Thursday, June 4, 2015

How American Businesses are Leading the Way in Green Building Technology

See how U.S. companies made the Shanghai Tower a shining example of green building. | Graphic by <a href="/node/678346">Matty Greene</a>, Department of Energy.

See how U.S. companies made the Shanghai Tower a shining example of green building. | Graphic by Matty Greene, Department of Energy.

In 2014, two daredevils broke into a construction site and climbed to the top of the second tallest building in the world: the Shanghai Tower. You may recognize it from their vertigo-inducing viral video, which leaves no doubt that the Tower is tall. What it doesn’t show is how much American businesses have had an impact on making the structure one of the greenest large buildings in the world.
Green buildings are more sustainable than conventional buildings by using fewer building materials, conserving energy and reducing waste. Thanks in large part to technologies from U.S. companies (and compared to conventional technologies) the approaches used in the Shanghai Tower:
  • Reduce energy use by 21 percent
  • Reduce water consumption by 40 percent
  • Reduce the building’s carbon footprint by 34,000 metric tons per year, equivalent to taking more than 7,000 cars off the road.
From the architectural design and landscaping to temperature control and lighting, U.S. companies have made significant contributions to the Tower’s green design, which has earned a LEED Gold rating, as well as a China Green Building Three Star rating. Take a look at the graphic above to see some examples.
The Tower exemplifies how U.S. technology can drive economic growth while reducing carbon emissions, a path critical to addressing global climate change. As Secretary Moniz said in a recent speech, “Ultimately our focus is on the solutions to the climate-change challenge through technology. … American business will be called upon here to do the heavy lifting.”
That’s why 24 American companies are in China right now, joining Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall for a joint trade mission focused on smart cities and green infrastructure. The trip aims to follow through on the climate change goals laid out by President Obama and President Xi last November.
The Shanghai Tower is just one shining example of how U.S. companies are leading the way in green building technologies. In Shanghai and around the world, American innovation is scaling new heights when it comes to sustainability.

Pat Adams
Pat Adams
Digital Content Specialist, Office of Public Affairs

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Energy Storage May Already Make Sense for Many Commercial Customers

Friday, April 17, 2015

Solar Ready Vets: Preparing Our Veterans to Join the Growing Solar Workforce

The transition from military service into the civilian workforce can be a vulnerable moment.
Many veterans indicate that finding a job is one of the greatest challenges they face in their return to civilian life, and one aspect of that challenge is translating military skills and experience in a marketable way for civilian employers.
At the Department of Energy, we like to say we’re solutions people. And there is a great opportunity here to help by connecting our talented veterans with a dynamic sector in our economy that needs them. Solar electricity generation doubled last year alone, and the solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. That’s why the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense joined forces to create the Solar Ready Vets program, which provides training to help military personnel translate and build on their skill sets and transition to careers in this thriving renewable energy field.

Monday, March 30, 2015


#DidYouKnow a #wind turbine works like the opposite of a fan? Instead of using electricity to make wind, wind turbines use wind to make electricity. The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity to power homes and businesses. Learn more about how wind turbines work ⇢

U.S. Department of Energy

Monday, March 16, 2015

Wind Vision Report from the U.S. Dept. of Energy

With utility-scale turbines installed in nearly every state, wind is already a major source of clean, domestic power for the nation. But what if wind supplied 35 percent of the country's electricity by 2050? That's one of the scenarios highlighted in our new ‪#‎WindVision‬ report, a detailed roadmap for America's wind energy future. Learn more:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Program to Help Businesses Save Energy

February 27, 2015
Businesses have an opportunity to save energy and reduce operating costs by participating in Focus on Energy's Business Incentive Program (BIP) and Renewable Energy Competitive Incentive Program (RECIP). Focus on Energy, Wisconsin utilities' statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, is proud to offer cash-back incentives and technical expertise to energy-intensive businesses like Capital Brewery.

