Our Economy Can Be More Productive AND More Energy Efficient

For many years, it was taken as a given that the use of electricity by industry was directly related to the level of industrial production.  However, we have read a lot recently about how that decades long relationship no longer holds true.  In order to get to the bottom of it, Tipping Point Renewable Energy dug into the data.  And we found that there is clear evidence that industrial production has decoupled from industrial electricity use. We believe this demonstrates clearly that as a society we can be more productive and more energy efficient.

The first graph shows the annual levels of Industrial Output (using the Federal Reserve Index of Industrial Output) and the total number of kilowatt hours used in the industrial sector (using Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration data). Since 2011, when our industrial output has been rising, electricity sales to the industrial sector have actually declined.

Digging a little deeper into the data, we found that until 1999, there was a very strong correlation between the level of Industrial Output and the total number of kilowatt hours used in the industrial sector. However, from 2000 to 2013, the correlation falls apart completely.  The graphic below shows the results of the analysis from those two experiments.

 Data from the Federal Reserve of St. Louis and the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration.

Data from the Federal Reserve of St. Louis and the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration.

The graph on the left shows the relationship between industrial output and total electricity sales (in kWh) to the industrial sector from 1973 to 1999 (earlier months in dark red transitioning to dark green in the later years).  Likewise the second graph shows the same two dimensions from 2000 to 2014, again with earlier years in the red transitioning to green for the later years.

The r-squared value (roughly the correlation) for the two values in the earlier period is .87, which shows that the two variables are highly correlated.  However since 2000, there is virtually no correlation between the two with an r-squared of .07.

Obviously there is much work to be done explain this result and we welcome comments on approaches to explore this further. However, it does demonstrate that the economy can be more productive in terms of industrial output while we are using less electricity. This is a profound change in our economy and hopefully represents an underlying shift toward a more strategic use of energy in the industrial sector. 

Comments are open, let's hear what you think.

Welcome to Solar Project Development

Welcome....this is the first post in our new series on Solar Project Development. We intend to create the web's premier site for content, education and news related to solar project development.

There are a lot of sites that focus on renewable energy, there are plenty that focus on solar but our site is focused on one thing: getting solar projects done. Who is doing them successfully? How are they doing them? What are new tools and processes? What are the legal issues to contend with.

 Tipping Point CEO Eric Zimmer in front of the 636 KW solar array developed by Tipping Point for the City of Columbus

Tipping Point CEO Eric Zimmer in front of the 636 KW solar array developed by Tipping Point for the City of Columbus

Industry estimates show that somewhere between 75% and 95% of solar projects that get started are never finished. That's not even a good batting average in baseball. There is a lot of time and money being spent by developers, equipment manufacturers, installers and investors looking at projects that are never going to get done. As an industry we can, and must, do better.

 We intend to focus on a broad range of topics from very basic introductory material to the most pressing and complex issues in solar project development.

We hope you will join us often. If you are interested in contributing content, telling us about a project or having us interview you for our "Expert" series please reach out to us.




Largest Roof Municipal Solar Array in Ohio Generating Power for the City of Columbus

 Tipping Point CEO Eric Zimmer in front of a small part of the City of Columbus Fleet Maintenance Building solar array

Tipping Point CEO Eric Zimmer in front of a small part of the City of Columbus Fleet Maintenance Building solar array

Tipping Point Renewble Energy is proud to have been instrumental in bringing to fruition  the solar array on the Columbus Division of Fleet Managment's Fleet Maintenance Building on Groves Road.  The array consist of 2,650 solar panels that will produce almost half of the building's electricity needs.

Tipping Point was the original developer of the project which is now owned by General Energy Solutions.  GES, owns and operates the system, and sells electricity to the City at a rate lower than their current electricity costs.   

Link to City Press Release

Link to Live Feed 


TPRE CEO Eric Zimmer Touts Clean Energy Jobs at Energy Conference

Tipping Point CEO Eric Zimmer spoke at the Northern Ohio Energy Management Conference on September 26th on behalf of the Advanced Energy Economy Ohio and Tipping Point. In his comments, Zimmer defended the state requirement that electric utilities secure a small amount of their electricity from renewable energy.

 Like most discussions on energy in Ohio over the past year, the focus of the meeting was on the future of shale gas resources that have been under intensive  development in Ohio.    Among all the hoopla over shale gas, the conference did  consider a number of issues related to electricity prices in a panel on which Zimmer participated.

