Energy deregulation across the country, particularly for commercial consumers, has led to more choice than ever–with no interruption to your service and the potential for substantial savings.

Yet the data can be overwhelming–where do you even start when it comes to choosing an energy provider?

Here is a simple guide to making a complex process a great deal more navigable.

Step 1: Understand Your Energy Bill

In order to really compare energy prices, which can be a bit like comparing apples and oranges, you need to understand your current energy expenses.

  • What do you spend on energy, broken down by costs?
  • What energy resources do you need (electricity, natural gas, etc) for which functions?
  • What flexibility do you have, in terms of onsite resources or utilization (such as operating hour needs)?
  • What are your future goals and expectations for energy usage, including your sustainability goals?

When it comes to comparing energy companies, not everyone will fit your needs, but that might be hard to identify unless you know what your current and future expectations might be.  For example, the cost of the energy might look lower at company B, but the service or delivery charges might be higher, making the overall cost higher than company A.  If you know what you pay, as broken down on your bill (and not just as a total), it will be easier to compare pricing structures.

As you take a look at your current and future predicted needs, you’ll also have a better understanding of what to ask in step two.

Step Two: Research Your Options

Once you understand your own needs, you can begin to discover available options.  You’ll be comparing pricing, but also considering other factors of a potential new provider, including:

  • Licensing, registration with your state and service area,
  • Available energy sources (it may sometimes be cheaper to separate out natural gas, electricity, etc, but may also be cheaper to bundle with a single energy provider),
  • “Hidden” costs such as cancellation fees, service provider change fees, etc.
  • Possible incentives to reduce costs,
  • Fixed versus variable rate options,
  • Reputation of the company and customer service quality.

A company worthy of your business will be able to answer your questions about them, the terms of their contracts, and your expectations.

You should also discuss your growth needs and sustainability objectives, to determine if an energy provider will be able to fit your future needs (particularly when factoring in contract length).

Step Three: Get it in Writing

Verbal agreements and handshakes might be enough in some industries, but when it comes to your business energy solutions, get a written proposal.

Does it match what you were told verbally?  Does it have a cancellation period if it doesn’t work out?

Before finalizing an energy contract, you’ll want to see a written sample of your future bill as well as a formal contract.  Another best practice is to compare the written proposals of two to three of your top contenders for your future energy provider needs.  Just as you would consider a couple of contractors before upgrading an office building, a side-by-side comparison of energy providers will ensure you are getting the best solution for your energy needs.

Bonus: Consult the Professionals

Sifting through the fine print of energy contracts, comparing incentives and hidden costs, setting and meeting sustainability goals of clients and partners, and many other factors can make the process of choosing an energy provider complicated.

Fortunately, at Energy Professionals, we work as independent energy brokers, partnering with you as total energy solution providers.

Contact us to find out how you can start saving money on your energy bill.

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After a Long Period of Complacency Natural Gas Supplies Continue to Deteriorate and Prices Breaks Out of Trading Range!  

(My reports focus on Natural Gas as it is the largest energy source for the generation of Electricity; therefore, Natural Gas and Electricity are highly correlated.)

In my Sep 19th Energy Update, I warned not to be complacent and count on increased production being sufficient to meet demand this year with supplies at the start of the winter heating season at the lowest level in 10 years. After writing this report as you can see below Natural Gas prices rallied 17% going from $288 to $336 per MMbtu:

The rally was based on an already dire supply situation deteriorating further with forecasts for colder than normal weather starting in mid-October causing supplies to fall further below the 5 Yr. Avg. by Oct 26th. Below is a summary of supply estimates for the weeks ending Oct 5th thru Oct 26th compared to the 5-Yr. Avg. based on NOAA’s present weather forecasts:

 

Week Ending    2018   Net Change    5 Yr. Avg.    Deficit to 5 Yr. Avg.    % Below 5-Yr.