Middleton-based Capital Brewery was founded in 1984 and has been brewing beer since 1986. The company worked with Focus on Energy and their utility, Madison Gas & Electric (MG&E), to complete two projects, including the installation of a 13 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system and the installation of a high efficiency heat recovery system with controls. These equipment installations are helping the brewery save more than 19,000 kWh and 4,000 therms, resulting in a savings of more than $4,500 annually on their utility bill.

"It was the incentive and technical expertise from Focus on Energy that motivated us to do these projects," said Scott Weiner, president of Capital Brewery. "Capital Brewery is committed to sustainably brewing world class lagers and ales. We look forward to continuing our work with the Focus on Energy team and reducing our water and energy consumption as well as our carbon footprint."

"Breweries are a significant part of the industry and culture in Wisconsin," said Tamara Sondgeroth, director of operations for Focus on Energy. "By helping breweries make smart equipment choices combined with financial incentives, we are able to trim costs and help these businesses become more sustainable."

From lighting, to heating and cooling, and refrigeration systems, Focus on Energy offers both custom and prescriptive incentives to qualifying businesses. For more information on Focus on Energy's business programs, call 800.762.7077 or visit our

Monday, February 23, 2015

Small Towns Achieve Big Savings with Lighting Upgrades

A worker installs energy efficient lights as part of the Smart Lights for Smart Cities program. | Photo courtesy of Mid-America Regional Council.
                             A worker installs energy efficient lights as part of the Smart Lights for Smart Cities program. | Photo courtesy of Mid-America Regional Council.

Project Officer, Department of Energy.

Dozens of small communities throughout Kansas and Missouri are saving big money and energy as a result of several high-impact lighting projects. Over the past three years, more than 5,700 energy-efficient lights were installed in communities with populations of less than 35,000 people. The new streetlights are expected to save 25 cities and towns a combined $25 million in energy costs and slash carbon emissions by more than 380 million metric tons, equivalent to removing 80 million cars off the road in one year. The upgrades were part of Smart Lights for Smart Cities, an energy efficiency initiative managed by the Mid-America Regional Council, a metropolitan planning organization serving the Kansas City area. The new lights—featuring induction and LED technologies—are brighter, more energy efficient, and easier to maintain than the mercury vapor and high-pressure sodium streetlights they replaced.

Building on support from an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) via the Recovery Act, Mid-America Regional Council became a charter member of the Energy Department’s new Better Buildings High-Performance Outdoor Lighting Accelerator. Better Buildings Accelerators bring together public and private sector leaders and experts to solve some of the nation’s toughest energy challenges.

The High-Performance Outdoor Lighting Accelerator works with state and local municipalities nationwide to increase the adoption and use of high efficiency outdoor lighting in the public sector. Key program areas are replacing more than 500,000 outdoor lighting poles and developing best practice approaches to municipal system-wide upgrades.

An increasing number of states and municipalities are turning toward high efficiency outdoor lighting. There was nearly a two-fold increase of LED installed stock in outdoor applications from 2012 to 2013. New high performance lighting technologies offer approximately 50% energy savings and cost savings with lower operations and maintenance due to a longer lifespan. The cost savings is significant as outdoor lighting costs across the U.S. total approximately $10 billion a year.

Learn more about EECBG and The High-Performance Outdoor Lighting Accelerator.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Energy Efficient Upgrades - Lighting

Lighting is a critical component of every small business. Employees must be able to see to perform their jobs, and objects and spaces must be aesthetically pleasing to encourage sales.
Depending on the type of business you operate, lighting accounts for 20% to 50% of electricity consumption. This means that significant cost savings can be achieved with energy-efficiency improvements, and due to continually improving equipment, lighting usually provides the highest return-on-investment of major upgrades.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Top 6 Things You Didn't Know About Solar Energy

