Build Native http://buildnative.com Leading Green Home Building and Residential/Commercial Solar Power Experts Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:08:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 CPS Energy Extends Solar Rebate Program http://buildnative.com/cps-energy-extends-solar-rebate-program/ http://buildnative.com/cps-energy-extends-solar-rebate-program/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 18:19:51 +0000 http://buildnative.com/?p=14316 Native is excited to have been involved closely with CPS Energy and the San Antonio Solar Alliance in helping to craft a sustainable solar rebate program that will help homeowners and CPS to realize their energy goals. While some news stories have reported a few details of this brand new program, CP...

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CPS ENERGY
Native is excited to have been involved closely with CPS Energy and the San Antonio Solar Alliance in helping to craft a sustainable solar rebate program that will help homeowners and CPS to realize their energy goals. While some news stories have reported a few details of this brand new program, CPS Energy’s website has not yet published information concerning the changes.

With the price reductions and the steady maturation of the solar industry over the last several years, solar energy has moved into the mainstream in the Texas market and is well on its way to becoming the default energy source for much of the new electricity generation. In response to overwhelming demand from its customer base, CPS Energy is offering multiple programs that support distributed solar development in their service territory. While it can be a bit confusing to navigate these options, the result is a solar portfolio with options that will appeal to the vast majority of CPS Energy’s ratepayers.

What solar programs does CPS Energy have and what are the differences between them?
CPS Energy solar options can be broken down into three separate initiatives.

Private Ownership: CPS Energy is providing a rebate to homeowners and businesses that want to buy and own their own solar systems which is the solar rebate program that was recently extended. It is applicable to homeowners that have roofs or property that are ideal for solar. Clients that own their solar system are able to maximize the value of their energy since all of the energy credits flow back to the home or business owner. The new rebate amount has dropped, but it will still offset about 25-35% of the upfront system cost. Combined with the recently extended 30% Federal Tax Credit, this makes for a combined solar incentive of 55-65%.

Roofless Solar or Community Solar: These are all different terms that describe a solar model consisting of a centralized solar project. Multiple homeowners buy small chunks of this array and receive some credit for energy produced by their portion of the array. This option has a longer payback than private ownership, but this is an excellent solar option for renters or homeowners that have shaded or otherwise unsuitable roofs for solar.

Solarhost or SolarhostSA or Solar Roof Lease: With this option, customers lease their roof to a third party that installs and maintains a solar system. Customers pay nothing down and in return receive a small bill credit. This program is targeted to traditionally underserved areas in CPS Energy territory. Under this program, the building owner does not own the solar equipment or energy that it produces.

Which program is right for you? Contact NATIVE or fill out the form below. Let’s talk about it and determine what makes sense for you!

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Green Energy Money http://buildnative.com/green-energy-money/ http://buildnative.com/green-energy-money/#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 17:37:54 +0000 http://buildnative.com/?p=14243 Green Energy Money (GEM) Financial Solutions to Value & Power a Sustainable Future When you are looking at building a custom high performance home the loan process is different than a typical mortgage loan. The appraiser needs to be able to quantify the value of the systems in a NATiVE home (rai...

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Green Energy

Green Energy Money (GEM)

Financial Solutions to Value & Power a Sustainable Future

When you are looking at building a custom high performance home the loan process is different than a typical mortgage loan. The appraiser needs to be able to quantify the value of the systems in a NATiVE home (rainwater, solar PV, etc.) and know how to properly value and apply a “green premium” that recognizes the value of high-performance systems on the appraisal. They also have to adhere to current appraisal and underwriting guidelines. We have found that engaging with a trusted lender early in the process, who is qualified to evaluate these homes and has competent, trained and certified appraisers on their team has proven to greatly benefit our clients. To clear the air, NATiVE has no financial benefit to the lender our customers choose to use. We’re suggesting that the lender needs to be a part of the Integrated Design team and involved early in the process to help you ensure that all of the planning and loan structuring of the home is financially viable and the quantified green appraisal facilitated by a qualified, certified appraiser is a major component to achieving the best loan terms and approval. The benefit is greater when working with a lender who is well versed and experienced in high-performance building as well as green lending!

How is GEM able to get funding and appraisals for green features on homes that other lenders overlook?
First of all, you have to realize that green homes are typically a high-quality asset; often these homes are saving as much energy as they are using. You have to be able to think outside the box and you must have a certain level of understanding and education to accomplish this; which takes time, experience and a willingness and commitment to go beyond conventional lending criteria. Many owners and industry professionals do not understand that this process cannot be quantified by cost, but is dictated by how much you save on energy reduction. The only way to accomplish this is to utilize third-party energy building science experts that verify and quantify (scientifically) how much energy the building will save annually. Through this process we can quantify value and send data to appraisers that they can verify to make their case for a premium green value.

How do you recognize value in solar, rainwater and high efficiency measures?
We require certified, competent, appraisers to facilitate our high-performance projects that are skilled in the art of green building and construction. This factor is overlooked by many lenders; often they try to compare apples to oranges. This is called a paired sales analysis. It’s not necessary, and often not possible, to find exact matches or comparable green properties in a neighborhood that have the same upgrades, i.e., solar, geothermal, rainwater, etc. The major differential here is how well the home is performing and how much energy they are saving compared to the properties that are similar to the subject property. Another important consideration is the comparison of custom homes vs. production built homes, that may be older and often high-energy consumption. This is often due to the lack of comparable sales for custom homes since they aren’t typically sold and recorded on the MLS (multiple listing service;) the owner has purchased the land and built a green home, but there is no records for these types of homes. Education is paramount in green lending and so many lenders and appraisers aren’t educated or competent and believe they are. This is simply because they truly don’t understand the principle of how these buildings are saving and generating energy; and how high-performance homes are a lower risk than conventional homes due to durability and lower operating expenses and deferred maintenance. Both appraisers and underwriters need to be able to have access to the right data and be able to interpret this information correctly.

