Today at High Performance Building Magazine

NESEA, Mike Duclos and HeatSpring Launch Passive House Design Training

If you’re a professional in the building industry, you’ve probably heard of the growing Passive House movement. You may even be familiar with the basic principles. If you have clients who want to apply the Passive House standard to an actual project, and you’re looking for a crash course to get yourself up to speed on the basics, “Passive House Design” is the perfect solution. This new course in HeatSpring and NESEA’s Building Energy Masters Series is designed as a solid introduction to the knowledge and skills you’ll need for Passive House construction or consulting work.

The course starts on September 22nd. The course is capped at 50 students and we’re providing 30 discounted seats. Click here to read more about the course and reserve one of thirty discounted seats.

This intensive, six-week course is taught by Mike Duclos, a founder of The DEAP Energy Group, a firm providing a wide variety of deep energy retrofit, zero net energy, and Passive House related consulting services. Mike has real world experience with the design, construction, certification and delivered performance measurement of Passive House, and is a Certified Passive House Consultant.

Mike’s course covers the history of Passive House design, a detailed explanation of the Passive House standard and how to meet its requirements, the social and environmental context, energy modeling and the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), and real-world examples of buildings constructed to the Passive House standard. And that’s all in the first week!

Subsequent weeks delve deeper into the application of the Passive House standard on real-world projects. Sample floor plans and a variety of design tools and calculators are included. Students who complete the course will design a simple Passive House “lite” using a simplified version of the PHPP.

The material and exercises will challenge you theoretically and practically, but Mike will be there every step of the way to provide insights and direction through the course discussion board.

Graduates of Passive House Design will walk away with:

  1. A detailed understanding of the history and hidden challenges of very low energy home design and different approaches that have been used successfully.
  2. A simplified version of the PHPP designed as a basic introduction to Passive House modeling and to provide quantitative feedback on key architectural design decisions critical to a successful Passive House design—without all of the labor-intensive detail required by the full PHPP.
  3.  A capstone project: Successful design of a home using the simplified PHPP to get a taste of meeting some of the most difficult challenges of Passive House: Space Heat Demand and Primary Energy.

About Mike Duclos

Mike Duclos is a principal and founder of The DEAP Energy Group, LLC, a consultancy providing a wide variety of Deep Energy Retrofit, Zero Net Energy and Passive House related consulting services. Mike was an energy consultant on the Transformations, Inc. Zero Energy Challenge entry, and has worked on a variety of Zero Net Energy, DER and Passive House projects, including two National Grid DER projects which qualified for the ACI Thousand Homes Challenge, Option B, the first National Grid DER to achieve Net Zero Energy operation, and the first EnerPHit certified home in the USA. Mike is a HERS Rater with Mass. New Construction program specializing in Tier III design and certification, a Building Science Certified Infrared Thermographer, a Certified Passive House Consultant responsible for the design and certification of the second Passive House in Massachusetts, holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from UMass Lowell, and has two patents.

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How to Use Cheap Sensors and Mobile Phones to Make People Care About Energy Waste

Visibility of energy use is not enough to get people to change their actions, we still need to find a way to make people care to compel them to act.

At last week’s Cleanweb Hackathon in Boston, teams focused on combining hardware, software, and mobile devices to figure out how to make people care about regular energy issues. There were two pitches for lighting efficiency (LightOut) and water efficiency (Water Hero) that were particularly creative and compelling takes on how to make people address waste.

The format of the hackathon was simple: Participants pitched ideas and got onto teams on Saturday morning. On Sunday at 3:00 p.m. they presented their ideas and the progress that they had made to a panel of judges. Judges voted, some people win prizes.

One of the judges, Barun Singh, founder and CTO of Wegowise, commented,  “There were a lot of great ideas presented this weekend. The sign of something that’s good is that once you’ve heard the problem, you know it makes sense to address.” All of the teams focused on real energy problems that we face, but the winning teams focused on making people care about these issues. Another judge, Tony Barnes from EnergySavvy said, “and it’s not just about what makes sense to address. It’s also about getting people to care – and act. And that can be an even more difficult problem.”

Most energy issues are hard to solve because they matter when looked at on a large scale but are not costly enough at the individual level to spark action. Most people spend 10 times more on their phone bill than what they might waste in water each month.

The industry, and the hackathon teams, are learning that we need to re-address the same problems we all know exist with a focus on understanding and addressing what will make people care about changing their actions to solve the problem.

Two teams in particular were able to do this effectively: LightsOut and Water Hero.

