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Jul 29, 2011

Coming Soon - Berea Solar Farm!

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Jul 29, 2011 02:50 PM

By Steve Boyce, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth - a KySEA member group

Customers of Berea Municipal Utilities who want to invest in solar photovoltaic panels will soon have an opportunity to do so by choosing to participate in a program called Berea Solar Partners. 

The City is establishing the Berea Solar Farm, arrays of PV panels to generate electricity.  Customers will be invited to become Berea Solar Partners by leasing up to two 235-watt solar panels from an initial array of 60 panels.  The one-time lease fee of approximately $700 will cover a 25-year period.  In return, customers will receive credit every billing period for the electricity generated by their panels.

Program Details:

25 year lease contract

 One $700 investment per 235-watt panel

Panels are located on BMU property with ideal orientation to the sun and no shading

Participants receive a credit on their electric bill for the energy generated by their panel(s)

The farm’s production can be monitored at anytime from home

The Solar Farm is one of three projects supported by a $125,000 Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant to the City of Berea.  The purpose of the grant is to enable Berea to take small but critical first steps in a decades-long movement toward a better energy future. 

One of the other two projects funded by the grant will model improved energy practice in City operations by upgrading lighting in five municipal buildings.  The third project involves starting several energy efficiency programs at Berea Municipal Utilities (BMU) in hopes of making clear how such programs can return important value to the community.  With no history of energy efficiency programs in Berea, getting started in a way that demonstrates their potential value – to the City and its people - is as challenging as it is important. 

Getting back to the Berea Solar Farm, one of the major advantages of the program is that the utility will site, install and maintain the solar panels.  Participating customers will gain access to solar generation at less than $3 per watt, less than the typical installed cost of a home PV system after state and federal tax credits.   It is estimated that at current rates, one 235 watt panel will produce a little over $17 worth of electricity per year.  Assuming that Berea’s electricity rates increase 5% per year on average, the panels have estimated payback in the neighborhood of 23 years. 

Some benefits of the Berea Solar Partners Solar Farm:

• Allows more people at all income levels to participate in solar energy options, regardless of site issues such as shade or directional orientation.

•The program is self-sustaining and supported financially by only those customers who choose to become Berea Solar Partners.

•Participants get peace of mind for supporting renewable energy and receive credit  for the energy their panels generate

•The cost of participating is less than $3 per installed watt, less than the typical cost of installing home solar systems after state and federal incentives

•For BMU to generate some of its own electricity means less money leaving Berea to pay wholesale electric bills to our multinational corporate wholesale supplier

Steve Wilkins, a Berea KFTC member who plans to lease panels, says “The opportunity appeals to me in part because I’d like to reduce our carbon footprint through some solar PV generation, but we have a lot of shade all around our house.  So installing panels at home is not a possibility.  I also expect the price of coal-fired electricity to continue to sky-rocket, so I’m attracted to locking in 25-years worth of PV-generated electricity at today’s cost.  And I just like the idea of supporting Berea’s effort to make this kind of option available to its utility customers.”     

The program is ideal for customers who want local opportunities to invest in clean energy but have homes, apartments or businesses – owned or rented – not well suited for solar installations due to directional orientation or shade.  It also provides an opportunity for those who would like to invest in solar energy but can’t afford the relatively large cost of installing an entire system on their property. 

One of the exciting features of this Berea Solar Farm approach is the extent to which it is scalable, both for the City and for individual customers.  For the City, adding additional arrays to the 60-panel beginning can be done in small steps over time in response to customer interest.    The “pay as you go” model means that any future growth will be funded by customer participation.  Customers who choose not to participate will not be asked to subsidize those who do.

For some customers, the scalability could take the form of budgeting over time to offset some percentage – possibly all - of their electricity use by periodically adding one or more solar panels.  To enable broad participation, customers are limited to leasing no more than two panels among the first sixty.  But beyond that, if additional arrays are added, customers will be free to lease as many as they wish. 

