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Learn About Three New Finance Models for Non-Profits Wanting to Go Solar

 

solarpic  Posted on April 22, 2014 by REC-Admin

There have generally been two main financial challenges for non-profits interested in going solar. First is the lack of funds or credit availability for purchasing a solar system. The second issue is taxes—or rather their tax-exempt status. Because non-profits don’t pay income and property taxes, they’re often barred by legislation from taking advantage of local and federal tax incentives, such as solar’s 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

Having dealt with these customer issues in the past, REC Solar has developed new solar financing partnerships that are tailored to the needs of non-profits, such as churches, hospitals, HOA’s, and charitable organizations. All three finance solutions address solar’s upfront costs and the ability to indirectly capture tax incentives, while each is also designed to significantly reduce a non-profit’s electricity bills.

Financing Option #1: Solar Power Purchase Agreements (Solar PPAs) for Non Profits

Solar Power Purchase Agreements (Solar PPAs) have become the most popular option chosen by homeowners who install solar and have been used by businesses and utilities on large scale projects for many years. While non-profits are ideal candidates to benefit from PPAs, the size of many non-profit solar projects often doesn’t meet the minimum size requirements of most PPA providers. However, now there’s a new solar PPA model that both removes the size barrier and meets specific finance needs for non-profits.

As with typical solar PPAs, there are no upfront costs to the non-profit and any local or federal tax benefits are incorporated into a discounted rate for energy. In addition, the installation’s solar energy production is precisely metered, so the organization only pays for the amount of power that the solar panels generate. More importantly, the solar PPA’s kilowatt-hour (kWh) rate is always designed to be lower than the utility’s rates, and all maintenance is included.

Among the innovations, this new non-profit solution has a shorter term, typically 15 years instead of 20 to 25 years. It also provides organizations with flexibility in annual rate escalation and early buy-out options. All in all, this new solar PPA model provides a simple, turnkey solution that will allow non-profits to go solar for $0 down and still reduce their operating costs.

Financing Option #2: Commercial PACE Tailored for Non-Profits

As with solar PPAs, PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) programs for commercial businesses have been available for some time. With traditional PACE programs, the upfront cost of the solar system is added to a property owner’s property taxes and paid over 20 years through a special tax assessment. Typically, annual energy savings from the solar system is far greater than annual PACE payments. However, churches and other non-profits don’t pay property taxes, so PACE financing is often assumed to be unavailable, which is actually not true.

In fact, non-profit organizations in California may ‘opt-in’ to a PACE program and fund their solar installations via a voluntary property tax assessment.

The organization can structure the payments over 20 years, dividing payments into small chunks, and then own the system at the end of the term. Additionally, third-party ownership options such as a PACE solar PPA or solar lease are also available, allowing non-profits to increase their savings by indirectly capturing available local and federal tax incentives and receiving the lower long-term energy payments and all-included maintenance benefits of a PPA.

Financing Option #3: Crowd Funding for Solar Projects

Churches, temples, and other religious organizations often fund building improvements with specific fund-raising campaigns that rely on donations. Now there’s an innovative financing option that allows members of these organizations to crowd-fund a solar installation—and receive a return on their investment.

With this finance solution, the finance company works directly with the organization’s leaders to facilitate the ‘heavy lifting’ of educating and engaging their member base. Then, they structure and execute an agreement in which the organization receives a $0-Down solar system and a lower monthly payment via a PPA-style agreement.

This win-win scenario allows the organization to go solar and reduce their energy costs and engage its members with a mutually-beneficial investment opportunity over the term of the solar agreement. The arrangement also helps all participants to feel great about reducing the organization’s operating expenses while demonstrating environmental stewardship of their local community and the earth.

In addition to these three no-money-down solar options, REC Solar can also offer non-profits other financially beneficial alternatives to cash solar purchases, including prepayment solutions and long term solar system monitoring and management.

The above is a simple overview of these new solar finance solutions for non-profits. If you have questions or would like more details, contact REC Solar. We’ll go over each option and help you to determine the best solution for your organization.

solar capacity

Los Angeles to Increase Solar Capacity, Oks 300MW Solar Projects

LADWP approves Solar Projects

After a tight bid for the Los Angeles solar capacity improvement projects agreement, two top notch solar power developers have been granted with projects with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Hecate Energy and SunEdison was able to close the bids for a 112MW and 88MW respectively for the planned Beacon Solar Project to be build in the outskirts of Mojave Town.

(Image Source: www.sunedison.com)

“This is a great milestone in the City of L.A.’s efforts to expand renewable energy and a win-win for the businesses and people of Los Angeles who will benefit from solar power development right in the city,” said Board President Mel Levine, president of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners. “These solar projects will help spark economic development and jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel power plants, and meet L.A.’s renewable energy mandates.”

LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards added that the agreements “put us within reach of our targets of 25% renewable energy by 2016 and 33% by 2020.” Combined, the utility-scale solar array and the local solar projects will provide enough energy for about 150,000 homes and offset emissions of close to 500 metric tons of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be produced by fossil fuel power plants, LADWP said.

“Along with helping spur the clean energy economy in Los Angeles and meeting renewable energy goals, the expansion of local solar builds more resiliency and reliability into the power grid,” the municipal utility added, pointing out that small solar systems were like “mini power plants” that generate power right where it is being used, saving on transmission costs and taking advantage of the city’s abundant sunshine to help meet electrical demand.

The Feed-In Tariff Program (FiT)

Los Angeles is the biggest city to provide FiT Program with set pricing to up to 100 MW. Four solar power sites will be developed in order to push further solar capacity on Beacon land each which has 50 MW power purchase agreements. There will also be a fifth solar power site installment that will be located within the city but the project is not coupled with the Fit program with the assistance of Hecate Energy, with which this contract is awarded to, a 50 MW solar project will be established to complete the 300 MW solar capacity power output aimed by the LADWP.

L. A. focuses on Green

In accordance to what has already been stated earlier by the LADWP, these solar projects would be a great addition for the LA city government not only in terms of their persistance to be committed in improving solar capacity within the city for renewable resources but at the same time the economic advantages that it would bring for people in L.A. could benefit unto like an influx increase on employment, as well as business opportunities that is bundled within this types of construction and solar capacity power innovation.

This would be a great achievement for L.A. since once these solar power plants increase solar capacity during start of operation within the next couple of years, the city of Los Angeles will be relying less 25% of their energy requirements from other kinds of power sources.

Will CrowdSun Change the Way We Invest in Solar Energy?

Will CrowdSun Change the Way We Invest in Solar Energy?

By John Casteele | More Articles
June 3, 2014 | Comments (0)

 

The ways that we get our energy are constantly changing. With increasing pressure from environmental groups, coal prices have been dropping and localities around the world are considering restrictions or outright bans on hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) for oil and natural gas. Wind and solar power are commonly looked at as up-and-coming alternatives to traditional fossil fuels, though both have a way to go before they will be able to fully replace our dependence on oil and coal.

To get a different take on what might drive the future of alternative energies, I talked with Jennifer Reinert of CrowdSun.com. According to Reinert, CrowdSun is a new platform that “matches investors with commercial solar projects. Investors include banks, hedge funds, insurance companies and other accredited investors seeking excellent returns in alternative energy.” Similar to crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter, CrowdSun has already helped to raise $300,000 in direct funding for solar energy projects.

Innovation vs. cost
A number of companies are competing to come up with innovative new products for producing “green” energy from renewable resources such as solar and wind. Companies such as First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR  ) are riding the wave of the green energy boom, but technological advances alone may not be enough to spur the mass acceptance of alternative energies.

According to Reinert, “Increased efficiencies in solar technology have usually taken years to be adopted by the marketplace. On the other hand, cost decreases, driven down by economies of scale, have happened at a rapid pace, leading to increasing adoption by the marketplace. Since we believe that electricity is a commodity, consumers respond more to affordability.”

This doesn’t mean that technological advances are meaningless, of course; First Solar and other companies are working to make their products more efficient, as with First Solar’s Series 4 modules that boast an 8% increase in energy output over conventional modules with the same power rating. Over time, advances such as these will bring down the cost of solar units and speed adoption both by utilities and residential consumers.

This trend can already be seen as the cost of solar units declines; the Solar Energy Industries Association indicates that residential solar prices fell by 7% between the first quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, as compared to a 5.7% drop in non-residential prices; over that same period, residential installations exceeded non-residential installations for the first time since 2002.

Looking beyond the sector
It’s not just players within the solar sector that can influence the growth of alternative energy technology, either. One company that could have a major impact on alternative energies going forward is Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) . As Reinert put it, “The trend toward storage technology, in which Tesla is taking a lead role for their automobiles, will eventually help spur further adoption of solar so that the power that it generates can be used during non-production hours.”

Tesla is in the process of setting up a massive battery production facility (its “gigafactory”) and has made it clear that its battery innovations could change more than just the automotive world. At last week’s Joint Venture Silicon Valley energy storage symposium, Tesla CTO J.B. Straubel stated that “[Tesla is] an energy innovation company as much as a car company,” when asked why Tesla was involved in stationary energy storage development. He further explained that residential batteries such as those used to store solar-generated energy have the “same architecture” as mobile batteries such as the lithium-ion batteries used in Tesla’s vehicles.

