Reducing Peak Demand Charges

Reducing Peak Demand Charges

Unless you have rooftop solar, you’re probably incredibly unhappy about rising electric bills. This misery is even worse for commercial customers since — in addition to energy charges (billed on a kilowatt-hour basis) — they also pay for peak demand charges (billed on the maximum kilowatt demand each month).

For example, let’s say your business uses industrial equipment and a variety of office equipment. Your company uses 50,000 kwh of energy per month; at a rate of $0.15/kwh, your electric bill is $7,500 per month. In addition, your peak demand may be 300 kilowatts in a typical month; at a peak demand rate of $20 per kilowatt, you also pay $6,000 in demand charges every month.

As a conscientious and generous employer, you decide to install 20 EV chargers in your parking lot so your employees can charge up their cars while at work. Each employee may charge up their car with about 10 kwh per day — or $1.50 worth of electricity each, or $600 for all employees each month. A nice employee perk, and not too expensive. However, since 20 employees plug in their cars at about the same time every morning, and each charger draws about 5kw, your extra electricity peak demand will be 100 kw, or an extra $2,000 per month. Ouch!

So for many commercial customers, peak demand charges are a bigger cost than energy charges. Ordinary rooftop solar systems may not have a big impact on demand charges. However, batteries or special control systems in conjunction with rooftop solar can significantly reduce these demand charges.

To learn how your company can reduce peak demand charges, listen to this week’s Energy Show as we speak with John Powers with Extensible Energy. Extensible Energy has software that helps commercial solar buildings to use electricity intelligently and reduce peak demand charges.

Installing Solar on Flat Roof Commercial Buildings

Installing Solar on Flat Roof Commercial Buildings

Every time I fly into a city I’m amazed at the number of naked, white, empty flat commercial rooftops that should be producing megawatts of power. Even in solar friendly cities such as San Jose there are only a few blue rooftops that one can see from the air. On this week’s Energy Show we’ll be talking about the tremendous opportunity for installing solar on flat roof commercial buildings.

There are three reasons why commercial solar hasn’t grown as quickly as residential and utility solar. The first is customer economics: most commercial buildings are occupied by tenants who pay the electric bills, so the building owner does not have a compelling financial motivation to invest in solar to reduce the tenant’s operating costs. The second reason is that many building owners do not have the up-front capital for installing solar, nor do they have the long-term credit viability for a PPA or lease. The third reason is that, even with the ITC and low solar panel prices, the payback is still three to five years — too long for businesses making shorter term investments.

Fortunately, technology for installing solar on flat roof commercial buildings has continued to improve, reducing the mounting system and labor costs substantially. These new mounting systems are able to maintain the roof’s structural integrity, while at the same time addressing seismic and water intrusion issues.

My special guest on this week’s Energy Show is Costa Nicalaou, CEO of PanelClaw. They have completed nearly 10,000 flat roof projects in 30 countries and over 2,000 permit offices. Please listen up as Costa explains PanelClaw’s newest products, and how they provide supporting engineering and permitting services to their network of commercial rooftop installers.

Energy Toolbase with Adam Gerza

Energy Toolbase with Adam Gerza

Solar combined with battery storage seems like magic to many residential and commercial customers. With a million and a half systems installed in the U.S., the question is no longer: “does solar work?” Instead, customers want to know how much money they will save with a system. And commercial customers are even more diligent about accurate savings predictions. (more…)

The Commercial Solar Opportunity

The Commercial Solar Opportunity

There are there are three market segment for solar in the U.S.: residential, utility and commercial. Based on some rough math, in 2018 we expect to install 5 to 7 million solar panels on homes in the U.S. In areas with high residential electric rates, paybacks are usually in the range of 4-8 years. But the utility solar segment is much larger: about 20 million solar panels will be installed by utilities in 2018. Utilities realize that it is cheaper to generate power with solar compared to coal or nuclear generation. Moreover, the combination of solar and batteries is projected to be even cheaper than natural gas in a few years. (more…)

Real World Solar Economics with Tom Beach

Real World Solar Economics with Tom Beach

Great solar policy is just as important as great solar technology. Obviously we need the technologies for these products — but we also need the policies so that solar products can be cost-effectively installed. And I’m not just talking about incentives…policies related to net metering, interconnection and permitting are just as important. (more…)

Ten Electric Utility Company Myths

Ten Electric Utility Company Myths

Electric utilities got their start in the U.S. in the 1880s. Thomas Edison began transmitting DC power as he literally illuminated the world. Then George Westinghouse (with help from Nikolai Tesla) deployed a better way of delivering electricity with AC power. Both Edison and Westinghouse went on to build tremendously successful companies, aptly named General Electric and Westinghouse Electric respectively. Although dominant in the 20th century, both companies have struggled in the 21st century. (more…)