The LightsOut pitch is simple: public shaming. Many public governments and private businesses keep a significant number of outdoor lights on during the day. It’s unnecessary and a waste of money. For their pitch, the LightsOut team walked around Somerville for 30 minutes and took more than 70 photos of outdoor lights that were on during the day. They calculated that for the city of Somerville, each street light cost ~$400 per year to run during the day. The LightsOut application gives regular people the ability to take a picture on their phone and report it. The application will aggregate all of the data, centrally display it, and report the problem.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 1.13.32 PM

I love this take on efficiency because it uses PR. The lights by themselves don’t cost much for a corporation or government, but, since it’s a blatant waste of energy and cause of emissions that everyone can see, it could be a PR nightmare.

Water Hero took a similarly novel approach to water efficiency and it’s pure genius. They focused on eliminating the potential risk of water damage in properties. The byproduct of addressing water damage risk is that water efficiency can be addressed.

Water is cheap in the United States, unless you’re in a drought region. This is good for health and sanitary purposes but bad for efficiency. We waste 1 trillion gallons of water per year, but to each household it’s a very small amount. However, if you look at where water creates pain and damage in the economy for regular property owners, the answer is clear. Water damage. Water damage is the largest single claim that insurance companies have to pay out, totaling more than 24% of the 60 billion dollars of residential claims paid each year. Having water damage in a home is 4 times more common than a burglary and 7 times more common than theft.

Barnacle Alert via Text

Water Hero constantly measures the water use of a building and can detect a leak. If a leak is detected, it can automatically shut off the water to avoid damage and report these issues to the property owner’s mobile phone. See to the right what a sample text will look like in the event of a leak. This functioning application was built in just one weekend.

Paying a small yearly fee to eliminate water damage risk, which could also results in lower insurance costs, is a no-brainer for most risk-averse homeowners. Here’s the kicker: the benefit of monitoring a home for potential water leaks is reporting water use data all the time. Water bills come every 3 months, but Water Hero can report and send alerts for high water use on a continuous basis. In the sample report below, notice how you can see the water use through a single day, across many days, and in aggregate for a week or month. If there was a small leak, water would be running during the night. If there was a huge leak, the graph would shoot up and Water Hero would shut off the water and send a warning text.

WaterHeroDashboard

 

This data gives property owners the ability to recognize and address smaller and continuous leaks, inefficient buildings, or tenants who are using a lot of water.

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The Most Common Solar PPA Modeling Mistake, The Fix, and a Free Tool

solar modelling

This article will address the most common error that developers and EPCs make when modeling commercial solar PPAs. The video below will discuss the problem, the solution, and provide a free tool you can download so you can work through the answer yourself.

If you’re a developer interested in developing and owning your own solar project, click here sign up for the one hour webinar that Chris Lord will be running tomorrow at 2pm EST. The event is titled “How Commercial Solar EPCs can Develop and Own Their Own Solar Projects”.

This article is part of a series common topics and questions that professionals have about financing commercial solar projects. Past topics include how to price the risk of cash equity vs tax equity in a partnership flip and how to calculate the buyout process of a PPA.

This lessons will be on the most common modeling mistakes that Chris Lord see’s developers make. Chris Lord runs a consulting practice called CapIron and is a co-teacher of the Solar MBA (next course starts on April 14th). Tomorrow, Friday April 11th at 2pm EST, Chris will be hosting a webinar that will teach solar developers the 5 key issues they need to understand to develop and own their own projects.

The modeling problem has to do with properly discounting the tax benefits of a project. The result of that problem is two-fold. First, it’s an obvious beginners mistakes. If you want to look like a professional, you need to make sure that you’re not doing this. Second, if you do it improperly, it inflates project returns, which can hurt you when the investor does their due diligence.

Note: If you want to see what Chris is doing, click on the FULL SCREEN button on the bottom right of the video. You can also download the tool Chris is using by entering your email at the bottom of the article. 

We all know the importance of understanding and modeling the economics of a solar project, but what is the most common and easily corrected modeling mistake you see Developers make?

Failing to properly discount the federal tax benefits in a transaction, particularly the ITC. Most show the ITC as a direct and immediate reduction of the Capital Cost of a Project. In effect, developer is asking the tax investor to buy the tax credit by paying $1 for every $1 dollar of tax credit. Developers want to pay a discount. Sometimes the discount is expressed as a price per dollar, but the best way to account for the cost is show the purchase price paid in year zero and the ITC recovered in year 1. This ensures that the ITC will be discounted at least one year by the Investor’s discount rate.

