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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Renewable Energy and Commercial Buildings: Tax & Energy Savings

Posted by SEPCO

10/27/11 9:50 AM

What if you could reduce your energy costs, utilize cutting edge technology, generate a significant tax reduction AND receive a tax credit all at the same time?

Federal and state tax incentives available for the purchase and use of renewable energy products can have dramatic impact to a company’s bottom line and tax savings.

Renewable Energy Help Buildings

What is the Commercial Building Energy Efficiency Deduction?

In 2005, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 established a new tax deduction for expenses incurred for energy-efficient commercial building property. In summary, commercial buildings can qualify for up to $1.80psf additional deduction for expenditures made on qualifying energy-efficient commercial buildings.

Solar PanelsHow do I determine if my building will qualify?

An energy-efficient commercial building property is defined as property that is (1) installed on or in any building located in the US (within the scope of ASHRA Standard 90.1-2001) except for low-rise residential buildings; (2) installed as part of the interior lighting, HVAC or building envelope, and; (3) certified as being installed as part of a plan to reduce the total annual energy and power costs of the building by 50% or more when compared to a reference building.

How Does Renewable Energy Fit into this Tax Incentive?

Congress intentionally wrote this tax incentive to be fuel neutral rather than give preference to a specific type of fuel. So, while expenditures for any new equipment that helps reduce energy costs will qualify, certain renewable energy products will both qualify for this deduction and qualify for a tax credit as well. Expenditures for geo-thermal, solar, and small wind energy that are part of an overall plan to reduce energy costs can be included as part of the qualified costs (under Section 179D). Assuming the building meets the qualifying standards, the expenditures for renewable energy equipment should be included in the calculation for the deduction under Section 179D and the tax credit under Section 48 of the US Tax Code.

What if I don’t meet the 50% test? Can I still qualify for a portion of the deduction?

Yes, the deduction is broken down into three components, interior lighting, HVAC and building envelope. If you meet only one component of the formula, you can receive $0.60 psf deduction (up to the amount spent); if you meet two components, you can receive $1.20 psf deduction (again, up to the amount spent).

Are there other deductions available to commercial buildings for renewable energy sources?

Yes, the Energy Investment Tax Credits have been extended through January 1, 2017. This 30% credit applies to solar energy and fuel cells properties as well as qualified small wind energy property. There is also a new 10% investment tax credit for combined heat and power systems and geothermal heat pumps.

Where Can I Find More Information on These Incentives?

The links below will provide you with additional information related to the incentives listed above.

Dept of Energy Buildings Technologies Program

Internal Revenue Code-Section 179D Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction

IRS Notice 2006-52 – Deduction for Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings

Solar Electric Power Company- Great resource for information on solar energy commercial products

Randy Eickhoff, CPARandy Eickhoff, CPA is President of Acena Consulting. With more than 20 years of tax and consulting experience, Randy focused on helping companies successfully document and secure tax incentives throughout the US. He has been a long-time speaker nationally as well as conducted numerous training sessions on R&D tax credits and other US tax incentives. Randy can be reached at www.acenaconsulting.com or via email at andy.eickhoff@acenaconsulting.com

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power, Funding

Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 1

Posted by SEPCO

10/25/11 9:30 AM

Industrial RevolutionThe Industrial Revolution was a time full of changes. These changes occurred in agriculture, textile and metal manufacture, transportation, economic policies and social structure. It changed and helped so many different industries throughout the world. It also was responsible for technological changes and advances that increased production, efficiency and profits. There is no telling where we would be today without the developments that occurred during the Industrial Revolution.

But this series isn’t about the Industrial Revolution as much as it is an alternative way of looking at things. What if inventors looked at renewable innovations instead of the way that had actually developed? What if instead of developing coal mines they developed solar farms? What if instead of increasing farm production to meet the needs of a huge population, more people had learned how to organically farm on their own land? I’m not saying the developments were in anyway bad, but what if, in some alternate universe, the production of renewable energy was developed before the implementation of coal, oil, and nuclear power?