This article is part of the series highlighting the "Top Things You Didn't Know About..." series. Be sure to check back for more entries soon. 6. Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth – 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the Earth continuously. That's more than 10,000 times the world's total energy use. 5. The first silicon solar cell, the precursor of all solar-powered devices, was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954. On page one of its April 26, 1954 issue, The New York Times proclaimed the milestone, “the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams -- the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.” 4. The space industry was an early adopter of solar technology. In the 1960s the space industry began to use solar technology to provide power aboard spacecrafts. The Vanguard 1 -- the first artificial earth satellite powered by solar cells -- remains the oldest manmade satellite in orbit – logging more than 6 billion miles. 3. Fast track to today and demand for solar in the United States is at an all time high. In the first quarter of 2012, developers installed 85 percent more solar panels compared to the first quarter of last year. Total U.S. installations may reach 3,300 megawatts this year – putting the country on track to be the fourth largest solar market in the world. 2. As prices continue to fall, solar energy is increasingly becoming an economical energy choice for American homeowners and businesses. Still, the biggest hurdle to affordable solar energy remains the soft costs – like permitting, zoning, and hooking a solar system up to the power gird. On average local permitting and inspection processes add more than $2,500 to the total cost of a solar energy system. The Energy Department SunShot Initiative works to aggressively drive down these soft costs – making it faster and cheaper for families and businesses to go solar. 1. In California’s Mojave Desert, the largest solar energy project in the world is currently under construction. The project relies on a technology known as solar thermal energy. Once the project is complete 350,000 mirrors will reflect light onto boilers. When the water boils, the steam turns a turbine, creating electricity. The project is expected to provide clean, renewable energy for 140,000 homes and is supported by an Energy Department loan guarantee. More details on the Energy Department’s investments in large scale, innovative renewable energy projects in this slideshow. Want more solar? The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Information Administration, and Solar Energy Technologies Program are all great solar energy resources – for kids and adults alike.

Monday, December 1, 2014

LEDs: Lighting The Way To Major Energy Savings

LEDs: Lighting The Way To Major Energy Savings Eric Savitz Eric Savitz , Forbes Staff Guest post written by Chuck Swoboda Chuck Swoboda is CEO of Cree, which makes LEDs and LED lighting products. Chuck Swoboda President Obama set what he considers an ambitious goal for reduced energy consumption during his State of the Union address Tuesday night: “Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years.” Why wait so long? The technology and economics to achieve much of this goal exist today. One of the most antiquated devices wasting power in your home right now is the light with which you’re reading this article. Your incandescent bulb is based on technology that is more than 130 years old, a light source that converts most of the bulb’s energy to heat rather than light. American companies that build lighting based on modern technology – LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) – can enable consumers to save money and slash their electricity usage for lighting by as much as 80 percent. Today. That change can achieve much of the President’s goal since lighting accounts for nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of electricity spending in the average household, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. As consumers, we already rely upon LED lights in our cell phones and HDTVs. The barrier to the widespread use of efficient LEDs for lighting has been the high upfront cost of LED fixtures and bulbs. But now advancements in technology are dramatically lowering prices, so much so that a sub $10 LED bulb, which delivers brilliant, high quality light for more than a decade could soon be a reality. LED lighting is already cost effective – extremely so – for businesses and municipalities. The City of Los Angeles is saving $5.3 million annually thanks to the Green LA initiative that has thus far replaced 114,000 high-pressure sodium street lights with LED lighting, the nation’s largest such project. Once completed, Los Angeles anticipates LED lighting will save taxpayers $10-million-a-year, nearly two-thirds of what the city had been paying for lighting its streets. Sheetz, the convenience store and gas station chain, ranked 61st on Forbes Magazine’s List of America’s Largest Private Companies, has installed LED interior and exterior lighting at more than 130 of its locations across six states. The energy savings: 45 percent on interior lighting, and as much as 55 percent on exterior lighting that illuminates Sheetz’s gas pumps. As expenses drop, LED lighting is helping boost top-line growth, according to Sheetz, which reports customers find the brighter facilities more visually appealing and perceive them as safer. Such examples explain why LEDs accounted for 8 percent of the U.S. lighting market in 2012, according to McKinsey & Co., primarily in street lighting, retail and office environments. Now it’s the consumer’s turn. Fundamental advances in LED semiconductor technology, optics, and lighting system design now enable LED lights to break century old cost and performance barriers that have prevented consumers from realizing the savings businesses and municipalities already enjoy. While a typical incandescent bulb uses 60 watts of power to generate light, the current state of LED technology can produce the same light for less than 10 watts. A better, more efficient product means less expensive light. To a consumer, this means saving money – significant amounts of money. As the cost factor shrinks, adoption of LED lighting climbs. The industry’s current rate of cost reduction could result in a doubling of LED lighting adoption over the next year. The shorter the payback on the upfront expenditure, the more likely consumers will choose LED lighting. We’ve already seen this trend in commercial lighting markets. As we approach price parity with traditional lighting, any remaining barriers for commercial and consumer adoption should continue to diminish, and we believe the rate of adoption will accelerate. Not only does this trend result in better lighting that saves Americans money and time (imagine not changing a bulb for more than a decade), but it will also eliminate a tremendous amount of physical waste. According to IMS Research, collectively, 5.6 billion bulbs light American households and businesses, including 4.2 billion incandescent bulbs and about 1 billion compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs that contain toxic mercury. More than 1 billion new bulbs are purchased every year. The President’s own U.S. Department of Energy predicts the switch to LED lighting over the next two decades could save $250 billion in energy costs. There’s no need to wait.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lumens are the New Watts