How would you handle depreciation? 

Answer: You take the available depreciation for each year – let’s say that is the excess depreciation beyond what is needed to shelter the project’s current income – calculate the value of that depreciation as the amount of tax savings that such excess depreciation will generate. For example, if you had in year 2 $110 of depreciation and $10 of project income, you would have $100 of excess depreciation. For an investor with enough other qualifying income to use that $100 of excess depreciation, the value is equal to the applicable tax rate times $100. At a 35% federal tax rate, that would mean $35 of value in year 2. Discount that back to year 0 to determine today’s value of that $100 of excess depreciation in year 2.

Download The Sample Model

Enter your email to download the model to help your calculate the value of the ITC and MACRS on commercial solar projects.
  • This is where email where the model will be sent.

 

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Interview with Cory Honeyman, GTM Research Solar Analyst, on Emerging Trends in Residential and Commercial Solar

In this interview, GTM Research Solar Analyst Cory Honeyman provides some background on the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report and discusses trends in residential and commercial solar, including hard costs, important skills for salespeople, state incentives, common misconceptions, and financing. (The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

Tom McCormack (TM): Can you give some background on the U.S. Solar Market Insight Report?

Cory Honeyman (CH): The U.S. Solar Market Insight Report is a publication that we release with the Solar Energies Industry Association (SEIA) on a quarterly basis. The key takeaways from the report are a combination of understand installations across each state and market segment, our outlook on future installations, our forecast, by state and market segment on future installations through 2017. Within that, we break apart and identify the leading states and provide qualitative background on the key drivers and challenges to growth that are fueling or hampering installations across the top 10, and some of the newer state markets that are just beginning to hit the national radar. We also cover installation pricing trends, manufacturing and component pricing trends, and, finally, a breakdown of both PV and concentrating solar trends.

TM: What is the methodology for the report?

CH: The quantitative data comes from an extensive data collection effort that I take the lead on. We reach out to 60-80 sources, including utilities, incentive program administrators, and government program administrators, who provide figures on new installation capacity across the major market segments. One key element that sets this report apart from other reports that are tracking growth in the solar industry is the fact that I think we have the most robust coverage of actual utility interconnection data. We also conduct an extensive array of channel checks where we have discussions with people across the downstream value chain for solar about the major drivers of growth in the states where we’re seeing upticks in a given quarter.

TM: What is driving the increase in residential installations?

CH: Customer acceptance and the interest in going solar in the major state markets, especially in California, is increasing every year. When you see three of your neighbors go solar, it inevitably makes you want to go solar, too. Outside of the increased social acceptance, the economics for installing solar on the residential side have become increasingly attractive. The cost to install has gone down, but it’s also been driven by the introduction of a lot more innovative and attractive third-party financing options that have really scaled up growth. The entrance of companies like SolarCity that can enable homeowners to avoid a lot of the upfront costs of installing solar is driving a lot of the growth in the established state markets. We see, on the residential side, in most major markets, that third-party ownership accounts for two thirds to 85 percent of the market each quarter.

TM: What is making solar cheaper?

CH: On the upstream side, we’re seeing declining prices across both components and polysilicon. Combined with that is the fact that we’ve seen increased electricity retail rates for customers. Those two things together increase the value proposition for customers to go solar. Also, in many of the established state markets installers have fine-tuned their internal operational efficiencies, cutting down on a lot of soft costs and have also even focused on customer acquisition.

TM: Do the current solar trends suggest any new careers or skills that will be more in demand in the coming years?  

CH: Our partner SEIA recently released a report on the number of jobs that have been created within the solar industry, and that goes into the types of jobs the industry attracts and how that has evolved over time. As we’ve seen really impressive and continued growth across the entire market, obviously that requires a ramp-up in sales capacities. So, if you go on LinkedIn and type in “solar,” all of the leading companies have positions open for outside and inside sales consultants, and I think that is an area where there will be constant demand. Although it’s becoming increasingly heterogeneous, the U.S. market is still concentrated in the hands of a few state markets. However, the dynamics within those states is changing, so I think there’s a need for more and more roles that involve a strong understanding of where the market is heading both geographically as well as in terms of financing trends and other major trends that can lead to increased acquisition of customers.

TM: What types of skills would make a prospective solar employee marketable today?

