Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Sunetric has been working since 2004 to bring photovoltaic installations to hundreds of Hawaii homeowners and business who have enjoyed greatly reduced — and sometimes completely eliminated — electric bills.
Thanks to generous state and federal tax incentives and loan programs now now is perhaps the best time ever to invest in rooftop solar photovoltaic panels if you own a home or operate a business in Hawaii. Here is a list of some of the incentives currently available to residential and commercial customers. Call us today at 808-262-6600 to find out how you can begin to take advantage of these discounts!
- 30 % Federal Tax Credit: The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (H.R. 6, Sec. 1335) established a 30% tax credit for the purchase and installation of residential solar electric systems. Individuals may take a 30% credit for each photovoltaic system. If the federal tax credit exceeds tax liability, the excess amount may be carried forward to the succeeding taxable year. To be eligible for the credit, a system must be “placed in service” or activated on or after January 1, 2009, and on or before December 31, 2016. (Note: There is no longer a $2,000 cap on qualified solar electric property expenditures for systems installed after December 31, 2008.)
- 30 % Federal Tax Grant: Federal incentives are available as either a 30% tax credit or as a 30% cash grant, but the cash grant program expires at the end of 2010.
- 35 % Hawaii State Tax Credit: There is a state tax credit for 35 percent of the cost of equipment and installation of a solar PV system. No set expiration date but as supplies last. A credit that exceeds the taxpayer’s income tax liability may be carried forward to subsequent years until exhausted. Credits are capped based on property and system type as follows (read more).
- 24 % Hawaii State Refundable Tax Credit: The Governor recently signed Senate Bill 464, which makes the state renewable energy credit refundable for taxpayers who agree to accept a lower credit of 24.5%.
- 30 % Federal Business Solar Tax Credit: The federal government allows businesses to take a credit worth 30 percent of the installed cost of solar photovoltaic systems through December 31, 2016. The five-year accelerated depreciation allowance for solar property is permanent. This incentive is also available as a 30 percent tax grant until the end of 2010. (See key provisions)
- 35 % Hawaii Renewable Energy Tax Credit: Hawaii allows businesses to take a credit worth 35 percent of the installed cost of photovoltaic systems for the tax year that the system is placed in service. The credit has no sunset date and can be carried forward to offset taxes in subsequent tax years. The Governor also recently signed Senate Bill 464, which makes the state renewable energy credit refundable for taxpayers who agree to accept a lower credit of 24.5%. (See key provisions)
- MACRS – Moderated Accelerated Cost-Recovery Systems (Federal and State): Both the Federal Government and the State of Hawaii allow solar systems to be fully deducted over a five-year lifetime. The schedule for this ‘five year property’ actually unfolds over six years to account for the fact that systems are not operational from the first day of Year 1. The value of the accelerated depreciation schedule depends on the tax rate of the entity purchasing the credits. Under MACRS, solar equipment is treated for depreciation purposes as follows:
- Depreciation is front-loaded in 2008 relative to previous years because solar equipment qualifies for 2008 ‘bonus’ depreciation of 50%. This bonus reduces the remaining depreciation schedule by half in Years 1 through 6. In 2009, the depreciation schedule is the same as in earlier years, however, when the federal tax credit falls to 10% the depreciable basis of the project rises from 85% to 95% of the installed cost.
