Why do you care about energy? Odds are that you have a concern about one or more of the following factors: cost, environmental impact, reliability or even accessibility. With energy management, there is no one single problem, nor a “one-solution-fits-all” approach. Where you start depends upon what you are hoping to accomplish.
Many times, an individual or company will start pursuing solar generation to both save money and reduce demand on fossil-fueled utilities. That could be a good first step. You might consider an alternate approach, a Path to Smarter Energy™ (that I outlined in a previous blog article and video), before jumping right in to power generation.
Understanding Power Demand and Energy Use
It is helpful to understand that power (kW) is instantaneous demand and energy (kWh) is power over time. (Here’s a short video to help explain this.) Managing both power and energy starts with understanding the overall picture. Is your power demand consistent throughout the billing cycle or is it highly variable? Do you pay different rates at different times of the day? Do you understand demand charges and whether you pay them?
Looking at utility bills and understanding them can be a good place to start. Many utilities have online tools that let you graph your usage, likely at monthly levels. To get better granularity of data for detailed assessment and analysis, many metering options are available with wide ranging capabilities. These systems can help you find peaks, map actual usage to time-of-day rates and provide data for rational analysis in determining opportunities for usage reduction. An additional benefit of metering is the ability to correlate energy usage with emissions.
Conservation Before Generation
Often overlooked in energy discussions is the opportunity to reduce energy use before considering any generation or storage solutions. An initial energy assessment is recommended to develop a solid energy management plan. These assessments look at all energy consumption as a baseline. Lighting upgrades, equipment modernization or replacement, and automation are some of the many potential means to reduce energy usage. Complicating the goal of reducing usage is the proliferation of EV charging, which drives up power demand and energy usage. In these cases, charger management software can be used to manage peak demand and time-of-use charges.
If you are concerned about basic energy costs, you might be considering solar to offset some of that cost through net metering. This consists of pushing your unused energy back to the grid, for payment or credit from the utility. If you pay time-of-use charges – higher during peak times – you might even be considering “buying low and using high,” using battery energy storage to help manage when you use the energy. These batteries could be charged with solar or with lower cost electricity during off-peak times. Renewable generation can also be used to offset new loads, including EV chargers as they become more prevalent.
If you have concerns with energy reliability, you have probably considered the impact of losing electricity for even short amounts of time. It is not commonly understood that solar alone does not function without the grid or other electrical “stabilizer.”
Batteries or generators are the best alternatives to providing power during an outage, with the former being able to pull new energy from renewable sources. Generators are still the most common long-term backup for larger loads, but as battery prices come down, battery energy storage is becoming a viable option for longer term outage protection. Combining battery storage and a generator can provide reasonable backup times using clean energy stored from solar generation, with the generator handling longer term outages that are hopefully less frequent.
Many organizations are looking to reduce their impact on the environment, even setting goals and timelines to do so. Adding solar or wind generation to offset some or all of your purchased utility energy is a critical piece of this plan. As mentioned earlier, solar can be used to power your loads directly, with excess either sold back to the utility or stored in batteries for later use.
Control Your Energy Destiny
Many options exist to help you reduce energy usage, lower costs, improve reliability and reduce your environmental footprint. Combining utility power, renewable generation sources, battery storage and even traditional generators provides the ability to control your destiny with respect to energy.
Regardless of your goals, EnTech Solutions will meet you where you are in your energy journey and help map a pathway to meeting your goals. Contact us today to get started.
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