CH: It’s a different conversation depending on whether you’re pitching to a residential or a commercial customer. The requirements for commercial are more technical and focused on the financial returns whereas with residential, you really just need to shore up what your elevator pitch is when you’re reaching out to potential customers. Regardless of what the customer acquisition strategies are for a given company, if you’re in a sales position, a lot of that is going to be external-facing and either on the phone or face-to-face work. So, it’s important to understand financing options and be able to explain the key metrics that homeowners care about. So, what is the payback period? Or, what is the discount I can expect based on what I am currently paying for my electricity bill?

TM: What do you consider to be an overlooked or not-well-understood element of the current solar market?

CH: I think one of the prevailing notions about installing solar is that you need to have incentives to make it work, and I think we expect any project to take advantage of the federal-level incentives, which means the federal investment tax credit along with another incentive or accelerated depreciation. That will continue to be the primary driver of growth for the next couple of years. When a lot of people think about the economics of solar working out, it has to go hand-in-hand with the availability of really strong state incentive programs. That does fuel a lot of growth across many smaller and middle-tier state markets. But we’re really beginning to see a number of the leading states, that account for 80 percent of the market begin to shift away from needing any state incentives to make projects work. Last quarter was a hallmark moment for California, where over half of all the residential installations that came online actually came online without any state incentives. The trend is getting closer to this notion of retail rate parity, where a project can work with only the federal-level incentives. The misconception that you need incentives to make projects work is an important one because if you’re interested in making sales pitches and becoming an attractive candidate for jobs, being able to talk confidently about where the industry is heading and how it’s becoming increasingly independent of these state-level incentives is important.

TM: What are the main drivers of solar growth? Is it the political landscape of the state, the incentives in the state, or simply the availability of solar based on state geography?

CH: I think they all work together and are weighted differently depending on the state. The underlying market fundamentals that need to be there are: “What are the current retail electricity rates in a particular state?” and “What are the solar resources for that state?” When you have those two questions factored in, the role of incentives plays an important role, but when you think about the roles governments and utilities play in helping to promote solar growth, I think it really varies. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s probably surprising to hear that, in a number of states where you wouldn’t expect to see meaningful investment in solar, it’s actually taking place. Yes, California has and will continue to be the #1 state market for solar, but recently, for example, within the utility-scale market segment, North Carolina is the #2 state right now. Also, even farther south, Georgia, and specifically the utility Georgia Power, has made significant efforts an investment to begin ramping up solar development within its territory.

TM: Can you explain why that’s surprising? Is it because we’d expect redder states to be more reluctant to embrace the technology, or is it a different reason?

CG: I don’t think it’s surprising. The value of going solar is not driven solely by altruism and doing right. That’s an important piece to the puzzle, but the economics are structured in a way that, both for utilities and end users, there are strong cases to be made for integrating solar into the mix. So in Georgia, Colorado, and even Minnesota, the value of adding solar not for compliance reasons, but, for example, as a hedge against natural gas prices inevitably rising again. For customers in states where the incentive landscape isn’t as strong, and as project economics become increasingly attractive, the value of avoiding energy costs altogether is something that I don’t think people always factor in to the evaluation of what role solar can actually play across the U.S.

TM: What are the factors that impact how a utility company participates in the market? You mentioned that it’s a hedge against the price of other energy sources.

CH: That’s a second-order driver at this point. The #1 factor has been that states have set renewable portfolio standards (RPS), and a lot of those have solar carve-outs where the utilities are required to procure a certain amount of solar to meet annual compliance obligations. Those pieces of legislation have launched a number of procurement programs and incentive programs across all market segments. There are a number of states where those RPS are set. The most recent one was established in Minnesota.

TM: So, if there’s new legislation in a state, that’s going to be a major driver, forcing the utilities to get on board whether they like the idea or not?

CH: The prospects for new RPS legislation are going to be few and far between. There are a few states where we’ve seen an extension or revision of these standards, but a lot of the standards have been set over the past few years, going back as early as the mid-2000s, so that legislation is not something that will create new demand. It will just sustain demand that’s been set into place over the past several years.

TM: What types of new commercial projects are we seeing on the horizon?

