation

Maximum Incentive: Varies by solicitation

Web Site: http://www.eere.energy.gov/tribalenergy

2. US Department of Treasury Renewable Energy Grant:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1) allows taxpayers eligible for the federal business energy investment tax credit (ITC) to take this credit or to receive a grant from the U.S. Treasury Department instead of taking the business ITC for new installations. The new law also allows taxpayers eligible for the renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) to receive a grant from the U.S. Treasury Department instead of taking the PTC for new installations. (It does not allow taxpayers eligible for the residential renewable energy tax credit to receive a grant instead of taking this credit.) Taxpayers may not use more than one of these incentives. Tax credits allowed under the ITC with respect to progress expenditures on eligible energy property will be recaptured if the project receives a grant. The grant is not included in the gross income of the taxpayer.

Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, Solar Thermal Process Heat, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Hydroelectric, Geothermal Electric, Fuel Cells, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Municipal Solid Waste, CHP/Cogeneration, Solar Hybrid Lighting, Hydrokinetic, Anaerobic Digestion, Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal, Microturbines

Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Industrial, Agricultural

Amount: 30% of property that is part of a qualified facility, qualified fuel cell property, solar property, or qualified small wind property 10% of all other property

Maximum Incentive: $1,500 per 0.5 kW for qualified fuel cell property
$200 per kW for qualified microturbine property
50 MW for CHP property, with limitations for large systems

Web Site: http://www.treas.gov/recovery/1603.shtml

3. USDA – Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Grant:

Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Yes; specific technologies not identified

Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaics, Wind, Biomass, Hydroelectric, Renewable Transportation Fuels, Geothermal Electric, Geothermal Heat Pumps, CHP/Cogeneration, Hydrogen, Anaerobic Digestion, Small Hydroelectric, Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal, Renewable Fuels, Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels, Microturbines, Geothermal Direct-Use

Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Schools, Local Government, State Government, Tribal Government, Rural Electric Cooperative, Agricultural, Public Power Entities

Amount: Varies Maximum Incentive: 25% of project cost

Web Site: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/busp/bprogs.htm

FEDERAL PERSONAL EXEMPTION

Residential Energy Conservation Subsidy Exclusion: (Personal) Gross income shall not include the value of any subsidy provided (directly or indirectly) by a public utility to a customer for the purchase or installation of any energy conservation measure.

Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Yes; specific technologies not identified

Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Photovoltaics Applicable

Sectors: Residential, Multi-Family Residential Amount: 100% of subsidy

Web Site: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p525/index.html

FEDERAL PERSONAL TAX CREDIT

1. Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit:

Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Water Heaters, Furnaces , Boilers, Heat pumps, Central Air conditioners, Building Insulation, Windows, Doors, Roofs, Circulating fans used in a qualifying furnace

Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Biomass, Stoves that use qualified biomass fuel

Applicable Sectors: Residential Amount: 30%

Maximum Incentive: Aggregate amount of credit for all technologies placed in service in 2009 and 2010 combined is limited to $1,500

Equipment Requirements: Equipment must be new and in compliance with all applicable performance and safety standards as described in tax code Web Site: http://www.energystar.gov/taxcredits

2. Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit:

Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Water Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind, Fuel Cells, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Other Solar Electric Technologies
Applicable Sectors: Residential
Amount: 30%
Maximum Incentive: Solar-electric systems placed in service before 1/1/2009: $2,000
Solar-electric systems placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
Solar water heaters placed in service before 1/1/2009: $2,000
Solar water heaters placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
Wind turbines placed in service in 2008: $4,000
Wind turbines placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
Geothermal heat pumps placed in service in 2008: $2,000
Geothermal heat pumps placed in service after 12/31/2008: no maximum
Fuel cells: $500 per 0.5 kW
Carryover Provisions: Excess credit may be carried forward to succeeding tax year
Eligible System Size: Fuel cells: 0.5 kW minimum
Equipment Requirements: Solar water heating property must be certified by SRCC or by comparable entity endorsed by the state in which the system is installed. At least half the energy used to heat the dwelling’s water must be from solar. Geothermal heat pumps must meet federal Energy Star requirements. Fuel cells must have electricity-only generation efficiency greater than 30%.
Web Site: http://www.energystar.gov/taxcredits ,

IRS Form 5695 & Instructions: Residential Energy Credits

STATE TAX INCENTIVES

1. Energy Conservation Installation Credit: Individual taxpayers may claim a credit against their tax liability for up to 25% of the costs of investment for energy conservation purposes in a building.

Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Water Heaters, Lighting, Lighting Controls/Sensors, Chillers , Furnaces , Boilers, Heat pumps, Central Air conditioners, Programmable Thermostats, Caulking/Weather-stripping, Duct/Air sealing, Building Insulation, Windows, Doors

Applicable Sectors: Residential, Multi-Family Residential

Amount:25% of cost of capital investment

Maximum Incentive:$500

Web Site: http://mt.gov/revenue/energyconservationcredit.asp

2. Residential Alternative Energy System Tax Credit: Residential taxpayers who install an energy system using a recognized non-fossil form of energy on their home are eligible for a tax credit equal to the amount of the cost of the system and installation of the system, not to exceed $500 or $1,000 per household.

Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Passive Solar Space Heat, Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Low-Emission Wood Stoves, Small Hydroelectric, Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels

Applicable Sectors: Residential

Amount:100%

Maximum Incentive:$500 per individual taxpayer; up to $1,000 per household Carryover Provisions:Excess credit may be carried forward four years

Eligible System Size: Hydroelectric systems not to have generation capacity greater than 1 MW

Equipment Requirements: Systems must be new and in compliance with all applicable performance and safety standards

Web Site: http://revenue.mt.gov/revenue/energyconservation.asp

3. Residential Geothermal Systems Credit: A resident individual taxpayer of Montana who installs a geothermal heating or cooling system in their principal dwelling can claim a tax credit based on the installation costs of the system, not to exceed $1,500.

Use Montana Department of Revenue Form ENRG-A to claim this tax credit.

PRODUCTION INCENTIVES

1. Northwest Solar Cooperative – Green Tag Purchase: The Northwest Solar Cooperative* (NWSC) offers to purchase the rights to the environmental attributes or “Green Tags” derived from grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) or wind energy at a rate ranging from $0.02 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to $0.10/kWh. Residential and non-residential owners of PV and wind-energy systems installed after June 1, 2002, in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana are eligible to participate in the Green Tag Purchase Program.

The contract term does not have a fixed duration. Interested participants sign an agreement with NWSC to sell their Green Tags, report any system failures and submit AC production meter readings each year. The NWSC agrees to make payments to participants by March 31 of the year following production of Green Tags.

*The NWSC is a not-for-profit service operated by Solar Oregon. It purchases Green Tags from many individual private sellers throughout the region, aggregates them, and sells them in one package to 3 Degrees Energy who, in turn, sells them to wholesale customers and consumers.

PROPERTY TAX INCENTIVE

1. Renewable Energy Systems Exemption: Montana’s property tax exemption for recognized non-fossil forms of energy generation or low emission wood or biomass combustion devices may be claimed for 10 years after installation of the property. The exemption is allowed for up to $20,000 in value for single-family residential dwellings and up to $100,000 in value for for multifamily residential dwellings or nonresidential structures. This property is class 4 property and otherwise would be taxed on 3.01% of assessed value.

Recognized forms of energy generation include solar photovoltaics, passive solar, wind, solid waste, decomposition of organic wastes, geothermal, small hydropower plants, low-emission wood or biomass combustion systems, and fuel cells that do not require hydrocarbon fuel.

Use Montana Department of Revenue Form AB-14 to claim this exemption.

2. Renewable Energy Production Incentive (REPI):

Established by the federal Energy Policy Act of 1992, the federal Renewable Energy Production Incentive (REPI) provides incentive payments for electricity generated and sold by new qualifying renewable energy facilities. Qualifying systems are eligible for annual incentive payments of 1.5¢ per kilowatt-hour in 1993 dollars (indexed for inflation) for the first 10-year period of their operation, subject to the availability of annual appropriations in each federal fiscal year of operation. REPI was designed to complement the federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC), which is available only to businesses that pay federal corporate taxes.

Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal Electric, Anaerobic Digestion, Tidal Energy, Wave Energy, Ocean Thermal
Applicable Sectors: Local Government, State Government, Tribal Government, Municipal Utility, Rural Electric Cooperative, Native Corporations
Amount: 2.1¢/kWh (subject to availability of annual appropriations in each federal fiscal year of operation)
Terms: 10 years
Web Site: http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/repi

STATE LOAN PROGRAM

Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program: The Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program (AERLP) provides loans to individuals, small businesses, local government agencies, units of the university system, and nonprofit organizations to install alternative energy systems that generate energy for their own use.

Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Building Insulation, Windows, Doors, Appliances, when installed as part of the alternative energy project

Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Water Heat, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Small Hydroelectric, Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels, Geothermal Direct-Use

Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Residential, Nonprofit, Schools, Local Government

Amount: Varies

Maximum Incentive: $40,000

Terms: Up to 10 years; 4.0% interest rate for 2010 Web Site: http://www.deq.mt.gov/Energy/Renewable/altenergyloan.mcpx

UTILITY BASED INCENTIVES

1. NorthWestern Energy – USB Renewable Energy Fund:

In 1997, Montana established the Universal System Benefits (USB) Program. The USB requires all electric and gas utilities to establish USB funds for low-income energy assistance, weatherization, energy efficiency activities, and development of renewable energy resources. A typical NorthWestern Energy residential customer pays approximately $1 per month in electric USB charges. About $9 million is collected annually by NorthWestern, and about $750,000 is used for renewable energy projects.

Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Photovoltaics, Wind, Hydroelectric Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Industrial, Residential

Amount: PV: $3.00/watt
Wind: $2/watt Maximum Incentive:PV: $6,000

Wind: $10,000 Web Site: http://www.northwesternenergy.com/display.aspx?Page=Renewable_Ene

2. NorthWestern Energy – E+ Business Partners Program: The E+ Business Partners Program offers funding for local energy conservation and load management projects in new and retrofit applications including commercial, institutional, industrial, agricultural, and multi-family residential facilities/systems.

Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Retrofit and new construction applications

Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Industrial, Multi-Family Residential, Agricultural, Institutional

Amount: Varies

Web Site: http://www.northwesternenergy.com/display.aspx?Page=Business_Part

3. NorthWestern Energy – Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program: NorthWestern Energy offers a variety of rebates for their residential customers to make energy efficiency improvements in their existing homes.

Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Equipment Insulation, Water Heaters, Lighting, Furnaces , Boilers, Programmable Thermostats, Energy Mgmt. Systems/Building Controls, Building Insulation, Comprehensive Measures/Whole Building, Cooking Equipment

Applicable Sectors: Residential

Amount:ENERGY STAR® CFLs: $2 per bulb
ENERGY STAR® hard-wired CFL fixtures: $15 per fixture
Programmable Thermostats: $30/unit
Gas Heating Equipment: Varies by technology and efficiency
Insulation: Varies by efficiency and location

Maximum Incentive:Lighting: maximum of fifteen CFLs and five lighting fixtures per calendar year
Programmable Thermostat: Two units per household

Funding Source: Funding for these rebates is provided through NorthWestern Energy’s natural gas and electric supply rates.

Web Site: http://www.northwesternenergy.com/display.aspx?Page=Rebates_Home_

4. NorthWestern Energy – Commercial Energy Efficiency Rebate Program: NorthWestern Energy offers multiple rebate programs for their commercial and industrial customers to make energy efficient improvements to their businesses.

Eligible Efficiency Technologies: Equipment Insulation, Water Heaters, Lighting, Lighting Controls/Sensors, Furnaces , Boilers, Heat recovery, Programmable Thermostats, Energy Mgmt. Systems/Building Controls, Duct/Air sealing, Building Insulation, Windows, Motors, Motor-ASDs/VSDs, Commercial Cooking Equipment, Stack Heat Exchangers, Boiler Tune-Up, DHW Circulation Pump Time Clock Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Industrial, Irrigation Supply

Amount: Lighting: Varies based on bulb/fixture type ($1.00 to $40.00) or energy saved (10-50 cents per watt saved).
Motors: $13-$600 depending on HP and efficiency rating
Motor Rewind Program: $40-$500 depending on HP and RPM
Furnace/Boiler: $3.25 (KBtu/hr)
Water Heater: $2.50 (KBtu/hr)
Stack Heat Exchanger: $0.50 (KBtu/hr)
Griddle: $4.00 (KBtu/hr)
Fryer: $6.00 (KBtu/hr)
Refrigeration Heat Recovery: $1.00 (OA-CFM)
Boiler Tune-Up: $100
DHW Circulation Pump Time Clock: $100
EMS Optimization: $500
Water Heater Tank Insulation: $35
Other Insulation (equipment and building): varies $0.30 – $1.50 (per linear or square ft of insulation)
Windows: $3.50 (per square foot of window)
Energy Star Programmable Thermostat: $0.08 (per square ft of controlled area)

Maximum Incentive: Lighting: Rebates will not be provided for lamps or fixtures placed in stock in excess of 5% of installed equipment.

