Tag Archives: solar energy

electric vehicles plugged in to tennessee

Electric Vehicles in Tennessee

By: Caleb Powell

Tennessee is home to three major vehicle assembly plants and over 900 automotive suppliers, making it the main hub of the South’s automotive sector. General Motors, Nissan, and Volkswagen have been located in our state for many years, investing billions into the economy and creating more jobs. The industry is evolving faster than ever before and making the movement from combustion engines to electric vehicles (EVs), is a change that reduces emissions that contributes to climate change, and improves public health. Being able to adapt to trends throughout the automotive industry itself is one of the specialties of these Tennessee manufacturers. Tennessee is already the top manufacturer of EVs in the Southeast, producing more than 16,000 vehicles per year. By being proactive and investigating new technologies, these companies have put Tennessee at the forefront of this vehicle manufacturing evolution.

electric vehicles plugged in to tennessee

General Motors has announced a $2 billion dollar investment into the Spring Hill facility to build fully electric vehicles including the luxury Cadillac LYRIQ. Through a joint venture with battery partner LG Chem Ltd., they are planning to build a new plant on land leased from GM, named Ultium Cells. Volkswagen has begun expanding its Chattanooga factory to build a North American center for EVs – not only for assembly, but for engineering the EVs of the future. To power those efforts, Volkswagen‘s Engineering and Planning Center in Chattanooga will soon feature a unique, state-of-the-art high-voltage laboratory designed to develop and test EV cells and battery packs for upcoming models assembled in the United States.

The nation’s largest public utility, the Tennessee Valley Authority, is working with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Tennessee Department of Transportation to develop a statewide system of public EV charging stations that officials say will make the state a leader in electric transportation. The charging network is expected to include about 50 stations, primarily along interstates and U.S. and state highways. The idea is to have chargers available at least every 50 miles with a goal to complete the project in the next five years. As the industry grows and EVs become more prevalent, building out the infrastructure to accommodate more EVs on the road. You can learn more about it here.

In the very near future Tennesseans should be able to purchase EVs manufactured in Tennessee and travel throughout the state with easy access to a vast charging network.

ToDey, we don’t all have access to electric vehicles, but maybe Tomorrow we will! If you’re ready to electrify your home with clean energy, check out our blog about the easiest way to get started.

solar energy nashville

Nashville Is Experiencing a Mini-Revolution in Solar. Here’s How to Take Part. [UGL]

Read the original article on Urban Green Lab’s website.

 

For a long time, Nashville was a sunny spot in the hot and humid Sunbelt that got almost none of its energy from the sun. Regrettably, the state of Tennessee got only .2% of its electricity from solar energy as of 2018, compared to a U.S. average of 1.5%, according to the latest data available from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The electricity grid, the network of interconnecting power transmission lines that deliver electricity, is the dirtiest in the South and Midwest, according to Laura Zapata, founder of Clearloop Corp. in Nashville, which helps mid-sized and small businesses to buy into solar projects to offset their carbon footprint. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and is produced by certain activities such as burning coal to produce electricity. “We can do better,’’ Zapata said. “We’re in the Sunbelt.”

solar energy map america

Organizations such as Vanderbilt University and Facebook are indeed pushing the area’s utilities to do better, with dramatic results. Plus, the prices for solar panels have fallen in recent years, making solar economically competitive and in some cases cheaper than other sources of power, according to the financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard.

That’s driving a boom in solar energy. Energy from the sun accounted for 43% of all new electricity generating capacity in the United States in the third quarter of 2020, beating all other generation technologies, according to consulting and research firm Wood MacKenzie. Nashville is determined not to miss out any longer.

In fact, in November, Metro Nashville announced a joint deal with Vanderbilt University to pay for a 125-megawatt solar array project in Tullahoma, Tennessee, agreeing to buy the solar energy back from the region’s power generator, the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The project is estimated to create 500 new jobs and result in $6.8 million in health benefits by reducing harmful pollution, according to The Tennessean. The solar panels will help Metro Nashville reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from city operations by 40% in 2030 and by 80% in 2050.

Earlier in 2020, Vanderbilt University signed a deal with the TVA to buy 35 MW of renewable energy from a solar farm in Bedford County, Tennessee. It has a goal of powering its campus entirely through renewable energy and of being carbon neutral by 2050.