    

Oct 05                     2956          +90                  3563                          607                               17.0%

Oct 12                      3039          +83                  3642                         603                              16.6%

Oct 19                      3101           +62                  3719                          618                               16.6%

Oct 26                     3151           +50                   3781                          630                              16.7%

 

Natural Gas supplies normally increase from April thru October to prepare for the winter heating season and with supplies projected to be 630 Bcf below the 5 Yr. Avg. near the end of October, it is not surprising Natural Gas prices broke out of the stable trading range it has been in all year.

The question is if you did not heed my warning about complacency and have not hedged your cost of Natural Gas and Electricity is it too late now? Absolutely not!

As I stated earlier, since Sept 19th, the nearby contract of Natural Gas increased from $2.88 to $3.36 per MMbtu and based on present weather forecasts supplies are now expected to remain 630 Bcf below the 5 Yr. Avg. near the end of October; therefore, the risk of higher prices continues to increase. But the good news is as I explained in several earlier reports due to the market phenomenon called “Backwardation”, hedgers can still secure rates below present levels in the forward market.

Below is a summary of Backwardation for Natural Gas:

Present   – $3.36 per MMbtu

Apr 2019 – $2.74 per MMbtu

Apr 2020 – $2.55 per MMbtu

Apr 2021 – $2.48 per MMbtu

The price of Natural Gas is lower in the forward markets, and although since Sept 19th, the nearby contract increased 17%, rates in the forward markets remain very attractive. This is especially true when you consider the chart below:

Anytime you can purchase a commodity near the lower end of its 20-year trading range while supplies are below the 5 Yr. Avg., it is prudent to do so, but this is especially true when a commodity such as Natural Gas has supplies starting its high demand winter heating season at the lowest level in 10 years.

As I wrote in the Sep 19th Energy Update, if we experience a normal winter, increased production should be enough resulting in stable prices, while a warmer than normal winter could lead to lower prices. But it is important to understand that since we are at the lower end of the 20-year trading range, the downside reward potential for lower prices is minimal.

But if we experienced a colder than normal winter since much more Natural Gas is used in the winter than summer, and with supplies over 600 Bcf below the 5 Yr. Avg. as we are start the winter heating season, we would likely experience a dangerous shortfall in supplies and much higher prices; therefore, the risk versus reward ratio clearly favors hedging Natural Gas and Electricity now, and not delay hoping for lower prices.

Conclusions:

The recent rally of Natural Gas was due to an already dire supply situation continuing to deteriorate with forecasts for colder than normal weather starting in mid-October causing supplies to fall further below the 5 Yr. Avg. by Oct 26th. But the good news is the market phenomenon called “Backwardation”, allows hedgers to secure rates below present levels in the forward market. This is especially beneficial when you can purchase Natural Gas near the lower end of its 20-year trading range with supplies significantly below the 5 Yr. Avg.; therefore, the risk versus reward ratio clearly favors hedging Natural Gas and Electricity now, and not delay hoping for lower prices.

Not every client’s risk tolerance and hedging strategy is the same, but we trust the above report will help you put into perspective the risk/reward opportunities now. I invite you to call one of our energy analysts to help you plan a hedging strategy appropriate for your situation.

 

Ray Franklin
North American Energy Advisory

Senior Commodity Analyst

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Living in a developed nation, we depend upon electricity for everything–from breakfast to bedtime and recharging our devices while we sleep.

Yet, power outages in the United States have been on the rise for more than a decade.  At this point, the United States “experiences more electric outages than any other developed nation,” according to a report from the non-profit Pew Charitable Trusts.

Here’s a look at why, and what to do about it.

Brownouts and Blackouts

Outages cost an average of about $18 billion to $33 billion per year in the United States.

Power outage estimates also may not include brownout numbers.

  • Brownout – A reduction or restriction in available power to an area, also known as a voltage slump.
  • Blackout – A complete loss of power to an area, from minutes to hours or even days, depending on the cause and utility.