Another major benefit of this panel-by-panel leasing approach is the ease of transferring credit for the electricity generated by leased panels.  Since the panels are maintained in a central location, the electricity they generate need not be tied to a specific address.  In the event a participating homeowner or renter moves within BMU’s service territory, the electricity credits can simply be transferred to the new location.  If the move is to a location outside the BMU service territory, the leaser would need to sell or donate the energy generated by the panels to a BMU customer.  If such a move involves selling a house, the house value could be enhanced to the extent that the panels serve increasingly to lower utility bills as coal generated rates increase over time.  Some may find it attractive to support a local non-profit – a school or church, for example – by leasing one or more panels and assigning the billing credit to that organization.

Another aspect of this approach to solar generation that seems exciting is the extent to which it lends itself to local effort.  We are hoping, for example, that many people in Berea will share Steve Wilkins interest in community members coming together to take greater responsibility for their own energy future. 

If this seems to go well in Berea, there may be other small towns around Kentucky attracted to establishing similar community-based efforts to move gradually toward greater reliance on clean, renewable sources of electrical energy. 

Jul 26, 2011

Owensboro-area Business Leader Invests in Solar

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Jul 26, 2011 11:20 AM

Interview with Malcolm Bryant, President of the Malcolm Bryant Corporation by Lauren McGrath, Sierra Club organizer - Sierra Club is a KySEA member.

The Malcolm Bryant Corporation (TMBC), a thriving real estate development and property management company, is about to take a new angle on innovation.

mbc logoBased in Owensboro, KY, the Malcolm Bryant Corp has prided itself with an exceptional customer-focused, entrepreneurial vision that has led to its continued successes including – conducting business in more then fifteen different communities and owning more than one thousand current, and past, property occupants. The company, among other things, specializes in office design, technology, industrial location and hospitality service.  They’re even fully staffed up with everything their clients might need  - a full time construction and remodeling crews, free in-house design experts, full time mechanical and repair personnel as well as office staff. 

From the youngest to the oldest all of us are interested in the future. Solar energy offers us a view to the future of our planet and how we take care of ourselves at home and work. - Macolm Bryant

And now they’re about to add a new twist to their image – solar panels on their headquarters building in downtown Owensboro.

The install, slated for later this month, will also be the first commercial install of photovoltaic (PV) or “solar” panels in Owensboro, KY.  Following is a brief interview with TMBC’s President, Malcolm Bryant.

Q:  What first interested you, or your company, in solar energy?

Solar panelsA: Our company is focused on learning. We are constantly trying to expose our customers to the latest ways to improve their business and make their guests interested and comfortable in their space. Solar energy is certainly interesting. From the youngest to the oldest all of us are interested in the future. Solar energy offers us a view to the future of our planet and how we take care of ourselves at home and work. We love the creativity it brings to our properties. And we can’t ignore that all traditional energy sources are increasing in costs.

Q:  Solar has a pretty hefty upfront cost, what factors helped weigh this initial investment out for you?

A: The building that we are installing solar panels has an interesting past, being Owensboro High School in the early 20’s. We have been trying creative additions to it for many years. We painted a tromp’ loi mural on the facade 15 years ago and KET did a documentary on it, so it has an interesting history. We added a cloth awning 25 years ago and we constantly replace it due to the ultraviolet rays. That’s expensive.  It is now interesting that the sun’s rays should now help the building.  And as we mentioned all energy costs are increasing, so it is a good test model for us in seeing if it can help more of our  properties as well.

But, most importantly we want to show our customers our interest in helping their business. If  this can bring the right curiosity to the property they occupy, it brings good intentions to their business and being green and occupying sustainable buildings, should be good business

Q:  What do you think needs to happen to see these newer clean energy industries thrive in Kentucky?

In the broad picture, I believe our leaders need to make a generation changing statement about energy, much the same way we said when we would put a man on the moon.

A: The State and Federal and Local governments need to partner with entrepreneurs such as ourselves that want to make a difference. In the broad picture, I believe our leaders need to make a generation changing statement about energy, much the same way we said when we would put a man on the moon. Simply educating ourselves on the installation and interface with the grid is important on the local front.

Q:  What do you hope to gain from this experience? What opportunities exist?

A: Primarily we hope to create curiosity in the community and introduce our properties consistently as cutting edge places to do business. We have many visitors to our community form other cities and I believe it is a good signal to them that our community is exploring worldly ideas. We want to start the discussions of “what if…”

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A:  We are pursuing our new convention hotel under design, being LEED certified, the first LEED project in the region. It may have alternative energy opportunities, also.  We certainly will be the pioneer in this region and that’s a good initiative for us and our customers.

