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How Renewable Energy can Benefit your Building this Summer — and all year long

August 15, 2016

wind farm

(This article is part of the Roadmap 2 Summer Series. Click here to read last week’s article.)

Because summer typically brings higher energy demand and utility bills, it’s a time of year when many building owners and managers look for solutions to help reduce those costs. Renewable energy solutions can be a feasible option to help reduce your building’s dependence on the energy grid so you are buying less energy in the summer — and all year long.

The generation of electricity from renewable sources can not only help shift building demand to less costly times of day and reduce the amount of energy you’re buying from the grid, it can also help your organization diversify its energy mix and meet sustainability goals.

Many states have been active in adopting or increasing a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which are now in place in 29 states, with an additional seven that have voluntary renewable goals. These standards are policies designed to increase the generation of electricity from renewable resources. They often require or encourage electricity producers within a given jurisdiction to supply a certain minimum share of their electricity from designated renewable resources.[1] These renewable energy policies help drive the nation’s $36 billion market for wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.[2]

However, renewable energy solutions often require a significant financial commitment and involve longer payback, so it’s important to consider what your goals are to determine if these energy sources are a good option for your building.

Factors to consider

The types of renewable energy resources you can install in a building are unlimited; however, it’s a good idea to consult building codes and any general construction requirements, as you would with any retrofit project.

Be aware that some utilities charge a special rate for customers that use renewable energy solutions. This is important information to know in advance because it impacts rate charges and project payback. Instead of analyzing the cost and payback of renewables using your current tariff rate, research what rate your utility would charge given a change to renewables.

Determine if your building uses net metering. This is important, because some states and provinces allow customers to sell excess electricity to a utility and receive credit on their utility bill as a way to encourage the growth of renewable energy adoption. You will also need to find out if a renewable energy source is a backup resource if the grid goes down; if it isn’t, you may lose power completely even with the renewable in place. These are all important considerations in making your decision.

Keep in mind that many states, provinces and utilities offer financial incentives for businesses that invest in a commitment to renewable energy, which should be part of any cost analysis.

There are many moving parts to consider when making the decision about renewable energy sources for your building. Trane can help you determine the cost, feasibility and payback of a potential project, so you can choose the solution that’s right for your building.

Types of renewable energy

The renewable energy umbrella encompasses many different types of energy sources — from wind and solar to geothermal, hydropower and biomass. Solar and wind energy are two of the most common options for commercial facilities making the switch to renewables. Wind made up 35 percent of new energy production capacity added to the grid in 2015, while solar hit 29.5 percent — both exceeding new natural gas installations.[3]

If you want your project to meet the RPS in your state or province, it’s important to check on which sources are counted as renewable energy toward the requirements. Hawaii has the most stringent RPS, with a standard that requires 100 percent of the energy generated in the state to be renewable energy by 2045.

Some regions of the continent are more well-suited to certain types of renewable technology. Solar is quite popular in California, Arizona and the southwest region, for example, and can be stronger in those areas from a payback perspective.

Reduce grid dependence

Renewable energy can help reduce your building’s net impact on the power grid and also reduce your dependence on the grid. These solutions can help your building meet sustainability goals or state/province requirements. But it’s critical to determine if renewable energy is right for you, and which type of renewable energy best suits your budget, timeline and needs.

The road to energy independence for your building starts with a discussion about renewable energy, and Trane can be your partner in that process. To learn more, visit our site or have a local Trane representative contact you.

Join us next week, when we discuss what summer can reveal about your building — and how you can use that information to improve performance.

[1] According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration

[2] According to the National Conference of State Legislatures

[3] According to the National Conference of State Legislatures