In some areas, intentional brownouts help utilities avoid rolling blackouts — mandated reductions in energy consumption to help meet the needs of the entire energy grid for that area.

Outages to a business do more than just halt production temporarily. Power outages can also result in lost:

  • Wages to employees
  • Spoiled inventory
  • Delayed, inconvenienced or missed business opportunity.

In an increasingly global market, reduced power impacts production across the globe, not just in a local utility area.

The Causes of Power Outages

A report by the US Department of Energy site weather-related power outages as the leading cause of power outages in the United States.

The report and the Pew research both also acknowledge an aging infrastructure as part of the problem.

Some of the US power grid dates back to the earliest onset of electricity.  Replacement could be better prepared to withstand severe weather, but also better protected against potential cyber attack.

Yet upgrading the US power grid is estimated to cost in the trillions of dollars.

For smart businesses, then, onsite solutions to power outages make more sense than waiting for the federal government to overhaul the infrastructure in the power grid.

Solutions to Power Outages

There’s never been a better time to invest in onsite power solutions–for the first time in US history, onsite power generation is cheaper than the utility.

Onsite battery storage can reduce the need for dependency on the grid, providing power in the event of a brownout or blackout, but also allowing a business to operate at capacity at any time–without increased utility demand charges and without the approval of the utility.

In many parts of the country, the utility must consider the needs of the entire local energy grid, which leads to regulation of industry consumption to businesses in their jurisdiction.

Now it is possible to operate independently of the utility, at less cost.

  • Solar energy – Green, renewable energy, onsite, at whatever scale a business requires, is now possible with reliable, quality solar panels.
  • Battery storage – Onsite battery storage can help regulate a business’ demand on the utility or store the energy generated through onsite solutions such as natural gas generators or solar panels.
  • Solar + Battery – With a combination of solar panels and onsite battery storage, a business can obtain energy independent of the grid, and then store it for use even during darkness or overcast conditions.

Thanks to such easy solutions, it is now possible for businesses of nearly every size to operate independently from the power grid.

Energy Professionals

At Energy Professionals, we work with scores of battery solution providers and over 100 solar installers.  We help our clients secure the best prices for the best quality energy solutions.  We help you meet your energy and sustainability goals.

Contact us to find out how.

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In the past, being considered energy independent may have had a connotation of mountain men, remote locations, or those with a fear of World War III.  But as time has moved on and technology has evolved, energy independence has become smarter, greener and more affordable than ever before.

Watch as Energy Professionals President Jim Mathers explains why there’s never been a better time to change your resources and become energy independent.

Off the Grid Business

Whether becoming energy independent in part or in full, on-site energy generation means taking control of your energy production, not just your energy bill — though the economic benefits of energy independence business operations are substantial as well.

On-site power generation means your business can:

  • Maintain power even in a brownout or blackout power outage.
  • Generate additional energy anytime you need it, not just when the power company says it is available.
  • Stabilize energy bills through greater consistency (lowering such costs as “peak usage” charges).
  • Enjoy power savings, as well as tax incentives for installing greener energy solutions.

Blackouts have become more severe in the United States in the last twenty years. But with on-site backup or power generation, you maintain power. Even if the entire area loses power, like the great New York City blackout fifteen years ago, or experiences a substantial storm, on the scale of recent hurricanes Irma or Katrina, your business can operate uninterrupted.

Natural Gas Generators

Natural gas has nearly limitless applications for energy–it can be used to generate heating or cooling, electricity, cooking or even run commercial laundry equipment.  Hospitals, hotels, and other large businesses often already rely upon natural gas as their primary energy solution.

Natural gas can also be stored onsite, or hard lined to a business/facility, or both (for greater flexibility of service).

Then, with that natural gas, a business can generate power onsite.

Natural gas prices across the country are at an all-time low and are predicted to remain so. Some states even offer incentives or discounts for using natural gas to generate onsite power, over and above the lower cost of utilizing natural gas for business operations.

