By Sara Counihan
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—There are many benefits to using solar energy—one of the greatest is that it can save money. It can also help in emergency situations, and it’s a visible environmentally friendly signal to your community. This week’s episode of Convenience Matters talks about the benefits, challenges and processes to getting started with solar.
“Think about anything you use electric for … solar can potentially replace some or all of that power and substantially lower your electric utility bill,” said John Zimmerman, partner, Amerlight Energy.
Jim Vincent, founder and CEO of Amerlight Energy, broke down how solar energy works: A solar panel is installed on the roof of a building or gas canopy, and the panels take photons that are emitted by solar rays and convert them to DC energy. That energy comes through the building through wiring called PV wiring, which then comes into an inverter that can be mounted outside, and it converts DC power to AC power.
In the past five years, costs for solar panel technology have decreased dramatically, according to Vincent. Commercial business use 72-cell panels that can produce 450 watts of power, whereas five years ago, the power output starting point for 72-cell panels was about 210 watts. Also, the cost to manufacture solar panels has been halved.
“Fundamentally, we’ve more than doubled the power output, and we’ve more than halved the cost. As a result, even small spaces like convenience stores with gas canopies can probably generate enough power today that would offset 50% to 60% of their power footprint,” said Vincent.
“I’m going to say that about eight months ago is when all the lines crossed, where if you have a rooftop or canopy, and you are not utilizing solar or energy storage as part of that facility, you’re making a huge mistake. ... This is the first time that I can remember that a fixed cost can actually be dramatically impacted on a day-to-day basis,” said Vincent. He added that having the panels on a roof also reduces the heat load on a building, which affects HVAC costs and offers roof protection.
With most convenience stores being open 24 hours a day, can solar panels supply these businesses with enough power? Vincent’s company can take the longitude and latitude of a location and project the amount of energy it would receive from solar—guaranteed.
“You will bank power, depending on how much space you have and how many panels you have certain times of the year,” said Vincent.
Be sure to listen to this week’s episode to find out what type of relationship exists with utility companies and solar energy, what tax incentives are available for using solar energy, how solar works in an emergency situation and what U.S. location is the best for solar energy (it’s not Phoenix or in California!).
Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 300 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at www.conveniencematters.com. Episodes have been downloaded more than a quarter million times by listeners around the world.
Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Daily and NACS Magazine. Contact her at [email protected].