Photovoltaic EffectA bit of a late start, but Alexandre Bequerel discovered the photovoltaic effect in 1839. This was followed by Aleksandr Stoletov developing the first solar cell that was later patented by Melvin Severy 60 years after the process had been discovered. What if Alexandre had kept working on the advancement of the photovoltaic process and figured out how to create solar cells? Figuring out how to implement the solar cell to generate electricity would have improved the quality of life for homeowners and businesses all around due to the renewable aspects associated with the solar energy. And look, no need for power companies to feed electric to buildings.

First Light Bulb

Around the same time Humphry Davy was working on the first electric light and had developed the electric battery. Wow, light for the buildings and batteries for the storage of the energy. Thomas Edison actually got the light bulb correct by finding a filament that did not actually burn up and had a life span.

Solar Village TreehuggerSo before the end of the Industrial Revolution we had an idea and a good start on solar power, light sources, and batteries for backup. If this was implemented instead of coal power I wonder how the world would look today. Would you see solar implemented on every roof as a standard? Or would it actually be the roof like the solar shingles that are being developed and implemented today? Would efficiency be the norm instead of what everyone is trying to upgrade to? What do you think the world would look like?

This is the first part of a series. Keeps an eye out for the next section coming in 2 weeks. Leave feedback and your own ideas to include.

The Invention of the Light Bulb
The Industrial Revolution Yale
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution MSU 


Want to read Part 2? Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 2 

Or how bout Part 3? Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 3


Here's the latest Part 4: Check out Renewable Energy and The Industrial Revolution: Part 4

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Topics: Green Ideas

Get Spooky and Stay Green

Posted by SEPCO

10/20/11 9:25 AM

Halloween is fast approaching and there are lots of things to do and buy before the big day of spooks, candy, and fun. Here are some alternatives to the holiday standards to keep your family green and save you money.

Kids Halloween


Every year purchasing a new costume, especially for children, can be very expensive. With a standard price of $40 per costume, this can add up quickly for a family, and to make it worse, the costume can only be used once since it will be a whole year before the next holiday. Instead get together with your friends and exchange costumes with them. Or look for items around the house and make a costume. Finally, purchase or make one item that can be used many times over like a good set of wings for girls or a play sword set for boys.

Halloween Candy


Trick-or-treating is the best part for kids on Halloween. There are green options for making sure kids have something to carry all their treats. One tip is to make a bag out of an old pillow case or teeshirt. You can also use a basket or other container found around the house and decorate it. Finally, a lot of stores have holiday themed green bags that you could purchase and then use year around.

Halloween Decorations


The halloween party can be one of the least green parts of Halloween, but it doesn't have to be. Get creative in your decorations and only purchase things you can use year after year. Purchase reusable tumblers for drinks that you can wash and store away with the rest of your decorations. Create games like bobbing for apples that do not require any extra waste. Finally, stick with finger food that is spread out so guests do not require plates for their snacks; less cleanup and more environmentally friendly.

These are just a few quick tips to allow your Halloween to stay spooky while staying green. For more tips on staying green this Halloween, check out these other great articles:

How to Go Green: Halloween

10 Tips for a Green Halloween

Beyond candy: Healthy, green Halloween tips

Happy Halloween from the SEPCO Team!

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Topics: Green Ideas, Holiday

Solar Street Lights to Improve Security

Posted by SEPCO

10/18/11 9:30 AM

Solar Street Light Fallujah Iraq

A while back our solar powered street light systems were installed in Fallujah, Iraq. There were a couple articles published on this project, but I wanted to refresh this project and show how solar street lights can be used for various security lighting projects.