Using lumens as the measure of a light bulb’s brightness will simplify shopping for light bulbs… By EARTHEASY.COM Posted AUG 17, 2011 Back in the old days, when there was only one basic type of light bulb consumers could buy, (the incandescent bulb descended from Edison’s original) we could rely on the term “watts” to help us choose the right bulb for our lamps and outdoor lights. Although “watts” refers to how much energy a bulb will use when lit, we understood the relative brightness levels between 60-watt, 100-watt or 150-watt light bulbs. Then along came the energy-saving CFL bulbs A 15-watt CFL bulb, according to the package, produced the equivalent light of a 60-watt incandescent. A 25-watt CFL was comparable to a 100-watt incandescent in light output. And so forth. Shoppers were expected to understand the wattage conversions of these strange looking new CFL light bulbs. LED bulbs, more efficient than CFLs, use even less wattage to achieve desired brightness levels As we gradually got used to the idea of the CFL bulbs and began to understand how to choose the right CFL for our lighting needs, the new LED bulbs came into the mix. Originally used for small task lights such as flashlights and instrument lights, LED technology has evolved rapidly with new LED bulbs available for most applications in the home. LED bulbs, more efficient than CFLs, use even less wattage to achieve desired brightness levels. A 6-watt LED is equivalent to a 15-watt CFL which is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb. It’s getting confusing isn’t it? And besides three different wattage equivalents for the three basic types of light bulbs on store shelves, there are new halogen incandescent bulbs, new LED tube lights, and terms like Coloring Rendering Index (CRI) and Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) which further describe characteristics of light quality from a bulb. the FTC has mandated packaging changes for all light bulbs, effective in 2012, which simplify and standardize the differences in light bulb output To help shoppers make sense of the many choices in lighting today, the FTC has mandated packaging changes for all light bulbs, effective in 2012, which simplify and standardize the differences in light bulb output. Wattage is no longer a reliable way to gauge a light bulb’s brightness. Lumens, the measure of a bulb’s actual brightness, is the new standard for comparing light bulbs of all types. Lumens, the measure of a bulb’s actual brightness, is the new standard for comparing light bulbs of all types Lumens measure brightness. A standard 60-watt incandescent bulb, for example, produces about 800 lumens of light. By comparison, a CFL bulb produces that same 800 lumens using less than 15 watts. But you don’t need to understand yet another conversion. It’s simple. The more lumens, the brighter the bulb. You can use lumens to compare the brightness of any bulb, regardless of the technology behind it, and regardless of whether it’s a halogen incandescent, CFL or LED. Using lumens helps you compare “apples to apples” when you shop for light bulbs. Once you know how bright a bulb you want, you can compare other factors, like the yearly energy cost.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rural Energy for America Program - Renewable Energy System and Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loan and Grant Program

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses in rural America to purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems; make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities; use renewable technologies that reduce energy consumption; and participate in energy audits, renewable energy development assistance, and feasibility studies.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What will lighting systems look like in 2020?