Equipment Requirements: Varies greatly by product, see application forms. Funding Source: Funding provided through NorthWestern Energy electric default supply rates for its default supply customers. Web Site: http://www.northwesternenergy.com/display.aspx?Page=Rebates_Busin

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The Obama administration has called on Congress to pass a new incentive program for home energy efficiency upgrades called Home star. Created to help bolster the hard hit construction sector and national security by decreasing foreign energy dependence Home star will create tens of thousands of jobs and save home owners billions of dollars in long term energy reductions not to mention green house gases.  Rebates will be provided directly to the consumers and the federal government will reimburse accredited contractors and utilities for efficiency work performed. (SBS does this type of work.)

There are two tiers of the program: Gold star and Silver star.   Gold star is a two-year program that will provide between $3,000-$8,000 for 20%+ modeled savings for home owners.  Homeowners will need an audit by a RESNET HERS Rater or BPI Building Analyst Certified Professional to assess energy savings through improvements before work begins.  Work must be performed by a Gold star accredited contracting company.

Silver star is a one-year program which will qualify homeowners to receive between $1,000-$1,500 for each qualified efficiency measure, $250 per appliance, with a cap of $3000or 50% of project costs whichever is less. Qualified measures include: air sealing, attic, wall, and crawlspace insulation, duct sealing or replacement, replacement of existing windows, doors, furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, water heaters, and appliances with high-efficiency models.  When this bill passes through congress (expected in the next few months) there will be a huge demand for audit and efficiency retrofit work.

The Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) Program Act has been submitted to the House Energy and Commerce and House Financial Services Subcommitees.  This bill Requires: (1) the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and implement standards for a national energy and environmental building retrofit policy for single-family and multifamily residences; (2) the Secretary of Energy (DOE) to develop and implement standards for a national energy and environmental building retrofit policy for commercial buildings; and (3) the program to implement such policies to be known as the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) program.

Requirements of the REEP program: (1) facilitate the retrofitting of existing buildings to achieve maximum cost-effective energy efficiency improvements and significant improvements in water use and other environmental attributes; and (2) provide financial assistance to states, to be administered through the State Energy Program, for management and accomplishment of the program’s objectives at the individual building level. Authorizes states and local agencies to offer free or low-cost building audits, incentives, technical assistance, training, incentive financing, and other forms of assistance to individual building owners. Requires the Administrator and the Secretary to assist states and local agencies in establishing revolving loan funds or other forms of financial assistance.

Also, view President Obama’s presentation on Retrofitting for Energy Efficiency and New Jobs to get pumped about energy efficiency: Insulation is sexy!

President Obama\’s presentation on Retrofitting for Energy Efficiency and New Jobs

Contact SBS today to learn more about additional rebates, ratings and grants.  The offerings are constantly changing and we’re doing our best to stay on top of all the options.  Feel free to comment here with related incentives that would be important to share.

Testing TED

They say that knowledge is power and in an attempt to expand my own knowledge and conserve power (literally) I recently installed an energy monitoring device at my home.  This monitor is named TED and since his installment in our home, my wife and I have become quite fond of him.  TED is short for The Energy Detective and true to its name the device has the ability to shine a clear light on how electrical energy is consumed in our home.

SBS purchased two of the TED 5000 devices to try out and see how well they functioned and whether they could be of service to our clients.  The package came with two sets of current transformers, an MTU device, a gateway to route data to a home’s wireless network and a remote display.  The current transformers (CTs) clip over wires delivering power to home electrical circuits and through the magic of magnetic induction register the current moving through the wires.  The MTU sends information gathered to the remote display and to the gateway which allows it to be accessed through an intranet connection on a home computer.

The remote display is a great tool for checking on the instantaneous electrical consumption in the home at any point in time.  You can use it to watch the draw of particular appliances as you turn them on and off while following the numbers on the live dashboard (expressed as kWs, dollars, and pounds of emitted CO2).  It’s quite fascinating in a sort of morbid way.  (Oh that clothes dryer sucks the juice more than I ever imagined!)  The internet option that comes with the TED 5000 allows data collected about energy consumption to be logged and displayed as a series of graphs and tables.  It has the ability to learn certain load profiles and keep a tally of the energy consumption of that particular load.

Our Friend TED - the 5000 model

Long story short…I’ve learned some very revealing facts about how we use energy in our home.  For instance, I used to fret considerably about the energy gobbled up by our well pump.  What I’ve learned is that while it does draw significant power (1.5 to 2.2 kW) its run time is short enough that its overall energy consumption is small compared to other devices in the home.  As mentioned earlier, the clothes dryer is an energy hog of grand proportion and now our outdoor clothes line is gaily festooned with laundry full time come rain or shine.