If you have considered natural gas, we can help you negotiate the best possible rates for equipment, installation, service, or whatever your needs may be.

Solar Power Solutions

Thanks to advances in solar technology, it is now possible to generate some or all of a business’ energy needs with onsite solar solutions.  Solar panels can:

  • Operate on short hours or even indirect sunlight, for year-round usability in nearly any geographic location.
  • Convert to power suitable for use for any energy need.
  • Generate energy on-demand or channel energy to backup batteries.
  • Recharge backup batteries for continuous operation at non-daylight hours or during overcast/stormy conditions.
  • Earn green energy credits or other incentives to reduce, offset or eliminate installation costs.

Solar power is a limitless, totally green and renewable energy source which can utilize existing real estate (such as rooftops) to meet your energy needs.

Energy Professionals are Your Total Energy Partners

At Energy Professionals, we make it possible to take control of your complete energy needs, not just your energy bill.  With hundreds of partners across North America, we will negotiate the best prices and vendors to take you partially or fully energy independent.

From a complete evaluation of your current and future energy needs to the lowest-possible-cost of installation, Energy Professionals will partner with you to meet your budgetary and sustainability goals for independent energy production.

Contact us to find out how to get off the grid and become energy independent.

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Across the United States, a growing number of states are creating energy choice programs, particularly for commercial consumers.

Energy choice represents deregulated markets — where the energy supply and delivery can be separate brands.  In such markets, energy consumers for electricity, natural gas, or both, are permitted to shop for the energy supplier who will best meet their service, budget and sustainability objectives.

Here’s a quick, 3-step guide to determining your best commercial energy solution.

(For markets without energy deregulation, skip ahead to items 2 and 3.)

  1. Exploring Your Options

In deregulated markets, you have the most choice.  While the infrastructure of power lines, pipes, etc does not change, the brand of your energy supplier can.  Best of all, this occurs with no interruption in service–often you pay the same bill but reap the benefits of the lower cost.

Energy choice programs have also created healthy capitalist competition in markets, which have resulted in such benefits as:

  • The potential of lower energy costs as companies compete for your business.
  • The possibility of loyalty rewards so that energy suppliers retain their customers.
  • Improved customer service of suppliers and delivery utilities, as they compete for your business.
  • Improved incentives, such as energy suppliers providing energy upgrades at no cost to consumers, or public energy funds reimbursing the cost of energy upgrades.

With so many potential benefits, there’s never been a better time to explore your local energy options.

  1. Investing in upgrades

Upgrades do represent an “investment” in sustainability, in longevity and in energy stewardship, but that term can be a bit of a misnomer — energy upgrade investments do not necessarily cost the consumer!

Assessing and upgrading energy usage can be paid for in 3 ways:

  1. By tax incentives at city, county, state or federal level–or in some areas of the country, by all of those governing bodies!  That’s because utility bills generally include an “Energy Efficiency Charge” (sometimes called an Energy Conservation Charge or SBC/RPS).  That money goes to a fund designated for energy upgrades, as do some other tax-based programs (depending on taxes in your jurisdiction).  These funds will generally reimburse upgrade charges.
  2. In some areas, you do not need to wait for reimbursement–an energy provider may upgrade your energy usage infrastructure at no cost to you, as part of their incentive programs.
  3. With a smart energy evaluation, one can quickly determine the energy upgrades which will best maximize return on energy savings for your particular industry and facility needs.  Such upgrades can vary tremendously–from modern insulation techniques to smarter appliances and thermostats–a professional evaluation can help determine the ROI of all of your upgrade options.

In these 3 ways, energy upgrades offer measurable value.

  1. Onsite Options

In conjunction with the options listed in step 2 above, it is possible to generate or store onsite energy for commercial energy purposes.

