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Diversification of Power Sources

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Energy efficiency is a key aspect to running a business or operating a property effectively but taking sustainability a step further is an option through utilizing renewable energy. Renewable energy includes several options that do not deplete resources the way that traditional energy sources do, it is becoming increasingly common to see solar panels on rooftops or in parking lots or to see windmills in areas with expansive space, solar, wind, and water are some well known alternatives to traditional energy sources. Various aspects of a business can determine whether renewable energy is a plausible possibility and which renewable energy options would make a good fit; these aspects include those such as economics, geography, investment horizon, and energy usage and needs. Options within the realm of renewable energy for commercial properties to consider adopting to improve their sustainability include:

Solar PV: Solar photovoltaic or solar PV is a renewable energy option that uses power from the sun to generate electricity. Solar PV may be either grid tied or standalone depending on a property’s needs and situation. Solar PV is an option for all because solar cells can be put together as arrays, solar panels can be installed in the correct amount and size in order to power anything from a small house to a large commercial property. Solar PV provides many benefits and very few downfalls. Some of the benefits of solar PV include:

●      Virtually maintenance free

●      Variety of installation options including rooftops, parking lots via carport structures, and ground-mounted systems

●      Solar is a free energy source that does not face the same potentially volatility of supply / price that some sources face, if grid connected only the difference between energy used and energy fed to the main grid has to be paid for

●      Extended system life as components are typically warrantied 15-25 years.

Some concerns about solar PV include:

●      Aesthetics however installation can be done in a manner that minimizes the detrimental effects on any aesthetic aspects but still maximizes practicality, such as the back of a roof or high up in a parking lot.

●      Limited generation to sun exposure, but when grid tied a property can still take advantage of the utility as an electricity supplier. 

Combined Heat and Power: Traditionally electricity and thermal power are produced and provided separately however, combined heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration is the production of electricity by typically a natural gas generator and of thermal energy through the recapture of waste heat at the same time from one source. CHP is not currently a very common option for renewable energy sources but it is a good, plausible option, especially for industrial and commercial properties where it is more commonly applied. CHP systems are also becoming more compact and available for smaller sites.  This process is more sustainable than most energy production processes because while normally thermal power created in electricity production is wasted, combined combined heat and power prevents that waste. Average energy production efficiency is approximately 50% efficient while applications of CHP are 60-75% efficient.[1] While CHP is still not a very common option for energy efficiency being utilized it is a good option especially for larger properties; emissions from CHP systems are relatively low and they prevent significant thermal energy waste that traditional production causes. CHP is not an extremely expensive investment and operations and maintenance costs are also not significant, as CHP adoption grows costs are coming down.

Battery Storage:  Battery storage eliminates dependency on the main grid and utility at all times for providing energy. Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular and due to this battery development and price decreases are high in demand from consumers and vehicle manufacturing companies. This means lithium battery price is decreasing significantly, due to this battery storage is rapidly increasing in popularity and economic sense and value. Increasing utilization of battery storage will have implications for energy users, utilities, and the entire energy economy.[2] While battery storage is without a doubt growing in popularity and practice it is still a small portion of the total energy market in the United States. However with the growing economic feasibility of battery storage pursuing it as an option for a commercial property to supplement a renewable energy decreases reliance on the grid therefore allowing the development of a more completely independent, sustainable entity.

OPM or Other People’s Money: Incentives or rebates for various applications of renewable energy are available across the U.S.; California offers the most[3], California has faced issues with energy supply therefore adoption of alternative renewable options provides the benefit of not only overall sustainability but also less demand for existing grid provided energy. States such as Hawaii and Vermont have made pledges to each high percentages of renewable energy consumption in the not so distant future.[4] There is a federal tax credit available for properties that install solar PV, for 2019 30% of the cost is tax deductible with no cap on the value but this amount goes down yearly until 2022 when it goes to 10% permanently for commercial properties and is eliminated for residences.[5] To find out about rebates and incentives available by state, check this database.

Of all energy consumed in the U.S. 11% is renewable, with the highest portion of renewable being biomass energy, the use of plant or animal material for the creation of energy.[6] While it can not be said that the earth can completely rely on renewable energy in the very near future, the developments, especially in battery storage are beginning to allow for sustainable energy use to be a more prominent trend. The variety of renewable energy options that exist make it a plausible and economically feasible option for properties. As development continues not only will renewable energy become more affordable but it will increase in accessibility and convenience. Finding out and adopting the best renewable options for a property leads to increased sustainability and is a step in the future of energy use.


[1] “Combined Heat and Power Basics.” Energy.gov, www.energy.gov/eere/amo/combined-heat-and-power-basics.

[2] “Battery Storage: The next Disruptive Technology in the Power Sector.” McKinsey & Company, June 2017, www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/battery-storage-the-next-disruptive-technology-in-the-power-sector.

[3] “Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency®.” DSIRE, www.dsireusa.org/.

[4] “U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis.” Hawaii and Vermont Set High Renewable Portfolio Standard Targets - Today in Energy - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 29 June 2015, www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=21852.

[5] Matasci, Sara. “Why the Solar Tax Credit Extension Is a Big Deal in 2019: EnergySage.” Solar News, EnergySage, 14 Feb. 2019, news.energysage.com/congress-extends-the-solar-tax-credit/.

[6] “U.S. Renewable Energy Factsheet.” Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan, css.umich.edu/factsheets/us-renewable-energy-factsheet.