CH: On the commercial side, the market saw a downturn in 2013 and kind of flat-lined. I think the market has shifted toward smaller-scale commercial systems, sub 100 kilowatt. In the past, especially in New Jersey, which was, for a while, the leading driver of growth in the commercial market, you saw a ton of 5 to 10 megawatt, ground-mount systems that were driving a lot of growth there. And, that market fall apart for a bit because its primary driver is SRECs, and the demand for SRECs dropped once there was too much investment in that market. Looking forward, I don’t think you’re going to necessarily see a shift in the types of projects; it’s more about the way in which that market can become reinvigorated. A lot of it has to do with mirroring what has happen recently on the residential side: figuring out ways to unlock capital to start developing projects again. On the residential side, we’ve seen really innovative platforms for linking investors with developers and linking third-party ownership agreements with customers. Coming up with innovative online platforms to facilitate and then unlock investment for commercial customers is a really important strategy that’s been employed on the residential side. Revising the financing structures that are currently in place in commercial markets is a really important trend to keep in mind. But there’s isn’t one specific type of project we can expect to see. It really depends on the state market. In Massachusetts, which is well on its way to being the #2 commercial market, looking at 2014, that market still sees a number of 1 to 5 megawatt, ground-mount systems. So, it depends on which state you’re in, what incentives are in place, and what those incentives are targeting.

TM: If there was something I needed to learn or familiarize myself with, when you’re talking about the more innovative financing for commercial solar, is that just a matter of getting comfortable with the all the different options that are out there, or creatively bringing investors to the table, or exploring new crowdsourcing options? What would I want to key in on to be on the cutting edge of that change as it happens?

CH: That’s one of the million-dollar questions for 2014 with commercial solar. There are a few companies that are beginning to introduce innovative financing structures. There was an announcement from Wiser Capital that they’re introducing a platform for scaling up commercial solar. Topics you’d really want to understand are how a power purchase agreement (PPA) is structured and expected returns and requirements from different types of nonresidential customers. “Commercial” is often used interchangeably with “nonresidential,” but a lot of the developers who are developing commercial projects are also developing projects for municipal, government, and non-profit entities, too. So, it’s important to recognize that the types of financing available for school projects, for example, are different than what you can secure for a commercial customer. And, I think there are trade-offs and benefits to both types of projects, but really understanding what types of debt instruments you can take advantage of with school and government projects, it’s perhaps a little more niche, but some of those opportunities are really important to leverage. Good case studies to reference are a number of school projects that have been developed in California and Arizona where they have PPA documents available to the public that you can review.

We plan to do an interview like this one each quarter to stay on top of quickly-evolving trends in the solar industry. What topics would you like to see covered?

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If you’re looking for solar training taught by industry experts, check out these online options:

Solar Executive MBA – The Solar Executive MBA is technical, rigorous, and challenging. It’s the most intense six-week course you’ll ever find but also the most valuable. We developed it for leaders who are responsible for the financial details that drive solar projects. The course is taught by two instructors: Keith Cronin, who built and sold his solar installation business to SunEdison in 2007, and Christopher Lord, a lawyer with deep banking experience who works with solar companies to find viable projects and investors for those projects.

Megawatt Design – Spend ten weeks learning from Ryan Mayfield, the Solar PV Technical Editor at SolarPro Magazine. Ryan, along with help from other industry leaders, has developed this course to help experienced solar professionals get their projects permitted and installed faster and cheaper. This course goes beyond traditional solar training: it is technical, rigorous, and for experienced professionals only. We cover all types of large solar PV systems, with a heavy emphasis on commercial rooftop systems.

Batteries in Solar PV Systems – Six-week intensive training with solar legend Christopher LaForge. PV systems that employ batteries require significant design considerations. Whether using batteries to “back-up” your utility grid or having them as the basis of a “stand-alone off grid system,” choosing the correct battery and sizing it correctly is challenging. This workshop will be an in-depth analysis of the issues surrounding the use of batteries for PV applications.

40-Hour Advanced Solar PV Installer Training – For experienced solar professionals looking to take the NABCEP Installer Exam and advance within the industry. Includes 40 NABCEP approved hours of training on advanced solar PV topics. We’ll cover electric code, installation, design, commissioning, sales, and begin to prepare you for the NABCEP Installer Exam.

Solar PV Installer Boot Camp + NABCEP Entry Level Exam Prep – The best way into the solar industry. This ISPQ-accredited, 40-hour solar training teaches you to design, install, and sell solar PV (electric) systems and helps you pass the NABCEP Entry Level Exam.

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How to Price the Risk of Cash Equity vs Tax Equity Positions in Solar Partnership Flips

This article is part of a series common topics and questions that professionals have about financing commercial solar projects. Chris Lord of CapIron provided some insights into pricing certain types of investor risk in partnership flips. Chris is a co-teacher of our Solar MBA which starts on Monday April 14th. Chris will also be presenting a webinar on Friday the 11th titled “How Commercial Solar EPCs can Develop and Own their Own Solar Assets”.