- UH Federal Credit Union is now offering Green Loans. Find out more here.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Maui Electric Company (MECO) announced this week it will increase the Net Energy Metering (NEM) system cap from three percent to four percent of system peak demand, paving the way for more households and businesses that own or lease an eligible renewable energy generator to take advantage of the benefits of connecting their systems to the utility grid. <br/><br/> Net energy metering is playing a crucial in the expansion of renewable energy across the U.S. In Hawaii it is key to our clean energy future and reducing our dependency on oil imports. Whether you are a residential or commercial customer you can get more value from the electricity you generate with your solar system by offsetting the purchase of electricity from your utility against excess electricity produced by your solar system at the retail rate.<br/><br/> As part of the NEM program, you use the electricity generated by your system to supply your own needs and purchase any additional power you need at the regular retail rate. At certain times, your system may generate excess power that it exports into the utility grid. Without net metering, if you had a power purchase agreement from your electric utility, you would be compensated for that power only at the lower wholesale rate. <br/><br/> When the sun shines and your solar panels are generating more energy than you’re using, you ‘deposit’ energy in the power grid. At night, you withdraw—and the extra energy you generated during the day is ‘rolled over’ into your account at no cost. At the end of the month, if you deposited more electricity than you used, you’ll receive a credit from the electric company. If you used more than you deposited, you’ll receive a bill.<br/><br/> Here is the formula:<br/><br/>Kilowatt-hours from utility <br/> – Kilowatt-hours self-generated and fed to the grid <br/> = Net kilowatt-hours <br/><br/> Under Hawaii state law, the cap on the total power producing capacity of generators signed up to take advantage of net energy metering is set at three percent of each electric utility’s system peak demand, and the actual number of customers allowed to sign up before this cap is reached depends on the combined size of the individual renewable energy systems. On Oahu, 40 percent of the cap is reserved for systems of 10 kW or smaller; on Maui and Hawaii Island, 40 percent of the cap is reserved for smaller systems. <br/><br/> MECO’s decision to increase the NEM cap follows a December 26, 2008 order issued by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which calls for MECO to notify the commission when applications on the MECO system exceed 75 percent of the 40 percent of the current three percent cap on system peak demand allocated to systems less than or equal to 10 kW. Pursuant to the PUC order, MECO must move to increase the NEM system cap from three percent to four percent of system peak demand in order to accommodate the continuation of NEM growth in Maui.<br/><br/> Follow the bill here.
Monday, March 22, 2010
<em>Steve Karagan joined Sunetric as its chief operating officer last year after consulting for the Kailua-based solar energy firm since late 2008.
<br/> He is responsible for the accounting, human resources, operations and I.T. functions for the 6-year-old company, founded by Sean and Beth-Ann Mullen as Suntech Hawaii.
Sunetric designs and installs residential and commercial rooftop photovoltaic systems. It has approximately 80 employees and expects to increase staff by 20 percent this year.
Karagan previously was a financial consultant in New York City and before that was assistant vice president of finance at Moody’s Investor Service. The Iowa City native graduated from Boston University with both bachelor’s (English literature) and master’s (organizational policy) degrees.</em><br/><br/> How our company is dealing with the financial realities of 2010: We are fortunate in many ways because solar energy saves people money as well as improves the environment, so for the most part solar remains a solid investment during these economic times. Even though the solar industry and our company have shown stability, our management team has spent considerable time recently to define our corporate vision and strategy, and restructure our organization. In addition, among several other initiatives, our company has also focused our product offerings. More importantly, we have refined our value proposition to our customers. In the areas of accounting and finance, we have concentrated primarily on three areas: relentless attention to costs, a new budget and planning process to facilitate success as well as measure progress, and increasing the frequency and granularity of management financial reporting. Additionally, we try to keep perspective and manage our lean team with realistic goals and objectives.<br/><br/> Web sites I check each morning in addition to my own: The Wall Street Journal, SunPower and Photon.<br/><br/> iPhone or Blackberry: iPhone.<br/><br/> Reading material on my night stand: “Solar Revolution,” by Travis Bradford.<br/><br/> What I do to unwind: Gym and friends.<br/><br/> Best trip I ever took: Hmm, maybe Morocco, but probably Greece.<br/><br/> My greatest extravagance: Cleaning service.<br/><br/> My favorite fictional character: Gulliver.<br/><br/> One thing that most people don’t know about me: That I’m funny.<br/><br/> If I could have any other career: Star athlete.<br/><br/> Click <a href="http://pacific.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2010/03/22/focus12.html" target="_blank">here</a> to read the article in Pacific Business News.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
A $3,000 donation enabled the Maui Waena Intermediate School security guards to attach a solar panel to an electric golf cart. The school’s 16-member robotics team got tremendous support from Sunetric Capital, an Oahu-based company that helped them in purchasing the solar-roof panel from GreenCarts. Now the guards do not need to charge the cart electrically every night.