What are some of the challenges we face in a market slow to recognize the value of solar, rainwater etc?
The good news is the consumer market and exceptional builders like Native are adapting quickly and demand is growing for high efficiency, net zero homes. Especially in the Austin region. We are finding more comparable properties in the MLS daily and proving every day that green building is cost efficient, and these homes sell faster and for a higher premium. This is making it easier for properties to appraise. The other news and the biggest challenge we face is educating lenders and appraisers and teaching them how to properly quantify and value these transactions. Green Energy Money (GEM) is rolling out a lender platform this year and already has an education program for appraisers in place.

GEM’s Lender Network’s rates are competitive.
All of the GEM Network lenders we work with offer competitive loan programs and we strive to place clients with the right lender and best rate available in the market. Sometimes we find the lowest rate isn’t the best fit for some borrowers if the lender can not approve the loan due to qualifying challenges. Our team and strategic alliances all strive to offer the best terms available. Saving people money is something we are passionate about; which is what high-performance building accomplishes.

GEM’s process is simple.
We have created a seamless process that simplifies the green appraisal valuation and loan structure process. We find that it’s helpful to be included in the very beginning of the process during design phase. Many times architects and owners want a certain type of building envelope, like earth berm, etc., which can be a challenge for appraisals. It’s useful to know how you are going to structure the loan and project in the first place. Often, we have to find solutions for design challenges or certain property tax exemptions which can be problematic.

Native gains nothing from GEM other than being able to have a smooth process to funding a project.
Native, like most builders, needs trusted partners to support their clients with end-to-end, market-based solutions. You need a team that has one main goal and vision that affords clients an outstanding experience and product. We go the extra mile because we love what we do and are passionate about making a difference. We believe high-performance building offers the best economic and environmental solutions for our clients and the planet. We are grateful and excited to be able to work with trusted builders like Native who consistently build an exceptional high-performance product!

Learn more about Teresa Lopez here

green energy money

green energy

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2016 Solar Trends and New Opportunities http://buildnative.com/2016-solar-trends-and-new-opportunities/ http://buildnative.com/2016-solar-trends-and-new-opportunities/#comments Thu, 21 Jan 2016 18:02:14 +0000 http://buildnative.com/?p=14211 An Amicus Collaborative Article With the close of 2015 and the unexpected extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit, US Solar companies can now look toward 2016 with a stable marketplace within which to operate. The US Solar economy continues to enjoy unprecedented growth, providing employment fo...

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2016 Solar Trends

An Amicus Collaborative Article

With the close of 2015 and the unexpected extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit, US Solar companies can now look toward 2016 with a stable marketplace within which to operate. The US Solar economy continues to enjoy unprecedented growth, providing employment for over 200,000 solar workers and achieving a total installed capacity of over 20 Gigawatts to date, enough to power more than 4.6 million average American homes.

So what more can we look forward to in the coming year? We asked Amicus members the following: What do you see as the major market opportunities for 2016? What new or innovative products or ideas may change your business or the industry?

David Dixon
NATiVE (Texas)

2016 Solar TrendsWe see 2016 as the year when considerations for integrated home battery storage solutions will impact the US market in a meaningful way. Since early last year when Elon Musk introduced the Tesla Powerwall battery storage system, we have received numerous requests by clients that want to integrate storage with solar. In some markets, like Hawaii, adding battery storage to a solar array is already justified due to the new interconnection restrictions imposed to avoid solar generators from putting energy on the grid.

Historically, there has not been a substantial financial benefit for solar generating residential clients to add storage in most Texas markets. We see that changing in the next few years, and because of this, Native is working now with Texas utilities and battery companies like Sonnen and Tesla to offer turnkey products and allow early adopters to add storage to their homes…now or in the future. One exciting aspect of these offerings is that they can be easily retrofitted with existing solar installations to provide backup power now for homeowners looking for security against a grid disruption. While back up power is a common application for storage, these products provide a lot more than just back up energy storage. They are a home energy management solution. These products can adapt and prioritize grid, solar, and battery power sources to minimize your electric bill. This is applicable now in markets that have time of use rate structures, and while these are still uncommon in Texas, utility rate structures will eventually change to reflect the realities of the new twenty first century grid.

Grace Robertson
Lightwave Solar (Tennesee)

2016 solar trends

LightWave Solar installed 211kW at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville, and all of the solar generation is used on-site.

Our region’s utility, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), caps solar system size for Green Power Providers participants to 50kW, and while these systems produce great economics for their owners (TVA buys 100% of solar kWh at GSA-1 retail rate), many businesses are not able to materially impact their electrical consumption with 50kW of solar.

For those businesses who would like to offset a larger amount of their electrical demand than TVA’s programs allow for, there is a solution. Larger users of power can install a larger solar array, and keep all the power it generates “behind-the-meter.” Doing so creates an avoided cost scenario (power produced = that much less power purchased), and will result in a fixed cost for all the solar generated for the next 25+ years.

Consumers have embraced the idea of making bulk purchases of products in order to obtain a lower cost per unit, and this is why retail clubs like Costco are so popular. On a larger scale, solar self-generation can do the same, and add the incremental value of locking in an electric rate for the next 25 years that is less than what the utility charges today. With reduced solar prices, this model looks better than ever.

Not all businesses are good candidates for solar self-generation, however, and there are a number of factors that go into making this determination. LightWave Solar reviews electrical usage and site information to help businesses decide if solar self-generation will work well for their facility. We look forward to building these larger solar arrays that make a bigger impact for our clients.