According to Greg Merritt, Vice President, Marketing, Lighting at Cree, Inc., "Every lighting solution will be LED, and every lighting solution will offer some type of automated intelligence. More contractors and even distributors will develop their own design and specifying capabilities."
Electrical Contractor Magazine 10/14

Monday, October 13, 2014

IEA Report Predicts Solar Power Domination by 2050

Two reports released simultaneously last week by the International Energy Agency (IEA) say that by the year 2050, solar power could eclipse fossil fuels, hydro, wind and nuclear as the world’s most widely used source of electricity generation.

According to the IEA, solar PV could conceivably be used to generate as much as 16 percent of the world’s electricity needs by mid-century, with solar thermal electricity generated by concentrating solar plants (CSP) accounting for another 11 percent.

Friday, October 3, 2014

80' Wind Turbine Install

We are pleased to announce that we are in the process of installing a Bergey Wind Power Turbine that will stand 80' tall at a farm in McHenry County.

Below are some Interesting facts about Wind Energy from the Wind Energy Foundation

Interesting Wind Energy Facts
#1. The United States currently has 61,110 MW of installed wind project capacity, comprising 5.7% of total U.S. installed electric generating capacity.
#2. Wind mills have been in use since 2000 B.C. and were first developed in China and Persia.
#3. Wind power is currently the fastest-growing source of electricity production in the world.
#4. Iowa and South Dakota generated more than 25% of their energy from wind during 2013.
#5. A single wind turbine can power 500 homes.
#6. In 2012, the Shepherds Flat wind project became the largest online wind project in the United States (845 megawatts), breaking the record previously held by the Roscoe Wind Farm (781.5 megawatts).
#7. In 2013, the roughly 168 million megawatt-hours generated by wind energy avoided 95.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) — the equivalent of reducing power-sector CO2 emissions by 4.4% or removing 16.9 million cars from the roads.
#8. There’s enough on-shore wind in America to power the country 10 times over.
#9. In 2013, 12 states accounted for 80% of U.S. wind-generated electricity: Texas, Iowa, California, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration March Electric Power Monthly report.
#10. Most wind turbines (95%) are installed on private land.
#11. Modern wind turbines produce 15 times more electricity than the typical turbine did in 1990.
#12. At times, wind energy produces as much as 25% of the electricity on the Texas power grid.
#13. American wind power is a $10 billion a year industry.
#14. Unlike nearly every other form of energy, wind power uses virtually no water.
#15. By 2030, U.S. wind power will save nearly 30 trillion bottles of water.
#16. At times, wind power produces as much as 45% of the electricity in Spain.
#17. Wind energy became the number-one source of new U.S. electricity-generating capacity for the first time in 2012, providing some 42% of all new generating capacity. In fact, 2012 was a strong year for all renewables, as together they accounted for more than 55% of all new U.S. generating capacity.
#18. During 2013, California led the nation in new wind installations (with 269 megawatts), followed by Kansas, Michigan, Texas, and New York.
#19. 70% of all U.S. Congressional Districts are home to an operating wind project, a wind-related manufacturing facility, or both.
#20. As of May 2014, the United States is home to 46,000 operating wind turbines.
#21. Right now, 559 wind-related manufacturing facilities produce a product for the U.S. wind energy industry across 44 states.
#22. Both Nevada and Puerto Rico added their first utility-scale projects during 2012.
#23. In 2000, more than 60% of U.S. wind power capacity was installed in California, with 17 states hosting utility-scale wind turbines. Today, 39 states and Puerto Rico share 60 gigawatts of utility-scale wind project development.
#24. Wind is a credible source of new electricity generation in the United States. Wind power comprised 43% of all new U.S. electric capacity additions in 2012 and represented $25 billion in new investment. Wind power currently contributes more than 12% of total electricity generation in nine states (with three of these states above 20%), and provides more than 4% of total U.S. electricity supply. Source: 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report (PDF 3.4 MB)
#25. Wind energy prices have dropped since 2009 and now rival previous lows. Lower wind turbine prices and installed project costs, along with improved capacity factors, are enabling aggressive wind power pricing. After topping out at nearly $70/megawatt-hour in 2009, the average levelized long-term price from wind power sales agreements signed in 2011/2012 – many of which were for projects built in 2012 – fell to around $40/megawatt-hour nationwide.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


