Sunday, December 9, 2007

LEED and Solar Energy

In the LEED rating system, the on-site renewable energy credits are hard to get, especially on urban sites. Essentially you need to generate 2.5-7% of the buildings electricity from wind, water, or solar energy. In a city environment the first two usually go out the window due to site constraints, so you get focused on solar energy.

From an economic point of view, the payback for PVs can be very long, sometimes you hear numbers like twenty years. This takes into account the monetary cost to manufacture the units, get them to your building, plug them in, and produce enough power to pay for themselves. This is obviously a dated way to look at our energy production.

If you use carbon as your benchmark the return on investment can go down to 1-5 years This takes into account how PVs are manufactured and how much carbon is produced in that process. Then how much carbon is produced to make's zero by the way. Not to mention that there is exceptionally low cost to maintain the system once it is operational.

On a lab project that I am currently working on, we have chosen to install a 40kW system that will take up a huge amount of roof space. We are hoping to finance the installation in large part through incentives and rebates but some of the money is still going to come out of the bottom line. It is not going to give us the illusive 2.5% of our buildings energy, but how could we not do it?

There is a reason why countries like Germany are investing so heavily in PVs. They are cheep and clean sources of energy. The LEED rating system is helping to get Americans focused on this infinite energy source.


Green-A said...

Geothermal counts for LEED too- not just wind, solar etc

Anonymous said...

What's a PV?

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