Save Money While Cutting Greenhouse Gases

Owned Solar

Should Your Business Own a Solar Installation on Premises?

What business doesn’t want to shrink its carbon footprint—the amount of carbon it conceivably emits into the air—and save money into the bargain? Switching from electricity produced by coal or natural gas, which is what you pay for from Central Hudson, to solar is quickly becoming easier, more affordable, and more mainstream with a growing array of options and incentives.

An easy way to go solar is to simply sign up with a community solar collective. It may well be good way to go. Here are two links to state resources for business:

If you’d rather be largely free of the grid with your own small solar field—or entirely free with  battery backup such as those made by Tesla—you’ll have two obvious mounting options to consider, ground and roof, with a few variations such as a detached roof that also functions as a carport or outdoor shelter. Ground-mounted panels are an excellent option if you have enough space. A feature roof panels can’t offer is tracking that keeps the panels perpendicular to sun for maximum exposure and intensity. 

If you have limited space on the ground, roof-top panels might work. The size, solar exposure, slope, and condition of the roof are all part of the equation.  But note that if the maximum array cannot produce all the power the business consumes, what can they provide and the savings in utility costs may still be worth the investment.

Another of the many benefits of going solar is the federal and local tax credits and incentives available. Some are quite generous, and more may be on the way under the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan. Follow the news or get in touch with Congressman Antonio Delgado’s office here in Congressional District 19. For a rundown of state programs: 

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is a great one-stop shopping resource about the solar industry today and the options and choices for businesses in the NY-SUN initiative.  Start here.

If you do not live in New York, we hope your state offers equivalent resources. If better than New York, let us know so we can catch up. If not as good as we have, ask your elected representatives why not. We all need to do a better job if we’re going to get to net zero in time.

Tesla’s Powerwall battery, available at this point only with an order of Tesla solar panels. Together they form a microgrid that’s net zero and as independent from the public utility system as you want to be.

Community Solar

It’s Green Energy Without the Equipment and It Can Save You Money

With the rise of large-scale renewable energy projects in the Northeast has come a new option for businesses: Buying clean energy from a solar field, through intermediaries.  You have probably received flyers in the mail from companies like Nexamp, Arcadia, or Clean Choice, and been intrigued by promises of savings or rebates on your electric bill. Does it make sense? Where to begin?

First, once you sign up, know that community solar is just like staying with Central Hudson. It owns the infrastructure, the wires and poles and transformers, after all. If the power stops, Central Hudson crews respond. If you want a charger station for electric vehicles—for your employees or customers—Central Hudson will get involved. What changes is the upstream source of electricity. Instead of accepting Central Hudson’s choice of power, which is likely to be a fossil-fuel plant, you’re telling Central Hudson to send you power from a renewable source that you specify.

There are two types of renewable energy providers: community solar companies and energy services companies or ESCOs. The main difference is that community solar is always linked to a specific project that a customer is assigned to or owns a share of panels in; an ESCO brokers credits and purchase agreements across a much larger scale. Community solar assigns customers to a power generator, usually a solar field; it also guarantees savings, which ESCOs typically do not.

This  New York State link compares different ESCOs: Power to Choose. Please note the Consumer Advisory Notice when the page opens. 

With Community Solar programs, customers help support local renewable energy jobs and development, connecting you directly to a named clean-energy project in your area. Typically, you can save 5 to 10 percent off of your annual electricity costs. Unlike rooftop solar, you don’t need to own your property to hire the service, just an electric bill. Many community solar programs have no subscription fee and are easy drop. Plus, you don’t need to install or maintain any equipment.

For another neutral source of information, try Solar Sage: Benefits of Community Solar. At this link you can put in your zip code and see what Community Solar sources are in your area.

To get a thorough understanding of what Community Solar is, and just as importantly, what it isn’t:  Community Solar: What is it?

One of several new community solar arrays in the area, this is Nexamp’s 2,605 kW 9D in Wappingers.

LED Lighting

Cut Your Business Electric Bill and Do the Environment a Permanent Favor

A quick, simple way to reduce the carbon footprint of your business and save money on your electric bill is to replace incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. LED (light emitting diode) bulbs used to be too expensive in quantity, especially without incentives or rebates from the electric utility. CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs were introduced instead. CFL bulbs are more efficient than incandescent and less expensive than LEDs, but now have too many drawbacks to be a rational choice over LEDs, use of mercury being a big one, and are being phased out.

Fortunately, LEDs have become a good option. Their price has dropped due to lower manufacturing costs and government subsidies and are now competitively priced with CFLs. Here’s why you should not hesitate to use them. Incandescent bulbs waste 90 percent of their energy as heat, using only 10 percent for light. Even CFLs emit about 80 percent as heat. LEDs emit very little heat and therefore require 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.  Because LEDs emit little heat and don’t have a filament that will fail, they last up to 25 times longer. If you’ll pardon the pun, LEDs are the light at the end of the tunnel for saving on your electric bill. 