Gordon Woodstock
Taitem Engineering (New York)

2016 solar trends

Community Owned Array in Ithaca, NY

Following states like Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Vermont, the Public Service Commission of New York issued an order allowing Community Distributed Generation (CDG) projects in July 2015. Community DG allows anyone that cannot host their own solar project (or other approved generating technology) to benefit from renewable energy production through remote net metering. The host site where the system is located has a utility meter owned by the project sponsor, and project members “use” the energy produced based on an allocation percentage set by the sponsor.

If you have a residential property with too much shade, or are a commercial entity without a viable space for solar, you can now benefit from energy produced at a remote site as if it was produced at your location without any hindrances. A Community DG sponsor may have a wide open sunny field, or rooftop on which they can install an array that produces enough energy to share with others in their community. Thanks to the CDG program anyone in the same utility zone as the project may sign on as a member and use the energy produced by the hosted array to offset energy consumption on their personal, business, or municipal account(s).

This initiative will provide renewable energy to groups that were previously left out. Renters, homeowners with little tax appetite, and other tax exempt organizations will be able to purchase energy generated from CDG projects without owning the asset. New ownership models will develop as more and more community owned projects come on-line, and more and more project developers initiate projects. We are seeing a lot of interest and excitement as many people either want to host an array, or join on as a project member. This bodes well for consumers as they will have community solar options from which to choose, in addition to more traditional option of a self-hosted array.

The first CDG projects in New York were allowed to interconnect in October, 2015 as long as they were in a strategic utility zone or contained 20% Low-to-moderate income subscribers. The market opens to all system and areas in May 2016. This year should see rapid growth in community shared projects as systems large and small hit the switch and start producing energy for their Members.

Fred Greenhalgh
ReVision Energy (Maine)

2016 solar trends

With the 30% federal tax credit extended 5 years for solar energy, 2016 has been reshaped quite immensely -in a positive way. While I think we (and the industry in general) was eager and ready to ramp up for the expected increase in demand that would result from an expiration of the tax credit, we’re much happier to focus on long term sustainable growth. That growth, we should mention, is still pretty brisk! ReVision Energy is proud to report that 2015 was our strongest year ever, and our company nearly doubled in size, installing close to 6 megawatts of solar and hiring over 45 new full time staff members. We anticipate comparable growth this year as New Englanders increasingly choose solar and complementary technologies to reduce their energy expenses and carbon footprint.

As far as the future, we are keeping a keen eye on the rapidly evolving landscape of battery storage as we actually get our hands on products we’ve talked about for a while, such as the Tesla PowerWall and the Sonnenbatterie. We’re thrilled to be partnering with local electronics manufacturer Pika Energy for the introduction of the Pika Energy Island system, which offers our customers a Maine-made battery backup/micro-grid solution. We’re also really eager to help lead the development of electric vehicle infrastructure in the Northeast, and continue our strong business installing air source heat pumps to allow our solar customers to convert solar-powered electrons into BTUs!

While we prefer to focus on our core business of installing and servicing the best solar technology in the world, it seems like politics gets mingled with our business quite a lot and we’re keeping a close eye on developments both locally and nationally as utilities and state government wrestle with integrating solar onto the grid in increasingly greater numbers. We believe that a transition to a 100% renewable energy powered economy is both inevitable and desirable; however we don’t expect this transition to always be smooth as entrenched interests struggle to cope with competition and policy struggles to catch up with the rapid development of technology.

Katharine Rushton
Sunsense Solar (Colorado)

2016 solar trends

Sunsense employee working on an off grid battery bank

Here at Sunsense we are particularly focused on how new storage options will shape the industry. We have always had an “off-grid” department at Sunsense and have a high level of expertise in sizing storage for off grid homes and cabins. An interesting new trend lies in storage systems for residential grid tied homes as evidenced by the hype surrounding the Tesla Powerwall. Customers are interested in incorporating storage for various reasons. Some are interested in independence and disconnecting from the national energy grid, others want to use storage to manage the time of energy use from the grid so that they can purchase at lower rates and sell back at higher rates.

Here in Colorado, utility rate management strategies make most sense for commercial entities, as a way to avoid high kW demand charges, but with these larger loads a lot more energy storage is required and the economics of adding batteries is not yet financially feasible. However as utility rates continue to rise and the cost of battery storage systems decrease, this will become an attractive investment for savvy business owners looking to control their energy costs. And at the larger end of the scale, it seems inevitable that utility companies will start to incorporate storage into the grid to provide a range of benefits from balancing intermittent renewable energy resources – solar only produces energy during the day – reducing transmission and distribution costs and shifting power consumption away from costly peak-load periods.

All in all, solar plus storage is going to become more common and will bring new opportunity and added value to all solar markets from small residential to large scale utility applications.

Amicus is a purchasing cooperative that is jointly owned and democratically managed by our member companies.

 

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Leif Dove – NATiVE Employee Highlight http://buildnative.com/leif-dove-native-employee-highlight/ http://buildnative.com/leif-dove-native-employee-highlight/#comments Tue, 19 Jan 2016 00:53:15 +0000 http://buildnative.com/?p=14186 NATiVE Employee Highlight: Leif Dove “There is a commonly referenced constraints triangle in construction project management that shows time, cost, and quality on its outer corners. The often repeated phrase is to pick two because you can’t have all three. Leif Dove possesses the unique skills...