My load profile shows the steady staccato punctuation of our cycling refrigerator and has definitely sharpened my resolve to bite the bullet and purchase an Energy Star Rated appliance.  More than ever we are careful with lights, the TV, even the coffee maker.  It lends new significance to all the little energy services we tend to take for granted.

Another nice feature of the TED 5000 is its ability to export data to the internet and display it on the power gadget on my Google search page.  I now know even when I’m at work when the dishwasher is running or laundry is being dried.  It’s not my desire to become the “Big Brother” of my own household, but it is a nice feeling to look at the graph and see a nice flat profile.

my usage over the day.

Here’s a the graph from my Google power gadget showing our power consumption over the last 36 hours.  The double humped peaks are our dishwasher (an Energy Star rated device by the way) and the tall spike at about 4 o’clock yesterday was a brief episode with the clothes dryer.  See the teeth at the bottom of the graph?  Our refrigerator takes a bite out of our energy budget.

So you can see the impact TED’s presence has on our awareness.  Maybe ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power- the power to conserve.  Now I know that for us an 11 kWh day is a pretty good one while  17 kWhs feels pretty indulgent!  TED is a good guy…but he’s brutally honest.  If you decide to bring him into your house he’ll certainly give insights to the grid.

SBS on the evening news

Well first it was the paper, now it is evening the news.  We were proud to see our firm highlighted on the evening news on channel 13 here in Missoula. It is truly crazy to see our entire business plan, renewable energy systems, building efficiency improvements, building auditing,  carbon footprint strategy work, ALL OF IT, crammed into less than 2 minutes of TV time.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it sure explains why so much of the information out there in our world is glossed over and distilled into sound bites and quotes.  We simply don’t have time for the details!

The Start of a Success Story

Hello SBS Folks,

As we’ve discussed Jen and I are intent on using our big, old, drafty, inefficient home as a test case and guinea pig for Sustainable Building Systems.

Just how much energy can we save at the “Elrod House”?  If we can show that this house that was built before the turn of the century can be made efficient than it will be proof that we can do it anywhere. And we can show just how much energy could be saved if a larger percentage of existing homes were addressed in the same manner.

Jeff's “Elrod House”

So we’ve been in the house since July of last year and we are already seeing some compelling results. At this point Jen and I have implemented about 3/4 of the easy and cheap energy savings measures. We’ve retrofit about 3/4 of the light bulbs with cfls, we’ve installed and programmed the thermostat to set regular set-backs (a simple technique I’d like to expand on later), we’ve turned the water heater down, insulated the walls and ceilings with urethane spray-foam where we gutted them for the upstairs remodel, and we’ve installed a lot of spray foam in the crawl space, gasketing and thresholds and other air barriers including a quilted curtain at the stairs to the largely un-insulated attic. We’ve also taken simple operational measures like turning the thermostats to 50 when we are gone overnight and replaced one of the original single pain windows with a therma pane unit and covered the rest with plastic film for the winter.

So we are just starting really. New projects will include insulating the attic, insulating the crawlspace, installing a crawlspace vapor barrier, continuing to work on finding air infiltration and sealing it, and eventually installing Solar PV and/or Solar Thermal as well as some energy modeling.

So how are the results looking? Well, I’ve got to say pretty spectacular so far!  The year to year monthly comparison between this winter and last shows that we have reduced our electricity use by about 60% and our gas use by about 15% as compared to the previous owners. The monetary savings are impressive too. We are saving an average of over $3.10 per day on elasticity and over $2.20 per day on gas for a total savings of around $150 per month in these winter months.  And this with just the simplest of measures.

Obviously it’s important to note the differences between the previous owners and us. They had a hot tub which would explain a lot of the electicity savings, and we assume they must have used the electric baseboards that are upstairs as well. (We have barely used them at all) We know that they are both staunch environmentalists who care about global climate change issues, so they were certainly within the realm of SBS clients.  And they were living in the house with just the two professional adults, like us. It is also important to note that Jen and I have not totally traded in our American habits, we didn’t turn the heat off and hunker around a single candle for warmth. For the most part we had the house temperature set to 67 or 68 when we were home and awake; and we still both take pretty long hot showers.

Clearly, this isn’t a scientific analysis and it isn’t meant to be. But it IS a real life example of a house and people who fit the SBS target market. It is just another clear example that we can make a very large dent in our client’s building energy footprints.

Cheers,

Jeff