The original project was installed in Fallujah along a 35 kilometer roadway to provide residences with security through lighting. As the electrical infrastructure in Fallujah would only allow for the lights to run a couple hours a night, the solar lights provide dusk to dawn lighting year around without pulling power from the electrical grid. The solar street lights also allowed for the community to have shops open later and allow for the return of community efforts such as removal of debris and garbage and return of a standard of living.

Solar street light systems do not need to be only installed in war torn countries. The lights can be installed in any area where lighting is needed and the electrical grid is either difficult to implement, where the grid is not reliable or areas looking for a green alternative to standard lighting. Since LEDs are becoming common place in the solar lighting industry, lighting levels are now being achieved better than with electrical lights while lowering the power consumption, making them the optimum choice for photovoltaic power.

Communities can also install solar street light systems as not only the Cobrahead fixture needs to be used for streets. More decorative fixtures are being used for streets in urban areas and for city’s urban streetscapes. Having the ability to adapt to different style fixtures allow a solar powered street light to be used for more applications.

Next time you think of street lighting, maybe you will think how there are options available and how solar street lighting can become a normal sight. What other types of lighting can be converted to solar power?

Blog Street Lighting CTA

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, Street Lighting

How to Save Money with Renewable Energy at Your Home

Posted by SEPCO

10/13/11 9:30 AM

Solar Panels on RoofOne way to save money and be eco friendly is to use renewable energy to save money. There are various ways to use renewable energy in your everyday life. There are some ways that are more complicated and others that are easy and can be done by everyone.

You can save on your electric bill and in heating and cooling costs. Here are a variety of useful tips to help the environment and your bank account:

  • Solar energy is perhaps one of the best ways to save money and help Mother Earth. It is effectively an infinite source of renewable energy which can heat your home and generate electricity. It can be expensive to begin with but the future monetary payback is worth the initial cost.
  • Hydroelectric power is another resource for renewable energy. It can help you provide energy for your home and generate electricity.
  • Geothermal energy contained in the earth can be used to save electricity and is a great source of renewable energy.
  • The wind is also a renewable energy that we can utilize if we live in an area that utilizes this resource.

There are also ways to save energy at home without relying on any of these techniques. You can make small changes that can save money and help the environment. Even though the methods above are methods that you can use you do not have to make huge changes to utilize renewable energy. Here are some tips for saving energy today:

  • Insulate your home. If your home is well insulated then you will save on your heating and cooling costs. This is a cost effective way to make a change and save money. There are many government programs available for tax breaks if you are making your home energy efficient. The government has even given stipends to people if they make their home energy efficient and can provide proof that they spent the money improving the energy efficiency of their home.
  • One way to do this is to install more or better insulation. Another way is to change out your old, drafty windows and doors for an energy efficient model. Old, drafty windows can waste electricity and cause you to spend more on your electric bill. This will not only provide you with a tax break but also lower energy bills.
  • Appliances and other large items can burn a lot of energy when they are left on and are not turned off. If you make a commitment to turning off these items you can save twenty five percent more energy. It has been proven that if you leave your appliances plugged in you waste twenty five percent more energy than you would if they are turned off or unplugged. This will make a difference in your electric bill and also make you feel better about the way that you use energy.
  • Energy efficient light bulbs can not only save on your electric bill but they can also save money because they last for years. The standard bulbs do not have the same capacity to last as the energy efficient bulbs. Many of them can last up to five times longer and save on your energy bill. Not only are you saving money but you are also helping the environment and saving energy resources. There is an initial cost and they are a bit more expensive than your standard bulb. You have to remember the benefits for the future and the lower energy bills and you will not have to replace them as fast.
  • One of the top ways to save money and help the environment is to reuse and recycle. This is a very important way to save money because if you reuse items you do not have to purchase and replace that item. There are many items that you can get paid to recycle. For example, aluminum cans can be recycled and you receive a monetary benefit. There are various other items that you can recycle for cash or for the environmental benefit. Many garbage services and landfills are making people recycle or they will not pick up their garbage. It has to be sorted before the garbage man picks it up at the curb.
  • Water conservation is also imperative to saving money and also for conservation reasons. Many people have to pay a water bill and obviously the bill will be lower if the individual conserves water. That is one motivator to conserving water. However, even if you have a well, if you do not conserve water the supply could run out and you would have to drill another well. This can be a pricey endeavor for the consumer. Water conservation is required at times and luxuries like washing your car or watering your lawn are forbidden during drought and times when people have a high water usage. One tip is while you are brushing your teeth to not keep the water running. Use it only when necessary. Never let it just run when it is not being used. This is a waste of water and not conserving this vital resource.

