EmPower to LIPA: Hold the line on renewable programs budget
Earlier this week, LIPA announced that the 2014 budget for renewable energy programs will be cut by $26 million dollars compared to last year’s budget. Yesterday, the utility held a series of public hearings regarding the 2014 proposed budget. EmPower Solar was proud to stand with others from the Long Island Solar Energy Industry Association (LISEIA) and with energy advocates to encourage the utility to preserve the budget for renewable energy programs.
EmPower Solar’s marketing manager and resident activist Tara Bono testified at the morning hearing.
Here’s what she had to say:
Good afternoon LIPA Board of Trustees, I think you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Tara Bono, I am the marketing manager at EmPower Solar – an Island Park based company with over 60 employees and 650 solar installations. Our company was founded on Long Island in 2003 and has had the opportunity to work with LIPA on creating a healthy market for solar energy in our region. There is no doubt that LIPA has been an outstanding partner for the solar industry, and we are grateful.
This year has been one of the most challenging years on record for EmPower Solar. We started off the year off with a robust $1.75 residential rebate. In July, our company was suddenly capped at selling just 6 jobs, a significant decrease from our monthly average. In August the rebate disappeared completely and in September we heard that the rebate would be returning.
The ups and downs that we have faced over the last year had a negative impact on moral. Furthermore, it is extremely hard to manage staffing, budgets, and business plans with such uncertainty.
While we would love to see the funding levels for 2014 be the same as 2013, we realize this might not be realistic. The reduced rebate of .66 cents per kW, will no doubt hinder the growth of our company if not worse but we will do what we can to work with it. What we cannot work with is a rebate that is here today, capped tomorrow, gone next week, but may return one day.
Just as you are preparing your 2014 budget today, our company would like to be able to do the same. Unfortunately, we can’t do that without a strong commitment from you that the rebate will be stabilized. Simply put, we respectively request a commitment of reliability in both rebate amount and in length of time it will be present for.
The budget references a potential “statewide” solar rebate program. Further clarification on this is desperately needed.
Continued commitment to renewable energy
Our company’s mission is to EmPower our clients to control energy costs, reduce their environmental footprint, and achieve energy independence. At the end of the day, that is what every Long Islander wants.
Renewable energy sources do this by providing cheaper electricity, creating local jobs, and contributing to a healthier more prosperous world. With your support, we look forward to making Long Island a leader in the national renewable energy sector and allowing residents to recognize the economic benefits of going solar.
We have a choice. We can provide residents with much needed rate relief by allowing them to make the switch to renewable energy, or we can continue to increase rates to keep fueling and running old, inefficient, expensive power plants that mark our landscape.
Yesterday, we heard the new PSEG President say that boosting grid reliability is a major goal for next year. There is no doubt that renewables will be part of achieving that goal. We look forward to working with LIPA/PSEG as vocal stakeholders in shaping the grid 2.0 policy this upcoming year and incorporating renewables and back up energy into a smarter system that will bring our grid into the 21st century.
Thank you again for the opportunity to comment.
EmPower: Growing Stronger Since Sandy
One year ago Superstorm Sandy hit and our area experienced the worst storm of our lifetimes. The wrath of Sandy was more than anyone expected, leaving many displaced from their homes and businesses, commuters without transportation, and everyone without basic modern-day conveniences such as potable water, telecommunications, operable bathrooms, fuel supplies, etc. It swiftly and dramatically demonstrated the vulnerabilities inherent to our infrastructure.
EmPower Solar, like many, was impacted severely. When Sandy hit, our COO, Greg Sachs, was protecting the EmPower offices in Island Park as a deluge of water began pouring in and the power went down; our facility, fleet, and inventory was decimated. Many of our employees, clients, friends and family were also reeling.
CEO David Schieren and Greg responded to the crisis with clarity of purpose and tireless energy, leading the team towards recovery as quickly as possible. The entire team performed admirably; office workers partnered up with installers to get EmPower back up. Everyone pitched in to complete the seemingly endless tasks to restore our operations; inspecting, cleaning, sorting supplies and equipment, cataloging losses, setting up multiple off-site operations centers, etc.
We’re particularly proud of how we provided service to over 120 clients that were impacted within a few days of the storm. Technicians used personal vehicles to get the job done, coordinating with our project managers who operated at homes and businesses of friends north of Sunrise Highway. Everyone did their part to put our customers first.