The retrofit includes attaching a photovoltaic-charging system to the golf cart, and some paintwork, of course. Now the cart will go on to save 250 pounds of coal annually. While running on renewable energy, it will also reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 500 pounds.
The “green” golf cart continued to operate without an electric recharge in the first month and a half of use.
Click here to read the article via Green Diary.
The Solar Energy Industries Association just launched a new campaign website inviting consumers to sign a Solar Bill of Rights intended to encourage lawmakers to provide policy support to deploy more solar, sooner.<br/><br/> More than 1,100 individuals have already taken the initiative to sign the Solar Bill of Rights. By signing your name you join voices with other Americans to urge lawmakers in Washington D.C. to give the U.S. solar industry a fair competitive environment. <br/><br/> SEIA’s eight rights include:<br/><br/> 1. Americans have the right to put solar on their homes and businesses<br/> 2. Americans have the right to connect their solar energy system to the grid with uniform national standards<br/> 3. Americans have the right to net meter and be compensated at the very least with full retail electricity rates<br/> 4. The solar industry has the right to a fair competitive environment<br/> 5. The solar industry has the right to produce clean energy on public lands<br/> 6. The solar industry has the right to sell its power across a new, 21st century transmission grid<br/> 7. Americans have the right to buy solar electricity from their utility<br/> 8. Americans have the right to – and should expect – the highest ethical treatment from the solar industry<br/><br/> For more information on the Solar Bill of Rights and the eight individual rights, visit: http://www.solarbillofrights.us/ <br/><br/> Solar energy is a clean, reliable energy source that is creating tens of thousands of American jobs that can’t be exported. <br/>
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
A new report on environmentally progressive cities ranks Honolulu third among 43 U.S. metropolitan areas.
The Green Cities Index, compiled by American City Business Journals – owner of Pacific Business News – judges metro areas on a host of environmental factors, including traffic congestion, transit use, water quality, carbon emissions, LEED-certified projects and number of green jobs. Data from a variety of government and research agencies is used in the analysis.
Honolulu ranks first for least amount of carbon emissions per capita, second in sprawl, third for the number of LEED architects per capita, sixth for use of public transit, 15th in green jobs per capita, 31st in LEED-certified projects, and 33rd for travel time.
ACBJ analyzed the 40 markets in which it has business dailies, plus Los Angeles, where the company operates a business news website, and Indianapolis and Cleveland. West Coast cities dominated the top three: Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton metropolitan in Oregon and Washington ranked first while California’s San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area ranked second.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Much has been made recently about Bloom Energy’s Bloom Box, a self-declared “power plant in a box” for just under $1 million.<br/><br/> Google, eBay, Walmart, Cox Enterprises and Bank of America are all featured on the company website as recent customers. Bloom’s CEO and chief inventor K.R. Sridhar suggests his collection of 64 fuel cells stacked together in a refrigerator-sized box and fed by oxygen and fuel, should be ready to power every home (or at least a Starbucks) by 2020 for around $3,000 per box.<br/><br/> At the current unit price of $700,000 to $800,000, this is doubtful. In a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, Greentech Media Editor Michael Kanellos warns about the perpetual issues surrounding the 24/7 functionality and costs to both mass produce and distribute fuel cells to residences. <br/><br/> Besides the question of whether fuel cells are even capable of delivering cost-effective emissions reductions for the average household, it is worth noting the very limited success the technology has received in the auto industry. Notwithstanding significant investments over time, automakers like GM, Honda and others have faced significant challenges bringing a viable product to the mass market. The technology has been plagued by safety and liability concerns, on-board fuel storage issues, geographical climate challenges, and a lack of infrastructure to support its use.<br/><br/> If we concentrate solely on infrastructure, here are some of the glaring issues the Bloom Box presents for homeowners in Hawaii:<br/>
- The Bloom Box is not clean energy – it requires fuel and fuel needs to be shipped to Hawaii. Solar requires the sun, which we have plenty of!