It’s not just universities and cities that are signing up for solar. So are the social media giant Facebook and the global search engine Google, both of which inked deals with the TVA in recent years to power enormous new data centers in Tennessee and Alabama with renewable energy.

Both of those companies pressure utilities and public officials to build solar in exchange for their investments. For example, Facebook had a goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions and 100% renewable energy for its operations by 2020.

Ribbon cutting ceremony for the The Whites Creek High School Solar Project.
Just because big corporations and organizations are getting the solar generation they demand, that doesn’t mean individuals, small organizations and schools can’t. “If you want it, you can get it,’’ said Jason Carney, founder and CEO of Energy Electives in Nashville. “There is financing out there.”

Here are some ways to get involved in Tennessee’s solar movement.
  • Consider weatherizing your home or business to reduce your energy use. That’s a smaller dollar ticket item with a big reward, said Carney.
  • Consider buying solar energy from a community solar project in exchange for credits against your local utility bill, such as Nashville Electric Service’s Music City Solar or Middle Tennessee Electric’s Cooperative Solar.
  • If you buy electricity, it’s likely you can participate in any number of TVA programs such as Green Power Switch, where you buy renewable energy credits through your local utility.
  • The Nashville business Clearloop, whose chairman is former Gov. Phil Bredesen, offers a simple way for small and mid-sized businesses and organizations to get a full assessment of their carbon footprint and offset that carbon by funding a solar project, the first of which is in Jackson, Tennessee.
  • Assess your home’s feasibility for solar and costs by contacting a qualified local contractor, for example, one with staff certified by the North American Board Certified Energy Practitioners. Although the TVA recently ended its rooftop solar buy-back program Green Power Providers, there’s still an opportunity to build solar. Local contractor LightWave Solar describes the options and costs here.
  • Don’t forget to advocate for more solar energy. Write letters to your city councilmember and at-large members, the mayors, the TVA and NES boards, and others who can influence policy in favor of more renewable energy.

 

If you’re an educator, you might want to engage your students in the growing movement and job training in renewable energy and sustainability.

  • Urban Green Lab offers sustainability curricula developed with Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and offers support for teachers in local schools. It also partners with the U.S. Green Building Council to certify teachers as Green Classrooms Professionals.
  • The U.S. Green Building Council has programs to help teachers master STEM concepts such as Building Learners, where students collect and analyze investigations around energy, health and transportation, and the subscription-based Learning Lab with its 600 hands-on lessons.
  • Consider getting your students to build their own solar project. Carney of Energy Electives did that with the students of Whites Creek High School in Nashville in 2019.

With President Joe Biden in office, solar energy may get an even bigger boost in the Nashville region. The president has proposed $2 trillion in infrastructure and clean energy investments across multiple sectors, from transportation to housing to electricity. It’s the perfect time to join the solar movement and be a part of Nashville’s solar revolution.

 

 

Solar panels on a rooftop

Solar energy at home, rooftop and portable

by Danielle Dorchester

Last updated: June 21, 2021

Solar energy at home is an exciting opportunity that gets more attainable every day. In addition to offering a clean source of electricity to address our increasing dependence, it also offers potential utility bill savings. It’s easy to get swept up by the idea of doing something beneficial for the environment and saving money, but there are some things to think about before starting your transition to solar energy.

Many solar installation companies offer complex, confusing solutions, and where you live can dramatically impact the price you pay and other benefits. We’re going to share considerations for using rooftop solar at home, and how to get started with clean energy today – even if you’re not ready for rooftop installation.

How does rooftop solar work?

The most widely implemented solar panels are photovoltaic (PV) panels. They turn the sun’s UV rays into electricity, and are connected to your home system and/or your community’s electricity grid. Recently, this technology has become much more affordable and accessible.

The energy you generate from the sun can also be funneled back into the city power grid, so in addition to fueling your house, you’re producing energy for other homes in your community. This practice is called net-metering. In many states the process is free, allowing you to run your meter in reverse to sell your excess energy to the city.

The efficiency of solar panels has drastically improved in the last ten years, and during that time, government incentives have resulted in a range of solar investment opportunities, new companies, and technology upgrades. Buying solar panels can be a great long-term investment, but it can also be a stressor if not implemented well.

Buying rooftop solar

As with every other business, solar panel companies determine pricing.  Since the sun’s rays are free,  you should save money on your electricity bill after installing solar panels. Ideally, you should save a solid chunk of change. If the quoted solar panel monthly lease or purchase payment is more expensive than your former electricity bill, look elsewhere.

