What do the New England Journal of Medicine and Eagle Solar & Light Have in Common?

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has powerfully stepped into the Climate Change crisis and will hopefully make the impacts of Climate Change relevant to everyone, thanks to its editorial, Call for Emergency Action to Limit Global Temperature Increases, Restore Biodiversity, and Protect Health. As an environmental planner who has worked to protect the planet since 1990, and as a person who was concerned about planetary preservation all the way back to 1974 when I was eight years old and began lobbying my parents, I see the NEJM health statement as critical to bringing unity and action to address the Climate Change crisis.

Impacts to human health are occurring, they are catastrophic for many and they will only grow for decades. Unfortunately, those who are most marginalized and contribute the least to the crisis will experience overly large health and community impacts due to Climate Change. I am very proud to work with Eagle Solar & Light in North Carolina to bring renewable energy and climate resilience to the underserved communities who are most impacted.

The Duke Energy Solar Rebate is an important incentive that allows North Carolina’s nonprofit communities obtain solar installations, reduce their energy bills and redirect their funds to more important parts of their missions. That rebate, combined with Eagle Solar & Light’s leasing program, negates the need for a large capital outlay. Some nonprofits may choose to make a cash purchase because of the availability of donor funds, while others often pursue the solar lease because it may make more financial sense to finance the investment. With the potential for future Duke Energy utility rate increases (needed to offset coal ash pond cleanup and grid modernization), solar-produced kilowatt hours become more valuable over time as compared with the utility kilowatt cost.  Additionally, Eagle Solar & Light includes the cost of Operations and Maintenance with the lease cost, making the solar installation and operation virtually worry-free.

As an environmental advocate for pretty much my entire life, the solar part of my work has been the most rewarding. I have been fortunate to meet amazing people in the nonprofit community who are serving in areas beyond my experience. They are making tremendous differences every day, helping me to think bigger and to grow my optimism. Some have been helping underserved communities for decades, and if I can help them improve their operating budgets… I can’t think of a better way to spend a day in the office.

And that Duke Energy Solar Rebate that I mentioned previously – the maximum nonprofit rebate of $75,000 far and away exceeds the maximum rebate for the commercial sector ($30,000) and the residential sector ($6,000). The commercial and residential sectors understand the power of the solar rebate, claiming all of it in under three minutes during the final Duke Energy first come, first served solar rebate application window in 2020. Because of that overwhelming demand, Duke Energy moved to a twice a year lottery system in 2021. Unfortunately, year after year the nonprofit sector does not fully utilize their rebate allocation, and the allocation snowballs into the next calendar year’s allocation. If the nonprofit solar rebate allotment is not fully claimed by the end of 2022, it will be made available to the commercial and residential sectors in January 2023 for the final solar rebate opportunity. There is no expectation that the General Assembly will mandate this Rebate again.

I am hoping that if you know of a North Carolina nonprofit that could benefit from solar energy that you will forward this blog post to them. Solar Energy can be an easy decision – the financials either make sense or they don’t – and it is Eagle Solar & Light’s goal for the incentives to benefit nonprofits immediately.

 

Laura Combs is Eagle Solar & Light’s Business Development Director in North Carolina. She has a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning, with a specialty in Environmental Planning. Laura is a former government and non-profit employee who worked to recover the endangered Florida manatee. She is very aware of the need for maintaining slim overhead and maximizing funds, and she is grateful for the opportunity to help protect the planet while helping people to reduce their carbon footprint and utility bills via solar energy installation.

 

Birmingham, AL -- May 25, 2021 -- Eagle Solar & Light, LLC (ESL) announced its installation at the Ferus Artisan Ales brewery, which will result in a 125.28 kilowatt rooftop system producing an estimated 168,000 kWh annually.

“We’re excited to be the first brewery in Alabama to offer solar-powered craft beers,” says Coby Lake, owner of Ferus Artisan Ales, based in Trussville. “The cost savings coupled with the opportunity to do the right thing for the planet made this project a no-brainer.”

When complete, the project will save the equivalent of 119 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. And the system is projected to save $20,000 in its first year alone, with increased savings as utility rates continue to climb.

According to the Brewer’s Association, between 12 and 22 kilowatt-hours of electricity are required to produce a single barrel of beer. That means that even smaller, microbreweries, which by definition can produce no more than 15,000 barrels per year, will consume between 180,000 and 330,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. 

