Man climbing stairs with sunrise background

The Sustainability StairClimb: Strategy

1. Introduction:  Why have a strategy?

Earlier articles in this series have discussed sustainability in terms of the simple, low-risk, short-payback tactics with obvious benefits.  However, when it comes to the bigger and more expensive opportunities you need a strategy that will guide you to the most effective ones first and help you plan how to pay for them.  Currently the most common strategy is the payback calculation. This is a strictly monetary metric that says if you get your money back in a reasonable amount of time, and continue to save after that, then the project is worth it.  The problem with this approach is that it may miss synergies that can come about by combining projects, and can’t adapt to changing conditions.  In this article we’ll also talk about Fossil Energy (FE) reduction, and a 100% Renewable Energy (RE%) target strategy.  The new metrics have the benefit that they are absolute, meaning that they don’t depend on a baseline that might change over time.  As such they mark progress toward an absolute goal instead of a relative one. Here we’ll also track the traditional metrics like energy cost and payback time.

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Net metering screenshot

Net Metering in Wisconsin

Nick Hein, 2/25/19

If you’re putting solar PV on your home you may have heard the term “net metering” and wondered what it means. Even if you think you know what it means, there are some details about it that vary greatly depending on your utility. These may affect the size of the array you decide to install, and how you operate it. In this article I’ll explain what net metering is, why we have it and what you should know to make the best decision about your installation and how you use it.

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The Stairclimb Strategy

Nick Hein, 1/28/19

Previous articles discussed the sustainability stair climb in general terms.  In this article we’ll outline a specific strategy to make real progress toward long-term sustainability goals.  Here’s why it’s important.  Your financial investments right now may be making 2-8% in conventional places like banks and money markets.  Alternatively, sustainability can give you a return from 10-80%, and your investment stays in your home where you can see and feel it.  In this article you’ll learn how to calculate that return and how to make it snowball so you can re-invest it. 

Rebates or other programs give you short-term rewards for changing behavior, but if you’re going to climb the whole stairway you need a way to see longer-term progress and set bigger goals.  A $100 rebate doesn’t help you as much as saving $100 every year, and using fewer fossil fuels this month doesn’t motivate you as much as eliminating them completely.  

In this article we describe how to track money saved during your sustainability efforts, in addition to the intangible benefits such as time-savings, convenience, comfort, safety, and quality of life. This will involve using spreadsheets, which we’ll show in sections.  There will be a link to the complete file, which should work with most spreadsheet programs.  Read more

How Do We Know that Sustainability is better?

Nick Hein, 10/29/18

Do you have questions about solar? Know someone who does? Things are changing quickly for solar and some of the answers out there don’t apply anymore. Here’s what’s really up with solar right now. In last month’s article we introduced the “Sustainability Stairclimb” to get us thinking about how we “do” sustainability. This month we’ll start the climb with the simple question “Why?” Why can’t we just keep doing things the way we have been, and how do we know that sustainability is better?

Chances are that if you’re a regular reader of this newsletter or Legacy customer, you already have your own answers. But along your climb people may ask you why you’re doing it. Many of these questions were actually asked recently, and they show that not everybody knows about the latest developments in sustainable technologies or the changing climate. In addition, out of date information lingers and some of the changes threaten fossil fuel industries, so there’s sometimes an incentive to spread inaccuracies and distortions. Read more

The Sustainability Stair Climb

By Nick Hein, 8/23/18

What is sustainability and how do you DO it? The answer depends partly on what you WANT it to be and what you CAN do. In this article we’ll describe the Sustainability Stair Climb basics. In future articles we’ll give some specifics, including the big step that solar PV from Legacy Solar Co-op can help you climb.

Introduction

First of all, what is sustainability and how do you DO it? There are the things in our daily lives that we need – like heat, light and food. Sustainability is just managing those resources so we’ll continue to have them as long as we need them. For our larger society it means clean air, clean water, healthy soil and wild places where nature can recover and regenerate the resources we’ve used. We can each do our part by making sure that we use only what we need and return things in the best possible condition. In our homes and lives we have some control of how we do that. So where should we start? Do you have an overall long-term plan or are you just committing random acts of greenness to collect rebate checks? I’ve found in my own journey, that I accomplish more when I have a plan. Read more

Shine on: Solar partnership yields energy, savings for farmers

Posted 7/8/18

By Danielle Endvick, Wisconsin Farmers Union Communications Director

(This article originally appeared in the June 2018 Newsletter of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. Reposted with permission.)

Ask any farmer who has considered solar energy on his or her farm what the biggest hesitation is, and you’ll likely get the same answer: cost.

But a new pilot program being launched by Wisconsin Farmers Union and key partners is aiming to turn the dream of on-farm solar energy into reality. Solar Powering Farms (SPF) is a financing program that seeks to make solar energy more attainable for Farmers Union members. The project has been made possible through a partnership with North Wind Renewable Energy and Legacy Solar Co-op.

“Certainly a lot of farmers have that inclination that they want to do something with solar, but for a lot of people the upfront cost is a concern,” said Rob Peck, solar design consultant for North Wind Renewable Energy, based in Stevens Point. Read more

Solar panels on a roof

Should You Add Batteries to Your Rooftop Solar Installation?

Nickolas Hein – 4/23/18

In the past few years battery technology has advanced at a rapid rate, resulting in a rapid decrease in the cost of electric storage and the associated systems (Fig 1).  Although this has been driven primarily by electric vehicle adoption, home battery systems have been direct beneficiaries. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance “Lithium-ion battery packs are selling at an average price of $209 a kilowatt-hour, down 24 percent from a year ago and about a fifth of what it was in 2010, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance survey shows. The rate has further to fall — reaching below $100 a kilowatt-hour by 2025, according to a report by BNEF analyst James Frith.  Developers of stationary storage systems — like the kind that back up rooftop solar panels — can expect to pay 51 percent more than automakers because of much lower order volumes.”

Recent Cost Reductions for Lithium Ion Batteries - Bloomberg

Recent Cost Reductions for Lithium Ion Batteries – Bloomberg

If you’re considering installing solar panels in the near future, you probably want to consider adding battery storage to your system. We’ve asked Ed Zinthefer, President of Arch Electric, to answer some of the common questions from the homeowners before they install a new system.  Read more

Logo for LSC

2018 Solar Investing

Tony Hartmann – 2/20/18

No such thing a ‘sure thing’ when it comes to investing, right? Well, if you think the sun’ll come up tomorrow, investing in solar infrastructure is as close as it gets. Since its beginning, the Legacy Solar Co-op (LSC) has facilitated solar investment not only because renewable energy is clean and sustainable, but because it makes sense economically. A lot of sense. Not-for-profits and home-owners almost always see a return on investment (ROI) in the neighborhood of 10-12%, businesses 15% and more. So, the 2018 solar investor can do good and make a sweet return on their investment…

As Don Pardo used to say, ‘but wait, there’s more…’

Legacy Solar Co-op has long been an advocate for energy efficiency efforts, projects that go hand and glove with distributed (pv) energy production. In Wisconsin, the Focus On Energy (FOE) program does more than just reward you (to the tune of thousands) for installing solar PV. You get further cash dividends by swapping out motors, furnaces, water-heaters, air conditioners, light bulbs/fixtures and much, much more. For starters, rate-payers can get FREE STUFF, like LED bulbs and water-saving fixtures just by going here and choosing a ‘pack’.

but again, there’s more… Read more