To learn more about solar energy and state energy policies that can support its growth, contact KySEA.

Jul 25, 2011

The Myth of Baseload

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Jul 25, 2011 11:30 AM

By David Brown Kinloch, whose company - Shaker Landing Hydro Associates - is a member of KySEA

Originally published at

For years, advocates of cleaner power have offered up renewable energy as the solution to our environmental problems. With growing concern about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide, renewables are finally receiving serious attention abroad and in the United States.

With that attention has come pushback from those parties that have a lot invested in the status quo, especially those associated with coal. Originally they said renewables don't work, but renewable technology has become proven. Then they said renewable technology was not reliable, yet it has become very reliable. Then they said renewables could not be done on a large utility scale, and now the large wind farms have proven that wrong. Then they said there were not enough renewables to meet our energy needs, but studies show that there are ample sun, wind and water resources to meet our energy needs many times over, even without energy conservation, which itself will dramatically moderate our growing energy demands.

And now the naysayers have come up with a new reason: renewable can't meet our energy needs because "renewables cannot provide baseload power."

"Baseload" is a term that utilities use to describe their large centralized power plants, usually fueled with coal or nuclear fuel. Traditionally, these plants have been the lowest cost to operate, so they are used first, and usually run for long periods, making up the "base" of utilities' generation and handling the typical "load," with more expensive generators being used to meet the rest of demand on those days when it is higher than usual.

But this traditional way of operating a utility system is about to be turned upside down. Environmental and human health costs will likely make these "baseload" plants more expensive than other options, and as their costs are rising, the costs of renewable resources are coming down.

As we plan for the future, we must overcome the myth that the electric utility system cannot be operated without these "baseload" plants because renewable resources are too variable since the wind does not blow all the time and the sun does not shine at night.

While it is true that some renewable resources have different operating characteristics than current utility plants, some of those differences are positive, while others will require different operating procedures. The problem is not the variability or reliability of the renewable resources, but rather the desire by utilities to not change the way they operate their systems.

To understand this, we must first understand how an electric utility operates its system. Because such large volumes of Alternating Current (AC) electricity are being consumed all the time, it is very difficult and expensive to store this power in the volumes necessary to meet customer demand. So, instead, a utility performs a constant balancing act of making or purchasing just the correct amount of power at any moment to meet customer demand and correct for line losses. If the utility makes too much or too little for an extended period, the system voltage will rise or fall to the point that protective relays in the electric system will open up and the result will be a blackout.

Maintaining this exact balance between supply and demand, constantly 24/7, is the job of the dispatchers. They deal with customers adding or dropping loads, as well as generators coming on and off line. Customer load, which must be matched with generation, varies according to time of day (less power is used at night), time of year (more power is used in the summer and winter for heating and cooling) and by weather (very hot and cold periods require more power). Dispatchers do not look at the use of individual customers (except for very large industrial customers), but instead can fairly accurately predict how much power will be needed in the aggregate, hours or days ahead, using the season, time of day and forecast weather and temperatures.

The concept of "baseload" comes from the method that planners and dispatchers have used in the past to meet demand. Since a certain minimum amount of power will be needed no matter the time of day or year, dispatchers have used their lowest cost large units to meet this "base" demand, then added more expensive-to-operate generators to meet the additional demand during peak times of the day. But this is simply the way that the system has been operated in the past, not a requirement. The only real requirement is that the correct amount of power be provided as that power is demanded and needed by customers.

While these large centralized plants have in the past been used by dispatchers to meet around-the-clock demand, they also have their own set of problems for system operators. Their huge size causes major difficulties if they have a problem and a 500 megawatt plant suddenly trips off line. Dispatchers must scramble using a mix of spinning reserve, quick starting peaking units and borrowed power from neighboring utilities to quickly make up this deficit. To protect against the possibility of big generators tripping off-line, utilities have had to invest a lot of money in extra generating capacity, called a reserve margin (in the range of 20 percent more than their projected highest peak load), spinning reserve (capacity running, but not loaded, for quick emergencies) and interconnections with other utilities. All of these are parts of the ratepayer cost of using large "baseload" plants.