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NATiVE Employee Highlight: Leif Dove
leif dove

“I don’t build houses. I build homes” – Leif Dove

“There is a commonly referenced constraints triangle in construction project management that shows time, cost, and quality on its outer corners. The often repeated phrase is to pick two because you can’t have all three. Leif Dove possesses the unique skillset of being able to align these three constraints by keeping his projects right in the middle of the triangle. Leif’s ability to align his customers’ goals with those of NATiVE is what results in him having lasting friendships with his homeowners long after their homes are completed.”
- Lloyd Lee, NATiVE CEO

Leif, tell us a bit about yourself (hobbies, education, born, raised, etc.).
I was born in Austin, Texas at Seton Hospital to Major Life Dove and Linda Dove. My dad was an RF-4 navigator in the USAF, stationed at Bergstrom Air Force Base. We lived in the “country” in Westlake Hills with a lot of woods between neighbors and backed up to what’s now Wild Basin Preserve. My friends and I spent our youth doing things that would now get us or our parents arrested. We took apart fireworks and rebuilt them….stronger, faster, better. We spent all day in woods and wouldn’t return home until dark. We blazed trails through public and private property to ride our bicycles and later dirt bikes. We were friendly to everyone we encountered, and they just thought we were industrious kids. Times were different then, but I’ve never lost my love for blazing trails and being outdoors. I’m eternally grateful to my father and late-mother for the structured (military) and free-spirited upbringing. They gave us limits and let us explore within them. They often helped us expand and push those boundaries. I grew up thinking that absolutely anything was possible if I set my mind to it and got the education and experience to make it happen. My father retired from the Air Force while at Bergstrom, so I grew up “military,” but didn’t bounce around. We were stationed in England when I was 3 and 4, but returned to the same house in Westlake. I started kindergarten with a British accent, though no one would believe that now.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?
I’ve got to admit that the thing I love most about my job is running earth-moving equipment when I get the chance. I feel like a kid, but with superpowers. I love the right tool for the job and a skid loader or excavator sure beat a pick, shovel, and wheelbarrow. Besides that, I truly enjoy my relationships with our customers. To build them a home that they’ll make so many memories in is an honor that I take quite seriously. I try to get to know them and learn how they live, so I can build them a better home. I know that when I’m handed a job, the plans are drawn and specifications have been determined, but it’s my responsibility to the customer to offer advice and educate them along the way. Every Native home has never been built before and there’s room for creativity in our process. I take considerable pride in devising solutions, or doing something “extra” to please my homeowners. I also respect and admire the folks I work with at Native. Everyone knows their role and executes them with passion. I’ve made some incredible friendships and learned so much from my Native coworkers. Additionally, I have a huge amount of respect for the (often) small business owners who are our trade partners. I’ve often said that I’m not a framer, electrician, plumber, painter, or interior designer. Those professionals are really what bring the high quality to our projects. I’m constantly amazed at the ingenuity, creativity, and pure skill that they have. I pride myself on showing them the respect they deserve and consequently, it pays dividends on my relationship with them and the quality of work they put into our homes.

What advice do you have for people who would like to build a home?
I’d advise someone wanting to build a home to spend the majority of their time thinking about how they’ll live in the home and then clearly communicate that to their trusted design and construction team. I’m more of a “function” guy than form, but I can truly appreciate the beauty and aesthetics that exist in our projects. My priority is that things WORK and look good doing it. Thankfully, design and selections decisions happen before I’m involved in the process. If I was the architect and interior designer, all our homes might be highly functional grey boxes. I do take great pride in building a thing of beauty. The “creativity” in my job equates to creating something that never existed before and will endure. Knowing that a family will spend holidays in what I created is heartwarming. I don’t build houses – I build homes. It’s a real treat to visit a project after the homeowners have moved in and lived in it and with it for a while. Seeing how they decorate and the personal touches they add is awesome.

What is a challenge you’ve faced in life? How did you overcome it?
Two months after marrying the love of my life, Penny, I almost widowed her when I avoided a head-on collision, only to roll the truck over onto its cab and cause me major internal damage. After a brief helicopter ride to Brackenridge Hospital, the skilled trauma surgeons removed my spleen and put me back together. I wouldn’t say that I was completely different before that, but the realization that it was a near-death experience certainly focused my heart on the important things in life. That event has galvanized my resolve to live decent life so that those that know me can be proud of our relationship.

How do you spend your free time?
I spend my free time with my incredible wife, Penny, and our two daughters, Natalie and Shelby. It is so much fun to be the only guy in the house. There’s plenty of girly things going on, but we all play in the dirt and keep busy on our small ranch, raising goats for milk and chickens for eggs. We play as much as we can in our creek (when it’s flowing) and bounce on the trampoline or ride our bikes. Our kids are the center of our universe and they bring us so much joy on a daily basis. We laugh way more than we fuss or cry, but there’s times for those things as well. The most awesome responsibilities I have are being a loving husband and father. I don’t care about being defined any other way.

What is your favorite place on earth?
My favorite place on earth is anywhere in nature with friends and family. I count those times as treasures and try to create them any chance I get.

Who is your hero?
My dad is one of my biggest heroes. He left high school early to enlist in the Air Force and pursue an opportunity to better himself. In the long run, he bettered our entire family. He completed his high school course work and stood out to his superiors. He was chosen to attend Officers Candidacy School and fly. Throughout his flying career, he attended college all over the globe, wherever he was stationed. I was honored to attend his college graduation after he retired. He then got Master’s degree and completed a second noble career with the Texas Department of Public Safety. It’s beyond an honor to call him my dad. He spent his entire life serving our country, state, and his family and friends. I greatly enjoy our time now that he gets to spend with his granddaughters and us. He’s such a great example to me of a loving father and husband. We are blessed to have him in our lives. He was so “handy” as I was growing up. We fixed everything ourselves and that’s where I got some of my skills. I definitely got my sense of service and care for others from my parents.

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Green Builder – Home of the Year Awards Winner http://buildnative.com/green-builder-home-of-the-year-awards/ http://buildnative.com/green-builder-home-of-the-year-awards/#comments Mon, 18 Jan 2016 18:28:28 +0000 http://buildnative.com/?p=14137 Green Builder: Best Resilient Design Native was honored as one of nine finalists in Green Builder Magazine 2015 Home of the Year Awards. Our Rainwater Ranch project won the BEST Resilient Design award. We’re so very proud of our entire team for building with the highest of standards, quality and pro...