There are many reasons to practice using renewable energy resource. These reasons are going to be a problem in the future if we do not make some important changes. We need to keep the earth for future generations and do all that we can to conserve and use renewable energy resources. Some of the issues that need to be addressed are:

  • Oil resources are diminishing and we need to conserve to maintain our resources.
  • The carbon tax is higher than it has ever been.
  • Oil prices have skyrocketed.
  • The ozone layer is in trouble.

We need to make changes and use our renewable resources, not just to save money but to save our planet. We have the resources and the knowledge to use these resources. Now, all we have to do is take action and use them. If you follow these tips then you will save on your energy bill. Who does not want to save money? Make change a part of your daily life. Make your life energy efficient. You can save money and save the world, all at the same time.

About the author: M.H is writing for Alternative Energy Geek where you can learn more about how different types of renewable energy sources work.

Pic Ref: The Future of Renewable Energy

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas, Solar Power

Energy Saving Advantages Of Solar Panels

Posted by SEPCO

10/11/11 9:30 AM

Solar Panels for your HomeOwning a home is a very costly venture that many people are often swamped with once they move in. Those who do not want to drown in high energy bills will need to make sure that they invest in the right type of system. Solar panels have been proven to help conserve energy as well as offer a number of other excellent advantages.

Solar power is used around the world and many people are taking advantage of it as often as they can. The renewable resource will never run out, which means that it will be possible to power up the home for free. There are always plenty of feed in Tariffs across the UK that are being used as often as possible.

Believe it or not, but these solar panels cost can actually be reduced when the owner takes care of the construction on their own. Take the time to construct the right PV panels and take advantage of any and all kits that may be available. Kits do help out with the overall building process, especially for the first time builders.

Those who do not want to build the panels all on their own should consider working with professional services. There are many services that will offer the panel systems that individuals are looking for on top of affordable pricing. Take the time to look around and discuss various building options with reliable services.

Solar energy can be utilized by just about any homeowner out there. There are excellent systems and options that individuals will be able to invest in. Take some time to talk about options with reputable services and do not forget about the installation kits that are also highly effective and popular. Feel free to browse and make the necessary comparisons so that the right results and savings are received.

This article was written by Alison Richards for Solar Pages. Please see their site for more information on their company.

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Topics: Guest Post, Solar Power

Steve Jobs and Renewable Energy

Posted by SEPCO

10/6/11 11:01 AM

Steve JobsWith the death of Steve Jobs happening less than 24 hours ago, I wanted to pay my respects from the renewable energy industry. There are many lessons to be learned from his life that can easily be applied to the renewable energy industry. I found a great article in my searches this morning that says just that: Solar Fred's 5 Lessons Solar Companies Can Learn from Steve Jobs and Apple, go check it out!

The first lesson Solar Fred talks about is "Innovate and Take Risks". In 1984, when Microsoft was dominate in the market of personal computers, Steve Jobs and Steve Woziak introduced the first Macintosh in an ad campaign launched at the Super Bowl. Apple stated "So what? We can do personal computing better and profit." The risk in the end paid off by innovations to the technology and computing industry that Apple made.

Renewable energies such as solar and wind power are one in the same. To create a great product one must continually improve the product one already has, and this takes thinking outside the box. And not only the product aspect has to change, but also the way one gets the product out there in front of customers. Everything has to change. This is a risk, but the rewards in the end can be great.