“We are thrilled to be working with the Ferus Artisan Ales team, and we applaud their vision and commitment to clean energy,” says Sam Yates, CEO of Eagle Solar & Light. “The project illustrates how solar can help small businesses save money, especially important on the heels of a pandemic. In addition, products created using renewable energy can be very attractive both to customers as well as resellers, which can help sales tremendously.” 

According to a survey by the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, demand for environmentally sustainable products and business practices grew by 61 percent during the pandemic, and 50 percent of brands and retailers expect that trend to continue. A Purdue study found 75% of beer consumers are willing to pay a premium for beverages brewed using environmentally sustainable practices.

“We hear that the Ferus Artisan Ales are among the best around. After days in the sun installing the panels, our team looks forward to celebrating by sampling some; a perk, you might say, of the job,” continued Yates.

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About Eagle Solar & Light:  Founded in early 2016 to equalize access to commercial and residential solar energy in the Southeast, Eagle Solar & Light (ESL) provides a full general contracting experience. We believe that individuals and businesses should have access to clean, abundant solar energy so they can save money and gain energy security, and we are working to bring those same opportunities to underserved and marginalized communities.

With certifications and achievements from the North American Board of Certified Electrical Practitioners and general contractor licensure in Alabama, George and North Carolina, our trade knowledge and training sets us apart. We constantly seek opportunities to educate our communities about solar energy and power a brighter tomorrow.

About Ferus Artisan Ales: We at Ferus Artisan Ales believe in creating amazing beers, from hoppy IPAs to hearty stouts. Our chef-curated eatery menu, outdoor entertainment, taproom, & event space combine to provide an unparalleled brewery & restaurant experience. www.ferusales.com

The Monetary Incentives

I am helping a client take full advantage of federal solar incentives before 2021, when the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit drops from 26 percent to 22 percent, and I know other business owners are unaware of and will be interested in the change. The drop in the Tax Credit would result in a loss of over $5,000 in tax benefits for this client. If you want to get to the financial bottom line first, jump to “Let’s Add It Up” below.

Here is what I shared with my client regarding Federal Solar Incentives and what you should know too:

Incentive 1: The federal REAP Grant (Rural Energy for America Program) is available to more businesses than most people would guess. If you are 1) an agriculture producer or 2) a business owner of any type whose business is in an area of population less than 50,000 and meets certain generous size criteria, the REAP Grant can pay for up to 25 percent of your solar installation. There are two grant cycles. For the 2021 federal fiscal year, the deadline for Cycle 1 (grants of no more than $20,000) is November 2, 2020, and the deadline for Cycle 2 (maximum grant of $500,000) is March 31, 2021. You can learn more here about REAP Grant qualifications: Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants. The REAP Grant is the first federal incentive that I recommend investigating.

Incentive 2: The Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit allows you to deduct 26 percent of the cost of your solar system in 2020. It is a dollar-for-dollar deduction. If 26 Percent of your system cost is $40,000, then you can deduct $40,000 directly from your taxes. This tax credit reduces to 22 percent in 2021 and then 10 percent from 2022 forward. You can Safe Harbor this tax credit by putting 5 percent down on a solar energy system before the end of 2020. You will then have a little over four years to construct the system. If you are unable to utilize the full 26 percent deduction in the first year, you can roll it over. If you are seeking a REAP Grant, be aware that if you put 5 percent down before your REAP Grant application is submitted and deemed complete then that 5 percent cannot be included in the tax credit. You can learn more about the tax credit here: Guide to the Federal Investment Tax Credit for Commercial Solar Photovoltaics.

Incentive 3: 100 Percent Bonus Depreciation (temporary – through 2022) allows the solar owner to write off 100 percent of the depreciation of the equipment in the first year. If you are unable to utilize the full amount in the first year, you can carry it backward to previous years or roll it forward to future years. Solar equipment must be placed in service by the end of 2022. The IRS provides additional information here: Tax law offers 100-percent, first-year ‘bonus’ depreciation.

Let’s Add It Up!

If you are a REAP Grant recipient, then up to 75 percent of your solar equipment and installation can be paid for via federal incentives.

If you are NOT a REAP Grant recipient, then up to 50 percent of your solar equipment and installation can be paid for via federal incentives.

When you add in the utility savings from solar energy production (30 to 60 percent of your bill, or more), your benefits are even greater.

Let’s Go!