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Best Green Builderbest green builder

Green Builder: Best Resilient Design

Native was honored as one of nine finalists in Green Builder Magazine 2015 Home of the Year Awards. Our Rainwater Ranch project won the BEST Resilient Design award. We’re so very proud of our entire team for building with the highest of standards, quality and professionalism. We’re also very thankful for our talented partner on this project Stephen Colley (architect), and amazing customers who trusted in us to build their dream home.

“This project goes above and beyond energy efficiency and includes components of self-sufficiency: solar PV with battery backup and rainwater collection for domestic and livestock uses, as well as an area for planting and cultivating food.” - Home of the Year Award Judges

Visit Green Builder Magazine to see all the 2015 winners and download the entire digital magazine.

Click the image below to read the Green Builder Magazine Article: Resilient Ranch
Green Builder

We would also like to take the time to recognize a key factor for this award-winning green home build: Leif Dove, NATiVE project manager. Click here to learn more about Leif.

Interview with Rainwater Ranch Architect

 

Interview with Rainwater Ranch Homeowners

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Tecolote Farm Goes Solar http://buildnative.com/tecolote-farm-goes-solar/ http://buildnative.com/tecolote-farm-goes-solar/#comments Wed, 13 Jan 2016 23:50:44 +0000 http://buildnative.com/?p=14101 Only a few miles down the road from the 30MW Webberville Solar Farm that energizes Austin, there is another groundbreaking solar farm, and this one produces clean energy as well as delicious organic vegetables. Located just thirteen miles east of downtown Austin, Tecolote Farm, long known as an orga...

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Tecolote Farm Goes Solar
Only a few miles down the road from the 30MW Webberville Solar Farm that energizes Austin, there is another groundbreaking solar farm, and this one produces clean energy as well as delicious organic vegetables. Located just thirteen miles east of downtown Austin, Tecolote Farm, long known as an organic produce pioneer, is now a solar powered business as well.

Out of the front door of their adorable historic home under a giant oak tree Katie and David Pitre emerged. They are the owners of the dream and Tecolote Farm. They are a vibrant, healthy couple dressed in rubber farm boots and jeans. They started working the dirt on their farm 22 years ago and started feeding Austin with certified organic vegetables through their CSA and restaurants. An icon in Central Texas, Tecolote is the longest operating organic CSA in Texas. Local food wasn’t even a movement back when they started farming, and sustainability wasn’t yet a buzzword.

The farm already harvests rainwater to wash vegetables and supply the farm with water. Taking sustainability a step further, last month they became the first CSA in Central Texas to be 100% powered by solar energy. Their solar array spans the entire reach of their barn, supplying all of the power needed for their three walk in coolers. “Our produce is never more than 24 hours old and I use a three-stage cooling system to chill our vegetables to ensure they are the freshest when they are delivered to the customer,” explains David.

Native worked with David and Katie to find an affordable solar solution. Native pulled together the Federal Income Tax Credit, a Department of Agriculture grant, and the Austin Energy’s rebate to create a very affordable solar energy solution. According to David, “This choice was obvious and one I’ve had my sights on for many years. Financially it finally made sense.”

Tecolote farm is a farm of firsts, first CSA in Texas and now the first farm in Austin to be 100% solar powered. The best time to sign up for Tecolote Farm’s CSA is NOW as the spring planting has begun and fresh vegetable boxes are right around the corner.

Join Tecolote Farm’s CSA here.

Tecolote Farm Goes Solar

 

Jay Thomas NATiVE Employee Highlight
tecolote farm goes solar

Jay Thomas assisted David and Katie with their system, from start to finish. Tecolote Farm was the first local farm in the Austin area to utilize REAP funding for solar.

“Jay embodies the culture we’ve worked so hard to cultivate at NATiVE. He understands that his success is measured by what his customers have to say about him and works very hard to ensure that it’s always positive. Jay also has a great work-life balance that allows him to excel at both.” – Lloyd Lee CEO

Jay Thomas:

Tell us a bit about yourself (hobbies, education, born, raised, etc.).
I was born and raised in Austin, TX. I attended Westlake High and am a second generation Texas Longhorn. My hobbies include mountain biking, hiking, amateur astronomy and reading about astrophysics and astrobiology. I am NASA’s #1 fan! Although it is too late for me, hopefully my niece (3.5 years old) will accept the bug I’ve planted in her ear and be one of the first astronauts to play golf on Mars.

How did you become a Renewable Energy Consultant?
I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor’s in Sociology. I used this degree to get my foot in the door at a local solar company after taking an entry level Renewable Energy course at Austin Community College. After wearing several hats for several years, I found an affinity for sales and consultation, and now I work for one of the premiere area green builders, NATiVE, Inc.

Why did you become a Renewable Energy Consultant?
To allow my professional life to intersect with my desire to do something positive for our planet and it’s people (and animals!)

Why did you choose to work for Native?
Everywhere you look, you see builders that are content with the status quo. While that may suit some folks, it won’t suit the future and it won’t allow us all to have the quality of life we desire. In comes NATiVE, a green builder with a purpose, a passion and a track record of helping it’s clients create beautiful spaces in which to live, while at the same time protecting the environment (and their bank accounts!).

What do you most enjoy about your job?
I love that I get to sell a product that is good for my clients, in more than one way. We’re not selling boats here, we’re selling something that creates electricity out of thin air. What’s cooler than that?

What is your favorite place on earth?
The South Island of New Zealand.

What advice do you have for people who would like to power their homes or businesses with solar?
Do it now. Don’t “wait for the technology to improve”. It’s already better than your existing relationship with your utility, and provides the ability to create equity and take the power back from the utility, literally.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
The rainforests of Borneo.