Now onto the question.

In a partnership flip, just how much riskier is the Cash Equity position, compared to the Tax Equity position? How do you put an IRR or Discount on that?

In a partnership flip, the cash equity’s return is subordinated to the tax equity’s return. In other words, the lion’s share of all cash and tax benefits for a project are allocated to the tax equity, with only a small allocation to the cash equity. This continues until the tax equity achieves its target return. That target return could range from an upper single digit return for the best of the best projects, and more typically in the low to mid double digits for typical mid-sized DG projects. This allocation favoring tax equity could extend for anywhere from 3 to 10 years depending on the strength of the project’s economics. Only after the tax equity realizes its target return, does the allocation of cash (and tax) benefits swing back to strongly favor the cash investor. This means that cash equity returns are pushed back later into a project’s lifecycle, and that longer term and subordinated role mean a cash equity position is always “riskier” than a tax equity investor and ought to receive a return greater that than the tax equity investor.

How do you put an IRR or Discount on that?

Hard for a developer to put a price on it, but the real test is what kind of a return does the market require.

Posted in Financing, Solar Photovoltaics | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

How to Calculate the Buyout Price for Commercial Solar PPAs

This article is part of a series on common topics and questions that professionals have about financing commercial solar projects.

Chris Lord of CapIron provided some insights into pricing certain types of investor risk in partnership flips. Chris is a co-teacher of our Solar MBA which starts on Monday April 14th. On Friday April 11th, he will be presenting a titled “How Commercial Solar EPCs can Develop and Own their Own Solar Assets”.

Now onto the question.

How do you calculate a buyout price for your host customer if they want to purchase the system in Year 7 or Year 5?

You are trying to determine what an investor will want to sell the project for. An investor would take the remaining cash flows from the project for years 8 through the end of the PPA, and discount that stream back to Year 7 using the investor’s target IRR. This will give you an approximation or guide to what FMV might look like in year 7.

What about a residual? How does that play in?

Project sellers love residuals, but buyers never do. A residual value is a guess as to what a project might be worth at the end of the PPA term. For example, if a 20 year PPA had a renewable term, then it would be fair game. Or, if we have a utility scale project and the site lease goes beyond the PPA term, then there is potential value. The question of what that value is, of course, is hard to determine. Moreover, whatever value might be agreed upon, is then discounted back ten or 15 years, which further reduces its role in the ultimate determination of FMV. So, at the end of the day, you can make some residual values, but it is a bit of a guessing game.

What if you want to set the buyout price at the start of the PPA?

Well, that you cannot do if you are seeking to monetize the tax benefits. If there is a firm, fixed price buyout set as a specific dollar amount at the start of the PPA, the IRS might conclude that the tax equity investor is not a true owner of the system because they don’t have any “downside” risk. To determine whether a tax equity investor is truly an “owner” for tax purposes, the tax equity owner must be at risk for losses if the project proves not to be as valuable as the parties thought. Hence the IRS expects you to agree that an option can be exercised for a price equal to FMV, but that FMV price cannot actually be determined until the time of exercise.

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SolarPro, HeatSpring, Ryan Mayfield Launch Megawatt Solar Design Class

 The online technical training experts at HeatSpring have teamed up with photovoltaic design and instruction professional Ryan Mayfield and technical media specialists SolarPro to launch a 10-week online course in megawatt-scale solar PV system design. To learn more about the course, register for one of two premium webinars being offered:

The Megawatt Design class is a technically rigorous and challenging 10-week course. Click this link for a complete commercial solar design training description and to claim one of thirty $500 bird discounts that are available.

The course has been developed for professionals who are responsible for designing, specifying, permitting, and managing the construction of megawatt-scale large-commercial solar projects and who need to stay current on equipment selection, design, budgeting, and code compliance. It is tailored to professionals with previous experience in large-commercial PV system design as well as those seeking to expand into the commercial market from a base of experience in residential PV system design. Students will use computer aided drafting, industry specific design tools and spreadsheet tools to complete the course.

Graduates of the Megawatt Design class will:

  1. Submit a complete set of drawings, equipment, budget, code references, and calculations for an actual megawatt PV system design project.
  2. Understand how to design projects that are cost effective, structurally sound, high performance and code compliant.
  3. Understand the current best practices for line side connections, grounding, rapid shutdown, fire regulations, and other complex and common design challenges for large projects.
  4. Be confident that their permitting package will be Code compliant the first time.