Given these financials, the question becomes “Are you ready to dive in and see if solar is right for you?” Each state’s REAP Grant administrator is ready to help with the grant, and Eagle Solar & Light will help you secure the 26 percent tax credit and 100 percent bonus depreciation and install a power plant on your roof. A power plant that will begin saving money immediately and hedge against future utility rate increases.

Contact Eagle Solar & Light Here:

Alabama & Georgia – (205) 202-2208 or (800) 982-0808 Ext. 1
North Carolina – (800) 982-0808 Ext. 2
Email:Info@eaglesolarandlight.com

Laura Combs is Eagle Solar & Light’s Business Development Director in North Carolina. She has a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning, with a specialty in Environmental Planning. Laura is a former environmental, non-profit employee who worked to recover the endangered Florida manatee, is very aware of the need for maintaining slim overhead and maximizing funds, and she is very grateful to bring her knowledge and skills to Eagle Solar & Light and its customers.

 

Take this opportunity to learn about how solar energy works for churches.  Watch the recording of Eagle Solar & Light's NC Regional Director, Scott Alexander, share the details of St. Francis of Assisi Church's solar project, how this commitment helps the parish live out its mission and values, and ways to take the next step in solar for your church, business, or home.

But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.”  Job 12: 7-10 

Solar Energy for Churches

 

Birmingham, AL, August 26, 2020 – Eagle Solar & Light, LLC , a Southeastern commercial and residential solar provider, announces it has secured additional financial commitments from outside investors.   These investors include Brutus Clay of Kentucky, whose family history in coal has expanded his interests in the energy market to installing solar on reclaimed coal mines and investing in utility-scale solar. 

This investment will allow Eagle Solar and Light to grow their existing Alabama market as well as expand their solar leasing programs in North Carolina and Georgia to commercial businesses.  Solar leasing has become essential to providing small and large businesses access to inexpensive, clean energy, particularly as admittance to the Duke Energy rebate continues to become more competitive.   Eagle Solar and Light was the first solar contractor and still one of the few to be legally licensed by the utilities to lease solar systems in North Carolina. 

“This equity raise satisfies our financing well into 2021, and is the first step down the runway for accelerated growth throughout the Southeast, focusing on C&I Solar and Energy Storage.” said Sam Yates, Chief Executive Officer for Eagle Solar & Light.  “In addition, our new equity partners bring significant utility-scale experience, including tenures with Strata Solar and Oakhurst Energy Solutions in Durham, N.C.  Eagle Solar & Light will soon announce a large-scale Tax Equity Finance syndication, to focus on our continued success in Solar Leasing (PPL’s) and Solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s).”

Eagle Solar and Light is licensed in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.  Since its inception in 2016, it has seen continual growth in the solar market year over year as solar energy production becomes more economical than utility purchased energy.  They have offices in Birmingham, AL and Durham, NC. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 5/14/20

Media Contacts
Woods Charter School

Chatham County, North Carolina (5/14/20): Woods Charter School (WCS) is no stranger to being at the top of the class.  Founded in 1998, Now they have sustainability to add to their list.  In May 2020, Woods added 276,000 kilowatts of solar panels to their roof. This clean energy system will generate enough electricity to cut their utility bill by 41%.  Most importantly, according to the EPA these kilowatt hours are equivalent to the carbon sequestration of 311 acres  of U.S. forests for one year or green house gas emissions avoided by recycling 81 tons of waste.

Cotton Bryan, Principal at Woods Charter School said “When you stand atop our school building in the midday sun, the metal roof shines bright and just bakes under the sun’s rays.  You don’t even have to be a fan of solar energy to know that there’s a missed opportunity there. We’ve tried for a decade to reach an arrangement that would make sense for us, but we never really gained traction until we partnered with Eagle Solar and Light and its lease program.  We now have a system that will put our roof to good use, lower our carbon burden as a school, and save us a whole bunch of money over the life of the panels.”

Scott Alexander, Managing Director for Eagle Solar and Light commented “I was confident that  Woods Charter School would find our lease program an attractive financial scenario, and when coupled with and the NC Solar Rebate it significantly reduced the upfront cost of solar.  Both of our organizations have similar values with a focus on people and the planet. It has been great to work with Woods Charter – a dynamic and thoughtful team that exemplify what’s unique about our community in the Triangle.” Scott continued.

The demand for commercial solar continues to rise across North Carolina as both a hedge against rising costs of conventional energy and as demonstration of a commitment to environmental sustainability.