Onsite storage has greatly improved with newer battery technologies.  Unlike cumbersome and expensive generators of the past, batteries do not require fuel storage, are virtually maintenance-free, and can provide additional energy during times of peak usage (not just during a power outage.

Modern batteries can also be connected to commercial solar panels–allowing businesses to regulate their energy usage (reducing peak energy or “energy demand” charges), as well as generate some or all of their electrical needs.

Start with Energy Professionals

At Energy Professionals, we partner with our clients to make smart energy decisions–from better energy management to meeting efficiency and sustainability objectives.

As independent energy brokers, we work solely for the benefit of our clients.  Contact us to find out more and to start saving money.

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Since the dawn of time, human beings have sought energy, to cook, heat, and improve quality of life (just the invention of air conditioning has saved an estimated 2 million lives!)

By harnessing the power of fire or water, combined with fuels derived from trees, coal, oils or gases, humans moved, built and traded across the globe.

Yet all of those energy sources pale in comparison to the very thing powering all life on earth: the sun. Enough solar energy hits the earth in about 40 minutes to power the entire world’s energy usage for a year!

So solar energy is prevalent, clean (no drilling and spilling!), and powerful.  It really presents only two challenges: how to harness it and how to store it.

Capturing the Sun’s Power

Improvements in solar technology have made gains in three crucial areas:

  • Passive energy – smarter building, which utilizes architectural features and building placement to make the most out of the energy from the sun.
  • Active energy – collecting the radiant light and heat from the sun in a semiconducting material (such as silicone).
  • Battery storage – containing solar energy collected for use in periods of darkness (night time, stormy weather, etc), and for additional power during periods of peak usage.

In both commercial and residential applications, these improvements make a difference in energy bills–reducing or even eliminating outside heating and electrical charges.

While passive energy generally needs to be considered at the time of construction (or upgrades) to make a difference, active energy, battery storage, and energy efficiency upgrades, all apply to residential and commercial uses.

Better Understanding, Better Solar

In addition to being more efficient, solar panels are more attractive than ever–smaller, more streamlined, with more flexibility about geographic and onsite location.

In typical use, solar panels may also not receive the recommended 4 hours of direct sunlight.  Fortunately, more modern solar panels do not require direct sunlight to collect radiant solar energy.

Understanding the needs of your environment helps determine the type, rating, and number of panels to achieve your solar energy objectives.

Power is rated in watts (kW are kilowatts or 1,000 watts) and energy is rated in watt hours (kWh is kilowatt hours).

However, you cannot look at your kWh usage and then just divide to determine the number of solar panels it would take to produce that energy.  That’s because solar panel energy is rated in peak solar conditions, and when the panel is not powering anything–the moment it is powering something (drawing some energy off), the voltage decreases.

You can, though, compare the ratings between panels–a 5 kWh panel does produce less power than a 10 kWh, but also less than 5 kWh.

If the goal of a solar panel system is to provide all of the operational power for a business or home, a professional will examine such factors as history and usage, but also anticipated growth.

Why Storage Matters

Battery storage also continues to improve.

For smaller home applications, battery storage does not matter much.  For larger applications, such as larger residential usage or commercial usage, battery storage provides many useful benefits, such as:

  • Backup power in the event of a power outage (even replacing diesel-powered backup generators),
  • Extra power to supplement energy usage at peak hours,
  • Or power to specific applications, such as solar-powered air conditioning or heating of swimming pools.

To determine if your application would benefit from battery backup power, speak with a professional.

Energy Professionals

At Energy Professionals, we operate as independent energy brokers, to partner with clients for all of your energy needs.  From scope of project estimations and solar panel installation to securing resources and incentives, to meeting sustainability objectives, we are your complete energy managers.

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Energy Update

September 19th, 2018

Natural Gas Trading Within Tight Trading Range, But Beware of Complacency!  

(My reports focus on Natural Gas as it is the largest energy source for the generation of Electricity; therefore, Natural Gas and Electricity are highly correlated.)