EmPower has grown stronger as a team and as a company and we know that’s because we work with amazing colleagues, clients, and partners in Long Island and New York City. We are more dedicated than ever to helping build a cleaner, smarter, more resilient electric infrastructure. EmPower knows first-hand that there is a far superior way. For example, David was staying at his family home that was powered by a solar and battery back-up system, and was driving his electric car while most had to wait for fuel.
On the one year anniversary of Sandy, we wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you to our clients, partners, colleagues, friends, and family for sticking together and demonstrating inspirational human good will.
We also want to acknowledge that there are still many people and businesses struggling to rebuild and fully recover. If you are out there and you need help, feel free to contact us and we will do what we can.
Newsday chronicled the EmPower recovery. Click here to read the article.
Favorite Solar Decathlon Houses by Jake Welde
Guest Post by EmPower Solar Student Competition Winner, 2013
Visiting the U.S. Solar Decathlon was an experience that exposed us to a wide variety of new ideas and interesting technologies, and it showed that students can be some of the most ingenious and innovative creators in our world today.
Seeing the groundbreaking ideas that students have brought forth in this competition, as well as the nationwide and international community, inspires confidence for our futures both in renewable energy and in cooperation in general.
One of the exceptional things about this contest that sets it apart from others is that every single house was totally different from every other. To have missed seeing even one would have taken away from the experience because there were unique approaches and out-of-the-box thinking to be found everywhere.
My favorite homes at the Decathlon were those that seemed really livable. Although that seems like perhaps it’s a given, what I mean by that is that many houses, while interesting from an artistic or engineering perspective, didn’t seem to be practical for everyday living. Despite this fact, many of those abstract houses placed very well in the competition. Although half of the competition was based on quantitative “measured contests”, which one could not appreciate simply by touring the houses, and surely affected the rankings, I would have liked to see the more practical houses win instead because they send a more relevant message in my opinion.
Houses that are more reasonable and compatible with our current lifestyles have a better chance of teaching people to alter their lives and homes to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly because they model more reasonable changes and innovations instead of total overhauls of houses that, while attractive and interesting in a sterile setting, don’t seem reasonable in the real world.
My favorite home was the Stanford house. I had actually researched it prior to the competition and it appealed to me then as well. Its greatest strength was a really effective implementation of the CORE concept: a central module that contains all of the technical components of the house that can be delivered and a house of varied configuration built around it. While a number of teams had similar features, Stanford’s execution was the cleanest and most effective. I also appreciated the automation system in this home. While many of these systems were present in the competition, I thought Stanford’s was full-featured without feeing contrived or unnecessary.
My second favorite house was the Las Vegas house, which ranked second. I especially appreciated the aesthetic aspects of the house and how it resonated with its desert origins. The house had an appropriate amount of storage space. A criticism I had of many of the other houses was that real people need more space to store belongings, as well as living space that is compatible with one’s furniture. Many people have family furniture that has sentimental value, and this home could accommodate that while others couldn’t. My only criticism was that the main living spaces in this home were very long and thin instead of more evenly shaped, which might have felt like a more convenient living environment.
Another favorite was the Stevens house. Interestingly, this was the last house that I visited, but it quickly became one of my favorites. It incorporated a green roof, an element I found very appropriate and should have been included in more houses. What was most exceptional about this house, however, was its layout. It used an L-shaped configuration with a large wraparound porch. Although all of the houses were limited to 1000 square feet, this house felt at least 50% larger than most other houses. Smaller square footage improves energy consumption by putting less stress on the HVAC system, but knowing how to effectively lay out that space is an indispensable skill.
I also enjoyed having the opportunity to ride an e-bike, which were available for test-riding at the event. These bikes have internal sensors that sense the amount of effort you are riding with and match your work by powering a motor with energy from a battery. Not only were these bikes a lot of fun to ride, but they also have potential to reduce the use of cars in certain areas. It is not always possible to ride a regular bike to commute or attend an event. Some areas are very hilly, and one may need to be well-dressed for an event or job and therefore cannot dress for athletics. These bikes, while less ideal in terms of energy usage than traditional bikes, could bridge a gap to allow more people to ride bikes more of the time, saving fuel and reducing emissions.
The Solar Decathlon is an incredibly unique event and a great learning experience. I’m very glad to have been able to attend, and I’ve been given many ideas on ways to improve my own ecological impact, as well as what I may want to do as a career. I’m very grateful to EmPower for this special opportunity and I wish good luck to future entrants in the EmPower Student Solar Competition!