It is also difficult to replace one large unit for another. If a large coal generator trips off line with mechanical problems, getting a replacement unit on line can take a while. It can take 24 hours to start-up, synchronize and load a large coal-fired unit from a cold start. Even from a warm start, the process can still take 6 hours, so large coal units are not started and stopped as load varies. Instead, the units can be backed-down during lower use periods, and operated in a lower output mode, which is also less efficient.

Nuclear power plants add even more operational difficulties. For the most part, these units cannot safely be backed-down during low demand periods, so coal units also on the system must be backed-down even further making them even less efficient. This can cause some real operational problems during minimal demand periods (like spring and fall with no heating or cooling load, late at nights, on a weekend when industry is shutdown). If the nuclear plants can't be backed-down, and the coal units are backed down as far as they can go, the electric system can be threatened by too much power.

One way to deal with the problem of nuclear power plants' inability to safely reduce output during low use times was the development of pumped-storage hydro. In these plants, power is used during off- peak times when there is more power than needed, to pump water uphill to a storage reservoir, then the water is later run back downhill during peak times to generate electricity. While these plants are expensive, they have offered assistance in dealing with large fixed output nuclear plants. There are over 23,000 megawatts of pumped-storage hydro capacity in the U.S. today, located mainly where utilities are also using nuclear power. So utilities have developed expensive but effective ways to deal with the problems inherent in the use of large centralized coal and nuclear plants, and the ratepayers have paid these costs.

Renewable energy plants have their own set of issues that must be dealt with by system planners and dispatchers. Renewable plants tend to be much smaller, so the loss of an individual plant or even a group of plants does not cause the problems of a large centralized plant. Also, most renewable plants can be started and synchronized to the grid very quickly, unlike the large fossil and nuclear plants. So the challenges for planners and dispatchers associated with "baseload" generators generally do not occur with renewable generators. Instead, the major problem with renewables is the variable nature of the power. While no current fossil-fuel or nuclear power plant is available to the dispatcher all the time due to forced outages (something breaking) and planned outages (scheduled downtime for maintenance), renewable plants face longer outage periods due to a lack of fuel (sun, wind or water). Yet these periods are different from the unexpected forced outages that the large coal and nuclear plants experience. Just like expected customer loads can be predicted hours or days ahead by dispatchers using weather forecasts, sun, wind and water produced electric output can be predicted in the exact same way with weather forecasts. Also, geographic diversity of a lot of small renewable generators, like wind turbines, means that all the units taken as a whole have a much higher capacity factor than any individual unit alone.

The other complaint from utilities about wind and solar power is that they are not "dispatchable," meaning utility dispatchers cannot turn these units on or off like they can large centralized power plants. Yet because there is no fuel cost associated with renewable plants, using economic dispatch (which uses the plants with the lowest variable costs first), renewable plants would always be dispatched first, so that dispatchability is a non-issue. The real issue for dispatchers is knowing how much power will be produced by renewable plants in aggregate at any time in the near future and integrating this into their calculations of the amount of additional generation that will be needed. Like customer load that can be predicted using weather forecasts and other factors, renewable generation can also be predicted. So in a sense, this renewable generation will act as negative load, or a reduction in the amount of other load demand that the utility must supply at any given time. Today, future load (say the next day) is predicted by dispatchers, and then they determine which generating plants will need to be on line to meet that predicted load. In the future, the procedure will be the same, except the negative load from renewable generators will be subtracted from the positive customer load, and dispatchers will then need to have the generating assets available to meet the net load.

The question then becomes, with a large penetration of renewable generators, can the electric system be operated without the significant "baseload" units utilities rely upon today? The answer is absolutely yes. While utilities have characterized certain parts of the load they serve as "baseload," and have used large and inefficient centralized plants to meet this part of the load, the reality is that each hour of each day there is a certain amount of load that must be met with power generation, and that load can be met with any type of generation the dispatcher chooses. Today, utilities use large centralized coal and nuclear plants to meet a portion of the load, and then use more expensive gas fired generation to meet the balance. The gas fired generation is also used as a quick start substitute when one of these large plants fail and drops off line.