According to the article by the Cleveland Plain Dealer,

Eric Zimmer, with the Advanced Energy Economy, a group advocating both renewable and advanced energy technologies, said new competitive suppliers coming into the state are looking to bundle renewable energy with other, more traditional sources of power.
Zimmer argued that energy efficiency is still the cheapest energy option "that can only make us stronger." And energy efficiency mandates create jobs, he said.
"Secondly, right now there are 25,000 jobs in the Ohio economy involved with energy efficiency," he argued.  Cleveland Plain Dealer

For more information on Ohio's advanced energy requirements or to learn more about saving money and controlling energy expenses with renewable energy, contact Tipping Point.

Solar PV Is Good Business

Even while solar energy continues to be tossed around as a political football, some of the smartest businesses in America are voting with their dollars and making substantial investments in solar photovoltaic systems.  

Last week, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released Solar Means Business: Top Commercial Solar Customers in the U.S .  The report details  investments being made by companies around the country:

The rapidly falling cost of solar energy has made solar an increasingly appealing investment for American businesses.  Between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quareter of 2012, the average price of a completed commercial PV system fell by nearly 14 percent.  The economics of PV have become so attractive that many of the best managed corporations, which are synonymous with low cost and efficiency, are adopting solar energy on a massive scale across the U.S. Solar Means Business: Top Commercial Solar Customers in the U.S. Link

SEIA has also provided a "heat map" of commercial solar installations in the U.S.

 Heat Map of Commercial Solar Installation in the U.S. Click on the map to be taken to SEIA's interactive map.

Heat Map of Commercial Solar Installation in the U.S. Click on the map to be taken to SEIA's interactive map.

Here are the top 20:

  1. Walmart
  2. Costco
  3. Kohl’s Department Stores
  4. IKEA
  5. Macy’s
  6. McGraw-Hill
  7. Johnson & Johnson
  8. Staples, Inc.
  9. Campbell’s Soup
  10. Walgreens
  11. Bed, Bath & Beyond
  12. Toys ‘R’ Us
  13. General Motors
  14. FedEx
  15. White Rose Foods
  16. Dow Jones
  17. Snyder’s of Hanover
  18. ProLogis
  19. Hartz Mountain Industries
  20. Crayola

For more information about how solar PV can benefit your company, contact us.

AEP's Electric Security Plan Approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio

The Pubilic Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved a modified version of AEP Ohio's Electric Security Plan (ESP) on August 8, 2012.  The revised plan establishes generation rates through May 31, 2015 and sets AEP on a path toward a separating it's generation business from distribution and transmission.Shutterstock 42410560

“We are confident that this modified ESP will result in the outcome the General Assembly intended under both Senate Bill 3 and Senate Bill 221, and best represents a balance in the interests of both consumers and AEP-Ohio,” said PUCO Chairman Todd A. Snitchler. “Today’s order leads us towards more robust competition in the state of Ohio in less than three years. It also provides mechanisms for consumer protection, and maintains that AEP-Ohio continues to provide adequate, safe, and reliable service to its customers.” (PUCO Press Release)

In response to the PUCO decision, AEP filed revised tariff sheets (the official documents that detail rates charged to customers) on August 16, 2012.  In filing the 382 page document, AEP Ohio president and chief operating officer Pablo Vegas said, "“We have worked hard to minimize bill impacts on customers as we transition to a competitive market model. Customers will benefit during this transition by having fixed generation rates and a greater ability to shop for a competitive price on their power generation service, and by having AEP Ohio take part in energy supply auctions.”  (AEP Press Release)

The decision will have broad implications for ratepayers in AEP Ohio's service territory.  Virtually all classes or ratepayers will see some increase in rates -- some more than others.  In addition, changes in incentives for shopping retail generation services and rate structures may mean that a change in energy acquisition and/or management practices could minimize the financial impact this decision could have on AEP customers.

Tipping Point Energy is currently analyzing the new plan and is prepared to work with AEP Ohio customers to understand their new tariff structures and opportunities to effectively manage their energy expenses.

Deloitte on Future Energy Costs

We are often asked about what electricity rates are going to do in the future. Here is an opinion from a large consulting group:

" U.S. businesses have enjoyed stable and predictable electricity prices over the past decade due in large part to nuclear facilities operating in force and coal plants burning an inexpensive fuel source. But this is about to change. With many energy producing facilities scheduled to retire in the next ten years, some of which will be replaced by more expensive facilities, the price organizations pay for a kilowatt of electricity is expected to rise. As a result, electricity prices the next ten years may be unlike the past ten years. With a typical operation already spending a significant portion of its annual revenue on energy, what can your organization do to insulate itself from the expected increase in energy prices?"

 - Deloitte Energy Management Strategy Report

Full report here


TechColumbus Names Tipping Point as Semi-Finalist for 2011 Innovation Award

Tipping Point Renewable Energy is proud to be named as a semi-finalist for the TechColumbus 2011 Innovation Award in the category of Green Innovation.  