See more pictures at  https://eaglesolarandlight.com/

 

About Eagle Solar & Light:  Eagle Solar & Light offers solar power systems and energy storage for residential, commercial, nonprofit and government buildings for Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.  Mission Statement:  “It is our passion to expand renewable energy by developing partnerships driven by trust and integrity, while meeting savings and sustainability goals.”   They are NABCEP certified and a member of the largest U.S. solar cooperative, Amicus.  For more information visit eaglesolarandlight.com

by Laura Combs, ESL Business Development Director

For those considering investing in solar energy for their business, non-profit or home, really thinking about and understanding what solar panels can do for you can be confusing. If you are like I was, you think that solar energy is a great idea but you can’t quite see how it actually benefits you financially. Few people are fluent in kilowatts (kW), kilowatt hours (kWh), demand charges and other energy terms, and most of us definitely don’t think about them every day or even once a year. They are something reported on our electricity bills to be glanced over as we get to the bottom line. But they matter!

Your Bill

While most of us just focus on the final figure, it’s important to understand the terms.

For residential, it’s relatively easy. We are assessed fixed charges (monthly fee or rider – most frequently a REPS or Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard rider) and the variable or volume charge, which relates to the amount of energy you use and is shown as kilowatt hours on your bill. Kilowatt hours can vary dramatically month-to-month depending on how much energy your house consumes. You can see a sample residential Duke Energy bill here: Reading Your Residential Bill. We encourage all of our customers to read their applicable rate schedule (an explanation of fixed and variable charges), which you can view here: North Carolina Index of Rate Schedules. Dividing the total amount of the bill by the number of kilowatt hours used will give you the “blended” rate of what you pay; it is a blend of the fixed and kilowatt hour cost.  Keep in mind that your fixed rates are going to stay the same each month (unless the Utility Commission allows Duke to change them), and your kilowatt hour use will vary based on what you actually use. The blended rate serves as the baseline when determining how solar energy offsets your monthly electricity charges.

Commercial customer’s bills are more complicated because the utility assesses the fixed charges, the variable kilowatt hour charge, as well as a “demand” charge. The demand charge is the fee determined by the highest amount of power drawn from the grid during any interval (typically 15 minutes) during the billing period. A sample Duke Energy bill is here: Reading Your Business Bill.

For some commercial rates, such as Medium General Service (MGS), kilowatt hour costs are fixed/not variable ($.0706 per kWh), and the same for the demand charge ($5.86 per kW).

The rate is tiered for some types of customers, such as Small General Service (SGS), which is the rate for many small churches. This means that the more kilowatt hours that you use, the lower the cost per kilowatt hour. For example, for SGS the first 750 kWh is the most expensive at over $.10 per kWh, but the price drops as more kilowatt hours are consumed. And there are even more complicated rate structures!

Don’t worry about understanding it all now - we can help you figure it out. But understanding how you are charged for energy at home and at your business can help you understand how to reduce your costs.  Solar is one such way - so how does it do that?

The Solar Panel

Let’s start at the solar energy baseline – the solar panel. Solar panel output is measured in watts (W). A premium, new, fixed solar panel produces between 300W and 400W per hour, depending on the manufacturer, the model, the location and the weather. North Carolina averages about 4.5 hours of peak, usable solar energy per day. If your home or business is unshaded and the panels are facing south and weather conditions are optimal, a panel will produce approximately 1.4kWh per day for every solar panel installed.

Another way to think about it is in kilowatts – which is the measurement that you find on your business account bill. A 10kW solar panel system (between 25-35 panels depending on the manufacturer) will produce about 14,000 kWh a year. A good rule of thumb is that for every kilowatt of solar you install in North Carolina, approximately 1,400 kWh are generated with ideal conditions. A kilowatt hour production estimate for your system, worthy of another blog post, is based on weather data coupled with technical data of the specific panel, as well as the orientation of the building. The estimate is critical to understanding how a solar energy system will impact your bill.

Net Metering

Fortunately for everyone, the North Carolina Utilities Commission requires Net Metering from Duke Energy, as it has been shown to benefit all customers. Here’s how that works: Let’s say you decide to put a system on your home, place of worship or business, but you are generally out of the building during normal business hours. What happens to those unused kilowatt hours generated by your solar panels?  Because your system is producing kilowatt hours every sunny day, if you are not there to consume them all, the kilowatt hours will flow directly to the electricity grid! This is where Net Metering comes into the equation. Net metering can get a bit complicated, but at its most basic, it describes a billing mechanism between a utility and a customer who is self-generating power. It involves a bi-directional meter that registers when 1) a customer consumes utility grid-supplied power and 2) when their self-generating system is supplying power back to the grid. When the meter is spinning backwards (Yay!) utilities will often credit solar customers for these kilowatt hours at the retail rate, which is the same rate at which you purchase it.

Putting it All Together

Energy use by homes and businesses can vary for a number of reasons, and as we discussed, rate structures for businesses add another layer of complication. We do know that when you install solar, you may purchase significantly less kilowatt hours from Duke Energy and, therefore, save money!

If you have a business that primarily operates during the day, you will also see a reduction in your peak demand charge because your solar panels will be producing and offsetting your maximum energy draw from the utility grid. A school, for example, can see upwards of a 30% reduction in its demand charges because the school’s peak demand is likely when the sun is producing!

If your business has a fairly constant load or demand that is higher in the evening - think hotels/hospitals - or facilities that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week - solar is not going to have a dramatic impact on demand because your “peak demand” may be at a time when the solar panels aren’t producing and are unable to offset your power draw from the grid. That said, you will likely be able to take advantage of net metering and your system will pay for itself and save you money.

In summary, every kilowatt hour matters! Before investing in solar technology, we recommend reducing your energy consumption. Harvard University has great recommendations here: Top 5 Steps to Reduce Your Energy Consumption. When you are ready to invest in your own green energy power plant, we are here to help you think through your choices.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. Thank you for reading!

Laura Combs

lcombs@eaglesolarandlight.com and (919) 275-2245

Laura Combs is Eagle Solar & Light’s Business Development Director in North Carolina. She has a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning, with a specialty in Environmental Planning. Laura is a former environmental non-profit employee who worked to recover the endangered Florida manatee, is very aware of the need for maintaining slim overhead and maximizing funds, and she is very grateful to bring her knowledge and skills to Eagle Solar & Light and its customers.

Investment Tax Credit and You

The Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is an alluring incentive given to the owners of photovoltaic systems in the United States. If you are a tax-paying citizen or business entity in 2020, 26% of the cost of your new system can be credited back to you on your federal tax return. The origin of the credit was a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The goal of the credit is to incentivize clean, renewable energy in the United States as a way to combat pollution and global climate change. It has been a successful incentive, evident by the amount of installed photovoltaic systems increasing from 79 Megawatts in 2005 to 14,762 Megawatts in 2016.

Between 2006 and 2019, the ITC was at a strong 30%. At the start of 2020, it dropped by 4%. Unfortunately, it is set to drop even more unless Congress realizes that they are making a mistake by letting it die off. By 2021, the credit will be 22% and that will be the last year residential customers can utilize the incentive. Starting in 2022, only commercial customers can utilize a 10% credit on their system.

So let's do some quick math to understand the ITC better. Jim has decided to get an off-the-grid photovoltaic system on his house in 2020. The batteries in his system will only be charged by solar energy, allowing them to be included in the credit calculation. A contractor has quoted him $20,000.00 to design and build the system. Let's also say that Jim owes the Federal government $5,500.00 in taxes for 2020. If he decides to go through with the project, he would only owe $300.00 in taxes ($5,500.00 minus 26% of $20,000.00).

As you can see, the ITC has the potential to drastically reduce the payback period for a photovoltaic system by saving the owner money when tax season comes around. Although there are conflicting opinions as to whether this is the right way to incentivize solar energy, it does seem to be working. So what is the point that I am trying to make? Go solar this year before time runs out! It is unlikely that Congress will be extending the ITC anytime soon. If you went in to the future and realized that a company's stock was selling for $500.00 per share in 2025 and only $5.00 per share in 2020, you would probably go back to 2020 and buy all of the stock that you could fit in your budget. This is a similar concept with a solar investment! The incentives and electricity bill savings you lock in now will be worth a lot more in the future when the incentives are non-existent and electricity prices skyrocket! So contact Eagle Solar and Light today if you are interested in getting a photovoltaic system and we will lock you in to the 26% ITC before time runs out.

by Steven Gambla, Eagle Solar & Light PV Associate

 

 

WBHM talks to solar experts at Eagle Solar and Light regarding the Alabama Power Reservation Fee for Residential solar