Course Outline

  • Project Qualification: In this opening week, we will review best practices for technical sales on large-scale commercial projects. Topics include: Establish major project goals, array location possibilities, rooftop/carport/ground mount, roof loading considerations, electrical infrastructure.
  • Equipment Selection: In this module we dive deeply into equipment selection. Pricing and equipment change rapidly in our industry. We’ll make sure you’re up to speed on the latest thinking. Topics include: Product selection thresholds, first cost, warranty, manufacturer service, module considerations including warranties and PID, inverter considerations, dc-to-ac ratio, micro/string/central inverter options, tracked and fixed racking, and system BOS.
  • Site Selection: This week we’ll cover requirements and best practices for siting your projects, covering both ground mount and rooftop systems. Topics include: Permissible shading allowances and  grading requirements for ground mounted arrays.
  • Software Tools: What software should you use to design large commercial solar projects? We’ll review the available options and help you to get the most out of your current or future program of choice, enabling fast, efficient design.
  • Designing Systems for Different Criteria: Every system design requires trade-offs. This week will cover how to optimize your designs for different criteria and how to minimize the downside of the trade-offs you make. Topics include: Lowest first cost, maximized energy production and targeted energy production.
  • NEC Considerations: Code, Code, Code. We could spend the entire course covering code, but we’re going to assume everyone in this course has a firm grasp of the NEC. This week we’ll discuss some of the 2014 updates and nuanced details to help you make fewer mistakes and get your jobs permitted faster.
  • Fire Code Considerations: Large-commercial rooftop systems require an in-depth understanding of fire codes and techniques for coordinating with fire departments, inspectors and owners.2012  International Fire Code (IFC) requirements will be covered.
  • Operations & Maintenance: Develop a detailed O&M plan that can be refined and re-used on your next large-commercial PV project.
  • Permitting: How do you get your permitting done faster and cheaper? That’s the multi-million dollar question. In this module we’ll provide tips and tools for getting your projects permitted more easily than your competitors.
  • Capstone Project: Students will receive all the inputs for a large-commercial rooftop installation, and develop and submit drawings, equipment and budgets to get the project installed as quickly and inexpensively as possible without compromising performance. Data for the capstone project comes from a real job. We’ve masked the identity of the project, but you’ll get to see all of the choices that were made and discuss the pros and cons of each as you do the work of designing your own system.

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Introduction to the new HeatSpring and High Performance Building Institute

The new HeatSpring website is now live, and the High Performance Building Institute is your new source for information and courses on high performance building and clean energy.

If you only have 15 seconds, read this:

  1. Our new HeatSpring website is live! You can check it out at www.heatspring.com.
  2. HeatSpring is now focused on building expert-led online courses across all technical industries rather than only high performance building and clean energy.
  3. Existing HeatSpring courses that are focused on high performance building and clean energy will now fall under the High Performance Building Institute.
  4. HeatSpring Magazine is now the High Performance Building Institute Magazine. The content will be exactly the same. If you subscribed to HeatSpring to get articles, content, and courses about high performance building and clean energy, you do not need to change anything.

If you have a couple of minutes, read this:

As HeatSpring continues to grow, we’ve expanded our course offerings beyond high performance building and clean energy. While we are excited to explore new subject areas, we want to continue to engage with and support the community of professionals that we’ve been so fortunate to get to know over the past seven years. Here is what’s changing: What you once knew as HeatSpring is now the High Performance Building Institute and High Performance Building Institute Magazine. The articles and course topics will remain the same. You will still only get email about marketing, selling, designing, and installing clean energy and high performance building products. For courses and content related to high performance building and clean energy, you will now visit the High Performance Building Institute page on the HeatSpring website.

Please take a moment sometime this week to visit the new HeatSpring website and let us know what you think. Two new features that we’re especially proud of are the improved viewing experience on mobile devices and the ability for students and instructors to upload photos that are displayed on course discussion boards. What additional features would you like to see? What new courses would you be interested in taking? We want your input!

If you’re an expert who would like to teach an online course through HeatSpring, there is an application on the homepage.

If you have questions about any of these changes, please give us a call or send us a message. We’re excited about what the future holds, and we’d be happy to talk to you one-on-one.

Thanks for your interest and support!

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5 Keys for Greening Commercial Roofs

Dr. Jim Hoff currently serves as vice president of research for the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing in Washington, D.C., and president of TEGNOS Research Inc., a consulting organization dedicated to expanding understanding of the building envelope. He’s also the instructor of the upcoming “Commercial Roofing Boot Camp” — an advanced online design course that has been approved by RCI for 20 continuing education hours and by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for 20 Learning Units.

