The Big Payback - Page 3 of 4

The Big Payback

“We’re targeting major retailers and manufacturers that have demonstrated an interest in utilizing renewable energy but are hesitant about the up-front costs. They’re paying a little bit more for it initially, as electricity might be 12 cents a kilowatt hour and the client may pay 18 cents, but the client gets to claim the depreciation of the equipment on his taxes and reduce his carbon footprint.” Clients also get to lock in their electricity costs at a fixed rate.

Thanks to the increased attention given to renewable energy, and the tax incentives and grants set aside in the $16.8 billion allotted for renewable energy funds in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Holston says his company is getting more interest from a public that’s largely still unsure what renewable energy is and whether or not it’s a good investment. “Getting people to feel comfortable with solar energy is a big obstacle. People get hung up on kilowatts and kilowatt hours and how much they’re paying out to the utility now, but don’t yet see how they can benefit at the end or even midway through the service of this equipment,” he says.

Although Holston doesn’t have any black clients yet, black business owners have begun to approach him about photovoltaic systems. “In general the up-front costs, sluggish economy, and lack of knowledge about renewable energy are probably what hold back black business owners. But the word is getting out,” he says.

For Holston’s clients, proving a need for clean, renewable energy involves an in-depth evaluation of electricity usage that includes an analysis of a year’s worth of electricity bills, lighting, the hourly electricity usage of appliances as well as electrical wiring–”essentially your entire electrical infrastructure,” Holston says. “We don’t check the building envelope [the roof, exterior walls, and floor of a building] or water pipes. For that you need an energy auditor. But we do check everything electrical, which can help define the scale of the energy system you need and save you money in the process.”

A client’s energy usage history is integral to determining how much he or she can save with a solar energy system over a period of 30 years. The 30-year analysis is also key to showing clients how quickly the solar energy system pays for itself, and when they can expect a return on investment, he says. “I can show them the real raw data that proves that if they buy a four-kilowatt or a three-kilowatt system, it has a payback time of 15 years. Or I show them information about average power company increases and how that would impact them if they continue with the utility. Instead of paying an indefinite but increasing amount for power for the next 15 years, they can lock in their rate now and have 15 years of free electricity. Once they have saved enough money to equal the original cash outlay, all the electricity produced from that point on doesn’t cost them anything. They will have recouped their investment and the photovoltaic system is producing clean electricity, essentially for free.”