In my August 13th Energy Update, I said this year’s extremely hot summer has resulted in very tight Natural Gas supplies, and although no one can absolutely predict the future, rates in the forward markets are lower than where they were nearly 95% of the time over the last 18 years and with supplies projected to remain 600 Bcf below the 5 Yr. Avg. until the end of August and stay far below normal as we start the winter heating season, we recommend hedgers secure rates now.

As I write this report, based on NOAA’s present weather forecasts below is an estimate of Natural Gas supplies from Sep 14th thru Oct 5th compared to the 5-Yr. Avg.:

 

Week Ending    2018   Net Change    5 Yr. Avg.    Deficit to 5 Yr. Avg.    % Below 5-Yr.

    

 Sep 14                    2719          +83                   3308                         589                               17.8%

Sep 21                     2788          +69                  3389                         601                                17.7%

Sep 28                    2879          +91                   3473                         594                                17.1%

Oct 05                    2978          +99                   3563                         585                                16.4%

 

Normally Natural Gas supplies increase from April thru October; therefore, it is very troubling supplies on Oct 5th are projected to be 585 Bcf below the 5 Yr. Avg, and we are projected to start the winter heating season in November with the lowest supplies in 10 years. But as you can see below; Natural Gas prices are close to where they were on August 13th.

Why have Natural Gas prices remained relatively stable with supplies at very low levels?

The answer is found in the belief increased Natural Gas production is sufficient to meet this winter’s heating demand. I agree if we don’t have a colder than normal winter, increased production will be sufficient, and prices should remain stable, but what happens if we have a colder than normal winter? Since much more Natural Gas is used during the winter than in the summer, and with supplies very low as we start the winter, it would likely lead to a dangerous shortfall in supplies and higher prices.

Also, it is important to note that by February or March, several LNG projects will come online and are projected to more than double LNG capacity to 9 BCF/day by the end of 2019. This would eat up much of the expected growth in production and in conjunction with a cold winter lead to much higher prices; therefore, I don’t believe it wise to be complacent and count on increased production being sufficient to handle demand this year with supplies at the lowest level in 10 years.

This is especially true when the price of Natural Gas is lower in the forward markets than where they were nearly 95% of the time over the last 18 years. The old proverb, “A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush” is as true today as in the 16th century and hedgers will benefit by reserving rates longer-term while they are below nearby rates, and not delay hoping for lower rates in the future.

Conclusions:

Although prices have remained relatively stable with supplies at very low levels, I don’t believe it is wise to be complacent and count on increased production handling demand this year with supplies at the start of the winter heating season at the lowest level in 10 years. This is especially true when the price of Natural Gas is lower in the forward markets than where they were nearly 95% of the time over the last 18 years.

Not every client’s risk tolerance and hedging strategy are the same, but we trust the above report will help you put into perspective the risk/reward opportunities now. I invite you to call one of our energy analysts to help you plan a hedging strategy appropriate for your situation.

 

Ray Franklin
North American Energy Advisory

Senior Commodity Analyst

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There’s never been a better time to invest in sustainable energy.  Sustainable energy (also known as “green energy”) is cost-effective, as well as being a wonderful point of good public relations in one’s community.

Two of the most common sustainable energy sources are wind and solar power.  While geothermal and hydroelectric options are available for parts of the country, wind and solar power can be installed in almost any area.

For commercial applications, here are some of the key points of the solar vs wind power debate.

Wind is More Common

According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2017 about 17% of electricity generation in the US came from renewable resources.  (Any electricity source not coming from fossil fuels is considered “renewable,” including burning wood, methane from compost/garbage, as well as wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) Hydropower and wind, by far, generated the most renewable energy in the US last year.

Wind power is incredibly efficient, requiring only about an average of 12 mph winds to operate at full capacity.  Though individual wind turbines and even ground-level wind turbines can be installed, the majority of wind electricity plants are “farm style”– where many large wind turbines are installed in a singular area, where they direct power onto the electrical grid.