While many companies can install solar panels for you, depending on where you live, owning them once they’re installed can be another story. A lot of companies practice leasing with rooftop solar. Leasing your solar panels is a lot like leasing a car, you make monthly payments to your solar company instead of paying a monthly electric bill. However, you never own the panels unless you buy them out on top of that lease.

Solar panels on a rooftop

Buying your own panels is more financially beneficial, and as of June 15, 2021 home buyers, and businesses, are eligible for a federal tax credit equal to 26%. of the cost of the solar panels. Note: these tax benefits go to the solar installation company if you lease panels. Many states provide solar tax incentives, in addition to the federal one. At solar-estimate.org you can view incentives available in your state and calculate lifetime solar energy savings.

If states continue to offer tax credits to encourage adoption of solar energy, competition will lead to more affordable solar panels, which is one reason environmental activism remains so important. The organized efforts to encourage states to switch to green energy consistently benefits consumers.

But what if you’re not quite ready to make that investment?

Clean solar energy with Jackery

Personally, I’m not in the position to get rooftop solar quite yet, so we went hunting for another option.

We’re thrilled at the prospect of clean energy, but the investment in rooftop solar can tally up to the tens of thousands. Though financing options are available, in many states it isn’t quite monetarily worth it. Moreover, you have to own a home before you can think about solar, and even then many communities have building restrictions. Enter Jackery.

jackery solar panels being used outside

Jackery is a relatively new company, focused on personal and portable lithium power stations. In fact, they were first to market in 2015. Since then, they’ve expanded to offer portable solar panels you can use to charge that power station. Finally, you can reap some of the benefits of clean energy at a fraction of the price.

They offer batteries and panels in a range of sizes to fit any need on the go, but since we wanted to try it out in a home setting, we went big. You can affix the solar panels to a window, on top of a car or just out in the grass or on pavement to charge. The battery is impressive, I’ve charged four devices at once without an issue, only using a fraction of its storage. 2020 brought many extreme events, and Jackery saw an opportunity to test their products while helping front line workers. They helped to  power mobile homes and facilities for free across the country.

Jackery will be the first to tell you that solar energy and battery storage technology is changing rapidly, and they’re committed to continually improving their offering. We’re extremely impressed by the performance of our battery and panels, and our Work-From-Home office is powered by nothing else!

Solar energy at home

If you’re ready to take the plunge into rooftop solar, we encourage you to go for it! Do your research, get a few quotes, and talk with your lawyer or accountant before signing the contract. While solar panels may seem like the obvious choice in the modern era, there are clearly numerous considerations, and solar panels may not be right for you, right now.

If ToDey, like us, you’re not quite ready for rooftop solar, give Jackery a try.

Clearloop carbon offsets

What are carbon offsets, carbon neutral, and net zero?

Since we’re diving into clean energy this month at OneDey, we thought it might be helpful to dive into the large-scale corporate offsetting industry for a minute. It can be difficult to grasp all of the concepts, but it’s a great look into all the good that can be done ToDey for our environment if we all act together!

This article is reposted from Clearloop, check out their website for the original article here.

 

Now that we’ve talked about measuring a corporate carbon footprint, we’ll dive into the “so what”?

There are lots of claims out there that are meant to describe what an organization is doing to reduce their carbon footprint– but what do they mean and how are they different?

Carbon Offsets

Once you measure the carbon footprint of something, you should always work to reduce it directly. However, after you’ve done everything you can–from efficiencies to using more sustainable, local products–you may have to look elsewhere to offset your entire carbon footprint. Offsetting one’s carbon footprint means to compensate for one’s emissions by funding a carbon-saving method somewhere else. In order to truly offset those emissions, a carbon offset must be additional, meaning that the carbon wouldn’t be avoided otherwise. Essentially, the money spent must go toward a project that would not be built and operated without the sale of offsets.

Carbon offsetting is a popular goal for many companies, yet while it sounds easy, the truth is that there are limited options for companies.

One way to offset your corporate carbon footprint is through planting trees. It’s visual, easy to understand, and chances are the average person has planted something in their life. Unfortunately, sometimes the carbon captured by trees can be hard to measure and ensure it is a permanent way to ensure the carbon doesn’t go back into the atmosphere.

