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Solar Currents, Safe and Secure Financial Return (As originally published in The Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today Newspaper, Feb 2014)

Read Original Newspaper Article PDF here

In a recent acquisition, Google has purchased Nest Labs, well known for their internet based thermostats. For those in the energy efficiency industry, this came as no surprise. A couple of years ago, Google became a third party financier of residential solar PV (electric) systems by supplying $75 million in loans to homeowners through a company called Clean Power Finance. Now, Google will profit not only as an energy financier but by helping home and business owners manage their energy usage.

Their future product line is going to change the way we manage our energy use at home. An investor like Google, with deep pockets, has the money to spend on research and development. A “smart home” will result, and Google will make billions of dollars in the process. Google became a power supplier through their investments, and now they are pining to be your energy manager.

Most thermostats can be programmed to pre-cool the house during the summer before the daily “peak” period costs kick in, and Nest Labs has taken this technology one step further. Managing energy from home at a distance allows greater efficiency gains (read savings). Electric cars are “smart” and are able to be programmed to charge during periods of low cost “off peak” electricity rates. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Combined with a solar PV system, this type of smart energy management allows solar systems to generate maximum credits during peak and part-peak electric hours, reducing annual bills even further (read making money). Why should my son or daughter’s lava lamp run continuously when their room or the home is unoccupied? Someone at Google put two and two together.

If you are the owner of a swimming pool, you’re the owner of a piece of equipment that must have its energy use managed properly. If your pool pump is old, or programmed improperly, or both, you’re throwing money away every day by buying more than twice the amount of electricity you need to manage your pool’s cleanliness and circulation.

Today’s technology allows you to send me photos of your pool pumps and their data plates via text or email almost instantaneously. A virtual assessment results and a determination can be quickly made whether you’re spending your retirement savings on unnecessary electric use.

As solar roofing and energy efficiency company our goals are to ensure that a properly sized solar system is designed and installed on a leak tree roof Leveraging energy efficiency management at home has an impact on solar system design and installation. During the design phase of a solar PV system, it is absolutely necessary to find the items in the home or business that consume excess electricity. Ignoring these culprits will increase the likelihood of a sale of a larger solar PV system, but it is an approach, in my opinion, that is contrary to what should be encouraged: all around efficiency which benefits the customer, and integrity in the business process which ultimately benefits the business. Adherence to this approach ensures that the potential customer is informed about the efficiency measures that will result in a solar PV system of smaller size and thereby lesser initial cost. This approach will create best value and lowest long term cost of ownership. When coupled with an installation approach which utilizes appropriately trained install teams and products which have historically performed reliably in the field, the result will be a no or low maintenance solar PV system with maximized financial returns: profits, not just savings.

Saving money with energy efficiency improvements and solar PV is a bit of a misnomer; making money is really what results. An 11-13% return on investment is about average. The average residential solar system will pay for itself eight to ten times over and save hundreds of thousands of dollars in monies not paid to PGE. With above average energy management efforts, the returns will be even higher. Many of the finance professionals that make up our clientele ask about how ROI is calculated. Historic electric usage, a discount rate of 3.5%, the average annualized historical PGE rate increase of 6.7% per year and a solar PV system design based ONLY on the National Renewable Energy Labs calculators determine annual solar kWh production. The old adage “You have to spend money to make money” is particularly true with an investment in a solar energy system and energy efficiency. Someone is going to make money as your energy provider, be it PGE, Google, or yourself Like Google, you’ll make the greatest profit if you produce and manage your own energy

By Mark Becker, GoSimpleSolar

Mark Becker is the President of GoSimpleS0lar, by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, a Danville based Solar Installation Firm (License 948 715).  Mark can be reached at 925.915.9252. Visit GoSimpleSolar’s NEW and larger showroom at I00 Railroad Avenue, Suite B, Danville (behind Pete’s Brass Rail) or www.GoSimpleSolar.com, or email Mark@GoSimgleSolar. com.