When renewables become a substantial part of the resource mix, these gas-fired units that now back-up the large "baseload" plants can be used to fill in holes when the mix of renewables is not sufficient to meet predicted load demand. Now that natural gas prices have been coming down as new resources have reached the market, and coal-fired generation is becoming more expensive as pollution controls are needed, many utilities are opting to rely more heavily on gas-fired generation, which should further help with the dispatch of utility systems with large penetrations of renewable generators.

There are also some types of dispatchable renewable plants, such as peaking hydro plants, which can be brought on-line in minutes (not hours), and biomass plants which can be ramped up and down like a large centralized plant. In addition, the pumped-storage hydro plants that have been built to deal with the fixed capacity nature of nuclear plants, can also be used to provide additional backup for renewable generation. And there are solar thermal generating plants being built that will have the capacity to store significant heat for use when the sun isn't shining.

Clearly the customer load can be met, hour by hour, primarily with renewables, without today's 'baseload" plants; in fact these plants may get in the way of renewables providing substantial amounts of the needed power in a given hour.

The problem here is not the nature of renewable resources or any technical hurdle, but rather it is getting utility planners and dispatchers to think outside the "baseload" mindset that they have been stuck in for so many years. Instead of thinking horizontally — adding strips of large "baseload" capacity to run for days or weeks or even months then filling in the gaps, instead the dispatcher needs to look vertically ahead — what will be my load minus my negative load from renewables and then how do I fill any gaps.

The need for large, centralized baseload capacity is not some requirement of the electric power system, but rather a desire to continue to do things as utilities have done in the past, the way they know. What is needed is not additional baseload capacity, but simply the willingness of utilities to look at meeting customer load with different resources, and the development of forecasting tools and dispatch methodologies that easily and reliably integrate clean power sources into their systems.

As the internalizing of the health and environmental costs of the "baseload" plants makes their power more and more expensive, and as it becomes ever more increasing difficult to get these dirty plants to operate under cleaner and cleaner requirements (especially in a carbon-constrained world), utility planners and dispatchers will be forced to think differently as theD switch to clean renewable generators happens, whether they like it or not.

David Brown Kinloch, a Louisville engineer, can be reached at

Jul 22, 2011

Solar Panels and Wind Turbine Installed at Kentucky's Capitol

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Jul 22, 2011 12:35 PM

Solar Capitol Install

A solar panel array, solar hot water collectors and a wind turbine were recently installed on the roof of the education center located on the grounds of the Kentucky state capitol in Frankfort. The building is highly energy efficient as well. The renewable energy systems are visible from the Governor’s office. The solar panels are expected to produce more than 8,000-kilowatt hours of sustainable electricity each year. Solar Energy Solutions, a Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance member, completed the solar installations.

Jul 13, 2011

Putting Damaged Land to Good Use

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Jul 13, 2011 01:25 PM

By Dan Hofmann

Dan Hofmann is President of RegenEn Solar LLC, a solar panel installation company located in Louisville, KY that is a member of the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance. This blog post was originally published at

Dan Hofmann  I was reading an article recently about mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining and got to thinking....

How many square miles have been cleared in Kentucky for MTR?

And, if we covered all that space with photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, how much electricity in kilowatt-hours (kWh) would be produced?

Would it be enough to match the electricity consumed in Kentucky each year?

What about MTR in the U.S.?

If we covered all the square miles that have been cleared for MTR in the U.S. with PV solar panels, what percentage of the national annual kWh consumption could be provided?

I decided to crunch the numbers and what I discovered was quite intriguing...

According to the Appalachian Voices website [1] (a non-profit committed to protecting the land, air and water of the central and southern Appalachian region), 574,000 acres (897 square miles) of land in Kentucky has been surface mined for coal and more than 293 mountains have been severely impacted or destroyed by MTR coal mining.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy website [2], the total electricity consumption in Kentucky (residential, commercial, and industrial) in 2005 was 89,351,000,000 kWh.

The following projection is based on experience from PV solar installations already in place here in Kentucky and from the fact that we get four and a half hours of sunlight per day on average, accounting for clouds. To produce that much electricity in one year from PV solar panels in this region, around 190 square miles of land would need to be covered by a 69.1 GW (gigawatt) solar array. And, 897 square miles of land has been has been flattened by MTR. Therefore, if we merely put PV solar panels on 1/5th of our already cleared land, we would supply ALL of the electricity needs for the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky!