Another way to offset carbon is through capturing and destroying a greenhouse gas that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere, such as funding a methane capture project at a landfill. Although burning the methane gas turns it into a less harmful greenhouse gas for the environment, this process still results in carbon dioxide being released into the air.

A company can also offset their carbon footprint by investing in other power sources, such as wind and solar energy. The idea is to decarbonize the grid so that we are not burning fossil fuels anymore, so that we are not creating the carbon emissions in the first place. While a company might still be using coal for their energy consumption, because of their investment in offsetting through solar and wind, those emissions are being avoided from the production of electricity.

Clearloop carbon offsets

Carbon Neutral or NetZero Carbon Emissions

Carbon neutrality is the idea that we need to have a complete balance between carbon emitted and carbon reduced.

Carbon offsets are one of the many tools companies can use to achieve a carbon neutral status.  Whatever emissions you’re putting into the world, you’re taking an actionable step to “remove” all of them.

Companies that set out to be carbon neutral or have net-zero carbon emissions mean that they are accounting for the emissions they produce minus the emissions they extract directly from their own processes, as well as indirectly from another area not in their operational control (i.e. the carbon a tree absorbs or the carbon a clean energy project avoids).The ultimate goal is to have net-zero carbon emissions. If we do that, then we’ve reached neutrality.

These days, some major companies are committing to being carbon negative– meaning that they will go beyond taking responsibility for the footprint they create day to day–either by going back to offset all the emissions they’ve created since their founding (like in Microsoft’s case) or just taking responsibility for a greater amount–because these companies understand that we need to accelerate action to defeat climate change.

100% Renewable Energy

Another widely-used term, the idea behind 100% renewable energy is that everything a company does that requires electricity uses renewable energy sources. We still burn fossil fuels to generate electricity every day, so depending on where a company operates it may be easier or harder to plug into a clean energy source.

When it comes to renewable energy, the acronyms PPA and REC will often come up. PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) and RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates) are the way in which a company can claim that it is using clean energy for it’s operations even if it is not directly plugging into a renewable energy project to power its business.

A PPA is a financial agreement between a large corporation and a solar power developer (such as our friends at Silicon Ranch), who will then handle all aspects of the project, from financing to actual installation. The developer sells the power generated to the host customer at a lower fixed rate than the local utility’s retail rate, offsetting the corporation’s purchase of electricity from the grid. These agreements usually get plenty of buzz because wealthy companies, such as Amazon, Google, or Facebook, can both afford the cost and have a strong enough credit rating to be able to sign a contract that promises to purchase that clean energy for the next 10 to 20 years.

Most recently, some smaller companies have been working with these large corporations to sign these long term contracts and be able to purchase clean power this way. Unfortunately for the vast majority of companies that can’t agree to purchase clean power for a set period of time, there are few other options that are as directly linked to the construction of a new project.

For example, a company can purchase “unbundled” RECs, which are generated from existing clean energy projects every time a megawatt hour of energy is produced as a way for a business to certify they are using clean energy. RECs were originally created as a market signal to show demand for renewable energy from companies. However, they don’t have a carbon reduction value attached to them. That means that a  company consuming a megawatt hour of electricity in West Virginia may not be fully making up for its environmental impact if it’s buying a REC from a clean energy project creating that megawatt hour in Vermont, because the grid is not equally dirty across the country.

Although RECs provide important verification that a company is using clean energy from somewhere else to make up for its own electricity consumption, unbundled RECs may miss the goal of reducing the actual carbon emissions that a company’s electricity is generating.

It is well-understood that money used to purchase unbundled RECs doesn’t build new projects – instead they use renewable energy that is created through existing infrastructure.

If we aren’t building new renewable energy at scale, we can’t reach our goals to reduce the carbon footprint of the U.S. electric grid. That’s where Clearloop fits in as a tool to build more clean energy capacity in the places that need it the most to help more companies reduce their carbon footprint.

Bringing it All Together

Businesses of all sizes are finding new ways to reduce their carbon footprint every day. However, the increasing number of buzzwords and acronyms can make it hard to keep up and the efforts get confusing.  When companies (or individuals) want to make a change and commit to a goal around their carbon footprint, it’s important to know the details and always ask HOW.  We’re happy to do our part to dispel myths and make it easy to understand all these terms. After all, it will take all of us working together to slash greenhouse gases and defeat climate change.

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Want to learn more about how to offset your carbon footprint and expand access to clean energy with Clearloop? Drop us a note at hello@clearloop.us or contact us here.