According to the TechColumbus website:

The TechColumbus Innovation Awards celebrate and honor individuals and teams in a variety of disciplines. Each award category is an important component of the technology and innovation community. Receiving the top honor in an award category showcases the dramatic impact of the awardee’s contributions in Central Ohio and beyond. (Link)

The Green Innovation award is for a company that has EITHER: Developed a Green product or service that is commercially available and in production, and is in use with at least one customer/client; OR Applied or implemented a technology or process change that has a net positive impact on the environment.

The final award winners will be announced at the Innovation Awards dinner on February 2, 2012 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center - Battelle Grand Ballroom.  More information on the awards dinner is available at the Innovation Awards' website.

Energy Information Administration Studies The Impact of Clean Energy Standards (CES)

The Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently released an analysis of the economic and other impacts that would result from the enactment of a number of different Clean Energy Standards. The analysis was done at the request of U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. There are a number of interesting findings that arise from the study, including the dramatic impacts that enactment of a Clean Energy Standard (CES) would have on emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants compared to the relatively modest impact on electric prices and the economy. Specifically, Chairman Bingaman requested an analysis that compared a Clean Energy Standard that he is expected to offer next year (called the Bingaman Clean Energy Standard or BCES) with the Base Case from the EIA's 2011 Annual Energy Outlook. A number of alternative cases based on policy ideas that have been previously considered in Washington were also analyzed. As expected, the analysis finds a significant impact on the mix of technologies used to generate power:
The BCES policy changes the generation mix, reducing the role of coal technologies and increasing reliance on natural gas, non-hydro renewable and nuclear technologies. Coal-fired generation, which in the Reference case increases by 23 percent from 2009 to 2035, decreases by 41 percent in the BCES case over the same period. Relative to the Reference case, where natural gas generation grows steadily throughout the projection period, natural gas generation in 2025 is 34-percent higher and 53-percent higher in 2035. Under the BCES policy, non-hydro renewable technologies grow at the fastest rate, increasing from 146 billion kilowatthours in 2009 to 601 billion kilowatthours in 2025 and 737 billion kilowatthours in 2035. These totals are 60 percent and 75 percent greater than the 2025 and 2035 Reference case projections, respectively.
Also as expected the impacts of annual electricity sector carbon emissions are dramatic.
Under the BCES, projected annual electricity sector carbon dioxide emissions are 22 percent below the Reference case level in 2025 and 43 percent lower in 2035 (Figure 3, Tables B1 and B2). In the Reference case electricity-sector carbon dioxide emissions increase modestly over the projection period, reaching annual emissions of 2,345 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MMTCO2) in 2025 and growing further to 2,500 MMTCO2 emitted in 2035. Over the 2009-to-2035 period, cumulative CO2 emissions are 20 percent lower in the BCES case than they are in the Reference case.
Finally, the report also found that in the early years, the impacts of the BCES on electricity prices is negligible, but grows as the standards ratchet down.
The BCES has a negligible impact on electricity prices through 2022, but prices rise in later years. In the early years of the projection period, there is negligible impact on average end-use electricity prices, as the requirement to hold BCES credits is modest. As shown in Table 1, the share of total sales that must be covered by credits does not exceed 45 percent until after 2030. This is important because, while coal-fired plants do not receive BCES credits, efficient combined cycle plants receive 0.48 credits for each megawatthour they generate, more than retailers purchasing their output are required to hold until after 2030. This effectively reduces the cost of most natural gas-fired generation until the later years of the projections. Electricity prices do grow later in the projections, reaching 21 percent above the Reference case level by 2035 in the BCES case.
The report can be found here.

Solar By Soldiers (SM) Garners Attention

Tipping Point was pleased to have a recent story by the Associated Press about our Solar by Soldiers (SM) program picked up by a number of news outlets throughout the country.

The article, written by Andy Greenfield, was picked up by a number of major news outlets including Fox News, the Huffington Post and many local and metro news organizations.

The article discusses a number of programs for getting US service veterans to work in the clean energy industry, but focuses on former Marine Ben Noland's experience looking for a job after returning from two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Noland, one of Tipping Point's hires, left the Marines in 2009, in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

He started looking for supply and logistics management jobs, something he had experience with from running supply convoys to troops on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. When nothing turned up, he looked futilely for warehouse jobs in Columbus. Finally, he briefly took a minimum-wage job at McDonald's 30 minutes away from his house.

"I'm a military veteran. Two tours of Iraq, one of Afghanistan — I was thinking, 'Man, I've got to be able to hang my hat on that,' you'd think." Noland said. "I was completely discouraged." Link to AP News

Ben is currently a Project Manager with Tipping Point.

MIT Scientists Discuss Potential for Solar Energy

A friend who is an MIT Alum forwarded me this from the MIT News about some of the research going on in solar energy at at the Institute.  It is good to see and hear about the different paths of research that some highly intelligent people are pursuing to make solar more efficient and cost competitive.

Lots of interesting tidbits in here.  I've heard it before, but it bears repeating that 173,000 terawatts (trillions of watts) of energy strikes the Earth continuously -- more than 10,000 times what we currently use.  The challenge is harnessing and moving that power when we need it.

Since solar energy is, at least in theory, sufficient to meet all of humanity’s energy needs, the question becomes: “How big is the engineering challenge to get all our energy from solar?” Taylor says. 

Solar thermal systems covering 10 percent of the world’s deserts — about 1.5 percent of the planet’s total land area — could generate about 15 terawatts of energy, given a total efficiency of 2 percent. This amount is roughly equal to the projected growth in worldwide energy demand over the next half-century. 

Read the whole article here.

Tipping Point CEO Zimmer Expresses Support for Ohio Renewable Energy Standards

On September 20 and 21, 2011, Ohio Governor John Kasich hosted an energy summit to discuss the importance of energy in Ohio.  Among the many subjects covered was one near and dear to our hearts, the state's Clean Energy Standard, which requires a certain percentage of electricity in the state to come from clean energy sources, including solar energy.

As the Governor and his cabinet consider the many policy recommendations that were presented at the summit, Tipping Point would like to bring to your attention this article, which appeared on National Public Radio affiliates around the state. In the article, our CEO Eric Zimmer, expresses why we believe the CES is important for Ohio jobs and the economy:

CEO Eric Zimmer says erasing the mandates now would be a job killer. “What we need is stability. And so, bills that are thrown out willy-nilly like this that question that really put a freeze on that market. We have had challenges with our investors who we’ve been working on for close to a year now saying, ‘what’s with this bill?’ If Senate Bill 221, the renewable portion was repealed, it would absolutely kill jobs in Ohio. It would drive away a lot of jobs.”

Click here for the whole article (including a link to listen to the story).

Solar panels to save $1,000 per month

Tipping Point Renewable Energy is please to announce the commissioning of a 47.84 KWe solar photovoltaic installation for Wepuko Pahnke Engineering LP in Springfield, Ohio.

According to Springfield based Wepuko Pahnke Engineering LLC it used a federal grant to help complete a solar panel system that could save the business close to $1,000 a month in energy costs. The manufacturers of pumps and presses finished building a solar panel array of about 200 panels that could generate almost 56,700 kilowatts a year to power its operations on Urbana Road.

The Springfield News-Sun reported on the story:

Wepuko Pahnke office manager Kelly Eichelberger said “Last week, contractors were here doing the final prep work for the system panels to track the usage of the electricity. The electrician was here and they were getting the actual final inspection. We are approved and up and running.”

The 50 kilowatt panels will provide energy for Wepuko Pahnke’s four buildings and remaining power will be sold back to their electric company, First Energy, or sold as energy through Ohio’s Solar Renewable Energy Certificates program.

Eichelberger said that Wepuko Pahnke could end up earning $21,542 on average a year from selling excess energy, based on a sales rate of 38 cents per kilowatt last week. The price of energy fluctuates daily, much like the stock market. This project has been ongoing since 2010.

He also added that “We’ve been working on this project for about a year but we couldn’t finalize it because we didn’t get any more state grants, we got a federal grant instead.”

The grant, for $65,285, will be reimbursed to the company within 60 days of the final payment for the project. The entire project, which cost $217,000, was conducted by Tipping Point Renewable Energy, based in Dublin, Ohio.

Tipping Point CEO  Eric Zimmer said “Solar energy works today in Ohio, and Wepuko shows that a company can install solar energy and do it for economic reasons, has a good pay back, they’re saving money, being green and helping provide jobs for unemployed vets.”

Zimmer  also said that Tipping Point installed the solar array as part of their Solar for Soldiers program, where they train unemployed veterans – five veterans worked on the Wepuko Pahnke project – to install solar panels as a way to provide a career path for them.

News Story from Ohio News Network on Solar By Soldiers

The Ohio News Network ran an excellent story about Senator Sherrod Brown's press conference at the kick off of Tipping Point Renewable Energy's Solar By Soldiers program. It's a bit (actually more than a bit) awkward to embed the actual video here, so follow this link to open their video player. Here's a link to the accompanying story.