A friend of mine asked me:

Do You Need to Install Solar Panels in Direct Sunlight?

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are widely regarded as an ideal method of generating electricity. The materials in the panels, usually silicon, create an electric current when met with natural daylight and this current is then used as standard electricity within properties. The energy is renewable, therefore, considered green. However, many question how effective solar panels are in cloudy climates and wonder whether direct sunlight is, indeed, needed to get the full benefits of the panels.

Daylight not Sunlight

Solar panels use the energy from daylight, as opposed to sunlight, to produce electricity so panels do not need direct sunlight to work. It is photons in natural daylight which is converted by solar panels cells to produce electricity. Heat has no effect on the production of electricity.
This being said, it is true that direct sunlight does provide the best conditions for the panels. However, even in overcast conditions light will diffuse through the clouds and reach the solar panels. Modern solar panels include concentrators which use a system of lenses and mirrors to maximize any light that does reach the cells. As a result it is estimated that solar panels will be 40% as effective in heavy cloudy as they would in direct sunlight. The clearer the skies are the more electricity will be produced.
So if you live in an area that is not the sunniest climate in the world, such as the east coastline  of Lake Michigan, but there appears to be sufficient daylight to ensure that solar panels will work effectively, a solar system may still produce energy for you. It is worth noting that this is true for solar array systems that are feed back into the power supplier. If your array is tied to battery storage, having a long period of sunny weather will create electricity which can be used later on. 
Solar panels will not work at night and the property will still be dependent on electricity from the energy provider. Solar panels will work in winter, even in the Midwest, but of course less electricity will be created as the hours of daylight are considerably shorter than they are in the summer months.
Despite common beliefs, solar panels do not need direct sunlight to work and the weather conditions in the Midwest should not put off potential solar panel buyers. It is energy from daylight, as opposed to sunlight, which powers the panels which means even on overcast days electricity will be generated. There are many questions potential solar panels owners should concern themselves with but the question of the panels needing sustained sunlight to work can be dismissed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


NIST test house exceeds goal; ends year with energy to spare

The net-zero energy test house at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in suburban Washington, D.C., not only absorbed winter's best shot, it came out on top, reaching its one-year anniversary on July 1 with enough surplus energy to power an electric car for about 1,440 miles.

Despite five months of below-average temperatures and twice the normal amount of snowfall, NIST's Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) ended its one-year test run with 491 kilowatt hours of extra energy.
Instead of paying almost $4,400 for electricity-the estimated average annual bill for a comparable modern home in Maryland-the virtual family of four residing in the all-electric test house actually earned a credit by exporting the surplus energy to the local utility.
A net-zero energy house produces at least as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. A number of states are taking steps toward encouraging or even requiring construction of net-zero energy homes in the future. For example, California will require that, as of 2020, all newly constructed homes must be net-zero energy ready.