Steve Jobs on Fortune CoverThe second lesson talked about is "Cheap doesn't necessarily mean success and profits". With the high costs of renewable energy, cheaping out the product will not create success and profits quickly. Apple is not the cheapest product on the market, but I know a lot of people who still have their iPhone 2 years later and are completely happy with it, and they still work. Apple computers are the same way. The old saying "you get what you pay for" definitely comes into play in the technology and renewable energy industry alike.

The third lesson is "Failure is part of the journey to success". Failure is a part of life and learning from failures is what makes a company or person successful. If a way of doing something doesn't work, look at it from a different angle, change it and try again. Do this over and over until you find what works and become successful at that. Apple did just that in the 1990's. Solar Fred makes two great points here, points that are often forgotten. Success doesn't happen over night and unique visions and creativity often fail, but courage and hard work allows for recovery and the ability to try again.

Steve Jobs iPadLesson 4 is "Simplicity, design and customer service". Mac products worked like they said they would work and had the customer service there to support you for any issues that were had. PC's are the complete opposite with long startup times, crashes, and complications along the way when completing simple tasks.

Simplicity is key to make a user friendly product. Eliminating steps from sales to installation makes a product more enticing to the end user because there is less work to do and the benefits are visible much faster. Designing products to meet the simplicity factor will increase revenue and having the customer service to back it up will make people want to use your product and tell others about it stronger. This may cost more, but going the extra mile will pay off in the end.

The final less Solar Fred talks about is "Perhaps you are not just a solar company after all". Just because you started producing one product doesn't mean that has to define all that you are over time. Apple recently dropped "computers" from its official name brand as they didn't want to be seen just as a computer company, but as a company for many different types of electronics. Because of the multitude of platforms available by Apple and many other companies, a lot of businesses are being transformed.

Steve Jobs iPodCompanies are merging to create new products, and in the end, create new companies. This is great news for any industry as the companies aren't just stuck in a single category. These mergers allow for new business and expansion of product lines. Even here at SEPCO we recently came together with Hubbell Lighting and their partner companies to offer a higher quality LED option for our customers. Are we still a solar lighting company? Yes, but we can offer our customers more options because of this change.

Solar Fred offers a great idea in the end. Learn more about the companies that you deal with such as Apple by going to a retailer, play with the product, and talk to the experts about it. There is a lot to be learned by reaching out. Same goes for renewable energy. If you are looking to add solar to your home or business, talk to others who have already done this. You can find them just by driving around. Go to a solar business and talk to the people there. Research online, information is at your fingertips. Look for not just what companies do, but how they do things and why they do it that way.

I love Solar Fred's last statement: "To me, it’s just another way to UnThink Solar."

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Topics: Green Ideas

Solar and Wind Working Together for a Single Purpose

Posted by SEPCO

10/4/11 7:30 AM

Solar Wind Hybrid Light

We completed a project with a company that integrates a solar power system with a wind turbine. Both are used to generate power to charge a battery that powers a light at night. This system can then charge the battery during the day using both technologies and throughout the night with the wind system.

Here’s a great video on how one community used solar and wind hybrid systems to make the Fish Creek park light up at night without having utility costs associated with standard electrical. The City of Grand Prairie uses solar and wind lighting systems to power the lights from dusk to dawn to keep the families, walkers, and joggers safe from unwanted company.

Solar Wind Hybrid Light

This also cost the city less as there is no reason for grid extensions. The lights run on the solar and wind power alone, allowing for quick installation and no wires having to go underground. The solar wind hybrid systems also allow for no power bills from the local utility company saving the city even more money.

Combining solar and wind power is a great solution when the amount of sun is not as high as in other areas because it would lower the amount of solar required to power the device. For more information on a solar wind hybrid system, contact us here at SEPCO.

Blog Parking Lot Lighting CTA

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, Security Lighting

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