Anywhere in the solar system?
That would be Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons and one of three places with the highest chance of harboring complex life (aside from Earth, of course!). Scientists think there is a moon-wide ocean underneath it’s icy crust, and I’d give just about anything to drill a hole down there and be the first person to take a peek at what may lurk beneath.

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Project Sunroof http://buildnative.com/project-sunroof/ http://buildnative.com/project-sunroof/#comments Fri, 08 Jan 2016 17:06:51 +0000 http://buildnative.com/?p=14089 In an attempt to map the world’s solar potential, one roof at a time, Google has launched Project Sunroof. This new online service quickly tallies up considerations of going solar and whether homeowners should consider buying or leasing photovoltaic panels. Google’s Project Sunroof combines th...

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project sunroof

In an attempt to map the world’s solar potential, one roof at a time, Google has launched Project Sunroof. This new online service quickly tallies up considerations of going solar and whether homeowners should consider buying or leasing photovoltaic panels. Google’s Project Sunroof combines the eye-in-the-sky images behind Google Earth with calculations on how much shade trees cast over a rooftop, data on local weather patterns, industry pricing, and available subsidies to arrive at its bottom line.

Homeowners can enter their address and discover if their rooftop is viable for a solar PV system, and how much they could potentially save by going solar. This tool, however, has not made its way to Texas homeowners.

So what can Texans do in the meantime?

Contact NATiVE, your local Texas renewable energy experts, for a free consultation. At no cost, you will receive a detailed quote with:

  • a bird’s eye view of your rooftop showing what your system will look like and how much solar you can have to offset your energy consumption
  • local incentive programs and benefits offered by utilities and electric cooperatives
  • multiple system options and their installed costs
  • financing options
  • what your return on investment will be
  • and much more

 
Build Smart. Build NATiVE.

Get a free quote and start saving money!

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Zero Energy Home http://buildnative.com/zero-energy-home/ http://buildnative.com/zero-energy-home/#comments Tue, 29 Dec 2015 18:44:19 +0000 http://buildnative.com/?p=14049 It’s been a little over a year since we first met UT literature professors Liz and Alan. They had spent over 30 years living in the same house without doing much to it. The house was showing the wear of 30 years of raising a family and building two successful careers. Most all their neighbors had up...

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zero energy home
It’s been a little over a year since we first met UT literature professors Liz and Alan. They had spent over 30 years living in the same house without doing much to it. The house was showing the wear of 30 years of raising a family and building two successful careers. Most all their neighbors had updated or rebuilt around them. They were ready to upgrade their lives, but not just have any regular, updated new home, they wanted a home that was eco-friendly and sustainable. It was time. They wanted a high-performance, net-zero home built by NATiVE.

When we spoke to them in the Fall of 2014, you could see the excitement in their faces, and you could hear the nervousness in their voices. The homework was done. The plans were made. They worked with architect Elliot Johnson, AIA to design their dream zero energy home. Everything was in place. They were off to England on sabbatical for a year, leaving their trust in NATiVE to bring their dream home into reality.

Their low profile, modest house strikes a balance between light, airy, balanced and thoughtful. Unique touches like the full library and built-in bookshelves throughout make this home perfect for their literary needs. The highly efficient building envelope provides maximum energy efficiency, while a fresh air exchange system provides healthy indoor air quality for the homeowners.

It is a zero energy home with zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by Liz and Alan on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy (solar) created on the site. It’s sustainable living in the midst of their neighborhood full of McMansions. It’s the house of their dreams. Attainable, sustainable, beautiful, and uniquely theirs.

Click image for gallery

For the previous articles on Liz and Alan’s journey on “Going Net Zero”, click on the Article titles below:

 
 

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Small Businesses Benefit from Financing Solar Projects http://buildnative.com/small-businesses-benefit-from-financing-solar-projects/ http://buildnative.com/small-businesses-benefit-from-financing-solar-projects/#comments Thu, 17 Dec 2015 16:14:46 +0000 http://buildnative.com/?p=14008 Amicus, a cooperative of the finest independent solar companies across the United States, share experiences on various solar topics with each other each month. For December, Amicus members discussed financing solar options for business owners who want to invest in solar but might not want to pay all...

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Financing Solar

NATiVE 46.5 kW job in North Austin

Amicus, a cooperative of the finest independent solar companies across the United States, share experiences on various solar topics with each other each month. For December, Amicus members discussed financing solar options for business owners who want to invest in solar but might not want to pay all of the costs up-front.

How are business owners financing their solar projects and what are the benefits?

  • David Dixon – NATiVE (Texas)

    “Traditionally, it has been difficult to find creative ways to finance a commercial solar installation, but there have been several advancements in the past few years that have enabled commercial property owners to install solar.

    The steep drop in pricing of solar over the past several years has brought affordable solar projects to the commercial sector. We have seen the installed prices of commercial solar in Texas drop 70% in the past seven years. Lower prices equate to quicker paybacks and less financing capital required for a project.
    With this cost reduction several traditional financing options have emerged. Banks and credit unions are now offering financing options specifically for solar projects. Several of our customers are able to secure solar loans with their local lender.

    A popular financing option in the Texas deregulated electricity markets is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). This allows a third-party developer to own, operate, and maintain a PV system, while the commercial client agrees to site the solar system and purchase the system’s electric output for a predetermined period. PPA’s enable the host customer to avoid many of the traditional barriers to solar adoption such as up-front capital costs, system performance risk, and complex design and permitting processes. In addition, PPA arrangements can be cash flow positive for the host customer from the day the system is commissioned.

    Texas has another, new and very exciting financing opportunity, a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan. This is a third party loan for solar and energy efficiency upgrades that is paid back through a property tax assessment. This arrangement has several benefits for commercial property owners but primarily, the loan is structured to provide immediate positive cash flow and allow commercial tenants to both pay the loan and reap the operating expense savings. To learn more about the benefits of PACE, please visit http://buildnative.com/pace/.”