More importantly, Tesla’s “gigafactory” will serve to not only improve the efficiency of such energy storage solutions but will also help to drive prices down as well. Advances may come quickly, as Straubel believes that energy capacities for stationary storage will scale faster than those of vehicle batteries.

The future of energy
While traveling recently, I drove past the University of Tennessee’s West Tennessee Solar Farm. Having grown up less than an hour from its location, I was honestly quite surprised to find that one of the largest solar facilities in the southeast United States was located in my proverbial backyard. While I wouldn’t have guessed that Tennessee had a large solar presence outside of perhaps metropolitan areas such as Nashville, there are actually over 200 solar-related businesses in the state. This number will likely grow in the future, and similar growth will likely be seen in other unexpected places as well.

Reinert said that there are ”many more opportunities in the small to mid-sized solar arrays that either provide power for a specific use (factories, businesses, etc.) or that are established to sell power back to a utility, which of course can be any size” than massive arrays, which makes sense. It’s easier for an individual company or homeowner to convert to solar or other alternative energies than for a municipality, and it’s these small-to-mid-sized projects that will drive adoption. As prices continue to fall, this adoption rate will likely continue increasing as well; in time, it could even change the energy industry as a whole.

 

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thin film solar efficiency

The World’s Best Thin Film Solar Efficiency Record (1st half of 2014 Report)

Looking for Thin Film PVs?

Are you looking for thin film pvs for your solar panel or home solar power systems? Just this February, Panasonic have created a poly-silicone solar panel with an efficiency record of 24.7%. What we mean by efficiency record or percent is that it is basically the ability of a solar collector usually made from silicon and other semiconductors to induce electricity from a given amount of heat from the sun’s rays. If the efficiency ratio is 24.7% it only means that almost 1/4th of the sun’s energy is being converted by the solar cells into electricity. The better efficiency ratio you have the better you can harness solar power, the less costs in construction, manufacturing and space is observable. Now, unlike pvs that are being produced by Panasonic, thin film pvs are less costly to make and manufacture into panels, if there will be companies out there who can overcome this efficiency ratio then it will be the choice of most buyers most especially serious homeowners who wanted to go on solar but is on a limited budget. That is why companies today are just head over heels in exploring ways to increase the solar efficiency of their photovoltaic products.

Best Thin Film Solar Efficiency Competition

For this year, we already have observed how fierce the competition was for the development of better solar efficient pvs. From a previous record of 19.6% efficiency of GE Global Research in 2013 and just 5 months running after for 2014 -the record has been broken thrice!

Development Team: First Solar/GE Global Research
Technology: Cadmium -Telluride (CDTe)
Manufactured in: Perrysburg, Ohio
Solar Efficiency: 20.4%
Certifications: National Renewable Energy Laboratory(NREL)

Development Team: Solar Frontier
Technology: Copper Indium Gallium (di)Selinide (CIS)
Manufactured in: Research Center-Kanagawa, Japan
Solar Efficiency: 20.9%
Certifications: Fraunhofer Institute

Development Team: Stion
Technology: Copper Indium Gallium (di)selinide (CIGS)
Manufactured in: San Jose, California
Solar Efficiency: 23.2%
Certifications: Not provided by Stion

The Thin Film PV Development Continues

With other developers of thin film pvs around the world, who are attempting to break the current efficiency ratio as a way to open more key markets across the continent -the battle for the world’s best thin film efficiency for year 2014 is far from being over. Breakthrough from studies and researches made will eventually pave the way to a more efficient solar living that is cost effective and budget friendly for most homeowners.

active solar energy

What is Active Solar Energy?

As people research and develop processes that can increase how we effectively harness the sun’s solar energy, we are very much knowledgeable now compared to decades before that such technologies can bring about tremendous differences on how we use solar energy for different applications.

Active or Passive?

Active Solar Energy pertains to energy that is collected from the sun’s heat that requires control and sensors. Typical devices and systems that require active solar energy are those solar collectors and pv panels that rotate and aligns its surface against the sun using fans and pumps to move the heated fluid once a certain difference in temperature has been achieved. Passive Solar Energy on the other hand doesn’t need any motors, fans or moving parts. Solar panels are just installed in a stationery mounting like window buildings and panels where it collects heat from the sun.

Advantages of Active Solar Energy

Active Solar Energy has “control options” that enables it to maximize efficiency when collecting heat and solar power from the pv panels. Aided with sensors and pumps it triggers tracking and movement within the unit once a variety of heat displaced are recognized by the system which is ready for use. The flexibility in handling numerous specification is also one of the benefits of Active Solar Energy so you can switch between usage requirements depending on the stored heat and solar power available.