Companies and organizations are increasingly seeing their efforts to reduce energy use pay off, but after the low-hanging fruit like upgraded lighting and HVAC has been harvested, companies are wondering “what’s next?” Often, they’re finding, the answer to that question is renewables, according to Facility Executive. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through the Better Buildings Initiative, is working with several industries to provide support for installing renewable technologies such as solar, wind and geothermal.
Several retail chains have seen the benefits associated with solar. Best Buy’s Richfield, Minnesota, location installed prismatic skylights and a dimmable fluorescent lighting system to harvest daylight, which helped the company reduce lighting energy by 45%.
And in Bushnell, Florida, Suncoast Credit Union’s service center has become a zero-energy building after solar electric was installed in 2013.
In 2015, a rooftop solar system was installed at Super 8 hotel in Ukiah, California. By 2016 the energy source was providing 60% of the electric power and 100% of the hotel’s hot water production for the guest rooms and hot tub.
Industrial facilities have also implemented various energy efficient measures. At its Smyrna, Tennessee plant, Schneider Electric installed a 1 megawatt solar photovoltaic farm, which has resulted in the company experiencing a 19% net energy use reduction. Similarly, Cummins, a manufacturing company, installed a 2 megawatt solar installation at its Jamestown Engine Plant in 2014. The system has produced $1.4 million in cost savings per year for the company.
In Virginia, Discovery Elementary School opened in 2015 as one of the first zero-energy schools on the East Coast. The 97,588 square-foot facility is equipped with 1,700 PV panels on its roof, which will produce 616,194 kWh annually and allow the school to operate at a 66% lower energy use intensity compared to the district’s average.
The popularity of solar energy can be attributed in part to its levelized cost of electricity, down from 27 cents in 2010 to seven cents in 2016.