If we covered the entire 897 square miles of cleared MTR space in Kentucky, we could supply nearly 10% of the electricity needs of the entire U.S.! 

If we covered the entire 897 square miles of cleared MTR space in Kentucky, we could supply nearly 10% of the electricity needs of the entire U.S.!

Additionally, according to Appalachian Voices website [1], a total of 1,160,000 acres (1,813 square miles) of land has been surface mined for coal in the central and southern Appalachian region.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency website [3], the United States consumed a total of 3.873 trillion kWh of electricity in 2008.

Solar panelsTo produce that much electricity in one year from PV solar panels in this region, 8,225 square miles of land would need to be covered. Accordingly, roughly 22% of the electricity consumed in America could be provided by PV solar panels if the 1,813 square miles of land cleared by MTR in Appalachia were covered.

At this point, you're probably asking yourself: that's great, but how much would it cost? And, what about energy storage so we can use that electricity at night?

I'll admit that projecting the costs for a solar array of this size if pure conjecture, but I'll do my best.

Currently, large scale, megawatt PV solar panel arrays cost around $3 per watt to install without tax subsidies. A GW scale solar array might be closer to $2 per watt installed. Using this metric, it would cost about $138 billion to install the 69.1 GW solar array required to produce 100% of the electricity consumed in Kentucky per year. If the solar panels have the industry standard 25-year warranty, the cost of electricity comes to 6.2 cents per kWh. That's cheaper than what consumers in Kentucky pay for electricity right now (e.g. LG&E residential customers pay 7.9 cents/kWh).

There are many options available now for grid level energy storage, including, but not limited to: pumped hydro, compressed air energy storage (CAES), sodium-sulfur batteries, lead acid batteries, nickel-cadmium batteries, flywheels, and lithium ion batteries.

Empty, abandoned coal mines in Germany are being looked at for pumped hydro energy storage for renewable energy systems [5]. Something I would assume we have plenty of in Kentucky.

Adding energy storage could cost around $1 per watt to the solar array [6]. This would increase the cost of the array for Kentucky to $207 billion with an electricity cost of around 9.3 cents per kWh. That price per kWh is a little above what LG&E customers are paying right now, but will soon be on par with current rates as LG&E recently requested the Kentucky Public Service Commission to allow rates to increase by 19 percent over the next five years.

Again, the cost projection is all conjecture and does not include grid transmission and maintenance. But it's a start.

This sounds like a lot of money until you consider that, according to a study by the Environmental Law Institute [4], the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. received $72 billion in subsidies from 2002 to 2008. Imagine using that money to fund a GW solar project in Kentucky!

Here's some proof that solar does work here, some public viewing of our solar installation's real-time and historical electricity production:

Highlands, Louisville, KY:

Radcliff, KY

Frankfort, KY


Jul 12, 2011

SACE: Cheers for Duke Energy and Progress Energy

by Kristin Tracz — last modified Jul 12, 2011 01:47 PM
Filed Under:

This blog originally posted on the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's Footprints on the Path to Clean Energy blog on 7/11.

Cheers for Duke Energy and Progress Energy

People in the Southeast do want energy efficiency! We had no doubts, but it is great to see strong participation in the first full year of new efficiency programs offered by Progress Energy Carolinas (PEC) and Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC). Our analysis shows that  both utilities achieved greater savings and spent less per kWh than they had anticipated. We were particularly pleased to see that both utilities achieved a “cost of saved energy” similar to some national leaders and lower than their Southeastern peers (Table 1).



All Carolinas energy customers are benefiting from low cost energy savings. After the first full year of data, it looks like Duke Energy is outperforming Progress Energy in terms of total savings, and as a percentage of retail sales (Table 2).

What made the difference for Duke Energy? The lower costs and higher savings are driven by large CFL programs, both in terms of number of bulbs installed and savings per bulb. While these programs are very successful and low-cost, the federal lighting standard that goes into effect in 2012 will reduce the amount of savings the utility can claim from a CFL bulb because the utility only gets credit for helping customers go “beyond standards.”

Both utilities are achieving greater savings and lower costs than their peers across the Southeast. This is no surprise to us - just like most business opportunities, energy efficiency programs operate best at an economy of scale.