Pros: Efficient and effective

Cons: Large, costly, unsightly

Though very large companies, such as Facebook and Amazon may create their own wind power generation farms, it is far more common for a company to purchase wind power to offset energy use, such as Google has done.

Solar is More Accessible

Driven by improvements in technology and reduction in cost, solar energy resources have grown rapidly in the past few years. There are now nearly 2 million solar installations in the US.  Like other renewable energy resources, solar energy comes with federal (and often, state) tax incentives to help offset cost of installation.  Since solar is already less expensive than many other types of energy resourcing, that incentive can make a tremendous difference.

For commercial application, some power companies will even work with a business to cover the cost of solar installation for their contracted business partners, knowing that the technology pays for itself in a short period of time with “power back to the grid” or reduced expenses for both the user and service provider.

In many cases, solar energy is also easier to maintain than wind power.  Solar panels without moving parts (by far, the most common for onsite use), have less need for maintenance and repair.

Solar panels are much smaller than wind turbines (which need to be installed above the ground where wind blows more regularly), with size variances easily tailored to be site-specific.

Pros: Efficient, effective, less obstructive

Cons: Require daylight/sunshine

Though solar technologies do continue to improve, they require sunlight.  Partially overcast days and shorter daylight hours are still acceptable for some solar technologies, but in very northern (short day) or highly overcast environments, solar panels may not generate enough energy to justify their use.

Get Started with Energy Professionals

When you work with an energy broker, you work with an independent agent to maximize your energy experience.  Energy Professionals specializes in helping you reduce and control your energy budget, and realize your sustainability goals.

Our experts will work with you to understand your energy needs, ensure that you meet them, but also plan for continued budget reduction with longevity planning.  Whether wind, solar or some other technology will best suit your needs, we also specialize in securing the sustainable energy resources that will provide you with an optimized solution.

Contact us today to find out more.

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What to Expect in the Near Future

As long as there have been human beings, we have looked to the stars for inspiration, and our own star, the sun, has been central to what makes this an ihabitable planet.

Scientists have sought to replicate the nuclear fusion that powers the intensity of our nearby star.  And while research continues into that possibility, the more immediate, limitless resource, is the daily energy output of the sun as it is received here on earth–through solar power technologies.

Harnessing solar power has been around for centuries, but some really exciting possibilities are happening right now…or just around the corner.

Smaller Scale Solar

Energy researchers have been able to increase the efficiency of solar materials and the transfer of energy, but in some ways, the size of solar panels is also crucial to advancement–since it makes solar work nearly anywhere.

Now, small-scale solar panels allow people to:

  • Power street lights, collecting light all day and giving back that light at night
  • Power cell phones, even satellite phones, in the most remote parts of the world
  • Collect the power for electric car plug-in stations

Tesla has even created solar roofing, and commercial solar windows are being created by a tech startup company.

None of these or other advances would be possible, without solar cells getting smaller and more efficient.

But with that improvement there also comes all kinds of benefits for other applications–  residential and commercial installations of solar energy applications have also grown, increasing competition in the solar market, reducing costs of installation and ownership, and creating jobs and investment opportunities in the solar energy market.

Batteries that Store Solar

Solar farms have been able to link to the solar grid for decades, and onsite solar panels have reduced the utility costs of thousands of businesses.  The greater challenge has been storage–batteries for storing excess energy collected just haven’t kept up with the technology.

As the batteries in cell phones, electric cars, and other devices improve, solar power also benefits.

Battery storage allows solar power to:

  • Collect energy during the day to power houses and businesses at night
  • Collect energy during sunny times to power during a rainy season or during shorter daylight hours
  • Collect excess energy during low-usage times for more availability during peak usage

Battery storage already meets these needs to some extent, but improving the efficiency and outcomes will increase the potential usage and cost-effectiveness.