In this interview, Dr. Hoff responded to readers’ most common questions about environmentally friendly, green, and sustainable roof systems.

Question 1: When I talk to building owners and architects who want a LEED building, the only thing they want to know about the roof is whether or not it’s white because white roofs get a LEED credit. Isn’t this a very shortsighted way to design and spec a roof?

Dr. Hoff: Yes, it is very shortsighted; and I’ll be the first to admit that changing the narrow focus on white roofs supported by the LEED heat island credit is very difficult. Probably the best tool available to improve the discussion about roof surface color is the RoofPoint program developed by the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing. RoofPoint recognizes the “greenness” of roofs using twenty three different credits, and only one of these credits addresses roof surface color. And even the roof surface color credit in RoofPoint allows the use of darker roofs in the coldest climates and also provides for other cool roof alternatives such as ballast in all climate zones. It’s a great program to help educate building owners and help demonstrate that you can be a valuable expert on the best in sustainable roofing practices.

Question 2: How can I go about integrating green into my business?

Dr. Hoff: I think it’s important to integrate green into your business in three basic ways. First, focus on one or two sustainable roofing strategies that could provide real value for your customers. As an example, if you reroof a lot of warehouses for a local developer, consider integrating daylighting – or skylights – into your roofing proposals. There are many excellent design tools available to help you get started, and the payback is very good, especially if you can integrate the skylights into the lighting controls. For businesses with high hot water needs, such as laundries, car washes, etc., rooftop solar thermal can also be a profitable add-on to the next reroofing project.

Next, look for ways to get your employees involved. Is there a company-wide policy regarding recycling? Do you emphasize that worker safety is just as green as any other green practice – after all green is fundamentally about people.

Finally, combine the one or two green sales strategies and green employee policies and start to reach out to the community. Instead of buying uniforms for a local ball team, consider what you could do to help your community save energy and reduce waste – and when you do it will only help promote your own green practices and increase your reputation as a sustainable business.

Question 3: I like green as in sustainable, but I also like green as in profit. How can I turn sustainable practices into the kind of green my bank accepts for deposit?

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[Interview] How to Provide Solar Financing to Any Non-Profit Solar Project Larger Than 50kW

solar crowdfunding

Lee Barken and his team at Collective Sun have figured out the holy grail of commercial solar financing.

Collective Sun can provide solar financing to non-profit solar projects from 50kW and up. Currently, they’re offering their product in California but are interested in doing the securities and legal work to open up shop in other states, if there is a non-profit that has serious interest in working with them.

Listen to the interview below to learn more about Collective Sun (CS) and how, specifically, their underwriting process is different than a traditional investor. Their key advantage is their unique underwriting process. It’s a really interesting strategy. Their process has more to do with selecting investors that see specific non-profits as low risk, rather than finding the non-profits that meet the stringent constraints of a tradition solar investor’s risk profile.

Why focus on non-profits?

There are several reasons why there has been such focus on non-profit clients.

  1. Non-profits operate on small budgets and they always need cash. Having lower and predictable operating expenses is very valuable to these organizations. It’s an easy sell to get your foot in the door.
  2. Non-profits have a social mission that tends to fit well with solar.
  3. There’s A LOT of non-profits! So the potential target market is huge. According to NCCS, there are 1.4 million non-profits in the US. Figuring this problem out will result in a huge increase in sales for the firms that provide this service.
  4. They can’t purchase a system in cash, because they don’t have a tax appetite, so financing is a natural fit for them.

A few months ago, we did a live Q+A that was specifically on performing due diligence, using crowd-funding,  and finding investors for financing non-profit solar projects. You can see the 50 minutes of video answering 5 question here. If you want to learn how to finance commercial solar projects from start to finish including all of the legal contracts, financial modeling tools, click here to read more about Solar MBA that starts on Monday April 14th. You’ll walk through the financing of a project in 6 weeks. Click here to enter your email and get one of the 30 discounts to the class.

Listen to the Interview

In this interview, here’s what you’ll learn.

  • How many projects Collective Sun (CS) has financed.
  • The types of non-profits that CS is focused on.
  • The size of non-profit that CollectiveSun will work with.
  • The spark that made CS decide to focus on financing non-profits.
  • Lee Barken’s background and how that led him to CS.
  • Why financing non-profits is more than a tax problem.
  • How CS deals with non-profit risk by working with a very specific type of investor.

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Posted in Financing, Solar Photovoltaics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment