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Green Power: Onsite or Offsite?

September 23, 2014 | 0 comments

If you’re considering alternative energy sources for your commercial building, it’s important to realize that you have two options: you can choose to generate green power onsite or purchase it from a third party. Here is some information that may help you decide …

Onsite Alternative Energy Sources
It’s becoming increasingly common for commercial buildings to install solar (PV) panels, wind turbines, geothermal systems, etc. as part of their energy-efficiency plans – especially as more solutions are being designed to work with a variety of building types and locations.

Renewable energy can provide many environmental benefits, as well as the opportunity to earn LEED credits. When installed onsite, commercial buildings may experience:

  • Possible government incentives for renewable energy
  • Financial return on investment thanks to lower grid electricity purchases
  • Protection against potential electricity price increases in the future
  • Opportunity to sell renewable energy certificates (RECs) generated by the onsite system

Onsite green power systems, however, often require a major upfront capital investment. Any costs associated with required maintenance or troubleshooting should be considered as well. Although there may be a return on investment, it could take as long as 20 years to earn 100% financial payback, according to 3Degrees Inc.

Although wind turbines and solar panels have come a long way in terms of product development, not all commercial building sites have enough space, required infrastructure, or the proper site to efficiently capture wind, sunlight, water, or other renewable resources.

Depending on your onsite green power project (and whether you’re pursuing LEED certification), you may be required to deliver any “extra” electricity generated back to the grid. If your building plans to sell the RECs produced by the onsite system, there are also specific requirements to follow in order to make sure LEED points are still earned.

Offsite Alternative Energy Sources
If onsite green power isn’t feasible, there are still ways to make use of renewable energy in your building:

  • Purchasing Green-e RECs from a wind farm, solar generating station, etc.
  • Purchasing green power from a Green-e provider, or through a power purchase agreement (PPA)
  • Enrolling in a Green-e Energy Accredited utility green power program

Depending on your building’s electricity requirements and the type of utility market in your area, you may not be able to ensure that 100% of your electricity use will come from green power. You may also be required to change utilities in order to gain access to the type of green power you desire.

There are benefits and drawbacks associated with both onsite and offsite renewable energy, but either option allows you to incorporate alternative energy sources into your sustainability plans.

Does your organization make use of green power? Is it generated onsite or offsite?

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