  • Katherine Rushton – Sunsense Solar (Colorado)

    “Financing is an important tool for businesses hoping to upgrade their facilities with a solar array. Often times the upfront costs of implementing solar can be a barrier to market entry, and even if the business has the requisite capital to invest, it may make more sense to reserve the capital for expenses related to core business operations. Despite the fact that the lease has been much promoted as the financing mechanism of choice, here at Sunsense we have been steering our clients towards loans because they offer significant advantages over the lease.

    However, with the low kWh electricity prices paid by commercial customers in Colorado, and the relatively short loan terms on offer, even with loans, the Return on Investment (ROI) on implementing a solar array is not always where we need it to be.

    So it is with much anticipation that the State of Colorado is launching a new program to make it easier to finance solar and energy efficiency measures on commercial buildings. The Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program will allow property owners to spread project costs over a term of up to 20 years and repay costs through an assessment on their property tax bill, with no upfront capital investment. As the majority of projects are expected to generate a positive cash flow based on energy savings, mortgage lenders feel comfortable consenting to the additional lien on the property. Should the property owner decide to sell, the lien stays with the property and the new owner reaps the benefits of the energy saving measures on the building.

    Clearly Colorado’s C-PACE program is a valuable new financing tool that will spur investment in commercial solar projects, provide long term utility savings and stimulate the economy – a winning proposition for solar businesses and commercial property owners alike.”

    For more information, visit: Sunsense Solar

  • Grace Robertson – Lightwave Solar (Tennessee)

    LightWave Solar is getting the word out in our region that business owners can finance their solar projects and become cash flow positive in about 12-16 months or less. Here’s how it works: Business owners invest the amount equal to their 30% federal tax credit (i.e. 30% of total project cost), and obtain a loan for the balance. As soon as they capture their tax credit, they are in the green. For most of our customers, solar generation and accelerated depreciation will more than cover loan payments over the 10 year term. After 10 years, system owners will have paid off their loan, and they will keep generating solar revenue for at least 15 more years.

    LightWave Solar launched this model with BB&T, a regional bank with a good understanding of the value of solar generation. In the last 12 months, BB&T has helped nearly a dozen of our customers get solar loans. We have seen several local banks embrace this model as well.

    Last week we finished construction on a 24kW system for Janney & Associates, CPAs in Smithville, TN (an hour east of Nashville). Business owner Tom Janney became interested in solar after he saw how pleased a client was with their solar system’s performance and tax benefits. A few months later, after getting our newsletter, Tom decided it was time to see if solar would work well for his business. Luckily, Tom has an open, flat roof and no shade. He obtained a loan from BB&T for about 70% of the system cost. Next spring he will receive his 30% tax credit and first year accelerated depreciation which will cover his out of pocket outlay. In addition, he will receive a 25% USDA REAP grant which will help him pay off the loan even faster. His loan terms include no pre-pay penalties.

    “I had a very smooth experience working with BB&T,” Tom says. “In a couple of months, I will recoup my capital expense, and my business will have a new revenue stream for the next 25 years at least,” he says.

    The solar array at Janney & Associates, CPAs will be commissioned this month, and it will be the first solar system interconnected in Smithville. LightWave Solar looks forward to presenting our solar financing model to more businesses in this area.

    For more information, visit: Lightwave Solar

  • Fred Greenhalgh – ReVision Energy (Maine)

    ReVision Energy has had the pleasure of working with local businesses to install solar since the early 2000s, such as at the Maple Hill Farm in Hallowell which sports a 15kw solar electric array and large solar thermal array, the largest such systems in the state at the time they were installed. Since then, we’ve seen increasing interest in solar for businesses as costs have continued to drop and business owners recognize the value of locking in a fixed electric rate and reducing their businesses’ carbon impact.

    Most recently, we worked with GrandyOats, an organic foods company provided certified organic and kosher foods including granolas, trail mix, roasted nuts, hot cereal and more. Their new facility will be Maine’s first 100% solar-powered net zero food production facility, encompassing all areas of the facility from cooking the food (electric ovens), heating (heat pumps), electric forklifts, computers, lighting, etc.

    Financing for the project was provided by Bangor Savings Bank, who saw the value in financing an asset that would effectively drop GrandyOats’s operating costs – their old facility cost $24,000 annually to operate (electricity, propane, and kerosene) and the new solar generation would cost them $3,000 per month to finance, with the ability to increase their production 3x beyond the capabilities of their old facility, and the added advantage of owning their system outright after 7 years. The bank also accepted the solar panels themselves as collateral, supporting GrandyOats’s ability to scale their business in a sustainable way with solar.

    Other local banks are warming up to solar as well, such as Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, who financed Camp Wildwood’s 70.2kw solar electric installation in Bridgton, ME. “The bank was very easy to work with,” says Mark Meyer, Camp Director. “Access to funds made it possible to harness clean solar energy to provide electricity for our camp.

    For more information, visit: ReVision Energy

  • Gordon Woodcock – Taitem Engineering (New York)

    Commercial and non-profit enterprises of all sorts are turning to a new financing option for energy efficiency, solar PV and other renewable energy projects. Property Assessed Clean Energy financing offers long-term, low-cost funding for a wide array of energy-related building improvements. Best of all? By design it is cash flow neutral, or even cash flow positive. Savings on utility bills are re-directed to pay off the loan, through a special line item on a property tax bill.

    National legislation to develop PACE was signed into law during the Bush Administration and 31 states have now authorized this solution to the problem many building owners face when trying to finance energy work – longer payback periods than most traditional lenders can stomach.

    New York State joined the race to roll-out PACE, back in 2009. Six years later, the Energy Improvement Corporation, a non-profit public benefit organization, reports that 23 NYS counties, cities, towns and villages have passed the required local ordinance and are promoting commercial PACE through its Energize NY program. Another 20 or so cities and counties are in the discussion phase, including Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton and Long Island and North Country locations.