A Look Back on the U.S. Solar Decathlon by Elaina Zodiatis
Guest Post by EmPower Solar Student Competition Winner, 2013
Every two years, the U. S. Department of Energy sponsors the Solar Decathlon. This year, it was held in Irvine, California. This competition brings together the brightest and most innovative college students to compete in designing and building homes that are affordable, energy efficient, and aesthetically appealing. As winners of the EmPower Solar Student Competition, Team Avalon STATE had the privilege of experiencing this collegiate competition up close.
We arrived at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California on October 11. After receiving our guide books, we immersed ourselves in the experience. There were 19 solar homes in all, each with its own unique characteristics. The students that constructed the homes were all eager to give tours of their creations, and were tireless and very enthusiastic. All of the homes were very impressive; it was difficult to choose my favorites.
My three favorite homes were Team Capitol DC from ( The Catholic University of America, George Washington University, and American University), Team Kentucky/Indiana (University of Louisville, Ball State University, and University of Kentucky), and Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology.
Team Capitol DC, The Harvest Home, stood out because of its tranquil and soothing environment. Its design was not industrial, and it felt like a home. The designers used beautiful materials and colors that allowed for a subtle transition from the indoor and outdoor aspects of the home. Another form of conservation in this home was the reclaimed and recycled wood to make the floors and other wooden features in the home. The energy efficient system used smart home management to monitor and track the energy used and saved. Another interesting feature of this home was the shading screen. This screen modulated the temperature of the home by that opening or closing in response to exterior weather conditions. The reason why this home was unique was because this home had our U.S. Military veterans in mind. This home will be used to help them adjust and heal from their physical and mental disabilities when they come back home.
Next, Team Kentucky/Indiana (The Phoenix House) designed their home with natural disaster-struck families in mind. This home was designed to be constructed quickly and provide people with safe and efficient shelter. In this home, solar energy was used as power, and it was used in a water heating system. Using solar energy in these two aspects increased the solar efficiency of this home. In addition, each part of the house served a dual purpose. For example, the bathroom in this home also served as weather shelter with a steel door and non-shattering window.
Last, Team Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology (The DALE, Dynamic Augmented Living Environment), had two moving modules with the ability to expand. The two modules moved on a set of rails that could increase and decrease the size of the rooms as needed. They used solar thermal collectors to heat water and heat the home with the use of steam. The house-monitoring system was very impressive in this home. It collected information on the energy production of the home, the water consumption, and helped stabilize the indoor temperatures of the home.
All of the homes were unique and we appreciated something special about all of them. The collaboration between so many different disciplines is what made these homes feasible. They all met the challenge to incorporate design, affordability, and clean energy solutions.
We also paid a visit to the Toyota Drive Center which featured fuel efficient hybrids and zero emission, plug-in electric vehicles. Hope my mother was paying attention; it would make a great graduation present in three years!
The take away message was that with the technology we have today, and the ever increasing advancements, it is possible to live an energy efficient and environmentally-friendly life. We are now at the point that it is possible to not only save energy, but also share the energy with others. We hope that our continued interest in the sciences will someday contribute to the improvement of our environment. We appreciated this unique opportunity and we thank all of the EmPower Team, especially David Schieren and Greg Sachs, for making it possible.
US DOE Solar Decathlon 2013
Greetings from the road. Greg and I just returned from the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Competition in Irvine, California, this week and are now preparing to leave for Chicago for the annual Solar Power International conference. You can view a gallery of pictures here.
The Solar Decathlon, as always, was an amazing experience. It was inspiring to see the teamwork and friendly competition between students from all over the world.
The takeaway from the competition is clear. We can build technologically advanced and comfortable homes that achieve net zero energy consumption. This year 19 student led teams from around the world just demonstrated this. Each team had a positive energy balance, meaning they produced more solar than the homes consumed. This is a competition first, and a reflection on how mature the technologies are.
The Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002; the competition has since occurred biennially in 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. We are moved by the Department of Energy employees for continuing to work through the government shutdown this year.
EmPower had a defining experience co-leading the NYIT/USMMA Solar Decathlon house in 2005, and we founded and helped lead the international Solar Decathlon Alumni Association. The Solar Decathlon remains a vital source of inspiration and direction for our work.
We also want to take a moment to send a sincere thank you to the over fifty students who participated in the EmPower Solar Student Competition and family night this year. We were grateful for your involvement and proud of the student’s hard work. We’re hoping that the competition was just the beginning of their relationship with EmPower, and your involvement with renewable energy and sustainability.