The results come with some caveats. These are preliminary data: Some of the savings claimed by the utility are still subject to a “true-up”, or measurement and verification analysis. Another caveat is that many Carolinas utility customers are served by other utilities, whose data we haven’t obtained or analyzed yet. So in another year or so, we should have an even better picture of what utilities and their customers have been achieving, and at what cost.

What do these savings mean for customers? An easy way for customers to understand the cost-effectiveness of energy efficiency is to compare it to electricity rates. The “cost of saved energy” is like the cost to build a power plant, a power plant that operates for free for years afterwards. Assume that the “energy efficiency power plant” lasts ten years (a common result): if the cost of saved energy is $0.20, then the average cost of energy efficiency is just 2 cents per kWh. That’s cheaper than even the low, low rates that industrial customers pay (around 5 cents per kWh). It’s cheaper to pay for energy savings than to burn fuel in power plants!


Table 1. Comparison of Utility Cost of Saved Energy

Duke opens up with a strong residential lighting program

Duke Energy’s Residential Smart Saver program, which achieved the majority of its savings from residential CFLs, used low and no cost coupons to create an incentive for their customers to purchase and install energy efficient CFLs. They used targeted marketing and had a customer specific code on each coupon so they were aware of who was redeeming the coupons, and who wasn’t. Based on independent measurement and verification, for every 100 free bulbs that Duke Energy gave away, the program received credit for 107 bulbs due to customers purchasing additional CFLs when cashing in their CFL coupon.

Progress delivering energy savings to its business customers

Progress Energy’s commercial business program was successful as well. The program offered commercial, industrial, government and educational customers standard or prescriptive rebates for installing energy efficiency measures. The standard rebate is a set amount, for example, a $6-8 incentive for replacing a T12 light fixture with a T8 florescent light fixture. The custom rebate is for technologies that Progress Energy hasn’t included in its standard program thus far, and allows customers some flexibility in customizing the energy efficiency solution they need for their business.


Table 2. Progress Energy & Duke Energy efficiency savings as a percentage of retail sales

Ideas for improvements

While both of these programs were successful, and we hope will continue to be, there are a few improvements to Duke Energy and Progress Energy’s energy efficiency portfolio that could be made.

Elks Timberline Cool Roof Shingles dont look different from normal shingles, but they cut down on cooling costs.

Elk's Timberline Cool Roof Shingles don't look different from "normal" shingles, but will cut air conditioning costs.

First, neither utility offers a small business efficiency program. Several utilities have shown great results by designing specific programs that cater to small business. They may offer turnkey or similar implementation of energy efficiency technology.

Second, neither utility offers a complete design-to-commission new construction energy efficiency program for their commercial customers. It is critical to encourage contractors to install energy efficiency during the construction process because many of the measures, particularly with the building envelope, are no longer available cost-effectively after the construction is finished. Then when the building is complete, it is necessary to complete a proper “commissioning” to make sure the building systems are operating to design specs. Many buildings last for longer than 50 years, so it is very important the utilities try and capture these time sensitive savings.

Finally, we recommend that the utilities look at their implementation models. For example, neither of the utilities are offering upstream incentives. This is a program where the utility offers an incentive to the manufacturer, or retail store (“upstream” in the value chain from the customer) to produce or sell energy efficient measures. Often the goal of this type of program is to give the customer the option of purchasing an energy efficiency widget for the same price as the standard widget. One technology that we think would be well suited for an “upstream incentive” program are residential reflective roof shingles.


Program Ideas Description Examples
Small business efficiency program Small businesses often have not implemented energy efficiency measures because of time, cost and other market barriers. While Duke and Progress make program offers available to small businesses, best practice utility programs target small businesses with market niche specific solutions. Arizona Public ServiceSmall Business Program
Xcel Energy Minnesota –  One-Stop Efficiency Shop
Xcel Energy Colorado – Small Business Lighting


Commercial new construction New construction is an important time to install energy efficiency measures because many savings opportunities exist with low incremental costs that are not cost-effective as a retrofit. Progress Energy Carolinas offers incentives for energy efficient new construction, but not a complete design-to-commission program. Progress Energy CarolinasEE for Business
Interstate Power & LightCommercial New Construction
MidAmerican EnergyCommercial New Construction


Residential reflective roofs “upstream” incentives High quality, reasonably priced residential “cool roof” products have been available for many years. Studies suggest residential customers have a low response rate to rebate offers for cool roof shingles. Utilities have demonstrated that response rates to so-called “upstream” (distribution channel) incentives can be higher for measures that require a trusted installer. CaliforniaUpstream HVAC incentive program operated by Energy Solutions
Xcel Energy Colorado Upstream CFL program


- Natalie Mims co-authored this blog.