The brightness of an incandescent bulb is indicated by wattage. The higher the watts, the brighter the bulb—and the more expensive your electric bill was. The problem is, watts measure electricity consumption, not brightness. That is measured in lumens or “lm.” A rough conversion: a 100-watt incandescent bulb puts out 1600 lumens, an LED bulb that puts out 1600 lumens is a 16 to 20 watt bulb. It adds up in a hurry if you’re replacing all the bulbs in a business.

But your business lighting will need to have the right color “temperature” whatever the interior environment: a retail space, offices, a factory or warehouse floor. Each of these uses has different needs and priorities. Here’s where a commercial lighting consultant might be the right move. Either way you’ll discover that LEDs address the CRI or color rendering index. Your local bulb source may only have cool white, but LEDs are available in the entire range of visible light. Warm light is often preferable for domestic situations. Cool white tends to be best for work areas and retail spaces. Many artists prefer cool white because it is closest to natural light. Another issue: If you want a dimmable light, buy one labelled as such. If you are replacing an incandescent bulb that has a dimmer switch, it may not dim an LED. Current dimmer switches are both incandescent and LED compatible. 

It is hoped that this shed some illumination on how to decrease your carbon footprint and electric bill, and increase your customer and worker satisfaction. Increasingly, no one wants to shop or work in place that contributes to global warming.

For more reading on the topic:

The range of indoor and outdoor LED light fixtures keeps increasing as the business world makes the transition from incandescent and CFL to lamps that never flicker, last for many years, draw much less energy, and often pay for themselves several times over.

Energy Advisors

Reduce Energy Costs With Free Professional Advice

Community Energy Advisors is a free, state-funded program to help you figure out how to save money on your electricity bill. Locally it is administered by the friendly, professional folks at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Dutchess County.

Here’s what they say they will do:

  • Enable you to make informed energy decisions
  • Inform you of financing options for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and products
  • Guide you through the process of implementing a clean energy project
  • Connect you with energy contractors who can implement clean energy projects

Start by having a free, one-on-one appointment with an Energy Advisor to discuss your options. This service is open to Dutchess County small businesses and organizations, especially those facing higher energy costs. The Advisor promises to help you:

  • Reduce your heating and electric bills
  • Take charge of your energy budget with an energy assessment
  • Access financing and programs that offer free or reduced-cost energy efficiency upgrades
  • Start generating clean, renewable energy that saves you money

The program asks you to complete a simple online form (available here) and a Community Energy Advisor will contact you.

Cornell Cooperative Extension administers this program in Dutchess County.

Solar Law

North East’s Solar Law Encourages Business Solar

In 2018, North East enacted a set of regulations for installing photovoltaic (solar) power-generating equipment in the Town. Placed within Local Law 3 of 2018, “A Law to Regulate Solar Energy Systems,” they are intended to encourage the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions in the area while making sure solar installations are sound, safe, and durable, and are assets to the community. This law is in response to section 263 of the states’ Town Law, which encourages “the accommodation of solar energy systems.” 

In addition, the Town has adopted the state’s Unified Solar Permit that streamlines the building and electrical permitting processes for solar installations. Find a copy here.

The new law points the Town firmly in the direction of renewable energy: “The use of solar energy equipment for the purpose of providing electricity and energy for heating and/or cooling is both a necessary and priority component of the Town of North East’s current and long term sustainability agenda. It is also part of North East’s commitment to be a ‘climate smart’ community.”

The law regulates building-mounted and ground-mounted systems, generally for residences and small businesses, and “solar farms”—commercial-scale systems on agriculture-zoned land that sell power through the utility grid, also known as “solar power plants.”

The Village of Millerton does not currently have a solar law.

Summary of North East Town Law #3 2018

Find a copy of the law here, and the Town Board resolution here. The following is a summary of the law, to save you time. It is no substitute for the law itself.

Work must be performed by a qualified solar installer, have a special Solar Energy Building Permit, and pass multiple in-use inspections for a year.

Building-mounted systems

  • Includes building integrated PV systems and solar carports
  • Solar panels on pitched roofs must be parallel with the roof angle with a gap of no more than eight inches
  • The installation must comply with fire emergency-responder rules

Free-standing or ground-mounted systems including carports for two motor vehicles or less

  • Minimum lot size of 1.0 acre 
  • Installation must not encroach on sensitive areas such as steep slopes, floodplains, prime agricultural land, wetlands, streams, or 100-year and 150-year floodplains, or violate any conservation or agricultural easement
  • May not be placed in a required front yard
  • Must be screened “to the extent practicable”
  • Lower than 12.0 feet in height
  • Power lines must be underground “to the maximum extent practicable”

Solar farms 

  • May be considered on sites between 10 and 30 acres
  • Must satisfy stipulations in subparagraphs (a) through (r), which are beyond the scope of this website to summarize
  • Must provide a performance bond or make other arrangements with the town

If you’re starting to think about a solar farm, a good place to start is Scenic Hudson’s How to Solar Now ToolKit, which includes maps that detail the suitability of acreage in Dutchess County and elsewhere in the state for solar installations.  Find it here.