    Who is benefiting from PACE in New York? Over 50 projects in the works reflect a broad spectrum of building types and building owners, including healthcare facilities, farms, service businesses, retail, multifamily and non-profit organizations. Case studies found online highlight these stories:

    • Terra Tile and Marble financed a 120kW rooftop solar PV system, resulting in an annual positive cash flow of $26,000 over the ten year term
    • Five Spoke Creamery installed a 53.3kW ground-mount solar array, with a 6.5 year term that results in an average of $3,000 net positive cash flow to the business each year of the loan
    • Wainwright House, a non-profit focused on health and wellness, funded energy efficiency improvements in 18,500 SF of their buildings, reducing electricity and natural gas consumption, while generating almost $4,000 in net positive annual income over 20 years

    It might seem counter-intuitive that a capital investment in a large, long-term energy project would immediately generate cash flow but that’s the beauty of how PACE is structured. The Energize NY team works with contractors and building owners to put together a financing package based on documented energy savings and/or generation and the needs of the business. NYSERDA incentives, utility rebates, federal and state tax credits — all are leveraged in the plan. Sometime PACE can even make sense for a renewable energy Power Purchase Agreement, where equipment is leased rather than purchased.

    Taitem Engineering, in Tompkins County NY, is delighted to be on the forefront of the clean energy movement and helping to introduce PACE to clients, colleagues and project developers as an enabling financing tool. Energize NY, Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca will host a PACE launch event on Jan. 7 2015.

    For more information, visit: Taitem Engineering

 

Some Amicus Member Commerical Projects

LightWave Solar - 24kW at Janney & Associates CPAs in Smithville, TN

LightWave Solar – 24kW at Janney & Associates CPAs in Smithville, TN

ReVision Energy - Camp Wildwood

ReVision Energy – Camp Wildwood

ReVision Energy - GrandyOats

ReVision Energy – GrandyOats

Sunsense Solar-Commercial Solar Array at Berthod Motors, Glenwood Springs, CO

Sunsense Solar-Commercial Solar Array at Berthod Motors, Glenwood Springs, CO

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A Few of Our Favorite “Green” Things http://buildnative.com/a-few-of-our-favorite-green-things/ http://buildnative.com/a-few-of-our-favorite-green-things/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 17:00:16 +0000 http://buildnative.com/?p=13962 Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s wishing you, your family and friends the warmest of holidays and of course delicious food. Just in case the you need a legitimate excuse to get out of an uncomfortable conversation over the holidays we’ve compiled a list of some of our employee’s favorite green products (e...

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green productsHappy Thanksgiving! Here’s wishing you, your family and friends the warmest of holidays and of course delicious food. Just in case the you need a legitimate excuse to get out of an uncomfortable conversation over the holidays we’ve compiled a list of some of our employee’s favorite green products (everything from building materials to green cleaning products) for you to peruse. Who knows, there may be the perfect gift for Aunt Hilda, or even a treat for yourself. Happy Turkey Day!

David Dixon: Chevy Volt. “I finally bought a vehicle that I can plug into my house and charge from the solar power that I am generating. While I still have to use gas occasionally on long trips, I am currently averaging 77 mpg!”
green products

Johanna Kraus-Darden: PowerAdd Solar Powered Charger. “As an avid hiker, the ability to take photos of the beautiful things I come across ‘off the grid’ is worth ensuring the batteries are charged; particularly if the device can forecast the weather and send out a SOS. The evolving technology of solar is allowing the use of cell phones (usb devices) in places my wall charger could only dream of. Now just ‘power on’ the sun in the middle of the woods like it’s 2015.”

green products

Jay Thomas:Reusable Produce Bags. “Everyone has a reusable shopping bag, but consider the number of plastic bags thrown away by bagging produce. This is a simple way to eliminate waste and add another feather to your green cap.”

green products

Dave Braverman: GeoSpring Hybrid-Electric Hot Water Heater. “I’ve had this hot water heater for about a year now and I love it. It uses about 30% less energy than a conventional electric hot water heater and it produces air conditioned air into my laundry room as a byproduct! Great user interface and lots of control over modes, setpoint and vacation timer.”

green products

Jason Duvall: ZIP Stretch Tape. “Zip is an extremely versatile and durable tape with crazy strong adhesive properties. It can be used for flashing, window pans, sealing penetrations, and more. As standards for building tight building envelopes increase innovative products like this will help that trend continue.”

green products

Kalden Swinson: LED Light Bulbs. “They are a perfect start for electrical load reduction of a house and most homeowners can start with lightbulbs to reduce their usage.”

green products

Ryan Doty: My NATiVE Klean Kanteen Water Bottle. “There are too many amazing green products to just pick one favorite, but for the sake of keeping it simple (albeit impactful), I’d have to say using a nice reusable water bottle. I just say no to plastic bottles, plastic bags, and do my best to buy things with no packaging. I recycle everything, and never use styrofoam – my leftovers go home in tin foil that can be reused over and over.”

green products

Amy Olsen: Wool Dryer Balls. “Picking one favorite green things is hard, we have solar to power our house, and have many energy saving, environmentally friendly and efficient features in our lives so I decided to keep it simple. I love these new dryer balls, my family’s clothes are naturally softened and they REALLY do cut down on the drying
time!”

green products

David Dixon: Community Solar. “Although not necessarily a product, community solar is a way for many to be more green. Many people in central Texas can not host a solar array on their roofs either because they are renters, have shaded roofs, or do not have the financial means. We are finally seeing some of the local utilities beginning to build publically sited solar arrays that will allow some of their customers to purchase energy from. There should be a lot more detail coming out of utilities like PEC and Austin Energy in 2016.”

happy thanksgiving

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