Jul 05, 2011

Upcoming Solar Photovoltaic Trainings in Frankfort, Kentucky

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Jul 05, 2011 12:22 PM

The Kentucky Solar Partnership and Appalachia – Science in the Public Interest, with the support of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), the Franklin County Cooperative Extension Service, and Kentucky State University, present a series of introductory and advanced training classes on solar photovoltaic system design and installation practices.
Full workshop descriptions and registration information can be found at Financial support covering up to 100% of registration fees plus expenses is available to residents of eastern Kentucky, thanks to the support from MACED.
Introduction to Solar Photovoltaics
August 16 – 17, 2011             
8:30 am – 5:00 pm            
Fee:   $275
Instructor: Chris LaForge, ISPQ Certified PV Instructor
      NABCEP Certified PV Installer
Location: Franklin County Cooperative Extension Office
101 Lakeview Court, Frankfort, KY 40601
Solar Site Assessments and PV System Design       
August 18, 2011
8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Fee:   $140
Instructor: Chris LaForge, ISPQ Certified PV Instructor
      NABCEP Certified PV Installer
Prerequisite: Introduction to Photovoltaics or equivalent prior training or experience
Location: Franklin County Cooperative Extension Office
101 Lakeview Court, Frankfort, KY 40601
Solar Photovoltaics & the National Electric Code
August 19, 2011
8:30 am – 5:00 pm            
Fee:   $140
Instructor: Chris LaForge, ISPQ Certified PV Instructor
      NABCEP Certified PV Installer
Prerequisite: Introduction to Solar Photovoltaics or equivalent prior training or experience
(Code officials require no prerequisites)
For Installers, Code Officials, Inspectors, and Building Professionals
Location: Franklin County Cooperative Extension Office
101 Lakeview Court, Frankfort, KY 40601
Advanced Solar Photovoltaics Hands-On Installation Training
October 24 – 28, 2011               
8:30am – 5:00 pm each day          
Fee:   $825
Instructor: Chris LaForge, ISPQ Certified PV Instructor
      NABCEP Certified PV Installer
Prerequisites: Introduction to Solar Photovoltaics or equivalent prior training or experience.
During this workshop an off-grid solar PV system will be installed on an environmental education trailer used by Kentucky State University’s Land Grant Program to educate school children throughout Kentucky. Under the guidance of Chris LaForge, participants will begin with the design of the system and work through the process of sizing the PV array, battery bank, and other components based on the client’s needs and project constraints. Participants will then install the full system, including the PV array, batteries, charge controller, and all balance of system equipment. The instructor will provide guidance and instruction throughout the week during all steps of the process.

Attendance is limited to 12 people. Register early to reserve your place.  To Register: The Registration Form is available at or by calling 1-888-576-6527.

Location: Kentucky State University, Center for Sustainability of Farms and Families, 1525 Mills Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601

Financial Support is available to residents of Eastern Kentucky based on need and can cover up to 100% of registration fees plus travel expenses (lodging, mileage, and meals).

To learn more, download the Workshop Financial Support Application here or contact the Kentucky Solar Partnership at 502-227-4562 or

NABCEP Training Hours: Participants will earn training hours to use towards the eligibility requirements for the NABCEP Solar PV Installer certification exam. Each workshop provides 7 training hours of instruction per day.
CEU’s available for Kentucky licensed Master Electricians and Electrical Electricians for Introduction to Solar PV; Solar Site Assessments and PV System Design; and Solar PV and the National Electric Code.
For more information visit

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Millard Area Technology Center in Pikeville, Kentucky has begun training energy auditors who will work to increase area homes’ energy efficiency. Millard’s 40-hour certification track equips students with the ability to perform blower-door tests, carbon monoxide checks and furnace inspections on homes, amongst other things.


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