Powering the Developing World

Large sections of the world already do not have access to consistent energy resources.  In other parts of the world, blackouts and brownouts are very common.

Transporting fossil fuels such as coal or oil to some parts of the globe brings additional challenges, particularly if such resources have to be regularly imported (due to lack of local fossil fuel resources).

The sun, however, heats the entire planet, and solar power can be installed virtually anywhere.

As solar technology continues to improve, the one-time installation costs and low maintenance costs associated with solar powering the developing world is emerging as a better option.

Bonus: Will There Ever be Solar Powered Cars?

If the movies were to be believed, hoverboards, space vacations and solar-powered cars were just around the corner.

Vehicles require a great deal of energy and aren’t particularly aerodynamically designed. However, we may see solar-powered buses and cars in the near future–it just may be a while before they become common.

Energy Professionals: Partnering for the Future

Whatever your current and future energy needs, at Energy Professionals we partner in your success.  As complete energy managers, we help you reduce and control your energy budget while realizing your sustainability goals.

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People have various reasons for exploring renewable energy resources.  Some fear that the world will soon “run out” of usable fossil fuels.  Others speak of global climate change as being related to the burning of fossil fuels.  Yet for many others, renewable energy isn’t just “planet-friendly” or “good long-term planning,” it is also immediately cost-saving, efficient, and technologically advanced.

Whatever your reasons for learning more, here is a super quick guide to green energy.

The Possibilities are Expanding

Renewable energy technologies are rapidly expanding.  Some of these technologies have actually been around, in some form, for centuries, but they were not as efficient as current energy needs demand.  For example, windmills have been powering farms since the days of Persia (these 1,000-year-old windmills in Iran are still in operation), but today’s wind turbines are vastly more efficient — today’s single average wind turbine can power about 332 homes.

Green energy resources include:

Hybrid technologies and other sub-technologies also exist, such as solar thermal power plants, which produce steam/thermal energy, similar to burning fossil fuels but with solar power instead.

With so many expanding possibilities, renewable energy resources have the potential to be site-specific–creating the green energy solution which works best for that area.

It Starts with Energy Conservation

Energy conservation in the past had a bad rep and sounded much like driving teeny-tiny cars and participating in lights out/blackout periods.  Those days are gone.  Thanks to continued advances in renewable energy technology, we no longer have to look at energy as a limited resource.

However, energy conservation is cost-saving, particularly for commercial businesses where energy bills can be one of the largest overhead costs.  You do not have to work in a LEED-certified building (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an independent certification process), to participate in energy conservation efforts which have the potential to greatly reduce energy expenses.  Examples include:

  • Energy efficient appliances
  • Energy efficient lighting, which may include smarter bulbs (like CFL bulbs), but also such measures as reduced brightness at “off” hours, motion sensors, etc.
  • Energy efficient structural changes, such as improved insulation, smarter windows or cool roofs
  • On-site energy reduction/production, such as geothermal heat pumps or solar panels

A comprehensive energy assessment can help any size business determine which cost-saving measures would work best.

Solar is Leading the Revolution

Though solar power is a relatively new technology, it continues to both advance and get less expensive.  The most common solar energy is solar PV (photovoltaics), such as the solar panels on rooftops or at solar farms.

The US Department of Energy reports that enough energy hits the earth every hour to power the entire planet for a year!  California has run into an interesting problem: producing so much surplus energy, particularly thanks to solar power, that it has created a surplus and has to pay other states to take some of their energy!

As batteries, storage, on-site generation and other components of solar energy improve, solar power continues to lead the renewable revolution.

You have a Choice

Every consumer should get educated about energy, now that energy has become such a matter of choice.  In most states, consumers can choose where their power comes from, electing for greener energy resources.  In many states, energy choice programs, also known as energy deregulation, allow commercial and household energy consumers to choose their energy provider.

At Energy Professionals, we advocate for our clients on all aspects of energy consumption, from procurement and efficiency to energy management and sustainability.

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