Both a laboratory and a house, the two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath NZERTF would blend in nicely in a new suburban subdivision. But it was designed and built to be about 60 percent more energy efficient than houses built to meet the requirements of the 2012 version of the International Energy Conservation Code, which Maryland has adopted.
The 2,700 square-foot  test house is built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards-the highest standard for sustainable structures. Its features include energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies, such as solar water heating and a solar photovoltaic system.

Despite 38 days when the test house's solar panels were covered with snow or ice, the NZERTF's sun-powered generation system produced 13,577 kilowatt hours of energy. That's 491 kilowatt hours more than used by the house and its occupants, a computer-simulated family of two working parents and two children, ages 8 and 14.

First year energy use totaled 13,086 kilowatt hours, which was about 3,000 kilowatt hours more than projected usage in a year with typical weather. In a normal year, a comparable home built to meet Maryland's residential energy standard would consume almost 27,000 kilowatt hours of energy.

In terms of energy consumed per unit of living space-a measure of energy-use intensity-the NIST test house is calculated to be almost 70 percent more efficient than the average house in Washington, D.C., and nearby states.
From July through October, the facility registered monthly surpluses. In November, when space-heating demands increased and the declining angle of the sun reduced the energy output of its 32 solar panels, the NZERTF began running monthly deficits. Through March 31, when the house's net energy deficit plummeted to 1,800 kilowatt hours-roughly equivalent to the combined amount of energy a refrigerator and clothes dryer would use in a year-temperatures consistently averaged below normal.
Starting in April, the energy tide began to turn as the house began to export electric power to the grid on most days.

In terms of cost, the NZERTF's virtual residents saved $4,373 in electricity payments, or $364 a month. However, front-end costs for solar panels, added insulation, triple-paned windows, and other technologies and upgrades aimed at achieving net-zero energy performance are sizable.

In all, estimates that incorporating all of the NZERTF's energy-related technologies and efficiency-enhancing construction improvements would add about $162,700 to the price of a similar house built to comply with Maryland's state building code.
Planned measurement-related research at the NZERTF will yield knowledge and tools to help trim this cost difference. Results also will be helpful in identifying affordable measures that will be most effective in reducing energy consumption. And research will further the development of tests and standards that are reliable benchmarks of energy efficiency and environmental performance overall, providing information useful to builders, home buyers, regulators and others.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


In theory, the idea could work: replace all of the nation’s asphalt with solar panels, and we’d generate more than three times the electricity the US uses. Great idea and it would road and highway problems. Solar roads design would also filter storm water, replace above-ground power cables, prevent icy roads by melting snow, and light up to warn drivers if a deer wanders onto the road.
Unfortunately, the list of obstacles is long. The main problem is cost. There are roughly 29,000 square miles of road surface to cover. We need roughly 5.6 billion panels to cover that area. That’s a price tag of $56 trillion.
 The researchers have been unable to secure any large piece of the more than $2 billion a year spent on solar research and development around the world. Probably because there are too many more-practical, more-promising investments to be made to seriously consider this pipe dream.
This brings up a good point. Rooftop panels and solar arrays are already established as a viable power source, but adoption is still low. It’s hard to imagine a city ripping up asphalt and installing a largely unproven technology when it could achieve the same level of power generation by planting panels along the road.
Most of the technological challenges seem solvable. Those include things like how to keep the roads clean, how to increase the efficiency of the panels in the road, how to store the solar power, how to get electricity from more remote roads to the grid, and whether the glass is durable enough. Whether they’re solvable for a reasonable price tag is another question.
The first thing that one has to understand before beginning to look at numbers is this: an apples to apples comparison between asphalt or concrete roads and solar roads is not possible. 

An asphalt/concrete road is simply a hard surface to drive a vehicle on. A solar is a modern modular system with a multitude of uses and features.

 For an accurate cost comparison between current systems and the solar road system, you'd have to combine the costs of current roads (including snow removal, line repainting, pothole repair, etc.), power plants (and the coal or nuclear material to run them), and power and data delivery systems (power poles and relay stations) to be comparable with the solar road system, which provides all three.

This will be interesting to watch.