It wasn’t so long ago that solar panel technology was associated almost exclusively with large-scale industrial projects and businesses with a lot of money that could afford to install expensive devices. However, renewable energy advancements have driven prices down and made solar energy available to a greater number of consumers, including those not normally associated with large budgets.
Lower Energy Bills Mean More Money for Education
In May 2012, The San Lorenzo Unified School District in Northern California which serves 11,000 students announced the completion of a solar energy project intended to lower the districts utility bills. The renewable energy system consists of canopies of photovoltaic panels installed at school campuses throughout the district and at its bus depot. In the latter location the panels will serve the dual purpose of energy generation and providing shade to the bus fleet, which may save money and energy used for air-conditioning.
The solar installations are expected to generate 1,021 kW of clean energy. It is estimated that the district will save some $4.5 million over the lifespan of the project, which will free up funds that can be used to invest in academic performance and student achievement programs.
Demonstrating its pride in this green project, the district runs a website called Deck Monitoring, which shows real-time gains in clean energy and savings in CO2 emissions due to the use of the solar system.
“With the completion of our solar canopies, we have been able to bring our schools into the 21st century,” said Dr. Dennis Byas, Superintendent of the San Lorenzo Unified School District.
For Homes Built in the Desert, Solar Technology is a Natural Fit
Meanwhile, the residential building and hospitality industries are also doing their part to expand the use of renewable energy technologies among ordinary Americans. Developers are increasingly incorporating solutions such as solar panels into the standard offering in new home or resort construction. In some areas, the projects location’s geographical and climactic characteristics become an ally in the quest to minimize homebuilding’s environmental impact.
One such developer, Alta Verde Group, recently unveiled plans to install solar arrays in three upcoming desert projects, including one in Palm Springs that consists of 130 homes situated on a golf course.
Each home will have a standard 2 kilowatt system that can be expanded to meet the owner’s electricity needs. Each will also have a LAN and web-based solar production and grid consumption monitoring system.
“These features substantially exceed Title 24 energy conditions through the use of differently designed insulated ceilings and solar installations,” said the project’s architect Anthony Poon. “[This] can bring energy costs down to virtually net zero, depending on individual usage by homeowners.”
In addition to savings stemming from the technology, some owners may also qualify for federal tax credits due to their use of renewable energy sources.
You Can Use Green Energy without Installing Panels, Too
Not everyone is in a position to incorporate renewable energy technologies into their homes, especially if they are older buildings. Thankfully, even those residents can lower their carbon footprint thanks to renewable energy credits.
These credits – typically in the form of certificates – are sold by brokers and the proceeds go towards subsidizing green energy producers, including solar arrays. Purchasing these credits allows more investment to be made in plants that produce clean electricity so that, over time, more of this type of energy flows into the grid, reducing the reliance on fossil fuel-fired plants that spew pollution into the environment.