- Fuel cells emit carbon pollution. Solar, other than the materials it is made from, has no carbon pollution. No carbon footprint.
- There is constant maintenance with a fuel cell and currently no provisions have been made to maintain this type of energy system. There is little to no maintenance with PV.
- Along with that, there will have to be an established training method to educate consumers about the maintenance and support requirements for the new power system. To the contrary, there are myriad avenues online and in the community to learn more about solar.
- The current cost per watt for commercial applications of the Bloom Box is about $7.50 per watt in California, but it is only available in 100 kW increments and that doesn’t factor in the container shipping cost to bring it to Hawaii, nor are there any qualified installers or maintenance facilities. If you’re a Sunetric customer, we will help you with every facet of the process from selecting the right solar system to design and installation.
- Fuel cells are still under development, and you would be hard-pressed to find an in-depth description of how the Bloom Box works even on Bloom Energy’s own website. Solar is a proven technology.
Meanwhile, Americans throughout all 50 states are facing soaring energy costs. Hawaii pays the highest price by far. The cheapest electricity is the electricity that is free, clean and powered by nature. In the case of solar photovoltaics, most systems in Hawaii are tied to the grid which means unlimited storage capacity and the chance to create more free energy than you will ever need.
Friday, March 5, 2010
A recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory Report shows states’ potential to fill the electricity needs for the entire U.S. many times over. Hawaii, according to the report, is capable of producing at least 159 percent of its own electricity needs using renewable energy sources only. These sources include onshore and offshore wind power, hydroelectric and geothermal power, and rooftop photovoltaics.
The New Rules Project, a program of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance established in 1998 to promote sustainable communities, put together a state-by-state breakdown of renewable energy potential, which you can view here.
Monday, March 1, 2010
According to the Department of Energy, net metering programs serve as an important incentive for consumer investment in renewable energy generation. Net metering enables customers to use their own generation to offset their consumption over a billing period by allowing their electric meters to turn backwards when they generate electricity in excess of their demand. You really have to see it to believe it.
Click here to see a video of Solar Energy Industry Association President Rhone Resch’s meter turning backwards (Facebook account required).
This offset means that customers receive retail prices for the excess electricity they generate. Without net metering, a second meter is usually installed to measure the electricity that flows back to the provider, with the provider purchasing the power at a rate much lower than the retail rate.
Net metering is a low-cost, easily administered method of encouraging customer investment in renewable energy technologies. It increases the value of the electricity produced by renewable generation and allows customers to “bank” their energy and use it a different time than it is produced giving customers more flexibility and allowing them to maximize the value of their production. Providers may also benefit from net metering because when customers are producing electricity during peak periods, the system load factor is improved.
Sunetric strongly supports Hawaii Senate Bill No. 2488, which requires electrical utilities to compensate net metering surplus customer-generators for excess electricity generated by the customer-generators at the end of the twelve-month reconciliation period. It directs the Public Utility Commission to determine the net surplus compensation rate.
Currently, net metering is offered in more than 35 states (see the summary table and map). For a more detailed description of state net metering policies and links to the authorizing legislation, see the DSIRE database, which is a project of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council funded by the U.S. DOE and managed by the North Carolina Solar Center.
More on Hawaii’s net metering legislation.
For a deeper perspective, SolarPowerRocks.com has crafted a great response to a reader’s question about Net Metering.